Author's Note; Well, here it is, the final chapter. For now. ::William Dafoe voice:: BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Much of this chapter was inspired by OldPrydeFan's 'Paper Flowers', which you can read over in 'Comics/X-Men', and I heartily recommend to any X-fans out there. To her, I humbly dedicate this effort on my part.

Oh, and due to Peter and MJ getting a little frisky here, I opted to change the rating to 'R'. Just to play it safe with the mods. Enjoy.


Chapter four All I Have to Give

"I guess that I'm just falling
Deeper into something I've never known
But the way I'm feeling
Makes me realize it can't be wrong

Your love's like a summer rain
Washing my doubts away

Seven days and seven nights of thunder
The water's rising and I'm slipping under
I think I fell in love with the eighth world wonder
        --Kimberly Locke
        "Eighth World Wonder"


"MJ," Peter announced after devouring a second helping, "my compliments. Best lasagna I ever tasted."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it, Tiger," Mary Jane smiled warmly. "But save some for leftovers. Unless those tights stretch."

"There's still half a pan left," Peter defended himself. "Besides, defending the city from the forces of evil's a great way to burn off the calories."

"I'll bet," Mary Jane stood up from the table and began to pick up the dirty plates, before Peter stopped her. "Hey, you made the dinner; I'll take care of the dishes."

"If you insist," Mary Jane acquiesced without argument. "I'll go turn on the TV, see if there's anything interesting on. You just put the dishes in the sink and let them soak, then join me on the couch."

"I am so loving that plan," Peter smiled mischievously, causing Mary Jane to blush slightly. "I can't afford cable, but I do have a fairly decent collection of videos if you'd like."

Mary Jane located a small shelf loaded with VHS and DVD packs. "Let's see," MJ muttered to herself, "something romantic without being sappy or depressing, maybe a little humor..." One particular title stood out from the rack, and MJ grinned hugely. "Peter," she called to the kitchen, "How about 'The Princess Bride'?"

"Madam has exquisite taste," Peter answered in an outrageous parody of a French accent. "Go ahead and start it, I'll zap a bag of popcorn."

MJ slipped the tape into the VCR, turned on the set and made herself comfortable on the second-hand sofa that constituted most of the furniture in Peter's living room. That, a couple of folding chairs, a few bookcases jammed to overflowing with science texts, reference books and a few science- fiction novels, and of course the TV and video rack pretty much made up the living room. But she also noticed a few homey touches; the bright-colored afghan that must have been hand-crocheted by his Aunt May, some framed movie posters on the walls, and a collection of photographs on top of the TV attested to Peter's efforts to make a home for himself.

MJ smiled sadly when she glanced at the one photo in the center, of a younger Peter with his black-framed glasses (Must have been before he got bitten by that spider, MJ realized), eating an ice-cream cone with his Uncle Ben. She was also pleased to see a photo of her next to the shot of Uncle Ben; she remembered when Peter snapped that picture of her during their first official date after she broke off her engagement to John. Peter had spent more money than he could comfortably afford for two day passes for Coney Island, the Brooklyn amusement park where Uncle Ben and Aunt May had taken him as a child every summer. And MJ, despite her initial reluctance at what she thought would be a corny date, would later count that day as one of the best days of her life. She screamed like a banshee along the entire length of the Cyclone, laughed like a child on the carousel, stood amazed at the sideshow performances, and felt her heart leap as she and Peter strolled along the pier overlooking the Atlantic, her hand pressed gently into his. The photo on the TV was one that Peter had taken of her that afternoon, showing her in a simply white tank top and blue jeans, her body comfortably leaning against a railing, her face peering just past the camera, her smile wide and open with just a hint of seduction, her hair flowing slightly in the ocean breeze and tinged by the setting sun. It was one of the few photos of her that she truly liked. Peter had captured her essence in one single image, with none of the artifice of her professional modeling shoots. This was her, the real Mary Jane Watson. The woman who could only reveal herself, her heart and soul to one man, the man she truly loved.

