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Sex, Lies and Arguing About Chores

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Peter Parker is lying in bed with his eyes closed waiting for his alarm to sound so he can hit snooze and ignore it. This has become a ritual. Every day he wakes up before his alarm goes off and hits snooze until the very last possible minute, trying to delay the inevitable moment when he has to get up and go to work, where he can be both yelled at and bored.

His dreams were full of things and people he can't quite remember and which fade faster the more he tries to grasp at them. He is left nothing but an impression of a man whose face is blank but also familiar.

He sighs as the dream slips away and drapes an arm over his eyes to try and block out the sunlight as it streams through the large window and falls in stripes across his face. He generally likes summer but apparently the weather is now conspiring to get him out of bed, which he is not ok with. After a few minutes of trying to ignore it he groans and rises reluctantly from the sheets to shuffle off to the bathroom, naked and zombie-like.

In the bathroom he takes a piss then stares at himself in the mirror as he washes his hands. He looks tired. Burning the candle at both ends is starting to take its toll. He's only 23 but he thinks he looks older, there are mauve shadows under his brown eyes and his skin looks sallow, like he doesn't see enough sun. His dark hair sticks up in random directions; he would try and fix it but it never makes a difference. It has a mind of its own. He runs a hand over his chin and decides that he can go without shaving today. Leaning across the small tiled floor he turns on the shower over the bath. If he tries hard enough he can touch all the walls at once in this room.

The shower is warm and he lingers too long, letting the water soak away some of his tension at the thought of work and his boss and the fact that he is broke and alone and has no life. Well in fact he has two lives but that is part of the problem.

He gets out of the shower and grabs a towel to scrub his hair dry as he wonders back into the bedroom. On the floor is the discarded evidence of one of his lives. His red and blue Spiderman suit lies at the foot of the bed where he dropped it as he stripped off and fell into bed at 3am that morning. The clock on his phone lights up as the snoozed alarm goes off again, 07:45, he has fifteen minutes to get dressed, eat and get to work. He's going to be late again.

He dresses quickly, pulling on yesterday's jeans and a clean, long sleeved t-shirt. He shoves the mask, Spider-suit and his wallet into his backpack, puts on his sneakers and goes into the kitchen.

He stares despondently at the contents of the fridge, which only tells him what he already suspected; that no food has miraculously appeared over-night and he still has nothing but stale bread, mustard and dubious milk. He needs to find time and money to go shopping again. He gives up on the idea of breakfast for the third day running, grabs his keys and skateboard and hurries out of the front door, only going back once to collect the phone that he left on the nightstand.

He grabs his mail in the lobby as he passes and shoves it in his back pocket, drops the board on the sun-drenched sidewalk and weaves his way with practiced ease through the morning pedestrian traffic.

***

When he arrives at the towering glass offices of The Daily Bugle Peter picks up his board and walks as fast as he can without running across the lobby, jumps in an empty lift and pushes the button for his floor.

He stifles a yawn as the door opens onto the busy news room where his colleagues are already busy constructing their reader’s opinions for the next day. He walks past his editor’s office casually, as if he's not 30 minutes late and makes it unscathed to one of the tiny cubicles that are laughingly referred to, in a fit of corporate pseudo-egalitarianism, as offices. He sits down and turns on his computer and is straight away lost in a pile of tedious emails. He doesn't notice the looming figure of J Jonah Jameson approaching until it's too late to escape.

"Parker!"

He jumps and spins in his chair, "Sir?"

"What have you got for me kid? I need some more pictures of that Spider-menace!"

Like everything Jameson says, the words are uttered at a volume more appropriate for leading a rally.

Peter takes a thumb drive from his pocket and holds it up.

"Got them here sir."

He might technically be a (very) junior photo-journalist / glorified re-toucher at the Bugle but the real reason Jameson keeps him on is because of his unique access to his 'friend' Spiderman and his ability to provide images to feed Jameson's almost alarming obsession with proving Spiderman to be the villain he, and by extension a large proportion of his readership, firmly believes him to be. So he takes selfies for a living. Nothing about his life makes sense.

Jameson looks at him narrowly and sniffs. "Ok kid, find me a good image to go with the front page story. Something that says 'out-of-control-vigilante.'"

Peter nods and Jameson disappears to spread fear and confusion to other areas of the building.

