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hold me (like the night sky holds the moon)

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another bel-air mansion way too loud

a couple trust fund kids that can’t slow down

the liquor flows, the ceiling’s gold, the clamor of the crowd

so many nameless faces all around

 

alone in a crowded room

hollywood hills with a view

faded and high, i’m surrounded but i’m

alone in a crowded room

 

| | | | |

 

He doesn’t know whose house he’s at, isn’t entirely sure how he got there or who invited him to begin with, but he can’t find it in himself to care as he downs a bittersweet shot and feels the buzz in the air. There’s an abundance of people, unfamiliar faces that he can’t place, twisted rich kid grins and drunken laughter and bloodshot eyes and glimpses of people doing lines in the bathroom. For some reason, a circle of strangers surrounds him, cheers him on when he slams the shot glass down on the counter top and reaches for another, and they keep cheering as he goes for another, and another, and another, until the line of shots is gone and they’re shouting and clapping hands on his shoulders and slurring praises.

“Almost beat y’er record, Stark,” someone that Peter doesn’t know tells him, mouth uncomfortably close to his ear, and if Peter were sober, he’d grimace and push them away and correct them because his last name isn’t just Stark and it feels like betraying his parents, his Uncle Ben and his Aunt May, if he leaves out Parker, but there’s liquid fire in his veins and he can feel it from his head to his toes and all he does is grin a wolfish sort of grin and reach for an unopened bottle nestled in the corner where the marble counter meets the fridge, claims it as his own by twisting off the cap and bringing it to his lips. Whatever’s in it is strong and burns his throat on the way down, but he doesn’t care, takes two large gulps before pulling it back with the smack of his lips and a mischievous sort of quirked-up end of the mouth smirk. The girl that was talking before, still too close to Peter’s ear, lets out a whistle, then abruptly turns away and vanishes in the crowd, and Peter doesn’t bother to see where she goes, forgets anyone was there a moment later.

The music changes, shakes the floor and sends tingles up and down Peter’s spine, and he pushes his way into the living room with his mystery bottle in the air and his hips swaying to the beat, all the people that know his name but that he doesn’t know the names of greeting him as he goes. Someone takes his unoccupied hand when he reaches the designated makeshift dance floor, spins him around, and he lets them without looking to see who it is, tips his head back with a cackle that only gets muffled when he brings the bottle to his mouth to drink some more. At some point, he stops spinning, feels someone press up behind him and someone else press to his front, and he lets them do that, too, because he’s having fun and everything is both dull and bright and right now, nothing else matters.

He’s not sure how much time passes with these two strangers dancing with him, but his bottle runs empty at some point, and he’s reached an unintelligible level of intoxication, tongue too heavy to form words, lips somehow both warm and numb, unable to do much more than obediently part when someone asks him if they can kiss him and he just dumbly nods and doesn’t even see their face before their tongue is licking into his mouth, and it’s kind of sloppy and gross but he’s way too drunk to care.

Then they slip a hand under his shirt and he laughs, pushes them away with a slurred out, “Nah,” and he stumbles away, can’t get his eyes to focus on anything around him, bumps into shoulders and accidentally presses elbows into people’s sides, murmurs half-assed apologies as he goes, and people that he still doesn’t know still try to talk to him, but he ignores them now, staggers down a somewhat empty hall until he reaches a sliding glass door and makes his way outside, where the air is cool and soothing and the yard appears to be mostly vacant of other people, the grass looking soft and inviting, so he lays in it, takes a deep breath and melts into the ground.

“You look wasted,” someone says, and Peter simply hums, lets his eyes flutter closed. Footsteps approach from god knows where, stop about a foot or two away, and the voice speaks again, sounds somewhere between joking and serious when they ask, “You think your dads would approve of this, Stark?”

Peter shrugs, lets his limbs flop out in a starfish sort of thing, and breathes out, “I don’t care.”

“And people say you’re America’s little angel. Wonder what they’d say if they saw you now.”

That makes Peter snicker, lips quirked up in some kind of amusement that he’s too drunk to realize is mostly bitter, and in a croaky mess of his usual voice, he asks, “What do you think?”

A pause, the only sound the music from the house, then: “What do I think about what?”

“About me,” Peter says. “Since you obviously know who I am, and everyone who knows about me has some kind of opinion, even if they don’t really know me. Do you think I’m an angel, stranger?”

“I think…” the voice trails off, contemplative, and Peter thinks that maybe he should open his eyes and see who the hell he’s actually talking to, but he’s already sure he won’t recognize them, so he doesn’t bother, just listens when they say, “I think you were a poor kid from Queens that went through hell and somehow got lucky enough to be adopted by a billionaire, and, honestly, I think you’re wasting your second chance by going to parties like this and hanging around shitty trust fund kids who don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves and the money in their bank accounts. But what do I know, right?”

Peter’s smile is definitely twisted now, more of a drunken grimace, and he still keeps his eyes closed when he points out, “You know, you’re at this party, too. What does that make you?”

Again, there’s a pause, only this one lasts so long that Peter thinks the person must have walked about, but then there’s some kind of half-laugh, half-sigh, and they say, “I guess it makes me a hypocrite. But I’m not a trust fund baby, and I’m not drunk off my ass, so maybe that makes me better than you.”

“Oh, it’s not hard to be better than me,” Peter muses, then: “What’s your name, since you know mine?”

“Harley,” they say. “Give me your phone and tell me who to call to pick your drunk ass up.”

“Ooh, demanding,” Peter snarks, but he reaches into the back pocket of his jeans and pulls his phone out anyway, doesn’t hesitate to tell this stranger—named Harley, apparently, though Peter knows he won’t remember that name in the morning—the password to unlock it, and after a moment of silently debating his choices, tells Harley what contact to get ahold of.

Twenty minutes later, when Rhodey shows up and keeps an arm around Peter’s waist to keep him steady, there’s no one else in the yard with him, and Peter already can’t recall a majority of the night.

 


| | | | |

 

It’s a different house, but it’s a similar crowd, only five days after the last party, four days after Tony can’t look him in the eye and Stephen doesn’t know what to say and Peter knows, he knows, that he’s fucking it up, taking this semblance of a family that he’s somehow been lucky enough to have and destroying it with his bare hands because he doesn’t know how to stop himself, and he stays silent when he eats breakfast with his adoptive dads and he doesn’t say sorry, doesn’t promise to do better, because he won’t, he knows he won’t, and there’s no point in getting their hopes up by saying he will. But he smiles when Pepper and Christine stop by, acts normal when Morgan jumps at him and feels his heart burst with love for his kind-of-sort-of-not-really-but-still little sister, and so long as his dads don’t bring it up, he doesn’t, either, because it’s easier to pretend things are fine and push the problem away.

But now, he’s here, and he’s doing more than just drink, slips someone a fifty dollar bill and locks the bathroom door and comes out ten minutes later feeling lighter than he has in a long time, too expensive jacket sleeves pushed messily up to his elbows as he heads to the kitchen, hunts down something strong, maybe a little too strong, and downs five shots in one go, the people around him watching in some kind of inebriated awe, though he can’t tell if it’s because of him or his actions. He doesn’t bother to ask, just scans the faces around him with glazed over eyes until he finds a nice looking guy leaning against the wall in the corner, sipping a soda and looking around in mild interest. Eyes locked on this guy, Peter stumbles forward, pushes through people who don’t seem to care, and somehow manages to string together some kind of coherence as he says, “You’re cute. Do you wanna dance with me?”

The guy, with blond hair that’s long enough to fall in front of his eyes in loose looking little ringlets and blue eyes that seem to sparkle with something and a quirked brow, asks, “Why should I?”

Peter stops, blinks once, trying to place where he knows the guys voice. “Do I know you?”

“The real question is, do you remember me?”

“Am I supposed to?”

The guy grins, and Peter doesn’t understand why. “My name’s Harley. We kind of talked last week, but you were wasted beyond belief, so I’m not surprised you forgot.” Peter frowns, tries to kick start his memory of the last party he was at to no avail. Harley cocks his head to the side, grin widening slightly. “You didn’t answer me,” he says. “Why should I dance with you, Stark?”

“Well—” Peter fumbles for a moment, then settles on, “Why not?”

Harley squints at him, but ultimately lets out a laugh. “Yeah,” he agrees. “Why not?”

At every party that Peter’s been to—and he’s been to a lot since he went to his first one at seventeen, and the past few months he’s attended at least two every week, no matter how many times he’s told himself he probably shouldn’t be going to any at all—people have been enthusiastic, to say the least, when he chooses to dance with them. It’s because he’s the adopted son of Tony Stark and Stephen Strange, he knows, because his family is rich and famous and having Peter pressed against them is apparently some kind of prize or privilege, but Harley doesn’t dance with him like everyone else always does. There’s at least half a foot of space between them and they’re facing one another, their hands linked with intertwined fingers and slightly sweaty palms and Harley spins him around and giggles like they’re at a school dance and Peter can’t help but say, “I don’t usually dance with people like this,” because he’s used to rough hands on his hips or in his hair and people grinding against him like the simple swivel of their hips is enough to make him fall in love, like it’s a competition to see who can woo the Stark boy and have him bring them home, for bragging rights or something equally immature.

“How do you usually dance with people?” Harley asks, and he sounds genuinely curious, like he doesn’t automatically assume what Peter does and doesn’t do, head tilted slightly to the side.

“Um.” Peter doesn’t know if it’s the shocking difference in treatment or the questionable things in his system, but something makes his gut twist and a shiver run down his spine and—oh, the queasiness is probably the alcohol, but that’s fine, he’s used to that. Rather lamely, he says, “Just… not like this.”

Some kind of understanding flickers over Harley’s features. “Oh.” He slows his movements, until they’re kind of just standing still in the middle of a bunch of intoxicated strangers, interlocked hands hovering in the air between them. “Well, do you… do you prefer dancing like that?”

Oh, Peter feels dizzy. “I don’t… I don’t know.”

“Are you okay?” Harley asks, frowning as his oh so blue eyes scan over Peter’s rapidly paling features. Despite the queasiness churning angrily in his stomach, Peter nods, but Harley clearly doesn’t believe him, looks over his shoulder with his teeth sinking into his bottom lip, and then he’s using his hold on Peter’s hands to guide him through the crowd, until they’re suddenly in the same bathroom that Peter disappeared into earlier, only instead of feeling light, Peter feels heavy, falling to his knees with barely enough time to grapple with the toilet lid before he’s letting out a rough gag and spilling remnants of dinner into the toilet bowl. He expects Harley to leave, but the guy kneels next to him and rubs circles in the center of his back, murmurs kind words and offers to get him water when Peter’s done puking. “’m fine,” Peter rasps, the polar opposite of fine—he can’t remember what he took, hadn’t really bothered to ask the guy who gave it to him, but he probably should have known not to drink something so strong when there’s already something else in his system. The high and the buzz didn’t last long enough.

“You should probably go home,” Harley says, helping Peter stand on shaking legs and turning on the faucet so that he can splash water on his face and rinse out his mouth. “Where’s your phone?”

Peter shakes his head, swishes water around his teeth and spits it out. “I can get home by myself.”

“Like this? I seriously doubt it.”

“Sucks, ‘cause I’m gonna do it anyway.” To prove his point, Peter pushes off the counter and quickly exits the bathroom, stumbling over his own feet as he does, but he manages to stay upright, which is a win in his book. All he has to do is figure out where he is and which way will take him home, and—

A hand grabs onto his elbow, not harsh or anything, but sudden enough to make Peter jump, and then Harley is suddenly by his side again, some kind of worry in his eyes. “Seriously, Stark—”

“M’name is Peter.”

Harley doesn’t even falter. “Okay then, Peter, you’re in no condition to walk home, especially in the middle of the night. Besides, doesn’t your family live in the Stark Tower? That’s in Manhattan. We’re in the suburbs. You can’t walk that far.”

“Well, I’m not callin’ anyone to pick me up,” Peter huffs, like some kind of toddler, shaking off Harley’s hand and crossing his arms over his chest with a stupid little pout on his face. “I’m not a fuckin’ child, I don’t need Uncle Rhodey takin’ me home again, ‘specially since he refuses to keep it a secret and told my fuckin’ dads on me, like I’m some dumb kid that can’t go out when I’m nineteen for Christ’s sake!”

