TITLE: Dangerous Liasons
GENRE: Spiderman: The Movie
PAIRING: Peter x MJ
WARNINGS: Angst, death, blood, sap.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I never watched Spiderman when the cartoon was on TV, nor have I ever read the comics. Essentially, I don't know the story line, except what I saw in the movie. Therefore, there are probably loads of inaccuracies in this story, which I am always interested to fix if they can be pointed out to me, so feel free. But my point here is this: I needed to see Peter get together with MJ, and NOW! Not next year when the sequel comes out. I understand that my story has nothing to do with what the sequel will entail, and that's OK. I also understand that, for a person who has never read the story, my continuation bears some resemblance to the actual story, but hey – I'm just going on how I think the natural progression of things would happen so, there you have it. In a year, this story will be all washed up anyway. So, in the meantime, enjoy it for what it is, send me corrections that you think I should make, and above all, let me know if this fic manages to tweak your heartstrings, which is my main purpose. Thanks!
He turned the page slowly, it's clean edge scraping against his clothing where the book was propped against him. These were the notes that explained it all. The preoccupation with his job, his great project, and his death. It was all here in black and white; black pen ink scrawled on stark, unlined white pages.
"It's a euphoric feeling, to be so strong, so permanent, but it scares me all the same, because of the loss in control that I feel. The transformation cannot be stopped, however, now that the accident has happened – I've already learned that. Nothing I do can stop 'him' from overtaking me, and once he does, I am at his mercy, only a mere physical form with which he does his bidding. I fear that as time passes I am becoming more him and less me every day, so I don't know what the future holds.
The murders of the board members were satisfying, to say the least, which is equally disturbing. They took my company from me. My life's work…all those years. Gone. I would never have gone to these lengths on my own, but you see, now I am more than just me, I am unstoppable. The sickening pleasure that coursed through me on that day, after righting how I was wronged, left me practically giddy, but I realize too that is part of the effect from the changes that have overtaken me. I don't know what the final agenda of this monster is, or if his agenda is simply to realize mine – all the thoughts that I've ever had and never had the guts to act on. All those things that we are taught 'you don't do,' because they are wrong. Perhaps he is nothing but the strengthening of my dark side, but I can't say for sure. In the meantime, though, it's an incredible feeling to be invincible. I could get used to this feeling.
But there is one nemesis that I must deal with before I can complete my task and gain my final revenge against my foes. I need to rid myself of that parasite, that boy who continues to interfere. Spiderman, as he calls himself. The only one who is potentially strong enough to keep me from my agenda, and I will strike him where I know he will feel it the most. He's too concerned with the well being of others, willing to risk everything for a citizen in peril. I've seen how he looks at the girl, that redhead. I know who he is now, and I've seen him. How he feels for her. I know she is the key to bringing him down. He can't resist helping her, only the next time, it will be his demise."
That was the last entry.
Harry closed the ledger, placing the book down on the coffee table before him. He didn't know what to think. These were his father's notes. They explained a lot of things, things that he had no idea about, including the nature of the experiment that kept Norman from being a real father for so long. They explained about the accident, and over the last few weeks of recorded entries, the transformations that began to take place in Norman's body and his mind as the evil entity in him took its hold. What he read was the story of an obsessed man who was brought down by his own doing – and the doing of that supposed do-gooder, that had everyone so mystified, but good deed or not, Norman was dead, and he was the reason. He was the one who killed Harry's father. Spiderman.
Enough time had wasted. The moment had come to avenge his father's death and free the city of the devious would-be hero. It was time to let everyone see the real Spiderman.
The phone rang three times before the line was picked up.
He grinned at the sound of her voice.
"Is everything alright? I haven't heard from you in weeks, and you haven't answered my calls. I've been worried."
"I've been...dealing with a lot of things that were left after the funeral. Been going through paperwork and meeting with stockholders and lawyers and stuff."
"I found my father's journals. His account of his experiments."
"Oh really?" She said, her voice laced with false interest.
"It was enlightening, to say the least. I realize a lot of things about him now that I never did before." Harry paused. "I'm kind of embarrassed to say it, but I think I understand the man now, after reading about what he was doing."
"What was he doing?" Her question was genuine; it was one that had already occurred to her. Just what was Norman Osborn doing that wound up causing his death. When they'd found him, he'd been the one dressed in the green get-up. He look suspicious, to say the least; like the Green Goblin, who had been wreaking havoc on the city for weeks before. He was the one who had used her to try to kill Spiderman. He was the one who had caused all the bad publicity for the man who had done nothing but sacrifice himself to help others. If Norman was indeed the Green Goblin, the one question that remained was why?
"I-I'm not really sure. Some genetics experimentation, something about creating a stronger human being, but it backfired."
"I don't really understand that either, but apparently that's what turned him into that...that thing. Sometimes he was himself and sometimes he was that thing."
She paused. "So if you understand all this, then how can you still blame his death on Spiderman?"
"Because he was my father, MJ. He was all I had, even if we didn't get along that well. Even if he was that thing part of the time; Spiderman is the one who killed him."
"Harry, that thing tried to kill me! Twice! Spiderman was protecting me from him, don't you know that?"
Harry sighed. "No, MJ, I don't, not for certain anyway. I know he used you as bait, but he did that because he knew he could try to get at Spiderman that way. It's in his journal. He needed to do that, in order to get his attention."
"Oh, so that made it OK for him to nearly kill me by dropping me off a bridge?" MJ's tone was getting angry now. She couldn't believe Harry would honestly subscribe to the fact that his father, even if he was the Green Goblin, was up to anything but evil by the way he'd been acting."
"Look," he said. "I didn't call to argue with you."
"Then why did you call?"
There was an uncomfortable pause before he spoke again. "I wanted to know if you could come by. I'm pretty shaken up over all of this tonight, and I don't feel like being alone. Nothing other than friends, of course. I know we agreed to end the relationship but...I just didn't want to be alone."
His plea softened her stance. "Alright Harry. I'll come," she said, " I understand how depressing it all must be for you, so I'll come keep you company for a while, but I wish you'd reconsider this idea you have that Spiderman was the one who killed your father. I mean, yeah, he did technically but...it was Norman who caused it all, can't you see? If Norman hadn't done what he did..."
"I'll see you in an hour? Maybe we can get something to eat."
MJ sighed. "Fine. I'll be there soon."
He hung up the phone.
Putting on a jacket and flipping her purse strap over her shoulder, MJ trotted down the steps from her third floor apartment and down to the building's small lobby. She stopped in the foyer to check that she had her keys and enough change for the bus, then burst out of the front doors and onto the street. As she hurried to make her way toward the bus stop a block and a half away, she was again concerned with the contents of her purse when she ran into someone and was nearly knocked over. Gentle hands grabbed her to keep her from falling.
"Oh...oh dear, I'm so sor.." MJ looked up and her eyes filled with surprise. Her heart leapt in her chest.
It was Peter.
"Peter!" The girl's eyes grew wide with happiness as warm smile graced her lips. "What...oh, let me guess. You were in the neighborhood?"
Peter's face reddened as he tried to hide a bashful smile.
"Nooo...I was actually coming to see you."
