"You're so cute, you know," Harry whispered as he pressed a kiss to Peter's cheek.
Peter's eyes flickered over to his face and then back to his book. "I know," he replied before continuing, "Look at all these sharks. These are my favorite. Did you know a shortfin mako can reach up to 31 miles per hour?"
Harry knew that fact was going to be forgotten within the next minute. He couldn't concentrate on anything Peter was saying when his boyfriend was looking so cute and kissable right next to him.
"Shortfin makos seem to separate from each other based on their sex,” Peter read. “Wow, the boys avoid the girls. Sounds like you, Harry." Peter laughed, looking up at him.
"Hey, they got the right idea. Boys are so much cuter," he said, leaning close to kiss Peter's cheek again.
Peter's eyebrows raised. "Boys? How many boys are you looking at?"
Harry grinned, staring at him for a moment. "You're so cute when you're jealous. Maybe that's why I fell so hard for you in the beginning. Before you even knew I was gay and thought I was in love with Gwen. You were so jealous. It was adorable."
Peter's ears burned red. "You were always with her and talking to her--."
"She was helping me ask you out, doofus." Harry rolled his eyes fondly.
"I know that now." Peter huffed and scrunched his nose. "But it would have been nice to know then."
"Don't get so worked up about it, Pete. What happened then brought us to now. Together. So I don't regret anything." Harry held Peter gently under his chin and pressed a kiss to his lips softly.
"You're so corny."
"Definitely. Now, if you don't mind, I'm trying to read my book." Peter turned back to the thick shark encyclopedia he had in his lap. Harry had seen it in the store and bought it immediately for Peter. He had been infatuated with it ever since he started reading it. Harry loved listening to him go on about sharks because he was so passionate and that was so damn attractive.
But that made it hard for Harry to concentrate.
"Why don't you put that aside for a few minutes so we can...you know...have some fun?" Harry stared down at his lips for a few seconds before looking back into his eyes.
Peter definitely noticed. Still, he held out and looked back down to his book. "Did you know that sharks have a sixth sense? They can sense electric pulses in the water--."
Harry cut him off by pressing his lips to Peter and kissing him. He felt Peter smile.
"What're you doing?" He said, pulling back slightly. "I was reading."
Harry pulled the book from his lap, placing it on the bedside table. "Read for me later. Now I just wanna kiss you."
"Can't believe you're making me choose between sharks and you."
"Whaddya say, beautiful? What's your poison?" Harry pecked Peter's lips once and smiled when Peter started to follow them as he pulled back.
"Oh, come on. You know I'll always pick you."
"Good. Then you come here." Harry said before he leaned closer again and started kissing him again, this time showing no signs of stopping soon. Peter was just as happy to listen to Harry's request.
They had done this plenty of times before: making out. They had been dating for a few months which was long enough for Harry to know just how far Peter was capable of going.
He knew how far that was and he always respected it. Making out was fine and he thought of sad horrible things to calm himself down in time for post make out cuddles. Sometimes, Harry needed to excuse himself to the bathroom, but that was a rare occasion.
It was an unspoken thing between them. They never needed to say a thing. It always worked perfectly.
Except, this time.
He hadn't realized how into they were getting until it was too late. He should have pulled away, but selfishly he didn't want to. He didn't want to have to cut their kissing short because he couldn't control himself. So he stayed as far from Peter as he could without breaking their kiss.
The only problem with that was that Peter was so damn perfect. Kissing him, holding him...it was the best thing in the world. He was so lost in Peter's lips that he didn't even realize he let himself get closer to Peter until he felt him go rigid in his arms.
And even then, it didn't click.
He pulled his lips away from Peter to ask, "What's wrong?"
Peter was just staring back at him with wide eyes.
Then he realized just what he had pressed against Peter's thigh. He had never moved so fast in his life. "Oh, my God, Peter. I'm so sorry."
Peter didn't seem to hear him. He just sat up straight and started pulling off his shirt. His hands were shaking. Harry was afraid to touch him.
