Thanks! I considered and discarded about a zillion different ideas for how this one could play out over the last couple of years -- you should have seen how many variations I had on the "That Which Endures" theory -- and surprisingly, I didn't have any detailed notes on how to get Norman involved in any deeper manner, but heck, we can just consider that the next major storyline in the alt-universe Brand New Day .
(Note to any Marvel types inspired to use Sigyn in the future: You're welcome . )
And that's that! Thanks for bearing with me through this, gang. Whole thing could probably use five or six rounds of editing to make it structurally work a bit better, but hell, I told the story I wanted and got all the pieces in that I wanted. Spider-Girl makes the save, Spidey planned it all ahead of time with Spider-Sense, Mephisto was behind everything, Sigyn and Loki are behind everything ELSE, Reality Gem, now everyone knows Baby May is still out there. Hard to believe that Sigyn has only appeared in the Marvel Universe a few times, despite being a crucial part of Asgardian myth, but the Goddess of Fidelity married to the Trickster God was far too good a piece of metaphor not to use .
LOKI’S NARRATION: It all started with Norman Osborn …
SOMEWHERE ELSE. SOME TIME AGO. NORMAN OSBORN AND MEPHISTO.
OSBORN: My soul, then.
MEPHISTO: I already HAVE your soul. You’ll need to do something better than that.
OSBORN: I want to take away all he has. I want to destroy him.
LOKI: What Osborn didn’t know and Mephisto elected not to tell him was that those are not the same thing. Spider-Man is as much defined by what he has LOST as by who he IS …
MEPHISTO: I can take away that which is most important to him … and give you back that which matters most to you. And all you need is an assassin and the right bullet at the right time and place. Let me tell you when …
SIGYN’S NARRATION: Mephisto is hate. Pure hatred. He knows no other element. He doesn’t understand the love and devotion of parent for child. And that was his weak point. Ironically, he even knew it and knew he needed to attack the Parkers there. Which was where it all fell apart …
(ONE MORE DAY! PETER and MARY JANE stand hand in hand as MEPHISTO continues monologuing
PETER (aloud): Tell me exactly. How does this work?
MEPHISTO: Your marriage is but a stitch in time that I will simply, painlessly remove … (His words recede into the background for the duo, not much more than “blah blah demonic blah …)
PETER (Thought caption): I hope we know what we’re doing. And that your little friend giving us this telepathy trick knows what THEY’RE doing.
MARY JANE (Thought caption): We’ll know soon enough. Here we go … (ALOUD) WE’RE NOT DONE YET. You’re going to give him a chance at happiness, because of what I can offer you.
MEPHISTO: And what, pray tell, might that be?
(MARY JANE leans in close to whisper to him)
MARY JANE: I’m going to offer you a deal, which is more than you deserve. Walk away. Walk away now and you won’t be destroyed.
MEPHISTO: How dare you …
MARY JANE: I DARE, because we know what you’re doing. Game’s up, tiger. We know about Norman. We know about everything. YOU caused this, and because of that, we don’t have to give you a damn thing to undo it. (She raises her voice again, goes over by Peter’s side.) You had your chance. No deal.
MEPHISTO: Do you have any idea what you are doing?
PETER: For once in our lives, yes. No deal. You still have time. RUN.
PETER (thought caption): And as I recall it, right about here is where SHE showed up --
SPIDER-GIRL (offscreen voice): Pop quiz, hotshot: Amoronsayswhatthwip?
MEPHISTO: Wha –
SFX: THWIPP! (Spider webs to the face! High kick to the chin!)
SPIDER-GIRL: I swear to god, that one never gets old.
SPIDER-GIRL: “You!” I’m disappointed! All this effort two generations have put into branding, and we still get “you”? Does the big symbol on the chest not give it away? It’s the frequently sensational, often spectacular, but never anything less than amazing SPIDER-GIRL! (She punches him with all she’s got, and much to everyone’s surprise, the devil goes sprawling …) Wait, wait, here’s one for you: “Spider-Girl? But that’s impossible!” [Kicks him in the face.] Here’s another: “Not even Spider-Girl can stop me – OOFF!” [Slams him against the wall.] Or my all-time favorite: [Grabs him again, slams him through the wall so hard it shatters the wall and sends him careening through, only to break another wall.] “Spider-Girl? Didn’t I fool your parents and erase you from having ever existed?” Here’s a hint, dirtbag: NOT. HARDLY.
