It was one of those perfect New York moments, which were Peter’s very favorite kind. Like getting a hot dog from his favorite cart on the perfect sort of day, blue sky peeking through the building, or the first snowfall of the season dusting the streets like powdered sugar, turning the city into a dazzling snow globe for a few sweet hours before everything turned to grey slush.
Or like Johnny Storm in his arms at the top of the Statue of Liberty with all the city lights shining around him, whispering in his ear, “If you don’t fuck me right now, I’m going to explode.”
“Well, in the interest of preserving the landmarks,” Peter said, and promptly pinned Johnny down against one of the spikes of the crown.
It was quick and the good kind of filthy, Peter’s pants pushed down just enough to fuck Johnny, his masked rolled up just enough to kiss him. The statue underneath them was cold, but Johnny was blazing hot as always, his breath coming in quick pants as he slid one hand underneath Peter’s mask to twist in the back of his hair. His fingers raked down Peter’s back as he hitched his leg higher over Peter’s hip.
Guilt, Peter thought as he thrust sharply into Johnny, was something for the next morning when he woke up and realized he’d besmirched a national treasure. But that was tomorrow’s Peter’s problem. Tonight’s Peter could only think of Johnny underneath him and around him, and the noises he made in Peter’s ear, flustered more and deeper and a stammered “Peter, please, I – I – I need you,” that made Peter groan himself.
“Anything, hot stuff,” he promised, gripping Johnny’s thigh tight as he drove up into his tight heat. “Anything for you. God, look at you. I’d ruin you on a thousand national monuments to freedom and democracy.”
Okay, so he was thinking about it a little. He was a certified genius; he was good at a bit of mental multi-tasking.
“God,” Johnny groaned, sliding a hand over his eyes. “I hate that that’s hot.”
And if Peter’s spider-sense buzzed faintly, then it was probably just some supervillain jetting into Newark to track him down and kill him the next day, and nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.
His burner phone buzzed to the tune of We Didn’t Start the Fire. It was one of half a dozen rings he’d programmed in, each for a different person to call in case of an emergency. This was the one designated for Johnny, but knowing Johnny an emergency could’ve meant he was out of conditioner, or that they were running low on chips, or that Johnny was just bored. Peter erred on the side of caution and answered it anyway.
“Yello, Parker’s Existential Crisis Center, embrace one void, get the other half off,” Peter said, cradling the phone between his shoulder and his ear as he leaned back in his seat. It creaked ominously. “How can we help your creeping sense of dread today?”
“You busy?” Johnny asked. He sounded a little wound up, a little nervous. Peter really hoped it wasn’t over the conditioner.
“Just covering for the philosophy teacher, in case you couldn’t tell,” Peter said. “No, it’s okay. I’m supervising some extra credit work. What’s up, love of my life?”
The couple of students still in the classroom shot him curious looks. One leaned over to whisper, “Mr. Parker’s got a girlfriend,” giddily to another. Peter snapped his fingers and pointed at their work tables.
“Watch those experiments,” he said, cupping a hand over the receiver. “They don’t pay me enough to take the rap if you blow up the school.”
“Pete?” Johnny said. He still had that tone in his voice, like he was nervous and fidgeting with something.
“Right here,” Peter said. “What’s up? You okay?”
“Uh,” said Johnny, hesitating for a moment before he continued. “Yeah, I mean, basically.”
Peter frowned. He climbed to his feet, anxiety prickling across his shoulders and down his spine. His students were looking at him now, but if there was something really wrong with Johnny, Peter couldn’t put the phone down yet.
“What’s wrong?” he said. “Where are you?”
“At home,” Johnny said. “It’s – no, you know what, this is a mistake. It’s nothing. Nothing’s wrong!”
One of the experiments was bubbling menacingly. It had also gone a bright magenta. David Silverstein raised his hands hopelessly when Peter glanced at him with his eyebrows raised. Peter sighed.
“You have ten seconds to tell me what’s wrong,” Peter said, picking up the strangely bubbling beaker. His spider-sense stayed silent, thankfully, but his science-sense was giving him a headache.
“Aren’t you around kids?” Johnny said. “I shouldn’t be telling you this if you’re around kids.”
