"-- You listening, Torch?"
Johnny obviously wasn't listening. He was flipping the disc from side to side, staring at it with an odd look on his face. He looked up and flashed Peter a brief, apologetic grin.
His movie star smile, he'd said when Peter had caught him earlier in the evening. He wasn't wrong.
"Uhh, sorry," Johnny said, fanning himself with the cheap plastic case. His cheeks were flushed, which knowing him had nothing to do with the unseasonably warm night. The spark in his eye had never spelled anything but trouble where Peter was concerned. "While I'm sure this DVD is a fake, I'm still kind of curious. You want to come over to FF headquarters and watch it with me?"
Peter, to his credit, managed not to choke own his own tongue. His heart skipped a beat, his palms felt sweaty. He swiveled around wordlessly and shot a strand of webbing at the building across the street.
"Was it something I said?" Johnny called out as Peter swung away.
"I'm going to go find Hammy," Peter muttered to himself. He chanced one last glance over his shoulder at Johnny - Johnny, on a roof top, holding his own alleged sex tape, looking stupidly attractive for a man who had spent the better part of the night trapped under glass. "And then I'm going to take a shower."
A very, very cold shower.
Maybe he took things a little harder on Hammerhead than was strictly necessary, but the guy had a head that was, literally, like a hammer. Besides, Peter thought, somewhere between dropping down on top of Hammerhead from eight stories up and kicking him into a dumpster - it was a good distraction.
Had Johnny Storm really invited him over to watch what might very well have actually been his sex tape? Alright, so Peter knew that what was on that disc was far more likely to be a half hour of a Japanese game show, but - that little doubt that always plagued him - what if it wasn't.
What if it was the real deal.
What if he'd - he didn't know, suffered a lapse in common sense, been struck with the magic whammy, been hit on the head too many times, just given in - agreed. And what if Johnny hadn't burst out laughing in his face? He'd have ended up sitting next to Johnny on the Fantastic Four's plush sofa - no, Johnny wouldn't, not where Sue or the kids could wander by. So in his room, then.
On his bed?
It was a little too easy to imagine. Johnny twirling the disc around one finger, that spark in his eye, bright smile just a touch - what, would Johnny look suddenly shy? Not likely. But there would be something soft, something personal, not just the face he put on for everyone else. And if it was the actual tape, then - Johnny on screen, super star beautiful, and Johnny lying next to him, a long line of his heat at his side.
Johnny would look over, he'd catch Peter biting his lip. He'd lean in close, his fingers trailing down Peter's chest, tracing the spider symbol, and he'd say something stupid - "Like what you see?" or "Want to try the real deal?" Then his hot mouth would be over Peter's and the world would narrow down to just the two of them. The sound of the laptop clattering to the floor, no big loss, as Johnny swung himself on top of Peter, peeling him out of his costume as Peter slid his hands up Johnny's strong thighs and -
Therapy. He needed therapy.
Also? To send the inventor of the dance belt a thank you note. He'd probably need a time machine for that, though, which sent his thoughts circling right back to the Fantastic Four, and once he was thinking of them obviously Johnny came to mind, specifically how Johnny would look with that hot mouth wrapped around -
He almost broke his hand on Hammerhead's nose. It was a welcome distraction.
Later, Hammerhead dealt with, Peter determinedly did not throw himself into the East River and instead shimmied in through his apartment window.
"Pete, my man, my completely platonic best bro," he muttered to himself in the voice he reserved solely for mocking Johnny Storm. "Come over and watch my maybe sex tape! Fun times! Just two guys hanging out -" he slammed the bathroom door maybe a little harder than necessary "- watching the one guy's celebrity sex tape! Good clean fun!"
Mrs. Moretti downstairs banged on her ceiling with a broom.
Everything was coming up Parker tonight.
"Shower," he said to himself, breathing out through his nose. "Cold shower. Stick to the plan."
He ended up with his back to the bathroom door and his tights around his ankles, jerking himself off and resolutely not thinking about Johnny stretched out on his bed, head thrown back and moaning all because of Peter.
Too many hits to the head, he told himself, wiping his hand off on his already filthy spider-suit. Or too many years in Johnny's company. It amounted to pretty much the same thing.
At least, he thought later when he was sitting crosslegged on his bed eating week old Chinese leftovers and watching something appropriately mindless, Johnny had the tape. The whole thing was over.
Peter got up at dawn, turned on the news while he ate breakfast and took a whole blessedly naive five minutes to figure out that something was wrong.
In his defense, it wasn't like the world's obsession with Johnny Storm's naked body was new. He'd seen the photoshoots - from a purely professional interest, of course. What? The Vanity Fair spread had been pretty classy.
He clued in halfway through his coffee and choked, then hung his head, taking a carefully measured breath in through his nose. His hand curled into a fist at his side.
"There was a copy." He slammed his hand down against the counter, denting it. It wasn't like there was any hope of getting back to his security deposit anyway. "Of course there was a copy, Parker, you absolute idiot."
It had been released onto the internet shortly after he and Johnny had escaped from their glass prison, and the number of downloads was staggering. Channel flipping brought him the same news, and the first less than reputable site he found on the internet showed him a glimpse of toned stomach and long leg before he slammed his laptop closed hard enough to rattle the table.
It was not a hoax. It was the real deal. Peter pushed his hands up into his hair.
"God, Johnny," he said. "Johnny, Johnny, why are you like this?"
That wasn't fair and he knew it, but god, he was going to have to throw his entire computer out before he felt clean again.