Peter didn't mention that he has no idea what the front page story is. He turns back to his computer and looks for the files that his colleagues are working on. The front page is almost entirely taken up with a giant banner headline proclaiming - 'Killer Spiderman! The Proof!'

Peter's eyes widen. What the hell? He's pretty sure he hasn't killed anyone - he thinks he'd remember - although he was pretty tired last night and he'd definitely had faintly murderous thoughts about the dude in front of him at the late night fast food place who refused to make up his mind. Pretty sure he didn't actually kill him though.

As he reads down the copy he feels himself start to break out in a cold sweat. The story has several reliable sounding eye-witness reports of a man wearing a red suit, whom each witness identifies as Spiderman, killing a man who was apparently threatening a woman in the street in Manhattan last night. According to the witnesses the killer was heavily armed and killed the man with a 'Samurai sword'. Peter wracks his brains to think who it could be or why someone would want to frame him for the murder of some street thug. The description doesn't really fit any other superheroes or villains he knows of and he can't think why anyone would want to frame him this week. He hasn't really been involved in much besides rounding up petty criminals and sleeping at his desk recently. He has no idea what to do. If he agrees to give Jameson a picture of himself to use then the city is suddenly going to think it has proof that Spiderman is a killer, which is going to make his work almost impossible, but if he refuses he will probably lose his job. Shit.

In another file he finds a couple of images supplied by the eyewitnesses. They're all blurry, out of focus camera phone pictures taken from a distance but they show a tall, broad man in a red and black suit and mask, which, Peter thinks with a sniff, doesn't look anything like his. The man appears to be holding the unfortunate mugger aloft, speared on the end of two Katanas like a shish kabob. There also appears to be a lot of blood. Perhaps he could convince Jameson to use that image instead? Feed him some BS about it being more immediate and edgy than one of his images, which after all don't show the attack itself. That way, even if a few idiots do think it's Spiderman, hopefully most will realise it's not, even with the screeching headline.

He emails the image and his suggestion to Jameson and tries to get back to work on some other pictures but his concentration is shot. Who the hell is the man in red? Is he intentionally trying to frame him for the murder or is it just a coincidence?

 

After an hour he realises he has done nothing but stare through his screen, lost in his worries. He sighs and gets up in search of coffee.

 

***

As he leans against the counter in the small office kitchen, drinking stewed coffee, he remembers the mail he picked up on his way out. He pulls the letters out of his back pocket and thumbs through them. Bills, invitations to acquire more debt, flyers, other assorted junk mail and a letter from his landlord. He looks at the last one with a sense of impending doom and opens it slowly. It’s not exactly what he feared, he’s not being evicted; he has no real reason to think he would be but for some reason every time he gets a letter from his landlord he expects the worst. It is however the second worst option – his rent is going up.

Peter stares at the new monthly figure and his heart sinks. There is no way he can afford it on his paltry salary. He would get another job but with his meagre qualifications he’s never going to get a better paid job - unless he’s lucky enough to find another newspaper editor equally obsessed with Spiderman - and his responsibilities as Spiderman mean he has no time to do anything else.

More than anything he wants to go back to college. He had dropped out when his aunt got sick, he was all she had and that was his fault. While he cared for her he started selling selfies on the side to help make ends meet. When she died, Jameson, despite being the asshole he so often is, gave him the job he has now mostly out of pity and as a way to keep him from selling the Spiderman pictures to his rivals. Now he finds himself completely stuck. They'd had to sell his aunt’s house to pay her medical bills, both of them moving into the apartment he still lives in now until in the end she had gone into Hospital. She had managed to leave him some money and he has used that to keep a roof over his head and food in his stomach for the last two years but it has all but run out now. He’s living pay check to pay check and he can’t see any way to get out.

He walks slowly back to his desk feeling utterly dejected and kind of wanting to cry. He sits and drinks his coffee and tries to think of a solution.

The only thing he can think of, something he’s been vaguely toying with for a while, is the possibility of getting a room-mate. He doesn’t really have any close friends that he could share with, he lost contact with a lot of people while he was caring for his aunt. Mary-Jane moved away to LA and, although he speaks to her now and again, she has her own life and friends and career. He still occasionally sees Harry and Flash but Harry is too rich to need to slum it with a roommate and he's pretty sure if he had to live with Flash he'd end up killing him inside of a week. The only other friend he'd had was Gwen....