“You can barely even stand,” Harley points out, Peter sort of teetering on the tips of his toes as his balance suddenly goes off kilter, head spinning as the world tilts and twists and flips. Peter scoffs, tries to take another step towards the exit, and the only reason he doesn’t fall is because Harley lurches forward in time to grab his hips and keep him steady. Sounding borderline pleading, Harley offers, “I can—I have my car, okay? I can drive you to the damn tower so you don’t get yourself killed trying to walk there.”

Peter’s eyes narrow, but then they squeeze shut because the lights go wonky and it’s hard to look at them. Through gritted teeth, he asks, “How do I know you’re not a murderer? Or a—a journalist, or a stalker, or some crazy hyper fan that’ll try an’ break in or kidnap me or something?”

Huffing out some kind of exasperated sigh, Harley withdraws his hands from where he’s still keeping Peter steady on his feet and reaches into his back pocket to pull out his phone. Pressing the power button, he unlocks the device and swivels it around for Peter to see the home screen—some kind of family picture, of a younger looking Harley and an even younger girl and a woman who must be their mother. “That’s my mom, Darcy Keener” Harley says, pointing to the older woman. “And that’s my sister, Emma. My full name is Harley James Keener. I’m from Tennessee, but I moved to New York to go to NYU and get a good job so that I can get my family out of Rose Hill.” He taps at the screen for a moment, pulls up a picture of his little sister and a black lab, telling Peter, “This is my dog, Cooper. He’s all I have left of my dad, who abandoned us when I was eight years old. And I’m a firm believer in not letting drunk idiots try to walk over an hour in the middle of the night, so you don’t have to trust me, I’d honestly be kinda concerned if you did trust someone you just met, but I just wanna make sure you get home safe.”

For a long moment, Peter doesn’t respond, just presses a hand against the wall and wishes he was outside of this house because the music is still playing and there are still people around them and nothing about tonight has been what it was supposed to be and he feels weird. “Fine,” he says eventually, because he might as well add another thing to his list of bad decisions. “Just don’t… don’t be a murderer, okay?”

He thinks he hears Harley say something—hopefully a reassurance that he’s not, in fact, a murderer—but Peter can’t bring himself focus on his words, just uses his hand on the wall to steady himself as he starts to move towards the exit again, swallowing down the bile that tries to rise in his throat.

 

| | | | |

 

“Fancy running into you here, Harley James Keener.”

Harley laughs, raises his can of Sprite in some kind of greeting as he looks at Peter, lips twitching up into a crooked sort of smile that looks inviting under the flashing lights. Peter actually knows whose house he’s at this time, and when Flash Thompson throws a party, it always gets flashy, with strobe lights and a DJ and everything. It was annoying for a while, but Peter quite enjoys Flash’s parties now, if only because there’s always an abundance of drinks available, a seemingly never ending liquor cabinet that’s a free for all for everyone that attends. “Surprised you remember me this time, Stark,” Harley muses.

Peter shrugs, leans his shoulder against the wall about a foot away from where Harley is standing. “Well, after hurling out your car window at two in the morning, I’d say you’re pretty hard to forget.”

“Yet you still don’t remember the entirety of our first conversation,” Harley hums, snickering when Peter waves a dismissive hand through the air instead of responding. After taking another sip of his drink, Harley says, “You look a lot less wasted than last time, I gotta say. Holding back tonight?”

“Just got here,” Peter corrects. “And I didn’t want to have to stop dancing to puke again, so I’m easing into it a bit slower than I usually do.”

Snorting, Harley asks, “Is that you’re way of asking me to dance again?”

“Nope,” Peter says. “I was gonna ask after I got something to drink. Think you might be interested?”

“In a drink or dancing with you?”

Peter pauses to consider. “Either. Both, if you want.”

The way that Harley’s lips twitch is hard to miss, and Peter can’t deny, it’s a very appealing sight, a nice little smile to look at. “I’ll skip the drink,” he decides. “But hurry up if you wanna dance.”

Surprisingly enough, Peter actually feels himself rushing when he elbows his way into the kitchen, can’t really pinpoint why he’s taking Harley’s hurry up so seriously as he makes it to the counter and reaches, almost by complete instinct, for the liquor cabinet, pulls out the first thing he sees that seems promising and fumbles for a shot glass. In almost record time, he downs three shots, and usually he’d keep going, knows that he can handle more, but he leaves it at three and he leaves the bottle on the counter and he curses under his breath at the people he has to dodge to get back to where Harley was.

Where Harley isn’t standing anymore.

Disappointment fills him, along with genuine surprise at how disappointed he feels, but he just swallows the bitter lump in his throat and sniffs once, electing not to let it get to him. Harley James Keener is practically a stranger, after all—they’ve met twice before, and Peter doesn’t even remember the first time, so who cares if this random cute guy treats him differently than the rest of the party goers do? Who cares if this random dude from Tennessee actually cares about him getting home in one piece, even went as far as to help Peter inside and up to his room and left without any funny business once he was sure that Peter wasn’t in danger of falling down a flight of stairs or something? Peter certainly doesn’t care. Why would he? There’s no reason to.

And then a warm presence appears besides him, and Harley’s standing there with a wide grin, says something about how he went to hunt down a recycling bin for his empty can of Sprite, and Peter isn’t sure how to feel about the relief that floods his veins, but he just wraps his fingers around a narrow wrist and leads him to where everyone is dancing, and this time, when they reach the crowd, Peter doesn’t hesitate to spin around and press his back to Harley’s front, satisfaction seeping through him at the sharp inhale that he hears in his ear, somewhat timid hands settling on his waist and a soft voice asking, “So you do prefer to dance like this, I’m guessing?”

In all honesty, the way they danced last time was a lot of fun, probably more fun than this, but Peter has a half assed hypotheses forming in his head that he wants to test, so he turns his head and meets Harley’s eyes over his shoulder to ask, “Is that okay?”

“Yeah,” Harley breathes, barely audible over the music, his skin soft and changing color with the strobe lights, and when the song changes to something bass heavy and heady, Peter grinds his ass back against Harley, slow and precise and, yeah, just like he thought, Harley is still different, because everyone else always grips him so tight that they leave bruises, controls his movements and takes the lead with a certain roughness that Peter is usually far too wasted to give a shit about, but Harley’s hands, while they do tighten on his waist, stay soft and gentle, and he lets Peter set the pace, lets Peter choose how this goes, groans quietly at the friction but still stays tender and careful in his response.

Peter lets his head lean back against Harley’s shoulder, rasps out, “I’m not made of glass, you know,” while he continues to slowly move his hips, because he doesn’t want that to be the reason why Harley is being so soft with him, doesn’t want to be seen as fragile or breakable.

“I know,” Harley says, tone slightly strained, breath brushing against the side of Peter’s face. He doesn’t elaborate after that, and Peter doesn’t ask for him to say more, because he’s already said enough, and the song is picking up, and Peter wants to lose himself in the music, in the dancing, in the gentle hands holding onto him. Part of it is familiar—the feeling of it, the heavy air in his lungs as he moves on instinct, reaches behind him to bury fingers in blond hair—but part of it is still not the same, the way Harley moves a hand over to rest warmly on his lower stomach, how his head tilts forward to rest his forehead against Peter’s shoulder, not exactly spurring on the grinding, but definitely moving with Peter, more little groans escaping him when there’s a particularly well lined up movement that has Peter’s ass rubbing against his dick perfectly. Peter loves it, pushes back for better friction because he can feel the way those groans make Harley’s chest rumble and it’s a fucking amazing feeling, loses track of time and place and reason, just dances, grins and grinds.

When Peter finally turns around, putting them chest to chest, front to front, there’s a sheen of sweat on his skin and the drinks have kicked in and Harley’s half lidded gaze is fucking knee melting to look at and he doesn’t think, just moves, has to push up on his toes a bit because Harley’s a little taller than him, and—

“Maybe that’s not a good idea, Stark,” Harley murmurs, their mouths mere centimeters apart, and Peter lurches back—not because of the rejection, even though that kind of sucks, too, but because of that name—his name, yes, but it’s his defining point. People love him and hate him for no reason other than the fact that he’s a Stark, and that’s what Harley’s been calling him this whole time, and god, Peter feels stupid now, thinking that maybe Harley was just nice to be nice, but no one nice has ever called him Stark before, rough people call him Stark, the people that bruise, and he fucking hates it.

He leans back, brows pinching together. “My name is Peter.”

Harley frowns, looking confused. “I know it is.”

“But you keep calling me Stark,” Peter says, pushing at Harley’s hands until he drops his arms to his sides, tries not to let his intoxication slur his words too much as he speaks. “You don’t call me Peter, ‘cause—‘cause Peter’s not the important part, right? Stark is. That’s all that ever fucking matters to people, no one—no one cares that I’m Peter, they just care that I’m a Stark. Who gives a shit about the kid himself when he’s got rich and famous parents, right? That’s all I am, right? I’m just a—just a fucking Stark, right?”

“What?” Harley takes a small step back, eyes going wide with some kind of weird shock, which seems stupid because Peter already knows that it’s true. “No, I—I just call people by their last names sometimes, I didn’t realize you didn’t like it, I swear—”

Peter sniffs, crosses his arms over his chest as his shoulders hunch in on himself. “My last name isn’t just Stark,” he says, and it’s so fucking dumb, but he was really hoping to run into Harley tonight, has been thinking nonstop about him for the past week because of how fucking nice he was, and now he feels like a god damn child whose schoolyard crush just called annoying. “But no one cares about the Parker.”

“I didn’t know—”

Everyone knows,” Peter snaps. “Everyone knows everything about me, okay? Peter Benjamin Parker-Stark, child of two renowned scientists that got murdered for their studies, the poor kid who was raised by an uncle that got shot in front of him and an aunt that got killed in a car accident that he wishes he didn’t survive, the lucky thirteen year old whose doctor ended up being Tony Stark’s boyfriend and somehow wound up getting adopted by a billionaire, graduated high school at sixteen and still hasn’t gone to college because he’s always gonna be a fuck up compared to his parents because all he’s ever going to be is compared to his parents, a fucking idiot who got so excited because someone was nice to him and treated him like an actual person instead of some kind of fucking prize for the first time in years, and—”

Harley steps forward again, looking something close to crestfallen. “Let’s go outside,” he offers.

“I don’t wanna go outside,” Peter says, but he doesn’t fight it when Harley settles a gentle hand on his elbow and leads them through the crowd, avoiding the gazes of people who probably recorded Peter’s little rant, until they reach the doors leading on to the back porch. Admittedly, the fresh air helps to ease the churning in his gut and the tension in his shoulders, but he keeps hunching in on himself, like he might just disappear if he makes himself small enough.

Silently, Harley takes a seat on the top step of the stairs leading to the yard, and he waits until Peter reluctantly sits next to him to softly say, “I don’t kiss drunk people.”

Peter shrugs. “Stopping me from kissing you isn’t what I’m upset about.”

“I know,” Harley says. “I just wanna make sure you know that I wouldn’t have stopped you if you were sober. And I… I’m sorry, for calling you Stark. Being a Stark isn’t the only thing about you that matters. I think you’re just interesting, as the whole Peter Parker-Stark package. Stark is only a part of it.”

“It’s the only part people care about,” Peter murmurs, though the tension does bleed out of him a bit, because Harley sounds so sincere and genuine, it’s hard to think he’s lying. Then, because he really doesn’t wanna dwell on this, wants to move on and hopes that Harley forgets what he said inside, he wets his lower lip and forces his voice to sound more normal as he asks, “Why don’t you kiss drunk people?”

Letting out a long, slow breath, Harley seems to ponder that for a moment, then carefully answers, “’Cause I don’t drink, and people can’t consent when they’re drunk, and… and my dad, I guess.”

Peter falters, looks over at Harley in confusion. “Your dad?”

“Yeah,” Harley nods. “I told you last time that he left us when I was eight, right? Well, before he left, he was an alcoholic businessman that clearly didn’t want to be there. When he wasn’t flying off for work, he was at home and wasted, and my mom was at work because he refused to pay for food, and my little sister was only four when he left, so I had to make sure he didn’t choke on his own vomit and stuff, you know? The memories of that makes it hard to be around alcohol at all. So, I don’t kiss drunk people. I don’t really like drunk people, to be honest. I usually just avoid them.”

“…Oh.” Peter looks away, feeling sick. He’s only been around Harley while drunk. “I, uh… I’m sorry.”

Harley leans over, bumps their shoulders together with a little grin. “Don’t be. If I like you this much when you’re drunk, I’ll probably fall in love with you when you’re sober.”

