Fandom: Spectacular Spider-Man animated series
Characters: Peter/Gwen, MJ, Flash, Liz, Captain Stacy
Word Count: Part 9: 2,700 words
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 // Part 7 // Part 8
“... can’t believe you did that...” “... I worry so much about ...” “... all I think about is how much I care about you...”
Peter’s muzzy brain tried to process the words that were reaching his ears. He seemed to be lying down in a bed -- and as he became more aware of his surroundings, he realized that he was in his own bed. He felt a hand on his face, stroking down his cheek. His eyes fluttered closed again. The hand moved its way down his arm, past his wrist and to his hand. It squeezed lightly. “Peter?”
The voice was very familiar to him. He tried his own voice, “Gwen?” He allowed himself to open his eyes fully. Gwen indeed sat beside his bed, stroking his hand and arm.
“Hi,” she said, her face lighting up. “Welcome back.”
“My dad said you passed out and he brought you home.” She reached up a hand to brush back the hair from his forehead. “You shouldn’t worry us like that, you know. Aunt May has been in a tizzy all evening.”
Captain Stacy brought him back? He suddenly realized that Gwen’s hand was moving back and forth over the place he normally kept his web shooters. But they weren’t there -- where were they? If Stacy had taken them off, then there would be no denying his secret any longer. The fact that Peter had woken up in his own bed, instead of the hospital, comforted him a little -- George might want to protect his identity as much as Peter did. Peter looked guiltily up into Gwen’s turquoise eyes. How much did she know? Everything?
“I’m sorry...” He started in a weak voice. “But I had to. I couldn’t let you get hurt.”
“But then, you got hurt instead! When they found you out cold and you wouldn’t wake up...” She shuddered. “But dad was sure you’d be all right, with some rest. Looks like he was right.” She smiled.
Peter smiled back weakly, blanching internally. He could imagine himself, found unconscious on the floor, in someone else’s smelly jacket, web shooters found when a paramedic checked him for a pulse. And yet, since he didn’t seem to have a horde of paparazzi at his door (he was sure he would have sensed it), or Gwen and Aunt May taking turns chewing him out -- Stacy must be his guardian angel.
“Still, what you did was very brave -- leading that lion away from me. How did you get away from it?”
She asked so simply, so amazed, that he was suddenly sure Gwen did not know. Why not? Captain Stacy surely knew -- why would he keep this from her? For the same reason Peter kept it secret from everyone -- to protect them? Or did he have another reason?
“I got as high as possible -- I climbed a tree. Just in time, too. Then, when the police and Kraven were distracted with Spider-Man, they left me behind. I must have fallen out of the tree and got a concussion.”
“Wow... you were really lucky.”
“No, just really hard-headed,” he joked. Then he turned serious. “So your dad... he’s okay?”
“He says he is -- but even if he were hurt, I’m not sure he would tell me.” She frowned briefly. “He tells me it’s because he doesn’t like to bring work home.” She started to straighten Peter’s blanket over his body, not meeting Peter’s eyes and looking uncomfortable. “I know it’s because he doesn’t want me to worry. Doesn’t he see that I worry more when he doesn’t tell me?” She looked back into Peter’s eyes, her own eyes pleading.
This is it, Parker. This is your chance to do what you know you have to do. Don’t blow it... He lifted up onto his elbows, gearing up to tell her.
The door opened. Peter sank back into his pillow in defeat. Aunt May bustled in, all flailing hands. “Peter! You’re awake! Are you feeling all right?” She squeezed through the space between Peter and Gwen and placed a hand on his forehead.
“Aunt May, I’m fine.” He gave her his brightest smile to prove it. Now that the effects of the gas... or spell... or mind control... had worn off, he felt ready to web swing across the city again. “Just a little hungry.” He started to sit up and May pushed him back down.
“No, no, I’ll bring you something. I have some soup warming on the stove...” She gave him one last searching look. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Yes,” he said, laughing. “I’m...” He suddenly noticed Captain Stacy hanging back beside the door, holding a plastic bag in his hands. “... spectacular,” he finished.
“All right, then, I’ll be back in a few minutes with the soup.” She patted his arm a couple of times and then bustled back out.
Once Aunt May had gone, Captain Stacy came forward, pulling Peter’s desk chair over to sit on the other side of Peter’s bed. “I’m glad to see your better, Peter, I was pretty worried.”
“Thanks. Did anyone catch Kraven or Calypso?”
“No, unfortunately. Calypso? Witnesses mentioned a woman -- is that who you mean?”
