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Built To Fall Apart (and Back Together)

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Johnny didn’t remember how it happened, or where he’d found the nerve.  He remembered Spider-Man complaining about something, waving one hand animatedly, over burgers and fries atop the Statue of Liberty.  Johnny had stopped listening at some point, watching as the other got worked up, mouth drawn downward in a funny little pout, his chin glistening with grease.

He remembered how soft Spider-Man’s lips had been, the indignant squawk that had come with him dropping his burger right off the statue, how his mouth had tasted of cheese and beef and onions, and Johnny hadn’t cared.

“Why?” Spider-Man asked when Johnny pulled away.  No anger or offense, even the surprise had apparently been spent in the moment his burger went over the side.  There was just calm curiosity.

“I wanted to shut you up.”

“Couldn’t have just said, ‘Shut up, Spidey?’”

Johnny smiled shakily and put a hand on the back of Spidey’s neck.  The other didn’t flinch or pull away and maybe, he thought, that was a good sign.  “Where’s the fun in that?”

Spider-Man’s mouth turned further downward.  “Is that what this is about? Fun?”

No.  There was nothing fun in the way he felt about Spider-Man, with his heart going as hard as a triphammer every time the masked vigilante came within fifty feet of him, with the looming possibility that he’d lose his friend if Spider-Man didn’t feel the same.  Johnny wanted to confess those things, but the words refused to come.

“Johnny.”

He shivered at the sound of his name, even though the Human Torch had long lost the ability to feel cold.  “Please. Please kiss me? It—It doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to, but if—if you do—”

Spider-Man, whose mouth had been slowly curving into a smile through Johnny’s stammering, finally laughed, and Johnny wanted to disappear—wanted to melt into the stone and stay there forever.

“You know, I thought I was having a good day,” he said conversationally, before Johnny could yell out an apology and fly away in shame.  He reached out hesitantly and placed a hand over Johnny’s, resting on the crown. His hand was warm, its weight over his effortlessly keeping him still.

Johnny held his breath.

“A new pizza stand opened in the park near my apartment, and the slices are enormous. Then my best friend just came to me with an idea that...well, might mean I can finally have a job that means something. And now—” Spider-Man’s hand moved from Johnny’s to trace the line of his jaw, unexpectedly gentle.  “I should quit, while I’m ahead.”

Johnny’s heart leaped and every inch of his skin Spider-Man had touched sang.  “I’m flattered that me kissing you is about the same level as cheap pizza.”

Spider-Man snorted, fingers splayed across Johnny’s cheek, inching towards his hair.  “It’s a distant third on the list.”

“Oh, is it?  And what’s that about a job that might actually mean something?  You’re already Spider-Man.”

“Spider-Man isn’t a job, Johnny,” he said, almost stern.  “It’s just what I do.”

Johnny looked at him archly, emboldened by the fact that he hadn’t swung away yet.  “What other things do you do , and can I get on that list?”

Spider-Man groaned and kissed him, open-mouthed and eager, and Johnny made a small, needy sound against his tongue.  He’d hoped for this, but had never expected it, not once in the thousand times he had played this scenario in his brain.

“Your lips are super soft,” Spider-Man mumbled, awkward and endearing.

“You taste like burgers and fries,” Johnny responded, just to see what he would say.

“So do you, dumbass.”

Johnny laughed, breathless, as the world narrowed to that single moment.  He felt Spider-Man’s fingers tighten in his curls, saw the lenses on his mask reflecting the orange glow of sunset, and breathed in the sweet-sharp scent of web fluid on Spidey’s skin, like the world’s most distinct aftershave.

“Do you want me to—” Spider-Man hesitated, swallowed, and Johnny knew.

“Hey,” he said with infinite, cursed patience.  “You don’t have to if you’re not ready. Keep it on.  It’s hot.”

“I should have known,” Spider-Man said against his lips.

“I’m making out with Spider-Man,” Johnny said.  His lips stung where Spider-Man’s touched. “How many people can even say that?”

“Oh. Well—”

Johnny groaned and he laughed.  “Don’t ruin the moment.”

Spider-Man kissed him again, and Johnny let himself stop thinking.  There would be time for unmasking later. Time to know his name and his face and everything else.

But he was Johnny Storm, and he really should have known better than that.

 

+

 

One year to the day since Spider-Man disappeared, and the world still talked about him as if it missed him. Johnny glared at the latest special running on TV and curled his lip in distaste.  On screen, a clip of network journalists chasing down a familiar face was playing, showing the pair hurrying down Park Avenue as fast as two people could without running outright, until their quarry stopped in the middle of the street and turned around to look straight at the camera.

“For the last time, I don’t know who he is, I don’t know his face, and I don’t know where he went!” Peter Parker, photographer (said the label underneath his image), snapped.  Now quit following me! And tell all your other friends to do the same.”

Johnny tilted his head, wondering, not for the first time, what had become of Peter since.  Did he still take pictures? Had he found someone new to pester? Johnny had long stopped paying attention to the Daily Bugle beyond checking the headline in the hopes of another patented J. Jonah Jameson rant about how Spidey was a menace despite having saved New York for the nth time.  He would take it — libelous and offensive as it would likely be — if it meant the web-head was back.

But there was nothing.  There was never anything.  The TV stations kept making stupid specials with the same recycled footage that grew more and more hollow every time, and Johnny kept on watching them because they were all that was left.

“For heaven’s sake, kid,” Ben said, on his hands and knees not far away.  Franklin was climbing all over him like a jungle gym, giggling. “If the show’s upsettin’ you, turn it off.”

Johnny blinked blankly at him. “What?”

“You’re makin’ that face, like you jus’ ate Susie’s meatloaf special.  Watch somethin’ else.”

Johnny stared.

Ben got to his feet, grumbling, a weakly flailing Franklin under one arm, and snatched up the remote.  On the screen was a shot of the sky over Manhattan with a message, already beginning to fade, written against the blue in twenty-foot tall flames.

Spidey, where are you?  Meet me at the usual place.

Johnny remembered all the dozens of times he’d written that.  He’d gotten used to the mockery and the rumors and had stopped caring months ago.

Ben paused as the voiceover made a comment about “the Human Torch’s strange obsession” and growled low in his throat.

“Ben,” Johnny started.  “Don’t—”

The screen blinked into blackness and Johnny lunged forward, snatching the remote control out of Ben’s hand.  He turned the TV back on just in time for rare clear footage of Spider-Man, red and blue, spinning between skyscrapers as though he weighed nothing. As though laws of things like physics and gravity only applied to him at his own convenience.

Johnny dropped the remote and sat back down.

“Ben,” he heard his sister’s voice say, and Johnny looked up, wondering when she had gotten there.  Sue was looking right at him. “Could you take Franklin up to the roof deck for a bit? He could do with some play time in the sun for a while.”

Ben glanced between one Storm and the other and walked out.

Sue picked up the remote control.

“Sue, please—”

“It’s all right.  I’m not turning it off, see? Just picking this up so Ben doesn’t step on it. Again,” she said, laying it on the coffee table.  “Mind if I join you?”

Johnny slowly shook his head.

She sat down next to him and Johnny tensed, preparing himself for some kind of lecture.  Instead, she asked, “Do you want to talk, Johnny?”

And Johnny hated it.  The gentle tone as if he would break. The expression on her face, tinged with pity.  The concern, as if he were six years old and helpless.

