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Harley started playing guitar because it was what every other kid growing up in Rose Hill did. He’s been to too many bonfires not to. Always the first to pick up the guitar and start plucking chords to the crackle of the flames. Without fail, if he’s ever asked to play something in particular, he’ll start the familiar pattern of Stairway to Heaven—if only to hear the long-suffering groans that rise from across the field until he launches into whatever’s been stuck in his head that week.

Harley started playing guitar because it was what every other kid growing up in Rose Hill did, but he started singing almost entirely by accident.

It crept up on him, in a way. At first it was a way to calm Abby, humming quietly in the back of his throat, rocking her gently in his arms. He remembers at six years old when their parents would fight downstairs and Abby, newborn, usually in that old cot of his, would start wailing at the first raised voice, and it’s Harley who’d go pick her up, humming just loud enough to drown out the yelling.

A year later and Harley starts singling lullabies, because Abby’s one now and he read somewhere that babies who listen to words at a young age are smart and even though Harley’s just turned seven these are things he’s concerned about because that’s his little sister.

Their dad leaves, and Harley doesn’t have a reason to sing Abby back to sleep anymore.

Then, his mother sends him to a shrink, and really—that’s the beginning and end of everything, isn’t it?

 


 

Harley’s always kind of been an angry kid.

It’s a slow-burning kind of anger, for the first few years after his father went for scratchers and never came back. In retrospect, he was too young to go through what he did and it’s not fair he even had to. But the way the gut-turning grief at the thought something had happened to his dad turned into low-simmering anger at the realisation he was never coming back over the course of a few years was really something to behold.

Everything kind of snaps after he meets Tony, because it wasn’t like Harley wasn’t already riddled with trauma, just had to go an add the whole Mandarin fiasco into it. He tries—Lord knows he tries—to hide it from Tony, tries not to let him catch a glimpse of the Harley that hates near about everything about Rose Hill and then some—but it’s difficult not to snap just a bit too sharply when they run into I EJ and every other boy in his year that’s out to get him. Then Tony leaves, and it feels both eerily similar and entirely different and that low-simmering, slow-burning kind of anger turns into a wildfire, all-consuming and devastating for those in the way.  

He starts lashing out more. Starts getting into more fights, starts getting more detention. Starts meeting his mother in the school hallway outside the principal’s office with bruised knuckles and a bloody nose more often than not and the look of her face—God, Harley would do anything to not see it again.

He sees it again next week.

And the week after.

And the week after that, too.

It’s a few weeks into his sophomore year. Across the dinner table, Abby bounces around with the energy of every other ten-year-old he knows, and his mom looks that them—well, him—with something akin to regret.

“Harley, honey,” she says, in that placating voice Harley’s heard echoed throughout the house more than once. “I’m sending you to a therapist.”

Never let it be said that Macy Keener was one to beat around the bush.

It takes him a moment to even process what she’s said, and when it does his first reaction is to laugh, because that’s absurd.

“Nice one, Ma,” he says, shovelling a forkful of meatloaf into his mouth.

There’s a moment—when his mom places her fork and knife down with deliberate care, the steel clinking against the porcelain plate when her hand twitches, when Abby blinks across at him in confusion, all three of them silent in a way that spells disaster—when Harley realises she’s serious.

“Oh,” he looks at her, sitting at the head of the table, the same haunted, cold blue eyes he sees every morning in the mirror reflected back at him. “You’re not kidding, huh?”

She shakes her head. “No.”

Harley stands abruptly from the table, not even hearing Abby protest of you weren’t even excused, that’s not fair! because she doesn’t deserve to witness the rage choking him now.

Macy lets him go without a word.

That night, after the anger dissipates and he’s left feeling hollow and empty, Harley curls up in bed, knees almost to his chest, and thinks about the hypocrisy of it all. Thinks about the empty beer bottles that line the kitchen sink in a duochrome of brown and green glass. Thinks about how he was the one at Abby’s last parent-teacher meeting, getting that look for her fifth-grade teacher—that one of complete and utter pity that everyone else in this shit town gives him that had red-hot anger tightening around his ribcage.

