Author: TVfan PM
Sequel to The Laws of Terror and Joy As the heroes of the Marvel U work to put things back together after the defeat of the Registration Act, Peter and Mary Jane have to confront the changes in their lives... and shadows of a sinister nature.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 2 - Words: 24,105 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 05-05-13 - Published: 05-06-12 - id: 8093521
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All characters appearing in Spider-Man are copyrighted to Marvel Entertainment and Stan Lee, and owned by the Walt Disney Corporation (Disney bought Marvel). No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. All original characters are the property of TVfan.
Note: this story is continued from the end of "The Laws of Terror and Joy" and will run parallel to my Avengers story, "Initiative". If you wish to know the exact plot of that story, you will need to read my story in the Avengers section titled, "Initiative", although it should not be necessary to understand the events of this story.
Also Note: This is not OMD. It may be how OMD should have gone, but it isn't OMD.
Chapter 1: The Webs We Weave
An Unknown Realm
"I am rarely summoned to places such as this," a powerful and evil sounding voice commented in a rather amused manner as he made his way through what appeared to be a temple.
The figure noted that the temple carried a heavy spider-like theme to it, but also noted that they were twisted into a shapes gave the temple its own creepy and otherworldly vibe to it. The figure also knew that he was not on Earth, but one of the various mystical realms that only existed because of some great magical being that had once created it. The figure didn't care, though. He had been summoned, which would mean only one thing, a potential deal was in the offering and the figure was not about to turn down such an opportunity.
For the figure was, in fact, the demon Mephisto, the ruler of hell itself. The one who pledged to bring his evil from his own dimension to Earth. And any deal made on Earth, or the realms connected to it, would insure that he could permanently move to Earth. And once there, he would kill every hero on the planet and bathe it in fire and brimstone. The only ones who could stop him, or had a chance of doing so, were the Hulk, a handful of the various cosmic entities that lived out beyond Earth… chief among these groups would be Galactus.
But there were always technicalities that had to be observed. The Hulk, while he gained power and strength the more enraged he became, wasn't invincible, and if Mephisto used all of his power in the first blow, the Hulk would be left a broken mess before he could become angry enough to win. Galactus was the more dangerous threat, as Galactus was powerful as an individual and his technology was almost as strong as he was. On top of that, Galactus had no direct interest in Mephisto or his realm. His threat came from the fact that Mephisto's realm was connected to Earth. If Galactus ate the Earth, Mephisto's realm would be destroyed as the 'realm' it was attached to was destroyed utterly.
These things always remained in his mind, for Mephisto needed to know these things. After all, he existed to make deals for astral souls, which was bound to irritate various heroes who would seek to stop him. They would challenge his power, and he would need to know all of the minute details to know how to handle the potential problem. They couldn't match his power, which gave him great confidence in dealing with heroes, and he also knew that Earth's heroes would never summon Galactus to eat the Earth and thus destroy his realm. From Mephisto's point of view, it was a win, win. All he needed was an excuse or a window to get onto Earth, as the mystical barriers between realms were strong enough to keep him out. Getting past them as they were, left him weaker than normal or forced him to limit his time on Earth to a few short moments.
Being summoned was one of those ways, and Mephisto always made sure to do his best to get what he wanted. For in doing so, he'd get the souls he needs to break the mystical barriers that prevent him from bringing Hell to Earth.
"Probably because the people that normally summon you are pathetic nobodies that have no clue what they are doing," came a voice from the shadows behind him.
Mephisto looked back to see eight solid yellow eyes. They glowed softly in the darkness that surrounded them. The eyes belonged to the being that had summoned him, Mephisto knew that for sure. Looking to those eyes, Mephisto got the sense the being that summoned him was as powerful as some of his more powerful servants. Most beings of great power rarely felt the need to bargain their souls with Mephisto. They were generally strong enough to get what they wanted.
"And why would one such as you wish to bargain with me?" Mephisto inquired, "You hold great power… it's doubtful that even I could grant you more."
"Attaining great power is already within my grasp," the owner of the eight eyes answered, "what I need from you is the removal of a specific hero from Earth."
"Earth?" Mephisto mused, his mind seeing a window to get through the mystical barriers.
"Yes," the 'eyes' answered, "the hero known as Spider-Man must be removed from existence. Whether or not he ceases to have ever existed or is simply killed is up to you, but he must be gone from Earth."
Mephisto quietly listened to the 'eyes' want. To him, Spider-Man was a nobody. True, one could see his power source as a totem given system, but his powers weren't mystical in nature. At full strength, Mephisto could kill Spider-Man with the snap of his fingers. But, if the owner of these eyes was willing to give him a bargain that would require him to go to Earth, he'd entertain the idea. It might give him the opening he needed to grab more souls to take.
"And what is Spider-Man to you, if I may be curious?" Mephisto inquired.
"He has refused to evolve the way I chose," the 'eyes' answered, "he rejected me for the Light Other…"
"And you cannot simply destroy him, yourself?" Mephisto wondered.
"Not without exposing myself to attack by the Light Other," the 'eyes' answered.
"Ah," Mephisto then said simply, "to be honest, my good sir, Spider-Man is low on MY list of priorities. I can kill him in an instant if I wanted to. And Spider-Man has rarely ventured into realms where I do have interests. The defeat of muggers and robbers does not concern me. But you offer me a window to Earth and thus I will offer you this deal…"
Mephisto glared to the eyes and then smiled.
"I will go to Earth and confront the wall-crawler, and confront him in my own way," Mephisto spoke, "If successful, I get his soul and you will get the choice of creating Spider-Man's replacement. If, for some unforeseen reason, Spider-Man wins, I get YOUR soul."
"What?" the 'eyes' answered in surprise.
"You should know full well WHO I am," Mephisto answered, "I make deals for astral souls. A soul MUST always be exchanged for my services…"
"But the situation for you is win, win!"
"Of course it is," Mephisto smiled back, "besides, your soul was already up as part of this wager. The difference between this and other deals I've made is that the others were trying to save something or someone. You're asking me to kill someone. So, if I fulfill what you ask, I'd take Spider-Man's soul as your payment in the bargain. If I fail, that means that I get your soul, which you are already wagering. It isn't that hard a deal to understand. Even by my standards."
"And how successful do you think you'll be?" the 'eyes' asked.
"Against Spider-Man, whose only weapon is his fists?" Mephisto smirked, "one hundred percent certain."
"Deal," was the 'eyes' only response as a long and thin black leg, ending in two wicked looking claws was extended into the light where Mephisto was standing.
Mephisto shook the offered limb and sealed the agreement.
At the same time, the target, Peter Parker, also known as Spider-Man, was involved in much happier interactions. He had no knowledge of the other worldly beings plotting his demise. He was mostly focused on the woman in a hospital gown and lying on a medical bed in the clinic/hospital that was part of the Stark Industries building, now being called Avengers Tower, as the Avengers had been reformed and until recently, had been using the building as their headquarters.
"They look gorgeous, MJ," Peter said to his wife, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, MJ for short.
He then looked down at the infant in his arms. His daughter, Maybelle Parker, lay securely in his arms and sleeping while wrapped in a pink blanket. He'd managed to get himself cleaned up after returning to Avengers Tower and seeing the wife that Maria Hill had forced him to leave to go through her pregnancy alone. It tugged at his heart and mind that things had forced him to leave her, to have to give birth alone. He also felt lucky that the Scriers hadn't killed him… and even more so that the Registration Act had been defeated.
