The bullet rippled through his side so quickly that he had no time to register anything more than the searing heat. The collapse to the concrete registered next and then the agony.
Numb. He was so numb. His fingers twitched and curled, as he lay sprawled and stunned and absolutely alone. Flickers of awareness came in slithers. The vapid stench of smoke. The sky swallowed by flames, the hell around him.
"Come on." The rasped whisper burbled up from his lips, harsh and hacked out from his wounded gut. It sounded like a plea. His fragmented thoughts kept tumbling together in a quagmire of confusion and pain. He cracked open his eyes to watch his fingers twitch like a dying spider. Spider...
"Come on, genetically altered spider that bit me-"
Another grunt as he forced his legs to curl beneath him. A groan as he unfolded himself from the instinctive urge to cradle his wounded stomache, and howl. A plea for mercy and a necessary pause when his quaking legs nearly crumbled beneath him. And a sickening realization when he finally gaped down at his side and saw the shredded flesh.
He hooked an elbow over a remnant of concrete and used it to haul himself slowly upright. Something in his side grew teeth and bit down. He couldn't stop the strangled yelp.
"You went and bit me and turned me into Spider-Man..." Accusing an arachnid of his sorry state was pathetic, but his loopy thoughts felt more and more like bubbles flying away from his lips.
Focus, he chided himself, desperately. Focus on something besides bleeding to death here alone. If blaming the spider helps, go with it.
"You comple- ow-ly ruined my life..." The words were broken from the sudden stab of agony. He choked, and fell to his knees.
Helplessly, he waited for the agony to fade to a more bearable ache. Finally..
He forced himself to rise again, and slowed his movement, wary of doing any more damage to his internal workings.
"You're the reason I'm sitting here with a bullet wound..."
Unwillingly, he pulled his soaked arm away, and stared dumbly at the scarlet dripping. This could not be good...
"Thank you very-ughh-much." He was still doubled over, as he warred between the perfectly understandable instinct to faint, and the far more sensible plan of getting the hell out of here.
Focus, he chanted to himself. Focus on something besides this gaping, bleeding wound, and this hurt. Focus on something else...
His thoughts meandered, from the bewildered shock, mercifully detached from anything now. His breathing was becoming erratic, and he could not stop the quaking.
"The least you could do is..." His breaths were shallow, now. Anything deeper more than exhaling made the fractured ribs, or whatever it was grind together and hurt.
He swallowed hard. He didn't know if he was still talking to the arachnid who caused so much trouble, or to the Almighty.
"The least you could do is give me the strength...to get my tuchas up and out of this and..." Even the slowed, gentle movement was too much. He couldn't stop the humiliating whimper that ended in a snarl.
"Get myself...to a hospital." Brutal logic and a plan of action instead of surrendering to simply dying on this concrete. He shook his head, as he stared down at the steady trickle of red that marred the sullied pavement.
"Oh, God." He never knew if it were a prayer, a plea, or both, as he looked skyward, and squinted from the haze. He hoisted himself up a few more precious inches, and had to stop once more.
"Did I mention how much this hurts?" The question was stupid. If God were truly up there, surely He would know that bullets hurt. Why the hell He didnt stop them could be speculated another time.
He lay his head on his elbow, and shut his eyes, just trying to breathe and stand. If he could do one, he might yet do the other, hopefully. Slowly, he lurched forward a step, staggering, but not falling. That was a slight improvement, he guessed.
"Because, if I haven't...it hurts very much." His sarcasm faded into nothing more than an exhausted whisper.
The city around him looked as if it had been cast down to hell from all the smoke and the heat. Hopelessly, he stared at the emptied streets, and saw nobody. Alone.
He was alone and dying.
Swallowing hard, he grit his teeth, allowing the anger to eclipse the terrible awareness of the whole situation.
"Okay...Let's assume that the other superheroes are very busy..." the same bastards he had risked his own for on more than one occasion, he recalled bitterly-
"Busy with an earth-shattering fight to the finish that is more important..."
He heaved another breath, and shut his eyes from the magnitude of his next words. "more important than a single, bleeding to death...teenager."
The last word dribbled from his lips, as he shuddered again. He did not know what was worse, the stunning betrayal, or the injustice of it all. He didn't deserve this ending. The anger flooded up, muting a bit of the pain.
Get angry! He snarled inwardly. Get downright pissed off, if it keeps you moving. Keep going. Keep going.
"Let's not assume that Captain America repaid my insane and amazing bravery by leaving me here..to die." The hopeless conclusion already sounded like a eulogy, as he helplessly clutched his side.
He swallowed hard, and stared down at the bloodied path before him, and the hopeless mile and a half to any help ahead. What a choice, he thought, dully. Give up and bleed to death or get to a hospital. There was no choice, but to give up and die here, or keep staggering forward.
Forward, he decided. He made the decision with his fragmenting mind. His body, on the other hand, was proving to be increasingly uncooperative in staying upright. Each step felt closer to falling down again. And he knew, with unflincing certainty, that if he toppled to the concrete again, he didn't have the strength to haul his broken carcass upright again.
Keep going. The thought had become a slurred mantra, now.
"Okay..." Another quaking breath. "Hospital." He tottered forward a few more steps, and then slowed to rest again. He could feel the bullet throbbing against his ribs, as he stared bleerily at the gaping abyss of sky and smoke behind him.
"But...this is it." He whispered in anguish. His hand strayed to his mask, came to rest at his heaving throat. It felt as familiar as flesh now, and he would feel its loss like a death.
"You...you know that, right?" He was babbling to himself, he knew that. But, he couldn't stop the sudden torture of another sickening possibility.
"You can't go to the hospital without unmasking." His hands clawed at the edge of the material that had served as prison and shield for so long now. He couldn't fathom death. He could not fathom life as anything less than being Spiderman. He turned his head to look back at the edge of the building, debating if he could logroll himself over to its edge, and simply plummet. Oblivion. Peace.
Death, and a thousand useless speculations from those who knew Spiderman. And an endless spiral of condemning his loved ones to wondering why he had committed suicide.
He thought of broken bones, splayed out, and jutting skyward, like pearled shards. Of his beloved Mary Jane, her face twisted into a scream. Aunt May, the old woman withered and scraped raw from losing her last family member. And, finally, the thought of facing his uncle Ben, and attempting to explain why he did something so cowardly.
He couldn't make them suffer like that. He owed them more than a bloodied expiration on this isolated street.
"Everybody will know who I am by morning." The thought pierced through the torpor like a needle. Unmasked was already feeling like becoming unfleshed, even as the material still shielded his face.
"Or...who I was." He shut his eyes with the burn of tears. Was, he shivered again. Who I was. They'll all find out anyway if the morning comes and I'm laying here dead.
"I can't be Spider-man and Peter Parker." How long had he warred with himself about taking off the mask, of putting down the costume, and simply living like the rest of humanity? How many times did he flinch with disgust at the thought of fleeing his responsibility like a rat? For so long, he had assumed he had the luxury of a choice. And now, it was either dying, or living a life he did know he could bear any more.
"It's a shame...because this is really working for me." The bitter chuckle fragmented into what sounded like a sob. Enough of this. Enough.
He raised his hand, curled the fingers, and palmed the mishmash of white webbing. Grimacing, he smeared it over his side, and watched as the white soon turned scarlet. He shoved another wad of webbing over the wound, and held it to his side.
He was pleased to see the bleeding slow to a more managable level with the makeshift bandage.
"That should keep my insides inside, at least until I get to the hospital."