Faith In Humanity -Aftermath, part 4

(is anyone still reading? It’s not that bad, is it?)

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
Aftermath part 3

FAITH IN HUMANITY
Aftermath, part four

Ursula Ditkovich’s diary, 1st January 2003:

For my New Year’s Resolution, I will sort out my life.

*****

21st January 2003:

Peter awoke on the 21st of Jauary feeling sick. He got up and went to the mirror and he looked like the walking dead. He groaned and went off to the shower. He had a cold. And quite a bad one, by the feel of it.

He sneezed.

After he’d showered and dressed he wondered what to do. He could do what he did every day- save people as Spider-Man, or he could stay inside and do schoolwork. Or he could go to his aunt’s house, he hadn’t seen her since Christmas -nothing but a few phone calls- and he felt so guilty about it. They’d been sitting around talking when Peter heard the noise of sirens outside. He tried to ignore them, he really tried, but it didn’t work. He’d left her…left her all alone on Christmas Day with nothing but some feeble excuses…and he couldn’t even come back on the 26th, because the police cars had been heading towards a gunfight between rival gangs, and most of them had been arrested, but the next day he’d hardly got a few yards from the apartment (in costume of course) when one of them who’d avoided capture had taken a shot at him….

The shot had grazed his arm. It hurt quite a lot. That was both his arms cut up now, he thought dryly. He’d be lucky if he kept all his limbs into old age.

Anyway, he’d finally knocked out the guy and dragged him to the police station, and there they had tried to take him in for questioning. They’d demanded he take the mask off, he’d been lucky to get out without being shot, all things considered…

And now it was a few weeks later and he had a cold. His life seemed like a blur sometimes…

He suddenly really, really wanted to go and see MJ. Really wanted. How could he have not seen her since Christmas? Was she angry that he seemed not to care?

I care. I care. I care very much. I hope you’re okay…wherever you are.

Maybe one day she would leave town and not tell him.

No, that was ridiculous.

He sneezed, and got a jolt of pain in his arm to go with it. He went downstairs to get his post…one letter. It was about the apartment. The apartment had belonged, pretty much, to Norman, but now, thanks to Harry and some paperwork, it belonged to him…and he couldn’t afford it.

He knew in the back of his mind that soon he’d have to move somewhere else, and probably somewhere distinctly cheaper- but he wanted to hold onto the apartment for as long as possible. It was a decent place to live, even if it wasn’t home. He supposed he could ask Harry to lend him money…

Or he could earn it himself. Why shouldn’t he? After all, his friends -and his aunt- were going to think he was utterly useless and lazy if he turned up at their houses unemployed and asking for money. He made a note at the back of his mind: get job, then get new apartment.

He had breakfast…he’d bought some milk and cereal, now- and then he went to get changed. He plucked his costume from the wardrobe, his masks from the box which now lurked at the very back of the cupboard, and got changed.

He was Spider-Man for the rest of the day, and felt guilty when he got back because hey, still no job or money.

*****

Daily Bugle website message boards, 28th January 2003:

i’ve got a story for you. on 26th dec, i woz walkin down the road mindin my own business when some guy runs around the corner, really fast, and hes carrying a gun. i freaked out and ran, and then i heard gunshots, but thwn i relised he woz shooting at the sky, and when i looked up spiderman woz up there. i freaked again, coz i heard about him killing some guy, but he suddenly jumped right outta the sky, and sort of snatched up the guy with the gun, and carried him away. the gun fell outta of his hands towards the ground, but then suddenly a web came down and snatched it back up again. didn’t see where they went but i heard the guy screaming.

what do you guys think? pretty cool eh….

*****

21st January 2003:

That evening, Mary Jane was watching television. That was pretty much the only thing to do in the house if you didn’t feel like talking to its other occupants, and tonight she didn’t. Her mother had gone out visiting friends and her father wasn’t speaking to her. He was prevented from going to the pub because she’d been kidnapped and now couldn’t be left alone. He had yelled at her mother about it, loudly and crudely. Nice to get more proof of where his priorities lay.