“Six… five... four…” Peter said.
“It’s just,” Johnny said breathlessly, “did you know that there are webcams on the Statue of Liberty now?”
Peter dropped the beaker.
“It’s not that bad,” Johnny said an hour later when they were sitting together in front of his laptop. He tilted his head to the side and pressed his lips together in consideration. “I mean, if you look at it this way, that could sort of be anyone, right?”
Peter, slumped beside him with his head against the back of the couch and his eyes fixed on the ceiling, said, “Sure, Johnny. That could be absolutely anyone at the top of the Statue of Liberty having sex in Human Torch and Spider-Man costumes.”
The screenshot on the screen wasn’t the clearest in the world, but it was still all too obvious what was going on. In it, Johnny’s head was thrown back, his golden hair a contrast against the teal of the statue’s crown. Peter was braced over him, Johnny’s leg hitched up over his hips. His mask was on, thankfully.
It was the only thing that he was thankful for; his pants, after all, were down.
“It’s a Fantastic Four costume,” Johnny corrected. “I don’t have my own costume.” He paused. “Should I have my own costume?”
“Sure,” Peter said. He put a hand over his eyes. “You want to put it on before or after I strangle you?”
“You can’t even really tell what we’re doing,” Johnny protested, but it was half-hearted. “I mean, your pants could be down for any reason, right?”
“Yeah, that’ll be the Bugle headline,” Peter said. “Spider-Man suffers innocent wardrobe malfunction on top of the Human Torch. How did we not know there were cameras?”
“I don’t know!” Johnny said. “Why would there be cameras! Who wants to look at the top of the Statue of Liberty’s head, anyway. That’s so boring!”
Peter turned his head just far enough to level him with a look.
“I mean, usually,” Johnny clarified. “Usually boring.”
Peter blew out a sigh, focusing his gaze back on the ceiling.
“How many people can even watch this thing?” Johnny continued. “Maybe no one will see it.”
“How did you see it?” Peter asked.
“It was trending on twitter,” Johnny said.
Peter groaned. “Johnny.”
“Barely! Barely trending,” Johnny said.
Peter slid a hand over his eyes, took a deep, calming breath, and told himself that he loved Johnny and that he didn’t at all want to “barely” smother him with a throw pillow.
“Can’t you, I don’t know, contact your lawyers or publicity people or elves or whatever?” he said. “Have them take this thing down?”
“I mean, probably,” Johnny said, a cringe in his voice. “But if I do that, Sue will find out about it, and I really don’t want Sue to find out about it.”
A door slammed, and Sue’s voice rang out: “JONATHAN SPENCER LOWELL STORM.”
“Well,” Peter said, sliding lower on the sofa. “Good news, Spencer – I don’t think you have to worry about that one anymore.”
“You two have done a lot of stupid things – both separately, but especially together,” Sue said, aggressively plating Cheerios for baby Valeria, “but this is really unbelievable.”
The last time Peter had been summoned to a family meeting in anyone’s kitchen, he’d been twelve and, despite his excellent work attempting to cover up his crime by saying they’d clearly been struck by a stray meteorite, Aunt May had still managed to figure out that it was Peter practicing his then-nonexistent sports skills with the baseball Uncle Ben had gotten him that had shattered his bedroom window.
This time was infinitely more mortifying. It was only the fact that if he dove out the window Johnny might never sleep with Peter again that was keeping him rooted in seat.
Then again, it was sleeping with Johnny that had gotten Peter into this mess in the first place. He reweighed the odds and, unfortunately for him, sex with Johnny still remained a priority.
“I don’t know if I would say unbelievable,” Johnny said under his breath.
“Stop making it worse,” Peter hissed back at him.
“Honestly, what is wrong with both of you? Who in the world has,” here Sue paused to cover Val’s tender infant ears and to lower her voice to a menacing hiss, “sex on top of a national monument? Who does that? Tell me, baby brother, who?”
“Namor,” Johnny said, disguising it by coughing into his fist. “The Atlantic and the Pacific.”
Sue narrowed her eyes. Johnny stared right back at her as if daring her to disagree. Val flung a Cheerio across the room.