Peter panicked for a second, then calmed. If Stacy knew the truth, and he was planning to tell Gwen anyway, what did it matter? “Kraven called her that before she was knocked out. He carried her off -- then I blacked out.”
“Wait, Peter,” Gwen asked, her voice tense with confusion, “You saw Kraven? I thought you fell out of a tree?” Gwen asked.
“Well, I... I just... oh, man...” He put his head in his hands. He was caught in a whole spider’s nest of lies here. “Gwen, I’m sorry...”
“Son...” George said in a comforting voice. “You just woke up from being unconscious for several hours. Regain your strength. You don’t need to say anything right now.” He pressed his hand firmly down on Peter’s arm, as if to physically prevent him from doing anything stupid.
Even if it was stupid, it was the right thing to do -- if he wanted to earn and keep the Stacys trust. “No, I’ve got plenty of strength, Captain Stacy. And I do need to say something. I owe it to you both.” He pulled the covers back quickly and stood up on George’s side of the bed. Gesturing to the bag the Captain had carried in, he asked, “Are those mine?”
“Yes, Peter.” He handed it over solemnly.
Gwen sat on her side of the bed, looking back and forth between her dad and Peter with complete incomprehension. Well, she’ll understand soon enough.
Peter opened the bag -- his jacket, the one he had left on a ceiling beam -- was inside. He pulled it out. And in the pocket of the jacket were his web shooters. Without a word, he took them out and strapped them on with practiced ease.
“Gwen,” Peter said, and she looked up at his face with wide eyes. “You know how I always seem distracted?”
She nodded numbly.
“Well...” He shot a strand of webbing straight upward and flipped to attach himself to the ceiling. He looked back down at her through his floppy bangs. “...this is why.”
Gwen gasped. Captain Stacy simply nodded in understanding. Peter’s spider-sense tingled strongly then, and he leapt down in an instant, just as Aunt May came in with a tray of soup. He quickly hid his wrists behind his back.
“Peter, here’s some chicken noodle soup, just the way you...” She noticed that Peter was out of bed and tutted at him. “Peter! Honestly. Do you think you’re superhuman or something? Get back in bed this instant!”
Peter thought of arguing, but decided he’d already proved his point to the Stacys. “Yes, ma’am,” Peter assented, slipping back beneath the covers.
May nodded with motherly satisfaction and settled the tray on his lap. “Now if you’re well enough to be up and about, you’re well enough to finish all of this off.”
Peter eyed the huge bowl of soup and half a loaf of French bread. Wow.
She ruffled his hair like a little kid. “Right?”
Peter answered by tearing a piece of French bread off with his teeth and giving her a crumb-filled smile.
As soon as she had left the room, Peter set down the loaf. He looked from Gwen, who had since controlled her shock, to George, who wore a thoughtful expression.
“So...” Peter let the word hang in the air. He supposed that the ball was in their court now.
“What just happened there...?” George asked quietly. “Did you know someone was going to walk in?”
“Yes... I get this sort of... tingle... whenever I’m in immediate danger or if someone is approaching unexpectedly.” Peter played with his spoon, feeling awkward. He’d never actually tried to explain it to anyone before. “I call it my spider-sense.” He shrugged, embarrassed. “It really comes in handy with the bad guys, but the rest of the time it just sort of makes me look... flaky.”
George nodded thoughtfully again, seeming to process everything. Peter was amazed that the Captain wasn’t giving him a lecture on responsibility -- or angrily warning him to be more careful -- or condescending to him about how young he was.
“I have more questions... but I only want you to tell me the answers if you feel comfortable. You’ve trusted me enough to tell me the truth. I promise you, you can trust me, too. This is not going in any police report, Peter. What you say will stay in this room.”
“But why?” As much a relief as the Captain’s words were, it didn’t make sense to Peter. “Isn’t this what you do? Investigate?”
“Peter... I’ve spent the last several months studying you -- the way you operate, the things you say, your willingness to work with the police... and I know your heart is in the right place.” His eyes drifted upward, unseeing, as he continued. “There are a lot of things that the police force just isn’t equipped to deal with, and couldn’t deal with... not within the system. I’ve seen this first hand.” He looked back into Peter’s eyes. “But you... being outside the system, being able to catch this new breed of criminal out there... New York needs someone like that.”
“Even though I’m outside the law?” Peter knew he was pressing the issue, but he had to be sure of the Captain’s intentions.
“You’re not outside the law, Peter. Just outside the system. From what I’ve observed, you try to uphold the law.” He patted Peter’s arm. “And now that I know your identity, I’m even more determined to help you.”
“Because I’m just a teenager?”
