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Another Strand In The Great Web – Episode Twenty-Four The Gauntlet Prologue

Parker Residence on Western Long Island, evening

"Your home is very nice, Mary." Gayle Byrnes complimented her sister after Mary Jane gave her the grand tour, minus Ben's room. "You and Peter are doing very well."

"About time," Philip Watson grunted. "How long have you been married to this bum; eight, nine years? You supported him most of that time if I'm not mistaken."

"Peter was never a bum, dad. He always contributed what he could." Mary Jane said.

"Which was never much, until now," Philip said with a whistle looking around at the large house. "Must be nice falling ass-backward into a gold mine just 'cause your friends with some spandex wearing yahoo and his latest piece of as-,"

"Dad, please, not in front of the children, you promised," Gayle said her eyes wide.

"Pfft, I need a stiff drink," Philip said. "Where do you keep the liquor around here?"

"There isn't any alcohol in this house, dad. Peter and I don't drink, nor does Peter's Aunt May or her fiancee Jarvis." Mary Jane said disgusted by her father's behavior in front of her own children and her nephews. She offered up silent thanks that Aunt May and Jarvis were away at Avengers Tower for a couple of days.

"Why not, darling?" Philip said. Mary Jane felt her skin crawl. Her father always called her "darling" and she had always hated the name. "You all a bunch of teetotaling pansies? I heard ol' Jarvis was in the military before being the Avengers' butler. Surely he enjoys a good drink every now and then, or has he gone soft too?"

"Why do you talk so funny, Grandpa Philip?" Mayday asked with a giggle.

"Because Grandpa needs to take the edge off," Philip said.

"C'mon sis, let's go. I'll show you my new Black Panther Pop." April said tugging on Mayday's arm. April was wise beyond her years. She could tell "Grand Philip" was going to be trouble and wanted to avoid being around him as much as possible.

"Really, I thought you were afraid I'd break it?" Mayday said.

"I changed my mind," April said.

"I promise I'll be oh so careful," Mayday said. "May we be excused, momma?" Mayday asked Mary Jane.

"You may both be excused." Mary Jane said smiling. "Just be in bed by nine you have school tomorrow."

"We promise we'll be in bed by nine, mom," April said. "Love you, mom." Mary Jane leaned down and hugged April.

"I love you, momma," Mayday said. Mary Jane leaned down and hugged Mayday.

"I love you both so much." Mary Jane said with a tear in her eye.

"Bye," April and Mayday said to the others before leaving.

"Cute kids, although I think the one with long hair might be a bit slow and the short haired one is too standoffish," Philip said. "I wonder if either of them was molested while in the system? You know you can sue the state if they were, darling. You could make a bundle if some slob dicked around with them."

"Dad," Gayle exclaimed.

"There is nothing wrong with either of my daughters. They are perfectly healthy and normal." Mary Jane said. She was furious with her father for saying such terrible things about April and Mayday.

"Of course, that nut Osborn would never have kidnapped the twins when they were born in the first place if not for your husband being buddy buddy with Spider-Man," Philip said. "Just say the word and I can get you a divorce from Peter." Philip snapped his fingers to emphasize his point. "I know a shark of a family law lawyer who would take your husband and your boss Spider-Man to the cleaners. Neither would have a pot to piss in or a window to throw the piss out of by the time my friend was finished with them."

Mary Jane took a deep breath to calm herself before she replied. She did not trust herself to speak right away. "Dad, why are you really here? Is there something you want from me? Do you need money?"

"Boys, I think we should let grandpa and Aunt Mary have a word alone," Gayle said.

"Ah, it was just getting good," Kevin protested.

"But, mom," Thommy whined.

"No 'but mom'," Gayle said herding the boys into another room.

"What do you want?" Mary Jane repeated once she was alone with her father.

"Do I need an excuse to visit my own daughter or my granddaughters?" Philip said his bravado having faded away.

"Dad, we've barely spoken in years." Mary Jane said. "And I can't help but notice you're drinking again."