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

“Johnny.  The rest of us liked him, too, you know.  He’s our friend, too.”

Johnny gave her a scornful glance.  “It’s not remotely the same, and you know it.”

“I don’t actually.  Johnny, please. Just talk to me.  You know you can tell me anything.”

He said nothing, studiously avoiding her gaze.

“It’s been a year,” she said gently.  “If anything, this is long overdue. Please talk to me?”

Johnny took a deep breath, feeling a bubble in his chest that was threatening to explode.  When he opened his mouth, it did—in a torrent of words. “It’s just—No one knows what even happened to him.  There wasn’t some grand battle where he got hurt. We didn’t see him whisked away by aliens or whatever. None of his villains—and they never shut up—have stepped up to claim the credit for getting rid of him.  For all we know, he just...stopped showing up to work one day.”

“It happens,” she sighed.  “People in our line of work — especially the ones working alone — can’t keep doing it forever.  Maybe he got tired of it. Maybe his family asked him to stop. There are a thousand maybes it could have been.”

Johnny laughed bitterly.  “But he wasn’t alone.  He had—He had us...He had me.” He finished the sentence quietly, the word almost a whisper.  “I thought...I thought he knew that.”

Sue frowned at him.  “What do you mean?”

“I hope you’re right,” Johnny said.  “Even if it hurts, I hope you’re right and he just retired or something.  Just woke up one day and gave it—gave it all up. I’ll take him not actually caring about how I feel over him being gone forever.”

A pause.  “Johnny, you get to be as sad as you want, but why do I get the feeling there’s something you’re not telling me?”

He gave a wild, hollow laugh.  “What, like the fact that I was stupidly in love with a guy whose name and face I didn’t even know?”

“Oh, Johnny,” Sue said, putting a hand on the back of his head and pulling it to rest on her shoulder.  “Everyone with eyes already knew that.”

“God.  Well, that’s embarrassing.  My biggest secret and everyone was in on it.”

Sue laughed.  “Well. Wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.  Besides, you’ve done a terrible job of hiding it, what with all the periodic skywriting asking to meet in the ‘usual place,’ wherever that is.”

Johnny snorted, even though his heart still felt like there was a fist clenched around it.

“There’s more, isn’t there?” Sue asked knowingly.

Johnny squeezed his eyes shut.  In his mind, he could still see Spider-Man’s reckless grin slowly disappearing as he lowered his mask.  He could still hear the loud whoop as the vigilante jumped backwards off the Statue of Liberty. He could still taste that last kiss.

“I kissed him,” he admitted, saying the words out loud for the first time.

“You kissed him?”

“On the Statue of Liberty.”

“The Statue of Liberty, really?”

“That was the usual place,” he mumbled.  “And he kissed me back. We—We were up there for hours.  It was...It was sunset and pretty and I thought it was perfect. But I guess it wasn’t, after all.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, that was the last time I ever saw him.” He hunched in on himself, burying his face further into her shoulder.  He’d been an idiot to think that they had time on their side. “As far as I know, it was the last time anyone did.”

Sue’s fingers dug into his scalp.  “Oh, Johnny,” she breathed, sounding faintly horrified.  “Johnny, I’m so sorry.”

He nodded, eyes still closed.

“Is there anything you need me to do?  Anything you want?”

Johnny shook his head.

“Johnny, you can’t sit in here all day watching videos about him.  It’s not going to help.”

“I know, I know.  I’ll—I’ll go out. Or something.  Find some distraction or whatever.”

Sue didn’t say anything, even though she probably knew what Johnny meant by a distraction.  He’d done it often enough — getting into parties and exclusive clubs he hadn’t been invited to as if he’d been meant to be there all along.  He would get wasted and end up in yet another scandal with some random person he’d never see again. Gossip sites would have a field day, and eventually everyone would move on.  

Except Johnny.  He would just start it all over again.

He began to pull away.

“Johnny.”

“Yeah?”

“Reed and I were supposed to go to an event tonight.  Some business launch. But you can go in my place if you want.”

He hesitated, knowing this was Sue’s way of compromising.  Johnny could go and be the center of attention somewhere someone could keep an eye on him.  “It’s going to be terribly boring, isn’t it?”

Sue smiled faintly.  “Not with you there, maybe.  Please, Johnny? I’d just feel better if you were with Reed.”

He sighed.  He could always cut out if no one caught his interest.  Reed could be surprisingly fast, but Johnny could fly at the speed of sound and outrun him any day.  “Fine,” he said at last. “Just this once, I’ll take a chaperone.”

 

+

 

The launch party was, surprisingly, not as dull as Johnny had expected from the type of gatherings Reed usually dragged them to, which were usually attended by stuffy academics or executives.  Instead, this party was full of people closer to his age, even though there were still a few of the former two in attendance.

Johnny had no idea what had brought them all together, even after over half an hour of mingling, but he didn’t really care, anyway.  He’d already met who he thought might be the most interesting person of the night — some slightly older high-powered lawyer with a smile like a shark, but with a handsome face and green eyes that promised Johnny all sorts of things.  Johnny had been just about ready to pull him into some secluded spot and see if he meant everything he was promising, but then a tall woman had swooped in and started to drag the man away, citing work.

He shrugged, swearing to be back as soon as he could, and left Johnny standing alone, frustrated.

Johnny picked up a flute of champagne from a tray a steward was holding out and absently took a sip.  He’d lost track of Reed almost as soon as they got there, but he was sure that Reed hadn’t lost track of him.  It didn’t matter. Johnny couldn’t see him and he could do whatever he wanted without having to suffer glances of disapproval or, worse, concern.

Johnny turned, meaning to go around the room to see if perhaps Mr. Green Eyes wasn’t the best the night had to offer, and immediately bumped into someone’s back — someone lean and broad-shouldered, brown hair curling into the nape of his neck, a few locks sticking out in odd directions, as if fingers had tugged them out of a careful attempt to control them.

The man took a step forward, further away from Johnny, and slowly turned around.

Recognition hit him instantly.  There were flashes of memory, of a skinny teen, all sharp bones and sarcasm.  And a college kid, slightly more filled out but still razor-tongued. And fresher than those, the image of a besieged young man on TV, angrily stating that he knew nothing about Spider-Man.

The man quirked one thick eyebrow in response to Johnny’s stare.  “Storm. Did you forget who I am?”

“You’re that annoying photographer,” Johnny said without thinking, and his throat felt like he’d swallowed a wooden cube, something with too many corners and splinters to go down smoothly.

Former photographer,” he corrected mildly, with a rueful smile, ignoring Johnny’s choice of adjective.  It only made the cube splinter further, hard points and edges digging into Johnny’s airways.

“Parker.”

“You do remember me.”

“I always remember people who get under my skin,” Johnny said, then wondered why he did.  He’d had four glasses of champagne already and felt incredibly chill. Maybe that was why his tongue was loose.

“Did I?” Parker asked innocently, blinking over a glass of champagne, as if he didn’t already know the answer to that.

Something about him was throwing Johnny off.  The Peter Parker in his memories dressed in old baggy clothes that were always wrinkled or somehow askew, his unruly hair made worse by the nervous habit of running his own fingers through it.  But this Peter wore a perfectly pressed suit and expensive black loafers. The suit didn’t quite fit — the jacket snug around the shoulders and the shirt ever so slightly too big around the middle while being a little tight around the chest, but it was still leagues better than anything Johnny had ever seen him in.  His hair had been somewhat tamed tonight, too. But then Johnny remembered the back of Peter’s head that he’d seen just earlier, the locks that had fallen prey to his nerves, and smiled a little.