Thinks that if anyone in this family should be getting therapy it should be her.

 


 

A week later finds Harley sitting on the hard plastic chairs of Rose Hill’s small hospital waiting room—sans his mom, because he point blank refused to allow her to even so much as drop him off—deliberately late for his four o’clock appointment.

Despite the pointed look he got at reception, it doesn’t matter, because his name isn’t called for another forty minutes. Forty minutes of him shifting restlessly, leg bouncing, pulling at the fraying edges of his sleeves. Forty minutes of wondering why he’s even bothering to stay. Forty minutes spent with his own thoughts.

He strolls into Dr Michaels office with a sort of faux bravado, hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. It’s not quite a lack of confidence but something uneasy has settled in his stomach within the last ten minutes that has him second guessing himself. That forty minutes really did something to his head.  

“So, how’re we going to do this, doc?” He asks, slouching down on the mustard-yellow couch.

“Do you know why you’re here, Harley?”

“Yeah, because my Ma told me to,” he says, scoffing. “Why else would I be?”

Dr Michaels just looks at him. Harley thinks he’s probably far too used to the shit-eating kids backwater Tennessee produces, probably far too used to the charming grin Harley plasters across his face, probably far too used to any other bullshit Harley’ll try and pull to get out of this stupid thing.

“You have an anger problem.”

“I have an anger problem,” Harley replies, because while this entire conversation might be making his skin itch with barely concealed rage, at least he’s self-aware. 

“That’s good. The first point is admitting you have a problem.”

Harley snorts. “I’m not a fuckin’ drunk, man.”

“I suppose not,” Dr Michaels says, which has Harley bristling because what the fuck does that even mean?

Harley knows better than to get angry, especially not here—the longer he can pretend he’s fine the quicker he can leave. Harley’s smart and he knows how these things go, but the hot flash running over his skin is like an alarm bell ringing shrill and loud.  

“Why don’t we talk about that?”

“There isn’t much to talk about.”

“Harley,” the doctor says his name with such a note of finality that Harley straightens. “I’m a qualified psychologist. I’m here to help. What makes you angry?”

Harley looks down at his hands, fingers twisting together out of habit. He’s silent, for a moment. His mother’s face in the school hallway. Hiding near most of his emotions from Abby. His dad leaving. The fallout from meeting Tony. Thinking and thinking and thinking. 

He looks up. “Everything.”

Harley spends the rest of the appointment not exactly telling Dr Michaels everything, but enough that Harley feels raw and exposed and vulnerable by the end of it.

“I think, Harley,” Dr Michael says, pen gleaming under the fluorescents as he makes a note on Harley’s file. “That I’d like for you to try music therapy.”

 




Rose Hill doesn’t have things like music therapy, so on Friday, Ma pulls him and Abby out of school early and they make the two-hour drive to the closest city in the decades old Dodge his mom inherited from her mom.

“We can’t afford this,” Harley says, looking out the window, wishing he was out in the open fields and not here.

“Your grandparents are paying,” Macy replies, carefully even.

That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense.

His grandparents—his father’s parents—live way out in Colorado. Harley’s only met them a handful of times. They’re both lawyers running their own firm fulltime and filthy fucking rich. Hell, they own the farmhouse they live in. Or, at least they did—Harley isn’t sure now, that his father is no longer in the picture. But they help out enough that they can keep it and pay their bills on time and Harley’s still able to look after the chickens at five in the morning when he needs the opposite of peace and quiet, so.

Harley thinks they must feel guilty for what their son did. That would make a lot sense, too.

Suddenly, the appointment with Dr Michaels is more plausible. Harley had wondered how they were able to afford that. His grandparents were probably the ones who suggested it.

