Shade wasn't sure why she was bothering to go to school. It wasn't as though there'd be any useful classes there. There wasn't exactly 'fighting crime 101' in the curriculum.

But she went anyway and, for once, found her history class almost exciting. Mostly because of the symbiote; it gave a fresh perspective on things, scoffing at certain things in the book, telling how it really happened. Shade knew from the suit's memories that Brock had been told a few of these facts, but had pushed it aside, not really interested. Shade, however, lapped it up greedily. History took on a whole new turn when you saw how certain dictators were helped along the way with a certain black suit- disguised, back then, as whatever clothes there were in the era. Mythology took on new meanings. Many times Shade had to fight laughter as the suit kept her apprised of some of the more humiliating aspects of history; things that were never printed in books.

That wasn't, however, the only thing of interest that happened in the class. Shade caught sight of Peter Parker, and a smile crept up her face. She had nothing against the guy, really; in fact, they could probably be allies at some point. But she had a feeling he'd really cramp her style.

She debated what to do with the suit. There were many possibilities; she could taunt him with the suit, keep him from knowing who it had taken as a host. That seemed to be worrying him quite a lot and, after all, he had hit her. And he would never stop trying to take the suit from her; at least, it was unlikely.

Or, she could tell him it was her, could let him know that she was aware of his little 'secret'. Have him sweat that out for a bit. Shade fought a cruel giggle at that; ok, so she didn't like him. He'd called her a murderer. Said she'd killed a man in cold blood.

When the bell rang, she decided it best to keep it quiet; for now. She brushed past him as they walked out, hiding a smile. Well, Shade could keep it quiet. Her masked counterpart, however, was going to have a field day with this one.

The Shadow, Shade thought.

Too obvious, the suit answered. Shade snorted.

Hey, I don't see you coming up with any great ideas here, she mentally growled at it.

I came up with Venom, it pointed out quietly. It would have frowned, if it could. Sort of, it added.

You know, for all of your alien powers, humans are still a lot more creative.

Whatever you say, "Shadow".

Shade scowled; the suit seemed to have taken a bit of her sarcasm into its speech, and it was annoying her. She was used to being the obnoxious one, not the other way around. Ok, she thought back, Venom 2.0.

The suit didn't bother replying; they both knew that it was tacky and stupid to even bother with that name.

She sighed and scanned the skyline. Where is he?

The suit remained calm. He will be here soon. This is one of the places he normally checks.

They waited for a while longer, bouncing ideas for her knew superhero-name during that time, until a flash of red and blue caught her eye. She perked up, seeing Spider-Man streaking across the skyline.

Showtime, she thought, dropping down off the building. With a quick upwards flick of the wrist, she started to web her way towards him.

He didn't notice her until she was right next to him, swinging in perfect tempo with him. He looked at her, obviously startled; the suit had told her that his spider sense didn't work around it.

"Hey, Spidey!" She said perkily. She laughed, then swung off to the side, throwing herself upwards in the air, feet-first, then landing on the building with both feet and one hand. She whirled in that position as Spider-Man landed behind her. She turned to face him and grinned under her mask. She saw him readying himself for battle, but she stood gracefully and held up her hands.

"Slow down there, Petey." She said. That made him freeze; his hands tightened in fists at his sides. "You're going to do something you'll regret," she said meaningfully. She could imagine his scowl.

"What do you want, Venom?"

She rolled her eyes. "Seriously, is that name just going to haunt me forever now? It's not Venom any more, stupid."

"Then what is it?"

"Hmm. Good question. Dunno yet." She shrugged. "Ah well, such is life."

He huffed out an exasperated sigh. "The point still stands. What do you want?"

"You know, that's a good question," She answered, taking a step to the side. He went a step in the opposite direction, and they continued moving, slowly and carefully, barely realizing that they were circling each other. "I don't exactly know yet. I mean, I just got handed all this power on a black, gooey platter, and I have no idea what to do with it. Maybe I could be a badass crime fighter; kinda like you. Only, without all of the stupid rules."

She could tell that phrase had hit home; something in his rigid stance told her as much, the way he froze for the briefest of seconds. She could almost read the thoughts passing through his mind; could she be… no. No, that's impossible.

It was just the most fleeting of suspicions; gut instinct, with only the faintest, paper-thin shred of proof to suggest he was right. But it was so quick in passing that Shade doubted it was even a proper, conscious thought; just a flitting memory.