“Something funny, Storm?” Peter asked, brows knitting together in a frown.  And, oh, Johnny remembered this, too. How, even with the most civil of beginnings, the two of them would wind up taking offense way too easily over imagined slights, until it just ended in a lot of insults that somehow always hit the mark.

Johnny knocked back half of his champagne.  “I was just wondering.”

“Wondering what?” Peter asked, politely pleasant, his eyes already skimming the crowd beyond him, and Johnny found himself feeling more than a little offended.

I’m right here, he thought. You’re supposed to look at me .  “I was wondering when you got to be this hot,” he finished.  He was being sincere, although he was mostly motivated by curiosity and the desire to see how Peter would respond.

It brought Peter’s attention back, at least, a slow flush creeping up his neck, just as Johnny had imagined.  Peter eyed him appraisingly. “Are you drunk?”

“No,” he answered.  It was only half a lie. His mind was still clear, even though his mouth seemed like it was running away from him.

“Uh-huh. And you’re just attempting to flirt with me completely sober.”

“Attempting? You mean I’m not succeeding?” Johnny asked cheekily.

Peter’s eyebrows shot up.

Johnny rolled his eyes. “Okay. Okay. Here, hold this for a bit—”

He accepted the glass Johnny suddenly thrust at him, looking bemused but too fascinated to just walk away.

Johnny snapped his fingers — unnecessarily, but a little showmanship never hurt — and flamed on for two seconds.  That was unnecessary, too. He could have easily boiled the alcohol out of his bloodstream without the fire show, but he wanted to make an impression.  He wanted to make it absolutely clear.

Peter wordlessly handed back his champagne, the only person who hadn’t budged or flinched or gasped when Johnny had flamed on.  Infuriatingly, he seemed utterly unfazed. “What was that all about?”

“I’m sober. We can have a proper conversation, if that’s what you want. You can be a jerk and then I can come back with something clever.””

That’s your idea of a proper conversation?”

Johnny shrugged.  “It is by our standards.  Or, instead of insulting you, I guess I could keep flirting with you.  If you’re interested.”

“I mean, has there ever been a difference?”

Johnny blinked at him.  Oh. Oh. Peter was smirking at him, playing the game.  “Don’t get ahead of yourself, Parker,” he said, taking another swig of champagne, a bit upset that he now had to start getting drunk all over again.  “I just haven’t seen you around in a while, is all.”

“Are you trying to tell me you missed me?”

He wondered how to answer that, when he couldn’t truthfully say Parker had not once crossed his mind when he’d thought about him just earlier that day.  “How have you been, anyway?” Johnny asked, choosing to ignore it completely. He surreptitiously looked him over one more time. He looked fine. He looked more than fine, and Johnny suddenly wanted to know what this upgraded version of Peter Parker had been doing this whole time. “It’s like you disappeared from orbit after—”

After Spider-Man vanished , Johnny meant to say, but found that he couldn’t.

“Did you want to see me? And I’ve been busy with work.”

It was Johnny’s turn to be puzzled.  “Taking pictures?” he asked dubiously. Just because Peter wasn’t taking photos of Spider-Man didn’t necessarily mean he’d quit. Johnny remembered seeing him in posh gatherings before, dressed badly and with his camera slung around his neck. But he was far better-dressed at the moment and there was no camera in sight.

Peter laughed, sharp and patronizing. “No, Johnny,” he said, and Johnny felt like Electro had just shoved a hand into his spine at the sound of his name coming from Peter’s mouth.

Someone came up to them just then, a man with a widow’s peak and auburn hair arranged in short, tight curls. He looked vaguely familiar, like someone Johnny ought to know. “Pete, it’s almost time.”

“Be right there, Harry. Just saying hi to an old...friend.”

Harry glanced at Johnny and did a double-take, recognition flickering in his eyes in the same instant it flared in Johnny’s brain. Harry Osborn, of course — only son of Norman Osborn, the head of a massive pharmaceutical and biochemical corporation. Dimly, Johnny wondered why Reed had decided to come to what now seemed to be an Osborn event, when he usually had unflattering things to say about the company. “Okay, Pete. Just don’t put it off too long. It’s not doing either of us favors. If I have to feel this nervous for half an hour longer, I’m going to throw up.”

“Almost time for what?” Johnny asked after Harry had wandered away.

Peter made a face. “A speech. I keep telling Harry people only care what he has to say, but—”

“A speech? What for?”

He looked amused now. “Do you really have no idea what kind of party you’ve crashed?”

Johnny rolled his eyes. “I’m not crashing. We were invited.”

Peter’s smile faded. “We?”

“I meant Reed. I’m with Reed. Sue couldn’t make it,” Johnny hastily clarified, not knowing why it felt important that he did.

“Oh. Good.” Peter cleared his throat. “Well. It was...nice to see you again, but I need to make that speech now.”

Johnny stepped closer. Peter looked surprised but didn’t move. “Hang on a second,” he said, and put a hand on Peter’s tie.

Peter’s back snapped straight, and Johnny tried not to think about how warm he felt, with nothing but a thin layer of fabric between Johnny’s fingertips and his skin.

“Your tie is crooked,” Johnny explained, his own voice coming to him as if through layers of wool packed in his ears. He expertly centered the knot with his free hand and smoothed the tie down.

“Thanks.”

“No problem,” Johnny said, his hand still resting on Peter’s chest.

Peter reached up and gently pulled it away, his thumb against Johnny’s pulse burning. “Johnny.”

He snapped back into focus, suddenly realizing that he’d basically just felt Peter Parker up, and yanked his hand back. He swallowed. “Right. Speech. Break a leg or whatever.”

Peter gave him a long look as he backed away. “Hey. You really want to know what I’ve been up to all this time?”

“Sure. I’m all about this new and improved Peter Parker.”

One side of Peter’s mouth lifted in a lopsided grin. Johnny remembered finding it annoying once, because it usually came with mockery that cut too close to the bone. “Stick around.”

Johnny poured all the rest of his champagne into his mouth and watched him go. He felt hot, which was just as strange as him feeling cold. It wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. He made his way toward the front of the room to listen, finding both another glass of champagne and Reed at an otherwise empty table near the back.

“I see you’ve reacquainted yourself with the CEO of Parker-Osborn,” Reed said.

That brought him up short. “Parker’s the CEO of what now?” Johnny gaped.

“The Parker-Osborn Company.” Reed nodded at Harry Osborn, pulling Peter towards the front of the room. “He and Harry Osborn partnered up. Osborn’s money, Parker’s intellectual property. It’s an interesting combination.”

“What intellectual property?”

Reed gave him a look.  “Really, Johnny. If you paid attention to the world of science and engineering at all—”

Johnny rolled his eyes.

“—you’d know they made a tidy sum licensing one of Parker’s inventions last year and started the company with that, combined with Osborn’s own fortune. A lot of people wanted that license, including Oscorp itself, and I’m glad they’ve realized they’re better off working on their own terms.”

Johnny made a non-committal noise. He wasn’t interested enough to ask about particulars, but he was maybe a little impressed. But then, he’d known Peter was smart enough to intern for Reed, so perhaps that achievement was just a matter of course.

