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blood of the covenant

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Peter feels... hollow. Empty. 


Carved out, like a pumpkin scraped clean of all its insides before Halloween. Someone's taken a blunt spoon to his organs and has dragged them all out and now he's nothing more than a bunch of hollow skin and bones with nothing inside them except empty space. 


He's not crying, even though maybe he should be. Not even tears feel real, and the yawning, drowning pit of grief in his chest wouldn't be solved by tears anyway, so what's the point? They wouldn't fix anything. Tears are just a whole lot of mess and discomfort and he would still feel just as shit – just as hollow and adrift – after a crying session as he feels now. So he doesn't cry. He just stands and exists and tries not to feel anything. 


The wreath is floating out on the water, and Peter can't take his eyes off it. He knows it's illogical, but he feels like... he feels like so long as he keeps his eyes on it, so long as he doesn't let it vanish without him seeing where it goes, then none of it is actually real. That Mr Stark – Tony – isn't really gone. 


(He is gone, though, and Peter knows it, but can't face it.)  


May's inside. Mostly everyone is – there's food and drink inside, and after the wreath was set adrift, Pepper had stood and watched it for a while before pulling a wobbly smile up over her face and telling everyone that there were refreshments inside, if they would like to follow her? Peter knows it's protocol – knows that it’s just how funerals go, that you have the funeral and then you have a wake afterwards where everyone eats and drinks and cries and laughs and celebrates the life of the person they're saying farewell to. 


But Peter isn't up for that. Doesn't know how anyone possibly could be, to be honest – there's nothing in the world he wants less right now than food or company. 


Which is why he's still out here while almost everyone else is inside. 


Almost everyone. 


Peter's pretty sure he knows the name of the kid who's sitting next to him, even though they haven't actually traded any words yet. Shaggy-haired, blond, and lanky, the teenager had come up and joined Peter on the end of the little jetty after everyone else had gone inside, sitting down next to him without a word, his shoulder brushing against Peter’s and his eyes on the wreath as though he too can't bear to lose sight of it. 


It shouldn't be companionable, sitting in silence next to some kid he doesn't even officially know, but it... is. The other kid doesn't speak – just watches the wreath float further and further away with a slump to his shoulders – and Peter doesn't have anything to say either; wouldn't be able to say anything anyway, probably, even if he wanted to. The lump in his throat that makes it hard to breathe would make speaking pretty damn difficult, even if he were feeling chatty. 


Inside, the hubbub of noise continues as everyone in there celebrates Tony's life and commiserates the loss of it. Outside, there’s no sound but that of distant birds and the slight rustle of wind through the reeds.


The wreath starts to ride lower in the water, slowly sinking in time with the setting sun, and it's maybe only a minute later that the wreath sinks completely, gently vanishing from sight beneath the surface of the water without a sound. 


Peter bites his lip when it finally disappears; bows his head and tries desperately not to feel anything. The kid next to him says nothing either, but out the corner of his eye, Peter can see the other boy's hand clenching and unclenching against the fabric of his suit leg, and Peter figures that he's probably not the only one wrestling with emotions. 


The sinking sun follows the wreath a few minutes later, dropping out of sight behind the horizon and plunging the world into dusky orange twilight, and it's only once the sun has vanished entirely behind the distant hills that the kid next to Peter clears his throat. 


"You must be Spiderman, then," the kid says, and his voice is brittle under a layer of falsely casual confidence, like he's trying to sound unaffected but like he's one wrong word from losing his composure entirely, and Peter doesn't even have the energy to panic about the kid's casual – and correct – assumption. 


"What makes you think that?" he asks dully, instead of outright denying it, keeping his eyes on the lake. His voice is hoarse, and speaking past the lump in his throat hurts, and he probably shouldn't be so cavalier – should have reacted to the other kid's guess with fake-bafflement or surprise or derision or something, but he just... doesn't have it in him, right now. 


