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In Which Harley Punches a Pedophile

Chapter Text

Both Harley and Peter knew that they didn’t hate each other, not exactly. Rather, they just couldn’t stand to be in the same room as each other. There wasn’t even a reason for it. It wasn’t as if they were upset over having to share Tony, in fact, they were both happy that Tony had another person that cared for him. Instead, it was more comparable to love at first sight, except that love was the furthest thing from what they had. What they felt towards one another was akin to annoyance - like how Harley’s eye compulsively twitched every time that Peter went on a long tangent about something or other, or how Peter’s nerves flared whenever Harley obliviously spoke at an obnoxious volume. It was the things that they couldn’t help that put them at odds with each other.

So as one could imagine, they tried to avoid each other as much as possible. The problem with that was that it wasn’t usually possible, because more often than not, they were both at the Avengers Compound with Tony at the same times. Neither of them was willing to give that up, so they saw each other more than they both would like.

But eventually Tony got annoyed with their constant arguments and glares towards one another, and “why can’t I just hang out with you guys without having you guys be at each other’s throats?” which brings us to where we are now.

“This is so fucking dumb,” Harley spat, tossing a rock at a group of pigeons.

Peter took a deep breath, feeling all of the claustrophobia of New York City and its eight and a half million citizens. “Say that a little louder, why don’t you?”

“Fuck off, Parker.” The pigeons scattered, fluttering away in a mess of feathers.

“I wish I could.” Peter was speaking for the both of them. After all, neither of them wanted to be aimlessly wandering New York City, forced to spend time together. But if they went their separate ways without “settling their differences,” or whatever, Tony would hunt down both their asses.

Another minute went by. “This is so boring,” Harley complained. He picked up another rock.

Peter’s stomach growled. “...Do you want to grab some coffee?”

“What, like a date? No thanks, I’m not a fucking fag,” Harley said unthinkingly, eyeing a pigeon that was pecking at an orange peel.

“Well I am, so if you have a problem with that, piss off.”

Accidentally twitching his wrist, Harley missed the pigeon and his rock bounced off the wall behind it. The pigeon remained unconcerned, looking up for a moment before blinking and waddling away.

“I- sorry,” Harley said, “I didn’t mean-”

“It’s fine,” Peter deadpanned.

 

It was on the way to the nearest coffee shop that Peter caught sight of a glimpse of white hair, instantly putting him on edge. But Peter knew better, it couldn’t be his old babysitter. It was most likely just another stranger walking down the street, oblivious to Peter’s dilemma. But then it was more than just a glimpse and the man with the white hair was coming closer and closer and-

And Peter thought, wow, he hasn’t changed a bit. And then he cringed at the possible double meaning.

“Hello, the name’s Skip,” the man - the absolute nightmare - said. “And you are?” He tugged a hand at his plain t-shirt, almost the same t-shirt as the one that he had been wearing when he- and Peter- but Peter couldn’t say anything.

As Skip stood there, hand outstretched towards Peter, it occurred to Peter that Skip didn’t recognize him. But then, why was he talking to him right now? Why did he single Peter out from everyone walking down the goddamn sidewalk?

Looking closer, Peter saw that Skip had a few more lines on his face than when he last saw him. He must’ve been in his thirties or forties by now, and holy shit did that made Peter feel sick to his stomach because Peter was still only seventeen, just like how back then he was only ten.

The silence must’ve gotten awkward because Skip decided to make a move. He tugged Peter’s hand into his and brought it towards his lips, and Peter tasted the bile rising in his mouth, but still, he couldn’t say anything.

Skip pressed his chapped, disgusting lips onto Peter’s unwilling hand, then let go. Peter’s hand fell limply to his side. “Sorry for inconveniencing you, but I couldn’t help but introduce myself to that cute face of yours.” Skip mouth stretched into a grin, one that Peter had learned long ago was predatorial and menacing.

“Sorry, what was your name again?” came a third person, one whose presence Peter had forgotten about the instant he spotted white hair.

“Steven Wescott, but you can call me Skip,” was the reply, holding an undertone of annoyance as Skip glanced in Harley’s direction. He clearly didn’t appreciate the intrusion - maybe he had thought that Peter was walking down the street unaccompanied (yet again, he was the perfect victim), which was understandable. Harley and Peter certainly didn’t come off as people who would willingly hang out with each other.

A cry of pain brought Peter back to the present, just in time to see that Skip was hunched over, cradling a broken nose. Peter didn’t quite know what to make of that - but then he looked over and saw Harley with a clenched fist and bloody knuckles and he put two and two together.

 

Peter hadn’t meant to tell anyone anything, certainly not Harley. But it had happened by accident, as most things did.

