Gwen's eyes shrunk unamusedly as she released the scrunched-up portion of the paper in her hand, allowing it to fall down a good two feet past the top of the building she'd perched herself upon, groaning to herself at the size of the list. She ran the lengthy page through her hands, hurriedly counting the seemingly endless collection of names and addresses there, boredom and exhaustion both settling in as her head fell backward, watching the sunlit sky above her with still-narrowed eyes.
"Geez, Jess clearly didn't understand what I meant by 'severely lengthy list of casualties," she groaned, raising the paper upward to examine it further, "That's like, what, fifty names? Across Manhattan? I'll have more tread on me than an SUV."
Shaking her head in dismay, she folded the list back up as she took to her feet with a sigh, hopping off from the edge of the roof onto its flat top, mocking Jessica Drew's voice as she made her way to the opposite side, "Improve your image! Check up on the survivors! Let 'em know you're not some evil- yada yada yada. Thinks I have it so easy over here. Then again, she is a Supermom now, I guess."
Shoving the paper into a pocket, Gwen allowed her body to teeter off the side of the high-rise, spinning her body as she went, falling backward and descending at an alarming rate, her thoughts as calm as ever, however, "I'll give it ten people, Jess. That'll get you to understand how I'm viewed here. I'm not a hero. not a mother. Hell, I'm not even offered the respect of a Supervillain."
Her hand flew outward, sending a burst of webbing out as her body concaved through the air, sending her flying as she shot one strand after a other, her body making its way through the New York air like any other discarded assortment of plastic bags and refuse.
"Here, I'm no more than a common murderer," she thought, sadly, "No amount of good I do will change that. but I'll play along, just to prove it."
Her fists shoved deep into her hoodie's pockets, Gwen kept her head low as she walked through the hallway of this shabby apartment, only revealing her hand to pull out the slip of paper, her eyes giving it a cursory glance while quietly reciting the address to herself.
"3-B… 3-B… Ewan Byrne? Sounds like a good ol' chap," she quipped under her breath, the back of her neck suddenly tingling as her head jumped up to see a couple turning the corner opposite her, forcing her to dash behind a potted plant as they came to a stop by the elevators.
Gwen sighed, rolling her eyes beneath her mask, "How am I supposed to get a second impression in edgewise? Geez."
She turned her head over her shoulder just in time to watch the couple disappear into the elevator, getting to her feet and quietly making her way further down the corridor, finally arriving at 3-B. She lifted a hand to gingerly knock at the door, a massive growl of a voice bursting through the wooden barrier.
"Who is it?!"
Her lips turned distastefully, already regretting having followed Jess' advice, though simultaneously realizing she'd come too far now, "Sir, you were involved in the Tombstone mess last week; your name shows up on the injury manifest anyway. I just figured I'd check in and see how you were-"
"And who's askin'?!" the man interrupted with a vigorous, rumbling shout.
Gwen grimaced angrily as she felt the rising need to retaliate, though she kept her cool, only barely, gritting her teeth as she managed, "The person…who…saved you."
"Well feck off!" he cried, a loud BOOMPT erupting from the door, sending Gwen back a pace or two in shock, "Leave me be, ya freak!"
Her eyes rolling once again, Gwen shrugged in indifference as she turned to exit, holding her arms out inquisitively, "I love it when I get the scholars."
A few hours had passed, now seeing Gwen out of her suit, simply making her way down the street with a face that shone her full contempt for the many faces that had accompanied slamming doors and curse words, and one particularly old lady who'd, in a desperate struggle with surprise, instinctively thrown the newspaper in her hand at Gwen's head. She reached up to massage her head, running her fingers through her head as she pulled the list out of her pocket, running her eyes down the paper in review.
"Ewan Byrne, 'Fuck off'. Sergio Leal, 'Go play with S.H.I.E.L.D'. Emma Duncan, 'My cat needs to be fed, I can't come to the door right now [dismissive voice]', " she groaned, repeating the notes she'd written beside the names she'd been able to cross off
"Jess'll probably prefer exact examples. If anything, I guess she'll like my dictation skills," Gwen murmured, exchanging the list with her phone to check the time, "Wow, on time for band practice for once. Betty's gonna have a cow."
