Sometimes, Peter Parker felt like he didn't understand the world. It made no sense to him, he thought, as he sat in the plastic chair and hugged his teddy bear. He was a good boy; he did what he was told to do by his aunt and uncle. He ate all of his vegetables, he went to bed when he was supposed to, took baths even when he didn't think he needed to and behaved in public and for his teachers.
What didn't make sense was that bad things still happened to him. A lot. When he was even littler, his mom and dad and died, though he barely remembered that time. Then, though, he'd had an aunt and uncle that he'd been sent to. So he'd figured that things were OK; he missed his mom and dad but Aunt May and Uncle Ben loved him.
Then they'd gone on vacation; Uncle Ben had saved for a long time for the trip to the Grand Canyon and Peter had really been looking forward to it. It was supposed to be fun – then the accident happened. He was sitting in the back and had been pulled out in time. But his uncle had died in the wreck, they said, and his aunt on the way to the hospital. With no relatives left and they bodies badly mutilated, the funeral had been short and quick. And he'd ended up here, brought to a home by a lady who said she was from some place called social services, with only a vague promise that they would give him his stuff from home soon.
The home was a busy place, Peter thought as he watched the other kids play. He hugged the bear tighter; he wasn't sure he liked it there. He didn't know anybody and he missed his aunt and uncle. Everything was confusing and scary and nobody seemed to notice him. He wondered if anybody would tuck him in when he went to bed. This thought brought a fresh wave of grief and he buried his face in the fur of the bear so that the other kids wouldn't see him cry. His head was still buried, so he didn't noticed the other boy walked over to him, only realizing he was there when the newcomer poked him in the shoulder.
Peter lifted his teary eyes to see another boy, about his age, with brown eyes and curly hair.
"Hi." Peter gave him a little nod.
"You're from New York too, aren't you?" He sat down next to Peter, who nodded.
"How'd you know?" Peter looked at the boy in wide-eyed awe while he wiped his running nose with his sleeve.
"I heard you talking when you came in. You speak like people back home." The boy picked up a truck that was at his feet and played with it. "People out here talk funny." He dropped the truck and looked at Peter. "Why are you here?" He leaned in without waiting for a response. "Don't tell anybody, but I ran away. Did you run away too?"
Peter shook his head. "My aunt and uncle died."
"Oh." The other boy's face fell. "Where are your mom and dad?"
"They died too." Peter hunched his shoulders. "But a long time ago."
The boy nodded as though he understood. "My mommy died when I was born. My dad's alive. But he doesn't love me," the boy told Peter in a matter-of-fact tone.
Peter looked at him, confused. "But he's your dad."
He shrugged. "Doesn't love me."
"He's gotta though. He's your dad," he repeated.
"Lots of dads don't," the boy explained as though he thought Peter were an idiot. "That's why there are places like this. For kids whose moms and dads die or if their parents don't love them or treat them bad. They get taken away and come here."
"Oh." Peter played with the bear's ear. "How'd you get here? Aren't you from New York?"
"Took a bus." The boy stretched. "Came here. Got picked up; last driver saw I was alone. But I didn't say anything." He grinned at Peter. "Can you keep a secret?" He whispered.
Peter nodded enthusiastically; he was lonely, but this boy was from back home and he very much wanted a friend.
"My name is Harry."
"That's not a secret!" Peter frowned. "Everybody has a name!"
"Yeah, but I haven't told anybody mine. Not my real one."
"You lied?" Peter looked slightly aghast.
"'Course I lied, silly." He stuck his tongue out. "Don't want my dad to find me. Right?"
"Oh." Peter pondered this for a moment and decided it did make sense. "So what did you tell them?"
"Lots of names," Harry said casually. "Omar and Tim and Reginald and Seamus… lots and lots. I'll tell them. Some time. But they won't know if I'm lying or not." He sounded rather proud of himself. "But you can call me by my real name." He said this as though it were a privilege.
"I'm just Peter."
