Michelle spotted him for the first time since D.C. on the roof across from her house. It's incredible that she hadn’t noticed it all before -- the way he walked, the way he turned his head and stared at her through the slightly creepy eyes of his mask, his false bravado -- the movements were all so familiar.
She climbed out of her window carefully, watching for the exposed nails on the roof of their porch. A punctured foot would mean a trip to the hospital and a tetanus shot, and she had other things on her mind at the moment. Other things meaning other people: specifically, one Peter Parker. She dropped off the edge of the roof with as much stealth as she could muster. The sounds of NPR filtered out the open window of the kitchen, along with the clattering of pots and pans.
She quickly looked both ways before jogging across the street and climbing the fire escape on the side of the building. She stepped onto the roof and he turned around as she closed the distance between them.
She watched his every move carefully, considering. He seemed to be doing the same, his head cocked to one side.
“Why were you watching me?” Michelle asked, hands tucked into the front pockets of her black jeans.
“I’m not a stalker, if that’s what you mean,” he chuckled, rolling his shoulders under the uncomfortable constraint of the suit.
His voice was slightly deeper than normal, but she couldn’t tell if it was because of the suit or whether he was still trying to hide his identity. Too late, Michelle thought to herself.
“I could see you through my bedroom window, so you can’t tell me you couldn’t see me,” Michelle countered.
He stood with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. She couldn’t tell if he was amused or if he was trying to come up with some clever deflection.
He scratched the back of his neck, nervously.
“Okay,” he finally admitted. “I was watching you, but it’s not what you think, seriously. I’m a superhero, not some kind of creeper.” He laughed again, this time more naturally.
Michelle assumed he was more relaxed now due to the familiarity of their interaction. She wasn’t afraid to admit that she used to harass him purposefully in school, just to see him get flustered. It was kinda cute, so sue her.
“You don’t have to pretend like you don’t know me, Peter.”
The eyes of his mask flew open wide, almost comically, before he ripped it away. Peter’s hair stood on end -- haphazard curls sticking out every which way.
Michelle couldn’t help but press a hand to her mouth to stifle her amusement.
“MJ!” he protested. “How did you-- why didn’t you say anything before?”
“Honestly, I didn’t really figure it out, until just now,” Michelle admitted, pushing her wind-blown curls out of her face with one hand.
Peter gaped at her. “Dude. What if it hadn’t have been me? What if Spider-Man really was some kind of stalker? What would you have done then?”
Michelle rolled her eyes. “I know jiu jitsu and I take self defense classes every Thursday night. I don’t need you to protect me, Parker, even if you are a superhero.”
“Michelle,” Peter sighed, ruffling his hair with one hand. “Just because you can take care of yourself doesn’t mean that I don’t want -- no,” he corrected himself, “that I don’t need -- to protect you. I mean, let me at least try.” He bowed his head, fiddling with the mask in his hands.
“Huh?” Peter lifted his head slightly, dropping his hands to his side, the red mask crumpled into one fist.
Her eyebrows furrowed. “Why-- why do you feel the need to protect me? What about Ned or May? Why aren't you watching over them instead?”
Michelle crossed her arms over her chest, watching Peter intently.
Peter shifted his feet, nervously, barely able to meet her eyes. “I just-- I care about you, okay? And don't you dare say that I care about Ned and Aunt May, too. It's just not the same.”
“Why?” she asked curiously.
“They're a given. I've known May my whole life. She might get a traffic ticket every once in awhile, but besides that she's predictable. Ned--” he continued, “well, Ned and I have been best friends since first grade! He’s either at home, school, or at my house building Lego sets with me, talking about girls that are out of our leagues.” Peter laughed lightly, avoiding her gaze.
Was he laughing at himself? she wondered. He didn't need to be embarrassed. After all, Michelle knew he had the tendency to like girls that were way out of his league -- he once had a crush on Liz Allan, for god’s sake! Not to mention that Peter was completely obvious and easy to read.
Frankly, she didn't know how he had kept the Spider-Man thing a secret from her all this time.
“You're a wild card,” Peter continued. “I never know what you're going to do, or how you’re going to act in any given situation. I mean -- I just can’t figure you out, but that doesn't matter, ‘cause you’re still my friend and, and I love you, alright? So… can you please stop giving me a hard time about it?”
Peter turned around quickly, wiping at his face.
Was he crying? Maybe his nose was itching and he didn't want to scratch it in front of her. That's stupid, Michelle. It's not like he was picking his nose.
