If there’s one thing it seems Peter Parker’s never been very good at, it’s holding onto a friend. As a child, he’d play with someone at the park, grow incredibly close to them in the few hours that they’d share together there, and then never see them again.
On a day when Peter’s particularly frowny, May tells him, “You should exchange phone numbers with your new friends, sweetheart,” while giving him a kiss on the cheek.
“Right, sport,” agrees Ben. “How do you expect to hang out again if you don’t establish any means of communication?”
So, even though it’s difficult and a bit nerve-wracking, Peter gets used to asking for phone numbers at the end of park sessions. But still, the numbers are used one or two times, and then the friendship fades just like the rest.
May and Ben try to help, speaking to parents and establishing friendships of their own. But when the child in question loses interest in playing with the other, what can you really do then?
And then there was school. School wasn’t really the place where friendships were made either. School was the place where Peter got bullied – where he got teased for being smart, for being small, for being quiet, for being an orphan, and, eventually, for having glasses. If there was anything about him that they could make fun of him for, they would. Bullying Peter seemed to be a past time that united the entire class.
High school was simultaneously better and worse. Morals strengthen as kids get older, but so do bullies. By the time high school rolled around, most people were indifferent to Peter. Playing in the park became walks in the park, and those were few and far between. But if he ever did encounter anyone, the chances were that they were, more or less, apathetic towards him. They didn’t antagonize him, but they didn’t befriend him either.
Even the ones he defended generally wanted nothing to do with him afterwards. And then there were the bullies, the ones he had wished were more apathetic towards him. Though he got used to the fact, and though, eventually, it only bothered him on occasion, it seemed to Peter that he had never had a real friend in his life.
It was only after Ben was gone that he realized he’d had one all along and never noticed. If he’d had something personal to talk about, it was typically Ben that he opened up to. It was Ben that he asked for advice. It was Ben that he went walking through the park with. It was Ben. And now it couldn’t be.
Just after the funeral, Peter sat on the couch in the living room, hands half-masking his face. He still wore his suit, not finding the will to get out of it, and the haze clouded over his mind. He stared at a distant and imaginary spot, stared until his eyes were fatigued, ‘til the light spotted out his vision and painted shapes for him to see. But still didn’t close them. He didn’t even notice the weight that joined him on the couch.
A gentle hand landed on his shoulder, and finally, he blinked his eyes. He resurfaced from the haze and turned to find May staring at him. She wore a concerned and sympathetic expression. But her eyes were teary, the pain much too close to the surface to be disguised.
Today, she was not his rock. It was today that Peter noticed that, as much of a mother as May was, she was also his companion. And as he wrapped his arms around her, he swore that he would never again take something like that for granted.
“You’re my friend, Aunt May,” he said.
She paused, obviously taken by surprise by his words, but kept her embrace as strong as ever. And then, even though she was a bit bewildered by what had prompted her nephew to say such a thing, she replied with perfect confidence. “You’re mine, too, Peter.”