Disclaimer and Notes: Spider-Girl and Amazing Spider-Man belong to Marvel. No permission, no profit, no lawyers. This takes place during SG #59 and refers to a few issues of Amazing, but you only need a basic knowledge to get by. Blame the demons. They said "hey, let's write this!" for the first time in months, and I obliged. The dialogue is NOT correct, I didn't have the issue handy when I wrote this, and didn't want to put it off and lose the idea.

EDIT (4/8/2005): Note that this deviates slightly from Spider-Girl canon - it incorporates something from the Amazing Spider-Man comics that happened after the MC2 universe branched off. I'm keeping it, however, because the parallel is important to the story.

In the Waiting
by Mandi Ohlin

Most fathers would be relieved.

Peter Parker is not like most fathers.

Benjamin Richard Parker has been born healthy. His wife is fine - better than fine, judging by the way she's been bickering with the nurse. For such a difficult pregnancy, the delivery was relatively simple. "Relatively" is the operative word. Judging by the screaming and the way she nearly broke his hand, Mary Jane would never call the last three hours "simple." But it could have been worse. It could have been so much worse.

It wasn't.

He should be happy. But this only makes him feel guilty.

At least Mary Jane understands what's wrong, knows why he's huddled out in the hallway, leaning against the wall with his cane at his side. The nurses, however, have been giving him strange looks for the past few minutes, wondering why a new father whose wife and son are so healthy looks like his life is over.

How can he explain to them?

How do you tell someone that you may just have gained a son at the cost of a daughter?

"No! I'm fine! Go help your daughter! Go help May!"

MJ told him to go. Again and again. When the first images of the battle hit their television screen. When the contractions first hit. Even when they were wheeling her into the hospital, she was urging him to go, to help their daughter when no one else could. He should have listened to her, should have understood what she did - that she would be all right.

But he couldn't leave.

He couldn't shake the fear that it would happen again. If he looked away for a moment, if he so much as blinked... could their second child have been snatched away as well? Could they have been tricked a second time? He'd promised himself, years ago, that if they had any more children he would be there to see it. To make sure that the next child they brought into this world would stay with them, instead of being stolen by a lunatic under the pretense of a miscarriage.

Now that promise seems hollow.

"May can take care of herself."

His own words echo in his ears, mocking him over and over. Oh, he meant every word of it. There's no doubt that May, for all her inexperience, knows what she's doing. She managed for months without her powers - although she probably shouldn't have been out there in the first place, the father in him notes. He can't entirely fault her for the Angel Face fiasco, either. From what he's been able to gather, yes, it was a mistake, but he understands why she made it. She's even managed to discover uses for her abilities he never even considered. Mary Jane teased him for a week about the spider-sense. But who would have thought to use it to find the least dangerous targets?

Yet he can't stop wondering if he could have helped. All the experience and cleverness in the world won't save her if Seth gets lucky. If he already has. That lunatic gave Thor a run for his money back in the day, Peter muses; how could May hope to keep him occupied long enough for the others to escape?

The news feed cut off an hour ago, when a girder fell on a news truck and the remaining journalists decided to cut and run. Just before the girder hit, the camera zoomed in on Seth, shoving away chunks of concrete like grains of sand as he rose from the rubble. And as he got up again, Spider-Girl launched herself at him again, throwing herself at the killing machine that was five times her size.

Peter closes his eyes, trying to block out his fears, but those last few seconds of footage keep replaying in his mind. He remembers seeing how torn-up the costume was already, flinching as he realizes what kind of injuries the frayed fabric was covering up. He knows from experience just what that state of disrepair means to the person beneath the costume. He remembers pleading with the television screen in a hushed whisper, begging his little girl to run. The retired superhero in him knows what she was up to, that she had to keep Seth busy so the others could escape. The father in him knows that she had every opportunity to escape.

Over and over again, he keeps seeing the impact. Spider-Girl slams into Seth, pounding on him even as the monster grabs her. His daughter is tossed about like a marionette on strings, jerky and out-of-control but still tense - still trying to match that bastard punch for punch. Peter can see just how hard Seth is hitting her, can remember what someone of that strength can do. He remembers fighting opponents who were too strong for him, remembers how it took all his strength just to keep going until backup arrived - or until he got lucky and escaped.

May didn't even consider escape as an option.

