Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse, post Spider-Man 2
Word Count: Ch. 7 - 1545 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: “Peter, the news this morning, did you see? It’s all over the TV. That guy you caught nosing around—” Mary Jane’s voice was trembling.
A/N: In my original author’s note to this story, I wrote that I didn’t know the comics continuity. Since then, I have read a large number of Spider-Man comics, including all of the Straczynski ASM issues - I swear I didn’t know he was using the same idea of a tabloid photo during the issues the summer before I wrote this story (summer 2005). It wasn’t the main point of the plot, like this one, but still...
Chapter 7: Walking Among Us
SPIDER-LOVER! She traded one fly-boy for another!
Peter stood still as a statue, tabloid in his frozen hands. Under that headline was a photo of him and Mary Jane, kissing on the bed. His face wasn’t visible, but Mary Jane’s was perfectly clear. He shook off his inertia and flipped to the cover story inside. There, plain as day, was a series of pictures. Spider-Man perched on balcony. Spider-Man climbing in window beside Mary Jane. Mask-less Spider-Man kissing MJ. The two of them on the bed. Oh my God, he must have had another camera... Peter took a shuddering breath, blinking rapidly in shock. It’s a good thing I was thinking clearly enough to replace my mask.
“Hey, buddy, this ain’t a library.” The newsstand vendor snapped his fingers and held out an empty palm.
“Oh, sorry,” he managed, and fumbled out 50 cents.
Peter walked along, reading, hardly noticing where he was going. Little clips of sentences jumped out at him: ...saved by Spider-Man three times in the last three years... ...left astronaut at the altar... seems to be human in appearance...
His cell phone vibrated in his suit-coat pocket, startling him out of his daze. He fumbled for it, carelessly crumpling the paper below one arm. “Hello?” he croaked out, too stunned to even check the caller ID.
“Peter, the news this morning, did you see? It’s all over the TV. That guy you caught nosing around—” Mary Jane’s voice was trembling.
“—must have had another camera, I know. I’m looking at the photos right now.” He heard a buzz on Mary Jane’s end of the line.
“Who could that be? Just a minute... Yes?” Peter decided Mary Jane must be talking into the intercom.
A crackly voice sounded faintly – distorted as if there were a lot of background noise on the speaker. “Miss Watson? New York Weekly. I have a few questions for you…”
Her voice hardened. “No comment.” She clicked off, and moments later he could hear her open a window. The ambient noise tripled in intensity. “Oh no, Peter, there’s a crowd of reporters and several film crews gathering outside!” The window slammed, and the cacophony cut off with a sudden jolt. “What are we going to do!”
“MJ, don’t worry,” he tried to assure her, desperately trying to keep the worry out of his voice. “I’ll think of something. Stay inside. Don’t answer the buzzer, door or phone. Keep the curtains drawn. I’ll call you on your cell when I get things worked out.”
As he snapped the flip phone closed, he had to fight the urge to crush it in his hand. Who could he ask for help? Who had the resources to deal with this sort of thing? A realization stole over him – there’s only one person...
He couldn’t escape it on the news. He flipped to a local channel.
“...standing in front of the apartment of Mary Jane Watson, the model and actress featured in the shocking photos published today. So far, Ms. Watson has declined to comment. But the question on everyone’s mind is – who is Spider-Man? Since he first appeared on the scene, he has rarely been photographed or videotaped. In an interesting coincidence, the editor of The Daily Bugle, the newspaper that regularly publishes photographs of the superhero, has a history with Watson.”
The newscast cut to a video clip of Jameson in the middle of a tirade: “...a man-eater! She’s been through a series of other men before Spider-Man, including my son, the hero, an astronaut. That menace will probably get dropped like a—”
Over a montage of photos of Mary Jane, the newscaster’s voice went on: “Others have recently spotted the couple together as well...”
Next came a clip of a middle-aged couple: “Yes, we saw her with someone at a restaurant a few weeks ago. I didn’t pay any attention to the guy with her, it was her autograph we wanted,” the wife was saying. The husband added, “It could have been the guy in the photo...”
He flipped to another channel.
“We have men and women, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, risking their lives every day. They deserve and receive our respect. But if one of them goes bad, there are consequences. They are arrested, tried in our legal system.
