Gwen barely made it home after another night of patrolling the city and stopping thugs targeting defenseless civilians. She crept quietly through the window, not making a noise as she closed it before tiptoeing to the other side of the room to switch the light on. She pulled her mask off and breathed in.
Oh good. She still had five hours of sleep. Gwen removed the rest of her costume and picked up an over-sized tee and gym shorts to get settled into for the night. As she put her costume away, her phone illuminated on her night stand. She opened her phone to find:
So, I'm gonna risk waking you up because I'm hoping our chem hw isn't due til next Thursday and not, ya know, tomorrow.
Gwen flicked the light off and sat down on her bed, typing back a response.
It's next Tuesday, doofus. And luckily for you, I wasn't awake.
Another message popped up.
Gwen bit her lip before responding.
Something like that. Just have a lot of work, ya know?
But I think I'm ready to turn in for the night. See ya tomorrow.
Only one more response.
Gwen double checked that her alarm was on before setting her phone to the side and hitting her head on the pillow.
"You've been doing what now?" Gwen asked as she looked questioningly at Peter.
"I'm interning at Dr. Connors' office," Peter explained excitedly, having pushed his bagged lunch to the side. "He accepts high schoolers and this'll be what I need to get into a really good school once we're done with this dump."
"Isn't he the doctor that specializes in reptiles."
"Lizards to be more specific," Peter clarified. "Anyway, he said I could start as soon as Monday."
"Peter, that's gre-" She grabbed Peter by the shoulder so he wouldn't be hit by the oncoming flying sweet potatoes that were sent their way. They looked over to see a group of jocks at their own table, booing.
"Hey, Dorker! I'd like to see you dodge that next time without your girlfriend's help!" the ringleader said.
Peter's face turned red as he moved away from Gwen's touch.
"Seriously, Peter, when are you gonna tell a teacher?" She looked at him with concern.
"You think the teachers are gonna care?" Peter raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, you're right," Gwen conceded. "But you can't let them keep picking on you like this."
"And how do you suggest I do it? I'd love to hear it," Peter snapped back.
Gwen frowned and turned away from him.
"Sorry," Peter looked at her guiltily. "I just don't get it. I thought I'd at least get ignored in high school, but no matter where I'm go, I'm just the loser."
"Bullies are gonna be everywhere," Gwen said. "I mean, look at how much crime is in this city. Even if you don't deal with these guys, you might end up being tortured by Doc Oc."
"I think I'd rather be tortured by Doc Oc. I don't think it could be as bad as what school is."
"I don't know. I heard he likes play Eminem when he's at work."
"Just because you don't like Eminem doesn't mean everyone else doesn't," Peter smiled.
"Peter, half the words he says don't make any sense."
"Then maybe it's a good thing you haven't been kidnapped by him."
The two shared a laugh at how silly their conversation was going. Gwen's phone rung to reveal a group chat between herself, Em Jay, Glory, and Betty. Em Jay gave them a heads up that their usual practice spot was gonna be moved today.
"Say, if you're not busy after school, maybe we could hit that new music shop that opened in downtown? I hear they have a whole section of vinyls."
"You just wanna see if Fall Out Boy has a vinyl," Gwen teased. "Sorry, Pete. I got practice today."
"Oh, yeah." Peter stuffed his brown bag in his backpack. "I'm sorry, I totally forgot you have practice every Thursdays."
"And Wednesdays and Fridays," Gwen pointed out. "But this Saturday is one of our no gig Saturdays so we can definitely check it out then."
"Great!" Peter responded.
The bell rang and they had to get back to class. Gwen's next class was upstairs while Peter's was still on the first floor. They walked out of the cafeteria together, waving goodbye as Gwen walked up the stairs.
"You're performing next Saturday, right?" George asked at the dinner table, reading up on the newspaper.
"That's right. Think you'll make it?" Gwen asked.
"I'll try to, pumpkin, but you know I gotta be on call in case something happens."
"I know, Dad. If you can't come, you can always make it up to me by getting me those Taylor Swift tickets."
"Don't hold your breath on that." George's eyes set on an article about Spider-Woman. He shook his head. "I swear, Spider-Woman does this crime-fighting stuff for attention."
"What makes you say that?" Gwen finished up the food on her plate.
"Well think about it, Gwen. If she wanted to do my job without the attention, she could have easily joined the force."
"Aw, c'mon, Dad. She saved your life, didn't she?"