“Okay,” Peter said. “You two need me to remove the baby from the war zone or what?”
Both Johnny and Sue turned to glare at him. Val threw another Cheerio at him and only narrowly missed. Sometimes Peter felt like she knew when she was being talked about.
“Look, Sue,” Peter said. “I’m an adult. And by a legal technicality, so is your brother.”
“Thanks,” Johnny said. And then, half a second later, “Hey.”
“Shush,” Peter told him. “My point is, if we want to make mistakes – yes, even embarrassing, naked mistakes in what is technically a public place, even though, I would like to note, it was the middle of the night and no one was around – that’s our prerogative, and that’s the end of that.”
“You realize there could be legal ramifications involved,” Sue pointed out.
Johnny pointed at Peter and said, “It was all his fault, Sue, he talked me into it.”
Peter wasn’t going to call Johnny a liar in front of his sister, but only because he loved him.
“Look on the bright side,” he said, covering his eyes with one palm. “At the rate this city goes, how long could it be before this whole thing just blows over? Nobody will even be talking about this by next week.”
“I can’t take you seriously when you look like that,” Peter said.
There was a shiny golden sheet laying on top of Johnny’s face, with holes cut out for his eyes and mouth. Johnny raised both hands to gesture at it.
“I’m moisturizing,” he said. “Do you have any idea what stress does to my skin?”
“Does it look more ridiculous than you do right now?” Peter asked.
Johnny folded all the fingers of his left hand back except for one. Peter couldn’t, in all honesty, blame him for being stressed. It was going on almost a week now since their tryst at the top of the Statue of Liberty had gotten caught on camera, and nothing – no alien invasions, no good guys gone bad, not even a rumble out of Latveria – had come around to knock their latest scandal off the top of the charts.
Johnny was bearing the brunt of it, not having another identity to hide behind. He’d been lambasted by the society section, roasted on every late night television, and dropped as the face of some new cologne.
In comparison, all Spider-Man really had to deal with was muggers making lewd comments before he webbed them to the nearest lamp post. But at least when he took off the costume, he got some respite – from most people, anyway.
He couldn’t prove it was Felicia who had taped the screenshot of him and Johnny right over his bedroom window, but he couldn’t think of who else it would be. Surely some of the experience would have been lost on Matt.
“Look,” Peter said, leaning over Johnny and peeling the sheet from his face. “I know this has been rough, but any day now someone is going to do something worse and everything will blow over and you’ll get your endorsements back, Torch. The public’s got a short attention span that way.”
“Everyone remembers the time your pants split in your old costume and you didn’t notice for two days,” Johnny pointed out.
Peter made a face. “And thank you for that counterpoint, sunshine.”
“Any time,” Johnny said, pushing past Peter and walking into the bathroom.
Peter followed after him, leaning in the open doorway as Johnny examined himself in the mirror, frowning critically at whatever it was he saw. Peter had no idea – Johnny always looked perfect to him.
“Look,” Johnny sighed after a moment. Peter watched his reflection in the mirror as he rolled his eyes. “It’s not the stupid headlines or the dumb jokes or the endorsements or any of it that’s getting to me. I mean, I already put up with a lot of that when we decided to go public with the relationship with you as Spider-Man. Do you know how many comments about where spider’s silk actually comes from I put up with? Which, ew. But it’s not like this is my first sex scandal.”
“As you continually remind me,” Peter said.
“I’ll get over it,” Johnny said, turning away from the mirror. “It’s just…”
When he didn’t continue after a few seconds, Peter asked, “Just what?”
Johnny shook his head.
“Never mind,” he said, pressing a kiss to Peter’s cheek as he pushed past him. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“I’m a certified genius,” Peter called after him.
“Did you have to send away for that certificate with box tops and postage?” Johnny yelled back.
Peter got no respect.
At least, Peter thought, he had his friends for support.
“You never took me up to the Statue of Liberty to play hide the webshooter,” Mary Jane accused over the phone.
Or quite possibly Peter had no friends.
“I mean, the Empire State Building, the Flatiron, Rockefeller Center, the top of Macy’s,” Mary Jane said, sounding suspiciously like she was counting off on her fingers. “There was that construction site at Hudson Yards but I had a weird feeling that one wasn’t really about me.”