Fred Savage had just complained about his grandfather's habit of pinching his cheek, so MJ relaxed and concentrated on the screen. Her head leaned back as she enjoyed her favorite romantic comedy. By the time Peter had returned to her with a bowl of popcorn in his hand, Vizzini and his cohorts had just kidnapped Buttercup. Peter leered slightly as he noticed MJ's head leaning back, before slipping behind the sofa and bending his face towards hers. MJ looked up and saw Peter's face upside-down over her own. Smiling wickedly, MJ lifted her head up, took Peter's face in her hands, and caught his mouth with her own in a slightly awkward but enjoyable kiss. The pleasure she experienced at this closeness was heightened by the memory it summoned, of that night two and a half years ago, when Spider-Man rescued her from muggers, and she rewarded her hero with a passionate kiss while he hung upside-down from his webbing. Her heart had been in turmoil ever since, between her love for Peter Parker and the sense of being drawn to Spider-Man. When she finally discovered six months ago that they were one and the same, the revelation came like an epiphany; so many scattered puzzle pieces suddenly coalescing into a grand and beautiful whole.

When Peter lifted his head away from MJ's, he smiled down at her and said, "Hello, honey."

"Hey, Tiger," she replied dreamily. "Why don't you join me?"

"As you wish," Peter answered happily as he jumped casually over the sofa and bounced on the cushion next to Mary Jane, without spilling a single kernel of popcorn. The redhead instinctively leaned her body against Peter's, her hand automatically linking with his as they cuddled and enjoyed the movie.

Mary Jane's face suddenly registered a surprised expression, and Peter took notice. "Something wrong, MJ?"

"I never noticed this before," she whispered as her fingers caressed his palm. "Your hands, they have these little hairs on the palms."

"Oh, those," Peter nodded, slightly embarrassed. "It's part of the whole Spider-Man package. I got 'em on my feet too. When I relax they almost disappear, you have to touch the hand to be aware that they're there. But when I concentrate, they extend and stiffen into thousands of little hooks, to the point where they hold me up when I climb walls." He glanced at Mary Jane, trying to gage her reaction. "Uh, this doesn't freak you out or anything, does it?"

"No, no," MJ responded immediately. "Actually I like it. Your hands feel soft. Almost downy." She went back to stroking his palm with her fingers, eliciting comfortable sighs from her boyfriend. She ultimately was content to simply hold her hand, as she and Peter shared popcorn and watched as Westley rescued his beloved Buttercup from the machinations of the evil Prince Humperdink.

As the closing credits began to roll, Peter turned the TV off with the remote while Mary Jane snuggled closer into Peter's shoulder, purring contendedly. "You really like that movie, huh?" Peter quipped.

"Are you kiddin'?" Mary Jane answered, patting Peter's hand. "The girl's about to marry the wrong guy, only to be swept off her feet by a masked man who turns out to be her true love? What's not to like?"

Peter shook his head in amusement. "That does sound familiar, doesn't it?"

Mary Jane nodded, bringing Peter's hand to her lips and placing a soft kiss in the palm. "I don't regret anything, Peter. I don't regret not marrying John, and I will never regret being with you."

Peter lowered his eyes, his mood sobering. "Even if being with me makes you the target of every psycho with some tech and a gimmick?"

"Peter, don't you dare," Mary Jane scolded him gently. "Don't start with the self-pity party now. You are not responsible for what the Goblin or Doc Ock tried to do to me. And before you tell me about the risks involved in being your girlfriend, I know. I know your life can get pretty crazy, and I know I'm probably gonna be in the line of fire, but I'm not running away."

"I wasn't suggesting that you should, MJ," Peter said. "Believe me, having you here, knowing that you love me as much as I love you, it's Heaven on a Kaiser roll! It's just that there's a nagging little part of me in the back of my mind that's waiting for the other shoe to fall."

"It's okay, Tiger," MJ's sweet voice consoled Peter. "That other shoe can wait, as far as I'm concerned. What matters is now, and the two of us."

Peter nodded slowly. "You're right, MJ. I just wish I could promise you that it'll get easier."

