Peter awoke to the sound of someone knocking heavily on the front door of his apartment. He blinked sleepily a few times, wondering why Harry wasn't answering it. Then the haze of sleep began to clear and he realised it was two in the morning, and Harry was out at friend's party and unlikely to be home before lunch that day.
Yawning, Peter rolled out of bed and stumbled downstairs, his brain working overtime trying to work out who it could be. A wary glance through the peep hole revealed all.
Fumbling in haste, he threw the chain off and swung the door open.
With her arms wrapped tightly around her upper body and her hair hanging damp and stringy around her pale face, Mary Jane Watson still managed to look beautiful.
"Hello Peter," she replied softly, her mouth quirking at the corner into a slightly embarrassed smile. "I'm sorry to wake you but - "
"Don't worry about it, come inside, tell me what's wrong." He stepped back and let her move past him.
The scent of her hair reached him as she passed, achingly familiar and incredibly intoxicating. He had to close his eyes for a moment, just to fight down the rush of feelings he felt upon seeing her again, especially so unexpectedly.
MJ stopped in the middle of the room but did not sit down. Peter noticed she was shivering slightly. "Are you cold?" he asked in concern.
She shrugged. "My jacket's wet, it was raining out."
"Take it off then, let me lend you - " his clothes were all upstairs, and he didn't want to leave her, not even for moment. Without thinking, he pulled his sweater over his head. "Here, put this on instead."
Smiling again, she reached for it, then stopped, her eyes widening in shock and wonder.
Peter looked at her face, confused, then followed the line of her gaze to his own smoothly toned torso. The hard biceps and defined pectorals were not what she would have expected of softly-spoken photography nerd Peter Parker. Disconcerted by her attention, confused as to what his next move should be, and embarrassed by his own undeniable reaction to her admiration, Peter blushed.
MJ shook her head suddenly, as though clearing it. She took the sweater. "Sorry," she mumbled, and Peter was both amused and relieved to see that she was blushing too, "It's just I - sorry..."
She shrugged out of her jacket. The snug fitting tank top she wore underneath did nothing to disguise the curves of her breasts, or the effect of the cold. If it was the cold. It was Peter's turn to stare, but he swiftly managed to get a hold on himself and looked away, swallowing hard.
The jumper came down over MJ's head. She could smell Peter's scent in it. Aftershave, soap, and ... Peter. It was still warm from being next to his skin. MJ shivered again, this time not from a chill.
"So what are you doing here?" He was the first to speak.
Again, MJ seemed a little embarrassed. "Oh," she said, smiling and not quite able to look at him. "It sounds so silly now... I knew it would. It's just I was ... at home. On my own. Just like I was ... you know, that night."
He did know. He watched her face gravely and did not interrupt. "And I was getting scared, jumping at tiny noises. Imagining things. I couldn't sleep. I was just lying in the dark and... It's stupid, I know. But I'm afraid to be alone. After the Goblin... After everything.... And I just thought ... if I could be with you, it would all be OK."
She lifted her gaze to meet his, begging him to understand. But how was he supposed to understand when there were so many things she couldn't say? Her friend. That was all he had wanted to be. So how was she supposed to explain that yes, she had come because she was frightened, but there was more to it than that. She had come because she had yearned for him. Because she loved him, and it was painful to be apart from him. Because she lay in bed at night and thought of him, his beautiful kindness, his sincere blue eyes, his gentle, sensitive hands. She missed him. She wanted to be at his side.
It had been a cerebral attraction, up til now. She felt that their souls connected, and that her heart could never be complete without him. As for their bodies... Well, she had only ever vaguely imagined making love with him. Physicality had seemed relatively unimportant with regard to the spiritual intensity she felt for Peter.
But now... God, the kiss in the graveyard should have given her a clue. The heat of his mouth and the sensation of his lips pulling gently, sweetly, fervently on hers... She should have known then that there was even more to Peter Parker than a beautiful mind. Now she had seen what he concealed beneath his unassuming clothes and she was having trouble thinking in straight lines as her hormones spiked crazily. Heat pulsed in her breasts, in her stomach, between her thighs. What she felt now, in the middle of his living room in the middle of the night, wet and bedraggled and smothered in an oversized sweater, was more than an intensely bittersweet longing. It was pure, hot desire.
She felt all of this, and she could say nothing.
Because he had not wanted her.
"It's all right," he was saying to her, his eyes fixed intently on her face, "You were right to come. I said I would be here for you. I am."
MJ wanted to cry. She wanted to put her arms around him. She wanted ... she wanted him to love her.
Instead she gave a shaky smile and blinked against the stinging in her eyes. "Thanks, Tiger," she whispered.
He was still looking at her. There was something in his eyes... Surely she had seen that look before, in the eyes of the men who had wanted her in the past. Could it be that Peter...? She held her breath.
The silence stretched between them, the air thick with tension. Would he kiss her? And what would it mean if he did? At that moment MJ didn't care, all she wanted was him, conditions be damned.
She returned his gaze steadily, her face tilted up towards him. It was up to him.
And for one cruel, precious moment, she had really thought he was going to do it... Really thought he was going to press his lips to hers once more, and...
But in the next, he had turned his face away, and rubbed his hand over his eyes.
She worked hard to hide her disappointment and pain, and as a consummate actress she knew she did a good job. But he had always known her better than everyone else, and saw exactly what she was trying to conceal.
"God, MJ, look, I'm - " His voice was hoarse. Surely that meant something.
But she shook her head, cutting him off before he could make things worse by apologising. "S'all right, Peter," she said, holding up her hand. Her voice cracked only a little. "I understand. You were honest with me from the start. Don't apologise when it's not your fault."
But I haven't been honest, he wanted to wail, I've never been honest with you, not when it comes to how I feel about you, not even about who I am. I've done nothing but lie to you.
Instead, he nodded mutely, not trusting himself to speak.
MJ looked around. "And... I know it's a lot to ask, but ... could I sleep here tonight? It's just ... I mean, I'm on my own back home and it's raining..."
Peter found his voice. "Of course you can stay here! Take my bed."
MJ raised her eyebrows. "With you in it?"
Peter's expression reminded her so much of the naive and confused little boy she had known in high school that she had to laugh. A small, wry laugh, but a laugh nonetheless.
"It's OK, Tiger, I was joking. But I couldn't put you out of your own bed. Is Harry in?"
Peter shook his head, still not sure if he was relieved or disappointed that she had been kidding.
MJ inclined her head. "Then I'll sleep in his bed, if that's all right."
She glanced down at the sweater she was wearing, then back at Peter's achingly desirable naked torso. Hoping that he had missed the open longing that had flashed over her features, she went to pull it back over her head and return it to him.
"No, it's OK," he said quickly, causing her to pause, "You keep it." He took a few steps backward. "Sleep well, MJ. I'll be in the next room if you want anything." And with that, he all but ran up the stairs, and disappeared.
She watched him go.
If I want anything... You'll be in the next room... Oh, Peter, surely you know that there's only thing in the world that I really want... But it's the one thing in the world that you're not willing to give...