SPIDER-GIRL (Looks over at her family): So right around now you’re probably wondering how your not-yet-existent daughter is knocking Mephisto all over the place and not getting turned into a cinder. (She calls out through the hole in the wall) You wanna tell them, or should I? (No response. She shrugs.) That’s the thing with these demons. They don’t have any power over you that you yourself don’t give them. They’ll chase you down and sweet-talk and take you to pieces with words, but they don’t have any POWER over you. He can KILL you, he could kill ME, but that’s not what he wants and he knows it. All they can do is talk you into defeat. And lemme tell you something -- that’s a PARKER specialty. We face the tough choices. Nobody ever said we didn’t. Show up for the date or save the life? Get the good job or keep the kid from getting shot? Bad things don’t happen to us because we attract them; bad things happen because we choose to accept them for the greater good. Like when you make yourself out to be the biggest mook in the history of the world to save a billion lives from Mephisto. Maybe we don’t win in the beginning, but we always pull it off in the end. We have a word for it … the Parker Luck.
MEPHISTO: ENOUGH! (The demon tears into the room, roars up into his most impressive size, the devil riding the crest of hell, no longer a charming Shakespearian sort, but an image out of nightmares, and in his face, reflected over and over again, AUNT MAY falling in a spray of blood as she is shot …) You want to talk about power, mortal? Let me explain POWER to you. Your aunt will DIE, and it will be YOUR FAULT. Can you live with that? I can restore her! Bring back her life! I CAN GIVE YOU THAT GREAT POWER!
PETER: Seriously, man, you don’t want to leave an opening like that for me to finish the rest of the sentence. Everyone dies. Everything ends. And this time around, it won’t be my fault … it’ll be YOURS. If it’s war you want, war you’ll get. Now … GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY FAMILY.
MEPHISTO: I am not what you think I am. There is more than just Mephisto. I have allowed you to live this long, but do not doubt I can kill you where you stand! I am the lord your god. I am the creator of this so-called age of heroes, and I will un-create it just as easily. Do you think it a simple matter to create a super-soldier? To have a spider irradiated just so? To drive a reality manipulator to kill her friends and wipe out her own race? All my doing. I am the oldest creature in creation. I am the spirit of this planet and the force that gives you meaning. I am that which endures through the ages … … I have created the Avengers and destroyed the Avengers and all they stood for and then YOU … RUINED … EVERYTHING.
(He charges full force at PETER, ready to hit him with whatever he can muster. SPIDER-GIRL, MARY JANE and PETER all stand firm – everyone understands that if Mephisto really feels like chucking the rules out the door and give up getting the souls he craves, he just might be able to kill them, but backing down is not what they do. He approaches spitting fire, and an instant before his bolt strikes, it dissipates against an unseen force field.)
OFF-PANEL VOICE: Ruin everything?
(All turn and see LOKI and SIGYN, surrounded by a potent red aura, descending on the group exactly as one might expect a god-and-goddess couple.)
LOKI: Mephisto, Mephisto, let us be fair – that is, after all, what he does. (His expression hardens.) And let us be clear on one other thing – only one villain gets credit for creating the Avengers, and it will be the same one who destroys them. As for you … (Flicks a finger, a bright red flash emerges.) Begone. (And with that, without even a flourish, Mephisto is simply no longer there.)
SPIDER-MAN: Wait … how did you … (Everything around them begins to fade slowly …)
LOKI: That detail is unimportant. For the moment, anyway. What is important is that things will go back to the way they were. Except for what doesn’t, of course. Your memory will be confused, but will return in time. Your aunt will survive, for what little time remains to mortal gnats -- (SIGYN elbows him unsubtly) -- and with time, thrive. Your occasional friend Harry will remain as well, as he has his own part to play in all this –
SPIDER-GIRL: You’re just gonna have to trust him on this one, Dad.