"I know," Mary Jane smiled sweetly. "And God knows I'll always worry when you're out there. I guess it's like being in love with a cop or a fire- fighter, y'know? Someone who's always 'on call'?"

"That's one way of looking at it, I guess," Peter agreed. "Doesn't make it easier though, does it?"

Mary Jane turned her attention to the now-blank TV screen. "About two weeks after John and I publicly announced our engagement," she started carefully, knowing that Peter still harbored sad memories of that night, "I had an appointment with a NASA councilor, who handed me a pamphlet called, 'Guide for Spouses and Family of NASA Personnel". Or, as he called it, 'Oh My God, I Married an Astronaut!' Anyway, one of the main points the councilor made was that traveling in space is a difficult and dangerous task, and that any space mission that John were to take could be his last." She returned her gaze to Peter, who was amazed at the love and complete acceptance he saw in her eyes. "I was prepared to go through that for him. Why wouldn't I be ready to accept the dangers of being with the guy I'm actually in love with?" She reached out to cup Peter's cheek with her hand. "You take care of New York, Tiger. I'll take care of you."

Peter, moved by MJ's open and genuine show of acceptance, took her face in his hands, and leaned in for another kiss, simply reveling in the sweet softness of MJ's lips. After breaking off the kiss, Peter regarded MJ with a faintly pondering expression, as though some great secret was being revealed to him, a great truth. "Uh," he started as he disengaged from their embrace and lifted himself off of the couch, "just hold that thought, MJ. Be right back." He rushed into the bedroom and disappeared for a few seconds, leaving MJ to wonder what was so urgent. She didn't hear any police sirens, no cries of distress from outside of the apartment. Could it have been this 'spider sense' he had told her about, that danger sense he seemed to have?

Peter emerged from the bedroom, smiling nervously, his hands clasped behind his back. "Peter," Mary Jane started to get up from the sofa, "are you okay?"

"I'm fine, MJ," Peter assured her, "but please, don't get up just yet, just sit there for a second." Mary Jane sat down again, as Peter approached her slowly, almost hesitantly. "Man," he started, "I had this scene played out so many times, but it didn't quite look like this. Somehow I always imagined it happening in a four-star restaurant, or the beach at Coney Island, somewhere, well, somewhere that wasn't here. But after what you said to me, it just feels right to do this now. So bear with me while I get this out."

"Peter," Mary Jane laughed expectantly, "what are you talking about?"

Peter didn't answer her question right away, but instead he dropped to a crouched position, his left knee on the floor, his right leg bent forward as he brought his right hand out from behind his back.

Mary Jane's eyes were alight in comprehension as she saw the small black velvet box in his hand. Oh my God, she thought giddily, he's gonna do it! She now understood why he seemed so nervous; she suddenly felt a swarm of butterflies in her stomach. But her fear was easily fought down by the sense of joy she was experiencing, as the moment she had dreamed of for three years was finally happening.

Peter took Mary Jane's hand in his and coughed briefly to clear his throat before he launched into his speech; "Mary Jane, I know that my life isn't easy. I can't promise you that it'll ever get easier. And as much as I wish I could, I can't promise that no one will ever try to hurt you again. But I can and do promise that, every day of my life, I will do everything that I can do to keep you safe and make you happy." He opened the velvet box, revealing a half-carat diamond solitaire ring, which he presented to Mary Jane with a slight flourish. "Mary Jane Watson," he started, desperately keeping the tremors in his voice at bay, "will you marry me?"

Without a second's hesitation, Mary Jane leapt off of the sofa and into Peter's arms, embracing him fiercely and raining kisses on his lips, his cheeks and his eyelids. The attack so caught Peter by surprise, even with his 'spider sense', that the entwined young lovers ended up falling sideways on the floor, Peter scrambling to prevent the ring box from being knocked out of his hand. Uncaring, the two lovers rolled on the floor, laughing joyously, kissing and touching. Finally, they stopped rolling, with Mary Jane landing on top of Peter, and the two lay still long enough for MJ to whisper happily, "In case you were wondering, that means 'yes'. I will marry you, Peter Parker!"

