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It took the better part of two years for Peter to get his shit together. In that time, MJ became first chair in band, vice-president of the LGBTQ alliance network, and quit track and field because fuck running. She didn’t need any more bonus points on her high school transcript anyway. In two years, she also blew through two boyfriends and lost her virginity.

 

Meanwhile, the only thing Peter seemed to do was duck out of class while still maintaining a 4.0 GPA and scrape it together enough to show up to the occasional academic decathlon team meeting.

 

Regardless, two stupid years after she started throwing hints his way the only way she knew how, which, admittedly, was mostly just flipping him off, Peter sat across from MJ in the library and asked if she wanted to catch a movie sometime.

 

God, finally. Though she was pretty sure her response was, “Sure, whatever, dork.”  

 

-*-

 

MJ knew Peter was Spider-Man. He hadn’t told her, but she knew anyway. Honestly, she was surprised that no one else had figured it out yet. Peter was not suave enough for an alter-ago, and Ned was probably the absolute worst confidant.

 

She never let on that she knew. She preferred to pretend she had gone temporally deaf when she interrupted their hushed conversations on more than a dozen occasions since sophomore year. She could say she didn’t throw it in their face because she was such a great friend. But, honestly, she just liked showing off how much better she was at keeping a secret than the two of them.

 

Too bad Peter and Ned were too oblivious to appreciate her awesomeness.

 

-*-

 

Peter had a single flower when he picked her up at her house. Crap. Now she had to carry a living plant all evening and pretend to be grateful for it.

 

“You look nice.”

 

MJ narrowed her eyes. “This is the same outfit I wore to school today.”

 

“Still, it’s a nice look on you.”

 

She couldn’t help but roll her eyes at his sincerity and utter lack of vocabulary. She started to wonder if this was a big mistake. If she was going to inadvertently chew him up and spit him out like she did with the last two boyfriends.

 

“So, what movie are we seeing?” she asked as she closed and locked the door behind her. Best to make a quick getaway before her parents caught on that it was a date.

 

“Oh! There’s a new Nicholas Sparks movie that came out last weekend.”

 

MJ leaned her forehead on the door and slowly exhaled.  Double crap.

 

“But I knew you would hate that, so I preordered us tickets for the new James Bond movie instead.”

 

The smug asshole. 

 

MJ smiled. Maybe there was some hope for him after all.

 

-*-

 

Dating Peter didn’t change her daily life much. She still went to school and clubs and did her homework, all while eagerly preparing for next fall at Columbia University. God, she couldn’t wait to get out of the oppressive hellhole that was her life. She didn’t have any sob story to go with that feeling. She wasn’t bullied. Her parents were decent people. She went on nice vacations. And, while she didn’t have many, she liked the friends she did have.

 

Adolescence just seemed to have an overbearing way of crushing the soul out of her. For years she proved day in and day out that she could function as an independent, capable adult, but no one was watching. So she was still stuck with curfews and packed lunches and scheduled study breaks.

 

Sometimes she wondered why all the adults in her life didn’t trust her. Then she looked around at the surrounding mindless morons who would likely kill themselves with overindulgence if someone with a brain and a pension wasn’t there to remind them that things have warning labels for a reason.

 

Fuck teenagers. Seriously.

 

The only change in her life was now there happened to be a fellow teenager that she initiated regular, sustained contact with. And if that wasn’t a glowing commendation for Peter Parker, she didn’t know what was.

 

-*-

 

Kissing came easy to them. They seamlessly flowed into one another as if they were on the same wavelength. It was hot and breathy and all the things MJ enjoyed.

 

MJ sat in his lap on his floor with her legs around his torso. She pushed him into the side of the bed as her body pressed against his. His stupid bunk bed was not conducive to any type of fun, sexual activity. She’d already hit her head on the top bunk more often than she’d care to admit. 

 

She was curious how the hell actual sex was going to work out, once they made it that far. She would have had him come over at her place to do it, but her parents would absolutely flip if they ever found out. Peter hadn’t yet mentioned any such qualms regarding his aunt. But he also hadn’t given any indication he was interested in anything beyond kissing. She assumed it was likely due to him still being a virgin. Not that she knew that for certain. But, god, Peter was a virgin if she ever met one.