"Of course they look good," Mary Jane smiled back at him, "they're related to you."
"You're the model in the family," Peter reminded her.
"Ex-model," Mary Jane replied, "I don't want to be 'eye candy' anymore… and you're selling yourself short. You are a very handsome man, noble, heroic, kind, and responsible… far deeper than many models I ever worked with, male or female."
Peter only shrugged again and looked down at his sleeping daughter. She represented the great changes that had recently gone on in his life. It began with the man he knew as Ezekiel. The man had gained spider-powers similar to his own and had told Peter that his powers were more than an accident with an irradiated spider. He was told that his powers were connected to some mystical totem in some greater cosmic game. It wasn't much of a change, and the scientist in Peter had a hard time believing Ezekiel, but it represented a change in his origins as Spider-Man, and he would be thinking over these things for quite a while. But there were other changes that were to come.
More recently, a robotic 'god' known as Tracer had partnered with the Hobgoblin to assault Avengers Tower. Spider-Man and the Avengers beat off the attack, but it resulted in Mary Jane being injected with the same formula that Jessica Drew had used to become Spiderwoman again. In time, Mary Jane joined him in helping to protect New York as Arachne, and while he felt she looked good in the costume, Peter knew that that was a major change in his life. In a way, he wasn't alone when going out to fight bad guys anymore, and while training MJ in using her powers, he got enhance his skills as a teacher. And the final change in his life began sometime after.
After defeating one set of Scriers in the New York/New Jersey area, he and Mary Jane had felt comfortable enough to start their own family. And now, nine months later, Peter held his daughter; while her twin brother slept in a little cradle type device that had been placed beside the bed Mary Jane was in. His daughter Maybelle and his son Benjamin. Raising them would generate new responsibilities and new works, and would probably be complicated by the fact that he could never stop being Spider-Man, and because of that, he doubted Mary Jane would quit being Arachne. But they were a young couple, and Peter was fairly certain they could handle the challenge.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here for you, MJ," Peter said weakly.
"It's alright, Tiger," Mary Jane told him, "you're here now… and Maria Hill cannot divide us again."
"Amen to that," Peter then leaned over and kissed Mary Jane on the cheek, "So, what made you pick Maybelle and Benjamin? May and Ben…"
"We'd already decided to name our first daughter after Aunt May," Mary Jane said slowly, "figured it best to go with what we'd already agreed to with the girl. Aunt May doesn't mind, and I think she actually felt touched. And as for your son… well, you've told me so many stories about your Uncle Ben, I figured he'd be more then pleased to have a young Parker named for him."
"I'm not sure about his middle name," Peter commented, "Reilly was Aunt May's maiden name… not Uncle Ben's middle name."
"Yeah, but the name seemed to just roll of my tongue that way," Mary Jane answered, "You're not mad, are you?"
"You chose wonderful names, MJ," Peter told her and moved to set little May beside her brother.
"Thanks," Mary Jane said and then sighed after a moment, "at least I didn't screw everything up on that part…"
Peter then slowly turned back to her. The moment was supposed to be a happy one. They were supposed to be celebrating the arrival of their children, who were very healthy. But the way Mary Jane had made that last statement, it sounded more depressed and ashamed than anything else. As he looked to her, he found that her face gave away her emotions. There was something that his wife felt ashamed of and deeply sorry for. What it was, Peter didn't know. It had to have been something that occurred during her pregnancy that he had missed thanks to Maria Hill and the Registration Act.
The Registration Act had been cooked up as an idea to control America's superheroes, and from what Peter had heard, had originally been proposed by the Red Skull as part of some scheme to get the heroes to fight each other. The government accepted the idea readily, and set off intense conflict between heroes who felt the act was far too invasive into their privacy and other heroes that felt something needed to be done to make sure new heroes were well trained. He had been training MJ to be Arachne, along with some help from Spiderwoman, as Peter didn't have the pheromone powers that MJ and Jessica had. The Avengers as a team had been training the Young Avengers, but there were many other new heroes that weren't going to get that training.
The government had felt the Registration Act to be the answer and used it to take control over America's heroes. Cap and those who had been against went underground. Peter and MJ would have gone with them if it weren't for the fact that Mary Jane had been pregnant and needed to be able to see a doctor. So they registered, and had to serve under Maria Hill. The woman believed Peter too stupid and physically incapable of bringing in Captain America, and thus sent him after the Scriers worldwide to keep him out of the 'Civil War'. When Peter returned, his children had been born and the Registration Act had been declared unconstitutional, but the consequences of Maria Hill's tenure as S.H.I.E.L.D. director were still there, and Mary Jane was likely being affected by something along those lines.
"Screw up?" Peter asked her, "What's wrong, MJ?"
Mary Jane sighed and looked down. With Ben and little May asleep, she didn't want to express herself fully for fear of both waking them up and upsetting them.
"It happened when Aunt Anna came up from Florida to be here when little May and Ben were born," Mary Jane explained slowly, "I met her at the airport and walked her back here. A mugger jumped us on the way… I could still deal with him easily, but that had consequences, Peter…"
"I'm sure that was quite a surprise for her, but she looks okay with everything spider related," Peter commented.
"She wasn't the major problem," Mary Jane sighed, "The problem was the fact that Hill kept our identities hidden, so when I stopped the mugger, it created a media backlash. By that time Tony had taken over from Maria Hill, but I had to hold a special press conference and essentially tell the world I am Arachne…"
"And that I am Spider-Man?" Peter cut her off.
Mary Jane only put her head in her hands. Peter managed to see that this was whatever was troubling her.
"Whatever response to that… whatever it was, it wasn't your fault," Peter sighed, "we registered to give you the access to the medical care you needed. Hill should have had our names in the open and on S.H.I.E.L.D.'s website. Not keeping it hidden for 'training purposes'."
"You're not mad at me?" Mary Jane asked, "Doing this cost you your jobs with the school and the Bugle."
"I could never be mad at you," Peter replied, "at least not in any way that would be worth arguing over. Besides, you were always the real bread winner in our family. We'll get through this. Just as we always have."
Peter then sat down beside her and wrapped Mary Jane in a firm hug.
"I love you, MJ," Peter told her.
"I love you too, Tiger," Mary Jane answered him.
They sat there for a moment before Peter sighed and sat back in his chair for a moment. Mary Jane was to first to speak.
"So what do you plan to do?" Mary Jane inquired.
"It's a little late to do anything today," Peter sighed, "tomorrow, I'll go by the school and get my things… maybe go to the Bugle and talk with Jonah…"
"I'm not sure that's a good idea," Mary Jane told him, "He 'fired' you, and Robbie told me over the phone that he had all he could do to keep Jonah from suing you for all the money you'd made as 'Spider-Man's publicist/photographer'…"
"It'd be best to explain things, MJ," Peter sighed, "besides; it's tough to fire someone who technically isn't even on the payroll to begin with."
