We must bid goodbye to our friend Mary Jane Watson, the Amazing Spider-Woman now...until the next thrilling story!
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Chapter 7: Epilogue: If This Be My Destiny
"I see you lying next to me
With words I thought I'd never speak,
Awake and unafraid, asleep or dead...
I am not afraid to keep on living,
I am not afraid to walk this world alone.
Honey, if you stay I'll be forgiven,
Nothing you can say could stop me going home."
My Chemical Romance, "Famous Last Words"
midmorning, phoebus general hospital
Spider-Woman, still clutching the canister, has no time to change. She never thinks about changing, never notices that she is soaked down to the bone and she is splashing water all over the hospital. She stumbles into Phoebus General Hospital and hails a nurse.
"Miss Foster," she recognizes. "Get this to Dr. Donald Blake. Now."
Jane Foster merely nods. "Isn't this for Anna Watson? How do you know—"
"Ask me no questions and I tell you no lies."
"What's with your breathing? Is there anything wrong?" Jane asks. "Did you run into trouble?"
Spidey shakes her head and repeats her answer. "Ask me no questions and I tell you no lies. How long will it be before we know?"
"About two hours," Jane informs her. "We have to run some tests to see how much the serum worked."
"Splendid. I'll be back then."
"Wait!" Jane cries. "Why are you so interested in this matter?"
"You know what my answer will be, Nurse."
"Right. 'Ask me no questions and I tell you no lies,'" Jane sighs.
midmorning, pier 56
Finally having had the chance to change into some clean dry clothes, Mary Jane stands beside her boyfriend, Ned Leeds, snapping away with her digital camera.
"Divers pulled up a body," Ned tells her. "They say it was Doctor Octopus himself. God knows how that happened, especially since he was supposed to be murdered last summer, but they're saying he was probably the mastermind of the whole thing. Wouldn't put it past him."
"What do I know?" she sighs. "I'm only a photographer."
But she remembers, and wonders. Did Carolyn, that tragic genius, that criminal mastermind, get out alive? Did the clones? Did Benjamin?
Her thoughts are interrupted by the words of her concerned boyfriend.
"What the hell's with your face?" Ned asks, for Mary Jane's beautiful face is now marred with two black eyes and several bumps and bruises.
She only shrugs. "Got roughed up a bit. Occupational hazard."
"Trade secret. Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies!"
midmorning, daily bugle headquarters
J. Jonah Jameson bends over his phone. "Who? Did you say Spider-Woman? You want me to meet you there?"
He nearly drops the phone in his excitement. "An extra, Leeds? The Master Planner's gang captured! The identity of the leader revealed? The body of Doctor Octopus found by police divers—and my paper has the story first!"
Betty Brant, Daily Bugle bookkeeper, seems concerned. "Chief? You're smiling! Is there anything wrong?"
"I'm not smiling! That's gas!"
midmorning, phoebus general hospital
Mary Jane knows that just as she failed Peter, she failed Benjamin. It does not matter to her that Benjamin was not really Peter, that he was only a clone. God had answered her prayers, given her a second chance to get it right, to atone for her role in Peter's death...and she totally blew it.
But she knew that she didn't fail Anna—and no matter what happened, she could go to her (probably early) grave knowing that she did her best. And isn't that all you could ask?
She tiptoes into Anna's hospital room, to find her aunt once more sitting up and in good spirits, busily working on her knitting. "Aunt Anna!"
Jane Foster, registered nurse, beams as well. "You'll be happy to know, Mary Jane, that the tumors are shrinking. She should be discharged tomorrow."
"Long term prospects?" Mary Jane asks.
"Cancer should go into remission."
Anna and Mary Jane embrace, sobbing their relief.
midmorning, coffee bean
Ned Leeds finally works up the courage to tell her what he knows. "Mary Jane...you don't have to lie to me anymore. I know everything."
She does not deny any of it. She simply looks him square in the eye. "Then you know why we can't be together." Her face is still heavily bruised, and her sprained arm is in a sling. "I was given a blessing and a curse. I was given great strength and a great burden to shoulder with it. With this great power, I also have a great responsibility to use it wisely. So I'm not giving it up.
"The world cannot exist without balance, Ned. There must be both angels and demons, both good and evil. Spider-Woman will always have enemies, Ned. As long as there is a Spider-Woman, there will always be someone like Doctor Octopus. As long as we're a couple, you will be in danger from every supervillain who wants to fuck with my head.
"As long as you date me, our relationship will be filled with lies and secrets. You will always be forced to explain away my absences, to collude in my deceptions. Every night, you will always wonder whether I'll even come home alive, and you'll be helpless to do anything about it.
"And every guy who gets involved with me ends up dead sooner or later. I never caused their deaths, not directly. But my secret life put them in danger. I will not let you become the latest on that list. Do you understand?"
Ned shakes his head. "Mary Jane, I have the power of rejection, I have the power of choice now. I won't let you make my decisions for me. I know I will be in danger. I accept that of my own free will. I will walk into that danger with my eyes wide open. I just want to stay and face those dangers with you."
"But why? Why, when you know what you do, what I do?"
"Because even a superhero needs to be saved sometimes. Especially from herself."
afternoon, stanley lieber memorial dormitory
"Mary Jane!" Flash calls, peeking his head in the door. "We were all—well, Liz and I anyway—we were wondering where you'd gone off to!"
Mary Jane didn't bother to look up from her textbooks. She had a lot of studying to do, especially with her long absence. Now that the more pressing matters had been dealt with, she could finally concentrate on her studies.
Liz waves her wallet. "Burger run! You in?"
"Nah," Mary Jane says. "I've got to actually study for once."
"Come on. Please?" Liz pleads. "We're doing movie night. Rented some old movie with Sally Field as this lady who marries some Middle Eastern guy, and he beats the crap out of her, and—"
"I'll bring you home a chocolate Oreo milkshake," Liz tells her.
"What the hell happened to your face?" Flash inquires, concerned.
Mary Jane smiles. "I was swinging around town in Spider-spandex, getting the crap beat out of me by the metal arms of a supervillainous cyborg scientist."
Liz shrugs. "Well, you ask a stupid question..."
Flash starts laughing. "Ha! That's rich! You know what I like about you, MJ? You've got a sense of humor!" With that, he bounces out the door, arm in arm with Liz.
For once, things actually seem to have a happy ending for her. Shutting the door, Mary Jane finally feels free to laugh too.
A virtual no-prize to the reviewer who finds the in-joke. After all, a Master Planner prose masterpiece is sorely incomplete without the requisite in-joke. Coming up later: Quirk of Fate Part 5: The Master Planner Returns! Featuring strange love triangles, the introduction and rebooting of two more characters, both Empire State faculty turned bad, the return of our fiendishly frenetic Lady Octopus, and a little piece of technology they call the Nullifier! Also, I'm still working on the bugs in "The Unauthorized Autobiography of Otto Octavius," the story of the rise and fall of the newest original character denizen to join the ranks along with Austin Smith, Octavia Jones, and Jordan Nicholas in the MPU (The Marvel Universe according to the Master Planner). Well, until the next thrilling story, that's all folks!