"So what? Can't have me around in your territory? This is your city to save? Is that it?" He moved so inhumanly, nimble and quick, a few steps closer to her with each circle they made around each other.

"Oh, please. Not everything is about you, Parker," she said darkly. "I'm here to call a truce. You and me, we don't have to fight each other. In fact, one day, maybe we can work together; who knows? We both want the city safe. We both know that there's a lot of big bads out there who need to be stopped. So we don't need to spend time fighting each other." She extended a hand. "I'm not saying we have to be friends. Just that we don't need to be enemies."

He looked at her, and when he spoke, his tone was incredulous. "Are you serious?"

"Of course."

"But you're… I mean, you know who I am! You know my name, and you're wearing that thing! You can't possibly be… I mean, that thing won't let you be rational about anything!"

She scoffed. "Really? I seem to be doing fine."

"That's the thing; it makes you think you're in control. But then you lose yourself." He was back to pleading. "Please. Let it go. I'll help you get rid of it, I swear, we'll take it to one of Reed's labs, we'll get it off you for good!"

"Yeah, see, that's not gonna happen." Her eyes narrowed. "Come on, Parker, this is a one-time offer going on here. After that, all bets are off."

"What? Then you're going to tell the world about me?" He demanded. "You want to be a hero, don't you? That tells me that you're not a completely horrible person, that you can be reasoned with, without the suit. Can't you see what telling people would do? You'd risk lives; not just mine, but my friends, my family, anyone I've ever met! My aunt for crying out loud! A little old lady! You'd risk her life for this…"

She cut him off. "I never said I'd tell anyone," she told him, slightly appalled by the suggestion. Yeah, it was fun being in on the secret and all, but she wasn't stupid. It was a dangerous secret to keep.

That pulled him up short, stopping him in his tracks. "Wait… what?"

"Of course I wouldn't tell anyone. That would be stupid." She rolled her eyes, holding her arms out imploringly. "Come on, Spidey. I'm just looking for my own little nook in the city; a headline or two if necessary. All I want is to help people. And all I'm asking is that you let me."

He looked at her warily. "And if I don't?"

"I'm not gonna spill the beans. Everyone else will be safe. You, on the other hand, I might rip to shreds." She said the words so flippantly that Spider-Man had to do a double take, uncertain that he'd heard right. "You would have made yourself a threat and thus my enemy. But, like I said. We don't have to be that." She extended a hand. "I'm not without honor, Pete."

He looked at her hand for a long time, then shook his head, backed away, and crossed his arms over his chest. "You will be." He said sadly. "And in a month from now, two months, a year, whatever… You're not going to be you anymore. Whoever you are… you won't exist. Whatever honor you had will be gone. So no. I can't accept. Even though that means you will, eventually, tell everyone. I can't do it. I won't."

Her hands stretched into claws, curling around her palm. "If that's what you want." She said coolly. She turned away. "Next time we meet, it won't be pleasant; for either of us, I'm guessing. I'd hope we wouldn't meet, but that would be in vain, wouldn't it?" She chuckled darkly. "Goodbye, Pete. Sorry this didn't work out."

And then she was gone, taking off into the nighttime skyline.

Peter came home, stripped off his costume, and threw on a pair of ratty pjs. All he wanted to do was collapse on the bed and pass out for twelve hours, minimal.

But, as his head hit the pillow, he did not find the peaceful, relaxing sleep he'd been hoping for, but a flood of new anxieties. Who was the girl that the suit had attached to? What would she do now? She said she wanted to help people, to be a hero, to be like him. But she wasn't above killing people to do it, and that was something he couldn't allow. Some of those 'villains' were good people; the Lizard, for one, was a prime example. Brock had been a good person, too, before…

He shivered, feeling cold, sick, and weak. He turned onto his side and stared at the floor for so long that his vision began warping the lines in the woodwork. He turned away and looked up to the ceiling instead.

Who was she? That was the main question. He couldn't take her at her word that she wouldn't reveal his identity, so it would be nice to have some leverage on that account. Though he didn't think he'd be able to use it- he wouldn't wish a fate like that on any enemy- but she wouldn't know that, whoever she was.