Although, he could just leave if he really wanted to, but he’s still here…

She turned her attention back to the television. News was on. It was the usual stuff. Debates raging about this, that and the other, celebrities doing this, that and the other, Spider-Man had saved three people from a burning building and then pulled an injured man from the wreckage of a car, all in one day-

There wasn’t much footage of them, though. There never was. He was usually too fast for anyone to get him on video.

She thought, slightly inexplicably, of Peter. What was he doing, right now?

*****

22nd January 2003:

Peter realised at exactly 2:07 in the morning that he’d gone to sleep still with most of his costume on. The mask and the gloves were lying on the floor readily available for anyone with a pair of binoculars and a tendancy to disrespect other people’s privacy to see.

He groaned, got up, shut the curtains, changed into his pyjamas and put the suit away. He found the mask-box only when he tripped over it, and he couldn’t find the key that unlocked it, so he threw the mask in the wardrobe and got back into bed. He couldn’t get back to sleep, though. He cursed himself: he had to get up and go to school tomorrow. He’d be falling asleep in Dr Connor’s class…

He finally slept at about 4:46 am, after it occured to him that it was almost -now even more almost- his twentieth birthday.

*****

22nd January 2003:

MJ got up early that day and went to the card shop. Her mother hadn’t come back yet, but she wasn’t worried, sometimes she stayed away until late afternoon. After browsing for a while, she eventually picked out an elaborately decorated one with hearts all over it. She didn’t regret it, although she was honestly expecting to. When it came to Peter, she wasn’t surprised when her own feelings started messing her around.

A present, next. She wasn’t very good at picking out presents for him, she was sure. Nothing she thought of giving him seemed to say anything.

Then again, she didn’t know what she wanted to say to him. The man had made her cry.

Eventually, she bought him a notebook and pen. She wrote on the first page of the notebook herself:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Love, Me.

The ‘love’ had been a mistake, she realised as soon as she wrote it. But crossing it out would send entirely the wrong message, and scribbling it out would make a mess.

She wrapped it carefully up in silver wrapping paper. She would go to his apartment and give it to him tomorrow. Assuming he was there…but if he wasn’t, there were really only two other places he’d be likely to be; his aunt’s house or Harry’s house.

Her mother eventually showed up after lunch. She looked rather preoccupied, and spoke to her husband before she said hello to her daughter.

“I need to talk to you. It’s rather urgent.”

“What is it?” he asked, on his guard right away.

Mary Jane got up and hurried to her bedroom. Her mother was a soft-spoken woman, but she could hear her words “I want a divorce.” ringing out all over the house. And then her father started yelling, so she ran downstairs again. But he had gone, slamming the door behind him so loud it could have been heard on the other side of the world. Her mother stood in the doorway to the living room, staring after him.

“I thought,” she said with a sigh, “that he would at least answer. Yes or no would have done.”

“Oh, Mom-”

“Perhaps I should have waited.”

“No, you shouldn’t,” she said, amazed at the tone of her voice. “I don’t…mind…if he goes, okay?”

“You don’t sound certain, dear.”

She attempted to work it out in her brain. On the one hand he was her father, but on the other hand he was a drunken, loutish, ignorant oaf…and dammit, this didn’t seem in the least bit fair.

“If I wake up the next day and he’s gone, I don’t think I’ll mind,” she managed to say, and assumed she meant it.

Her mother just smiled weakily, and murmured “I’ll wait till he gets back.”

She woke up the next day and he was gone.

*****

23rd January 2003:

Peter kicked off the bedcovers and walked to the window. The sun had risen. January the twenty-third.

So…it was his birthday. Time to enjoy himself. He picked up his costume and placed it firmly in the wardobe, even though he felt not quite right doing so.

The phone rang.

“Hello?” he said groggily.

“Peter? S’me, Harry,” came Harry’s voice on the other end. “Happy birthday, good buddy.”

“Thanks, Harry. Are you coming over?” he asked. “My aunt’s bringing cake, and Mary Jane will be here…I think.” He could almost hear Harry wince on the other end, because he was doing the same thing himself…that was all of the people who’d gotten together to celebrate Thanksgiving, with one notable exception.