Peter exhaled the breath he wasn't aware he was holding as he stood up, with MJ still in his arms. They sat back down on the sofa, and he took the ring out of the box and placed it reverently on MJ's left hand. Mary Jane sighed in awe as she admired the diamond on her finger. "It's beautiful, Peter," she breathed, tears of joy shining in her eyes.

"According to Aunt May," Peter told MJ as he admired the ring on her hand, "the ring belonged to my parents. Aunt May kept it in a safe deposit box ever since..." He didn't continue the sentence, and Mary Jane didn't need to hear the end. "Anyway," Peter continued, quickly regaining his composure, "Aunt May gave me the rings when we were over last week. You had volunteered to do the dishes, and she gave me the box while you were busy. She said that the way you and I were making 'cow eyes' at each other...her words, not mine," he added when MJ started to giggle, "well, she figured I'd be needing the engagement ring soon. Is it too tight, MJ? We can have it resized if you want..."

"It fits fine, Peter," MJ assured her fiancé.

"I know it's not a big ring," Peter started again, his nerves catching up with him again, as he recalled the enormous rock MJ sported during her brief and unsuccessful engagement to John Jameson.

Mary Jane stifled a laugh as she wrapped her arms around the man she loved and silenced his fears with a sweet, lingering kiss. "Peter, it's perfect," MJ promised, the tears flowing freely down her cheeks, as Peter's eyes began to moisten. "I will never want another ring except this one. Or another husband except you."

Peter stared longingly into MJ's eyes, afraid to believe this miracle, that after all the pining, all the fears that his life as Spider-Man would forever keep them apart, that he had found his angel, and she had said 'yes'. No words, no gestures, nothing Peter could imagine seemed adequate to fully encompass the welling emotions that threatened to overwhelm him as he stared into her deep green eyes. So he said to her the only words that he felt could come close; "I love you, Mary Jane."

"And I love you, Peter Parker," MJ spoke solemnly, her words a vow. "I will love you forever."

The two young lovers sat contentedly on the sofa, at first simply happy to hold each other, to exchange the occasional loving kiss and caress. As the minutes ticked by, their kisses lengthened, their touches lingered and their desires mounted. Peter was all too aware of the effect this close proximity to MJ was having to him, how deeply he wanted her. But for a fleeting instant, his old insecurities emerged. He again became that scrawny, bespectacled science geek who constantly missed the bus and never dared to even look MJ in the face when passing her in the hallway. Nerves fought lust within Peter's psyche, and for the moment nerves seemed to have the upper hand.

MJ noted the shift in Peter's body, the sudden tenseness in his muscles. "Peter," she questioned, "are you okay?"

Peter swallowed down the sudden lump that had formed in his throat as he turned his eyes toward MJ's face. There was a change in her expression; her eyes seemed a little darker green, and her mouth curved into a lopsided half-smile. There seemed to Peter to be something...hungry about her.

"Uh, oh, yeah, I'm fine," Peter stammered nervously, not fooling MJ for a second. "Uh, I just remembered, do you have work tomorrow?"

"I have an eleven-to-five shift," MJ answered, her eyebrow arched in suspicion. "Why?"

"Well," Peter started slowly, hoping not to embarrass himself on the off-chance that he was misreading the signals she seemed to be giving him. "It just occurred to me that it's getting late." Glancing at a nearby wall-clock, Peter added, "Yeah, eleven o'clock. And you know how hard it is to get a cab this late at night. I could take you home, if you don't mind the ol' Web-Swinging Express."

Mary Jane scowled slightly as she measured Peter's words. For a science student, she realized, sometimes he could be pretty dense. She lifted her body away from Peter, and before he could protest her absence she turned her body toward him and straddled his legs, one knee on either side of him. Smiling wickedly, she brought her hands behind Peter's head and started to run her fingers through his soft brown hair. "Actually, Peter," MJ said softly, "I had another idea in mind. I want to spend the night here. That is, if you want me to."

