Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse, post Spider-Man 2
Word Count: Ch. 8 - 1825 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: Suddenly, her cell phone rang. Peter! Mary Jane quickly walked over to the table, and picked up the phone – the caller ID showed Louise’s name. I don’t think I’m ready to talk to anyone but Peter right now – not even my friends.
Chapter 8: Appearances and Suspicions
Mary Jane tried to keep busy, puttering around the apartment. For the first hour or so, she kept the TV on, deciding what she would say to people. But finally, the talking heads had grated on her so much that she switched it off. She had long since turned off the ringer on the phone, and turned the volume on the answering machine all the way down. She could still hear it click on and off, though. Passing by it, she noticed the LCD display. The number had risen to almost 30 messages. Maybe it would be best to simply turn it off altogether…
Suddenly, her cell phone rang. Peter! She quickly walked over to the table, and picked up the phone – the caller ID showed Louise’s name. I don’t think I’m ready to talk to anyone but Peter right now – not even my friends.
She held the phone in her hand with trepidation, looking down at the display until the ring-tone ended. Within a minute, the message icon appeared. She placed the phone on the table… then with a shake of her head, went into the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea. Halfway there, she stopped, and turned back around, curiosity getting the best of her. She dialed the voice mail number, entered her code, and waited... “Mary Jane! I just heard the news. Is it true? You sly dog! ‘He was called away...’“ Louise laughed. “That’s the understatement of the century. Now I wish I had played hooky that afternoon, so I could have met him! Anyway, call me later. Bye, MJ!”
Thank goodness I didn’t pick up... Peter and I need to get our stories straight.
Before she could place it down again, the phone rang again in her hand. This time Peter’s name came up. She pressed the green button quickly. “Peter! Where are you?”
“I’m at Harry’s. He’s going to send a car for you in a few minutes. Do you have time to pack a bag?”
She had been so happy to hear that Harry and Peter were friends again. What would they have done if Harry wasn’t on their side now? “I can pack quickly. But won’t they just follow me over?”
“We’re sure they will, but the mansion has gates and security guards. It will be a lot harder for them to get through to you there. The driver will call you at this number when he is outside.” Peter’s brave tone changed to one of remorse. “I’m so sorry that I got you into this, MJ. I kept you away from me before in fear of things exactly like this.”
Mary Jane’s voice was resolute. “Peter Parker. I told you I would face these things with you. That is not going to change just because we hit our first bump in the road.”
Peter paused, and she could nearly picture his fond smile. “I love you, MJ.”
“I love you, too. See you in a little while.” She ended the call. Time to get down to business, she thought as she walked to the hall closet and opened the door with a firm tug. Pulling the suitcase from behind the coats, she wondered, Should I let my understudy go on for me tonight? No, she decided, the producers are probably thrilled by the publicity. She chuckled to herself. If the public wants to see ‘Spider-Man’s girlfriend,’ let them pay for a ticket.
Peter nervously rode the elevator to the Bugle’s floor. He had to check in at work today, no matter how awful things were right now. The longer he stayed away, the more suspicious people would become. Best to act like the hurt and confused boyfriend – the ineffectual nerd they all assumed he was.
Earlier, he, Harry and Mary Jane had spent an hour going over scenarios of how to enter and exit the mansion. As expected, the media crowd had set up camp in front of the gates. Even as they spoke, the news reporters on television were busy positing theories about why Mary Jane Watson had moved to the Osborn mansion. Harry had the suggestion that they use a few of the Osborn fleet of luxury cars as decoys whenever anyone left the grounds. The fact that the cars all had mirrored windows made it easier to create a distraction. So, if Harry had to go to a meeting, Peter to work, or Mary Jane to the theater, there would always be three cars to chase down.
As of yet, no one knew that Peter was staying at the mansion as well. He hoped to keep it that way as long as possible. Someone from the Bugle would eventually talk about his relationship with Mary Jane and he would be tracked down. But he wasn’t going to make it easy for them. When his car dropped him off, a few television vans had been following them. He purposely directed the driver to stop in a crowded area. It was easy for him to blend in, and then skitter out of sight.
Ding! The elevator doors opened at his floor. He swallowed, took a deep breath, and then walked into the buzzing newsroom. As people noticed him, conversation began to fall silent. He desperately searched for a friendly face, and when his eyes fell on Robbie, he headed toward him. By the time he came within ten feet of Robbie, the room was totally quiet, save for the sound of telephones ringing. Show time, Peter thought, and tripped over his own feet so gracelessly, that the portfolio he had been carrying slipped from his hands. The photos inside spilled all over the floor.