"You want the truth darling, okay, here it is. Your sister can't deal with me anymore so she arranged this visit to pawn me off on you. There are you happy?" Philip said.

"Dad, besides adjusting to life with our daughters we recently discovered Peter's cousin Ben Reilly was alive after being tortured by Miles Warren the Jackal. Ben is in a bad way. He needs constant care. While we have Aunt May and Jarvis to help out we're in no position to take on another challenge at this time." Mary Jane said in what she hoped was a sympathetic tone.

"So that's it, huh? You're going to kick the old man to the curb, eh? Like some worn out mutt who has seen better days." Philip said. He added with a sneer. "I thought I raised you better, darling. Guess I was wrong."

"You didn't let me finish." Mary Jane said trying very hard not to rise to the bait. "You can't live here but I'm willing to put you up somewhere in the city until you can get back on your feet. I have to discuss the matter with Peter, however, but I'm sure he'll agree."

"Thanks, darling, I knew I could count on you," Philip said smiling his mood having flipped on a dime.

Philip embraced his daughter in a bear hug. Mary Jane crinkled her sensitive nose. He smelled of old cigarettes and cheap booze. She would have to get him into detox immediately.

'Peter, I hope you understand why I couldn't turn my back on him, even after all he's done.' Mary Jane thought.

Thommy stuck his head through the open door. "You guys have the Spider-Man Game here including the new Maximum Carnage DLC (downloadable content), right Aunt Mary? Kevin and I want to do a playthrough of the campaign see if we can beat Carny." He said.

'Wait, the what DLC?' Mary Jane thought in shock. 'Maximum Carnage, oh boy.'

Somewhere in Manhattan a few hours later, night

"I'm glad we can still be friends," Peter said while he sat enjoying a late night burger at his favorite burger joint with his old pal Harry Osborn.

"Pete I don't blame you for what Spider-Man did to Lily. Hell, how could I? I know you can't control what your boss does any more than any other employee can." Harry said from across the brightly painted booth.

"If it makes you feel any better he, Spider-Man that is, feels terrible about Lily. He told me he didn't want to take her in, but he had no choice. She was a threat to herself and others." Peter said with a sad expression on his face.

"I don't believe that for a minute. I could have handled her if Spider-Man had given me a chance. I know I could have." Harry said dismissing Peter's words.

"Maybe," Peter said although he did not believe a word of it. Peter decided he had better change the subject unless he wanted to get into an argument with Harry (which was the last thing he wanted right now). "April told me May is rather fond of Normie." He chuckled. "Who knows maybe we'll be in-laws in about ten more years."

Harry could not help but chuckle himself. "Normie is rather fond of May too. He talks about her all the time. Perhaps one day we will be in-laws."

"Imagine us being a couple of old grandfathers sitting together on a bench somewhere feeding the pigeons," Peter said. He paused here then sighed. "It seems like just yesterday we were two guys starting college. Where does the time go?"

"I wish I knew. I wish I knew." Harry said.

Peter and Harry talk for another hour. They reminisced about their glory days of old. Those memories were bittersweet ones for both men; college, friendship, parties, Gwen's death, Harry's drug addiction, the terrible legacy of the Green Goblin which had almost claimed Harry & Peter (although Harry no longer remembered the latter detail).

"Will you look at the time," Peter said checking his smartwatch. "I've got to be getting home. MJ will be worried if I don't check in with her soon."

"It was nice just hanging out again like old times," Harry said as the pair got out of the booth.

"Indeed it was," Peter said. "We should do this again sometime."

"Sure thing, Pete," Harry said. Harry started walking up to the counter before Peter stopped him.

"Harry, this one's on me," Peter said. He cut in front of Harry so he could pay the bill.

"Look at you. Mr. Big Shot Executive picking up the tab. Do you think you can afford to be so generous given the prices here?" Harry said ribbing his friend.

"If I can't I'll let you pay next time trust fund baby," Peter said ribbing Harry back.

