He was being stupid.
Peter knew he was being childish and stupid but, still, he couldn’t stop himself from being upset.
“It’s not like you’re the only kid that likes Tony”, his conscience shot back at him. “He probably helps a load of kids that need money or motivation to get through high school. Besides, you’re here. You live with him, he let’s you call him “dad” and Miss Potts likes you. He’s not gonna send you away.”
Or is he?
“Shut up, Peter.”
Peter had never been a self-assured person.
He tended to focus on his flaws and setbacks rather than his gifts and privileges. To his despair he caught himself remembering all the minor mistakes or awkward moments from the past and letting himself be overwhelmed by them.
He had tried to talk about it with Aunt May, after all, they were close, but he quickly found out he simply couldn’t. His tongue would get stuck to the top of his mouth, jaws clenched together so firmly he thought he was going to break a tooth and a panic wave sitting in his stomach, wait to break free. So Peter decided to bottle up.
When he had met Tony, he immediately picked up on Peter’s lack of confidence and did all he could to boost Peter’s self-esteem, even going as far as subtly alerting Miss Potts and Rhodey to the importance of praising him. Peter was constantly showered in praises (even if all he did was finish his homework or clean up after himself), cuddles (Tony’s favourite was the basic “hand-on-shoulder” dad move while Miss Potts would kiss the top of his head and Rhodey just smiled kindly at him) and gifts (a new laptop when school started, a new phone when Tony found out he had dropped his while patrolling, free access to the labs, a bigger allowance then what he would ever need and random candy being thrown at him during the day).
So, yeah. he got a little bit used to being the youngest in the team, the family’s kid and he was basically living the dream, after so many years of just being him and his aunt against the world. Now he had a huge safety net and he wasn’t ready to lose it just yet.
So, yeah he was panicking because Tony had asked him for five minutes after breakfast to have a talk with him and basically told him about a kid he had met during the Mandarin chaos named Harley. Apparently, Harley was only two years older than him (a year and a few months, to be exact) but he was already in MIT and, since, summer break was just starting and Harley didn’t planned anything to do, Tony had invited him to spend a few weeks in the compound. So he could hang out. With Peter. Harley said yes.
So, now, Peter was in his room, pretending to read a book from the summer mandatory reading list and freaking out because what if this is it? What if Harley is better than me and Tony sends me back to Queens? What if he never wants to be around me again?
So he did what he always does when he’s panicking. He called Ned.
“Dude, is eight in the morning. Could you not call me on the first day of summer break at eight in the freaking morning?”, Ned’s voice rang loud, a bit less pitched than usual.
“It’s nine, forty three Ned.”
“It’s the same thing, Parker. Now, what do you want from me? Wait, are you spiderman-ing?”
“That’s… That’s not a word Ned. And.. No, I’m not out patrolling. I’m at home but I need your help.”
“Oh. What is it? If it’s homework, I can’t help you dude. I still haven’t touched my backpack since I came home from school.”, Ned’s voice was higher now. The words less rolled up than before as he slowly woke up and started to think faster.
Peter sighed. He could either tell the truth and probably have to endure Ned’s jokes forever or he could lie about it and hang up.
“Peter? Are you there?”
“Oh? Yeah… I… Tony told me he invited Harley to spend the summer here.”
“Who the heck is Harley?”, Ned was definitely up now. Peter could hear him getting out of bed and walking around the room.
“A kid he met during the Mandarin attacks. He helped him when the power was off. He’s like… two years older than us.”
“And they stayed in touch? That’s a long time to be friend with a kid. He’s like… his fake kid or?” Wow, Ned! You sure know how to say the right things at all times! “Wait, is that why you called? ‘Cause Mr. Stark is bringing a new kid home? Are you… Are you jealous, Peter?”
“No!”, Peter said immediately, causing Ned to burst into laughter. From his side of the line, he could hear Ned’s shaking breaths and something fall to the ground.
“You are! Peter, this is awesome! Are you gonna fight this kid for the “favourite son” award?”, Ned asked in between giggles. Why did I even called you?
“I’m not gonna fight anyone Ned. I’m sorry I woke you up. Go back to sleep. I have to go.”
Peter was almost hanging up the call when he heard Ned’s “ NO! ” from the other side of the line and a few coughs. “Are you done laughing at me, then? ‘Cause I really need your help dude!”
“I am, I promise. I’m sorry dude. I wanna help but… You have to admit it’s funny, right?”
“Yeah, really funny, Ned. If I end up being kicked out back to Queens that will be really funny!”