A few snickers rang out in the silence, and whispers of conversation started back up. Robbie crouched down to help him clean up. “Peter!” he exclaimed, a little louder than necessary. “How are you holding up? I really didn’t expect to see you in here for a few days.” As he gathered photos to hand back to Peter, he lowered his voice. “And how is Mary Jane holding up?”
Well, I’m not fooling Robbie, that’s for sure. But we’d better keep up the act – people are still watching. Peter kept his head down as he responded, “She’s better now that Harry Osborn is helping out.”
“That’s right, the three of you have been friends since high school, haven’t you?” He held out a large brown hand to help Peter up from the floor, and they walked over to Peter’s desk. The curious stares followed them, but it looked like his clumsy act had convinced everyone – well, present company excluded – that he was no more than he seemed to be. A young, struggling photographer from Queens. He sat down in his chair, and Robbie perched on the side of his desk.
Robbie spoke even more quietly. “It’s all they could talk about today. How some schmo scooped you with photos of the Web-Slinger… and one of your girlfriend cheating on you at that!” He cocked his head and added, “Are they real?”
How can I answer that without confirming his suspicions? “Well, I don’t...” his sentence trailed off as he saw Jameson step out of his office, talking to someone. It’s him! Peter quickly turned his attention to the photos on his desk.
Robbie did a double-take – looking from Peter… to the guy with Jameson… back to Peter. Then Jameson noticed Peter’s presence, and strode over, cigar puffing. “Parker! I’m not the sort of guy to say I told you so, but – well, hell! Yes, I am! You’re better off without her anyway.” He gestured without looking to the guy behind him. “Hey, Vogel, come over here. Parker might be able to give you a few tips on catching Spider-Man again.”
Peter tried to appear as if he had never seen the guy before, even though inside he was seething. The slimebag held out his hand. “Andy, Andy Vogel, nice to meetcha.”
There was no recognition in Andy’s eyes when they shook hands. “Peter Parker.”
Jameson continued blithely, “Yeah, Parker here is the latest to get his heart trampled on by Watson.”
A light went on in Vogel’s eyes. “Parker. Were you two living together?”
When Parker answered, he looked down and a little anger seemed to heat his voice. “Yes, for a few months now.”
Andy sized up Parker. So this was the photographer who could get those exclusive pictures of Spider-Man? Didn’t look like much. Young. Short, slight build. Clothes that didn’t fit. Hair badly in need of a trim. What had a bombshell like Watson seen in him? Unless... Yeah, he had the right coloring, was maybe the right height...
“Musta been a shock, seeing those pictures.”
Peter was fidgeting with a cup of pens and pencils, and started at Andy’s words. The cup went flying across the desk. “Sorry – I’m having a terrible day… which you must already...” Parker bent down at the same time as Andy to pick up the mess. Their heads bumped, and Parker landed on his rear, on the floor.
This little wall-flower, a superhero? Hah. He could hardly believe the guy had the coordination to use a camera.
“Well, would you like to see her get what’s coming to her?” Andy suggested, unable to keep a bit of a sneer out of his voice.
Parker looked at him blankly. “What do you mean?”
“Well, with your experience… and my expertise in catching folks unawares…. we could finally catch the Wall-Crawler with his pants down – if you get my meaning.”
“Clearly,” Parker sputtered.
He patted Parker on the shoulder and tossed a card on his desk. “Give me a call, we’ll work out a plan. Gotta go.”
Peter watched Vogel leave the newsroom, barely controlling himself. He hoped to God that little display had convinced everyone he was only a victim in this whole affair. Jameson seemed convinced, anyway. “Parker, if the two of you pull that off, don’t forget who writes your paychecks! The Bugle will have exclusive rights!” He stalked back toward his office, continuing to mutter to himself.
Peter looked up at Robbie’s face helplessly. Robbie has seen right through me, I know it. But if he had, Robbie was enough of a friend to pretend otherwise. “Hey, you know I’m here for you if you need a shoulder to cry on.” Then he added, with a piercing look. “Or an ear to listen.”
Peter watched him walk away to his own desk. If Robbie guessed as much as he let on, then he was a true friend for keeping it to himself. But it’s safer for him to have suspicions than the truth.
Now for the more pressing problem. He lifted Vogel's business card from his desk and studied it… How was he going to get Vogel off his back?
Next: Chapter 9: Indignation
43 days until Spider-Man 3!!