Chapter 1: Introductory Chapter
Fumbling, awkward, and walking with a perpetual slouch, he was quite possibly the most unnoticeable being at Midtown Science High School. Even when in a crowd, he never quite seemed to be a real part of it. Those who spoke to him struggled to remember what exactly his face looked like afterwards, before forgetting the matter entirely.
The most that anyone could say about Peter Parker was that he was always alone.
That being said, one could hardly call him an outcast. The word “outcast” implies a certain degree of visibility; it implies that one could look upon him and think, “Look! Look how different he is. Look at how isolated he is.” But the fact of the matter was that Peter was invisible. He was as unobtrusive as one could get while remaining human.
And so it said quite a bit about Flash that he was able to not only just notice Peter Parker from twenty feet away, but also to recognize him by the back of his head.
“Hey, Parker!” he bellowed, causing everyone in the vicinity to turn their heads, the monotony of the regular school day slowly fading in place of a vague sense of anticipation.
It was this moment that would set off a chain of events that would make up the entirety of this story. Of course, this isn’t just Peter’s story. Peter, though a crucial facet of this tale, would only reveal the extent of his role later. Much later.
Flash stood at one end of the hallway holding a small bendy straw in his fist in a way that could only be described as menacing, flanked on either side by his companions Jacob Goldberg and Mark Andrews. A talented athlete with a penchant for basketball, captain of the football team, and a vehement, almost desperate hatred for his birth name, Eugene “Flash” Thompson was tall, handsome, and had a wholesome, All-American look about him that almost never failed to make a good impression on everyone he met. Of course, there’s always an exception, and that exception was when he, Flash Thompson, leered at Peter Parker with the intent to humiliate him in some way.
Similarly to what was happening right now.
“I’m talking to you, Parker!” Flash bellowed again, causing everyone to finally turn their heads slowly in notice of the subject of said yelling; a thin, unbearably average teenager in a large brown jacket and a skateboard slung over his shoulder who would soon prove himself to be the protagonist of the story.
His time was not then, however, and Flash certainly didn’t know the significance of his actions or how they’d affect his favorite human punching bag. Moving quickly, so as to prevent his target from avoiding the attack, Flash placed the bent straw to his lips and, puffing out his cheeks, blew a wad of saliva-covered paper at Peter’s face. The smaller teen flinched at the last second, and the projectile hit his left shoulder instead; the damage had been dealt, however, and the chuckles resonating throughout the hallway were only overcome by the raucous laughter of Flash and his friends.
This was what Gwen Stacy witnessed that Friday, and what she saw displeased her quite a bit. Though quite aware of Flash’s tendencies to bully students smaller than him (admittedly there were few who didn’t fit that physical description), firing spitballs at random people in the halls was too much. Gently pushing away everyone who was in her way, she carefully navigated through the congested hallway towards Flash, who’d been busy high fiving Mark.
“That was quite a show there, Flash.”
He spun around in surprise. “Gwen! Hey!” Flash exclaimed amiably, his expression much different from the malevolent smirk he’d worn just seconds ago. Smiling as he elbowed Jacob in the stomach to silence the boy’s giggling, he went on to ask, “How are you doing?”
He leaned against the gray locker beside him, hoping to look relaxed and nonchalant. Unfortunately for him, the casual conversation he’d been hoping for would be put on hold. With a movement so quick he’d nearly missed it, Gwen snatched the badly abused straw from his hand without breaking eye contact.
“Really? It looks like you were carrying this around all day.” She held the straw with two fingers, disgust clearly evident in her expression, and placed her other hand on her hip. “Do you really have nothing better to do with your time?”
Flash looked flustered, and, curiously enough, almost betrayed for a moment, and as he stammered in an attempt to think of an excuse it almost seemed as though he would actually apologize. But Jacob then chose that moment to start laughing about “being whipped,” and with a loud hiss of “Shut the fuck up!” and a well-placed kick to the knee, Flash opted to avoid the conversation altogether. He looked back at Gwen, who raised an eyebrow in quiet expectation. “I’ll see you in class, Stacy,” was all he grumbled before turning his back and walking away with the others.
Gwen looked behind her to talk to the victim of Flash’s tormenting; it was difficult to pick out that dark brown jacket in the sea of faces, all of whom had all but forgotten the incident entirely, and by the time she saw someone who might have been him, he’d turned the corner and disappeared from her sight.
“Parker,” Flash had called him, right?
* * * * * *
The next time Gwen Stacy saw Peter Parker, it was during the class period after lunch. She had forgotten that they shared a class (as most of Peter’s classmates were wont to do), and it was only the incident in the hall earlier that day that reminded her that Peter had even existed at all (this too, was an entirely normal phenomenon). Of course, Advanced Placement Biology was no place to hold a conversation (“Studying takes precedence over idle chitchat in a classroom,” her Dad would say), so all she could do was take a brief glance at him as she walked to her desk which, luckily, was in the row above his. She hoped somewhat that he would be looking up, so that she could give him a comforting smile, or reassure him that Flash wouldn’t bother him again. But Mr. Parker was hunched over in his seat, facedown, completely oblivious to the world around him and especially of her presence.
A brown jacket. Shaggy hair.
That was all Gwen could glean from the brief view of her utterly unremarkable classmate before she sat down and opened up her notes for the beginning of class. As she did, Gwen couldn’t help but wonder, had he seen her speak to Flash? Had he left beforehand? Could he have seen her and become embarrassed at her assistance? She had been assisting, right? As she pulled out the packet on phylogenetic classification, she wondered to herself if speaking with this Peter would be a good idea. Just as this thought passed through her head, Gwen heard a rustle behind her and the dull thud of books being placed on the desk. Before she could turn around, Professor Walton strode into the classroom and to his desk and pulled down the projector screen in a singular, sweeping movement.
“Good afternoon, everyone! Take out your packets and turn to page fifteen, and we’ll review the answers to the homework. Miss Bennett, please put your phone away, thank you. Now, my earlier classes seemed to have quite a bit of trouble distinguishing between polyphyletic and paraphyletic, so we’ll take some time to go over that…”
Gwen shut out all distractions and began to concentrate entirely on the words of her teacher. In but a moment, her mind was filled entirely with the intricate and deceptively well-ordered world of biology; a world where all life had a purpose, a niche, where everything could be attributed to and classified by scientific processes.
For about an hour or so, nothing else existed. Including Peter Parker.
* * * * * *
You know what’s fantastic? When I’m trapped behind a group of people walking too slowly down the hallway.
I know, I know, you’ve probably heard this all before, but this irritates me more than just about anything in the world. Almost, anyway.
I mean, I’m not in any particular hurry, myself, but when I’m trying to get to class and I suddenly encounter a barricade, you can’t exactly blame a guy for getting a little annoyed. I mean, you try coughing, you try sidestepping, you even tap their shoulders and ask them to go faster, but all you get is a condescending comment by a member of this human fortress.
What am I supposed to do? They’re about as impenetrable as a naval blockade. I could just as easily push through them as I could jump over them like some kind of crazed gold medalist.
Anyway I’m just venting here. I never do anything except just wait it out (sure, I’m not exactly happy, but I don’t actually say anything). To be honest I’ve never even asked them to move.
Maybe I’ll do that one day.
And if by some miracle that doesn’t work, I’ll bring a pole to school the next day so I can vault over everyone. I can’t think of a single reason why that wouldn’t be a good idea.
* * * * * *
“Oh, you’re home early! Don’t you have afterschool today?”
Gwen’s mother smiled at her quickly before turning back to the job at hand; a pan full of vegetables which required very careful sautéing if she didn’t want to burn anything. The kitchen at the Stacy household was the pride and joy of Gwen’s mother; Helen was always asking her husband to renovate some aspect of it, and, to the exasperation of the entire family, she was often a very convincing speaker. The latest changes consisted of the installation of new white lacquer cabinets, and a stainless steel sink with a matching faucet that could turn on and off with only a touch (the latter of which had been discovered thanks to an advertisement on the Food Network, curse them). Lately, Helen had even been talking about getting rid of the hardwood floors and replacing it with ceramic tiling to “fit the color scheme.”
Gwen’s younger brothers responded by quietly hiding the Home Furnishing magazines every time they came in the mail.
“No, Science Olympiad is done for the year, and Debate’s only on Tuesdays.” Gwen pecked her mother on the cheek before reaching over and grabbing a box of Cocoa Puffs from the counter.
“Try not to spoil your appetite, alright?”
“I’m just grabbing a few, Mom,” Gwen fibbed, leaning against the dark marble countertop (which hadn’t existed two months ago). “What’s for dinner today?”
“Well,” Her mother yelled, trying to be heard over the sudden, loud sizzling noises the pan was producing, “I found a recipe online! Vegetable naanwich with sun-dried tomato and goat cheese spread!”
“Mmhm…” Gwen popped two Cocoa Puffs in her mouth and nodded, her eyebrows furrowed. “Sounds… Complicated. And what’s a naanwich again? I guess it just, you know, slipped my mind.”
“Very funny, Gwen. It’s… Well it’s a type of…”
Gwen ate another Cocoa Puff while she watched her mother mix the vegetables somewhat haphazardly with a wooden spoon. It was truly a miracle how she was able to produce such complex and delicious dishes with the sloppy and absent-minded manner by which she prepared them, Gwen couldn’t help but think, as several chopped up bell peppers flew off the pan and onto the stove.
“It’s a kind of sandwich… Except… Oh, don’t bother me right now with questions. You’ll find out tonight, won’t you?”
“I suppose I will! Thanks, Mom.” Gwen placed the cereal box back in its corner and dusted her hands off. “That’s just what I want to hear from the chef. Well, I’ll be in my room, then.”
“Uh huh, okay.” Gwen’s mother mumbled distractedly. “Make sure to do your homework!”
With that, Gwen exited the kitchen and entered the living room, where her brothers were huddled around the TV and playing Mario Kart.
“Hi, Gwen.” They chorused, without turning around.
“Hey.” She leaned over to pick up a stray jacket lying on the ground and walked to the coat rack near the door. “Shouldn’t you guys be doing homework?”
“Yeah,” Phillip (the older of the two brothers) responded, obviously unconcerned with the schoolwork awaiting him. “What’d Mom say is for dinner tonight?”
Gwen carefully hung the jacket, dusting it off and straightening it. “It’s a special treat tonight! Veggie naanwich and goat cheese, mmm!”
The boys groaned simultaneously, though none of them took their eyes off the television screen.
“Goat cheese? Seriously?” Phil winced, before leaning sharply to the left in a ridiculous attempt at having his character on screen turn the same way.
“What the heck’s a naanwich?” asked Simon as he pushed Phil away from him. “Do you mean a sandwich?”
“Nope. I mean naanwich.”
“It sounds gross,” Simon mumbled.
“You’ve never even tried it,” Phil leaned to the right, nearly falling on top of his prostrated sibling.
“Get off of me! And you said you don’t like goat cheese!”
“I’ve eaten it!”
“No you didn’t!”
“Yeah, I did!”
“No you didn’t!”
“What the heck is a naanwich?” Simon insisted, wisely deciding to ignore his brother rather than continue the conversation.
“Are you guys kidding me?” Gwen laughed as she walked down the long hallway leading to her room. “Kids these days. Don’t even know about naanwiches!”
(A quick Google search revealed that it was just a sandwich using naan bread, which originated in India and was made of unbleached flour, water, gluten, expeller pressed canola oil, and fruitrim.)
(It sounded safe enough.)
Gwen was a studious young woman who took pride in her placement in the top of all of her classes. It wasn’t that she felt she deserved the position, of course, only that this was a result of the work she put in. And what work she put in! Science wasn’t so much schoolwork as it was a hobby; her biology and chemistry textbooks were worn from so many repeated reads. It wasn’t exactly a subject she could bond with others over, but nonetheless it remained her great passion in life simply because it was life. It unlocked the great mysteries of the world and opened new doors for humanity to step through, and she couldn’t wait to one day become one of the many noble people who strove to better conditions for the entirety of mankind.
Her bedroom reflected her bookish personality: two walls were covered by bookshelves that contained textbooks, encyclopedias, and other various intimidating-looking tomes. The small table next to her bed was covered in post-it notes used as reminders, which had messages such as “study for vocab quiz 6-14,” “call Rebecca about lab,” “Simon’s bday – look up games(??).” Under her bed was a box containing all her past homework assignments and quizzes, which she used as a study guide at the end of the year. Everyone who took a good look at her room would conclude the same thing: Gwen Stacy is quite the scholarly person (and even then, what an understatement that would be).
Of course, everyone has a certain duality about them, despite what anyone may think; one of the most prevalent ones involve the balance between intellectualism and recreation. Simply put, even the nerdiest people in the world need to have a hobby.
And so, putting her pencil down, Gwen opened up a new browser window on her computer and logged onto Facebook.
She had two messages and nine notifications; the notifications were all from a status she’d been tagged in, which had eventually devolved into a long conversation about who-knows-what between two parties. Gwen quickly untagged herself. One message was from Justin Chase, who was the president of the school’s Debate team, saying that the meeting would be postponed for fifteen minutes in order to take team photos. The second was from her penpal, Jane, who had given her a “brief” update on her fieldwork as of late. Gwen sighed; her tastes were more towards the field of biochemistry, so, despite their friendship and her love of science, reading these messages about astrophysics was always somewhat tedious (especially since many of her theories sometimes bordered on… metaphysical). She closed the window, promising herself that she would read it by the end of the weekend.
Before she could resume making headway on her homework, the door opened up to reveal a very disgruntled-looking Simon.
“Mom said it’s time for dinner,” he grumbled.
Gwen flipped the pencil once in her hand, trying hard not to look too amused. “Mom turned off the power to the Wii?”
Simon made a grunting noise which she interpreted to mean “yes,” and promptly turned and left. Gwen put down her pencil and stretched her arms high above her head; with a long exhale, she followed after her brother, feeling a mild pang of disappointment at the interruption.
“Where’s Dad?” she asked when she arrived at the dining table, a cursory look revealing a decided lack of a fatherly parental unit.
“Oh, sorry Gwen, I forgot to tell you!” her mother called out from the kitchen. “He called just a few minutes ago; something came up last minute, and he’s going to be late tonight.”
“Again?” Simon exclaimed, rolling his eyes.
Gwen frowned and walked into the kitchen and gathered a handful of utensils to pass out.
“Mom, are we allowed to play our DS’s during dinner?” Phil yelled (unnecessarily, since the kitchen was close by, but yelling was a default speaking volume of his).
Simon looked up in alarm.
“No, honey, you know you can’t.”
“But Simon brought his DS!”
Simon kicked him from under the table.
“Ow! Simon kicked me!”
“Simon,” his mother said calmly, “Go put away your game. And stop hitting your brother!” she added as an afterthought.
“Did Dad say what happened?” Gwen asked, cutting deftly through the loud argument that’d erupted from the dining room.
“Don’t worry, honey. He said it was relatively small. Unarmed robbery, I think it was?”
“Hmm. This is the third night in a row he’s come late, you know.”
The two of them fell silent for a while, Gwen slowly picking up napkins and her mother arranging the dishes just so. It was impossible to get used to, the feeling of anxiety that would inevitably fall upon them whenever George Stacy didn’t come home on time. Of course, it was also impossible to dwell on this thought in silence for more than a second; the moment was interrupted by a loud crash and a yelp, followed by a “Phil! Keeps! Hitting me!”
“You kicked me!”
“You told on me!”
“You shouldn’t have brought it then!”
“Boys!” their mother shouted, but the bickering continued without so much as a pause. “Ugh. Gwen, go and set the table. And try to get them to calm down!”
“Will do, Mom.”
Of course, it’s not easy getting two boys, brothers, no less, to stop arguing once they’ve started. Kind words eventually turned into stern words, which then grew louder and grew louder until Gwen found herself arguing with both Phil and Simon, who’d somehow stopped fighting in order to team up against their older sister, and shouting about voting her off the family and having her live on the roof. “They never act like this when Dad’s home,” she couldn’t help but think somewhat petulantly. Simon grew aware that her sister wasn’t focusing (thanks to some ancient instinct that existed since the beginning of time, when the first younger brother started fighting with his sister), and he then took the opportunity to tear off a piece of his napkin, roll it up, and throw it at Gwen’s face.
His aim proved true, and Gwen found herself kicked unceremoniously out of her reverie when she moved out of instinct and flinched clumsily to avoid getting hit. The small projectile bounced off her shoulder before she caught it in midair.
Simon and Phil cackled before high-fiving under the table. Helen chose that moment to finally enter the dining room, impeccable-looking naanwiches piled high on a large platter.
“Alright, everyone! Let’s eat!” she exclaimed, ignorant to her sons’ collective noises of disgust at the sight of the goat cheese spread. She did, however, notice her daughter’s lack of movement.