"Cause he told me all about Spiderman – you know, before – but today, when every single superhero who knew him has shown up, even the ones he didn't like, there's no Spiderman anywhere to be seen," the lanky kid says, a slight country drawl to his words, and his eyes stay locked on the place where the wreath disappeared. "Which means either he's here as a civilian, or he's blowing off the most important funeral in the world. And I can't see Spidey skipping, not with how Ton— not with how he talked about him, not when it was obvious how close the two of them were. And you're the only civilian here who's both got the right body type for Spidey, and who I don't recognize. Ain't too hard to connect the dots." 


There's a gentle breeze running across the surface of the lake, and it makes the ends of Peter's hair sway slightly. 


"I almost did skip it," he confesses, and even saying the words feels like a betrayal. He doesn't even care about the fact that, by saying that, he's practically confirming his identity. 


The kid peers knowingly at him through the slowly dimming light. 


"Didn't think you could do it?" he asks, and he sounds... understanding. Not judgmental, but also not pitying. Just... like he gets it. 


"It's stupid," Peter says, because it is. What right does he have to feel like this, when he's not even the one who lost the most? Pepper and Morgan (and fuck - Morgan. The kid Tony had that Peter hasn't even met yet; Tony's child, his little girl, who's gonna grow up without a dad) were able to show up today, greet everyone and see the whole day through. If they can do it, what right does Peter have to feel like he can't?


"I mean,” he goes on, trying to find the words to convey what he’s feeling without outright saying it. “He wasn't, y'know... It's not like he was..."


"It's not like he was your dad, right?" the blond kid says, rueful, and Peter glances at him in surprise, looking him full in the face for the first time, because yeah, that's exactly what he'd been trying not to say. Morgan's lost a dad, but Peter hasn't. Peter doesn't even know what it is that he's lost. A boss? A mentor? Whatever Tony was to him, he was more to Morgan, and Peter doesn't deserve to feel the way he does when Morgan's the one who lost a parent. 


The blond kid's face looks drawn and strained as Peter looks at him, his skin pale in the dim light, and his lips may be twisted in a bitter parody of a smile, but his eyes look the same way Peter feels. 


"Yeah," the kid continues, scoffing to himself. "It's not like he was my dad either. So why do I feel worse now, at this stupid fucking funeral, than I did when my actual dad fucked off in the middle of the night never to be seen again?" 


Peter swallows, harsh, and looks back out over the lake. 


"My parents died when I was a kid," he says, and the lump in his throat is back with a vengeance, voice subdued and croaky as it forces its way past the obstruction. "This... this feels the same as that did." 


The other kid nods, that understanding look on his face, and there's silence between them again for a long moment. 


"I just... I hate this," the other teen says after a while, a muted snarl in his voice. "It's bullshit." 


Peter nods, because it is. It is bullshit. It's bullshit that Tony's the one who's dea-- who's gone. The one who didn't get to come home. The one who gave everything - for people who didn't even like him half the time – but he's the one who gets buried. He's the one who never gets to see his wife and kid again. It's bullshit. It's bullshit. 


"Yeah," Peter says hollowly, and pretends not to notice as the other kid swipes a vicious sleeve across his face. 


There's a burst of muffled laughter from somewhere in the house, and Peter doesn't know how anyone could be laughing at a time like this. He hates it. He doesn't want everyone in there to be, like, moping around or whatever – he gets that a wake is supposed to be a celebration of a life well lived, and everything – but it feels... disrespectful. To be laughing as uproariously as whoever is making that racket right now. 


"He talked about you too," Peter offers, partly to drown out the sound of laughter and partly cause the other kid should know, and the blond teen looks over at Peter in surprise. 


"You're Harley, right?" Peter continues. "Tennessee kid. He told me about you." 


"Tennessee kid," Harley echoes with a wet huff of amusement. "Yeah, that's me. What did he tell you? Did he tell you how I saved his life like a total badass?" 


A ghost of a smile teases at the edge of Peter's lips. 