New York Apartment
Meanwhile in a different apartment in New York City, a very different line of thought was being thought. The man was Eugene 'Flash' Thompson and his thoughts dwelled on the past and the hero he had held as his idol. He had Midtown High's football star while in High School, but those days were largely gone. He never made it to the NFL, and while he served his country honorably, his record was no different from many other men who served in the armed forces. With no eternal glory there, he had wound up teaching gym at Midtown High, the very place he had had glory in his teen years.
Teaching there wasn't so bad. He felt too many of the kids had fallen victim to the video gaming industry, but when it came to getting them active, he felt he was making some progress there. To a certain extent he found the best part about it though, was who else was teaching there. When he joined the staff as the gym teacher, Peter Parker was already there as the science teacher, which Flash found amazing. True, the two of them got along as well as fire and water when they were in high school, but Flash had managed to mature some since high school and the guy he used to bully in high school was now a friend.
"Strange how things go," he thought to himself.
He then looked up to see a picture frame on his wall. Most people would have a picture of themselves, friends, or family there. Flash had a newspaper clipping. It was a Daily Bugle article which had a large photograph of Spider-Man saving him from some bad guy or another. Flash couldn't quite remember which bad guy it was now and beyond the fact that it occurred when he had been in high school, he couldn't quite remember when, either. He'd always been a fan of Spider-Man. He though the web-slinger was cool and was always fighting the good fight. Flash chuckled remembering the fan club he started to support Spider-Man while he was in high school.
And now, thanks to events of the superhuman 'civil war' and the Registration Act, Flash had learned that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. The teen he bullied in high school and would eventually befriend in later years was Spider-Man. He had made a fan club to honor Peter Parker, at a time when he wouldn't let himself be caught dead being friendly with Peter Parker. And yet, Peter Parker was Spider-Man… he was an Avenger… he saved the world on a daily basis. Everything Flash had dreamed of doing in high school.
"Why did he even decide to be friendly to me?" Flash wondered, the thoughts of his past coming to mind, "I bullied him in high school… even AFTER he became Spider-Man… and he's been friendly to me…"
A part of him had wanted to believe that Peter was merely helping Spider-Man out, as all the Bugle articles had the credit line 'photo by Peter Parker'. That had given Flash the idea that Peter did have some sort of inside information with Spidey, and that Peter was trying to help the web-slinger deal with the Registration Act. But that part of him was confronted by a different, but equally legitimate set of facts. The announcement that Peter Parker was Spider-Man was made by Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Peter's wife. He tried to double check things with the number Peter had given him, but every time he tried to call, either a guy that sounded like he was a butler or an elderly woman asked him to leave a message. That made him think that his original theory that Peter was only helping the real Spider-Man to be false and that made Flash believe Peter really was Spider-Man.
"He's done everything I should have done," Flash sighed to himself, "not to take away his career as Spider-Man or anything… but why couldn't I have had comparable success? Played for the Giants in the NFL… won the Medal of Honor and given a battlefield commission as an officer and become the 'next' Captain America? That would have been neat, and then me and Spidey… me and Parker could have been on the same team?"
He then sighed heavily and walked along. Eventually he came past a section of apartment where the walls between his apartment and his neighbor's seemed rather thin, and Flash could hear the news on his neighbor's television. They were going on about the continuing struggles in Iraq and how the Army was desperate for experienced leaders of any rank. Hearing that made Flash pause for a moment, but for the moment he disregarded it. He was too out of shape to go back into the Army. Besides, he still had some questions he wanted answered.
It took a little while for Mary Jane to get dressed into more appropriate clothing then a hospital gown and gather up her infant children and take them up to the apartment in Avengers Tower that had been given to her and Peter. Little May was asleep in her arms while Ben was asleep in Peter's. She was still nervous how many things would go in their future, but she did figure that they'd manage. They'd just made it to the door to their apartment, when a voice cut them off.
"Peter, Mary Jane! A moment, please!" came the voice of Reed Richards.
They turned to see Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four coming toward them. Trailing after him was a silver colored robot that had a humanoid shape, but nothing that would indicate that it was modeled after any individual.
"What's up, Reed?" Peter asked, "Did your satellites pick up Venom, yet?"
"Him? No," Reed sighed, "this is more of a gift from Susan and me to you two."
"A gift?" Mary Jane wondered.
"Yes," Reed nodded and then gestured to the robot, "this is the latest version of the HERBIE series of robots…"
"Doesn't HERBIE look like he's supposed to be a robot?" Peter wondered.
"The HERBIE that Sue and I use to watch Valerie and Franklin, yes… but that's mostly our personal preference, and Sue letting She-Hulk or Crystal sub for her on the team," Reed explained, "and this model is based off of some improvements that S.H.I.E.L.D.'s had me do for their Life Model Decoys."
"So this is an improved LMD?" Peter looked at it.
"Yes, but designed to be more a nanny bot," Reed explained, "for when you two are busy saving the city and your Aunt isn't available."
"I don't know," Mary Jane commented, "I really don't want little May and Ben responding to a robot's voice over mine."
"That is not a problem," the 'nanny bot' said in her voice and then continued in Peter's voice, "I have been programed to perfectly mimic your voice and your husbands. Making sure that your children imprint on your voice."
"It also has a hologram projector so that it can look like either of you," Reed added, "the only spot where it might be different from either of you is that the bottle for feeding them is in the bot's arms. So, it will use its fingers to feed them."
"Well, I'm sure that'll make for differing feeding styles," Peter gave a snicker.
"It will help… unless the two of you plan to quit web-slinging for a while," Reed pointed out.
Peter and Mary Jane shared glances and then sighed. Peter would never quit being Spider-Man, and she would keep being Arachne to protect him. They sighed again after a moment. Giving up being Spider-Man and Arachne wasn't going to happen.
"And we can use this whenever we're out and when Aunt May can't help?" Mary Jane wondered, not mentioning Aunt Anna, as MJ's blood Aunt would eventually return to Florida.
Reed nodded, "New York wouldn't be the same without someone spinning webs around the city."
"And you came here to give us this to make sure we don't quit?" Peter wondered.
"No," Reed admitted, "My primary mission today was to talk some things over with Tony over what we as heroes are to do next… bridge the gulf between the heroes that supported Registration and those who opposed it. And since I was here, I figured it best to kill two birds with one stone."
"I see," Peter commented.
Reed then handed them a small paperback manual.
"The manual should be a basic guide on how to add in new programing, how to change bottles, and setting the holograms, it isn't that complicated," Reed then finished, "and there is a BIG meeting tomorrow afternoon regarding what we heroes will do. Hopefully both of you will be there."
"Peter probably will be," Mary Jane answered, "I'll probably here about it from him."
"I see," Reed nodded, "anyway, I wish you both the best of luck and congratulate you on the birth of your twins. Hopefully you two will have many happy years with them…"
"And then watch them replace us," Mary Jane commented.
"Well, that will be the logical conclusion," Reed commented, "Unless you've found an immortality serum, you'll have to pass the torch on to your children."
"Yeah, we know," Peter told him, "thanks."
"Don't mention it," Reed answered and then made his way out.
"So, what do we call you?" Mary Jane asked the robot, "I doubt HERBIE would work…"
"HERBIE is the unit assigned to aid the Fantastic Four," the 'nanny bot' answered, "I am here to serve you as your nanny when you need it."
"A nanny bot, eh…" Peter mused, "So, MJ, you think we ought to call it 'Fran'?"
