Disclaimer: Don't own them. Not getting paid for this.
Summary: Peter finally wrangles out an invite to a dinner with Mary-Jane's parents. John Watson turns out to be the quintessential father. Peter just didn't expect MJ's mother to be anything like… Sherlock Holmes.
Warnings: TWT, AU, OOC!MJ, implied slash JWSH, implied het PPMJW
A/N: Based in a lame-pun-way on the last name accord in between canons. Not particularly witty, either. It just wrote itself, and what the Hell? You people always seem to react better to the stuff I don't give a damn about than to the stories I actually pour my life-blood into. Let's see what the reviewers say. Speaking of, review, please?
xInto The Lion's Mouth
Peter walked into Em-Jay's house with a (this time intact) bouquet of flowers in his hand, and trembling with trepidation. He was not quite sure what he was so nervous about – not that Em-Jay had made him nervous over the entire course of their tumultuous and not wholly mutually desired relationship – but there was something hanging in the air. To use the cliché, his spider-senses were tingling.
They really were.
"Hi, Tiger," Em-Jay told him, predictably, when he appeared on the doorstep.
Peter wasn't wearing a jacket, so he wasn't asked to relinquish it. He fought an internal debate on the social acceptability of backpacks, but Em-Jay didn't mention it, so he kept it with him as they entered the house proper.
The living room – doubling as the dining room – was a little surprising. Peter had always had Em-Jay pegged as a fashion-conscious person, and he had failed to account for the fact that she still lived with her parents whenever he imagined her house. The place wasn't quite messy, but definitely not orderly either, and since the inhabitants had known that Peter would be coming, that just showed that their priorities were elsewhere. Like scientists (Peter knew quite a few top scientists personally) the owners of this house cared less about presentation than about substance.
Peter gritted his teeth, feeling flaky in this space. Sure, he was in the university, but otherwise he was just mooching off of his Aunt, occasionally boosting the household budget with what little Jameson offered him for the exclusive photos.
"Are you… I mean…" he paused, trying to rephrase his request. He just wanted to know if she was sure about introducing him to her parents because, yeah, he liked her enough to get ridiculously tongue-tied around her, but meeting the parents was a whole other thing. Like, light-years off.
Em-Jay laughed, shaking bright red strands of hair out of her face. "Oh, don't worry!" she insisted and then, feeling herself so very funny, added: "Unless you're a car-thief by night. Father would know in like, an instance."
"I'm not a car-thief," Peter insisted.
"Not a thief in general, I would hope?" Em-Jay raised her eyebrows.
Peter hastily nodded.
"Here they come," Em-Jay muttered when the sound of measured footsteps came from the staircase. She turned her imploring eyes to Peter. "If you roll over for them, they'll eviscerate you," she warned.
Peter didn't have the time to ask anything more specific. An older man with short, grey hair appeared at the foot of the staircase. His eyes took in the room, paused at Peter for a few moments, and finally settled on Em-Jay.
"Dad," Em-Jay said confidently, "this is Peter. Peter, Dad."
"A pleasure to meet you," the man said and walked up to Peter to offer his hand.
Peter shook it, feeling curiously vulnerable for a moment, before the man – Mr Watson – took a seat on one of the chairs on the opposite side of the table from Peter.
"John, I think it was the PA," a deep male voice said from the staircase. "The evidence is not straightforward, and I rather go on absence of evidence in this case, which is miles far from evidence of absence, but he is the only one around the victim clever enough to even be aware of the existence of the liar's lock-"
"A break, Sherlock!" Mr Watson ordered in a – to Peter – shockingly commanding manner. He looked like a quiet man, unassuming, dressed in a baggy, knitted grey sweater, sitting in a chair, waiting for something to happen.
"I'll rest when I'm next unavoidably detained in a medical facility," the male voice retorted, and then Peter had the experience of meeting, for the first time in his life…
"Sherlock Holmes," Em-Jay spoke with the slightest hint of exasperation. "My Father. Father, this is-"
"Peter Parker," Mr Holmes cut in. "The rather unwilling other participant of your blind date hundred and three days ago, one of the best-recommended students at the local university and the nephew of a spinster or widowed Aunt. He still lives with her, too."
Mr Watson sighed and folded his hands. Mr Holmes came closer, and Peter's senses went into overdrive, cataloguing smell and sound and sight and feel of the guy, half scared and half awed. Without the spider instinct, Peter would never have paid such close attention, but forced into near-constant alert, Peter's only choice was to observe more clearly.