The words hovered in Peter's mind before their implication sunk in. Peter shuddered as MJ's fingers stroked his cheek, his pulse pounding audibly in his ears as all sensation seemed concentrated on his face and where her hand made contact with his cheek. Okay, so I didn't misread the signals. Now what? "MJ," Peter spoke as sincerely as he could, "I didn't ask you to marry me for the sole purpose of getting you into bed."

MJ smirked sweetly, her hand straying over Peter's cheek, her thumb gently stroking the corner of his mouth. "I know, Tiger," her voice carried overtones of a growl. "But I would like to stay with you tonight. If you want me."

Peter's heart continued to hammer in his chest and his breath grew more ragged; there was no doubt that MJ knew the effect that she had on him. And the seductive knowing smile that graced her lips confirmed that she knew. "Mary Jane," Peter admitted, "I want you to, with everything that implies. Don't get me wrong, I definitely want you. I'm just—" Please, MJ, don't make me say it... "I'm nervous, that's all."

"Is that all?" MJ smiled sweetly. "Trust me, I'm as scared of my feelings as you are. But that doesn't change the fact that I want this, Peter. I want you. I've never been more certain of anything in my life than I am about us."

"Believe me, MJ," Peter replied, bringing his own hand up to touch MJ's face. He smiled shyly as MJ instinctively leaned into his hand. "Nothing would make me happier than to be with you, to make love to you and with you. It's just that, well, I don't know how well I'd—" He was beginning to babble, a nervous habit that occasionally came back to haunt him. And MJ was giving him a gimlet stare, expecting an answer. Sagging his shoulders in defeat, Peter spoke; "I have never done anything like this before."

MJ regarded Peter in mild amusement, as comprehension dawned on her. "So you're saying that you're a..." she started gently, letting the last word hang intentionally.

Peter nodded sadly, blushing a furious crimson. "Even if I didn't have the social life of a Benedictine monk during my high school years," Peter admitted, "I always knew that I would want to wait until I was with The One. Of course, since that's officially you, that's not an issue. I guess I'm just nervous about actually, uh, doing it. Am I a complete wimp or what?" His head lowered as he tried not to make eye-contact with MJ.

"Peter," MJ took her beloved's chin in her hand and moved his face to hers. "Peter, look at me. There is no shame in not having had sex before. Believe it or not, you're not the only virgin in New York City. In fact, you're not the only virgin in this room." MJ took a look into Peter's eyes, waiting for him to realize what she had said.

His eyes widened when her words registered. "MJ," he asked in shocked disbelief. "MJ, you're a ...?"

MJ leaned back and scowled at Peter in mock-severity. "You don't have to look so surprised," she growled, causing Peter to back away from her a little, until he saw the laughter sparkling in her eyes.

"No, no," Peter answered quickly, "I'm not surprised. No, it's just that, well..." He considered his next words carefully; the last thing he wanted was a slap in the face. "Well, I remember gym class in high school, and how in the showers Flash Thompson would constantly brag with his buddies about his latest conquests. And I think he mentioned your name at least once."

MJ rolled her eyes in distaste. "Which makes him both a pig and a liar," she groused. "Flash tried to maul me once, on prom night. I pulled a can of pepper-spray out of my purse and he backed off. Then we broke up at graduation." Peter nodded understandingly. "After him there was Harry," MJ continued. "Nice guy, except for the father issues. We tried a couple of times but it never seemed right. That, and that little Thanksgiving confrontation with his father, pretty much crashed that relationship. And finally, John Jameson, who prided himself on being a gentleman; he suggested that we wait until the honeymoon. So there you have it; my entire sexual history before tonight, or lack thereof. I could never just give myself to any guy unless I knew he was the right one. And now I know."

Peter regarded Mary Jane with awe, and no small desire, as she offered herself to him, body and soul; she trusted him completely and wanted to give herself to him completely. As completely as he wanted to give himself to her. "MJ, I am honored," he whispered. "I just hope that you're not disappointed. So if you want to back out now, I'll understand perfectly." He felt that he owed her every chance to back out if she didn't feel comfortable about losing her virginity to him.