Harley walks into the appointment with the same outlook he had going into the one with Dr Michaels— ingrained thought that this is a pointless endeavour warring with the voice lurking in the back of his mind that this will help.

He’d read up on it after seeing Dr Michaels, because music therapy and anger management don’t really equate with one another in his head. The first article he stumbled across mentioned forensic psychiatric patients for God’s sake. But it’d also mentioned coping skills and an exploratory study and Harley’s, you know, actually a science nerd at heart so he’d read it. And it had made sense.

“Hi, Harley, I’m Sally. I’ll be your music therapist, working with Dr Michaels.”

“Nice to meet you, miss.”

“Music is a way of expression,” she says, rehearsed. “It can manage help psychological, cognitive, emotional or physical thoughts through what we call the power of music, which is at the core of what we do in music therapy.”

“Yeah, I know, something to do with neurology, right?”

Sally smiles at him. “Exactly. Do you have any questions?”

“How does it work?”

“Do you play any instruments?”

“I play guitar,” he admits, begrudgingly, hesitantly.

He regrets it the second he says it, because she claps her hands together like he’s a child. “That’s great, Harley! Why don’t you play me something?”

He picks up the guitar. It’s an obviously worn and well-loved thing, the wood smooth from years of use. He gives it a cursory strum, adjusts the strings slightly when he picks up the dead G. Snaps the capo on the third fret.

Starts plucking the opening chords to Michigan.

He gets through the first verse without singing. But it’s one of his favourite songs, and the lyrics hit different when you’re angry and probably depressed like Harley is.

When it hurts, you’ll know, it’s the right thing,” rasps out almost involuntarily from his throat.

The slight jump the music therapist gives is enough indication that she wasn’t expecting it. Probably wasn’t expecting Harley to have a half-decent voice, either.

He remembers the first time he’d heard this playing. It’d been on the radio, and Harley had been washing dishes at the kitchen sink with the reckless abandon most thirteen-year olds have to things like household chores. His mom had been at the kitchen table, helping Abby with her homework after dinner. The radio was on just as background noise, until Harley had heard the guitar.

He remembers just standing there, letting his hands prune in the water and listening to the lyrics with something breaking on the inside, something falling eerily into place, something just making sense in a way he hadn’t felt before.

It had struck something in him then, as it does now, playing it in the four walls of this therapist’s office with something like catharsis etched in each word drawn from his throat.

“I think this is really going to help you, Harley,” Sally says, after, and Harley hates how much better he feels.

 


 

What surprises Harley the most isn’t how much the music helps, but it’s how he’ll sing all these fucking depressing songs each week in Sally’s office and somehow, thinking about keep your hands where I could see ‘em, what am I supposed to do now, without you, Dr Michaels never so much as mentions them, despite Sally reporting back to him.

But that’s how Harley starts singing. Kind of accidentally on purpose, when you really think about it.

 


 

Harley’s just turned seventeen a few months before when Tony says to him over email Hey bonehead, come visit for the summer in his usual commanding way. Turns out, as Harley learns once he’s actually there in Manhattan, that his mom had reached out and asked Tony for help.

It stings more than he’s willing to think about.

He thought things had been better. He still goes to Dr Michaels every week. Hasn’t seen Sally in a while—she gave him his homework and he dutifully emails her every couple of months to check in, tell her about whichever song he’s having trouble picking up the plucking pattern to, how it makes him feel, and everything else music therapy entails.

Evidently not, however, if the suitcase sitting on his bed in the Tower is anything to go by. It’s almost the end of August and he’s packing his shit up to go back home to Rose Hill. But something itches under his skin. 

Harley needs an escape. He can’t be in this building right now or he’ll go out of his mind and then where will any of them be but back at square one? The last year of therapy thrown out the window because his Ma decided to ship him off to New York for reasons between her and God and not shared with Harley at all.

“I’m going out,” he yells, breezing past Tony in his lab on his way.