"Peter, I didn't mean to. I'm fine. I'll go to the bathroom," he assured him, even though he didn't think it would be much of a problem for long. Triggering his boyfriend like this did wonders for getting rid of an erection.
"No. Don't go. I can make you happy." He finally pulled his shirt all the way off, but his hands continued to shake. Harry wanted to hold them until they stopped.
"Peter, you don't need to do this. I am happy. Incredibly happy." He hesitantly reached forward to grab Peter's hand.
Peter pushed himself to his knees and leaned forward to Harry so quickly, that he almost knocked him over. Harry thought it was a hug. He wrapped his arms around Peter, ready to hold him. But Peter's arms didn't return the hug. Instead, his hands went to his pants. He was able to pop open his button before Harry grabbed his hands-- his still shaking hands-- and pulled them away. "Peter, what the hell?"
Peter flinched, staring down at his lap. He was still shaking. His chest was heaving uneven and quick. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
"No, no," Harry said, despite the fact that he was freaking out as much as Peter. He just couldn't let that show. Not when Peter needed him to be strong. "You don't need to apologize. Just calm down. Put your shirt back on. I'm not going to--." He couldn't even say the words.
"I'll be good for you and make you happy," Peter said, looking up at him with wide eyes. Wide trusting eyes that had been taken advantage of before.
He couldn't just sit here while Peter gave himself up. Peter didn't see Harry here. He didn't know he was safe. Yet, he still was ready to give himself over just to make someone else happy.
Harry pushed himself off the bed and stumbled to his feet. "I gotta-- can you just, uh, wait here? I gotta go."
“Please don’t go,” Peter said from his bed and it made Harry pause. “Please don’t go. I’ll do whatever you want.”
That was enough to get Harry moving again. He couldn’t stay here when Peter was like that. He was out of the room before Peter could say another word and he slammed the door shut. Now that Peter couldn't see him, he could let himself freak out.
And when he was like this, on the verge of a panic attack of his own, there was only one place he knew he could go. "FRIDAY, where are Dad and Pops?"
"They're currently in the living room."
Harry started running to the elevator. He needed to get to them. Someone had to make Peter feel better because he couldn't. He was the one that made Peter feel like that; he couldn't be trusted to fix it. And someone...someone had to fix him too.
When he stepped into the living room, he looked straight to the couch and there he found Steve and Tony. They were cuddling together as they watched television. They looked so peaceful as they held each other, but Harry was too out of his mind to feel bad about ruining that.
He hurried in front of them and the minute they saw him, they sat up straight.
"Hare, what's up?" Steve asked, already looking concerned.
Tony frowned, looking behind Harry. "Where's Peter?"
"I messed up," Harry said, wringing his hands together. "I fucked up so bad."
Steve stood up, letting the blanket fall to the ground. He came over to Harry and herded him back towards the couch. Once he sat him down, Tony wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and rubbed them softly. "What happened?"
"I was just kissing him. That's all it was supposed to be. I swear!" He stared up at Steve, his eyes wide and desperate. He needed Steve to know how sorry he was before he unleashed the papa bear rage.
Steve paused. Then he asked, "What happened , Harry?"
"We were kissing. He was reading his shark book and I just wanted to kiss him. So I did. But I got a little too excited I guess." His ears burned as he continued, "And I got a little too close and he felt it and he just froze. I didn't mean to. I promise I usually take care of it. He doesn't even notice."
"But this time he did," Tony said softly with no accusation in his voice.
"Yeah," Harry croaked. "He noticed and he took off his shirt. He went to take off my pants. I stopped him. I did."
"You didn't do anything right?" Steve asked.
Harry's head snapped to Steve and he narrowed his eyes. "No, of course not!"
"Alright, just asking." Steve raised his hands up before lowering them. "Then what happened?"
"I panicked. I didn't know what to do or how to calm him down. He tried stopping me. He begged me not to leave and that he'd do anything. I had to get out of there."
Steve ran a hand over his face, his skin paling. "I know what's going on. She used to make him feel like he needed to...you know…"
Harry froze, feeling like an idiot for not realizing sooner. Peter's ex...a bitch that Harry never named. She was like Voldemort but worse. She did nothing but manipulate Peter for the months they were together. She broke him in ways that Harry was still trying to mend almost a year later.
