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We Gather Together, 2/3

Title: We Gather Together, 2/3
Authors: htbthomas and Georgia Kennedy
Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse
Characters: Peter, Mary Jane, Aunt May, Madeline and Philip Watson
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: Part 2: 3120 words
Summary: Mary Jane and Peter spend Thanksgiving with Aunt May and MJ's parents, but will her schmuck of a father ruin the whole day?
Author's Note: Thanks to mark_clark for the beta.

Previously: Part 1

WE GATHER TOGETHER
by HTBThomas & Georgia Kennedy


Disclaimer

This story is a work of fiction based upon Spider-Man, copyright 2002 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc, all rights reserved. Spider-Man 2, copyright 2004 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., all rights reserved, Spider-Man 3, copyright 2007 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., all rights reserved, Hulk, copyright 2003 by Universal Studios, Inc., all rights reserved. and Daredevil - Director’s Cut, copyright 2004 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc., all rights reserved. The authors are not connected with nor is this work authorized by Marvel Enterprises, or the aforementioned motion picture studios. This work is intended solely for posting on fanfiction websites, for the benefit and enjoyment of their intended audiences. No commercial or financial benefit accrues or is intended to accrue to the authors as a result of said posting.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


It suddenly felt as if the temperature in the apartment had dropped thirty degrees, despite the heat coming from the kitchen.

Philip Watson was standing in the doorway, wearing a decent, if ill-fitting sports jacket and tie, holding his beat-up porkpie hat.  To Mary Jane, the surly expression on his face said it all... I'd rather be at Paulie's Grill with my drinking buddies, but since I gotta do this meet-my-son-in-law crap, I might as well get it over with and get a free meal out of it...

"Phil."  Madeline Watson acknowledged her husband's presence with a brief, courteous nod. 

"Madeline,"  Phil Watson grunted in that voice that reminded one of gravel spilling out of a dump truck.  He appeared to be giving his wife a head-to-toe inspection.  "You ...you're lookin' kinda good.  You feelin' all right?" 

"Yes, thank you."  Madeline was doing her best not to sound too uptight.  But it was hard after twenty-three years of dysfunctional marriage. 

Phil's beady eyes darted around the room, catching Mary Jane as she leaned against the piano, Peter at her side.  "Uh, hi, Dad," MJ said nervously.

Phil snorted under his breath.  "You got some muscle there, Mary Jane. You workin' out, or somethin’?"  He rarely, if ever, complimented his daughter.  And when he did, he somehow managed to make it sound like an insult.

"Every day," Mary Jane answered, subdued.  She felt Peter's hand gently take hold of hers.  She squeezed back, needing to reassure herself that she was safe. 

"Phil," Madeline urged.  "Why don't you say hello to May and Peter?  After all, they had the courtesy to invite us."

"Thanks, Mrs. Parker," he half-mumbled.  He did not even bother acknowledging Peter, who took the snub in stride.

"You're welcome, Mr. Watson."   Aunt May replied, doing her best to keep her holiday cheer intact.  Her smile seemed genuine. "Did you have any trouble finding the apartment?" 
"Nah," he said with a snicker.  "No trouble at all, thanks to that racket I heard getting off the elevator."

Mary Jane's eyes narrowed and her nostrils flared.  The nervousness she had been feeling quickly turned into a wave of anger rising in her throat.  Not only had her father put her down, but he managed to hurl one of his zingers at Aunt May, as well.  The old woman was bending over backwards to make him feel welcome, and this was the thanks she got?  

But May simply ignored it.  She and Peter had been through far too many hardships in their lives to allow themselves to be bothered by anything that came out of this ignoramus's big mouth.  They knew what he was; they must have always known.  Night after night, Phil Watson's drunken bellowing would drift over to the Parker house from across the alley.  Perhaps that was why Mary Jane was not surprised when Peter took it upon himself to launch a peace mission.   He stepped forward and offered his hand.  