An hour has passed since then. In a battle like that, it could have been decided in the space of a minute. Seth was only toying with May, Peter knows; what would happen if he tired of playing around and just decided to end it?

What if he'd gone to help her when he could?

What if he's already too late?

Why the hell didn't she just RUN?

He slumps against the wall, covering his eyes, unable to stop the tears. He knows the answer to that last one, knows he would have done the same. May is as stubborn as her old man, and as strong as her namesake. Aunt May never backed down when it came to her family, to those she cared about...

Oh, God.

Now he understands.

He thought he understood when May first insisted on wearing the damned costume, when Spider-Girl made her first appearance over New York City. All the nights she snuck out with or without his blessing, the amount of times she risked her life and he worried at home - he thought he knew then what his aunt went through, in those last few years when she knew the truth. But even then, he hadn't been helpless to do anything. He hadn't truly faced the prospect of losing her to the villains she fought - as inexperienced as she was, most of the villains she'd encountered were in her range. But now... but this...

This is what Aunt May went through. What he put her through those last years, once she knew the truth. Constantly waiting for the latest Spider-Man battle to end, not always able to watch and see the outcome, to gauge when it would finally end. She'd have to keep a vigil in the dark, not knowing what was going on and pretending that it didn't worry her half as much as it must have. The agony is not in the action, but in the waiting. It's tearing him up inside.

He's already placed a call to the Fantastic Five - hoping to get through to John Storm somehow - but had to settle for leaving a message. Still no reply. Of course, there's one person manning the nearby desk with five or six phones, which are adorned with the flickers of incoming calls. Johnny may have called an hour ago, for all Peter knows, but he's probably still on hold. The thought would be funny, in other circumstances.

Peter wants to jump up, to run out of there, to change into his old costume and make a break for the scene of the battle. But he can't do that. This is May's fight. There's nothing he can do now. He's completely drained, his energy spent, unable to move. He's never been so terrified - and so proud - at the same time.

Dammit, why couldn't she have just stayed at home?

"Daddy?"

He jerks up at the sound, the tears in his eyes blurring his vision for a second before it clears. It takes a second for him to realize that the figure before him is not a figment of his imagination. May is standing there, bruised and battered but in one piece, and fit enough to have made it to the hospital on her own. Solid. Real.

Alive.

She stares at him, sees the tears and the fatigue, and the fear that's draining out of him fills her voice. "Are you all right?"

Peter wants to grab her in a bear hug and never let go. But he's too tired to manage even that - and if she's as sore as she looks, he'd probably do more harm than good. He puts a hand on her shoulder instead, feeling the cotton T-shirt and the solid muscle beneath. It's all the reassurance he needs.

May stares at him with wide, childlike eyes, misinterpreting his tears, and Peter smiles. "Everything's fine." He stumbles over the words, repeating them silently to himself as well. "Your mother and the baby are both healthy. Sorry I scared you, but it's just, well, you know..."

He can't find the words. He doesn't need them. For once, Peter and his teenage daughter understand each other perfectly. "Yeah," May whispers, "I know."

Peter puts an arm around her shoulders, steering her into the room so she can meet her baby brother - who's already got every female he's met wrapped around his little finger. May is no exception, of course, cradling him in her arms and smiling at him like he's the neatest thing in the world. Benny stares at the newcomer with fascination before yawning widely, and May laughs. "So is he named after my Uncle Ben or yours?"

"I don't know," he admits. "Does it really matter?"

And it doesn't. Everything that matters is right here, in this very room. He glances at May, noticing the bruises and scrapes that he can see, and wondering about the injuries he can't. She's practically bouncing with excitement, a far cry from the exhausted, worried girl who dashed into the hospital to find him crying against a wall. Yet, he knows the signs. May is running on pure adrenalin and whatever energy reserves teenagers have that adults don't. She's just too damned happy to pay attention to the aches and pains, too focused on the fact that they're all here and okay. After nearly being beaten to death by an almost unstoppable lunatic, all she was worried about was him, her mother, and her little brother.

Yep, May is definitely his little girl.

Although he's not going to be able to use the "little" anymore, now is he?

Most daughters, when their mother is in labor, wouldn't be out in the middle of town fighting evil. Most daughters wouldn't have raced to the hospital with a couple of broken ribs or worse after the fact - and not bother to get medical care for themselves.

May Parker is not like most daughters.

And Peter wouldn't change that for the world.

End