15479/Discord Under Starlit Skies
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|Discord Under Starlit Skies|
|Date of Scene:||15 August 2023|
|Location:||The George Washington Bridge, NYC|
|Synopsis:||After a fight with her dad, Gwen calls Peter for some moral support and gets more than she expected when the two of them share their first kiss under the stars on top of the George Washington Bridge.|
|Cast of Characters:||Ghost Spider, Spider-Man
- Ghost Spider has posed:
George Stacy's eyes were red-rimmed with concern, his voice rising in volume with each word. "That club could've been a death trap, Gwen! And you were right in the middle of it!"
Gwen's fists clenched at her sides, the raw emotion from the ordeal making her even more defensive. "Dad, I had no idea that was going to happen. You can't blame me for---"
"I'm not blaming you," he interrupted, his voice laden with frustration. "I'm scared for you. Every time I hear about another attack or another incident in this city, my heart stops, wondering if you're involved. Or worse, if you're hurt. Did you even see Jameson's post?! I don't know where he got the information, but there was webbing on the scene, Gwen. Spider-Man was there."
"So what?!" Gwen yells. "Wasn't everyone nice and webbed up when you guys got there to pick them all up?!"
"How did you know...?"
"It doesn't matter! You're not the only cop I know, Dad." Gwen's eyes shimmered with tears as she took a shaky breath. "I can't live in fear. I won't."
George exhaled deeply, his eyes searching his daughter's face. "I saw you with Peter the other day."
Gwen's head snapped up, her brows furrowing. "What does Peter have to do with any of this?"
"I saw you two holding hands," he said pointedly. "You told me you were just friends. What else are you keeping from me?"
Gwen felt her face grow hot. "We /are/ just friends. Peter's been there for me! He's one of the few people who understands--"
Silence hung as Gwen's mouth moved wordlessly, backed into a corner.
"Understands what, Gwen?"
"Dad, you can't just throw Peter's name into this," she snapped, anger evident in her voice. "This is about us, not him."
George took a step closer, his voice pleading. "Gwen, I've already lost your mother. I can't bear the thought of losing you too."
Gwen felt the weight of her father's words pressing down on her. She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. "Dad, I'm not a kid anymore. I'm twenty-six years old! I can handle myself."
"But can you handle the consequences of the choices you're making?" George's voice broke slightly. "Can you handle the pain it might bring to the people who love you?"
Gwen's tears finally spilled over, her voice quivering. "I just want to live my life, Dad. I just want you to accept me for who I am."
George's eyes were filled with pain. "And I just want you to be safe."
Their words hung in the air, an unbridgeable gap between them. Without another word, Gwen turned and left, leaving her father staring after her with a heart heavy with worry and fear.
In moments, she was in full Ghost Spider regalia, swinging between the buildings of New York City, the rush of the wind and the sensation of flight offering a temporary distraction from the turmoil inside. The city lights below her blinked like a sea of stars, mirroring the clear, celestial expanse above. As she soared higher, the noise of the city grew distant, replaced by the quiet of the night.
Gwen knew just the place she needed to be.
The vantage point atop the George Washington Bridge. Not the busiest of New York's crossings at this time of night, it offered a serene view of the Hudson River below and the vast horizon beyond. From here, the city felt both monumental and infinitesimal, a sprawl of lights against the vast canvas of the universe.
She perched on one of the bridge's towers, pulling off her mask and letting the cool breeze ruffle her hair. The rhythmic lapping of the water below was soothing, and the constellation-filled sky offered her perspective. Each star, a burning beacon millions of miles away, made her problems feel smaller, more manageable.
Drawing her knees to her chest, she took a deep breath. She remembered stargazing with her father as a child. They'd sit on their apartment's tiny balcony, looking up and naming constellations, dreaming about the mysteries of the universe.
Her heart ached thinking of that. The bond they once shared felt strained now. Adulthood and its complexities, the mantle of Ghost Sp
- Ghost Spider has posed:
Her heart ached thinking of that. The bond they once shared felt strained now. Adulthood and its complexities, the mantle of Ghost Spider, and the weight of responsibility -- all these had wedged a distance between them. But Gwen believed in bridges, in the possibility of spanning gaps and reconnecting.
Without thinking she'd pulled out her phone, unlocked it, and pulled up Peter's messages. It was becoming second nature to turn to him, and she was in the text box before she even realized she had no idea what she would say.
There wasn't really anything /to/ say. She just... wanted to talk to him.
So, after a while of just staring at his contact information, she pressed the call button instead of sending him a text, resting her chin on her knees and tucking her phone against her ear.
- Spider-Man has posed:
When his phone rings, Peter just happens to be in mid-swing, sweeping across the streets of the city, just barely clearing traffic as it races by to either side of him.
Of course that's not really a problem for him, not with the agility of a spider to call upon and he manages to fumble his phone free with one hand, juggling it back and forth between those two hands as he alternates between firing off and another webline with a prolonged *thwiiiiiip* before his webbing finally anchors itself high overhead.
The one complication to all of that? He is kinda fleeing the scene of a crime. Not his crime to be sure, though the authorities don't seem to agree with that particular assessment.
Even though he knows that it will just bring more trouble down on his head, Pete just can't help but involve himself when there's trouble. Tonight it wasn't even something particularly big, something particularly threatening. Just a purse snatcher, some dumb kid on a skateboard looking for some quick cash or a cheap thrill.
That somehow ended up in a five block chase.
As a general rule he is usually pretty on top of things and given his abilities can bring even the most complex chase to a close a little more quickly then that. Nevermind a punk on a skateboard. BUt he almost immediately attracted the attention of a beat cop. Which became two beat cops. Which became four beat cops and a pair of squad cars. Until his biggest concern became the possibility that he might endanger someone trying to flee, more then anything else.