"Mr. Watson," he said in his typical, soft-spoken manner.

"How ya doin'...  owwww!  What the…?"  Mary Jane could see confusion on Phil's face.  She wondered whether her father was even capable of getting the subtle message that Peter was obviously sending. 

After staring at Peter for nearly a minute, Phil finally out of it.  "Got a beer?" he asked May.  

"Phil, you promised that you wouldn't drink today," Madeline said a little sharply.

"Take it easy, Madeline.  I'm a little thirsty.  One beer ain't gonna hurt nothin’."

May had extracted a bottle of O'Douls from the refrigerator and handed it to him.  "Here, Mr. Watson.  Try this.  It's nonalcoholic."

"Thanks," he grunted.  "It ain't my first choice, but I'll take it." 

"Would you like a glass?"  May asked.

Phil shook his head as he popped the cap off.  "Ain't necessary."  He swallowed over half the bottle with one swig.  A few seconds later, he belched. 

Madeline could only shrug helplessly at May, who gestured that she understood.

Mary Jane rolled her eyes, feeling embarrassed as well as disgusted. 

Phil had put down his drink and glanced at the cuckoo clock on the living room wall.  "Where's the remote?" he demanded.  "The football game's on."  Eyeing the remote on the coffee table, he snatched it up and aimed it at the newly installed cable box.

"Who's playing?"  Peter asked as Phil flipped the channel to FOX.

"The Detroit Lions are hostin' the New England Patriots."

"Phil," Madeline pleaded.  "Why don't you just relax and be a part of the conversation?  You can watch football anytime."

Phil Watson glared at his wife, irritated.   "You know I watch football every Thanksgiving.  I ain't about to stop now."

"It's all right, Madeline," May said.  "Let him watch if he wants to.  It will keep him occupied until dinner's ready."  

Phil parked himself on the sofa, directly in front of the TV.  Peter sat down next to him, but Phil was too engrossed in the game to even bother acknowledging his presence.  Joe Buck was calling the play-by-play.  "First and ten ... Brady hands off to Varick ... It's a counter-gap over the right side ... Varick knocks over a Lions defender, breaking into the open field  ... There he goes ... on the way to his seventeenth touchdown ... and a new NFL record.  Chuck Varick becomes the first and only player to rush for over two thousand yards in two consecutive seasons."  

On cue, Troy Aikman delivered his usual incisive color commentary.   Good effort by Eugene Thompson, the Lions' rookie defensive end out of Syracuse, trying to close the hole, but Varick just dropped his shoulder and ran right over Thompson, putting him on the ground.  Once Varick busts through the line of scrimmage, he's impossible to bring down."  

"Quite Right, Troy.  Chuck Varick's been a big reason why the Patriots have won three Superbowls and may be on the way to a fourth.  Only seven years in the league and he already has over eleven thousand rushing yards..."

Phil, meanwhile, had gotten a good look at the hapless defender who looked like he had just been run over by a freight train.  "Hey, Mary Jane," he called out over his shoulder.  "You'll never guess who's playin' for Detroit!"

Mary Jane had finished making the gravy and was putting it on the table.  "No idea, Dad."  She looked up and saw Peter grinning from ear to ear.

"Flash Thompson.  I told you he was gonna hit the big time, didn't I?  He must be makin' millions."

But Mary Jane just shrugged her shoulders.  "So what?  He was a jerk back then, and he's probably a rich jerk now."

"Yeah?" Phil barked back, starting to get riled up as an old, sadly familiar Watson family dynamic started to kick in.  "I'll bet he's livin' in a twenty-room mansion while you two are shackin' up in some Hell's Kitchen tenement."

"Phil!"  Madeline shouted, appalled by her husband's complete lack of tact. 

"Don't look at me, Madeline.  This girl started it with her smart-ass mouth." 

Mary Jane was so furious that if the gravy were still in her hands, she would have hurled it right at her father's face.  

