Fandom: Spectacular Spider-Man animated series
Characters: Peter/Gwen, MJ, Flash, Liz, Captain Stacy
Word Count: Part 7: 2,300 words
Beta: 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 // Part 6
Before Captain Stacy could finish opening the door, Peter was tackled into a hug. He was too surprised to do anything but hug back.
“Tiger... I’m so glad you’re safe,” MJ muttered into his hair.
His eyes flew open to see Gwen standing off to the side, looking... not displeased, but not completely happy either. He hugged MJ once tightly, and then released her. “I’m so glad you’re safe, too. You and Captain Stacy.” He nodded toward Gwen’s father, standing to the other side.
“We made it out fine... thanks to Spider-Man.” George nodded in gratitude.
Peter smiled and looked away quickly -- he had tried to keep things very vague on the phone, but he knew he was walking a fine line.
At that moment, MJ seemed to realize what standing so close to Peter looked like. She sent an apologetic look toward Gwen and slipped over behind Aunt May.
His aunt clucked disapprovingly as she came to take him into her arms next. “I’m going to have to give that Mr. Jameson a stern talking to, sending a high school student to take pictures in a dangerous situation like that!”
“Oh, Aunt May, please don’t do that,” Peter protested while hugging her hard. “I was perfectly fine... and he’s already threatened to fire me more than once.”
“I hope you got some good pictures then...” George said.
“Unfortunately, no... It all moved so fast, I couldn’t get a decent shot.”
“I can’t say I’m sorry,” May said firmly. “At least you are far from that madman. What kind of man goes around wearing some sort of lion suit terrorizing innocent civilians like that?”
“Kraven the Hunter,” Peter and George said at the same time.
“Spider-Man told me about him,” Peter continued explaining hastily. “He’s actually a wild feline/human hybrid.”
Aunt May shuddered. “Criminals these days!” She bustled toward the kitchen. “Let’s celebrate everyone’s safety! Anyone ready for another slice of pie?”
“I never got my first!” Peter called with a smile.
The others chorused their agreement, and May went around the corner. “Come, take a seat, Peter. We don’t need to stand around in the entryway all evening.” George gestured into the living room.
As they walked toward the sofa, Gwen took a few hesitant steps toward him and gave him a hug herself. “I’m really glad you’re okay...” She let go of him all too soon. “And Spider-Man really asked you to help?” she asked with confusion. “I thought you said you two don’t really talk...”
“That was true, until tonight. He needs my help.”
Before Peter sat in the armchair, he pulled a scrap of spandex out of his pocket, wrapped in a piece of hastily torn off garbage bag plastic. He held it out toward George. “This is what I told you about over the phone -- part of Spider-Man’s mask.” He had already burned the rest of the mask -- was scared enough that Kraven could still track him with this tiny bit of cloth. “Do you think that the crime lab can analyze this?”
George held it out in front of him, turning it in the light of the lamp beside the couch. “We’ll do our best. I think it’s the least we can do after all he’s done for the city.”
Gwen spoke up from beside her dad. “Analyze it? Why?”
“Spider-Man thinks that Kraven sprayed him with a chemical that the hunter can use to track the superhero. Maybe if the lab can figure out what it is, then they can develop a chemical to counteract it.”
As Peter spoke, Gwen’s face lit up with realization. “Wouldn’t this be a better job for the lab at ESU? Kraven is part animal -- it’s exactly the Connors’ specialty!” She turned toward her father with a hopeful look.
George placed a hand on his chin, considering. “That’s true... our crime lab is better suited to analyzing blood, hair and skin samples... for DNA evidence.” He gave Peter a significant glance.
Peter’s stomach lurched. DNA evidence, of course! In his rush to find a solution to the Kraven problem, he had completely forgotten about that! He had given the captain only a small piece of his mask, but who knew what kind of DNA evidence was on it already... And not everyone in the department was as supportive of Spider-Man as Captain Stacy.
“I’ll keep this to myself for now... until you... and Spider-Man... decide what you want done with it.” He stood again, nodding toward the kitchen. “I think I’d like a cup of coffee. I’ll bring some for you kids, too.” And just like that, he was out of the room, leaving the high schoolers alone.
“Your dad’s right.” Peter frowned after him. “But Spider-Man runs the same risk at the ESU lab, doesn’t he?”
“Depends... Are the Connors people Spider-Man can trust?” MJ asked.
“Of course he can trust the Connors!” Gwen said fervently.
Peter raised his eyebrows at her. “Even after the Lizard incident?”
“Why not? Without Spider-Man, the Lizard might have terrorized New York...”
“I get the feeling he wouldn’t like to be reminded about it.”
Gwen deflated. “Then who can he trust?”
Peter felt a spark of hope at her words. Maybe she would be more understanding of his double life than he had originally thought. “It must be hard for him to trust anyone.”
“Yeah. I was just hoping...”
“Hoping what?” Peter asked, curious.
“Well, if we could convince him to take his problem to the ESU lab... then I would be helping out in some small way. I feel like I owe him.”
Peter felt warmth suffuse him -- Gwen really cared that much about Spider-Man? The barrier in his mind, the one he kept propped up to guard against telling anyone his secret identity, started to crumble.
“Then that’s the answer,” MJ suddenly spoke up from her side of the couch. “Why can’t you and Peter help him?”
“You mean use the lab ourselves? Without permission?” Gwen looked a little shocked.
“It’s the winter holidays for ESU right? Couldn’t you just... tell the Connors that you have a project due for science class in January? Something about animal... I don’t know... scent tracking?”
Gwen tilted her head, considering. “I feel bad about deceiving them like that, though...”
