"With Great Power: Blame Game"
"The fettuccini parmesan for you, sir," said a waitress as she laid down a plate full of delicious looking pasta on a table. The gentleman, a blond haired heavily mustachioed man nodded and adjusted his dark brown suit. The waitress looked over to the gentleman's company; a blonde bombshell with green eyes and a black dress that made her statuesque figure stand out among the other women in Vino's Restaurante at 43rd street. Placing a fantastically decorated plate of salad, rigatoni noodles and melted cheese in front of the woman, the waitress said, "And this is for the lady. Enjoy your meal and let me know if I can get you anything else."
While their server left the table, the voice of Peter Parker emanated from beneath the blond mustache and said, "She's about as Italian as Uncle Ben was."
Mary Jane pushed the hair from her blonde wig away from her face with her fingers. "Oh, stop," she replied with a wry smile and her fork impaling her dinner.
Looking down at his plate of food, he prepared to take a bite before saying, "I'm just saying when a restaurant claims to be authentic Italian you expect them to be true to their word. A Caucasian who's only Italian by last name I'm assuming is not authentic. It's equal opportunity, not that there's anything wrong with that."
"No, why would anything be wrong with that?" Mary Jane replied with a slight chuckle while Peter ate his dinner. It was the first night out they had shared together since Peter infiltrated the Thunderbolts hideout and laid down the gauntlet to Norman. Earlier in the night, they took in a Broadway show and enjoyed the lights of the city from the streets. Much more time had passed since Peter, dressed in his Spider-Man uniform, took MJ swinging through the city.
Of course, those were happier times. It was the days of not having to wear itchy disguises and having to remember new names and different tones of speaking. Mary Jane, being an actress, was a natural at playing someone else. Peter, despite being a brilliant scientist, was no Heath Ledger. Every time his Spider-Sense would tingle, he fought the instinct to jump and fight.
After the meal was finished, Peter held out a wad of twenty-dollar bills and gave it to the girl. "The change is your tip," he said with a smile.
The waitress's eyes seemed a little more than surprised. "Thank you, sir. Enjoy your evening," she said, walking away from the table with a smile the Hulk couldn't pound away. As they walked out into the street and toward the curb to hail a cab, a man in a cheaply made cream white leisure suit suddenly came into Peter's peripheral. Sensing it was someone he recognized, he turned to look directly at the man's face.
No punch that Peter Parker ever suffered as Spider-Man could've floored him any harder than what he beheld. It was impossible, even for his unusual occupation. The world became awash in nothingness and all that existed was the face of the man who murdered Ben Parker. But how could it be him? Years ago, Peter revealed his secret identity to Dennis Carradine, the man who would forever be linked by fate to the Parkers. Finding out what he had done; what he, in essence, created was too much for him to bear. His stress was compounded by his advanced age and bad heart, which gave out on him.
Peter knew there was a daughter out there. She had met with Ben Reilly, the former clone of Peter. It just couldn't have been any other explanation for seeing that man's face. The man walked away, clearly unnerved by the strange man staring at him. Peter couldn't dare let him get away. He had to keep track of him. But he didn't have any spider-tracers with him. "Tiger?" MJ said, snapping Peter back into the here and now.
"That man," he said, "He looks like Dennis Carradine."
Once the name entered her ears, she knew exactly who he was talking about. "Go."
Looking toward his wife, Peter tried to protest, "But how will you---"
"I'll take a cab home," she said, holding her husband's face in her hands. Once again, her husband tried to argue but she interrupted by saying, "Peter, I know that look. You won't let this go until you find out for sure what's going on. I'll be waiting for you."
Peter felt like smiling the widest, brightest smile his face could possibly muster and shout his love for his understanding spouse. But Carradine, or his look-a-like was getting away. Letting his wife get into a cab and watching it drive off, Peter went around the corner of the theater and scaled the wall of the adjacent building like it was a step-ladder. Reaching the roof, the friendly neighborhood disguised Spider-Man took to the ledge and followed Carradine, keeping low so as not to attract ground attention.
Thirty minutes and twenty blocks later, Peter saw the man wearing the face of Ben Parker's killer entering a five-story brick apartment complex. From what he could tell, the building looked new. Making sure he was not seen by bystanders, Peter flipped down the wall and landed across the street. After crossing the road, he looked at the buzzer strip, searching for "Carradine" on the listing. After finding out the apartment number, Peter traversed the side of the building and kept close to a window, waiting to see if it was the one that he was looking for.
Ten seconds proved he was correct as Carradine entered the room and tossed off his jacket. The living room looked like Thing and Hulk decided to go into interior decorating. Papers were littered everywhere. Beer bottles lay like corpses on a battlefield along the rouge carpeted floor. Holes apparently made by fists adorned the wall next to the front door. While the apartment building itself seemed decent enough, Carradine's place seemed like he went to great trouble dirtying it up.
