The problem with Harry, Norman thought with a smug sense of satisfaction, was that he never thought outside of the box or paid enough attention to detail. He was well aware that the Osborn penthouse was being guarded. However, from the night he'd visited he also knew that the one guarding it was that same sand creature who had attacked Harry and Peter nearly two years ago.
From there it had been rather simple to find out that the monster's real name was Flint Marko and that he had an estranged wife and daughter living elsewhere in New York, vulnerable and unguarded. While Harry and Peter were so busy fretting about Mary Jane and Aunt May and their own home, they forgot that they'd involved a little girl.
With that information in hand, Norman knew precisely where to strike.
As he suited up, he gritted his teeth and thought back on the evening. Unfortunately, it had not gone as planned; though he was loathe to admit it, he had underestimated Harry. Either the boy was incredibly stupid or (to his dismay) more perceptive than Norman. Owning to his relationship with Peter might or might not work out for him. The point, however - at least for Norman - was that by taking the initiative himself, he took control of the situation away from Norman. And that couldn't stand.
Even knowing their identities would not do him any good, he surmised. After all, both Worthington and Storm publicly acknowledged their identities. With Peter and Harry suddenly so friendly with the both of them, a public admission of that might not be far behind either. Striking at Peter and Harry themselves was not the best option, not what he needed to do to make them truly suffer. Fortunately there were still ways left open to him; lucky for him that they failed to think of everything.
Honestly, though, he expected no less from such a persistent failure. Harry would always leave himself vulnerable, always demonstrate some weakness. That, Norman smirked, was why he could always be hurt and manipulated and torn apart. Flying off into the night, he relished the thought of Harry's reaction when he captured the little girl and killed her in front of him, mutilating the corpse and then throwing it to the boy as a sign of what came to those who defied him.
From a window in the complex, Emily watched the gliders lights twinkle and grow more distant in the evening sky, a trail of light smoke swirling in its wake. She watched until long after he was gone, until it was well past twilight and her head was nodding. For some reason, she wished he hadn't left and hoped that he would return soon. Her symbiote coiled around her, already missing its parent. It provided Emily with a lingering thread of connection, parent to offspring, symbiote to host, that was her only consolation.
"You have to go already? But that party isn't even half over!" Warren looked confused. "Are you uncomfortable now? I mean, I know a few people made some rude remarks but most people didn't seem that weirded out or offended."
"It's nothing to do with that. It's... it's a long story," Harry sighed. "I'm so sorry Warren; we would both really love to stay. But it's urgent; you have to trust me on this. Please don't think us rude; it's been a lovely time, it really has, but we have to go. Alright?"
Warren studied him before a moment, looking into Harry's eyes as if he were searching for something. Then he smiled.
"I'm really 0 for 2, aren't I? I didn't pick up on your relationship and I didn't get this until now." He leaned in. "Peter's just been taking pictures of himself, hasn't he? That's how he always knows where to go. That how he gets such close angles."
Harry hesitated for a second, and then nodded.
"If that's the case, then you'd better go," Warren went on. "I'm sure it's important. But if you need my help, you have my number. Ok?"
"We appreciate it," he replied with a nod. "I'll explain more later, but for now I really have to get going." He started to back away and move towards Peter who was holding their coats. "Oh - and Warren? Give yourself a little credit. You're not nearly as obtuse as you think you are."
"Thanks," Warren grinned. "And stay safe!"
He watched the couple leave with a smile plastered on his face but unease in his mind. Whatever they were rushing to confront, he hoped it wasn't anything too terrible. Privately, he vowed to himself that, party or no party, if they needed help, he would be there.
The first bomb that went off blew half of the wall off and created a charred path into the kitchen and living room. It took a moment for the smoke clear and when it did it revealed a woman in the center, bleeding from a variety of cuts. There was shattered porcelain from mugs and glass from ornaments all around and the plastic on the fake tree had partially melted. Choking on the smoke, the woman looked up at him.
"Who the hell are you?" She coughed.
"The girl!" Norman demanded. "Where's the girl!"
