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Trying To Rule The World I See

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Peter glanced up when Tony cleared his throat, the jump in his pulse the only reason he actually set down his project and paid full attention to him.

 

"Kid," Tony said, his face beginning to furrow before smoothing out. "There's someone I wanted to invite up here," he said, watching as Peter raised an eyebrow. He winced at the look, reaching up to tap on his arc reactor, the familiar motion soothing his nerves. He coughed, waiting for Peter to look back at him instead of watching his fingertips. "I met him a while ago," Tony began. "He lives in Tennessee." To Tony's surprise, Peter brightened, a grin spreading across his face.

 

"Are you talking about Harley?" He asked, his hands flexing in front of him. "From Rose Hill?"

 

"Yeah," Tony said, surprised, before narrowing his eyes. "How the fuck do you know that name?"

 

Peter waved off his look of concern. "Pepper gave me his number a while back, said something about Harley being a good influence on you."

 

"And you just, what, reached out?" Tony said, baffled.

 

"Well, yeah," Peter said, unaware of the sense of impending doom Tony was feeling. "I figured if Pepper thought he was fine, he couldn't be too bad, so we just started talking."

 

Tony breathed out, sitting down abruptly in MJ's claimed seat. "So you two get along?" He asked, distantly wondering if he could hear the apocalypse coming or if it was just his high blood pressure.

 

"Duh, Mr. Stark," Peter said, rolling his eyes. "He could hotwire a car at ten, of course, we got along."

 

***

Three Months Ago

 

hi!! this is Peter Parker, Ms. Potts gave me ur number, she said u kno mr. stark??

2:27 pm

 

who the fuck is peter parker

7:14 pm

 

i'm kinda mr starks intern

7:15 pm

 

bully for you mr parker

7:21 pm

 

oh i'm not an adult, srry that i didn't make that clear!!

7:23 pm

okay in hindsight i realize this is weird, like super weird

7:26 pm

 

you're telling me?

I just got some rando texting me and saying that they know Pepper

Like hell i'm just gonna believe that

7:38 pm

 

that's fair

I mean, i am his intern but yeah

7:40 pm

wait, this is harley keener, right

9:56 pm

 

 

***

Current Day

 

Pepper looked up, her expression smooth until she saw who was standing in her doorway. "Tony," she said, surprised. "Is everything alright?"

 

Tony blinked at her, almost stumbling through the doorway. He waved her off when she tried to get up, the door shutting smartly behind him. She raised an eyebrow at his panicked look, readying herself to have to deal with whatever mishap Tony was bringing to her now.

 

"Pep," he finally said, after the concern in her gaze had sharpened to a menacing look. "Are you trying to kill me?"

 

She leaned back, keeping her surprise neatly tucked away, running through the list of things she had accomplished in the past week. "No?" She said, her voice uncertain. "Why? What's happened now?"

 

Tony stared at her, shaking his head, completely oblivious to how the quick motion has smeared black grease from his hairline across his forehead. "You just had to do it," he muttered, almost glaring at her. "You just had to introduce Parker and Keener, didn't you?"

 

Pepper rolled her eyes, relaxing completely. "You're blowing this out of proportion," she said, turning back to her paperwork.

 

"No," Tony said, standing, his eyes wild. "You have no idea what you've done."

 

 

***

Three Months Ago

 

I've traced this to a NY ip address

say I believe you, do you have any proof

3:14 am

 

i dont have any now but i can ask ms potts

later i mean

im not gonna txt her rn, yk?

3:37 am

 

Why the fuck are you up

3:42 am

 

i could ask u the same, buddy

3:44 am

 

don't call me buddy

But

touché

3:53 am

 

***

Pepper hid her smile as Peter slid into the kitchen cautiously. Even though he had stayed over before, he still acted as though everything was a surprise to him, from his own bedroom to the fact that he was allowed to eat anything from the kitchen. He smiled at her, turning to the cupboard to grab a box of cereal and sit down next to her.

 

They sat in silence for a few moments, Peter taking the time to fully wake up before he turned to her. "Pep," he said softly. "What's something you know about Harley and Mr. Stark that no one else knows?"

 

Pepper took a sip of her tea, lifting her gaze from the tablet in front of her. "Harley made a potato gun and shot Tony with it," she said, grinning at the look of shock on Peter's face. "I believe he also called him The Mechanic."

 

"He shot him with a potato gun?" Peter spluttered. Pepper nodded serenely, taking another sip of her tea. Peter shook his head. "That's… kinda crazy."

 

"That's Harley," she said as if that should have cleared up the confusion. "That's just how he is."

 

***

 

u made a potato gun????

7:31 am

 

why  are you up so early

9:13 am

 

that doesnt matter

u shot mr stark with a potato gun?????

9:14 am

 

lol, yeah, good times

9:16 am

 

so u believe me now

Rite

9:21 am

 

uh, jury's still out

9:24 am

 

what???? why????

if it helps, u call him the mechanic

(according to pep)

9:26 am

 

send me a selfie with pep and I'll believe you

9:26 am

 

Done!!

9:27 am

 

***

 

"Can we take a selfie?" Peter asked, glancing up across the living room at Pep. "Harley says he'll only believe me with a selfie with you in it."

 

"Sure," Pepper said, looking up and smiling at him. "But don't forget you should go get dressed soon. May will be here to pick you up and we're going to brunch when she comes."

 

Peter nodded, before holding up the phone and snapping a few pictures with the two of them in it. He settled back in, shifting through them before deciding on the first one where Pepper was smiling, curled up in the couch, her hair pulled back but loose tendrils curling around her face. She looked content, a mug of tea at her side, a thick gray blanket over her legs, and a book in her lap. Peter was in the bottom half of the picture, his brown eyes and curls the only part of his face that was visible. It was clear though, that he was smiling, the corners of his eyes crinkled up and the bridge of his nose furrowed.

