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When Is It Okay to Give Up on Someone?

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  It had been too long since Peter Parker had slept in an actual bed. Between work and relationships and webslinging, the best he could usually hope for was an hour-long power nap on a rooftop. But for once, with some meddling from May, he’d found himself in his cosy little apartment, on a mattress, with a blanket and pillows and it was glorious. He had really needed a good-night’s sleep, and he was sure his poor muscles would thank him for it in the morning. He sighed happily as he nestled into his blankets, sleep starting to take him as his long day drew to a close.

  In hindsight, maybe he could have gone just a little longer curling up on rooftops.

When he awoke, the first part of him to function again was his spidey-sense, and it frantically shook the rest of his mind awake, yelling ‘Something’s not right! Wake the fuck up!’ So Peter did. And it didn’t take him long to figure out what it was so riled up about.

  It took Peter roughly 3 seconds to pin-point everything wrong with his surroundings before he even opened his eyes. One – the smell. Peter’s apartment has a very particular smell too it, an odd but charming mix of his metal gadgets, old books, Indian spices, his web fluid, and something that could only be described as ‘Pure Peter Parker’. He did not smell any of those things now. Instead the room he was in smelled clinical, with harsh chemicals and stainless steel. It was like a hospital, or a laboratory. And he could easily guess which was more likely. Two – his bed. Or more accurately, the lack thereof. He’d fallen asleep with his head buried in a pillow, clutching a quilt to his chest, on a worn but still comfortable mattress. He had none of those things now. In fact, he’d probably have been more comfortable if he had decided to spend the night on top of F.E.A.S.T. His back was lying on a hard and completely flat surface, making his back ache already. This surface was not designed for comfort, which meant it had instead been designed for function. And it wasn’t difficult to guess that function given the final thing he noticed. Three – his mobility. He couldn’t move. He could feel straps at his wrists and ankles, one across his neck, and likely one over his torso that he couldn’t feel digging in just yet. Only one conclusion could be drawn – he’d been kidnapped. Again. This was what he got for choosing the webslinging life, and in his defence, it was more like it chose him… He’d already started placing bets. Fisk? Vulture? Scorpion? God forbid – Felicia? If Felicia had discovered his identity, he could never rest easy again… Already preparing quips for all eventualities, he opened his eyes…

  And found himself totally speechless.

Because it wasn’t a great nemesis or evil mastermind standing before him. Instead, standing at the side of the table he’d been strapped to, was Dr Otto Octavius. Peter Parker’s stressed out employer, looking uncertain and almost… guilty? The witty remark about taking innocent boys in their sleep died on his tongue as he looked up into the eyes of his scientific partner and hero, and instead all that came out was “…Doc?”

  Otto’s eyes snapped to Peter when he spoke, and the uncertainty on his face vanished, replaced by

steely determination. “Parker, good of you to join the world of the living… I was afraid you weren’t going to awake, given the… uh… unconventional circumstances of this particular meeting…”

Peter looked at Dr Octavius best he could, given his position, then glanced around the room curiously. “Are we… we’re at the lab? Why am I tied down? Doc, what’s going on? You know you could have just called and I would have come, there’s no need for all…”

  He was cut off mid-ramble as the doctor flapped a hand about dismissively. “Yes, yes, I know, this is likely a bit overkill, but I was just worried you wouldn’t come once I told you why I needed you.”

The doctor had taken to pacing the table, and Peter’s eyes followed his movements, nerves building. He was silently praying. Please let this be totally unrelated, please don’t let this have anything to do with-

  “Spider-Man,” continued Otto, stopping in his tracks and looking down at Peter’s form. “I need you to tell me about Spider-Man.”

It took all of Peter’s restraint not to groan aloud. Of course. He should have known mixing his work life and his… well his other work life was a bad idea. Of course, he hadn’t expected it to be quite this bad, but he’d been surprised before. He instead looked at Otto with a look of genuine confusion.

  “Spider-Man?” he repeated incredulously. “Why do you need to know about Spider-Man? Are you in danger? Do you need his help?” Okay, maybe he was being optimistic here. But could you blame him?

  Otto looked genuinely surprised at Peter’s comment, and then laughed. He laughed. A low and rueful chuckle as his features almost seemed to darken on their own, and boy Peter did not like that…

  “No, not at all Peter! I’m not in danger. In fact, I’ve never been better…”

As if to accent, his words, shadows extended from behind Dr Octavius. Four long, writhing metallic limbs formed, lifting him off the ground and closer to the table. Peter’s eyes widened. He could smell a villain origin story forming right before him… and he was powerless to stop it.

 “I don’t need help from the Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man,” (Peter did his best not to be offended by his mocking tone) “No… I’m just concerned. You see, I have a plan. I plan to do what he never could, to rid this city of its filth once and for all… Norman Osborn…”

  Otto kept talking, and Peter stared at him with shock. He’d been wrong – he wasn’t watching a villain origin story now, he had been watching it for months and just never caught on. A pang of guilt pulled at his chest. He should have been there for the doctor. He should have helped him… but now he was mid-supervillain-rant with no signs of stopping, and Peter could already tell it was too late. Dr Otto Octavius, his friend, partner and mentor, was a villain. And it was all his fault.

  “…And I know that you work closely with the spider, in fact I suspect you’re the person who knows him the best in all of New York. So I need you to tell me who Spider-Man is so I can stop him. So I can defeat him before he tries to stop me. Tell me, Peter Parker. Who is Spider-Man?”