And what she'd said… Maybe I could be a badass crime fighter; kinda like you. Only, without all of the stupid rules. It had struck something in him, resonated with some past memory that he just couldn't quite pull up. Like having a word on the tip of his tongue, just out of his reach. He knew it was somehow important, but he couldn't quite get to it.

He heaved a sigh as a faint, fragile knock sounded at his door. "Peter?" His aunt's voice floated into the room.

"Come in," he said, sitting up straight on the bed. She entered the room, worry touching her eyes.

"Oh, I'm sorry, dear. Did I wake you?" She asked, taking in his pjs and ruffled hair.

"No, it's all right. I… I was awake."

She sat down on the edge of his bed, wearing a concerned expression. "I just wanted to see if you were all right; you seemed… troubled."

That was an understatement; Peter felt a surge of emotions boiling through him, threatening to rip him apart. "I'm ok, Aunt May. Just… had a rough day."

She smiled gently at him. "I've got some pie downstairs. There's no problem in the world that can't be made better with a piece of pie."

He lifted an eyebrow. "What about obesity?"

She smacked the back of his head lightly. "Cheeky!" He laughed, feeling slightly better all ready. "Come on. It's your favorite."

He was smiling as he walked out of the room with her. It disappeared as, the second he reached the doorway, he heard a voice, plain as day, whispering, Yeah, Petey. We know it's your favorite.

He whirled around, looking about wildly. The voice had been Venom's; Brock Venom's, not this new version that was now running the streets. His chest felt abruptly tight, his heart hammering.

"Peter?" Aunt May asked. "Are you all right?"

No. No he wasn't. everything in him screamed, He's in the house. Get Aunt May out of here. Get her far away, somewhere where he can't hurt her, where she'll be safe.

But Brock was dead. It didn't make sense that he should panic. He nodded once, his throat dry. "Yeah. I'm fine," he lied; a very transparent lie, but all he currently had. She smiled at him, completely unsuspecting of the terrors he knew were lurking around the corner.

They went downstairs, and she cut off a slice of pie for him, setting it up with some whipped cream like he was a child who couldn't quite reach the counters yet. She then sat across from him as he chewed thoughtfully.

"None for you?" He asked, trying to make himself sound cheerful and failing.

She noticed, but said nothing. "Oh, no dear. I'm fine."

He nodded solemnly, unable to taste the pie; it felt thick in his mouth, like he was chewing cardboard. He knew it was just the anxiety; Aunt May never cooked anything less than a perfect meal.

He caught sight of the Bugle resting on a counter nearby; May lifted an eyebrow as he picked it up and glanced at the front page. "You'd think you'd have had enough of that paper," she said, "Considering the fact that you work there and all."

He smiled weakly. "Eh, I like to see my work published," He lied weakly, setting it down again. There was a picture of Venom's broken and bloody body on the front, with Spider-Man standing nearby. Though Peter had only been trying to help at the time, Jameson had made it look as though he and Shade were in cahoots, that these bloody murders were to be expected, regular occurrences.

May picked up the paper, glanced at the picture, and shivered. "Oh, I don't know… that Spider-Man sometimes just gives me the creeps. And now he's killed a man!"

Peter swallowed his pie thickly. "Actually, Aunt May, I was there. Spider-Man didn't do anything; in fact, he tried to stop the fall. It was all that new girl. Shade."

He tried to keep the distaste from the word, but found he could not. And then he was shivering; the way she was so callous about Brock's death, how she'd been so casual about it all… even if she believed it was self-defense, Peter didn't know how she could live with it. After all, when he'd killed the man who'd murdered his uncle, it had been self-defense. And he still had nightmares.

May noticed the shiver with glittering, hawkish eyes. "Is that what it is?" She asked quietly.

"What what is?" Peter question in return, looking up at her.

"The reason you're upset. Peter, you saw a horrible thing; someone died in front of you. Murdered brutally by one of your own classmates. I mean, I've always questioned the idea of living here, ever since those freaks like Spider-Man began showing up… I worry about you. It's not good for you to see these things all the time." She gently took his hand across the table. "Is that the problem?"

Oh, May Parker, Peter thought, you have no idea.

Out loud, however, he said, "Maybe… It is kind of… weird." He sighed and looked at her, almost pleadingly. "To be honest, I'm less scared for myself than I am for you."

"For me? Why would you be worried for me?"