"The Nanny," Peter pointed out.
"Don't be cliché," Mary Jane groaned at the joke, and then turned to the robot, "what would you like us to call you?"
The robot paused for a moment, as if it was thinking.
"How about Her, would that work?" the nanny bot asked after a few moments.
"Her… not too bad, I suppose," Peter mused, "Changes things from HERBIE slightly."
MJ looked at Her, shrugged and then went into the apartment she shared with Peter. Peter followed her, and Her brought up the rear. It would mark a very different life from what they had had in the past, but it would allow them to keep up their responsibilities. Besides, nothing staid the same forever, not even superheroes.
Midtown High, The Next Morning
Peter was quiet as he entered the building he had once gone to school in and the one he had actually come to have fun teaching. True it wasn't quite at the level of science that he knew by heart, but it enabled him to share his scientific knowledge, which he loved. It had been a great experience, but one that Maria Hill and the Registration Act had taken away from him. According to what he had seen in the various S.H.I.E.L.D. files that Maria Hill had kept while he was out chasing the Scriers, he had apparently been on some sort of 'sabbatical' or something like it. Now, in theory, it might have allowed him to keep his job as a teacher, if not for a key fact. High School teachers did not get sabbaticals. If you couldn't teach for a period of several months, you were fired, end of story.
"And look who we have here," sneered a secretary, "a superhero who thought he could teach and when asked for an autograph… left it in a spot where no one could get to it."
Peter sighed heavily as he looked to the owner of the voice. The woman was one of the secretaries he knew as Julie. She was annoying, she got his orders for books wrong, she screwed up in many different ways, but she was in a position where her mistakes couldn't get her fired. Mostly because the charges that Peter could bring against her amounted to little more than 'he said, she said'. And that would get Peter nothing.
"I'm only here for my stuff, Julie," Peter answered, "You won't have to worry about seeing me again."
"Good," Julie snorted, "You know why? Your replacement actually knows how to teach. He shows up ON TIME and he doesn't miss things because he's too busy running around in his underwear. He actually cares about the students, which you don't."
Peter walked over a large bookshelf type area where he found a series of plastic bags filled with his personal belongings in them. They were largely small things that weren't standard issue as part of the job. One was a coffee mug that MJ had given him early in their marriage. He collected the bags and then turned to leave. As he did, he noted the smug and condescending look Julie gave him. It was like she wasn't even thankful that he'd saved her life.
"You know… I could have let Dormammu's mindless ones kill you," Peter grumbled to her, frustrated that someone could be so insulting when he was accepting what had to be done. He hadn't come in to demand his post back. He came in to retrieve his things and leave. "Remember that when you think I don't care about people."
"This has nothing to do with your work as a superhero, though to be honest, I find it hard to believe a person as irresponsible as Peter Parker could be Spider-Man," Julie retorted, "this has to do with the safety and the care of the students. You want to be a hero? Fine. Don't be here and bring your fights here."
"I didn't," Peter answered, "the time when Spider-Man was here was to deal with a kid that was bullied and decided to take revenge with an AK-47. No super villain whatsoever."
"And can you guarantee that no super villain would have tracked you here?" Julie questioned, "for as I recall… VENOM tracked you here and trashed the school to get to you. As if we're sitting on mountains of money."
Peter sighed, she did have him there.
"As I said, you want to save the world, fine," Julie answered, "that's YOUR call. But leave the educating of our children to those whose full attention is on them."
Peter only sighed and continued to move out when his spider-sense went off and a new voice cut in.
"That's enough, Julie," came the principal's voice, "you've said enough."
"I'm on my way out, sir, you needn't worry," Peter told him.
"I'm sure, but this isn't about criticizing you for things you've done," the principal answered, "I'd actually like to talk with you for a bit."
"Okay," Peter began to say and then stopped when the principal held his office door open.
He then quietly made his way in and sat down as the principal sat down at his desk. The principal took a sip of coffee and then sighed heavily. Peter sat somewhat nervously, as he wasn't really sure why the principal wanted to talk to him.
"I know I was fired, sir," Peter answered, "there's no need for any further dressing down."
"Your being fired had nothing to do with you being Spider-Man," the man answered, "High Schools do not give sabbaticals. When those S.H.I.E.L.D. agents gave me that excuse, it marked the end of your service to the school… now of course your wife's press conference explained WHY they'd come up with that, but still… High Schools do not give sabbaticals. If you wanted one, you'd need to take it between the end of one school year and the start of the next."
"Basically during the summer," Peter answered.
"Yes," the principal nodded, "outside of that, it wasn't school policy to just let you up and disappear for months. You obviously couldn't be here, and we needed a replacement."
"I understand your reasons, believe me," Peter sighed, "I think the S.H.I.E.L.D. guys WANTED me fired from here. They wanted to control all superheroes as part of the Registration Act, and any action that wasn't controlled by them wasn't wanted."
"I take it you weren't a fan of it?" the principal wondered.
"Not really," Peter answered, "Mary Jane and I only registered because she was pregnant and we needed access to a doctor at the time."
"I see," the principal sighed, "as I said, your firing was more a matter of policy then anything personal. If you still want to teach, I'll be more than happy to write a good reference for you. You've done a wonderful job as a teacher, Peter, and I'm sorry S.H.I.E.L.D. and its politics took this away from you. Especially with kids on the way."
"Mary Jane gave birth a few days ago, when the Registration Act was overturned," Peter told him.
"Oh, congratulations, and good luck with all of your endeavors," the principal sighed, "and on your way out, you might want to talk with Coach Thompson about some things. He actually fought for your right to keep your job and seemed to be shocked when your wife gave her press conference."
"I don't want to bother anyone," Peter told him.
"He should have a free hour, right now," the principal told him.
"I see," Peter blinked, "Thank you."
"It's no problem," the principal shrugged, "and use my main exit over there. Julie will probably jump you if you go out through the office."
He ultimately found Flash arranging what looked like traffic cones in the school's gym. Part of Peter didn't know why he was doing this, as Flash had bullied him while in high school and while they got along better in later years, but they were never super close. Yet, here he came to talk things over.
"Hey, Flash, you wanted to speak with me?" Peter called to him.
Flash set the cones down and turned to face him.
"Parker?" he spoke, surprise evident in his voice.
"I just came to pick up my things," Peter answered, "the principal said you wanted to talk with me."
"It's more of a personal matter, really," Flash said nervously.
"Later today and many of the coming days won't be that easy for me, though," Peter sighed, "a lot of the heroes will be meeting at Avengers Tower this afternoon to figure out what we're going to do to try and make sure another 'Registration Act' isn't necessary."
"Dumb act did more harm than good, if you ask me," Flash grumbled for a moment, and then turned to him, "You're really Spider-Man, right? You're really him? You're not just helping him out because of all the stuff that Hill and the government threw at all the heroes?"
"Yeah," Peter sighed, "I am. I can show you… if you don't believe the press conference MJ gave."
Flash paused and then tossed a traffic cone across the gym.
"Retrieve that," Flash urged.
Peter shrugged and pointed his arm toward the thrown traffic cone, and curled back is middle and ring fingers. Flash blinked in surprise when a strand of webbing shot out from his wrist and hit the traffic cone. Peter then pulled it back to them and caught it in midair.