He took a deep breath and opened the laptop again.
The woman in the tape had already surfaced. She looked like Johnny's type - brunette, beautiful, and a little too willing to give interviews in the wake of this invasion of her privacy. Minor detective work - by which he meant google and the Avengers database - netted him handful of connections between her and people Peter had definitely punched in the face. People who definitely had reason not to like Johnny.
Peter wanted something to hit. Thank god New York never failed to deliver.
The list detailing why Johnny Storm was The Worst Human Being On The Planet was a whopping 796 items long and filled with excellent points like, smells faintly like butane and owns car and hair is dumb. Peter had been very bored, senior year of high school.
The list of reasons Peter loved Johnny - that was a lot shorter, and a lot more important. Johnny was loyal, devoted, warm. Beautiful inside and out. Maybe it was the support of his family, but he didn't let the things they handled get their claws in him as much as Peter did. And when Johnny Storm loved you - when he considered you a member of his strange family - there was nothing in the world he wouldn't do for you.
Johnny would die for him without a second thought. Peter knew that, bone deep. The least he could do in return was rip a few tabloids out of people's hands on his way to work.
"I'll take that," he said, shaking the newspaper in one teenager's face. "Shame on you - does your mother know what you've been reading?"
He got the finger for that. Kids these days.
HOT HOT HEAT: STORM CAUGHT ON TAPE, the headline read, with a picture of Johnny wearing sunglasses front and center and a grainier inset showing a lot of well-muscled bare chest, the blurry edge of a cocky grin on a familiar face. Peter crumpled the newspaper and hit a garbage can all the way across the street.
"Hey, boys in blue," he said, touching down on top of the nearest cop car. "What are we looking at here?"
"Never seen this guy before, Spidey," one of the cops said. "He's tall, strong. Skin seems bulletproof." There they were, Peter's least favorite words. He whistled low, cracking his knuckles and rolling his head from side to side. Then it got worse: "Last we saw he was trying to eat the train."
"Is that a metaphor?" Peter asked. He got a negative. So much for the usual. "Hostages?"
"We evacuated the train and the platform, but he's still down there."
Peter breathed a sigh of relief. No civilians, no holding back.
"Alright. Time to get thrown into a train, probably." He leapt from the top of the car. "Wish me luck."
"Break a leg, Spidey," a familiar cop said. "Preferably his."
"Thanks, Rita," Peter said, waving as he descended the steps.
Empty subway stations were up there on Peter's list of least favorite makeshift arenas. Everything was dirty and hard, no good places to land if you got thrown - at least the acoustics were good, but if there was nobody around to hear his witty repartee then what was the point.
There were sounds somewhere down the long dark tunnel. Peter flipped off the platform and between the rails. A rat skittered by his foot, unimpressed.
"You and me both, buddy," he told its skinny little tail as it disappeared into the gloom. He crept towards the sound, spidering his way along the tunnel's roof until he came across the abandoned train, and the hulking steel grey figure gnawing on one half-opened door.
Just once, he wanted something to be less weird than described. Just once - was that so much to ask for.
He dropped on top of the train and the ensuing bang made his guy look up. His eyes glowed faintly in the dark, which was always a great sign.
"You know, I've heard the expression 'I could eat a horse'," Peter said, "and I've heard 'I could eat a house', but a subway car, that's a new one."
"Spider-Man." The voice was strange, a grinding sort of hum.
"Where?" Peter asked, glancing over his shoulder. He looked back. "What? Not funny?"
What remained of the door was crushed by one huge hand. The entire train shook.
"Look, I get it, it's rush hour, your train is slow, you're getting a little hangry - but I think you might be taking it too far." He crawled forward despite the faint hum of his spider-sense telling him getting closer was bad news. "You look like you might need some help."
That huge hand shot out like lightning and next thing Peter knew he was being thrown into the car. No real surprise there; his life sucked.
Peter hit the back of the car hard, his shoulder taking most of the impact. He staggered to his knees, planting his hand on the nearest seat. Something crinkled beneath his palm, and glancing down he found a copy of the Bugle lying abandoned.
TORCH UNDER FIRE: SEX TAPE SCANDAL BURNS FANTASTIC FOUR, read the headline. Peter rolled his eyes. He recognized the photo, too - it was one from a couple years ago, Johnny's hair a little floppier than it was currently. He was pretty sure he'd taken that photo, actually. He'd always liked getting Johnny from that angle.
"Is fifteen minutes free of this too much to ask?" he asked, dragging himself up. "Jonah owes me some royalties." Raising his voice, he said, "So that's a 'no' on the help, huh?"
It was always a 'no' on the help. He didn't know why he bothered.
"I'm gonna call you Subway Eater," Peter said. "On account of the eating the train part."
Subway Eater was big and had a jaw like an industrial trash compactor, but he was slow. Peter dodged the next blow, spinning on his heel. He fired a web blast and hit one huge grey wrist, pinning it back. He held his breath as Subway Eater pulled at the webbing, then sighed when it held.
Peter secured the other wrist and whistled. "So we gonna talk now or what?"
Subway Eater glowered and then, accepting that he was webbed to an abandoned train in the middle of nowhere, said in his strange groaning voice, "Okay."
"Good start," said Peter. "You want to tell me how all this -" he gestured up and down "- happened?"
"There was an accident at work," the Subway Eater said, slow like he didn't want to admit it. "We were testing a new formula."