"Because," he said slowly, "You're… I mean…" He sighed. "Aunt May, you've had heart problems in the past. I'm worried one of these things is going to push you past your limit; show up one day where you're at and, if the shock doesn't kill you… what if it does? I don't think I could live with something like that. I couldn't go on when I knew that something had killed you, and it was going unpunished…" he looked down. "I just… I want you safe."

"Oh, Peter," She said, chuckling quietly. "I may not be a spring chicken, but I am a tough old bird; I can take care of myself. You don't have to worry about me. My heart is fine. I'm fine," She laughed lightly. "Please don't worry about me, all right?"

"But… maybe… I don't know. Maybe you could go on a vacation or something. Get out of town for a while." He found he couldn't look at her as he said this; his eyes drifted to the window, where the blue-black sky twinkled with faint silver starlight. "I just… I have this feeling like… like I'm going to lose you." He sighed deeply. "Does that make any sense?"

May took his hand again. "It makes perfect sense," she said kindly. "I understand your worries, Peter. But I can't just drop everything and leave; and you'll need me around, won't you? And we don't have the money to…"

"What if we did?" Peter's voice was suddenly urgent; he took May's hand in both of his and held it tightly, as though afraid she would shatter into a thousand pieces if he dared let go. "What if we had the money to send you away for a while; so that you could be safe. Maybe… Maybe just long enough for this 'symbiote' thing to be found. Maybe until it's gone off the streets."

Maybe until my secret identity is revealed, he found himself thinking. Maybe you can hide until then, and have a head start when they come after you to get to me.

"Peter…?" the teenager's intense demeanor seemed to frighten May slightly, though more for his sake than her own, it seemed.

"Would you go?" He asked, not bothering to reassure her, feeling suddenly panicked and urgent. "If I had the money, would you go?"

"Would you?" She asked in response, very pointedly, looking over her glasses, eyes glittering.

"No. I'd have to stay here. Keep working at the Bugle. But you could go away." She looked ready to protest, but he cut her off before she could. "Please, Aunt May. If not for your own sake, then for mine; I can't stand the thought of you being here, not anymore."

There was a question in May's eyes: what's changed? But Peter hoped she'd put it down to the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back; and one monster too many on the streets.

"I've been saving up," Peter went on. "Kept something in store, you know, for a rainy day. I should have enough to get you out of here, and to come back. I could probably get you across the country if that's what you wanted. Just…" he squeezed her hand again, his eyes a bit too wet. "Please."

Her eyes locked with his, and a moment of silent communication, in which all of his desperation that couldn't be put into words was transferred to her, passed between the two of them. Slowly, she nodded. "If that's what will make you feel better, Peter. If that's what you really want, then I'll go."

He heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank you."

"But the second something's wrong, you're going to call me, understood? And I'll be back here so fast it'll make your head spin, or my name isn't May Parker."

Peter smiled ruefully. "Thank you, Aunt May," He said, pressing her hand to his cheek, then standing and kissing her on the top of the head. "When do you want to go?"

"So eager to get me away!" she chuckled. "I'm not going anywhere tonight, Peter. And it'll take me a while to pack, so… well, we'll see. I'll go soon, though. I promise." She must have seen the look of concern pass his features, because she hastily tacked on the last sentence to reassure him. He nodded slowly.

"All right." He kissed the top of her head again, then headed up the stairs. "I love you."

"I love you too, Peter," she answered. "We'll talk about this in the morning, all right?"

He nodded, then went to his room. One worry down, a million to go. But, this being one of his main ones, he allowed himself to relax. He was asleep before he hit the bed.

Shade pulled off her mask, feeling both triumphant and somehow very sad at the same time. She was powerful, she'd made herself known to Spider-Man (She didn't care about the papers; Spidey was where the information could spread) and had even been the better person in offering a truce. But he'd rejected her; and that, in itself, seemed to make the whole day worthless.

"Shade Marie Carson! You get your ass out here now!"

She flinched. Most kids dreaded the 'parent-just-used-your-full-name-you-are-so-going-to-get-it' days. But for her, those days were every day. And right now, it was just annoying.

She sighed, pulled on a robe to cover the suit, and started out the door. Her mother was standing there, a glass of something foul-smelling in her hand, the stench of alcohol rank on her breath. Shade frowned; typically, her mother skipped the glass and went straight for the bottle.

She leaned against the doorframe. "What?" She asked, trying to keep her voice as emotionless as possible.

