As soon as the funeral was over, Harry turned to Peter and embraced him, fiercely. By the way his hands were wandering, Peter could tell that Harry was looking for more than mere consolation. However, he pushed Harry away gently with a little shake of the head.
"MJ," he whispered.
For a moment, Harry looked hurt and dismayed. "But you told me…"
"It's not that," Peter murmured. "It's only – don't you think we should tell her first? Before she sees her former boyfriend making out with his best friend next to his father's grave." The shadow of a smile flitted across his features. "Time and a place, Harry."
Reluctantly, the other boy sighed and nodded. "Let's go tell her then," he said, keeping a hold on Peter's hand. "Here and now. No sense in putting it off or hiding it."
Peter allowed Harry to lead him over to where Mary Jane was standing, dressed in black from head to toe, a crumpled tissue in her hand. Harry didn't see the sense of it. Norman Osborn had made it clear how he felt about Mary Jane and Harry couldn't understand why she would feel the least bit of sorrow at his passing. Perhaps crying was just something people did at funerals; he hadn't gone to enough to know. Or maybe it was just something women in general did. Or just Mary Jane, ever the aspiring actress.
Suddenly, Harry looked at her and wondered what attraction there had ever been.
"MJ?" Peter's voice came from beside Harry. "MJ, Harry and I need to tell you something."
She looked up and regarded them with bloodshot eyes. Her expression wavered when she noticed they were holding hands, but she managed to look at them face to face. "What is it?"
"Harry and I…"
"We're together," Harry finished for him.
"We thought you should know," Peter said softly.
Something that might have been pain flashed in her face, but it was gone before it could register. She nodded as if it were nothing out of the ordinary, and then looked at Harry.
"Just tell me one thing, for my own peace of mind. When did it…"
"Never while you and I were dating," he hastily interrupted.
She looked at them for a moment, skeptical, before sighed. "Don't take this the wrong way – if it's something real, I'm happy for both of you – but are you sure this isn't just a rebound relationship? I'd be sorry to see your friendship get broken up because you were looking for a quick source of comfort."
Sensing Harry bristling beside him, Peter spoke up before either of his friends could say anything they might regret.
"I've cared about Harry for a long time," he told her, even if it wasn't precisely true in the way he was implying.
At this the red-head only nodded. "Well then I wish you both the best of luck." She turned and walked away then, leaving them alone by the open grave.
"Thank you," Harry murmured.
"For what?" Peter looked into his face. "Dealing with MJ?"
"Being there when I needed you." He drew Peter to him once more, but this time he kissed him, tugging gently at Peter's lower lip. "Everything got out of control, didn't it?" He touched Peter's cheek. "You and my father… it was one or the other. But, Peter?" He smiled and kissed him again. "As much as it hurts, knowing what happened to my dad, I'm glad I ended up with you."
"Why's that?" Peter threaded his arms around Harry's neck.
"Because you're the one who actually loved me." He kissed Peter's temple as the other blushed then wrapped a black-clad arm around Peter's shoulder. "Come on. I want to get back home; I've had enough of this place."
At first, Peter understood why Mary Jane had such a tough time dating Harry. He didn't understanding things, like why Peter wanted to keep working. When things were tough, he tended to try to assuage pain by buying things for Peter. He was a little bit haughty and more than a little bit consumed by what other people thought – though oddly enough Harry was more distressed by what Peter wore than by the looks they got every so often when they kissed in public parks. Peter chalked it up to New York being New York; gay was fine but unfashionable was unforgivable.
Besides, Harry would point out, they were expected to have better fashion sense than other men. It was alright to spend time in the shoe section and to know the different between cargoes and chinos, he would reassure Peter before buying Peter more shirts and pants than Peter thought he would ever be able to wear.
All of Harry's materialism, however, Peter found he was able to forgive. He was easily as socially inept as Harry, if in other ways. Besides, he knew he spent more evenings out than he ought to spend while doing things that caused Harry to worry. Most of all, he knew that Harry had no good examples, that his father, whatever intentions he might have had at the end, had never shown Harry any sincere affection.
Such lessons took a while; and for his best friend, Peter could be patient.
And Harry learned. Rather than paying for ordering in or taking Peter out, he made dinner for Peter and started to stay up, even until three or four in the morning, to make sure that Peter got back in safely. And if the long nights spent fretting and listening for sirens bothered him, he never grew angry or impatient about it. On the rare occasions that Peter stumbled in too incoherent to do much at all, Harry made sure he got into bed comfortably so that he wouldn't ache in the morning.
He even began to mend Peter's suits. At first he would only wash them while Peter slept, laundering out the sweat and grime. Then, Peter noticed, he began sewing up rips and repairing the rubber. When Peter asked about it, Harry only shrugged and said that a good costume was necessary to keeping his identity a secret. That and he didn't want untimely rips to let anybody but him see Peter's body – and Peter couldn't quite figure out if he was teasing or not.
