[Originally written way back in 2005]
It was snowing.
Ursula Ditkovich looked out the window, but she had no wish to go outside. Before she had moved to New York, she had expected that the city covered in snow would be a spectacular sight, but it wasn't, really.
Or maybe it was just the mood she was in.
She could just about make out the car, parked a little way down the street. Someone- a chauffeur, probably- was wiping the snow off the roof. Ursula kept watching.
The car had pulled up less than five minutes ago. About that time, she had been washing up, looking out of the window above the sink while she did so. That car- black, clearly somewhat expensive- had driven up the road, parked near the house and a man had got out.
At the time, she had been thinking about Peter. No real reason; she just thought about him often, that was all. She had a habit, she knew, of comparing other boys to Peter, and that was what she did with this one. He was tall, attractive...actually, he was probably better looking then Peter was...but even from her window she could make out his eyes, and there was something decidedly un-Peterlike in them.
She had been suprised, then, when he'd entered the building. She had never seen him before in her life, so he was almost definitely coming to see Peter.
She had heard him climb the stairs. Tap, tap, tap, tap. She didn't open the door and stare at him, because no-one liked to be stared at, but she had a feeling, as she remained in the dull, dimly-lit kitchen watching the snow fall, that something was going on.
Something that was none of her business.
She had heard Peter's door open, and that was it, pretty much. Now she had finished the washing up, and was waiting for nothing.
Her father came into the room. He looked at her. He gave a smirk and sat down.
"I can always tell what Peter Parker is doing. I just have to see what mood you're in," he said. "Don't tell me. He has the redhaired girl come to his room again."
"No," she replied, "he doesn't."
"Ah, so he has a different girl? Perhaps a blonde, who is prettier, huh?"
She was blonde, and knew full well she wasn't pretty. "No, a boy."
Her father snorted, picked up a newspaper and went out of the room. The attractive boy did not come back down the stairs again; Ursula would have heard him. If she went out on the landing she would be able to hear what was going on behind Peter's door, but she didn't want to. Whatever was happening between Peter and the other boy...and something was happening- it had nothing to do with her.
It wasn't like it hurt or anything. She hadn't even been jealous of the red-haired girl, and by rights she should have been. She was very pretty, apparently she'd done quite well in life (wasn't she an actress or something?), and she clearly had most of Peter's heart and love.
Well, who knew anything about humans and their hearts, anyway? Not her, that was for certain.
As the snow settled slowly over New York, a sense of, well, desperation settled over the house. The atmosphere changed. She felt like she no longer existed. She felt like there were two worlds in the house: the world she was in and the world the two boys across the hall were in. She could elaborate no further. The snow was still falling, and New York had never seemed so silent. Even her father, the loudest thing in the building, had shut up.
It stayed like that for a while.
By late afternoon the snow had stopped, and she heard the door across the hall opening. Her father had gone to sleep on the couch She tried to resist the urge to go outside to the hall, but she was by nature a curious person.
She opened the door just a tiny, tiny amount. She glanced through the crack, and they were kissing. A long, lingering, utterly hopeless kiss. And as soon as they parted- they looked at each other, just looked, and then were together again. Neither could leave the other, neither could be the first to let go. She tried to take her eyes away, she knew this was a terrible intrusion, but she just couldn't for the moment. The two people in front of her were being dragged back down to the real world again, and she was the only witness, and there was something unfair about all this...she was part of the real world.
Close the door, close the door!
She closed the door, and thankfully did it quietly. In truth, though, she wasn't sure they'd have noticed if she'd slammed it.
She knew she oughtn't listen, not after what she'd just done, but she simply couldn't help herself. She pressed her ear to the door...all she heard were the words "I'm sorry." It could have been spoken by Peter, or it could have been spoken by the other boy, or she could just have imagined it, it was hard to tell.
She heard footsteps going down the stairs, and then everything was silent as the grave once more. She didn't even hear Peter go back into his bedroom. She wasn't sure how she ended up on the couch, either, it seemed her feet had moved without her knowledge. Her father, awake now, came over to speak to her.
"We have guests to dinner tonight. Maybe you would like to cook, or run over to pizza place, girl."
"Okay," she said, not wanting to argue.
Dinner passed like every other dinner of her life had done. Her father's friends turned up, they ate and drank, they discussed things, throwing around insults in their typically ignorant way- if she tried to voice an opinion to them, she was laughed at.