He briefly sees Tony’s head shoot up from whatever he’s working on, a hand waving his direction. In the elevator FRIDAY tells him that Sir says not to stay out too late, and Harley snorts, because since when did Tony care about that kind of thing?   

He doesn’t have a destination in mind, doesn’t really care where he ends up so long as it’s not in a skyscraper with the name Stark plastered at the top of it with the reminder that the only reason Tony had asked him to visit was because of his mom. Just shoves his earphones in and walks and walks and walks until he’s nearly three hours away from Manhattan all the way in Queens.

Which is why, when he turns down the wrong street and sees a teenager getting harassed, he thinks oh, of course.

But Harley’s got anger management issues and a temper like the quick-snap of fire and his hands are already curling into fists, as he watches the group of guys crowd around the girl with increasingly worrying intensity.

“Hey!” He yells, grabbing their attention. “Why don’t you back off?”

“Why don’t you make us?” One of them yells back, and it’s enough of a distraction for Harley to move in closer, all six foot three of him intimidatingly tall, and the girl escapes to the side when Harley flicks his eyes to her.

Harley cracks his knuckles. “Yeah, okay.”

Everything boils back down to this—Harley, for all that he cares and for all the anger he has, bites off more than he can chew, most days.

He’s pretty sure he swings the first punch. Anything after that is a blur.

There’s more of them than he thought. This becomes painfully clear within five minutes, when he’s slumping down the side of the building with blood dripping from his nose and the metal taste of it in his mouth.

He doesn’t know how long he sits there, but eventually there’s a voice above him, clear and crisply New York. “Hey, buddy, are you okay?”

Harley rolls his head around, blinking his eyes open. Someone’s standing—kneeling—in front of him. There’s fingers on his jaw, pressing against—

Fuck,” he hisses as pain flares across the bridge of his nose. “Who’re you?”

It comes out slurred but even through his squinted eyes he can see pale blue scrubs and a long brown braid.

“I’m a nurse,” the lady says, sliding an arm around Harley’s shoulders. “Come on, let’s get you some help, hey?”

Harley can barely get to his feet, head spinning, but at some point between the both of them, they manage to make their way out of the alley and into the dipping sunlight.

“Where’re we going?” Harley has the sense to ask.

“My apartment isn’t far,” the lady explains. “Closer than the hospital, and I’ve got some gear there.”

He makes some agreeing sound, too busy focusing on putting on foot in front of the other. It takes them another five minutes until Harley’s being lugged up the stairs and through a doorway.

“Hi—May, what?” He hears, and looks up. “Is he okay?”

“Broken nose,” May replies—ah, that would explain the aching.  

Harley can’t quite think past the pain of his broken nose, but if he could, it’d be to think that the guy sliding off the kitchen counter in this random lady’s house is the cutest boy he’s ever seen.

And that’s how he meets Peter.

Not that he realises the significance of it then.

 


 

He gets back from New York and that Christmas, his present from Abby—his mom, because there’s no way Abby would’ve thought of something like this—is a camcorder. The card with it, admittedly written in Abby’s unmistakable eleven-year-old scrawl, says you should record your songs! and well, it’s not the worst idea Harley’s ever heard.

 


 

Peter Parker is the best thing to happen to him, if Harley’s being honest.

Harley’s used to being charming but he’s not used to the way they just click, instantly, despite the fact that Harley’s kind of bleeding all over the floor and looks a right mess. He’s pleasantly surprised when Peter messages him the day after and they end up trading social media accounts and falling into the habit of talking every day—you know, in that way that Harley’s only ever seen in movies, that falling in love, can’t get enough kind of way.

Then, of course, in true Parker style, Peter blurts out what Harley’s been thinking this entire time, and they get together and it’s everything Harley’s wanted and more, despite the distance that separates them.

Harley spends the rest of the year counting down to summer.