"Like I would tell you," she spat.
Enraged, Norman flew over, grabbing her and slamming her against the wall. A gurgling sound came from her throat and blood trickled out of the corners of her mouth.
"TELL ME!" He screamed at her.
She made no verbal reply but shook her head no, so he smacked her across the face, leering beneath the mask at the sound of her jaw breaking.
"It doesn't make a difference you know," he hissed. "She's disabled; she couldn't have gotten very far. And this house isn't that large. I'll find her. And I'll kill you." He leaned in, pushing the mask into her face. "But you have a choice. You can cooperate and I can make it quick and easy for both of you. Or you can resist and I can make you both wish you'd never been born."
"Monster," she breathed.
"I told you to tell me," he growled. "Or I after I've crushed your skull I'll rape the shit out of her until she'll beg to die."
Enraged, Emma tried to knee him but he simply reached down and broke her leg. Clutching her by her collar he levitated into the air and shook her viciously.
"Now, for the last time - tell me where she is!"
"Go to hell and burn there, bastard," she croaked.
Furious, he swung her beaten body like a club, dashing her head against the wall and sending bits of bone, flesh and brain flying everywhere.
When the first blast had hit and they'd heard the cackling, Emma had looked up from where she'd fallen, prostrate on the floor.
"Penny - crawlspace, now!" She had commanded in a whisper. "Don't come out until I say!"
Terrified, Penny had clambered into a tiny storage space beneath the stairs that lead from the living room to the upstairs bedrooms. Although she was frightened, Penny left the door open a crack so that she could see what was happening to her mother. She watched as her mother pulled herself up to where the tree was to lean against the wall, saw the monster enter and grab her mother. Penny listened as they argued, trembling as he hurt her, horrified and helpless at her inability to prevent it.
When he lifted Emma's body up, Penny realized what was about to happen but could not look away. The crack in the door allowed a drop of something wet and squishy to land on her face; Penny whimpered and nearly vomited.
Then the horrible green visage with the glowing eyes turned towards her, towards the sound that she'd made. Clamping a hand over her mouth, Penny scooted back into the darkness of the crawlspace, bile rising in her throat. It was too late, however; a moment later the door to the space was torn off.
"Well, well. What have we here?"
The moment that Harry pulled the car around, Peter jumped into it, crawled into the backseat and started putting his costume on. The windows were tinted so that he couldn't be seen, but he crouched down anyway as he unbuttoned the suit coat and pulled off the tie.
"I called Flint," said Harry as they turned a corner. "Nothing's going on at the penthouse."
"I'm not surprised," Peter replied as he pulled his spandex shirt on. "Norman probably knows the place is guarded. I doubt he'd come after us. What about MJ? Have you checked on her?"
"I tried calling Johnny but there was no answer. I wouldn't worry about it too much though - he has his sister and all of those guys to back him up if he needs it. She's probably more secure than we are."
"Turn on the police radio, then," Peter asked as he wiggled out of his pants. "See if he's trying something with civilians, like that bridge incident. Whatever he does, if he does anything, I'm sure it will be large enough that they'll broadcast it for the cops."
Harry clicked on the radio as Peter clambered back into the front seat. For a moment, everything was quite. Then, as they were pulling in to the penthouse's underground garage, an emergency call came through.
Explosion in the Forest Hills area... suspected metahuman activity... all available units, please report... repeat, there's been an explosion in the Forest Hills area...
Peter's eyes widened and he looked at Harry, panicked.
"Penny!" He whispered.
Harry stopped the car with a screech, not even bothering to park it properly once it was in the garage.
"Flint!" He screamed as he frantically pressed the button for the elevator.
"Sir?" Flint materialized behind in a moment later. "Did everything go well? How was the party?"
"Never mind about that!" Harry screamed as he pushed the button a few more times, as if to make it arrive faster. "You need to get to your wife's house, immediately; I think my father might have attacked her and Penny!"
An instant later, Flint had dematerialized into a cloud of particles that could barely be seen and vanished in a gust of wind so strong that it nearly knocked Harry backwards.