"Wow, you really are Spider-Man," Flash blinked.
What surprised Peter was that Flash then gave a half a depressed groan and looked down.
"You okay, Flash?" Peter asked him.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Flash answered, "It's just that there are a lot of things hitting me right now because of all the brouhaha the government started with the Registration Act."
"Look, Flash, I'm sorry if this has been a shock to you, but I largely kept my identity secret to keep people safe," Peter said slowly, "a lot of my bad guys who have discovered my secret identity have gone after people I care for. You remember that truck accident you had while working for Norman Osborn?"
"Yeah, put a DUI record on my driver's license to the point where I can't legally drive anywhere anymore," Flash sighed, "the problem is, I don't remember going into a bar that night… but that…"
"The reason is because Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin had you beaten up by a gang of his thugs," Peter answered, "from what he gloated over to this to me later, is that he had them beat you up and force feed you the whisky, not so much to truly get you drunk but to create the image that you were. He attacked you to get to me… and believe me; I've lost a lot of sleep over stuff like that."
"No it's not that," Flash answered, "I got no major problem with you being Spider-Man or with the secret identity stuff. Lots of heroes did that… and a fair number still do, though I don't know how many do today thanks to the Registration Act."
"Okay… so what is it?" Peter wondered.
"Some of it is the past and some of it is self-loathing."
"Huh?" Peter asked him.
"Dude, I formed your fan club at a time when I thought Peter Parker was a puny dork," Flash answered, "and now that's more than proven how wrong I was. I mean… you've been a hero as Spider-Man since the beginning, and I spent my time bullying you, you know?"
"Yeah… but at the time, you figured Spider-Man was a more athletic jokester type of person, not the rather bookish, nerdy, and spectacled person you saw Peter Parker as," Peter answered, "and some of that is probably my fault. I obviously couldn't pound you and web you to a locker in high school. It would have been wrong, irresponsible, and stupid… so I probably took a lot of the frustration I took in high school and fueled it into being somewhat of a jokester as Spider-Man. It allowed me to blow off steam that way."
"But I was wrong!" Flash answered, "It doesn't matter if the jokester side of you was one you used to blow off steam. I used to think there was no possible way you were Spidey, when in fact you ARE Spidey. And I was wrong."
Peter's mind drifted off to something that bordered on wondering psychology and concept of masks, and it took him a little while to blink himself out of it. Science had been his strong suit, along with photography.
"Lots of people are wrong on things all the time," Peter told him, "that's no excuse for you to hate yourself."
"Oh? Do you think I'm a hero?" Flash asked him back.
"Huh?" Peter raised an eyebrow in confusion.
"Do you think I'm a hero, doesn't have to be someone with powers," Flash answered, "Just do you think I'm a hero?"
"I think you a good and decent guy, Flash," Peter told him, "nothing wrong with that. There have been days where I've dreamed of being like that."
"You don't get it…" Flash groaned, "In high school, I was the sports hero. Everyone loved me and wanted to be like me. I was voted most likely to succeed… and did I? NO!"
Peter looked on in surprise.
"My football career in college was never as good as it was in high school, and my family couldn't afford to keep me there and I ended up joining the army just to pay off the college," Flash answered, "which in its own way would have been alright… if one of their scientists felt I was qualified for one of their super soldier projects… you know, become the next Captain America or whatever sort of patriotic name you'd like to use. Instead, I ended up a basic grunt and was sent into some jungle war/police action/humanitarian security effort and never won anything remotely close to what I thought I could earn. Now, all I'm good for is to get high schoolers to run laps."
Peter didn't know what to say.
"Meanwhile, you've saved the world… the city… me… you've joined the Avengers… you've married a supermodel," Flash continued, "I'm a failure next to you, man."
"No, you aren't," Peter answered, with as much firmness as he could muster, "You've done remarkably well. I mean… yes, you're not Captain America or the NFL's MVP, but did you complete an Education Major in college?"
"Not a formal one," Flash answered, "I got a certificate online and have been able to use references about my passion for athletics to get here, but…"
"And that's a long way from where you were when you left the army," Peter answered, "It isn't anything glamorous, but it's a good life. Your life is probably more stable than mine will ever be. I mean… I missed most of MJ's pregnancy and the birth of my son and daughter because S.H.I.E.L.D. felt it imperative to control superheroes like they were cattle. My children will probably never get anything close to what most consider a normal life. Doctor Octopus, the Green Goblin, Venom, Carnage, the Red Skull, the Kingpin, Kang the Conqueror, and half a million other villains with plans of getting rich or conquering Earth will always hang like a shadow over them. Your life may not be flashy, but it's one many would give their souls for."
"They didn't let you see your kids be born?" Flash asked.
Peter shook his head, "No, they didn't."
"But what about having Mary Jane?" Flash questioned, "She's a supermodel! An actress, and a superhero now her own right, apparently."
"Love doesn't care who your love is or what they look like," Peter sighed, "If MJ's mind and soul were put inside of a robot that looked more like… like you then she does… and put the mind of a monkey in her body, I'd go with the robot. Because the robot would have what is truly Mary Jane Watson."
Flash didn't answer.
"Besides, as I told you, my Aunt and her Aunt were friends and set us up," Peter shrugged, "neither of us went looking for the other. And besides, before I got called away into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s mess, you told me you were seeing this new nurse… Arrow, I believe her name was?"
"Yeah," Flash nodded, "but my love life's never really been stable either. In the end I came off as too much of a dumb jock for Liz… and Betty's carried a lot complex things that I'm too dumb to help her with… sooner or later I'll screw it up with Ms. Arrow."
"With that kind of attitude you will," Peter commented, "be yourself… show her you're a good person, but don't go overboard trying to impress her or anything. And if things work out well… your luck may change."
"You think so?" Flash wondered.
Peter nodded, "and feel free to stop by Avengers Tower from time to time if you ever need any help with that. MJ and I would be more than happy to help, though you must be warned, a superhero's hours are crazy."
And while his spider-sense warned him of it, he was very surprised when Flash pulled him into a hug.
"Thanks, man," Flash told them, "Sorry, I couldn't get them to keep your job… but hey, I could always use an assistant."
"You don't want me explaining a football kickoff in physics' formulas, Flash," Peter gave him a chuckle, "Have a good day."
"You too, Spidey," Flash answered, "You still rock."
Peter shook his head and smiled a bit. He checked his watch and found that he had just enough time for the other major mission he had for the day before the big superhero meeting. Flash resumed setting the traffic cones for whatever he had planned for his PE class. Both men felt a little bit better about things.
"You don't intend to go to this meeting, dear?" Anna Watson asked quietly as Mary Jane went through a series of aerobics exercises with little May and Ben sleeping together in a crib that had been set up at the foot of Peter and Mary Jane's bed.
The elderly Watson recognized it as the same crib that Mary Jane and Peter had when then they had been expecting the baby that had been stillborn. They baby that Mary Jane had since told her that had been killed by Norman Osborn. Aunt May stood beside her as Mary Jane went through the exercise routine.
"We can watch them, dear, it's no trouble," Aunt May offered, "and Jarvis has already taken the liberty of buying formula for them. You and Peter aren't alone, dear, and you won't have to use that robot very often."