Still, the kid ended up webbed up -- skaeboard included -- dangling from the bottom of a fire escape, the stolen purse sitting on the ground below him.
A nice, easy collar for the NYPD.
That was three blocks ago now, and the sound of the pursuing squad cars is still very much audible behind him. Enough commuters have cleared out to make the streets of New York almost navigatable. Good for the average person. Something of an inconvenience for Spider-Man right at the moment.
Still, it is nothing he can't handle, he's sure of it, and his latest swing takes him right to an intersection where he lightly lands on the wall of the nerest building, whipping around the corner as he runs along it's side.
Just as there was no way he could pass on offering a helping hand with the stolen purse, there's no way that he's going to not answer the phone either, not when Gwen's name pops up there on the screen. The sirens continue to fade a little more into the distance, though still at least in theory still in pursuit, but Pete takes the chance and answers anyway.
"Hey Gwen! How's the evening treating you?" he asks, beginning to veer upward towards the roof, if only to get out of sight from anyone on the ground who might be inclined to point the authorities in his direction.
He really needs to do something to clear his name.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
It was the sirens that Gwen heard even before Peter's voice, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. It wasn't her Spider-Sense, this time.. just a healthy dose of 'What else could go wrong?'
It's Gwen's voice, even if it doesn't really sound too much like her. Not the eternally optimistic, rock-solid, able to carry the world on her shoulders version of her, anyway. There'd only been one other time that Peter had heard her spirits buckle like that -- when her relationship with her father was on her mind.
Thankfully, Peter's voice was chipper enough for both of them, and that seemed to sooth whatever initial worry had flared up at the sound of the sirens.
"...it's... fine. I'm okay." She pauses. "Are /you/ okay? I hear sirens."
For a moment, she lowered her phone from her ear, listening to the distant sounds of sirens in the city.
"...in stereo. Is that you they're after?"
- Spider-Man has posed:
There is certainly no denying that Peter has a whole lot going on, a whole lot on his mind.
There's a good chance that a lot of why is running through his head right at this moment in time is indeed something to do with those sirens. Manhatten is a bit place. There is plenty going on at all hours of the night. Plenty of crime. And he is around a lot of it, so it doesn't absolutely have to be about him.
But it probably is.. The odds certainly would point in that direction. He might not be the city's number one most wanted quite yet, but he is definitely climbing the charts, thanks to the lingering suspicion around him. Stoked on, as always, by the Daily Bugle.
But Pete hesitates for just a moment before answering her question. He can hear that tone in her voice and while she might say she's okay, he's starting to have a good enough handle on all those little clues that suggests to him that it is simply not the case.
Still, he doesn't like the idea of lying to her, even about so simple a thing. "It's the same old, same old," he admits quietly. "And yeah, they're probably for me. But I've just about lost them I think. They should get bored in another few minutes I figure," he says confidently.
For the past few weeks nothing has cheered him up or bucked up his spirit like Gwen Stacy. Even just seeing her name pop up on his phone made him feel silly good, especially given everything that's going on right now. He's not sure what's bothering her, not sure if there is anything that he can do.
But the very least he can do is offer a sympathetic ear.
"Where are you? I'll swing on by."
- Ghost Spider has posed:
"If you're trying to wear them down, I'm not sure that's how it works."
Still, a bit of that smile seemed to creep back into Gwen's voice. Even just a few seconds of hearing his voice did wonders for her mood, and she couldn't help making the joke. After all, it seemed like the NYPD was chasing him around (literally or figuratively) every night -- sometimes coming in just after he's left, like Astral Vinyl, and sometimes actively pursuing him, like tonight.
Every single part of Gwen's life was partitioned off. She had coworkers at Alchemax. Classmates at Empire University. Bandmates. Her modeling agent. As Ghost Spider, for a long time, she'd been... alone. She knew of Spider-Man. Everybody knew Spider-Man.
But it had taken some time to get up the courage to seek him out, and even longer to try and truly befriend him. It was the attack on the Mayor that really brought them together, though, and if, five years ago, anyone had told her Spider-Man was the first one she'd turn to when she was feeling down, she'd have said they've lost their minds.
But, he was. And yes, he reminded her she wasn't alone. That was part of it, but it was more than that. She didn't want to just not be alone. She wanted... him.
Lowering her phone briefly, Gwen slips off her gloves and swipes through a few screens. Eventually, location sharing is turned on for Peter, and he gets a notification with her dot on it.
"George Washington Bridge. I turned on location sharing, and I'm just going to leave it on. It's not like I go anywhere I'd keep secret from you, and this way if you need somewhere to go, you'll always know where to find me."
- Spider-Man has posed:
He can practically hear the smile in her voice. Even through the phone, And it brings an answering smile to his own.
"You say that now. But I can rope-a-dope with the best of them," Pete counters lightly, already starting to race across the rooftops, little more then a shadow with the lights of the street well below, casually leaping from building to building without so much as breaking stride. It's all just second nature by now. "All those times when it looked like Doc Ock or Rhino was pounding me into the pavement? Tactics! Lulling them into a false sense of security so I could -- BAM -- take them down. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, that's me," he insists.
Keeping things light, at least until he can get over there to meet her.
It really won't take him very long. At this point he truly does know New York like the back of his hand, all the little shortcuts, all the ways to shave a few seconds of travel time here, to by a minute there. At this point it is his experience as much as anything that gives him that small edge.
Even as he hurdles across another alley, he fumbles with his phone for a moment. "Good plan. Let me do the same for you, just in case. I'm sure I can figure that out. I'm not that old. Yet," he insists. Technology's his friend afterall, even if he's not with the latest and greatest of it.