 

Pepper looked up again, watching Peter. "Pete," she said, a fond look on her face. "Send me all of those." Peter nodded, smiling at her before getting re-absorbed into his phone.

 

***

 

Photo Sent

see, that's me and Pep!!

9:32 am

 

huh, well, I'll be damned

that is you and pep

9:34 am

 

so we can start chatting!!

what do you like to do??

9:36 am

 

I'm a mechanic, i like to make things

9:37 am

 

can you teach me how to make a potato gun

9:38 am

 

this is going to be quite a partnership, isn't it parker

9:39 am

 

hellllllllllllllllll yeahhhhhhhhhhh

9:40 am

 

***

 

"Who are you texting?" Ned asked over the din of the cafeteria, watching Peter out of the corner of his eye. Peter hummed in response. Ned sighed, reaching over and poking him in the side. "Who are you texting?"

 

"Oh," Peter said, sliding his phone into his pocket. "Harley," he said, rolling his eyes at the face Ned made. "He's teaching me how to make a potato gun."

"Did you just say someone is teaching you how to make a potato gun?" Betty said, pausing at their table in the lunchroom, her face impassive. Peter nodded slowly, a questioning look on his face. "Fuck," Betty said, shaking her head. "That's pretty cool." She turned to go, throwing a wave over her shoulder.

 

MJ sighed from across from them, looking up from her book. "It's a miracle you ever kept the secret as long as you did," she said, neatly sliding a bookmark into her place. "Seriously, Parker," she said. "A miracle."

 

"Good thing I have you two watching my back?" Peter tried, looping his ankle with Ned's underneath the table and extending a hand across the table. Ned and MJ shared a look rife with fond exasperation. Peter pouted at them and then grinned when MJ slid her hand in his. "Love you," he said, his eyes sparkling.

 

"Ditto," MJ said, squeezing once before going back to her book. Ned elbowed him and nodded, his eyes crinkling up in the corner. Peter beamed, swooping in to dash a kiss across Ned's face, picking his phone back up and sighing contentedly, his ankle wrapped a little bit tighter around Ned's.

 

***

 

and by then, the velocity will be so great that it should be able to smash through glass

1:47 pm

sometimes i hate this town

10:34 pm

 

are u okay?

do you need me to get mr stark?

10:36 pm

 

oh, shit, sorry, this was meant for Abbie

10:37 pm

 

whose abbie?

10:38 pm

 

uh, she's my little sister

10:45 pm

 

wow, you have a younger sister???

what's that like????

10:47 pm

 

uh - annoying?

10:51 pm

 

oh, idk, it's just me

10:54 pm

 

well, the basics of siblings

I mean if you want to know?

11:03 pm

 

yes, plz!!!!!

(im assuming it isnt like the movies)

11:04 pm

 

some of them are, I think?

life without mental illness must be nice

11:07 pm

 

lol

11:08 pm

 

in my instance, with Abbie - we hate each other most days

And on the days that we don't it's cause we hate Rose Hill even more

11:11 pm

 

that-

idk really how to take that

11:12 pm

 

I'd kill for her and vice versa

we just sometimes don't get along, and that's okay

11:14 pm

 

thats pretty nice tho

to always know that someone has ur back

11:16 pm

 

Yeah, it is.

11:17 pm

 

***

 

Peter ducked his head when he saw Mr. Stark exiting the elevator doors. "Fri, please shut this down and save it," he hissed, scrubbing at his eyes. He shot a smile at the ceiling when she listened immediately, failing to hide the grin when Tony shot him a suspicious look. "Hi, Mr. Stark!" Peter said cheerfully. "What'd you do today?"

 

Tony gave him a long look before glancing around the lab, his eyes narrowed. "I had some meetings with Pep, squirt." He rolled his eyes at Peter's protests at the nickname. "What are you up to? Where are you better halves?"

 

"Ned had to go do something at home and MJ was volunteering this afternoon," Peter explained. "I asked to go with her and she told me that I wasn't allowed to." He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair, looking like a pouting toddler. "It's because last time I accidentally spill a whole thing of dog food all over the place."

 

Tony held in a snort, nodding along. "Well, that's not that bad," he said, before gesturing to the lab. "We do worse stuff here."

 

Peter bit the inside of his cheek before sighing an elaborating. "It was wet dog food, Mr. Stark, and I spilled it across myself and my old laptop." He sighed. "It was the best laptop I ever had."

 

"What?" Tony said, frowning at him. "What about your new one?"

 

"My new one?" Peter repeated confusion splashed across his face. "What new one?"

 

Tony groaned, pointing at the back table. "I put a bunch of laptops back there and told you guys to take one."

 

"Yeah," Peter said, slowly, his eyes flickering between Tony and the laptop in front of him. "We use them in the lab."

 

Tony shook his head. "No, Pete, they were for you three." Peter blinked at him, as Tony scrubbed a hand over his face. "Please, dear lord, take them."

 

"Oh, I can't do that, Mr. Stark," Peter said. "It's too much."

 

"Kid-" Tony sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "If you don't take it now, it will just show up at your apartment, and that will be embarrassing for both of us but mostly you."

 

Peter looked down, reaching out to trace his finger over the keys of the laptop in a moment of contemplation. "Deal," he said, smiling shyly at Tony. "I still think it's too much."

 

Tony waved a hand at him, turning back to his lab bench, all thoughts of figuring out what Peter had been up to swept to the side. "It's no biggie," he said, cracking his fingers and picking up his blow torch.

 

Behind him, Peter grinned, his eyes bright as he sent a wink to Friday, the folder in front of him slowly re-opening to show the basic outlines of a potato gun.

 

***

 

what's rose hill like?

9:47 pm

 

boring

what's ny like?

10:13 pm

 

busy

a good home though

a fun place to live i guess

10:21 pm

nothing like the movies tho

y???

10:27 pm

 

idk, why'd you as about rose hill?