"Oh no, really? I was just on my way to see Harry. He's a little depressed tonight and asked if I would stop by to keep him company. Why don't you come with me?"
Peter contemplated for a moment, the smile leaving his face. His blue eyes portrayed his disappointment.
"O-Okay. We can talk on the way then."
MJ smiled again and took Peter's hand; a jolt of warmth raced through him. They started walking toward the stop for the outer-bound city bus, which stopped a few blocks away from Norman's expansive estate on the outskirts of the University district. Harry was staying there these days, having moved out of his and Peter's shared apartment so that he could get the remains of his father's dealings tied up. He kept making the payments on the apartment though, since Peter was still there, and since his original intent was to return there, but now Harry wasn't so sure what he was going to do. Regardless, the rent got paid, as it would until the end of the lease, and Peter was able to stay for the time being, while he tried to get a more permanent gig as a photographer.
They reached the corner where the bus would be stopping, the curb colored with bright yellow safety paint, and for a few minutes neither spoke. Peter turned to look into MJ's eyes and she smiled at him, but it was a sad smile, and he knew why. For so many years all he'd wanted was to have her, and to be hers in return, and now that the chance was upon him, he couldn't. As happy as he'd been that afternoon in the cemetery, hearing from her own lips how she felt about him, feeling the passion and electricity in her kiss, he forced himself to hold back, if only for her own protection. Peter knew she couldn't understand why, and that made the pain all that much worse, but he wasn't willing to sacrifice her life. He wasn't willing to put her in any more peril because of the powers that had somehow been granted to him. Causing harm to MJ would be worse than any pain he could ever face otherwise, so for her own protection, and for his love for her, he couldn't tell her.
Smiling, MJ gazed back at Peter, noticing his deep thought. "What are you thinking about?"
She caught him off guard and he blushed again. She was so good at making him blush.
At that very moment, the bus pulled up and screeched to a stop, it's doors opening with a loud thud. A well-timed distraction. Peter grinned and held his arm out so that MJ could board first. Then he sighed with relief.
They rode the bus in silence, holding hands, feeling what they each wanted to say but neither saying it, until Peter let his eyes drop.
"What is it?" MJ asked.
He looked up again and into her deep green eyes.
"I just can't help thinking that I've failed you, MJ. But I can't explain it all. If you knew...if only I could explain...you'd understand then."
Her face turned serious. "Peter, I can't pretend I know what you're saying because I don't, but you have never failed me. Never. You've always been there for me when I needed a friend, and that's the best thing that anyone has ever done for me. You were there even before I realized you were." A little smile flickered on her face.
"I wish I could be more."
For the rest of the ride they sat in quiet, leaning and swaying as the bus made its way out of the city boundaries and toward the wealthy residential district. When they came to their stop and got off, MJ once more grabbed Peter's hand and tried to head off toward Harry's, but Peter stopped her.
"I thought you were coming with me?" She looked at him with question.
Peter let his eyes fall. "No. I-I think I'll just go back. You go ahead."
"I just wanted to make sure you made it here safely. You go keep Harry company, and I'll see you tomorrow or something, OK?"
Peter couldn't stand to be around MJ and Harry together; in part it was because of Harry's previous deceit, but more so now because he knew that he couldn't be with the beautiful redhead. It was punishing to him to be with her knowing that Harry still wanted to get close to her as well. If she decided to go back to him, Peter wouldn't think badly of her, since he was the one preventing them from being together, but it still hurt all the same. Maybe even more this time around, since his head was now full of "could have been's."
MJ looked disappointed. "Peter?"
He looked up, his innocent eyes meeting hers, and he had to fight off the urge to just wrap himself around her and kiss her all over.
"I love you, Peter Parker. Remember that."
She smiled a weak smile, holding back her own hurt behind deep velvet eyes, then turned to walk the three blocks to the mansion. For a long time Peter stood right where he was, watching her go, the sway of her long hair as she walked mesmerizing him, and he was thankful that she didn't turn back once, because she would have seen him crying. When she was too far away to see, Peter turned and walked the other way.
When MJ arrived, Harry was waiting for her. He opened the front door as she climbed the grand stairs in front of the massive home. Then nodding as she passed, he held the door for her, closing it after she had entered.
"Thanks for coming," Harry said as he lead the girl through the expansive foyer and to the sitting room. He didn't look at her.
"That's OK, Harry. You sounded upset. I don't mind," MJ said as the two sat across from each other in deep leather chairs, a burl coffee table between them. She didn't take off her jacket, assuming that Harry wanted to go out for food. "I ran into Peter on the way here – I asked him to come, but he wouldn't."
"Oh?" Harry gave MJ a suspicious look. A third wheel would not fit into his plan tonight.
"Don't worry. I'll talk to him tomorrow and find out what's bothering him." MJ wasn't about to delve into the revelation that she'd made to Peter, and what the outcome had been. Not only was it none of Harry's business, she didn't want to make him feel bad since their relationship hadn't gone anywhere, due in part to her then-growing feelings for Peter.
"So...you said something about wanting to get a bite to eat?" MJ checked her watch. "It's almost eight. Where do you want to go?"
Harry switched his attention from the troubled thoughts running through his head and said, "Oh, right, wherever you want to go. What are you in the mood for?"
"How about Friday's Diner, over by the University? It's close, and their food is pretty good for cheap eats." As if she needed to be concerned with the price of a dinner with Harry having inherited the remainder of his father's fortune, but MJ was frugal to a fault. Saving a buck whenever possible was habit for her since she was working double shifts to afford her rent and still save for the acting classes that she wanted to take.
They got up again and retreated to the back of the household. At the doorway to the garage, Harry keyed the alarm system to secure the place, then lead MJ out to his car in the large multi-car garage. The automatic garage door lifted, allowing them to drive under, then lowered again a few moments after they had driven away.
They rode in silence to the diner, Harry seeming to be agitated the entire time. After they had been seated in a booth and ordered their food, MJ questioned him. She was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable around him, since he hadn't said much since her arrival, and there was a definite aura of negativity around him. She understood that he must be going through a terrible time, but there was something not right about Harry on this night.
"What's wrong, Harry?" MJ asked the question as she perused a pamphlet on the table advertising the "Worlds Best Waffle Cones," with a campy picture of a bunch of kids consuming monstrous ice-cream concoctions held in one of the aforementioned cones. The waitress showed up with their drinks.
Harry hesitated. "Just...thinking. There's lots I have to think about now, MJ."
She replaced the pamphlet to its holder, then doctored her coffee before taking a sip. "Such as?"
Just as she said that, another diner patron walked past on his way out of the establishment, and in his hand facing them he carried a folded newspaper. The headline, or at least the part that Harry could make out, read something along the lines of "Half-man, half-spider saves children on wayward school bus." After noticing the headline, Harry's expression changed. He became more agitated.
"THAT'S what's wrong...HIM!" He pointed to the paper in the man's hand. The man stood at the cash register, paying his bill, not noticing the attention being paid to his daily edition.
MJ sighed. "Harry, stop it."
"He killed my father, MJ. Since when do criminals get to go free? Since when do murderers get to walk the streets pretending to be heroes?"