"Hey!" came a voice from behind her, forcing Gwen to look over her shoulder to find Gloria catching up to her, "Betty got a cow?!"
"Please, she couldn't even remember to feed that fish she had," Gwen reminded with a grin, reaching out a fist for Gloria to bump, "She might have a cow, considering I'm on time for once. How goes it?"
Gloria patted the keyboard bag dangling from her hand, "Practice, practice, practice. Well, you'd have to add a few cuss words to fully quote Em Jay. Seriously, with you missing so much, she's on us a lot more."
"Sorry," Gwen replied weakly, rubbing her arm.
"Pfft, I don't care if you missed every practice," Gloria scoffed, "As lo g as you make the shows, damn; I don't know what you've been doing, but keep doing it- it makes your drums badass. Even Em Jay know that; probably why she's even cut you some slack."
Gwen frowned, "Still, sorry. It's just-"
"Don't even," Gloria assured her easily, "I know you don't like talking about it. As long as she and Betty think it has to do with your dad's retirement or whatever, I'm not gonna raise any suspicions."
"Look, Gwennie, you might can fool those two, but not me; I know there's something goin' on with you. Maybe that thing with Peter hit you more than you've let on, or that Harry thing-… Wow, that's, like, both of your childhood friends missing," Gloria pondered tactlessly, running her thumb along her chin.
Gwen sighed, hanging her head low, "Gee, thanks for the input. You're a real ray of sunshine today."
"Someone's gotta keep your spirit up," Gloria teased, "Hey, we're fifteen minutes early to practice. I'm gonna run to the store; you need anything?"
Gwen slid a wallet out from her front pocket, throwing it open with her thumb, "Yeah, just a-"
Her friend reached over and pushed her hand away, speaking lightly, "Hey, I haven't seen you in a week. It's on me. As long as it's under a few bucks; I had to buy some new strings the other day; my savings went kaput."
Gwen smiled as she returned her wallet, "Thanks. Just a corn dog will do; I'll get ya next time."
"Pfft, which will be after I forget about this exchange," Gloria teased, "See you 'round the block in ten!"
Gwen nodded as Gloria departed, holding her arm out to keep from slamming her leg into her guitar case as she crossed the street, leaving Gwen alone to watch her, hands still curled along both straps of her backpack. She continued along soon enough, looking up toward the street sign where she was to make her turn, though her eyes clenched in realization as she paused, pulling out her list from earlier, moving her head up and down to compare the two.
She shrugged, "Well, if it's right here, I might as well. Nicholas Nash; couldn't be any worse than some of the others on here."
Ducking into an alley way, Gwen pulled her backpack down off her shoulders, quickly donning her suit and reversing her backpack before stuffing it full with her street clothes, hurriedly taking up the wall to make it to the opposite side of the block, where Nash's apartment was listed, carefully slinging her way around to the doorway that led into the apartment building, slinking in, careful not to cause a stir.
She worked her way up the stairwell to the second floor, keeping an eye on her phone, avoiding a rambunctious trio of kids running down the hall before making it to the door she was looking for, giving it a knock before returning her hands to her pockets, leaning back to examine both ends of the hallway.
"Seven…eight…nine… Well, that's a new record for not immediately yelling," Gwen observed pithily with rolling eyes, reaching out to knock once again.
She noted the number of doors with slips of paper hung up on a clip that had been bolted at each one for management notices, though this particular apartment's was missing, "I know you're in there, dude… C'mon, I literally don't-"
Checking her phone once again, Gwen grimaced at this person's disregard for anything to do with basic hospitality, her body quickly turning and speedily walking back down the hallway, "Okay, you wanna play? We'll play. for only five minutes."