10:28 pm

 

cuz ive never left ny

it sounds dif

10:31 pm

 

alright city boi

10:32 pm

 

i no u cant see it but i rolled my eyes

10:35 pm

 

I mean I assumed

10:36 pm

 

when u assume u make an ass out of u and me

10:37 pm

 

and yet i was still right

10:38 pm

 

touché

10:40 pm

 

***

 

"Psst, hey," someone hissed at Peter as he walked by the double doors leading from the gym.

 

Peter turned around, his face already set in a mask of confusion. "Flash?"

 

Flash nodded, his face vaguely disgusted. "Someone spilled pig intestines all over the floor in Mrs. G's class and the smell is awful, MJ sent me to tell you to skip, something about olfactory senses?" He shook his head, sending another glance around before reaching out and snagging Peter's wrist, tugging him after him.

 

Peter contemplated for a moment, the ease at which he could wrench his hand back, the way he could break from the grip like it wasn't even there like it was completely inconsequential. Instead, he took a shuddering breath, suddenly grateful for the usual gross but bearable smells of the gym locker rooms, and let Flash pull him somewhere.

 

Instead of walking down the hall like they were not breaking rules, Flash was ducking in and out of shallow doorways, glancing about in the most suspicious manner which wasn't helped by Peter just standing next to him, shrugging and grinning at the looks the two of them were getting.

 

Flash huffed as he pulled them to a stop before the auditorium, cracking the door open and yanking Peter through. "You know-" He began before cutting himself off as he made his way to the audio booth in the back.

 

"What?" Peter said, following sedately behind.

 

Flash flushed, the red visible even in the dim lights. "Nothing, Parker."

 

Peter shrugged, patting him on the shoulder as he walked through the door into the booth. "If you had wanted to be stealthy, that was not the way to do it."

 

"Peter!" Cindy cheered from where she was spinning in her chair. "Nice job Flash!"

 

"Wait," Peter said, furrowing his brows and glancing at the door. "I thought you said MJ sent you."

 

"MJ did," Abe said, as he wandered in through the door. "She told us all to bring you here."

 

"All of you?" Peter asked, narrowing his eyes at Betty who grinned back, completely unrepentant. "Are you sure about that?"

 

"Yeah," Charles answered, prodding at the buttons on the soundboard and ignoring Sally's vague swats at him. "I think she wanted to see if we all would listen."

 

"I mean," Cindy said, stopping her spinning chair and making a face. "It's MJ, we'd be dead if we didn't follow her orders, and she has a superhero at her command."

 

"I wouldn't kill you guys because MJ told me to," Peter said weakly, sitting on a folding chair and dropping his backpack to the ground beside him.

 

Sally and Betty exchanged a look before Betty turned to Peter. "It's cute that you think MJ needs you to kill us dead."

 

"She told me the name of every person who lives in my house when I asked her if she needed my name at AcDec," Charles said, his tone admiring. Abe laughed, ignoring the dirty look Charles shot him as he continued. "Women who can kill me are my favorite type."

 

"If you group women into types again Charles," MJ said, standing in the doorway. "I will know." She said nothing else, just staring at him for another moment until Charles looked away.

 

"Don't do it," Ned advised, making his way past her and sitting down next to Peter. "When'd you get here Pete?"

 

Peter shrugged, pointing at Flash. "He dragged me here in the weirdest way possible," he said. "But almost everyone else was here."

 

Abe nodded. "I came in after them and it was because I wanted to see just how many weird looks Flash would get when he went about his 'stealth mode'."

 

"That wasn't-"

 

"Yes, it was," Abe said, snickering. "My personal fave part was when Peter just stood next to you smiling at the looks he was getting."

 

Flash flushed, ducking his head at the looks everyone shot him. "I wanted it to be like-" he cut himself off, sighing deeply. "Nevermind."

 

"Wait, what did you want it to be like?" Peter asked, curiously, ignoring the look MJ was giving him. Flash looked up, his eyes narrowed like he thought Peter was making fun of him.

 

MJ clapped, the noise disrupting the tension that was building. "Alright," she said. "I'm sure you are wondering why I gathered you all here today."

 

"Actually," Cindy said, leaning back and slouching in her chair. "Yes, we are, O Fearless Leader."

 

MJ rummaged around in her bag for a moment before withdrawing flashcards. "Let's go losers," she said, a sly grin on her face as everyone groaned. "Just because we're skipping doesn't mean we aren't learning."

 

***

 

how was ur day??

3:13 pm

 

fine, the usual

why? how was your day?

4:56 pm

 

someone spilled pig guts in bio

so we skipped

4:58 pm

don't tell mr stark

4:59 pm

 

i like that i have blackmail material already

whose we?

5:00 pm

 

well, i thot it was gunna be me n mj n ned originally

but then the acdec core 6 were there so

5:03 pm

 

i have no idea who any of those people are

what's acdec?

5:04 pm

 

ned n mj are my partners

acdec is academic decathlon

like a team that competes on facts?

5:07 pm

 

i know what an academic decathlon is, parker

5:08 pm

 

well, ok then mr smartypants

and the core 6 are my closest school friends!!

5:10 pm

their names are flash, cindy, sally, abe, charles, and betty, btw

5:17 pm

 

interesting

7:34 pm

 

what's interesting?

9:17 pm

 

 nothing

9:18 pm

 

I mean its clearly somethin

9:19 pm

it's not the ned and mj thing is it?

9:23 pm

 

What? No!

9:26 pm

just the whole group of friends thing

9:28 pm

also, it def would not matter to me, i'm bi

just so we're clear

9:31 pm

 

oh thank god, ngl was kinda worried

just cuz some people were not so good w it in the past

9:34 pm

 

did you kick their asses

9:35 pm

 

lol, no, ofc not, like I could anyways!!!!!!!

9:37 pm

 

uh-huh.

9:38 pm

Chapter Text

"You've been busy on that phone for a few weeks, haven't you?"