It didn't work. "Don't use that tone with me, young lady! I want to know where you've been all day!"

"Um… school." She responded, her tone adding the words, duh, stupid.

"It's almost one o'clock in the morning!" her mother shrieked. "You can't have been at school this long!"

"I had homework. I went out to the café to do it with a friend," She lied, quickly and easily. Oh, she'd done her homework in a café-more like on the roof, but a café nonetheless- and with a friend. It wasn't her fault the friend happened to be an alien symbiote that was currently attached to her in the form of a black Spider-Man suit.

"Don't lie to me you little bitch!" Her mother screamed. Shade flinched as spittle flew in little flecks onto her cheek. Her breath reeked of vodka.

Oh, great, she wanted to say, rolling her eyes. But she didn't; mostly because she didn't get a chance. Her mother kept screaming, "And whaddya mean, friends? What kind of pathetic, desperate person would be your friend?"

Shade would have growled something in reply, had the friend not been really freaking desperate. Her mother kept going; "Now tell me where you really were!"

"I did," Shade snapped. "In a café, with friends, doing homework. That's the truth. Deal with it." She rolled her eyes at last and turned away, but her mother's words stopped her.

"It was exactly this kind of behavior that drove your father away!" She screeched, like a harpy from one of the old Greek myths Shade used to read to her brother. "This is why he left us! Because you were a lying, cheating, stealing little…!"

She was cut off as Shade slammed the door behind her; her fury could still be heard in more muffled tones, so Shade threw on a CD, cranked up the volume as loud as she could, then sat in the corner of the room, holding her hands over her ears. It was childish, but at the moment, it was all she could do not to go out there and rip the woman's head off. She was literally shaking with unbridled rage; pain and fury rippled through her in never-ending waves. The suit seemed to tighten around her, a comforting embrace rather than confining. It was with her. It was by her side. She never had to be lonely again, never had to face that alone again. And, whatever she did now, it would be with her; even if she decided to go and claw that woman into shreds and burn the pieces, it would be there, helping her along. It would keep her away from the police, save her from her life, like all the other 'heroes' in the world had never bothered to do.

Shade stayed like that, curled up in a ball, the music blasting until, exhausted, she fell asleep.

The Dream They Shared:

Sitting in a small room, on a little loveseat in front of a bright, flickering fireplace. Waiting for someone, apprehensive and worried, while simultaneously excited and ready to burst into tears of joy.

A black shadow hovers on the edge of perception; it speaks in an old voice, a voice known from long ago. The voice of friend and enemy; Edward Brock Jr. It whispers things that vanish from memory, yet remain forever.

Standing, walking over to the flames. They call out, stronger, more passionate whispers than the shadows. Reaching out, ready to touch the flames. Begging.

"Save me from the dark."

Touching the flames; feeling them wrap around arms and legs, spread up the body until it is completely covered. It is light; cool and beautiful light, not destructive. Yet.

And then it hits; the pain. The flames suddenly become hungry, devouring all in their path. Screaming, slapping at the flames. Running around, crying, the tears drying up the instant they hit the inferno.

Desperation. Dropping to the ground, rolling across the floor, trying to smother the flames unsuccessfully.

The voice of Edward Brock Jr. laughs from inside the flickering shades.

"You wanted to be saved from the darkness?" It asks, its words mocking and cruel. "You should have been more afraid of the light."

Web-slinging was, perhaps, the best thing that had ever happened to Peter Parker, and Shade could definitely see why as she traveled from building to building. She landed on a wall nearby and crouched there, watching the city-her new domain- with careful eyes.

She saw him then. Spider-Man. She sighed; she'd been trying to avoid him all day, but it was hard to avoid what was deliberately seeking you.

She supposed it was inevitable; she readied herself to go towards him, but something stopped her: the sound of sirens.

Both of them visibly perked up at that. Spider-Man turned his head to see where they were coming from and caught sight of Shade instead.

For a moment, the two of them froze, each taking a moment to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation. Then, at the same time, they launched themselves forwards, after the cop cars, racing against each other to get to the crime scene first.

Shade moved quickly, her muscles falling into place with ease, as though she'd been doing this her whole life. It was strange, how easy this all was, how simple the suit made it for her. And it had always been more powerful than Spider-Man, so she had no doubt she would get there first. So long as she trusted it.