Some of his colleagues at the Bugle are nice but he’s not really 'friends' with any of them. Being Spiderman makes it difficult to make new friends and it would definitely make it difficult to have a room-mate. Which is what has been putting him off – he can’t risk someone finding out who he is. He can't do what he does effectively if everyone knows who he is, half the criminals in the city want him dead and they wouldn't hesitate to go through the people he cares for to get to him, not to mention the fact that much of the other half the of city, the ones who agree with Jameson, want Spiderman behind bars. Being alone is just another part of the responsibility he has chosen to take on.

He shakes his head, mentally scolding himself for being a massive emo douche. Being alone might suit the 'tortured hero' thing but it doesn't suit the 'broke twenty-something who doesn't want to end up on the streets' thing so he's gonna have to suck it up, find someone to share with, and hope for the best.

He has no real idea how to even go about looking for a roommate. He googles for a bit and decides to put an ad on Craigslist because a) it's free, b) it seems fairly popular and c) it's free.

Room To Rent - Queens, NY...

He begins writing his ad, filling it with as many subtle 'not a psycho' indications as he can think of while trying to be clear but polite about not wanting any losers, junkies, dealers, murderers or loud obnoxious assholes in return. When he feels it is suitably fool-proof he adds his secondary email address, clicks 'it is not ok to contact the poster with other goods or services' and posts the ad.

***

The rest of the day is spent Photoshopping, drinking shit coffee, chatting, eating the stale donuts left in the kitchen with a sign saying 'help yourself', compulsively checking his email and arguing with and eventually convincing Jameson over his idea for the front cover image. This victory does a lot to alleviate his worries about the problems of his alter ego but the lack of emails doesn't do much to help with Peter Parker's problem.

How come there haven't been any answers yet? How long does it usually take to get replies? Was there something wrong with the ad? Has he accidentally hinted at being an axe murderer?

***

By the time he feels he can reasonably get away with leaving for the day he is mentally exhausted and really not in the mood for patrolling. He drags himself out of the office with a vague wave to his colleagues and heads back home, dodging through the sweaty and heat-angered crowds again.

He stops at a bodega near his apartment and stands staring at the colourful packets and cans of food he can't really afford. He grabs some ramen noodles and pays for them before he can convince himself to spend money he can't spare on more food. The elderly woman behind the counter smiles and greets him by name; he's been coming in here for a long time and she had been friends with his aunt.

"How is that nice girlfriend of yours?" She asks in her heavily accented English. Peter smiles faintly.

"She's fine."

He doesn't have the heart to tell her that Gwen is gone too. That is his fault but he can't begin to explain.

These last few years have been really, really bad.

"You should marry her, no good to be all alone." She says adamantly. Peter smiles and nods. She's right, it is no good.

As he walks the short distance back to his apartment the sun might be bright, no sign of evening shadows yet, but he is surrounded by ghosts.

***

He eats the Ramen sitting on the comfortable old burgundy couch that had graced the living room of his aunt and uncle's house when he was a kid. When he and his aunt moved he had brought as much of her furniture as would fit in this smaller place. The couch, a battered leather armchair that had been his uncles, his bed, his aunts bed, a couple of old chests and dressers and an old wooden dining table and chairs because, by some miracle, this place has room for one in the kitchen. He doesn't remember the last time he sat at it to eat.

Now he is sitting with his socked feet up on the cheap IKEA coffee table and watching the news on his old giant CRT TV through the steam that curls from the bowl of noodles he balances on his chest. There's a bit more coverage of the mystery red-suit guy from Jameson's pictures - the other news agencies are being slightly more reticent about declaring Spiderman the culprit but they all make thinly-veiled references to the resemblance. Like it's somehow his fault that this guy dresses like him. He can't help it if the guy has excellent taste. He sighs. He definitely needs to find this guy though. He really can't have some maniac who looks like him going about skewering people in broad daylight - or in any light really.

He finishes the noodles and puts the bowl on the table. He scrubs his hands over his face, trying to summon the energy to go out again. He knows he has to do it. This is his real job and most days he enjoys it. But there are also days when he'd kill to not have to go out there alone and look for trouble. To have one morning when he doesn't wake up exhausted, covered with fading bruises and half-healed wounds.

Ah well.

He gets up and goes to change.