"Right, this part's pretty familiar," Peter said, sitting back on his heels. "Let me guess. It spilled on you?"
The Subway Eater's gaze strayed to the newspaper still sitting sad and abandoned on a dingy yellow seat. Peter caught the motion and narrowed his eyes. "I may have been a little... distracted. Trying to download something."
"Are you kidding me?" Peter demanded. "Are you saying you were the victim of an industrial accident because you were trying to watch the Human Torch's sex tape at work?!"
The Subway Eater muttered something that sounded disturbingly like, everyone else was doing it.
"Well, see, this is what happens when you give into peer pressure," Peter said. The Subway Eater opened his mouth to protest, so Peter webbed it shut. Probably for the best, what with the metal crunching jaws and all. "Maybe you can record a nice PSA from prison."
It was dark by the time Subway Eater was carted off and Peter was tired down to his bones. He snagged a cup of coffee out of the nearest hand ("get your own" - this, for the man who had just saved a major subway stop from being chewed beyond recognition) and headed home.
Twenty minutes later Peter fell face down in bed. Two seconds after that, his phone beeped. He fumbled for it with one hand, fighting to turn his face away from the pillows.
There was one new text from Johnny: meet me? you know where.
let me get pants, Peter sent back.
ugh, wrote Johnny, five minutes later. if you have to.
He was going to kill Peter, 100%.
Johnny was sitting on one of the crown's spikes, a bag from Peter's favorite burger joint dangling from his fingers. Peter could - and would and had - say what he wanted about Johnny, but he always brought good food when he dragged Peter out to the Statue of Liberty in the middle of the night.
"Hey, Kim K," Peter said, landing nimbly.
"Don't start," Johnny said, tossing him a wrapped burger. "She stole that cell phone game idea from me."
"Sure she did," Peter said, settling down next to him. "Sorry I'm late. Had a run-in with one of your shiny new admirers."
"Ugh," Johnny said. Then he reconsidered, tilting his head. "Cute?"
"Not unless you like 'em ten feet tall and chewing on the R train," Peter said. Johnny made a face and muttered, pass. "So, stupid question, but - how are you doing?"
Johnny looked a little tired and a little defeated, still gorgeous as always even in a plain shirt and jeans.
"Eh," he said, shrugging one shoulder. "You know how it is."
"Not really. Got a couple nude cell phone shots in my skeleton closet," Peter said. Mary Jane had made demands once during a particularly exhausting film shoot and he'd never been able to turn her down. "But the less said about those, the better."
(seriously tiger??? she'd sent back. you take selfies for a living and all i get is a blurry nipple shot??? SEND THE GOODS.)
"Well I'd pay for those," Johnny snorted, and Peter's mouth went dry. That was pure Johnny, though - he said something like that and then on a dime he switched directions and it was like he'd never said anything at all. If Peter ever snapped and tried to take over the greater New York area he was laying the blame squarely at Johnny's feet. "It's - it sucks, basically, but you know me. Attention span of a goldfish. I'll get over it, right?"
Peter chose to stuff half a cheeseburger in his mouth rather than walk into that conversational landmine. Johnny was quiet for a long moment, staring out at the city lights with a frown on his face.
"It was probably stupid, thinking they'd lure me all the way out there and just have one copy of the tape, huh?" he said at last.
"Probably," Peter admitted. "But I didn't think of that either, and I'm a million times smarter than you."
That got a startled laugh out of Johnny. He elbowed Peter. "So I can blame you, huh, smart guy? Thanks a lot."
Peter gave him a lazy salute. Johnny kept laughing for a minute, some of the tension slipping from his shoulders. He crinkled the fast food bag up into a ball and then tossed it up in the air, incinerating it with one quick spark.
"How's the family taking it?" Peter asked.
"They're not angry," Johnny said, heaving a long sigh. "They're just disappointed."
"Ouch," Peter said. Johnny laughed again, softer this time.
"Yeah, well," he said. "You know them, they're upset. It's all, you should've come to us, and this is what we have lawyers for, you stupid kid, who do you want me to clobber. Blah blah. The usual."
"You know, for a guy who dressed himself up as a cat burglar and tried to steal his own sex tape, you're taking this pretty well," Peter said.
"I like how I look, and I like when people look at me," Johnny said with a shrug. "And I'm used to the whole world calling me Super Slut." Peter winced. He didn't know why; he'd seen that before without batting an eye. He'd said worse himself, probably. But hearing the flat way Johnny said it, the weary acceptance - it stung. "They've been doing that forever. It's just..."
"Please don't start about only doing this for your criminal one night stand's honor again," Peter said. "Because I think I've known you past the point where I can -"
"It's just that the kids already have a Don't Google Uncle Johnny rule," Johnny cut in. Peter shut up so fast he bit his tongue. "They're already going to grow up thinking I'm a joke. Don't know why I have to keep making it worse."
"You know that's not true," Peter said. "The kids adore you."
"Sure, now," he said, shrugging. "But they're smart. They've got the best of Sue and Reed combined. They're going to grow up and they're going to realize. I don't blame them."
"I'm only ever going to say this once in your life, so listen up," Peter said. "You're being too hard on yourself, Johnny. Honestly. It's not your fault. The kids are never going to think that."
Johnny smiled at him and shrugged, then leaned back, stretching a little. His white shirt nearly glowed against the night sky, the neckline dipping low enough to show off the sharp collarbone Peter sort of wanted to lick. He was a terrible, terrible friend.
