6 - Symptoms

By the time Peter arrived at the Stacys' apartment building, he felt as if someone-or something-had scooped out all of his insides and replaced them with raw pain, exhaustion, and dizziness. He dropped down onto the fire escape outside of Gwen's window with an unceremonious thump, reaching out a hand to steady himself as his head spun and his stomach lurched. He reached for the railing but the city was spinning before his eyes, and he found himself groping at air before his knees turned to jelly and he collapsed against Gwen's shut bedroom window, his head hitting the glass and sending a shock of pain buzzing through his body.

He closed his eyes, sucking in an unsteady breath and willing his stomach to retreat back down his throat. Through the haze of nausea and aching tiredness clouding his mind, he could hear the sound of pattering footsteps and a very female, very familiar voice murmuring "What the hell?" before the glass pressed against his face shifted upwards and he felt himself falling forwards and sprawling awkwardly over Gwen Stacy's windowsill.

"Oh my god-" Gwen's mouth opened, her eyes widening. "Oh my god-Peter-is that you?"

"Heh," Peter said weakly, grasping the side of the window and pulling himself up. "I wish not."

Gwen's face tightened, like she was trying desperately to hold something back. "What-what are you doing here?"

"I-uh-" Peter reached up to pull off his mask. "I need to talk to you."

Gwen's made a strangled scoffing noise. "Oh. Oh, so now you want to talk? What about me, Peter? What if I don't want to talk? What about-" Her eyes suddenly widened. "You're hurt."

"By a lizard and everything. 'M making a habit out of this, aren't it?" he mumbled jokingly, tightening his grip on the windowsill to keep from toppling over.

Gwen turned white. "What? But-no, that's impossible, you-he's in jail, he can't-"

"No, not-not Dr. Connors," Peter coughed. "A-it was smaller, but it was-it looked like it might have been a lizard originally-" He coughed again. "I think it had to've gotten into Connors's stuff when he was down in the sewers-there were all kinds of chemicals down there-"

Gwen swallowed and shook her head. "I can't..."

"Please, Gwen," Peter whispered hoarsely. "I need your help, I gotta-I gotta neutralize that thing, it already attacked a girl today-and you're the only one who can help me, you're the only one I know with access to OsCorp-"

Gwen's lips pressed into a razor-thin line and she looked away. "Right. Of course." She met his eyes again. "Come on, you should get into the room."

"I-uh-" Peter winced.

Gwen looked like she would have rolled her eyes if she wasn't so tense and moved forwards to help him off of her windowsill. By the time Peter made it into the room and collapsed on the chair at the foot of Gwen's bed, his head was spinning so much that he could barely see anything and his entire body felt as if it somebody had shoved a white-hot poker into his bones.

"You better take off your shirt."

Peter blinked. "What?"

Gwen raised an eyebrow at him, but he could see the sudden flush of red tinging the back of her neck. "Your scratches," she snapped, a peeved edge to her tone. "You need to dress them, don't you?"

"Oh-right." Peter reached down and grasped the edge of his shirt, grinding his teeth to keep from shouting out, and pulled the top half of his uniform over his head.

Gwen frowned, edging closer. "They're not that bad," she remarked, studying his chest curiously. "Nowhere near as bad as the ones Connors gave you. So..." She worried her lower lip. "Why are you in so much pain?"

"I'm, ah-wondering that myself." He shifted in the chair.

"Hold on-" Gwen bent forwards, and Peter tensed as he felt her cool fingertips brushing against his skin. A moment later, she straightened again, this time holding something pinched between her thumb and forefinger-something hardy and almost translucent-looking, and shaded in a distinctive pattern of black and orange.

Gwen's brow furrowed as she held the object up to the light. "It's a...a scale," she said.

"A what?"

"A scale." Gwen held it out, but Peter couldn't make it out through the pounding in his head and the swaying of the room. "It must have been from that lizard that attacked you." She studied it thoughtfully. "You said it looked like it had been a lizard originally, right?"

