Fandom: Spectacular Spider-Man animated series
Characters: Peter/Gwen, MJ, Flash, Liz, Captain Stacy
Word Count: Part 6: 2,500 words
Betas: northern_star, mark_clark
Summary: Peter still hasn’t talked to Gwen about that fateful kiss - he keeps getting distracted. Between his personal life and his spider-life, can he make it work?
Author’s Note: Set at the beginning of season 2, using episode 2.03 as a jumping off point. Not terribly spoilery, if you haven’t seen the first three episodes of season 2.
Previously: Part 1 // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4 // Part 5
Spider-Man paused at the entrance to the subway tunnel, feeling the anxious presence of the police behind him. He tried to extend his senses as far ahead as he could, but other than the general something-is-not-quite-right tingle he’d had for a couple of days, he couldn’t sense anything else.
Spider-Man turned back to the head officer, Lieutenant Jean DeWolff, standing at the exit to the street. “I’ll go on from here, try to figure out what’s going on. You’ll either see me... or I’ll send word with someone.”
“Right.” She nodded in affirmation. “Good luck, Spidey. Bring him back safe.”
“I’ll do my best.” With a quick leap, he attached himself to the roof of the tunnel, and began to crawl toward the accident site.
He reached the end car of the subway relatively quickly. It was completely empty. No signs of injured passengers, or even a malfunction of any kind. The next car was the same and the next... until he found an officer, passed out on the side of the tracks.
As silently as he could, Spider-Man crawled down the wall to where the officer lay. The young man was breathing, had a good pulse, and there was no sign of blood that Spidey could see in the light emanating onto the tracks from the inside of the subway car. Spider-Man turned the man’s head gently to check for a head wound... and a yellow glint of light caught his eye.
A small dart protruded from the officer’s neck.
A niggling suspicion began to form in the back of his brain. A dart like this meant one very likely suspect... but he would hold off before jumping to conclusions. Spider-Man tried to make the man comfortable, as comfortable as one who was unconscious could be in a cold tunnel, and pressed on.
The next few cars were just as empty as the first ones. He came across six or seven other officers along the way, all with the same darts in their necks. But no Captain Stacy. Spider-Man’s suspicions grew -- he only knew of one villain whose aim would be so perfect. He hoped his spider-sense would warn him in time to dodge the tiny projectiles.
Finally, he arrived at the first car. It was as brightly-lit as the other cars, but he could see as he approached that it was filled with people and dead silent. Most of the passengers were crowded toward the rear of the car. Not one of them made a sound.
He peered through his eyepieces, straining to see into the car, hoping that Captain Stacy and Mary Jane were among them. He then noticed two people, separated from the rest of the passengers. They were sitting on the floor curled up... or tied up? He inched a little closer to see better...
And his spider-sense blared.
He sprang off the side of the tunnel onto the roof of the subway car. A dart whizzed past his ear as he did so, but he couldn’t see who had fired it. Crouched on the top of the roof, he crawled forward silently. The dart had come from that general direction...
Another dart sailed toward him, and he flipped down and around to land on the windows of the car. The passengers inside saw him for the first time, and reacted with silent relief. And just as he suspected, the two figures on the floor were Mary Jane and Captain Stacy, their hands tied with some sort of leather strap.
“You two okay in there?” he called through the glass.
“We’re both okay.” The Captain’s voice was strong and sure, almost seeming more worried for Spider-Man. MJ seemed a little more unnerved than the Captain, which was understandable.
Spider-Man had hoped that MJ would have escaped with the other passengers in the other cars... He was suddenly very nervous. What chance was there that a bad guy would take two people who knew him out of costume? Someone had found him out...
Zing! He jumped out of the way just in time, back to the wall beside the subway. “You know, you’re gonna run out of darts before you get me, at this rate! Not that I mind...” He didn’t finish that thought because suddenly he heard a gigantic snarl from behind. He turned to see an enormous lion leap at him from the tracks, claws outstretched to rip him to shreds.