"You want to hear the worst headline I've ever seen about me?" Johnny said. "Hormone Torch."
"Ouch," said Peter, snickering.
"I was seventeen," Johnny said. "Didn't leave the Baxter Building for a week."
They sat in companionable silence for a minute, just watching the distant lights, until Johnny sighed.
"It's a sign," Johnny said. "I need to get my act together and stop going home with anyone hot and offering."
"Probably a good idea," Peter said. "She been in contact?"
Johnny snorted. "Only with the tabloids. No, that's not happening. Reed and the lawyers are handling it."
"Well, bright side," Peter said. "At least this one didn't try to kill you."
"Just had her boyfriend try to blackmail me, trapped me under glass and then reopened the Johnny Storm scandal floodgates. Small mercies, right?" Johnny smiled, the one that always got Peter right in the gut - slow, sweet and honest. "Well, also, I look amazing in the tape."
"And there he is," Peter said, snapping his fingers. "The Johnny Storm I know and tolerate."
"Like, amazingly good," Johnny said, knocking his shoulder against Peter's. "Better than normal, actually. I know that's hard to believe but it's true. Watched it yet?"
"Somehow I've managed to resist the overwhelming temptation," Peter said. If that was far truer than his tone implied, well - Johnny didn't need to know, not when he was smiling at Peter like that.
"Thanks, Spidey," he said. "Talking to you helps. You know that, right?"
"If there's anything else I can do," Peter said.
"Kiss goodnight wouldn't hurt," Johnny said, fluttering his eyelashes ridiculously.
"Not now that I know where you've been," Peter said, and Johnny threw his head back laughing, little flames dancing over his shoulders and the ends of his hair. God, he was beautiful all lit up against the night sky. Peter had to look away for his own good. "Night, Johnny."
"Safe swinging, Pete," Johnny said, taking off.
Peter told himself it would get better, and it would. Eventually.
The problem was the space between now and then. Johnny was getting mobbed, the way he hadn't been in ages, and it was clearly getting to him. He looked worn around the edges, the usual spark gone from his eyes. They were on the news - Sue had slammed a force field up in front of the Baxter Building a little too viciously - and Peter couldn't take his eyes off the slump of Johnny's shoulders, the frown line between his brows.
Peter knew that look too well - if Johnny didn't get a chance to blow off some steam soon he'd explode. Probably literally.
Luckily, on the weekend AIM launched an attack on Union Square.
"New York, New York," Peter sang, swinging onto the scene. "Why would anybody ever want to live anywhere else?"
There was a rush of heat just over his shoulder. "Right, because sky high rent, constant supervillain attacks and Pizza Rat really make for the perfect place to raise the family."
"You don't even pay rent," Peter shot back fondly and Johnny grinned, barely more than a flash through the flames.
It was a quick fight, AIM's usual level of professionalism (shaky, shouty, still dressed like they awaited the neon hive) no match for a combined attack from the Avengers and the Fantastic Four.
The clean-up was never fun, though.
"Did you ever watch it?" Johnny asked offhandedly, idling nearby while Peter did the heavy lifting for both of them. He stretched his arms above his head and turned his face up towards the sky, looking for all the world like a cat in the sun. It was a warm day and Johnny glowed with it, the heat shimmer around him just starting to fade.
Peter dragged his eyes away from the muscles in his arms - the new short sleeve uniform was a personal attack against him - to ask, "What?"
Johnny rolled his eyes. "You know what. Everyone knows what. My internet film debut, genius."
"That video someone took of you butchering Girls Just Wanna Have Fun at karaoke? Loved it," Peter said, deliberately playing dense in the distant, beautiful hope that Johnny might let something go for once in his life.
"You can admit it if you did," Johnny said, leaning back against the wall. "I think Wolverine did. He keeps giving me the eye."
"No, he's looking at you like that because he doesn't like you," Peter said. "Also I'm pretty sure Logan can't work a computer. At least I'm assuming that's why he never answers my e-mails."
"You're not answering my question," Johnny sang. He was always in a better mood after a good victory, and the teasing wasn't new. Peter was trying to breathe through it and not think about Johnny, naked in his bed, all long limbs and flawless skin. The way he'd moan when Peter did something he liked. The sheer heat of him.
Obviously that was going about as well as anything in Peter's life ever did.
"Because I can't believe you're asking me that," Peter said. "No, Johnny, I did not download nor did I watch your sex tape."
"I mean, the quality's nothing special," Johnny said. "If I had known I would've wanted nicer -"
"Than a teddy bear nannycam hidden in your hookup's bookshelf? Color me shocked."
"But I look good," Johnny said. "Have I told you that? Like, really good. Incredibly good. You know?"
"You look good in your poor quality sex tape, is that what you're trying to tell me?" Peter said. Ben came up behind them, dusting off his rocky hands, and Peter turned to him and said, "Does he do this to you, too?"
"Would he still be standin' there all pretty if he did?" Ben snorted.
"Aw, Benjy," Johnny crooned, one hand pressed to his chest.
"You get the special treatment, Webs," Ben said. To Johnny, he added, "Spider-Woman's taking me for drinks on account of me pummelin' more guys than her. Tell Stretch and Suzie-Q not to wait up."
"I'm not telling Alicia if you and Jessica die trying to outdrink each other!" Johnny shouted at his back. He slung his arm around Peter's shoulders, squeezing. "Want to get victory pizza? I'll let you pick the place. Only like, three vetoes, I promise."