 

Harley looked up from his StarkPhone, taking in his mom's worn jeans and tired face before hopping off the couch and helping her unload the groceries she was carrying.

 

"If you need more help around the house, Mama, just let me know."

 

She shook her head, her gaze fond as she cupped his chin. Harley shifted, as always, a little bit uncomfortable with the knowledge that he was taller than her. "No, no, baby," she said, releasing him to turn back to putting everything away. "You're doing plenty of work, don't worry about it."

 

Harley nodded but fell quiet the two of them steadily putting away the groceries, their movements smooth and familiar from years of the same motions.

 

Harley could feel his phone buzzing gently in his pocket, Peter no doubt texting him about how the first demonstration of the potato gun had gone. Somehow, and Harley truly did not know how, Tony hadn't picked up on the fact that it was the same one Harley had made.

 

Peter had texted him, the confusion clear even in writing, about how Tony could be so smart in some ways and so dumb in others. Initially, Peter had wanted to tell him that they were texting, but as days turned to weeks, and the month had slipped by, and Tony still had not picked up on it, they both had become completely obsessed with seeing how long they could go without him picking up on it.

 

Harley grinned to himself, slotting the last of their groceries inside the cupboard before casting a gaze over his shoulder at his mom. She was sitting in the kitchen, her head in her hands. "Mama?" Harley asked, slowly turning around to face her. "Are you all right?"

 

She sighed, lifting her face to look at him. "Of course I am," she said, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. "Just thinking about everything."

 

"Everything?" Harley echoed, a frown on his face. "What do you mean?"

 

For a long moment, neither moved, Harley staring at her as she watched him just as closely. Their standoff was broken by Abbie bouncing into the room, a bright grin on her face. "Ooo," she said, her eyes landing on the blueberry muffins on the counter. "I love those," she said, making a beeline for them as Harley slid to the side.

"Abbie Grace," their mom said, her voice stern. "You will ruin your appetite. Do not take a muffin."

 

"But Mama," Abbie whined, turning her big eyes on her. "I want one now."

 

"No," she said, shaking her head. "Absolutely not."

 

Harley snorted as Abbie began whining again, pushing off from the worn counter and heading back to the living room couch before sighing and heading for his room instead. He shut the door behind him gently, abruptly cutting off Abbie's rising voice. He sighed again, shaking his head fondly but relaxing into the peace and quiet of his room.

 

Across from him, his laptop chirped, the sound familiar after a month of talking to Peter. Harley grinned to himself, striding across the room as he tugged his phone out of his pocket, new ideas already flying through his brain.

 

***

 

Peter scowled at the book, before turning to MJ. "Are you sure I need to know this?" He asked the question ending in a whine. MJ squinted at him, her gaze unimpressed. Peter sighed again. "Do I have to?"

 

"Come on," Ned said, laughter clear in his voice, even as he tried to keep a straight face. "It's critically important."

 

"No, it isn't," Peter muttered to himself, his scowl still fixed on his face. "I don't need to know how to cook." He stared down at the stovetop in front of him, the charred remains of his second attempt stuck to the bottom of the pan.



"Peter," Ned said, glee still in his voice. "She just wants you to make eggs without burning the shit out of them." Peter shot him a glare as he tipped the destroyed pan into the sink, steam rising up as he turned the faucet on. Ned tilted closer to MJ. "Is it bad that I'm glad he's bad at something?"

 

MJ shook her head, her gaze fond. "Nah, Parker's gotta be shit at something, otherwise he's too perfect." She turned to Ned, brushing a kiss across his mouth as Peter huffed in the background, muttering about the unfairness of his life before the water shut off. "Come on," MJ said, rolling her eyes as she turned back to him. "It's a simple application of heat-" She stopped talking, raising an eyebrow at the sight of the empty kitchen.

 

Beside her, Ned sighed and slid off the counter stool. "I'll check the lab? You take his room?" MJ nodded, the grin tugging at her mouth even through her irritation. Ned patted her on the shoulder. "Sometimes I feel like he's a toddler, you know?"

 

"A toddler with superpowers," MJ said dryly.

 

Ned looked gleeful for a moment before coughing and schooling his face into something more appropriately stern. "Right, and that's bad."

 

MJ rolled her eyes again, turning from the common room kitchen and heading down the hallway, Ned heading for the elevator. "Friday," MJ said. "Is Peter in his room?"

 

"No, Ms. Jones," Friday responded.

 

MJ arched an eyebrow at the name. "In the few moments that Peter's been missing, he's asked you to call me Ms. Jones?" She stopped in the hallway, her gaze on the ceiling.

 

"Yes, Ms. Jones," Friday said. "He has also told me to tell you,  'Na na, boo-boo' and that he will find you when you stop making him cook and that you will never find him."

 

MJ sighed, a small smile on her face. "Friday, has he forbidden me from asking where he is?"

 

"He has forbidden me from telling you where he is, yes."

 

"Can you tell him that it's on and that I'm going to find him in under ten minutes?" Friday murmured an affirmative. "Now," MJ continued. "I need Harley Keener's phone number." In her pocket, her phone beeped, signaling the new contact. "Thank you Friday," MJ said, slipping her phone out, her fingers already flying across the screen.

 

***

 

this is mj, peter's gf

i need you to ask him what he's up to

3:42 pm

 

what

why would i do that

3:43 pm

 

i have 10 mins to find him

he wont cook

3:43 pm

 

so this is about making him do stuff he doesn't want to??

wait, how did you even get this number

3:45 pm

 

Friday, stark's ai

if she hadn't given it to me, I would've texted Pepper

3:46 pm

 

why do you think i would be the best bet

3:46 pm

 

bc he's def thought against us asking stark

or Friday or Pepper

and he needs to know how to make eggs without burning them

3:47 pm

 

fair enough

and he isn't in the lab?

3:48 pm

 

no, ned checked

3:48 pm

 

wait, it just processed for me that you're dating him

3:49 pm

he's in the gym

3:50 pm

 

excellent

if you're lying to me to help him

i will find you

3:50 pm

also: re: dating-

and?