"He told me that you're a little shit," he says, and Harley barks out a wet-sounding laugh. 


"Yeah, that sounds likely," he says, and then sobers. 


"He thought the world of you, you know?" he says, and Peter blinks and looks at him. Harley doesn't look back at him – keeps his gaze on the plank of wood he's picking at with a blunt nail. "Told me all about you. You-you and Spiderman-you, even though he made out like you were two different people. Kept telling me I'd get along great with his intern, and told me I wasn't allowed to go patrolling with Spiderman no matter how much I might want to. He was talking about flying me up to New York for the summer – you know. Before." 


"He told me we were never allowed to meet," Peter says. "Told me you'd be a terrible influence on me." 


He's gratified to see a shadow of a smile cross Harley's face at that, and the blond looks up at Peter, a hint of light in his eyes for the first time since he sat down. 


"Oh yeah, he told me that too. Outright told me he was gonna keep you distracted with coffee runs while I was here, so I wouldn't have a chance to corrupt you." 


Peter huffs a laugh that sounds a little bit too raw to be pure amusement, and he looks down to blink his suddenly-too-hot eyes. 


"I really hate that we had to do our own introductions," he says. "I really, really hate this." 


"Yeah," Harley says, hoarse, and they lapse into silence again. 


"At least you were with him when it happened, though," Harley says a minute or so later, and when Peter looks up he sees a bitter twist to the other boy's lips. "I woke up in my kitchen to a mom with a whole lot more wrinkles than I remember, and a sister who's suddenly the same age as me, and before I even worked out what had happened, he was – well. Yeah. I hadn't even got my head around the whole five years thing before everything here was all finished. It was hours before I even knew. You'd think I would have known, somehow, but I just. Didn't. Didn't have a fucking clue until it came on the news. I found out through the news. Haven't seen him in months and then I find out through the news that he's—." 


"Being with him when it happened wasn't that great," Peter says, voice hollow, filing in the silence when Harley's angry words trip to a halt. "I couldn't do anything. I wasn't – I wasn’t fast enough and I couldn't – I didn't... If I'd been faster, if I'd– "


"Pretty sure he'd squirt you in the face with a water gun if he knew you were blaming yourself," Harley interrupts, wry, and he's probably right, but that doesn't change the fact that if Peter had been faster, then maybe they wouldn't be in this situation. Maybe Tony wouldn't be... yeah. 


“Yeah, well,” Peter says, scratching with a nail at a piece of wood below his thigh. “Doesn’t stop me from feeling like I didn’t do enough.”


Harley sighs, heavy.


“Yeah,” he says. “I get it. I kinda feel the same. I wasn’t even in the same state, but I’m pissed at myself that I wasn’t able to do anything. It’s stupid – like, logically, I know there’s literally nothing I could have done that would have made a difference, but… I’m still mad at myself anyway that I didn’t do enough. And no amount of yelling logic at myself is gonna change that.”


Peter’s about to reply, when his senses ping that someone is approaching, and he twists around to get a look at whoever is intruding visiting.


Morgan Stark is wearing a black dress, and she’s young – fuck, she’s so young; she’s barely older than Peter was when he lost his parents – and she‘s making her way down the jetty towards them looking sad and lonely and nervous and determined all at once.


Harley turns around to see what Peter’s looking at, and he sucks in a pained breath when he spots Morgan, who keeps walking until she’s right behind them.


“You’re Peter,” she says, without preamble, pointing at Peter.


It’s not a question, but Peter blinks and says, “Uh. Yeah. I am,” anyway.


“And you’re Harley,” she goes on, pointing at Harley now, and Harley nods.


“And you’re Morgan,” he tells her, and she nods sharply and then moves forwards, pushing between the two boys until she can turn around and sit down, half on Peter’s lap and half on Harley’s, her little face looking out over the lake. 


“Uh,” says Peter, who has never been around children younger than himself and doesn’t know what to do with a kid suddenly deciding to use him as a chair.


