Title: A Letter to My Niece
Author: Pip's Sister/Ms. Marvel 1
Fandom: Spider-Man
Rating: G
Archive: Yes, but tell me beforehand.
E-Mail: felicitypirrip@yahoo.com
Disclaimer: Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, May Parker II, Mary Jane Watson-Parker and Seward Trainer are all property of Marvel Comics and are used without permission for non-profit purposes.

Notes: Yes, this is a Scarlet Spider fic. You don't like it? Deal with it! Anyway, this story takes place any time during the current Spidey books (early 2002). Ben Reilly's letter was written sometime before the "Revelations" storyline.

Acknowledgements: Thank you Cyberweasel for being my beta.

~*~*~

It had been a year.

That was right, wasn't it? Just one year. One year since all the confusion and deception. One year since all the lies. Once year since… them.

"Ben and May."

So much had changed, but this paper hadn't. It was still a brilliant white with blue lines. The black ink looked new. Even the envelope was undisturbed, save the rip on the top. He opened the letter long ago when he realized it would never be sent nor received, but he hadn't read it since.

His favorite TV shows were over. The last test paper was graded. He thought of going out, of putting the letter away. Why relive the memories? The pain?

He removed the letter from the shoebox in the closet's top shelf and sat in a nearby chair. He took a deep breath.

Then he read the letter.

~*~*~

Dear May,

I had a great dream tonight. I know what you're thinking. "Big whoop," huh? What do you care about what your uncle dreams?

Well tonight, I dreamed about you.

Your mom and dad have dreamed of you before. But in their dreams you were just a little girl, a sweet little thing in a frilly pink dress, just a baby who laughed and played with dolls.

In my dream, you were nearly grown up and (this will probably give your dad a heart attack) a superheroine! I couldn't speak or talk to you. I just watched, full of pride as you swung from rooftop to rooftop. (What was weird though was that you were wearing my costume. Oh well, it looked good on you.) I had so many hopes for you. I prayed that you were doing well, that maybe you avoided the many mistakes your father and I made.

When I woke up, I knew I had to write this letter to you.

If you're reading this, then your dad (somehow) has let you become a superhero. First, I want to say "Congrats." If I know your dad (and I know him very well) you've probably gotten a speech on why this is the biggest mistake of your life a billion times and a speech on power and responsibility two billion more times.

Well, there are a couple of things I want to say about that.

First of all, yeah, this is the biggest mistake of your life. May, when you get right down to it, being a superhero sucks. You risk your life every day. Even if you're popular, some idiot running for office or on the 11 o'clock news hates you for no good reason. The pay sucks. Your love life is always in jeopardy. And, worst of all, there's no dental plan.

However, if this is the biggest mistake of your life, it's also the best. I guess to an extent it's guilt that drives your father and me, but we never forget that the real reason we do this is to help people. There may be times that you want to quit, that you just get so disgusted with the state of your own life or the hatred around you that you just don't want any more. Just remember that even though it may not seem like it, you are helping. No matter what, you're making a difference. That's got to make you feel good.

Okay, now to power and responsibility. When your dad and I learned that phrase so many years ago, it was born out of a horrible tragedy. Your dad probably told you about it already, using it as a warning.

Well, "with great power comes great responsibility" is a warning, but it's also a philosophy. As a superhero, you have an incredible amount of power and… I won't deny it. That can be a heckuva lot of fun! Swinging through the city with the wind in your face, propelled by nothing but the force of your own body and a strand of thread is the best feeling in the world. It can make you feel like you're bigger than life, almost like a god!

Unfortunately, you're not a god. Sometimes you'll be hurt and sometimes you'll make mistakes. All I have to say about that is make as few mistakes you can and make your mistakes small. In the meantime, do your best. Help when you can. And don't forget that responsibility doesn't just lie in your own adventures, but in your life as May Parker. Never forget your friends and family, May, no matter what happens to you.

Well, I think I've covered everything your Dad would want me to tell you. Now I have something of my own, something that will be just between you and me.

The dangers of your double life are important to remember. Power and responsibility is doubly important. However, ever since my friend Seward told your father and me the truth about who we were, I began to realize what is truly the most important thing in life, whether we're superheroes or not.

And that's identity.

May, if anyone in the world has ever struggled with who they are and who they were, it's me. In the course of five years my life, my name, my frocking hair color… it's all changed. The revelations I've been shown and the changes I've gone through have hurt me more than anything in the world.

The loss of your own identity… I just hope you never have to go through it. To believe that you're a fake, a lie, to believe that everything you once knew was wrong… it's horrible. You curse the world. You curse yourself. When my identity was taken away I nearly went insane. If it weren't for Seward I think I would have lost it completely.

Your father didn't do much better when he found out what he really was. I would have never forgiven what he did to your mom if I hadn't been there myself; if I hadn't felt the pain and horror of having your life ripped away from you.

But why am I telling you this?

Identity is frail, May, especially when you're a superhero. You put on a mask and you become someone else. You give up that identity, even if only for a short time. But sometimes a second name isn't all you'll have to go through. Heck, one look at the Avengers would prove that. Superheroes change their names, their costumes, and sometimes even their powers. Even the superheroes who don't go through all that… well, I still can't name one who's never gone through a huge change or had their life thrown into upheaval. If you're a superhero, your life is always in flux.

But here's the trick…

I learned not too long ago that identity isn't your costume. It's not your face. It's not even your name.

Your identity is your heart: who you are inside. No matter what happens to you. If your face changes, if you lose your powers, even if you don't think you're the same person that you once were, you're still you.

And all of us, your dad, your mom, myself, will always love you for it. If there's anything you ever think you can't handle, come to us. No matter what, we'll help you in any way we can.

But I'm getting all mushy. Have a great career, May. I'm sure you'll do great.

Here's to the future.

Love,
Your Uncle Ben.

~*~*~

"Here's to the future…"

Peter Parker folded up the letter and placed it back in the envelope. He slipped it back in its shoebox, his heart full of despair. Perhaps one day he might have read the letter and felt the same hope, the same humor as the one who had written it.

But those feelings belonged to another future, one which was not his own.

The End.