"I'm sorry," Harry immediately started apologizing. "I'm so sorry."
"No. You don't have to apologize for anything, Harry."
"I just left him there. After fucking him up, I left him."
"You didn't fuck him up," Steve said. "I'll go see him. I'll talk to him."
"Fix him please."
Harry squeezed his eyes shut. "Not like that. I didn't mean that. Just make him feel better. Bring back the normal Peter."
Steve looked at Tony. "I'm going to go check in on Peter. You got him?"
Tony held Harry closer. "I've got him. Go."
"I'm sorry," Harry said again, knowing this was all his fault.
"It's okay," Tony whispered in Harry's ear as Steve hurried to the elevator. "It's going to be okay."
Steve had only the short moments between leaving Harry and getting to Peter for time to allow himself to be worried. He had to be the one to keep everyone calm.
So, he took a deep breath and knocked on Peter's door once. "Peter?" He didn't respond and Steve's heart started beating just a little bit faster. Peter was upset and Steve didn't want to leave him alone for too long like that. He knocked again, a little harder. "Buddy, I know you're in there."
He heard Peter sniffle and say, "I'm fine."
Steve rested his forehead against the door with a sigh. He hated when Peter thought he needed to hide how he was feeling and pretend nothing was wrong. "Peter, can I come in?"
There was a pause before Peter said quietly, "Fine."
Steve twisted the doorknob and stepped into Peter's bedroom. Just like he always did each time he came into Peter's room (at first, Peter wouldn't let him forget but now it was second nature), Steve smiled over at the fish tank against Peter's wall. "Hey, Gushers. I'm just here to check in on our Petey."
Then he turned to look at Peter and he almost wished he could have swapped places with Tony and have the easy part of not having to see Peter so hurt. It was a selfish thought that disappeared the moment it came. He hated seeing Peter like this, but he also selfishly (once again) wanted to be the one to help him. He knew Tony was Peter's dad too, first even, but Peter had wedged himself into Steve's heart and he wanted to be the one to make sure he was always protected because he knew he could do it. He didn't trust just anyone with his family.
Peter was sitting up with his legs pulled to his bare chest and his back was pressed against the headboard of his bed. His chin was resting on his knees and his eyes were staring blankly ahead.
Steve went over to the bed and took a seat next to him. He opened his arms wide, hoping Peter wasn't too far gone. He never turned down a hug from his pops.
However, this time, he did. He just sat there and stared forward.
"Buddy, come here." He kept his arms held open for only another moment before dropping them when Peter didn't budge.
"So dumb," Peter whispered, his empty eyes still staring at the wall.
"What's so dumb, bear?"
"Me. I'm so dumb. I should have been better for him."
Okay, so he still wasn't in his right mind if he really believed that Harry wanted something more. "Peter, don't say that."
"I told him I could be good and I'd make him happy. He still left me. Again." He let his head fall forward as he ran his hands through his hair. "He doesn't want me."
Steve was quick to grab his hands from his hair before he could pull his own hair out. He held Peter's hands in his and rubbed them softly with his thumbs. They continued to shake as Steve spoke to him gently. "He does want you. He didn't leave you. He's in the kitchen."
Peter shook his head, tears spilling from the corner of his eyes. "I ruined everything."
"You didn't ruin a thing," Steve said. He looked at how Peter continued to shake. "Wait, can you stay here just for a second? I want to get you a shirt to put on." Even if it wasn't cold in this room, Peter wasn't comfortable without his shirt on. Sure, Peter sometimes came to the kitchen in nothing but his boxers or a pair of pajama pants, but that was when everything was normal. That's when Peter's brain wasn't telling him he had to put out for his boyfriend or else he wouldn't love him.
"Don't go," Peter said, his eyes finally snapped up to Steve for the first time since he came inside.
