Sorry for the delay on this chapter. Work and the smaller amount of reviews I've gotten recently sapped a lot of my motivation. Hopefully I get it back now that the anxiety medication's kicking in :)
Anyway, we're pretty close to Christmas so hopefully I can get some decent updates out for both this and Two Spiders on a Web out by then.
Side Note - I put up a new poll for what job Noir should have given his previous dialogue about finding one. Different jobs allow for different interactions with the character he's working with so choose which one you want :)
Chieftain: Surprised no one ever asked. StrikerNotBombshell, what was it like being the youngest member of the Defenders?
Reply from StrikerNotBombshell: Why do you wanna know?
Reply from Chieftain: Just curious. That's not exactly a child friendly group.
Reply from StrikerNotBombshell: You guys do remember that Pete was 18 a year ago right? And like I said before we weren't really a team. Half of us were only there cause they hated Murdock.
Reply from Chieftain: Still did being the youngest affect you in any way?
Reply from StrikerNotBombshell: What is this psychology class? Castle gave me some grief but I don't give a fuck what that guy thinks. I earned my keep and helped out killing that tubby bastard in Times Square.
Reply from PS4ONE: Just a heads up StrikerNotBombshell this guy's a notorious quack who makes videos about 'analysis into the mind of the Gifted' so I wouldn't answer him again.
Reply from StrikerNotBombshell: Thanks for the heads up.
Someone kill her now. Please.
Gwen forced a flirtatious (ugh...) smile at the man sitting across from her on the fancy table. Donald Roxxon a.k.a Will-o-the-Wisp a.k.a the guy who put a bounty on Peter's head and kidnapped innocent people for mad science experiments. It took everything she had not to web his smug mouth shut and get into a brawl then and there. She wasn't a fan of violence, but he was really tempting her.
'I'm fine, Webs.' She felt sick to her stomach and her boobs felt like volleyballs, but she was fine. More than fine actually, judging by the way Roxxon's eyes occasionally 'slipped'. He'd invited her to a fancy dinner and she couldn't exactly go in with her full costume so, after some advice from Cindy, she and Webster changed into a dark, backless dress that left a generous chunk of her chest exposed and molded her face to resemble how she looked in those comics.
On the bright side she could probably use it for a date when Peter got back to normal, so it wasn't all bad.
The restaurant they were in was definitely fancy. Everyone around her was dressed in clothes that was more expensive then her entire monthly rent and the food had foreign sounding names she didn't even try to pronounce. Roxxon himself wore a pristine white suit that, if she were more fashionable, she would've been impressed by. Instead she just found it an expensive, tacky mess.
She smiled again when he said something about how noble he was for stopping a purse snatcher. Well, he didn't say it straight out but the subtext was barely sub at this point, "Honestly, why do they insist on earning a living off the struggles of others? It's pathetic."
"Absolutely. So disgraceful, all of them." She had to agree with everything he said, or at least that was what MJ and Lana suggested. Egotistical pricks like him don't like anyone saying no, were their exact words, "I'm glad you took the time to help that woman out. You already give so much and now you're even helping out here. That last charity ball was your doing, right?"
"You know about that? Ah, how embarrassing." He gave a not-at-all-embarrassed smile and chuckled, "I'd hoped to invite you to that."
"I'd have loved to go, but H.Y.D.R.A remnants attacked and you know what they say; there's no rest for the virtuous." She laughed too and fluttered her eyelashes up at him, "Oh, but make sure to invite me to the next one! I won't miss it for anything."
"I'll admit I'm surprised at your eagerness. In our conversation a year prior we didn't exactly end on the best of terms." His smile twitched at that. Remembering something that didn't go his way probably pissed him off.
"Yeah, I was...it wasn't a good time for me." Gwen smiled 'sadly', "I'm sure you've seen the video by now. I let Spider-Man...confuse me. I was so blind to his faults that I..."
She let her right hand lie on the table and he reached his left to touch it, "I understand. You don't have to say more." She nodded shakily and held his hand in turn. This was the main draw they had - making him think she was someone for him to save. MJ had rolled her eyes when she told her about what the guy was like. It was apparently the reason she hated bringing up her dad to her old dates: a lot of them thought she needed rescuing after that.
"Honestly, that scum who parades around as a hero is worse than the criminals. At least they're honest about how wretched they are. He pretends to be a hero all to mask how depraved he truly is."
'Sound familiar, asshat?' Of course she didn't say that out loud, but her smile did stiffen slightly when Roxxon continued to insult him. Right now Peter was stuck as a kid and undercover in some kind of ninja death cult and she couldn't even say anything while this bastard talked shit about him. It was stupid. She knew he didn't care - hell, he'd probably encourage her to play along more and give her a list of insults to use - but she still hated it. Being bullied was the main reason the Lizard came out at all.
"I really wanna thank you for inviting me out tonight. It's been...a while since I've been to something like this outside of costume." The last time she remembered was when she went with her dad to the policeman's ball a couple of years ago. Considering Spider-Woman was still a fugitive and her dad was head of the task force she didn't have much fun.
"You're very welcome." His thumb glided across her hand and she almost gagged, "Someone like you deserves far more than what this city gives."
"Yeah, tell me about it." She subtly pulled her hand back and crossed her arms, "...Could you keep a secret?"
He looked way too eager at that, "Of course. You can tell me anything."
