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Entwined Destines – Episode One Road To Recovery Part I
Empire State University, afternoon
"I was appalled when I heard what happened to you, Ms. Stacy. If there is anything I can do to help, please do not hesitate to ask." Dr. Reynard Warren professor of genetics and advanced biology asked Gwen once his class ended.
"Thanks, Dr, Warren," Gwen said putting her tablet into its carrying case. Due to the fact, several bystanders had witnessed the abduction her ordeal at the hands of Green Goblin was an open secret. "You've always been so kind to me."
"We've been over this before Gwen." Dr, Warren said smiling warmly. "Please call me Reynard. There's no need for such formalities. We are friends, aren't we Gwen?"
"I guess," Gwen said suddenly feeling uncomfortable.
While consciously Gwen knew there was nothing to fear from the bespectacled older gentleman with the thick mustache and gentle demeanor, she could not shake the nagging feeling there was something amiss with his behavior. It was like a mild tingle in the back of her head. How odd, she mused.
"Hi, Gwen, hi, Dr. Warren," Peter said bouncing into the classroom.
"Hello Mr. Peter, missed another class I see." Dr. Warren said. His smiled faded as he suddenly became much more formal.
"Ah, what can I say, I overslept," Peter said scratching the back of his head nervously.
"The class started at 3:30 pm, it's now 5:00 pm," Dr. Warren said unimpressed by Peter's flimsy excuse.
"I'm a heavy sleeper," Peter said with a shrug.
"Quite," Dr. Warren said. "Tell me Mr. Parker have you ever been tested for sleep apnea?"
"Not that I can recall, why?" Peter said.
"Maybe you should be." Dr. Warren said. "If you indeed have the condition, that would certainly explain your abnormal sleeping patterns."
"I'll look into it," Peter said.
"You do that ." Dr. Warren said then added with a smile. "Until next time, farewell Ms. Stacy. It, as always, has been a pleasure. And remember my offer."
"I will," Gwen said. "Goodbye, Dr. Warren."
"Goodbye, Dr, Warren," Peter said.
"Mr. Parker I advise you thoroughly examine Ms. Stacy's notes. Unless of course, you want to fail the midterm examination next week, good day." Dr. Warren said his smile immediately gone. What neither Peter or Gwen saw, however, was the scowl on his face when he turned away.
"He hates me." Peter groaned once Dr. Warren was gone. Gwen could not suppress a giggle. "Hey, it isn't funny," Peter said defensively.
"Which one was it this time?" Gwen whispered leaning close to Peter.
"Vulture, that old buzzard put up a heck of a fight too," Peter whispered back.
Gwen frowned. "Did he hurt you?" She asked an expression of concern on her face.
"Nah, I'm fine," Peter said rather too quickly for Gwen's liking.
"I hope so," Gwen said.
In the two weeks since Gwen learned Peter's secret identity, she had made an additional disheartening discovery. Peter often downplayed how serious his injuries were. Once after a battle with Rhino and Shocker, she discovered him passed out in his tattered uniform on the living floor of his apartment. She was so concerned for his wellbeing she almost called the Fantastic Four before he regained consciousness and stopped her.
"I hate the fact I can't help you," Gwen said once they arrived at Peter's apartment an hour later.
"With what, Dr. Warren's class? Don't worry Gwen I'm a fast study. Just let me copy your notes and I'll do great on the midterm, trust me." Peter said.
"I mean being Spider-Man," Gwen said. "I feel helpless every time you go out on patrol. I'm always worried you won't come back. You live such a terribly dangerous life, Peter."
"Gwen, what I do isn't any different for what your dad does," Peter said.
"That's not true, even when my father used to routinely go out on patrol he had backup. You're always alone." Gwen said.
"Nonsense, sometimes I team up with other superheroes like the Fantastic Four," Peter said.
Gwen shook her head. "Rarely is there anyone with you Peter. What would happen to me or your Aunt May if..." Gwen trailed off not daring to give voice to her dark thoughts.
"I won't give this up Gwen," Peter said turning away. "That would be irresponsible of me."
Shortly after the night that changed everything Peter had told Gwen the tragic circumstances surrounding his Uncle Ben's death. While Gwen was fully aware of why being Spider-Man was so important to Peter that did not prevent her from being frightened. If there was only some way she could actually help Peter make a difference rather than being nothing more than a glorified damsel in distress. Then her restless thoughts would be put at ease.
They stood there in silence for that seemed an eternity. "I know it would be. Which is why I love you, my special hero." Gwen said tears in her eyes as they embraced. "Promise me you'll be careful out there." Her watery blue eyes looked up into his face.
"As careful as I can be," Peter said holding Gwen tight.
St. Patrick's Cathedral two days later, morning
Gwen sat uncomfortably as no less a religious luminary than the archbishop himself gave a glowing eulogy of Norman Osborn. The only reason she was even there was to show solidarity with Harry. Inwardly Gwen scoffed at the man's words of praise until she caught herself. He did not know. Except for her and Peter, who sat by her side periodically squeezing her hand in a show of support when he felt it tremble, no one else present was aware of what a monster Norman Osborn had been. To the assembled mourners Norman had been a captain of industry, an innovator, a philanthropist, a friend and a father (poor Harry she thought). But she knew better. The real Norman Osborn was a sadist, a criminal mastermind, a blackmailer, a kidnapper, a murderer, and perhaps a rapist her rapist (she wished she could remember if he had violated her or not). Not for the first time she regretted attending the funeral when Norman's assistant the unflappable Donald Menken took to the podium. The same Donald Menken who had stood by in Europe while Norman bragged of and then demonstrated his hypnotic control of her by making her perform tricks like a trained seal and even planted a vile kiss on her lips. A feat Menken seemed to find especially amusing. The sight of him almost made her physically ill.
