----

Mary Jane Watson stood in the open just a moment longer, knuckles as white as her dress as she clutched the railing of the balcony, hoping he would swing back to her, tell her it was a false alarm, and pull her away into the depths of his apartment. But she eventually gave a soft shake of her head and turned away. She retreated into Peter's apartment, leaving the balcony door open, just incase he chose to arrive back home the unconventional way.

At first, she'd simply planned on curling up on his bed with his portfolio to wait for him to return, but she realized in the same instant that, not only was she physically incapable of sitting still, that there was always the possibility that he wouldn't return to their home, meaning she was mentally incapable of holding still, too.

Pushing the actual context of the latter thought aside, she smiled to herself as she abandoned his photography portfolio where it was and headed for the door she assumed was the bathroom. She had already subconsciously thought of it as 'their home' and nothing was even set-in-stone official yet. Although, walking out on your marriage for a superhero might be defined as official, but she'd didn't like to think of it that way. She would have to ask him, first, of course. Still, the media would be crawling all over her house, looking for interviews and scandalous pictures of whoever it was that was better then the famous, beloved football-playing-astronaut, and she needed somewhere to stay. Plus, if they found out she had left John for Peter Parker… That simply wouldn't do. Because, if Mary Jane was to be honest with herself which she rather liked to do, on the outside, Peter Parker wasn't all that spectacular of a guy. Which wasn't to say he wasn't handsome, because he most definitely was, just in an unusual way. Now John Jameson - he was. He had the genuine American hottie look about him, but Peter Parker? He had an exotic look that was all his own - those big blue eyes, that soft smile, the pale skin - something not everyone could appreciate the way they should.

She opened the door and all but walked into a rack of clothes. Suspiciously, she even went so far as to push the assorted (mostly dirty) garments aside, as though half expecting a toilet and mirror to be concealed behind Peter's old laundry. There wasn't. Carefully picking out a long button up shirt that looked at least half clean, she turned away to try and find a bathroom.

She paused, letting her pale hands rest on her white clad hips as she tried to figure out where a bathroom might be. Picking up the trails of her dress, she resolved to find said restroom, and she did so quickly enough, but from the sounds of grunting within, it was already occupied.

MJ eyed it a little fretfully, clutched Peter's shirt to her chest and took a step back. Her high heels clicked on the rotting wooden floor and actually made a small hole, through which she could see the heads of some poor family moving about on the floor below. Eyes wide, she situated her skirts to hide it.

The man inside seemed to realize that there was someone outside and the sound of a flushing toilet came, quickly followed by the door swinging wide open. Jumping instinctively back, Mary Jane stumbled down a few steps of stairs before finally getting her composure.

"I -" she started, but was cut off by the man who was now eyeing her pointedly, without seeming to realize she was in a wedding dress. Her hands dropped to her chest, spreading Peter's shirt out as widely and subtly as she could over her breasts.

"Are you Parker's girl?"

"Uh… I… guess so?" Dimly, Mary Jane wondered if this was yet another villain in disguise and - directly on top of that thought - if Peter was aware when she was in danger.

"He has money to get married, but not enough to pay his got-damn rent? RENT! Tell him he owes me RENT!" He jabbed a finger towards Mary Jane, which only caused her to stumble back down a few more steps, before he turned away and, shaking his head as though disappointed, went back into what was presumably his apartment.

She made a mental note to tell Peter about what had just happen, and, that, as far as his landlord was concerned, he was married. Furtively, she locked herself into the bathroom before anyone could snatch it away from her.

Mary Jane carefully unclipped her hair, shaking it loose, almost mourning all the pointless work that had been put into making her look perfect for today.

But to Peter Parker, she was already perfect. She'd been perfect to him since grade-school, actually, and unbeknownst to him, this knowledge that someone thought the world of her had kept her going more often than she cared to think about. This knowledge that if she stood in her backyard long enough, Peter would come out from his aunt's and uncle's place, lean over the chain link fence, listen to her pour her heart out, and inevitably make her smile.

In the worst of times, it was nice. In the best of times, it was agitating, and Mary Jane greatly regretted that she ever thought that way about Peter.