“Does your mom know you’re out here?” Harley asks, and – ah, yeah, doesn’t he have a little sister? Or. He did. Now he’s got a sort of… pseudo twin, Peter guesses. What’s the official scientific term for a sibling who aged up to the same age as yourself while you were busy being dustmotes on the wind? Peter doesn’t know.


Anyway. Harley is used to little kids. More used to them than Peter is, at any rate.


“No, but she’s talking to Uncle Thor, and Happy’s getting cheeseburgers,” Morgan replies, and leans sideways into Peter, who doesn’t know what to do with this development.


“Do you want cheeseburgers?” the little girl asks, not noticing Peter’s discomfort. “I can get FRIDAY to call him and ask him to get more.”


“Nah, I’m good,” Harley says, and musters up a smile that looks thin on his face, like a gentle breeze could blow it away. “Don’t feel much like eating, to be honest.”


“Me neither,” Morgan replies quietly. “But Happy wanted to do something to help so I pretended I wanted some. So he’d have something to do.”


“That’s… that’s super nice of you, Morgan,” Peter says, because it is. Manufacturing a task for someone so they can feel like they’re helping – it’s… kind.


It’s also surprisingly mature of her. But if anyone knows anything about how much you mature when you lose a parent, it’s Peter, so maybe Morgan’s maturity in this moment isn’t that surprising after all.


“Are you cold?” Harley asks, and starts shrugging off his suit jacket without waiting for an answer, and actually yeah, it’s getting pretty chilly out here now that the sun’s gone down, and Morgan’s dress doesn’t even have sleeves.


“It’s warmer inside – maybe we should go in?” Peter suggests, even though that’s the last thing he wants to do. He’ll go in and face the crowd, though, if it means protecting Tony’s daughter from the cold.


But Morgan’s shaking her head even as Harley wraps his jacket around her tiny shoulders.


“I don’t wanna be inside,” she says. “They’re all trying really hard to be happy, and I don’t feel like being happy right now.”


Harley and Peter look at each other over Morgan’s head, and the grief and understanding in their faces match.


“Yeah,” Harley says, and pulls the jacket tighter around her shoulders, drawing it together at the front so she’s completely wrapped up in it. “Yeah, we don’t really feel like being happy right now either.”


“We can stay out here,” Peter adds, and Morgan sighs gratefully and leans sideways into Peter, who sends Harley a what do I do? face.


Harley jerks his chin in Morgan’s direction and mouths hug her, with a pointed expression, so Peter awkwardly raises his arms and wraps them around the small body leaning against him, half-convinced that she’s going to try to squirm free the second she realises what’s going on. He’s a stranger to her, after all. He knows that if some random had tried to hug him at his parents’ funeral, that he wouldn’t have wanted a bar of it. May and Uncle Ben could barely get him to stand still for long enough to endure a hug from them, and he’d known them since birth.


Morgan doesn’t squirm free, though – in fact, she relaxes into the embrace and burrows a little bit closer to him, her eyes still watching the ripples on the water. Over her head, Harley sends Peter an approving look, and the three of them sit in the gathering dark and watch the ripples move over the lake, quiet and companionable.


Morgan’s the one who ends up breaking the silence, a few moments later.


“I miss Daddy,” she says, just like that, and Peter’s breath catches in his chest and he looks at Harley, stricken, and Harley looks just as suckerpunched as Peter feels.


“…Me too, kid,” Harley says after a moment, hoarse, and he reaches out to brush the hair gently out of Morgan’s eyes while Peter tightens his arms around her reflexively. “Me too.”


“He missed you, when you were gone,” she says. “He told me stories about you. He told me all about Spiderm– ”


She cuts herself off suddenly and twists in Peter’s arms to look at him, her eyes wide.


“Does Harley know about Spiderman?” she whispers loudly, and Peter cracks a laugh and sees over her shoulder the way that Harley’s face creases in amusement at her total lack of subtlety.