"I know, but this thing isn't my place to butt in," Mary Jane sighed, "As Arachne, I'm Peter's partner. I'm there to keep him safe… and besides, I'm still fairly new at this. I doubt anything I say will carry much in the way of weight with other heroes that have been there longer."
"What if they change something?" Anna wondered, "From what I've seen in the papers, this meeting of Mr. Stark's is to rearrange how heroes… in America at least, will operate."
Mary Jane sighed and nodded. They'd found that the call for this meeting was being broadcast on every available news station and in every paper. Probably to get many of the heroes that had sided with Cap to come to the meeting. And as far as Mary Jane could tell, while Tony had supported the Registration Act initially, he truly wanted to use it to train new heroes. Not oppress the old ones. And now, with the Registration Act gone, the worst of the problem was gone, but many of the issues that caused it were still there. This meeting was supposed to fix that.
"If something does change, I know Peter will tell me," Mary Jane sighed, "It isn't my place to get in their way."
As she finished, twin cries rose up out of the crib, making Mary Jane stop and turn to it. Both little May and Ben had gotten up and were 'cranky'. Mary Jane turned lift up little May while Anna lifted up Ben. They didn't smell like they needed their diapers changed, but a dirty diaper wasn't the only thing that got an infant to cry.
"Besides, these two kept both Peter and I up for a good portion of the night," Mary Jane sighed, "I'm surprised Peter hasn't dropped dead from exhaustion somewhere already. I don't want to end up napping in the middle of something important."
"Peter will be under the same strain," Aunt May pointed out.
"I'm sure," Mary Jane sighed, "another thing I need training in, I guess. Functioning on less sleep."
Peter was a bit more nervous as he made his way into the Daily Bugle building. He did feel a bit tired after the night. Aunt May had told him and Mary Jane that parenthood would be their greatest responsibility, and she hadn't been kidding. Little May and Ben had schedules that went totally against what he and MJ had been used to. They got up once at 2AM to be fed, and then again at 4AM to have their diapers changed. It was a new reason to be short on sleep for Peter, but he managed. Mostly due to the odd hours he had been pulling as Spider-Man for years. All the same, he was a bit nervous as he entered the Daily Bugle building. While he'd been drawn into more at the school then he had expected and had Flash throw him for a bit of loop with what he had told him, Peter got the sense that he had supporters there. The Bugle was a different story. Robbie Robertson had defended Spider-Man for years, and Jessica Jones-Cage had taken over as the paper's superhero writer, but Peter didn't know how well that would work. He knew Jonah would be out for blood for supposedly misleading the paper, which Peter would probably agree with him on that. Would Robbie take a similar tone? Come after Peter Parker for a betrayal of trust for not saying he was Spider-Man up front? Would any of the other writers there do the same? It was all a great question that he was nervous over as he quietly walked in and went into an elevator. Some wouldn't dare come here, but Peter felt driven to come and to explain himself. It probably wouldn't do much and it definitely wouldn't get him his job back, but he hoped he would be able to explain himself.
The elevator halted and Peter stepped out into what was the common chaos that was the Daily Bugle. It was a scene familiar to him from all the days of bringing in photos. Something he wouldn't get to do anymore. People were hurrying about arguing over things with Jonah in the middle of it, barking orders to get things done with Robbie following just behind him. He moved to a spot where he could be noticed and then stood quietly. At first no one noticed, but eventually someone did, and that person came to a dead halt and stared in surprise. Once they stopped, they then didn't move, as if they were waiting for the confrontation between Peter and Jonah.
The fact that people stopped did not meet with Jonah's approval and he was soon storming to where he saw people not moving or working.
"Hey! I ain't payin' ya to lounge around!" Jonah roared as he stormed forward, "what are you standing around f…"
He stopped when he saw Peter standing there.
"YOU!" Jonah roared, "The jerk who's been trying to run me out of business!"
"Come on, Jonah," Peter sighed, "You know that I've brought you more business than anything else."
"What do you want?" Jonah growled, "Make it quick. I don't have time for liars and thieves… never mind, Johnson, call the police. We have Spider-Man here, ready to be arrested!"
"I just came to talk," Peter said calmly, "not start world war three."
"You started that when you stole my money!" Jonah roared.
"Easy, Jonah," came Robbie's voice, "remember what the doctor told you…"
"To hell with the doctor!" Jonah declared, "how can you defend HIM for lying to us for all these years!"
"I can't entirely defend the lying, Jonah, but I did talk with Mary Jane while you were being rushed to the ER for having a heart attack," Robbie answered, "from what I got from her he had good reasons for doing so. You might want to talk with him."
Jonah grumbled something under his breath when the man he had screamed at, Johnson spoke up from where he'd been on the phone, in accordance with Jonah's orders.
"Mr. Jameson, I'm afraid he'd have to commit a crime before the Police could consider arresting a 'registered' hero," Johnson spoke.
Jonah only grumbled again.
"I only came to talk," Peter answered, "I'm not here to ask for my job back or anything of that nature. Merely to explain myself."
"Talk with him, Jonah," Robbie urged.
"Come into my office," Jonah groaned, "You can explain why you felt it necessary to lie to me and profit off of the Bugle."
Jonah then stalked off, and Peter followed slowly. Once inside the office, Jonah went to sit behind his desk, while Peter stood on the other side.
"Well?" Jonah demanded, "Start explaining. Why did you feel it necessary to lie to and steal from the Daily Bugle?"
"If you're asking about the 'mask' and the 'secret identity' thing, I did that to protect not just myself, but anyone I was friends with as Peter Parker," Peter explained.
"That's a stupid reason if I ever heard one," Jonah answered, "I don't trust you BECAUSE you hid your identity. I can't trust a word you say."
"It's the truth," Peter answered, "I was afraid if someone found out who Spider-Man was, they'd come after those I was close to, or felt personally responsible for. You remember the incident when Gwen Stacy died?"
"Yeah, you knocked her off a bridge in one your ridiculous fights with the Green Goblin," Jonah said with absolute certainty, "practically killed your own girlfriend. Probably cheating on her with the bimbo you married."
"I never cheated on Gwen, and Mary Jane is not a bimbo," Peter growled back icily, as Jonah's grumblings struck one of his own personal nerves, "Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, had prior to that fight learned who Spider-Man was. Realizing that 'Spider-Man' was practically unstoppable in head to head fight… I'd either defeat him outright or at least prevent him from getting what he wanted… Norman decided to strike where I couldn't be there all the time. He kidnapped Gwen Stacy and put her in the position where she would be at risk of being a casualty of the fight."
"Then maybe you could have done the smart thing and left the Goblin to the police," Jonah answered, "or if superheroes had to be involved, waited until REAL heroes could arrive. The Avengers or the Fantastic Four."
"Jonah, Norman as the Goblin carries enough personal weaponry to make the Marines jealous," Peter sighed, "and as one man, he could attack third world countries and stand a decent chance of winning… yet the FF and the Avengers have relegated him as a 'minor' threat. They wouldn't respond because The Green Goblin doesn't rule a country like Doctor Doom, doesn't possess the Cosmic Power to the point where he needs to feed on planets like Galactus, he's one man, and thus doesn't have the military capabilities of Hydra, and for the most part, much of his activities have been localized… he's wanted to dominate New York crime or localized industry. Not conquer the world, which means that S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers have only given him a passing glance. It's only after I joined the Avengers before the 'civil war' that I realized just how little interest they had taken in the villains that I'd fought."