"Sometimes I'm just so...tired. I go out every day to save people and they just expect more and more." That wasn't a whole lie, at least. She wasn't tired of being a superhero (and she doubted she ever would), but some of the demands people had got on her nerves. It wasn't even just her relationship with Peter. Some people just thought she was there to do whatever they wanted for free cause 'you're a hero, ain't ya?'
"I admit this wasn't what I expected of you, Spider-Woman. You always seemed so in control."
"Yeah. Well, I figured I could be honest. Sorry about ruining your image of me."
"No, its actually comforting to know you trust me enough to let me see beneath the mask. Metaphorically, in this case." He laughed. She forced herself to.
"Yeah. I dunno, I just...I feel like I can trust you. I mean you have everything already. You're set for life but you still decided to gout and help people. That's more than what most people would do." She felt sick, smiling and blushing while the smug bastard just ate it all up. He really thought that she'd fallen for his shit, "And it's nice to see someone who's not just the same from everyone else. You're...unique."
"I could say the same of you. You did help this city despite them hunting you like a fugitive."
"Sometimes I wonder if it's still worth it, honestly. I'll admit a part of why I did it was because of pride. They called me a criminal, a murderer, and I wanted to prove them wrong." She smirked, "And it paid off. Now I'm an Avenger."
"Selflessness does not preclude benefits." He smirked back.
'Please control your urge to vomit, Gwen. It's getting annoying.'
'Sorry, Webs.' Webster was the only reason she hadn't gagged herself to death at this point.
'It's fine, just order the most expensive chocolate on the menu. We may as well benefit from this.'
'Always an opportunist, huh?'
'You expected anything else?'
They finished their meal and took a walk on the fancy, outside balcony. Anyone else would've been impressed at the sight, but she'd seen it too many times to feel anything but familiarity, "Hmm..." She leaned across the rail and looked out over the brightly lit city, the wind whipping her artificially extended hair while Roxxon stood behind her. She was sure it all looked appropriately romantic and picturesque.
"Something on your mind?"
"Just thinking about this city." She hummed, "From up here you really see how big it all is, huh? Millions of people down there just living their lives."
"Yes, it certainly does put things into perspective." He stood next to her now, "...Pardon my rudeness, but you seem...different from when we last spoke even outside of you finally seeing the truth about that criminal Spider-Man."
"Disappointed?" She smiled up at him wryly.
"The furthest. It's simply a surprise."
"Yeah, well, we can't all be perfect." She shrugged and turned around, propping her elbows up on the barrier, "I know I put on the show of being the friendly neighborhood Spider-Woman, but honestly? Sometimes I just wanna tell these ungrateful bastards to screw off. Two years they treated me like garbage and now I'm suddenly cool? Yeah, they can go fuck themselves."
"And yet you continue to act in the role of the hero."
"Because I'm better than them, that's why. And because of this." She flashed her Avengers prioricard, "I mean don't get me wrong, the perks are great, but sometimes I just wanna go back to those early days when I could have fun with my powers, when people didn't expect me to drop everything just to help them. What's the point of having em if you're not having fun, right? You know what I mean."
"I believe I do." He held her hand again, "I understand the frustration you feel. When I first earned these gifts it was difficult to find motivation to use them for only the sake of others. Ultimately decency won out, but the businessman side of me does still chafe at others benefiting from what I worked towards."
"Worked towards?" She raised a brow.
His eyes widened for just a split second at the slip of the tongue, "Well...yes. it's difficult to explain-"
"No need to tell me." Gwen squeezed his hand and winked. Make people think you don't care, that was what Cindy said. If he thought she was prying it was game over, "Honestly, I'm kinda glad to know you didn't just get it out of lucky. I actually feel jealous."
"Yeah. I got these powers cause I got bitten; if I'd been in another place in line it would've been someone else who got these powers." That was true, at least. Peter, MJ, maybe even Sally Avril. Could've been anyone, and she knew for a fact that the multiverse or Anansi whatever the hell it was wasn't too picky, "Knowing that you actually worked for it...you're different than everyone else. Better."
Just for a second, she saw the smug smile on his face before he went right back to being the perfect gentleman. Jackpot, "Yes, well, work demands sacrifices from all of us."
"I can't give you the details, but suffice to say the cost of these abilities are worth their weight in gold." How many people did he kill to get them, she wondered. Did he even care? "You've gained strength since I've last seen you as well." He held her right hand. Webster thankfully stopped her from clawing through his palms, "Not that you weren't already powerful when I first met you, but you've only gotten better."
"Yeah, but I can always get more. Who says no to a little more power, right?" She grinned up at him and his expression flashed from surprise to curiosity and, for just a moment, glee. It made her sick, him thinking they were in any way alike, "I'm not naive. Sometimes people - innocent people - get hurt because of me. All I can do is get stronger so I can keep it from happening again."
"Even if getting stronger means hurting more of these so-called innocent people?"
"Small price to pay so I can be stronger and save everyone else."
"Hmhm, you continue to surprise me."
And then he kissed her. Gwen's eyes widened and it took everything Webster had t just keep her hands from doing anything more than shaking limply at her sides. Gwen swallowed the bile rising in her throat and made a small gesture of reciprocation. She couldn't look too eager, Cindy said. Just give him a taste of what he could have and leave him craving for more.
'He tastes like wine,' Webster said unhelpfully.