"I'm not, sweetie. I'm just going to your dresser. I'll be right back." He stood up and walked backward, not letting go of Peter's hand until he had to. He opened the top drawer where he knew he kept all of his sweatshirts. And by his, he meant Tony's.
Steve lifted the MIT one out of the drawer and saw the other half dozen he had stuffed in there. "This is where all Dad's sweatshirts went, huh? You're the reason he takes all of mine." Steve smiled as he walked back to the bed and handed him the sweatshirt.
Peter took it and pulled it over his head, immediately pulling the sleeves over his hands. "I've got one of yours too," he said quietly.
"Of course you do," Steve said, wrapping an arm around his shoulder and sitting close to his side. Finally, he softened in Steve's hold and leaned into his side.
"I messed up so bad, Pops." He gripped onto Steve's arm. "He's never going to want me again."
"Don't say that, kid. He's in the living room right now with Dad. They're waiting for us to go down there. He's worried." Steve rubbed his arm gently as he felt Peter's shoulders start to shake.
"He doesn't want me. I'm too broken." His voice cracked as he started to sob. He turned himself into Steve's shoulder and cried.
Steve hated hearing Peter talk like that. He absolutely hated hearing his son call himself broken just because he didn't have a sexual drive as most other people did. Steve knew there was nothing wrong with the way Peter was. God made him perfect. Everyone knew that except for Peter and a few assholes at his school (that Steve was close to teaching a lesson to time and time again).
But this wasn't his usual "I'm broken" self-deprecating mood. This was different because something actually went wrong. It wasn't Peter just expecting the worst.
But Steve couldn't let Peter believe that what happened was his fault and that Harry thought any differently because of it.
Usually, him being firm and telling Peter to knock the crap off snapped Peter out of his funk. But that wouldn't work when Peter was sobbing into his shirt so hard he could barely catch his breath between each cry. This was a job for soft Steve.
"You're not broken, Pete. You're different and that's okay. Harry loves you because you're you and nothing will ever change that."
"It didn't. I promise you. He's down there and he's terrified that he hurt you. He didn't expect anything of you and he never will."
"How do you know?"
Because I'd kill him if he ever did.
"Peter, do you remember when you first got your powers? You said you developed a sixth sense?"
Peter nodded his head against Steve, sniffling softly. Steve lifted and hand to his hair and started running his fingers through his curls.
"Well, I got a sixth sense too. I got it the day that I met you." He looked down at Peter and smiled down at him when he looked up at him.
"Oh yeah. It's my Papa sense. Tells me when something’s wrong with you. If something's bothering you. If someone is bothering you. I know if someone isn't right for you. Had that feeling with her...if only I had ended things myself before it got too far--."
Peter grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "Don't apologize for that. It was my fault for staying in a relationship I wasn't comfortable in."
"Don't put this on you, either," Steve said. "That's another conversation for another time. Now, I just want you to know that Harry isn't going anywhere. I know he isn't because my Papa sense says he loves you. He loves you so much, Peter."
"He's stupid to," Peter whispered. "I'm not worth it. I'm not worth any of it. I'm just a stupid broken--."
"Stop it." Steve looked down and tried to get Peter to look back up at him, but he was trying to hide his face in his chest as he began to cry again.
"I should have listened to the kids at school. I should have known I wasn't good enough. They were right."
Steve pushed Peter away from him so he could lift his chin up to stare at him in the eyes. "Don't you ever think that those assholes at school are right about anything they say about you. They don't know you. They don't know anything about you. But I do. Dad does. Harry does. We love you for who you are and that's not changing any time soon."
Peter tried to push himself out of Steve's hold, but Steve refused to let him budge. "It’s not fair!"
"You're right. It's not fair for you to sit here and say this about yourself."
Peter finally stopped fighting and said quietly, "He deserves better."
"He's got the best. There is no one better for him than you. Don't let her or any of the bullies let you think otherwise."
Peter sagged against Steve's side. "I just want him to be happy."
"You make him happy. Every day." Steve rubbed his arm soothingly. "Except for right now where you've got him just a little bit worried. You had us all worried," he added, remembering how terrified he felt walking into the bedroom and seeing Peter staring ahead blankly.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I know I always get upset about this. If I could fix it--."
