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Despite being in the middle of the party, Carlie Cooper found herself lonely and ignored. Old friends burst out in boisterous laughter from the corner on her right, while on her left, Flash Thompson and Betty Bryant conversed with another party guest she didn't recognize. Peter had vanished abruptly, and she hadn't seen Harry for the past twenty minutes. The other party guests were talking and laughing, and Carlie found herself standing on the edge of a circle of people with whom she was only vaguely familiar.

One of the men was recounting a story which she hadn't paid much attention to, but from the chuckles of his listeners, it was fairly humorous. Carlie was no snob, but she found herself underwhelmed by the celebration and wondered if she could fabricate an excuse believable enough to allow an early departure. Though in her mind, she knew her angry words to Peter earlier that day -when she had expressed her frustration with him not defining the relationship between them- would appear hypocritical if she were to run away from a social event hosted by Peter's aunt for one of his friends.

So Carlie forced herself to tough it out. In an attempt to dissuade the feeling of isolation washing over her, Carlie sipped her beer and tried to focus on how she could integrate herself, or at least interest herself, in the conversation, but to no avail. She took a longer pull from her beer and shuddered slightly as the buzz of alcohol began to warm her body.

Gratified by this sensation, she tried to gulp down several more swallows, but found that only a few drop trickled onto her tongue. Rolling her eyes and sighing in annoyance, Carlie waded through the bunches of people toward the apartment's kitchen. She sighed with relief as she entered the brightly-lit area; there were no flashing strobe lights against a dim background or fog machines in here.

She leaned back against the kitchen counter and grabbed a decorative napkin from a haphazard stack, wiping the perspiration that had formed on the skin around her eyes after removing her glasses. The many bodies moving about caused the living room to become quite warm.

Barely aware of what she was doing, Carlie crossed over the sink and placed her beer can under the tap, allowing water to stream into the can. Without hesitating, she poured the water down her throat, grimacing at the metallic taste. However, weary from the weight of stress upon her shoulders, Carlie knew that she needed to stay hydrated if she was going to continue to consume alcohol.

She tired to relax against the counter and be refreshed by the water, but she was much too tense. Her limbs, encased by the tight, dark Lycra of her Black Cat costume, felt stiff and awkward, and her body was flushed and overheated. No matter how much she tried to concentrate on something else, her mind returned to her argument with Peter earlier that day.

This was so difficult! She wanted more with Peter, she truly did, but he never acted like he was interested in her. Everything would seem fine between them, and they would make plans together, but then he would show up hours late. He would apologize after every incident, though at this point, Carlie was beginning to doubt his sincerity.

She was tired of being stood up constantly and being treated like she was nothing more than a convenient date when Peter bothered to commit, but she loved him. And no matter how much she wanted to, she couldn't change that.

Frustrated with her inability to find any inner calm, Carlie stalked over to the refridgerator, yanked it open, and withdrew another can of beer. She had slammed the door shut with more force than necessary before she realized that she was no longer alone.

Peter parker stood there, gazing at her with his warm hazel eyes, a hint of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. He wore dress clothes for his costume as J. Jonah Jameson.

Carlie's skipped a beat when she noticed how handsome when looked when he made an effort to clean up. Normally, she only saw him dressed in casual styles, like jeans and sweatshirts.

Rather embarass herself by attempting to compliment him, Carlie decided to play it cool. "Hey, Pete, wanna beer?" Then she remember what he had told her awhile ago. "Oh, right," she said, determined not to get flustered. "You don't drink."

He said nothing, but continued to stare at her.

Carlie inwardly cringed. He was probably still angry about their heated exchange that had occurred in the morning. But Carlie refused to allow her discomfort to show. "Say, have you seen where Harry went?" She was curious about where he had gone off to, and why. "It's his party, and I haven't even gotten a chance to say, 'Boo'."

Peter continued to look at her without responding, and Carlie was done with the silent treatment.

"Peter, what is it?" Carlie asked. If he was still upset about what had happened, then it would be best for both of them to resolve the issue.

He hesitated, then drew in a deep breath. "Carlie . . . would you be my girlfriend?"

Carlie gasped in surprise. "Oh, Peter," she said softly. Doubts ran through her mind, warning her that Peter had failed her before, and she remembered her anger and frustration directed at him.

But before she could think about the turn of events, she and Peter were wrapped around each other, mouths open as they kissed. Carlie melted into Peter, shivering as his fingers trailed down the tight Lycra covering her warm back, and she as well allowed her hands to trace Peter's firm muscles.

But then, she broke away from Peter, and voiced the insecurities that had been plaguing her throughout the evening. "Peter, what about M.J.?"

Peter looked confused. "What about her?"

Carlie shook her head. "I spoke to her earlier."

"Yeah," Peter said. "She told me that."

"I've watched you two talked a couple of times," Carlie admitted. "And with the both of you talk to each other and talk about each other . . . you still have great chemistry as a couple. It's like you're still in love with each other."

Peter wrapped his arms around Carlie and smiled at her. "No, Carlie, we're not still in love with each other. M.J. and I . . . we have no future together, not a chance. Besides, I could never love her as deeply and absolutely as I love you." He looked at her seriously. "Carlie, it's obvious. We're soulmates, we're meant to be together."

"Peter," Carlie murmured. "I love you. Life would be pointless without you."

"I would kill myself if you weren't here for me," Peter whispered.

And with that, the two embraced again, kissing with the passion that only a man and a woman destined to be lovers could attain.


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