Harry nodded and regarded him pensively. "You're nice," he said at last in a decisive tone. "We should be best friends," he informed Peter in a voice that made it sound as though the matter was settled. "Come on."
He took Peter by the hand and they went off to build a puzzle until it was time to go to bed.
The officer sighed in frustration as her pen hovered above her writing pad.
"I'm sure I have a picture or something." Norman Osborn rifled through his desk. "I think. Maybe."
"If it's not from the last few years it won't help much, sir. Anything is good, but they change so fast at this age the more recent the better. Did you get him finger printed?"
He looked up, aggravated. "I thought the school would take care of it, or his sitter or something."
"Well do you know what he was wearing, sir?" She pressed on.
"How should I know?" He snapped.
The detective joined her partner one frustrating and long half hour later.
"How'd it go?"
"Chalk this one up for another kid we'll be lucky to find. Just about all I got was that he has wavy brown hair, brown eyes, and is a bit shy of seven."
"That bad? The dad's rich; I would have thought there'd be a big stink over this. Reward and everything."
"No fingerprints, no photos and it's been four days since the kid went missing. Father assumed that the nanny or the butler was taking care of him, they assumed he was with the father… long story short, nobody's seen him for days. And dad seems none to eager to raise a fuss. Looks kinda bad, doesn't it, when it's four days until you notice your own kid is gone? Didn't know anything about him either. No friends, nobody at school he knows, no places he hangs out, nobody he visits – not even the playground he likes the most. The interview with the teacher wasn't a whole lot better but at least she knew some things about the poor kid."
The partner gave a low whistle. "I'll tell you, the rich – sometimes I think they live in a world all their own."
"They do." She opened the car door. "And I'll tell you, we'll do what we gotta to track this kid down – but with a dad like Norman Osborn, I don't blame him for wanting out of that world."
Harry spoke about his past only in snatches, but Peter remembered them if only because Harry's life was apparently so different from his own. He understood that Harry's dad had apparently been rich, though he didn't seem to regret leaving that. That they'd had a fight the day before Harry left, that his father blamed him for his mom's death. That Harry didn't do so well in school and his dad didn't like that much either, which didn't make sense to Peter because Harry hadn't been in school that long.
So they would agree that the nameless father was a jerk and get on with their lives. Peter would occasionally talk about his life, but it usually made him cry so Harry didn't ask very often and Peter didn't offer.
Weeks passed and then months, and they settled into a pattern. Harry looked out for Peter who was a smaller than a lot of the other boys and was picked on when they found out he was smart. Peter helped Harry do things he had trouble with like math and science and spelling; Harry said he liked Peter and the way he explained things better than the tutors at the school.
The people who ran the group home were nice enough; and since they had each other, neither minded much as other, usually younger, kids were adopted and taken away before them. But Harry could see that Peter, much more than him, missed having a mom and a dad. And he hated to see Peter unhappy.
"I'll find us somebody," he assured Peter.
"Us?" Peter looked at him doubtfully. "Are you sure? People usually only take one. And they like little kids, babies."
"They'll take us," Harry replied confidently. "When we find the right ones."
Peter had his doubts; but then the Octavius couple showed up.
When they first came in, Peter and Harry had been playing outside with a soccer ball. Peter had recognized Otto Octavius from one of the science magazines that he read at the library when they got to go with their class. Harry called Peter a dork, but he'd gone back inside and approached the woman who had accompanied the scientist.
He tugged on her sleeve and when she turned around pointed to Peter who was standing in the doorway. "You should adopt Peter," he told her. "He's really smart, you would really like him."
The woman looked at him and smiled. "Well hello there. Who are you?"
"I'm Harry," he told her, smiled in a way he hoped was charming. "You could adopt me too, you know."
Her husband turned and looked at them. "Are you brothers?"
"No," he shrugged. "But I'm really nice. And I like to color. I'm good at coloring." He turned towards Otto. "Peter knows you and he likes you."