“You don’t actually think he’s going to kick you out, right? I mean, that’s crazy Peter!”
“I don’t know Ned!”, he shot back. He stepped back at the sound of his own voice, surprised at how angry and stressed it sounded.
“Dude, you’re insane. Mr. Stark has been throwing gifts at you left and right and you think he’s going to send you away with a kick in the ass because of this random kid?”
“I… don’t know. You said it so. It’s a long time to be friends with a random kid. Maybe he likes him more…”
“More than you? Peter, you’re living in his house! You’re working in his company! You’re basically his side-kick! Do you see this kid anywhere? ‘Cause I don’t. If he liked him that much, he would be here, not you!”
“He’s already in MIT, so maybe…”
“Maybe Tony likes him because he’s smart but so are you! Just show him you’re smart, play cool and don’t stress. If you start running around like crazy, than this Harley kid is gonna use it against you. So, be you, play nice and show Stark you’re still cool enough to stay.”
“I was never cool enough to stay, Ned.”
“Stark thinks you are. So chill.”
“That’s it? Chill? Be nice?”
“It’ll work. Trust me, dude. It will work.”
“Fine… He’ll be here before lunch so I should help Aunt May with the food. We’ll talk later.”
“Tell me how it went after!” Ned demanded before hanging up. Peter sighed and got ready to walk to the kitchen. “ Chill, be nice, act natural… Yeah, right. ”
Harley Keener, was, in fact, still a kid, despite being older than him. He showed up in old, worn-out clothes, shabby hair and a two huge backpacks hanging from his shoulders. Happy complained about the fact that his sneakers were full of mud while Miss Potts hugged the teenager. For, whatever reason, Peter felt a little less intimidated now that he could see him.
- Tony will be here in a second. How was the flight? Are you ok?
-It’s cool, Miss Potts. I’m fine and the flight was boring but I managed to not die. - He dropped the bags in the middle of the hall and followed her into the kitchen where Peter was snacking on some fresh baked cookies. Harley’s eyes dropped on him and Peter felt the hairs in the back of his neck standing up. - Hi, I’m Harley. You’re Peter, right?
-Yeah. Welcome. - Peter said while getting up to his feet, hands stuffed in his pockets, trying his best to ignore the extended hand in front of him. Harley smiled back at him and walked towards Aunt May without another word. “Good job, Peter. Ned said ‘play nice’ and what do you do? Barely answer him and refuse to shake his stupid hand.”
-You must be Miss Parker. Hi, I’m Harley. Nice to meet you!
This time, Harley didn’t offer his hand for a handshake. Instead, Aunt May hugged him briefly and offered him the huge plate of cookies and told him to sit down next to Peter by the balcony. Aunt May threw Peter a look of “what are you doing?” while Harley was turned around and Miss Potts started chatting about whatever side project Tony was working on and that they would probably be able to play around with.
Peter did his best to keep up, saying a couple of things here and there, but he mostly kept himself quiet. Harley, on the other hand, kept the conversation going, talking for the both of them about everything and anything.
Lunch wasn’t much better, Peter decided. With Tony around, Harley talked about his first year at college, about all the projects he did and the grades he had, which sounded awesome but just made Peter feel more like the boring, dumb kid. Rhodey kept eyeing Peter with a knowing look and, when he asked to be excused from the table, Aunt May looked like she was about to say something before letting him go.
So Peter basically ran to his room, locked the door and did all he could to not punch himself. Why was he being so stupid? If this was a test, he had failed completely. In fact, he had helped Harley pass with flying colours while screwing himself royally.
“I have to fix this. Apologize. Hang with him for a while. That’s what Tony wants, right? For us to hang out? Yeah… We’ll hang out. Maybe watch a movie, so we don’t have to talk. Tony won’t be mad and Harley won’t be able to say I ignored him. Ok… Yeah, that’s a good plan Parker. You can do this.”
He waited almost an hour before coming out of his room and, to his dismay, Harley was already in the living room, doing something on his phone.
“You can do this, Peter. You’re spider-man. You can do anything.”
-Hm… Hi? - “Smooth, Parker. I swear, how are you even on honour board?.” Harley’s head shot up, obviously confused by Peter’s presence. - I… I wanted to apologize by… that at lunch, I guess? I’m not good with strangers.
Harley put the phone away and smiled a bit. Not a “hi! I’m Harley” smile, but a “ok. I’m listening” kind of smile. Peter stepped closer to him and sat on the other side of the couch.