MJ simply smiled, radiating pure joy, love and longing in palpable waves, before pulling Peter back into her embrace, her lips seeking out his, her hands tracing his shoulders before stroking the muscles that defined his lower back. "Don't worry about it, Peter," she declared, "we'll figure it out together. You are the only man I'll ever love. I want to make love to you, to be with you forever." She tilted her head slightly, facing Peter, seeing hunger and desire darkening his eyes, and feeling overjoyed that his desire matched her own. "And I want forever," she whispered intently, "to start right now." She gave him an open-mouthed kiss, hot and passionate, that dispelled any lingering doubts from Peter's heart.

Peter let himself simply enjoy the kiss, to revel in the floral scent of her shampoo, the tastes and textures of her skin against his mouth. His hands began to tenderly explore her body through the fabric of her top, lightly touching her back, tracing slow lazy arcs along her sides and lightly approaching the sides of her breasts. He stopped at that point as Mary Jane's body arched slightly and her lips broke away from his. His eyes met hers, wordlessly seeking her permission.

Regarding her lover with a feral gleam of desire in her eyes, MJ brought her hands to the lower hem of her sweater, lifted the garment slowly over her head and tossed it to the floor. Peter smiled wolfishly at the sight of MJ in a lacy black halter top. "You like what you see, Tiger?" she grinned seductively.

With a low growl of pure lust, Peter scooped his right arm under Mary Jane's thighs, and started to stand up suddenly as the surprised redhead latched her arms around Peter's neck. She smiled in relief as he easily supported her weight with his arm, her knees tucked into crook of his elbow in an almost foetal position, as Peter carried her toward the bedroom. As Peter opened the door to the bedroom with his free hand, Mary Jane's delighted laughter rang musically in his ears.

"What is it, MJ?" Peter asked as she clung more tightly to his chest.

"When I was a little girl," Mary Jane whispered sweetly in Peter's ear, "I always dreamed of being carried off by my true love. But with one hand? That's class!"

"I aim to please," Peter quipped as he carried Mary Jane into his bedroom. Once they had crossed the threshold, he reached to turn on the light, only to have Mary Jane reach out his hand to stop him. His face turned serious as he looked again into Mary Jane's eyes. "Well," he asked with a slight crack in his voice as he stood at the foot of his bed. "Here we are. Now what?"

Mary Jane touched Peter's face with her right hand, amazed that this person who could bench press an SUV, traverse the width and breadth of Manhattan Island in seconds, and dodge bullets with the grace of a ballet dancer, could still be painfully shy around her. She guided his face to hers, eyes meeting eyes in a tender gaze. "Make love to me, Peter," she pleaded in a longing whisper, her eyes gleaming in the darkness of his bedroom.

It was a request that Peter had every intention of granting. Slowly, reverently, Peter lowered Mary Jane onto the mattress, his heart skipping a beat as he beheld her beauty. She lay on the bed with her arms spread over her head, her hair falling gently over her shoulders and across the pillows, her body resting languidly over the bedspread in a posture of invitation. Peter quickly pulled his t-shirt off, nearly getting it stuck over his head before he successfully removed it and tossed it aside. Mary Jane smiled approvingly, her eyes widening at his tight, sculpted body. "Nice six-pack, Tiger," she growled approvingly, holding out her arms. "C'mere."

Peter reached the bed and slowly made his way over the mattress, until his body was directly over Mary Jane's. MJ wrapped her arms around his chest, as he took hold of her slender waist, and they began kissing in earnest. Few words were exchanged, nor were they needed, as their bodies communicated their needs and desires on a primal level. Clothes were discarded as fingers and mouths explored new territories, and two souls who had been separated for far too long finally bonded in the most ancient of celebrations.

Over an hour later, two naked lovers clung to each other, their strength spent but their desires sated for the time being. "You were right about one thing, MJ," Peter exhaled slowly, "I definitely hit the jackpot."

Mary Jane stroked Peter's chest with her hands, and stretched her body catlike against Peter's, sending fresh shivers of pleasure down his spine. "Gotta say, Tiger," she purred contentedly, "that wasn't bad for a beginner."

