Barbara (htbthomas) wrote,

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Enquiring Minds, 4/12

Title: Enquiring Minds, 4/12: An Itch
Author: htbthomas
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse, post Spider-Man 2
Pairing: Peter/MJ
Word Count: Ch. 4 - 2100 words
Summary: Peter is trying to work up the courage to propose, but his plans are put on hold when someone tries to make his private life public.
Chapter Teaser: As the orchestra played the overture, Peter scanned the audience. He was feeling something like a psychic ‘itch’ on the back of his neck – the feeling someone was staring at him. He turned right and left, but couldn’t see anything out of place. Then the curtain rose on the first act, and he pushed the feeling to the back of his mind.

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

Chapter Links: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Chapter 4: An Itch

I thought things were finally beginning to turn around, Peter thought as he shot another web-line. He was moving as fast as he could toward another fire, the fourth this week. The other night, the night he was going to propose, a gas main had exploded in a nearby building. By the time he was finished rescuing people in the upper floors and making sure no one had been crushed by parts of the crumbling structure, it was too late to do anything but crawl into bed.

Mary Jane had already been asleep. As he changed for bed, he saw her dress, the same one that had made his hair stand on end with the way it draped across her body, instead draped across a chair. He felt a sharp pang of regret. Would all their important moments be interrupted?

He had the same thought as he hurried toward the fire, his suit and tie were in a web pack behind him. It was 6:30 in the evening – Mary Jane’s show started at 8 o’clock tonight. He knew she would understand if he didn’t show, but he was determined not to be an empty seat this time.

He arrived just ahead of the first fire trucks. People were gathering in the street, worriedly looking up toward the top of the building. He alighted on the sidewalk near a couple with their two kids. “Is everyone out?”

“Spider-Man! I don’t think so. There is an elderly couple down the hall from us, and I don’t see them down here.” The man looked back up toward the smoke pouring out of the windows.

“Which floor?”

Their little boy answered, “Twelve. Please help them, Spider-Man. They are so nice. The lady always gives me candy when I visit.”

“You got it, sport.” He leaped into the air, snagging a web-line on the ledge. As he sped up the side of the building he heard the boy say to his older sister, “Told you he was real, Ashley!”

Peter looked for an open window. Most of the windows on this side were closed. He didn’t have time to get to the other side, every second was precious in a fire. He looked for soot around the window closest to him. He didn’t want to get caught in a flashover, no matter how quickly he healed. It looked safe enough. Anchoring himself to the wall, he pushed off powerfully with his legs. He crashed through the window, feet first, somersaulted to a stop and looked around. He was lucky, the fire hadn’t reached this side yet.

He could search every apartment on this floor, but it was faster to use his spider-sense. The feeling of danger was coming most powerfully from the other side of the hall. He sprinted out of the room, turned right out of instinct, and came to a stop in front of the last door.

Peter forced through the locked door with his shoulder, scanning the room quickly. No one. His attention turned to the bedroom door. He skirted the furniture, just beginning to catch fire, and dashed into the bedroom. His eyes met a surreal scene. The couple were seemingly taking a nap, a normal event, but flames were licking at their bedroom window. Why hadn’t the heat awakened them?

Praying he wasn’t too late, that they hadn’t already succumbed to asphyxiation or smoke inhalation, he checked their breathing. It was shallow, but there in both of them. Thank God.

He first lifted the wife onto his back in a fireman’s carry. It would be too dangerous to go out the bedroom window. He rapidly made his way to the other side of the building, to the window he had broken out. The fire had still not traveled to the other side. He tried to clear the frame of any jagged edges, then stuck his head out the window. He was greeted with the sight of a firefighter climbing a mechanical ladder just below.

“Hey! There’s another one inside! Can you reach her?” The firefighter waved to his comrades below to move the ladder closer to Peter. He held out his arms, and took her carefully.

“Is she all right?”

“She is unconscious, but still breathing. I’m going back for the husband.” By the time he got back to the man’s side, the flames had entered the room. Scooping him up, he rushed out of the apartment. Suddenly, the man stirred, coughing violently. “Mary,” he croaked.

“Don’t worry, she’s outside. You’ll see her soon,” Peter reassured him. They made it to the window. By this time, this side of the hallway was going up in flames as well. “Hold on tight, sir,” he cautioned, as he launched himself and his passenger into the air. A fresh web-line attached to a lamppost, and they swung down to the waiting ambulance.

Mary was being loaded on a stretcher, oxygen mask in place. “That’s his wife,” Peter explained to the paramedic, who waved the man inside.

“Thanks, Spider-Man. It must have been pretty hot up there.” He pointed with a raised eyebrow toward the side of Peter’s mask. Peter felt the side of his head – part of the mask had burned away. Only now could he smell his singed hair.

He shrugged, his carefree persona firmly in place. “Well, you know what they say. ‘Some like it hot,’” he quipped. Then more seriously, he added, “Take care of them, okay?” He was strongly reminded of his Aunt May. She lived on the tenth floor. If there was a fire in her building, would she make it out in time?

“Of course,” the paramedic replied, shutting the doors. The ambulance sped away.

Time to be going myself. Peter jumped up, swinging toward the other side of town.

- - - - -

Peter handed his ticket to the usher, thanking whatever fates were smiling that he had actually made curtain this time. Miraculously, his clothes had not been ruined like his mask. However, there was a strong ozone smell on him, which he hoped would dissipate soon. The usher wrinkled his nose a little as he took the ticket. Peter smiled sheepishly.

