Disclaimers; Marvel owns them, and now that they're out of the red they can afford lawyers. I own a CD of the old Spider-Man theme performed by the Ramones. And man does it rock! Hey, it's The Ramones, of course it rocks!

Spoilers; Spider-Man 2, which also rocks. And my earlier Spider-Man story, The Jackpot. And quite a few people informed me that they thought it rocked as well, so that keeps the theme going.

Rating; PG-13. Some comic-book violence and romantic mushy moments(some of the latter will be off-camera).

My feedback sense is tingling!

Summary: Peter and Mary Jane are planning for their new life together. But someone else has plans of his own, for Spider-Man's death.


Spider-Man:
The Goblin Wars
by Kirayoshi

Chapter One
First Stirrings

"Do you realize
That you have the most beautiful face?
Do you realize
We're floating through space?
Do you realize That happiness makes you cry?
Do you realize
That everyone you know someday is going to die?

And instead of saying your good-byes,
You realize that life goes past
It's hard to make the good things last,
Realize the sun's not going down,
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning 'round."

        --The Flaming Lips
        "Do You Realize"

========

You ever watch old episodes of the Ed Sullivan Show on cable? I used to enjoy watching the classic episodes with Aunt May and Uncle Ben when I was a kid. And sometimes I still enjoy ol' Ed's 'Rilly Big Shew' when MJ and I have dinner with Aunt May. Every so often, in between performances by such big names as the Beatles, George Carlin and Elvis, he'd bring out some plate-spinning act. Some guy would attempt to balance five spinning plates on ten-foot poles, using a cane to balance each plate, constantly rushing back to keep his first plates spinning before setting up the last plates, usually to the tune of The Sabre Dance.

For the last three years, I felt like that plate spinner. My plates were college, family, work, friends, and of course being Spider-Man. The last plate I tried to let fall, before I realized that I could never let go of that part of my life. For better or for worse, I will always be Spider- Man.

But MJ helped set me straight on a few things. She let me know that I was still Peter Parker, and I couldn't deny that part of me either. She showed me the truth in her pleading gaze and sweet smile as she stood in my doorway that one day, still wearing her wedding dress but not any rings, knowing and letting me know that, just as I was willing to sacrifice happiness for her safety, she was willing to sacrifice safety for our happiness.

Now I know why those plate-spinners always have beautiful assistants.

Not that MJ was just a sequined ornament. She's so much more than that. She's everything. Friend, lover (oh God yes--), confidante, sounding board, and on occasion my cover story. Thanks to her I could actually find the energy to be Peter as well as Spider-Man. I started to realize now that, as often as I may have saved her, she saved me that much more. Every night I thank God for her, for her love, for the strength she has provided me.

I had no idea how soon I was going to need that strength. Or how badly...

========


"Doctor Connors?" Peter called out as he entered the otherwise empty campus lab. "Are you here?"

"Right here, Parker," Curt Connors answered from the opposite side of the lab, his head hunched over his microscope intently, his one hand manipulating the focus dial. "That is, assuming that you are Peter Parker. You know him, don't you? Brown hair, glassy blue eyes, intelligent lad but time management is hardly his strong suit."

"Say hello to Peter Parker 2.0," Peter answered as he dropped his backpack and joined Dr. Connors at the microscope. "You said you wanted me here at 10 am, to go over my proposed syllabus for the Genetics 201 class I'm going to be handling next month, so here I am."

Curt glanced up from his scope and checked his watch. "And five minutes early, no less. And for the third time in three days. Mr. Parker," he teased him sternly but not unkindly, "you seem to have set a precedent."

"Like I said," Peter nodded. "New me."

Connors harrumphed slightly and returned his attention to the scope. "I'll check your syllabus at my leisure, Parker. I trust that your course of study will be sufficiently challenging for the students. This is for an advanced class, not the basic pre-requisite course."

"I'm aware of that," Peter promised. "Besides, most students who just need a science credit will probably sign up for Geology 101."

"Rocks for Jocks?" Connors chuckled slightly. "Heard of it."

Peter observed as his mentor monitored the slide beneath his microscope with rapt attention. "May I ask how the march of progress is going, Doctor?"