"Please don't say that. There's nothing about you that needs fixing." Whether or not Harry and Peter meant anything by it, he was tired of them referring to Peter as something that needed fixing.
“I didn’t mean it like that, I swear,” Peter said.
“I know...just, go easy on yourself, okay? You’re my boy and I’m tired of him being tormented and mocked just because he’s different.” Steve pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
“Okay,” Peter said and Steve could only hope that he would take that seriously. Too many people in this world tried dragging Peter down (one was too many in Steve's opinion).
"You feeling a little better?" Steve asked.
"I feel like myself again...like I'm here with you." His voice was soft as he held onto Steve just a bit tighter.
“Yeah, dissociation is not fun,” Steve said.
“Please don’t apologize, bud. None of this is your fault.”
Peter was silent for a few moments before he asked, “Is Harry really still here? And he doesn’t hate me?”
“He’s downstairs waiting to see if you’re okay and he doesn’t hate you. He could never hate you. Do you want to go see him?”
Peter went tense in his arms. “I don’t know. I’m just kinda embarrassed about what happened…”
“There is no need to be. No one in this tower will ever judge you for anything. Especially things like this that you can’t control. You’re safe here.”
“Then I guess I should get down there.”
“Only if you want to,” Steve said firmly. He didn’t care if it was something as simple as leaving his room to go downstairs; Steve wanted Peter to know that he had a choice. He was allowed to say no to things if they weren’t good for him.
“I do. I want to go see Harry.” But he still made no move to get out of bed.
“Whenever you’re ready, buddy.”
It took him a few minutes, but Peter did eventually push himself up and get out of bed. Steve smiled encouragingly as he took a few hesitant steps towards the door. Peter gave him a shaky smile back before he stepped out of his room and started making his way to the living room. Steve was close behind him the entire time but stay behind so they only moved at Peter’s pace. Yes, he wanted to be able to ease Harry’s worries with Peter, but if Peter wasn’t up for it, then he wasn’t going to force him.
They made it to the living room after a slow journey there. Peter stepped out of the elevator and into the main room with Steve just behind him. Harry’s head immediately whipped over to face them and Peter took a small step back, hunching his shoulders. Steve put a hand on his back to let him know he was there and wasn’t going anywhere.
“Peter, I’m so sorry,” Harry said, stopping a few feet away from where they were standing.
“You don’t have to apologize, Harry. I was the one that freaked out like a freak.”
Steve glared down at him, ready to open his mouth and tell Peter he thought the fuck not. But Harry beat him to it. “No, no. Please don’t ever say that. You were upset and your feelings are valid. Your reaction was valid.”
“And so was yours,” Peter said weakly. “You know...the physical reaction to it...that’s not your fault.”
Steve really didn’t want to be in the same room as his son and his son’s boyfriend discussing things like... this. But it wasn’t like they were being sexual about it and Peter needed him there, so he was going to stay.
“No, but it was my fault you even had to feel it,” Harry whispered, his cheeks growing red.
Steve noticed Peter start anxiously tugging at the sleeves to Tony’s sweatshirt he was wearing and cleared his throat. “Okay, how about we don’t talk about it? It happened, but it’s in the past and you’re both sorry. No one is to blame, I think we can all agree.”
“I was so scared you weren’t okay or you weren’t going to forgive me,” Harry admitted, still keeping his distance.
“Of course I forgive you, Harry. I was never upset with you in the first place.”
Harry’s shoulders relaxed. “So...we’re okay?”
Peter nodded his head, but still didn’t move out of Steve’s arms reach. “We’re okay.”
That was when Steve should have known they weren’t ‘okay’. But he didn’t mention it, not even to Tony. They all kept going on about their summer like everything was normal. Harry and Peter seemed okay enough, as far as Steve could tell.
It wasn’t until one night over a week after the incident that Steve realized just how not okay Peter and Harry were.
He was sitting at the table at three in the morning, snacking on some pretzels. Usually, Peter came down to join him at some point, but tonight it was just him. He was just about to wrap up the bag and head back to bed when his phone dinged.