"If he killed your father, it was because he had no choice." MJ's voice was sympathetic, but at the same time she was getting very annoyed.
Harry wasn't there. He had no idea what went on that night as she was being dangled by her neck over the side of the bridge, her heart, stomach, and everything else in her trying to leap out of her body from fear before she was dropped over the side. Harry didn't know Spiderman the way she did. Harry didn't see him fight so valiantly to save her and then the cable car full of children. Harry hadn't been there, so how was she supposed to explain it to him, when half the city already questioned the motives of the mysterious wall-crawler? Then again, technically she hadn't been there either, when Spiderman fought Norman that night, and when Norman was killed. She was still over by the bridge when all that was happening, but even though she had no proof that Norman's death had been his own doing, MJ knew, in her heart of hearts, that to be true.
"Mary Jane! He killed my father!" Harry said.
"Yes, he did! And what if he hadn't, and Norman went on to kill other innocent people like he tried to kill those children that night? What if he was successful in killing ME? Then who would be the bad guy here, Harry? If what you told me on the phone is even half-true, I think your father was his own undoing. You can try to blame it on someone else, but I suppose now, there is only one person knows the real truth."
"MJ," Harry pleaded. "Can't you understand this? Can't you understand my need to avenge my father's death?"
"You're looking for revenge, and revenge is stupid, Harry!" MJ whispered as the waitress arrived with their food. She looked up, thanking the girl as she left, then turned back to Harry to continue her thought. "All revenge is going to do is get someone else hurt or killed!" She nibbled on a French fry.
"Look, I don't expect you to understand, because it wasn't your father that was murdered but..."
"Harry, please. You weren't there. You haven't met him. He wouldn't do that. This whole city is torn over this guy, whoever the hell he is, but anyone who's ever met him face to...uh, mask, would understand that he would never do that unless he was forced to. Unless his own life or someone else's were at stake. Why is it so damn hard these days for people to believe in someone who does good deeds out of his own heart?"
Harry acted like he didn't hear what MJ said as he took a bite of his cheeseburger, following it with a long draw on the straw in his glass of Coke. MJ looked away, annoyed, then turned back, resigning herself to silence as she began on her own food. For many minutes neither of them spoke and they just ate, an uncomfortable still surrounding them as they sat in the well-lit diner.
After a while MJ said, "Look Harry, I'm really sorry about all of this, and I really feel for you, but...you have to get over this obsessive thing about getting revenge on Spiderman."
He thought for a few moments. "Tell you what. You want me to 'forgive' him, since you're so convinced he didn't actually murder Norman? Then help me."
"Help me find him, so I can talk to him. I want to ask him myself. If his story is convincing enough, I'll feel better, and I'll stop complaining. Is that fair?" There was a new gleam in Harry's eye now.
MJ shook her head. "I don't know how to get a hold of him. He just kind of...appears. Always at the right time, but that's all I know."
"I know how to find him," Harry said with that strange look still resident in his eye. It unnerved MJ.
Shortly after finishing their meal, they got up and went to the cash register where Harry paid the bill, signing a few extra dollars on the credit slip for the waitress's tip. As they got into the car to go back to the mansion, an odd feeling came over MJ, a feeling that made her very uncomfortable.
"You know...I'm really not feeling that well after that burger. Too much grease, I guess. I know you needed company and...I hate to leave you but...would you mind just driving me home? I think I need to lie down."
Harry didn't answer her, instead just concentrating on the road. After a couple of minutes MJ noticed that he wasn't headed back toward her apartment.
Still no answer. Harry switched on the radio.
"Harry, could you please take me home?"
MJ's face went blank. "What do you mean, no?"
"You heard me."
She didn't like the direction the conversation was headed. "Harry, please..."
"I need you to help me, MJ, and I can't take you home until you do."
It was then that she realized just what her supposed friend was about to do. He was going to repeat what his father had done; he was going to use her as a lure to attract his attention.
"It isn't going to work, Harry. The two of us driving around like this, even if you are keeping me from going home."
"Oh, it'll work." Harry's voice was cold this time, cold enough to send a shiver through MJ. Now she was beginning to get concerned.
"OK, look, Harry? Enough of the games. I want you to turn this car around and take me home. This is ridiculous."
Harry chuckled under his breath, his eyes not leaving the road. Getting no response from him, MJ grabbed the steering wheel and pulled, jerking the sports car all over the road in an attempt to get his attention. Other vehicles swerved out of their path, their horns blaring as the little car missed hitting some of them by mere inches.
"What the FUCK are you doing, MJ!" Harry pushed the girl back into her seat with a hard shove and took control of the wheel again.
"Let me out, Harry! Stop this goddamn car and let me OUT!"
Harry grabbed MJ by a fist full of her long, red hair close to the scalp and shook it in anger as she yelled out in pain. "You are going to help me tonight, MJ, whether you like it or NOT!"
She pushed his hand away, and he answered with a light backhand across the left cheek, stunning her. She'd never, in all their years as school buddies, seen this kind of attitude in him, and it frightened her. Now stilled by Harry's unnatural aggression, MJ sat quiet, tears beginning to roll down her cheeks from reddened eyes. Her thoughts wandered to Peter, wishing he were there with her, wishing he would give her that warm and comforting feeling that he always did.
Harry drove them back to the mansion and into the garage before he stopped the car and let MJ out. Her face was streaked with the marks of old tears and she pulled herself out of the bucket seat with caution, only to be grabbed by the arm as Harry rushed her back into the house. With a hold on her tight enough to make her complain, he lead her through the ground level of the home and back to the sitting room where he threw her back against the leather seating. In his anger, the strength Harry felt was exceptional; there was already a bruised mark appearing on MJ's arm where he grasped her.
"Stay there," Harry commanded the girl, his face twisted and angry.
"Harry, what are you doing?"
"You'll see, MJ." Harry's grin was sinister this time, and his eyes gleamed, sending a shiver down the girl's spine before he disappeared into the next room.
After sitting a few minutes, afraid to move for fear of Harry flipping out worse than he already had, MJ got up and walked around the room, keeping silent as she did. Browsing the volumes of scientific manuals that were housed on a huge bookshelf along one wall, she came across Norman's scientific notes, the journal that Harry had mentioned to her on the phone, as it was sitting out flat on the front of one of the shelves. After checking to see if Harry was coming back yet, she slid the book off the shelf and opened the cover, skimming the first page. Then page by page she leafed through the notes, skipping big bunches of pages until she reached the more recent entries.
Most of what she read she didn't understand, but then MJ found some information that made her head spin.
"It's been three days since the mishap in the laboratory, and the effects on me are amazing, if I do say so myself. My strength is that of twenty men, and my body has never been so fit. But most interesting is the change in temperament – it seems as though whenever something angers me even in the slightest, this other being that I have become takes over, and pushes me into a mode where nothing can stand in my way. It's as if I have had a switch implanted inside me, and if the pressure builds too high, the switch is tripped, letting the beast loose. When that happens, I have found, I am not in control of my own actions, as it has assumed all control. As I am coming to understand the effects of this experiment, I fear that I am the one who killed my associate, the night he helped me perform the experiment."
