Barbara (htbthomas) wrote,

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We Gather Together, 1/3

Title: We Gather Together, 1/3
Authors: htbthomas and Georgia Kennedy
Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse
Characters: Peter, Mary Jane, Aunt May, Madeline and Philip Watson
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: Part 1: 2470 words
Summary: Mary Jane and Peter spend Thanksgiving with Aunt May and MJ's parents, but will her schmuck of a father ruin the whole day?

by HTBThomas & Georgia Kennedy


This story is a work of fiction based upon Spider-Man, copyright 2002 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc, all rights reserved. Spider-Man 2, copyright 2004 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., all rights reserved, Spider-Man 3, copyright 2007 by Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., all rights reserved, Hulk, copyright 2003 by Universal Studios, Inc., all rights reserved. and Daredevil - Director’s Cut, copyright 2004 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc., all rights reserved. The authors are not connected with nor is this work authorized by Marvel Enterprises, or the aforementioned motion picture studios. This work is intended solely for posting on fanfiction websites, for the benefit and enjoyment of their intended audiences. No commercial or financial benefit accrues or is intended to accrue to the authors as a result of said posting.

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"Here we are."

Lifting the helmet from her head, Mary Jane Watson pushed a few stray strands of fire-red hair away from her mouth.  The Harley Davidson's engine cut off, but instead of blessed silence, she was left with the thoughts that had been rattling around inside her head all morning. Since it had been impossible to talk during the ride to Aunt May's apartment, MJ had been grateful that the sounds of traffic and the rush of scenery around her kept her from dwelling on the demons that had been plaguing her all week long. 

Today was Thanksgiving - a day when family and friends gathered together to share a meal and celebrate life's many blessings.  And Mary Jane certainly had a lot of blessings to celebrate in her life.  Her career was back on track after her less-than-stellar Broadway debut, and she had the love of the most wonderful man she'd ever known, a man who was both as familiar as the boy next door and as exciting as her wildest fantasies. 

It was the family part that had her on edge right now.  Not her mother, who was happy and well, thank God.  Not Aunt May, who had accepted MJ into the Parker family as if she'd always been a part of it.  It was her father.  Ever since they crossed the 59th Street Bridge from Manhattan into Queens, her stomach had been knotting up at the very thought of having to be in the same room with Philip Watson for more than two minutes.  Why are we doing this again? she thought anxiously. But as much as she and Peter had been putting this off, they both knew that with the wedding approaching, they had to make the best of a bad situation.

And Thanksgiving had never really been her favorite holiday, anyway.  Her childhood dinners had mostly been an excuse to have turkey and dressing.  There had never been much to be thankful for - especially not when her mother would go upstairs to bed with a headache, her father would have a few too many beers and sprawl on the couch, oblivious to everything but the football game, and she would be up to her armpits in soapsuds, scrubbing the roasting pan.  Worse was the happy conversation and laughter that floated through the kitchen window from the Parker residence next door, a bitter reminder of what had been sorely lacking in her life.

No, she corrected herself, nothing could be worse than that disastrous Thanksgiving with Norman Osborn in Harry and Peter's apartment a couple of years ago.  She'd been used to hearing her father tear her down with every other sentence, but to hear it from her boyfriend's father, too?  The man for whom both Harry and Peter had the utmost respect?  She had felt lower than low, unfit for anyone's company.  That terrible day had marked the beginning of the end for her relationship with Harry.

MJ shivered again, and it had nothing to do with the chill in the air.  She had been imagining a hundred different ways this could go, each one worse than the last.  As low an opinion Philip Watson had for his daughter, his opinion of Peter was even lower...  Yes, it was true that he had given Mary Jane his blessing to bolt from her wedding to John Jameson when it became clear to him that she was in love with Peter.  But in every encounter she had had with him since that day, he would lace into her, calling her a loser, never letting any opportunity to remind her of what she had thrown away go by.   

She felt Peter's hand gently caress her shoulder.  "Hey, MJ, are you okay?"

MJ pasted on a brave smile as she turned to him.  "Yeah, I'm fine."

"It'll be all right, MJ, I promise," he told her, seeing through her thin facade immediately. He drew her into a hug and whispered into her hair, "There's nothing he can do or say that can hurt you.  Not while I'm around."