Reed cleared his throat. “Anyway, I hope you’ve managed not to antagonize him this time?”

“Don’t be silly, Reed. I’ve upped my flirting game since the last time we saw each other.”

Reed choked on a canapé. “What?”

Johnny ignored him and faced front, where Peter had climbed onto a small podium with a microphone. His gaze swept the crowd and caught on Johnny, who tipped his glass and swallowed his champagne in one go while staring him directly in the eye.

Peter’s fingers tightened around the mic stand.

“I liked it better when you were fighting, I think,” Reed said dryly.

“Oh, but this is much more entertaining,” Johnny said absently as Peter began to speak.

Reed frowned. “Johnny. Susan told me. You know...about Spider-Man.”

Johnny felt a pang somewhere in the vicinity of his heart. “Of course, she did.”

“Just don’t do anything stupid, all right?”

Johnny smirked at him, tamping down the rest of his feelings. “Don’t worry. Given all my options here, I’ll probably be doing someone smart.”

Reed sighed. “If you must. But please—pick someone better than the lawyer you had your eye on earlier.”

Reed really hadn’t lost track of him, Johnny realized.

“I just don’t want you to get hurt again,” his brother-in-law continued, because Reed Richards worried about everything all the time.

Up at the front of the room, Peter had finished thanking everyone for coming and was now on a roll about the company’s visions and goals, beaming across the low stage at Harry, who nodded in acknowledgement, eyes anxiously sweeping the room. Johnny sat in silence for a while, listening to his earnest idealism, watching his serious face as he insisted that his company would devote itself to bettering the lives of the average person, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that half the people in the room would rather be told how Parker would make them rich.

Johnny grabbed Reed’s drink and downed that, too, ignoring his raised eyebrows. Suddenly, he wanted to do something reckless. Something stupid.

“Johnny? Did you hear me? I said—”

“He won’t hurt me, Reed,” Johnny said at last, mind made up. Reed glanced at Peter, who was still going on. “He’s absurdly, inexplicably attractive, but he’s a nerd. I can set people on fire. How could he possibly hurt me?”

 

+

 

Johnny dodged the green-eyed lawyer from earlier, waiting for Peter to find him after all the speeches were over. The latter kept getting interrupted on his way towards Johnny, who was determined to stay in his line of sight while eluding the other guy whose name he couldn’t even remember anymore.

Johnny didn’t know why going after Peter felt more like diving off the edge of a cliff than sticking with the lawyer would have. Surely, the latter was more of a jerk. But then, he was a very specific type of jerk that Johnny was accustomed to dealing with, and Johnny knew what that type always wanted.

But Peter...Johnny had no clue what Peter would be like in bed.  He’d seen all the girls the guy had had on his arm in the past—all completely out of his league. There had to have been some reason why they found him so irresistible, and being good in the sack was the best guess Johnny could come up with because he sure didn’t have a winning personality.

The lawyer closed in, to Johnny’s irritation, and Peter was still stuck talking to an elderly couple. He caught a brief glimpse of Peter’s eyes darting in their direction, before the lawyer finally blocked his view.

The man’s eyes were just as sharp and predatory as before, and his smile made him look like he had way too many teeth.  He crowded Johnny against the table, and any other time his assertiveness would have been a turn on. Any other time he would have wanted those teeth at his neck. Now he was just getting in the way. “Where were we, Mr. Storm?”

“About to say goodbye,” said a voice bluntly, and Johnny blinked in surprise at seeing Peter suddenly standing right there.

The lawyer took one look at him, raised his hands, and quickly turned away.

Peter frowned, attention now completely on Johnny. “You,” he began in a low voice as he dragged Johnny by the elbow to an empty balcony, “are a distraction.”

“Well, I was trying,” Johnny admitted. “No one told you to keep looking at me, though.”

Peter chuckled darkly. “I was looking at everyone! Harry told me to make sure I did that.  For instance, I noticed Reed looked like he wanted the ground to swallow him up when you started licking your fingers.”

“Those little quail egg canapés were tasty, but the yolk broke on mine and it got messy,” Johnny protested.

He squeezed Johnny’s elbow. “What do you want from me, Storm?”

Johnny raised his eyebrows. “Well, I’m not after your money, Mr. Hot Shot CEO. So you can rest easy about that.”

“You know what I mean. I’m not playing games now.”

His intensity got to Johnny, and the jokes died in his throat. “I just want to have fun, Parker.”

His mouth twisted, and Johnny didn’t know him well enough to tell whether it was from disappointment or distaste.  “Fun. Is that what this is about?”

Johnny’s vision swam. For a moment, he was back on top of the Statue of Liberty, being asked the same question by someone else.  He hastily shoved the memory to the back of his mind. Besides, what was wrong with having fun? He told himself it was fine. Sure, Parker was nothing to him. He didn’t even like the guy, this weird attraction that had popped up from nowhere aside.  But if it meant that he could pretend that he wasn’t alone, even just for one night, Johnny would take it. “I just want to forget how fucked up everything is.” How I’ve fucked everything up.

Peter laughed again, sharper and tinged with scorn.  It was a knife twisting in Johnny’s gut, but he tried to ignore the feeling.  “What do you know about fucked up anything, golden boy? Human Torch?

“You’re pissing me off.  I get that’s our thing, but all it makes me want to do right now is shove you up against a wall and—”

Peter beat him to it, pushing him against the balcony railing, bending him slightly backwards over the edge and suddenly kissing him.  It wasn’t a sweet kiss, by any means. Not flirty or teasing, or anything remotely appropriate for a first kiss. It was hot and greedy.  The press of Peter’s mouth against his was nearly bruising, and Johnny’s fingers were crushing the lapels of Peter’s jacket in his grip.

Johnny felt more drunk than his three glasses of champagne should have made him when Peter pulled away. Wow. He stared at Peter’s mouth, wet and dark. He licked his own lips, swallowed, and tried to form words. “Your place or mine?” he finally managed.

Peter’s dark eyes were unreadable in the moonlight. “Mine’s closer.”

 

+

 

The taxi ride to Peter’s place was excruciating. All Johnny could think about was that kiss. Peter’s mouth on his and maybe other parts of his body.

Johnny leaned in closer, aware of Peter’s sudden sharp intake of breath, and whispered. “This is why you hire a limo for the night, cheapskate.”

“Sorry I didn’t take into account desperate men throwing themselves at me when I planned my night,” came the immediate retort.

“Who are you calling desperate?” Johnny asked, moving closer. Close enough that his lips brushed the shell of Peter’s ear. He glanced at the driver out of the corner of his eye and, satisfied that he was focused on driving, put a hand on Peter’s knee.

Peter’s jaw flexed and Johnny squeezed his thigh, hand slowly drifting upward—

Peter’s fingers on his wrist stopped him, pulled his hand away. “You’re going to get us arrested if you keep that up,” he said. “Just a few more blocks. That’s all.”

“I could just fly us there.”

Peter squeezed his wrist briefly before placing Johnny’s hand back on his own lap. “Just wait. I’ll make sure it’s worth it.”

Johnny leaned his head back, pulse thrumming. Peter was an asshole, delivering a promise like that so easily and carelessly, looking completely unaffected even while Johnny was shaking in anticipation.

The car rolled to a stop not five minutes later and Peter blindly tossed money at the driver before dragging Johnny out with him. It must have been enough, because the cab peeled away as soon as the door slammed shut.