Mr Holmes was, like Em-Jay had said, a born and bred Englishman – a legal alien in New York. He was a middle aged (older, Peter would say) gentleman, tall and thin, dressed in quality yet not exactly fashionable clothes, and topped off with a head of curly, mostly grey but here-and-there black hair. His presence also triggered Peter's spider-senses.
The man seated himself at the table, fondly glanced upon Mr Watson, and turned to Em-Jay. "It shall never cease to surprise me that despite John being your biological father, you seem to have inherited much more from myself. Obviously a fallacy, and a circumstantial evidence for nurture having a more profound affect than nature-"
"You're confusing Peter, Father," Em-Jay pointed out, personally unbothered by the spiel (if this truly was her father's partner, then she must have been accustomed to it).
Peter would, at this moment in time, point out that the content of the speech was not confusing him. It's not like Mr Holmes was bringing up anything obscure – just basic, high-school-taught science. He could keep up with no problem, thank you very much.
"Ah , yes, your masked vigilante boyfriend. With John and I as your parents, it was only a matter of time before you brought the Spiderman home."
Okay, so maybe he couldn't keep up. What the Hell?!
"The…" Em-Jay froze and blinked a lot. Her face changed color a few times "Peter?"
Mr Watson sighed and picked up the knife to play with (he was quite more intimidating than Peter could ever recall a man with a knife being). Fortunately, the sword-play seemed absent, while the man shook his head, briefly turned his eyes heaven-ward, and finally looked at Mr Holmes. "I don't want to know how you knew."
"I want this to never happen ever again," Peter muttered under his breath, and then was understandably agog when the freaky Mr Holmes answered his complaint.
"Then you should stop being obvious about it, young man."
Peter didn't have a response to that. Naturally, being written off as a bit of a pansy, and occasionally even sorted together with the Spider-skeptics, Peter had never been suspected of being more than he readily appeared to be. He made himself a bit of a target by providing the photographs, but the fact that no one had ever suggested that Peter Parker might be Spiderman spoke for his pushover-image within his social circles.
To cut the long story short, he wasn't obvious about it.
"Father?!" Em-Jay demanded. Her mouth was pursed, and had she turned that expression at Peter, he might have considered just vanishing into thin air, but her father – either of them, in fact – appeared to be unaffected.
"Not even the good grace to be shocked, Mary-Jane?" Mr Holmes inquired mildly and folded his arms. He leant back in his chair, and somehow, without a change of expression, managed to look superior.
"Sometimes I hate you for not being my sperm-donor," Em-Jay admitted with a sigh, and glanced between Peter and her parents. "You can get your kicks looking down on the rest of the humanity, but what about me? I've got your arrogance, but I'm at best above average on the IQ scale. No offence intended, Dad."
Mr Watson took that all in stride – Spiderman, sperm and superhuman intellect were bandied about freely, and the man simply set down his knife and smiled thinly. "I don't get offended easily, munchkin. I wouldn't have survived fifteen seconds within Sherlock's immediate presence if I did."
Mr Holmes graced the man with an equally thin attempt on a smile and pointed out: "May I remind you of the issue of the confused superhero slash vigilante in the room?"
"Oh no, it's alright, sir," Peter quickly spoke up. "Just… go on airing your dirty family laundry in front of me, and I'll make myself quiet and inconspicuous." As quiet and inconspicuous as he could, being one of four people seated at a dinner table.
Mr Watson unintelligibly grumbled under his breath and stood. He walked through an archway into the next room where, according to Peter's sense of smell, was the dinner. It would be chicken, he determined, with rice and vegetable and some of those deep-frozen faux-French-fries. Apparently a home-made meal.
He guessed, glancing at Em-Jay, that the cook was Mr Watson. Then he realised that Mr Holmes had been staring at him.
"Mary-Jane," the man said just as Mr Watson entered, carrying the chicken, "I approve. You could do better, but he does fulfill all the basic prerequisites, and he still has a few years to learn the rest."
"Thank you, Father," Em-Jay replied, not the slightest bit upset by any of the recent revelations. "I don't know what I would do without your blessing."
"Cheeky," Mr Watson warned his daughter in a tone that wasn't half as light as it was trying to pretend to be.
Em-Jay raised her eyebrows as if to ask 'And what?'
Peter felt truly out of his comfort zone by now. It was one thing to find that his kind-of-girlfriend's mother was in fact a genius man of a dubitable moral compass who took all of ten seconds to confirm Peter's alternate identity… it was a whole other thing to be accepted (without volunteering) for the training programme of Em-Jay's prospective husband.