George tried to say something, shrugging and moving his hand that still had a fork on his fingers.
"I mean....kind of..."
"Oh, alright. So she's not that bad," George got back to eating. "But she only saved my life once. Which means as soon as I save her life once, I'm free from being indebted to her."
Gwen chuckled at her dad's logic. If he knew she was Spider-Woman, he would have told her that he already repaid her for saving his life by paying for her drum set and lessons. Gwen was about to get another bite off her plate when her phone pinged.
She opened her phone to be met with a selfie from Peter, who was standing next to an old, vintage style record player. It had the caption: Check out what was in Aunt May's attic!
Gwen smiled, putting her phone away.
"Is it that Parker kid?" George asked.
Gwen's face turned pink.
"Y-yeah." She took a quick bite of her food.
George smiled, folding the newspaper and setting it down across from him.
"I'm really glad you're spending time with him. He looks like he could use a real friend and he's lucky to have you as that friend."
Gwen shrugged, finishing up her meal. As she got up, her hand was on her plate when her dad said, "Don't worry worry about cleaning up. I'll take care of it."
Gwen went back to her room and changed into her costume. Before she put the mask on, she looked at Peter's photo again, noticing that his hair was messier than usual and it looked like there was a bruise on his neck. She was about to ask him if he was alright when her spidey senses were tingling, calling for her to don the mask and respond to her friend at a later time.
The auditorium echoed the drum beats that came from Gwen's stand. She put in all her energy and power into each beat, a smile on her face as she created a rhythm that banged the stage. Her stick hit the cymbal, earning an applause from Peter.
Gwen stood up from her set and gave a bow.
"Thank you, thank you," she said.
"You've really gotten better," Peter commented. "You didn't miss as many notes as last time."
"Gwen Stacy does not miss notes," she crossed her arms.
"She doesn't, huh? Then does she miss this," Peter attempted to throw a pamphlet her way, only for it to fall miserably on the floor. "That was supposed to be a lot cooler in my head. Like a shuriken, you know?"
Gwen couldn't hold back a laugh. She wiped a tear from her eye as she walked over and crouched down to pick up the pamphlet. It was an exhibition of Dr. Connor's most recent exhibition. She opened the pamphlet and saw Peter's name inside.
"Oh, Pete," she looked at him. "This is great."
"I know! Oh, don't worry about dressing up really nice for the event. It's a pretty casual event. And y'know, you normally have to pay five bucks to get in, but since you know, I could get you in for free," Peter leaned back, but didn't realize he was next to a curtain and not a wall. He was able to stop himself from falling and got back up.
Gwen didn't laugh this time, instead holding the pamphlet close.
"I'll be there."
"Yeah," Gwen nodded. "Can't promise I'll be on time though."
"That's okay. The date and time are on the pamphlet and-"
"Hey! Band members only!"
From the entrance of the auditorium was Em Jay, who was followed by Glory and Betty, each carrying their respective instruments.
"Do you know what it took to convince the school to let us use this space for practice?" Em Jay put her hands on her hips with an annoyed look at Peter.
"No, I don't. I'm sorry," Peter said meekly, looking down.
"Peter," Gwen walked closer to him.
Peter picked up his bag and went down the steps.
"Pete!" Gwen called out to him again.
He looked up at her.
"I'll see you. You know? At the event," she held the pamphlet up.
Peter gave a small smile.
"Yeah. I'll see you then. Good luck with practice!"
The girls walked past him up to the stage so they could set up their instruments. Once Peter was out of the auditorium, Em Jay looked over to Gwen.
"I don't get why you let a loser like him in here," she said as she set up the microphone.
"Why are you so against him being here?" Gwen questioned, putting the pamphlet safely away in her bag.
"Because he's a loser," Em Jay looked at her as if that was the obvious answer. "If we want to make it big, we can't have losers like that holding us down."
"Hey, I think that's a little too harsh," Betty tried speaking up.
"No. What's harsh is that we have to keep finding a new place to practice!"
Glory remained silent, tuning her guitar and waiting for someone to tell her what song they're gonna start first. Gwen held in her anger, walking back to her drum set just so she could get practice over with.
Spider-Woman left the bank robbers on the footsteps of the police department this time. She flung herself into the air gracefully, making twists and turns as she jumped from building to building. She was already pushing it with how late she was. She hoped her dad had something nice to say about her this time. She'd need it if she couldn't make it to the exhibition.