No response. She cocked her head and nudged her daughter once.
“Oh, huh? I’m sorry, what?”
“It’s time to eat, Gwen. Are you alright?”
“Yeah! I’m fine, sorry. I just remembered something that happened in school today.” Gwen stared down at her palm, where the wad of shredded napkin sat.
“Well, why don’t you sit down and tell us all about it?”
“Hmm? Oh, no, it’s nothing, really.”
* * * * * *
Call me old-fashioned, but I never really understood some of the decisions made by people in ice cream stores.
“Yes I will have the mint chocolate chip ice cream with a layer of gumballs between the ice cream and the bottom of the cup, and could you top that off with marshmallows, hot fudge, seven gummy bears, half a pineapple and a mango, yes hmm good yes”
I thought the whole point of ice cream was, you know, the ice cream. Nowadays it’s just basically like bread, where people use it as an excuse to eat different foods. And let’s face it, isn’t that what a sandwich is? An excuse for you to eat different ingredients? Sure, people will judge the shit out of me when I’m eating a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, or a thin piece of ham, but if I slap two pieces of bread around it, suddenly it’s acceptable.
Ice cream has become the bread of the dessert world. If I eat out of a cup full of marshmallows, chocolate sauce, gumballs and fruit, I’m the bizarre one who’s being gross. But if that cup is mostly filled with frozen yogurt or something, I’m completely fine.
The moral of this story is that I take ice cream very seriously and I need to learn to stop ranting about dumb things like this.
Oh, and before I wrap this up, many of you (or one, really determined person but I am kind of hoping this isn’t the case) seem to find it appropriate to ignore everything I say and keep asking about the state of my love life. This blog is for me to ramble about things that no one but me cares about, post things I find funny, or talk about science. If you’ll look carefully, none of that involves an in-depth discussion about my hopelessness with girls. I almost regret making that post last week.
But hey, you wore me down again.
Here’s some information about my unbelievably complex love life.
I am currently in a very special relationship, yeah.
She’s gorgeous, beautiful even, and she’s everything I could possibly want. Some people prefer those that are all dressed up and fancy, but I like her because I prefer more down-to-earth types. More simple, you know? My only regret is that there’s no way this relationship will last very long.
Her name is pistachio ice cream and out of every other option in this store, she may well just be my favorite. It’s a pity because this place is unusually hot for an ice cream shop, and soon she’ll be gone, but forever in my heart.
Now enough about that, for good this time. Did any of you read the Daily Bugle article on the new Stark tech this morning? It didn’t say anything new, but it did have an interesting angle on the propulsor tech being developed for mass markets…
* * * * * *
The weekend passed for Gwen and her family without much event. Her father phoned them on Saturday to let them know that the unarmed robbery had turned out to be a little bit more serious than they’d initially believed, and that he would be leading a stake out someplace in Harlem.
“Don’t worry,” he’d said, his voice crackling slightly over the line, set to speakerphone. Gwen and her mother and brothers huddled around it in silence. “I don’t see why I shouldn’t be home by Wednesday. It’s really not as bad as it sounds. What was that? Right. I have to go now. I love you, Helen. Tell the kids I love them, too. I’ll see you soon.”
There was a click and a long beep, and Gwen’s mother ended the call with a sigh.
“Alright everyone, back to work,” she said, clapping her hands together. “Phil, did you finish your homework? Don’t forget you can ask Gwen for help anytime, don’t look at me like that. Simon, did you clean you room? I don’t think you did…”
It was an unfortunately typical event, having their father away for several periods of time, and Phil and Simon were already groaning at having to do their chores. It was a little harder for Gwen to get return to her normal schedule, and she lingered a bit in front of the phone before forcing herself to turn away.
“I’ll do the dishes!” she said loudly, for everyone to hear.
“I wanted to do the dishes!” Phil exclaimed angrily, poking his head outside the room.
“Too late! I called it! You have to put out the trash.”
“I took out the trash last time!”
It was an unfortunately typical weekend.
Monday, however, brought about a degree of change! It so happened that on this particular Monday, something unusual happened; the Stacy family had Eggo waffles for breakfast.
* * * * * *
Usually Helen Stacy would wake up early in the mornings to make an unnecessarily complicated French toast, or bacon sprinkled with strange spices that she’d seen on the Food Network, but on Sunday night she had stayed up unreasonably late in order to finish reading a book her friend had given her the day before (something about tigers and floating islands and a boy on a boat). As such, for the first time in quite some time, she was too tired to get up early and make a “proper meal.” Instead, she dug deep into the freezer and pulled out an emergency box of frozen waffles that had been bought for just this sort of catastrophe. She normally wrinkled her nose at foods that took less than half an hour to prepare, but at this moment she was too sleepy to care. Unfortunately for her, she forgot another reason why she never used the box when she could.
“Waffles!” screamed Simon, jumping up and down in excitement. The noise woke up Phil, who, despite hating mornings more than anyone else in the household, managed to drag himself out of his room and into the kitchen.
“We—“ (and here he paused to yawn) “—never have waffles. What’s going on?”
“Sorry boys,” their mother said, stifling a yawn of her own. She rubbed her eyes softly, leaning against the countertop. “I stayed up late.”
“We’re having chocolate chip waffles!” Simon continued to yell as he ran around in circles, moving so fast that he even managed to avoid Phil's angry kick.
It was this shrill yell that awakened Gwen from her slumber; she moaned softly as she rolled out of bed, nearly falling over when her foot caught on the corner of her blanket. With a wobble she regained her balance and began walking sluggishly out the door and into the bathroom across the hall.
“Simon, will you shut up?” Phil croaked, sounding more sick than upset.
Simon disregarded his brother and ran to the living room, whooping as he did so. Phil was silent for a bit, and then:
“… Mom, can I have the first waffles?”
She nodded absentmindedly, and Phil decided then that it was safe to doze off for a little while. In only a few seconds, Helen could hear her son snoring lightly, and she very seriously thought about following his example. Her eyelids were slowly closing when the waffles sprang out of the toaster with a loud click! that almost made her jump. She carefully placed both chocolate-chip waffles onto a plate and slathered it with syrup, and, turning around to put it in the dining room, stifled a scream.
“Oh! Simon, where on earth did you come from?! How long were you even standing there?!”
Her youngest child stood there, grinning from ear to ear. “Is that mine, Mom?”
“No, this is your brother’s. Why don’t you go give it to him?”
The grin fell and was replaced with a glare that would have struck fear in the hearts of lesser men. But, being his mother, she was completely unfazed.
“Go on!” she said, not bothering to hide her yawn this time as she pushed the plate into Simon’s hands.
Looking more disgruntled than when his mother had turned off the TV in the middle of their game, Simon turned around and walked into the dining room. He dropped the plate in front of his brother’s sleeping face, making a loud clattering noise that failed to wake him up.
“Get up and eat your stupid breakfast.”
“Get up, I said!”
Simon poked his brother on the head twice, but all Phil did was mumble incoherently before falling silent.
“Aren’t you gonna get up?”
Phil reached out and swatted at the air, accidentally whacking Simon clear across the cheek.
At first, the younger boy looked as though he was about to cry. Then, a slow, Grinch-like sneer overtook his expression, and, moving slowly, Simon carefully placed the plate of waffles— still hot and covered in warm maple syrup—underneath Phil's nose. He raised his hand high up, and—
“YOUR WAFFLES ARE READY!”
— brought his hand swiftly down on the back of Phil's head.
The blow had been harder than he’d expected, and he had also underestimated the extent of his brother’s reaction. Rather than lean forward and cover his nose in syrup, Phil jerked forward and had his face collide with the waffle with a loud squelch. Without so much as a gasp, Simon turned and ran. Sputtering loudly and waving his hands in the air in confusion, it took Phil a moment to peel the breakfast item off of his face with a bellow.
“I’ll fucking kill you!” he bellowed, crushing the waffle in his hand. He rose from his chair and took chase after his brother, syrup dribbling slowly down his wrist on one hand and a second waffle (also slathered with syrup) in the other.
“Mom! Mom! Phil's gone crazy!” Simon screeched.
“What are you two doing? Phillip, stop it! Both of you listen to me! Stop it! Hey! THAT’S ENOUGH!” shouted their mother, chasing after them with an appalled expression on her face.
It was at that precise moment that Gwen stepped out of her bedroom, her hair freshly toweled and dried and wearing a clean shirt. She stepped into the living room, wondering what in the world was going on. Simon ducked between her legs and slid under the coffee table, but Phil wasn’t so lucky. Diving forward, he accidentally skidded on the wooden floor and let go of both waffles. They sailed in a high arc above everyone— Phil and Simon stared in terror, their mother soon joined them— and both of them landed in Gwen’s hair.
The ensuing horror cannot be described in words.
* * * * * *
And so, Gwen Stacy missed her bus, as did her little brothers. She went back into the bathroom and showered once more, while her mother just pinched the bridge of her nose multiple times as she sent her two trembling, whimpering brothers to their rooms. Gwen had to be driven to school, and, came to school much later than usual. She decided to make her way to her first period class, and that is how, for the first time, she spoke to Peter Parker.
* * * * * *
She hadn’t noticed him, initially. She had been walking to English and trying hard to appear composed, and having a difficult time of it since she’d been so angry earlier that morning. Having missed the bus, she could no longer stroll easily through the halls and instead had to rush with the rest of the student body to first period. Gwen was doubly upset at this, since the mornings before the beginning of class were when she would contemplate her schoolwork and have a bit of quiet time before the hectic day began. She felt herself being pushed on all sides by the different students; it was madness! She felt like she was in a herd of cattle! Tired of rubbing shoulders with everyone, she turned down a different hallway in an attempt to escape the crowd. Luckily for her, there were less people here (although traffic certainly remained congested).
It was then that she saw him, or the back of his head at least. She couldn’t be sure it was him from where she was standing, but she did see a glimpse of a skateboard over his shoulder. It couldn’t hurt to try and move a mere ten feet ahead in the crowd to check.
She walked carefully, forgetting her bad mood entirely in her attempt to appear as casual as possible as she slowly made her way to his side. There were many people, but thankfully they didn’t protest much when she slipped past them with a hurried “Excuse me.” There was a large crowd of girls walking at an unusually slow pace in front of them (which explained why traffic was so bad in what was usually a relatively crowd-free hallway at which everyone was moving along), that made catching up to him easier. With a final “excuse me” and a slight nudge, Gwen finally found herself walking by him, side to side. Trying to remain as subtle as possible, she glanced at him as quickly as she could.
She was fairly certain it was him. Dark, shaggy hair, oversized coat; yeah, it was him, she was positive. It had to be Peter Parker. Gwen looked straight ahead, trying to think of a good way to open this up. “Hey I don’t think you remember me but I talked to Flash and I don’t know for sure but I think that he will stop bothering you so no need to worry for a while at least.” No, that was more than just ridiculous. It was just plain stupid.
Luckily for her, she didn’t have to think of a conversation starter. It came to her.
She had noticed that the group in front were laughing and jostling each other, completely oblivious to the pace at which they were traveling, and after a particularly loud guffaw from one of the girls up ahead, the boy beside her released a small, almost imperceptible sigh. Gwen smiled and turned her head.
“You’d think they’d notice by now that there’s a mob building up behind them, huh?”
He jerked in surprise, and stared at her, eyes wide and incredulous. He glanced behind him, over both shoulders, before looking at her again. Gwen bit the inside of her cheek trying not to laugh.
“Yeah, I’m talking to you!” she said in her most friendly voice (which, for the first time, struck her as obnoxiously cheery; she toned it down a bit). “Sorry, I guess it is a little weird, talking to random people in the hallway. Am I bothering you?”
“What? Um, oh, no, no you’re not,” he mumbled. He coughed twice and spoke again, louder this time. “I mean, uh, no, you’re— you’re not bothering me.”
“Oh, okay then.” She looked straight ahead and the two of them took another few, slow steps. “I just wanted to ask you if Flash has been bothering you again. Well, I mean,” Gwen turned and faced Parker again. “I saw what he did to you on Friday. It was immature and stupid and embarrassing for everyone.”
“Oh. Er, right.”
She examined his face closely, trying to discern from his expression what he may be thinking. He didn’t look like he was trying to hide anything. He just looked embarrassed. Was he embarrassed at her bringing it up? Gwen pursed her lips and decided to continue this line of conversation. “I talked to him about it, though. I don’t know if you saw, but I did. I mean, I can’t guarantee he’ll bother you again, but I don’t think you have to worry… For a little while, anyway.”
She bit her lip, trying to get her thoughts in order.
“Why, though?” Peter asked, his voice clear and stable for the first time in this brief conversation.
“I’m sorry?” Gwen turned to look at him again, and he seemed to flinch.
“I mean… Why are you talking to me?” His eyes widened and he began stammering again. “Uh, I didn’t mean, that is, I didn’t, you, I, you don’t bother me or anything, it’s just, you…”
Gwen watched as his face slowly turned a shade of pink, and decided to spare him by interrupting.
“It’s okay, I understand if I seem kind of… forward.” (he protested weakly that she wasn’t forward at all but Gwen continued) “I just feel kind of… responsible for the things Flash does.”
She took a deep breath. The moment of truth, she thought wryly.
“He asked me out two weeks ago. We were on a partner project together for one of our classes, and he kind of just… blurted it out. I told him no, and I feel like I upset him more than I let on.”
Gwen looked at Peter, who was staring intently at his feet. She wasn’t sure if he was listening.
“Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, I feel like he’s been lashing out because of me. And so, it’s sort of partially my fault that he embarrassed you that Friday. I just hope that he doesn’t bother you anymore. If he does, could you let me know? If you want?”
Peter nodded, glancing up at Gwen.
There was an awkward silence that stretched for what felt like several minutes; Gwen opened her mouth to try and break it, but was beaten to it.
“Uh, my class is… is over there.” Peter gestured wildly to someplace behind him, nearly smacking the person behind him with his skateboard. “I, um, have to go.”
Still looking downwards, he pivoted and began to push against the flow of students, eliciting many cries of “Hey!” and “Watch where you’re going!” He disregarded everyone, turned down another hallway, and disappeared entirely from view.
Gwen Stacy stared after him. Had she embarrassed him? Maybe he had wanted to forget Flash entirely? Was it because she’d spoken to him out of nowhere? That was generally not something that happened often. He had seemed intensely uncomfortable throughout the conversation…
Gwen Stacy stared and wondered why Peter Parker disliked her so.
* * * * * *
I know half of you were wondering about how my situation with the girl was going, right?
Ha ha well 71 very determined people (or maybe one really, really obsessive dude, although like I said before I hope that isn’t the case) have finally convinced me to give an update on what’s been going on!
And when I use the words “situation” and “update,” I mean it completely ironically. Some of you apparently didn’t get the sarcasm when I made that last post. To that I have to say the following: you guys really need to learn to read the tags (check for #this is sarcastic), and you also need to learn that life isn’t exactly a Nicholas Sparks novel! And if it were, I think it’d be even worse, since cancer, war, or some other external factor will end up tearing me away from my love interest only to lead to a brief and heartbreaking reunion only to be torn away again, but it’s okay suddenly because this separation has allowed me to suddenly become closer to my estranged family member and why do people read those books, they’re all the same…
Right I was telling my story, anyway
Here is what is going on
Those of you at home may want to sit down
This is not for the faint of heart, so if you suffer from cardiac diseases or something then I suggest you close this window
This may get also get pretty detailed, so if you’re younger than 18, then stop reading
Here we go
Nothing ever will happen.
Nothingness stretches out in the horizon as far as the eye can see, farther than space
This is the state and the inherent nature of the relationship between her and me, and this is how it will stay until the both of us are six feet under.
In fact, one could even say that my chances with her are in the negatives , considering how I always somehow manage to make myself look like an idiot in front of her. But I can’t even look like a regular idiot in front of her, can I? No, I need to go and look like the biggest moron in the school. Perhaps the biggest moron in the state. I wouldn’t be surprised if she wants to give me an MRI to see if her theory is correct: that I’m the most stupid person to be found in the northern hemisphere.
So yeah. That’s my story. That will always be my story. Now stop flooding my inbox with intrusive messages about my love life. Go pursue your own instead, creeps.
Keep this up and I’ll have to turn off anon.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
There are a lot of problems with society today, and one of the big things is how people treat photographers.
You can laugh all you want, but it’s true.
People treat photographers the way people treat photographs. Ever since the digital camera was invented, photographs lost most of their significance. They’re just bits of thick paper with an image on it, no big deal. In fact, I would go so far as to say that digital cameras are more respected than photographers, because people have been conditioned to think that if they can successfully operate a digital camera, they are automatically good at photography. So they roll their eyes at photographers and think, “I could do the same job. I wouldn’t even have to pay!”