“Good talk, Mary Jane,” Peter said, sliding a hand over his eyes.
“Hey, you can take some solace here. You've still got a cute butt, tiger,” she said as she hung up.
“I just think it’s, um,” Flash said the next day, red to the roots of his hair, “it’s really, um, you know.”
“Flash, buddy, old pal, I have literally no idea what you’re talking about,” Peter said. He leaned back in his seat far enough that, with any luck, an exceptionally strong breeze might blow him into traffic and put him out of his misery. Or maybe a meteoroid would fall from the sky and brain him to death. Either or.
Lunch with old friends, he’d said to himself. Just him and the guys. The guys who had no idea he was Spider-Man and had never seen his butt. Or had seen his butt a limited amount of times, anyway; Harry never had been very good at knocking. It was just the thing he needed to forget his current little personal melodrama.
And it had been, up until Harry had put his menu down five minutes in, leaned in close with a look on his face like he was about to let them in on who’d really shot JFK, and said, “So you guys saw the thing about Spider-Man fucking the Human Torch on top of the Statue of Liberty, right?”
Peter had had a headache ever since.
“It’s sick, is what it is,” Harry said, gesturing with a fry. “You know I’ve had my ups and downs with Spider-Man –”
“Make it stop,” Peter implored the sky.
“—But to screw the Human Torch on top of a major New York landmark? A symbol of who we are? A gift from France?” Harry continued, throwing his hands up. An opportunistic pigeon snatched the French fry out of his hand, which, frankly, Peter thought Harry deserved. Harry didn’t seem to notice. “I mean, why not just rig it up so he could have an orgy broadcast all over Times Square?”
“I’m sure he’ll think of that next time,” Peter said, still regarding the sky. No one up there took pity on him and the sunny afternoon sky remained meteorite free. “Can we talk about literally anything else? The weather? Baseball? Flash, pal, how’s that burger treating you?”
“It’s representation!” Flash blurted out, pointing a finger at Peter. For a second, Peter thought he meant the burger. “Spider-Man having sex with the Torch – that’s representation! It’s cool that Spider-Man does dudes!”
He said it loud enough that several people in the café turned to stare, including their waiter. Flash, if possible, went even redder.
“Um,” he said, quieter. “Or whatever.”
“Deep breaths, buddy,” Harry said, stealing a handful of Flash’s fries.
“It’s, uh, it’s nice for people,” Flash said weakly. He looked vaguely like he needed a paper bag to breath into. Peter contemplated ending the conversation by letting him hurl into the mask. It would be like a metaphor. “Who, you know… have feelings, and…”
He gestured inarticulately. Peter knocked his foot against Flash’s ankle under the table, a silent little it’s okay, because it was, even if he sort of wanted to strangle him in the moment.
“It’s not like I’ve got an objection to Spider-Man screwing airheaded blond celebutantes of whatever persuasion,” Harry said, punctuating persuasion with a wave of a stolen French fry. Peter set his teeth and hoped the grinding of his jaw wasn’t audible. “I just don’t see why they had to do it on a national landmark. People take their kids there. What if Liz and I had been trying to show Normie a little bit of New York’s most famous real estate and the next thing I know my six-year-old son’s getting an eyeful of Johnny freaking Storm taking it up the –”
“It was the middle of the night!” Peter burst out, throwing his hands up. “No one was there!”
Both Flash and Harry stared at him.
“You know,” Peter grit out. “For the sake of the argument.”
“Whatever,” Harry said, popping a fry in his mouth. “I bet you wish you’d been there, huh, Peter?”
“What the hell, Harry?” Peter demanded, anxiety spiking so high he almost didn’t hear Flash mumble under his breath, “I wish I had been.”
Peter wasn’t going to think too closely about that one.
“To grab photos?” Harry said, miming clicking a camera’s shutter. “I mean, I know it’s a little X-rated for the Bugle, but with a little clever cropping, I bet Jameson would’ve gone wild for those shots. I mean, no offense, but Spider-Man beating up Sandman and Kraven and whoever has got nothing on this.”
