Faith In Humanity -Aftermath, part 3

Title: Faith In Humanity
Author: sarah531
Rating: PG13 bordering on R
Fandom: Spider-Man movieverse
Author’s Notes: A while back I attempted a Spider-Man movieverse fanfic called Everyone Has A Choice, and I never finished it. This is that fic mashed down and rebuilt. It has something bordering on a plot now. :p
Summary: After the Queensboro Bridge incident, everyone involved struggles through the aftermath. Ursula Ditkovich was not involved, but she struggles through the aftermath nonetheless. And an unhappy middle-aged woman, after taking a job at the Osborn manor, suddenly finds herself an unwilling participant in the battle for a young man’s soul.

Prologue
Aftermath part 1
Aftermath part 2

FAITH IN HUMANITY
Aftermath, part 3

Christmas Day, 2002:

Peter had spent a long time deliberating what to get Mary Jane for Christmas. He’d thought about make-up, but she had a lot already, and a lot of it was probably more expensive than what he could give her. He’d thought about clothes, but she’d get plenty of those from her friends and relatives. Nothing he looked at seemed quite good enough to give to her.

The day before he’d gone to see Harry, he’d been in a bookshop looking for some books that would help him with science. All of it was pretty advanced stuff, and he’d been the only one in that part of the bookshop. He was scanning the shelves when his vision went totally off course and fell upon some children’s books, off to the side. Exactly why they’d decided to put a display of children’s picture books next to the giant volumes of advanced physics was beyond him, but he looked at them even so. One of them was a picture book of Cinderella. He picked that one up…it was the play MJ had starred in all that time ago, he still remembered the whole story…and noticed that in all the pictures of the title character, she’d been drawn with red hair. Well, that settled it- he bought it for her. It was rather expensive…actually, very expensive…and so he’d had to leave the science books behind. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, he solved the problem on his own. But he hoped and prayed she’d like the book.

On his way to visit Aunt May, he went to MJ’s house and knocked nervously at the door. It wasn’t her who answered, though- it was her father.

“Yeah?” he grunted. And then- “You’re the Parker kid, aren’t you?”

Peter nodded.

“Well, if not for you,” the man said, smelling of beer like usual, “she’d be living with Thompson or Osborn, wouldn’t she? She’d be out of our hands, and rich, and better off than with…you,” He sneered. “But no, it’s you she likes. Give me that, I’ll give it to her.”

Peter knew he wouldn’t. “Er, you know what? I’ll come back later-”

“Who is it?” It was MJ’s voice, and she suddenly replaced her father, who stalked back into the house. “Peter!” she said. She looked almost angry, and his heart sank.

“Um.” Peter said brainlessly. He realised far too late that he should have had a speech in mind before arriving on her doorstep. “Um. I brought you a present.” He thrust the package he was carrying right into her arms: she stared at him incredulously.

“Thanks,” she said flatly. “I got you something, too.” She reached over, picked up a box sitting on the hallway table, and handed it to him. “It’s a camera,” she said, rather redunantly. The box, after all, wasn’t wrapped, and there was a big picture of a camera on it.

“Yeah.” Peter said. “Thanks.” Say something to break the tension, you moron. “Um. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” she answered, rather cooly. “Are you going to your aunt’s house?”

“Yeah.”

“Say hi to her from me.”

“Okay.” Say something! Now!

“Girl!” a voice from inside called. “Get back in here. Come have Christmas with us, why don’t you?”

“I’ll see you around.” MJ muttered. Present in hand, she closed the door. Peter was left watching her blurry shape move away behind the glass.

He was walked down his old front yard when it suddenly occured to him- she’d had his present, if unwrapped, ready and waiting on the table.

She must have been expecting him.

*****

Peter walked the few steps to his old house. He still had a key to it- it stayed in his pocket permanently. He unlocked the door, and came in, calling “I’m here, Aunt May.”

She came down the stairs, holding a present and beaming. “It’s good to see you, Peter,” she said, kissing his face. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too,” he said. He sat down on the sofa, and looked around. This would always be his favourite place. He’d grown up here…grown up among the photographs and the wallpaper and the sofa and the tables. It was his home in a way that no other place had been so far.

“I went to see MJ,” he said. “I gave her her Christmas present…”

“Did you, dear? What did she have to say?”

“Well, we couldn’t talk for long, her father called her-”

May put on the expression she always wore at the mention of Mr Watson. “Did you invite her over here?”

“I tried,” he said, feeling bad about resorting to a white lie. “Oh,” he added. “She gave me a camera. Look.” He took it out of his rucksack. “It’s brand new. Isn’t it great?” He handed it to her, and she examined it with interest. “It’s lovely,” she said. She put it on the table, and changed the subject back to the more important things. “So, you and Mary Jane…”

Peter had no idea what to say. “We’re…we’re not sure quite where we are.”