Of course, if that were really the case, they would be doing the job themselves, wouldn’t they?
I need to stop going off in different tangents. This is why I was never any good in my English classes. I’d start off on talking about Shakespeare or something and end the paper in an in-depth discussion of why schools should force kids to learn to play the harmonica instead of the recorder.
(Which they should, by the way.)
(Harmonicas are actually cool.)
(Recorders are used to seduce large tropical birds.)
All I’m saying is, it’s a little tiring having to deal with people who treat me like a tool. “Hey, can you take a picture of this for me?” “Hey, take a picture of that for me.”
You don’t walk up to a painter and go, “Hey, can you draw me a little something?”
I actually do work for The Daily Bugle, when I’m seriously in need of money, and let me tell you there’s nothing worse. I mean, most of the people there are nice, I guess, but the boss is a pain in the ass like no other. Not to mention the pay. I don’t even know why I bother. I could make just as much money and more selling watches to people off the street.
One of these days…
* * * * * *
Gwen Stacy was a nice girl. She was kind and friendly and sympathetic and just a little neurotic, which is why the issue of Peter Parker remained an issue for as long as it did.
Her lunch period was simple enough, usually; she would eat her food relatively quickly and go to the library to study, or go outside if the weather was nice enough and there weren’t any strong breezes (nothing is as annoying as having pages flap around uncontrollably while you try to read). However, on this particular day, Gwen had been feeling rather… distracted. She told herself it was because of the way in which her day had started, which had ruined the equilibrium for what otherwise would have been a day just like any other. Of course, what she told herself differed from the truth.
The truth about the source of her distraction was more complex than she was willing to admit. As stated earlier, Gwen Stacy was a nice girl. She was friendly, sympathetic, kind, and, (this is important) somewhat neurotic. And here her mild neurosis came into play as she puzzled and wondered and scratched her head and contemplated the latest question on her mind:
“Why does Peter Parker dislike me?”
Everyone makes enemies, of course, and Gwen had had her fair share of encounters with less savory characters, but she’d never met anyone who didn’t like her the moment she opened her mouth! He barely even knew her! She started drawing a spiral on the corner of her paper, doodling for the first time since the seventh grade, and her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. She tried to remember if she’d accidentally slighted him in some way, but nothing came to mind. Had he been in another class with her before? She thought and she thought, but she could not think of a plausible explanation for his behavior. Admittedly, it was very possible that she had done something after all, but had forgotten about him later on.
“Well, whatever.” Gwen concluded after a frustratingly empty seven minutes of thought. “It’s not as though it matters. I don’t even know him.”
With a shrug of her shoulders, a crick of her neck, and a deep breath, Gwen hunched over her papers and got right back to work, putting her impressive abilities of concentration at work and tuning out all external distractions.
And even if she hadn’t been focusing quite so acutely, it is doubtful that she could ever have noticed the disheveled-looking boy constantly walking back and forth in front of the aisle on the left of the table where she sat, trying too hard to look casual and desperately pretending to look for something.
* * * * * *
“Gwen! Hey! I hope your day went well?”
“It was alright, I guess.” Gwen peered over her mother’s shoulder into the oven, wrinkling her nose. “What are you making today?”
“Well, the boys didn’t seem to like the naanwiches from before, so I spent the weekend trying to figure out where I went wrong.”
“Well that’s a promising start to this story.”
Her mother continued talking, although whether she was unaware of Gwen’s sarcasm or ignoring it was difficult to tell.
“So, I decided to replace the goat cheese spread with a sprinkle of paprika instead, and have oven-baked chicken inside the naanwich instead of having it completely vegetarian. It’s kind of my own spin on the original, but I think it’ll taste fine.” Here, she dropped her voice to a conspiratorial whisper: “In fact, it may just taste better than the original.”
Gwen gave her mom a pained smile before surreptitiously reaching for the Cocoa Puffs.
“Oh, don’t ruin your appetite, honey.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” She threw one into the air and caught it in her mouth. Chewing slowly, she asked, “Say, Mom… Could you be honest with me for a second?”
“Do I seem… annoying?”
Her mother glanced at her, eyebrow cocked. “No. Why?”
“Be truthful. I won’t mind. Really!”
This time she fully turned to stare at her daughter. “Gwen, honey, did something happen at school today?”
Gwen narrowed her eyes. “Are you avoiding my question? Am I annoying?”
Her mother sighed and turned back to the oven. “No, you are not annoying.”
“Yes! I— Gwen, what happened?” She threw her hands up in exasperation.
“Nothing happened, per se! I was just wondering!” Gwen turned to go to her room, paused, and leaned over the counter to kiss her mother’s cheek. “Don’t worry about it.”
And, still clutching the box of cereal, she walked out of the kitchen. Simon and Phillip were watching a cartoon at an unnecessarily loud volume.
“Gwen?” said Phil as she entered the living room.
“I think you’re annoying, if it means anything.”
She scowled and threw a Cocoa Puff at his head. “Do you want a repeat of this morning, Phil?”
That effectively cut off the rest of his laughter, and with a satisfied smile Gwen retreated to her bedroom.
* * * * * *
Q and A time!
“Why don’t you ever write about things that make you happy instead of complaining all the time?”
Well, Henry, that’s a good question! The better question is, is that your real name or is your username a horribly spelled attempt at making homage to Harry Belafonte? He’s the guy who did that Banana song. You know, “Come Mr. Tallyman, tally me bananas?”
Never mind then anyway
That is a very good question!
And I have some very good answers. Being as polite as I am, I’ll give you options so that you can choose what to believe.
a) I suffer from simultaneous low self-esteem and depression stemming from reasons both personal and tragic and ranting about the things I dislike allow me to cope and prevent myself from descending into a slow downward spiral of utter despair
b) Because it’s not funny when I talk about things I like. Think about all the big comedians. They’re almost always talking about their grievances.
c) Answer “B”
d) Both “B” and “C”
“Are you going to be at Stark Expo this year?”
First off, love the username. It tells me quite a bit about who you are as a person. Your likes, your dislikes, your pains, your joys, the complexities of your character and the experiences that shaped who you are today.
Secondly, no. No, I will not. And trust me when I say that there is none more keenly disappointed than I. Last year was the third time in a row in which no deadly military-grade robots attacked the attendees, and I am starting to think that the Expo might actually be safe. This is horrible because now I actually want to go, which makes it all the more worse dealing with the knowledge that I have neither the time nor the means.
Like the masochist I am, I’ve been staring at the program list and looking at all the panels and generally trying really hard not to cry while stroking the computer screen.
“did you ask out that girl yet” and no less than 54 variations thereof.
From: Mostly Anonymous, and some usernames I will not name.
Yes! Yes I did. It was hard to decide at first because she was so clingy, but eventually I decided that I guess I could ignore the thirty other females begging to be my soulmate and ask her out anyway. We married last Wednesday and now live in a large suburban neighborhood and have 2.5 kids and a golden retriever named “Doug.”
My wedding ring glints so beautifully in the light as I slowly move the mouse over to the “Disable Anonymous” box in the blog settings.
“What kind of camera do you use?”
I have several cameras, and it all really depends on the situation. I use a Canon New F-1 SLR for school and yearbook-related things, but my personal camera (the one I use for things that I actually like) is a Yashica Electro 35 GSN. It has my name plastered all over it and everything. It’s old-fashioned as hell but here’s a secret: the thing is tough. I could drop it off the top of a building and it’d leave a crater in the ground. It’s the Nokia of cameras.
Before any of you accuse me of being an irresponsible photographer, I’d like to make a disclaimer: I treat my cameras very well. Cameras wish they could be under my ownership so that they could undergo the same luxuries. However, accidents happen, and I’m just stating facts that I have observed once or twice.
“I disagree with your opinion on [science debate/article name/certain issue]”
From: Multiple people, but less in number than those of you who ask me about my relationship status. I can’t tell whether that’s relieving or incredibly sad.
Opinions are wonderful, and I would love to have a discussion with you all sometime if you just send me a message. Except for those of you whose idea of intellectual discourse involves yelling loudly about how stupid I am for disagreeing with your vaguely-worded arguments and calling me a “failtroll” when I don’t take you seriously. To you people, I ask of you to think about your life and the choices you are making that led you to use the word “troll” without a trace of irony. I also remind you that watching the Big Bang theory every other Thursday does not make you well-versed in the topics in question.
“I’m a big fan of your stuff. Will you promote my blog?”
I’m touched by your sincerity. Everyone go check this person out.
Well, it’s one in the morning and I’m about to collapse in front of the computer, so I’ll just wrap this up. I’ll answer more questions later.
I’m kidding. I’m not going to do that.
If you asked me something important, or something you thought was more interesting than the questions I did answer, feel free to privately message me and I’ll be sure to answer within 3 to 4 business days.
* * * * * *
“Gwen, give these files to Ms. Woods in the lobby, and when you return check on the temperature of the bromadiolone on beaker six over there.”
“Yes, Dr. Connors.”
She fought hard to smother her grin as she accepted a thick manila folder from the older gentleman. It gave her such a thrill to say that. As she walked briskly through the sliding glass doors and down the brightly-lit hallways of Oscorp, Gwen even found herself struggling not to skip. She reached the crowded elevators and, uttering a polite “excuse me,” squeezed her way inside.
She couldn’t help it, though! There were so few people who were lucky enough to intern at such a prestigious laboratory, and to be promoted to Chief Intern out of all the others was a blessing that, despite being nearly two months old, never failed to send her into paroxysms of bliss. The internship was the best thing that had ever happened to her. Here in Oscorp she could rant about chemical bonding and molecular nesting with others and have people understand. Better yet, people would continue the conversation, segueing into the complexities of genome repair using chromosomal splicing.
But the best part definitely had to be her close quarters with Dr. Curt Connors himself. No one else her age could boast the exquisite privilege of interning under the great man himself, and every time she saw him she was overwhelmed at the fervor with which he worked. The internship brought her closer to her ideals of using science to help humanity, and what pursuit better matched that ideal than the regeneration of limbs via DNA splicing?
Gwen reached the bottom floor and carefully pushed her way out of the elevator. The place was always crowded around this time, with tour groups, visiting scientists, and potential investors. Even as she and several others left, the elevator was filled again almost immediately. Making sure that she didn’t drop anything, Gwen walked briskly to the front desk.
“Ms. Woods? Dr. Connors asked me to give this to you.”
The receptionist looked up and smiled. “Ah, I’d been expecting these! Did you get a good look?”
Gwen cocked her head as she handed over the file. “What do you mean?”
“These are the profiles for the incoming interns. Didn’t you know?”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Oh. Well, you’re technically not allowed to look through them, anyway. We don’t want the Chief Intern getting any biases.” Ms. Woods gave a small shrug. “Usually they go through the file on the way here.”
“I wasn’t aware of any tradition of that sort, actually.”
“Too late now!” the older woman gave a prim smile and placed the folder on a stack of papers next to her computer before turning back to Gwen. “Are you excited about giving the interns the tour?”
“I don’t know about excited, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.” Gwen smiled. “I just don’t want anything to go wrong.”
“It’s only a tour, Miss Stacy.” The receptionist rolled her eyes (affectionately, Gwen thought) and turned back to whatever it was that she had been doing. “I doubt anything will go wrong.”
The phone at the desk rang, and Gwen took that as a cue to head back to the lab upstairs.
* * * * * *
Recipient: Jane Foster
That’s fantastic! I’m really glad that you’re getting so far with your research. I’ll admit that some of your theories sail right over my head, but if your work proves fruitful I want to be the first to hear, got it? Make sure you don’t get your stuff taken again (that was really weird). Darcy sounds like a hilarious person, I’m sure I’d like to meet her no matter what you say. :)
Interning at OsCorp is great, as usual. I get to play around with all the toys, you know? Aside from that, not much is happening. Can’t exactly say I’ve been having my own breakthroughs, yet, but I’m sure that once I graduate and get a steady job instead of an internship, I’ll be making some great progress! I’d absolutely love to help my boss, Dr. Connors, with his work. He says the greatest obstacle in the riddle of regenerative theory is the decay algorithm, or lack thereof. Now, I’m not saying I’ll be the one to solve the algorithm, but there are ways to work around it~ ;)
… Do I sound full of it? I sound full of it, don’t I?
Hubris is my one true weakness. That, and chocolate truffles.
Your wonderful penpal,
* * * * * *
The next day, Tuesday, Gwen encountered Peter Parker a record number of twice in one day. Was it that he was becoming more ubiquitous, she wondered, or was it just that she was noticing him with more ease? The important thing either way was that both times, she found that her previous idea that he had found her off-putting was probably incorrect.
The first time was during their shared bio class. She walked through the door and saw him sitting at the usual spot, staring out the window. As Gwen came closer, though, Peter turned and gave a small, hopeful smile and, after some hesitation, jerked his hand upwards in what was quite possibly the most unsure wave she had ever seen in her life. Nevertheless it more than she had expected from him; after deciding that she didn’t need to worry about what he thought of her, it was disconcerting to see him greet her.
She realized that she’d just been standing still and quickly began moving forward again.
“Hi!” Gwen sat down, but made no move to take out her notes. “You seem to be in a cheerful mood.”
“Do I?” He smiled again, more widely this time.
“Better mood than you were in the last time we talked, anyway.”
“Just glad to be in class, I guess.”
He had a nice smile, she decided. A very friendly smile.
“I just realized… I never really got to introduce myself properly. Hi,” she held out her hand. “I’m Gwen Stacy.”
“Peter Parker.” His eyes crinkled at the corners as he shook her hand. “Do you, uh—“
She never found what he was going to say, as Professor Walton chose that very moment to enter the classroom, his voice booming as he announced the itinerary for the rest of the period. With an apologetic smile, Gwen turned to face the teacher.
* * * * * *
“You were talking to Parker!”
“Hello to you, too, Hannah. Why yes, I have been having a good day. How about you?”
Standing in front of Gwen’s desk and bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet was a short girl with long black hair tied high up on her head. Her ponytail was whipping back and forth as she continued to bob impatiently, threatening to hit anyone who came too close behind her.
“Oh my God, no, shut up. You were talking to Parker at the beginning of class!”
Hannah’s stage-whisper was so loud that Gwen couldn’t help but glance at the front of the room; luckily for her, the boy in question was preoccupied, speaking to the teacher about something or another. Hannah gasped.
“You just looked at him! Are you guys friends now?”
“Will you be quiet? He is literally right there!” she whispered furiously. Glancing at him once more, she said hurriedly, “First off, it was just barely a full conversation. Secondly, how about we actually leave the classroom before continuing this conversation?”
Surprisingly, Hannah did manage to stay silent during the whole thirteen seconds it took them to walk out the door, chewing her lip furiously and looking as though she would burst. Gwen had hesitated in the doorway, wondering if she should say bye to Peter, but Hannah had shoved her out and around the corner before she could so much as blink.
“Hannah, what is the matter with you?”
“Okay, okay, so, I was volunteering with Sally Avril afterschool and Sally knows everyone on the Student E-Board and she told me about this girl named Missy Kallenback who’s been doing advertisements and stuff for the events since freshman year and it turns out although I didn’t know it at the time that Missy was the same girl who was one of the math tutors in the library afterschool that helped me get through pre-calc and she totally saved my life so I talked to her a little because I mean she saved my life you know and then I found out she’s really super nice which was cool but then Sally told me that Missy has like, this gigantic crush on Peter Parker because you know Sally knows everything about everyone and I was like that’s so crazy I think there’s a Peter Parker is in my Bio class and she didn’t even believe me at first so I—“
Hannah, like most of Gwen’s friends, really was a very bright individual; her defining trait, unfortunately for her, happened to be her mouth. Hannah spoke very, very quickly, always flapping her hands in wild gesticulations whenever she got worked up about something. She was very clearly excited now, considering the interesting shade of puce her face was slowly turning.
Gwen, using a carefully honed skill gained from years of dealing with two hyperactive brothers, calmly and quietly cut through her friend’s blathering. “What does this have anything to do with me, though?” She glanced at the watch at her wrist. “And try to hurry.”
“I’m getting there! So I told Sally that’s so crazy because I think there’s a Peter Parker in my Bio class and she didn’t even believe me at first so I said to her I said ‘No, I really think he is!’ and then she said I was probably thinking of someone else so she tried to test me, can you believe her, she was like ‘Oh yeah well what does he look like’ so I’m like well shit I don’t know I don’t look at him and stuff, like what am I supposed to say, so I said well he has brown hair and then she’s like ‘Everyone has brown hair’ so I said I can totally prove that he’s in my class and then she’s like ‘Fine whatever I believe you’ but then I said ‘No you don’t believe me at all, do you?’ and Sally was like ‘I believe you I just don’t care anymore’ so I—“
Gwen, who throughout this entire tirade had been glancing more and more often at her watch, finally lost her patience and interrupted her friend once more. “Look, I’m sorry Hannah, but I really need to get going if I don’t want to be late to class. We can talk later, alright?”