Even Aunt May was taken aback.  She did not say a word, but Mary Jane could read the expression on her face as clear as an open book.   How dare you make those insinuations about my nephew...

Fortunately, Peter was able to diffuse the situation before it got out of hand.  "Actually, Mr. Watson, we're living in a co-op," he put in mildly.

"Whaddidya move or somethin’?"

"No.  We exercised an option to buy when the apartment converted."
  
"Well, the Kitchen ain't exactly no gated community.  And you ain't Spider-Man... What are you snickering at, girl?"

"Um... nothing."  Mary Jane could not help it.  The thought of Peter ripping open his shirt and revealing his spider-costume to her unsuspecting father was so hilarious that it had actually dissolved her anger. She quickly glanced at Aunt May, who managed to conceal a smile while checking on the bird.  As for Peter, he merely nodded in agreement as Phil Watson continued to lecture him.  "What if your girlfriend here was walkin' home by herself, and some punk jumped out of an alley and stuck a knife in her throat?  What the hell would you do then, genius?"

"Dad!"

"Hang on a second, MJ."  Peter winked at his fiancée, signaling to her that he had the situation in hand.  "I think your dad may be right..."

"Damn straight, Parker.  You may have gotten lucky against Flash, but lightning don't strike twice in the same place."

"Well," Peter commented in a low-key fashion. "MJ always said you were a good boxer.  Maybe you could show me a few moves?"

The three women turned toward Peter with looks of astonishment.

Phil Watson threw his prospective son-in-law a contemptuous glance.  "You wanna go up against me?"

"You said it yourself, Mr. Watson.  Hell's Kitchen is a rough neighborhood.  I could probably use a few pointers."

"Phil, this isn't the time or the place," Madeline interrupted.  

"I'll be happy to teach him how to fight, if that's what he wants," Phil snapped.  "At least this college boy's got enough guts to admit that he don't know everything."

Aunt May started to say something, but deferred to Mary Jane.  "Don't be too rough on him, Tiger," MJ said with a sly smile.  

Phil Watson snorted with contempt.  "Get over here," he growled, taking off his jacket and beckoning Peter to join him in the center of the living room.  "Bend your knees, put one foot in front of the other, and crouch low... that's it.  Now, put both fists up."

Peter did as Phil instructed, holding his fists upright, chest-high, a la the great nineteenth-century boxer John L. Sullivan. 

"No, no. Not like that.  Nobody does that anymore.   They'd eat ya alive.  Get down a little lower.  Now, put them mitts up near your face, so you can protect yourself.  That's it."

"Uh, what do I do next?" Peter asked meekly.

Phil did not answer, at least not with words.  He was already in a combat stance.  "Ya ready for me, tough guy?" he hissed. Suddenly he lunged at Peter and let loose a flurry of jabs and uppercuts, moving quickly for a middle-aged man with a paunch.

But as fast as he thought he was, Peter was even faster.  May and Mary Jane watched in amusement as Peter effortlessly weaved away from the man's onslaught.  As for Madeline, she seemed to be wondering how anyone could move that swiftly.

"What the hell...?"  Phil was stunned.  He could not believe it either.  "How'd ya do that?" he panted.

"Do what?" Peter asked in mock-confusion.

Peter's mild-mannered, almost casual dodging seemed to make Phil Watson even madder.  Flatfooted and almost out of breath, he kept bobbing and weaving, his frustrations mounting as he repeatedly tried to land a blow.  But the only thing his fists could connect with was empty air.  Finally, he bent down, clasping his hands on his knees, an expression of confused displeasure on his face.  "Just how the hell did you manage to lay one on Flash anyway?" he demanded.  "Was he just toying with you?"

"To tell you the truth, Mr. Watson, I don't even know how I did it.  All I remember is that I was scared.  Maybe I was like that mom who had the big adrenaline rush and lifted a car to save her baby."

"That's a bunch of bullshit,"  Phil sneered.  "Tell you what, boy, why don't you take a shot at me?"