"He knows me?" The portly man laughed. "How does he know me?"
"He read about you in a magazine. Something science-y."
The man's look changed from amusement to interest and he motioned for Peter to come over. The boy hesitated, but Harry ran over and dragged him up to the couple.
"Hello, sir," Peter greeted him with a polite nod.
"Hello – Peter, right?" He held out a hand.
"Yeah." He took it and shook it carefully. "And you're Otto Octavius."
"Yes I am. Harry says you know what I do. Is that true?"
Peter nodded. "You're a really important physicist. I read about you in Popular Science." He blushed. "I think you're amazing."
Otto nodded. "Did you understand what was in the magazine?"
"Well… noteverything," Peter admitted. "But it sounded really exciting. Fusion and all." He paused. "I think you'll be able to do it someday, I really do!"
"That's very flattering young man. Would you like to come inside and sit down?"
Peter nodded and they walked inside together. Otto glanced back at his wife and saw that she was deep in conversation with Harry who was eagerly trying to pull her inside with the promise of showing her artwork. They stayed for nearly three hours, getting to know the boys and talking to the people at the agency about the application, home visit and screening process.
Once they were gone, Harry winked.
"I told you. Didn't I?"
Then he pulled Peter back outside where they resumed kicking around the soccer ball. While they played, Peter thought about the afternoon. He had to admit, it looked as though Harry had been right to hope. Apart from meeting Harry, something important had actually gone right for the first time since the accident.
"Well dear?" Otto kept his eyes on the road as they drove along.
"Harry's a charming child," she laughed. "Precocious. And very creative. He and Peter seem attached at the hip. You two seemed to be getting along well too, I noticed."
Otto nodded. "The boy is bright. I'll admit, it surprised me. Especially give what he's been through. Two sets of guardians dead, he's been in the system for a few months, public schools that's been piecemeal at that. First grader but he talks like he's in middle school, easily." He gave her a brief smile. "I admit, I liked him. He's sharp and enthusiastic. Polite. Good-natured. Don't want to see a kid like that end up languishing in a home for the next decade before winding up on the streets or something."
"You would know better than I would. He warmed up to you."
"And you let Peter monopolize your time," she pointed out with a knowing smile. "Harry's very sweet. Not too sure about his situation; he's a runaway who apparently showed up the same time as Peter. The workers said they were lucky they found him before he got into any real trouble, though they had no luck finding his real family. From his interviews they suspected some type of abuse, or at least neglect, but nothing he would talk about." She looked over at Otto with a serious expression. "What are you thinking?"
"I think," Otto replied, "that getting two children out of the system is better than one. They're older too. If not us – well, chances are they won't find anybody. We could afford it, you know."
"I know. Financially at least. But do you think we're ready for it?"
He pulled into their driveway, parked the car and took her hand. "I always said that you would make a marvelous mother, Rosalie. I'm sure you can give two children as much love as you could one. As for myself – I admit it would be a change. But you saw them together, how close they were. Even if they're not related, it would be a shame to break them apart."
"We'll ask for both of them?" She smiled at him.
Otto kissed her. "We'll ask for both."
A/N: A few notes. Yes, I'm well aware that I'm glossing over a few real life issues to set up the premise. Like the fact that Harry probably wouldn't have been successful. But I like the premise so... there it is. Also, I haven't decided what state they're in exactly. Somewhere between New York and Arizona. (The explanation for Otto and Rosalie being that I got the impression they lived elsewhere before the events of the second movie).
And it probably will be P/H so the rating will eventually go up. Unless the quasi-Ockcest really squicks everybody out. But they're not really related. Again... there it is.
Comments are more than welcome as are thoughts, suggestions, what have you. Yell at me if you feel like (I know I don't write children as well as I should). Hope you enjoyed and you can look forward to more soon, including sequels, other long fics and probably a one-shot based on USM 117 (which just about broke my heart). Keep an eye out and more fic will be forthcoming.