“Right,” Peter said, slumping back in his seat. “Photos. Yeah. That. Actually, Harry, I’m pretty comfortable with Peter Parker not being caught in that particular vicinity.”
He’d actually run into Jonah at the market a few days before while shopping with Johnny’s shopping list and, unfortunately, without Johnny’s credit card. (“I can’t be seen in public like this,” Johnny had said, lying upside down and halfway off the couch in the dark.) Jonah had taken one look at Peter’s face and started laughing.
“All those years hoping you’d get a photograph of Spider-Man with his mask off!” he’d guffawed, snorting between every other word. “And that menace goes and gets caught with his pants down instead!”
He'd kept maniacally cackling until he'd accidentally choked on his own spit. Peter had made his escape while Marla Jameson enthusiastically pounded her husband on the back.
Flash took a long sip of his lemonade, looking elsewhere with his cheeks as red as his hair had been back in high school. Peter needed more friends. Different friends. Perhaps Canadian friends who weren’t Wolverine.
“You know who must be having a field day with this?” Harry said after a long, uncomfortable silence. “My father.”
Peter’s weekly dinner with Aunt May at her house in Forest Hills was strained, to say the least. Johnny had less than gracefully bowed out, calling Peter and miserably and unconvincingly coughing into the phone an hour before dinner, saying that he had a “space flu” and that he “wouldn’t want to infect anybody,” in case it was contagious, but that obviously he would probably be fine by 11 when Peter got home.
Peter was going to contagious him when he next saw him.
Even without Johnny’s bright presence, the conversation between him and May was especially lacking. He kept almost asking if she knew, and then chickening out. A rampaging Hulk he would go up against, no problem, tie one hand behind his back and blindfold him, but ask his aunt if she’d seen the grainy images of him caught on camera with his pants literally down?
He’d take that Hulk any day.
“Fight any good supervillains lately, dear?” May asked mildly, spooning more peas onto her own plate. “Or bad supervillains, I should say.”
“Eh,” he said. “I took down the Shocker the other day when he was trying to rob the Red Lobster. Not exactly a high for either of us. You probably saw that on the news. High lobster casualties and all that.”
“Mm,” said May, with what Peter thought might’ve been just a touch of judgment. “The news. You do see a lot of things these days.”
Peter couldn’t take it anymore. It was ask, or attempt to drown himself in the gravy boat.
“May,” he said, as evenly as he could, just in case it was just his rampant paranoia finally getting to him. “You don’t – watch late night television, do you?”
“Not since Letterman,” May said, barely batting an eyelash.
“Or look at things on social media?” Peter pressed.
“Well, Facebook’s very good for keeping up with people,” May said. “And Doris from my book club puts all her pictures of her grandchildren up on, what’s it called, Instagram. But no, dear, I don’t especially bother with those kinds of websites.”
“Oh,” Peter said, breathing a sigh of relief. “That’s g –”
“Of course, if I did,” May said, cutting him off, “and I just so happened to see someone I loved behaving in a very inappropriate fashion, caught on camera for all the world to see, I would ask what he was thinking and if he considered how, for example, the woman who raised him would feel seeing that sort of thing, and if he even thought about that, how she did her best to instill him with a sense of what is and isn’t appropriate and what should and shouldn’t be carried out in public. On top of very large statues. In the middle of the night.”
“Ah,” Peter said, after a beat.
“That’s if I saw anything,” May said, calmly cutting into her steak. “But I’m sure I didn’t. I hardly even know how to use the Tweeter.”
“Of course you don’t,” Peter said. He cleared his throat. “But if you did I’m sure you would know that that person wasn’t thinking about, say, the woman who raised him, the best mother he could ever ask for, the most important person in the world to him…” he trailed off, watching and waiting for that familiar twitch at the corner of her lips, like she was trying not to smile, “… at that particular moment, which, from an Oedipal standpoint –”
“Oh dear,” May said dryly, arching one eyebrow. “Are you sure you can see all the way down there in that hole you’re digging?”
“ – I think we could all agree was probably for the best,” Peter said, gesturing with his fork. “But that he does love that person very much and that he is very sorry and that he’s sure the woman who raised him could understand that he’s been pretty thoroughly humiliated for it already.”