He goes silent for just a moment as he fiddles with his phone before his voice sounds once more. "Got it. I think. There's at least a fifty-fifty chance you'll be able to find me now if you need to, I figure," he says. Of that he is one hundred percent confident.
Like her, he has tended to keep his life compartmentalized. With some overlap. Obviously his job as a photographer kind of overlaps with his time as Spider-Man. But it's only been recently that he has actually let other people into this part of his life. He's definitely not regretting it, though it does make him question why he waited so long.
Though abortative attempts to join the Fantastic Four and the Avengers might have had a little something to do with that.
"I see you," he finally says, landing lightly on one of the buildings overlooking the George Washington Bridge. "Be there in just a second," he promises.
Then he hangs up the phone and takes to the air, hurling himself out into space until he lands on that spire overlooking the water in a crouch.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
The rope-a-dope comment is met with open skepticism, but it's the claim that being pounded into the ground was a tactic that brings out the actual laughter. Warm. Genuine. Relieved.
"Well, they say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Wait for it. "Sooo.. you must be /really/ strong." There it is.
With Peter on the way and her mood already mending just from talking to him, Gwen released her knees and stretched out her legs, scooting over to the edge of her perch -- the tallest peak on the bridge -- and letting her legs dangle. She had on the blue Chuck Taylors, tonight, instead of the ballet slippers.
When he mentions sharing his location back, though, she shakes her head. "Oh, I wasn't trying to force... Peter?... You don't have to..." But the phone was already quiet as he flipped through the screens. Did he hear her anyway? It didn't really matter. A moment later, there's a notification on her phone and his dot shows up.
At least for now.
"I see it," she says warmly once he's back on the phone. "Thanks."
/Be there in just a second./
"See you soon." She's tucking her phone back into her suit when he lands beside her, and in this position, the only lighting came from the bridge below, the moon and stars, and the faint light pollution that bathed all of New York City in a perpetual glow.
"Hey Nerd," she says with a little smile, the breeze playing at her blonde hair. And though she still has the same warmth she had on the phone, in person there's still a heaviness to it. Her eyes are a little puffy and red lingered around the edges like she'd been crying, but they were dry now. "Fancy meeting you here."
She scoots a little to 'make room' beside her. She didn't need to. It was more symbolic than anything, but still, it was an offer.
"The stars are pretty, tonight."
- Spider-Man has posed:
There are higher perches in the city. There are quieter perches in the city too. But the spires on the bridges that criss-cross the Hudson and East Rivers certainly do offer some pretty good views of the city. And not a whole lot of people look up from down below, at least giving the semlance of a little privacy.
There isn't a whole lot of that in a city this big, crowded into a relatively small area, but those that can web and wall-crawl are certainly in a better position then most to seek it out.
Almost as soon as he lands in that crouch, Peter is straightening up, one hand going up to tug off his own mask, smile lighting on his features almost as soon as his eyes fall on Gwen, padding over to the edge where she makes room.
While not a ton of light from the city below filters all the way up here, enough does that Pete can make out those slightly puffy eyes and that, combined with the note in her voice on the phone, is more then enough to let him know that she's not having the best of days.
Still, he keeps it light, at least for a moment longer, sinking down beside her and nudging her lightly with his shoulder. "Hey yourself. I would greet you as a fellow nerd, but I'm not sure if the whole model/rocker chick cancels out those nerdy science vibes," he teases her gently. "All us nerds search out places like this. It's a good place to hide from the world, at least for a little bit."
Then, he falls silent for just a moment, letting his feet dangle over the side, kick idly, gaze trailing over the dark waters of the river below before starting to rise up higher and higher until they lift right up to that dark, star-speckled tapestry above. "They are," he agrees quietly, biting the side of his mouth idly. Then he finally tilts his head just a little, shooting a look over at her, that touseled hair starting to fall out across his forehead.
"Did you want to talk? Or did you just need to sit for a bit?"
- Ghost Spider has posed:
"They better not." Cancel out the nerd cred. "The research project I've been assigned is enhancing cardiac repair using CRISPR-Cas9 mediated MYH6 gene modulation. If that doesn't count because sometimes I put on fancy clothes and pose for pictures, I'm hanging up my stilettos for good. I'd rather be a nerd."
Gwen had glanced over at his shoulder bump, a quiet little smile on her lips. She was watching him while he watched the water and the sky, taking in his profile in the serene sort of glow they were bathed in. The shape of his nose. The way his hair fell across his forehead. His chin. His mouth.
Her heart beat a little faster when he was this close, and she couldn't help remembering the concert... that moment they'd come together, however briefly. When he looks back at her, though, her gaze darts back out to the water. Busted, no doubt, but trying not to look guilty or embarrassed by it. That would only make it worse.
"There's... not much to say," she says after a quiet moment of considering which one of those options she really did want to take him up on. "I had a fight with my dad. After what happened in the club, he's on me about /everything/. It's worse than when I was a teenager. He wants to put me in a bubble, convinced I shouldn't go anywhere or do anything because Spider-Man is on the loose. Aaaaannd, to make it that much worse, he admitted he knows I'm keeping secrets from him."
Gwen's eyes lower to her knees, kicking her legs a little harder.
"I /hate/ lying to my dad. I hate that it hurts him that I do, and there's..." Her voice cracks, the tears lingering again below the surface, but she holds them back. "...nothing I can do about it. You'd think I'd be used to it by now."
Sighing softly, she leans against Peter rather than just shoulder-bumping him.
- Spider-Man has posed:
That draws a low laugh from him.
"Okay, okay, Got it. Your nerd cred is definitely safe," he assures her with a smile. "I guess you just happen the be the coolest of us nerds," he allows, pursing his lips thoughtfully before his eyes glint in the moonlight. "Queen of the nerds, perhaps. That seems fitting. Your royal nerdliness," he suggests, lips curling once more.