Eventually she pulled back and even managed to make it look somewhat graceful, "Guess I'm not the only one who's full of surprises." And then, with a coy wink, she let herself fall off the balcony. She let the rush of air calm her before shifting back to her costume and swinging off. It was such a damn cliche, but she knew he'd eat it all up. Asshole.
Thankfully he was surprised enough not to follow her. Gwen let out a relieved sigh and swung to where Cindy and Laura told her to meet. Cause apparently Chocolate (she really needed a better name) decided that her and Webster looking for a good host was totally pointless and she'd just latch onto the closest person who could take her.
'I don't know whether I wish to hug her or yell at her. Is this normal?'
'Yep.' Seriously, she could've said something to them that she was safe and wasn't actually kidnapped by some kind of mad scientist. No, instead she had to make them worry and made Gwen (literally) tear her hair out, 'She's going to have a lot of explaining to do when we find her.'
It didn't take her long to get to the rendezvous. Gwen landed on the abandoned rooftop and looked to the odd pair. Cindy sat on a vent and barely looked up to acknowledge her landing before going back to her phone. Knowing her it was probably a case. Not too far away was Laura who stood stock still and just watched her with unblinking eyes. Creepy.
Gwen crossed her arms and peeled the mask back, "Alright, little lady, come out." She didn't. Gwen started tapping her feet, "I'm waiting."
"You're scaring her."
"Scaring her? Do you have any idea how worried we were?!" Laura took a slight step back at the sudden yell, "We thought you you were gone! That some crazy mad scientist like Evil Cindy just took you or...or..." She stopped. Whatever else she wanted to say she knew it wouldn't be enough. First Peter went off the grid and then her kid possibly got kidnapped. It hadn't been a good couple of days.
Laura turned her head to the side and a long, pink blob slithered out of her shoulder and raised itself towards her, "I'm sorry..." Chocolate rubbed her cheek with her head and Gwen felt almost all of her anger dissipate, "I was so excited to be out of the box that I didn't think about how Mom and Parent felt."
"Yeah, no kidding." Gwen pressed her against her cheek and Chocolate crooned, "Well, at least you're alright. Come on, we should go back. Wasp said she has a new place where you can-"
"I'm not going back." Chocolate pulled back before Gwen could grab her, "I'm really sorry for making you worry, but I don't wanna go back in the box! Out here it's so fun and Laura's a really good host!"
"Cindy told me that you bonded with her because of the danger! We need to find you a proper host-"
"Mom and Parent bonded because of danger! Parent saved you!" Gwen bit her tongue and didn't say anything back, "...I hate being in the box. You and Parent and Wasp visit all the time but when you're alone I feel really sad!"
Webster jutted out of her shoulder, "Perhaps we should have expected this. Symbiotes like us are built for finding a host and merging with them. I thought that Chocolate wouldn't feel so alone since she's just been born and we visit her as much as we can."
"It's cause I have your memories, Parent! When I'm alone I don't have anything to do but remember all the adventures that you two have. Saving the city, being there for each other. It makes me lonely that I don't have an Other of my own."
"Memories...does that mean she remembers..." Carnage tearing them apart, the struggles they had, or even her time with Peter. Her face turned warm.
"I think it's a bit too late to start worrying about that now, Gwen." Cindy said, finally standing to join them, "Point is Laura and her new partner don't want to be separated and we gotta figure out what to do about that."
"Partner..." Gwen looked down at the ground, "Are you sure about her? I mean-"
"Laura is nice." The girl in question smiled at the pink symbiote, "I saw some of her memories when I first merged with her. They were sad and scary and not like the happy memories you have, but she's getting better. When she first found out about me she didn't hate me. She was curious and thought I might be bad, but she listened to me and said she didn't mind bonding with me."
"But do you even know what that bond means?" Gwen asked.
"She can see my thoughts and I can see hers," Laura said softly, "I thought she would scared and disgusted when she saw my memories. Instead she comforted me and showed me hers. How happy she was when she was born and you all cared for her. It was...nice. She is happy and she makes me happy."
"God..." Gwen pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. They were making it really hard to say no.
"Yeah, that's how I felt too." Cindy smiled wryly at her and ruffled Laura's hair, "I can't really say anything since it's your kid and all, but I trust Laura so I suggest giving her a chance. Besides, I think this might be for the best."
"How do you mean?"
"Well I'm not sure how aging works for symbiotes, but Pinky here's just a kid. Isn't it better that she gets with another kid instead of an adult like me or Norah? It'd feel less like a babysitting job that way."
"I still have my doubts." Gwen pursed her lips, "Physically how are you two bonding? I mean Laura has different powers than me or Cindy."
"It feels...tingly." Gwen raised a brow, "Not a bad kind of tingly! Just tingly like when you get a massage."
"It's probably her healing factor. Pinky here's a foreign substance so it probably has no clue what to do with her. It's not like she's hurting Laura but she's not part of her system yet too," Cindy said.
"Will it hurt her?"
"I doubt it. Both of them would have said something."
"Does that mean I can stay?" Chocolate looked up at her with comically wide eyes and Gwen cringed. Damn it, she knew she couldn't resist a pair of puppy dog eyes! "I promise I won't hide anything anymore and I'll be good! Pleeaaassseeee!"
"...Fine." Laura and Chocolate smiled and high fived (kinda, considering only one of them had hands), "But there's going to be rules. First things first, we gotta get you both checked out by Wasp. Like I said she has a new facility that should be safe and have to make sure Laura's powers don't fuck anything up for either of you."
