New Beginnings

Peter glided through the evening air toward home. He was feeling invigorated – only months ago he had been given a new chance at life, and he had decided to make the most of it. Lately he had been celebrating the things, or really, the people that mattered most.

His long-suffering wife, Mary Jane, had long since accepted the fact that Peter would not always be there for her, but he'd be damned if he was going to miss another Valentine's Day, especially after his most recent brush with death.

The mirrored, reinforced windows of Stark Tower rushed before him, and he landed noiselessly on the side. I wonder when I'll remember that I don't have to sneak in the window anymore, he thought, shaking his head ruefully. He could have entered via the roof access by the landing pad, or even the front door, to tell the truth, now that the New Avengers had gone public. He didn't even have to be in costume – Tony Stark had made clear to a certain nosy member of the press that Peter Parker and his family were living here because Peter was working on a special project for Stark Industries. But after years of hiding his comings and goings, he was finding it a hard habit to break.

Peter nimbly scaled the side of the building, leapt across the roof, and entered the door there. He bounced down the stairwell – wouldn't MJ be happy to see him! He had the perfect restaurant, too, and they didn't require reservations…

Humming a happy tune, he peeled back his mask. Suddenly, he wondered if he had been leaving footprints on the windows. Is that why Jarvis has been giving me the stink eye? I did offer to clean up…

Opening the door to their suite, Peter called in, "MJ! I'm home! Are you up for an evening you won't forget?"

He was greeted with darkness and silence. "MJ?" he called again. He slowly stepped into the main room. He started to reach for the light switch beside the door, when he noticed a small flickering light in an alcove by the windows. Curious, he made his way toward it.

A few yards from the windows, he stopped. The great expanse of the New York City skyline twinkled before him. In the center of this tableau was a small table covered with a creamy linen tablecloth and a single lit candle. To one side sat his beautiful wife, who was twisting her long, red hair between her fingers. She seemed lost in thought as she gazed out at the night sky.

Peter came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She startled and then smiled up at him. Kissing the top of his hand, she said, "I took the chance that you'd be home tonight, Tiger."

Peter gestured at the set table, saying, "Wow. When did you have time to do all this?"

Her eyes twinkled. "I had a little help. May, Jarvis and I worked on the meal, before I insisted they spend a night out on the town." She winked. "They are so cute, don't you think?"

He still wasn't sure what he thought about his aunt's burgeoning relationship with the Avengers' butler, Edwin Jarvis. But he pushed it back to the back of his mind again, to deal with later. "Did he actually help with this willingly?" Peter asked half-incredulously while sitting across from her.

"Well, you know May. She could charm water from a stone. And he'd do anything for her, you know that." MJ reached across the table for his hands. Giving them a squeeze, she suggested, "Why don't you go get changed out of your costume, and I'll get the salads ready."

Peter nodded and headed for the bedroom. This would also give him a chance to get out the present he was going to give her. He quickly changed clothes, and reached behind the dresser, where he had discreetly webbed it to the back.

He could still hear the clink of dishes in the next room, so he gently set the gift against the wall. He would bring it out when the time was right.

Smiling, he came around the corner and saw that the salads and bread basket were set out. There were two silver covered dishes on a tray to the side. "Bon appetit!" MJ gestured to his place.

After sitting, Peter picked up his water goblet and held it aloft. "To new beginnings," he toasted.

"To new beginnings," Mary Jane seconded with an odd sort of smile on her face.

They enjoyed a fabulous dinner, expertly prepared. Every once in a while, Mary Jane got a far-off look in her eyes. After the third or so time, Peter asked, "What are you thinking about?"

She blushed. "Oh, nothing. Just thinking about how nice it is to spend a Valentine's Day just the two of us."

Peter rose from his chair, saying, "That reminds me. I have a little something for you – I hope you like it." He reached around the corner for the present.

MJ took the large rectangular package in her hands, clearly pleased. "Wow, it's heavy. Is it some sort of… never mind. I'll just open it." She tore open the wrapping to find a framed copy of the Playbill from Cats Always Lie and 3 or 4 of the glowing reviews she had received.

"Oh, Peter, I love it! It was so sweet of you to create a keepsake like this." She leaned over and gave him a long kiss. "I know just where to hang it, too."

She set it carefully to the side and reached under her chair for a small card. "I have something for you, too. I hope you like it…" She handed the card to him. Curious, he took it. What could fit inside a greeting card?he wondered.

Opening the flap, he slipped the card out of the envelope and opened the card. He was soon squinting at a curling piece of thermal paper. The black and white image puzzled him for a moment, as MJ's voice filtered into his thoughts. "We could frame this, too – it's a just as much a keepsake…" He looked up at MJ as it slowly dawned on him what he was seeing.

That odd little smile was back, crowned with her shining eyes. "Is this…. It couldn't be…." He was afraid to speak it aloud.

"Well, I thought, we're in this huge tower, surrounded by your friends…"

"I wouldn't say they're all my friends…." Peter joked.

"Shush. Anyway, I just feel that maybe it would finally be safe…"

In response, Peter swept Mary Jane into a huge hug, tears of happiness in his eyes. "Are you sure?" he said into her flowing hair. "After what happened with Little May, I didn't know when you would be ready again…"

She pulled back. The look on her face was pure assurance. She gently took the sonogram from Peter's hand. "It's time to move on from the past and look to the future. What better way than by welcoming a new member to our family?"

Peter hugged her again, heart filled with joy and love. Suddenly he slipped the ultrasound photo out of her hand, and looked at the date stamp at the bottom. "12 weeks? How did you hide this from me for so long? Does anyone else know?" he asked incredulously.

"Well, it hasn't been difficult to hide the morning sickness from you – in and out of here with missions and the like," she chided. He nodded sheepishly. "And I decided this was a private matter between you and me. I could have asked Tony's lab technicians to look me over, but I felt more comfortable going to my old doctor." She added ruefully, "May guessed weeks ago…"

Forgetting about the dishes on the table, Peter guided Mary Jane over to the sofa to sit. "It will be nice to have another little one running around the Tower, a playmate for Luke and Jessica's little girl." He wondered whether being around his fellow Avenger's new baby had influenced MJ to think about trying again. Whatever the reason, I'm as thrilled as I can be.

"Yes, it will. I wonder whether we will have a girl or a boy? If it's a girl, they could be best friends! If it's a boy, they could end up being sweethearts…" MJ sighed, and laid her head on his shoulder.

Peter suddenly remembered the time, not too long ago, when he had seen a terrifying vision of a future that could be.(1) He had spoken to a much older version of himself, who was fighting for his life. But what he remembered most was that he had said, "Tell MJ you love her. Tell her every night, and every morning." And he had done that. But he also remembered that older Peter saying they would have a son, Ben…

"I somehow think it'll be a boy…"

MJ straightened up, and gave him a searching look. He shrugged. She gave him a lop-sided smile and settled back on his shoulder.

"I love you, MJ."

"I love you, too, Peter."

For quite a while after, they gazed at the sparkling New York skyline in silence.

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(1)– Amazing Spider-Man #500: "Happy Birthday: Part Three"

A/N: This story is set in current comics continuity, but the pregnancy storyline is all mine. It is something I would love to see happen – since they took away May. (Thank goodness for Spider-Girl). But who can know the mind of the Marvel editors? ;)

Thanks go to Mark C, Jenn1, knottaclue and Georgia Kennedy for help and suggestions!