“On most major news networks,” May said.
“Exactly,” Peter said.
“Well,” said May. “Now that we’ve cleared that up.”
“We have, Aunt May.”
“Eat your vegetables, dear.”
“Yes, Aunt May.”
For a long moment there was nothing but the sounds of silverware against May’s second best china. Everything was peaceful.
Then May put her fork and knife down and said, “You know, one time your Uncle Ben and I were on the beach. It was a very quiet day, you understand, hardly anyone around for miles it felt like, and Ben was feeling, how should I say, a bit randy –”
Peter coughed up a mouthful of peas.
Johnny was sulking. Not obviously sulking, the way Johnny did when he was vying for attention – there was no dramatic sighing, or slammed doors, or loud whining right in Peter’s ear, or impulsive and questionable hair and fashion decisions, or sudden revelations about a celebrity sex tape timed to make Peter spit out his drink.
This was the kind of sulking it had taken Peter years to be able to spot: the genuine, quiet kind, when Johnny was honestly upset about something and didn’t want anyone in the family to know. He was sulking about something he was embarrassed or ashamed about; Peter could see it in the way Johnny curled up on the couch in one of Peter’s old hoodies, in the way he picked at his food, in the way he stayed quiet through whole movies and only answered in grunts when Peter started asking him purposefully annoying questions.
It was hard for Peter to try and let Johnny work things through on his own, but sometimes, when Johnny was really in a mood, that’s what he needed to do.
He lasted all of two days.
“Okay,” he said, pulling the auto magazine away from Johnny. “You gonna tell me what’s wrong or am I going to have to get drastic?”
Johnny frowned at him, his hair curling over his forehead. He hadn’t even styled it that morning, and under Peter’s hoodie he was wearing Peter’s boxers – and not even a nice pair. The boxers had a hole in one leg and a mustard stain on the other and Peter was fairly sure he had bought them a minimum of eight years ago. Something was very wrong.
“You know, back in the day, whenever you wanted me to talk about something you’d threaten to pound it out of me,” Johnny said, tilting his head back so he could look at the ceiling. “Was that sexual frustration talking or what?”
“Oh ho ho, no, we are not playing Spidey Psychology 101 here,” Peter said, hooking a hand behind Johnny’s knee and pulling his towards him until he was flat on his back on the couch. Peter moved to hover over him, even as Johnny pouted and turned his head to the side. “Come on, hot stuff. We both know I can keep you here all day. You’ve got ten seconds and then I’m going to start tickling you. And no, it’s not going to get sexy.”
“And the asbestos webbing,” Johnny muttered petulantly, glowering at the far wall. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Was that some kind of bondage thing or what?”
“Oh, definitely,” Peter said, sneaking one hand up Johnny’s hoodie to skim along his ribs. Johnny attempted to kick him, but Peter only used his free hand to grab him by the ankle, balancing himself on his knees like half of a two person pretzel. “Don’t test me here, Torch.”
Johnny squirmed unhappily in his grip. “Fine. It’s the usual place thing, okay?”
“The Statue of Liberty?” Peter said, slowly releasing Johnny’s ankle and letting him sit up. He did so, his arms still crossed and his gaze still stubbornly avoidant. Peter slid a hand to his shoulder. “I didn’t realize it was still getting to you. Look, the buzz has really died down, right? Before you know it, some other superhero will get caught with their pants down, probably literally, and everybody will forget all about it.”
“It’s not that,” Johnny said, biting his lip. “It’s just – we haven’t been out there since we got caught on camera.”
Peter quirked an eyebrow. “Yeah, hot stuff, that might be because we got caught on camera.”
“Right. But it was our place,” Johnny said miserably. He hunched a little further into himself. “It was this place that was just for you and me –”
“And the huddled masses and the tourists,” Peter put in as an aside, which finally earned him some eye contact, even if it was in the form of a glare.
“But it was ours,” Johnny continued, looking at Peter now with big, sad eyes. “All those years, whenever I needed you – that was our place. Not anybody else’s. And now we can’t go there because we’ll get caught on camera and everyone will start talking again and it’s just – they just…”
He broke off with a stutter and it took a moment for him to get himself back under control again. Peter waited him out as patiently as he could.
