leaning in

yeah, but i don't want them to hate me

Gwen Stacy stacyexperiment
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New York- Sunday afternoon
After Peter died, everyone else handled the details. Which was probably good, since Aunt May wasn't in the right headspace to bury her nephew and Gwen had no idea what to do in this case. Once they'd taken Peter's body away everything was out of their hands, and May's attempts to try and make arrangements were handled with a lot of "We're handling it, take it easy" from SHIELD and people like Tony Stark.

In fact, the day of Peter's funeral, Gwen and May had been set to drive over when Tony picked them up in a limo. Aside from a few niceties at first, the ride was mostly silent.

Apparently not comfortable with that silence, Tony finally said, "Mrs. Parker, just so you don't have to worry. I'm picking up the tab for the funeral and all that entails. It's not a big deal for me and well... I just don't want you to have to worry."

"I... I don't want a big thing," Aunt May managed. "I just want to-"

"Well," he said haltingly, "you might not have much say in the matter."

As they pulled up, Gwen peered out the tinted windows, and saw masses of people gathered outside the church. There was no way the building would even hold that many people. "Oh my god," she breathed.

"I don't want this," Aunt May said.

"Ma'am," Tony said, "if you want me to take you home, I will."

"I- I have no- I have no home," she said, covering her face with her hand.

"The hotel," he amended. "I- wherever you need to go, I'll take you, but if I may... This wasn't planned. This gathering. This just happened. If you have it in you... I think you should just let it happen. This city needs to mourn too. This is about more than just people who actually knew him. That'll have to be- that'll have to be for later. But that's not my call, it's yours. Do you- do you have it in you?"

Aunt May was quiet for a long moment. Gwen left her alone, figuring she'd work it out on her own.

Finally, Tony said, "I'll take you home."

"No," Aunt May said. "No." And then she opened the door, with Tony moving to get out first so that he could help her out.

Gwen followed, trying to ignore the scene and failing. There were barricades set up to keep people out of the way of people trying to get into the church. Barricades! But she and Tony each took one of Aunt May's arms, leading her towards the entrance.

"Excuse me," came a small voice from behind the barricade. It belonged to a little girl in a pink hat and scars over one half of her face, maybe around five years old, who was watching from her mother's arms. "Are you Spider-Man's mommy?"

Aunt May stopped, because she was Aunt May and she wasn't going to ignore a little kid. "No, sweetie. I'm his aunt."

"But you made him breakfast like his mommy?"

"Sweetie," the mother said.

"It's okay," Aunt May assured her. "Yes, weetie. I did."

The little girl nodded, and said, "When I was little, Spider-Man saved me from a fire so I didn't die."

Tony, May and Gwen all stared at her in shock. Gwen knew Peter had saved a lot of people, but she was used to dealing with, like, herself or MJ or the other students at school or whatever. This was just a gutpunch.

"Do you need a hug right now?" the little girl offered.

Tears welling in her eyes, Aunt May nodded and leaned over the barricade to give the girl a hug, and Gwen had to turn away or she was going to lose it.

This meant she was able to hear the "Why did he do it?" from the black kid, maybe eleven years old, speaking specifically to Gwen. "Why did he become Spider-Man?"

Gwen turned and glared at him, because she didn't want to answer these questions. Instead, she turned to help Aunt May into the church, only to change her mind and send her and Tony on ahead a second later. She headed back to the kid, who suddenly looked worried. No, she didn't want to answer these questions, but this was about Peter. And if someone wanted to know about Peter, they should.

"Because his uncle, the guy who raised him, died," she said, folding her arms over her chest. "Peter thought he died because even though he had these powers he didn't do anything to help. At least that's the way Peter saw it. And his uncle told him these words, words he lived by: That with great power comes great responsibility. Okay?"

The kid's chubby adorable friend, for whatever reason, said, "Wow."

"Why'd he wear a mask, though?" asked the first kid.

"Dude," the friend warned.

"Because he didn't need anyone to know who he was to be a hero," Gwen said. "And it looked fucking cool."

They didn't have any more questions, and Gwen took a deep breath and turned to join Aunt May and Tony.

The pews were filled, and they walked past all of them in order to get to the front. It was weird. Peter hadn't had a lot of friends. He wasn't a popular kid, he was too smart, he got bullied. Aside from MJ and Kitty, all the people who'd really been his friends all lived in his house. But the church was filled with people here to pay their respects, and Gwen wondered if Peter would even be able to handle it if he knew how many people were so sorry that he was gone.

After a few moments in silence, waiting for the service to start, a shadow fell over them. Standing before them was a giant man in a military uniform. "Excuse me, ma'am," he said. "My name is Captain Steve Rogers. I knew Peter." He knelt before her, so she was looking down at him. "I just wanted to say that- that... It's my fault. It's my fault your boy is dead."

Oh, there were some terrible things to say at somebody's funeral, and that was one of them. "What does that mean?" Aunt May asked, like she didn't wat to know. "What does that mean?"

"Aunt May, that's Captain America," Gwen hissed, because May was yelling at Captain America in a church.

"I know who it is, Gwen," Aunt May said, only barely speaking to her. "How is it your fault my nephew is dead?"

"Please," Steve said. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry."

"What did you do?"

"The day he died," he said, bowing his head, "I told him he wasn't ready. I told him he was a child and that he hadn't yet earned the right to wear the uniform. And the- the gunshot... The would that eventually killed him... It was meant for me. He jumped in front of it to save me."

Gwen tried to brace herself for the silence from Aunt May at that. She'd only seen it once, the night Gwen came back from the dead and May found out Peter was Spider-Man and she got so mad she tried to kick him out of the house until she had a heart attack.

"So after you emasculated him, even though he had proved himself a hero over and over and over again," she said finally, tears streaming down her face, "after you told him he wasn't worthy, he saved your life? Is that what you're telling me?"

"Yes, ma'am," Steve said. He still wasn't looking at her.

"He worshipped you people," Aunt May snapped. "You know that, don't you? He thought of you as- as the knights of the round table. He put the costume on to be like you. He wanted to earn a place at your table. And you people-" she said, even turning on Tony now. "-come into his life... you promised to train him? And what did you do? Nothing! He was fine before he met you! He was doing fine."

She fell quiet again, turning back to Steve before slapping him hard across the face.

And then, realizing that she'd just slapped Captain America in front of an entire church, Aunt May got up and hurried back down the aisle to leave. Gwen ran after her, getting there just in time to see her collapse in sobs in front of the church. The crowd was still there, though, and they were much louder than those in the church, wondering what had happened and getting their phones out to take pictures. "Please, Aunt May," Gwen pleaded, kneeling next to her and really hoping this wasn't another heart attack situation, "please get up."

They were joined by a man in a suit with an unfortunate mustache, leaning down to extend his hand to her. "Mrs. Parker? My name is J. Jonah Jameson. Your nephew worked for me. We've met before, do you remember? Can I help you to your seat? Do you want to go back inside or is there somewhere I can take you?"

"I don't... I don't know what to do," Aunt May admitted.

Since Jonah was handling this, Gwen got up to deal with the crowd, which mostly involved her threatening people if they didn't put their god damn cameras away, this was a funeral.

"If I may," Jonah said, "I think you may regret not going back inside."

Finally, Aunt May nodded, and let Jonah help her up, and Gwen followed them both back into the church again. And to think, she'd been hoping they could do this without drama.

[NFB, NFI, OOC okay.From Ultimate Fallout #1-2, and Ultimate Spider-Man #4. Hey, Miles.]


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