Hello! Surprised? Good, so am I! I decided to push for new horizons with this story - a) it's modern, unlike LotR, and b) it's a completely different writing area. I got this Plot Bunny, see and it ran riot in my head, so I thought I'd have it put down before I went mad...

This is, as you may have guessed, my very first Spider-man fic, so please be kind. Do also throw the rotting tomatoes if you find it absolutely necessary. This plot is going somewhere, I promise, and if the tomatoes do fly, I have an umbrella. This is going to get reeeally dark soon, by the way, so be warned! So, enough said - please read it, review it, and, above all, enjoy it!

Chapter One: Too Bright

The air pulsed under the threat of thunder, a tangible tingling prickling his skin. Cloud shadowed the land ominously with a yellowed shroud, a cold wind jostling with the milling bodies below, like a grumpy old man bumping his way through the crowds. They all felt it, just as strongly as he did, their shoulders bunched against the on-coming threat, umbrellas held low as potential protection from the onslaught that was so cruelly promised, yet held back. One droplet, he thought. Just one, that's all it takes… Sure enough, after a heavy pause, the sky indulged his humour. He sensed a drop plummet to the street below like an emissary sent forth from the heavens. It splashed innocently on the balding head of a businessman, suitcase in one hand, brolly in the other. He did not falter in his brisk stride as he opened his sensible black umbrella like a beacon. And the city's observer snorted with amusement as an entire rainbow of colour sprang forth in the next few seconds, the slightly more colourful characters allowing pink, red, spotted umbrellas to blossom brightly. Even from his great height, he could see the more outlandish personalities proudly popping up frogs and sunflowers…

Spider-man shifted slightly as the onslaught began, his back being pummelled with bullet-like harshness. He might be above the city, but he could never be above the weather, and its pounding force enveloped his frame like an icy blanket. His suit material seemed to soak up water like it was a living thing dying of thirst, and it was something of an annoyance to him … then again, he was Spider-man, not Duck-man, and he would just have to do what a real spider would be compelled to do in this weather: sit it out. Darkened corners or the space under the couch were not exactly his scene, but he could think of an apartment where there was a bed to rest on and dry clothes to wear, and perhaps some pasta that he could cook.

He left his place on the skyscraper's blank face in one effortless leap, momentum carrying him faster towards the teaming street. A shot of web to another building, and he was flying in a gentle curve, silent and unnoticed by the brolly-bearers below, even though he practically skimmed their heads. It was rare that anyone actually did see him when he did this, low as he was. That was the thing about New York, about cities in general. He had once been to England to see London, and it was just the same there. People kept their heads down, avoiding eye contact, as though the flags of the sidewalk were less likely to … what? Say hello? Smile? Up here, he could see just how badly people separated themselves from each other when they were massed together. Up here, he was not nearly as lonely as they were. He liked it up here, above the jostling and anti-socialist throngs – although he did have to question himself about his very different form of anti-socialism, with no-one save the birds to make eye contact with, and that tended to be when they changed course in alarm at his sudden coming. Birds did not expect humans to fly at them at this height…

Nothing had happened in the City to warrant his staying and getting wet – it seemed all the muggers and other members of the dregs of human existence did not want to get wet either, and so he felt no guilt at all when he landed softly on his tiny balcony and let himself in to his poky apartment. A trail of water followed him determinedly through to his dresser and pooled about his feet when he stood still, like a happy dog greeting him home. The mask clung wetly to his face, and the boots made an interesting sucking noise as he struggled to make them leave his feet. Everything eventually lay in a shapeless sodden mess of dark red and blue at the foot of the bed, and Peter Parker found himself sighing in a world-weary manner as the water coloured his dirty carpet an even darker shade of whatever it was meant to be.

Peter stood for a time, analysing his reflection in the mirror. The face of a young man stared back at him, a face whose lines told many unpleasant tales. They were well pronounced for a person in their mid-twenties; then again, he had more things to frown about and worry over in his life than the average twenty-something… Dark rings underlined his blue eyes, a sobering reminder that he was human like everyone else, and, like everyone else, needed sleep. Now he thought about it, Peter was shattered, realising he had not actually slept properly for a good few days. Perhaps he would skip the pasta and go straight to the bed part.