They arrived at the scene at the same time, but she touched down first. Seeing this, he changed direction and threw himself towards her, knocking her over. She grunted and fell to the ground, her face smashing into the concrete as he ran forwards, perhaps thinking to deal with this before she had the chance.

"I won't let you kill anyone!" He shouted, leaping up off the ground and towards the scene; a bank full of hostages. He jumped to the floor above where the chaos was going on, clearly intent on coming in through the ceiling. Shade heard people crying inside.

She growled under her breath, taking in the situation. Spider-Man would have the advantage of stealth if he followed through with his plan. But Shade could have speed if she just walked through the front door, as her instincts were telling her to do. It could be risky, but if risky was what was needed…

She got back to her feet and strode through the front door like she owned the place. Immediately, a warning sounded off in the back of her brain; she jumped up to the ceiling as bullets ripped through the air where she'd just stood.

She laughed, catching sight of the entire room from this new vantage point. The spray of bullets followed her, but she flipped downwards, onto the shooter. He cried out; one of his buddies-there were five total in the room, and quite a few more cowering hostages- started firing on her, but she picked the first shooter up and held him in front of her, claws to his throat, using him as a shield. The firing stopped.

Good. So there was some honor among thieves.

She moved her head to the side to get a clearer look at them. One of them-smarter than the rest, perhaps- aimed his gun at one of the hostages. "Drop him! Or I'll shoot!"

She saw a few flecks of dust rain down on him from above; nothing that he would even notice, but she grinned under her mask. A second later, the man was lifted into the air by a pair of red-gloved hands. He cried out as he flew upwards and was hurled out the window, a spray of white webbing following.

Two down, three to go. Shade twisted the man in her grasp around, threw him to the side, and secured him to the wall with a quick flick of the wrist. Black web spread across him, and another flick ensured he wouldn't start jabbering. He struggled and writhed, trying to escape, but Shade was no longer paying attention.

Two of the other three had trained their weapons on her, while the third was searching the ceiling; it was shadowed by the florescent lights, so Spidey could have been anywhere.

"Don't move!" one of the men shouted. The other-again, one of the smarter ones- didn't bother talking; he just started shooting. No, not a he; she. Shade grinned and jumped up as the hostages cowered. She landed next to the two of them and hit their heads together with a painful-sounding crack! They slumped to the ground, and she tossed a net of webbing over them.

The final man- dark eyes glinting behind his mask- glared at her and pointed his gun at one of the hostages. "Neither of you can get to me before I shoot!" He shouted. "So stay over there! Spider-Man, next to the other freak, now!"

Freak? Shade bit her tongue to keep herself from reacting against that. Her eyes quickly took in the situation; the other hostages were still quailing. No help there. Spider-Man looked like he was obeying orders, moving over to her side. But Shade couldn't allow that.

She aimed for the gun and shot a thick strand of webbing towards it. Her aim wasn't as great as she'd thought; she got the guy's hand and pulled it towards her, but the muzzle-which she'd been going for- was still uncovered. The gun fired a single shot, headed towards the victim.

It wasn't as though everything went in slow motion; more like Shade's heart started beating faster, her body moving much faster than the world, able to see all that was going on as it happened. She pulled the man towards her, but the bullet kept going. There was no way to web that one out in time; not from her vantage point or Spider-Man's. But then Spider-Man jumped down; in fact, he'd been falling downwards since even before the gun went off. The spider-sense; it must have warned him something was up.

He dropped down to the ground in front of the hostage…

And the bullet sunk right into his shoulder.

He cried out in agony; Shade, completely shocked and furious, dragged the man towards her, dealt with him in two swift blows to the stomach and head, then threw him aside, webbing him in place. She ran to Spider-Man's side quickly; he slumped to the side, clutching painfully at his injured shoulder.

"Spidey? Spidey, oh, shit, come on!" She tried to move aside the costume to see what the wound looked like and saw only a lot of blood. She didn't bother asking if he was ok, or promising that he would be; after all, he'd just been shot.

She ran a claw in a ring around his arm on the costume above where the wound was. He grasped her wrist tightly. "What the hell are you doing?" He demanded, his voice panicked.

"Relax," She ordered, "I'm getting this off you." She finished her job and ripped the remainder of the sleeve off, leaving him with one arm completely bare, as well as part of the shoulder. She tried to move aside the blood, but found it impossible.