"And…" Jonah expected Peter to go on.
"Had I stayed out of that situation, he would trash the police, which might have finally brought the Avengers in," Peter continued, "but because the entire situation was to get to ME personally, he would have likely killed her outright when he felt that I wouldn't come. The entire fight was set up to insure that she would be in danger and I would be off balance. If I didn't go, he would have killed her, and in the process of fighting him… one of his bombs knocked her off the roof. I tried to catch her… to save her, but the direct tactic I tried worked more like a hangman's noose rather than a net… and it snapped her neck. I didn't intend for that to happen… and maybe that's where some of Tony Stark's ideas on training might have helped… but…"
Jonah blinked when he noticed Peter's eyes tearing up a bit.
"You actually feel guilty for what happened to her?" Jonah inquired, sounding surprised more than anything else.
"Yes," Peter nodded, "I wish I could have done something smarter in that instance, and a good part of me feels guilty for not being able to save her from the impossible situation the Goblin put her in. And for the most part, I don't like talking about it BECAUSE it's one of the few areas where I feel that I failed… but it does illustrate the point that bad guys will go after those close to a hero rather than going after the hero directly."
"Uh-huh," Jonah responded simply.
He didn't want to trust anything Peter said, but deep down, Jonah was a good newspaper man. While he was investigative and highly critical of just about everything, Jonah would never sacrifice the truth for making a good story. Now of course, he wasn't above seeing only a one sided version of the truth, or the truth as he interpreted it, but it was still the truth. The various retractions the Bugle had had to make over the years when some of his more serious accusations of Spider-Man were proven wrong. And based off of what he could see, Peter did feel genuinely sorry for what happened to Gwendolyn Stacy. He thus decided to move onto a different struggle.
"But why be Spider-Man in the first place?" Jonah asked, "If you weren't Spider-Man, the Goblin would have never threatened her."
"Maybe not her specifically, but someone would have been threatened by him," Peter sighed, "I mean, you've criticized Norman Osborn almost as hard as you've criticized me over the years. Do you think he would simply stop being the Green Goblin because I wasn't there as Spider-Man?"
"Probably not," Jonah answered, "but…"
"No one would see it?" Peter asked, "Often the crimes we don't see are the most damaging. We don't think of them BECAUSE we don't see them."
Jonah grudgingly accepted that point.
"Anyway, I became Spider-Man to atone for the first mistakes I'd made after I got my powers," Peter looked down, visibly looking embarrassed and ashamed, "I'd started in show business, and after feeling like I'd been cheated out of the winnings, I let a crook get away with the manager's money. Legally, I was in the right as I wasn't legally responsible, but I could have easily stopped the guy and had the power to do so… and that same guy would ultimately murder someone very close to me as part of some different crime. That one was a coincidence, but after discovering that the guy I had let go was the one who committed the later crime, I vowed that I would use powers responsibly and to protect people."
"You really are an idiot, aren't you?" Jonah questioned, "Any responsible person would have stopped that guy without a second thought, and forgotten about the money. I mean… did you think you were the first guy to short-changed by a manager running the arena?"
"There are days when I feel like that," Peter admitted, "and you wouldn't believe how guilty I've felt for not being a responsible person that night. But it's why I've been Spider-Man… the 'masked menace' trying to stop guys like Venom, Carnage, Doctor Octopus, the Green Goblin, the Hobgoblin, Kingpin, and half a dozen others."
"At least you're an honest idiot," Jonah grumbled, "and still a greedy one."
"What?" Peter looked back questioningly.
"You spent years profiting off of my good graces, never explaining that the reason you got those good shots of YOU were because those photos were self-publicity shots," Jonah answered.
"Profit is hardly the word I would use to describe my services to the Bugle," Peter answered, "I barely scrapped by. I don't have my taxes here with me, but if I did, you would clearly see that MJ is the one who is the breadwinner. Not me."
Jonah gave a disbelieving grunt.
"Besides, my shots of me as Spider-Man sold you more papers then you had until then," Peter commented, "it's why 'Spider-Man' became you front page editorial for years. You made far more off of my photographs of me then I did… and if you really think I was cheating you… why would I deliver photos of me to you so you could accuse me of every sin in the calendar? I mean… if making money and doing it for self-publicity were the goal, I would have gone to one of the other papers, or started some sort of… I don't know 'Spider-Man Inc.' to actually do the publishing. Instead, I brought them to you, so you could drag my name through the mud."
Jonah had to admit he had a point there. He'd like to believe that Peter had cheated him, and would probably hold onto that belief, but he also had to admit he had a point. It didn't make much sense for him to be doing things purely for profit when he knew that the boss was using the photos he sold were used to portray Spider-Man in a negative light.
"You have a good point, Parker," Jonah admitted, "I have to admit that. But you made incredibly stupid decisions."
"I know," Peter said weakly.
"You let a guy go when you SHOULD have stopped him," Jonah lectured, "and you lied about who you were and created a double identity. And for that, I cannot trust you."
"I know," Peter sighed.
"And I'm not the only one you're gonna have to apologize to for all of your stupid behavior," Jonah said firmly, "and I for one and glad I do not have to apologize to everyone you've offended as Spider-Man and known as Peter Parker."
"I know," Peter said quickly.
"Now, get out of my office and be grateful that I'm not having you arrested," Jonah growled and sent Peter on his way.
Jonah then followed him until he was at the door to his office and from there watched Peter get into an elevator and leave. He noticed the slow trudge that Peter took, but paid little attention to it.
"The nerve of him coming in to beg for his job back," Jonah grumbled, "and he didn't even do it right."
"I doubt he had any intention of begging for his job, Jonah," Robbie told him, "Peter's been responsible and honest to us since the beginning. He knows you won't go back on your decision not to take his photos anymore."
"Honest?" Jonah questioned, "That's the LAST word you could use to describe him! He spent years lying to us about Spider-Man."
"Did we ever actually ask him if he was Spider-Man?" Robbie asked.
"No, but I've put out bounties for the discovery of Spider-Man's secret identity," Jonah answered.
"And how many times have I told you that that was wrong and did more harm than good?" Robbie asked him.
"More times than I can count," Jonah sighed, "so, if he wasn't here for his job, why was he here?"
"My best guess is that he was looking for someone to berate him a little," Robbie shrugged, "the Registration Act hit all the heroes hard, and Mary Jane said the only reason she and Peter registered in the first place was because of her pregnancy…"
"So he comes to me looking to be punished?" Jonah gasped, "And I gotta yell at him whenever he makes a mistake?"
"You don't have to," Robbie chuckled.
Jonah only gave a 'bah' and returned to his office.
In the end, Peter returned to Avengers Tower in time for the main hero meeting. He had just barely enough time to change from his plain clothes to his traditional red and blue Spider-Man costume and attend the meeting. After it ended, he explained what had gone on to Mary Jane, who presently feeding little May.
"So, they'll have two teams?" Mary Jane asked.