 

She was observant like that.

 

-*-

 

Peter was the easiest boyfriend.

 

He was courteous and kind. He respected her and listened pretty much as well as one could hope from a teenage boy. He didn’t argue or get jealous. They hung out and talked but not too much. Even in the tired silence of the evening, she genuinely enjoyed his company and he seemed to enjoy hers.

 

All in all, it was probably one of the lowest maintenance relationships in existence.

 

Peter was the easiest boyfriend except for when he wasn’t.  

 

He was courteous and kind and listened as well as one could hope. But listening was a two way street and their late evenings were often filled with noise from movies and games but not each other.

 

MJ was starting to think that it may be deliberate.

 

When Peter talked, he talked about school, his friends, and the latest science article he read.

 

He didn’t talk about college, his family, or anything of substance.

 

They were mid battle in an older version of Halo when MJ decided to try and change that.

 

“So, are you excited to go to Empire State?” she asked without taking her eyes from the screen. She hadn’t played this game in years but she refused to go down without a fight.

 

She saw a shrug out of the corner of her eye. “Yeah, I guess.”

 

“Man, I can’t wait for college. Finally, a chance to live on my own and do my own thing.”

 

Peter made a non committal noise that could’ve meant anything.

 

She risked a glance at him. “You know our universities are pretty close. We’ll still be able to hang out.”

 

He made the exact same noise again. She clenched her jaw and turned back toward the screen.

 

Just as she refocused her attention, Peter screamed out, “Got it! Got your flag! I’m the supreme champion!”

 

Dammit. Now, it was on.

 

-*-

 

When they finally had sex, it was…fine.

 

To fit every cliché there ever was, it happened after prom. They had talked about it beforehand and decided to rent a motel room to save themselves from any possible embarrassing interruptions. Peter had been unbelievably nervous all night, complete with fumbling and shaking hands as the night progressed. It would have been adorable if that was a word in MJ’s vernacular.

 

When they entered the motel room, she sat Peter down on the floor and kissed him against the bed in hopes the familiarity would calm him down a bit. His hands were no longer trembling when she asked him to unzip her dress. She smiled at her ingenuity.

 

When they were finally nude and in the bed together facing each other, MJ slid over to his side of the bed, but he didn’t move a muscle. Confused, she looked up at his face and found it to be completely indecipherable.

 

That was new.

 

MJ backed up a little bit and swallowed, suddenly feeling self-conscious. “Do you want to do this? We don’t have to. I can wait.” She didn’t want to, but she would. For Peter.

 

Peter took a deep breath. He raised his hand by her cheek but stopped just before touching it and closed it into a loose fist. “God, I really really want to,” he breathed, the desperation clear in his eyes.

 

MJ grabbed his hand and moved it down to her collarbone, right above her heart. “Do you want me to take the lead?”

 

Peter nodded.

 

That was all of the confirmation MJ needed. She slowly rolled her body on top of his, touching every inch as much as she could. She leaned down for a chaste kiss. Coming back up, she smiled. Peter easily returned it. “That’s okay,” she said, “I was nervous my first time too.”

 

Peter flinched.  MJ ignored it. The flinch could’ve meant anything. That he didn’t like that she knew. That he didn’t like that he wasn’t her first. That he didn’t feel that it was important.

 

And it wasn’t important. Nothing was important in that moment except for them.

 

MJ moved against Peter until they were both thoroughly turned on and ready for the next step. Smiling up at her, Peter grabbed her around the waist and rolled them with surprising agility.

 

Oh, right, Spider-Man. It was so easy to forget sometimes. Especially in moments like these where he looked at her like she was the only person in the world.

 

MJ bit her lip and slightly nodded. She hoped it came off as sexy and coy. Seemed unlikely.

 

It still worked. Peter positioned himself and moved inside her. It was uncomfortable at first. It had been so long. But soon they found a good rhythm.