She turned and began running lightly through the teeming crowd of people, as Hannah sputtered indignantly, rooted to the spot.
“I-! You can’t just-! You-!”
“I really am sorry!” Gwen called out, looking behind her.
“But! But! Peter! He likes you! Like, for real! Gwen!” Hannah yelled, but it was too late. Gwen was nothing more than a bob of yellow hair in the distance, and even Hannah’s impressive voice couldn’t reach her through all the commotion in the hallways. With a frustrated sigh, she turned around…
… and saw Peter Parker standing right behind her, his mouth hanging open in horror.
Mortified, Hannah dropped her binder.
* * * * * *
The second instance in which Gwen Stacy spoke to Peter Parker that day took place after school.
The bell rang, abruptly concluding the lecture, and Gwen carefully closed her notes (AP Statistics, currently on the chapter about the Central Limit Theorem) and placed them neatly into her bag. Another day was done, she thought, feeling pleased about how things had gone. Classes had, like every other day, run smoothly. After debate, she would go home and treat herself to a box of Oreos.
(Gwen often kept sweets hidden away in her room, so that she could chip away at her appetite when her mother was making something less-than-appetizing for dinner.)
(She just would not give up with those damn naanwiches.)
“Come on, Gwen!”
She looked up to see her friend and fellow member of the debate team leaning on the desk adjacent to hers and tapping his foot impatiently.
“We’re going to be late for Debate.”
“Kyle? How’d you get here so fast?”
“I told Mr. Whitman that I needed to go to the nurse. Will you hurry up?”
Gwen began to her bag around her shoulders with exceptional slowness, if only to irk her friend even further. “Why are you in such a rush? And why’d you dye your hair again?”
Kyle, who had been about to make an acerbic comment upon seeing the speed at which Gwen was moving, stopped to pet his bangs down proudly.
“Do you like it?”
“I dunno,” she replied as she stood and began walking towards the door. “I kind of liked it better when it was purple.”
“Ugh, shows what you know,” Kyle scoffed before following her. “I can’t have weird hair in any of my senior photos! I don’t want potential colleges thinking I’m a punk or something.”
They slowly began making their way to the classroom where Debate was held, Kyle having to run every ten feet in order to keep up with Gwen’s suddenly brisk pace.
“What makes you anyone cares about your hair?” Here he made a loud offended noise, “And you always just dye it back afterwards, anyway. What’s the point?”
“Just stop talking. I know what I’m doing, and once I get accepted into an Ivy League university, I’ll be the one laughing.” He gave her a quick once-over. “I see this year you’re going for the Catholic Schoolgirl look?”
Gwen looked down at her outfit as she walked. “I— what? Catholic schoolgirl?”
“You totally picked it out on purpose. It’s too perfect. I almost think you were baiting me, just waiting for me to make that joke.”
“I think it looks nice!” She glared at Kyle, who was snickering to himself. “I don’t think you’re the one to be making fun of my outfit.”
He rolled his eyes and gestured to his clothing. “I’m wearing standard business attire, Gwen. I even ironed it last night. You can’t say shit about me.”
“I’m talking about your hair, you idiot. Your roots are still purple.”
Gwen opened the door to the Debate room, ignoring Kyle’s anguished cry, and saw (to her great surprise) Peter Parker standing there.
The desks and chairs had all been moved to one side of the room, and a large grey backdrop had been installed on one of the walls. Most of her teammates were lingering near their respective seats in front of the backdrop, and many of them greeted her. However, Gwen’s focus was mostly on Peter.
“What are you doing here?” she exclaimed, hand still on the doorknob.
“I’m the, uh…” The ease with which he had spoken during Bio that day had disappeared without a trace. “The— the photographer. For this. I mean.”
Gwen belatedly noticed the camera on a tripod in front of him and the strap around his neck, and bit her tongue in embarrassment.
“That was obvious, wasn’t it. I’m not sure how I didn’t guess that,” she chuckled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound rude. I just didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Oh, it’s fine! I, er,” He fumbled with his camera strap and looked down at his feet. “I didn’t expect to see you here either.”
So it wasn’t that he didn’t like her. He was just shy! Painfully shy, from the looks of it. Gwen couldn’t help but feel relieved.
“So you’re a photographer! That’s really cool! What kind of camera’s that?” she gestured with one hand at the tripod.
Peter turned around and glanced at it as though he’d never seen it before, stopped, and turned back to face Gwen sheepishly.
“Right. My camera. Uh, it’s, well… just a camera.” He coughed loudly.
“It’s fine!” she said, feeling a bit sorry for him. “I asked to keep the conversation going. I don’t actually know anything about cameras.”
A pause, and then,
“So do you—“
“How long have—“
Gwen laughed, and, to her surprise and pleasure, he laughed along (albeit more quietly).
“You first,” she said.
“No, go ahead!”
“I wasn’t saying anything important, anyway.”
“See, I know you’re just saying that.”
“I’ll say it and you’ll think to yourself, ‘I should have gone first.’”
“So say it!”
“Guys!” Both of them turned around. Justin, the head of the debate team, tapped his foot impatiently. “Can we get this picture done?”
“Oh. Yeah, sorry.” Peter rubbed the back of his neck, his voice soft once more.
Gwen bit her lip and, feeling properly abashed, made her way to the grey backdrop. Peter, after some embarrassed coughing, directed everyone to their proper positions.
“Alright, could— could you stand over there? Right at the end? Thanks. And, uh, could you move a little to the right please, thank you. Oh, no, over there, you sit up front. Right there, that’s right. And, uh, Gwen?”
“Can you stand in the back? Second space from the right.”
She straightened her hair and her skirt one last time before squeezing in between Justin and Daniel.
“Looks good. And now… Is there someone missing?”
The debate team looked collectively at the empty seat in the first row, and up to Kyle, who was standing near the doorway and tugging at his lip nervously.
“Buckley!” Justin snapped, his patience having run out about half an hour ago. “What the hell are you doing? Get your ass over here!”
“I’m not taking it!”
“The hell does that mean, you’re not taking it?”
“It means I’m not taking it!”
“And why not?”
Peter seemed to be at a loss for what to do, glancing back and forth with the others in witness of the exchange between Kyle and Justin (who looked as though he would jump over the row of chairs in front of him and go for the other’s throat). Gwen, who was always the one moderating between the two, couldn’t find her voice at that particular moment, undergoing for the very first time the keen and peculiar feeling of secondhand embarrassment. Justin was about to suggest Kyle’s forcible ejection from the debate team “forever” when Peter, surprising everyone by actually making himself heard, interrupted the argument.
“Hey! Buckley, was it?”
Kyle looked at him, looking as though (and this probably was the case) he hadn’t noticed him before.
“Is there, um, any particular reason you don’t want to be in the photo?”
Kyle mumbled something about roots, and Gwen’s secondhand embarrassment spiked. Her face turned red and she suddenly found the cracks in the ceiling tiles extraordinarily impressive.
“I— I’m sorry, did you just say your roots?”
Kyle nodded, and Peter (much to Gwen’s relief) did not press the subject. She guessed that, being what appeared to be the school’s photographer, he had probably dealt with stranger subjects. She listened carefully, even as she looked at everything but them. Justin stammered furiously that anyone with eyes could clearly see that there was nothing wrong with his roots, but Gwen carefully stepped on his foot with her heel before any damage could be done.
“Well, I always do touch-ups. On the computer. If you want, I can fix your roots?”
“Can… you actually do that?”
Peter nodded, and Kyle, after straightening his suit and smoothing out his hair (which, as everyone in the room noted, was dyed impeccably), sat in his respective chair in the front row.
“I swear to God, just what the hell put it into his tiny head that his roots—“ Gwen coughed and looked at her shoes, tuning out the rest of Justin’s words.
Peter stepped lightly behind the camera and peered through the viewfinder.
“Everyone ready?” He glanced up at Gwen, who was finding it difficult to look up. “Gwen?”
“Yeah!” she said too loudly. She coughed and spoke again, softer this time. “Yeah. I’m fine. I mean, I’m ready.”
He didn’t look as though he believed her, so she grinned and straightened up, ignoring Justin’s grumbling.
“Try not to make me look too ugly, alright?”
Peter smiled as he looked back at the viewfinder. His face was obscured by the camera, but she saw his ears turn pink as he responded.
When the flash of the camera went off, Gwen found herself genuinely smiling.
* * * * * *
Life is beautiful.
Have any of you ever just thought about that?
Just sat down and thought about how wonderful everything is?
Life is fantastic.
Howard Stacy (the eldest brother) will appear later on. I don't actually know if he's the eldest, since his age was kind of... ambiguous, but for the sake of the story why not.
The Canon New F-1 SLR is the camera used by Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker in the original Spiderman movies, whereas the Yashica Electro 35 GSN is the one used by Andrew Garfield’s Peter.
The pseudoscience nonsense about molecular nesting and whatnot is basically a giant reference to the online web campaign for the Amazing Spiderman movie, in which you play a series of games while pretending to be an intern at Oscorp.
I made up the name for the receptionist at Oscorp.
Sally Avril and Missy Kallenback are actual students in the Amazing Spiderman. Justin and Kyle were, too, except I actually made up their names. Hannah does not exist.
The last line about it being impossible to make her look ugly was basically ripped off from the first Spiderman movie with Tobey Maguire, I'll admit it. Except instead of "rip off" I am going to call it a "callback" or "reference."
... That's all I can think of at the moment.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
I’m not much of a videogame person, myself.
I think it may have been the influence of my aunt and uncle, growing up. That is to say, they were (and still are) staunch proponents of the theory that video games release a wavelength when operated that has a frequency which causes the brain to melt. It’s a very complex process in which the atoms are forced to part and convert grey matter into liquid form, which then makes its way out of your ear canal via anatomic functions previously thought impossible. I tried to explain to them that this wouldn’t happen as a child, but neither of them listened to me.
Anyway, I’m not much of a gamer, but there is one game that I am pretty fantastic at: Minecraft.
“But wait,” you may ask, “Minecraft has no levels, no bosses. All you do is run around and make things. How can one be good at a game like that?”
To which I would respond by petting your face and shushing you softly because you clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.
I spent most of my weekend creating a fortress of unspeakable beauty by carving out the side of a mountain. Every time night fell and vicious beasts began to roam around, thirsting for blood, did I take refuge in the castle? No, for I am an artist and I refuse to dwell in an incomplete work. I surrounded myself with rocks and waited in the complete darkness for the groans of zombies to fade with the dawn. That is the extent of my dedication. Mind you, not only am I not done, but I did all of this alone. Here’s an attached picture:
Take note of the moat. That wasn’t easy to make, mind you. I had to dig a tunnel straight from the beach to make that moat. I thought about building the castle right on the sand, because I wouldn’t have to work so hard to dig a tunnel and risk drowning every time, but I decided building on sand would be structurally unsound (not to mention what would happen during high tide).
“But there is no moving tide in Minecra-“ Ssshhh.
“Sand doesn’t actually crumble in the ga-“ Sssssshhhhhh.
“Psh, I’ve seen/made better,” you may say, rolling your eyes.
To which I would respond by petting your face and shushing you softly before making you leave because this is my moment in the spotlight, thank you, I don’t need any of you invalidating the 21 solid hours of building that I underwent.
“Why are you telling me about this? I don’t care about Minecraft. I came to your blog for reasons that are specifically not Minecraft.”
You guys are so demanding it’s ridiculous.
Anyway, the reason why I brought up all this Minecraft stuff is actually very important. You see, this is the first weekend in which I did not go to Expedia and make false plans to go to Stark Expo. Typically I would figure out which cheap motels I’d stay at, how much it’d cost to go there, which panels I’d go to, and then look through the online schedule in a pathetic display of masochism. This energy has been converted into Minecraft enthusiasm, which I believe is a positive change for my psychological health.
“Your blog just keeps getting worse,” you may sneer.
“It’s my blog,” I would say to anyone who would be so rude (and I know none of you would because you’re wonderful for choosing to follow me anyway). “I don’t need to please anyone but myself.”
And to prove that this is, indeed, a blog that I use for my own purposes without having to conform to the standards of a bunch of anonymous people on the internet that I will never meet, I just wrote a post that had more than 500 words dedicated to me ranting about how I play Minecraft. And you just read all of it.
Hahaha, wow, this really is falling apart. What will happen next? Will this blog turn into a chronicle of my slow descent in quality and (dare I say) eventual madness? Will my next blog post consist of a 1,000 word essay on what kind of consistency I enjoy best in pizza?
(Cheesy, chewy, but tough crust)
The world awaits with bated breath for the next exciting update on my exciting, and eventful life.
* * * * * *
Gwen Stacy sat in her English class, tapping her foot and chewing her lip nervously. For the first time in quite a while, she wished her teacher would just stop talking and get to the point already. Her eyes darted briefly to Flash Thompson and her foot-tapping increased in frequency, much to the dismay of the people sitting around her.
“… And together, create a presentation that will not only teach us,” and here Mrs. Ford paused dramatically, peering at each of her students, “but enlighten us.”
Most of the students let out a collective groan at this, but Mrs. Ford didn’t seem to notice.
The Shakespeare project was something Gwen had been dreading ever since she had been assigned Flash Thompson’s partner at the beginning of the year, and the feeling had grown even worse ever since he had asked her out that fateful day several weeks ago. Not only was the Shakespeare project notoriously difficult to get an A on, but Flash wasn’t the most studious of the people in her class. Gwen had a strict belief that everyone could excel academically if they worked hard enough and had the right help, but Flash was one of those unfortunate few who not only didn’t work, but felt no compulsion to pretend to do so, either.
The last English project they’d worked on, a thankfully small-scale exposition on the recurring themes throughout Homer’s Odyssey, had been a disaster in more ways than one.
* * * * * *
“It was Zeus who made me come, no choice of mine,” Gwen read aloud. “Who would willingly roam across a salty waste so vast, so endless? Think: no city of men in sight, and not a soul to offer the gods a sacrifice and burn the fattest victims.”
She highlighted this excerpt carefully in her worn copy of the famous epic and looked up at her partner. “I think we could use this as one of the quotes that show a struggle between fate and free will. What do you think?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, that works.” He fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat.
Gwen was severely unimpressed.
“Is it that you’re distracted, Flash, or is it that you didn’t read up to the latest chapter in the book? I really hope it’s not the latter, because we have had more than three days to prepare for this and I’m not taking any excuses short of a family tragedy.” She gestured menacingly with her pencil, and what began as a statement threatened to evolve into a full-on diatribe. “If it’s the problem is distraction, Thompson, I highly suggest you start focusing because I am not going to fail this project just because I had a partner who couldn’t get his head out of the clouds, so help me I will speak to Mrs. Ford if I have to, and if you even think for one second that I won’t—“
“Will you go out with me?” He interrupted, suddenly.
It wasn’t a wise move.
Gwen’s jaw fell, her words dying in her mouth, and dropped the pencil she’d been holding. Her train of thought crashed, burned, and rolled off its tracks into a lake where it sank in a miserable heap. Screaming passengers ran in circles within, desperately searching for escape but finding none, eventually collapsed due to a buildup of smoke and drowned in their sleep as lake water seeped through infinitesimal cracks into each train car and this metaphor has gone on long enough.
A car alarm went off in the distance.
The rowdy teenagers living across the street started blaring music from their apartment.
Somewhere in the other room, Gwen’s mother dropped a plate.
“Gwen?” Flash finally said, when he couldn’t stand the silence anymore.
There was no response.
Gwen tried desperately to think of something appropriate to say, thought of too many things at once, and as a result said nothing at all, continuing to gape at him like a fish while he fidgeted uncomfortably under her gaze.
The music was turned down when someone began yelling at the teenagers across the street. They yelled back.
The car alarm continued to echo in the distance.
When the silence stretched to its breaking point, Gwen finally spoke:
“So if you flip to page 54, you’ll see that you can use lines 14 through 32 to illustrate the daily struggle of appeasing the gods. Can you copy those down while I look for more examples to use?”
Flash responded with admirable quickness. “Yeah, sure. Could you pass me the notebook? You said it was page… 64?”
“Right, right. Sorry.”
Everything they said from that point revolved solely around the assignment; no mention was made of Flash’s question again.
It was quite possibly the most tense and awkward night of Gwen Stacy’s entire life.
The two of them received a B+.