Peter’s apartment itself was on the top floor with a skylight in the living room which, despite its prime location in a good building in a decent neighborhood, still seemed incredibly modest for someone whose worth was steadily climbing up by thousands and thousands daily. At least that was what Google had told him, when Johnny’s confusion and curiosity halfway through Peter’s speech had driven him to look the man up.

Johnny started to comment on this as he turned around, only to find himself face to face with Peter, who was kicking the front door shut behind him.  The look on his face made the words stick in Johnny’s throat.

And then Peter was kissing him again, pushing him into the nearest wall, and it was difficult enough to think, let alone string words together into sentences.  All Johnny could manage was a small whimper, mind flying as Peter’s lips and hands roamed every inch of his exposed skin.

God, this is insane , Johnny thought, eyes falling half-shut when Peter’s mouth slotted perfectly back into his in a deep kiss that stole the breath from his lungs.  He felt hands on his waist, holding him steady, and Peter’s body pressed flush against his, his undeniable arousal immediately obvious, and Johnny made noises into his mouth, high and pathetic. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d wanted someone this badly, couldn’t understand what it was about Peter that was driving him crazy. And when Peter’s hips began to move, grinding slow and leisurely against his, it was all Johnny could do to stop yet another groan of pleasure from escaping his throat.

Peter broke their last kiss, lips mere centimeters from Johnny’s. “You know, I’ve never done something like this before,” he mused, running his hands down Johnny’s arms, the touch shooting sparks to his spine.

“Which part?” Johnny asked, staring at his lips, trying to will them back on his. Peter’s fingers slowly encircled his wrists. “The random hook-up, one-night stands, sex with a guy?”

Peter threw Johnny’s arms up against the wall, on either side of his head, and pinned them there. Johnny tested his grip and found himself even more turned on when it proved difficult to break. Peter’s expression at his realization was smug. “I was talking about going home with a dumb blond.”

Johnny blinked then started to laugh, breathless because of many things — not the least of which was Peter sliding one leg between his and nudging Johnny’s stance wider, making room for himself there. “You asshole.”

“I’m more of a dick, if you get my drift,” Peter said, and pushed against Johnny extra-hard, slamming his hips forward and making Johnny’s eyes roll back in his head.

And it was so much, Johnny felt intoxicated, drunk on everything Peter — his scent, his mouth, his rich brown eyes, his strong hands, rolling his hips in a promise of what was to come. Peter pressed his face against Johnny’s neck, warmth breath shallow and fast as he continued to move. He kissed him where it was convenient, teeth biting, tongue licking, and mouth sucking in a frenzy and Johnny knew he was going to have half a dozen hickeys tomorrow, at least, and every one of them would have been worth it — worth this , this maddening friction, the promise of Peter’s cock rubbing against his, hard and thick through the layers of their clothes.

“Oh my G—” the rest of Johnny’s sentence evaporated, lost in the wordless cry as he came. His release was so unexpected, catching him almost completely by surprise, that it felt more intense than any in his recent memory. His back arched and his entire body convulsed before abruptly going limp.

Peter let go of his wrists in surprise and Johnny slumped against him, weak in the aftermath. “Did you just—”

Johnny buried his face in Peter’s shoulder. He felt hot all over in a way that had nothing to do with his powers.

“Hey,” Peter said quietly, suddenly still. “You okay?”

“What the fuck,” Johnny swore, struggling to get himself under control because this wasn’t supposed to happen. Johnny was used to being the one driving men out of their minds, not the other way around. “You are nothing at all like I expected.”

“Is that good or bad?”

Johnny started to laugh weakly. “Parker, you made me come in my pants. What do you think?”

Peter’s hands came up to cradle Johnny’s head, gently raising it so he could look him in the face. “Do you want to keep going?” he asked anxiously, and Johnny almost laughed. As if ending there was an option. As if stopping short of actual sex wouldn’t drive Johnny insane.

Johnny kissed him, sloppy and hungry, trying to tell him that he wanted nothing more than to be shoved face-first into the mattress and fucked within an inch of his life.

Peter seemed to get the message, peeling himself away from Johnny long enough to lead him further into the apartment, to a bedroom dominated by a king-sized bed and not much else.

Johnny looked around, noting the nearly absent decor and minimal clutter. “Did you just move in or something?”

Peter looked puzzled. “No. I’ve lived here for a year. Why?”

“Where’s all your stuff?”

Peter shrugged, pushing him down onto the mattress. “Does it matter?”

Johnny supposed it didn’t. What did the lack of personality in Peter’s bedroom matter to him when it had nothing to do with Peter’s apparent ability to give Johnny orgasms while barely doing anything?

Peter, on his knees, hovered over Johnny lying on his back. Johnny felt strangely exposed beneath that piercing gaze, wondering why it was that Peter seemed to know him so well—how to kiss him, how to touch him, how to annoy him just right to make the sex have that edge.

“Does this count as hate sex?” he wondered aloud before he could stop to think.

Peter’s laugh was low, the sound of it doing funny things to Johnny’s stomach. “Do you really hate me, Johnny?” he asked with a quirk of his brow.

Johnny thought about all the sniping, the carefully crafted insults that had almost felt like a game. It had been fun, more than anything, and Johnny knew himself well enough to know that Peter had always gotten his blood boiling only half out of anger.

“Storm.”

Johnny shook himself out of his thoughts. “No, but I’m liking you less and less the longer you’re not doing anything.”

Peter’s eyes sparkled and he grinned, teeth flashing white even in the dim light. “Take off your clothes, Johnny.”

Johnny sat up, shrugged off his black designer jacket and shirt, and tossed them over the edge of the bed defiantly. He unfastened his pants and worked them and his come-stained boxers slowly down his hips, only to have his half-formed plan to tease him literally ripped out of his hands by Peter yanking them off them rest of the way.

Johnny would hate him if it wasn’t such a strange turn on.

“Your turn,” he said, conscious of Peter’s appreciative gaze raking down his body.

Peter loosened his tie and pulled it off with agonizing slowness. Predictably, Johnny’s focus narrowed down to it, thinking about how many different ways it could be useful tonight. He could picture it over his eyes, between his teeth, around his neck...He glanced up at Peter’s face, hopeful.

“Where do you want it?” He asked calmly, and Johnny wondered when he had become so easy to read.

He held out his wrists, crossed together, wordlessly.

Peter raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure you trust me enough for that?”

“I can set you on fire,” Johnny reminded him. But the answer was also, oddly, yes. Peter wouldn’t hurt him. Not if Johnny didn’t want him to.

Peter blinked. “If you’re sure,” he said, and carefully wrapped the length of fabric around Johnny’s wrists, knotting it neatly and expertly. “How’s that?”

Johnny tested it. It was tight enough to keep his wrists together, but loose enough not to cut off circulation. “You seem pretty good at this,” he said blandly, holding up his hands. “Have plenty of experience?”

Peter laughed, fingers skimming Johnny’s bare thighs as he leaned in. “I don’t kiss and tell.”

Johnny arched into his touch and into his mouth. He wondered how many men and women Peter had brought here. How many of them he’d fucked the way he was about to fuck Johnny. How many he’d give the same look that could melt glass. How many of them he even remembered.

It suddenly mattered so very much that Peter remember him.

Peter pulled away, pushing Johnny down onto his back again none too gently, and quickly lost the rest of his clothes.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Johnny breathed. “God.”