She hoped Peter was alright. She really, really hoped so. Finally, hoping became too much for her, and she wandered right past her father and his friends, out of the door, across the hall, and to Peter's room. She remembered, this time, to knock on the door.
"Who is it?" called a voice that sounded eerily unfamiliar.
"It's me. The girl from across the hall."
There wasn't any answer, and she nearly, so nearly turned around and went back. But she gritted her teeth and turned the handle. Peter was on the other side of the door, his back to her, his shoulders slumped. She wondered in that instant if she and Peter shared the same fatal flaw; too much time spent staring out of windows.
He turned around and looked at her, a sad, trapped look. She never really found out why she said the words she said next:
"Go to him."
His answer haunted her, in a strange and thoughtful way, for many years to come. "I did."
She noticed then that his hair was dripping wet. She wondered why. Maybe he'd just gotten out of the shower. But he also seemed to have newly acquired some bruises on his arm...she put this information firmly out of her mind for now.
What to say next? Not are you alright. That was obvious. Painfully obvious. Eventually she walked towards him, her footsteps going creak creak creak on the floorboards. She sat down next to him. He made no attempt to move away, and she put her hand on his shoulder.
She was sitting next to him! On his bed! A few weeks ago- days ago- she would have been both excited and terrified of this prospect. But...no. Maybe not. He was no longer her fairy-tale hero...he was a human being, and he was bleeding. Had she known that, in the back of her mind, all along?
"Today I discovered," he said, his voice so flat, "that someone loved me, and loved me more than I think anyone has ever loved me."
Oddly enough, it was then and only then that she felt a strange stab of envy. The world had all gone quiet again. She concentrated on Peter, and on Peter alone.
"And you..." She knew that all she could do was talk to him. Maybe it would be enough. "You're hurt..."
He seemed almost not to hear her. "He...oh God, he was himself again just for this one day, more himself than he'd ever, ever been...and then...he made his choice. It's funny how I never expect anyone else to make choices, isn't it? Like I'm the only one." His voice was cold, actually cold, and she found herself tightening her grip on his shoulder. "I shouldn't have let him leave the apartment, I shouldn't...I don't know...what to do..."
She didn't know what he was talking about, but she knew it was important. She listened to him.
"I did go after him...I did try...I didn't hurt him..."
She thought he might be about to cry, and then he did cry. She wished she had a tissue to give him, but it was over within a matter of seconds.
"I shouldn't have let him leave, he said he was sorry, and now I know what he meant!" He placed his hand on her hand, the hand that was holding his shoulder, but this was her daydream no longer. "I shouldn't have let him leave! And I...I went after him...and people might have died, and...and..." He trailed off. "But he...I'm not making sense, am I? And perhaps I shouldn't tell you."
She never knew if he stopped his tears for his benefit or for hers. She kept her hand on his shoulder, and he kept his hand on hers, and she imagined that marks would be left there when all this was in the past.
"I think I would sell my soul," he said quietly. "to be able to inhabit multiple universes."
He stood up then, and he went to the window, and in that moment both she loved him and knew she would never love him in the same way again. He looked back at her and said her name.
"Ursula. Do you think that if everyone decided to give up love for responsibility, the world would be a better place, or a much, much worse one?"
She gave what she was fairly sure was the only answer:
"I don't know."
Upon leaving, she closed the door to his room for the last time.
Two days later, Peter moved out. She saw it all from her window. The red-haired girl was with him, and they both looked tired and worn, although clinging tightly to each other.
What had happened? She would never know. She had a feeling she knew more than most people did, and that evening after she'd returned to her room she'd guessed who Peter really was, but she didn't feel particularly clever for working it out. She quietly swore to herself to keep his secret, and almost cried, because there were no multiple universes, and no happy endings for any of them.
They got into a car and they drove away. She knew she'd never see either of them again, nor the boy who Peter had...loved. Loved for a few hours. A short lifetime. Who knew?
With a sigh she sat down and picked up a newspaper. The front page story was extremely interesting; apparently they'd found the body of the Green Goblin in the river. A Green Goblin, anyway, rumor had it that there were or once had been more than one. He'd still been wearing his armour and mask.
It depressed her greatly, and she didn't know why; the Goblin was meant to be the villain, after all. She realised she didn't want to read it all. She went to Peter's empty room, tried the door, but it was locked.
It didn't snow again for a very long time.