Hurriedly exiting the apartment, Gwen slung her way up the corner of the building, sending her flying up the alley-side of the apartment, quickly scanning for the window that belonged to her mark, her eyes narrowed angrily as she did so. She hit the wall, crawling downward to peek into the window of a one Nicholas Nash.
"Peek from the top," she whispered to herself instructively, repeating one of Jessica Drew's mantras, "They always stare at the bottom first."
Her anger only slightly abated by her sense of espionage, Gwen slowly stared into the apartment through its open curtains, finding a place not at all beyond what she would have thought of as 'normal'. Her head turned, finding a man about her age sitting at a desk, his ears smothered by headphones as his foot tapped at the ground, his attention focused solely on his computer screen. Gwen checked her phone once again, catching the time just before the screen flipped upside down.
"Two minutes. Dude, I'm not making this trip down here again for you," she thought to herself with disdain, peering back into the small apartment.
She lifted a hand, aiming her web shooter at a tiny little lamp that sat above the man, shutting one eye as she took just one more second to aim before- shurp CRASH!
The man jumped in his seat, ripping his headphones off and spinning around in his desk chair in one smooth motion, watching the shattered lamp upon the ground for just a moment before spinning around in a flash, his eyes darting to the top of his window, seeing Spider-Woman's head there, wagging her arm angrily in front of her face.
"God dammit Cap, you gotta get me some of these that aren't homemade!" he heard her mutter under her breath, "Who the crap has ever heard of calibrating-"
Her attention turned to him with a blank look on her face, the two of them staring at one another for what seemed to be an eternity before, finally, Gwen spoke up, "Uh, yo. Sorry about the lamp; I was totally just trying to get your attention."
"N-No, I'm sorry; I shouldn't have had my music up so loud," he replied, looking over his shoulder, "That was a piece of junk anyway; the thing had short or something."
Gwen frowned beneath her mask, her head turning to her pocket, which sat above her at this moment, "Still, I should buy- Well, maybe an IOU. God, here I am trying to improve my image an I pull that crap. Ugh."
Like an actor turning away to exit the stage after such a performance, Gwen turned her shoulders to crawl away, though the man was quick to stop her with fast speech, "Hey, don't worry about it, really."
Coming to a sudden halt, Gwen returned her attention to him with her eyes growing suspicious, shrinking as her head tilted to the side, "You seem pretty calm for somebody speaking to the terrible Spider-Woman. I hunt down children according to one tabloid, you know."
"I know," he smirked knowingly, nervously reaching to scratch his neck, "Anybody with their eyes open should see that you've done nothing but help people. Guilty conscious or not, it's an admirable thing you're doing."
This did nothing to lessen Gwen's suspicions, though she still passed it off as an unusually normal mode of conversation, her head instinctively pulling away as the man crossed his arms, almost nervously, as he turned his head away, "Thank you. I know you probably don't hear that often…but thanks. for the other day, that is; a lot of people might not be here today, otherwise."
Gwen felt an unfamiliar pang cross her chest, almost a feeling somewhere between some self-righteous zeal and sympathy. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been thanked with such sincerity, or even if it had happened before at all. Her mind quickly wandered to what she would even put on the little comment section she'd drawn up on the casualty sheet, unable to figure-
"Oh, sh-!" she suddenly cried out as her phone began to vibrate, her hand darting to her pocket, ripping her phone out to see the text from Gloria, only needing to notice the all-caps lettering to understand its intent, "Yo, Nick, I gotta dash! Sorry about the lamp-!"
She leapt down the wall into the alleyway, waiting to be out of sight before whipping her backpack from her shoulder, making like a mad dog to get two streets down where their practice "center" was, leaving Nicholas Nash staring at the window in surprise, unmoving at the sight. He quietly turned around to stare at the demolished lamp that lay in a pile beside his desk, his piercing eyes examining the wreckage for but a second before walking toward his kitchen for a dustpan.
Gwen crashed through the double doors of the run-down community center, her body hunched over as she took an endless series of half-breaths, trying to calm her lungs as she now walked toward the Mary Janes, all of whom were wearing shocked expressions at the girl before them. Em Jay's face quickly fell to one of authority, though it was Gloria who spoke first, following a groan.