She closed her eyes, trying to banish all of her fears.  "I know that, Peter.  I'll try not to worry."

He released her and stepped back, holding his hand out for her to take.  "Shall we?" He grinned suddenly. "I think I can smell Aunt May's cooking from all the way down here."

She immediately felt better, sniffing the air.  "I didn't know you and Matt Murdock shared that ability," she teased, taking his hand.  His answering laughter fortified her all the way up the seven flights of stairs. 

Mary Jane was still smiling by the time May opened her door.  "Peter!  Mary Jane!" She opened her arms to wrap the both of them in a warm hug. "It's so good to see you again!"

"It's good to see you, too, Aunt May," Peter said.  "I wish we could get over here more often."

"Never mind.  I know you both are very busy... I understand."  She startled and began to shoo them inside.  "What am I doing?  I'm such a silly old woman... come in out of that chilly hallway and have a cup of something warm!"

Once the door was closed behind them, MJ breathed in the tempting aromas pervading the apartment.  Of course, this wasn't unusual - May was a fantastic cook.  There was always something freshly baked on the counter, or currently baking in the oven.   The turkey had probably been in the oven for a couple hours, and the mouth-watering scent of roasting meat made her stomach rumble involuntarily.  "It smells fabulous, Aunt May."  

"Thank you, dear," she answered, holding out her hands for MJ's jacket. "But it's not all me this time.  Your mother is in the kitchen - why don't you go say hello?"

MJ nodded her thanks as she passed her jacket over, and walked toward the apartment's small, but well-appointed kitchen.  "Mom?" she called, popping her head around the corner.

"Mary Jane!" Madeline Watson's face lit up in a bright smile.  From looking at her, one would never have known that, three months earlier, she had been given only a few weeks to live.  Her figure was once again full, and her hair had grown back.  There were no traces of the cancer that had ravaged her body.

She lay the cutting knife she had been using on the counter and bustled over to hug her daughter and her almost-son-in-law.

"How are you feeling, Mom?" 

"Didn't Peter tell you?  I'm cured." Her face practically shone as she spoke.  "Those nanomed treatments are a miracle."

Mary Jane gave Madeline a kiss on one rosy cheek.  "I'm so glad."  And being separated from Dad, you'll stay cured, I'll bet.

"Any side effects?"  a concerned Peter asked.  He had done the legwork to get Madeline into the nanomed program at Columbia University's medical center.   Mary Jane wondered whether he was worried about her mom suffering the same fate as Bruce Banner - the victim of a disastrous accident involving the nanomeds that had turned him into The Hulk a few years earlier.

"None, thank heavens.  Dr. Ross said I might have some residual nausea from the gamma radiation, but so far I haven't had any, knock on wood."  She rapped her knuckles on the countertop just to make sure.  

Peter, meanwhile, had plucked another knife from the block and had started to slice cucumbers.

May came into the kitchen, shaking her head.  "No, Peter, don't you worry a bit, we've got everything covered.  Go sit on the couch and prop your feet up, watch a little TV..."

"Are you sure, Aunt May?  I'm pretty good with a knife, you know." 

"Positive."  May quickly inspected the twenty-pound turkey roasting in the oven.  "That dear boy, he works so hard," she said to Madeline, who nodded in agreement.  "He deserves a day off."  She noticed that MJ was also chopping vegetables.  "Mary Jane, you too - let us do this."

"I want to help, Aunt May," MJ assured her.  She glanced up at the clock.  Her father was due to arrive in less than an hour.  "I think it'd be good to keep my hands busy."

May gave her an understanding look - she was just as intuitive as her nephew, maybe more so, when it came to reading MJ's moods.  "Well, there's really just the salad now.  The turkey will be done soon, the pies and green bean casserole are all finished... the rolls need to wait until right before we eat..." She looked around the kitchen once more, a thoughtful hand below her chin.  "I suppose you could help make the gravy once the turkey's out of the oven."

MJ gave her a grateful smile.  "I'd be happy to."

The three ladies worked together in companionable silence, the sound of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade emanating from the television.  Every once in a while, MJ would glance over at Peter, who seemed to be perfectly happy listening to the hosts' banter, sometimes humming along with the marching bands.  It seemed so strange not to see him in communion with his laptop computer or talking into his cell phone... or changing into his red and blue tights.  He caught her eye, smiled, and blew her a kiss.