Eyes wide, MJ continued to flip further forward, reading as fast as she could before she was discovered doing it.
"My strength is unbelievable. Nothing can withstand it. This is a scientific miracle, although there is still the problem of being without control of myself whenever he appears. As of recent I have found out about a movement to remove me from my position in the corporation, in part due to the accident itself, even though none of them know the true effects of what really happened in the lab that night. If they do have success in ousting me, I expect that my anger will transpose itself in a very ugly way, but they will all deserve it. After all, it was 'I' who stared this company in the first place. Where would they all be without me? No, they can't just get rid of me that easily."
MJ recalled the attack on the Oscorp. Board members the day of the parade – the day that she almost plummeted from the viewing balcony and to the street. The day that the evil Green Goblin fought with Spiderman, who caught her in her fall to the pavement below in the nick of time. It was since that day, too, the first incident with the Green Goblin, that the public began to relate Spiderman to those wrongdoings and not as the hero that he really was.
The next paragraph made her blood boil.
"But there is one nemesis that I must deal with before I can complete my task and gain my final revenge against my foes. I need to rid myself of that parasite, that boy who continues to interfere. Spiderman, as he calls himself. The only one who is potentially strong enough to keep me from my agenda, and I will strike him where I know he will feel it the most. He's too concerned with the well being of others, willing to risk everything for a citizen in peril. I've seen how he looks at the girl, that redhead. I know who he is now, and I've seen him. How he feels for her. I know she is the key to bringing him down. He can't resist helping her, only the next time, it will be his demise."
She barely had time to finish the passage before she could hear Harry coming her way. The book was quickly replaced to its spot on the shelf and MJ hurried back to her seat. Then before she knew it, all hell broke loose as Harry burst into the room, clad in his father's suit of destruction.
"Harry? Are you CRAZY!" MJ screamed as she jumped to her feet again.
"This is the only way I can defeat him, MJ. You know it as well as I do." His voice was different, deeper, and raspier. "I duplicated my father's experiment days ago using his notes so that I could be like him, and make everything right."
"Make it right? I thought all you wanted to do was talk to Spiderman!"
Harry laughed. "Yes, I'll talk to him. Then I'll rip him limb from limb!" The eerie green mask covered all of his features, making it impossible to see his true expression. Then he stretched his long arms out, contorting his upper body as he did, flaunting his newer, stronger form. "And let me tell you...the old man wasn't kidding when he said this was an intoxicating feeling, being this powerful."
MJ leapt away from Harry and started to run for the door, but he was too quick, and grabbed her around the waist. She screamed.
"Let me go, you bastard!"
"Now MJ," Harry said, taunting her. "I can't do that, and you know it. I need your help. I need you to bring that crawling creep back to me, so I can give him what he's owed!"
Then before she could struggle anymore, Harry lifted the girl up and carried her through the house and back to the garage. There he remotely qued the glider; the very same glider that his father's body had been found impaled upon, and stood upon it as it floated a few inches from the ground. With a tight hold on his hostage, Harry balanced on the glider and they were off through the opened garage door and into the night sky.
Peter was still wandering the lamp-lit streets on what had turned out to be a fairly quiet night in the city when his extra-sensory ability began to tingle within him, telling him that something was amiss somewhere. He became nervous as he looked around him for any signs of trouble, and his thoughts immediately filled with visions of MJ, when he had parted ways with her earlier that evening. Even though the empty feeling within him was likely nothing more than his broken heart, Peter was bothered by something almost spiritual, so he decided to give a call to Harry's and check in with his two friends.
Finding the nearest payphone, Peter shoved his hand in his jeans pocket and fished out a couple of coins, which he deposited into the phone. Then dialing the number, he waited and listened to the phone ring again and again without answer. When the answering machine – still Norman's voice after the months since his death – did pick up, he was disappointed but Peter hung up the receiver rather than leave a message. He didn't want them to know it was him calling in case he was interrupting something, something that he preferred not to think about. Peter's heart sank as he thought of the girl who had offered her love to him and he sighed.
Stepping out of the phone booth, Peter started walking in no particular direction, trying to get a feel for what was alerting him. He picked up his pace as he walked, making good distance, and followed his senses as they lead him away from the center of the city and toward the warehouse district where the docks and the shipping companies were. Not a good place to be lingering in the middle of the night by a long stretch, but something kept drawing him there, so Peter felt it was his duty to follow that urge and check it out.
Before long he was jogging, having run close to a dozen blocks, and there was sweat forming on his face and body. It had gotten to the point where it was a rare occurrence that he made his evening walks in the city without having his red and blue suit underneath his street clothes, and with the extra layer it created, he was damp in no time.
When Peter rounded the next corner, he was shocked at what he saw. There, in the sky above, was the very same nemesis that he had destroyed months ago, or so he thought. The Green Goblin was cruising along on his remote glider, and he looked like he was searching for something.
"Shit," Peter said under his breath as he watched for a few minutes, concealed by the shadows of the buildings around him.
He didn't understand it – Norman had been killed in their last altercation. How could he be back and flying around? Though he couldn't comprehend how or why the Green Goblin was out and about again, Peter was sure that he was looking for trouble, flying over the city on his glider like that. So much for a quiet night, he thought. It was time to get to work.
"You haven't given up, I see."
Harry turned to find none other than Spiderman staring down at him as he suspended himself from a beam on the outside the big warehouse on the 7th street pier. It was a fish packing plant, and the stench in the air was enough to choke an elephant.
Harry laughed. "I see it didn't take you long to find us." He hovered the glider close.
"Oh yes! It wouldn't be a party without friends now, would it? Your little girlfriend is right behind us, waiting for you to save her again." The sinister laugh rang out once more.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Peter turned to find MJ, gagged and bound, tied with thick ropes to a boat piling a few yards out from the end of the pier, her bare feet dangling in the salty water. She was sniffling, trying to hold herself together, but between the cold water that lapped at her bare legs wetting the edge of her skirt, and her nerves, she couldn't keep herself from trembling. Her eyes were glued on Peter's masked face, and she seemed to be pleading – both for him to help her, and for his forgiveness for getting him involved in another altercation.
Peter looked back to his enemy, a fury growing inside him. "What do you want? Why can't you leave her out of this?"
"Because, Spiderman," he accentuated the name. "I know I will have your full attention while she is in danger, and the tide is rising fast tonight – full moon, you know – so you're already wasting time. Within the next two hours or so, your little lovely will be 'swimming with the fishies,' as they say. But if you take one step toward her until we've had a chance to "talk," I will end her immediately."
Peter swallowed the hard lump that was forming in his throat as he glanced back to MJ, then concentrated his attentions on what he was being told.
"I brought you here to deliver my justice to you."
"You heard me. You are such a fake, swinging all over the city helping people, making them think you're so good. But I know better. I know the truth." Harry stood tall before his captive audience.
"But I am good. I help people because it's the right thing to do! The city paper – they have it all wrong."
"I help people because it's the right thing to do!" Harry mocked Peter, his face contorted under the concealing mask. "You killed my father!"
Peter stopped, startled by the unexpected statement. "Harry?"
Harry laughed. "Of course Harry. You killed Norman, remember?"
