It wasn't over yet. The countdown was on thirty seconds when the computer finally loaded up. Ursula was panicking, almost crying, but then a little program popped up. She didn't have time to read what the text said, she just saw a little button that said Abort. She pressed it. Are you sure? it asked.
"Yes!" she screamed, pressing the button.
She thought she heard something somewhere power down- a noise that had been in the background suddenly stopping. But the countdown continued. In desperate panic, she waited. She crawled to Peter and grabbed his hand. Then the countdown reached zero...and then it stopped. Nothing happened.
She made a sound she barely recognised as human and coming from her. She collapsed on top of Peter, sobbing, blood dripping off her hands and onto him. Then she remembered, he was still very ill, possibly even dying, she needed to help him. She stood up, her legs almost giving way- and then the door opened, and her father burst in.
She thought she was imagining him until he ran and picked her up. He was shouting her name, but she barely heard him. He picked her up, and then he turned to Peter- he took a balaclava from his pocket and put it over Peter's head, just as some more people burst in. Through her blurred vision, Ursula saw Andrei- he'd barely changed since they both were kids. And behind him, there were some policemen.
"Dad," Ursula choked. "Dad, you gotta help Peter-"
"Hush now," her father said. "I take you home, I take you home right now..." And she felt herself almost collapsing. She wasn't really aware of the next five minutes: she heard lots of shouting, and the feeling of being carried downstairs, and then a sudden rush of fresh air. She was outside. The sun was slowly rising. In the increasing daylight, she saw something on the floor-
"Dad, hang on a sec," she said dizzily. "Can you- can you pick that up? It's important."
Her father leaned over and picked up Harry's diary from the ground.
When she awoke, the diary was the first thing she saw...but then she saw who was holding it: it was Peter. He was sitting on the end of her bed. He'd never been into her room before, and for a minute she thought she might be dreaming, that it all might have been a dream. And yet...there was still pain, plenty of pain, in her arms.
"Hi," Peter said.
"It's okay, it's only been a day," Peter said gently. Ursula raised herself up on her elbows. "Your cousin fixed you up. And me."
"What's...where's my dad?"
Peter turned his head and Ursula followed his line of sight. Her dad was standing in the doorway, and he looked exhausted.
"You do good," he said to her. "You do so good. I tell you, girl, I have shit scared out of me." But Ursula could only smile a little at that.
"The men who did all this, the cops have picked them up," Peter said. "I made sure of that. And MJ's fine, and my identity is safe-"
"Thanks to me," Ursula's father said with pride.
"Yes. The two of you saved my life...and Ursula, you saved thousands of lives." The admiration in his eyes seemed incredible to her, she had never thought she'd see something so, so great. "MJ's resting, at her own apartment. She'll be along later, and she'll want to see you..."
"World must know!" Ursula's father suddenly interupted. "World must know, what my girl did! Papers, televison, magazines, they must be told!"
"Dad, we can't tell anyone," Ursula said. "It'd put us all in more danger. We can't, ever..."
"So they not know?" Her father folded his arms. "They not care, that you save so many? Him, he get key to the city!"
Peter looked away as if remembering something awful. "I wish it worked the way we wanted it to," he said. "I really, really do."
"It doesn't matter," Ursula said. Maybe in a tiny, tiny part of her soul, she wished it was different...but she knew that was just some base intinct, something she would never feed. "Dad, we're alive."
Peter nodded. "Elya," he said to Ursula's dad, using his first name for the first time since they'd all known each other, "can you give us a minute? Just a minute."
Ursula's dad looked at both of them. "Why not?," he said. Then he actually winked at Ursula before he went out, and that raised her spirits although she knew he was wrong. This wasn't going to be that conversation; that conversation would never come. And she was alright about that. More than alright.
"You guessed my password," Peter said to her. "I set it up before I even knew you. Ursula...I...how did you know whose name it was?"
She didn't know how to answer. So she went with her gut. "You loved Harry, didn't you?"
"Not in the same way I love MJ."
"But you did, and I...you had something. I dunno what it was, and it's not my business, I just...I just knew."
