"Wait… is he your boyfriend?"
Harry hadn't meant for the off-handed remark to sound as angry as it did. He'd meant to play it as teasing, even if there was a real undercurrent of anxiety. But the way Peter said that what he had with Spider-Man was 'something else,' his tone of voice, sparked a flame of irritation at Peter, at their situation, which Harry had thought he'd long stamped out.
No way, he thought, no fucking way was Peter screwing the spider. Not when he had…
"What?" Peter's disbelieving remark derailed Harry's train of though.
"Well that would explain a lot," Harry replied quickly to cover.
"He's not my…"
"Like all your girl troubles," he interrupted.
"Like you're one to talk?" Peter scoffed. "Didn't you tell me you just got done with marriage number three? You weren't gone that long Harry. Two and three couldn't have lasted more than a few months."
Harry flushed. "I thought I was in love! And anyway, when did this conversation become about me? You're the one running after some guy in a skin tight suit taking pictures all the time, got his number programmed into your cell, apparently he drops everything when you're involved…"
"Why are you so angry, Harry?" Peter asked nervously.
He thinks I'm becoming the Goblin again, Harry realized with an equal measure of hurt and relief. He didn't want Peter to distrust him or think he was going down that mad path again, where the only light at the end of the tunnel was a train called Norman. But having Peter suspect the worst was better than having him suspect… other things.
"You said we were friends," Harry snapped.
"We are! I just told you that."
"Well I don't see how you can… how you can take up with somebody like that." Harry tried to relax but his jaw kept clenching of its own accord. "What is he to you?"
"Nothing, Harry! A meal ticket, a…"
"A meal ticket comes out to deal with my family problems because you call?" He struggled to keep his voice low, but it wasn't easy.
"What's this about?" Peter looked him in the eyes and Harry felt his stomach turn.
Long ago, so long ago, he'd thought he'd dealt with all of it, moved on from his stupid crushes. Peter had been with Mary Jane, he'd been with Liz, all should have been right with the world. Except in his stupid, fucked-up world it wasn't and never would be right.
"I'm no fan of Spider-Man, you know that Pete," he murmured. "He stole my father from me."
"Harry, your father would have found something else to absorb him, mania and costumes notwithstanding. You were never his priority."
But he stole you too, Harry thought but never said. Stole you before I even had a chance.
"Anyway, you know I'm under a lot of stress, obviously, with Liz and the elections and everything." He exhaled. "Guess it was getting to me, that's all. And having him show up here today really set me off."
"It's alright." Peter patted him on the back and Harry felt like he wanted to cry. "I understand."
Like hell you do. "Anyway," Harry went on, "I got the ring from Liz."
"I'm going to propose to Lily." He looked Peter in the eyes, an unnecessary challenge to the other man, but Peter's only reflected confusion and worry.
"Well, that's… I mean… good!" He gave Harry a weak smile.
"We've been having some rough times lately, but I think it will pass after the election."
"And you really wanna be with her," Peter said flatly.
"Might as well." Harry scoffed. "If it doesn't work out, I'll just bring the divorce count up to four."
"Yes?" Harry looked towards him eagerly, able to tell when Peter was edgy or nervous about something.
"Are you sure Lily's right for you?"
"What does that mean?" Harry whispered and worried that the sound of his head thudding in his chest would rise about the sound of his voice. Peter didn't want him to get married, Peter's own relationships had broken apart, maybe he wasn't far off the mark…
"There are just things I've y'know, heard about her fidelity and stuff. I don't want you getting hurt."
"Oh. Rumors," Harry sneered. "Those are always around."
Peter looked at him doubtfully. "I don't know…"
"Peter," he sighed, "what are you trying to say? Because it feels like you're lying to me about something."
"I…" He stuck his hand behind his head and began playing with his hair, a sure sign of unease. "Harry, I don't know if I should…"
"Tell me!" Harry wanted to beg, wanted to hope.
"Lily kissed me," Peter sighed. "When we were ransacking that destroyed office, while you were off getting the Prometheus stuff. And she said she wondered if she picked the wrong man."
And just as easily hope came crashing down, like a tower of blocks built too high, too fast. Not only was Peter's heterosexuality once again confirmed, but at the expense of Harry's girlfriend's fidelity. Harry wanted to grit his teeth until they were calcified dust.
"I didn't want it and I didn't want to hurt you but I…"
"Let's go home, Peter." Harry stood up. "Alright? Let's just go home." He strode over to the car, brain buzzing, and got in with a slam of the door. Peter joined him a moment later, still looking pitiful and apologetic.
"It was an accident. It wasn't supposed to… I'm not trying to steal her."
Well that's a relief. You don't want to take anybody around me, but you don't want me either. Harry fumbled with the keys until he finally jammed the ignition. It wasn't until the car was humming beneath him that he finally calmed.
"It's fine, Peter. It's fine. Doesn't matter."
They drove the rest of the way back in silence until they pulled up in front of Peter's apartment complex. Before getting out, Peter turned to him one last time, still worried, still fretting.
"Are you sure you're alright?"
"Alright?" Harry scoffed. "Pete, when I have ever been alright? But if you're talking about the Lily thing…" He was pissed at Lily, pissed at Peter, at his father, at Liz, as his whole shitty life that gave him every privilege except the chance to live the life he wanted.
He leaned over and kissed Peter, turning the other man's head gently to face his own and meeting with no resistance due to Peter's surprise.
"Turnabout is fair play," he whispered. "So now Lily and I are even."
"Harry!" Peter's eyes were wide, but Harry didn't look to see what emotion he would find. "I…"
"You can get out of the car."
"But Lily…" He stammered and Harry knew he was working to connect the dots.
"I'll propose and there will be a huge, ostentatious ceremony after which she'll cheat and I'll be miserable, and we'll get to have a loveless marriage like everybody else until it finally culminates in a messy divorce. Assuming my father doesn't kill one or the both of us somewhere down the line. Who are we to expect more?"
"Just go," Harry sighed, tapping the wheel with impatience, sensing that the moment had gone on too long already. Peter stepped out but Harry kept his eyes fixed on the road. "Don't mention this again, alright? But first…" He looked over where Peter was standing, bewildered, on the sidewalk, "Tell me the spider never got to do that."
"No, Harry," he said with a shake of his head. "Only you."
"Good. Least I didn't come in second there too."
He peeled off into the night without bothering to see if Peter watched him, went inside or did anything else. It didn't matter; his path was as laid out as the road his was driving on and he got to drift through the world, a petty man with piled on jealousies and no hope to speak of.
But Peter hadn't rejected him and he always did like red hair and so, alright, auburn wasn't exactly flame red but it was close enough and if he could get used to the idea…
Harry felt for the box in his pocket, the one holding Liz's ring, and struggled to pretend the last few minutes, hell the last half hour, hadn't happened. He pressed his foot on the gas and hurried back to his own home.
After all, Lily was probably waiting.
Based off a recent comic and parts of the early dialogue are from there. It was a scene that was basically too tempting to ignore.