The two friends left the restaurant laughing. Their mirth did not last though. Not long into their wait for a cab (which would take Peter to his waiting car and Harry home to his apartment), an oil truck ran a red light at a nearby intersection hitting a half full tour bus. While Harry ran to the scene to see if he could assist Peter said he would call for help but needed to get somewhere with better cell reception.

Not long after Peter departed Spider-Man arrived. The web-slinger sprang into action at once by using his super strength to force open a fire hydrant, no easy feat, dosing the blaze with water. Because of the oil involved the water did little to quench the blaze. Spider-Man then concentrated on getting people out of the tangled wreckage. By the time paramedics and police arrived ten minutes later, Spider-Man with help from Harry had saved everyone from the blaze, other than the truck driver who had died instantly.

"I wonder where Peter is?" Said an exhausted and grimy Harry while he sat on the curb alongside Spider-Man.

"I sent him home so he could be with his family." Said an equally grimy Spider-Man who sat next to Harry. Spider-Man's uniform sported many small rips and tears along its length. Some of his bruises were visible through the gaps.

"So he called you rather than the proper authorities, figures," Harry said with a hint of displeasure.

"He called the proper authorities followed by me." Spider-Man corrected Harry. "Look, I know you hate me, Harry. I understand why you do. I took away someone you care about. Be that as it may, we were quite the team tonight. I doubt I could have saved everyone without your help. For which I thank you."

"And I probably couldn't have saved any of them without your help," Harry conceded.

"You sell yourself to short. The way you moved back there. I'm pretty sure you still possess enhanced physical abilities from your earlier er transformation." Spider-Man said searching for a diplomatic way to say Harry still had abilities left over from his time as the second Green Goblin.

"You really think so?" Harry said forgetting for the moment his anger at Spider-Man.

"Yeah, I do." Spider-Man fished a business card out of a hidden pocket of his costume. "If you ever want to help make a difference again, feel free to contact me." He handed the card to Harry. "Well, duty calls. The city never sleeps, so on and so forth." Spider-Man stood up and swung away on a strand of webbing he fired from his right wrist.

Harry turned the Spidey Inc card with Spider-Man's official contact information over in his hands several times. Could he really be a hero? Was redeeming the tarnished name of Osborn even possible given the many, many misdeeds of her father? Maybe just maybe a kinder, gentler goblin was what this city needed? But was working with Spider-Man an option he wanted to pursue? Spider-Man had taken Lily from him. Wouldn't any help he gave Spider-Man also be a betrayal of Lily? A deeply conflicted Harry Osborn stood up from the curb where he had been resting. He wondered off all the while staring at the card he held in his hands. He had no idea what he should do.

Parker Residence on Western Long Island sometime later, wee hours

A weary Peter Parker pulled his car into the driveway. He would have put the vehicle in his garage as he usually dud but an unknown station wagon was blocking him. He wondered who the station wagon belonged could belong to? A neighbor perhaps? He quickly decided he did not much care what the origins of the interloper was. If it was still there in the morning he would address the issue then, not before.

Peter had only just entered his room via the front door when his smartphone chimed with a notification. At first, he thought MJ was texting him again to see when he would be home but his suspicion proved wrong. The message he received was a social media notification from his best female friend, Felicia Hardy. The notification read -

"*squeals* Just got engaged to Flash Thompson!" There was an accompanying pictured of Felicia and Flash with a smiling Felicia waving her engagement ring at the camera

'Well good for them.' Peter thought. 'They make a great couple. I wish them nothing but the best. I wonder when their wedding will be? I hope they get married in spring. I love spring weddings.'

Peter made his way into the kitchen. He was thirsty and needed a bottle of water. For some unaccountable reason, he felt a mild buzz from his spider-sense. Peter shook off the feeling. He must still be keyed up from what happened earlier, yeah that was it. Peter turned on the light and froze. There sitting at his kitchen table in nothing but dirty underwear and a stained wife-beater shirt was his father-in-law Philip Watson! Peter dropped his briefcase in surprise.

"Hi, Peter how's tricks?" Philip said between spoonfuls of rocky road ice cream.

To Be Continued