"You killed Norman, and now I'm going to kill you, Spiderman."
"Norman killed himself."
"I seriously doubt that."
Peter was getting very nervous now, and began scouting out places to launch to – either himself, or a web that would present an escape for him. Harry's building anger could be felt in the air, and Peter expected all hell to break loose any minute.
"He tried to trick me. He tried to trick me into thinking he was glad I was fighting him, fighting that thing that had taken over him. He said that killing him would be the right thing to do, since he was out of control. Then he launched the glider at me with its blades out, only I was fast enough to get out of the way. It hit him instead, just the way he was found, with the blades through him."
Harry's breathing became heavy as his anger was beginning to overtake him, and Peter anticipated a move any second. He glanced over to MJ; the surf was flowing freely around her calves by this point. Peter knew that whatever was going to happen, it had to start soon, or he would be too late to get MJ off the piling and keep her from drowning.
Standing brave before his opponent, Peter said, "If you think you can kill me, then go ahead and try," knowing the reaction he would get.
"Oh...I am SO going to kill you," Harry said with arrogance, and in an instant, the battle was on!
Throwing himself at his enemy, Harry pushed Peter with a mighty shove, sending him barreling into a stack of empty oil drums at the side of the pier. The entire stack came down on top of him, but Peter was quick to get to his feet again with little more than a scratch. Returning fire, Peter then rushed his green-suited foe and they both skid across the pier and into the side of the warehouse, leaving a big crushed spot in its corrugated metal wall. Harry leapt out of Peter's grasp, turning on him from behind, throwing oil drums at him, pelting him like rounds being fired from a bazooka. Peter crawled away further down the pier until he could get out from within Harry's firing range and prepare for his own attack.
Eventually both men began to tire as they pushed and bashed each other around, wreaking havoc on the pier and to the warehouse buildings around them. They imprinted themselves into the metal walls along the buildings, shattering windows and sending oil drums and other items flying in every direction. Then Harry stole away for a moment to return to his glider while Peter collected himself again after being hit in the chest with a swinging hook suspended from the boom of a crane that sat near the loading dock.
Turning around to see where the Goblin had gone, Peter was met by the same razor-sharp throwing knives that Norman had assaulted him with, and he missed being sliced by them by only millimeters as they whizzed past. Then Peter felt a burning sensation on his right thigh as one of the knives expertly parted his skin right through his clothing as he was distracted by MJ, who had managed to force the gag out of her mouth. She screamed out as one of the knives swept past her as well before it boomeranged back to its owner's hand, only to be thrown again, filling the air with blades flipping and flying in every direction.
Peter turned to see that the tide had risen enough to bring the waves up to MJ's thighs now. Time was passing a lot quicker than he estimated and he became more uncomfortable with the situation.
Her shriek brought his attention back to his attacker as more knives catapulted his way. Peter was cut once more, this time on the forearm. Blood seeped from the laceration and was soaked up by his suit, but he felt nothing, the soreness masked by the adrenaline coursing through his body. Dodging a few more knives, Peter flipped himself out of the way numerous times by catching a web on nearby beams and roof edges that could hold him, angering the Goblin even more due to his agility and quickness.
Then gritting his teeth beneath his concealing mask, Peter mustered all of his super strength and rushed Harry, knocking him down, stunning him. He took advantage of the situation and hit him full force in the gut a few times, causing Harry to gag in reflex, winded. When he hesitated to get up, Peter snapped a web to him and was quick to wrap him up in a makeshift rope. It wouldn't hold him for very long, but all he needed was a couple of minutes of distraction so that he could get MJ out of danger's way. When Harry was bundled up like a fly caught in a web, struggling to free himself, Peter grinned.
"I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere," he said as he ran to the end of the pier.
The tide was indeed rising as the waves now lapped up onto MJ, splashing her upper body and face as they crashed back from hitting the pier itself. The water was at her waist now, and her clothes were saturated. Peter checked back behind him to see that Harry was beginning to struggle himself loose; he leapt out to the piling, landing with balanced form on it's small top surface, his feet just above MJ's head.
"Oh thank God!" MJ's voice trembled as she craned her neck to look up at her savior. Her lips were gray and her skin pale from the low water temperature.
"Hang on, MJ."
Peter got to work right away, trying to untie the ropes that held the girl, but it was not happening fast enough; his heart pounded in his chest as he struggled. Pulling on the ropes to try to snap them would hurt MJ, but the knots wouldn't budge as they had swollen with seawater, tightening themselves even more. Looking up, Peter could see that Harry was now on his feet and shedding the remainder of the sticky web that he'd been confined by. He was running out of time.
"SHIT!" Peter panicked.
Another wave rolled in and splashed the two, soaking them and covering MJ head to toe this time. She coughed and sputtered as salty water ran off her head and down her face.
"Oh! Oh God...get me off this thing!"
Peter fumbled more with the ropes, his heart about to burst from how hard it was pumping. He looked around for something that could help him get through the ropes, since spiders tended not to be equipped with built-in scissors or razors, when he saw it – one of Harry's knives. It was embedded in a piling at the end of the pier, halfway between himself and Harry, who was now free and headed toward them.
"MJ, I have to get that knife. I'll be right back." He glanced at the girl, his heart screaming for her, then leapt away and to the pier before she could react.
"Hurry! Please hurry!" She cried, fear consuming her, and as she did she was cut off by another thrashing wave that enveloped her. She knew he would never let her die, but that didn't keep her from being very afraid right now, both for herself and for Spiderman.
In a flash, Peter had jumped from the piling to one at the end of the pier, and just as he did Harry met him head on.
"You'll have to do better than that to keep me down, Spiderman!" Harry grabbed him and pulled him off the piling and back onto the pier, delivering a vicious punch to the gut as he did, sending Peter sprawling.
Standing slowly and shaking off the hit, Peter was quick to skirt around the Goblin as he approached again, his sole purpose now to get the blade that was embedded in the last piling so he could cut MJ free. Harry grabbed out as Peter sped by him but was unable to reach as his nimble body swerved away, rushing back to the end of the pier. Then checking over his shoulder once more, Peter leapt back to the last piling, yanking the blade out of the water-soaked wood as he landed atop it. Before Harry could grab Peter yet again, he was bounding off, back to the other piling where MJ was now crying in fear, submerged up to her chest and choking on the water that repeatedly covered her face.
"Hang on, MJ, I'm back," Peter tried to be reassuring, and his voice soothed her as her fright calmed some. Drenched in seawater, her dark red hair was disturbing, looking more like blood in the darkness, blood pouring from her head and down the sides of her face and neck.
Peter sliced at the ropes with the blade until they gave way, reaching around to grab the girl just as her limp body fell away from the piling. She reached out and clawed at him with every ounce of energy she had, to wrap her arms around his neck and hold on as he scooped her out of the water. Then holding her dripping, shivering form, Peter balanced on the top of the piling, making sure that MJ was OK.
"When I get you over to the other side, I want you to run, do you hear me? Run as fast as you can and get away from here."
Shivering, MJ nodded her head, staring deep into the masked face, her eyes searching, but finding nothing. "Wh-what about you?"