He would like to to keep things light. To somehow keep whatever has upset her at bay. At least for a little while longer. That smile, no matter who tenuous lights up his evening. It banishes all the frustration of being chased, pursued for trying to do a little good. For a moment it's just him and her and the rest of the city is so very far away.
But sometimes jokes fail and even the quipiest quip can't keep some of the darker parts of being Spider at bay. Their experiences are frequently similar, frequently tough, and that shared experience can be shared, the burden made lighter.
But as they've already touched upon, similar doesn't mean identical. Sometimes you just can't relate. Sometimes you can't just make it better with words.
So he waits. Waits with her in the sultry warmth of the New York evening. He takes his turn to just watch her, study her features.
Pete gives her the time to find the necessary words.
Amd then he listens.
Of course Peter has had his own struggles, keeping things from the people he loves most. Some of the people he trusts most. To be sure his Aunt May has worried about him too. She was most certainly not a fan of the fact that he took pictures of Spider-Man in the early years. That he would put himself any where near in harms way to document the 'crimes' of Spider-Man. He definitely knows what it is like to have a parent worry about him.
But she never had reason to mistrust him. There was never really any suspicion that he was hiding a huge part of his life from her. Or if there was, she never chose to express it. That neverstood between them. Even now, Peter is not entirely sure if she knows the truth or not. There is at least some temptation to tell her, talk with her, have faith that she can accept him for who he is.
And each time he has erred on the side of caution. Not because he doesn't trust his Aunt May. But because he's come to believe that knowing his secret is a danger. Not to him. But to those that he cares about. At least if they can't protect themselves.
Or maybe that's how he justifies letting Gwen, Miles and those rare others into this part of his life.
He lets her get it all out, eyes wide as he watches her struggle. He's been there. And the truth is there are no good answers. "I wish I could tell you that it gets easier. That it starts to hurt less, or that somehow a way to balance it all just presents itself. I wish it did," he admits quietly. "You have some good reasons not to tell him Gwen," Peter says quietly. "And you're going to have that tempration to do it anyway. And there really isn't a right answer," he says gently.
He wants to buck up her spirits, but she's not dealing with random strangers distrusting her, hating her. She's dealing with her father and a pep-talk just isn't going to cut it here.
But he can listen. And he can sit with her. When she leans against him he shifts a little, just enough to slide that arm around her shoulder and draw her in a little closer, his free hand reaching across to take hers in his own and give it a gentle squeeze.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
"I know," Gwen whispers softly. And she did. This wasn't her first time struggling with these feelings, even if it was perhaps the most poignant. She'd never almost died, before -- at least, not that her father knew anything about. She knew they'd work it out eventually. Neither one of them was truly even angry at the other. They were both just frustrated and disappointed.
But when one of Peter's arms slips around her and he takes her hand with the other, Gwen's whole body shifts instinctively, curling up into him. Her forehead slips over to gently rest against the side of his neck. Her legs draw back up from the ledge, resting her knees on his thighs, and her fingers thread between his.
She needed that warmth. That comfort. Her heart hammered along in her chest, the heady thrill of being so close to him doing more than he realized to improve her mood. She still had a long way to go, figuring out how to live with the guilt of the secrets she was keeping from her father. Probably many more years.. maybe forever.
In this moment, though, only the two of them existed. Even against the twinkling pinpricks of light, the glow from the city, the sound of the river below, the distant sounds of the city, it was hard for Gwen to see or hear anything except Peter. She didn't need a pep talk. She needed him. That was why she'd called him. And, he came.
"Thank you," she whispers, her breath warm against the skin of his neck. "For answering when I called. For coming." She draws in a breath, her chest filling and then relaxing as she releases the sigh. "I needed you. More than I realized." A bold admission, perhaps, but one that she didn't seem to be afraid of, in that moment. She was already wearing her vulnerability on her sleeve, and Peter had shown time and time again that he wouldn't freak out on her. So, all she could do was put her trust in him yet again.
- Spider-Man has posed:
It's clear that she's struggling and he has certainly been there. While there are few ways to improve his day faster then just swinging through the city, feeling that rush of the breeze flow by him as he weaves his way high above the city streets, it can be a burden too. That there are so few people who can truly understand what it's like. The freedom, the fun. The weight of duty and responsibility. All of it wrapped up with a need to protect that secret for fear of what exposure will mean to anyone close to them. It gets a little much, to handle on one's own. And so far as Peter can tell it does not get significantly easier with time.
Sometimes it feels like every decision is some complex puzzle, one that doesn't actually have a solution. That there is always a piece missing. Something that just can't be accounted for.
That's not really what Peter wants to share with her though. He might know, might understand that he can't really make it any better in this moment, he can't help but want to try.
So when Gwen curls up and leans into him, his arm tightens around her, fingers lacing with her own. That seems to help, at least a little. Of course it does. He certainly knows just how much her presence has helped him get through the past few weeks. The joking, the teasing. The kind words when he just isn't feeling very good about himself, or his lot in life. The touch of her hand in his own.
Small things on the surface. But ones that make such a big impact in the grand scheme of things.
He can't offer any definitive advice. Can't offer any concrete solution, and magic cure-all that will somehow bridge that gap between her father's desire to protect her above all else, and who she truly is. The secret that she can't share with him. Not without risking everything.
He can sit with her, up here, high above the traffic below. The lights of the city jsut a little further away and those dark waters stretching out in front of them.
The beat of his own heart sounds unnaturally loud in his ears, as if anyone nearby might be able to hear. An illusion, perhaps, but it certainly feels real and Pete tips his head ever so slightly, resting one cheek against that blonde hair as those fingers curled around her own give a little squeeze. "I'll always come when you call," he says quietly. "Whenever you need my Gwen, I'm there," he adds. "You've been a rock, this past little while. One of the only things is my life that hasn't felt completely unbalanced," he admits.