"I'm going to take off too," Peter replied as he tugged his mask on. "Catch up with us as soon as you're suited."
"Stay safe Peter," Harry said, grasping his hand and giving him a last concerned look before stepping into the elevator and smashing the button for the top floor.
The moment the elevator opened Harry sprang out and started stripping off his formal clothing and strapping on pieces of armor. Grabbing the Sky Stick, he made for the balcony without even bothering to close the door to the lair. He revved the engine and took off into the night, hoping that he wouldn't be too late.
Clutching her oxygen tank, Penny tried to move as far back into the corner of the crawlspace as she could. Tears slipped down her cheeks as the monstrous green hand reached for her. Then suddenly, the Green Goblin was slammed aside by a column of sand.
"Leave her!"Flint Marko's voice thundered. While Norman was sprawled to the side, he materialized into his human form and went to Penny.
"I'm here, kiddo," he murmured.
"Daddy!" She cried and threw her arms around him. "He killed mom!" She sobbed and pointed to where Emma's mangled body lay, cast aside. "Hekilled her!"
"I know, sweetie, I know, but I'm here now..."
"Not for long!" Norman grunted. Though he was prone, he managed to sit up and throw a pumpkin bomb at the pair.
Instinctively, Flint formed a protective shield of sand to guard Penny. However, the projectile never hit. Instead, it was snagged mid-air by a line of webbing and thrown into the kitchen where it exploded but failed to harm anybody.
"Didn't I kill you once before?" Peter's voice came as he jumped into sight. "This is getting old." He taunted him, providing a distraction while Flint made his escape with Penny.
"Ah, Parker..." The Goblin remounted and hovered. "So where's my degenerate son? Isn't he going to join the party?"
"Harry's right behind me, ready to kick you ass!" Peter taunted as they exchanged blows.
"Oh really? Kick it? Because I thought he did other things to..."
"Shut the hell up!" As if on cue, Harry flew through the hole in the wall and maneuvered his glider to knock Norman off of his. Norman slammed into a wall and Peter attempted to web him down.
However, as Harry righted himself and came back around for another go, Norman slashed Peter with wrist blades, snapping the webbing and gashing his chest, then threw a concussive projectile at Harry. Harry slammed into the wall while Peter stumbled backwards, bleeding profusely.
While Peter tried to staunch the flow of blood, first with his hands then with a clot of webbing, Norman stalked over to Harry who was still reeling from his blow.
"Look at you," Norman spat. "Disfigured. Broken. Stupid. Queer." He shook his head. "You always were a disappointment, Harold." The symbiote then began oozing out of every joint in Norman's costume. It coated him, giving the mask even more teeth and giving him as nasty set of claws. He lifted them high, his now-lengthy tongue snaking forth in anticipation.
"Harry!" Peter cried out and shot two lines of webbing at them, hoping to drag Norman away from Harry.
The symbiote was prepared, however; he grabbed the webbing and flung Peter into a wall then stomped on the foot that Harry tried to pound him with, breaking it without even turning to look at his son. Making for Peter this time, Norman stood over his body, claws drawn.
"I've had enough of your interference," he growled, raking them across Peter's back and making him cry out.
Peter braced himself for another blow when, without warning, Norman was slammed away from him.
"Back the fuck off buddy!" A familiar voice cried out.
"Warren?" Peter over his eyes and saw Warren there, shirt off and wings extended.
"Saw you on TV - it's all over the news you know," he replied as he helped Peter up. "Looked like you two could use a han-!"
The symbiote, already recovered, sprang at him from behind and dug its claws into his wings. Peter saw Warren's face twist with pain then experienced a flash of spider-sense. He reacted, but a fraction too late, and was bowled aside by the glider while the symbiote shredded Warren's wings.
Looking up to see Warren lost in a haze of blood and feathers, Harry tried desperately to stand. His broken leg buckled beneath him, however, and he could barely focus for the pain he was in. Slumping against the wall he wanted to scream. His father had been right, he was going to win and they were going to die there, and then he'd go after Penny...
