Mary Jane goes to Hell

Summary: I admit it. It's a stinking fix-fic. I just couldn't take One More Day any more. I had it in my head, and it had to come out.

Of course, being me, that means it comes out… like this.

So, if you aren't familiar with One More Day: Spider-man made a deal with Mephisto, the devil, which undid his marriage with MJ in order to save Aunt May's life. That's all you need to know for this…

Note: This whole arc goes way AU somewhere in the middle of Dark Reign;

1.

The costume was terrible.

She'd worn tiny outfits while working the soaps. Everybody did that. Training so you'd look good in them, trying to look good while trying hard to do some serious acting around some seriously bad lines.

Now she was in a skin-tight getup that was all black and red and yellow, with a half-mask with big white eyes like Peter's mask. Now she was walking around in a full-body set of pajamas.

She was fairly sure that she looked ridiculous. Also that if she started running there was no way the top was going to provide adequate support. She was going to have to try to rebuild this costume from the inside later, try to turn it into something that would work.

"The red hair doesn't work with the costume," said Ms. Marvel.

She was surprisingly friendly, for all that she was a dangerous psychopath.

"What do you think—change the costume or the hair?" asked MJ.

Ms. Marvel shrugged. "I'd go with the hair. Most of us are trying to look like somebody we aren't. I don't see why you should act like a brand-new superhero."

"Fair enough. We'll go with that." MJ put a hand out in front of her, checking her depth perception. Things seemed just a little off behind these flat white glasses.

Ms. Marvel moved around, glaring down at the faraway streets past the window. "What exactly are you hoping to accomplish here?"

"Hmm?"

"I mean, I know why I'm here. I'm trying to be a better me. To really figure out who I am, try to be a hero. And, you know, all that." It was half-hearted at best. She wasn't even trying to lie very hard.

"And you have to stay in line or Osborn will send Bob after you to kill you."

"Well, yes. But you're not scared of Bob, are you?"

MJ considered it. She knew only that he was capable of ending Peter's life, and easily. That he was so powerful even gods hesitated to step up against him.

She also knew now that death wasn't permanent, that the devil wanted her to be doing this work. Death would hold no mysteries for her, no surprises. Only a certain inevitable re-negotiation with the devil, which was certainly going to happen anyway, no matter what else happened.

As soon as the devil realized just what she was planning to do next.

So MJ turned to face the dangerous homicidal maniac. "I'm not scared of Norman, because he needs what I can give him more than he needs anything else in this world. That's quite a bit different from trusting him, or not being afraid of a man who could rip me limb from limb."

And it was very different from trusting Ms. Marvel, who was apparently some kind of alien, or empowered by some kind of alien, or something like that. And used to be a villain. Or was currently a villain.

This team was confusing if you thought about it any further than 'Norman Osborn's thugs.'

Ms. Marvel sneered. "You don't have anything he needs, not really. He just wants you to think that."

MJ grinned slowly, widely. She didn't try to fully emulate the devil's signature grin… she didn't need to. She had more than enough of that blackness in her heart now.

Ms. Marvel didn't freeze up. She stepped back, and some of her power signature began to bleed out of her hands. She readied herself for battle.

"Think so?" asked MJ softly. "Maybe you need to ask yourself just why he went from hunting the spider to recruiting one."

Ms. Marvel walked away briskly without bothering to reply. She ran both hot and cold in the same sentence, and apparently had quite a bit of difficulty empathizing with people. MJ was guessing that she was either a psychopath or a sociopath, but the precise diagnosis was beyond her.

At any rate, there were bigger problems here.

The SHIELD agent in charge of tech had found some web-shooters. "These are reverse-engineered from the sample of webbing we found in New York," she said. "They don't work precisely like the real thing. They dissolve at a different rate, and we have trouble with the consistency—his apparently works no matter how far the target. You'll have to adjust manually based on how far away the target is, because you'll need a thicker strand. Be careful not to set the thrust to maximum when you're shooting at something close—you could blast the webbing right through your target."

Where Peter's web-shooter was a simple one-button design, this had several dials and buttons for the palm of her hand, and shot from the top of her wrist, not the bottom. The webbing came out white, glittery, not the flat nearly-invisible grey strands he produced.

MJ peeled her glove back and carefully put on the web-shooter, wondering exactly how she was going to go about web-slinging the way he did. Part of his success there was his great speed and agility, and the goblin serum hadn't given her that.

"And extra webbing material is here, in these easy-to-load cartridges." Larger than Peter's. "We'll have resupplies available before every mission, as part of the briefing-and-outfitting."

Very professional. She suspected she'd need to find an alternate source to make sure that she wasn't too dependent on these folks. "This material feels a little less armor-like than I was anticipating."

"The Spider-woman suit is designed to maximize agility. I presume your power-set isn't quite the same as the last Spider-woman?"

"Right."

"Okay, then. We have several different designs, depending on power-set. Do you have your Richards numbers?"

"Beg pardon?"

"The Richards scale is an easy way to figure out your relative power levels."