"I could say the same to you, Mrs. Parker-to-be," Peter regarded MJ with a lopsided grin.

"Mary Jane Parker," she pronounced the name slowly, as though she were tasting the words, while she glanced at the ring on her left hand. "I like the sound of that." She yawned quietly, stretching her arms out, as Peter himself realized for the first time that he was drifting into sleep. Slowly, he reached down beside the bed, retrieved the blanket that had fallen to the floor, and carefully placed it over their bodies as MJ relaxed in Peter's embrace.

As Mary Jane snuggled in Peter's arms and began to drift into sleep, a distant sound of a police siren blared faintly in the background. Mary Jane and Peter both cocked their heads up slightly at the sound. MJ then looked at Peter, her eyes asking the obvious question.

Peter hugged MJ tighter to his body, and kissed the top of her head, nuzzling his nose into her hair. "Not tonight," Peter assured her as they settled in for the night's rest, "The NYPD can be trusted to look after New York City, at least one night." Peter could feel warm tears spilling from MJ's eyes and onto his chest. "Don't worry," he assured her. "I'm not going to die on you anytime soon."

"It's not that, Peter," MJ breathed. "It's just that, for the first time in my life, I'm truly happy. And I don't care if it ends tomorrow, I'll never forget tonight. I love you, Peter." She craned her neck forward, capturing Peter's lips in a goodnight kiss.

"I love you, MJ," Peter answered with all the conviction he ever felt in his life. "Goodnight, babe."

"G'night, Tiger," she answered drowsily as she finally started to drift into sleep. Peter stayed awake for a few more minutes, simply marveling at the glorious sight of his girlfriend, his fiance, laying naked and happy in his arms. He felt vindication for his life, an absolute clarity in his mind and heart that he was where he needed to be. It didn't just feel good, it felt right. This was how it was supposed to be. He felt that in his gut, in his heart and in his head.

It was right, he knew that, but he was still amazed. This was Mary Jane. The girl he had loved for as long as he could remember. In high school, all she had to do was pass him in a hallway and smile in his direction, or wave at him in the cafeteria, for him to feel that all was right in his life, even with the Flash Thompsons of the world beating him down. She was his ideal. She was his angel. And she was here with him tonight. They had just made love.

She loved him. As much as he loved her, if such a thing were possible.

And not all that long ago, he had refused to give her more than his friendship, in a misguided effort to protect her. "It's all I have to give," he said at the time, and the words rang false even then. He walked away as she cried, without so much as a backwards glance. A mistake he had no intention of ever repeating. She had given him her heart as a gift; she had trusted herself to his keeping. And he vowed silently to whatever Supreme Being was out there that he would prove worthy of that trust. He knew now that he had so much more to give her. And he would give everything he had from that night forward.

With great power, the words of his uncle came unbidden to his mind, there must also come great responsibility.

"You are my responsibility, Mary Jane," Peter whispered to the sleeping form of his lover, just before sleep claimed him. "And I will never let you go again."

And for the first time since he was bitten by a genetically engineered 'super-spider', Peter Parker slept soundly and without nightmares.

========


The proving ground was located in a sub-basement at Oscorp Industries, and was approximately half the cubic area of Shea Stadium. The high ceilings and wide space gave him enough room to test the equipment he had discovered six months ago.

Harry Osborn had only noticed that during that period he hadn't touched a drop of liquor, or anything stronger than black coffee. The sheer shock of discovering that his father was the monster called the Green Goblin, so soon after the discovery that Spider-Man, his father's killer, was also Harry's best friend, did much to keep his mind off of alcohol. He had spent every free moment of the last six months examining and dissecting his late father's technology, the inventions he kept from his military contracts, the expenses that didn't find their way onto Oscorp budget reports. Harry was stunned at how much his father had embezzled from Oscorp in order to finance his criminal identity. His weapons, his pumpkin grenades and blaster devices incorporated into the glider, were highly sophisticated and devastating in their destructive capacity.