Every nerve in his body screaming with agony, Harry put all of his weight on his good leg and forced himself upright. Propped against the wall, he tried to consider his options. He couldn't rush Norman, bombs were no good because they might kill Warren or Peter, his leg was killing him, Peter was losing blood and Warren's screams told him all he needed to know about him.
They were out of options and out of luck.
Since Harry had left the windows open when he exited, Flint had no trouble in getting back into the penthouse, hoping he'd kept the sand faint enough to escape detection but solid enough to support Penny. As soon as they were inside, he laid her on the couch and changed back into human form. Hugging his daughter close, Flint did his best to reassure her.
"I need to go back and help Peter and Harry, OK? Just stay here, you'll be safe." He brushed her hair back and did his best to block out thoughts of Emma; he didn't need to break down in front of her, it would only upset her further. "Don't worry; we'll all be back in a little while. Alright? That monster can't be in two places at once. As long as we hold him down, he can't attack you and hurt you." He gave her a gravelly kiss.
Numb and trembling, Penny nodded, clutching the cushions of the sofa. As he stood to leave, a ringing came out of the pockets of Harry's dress pants.
Thinking it might be Peter or Harry needed help with cleanup or wanting him to keep a lower profile, Flint pulled out the cell phone.
"Harry?Hell to the no! This is Johnny. Hey, is Harry there? MJ went into labor right before the party and she just delivered. I've been trying to contact him at the other numbers but he hasn't picked up! I've had to keep the cell off while I was in the hospital but I thought he'd pick up one of the times I stepped outside. I mean, I know this line is for emergencies and shit, but..."
"Storm!" Flint bellowed, interrupting him. "The Goblin's attacked."
"Harry's father - there's no time! Meet us there!" He blurted the address then hung up, dematerializing and hoping that he wouldn't be too late.
Johnny, standing outside of the hospital in order to use his cell phone, stared down at the little device. MJ would kill him for not being there, but she'd probably kill him worse if anything happened to the kid's godparents.
Without hesitation, he burst into flame and flew in the direction of Forest Hills. Pushing himself to his limits, he quickly found the location by the sight of the police cordon and the half-exploded house. Screams were emanating from inside and when he flew through the wall he found the sprinklers to be on, Flint to be dissolving, Peter bleeding in a corner, Warren Worthington III in a bloody, crumpled mess and Harry about two seconds away from impalement with a nasty looking glider.
A sudden spiral of flame that the paltry sprinklers could do nothing to stop enveloped Norman. Harry looked up to see the symbiote, alight and writhing with pain. Johnny stood there, a vicious look in his flame-bright eyes. He said nothing, but his face was twisted with rage and he ratcheted up the temperature of his flames.
Leaping, he pinned the symbiote to the carpet, still howling. Beneath him, the fire was scorching the floor; Norman's cries echoed as the metal and plastic of his suit melted and melded with what was left of his flesh and muscle. The symbiote flailed desperately, but juts of flame prevented it from escaping. Johnny immolated it and Norman in a single pyre, not stopping until the cries and the movement ceased.
Thinking it was finished Johnny backed off. He turned, shutting his flames off to aid the injured, when he heard a gasping from behind. While the symbiote was long vaporized, the goblin serum that still flowed through Norman's veins had sent every muscle and organ in his body into overdrive. Though not nearly enough to heal him, it gave him a frenzied burst of energy, one last chance to do something before every system went into shock and shut down. A morass of charred flesh and oozing wounds, Norman managed to crawl to his glider and cling to it, making a desperate, shaky flight out into the night.
Harry sat up, as if to try and stop him, but Johnny put a hand on his shoulder.
"No way, pal. You're way too beat up. And anyway, relax; there's not a chance in hell he lives after that. Better that he crawls off somewhere else to die - save us the trouble of disposing of his worthless corpse. You sit tight and I'll get the EMTs for the immediate stuff. And I'll make sure they're not nosy. Reed will see to any long term treatment."
Nodding, Harry blacked out.