* * * * * *
She shook her head frantically to clear the memory; she hated it when humiliating bits of her past interrupted her life every so often, forcing her to blush in shame despite how long ago the events may have taken place. She needn’t have worried about clearing her mind of that embarrassing event, however, for a larger problem presented itself.
The Shakespeare Project would require all of her focus and attention. English class was the closest thing to a “problem” class that Gwen had, and she simply couldn’t afford to have another B on her report this semester. But large-scale school projects were commonplace. She was used to obstacles like this. It was nothing she couldn’t take on if she put her mind to it. No, the problem was Flash Thompson himself. Though they technically did not have assigned group members, Mrs. Ford had yet to have a student work with someone new; there hadn’t been a single request for change that had been honored, and Gwen’s chances of becoming partners with someone else were miserably bleak.
Mrs. Ford read out the names of each student and his or her partner loudly and clearly, carefully making sure to articulate each syllable.
“Jeromy Daniels and Phillip Croft,” she announced. No one in the class reacted; everyone already knew who was working with whom. “Elizabeth Quentin and Victor Bao.”
Gwen couldn’t help it. She glanced at Flash again. How was she going to bear working with him? What would she say? Should she apologize? Should she try to explain herself? Or would it be better to pretend that nothing had happened? Just what was the proper protocol for a situation such as this? Flash looked up and locked eyes with Gwen; despite the near heart attack, she managed to give a prim smile and a nod of acknowledgement rather than jump up in her desk and turn the other way. She was proud of herself for being able to control reactions, and she turned back towards the front of the classroom just as Mrs. Ford read their names aloud.
“Eugene Thompson and Gwen Stacy.”
Gwen gave the teacher a tight-lipped smile and fought back the near-overwhelming urge to slam her head down onto the desk repeatedly. She had no idea how to do this. No idea at all. What to say, what to do, everything was a huge, stupid and complicated mystery, with no way of finding out what’s the right thing to do except by messing up. Did she dare ask for a change? What if Mrs. Ford got angry? What if she forced her and Flash to stay after class and talk to her about what’s wrong or something equally embarrassing and ugh she couldn’t risk that happening!
She wished there was a class that taught you how to cope with such astoundingly awkward situations. “How to Deal With Someone Who Tried Asking You Out at the Worst Possible Moment Ever and then You Embarrassed Yourself by Ignoring Him Because You’re a Horrible Person 101.” It would be a useful class, a popular one. It would be a fitting replacement for popular “filler” classes, which students took for the sole reason of being able to sleep through a period while still receiving credit. God only knew that she needed such a course in her life.
Gwen pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed. Flash looked out the window and thought very seriously about punching himself in the face. Mrs. Ford did not notice any of this and continued reading in her strict voice,
“Abigail Francis and Fred Harolds…”
* * * * * *
“Alright, class, I have some unexpected news for today,” Professor Walton announced when he reached his desk at the front of the class. The students slowly turned their uninterested gazes upon him.
“Our original plan was to have the cat dissection lab after watching a documentary on the life sciences, basic anatomy, and so forth. However, Mr. Creed from the second hour biology class has, despite my careful scheduling, taken the video for his own class.” Walton sneered at the thought of his long-time rival. “Not that it matters, of course. The video is exceedingly simplistic. You are all much smarter than that, which is why you will be getting a head start on the cat lab, starting today!”
He remained ignorant of the collective groan that resonated throughout the classroom. Morgan dejectedly put away the bag of candy she’d been hoping to sell during the movie. Rick realized that he wouldn’t be able to sleep during the period and rubbed his eyes with a plaintive moan.
“I know you are all excited, but please remember that concentration is key for success! This isn’t your first dissection lab, and I trust each and every one of you; but nonetheless, don’t think that I won’t be examining you carefully for any signs of frivolity!” Walton made a shooing gesture with his hands. “Now go partner up and find a table. Hurry!”
The room filled with the sound of sighs and the scrape of chairs along the floor, as students rose and meandered slowly to their partners. Gwen rose from her seat with and stretched her arms high above her head before making her way to Hannah, whom she usually worked with for labs such as these.
“Come on. Let’s get to work,” she said, completely oblivious to Hannah’s sudden discomfort. “This time, look away from the lab table, and answer the questions on both of our worksheets, alright?”
Hannah squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. “Actually, I was… I was, uh, that is to say…”
Hannah never stammered, Gwen thought to herself with faint alarm. Clearly something had to be unspeakably wrong. “Are you okay? Are you feeling alright?”
She peered closely into her friend’s eyes, which couldn’t quite meet hers. “Is it because of the dissection lab?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed loudly, her nervousness but a faint memory. “Yeah, that’s it! You know how it is with the smell and everything and you look in the box and it’s dead and it’s totally gross and then you have to cut it up and stuff and label it and it’s really disgusting and I’m feeling totally nauseated I might even throw up again so I,” Hannah jumped up from her seat, “I am going to ask Professor Walton to let me go to the nurse early, you know, so that I don’t end up causing some kind of huge catastrophe in the classroom because that’s super embarrassing and you know how much Walton loves his lab squeaky clean and it smells bad enough with all the dead animals everywhere without be vomiting all over the place, so I’m sorry, you’ll have to find another partner, hey, what about Peter? Peter Parker! You know him, right?”
Gwen glanced behind her to where Peter was standing. He was staring very intently at the worksheet they’d been given, and she noticed that, curiously enough, he was holding it upside down.
“Yeah! You guys are like friends, or acquaintances or whatever, I mean you guys talk right so an in-class assignment is like no big deal at all, yeah? Anyway I am going to pop over to the nurse and ask her for some medicine or a barf bag or let me lie down a little because, you know, I’m feeling a little under the weather, and maybe she’ll let me stay in the office all day, who even knows? Wouldn’t that be fantastic though, I mean, I wouldn’t have to put up with another quiz in English and I might even be able to go to the cafeteria and get food, the possibilities are endless, right?”
“Um, okay then! I hope you feel—“
Hannah ran off towards Professor Walton before Gwen could finish, and the rest of her words died on her lips. She sighed to herself; what else could she expect from the impetuous girl?
She pivoted lightly on her heel and approached Peter, who was holding the assignment the right way up and turning a light shade of pink.
“Hey, Peter! Do you have already have a partner for the lab?”
He quickly dropped the paper and knocked over his pencil, which clattered onto the floor and rolled under the desk.
“No! I don’t.” He coughed. “I don’t, uh, have a partner, no. Hi, Gwen.”
“Hi,” she chuckled. “Here, I’ll get that for you.”
She reached down and grabbed his pencil, which had landed near his shoe.
“So, um,” he said loudly, “This is new. What, uh, happened to your normal partner?”
“Hannah?” Gwen sighed. “She went to the nurse. I am officially without my normal buddy for this lab, which is why I am formally asking you, Peter Parker,” and she tossed him his pencil.
“Will you be my lab partner?”
Peter lunged for the pencil, fumbled with it, and nearly dropped it twice before he managed to slam it down onto his notebook.
“Yes!” he exclaimed, scratching the back of his head and grinning wildly. The pencil rolled off the desk once more. “It would be an honor. Really.”
“Good. I would have been extremely offended if you said anything else.” She picked up the pencil once more and placed it very carefully into his hand. “Be careful, now.”
“Right. Sorry, I just…” Peter sighed loudly and covered his face with his hands, rubbing his eyes slowly. “Wow. I am an embarrassment. I give up. I’m sorry.”
Gwen snorted, despite herself. “Don’t worry about it, Peter! It’s funny.” She laughed. “Come on, we’ve got work to do.”
She gave him her friendliest smile and gestured towards the tables in the back of the classroom. “Shall we?”
He smiled back; it was an awkward smile, and his face was still a vibrant shade of red, but it was better than nothing and Gwen was just glad he wasn’t completely withdrawing from her. With her leading the way, the two of them situated themselves at the table farthest from the chalkboard; she typically preferred the seat closest to the front of the room, but this was a special day. Peter noticed her frowning.
(He also noticed that, for once, she was sitting in the back, but he did not articulate this.)
“Is something wrong?” He asked tentatively. “You don’t seem all that excited.”
Gwen let out a scoff and opened her binder with more force than necessary.
“Ugh, I hate the dissection labs.” Gwen curled her lip. “The way things smell, the way they look… I usually work with Hannah, and she always makes me do the actual cutting since she’s supposedly more squeamish than me.”
Peter laughed as he handed her a pair of goggles. “Oh, please. You think you have it bad?”
“Thanks. And yes, yes I do think I had it bad, as a matter of fact.” She slipped the goggles over her head, wincing a little as the rubber strap pulled against a few strands of her hair. “Dead animals gross me out, and carving them up always seemed… disrespectful to me. Even if it is important for biology.”
Her new lab partner handed her a pair of rubber gloves, which she also accepted with gratitude. “I say I had it worse.”
“Oh? How so?”
“Well, I for one usually end up partners with Frankie Graf over there.” He nodded at the general direction of the aforementioned boy. Gwen turned and saw him giggling to himself as he scratched his scalp with a pen, his partner laughing with him uncomfortably.
“Brian doesn’t seem to be enjoying his company very much.” Gwen turned back to Peter. “Why, what did he do?”
“Well,” Peter sighed wearily as he opened to the proper page in the assignment, “Remember the last dissection we had to do in class?”
Gwen nodded. “Of course. The fetal pig lab. I remember Hannah crying and getting sent to the nurse.”
Peter gave her a pained look. “Frankie named ours.”
Her eyes widened, and her hands flew to her mouth immediately. “You’re kidding me.”
He nodded, still wincing.
“He named the pig?”
“He named it.”
She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or to cry. “Hoooly crap, that is the worst, most god-awful…”
“It gets better. Or worse, I guess.” Peter shrugged. “Do you know what he named it?”
“I don’t want to know.” Gwen shook her head wildly in disbelief. “Never mind. I change my mind. I do want to know. Tell me.”
“You’re not going to believe this,” Peter said, shaking his head and filling in the first few questions of the worksheet. “Wilbur.”
“From Charlotte’s Web. Yeah.”
With a low moan, Gwen covered her face with her gloved hands, dramatically draping herself across the table. “I think I’m going to be sick,” she whimpered. “That is disgusting. That is the most vile, gross, horrible…”
“I’m just glad I didn’t end up with another Frankie,” Peter snickered. “If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll do the actual dissecting for this one.”
Gwen stopped groaning and peeked at him from between her fingers. “Will you really?”
“Sure! It’s my fault for telling you that story, anyway.”
She paused. And then, “I don’t know. Are you good at it?”
Peter scoffed loudly and made a show of throwing up his hands in disgust. “I see how it is! You rebuff my attempts at helping you because you’re afraid of what your grades will be like. Fine! I wash my hands of you, Gwen Stacy. Goodbye.”
She smothered her laughter with one hand and slapped his arm with the other.
“Oh my god, will you shut up? I didn’t mean it like that and you know it!” she exclaimed. “Professor Walton is going to hear us!”
“You’re right! Any moment now, he will appear behind us after detecting our frivolity!”
Professor Walton appeared out of nowhere behind them with a clipboard in one hand and a box on the other. He cleared his throat, causing Peter to jump and turn red and Gwen to immediately stop smiling. Luckily for them, however, he wasn’t here to admonish them for their noisy behavior or lack of decorum. Curiously enough, he rather was smiling widely in excitement.
“Ah,” he boomed, beaming with pride. “Now this is a sight I had been hoping to see for a very long time!”
“I’m sorry sir,” Gwen began tentatively, “But I don’t quite under—“
“My top two students, working together on a lab for the very first time! I am looking forward to some impressive results, my friends! I am sure your work will be a beautiful example for the rest of the class to follow”
Professor Walton placed the box on their desk and walked away, humming contentedly to himself. Gwen didn’t react and simply stood there and blinked, having lost her teacher at the first sentence.
“Top… Top two—?“ Eyes wide, she whipped around to face Peter.
Peter, upon making eye contact and seeing the look of shock on her face, raised his eyebrows high and gave the worst imitation of a grin Gwen had ever seen, more of a wide baring of teeth than having any semblance of an authentic smile.
“You’re one of the top students in the class?” she finally managed.
He cocked an eyebrow. “Why, did you think I was in the bottom or something?”
She shook her head wildly, trying to regain her bearings. “No, no, I just— I just thought— I didn’t think there was—“
Gwen looked up at him. “Top two?”
Peter chewed on his lip. “Should… I be offended at this line of questioning, or…?”
“No! I just didn’t think there was another…” She could think of no way to word this without sounding completely arrogant, so she decided to drop the subject and smiled politely instead. “I’m just glad I get a quality partner for the lab.”
Peter returned the smile (thank God) and busied himself with the sealed box, which would contain their specimen. Gwen found herself staring absent-mindedly as he worked. So he was the top (in the top, she corrected) of the class, huh? How could she not have known? He never participated, and she’d even forgotten he was in the class until she started talking to him. Gwen felt a wave of self-disgust surge over her. Was she seriously getting upset over the possibility of a little competition? Had she become that proud? She frowned a bit as Peter struggled with peeling the off the lid. She hadn’t considered him stupid, by far, but she definitely hadn’t expected him to be top (in the top! she corrected with a trace of desperation) of the class!
She also hadn’t expected him to be so… funny. He was almost a completely different person, once he got over his crippling shyness. The awkward, fumbling manner in which he usually spoke just melted away to reveal someone who was confident he could make you laugh and didn’t care if he happened to fail in his attempts to do so. It was bizarre and strange, and Gwen couldn’t figure it out at all. She furrowed her brows as she continued to stare.
What other surprises were Peter Parker concealing?
The smell of formaldehyde hit Gwen’s nostrils without warning, jerking her out of her reflections and making eyes water almost immediately. Peter had finally managed to pry open the box’s lid.
“Oh my god…” Gwen gagged. “I’ll never get used to that smell.”
“Take a deep breath,” he advised. “Let’s take a look inside.”
She inhaled loudly and held her breath, covering her mouth with one hand. Peter took off the lid with a flourish, and she could see him grimace as the foul odor of preservatives billowed out of the container. The two of them leaned in tentatively to peer inside, and Gwen winced in both pity and disgust at the sight; the creature had taken on a sickly brown color thanks to the formaldehyde, just barely resembling its former self. Gwen had to remind herself rather forcefully that the poor thing had died of natural causes. Still, it was a sobering sight.
Gwen had always wanted a cat.
The two of them gazed on in quiet contemplation, and may have continued to do so for several minutes if Peter hadn’t made a very unusual remark.
“Gwen,” he said as he stared into the box. “Have you ever read the Harry Potter series?”
“Mmhm.” Gwen looked at her partner and raised an eyebrow, a hand still clamped firmly over her mouth. “Why?”
Peter’s eyes darted to Gwen, then to the box’s contents, and back at Gwen once more. He pressed his lips together and waited for her to understand.
She cocked her head in bewilderment. She glanced into the box, then to Peter, and back to the box again. Realization slowly dawned on her, and her eyes widened in alarm.
“No,” she said simply, forgetting about keeping out the smell and letting her hand drop to her side.
Peter shrugged and looked upwards at the ceiling, trying not to smile.
“No,” Gwen repeated, more insistent this time. She held up a threatening finger. “Peter Parker, don’t you even think about it.”
“Alright! Alright!” he said, putting his hands up in surrender. “Calm down!”
“I don’t want to hear a word out of you, do you understand?”
“Look, all I’m saying is,” and Peter gave her the biggest shit-eating-grin she had ever seen in her entire life, “Crookshanks is a fantastic name for—“
She smacked him with her binder as hard as she could.
* * * * * *
In the end, Mrs. Norris…
(“No, it’s just The Cat!” Gwen hissed, brandishing her packet threateningly. Peter tried and failed to suppress his laughter, and admittedly the pile of papers failed to act as a particularly intimidating weapon.)
… turned out to be one of the best examples of a proper lab dissection that Professor Walton had seen during his time at Midtown High; a fact which he flaunted proudly by having everyone gather around Peter and Gwen’s table.
“Do you see how neatly the lateral incision was made? Take very careful note, class, of how well they labeled the lower organs. Oh, and the esophagus is always tricky, what with the various muscles surrounding the throat, but they managed to pull it off with resounding success!”
Gwen basked in Professor Walton’s praise, even with the full knowledge that no one was really listening to him, but Peter mostly shrank away from the “attention,” slouching in a strategic location behind his lab partner so that no one could notice him. She noticed, of course.
“Is something wrong?” she whispered, turning her head towards him while keeping her eyes on the teacher.
“No, nothing’s wrong.” He muttered back. “This just feels weird.”
She glanced at him, smirked, and elbowed him gently. “Come on, don’t you feel flattered? That esophagus was all you.”
Peter smiled. “Most of it was me, you know.”
“Untrue! I labeled everything, and I held parts of the cat when you needed me to.”