For the most part, Peter had been doing fine. No, actually, he wasn’t, but most people didn’t look close enough to see that. Even if they did, Peter was good at hiding, which is why he still didn’t fully understand how Harley figured it out.

When Peter had first met Harley, he was nervous. He wasn’t worried that Harley would ‘steal Tony’ from him or any sort of crap like that, which is what Tony had assumed was going on. Instead, he felt a sort of deep buzzing feeling in his stomach, the kind that made him want to run away and hide.

Needless to say, he didn’t do well with new people.

But Harley wasn’t like Skip. Harley was the most irritating person on the planet from day one, whereas Skip was sickly sweet and funny and charming and intent on making Peter trust him so that he could-

Anyway, Harley was just fine by Peter. His being annoying and rude and generally an asshole was a blessing.

So Peter carried on with his life, paying no heed to the new person at the Compound. He went through his days as usual - he tried not to flinch whenever Tony gave him a pat on the back (he didn’t like physical contact), tried not to get distant whenever someone mentioned Albert Einstein (what a stupid fucking nickname). He tried to seem like a normal teenager, not one who had been used for adult things that he hadn’t even understood at the time.

But somehow, Harley had noticed and he continued to watch closely.

The last straw was when Tony had to leave on the important business of god-knows-what, leaving Peter and Harley alone together in the lab. And Peter absolutely could not handle being alone with someone he didn’t trust.

At first, Peter had tried to ignore it. He continued working on upgrades for Tony’s Iron Man suit, but he couldn’t focus. That buzzing feeling in his stomach was coming back and he was hyper-aware of Harley’s breathing just a few feet away. Peter’s spidey sense went through the roof, the anxiety constricting his lungs as he heard the clink of metal as Harley fiddled with different pieces and gadgets, smelt the oil that was surely all over Harley’s hands, hell, he could even hear Harley’s goddamn heartbeat. And suddenly Peter couldn’t breathe because if Harley tried to take advantage of him then nobody would be there to help him.

And then Harley asked that damn question.

“Hey, so, what’s been going on with you?”

Peter literally jumped, his StarkPad clattering to the floor. His mouth felt dry. “I… what?”

“I just- damn, how do I say this? I had a friend back home who had been through some traumatic things, and you kinda act like how he had.”

“Excuse me?”

Harley let out a frustrated huff of air. “He had been taken advantage of. By someone older than him. I didn’t know what had happened at first, but he started acting weird. Distant. He kinda flinched away whenever people came too close, or when people said certain things - like how you do sometimes. And I wasn’t sure at first, maybe you were just shy? But now we’re alone and you’re acting weird around me so I had to ask.”

Peter was dumbfounded. He couldn’t even think of an excuse or a lie. So he just closed his eyes and nodded.

“Is it… is it still going on?” Harley had asked. “Because if it is, we can get the person locked up so that he’s not bothering you anymore.”

“No,” Peter had said in a small voice. He couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that Harley had just… figured it out. He felt exposed.

“Oh,” Harley paused, unsure of what to say. “Who was it?”

Peter didn’t know why, but he felt like he had to say it. He hadn’t been able to say anything for years, but now, with nothing left to conceal, he had the desperate need to feel in control. Maybe if he came out and named his nightmare this one time, he’d feel better. “Skip Westcott,” he said. But somehow he felt even more helpless than before.

“Is he in jail?”

“No.”

 

Now Peter could feel the irony as Harley got interrogated in a holding cell and he himself sat in the waiting room. The only other people the room were Skip, who sat just across from Peter, and the police officer, who had tried to get Peter to talk before moving on to Skip. He felt bad for not being able to answer her questions, but it wasn’t his fault that she sounded like she was talking underwater. Absentmindedly, he wondered if they were all underwater, or if it was just her.

In any case, Peter really hoped that she wouldn’t drown.

He continued to follow this train of thought, but in the end, it all came back to Skip.

Maybe Skip recognized him now. Maybe Skip had been staring at Peter long enough for him to connect Peter with that little boy he had fucked seven years ago.

Peter thought that if anyone drowned, it should be Skip.

But then he couldn’t see Skip across from him anymore. His vision was blocked by something in his immediate view - more like some one.

Tony’s face floated into view, but that didn’t make sense because he was supposed to leave Peter and Harley alone until they got along better. Wait, where was Harley again?

Tony opened his mouth to speak, but his words were all garbled. Peter panicked. He really didn’t want Tony to drown. Then Tony turned away, but Peter didn’t want to be alone with Skip again. He tried to reach out his hand, but he could still feel Skips lips on it and it was too heavy for him to lift. So he instead lifted up his other hand. It was hard to move it through the water (how did he fall into the ocean without realizing it?), but he managed, slowly but surely. Finally, he grabbed Tony’s jacket, holding onto it like a lifeline.

Tony turned back towards him and he couldn’t see Skip anymore. Peter felt relieved.