"Just seeing your name pop up on my phone a few minutes ago made my evening better," he admits.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
Sometimes, even if not all of the individual puzzle pieces are particularly pretty ones, they all still fit together to make something beautiful. They both had their ugly pieces. Peter's trouble with being wanted and his own isolation. Gwen's seemingly ever-increasing distance from a father she adored. If they allowed themselves, they could sort all of those ugly pieces together and just sit and stare at them, thinking about how unfortunate it was that they had so many ugly pieces.
Gwen naturally optimistic, but even she sometimes needed to be reminded that there were more than just the ugly pieces. Moments like these? These were amazing pieces. Priceless. Perfect in absolutely every way. And the more time she spent around Peter, the more of these she found. The more she found, the easier it was to remember that the 'big picture' wasn't all that bad. Actually, the more she saw of it, the more hope she had -- of a world her dad and Aunt May both knew everything, where she and Peter and all the rest of the Spiders and their families could all be /one/ family.
Sometimes, you can even feel one of those amazing pieces slip into place as it's happening. You know when it does because everything just feels 'right,' like there's nowhere else you're supposed to be and no one else you're supposed to be with.
"You know you're in trouble when I'm the most balanced thing in your life," she whispers.
He may not be able to see her face with his cheek against her hair and her nose pressed so close up against his neck, but he can hear the smile. He can probably even feel the tug of her cheeks.
Then there's that last admission, and it makes her chest ache with the need to be closer to him despite the fact that she had all but crawled up into his lap. She squeezes his hand, thumb gently brushing against his as she affectionately burrows her nose a closer still.
"I think about calling you eight hundred times a day," she say softly, her own admission carried in a soft, self-deprecating laugh. "As soon as we part ways, I think.. Oh, I should call Peter and tell him about this thing that happened. Or I pass by Gus and I wonder how you're doing. Or I'm working on my thesis, and I wonder what you're up to. Most of the time, I'm able to stop myself, but sometimes I send you a bunch of stupid texts like I did the other day."
- Spider-Man has posed:
Sometimes it can be a little hard to make out the light at the end of the tunnel.
Of course, what's worse is when that light is the oncoming train about to run you down. That has happened on a few occasions. Metaphorically speaking. Mostly.
It is certainly easy to get caught up in all the bad. The hard decisions. The opportunities missed out on because of the Spider-responsibilities. The mistrust that seems to be inherently directed their way. Sometimes from the people they care about. Sometimes, it seems, from practically the entire world.
It takes that different perspective of someone else who gets it. Who can put themselves in your shoes for just a moment. Who can share their own struggles. Who just make you feel like you're not alone out there.
Those people who make it easier to stop sitting and feeling sorry for one's self and start focusing on doing something about it. Finding the bright spot that makes it not just tolerable, but better
Peter is not above feeling sorry for himself from time to time. Lamenting on the general unfairness of this or that. The missed commitments because he was out there in costume, trying to make a difference. The fades relationships, the friendships that start to dissolve because your just aren't there, not in the way you should be. The public's dislike. It can definitely wear on one.
As bad as it might have been as of late, Gwen has been the big difference. It has kept him from wallowing, even when everything has gotten difficult. When it feels unfair.
So when he hears that smile creep back into her voice, feels it in that whisper, in that soft stirring against him it is very much like a weight he didn't even realize was there is suddenly lifted from his chest. One that he almost didn't even know was there.
A soft laugh escapes Pete and a little levity creeps back into his voice. "Call me crazy then, because it definitely works for me. You're pretty amazing. Through all of this craziness. I don't know what I would do with out you," he admits, voice dropping a little there at the end.
Fingers curl a little more tightly around her own and Peter's eyes fall shut, letting out a quiet sigh. "I have some idea of how that goes," he admits wryly. "If you hadn't called me I suspect it would have only been a few minutes until I called you. Just... to hear the sound of your voice. Just to have a chance to talk to someone who gets it," he confesses. "You joke, but trust me, getting your texts is one of the high points of my day," he asserts with a smile. Somehow it's just a little easier to admit to these things with his eyes closed.
"Even just holding your hand at the park made me ridiculously giddy," Pete chuckles quietly.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
She forces herself to take slow. breaths.
Even though Gwen's slender fingers curled with Peter's until they turned white, she could barely contain the way her heart tried to beat out of her chest. It hammered away until she was struggling to hear him over the sound of it. Words like 'amazing,' 'the sound of your voice,' high points of my day,' 'holding your hand,' and 'ridiculously giddy' stood out, simultaneously cutting through the thickening fog of bliss like a knife and also dragging her farther into it.
There was more she wanted to say, but try as she might, it was /so/ hard to find the right words. So, when she did speak after his comment about being giddy, it came out as little more than a soft laugh and a little nod of her head against his cheek. "Me, too."
She swallows, her throat suddenly dry.
Peter knows the feeling. It's the same one he got right before he jumped off that building for the first time with his web-spinners. Gwen had the same experience. They all did. But sometimes... you have to jump.
There's another brush of Gwen's thumb against his, a sort of soothing stroke, just before she shifts her weight, shifting to lift her head slowly -- every movement deliberate, giving him time to feel her intention, to move and respond without forcing, rushing, or catching him off guard. She definitely didn't want to trigger that danger sense, and in reality, she had no idea what was about to happen, Spider-Senses or not. It wasn't as if she had very much experience at this. Whatever the world might assume when they looked at her, she'd been a little too distracted for boys... okay, a lot too distracted for boys.
It wasn't easy being twenty-six years old and... alone. Not alone because you wanted to be. Alone because, even if you could find a guy out there that could live up to your impossible standards, you'd either never be able to be honest with him or he would always just be one more person you loved that would turn on you.