It amazed him how comfortable the flattened pillows were to him now, when his tiredness compelled him to sleep rather than satisfy his talkative stomach. The thin duvet wrapped over his shoulders, and he found himself wriggling to rough it up a little, like a dog does to its dog bed. He remembered, long ago when he had been a boy, the collie his aunt and uncle had had – Shep, he recalled – and the way this dog had a habit of digging at the carpet to make itself more comfortable when it lay down in the middle of the living room. Peter always wondered what dragging his claws through the piling actually achieved comfort-wise, aside from making the carpet threadbare. That carpet with its bald patch was never replaced; Uncle Ben always said it gave the house a more lived-in feel. Aunt May always said it was because he missed his dog – they were going to get another one from a rescue home when Uncle Ben retired, but that idea bowed to the wind when Uncle Ben died, when Peter had caused his death with his selfishness, with the birth of Spider-man …

Stop it.

Peter rolled over against the thought, turning his back to it. No self-inflicted guilt trip, not now, not when he was so desperate for sleep. Why could he not allow himself just a little rest from his life? Mary Jane always clucked at him about his inability to permit himself a break from his alter ego. He let the Spider into every aspect of his life - one way or another, red and blue managed to weave themselves into the rest of the spectrum of life, and there was nothing he could do to paint over it. The colours are too bright.

Now you're thinking of weird metaphors.He rolled over again, a little more violently than intended, scowling into his aging pillow. He had to wonder how this topic had managed to breach in the turbulent waves of his brain. He had gone from wriggling in his bed, to dogs, to Uncle Ben, to Spider-man. Why?

Think of something else, something that doesn't need thought. Something like, oh, I don't know, like a wall. He pictured one. That's right, a nice blank white wall, he thought encouragingly Peter's wall stood proud and tall in his mind, dull, uninteresting, uninspiring. Boring. It managed to stay there for an impressive amount of time … until Peter found that the artistic imps that seemed to exist within the deeper confines of his mind came out with spray cans of Indian Blue and Scarlet Sunset and started to graffiti with cruel delight. And the harder he tried to stop them, the more energy he placed in his panicked battle for peace, the more fervently they sprayed, until there was a large motif of Spider-man garishly swinging across his nice boring wall, crawling up it, spinning on it, making poor wise-cracks at him through the mask: "C'mon, Pete, you didn't think I'd let you sleep, did you?" The Spider flipped onto his back. "Is it a rock? Is it a log? No, it's Peter Parker!" he trumpeted loudly, extending a fisted arm and flying up the wall, a red and blue cape flapping behind him.

The Spider landed above a door in the wall, crouching. Someone was behind it, though Peter didn't know who.

"Knock-knock!" Spider-man quipped with irritating enthusiasm.

"Get lost."

"Aw, c'mon, Pete! Play along! Knock-knock!"

That Pete had sounded oddly like Mary Jane. Spider-man looked up at him again. "Peter!" he said with MJ's voice again, pulling off his mask and revealing her face, russet hair cascading over the shoulders, the reds clashing horribly. She opened her mouth and the lips formed those irritating words of the child's game again, but rather than the sound of speech, a sharp rapping issued from her.

Peter opened his eyes, and Spider-man and the wall vanished, to be replaced by the damp-mottled ceiling, a dim blue with dusk. The window, he realised a long time too late, had blown open as he slept, and a large puddle was making its way contentedly across the floor to meet with the still damp patch where his suit lay.

"Peter, please."

Peter jolted as he realised what had awoken him. He could see her shadow under the door blotting the landing light as she waited impatiently to be let in. He tried to swing his legs out of bed, but the covers wrapped about his entire body with mocking cruelty, binding him there when he was so desperate to get to the door.

"Peter!"