"Right, right. Of course."

"Never been tested?"

MJ squinted at the agent, who had a little half-smile going on. "I should have, right?"

"Usually even folks who haven't kind of know what they can do."

MJ thought about that. "I know what I can do. I'm not sure how to describe it."

"Well, give it a shot. Probably quicker than taking the day to put you through your paces."

MJ considered everything the serum did to her, everything she'd done since injecting herself with it. She thought about the other things that had happened.

It seemed ridiculous to bring up her experience killing demons, or using holy weapons. That was a skill, not a power. And had her speed really stayed the same? Certainly she'd almost kept up with Peter, and his speed was far, far beyond anything human.

"I know I'm strong, now. Stronger than Spider-man, I think. I know I heal faster than normal. I think I've survived things I couldn't have otherwise. I've been blown up without a single bone breaking."

"Standard bruiser powerup, right."

Probably Norman would understand the power better, but she didn't want to admit to too many people that their power came from the same source.

There was a crashing noise somewhere behind them, deeper in the tower. The agent turned her comlink on calmly, drawing her weapon. "That sounds like a transporter of some sort. Terrorist attack on the director, probably."

Terrorists who were indistinguishable from regular heroes, probably. MJ rolled her eyes behind the safety of those flat lenses. "You want to go see what that's all about?"

The agent frowned, putting a hand on her sidearm. "You aren't cleared for duty yet."

"Right. So why don't we head for the roof, then?"

"The roof?"

"I want to test these webshooters. Or a window. A window would probably work."

The agent stepped back, keeping a hand on her weapon. "I really think now is not a good time—"

MJ was nice. She dialed the force on the webshooter down to just half-power, and put the other dial, the size of the web to be shot, up to maximum. The blast was still hard enough to pick the agent up and slam her against the wall.

The webbing spread out like silly putty, stretching out and pinning her there. Some of it flowed up into her face, but the agent had the presence of mind to turn her face and open her mouth quickly, keeping her airway clear.

MJ turned and sprinted back towards the source of the sound. She met the Dark Wolverine on the way, his claws already out.

"What do we know?" she asked him.

He grinned at her. "Some more fools looking for Osborn."

She nodded, following him. He seemed familiar with the layout.

2.

The fighting was over quick. MJ managed to make a good showing, taking down twice as many AIM agents as Wolverine managed.

And quite a bit less lethally.

The regular agents were moving in slowly, making arrests and trying to tally up the damage and lives lost. MJ's knuckles were sore, and she had already used half the fluid she'd been given—using it as a long-range weapon exhausted it pretty quickly. She wished she could figure out what kind of propellant it used.

Wolverine had taken his mask off. He wasn't currently doing that thing where he made her want him, which was good. She leaned against the wall beside him. "So, how's the world-saving business."

He snorted. "You ever clear up the situation with the guy pretending to be Sabretooth?"

"Yeah."

"Good."

She wondered if she should thank him for the help he'd given her in figuring out that it wasn't Sabretooth at all. She decided against it. "You're pretty reasonable for one of Osborn's boys."

He shrugged. "I'm here to drag my father's name through the dirt. Anything else is just icing on the cake. You know, you smell like Osborn, in some way I don't really understand."

She chuckled. "Ain't died yet, huh?"

He was silent for a while, thinking about that.

A few agents had moved to circle them in, guns in hand.

"Is that for you?" asked Wolverine.

"I think so. I may have webbed up my handler and run off to help you just now."

He laughed. "Run off to help me! That's choice. Why?"

"I wasn't sure Ms. Marvel was going to help… she looked a little distracted when I saw her last. And I know Osborn took Ares and Bob and the Spider-man with him to Ohio."

"But I'm here, and these expendables are here, and is there really any point sticking your neck out for these?"

She shrugged. "I'm here to get stuff done. Not to stand around and wonder why exactly alarms are going off and hold my handler's hand."

One of the agents stepped forward. "Ma'am, would you come with us please?"

She nodded. "Of course, kid. Of course."

3.

Norman was upstairs, returned from his trip to find out why aliens had tried to invade Earth, again.

He was watching video of her fighting. She moved beside him silently, watching the instant replay.

She'd been right. Totally inadequate support.

"If your powers are very much like mine, then you'll need regular doses of serum to maintain your power levels," he said quietly.

"I've been doing that."

"Yes. You may need medical monitoring… it's addictive, you know. As addictive as hell. And the more you take the worse the effect."

"Yes."

"Also, that costume isn't quite right. Your skin hasn't had a chance to build up any kind of toughness or armor. You need something that'll take a bullet. I'll talk to the tech people."

"Thanks."

"And you are a vixen." He put an arm over her shoulders, almost paternalistically. "Look at you fight! All heart, no brains. We'll work on that. Why did you go charging in?"

"Why not?"

"Why not indeed." He let go of her, turning away from the screen to look out over the city. "It's a terrible burden to always be the sane person in an insane world. Or vice versa. A terrible burden to be the only one to see clearly that there is a way forward… have you spoken to Bob yet?"