SIGYN: And the world will remember you. (Places an arm around LOKI, as they, too, begin to fade.) But know this – no matter what happened, the world will always have reason to remember Peter and Mary Jane Parker …
SPIDER-GIRL (Gives a little wave as she too fades.): Aaaaand that’s it for me. Be seeing you around, Mom, Dad. Maybe sooner than you think …
MARY JANE (Turns to Peter): Face it, Tiger … (and then ALL fades away …)
BACK IN THE ISLAND OF SILENCE – LOKI AND SIGYN ARM IN ARM
LOKI: And now everyone lives happily ever after.
SIGYN: You know such things are impossible. The fight never ends. But we keep enduring. As Spider-Man and his love will. Only one things puzzles me, my love – this was far too dangerous a plan simply to cause chaos for the fun of it. In other words, dear … what was YOUR angle?
LOKI: You know me too well, my love. It was simplicity itself. It all goes back to Tony Stark, who always did reach further than his grasp. Which is what is admirable about him, but makes him … predictable. He thinks he keeps secrets, but Loki sees all things and merely awaits the chance to strike. And there is one secret Stark cannot keep because he no longer remembers, not since wiping his own memories for good. It also allowed me to help our champions to restore things to where they needed to be. Rendering me a simple opportunity to take something in hand, take my cue from Mephisto … (he looks down into his palm where a glittering red gem rests … an Infinity Gem …) … and rewrite reality.
EPILOGUE: PETER AND MARY JANE’S APARTMENT. T-PLUS ONE MINUTE FROM ONE MORE DAY.
(PETER PARKER sits on the couch, arms wrapped around himself, shivering, while MARY JANE stands near, half poised to walk out the door.)
PETER: I’m not even sure who I am anymore. Not even sure what happened.
MARY JANE: (VOICEOVER NARRATION): And there he goes again … same old Peter, shrinking into himself and whining when the going gets tough … easiest thing in the world would be to just walk out and leave him to this … whatever “this” is … [Her hand trembles at the knob.]
MARY JANE (ALOUD): We’ve been through so much, Peter. We don’t even know what’s real. Our marriage was gone, then it was back, then gone again. But we can choose to overcome.
PETER (Almost to himself as much as to her): I have so many memories overlapping the same time that I can’t tell which one is real. I remember Mephisto … I remember someone helping us… but that face, so indistinct, reminds me of my own – was it Ben? It was Ben’s costume, wasn’t it? Or am I just going insane? How do we endure it? Maybe … we should just call the whole thing off.
MARY JANE (Turns as if to leave): If that’s what you want …
[MARY JANE’S hand touches the knob. Turns it … and pushes the door shut. Click. She turns wordlessly to him. One panel of silence. They stare at each other, each making the same realization. Despair gives way to rising hope and understanding, and each gives voice to the same two words that change everything.]
SPIDER-MAN (Spider-sense goes wild, he clutches his head): Owww … oh, god …
SPIDER-GIRL: That’s fine. It’s all right. You’re just remembering more and more details. Trust me, your memory’s got worse coming.
SPIDER-MAN: Mephisto … the last thing he said was that he would take away our future child. The best of both of us, he said … (Stares at her for a long moment.)
SPIDER-GIRL: Aw. You’re makin’ me blush here, Dad.
SPIDER-MAN: But all this … how can you even BE? If you were erased, if we were never together …
SPIDER-GIRL: Here’s the trick with Mephisto. They call him the lord of lies, but that’s about the least accurate name ever. Mephisto never, ever lies, especially when he’s cutting a deal. He hides the truth, he misdirects, he obfuscates, but he DOES NOT LIE. Every word is a weapon. The child you will never have. The child who will never be. He was correct. You and Mom couldn’t HAVE a child. The child could not BE. Because you HAD a child. She already WAS.
SPIDER-MAN: But we didn’t … we couldn’t … [Stops short.] But we did, didn’t we? During all that business with Ben Reilly and … but she wasn’t … wasn’t …
SPIDER-GIRL (as gently as possible): She wasn’t anything you were told she was.
SPIDER-MAN: You mean … (Finally gets it. Closes his fists so tightly they crack.) I’m going to kill Norman Osborn.