"I'm coming!" Peter fought against the surging sea of covers until he finally won, stumbling out of bed and knocking a glass of water to the floor. As if it's not wet enough, he thought resentfully as he hoisted the door up and to the side, the only way to get it open these days.

No sooner had he half-opened the door then Mary Jane slipped in, her uniform clinging to her wetly and dripping on the floor. But the thing that caught his attention – and spiked his worry – were her red and swollen eyes. Peter shut the door hastily, ramming it back in place with his shoulder.

"MJ? What's wrong?"

She didn't look at him, wouldn't look at him, until he cupped her chin and forced her eyes to his face. "What's wrong?"

Mary Jane stared at him for a moment, whatever turmoil there was in her heart swirling in her eyes. Unable to bare it any longer, she dissolved into tears, leaning heavily into his chest and sobbing, her body shaking as he held her tightly. They stayed that way for an eternity of seconds, Peter smoothing her back, a small part of him wondering half-heartedly if he would ever dry out today. More than the small bother of getting a little damp again, Peter worried about his girlfriend and what it was that had made her so upset. Finally he broke away from her and held her away from him.

"What's the matter?"

Mary Jane backed over to the bed, perching herself on the edge and shivering slightly. Peter wrapped a blanket over her shoulders and sat by her, waiting for her to start.

She fumbled with her hands, picking at her nails. Finally, she said: "I was given something at work today." Her hands twisted. "And it-" she broke off and looked at Peter's patiently waiting face. She fumble in her bag, and produced an envelope. Peter took it, taking the contents out – then froze.

The marble was scarred horribly by what looked like claw marks, dragged over the filigreed face of the words. Whole chunks of stone and lettering had torn away, jagged great holes leaving pockmarks on the off-white surface. Peter remembered going with Bernard, Harry's butler, to choose it. It had taken hours to select the right stone, the right shape, the right word style. The dedication had been written by MJ. It took days.

But that was not the thing that made his blood sear his veins. This heinous crime had been committed against Harry, to Peter's best friend, no explanation provided. The last page of a man's life, ripped asunder like an old newspaper.

He flipped the photo over, expecting to see some mocking wording on the back. Some kind of hint as to whom had committed this hideous act. But there was nothing for him to latch on to and feed his anger.

"Who gave this to you?"

MJ wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. "Um, a kid came into the club and found me, asking for a quarter for delivery-" MJ's lips twitched in the slightest incline of a smile at this. "I gave him some money from my tips, and when I asked him who gave it to him, he said it was some guy on the street who paid him a quarter to bring it in."

"I don't suppose a description came with your quarter…?"

"Just that he wore a jacket and a big hat, the kid said-"

"What kind of jacket?"

"I don't know. That's all he told me."

Peter could hardly curb his irritation at the lack of detail, and it found its way into his voice. "But surely-"

"Christ, Pete!" Mary Jane rose in her sudden irritation, leaving the bed to pace, her arms folded defensively across her chest, drawing the blanket closer about her slim shoulders. "It's winter! Everyone is wearing a coat! I don't know what kind it was, or how old it was, or what colour it was, or how many times it's been to the cleaners. I - don't - know!"

Silence followed, close and uncomfortable. Mary Jane went to the sink to pour herself a drink, and the only sound in the apartment was the not so gentle clinking of glass as she sought her favourite out of the clean ones. Peter merely watched her back, observing with glum admiration the woman he loved, watching her move, beautiful to him even when the brunt of her anger was aimed at him. She was upset. So was he, and it made it difficult for him to find a little more tact when it came to rooting out information. MJ found consolation in speaking to him and sobbing on his shoulder for a while. Sometimes she would get mad – like now – but it always ebbed away in the end. With Peter, though, it was different: he had to know. Knowledge had always been his greatest ally, but now, as Spider-man, it came into a whole new level of use for him, and he could no longer dismiss something as perhaps being a thing that would remain a mystery to him for the rest of his life. Because he had the power to do something about it if there was enough information. Right now, there was nothing, and Peter needed the answers as much as Mary Jane needed hugs and a quarter for her hurt and anger.