Someone beyond the police line shouted Johnny's name, and craning his neck Peter could make out a camera crew that definitely didn't belong to any reputable news station.
"Ugh, TMZ found me," Johnny said, ducking his head.
"Well, we are standing in a giant crater," Peter pointed out.
"Hide me?" Johnny said, staring at him imploringly. At what point in Peter's life had he stopped being able to deny Johnny anything? It was terrible. He tried to step in front of him and block the view a little, hand at Johnny's elbow to keep him behind him.
"You like TMZ," Peter said. "I've seen your Christmas card list, you send the staff gift baskets."
"Well I don't like them this week," Johnny hissed. "I am really sick of talking about this."
"Says the guy who was bragging about how great he looked in his sex tape literally two minutes ago?" Peter whispered back, walking Johnny a careful few steps backwards when one of the cameramen finally managed to shove his way to the front of crowd.
"That's with you," Johnny said. Peter had no clue what that meant, or what to do with it, or why it made his chest ache the way that it did.
"I don't think we're getting through dinner uninterrupted tonight," he said. Johnny sighed, annoyed.
"Yeah, I know," he said. "Help me find my sister? I'd kind of like to be invisible right now."
Peter squeezed his elbow. He saw Sue coming towards them and waved at her, gesturing at Johnny. In an undertone, he added, "Hey. If you want me to web anyone's camera to their own ass, you just say the word."
"Might be a little more satisfying than all the lowkey film melting I've been doing," Johnny said. Sue had caught on - one second Johnny was there and the next he had disappeared, but Peter could still feel the warmth of him. His voice ghosted by Peter's ear. "You're a good friend, Spidey."
A good friend, Peter was pretty sure, would probably have spent less time daydreaming about getting Johnny naked.
"It'll blow over soon," he said, trying to find Johnny's elbow again. He missed and his palm brushed over Johnny's stomach, all toned muscle under a thin layer of unstable molecules. It was a challenge not to linger. Johnny chuckled.
"Sure," he said. "I'll do something else stupid and they'll switch tracks."
"See?" Peter said. "Keep looking on that bright side."
Two days later Johnny got caught coming out of his favorite coffee place. They must have been lying in wait - Johnny came through the door and there was a swarm.
Peter had caught the scene from up above, dropping his swing and landing on a nearby roof when he saw Johnny. He was trying to get through the crowd, his head ducked and his coffee probably a little more steaming than before he'd gotten his hands on it. Peter's whole chest ached, looking at him. He couldn't leave him there.
He weighed the pros and the cons. He'd definitely make the situation worse in the long run. But in the short run - in the short run Johnny looked miserable and tired, and Peter couldn't stand the defeated look on his face one second longer.
He calculated the angle of his swing, eyes on the prize, and then he went for it.
"Heads up, esteemed NYC paparazzi!" he said, swinging right through and grabbing Johnny around the waist. "I have to borrow your Torch for a big world ending emergency! You know how these Mondays go!"
Johnny yelped, dropping his coffee and scrabbling for a hold on Peter's shoulders as Peter swung them up, up and away. "Spidey!"
"You called for a cab?" he said. "I don't do Jersey, sorry."
"That's okay," Johnny said, letting out a breath. He twisted in Peter's grip just enough to look at his face. "What's the emergency? Kang? Annihilus? Vic having a bad day? If you drop me off I'll call Reed -"
"Whoa, Torchie-baby, slow down," Peter said, swinging them across the avenue. "No emergency. I made that up."
Johnny's brow furrowed. "So you just snatched me up off the street because you - what? Felt like it?"
"I can set us down," Peter said. "Just wanted a little distance first."
"Don't - this is nice," Johnny said, his grip loosening a little as he glanced at the ground. "I never get to feel the wind through my hair." He jabbed one finger into Peter's ribs. "Stop avoiding. You kidnapped me why?"
Time to face the music. Peter took a breath and said, "You just looked sad, and I wanted to help."
Johnny looked back at him, confusion written all over his face. "You... grabbed me up off the street because I looked sad."
"Yep," Peter said. Then, to break the awkward silence, "Wow, look at that huge pigeon."
"I can't believe you!" Johnny laughed, tired but real. He let go of Peter's shoulders and leaned back, eyes closed and arms stretched out so Peter had to scramble to get a better hold on his waist. "You're right, though. I was having a terrible day."
"Your friendly neighborhood knight in shining armor, that's me," Peter said. Johnny pulled himself back up so they were chest to chest, Johnny's fingers feeling for the seam between mask and costume, and suddenly his hand on Johnny's hip felt like something more than just the easiest place to hold. "Johnny?"
"This is probably the nicest thing anyone's done for me in ages," Johnny said. He was rolling Peter's mask up over his mouth, and when his eyes flickered up his gaze was hot in more ways than just the usual. "Try not to ruin it by dropping me, okay?"
"What are you -" was all Peter managed to say before Johnny sealed their mouths together.
Years of practice was the only thing that kept Peter from fumbling his swing. The press of Johnny's mouth was warm and unrelenting, his hands cupping Peter's face to keep him in place. It was a perfect moment, held suspended in the air on the end of a web with Johnny's warm lips pressed against his own.
Johnny Storm, Peter reflected, was one hell of a kisser. No real surprise there. His eyes were shut, his long lashes fanned out against his cheeks, and Peter could have gotten lost in the fireworks he felt if that wouldn't have meant swinging them straight into the side of a skyscraper.