“I’m going to try, Pete,” Harry said. “I have an important meeting today, but I will try and get there.”

“Okay,” Peter said. “I’ll see you then.”

“I promise,” Harry added, before hanging up.

Peter glanced around his -the- apartment. Since Harry had left, it had become rather messy. He ought to clean it up. He’d do that today. The city would survive.

Of course the city would survive…but would individual people? A strange and inexplicable image popped into his head, and after that they kept coming: grieving parents, friends and lovers being told their children or soulmates had died because Spider-Man was out to lunch, or celebrating his birthday, or tidying his room…

He tried to tidy up, he really did. It looked fairly presentable by the time he couldn’t take it anymore and went to the wardobe to retrieve his costume.

*****

The Daily Bugle, 23rd January 2003:

SPIDER-MAN’S PLOT REVEALED?
Barely a year ago, Oscorp Industries was one of the most celebrated companies in the Western world: its science division alone was worth millions. These days it is worth considerably less, most of its board members are dead, and its founder was found murdered in mysterious circumstances, with Spider-Man as the main suspect. And of course, Spider-Man’s partner in crime, the Goblin, used a glider and weaponry stolen from the company.

Could it be that between them they planned to bring the company down? In the insane hope of ending the war, maybe, or promoting some liberal anti-war message? Or is it something more sinister…

*****

23rd January 2003:

Harry heard the whispers, he always did. Members of the company there from the start, particularly those not favoured by his father…on top of the whispering, they always gave him filthy looks when he walked past. He never met any of their gazes. No-one in the company had offered him sympathy, not a soul- and he told himself he didn’t want it, not from them, but what had he ever done to deserve nothing but nasty looks? Only be his father’s son.

It reminded him of high school, despite the fact that most of the Oscorp employees were twice his age at least. It depressed him: maybe there was hardly any distinction between children and adults after all.

At least the meeting had gone well. He had been speaking to a man called Otto Octavius -even Harry had heard of him, he had heard Peter talking about him once- he was a brilliant scientist, apparently. He was working on a big project, something involving fusion, Harry wasn’t sure of the specifics. He seemed pleasant enough, but he hadn’t said sorry for your loss, or anything of the sort, either.

Why did he have to have people apologize to him about it, for heaven’s sake? It wasn’t like it was their fault- it wasn’t anyone’s fault, apart from Spider-Man’s. Why should people be expected to make him feel better, he wasn’t the center of their universe, or indeed anyone’s universe, he was being stupid-

He just wanted people to acknowledge- what? That their ruthless employer had meant something to someone? That he was hurting, hurting a lot

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around, and it was a woman. He hadn’t seen her before- she was very pretty, with smiling eyes and brown hair. He was rather taken aback for a second.

“Hello?” he said.

“Mr Osborn?” she asked. Harry almost sighed, like he’d once said, he looked around for his father whenever he heard that name.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“I just wanted to say, I’m sorry for your loss,” she said. When Harry didn’t say anything -he was too, well, surprised– she went on “I didn’t know your father, but I read that he had died.”

Harry didn’t correct her with been murdered, and he had no idea why. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “That…means quite a lot.”

“I saw your picture in the paper,” she said, waving his gratitude away. “That’s how I was fairly sure of who you were. Oh,” she went on. “My name is Rosie-I’m Otto’s wife,”

“You are?” he said. “I just came from a meeting with him…”

“I know. What do you think? He’s been working with fusion…all his life,” she said. “It would be his dream come true, to be provided with the resources to create something…I assume you haven’t made a decision yet, though…”

“Well, I’d have to speak with a board of directors, and everything, but…I would like for it to happen, Mrs Octavius,” he said. She beamed in response.

“In fact- you know what? I’d be optimistic,” he said brightly. “I hope you’ll excuse me…I ought to be somewhere else right now. I’m sorry.”

“No, Mr Osborn, thanks for your help,” she said, still grinning at what was clearly fantastic news to her. “Goodbye.”