"Oooh, ooh! Could we go on patrol with you?!" Chocolate asked excitedly, completely ignoring what she just said, "Laura and I even have a new costume to hide our identities!"
Gwen didn't have a chance to say anything back before Laura's clothes shifted and she was suddenly clad in a pink and yellow ensemble. Her entire body was covered in what looked like skintight spandex with splotches of the two colors scattered round haphazardly. On her arms and legs were cris-crossing patterns of webs that had no connection to one another while her head had a bright pink mask with stupidly oversized white eyes and a hood that looked two sized too small.
Oh, and there was a searing white trenchcoat on top for good measure.
Quite honestly, she looked ridiculous.
"Uh...where did you two get that costume?" Cindy asked for her.
"She and I were discussing costumes. She wanted a costume like Spider-Woman but I wanted a costume like daddy. We decided to mix the two together." Gwen could practically see Laura's beaming smile under that nightmare of a mask.
"Right..." Gwen had to stop herself from laughing. She wasn't going to put them down, damn it, "Uh...what's say we put that on hold for now?"
"How much for now?"
"Uh...when Laura's 18?"
"No way!" Right, of course that wouldn't work, "What's the point of having powers if we can't help people with them! With great power comes great responsibility! Isn't that what you always thought?"
"Well, yeah, but-"
"Gwen, I don't think there's any arguing with her." Cindy laughed under her breath, "Though, I do agree with you that going full on crime stopping's a bad idea. Tell you what, why don't we train them both and take them on patrol with us? That way we can at least keep an eye on em and make sure they're not sneaking off."
"Right, and I'm sure Cap and the press'll just love that. Two Avengers taking a kid with them on patrol." Gwen sighed again but finally found enough to smile, "Alright, fine, can't be any worse than anything else we've dealt with. First things first, though," She looked the young pair in the eye, "We need to do something about that that outfit."
"And that name. No offense, but calling your kid Chocolate really seems like child abuse."
"I like it..."
"I agree! I wanna cooler name than that! Maybe something like Justice or Protector or Riot!"
Gwen blinked, "Wait, what was that last-"
"I like Gabby," Laura said, cutting her off, "Daddy said that if he ever gave me another little sister he would name her that."
"Oooh, ooh! What about Phage or Lasher or Toxin?"
"Okay seriously why did the names turn really dark?"
The pair ignored her and Gwen could only share a helpless look with Cindy. This was gonna be a long couple of days.
MB28: So Spider-Man is basically an anime character right?
Reply from TEhoNE: WTF? Why?
Reply from MB28: Think about it. According to the latest Black Cat Interview there were actually two Spider-Men and the one we know came back from the dead with the other's memories. Then he ended up working with the person who killed him in the first place and even ended up in a relationship with her while being a Superhero. That's the most anime thing I've heard in my life.
Reply from F76: He came back from the dead twice too.
Reply from MB28: Not to mention he hangs out around a lot of female heroes with at least two of them who had a crush on him. I've literally seen this before. All that's missing is the katana.
Reply from Spinerette: WTH kind of anime do you guys have in this dimension...?
MJ turned and held the pose, trying ignore the heat of the light against her face. Contrary to popular belief modeling wasn't just strutting down a runway doing your most absurd walk. So far from what she'd experienced it was a lot of listening to melodramatic photographers that no, her arm had to be bent at exactly a 45 degree angle and even a single degree off meant the entire thing was ruined. Ruined, I tell you!
She sighed and did the next pose, leaning across the railing in a 'relaxed' pose with her legs crossed. Honestly she had no clue how she was supposed to do any of this without her powers. If it wasn't for her stupid core strength she would've caved by now.
'Yeah, yeah.' To be honest she had no idea why she was still doing this. She'd fully cut her worthless excuse for a dad out of her life and, while the money was nice, she couldn't really say that she was starving or anything. At best she figured it was a mix of pride and wanting to pay a bigger chunk of the rent. Nevermind the fact that she probably paid more than Peter at this point.
Technically she hadn't even quit her job at the theater yet. So far she'd been lucky enough and the shoots she had didn't clash with her work hours. Still, she knew she'd have to pick one and stick to it eventually.
Especially considering her other gig...
"Smile, Mary Jane, smile!" Prima Donna - real name Tom - shouted at her.
"O-Oh, sorry!" Mary Jane forced a somewhat stiff smile and Prima Donna kept snapping pictures. Murdock was a now show ever since Tiger went undercover and she hadn't really 'gone out' in the meantime. Every time Crimson asked she'd make an excuse that the theater and modelling kept her busy, but they both knew that was load of bullshit.
She was scared; had been ever since that blind bastard outed her to Cindy. Sure Cindy said she had no room to judge considering how close she was to Peter but a part of her still felt paranoid that if she caught something about her on the news she'd tell Gwen just how badly she'd slipped. Even Gwen had her limit and, while she was pretty sure she wouldn't take her to jail considering how she treated Harry, Mary Jane didn't much like the idea of Gwen hovering over her shoulder like she did Peter a year ago.
Eventually Prima Donna got enough pics and waved Mary Jane off without a single word. The redhead sighed and trudged towards the bench after buying a churro and three hotdogs. Wasn't raw meat but Crimson could deal, "Hot..." She pulled on the collar of the blouse and ignored the sweat sticking to her skin. Crimson didn't like the heat. Probably had something to do with how its last host ended up.