Dennis Carradine had no super powers; no healing factor, no immortality. All he had was a gun, a mean streak and a bad ticker. So how in the world could this man be who he appears to be? Deciding he wouldn't find out anything more without blowing his cover as well as scaring the man to death (possibly again), Peter climbed to the roof and shed his disguise. Putting on his tried and true red and blues, the amazing Spider-Man dove off of the building and fired a web-line.
Spider-Man always did his best thinking while swinging. At least, that's what he always believed. During his trip home, he took to running the rooftops, avoiding known Cape-killer ground units in civilian clothes. He was still a very wanted man.
MJ watched as her husband entered through the window. No doubt it took Peter longer to get home since the apartment suffered from a Spider-Slayer attack courtesy of Norman Osborn. Staying at Doctor Stephen Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum was not exactly the first choice. Stephen had a fondness for going into native American-style steam purification tents and while the smell was sweet to the nose, it kept Peter and MJ awake. Not to mention that Stephen would go in and come out stark nude to, in his words, "enrich the experience". No doubt it drove Logan crazy the nights he stayed over while he wasn't working with the X-Men.
Peter shut the window and removed his uniform, looking to crash on the bed before taking a deep whiff. "Doc?" he said, looking over to the beautiful, understanding redhead he calls his wife. She nodded with an annoyed smirk and wrapped her arms around his waist.
"So, what did you find out?"
"Well, whoever this guy is, he lives pretty much the usual low-rent lifestyle. It was a mess. I don't know why this is bugging me so much."
"Considering that the two people who are after you are a cosmically powerful demon lord and a psychotic bastard who came back to life after being impaled, I think you ought to be sure that he is or isn't Ben's killer."
"Well, how do you suppose I start that conversation? 'Hello, my name is Peter Parker, you killed my uncle, prepare to die again from a massive coronary?'"
"Regardless how it starts, you should see this through."
"What if this is all some kind of plan by Osborn to get me out in the open?"
"Then he would've had to know we were going to a show, then dinner, and would've had to have dropped him off at exactly the time we came out of the restar---holy crap that does sound like something he'd do."
"He does have government resources at his disposal, though it wouldn't take much for him to get into the police files even if he didn't."
"So what do we do?"
"We go as planned I guess, until something lets me know that this is Osborn's handiwork or Mephisto's."
As Peter took the love of his life into his embrace, all he could think about was getting to the bottom of who this man was. Why wouldn't his mind let him drop it?
After three days of googling, researching, sleepless nights, and enduring Doctor Strange's jaunts into the purification tents, Peter returned to the apartment complex. With the night cloaking his movements and wearing his black costume (which he had to swear to MJ to take off immediately afterward) Spider-Man swung to the window of Mister Carradine's apartment. Taking out a glass cutter, he traced a hole above the safety latch. He used one hand to hold the glass by the flat surface while the other unlocked the window.
After slipping into the room, Spider-Man kept to the walls, staying clear of the beer-bottle littered floor. With a quick glance to the chair, Peter noticed that Carradine was still in the apartment in a recliner. Fortunately for him, the Parker luck didn't strike, as the man was sound asleep. Crawling the ceiling into a hallway, he passed by several rooms before coming to the open bedroom door.
Bed sheets laid strewn across the floor. The holes made in the living room would find themselves outnumbered by the many holes made in the bedroom walls. While making his way along the ceiling, he noticed a bulletin board with newspaper clippings. The board was abundant with photos of Spider-Man. Articles attributing to the heroism of the wall-crawler as well as the revelation of his secret identity to the world were among the pictures. Upon closer inspection, Spider-Man peered at one of the pictures to find that small holes were present around his face; like those made by a dart. The words "For Dad" were written underneath the punctured picture.
His Spider-Sense tingled sharply. Turning his head toward the door, he saw Carradine not only awake, but turning on a switch. "I knew you'd come sooner or later," he said, "You!" he shouted, with a crazed look in his eye. Spider-Man recognized it instantly. It was the eyes of insane hatred manifesting itself into an explosion of violence. Carradine was using the Green Goblin serum.
It all came together, the bottles, the unkempt apartment, and the holes in the wall. He'd been waiting for Spider-Man to show up. There was no telling how long, but it was long enough that cabin fever had set in. But how did he get his hands on the Goblin formula. It wasn't exactly something you cook in a lab like crystal meth.
Spider-Man leapt off the wall and tackled the man to the ground. As they struggled, Carradine flipped the web-slinger off, sending him through a door into the bathroom. After blocking a punch from Spider-Man, he twisted the hero's arm and dunked his masked face in the toilet. While Spider-Man fought to stay conscious, the black and white clad hero rose his foot back, connecting with Carradine's groin. With an elbow, he sent him crashing into the tile shower wall.