She whirled to the surrounding once-hostages. "Does anyone have any water?" They all looked at her, a little dazed and confused, and she groaned in frustration. Spotting a water bottle lying on the floor, she caught it with a small web and dragged it towards her. She didn't bother with the cap, instead slicing the top off with clawed fingers. Carefully, her hands shaking slightly, she poured it over the wound.

Spider-Man screamed; it seemed to have been building in his throat for a long time. Shade swallowed, trying not to freak out. She wasn't a doctor, and she wasn't really good with injuries. She liked breaking things, not fixing them; and that included people. She barely knew how to put on a band aid for crying out loud!

"Just calm down," she ordered with as much authority as she could. He glared up at her; she couldn't see the gesture, but she could feel the hatred emanating from his face.

"Why don't you just go?" He demanded. "You aren't my friend and I'm definitely not yours."

She pushed gently on his shoulder and he howled. "Don't complain," she snapped, pulling him up with a little more vigor than strictly necessary. There was no exit wound in the back of his shoulder; she groaned.

"Dammit!" She snapped, then set him down again. Shooting him a sympathetic look (and it was probably a good idea he couldn't see it) she told him. "All right. This is gonna hurt like hell. Sorry."

"What kind of pep talk is that?" He demanded, just before she sunk her claws directly into the wound. He started screaming even louder, thrashing about. The hostages-the few that were left, as most had already left the building and into the waiting custody of the police- flinched at the noise, most of them trying not to stare, but some openly doing so. Shade rooted around in the wound, biting her lip so hard that it bled. Finally, her claws closed together on something hard and, when she started to pull it out, shiny. She yanked it out completely; more blood was rolling down his arm now, so that the wound was almost invisible, but she poured the few droplets left in the water bottle onto it, clearing it as best she could.

She tossed the bullet across the room, then placed her hands on the wound. Immediately, strands of the suit disconnected from her and flowed onto him, wrapping around his arm in a tight bandage. He shivered when the stuff touched him, but as it was better than the alternative, he said nothing; merely groaned painfully.

She stood quickly. "We've got to get you out of here. Can you do anything with your other arm?"

He nodded, though everything seemed painful to him at the moment. She frowned then, desperation kicking in, she picked him up and threw him over her shoulder. He cried out and began to protest, but she ignored him.

She ran out of the building, webbing him to her back to hold him in place, then took to the skies again, back to web-slinging. Almost halfway to their destination, Spider-Man blacked out, his body finally unable to take the stress any more.

When Peter woke again, his mask, and his shirt, was off. He felt groggy and a bit light-headed, and his arm felt like it was on fire.

He sat up slowly, and realized he was in his bed. Immediately, panic stifled all other reactions; Aunt May. That creature had brought him here; it was in the same house as Aunt May. If she'd asked one too many questions, it wouldn't have bothered trying to explain; his aunt could already be dead.

"Easy, Pete." A voice said; the voice of a monster. His eyes whipped to the source; the black-suited woman stood there, leaning against the wall across from him. "You're going to burst your stitches. You've gotta relax, all right?"

"Where is she?" he demanded. "Where's Aunt May?"

She held up her hands in surrender. "Just chill, all right? She's fine. She was working in the kitchen when I brought you in. Went to sleep an hour ago. She didn't see anything."

He rubbed his head painfully, some of the tension easing from his shoulders but not all of it. After all, she could be lying; probably was. But, then again, she had just-sort of- saved his life. Or at least helped him after he was shot. That had to count for something.

"How long was I out?" He asked, forcing himself to calm down.

"About six hours. I snatched some morphine from the nearest hospital; kept you out for a while. Also kept you from feeling my rather… ah… inadequate sewing capabilities."

"You… snatched morphine? You mean you stole it?"

He sensed from her tone that she was rolling her eyes. "Well, no shit, Sherlock. You've been shot. I had to do something."

He shook his head, trying to let that slide. He longed to look under the bandages-which where now clean white gauze- but knew better. He gestured to them. "I'm guessing this wasn't exactly obtained legally, either."

She chuckled. "Oh, that one was. I keep it in my backpack; you wouldn't believe how accident-prone I used to be." She jumped up and landed lightly on the foot of his bed, standing on her tip-toes before folding herself down into sitting position, legs crossed as she watched him intently. He sat up, giving her room.

"So… um… you sewed it up?" he asked.