Spider-Woman slipped into the restrooms of the museum that was hosting the event. She chose the one that most people didn't know about because it was further away from the popular exhibitions, allowing her to crawl into an empty stall and change out of her costume in lieu of a black top with a green jacket and purple shorts. She stuffed the costume in her bag and got out of the bathroom to search for Dr. Connor's exhibition.
Gwen ran across the museum floor, following the sound of Dr. Connor's voice that came from the center of the museum. She made it to the crowd, standing idly to the side when she spotted Peter standing behind the doctor. She tried to wave at him until he noticed her and when he did he smiled.
Except he got distracted by seeing her there.
"Huh? Oh, right!"
The crowd laughed at his absent-mindedness as he brought out a hidden glass that was revealed to contain a giant lizard. From what Gwen could gather, research was being done on the genetics of lizards and how their biology could be used as a model for future technologies and medicines that could benefit humans. When the presentation was over, Dr. Connor thanked his interns, though he didn't name Peter specifically.
That didn't stop his aunt from praising Peter for how well he did up there.
"Not bad, Peter," Gwen said to him before facing Aunt May. "Hi, May."
"Oh, Gwen," Aunt May smiled at her. "It's been forever since I last saw you. When are you gonna take my nephew out of the house again."
"Aunt May," Peter shook his head.
"You know I'm kidding," Aunt May patted Peter's arm. "I know you're both busy with your own lives and obligations. But you can't go out solely for business. Live a little. You're still young and not in college yet where you'll have to cram every night."
"Yeah, that'll suck," Gwen went along, not daring to bring up how she already feels like she has to cram everything every night. "Though seriously, you were great up there," she told Peter.
"Thank you," Peter said.
"Excuse me, I'm gonna grab myself some coffee," Aunt May said as she walked over to the table that was serving coffee and doughnuts.
Peter held in a chuckle before looking down.
"Ya know, you didn't have to rush to get here."
"What? Of course I did. I'm so sorry for not being here sooner."
Peter's eyes shifted.
"This isn't against you, but maybe it would have been better if you didn't come."
Gwen furrowed her eyebrows. "What was that?"
"I'm sorry!" Peter looked at her, nervous. "That came out wrong. What I meant to say was....I wasn't my best up there. And I made a total fool of myself."
"Oh..." Gwen put a hand over her wrist, relaxing her expression. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to distract you."
Peter shook his head. "I should have paid better attention." His phone buzzed. He frowned when he looked at the screen. "And everyone at school knows about my screw-up." He showed Gwen an embedded video of him embarrassing himself on stage. There were comments about how lame and dumb he was, some people questioning if he really was as smart as he claimed to be.
"They're the real losers," Gwen said. "You're out here doing amazing things while the majority of people at our school are either gonna drop-out or end up in a dead-end fast food job."
"Yeah, but they'll still be stronger and more popular than me," Peter said. "No one's gonna care what I do if I'm still a nobody." He browsed through his phone to see that now people were commenting on Spider-Woman. Comments of how amazing she was and how she really shows the bad guys what's up. "Spider-Woman is the luckiest person I know."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because so many people love her. She has more fans than haters. She has superpowers. She keeps everyone safe and protected." Peter pressed on a pic someone took of Spider-Woman mid swing. "She's so....perfect."
"Perfect?" Gwen snorted. "Just cuz she's got superpowers and the best superhero outfit doesn't mean she still isn't human. Uh, not that I would know she's human, because she could be an alien. Or something. I don't know."
Peter shook his head. "Whatever she is, she's got the talent, the charisma....she's special." Peter slipped his phone back in his pocket. "Here I am, a nobody at school and in Dr. Connor's lab."
Gwen frowned. She gave Peter a light punch.
"Hey, you're not a nobody. You're Peter Parker. The smartest kid in school and my best friend."
Peter gave a weak smile.
Gwen's spidey senses were tingling. She scanned the room, trying to figure out where the danger was coming from.
"It's okay, Gwen," he gave her a sympathetic nod. "You have somewhere to be, right?"
Gwen looked away at him guiltily.
"Gwen, it's cool. You showed up. That's more than I could ask for. Go on, now. I'll tell Aunt May something important came up."
Gwen gave him a small, but appreciative smile.
"You're the best."