"Take a look at this," Connors said suddenly, beckoning Peter to look into his microscope. Peter peered into the lens, examining the slide that had absorbed much of the doctor's attention. "What do you see there?"

Peter pursed his lips in thought as he scanned the specimen. "Looks like a cell undergoing mitosis, splitting into two," Peter opined. "Except that I'm not sure what kind of cell this is. It's not an egg cell, that's for certain."

"Very good, Peter," Connors answered. "The cell in question is a human epidermal cell, treated with lizard DNA. The prairie racerunner of Missouri, to be exact."

"Starting a miniature Jurassic Park?" Peter quipped.

Connors snorted a single derisive laugh. "As you are no doubt aware, Peter," he continued, shifting effortlessly into lecture mode, "many species of lizards possess the ability to detatch their tails. Grab a lizard by the tail and the lizard will simply shed its tail to escape, and later re-grow the missing tail. What you are looking at, Peter, is the first stage of my pet project. I believe that I have found a breakthrough in my bodily regeneration process."

Peter nodded slightly. "I see. You think that by isolating the genetic trait that allows a lizard to re-grow its tail, you can somehow use that gene to re-grow severed limbs. Uh, sorry," he added hastily, wincing at the sight of his one-armed professor.

Curt Connors smiled ruefully at his protege. "No need to apologize, Peter. This formula has been in the back of my mind ever since losing my arm in an Iraqi mine field during Desert Storm. And nothing would make me happier than being able to play catch with my son with both hands. But the applications of my regeneration process, should it prove successful, would be more far-reaching than that. Think of it, Peter, people who need transplants would no longer need to wait for a compatible donor, when they could simply re-grow vital organs. No more transplant operations would run the risk of organ rejection. Heart, liver, cornea, all could be performed without risk!"

"Somebody give me an amen!" Peter chimed merrily, eliciting a pained wince from Connors. "Sorry, Doc," Peter said contritely, "I just never saw you get this worked up about a subject. Except for my chronic lateness, of course."

"No, Peter," Connors waved his hand to silence his pupil. "You're quite right. I seldom discuss this project with anyone else, largely because before I stumbled onto the idea of using reptile DNA, I hadn't had anything resembling success. This is the first viable breakthrough I've had with the regeneration serum, the first evidence that the money Oscorp had fronted That's why it's vital that we impress Harry Osborn at the symposium next week."

Peter sat silently for a moment, considering Connor's words. "Uh, by 'we'," he asked hesitantly, "are you including myself in that?"

"No," Connors smirked in mock-irritation, "I'm talking to the invisible man sitting next to you. Of course I want you there with me. I need to convince the board of directors at Oscorp to continue funding my experiments. And I was lead to believe that you and Harry Osborn were close."

Peter sighed dejectedly. "Yeah, 'were' being the operative word," Peter answered. "Ever since he inherited Oscorp from his father, he and I, well, we drifted apart. He had his business, I had college, we just didn't see each other." Plus there's the little matter of him blaming me for his daddy's death, he added privately. Not to mention that I'm currently engaged to marry his ex-girlfriend... "Look, Doc, I can talk to him," Peter concluded. "I'm just saying that it might not do much good." Peter recognized the somewhat dissappointed look on Connors' face, so he added quickly; "On the plus side, I recently chatted with Robbie Robertson at the Daily Bugle, and he had asked if I could do a photo-story about the symposium. Whattya say, maybe some positive press on your activities?"

Doctor Connors pursed his lips in thought for a moment. "That does have merit, Peter. If you can set things up with Mr. Robertson, I'll have your all-day pass to the symposium ready tomorrow morning."

"Thanks, Doc," Peter answered. "I'll get the press pass from him on my way home."

"Very well," Connors continued as he shut off the light source under his microscope, "let's consider the syllabus you've been no doubt slaving over all night..." He retrieved the folder from Peter's hand and the teacher and student began to outline the upcoming fall quarter class.

========


The insessant chirping of her telephone was a welcome relief to Mary Jane Watson, as she finished the last of a hundred sit-ups. Her exercize regimin was winding down and she felt the need for any excuse to cut it short. Grabbing a small terry-cloth towel to dab at her face, she picked up the phone. "Hello," she announced in a tired voice.

"Midge!" a jovial, faintly accented voice announced, "how in the hell are you?"