It wasn't like Gwen had never dated. She'd gone out with a couple of guys in high school that turned out to be jerks. There was a little time in college before she'd been bitten. But then it was all just Ghost Spider, which she was doing an okay job of convincing herself was the best, until she started spending more time with Peter.
The only man she'd ever met that had not only lived up to her impossible standards, but had blown past them so quickly it made her question whether or not she could live up to his.
Slowly, Gwen's chin lifted, and she brushed her nose against the curve of his jaw. No words or explanation, but her sky blue eyes were open, gazing up at him as she shifted again and, once more, the tip her nose brushed against his chin.
There's so much in her eyes as she looks up at him. Desire and fear both war for control, one tugging her closer, the other screaming at her to stop. But, she says nothing, just looking up at him and... hoping.
- Spider-Man has posed:
There is hesitation.
Of course there's hesitation. At the best of times Peter's social life has been something of a mess. Too many times showing up late, or not at all. Too many times when juggling all the things in life that friends have slipped down the list and been left disappointed. Finding a balance with school or his job, with being Spider-Man has rarely been easy. More often then not it has been impossible for any prlonged period of time.
So while Peter might manage to maintain a small group of core friends, that probably says more about their tolerance then his performance on the friend-o-meter. He usually gets the big things right, is usually there when it truly counts. But sometimes just showing up is a big part of life and he hasn't always done the best when it comes to that.
And yet somehow, his dating life has been even worse.
When he has had time to do that at all it tends to go wrong. Unsurprisingly. The same problems that plague him with his friends do the same with anyone that he might be interested in being, well, more than friends with. Only worse. Because there is a whole side of himself that he feels compelled to keep locked up, hidden away. A big part of his day that he can't really share or talk about.
Give that, how could things ever not go well?
And so there's the hesitation.
The idea of trying to push beyond that friendship he's crafted with Gwen, to try and find something more is pretty daunting for Pete. The possibility of losing what they already have an almost debilitating thought. The very last thing he wants right now.
Of course there is the fact that she's too good for him too. It might have been something he said in jest, but for him there is the lingering sense that it's true. She seems to have found that better balance that he has always looked for but never been able to maintain, not for long. A brilliant mind, a beautiful person and an amazing friend.
And so very cool. Whatever admirable traits Pete might have, that will probably never number amongst them.
There are a host of things that make him hesitate.
And yet... it's hard to overlook just how easy it is, being in her presence. How natural and fun in all seems. They can joke, they can play and a moment later can be swinging into danger, side by side, without the slightest uncertainty.
He doesn't have to keep a whole part of himself hidden away. Because she already knows about it. She lives it too. Each and every day.
That moment, it is exhilarating and terrifying, all at the same time. Life only a handful of moments before.
He can feel her shift, can feel her chin lift ever so slightly and fingers curl tightly around her own.
"Gwen, I --" he starts, and abruptly starts.
Words aren't important, not right then. Sometimes the only really way forward is to take that next step, to plunge into the unknown with all the hopes, all the promises that might come with it.
And so Peter casts aside that hesitation, at least this once. His head dips and there is nothing else in front of him but her. Lips find her own, and it is a tentative brush. a bare meeting.
At least at first.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
/Gwen, I --/
In the time it takes for just those sounds to leave Peter's lips, a billion things had run through Gwen's mind. How was she going to undo what she'd just done? How stupid was she to think that Peter, of all people, would want her as anything more than a friend? How was she supposed to keep sitting there with him, pretending she hadn't just made an absolute fool of herself?
Her heart couldn't of sunk any faster if the bridge underneath her had suddenly vanished and she'd been left to free-fall into the water.
The worst part about it was that it all felt like it was in slow motion. It felt a little like when she was trying to avoid getting shot -- like she could see the bullet leaving the gun, and even though she couldn't stop it, she could get out of the way.
She already had her exit strategy planned: a hasty apology, an assurance (even if it was a lie) that she just wanted to be friends, some vague excuse about being late, a little leap, and then finding a hole to crawl into until she felt like she could show her face again... or Peter needed her. No matter how much shame she might be suffering, she couldn't turn her back on--
All of those panicked thoughts suddenly ceased. Peter's lips met hers, and her breath caught. Actually, all thought that didn't directly involve contact with him was suddenly brushed aside, leaving her to focus on every minute detail of their connection.
She was still sitting on the bridge, but her knees had been drawn up to rest over into his lap. Her shoulder rested against his, and as that kiss lingered, her posture straightened, back arching against the arm he had looped around her. Her fingers, intertwined with his, pulled his hand up against her middle, clinging to it out of a combination of comfort and possessiveness -- a not so subtle hint that she didn't want him to pull away. Her other hand slipped up between them, cool fingers lightly brushing against his cheek, her thumb tracing the smooth -- if lightly stubbled -- line of his jaw.
Then there's their lips, that connection slow and tentative. Soft. Warm.
Gwen's eyes slip closed after a few seconds. Her weight shifts ever so slightly against him, sinking into him and that kiss with no hint of ever wanting it to stop. Almost as if she was scared of what the world might look like on the other side of it, all she wanted to do was live inside that kiss forever. It was safe there. Comfortable. Happy.
- Spider-Man has posed:
He's not expecting the worst.
Honest he's not. Well, maybe for just a flash before his lips find hers. He doubts she'll violently recoil, or shout at him asking what the heck he thinks he's doing.Maybe just a quick pull back. An assertion that she really values their friendship. That she would hate for anything to ruin that. Anything to come between them. Hard to hear, perhaps, but not out and out devestating.
Well, maybe a little devestating.
But nothing that he can't get over. Maybe nothing that would permanently effect his friendship. Maybe they would even be able to joke about it eventually. 'Hey, remember when...'.
