Title: Freeze-Frame
Author: htbthomas
Disclaimer: Marvel owns it all!
Comic: Amazing Spider-Man
Spoilers: Nothing after 1987 ;)
Pairing/Characters: Peter/various, Peter/MJ
Rating: T
Word Count: 1387
Summary: While trying to set up a special photograph, Peter thinks back to some of the photos he has taken of the loves of his life.
Author's Notes: This is a Belated Happy Birthday ficlet for Mark C for his prompt: "Peter remembers his past loves and how lucky he was to wind up with MJ." I hope it makes up just a little for your birthday being overshadowed by the Book-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named :D

Thanks also to van el and chickadilly for giving this a once-over!

Peter tilted the camera, adjusting the image in the viewfinder to get the perfect angle. He wanted to get just the right lighting, composition… It wouldn't be hard to get a decent photo, not with such a photogenic subject, but still, he wanted this one to be special.

He paused, chuckling to himself. It was amazing how much he had learned over the years about good photography. Lord knows he knew just about diddly-squat when he first started out. After all, most of his earliest published photos were not a product of his own photo-taking skills, but instead to the 'skills' of the auto-shutter on his camera…

"C'mon, Peter... just one picture." Betty Brant smiled widely, tilting her hat and leaning coquettishly against the brickwork. "Aren't I prettier than Spider-Man?" she teased.

Peter scrubbed a hand against the back of his head. "Of course you are, Betty," he answered, embarrassed. He'd never had a girlfriend before, let alone a girl like her! Working for the Bugle, out on her own… she was nothing like those awful high school girls, who lived or died by one look from Flash Thompson. He grimaced, and lifted the camera. If they could only see what a great gal I've got. He clicked the shutter a few times, while Betty giggled and turned in a silly imitation of a runway model. Although Liz Allen seems to be coming around…

Betty gave him a peck on the cheek, eyes bright. "I can't wait to see those when they're developed."

"I bet they'll be worth a fortune, with your looks," he complimented her. She really is the perfect girl, isn't she?

She chuffed him lightly on the arm, before her smile faded. "Too bad ol' Jameson only wants your pictures of Spider-Man…" Her eyes clouded and she looked away. Well, maybe not…

The pictures had been terrible – amateurish, blurry, not even cropping could save them. He hadn't gotten the shutter-speed, f-stop or even the film speed right. But Betty had loved them anyway, 'a Peter Parker original' she had claimed. She had been a lot of laughs, and if not for her terror of Spider-Man, maybe even the one. But Ned Leeds came into her life, and college soon filled his…

"Are you sure you want me in the picture, Gwendy?" Peter made one last adjustment to the tripod – he had fiddled for quite a while with the camera and all its settings, adjusting the aperture, agonizing over which lens to use for the picture he wanted. He had even improvised something like umbrella lights. He'd had the thought that Gwen's father, Captain Stacy, might like a semi-professional portrait of his daughter for his birthday. Gwen had loved the idea, but she had one change…

She laughed, a musical sound he thought he would never tire of, and beckoned for him to sit beside her. "For the thousandth time, Peter Parker, yes. We're a couple, now, right?"

A pleasant warmth filled his chest as he nodded. He pressed the auto-timer button, and slid quickly to the sofa.

Gwen continued, "Well, you're important to me, and my father—"

At that moment, the warning light on the timer began to blink rapidly, cutting off her thought as they froze to smile for the photo. Gwen slipped her hand into his just before the flash.

Rubbing his eyes with his free hand – the mask usually protected his eyes from the brightness – he prompted her, "Your father, what?"

"My father – I know he likes you." She squeezed his hand in her lap lightly. "He hasn't really come out and said it in so many words, but he… approves of you."

Peter sat back with a huff of astonishment. "Really? Why?"

"You sell yourself short, Peter. You're a good student, with a bright future ahead of you, you manage to find time to hold a job on the side…"

"In other words, I'm quite a catch," he finished with an impish grin.

Gwen kissed him gently. "Whether you really think so or not… all I know is I feel safe with you. And I know my father agrees."

He felt a sharp pang as he remembered that, as he always did. They had been anything but safe around him, her father dead in the fallout from a battle with Doctor Octopus, Gwen herself slain through a combination of the Green Goblin's cruelty, and his own tragic mistake.

Peter tried to think of happier times again, though any memory of Gwen was tinged with a sadness that never quite faded. He would not allow it to fade.

It was no wonder, after another disastrous relationship with Deb Whitman, that Peter had just about given up on love. Spider-Man was doomed to get between him and any chance for happiness. But a flash of skin and tight leather, a flip of long, platinum hair, and the languid wink of an emerald-green eye… and he was hooked again. Grappling-hooked, that is.

Felicia's foot bounced up and down from her crossed legs as she lounged in the chair across the room. It was a quiet night for once, something the Black Cat never liked. From over the top of the newspaper he was reading, Peter saw her eyes dart down to his camera bag beside her kitchen table.

"Do you really have to carry that thing everywhere, Spider?"

He let the paper slip to one hand, and leaned back against the spot where he had perched on the wall. "It's my bread and butter, 'Licia. Of course I do."

She made a face, though even a grimace was beautiful on Felicia Hardy. "Such a waste of talent. Photography," she sneered mildly.

He let a thin stream of webbing shoot out to snatch up the case, and the camera was into his hands in a moment. "Oh, there are a lot of benefits to dating a photographer. Who else could make sure they got your good side?" He snapped a photo of her lounging there below him, moonlight making her silvery hair almost glow. She looked like the quintessential 1940s pin-up girl – shades of Marilyn Monroe, or Bettie Page, even…

"Who says I have a bad side?" Felicia shot back teasingly, claws almost out.

He snapped another photo. "Oh, not me…" he smoothly replied. His confidence had come a long way since those first blushing dates with Betty. "Although there are a few sides of you I hope no one else has ever seen," he added, eyebrows rising suggestively before snapping another shot.

She rose smoothly, stalking toward him with feline grace, and placed a hand over the lens. "Put your mask back on, put that thing back down…" Her other hand slicked slowly across her abdomen toward the zipper on her bodice. "…and I'll give you a sight so stunning you won't need a photo to remember me by."

The camera clattered unnoticed to the floor.

"Hey, Tiger, are you going to just stand there all day, or actually take my picture?" Mary Jane called from the railing, snapping him out of his reverie. The light breeze lifted her auburn hair from her twinkling green eyes. Mary Jane, who had been there to knock him off his feet when things with Betty were going sour. Mary Jane, who had been there to help him pick up the pieces after Gwen's death. Mary Jane, who came bursting back into his life after it was clear Felicia was only interested in the superhero, not the man.

And most importantly, Mary Jane, who had always known about his dual identity, but stuck by him through thick and thin.

He started to reframe the shot with an embarrassed grin, to capture the beauty of the French countryside behind her, and then he lowered the camera to rest on the patio table.

"What?" she asked, eyebrows drawing together in a cute frown.

"I was going to… but I decided a photograph just doesn't do you justice." He swept her up in his arms, lifting her easily. "Besides," he added with a kiss and push through the double doors into their suite, "There are a lot better things we could be doing on our honeymoon than filling a photo album."