Kraven! I knew it! He easily dodged the giant cat, flipping over its head. “Hunter!” he called into the tunnel. “I thought you preferred hand-to-hand combat... not snipe shooting! What’s the fun in that?” He landed on the end of the lead car.
Kraven the Hunter’s figure rose from the front of the car. A hulking cat-like body, transformed from human to a leopard/lion/cheetah hybrid through a similar genetic mutation that had transformed Peter into Spider-Man. I still don’t know which mad scientist is responsible for that feat.
Kraven climbed up to crouch on the roof. “Very good, my young friend. You know me already. I would expect no less from worthy prey.”
“I’m no prey, though some think I’m a pest,” Spidey quipped. The ‘young friend’ part was more disturbing by far. “And I always thought you were more ‘hunter’ than ‘trapper’.” He gestured at the people inside the car, the obvious bait.
Kraven chuckled, a chilling sound. “A true hunter must adapt to the behavior of its prey.” He gestured as well, but to George and MJ. “I chose well, did I not? You are here.”
“I may be here... but I don’t stay still for long!” Spider-Man sprang away, all the while his mind going a thousand miles a minute. He had to protect these people, and let them escape. Then he could deal with the hunter alone. Kraven might not know exactly who he was after all...
Kraven tapped his lion-shaped nose. “Do not doubt my tracking skills.”
Just how had Kraven known who to take hostage? Had he been tracking Spider-Man ever since their last encounter? If so, he would have seen Peter with every person he held dear. Not just Captain Stacy and MJ, but Aunt May... and Gwen...
The web-slinger turned and launched himself back toward the passenger car, and found his way blocked by Kraven’s pet lion. His tail swished slowly back and forth, and he lowered his head, growling in warning. Was he guarding the hostages?
So... got Kraven behind me and the lion ahead -- I’ve got very few options. “Can’t go under it... can’t go over it...” Spider-Man chanted, like the children’s game. “Can’t go around it...” He shot a web-line out to a support beam, and whipped himself out and around toward the windows of the car.
“Gotta go through it!”
With a mighty crash, he sailed feet-first through one of the windows. The passengers shrieked and covered their heads, but they were protected from the worst of it, having crowded earlier to the corners of the train car. But Spider-Man couldn’t stop to make sure everyone was okay. He immediately wrenched open the doors with a metallic scream.
The lion bounded into the car, hot on his heels, drawing more shrieks from the passengers. Spider-Man was already back outside though. He had seen a glint of light stuck in the wall... and if he was lucky...
He grabbed the tiny dart, whirled and tossed it straight back at the lion. The dart hit the beast’s chest just left of center. The lion roared at the annoying stab of pain, but then his eyes rolled back and he crumpled into a sleepy heap.
“Hurry, folks! I don’t know how long he’ll be out!”
That was enough to send people scrambling toward the forced-open doors. Spider-Man noticed someone helping George and MJ with their bonds before getting out of the car. The two of them paused before following the crowd, looking up at him in his spot on the wall outside. “Be careful,” MJ mouthed.
Spider-Man couldn’t afford to respond. Not with Kraven around. He looked up then to see Kraven standing on the roof just above the mass-exodus. But instead of trying to stop them, he regarded Spider-Man with a calculating look. “Let these peasants escape. They will only interfere with my true hunt.”
“What about your pet?” Spider-Man nodded toward where the animal lay.
“He is a brave and resourceful creature. When he awakens, he will find me wherever I am.”
“Even if that’s jail?” Without warning, Spider-Man fired a blast of webbing at the hunter’s face and took off swinging in the opposite direction of the escapees. The webbing wouldn’t hold Kraven long, but maybe long enough for Spidey to get a small lead.
Swinging was faster than running, but Kraven was part cheetah, so even then the web-slinger stayed barely ahead. Spider-Man had to break out of the tunnel before the next station stop. He didn’t want to give Kraven a chance to take more hostages.
He spied an access hatch with a retracted ladder. He swung straight up into it, quickly opening the metal hatch to the outside.