 

The movement and Peter and everything that was happening was working for her. But there was so much that wasn’t happening. Peter continued the rhythm with ease, but never moved to touch her. He remained suspended above gradually moving faster and faster, until a questionably short amount of time later he was spent.

 

For as hot as the foreplay was, the actual event was anti-climatic. Pun intended.

 

Peter lowered himself on top of her and slid to her side, wrapping his arms around her. “That was good,” he breathed against her skin.

 

“Yeah,” she replied, staring at the ceiling.

 

It wasn’t good. It was…fine.

 

-*-

 

Peter was off with Ned. And since Ned was with her that meant Spider-Man was on patrol. God, they needed to get better at this whole lying thing. At least coordinate once in a while, dimwits.

 

She and Ned were fixing the police scanner she had scavenged from the dumpster by the precinct. She figured it would be the most covert way to keep tabs on her boyfriend while he was out web-slinging criminals. And Ned didn’t ask any questions because he was a boy.

 

After a week of tinkering they had finally got it to the point where they could just barely make out the reports. If they were lucky, a few codes would break through the static. Three-nineteen and three-ninety seemed to be a theme.

 

She was trying to find the smaller screwdriver when she heard it.

 

“Units…All Units. Tw..Elev…oo eleven S…ounty Savings…and 108th

 

She immediately stopped what she was doing and looked at Ned.

 

He froze above the scanner, eyes wide. “I-um…We-“

 

“We should turn on the news.” She didn’t wait for a response. She grabbed her laptop and brought up the livestream of the local news reporting a bank robbery.

 

-*-

 

Later that evening she walked to Peter’s place, cell phone in hand. 

 

Unsurprisingly, May answered the door, “I’m sorry, Peter isn’t feeling well today.”

 

Before she can finish the sentence, MJ turned the cell phone screen to show the already leaked security footage of Spider-Man taking down armed gunmen at Queens County Savings.

 

May sighed in response and opened the door wider. “Come on in.” MJ followed silently behind her.

 

“Peter! Michelle is here!”

 

“Aunt May! Now is not a good time!” MJ tried to bite back her smile. Peter’s voice always went so much higher with he was frantic or stressed. “Can you tell her I’ll see her tomorrow?”

 

May looked at her knowingly. “Do what you need to do. Just don’t break his heart. He really likes you, Michelle.”

 

MJ nodded. May was always such a cool aunt.

 

MJ walked into Peter’s room to find him in his boxers, nursing a swollen ankle. A very swollen ankle. “Oh! Hey MJ! Um…” He looked at his ankle and back at her, “I fell down some stairs.” When he sat up, she saw some of his ribs were bruised too.

 

She walked further into the room and held out her phone, replaying the same video footage she just showed May.

 

Peter took one look at it and froze. “Oh, I…um…that’s…” He looked up, saw her towering over him with one quirked eyebrow, and looked back down at the phone. “He’s –“

 

“I know.” She didn’t want to hear his ramblings and made up stories. It was funny and amusing at the beginning. But now she was tired, and she didn't want to play the game anymore.

 

Peter seemed to deflate at that, curling in on himself and overly focused on holding the bag of ice to his leg. “For how long?”

 

“Two years.”

 

He straightened at her admission, looking back at her with almost comically wide eyes. “That long?”

 

There was that squeaky voice again. God, the boy was ridiculous.

 

She sat down next to him on the bed. “Yeah, well, you and Ned are shockingly bad at this whole secret Avenger business. I’m surprised half of New York doesn’t know.”

 

He moved the ice and slid his injured leg to sit properly next to her. “Yeah, that’s fair.”

 

She glanced over at his bruised ribs and ankle. “Are you okay?”

 

“I will be.” He looked up at her. She easily met his eyes in return. “Are we okay?” his voice barely above a whisper.

 

She nodded in response, “We will be.”

 

-*-

 

They were on his bed making out in the brilliant and inspired way that they do. MJ was trying to be careful of his ribs even though the discoloring had diminished significantly over the course of the day. Peter didn’t seem to mind or notice, too enthralled in everything else that any warm-blooded teenage boy would be paying attention to.