“You love her,” she said in her matter-of-fact way. “That’s all you need to be sure about.”

“I know, I know…it’s just…” He didn’t really want to talk about it. He couldn’t work it out inside his own head, so how could it be put into words?

“Peter,” May said. “I remember, when I was in the hospital, and you dashed into my room and said you’d phoned MJ’s house and her parents told you they didn’t know where she was. You looked so panicked…and of course we found out later you had more than a right to be, but I’ll never forget your face. You looked as though you’d die just to be certain she was safe.”

Peter looked away. He remembered that all too well…and he was astonished that the lie about MJ’s parents had come to him so fast. As it was, her parents hadn’t even been there the night she was kidnapped, and he hoped and prayed May wouldn’t speak to Mr and Mrs Watson and find that out. It would get him in huge amounts of trouble, and not just for lying.

“I went to the bridge,” he said, using the story he’d used as his alibi so many times before. “I saw the news, I knew that was where she was…I couldn’t do anything, I was so, so scared…” Well, the ‘scared’ part was true. May nodded sympathetically.

“At least it’s behind you now,” May said. “And Harry…the poor boy.”

Peter nodded.

“Have they got back together, do you know?”

“No…they’re just friends. I think. Harry’s…er…he’s still really upset about what happened, I saw him yesterday, he’s just…throwing himself into his work, his father’s company…”

May pursed her lips. “I don’t like to speak ill of the dead…”

Peter knew what was coming.

“…but Norman Osborn, he just gave money to that boy, and so little genuine love.” She gave a heavy sigh. “I don’t know what will become of Harry, but I think you should keep an eye on him.”

“Yeah, I will.”

“Anyway,” she said. “Let’s open our presents, then. Here you go, kiddo.” She went to the Christmas tree…she must have decorated it completely on her own, Uncle Ben used to help her…and took a gift from underneath it. She gave it to him, and Peter took hers from his bag.

“Let’s open them on the count of three,” he said. “One…two…three.” He tore the wrapping off his, and he grinned like a madman…it was a pair of physics books, similar to the ones he hadn’t been able to afford. “Thank you, Aunt May. How’s you know I wanted these?”

“Educated guesswork, Peter,” May unwrapped the last of her present- it was a glittery ornament of two horses, he’d seen it in a shop and it reminded him of the house, although they’d never had an ornament like that- and she smiled at him.

“Thank you very much, Peter,” she said. “Now, if you go into the dining room-” She led him in there, and Christmas dinner was spread on the table. Dinner for two, Peter thought with an internal sigh.

“It looks lovely,” he said.

“Thank you, dear,” she answered. “Now, sit down and we’ll say grace.”

Peter remembered the last time she’d said that. So many terrible things had happened since then. He sat down, closed his eyes, and hoped that things would get better for them all.

*****

Ursula Ditkovich’s diary, Christmas Eve 2002:

Every Christmas my dad sticks around for the whole day. Good of him really. We don’t do anything though, have family round or whatever. Dad has alcohol, and sometimes he gets me a present, a CD or something. I get him videos (we still can’t afford a DVD player). Used to get him books before I realised he never read them.

Wish I had someone else around. I don’t know who- a friend of some kind. I always figured I didn’t have friends, just acquaintances, and no-one in the world to talk to. Hence why I keep a diary.

Not that it’s the same for every diary-keeper. Most of them are probably well-adjusted people. Although it’s not like I would know what well-adjusted even is. Probably nobody in the world is well-adjusted.

******

Christmas Day, 2002:

MJ really, really wished she’d gone to Peter’s house. Gone with him and talked to him properly.

She glanced out of the window, into Peter’s back yard. It’d been so long since that night…that night where they’d just talked. Since then they’d graduated from school, dated other people (well, she had), had people they knew (or loved) die, and she had almost died herself…twice

Sometimes she wondered just what it was they were caught up in. It was strange, whatever it was…she’d kissed Spider-Man, that one night which now seemed like a lifetime ago, but now she loved Peter (oh god, things would turn out for the best, they had to) and not him, even though he’d saved her life and Peter had not…

“Girl,” her father grunted, “what’re you staring off into space for?”

She didn’t say sorry, but she resumed eating. Her father took a long drink of beer. Her mother looked at him, and gave a barely audible sigh. Clearly, her father heard it….he slammed the glass down on the table, and snapped “It’s Christmas, for God’s sake!”

“The alcoholic’s choice of holiday,” MJ muttered.

Her father growled at her -that was the noise that used to scare the life out of her when she was eight, because it would have led to screaming, insults, and her mother sobbing quietly. “Go to your room, girl. Go to your room now!”

