Sounds of merriment drifted from the Parker residence. Balloons in bright colours, most prominently red and blue, courtesy of Harry, adorned the mailbox, indicating the reason for the laughter and music pouring from the windows.

"All right, everyone, gather round." May Parker called. "If you don't help sing, you don't get cake!"

The party guests filtered in from the living room and backyard, carrying their joyful laughter with them.

"And where is Mr Marko now?" The Boss asked.

"Still no clue." Victor Creed declared. "From what I can gather, those guys in suits came over, and just carted him off to who knows where. They blocked access to the roads, and scrambled surveillance. No idea what direction they even left the city from."

"Disappointing." The distorted voice declared. "We'll have to get Mr O'Hirn ready, in that case. Hope that he proves more successful than Schultz and Marko. For your sake, Victor."

Creed frowned as the device switched off. No longer having any reason to stay in the basement, and desperately needing a strong drink, he went to sit down at his regular booth, only to find it occupied.

"Move, new fish." Creed growled.

"Victor," The woman tutted. She swept an ash brown lock of hair from her face with a long, thin tongue and grinned broadly from under a tattered baseball cap. "Is that any way to greet an old friend?"

"Happy Birthday, dear Peter!" The crowd sang. "Happy birthday to you!"

After numerous hoorays, and much eating of cake, the gathered crowd once again broke up into smaller conversations.

"Kitty," Gwen whispered to her friend. "Go time."

A look of understanding grabbed Kitty's features. She smiled brilliantly, before very intentionally backing up, colliding with Gwen's father and subsequently spilled her glass of soda all over the man.

"I'm so sorry!" Kitty declared, and secretly gave Gwen a thumbs up while she helped Captain Stacy dry his shirt. The moment he was distracted, Gwen grabbed Peter by the arm and pulled him upstairs to his room.

"Gwen?" Peter asked. "What's up?"

"I have one more present to give you," She smiled. "Away from prying eyes."

"Oh." Peter said with widened eyes. "Gwen… I… you don't turn eighteen until September… I don't-"

"Not that, doofus!" Gwen laughed, while blushing brilliantly. "Jeez, Pete. I'm not that kind of girl."

"Sorry!" Peter said, cheeks equally red. Gwen handed him a shoebox, unwrapped and unremarkable.

"I didn't wrap it, because then it would be suspicious." She explained. Peter fished a pair of his sneakers from the box. "Told my dad I borrowed them."

"How did you even get these without me noticing?" He smirked.

"Just look inside." Gwen laughed in exasperation.

The items in the box weren't what Peter was expecting at all. It was a bright red top, crisscrossed with stitching to look like a spider web, with a large black spider on the chest.

"If you're gonna be a superhero," Gwen smiled. "You might as well look the part. Happy birthday, Pete."

Meanwhile, deep under Oscorp, in a hidden room under the secret sub-basement, Norman Osborne keyed in the passcode to open a vault containing his magnum opus. He removed the thin glass vial from its container and stared in admiration at the faintly glowing green liquid inside.

"If you want something done right," He said to himself, pocketing the vial. "Then you do it yourself."

His shoes clicked on the floor as he left, already plotting his next move against Spider-Man.