Over the course of twenty minutes, Spider-Man led his nemesis across the city, letting him use up his supply of bombs. Once Norman had resorted to his short-range goblin sparks, Peter stopped circling his destination and ended the chase with a window-shattering crash.
Harry Osborn dropped the phone he had been speaking into.
Spider-Man glanced at his old friend. Even without the now-frayed mask, his face would've been unreadable. He'd passed beyond the realm of tears and feelings, into something fatal.
"Hey, pal," he intoned, before any and all words were swallowed up by the noise of the glider ramming through the wall.
"Harry," Norman muttered, voice shattering.
"Oh, how rude of me." Peter pointed to Harry. "Gobby, this is Harry. Harry, this is the man who killed Gwen Stacy. Oh, you two already know each other."
"Lies!" Norman shouted.
"Right, I forgot. The fall killed her. You just dropped her." Peter glanced at Harry. "Thought you should know. Secrets, you know… tear families apart."
In Harry's eyes, Norman saw a son's love murdered.
"It's not—not like that! Gwen was—she got in the way, she was—"
"She was my friend." Harry's face seemed to be whirling through emotions, discarding them as nothing fit. "Peter loved her, she was a good person!"
"There are no good people! Get that through your thick head!"
"You can take his word on that," Peter added.
With a cry of sheer murder, Norman wheeled the glider about and fired it toward Peter, who remained stock-still. He had expected this. A martyr's death was much more than he deserved. With Norman disgraced and his own statements replayed for months, the SHRA would soon rattle. Tony would do the right thing, once he had no other choice. So would Jameson, once he knew Spider-Man was really Peter Parker. The only thing he still wondered about was what he would say to Gwen when he got wherever he was going (please, God, let it be where Gwen was). How would he introduce her to Felicia? He hoped Uncle Ben and Aunt May wouldn't be too sour with him. He had tried, after all, by God he'd tried…
"Let's die!" Peter screamed.
Peter felt an impact. But not in the chest, where he'd expected the glider to impale him. In the side. A hard push, not Norman. His son.
As he fell out of the way, Peter had time to see Harry take the death meant, by all but fate, for him. The spikes that had failed the father succeeded on the son. Harry's eyes widened in astonishment; at the pain, at the fact that Norman hadn't stopped at the last second, at his own heroism. Then he was cruelly jerked against the wall and held there by the same pulpit his father preached from.
Norman fell to all fours on the glider. "Harry…" He shook his head, disbelieving. "He was our enemy."
With all his will, Harry raised his head. "Not mine."
Face contorted as frighteningly as his mask ever had, Norman turned, lunged like an animal. Peter reacted to his danger-sense with the same unthinking instinct with which he had once dodged a glider. Norman received the full force of Spider-Man's strength, enhanced by his totem and focused by Avengers training… channeled into a simple backhand.
Norman flew across the room, smashed through the wall, and kept going. He didn't stop until he broke through the outside wall and hit the fire escape. It tangled around him like he was a fly in a spider's web.
Peter didn't notice that his costume had burst along where his biceps had flexed, or even that Norman was gone. His heart was thundering too loud to hear the walls breaking in the distance. His eyes were transfixed by Harry's body transforming into a corpse before his eyes.
Peter didn't say anything. Harry would never say anything ever again. Spider-Man turned and, every step feeling like a thousand miles, walked to where Norman hung half-in and half-out of his steel prison. Night had fallen. A helicopter's searchlight cut through it, impaling Spider-Man. He ignored the harsh glare as he gave the fire escape a stout kick, loosening Norman.
"Is that the best you've got, Tony? A washed-up old terrorist, still coasting off something that happened over a decade ago? Stark! I asked if that's all you've got!?" He stomped on the fire escape and a step broke free, clanged to the ground.
Norman cackled orgasmically. "You see, Peter? We're the same. The world's taken from us, and we're going to take back. I'll see you in hell, kid."
"I'll be waiting." Peter bent the railings into Norman's bonds. "Because at this rate, I think I'm going to die a lot sooner."
Norman looked longingly over the edge. "Kill me! Please."
"I already did. Everyone knows who you are now. They're going to lock you up with all the other psychos. You're going to rot, Norman." He kicked Norman's head hard enough for it to rebound off the brick wall. "Get started."
Then he climbed, slowly, hand over hand, until he was on top of the building. Three news helicopters circled him. "Come on, Tony. Do your own dirty work for once. I know you can hear me, come on!"
The searchlights shut off. The helicopters flew away. A moment later, Iron Man landed on the roof.
"It's over, Peter. Go home."
"Over? What's over? What's home? Am I not good enough to kill?"
Peter heard the faint hum of Iron Man's repulsors charging.
"Stand down, son."
"Don't you dare pretend you're Steve! You're not half what he was."
Iron Man's helmet opened. The man inside had dark rings under his eyes. "Everything I've done has been to help people like you and like them!"
Peter staggered toward him. "By making me a fugitive? By giving Osborn the right to hunt me down?"
"If you'd registered, it never would've come to this!"
"If I'd registered, I wouldn't be able to do this!" Peter swung his fist into Tony's chest unit. It sparked as he flew backwards into a water tower and his helmet snapped shut just as it crashed down on him. Peter's hand had broken in a boxer's fracture, but it was a small price to pay. He leaped onto the wreckage to finish the job.