'Don't push your luck, little red.'
'It's been a year. Move on.'
'Funny. How long has it been since you first wanted to jump Stacy and her boytoy?'
Mary Jane bit into her hotdog hatefully in lieu of answering - one good thing about her new tagalong was she didn't gain weight. Her gaze shifted across the length of the park. Today's shoot was at a semi isolated corner of Central Park close to Beldevere Castle. Even with the heat the fresh air did her good.
And just like when she often found herself alone, she started to think. What ifs were the most popular. Most days it was how life would've gone if she and Glory hadn't gotten into that stupid argument. Depending on her mood it was either her ending up leading a rock revolution with a dozen golden discs to her name or falling off the wayside once people realized Spider-Woman was the only thing propping their music up.
Sometimes it was other, less depressing stuff. What if she'd asked out Peter or Gwen before they went for each other, what if she and Gwen switched places that day at the science fair. Would that relationship last or were the two soulmates who'd eventually find each other? Would she decide to be a hero like Gwen or would she just decide making television appearances was what was important to her?
'There you go again,' Crimson hummed, 'Why do you always think back on how different things could be? You're the one who always tells me that I should move on from Cletus' death and yet here you are stewing us both in your thoughts.'
'Ah, shut it.' She sighed and finished of the churro and leaned back on the bench to look up at the sky. Bright and sunny, as if to mock her mood, '...Hey, you ever think what it would've been like if you never bonded with that mass murderer?'
'Trying to dig salt into the wound?'
'I'm serious. You told me before that hosts and symbiotes affect each other. If you and that Kasady bastard never bonded together do you think you'd be like this?'
She expected it to mock her, make jokes about thinking too much, but instead it was quiet for almost a minute until, '...I do not know'. Mary Jane was quiet, S.H.I.E.L.D created me to be a weapon, poked and prodded at me to ensure that I wouldn't end up being like Stacy's partner. The first thing I wanted to do was kill them. After that...who knows.'
'How'd you even run into that asshole?'
'I first tried to bond with the boytoy's genetic copy. That didn't work.' With the other Spider-Man? That was new info, 'I found Cletus the same way I found you - bleeding out in an alley after one of his victims fought back and escaped.'
'I got attacked because of two bastards who couldn't keep it in their pants, not because I tried to kill someone.'
'Tomayto, tomatoe. Ended the same way.'
And then, just for a moment, she wondered what it would've been like if Crimson jumped to her before Kasady. Would she be a hero now, only killing when she had to like Peter, or would she still have ended up the same way?
Another voice cut in before she could say anything, "Mary Jane?" The redhead in question looked up and blinked when she saw Mary looking down at her.
"Mary? What are you doing here?"
"Um, I finished my gig an hour ago and didn't have work since the boss decided to quit without notice. Third time this month, actually..." Mary Jane snorted while Mary smiled softly, "I decided to take a walk and...well, I ran into you."
"So, um..." Mary sat down next to her, refusing to break eye contact. Mary Jane suddenly felt awkward. They hadn't talked to one another ever since the other redhead (kinda) found out about her powers. Considering she didn't have government agents with latex gloves knocking down her door she figured she kept her secret.
"Could I ask you about your..."
"...Sure." Mary Jane shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. She really should've seen this coming. It'd been long enough that most people didn't look twice when they saw someone in a costume or some unlucky person whose face got turned into a bird because of that mist. Didn't mean some people wouldn't be interested, though.
"You said you were hit by the Terrigen mist. What...What was it like?"
"Uh...you know. Breath in some funky gas, wake up in a cocoon and then you get fancy new powers." Mary Jane smiled crookedly, "Honestly I don't really know what to tell you. It was all kind of a blur."
"Oh..." She looked down in obvious disappointment.
"Sorry I couldn't be more help."
"N-No, it's..." She bit her lower lip, "Um...what exactly are your powers, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Typical comic book stuff. I'm stronger, faster, can take a hit and I heal better. I got pretty lucky, actually. I know someone whose power was their nails grow 4 times as fast." On the bright side you could cut someone's face with it. Not so bright side a switchblade was easier and less goofy looking, "Honestly I try not to think about it too much, you know?"
"Why not? You have powers! You could-"
"Could be what? Be one of the dozens of people with costumes? No way. I...I'm not really built for the hero stuff." Gwen would keep trying, of course, but Mary Jane knew it was fleeting. That rush she got from stopping purse snatchers didn't erase the blood on her hands or block out Crimson's voice at the back of her head, "Honestly some days I would've given anything to lose these."
"Wh-What? How could you-"
"I wanna be a singer. Making my own lyrics, being up on stage...I love it. Loved it ever since I begged mom for my first guitar." She looked ahead and smiled, bittersweet, "And then I got these powers and suddenly that wasn't an option anymore. Loud sounds made me freak the hell out so being in a band, especially a singer? Wasn't happening."
"Still...I'd give anything to be strong."
"...Is this about Avril?"
"Yeah." She nodded, "You saw what she's like. I dunno why she decided she wanted to make my live a living hell but there's nothing I can do about it. She's rich, she's pretty and her dad is friends with the Dean of ESU. There's nothing I can do. There's nothing anyone can do."
'Except maybe cut her throat while she's sleeping.'