The rocks on the rooftop crunched underneath her feet as she stepped closer. Michelle felt awkward all of a sudden.
Should she touch him? Maybe try to comfort him…? Man, why am I so shitty at this?
Michelle placed her hand on his shoulder gently. “Hey, uh-- Peter? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, of course!” Peter said brightly, turning back to face her. His face didn’t look red, so maybe he hadn’t been crying.
Michelle dropped her hand from his shoulder. Stupid. He's fine. Now he probably thinks you're the same as all those moony girls at school fawning over all the supposed popular boys.
“So, uh-- do you wanna see something cool?” Peter offered.
His brown eyes were dark and intent on her face, and Michelle felt a blush rise to her cheeks, hoping Peter couldn't see it in the shadows.
Stop it, Michelle! He just asked you if you wanted to see something. He isn't asking you to marry him or anything.
“Sure, why not?” Michelle shrugged one shoulder.
“Awesome!” Peter rubbed his hands together. “Um, okay-- bear with me. I've never really used my tricks on anyone - except for bad guys. I’d usually let them dangle from a web upside down, but I won’t do that to you. This is a little different.”
Michelle made a face, but stood quietly and watched as he made a plan, a cute frown creasing his forehead.
Peter eyed her sheer, flimsy shirt skeptically before reaching for his backpack hidden in the shadows -- she recognized it as the one he carried every day to school.
Had he been keeping that suit in his backpack this whole time? How had she not noticed it before?
Digging around inside, he pulled out a somewhat wrinkled blue sweater, and tossed it to her.
Michelle stared down at it curiously. “What's this for?”
“So you don't freeze, Einstein. It can get pretty chilly when you're flying through the night air.”
Michelle glared at him, and he chuckled.
“I know that higher altitudes get colder, Peter, but why don't I just pick up something from my house?” Michelle gestured to her house across the street, her bedroom softly lit by a desk lamp.
“I just figured that this was faster,” Peter shrugged, grinning. “Do you have a problem with my clothes? Aunt May washes them with detergent and everything.”
Michelle rolled her eyes but accepted defeat, pulling the sweater on over her head. It fit rather snugly (and it smelled nice, too). Peter smirked, and she gave him the finger in response, which made him laugh. What a couple of dorks, she thought.
She watched him, suddenly uncertain, as he pulled on his mask and Peter Parker -- her best friend and lab partner -- turned into the superhero Spider-Man.
“Is this safe?” she asked, annoyed at the fear in her voice. She wasn't afraid. Well, not really.
“Of course,” Peter's voice became muffled once more.
He offered his hand and she looked at it for a moment - multiple emotions flowing through her - excitement, fear, curiosity.
“Do you trust me?” Peter asked. Michelle felt weirdly vulnerable when she couldn't see his eyes, but yes, she thought, she did trust him. He was one of her best, if only, friends. Ned didn't really count - since he only spent time with her because of Peter.
Michelle grasped his hand tightly in hers, blowing out a nervous breath at the touch of Peter's hand to her waist.
“You might want to hold on,” Peter teased.
“No shit, Sherlock,” Michelle muttered, but she wrapped her arms tightly around his shoulders.
He stepped up onto the roof ledge and Michelle had no choice but to follow. I wonder if it's too late to back out now.
Michelle shrieked at the top of her lungs at the first drop, while they swung from building-to-building down a side street. Her fingers dug into his shoulders as she gripped him even tighter. She briefly worried she might leave bruises, but the concern was quickly lost in the excitement of the moment.
Michelle giggled with delight, her hair whipping in her face. She could hardly see, but she felt free and full of adrenaline. She felt like she could take on the world!
No wonder Peter enjoyed this.
A dog barked somewhere off to their right and the sound of something hitting a chain link fence echoed nearby, the dog, she assumed. Everything was a blur as they continued to fly down the street, and she squeezed her eyes tightly shut.
After a bit, her fear and adrenaline had settled out, and Michelle opened her eyes again. Still, it was hard to see much in the darkness, except for the outlines and circles of light cast by the streetlights.
A park was lit up and they passed a basketball game in progress. She waved at a few people who stopped to stare in astonishment, the basketball rolling off to the side.
She laughed at the sight. Peter squeezed her ribs slightly and she knew that he had found it pretty funny too.
They reached the Queensboro bridge, and Peter dropped them down to the side of the first tier, onto a walkway of sorts for pedestrians and bicyclists. They stood there silently for a few moments, the orange lights reflecting off the choppy waters below.
Peter looked around quickly, and deciding that it was safe, pulled off his mask. Michelle grabbed it from his hand and pushed it into her back pocket for safekeeping.