It’s said like a fact, only a hint of joking in his voice. Peter tries not to dwell on that, instead cocks his head to the side with a small, confused frown. “Wait, if you don’t like being around drunk people, why do you keep coming to these parties? Everyone here is just a rich kid with a drinking problem. Me included.”

“They also tend to be too drunk to notice when a random guy steals some of their edibles,” Harley says with a simple little shrug. “I’m a poor college student trying to find gummies in the middle of the summer. Where else am I supposed to go to get free weed?”

Something about how casual and innocent that is makes Peter laugh—a full blown, belly aching laugh that spills past his lips without his permission, because Peter has done a whole lot worse than weed while locked in the bathroom at parties like this, and here’s this NYU student from Tennessee taking advantage of inebriated trust fund kids in the most amusing and harmless way possible. “Oh, so you’re high,” Peter says, snickering under his breath as he flashes Harley a crooked grin of amusement. “I get it now.”

“Nah, I’m stone cold sober right now,” Harley says, though his smile is wide and wholesome. “I still have to drive my own dumbass home after this, and it was my dumbass that drove you home last week, too, so I don’t take them until I’m in the safety of my own room, thank you very much.”

“Then why don’t you just go as soon as you get the gummies?” Peter asks. “What’s the point in staying?”

Harley purses his lips and squints his eyes with the smallest of smiles tugging at the ends of his lips. “Interesting things happen sometimes,” he says. “I mean, I ended up meeting you, didn’t I?”

Peter blinks once, slow, and despite the shots he took, he feels oddly sober. “Yeah, I guess you did.”

 

| | | | |

 

Harley drives him home again—because he really is nice, Peter thinks, not the fake kind of nice that people pretend to be because they want a chance to get in Peter’s pants—and Peter doesn’t need help getting inside because he isn’t all that drunk, more just tipsy by this point, which is probably because he only had three shots and was sipping on a bottle of water on the way back to Manhattan. He waves when Harley drives away and it reminds him a lot of when Harry Osborn dropped him off after the one date they went on when they were sixteen and trying to piss off their dads, and something about that puts some kind of pep in his step as he makes his way into the vacant lobby of the tower and chirpily greets Jarvis when he enters the elevator. At this point, Jarvis knows not to alert his dads about his arrival, so he doesn’t even say much, just alerts Peter that his fathers are still awake and in the living room.

Deciding not to make them fret over his late return, knowing that it will just turn into a barrage of questions and a lecture and an argument that will only ruin Peter’s good mood, he moves as quietly as possible when the elevator opens on the pent house floor, keeps to the shadows and presses his back to the wall, toes off his shoes so his socked feet can stay silent on the white carpet. With the layout of the pent house, he can slip from the entryway to the hall without being seen from the living room with practiced ease, and he’s already headed towards his room when he hears his fathers voices drifting his way, Stephen warm and open as he says, “You can’t blame yourself for his choices, Tony.”

“But I should have known that it’d get to him,” Tony responds, sounding insistent. Peter pauses, knows he shouldn’t eavesdrop but too curious to ignore it and keep going.

“That what would get to him?” Stephen asks.

Tony lets out a long, haggard sigh, the kind that rattles in his chest and is usually paired with a hand scrubbing over tired features. “The Stark’s have a curse,” he says, raspy and sad. “My dad was a drunk, and I was a drunk, and I thought that, since he’s adopted, since he was already such a good kid, it wouldn’t get to him, but he’s going out all the time, comes home in the middle of the night obviously drunk, or high, or both, and we—I let that happen, Stephen. I was there when he came home from his first party and I just tucked him in and told him it was alright and I didn’t fucking stop him.”

“Hey, I was there, too,” Stephen points out, no doubt reminiscing on that Saturday night, nearing on three years ago now—it was late August, about two weeks after Peter’s seventeenth birthday, after Peter went to his first party and got wasted for the first time, and he hadn’t known how to be quiet or sneak in, and Jarvis was still programmed to alert his parents of his arrival into the building, and they had taken care of him, rubbed his back when he puked and cooked him a hangover breakfast and he had felt so safe with them. “We both decided on how to handle that, Tony, and I still stand by our decision. Peter’s allowed to be young and party and have fun, and grounding him and yelling at him would only have made it so he never came to us again if he ever needed to be picked up or something. What we did was the right thing to do. The fact that he relies on partying as much as he has is due to his own choices, not because of our parenting, and feeling guilty isn’t how we help him.”

“How do we help him, then?” Tony asks, sounding agitated. “Because I have no clue what to do. I try to think back on how Jarvis and Rhodey helped me, but I still wasn’t sober until 2009, so whatever they did wasn’t enough for me, and I swear he’s more stubborn than I am, so it won’t be enough for him, either. God, honestly, sometimes I think it would have been better if we never adopted him in the first place.”

Those words feel like a knife to the gut, sucking all the air from his lungs and making the alcohol left in his system churn and curdle in his stomach, and he can’t hear anything past the sound of his own heart breaking in his chest and a painful ringing in his ears. He presses a hand to the wall because his legs feel weak, and when he stumbles his way the last ten feet to his bedroom door, he doesn’t bother trying to be quiet anymore, can’t focus on minimizing his sound when the only thought in his head is a replay of that sentence, playing over and over and over again. “Jarvis,” Peter croaks once his door is closed behind him, flipping the manual lock even as he says, “Lockdown Protocol.”

Jarvis seems to hesitate at the command. “Are you sure that’s what you want, young sir?”

“I’m sure,” Peter says, already staggering over to the bathroom attached to his room because whatever’s in his stomach is about to come back up any second now. “Don’t let anyone in.”

 

| | | | |

 

if you see the boy i used to be

could you tell him that i’d like to find him

and if you see the shell that’s left of me

could you spare him a little kindness

 

‘cause i’ve been high and i’ve been low

i’ve spent a thousand nights alone trying to hold on tight

and feelings come but they won’t go

please someone take me home before i lose my mind

 

| | | | |

 

It’s like a ten ton weight has been placed directly upon his ribcage, the bones cracking and snapping and breaking under the pressure, his lungs struggling to expand, aching and complaining with every weak inhale and uneven exhale, something that feels like fire and heat and agony burning within him that makes him burrow under his duvet and bury his face in his pillow to muffle his sobs. Days go by in a haze of nothing but moping in his bed and ignoring the timid knocking at his door, and when Jarvis tells him that a meal has been made, Peter makes sure to wait until the coast is clear before quickly unlocking his door to grab the plate left for him in the hall, replacing it with the dirty dishes from the last meal put there, and he slowly picks at the food for the next few hours until he can’t stomach any more.

The whole thing is very reminiscent of when he first got adopted, thirteen and heart broken and trying to get used to the scars on his abdomen from the shards of glass that nicked him in the accident that killed Aunt May, surrounding the longer, thinner scar running down the center of his chest from the emergency surgery that his later on adoptive father had performed at the time. During his recovery in the hospital, Stephen had been invested in making sure everything went smoothly, and when he went home after his shifts, he would tell Tony—his boyfriend of four years, at the time—about this poor kid who had just lost his second set of parents and would have to go into the system once he was out of the hospital, and the medical bills would be sure to follow him well into adulthood because he’s got no insurance and no family to cover it for him. Eventually, Tony felt so much sympathy for the boy that he chose to visit when he brought Stephen something to eat during a triple shift, and something had simply clicked in his head. Everyone said it was crazy, but Tony had fostered him, then adopted him, and when the wedding finally happened when Peter was fifteen, Stephen became his legal parent, too.

But the first few weeks after Peter got out of the hospital had been rough, unfamiliar and scary. He couldn’t breathe without thinking of his birth parents, thinking about Ben and May, and he refused to get out of bed, couldn’t do much more than cry and ignore Tony and Stephen when they knocked on his door. The only difference is that he’d been thirteen at the time, and when Tony told Jarvis to let them in, Jarvis unlocked the door and did just that, and after a little while, Tony and Stephen would manage to coax him out of bed and into the shower, bring him to the table to get him to eat, and Peter slowly learned to cope with his pain and enjoy life, learned to love Tony and Stephen as the fathers he was lucky to have, and by his fourteenth birthday, even though it still hurt, he was happy. He had a new family. He had a new home.

Peter is nineteen now, a month away from turning twenty, and Jarvis can keep people locked out, has been programmed to treat Peter the same way he treats Tony and Stephen, and if Tony can have a lockdown in his lab and Stephen can have a lockdown in his home office, then Peter can have one in his room. That door won’t open until Peter says so. Tony and Stephen can’t coax him out this time.

“Jarvis,” Peter croaks, a tear damp pillow beneath his cheek, knees curled up to his chest and blanket over his shoulders. Talking hurts his throat, which is raw from all the crying. “Am I a fuck up?”

“I do not believe so, young sir,” Jarvis answers, somewhere between robotic and sincere.

With everything storming in his brain, Peter doesn’t believe him. “Where are my dads at right now?”

“Sir has left for the evening to attend a necessary meeting in DC in the morning. Doctor Sir is still at the hospital, but is expected to return by sunrise. Would you like me to call them?”

Swallowing the painful lump in his throat, Peter pushes himself into a sitting position, swings his legs over the side of his bed and places bare feet on the soft carpet. “No,” he says, curling his hands into fists at his sides as he takes a deep, slow breath, lets it calm his aching heart and his twisted stomach. Then, swift and sudden, he stands, has to clutch the edge of his nightstand to stay upright when his knees nearly buckle beneath him, only waits until he’s sure he can stay standing before he marches to his closet to pull on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt with the MIT logo that Tony had given him when Peter got the acceptance letter, that Tony let him keep even when Peter admitted that he wasn’t ready for college.

He knows that his skin is pale and he looks like shit, knows that if any picture of him makes it online then a rumor mill a mile long will inevitable greet him in the morning, but he doesn’t care, just slips on his shoes and pulls the sleeves down to cover his hands and wills himself not to cry again.

“Only unlock my door when I get back, Jar,” Peter says, and then he leaves.

 

| | | | |

 

He doesn’t recognize anyone at the party, even though they all obviously recognize him. People clap him on the back and say it’s been a while, offer him shots and drinks and baggies of powder that he’d usually accept, but he just shrugs their hands off and duck through them, shouldering past blurs of drunken laughter and strangers and spilled drinks and he’s losing patience, he really is—this is the fourth party he’s tracked down, the first three hopeless, but he’s not sure how much longer he can look before he gives in to an offered drink or a sly grin or anything, anything, god, just give him something—

And then he sees him, a loner in the corner like he always seems to be, holding a can of Dr. Pepper this time, scanning over the room with a little frown and a furrowed brow, and it’s only been two weeks, Peter knows, but he can tell that Harley’s hair is a little longer, now brushing the nape of his neck and the bottoms of his ear lobes in wisps of blond curls, and Peter is moving so fast, weaving between bodies and people and Harley’s face lights up when he sees him, lips twitching up into an excited little smile, and he looks like he has something he wants to say, probably some upbeat greeting and something that would make Peter laugh on any other day, but Peter doesn’t wait once he reaches him, just gingerly cups Harley’s face in his hands and breathes, “I’m sober this time,” before pushing up slightly on his toes and slotting their lips together in an urgent sort of kiss, a fiery and fast sort of kiss, one that Harley almost instantly reciprocates, empty hand settling on Peter’s waist and pulling him closer, until Peter is pressing him against the wall and groaning into his mouth and moving his hands until his fingers are buried in Harley’s hair and tugging lightly, just enough to draw out a desperate sort of noise from the back of his throat, blindly reaching over to place his soda on the nearest solid surface so that he can use that hand to grip Peter’s waist, too. Like when they were dancing, it’s a steady grip, but it’s a careful one, too, not harsh or demanding or rough, instead an almost comforting weight, a hold on him that’ll keep him on his feet, keep him balanced, and, some part of Peter thinks, might just keep him safe, too.

Safe from what, Peter can’t place. Himself, maybe.

His tendency to destroy all the good things in his life, for sure.

“Wait,” Harley says, voice raspy and low as he leans his head back just enough to break the kiss. “Wait, wait, Jesus fucking Christ, you could be—are you lying? Drunk people can lie. You could be lying.”

Peter leans in, kisses him again, open mouthed and warm, then pulls away. “Does it taste like I’m lying?”

Harley smacks his lips together and runs his tongue over the ridges, features contemplative, then smiles a bit, eyes glimmering. “Nothing bitter, nothing too sweet, so I’d say no, but I’m still not convinced.”