SPIDER-GIRL: Eventually. But not over this. We have bigger problems, dad. It’s two minutes to midnight and the devil’s holding all the cards. But it’s okay, there’s a plan. See, we have one trick Mephisto doesn’t know about, CAN’T know about …
(BACK TO THE FUTURE! MIDDLE-AGED PETER PARKER AND MAY PARKER in 2025 …)
MIDDLE-AGED PETER: He can’t read minds. See, I’m a nerd. I love information. I love to read. Maybe I don’t take advantage of it enough, but it’s fun, and every so often it saves lives. This time around it was going to save everything.
Because I was an Avenger. For months. And I lived in Tony Stark’s tower and there were days I had nothing better to do than read Avengers case files. And boy howdy, did I ever read. I was amazed to find out how much had gone on I’d never suspected. Heck, the whole planet is always one bad zigzag away from being wiped out. The only amazing thing about Stanford is that it didn’t happen every day.
But it didn’t, at least, not in those days. So I read about how we did it, how we always managed to keep the earth alive. We had great big volumes just about Mephisto, most of which came down to “stay the hell away and leave it at that.” But WOW, had he ever gotten his butt whupped over and over again. More than any other villain, Mephisto’s history was just one big failure after another. He sometimes made incremental progress, but he didn’t have a single major win under his belt. The one that struck me the most was the time the Black Panther beat him. Because T’Challa took advantage of one very little-known fact that he threw in Mephisto’s face: He can’t read minds. At all. Or control them.
(T-MINUS FIVE DAYS TO ONE MORE DAY. MARY JANE’S BEDROOM AND HER MYSTERY VISITOR.)
THE VISITOR: And this will give you the advantage you need when the time comes. Which is sooner than any of us would like …
(SPIDERS MAN AND GIRL)
SPIDER-GIRL: Time to take one more look at the last day. Time to go live it all again, and this time get it right. Watch everything again, knowing now what you do about what’s going on, and have a little faith.
SPIDER-MAN: How are you even traveling like this? How can you even do it?
SPIDER-GIRL: My secret for the moment. Take my hand, Dad … (He does so, and both vanish.)
(THE ISLAND OF SILENCE. LOKI AND THE SEER.)
LOKI: You. I can smell it when someone has an angle. You had an angle as well. I can always tell. Why did it take me so long with you?
THE SEER: You never did understand me as well as you fancied you understood all those around you. But then again, how could you? Close as you were, you never understood what drove me. Like Peter and his Mary Jane, some things must be taken on faith …
(MARY JANE’S ROOM)
MARY JANE: Why are you doing this?
THE VISITOR (Stands at the window, watching lightning flash outside): Why do you do what you do? Why do you stay at the side of a man who seems to take nothing seriously, who fails again and again and again? For whom some might say the only thing YOU were the only right thing that ever happened to him? Why do you return to a man who might fail a thousand times ten thousand times?
MARY JANE: Because … because I believe in him.
THE VISITOR: Indeed. (The ground shakes with thunder.) Interesting. Do you know what the Norse believed caused earthquakes? (No answer, so she responds to her own rhetorical question.) They say at Ragnarok, Loki was punished by being chained forever beneath the jaws of the Midgard Serpent in the Island of Silence, to writhe beneath his poisonous fangs forever. Loki was banished to be left alone in agony for all eternity. Yet one accompanied him, bringing a bowl to catch the venom and relieve his pain. And every so often she must turn aside to empty the bowl, and when the poison stings Loki, the earth trembles with his rage. (Long pause.) And why would she stay with him? The only reason for someone to believe in such a man, to stay with such a man, is an unshakeable belief in them. An endless faith that no matter how many times they fall down, they will get back up once more. That no matter how many times they disappoint those around them, they will come back and make things right. Fidelity, my dear. To understand that it is not important that the one you love gets it right the first time … only to know that they will always get it right the last time. And sometimes you are all that stands between him and the venom of the world. You cherish fidelity above all else. And throughout all the nine worlds there is but one whose name is forevery synonymous with Fidelity …
(THE ISLAND OF SILENCE)
LOKI (with dawning realization): Sigyn …
THE SEER (Hood drawn back, a raven-haired goddess of great beauty, with a mischievous smile): Sigyn. Who else would accompany you to the end of the world and beyond? (Draws nearer.) And perhaps wily Loki has not considered that he is not the only one who can choose a champion. And what icon would Mary Jane Parker best represent than the goddess of fidelity?
