Astonishing Spider-Man #9
Astonishing Spider-Man
Guess Who's Back . . . ?
A ridiculously short prelude by
Guest-Writer Paul Hahn
Editor: Ben Kaine
Editor-in-Chief: Brian Provow

"Peter, wake up."

He barely moved.

"Come on, you really need to wake up..."

He mumbled something.

"Don't make me throw cold water on you."

"Eh?" Peter Parker rolled over slowly, finding the face of Felicia Hardy looking down upon him.

"Good, you're up," she grinned. "You've got a busy day today."

"Why...?" Peter whispered as he used his voice for the first time in over twelve hours.

"Because you've got people to see," she sighed. "Remember? Your wife, Mary Jane? How about Ben Reilly? They both know you're alive."

"Huh?" Peter asked, sitting up.

"I told Ben you were alive," Felicia said slowly. "We went to find you at your house...but you weren't there. I thought we agreed you'd go back there yesterday?"

"Something...came up," Peter shrugged.

"Well, MJ and Ben both got the news," she said. "They're both eagerly awaiting you...and I'm sure your other friends would be so incredibly happy to know you're alive."

"Yeah, I guess," he yawned, pulling on a shirt. He had been sleeping on Felicia's couch for the past two nights.

"So come on!" she grinned. "Let's go already!"

A half hour later at the Parker Residence.

He walked through the door slowly. Inside, at the breakfast table he found who he was looking for.

"Peter!" Mary Jane Watson-Parker leapt up into his arms and wrapped her legs around him. The reunited lovers kissed some.

And then some more.

A little bit more...

And again...well, you get the picture. Sometime within the next hour she let herself off of him.

"Good to see you, Pete," Ben grinned.

"Even better to see you, bro!" Peter embraced his clone in a hug.

"So, you gonna give us the details of your apparent death?" Ben asked.

"Only if you gimmie yours!" Pete exclaimed, obviously happy.

"I think that can wait 'till later," MJ smiled. "All that matters is that you're back, Peter...I've missed you so much..."

"I tell you guys what," Ben said. "I'll leave you two alone...besides, I've gotta meet Desiree at the Daily Grind. Why don't we meet there later, huh?"

"Sounds great, Ben," Peter smiled. He turned to MJ. "So, where were we...?"

The Daily Bugle.

"Jonah!" Robbie Robertson called out. "Betty, Ben! Everyone, I just got off the phone with...Peter Parker! He's alive!"

"What?" Betty asked, jumping up.

"That's amazing," Ben Urich said.

"Good," J. Jonah Jameson said. "Always nice to know I've got Parker around. He's always able to give me the pictures I need for my Spider-Man editorials. When can he get back to work?"

"Jonah, you can give him time, can't you?" Robbie asked. "He was just through an aweful lot..."

"Robbie, if he wants his job he can get back to work tomorrow!" Jonah said. "And speaking of working, just go back to editing already. We've got a paper to make!"

The Daily Grind.

"Well, Des, thanks for stopping by," Ben grinned.

"I'll catch you later, Mr. Reilly," she grinned right back.

The new waitress, Kelly, walked up to Ben.

"Uh, I just wanted to say..." she started, "That, well...I'm sorry if I was making you uncomfortable before. You're obviously involved with someone,, can we be friends?"

Ben smiled. "Sure, long as there's no alterior motives."

She nodded. Ben turned his attention to the door as he saw Peter and Mary Jane walk in.

"Shirl!" Ben called to his boss. "Can I take a break? Got some friends to see..."

"Go ahead, Ben," his friend smiled.

Ben hopped over the counter top and walked over to the Parkers.

"Glad you could come," he smiled.

"Well, we obviously needed to talk," Peter said.

"Yeah...about the webs," Ben nodded.

The three of them sat down at a booth.

"Before you say anything," Peter started, "I just want you to know that I'm glad you were here when I was gone. your run as Spider-Man before was're a true hero, and I know the city was in good hands."

"But, the truth is," Ben started, "You want the job back."

"Well," Peter let a small grin spread across his lips. "I would love not having to worry about super villains and all that...but I couldn't live without the costume. I mean, it's been a real pain sometimes...but I wouldn't give it up for the world."

"Well, when I found out I'd gotten a second chance at life," Ben explained, "I thought it would be great. I wouldn't have to sacrifice my personal life for the job. But then I found I was needed...and put on my old costume. But now, if you're here...then I'm relieved of duty. Except for one little phrase that's always on my mind. That with great power, there's gotta be some serious responsibility. I can't turn my back on the world."

Peter nodded. "Thinking...Scarlet Spider again?"

"God no!" Ben sighed. "That was the worst thing I ever did...I dunno, I could always come up with something better...a new identity or something."

"Whatever you do decide, we'll stand behind you one hundred percent," Mary Jane smiled.

"I heard what you did for little Normie Osborn," Peter said. "I appreciate it...hopefully I can keep an eye on him, make sure he never becomes this Time Warp character."

Ben nodded, not bothering to mention that if Time Warp never existed, Ben wouldn't have been given a second chance.

"Well, we're gonna be stopping around," Peter said. "The Bugle...we're gonna go visit Jill Stacey, Aunt Anna...everyone who would care that I'm alive."

”Good luck," Ben smiled.

"No kidding," Peter said. "Although, the way our villains come back to life, I've got plenty of excuses for why I'm not dead."

Ben laughed. "I'll call you later, Pete."

Later, at Ben Reilly's apartment.

Jimmy Six turned back just before leaving the door. "It was good to work with you again, kid."

"Er...yeah," Ben replied.

"And don't worry...your secret's safe with me," Jimmy said. "See ya 'round."

"Right," Ben sighed as Jimmy left. So...Peter's alive...Mary Jane's not Venom...Normie Osborn is saved...Jimmy Six is out of my hair...Desiree and I have a date tonight...the Marksman got all positive press for saving Normie...and I don't have to go patrolling. Besides that, the Green Goblin...that is, the heroic Green Goblin, is back in the skies. Another hero on the look out. Life is good.

Now if I could only decide my next step in life...

The Parker Residence, towards the evening.

"Well, today went well," Mary Jane smiled as they curled up on their sofa.

"Considering I had to make up a convincing story and tell it five billions times," Peter said. "But I got my job my friends my life back. I almost wish I could go throw down with Doc Ock or Electro..."

Mary Jane knocked on Peter's head. "don't jinx us."

"Hardy-har," Peter said, smiling slightly.

"So, Tiger...what're your plans for tonight?" she asked.

"Well, I was hoping to catch some quality time with my wife..." he grinned.

"Sounds like a good idea to me," MJ grinned back.

He took her hand and ran her up to their bedroom.

The next morning...

Peter and his wife sat together at their kitchen table, finishing up breakfast and reading the Daily Bugle.

"MJ?" Peter asked.

"Hmm?" she replied.

"I just wanted to know..." he started slowly. "Is it okay with you? That I'm taking back the job as Spider-Man?"

"Well, to tell you the truth," MJ explained, "I did like it a lot when I had you all to myself and Ben was doing the work...and now that Ben's offered us a chance at real life. But it's Ben who wants the real life...and I can't tell him no. Peter, you love being Spider-Man...I could never make you choose between him and me."

"I appreciate that," Peter said. "I really do..."

"We've both been given a new lease on life," MJ said. "We can get a new beginning...I mean, I could start working again...things are gonna be great."

Peter nodded. "Yeah...I love you, MJ."

"I love you too, Tiger," she smiled.

Next Issue: Welcome aboard new writer, Ben Kaine!