But that's just a moment. A flicker in time. For good or ill, he doesn't let that dissuade him. Just this once. Maybe he has badly misread the situation. Maybe it's not their moment. All of that is certainly possible.
But it feels like maybe it is. While there might be plenty of reasons to hold back, to hesitate a little longer, to try and be sure, Pete throws all of that aside. This seems worth taking a chance.
There is probably never a right moment, a perfect moment. There will always be plenty of complications in both of their lives, personal, professional and costumed that will need to be overcome. But wouldn't that all, maybe, be a little easier and a whole lot better to do together?
So his lips meet hers, no matter how tentatively. He kisses her, soft and slow and the world narrows to just the top of that bridge spire. To just him and her and the warm summer's breeze that is ever present this high up in the city.
Everything else can wait.
His arm tightens around her, just a little, the feel of having her close to him like this unbelieavly good and his breath catches for just an instant as she draws their intermingled fingers closer. That kiss lingers, unwilling to break that moment, wanting to hold onto it as long as humanly possible.
But finally his lips part from hers, his eyes slide open and forehead tilts to rest against her own, taking in the sight of here there. Filling his vision. And while his heart might hammer in his chest, none of it feels quite so unlikely all of a sudden. So impossible.
"I've... wanted to do that for awhile," Peter confesses quietly, no more concerns about misreading the moment. "Sorry it took so long."
- Ghost Spider has posed:
There's some amount of worry, even during the kiss, that Gwen can't completely control, and that mostly revolved around what was going to happen next. That was one of the reasons (though, let's face it, not the primary reason) she didn't want the kiss to end. She didn't want to face the fear and uncertainty. She didn't want to hear regret or apology for something she wanted so much.. for something that felt so /right/ to her.
But like all things, it does end. Eventually. When it does, she takes a moment to catch her breath, just leaning her forehead against his without opening her eyes. Slowly, she opens them, ever hopeful even if she was carefully searching for signs of regret.
/Sorry it took so long./
And if that's all he was going to apologize for, she'd take it.
Gwen's eyes glow brighter than they ever have before, her smile broadening to something that might light up the night sky.
"Better late than never, Tiger."
She honestly wasn't /trying/ to rip off Mary Jane's thing, but it's really hard not to when you spend SO MANY HOURS practicing that DAMN SONG. Besides, she was being quippy anyway, and it was the perfect cherry on top. Peter Parker was many things, but a predator was not one of them. And that was more than okay with her.
There's a little, playful laugh from her, and then she leans in again, claiming another kiss rather than waiting this time -- it's faster, more careless, spurred on by the abundance of excitement that Gwen was having a hard time keeping in. If she didn't back-flip off of the bridge out of sheer happiness, it might be a miracle.
That kiss is much shorter, though, and when she straightens more fully to look at him, there's something so utterly familiar and yet so new. "Me too, you know. I didn't want to screw anything up. So, we have to make a deal. I /really/ want this. But, I don't want to lose my friend, either." She lets her hand slip from his cheek to poke her finger into the chest of his costume. "No changing who you are because of me. I don't know how to do relationships. I've never had one that worked, and it's been a /long/ time since I've tried. But I like /you/ as a person, not just for what we could be together. As long as I get to keep spending time with you, I'll be happy. Deal?"
- Spider-Man has posed:
Just because you make that decision to step out into the abyss, doesn't mean that it isn't a little heart-wrenching.
Putting aside all those doubts, all those concerns and just flinging yourself into something with a sort of blind faith doesn't mean that they are all gone. Banished for good. Peter isn't quite that naive.
Still, despite those little anxieties and insecurities that insist on lingering in the back of one's mind, he can't really bring himself to be sorry. Even after breaking that kiss, his hand very much remains in her own, and while her lips might not be under his own any longer, it certainly feels like it might take quite a bit longer before he is willing to surrender his hold on her hand.
Even still, there is defintely a moment of palpable relief that filters across his expression in an instant and her retort, an enormous weight lifted off his chest in an instant at those teasing words that are so very much her.
Even if the nickname might be stolen from Mary Jane.
A low laugh escapes Pete and just like that the tension is broken. It is not as if there is no potential for more pitfalls ahead, but none of that seems to matter at the moment.
She is still the same Gwen. He is still the same too. While it might feel heady, like the cumulation of something that has been building for some time, the world has not suddenly shifted on it's axis. Everything is not changed irrevocably.
There is still anticipation when she leans in, when their lips meet in that quicker, more playful kiss.
But the anxiety is all gone.
"I know exactly what you mean," Peter agrees, the line of his mouth quirking wryly, flashing a smile as she very pointedly pokes at his chest. "I wouldn't want anything to change the dyunamic we have," he admits. "It's really easy being your friend. And a lot of fun," he adds with that faint smile.
"So yeah, you don't have to sell me on that particular deal," Pete agrees.
Peter PArker took a chance. Not Spider-Man. And look at htat, it didn't blow up in his face. Who knew?
- Ghost Spider has posed:
Whatever dark cloud had been following Gwen around when the evening started -- troubles with her father, worries about disappointing him, fears about getting so close to Peter she ended up pushing him away... they all seem forgotten.
Like Peter, the anxiety is just... gone. The leap had been made, and they'd been there to catch each other. Just like maybe they always would be. As leaps of faith go, it could have gone a lot worse (and been a lot less fun than kissing under the stars on top of the George Washington Bridge).
/It's really easy being your friend. And a lot of fun./
Gwen laughs warmly, leaning in to brush the tip of her nose against his. "Good. Hopefully you'll be able to say the same thing about being my boyfriend."