“I cross my heart, I’m more sober now than I have been since I was seventeen,” Peter says, any and all sarcasm dropping and an almost pleading edge to his voice. It makes Harley’s smile fall, just a bit, eyes going a little bit wide in surprise. Peter goes on, saying, “I swear to god, I promise, Harley, I—”

“I believe you,” Harley cuts in, sounding a little breathless, ducks his head and lets his lips skim the corner of Peter’s mouth, but Peter doesn’t let that slide, turns to kiss him fully again, uses the fingers curled into Harley’s hair to pull him closer until the sheer energy from the kiss is sure to make their lips red and swollen, but neither of them cares, too invested in every burning centimeter of them that’s pressed together, Harley’s hands fisting the material of Peter’s sweatshirt and letting out soft little noises that Peter can feel rumble through him. Running on instinct and want and desire, Peter slips a leg between Harley’s, presses up against his groin and grinds on Harley’s thigh, both of them releasing strangled little moans at the feeling, the friction, and when Harley tilts his head back to lean against the wall, he’s barely able to choke out, “We should—shit, find a—find a room, maybe? Or, my car, but that’s not—”

Peter leaves an open mouthed kiss on the underside of Harley’s jaw. “Your car sounds perfect.”

It’s not, really—the back seat is kind of cramped, and Harley may be parked along a secluded corner and have tinted windows, but there’s still a residual fear that someone will take out a camera and the tabloids will have some kind of sex scandal on the front page, but once the locks click into place and he meets Harley’s gaze, he feels that desperation rear its head, and he’s scrambling forward to kiss him again, sliding his leg up and over to straddle his lap as he licks into his mouth and ruts his hips forward, relishes in the moan that Harley lets out at the delicious friction. “Fuck,” he hisses into Peter’s mouth, holding on tight to Peter’s waist and practically whining when Peter bites his lower lip. “Oh, f-fuck, Peter—”

“Good?” Peter breathlessly asks, keeping his grinding precise in order to have the bulges in their jeans line up perfectly, head tipping back with his own moan at the pure heat of pleasure it provides.

“Yeah,” Harley says, mouths along Peter’s neck and bucks his hips up involuntarily. “So good, sweetheart, you’re so good, shit, you’re so fucking good, oh god, oh my god.”

Failing to bite back some kind of whimper, Peter lets his head tilt to the side, giving Harley better access to lick and bite and suck along his throat, leaving marks following his path from under Peter’s jaw, down to the base of his neck and then back up again, scraping his teeth lightly on the lobe of his ear as he presses his hands to Peter’s ass to pull him impossibly closer. The noise Peter makes is high pitched and choked off and almost embarrassing, but he’s so lost in the feeling that he doesn’t even think about the way he sounds, can’t bring himself to care as he buries a hand in Harley’s hair and tugs at it while he whines out, “Oh, god, Harley, you’re—oh fuck, oh fuck, baby, please—ah!—please, please, I’m—”

Moving fast, Harley flips them, somehow manages to keep the action smooth and simple despite the cramped space as he presses Peter into the leather seat, braces one hand on the inside of Peter’s thigh to help hold his legs open and brings the other up to cup Peter’s face in his hand, kisses him deeply at the same moment he bears his hips down, able to provide better friction like this, moans loud and without abandon when Peter arches his back to press them even closer together.

“Can I—” Peter stops, gasps when Harley bites down on a sensitive spot close to his jaw line, bucks his hips up, hands pulling back from Harley’s hair to make their way down, pleading voice asking, “Can I touch you? Fuck, please say I can touch you, I wanna—shit, I wanna feel you, baby, can I? Can I?”

“Yes,” Harley breathes, puts just enough space between them to let Peter fumble with the button of his jeans, finally managing to get them open a moment later and wasting no time in tugging down the zipper so that he can reach in, kisses Harley silly while he palms him over his boxers, the action slow and teasing, and then he breaks that kiss with a groan when he pushes past the waistband and gets his hand on Harley’s skin, brushes past thick pubes and loosely circles his fingers around the base of Harley’s dick to give it an experimental tug. He’s heavy in Peter’s hand, a weight against his palm that’s different than the weight of his own dick, or any of the other guys that Peter’s given hand jobs to before, but it’s a pleasant weight. Harley shudders at the contact, goes back to kissing down Peter’s neck, only now he pulls at the neckline of the sweatshirt to reach his collarbones, too, marks up soft skin with purple bruises.

Peter’s mouth is somehow too dry even as he finds himself salivating at the thought of this same weight on his tongue, but blow jobs in the back seat of cars always end in a back ache that makes him regret it every time, so he simply files it away for later instead, swipes his thump through the precum leaking from the tip of Harley’s dick and gives another simple jerk, letting the precum offer an easier glide to his movements and rasping out, “Jesus, I wanna blow you so bad right now.”

Harley huffs out a laugh that tapers off into a groan, presses his forehead to Peter’s shoulder and thrusts his hips into Peter’s fist. “Next time, sweetheart,” Harley manages to get out, his voice strained as he reaches for Peter’s jeans, teasingly palms him through the thick material as he asks, “Can I?”

“God, yes,” Peter says, lifts his hips just slightly to make it easier as Harley pops open the button and pushes the jeans down, until they’ve reached below his knees and are out of the way enough for Harley to easily pull Peter out from his boxers. As soon as Peter feels Harley’s fingers encircle him, he moans, pushes up into the point of contact and picks up speed on Harley’s cock, eyes screwed shut and face scrunched up in pleasure, only letting his features go more lax when Harley slots their mouths together for a slick kiss, something messy that would probably be gross if they weren’t both beginning to feel that build up in the base of their stomachs, a heat that licks at their spines and makes every movement more intense. Peter pushes into Harley’s hand with a whine, tries to part his legs wide despite the lack of space to do so, and then he bats Harley’s hand away, reaches over to kneed his fingers into Harley’s ass, and then pulls Harley’s hips down to grind against him, only now it’s even better, bare skin on bare skin.

“F-uck,” Harley gasps, plants an elbow on the seat beneath Peter to hold himself up while he ruts against Peter, their dicks aligned perfectly to provide the best friction possible, and Peter’s eyes nearly roll back into his head when Harley uses his other hand to carefully grasp Peter under his knee and holds his legs open even wider than they were, barely able to ask, “Is this okay?” when he does.

Peter nods, his head thumping back against the car door when Harley grinds against him again, his more sprawled open thighs making it easier for Peter to reach between them and take them both in hand, not in a tight grip, but in one that really holds them together and provides the most delicious friction yet as he jerks them both off at the same time, takes pride in the broken way that Harley cries out at the feeling, feels how sloppy his movements are when he thrusts his hips forward to fuck into Peter’s fist, the action providing even more friction along the underside of Peter’s cock. “Oh,” Peter moans, skin tingling with want. “Oh, fuck, baby, you feel so good, Harley, you—fuck, Harley, baby, I’m gonna—”

“Me too,” Harley admits airily, every movement messy and not precise, until he bumps his nose against Peter’s to nudge his head back just enough to start kissing him again, hopeless sounds still rumbling in his throat as he swallows every oh god and uh, uh, uh that Peter lets out, until Peter is using his free hand to yank up the hem of his sweatshirt and cumming onto his exposed stomach, his teeth sinking into Harley’s lower lip as a guttural sound that’s impossible to swallow loudly erupts from his kiss-bitten lips, back arching while he keeps working his hand over both of them, Harley fucking his fist even faster now, not really kissing him anymore, mostly sort of panting against his lips until he lets out a groan, his own cum joining Peter’s on his stomach, dripping down onto the leather seat.

Instantly, Harley almost sags on top of Peter, but manages to keep himself held up while he presses a much slower, much more relaxed kiss to Peter’s lips, only to pull back while both of them try to catch their breath and struggle to come back down from the post orgasmic bliss. “That was…” Peter trails off breathlessly, his eyes half lidded and his chest heaving. His lips tug upwards, into a lazy, satisfied grin.

“That’s a good smile, right?” Harley asks, looking down at Peter with a grin of his own.

“Very good,” Peter nods. “Incredible, actually. I need a really greasy burger and a long nap to recover.”

Harley cocks his head slightly to the side, wide blue eyes glimmering. “There’s a good hole in the wall sort of diner that I go to sometimes,” he says. “You wanna go? My treat.”

Peter crinkles his nose, laughing. “I’m literally rich, Harley. It should be my treat.”

“Yeah, well, I like to pay on the first date,” Harley shrugs, making Peter’s laugh taper off a bit, though his smile stays in place, even after his bites his lower lip to try and tame it.

“Is that what this is, then? You asking me on a date, Keener?”

“Unless you don’t wanna go, in which case I’m totally just joking right now.”

Leaning up, Peter kisses him, brisk but warm and fond. When he pulls back, there’s a mischievous glint in his eyes, grin lopsided and sinful. “Help me clean this off,” he says, gesturing to the drying cum on his stomach, “and then we can go.”

Harley quirks a brow, chirpily replies, “You got it, babe,” and then shimmies his way down Peter’s body.

“That’s not what I—” Peter stops, sucks in a sharp breath at both the feeling and the sight of Harley licking a long stripe up his abs, and lets out a hopeless little, “Oh, fuck.”

 

| | | | |

 

“I’ll have a double stacked bacon burger with fries and a large chocolate banana shake, please,” Harley says, his hands folded over the menu placed in front of him on the table. Peter snickers in amusement, watches as the waitress, who looks like she’d rather be anywhere else than here, jots his order down before turning to him, and he doesn’t know if she doesn’t know who he is or if she’s just too tired to give a shit, but she shows no reaction to a Stark being in her diner at two in the morning.

“Uh…” Peter scans over his menu for a moment, then shrugs. “Same as him, but a strawberry shake.”

The waitress rolls her eyes, scribbles something on the notepad, and walks away.

“How often do you come here?” Peter asks the moment that she’s out of ear shot, cocking a single brow. Harley’s hair is kind of a mess, he thinks offhandedly—they hadn’t really done much to make them look less rumpled or tame their sex hair before coming in. Maybe that’s why the waitress already hates them.

Harley clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, takes a moment to ponder his answer, and then simply replies, “Not that often. Or, not at the moment, anyway. It’s twenty four hours, though, so during the school year? I was here multiple times a week.”

A light chuckle worms its way up from Peter’s gut. “Yeah, I can tell. You didn’t even look at your menu before she came over to get our orders. You have that memorized, don’t you?”

“Are you judging my eating habits, Peter?” Harley questions, his tone teasing.

“Only if the burger ends up being shit,” Peter replies, grinning, and it’s hard to grasp how good he feels right now. He feels like he’s on top of the world, like he could take on an army and win, like he’s really, truly, wholeheartedly and unashamedly happy, for the first time in a long time. There’s no stress weighing down his shoulders, no ache to every breath, no lingering tension or anxiety. There’s just… just good.

And he’s just starting to think there will only be good and nothing else when his phone buzzes in his back pocket, and when he pulls it out, he sees a text from Stephen waiting for him. Come home in one piece tonight, it says. High strung emotions and drinking can be a really dangerous combination, okay? And please talk to us soon, Peter. We love you.

God, honestly, sometimes I think it would have been better if we never adopted him in the first place, plays in Peter’s mind again. He drops his phone to the table top without responding, flinches when a gentle hand reaches over to rest carefully on top of his own, which he thinks might be shaking.

“Are you okay?” Harley asks, voice quiet and open and so, so inviting.

Peter smiles, and it hurts. “Yeah,” he lies. “Totally. Just, uh—just hungry. Really hungry.”

The way that Harley tilts his head slightly to the side is enough to convey his disbelief, and his voice, somehow, is even softer this time, softer and tender as he asks, “What’s wrong?”

And Peter tries to keep smiling, he really does, but the reminder of why he’s been locked inside his room for two weeks feels like a brick wall being dropped on him, and his shoulders hunch in on himself, making him small as he slouches and looks down and bites his lower lip because he doesn’t want to cry. “It’s nothing,” he chokes out, not at all convincingly. “It’s just—it’s stupid. Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, I’m worrying.” Harley says. “And if you wanna talk about it, I’m all ears.”

He doesn’t want to talk about it, he doesn’t, because talking about it will just be pouring salt into the open wound, but Harley is so sincere and genuine, looking at Peter with wide eyes that are so hard to look away from, and before Peter really realizes what he’s doing, he’s letting out a shaky sigh and stuttering out, “I just—I ruin everything, y’know? I’m ruining my family, and I don’t know how to fix it. Maybe I can’t fix it. Maybe I—I fucked it up too much, and they don’t want me anymore, you know?”