As she peeled off the wedding gown, careful to make sure it didn't touch the astonishingly grimy bathroom floor, she felt guilty for not always appreciating Peter like she should have. He had always - always - been there for her when she was living with her father, and she'd taken it for granted, only realizing how much she relied on him when he stoppedbeing there. When she told him she loved him at Norman Osborn's funeral and he walked away.

As she shifted through her lifetime's events involving Peter Parker even as she slipped his button-up over her head, she realized that they'd been playing tag with each other's affection as long as they'd known each other - waving the possibility of a real, grown-up relationship in front of each other's noses since age six when she'd moved in next door. But when one stepped forward, finally ready to do accept responsibility, the other stepped back.

It had started when she first moved in, of course. It was obvious to her that the nerd next door had a crush on her from the beginning. She hadn't actually looked at him twice until he fought Flash in the hallway senior year, and even then it wasn't with any plan for a relationship, it was just out of surprise and concern.

And then at Harry's father's funeral, she'd finally accepted the silent advances he'd been making all along, finally accepted what she had been feelin all along. She had told him she wanted to be with him and he'd just… walked away.

So they'd maintained a façade of a friendship, and she'd maintained a poorly-constructed façade of sanity, as though him leaving her when she'd finally wanted him didn't eat away at her every night as she lay in bed. It was a joke, really, to even attempt to put up the illusion of normality as they each tried to go their separate ways. It hadn't worked - her love for someone had never been more one sided than it was with Peter. So MJ resorted to what she knew. She puppy-dogged after him, just as he had for eleven years, while she tried so desperately to convince him she was moving on via the various trophy boyfriends whose arms she was constantly hanging off of.

The water shocked her as she splashed in over her face, trying to rub off at least some of the assorted cosmetics that she didn't even know the name of.

She could hear voices outside the door, and she paused to listen, turning bright red at the male's irritated words.

"Damn termites! Gonna hafta call the exterminator again. Soon."

And then he was pounding at the door. Hurriedly, she slipped off the high heels, tugged down Peter's shirt as far as it would go, flipped up her collar, scooped up her wedding gown and shoes and scooted out, jogging past the surprised landlord, who proceeded to bellow "RENT! RENT! RENT!" after her. She preferred not to dwell on why he was visiting the restroom again so soon.

Once safely back in Peter's apartment, Mary Jane drug a stool out onto Peter's balcony and curled up on it, leaning against the corner where the railing and the wall met, scanning the horizon hopefully for that swinging flash of red, blue and black.

Mary Jane supposed she'd only really given up on him when he failed to show up at 'The Importance of Being Earnest' the night he had promised to. It hadn't mattered how many other nights he might promise to attend, it hadn't mattered how rude the usher was - all that mattered was that everyone else had managed to attend, save her best friend and biggest crush.

She didn't try and pretend that she stopped loving him that night, because no matter how you twisted it, that simply wasn't true. She had, however, very vehemently given up on him. She couldn't stand to see him - speak to him - and not belong to him, so her plan was simply not to see or speak to him ever again altogether.

But just after John Jameson proposed, Peter had come back. Peter had quit whatever it was that was holding him away - being Spiderman, she knew now - to devote himself to her, to try and win her back. But she just wasn't there anymore. She couldn't wait for him anymore, and she'd walked away. It broke her heart, and she supposed it broke his heart, too, but Mary Jane walked away.

But she had changed her mind and, as always, it was too late. She'd met him in a coffee shop, and she'd told him she wanted to try. That she forgave him if he could forgive her, that she loved him and he had told her, struggling to find the right words to say, that he simply didn't return her feelings anymore. A car had promptly hurled through the window, and Peter had done his best to protect her. Of course a car would come flying through the air at them when he had all-but consented to giving her a good-bye kiss.

But all of that was aside, now. They'd finally compromised, met each other in the middle. She would put up with his constant exhaustion and his inability to actually be anywhere or get anything done on time and the danger she was put in because she loved him. And she knew he would protect her. She didn't really need anything else, because it had been him all along - he'd been compromising for her all along and it was just about time she returned the favor.