"Torch," he croaked, like he'd swallowed a frog. His lips brushed against Johnny's, nose to nose and going cross-eyed trying to look him in the eyes. "I'm going to put us down, alright?"
Johnny sighed, his breath warm and sweet against Peter's cheek. His hands fell to Peter's shoulders, squeezing, as he said, "Okay."
He swung them up to the nearest rooftop. Johnny twisted free from his grip last second, landing on his feet before Peter could drop his swing. Peter took one step forward and Johnny stayed exactly where he was, smiling a little like something was funny. Whatever it was, Peter wasn't in on the joke.
"So, that thing," Peter said, mouth on autopilot. He didn't know what to do with his hands - no, not true. He knew what he wanted to do with his hands: he wanted to put them back on Johnny. But his brain was stalled out and Johnny was keeping careful distance between them. He waved his hands around in loose circles. "That thing, with your mouth, on my mouth - that happened."
"I had to, you know? You literally swept me off my feet, Pete. So just the one time I had to," he said. His smile was soft and crooked, the way it only ever was when he was being painfully honest. It never failed to steal Peter's breath from his lungs. He shrugged one shoulder, grinning a little. "Okay, done. You can go back to dating supermodels and sexy cat burglars now."
"Right," Peter said unsteadily. He felt like he'd been punched in the gut - to have Johnny kissing him one second and then the next telling him that was it. He knew Johnny burned hot and fast, but he figured most people at least got a few dates out of the deal.
"You don't have to be gentle, Pete," Johnny said. "I like being your friend. I do. It's good enough for me." He held out his hand, smile crooked. "Come on. Friends?"
"Always," Peter promised him. Nothing ventured, though - and he could still feel the phantom warmth of Johnny's lips pressed against his own. He took Johnny's hand but instead of shaking it he yanked hard, sending Johnny stumbling into him. "Can I just ask - why just the one time?"
Whatever Johnny had been expecting, that clearly wasn't it. He opened his mouth, shut it, then opened again. Peter was just about to tell him he looked like a fish when Johnny lunged, hands fisted in Peter's uniform, mouth over his. It was messy and off-center until Peter tilted his head, and then it was fireworks.
"I can't believe this," Peter said. Johnny didn't seem to want to stop kissing him long enough for him to get the sentence out, lips brushing up against each other's as he spoke. "You've been driving me crazy forever. Do you know how hard it was not to take you seriously?"
"Wait," Johnny said, pulling back. He went worryingly still in Peter's arms, a dangerous spark in his eye. "What?"
"Because you - you're not interested," Peter said, waving his hands around. He felt like he'd swallowed his tongue. "You're the one with the supermodels and the - the - and I'm. Me?"
Johnny squinted at him. "Were you hit in the head? Wait, no - don't answer that. Peter. Pete. I've been hitting on you for years."
Peter's stomach flipped dangerously.
"But not like," he searched for the right word, "really, right?"
Johnny looked a little like he wanted to set him on fire. If what Peter thought was happening was actually happening, he didn't exactly blame him.
"You thought I was - I asked you over to watch my sex tape!" Johnny said. "What the hell did you think that was about?"
"That's what I was trying to figure out!" Peter said. "Who invites their pal over for a sex tape screening?"
Johnny slapped him across the back of the head. "It was a come-on, idiot! What, you think I went back, sat Ben down on the couch and fired up the tape? Gather round, friends and family? No! How did you miss that? How did you miss any of that?"
"I don't know, the repeated traumatic head injuries, maybe?" Peter shot back.
"You're one of the smartest people I know, so I'm having a little trouble right now figuring out how you could possibly be this stupid," Johnny hissed. The angry flush across the tops of his cheekbones was too much - Peter, still kiss-stupid and drunk off the heat of him, sealed their mouths together before Johnny could keep insulting him.
Which, okay, that was probably a weird turn-on, but there was plenty of time to examine that when he wasn't kissing Johnny.
"Anyone ever tell you you're a really great kisser?" he asked when Johnny's flush looked a little less angry. It was going to drive Peter crazy, the way Johnny followed after him when they broke apart, like he couldn't bear to not be kissing him.
"Half of the Victoria's Secret Angels and several star athletes," Johnny said. "Has anyone ever told you you're an idiot?"
"Also, weirdly, several star athletes," Peter said. "And you, repeatedly. How does it feel to be right for once in your life?"
"Oh my God, shut up!" Johnny said, flushed and breathless with his hands still clutching fistfuls of Peter's costume. Peter swallowed hard. "My place. Right now, Pete."
"Yeah," Peter said.
"Wait," Johnny said. "No."
"Family. Don't want to have this conversation. Ben might cry tears of joy," Johnny said. "Your place?"
"You're just going to make fun of all my stuff," Peter said. Johnny made a frustrated noise that went straight through Peter, sparks all up his spine. "Okay, okay. My place."
Pulling his civilian clothes back on was a lot harder with Johnny involved.
"This is the exact opposite of helping," he laughed as Johnny battled his hands away from his belt, sliding his palms up Peter's abs and making appreciative noises. "No, come on, we're getting to that part."
"Do you know how long I've waited to get my hands under your spandex?" Johnny asked, flicking him a look under his eyelashes that could've melted steel. Peter was feeling a little too hot under the collar already, for reasons that had nothing to do with Johnny's powers.
"Twenty more minutes," Peter laughed, then yelped when Johnny's hands slid back down. He grabbed him by the wrists, spinning them around and pinning Johnny to the wall.