Mary Jane relaxed slightly. She only knew one person who called her 'Midge'. "Hey, Sergey," she greeted her former make-up artist. "How are you doing?"

"Oh, can't complain too loudly," Sergey answered. "You hear that 'Earnest' is closing?"

"Oh?" MJ's eyes opened in surprise. "Weren't ticket sales still steady?"

"Steadily declining, you mean, girlfriend," Sergey smiled. "After you were given the Golden Toe, the audience shrank steadily. Apparently you were the only real draw the play had. And the twit they booked to replace you-- let's just say it doesn't help an Oscar Wilde production to be constantly giggling while delivering your lines. The crowds stayed away in droves."

"Sorry to hear that, Sergey," MJ answered.

"I'm not, sweetheart," Sergey chuckled. "After the rotten treatment they gave you, the producers deserved it!"

MJ navigated her way to the kitchen, balancing the handset between her chin and her left shoulder. "Tell me about it," she complained softly. "Haven't had a decent stage offer since then."

"Well, honey," Sergey answered, "When I tell you my good news, you'll be wreathed in smiles."

"Really?" MJ smirked. "And what good news are you talking about?"

"Just tell me two things, dearie. One, can you tear yourself away from that sandwich shop in a week from Thursday, for an audition?"

"I have that Thursday off, actually," MJ answered hopefully. "What kind of role are we talking?"

"Well," Sergey hesitated slightly. "That leads to my second thing."

"Which is..." MJ intoned sternly.

"Can you fake an orgasm?"

MJ stood slackjawed for five whole seconds, before she exclaimed, "I beg your pardon!"

"I'm sure I enunciated, darling," Sergey defended himself.

"What kind of role is this?" she shouted into the handset. "Some sex- fantasy-on-stage thing? 'Cause if it is, let me tell you mister--"

"Nothing that outrageous, I can assure you, Midge," Sergey hurriedly interrupted. "Let me explain; shortly after we got our pink slips from 'Earnest', a local producer, Kathy Ortez, you heard of her?"

"Yeah, one of the better off-Broadway producers," MJ admitted. "She's got a good rep. Puts on a good show and has an eye for finding future stars."

"Well, her next production is an import from London's West End," Sergey continued, "one that they got from Hollywood actually. It's a stage adaptation of the popular romantic comedy, 'When Harry Met Sally'."

"Oh," MJ nodded, before realization set in. "Ooh, I get it. The deli scene..."

"'I'll have what she's having'," Sergey quoted. "So Kathy hired me as head make-up artist, and asked if I knew anyone who could play Sally, and you, my little cherub, are the first person I thought of. So I gave Kathy your number, and you should expect to hear from her tomorrow or the day after, with the where and when for the audition."

"Wow!" MJ beamed. "You sure this is on the level? Y'know I've had zero luck with auditions since breaking up with John Jameson."

"Would I kid you, Midge?" Sergey asked. "She told me that she enjoyed you immensely on 'Earnest', and feels that Sally Albright would be right up your alley. Trust me on this, you're gonna knock her socks off!"

"Thanks for the tip, Sergey," MJ answered.

"De nada," Sergey smiled.

"Well, I gotta hang up now," MJ answered. "Peter's coming over, and I'm putting together a fritata for dinner."

"Ah, the photographer," Sergey smiled. "About time he woke up and smelled the gorgeous redhead! Well, you two have fun, and don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"Thanks, Sergey. That gives me a lot of leeway," MJ teased. "Bye."

"See you in the funny papers, Midge."

She heard the click of a cellular phone hanging up, replace her handset on the receiver and returned her attention to the kitchen. As she located the ingredients for her planned dinner in the refrigerator, she found herself smiling again, a common occurrence as she considered her life now, and how different things could have been.

She had come so close to losing him. She had lost him. He was so determined to protect her, to keep her safe at all costs, that he was ready to cast her aside. All because of a change in his destiny caused by a spider-bite. It was the supreme irony of her life, she had realized at one point, that the reason she had begun to notice Peter and ultimately fall in love with him was the same reason that he had tried to wall himself away from her. Spider-Man.