"Um... I don't know, Mr. Watson.  I really don't like to hit people."

"Whatsamatta, tough guy?  Afraid Mary Jane'll find out you ain't no real man?"

 "Phil, stop trying to provoke him," Madeline demanded. 

"Take it easy, Madeline.  I'm just bustin' the kid's balls a little bit.  If he's got any, that is."  He started guffawing, oblivious to the silent glances exchanged between May and Mary Jane.  

Aunt May made the sign of the cross.

"Whaddya worried about, Mrs. Parker?  I ain't gonna hit 'im back, I promise.  I just wanna see what kinda stuff he's got."  He noticed Mary Jane doing the same thing.  "Whatsamatta, girl?  You worried that your bookworm boyfriend'll hurt his hand?" 

Mary Jane said nothing.  She just shook her head.  If you only knew whose manhood you just called into question, you stupid schmuck...

"All right, Parker, enough games."  Phil stood erect, exposing his gut, not even trying to cover up.  "Go on, gimme your best shot."   

"Well, okay..."  Peter connected with a roundhouse left, smack in the middle of Phil Watson's breadbasket.  Not too hard, but just enough to make him double over in momentary pain.  And, Mary Jane hoped, get the message.

It took Phil Watson about a minute to recover.  "How in the hell did you...?"  His voice trailed off.  He was unable to finish the question.

"Did I do it right, Mr. Watson?"  Peter asked with a practiced eagerness that fooled no one but him.

"Yeah, kid."  A new look was beginning to dawn on the man's face.  It was a look of respect.  "Lesson's over."

"Well, I'm glad," Aunt May said.  "Fighting never solves anything."

"Sometimes, we ain't got no choice," Phil pointed out.  "If a big guy like Flash Thompson was comin' after me, I would've fought back, too."

There was something in the man's voice that Mary Jane had never heard before.  A hint of reasonableness? The first inkling of fatherly affection?

Or was she only hearing what she wanted to hear, her hopes fueled by wishful thinking that her father would somehow come around and accept her choice of a suitor?

People don't change ...

"You're a good boxer, Mr. Watson," Peter said. 

"You're damn right I was good."  Phil went on, becoming more animated since he first arrived.  "For three straight years, I was the golden gloves champion of East New York, back in Brooklyn.  Then I turned pro and won my first five fights.  I was really goin' places.  I got to be a sparrin' partner for Sugar Ray Leonard."

"How come you quit?"

It was an innocent enough question.  But it touched a nerve.  Whatever it was that passed for a smile on Phil Watson's face abruptly faded, to be replaced with the surly expression that everyone who knew him well had long gotten used to. Mary Jane and Madeline looked at each other, wondering if Phil was going to launch into another one of his tirades.  But, to their complete surprise, and without any prompting whatsoever, Phil Watson finally came clean about his past. 

"The boss of the fight racket back then was a guy named Fallon.  If you wanted to get anywhere, you had to go through him.  I got matched with some washed-up has-been named Jack Murdock.  Called himself 'the Devil.'  He always had his kid around him.  I coulda taken this guy out in the first round, easily.  Just before the fight, Fallon comes up to me and tells me to throw the fight."  He stopped for a moment, needing to collect himself, his voice close to breaking.

Mary Jane stared at her father in astonishment. In all the years she had lived under his roof, not once had she ever seen him cry.

Peter, sensing that he had touched a nerve, said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Watson.  I shouldn't have brought it up."
  
Philip waved him off, continuing with his story. "Anyway, if you knew what was good for you, you did what Fallon told you to do.  And I did.  I did exactly what he told me to do.   But I had no idea what I was doin'.  When I fought, I always fought to win.  Nobody ever gave me any pointers on how to throw a fight.  So I went down in the fifth round, just like they told me.  But afterwards, the judges reviewed the film and saw what I did.  They took away my boxing license without ever letting me tell my side of the story.  They just wanted to sweep the whole thing under the rug, and me along with it."