Peter looked at Otto, sadness in his eyes. “Doc, you need to think about what you’re doing. Norman Osborn isn’t perfect, I agree, but you can’t just hurt innocent people to achieve some personal vendetta! You’re not thinking straight, You need –“

  “Don’t you dare tell me I need help!” the doctor growled, and one of the metal arms affixed to his back came slamming down on Peter’s rib-cage. And good mother of God that hurt! Peter hadn’t anticipated the sheer force behind the limbs, and couldn’t help but grunt in pain as the metallic claw dug into his torso. Otto, meanwhile, saw the look of horror and pain on Peter’s face and the sudden rage that had engulfed him ebbed away, just a bit. The claw’s grip relaxed for a moment, and Peter’s breath came short and fast as the severity of the situation dawned on him. Otto glared. “I don’t need you to agree with me, Parker. I just need you to cooperate. His identity. Now.”

  Peter gritted his teeth through the pain, weighing his options. The straps holding him to the table weren’t that strong – after all, Otto had thought he was restraining a science nerd, not a super-human man-spider. But seeing him escape, the doctor was sure to connect the dots, and he could definitely do without his secret identity becoming common knowledge. He pulled experimentally at the bonds for now, debating. “I’m sorry, Doc. I can’t do that. I can’t betray him like that.”

  Otto’s face contorted into a snarl as he moved once again closer to Peter. “Oh? You can’t betray him? Won’t turn your back on a friend? What about our friendship, Parker? If good-ol’ Spidey came crawling to you asking for my identity, I wonder would you tell him? This isn’t about loyalty, Parker, this is about the greater good! Not only can you betray him, you will. Because deep down, you know it’s the right thing to do. And if you won’t, well then I’ll make you…”

  The tension in the air was tangible, and Peter was genuinely considering revealing himself then and there. But in that long, suspenseful, pivotal moment, a sound cut through the room. The sound, specifically, of Cherry Bomb by The Runaways. Peter visibly deflated. His ringtone. Specifically, his ringtone for MJ. A few feet away, sitting on a table, his phone was vibrating its way towards the edge. Dr Octavius turned away from Peter to look at it.

  “Your girlfriend,” he commented, almost absent-mindedly.

  “Well, she’s not, uh, exactly, um…” Peter began, but quickly shut up when the doctor shot him a look. He watched as Otto made his way towards the phone sitting on the desk, and picked it up. He glanced at Peter, and to Peter’s surprise, answered it.

  “Well hello there, Miss Watson,” he began. “Yes, sorry, it’s Dr Octavius. Peter left his phone here yesterday, still hasn’t come by to collect it. If you see him, could you let him know I have it?”

It took Peter’s brain that long before it figured out what it was meant to do. “MJ!” he yelled, straining against his restraints. “MJ, I’m here, Otto’s kidnapped mrph!”

One of the doctor’s metallic claws slammed down over Peter’s mouth, muffling his shouts. He saw Otto hang up the phone, dropping it carelessly on the table as he moved threateningly towards Peter once more.

  “Foolish, Parker, foolish!” he chastised, looming over the webslinger. “All you’ve done is put her in danger, you know that? When she comes here to rescue you, I’ll just restrain her as well. I expect you’ll talk once Miss Watson is on the line? Why wait! Just save us both the effort and tell. Me. His. Name.” Each word was accented with the claws at his chest and mouth getting tighter and tighter. Peter squirmed under the metallic arms, glaring at the doctor. He started talking, his voice muffled by the metal in the way. Otto removed the claw from his mouth. Clearing his throat, Peter tried again.

  “I was saying,” he began, “that interrogating someone by gagging them is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”

It was a very Spider-Man thing to say, and if Otto had been paying closer attention he might have put it together, but Peter just couldn’t help himself and Otto was too angry to figure anything out. With a yell he raised his tentacles, the claws pointed straight at Peter’s chest and beginning to spin. A low whirring came from the mechanism, orange sparks flying from the metal, and Peter flinched away from them best he could. ‘Come on,’ he thought, ‘any second now’.

 

  And with timing almost too perfect, like the whole thing was being orchestrated by a writer who’s just a bit too fond of dramatic entrances, the doors to Dr Octavius’ lab burst open, and a sturdily-built Asian woman stormed into the lab, gun in hand, followed by a handful of police officers.

  “NYPD!” yelled Captain Yuriko Watanabe of the New York Police Department. “Hands where we can see them!”

  Otto looked genuinely shocked at the sudden intrusion, as if he’d really believed that the impulsive red-headed journalist had planned on busting the lab without any form of back up. He turned to the squadron that had infiltrated his lair, and scowled.

  “Be warned,” he growled, low and angry, “I will not back down. This is just the beginning. Your city has got a storm coming that you couldn’t possibly prepare for.”

And suddenly, the lab filled with a thick green smoke. The police officers started coughing, trying to dispel the fumes from their lungs, and Peter tried desperately to see through the fog so he could see where the doctor was fleeing to. No hope. By the time the smoke cleared enough to see, he was long gone from the building. The police captain wasted no time in rushing to Peter’s side, fiddling with his restraints.

  “Don’t worry, Mister Parker, you’re safe now,” she said, freeing a wrist. “I’m Captain Yuri Watanabe, you’re gonna be okay…”

Peter tentatively sat up, looking curiously at Yuri. It took him a moment to remember he hadn’t interacted with her as Peter before. It was a strange feeling. The whole thing had left him with a strange feeling…

  It was only then that Peter realised he was still wearing his Spider-Man pyjamas.