Tony spoke more garbled nonsense, but this time Peter didn’t panic. He knew that Tony wouldn’t drown - Tony wasn’t a normal person, he was a lifeboat. Lifeboats floated above the water and carried people so that they didn’t sink under. Peter knew that Tony wouldn’t let him sink, so he closed his eyes and trusted him, floating into the deep depths of slumber.

Chapter Text

“I already told you - if Peter wants to talk, he’ll talk. It’s none of my business to say anything,” Harley told the apparently-deaf police officer, rolling his eyes for the millionth time.

“If it’s none of your business, then why did you get involved?” persevered Officer Jenson like a broken fucking record.

“I don’t suppose I know what you mean, sir,” Harley replied easily, flashing him a lazy smirk. The younger boy smugly noted how Officer Jenson’s eyebrow twitched in irritation.

“You punched an innocent person in the face,” Jenson deadpanned.

“Hey, that ‘innocent man’ raped my friend! Wait- fuck,” Harley groaned. He noisily collapsed back against his chair and glared at Officer Jenson, folding his arms across his chest.

“Gotcha,” the officer boasted.

“And it only took ya half an hour,” Harley muttered.

Officer Jenson chose to ignore him, continuing with his unbearable interrogating. “If you had legitimate reasons to punch the guy in the face, why wouldn’t you have told me off the bat?”

“I ain’t no snitch,” Harley shot back.

“Please try to be serious. Don’t you want your friend to get justice against his rapist?”

“Sure do, but spilling my guts to you isn’t gonna do shit. The American legal system is terrible - even if Skip went on trial, there’d be a very slim chance of him winning.”

“I see. Well-” His walkie-talkie beeped, cutting off the officer’s next words. “Harley Keener’s ride is here to pick him up. No charges are being pressed against him, so he’s free to go.”

Harley stood up, saluting Officer Jenson with a goofy grin. “Until next time, officer.”

 

Yawning, Harley stretched out on the couch and skimmed through channels on Tony’s huge ass flat screen. Might as well watch tv until the man came back downstairs.

Tony, after all, was busy carrying Peter up to his bedroom. The poor kid had gone into shock by the time they got to the police station, which had scared the shit out of Tony when he got there. It didn’t help when Peter literally collapsed on top of the man, passing right out.

Damn, what a day it’d been so far. Harley was more than happy to relax now and watch Spongebob.

“We need to talk,” intruded Tony from behind him. Harley sighed. Just when he was getting comfortable.

“Hey, don’t start huffing and puffing. I have no idea what happened today, so you need to explain,” Tony demanded, coming around the couch to sit on the coffee table.

“Hey, you’re blocking the screen!” Harley complained, trying to see around Tony.

“FRIDAY, turn off the tv.”

“FRIDAY, turn it back on!” Harley countered.

Tony fixed Harley with a glare. The television, unfortunately, did not turn back on.

“Harley,” Tony said, lowering his voice. “I have a kid who punched a stranger in the face and another kid who looked fucking terrified at- at what , exactly?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Don’t pull that shit on me.”

“It’s Peter’s personal business. If he wants to tell you, he will. I’m not gonna betray him,” Harley said loosely.

Tony took a deep breath, trying to keep his agitation under control. “Peter’s personal business becomes my business when it affects his mental state. The kid was in shock, for damn sake!”

Looking directly at Tony, Harley stared him down and Tony stared right back. As much as he hated to admit it, Harley knew that Tony was right, so, for just this once, he gave in.

“Fine, I’ll tell you.”

“Thank you,” Tony replied.

“So… um…” Harley scrunched his eyes shut, really not wanting to say what was about to come out of his mouth. For whatever reason, the weight of it all hit him just then.

“Anytime now, buddy.”

“Just- just hold on a second!” Harley snapped. “It’s a heavy fucking topic!”

Tony went silent, waiting in a very restrained sort of patience.

“That guy, the one I punched. You saw him at the police station, right? White hair, ugly ass face?” Harley began.

Tony raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, what was his name again?”

“Steven Wescott. Or, ‘Skip.’ Anyway, he… did some screwed up stuff to Peter. I don’t know how recently. It must’ve been a while ago, though, because today when he approached Peter in the street, he didn’t recognize him.”

Harley noticed how Tony’s expression hardened, picking out Skip to be an enemy. “Can you be a bit more specific?” he asked, but Harley knew that it wasn’t a question.

“He… he raped Peter,” Harley didn’t meet Tony’s eyes, not wanting to see his expression, “I think Peter was a kid at the time because again, Skip didn’t recognize him today,”

“A kid,” Tony repeated, practically livid.

“Uh, yeah…”

“Hang on for a second,” Tony said, squeezing his eyes shut as if to clear his head. “Skip didn’t recognize Peter today. Did Peter recognize him and warn you?”