Peter walked up the stairs to the balcony. It would have been nice to have an orchestra seat, but even this ticket had been a stretch to buy – his first paycheck was still a week away. He found his seat, murmuring apologies to the people he climbed over. He felt as if all eyes were on him. The lights were starting to dim, and the pit orchestra ceased tuning up.

The woman next to him gave him an irritated look. “Sorry, you know, second-hand smoke,” he explained.

“Hmph,” was her only response.

As the orchestra played the overture, Peter scanned the audience. He was feeling something like a psychic ‘itch’ on the back of his neck – the feeling someone was staring at him. He turned right and left, but couldn’t see anything out of place. Then the curtain rose on the first act, and he pushed the feeling to the back of his mind.

- - - - -

At intermission, the feeling returned more intensely. He stood up quickly, taking in the crowd around him. People were stretching and discussing the play, making their way toward the aisles. The feeling seems to be coming from the other side of the balcony, but fading. He pushed his way through the other patrons, to a few remarks of “Watch out!” and “How rude.”

He found himself at the top of the stairs, looking down at the wave of people heading for the refreshment stands in the lobby. It’s heading that direction, he thought, and he followed the crowd downstairs.

He glanced over the lobby area, searching for the source of his feeling. He couldn’t pinpoint it exactly, so he started to walk across the room. A quickening of his spider-sense caused him to turn around just as a hand was about to settle on his shoulder.

“Harry!” Peter cried out, looking into the face of his one-time best friend.

Harry’s hand recoiled in surprise at Peter’s sudden movement. “Pete. Were you looking for me? I guess the rumors that you have some sort of sixth sense are true, then.” He smiled an odd smile. “After all, you couldn’t have known I’d be here.”

“I didn’t know. I had a strong feeling I was being watched, and followed it.” Peter tilted his head, trying to read Harry’s mood. He didn’t seem angry, or unbalanced. In the three months since he and Mary Jane had exchanged words at the café, had he come to terms with Peter’s identity?

But then, why had he not returned any of Peter’s calls? And why did Peter still sense something not quite right about his friend?

Harry’s eyes squinted as he looked at the side of Peter’s head. He pointed at the singed hair. “Bad haircut, buddy?” he joked.

“There was a fire this afternoon,” Peter shrugged.

“MJ is fabulous in this, Pete,” Harry changed the subject from Peter’s other life. “You must be proud. She is finally coming into her own as an actress. I’m sure some of it is thanks to you.” His words and tone sounded sincere…

“She’d be wonderful, with or without me, you know that. But her happiness is very important to me, believe it.” As much as he might have enjoyed the small talk some other time, there were more important things to discuss. “Harry, you know I’ve been trying to get a hold of you to finish our conversation. If you wouldn’t talk to me before, why now?”

Harry waved his hand dismissively. “Oh, just been busy. The company’s been trying to get back on its feet. I somehow convinced the board of directors to let me stay involved, even after the Octavius fiasco.” His voice lowered. “By the way, thank you for not revealing my part in the near-destruction of New York City.” He nodded his thanks.

“And you have kept my secret quiet as well. Thank you.”

“What are friends for?” Harry placed a hand on Peter’s arm.

“I’m surprised you still think of me as a friend after what happened with your father, Harry.”

“Well, let’s just say that… I had more than one revelation that night…” he began cryptically.

“What do you mean?” Peter started to ask, but then Bing-Bong! The end-of-intermission bell sounded. People around them were heading back to their seats. They quickly became separated by the flow of the crowd.

Harry called over the noise, “I know who my father really was, Peter. And I understand why you did it.”

Peter tried to follow him, to get some sort of explanation, but there were too many people between them. He could only read Harry’s lips, which he thought formed the words, ‘He was insane.’ Harry turned and climbed the stairs, no longer fighting the press of people. Peter did the same, slipping through the doors just as the usher was shutting them.

He hurried back to his seat. He had no idea where Harry was sitting. It was as if he had just disappeared.

Sitting down as the Entr’acte began, his head swam in amazement. Harry knows? That could explain, more than anything, why he had kept quiet about Peter. If anyone finds out about Norman, Oscorp would be ruined. They might recover from the failed collaboration with Octavius, but not this.

Perhaps he and Harry really could patch things up. If Harry knew about the Green Goblin, then his promise to Norman was null and void. He could explain what had really happened. A smile slowly grew on his features, and he relaxed into his seat, just as the curtain rose on the second act.

- - - - -

Harry could only half-watch the second act of the play. He had revealed he knew his father’s identity to Peter. The look of shock mixed with relief on Peter’s face had been priceless.

Good, he believes you forgive him, his father’s voice whispered in his head. Now he will learn what it’s like to be betrayed by a friend.

Harry had spent every night of the last few months arguing with the ghost of his father. He was hanging onto sanity by a thread.

Now is the perfect time to take up my mantle, my boy. Now, when he least expects it, the voice coaxed.

No! Harry told the voice. It will be my way, or no way at all. I will not become a freak like you, like Pete.

You protest, but you know the only way you can defeat him is with my help.

Harry focused his eyes on the back of Peter’s head. There are other ways to trap a spider, father…

Next: Chapter 5: A Great Shot

51 days until Spider-Man 3!!
Tags: fanfiction, spider-man

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