Johnny sucked in a breath, his eyes wide and the flush in his cheeks high. He flexed against Peter's hands, but it was a half-hearted thing, and when Peter experimentally tightened his grip just the slightest bit Johnny made that noise again, the one that was going to kill Peter.
"Oh," he said, simply, and Johnny's laugh was shaky. "Do you like -"
"You would know that already if you watched the tape," Johnny said.
Peter swallowed hard.
"Pete," Johnny said, very quietly. "Take me home or I'm going to jump you right here, and I really don't need to go for scandal bingo."
"We're going, we're going," Peter said, letting go of Johnny so he could struggle into the rest of his clothes, hastily covering up his suit.
"Down on my knees, Pete, if you don't hurry it up," Johnny said, taking one swaying step back and for one split second Peter forgot how to pull on his own shirt.
"Oh god," he croaked. "You're going to kill me."
"Yeah," Johnny said, "I'm definitely going to try."
Johnny sprung for a taxi - "The subway, seriously? No, no, never, and especially not now" - and then nearly got them thrown right out of it when he all but climbed into Peter's lap during a minor traffic jam. Peter threw all the crumpled contents of his wallet at the driver as they climbed out in front of his building, mouthing 'sorry' even as Johnny pulled him towards the door.
They fell through the elevator doors together, hands everywhere. It was like now that Peter could touch, he couldn't stop, like he and Johnny had become magnets. He curled his hand into the back of Johnny's soft t-shirt, eyes closed, mouths sliding together, and reached out blindly with his other hand to slam the button for his floor.
"Are we there yet?" Johnny demanded, laughing as he nipped at the corner of Peter's mouth, kissed his cheek, slid his lips down to his jaw. Peter stuttered out a breath, trying not to tear a hole in Johnny's shirt. His other hand fell automatically to his narrow waist, slipping up under his shirt.
"Five more floors," he said. "God, to think I turned down the ground floor apartment."
"Well that was stupid," Johnny said, shoving Peter up against the wall.
The elevator slowed and then dinged open, and there was Mrs. Moretti, staring flatly at them from behind her coke bottle glasses with her empty reusable grocery bags hanging from her arm. Meanwhile Peter had a terrible carbon footprint and a celebrity's hands down the back pockets of his jeans.
Johnny glanced over his shoulder. "This is not our floor, is it?"
"Nope," Peter said. To Mrs. Moretti, he continued, "So, we're - going up, and it's - I mean it's one floor, so you could - but maybe you should -"
"I'll take the next one," she said, raising both her penciled eyebrows.
"Oh thank god," Peter said as the doors slid closed again and Johnny laughed himself hoarse against Peter's throat.
"I like your neighbors," he said. The warm wet press of his mouth over Peter's pulse point helped soothe the humiliation a little. "They seem nice."
"Correction," Peter said, sparing the ceiling a split-second look. "You're going to kill me and then get me evicted."
Johnny hummed, noncommital and pleased. Peter was pretty sure he was going to come out of his skin if he didn't get Johnny naked in the next twenty seconds. The time between when the elevator stopped and when the doors actually opened seemed interminable, and getting his apartment door open was a trial when his fingers trembled around his key. His heart was ready to beat right out of his chest. Johnny wasn't helping, plastering himself up against Peter's back with his chin on his shoulder and the scent of his expensive cologne in Peter's nose, clinging to all his clothes, to his suit underneath. He realized that he'd probably be smelling it for days and it sent a jolt right through his stomach. Johnny pressed closer, mouth behind Peter's ear, and Peter could feel how hard he was through his stupidly tight pants and he was going to die in the hallway if he didn't get the lock undone.
The door swung open. Johnny shoved him through it and Peter twisted to look at him and suddenly everything was real.
"Stop," Johnny said, reaching for him as he kicked the door shut.
"Stop what?" Peter asked. He did the locks up one-handed, the other sliding to rest at Johnny's lower back.
"I know that face. You're thinking," Johnny said. "Thinking's bad. Puts years on your face. Keep it up and I'll have to leave - standards to keep, you know?"
"I'm amazed you deign to be seen with me, honestly," Peter said, going for a light tone and falling short. Johnny in his apartment looked right and felt better, even as he was kicking Peter's abandoned sneakers out of his way, smiling a little as he glanced around.
"It's a trial," he said. If he'd heard the hitch in Peter's voice, he was choosing not to mock him for it for once in their lives.
Peter had left the bedroom door open and when Johnny saw it his grin flickered flame bright. He headed for it immediately, kicking off his shoes and shedding his jacket, throwing Peter a long look over his shoulder. "I'll get started without you if you don't hurry it up."
Oh, Peter could hurry it up. He took two long steps and one hop over the coffee table forward, grabbing Johnny up around the waist. He swung him easily up over his shoulder and marched them the handful of steps left down the hall and towards the bed.
"Oof, yeah, you Spider-Man, take Human Torch back to one bedroom cave for sex, I get it," Johnny said, squirming in Peter's grip. "I like this view, though."
Peter smacked him once on the ass and then dumped him unceremoniously onto the bed, quickly shedding his own shirt and the top half of his costume.
"Come on, that's all the show I get?" Johnny asked, flipping himself over. He beamed at Peter, eyes crinkled up at the edges, like there was no place in the world he'd rather be than in Peter's unmade bed. "Where's the style? The flair? Spin around for me."
"This whole thing is off if you try to put a dollar down my pants," Peter said, hopping on one foot to try and get his left boot off.