"What about Fallon?"  Madeline asked.  "He was your manager.  Couldn't you go to him for help?"

"I did.  And do ya know what happened?  He sent his chief goon, some huge black guy with a bald head.  That guy had this look about him that could scare the crap out of anyone.  He carried this really heavy walking stick that musta weighed at least fifty pounds."  He shuddered as events that he preferred to forget seeped back into his subconscious mind.

"The Kingpin?"  Mary Jane whispered into Peter's ear.

Peter nodded. 

His voice cracking, Phil Watson struggled to finish his story.  "I thought he was gonna whack me for sure, but instead he told me that Fallon had arranged a job for me at the rail yards.  Then he handed me this red rose and said, 'if you try to get back in the game, we're gonna kill ya.  Have a nice life.'"  He buried his head in his hands.

Madeline went over to embrace him.  "Phil, you never told me."

Phil looked up, tears running down his cheeks.  "What, that my manager was a fixer for the mob?  How could I tell ya a thing like that?  How could I tell anybody?"

"And you never fought again after that?"  

Phil shook his head.  "Nope.  Two years later, I'd finally worked up the guts to ask Fallon to give me a second chance.  But before I could even pick up the phone, I heard that the cops had found Jack Murdock dead in some alley, his kid right there with him.  That was it.  At that point, it wasn't worth it no more."  He clenched his fists.  "Those bastards took everything away from me.  I coulda been a champ.  There ain't no justice in this lousy world."

For Mary Jane, the revelation was nothing short of incredible.  Suddenly, Phil Watson was no longer a miserable SOB, but an angry, embittered man whose livelihood had been taken away from him.  In spite of all the abuse she had put up with from him over the years, she actually found herself feeling sorry for him.  For all his faults, he was still an honest, law-abiding man who played by the rules.

She was about to mention the Kingpin's conviction when suddenly, Peter's head jerked up and started snapping from side to side, his eyes all but bugging out of his head as sounds of fire trucks, off in the distance, but getting closer, filtered through May's living room window.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


To be concluded...

Part 3

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
bretzysdude
Nov. 18th, 2007 12:56 pm (UTC)
Fantastic! And you had to end with a cliffhanger. :)

Interesting to see a softer side of Phil like that...
htbthomas
Nov. 18th, 2007 01:04 pm (UTC)
Of course I had to end that way! It's actually what ECQ stands for (Evil Cliffie Queen) - hehehe.

Yes, even schmucks can have surprising facets to their personality. :) Last part on Wednesday!
ancarett
Nov. 18th, 2007 07:48 pm (UTC)
Oh, real exciting! And you worked in the Daredevil, too -- I'm impressed and eagerly awaiting the rest of the story.
htbthomas
Nov. 18th, 2007 09:31 pm (UTC)
The universe this is based in is a Spider-Man / Daredevil crossover, but we tried to make it accessible to people who had only seen the Spider-Man movies. I'm glad you enjoyed that! :)

The next part will be in a couple days. Thanks for the review! :)
lilyoftheval5
Nov. 19th, 2007 02:30 pm (UTC)
Oh you softhearted girl. What a nice correction of the view on a person's character...
htbthomas
Nov. 20th, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
Yeah, well, :) My co-author and I are probably a soft-hearted pair for sure. ♥
mithah
Dec. 29th, 2007 05:58 am (UTC)
And here I was, worried for nothing! You actually managed to make MJ's deadbeat dad a sympathetic character...and taught him a thing or two in the process! Leave it to Peter to bring out the best in people, eh? And get a few punches in, too. Aaand, of course, your trademark evil cliffhanger...would you believe I missed those?

Yeah, I knew I was a masochist. ;)
htbthomas
Dec. 29th, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
I have to credit Georgia for that one - she's the one who came up with this character arc, which was a brilliant idea. But even she agreed we should do the evil cliffies in this shorter piece! LOL.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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