“Not exactly. Yeah, Skip didn’t recognize Peter, but Skip did see him first. I guess Skip thought that Peter was cute or whatever because he approached Peter and tried to make a move on him, which is fucking gross ‘cuz Skip’s an old ass man and Peter’s still a teenager. So then Peter looked kinda freaked out, which is totally understandable. But Skip had introduced himself, so I put two and two together and punched the dude in the face.”

“What do you mean ‘you put two and two together?’” Tony pushed.

“I-” Harley stopped, feeling sheepish. “Peter told me about Skip, ah, a week ago. So when Skip introduced himself… I already knew his name so… I put two and two together, I guess.”

“You knew,” Tony repeated, looking directly at Harley, “and you didn’t tell me?”

“It was Peter’s personal information! Besides, what’s done is done! If I had told you, all it would’ve done is betray his privacy!”

“That kind of shit doesn’t just go away, Harley, it fucks you up for life! I could’ve gotten him a therapist, I could’ve done something to help him cope with it in a healthy way!”

Then came a different, tired voice from the side of the room, softly saying, “Thanks, Tony, but I’m glad that Harley kept it a secret.”

Both Tony and Harley immediately whipped around to see Peter looking like an absolute mess as he leaned against the wall next to the elevator. If Peter wasn’t leaning on that wall, Harley was sure that he would have collapsed. Peter’s eyes were hooded, hair was sticking up in a hundred different directions and his clothes were all rumpled - he had just woken up.

“Pete, I’m sorry you had to hear that. Go back to bed and we can talk about this later,” Tony insisted.

“I can’t sleep.” Peter pushed himself off of the wall and didn’t collapse, to Harley’s great surprise, instead making his way over to them. Harley sat up and moved over on the couch, allowing Peter to sit. Instead, however, Peter sat on the uncomfortable-as-fuck coffee table and leaned into Tony’s side, of whose arm wrapped around the boy almost automatically.

“Okay,” Tony conceded, seemingly at a loss for words. “How about I get you something to eat?”

“M’not hungry.”

Harley could see the pain written on Tony’s face. It was in the way his eyebrows were drawn together, the way his lips were pressed into a firm line. Despite Tony’s prior insistence that he could’ve done something for Peter, he really didn’t know what to do.

So instead of sticking around, Harley stood up and went upstairs, leaving room for the two to sit on the couch together. It was the least he could do.

Chapter Text

Tony and Peter were lying on Peter’s bed at the Compound and watching whatever was playing on tv. However, the tv was more background noise than anything else; neither of them was paying much attention to it. Tony was focused on Peter and Peter was focused on - well, Tony didn’t know for sure what was going through Peter’s head, but he figured that it couldn’t be good. Tony didn’t know what to do about that, but he’d be damned if he didn’t try.

“Hey, buddy, you with me?” Tony softly asked.

A long second passed by and Tony was beginning to think that he wouldn’t get a response.

But then came, “...Yeah. I am.”

“Good, good.”

Again, they lapsed into silence. It wasn’t an awkward silence, but instead the consuming type; Tony tried to fill it with flowing conversation but found only dead ends.

“You can talk to me, you know?” Tony tried.

“I know.” It was a stiff reply, but a reply nonetheless. Tony could work with that.

“I mean it. No matter what it is, I’m here. It could be something big, like what had happened yesterday with you and Harley, or it could be you complaining about, I don’t know, mac and cheese or something.”

“Mac and cheese?” Peter said, letting out a short laugh.

“Or something.”

Fuck, now he was the one with a stiff reply and a dead end.

Peter sighed. “Stop doing that.”

“Stop doing what?”

“It’s like you’re walking on eggshells around me. Yeah, seeing Skip scared the shit out of me, but what happened with him had happened years ago. I’ve been dealing with it just fine and nobody noticed, so don’t start treating me differently now.”

Tony mentally flinched at the “nobody noticed,” part. Damn, had the kid even told his aunt? Was he really alone all these years?

“Tony, say something,” Peter pleaded, leaning into his mentor’s side.

“I’m sorry for not noticing earlier, but I’m here now,” Tony said, “I can help you. Your aunt can help you. Hell, you even got Harley in your corner. The point is, I know that you’ve been fighting your own battles, but you don’t have to do that anymore. Let me put Skip in jail. Let me find you a therapist. Let me be there for you.

Peter took a deep breath and held it in for a few seconds. He finally let it out, the released air making a whooshing sound. “Okay,” he agreed. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

Both Tony and Peter knew that there’d be a long, bumpy road to recovery, but Peter would make it through to the end. He would make it, and Tony and Aunt May would be there, smiling with him.

Right before he fell asleep, he made a mental note to thank Harley for punching Skip.