-I thought we could… I don't’ know. Watch a movie or something? Unless you’re busy… I can just go and come back…
-It’s cool. Which movie do you wanna watch? - Harley asked looking up. - FRIDAY, show us some movies to watch. I was think, sci-fi?
Harley was looking at him again. Patiently, waiting for him to talk. “Oh, that was for me. Oh… Crap, what do I say?”.
-Star Wars, maybe? The first episode?
-Chronologically or the same way they were released?
-Ned, a friend of mine, and I actually watch them in another other. It’s IV, V, II, III, VI and then Return of the Jedi and the new movies after that. - Harley shot him a tiny smirk, something wasn’t sure what it meant but it felt positive, before asking FRY to put on the movie while he looked for the snacks.
Eventually, Harley came back with a ton of food and drinks, grabbed blankets from the other couch and the movie started without another word. Peter decided to ignore everything around him and just focus on the movie in front of him, and, honestly, it was working until Harley decided to start making little grumbling noises under his breath.
-You ever realized how low-key messed up the Jedi Order is?
-I’m not saying the Sith are good guys, they do bad stuff as well… But, like, look at the history on the other side of things. Sith are painted as the villains but they were originally just a splinter faction with a different belief system. The court ordered genocide against a Sith planet that posed no threat after having been defeated in a war. Even better, the Sith were only on that planet because the Jedi had killed all of them but twelve, stripped them of everything and put them on ship into rand deep space. If that isn’t messed up, I don’t know what is.
Harley seemed to take Peter silence and strange looks as a “shut up” order and bit into a cookie with unnecessary strength before shutting up.
-They also abandoned their peace loving code to become commanders and generals in the Clone Wars and lead a violent coup against a leader just because he was from a group they had a personal vendetta against. - Petter added quietly, without looking directly at Harley. He did, however, kept an eye out for reactions and managed not to smile when he saw Harley’s surprised face. - They also train to feel no remorse or pity as opposed to the Sith who are expected to embrace all emotions.
-I know, right? - Harley asked excitedly, almost smaking him in the arm while facing him. - I mean, even if you don’t want to look at the Sith side of things. The Jedi are huge dicks by themselves: “ No, we don’t kidnap children. We take them because it is the will of the force. And if they ever feel the urge to meet with their family, we sent them to the counselor because that urge is bad and something is wrong with them ”.
Peter laughed at the old, monotonous not-quite-Yoda voice Harley was doing while pretending to be a Jedi. He turned his torso towards him so he could keep up with the conversation.
-They also act like they are the only ones that can use the force properly! And the prophecy about the Chosen One bringing balance to the force! Like, how the heck is destroying all trace of the dark side “balanced”, George Lucas? - He actually threw his arms in defeat and reach for the cookies. - And the “don’t get attached” thing? How is that supposed to work? Like, don’t get attached to anything. Besides your lightsaber and your master. But not really your master. Don’t get attached or you’ll turn evil and probably kill everyone. How does this makes sense?
-And the continuous mind fucking with everyone that opposes them! They are so cool and super okay about it! Like? Aren’t you supposed to be the good guys? Mind control is not good! - This time, Harley was the one to throw his arms up in defeat and angrily munch on cookies.
“ We shouldn’t be eating Aunt May’s cookies. ”
-The difference between the codes are crazy. - Harley said, although the food in his mouth made it sound like he was choking and asking for hyphens to be added to his coke. - The only reasonable ones are, ironically, the Sith and the Gray Jedi ones.
-”There is no Dark Side, nor a Light Side; There is Only the Force. I will do what I must to keep the balance. The balance is what keeps me together. There is no good without evil, but evil must not be allowed to flourish. There is passion, yet peace; serenity, yet emotion; chaos yet order. I am the wielder of the flame, the protector of the balance; I am the holder of the torch, lighting the way; I am the keeper of the flame, soldier of balance; I am a guardian of balance. I am a Gray Jedi”. - Peter cited while Harley nodded. -The original Jedi Order were basically villains with good publicity battling villains with bad publicity.
-They were both terrible but in different ways. - Harley agreed. - I’m pretty sure that the only reason no Jedi tried to start a galactic dictatorship like Palpatine did is just because they didn’t view it as necessary to achieve their goals.
-You’re probably right. - Peter added softly before focusing in the movie once more.
They stayed in silence for a while, not really paying attention to the movie but not talking to each other either. That was, until Peter turned his face towards Harley as eyed him with a serious expression.
-What do you think about the new star trek movies?
As Harley talked about pros and cons about the original series and the new movies, Peter decided that, maybe, having him around wasn’t so bad.