“I thought we agreed we’d name it Mrs. Norris?”
Gwen tried very hard to mold her features into a frown. “No, we agreed it was a better name than Crookshanks. I never once said that would be its name!”
He snickered, and she couldn’t help but laugh a little, as well. “We’re horrible people, you know that? We are downright disgusting.”
She glanced back at Professor Walton, who was now pointing out the condition of the heart with wild gestures that threatened to hit those closest to him. Several of the students took a couple of steps back. She watched him rave for a little while, biting her lip and not really listening to what he was saying. Gwen steeled herself and turned to Peter.
“It was fun working with you.”
He stared at her a bit, and a smile slowly formed on his face.
“Thanks,” he mumbled as he looked down at his feet. He looked up at her, his chin still tucked down. “I liked working with you, too.”
“I was really impressed. Honestly.” Gwen nodded her head. “We should do this again, sometime.”
Peter shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket and shrugged. “It’s a deal!”
* * * * * *
I like a very specific type of consistency with my pizzas. It can’t be too soft, but it can’t be entirely crunchy, either. The best pizza has a thick crust, but soft toppings so that you get a nice and even texture when you bite down on it.
I’m just kidding.
I’m not actually going to write about my feelings on pizza consistency. That would be stupid.
(I do have a specific preference for how I like my pizzas, though.)
Instead, I want to talk about school.
It’s a horrible place, most of the time. I could tell you stories about my high school, but you wouldn’t believe me at all. You would think, “Oh, psh. He’s just making stuff up to sound funny.” But I wouldn’t be. I would be dead serious. Not that you’d think so.
You deal with all the various groups, with the popular kids in one corner, the nerds in the other corner, large jacked guys talking about football in the halls… You look at it and think, “It’s like I was transported into a crappy Disney Channel movie. These groups don’t exist outside of low-budget chick flicks for teeny boppers who are so excited about getting into high school.” And yet, here they are.
What kind of group am I a part of?
Well, what do you think?
Here, think it over, I’ll give you some time.
Have you thought about it?
Have you envisioned what kind of people I might hang out with?
The answer is that you are wrong.
I do not hang out with any groups. You might think that, being as handsome and talented as I am, I would be one of the most popular person at school, if not the entire state, no? Yeah, I’m shocked too. Anyway, one of the problems of being as impressively intelligent as I am is that many will think of me as what has colloquially been referred to as a “nerd.”
(Ironically enough, nearly all of the people who also have been referred to as “nerds” do not see me as a “nerd.” In fact, I think many of them think I’m just another angry punk or something. Is it the skateboard? I don’t know why people have such a problem with it. It’s like a bike, except easier to carry around.)
(Wait is that why people think I’m stupid? Is it the skateboard?)
(Does she think I’m stupid)
(Is it because of the skateboard)
(oh my god)
(she thought I was stupid she even implied it today)
(I am an idiot)
Anyway, without providing any explanation for everything I wrote above, let me continue. The problem with being perceived as a nerd by certain people is that some find it an obligation to be less than pleasant to nerds. No, it is more than an obligation; it is a public service. Nay, it is an honor. Specifically, there’s one person I have to deal with, whom I won’t describe because you will all think I’m making it up because he fits every single stereotype that exists for jocks. He is constantly acting like an ass, and I am really unsure of what to do. Do I phone his parents? Do I ask my uncle to beat him up? Do I tell the teacher that he was being super mean? I don’t think so. Lucky for me, he hasn’t hung me by my underwear on the flag post or anything, but I don’t think I can turn to an authority figure without inviting this to happen.
Sometimes I suspect that his constant harassment is a result of his homo-erotic feelings for me, and his asshattery is a means for him to not only express his anger and confusion at his budding sexuality, but also for him to get my attention in methods so immature that most people stop doing it after the third grade.
But then I realize I am thinking that some dude with too much time on his hands is being a crappy human being because he wants to have sex with me, so I stop thinking altogether and do something else entirely. Like play Minecraft. Or eat a pizza. I won’t dismiss the thought entirely, though, because once we graduate and I no longer have to worry about inviting death by running into him in the hallway, I can yell this at him and watch him blow a vein in anger. Sometimes I want to sneer and be like, “Don’t touch me, I run a blog.” But most of the time I just want to avoid him entirely.
Have you guys ever had to put up with a guy like this? Someone who seems to exist for no other reason except to perpetually rain on your parade? What did you do about it?
Mind you, I’m not asking for advice or anything. Nope. Wayyy too manly for that. I just want to hear your stories. Yeah. That’s it.
(I turned anon off, by the way, so if any of you have more plans on asking me about who “she” might be, you cannot. I’m laughing at you and I’m not even sorry. If you are upset because you wanted to ask a legitimate question but can’t, now, please direct all your anger at the other anons.)
(Besides, I already told you, we are wed and we have beautiful children and a golden retriever.)
(Don’t you guys ever listen?)
I do not condone the naming of specimen in labs that require their dissection.
Admittedly, this chapter is kind of (okay more like it definitely is) a filler for the next one, which involves a lot more things happening plot-wise. Hopefully this won't bore anyone TOO much!
Recipient: Peter Parker
Sent: 4:18 PM
oh man you TOTALLY OWE ME FOR TODAY
i am like, your hero. ine. heroine! YOU’RE WELCOME, PARKER, GEEZ
this is hannah, by the way ;)
Recipient: Hannah Richards
Sent: 4:23 PM
1) How did you find my email address? Are you aware of how creepy that is?
2) Just how on earth did you figure that I owe you, or that you’re my hero(ine)? You nearly told Gwen that I liked her! What gave you that idea, anyway? Not only is it completely untrue, but I also don’t appreciate how you could so easily go and talk about it. It’s embarrassing and, to be completely honest, I’m a bit pissed off that you’d just email me out of nowhere without any hint of an apology.
Recipient: Peter Parker
Sent: 4:28 PM
woa i didnt know you were that mad! :( you dont have to yell. i thought i made it up to you by letting you be lab partners with gwen! and if you were so mad, how come you didnt say anything to me when you heard me?? how was i supposed to know??
and don’t try to tell me you dont like gwen. because i know for a fact that you do. why else would you get so mad?? HMM???? TELL ME THIS, MR PARKER
Recipient: Hannah Richards
Sent: 4:35 PM
1) You still have yet to tell me how the hell you got my email address. I have a right to be scared.
2) I was a bit too shocked to say anything to you at the time. You also didn’t even say anything to me, you just ran off. Besides, I don’t even know you! I would’ve just ignored this altogether, but then you went and email me. Which brings me to Point Number One, which you’ll find above.
3) I don’t like Gwen that way. She’s a friend. I don’t even know if I can call her a friend, since I only talked to her a few times. She’s an acquaintance. Your claim that I like her is completely unfounded, and you still haven’t explained why you think that I do.
4) I’m mad because you’re spreading rumors about me, and expect me to thank you for something you did because you felt guilty for being caught. And even your “apology” was based off the idea that I like Gwen, which is a rumor that you were perpetuating, which in turn brings us in a full circle of generally terrible behavior. I think I’m justified to “yell” at you, which, by the way, I wasn’t even doing.
Recipient: Peter Parker
gosh what’s with you and numbering things, weirdo. and you talk an awful lot for someone so quiet at school. fine i’ll number stuff too SINCE YOU LIKE IT SO MUCH >:(
1) hey i wasn’t stalking you, okay? i was just looking for a way to contact you and stuff and then my friend emily (you know her right?? emily ramon? she’s the president of the improv club thing) told me that she had to get a photographer for one of her shows or whatever and she went over to the art office and got a list of contact numbers and stuff and she didn’t get you because it was in alphabetical order and brandon (you know brandon, you guys do photography stuff together, whatever that is) has his name above yours. but anyway she kept the list and your email address was listed so that’s how i got it. I WASN’T STALKING YOU, SO STOP IMPLYING THAT I WAS. GOD. DON’T FLATTER YOURSELF.
2) ok you know what you had like a solid nine seconds that you could have used to say you were mad or something, so i think it’s unfair that you spring this on me now instead of warning me earlier. ALSO, I WASN’T RUNNING AWAY. i was late to class.
3) I GOT YOU THERE PARKER. I KNOW YOU’RE TOTALLY LYING. HAHAHAHA. NOW WHO’S THE BAD PERSON, HMM?
i was volunteering with s ally afterschool (sally avril btw) and she like knows EVERYONE on the s tudent eb oard and she told me about this girl named m issy c alenback (idk how to spell) who's been doing advertisements and stuff for the events since freshman year and it turns out although i didn't know it at the time that m issy was the same girl who was one of the math tutors in the library afterschool that helped me get through pre calc and she TOTALLY saved my life so i talked to her a little ( because i mean she basically saved my life you know ) and then i found out she's crazy super nice which was cool but then s ally told me that m issy has like this HUGENORMOUS crush on you (SSH DON’T EVEN TRY AND GET MAD BECAUSE I’M EXPLAINING THE STORY AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) because you know sally knows everything about like everyone and I was all that's so crazy i think there's a p eter p arker is in my bio class and she didn't even believe me at first so I said to her I said “noo o, i really think he is! !!” and then she said i was probably thinking of someone else so she tried to test me (CAN YOU BELIEVE HER) she was all ' ohh h yeah well what does he look like' so i 'm all like “ well shit i don't know i don't look at him and stuff ” (DON’T GET OFFENDED) like what am i supposed to say, so i said well he has brown hair and then she's like “e veryone has brown hair ” so i said PSSSHHHH i can TOTALLY prove that he's in my class and then she's like “f ine whatever i believe you ” but then i said “n o you don't believe me at all, DO YOU? ? ” and s ally was like “i believe you i just don't care anymore ” so then i was all “FINE WHATEVER” and we dropped the subject but then i had this CRAZY GOOD IDEA i was like hey, missy’s a total sweetiepie right?? we should TOTALLY HOOK HER UP WITH PARKER and then sally’s like “NO WAYYY” and i was like “YESSS WAY” and then she was like “no i really mean it you can’t” and i was so confused but THEN she told me she was like “peter parker totally likes someone else” and then i was like “HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT” and she was like “dude he is totally into gwen stacy” and then i said “GWEN STACY???? SHE’S LIKE MY BEST FRIEND” (well not BEST friend you know i mean like she’s in my group of good friends but not my designated one and only best friend that’s just ridiculous. i don’t discriminate between friends). and then sally’s like “SHE’S YOUR BEST FRIEND?” so i yelled back “YEAH SHE IS SO YOU HAVE TO TELL ME EVERYTHING” so she did (see, i HAD to tell her that gwen was my bff because then she’d tell me stuff) sally told me that SHE SAW YOU TAKING A PIC OF GWEN WITH YOUR CAMERA AND GWEN DIDN’T EVEN KNOW (WHICH BTW IS REALLY CREEPY AND ROMANTIC AT THE SAME TIME) AND YOU WERE ALL SMILING AND SHIT AND SALLY WAS LIKE “OMFG PETER IS TOTALLY INTO GWEN” and before you think you’re all smart and go “it was for a photography project” i talked to alex in my math class (you know him right alex rodriguez he is in photography class in a different period than you) and he DEFINITELY TOLD ME that you guys are doing inanimate objects or whatever and that THE PEOPLE UNIT WAS LIKE FOREVER AGO
SO HA, THAT’S PROOF THAT YOU LIKE HER, YOU LIAR
4) man you’d think a guy would be pumped to get to work with the chick he’s been into for like, ever. >:( i did it because i was sorry that you had to be there, alright??? no need to be mean or anything. OR ELSE
Recipient: Hannah Richards
I find it extremely ironic that someone like you is calling me a creep.
I find it extremely sad that your idea of being nice to someone (for me or for Missy) is trying to set them up with others. I’m also pretty sure that you mentioning Missy’s supposed feelings about me was completely unnecessary, and also a gross violation on her privacy. What a fantastic way of going about with “thanking” her. Great work!
Talking to you seems to be all about extremes, I’ve noticed. What do you mean “or else?” What are you going to do, tell Gwen that I’m mean? Tell her that you think I like her? Talk to your classmate’s friend’s brother’s neighbor’s landlord into doing something terrible?
Please, with all due respect (which isn’t very much at all), stop emailing me.
By the way, I remember what you’re talking about. I was taking a picture of the windows behind her. I was kind of annoyed because Gwen’s hair kept getting in the way, but I thought telling her to move would be kind of rude. Nice try, anyway.
* * * * * * *
You are such an idiot what am I doing I KNEW IT WAS A BAD IDEA TO TAKE THAT DAMN PICTURE IN BROAD DAYLIGHT OH MY GOD WHY DIDN’T I TAKE SOME OTHER PHOTOS AT THE SAME AREA TO THROW THEM OFF AND WHAT DID SHE MEAN I WAS SMILING
WHAT KIND OF TERRIBLE EXCUSE IS “TAKING PICTURES OF WINDOWS” WHO EVEN DOES THAT ASDFJK;LASDFJ;LAS
Hello, world. Like every other time I’ve written something about my personal life, I would like for you to ignore it completely, since I am not going to be explaining it any time soon.
“But why do you write it, then?” you ask, scratching your head.
“Stop itching your scalp,” I would respond, slapping your hand in a firm but fatherly manner. “It’s not good for you. And also, it’s my personal blog. It was originally created so I could rant about my life. Shut up.”
Today’s topic is people.
People come in different shapes and sizes. You can be thin or fat or short or tall, and, contrary to what many think, most people don’t judge others completely on their appearances. Sure, the media has generally raised us to have first impressions based on how one looks, but everything changes once you listen to them speak. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; the moment you open your mouth is when someone truly forms an opinion of you.
On that note, have you ever spoken to someone so annoying, so completely irritating and full of themselves, that you couldn’t even get properly angry? You just kind of stare and wonder if you’re in a dream (or nightmare, to be accurate)? Have you ever met someone so clueless that you wanted to crawl under your bed and bang your head repeatedly against the floor until you couldn’t remember what your bedroom looked like? She could be the hottest girl in the school and you would still flee once you see her get ready to talk.
(And she’s not the hottest girl in school, by the way.)
I mean, even when you talk to this person online, it doesn’t help because everyone types a certain way and you start to dislike the way this one person types, and you can hear everything they’re saying in their annoying, nasally voice while you read, and urghh it’s just horrible. It’s amazing how, despite not being able to see them or actually hear them, just reading their words on a screen manages to conjure the same amount of irritation within you as if they were right in front of you.
Isn’t that amazing?
That you can look at a white screen with black squiggles, and upon processing the meanings of these squiggles you can visualize (with horrific clarity) the face of whomever sent it to you. The human mind is a wonderful, beautiful thing.
Mind you, the human mind is wonderful and beautiful. The people that possess such minds… Not necessarily so.
Let’s change the subject.
I couldn’t finish constructing the north tower in my Minecraft castle because I was too damn distracted by the thought of Stark Expo. Displaying my remarkable lack of resolve, I went on the site despite my promise to ignore it altogether and rechecked the schedule (even though I almost have devoted it to memory). Imagine my surprise when, lo and behold, there had been a surprise rescheduling! Lieutenant Colonel James Rhodes himself is going to be there to discuss his work as a military liaison, long-time friend of Tony Stark, and even possibly answer questions about the War Machine.
There is only one thing to do at a time like this, and that is to weep silently while eating straight out of a carton of ice cream, watching Lifetime movies and thinking about purchasing seven to nine cats. I’m kidding, of course. My Aunt is allergic to cats. Wouldn’t dream of buying any. But really, can you imagine if I got to go to the Expo and talk to Rhodes? I certainly can. The conversation would go something like this.
Me: Hello, sir!
Rhodes: Oh, hey there! Your presence here is a joy to behold, and I can see just by looking at the sparkle in your eyes that you are not just a fan, but a passionate believer in the ideals that we uphold here in the Expo!
Me: You flatter me, sir.
Rhodes: Nonsense! Why I can tell just by looking that you are much different from all the others in this place! You know what, kid? I’ll let you examine the War Machine all you want!
Me: Gee, do you really mean it?
Rhodes: Mean it? [laughs loudly] Of course I do! What a kidder you are, hahaha! Not only are you extremely intelligent and handsome, but you are also a very funny person!
Me: I do my best, sir.
Rhodes: Oh, wow! That is a trait you share with my good friend Tony Stark! You should meet him sometime!
Me: Wow, that would be an honor!
Rhodes: You know what? Let me call him right now! We can go get some lunch, the three of us! What’s your phone number? And when are you free? I wouldn’t want to throw off any plans of yours, you know.
Me: I am free on Saturday, sir.
Rhodes: I have an interview in Krakow that day, but I can cancel it, no problem! You and I are going to be best friends, I can tell!