(LOKI is momentarily speechless with surprise. She takes the chance to engage in a passionate embrace.)
SIGYN: Now, my love. Now, let us save our champions.
(MARY JANE. PETER PARKER. MEPHISTO. THE DEAL.)
MEPHISTO: … you two will no longer be married, because you two will NEVER HAVE BEEN married.
MARY JANE (Thought-caption): Are you in?
PETER (Caption): I’m in.
(CLOSEUP OF THE TWO – shared caption) All right, you son of a bitch. Let’s do this.
TO BE CONCLUDED, TRUE BELIEVERS!
Last Edit: Jan 14, 2012 7:00:58 GMT -8 by paulpogue
I was going through some of my old music and rocking out to a set called the "Never Give Up collection." A set of songs about getting through hard times that was presented to me when I was at rock bottom, and still give me strength in hard times. A gift from Jens Altmann. And listening to those songs, I'm thinking -- "Well, DAMMIT."
In honor of our final days, I'm at last wrapping up and closing down my two-years-gone "How to reboot One More Day" fic that I started and left undone so long ago. Sorry it took this for me to finally finish it, but for the four or five people who might actually read it, I hope you like it .
It's the end of an era in more ways than one. With K-Box gone, the V-circle is the last of the old WEF diaspora still active, and it's far less thriving than it once was. It's kind of funny -- the old WEF gang faded out in a long, slow death, even as the Internet sped up more and more. I mean, hell, the WEF was closed a DECADE ago, and yet a lot of the individual relationships born there still thrive. The Diaspora forums looked like a thousand bright lights, and then went out in a hurry. The Micah Wright thing was, I think, especially devastating to the morale of the group, and after everyone ditched Delphi, it was just the V-sters, SA and K-Box. Sad -- and yet, we had a good run all along. Nice work, chief.
ART FOUR! And here we are back again, true believers! On a rooftop, where the Amazing Spider-Girl and the Hapless Spider-Man are dealing with the exposition …
SPIDER-GIRL: That’s the easy part – YOU told me. Okay, Dad, buckle up – here’s where it gets complicated … I had been Spider-Girl for about a decade, and some strange stuff had been going on that, erm, maybe you don’t need to know about just yet, and I started to realize just how in over our heads we ALL were, when you sat me down for a talk. Explained how it had all gone to hell. Heroism itself had died. Thor was dead. Captain America, whom they could never destroy, had been killed, and all he stood for was quickly dying with him. Tony Stark and Reed Richards had hopelessly compromised themselves and gone so far past the line that they could never hope to redeem themselves. And then there was you, and there was Aunt May, and there was Mary Jane, and there was … Mephisto …
MEANWHILE, AT THAT VERY MOMENT IN THE FUTURE, ALL THE WAY IN THE YEAR 2025!!!
MIDDLE-AGED PETER PARKER: (Caption! “Middle-aged Peter Parker. Gimpy. Proportional strength and abilities of a middle-aged spider. With three legs.”): And that’s how it had all gone down, darling. Everyone told me that they couldn’t help. Here’s what people forget about me, hon. All ego aside, I’m smart. Really smart, when I apply myself, which I admit isn’t often. But life happens so fast, fights happen so fast, EVERYTHING happens so fast that I never had time to just … think. Even my greatest skill, my spider-sense, was completely grounded in the moment. Just another tool to improvise with.
But this was different. I had two things at hand. I had 24 hours in which to do whatever I wanted … and I had a spell from Dr. Strange that created a time wrap so I could do things over and over again in the same time period. I used it at first to go to every magician and scientist I could and beg for help.