"Yeah, a Red and Blue team," Peter, still in costume, but not wearing his mask, nodded, "Cap will be leading Blue Team and will be leading the experienced heroes in proving we don't need to be supervised like we're five year olds. Tony will be leading Red Team and showing that we aren't resistant to some form of regulation."
"It sounds like they've found a good comprise then," Aunt May said from where she and Anna were standing in the room.
"I think that was the way Cap took things during the meeting," Peter nodded.
"So, Peter, will you be one of these Avengers teams… or will you and Mary Jane be moving your new family to some other apartment?" Aunt Anna asked.
"I'll be staying with Blue Team," Peter answered, "After what Hill put us through, I don't want to have to deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff again. "
"Me neither," Mary Jane sighed and cradled little May in arm while working to button herself back up.
Once all the buttons were done, there was a knock at the door to their apartment which gave Aunt May and Aunt Anna some surprise.
"Who could that be?" Aunt Anna asked as Peter went to answer the door.
As Peter opened the door, it was revealed that the person at their door was none other than Tony Stark, the Invincible Iron Man. For the moment though, it appeared as though he wasn't wearing his helmet.
"Hello, Peter, Mary Jane, and family," Tony spoke calmly as he came in, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"Peter was just telling us about the conference you just had a little while ago," Aunt May spoke, "it is very good that you and Cap decided to compromise on things."
"I'm sure," Tony nodded, "It isn't much, I'm afraid, as there are still a lot of people that will distrust superheroes and won't exactly have something like the Registration Act to give them the idea that things are good and that heroes are under control…"
"The Registration Act caused nothing but problems," Aunt Anna told him.
"In the end, yes," Tony nodded, "but the fact that it was defeated doesn't remove the problems that made it seem attractive to those that passed it in the first place. Something had to be done to make sure that if something comes along… we don't get another Registration Act being passed again… but only worse."
"Cooperating will be a good start, I think," Aunt May commented.
"Yes it will," Tony nodded.
"So what brings you here in full armor, Tony?" Peter asked him, "Is something wrong?"
"No, nothing is wrong," Tony answered, "Merely taking steps to fill the Red Team roster."
"You do know I'm sticking with Cap on Blue Team?" Peter asked him.
Tony nodded, "I know. I was actually here to inquire if your wife would have any interest in being on Red Team."
"WHAT?" Mary Jane gasped in surprise giving little May a start.
Mary Jane quickly had to settle back down to calm the now crying infant.
"We'll take her, dear," Aunt May came forward and picked up little May, "this seems like a fairly big discussion."
Aunt May and Aunt Anna then excused themselves and took both Ben and little May with them. Peter could soon hear Aunt May singing a lullaby to little May.
"You want me as an Avenger?" Mary Jane gasped, "But I'm still fairly new at all of this."
"Maybe but you've done rather well," Tony answered, "Besides, Red Team needs to take on the look that we're training new heroes. The Sentry has agreed to join our team, but the rest of Red Team is so far a bunch of old 'Classic Avengers'. We need at least one more relatively new hero to show that we are training heroes."
"And you decided on using my wife because she's new?" Peter asked.
"Partially," Tony admitted, "but a lot of it has also come from the fact that Mary Jane has done very well, despite being new. I'd actually commend your skills as a teacher in teaching her how to use her powers."
"Uh… thanks," was all Peter could manage to that.
"And because you've done well, Mary Jane, I figured you would make a good Avenger," Tony then said to Mary Jane, "you'd show the world that while you're new, you're not to be laughed at… and just as capable as any of us."
"I don't think I quite fit the Avenger mold," Mary Jane commented, "partially because I'm new."
"When the team started out you could have said the same thing about me," Tony answered, "I'd only just started being Iron Man when the Avengers were first formed. Being new or being experienced doesn't make one an Avenger."
Peter and Mary Jane watched as Tony raised one hand up to where his heart was.
"It's what's on the inside that makes an Avenger," Tony commented, "and after all you've gone through before becoming Arachne, and the progress you've made in the short time since becoming Arachne… I think you have all the potential to be a great Avenger."
Peter and Mary Jane traded glances. Peter was all for letting MJ join one of the Avengers teams. A little jealous that an offer was made so quickly for her, but then, MJ had always been the breadwinner in their family. Their only concern was that S.H.I.E.L.D. would become overly involved in Avengers missions.
"I thank you for the compliment," Mary Jane told him, "But I think I'll stay away from S.H.I.E.L.D. and its intrigues. Hill sent Peter around the world with a serial killer because of them. I don't want to end up in the same boat…"
"You won't," Tony assured her, "remember that I am Red Team's leader and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s new director. While Red Team may end up on more S.H.I.E.L.D. missions then Blue Team, those agents that pushed Maria Hill's agenda will have to go through ME first."
"It's nothing personal against you," Mary Jane answered, "I just don't want to be in a situation where some normal human subordinate will have the ability to deride me in every way, and anything I say in my defense is grounds for punishment. Because that's how Hill handled those of us that Registered."
"That won't happen," Tony answered, "I'm already putting things in place that heroes that registered during the 'civil war' will have some command and control positions over a lot of the normal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, which is needed as most of the guys that we face and the threats that S.H.I.E.L.D. faces won't be afraid normal agents. A lot of it is about responsibility. Heroes need to be responsible to those that they protect, but groups like S.H.I.E.L.D. need to understand the skills that superheroes have put them in a better position to deal with these things."
"So you're going to be changing how S.H.I.E.L.D. works?" Peter inquired.
"In a way," Tony nodded, "what S.H.I.E.L.D. needs is more guys like Cap in charge of it, on nearly every level. The more we think like him, and the less we think like Patton the better. All Maria Hill and… even Fury… figured how to deal with some of the bad guys out there was to simply hit them hard with everything they had. And it may work… but the consequences of such brute force tactics are not always good."
"And you think I'm a good candidate for that?" Mary Jane asked, "I might be able to figure out how to outsmart an individual bad guy or two… shoot, I beat up the Chameleon once before I even became Arachne, but I can't run any S.H.I.E.L.D. team. Not in any way that would work."
"I'm not asking you to," Tony answered, "I'm just telling you that the bullying you experienced under Maria Hill will no longer happen without the offending agent being punished for it. And they cannot deride your strategies to deal with the foes you face…"
"But wouldn't the Red Team be a sort of military operation?" Mary Jane asked.
"In a way yes, and you would need to follow my or my deputy's commands on missions," Ton nodded, "but we are experienced with the superhero side of things. Maria Hill wasn't. You can trust us."
Mary Jane looked at him with a very questioning look on her face.
"And as I said, if something comes up that isn't to your liking, you're allowed to resign at any time," Tony said again.
"You're not going to leave until I accept, are you?" Mary Jane answered.
"Well, that was the idea," Tony admitted, "though; I also figured that any hero would want to be an Avenger. I didn't expect I'd have to talk about some of my plans for S.H.I.E.L.D. which I haven't fully finalized yet, and aren't fully sure will work exactly as planned… but as I said, who wouldn't want to be an Avenger?"
Mary Jane sighed and looked to Peter who only shrugged.
"Fine," Mary Jane sighed, "I'll join Red Team… but one… just one instance of someone trying to bully me into some hypnotized soldier, and I will resign? Okay?"
"Sure," Tony nodded and shook her hand, "but that won't happen, and you'll be a great Avenger."
To Be Continued…