Does it every year over and over again, counting down the days until he’s back in New York and back in Queens and back with Peter. It becomes routine, marking the days off his desk calendar in bright red permanent marker. He can tell Tony’s suspicious. That first summer he’d spent most of it in the lab, working on the Iron Man suit or whatever project Tony thought need his particular touch of chaos. The following summers Harley’s almost never there—always ducks out every couple of days to ride the subway to Queens—but Tony never asks, and for that Harley’s beyond grateful.

He posts the Northern Wind video just shy of their first anniversary and wonders how simultaneously difficult and easy it was to keep the channel a secret. Probably helps that their separated by a few hundred miles, Harley thinks bitterly. Peter asks him, after Harley’s sent him the link out-of-the-blue and with no context, why he didn’t even mention it. Harley doesn’t really know. He’s told Peter about the doctor’s appointments and the music therapy but not about how uploading videos has been yet another outlet for his anger management, feels equal parts embarrassed and vulnerable at sharing that particular fact; hasn’t told Peter he’s in love with him yet but Northern Wind has been living in his head each time they’ve spoken this week, so.

Has a feeling that Peter knows, anyways.

 


 

It’s his boyfriend’s birthday and Tony’s just quote tweeted an account called @starkintern with the display name ‘P’ and Harley feels like the ground’s been taken out from underneath his feet.  

He gets over it fairly quickly—all things considered. It’s not like Harley hasn’t been keeping his own secrets. Namely, that he also knows Tony Stark. So, after he tells Peter who exactly he’s in New York for every summer—apart from him, of course—he suggests just not telling Tony.

At first he doesn’t expect Peter to go along with it. He almost doesn’t, if the hesitation on his face over the video chat is anything to go by. But then Harley mentions how he doesn’t really wany Tony knowing about them, to which Peter agrees, and how he thinks it’d be funny anyways, because the both of them know how hilariously offended he’ll get when he figures it out.

Turns out Tony doesn’t figure it out at all.

 


 

Harley returns to New York after the college year ends, meets Peter at Penn Station, and is struck with the sudden thought of I want to marry him one day.

That’s when he knows—he needs to talk with May.

Which of course means that May’s pulling a double shift at the hospital and won’t be home until the day after. Harley’s veritably bursting at the seams, with the need to ask her, to tell her. He can already tell Peter’s suspicious, but Harley’s had enough practice keeping his emotions under wraps not to let the cat out of the bag before need be.

So, when he finally corners May in the kitchen after Peter’s gone down to Delmar’s and she says, “Finally, Harley!” he’s completely floored.

“What?”

“Finally!” She repeats, grin wide across her face in that knowing way Peter’s always telling him about. “I knew from the moment you two met, you know?”

Harley feels like he’s missing something. “Knew what?”

“Peter hasn’t told you?” She asks, confusing Harley even more. “That night I found you in the alley—after you’d left—I said to Peter, that the both of you would get along like a house on fire.”

That’s true, he thinks. “Oh.”

“You really didn’t know?”

“No,” Harley shakes his head. “Peter’s never said.”

“That boy,” May says, with a tone Harley’s inclined to agree with. “Of course you’ve got my permission.”

“Oh, thank God,” he breathes out, because there was a moment there—a heart-stopping, time-rendering moment where he thought he was done for.

May looks at him, gentle, not dissimilar from all those nights ago when she found him in that alleyway, broken nose and all. “Ben would have approved, too, you know.”

Harley doesn’t admit it, but they both have tears in their eyes when May wraps him into a hug.

 


 

“Abby,” Harley pokes his head into his sister’s room, guitar in one hand and camera in the other. “You want in?”

“Hell yeah,” she says, jumping off her bed and following him to his usual filming spot outside.

Harley sets up the tripod with practiced ease and settles beside Abby with his back to the massive tree trunk that fell down during a storm a few years ago. They film a few takes, too busy laughing over their favourite line right in the middle—ran out of lipstick to put on the pig—that has them ruining at least three versions. Harley’s always loved singing with Abby. Reminds him of when they were little, and she’d fall asleep in his arms. Her voice is much like his, pitched higher, and their harmonies are rather awfully pretty, if Harley says so himself.