“Thanks,” Peter smiled, softly.
“Are you sure it's safe to do that? You don't have any enemies after you, or anything?”
“Not anymore,” Peter shrugged. “Adrian Toomes is in Federal lockup, so he’s not going anywhere. Plus, all the cameras around here are pointed toward the cars on the road or the sidewalk. There aren't any pointed at this area of the bridge. Karen already checked.”
“Karen?” Michelle said, frowning. “Who’s Karen?” And why had she never heard about this Karen?
“Oh, yeah, sorry,” Peter said sheepishly. “Karen’s my AI. She was programmed into my suit to help me out. Karen says hi!”
Peter blushed suddenly and Michelle suspected that the AI had said more than just “hi.”
“Um. Hello.” Michelle felt ridiculous talking to Peter’s suit, especially since she couldn’t hear what “Karen” was saying.
Peter propped his arms against the railing and Michelle stepped closer, knocking her shoulder into his as she settled in next to him.
“So, did you know that this bridge was built in...”
“1909?” Michelle supplied.
“Okay, Miss Smarty-Pants, who was the architect of Queensboro bridge, then?” Peter asked, eyebrow arched in irritation.
“Henry Hornbostel,” Michelle answered immediately.
“But who designed it?” Peter crossed his arms defensively.
“Gustav Lindenthal; he was also the civil engineer on the Hell Gate Bridge, also known as the East River Arch Bridge.” Michelle leveled her gaze, waiting for Peter to ask her another question.
After he didn't say anything for a few moments, she tucked a curl behind her ear, and quirked an eyebrow. “You should know better than to try and quiz the captain of the Decathlon Team.”
Peter dropped his arms back against the railing, laughing softly, before clasping his hands in front of him. “I guess not, especially one as smart as you.”
Peter definitely wasn't going to tell her that he had been trying to impress her and had failed miserably.
The night was strangely quiet, except for the rush of the cars driving by on the asphalt behind them and the lapping of the river water against the concrete pilings.
“So you're saying you never wanted to be a socialite when you were younger? Like - you never put on your mother’s pearls and pranced around in her shoes?”
“Nope, and to set the record straight, I have never pranced in my life, either,” Michelle sniffed.
Peter watched her carefully, a smirk forming on his face. “I don’t doubt that.”
Michelle punched his arm swiftly.
“Hey! You said it, not me!” Peter rubbed his bruised arm briskly. “Jeez, you weren't kidding about those self defense classes!”
“Told ya,” Michelle shrugged. She stared out toward the skyline and the curve of the coast. If there were any stars out, they were obscured by clouds, or the light pollution from the city.
Peter was staring at her. He opened his mouth to ask another question, but immediately snapped it closed when she shot him an exasperated look.
“Sorry,” Peter mouthed, silently.
Michelle didn't say anything for a moment, then she tucked her arm into the crook of his, looped her fingers together and placed her head against his shoulder.
This was entirely new territory for both of them. Peter had barely held hands with Liz, and as far as he knew, MJ hadn't dated anyone.
Peter swallowed hard, telling himself to relax. He watched the movement of the waves below for a moment before carefully leaning his head against hers. His stomach felt like it was doing somersaults.
“So, um, do you make that webbing that you shoot out of those canisters on your wrists?” Michelle asked, smoothing a finger along the cool metal of the web-shooters.
“Oh - yeah,” he said, lighting up. “I came up with the design myself actually, one day at home, after I got my powers. The webbing is extremely durable, and can support up to 20,000 pounds. Pretty cool, huh?” Peter bragged, slightly.
“Hm. Pretty cool,” Michelle intoned, releasing her hold on Peter's arm.
“Hold up.” Peter gestured with his hands, web shooters on full display. “Here I am, trying to impress you, and you act like it’s nothing.”
“Trying to impress me, huh?” Michelle drawled.
“Hmm, oh, I mean--” Peter grimaced, dropping his head to rest on his arms and Michelle couldn't help but laugh.
“Peter! You should see your face!” Michelle pointed, laughing at him.
He could feel his cheeks burning, and started blowing at a curl that continuously rested on his forehead.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest. This had the effect of emphasizing his buff arms and chest, which in turn caused Michelle to blush and turn away.
How has he been hiding those muscles?
I’m glad he didn't notice me staring! How embarrassing.
Michelle finally turned back to him to look at him, only to notice that he was watching her.
“What?” she asked, looking down the front of her shirt. Was there something on there?