'No, Crimson.' Mary Jane sighed, "So riddle me this. Even if you do get superpowers, what are you gonna do? Just...beat her up? I mean I won't deny Avril needs a good smack in the face but all that'll do is mess up her nose job and then she'll go on tweeter crying about how she's the victim."
"Yeah..." She clenched both hands tightly and grit her teeth, "I just want her to shut up."
"There's a lot of people I feel the same way about. Remind me to tell you about Carl King or Liz Allan later." Mary Jane shook her head, "But enough about her, okay? Avril's not worth our time."
"Good. Hey, I know it's a bit late but I gotta ask, are you okay? That robbery a few days ago as kinda tense. Second time someone's tried to mug you-"
"How do you know that?"
'Oh, here we go...'
"How do you know that it's the second time?"
Mary Jane's eyes widened as the words finally sunk in. She was there for the store robbery but there were only three people who knew about the mugging - the mugger, Mary herself and...
"You're the Scarlet Spider." The words were soft but they still sounded deafening to Mary Jane's ears. Mary gave her a gaping look while Crimson snickered.
"Uh...I-I dunno what you're talking about." Mary Jane looked away.
'Good thing you're a model and not an actress, huh?'
"No, you are!" Mary Jane shrunk back when Mary suddenly leaned forward, "That must be how you reacted so fast when that guy held up the store! You're Scarlet-"
Mary Jane grabbed the shorter redhead's wrist and dragged her towards a more secluded part of the park. A look of discomfort passed the other woman's face and Mary Jane flinched, "Sorry." She let go of her wrist and let out a soft breath. She was just lucky she hadn't cut Mary's wrist open, "You really shouldn't say that kind of stuff out loud."
"Why? You're friends with Spider-Woman and-"
"That's exactly why." Mary Jane snapped. She didn't need Gwen being tied to the serial killer who ran around town playing the angel of vengeance. Her relationship with Peter was damaging enough, "There's a reason Spider-Woman keeps her face hidden. We can't all be like She-Hulk or Captain America and go out to get parades and cheering fans. Some of us are better off when nobody's looking."
"But...you're a hero."
"Are you sure about that?" Mary stepped back and she pressed both hands against her mouth to keep from screaming. Mary Jane saw her in the other woman's wide eyes. Veins ran up the sides of her neck to her jaw and the whites of her right eye had shifted into a sickening shade of blood red.
The worst part was this was mild by her standards.
"...Sorry." Mary Jane took a deep breath and forced herself to look normal again, "Like I said, we can't all be like the Avengers. The pretty costume just hides what's underneath."
"What was...What was that?" There was fear in her voice. Fear and something else she couldn't place.
"Better you don't ask questions like that. For both our sakes." Mary Jane looked past her and saw Prima Donna calling for her, "I gotta get back to work. My advice? Keep as far away from me as possible if you know what's good for you." She walked past her then stopped, "Oh, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell anyone what you saw. I can't stop you if you really want to, but..."
Mary Jane drifted off and started walking again, "Have you ever killed anyone?" She stopped, "Is that why you said you're not a hero?"
"You won't tell me?"
"No offense, Mary, but we're not nearly close enough for confessions." Mary Jane left and ignored the other redhead's lingering stare at her back. Great, now she'd lost one of her few friends and probably traumatized her. Could this day get any worse?
"Fancy seeing you here, Jane."
...It just got worse.
Sucking in a deep breath, Mary Jane turned to the all too familiar voice and found Felicia Hardy smirking back at her, "Felicia." She hadn't seen her ever since she left last year. She almost felt offended she didn't even call when she got back.
"What's with the sour look. Not happy to see me?"
"Not everything's about you."
"Says the woman who named her band after herself." Felicia snorted.
"What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be patrolling or something with Cindy?"
"I'm a consultant, not a full time officer. She doesn't pay me enough to play the hero. As for what I'm doing here." She gestured to Prima Donna, "I was offered by Kingsley enterprises to help model their new line of work. I almost refused till I saw your name on the list of models and I wanted to be sure for myself."
"Well, here I am. Hope that gets your rocks off."
"So cold. And here I thought you'd be more happy to see me." Mary Jane rolled her eyes, "But come, work comes first and all that. We'll be doing this next shoot together and then we can catch up on old times." There was something flirtatious in her smile and, much as she hated to admit it, there was a sudden prickling in her chest.
"...Fine, I'm too hot and tired to complain. Let's just go before my mood gets any worse."
BernieBear: Anyone seen the new Kingsley fashion line?
Reply from Victoriagraph: Yeah. Some of my friends think it's weird that some of the models look so plain but I think it makes the outfit pop up more.
Reply from JustMonika: OMG Black Cat is one the latest one!
Reply from BernieBear: Seriously?!
Reply from JustMonika: Yeah, she's doing pair work with some other girl. Here -embeddedimage-
Reply from SunshineGLOOM: I recognize her! That's JackpotWatson. We share a calc class.
Reply from BernieBear: Didn't those two do a concert a couple years ago that got attacked by ninjas?
Reply from JustMonika: Funny how those two seem to always end up together...
"Here you go, granma. Enjoy."
Lana poured soup on the bowl and grinned sarcastically up at the grouchy figure in front of her. Agnes Miller, a grouchy old woman who was as nasty as she was smelly; and she smelled horrible. She was one of the older residents at the shelter, in and out enough that it was pretty much assumed she'd die here too. So far she hadn't had any family try to get her or seemed to have any plans outside of living day to day.