He has a habit of watching his videos back before he posts them; this time is no different.

They decide to cover The Last Song on Earth, because it feels fitting, privately, between the two of them. The Keener siblings everyone in Rose Hill knows about; the vanishing act for a father and the son with the anger issues and the sister too young to really remember any of it but having to deal with the consequences anyway and the mother who’s there but not really.

More so, now that Harley’s moving to New York in less than a week and Abby’s not-quite getting shipped off to their grandparents for the summer and probably longer.

So don’t rock me back to sleep, cause I’m wide awake,” they sing on screen, and Harley heart clenches, both at the memories it unearths and the way Abby smiles, softly, knowingly at him.

It inspires all kinds of melancholy in Harley. It’s not my job, but it might be my turn, to get up and put in the work. Harley used to be an angry kid—still is, for the right reasons—but good grief if there’s isn’t a chord struck in him now, watching him and Abby sing one of their favourite songs together and thinking they probably wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for everything that’s happened.

 


 

He posts the sweet dreams, tennessee video with nerves making knots in his stomach. Peter watches over his shoulder, his hand at the nape of Harley’s neck and fingers gently twined around his curls. The simple back and forth of his thumb across Harley’s skin is too much of a comfort for Harley to admit it.

Then Tony—finally filled in after all these years—makes the bet about being in a video together. So of course Peter’s the one who tweets out from @starkintern, much to Tony’s frustration and Harley’s amusement, and wins Harley the bet. 

It’s scary and thrilling at the same time, watching the views roll until the counter hit’s a million. It’s not his first video to go viral, but it’s the quickest. His subscriber count skyrockets, too, and Harley wonders how Tony and Peter both have dealt with the notifications and the tweets and the everything for so long.

Harley’s not entirely unaware, is the thing. He’s been picked up in the occasional paparazzi photo when he, Tony, and Pepper have gone out for dinner, a random internet article here or there speculating at his identity but nothing concrete. It’s hilarious, to think that a bunch of people on the internet that barely ever interacted—Harley’s fans and Peter’s followers are vastly different—figured it out faster than any journalist did. Especially when the media is so focused on Tony, ripping him to shreds one day and glorifying him the next.

He's walking through Manhattan a week later, on his way to the Tower, and wonders what their lives will be like now, now that everything’s out in the open.

Harley’s been to New York more times than he can count at this point, but now it feels different. He knows it’s different. Because he’s here to stay now, not here just for the summer, not here just for three months of stolen moments with Peter and keeping everything a secret from Tony.

New York isn’t New York without you, love, floats through his earphones, the Refs cover playing scarily in sync with his thoughts.

How true it is. Peter’s like the lodestone that calls him home, each and every summer. Harley doesn’t quite remember when he started thinking of Tennessee less and Peter more as home. Somewhere in between the late night-early morning blur of conversation or each summer than feels more enchanted than the last. Somewhere in between the way Peter looks at him through his computer screen and the playlist Harley keeps adding to that's titled ‘sunshine’ with a string of emoji’s so embarrassing they dare not be repeated here. Somewhere in between Harley falling in love him and Peter being gracious enough to return his feelings in kind.

Some day’s Harley doesn’t feel like he deserves any of it.  

How true it is.

 


 

Harley Keener ⚡️ ✔︎ @HarleyK
crossover of the century feat. @IRONMAN and @starkintern on my channel now!

peter ✔︎ @starkintern
@HarleyK
and i filmed a Q&A with @IRONMAN on harl’s channel! check it out, i think we gave tony a headache and/or an aneurysm

Tony Stark ✔︎ @IRONMAN
@starkintern you and Harley both are a headache AND an aneurysm.

Tony Stark ✔︎ @IRONMAN
Trust me, no one is as surprised than I am at how this ended up being how Peter’s identity was revealed.