Time slowed. Peter felt it like a drawn out spider-sense, a warning of infinite danger. Mephisto stepped out of Tony's armor, wearing a Tony Stark business suit.
"I love wearing the evil in men's souls." He noticed Peter. "My, we are racking up quite the body count. Tough luck about Harry. Maybe he'll stay dead this time."
"Stay out of my way."
"So you can kill Stark? Sounds like fun. What's next? Are we going to go door-to-door down Pennsylvania Avenue, punching out anyone who voted for the SHRA? If you're intent on blackening your soul, I have a far quicker, far more lucrative way to do it."
"You screwed me before. Why should I trust you?"
"Me? Granny was the one who insisted on a refund. But how about store credit? A little discount on our new deal."
"What do you want now? Let me guess, my love for Felicia?" Peter sat down. He couldn't suppress a yawn. When had he last slept?
Mephisto was incensed. "Did you really think I gave a damn about you and your little girlfriend's love life? That was just a down payment. No, I want the whole enchilada. The soul of a hero, Parker. Nothing like it."
"Spider!" Black Cat's voice was hoarse with worry. As soon as she'd touched down, she threw her arms around Peter. "We have to go, now! It's only a matter of time before someone remembers you're a fugitive and sends in the National Guard!"
"Meow! I should've worn you. Temptation: My favorite sin. See, Peter, I didn't screw you over on our first deal. If you hadn't gotten away from the ol' ball and chain, how could you ever have lived with squeezing this tomato? Was she nice and ripe? Was, wasn't she?"
Felicia looked over Peter's shoulder while still clutching him protectively. "Who the hell is this?"
"Who, the hell," Mephisto repeated whimsically. "I'm an old friend of Peter's. You could say I played matchmaker for you two."
"He's a man of wealth and taste," Peter sing-sung mirthlessly.
Felicia took a step back and tried pulling Peter with her, but he was immovable.
"So what's it to be, Peter? I can give you your aunt back."
"She's at peace, thanks," Felicia hissed at him. "Come on, Spider, don't listen to this guy!"
"Then allow me to sweeten the pot. I can make the blonde and the redhead happy. Let's face it, you've wrecked their lives beyond repair. You stud, you've literally ruined them for other men. Do you know how many chances for happiness they've passed up because they were in love with you? They're beautiful, young, successful ladies… Mary-Jane could have kids by now. Felicia could be married to George Clooney. Give me your soul and I'll make them forget you were ever part of their lives."
"No!" Felicia shook Peter into looking at her. "No," she repeated vehemently.
Peter pulled his arm away from her. "Be quiet. Let me think."
Mephisto's hands settled on Peter's shoulders, supportive, soothing. "Yes, think. You're good at that. Two people's happiness for the price of yours. As if you could be happy, after what you did to them. You know a good deal when you see it, Parker. It's time to let the sun set on this day, and dawn on a brand new one, full of promise and possibility… for them at least. You'll like being on my side, Parker. Once you rip the wings off an angel, you'll want nothing else."
Felicia grabbed Mephisto's lapel. "If you don't let go of my boyfriend, I'm going to be wearing your balls as earrings."
Mephisto stepped back, hands held high. "Oooh, I'm quivering. Go on, my dear. Say you don't mind him going back to Mary-Jane. Lie. You've done it to yourself often enough."
Felicia turned her back on Mephisto. "Peter, listen to me." She ripped off his mask. "Damnit, I'm your girlfriend, you're gonna fucking listen to me! I remember who I was before I met you. I was a stupid little girl… a selfish criminal… and you taught me to care about people. You helped me be the person I always hoped I would be. You're like, my personal Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and… you're my future, Peter. I won't have you change one second, do you hear me? Not one second of pain, not one second of anguish, not one second of doubt or fighting or jealousy. I won't have it!"
Mephisto wafted Felicia's hair in front of Peter's face. "You say that now, but let's be honest. He's a disappointment to you. How would you like someone who's a superhero without the mask? You want Iron Man? I can get you into his iron pants. How about Cap? He's gonna come back sooner or later, why not let him come with Felicia? Or Cary Grant? Don't lie, Felicia, you know you want Cary Grant. Peter, I can give her the hero you can never be."
Felicia wouldn't break eye contact with Peter for all the diamonds in the world. "I want you. No one else. Please, Peter. Let's go home."
"Which home? Yours, or Mary-Jane's?"
"We'll work something out. We won't run away from our problems, like this asshole wants us to. That only lets them get worse. We'll face them head-on… together." She kissed him slowly, sweetly, a forgiveness for the past and a promise of things to come.
"Peter." Mephisto flickered from Aunt May to Mary-Jane to Steve. "This time you can't save the day."
Peter took a firm hold of Felicia. "Go to hell, Mephisto."
Mary-Jane watched on the news as Peter and Felicia swung off the building, already disappearing into the lights of the city. They'd be coming to her, the two of them. She didn't know what they'd all do when they arrived, if Peter would pick her or Felicia. She didn't even know what state Peter would be in. But, as she set a first aid kit out for Peter and tied her hair behind her head… she felt hope. For the first time in what felt like forever, she was hopeful. She loved Peter, still, always. Nothing could take that away.