Peter nodded.

"I could probably look it up and see if I can find out what kind of lizard it is." Gwen carried the scale over to her desk and sat down in her wheelie chair, pulling up an Internet browser on her laptop. "Let's see...'black and orange lizards'..." She took the laptop and pushed her way over to Peter's chair, showing him the screen full of images of patterned lizards. "Can you pick out which one it was?"

Peter swallowed back his pain and leaned forwards, squinting. "Uh..." He ran a hand distractedly through his hair, thinking back to the attack in the alleyway, before pointing to a picture of a vividly black and orange-splotched lizard with a black snout. "It looked kind of like that one, I s'ppose."

Gwen nodded and clicked on the image. Her eyes scanned the screen, and then she paled.

"What? What is it?" Peter asked.

Gwen inhaled, giving her head a tiny shake. "Peter, there are only two species of poisonous lizards in the entire world."

"Oh." Peter swallowed. "That's-that's good, right?" Don't be an idiot. You know what's coming.

"Peter..." Gwen looked up. "The gila monster is one of them." She turned the laptop towards him, displaying the image of the lizard that he had chosen, with the label "Gila monster" directly underneath it.

"Connors had a-there's a reptilian venom antidote at OsCorp," Gwen blurted nervously as she veered around the corner, pressing her foot to the gas pedal. "Connors kept some in the cold room when he had the gilas imported from Arizona, though I never thought he'd need-I mean, they're slow, they're such slow creatures, and their venom isn't usually fatal, but I mean, can't be too safe, right? Right?" Gwen glanced sharply to the passenger seat. "Peter!"

Peter's eyes snapped open. "Sorry, I'm awake, I'm-" He stiffened as another spasm of pain shot through him.

"Don't-do-that," Gwen snapped. "If you die in my car, I will kill you."

Peter's lips quirked up into a tired half-smile.

Gwen inhaled and returned her eyes to the road. "The chemicals that it got into must have enhanced it, made it bigger and stronger and faster and its venom more"-her fingers tightened around the steering wheel-"lethal, but the antidote should be able to counteract it, Connors cooked it himself, it's a strong antidote, it-it has to be." She shook her head and hit the breaks. The car jolted to a stop, Gwen unbuckling her belt and hurrying out of her seat almost before she had yanked the key from the ignition. A moment later, she was opening the door on Peter's side of the car, unbuckling his belt for him and slinging his arm over her shoulders. "Come on," she said; and, gritting his teeth, Peter pulled himself out of the car, letting his burning and practically immobile body rest on Gwen's shoulders as she dragged him towards the entrance of OsCorp.

An elevator ride and five minutes of pain and nausea and impending unconsciousness later, Peter and Gwen stumbled into the lab, Peter's head dropping to his chest and Gwen's eyes frantic. Gwen pulled out a chair and tried to gently lower Peter into it; Peter, his bones like an odd combination of jelly and lead, dropped into the chair in an ungraceful sprawl. Gwen bent down, and her wide blue eyes met Peter's half-lidded brown ones. "Peter-Peter, listen. I'm going to go to the cold room, okay? I'm going to go find the antidote. You gotta-just stay awake, okay? Peter?" In a flash, she slapped him across the face. Hard. "Peter!"

Peter's head jerked up off his chest and his hand went reflexively to his cheek. "Jesus!" he gasped, sucking in a breath to make up for the ones that he'd lost when he had been slipping into unconsciousness.

"Stay awake!" Gwen commanded, and then she was gone.

Peter slumped down in the chair, the laboratory slowly blacking out before his eyes. His last thought before the suffocating pain overtook him was: I promised Aunt May I'd stay in.

A/N: Hello all! Terribly sorry for the awful delay, but I was in Florida for the week with no internet and I only just got back. Sorry this is so short and uneventful, I promise that there will be more Gwen/Peter goodies in the chapters to come!