 

She was slightly on top of him, pressed to his side, tracing her fingers up and down his abdomen. Dating Spider-Man definitely came with its perks. Her fingers began to peak a bit beneath his boxers. Seemingly impatient, he quickly rolled on top her he and slid out of them. She shimmied to remove her underwear in reciprocation.

 

He moved to tower above her, but she quickly slid to the side and patted the bed next to her. “Come here.”

 

Eyebrows furrowed, he lay down next to her. Silently, she grabbed one of his hands and placed it in between her thighs. Her hand over his, she slowly explored herself in ways she had only ever dared under her own blankets. She quickly found her clit with his fingers and moved against them, moaning lightly at the sensation.

 

She looked over at him, almost surprised to see him studying her like a new book. Typical Peter. Luckily, his blown pupils were all the encouragement she needed to keep going.

 

Placing her fingers over his, she continued to explore herself, shifting her body with each movement. The way he looked down at her, all wide eyes and wonder, it was a bigger turn on than she cared to admit. After a few minutes, she felt the telltale tensing in her lower abdomen, panting loudly as waves of pleasure quickly washed over her.

 

Eyes closed, she felt him brush a few stray strands of hair out of her face, obviously still watching her with the same intensity as before.

 

When she finally caught her breath and opened her eyes, he smiled widely. “That was amazing,” he breathed.

 

Seriously, it was like he’d never seen a porno before.

 

-*-

 

Things were better after that night. Not just sexually, even though Peter took to their nighttime activities with newfound fervor. Everything just seemed to be going really well. Now that he knew that she knew about Spider-Man, there was a genuine openness in Peter that she hadn’t been privy to before. He moved around her with an unknown grace, completely comfortable with himself. It could of come across as almost vulnerable if she hadn’t been intimately aware of the power behind those movements.

 

If she was aware that this was all it took, she would have told him she knew years ago.

 

Plus, now she could help with all of his vigilante tasks. She found she was most helpful with making the web fluid. Mostly because Peter went through a lot of it. They would spend hot, summer afternoons hidden in her parents’ garage, mixing together the ingredients behind large lab goggles and sweaty foreheads. 

 

“He didn’t know it, but Uncle Ben helped me develop this formula,” Peter once stated out of the blue.

 

She confessed her love for him shortly afterward. Not immediately. She didn’t think she said it because of the statement. It was just a nudge that she needed.

 

Obviously, he returned the sentiment.

 

-*-

 

So, because the universe hates them and everything sucks, of course the nightmares came shortly after that. Peter was prone to nightmares before. She never blamed him. From what she heard, he had been there when his uncle died.  He never confirmed the rumor, and she didn’t ask. There were also the Spider-Man related dreams, obvious from the flinched muscles and obscure quips under his breath.

 

But the new nightmares were different. They literally took Peter’s breath away, which meant she couldn’t breathe either. Whines would wake her, throaty and desperate. And unlike his other dreams, he never moved, except to maybe clutch the sheets on either side of him.

 

The first time it happened, she made the mistake of gently shaking him, like she did with the other nightmares. His eyes immediately snapped open and looked at her, breath caught in his chest. “You’re okay,” she whispered, relaxing next to him. She thought that was it, he was awake.

 

Instead, he swept his arm around and threw her across the room.

 

And then there was nothing.

 

She came to with him hovering over her, his face red and blotchy with tears. “MJ! MJ! I’m so sorry! MJ, please wake up!”

 

She must not have been out long because May soon entered her field of vision, hair frizzed and eyes frantic. “What happened?!” she asked as she knelt down on the other side of MJ’s head.

 

Peter looked over at his aunt and immediately looked back at MJ. “I…I…” His hands were shaking as he moved to place them on either side of her head.

 

Her head was killing her but there was no need for such dramatics. She moved to sit up to show how fine she was but was immediately pushed back down by both sets of hands.

 

“Honey, just stay still or a second,” May said as she gently checked her scalp.

 

“I’m okay.” MJ tried lifting her head again, only to see literal stars. She immediately dropped back down and closed her eyes. “Never mind.” 

 

Peter made a noise she never wanted to hear again.