It had been a lengthy night for Matthew Murdock. Though he'd been invited to Warren's soiree, he'd eschewed the party for another chilly evening gathering information about the breadth of Fisk's criminal pursuits. However, his night suddenly perked up when his ears caught the sound of a distant engine whining, nothing like a car and positioned as though it were in mid-air.
Hearing the glider streaking towards him long before it would have come into sight, Matthew made sure that he was well hidden. Fisk had been waiting on the roof opposite the one where Matthew was stationed for over and hour, motionless. Now it seemed that what he was waiting for had finally arrived.
"Fisk!" Matthew heard the rasping, pained voice of Norman Osborn. "Fisk, you must help me! Storm was there - Worthington as well, though he was no challenge. Storm, however- he killed the symbiote!" There was a spate of gasping and coughing. "You must take me to the chamber!" He pleaded.
"After you failed to acquire the company you promised would be in my control and then compromised me by flying your ridiculous machine back here without any pretense of secrecy?" Fisk sounded amused. "No, Norman, I do not think so.
"You promised me that you would remove the roadblock that Harold Osborn presented to acquiring his company. That taking over OsCorp would be a matter of trading stocks and filing paperwork. You promised me that Spider-Man would be dead. You promised me that my hand would be undetectable in all of this. On each account you have failed; and you, as a professional yourself, should know what happens to subordinates who fail.
"In the words of another well known businessman - you're fired."
There was a single shot, and then Matt heard more steps.
"Dispose of the body - I want it completely destroyed, right down to the bones. Find a machine in the lab to vaporize it or something. And above all, make sure the girl does not know about this. Ever."
Waiting until the roof was deserted, Matthew left, making as quickly as he could for Harry and Peter's home, desperate to find out what was happening.
Elsewhere in the compound, the doctors Fisk kept staffed were on their third dose of tranquilizers before the girl finally quieted down, though not before she'd made some nasty gashes on a few of them. However, though Emily's body was still, her mind was still reliving its own private, painful nightmare.
The symbiote, her symbiote's father, her father - he was dead. She had felt it, could feel it, still felt it incinerating and dying. It was unimaginable pain to her, and an even worse feeling of loss. If she hadn't been trained not to, she would have cried.
For the first time since her birth, she felt alone. Even her symbiote was of little comfort, traumatized as it was. Images of blood and flame writhed in her mind.
When she'd finally calmed, there was one memory that stood out. Before dying, her fathers had communicated to them one final piece of information - or five to be precise. Five names. Names that rang inside her head, names that she would never forget.
Names of men she would live to destroy.
While the hours ticked by, Penny waited, anxious and ill. It was her fault, she thought, seeing her mother's skull smashed apart before her eyes. She should have been strong enough, she should have been stronger. She should have been able to stop that monster.
Leaning against the arm of the couch, she sobbed. And when she lifted her head, a glint of something green caught her eye. Standing up and wandering over, she entered a room behind a mirror. A memory jogged, a story Harry had told her about himself, how he'd come to be who he was.
Off to the side was the chamber, silent and patient. Because Peter had been running tests, a canister was already loaded.
It was her fault. She should have been stronger. She should have stopped him. Her mother shouldn't have died for a girl about to die anyway.
It shouldn't have been that way. It was unfair. But sometimes... sometimes life gave you a way to right the wrongs, to correct the inequalities.
Penny walked up to the chamber.
Because it had been alternately snowing or raining in New York for the last week or so, Flint was unable to materialize for his wife's funeral. The only people in attendance, therefore, were Penny, Peter, Harry and the Storms. Mary Jane's newborn son Benjamin was swaddled in black for the occasion and Penny was clutching the battered octopus Harry had given her long ago - the only thing they had retrieved from the burnt-out house - while the minister went through the ceremony.
Harry was on crutches due to Norman snapping his leg in three separate places and fairly crushing his foot. All in all, however, he felt he'd gotten off easy. Reed had already released him and Peter; Warren however had been transferred to the X-Mansion. His wings had suffered potentially irreparable damage and Reed didn't feel prepared to deal with his injuries.
And as for Penny...