“You can call me Peter,” Peter quipped, looking amused.

Johnny couldn’t even be irritated by his arrogant smirk because he had every right to it. He had a beautiful body — well-defined, well-proportioned muscles in a lean athlete’s build. “All those years...that terrible fashion sense. You’ve been hiding this under that all this time?”

Peter looked down at himself.

Johnny’s eyes drank in his chest, his arms, those perfect abs, and—oh. Oh. Fuck me,” he moaned.

“Yeah, thought that was the plan,” he said, leaning over him. “How do you want this?”

Johnny could hardly think, his hormone-addled brain only letting him say “Guh?” in response, unable to be coherent over the sudden wave of lust flooding through him.

“Yeah, okay. Guess that’s up to me, then,” he said, which Johnny was totally fine with. Peter lifted Johnny’s bound wrists up over his head and hooked the tie binding them together on the end of a swirl of iron filigree on the headboard. And, okay, Johnny refused to believe he’d never done that before — the move was too smooth and quick — but then Peter’s lips were on his again, and Johnny forgot to call him out on it.

Peter kissed him slowly, tongue gently uncurling inside Johnny’s mouth, sliding and stroking past his own. Johnny hummed into his mouth and began kissing back with fervor, hoping to coax him into something less slow, less measured, less controlled.

Peter responded by breaking away. “Not. Yet,” he said firmly, and it finally dawned on Johnny that letting Peter tie him up had been a very bad idea because the man was an enormous fucking tease .

Shit.

Peter turned Johnny’s face to one side to kiss him just under the ear, lips burning a trail down the sensitive side of Johnny’s neck and sending a tremor down through his body that made his toes curl.

“Did you like that?” Peter asked, innocence wholly feigned, noticing his reaction.

“Fuck you,” Johnny said, and meant it.

Peter’s lips brushed along Johnny’s collarbone before he stretched back up, back to kissing Johnny on the mouth, slipping his tongue between his teeth just once before pulling away again.

Johnny wanted to scream.

“I’ll stop teasing you if you want me to,” Peter murmured, slowly sucking and kissing his way down Johnny’s neck.  The places he lingered already felt tender, and Johnny guessed he was simply following the same marks he’d placed earlier, deepening the bruises rather than making more. “Tell me to stop.”

Johnny must have been a sucker for punishment because he gritted his teeth and said nothing.

Peter moved further downward, placed kisses over Johnny’s heart, and paused for two full seconds before drawing Johnny’s nipple between his lips.

Johnny gasped and rose up slightly, thrusting his chest at Peter’s face, the scrape of teeth both painful and exquisite over the sensitive bud. “Peter,” he breathed, and proceeded to say his name over and over again, cramming as many as he could in a single breath like a mantra. And, oh, the bite was perfect, followed by the soothing balm of his tongue, swirling around the hard nub of flesh before he sucked it back into his mouth. “Fuck yes,” Johnny hissed as Peter licked across his chest to capture the other half of the pair to do the same, and Johnny thought he might just lose his mind.

Peter paused his ministrations to study him, and Johnny wondered what he was seeing. He could see how red his own chest was, could assume the flush extended all the way up his neck and face. He wasn’t sure what expression he wore. Desperate, perhaps. Hungry. Peter shifted lower, the fingertips of each hand lazily stroking one steady line from his ankles up to his calves, to the back of his knees. His hands lingered there before finally pulling them up and pushing them apart in one smooth motion, Johnny’s feet still planted on the mattress, baring what lay between his legs for Peter to see.

Johnny began to tremble.

Peter straightened, kneeling between Johnny’s legs, taking him in. “You’re perfect,” Peter whispered, eyes hot with desire, and the note of wonder in his voice felt like a needle lancing through his heart. Johnny wanted to believe him. Surely, he had to be, if Peter was looking at him like that.

“Kiss me,” Johnny begged, straining against his bonds. “Please?”

Peter kissed him, and this time it was exactly what Johnny wanted—hard and bruising, thoroughly taking as much as Johnny was ready to give and then some. He dragged himself away reluctantly after several long minutes, chest heaving, and swore.

Johnny looked up at his face. “Pete? Is everything—Did I do something wrong?”

Peter shook his head. “No.”

“Then why are we stopping?”

“I’m trying to make up my mind about what to do with you,” he said bluntly.

Oh. Johnny held his breath. “You can do anything you want.”

Peter grinned, moving back. “Probably not a good idea to give me blanket permission when I’ve got you all tied up.”

“Still capable of setting you on fire, Pete,” Johnny reminded him.

“Maybe I don’t mind being burned,” Peter said so softly, Johnny almost didn’t hear. He sank down, lightly raining kisses along Johnny’s knee and slowly, slowly moved up his thighs.

Oh, God , his brain started. Oh, God. Ohgodohgodo—

Johnny keened. He had expected Peter to go for his cock, to take it into his hands and start sucking him off. He hadn’t expected Peter’s tongue to be on his ass, tracing the rim of his hole, light as a feather, while his fingers dug into Johnny’s thighs, spreading him open wide. Johnny hadn’t expected this much at all. He had expected a quick fuck, over and done with, which he surely would have gotten had he chosen to go home with that sharp-toothed lawyer. He hadn’t been prepared for this merciless game, this perfect teasing, Peter’s tongue laying into him, circling his entrance, his nails scratching the inside of Johnny’s thighs.

Within minutes, he was a pitiful, whining mess, writhing restlessly under Peter, tugging uselessly at his restraints. His cock was rock hard and glistening with his own pre-come, leaking heavily, and he kept shoving his ass against Peter’s tongue in the hopes that he would do more with it.

Peter didn’t. He got up off the bed instead, and Johnny growled.

“Calm down, Flamebrain,” he said, walking to his desk. “Geez.”

“Peter. Peter, if you don’t shove something in my ass right now, I’m going to fucking lose it,”

Peter tossed a bottle of lube back onto the bed, where it landed next to Johnny’s hip, followed by a condom. “Happy?”

Johnny quivered. “Not yet .”

Peter climbed back into bed, poured lube onto the fingers of his left hand, and gently massaged around Johnny’s hole.

Johnny clenched his jaw. “Put it in , damn you.”

“Not until you calm down.”

“I want you,” Johnny pleaded, trying a different tack even as he yanked at his restraints. “Please, I just—”

“I know. I know, okay?” Peter asked quietly, swallowing down something else, his brown eyes concerned. “You have me. Just calm down. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Johnny took a deep breath to get himself under control, nodding jerkily as he settled back down and stopped tugging on his bound wrists.

Peter’s eyes were fixed on his. “Okay?”

“I’m okay,” Johnny affirmed, still a little too quickly. This was as calm as he could get. He wanted Peter far too much.

Peter kissed him, slow and easy, and Johnny opened his mouth, eagerly kissing back. Peter broke the kiss and Johnny almost started to complain again, until he realized that something else was happening. His breath stuttered, feeling one of Peter’s lubed fingers delicately tracing the rim of his entrance.

“Ready?” Peter asked.

“I was ready yesterday , Pete.”

Peter pushed and God— Johnny cried out when the finger overcame his resistance and finally slid home.

“Fuck,” Peter whispered.

“More,” Johnny groaned.

“Johnny—”

“God, fuck. I can take it. I’m not some inexperienced virgin.”

“No, but you’re still so damn tight.”