“Yeah, he knows,” Peter confirms, because, well, he does. Apparently the signs were all there, and the dude put the puzzle pieces together and made an educated guess. He wasn’t wrong, and Peter didn’t deny it, which is basically the same as admitting it. That plus Morgan’s unsubtle moment just now, and the cat is well and truly out of the bag.


“But it’s still a secret, so we can’t be telling anyone else, ok?” Harley says, which Peter appreciates.


“Your mom knows,” Peter adds, because he should maybe clear up who knows and doesn’t, both for Morgan’s sake and Harley’s. “And Happy. And my aunt May. And now you two. But no one else.” Well, there’s Ned too, and the Vulture, but adding them to the list right now would probably just confuse things.


“I won’t tell anyone,” Morgan promises, serious, and then she goes on. “Daddy told me lots of stories. About how you helped him save all his stuff and how you helped him against the fire people.”


The last part is directed at Harley, who blinks.


“Wait – what?” he asks, surprised. “He told you about me too?”


“Yeah,” Morgan says lightly, playing with the sleeve of Harley’s jacket. “How you saved him.”


Harley does a double take. “He – what? He – said that?”


“Mmhm,” Morgan nods. “The bad lady nearly had him, but you threw a snowball at her. Will you teach me how to make snowballs? Daddy tried, but he was better at snow angels than snow balls. He never squashed them enough, so they were always too soft and fluffy. He said I should get you to teach me, ‘cause you make them good.”


Peter can see the way Harley swallows hard, a muscle in his jaw clenching on and off as he blinks rapidly.


“Yeah,” he manages, and his voice cracks in the middle. Peter leans sideways so his shoulder is pressed against Harley’s, and Harley clears his throat and musters a smile for Morgan that wobbles at the edges. “Yeah, kiddo. I’ll teach you.”


She twists in Peter’s arms to look up at him.


“And can you teach me how to swing in the air? I asked Daddy to teach me but he said I wasn’t old enough, but I’m older now.”


Peter can’t think of anything more terrifying than letting Tony Stark’s only child swing through the air on a line of webbing.


“I think he meant that you need to be even older,” Peter sidesteps, and Morgan’s face immediately falls with disappointment. “I was fifteen before I even started,” he adds, hoping to soften the blow.


“Fifteen?” Morgan echoes in dismay. “But I’m five.”


“I can lend you my web shooters and we can practice firing web balls at trees?” Peter offers, because no matter how woeful she looks, Peter’s not gonna let her go swinging from tall buildings any time soon. Pepper would kill him. But he kind of desperately wants to do something to alleviate the dismayed expression on her face. “It’s kind of like throwing snowballs, only with no snow.”


“Oh, I want in on this game,” Harley says, grinning, and Peter shoots him a smile.


Morgan peers at Peter with pursed lips for a long moment.


“And you’ll teach me to swing in the air once I’m fifteen?” she asks, and ha, Peter’s not falling into that trap. If he says an outright yes, he knows she’ll remember it and hold him to it.


“Only if your mom says it’s ok,” he says, because he knows that Pepper’s response will be Absolutely not.


Morgan thinks about that for half a second, and then seems to decide that she has faith in her own ability to convince her mother to let her hurtle through the air with only a manufactured spider’s web and no safety net, because she nods happily.


“Ok,” she says, and looks first at Peter and then at Harley. “You can teach me how to throw web balls, and then when it’s winter, you can teach me how to make snow balls. But we won’t make snow angels. Snow angels were Daddy’s.”


That last part makes the lump in Peter’s throat come back with a vengeance, and a glance at Harley tells him that Harley feels the same.


“No snow angels,” Harley echoes, and his voice is scratchy. “You got it, kid.”


They lapse into silence again after that, and it’s peaceful and companionable, but Peter can’t help but wish it were happening under different circumstances. That he’d met these two – Harley, who Tony obviously thought highly of, and Morgan, Tony’s child – under different, better circumstances.