3:51 pm

 

and you're just as scary as he always said

3:51 pm

 

found him, thanks for your help keener.

3:52 pm

 

you're welcome

3:53 pm

wait, how do you know my last name

5:37 pm

 

***

 

Peter huffed, his face set in a fake grimace. "I can't believe you found me this afternoon." The three of them sat on the couch in the common room, limbs twisted together as they looked out over the city, dusk setting in.

 

MJ shrugged, a grin on her face. "Once Keener told me where you were it was easy to figure out where in the gym you would be."

 

"Also," Ned put in, "Finding you on the ceiling is no longer the surprise it once was." Peter scrunched up his nose, sighing before Ned turned to MJ. "And I want to talk to Harley now!"

 

MJ raised an eyebrow. "Ask Peter for it." Ned spluttered at her and she shrugged again, her face shadowed. "It was an emergency, I needed to win."

 

"Needed to win?" Peter whined. "No, you didn't."

 

MJ turned her gaze to his, her face serious. "You told Friday to call me, Ms. Jones, and then told her to tell me 'na na boo boo' like we're toddlers."

 

Peter grinned at her, his teeth flashing in the dim light. "I heard that comment you two made."

 

"And I play to win," MJ said, grinning back at him. "I don't lose to children."

 

"Hey!" Ned protested. "I just want Harley's number too, don't lump me in with the children comment."

 

MJ squinted at Peter, suddenly suspicious. "Now that I think about it, he did just do what I asked very quickly."

 

Peter shrugged, fighting a smile. "I might've told him that you were going to try to contact him when I disappeared." He peeked at MJ from the side of his eyes, watching as she gaped at him. He nodded at her, his smug smile breaking out quickly over his face at her surprise. "We had been trying to cook for so long, I was bored and it was a nice distraction."

 

"So the- the web-shooter session in the gym," Ned said slowly, looking between the two. "You planned that?"

 

"Also," MJ spluttered, her hand lashing out lightning-quick to grab his wrist. "What's this 'we' in the cooking? You were trying and failing!"

 

Peter flipped his wrist up, breaking her grip easily, only to slide his hand into hers. "Come on, it was still a joint effort, at the very least!"

 

"It was not!" MJ said, her voice getting louder, even as humor flashed in her eyes. "I- I can't believe you've done this," she said, staring at him.

 

Peter shrugged again, smiling at her. "Well, now you have Harley's number like you've wanted to for weeks." MJ rolled her eyes as Ned let out a huff. "And it's on your phone too, Ned," Peter added, grinning at the shout Ned let out as he lunged for his phone. "I figured all three of us could harass him now."

 

***

Peter has invited Michelle, Ned, and Harley to a group chat.

Ned has changed his name to Guy In The Chair.

Guy In The Chair has changed his name to GITC.

GITC has changed Peter's name to BugBoi.

BugBoi has changed his name to Peter.

Michelle has changed her name to MJ.

 

Harley: what the fuck is this

 

Peter: Harley, you came!!!

 

MJ: it's a gc dumbass, ofc he came

 

Peter: don’t be mean to me

 

GITC: hi harley!! i'm Ned, peter's bf, i don't think we've met before

 

Harley: hi ned, it's nice to meet you

 

MJ: I have a bone to pick with you, keener

 

Harley: how the fuck do you know my last name

 

Peter: pep told us. was she not supposed to?

 

Harley: well what are your last names

            just so it's fair

 

Peter: mine's parker!

 

MJ: mine begins with a j and that's all you're getting from me

 

GITC: mines Leeds!!!

 

MJ: anyways, back to the important thing

      you knew parker was a setup?

 

Harley: uh, yeah, I just said, 'hey mj wants to know where you are' and he told me

            it was weird to me that you didn't ask anyone else

 

MJ: oh, I did, Friday refused to help me and I knew stark would have also been no help

 

GITC: don't be mean about mr. stark, he literally let us destroy his kitchen today

 

Harley: why

 

Peter: >:( mj said I needed to learn how 2 cook

 

MJ: your texts are giving me hives

 

Peter: good

 

GITC: diabolical

 

Peter: anyways I want us all to be friends

          you’re all friends now, no questions

 

MJ: I have a question

 

Peter: no

 

Harley: oh this is going to be terrible, I can tell.

 

***

 

"Harley?" His mom knocked on his door. "Harley darling, I need to talk to you about something."

 

"Something serious, Mama?" Harley asked, cracking open his door to let her in. "Cause I didn't do anything to anyone."

 

She huffed a laughed, brushing a hand over his head. "No, sweetheart, this is more about you and your future."

 

Harley stopped moving, spinning in place to pin her with a look. "What do you mean?"

 

"I mean," she sighed, gesturing around the room as she came further in and sat on his rickety twin bed. "What- do you want something more than this?"

 

Harley furrowed his brow, frowning. "Not more than you and Abbie," he said slowly. "What's this about?"

 

His mom sighed again, looking around the room for a minute, taking in the worn comforter, the second-hand furniture, the out-of-place state-of-art Stark laptop, before her gaze landed squarely back on Harley. "Tony has offered you a place in New York for a little bit," she said. "He wanted you to move in permanently, but I did say no to that."

 

"Permanently?" Harley echoed. "That's fucking dumb."

 

"Harley," she scolded, a faint smile on her tired face. "It was a very kind offer. But," she amended. "He didn't seem to understand that you do have school down here. I had to explain that to him far more than I expected and I still don't think that he got it." Harley snorted, rolling his eyes. "However," she continued. "I did agree for you to go up for the spring break, just, just to try it."

 

Harley blinked at her, shifting backward to lean on his desk. "Why?"

 

"I thought you might like to go and see him again," his mom said. "And I know you've made some sort of friend through him." Harley raised his eyebrows at her, smirking at her muttered, "and I know how hard that it for you sometimes. But anyway," she continued, absentmindedly spinning her watch around her wrist. "I think it would be good for you."