Now, Peter.”

Peter relented and slid a second finger in to join the first and oh— oh , they felt wonderful, sliding in and out of Johnny just like that.

Johnny tossed his head as Peter’s hand moved slightly faster, eliciting a moan from his throat. The moan turned into a deep, guttural groan when Peter’s fingers suddenly curled and hit that one perfect spot. He bit his lip, eyes growing wide, as Peter found it, again and again.

“Let it out, Johnny,” Peter said. “Come on. You can scream if you want.”

Johnny’s wordless shout was followed by a stream of filthy phrases and helpless whimpers, until finally he started threatening to set Peter on fire again.

Peter reached up then, and unhooked Johnny’s wrists from the headboard. Johnny had time to wonder what was coming next before Peter flipped him over onto his face. He drew in a sharp breath the next instant, when Peter shoved three of his fingers back inside him, and Johnny was just gone —all thoughts dissolving into nothing but sensory impressions, carving into his brain the sound of Peter’s breathing, his wet kisses on Johnny’s skin, his fingers exploring, his body heat.

Johnny whined into the mattress, pushed himself up to his hands and knees, and rocked back against the fingers stretching him open. “I need more. I can take it.”

“Okay. Just let me—”

“Forget the condom,” Johnny said impatiently when Peter started feeling around the mattress in search of it. “I’m clean, and if you are—we don’t need it.”

There was a pause followed by Peter peppering kisses down his back. “Okay. Okay, Johnny. I’ll give you what you want.”

“You want it just as much,” he pointed out.

Peter laughed breathlessly. “You got me there, firefly,” he said, and pulled his fingers out. He settled back on his knees behind Johnny, cock nestling heavily against his ass as he ran his hands down Johnny’s back. “You okay like this?”

“Just hurry up,” Johnny growled. Peter could fuck him upside down and Johnny wouldn’t care. He longed for release, and the fact that no one was paying any attention to his dick only made him ache more for it. He couldn’t even touch himself because his hands were bound, forcing him to use both of them to support his weight. His only hope was to feel Peter inside him.

Peter chuckled, weight shifting on top of the mattress, and Johnny finally felt the blunt tip of his cock at his entrance, the cold drip of more lube, and Peter’s bare skin hot and singing to Johnny’s own heat inside.

Johnny shuddered. “Peter, now .”

Peter fucked into him, firm thighs pushing Johnny forward so hard, he found himself driven face-first into a pillow, stifling his cry. Peter heard it anyway and paused.

Johnny pressed back, forcing himself up on trembling arms. The feeling of Peter finally inside him was incredible. “Don’t stop.”

“But—”

“I want it,” he insisted. “I don’t want gentle.”

To his credit, Peter wasn’t. He took him rough and fast, with enough force to rock the bed, and Johnny felt like he was flying, the world rapidly falling away and the sound of his own whimpers seeming to come from somewhere other than himself.

It was good. It was great. It was the best he’d felt in what seemed like forever. The stretch of Peter’s cock—the slight burn—reached through the clouds that had long fogged his brain. Johnny had slept around, but he couldn’t remember the last time sex had been this amazing.

Peter started moving slower, in longer, harder strokes that made something low in Johnny’s belly tighten. He could hear his own gasps, the broken sobs wrung from his chest, the heavy slamming of the headboard into the wall as Peter filled him again and again, nailing his prostate unerringly from behind and peppering kisses across Johnny’s shoulders in an obvious effort to make up for any pain.

But there was also something in the way Peter was holding him that was making him ache — a strange intimate tenderness that was adding a layer to what was just supposed to be mindless sex. Johnny wasn’t sure he liked it, even though his body was responding to it with even more warmth and desire. The combination of everything he was feeling was almost too much. Even without being touched once, his cock was leaking profusely, dripping wet onto the bedspread, and Johnny knew he was close. Peter, too, seemed to sense it, changing pace and shifting into faster, shallow thrusts—a steady barrage on his sweet spot that had him crying out.

Johnny came, finally, spilling onto the cool sheets with the faded smell of laundry, as if Peter didn’t sleep there often enough for his own scent to have rubbed off. His spine sank towards the mattress, hips held in place by Peter’s hands — fortunately, because Johnny’s own arms had become limp and boneless.

For a moment, everything was still, Johnny panting into the pillows as he caught his breath, Peter still deep inside him, unmoving. And then he was pulling out, and Johnny mumbled a half-coherent protest, knowing he wasn’t finished and wanting to see it through.

But Peter rolled him over onto his back and kissed him, oddly sweet, before working the tie around his wrists loose.

“You’re not done,” Johnny said, frowning.

“We’re not stopping,” Peter said, unwinding the tie and throwing it somewhere to the side. “I just want you to touch me.”

Johnny suddenly realized that him being tied up had in fact been as much torture for Peter as it had been for him.  All this time, it had been Peter’s hands and mouth on his body, driving him to heights of both pleasure and madness. Johnny had been too focused on himself, too intent on getting what he wanted and had been looking for all night to realize that no one was giving Peter the same.

He reached up, touched the side of his face, and ran the fingers of both hands through his hair, down the nape of his neck, and across his broad shoulders.

“God, your arms are fucking perfect,” Johnny groaned, skimming them with his fingertips, the feathery touch making Peter shiver. He moved his hands to Peter’s chest, gliding over the planes of hard muscle, down to his abs, his narrow waist, down—

Peter made a small sound when Johnny palmed his cock, eyes falling half- closed, and Johnny wrapped his hand around him for the first time. Peter groaned, thick eyelashes fluttering shut, and Johnny felt a surge of want.

“Peter.”

He opened his eyes and let Johnny guide him downward, positioning him back at his entrance, and slowly pushed him back in.

They moaned at the same time, and Johnny laughed, breathless. Peter thrust, slowly at first, making sure to let Johnny feel every inch of him, until he was fully sheathed.

Peter held still for a moment, hands slowly caressing Johnny’s thighs, before moving to the backs of his knees and slinging his legs up to rest against his shoulders. The position let him inch even further into Johnny, who gasped as he bottomed out.

And then Peter moved , and Johnny gave up thinking entirely, becoming nothing more than a being of pure sensation, drowning himself in pleasure and hoping Peter felt the same. Whatever was outside of Peter’s bed was a worry for another day. Another Johnny, not the one bent in half and writhing on the end of Peter’s dick and begging for more. Peter obliged him, picking up the pace, and Johnny was glad that he could now see his face.  He could see the line of his brow as it furrowed, his lower lip caught between his teeth, the sheen of sweat on his forehead. Johnny ran one hand up Peter’s arm, and the touch sent him into a renewed frenzy, fucking into him even harder than before. Johnny gripped him tight, fingers digging into his bicep, and slipped one hand between them to touch himself. They were both so, so close and that touch was all Johnny needed to push himself over the edge. Two strokes and he was lost, ropes of white stretching across his abdomen as he came.

And it was all Peter needed, too. Johnny clenching uncontrollably around him in his orgasm, so hot and tight. He came with a shout, emptying himself inside Johnny, who kept him close, whispering his name.

Peter withdrew, dropping feathery kisses all over Johnny’s face, and Johnny smiled up at him warmly, drowsy with exhaustion as he lowered his legs. He was covered in come and needed a shower, but he was too tired to move and Peter was crushing him in a good way.

Johnny sighed.

“Johnny?”