Pulling his mask off after getting up from the toilet, Peter ducked a right cross. He followed up with a jab to the ribs and a knee to the stomach. Grabbing Carradine by the shirt and pants, he drove him face first into the mirror and sink, sending glass spraying everywhere.
Carradine threw off Peter's arms and picked him up. With a screaming charge, he slammed the wall-crawler and himself through the already damaged wall, spilling out into the living room. Peter, still dazed, kicked Carradine off, sending him slamming into the ceiling. He rolled out of the way when the attacker fell face first on the floor.
They were making too much noise as well as damage. Someone was going to call the police if they hadn't already. Peter knew the fight needed to end quickly. Ducking under another right cross, Peter drove his elbow into Carradine's kidney's, making him spit up blood. He wrapped his arms around the man's throat, putting on the sleeper hold. He held tightly as Carradine charged backwards, crashing both against the kitchen counter. With a tight grip on the black and white uniform, he tried to pull Peter off of him. But with his feet planted and his arms tightly around Carradine's neck, Spider-Man wasn't going anywhere.
The man then unleashed a flurry of elbows against Peter's torso, forcing him to wince and grimace. Peter let go, feeling his ribs crack and loosen. Little time was left and he couldn't bring the fight to the streets. He reached back and stabbed Carradine in the leg with his wrist stinger. The serum-drugged man kicked Spider-Man back with his other foot, but the venom begun to take effect.
The paralysis-causing venom from Peter's stingers worked its way through Carradine's system, pitting itself in a chemical conflict with the Goblin Serum. He began to calm down; the insane rage that drove him appearing to subside.
"He told me all about you," the man said, "Peter Parker. Spider-Man. I know you by only one name. Murderer."
"I was only eight when I found out about my father," Peter's mind froze on that word Father. The family resemblance was absolutely stunning. He continued by saying, "My mom told me he was a bum, a two-bit thief who'd never amount to anything but paperwork at One Police Plaza. For the longest time, I believed her. But then, I get this strange letter in the mail. It read 'I'm the truth. Open me.' Curious, I opened it and it told me how you scared my father to death intentionally. You threatened to kill him for what he did to your uncle.
"At first, I didn't buy it. But the coroner's report was with the letter. It asked me if I still doubted, then to call the number on the back of the letter. I hear this low, raspy voice telling me that I should go to an old abandoned building in Red Hook. He gave the indication that he wouldn't take no for an answer, so I did. I find that there's a TV set there. It comes on the second I sit down, and there's Norman Osborn on the screen. He told me so himself. He said he would help me get revenge on you. But first, he asked me to just breathe in deep.
"The room started filling up with green smoke. Next thing I knew, he told me to wait for information on where to find you. So I've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. A couple of nights, I go out on the town just so I don't hang myself waiting for you to come. One night, he tells me that I should take a walk near 43rd street."
Peter picked his mask up and listened while the man continued his story, "I do what he says. You found me, didn't you? That's why you came here. To make sure you end our family line. You already killed my father and now you're here to kill me."
Peter would've loved to stand there and explain to the man in depth of how horribly wrong he'd gotten things. The police sirens, however, let him know that time was, indeed, up. Pulling his mask down around his head, Spider-Man said, "Your line isn't as endangered as you might think. If Osborn had told you the whole truth…he'd have told you about Jessica."
"Jess—Jessica? I have a sister?" Carradine said with a dazed look in his eyes. The venom was beating the Goblin serum. Soon, he would lose consciousness.
"Listen," Peter said, "I didn't intend to kill your father. But you have to realize what he signifies in my life. He got to where he was by the choices he made. As you have. The only difference between then and now is you were corrupted by revenge and Norman Osborn. But it's your life, your choice. Make good ones; for you and your sister." With that being said, Spider-Man opened the window and disappeared into the night.
Later that night, Peter sat soaking in a warm bath while the bruises and bumps from the fight earlier began to heal. MJ, wearing gray sweatpants and a black tank top, came into the bathroom and sat on the edge of the tub. "Penny for your thoughts?" she whispered, running her fingers through her husband's hair.
Peter replied, "I've spent so much time blaming myself for everything. I just think I'm getting sick of self-induced guilt trips. Like with this guy, for instance. I got my ass kicked trying to find out about a guy who looked like the man who murdered my uncle. It turns out Norman was using him to get to me. I swear sometimes I think he's a one-trick pony but the fact is, he used a stranger to get to me and I allowed it to. Uncle Ben taught me 'With great power comes great responsibility…but I've changed it to 'great blame.'"
"Honey," MJ replied, "you blame yourself because you care. It isn't just living up to the ideas of your uncle, it's who you are. The trick is learning where your responsibility ends, because trying to carry the whole world on your shoulders is too much for one person."
"That's why I have you," he said right before pulling her into the tub. MJ let out a shriek of laughter and cuddled closely with Peter for a while.