That is how it is going to go, exactly. I can envision it so clearly in my mind, and it is the most wonderful sight. For some reason, though, I can’t really imagine myself meeting Tony Stark himself. I mean, it’s kind of vague, I guess, but I can’t see myself talking to him at all. If I do see him, I think I’d be part of an audience. A really, really big audience.
How is it that I can’t imagine myself speaking with my idol for even a moment, but I can imagine (all too clearly) the person whose presence I find distasteful?
The imagination is remarkable.
* * * * * *
Gwen shut the front door and headed towards the kitchen as per usual, stepping over her prostrated brothers in front of the TV…
“Hey, guys. Don’t you have homework?”
… and walked briskly through the doorway, greeting her mother and nearly tripping over a large bucket that she’d failed to notice.
“Ooh, Gwen, careful about the bucket!” her mother warned, without turning around.
Gwen waved her arms wildly in an attempt to retain her balance and fell against the fridge, holding onto the handles for dear life.
“Thanks, Mom!” She yelled, her eyes narrowed and an obviously fake grin on her face. “Really appreciate it. Honestly. You’re a hero.”
“Oh, stop. In fact, why don’t you make yourself useful and bring the bucket over here?”
Gwen peered into the bucket briefly and was immediately assaulted with a wave of nausea. She slipped against the refrigerator, clutching her nose and kicking the bucket away from her with her foot.
“Euuuuugh!” she moaned with just a bit of melodrama, sticking out her tongue and gagging lightly. “What—what is that?!”
“Stop overreacting, honey.” Her mother turned her head just so her daughter could see her rolling her eyes. “And I thought you were a scientist? Anyone could tell that it’s obviously a bucket of fish.”
“Ugh, it smells disgusting!” Gwen didn’t bother getting up from her position on the floor. “That is my conclusion. Doctor Gwen Stacy has concluded this conclusively. That is a disgusting bucket and must be thrown out immediately.”
“Well, Chef Helen Stacy asks the kind and overdramatic doctor to please pass the branzino,” her mother retorted with a laugh. She glanced sideways at her daughter and smiled softly. “I’d forgotten about how sensitive your nose was. Never could make anything too strong when you were a kid.”
It was never good when her mom started feeling nostalgic. Gwen quickly scrambled upwards and dusted off the seat of her pants.
“What the heck is branzino?” she asked, partially to distract her mother from getting uncomfortably weepy and partially out of genuine (if not mildly disgusted) curiosity.
“It’s a fish!”
“Yeah, that’s been established, yes.”
They were smallish and greyish and generally unremarkable, and even their odor, strong as it was, smelled no different from any other fish (not that she was an expert). Gwen eyed the bucket in distaste, glaring at the slimy sheen and the light brown water that covered the bottom of the bucket; it was clear that her mother had bought the fish fresh from a market. Probably the outdoor one on Maine Avenue, Gwen reasoned. She poked the bucket with the side of her shoe, afraid to see one of them hop, or even twitch.
“I almost prefer the naanwiches,” Gwen spat, waving her hand in front of her nose in disgust. “Why are they just… Just sitting there? Shouldn’t you have put them in a bag, or something?”
Her mother washed lettuce in the sink without care. “Well, the branzino was on sale! I purchased the entire bucket. It was easier than having the poor man put them all into separate bags! He only had so many, you know.”
“You know, my nose can’t handle two attacks in one day. I’m pretty sure this can be considered biological warfare.”
Gwen tiptoed as she spoke, grabbing the box of Cocoa Puffs from their niche on the counter without her mother noticing. “Damn,” she thought as she shook it lightly. It was almost running out.
“What do you mean twice, hm?”
“Oh, nothing. I had a dissection lab in Biology today. The formaldehyde smelled terrible. I didn’t have time to prepare myself.”
“I thought the dissection would take place next week!”
“There was a change of plans. Professor Walton and his dumb feud against Mr. Creed, again.”
The two of them were silent for a while, contemplating with no small amount of exasperation the infamous war between Mr. Creed and Professor Walton (the former was not tenured and was thus insanely jealous of the other, whereas the latter despised the former for his popularity with the students).
“Oh, I’m sorry, honey.” Her mother finally said, giving her a quick but understanding smile. “I know how much you hate those labs.”
Gwen thought about this for a second, surreptitiously putting a piece of the chocolate cereal into her mouth.
“You know,” she managed, “it actually wasn’t too bad.”
“Yeah.” Gwen let out a short, almost disbelieving laugh as she realized this fully for the first time all day. “Not bad at all, in fact.”
She poured a few more Cocoa Puffs into the palm of her hand before exiting the kitchen, a slight skip in her step. Her mother watched her go from the corner of her eyes.
That was odd.
She shrugged it off and continued watching the myriad vegetables before her. She could always ask her later.
“What’s for dinner?” Simon said, holding out his palm without looking at his sister.
Gwen dropped a couple of the chocolate spheres into her brother’s hand, thought about it for a moment, and took one back, popping it into her mouth. He and Phil were watching an episode of some cartoon she’d never heard of; the typical show about people with superpowers saving the world.
“Yeah, are we having naanwiches again?” Phil grumbled. “Because you promised you’d let us have some of your chocolate if we had to eat them again—“
“Quiet!” Gwen hissed, glancing behind her into the kitchen. “If Mom finds out, we’re all dead.”
Phil fell silent, and Simon giggled. Phil responded by elbowing him. Simon elbowed him back. Gwen put a restraining hand on Phil’s shoulder before the two of them beat the pulp out of each other, again.
“I have good news, gentleman.” She emphasized the last word in an attempt to have her siblings settle down. “Our dear mother has moved on from her naanwiches.”
She paused as the two of them gave large sighs of relief.
“I hate goat cheese…”
“It’s like, why does she even bother?”
“I know! There’s only so many things you can change!”
The cartoon segued into a break for advertisements, and Phil took the opportunity to peel his eyes away from the television screen to turn to Gwen. “So wait, what are we eating, then? Something normal again, like spaghetti?”
“Macaroni and cheese?” asked Simon.
“When have we ever had tacos, stupid?”
“Well, we should,” Simon muttered angrily.
They looked at Gwen, who stared at the TV with a deadpan expression. An enthusiastic young woman began explaining to her viewers the wonders of Oxiclean.
“What the heck is branseeno,” Phil asked softly, looking pained.
His motto when it came to food was that, if he hadn’t heard of it, it was bound to taste bad. Gwen disapproved of this xenophobic mindset, but unfortunately had to admit after years of experience that, when it came to her mother, the rule more was accurate more often than not.
“It’s branzino,” Gwen corrected her brother. “And it’s a type of fish.”
Phil wrinkled his nose, but Simon seemed interested.
“I like fish!”
“Yeah, of course you would,” Phil retorted.
“What’s wrong with fish? You’re the weird one for not liking fish.”
“You’ve never even had it!”
“You might like it.”
Gwen rolled her eyes and began making her way to her bedroom when Simon made a strange remark.
“Mom almost never makes fish,” Simon called out to Gwen. “You know what that means, right?”
She turned back to her youngest sibling. “No, I don’t. What are you talking about?”
He rolled his eyes and sighed impatiently. “Howard’s favorite food is fish. It probably means she’s getting ready for him to visit.”
Gwen smirked. “Astute observation, Simon, but no dice. Howard comes home from college on holidays. He never just visits.”
“Idiot,” Phil muttered.
“Stop it,” Gwen said just as Simon responded in a less polite manner.
“I still don’t get it, though.” Phil ignored his siblings and turned back to the TV screen, a loud explosion signaling the return of the show they’d been watching. “What is branzino? Is that the type of fish? Is it the stuff she’s making?”
Gwen smiled with satisfaction as she turned the corner to the hallway, where her bedroom awaited her. “All that matters is that we’re not having naanwiches.”
She poked her head out and back into the living room, where Simon and Peter were too engrossed by the cartoon to look at her. “And you’re not having any of my chocolates!”
* * * * * *
“Good evening. I see that—“
“Shut up. Just shut up. You’ve been reading through my emails.”
“Ah. I’d guessed this wasn’t a casual visit. Especially since this is supposed to be a classified—“
“You know what else is classified? My emails! This is outrageous, after all this time you still can’t trust me?”
“You realize that now that you’re here, you’ll have to give an explanation for how you came to find this place.”
“I’m a scientist, damn it, not some kind of— some kind of spy, and—“
“Please answer the question.”
A folding of the arms.
“I figured if I’m going to stay here, I might as well get myself acquainted with the tech. The big man himself gave me an account and everything.”
“Well, he also included what he called a ‘virus protection system,’ and it went off the last time I sent an email. Which, by the way, happened to be five minutes ago.”
“The trace had enough proxies to send everyone on a wild goose chase to Bulgaria.”
“Oh, please! Tracing my emails? Super top secret room in the infirmary? You’re joking if you don’t think I can’t put two and two together.”
“What is it that you want?”
“Simple. Stop going through my emails. It’s rude, creepy, and a violation of trust. I won’t ask any questions or tell anyone anything, especially about this, as long as you keep out. Alright?”
“You walked through a classified area, past nine armed guards, to tell me to stop reading your emails?”
“I take this kind of stuff very seriously. Especially after what you did last time. Also, I bought them donuts.”
“Of course you did.”
“Like I said, I won’t ask any questions. God knows that you wouldn’t tell me anything, and you’ve made it pretty obvious that I don’t exactly have the clearance to know about this kind of stuff. To put it lightly, anyway. I’m guessing one of them have sounded the alarm by now, so I’ll take my leave.”
She turned, but hesitated.
“Alright, I’ll admit it. I wouldn’t come all this way and spend $12.99 for emails, even if it is a violation of privacy. That’s just stupid. I was mad and confused and excited, and I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry. Really.”
She dropped a box of munchkins on the bedside table, next to a vase of flowers and a single get-well card. “It’s nice to have you back. I knew it’d take a more than a little stab to get rid of an ass like you.”
“… Thank you, Miss Foster. I think.”
Jane nodded at Agent Coulson’s bedridden form and exited the room hastily, hearing rapid footsteps coming down the opposite end of the hall.
* * * * * *
The next time Gwen Stacy got to know Peter Parker a bit better was after he had been punched repeatedly by Flash “Eugene” Thompson.
It had been a fairly regular day, of course. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing particularly special. Classes had gone normally (which is to say, perfectly). Homework was completed on time, tests were studied for, and, after several days of frustration, Gwen had even mastered the art of eating branzino without tearing it into miniscule shreds.
(It was uncomfortably similar to a proper dissection; she tried not to think of this as she ate.)
(It tasted good, though. The Cocoa Puffs remained untouched for a couple of days.)
The cat lab in Biology had also gone smoothly. Though Gwen and Peter had completed the actual dissecting portion quickly and with ease…
(Well, Peter was the one doing the actual cutting and whatnot, but Gwen ordered him around and held parts of the cat open when it was necessary)
… they had to do the actual packet assigned to them. They were given more time than was necessary, since one group was taking their sweet time with their specimen. Peter and Gwen mostly took the opportunity to chat, while Hannah consistently sent herself off to the nurse because of the smell.
“It’s weird,” said Gwen. “She’s never been this bothered by it before. I mean, well, she was once, but that was an exception.”
“Hahahaha, yeah.” Peter laughed stiffly. “Hey, uh, what did you get on number three on page seven?”
“Why, do you need help?” Gwen asked, painfully aware of the feeling of hope that arose in her chest. “The answer is acromiotrapezius.”
Peter didn’t know it, but Gwen had started a pointlessly one-sided contest, despite herself; the goal of this contest was something even she wasn’t too sure of. Was it to prove she was smarter? Was it to settle once and for all who was really in the top of the class? She wasn’t positive about what she was looking for, but she felt sick and guilty about it nonetheless. When had she become so shallow? Could she possibly get any more petty?
“Oh, good!” Peter said, tapping his pencil against his packet. “I got it right.”
Gwen glanced at his paper and noticed after a quick examination that he’d answered all the questions on the page correctly. She felt a pang of disappointment, followed by the much more familiar feeling of self-disgust. Apparently the answer to her question was “yes.” Yes, she could get more petty. And it was horrible.
“Great!” she exclaimed with a practiced smile.
Somewhere behind the two of them, Professor Walton was explaining with strained patience the importance of diligence to the group that had yet to finish dissecting their cat.
Peter began doodling a stick figure onto the corner of his notebook.
Gwen reached over and quickly drew a dress on the stick figure.
With a quick glance upward at Gwen’s mischievous smile, Peter added a large bow on top of the stick figure’s head.
Gwen drew a long braid.
The rest of the hour was wasted in this way, and Gwen would have felt upset about not devoting the entire time in class to completing her work were in not for the fact that
a) It helped her take her mind off of who-was-better-than-who
b) She kind of had fun, just drawing random things all over Peter’s notebook. Not really doing anything in particular, simply doodling robots to match his dinosaurs, and so on.
(It goes without saying that Peter had a lot of fun, too.)
Unfortunately, things weren’t going quite as swimmingly in her other class. Specifically, in English. Flash had come over to her house to create a quick outline of what they would be doing, and, just as she’d expected, the affair involved a lot of hemming and hawing and awkward clearing of throats.
Worse than that, though, Flash was horribly underprepared.
“How’s Hamlet sound?” she had proposed.
He gave her a sheepish look.
“You’re kidding. Did you not read it?”
“I had trouble understanding what was going on, yeah.”
“How about Othello?”
“Um, not… Not really that much different.”
“Romeo and Juliet?!” she said out of desperation.
“Oh, yeah, I got that one! The love story, right?”
She tried very hard not to react badly to that, knowing full well that this was a very fragile situation she was dealing with.
“Close enough,” she managed. “We’ll use Romeo and Juliet for our project, then.”
Flash nodded in agreement.
It was a bit more cliché of a topic than Gwen would have liked, but it was better than nothing at all. But “nothing at all” seemed to be what she had, nonetheless. Even as she drew out a very generalized plan of what they would be doing, it was abundantly clear that Flash’s knowledge of the bard’s famous play was rudimentary at best.
“We’ll work on it,” she had said in her most reassuring voice. “Why don’t you come over again next week, and we’ll start picking out who’ll read what. Okay?”
He’d nodded without looking at her and left with the briefest of good-byes. Gwen decided that she didn’t mind this too much.
Either way, no mention had been made of the disastrous events that had taken place the last time the two of them had to work on a project together, and Gwen liked it that way. This would allow them to focus on the job at hand! Even with the rocky beginning, she was sure that she could pull off a good grade in the end.
Yes, things were going smoothly for Gwen Stacy.
Not so much for Peter Parker.
* * * * * *
“Come on, take a picture!”
“No, man, come on, just put him down.”
“Take it, I said!”
“Stop it, this isn’t funny, just put him down man. This isn’t cool.”
“Take the damn picture, Parker!”
“Stop, just stop. I’m not— I…“ He sighed. “Put him down! Eugene!”
A sudden hush fell upon the crowd. Flash “Extraordinarily Insecure About his Name” Thompson unceremoniously dropped the boy he’d been holding up. Said kid hit the ground with an “oof,” but didn’t hesitate to scramble away as fast as his wobbly legs could carry him. Flash, setting his jaw and curling his hands into fists, began to approach Peter Parker.
Meanwhile, the poor guy that’d had his face pushed into his plate of spaghetti for no discernible reason (his name was John, although this is inconsequential) was still running away, although where he was going even he didn’t know. His backpack was still at the table, but he didn’t care. He panted heavily as he sprinted around the corner and nearly tripped over a raised tree root. He spun around in a haphazard attempt to balance himself, and nearly hit Gwen’s face when his arm flew out.
“Whoa!” she yelped as she ducked down at the last moment. “Watch it!”
He muttered an apology before continuing to run past her and around the next corner. Gwen smoothed down her hair, which had been pushed out of its carefully combed state by John’s hand, and stared after him in confusion.
What was his problem? He looked like he’d seen a ghost.
From a distance she heard a faint noise, causing her to turn her head instinctively towards the noise; it seemed as though it was coming from the same direction that John had sprinted from. Unable to resist her curiosity, Gwen decided to take a quick detour from her walk to the library in order to see what the fuss was all about.
There it was again!
The noise, she realized as her slow meandering sped up to a more brisk pace, was coming from the outdoor commons where most people ate lunch.
For a while all she could hear was the soft sound of her heels brushing against the grass, but then she heard the noise again, unexpectedly louder this time. There was no mistaking it this time; it was the unmistakable sound of cheering. She turned a corner, nearly at a jog now, and saw a large group of people huddled in a wide circle. Nearly everyone in the commons had abandoned their lunches and books at their tables and respective spots against the brick wall of the school in order to look at… whatever it was they were looking at.