 

Harley said nothing, watching her for a long moment. "But," he said quietly. "What if I go and it's nothing like I thought?"

 

"Then you come home and you're disappointed but you know," she answered equally as quiet.

 

Harley dropped his gaze. "But what if I go and it's better than here?"

 

"Oh sweetheart," his mom said, pushing up from the bed and sweeping him into a bracing hug. "That's always a risk," she said. "But I promise you, Abbie and I are with you every step of the way, no matter where you are."

 

***

this might be super insensitive

so if i cross a line, let me know

but r u apart of the dead parents club

11:37 pm

 

Wow

no, my dad just uhhh thought he could win the lottery

he decided that the best way to do that was to get rid of dead weight

((me))

11:42 pm

 

shit dude

im sorry

11:43 pm

 

yeah

It's been years, i'm mostly over it

11:45 pm

wait, why?

11:57 pm

 

i wanted to make club cards for me and mr stark

and I wanted 2 no if u needed any

but since you dont need them

I wont

12:03 am

 

why

actually more like is that a good idea

12:05 am

 

 

no

not at all

i just want him to use it in a meeting with the rogues

like, anytime someone says something

he has an out

12:07 am

 

like a literal card

that says 'Dead Parents Club'

12:08 am

 

yeah!!!

12:09 am

 

that's a choice

12:10 am

 

a good 1!!

12:10 am

 

hm, not so sure about that

12:13 am

 

ï'm gonna do it

1:43 am

 

***

 

"Why did Harley text me at 12 am that you were going to make a card about being an- an orphan, and give it to Stark?" MJ asked as she dropped into her customary chair next to Peter in English. Peter groaned, twisting his head to halfheartedly glare at her. MJ arched an eyebrow. "Okay then," she said, turning to face the front of the class. "I won't ask."

 

Peter groaned again, leaning forward onto his elbows in an attempt to catch her eyes. "It's- it's not like that," he said, before dropping his voice to a murmur. "I just- I want to be able to protect him, like- like how he protects me."

 

MJ turned back to him, her brow furrowed. "And you think the best way to do it is to make him a card-carrying-orphan-club card."

 

"When you say it like that it sounds bad," Peter muttered, dropping his eyes to his paper and scribbling out his latest attempt. "Just- nevermind."

 

"Hey," MJ said, reaching out and gently pressing her fingertips into his pulse point on his wrist. "Stop, I didn't mean to make it sound like I did."

 

"Yeah?" Peter asked, peeking up at her from behind his eyelashes.

 

"Yeah," MJ said softly. "I can help you design it if you really want me to."

 

Peter gave her a soft smile. "Thanks, MJ. It- it means a lot."

 

MJ smiled back before turning back to the board, fighting back the bigger smile that threatened to break out when Peter slipped his hand into hers, as Ms. Gardner began to speak about their class lesson for the day.

 

***

do you think I should come to ny?

4:18 pm

 

Hell yeah!!!

why wouldn't I?

4:20 pm

 

I don't know

It makes me nervous

4:23 pm

 

the city?

4:33 pm

 

yeah

Like, what if i made it into something it isn't

and then i go and it's nothing like what I expected

or worse - it is

and then I don't want to return home

Don’t want to go back to rose hill

i- I just, I've never been anywhere but here and it scares me

5:07 pm

 

I mean

I think that that's all super valid

like… I couldn’t imagine going and being somewhere else

But also- would you be staying here?

Or would it be a visit?

Or it is both? Neither?

5:10 pm

 

Tony was talking to my mom about me coming up to it

Idk I'm just all mixed up about it

And since I know you love it

Idk, it's dumb

5:14 pm

 

It's not dumb!!

Its totally sensical

5:20 pm

 

Listen

when my parents died, and then my uncle, I thought we should leave

I didn't want to stay in Queens, I didn't want to be in NY

But

at the same time, I couldn't imagine being anywhere else

it hurt - still does, but I love it here because of the people here

And I mean I love the city

But it's home because of the people

Not the skyscrapers

If that makes sense

6:37 pm

 

no, it does

I - thanks peter

6:42 pm

 

Of course!!

I'm here for you

When- if- you come up, we'll have a day for just the two of us

Even tho mj and ned will be jealous

6:45 pm

 

I'd like that

6:46 pm

 

:)

6:46 pm

Chapter Text

Peter spun in place, a grin plastered across his face as he locked eyes with Ned. "Harley's coming," he said, hopping up from his seat in the lab. "He's on his way." 

"What?" Ned said, blinking at him. "Like right now?" 

"This Friday!" Peter confirmed, his grin slipping into a smirk. "Mr. Stark still hasn't told me that he's coming - I think he's nervous." He spun around, his enhanced abilities just barely keeping him from toppling over as he tripped on a spare piece of metal on the floor. 

Ned snorted, hiding his face at the startled look Peter shot him. "He just- when do you think he's going to learn he can’t do anything to disappoint you?" 

Peter shrugged, the grin dimming on his face. "I wish he didn't think that I was disappointed in him." He fidgeted with his hands for a beat before glancing up at Ned. "Do you think that I did something - or like said something - that made him feel like he can disappoint me?" 

"No!" Ned said, the word bursting out of him as he stared at Peter. "No, of course not, why would you even think that?" 

Peter shifted, a frown on his face. "I dunno," he said. "Just a worry in my head." 

Ned sighed, his face softening in response to his quiet words. "I feel that but," he shook his head. "You seriously have nothing to worry about." 

"Okay," Peter said quietly, his eyes catching Ned's and holding. "Okay." 

***

Tony gaped at Peter in disbelief, blinking at him. 

Peter started laughing, his eyes crinkling up. "Harley was right," he said, the words barely able to be heard through his laughter. "You look like a fish when you're surprised." 