If he could see her grin, he had a feeling he'd be very, very frightened. "You wouldn't believe the things you can find out on the internet these days."

He nodded slowly, the movement making him feel queasy. He was already exhausted. She seemed to notice; she tilted her head to the side and gently reached forwards. He stiffed, but allowed the action as she touched the bandages, then traced her fingers down his arm, directly where it was most painful. Her fingers were surprisingly cold underneath the suit's gloves, and they left little icy trails after them.

"Here, right?" She asked, tapping one of the more painful areas gently. He nodded. She sighed, stood, and flipped off the bed, onto the wall. "I thought so. Or… the suit did. You might get an infection if we leave it like this; I'll go get the peroxide and some painkillers."

"Don't steal it this time, ok?" He asked, running his hands over his face, wishing that he had his mask to cover it up. Hell, he really wished he had a shirt right about now, to cover everything else. The creature in black didn't seem to notice his discomfort, and didn't really even seem to care about his lack of sufficient clothing. She'd done what she needed to do to keep him alive; there was something simple and driven about her, about the way she acted and reacted to things.

"Only from your medicine cabinet," she shot back.

"Oh." She was leaving the room, so, trying not to shout, he called a little louder, "It's in the bathroom; two doors to the…"

"I know!" She called back. Peter froze, then remembered.
"Oh. Right," he said aloud. "The suit."

He waited there for a long time before she returned, a handful of pills in one hand and a glass of water in the other. "Only a few weak painkillers; nothing too big. Sorry; you didn't have much. No antibiotics, but I've got some at home. I'll bring them by your school tomorrow."

He frowned. "I think someone would notice…"

"Believe me. They won't."

He studied her for a moment. "You said you'll bring them by the school."


"You'll bring them by."

"Yes…?" She gestured wildly that he should get to the point.

"Not we yet, then." He swallowed back the pills, wincing as he gently ran his fingers over the bandages. "You're not speaking in the plural."

"Should I be?"

"Brock did," he shrugged. "Maybe you've made a connection, but not fully accepted it yet. That's good. It means you've got a chance."

She snorted, jumping up to the ceiling, as though she just couldn't quite keep still. "Don't knock the suit, ok? It helped you out during the robbery, and it knew a little bit more about this stuff than I did. You owe it your life."

"A thousand times over," he admitted. "But then again, given all the times it's tried to kill me, I think we're nearing even."

She sighed. "Whatever. Just… I'll get you the meds. They'll be in your locker tomorrow morning."

"You keep antibiotics on hand?" He asked, lifting an eyebrow. "Or are you going to steal them again, and thus make yourself no better than those robbers?"

"Hey! They were robbing a big bank, holding people hostage, threatening to kill innocents. I was trying to save a life. Big difference."

"Answer the question."

"I keep them on hand. Used to get sick a lot. Something else the suit does right; gets rid of it."

There was a little bit of bitterness in her voice, like she couldn't believe he was still trying to discourage her from wearing the black suit. "Wait," he called quietly as she turned to leave. He looked down. "Thank you," he said. "For everything."

She chuckled. "Yeah, yeah. Be glad I have some rules."

And then she was gone.

But the words had triggered something; something she'd said on the night they'd first met. "Not so high-and-mighty now, are you? When it's life or death, you've got to kill, don't you?"

Back then, the words had triggered something in his subconscious. He knew he'd heard something like that before, from someone who played a very distinct role in past. He'd dismissed it at the time, thinking it a mere coincidence.

But now… she had this fascination with rules that she never seemed to shake. And there was one other person he knew like that, who spoke like that, who was just about the right height and shape, who spoke somehow similarly…

His eyes popped. Impossible. But the more he thought about it, the more sense it made. And then he was inwardly cursing himself for not realizing it sooner; what sort of a genius was he?

The suit had already come into contact with her; it could have seen the anger she had and latched to her. It could have gone back for her while she was in the hospital. Maybe made her black out a few times, taken her body for a test drive before it let her realize that it was there, then perhaps made a more permanent bond.

"Shade," he breathed. The he laughed; a loud, barking laugh that he worried might wake his aunt. But he was too stunned to worry about it too much. "You little bitch, it was you!"

Author's Note: I was going to end this chapter with the dream, but then it would be too short. :/ I'm sorry for the late-ish update, and I promise this story will pick up a bit more soon.