There was another collective noise of approval from the group, and Gwen really did begin to jog this time, clutching her textbooks against her chest and smiling with anticipation. Was someone performing something? She remembered Daniel from Health and Anatomy, who was part of some hip hop group in his free time, but couldn’t remember if he was in this particular lunch period. Was there a game going on? Maybe someone found a—
“Get up! I said, get up!” Another cheer. “Get up, Parker! Now!”
Gwen froze in her tracks, nearly tripping with the abruptness of her halt. She felt herself go very, very cold.
No, no, no, no.
This isn’t happening, not even he would do that, this is ridiculous, this doesn’t make sense, this is illogical, this is outside of his normal behavior, this is insane, he’s mean and he’s careless but he’s not a thug, this can’t be possible, this is, this is, this—
The students simultaneously uttered a sudden “Oooh,” and Gwen broke out of her reverie and into a straight sprint forward, nearly twisting her ankle and dropping her Stats homework behind her.
“Scusemepardonmesorryscuseme,” she mumbled as she quickly pushed through the throng of people standing shoulder-to-shoulder to witness the scene. Ignoring the various Heys and Watch-its and more impolite expletives behind her, she finally elbowed her way into the center where she saw:
One (1) plate of spaghetti, upturned and staining the concrete,
Three (3) red trays scattered around the circle,
One (1) camera, black, its back-flappy thingy (she was no photographer, she didn’t know anything about these contraptions) open and revealing all of its inner parts,
One (1) Flash “Eugene” Thompson with a curled lip and a look of murder in his eyes,
And one (1) Peter Parker, face-up on the ground and panting heavily, a large bruise forming on his cheek.
He mumbled something she couldn’t understand, something about a picture, and Flash’s nostrils flared as he kicked Peter, hard, on the side.
“Stand up, Parker!” he shouted.
It was then that Gwen marched into the circle, stepping carefully over the trays and the large puddle of tomato sauce oozing from the spaghetti.
She was gripping her books so tightly that her knuckles were turning white, and had her jaw set in what her father had always referred to as “the Stacy look.”
(“Every woman in the family,” he said, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes. “They look at you like that and you know they’re not planning on budging.”)
(“It’s how your mother always manages to wrangle me into buying her new things,” he whispered with a conspiratorial wink.)
Some people saw Gwen at that moment and thought she was scared. They were dead wrong, of course.
She was royally pissed.
“Who wants more?!” Flash was yelling, his back to Peter and Gwen and putting his hands up in response to the encouraging shouts from the crowd of students.
“Flash!” she called out. He whirled around so quickly it was almost comical.
Or at least, it would have been in any other situation.
He immediately dropped his hands to his sides upon the sight of her and shut his mouth with an audible click of teeth.
Gwen smiled politely, but her wide eyes made it very obvious to him and to everyone else watching that she was less than happy.
“We still on for afterschool today? My house? Three thirty?”
Flash opened his mouth slightly and shut it again, unable to think of anything to say. Gwen narrowed her eyes.
“I hope you’ve been doing your homework. Last time was…” She paused and shook her head, smiling in disbelief at the memory and making her disdain obvious to even the dullest of onlookers. “… Very disappointing.”
“Look, Gwen, I—“
“No,” she said with more vim than she’d intended for him to hear, “How about we go to class? Hm? How about it?”
Her smile faded into a straight line, and Flash closed his mouth for good. She could see his throat working as he swallowed back whatever nonsense he was planning to say, and his eyes were suddenly focused on a spot just left of her. The bell went off unexpectedly just then, and its shrill ringing was enough to make the group of students disperse quickly and quietly.
Flash glanced at Gwen, looking as though he wanted to say anything, but one look at her expression made it clear that nothing short of an apology would suffice.
Both of them knew that he wouldn’t be apologizing any time soon.
With a final look at her displeased expression, Flash turned and walked back inside the building, his hands planted firmly into the pockets of his sports coat.
It was only after he’d disappeared from her sight that Gwen’s glare softened and she quickly turned to look at Peter.
He’d propped himself up during the short exchange, and was fingering the straps and the flap at the back of the camera absent-mindedly. She noticed his cheek was just starting to swell.
“Now what?” she found herself wondering. What was the proper thing to do in such an occasion? What was she supposed to say? Were they close enough for anything to be said? Did it matter what state of friendship they were in? What if he wanted to be alone? How could she tell? What did she do? What was the correct thing to do?
Peter looked up at her, and she immediately felt her face flush.
Her father would be completely ashamed of her if he saw her now.
“There’s the correct thing to do,” she could almost hear him saying, “And then there’s the right thing to do. It’s your choice to make, Gwen.”
She groaned and put a hand to her face.
Peter raised his eyebrows, wondering what was going on.
“Oh, God, what am I doing?” she said aloud, closing her eyes and shaking her head slowly.
With a sigh, she opened her eyes, hitched her books under her left arm, careful to keep balance, and stretched out her right hand towards him. Peter stared at her palm, although Gwen wasn’t sure whether it was out of confusion, hesitation, or a concussion.
He stretched his fingers in a repetitive motion, curling his hands into fists before opening them again.
He licked his upper lip twice.
Gwen started to suspect a concussion.
“Haven’t got all day, you know,” she said with a nervous chuckle. Her arm was getting tired, and she wasn’t sure if she was properly certified to deal with a concussed teenager. “Are you alright?”
He looked at her again, eyes wide and unblinking, and Gwen felt her nervousness double. Were his pupils dilated? She couldn’t tell with this angle. Flash couldn’t really have concussed him, could he?
“Y—yeah.” Peter said finally, nodding and putting the camera strap around his neck. “I’m fine. Yeah. Thanks. A lot, I mean. For the, uh, for back there.”
Was the lack of coherency in speech indicative of cranial damage, or part of his normal speaking pattern? Gwen forced herself to take a deep breath.
“No worries. Remember our first conversation? I feel like this is whole thing is my—“
To her surprise, Peter interrupted her.
“Don’t. It’s not. It can’t be.” He took her hand somewhat tentatively, and she pulled him to his feet with minimal difficulty.
He had a strong grip, she noticed. And a warm hand. He struggled to maintain his balance at first, nearly falling over twice in his attempts to straighten himself, but he waved off any attempts at further assistance. He was still panting, a little, and Gwen didn’t noticed.
“You don’t know the whole story,” she reminded him, pulling the books from under her arm and placing them against her chest. “I could have shut him down completely. Slapped him in the face, screamed at him, threw things.”
Peter laughed as he dusted his pants off. “Would you have done that?”
“Well, no. Probably not. But still. You never know what sorts of things I could have gotten into.”
Peter laughed again, and the sound made her flinch. She’d never heard him laugh this loudly, before. She hadn’t said anything particularly funny, had she?
Gwen tried to remember if hysteria was on the list of symptoms of head injuries.
“You should see the nurse,” she blurted. “I’m afraid that you might have gotten a concussion.”
“I don’t have a concussion,” he said with a chuckle, which didn’t ease her fears one bit. She tapped her fingers against her binder.
“You don’t know that, though. You should at least get some ice for your cheek, and she could examine your head while you do that. Mrs. Behren is a very nice lady.”
“Let’s just get to class. I’m fine. Really. It’s just a bruise. Bruises, I guess.” Peter poked one of his ribs and winced, releasing a low hiss of pain. “Yeah, definitely bruises.”
“Walk with me to class, then. I need to make sure you don’t fall over.” Gwen turned towards the entrance, but kept her eyes on him. “You can walk, right?”
“I said I’m fine,” He said firmly. “I mean it.”
He took a few wobbly steps toward her as proof.
“See? I’m more worried about my camera, to be honest.”
“Well… Alright. If you’re so sure.” Gwen held the door open for him, and walked next to him as they slowly made their way through the halls. It was silent, at first, and she couldn’t help but feel as though he was more upset than he let on.
He clearly didn’t want to talk about what just happened, though.
“What’s your name?” Gwen asked.
Peter did a double-take, and she fought hard not to laugh.
“You— You don’t know my name? We were, uh, partners for the lab. In Biology? The cat lab? Do you remember it?”
“Oh, I know your name. I’m just wondering if you know your name.” She peered at him. “Well?”
“Still going on with the concussion thing?”
“I am enrolled in a very impressive Health and Anatomy course. I think I have every right to be concerned with a classmate’s possible head injury. They’re quite serious, you know.”
“My name is Peter Parker,” he droned, sounding unbelievably bored, “And I am a student at Midtown Science High School. My student ID number is 7706—“
“Enough!” she exclaimed, trying to sound exasperated despite her giggles. “I get it! You’re not concussed!”
“You sure you don’t want to hear the rest of my ID number? I might get it wrong because of my concussion.”
“I don’t get you, Peter Parker,” Gwen declared, sighing loudly. “I just don’t get you at all.”
His smile dropped. “Is that a bad thing?”
She gave him a reassuring nudge with her elbow; a soft one, in case she hurt him. “Don’t be ridiculous. Although I don’t know if I can call it a good thing, either.”
“… Alright, I’m confused.”
“Good.” She blew a strand of hair away from her face. “I still say you should see the nurse. You could still have cracked ribs. Those are pretty bad, too.”
“I don’t have cracked ribs. I swear.”
“But how would you know?”
“I think I’d know!”
“Have you ever had a cracked rib?”
“So how would you know?”
“There is a very simple and straightforward answer to that question, and I will tell you that answer right now. The answer is— Oh, hey look, it’s our classroom! Maybe we’ll continue this conversation some other time.”
Gwen’s laugh died the moment Peter opened the door; every face in the classroom turned towards the entrance, including Professor Walton’s, and she realized belatedly that the halls had been suspiciously empty.
For the first time in her high school career, Gwen Stacy was tardy for a class. It was technically not a big deal, but she felt herself feel a bit queasy nonetheless.
“I’m sorry, Professor Walton,” Peter said quickly, surprising Gwen and just about everyone else in the biology classroom.
(Parker can talk?)
“I tripped and fell during lunch, and Gwen was escorting me to the nurse. It’s my fault. I’m really sorry.”
She quickly stole a glance at her teacher, who simply shrugged.
“That’s very kind of you, Miss Stacy! Both of you go sit in your seats, now. Next time, try to be more careful, Mr. Parker.”
Gwen murmured a soft “thank you” before scampering to her chair, her face a bright shade of red. Peter followed suit, albeit much more slowly.
“As I was saying, there’s simply no time to waste if we want to properly go through the assigned curriculum on time, and luckily for us we just received the movie we were supposed to watch earlier from Mr. Creed, who took his sweet time with it, thank you very much…”
Gwen tuned him out at this point, knowing that in a few moments he would remember himself, cough, and pretend he’d said nothing at all.
“You’re welcome,” Peter whispered, as the lights dimmed and the projector on the ceiling began playing a movie against the drawn screen at the front of the room.
“I could kick you,” she whispered back, without turning around. “You didn’t have to do that. Why did you do that? I deserve a tardy.”
A cartoon lion began explaining to the “kids” in the audience about the basics of animal classification.
“Oh, please,” She could tell he was grinning, “I had to get you back for helping me out, didn’t I? Partners don’t leave partners hanging.”
Gwen rolled her eyes with a smile, forgetting that he wouldn’t be able to see her face, in the dark, with her back facing him.
The lion began singing about kingdoms and phylums. A group of kittens wearing top hats and tuxedos acted as background dancers.
“Besides,” Peter continued, and Gwen leaned back ever so slightly so that she could hear him, “Don’t think I didn’t see your face when you realized you were late. You looked like he told you that you had to redo the year or something.”
“Ha, ha, ha,” she hissed, turning her head an inch to the left so he could hear her over the music, “Laugh it up all you want, but I have a perfect attendance record. Tardiness is no laughing matter.”
One of the kittens began tap dancing during the instrumental portion of the song. Somewhere on the opposite end of the classroom, someone snored loudly.
“You know what is a laughing matter?” Peter whispered.
He sounded a bit closer.
“You better not say caring about attendance.”
Gwen smiled widely. “Try ‘this entire movie.’ I’m offended that anyone would ever refer to this as a documentary.”
“I think there’s a black market opening up near Morgan’s desk. I smell an illicit Skittles trade.”
“Ooh, really? You’re closer to Morgan, try to get me some of that contraband.”
Peter let out a mock gasp, which went unheard over the crescendo of the song.
“Gwen Stacy of all people! I am appalled that you would support this illegal behavior. And during an educational film, no less!”
“Ssshhh! If I get in trouble because Walton heard me laughing, you’re dead meat!”
Ricky snored again, muttering incomprehensible things under his breath.
“Thanks again, though,” Peter said softly. “I mean it.”
Gwen was almost glad he couldn’t see her, for some reason. She smiled and bit her lip.
“You’re welcome,” she replied. She considered adding on a “It was sort of my fault,” or an “Any time,” but she decided to turn around in her chair and face him fully, instead.
“What actually happened?”
Peter, who had been leaning forward to talk to her, jerked backwards upon seeing her face.
“Huh? What?” he exclaimed, surprised at the sudden proximity.
“Right, sorry,” he whispered. “What?”
“Back there. With Flash. What happened? I saw a guy running off— he almost slapped me, no don’t ask— and he looked terrified. What did Flash do?”
Peter squirmed a little, but otherwise didn’t look too put off by the question. Or at least, as far as Gwen could tell. It was hard to make out his face in the dark.
“He, uh, was pushing the kid around,” Peter finally said. “He told me to take a picture. And I, um, said no. Nothing else really happened.”
She was going to have to talk to Flash later today. Extensively. Dare she risk what awkward neutrality they’d reached? Yes, yes she did dare.
“Well, what you did was very brave,” she said matter-of-factly. “Stupid, of course, but very brave.”
He grinned somewhat self-consciously. “Thanks? I think…”
“You’re welcome. Again.” She smiled. “Just try not to get in trouble again, okay?”
“Me? Get into trouble?” Peter rolled his eyes. “I’d never.”
* * * * * *
Sorry, but this post is going to be somewhat short.
I feel like I got hit by a truck, and the force was great enough for me to fly two hundred feet backward into the path of a steamroller.
In other words, I feel like a steaming hot pile of crap right now.
At the same time, I feel amazing. Out of this world. Truly alive, if you will. Funny how the mind can overcome the horrible things your body feels. Is this what Olympic athletes feel like? Like they just got beaten repeatedly by an over-stimulated eighteen year old boy and then spent an hour watching a movie featuring a cartoon anthropomorphic feline with a PhD in the natural sciences?
“Boy, your metaphors sure are getting weird, lately,” you may say.
“What metaphors?” I would respond. “I speak naught but the truth.”
I can’t remember what I was going to write about. I think it had to do with my complaining again, something about food, maybe?
I don’t know.
Maybe I am suffering from a concussion.
I don’t think I am, though.
Maybe I’m just dizzy. And sleepy. And feeling really, really good.
No, I’m not on drugs. I know at least seven of you are snapping your fingers and going “Darn!” right now because I know you. Creeps.
I guess the problem with having a lot of followers is that it’s hard to make personal posts without people overanalyzing them and finding some way to twist your words into… I dunno. Weird things. Lucky for you, I’m very tolerant of weird internet-folk.
I am definitely delirious right now.
To be honest, I’m just tired. I want to go to sleep and forget my homework completely. Today was an extremely long day, full of physical and emotional ups and downs, and I am four seconds away from just collapsing in front of the computer.
Wait no I remember what I was going to complain about! Anthropomorphic cartoon animals in documentaries about science designed for high school students. What’s the deal with that? And a musical number? I am insulted, honestly. How dare they hold on
And here I was hoping I could type this and go to sleep for a few years
Sorry my uncle wants me to come downstairs and fix something. Apparently the basement’s flooded? I don’t want to know what happened.
I’ll probably end up falling asleep in the living room so
I’ll talk to you guys later, I guess
1) I've never written a fanfic before so please give advice! Especially when it comes to Gwen. I want her to be slightly neurotic, a bit insensitive at times when it comes to the things she says, and to have a mild superiority complex, but ultimately brave and kind and an overall someone who transcends their flaws to be a good person. As for that last one though, it'll have to wait. I hope I can pull it off when the time comes, though?
2) My idea of Peter is more straightforward and obvious, I hope. Awkward and bumbling in public, but loud and funny and really, really sassy when he's comfortable (i.e. when he's another anonymous face on the internet/when he's in costume). It's hard to characterize him when the only times I write his POV is through his blog posts, so hopefully I can/have made it clear when he's feeling comfortable to forget his normal awkwardness?
3) Flash will have a bit of development relating to canon. He won't be a main character, but I want him to be more than just "the bully"
4) This is an AU, ultimately, because it elaborates more on Gwen and Peter's relationship and has the Avengers. Later on, I mean. It'll still follow the main events of the movie, though. I hope that clears things up!