Peter cleared his throat suddenly, causing her to jerk her head up. “It's just uh-- you uh-- look really beautiful tonight,” Peter stuttered out.
“Oh. Uh....” Michelle tried to think of something quickly, but everything that came to mind sounded really stupid. “So, um, was that why you were staring into my bedroom earlier tonight?”
“Staring?” he countered. “I wasn't staring! I already told you, I’m not the stalker Spider-Man.” Peter dropped his arms, hands facing outwards. “Um. Not that there’s any other Spider-Man,” Peter muttered, to himself.
“Relax, Parker! I was just joking, yeesh!” Michelle insisted.
Wow, his palms were wide, Michelle thought. I wonder what he can do with those.
Get your mind out of the gutter, Jones!
Peter turned around, retreating a bit farther down the walkway, before coming to a stop at one of the bridge’s steel girders.
Michelle followed slowly, staring as he crossed his arms once more and relaxed -- as much as one could relax, that was -- against a cool, metal support.
“Listen, I’m sorry.” Michelle placed her hand on his arm where it rested against his chest. “I didn't mean to embarrass you. You know me, willing to poke fun at anyone, to take the focus off of me.”
“Nah - that's... not what I’m embarrassed about,” Peter sighed, unfolding his arms once more as he dropped his head back to rest against the dark rust-colored steel. “It's just… I can't ever seem to tell a girl I like her, without sticking my foot in my mouth.”
“That's not true! I heard you were pretty smooth when you asked Liz to homecoming. Well - even though you were holding that humongous bathroom key Mr. Harrington makes his students carry around.”
Peter stared at her in disbelief.
“What?” she said. “Girls gossip in the locker room, too. I’m not above listening in on conversations that aren't mine,” she added defensively.
Peter shook his head. “Don't get me wrong… I liked Liz, probably even idolized her. But I didn't know her like I know you,” Peter admitted, lips curved up on one side.
What I wouldn't let this boy, no-- man do to me, Michelle thought, her eyes suddenly focusing on the soft curve of his lip, that slash through one eyebrow which gave him a constant quizzical look -- the strength of his arms and his broad shoulders...
God help her.
“Take me to the stars,” sounded cheesy she knew, but she whispered it anyway, watching his eyes flicker at the realization of what she was asking him to do.
Peter gazed at her a moment longer, before he found the courage to step even closer.
You can do this, Parker! She wants this, or she wouldn't have asked.
Peter blew out a breath as the butterflies in his stomach turned to frantic, busy hummingbirds. His hands shook as he lifted them to touch her. He steadied them against the smooth skin of her neck.
Michelle felt nervous all of a sudden, and she had to tell herself to calm down. This is just Peter, your best friend, you can do this.
Peter's dark eyes searched hers and she tried to smile encouragingly, hoping it didn't look like a grimace. Why was she so bad at this?
The first touch of their lips was a bit awkward. Their noses smashed together, and their lips barely connected, before they both pulled back in embarrassment.
“Um, huh--” Peter commented, stumped. “What if I…?“
His hand slid slowly up her neck until it reached her cheek, his thumb caressing the corner of her mouth, before he tilted her head and brought their lips together again. This time they made contact that lasted.
The feel of the suit under her fingers was foreign and strange, but the warmth underneath was familiar and hers. She gripped his shoulders tightly as his lips continued to brush hers in a steady motion.
Finally, finally his mouth opened to hers, and she felt a rush of adrenaline flood through her veins. His tongue touched hers softly, and she moaned, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as his arms came around her waist, supporting her when her knees threatened to buckle.
She pulled back, gasping, and watched as his eyes opened slowly, deep and unfathomable in the sparse light of the slow-rising moon. They stared at one another for a moment, dark eyes meeting dark eyes, before they leaned back in.
Peter shoved his hand into her dark mass of hair, the braid coming loose suddenly, as her hair tie was lost somewhere in the tangle. His other hand grasped her hip, and Michelle wouldn't have been surprised if it sunk lower. She really didn't care what he did, as long as he kept kissing her like that.
Cars honked at them as they passed by but neither noticed, nor cared. The wind blew around them, lifting their curls and whipping at Michelle's clothes, but they didn't notice that either.
Their mouths opened again almost simultaneously and Michelle felt like she was going to combust. Why had she agreed to wear his stupid sweater again?
Her hands traveled up his back and she pressed into him, not knowing and not caring where this was going. She only wanted to get as close to him as possible, feel his body against hers, touching him, kissing him, loving him.
Why had they waited so long to do this?