"Don't worry about me. You run. Promise me."
MJ nodded again, knowing that was what she had to do even if her heart wanted to stay right where she was, right there, cold and wet, in Spiderman's arms. Then she once again felt her love for Peter and nodded again, more sure of herself this time. She had to get away, so she could see Peter again.
In the minute it took for Peter to cut MJ down from the piling, Harry had reappeared, this time on the glider as he hovered over to where Peter held the girl, trying to get her back to the pier.
"Here, let me help!" Harry reached down and grabbed MJ's arm and she screamed. Having no other choice to keep her away from the Goblin, Peter dropped the girl into the dark, murky bay waters, then leapt at the him.
"Swim, MJ! Swim for it! The ladder!" He yelled to her, directing her to find the ladder at the end of the pier, where rungs of worn two-by-fours lead down to the water.
Surfacing after her dunk back into the frigid bay, MJ tread water for a few seconds and watched as the two men fought, this time from the top of the very piling that she had been tethered too, until Peter turned and practically yelled at her to leave.
She turned away from the scene before her, slowly paddling toward the pier, only a few feet away now. Her body was stiff from the cold water and her limbs didn't obey, but somehow she managed to find the set of wooden rungs on the side of the pier. They were slippery with slime and caught seaweed, making her climb to the pier treacherous, but she managed to pull herself to the top and out of the water as Spiderman kept the Goblin occupied. 'Run as fast as you can and get away from here.' She stood at the end of the pier watching the fight that continued, water draining off her soaked body, chilling her even more as it did. Her heart wouldn't let her feet turn from it, even though she knew she should listen to what she was told and flee. Then he turned toward her, and as he did, he received a harsh blow from Harry; MJ realized that as long as she was there, she was a distraction. Blinking away tears, she resigned herself and turned, first walking down the pier, then running, until she was out of sight.
Seeing that the girl had at last gone, Peter seized the moment and shot a web to a roof beam on the fish plant, then pulled himself out of the Goblin's grasp, swinging away and landing back on the pier. He looked around for her, but she seemed to have disappeared, and none too soon as Harry sped over to him, maneuvering the glider with ease to keep Peter from getting away.
"Well I guess it's just you and me then, eh Spiderman?" Harry said in his sinister voice. He stepped down off the glider and walked toward Peter.
"It's over, Goblin," Peter said, standing his ground.
"Oh no, it's far from over. It's not over until you're dead."
Before he could say anything else, the attack began again, and the two were once more battling their way across the pier. Peter, exhausted despite his ability of extra strength, was now beginning to falter, taking longer to recuperate from the barrage of blows that his body withstood. His blood flowed freely now from his mouth and nose after numerous hits to the face, soaking the mask and staining it a darker red in some places. Breathing was becoming difficult too, and Peter sucked down air through his mask-covered mouth as he contemplated what his next move would be. A fine spatter of red mist sprayed the air as he exhaled each time through the water and blood-soaked mask.
Out of the corner of his eye, Peter spied a length of rusted rebar lying at the side of the building. He looked back to Harry, who was enraged beyond any clarity and advancing again. Peter backed away a few paces toward the metal rod.
"Awww...are you afraid now? Did I make you afraid, Spiderman?" Harry taunted again, watching the other man back away from him as he moved in closer.
"Don't' make me do this, Harry." Peter was less than a few feet from reaching down and grabbing the rebar as he begged his friend, even though he knew that this was no longer the 'real' Harry he was dealing with. The real Harry was dead.
Harry continued to move closer, his chilling laugh sounding as he crept, his prey cornered and scared. Swallowing the bloody water that was dripping into his mouth, Peter pleaded again.
"You aren't going to weasel your way out of this, Spiderman!" Harry said as he leapt forward. From his hand was produced another one of the double-edged blades.
With lightening reflexes, Peter bent down and grabbed the length of rebar, swinging it out and around. He struck Harry across the side with it in a powerful blow, knocking him away and off balance just long enough for Peter to gather his strength for a second hit, his hands holding tight around the metal like he was holding a baseball bat. Harry yelled out loud in his defiance, getting up and rushing his opponent, his adrenaline pumping, promising to crush Peter once and for all, and he descended on Spiderman with full force. Peter repositioned the bar in his hands so he held it like a dagger now, and faced his enemy head on.
As the two met, their power clashing together like the rough surf onto a rocky shoreline, their energy surged in a violent display, then quickly dissipated. Peter's eyes went wide in surprised agony as he felt Harry's blade enter him deeply and almost immediately, every ounce of his strength left him. As a ringing began in his ears, he could feel only the warm wetness of his own blood running from his chest and down the front of his body before being soaked up by the spandex suit. He was oblivious to the fact that Harry had fallen away as well, the metal rod impaled in his neck, passing right through his throat. In only a few moments time, Harry lay dead in front of him, having choked on his own blood.
Peter forced himself to stay upright, his breathing heavy, squeezing his eyes closed trying to thwart his pain, though it only worked for a moment and he was soon overtaken by a feeling of weakness. His mind racing to thoughts of the girl he loved, he slid down the side of the building until he sat, back leaning against cool metal. Raising a hand to his chest, the knife was still in him, one of its wings embedded into his pectoral muscles where Harry had hooked him with its point, digging the blade in deep. Peter hyperventilated as a wave of nausea overcame him, every move of his upper body causing more pain and more gushing blood. In another moment, his eyes rolled back and into his head as he fell unconscious.
When all the noise had quieted and she deemed it safe, MJ poked her head up from behind some dumpsters where she'd been listening to the altercation; against her protector's wishes, she'd hidden herself rather than leave, wanting to be there to watch as the drama between Harry and Spiderman unfold. She remained concealed in silence, eavesdropping as the battle that waged on until everything became eerily still except for the movement of the bay waters, leaving her nervous and impatient. When she re-appeared on the pier, what she saw brought her to tears.
Trotting over to where the two fallen men lay, MJ wiped her reddened eyes and pushed away the stringy, wet hair that hung in her face. "Oh Harry," she said with sympathy as she looked upon the body of her friend, lying dead in a pool of his own blood. "Why, Harry? Why?" It was all she could say before having to look away, and as she did, her gaze fell on Spiderman, lying against the warehouse wall.
"Oh God, no!" MJ rushed over to him, kneeling beside him. She looked over him, at the blade stuck deep in his chest, at the darkened blood spots on his suit that were spreading across his chest and face. Her eyes filled with emotion and she wept, tears rolling down her cheeks, landing on the fallen one before her as she leaned over him, wanting to touch him, but afraid to. MJ sobbed loudly, grief-stricken.
"Please...please don't be dead. Please don't die." MJ pleaded with the unconscious Spiderman in near hysterics until she noticed his shallow breathing. Forcing herself to quiet, she stopped and listened again, a faint smile appearing on her face at the sound of his ragged breath.
She looked him over once more, her hands gesturing desperately, needing to do something that would help, but in frustration they fell once more to her sides. Looking into the masked face, MJ's soul warmed with the thoughts of affection that she had for her mysterious protector, and then with her fond thoughts of Peter.