 

She ended up with a mild concussion. Nothing to write home about but still enough to make her not want to try again. With what Einstein said about stupidity and all.

 

However, this left her sitting on the edge of the bed, completely helpless, watching as his breath got stuck in his throat for an impossible length of time. Eventually, he would always wake up with a gasp, cold sweat dripping off his forehead. She gave him a few moments to collect himself before making her presence known with some random, inconspicuous noise.

 

He always looked at her, then around the room, checking dark, shadowy corners for some unknown threat. Once he deemed it to be safe, he opened his arms and enveloped her in a hug.

 

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked every time.

 

And every time he shook his head above hers.

 

-*-

 

Amazingly, the sex got better every time they did it. Every. Single. Time. He took to her body like he took to most unknown subjects, investing himself completely until he knew it inside and out. It frustrated the hell out of her that she couldn’t say the same.

 

She tried. She wanted to explore him like he often did her, soft touches and kisses until finding that sweet spot that makes him inhale and his toes curl.

 

She was on top of him now, tracing lines up and down his chest while she nibbled on his ear. She was taking her time, hoping to get him lost in the moment. Hoping that when she moved to go lower, impatience wouldn’t win out again and she wouldn’t end up flipped on her back with him in charge.

 

She licked her way down his chest, moving her side against his length to give it a nice feeling of friction. Boxers long gone, she slowly made his way towards his hip, grabbing his hand in hers and nibbling here and there to throw him off guard. She breathed out when she finally made it low enough and removed her hand from his to touch him.

 

Without warning, she found herself beneath him. She looked up at him, pouting. He seemed tense but he was all smiles.

 

“I want to touch you,” she stated firmly, maybe a bit too firmly. She swallowed once. “You know like you do me,” she said a bit softer.

 

His expression became indecipherable. Flashbacks to prom night quickly entered her head. “Next time,” he said in a completely noncommittal way that made her know he wasn’t taking her seriously. At all. She would have been pissed, but he was burying his head in her crevice. And suddenly she lost all capability of thought.

 

Dear God, she had created a monster.

 

She pushed her hands against the back wall to get better leverage and breathed into the movements. When she threw her head back to ride out the orgasm, he kissed her neck like he always did. Sometimes she loved it and sometimes she hated it. The consistency was nice though.

 

Afterwards, when Peter was dead to the world in post-coital bliss, MJ lay in bed and thought about their relationship. The secrecy, the awkwardness, the fear, the reluctance, the nervousness, the ignorance. The pieces quickly slid into one ugly picture.

 

MJ was always a bit too observant. 

 

-*-

 

MJ didn’t ask. She didn’t even know how to begin to ask, and more importantly she didn’t want to.

 

Her only concern was that he would never feel like he could tell her. She cornered him about Spider-Man, but she would never corner him about this. She did start giving him more control in the bedroom. She didn’t know if Peter noticed. If he did, he didn’t say anything about it.

 

They continued their easy going relationship well into the summer, preparing for college and dorm life together. Correction, she was preparing for dorm life. Peter was commuting to Empire State University.

 

Everything was perfect. They were spending more time together. Peter was talking about his family and plans for the future a bit more. She was joining Ned in the newly renamed “Person in the Chair” role. They made plans to see each other at least every other weekend and sometimes during the week in the fall. And they regularly had stupid, mind-blowingly good sex.

 

Everything was perfect except for when it wasn’t. Except for nights like this one where she was stuck sitting idly by as Peter rode out his latest night terror. She took a deep breath when Peter finally woke violently coughing and tears staining on his face. Silently, they quickly fell into their unspoken routine.

 

Encased in his arms, she opened her mouth to ask her typical question. But instead, she swallowed once around the lump in her throat and said, “I’m here…and I’ll listen.”

 

Peter froze above her. Listening to the crickets outside, she calmly waited for infinity to pass, refusing to loosen her grip.

 

Finally, Peter buried his nose in her hair. “I had a babysitter. He wasn’t a good person.”

 

MJ clutched his damp shirt behind his back and let him talk.

 

Fin.