Pepper comes out when dark truly starts to fall in earnest, looking for Morgan. Apparently Happy’s arrived back with the cheeseburgers, and FRIDAY told her where to find her daughter.


She finds Morgan asleep in Peter’s arms, wrapped in Harley’s jacket, and Pepper’s smile is soft and warm and a little bit damp.


“I wish he could have seen you three like this,” she says, voice quiet so as not to wake Morgan, and Peter swallows hard against the pain in his throat.


Pepper somehow manages to extract Morgan from Peter’s hold and gets Harley’s jacket off the small child without waking her, and then tells both of them that she has beds made up for them both.


“Oh, no, Ms Potts – Mrs… Stark? May and I will go home, it’s fine, we don’t want to impose – ” Peter tries to say, and the CEO of Stark Industries levels a stern look at him.


“First of all, it’s Pepper,” she says in a no-nonsense tone that Peter thinks probably sees a lot of use with her board of directors. “Secondly, it’s a four hour drive back to the city, and it’s already dark. It’s far too late to set out on such a long trip. I’ve already cleared it with May. You’re staying. You too, Harley. If I won’t let Peter and May drive back to New York tonight then I hope you know I won’t be letting you drive back to Tennessee.”


“I was kinda hoping to be able to crash somewhere tonight,” Harley says. “So, thanks.”


“You’re welcome,” Pepper tells him, and then turns her expectant gaze on Peter. “And how about you, Mr Parker?”


Peter doesn’t want to stay. He doesn’t want to see this house that Tony lived in for five years; that his family lived in, happily. He doesn’t want to see the ghost of Tony in the Iron Man coffee mugs in the kitchen and in the photos on the walls and in the lab he knows has to be here somewhere. Doesn’t want to see DUM-E and U and have to face them knowing that their creator – their dad – isn’t around anymore, all because Peter wasn’t fast enough; didn’t fight hard enough.


He wants to go back to his and May’s apartment in New York – empty, still, if dusty, because New York City might be a desirable place to live, but with half the universe dusted, even with all the folks who moved to the city after the Snap, there still weren’t enough people to fill the apartments all the way out to Queens when there were vacant ones closer to the city than theirs.


He wants to go back to his and May’s dusty, stale-smelling apartment that hasn’t had anyone sleep in it for five years, and he wants to forget that today ever happened. He wants to forget that this week ever happened (well. A week for him, at least).


He wants to lie facedown on his bed and pretend that his school excursion that day went as normally as a Midtown High excursion can go – with Flash being a jerk and MJ sketching everyone and Ned geeking out over some cool fact and Mr Harris panicking about some thing or another but trying his best not to show it. Peter wants to pretend, just for one night, that no flying doughnut ever appeared in the sky above New York City, and that everything that came after – everything that led to Tony sacrificing his life to save everyone on earth – never happened.


“Morgan will be really upset if she wakes up and you’ve gone,” Pepper says, and Peter looks at her with surprise. “She’s wanted to meet you both for so long; if she wakes up and one of you left while she was sleeping, there will be tears.”


The words are said wryly but with an undercurrent of seriousness that tells Peter that she’s not joking; Morgan really will be upset enough to cry if he’s gone when she wakes up, apparently.


Peter doesn’t want to be the reason that Tony Stark’s daughter cries.


“Ok,” he concedes, shoulders sagging a little, and she nods at him.


“Good,” she says. “Now, if you’re hungry, there’s lots of left overs, or the cheeseburgers Happy got. He got extras, so there’s plenty. I’m going to go and put this one to bed. Don’t stay out here too late, alright? It’s cold.”


“Yes ma’am,” Harley says from beside Peter, and Pepper nods at them both and heads back up the jetty to take Morgan inside.


“Force to be reckoned with, that one,” Harley says, once Pepper’s out of earshot. “Reckon anyone ever bothers trying to say no to her, or do they just concede defeat from the outset?”