Not for the first time, she wondered how she could have been so blind? The clues were there; the sudden coordination he exhibited weeks before they graduated from high school, the altercation with Flash Thompson, Spider- Man's first public appearances, right about the time that Peter started attending college, the fact that Peter was the only shooter around to get any decent shots of Spider-Man for the Bugle...

It was a week before Norman Osborn's funeral when she realized that he was The One. She had finally returned to her apartment after that terrible ordeal on the Queensboro bridge, and all she had wanted was to soak in a hot bath and sleep for a week. First she checked her answering machine. Amid the frantic calls from her mother and a couple of discount cruise offers, she heard Peter's voice, clear and caring, checking to see if she was okay and warning her to avoid any dark alleys. None of her former beaus, neither Flash nor Harry, had been that concerned about her before. She had wondered briefly why the connection had severed so quickly; it sounded like he had more to say before being cut off. But it didn't matter to her. She played that message five times, simply to hear his voice again, to memorize its timbres and cadences. That was the moment she knew she was in love with Peter Parker.

But the next time she heard his voice, he had told her that he didn't share her feelings for him. His kiss for her at Osborn's funeral was a kiss of goodbye. All he would give her was his friendship. And after the initial heartbreak, even friendship seemed to be enough for her.

Except for the consistantly empty seat at her stage performances. The unanswered phone calls. The broken lunch dates. The sense that he wasn't with her even during those rare moments when they were together.

And there was John. Sweet, caring, attentive, affectionate, easy on the eyes, successful...everything that a girl could want. She would have been a fool to turn down his marriage proposal, right?

And even if she wasn't In Love with him, she did love him, right?

It was during that final confrontation between Peter and Doctor Octopus where things started to crystalize. She saw him, her Peter, facing off against a madman who could have easily crushed him in his tentacles, desperately trying to reach the man beneath the monster. As he stood unmasked before her, her heart soared as she received and accepted the truth. It wasn't so much a revelation as it was a realization, that what she had known in her heart to be true all along was correct. That her hero, the city's hero, was the man whom she had loved and would love forever.

As she gazed lovingly into Peter's unmasked eyes, she breathed, "I think I knew all this time who you really were."

And even then, with his face unmasked, Peter still hid his heart. "Then you know why we can't be together," he said sorrowfully. "Spider-Man will always have enemies. I can't let you take that risk. I will always be Spider-Man. You and I can never be... " His words, spoken with a funeral bell's finality, again tore at her soul, threatening to engulf her in sorrow. She didn't even notice as John's strong arms held her fiercely, not wanting to let her go. She only kept her eyes on the shadowed figure of her hero as Spider-Man disappeared into the shadows of the New York night.

But he loved her. He said as much to her that night, before his final battle with Octopus. As she sat in her wedding dress on the day she was supposed to become Mrs. John Jameson, the final tumbler fell into place. She finally realized how deeply he loved her. Peter was prepared to give up everything to keep her safe, to protect her from his other life. Even if that meant they could never be together...

Like Hell we can't be together! Those words echoed through her head, and with the thought came action.

As she rushed across Central Park, away from the chapel, away from a lie of a wedding, she felt her heart soar. For the first time in her life she knew what she wanted, what she needed to complete her life, and she was going to grab it with both hands. She would no longer be half-alive, half herself. And she wouldn't let Peter be half-alive, simply because he was afraid to risk her safety.

Love was always a risk. The greatest risk of all. And one that was always worth taking.

As her eyes lingered on the diamond solitare that adorned her finger, she smiled, again thanking God that she was able to take that risk.

The sudden chirping of the phone shook her from her reverie. "Hello," she chimed merrily into the handset.

"Can Spider-Man come out to play?"

The eerie, computer augmented voice sent an unearthly chill down MJ's spine. Suddenly, she was back over the Queensboro Bridge, the iron grasp of the Green Goblin clamped around her neck, holding her high over the Hudson River. She dropped the handset as though it were electrically charged, and stood in stunned silence, her body leaning against the kitchen counter for support, her heart hammering a horrified tattoo in her chest.

A sudden light rap on her door sent her jumping. "Wh-who's there?" she stammered.

"MJ? You okay?" Mary Jane sighed in relief as she recognized her fiance's voice, as familiar and welcome as the sunrise. "Oh, just a sec, Peter," she called back, hurriedly replacing the handset and brushing her shirt and pants with her hands.

