This piece of fan fiction, which I first posted on FanFiction.net back in 2006 under the pen name prideaux, examines a cornerstone of the Spider-Man mythos: the relationship between Peter Parker and his (now ex) wife, Mary Jane Watson.

Spider-Man, Mary Jane
Peter and MJ meet for the first time. Artwork by Alex Saviuk. ©Marvel Comics

For those of you who may only be familiar with the movies, the couple were married in the comics back in 1987 following a looong courtship, in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21. At the time, it was a move that divided fans, as many felt that Spider-Man was much more relatable as a swinging bachelor without the responsibilities of married life.

But exactly 20 years later, Peter and MJ’s marriage and two decades of continuity were dissolved by Marvel via equally controversial storylines One More Day and One Moment In Time. And they did it through the most hackneyed and eyeball-rolling plot device possible: Peter made a deal with a demon to save  his dying Aunt May. In exchange, reality would be altered, such that the couple were never married.

To have it all taken away so suddenly was a shock to the system, one I’m still recovering from. But hey, who am I to argue with sales figures?  And to be fair, the comic does seem to have been freshened up by the bold move, with a myriad of new characters and storylines. But something always seems to be missing.

Peter and MJ get married. Artwork by John Romita ©Marvel Comics

As a reader of Spider-Man for many years, I can never stop thinking of Peter and MJ as a couple. The depth of their relationship,  cemented by outstanding writers such as Gerry Conway and J. Michael Straczynski, is something that I have always found deeply moving. Like all well-written characters, they grew over the years: from casual friends to boyfriend/girlfriend to married couple.   MJ became not just the faithful wife, but a soulmate to Peter, giving him the strength to take on the bad guys. Peter’s words to MJ (penned by JMS) speak for themselves:

Everything’s easier when you’re there, and harder when you’re not. Without you, nothing works the way it should. But when I know you’re there in my life, I feel like I can do anything, MJ. Anything. 

I can’t better anything JMS has written, and I know Norman Osborn’s alive now, and Harry’s not the Green Goblin anymore. But if there’s one constant about Peter, it’s the guilt he perpetually feels at having let down the ones he loves the most. So here it is: my 1000-word, pre-One More Day, story on Peter and MJ, presented here with minor edits.

Spider-Man, Mary Jane
Peter and MJ embrace for the last time. Artwork by Joe Quesada ©Marvel Comics

*     *     *     *     *

Talking To You, Being With You

She came into the house and tossed her keys onto the table, then kicked off her shoes. It had been a long day at work, and the only thing she wanted to do was lie down. Idly, she noticed his shoes and wondered why he hadn’t turned on the lights. She walked up the stairs to their bedroom. It was empty.

She thought for a bit. Then she went up to the attic. He was there, sitting by some old boxes.

“Peter?”

“I’m here, MJ.”

“Why are you sitting there in the dark, honey?”

“Just wanted to be alone for a while.”

“What’s on your mind?” She asked, as she went over and snuggled up to him.

“I thought about him today.”

“Who?”

“Harry.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t worry, MJ. I’m okay. Really”

“It’s been months, you know.”

“I know.

“Maybe you could try thinking less about him.”

“I’m not flipping out or anything.”

“I know.”

“Yeah.”

Silence.

“So why’d you think of him, tiger?”

“I was just looking at our yearbook. Gwen, Flash, you, Liz…and Harry. I remembered what he was like. Before all this.”

“You mean before he decided to dress up like a goblin and endanger the lives of every single person within his immediate vicinity?”

“Yeah. Before the drugs. Before Norman. Before – before Gwen.”

She broke away from him and sat up. “Are you okay, tiger?”

“Yeah, I’m just – remembering.”

“You can’t control everything.”

“I know that.”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m kinda glad he’s locked up with all the other crazy people.”

“Come on, MJ. You know he had a lot to overcome.”

“So did you and I, but we never put the blame on other people, did we?”

“That’s true, but…”

“And putting his own wife and child in harm’s way. Beating up Mark like that. God.”

“Did you know he almost escaped from the Vault?”

“What?”

“Got a tip off from a S.H.I.E.L.D agent. He happened to be around the Avengers when I was with them. Seems Harry broke out of a harness designed to hold the Hulk.”

“Oh God. I never knew he was that strong.”

“They didn’t know what to do with him, so they ended up putting him in Doc Pym’s House.”

“House? What does that mean?”

“They shrink them down to Ant-Man’s size and put them away.”

“Oh.”

“I got so mad, MJ. I wanted to tell that agent there and then, what gives you the right to treat people like that? Even criminals deserve some respect. But I thought about Liz, and little Norman, and Mark. And you. What he almost did to all of us. And I couldn’t say anything. So I just swung away.”

“Well. Let’s hope Harry stays there.”

“Do you know what he said to me the last time? When he trashed the house and had me tied up?”

“What?”

“He said, ‘I want you to hurt, the way that I have been hurt. I want you to know what pain is. And I;m going to start by killing Mary Jane.'”

“God.”

“I tried to reason with him. I told him, MJ has nothing to do with this. He kind of looked at me for a while. Then he said, “Let me hurt you then. And I promise I won’t hurt her’.”

“Oh, Peter.”

“As if I were responsible for everything that ever happened to him. As if I were the one who made him and his father put on that damn costume.”

“It’s the Osborns. Insanity must run in the family.”

“I can never stop thinking that I could have done more for him. If I’d noticed the drugs earlier, maybe gotten him some help. Maybe he might not have been poisoned by Norman’s madness.”

“And maybe you could have found a cure for AIDS too.”

“You know what I mean, MJ. I could have done more.”

“Oh, Peter. We’ve been through this before.”

“I know, but…”

“You know what the thing about you is, tiger?”

“What?”

“You think you’ve let everybody down, when the fact is, there isn’t anyone I know who has done more for the people he loves.”

“MJ…”

“Peter. Do you remember what you said? After Harry ran off. Before you went after him.”

“I don’t remember. All I could think about was stopping him.”

“You said, ‘I won’t let him hurt you or anybody else, MJ.’ And just because you said it, I believed you. I never doubted for a moment that you would stop him.”

“What made you so sure?”

“Because you always have.”

“I don’t know about that, MJ. I don’t know how you can have that kind of confidence in me.”

 “Peter. Look at me.” He turned to her with tired eyes.”
 
“All those times when I sat at home waiting for you, I always knew you’d come back to me. Do you know why?”

“Why?”

“Because even when you were buried alive, you found a way back to me. I know you’d never leave me.”

“I’m so sorry, MJ. I’m sorry about everything I’ve ever put you through…”

“Peter…everything I said to you on our wedding day is as clear as day in my head. Every single day, I take that vow again. ‘I will take this man – this very special man – to be the most important thing in my life. Because I’ve realized that’s exactly what he is’

The tears were beginning to flow. “I can even remember the exact way you said it.”

“There’s something else you need to know, Peter.”

“What’s that?”

“For all that’s happened, the way I feel about you has never changed. Stop holding on to your guilt. And just know that I love you.”

“I know.”

They looked at each other a good long time. They could feel each other thinking, looking back, and remembering how they first met. The secrets that had driven them apart at first, and then brought them together in the end. Finally, he smiled and drew her close again.

“I love you, MJ. I always have, and I always will.”

“I know.” And they held each other.