Below him, Kraven laughed heartily. “Ah, yes. Let us take this business into the open air. An arachnid may feel at home in enclosed space... but I like to feel the wind in my face.” He jumped out into the tunnel right behind him.
Spider-Man took to the air. He might be fine in enclosed spaces, but the skyscrapers of New York City were Spider-Man’s ‘natural habitat.’ “Arachnid!” he called over his shoulder. “Most bad guys get that wrong. You might be smarter than I first thought!”
“A true hunter studies his prey, just as a scientist researches his theories.” Kraven threw a grappling hook to catch a nearby cornice. “You should know well.”
Peter's stomach clenched. If Kraven knew who he was, why didn’t he just come out and say it? Of course, many felines liked to play with their food before killing it. But he didn’t intend to end up a gazelle under Kraven’s claws.
“I only know what I see on the TV! That Dr. Sheldon Cooper, what a wacky genius!”
Somehow Kraven was managing to keep him in sight, despite the many twists and double-backs. The Hunter simply leapt or used his grappler to swing. He seemed fearless, determined and totally sure of himself.
“Wow, Kraven. Did you get another upgrade or something? I’m impressed!” He began to shoot lines ever farther, trying to put more distance between them. “But unless they crossed you with an African jumping spider this time, I’ve got the advantage out here.”
“No upgrade, just a better way of tracking you.” He jumped into traffic below Spider-Man, skipping over the tops of moving trucks like they were stones in a river. “No matter where you try to hide, little spider, I will find you!”
A better way? What could have changed since their last encounter on Christmas Eve? “Part blood-hound, then? Won’t the cat and dog DNA have trouble getting along?”
He had only meant that as a tossed-off line, but his mind opened up like a revelation. Was he really smelling him out? There had been that odd terrorist at the Plaza and the bomb which exploded into a bunch of nothing... except chemicals. And he’d been wearing the suit, or keeping it near him since that night!
Only one way to test that theory... but it meant taking off the suit in the middle of a chase! Thank goodness he’d bought that thermal underwear. He just hoped no one spotted him swinging through Midtown with little red hearts printed across his backside.
Spider-Man slingshot around a building, landing on the highest roof he could reach. Maybe that would buy him time. He stripped off his top and bottoms, as well as his boots. His stockinged feet screamed with the shock of the icy cold roof tiles, but what could he do? He made a web sack for his cell phone, and tied it to his waist.
Peter started to take off his mask, too... No. He couldn’t risk being ID’ed on his way back to pick up his street clothes. He had to hope that Kraven would follow the stronger scent of the main body of the costume. But what was he going to do for another Spider-suit? There went his next paycheck.
He wrapped his bundle around with a thin rope of webbing, and then took again to the sky. He swung into a dark canyon between two buildings and then slung the suit-bait out over the busy street below to the top of the roof across the way. He then quickly crawled to the top of the building, hiding in a crevice out of the wind.
Kraven appeared on the street below, completely unaware of the panic he was causing by his savage appearance. He seemed to sniff the air, wavering between Peter’s building and the decoy across the way. After a moment’s hesitation, he bounded away from Peter, toward the suit on the other roof.
Peter did not stick around to see Kraven’s reaction. He flew faster than he ever had before to reach his hidden stash of clothing at the high school. Once changed into Peter Parker again, he stripped off the mask and smelled it. He couldn’t smell anything on it. But he wasn’t a genetically-altered feline man, only a Spider-Man.
Peter studied the white-eyed mask for a moment. He couldn’t take it with him, or Kraven could pick up the scent again... but how else could he find out what chemicals Kraven was using?
The solution came to him then, his stomach dropping in fear at the implications. He pulled his cell phone from the web sack and stared at the screen for a few minutes. Could he do this? Should he?
But if anyone could understand...
He punched the buttons quickly, willing himself to stay on the line as it rang.
“Hello? Peter? Are you all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He swallowed. “Captain, can I ask you a favor?”
Next: Part 7