“Teenagers throughout history have accomplished amazing things. Your strength of character is more important than your age.” He pressed his lips together. “But under today’s laws, you’re not yet an adult. I feel responsible for you. This is a tough burden for anyone’s shoulders, be they a veteran police captain, or a scrappy young superhero.”
“I see. So you’ll let me continue as Spider-Man?” Peter gripped the edges of his tray, waiting for the Captain’s answer.
“I don’t think I could stop you if I wanted to.” George smiled knowingly. “Short of throwing you in a jail cell. And even then...”
Peter nodded. Captain Stacy was probably right. But he prayed that day would never come. He looked worriedly at Gwen, who had been listening to their entire conversation without speaking. She seemed lost in her own thoughts -- he couldn’t read her at all.
“How long have you been like this?” George continued.
If Gwen wasn’t going to speak, he might as well explain himself through his answers to her dad. “Since last spring. Right before...” Peter swallowed. “...before Uncle Ben died.”
“So you’ve been active as Spider-Man almost since it happened then?”
“How did it happen?” Gwen suddenly piped up. Her eyes were bright with curiosity.
Finally. “You remember that field trip to ESU last year?”
“One of the genetically modified spiders got loose... and bit me.” He held out his hand tentatively toward her, tilting the spot on the back where the marks were faintly visible. “Right here.”
She didn’t immediately react -- in fact, he worried that she was going to flinch away from him instead -- but then she stretched out two fingers to lightly touch the spot. “A little bite... did all of that?”
He simply nodded.
“But... but Peter.... we’ve been best friends for a long time. You never even hinted about it.” She frowned, sounding hurt. “Did Harry know?”
Peter shook his head. He was very glad now that Harry didn’t know -- having the Green Goblin know his identity would have been deadly.
“I’ve never told anyone. Until today. At first I was afraid of what might happen to me...” He took her hand in his, and added earnestly. “And then later I was afraid of what would happen to my loved ones if one of the criminals I fight found out who I was.”
He looked down at his hands, lowering his voice. “After this thing with Kraven... I realized I can’t do it all. All this strength, speed, agility -- and it’s worthless if Kraven uses his knowledge to hurt everyone I love.” Then he turned his eyes to Captain Stacy’s grizzled, honest face. “I need someone to help me, someone I can trust.”
“Then you’ll be happy to know that we’re one step closer to stopping him.” George reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic evidence bag. Inside it was a swab with a bloody smear on the tip. “Kraven left more behind than just a crowd of sleeping people.”
“His blood?” Peter asked, excitement stirring. “Do you think the crime lab will be able to do something?”
“Forensics already has a sample. This one is going to Curt Connors.” Stacy stood, placing the evidence bag back into his pocket and straightening his suit jacket. “Now that Kraven has directly threatened ESU, I’m sure I can get his assistance... without linking anything to you, Peter.”
This was much more than Peter could have expected. “Thanks.”
George nodded. “And now I think I’ll let you finish your soup, before your aunt gives me a hard time about letting it go cold... and let you kids talk.” He quietly slipped out.
Peter gave Gwen an apologetic look. “So... are we okay?”
She bit her lip. “Let me get a few things straight first... we’re the first people you ever told?”
“And all of your weird behavior this year is because of... your other life?”
“Well... that’s debatable...” he joked. “But yes.”
“And you’ve been risking your life to save people with no reward?”
“Yes.” He sighed. “Unfortunately.”
“Including...” Her eyes, just beginning to fill up with tears, caught his own. “...me?”
He imbued the word with an ocean depth’s worth of feeling. “Yes.”
Gwen reached over quickly for a tissue and dabbed her eyes with it. “Thank you, Peter. I...” Her voice choked up and she couldn’t finish.
“Gwen, if anything ever happened to you, I don’t know what I’d do...” He gently lifted her chin with his fingertips, so that he could look directly into her eyes.
Their gazes locked, and something snapped. His lips crashed into her hers, and he pulled her into his arms. She wrapped her hands around his neck and curled her fingers into his hair. She tasted so sweet, so right, it was everything he had wanted but had been too shocked to enjoy the first time they kissed.
And then his spider-sense went off again -- but not the type of buzz that signaled danger. He ignored it and deepened the kiss.
The door opened a moment later. “Peter, are you done with your food yet?” Aunt May asked, coming into the room. “You have more visitors... oh my!”
He heard a gasp, a huff of disbelief, and an approving chuckle.
Gwen and Peter turned to see Liz, Flash and MJ in the doorway behind his aunt. Though the others seemed speechless, MJ winked. “Way to go, Tiger.”
Next: Part 10