Objectively speaking, he did have the looks, the intelligence and the Spidey-swag to be more than good enough for even the pickiest semi-smart girl. Of course, the real Peter inside actually thought something more along the lines of 'Why the heck are they not calling the cops on me?'
"He has a personality," Mr Holmes spoke over the silent battle happening in between Mr Watson and his daughter, attracting the attention back to himself, as Peter privately suspected was the main point, "with a little too much modesty thrown it, but that's curable. He's not stupid. Also, he realises that the police are stupid, and has learnt to work around them. Yes, he will fit into the family well."
"I didn't mean to marry Peter just yet," Em-Jay protested sarcastically, and while Mr Watson nodded in understanding, Mr Holmes pretended to snort into his cup.
It was a curious moment, and Peter found that there was much more not-alright with this family that he had ever suspected. Mr Holmes had just done that gesture because he was attempting to communicate a certain feeling rather than because it came naturally to him. Weird. Also, seeing as both Mr Watson and Em-Jay had noticed and interpreted it without a pause, it must not have been a unique occurrence.
"Of course not," Mr Holmes allowed, brushing his lower lip with the pad of his thumb. "You were merely considering a long-term relationship with him and brought him to me to have me vet him out." He – blessedly – moved his dissecting stare from Peter to Em-Jay. "Lazy."
"Citing you as example," Em-Jay retorted easily, becoming for a moment the target of two proud glances (one from each of her fathers). She smiled at Peter. "Honestly, I wouldn't have invited you, Tiger, if I didn't think you were up to handling the pressure. Of course, that was before I knew you were the Spiderman."
Peter shook his head and gave her the blankest gaze he was capable of (he hated lying to her and also he wanted to brag just the tiniest bit, but in the last few years he had become the expert on appearing utterly ignorant). "Sorry, still no idea what you mean."
"He's good," Mr Holmes stated and poured himself some more sparkling water.
"Mhm," Mr Watson agreed with him, putting the rice and the vegetables down onto the table. "Nice dissembling, young man. Why, twenty-five years ago, I would have believed that."
Peter almost asked why twenty-five years ago, but there was the presence of Mr Holmes at the table, and it all became sort of obvious.
"You lied to me," Em-Jay accused, going mildly cross-eyed, as they undoubtedly taught her in the drama club she should whenever she wanted to come across as confused and accusing at the same time. A little over-acted, in Peter's private opinion, but he didn't know enough about theatre to dare voice that.
This, Peter figured in the interest of his continued well-being, wasn't the time to mention the people who did know (e. g. Gwen), so he tried to look a little yet not too guilty. "I didn't. Not really. But… sorry…?" To his excuse, he was still trying to shake off the adrenaline jolt brought on by Mr Holmes coolly mentioning his other identity in the middle of a casual conversation and linking it to him without so much as by your leave.
"It was inevitable, wasn't it?" Em-Jay said in a long-suffering manner, and raised he fork to gesture. "Of course the only boy my age half-interesting enough to get involved with would have a secret alter-ego." She sighed and, disheartened, stared at her plate.
Peter with a lot of effort managed to shake off the rising guilt. He did what he felt he had to do. It wasn't so much legacy as simply his conscience leading him. And once everything else in the world became subject to doubt, his conscience was just about all he could trust.
"I know how you feel," Mr Watson replied, shooting a quick glance at Mr Holmes, before he turned back to his daughter. "That is definitely something you have inherited from me."
Em-Jay snorted. "I sincerely doubt it's possible to inherit addictions from one's father."
Mr Holmes scowled.
Mr Watson was the one to unexpectedly guffaw into his glass and then set it down and, at his leisure, shifting his glance over all the diners. "My… weakness toward Sherlock is so much more than mere addiction."
"Obviously, John," Mr Holmes said in a patronizing tone that raised even Peter's hackles. "There is also the-"
"I think I'll start serving," Mr Watson cut him off.
The two men exchanged glares. Surprisingly (or perhaps not, considering the implied length of their acquaintance) Mr Holmes backed down.
Mr Watson picked up Peter's plate and smiled. "Now, young man. My daughter hardly ever shares anything with us and, unlike my husband, I cannot deduce it from a mere glance at her, so why don't you tell me about how you and Mary-Jane first met?"
Peter blinked, and then obediently opened his mouth and began to talk.