Harley looks confused, his head tilting slightly to the side. “What are you talking about?”

“I just—” Peter stops, averts his eyes to the table top and lets out an uneven breath, something in his chest aching. “I overheard my dads talking about me,” he admits, tone going somewhere between soft and meek, already feeling a lump form in his throat that he has to swallow. “It was, uh… after you dropped me off last time, and I was just—I was going to my room, and they were in the living room, and I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but… but I still heard them, you know? And they were talking about how much I drink, and I guess I caught the Stark curse with that, which is just great since I already have the Parker curse that makes me lose everyone, so I think that means I’m just fucked.”

“Peter…”

Peter shakes his head, tongue darting out to wet his lips anxiously, and he continues, saying, “Basically, it was just about me and how they can’t blame themselves for me having a problem because they won’t be able to help me if they just blame themselves for my choices, which is fair and true and all, but then my dad—Tony—he said that… he said that sometimes he thinks it would’ve been better if they never adopted me in the first place, so…” Peter trails off, bunches his shoulders up in a shrug, as if his heart isn’t physically crumbling in his chest at the mere memory of hearing those words. Harley looks speechless, mouth parting and sealing shut around words he can’t seem to get out, and Peter just shakes his head again, tries for some kind of smile, and says, “I don’t wanna think about that right now, though. You should tell me more about yourself. Normal first date small talk, right?”

It looks like Harley wants to say something, a small frown tugging at the ends of his lips, but he just takes a breath and smiles, withdrawing his hand from Peter’s as he leans back. “What do you wanna know?”

 

| | | | |

 

When Peter goes to get out of the car, the clock nearing four in the morning and limbs tired from the long night and the late hour, Harley reaches out, lightly grabs his wrist to stop him, and murmurs, “Wait.”

Peter turns back around, one leg still out the car door. “What?”

“I just…” Harley trails off, and the look on his face is so odd, twisted up and uncertain and strange, and then he’s lightly tugging Peter forward, pulls him in to kiss him, sweet and soft and all the things that Peter realizes now that he’s been missing out on. The kiss doesn’t last very long, and when they part, Peter is smiling, wants to say something nice, something to convey that he rather likes Harley, that he wants to go on a second date, but then Harley closes his eyes and breathes, “I can’t do it, Peter.”

And Peter’s smile falls. “…What?”

“I can’t be the distraction,” Harley explains, voice so strained and heavy, head tilted forward in something that seems close to shame. “I’ve been that guy before, the one that someone goes to when they don’t want to think about their problems, and I… I like you, Peter, I really do. It’s kind of crazy how much I like you when we didn’t even know each other before last month, but I can’t be your distraction. I can’t.”

“But you’re not—” Peter stammers, shaking his head. “You’re not—I wouldn’t—“

When Harley looks back up, he has a small, sad smile. “Everyone wants distractions,” he says, and in this moment, he sounds so aware that it makes Peter freeze. “It can be drinking, or partying, or music, or literally anything. When life gets hard, people want to forget, but… but you can’t, okay? Because I guarantee your parents love you, and seeing you put yourself through this is probably one of the hardest things they’ve had to do, and as much as I wanna say fuck it and be your distraction because of how much I like kissing you, it’s not fair for me to be used like that and it’ll only make things worse in the long run.”

Peter parts his lips, wants to protest because he would never use somebody like that, but then his stomach clenches and he thinks back on why he left, on what made him want to find Harley in the first place, remembers feeling antsy and restless, remembers being on the brink of giving in to a drink because he just wanted something, and now he feels sick with guilt. “I d-didn’t—it’s not—”

“Find me when you don’t need a distraction anymore,” Harley says, practically in a whisper. “Okay?”

“But I—”

Harley leans forward, kisses him again, something kind of bittersweet, and when he pulls back again, he doesn’t open his eyes, squeezes Peter’s wrist once, and breathes out, “You should go.”

It feels like there’s something sharp and painful stuck in Peter’s throat. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Harley says. “You’re human. You’re allowed to mess up sometimes.”

 

| | | | |

 

am i broken?

am i flawed?

do i deserve a shred of worth

or am i just another fake, fucked up lost cause?

 

and am i human?

or am i something else?

‘cause i’m so scared and there’s no one there

to save me from the nightmare that i call myself

 

| | | | |

 

His knees hit the tiled floor as bile spills past his lips, lands in the toilet bowl with a sickening splash, shaking hands gripping the porcelain in order to keep himself from falling over. Part of him is glad that Stephen is asleep and Tony is in DC, because no one was there to slow him down when he sprinted to his room, heard the lock click shut behind him as he stumbled to the bathroom, but he feels heavy with guilt and anger and sadness and disappointment and everything in between, and he just—he wants—

“Jarvis,” Peter croaks, chokes out some kind of sob and tries to keep down the burger he had long enough to wait for Jarvis to respond before he forces out the words, “I want my dads.”

The burger comes up then, and the strawberry milkshake and the fries and it’s gross and painful but he thinks back to laughing so hard that the milkshake came out of his nose and trying to throw fries into Harley’s mouth and a moment where Harley bit into his burger and groaned and Peter had gotten so distracted by the sound that he almost dropped his own burger, and it’s so stupid because he knows, logically, that he hasn’t known Harley for very long, that they’ve only had a few moments at dumb parties, but Harley drove Peter home three times and they talked during the car rides and he knows that Harley has a mother named Darcy and a sister named Emma and a dog named Cooper and a shitty alcoholic father that left him when he was eight and he’s from a place called Rose Hill that’s in Tennessee and he’s going to NYU to get a good job so that he can get provide for his family and he likes gummies and giggles like a high schooler when he’s happy and Peter used him, even if he didn’t mean to, he sought Harley out and used him to distract himself from his own problems that are his own fault and he feels like the scum of the earth for ever doing something like that to someone so fucking wonderful.

And Harley cares, he’s kind and he’s soft and he doesn’t treat Peter like he’s some kind of prize to win. He doesn’t like drunk people but he likes Peter, he doesn’t kiss drunk people but he kissed Peter, and Peter digs his nails into his palms when he thinks that maybe he really does have a problem, maybe he doesn’t just like to party because he has issues, maybe the partying is his issue, maybe it’s some kind of budding addiction, and that scares him because could he even stop if he wanted do?

Does he want to? Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he likes the comfort of it, the familiarity.

Maybe—except it’s no maybe this time—drinking was his first distraction, before he met Harley.

Maybe he’s already doomed.

“I’m sorry,” he says when he hears the door open, though he can’t really pinpoint who he’s apologizing to. Footsteps approach him quickly, and then there’s a hand on his back, a soothing voice trying to calm him down, but Peter just lets out a rough sob and slumps into Stephen’s side and repeats his apologies over and over and over again. He thinks he’ll never be able to say it enough.

“It’s okay,” Stephen breathes, tears in his eyes as he tries to comfort his son. “Just breathe, it’s alright.”

It’s not, Peter knows—none of it is okay, because he’s gone, he’s done, he’s taken the basic fiber of who he used to be and shattered it, and now the shards are slicing him apart from the inside and making him bleed internally and he’s letting it happen because, after all of this, isn’t that what he deserves?

 

| | | | |

 

“There’s a guy.”

Stephen nods, the action slow, as he lightly brushes his fingers through Peter’s hair, keeps his voice soft and warm as he gently asks, “Did he do something to hurt you?”

Instantly, Peter huffs out a laugh, lets his eyes flutter shut, feeling shockingly at ease despite the mess in his head as he lays his head in his father’s lap, a blanket draped over him, wearing his favorite sweatshirt with plaid pajama pants. “No,” he murmurs, still chuckling. “No, the opposite, actually. Everyone else, they… they’re never… no one treats me like a person, you know? But this guy, he’s… he’s nice, and he cares, and he treats me like I matter, like I’m more than just the rich boy with the famous parents. He drives me home and he let me set the pace, and I… and I’ve only known him for, like, a month, I’ve only seen him four or five times, and only one of those times was sober, but I like him, I really like him.”

“He sounds like a good guy,” Stephen says. Both of them hear the elevator slide open, and they know it’s Tony, who undoubtedly rushed here, hopped on the jet home as soon as Jarvis alerted him that Peter wanted his dads, but Peter keeps his eyes shut, doesn’t look when footsteps enter the room. “What happened?”

“I…” Peter trails off, his brows pinching together as he lets out a slow, shaky breath. Then, sounding small, like a lost child, he meekly asks, “Do you… do you two regret adopting me?”

A sharp inhale fills the air at the same moment that Stephen’s hand goes still in his hair, and Peter can already feel his lower lip trembling, tears burning the backs of his eyes, when the footsteps get closer and Tony kneels in front of the couch, lightly skims his fingers across Peter’s cheek, cups his face gingerly, lovingly, and he sounds so pained when he says, “Of course we don’t regret it, Peter. What the hell would ever make you think we could regret the best decision we ever made?”

Sniffling, Peter leans into the contact. “I heard you,” he whispers. “You said—you said that—that sometimes you think it’d be better if you never adopted me in the first place. That’s what you said.”

“Oh, buddy,” Tony breathes, sad and heavy and regretful. “I didn’t mean it like that. You’re the most important thing in the world to us, okay? When I said that, I mean that, sometimes, I think you would have been better off without me as a father, but I’m selfish and greedy and I’m so damn grateful that I get to call you my kid. And I promise—” with all my heart, Tony used to say, when Peter was fourteen and still felt like Tony and Stephen would grow tired of him sooner or later, “—that, no matter what happens—” no matter how badly one of us messes up, no matter how big of an argument we may end up having, no matter what, “—we will always want you and love you with every fiber of our souls, because you’re our son, okay?”

Stephen picks up his movements again, continues brushing his fingers through Peter’s hair as he says, “There’s nothing that you or him or I could do to ever make us regret adopting you.”

Peter’s features crumble, just a bit. “Even if I’m a bad person?”

That makes both Tony and Stephen pause, Tony looking flabbergasted, while Stephen looks more contemplative. Slowly, Stephen asks, “Does this have something to do with the guy you like?”

“With the what—”

A stern look cuts Tony off before he can continue, and they both focus back in when Peter nods his head, the action small. “I used him,” he rasps. “I didn’t—I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing until he pointed it out, but I used him. The first person in a long time to actually treat me like I’m a real human being and I fucked it all up, just because I—because I was so upset and I wanted a distraction and instead of getting drunk I went to him and that’s so fucked up, it’s so fucked up, and that’s what—that’s—I did that to him. What kind of person does that? What—What kind of fucked up person am I?”

“You are not a bad person,” Tony states, voice mostly firm but somewhat wavering at the end.

Taking on a gentle tone, Stephen nods and says, “He’s right, Peter. You’re not a bad person. No, using someone as a distraction is not a healthy thing to do, that much we can agree on, but a bad person would use people knowingly and not feel bad about it. And if this guy is as nice as you say he is, then I’m sure he’ll understand that this wasn’t your intention.”

“But I—” Peter stops, takes a deep, shaky breath to try and calm his racing heart. “What if I do it again?”

Shaking his head, Tony says, “You won’t, because your Pops and I are going to help you, okay? We’re gonna help make sure you aren’t relying on things or people to avoid your problems anymore, which is something we really should have done before it even got this far.”

Find me when you don’t need a distraction anymore, Harley had said, soft fingers wrapped oh so carefully around his wrist, hickeys visible on his neck and blue eyes so wide and pained and sincere. Peter sniffles, nods his head a little, and says, “Okay, but… but how are you gonna do that?”

 

| | | | |

 

“When was the first time you went to a party?”

“Almost three years ago,” Peter answers softly, slouched down in his chair with his arms crossed over his chest, shoulders hunching in on himself. On the other sofa are his dads, who have made it clear that, if Peter wants them to leave at any point, then they will leave, but Peter wants them here, and they promised to stay so long as Peter doesn’t lie just because they’re present. “I was, uh—I was seventeen.”

Across from him, the therapist nods—Mr. Sam Wilson, specialized in counseling for veterans and substance abusers. More often than not, his patients are a combination of the two, which is how the Stark’s became familiar with him; they have a couple family friends that are Vets, and both Steve and Bucky have spoken highly of the counselor that later became a good friend. Tony goes to Sam whenever he gets the urge to drink after over ten years of sobriety, and he’s been wanting to have Peter see him for a few months, but hadn’t found the right now to set it up before now. “Was there a specific reason you decided to go to this particular party?” Sam asks, hands folded professionally over his knee, but his features are open and nonjudgmental and friendly.