Frowning in confusion, he checked his phone, wondering who the hell was texting him this early in the morning. He was surprised to see it was a message from Peter. Not surprised because he was up so late but surprised because Peter never texted him to come down; he came down on his own.
Can I come to the kitchen
Steve sat back down and quickly typed out a response. Of course bud. U hungry?
He didn’t get a response after that but Steve pulled the snacks back out anyway. He waited until he heard the elevator ding before he started to munch on pretzels again so Peter would think he was still snacking.
Peter walked over quietly and took a seat next to Steve. He didn’t take any food, even when Steve pushed the bag closer to him.
“Alright, the Papa sense is going off. What’s wrong, bud?”
Peter stared down at his hands, tugging his sweatshirt sleeves over his palms. Steve noticed it was now one of his sweatshirts Peter was wearing. The sweatshirt was way too large for him that he didn’t even need to tug on the sleeves to cover his hands, but that was just one of his anxious ticks.
“Harry doesn’t love me anymore.”
Steve blinked his eyes, trying to figure out where the hell that was coming from. “What do you mean, Pete? He loves you with everything he’s got.” He paused. “Did he do something?”
Peter shook his head. “He doesn’t do anything. That’s the problem.”
Steve tried to decipher that before he gave up. “I’m sorry, I’m not following.”
“Nothing. Nevermind,” Peter said quickly, going to get up out of the chair.
Steve grabbed his hand before he could get up. “Woah, there, buckaroo. Take a seat. It’s not nothing. Come on. Talk to me.”
“Harry doesn’t love me. He can’t even touch me anymore.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ever since the other night, he will barely come near me. He...he hasn’t even kissed me since.”
Steve thought about how he was barely able to survive a few hours without a kiss from Tony. He couldn’t imagine a week without a kiss. “He hasn’t kissed you?”
“No…nothing. He used to at least give me a kiss every morning and every night. But now, he doesn’t. Nothing.” Peter rubbed his eyes with his sleeve covered hand. “He doesn’t even face me when we go to sleep. He keeps his back to me on the other side of the bed.”
Steve frowned. “Have you talked to him about it?”
“Yeah,” Peter said, his voice cracking. “I told him it was okay to go back to normal. He said it was better just to be careful.”
“He won’t kiss me or hug me or touch me. I’m surprised he can even look at me.” Peter’s voice broke at the end of the sentence and Steve wanted to go up to Peter’s room and knock some sense into Harry. Comforting Peter was the better option though.
“He’s just confused right now, Pete.”
“He’s not confused. He finally realizes that what we have isn’t normal.”
“He knows you’re not normal. But last time I checked, no one in this family is.”
“He doesn’t want to kiss me. I’m his boyfriend and he doesn’t even want to hug me. Why do I have to ruin everything?”
Steve reached out to put his hand over Peter’s. “You didn’t ruin anything. I promise you, we’re going to figure this out.”
Peter gave him a smile, but it wasn’t a happy one. “I know how this ends,” he whispered. “He breaks up with me so he can go get a relationship where he’s just as happy. That’s okay though. I’ve kinda just accepted that I’m not going to find anyone until I fi--.”
“Don’t finish that fucking sentence,” Steve said, unable to control the rage that came.
“Fine. I won’t say it, but you know I’m thinking of it.”
“Why?” Steve asked. “Why the hell do you think you need to be fixed? What about you needs to be fixed? Because you throw that around a lot, Peter, and frankly, there isn’t one thing I’d change about you.”
“That’s easy for you to say when you don’t have to be me.” Peter pulled his hand from underneath Steve’s so he could cross his arms over his chest. “You don’t ever have to worry about not being enough for Dad. You can give him what he wants. I’m not supposed to keep sex from my boyfriend. It’s a basic human--.”
“I’m gonna stop you there. First of all, you’re both teenagers. You’re children. So sex shouldn’t be a problem until years down the road.”
“Yeah, but it’s gonna come time for it eventually.”