Ah, Peter. What a situation he'd become after all these years. Here she was, enamoured with two different men and neither of them could she be with. It broke her heart to think that all that time in High School, all of her senior year, she had wasted her time on Flash when she could have been with Peter, who seemed so much truer in his regard for her. Much more so than anyone else ever had. It's said that sometimes the perfect person is right under your nose and you don't even know it, and to MJ, this was the exact example of such a fate. Now she'd lost her chance with Peter, and all these strange meetings with Spiderman were beginning to drive her mad, because she was unable to learn his identity.
With a deep sigh, MJ contemplated herself for a moment. Then snapping back into reality, she considered what she had to do now. As Spiderman sat unconscious in front of her, she wracked her brain as to how to get help for him while maintaining his confidentiality. Dressed in the red and blue suit, he was unmistakable, and MJ reasoned that it was going to be very hard to get him to a hospital or anywhere else dressed that way while keeping his secret. The get-up, or at the very least the hooded mask, was going to have to go. She had no choice in the matter, she determined. Yes, it was more than true that she desired to see who it was under the mask, this strange person that had taken it upon himself to be her guardian and protector. But she reasoned that one person knowing his identity so that help could be reached was much better than someone else finding him there and then the whole city knowing who he was. So it was that which she concluded – to unmask the masked stranger, if only out of medical necessity. Then in an effort to avoid any questioning, she needed to somehow get him to her apartment, where she could decide what else to do for him without fear of discovery.
Her hands trembling, her breath stuck in her chest, MJ reached out for the edge of the mask at the neck of the suit. She jumped as one of his hands moved a little bit before it rested once more. Then gathering up her courage she began again, picking up the edge of the spandex material in her fingers with care as she began to slip it upward. She slid one hand around to the back of his head and gently worked the clingy material up from there as well, and as she did, a shock of sweaty, dark hair appeared from under the back of the mask.
MJ stopped for a moment, releasing her held breath and sucking in a new one, her heart beating fast and hard in her chest with anticipation. Her eyes focused on what her hands were doing as she lifted the mask over his mouth, revealing the very lips that had touched hers once before. His mouth hung part way open, and this time there was blood in it, coating teeth and mingling in the cracks of dried lips. MJ winced. Creeping the mask further up, she uncovered his blood-smeared nose, two dark rivulets running, one from each nostril, until they reached the delicate curve of his upper lip, and her eyes welled up as a knot formed in her stomach. She hesitated again. This is it.
As the clinging mask was slipped the rest of the way up, her gentle fingers guiding it, a pair of hazy blue eyes fluttered open just in time to meet hers. She pushed the mask the rest of the way off his head and sat, stunned for a moment as they stared at each other, she in amazement and he in relieved uncertainty.
"Peter." MJ's eyes filled up all over again and her face contorted as she failed to hold back her emotion.
He didn't speak, but only looked upon her, his eyes full of sorrow and happiness at the same time, his face smeared with blood from his nose. Peter's breathing deepened somewhat as he closed his eyes in response to the pain that was radiating through him.
"Oh my God, Peter. Oh my God," was all that she said as they sat there, both lost in the moment of what had just happened. Peter Parker was Spiderman...had been Spiderman, all this time. He was the one who had saved her life now four times. He was the one who had kissed her in the rain. Peter. Oh dear God.
"Harry?" Peter's voice was scratchy as he asked about his friend. He didn't remember anything after being stabbed in the chest.
"He's gone, Peter." MJ was sullen, her sad eyes dropping to look at her hands. "I thought you were, too."
Peter sighed, wincing at the pain it caused him. He looked away for a few seconds, blinking off a few of his own tears before turning back to MJ. Studying her face with admiration, his heart bounded in his chest despite the pain he felt, and he offered a weak smile. After the months of his non-recognition, Peter gave MJ the reply he owed her at last.
"I love you too, Mary Jane Watson. I always have. Ever since the first day I met you." Peter's voice was hushed as he whispered to her, she kneeling before him.
A sad smile gracing her lips, MJ erupted in a storm of emotion, wanting to hug Peter but unable to get close enough because of the knife which still stuck out of his chest. She cried to him, all hope forlorn, fearing the worst.
"Oh God, Peter...what a mess. What a mess this all is."
Peter smirked, his eyelids blinking lazily. "I'm not going to leave you, MJ. I'll...be OK. Trust me."
"Pull it out."
She stopped cold. "What?"
"Pull it out. It's not as bad as it looks; nothing vital hit, I don't think. I just...can't move...my arm while its there. You have…to pull it out." His pained expression was serious.
"No....I can't. I can't hurt you, Peter." A look of terror flashed across her face.
"MJ, you have to. Please..." Peter pleaded, understanding how scared she must be, but needing her help all the same.
Their eyes met, only longer this time, and MJ knew that she had to do it. She had to risk hurting Peter more and pull the blade out of him like he said. His eyes soothed and encouraged her, and she collected herself as he waited for her to pull the cold steel from his body. After many minutes of psyching herself up, MJ had convinced herself to do it. She nodded to Peter.
Placing both hands around the apparatus but not yet touching it, MJ looked at the knife long and hard, then back up at Peter, who's eyes hadn't left her face.
"R-ready?" Her voice was shaky.
"Yeah," he whispered, his dazed look fixed on her as his blue eyes tried to hide his pain, looking away from her hands as she did it. Peter pushed his mental self as far away from them as he could at that moment; his eyes remained glued to her but there was no one behind them as she began her task.
Meticulous fingers positioned themselves around the body of the blade mechanism as MJ concentrated hard, breaking her eye contact with Peter as she watched her hands work. Closing her grip on the blade, she began to pull on it, and Peter grimaced, clamping his eyes shut. The amount of force that she had to exert to dislodge the blade surprised her, but she stayed solid, not yielding until the it had been withdrawn from his flesh and clattered to the ground beside them. For a moment after dropping the blade, MJ stared at her hands, which were now wet with Peter's blood. Then looking back up at him, her trembling visible to him now, she let out a deep, accomplished breath and flashed a nervous smile. Peter smiled back, his weak cherub smile comforting her as she leaned forward to hug him gently. His world filled once more with the warmth of her touch, followed by the sensation of spinning as he fell unconscious again. The last thing his body was aware of was the metallic smell of blood mingling around him as the coppery scent merged with the blackness that consumed him.
Peter stirred in the unfamiliar surroundings of soft fabric and the scent of vanilla. It was a fragrance he'd noticed before on MJ, wafting past him whenever she was near. As he came into full awareness he looked across the room to see her leaning in front of one of the single windows in the room, her elbows propped on the sill as she gazed outside. He was in her bed, undressed down to his underwear, and covered in layers of puffy comforters and blankets, making him feel like he was swimming in a fluffy cloud.
His head still spun a little bit from being beaten like a rag doll the previous night, but in spite of everything he'd been through, Peter deducted that he didn't feel all that bad. Better than he would have expected, at least. He was clean, his wounds were all tended and dressed, and all the blood had been washed off him. He slid his hand up under the covers until it reached his chest, which bore a large bandage taped to his skin. He'd need to have something done about his wound today; probably stitches, and lots of them, considering how deep the laceration was, nearly down to the breastbone. Coming up with a reason for his injuries this time was sure to be interesting since it was pretty doubtful that the old "bike courier" excuse would work again; he could almost hear his Aunt's frantic complaints already. As he lay in the soothing comfort of the softness surrounding him, his fingers picking at the edge of the bandage, Peter's thoughts strayed to the previous night.