"Norman Osborn was a great man. A man who cared about the less fortunate. A man who each year donated a substantial portion of his vast wealth to various charities. We are all richer for having known him and poorer for his passing." Donald Menken said. "Norman Osborn was more than my employer or my friend, he was the father I never had. Norman I know you are looking down on us from Heaven."
"Yeah right," Gwen said before she caught herself.
"Gwen," Peter said.
"I'm sorry," Gwen said feeling all eyes on her including those of Harry Osborn who shot her a questioning look. "I, I, I have to go." She said getting up and fleeing the scene.
Peter found her in the bathroom a few minutes later gulping down water. He gingerly placed a hand on her shoulder. She nearly jumped out of her skin at his touch.
"Take me home, to our home," Gwen said once she recovered from her start. She had been spending more and more time at Peter's apartment in recent weeks to the point she was seriously thinking of moving in if he would have her of course.
"But what about Harry, he-," Peter began.
"Please Peter, I can't be here anymore." Gwen pleaded.
Peter nodded and without another word he escorted Gwen away. He did not stop when Harry demanded to know what happened. Rather his expression set in determination he trudged on until he and Gwen were safely a block away from the cathedral. Only then did he again speak.
"What happened back there, are you okay?" Peter said worriedly.
"'What happened', how can you ask me that question?" Gwen snapped. "They were practically nominating that monster for sainthood. I couldn't listen anymore."
"They don't know what he did Gwen. What kind of person he really was." Peter reminded her. "And for Harry's shake, they never will, if I have my way."
"Is that suppose to make me feel better?" Gwen said bitterly.
"No," Peter said calmly. "You have every right to be angry at him. I know I am."
"Funny, you don't show it," Gwen said then realized her mistake when she saw the crushed look on Peter's face. "Oh, Peter I didn't mean what I said."
"Maybe I don't because I'm happy," Peter said his expression brightening slightly.
"Happy, why," Gwen said confused.
"Because you're alive," Peter said. He took Gwen's hands in his own. "Gwen I don't give a damn about Norman Osborn. Let him rot in Hell. If I had lost you no amount of hating him would have brought you back. We can't let his memory dominate our lives. If we do, he wins."
"You're right Peter," Gwen said. She smiled weakly for the first time that day. "Let's get out of here."
Hose of Dr. Reynard Warren on Long Island the next day, evening
"Hello, Dr. Warren maybe I come in?" Donald Menken asked when Dr. Warren opened his front. In his hand, Donald Menken held a steel briefcase with a double. digital locking mechanism. Glancing down Dr. Warren raised an eyebrow at the secure case.
"Right this way Mr. Menken." Dr. Warren said leading the executive into his tastefully appointed parlor. Dr. Warren took a seat across from Donald Menken who he offered shortbread cookies and a cup of teat which Menken waved off. "I must admit I'm rather curious why you contacted me."
"Simple Dr. Warren. Oscorp requires the services of a top-level experimental geneticist. You fit the bill." Donald Menken said placing the briefcase on his lap.
"While I am flattered I remain skeptical of any offer you may extend. I have not worked in the field for some time now." Dr. Warren said.
"Not since that unfortunate Carrion Virus incident." Donald Menken said.
"I'll have you know I was cleared of any wrongdoing." Dr. Warren said.
"As I am aware." Donald Menken said. "I am also aware one condition of your acquittal was that you refrain from any further practical research or experimentation in your field of study or related fields, thus your current strictly academic position at Empire State University." Donald Menken said smiling slyly.
"H-How did you?" Dr. Warren stammered. "My attorney has assured me that those records are sealed."
"At Oscorp we have our ways of procuring sensitive information. You needn't concern yourself with our methods Dr. Warren." Donald Menken said dismissively. "The project you would be managing for us requires utmost discretion. If you accept, it will be kept strictly off the official record." Donald Menken popped open the briefcase. He handed Dr. Warren a manila file folder from the case which the latter quickly skimmed. "Fascinating, don't you agree ?"
"Indeed it is, along with being ambitious." Dr. Warren said an expression of awe mixed with delight on his face.
"Do you think you can succeed?" Donald Menken asked.
"I'm frankly not sure. Human let alone metahuman cloning is still in its infancy. What you ask, may be impossible." Dr. Warren conceded.
"I understand the enormous difficulties involved. However, are you willing to try nonetheless Dr. Warren?" Donald Menken asked.
"I am," Dr. Warren said following some hesitation. "A chance to be a scientific pioneer. To make history. How could I refuse?"
"Excellent," Donald Menken said. "When can you start?"
"That depends," Dr. Warren said.
"On what," Donald Menken asked.
"When you can furnish me with the genetic material of the subjects you wished duplicated." Dr. Warren said.
"Soon, Dr. Warren soon." Donald Menken said.
To Be Continued
Author's Note One -
I'm using the named Reynard rather than Miles for Dr. Warren, which is in line with the new Spider-Man Animated Series, in case I eventually add Miles Morales to the cast. Having two characters named Miles would be rather confusing.
Author's Note Two -
I apologize for the short length of this chapter. In my defense, it was the best I could do because of the holidays. Expect a longer chapter next update.