Tony Stark ✔︎ @IRONMAN
You ever just wake up one day and find out both of your protégés have not only know each other but have been dating for four years and are also engaged or is that just me 🥴
💬 14.2K 🔁 265K ♥️ 839K 

Pepper Potts ✔︎ @PottsSI
@IRONMAN No, it’s definitely just you.
💬 34.2K 🔁 347K ♥️ 1.2M 

 


 

“Hey, sweet,” Harley says, the minute Peter walks through their front door.

“Hey,” his fiancé replies, the thought sending warmth through him, nodding at the guitar in Harley’s hands. “You filming?”

Harley plucks an errant pattern. “Not really, just thinking.”

Peter drops his backpack on the coffee table, walking around behind the couch on his way to the kitchen and stopping to press a kiss to Harley’s messy curls. Harley’s so far gone and completely useless, tips his head back against the couch in silent question. Peter answers with a soft, tender kiss to the corner of his mouth and a hand resting against his shoulder, fingers brushing the edge of Harley’s collar.

“What’re you thinking about?”

“Nothing in particular,” he says, because it’s true, just mindless thoughts floating around his head about everything and nothing at all.

“Harley.”

“Peter.”

“You want to sing about it?” Peter asks, and God, how did Harley get so lucky?

Their apartment is a glow with the soft gold of sunset, and Harley’s been slightly on edge all day with something he hasn’t been able to name. An intangible feeling, knotted and heavy in his lungs, an anchor at the base of his spine. There are rare days, where he gets like this—should probably talk to Dr Michaels about that—where it feels like the world’s ending but really it isn’t.

He’s beyond grateful that Peter even thought to ask, but no. Thinking about the lyrics for the song stuck in his head, the way the bridge goes gritty, the second verse. He’d really rather not.

“Go get your tea,” he says instead, shifting the guitar to lean against the lounge. “I’ll be here when you get back.”

Peter comes back, settles beside him with his knees curled into Harley’s side, and he thinks he can breathe easier with Peter here.

 




Harley flies back to Tennessee for Abby’s high school graduation, nearly three years since he left Rose Hill for New York. He doesn’t mind being back, not really. Not now. The worst part is that Peter wasn’t able to come, stuck in some stakeholder’s presentation at Stark for a project he worked on.

It’s his first night back, and it’s true, what some people say—the stars are more noticeable here, out in the open country sky. They glitter in the dark like diamonds and if Harley was any more of a romantic than he already is, he’d dig out his old camera gear and set up outside to film.

His decade old Gibson sits always as it does in the stand in the corner of his room. Harley couldn’t bear to take it with him, for some reason—taking it to New York felt wrong. He’s glad for it now, still sounds as rich as it did the day he bought it from the thrift store in the city when he fingers across the strings.

He settles on his bed with his back to the wall, guitar in his lap, sets his phone on the windowsill and opens his voice memos. Hits record.

Come rest your bones next to me, and toss all your thoughts to the sea,” he sings, softer than usual, missing Peter something awful. “I’ll pull up each of our anchors so we can get lost, you and me.”

“My heart is buried in Venice,” comes the chorus, and he almost trips over the lyrics when he thinks New York isn’t New York without you, love, with the same startling premonition of when he first moved to the city and was walking down the street.

The last chord echoes through the room. Harley, slightly melancholy and slightly proud, thinks about how far he’s come since rocking Abby to sleep in his arms and meeting Tony and starting therapy and falling in love with Peter; Peter, who’s made him a better person—not because of any influence, but because Harley’s wanted to, for him.

It’s far too late at night for Harley to be as sappy as he is, but alas. 

He sends the recording with a miss you, sweet, love you always and stays up for an hour half expecting Peter not to message him back. He’s almost asleep when his phone buzzes from where he’s thrown it down the bed, lighting up the room, once then twice.

love you, too, Peter replies. sweet dreams, tennessee.