Spider-Woman lured her new foe away from the public. He was fast, she'd give him that much. Her adrenaline was running and his larger than life size was not to be messed with. She appropriately gave him the nickname the Lizard because she didn't have time to come up with a more creative nickname. Especially not when he was terrorizing the prom.
She kicked the door down so she could crawl inside and up the ceiling. The Lizard smashed through the wall, letting out a growl. He stomped inside, keeping his eyes peeled for Spider-Woman. Spider-Woman silently free ran the the steel bars that lined up the ceiling. She hid behind one that was sloped up. She took a risk by popping her head out. The Lizard picked up a long and heavy pole, lifting it as if to test its weight. Spider-Woman tried to figure out what he was gonna do with it. She didn't need that much time as he instantly turned around and launched it in her direction. Spider-Woman got out of hiding and flung right at him, dodging his incoming punches and tail swings.
She landed safely and fluidly and managed to throw in a few punches. The Lizard tried to pummel her to the ground, but she was too fast for him. It did create a hole underneath them, one which she could kick him right into. The Lizard landed on his back, growling at the attack. Gwen followed him down to hear another roar. She aimed her web at him, but he was able to grab it easily and slammed her down. He gave a low chuckle, but she got back up again.
He roared again, determined to take her down once and for all, except she kicked him right in the chin, sending him flying back.
But as he flew away from her, his reptilian form started to shrink away. He was less giant and more....human. Even his tail went away. Spider-Woman had to get to the bottom of this. She ran to him and knelt down beside him. When she lifted his head, she couldn't believe it.
Her best friend.
She gently slapped his face.
"Peter?" She called out. "Peter, wake up!"
Peter shook his head and looked up at her.
"Spider-Woman?" He winced.
Spider-Woman looked over to his arm, a green infection growing around right before his elbow.
"Peter, what happened? What did you do?"
Peter smiled at her. "You know my name."
"Of course I do," she replied. "I...I've heard a lot about you."
Peter tried to push himself up, but he shut his eyes in pain.
"Hey, take it easy," she instructed. "If you tell me what happened, I can help you."
Peter looked at his arm.
"I...I used Dr. Connor's lab to create a drug."
"What kind of drug?"
"The one that'll make me strong and resilient. Like a lizard."
"Peter," she put a hand on his chest. "Why would you do that? Did you know what could happen?"
"It was a fifty-fifty chance," he chuckled out. "It'd either kill me or turn me into...into...."
"Sorry. It's kind of funny. I turned into a force to be reckoned with and I-" He shook his head. "Spider-Woman."
"All I ever wanted was to be special. Like you."
Spider-Woman cradled him closer to her. "You are special. More than you'll ever know."
Peter widened his eyes as much as possible. He smiled at her before closing his eyes again and his head slumped down. Spider-Woman looked out trying to sense if anyone else was around. He could have been set up. Or used as a pawn. But she couldn't sense anyone else around. It was just her and Peter. More like just her, actually.
The class president spoke on the podium about the accomplishments Peter Parker accomplished. How there were such high aspirations for him. How he would have made it big. It was true, but Gwen knew they made it all up. Or maybe they got it from talking to May, who had been seated in the front row and not looking at anyone in particular. They used his yearbook photo as the big one that was surrounded by a wreath of flowers. She opened her phone to see the photo of him next to the old recorder. Guess they couldn't have anything to indicate that there were jerks at this school.
Except those jerks didn't kill him.
When the assembly was over and they were dismissed back to class, Gwen walked out of school and retreated to the music shop she and Peter frequented. She didn't care if her parents got a call later about her missing class. She wasn't gonna stay in a place that was hell for Peter. Not right now anyway. Her hands reached for a vinyl that Peter had been waiting for. She carried it to the cashier, sliding the money his way before stuffing it in her backpack. It was already dark and the school was empty when she returned. The memorial piece was still there and Gwen placed it in front of his photo before putting the mask back on and resuming her duties as Spider-Woman.
She was supposed to be his best friend.
She was supposed to tell him he was special, not Spider-Woman.
Why didn't she tell him?
Why didn't he hate her?
Now that she wasn't part of a band anymore, Gwen could become Spider-Woman almost full-time. She didn't speak to anyone these days, keeping to herself mostly. Even her dad could barely spend any time with her.
After another patrol, Spider-Woman changed into Gwen. She walked down the streets in her white sweater, digging her hands in her pockets and keeping her head straight to pay attention to any potential danger.
She didn't do friends anymore.