Agnes didn't like her, which was just fine since Lana didn't much like her either. It all started when Lana got her drink wrong (coffee with no sugar) and spiraled on from there.
The old bat didn't so much as say thank you before she left to eat at 'her' table. Lana continued to serve the rest of the line in a much better mood.
It was Sue's idea for them to work at the F.E.A.S.T shelter since they had some free time. Lana worked here before, mostly because William 'insisted' she had to look the part of an Initiative graduate, but she came back now and again when she wasn't too busy. Felt nice to help people without having to blow something up even when people like Agnes acted like entitled pricks.
Felt even better with everyone else here. Sue and MVP were next to her serving soup while Aracely and Anya were at the back helping prepare food and wash dishes. Gabe was off somewhere helping the shelter head update their tech, "Please tell us if you need anything else." Sue gave the guy in front of her a billion dollar smile and he laughed awkwardly. Another guy with a crush on America's sweetheart.
MVP wasn't doing too bad either considering how some of the other residents looked at him. Probably waiting for him to reach magic number 18.
Lana caught Gabe sitting in the corner bench and smirked, "Hey, Sue, I'll be back in a bit." The blonde waved her off and she made her way towards him, "Hey, super hacker. Done helping spyproof the place?"
"Nothing that complicated." Gabe looked up at her with a small smile and scooted so she could sit next to him, "Just had to fix this place's software. That computer's from 1997." He turned the laptop around to face her, "I'm updating their website too. Ms. Page's donations are good but we need more than just the D.A giving money. Maybe a new ad or something."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"Actually, yeah. Mr. Murphy thinks that...well, he thinks that some big names appearing on a promotional vid would get more donations..."
"So he wants me and everyone else to talk to his place up." Gabe nodded. Lana sighed, "Really should've seen that coming." So far she'd avoided advertisements. Sure she had to show up with William sometimes when he cut a ribbon but that was it.
"Yeah. I told him that it's probably a no go."
"Shit...fuck it, let's do it. If it gets more money put into this place I'm all for it. I'm guessing Anya and MVP'll be all for it too, but for Sue...she's probably gotta ask her managers or something."
"Well, tell me if she's cool with it. Me and Anya can write a script in a few days."
"Cool. Speaking of Sue." Lana grinned while Gabe winced, "How's it feel knowing America's Sweetheart has a crush on you?"
"Uh...dunno what you're talking about." He pointedly looked away.
"You know you're a shit liar, Gabe."
"But it's just...I mean, Aracely herself said that her mind reading is really confusing! Maybe when she said Sue 'liked' me she really meant that Sue was just happy to have a friend." Lana crossed her arms and gave him a flat look, "...Okay, stop looking at me like that. It's painful."
"I just don't get why you're in denial about it."
"Because just look at me. Anya's some kind of special spirit hunter, Michael's the next Captain America, Sue's a big time celebrity, Aracely can read minds and you..." He breathed out slowly, "All I'm saying is I don't really stack up compared to all of you. I mean I'm surprised you're all even still friends with me, so Sue having a-"
Lana flicked him in the forehead, "Are you forgetting that if it wasn't for you me and Anya would've never found out about that shit going down at the docks?"
She flicked him again, "Or the fact that you and Frogboy - but mostly you - helped save Aracely?"
One last flick for good measure, "Stop beating yourself up, Gabe. You know the reason Sue likes you? Cause you found the creep that was stalking her and she didn't even have to ask. You're a good guy, that's all she cares about. That's all we care about. So shut up with this 'I'm not good enough' bullshit or I'm locking you and Sue in a room for a week."
"...That's an odd threat." Gabe leaned back on the bench and looked up at the ceiling, "...What about you? You know both me and Michael have...you know."
"Yeah. I'm flattered." She shrugged. That was the truth, at least, "I'm just not into the whole dating gig right now. Between the Initiative, Aracely and my old crush on Pete I'm really not in the right place for it. And I'm not conceited enough to ask you to 'wait for me' or whatever Romeo Juliet bullshit people think is romantic. Go out with Sue. I think you two can really hit it off."
"...Sure. I'll try."
Gabe nodded and, after a moment to steady himself, closed the laptop and walked over to where Sue was. Lana couldn't hear what they were saying, but judging by the wide eyed smile and hug Sue gave him she guessed it was good, "Nice job." She laughed under her breath. Just cause she had bad luck with her love life didn't mean her friends had to too. Now she just had to do something about Anya and MVP...
Someone sat next to her. Lana paid them no mind till they suddenly said, "Don't see you around here often." The voice was vaguely familiar. Lana looked and found a guy with a beanie, surgical mask and a hood that masked almost all his features. Probably another bum.
"Yeah, I pitch in when I can."
"Heh. Really owning that hero thing, huh, Boomgal?"
Lana's blood froze even before he took the masks off, "Bullseye..." Peter warned her that he came back. She'd prepared herself to get attacked, but as the weeks passed and other problems piled up she got more and more complacent.
"The one and only." His smile was wide and manic. She raised a hand to blast him and he quickly grabbed it, "Ah, ah, ah! Wouldn't do that if I were you." He gestured with his eyes and she followed to a group of bums dressed in red scattered around the F.E.A.S.T hall. She caught the hint of a knife one of them had on their wrists, "'Less you want people to get their throats slit I suggest calming down."