"Yeah, shake it for me, baby," Johnny said with a waggle of his eyebrows. "Gimme some of that sugar."
"Why am I the only one getting naked?" Peter demanded, throwing his hands up.
"Why am I the only one on the bed?" Johnny countered, which, okay, that was a surprisingly fair point.
Peter abandoned the fight against his own costume and somewhere between one moment and the next lost all his grace, too. He practically fell on top of Johnny, and Johnny laughing caught his face between his hands again and kissed him long and deep.
"I really wish I'd washed my sheets now," Peter said when they broke apart, because he really knew how to keep the romance going. "I swear I was going to."
"I like it," Johnny said. "Smells like you. Web fluid-y."
"God, you're so weird," Peter said. Johnny shoved him up just enough to get his own shirt off before he yanked Peter back down against him, sliding his hands up into his hair.
"I'm pretty desperate here, Parker," he said, voice low. "I've been waiting a long time."
"I'm an idiot," Peter told him.
"A long time," Johnny said, punctuating his point by throwing his leg over Peter's and pressing them groin to groin, his hard cock pressed up against Peter's and still separated by far too many layers of clothing.
"A total, complete, absolute moron," Peter said, each word separated by a kiss: Johnny's mouth, the strong line of his jaw, his throat. "How can I make it up to you?"
Johnny hummed, eyes closed, hands sweeping over Peter like he was trying to map him out by touch alone. "That's tough."
"Really?" Peter said. "All that time, hitting on me, asking me over to watch your sex tape, and I'm supposed to believe you - you - don't have a list?"
"There's a list! It's a really long list!" Johnny protested. "I don't know - I can't choose. I want everything."
"Yeah," Peter agreed. Everything sounded perfect. He gave a shaky laugh, his heart pounding in his chest. "Everything might take a while, though."
"That's true. So," Johnny said, opening his eyes and giving Peter's ceiling a contemplative look. "Until then you blowing me sounds pretty great."
That sounded fair to Peter.
"So," Johnny said, cat that got the cream grin on his face and one long leg thrown over Peter's hip. Johnny Storm was a cuddler - would the wonders never cease? Peter, sated and sticky and distantly annoyed at the fact that Johnny apparently didn't sweat, was going to revel in it. "Want to break out the camera for round two?"
Peter turned his face into the pillow with a groan. "Too soon."
"My sex scandal, my right to make you turn colors," Johnny said smugly.
Peter leveraged himself up, looking down at Johnny. He was grinning back at him, hair perfectly disheveled against Peter's pillow and flushed naked skin lovely against Peter's sheets. He reached up and flicked Peter in the forehead.
"What did I say about thinking?" he said.
"That it adds years to my face," Peter recited dutifully.
Johnny laughed. "That was good, right?"
"Are you kidding me?" Peter asked. Johnny beamed at him, wrapping a hand around the back of his neck to tug him in close for another lazy kiss. Peter slid his hand from Johnny's strong thigh up to his hip.
"You need to learn how to take a hint," Johnny said. "We could've been breaking your cheap bed for years, Pete."
Peter had no idea what to say to that, the idea that Johnny had wanted him for years - might want him for years. Johnny took one look at his face and burst out laughing again, rolling away from Peter and onto his back, head against the pillows. It was a good look, Peter decided: Johnny laughing uncontrollably in his bed, the yellow afternoon light spilling through the blinds and across his strong shoulders, stripes highlighting his toned stomach.
"My neighbors are going to hate me," he said, grabbing the pillow from behind Johnny's head and tossing it at him. "Come back here."
"Make me," Johnny said, grinning.
"Webbing could be fun."
Johnny fell backwards across Peter's knees and made a grab for the remote. He was wearing only an old pair of Peter's sweatpants and they hung low on his hips. Peter's couch was too old and too narrow and there was a spring digging into his back now that Johnny was lying on top of him, but he wouldn't have moved him for the world.
Also, he was kind of stuck on that webbing idea. Just a little.
"I'm scared if it gets in your hair you'll murder me," Peter said. He paused, yanking on a lock of Johnny's hair. "Title of your next sex tape?"
"Title of our sex tape," Johnny corrected, grinning up at Peter. "I'm going to be so good for your career."
"Do you ever stop?" Peter asked him, smile so wide it hurt and the ache in his chest bright.
"Title of the sequel!" Johnny said.
"You're so beautiful when you're not talking," Peter said.
"Title of the slightly creepy set of boudoir photos found after our mysterious deaths," Johnny said, waggling his eyebrows. Peter snorted.
"So much for happily ever after?" he said. "What's that, the threequel?"
"If we make three sex tapes people will accuse us of doing it for the attention," Johnny told him, face perfectly serious.
"Oh, right," Peter said. "Obviously."
Johnny shifted, making himself comfortable. He grabbed Peter's hand, holding onto him by the wrist and flipping through Netflix with his free hand. Peter's legs were going to fall asleep in fifteen minutes flat, but he wouldn't have changed a thing.
"Hot and Sticky," Johnny said after a long moment.
"What?" Peter asked. Johnny sat up and twisted, slinging one leg over Peter so he was straddling him, pushing Peter back against cushions that had seen better days. He was definitely going to need a new couch if Johnny stuck around. Johnny slid his hands up Peter's shoulders, warm clever fingers digging into stiff muscles.
"Title of our sex tape," Johnny said. Peter tipped his head back with a groan. "Hot and Sticky. Duh."