Dr. Strange had told me straight up that it was hopeless. That he’d given me the spell only so I could go and find out for myself how hopeless it was. One after another. Doctor Doom, Hank McCoy, the Black Panther … all I got from the smartest and most strong-willed people on earth was a ‘Sorry, kid, nothing we can do.’ All of them had very good reasons to help me. The heroes – well, they were heroes. Even Victor Von Doom would just love to have an Avenger owe him a favor. And yet there it was. Not a one of them even took a look at Aunt May. Right around then I started to suspect, but I didn’t say a word, because that would let it out.
Everything was planned out, starting with the most uncontrollable and dangerous factors. They completely neutralized the X-Men by forcing them to focus on their species survival. They broke up the Avengers, and when that didn’t work, they broke them up again. They got the Hulk – the single most dangerous and unpredictable individual on the planet -- out of the way in about the most permanent way possible. Thor was dead, as far as we knew. Reed Richards and Tony Stark were hopelessly compromised AND cut off from their best allies by the Civil War. The Black Panther, maybe one of the only people who could have seen through the scheme, was disgusted by the whole thing and refused contact with his old allies. Atlantis was shattered, the Inhumans caught up in their own turmoil. And then they killed Captain America.
LOKI: And with that, there was only one left. And because he is so humble, he truly did not understand until too late. If they wanted to put a stake in the heroic age, they had to destroy the Amazing Spider-Man. Not just neutralize him or kill him or get him out of the way – they had to DESTROY him as decisively as possible. With great power must also come great responsibility. Get Spider-Man to turn his back on that, and he is finished.
AND BACK TO:
MIDDLE AGED PETER, VOICE OVER: But a world that had fallen apart that much? It was all too perfect. We were being hunted. And none of us suspected a thing, and the mastermind behind it was perfectly hidden. Until the cracks showed. Right up until the point the world’s smartest people simultaneously, spontaneously and unanimously declared themselves unable to treat a gunshot wound.
They’d all told me this. All at once. I saw them all at the same time, thanks to Strange’s time-warping spell that let me visit them all simultaneously. And all said the same thing. And they all knew what I was doing there. Too conveniently.
And I had that spell. There was still a trace amount of magical energy left for one more shot. It wouldn’t allow me to change time; I’d already tried that. It wouldn’t allow me to go for more help or to go learn medicine or anything like that. But what it gave me was time. It was bouncing me all over the place and it existed outside of time. That’s where I got the idea. I had the energy for one last trip …
TODAY, THE ISLE OF SILENCE: LOKI and the MYSTERIOUS HOODED SEER continue their conversation as well.
LOKI: One last trip, Seer, and he used it wisely. He came to see me. Using my own icon given to him months before to summon me if need be, bringing him right here in this place, as it happens. In my own sanctuary. Which is also timeless. You see, I was as caught up in the inescapable web as anyone else, equally forbidden to speak to him what I knew of the truth … but my nature is mischievous and contrary, and crafty Loki always finds a way …
BACK THEN, DURING THE ONE MORE DAY, NINETY DEGREES SIDEWAYS OF SPIDERS MAN AND GIRL:
LOKI: I know why you are here, old friend. And I cannot help you.
SPIDER-MAN: Can’t, or won’t?
LOKI: (They regard each other for a long, long silence.): Cannot. (Equally long pause.) I take my leave of you, champion of mine. Rest here, in my sanctuary. You will no doubt need it.
BACK TO THE FUTURE!
MIDDLE-AGED PETER: And then, like that, he was gone.
FUTURE SPIDER-GIRL: Just like that? What about the debt? What about what he owed you? Didn’t that matter? Couldn’t you have pumped him for information?
MIDDLE-AGED PETER: No need, kiddo. He’s already told me what I need to know. In such a way that whoever was forbidding it didn’t realize it. Aunt May WASN’T dying of a bullet wound. She was dying of something bigger. A higher power that had suckered all these forces into its way of thinking. We were the last dominoes. If there’s one thing a spider knows – it’s when a web is drawing to a close. And Mary Jane and I were caught tight in that web. The whole world was a trap and we were completely, utterly finished.