Peter nodded slowly. He looked immeasurably sad. "I guess you did," he said. He raised the diary. "Thank you for recovering this, Ursula." He kissed her on the cheek, and then he left, and Ursula knew that was the end of the story of Peter and Harry, or it was the last she would hear of it from Peter, she was sure it would continue at night-time and in memories and in the back of a heart...
She heard Peter walking down the stairs and then he heard the door close. She leaned back and slept.
Days passed, she got better, and MJ came to visit.
"Can you walk?" she asked. Ursula nodded. "You can't have been out of the house in days. Let's go for a walk."
So they did. It was slow: Ursula's arms and legs were still sore. But eventually they wound their way through the streets of New York, and ended up at where Ursula had suspected they'd end up: a grave.
"Hey, Harry. It's me," MJ said. "And this is my friend, Ursula."
"Hello," said Ursula, quietly. MJ lit a cigarette and leaned against the gravestone. To others that might have seemed hugely inappropriate, but Ursula recognised the gesture for what it was. Your friends didn't stop being your friends just because they were dead.
"Come sit down," MJ said, and Ursula did. She sat facing her, hands knotted in her lap, unable to take her eyes off the gravestone. There were fresh flowers there, red and yellow ones. Roses.
"It's such a long and complicated story," MJ said. Ursula nodded, knowing she needed to talk, knowing it was important to let her. "The people at Harry's company were going to convince him to kill their competitors, just like Harry's father did once upon a time. They thought he would, because he was insane...they thought that was all it took to turn someone into a murderer. And they thought they'd get away with it, because...because Harry was schizophrenic, gay and pretty much alone and most people don't care about people like that. Anyway, Harry didn't do it. Didn't even think about it."
"Then he died. That kinda screwed up their plan. But they'd been looking in Harry's diaries...they were just looking for stuff to discredit him, but they found the big secret out. So of course Peter was the perfect new scapegoat, everyone would expect it, Spider-Man finally gone bad. And there being a, a thing between him and Harry." Ursula had been waiting for that. She opened her mouth to speak, but MJ got there first.
"It's okay. I can deal," she said. "I know how crazy human hearts are, I learned that from my parents. And we're actually talking more now than we were a few months ago. But I do wish none of this had happened, I wish a lot of things hadn't happened." She sighed. "And I wish people would stop trying to kill us."
Ursula suspected she would be the only one in all the world, from that moment on, to hear things like that. The things MJ could never tell Peter. She was really and truly MJ's friend now and friendship was, she realised, a terrifying but wonderful responsibilty. "MJ, we should go shopping or something."
MJ's eyes looked a little watery and she hastily wiped them, under the guise of wiping her nose. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. I mean, we don't actually have to buy anything...s'just...New York is still here, we might as well enjoy it."
MJ nodded. She looked grateful, and- unless it was a trick of the morning light- she looked like some of her old energy was coming back. She stubbed out her cigarette.
"Let's go do that," she said. She raised her fingers to her lips, and then pressed them to the grave. "Bye, Harry."
"Bye," Ursula echoed. Then she added. "It was good to meet you. Thank you for helping me."
When she got home that evening, her father was turning the first few pages of her book around in his hands. It wasn't much to look at, she had written it on scraps of spare paper, but he was looking at it like it was the most amazing piece of work he'd ever seen. He put it down, in a careful pile, when she came in.
"You good writer," he said stiffly. "Take after your mother."
"Thanks," she said, aware of what that meant. "Dad-"
"Sorry," her father said. "I sorry I not give you good life here. I sorry I not be great father. And...I so sorry I burnt your mother's things." He looked her right in the eyes, his lip trembling a bit. "Not right. She would kill me, if she knew. Can you forgive me?"
"Yeah, course," she said, not even thinking about it. "Always...Dad, you saved my life."
"I not do too badly," he said softly. Then, "Maybe Peter not have to pay rent this month."
"Next month, though!"
Ursula hugged him, something she hadn't done for years, and then she went into her room and wrote. She wrote about love that both destroyed and saved, about bad parents and good parents, about villany and heroism- and then she was done, and she looked at the city lit up through the hole in the wall -and in twenty-one years, she had never felt better.