It does appear, though, that with the relief of tension came a certain surge of giddy playfulness -- a lighthearted claiming of a title, of /him/, even even if they'd only just begun declaring their feelings for each other. Would he see it as an overstep? Or just a confident assertion of what she wanted? She was twenty-six years old, after all. Peter was was going to turn thirty in days, which no doubt meant a party -- one that she'd have to coordinate with Aunt May about, now. Maybe she could call Harry and Miles.
They weren't kids anymore.
It felt like it, sometimes. The spider bite was incredible. Even at nearly thirty, they still had the agility of superhuman teenagers, but time didn't stop for them completely. They weren't immortal. Gwen had always wanted a family of her own, some part of her wondered if that was even possible, anymore. She couldn't even tell her dad. What hope did she have of ever...
But Peter gave her hope. He made her feel normal, again. Wanted and needed in a way that transcended being superhero or not. The curtain had already been pulled back on how she felt about him, she wasn't about to be shy about it, anymore.
Or, about anything else, apparently.
"Do you want a cheeseburger? I want cheeseburger..."
In one smooth movement, she's pushing up to her feet, still holding on to his hand and offering her other as if to help him up, even if she didn't need to. It just seemed like the nice thing to do.
"Whad'ya think? Cheeseburgers?"
As if the whole matter of their relationship was simply settled business and the next logical step was just to keep living life. One cheeseburger at a time.
- Spider-Man has posed:
While he might not have kissed Gwen just to see her smile, it is certainly a nice side-effect.
In her eyes Peter sees that same flood of relief that nothing has suddenly careened off the rails. That there is no hesitation, no regret about thier little moment, finally realized. No sudden desire to suddenly call out 'whooops, backsies!'.
Is there a little giddiness right at the moment? Oh absolutely. Indeed, it is difficult, almost impossible really to imagine anything wiping the smile he can feel etched across his face away. And if that narrowed focus expands a little, to let a little of the outside world creep back in, it might only be because it suddenly feels that her place in that world is a little more established, that it goes hand in hand with his own.
How could Pete not smile at that thought?
Those words draw another low laugh at him, nose nuzzling up against her own for just a moment, just taking in the feel of her so close. It's definitely a good one. Once more half that smile quirks upward ever so slightly. "I do kind of like the sounds of that," he admits slowly.
It doesn't seem sudden, doesn't sound strange. While that shared kiss might have finally broken the dam between them, it is not something that came out of nowhere afterall. Shared triumph, shared adversity is not exactly brand new to either of them. Maybe the realization that they could be more then partners in web-slinging is newer, but they've been bound by shared experience for awhile now.
So why not?
Lifting their joined hands, Pete dips his head and brushes his lips across the backs of her fingers. They don't have everything magically figured out of course. She still has her thesis, still has her bad. She still has all those worries that she has to keep penned up from her father. He still has his problems with the law. Being wanted by the police is no minor thing. He still has his professional issues. Is feeding the beast that is Jameson's hatred for Spider-Man -- especially for a not especially impressive paycheck -- really his best option?
And of course, together they have a whole host of costumed threats that seem to be making New York City their playground while being very intent on smashing the pair up but good.
And that doesn't even touch on their future, one where it suddenly seems that it could be shared, much more intimately then just as casual friends and partners in masks.
So does he want a cheeseburger?
Grinning up at her as she rises to her feet, Pete is quick to follow, hand still in her own, fingers still curved with here as if he never intends to let it go. "You better believe I want a cheeseburger," he agrees at once.
- Ghost Spider has posed:
And while Peter may not yet realize it, any time he did want to see her smile, that's a pretty sure way to make it happen.
The approval that she gets from... well... from calling him her 'boyfriend' elicits a bubble of warm laughter that's so obviously pleased it's a wonder her jaw isn't hurting from smiling so much. She was probably too old to be so delighted over such a simple thing, but that didn't seem to matter. She wasn't going to pretend she was better at this, more experienced at this, or too mature to be this happy. She wasn't going to pretend anything with Peter.
...like how absolutely disarmed she was when he kissed her hand. It's so startling in its unexpected simplicity and tenderness that it steals her breath and her heart. She had already been working on how to keep things from getting /too/ heavy even though this kind of moment was naturally weighty. But you can pretty much leave it to Gwen to bring things back up when they've gotten too serious or too far down (unless, of course, she's gotten too far down herself, but thankfully that didn't happen very often). That unexpected kiss is arresting, though. For a few seconds, she just stares at Peter like she can't believe he's even real. She looked like she wanted to say 'thank you' but couldn't get her mouth to move.
Cheeseburgers. That's even all the more reason for cheeseburgers. Otherwise she was going to end up kissing him until the sun came up. Which, in reality, she didn't hate the idea of, either...
/You better believe I want a cheeseburger./
Gwen smiles. And then she smiles even bigger.
Yeah. This was good. This was... life-changing kind of good. And it was just getting started.
She didn't want to let go of him, either, but she did, just so she could take his mask from him and pull it over his head... at least as far down as his nose. Then she leaned up onto tip-toe in her light blue Chuck Taylors, her body lengthening against his, and kissed him again, holding that mask up out of the way.
She couldn't say if seconds or minutes ticked by, but when that kiss ends, she moistens her lips and pulls his mask the rest of the way down. Then she takes a step back, her blonde hair fluttering in the breeze, the heel of her shoe hovering out of the edge as she balances on her toes.
"Race you to Lil Zeus." The food truck on W 50th Street and 6th Ave that had AMAZING food. Including burgers.
Her grin is taunting. That same 'catch me if you can' glint in her eye she had the last time she raced him. Of course, there was no wondering, anymore, exactly how much she liked having him chase her.
And then she jumps into the night, flipping backwards once. By the time she comes back around, she has her mask pulled down and her hood pulled up, and she stretches out her arm shooting a web line out to the bridge with a *THWIP* and swinging into the night.