"...What are you doing here?" She wrenched her hand from his grip and looked to her friends. Most of them were still working but she caught Anya's eye and blinked three times in succession. It was a signal.
"Just thought I could catch up with the old gang." He grinned down at her, "Things've changed since I came back. Moonie's trying to be a dad, Ol' Frankie's gone MIA, Kitty Cat's working with the cops and you decided to go for the hero thing. But you know what really breaks my heart?" His grin turned nasty, "Finding out the kid's in bed with Murdock. That's just a giant kick in the face."
"What, you're gonna tell me that's why you went even more psycho? Gimme a fucking break." She spat.
"Huh? Oh no, even if he didn't I'd still try to kill him." The nasty grin disappeared and he shrugged, "This just gives me a little extra push. First I'll go after the people he cares about then I'll go after him. Can't beat the classics."
"That's why you're here." To kill her.
He grabbed her again and pulled till their faces were inches apart, "Don't worry, I'll make sure the kid has a body to find."
"You first, asshole."
She reared back and headbutted him before blasting the psychotic bastard through the wall. The red-clad 'bums' moved and she did the first thing she could think of. Lana blasted the sprinklers and a cascade of water came down, distracting the ninjas for a crucial few seconds, "Anya, MVP! Bums in red have knives!" She dashed to the closest one and kicked him.
Anya jumped over the counter and pulled back another ninja with a line of webbing while MVP grabbed a tray and threw it at another, somehow managing to ricochet it to a second ninja's head, "This isn't how I thought this day would go!" Anya screamed. The blue carapace covered her entire body and she used it to block a knife aimed at one of the older bums, "What are the Hand doing here?!"
"Can we save it for later?!" MVP ducked under the frenzied slashes and knocked out another one.
Sue, Gabriel and Aracely tried their best to lead the people to the exit, but the panic made it difficult. This was going nowhere,"You two try to help the evacuation! I'll deal with these assholes!" Lana shouted.
Lana blasted another ninja trying to make a charge when a knife suddenly cut through her right shoulder. She screamed and pulled it out, the wound healing a few seconds afterwards, "Oooh, that's new! Got some upgrades since I last saw you!" She couldn't see him. She looked around frantically before another thrown knife at her leg almost made her fall, "Guessing it still hurts though."
"You want me?! Come and get, you fucking asshole!"
And then she saw the grenade fly through the air. Right towards Sue who was trying help one of the bums in crutches. Lana didn't think and just dashed to where the two where. There was no time to yell out a warning or make sure they were all out of the way of the blast radius.
She pushed them out of the way just as the grenade landed and she forced herself on top of it. She could've sworn she heard that bastard laugh before the explosion came and everything went black.
Lana wasn't sure if it killed her, but everything definitely hurt. Her vision faded in and out and she barely saw the dark boots stepping closer and closer to her before Bullseye knelt down, "Gotta admit, I'm impressed. That took some guts right there." It hurt to breath, hurt to keep her eyes open. Her body was stitching itself back together but it was slow, "Wonder if you knew you'd survive that."
"Save your breath, you'll need it to say your goodbyes." He pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the gut. Lana screamed, loud and hoarse, and he twisted, "Tell the kid I'm always thinkin' about him."
He pulled the knife out and walked away, whistling a jaunty tune to himself. Lana just lay there on the ground with nothing but the sprinklers for company as her wounds healed from the fire and shrapnel.
The wound in her gut stayed.
Her friends came rushing back. They knelt all around her, pushing a cloth into the wound and offering words of comfort that she couldn't even make out. The cut continued to bleed despite everything they did and the burning pain kept her from focusing. Lana closed her eyes and let herself drift off into unconsciousness.
NewsBot: Attack at the F.E.A.S.T shelter in Hell's Kitchen. Anybody close stay away from the area.
Reply from Eliminator01: Wait WTF happened?
Reply from Tempest: Dunno. My bro's close by and he said he heard explosions and people started running outside.
Reply from Automator: At the site. Apparently a bunch of bums went postal and tried to stab everyone. Striker, MVP and a few others were there.
Reply from BeepBeepBeep: What kind of asshole attacks a homeless shelter?
Reply from Eliminator01: Whoever they are let's hope they got their asses kicked.
Gwen seems to be doing well. Mary Jane and Lana not so much. Hellfire to the gut hurts. Something tells me Peter's not going to be very forgiving towards Bullseye after this.
Dunno when the next update will be but hopefully this one was good. Next chapter will go back to Noir's undercover segments and dealing with the fallout of Lana's hellfire stabbing.
1. Even though it was meant to be a joke at the end of the Spider-Girl Extra, do you guys want a chapter with the cast temporarily trapped in 616? Noir interacting with 616 Daredevil and/or Bullseye could be amusing, at least.
2. Do you guys want more focus on Noir's more esoteric friends/allies? Ghost Rider, Daimon and Satanna seem decently popular despite their limited appearances and I could write more supernatural segments such as exorcisms, haunting etc etc when Noir interacts with them. Or I use Deadpool since Noir mentions working with him as well.
Yami666x - Noir can't use symbiotes.
Titan616 - In MJ's case she'd probably discourage Gwen or Peter getting mad on her behalf. She's an adult, she can make her own choices good or ill.
KasugaRomio - Bullseye being resurrected makes reconciliation difficult since Matt's the reason he was dead for the Hand to raise.
Yohart Meltz - Yep, rated T. There really isn't much gore here and everything's tamer than V1.