Three hours ago, he had finally screwed on enough courage to test his father's Goblin Glider. And the rush, the sheer adrenaline charge he experienced when he mounted the device and flew it through the recycled air of the proving ground was beyond any so-called 'extreme sport' anyone had ever devised.

For such a sophisticated piece of machinery, it was amazingly simple in design. So easy to steer, simply by the weight placement and attitude of the operator, like a skateboard or skis. He found that, within the enclosed space of the proving ground, he could reach a top speed of over a hundred miles an hour. Outside in the open air, he knew that the glider would easily reach twice that.

"So, my son," the familiar spectral voice taunted him as he brought the glider in for a safe landing and removed his motorcycle helmet. "Enjoying my toys? My arsenal?"

"Go away, father," he growled angrily.

The specter did not comply. "How can I go away, foolish child, so long as you refuse to avenge me?"

"Monsters don't get avenged, dad," Harry argued with little conviction. "They get forgotten, or turned into myths. But finally they get destroyed."

"How dare you--" Norman shouted, only to be cut off by his enraged son. "No, father, how dare you? How dare you hold the woman I loved over the edge of the Queensborough Bridge? How dare you threaten innocents simply to torment my best friend?"

"He was my enemy!" Norman's ghost ranted. "Which makes him your enemy!"

"Yes! Spider-Man is the enemy!" Harry declared darkly. "Not MJ! And certainly not a frail old woman! Attacking May Parker, what in God's name were you thinking?"

"They are the heart of the Spider," Norman growled. "Cut them out and the body will die!"

"You were an insane man in life, Father," Harry groaned angrily. "You looted Oscorp for your own private arsenal. You sought revenge against your board members for trying to keep the company solvent." Harry punched some buttons on a keypad by the proving ground's airlock, triggering a pre- programmed code that sent the glider's autopilot into action, guiding the glider into a storage hanger near the side wall. Three other gliders were neatly arranged on that wall, along with other artifacts of Norman Osborn's reign of terror, carefully inventoried down to the last spare bolt. "The existence of those gliders," Harry continued, "only underlines your insanity. Do you know how much Oscorp would have made had you marketed those gliders for the public market? You could have cleaned up, those gliders would have been Oscorp's ticket out of bankruptcy. But no, hunting down Spider-Man was the only thing that mattered, was it?" He would have been accused of hining down Harry then triggered the airlock to activate, walking away from the ghost of his father.

"I am not you, Father," Harry shouted into the dark of the sub-basement corridor, making his way to the elevator, to take him to his penthouse suite. "I will succeed where you have failed. I will not use innocents as shields. I will not endanger people whom I love. I will bring Oscorp from the brink of bankruptcy and keep it in the black for good." Turning around for a second to see if the ghost had followed him. "And I will kill Spider- Man. Of that you may rest assured."

Within a five-mile radius of Oscorp Industries, every dog in the area whined and barked angrily, as though some vast super-sonic signal was unleashed, an unearthly laugh that only the dogs and cats of Manhattan would know.

If a human could hear that sound, he or she would claim that it sounded just like a goblin's cackle.

========


AN: And so we come to the end of my first Spider-Man story. I do have plans to continue this story-arc though. Coming soon (hopefully): The Goblin Wars. Harry is out for revenge, but will he be forced to use his father's identity to confront Spider-Man? What has changed John Jameson during his latest mission into space? Will Curt Connors' experiments prove to be man's salvation or his own undoing? And how will these events affect Peter and Mary Jane's efforts to live happily ever after?

Ah, that would be telling...

And thanks again for the feedback. It definitely keeps me going. Jeremy, you make a good point about ol' JJJ. In the comic he has done things that countered his nasty image. I point to an issue of the X-Men where he refused to publish anti-mutant editorials even when Bastion threatened his life. However, I didn't quite see that kind of newsman in the movies. He is definitely played on film as a comic foil, and a minor villain. Haven't decided what to do with him in the Goblin Wars, but he should show his crew- cut head soon. Oh, and don't worry, I haven't abandoned Defenders of the Night. I have plans...oh yes, I have plans. And hopefully we'll see more of 'Deathless' in the near future.

Cya, Kirayoshi.