“No,” she said flatly.

“Phil-” her mother injected. “Phil, it’s Christmas…”

“I don’t care,” he said. “Go to your room!”

“Make me,” she said, and she got up, about to grab her coat and go next door-but her father caught her.

“Oh no you don’t. We’re your family, and the Parker kid isn’t-you stay right here.”

“You’re a bastard.”

“Finish your dinner!”

You said go to my-”

“FINISH YOUR DINNER.”

No-one spoke a word for the remainder of the meal.

*****

As soon as dinner was over, she did go to her room, storming up the stairs and slamming the door behind her. Her mother followed her, and knocked on the door.

“I’m not spending another Christmas with him, Mum.”

“I know, dear,” she said. “I’m sorry. But don’t you want to come downstairs and open some presents?”

“No, Mum, I don’t.”

Her mother waited by the door for a moment, then walked away, going slowly down the stairs.

MJ looked out of the window at Peter’s house, then picked up the Cinderella book and began to read it.

*****

An hour passed, then another hour. She tried not to feel sorry for herself; she wasn’t that sort of person. She heard doors being opened and closed, heard talking, but thankfully no yelling. Eventually she put the book away and went downstairs.

Her mother wasn’t around. Her father was sitting on the sofa, beer glass still in hand.

“Your mother’s gone for a walk,” he said, and it occured to her that he had always, for as long as she could remember, referred to his wife as your mother. It seemed like such an innocent thing, and he probably didn’t think about it, but why didn’t he call either of them by their names?

“Okay,” she said.

“Turn on the TV.”

“Why, so you can not talk to me?”

“I said, turn on the TV.”

She turned it on- it seemed simplier then arguing. It was the ending of some Christmas movie, an irritatingly upbeat one. MJ watched in glum silence, wanting her mother to return, she wanted to talk to her now…but as the credits rolled, her father suddenly turned to her and said “MJ.”

She nearly fell off her seat. Hearing her nickname…the name her friends used for her…come out of her father’s mouth seemed like the most incredible thing. “What?”

“I’ve been thinking…” he muttered, his speech as slurred as usual. “I’ve been thinking…maybe I’ve been a bit…” He muttered something that was both incomprehensible and laden with profanity, and MJ didn’t especially want to ask what he was describing himself as. “Just so you know…I know you hate me…”

MJ said nothing, but she realised she’d regret it later, so she muttered. “Only sometimes.”

“I didn’t ‘tend for my life to turn out like this…” her father groaned to himself. “It’s just…s’ not that I didn’t like your mother…hell, s’ not that I don’t like you, just I never expected a daughter, didn’t know what to do, never even knew what a kid was gonna be like…you get it, right?”

“Yes, I get it,” she said quietly.

“And I can’t get round it…what happened to you at the bridge…you could’ve died, I’d have never forgave myself…your mother, she’d have never forgiven me neither…I wanted to say sorry, I tried, so ‘shamed I didn’t want to look at ya…” His speech was coming out all jumbled now, she was used to that- it wasn’t like he’d never drunk himself into a stupor before- but this was something new.

“Apology accepted,” she muttered.

“What?”

“Apology accepted.”

“Oh,” She wasn’t really on his register anymore. “I gotta go and take a pee.” He wandered off in the direction of the bathroom, and Mary Jane suddenly felt a crushing sadness.

“I’m going to Peter’s house.” she said.

“Alright.”

She ran outside and to the house next door. She pressed the doorbell rather more urgently than she’d intended to-and Aunt May answered the door.

“Mary Jane! Peter said you were celebrating with your parents…”

‘Celebrating’ perhaps wasn’t the word, but she nodded anyway. “I…was. I was wondering, Aunt May, if it’s alright…can I come in and see Peter?”

“I’m sorry, dear, he’s just left.”

“He’s just left?”

“Yes,” May sighed. “Can’t be in one place for too long anymore, it seems. I imagine it was schoolwork he had to attend to, he gets a lot of it these days.”

MJ could think of nothing to say, and so said simply, “Oh.”

“Would you like to come in anyway, dear? The turkey’s all gone, but I think there may be some pudding left, I’ll heat it up for you…”

MJ turned her head and saw her mother walking quickly down the road. “Thanks, Aunt May, but I can’t. My mom wants me…wants us to spend christmas together. She’s been trying so hard.”

“I know, dear, I know.” She tutted. “Very well, then. Give your mother my best regards, and if you still want that pudding later I’ll save it for you.”

MJ was touched by all this kindness. “Thank you- very much.”

“Merry Christmas, dear,” May said in response.

“Merry Christmas to you, too.”

The door was closed, and MJ went to meet her mother, slightly less dejected.

She wasn’t going to be here next Christmas, though. She just wasn’t.