"No."

"Do you feel like you have a handle on the others?"

"Sure. Hawkeye is a murderer. That's all he lives for. The killing. Ms. Marvel is unstable, maybe more dangerous because of her powerset. Your Spider-man is kept under sedation at all times, locked up. Your Wolverine is a wild card—he has no qualms about killing, but he doesn't seem to enjoy it. He does seem to enjoy manipulating people and playing headgames."

"Hmm, yes."

"So, what about Bob?"

"Bob's insane."

"…really? That seems so… so utterly like the rest of your team."

"Not in the same way. Not in the violent way Hawkeye is insane, or the mildly dissociative way Ms. Marvel is insane, or in the predatory way Wolverine is insane, or the utterly ravenous way Venom is insane. He is insane in a much more dangerous way."

"And how is that?"

"He is still under the impression that he is a good guy."

MJ laughed. "Really?"

"And that he has an arch-enemy who will come back and fight him, some super-powered being utterly opposed to him, opposite to him. This enemy, of course, is an utter fiction, and is part and parcel of him. His insanity is to think that he is an utterly normal person with extraordinary powers, when he is in fact a monster who has invaded the body of a normal person. And as a person he is a narcissist and a petty man who is entirely unsuited to be a superhero. I have played off of that, playing to his ego and making him think he is doing good work. That is one of the reasons I cannot use him for any black ops like going after your Spider. Because he would see that it is evil, and that would utterly destroy him."

"Right. The real reason you only used him in a very limited way."

"Yes."

"What happens when his alter ego takes over?"

Norman shrugged. "I keep him close to hand. If he turns, then it's going to be a matter of bringing as much force to bear as I can. He represents a greater threat than anything else, really. Unless I can use his alter ego in some way, in which case it represents opportunity. But either way, it's difficult to imagine how I could come out ahead. So, Mary-Jane Watson. How exactly did you bring a Spider-girl into existence?"

MJ grinned. "Wouldn't you like to know. You want me to start responding to situations with your team?"

"You wish. No, I do not. They're a bunch of unstable freaks. I want you to start leading the Beta team."

"Beta team?"

"Alpha team is mine right now. I've got a secondary team that I've been working on, trying to put together. A slightly less insane team."

"Slightly less."

"Nobody who's not insane would follow the Green Goblin into battle for the forces of light and goodness. That you volunteered for the job does suggest a psych eval is in order."

"Of course. Who's on the team?"

"Semi-reformed villains masquerading as heroes is the order of the day, naturally."

"Right. Names?"

"Sorry, old habit. So, some of the old second-tier Avengers that we co-opted are either dead or in hiding, so we felt safe using their identities. I'll send bios and code-names to you. We'll start rolling you out to the public as soon as the next crisis comes up. And, more importantly, that'll give you some down-time to sift through the data I've accumulated on Harry."

"Data you've accumulated on Harry?"

"Yes. My memories of him seem a little… well. How shall we say. Off?"

"Ah."

"Do you know when the point of divergence was?"

"I don't. It was after you died… when he was the goblin. I know that much."

"Yes."

"Can I have him on my team?"

"He's not juicing up, and he refused the offer I made him which would have empowered him considerably."

Interesting. MJ wasn't the only one trying to keep Harry from being quite so vulnerable to death. "Right, then."

"And, Mary-Jane… do keep this under your hat, yes?"

"Of course."

"And your own secret plans?"

She smiled grimly. "I'll let you know."

"And the spiders?"

"The less they know, the better."

"Right."

They stood there in silence a minute, both of them smiling coldly. He turned to face her, and frowned when he saw how very close to his expression hers had come. "Was Spider-girl ever dead?"

"Not dead. In hell, but not dead." It was too complicated to really explain.

His eyebrows shot up. "Well, then."

MJ nodded. "So, what do we know about the other guy?"

"Smart, powerful, and plans within plans, wheels within wheels." Norman turned to stare out the window once more. "And he has spent so very much effort on this plan. So very much. He has sacrificed other plans for this. Why is this one plan so important? Why this one man? There are others more powerful. Why not Bob?"

"Because raw power isn't everything. Because Bob lacks imagination. Bob lacks creativity. And above all else, passion."

"Passion." He turned back, grinning. "There, the spider and I have something in common. All right, your first mission is going to be to go run down these children." He leaned over his desk, grabbing a folder. "They're unregistered metahumans, and as such, are our province."

"Children?"

"Extremely powerful children."

"Ah. Will my team be enough…?"

"Your team will certainly not be enough. You, however, are not really going after these children because of the threat they represent to law and order. You are going after these children because one of them wields a powerful staff that is rumored to be able to… well. Rumors."

"Rumors."

"Even the famed sorcerer supreme did not have the power to do… certain things. And, of course, he refused to work with me, choosing to side against me. An… interesting choice, all things considered."

MJ nodded. "Of course he chose that. What choice was he left?"

"In the end, none of us gets a choice. Not a real one. So, would you like to meet your new team?"