The thing about Peter Parker – well, there’s a few things.
He’s got a lot of impulses, he’s a physical guy, whatever, it is what it is. It’s not too hard for a six-foot-tall superhero with his face and hair to get with a girl or a guy or a whatever, like, carnally. It’s not a stretch.
Here’s another thing, which, okay, maybe isn’t so uncommon either: all this fucking and such aside, it takes a lot for him to fall. Like, emotionally. Ever since – the thing he doesn’t like to mention, which is fine, he’s processed it and everything, he’s moved through it and grown, he just doesn’t want to fucking talk about it or think about it and that’s fine – ugh, okay, ever since Gwen – and, to be fair, before that really – he hasn’t, like… caught feelings. Had heart-eyes in a way that wasn’t mostly attached to his dick. (Not that he has heart-eyes on his dick, like, literally. It’s a figure of speech. Is it? His brain feels a little scrambled.)
So yeah, emotional gravitas, pangs of real bona fide yearning, or the softer version of that – don’t hit him too often. He’s not closed-off or afraid of intimacy or whatever, he’s not, he’s just – particular maybe. Choosy. Sometimes he thinks the button is broken.
Which is why it comes as a real fucking surprise – a surprise, even though it also feels like maybe the most natural easy thing in the world – when his goddamn alternate universe self steps out of a magic portal in this high schooler’s mom’s kitchen and the button, so to speak, gets mashed big time; plink plink plink go some lights in his brain, as blood makes itself known in his face and his limbs and, yeah.
A spidey sense, if you will. Pay attention, buddy. Something important’s about to happen.
Of course, to be fair, it doesn’t land right away as attraction. The guy waltzes out with his tentative voice and plain little jacket and all Peter knows is the feeling of a jolt, of holy shit, no way. He’s staring at the guy like he’s an image of the baby Jesus burned into a piece of toast, a long goopy alien stepping out of a UFO, but also not like those things at all.
There’s a dicey moment when they’re Spider-manning at each other over the dining room table, but then the guy – Parker – shoots his spider goo out onto Peter’s wrist to confirm who he is and Peter freezes, they meet each other’s eyes. Peter nods dumbly, Parker giggles a little, Peter leaps off the table towards him. It’s like they both just know.
Or at least, Peter knows. He can’t, after all, he reminds himself, read minds, even if the other guy is actually him. Except – except, what’s he talking about anyway, Peter doesn’t know shit, it’s really only just a sense, a vague sense, that. That what? That this wide-eyed guy with the biology teacher vibes is someone Peter has to bundle in his arms and protect, or maybe vice versa; that in any case he emanates a feeling that Peter hasn’t really felt since his Uncle Ben died: of, somehow, it doesn’t make sense, of home.
Like he’s home.
Peter feels a similar jolt for the kid, when he shows up, but it’s different, he’s a kid. Parker’s… not a kid. So it feels different.
Different. Interesting. Shit.
There’s villains to defeat, obviously, they’re all here for a reason. They putter around the fancy school lab and make small talk, while Peter becomes more and more aware, like a burner turned gradually up, that this feeling for adult-Parker is a, well, a Gwen-feeling. He’s trying to keep his fucking chill, and thinking thoughts like what the actual fuck and is this incest and could the feeling be, like, mutual?
No way. No fucking way. For one thing, this dude seems… highly functional. Calming. Has his shit together, while Peter’s three messes standing on each other’s shoulders in a trenchcoat.
Still – still! – Parker asks him, he fucking asks him, if he “has someone.” Peter normally hates that question, for a whole pile of reasons, but this time it makes his heart leap into his mouth, in a tentatively positive way, because why do you wanna know, handsome-little-alter-ego-of-mine? Peter answers in the negative, obviously, and shoots the question right back, and Parker mentions an MJ but also says, “It’s a little complicated,” stammering and blushing just enough for Peter to take it as a – not a no, at least. A maybe yes. Yes, you. Fine, okay. He’ll fucking take it.
What the hell.
Across the room, the kid has a moment with the girl he loves, his MJ, looking into each other’s eyes and touching each other’s faces and kissing a little. It’s something that would make Peter cringe or feel cynical and scathing at, in other moods, just you wait; but right now it hits some newly tender part of him and makes it more tender, like pressing a bruise. Fuck.
He tears his eyes away and moves his gaze to Parker, without exactly meaning to. Parker meets his eyes right back, then blushes, quickly ducking his head back to the tool he’s soldering together.
They go to meet the bad guys by the Statue of Liberty, which is being renovated to hold a big circular red-white-and-blue shield over her head, which is fucking weird, but whatever. She’s got the same Elvis face at least.
Parker’s in pain – just mild, run-of-the-mill, standard human body pain – but it’s enough to draw all Peter’s attention, like Parker’s a little old lady who just got her purse snatched. Gotta help gotta help. And that’s not the impulse that’s been driving his Spider-man swoopings round the neighborhood, not in a long while, so even though it’s a warm thing it hits like an electric shock.