“I’m talking, Peter,” Steve said before continuing. “And second of all, all humans are different. If Harry can only be attracted to boys only boys and Dad and I can be attracted to boys and girls, then why can’t you be attracted to neither?”
“Because it’s not right. You and Dad both are attracted to guys and can do things together. But I’m with Harry and he needs something more that I’m not giving him.”
“Harry needs one thing and that’s you. You two have been through a lot together and if he didn’t love you so much, he would have been gone already. He’s sticking around because he loves you. He knew you’re asexual before starting up a relationship. That was his decision.”
“What if he changed his mind? What if I’m not good enough for him anymore?”
“Then we’ll figure that out together. Dad and I will be with you through it and you’ll be okay.” He noticed Peter’s shoulders start shaking more as he looked down at the table. “But, Pete, he’s not going anywhere. He loves you and I know things are a little rocky right now, but we’re going to figure this out.”
“A little rocky?” Peter repeated incredulously. “Do you know how it feels to have a boyfriend, who supposedly loves you, that doesn’t even hold your hand or give you a hug? It makes me feel like I’m dirty or there’s something wrong with me. Like he’s afraid to catch whatever I have.”
“I’m going to talk to him,” Steve said. He loved Harry and he knew that Harry only had the best of intentions, but making Peter feel this way was not okay. “I promise you that we’re going to figure this out.”
“Definitely. I promise you, Pete,” Steve said, softening his voice. “Now, come over here and get what you really came down here for.”
“I’m not hungry,” he grumbled.
Steve opened his arms and said, “I meant come get your hug, bear.”
Peter looked up and only hesitated a moment before going straight to Steve’s arms. He held onto him tight and Steve rubbed his back soothingly.
Peter’s sobbed into his shoulder as Steve held him close. “It’s not fair, Papa.”
“I know, sweetie. But it’s going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay.”
The next day, Steve waited for Tony to take Peter and distract him in the workshop before he asked FRIDAY where Harry was.
“He is currently in the den watching.”
“Ask him if he’s got a few minutes to talk to me please.”
FRIDAY replied a moment later. “He says of course.”
“Good,” Steve said, standing up from where he was sketching in his studio. “Tell him I’ll be right there.”
When he got to the den, he saw Harry laying on the couch watching what was probably Jurassic Park videos on his cell phone. He straightened his shoulders and walked inside with determined steps. “Harry, I need to talk to you.”
Harry smiled at him, looking up from his phone. “‘Course, Pops.”
“Can you sit up?” Steve asked, letting Harry know that this was not the time for smiles right now.
Harry realized that and immediately shut his phone off and stuffed it into his pocket. “Yeah, sure.”
Steve nodded his thanks and then took a seat next to him. “So, Hare, how have you been?”
Harry shifted nervously. “Uh, I’ve been good. How about you?”
“Well, they say that you can only be as happy as your least happy child is...so I’m actually not doing so great right now,” Steve said, meaning every word of it.
“Sir?” Harry, said furrowing his brow in confusion.
“You love my son, correct?”
“Y-Yeah, of course, I do,” Harry replied sounding confident, despite his nervousness. “I do.”
Steve nodded his head. “I believe you, but I’m just a little confused as to why you’re refusing to even give the kid a hug if you’re in love with him.” Harry’s face paled and Steve continued, “I mean, no kissing or hugging or even sleeping near him?”
Harry swallowed audibly and answered, “The last time that I touched him, I hurt him. I can’t risk that again.”
Suddenly, Steve understood. “Harry...you’re not going to hurt him and you didn’t in the first place. It was a misunderstanding. He’s not upset at you.”
“He should be. He trusted me and I betrayed that trust,” Harry said. “So, if I don’t get too close, then I can’t hurt him again.”
Sighing, Steve explained, “You can’t just cut off all physical contact with him. It’s not fair to him. It only leaves him wondering what he did wrong.”
“He didn’t do anything wrong. I’m only doing this to help him.”
Steve shook his head. “You’re not helping him. He’s not any different, Harry. He’s the same boy you fell in love with. You know how he loves his hugs and kisses and being held. He didn’t change.”