Harry had begun to take on other tasks around the apartment too; vacuuming, dusting and doing the laundry. Peter teased him about being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. He only laughed, however, took off his shoes and socks, threw them at Peter's head and then asked if Peter wanted him to wear an apron.
"I wouldn't mind." Harry sat next to Peter on the couch and ruffled his hair, distracting him from physics. "In fact, I think it'd be kinda kinky. In a good way."
Peter flushed and Harry laughed, reclined on the couch and prodded Peter with his bare feet until the other sat up and took notice.
"Harry! I have physics to work on!" He chided, undoing all the force of any upbraiding with a grin.
"Bodies in motion until forces act on them?" Harry murmured, climbing over across cushions and pushing Peter down. "Could you show me how that works, Professor Parker? Give me a demonstration?"
"I think what you want is biology," Peter teased. "And I'm no expert; but I'll do my best."
Peter allowed Harry to distract him, as he'd always allowed Harry to distract him; only this time the distraction was not obscene jokes or watching television, but instead touches and strokes that melted him to the marrow. When they were finished, Harry straightened the cushions and readjusted the hand-knit Afghan draped over the back of the couch.
Peter resumed his physics and warned Harry with a smirk that if he set out doilies, they might have to break up.
The first and worst test came when, in the process of cleaning up the water-damaged penthouse, Harry and Bernard found his father's room behind the mirror. Peter wondered if he would break down again. Instead, he flew into a rage, smashed anything that was within reach then stormed out and never looked back.
Bernard disposed of what Harry hadn't destroyed while Harry drove back to the apartment with Peter in tow, refusing to set foot in the house of his father ever again.
Despite Harry's persistent affections, they did not have sex until months later, on a temperate spring night, two days after celebrating an Easter that was miles apart from the Thanksgiving they'd spend in the apartment. The ham Harry made was so perfectly glazed that even Aunt May declared she could not have done better and there were no bleeding arms or shouting matches in the hallway.
Norman Osborn's shadow had faded from the table; that evening, it dissipated fully and completely.
"Peter?" Harry whispered, facing up into the darkness.
"Peter, I'm dropping out of ESU this semester." He twisted around and curled close to Peter's body, sliding a hand across the horizontal man's torso.
"I said I'd help you with your essay, Harry."
"Nothing to do with that. Just… I'm done with business. I've had enough trying to juggle school and the company. So I'm dropping out, abdicating my position, and transferring to a culinary school."
"Oh?" An eyebrow lifted, but Peter didn't open his eyes.
"Didn't want to tell you until I was sure I'd gotten in. But the letter came yesterday."
Peter could feel Harry's curls tickling his neck. "I'm proud of you."
"It's just cooking school," Harry whispered demurely. "Hardly biochemistry or physics."
"First off, cooking is chemistry to an extent, only harder because not every reaction makes something that tastes good. Second off, that's not the only reason why I'm proud." He wiggled and rolled over to face Harry. "I'm proud because you're finally doing what it is you want to do with your life and not what everybody else told you that you should do with your life."
Grateful, Harry hugged him tightly; then the silence of the evening was broken by the sound of a siren. With a sigh, he allowed his arms to fall away from Peter's body.
"Your costume is on the dresser."
"Costume?" Peter frowned. "What costume?"
"You give me every night," he whispered. "Let me give this night to you. I think we both deserve it."
Harry held back for a moment, afraid of what might happen if things went wrong, afraid of the guilt that might come if Peter was needed. But his touch was more than enough to coax.
And the next morning Harry found that the fire department and the EMTs of New York had been up to the task of the evening. Relieved, he set out an extra large breakfast and Peter smiled, gave him a reassuring kiss and told him that everybody needed a night off once in a while.
As Peter kissed him goodbye and left for class, Harry held on to the warm feeling that had spread from the pit of his stomach to the tips of his fingers and toes.
All things considered, everything weighed and counterbalanced – life really wasn't so bad. He turned the television to a Spanish-language soap opera, whistled while he cleaned up the breakfast table and never gave a thought to what could have been.
A/N: And so it ends. Short, a little bit fluffy, a little bit angsty - but there it is. Hope you enjoyed. :)
As for future projects - sequels for other fics are still in the pipes, but in the meanwhile I've had inspiration for two new movie AU fics. Plot bunnies are as follows:
1. Due to various circumstances (the deaths of the Parkers, Harry running away, etc.), Harry and Peter are raised by Otto and Rosie. Life goes well until Peter gets his powers and Norman decides that Harry and Peter's powers both belong to him. Not sure if I would pair Peter and Harry in this one (would be almost-kinda-sorta-not-really-but-almost incest)
2. First movie AU again. Peter tells Harry right after the bite about his powers, Harry goes to his father out of concern for Peter's health and all Norman sees is opportunity, proceeding to experiment on Harry. Possible slight gender manip. Haven't decided. This bunny brought to you in part by Emeralden Rapley with my thanks for sharing some ideas.
So... review if you have any thoughts on this fic or what I might do with the next one. Which to do, what you would rather see in a new fic, suggestions, etc. And as always, happy reading to you.