"Y'know, you were really ruining your girl's credibility there…"
"Sorry," Gwen replied heartlessly between breaths, falling onto the stool that stood behind her drum kit, hanging her head low ashamedly, feeling Em Jay's critical stare without having to look.
Gloria shrugged, "I mean, it's all good anyway. Just having you here at all is becoming a rare thing to cherish in and of itself, ain't it, E-?"
She paused as she noticed Em Jay's droll expression, her red-headed band leader not much amused with her tardiness, particularly after having Gloria's assurance that she had been right across the street. Still, in an uncharacteristic change of pace, she didn't speak, simply shaking her head and turning around as she fiddled with the guitar hanging from her neck, giving Betty a chance to examine Gwen herself, leaning forward as though that would help despite being yards away.
"Y'know, she's even late coming home," she murmured,
Gloria sighed, "Come on, cut her some slack, alright? She makes it to the shows; that's enough, isn't it? She kills it, even."
A loud E-minor chord burst through an amplifier as Em Jay spun around as though allowing her guitar to add the snarl to her even-keeled voice, "We've been getting lucky at those shows- what do you think will happen when we're not playing in front of a bunch of booze-hounds? Anybody with half a brain can tell we're no better than half the bands comin' out of this city, so stop trying to cover for her, Gloria."
As Gloria's face spun in an upset grimace, Em Jay walked toward Gwen, who still remained hunched over, her head buried behind her drum kit as Em Jay spoke up, "You don't seem to get it, Gwen. I can play whatever shit I have recorded on my phone so loud, and even then, it's mechanical and static- you think that's a decent replacement for a person?"
Remaining unmoved, Gwen didn't reply, leaving Em Jay to sigh as she pulled her guitar over her head, walking to its nearby stand as she continued, "Look, you need to understand how important you are as a drummer. You hide behind that drum kit of yours and all, but without you here, doing what you do, all three of us are playing over one another, playing across fifteen lanes of traffic; you're like the conductor back there, like the goddamn mothership or something. and until you get that in your head and show up, we're not going anywhere."
With her head still sunken, they failed to see Gwen's lips pull knowingly to the side, prompting Em Jay to finish up with a final, "and Betty'll raise hell if we replace you, so that's not gonna happen."
"My bass saves your face," Betty muttered monotonously, sitting back in her chair as though she were reciting from a court transcript.
Gloria rolled her eyes, "And I thought Gwen's puns were bad. You two really are roomies; she's rubbing off on you."
Betty eyed her with confusion, unable to follow her humor, as Em Jay reached over the drum kit to give her drummer a light pat on the shoulder before turning toward a table set up in the corner of the room with the snacks Gloria had been designated to bring for today's practice, "Now take five, girls. We'll start up in a few."
"A-Actually, more like take two; some of my hours were cut," Gloria frowned as she followed behind her band leader, rushing to the snack table to divvy out fair portions between the four of them.
Sighing heavily, Gwen finally raised her head as she leaned back in her seat, just then noticing Betty watching her with crossed arms and legs, her foot jumping up and down as her eyes peered back through raven hair, creating something of an awkward silence between the two until Gwen finally frowned, looking away.
"I know," she grumbled, "Em already gave me the-"
"The other night, you woke me up coming in so late," Betty interrupted with a dispassionate voice, though this had obviously caused her some anger as she continued, "Please quit doing that. I need my nine hours or I'm a monster."
Gwen nodded sincerely as she stood up, rounding her drum kit before approaching Betty on her way toward the table herself, "Yeah, sorry. That was my bad."
"Thank you," Betty offered as she turned in her chair to set her bass guitar up in its stand, jumping as she felt Gwen's hand patting her head as she walked by.
"You'd make a terrible monster, Elizabeth," Gwen smirked playfully, sending a noticeably shiver throughout her roommate's body at the sound of her full name.
Betty frowned, "You're cold."