MJ winked back, but at that moment, the TV screen suddenly filled with a profusion of red, covered by black webbing. MJ put a hand to her mouth in an amused gasp, and Peter turned to see...

"And now for our newest giant balloon - The Amazing Spider-Man!" Katie Couric's voice bubbled with excitement, and the sounds of cheers from the crowd could be heard in the background.  Peter's mouth dropped open as he stared in shock at the TV. "The crowd seems to really like this one!  It's almost as if he's really flying across the sky, isn't it?"

"Yes, I'd say it's pretty 'spectacular'..." Matt Lauer chortled.

"Well, it's about time he got his own balloon."  Madeline's voice came from behind her as she stepped around MJ to get closer to the television.  "That man does so much without ever expecting anything in return."  

"I completely agree," May added, patting MJ's shoulder on her way past.  "Even though the newspapers have stopped running photos, he needs to know how much he's appreciated."

Peter was still mesmerized, though he had closed his mouth. The conversation going on around him was not registering at all.  MJ set the gravy to warm, it was nearly finished now anyway, and went to sit beside Peter on the afghan-covered couch.  "Well, he's certainly not that bloated in person," she joked, squeezing Peter's knee.  "The camera must add 2000 pounds."

Peter spluttered, the spell broken.  "That's what they say anyway... except I think it's more like negative 200 pounds." He gave her a kiss on the cheek. May smiled fondly from beside the armrest.

"Well," Madeline added, "Not all of us have been lucky enough to meet him in person once, let alone twice.  He's probably larger than life to most people."

"So, Aunt May..." Peter was obviously trying to change the subject.  "How's it going in there?"

"Oh, everything is ready to go - the table's set, the food is warming... we just have to wait until Mary Jane's father gets here."

At the mention of her father, a small pang of nervousness flitted through MJ's stomach again. Peter squeezed her hand, letting her know that he was there for her. But if she had to sit here in front of the TV, twiddling her thumbs until he got here, she might just go cr--

Suddenly a long arpeggiated chord rang out from the old upright piano against the wall. "Why don't we pass the time with a little music?" May asked from the piano bench.  "Peter, would you mind turning off the TV and helping me with the page turns?"

Peter nodded, shutting off the television with the remote control.  He came to stand beside his aunt as she began to play the first few phrases of the introduction to a famous jazz standard. Suddenly, his face clouded.  "Um, Aunt May, maybe you'd better pick another number..."

"What's wrong with this one?  It's an American classic."

But Mary Jane knew exactly why Peter was troubled.  May had chosen "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael - one of her numbers in Manhattan Memories. "No, no... it's okay.  I really love this song." She smiled reassuringly toward Peter.  "Do you mind if I sing along?"

"I'd be absolutely honored!"  She repeated the last four bars as a vamp, and Mary Jane began to sing:

And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart

She closed her eyes and let the music wash over her, putting her heart into her singing.  She felt a confidence fill her, here in the presence of those who loved her - a confidence she hadn't possessed when she first sang this song on stage. Strangely enough, she no longer felt the pang of hurt that she once felt whenever anything associated with Memories came up.  She could simply enjoy the song for itself.

High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart

A smile stole across her lips, imagining those many starry nights that she and Peter would recline on one of his webs, gazing into the sky.  The difference was that they were no longer apart - starlight had nothing but good connotations for the two of them.

You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by

Mary Jane opened her eyes now, singing to her audience of three. Her mother smiled fondly, Peter proudly.  May seemed as lost in the music as she was, rocking gently back and forth as the accompaniment's range moved from treble to bass and back again.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song

Her audience may have been small, but it felt just as thrilling as singing before a packed house.  And there were no jaded critics here to tear her down, not even her father, who had often denigrated her singing as frivolous and much worse.

Not Peter though.  He had never been anything but supportive of her career, even when it felt like the bottom was falling out. She turned her gaze on him directly, singing the next words just for him... 
Beside a garden wall,
When stars are bright, you are in my arms
 The nightingale, tells his fairy tale
. . . 

Suddenly, Mary Jane saw Peter's eyes widen sharply and his head turn toward the door.

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

To be continued

Part 2
Tags: fanfiction, spider-man

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