“They made it dirty,” Johnny finally said, dropping his gaze again.
“Technically we did that,” Peter said, tugging Johnny in to rest against him. His chest felt a little funny and tight, and he tried to tell himself it was just because Johnny being upset always inevitably upset him too these days. “When we had sex on top of a national monument.”
“I didn’t feel like it was dirty,” Johnny said. He pillowed his head on Peter’s shoulder, curling into him. “I never feel like what we do is dirty.”
There was nothing for Peter to say about that – no jokes, no reasoning. He couldn’t argue with the truth, and besides, he knew by now what was unspoken when Johnny said that, and what that meant to him. He planted a soft kiss on Johnny’s forehead and scrunched his fingers in his curls, raking his nails lightly across his scalp.
“And then everyone started making jokes, and now we can’t even,” Johnny broke off with a little hitch in his voice, swallowing bitterly. “We can’t even go to our place. They took it away from us.”
Peter was quiet for a moment, just thinking as he held Johnny. He stroked his hair for another minute, then moved to rub at Johnny’s back when Johnny’s breathing got suspiciously wet.
“Okay,” he said after a beat, knocking his forehead against Johnny’s. “Hey. It’s gonna be okay. You know where I put my old black suit, by any chance?”
Johnny glanced at him, eyes red-rimmed and questioning. “Why?”
“Oh,” Peter said. “No reason.”
Finding the cameras was the easy part. Peter had forgotten, having used Johnny as his own personal taxi service the last few times they’d been out to the usual place, what a pain it was web-rafting across the river, but he didn’t want to take the ferry and then end up having to hide out until well after nightfall.
With the black costume’s shirt turned inside out, Peter was – still fairly sure he would end up being recognized as Spider-Man. But, he told himself as he wrenched the first camera off, he didn’t care.
He had more important things to worry about.
Johnny was sleeping curled up in the middle of the bed when Peter crawled back through his window. He cracked an eye open blearily at the noise, then saw that it was Peter, sighed, and pulled the covers up.
Peter let himself have a deep moment of fondness before he wrenched the covers back down.
“Hey,” he said, dropping the now useless cameras onto the bed. “Happy early birthday, Christmas, and Hanukkah.”
“Wha --?” Johnny said, sitting up. He rubbed at his eyes for a moment, staring at the cameras, and then glanced back up at Peter. “What is this?”
“What do you think?” Peter asked, sitting down at the edge of the bed. He picked up one of the cameras and held it up for Johnny. “I got us our usual place back.”
Johnny gaped at him.
“Now, I know I didn’t have to get all the cameras, just the one pointed at the crown, but I figured in for a penny, in for a pound,” Peter began, waving his hand in loose circles, “and I’m sure they’ll get new ones up sooner or later – later, if the city’s budget is anything to go by, but –”
Johnny launched himself at him, almost knocking him from the bed as he crawled into his lap and twined his arms around Peter’s neck, enthusiastically kissing him. The camera got caught between their chests, somewhat uncomfortably.
“I love you,” Johnny said breathlessly when they broke away. Gleefully, he added, “You vandalized a national landmark for me!”
Peter kissed the tip of his nose. “And whenever you want me to paint mustaches on the founding fathers, you just let me know.”
Johnny laughed, beaming happily down at him, and Peter found it hard to think of anything he’d seen more beautiful than Johnny Storm, sleep-rumpled and delighted.
“So tomorrow,” Peter said, shifting Johnny more securely into his lap. “I’m thinking we get a blanket, a little something from Zabar’s…”
“Lube,” Johnny said, his face perfectly serious.
Peter made a face. “You sure we want to repeat past mistakes?”
“You sure you’re really saying right now that you don’t want to fuck me a second time on top of the Statue of Liberty?” Johnny asked, staring down at him.
Peter considered it for all of five seconds. Technically, he knew people were supposed to learn from past mistakes. But then again if Peter did that, he’d be out of a costume and a job.
“No,” he said, pushing a laughing Johnny back down onto the mattress and climbing on top of him. “I’m not saying that at all.”