Heat pooled low in her stomach and she wanted to cry at all the feelings that were coursing through her. She had to break away; she couldn't take it anymore.
“Show off!” Michelle mumbled, shoving at Peter’s shoulders, and making him step back several paces.
Peter wanted to kiss her again, just to see that look of utter bewilderment appear on her face again.
He also suddenly felt horribly and embarrassingly exposed. Shit, did she know what she did to him?
“So… You wanted to be an astronaut, not a socialite, after all,” Peter wondered aloud. “I think you would be a very cute astronaut.”
“Just shut up.” Michelle drew him back in, forgetting the lateness of the hour and focusing all of her attention on the meeting of his lips and hers.
Their feet impacted the roof of the building powerfully and Peter shot her a look of chagrin. Or at least she thought he did. It was hard to tell with the mask on.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “I’m not used to landing with another person attached to the web.”
“It's okay,” Michelle stood awkwardly next to him, after he had released the grip on her shoulders.
“Well,” Michelle blushed, clasping her hands behind her back. “I, uh -- should probably go. I don't want my parents to realize I was gone.”
Peter watched as she crossed the rooftop, “Wait!” he called out. He grasped her hand quickly, and wrapping his other arm around her waist, he kissed her cheek, softly, with the mask still on.
Michelle lifted a hand to his face again and kissed his cheek softly as well. The suit felt just as weird under her lips as it had under her hands, but she didn't mind it. Actually, she felt like she could get used to it.
Peter released her hand, letting her go.
“So, I’ll see you on Monday,” he blurted out, bent over the side of the building, watching as Michelle climbed down the fire escape.
“Okay, see ya Monday!” She waved quickly, before dashing across the road, and shimmying up and through her bedroom window.
Peter had offered to swing her over, but she was worried that her parents would hear and find them together.
Peter wasn't too worried about that: parents loved him.
Well, OK -- maybe not Liz’s dad, but that guy was off his rocker. That was a different story. Peter shrugged off that thought.
Really, he couldn't believe his luck. The most unbelievable girl, that he had a crush on, had actually wanted him to kiss her.
And they had kissed, and kept on kissing, until the moon had been at its peak.
He would probably be in big trouble whenever he got home; curfew was usually ten o’clock, eleven on weekends.
But perhaps Aunt May would look on him more kindly if he told her about the incredible girl he had been with. He hadn't been in any mortal danger, except from Michelle's fists, and eventually, she had given up on that, too, attempting to kiss him into submission instead.
No danger at all.
His blood pressure started to rise just thinking about the way she had touched him, and kissed him.
Nope, none of that. Focus, Peter, you don't want to end up in a dumpster like last week. It took forever to wash out that stench.
Michelle watched as Peter shot off across the street, before heading deeper into Queens and toward his apartment.
A few days later, Peter sat in the cafeteria, an untouched lunch tray sitting in front of him.
After telling Ned about what had happened between him and MJ on Friday night, he leaned forward onto his elbow, staring earnestly into Ned’s face.
“So, do you think that counts as a date?”
Ned pursed his lips for a minute, fingers fiddling with the zipper on his hoodie. “Definitely a date,” he said, clapping his hand on Peter’s back.
With a smirk, Ned unscrewed the lid to his water bottle and offered it to Peter. The kid looked like he needed it, or maybe a cold shower.
When Michelle arrived, her satchel slung over her shoulder, wearing a ‘not here to make friends’ enamel pin on her denim jacket, she was surprised to see the huge grin on Peter’s face, Ned mirroring him.
“What happened?” she asked, dropping her latest novel on the table with an audible thump. “Did you losers get advanced tickets to The Last Jedi or something?”
“Or something,” Ned teased, waggling his eyebrows in her direction.
Peter sighed, his head propped on his fist, dark eyes locked onto some far off place in the distance, “We went on a date…”
Michelle rolled her eyes as she tucked her long legs under the cafeteria table. “Duh, it damn well wasn't a trip through the daisies.”
“Dude, you gotta ask her out again!” Ned blurted out, elbowing Peter in the ribs.
“Who says I would go back out with him?” Michelle deadpanned.
Peter stared, mouth agape, eyes blinking rapidly. Michelle couldn't help but think how ridiculous he would look if he had his mask on at this moment. What a dork, she thought, but he's my dork.
“Just kidding,” Michelle snorted at the look on Peter's face, “You aren't a bad date, Parker, and certainly not the worst kisser on the planet.”
Peter groaned, and Michelle helpfully pulled the lunch tray out of the way as he dropped his head down on his arms again, “Ugh.”