Quirk of Fate, Part 2: Night of the Goblin

When we last saw her, Mary Jane Watson, alias Spider-Woman, had hung up her webs after the death of her beloved. But when a new supervillain threatens New York and all she holds dear, she finds she cannot escape her duty and her destiny.

The Standard Disclaimer: All characters involved belong to Marvel, unless I note otherwise. Any quotes I may use belong strictly to their authors!

Dramatis Personae: Mary Jane Watson, Harry Osborn, Norman Osborn, the Ghost (of Peter Parker), Howard "Flash" Thompson, Elizabeth Allen

Previously: During a high school field trip to a scientific laboratory, a genetically altered spider escaped its cage and bit the beautiful, popular Mary Jane Watson. Finding herself endowed with all its powers—inhuman strength, speed, endurance; mild precognition; and the ability to spin organic webbing—she turns to her brilliant friend, Peter Parker, for help. Peter persuades Mary Jane to use her extraordinary abilities to help others as a superhero. Meanwhile, a laboratory accident finds an eminent nuclear physicist, Dr. Otto Octavius, brain-damaged with his robotic equipment welded to his body. Doctor Octopus easily defeats Spider-Woman in their first meeting, but with Peter's help, Spidey battles him to a standstill at First Central Bank. Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, Peter is taken hostage and killed by Doc Ock. Holding herself responsible for his death, Mary Jane discards her costume and her career…And now begin!

Prologue: Trouble

"Oh no, I see

A spider web is tangled up with me.

And I lost my head,

And thought of all the stupid things I'd said.

Oh no, what's this?

A spider web and I'm caught in the middle.

So I turn to run,

And thought of all the stupid things I'd done."

Coldplay, "Trouble"

night

She tossed, turned restlessly in her bed. The dream came to her more often than she wanted to admit. Whether she was awake or asleep was a futile distinction. He came to her every night and every day now, whether she was fast asleep, as she was now, or wide awake, in class. She'd see him again and again, he'd haunted her mind since his murder, and she was helpless to stop it, because she wanted to be, and because she deserved to be. Her thoughts now swirled through her unconscious mind, under the influence of rapid eye movement.

One moment, she saw him, saw his crushed, broken body lying on the tile floor, his life seeping away from internal bleeding, and the next he was standing in front of her, perfectly healthy and peaceful, framed with golden light and dark hair ruffling in a gentle, celestial breeze, holding the camera that he had still clutched at the moment of his death.

"Hello, Mary Jane," he'd say.

"Hello, Peter," she'd reply.

"What you're doing now, MJ—it makes me sad."

"Sad? How can you be sad in heaven? You're—I don't know, playing harps and doing science experiments with angels while I'm still tormented by your memory, hanging onto regular human contact by a thread. Can you understand? I can't live the way you want me to."

"You know I understand, MJ," he'd say serenely. "But I thought I told you the meaning of responsibility. The needs of the many outweigh the desires of the few."

Oh, yes. Oh yes, he did. "It's a responsibility I can't handle. I will not let anyone else's life end the way yours did."

Her dreaming self looked at her beloved, and suddenly hated him. She hated the capricious fate that had placed him directly on a collision course with that damned Octopus—

"You shouldn't blame Dr. Octavius so much," Peter would smile. "You know, I never felt a thing. I departed quite painlessly into a better life. Death isn't so much an end of life as it is a beginning."

Easy for you to say, she'd think.

"You'll see when your time comes."

She really did hate him then. Hated the slings and arrows of fate, too. Damn! Octopus could have robbed another bank, somewhere else in the city. He could have taken another hostage, too, anyone except the boy she loved! Why? Why did she have to suffer endless torment for her actions and inactions? Why was he enjoying eternal delights in Heaven while she was condemned to a living Purgatory?

"Your Purgatory is all in your mind," he'd remind her. "Tormenting yourself isn't going to bring me back to Earth."

"I can't live with your superhero dreams, Peter! I want—I deserve—a life of my own!"

"But you've been given a gift, Mary Jane. With great power must also come great responsibility." His voice was still gentle in tone, but now implacable and the weight of the world rested on it. He reached out to his Mary Jane, and his face filled with love, concern, and doubt. "Take my hand, love." With the other hand, he reached into his pocket and almost magically pulled out that red and blue, nearly-forgotten costume. He held it out to her.

Mary Jane paused to look at the hand. It wasn't the hand that had held hers, the hand that stroked her hair and cheek as he kissed her, wasn't the hand that had so carefully engineered the chemicals that couldn't prevent his death, wasn't the hand that had so carefully sewn together the fabric of her costume. It wasn't the hand that gently massaged her shoulders after a hard night of crime fighting.

It was the hand of fate, the heavy hand that had a stranglehold on her, clutching her throat, choking her, draining her life, pulling up and pummeling her with memories she desperately tried to bury. And in the other hand was that damned costume, the one she wouldn't use again if he paid her a million dollars a second.

She angrily batted the offered hand away, jerked the offending costume out of his hand. "No, Peter! I am Mary Jane Watson! I am Spider-Woman no more!"

And she fell into nothingness, her "No more! No more!" echoing around her, until she reached the bottom…

…where she suddenly found herself in the cold metal embrace of Octavius, whispering, "Now that I've killed your little boyfriend off, I have no competition for your heart. You will eventually come around, you will love me whether you wish to or not, and we shall rule the world together… "

"Stop it! Stop it! Get off me, you monster!" she'd shout, pushing uselessly at the unfeeling arms…

"Mary Jane!" he'd call, over and over, lunging at her, grabbing at her, shaking her…

"Mary Jane!" Harry Osborn shouted up at her from the floor. Mary Jane suddenly realized it was him who had been shaking her.

"You're not…" she started.

"Not what? You were pushing me off the bed and screaming that I'm a monster!" He rubbed his side. "Damn. That hurts." Harry's face suddenly turned pensive. "It's Pete, isn't it?"

MJ nodded.

"You know how he died?" Harry whispered. "The autopsy said he died of internal bleeding and all his bones were broken. The news reports say he was at the bank and a supervillain grabbed him and crushed him to death. Shitty way to go, isn't it?"

"Yes. It is."

"They had to have a closed-casket funeral for him. He was so fucked up that you couldn't even look at him. Can you imagine that?"

"No. I couldn't. Stop being morbid, Harry. He was your best pal."

"Then they said his Uncle Ben shot himself and his Aunt May got a nervous breakdown and got sent to the mental hospital, and she blames Spider-Woman for the deaths of her husband and nephew. They were the only family she had, you know. The Daily Bugle wants the NYPD to arrest her for murder. They're offering a 1 million dollar reward for her head. No wonder the bug won't show her face around here."

"Don't talk about that. Please."

"You know, I'd kill her. Seriously. I don't care, call me a chauvinist pig and a woman-hater if you want. I mean, that bitch—she killed my best pal and practically his whole family—"

"No she didn't. You don't really mean that."

"Sure I do. She's the reason he got killed, or at least contributed to his death. He was hanging around her and taking pictures for the paper right near the battle."

"I know, Harry. I read newspapers, too. Stop talking about this shit. It's 3 in the morning. I'm going back to sleep."