Barbara (htbthomas) wrote,

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Enquiring Minds, 9/12

Title: Enquiring Minds, 9/12: Indignation
Author: htbthomas
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse, post Spider-Man 2
Pairing: Peter/MJ
Word Count: Ch. 9 - 1925 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 they walked in, the sound from the screens started to filter through. “...I said before, a total hoax. Spider-Man has never been in my apartment. The photos are obviously fabricated.”

“What...?” Andy stalked toward the screen in shock. That lying hussy! “She can’t be serious!”

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

Chapter Links: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Chapter 9: Indignation

“I’ll meet you in 45 minutes. See you then,” Peter spoke into his cell phone before he flipped it closed. “It’s done.” He punctuated the air with Vogel’s business card, and then placed it on the desk. “He makes my skin crawl - and that’s not easy. But if it will help us get out of this...”

“I know it will. This way you have your eye on him, and you’ll be able to learn what he really knows,” Mary Jane spoke from the sofa. A beam of dusty sunlight made her hair shine in the afternoon light.

Peter walked over to the partially curtained windows, and drew them fully closed. There hadn’t been any news helicopters about today, but no sense taking chances. He didn’t feel as if he could trust his spider-sense anymore. Ever since he had first seen the photos, his senses had been tingling non-stop. He walked toward Mary Jane on the sofa. “I guess you’re ready for the press conference.”

“As ready as I’ll ever be.”

“We’re doing the right thing, aren’t we?” Peter came to sit beside her.

“Yes, we are,” she said firmly. “As much as I hate to admit it, you were absolutely right in keeping your alter-ego a secret from all of us. Every time a new person finds out, there are an exponential number of things that could go wrong. Imagine if the whole world found out,” she said, then realized Peter had probably pondered this a thousand times.

“Exactly.” Peter gave her a brave smile. “I wish I could be by your side instead of Harry. It bothers me that you have to face them without me.”

“I’m an actress, Tiger. I face an audience almost every night. I’ll be fine.” She kissed him on the cheek.

“What would I do without you?” He returned the kiss, this time on the lips. Without thinking, they deepened the kiss, leaning into the arm of the sofa. “Wait,” he managed around kisses, “isn’t this what got us into trouble in the first place?”

Mary Jane chuckled deep in her throat, and kept kissing him. Peter suddenly felt a greater stirring of his spider-sense that told him someone was about to enter the room. He glanced up to see Harry. For an instant, he thought he saw the slightest look of disgust. But it quickly changed to a smile of greeting. Am I imagining it? Or am I hyper-sensitive to everything right now?

“Pete, the driver is waiting,” Harry informed him with a nod. “Good luck with Vogel.”

Peter got up from the sofa. “Thanks. Break a leg, you two.” Peter bent down to kiss MJ goodbye, and then left the room, shaking his head to clear it. Damned buzzing. As he headed down the hallway, he thought ruefully, Too bad they don’t make a pill for it.

- - - - -

Andy walked along the street with Parker, heading for a section of town where crime had sharply spiked. For the past few days, whenever Spider-Man would arrive to help, he had become an almost unperceivable blur. Covering his ass, I’ll bet. We’ll just have to be that much sharper.

Clearing his throat, he broached the subject he’d been dying to ask. “Tell me, Parker. How is it that you have been able to get so many photos of Spider-Man in the last three years?”

Parker shrugged. “Well, just lucky, I guess. He’s always trusted me – he knew that I would always try to photograph him in a positive light.”

Andy snorted, “Fat lot of good that did you, huh?” He went on, “Do you have any guesses about who he is? I mean, you’ve been around him so much. How did you know how to find him?”

Peter demurred, “I have no idea who he is. He always found me. I wish I did know. It would make this assignment much easier.”

They started to pass an electronics store, a wall of televisions for sale in the display window. Mary Jane Watson’s face was prominent on each screen. “Hey, wait a minute. Looks like Watson is giving an interview. Let’s go in.”

Parker shrugged and followed. Man, Andy thought contemptuously, he is such a doormat. If my girl was running around on me, I’d grow a pair and do something about it, no matter who the guy was.

As they walked in, the sound from the screens started to filter through. “...I said before, a total hoax. Spider-Man has never been in my apartment. The photos are obviously fabricated.”

“What...?” Andy stalked toward the screen in shock. That lying hussy! “She can’t be serious!”

Harry Osborn stepped up to the microphone. “Ms. Watson and I have been friends since high school. When she asked for my help to get away from the incessant questions, I was glad to oblige.” He looked out at the assembled reporters. “We will now take a few questions.”

“You and Ms. Watson were an item once, isn’t that right?” a strident female voice asked.

“That’s right. Over two years ago, in fact.”

“The fact that she ran to you first is very suspicious. Are you Spider-Man?” The crowd at the press conference started to murmur.

“Don’t be ridiculous. There are several credible witnesses that have seen us in the same place at the same time. I wouldn’t be standing here today if he hadn’t saved me from falling debris during Otto Octavius’ failed fusion experiment. Next question.”