“Five minutes,” he whispered, aware that it must sound nonsensical but unwilling to make an effort to elaborate. His eyes drifted shut and he fell asleep not long after.

 

+

 

When Johnny woke up, Peter was asleep beside him, the moonlight throwing his features in sharp relief. It wasn’t the worst sight in the world to wake up next to, Johnny had to admit. Hell, he’d had a crush on the Bugle’s cute photographer for as long as he could remember, as annoying as he was. Somewhere along the way, Peter had gone beyond cute until he was full on hot and Johnny hadn’t noticed until now.

He absently raised a hand and ran a finger down the line of Peter’s slightly crooked nose, wondering how that had happened. A fight in high school, maybe? He’d been scrawny back then, with the ugliest eyeglasses in the world. An easy target. Not so easy now, perhaps, Johnny mused, finger moving steadily downward, tracing shapes over his broad chest. He drank the sight of him shamelessly. Peter Parker was gorgeous, not that anyone would see just how much when he was fully clothed — a tremendous shame.

Johnny wanted to stay under the covers with him forever. But that wasn’t what this had been about. He slipped out of bed, wincing, and padded across the room to a door he assumed led to the bath. He was sore and sticky and in desperate need of a cleanup before he left.

His assumption proved correct and he stood in the shower stall, adjusted the shower head, and turned on the water as hot as it could get, closing his eyes in bliss as it cascaded over him. He never really needed showers or baths — nothing could be more cleansing than thousand-degree flames, after all — but he still found them soothing and relaxing.

He had no idea how long he stood there, letting the water beat over his head and bare skin, but it was too long. Long enough that Peter woke up and found him there.

“Jesus, the steam in here is scalding,” his voice said from the doorway. “Are you okay?”

Johnny opened his eyes. Peter was standing there, looking groggy and out of sorts and utterly adorable with his stupid hair sticking out in all directions. All it took was a single glance and Johnny knew it was too late.

So much for sneaking out the window and going home.

“Human Torch,” Johnny reminded him, turning the water off and using his powers to cool the steam. “Better?”

Peter stood just outside the shower stall, eyeing Johnny. “This a private shower or can I jump in?”

Johnny hesitated. One night stands weren’t supposed to linger. Everything ended — should end — once they were done in the bedroom.

“Or I guess I should butt out,” Peter said stiffly, stepping back. “Sorry. I’ll let you finish up and—”

Johnny grabbed him by the arm. “No. Wait— Stay.”

“I don’t want to—”

“Get in here, idiot,” Johnny said, and yanked him through the doorway. He moved Peter, oddly compliant, under the shower in front of him and turned the water back on.

“Ow!” Peter exclaimed, the first burst of water unbearably hot.

“Baby,” Johnny said, but used his powers to siphon off some of the extra heat and soothe the burn.

“That’s really handy,” Peter said.

“You’re not hurt, are you?”

“I’m fine. Are you?”

Johnny opened his mouth and closed it again. Was he?

“That wasn’t supposed to be a difficult question,” Peter said, concern creeping into his voice. “Did I hurt you earlier?”

“I—What? No,” Johnny said. “No, of course not.”

“Did you want me to?”

Johnny blinked at him. Fuck.

Don’t think about it, Johnny.

But that was, unsurprisingly, extremely difficult to do with Peter standing right in front of him.

Peter moved forward, backing Johnny up against the wall. He planted his hands on the tiles, one by Johnny’s head and the other by his hip, caging him in. “Tell me what you want.”

Johnny wanted world to feel right again, but that would require far more than Parker was capable of. “Anything that you want,” he said instead, because that had worked out so well earlier.

Peter stared at him, considering, and finally turned around, shutting the water off. “No sense getting you cleaned up now when I have every intention of getting you filthy again.”

Johnny shivered.

Once dried, they tumbled right back into bed, and Peter covered him in kisses that were too gentle and too kind and too full of some undefined emotion from someone Johnny never intended to spend another night with again.

 

+

 

In the end, Johnny only ended up leaving because someone came over. His hair was still damp from a proper, second shower when someone buzzed.

Peter groaned, halfway out the bathroom door, naked and glistening. “You’re kidding me. It’s the middle of the night.”

“Uh,” Johnny pointed to the floor by the window, where a patch of sunshine was visible beneath the heavy curtains.

Peter blinked when Johnny pulled the curtains open just to drive the point home. “You’re kidding me.”

The door buzzed again and he trudged to the intercom, sighing. “Who are you?”

“It’s me. Open the door so I can yell at you.”

Peter’s resigned sigh at the sound of the stern feminine voice told Johnny everything he needed to know. He slipped into his clothes and out the window before Peter could turn around and ask him to go.

It felt surreal, how normal the world looked now that he was back in it. He would have much preferred Peter’s bed as the main reality he would have to live in, but that was a privilege reserved for people probably not named Johnny Storm.

At least I was right, he thought, catching sight of the Baxter Building and his open window. The guy was phenomenal in the sack, it was almost unfair.

Johnny landed in the middle of his bedroom already flamed off and quickly changed his clothes. It was just about breakfast time and while going to sleep and not having to face anyone was extremely tempting, he was also starving.

Reed knew, of course. So, naturally, Sue knew, and they both watched Johnny sit down at the breakfast table with matching knowing expressions.

“Had a good time at the party?” Sue smirked. “Reconnect with old friends?”

Johnny glared at her. “Obviously, you already know the answer to that.”

Reed cleared his throat. “That aside, I was just about to tell Sue that I’m glad we went.”

“You are?” Johnny asked and Sue raised her eyebrows.

“It’s not at all a well-disguised Osborn subsidiary as we thought,” Reed told Sue. “Peter...is not the kind of person who would let someone else call the shots when he’s at the helm.”

Johnny nearly choked on a piece of toast. No. He’d tried ordering Peter around in bed and all that had accomplished was more prolonged teasing.

“He did reach out to me about an idea he had regarding one of my microcomputer designs,” Reed continued, oblivious to Johnny’s problem. “He said he could reduce the cost of production drastically, though I can’t imagine how. Maybe I should set up a meeting.”

“What?” Johnny asked.

“He managed to make an impression on both of you, huh?” Sue said. “What an interesting man.”

“You don’t have to do it on my account,” Johnny told him hastily. “It’s not like we’re dating now or anything.” He’d already decided he would never talk to him again. The guy was far too dangerous.

“Oh, it’s not that at all,” Reed assured him absently, spreading jam on toast for Franklin. “He is rather intelligent—I hired him, if you recall. I wonder what’s held him back all these years.”

“Who’re we talking about?” Ben rumbled, looking completely lost.

“Peter Parker,” Reed said.

Ben squinted. “The photographer guy? The one you fired because he gave Spider-Man your security codes?”

Johnny’s fork dropped to his plate with a clatter but he picked it up at once, pretending not to notice Sue and Reed glaring daggers at a very confused Ben.

Spider-Man. Now that he thought about it, he knew it was the answer to Reed’s question. Somehow, it had been Spider-Man holding Peter back, and with him gone—

Johnny’s mind screeched to a halt. No, no, he was supposed to be trying to move on. He shouldn’t be thinking about Spider-Man at all.

But it was too late. There was no use. Not even thoughts of Peter’s lips and strangely gentle hands could keep him from remembering that one late afternoon, in the muted fire of dusk, atop the Statue of Liberty, when Spider-Man had kissed him for the first time and the last.