Tony snapped his mouth shut, glaring halfheartedly at him before sniffing imperiously. "At least I-" He fell silent for a beat, mouthing words to himself before rolling his eyes and grinning back at Peter. "You got me," he said, fondness filling his body until he felt like nothing could ever beat the sight of Peter wracked with laughter and joy, his goodness clear for all to see. He furrowed his brow for a beat. "How long have you two been talking then?" 

"Three months," Peter said, gasping a little through his laughter. He turned bright eyes to Tony. "I do have one- one question," he said, containing his laughter for a moment. "How come you didn't realize I made the same potato gun as Harley?" 

Tony blinked at him again before scrubbing a hand over his face. "Is that what the 'H' on all the documents meant?" Peter nodded, biting the inside of his cheek to keep himself from laughing at the defeated look on Tony's face. "Oh hell, kid," Tony said, sighing and setting Peter off into gales of laughter again. "I guess I just didn't even want to contemplate the two of you ganging up on me." 

Peter shook his head, his curls catching on the sunlight streaming in from the windows before he grinned at Tony again. "Sorry, Tony," he said, the lack of actual apology clear in his voice. "Harley and I have been planning this for months." He grinned even broader at the groan Tony let out as he slumped in his chair. "I can't wait for Harley to get here." 

"Me neither," Tony mumbled, his face smushed into his desk before he sat up straight again. "C'mon kid, let's go get you some food," he said before narrowing his eyes at Peter. "And I need to have a conversation with Pep about knowing shit like this." 

"Sure thing, Mr. Stark," Peter said cheekily, dancing out of the way from Tony's halfhearted swat. "Whatever you say." 

Tony narrowed his eyes even more deeply at Peter, shooting him an I'm watching you gesture and grinning, as he turned to lead them towards the elevators, at the bright peals of laughter the began to erupt from Peter again. 

***

MJ glanced up from her book at Peter's quiet cough, taking in Peter's third attempted outfit, and rolled her eyes. 

Peter squeaked, looking down at his clothes in a panic. "Is it - oh god, is it bad?" He asked, running a hand down the button down and slacks before glancing back at her. He paused in his attempts to smooth himself out and look at the mirror, doing a double-take. "I look like an -" 

"You look like you're about to take Harley out on a date," MJ said dryly, her lips curling in fond amusement. "It's not a bad look," she said, her eyes flicking up and down his body. Peter wrinkled his nose in an attempt to stave off the sudden blush of heat her actions brought forth and scowled halfheartedly at her. MJ rolled her eyes again, and stood, heading to his closet and yanking out a casual striped sweater and jeans. She held them out, her brow arched. "You gonna change for me here or in the bathroom?" 

He huffed, snatching the clothes from her and stripping out of his slacks in front of her as she curled back up on his bed, her book discarded to her side. 

The three of them had been through too many bloody recoveries from Spiderman to be phased with Peter's body too much, though MJ's eyes lingered on his thighs and calves with appreciation before she let out a low wolf whistle. Peter shook his head at her, fighting a smile as he pulled the jeans up. 

Behind him, May knocked and gently cracked the door open giving Peter plenty of time to tell her to stop. When no one said anything, she pushed the door fully open, taking in Peter tugging his sweater over his head and MJ's satisfied smirk. 

"Someone could get the wrong idea," she said, grinning at Peter's muffled yelp through the shirt and MJ's quiet laugh before she exchanged a look with her. "Dressing for his big meeting?" She said wryly. "Tony texted me and said that Harley was coming in this afternoon." 

MJ sighed. "We've been through three changes," she confided to her, ignoring Peter's low whine of oh, please, don't tell May. "Someone might be a little excited." 

"Well," May said, her hands on her hips as she surveyed Peter's fourth and final outfit. "MJ did a great job of dressing you, sweetheart." 

MJ shrugged. "If Ned had been here he would've pulled it together before either of us could blink." 

"Where is he?" May asked, walking over to Peter and smoothing a hand over his curls as he batted gently at her hands. 

"At his Great Aunt Ruthie's," Peter and MJ answered simultaneously. "She's turning 98 today."

May nodded, her face fond as she slid an arm around Peter's shoulders. "Look at you, bambino," she said, watching the two of them in the mirror before glancing over her shoulder and gesturing for MJ to join them.

MJ slid from the bed, her face content as she slid under May's arm and studied the three of them in Peter's full-length mirror. 

May pressed a kiss to each of their temples, stretching up on tiptoes to brush one on Peter's. "Oh kiddo's," she said. "I love you both - and Ned - so much." 

"We love you too," MJ said quietly, as Peter nodded and tilted their heads together before echoing MJ's words. 

***

Harley looked through the window, swallowing down his nerves as New York came into view. The jet Tony had sent him was outrageous, and Harley had protested, going so far as to raise his voice at Tony before his mama had interceded and accepted on his behalf. 

He chewed on the inside of his cheek, tapping his fingers anxiously against his phone as the plane began to descend, gently buffeted by winds as they came in across the river. He grimaced again, the pit in his stomach worsening as he contemplated all that could go wrong. 

What if Peter was a lie - a whole figment of his imagination? What if Tony invited him in and then laughed at his attempts to enter before confessing that the whole thing was an elaborate ruse meant to humiliate him? What if he died? What if aliens attacked - again?

He blinked rapidly and bit through his cheek, the coppery taste of blood flooding his mouth. His eyes widened as he swallowed, his stomach protesting at the contents before he squeezed his eyes shut tightly and breathed in, holding it for one-beat, two-beat, before releasing the air and feeling his chest lighten. 

He kept his eyes closed, methodically going through his fears again before deciding that it wasn't worth it. He wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans, the worn material familiar against his fingertips, the steady handstitched material a balm to his nerves. 

"Sir?" A flight attendant lightly touched the back of his seat. "We've landed," she said kindly when he blinked his eyes open. "Mr. Stark is waiting for you on the tarmac." 