Peter bites into his lower lip, looks up at the ceiling and swallows back the urge to lie. “I didn’t have anything else to do,” he says. “And I heard… I heard that my friends from high school were gonna be there, and I wanted to try and see them, to… to try and restore what I fucked up.”

Sam tilts his head to the side. “What do you mean?”

“Well…” Peter trails off, and he can see Tony and Stephen holding each other’s hands like lifelines in his peripheral, so he closes his eyes in the hopes that not seeing them will ease the guilt. “I, um… I graduated early, when I was sixteen, even though I… I didn’t really want to, but I said I did, you know? And my friends, um—their names were Ned and—and MJ—they were still going to school, obviously, and it was harder to see them, to hang out with them, and I just… I got a little depressed, I think? And then I saw some texts in the decathlon group chat, which I hadn’t left yet because I missed them, about how they were all planning on attending this party at Flash’s house, and I thought… I dunno, I guess it just felt like the perfect chance to see them again, or something.”

Stephen and Tony don’t know all of this—what they do know is the very little information Peter disclosed to them the day after the party, when they were helping Peter nurse through his first ever hangover and he just wanted to curl in a ball and disappear. They don’t even know about Peter wishing he never graduated early, which is entirely Peter’s fault, but a lot of things are about to come to light and they made him promise to be honest, so that’s what Peter’s gonna do.

“It didn’t really go well, after I got there,” he murmurs.

The leather seat makes a soft noise as Sam shifts his weight. “What happened at that party, Peter?”

Peter hesitates, then simply shakes his head. “I just—I didn’t feel welcome, I guess, ‘cause I wasn’t a student like them anymore, I was just that kid who graduated early but was still trying to hang out with them instead of going to college, and I could tell that Ned and MJ didn’t really know how to act around me anymore, and I just… I wanted to stop feeling out of place, so when someone offered me a drink, I took it. I was hoping it’d help me relax, maybe remind people that I was still just Peter even if I wasn’t going to school with them anymore. I don’t really remember what happened after that, but the only person from Midtown who still talks to me is Flash, and that’s just to tell me when he’s throwing another party.”

“Okay.” There’s no indication of what Sam is thinking in his voice. Peter can’t really decide if that makes him feel better or worse. “And why did you decide to continue going to parties after that?”

“I had nothing better to do,” Peter says honestly. “I mean, I graduated early, but I only did that because everyone kept saying that I was too smart for high school, that if I really am the son of two geniuses then why would I want to waste my time at Midtown, right? But I… I hated the idea of not… of being a disappointment, you know? And I had this… this fear, which I know wasn’t rational, that if I didn’t prove how smart I was, then maybe… maybe they wouldn’t want me anymore. I was scared of looking too stupid to be their son, so I said I wanted to graduate early, even though I really didn’t, and I got into MIT and it looked like everything was going to be good, but the idea of going to MIT when I was only sixteen was… it was terrifying, and I—I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go, and my dads were supportive, obviously, and I should have known they would have been fine with me staying in high school, but I didn’t. So, when I went to that party, I felt like I was frozen and I just wanted something to make me feel like I wasn’t stuck doing nothing, and I guess I gave out my number to some people there, because someone texted me about another party a couple weeks later, and I just… I couldn’t think of a reason not to go.”

“When did you start to depend on partying and drinking as a way to escape your dissatisfaction in life?”

The unexpected bluntness of that question makes Peter wince, squeezing his eyes shut even tighter than they were before, and his first instinct is to deny it, because it still feels wrong. In the moment, he never felt like he was trying to escape from anything when he went to parties, never really realized that he had a reason for going in the first place. However, he needs to be honest, and that includes being honest with himself, and he knows that what Sam is saying is true—no matter how hard it is to admit, Peter has been using parties as a getaway from feeling like a fuck up, has been drinking to forget his anxieties and his fears, has gotten high on things he swore he’d never try because it was easier to not be in his own body for a while than to face the fact that, at the end of the night, he’d still be going home and feeling like a failure, like an incapable mess, like a complete and utter disappointment.

A fucked up shell of who Peter Parker was, and not who Peter Parker-Stark is supposed to be.

“Um.” Peter lets out a slow, shaky breath, and tries to think. “Probably, uh… probably around the fifth or sixth party, I think. That’s when people started to get excited when I showed up, and none of them were really all that nice to me, but if they were excited, it felt like I was doing something right.”

“Is that hard to come by?” Sam asks. “Feeling like you’re doing something right?”

The smile that tugs at Peter’s lips is bitter and twisted. “I never feel like I’m doing anything right.”

He can hear the way that both of his fathers struggle to catch their breath at that statement, and he finally opens his eyes to look at them, feels stones settle in the base of his stomach because they look so fucking heartbroken, physically pained to hear that their son has been feeling like this for so long. He looks away from them because it hurts to see the tears in their eyes, looks at Sam, who is already looking at him with warm yet steeled over features, brows pinched together. “What do you want from this, Peter?”

“What—” Peter falters, confused. “What do you mean?”

“Seeing a therapist,” Sam elaborates. “What are you hoping to change with these visits?”

Peter blinks, averts his eyes to the floor in thought, trying to figure out the words to explain what it is he wants, but it’s not his words he ends up using. “I don’t want to rely on distractions anymore.”

When he looks up again, Sam is smiling. He smiles back.

 

| | | | |

 

Peter Benjamin Parker-Stark isn’t a teenager anymore.

He doesn’t feel all that different than he did before, doesn’t look different, either, which he quickly deducts while scanning over the full body mirror built into the wall by his closet. The hair on his head is still wispy little sort-of curls that fall across his forehead in ringlets and waves, his eyes are still brown, his nose hasn’t changed, his mouth and the few freckles he has and the mole on his jaw that used to annoy him as a kid but he’s grown quite fond of by this point is all the same. He’s wearing a plain red hoodie and simple jeans and his favorite Converse and he looks exactly like he did two days ago, two weeks ago, two months ago—hell, he’s looked basically the same since he was sixteen. Baby face syndrome is a burden that he’ll likely always live with, sometimes looking like a middle school despite being an adult.

A twenty year old adult, at that, because yesterday was Peter Benjamin Parker-Stark’s birthday.

And tonight, Peter is going out.

“Are you sure about this, bud?” Tony asks, leaning against the wall a few feet away, nervously chewing his thumb nail as he watches Peter scan over his outfit once more.

To his left, Stephen rolls his eyes and swats at Tony’s shoulder. “He’s got this,” Stephen says, sounding firm and sure, and when Peter meets his eyes in the mirror with a smile, he winks. “Don’t stress too much, dear, you’ve got enough grays as it is, and you know he’s gonna be just fine.”

Tony turns his head to glare at his husband, clearly offended. “Okay, first of all, that gray comment? Low fucking blow, Silver Surfer. Second of all, am I not allowed to worry about our son?”

“Dad,” Peter cuts in, snickering. Instantly, Stephen and Tony are both looking at him, and Peter turns around to face them properly, a wide, excited grin stretched over his features. “I’m good, I promise.”

“I know you are, kid,” Tony sighs, a fond little smile playing at the ends of his lips as he steps forward to envelope him in a warm hug. “And I’m so fucking proud of you, okay? I just… I’m always gonna be a little bit scared that you’ll somehow make the same mistakes that I did, that I’ll never be able to do enough to be a good father. And yes, before you say it, I know that’s not rational, and I’ve been talking to Sam about it during my sessions, but it’s still a fear and that fear makes me worry.”

Peter laughs, hugs his dad and gives his other dad a toothy, lopsided grin that’s more genuine and heartfelt than any smile he’s given to his parents in over two years. “I love you.”

Stephen feels his heart melt in his chest as he steps forward, rests one hand on Tony’s waist and uses the other to push back Peter’s hair so that he can press a loving kiss to his forehead. “We love you, too,” he murmurs, sends a thank you to whatever God there may or may not be for letting them have this, giving them the chance to help Peter work through his problems, to have the ability to watch their son as he begins to flourish mentally after every session with Sam, seeing how he’s began to hold himself different, how he’s smiled and laughed and stopped looking over at the locked liquor cabinet (that only has one bottle in it, anyway, and that one bottle is the wine that Pepper and Christine drink when they visit) and started sleeping through the night again and, around the three week mark, brought up the fact that he thinks he might finally be ready to try going to college now, but that he doesn’t want to go to MIT, doesn’t want to leave New York. In the middle of a movie night, when the three of them were snuggled together and close to falling asleep, Peter had admitted that he doesn’t trust himself to be too far from them, doesn’t know if he’d be able to reign in his impulse to seek out the nearest party while so far away from his fathers. In New York, he feels more stable, feels safe.

And after Peter gives Stephen a long, warm hug. after he rolls his eyes when they kiss him on the cheek, telling him to be good like he’s still just a kid—after Peter gets in the elevator with a wave and a grin and a promise to come home in one piece, Tony leans into Stephen’s side with a long, slow sigh, and he says. “I feel like we should be recording this or something. It feels like a pivotal moment.”

“He’s going to a party, Tony, not getting married.”

“Well, if that guy he likes so much is as great as he says he is, then—”

“If you finish that sentence, I’m going to have a heart attack.”

“…Yeah, that’s fair.”

 

| | | | |

 

Harley James Keener has felt his fair share of hurt over the years.

It was felt with a father who probably only stayed because he didn’t want to pay child support, a father who drank until he couldn’t remember why he was so displeasured with his life, a father who liked to argue and fight and ignore and pass out on the couch whole Darcy was at work and Emma was asleep, leaving a six year old boy the only one who could bring the drunken man a glass of water and an ibuprofen, kept him from choking on his own vomit when he inevitably woke up puking in the middle of the night. A father that Harley loved despite how shitty he was, a father that left while his kids were asleep and never came back, a father that he hasn’t even heard from since.

It was felt with a mother that worked so hard she was never home, a mother who never saw when he came back from school with bruises and black eyes and a busted lip. A sister that relied on him to take care of her because he was the only one who was always there, a sister that always asked the questions that hurt because she didn’t understand why mommy and daddy weren’t around. A best friend in middle school that let him rant and brought extra food to lunch just for him, a best friend that recoiled when he whispered during a sleepover that he doesn’t like girls. A boy in high school who liked to kiss behind locked doors and cleaned him up when the bullies hit him and murmured kind words about how Harley was a safe haven away from parents who didn’t love him, a boy that told the whole school that Harley’s gay as soon as he didn’t feel like using Harley for his own personal pleasure and showed absolutely zero regret or remorse when he went from wiping Harley’s tears to standing behind the bullies when he shed them. An acceptance letter to NYU that’s giving him more opportunity than he ever thought he’d have thanks to scholarships and student loans because he can’t afford college on his own, an acceptance letter that has him states away from his little sister and too poor to be able to fly home for the summer. A guy at a party laying in the grass with his eyes closed and a funny smile on his lips that happens to be the son of the most powerful couple in the country, a guy that has so much heaviness in his lungs and behind his eyes and on his shoulders and Harley knows he didn’t mean to but this guy had still leaned on him when wanting to forget and it reminded Harley of the boy and the locked doors in high school that are the reason why he panics when a door won’t open to this very day.

Except Peter isn’t like the boy from high school, Harley knows. Peter is an indescribable kind of person. No matter how many times Harley tries (and he tries a lot, because Peter seems to always be on his mind), he can’t find the right words to explain Peter Benjamin Parker-Stark, no words that can do him justice.

“Fancy running into you here, Harley James Keener,” the indescribable person says, standing five feet away with his arms over his chest and a devilish grin and an aura of purity and joy, and Harley only falters for a moment in shock before he smiles and thinks that the very first word he should use to try and describe Peter Parker-Stark is resilient, because it’s only been a month since Harley dropped him off at Stark Tower and drove away, four weeks since they parted after that middle of the night diner date, and there’s already such a noticeable change in the Peter standing before him now. His eyes are focused and bright, his posture at ease and open, not hunched or tense, and he’s got a look on his face like he’s beat the world and he knows it. By the looks of it, he probably has.

Harley lifts his Sprite in some kind of greeting. “You look like you’re in a good mood.”

Peter grins, shrugs his shoulders a bit, and replies, “Why wouldn’t I be? Yesterday was my birthday, and two days ago was my thirty days sober mark, too, which was kind of anticlimactic because I wanted to get a chip like they give out in AA meetings, but my dads bought me ice cream, which is cool, too, I guess.”

