To Song With No Soul: I trust you, and I think I saw that rule just after they installed the "Reply to signed reviewers directly from the review page" feature. I always have made it a point to reply to my Loyal Minions and luckily (whispers) they haven't caught me yet. I don't think I'll get bounced for doing this though. What with the server breaking down every two days they've got better things to do. 2) Since this Green Goblin is a teenager, he would naturally know about cell phones, texting, and emoticons. 3) Flash Thompson also parallels the comic, but with an added dimension.

To Luger7: I hope you do. Happy reading!

Chapter 7: Epilogue: The Reason

"I found a reason for me

To change who I used to be

A reason to start over new

And the reason is you

I found a reason to show

A side of me you didn't know

A reason for all that I do

And the reason is you."

Hoobastank, "The Reason"

after school

"Hey, what's the holdup?!" She was shouting this because a Gordian knot of students blocked Mary Jane's walk through Midtown High's main hallway. From the center, she saw a blue-sleeved arm holding up this morning's Daily Bugle and heard "Flash" Thompson's voice.

"I'm telling you, Spider-Woman's one hundred percent hero material! She single-handedly fought off the Green Goblin to save the city! The mass media refuses to give our official superheroine the recognition she deserves! That's why I've founded my official Spider-Woman fan club, the Webheads, to show her we're all on her side, even if the newspaper demagogues aren't! For only the nominal fee of twenty dollars…"

The knot of students began to groan. "Dude, just because you wear her shirt doesn't mean she's a hero," someone piped up.

"Yeah," a nearby Goth girl agreed. "How do you know she didn't just start the whole thing?"

"What part of 'I was there' don't you freaking understand, dipshit?" Flash retorted.

"The Daily Bugle says—" started a preppy-looking boy.

"The Daily Bugle says, the Daily Bugle says!" Flash shouted in his utter exasperation. "Do you believe everything you read? Geez, you all might as well be robots…"

Mary Jane shook her head. If Flash only knew, Peter.

But Flash never could. He would, she knew, pay the price of that knowledge with his life.

In the safety of the girls' restroom, she prepared to change into Spider-Woman, prepared for the most part for what life had to throw at her, including supervillains. But she changed her mind. She had something to do first. She hailed a cab.

early evening

Phil Watson, hearing the insistent knocking, opened his door to see his younger daughter, Mary Jane, wearing a simple black tracksuit and staring at him. She didn't say hello. She just stared. A taxi stalled at curbside, obviously waiting for her.

"What, you need money? I hope you're not asking me for money."

"No, no money. I'm going to a funeral today, and since I was dressed for the occasion, I wanted to tell you that your daughter is dead."

"What, Gayle?" he asked, referring to Mary Jane's elder sister.

"No, the Mary Jane you once knew. The Mary Jane that could be intimidated by your threats, by your insults, by your bullying—"

"Oh, for the love of God—"

"The one you made feel like dirt, so you could walk all over her. She's dead and gone, and she's never coming back. I'm the new Mary Jane, and I've dealt with guys that would chew you up and eat you for breakfast. I'm stronger and wiser, and if you're inclined to get to know me at some point, that's your choice. And if you're not…well, that's your loss. Do we understand each other?"

Phil gazed at her blankly. "I haven't understood you in seventeen years; why should I start now? You're being an idiot. Typical female—"

"And you're pathetic."

Phil's temper flared, and he raised a hand to slap her. Mary Jane snarled, catching his upraised forearm in a grip that was thisclose to bone-cracking with inhuman speed. A warning flashed in her eyes. "Goodbye, Dad," she said, let go of his arm, and turned and walked away.

Just one loose end to tie up.

night

It was not altogether strange that she and Liz Allen (who'd always had a crush on him anyway), besides the minister, were the only people to attend the funeral. She'd swear that she'd heard cackling laughter from Harry Osborn's grave, even after they shut the lid, lowered him, and shoveled dirt on top.

But Peter's funeral—it'd been packed. Even if it was closed-casket due to the manner of his death. She stepped towards his tombstone. A concrete angel, her angel, the base engraved with his name, the birth and death dates, and the legend: Beloved son, nephew, and friend. She saw some punks trying to trash the place. Spider-Woman scared them off.

I try to move on, but I know that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, the ones I love are always the ones who pay.

She decided to talk to Peter a little bit, bring him up to speed on what had happened over the past few months. She knew he'd been watching her from above all that time, but she thought he'd still like her earthly perspective.

Wouldn't be an easy thing to do, and no one could say she didn't warn him. The story of her life wasn't for the faint of heart. After all, it's hard to be a saint, let alone an angel, in the city of New York. She smiled. Whatever life had in store for her, she could accept. Her simple faith had become her shield against the slings and arrows of fate. And on that shield, she mentally engraved Peter's words: "With great power comes great responsibility." This was her gift, and this was her curse.

She supposed if this were a superhero movie, it would end with her wildly swinging through the city and narrating something like, "Who am I? I'm Spider-Woman."

But since it wasn't a movie, she was now just Mary Jane Watson, sitting by a grave and catching up with her long-absent beloved.

"I'm here, Peter," she said.

Finis

"When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least,

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings."

--William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29


Is this the end of our heroine? Fortunately for you Loyal Minions, nope! Stay tuned for Quirk of Fate, Part 3: The Shadow Spider.