“Concede defeat from the outset,” Peter says, because it’s pretty much what he just did, and honestly, he can’t see anyone bothering to try to out-argue Pepper. Spend ten seconds with her, and you know you’re gonna lose any debate she has with you.


“Wanna sneak in the back way and find the beds she’s made up for us so we don’t have to interact with fake-happy adults?” Harley pitches, and honestly? The sun has barely gone down, and it’s weirdly early to be going to sleep, but frankly, he’s absolutely exhausted, and smushing his face into a pillow and passing out sounds fantastic right now. If he can’t spend several hours unconscious in his own bed, he’s willing to do it in a borrowed one.


“Sounds good,” Peter says, getting to his feet. Harley follows suit, and they make their way inside – through the back door, instead of through the front one that would take them past the room where all the adults are murmuring and chatting and laughing in a manner that sounds too loud and too bright to be fully genuine.


Yeah, neither of the boys want to be anywhere near that. Back-door entry it is.


Peter feels intrusive, roaming around someone else’s house searching for the spare bedroom, but Harley apparently feels no such compunction, and he leads the way through the house, opening door after door until they find one that has two beds in it, both of them made up with navy-blue bedding.


“Shotgun left,” Harley says immediately, and bee-lines to the bed on the left side of the room, leaving Peter with the one under the window on the right.


It doesn’t bother Peter. He likes sleeping under the window, actually. Likes staring out at the glow of the streetlights whenever he’s awake and can’t sleep. Not that there’s any street lights here. He’d probably actually be able to see stars out there if he looked, how weird. It’s not likely to be an issue tonight, anyway. He’s so tired right now that he’d probably be able to fall asleep even if May was playing one of her awful 70s records at top volume.


“Hey Pete?” Harley says, after Peter’s made his way over to his bed and has flopped bonelessly down onto it, face smooshed firmly into the pillow. He hasn’t bothered to get under the covers – hasn’t even bothered to take his shoes off – and he doesn’t think he’s even gonna try. He’s too tired. Funerals are exhausting. Peter hates them more than anything else in the world.


“Mm?” Peter says, rolling his head sideways to look at Harley. The other teen is lying on his back, staring at the ceiling, and he hasn’t bothered to get under the covers either. Maybe Pete isn’t the only one too tired to bother with that sort of thing.


“I hate that we met under such shit circumstances,” Harley says, determinately not looking at Peter. “But I’m glad we met. You… get it. And that… helps.”


He doesn’t even need to specify what it is that Peter “gets.” They’re in the same boat, Harley and Peter, and they’re the only two in it.


Pepper’s lost a husband, and it’s a definable, quantifiable loss. Morgan’s lost her father, and that’s definable too. Colonel Rhodes and Happy have lost a friend. The world has lost a hero. All of that is definable. It’s got a clear label. The feelings and emotions that go with the various labels are textbook and understandable. No one’s going to give Pepper an odd look for being devastated by her loss, because everyone who loses their partner all feel the same feelings. Pepper’s emotions are predictable and definable and understandable. Same with those who lose a father, those who lose a friend. The feelings are universal to all those who’ve experienced the same thing.


But Harley and Peter – what is it that they’ve lost, exactly? A mentor? No. He was more than that. A friend? The term doesn’t fit. A father figure? He wasn’t that either. Not really. Except that he kind of was. Could have been? Almost was?


Peter doesn’t know. He knows that Morgan actually lost her father, and that Peter felt this same way when he lost his. He doesn’t know if he has the right to feel that way though. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t. And he knows Harley feels the same – both about the lost-an-almost-father-figure thing and the I-don’t-have-the-right-to-feel-this-way thing. And it’s not nice that Harley the same way, because Peter feels like shit and he wouldn’t wish this feeling upon anyone. But the fact that Harley feels the same is… helpful. Peter feels less alone than he otherwise would. He’s in a boat, floating on a sea of confusion and grief, but at least he’s not in the boat alone.


“Yeah,” he says to Harley, and his voice is a little bit hoarse. “Yeah.”