“Ms. Watson. If this is a hoax, why do you think you are being targeted?” a deep male voice asked this time.

Watson took Osborn’s place. “I can only think that someone is trying to discredit Spider-Man. You know, if you have listened to the news chatter, that he has saved my life three times. Someone must have noticed this and decided to take advantage of it.”

The screen crawl at the bottom was now stating: Spider-Man Photos: A Hoax? Andy wanted to spit. He turned to Parker. “A hoax? I have the proof that it isn’t!”  Without waiting to see if he was being followed, Andy took off for the street. “Taxi!” he shouted, waving his palm.

Parker appeared beside him. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m heading over to Osborn’s. You can come with me, or not, if seeing her will be too painful.”

“No, I’ll come.” A taxi had stopped in front of them, and they climbed in. Andy gave directions, still fuming. How dare they imply he wasn’t a total professional!

Peter gave him a keen look. “How will you prove the photos are real?”

“I’ll show them my original negatives. Watson and Osborn won’t be able to claim that I digitally altered the photos. I never use a computer in my work.”

“Never?” Parker sputtered, surprised.

“Too many bozos playing with Photoshop these days. I only use real film, and I develop the photos myself. Most of the stuff I take is too sensitive for some random photo lab to get a hold of.” Andy harrumphed in indignation.

It only took them about ten minutes to arrive at the scene. He looked over toward the podium where the press conference had been held. Damn! They’re already gone. He tossed the fare at the driver, and jumped out of the cab, almost before it had stopped.

He and Parker stood looking at the unmanned microphone. “Lost my chance to confront her. But I am not going to take this sitting down. Where’s that CNN van?”

Parker pointed toward a van heading down a side street. “Is that it?”

“Crap!” The media were starting to disperse, now that the show was over. He would have to give them a call - if he could get the right person to listen to him.

The sound of sirens rang out behind them. As the police cars passed, Andy barely noticed. Parker turned to him. “Andy, I have another assignment to get to. Can I call you later?”

“Sure, sure...” He was still steaming, staring at the space Watson and Osborn had just occupied. Well, maybe with Parker to back him up he could get an interview. “Hey, Parker, wait—”

He looked around. The guy was totally gone. How had he gotten a cab so quickly?

“Vogel!” He turned to see his friend, Steve Brooks, who worked as a cameraman for a local station, heading toward him.

“Hey, Brooks! You hear that load of garbage?” He gestured toward the microphone. Someone from another TV crew was dismantling it.

“You in the know?” His eyebrows rose.

“In the know? I took the damn pictures! Fabricated, my ass.”

“You did, huh?” Brooks answered, impressed. “Well, you were always great at getting shocking photos. I see you got a spy already on the inside.” He nodded toward the mansion looming in front of them.

“A what?” Andy didn’t know what he meant.

“Yeah, that guy that was with you. He’s one of the workers being escorted in and out, we think. They’ve been using several cars with employees as decoys to distract from Watson and Osborn’s comings and goings. Our van was lucky, or should I say, unlucky enough to pick his car to follow yesterday.”

Andy’s voice grew faint as a terrible realization stole over him. “Uh, yeah, on the inside...”

Brooks turned away, noticing that his news van was about to leave. “Oh, hey, great to see you. Crew’s cleaned up and ready to go.” He waved as he walked away.

Parker. On the inside. I’m being played... He clenched his fists in anger, just as his cell phone vibrated in his pocket.

- - - - -

“Mr. Vogel?”

An irritated voice answered,“Yeah, who is this? Your number’s blocked.”

He dropped his voice to a lower level. “Someone with something you’ll want to hear.”

“I’ll decide that,” the other man snapped. “What do you want?”

“I take it you saw the press conference this afternoon.”

“Sheesh. If you have my number, you gotta know they were lying up one side and down the other.”

“Indeed. What do you plan to do about it?”

“I’m taking my photos to a big network. Let them check them out themselves.” The resentment showed in his tone.

“What if I could give you the big story you almost had?” he paused for effect. “Spider-Man’s identity.”

The shock was palpable across the line. “How... Why would you give me that? If you know his identity, why not go public with it yourself?”

“Spider-Man… knows some things about me that I would rather not have made public. If he knew I blew his cover, he would almost certainly expose me in return.”

“How many people know? If I told, he’d have to figure one of you told me.”

“That’s why you must make the connection yourself. If you figure it out, he won’t suspect me at all.”

“How am I going to do that, buddy?” the photographer asked gruffly.

“You’ve met Peter Parker?”

“Yeah – and I just started thinking he’s involved in this whole thing.”

“Oh, he is – and in it deep. Spider-Man and he have always worked together, and this situation is no different.”

“Was he just a decoy boyfriend or something?”

“Something… like that. Here’s the key, Andy. Listen well.”

“I’m listening.”

“The key to finding Spider-Man is to put Peter Parker in danger. Do that, and Spider-Man will show up. I guarantee it.” He abruptly disconnected the call.

Unceremoniously, Harry set Vogel’s business card back down on the desk.

Next: Chapter 10: No Choice

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

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