Except the other thing a spider can do is wriggle right out of a web. And Loki had left me, with the final traces of a magic time-warping spell, in the one place in the universe it could do the most good. I didn’t have any more jaunts left; when I left there, it was done. And I couldn’t do anything from there … except think. And thinking? Well, that’s something I can do pretty well too. Plus I had one advantage …
ELSEWHERE! T-MINUS FIVE DAYS TO ONE MORE DAY! Mary-Jane Watson-Parker’s bedroom, where a cloaked figure has come to see her by night ….
UNKNOWN VISITOR (Speaking in a soft, lilting feminine tone): He can see the future.
MARY JANE WATSON-PARKER: (Tired as hell. In her bedroom. Wondering if her husband is out there getting killed by his former friends. Talking to an old friend) The future? I don’t recall him telling me about THAT one …
THE VISITOR: The spider-sense. He sees danger coming instants away. It is among his greatest gifts. But it is also a curse – it tells him the choices available and the ways out of the current situation, but they’re not always nice, and sometimes they are merely the least worst scenario. Soon, very soon, to resolve all you and he face, he will use that ability as he never has before … to see all possible resolutions, to apply his sense to the entire universe around him and spin out webs of possibility spanning generations, until he sees the entire problem clearly. And then, Mary Jane Watson-Parker … and then you and he will decide.
MARY JANE: He’ll win. He always wins. Peter never gives up, ever.
THE VISITOR: No, he does not. Nor does he ever truly lose – but there’s always a cost, isn’t there? Consider poor doomed Gwen Stacy. She died, yes, but her death saved many lives, your own included. It placed Norman Osborn on the path that took him out of crime for decades. And it taught Peter the need to hone his skills even further so that, whether or not his own webbing was responsible for her death, there would never be doubt again. And never again was there even a question of whether his webbing rescues would be as injurious as the fall itself – which you have benefited from many times. But Gwen Stacy was still dead. Tell me, Mary Jane – would you accept that yourself, if it meant others could be saved? Would you risk all your tomorrows, everything that matters in your world, knowing that you might well be finished but at great benefit to all?
MARY JANE: Are you saying I’m going to die?
THE VISITOR: No. I am saying you MIGHT. And Peter – and you – may have to decide which it will be.
BACK TO THE FUTURE!
SPIDER-GIRL: Wait, wait, wait, TIME OUT, Dad. Mom had her own Jiminy Cricket feeding her info, too? How MANY were involved in this whole thing?
MIDDLE-AGED PETER: Your mother was talking to someone she knew very, very well. I wasn’t the only one someone had taken an interest in. Loki was fixated on the way one uses chaos to take things apart. This one – this one was interested in your mother’s gift of holding things together. Maybe she’ll tell you who it was someday.
And the visitor was right. Because I had a plan, all right – stay there, as long as it took, in the Island of Silence, with nothing more than myself, my spider-sense, and all the time in the world. I had consulted with plenty of smart men except one – myself. And so I thought. And thought. And thought.
And ultimately, it became clear. The whole web became clear. Everything going back years – the conspiracy to destroy heroism itself – had split off its own separate universe. It was something Reed Richards could talk about endlessly, the “What If” worlds. We were stuck in one. And one thing Reed was always certain of was that once you’re in a time track like that, there’s no way out. Even if you go back in time and change things, you’re just creating a new track where you THINK you changed them, and the other one goes on its merry way. I couldn’t accept that. There HAD to be another way. I didn’t know who the enemy was, although I had a pretty good guess. They’d created a time loop, going back to my marriage that was no longer going to be, and we were stuck in the loop.
And so, daughter of mine … here’s what we’re going to do …
T-MINUS ONE MORE DAY
SPIDER-GIRL (To Spider-Man): Here’s what we’re going to do …
T-MINUS FIVE MORE DAYS
THE MYSTERY VISITOR (To Mary Jane): Here’s what we’re going to do ….
MEPHISTO (To himself): Here’s what we’re going to do …
SIMULTANEOUSLY MEPHISTO: We are going to kill heroism stone dead.
SPIDER-GIRL: We are going to beat the devil at his own game.
Okay, been a year and a half and I have a bunch of half-finished notes. But dammit, we're closing this place up, and I'm going out on a high note and finishing this damn fic for the five people who might still care. Because I want to give Peter closure in my own mind if nothing else. More to come.