“Goodbye,” he said, and he smiled once more…this was odd, surely he hadn’t smiled purely for the sake of smiling for such a long time…and hurried away; he had a birthday to go to.

*****

Note pinned to door, 23rd January 2003:

mom, gone to peter’s house for his birthday party. i promise to be back before dark.

if dad comes back, please please please call me!!!!!

-mj

*****

23rd January 2003:

Aunt May arrived at the apartment first. She was carrying a birthday cake. “Happy birthday, dear,” she said, and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I made this myself. More than enough for four people.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, dear,” she said. “Where are they? MJ and Harry? Harry is coming, I take it?”

“Oh yes, he’s coming,” Peter said. “He might be a little late…he’s got a meeting…but MJ should be here any time now…”

As if on cue, and rather amusingly, the doorbell rang at just that moment. Peter bounded to the door and flung it open -it was her.

She looked gorgeous, and she was holding a present and a card. She also was holding a balloon in her other hand, which she handed to him.

“It’s cool, isn’t it?” she said. “I bought it on the way here- I thought you’d like it.” The tension of their last conversation, to Peter’s relief, seemed to be gone. There was still a strange look in her eyes, however, but he chose to ignore it.

“I love it,” he said sincerely. “Here….” He tied it to the banister, where it bobbed about in the air. “Thank you, MJ-” He was about to kiss her on the cheek- about to kiss her– but suddenly he realised, and there was an incredibly awkward moment.

She’d looked like she wanted to kiss him, whether it was a simple kiss between friends or not. It didn’t matter, they just needed each other. Of course, he’d known that for years and years and years.

His aunt’s voice interupted his thoughts. “I,” she annouced, “will make you a birthday feast. Don’t even think about it,” she said, when Peter opened his mouth, “it’s your birthday.” She vanished into the kitchen.

Peter and MJ sat down on the sofa.

“So…” Peter said, “so, how’s things?”

MJ looked at him, looked at the floor, looked at him again and said “My dad left today.”

About a hundred thoughts shot through Peter’s head like bullets. “Oh,” he said in shock. “Oh…”

“Don’t apologize,” she said. “Admittedly he’s been gone less than twenty-four hours, but I’m not missing him much.”

“Do you know where he’s gone?”

“My mother said that at midnight, he woke her up with his bags all packed and told her he was moving in with friends,” she said, shaking her head. “He didn’t bother waking me up.”

“Do you know why he did it?”

“They’re blaming each other for me being kidnapped,” she answered simply. “My dad blames my mum for going out to see friends and my mum blames my dad for being out drinking.”

“And who do you blame?”

She blinked. “My dad, I suppose. He…” She just shook her head – her relationship with her father could be reduced to just that one gesture, really. “Let’s not talk about it.”

“Gotcha,” Peter said. “What do you want to talk about? I’m an expert in anything…”

She grinned. “You’re good at making me feel better, you know that?” She then realised what she had said, and changed the subject. “Hmmm…how’s life? Jobs, school, the rest?”

“School is good. Jobs…I haven’t got one,” He grinned sheepishly. “I’m gonna look, don’t worry. I could use the money. I’m getting a smaller apartment, for one thing- this one’s a bit out of my league now…”

“I didn’t know things were that desperate,” MJ said in a concerned tone. “Surely there’s something you can do? I mean- I thought you and Harry were going to keep living together.”

“I guess not,” Peter said with a shrug. “Although, well, I haven’t asked. Not yet.”

“Come to think of it,” MJ said, “how come Harry isn’t here?”

“He’s at a meeting. He said he’s coming.”

MJ was silent for a few seconds. “Were you…” she said thoughtfully, “…were you really jealous when we started dating? Me and Harry?”

“Erm…” Peter thought about it. It was hard to tell. And rather hard to think about. “I just wanted you to be happy,” he said very quietly. “That’s all I ever wanted, for you to be happy.”

MJ looked at him, just looked at him for a few moments, as if dryly saying yeah, you did a really great job of that…and then she sighed. “I was happy. I think. Just maybe…not happy enough.” And that was how she looked: not happy enough. No sooner had he noticed this, though, then she smiled at him.