“But this man – this ‘Spider-Man’ – he lives outside the law. He hides behind a mask, behind anonymity. He has been wanted for questioning by the police for years. Now that we know he is human in appearance, he could be walking among us – your co-worker, your next-door neighbor.
“Where is the accountability?”
Again, he flipped the channel, this time to a 24-hour news network.
“...Welcome back. We’re talking today with a panel of survivors; people who have had dangerous encounters with Spider-Man...”
“He rescued us!” a woman cut in.
The female moderator turned to the woman who had spoken. “Go on...”
“My friend and I were almost mugged. He came along and webbed the guys up. Who knows what could have happened if he hadn’t showed up?”
Others on the panel nodded, except for a few, who looked like they had been on the receiving end of Spider-Man’s justice. One distinguished-looking African-American man, however, was very still.
“Mr. Roundtree, you have been very quiet. You were on the subway train that almost crashed, isn’t that right?”
“That is correct.”
“There have been rumors that passengers in the forward car may have seen Spider-Man without his mask. Can you verify that these photos are authentic?”
He drew himself up, speaking in a cultured baritone. “Madam. You should know that I only agreed to appear on this program to help defend Spider-Man to the public. Whether these photos are accurate or not is beside the point. This man is a good man – he risks his life every day for New Yorkers. Isn’t he allowed to have a private life? Doesn’t he deserve that—?”
Rrriiinnnggg! The sound of the phone distracted Harry from the television. He ignored it and after a few rings, it stopped. Just as he began to focus his attention back on news, the door to the study opened, and his butler Bernard stepped in.
“Mr. Osborn, sir – it’s Mr. Parker again. Shall I tell him you’re busy?”
“No, no, Bernard, this time I’ll take the call.” Harry quickly muted the TV, got up from the armchair, and went over to take the phone from the cradle. Punching the ‘Talk’ button, he asked, filling his words with the utmost concern, “Pete – are you okay? Are you safe?”
Peter sounded frustrated, angry and helpless, all at the same time. “I guess you’ve heard. I’m okay. It’s MJ I’m worried about. She’s holed up in our apartment, refusing to talk to anyone.”
“Why don’t you just ‘swing in there’ and get her out?”
“And give them more fodder for their cameras? Right now, all they have is that scuzzball’s word. If I show up as Spider-Man, the whole world will know it’s true.” He let out an exasperated sigh. “And if I go as Peter, they’ll either assume I’m the one under the costume, or the poor cheated-on schlub of a boyfriend. Either way, they will mob us. The less they see of either face, the better. And I’m not just worried about the press. What about the criminals who might want revenge?”
Harry consoled him, “Pete, you’ll figure a way out of this. You always do, if the stories are true.”
Peter’s voice dropped to a low moan. “It’s all my fault, Harry. I had the feeling something wasn’t right, and I ignored it… I ignored it because every time I want to spend time with MJ, something happens, and I have to take off. It’s a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ life I lead, Harry. I’m so tired of it...”
“Look, Pete, what can I do to help? Anything, name it.”
Peter sounded relieved. “Actually, I was thinking – if you sent a car for her, you could bring her to the mansion. It would be impossible for you to be Spider-Man, not with so many witnesses at the World Unity Festival and Octavius’ failed fusion experiment...”
“Where several people saw both of us at the same time, I know.” Jokingly he said, “You know, it was supposed to be impossible for Spider-Man’s photographer to be Spider-Man, too.”
“Heh.” Peter gave a short laugh, not rising to his bait. “You also have a security team that could keep people away from her.”
“Done, and done, buddy. Why don’t you come over here before I send the car? You know they’ll follow us over here.”
“You don’t mind being ‘under siege’ for us?”
“I can handle it, Pete. MJ’s safety is more important.”
“Then I’ll be over right away – and I’ll take a cab.”
“See you soon.” Peter ended the call.
Well, Harry thought, sometimes fate smiles on us. The spider has gotten caught in his own web. I thought I would have to wait much longer for Peter to ask for my help.
There are faster ways to get revenge, my son, the voice suggested.
Patience, father. He mustn’t know who sealed his fate until the very end...
Next: Chapter 8: Appearances and Suspicions
45 days until Spider-Man 3!!