“Sometimes...” MJ said, coming to sit beside Gwen on the couch, “...a little deception is necessary to keep people from getting hurt.” She put her arm around Gwen’s shoulders and gave her a tiny squeeze. She shot an understanding look at Peter at the same time.
Peter knew how true that was from experience. And he was finding MJ more of a kindred soul than he would have expected. “I agree with MJ, Gwen. And Spider-Man did come to me and your dad for help, not Dr. Connors.”
Gwen pursed her lips together. “It would mean that I’d get to actually help him myself.” Her face brightened and she put a hand on Peter’s knee. “Let’s do this!”
As she started to talk excitedly about their plan, she kept her hand there for a few moments longer. He felt the imprint of her palm for hours afterward.
“Just let me know if you two need anything,” Dr. Connors said before patting Peter’s shoulder with his robotic arm. “I’ll be in my office.”
Peter gave him a cheery wave and took the next chemical off the shelf. Gwen was flipping through files on the lab’s computer, looking for any pertinent research either of the Connors might have done on feline DNA. Every once in a while, she would call Peter over to look at an article or a chemical formula. He would lean over her shoulder to read the words on the screen, highly aware of her nearness. The clean fragrance of her floral shampoo almost overwhelmed him with its scent each time he got too close. And the fact that they were basically alone here in the lab, except for Dr. Connors behind his office door, made his feelings even stronger. If they weren’t so pressed for time, he would take this opportunity to really tell her how he felt, to let her know that she was more important to him than anyone else in his life...
The vibration of his bluetooth earpiece snapped him out of his inefficient train of thought. He couldn’t get distracted again -- he had an expert hunter on his trail! He needed to deal with one problem before tackling the next. “Peter here,” he said quietly.
“Everything fine in there, Peter?” the Captain asked on the other end of the line.
“We’re safe so far, if that’s what you mean.” He added a little of the chemical in his beaker to the test tube in front of him. “But so far, we’re no closer to finding out what this substance is.”
“All clear out here, too.” His voice became reassuring, turning almost fatherly. “Don’t worry. I have faith that you will find out what it is in time.”
“Thanks.” Peter ended the call.
After they had convinced Captain Stacy that their plan was the best (he was surprisingly supportive), he had insisted on securing the perimeter around the lab building. Plainclothes men were stationed about, keeping watch for anyone entering or exiting. Captain Stacy assured Peter that the men didn’t really know why they needed to protect the lab, but they were officers that the Captain trusted. Peter figured Kraven would have a hard time getting in without being noticed -- after all, he was a huge lion-like beast of a man -- but he’d had accomplices in the past. No telling what they might look like.
Peter compared the make-up of his solution to the solution he’d prepared from the piece of cloth. The two reacted differently. Peter sighed with disappointment. He had tried several possibilities, based on the research they’d already found on the computer, and a few others that he’d researched on his own, but they were running out of possibilities quickly. Pretty soon, they were going to have to get someone else involved. Maybe one of the Connors, or Professor Warren...
His spider-sense tingled lightly. “How’s it coming?” Gwen asked, right behind him. He was glad for that little warning, otherwise he might have jumped.
“Nothing yet. You?”
“About the same. All I can find are various feline pheromone compounds. And you tried most of that list I gave you already, right?”
“Yeah. I only have a couple more left: mitsugashiwalactone, and onikulactone.”
She shifted a little closer, and smiled shyly. “Need any help? I bet it would go faster if we worked on it together...”
Peter blushed a little at the invitation in her voice. “I... sure.”
Gwen brushed against his arm as she leaned across him to read the formulas printed on the page. She adjusted her glasses on her face as she read, and Peter thought he’d never seen such a cute movement in his life. By the time she nodded in decision, he was thinking about anything but the next compound on the list.
“I’ll just start with this one,” she said, reaching toward one of the beakers on the work area in front of him.
He watched her, mesmerized by her proximity and her movements. She straightened up and looked at him, opening her mouth to ask him a question, but nothing came out. She must have seen the look of adoration Peter was giving her and lost all train of thought herself.
He felt drawn to her, encircling her wrist with his fingers to lower the chemical safety to the work table, so that he could kiss her soft, pink lips. Gwen’s eyes started to close...
The sound of heavy footsteps, coupled with his spider-sense going off again, made him take a step back. Gwen opened her eyes just in time to see the intruder, too.
“Oh,” Professor Miles Warren said brusquely as he entered. “I didn’t expect any of the interns in here during the break...”
Peter hadn’t really expected to see him either, he seemed too busy to involve the high school interns in his research, preferring to work with the grad students instead. “School project, Dr. Warren,” Peter explained. He hoped that the professor would dismiss them as unimportant, and not check with their science teacher, his brother.
“Fine, fine,” he said, going to dig in one of the filing cabinets without any more small talk. And that was just fine with Peter -- the less any of the professors pried into what they were doing, the better.
He and Gwen worked silently for the next ten minutes, while Dr. Warren moved about between the files and his office. Then he left without even a word to his colleague Dr. Connors.
Peter relaxed when Warren left. It was bad enough that Dr. Connors was just in the next room. Gwen drifted back over to the computer again, while Peter went to the row of research texts along the wall.
He spent the next hour scouring every article on felines, scent marking, pheromones (both in insects and mammals)... and found nothing they hadn’t tried. And the minutes passing ticked louder and louder in his mind.
So loud that he almost missed Gwen’s soft, “Hmm, that’s odd.”
“What?” he asked, snapping to attention.
“I started digging more into the lab files on combining human and animal DNA, not focusing so much on just feline DNA, and I ended up clicking through a series of folders...” She frowned, and waved him over. “Just come look.”
“It’s buried really deep, and far away from his other research...” She pointed at a highlighted icon with the cursor. “But why would Dr. Warren have a folder labeled ‘Kravinoff’?”
Next: Part 8