“Wow.” Harley huffs out some kind of impressed half-laugh, brows raising. “Don’t tell me you’re here to get a drink in celebration,” he jokes, but he’s being a little serious, too, feels nervous at the idea.

But Peter just laughs along, and his grin seems to grow impossibly wider as he cocks his head to the side and says, “Actually, I’m here ‘cause there’s this guy that told me to find him when I don’t need a distraction anymore, and I’m hoping I can hold him to that. Only if that’s what he wants, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Harley echoes, but his voice has gone a little soft in some kind of awe, because Peter is here for him, and not because he wants a distraction, or because he’s drunk, or high, or both. Harley clears his throat, leans over to set his soda down on the counter, and asks, “Do you wanna get out of here?”

 

| | | | |

 

Turns out, the back seat hasn’t gotten any bigger.

It is, however, more spacious when they’re vertical instead of horizontal, which they should have already known because, one, that’s pretty fucking obvious, and two, they had been vertical first, last time, but it still feels like a pleasant surprise when Peter perches himself in Harley’s lap and the only annoying part about it is the fact that he can occasionally feel some of his hair brushing against the ceiling of Harley’s car, but that’s definitely manageable and he forgets about it completely when Harley presses a trail of open mouthed kisses down his neck, each one kind of slow and deliberate while still managing to feel desperate and rushed. His thighs tighten where they’re straddling Harley’s waist, and he can’t help the fact that his hips impulsively twitch forward the moment Harley scrapes his teeth over soft skin.

“God, you’re good at this,” Peter breathes, lashes fluttering as he tips his head back, both hands buried deep into Harley’s hair, and now that he’s started, he can’t stop the way he lightly grinds down against Harley’s lap, seeks the friction and the heat of them pressed together, flush against one another.

Harley hums, makes his lips tingle against Peter’s throat with the sound, and murmurs a little, “You know, this was supposed to be a second date,” against the warmth of Peter’s skin.

“Yeah,” Peter says, pulls lightly at Harley’s hair until he lifts his head, their noses brushing together due to the close proximity. “But you’re the one who said we could just pull over and make out instead.”

“I was joking,” Harley huffs. “If I knew you were gonna say yes, I would have suggested somewhere a little bit nicer than this. Like my apartment, or one of the nicer hotels nearby, or something like that. Believe it or not, when it comes to dates, I usually try to be more romantic than the back seat of my car.”

“Well, we’re already here, so—”

Harley leans forward to capture Peter’s lips in a searing kiss before he can finish the thought.

 

| | | | |

 

The door clicks shut behind them, and for a long moment, neither of them says anything. Then, sounding undoubtedly smug, Peter speaks up to ask, “This romantic enough for you?”

“For a second date?” Harley whistles, eyes wide. “Christ, this is fancy. You trying to show off?”

“Oh, you bet I am,” Peter snickers, grabs Harley’s hand and leads him through the stylish hotel room, plastic bag of items they bought from a convenience store a few blocks over dangling from the wrist of his other hand, and when they reach the bed, Peter uses a gentle sort of strength the push Harley onto his back, the short fall making his body bounce a bit on the mattress. “You still want this?”

Half lidded blue eyes stare up at him, deep and dark with desire. “Oh, you bet I do.”

With a laugh, Peter tosses the bag next to Harley’s sprawled out form, then crawls on top of him, brackets in Harley’s body with his own and leans down to slot their mouths together in a heated kiss, a please give me more i want you so bad kiss, the kind that makes Peter’s head spin and Harley’s toes curl. It somehow feels different now than it did thirty minutes ago, something about an actual bed beneath them creating a more relaxed environment, whereas the back seat made them feel the need to rush and ravish. In this hotel room, though, they have all night, and after that, they’ll have however long they want.

“Peter,” Harley gasps out, back arching and hips lifting when Peter breaks the kiss to bite down on the lobe of his left ear. Hands settle on narrow waist with that gentle-gentle-gentle touch that had initially grabbed Peter’s attention so strongly. “Who should—I mean, do you—top? Or bottom?”

“I like both,” Peter answers, presses kisses to the underside of Harley’s jaw.

With some kind of airy groan that he barely manages to swallow back, Harley says, “Well, yesterday was your birthday, right? I like both, too, but you’re the day late birthday boy, so you get to choose.”

“You’re a true gentleman, Harley Keener.”

Harley lets out a breathless laugh, one that kind of taper off into a choked off moan when Peter sinks his teeth into the sensitive skin where neck meets shoulder, no doubt leaving behind a love bite that won’t fade for at least a week. “You bet I am. It’s the southern charm, sweetheart.”

Peter shivers at the sound of Harley purposefully exaggerating his Tennessee accent, which sounds unfairly attractive when paired with the rasp of his voice. “Fuck,” Peter hisses, doesn’t really think about it before he slips a leg between Harley’s and grinds against his thigh. “Jesus Christ. if you’re gonna call me that, then I’m definitely bottoming, holy fucking shit, that was so hot.”

“Call you what?” Harley asks, smug and obviously teasing as he pushes up to press their hips closer together. “You want me to call you sweetheart? Is that what you want?”

“You can call me whatever the hell you want,” Peter says airily. “Just keep doing it while I ride you.”

The sound that Harley makes is punched out and strained, and he’s already fumbling a hand into the plastic bag with a sense of urgency, the air heady and the feeling electric and Harley’s voice is already wrecked as he pulls out the lube and the box of condoms that they bought, unceremoniously shoves them in Peter’s hands, and rasps out, “You’re a fucking dream, sweetheart. You’re unreal. Fucking amazing.”

Grinning a wolfish sort of grin, Peter swats the now empty plastic bag off the bed and sets the condom and the lube to the side so that he can tug at Harley’s sweatshirt impatiently. “C’mon, baby,” he murmurs, feels heat coil in his stomach as it, along with the T-Shirt underneath, gets pulled up and over Harley’s head, leaving his torso bare and exposed. His build is slim and lanky and absolutely perfect, everything about Harley is mouthwatering and stunning and Peter is already fumbling with the button of his jeans, wants to see the pure beauty of Harley’s naked body, wants to lick and kiss and bite at every inch of his skin, and when the two work together to pull off Harley’s jeans with his boxers quick to follow, Peter can’t help but make a wounded noise at the sight of him. “Christ, Harley, you’re so stunning.”

“Your turn,” Harley breathes, tugs at the hem of Peter’s sweatshirt with his lustful eyes drinking in his flushed face and red bitten lips. More than happy to oblige, Peter strips himself as fast as he can without falling flat on his face in the process, and when he goes back to straddling Harley’s waist, he can’t help but groan at the feeling of bare skin pressing against bare skin. “Peter,” Harley croaks, hopeless and pliant like putty beneath Peter’s’ body, eyes wide and pleading. “Peter, sweetheart, please.”

“Please what?” Peter asks, though it lacks the snark he wanted to use because his voice is so breathless.

Harley bucks his hips up, desperate for the friction. “Touch me,” he says with a groan. “Or touch yourself, or let me touch you, or something. Please, sweetheart, I’m going crazy over here.”

Sucking in a sharp breath, Peter nods, grips the lube tightly and shoves it into Harley’s hand. “I want you to prep me,” he says, tone borderline begging. “Is that okay?”

“Oh, Christ, yes.” Harley fumbles with the cap, hands kind of shaking with adrenaline and anticipation, but he manages to pop it open and drizzles more than necessary onto the pads of his fingers, sets the bottle aside when he’s deemed the amount good enough and leans up to press a bruising kiss to Peter’s lips while he warms the lube between his fingers.

Impatient and needy, Peter tenderly grabs Harley’s wrist and moves his hand for him, brings it down and around until it’s hovering by Peter’s ass, and Peter murmurs into the kiss a hopeless little, “Please.”

And Harley quickly delivers.

As soon as the first finger crooks inside of him, Peter gives up on trying to maintain the kiss, drops his head to Harley’s shoulder and pushes back against Harley’s hand, wants so much, wants Harley so bad, deeper and faster and babbles out little pleas as he moans and groans. Despite Peter’s helpless begging, Harley just murmurs that he doesn’t wanna hurt him and keeps the prepping slow and precise and it’s a good kind of agonizing, the way the feeling builds with a carefully added second finger that slowly works through the burn and the stretch, until there’s no resistance and he can edge in a third finger, too.

“You’re so good,” Harley tells him, low and groaning as Peter pants and wriggles his hips and grinds down against Harley to chase some kind of relief. “So good, sweetheart, you’re doing so good.”

Peter hasn’t had a lot of hookups—usually, at parties, he just danced with people, let them kiss him and push against him to their hearts content until he decided he was ready to go home, and it’s a rule, really, that he’ll never bring someone to the tower, no matter how insistent they are when they press an uncomfortably warm kiss to the back of his neck. However, he’s still had his fair share, usually in random rooms at those parties, with people he can’t recall the names of, and every time, they’ve been fast, hard and ruthless as they either brutally, borderline painfully fucked him, or as they started riding him with wild abandon. Sex has never really been a big deal, not very satisfying—often numbed out and dull because of too many drinks that would make him forget most of it the next day, though the bruises would tell a story of their own, fingerprints on his hips, sometimes on his arm, around his neck, wherever the other person so pleased because Peter was never much more than a pawn in the other persons pleasure, never bothered to chase his own, hardly ever even bothered with making himself cum in the process.

Sex with Harley—much like everything else with Harley—is completely different.

“Please,” Peter practically sobs, so much heat and pleasure coiling in him as Harley pushes his fingers in deeper, curls them until they brush against Peter’s prostate and makes him cry out, sinks his teeth into Harley’s shoulder to try and muffle himself as he insistently grinds down on Harley’s fingers, his voice wrecked beyond belief as he pants out, “Please, please, baby, I’m ready, I swear I’m ready, please.”

Pressing a kiss to Peter’s temple, Harley gingerly withdraws his fingers and grapples one handedly with the box of condoms, somehow manages to tear it open and fumbles the rip open the actual condom itself, gets distracted midway through because Peter is still rutting helplessly against him in a dizzy desperation, before somehow managing to reel in his focus and say, “Pete, I need to get the condom on, you gotta—”

“Give it to me,” Peter murmurs, shakily pushes himself up until he’s properly straddling Harley again, making adorable grabby hands until Harley hands the half-opened condom over. Making quick word with slightly trembling fingers, Peter hurries to fully withdraw the rubber and carefully tolls it on to Harley’s cock, gives it a few good strokes and soaks in the sight of Harley’s head falling back to the mattress with a hitched gasp. “You’re literally the most beautiful person I’ve ever met,” he murmurs, in awe.

A pleased blush dusts Harley’s face, down his neck and part of his chest, but he just looks at Peter with an upward turn of his lips and fires back, “Sweetheart, you should try to look in the mirror sometime.”

Peter grins and lifts himself on his knees, shuffles a bit and holds Harley’s cock in place to make it easier for him to line them up. “I do look in the mirror,” he says, lowers himself just enough for Harley’s tip to sort of nudge against Peter’s hole. Both of them shudder in anticipation. “I prefer looking at you.”

“You must have poor taste, then,” Harley breathes, his hands on Peter’s hips.

“The opposite, actually.” Peter slowly lowers himself even more, takes a deep breath as Harley’s dick breaches the initial ring of muscle. There was more that he wanted to say, a play on words, something about how he actually has rich taste, but all the air leaves his lungs in a long, drawn out moan as he slowly starts to sink down further, and—okay, maybe the slow and careful fingering had been some kind of pleasure filled torture, but compared to the other times he’s been fucked, this is completely different. Sure, there’s a slight burn, but it’s barely even noticeable because of how thoroughly prepped he is, making it so that he doesn’t need to take it too slow, and by the time Harley is bottomed out in him, Peter feels like his heart has stopped and restarted at least ten times over.

Voice wavering, Harley chokes out, “Jesus, Peter, you’re—you’re so—fuck, oh my god—”

Shakily, already pleasantly overwhelmed with sparks of electricity and tendrils of fire licking up and down his spine, Peter lifts himself slowly, then eases back down, sets a steady pace to try and ease into it. Every little movement makes heat coil in the pit of his stomach, and he plants his hands palm down on Harley’s chest for a little bit of leverage, picks up his pace in little increments, and he doesn’t even realize he’s making noise until it gets cut off by a higher pitched mewl, his nails sort of digging lightly into Harley’s skin. “Harley,” he manages to groan, head bowed and jaw a little bit dropped. “H-Harley—”

“Are you—” Harley’s breath stutters, thumbs rubbing soothing circles against Peter’s hipbones, and it’s so blatantly obvious how hard he’s fighting to stay still, eyes glazed over and red bitten lips parted just slightly to rasp you, “You’re—Jesus, fuck, you feel so—so tight, are you—are—does it hurt?”