Harley blinked at her for a moment, before clearing his throat. "Thank- thank you," he said, his voice hoarse with nerves before he swallowed again.

"Of course," she said, stepping out of his way. "Have a wonderful trip here in New York City, and we'll see you back in a week." 

He nodded, rising from his seat and collecting his luggage from above the overhead compartment and giving himself a moment to collect his nerves. He nodded to himself once. If it all went awfully, he still had his pride, his mama, and Abbie. That was all that mattered. 

He stepped forward, blinking hesitantly in the bright sunlight before shivering immediately at the chill in March's air. 

"Kid," Tony said fondly, drawing his attention to the tarmac as he stepped for, a broad grin stretching across his face. "I'm so glad you're here." 

Harley grinned back, his nerves dissipating at the sight of Tony. "Believe me," Harley said, clattering down the stairs and throwing himself at Tony for a surprise hug. "I'm so glad to be here too." 

***


Peter stood in the lab, oscillating between standing and sitting as he waited for Tony and Harley to arrive. He plucked at his collar, mussed at his hair, fidgeted with his fingers, and bounced halfheartedly foot to foot as he waited, with a pit in his stomach, for Friday to announce their entrance to the tower's parking. 

MJ had offered to wait with him but he had turned her down, biting his lip as he waited for her mouth to twist in disappointment. Instead, she had nodded gently, and let him know that she would be waiting with Aunt May at their apartment to hear all about his day when he got back. 

He picked up his web slingers, plucking at the delicate wiring before he set it down, sitting down abruptly for a moment before Friday spoke. 

"Boss has returned with Mr. Keener," she said matter-of-factly. "Would you like me to count down the floors as they rise Peter?" 

"No," Peter blurted out, his stomach rolling with the thought of a weird countdown to seeing Harley. "Thanks though, Fri." 

"Of course," Friday answered, falling silent for a moment. "Boss would like to know what you'd like for lunch?" 

"Oh," Peter said, blinking up at the ceiling. "Uh, whatever Harley wants." 

"Whatever Harley wants?" Tony said, startling Peter into whirling around. He took in Tony's faux casual stance, the tenseness subtle but there, obvious in how he stood. "You're never that nice to me kid." 

"Well," Peter said, shaking his head as his eyes slid past Tony to Harley. "It's never been your first time New York," he said, before shuffling closer to the two of them, suddenly unbearably shy. "Hi," he said softly, watching Harley closely for some sign of welcome as he smiled uncertainly at him. "It's nice to finally see you in person." 

"Hi," Harley echoed, before setting his suitcase down next to himself and striding forward to tug Peter into a hug. "Holy hell," Harley said, as the two of them collided into each other, both of them soaking in the fact that the other was real and whole and in front of the other. "I can't believe we're together for real." 

"I know," Peter said quietly, holding Harley tightly. "Everything felt so weird before like- I dunno-" 

"Like nothing was real and we were fragile wisps of our own imagination even though we had literally video chatted with each other before?" Harley finished, his southern drawl ringing through Peter's ears as they withdrew from their hug. Harley grinned at Peter's look of disbelief. "Believe me, cowboy," he said. "You weren't the only one who thought that." 

Peter stepped back, letting his shoulders slump in relief. "You have no idea how glad I am that you get it." 

Harley shrugged, his eyes pulling away from Peter and glancing at Tony before he squinted. "Are- are you crying?" 

Peter whipped around, his eyes wide as he took in Tony's face. 

"No- no!" Tony snapped, scrunching up his face at Harley. "I'm just glad that you two get along - you weren't the only one who was nervous that this would turn into some weird territorial dispute." 

Harley and Peter exchanged a look, missing Tony's sudden look of dawning horror as he once again realized the potential damage the two of them could cause to his lab if they worked as a team. 

"Was never gonna happen," Harley said, shaking his head. "Peter clearly is owed more of your time." 

Peter scowled at him, his eyes fond. "Uhm no, you clearly are more worthy." 

"More worthy?" Harley exclaimed, his voice rising. "You're a paragon of goodness." 

Peter shook his head, pressing his lips together to keep from laughing. "I have deep dark secrets," he said. "You're so pure and good and better than me." 

Harley snorted. "Deep dark secrets, huh?" Peter nodded seriously. "Okay, Spiderman." 

Behind the two of them, Pepper sighed, her voice cutting through their fake argument and disrupting Tony's stunned question. "Peter, honey," she said, shaking her head at his sheepish look. "You need to get better at secrets." 

Peter shrugged biting his lip. "He guessed?" 

"They always seem to," Pepper said before she turned to Harley. "Harley," she said, her tone warm. "Welcome to New York." 

"Thank you, ma'am," Harley said, smiling softly at her. 

"Hold the fuck up," Tony said, ignoring Pepper's admonishing Tony! "Harley knew you were Spiderman?" 

Harley nodded. "He was always working on webs and the like - it was obvious to piece together in hindsight." 

Tony sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. "Jesus christ kid, you have to get better at secrets." 

Peter shrugged again, grimacing. "I know," he said, before sighing. "It's just so hard." 

"Poor baby," Harley laughed. "C'mon," he said, striding forward to link their hands together. "Show me the sights of the lab, Peter Parker." 

"Okay," Peter said, grinning at him and tugging him across the room. "You need to meet Dummy." 

Pepper came over to Tony, slotting herself next to him easily as they leaned on the table and watched the two teens laugh at something as they patted Dummy's arm. "How are you feeling?" She asked, twining their hands together. 

Tony shook his head, the last vestiges of worry about Peter's inability to keep a secret disappearing at the sight of the two of them so happy. "Good," he said, brushing a kiss across her cheek. "So good." 

***
One Month Ago
Group Chat: The Queen and the Three Dweebs

Harley: so am I like supposed to pretend that I don't know you're Spiderman orrrrr

GITC: hahahah…. who even is spiderman? what is spiderman?

Harley: ...... Peter

MJ: goddammit parker

Peter: fucking god - again?