Harry looked down at her as she stared at her mother's coffin, tears streaming down her face. Following the attack she had been discovered by Matthew who had come by, concerned for Peter and Harry. As soon as he ascertained what she had done and contacted Johnny to find where the others were, he took her to Reed for observation. He'd given her a clean bill of health but that did little to alleviate their fears. The serum had worked towards keeping her from death, cleansing her blood of the leukemia that had polluted it, augmented her body as it had Harry's. However, neither man could shake the memory of the side effects that had been the price of such power and regeneration. All Peter and Harry could do was wait and hope that Peter had worked out enough of the difficulties that Penny would not succumb to the same madness that had plagued Norman and nearly swallowed Harry up as well.
One more concern to obsess over, Harry supposed.
Because Flint was, for all legal intents and purposes, out of the picture, Emma's will dictated that Harry was to have full custody of Penny. Though it wouldn't be formally read until after the funeral there was a room already prepared for her arrival. Harry felt it was the least he could do; events had been hard enough on her. He could at least try to provide something of a home, though he knew full well that nothing would ever be the same for her again.
Sheltering her under his wide, black umbrella, Harry gave her a small hug and she turned a tearful face up to him then looked back at her mother. He felt helpless in the face of her grief, wanting to assuage it but having no ability to do so. Despite the danger she had put herself in, he couldn't bring himself to chastise her at all for using the formula either. Really, he thought, it had been his fault - it had come about due to his carelessness.
His thoughts were still running in that direction when the two families parted ways and went home after the reading of her last will and testament. Once they were back, an exhausted Penny went straight to her room and cried herself to sleep, Harry and Peter staying with her until she drifted off. Once all was quite, they left and Harry sat down with Peter in the great room. Close as it was to Christmas, the place was decorated. For all Harry cared, though, it might as well have been draped with black.
"I know what you're going to say," Harry broke the silence. "Or at least what you should say. And I know. It's my fault. I shouldn't have goaded Norman. I should have taken care to lock the equipment up. I should have been better prepared. And if you want to take it further back - I should have realized how he thought. I should have protected Emma and Penny too, shouldn't have assumed he couldn't make the connection." He looked at Peter, crying quietly. "I'm so sorry."
Peter sat next to him and draped his arms around Harry.
"Let's not talk about fault. Alright? There's more than enough to go around. But most of all, it's Norman's fault. And now he's gone. Gone for good, not coming back - not now, now ever. So let's not worry about blame and accusing each other and punishing ourselves for what's in the past and for the actions of a monster." He kissed Harry. "Let's focus on healing."
"The guilt won't go away, though, will it?" Harry looked into Peter's eyes, his own bloodshot and still glassy with tears. "Over Emma and Penny and Warren... over everything I could have done and changed to make this turn out differently will. It never goes away; it just keeps piling up..."
Peter thought of Uncle Ben and gathered Harry into his arms. He wished he could deny and reassure Harry that it would be alright.
"No, Harry," he whispered. "Never. But I'll help you live with it - I swear I will." He brushed Harry's tears away with his left hand, so that Harry could see the ring. "I have not said the words yet; but I understand 'for better or for worse' and I'm ready to commit to that, starting now."
"You're my family Peter," Harry whispered as they kissed again. "And I'm yours..."
"That's right." Peter gripped his hand and settled against Harry's shoulder. "Family."
Having no one left, Emily was given Fisk's name. Yet she was her father's daughter to her core and would never forget that, no matter who adopted her. Fisk had ideas and plans for her future, but she only ever thought about one thing.
A/N: And that is the end - of this part of the story. First, a big thanks to MarronDaffy for being my beta these last dozen chapters. The poll from last time is now closed a a pretty strong majority (at least of those who voted) wanted the sequel. So that should start in a week or two. There will probably be a wedding 'mid-quel' and then about a five year time skip to focus on Penny, the two Benjamins and, of course, Norman's legacy Emily.
I hope you all enjoyed this fic and will keep following the story. Even if you don't, I hope you enjoyed the ride. Thank you all for your support and for making this fic so much fun to write. :)