Unable to help it, Peter lets out an airy little laugh. “Of course that’s what you’re thinking about.”

Harley, through his haze of self-control, manages to frown. “What?”

“It doesn’t hurt,” Peter tells him, practically purrs it as he swivels his hips and moves just a little bit faster, mostly just teasing both of them with the slow buildup. He curses when the move changes the angle just slightly, has Harley pressing right into his prostate. “Oh, god,” he moans, trying to get that angle again, but he can’t seem to get it right. “Fuck, you feel so good, so—fuck, fuck, I can’t, I want—”

“Flip?” Harley offers, gaze dark and hungry.

Peter kind of wants to say no, because riding Harley had really seemed like a good idea at the start, but his thighs are trembling and his whole body is shaking and this slow buildup thing really isn’t enough, and he wants more, wants so much more, so he nods with a little, “Yes,” and has just enough time to brace himself before, much like he did a month ago in the back of his car, Harley flips them over, presses Peter into the mattress with a searing kiss, thrusting into Peter so perfect and deep that Peter’s legs pull up and apart on instinct alone to wrap around Harley’s waist, trying to pull him in impossibly closer.

“O-Oh, fuck, sweetheart, f-fuck,” Harley hisses through clenched teeth, runs his hands up Peter’s sides with featherlight fingertips skimming over soft skin, up his arms, his wrists, intertwines their fingers and settles their hands against the soft duvet. Peter mewls, grips Harley’s hands and digs his heels into the dimples in his back, throws his head back when Harley pushes back in at the perfect angle, presses into his prostate again and makes him see stars, open mouth panting at the pure heat it makes him feel. Harley tries to kiss him, but it’s sloppy and doesn’t really work all that well, so he moves his head down and over, seems to know, now, how much Peter likes his neck being kissed, and he gives the full treatment, bites at salty skin and soothes it over his lips and tongue, decorates Peter with all of these marks, having to stop here and there when the pleasure gets to be too much as he has to let out a moan, says something along the lines of, “Shit, you’re so good, you feel so good, Peter, oh god, h-holy shit, oh my god—”

“Baby—” Peter cuts off with a cry, chants out little yes, yes yes’s, because the angle is still perfect, almost like Harley somehow know exactly the right way to thrust into Peter, knows exactly where Peter’s prostate is and how to consistently hit it. He wants to scrape his nails down Harley’s back and wiggle his hips and move, but the weight of holding Harley’s hands is too nice to give up, so he just squeezes Harley’s hands with at much strength as his shaky body can manage.

Harley drops his forehead to Peter’s collarbone, lazily mouths at the skin there before he stops and puts all of his focus into fucking Peter, moves in a way that sends both of them spiraling into a mess of moaning and groaning and trying to pull each other closer despite there being no space left between them, and Harley’s hips stutter a bit as he feels his climax rise in his stomach, only to pick up the speed and the rhythm as he rasps out, “I’m—fuck, sweetheart, ‘m gettin’ close.”

“I—” Peter stops, practically sobs with pleasure, thinks that this is what sex is supposed to be like, thinks that he doesn’t really want to have sex with anyone else ever again, doesn’t want to kiss anyone else ever again, has been so wonderfully ruined by this perfect man on top of him in the most pleasant and inviting way possible. “I am, too, I’m so close, Harley, baby, baby, I’m gonna—Ha—Harley—”

“You’re so beautiful,” Harley breathes, whimpers a bit because he’s dangling over the edge, so close, so close, so close. “Absolutely stunning, sweetheart. I’m so—fuck, so—so lucky to get to see you like this, the luckiest guy in the fucking world, and I’m gonna—I’m gonna treat you right, Pete, not like all those other assholes, okay? However—ah—f-fuck—how—however long you want me, I’m gonna—”

Peter leans up to cut Harley off with a heated kiss, terrifyingly thinks I think I might want you forever, and he doesn’t say that because part of him knows that it’s a pleasure induced thought, knows that they’ve only known each other for two months and he refuses to rush into that kind of expectation, wants to be smart about this, because he is smart, he knows that he’s smart, but he hasn’t made any smart choices for a long time and he’s fixing that, started by opening up to his dads again, by agreeing to take these steps, to see Sam, to cut off drinking before it can bud into full blown alcoholism, to do things that he should have done before he got so far off the rails. Now, he’s making a smart choice again, making that decision to recognize that his clingy thoughts are from the intimacy of the moment, doesn’t dive in like that.

Not yet. Not so soon, when he could risk fucking it all up, could risk scaring Harley off.

“Amazing,” is what Peter settles on saying, voice airy and laced with need and awe and a soft whine as the heat and the pressure builds in his gut. “You’re—fuck, Harley, you’re amazing.”

“Peter—”

Hands tighten where they’re interlaced, muscles go taut. “H-Ha-Harley—Harley—”

A long, desperate groan, rhythm growing sloppy. “Fuck, sweetheart, I’m—oh, oh, I’m cumming, I’m—”

“Oh,” Peter gasps, the condom sort of expanding within him as Harley fills it, and he’s still moving, rapid, deep thrusts that push right into his prostate, and it’s a lot, it’s almost too much, too much—

“Wanna see you,” Harley manages to choke out, squeezing Peter’s hands. “Wanna see you cum.”

Throwing his head back, Peter cries out, back arching off the bed as he cums between them, coating both of their bare stomachs with ropes of white, shaking through the most intense orgasm he’s ever had. And then it’s over, a moment later, but he still feels good, blissed out and happy and Harley is still in him and over him and on him, panting and smiling, sweat damp blond curls falling around him like a halo, and Peter doesn’t want to let go of his hands, but he lets go of one just to reach up and push some of Harley’s hair behind his ear and cup his cheek and breathes out, “You look like an angel.”

Harley laughs, an airy sort of laugh because they’re still trying to catch their breath, and when he speaks, his voice is a wreck, strained and raspy and really hot. “You don’t look so bad yourself, sweetheart.”

Peter groans, wiggles his hips and feels a burst of oversensitive pleasure spark up his spine when it shifts Harley inside of him. “You can’t call me that unless we’re having sex,” he says firmly. “And only when I’m bottoming. It’s unfair to use it at any other point and I’ll take legal action if I have to.”

“Oh, really?” Harley snorts, lips twisted up in a wide, amused grin. “What, you’ll sue me? Take me to court?” He stops, tilts his head, and his smile turns, becomes more mischievous and suggestive as he leans down, bumps their noses together. “I might be okay with that, actually,” he murmurs, voice low. “I’d love to see you in a suit. If any of those pictures from the galas and shit that you’ve gone to is anything to go by, then…” he trails off, wets his lips, and Peter knows that if they hadn’t just finished having sex, he’d be hard as a rock right now. “Well, I think I’d enjoy myself, sweetheart.”

“You’re a menace,” Peter croaks, wishes he had a short refractory period because he feels turned on but he just can’t it back up again for at least another twenty minutes.

The grin on Harley’s face is sinful. “I thought you said I was an angel.”

“I’m delusional and tired from strenuous physical activity and nothing I say should be taken seriously.”

Harley quirks an eyebrow. “So I shouldn’t believe you when you say I’m a menace, too, right?”

Peter falters, then sinks into the mattress with an exasperated sigh. “I regret ever meeting you.”

“No you don’t,” Harley grins, and Peter can’t help but smile.

“No I don’t,” he agrees. “Not even a little bit.”

Looking thoroughly pleased by this, Harley lowers himself a bit, kind of carefully plops himself on top of Peter, one of their hands still intertwined, while Peter’s other hand moves to play with Harley’s hair, Harley’s free hand tracing random patterns across the expanse of Peter’s skin, and it’s probably a little gross, the cum drying between them, the fact that Harley still hasn’t pulled out, the sweat and the now dirty duvet that they’re laying on, but it’s comfortable and it’s nice and when Harley rests his head on Peter’s shoulder, Peter doesn’t hesitate to brush aside his hair and kiss his temple, and it’s just so nice.

And then: “My dads might want to meet you, by the way.”

Harley’s head shoots up, eyes wide and alarmed. “Are you fucking serious?”

“Yeah.” Peter shrugs, smiling sheepishly. “Not right now, obviously, and if we… I mean, I’m assuming we both want to try this whole dating thing out, because I really like you and you said you liked me before but if you don’t anymore or whatever then that’s obviously also fine, but just—if we do, they kind of have a rule that they need to meet whoever I’m dating by the fifth date and even though I’m twenty they still insisted. And before you freak out, we have three more dates before that, and they might seem intimidating, but I watched both of them cry like babies while watching Inside Out the other day, so—”

“Everyone cries during Inside Out,” Harley scoffs. “That doesn’t make them less intimidating. Peter, your parents are literally some of, if not the smartest people in the world. I mean, in one of my classes we got to look at some old blueprints that your dads donated to colleges to study, and it’s so fucking cool, how they managed to work together and combine their expertise to create such in depth and life changing prosthetics, like, the one we looked at is from, like, five years ago, and it’s one of the most high tech things I have ever seen, and it’s has five years of upgrades and improvements and it’s somehow still affordable because your family is like the only rich family that doesn’t get greedy and actually donates a lot of money and makes their products as cheap as they can and still tries to make them cheaper and—”

Peter moves his hand from Harley’s hair to cover his mouth with it, looking thoroughly amused at the indignant noise that Harley makes in response. “Breathe, baby,” he jokingly coos, snickers when Harley glares at him. Peter moves his hand away a moment later. “I didn’t realize you were interested in that stuff.”

Another indignant noise, but this one more offended. “Are you kidding me? I’m double majoring in both mechanical and aerospace engineering, and electrical and computer engineering, and I’m minoring in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Which, by the way, took a long fucking time to get approved by the school board, but I made it happen somehow. Working on the shit that Stark Industries makes is, like, my dream job, and it has been since I was at least twelve.”

“Wow.” Peter shakes his head, a highly impressed look on his face. “Screw meeting my dads. I need to bring you to my lab and see if you’re smarter than I am. You might be hired on the spot.”

“Don’t you dare joke about that,” Harley states, eyes wide. “I’ll fucking cry.”

This makes Peter laugh, the sound light and amused and fond. “When it comes to SI, I’ve been trained to never fuck around, since it’s gonna be my company one day. And I’m not joking, not even a little bit. Even if you never met me or anything, if you applied there with that kind of education to back you up, Pepper would call you in for an interview on the spot. So would any other place you applied at, but if you don’t apply at SI first, I’ll be obligated to break up with you and never speak to you again.”

Harley snorts, but he’s still wide eyed, looking shocked. “Do you really mean that?”

“Yeah, ‘course I do,” Peter smiles. “You’re in charge of our third date, but for our fourth, I’d really love to bring you to my lab. And you can meet my dads while there, if you want, though even if I tell them to leave us alone, they’ll probably show up anyway just to pretend they’re scary, but don’t worry, they’re gonna love you. Even more so now that I know you’re a huge nerd like the rest of us.”

Looking awestruck, Harley shakes his head, ducks down to press a long, warm kiss to Peter’s slightly parted lips, and when he pulls back, he’s grinning. “I think you might be a gift from God.”

Peter barks out a laugh. “Oh, definitely not. The devil, maybe, if the devil even exists.”

“That fits, ‘cause you make me horny.”

The laugh gets louder, even as Peter half heartedly pushes at Harley’s shoulder with one hand and points towards the door with the other, snickering as he says, “Nope, you need to leave after saying that.”

“But I’m too pretty to kick out,” Harley pouts, rests his chin on Peter’s chest and looks up at him through thick lashes, and oh, maybe it’s been twenty minutes, because that’s an appealing sight.

“In that case, you need to kiss me, instead.”

Harley grins, already moving forward, bumping their noses together as he does. “I can do that.”

Before either of them can say anything else, Peter buries his hands in Harley’s hair and pulls him down, kisses him hard and silently muses that this bed will be a mess by the time they check out in the morning.

 

| | | | |

 

hold me like the night sky holds the moon

wrap me in your arms just like you do

sing me something sweet and take me in

lead me somewhere that i’ve never been

 

love me like the blackbird loves the night

kiss me like your lips could save my life

light me like your love could start a fire

make me feel the reason i’m alive