He bounces on his toes. “You okay?”
It’s a back pain thing, they commiserate, Peter’s voice cracking a little. Parker lays his hand over his own chest, delicately, at an angle that has Peter thinking, he’s gotta like dudes a little, he’s just gotta.
“You want me to crack it?”
It doesn’t have to be sexual, he thinks. It can be literally anything. Still, the slide of spandex on spandex, and beneath that skin, muscle, bone, heat, hearts thudding from adrenaline – it fucking does something. It just does. Bodies bounce against each other, thump, thump, thump.
The air between vertebrae releases with a pop, a shift against his chest. Parker lets out a little choked out, “That’s good,” and Peter has to remind himself that they have a world to save, god dammit.
He lets go. “That was it?”
“Wow. That’s… that’s good.” Parker looks a little stunned. Peter sits down, on the scaffolding high above the water, and grins a huge grin, he can’t help it.
The kid’s the one to ask about Parker’s bodily orifices and the substances that may or may not shoot out of them. Peter wasn’t gonna say a damn thing.
Parker looks him square in the face and tells him he’s amazing. Fuck you, Peter thinks, you don’t even know me, but another part of him knows that that’s not true, or doesn’t matter.
“You are amazing. ” The guy, Peter Parker, says it like it’s a fact, like it’s so fucking obvious, face lit up under the scaffolding lights, and for the first time in a long while Peter gets a feeling like maybe he can believe it, too.
They fight the bad guys.
He tells the others he loves them, and they mumble back Thank you, but he’s not even worried about it, he knows what they mean.
They hug the kid goodbye, it’s tragic and beautiful, they’re a big old ball of golden love, all melted and goopy with it. He feels all soft, like a smooshed up bug.
The kid says bye, jumps away, and it takes until he’s zoomed off out of sight for Peter to realize that the two of them don’t really need to be standing here dazed with their arms wrapped round each other like this. He could, like, ease Parker down and prop him up against a big piece of debris or something, like they’d say in first responder class, instead of standing here swaying, breathing against each other. But he doesn’t, and here they are.
Peter worries though. “You do have the healing factor thing, right?”
“Yeah,” Parker pants. “I’m – I’ll be okay.”
Peter steadies his arm around Parker’s waist. “You got that goo knitting you up from the inside, huh?”
Parker blinks. “I what?”
“Your goo, you know, your sticky stuff.”
He wrinkles his nose. “Ugh, please don’t call it my goo.”
“Your, okay, what is it then? Your sticky wicky? Your spunk?”
Parker groans, and it feels playful, except he also sags a little harder over Peter’s shoulder, so Peter lets it go.
They breathe against each other.
“I guess we’re about to be sent back home,” Parker remarks, watching the sky light up orange and purple.
“I guess so,” Peter shrugs, and then as the implication hits there’s a spike of panic, which he forces down.
“So I guess this is goodbye for us, too,” Parker adds unnecessarily. Down, down. Peter digs his fingers into the skin over the guy’s hip, he can’t help it, and doesn’t say anything.
“You got a… you got a nice life, to go back to?” Peter snorts and turns to look at him, to answer, but whatever words there are get stuck in his throat, cuz Parker’s looking back with those fucking eyes, wide and earnest and knowing and, beneath all that, steely.
They’re so close. Should I fucking kiss him, Peter thinks wildly – it seems like the correct thing to do, the cinematic thing – but before he can work up the nerve Parker flaps his hand against Peter’s chest and points up at the sky.
“We don’t know how this works,” he says softly.
“Uh,” Peter licks his lips, “they said, he presses the button and we all go back to where we-”
“No, I mean, like. Don’t you think we could have any agency in all this?”
Peter frowns. “That’s – that’s not how –”
“ – magic works?” Parker finishes with a small smile. Peter frowns deeper. “You sure about that?”
Peter shrugs, mouth suddenly dry.
“So maybe – I dunno, I just mean, if you wanted,” Peter’s heart races, Parker sounds perfectly calm, “maybe we could….”
“Hold on tight, don’t let go?”
Parker smiles again, a nervous little thing. “Something like that.”
Peter breathes fast – it feels like a pretty big deal, his life, his whole fucking – but that’s what the kid’s doing, isn’t it? Starting over? It’s not losing everything, he’s got himself, he’s got his brain and everything he’s ever experienced, every mistake he’s ever made, and someone who… and worse comes to worst, he can always strike out on his own, there’ll be a whole world to explore, wherever he goes.
There’s yellow bursts of light in the early morning sky, high up above, as former bad guys get beamed away to their old homes, different now.
Peter leans against the other Spider-man. The other Spider-man leans against him.
“Hold on,” Peter repeats slowly, and he’s not sure if it’s an order, a plea, a promise, or what. He looks up into the sky and holds on tight and waits for the light to blast them away to another world.