Harry was dead. Peter was filled with an immediate feeling of dread upon that realization. Then his thoughts turned to something else; to MJ, and the fact that she now knew his secret, having unmasked him at the pier. He remembered how he felt last night as she kneeled before him, sliding the mask over his head to reveal his face, and the surprise that awaited her. Then he recollected how she cried after finding out. She pulled Harry's blade out of his chest, bloodying her own hands as she did, and then he passed out, he assumed, since he didn't remember too much after that.
He didn't even remember how he came to be where he was right now – in MJ's apartment – his thoughts serving only to give him glimpses of how they got there in the early morning hours before dawn. The girl was intelligent as well as beautiful, but then that was something that Peter had always known about MJ, even if she did have the habit of selling herself short. He had a vague memory of being wrapped in a coarse blanket, and then riding in a car, but not much else.
MJ had enough common sense to get Peter out of harm's way before sunrise. She'd left him at the pier for a short time, hidden behind the very dumpsters that she'd concealed herself with earlier. She wrapped him in a canvas that she found behind one of the buildings, then ran off to find a mode of transportation. She ran close to four blocks when a cab happened by, and managed flag it down, then coerce the cabby to go back to the piers with her to pick up her "drunken" friend who had jumped in the bay and needed to get back to her apartment. The lie cost her an extra twenty bucks cab fare too, considering that she also had to convince the cabby that she really did have money in her apartment to pay him with. That, and she had to guarantee that her 'friend' wasn't going to puke in the back of the cab, stinking it all up. In the end though, MJ had confidence that the cabby suspect nothing more than what she'd told him – that they were just a couple of crazy teenagers wreaking some havoc that went a little haywire, and needed a ride home.
Peter shifted in the bed and the sound of the comforters moving caused MJ to turn around. She smiled, her warm expression a look of relief to see him awake after the ordeal the night before.
There was an awkward silence for a few minutes as they both collected their thoughts. Peter was the first to speak, his voice cracking from his dry throat.
"I'm sorry, MJ. About everything. About not telling you sooner." Droopy eyelids fluttered, still heavy with sleep and becoming accustomed to the brightly sunlit bedroom.
MJ walked over and sat at the edge of the bed. She reached out in a tender gesture and smoothed a wisp of hair that was out of place. Studying him, her smile returned.
"You don't have to be sorry. I understand now."
"I couldn't let anyone to know. That's why I pushed myself away from you...because I can't risk you getting hurt because of who I am."
"But Peter, we're both hurting by not being together when we really want to be."
Peter didn't say anything, but only lowered his eyes in shame.
"I know now, and a lot of things make sense to me now. About you, about Norman and Harry, and I'm still happier knowing. I love you, Peter."
"I can't, MJ. Can't you see? I won't put you at any more risk than I already have." Peter's heart ached. He thought his very soul would explode at that moment from the amount of conscious he was forcing himself to display. Telling her what neither of them wanted to hear was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do in his short life.
She looked at him with remorse, her eyes welling, her heart wrenching. "But we both want this, Peter."
Peter reached out with his arms and drew her to him, reclining her on the bed beside him and they lay there facing each other, feeling each other's warmth, experiencing each other's hope and desire. Looking into each other's eyes and reading the emotion there, their language was silent, their bodies responding to one another, until he once more uttered those words that she had waited to hear from him for so many months.
"I do love you, MJ. More than anything. But I can't fathom ever losing you forever."
"You can't lose me if you don't have me first, Peter. Please. Give us a chance. It took me so long to realize that you were the one for me all along. Give me that chance."
He sighed, moving his confused eyes from her porcelain face to the window on the other side of the room. The curtains billowed inward in a soft motion from the breeze floating through. "But I'm so afraid, MJ."
"I am too...but with you, everything is alright." MJ smiled. "Any time we have together will be worth it...don't you see, Peter? I'd rather have you now, even for just a little while, than not have you at all."
MJ pushed her head forward on the pillow and touched her velvet lips to Peter's. He responded with a slight parting of his own lips, just enough to slide the tip of his tongue over the rim of her top lip. Opening his eyes again, he found hers staring back and full of hope. She drew her head back and looked at him, touching him gently on the cheek with the lightest contact of her fingertips, then let them trace down his face and neck. Eyes followed her hand until digits reached the bandaged wound and she gave a deep sigh, looking back at him, her face filled with concern.
"Risks of the job, I guess." Peter grinned a silly grin, then let his eyes close once more as her dainty fingers continued to dance over his tingling body.
"Peter," MJ whispered, her voice wavering from the emotion she attempted to constrain. "Make love to me...please."
He awoke again a few hours later, snuggled deep in the layers of soft bedding, his body snug against MJ's form next to him, his arm draped over her hip. Her smooth skin next to his felt like the rose petals of a brand new bud just ready to open and face the day. The even rise and fall of her side told him that she was still deep in a sleep, and he remained still, so as not to disturb her, except for a kiss that he placed at the back of her neck, under her exposed hairline. His chest wound throbbed with pain under its bandage, which was now stained through with bright red, but in his bliss Peter was able to push his discomfort away and concentrate on feeling content.
Peter contemplated for a while, lying motionless in the bed, just absorbing the sensation of being where he was, the place that he had dreamt of being for all of his awakening teenage years. He was eighteen. He was in the bed of the woman who he'd loved for eternity, and he was Spiderman. He thought about his parents, and then about his Aunt and Uncle, recounting the tragedy that he'd befallen in his short life already. He acknowledged that now his best friend was gone as well, victim of the same biological mania that had been Norman's demise. It had been eighteen years of emotional hell that somehow Peter had not only managed to live through, but managed to stay positive through it as well, even though through most of that time he sought solace in the arms of a girl whom he thought he could never have. Now, ironically, she was his, if he could only allow himself to take her.
Becoming Spiderman was something that he never asked for; he was more than glad to trade his new abilities away any day just to have his normal life back, but Peter was a believer in fate – the idea that things happened to certain people for a reason. Maybe it was his fate to become Spiderman and do good things, as he was trying to do. Maybe it was his fate that if he never became Spiderman, he never would have had a chance with MJ, since she seemed to have fallen in love with the mysterious stranger first, although Peter did have a hand in Spiderman 'helping' her to realize that it was he whom she longed for in all actuality. She needed him just as much as he had loved her for all those years growing up as her shy, quiet neighbor.
In either case, it felt good right now, right where he was, and it had been a long time since something felt so right and so secure. Being this close to the beautiful red headed young woman created a calm in Peter that he'd been searching for his whole life; something he'd always known he could find within her if the chance ever arose. The decision now lay before him about how to proceed, the direction the rest of his life would take depending on it. Peter breathed deep, inhaling the light scent of vanilla on her silken red hair and he closed his eyes, hugging Mary Jane close around her waist. Peter Parker had suffered enough in eighteen years. Maybe it was time for some payback.