"Is something wrong, MJ?" Peter called out. "You sound stressed."

"Stressed?" MJ asked, as she opened the door. Peter stood in the hallway, his body tensed, as though prepared to spring into action. "Hey, easy, Peter," she forced a smile on her face as she dragged Peter into her apartment. "I'm fine, Tiger. I'm just getting psyched, is all. Hey, is that a chianti?"

"You did say you were making Italian for dinner," Peter answered, handing MJ the wine bottle he was carrying and leaning in to give her a quick peck on the lips. "And don't change the subject. You sounded tense when I knocked. What's happening?"

"Oh, that," MJ laughed slightly, as Peter's face bore an unconvinced smirk. "Actually I got a call just before you got here, that's what got me excited. Sergey told me about a new off-Broadway job that he recommended me for."

Peter's eyebrows shot up. "Really?"

"Yeah, and it's a great modern part too. Remember 'When Harry Met Sally'?" As MJ located two wine glasses in her cupboard, she filled Peter in on the details of her upcoming audition.

Peter smiled broadly as MJ delivered her good news. "Hey, that's good news. Say, why don't I rent the movie and we can watch it together? Y'know, so you can bone up on the role?"

MJ grinned knowingly at Peter's suggestion, as she handed him a glass of wine. "Peter, do you remember anything after the first half-hour of any movie you and I watched together on video since we got together?"

"Sure, honey," Peter defended himself. "Last week, there was that Keanu Reeves thing with the bomb on the bus, and, uh, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper were involved and...um..."

"And we ended up making out on the couch until the closing credits," MJ grinned triumphantly. Peter lowered his head in mock-supplication. "Not that I don't enjoy the make-out sessions, but if I'm going to retain anything from watching the DVD, I'm gonna have to watch it without you in the room."

"Gotcha," Peter nodded. "But seriously, I do hope you get the part."

"Believe me," MJ lifted her wine glass to her lips, enjoying her first sip of the chianti, "so do I."

"To Mary Jane Watson," Peter announced as he lifted his glass in a toast, "the next big thing on Broadway. And I give you my word, when you debut in this role, I won't be an empty seat in the auditorium. Even if I have to put the usher into a headlock to get in."

"Thanks, Tiger," MJ answered. "And to Peter Parker, the first person to tell me I'd light up Broadway. Thank you." They clinked their glasses, and stole a moment gazing into each other's eyes.

As Peter helped MJ put together the fritatta, MJ still felt a twinge of fear. The unholy voice behind the crank call still echoed in her mind. It sounded so much like the Green Goblin. But he was dead. He disappeared after the final battle at Queensboro Bridge. He was gone forever.

Wasn't he?

Even as she lay in Peter's arms that night after they made love, that nameless dread still gnawed at her. She felt the peace that she and Peter had achieved after so long was in danger. She clung to her sleeping lover, feeling his arms unconsciously cradling her body, and leaned her head protectively against his chest.

"We'll save each other, Peter," she whispered to the night, her eyes staring protectively at her lover's face. "I won't lose you again."

========


Author's Note: Thanks again for the feedback on my earlier effort, 'The Jackpot'. Hopefully this will measure up to your expectations.

Some questions regarding JJJ; I'm kind of combining elements from the movie and the comic book. While the comic version of JJJ has him as a reasonable consciencious editor, he has had lapses; he backed both the creation of the Scorpion, and Spencer Smythe's Spider Slayers. I see the movie version of JJJ as mirroring the earlier money-grubbing ol' creep(first thing he did when his son was left at the altar was to call the caterer so he wouldn't have to pay for the caviar. Nice compassionate father, him). Don't know exactly what I'll do with him in future stories, but I don't see him as a one-dimensional heavy. We'll see what happens.

Sensei; Hey, if I had a hot redhead like MJ waiting for me at home, I'd be happy too. The comic book Spider-Man has been known to crack wise under the most adverse of circumstances. He does so a little less in Spider-Man 2, but his life is pretty screwed going into it. What I tried to do with 'The Jackpot' was give Peter a moment of happiness. Because as 'The Goblin Wars' moves forward, well let's just say that things will be much less happy.

How? Ah, that would be telling...