“It’s better this way.”
“It’s really not,” Steve said. “I appreciate where you’re coming from. I do. But you’re doing it the wrong way. How would you feel if he just suddenly stopped being close to you? You’d think you did something wrong.”
“Except I did.”
Steve groaned in frustration. “Listen to me, Harry. You didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t your fault.”
“It wasn’t his either.”
“I didn’t say it was,” Steve said, daring him to argue that. He would never put this blame on Peter.
“I don’t want to put him through it again. I can’t.”
“Well, you also can’t just never touch him again.”
“I don’t not touch him...”
“You don’t even face him when you sleep, Harry. Peter told me. It’s not like you’re gonna yank him off in his sleep.”
Harry’s cheeks tinged pink at that. “He told you all of it?”
“Well, yeah,” Steve said. Of course, Peter did. He came to him with just about everything (unless he was feeling particularly stubborn and tried to lock himself up in his room, but with a little poking and prodding, Peter was spilling everything to him).
“I’m sorry...I just don’t want to take things too far again,” Harry said.
Steve realized he was getting nowhere with this, so he turned to the ceiling and said, “FRIDAY, can you do me a favor and tell Pete to come here?”
“Of course, sir.” She paused. “He will be right up.”
“We’re going to solve this right here,” Steve said to Harry while they waited.
Peter came in smiling until he saw the two of them sitting on the couch in silence waiting and then he faltered. “Uh, what’s going on?”
“Peter, do you like Harry’s kisses?”
Peter blinked his eyes, digesting that sudden question. “Yeah, of course.”
“And his hugs? His cuddles?”
Peter walked into the room and said, “Yeah, yeah. I do.”
Steve turned to Harry and said, “See?”
Harry groaned and ran a hand over his face. “I know, but I’m just being careful. That’s all I’m doing.”
“And I truly appreciate you caring for my son like that, but you’ve also got this all backward. Cutting off all contact with him hurts him just as much.”
Harry looked over at Peter when Steve said that. “Pete…”
Peter looked down at his feet and responded, “He’s right...I thought you didn’t want to be with me…”
“Of course, I want to be with you. That’s why I’m being so careful not to lose you.”
“But I’m not made of glass. I’m not going to break if you hold my hand. You avoiding me only makes me feel like something is...wrong with me.”
Harry stood to his feet quickly and took Peter’s hands in his. “There is nothing wrong with you, Peter. I promise.”
“Then why don’t you want me near you anymore?”
“I don’t want to--.”
“Dammit, just kiss him, Harry,” Steve said, tired of these two dancing around each other.
“I mean if he wants--.”
“I do. I really do,” Peter said, sounding hopeful.
“Okay, then, I guess…”
“For God’s sake. Kiss him.”
Harry leaned forward and pressed his lips to his for a quick second before pulling away. Peter huffed and pulled Harry forward by his shirt and kissed his lips like a real kiss was supposed to be.
“I missed that,” Harry whispered against his lips.
Peter smiled, tugging him a little bit closer. “I did too.”
Before they could lean in for another kiss, Steve cleared his throat. “Before you two spend your next hour making up by kiss, can I just offer one piece of advice?” They both turned to him and Steve said, “Next time, just talk to each other. Peter, you’re allowed to tell Harry what’s too far, but you can also let him know what’s okay. And Harry, he can’t tell you that unless you ask him what you’re worried about. He’s a human being just like he was before all of this. Nothing changed.”
“Yeah, I’m the same weirdo you fell in love with.”
“That’s good because I don’t ever want you to change. For anyone or any reason.”
Peter smiled and leaned forward for another kiss.
Steve stood up and started walking out of the room. “Okay, before you kids start your catching up, I’m getting out of here. I’ll be billing you both for this couple’s therapy session.”
“Wait, Pops!” Peter called out, causing Steve to turn around and look at his boys. Peter was huddled up against Harry’s side as Harry held him close, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
Steve smiled softly at them. “What’s up, kiddo?”
“You don’t have to thank me for this,” Steve said. “Never.”