“He wasn’t – a bad boyfriend,” she said. “At least he cared about me. More then I can say for a lot of guys I went out with,” She gave a cross between a snort and a bitter laugh. “Let’s face it, though, we weren’t meant for each other. But at least we’re still friends, right? That doesn’t happen often…” She took a deep breath. “I’m glad we’re still friends,” she said. “Alright?”

“You mean you and Harry, or…”

“I mean us.”

Peter felt decidedly relieved. “Thanks.” he said, awkward again.

“You’re welcome,” MJ said, equally so.

There was silence for a bit.

“Did he ever apologize to you,” Peter finally said, “about what he said at Thanksgiving?” He wasn’t sure why he was bringing this up now, seeing as it was so long ago…but it seemed worth asking.

“Oh. He tried to. I sort of…ignored everything he said,” MJ admitted. “My father was furious. Said that ‘the Osborn kid’ was ‘the best move I ever made’ and I had to ‘damn well see him – and his money – through to the end.'” She shook her head. “I seem to split up with any guy my father approves of, whether he approves of them for good reasons or not. I suppose it wasn’t Harry’s fault…not really…it just wouldn’t have worked…”

This was awkward, it was so, so awkward.

“I…” Peter began, but he trailed off.

“You know…” MJ said, as if desperatly searching for something to say. “I kissed Spider-Man once.”

This of course wasn’t news to him- oh no, it was on his mind every single day-but he had to pretend. “Seriously?” he said, widening his eyes. “Why?”

“I told you once that I nearly got mugged and Spider-Man saved me,” she said. “But what I didn’t tell you was that afterwards…I kissed him. In the rain.”

Upside down, Peter added in his head. But out loud he said “Wow. But you didn’t…you didn’t find out who he really was.”

She shook her head. “That must have been why I was taken to the bridge that night.” she said with a sigh. “Because I kissed him. And I thought I loved him. And I suppose he must have loved me…although now I don’t know.”

“And now you…” Why were all conversations so difficult now?

“And now, I guess…” But she trailed off hopelessly. This was far too hard on both of them, and Peter was about to very quickly change the subject when the doorbell rang and saved him the trouble. He opened the door. “Harry! Hey.”

“Hey, Pete. Hi, MJ…” Harry looked at the ground and not at her as he said her name. “Happy birthday, Peter.” He handed over his present. “I like the balloon.”

“MJ brought it,” Peter said. “Come on in…pull up a sofa.”

Harry sat down. “I kinda miss this place,” he said quietly. He looked at MJ properly. “Thanks for coming round on the 26th.”

Peter hadn’t known about this. Of course not, he’d been getting shot at the time.

“Well, I’d got you a present and everything.” MJ said. “And I thought…I should have stayed longer, really. You shouldn’t work straight after Christmas, you should be resting…eating turkey…whatever…”

And of course things were still awkward, between all of them. It really wasn’t fair.

Harry looked at Peter.

“Friends now,” he said. “And remaining that way- I guess.”

MJ nodded. “Friends,” she said, without the I guess.

May called them all in for dinner then.

*****

Harry left the apartment first, then May did. Peter and MJ were left alone. And there was so much unspoken that neither of them could say. Eventually, MJ put her arm around him, and then walked to the door.

“Happy birthday,” she said quietly. They exchanged a long, long look.

“It’s better like this,” she said. “With all of us just friends…when I went to see Harry on the 26th he said much the same thing. I should have had a proper conversation with him sooner, I really should…maybe this should be a new beginning, Peter. For us all.”

“MJ…” But he had no idea what to say. Words came into his head only to vanish moments later. “MJ…I will always be your friend, okay? No matter what happens. I want you to remember that. Always.”

She nodded. Peter became aware of the clock on the wall in the kitchen, ticking away. Minutes. Hours. Years. They’d known each other for so long…

“I know,” she said. “Same here.” And then she walked away.

Peter closed the door after her. He seemed to spend a lifetime doing so. He returned to the sofa and looked at the present she had given him…the notebook.

Love, Me.