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Rhythm in Blue

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1.

The automatic doors slid shut beside Peter with a ‘whoosh’ and he closed his eyes. He sat with his head resting against a glass encased advertisement mounted to the wall of the subway car. Music flowed from Peter’s earbuds and invaded his brain as the rhythmic vibrations of the subway lulled him half to sleep. The fluorescent glare of the overheads provided the final boundary between Peter and slumber as blue lighting encased the car interior, too stark for the morning.

After a half-decade of the same 7 am commute, Peter’s body still couldn’t adjust to waking up at dawn. Like clockwork, Peter’s alarm would go off at 5 am so he could get ready and leave his apartment in FiDi by 6:45 am. From there, it was a few blocks on foot to Fulton Street Station and a seventeen-minute ride on the 4 train. A short walk from Grand Central Terminal ensured Peter would make it to Stark Industries with plenty of time to spare for the ground floor Starbucks. During undergrad, Peter had despised routines. Now, they governed his entire life.

The train stopped. Peter jostled the woman next to him, eyes flying open.

“Sorry,” he mumbled into the empty space between them.

The woman shifted but said nothing.

Peter perused each face entering his subway car, noting that the majority were regulars with a few new visages mixed in. He would never admit it, but the best part of Peter’s morning commute was appreciating the attractive men who boarded the subway. There was a never shortage, and Peter was more than content with his position as a wallflower, always watching but never bold enough to approach. From the hipsters to the young professionals, Peter appreciated them all in contented silence.

As the subway doors were sliding shut, Peter caught movement from the corner of his eye. A man slid between them with more agility than an early morning often required. Once inside the train, he shuffled toward a pocket of empty space to grip the pole closest to Peter. Peter stealthily tracked the man’s movements, gaze never wavering.

His interest was definitely piqued. This was a new face on his morning commute. Peter slowly took in the man’s appearance bottom to top: brown loafers, navy slacks and a crisp, white oxford. His outfit was completed with a simple tie and a bomber jacket slung over his arm. One hand held on tightly to the pole while the other combed through disheveled, sand colored hair.

The man’s head abruptly turned, like he sensed he had an audience. Peter averted his gaze with practiced ease, pretending to readjust his earbud and narrowly escaping detection. The small motion still managed to speed up his heart rate. The faintest flash of color had caught Peter’s attention before he turned away from the mystery man’s gaze and he smiled to himself, like a schoolgirl with a crush 

The stranger’s eyes were the most startling shade of blue.

 

2.

Peter was sitting with his head once again resting against the cool glass, but this morning his eyes were open. A steady stream of music assaulted Peter's eardrums as he sat on high alert. The face of every passenger was scanned as they boarded the train. He wouldn’t admit it, but Peter was searching for the blue-eyed man from yesterday and hoping it wasn’t a one-time ride.

At the Chambers Street stop, Peter was rewarded. His mystery man expertly weaved through the crowded train car despite its occupants being packed like sardines. This is exactly why Peter went out of his way to get a seat, feeling far too uncomfortable surrounded by strangers if he stood. The awkward upright position coupled with bodies pressed too close was not what Peter needed early in the morning.

Leaning forward to subtly readjusted himself in his seat, Peter's elbows were on his knees and his phone rested between both hands. Bowing his head just so, Peter could pretend to be preoccupied with his screen while also flickering his gaze towards the man on the subway every so often. He seemed young, probably only a little older than Peter. Today, glasses framed his baby blues. The frames were so large he could put coffee shop hipsters to shame.

Eyeing the subway professional for a little longer, Peter admired the man from his brown loafers, light grey, fitted slacks and white oxford up to his navy tie and neatly styled blonde locks. As Peter’s gaze reached the man’s face he found blue eyes staring back at him. A blush spread across his cheekbones like wildfire as Peter's stomach did flips. He offered a small smile out of force of habit. In return, the man quirked an eyebrow and looked away.

Idiot. Peter scrubbed a hand over his face and mentally berated himself. It was seven in the morning in New York City. No one smiled that early, let alone at a complete stranger. Let alone on the subway.

Looking down at his phone screen for real, Peter idly scrolled through his Spotify playlists in search of a new song. The rhythmic movements of the subway gradually relaxed him and, before long, his eyes found themselves wandering once again. Peter looked over and caught the blonde hastily turning away. Now, the man was staring out the car’s window into the blackness of the underground.

Was he…

Impossible. Peter was the one who stared, never the one being stared at. He was a true wallflower through and through. The thought of potential attention made Peter smile inwardly, heart drumming faster to a new tune in his rib-cage. Feeling bold, he chanced a final glance at the attractive man. Peter’s heart sank a little upon seeing him preoccupied with his phone.

Idiot. Peter sighed and leaned his head back against the glass clad advertisement, closing his eyes to block out the fluorescent blue lighting spilling down from above.

 

3.

The normal pep in Peter’s step was slightly extinguished as he boarded the 4 train, fingers kneading the backpack strap digging into his shoulder. For the past few days, Blue-Eyes hadn’t been on the subway. Peter liked to stay hopeful and theorized that the man had simply gotten into a different train car the previous mornings. He took off his bag and set it between his feet, sitting down in his usual seat on the end. Peter turned up his music and prepared for a long day.

Work at Stark Industries had picked up drastically, and every morning Peter was greeted by upwards of fifty emails in his inbox from the night before. As of late, he liked responding to them during his subway ride to free up some of his morning in the laboratory. Peter was so caught up in the swirl of memos that he didn’t realize the subway had stopped until the air around him turned significantly denser. He also became acutely aware of more people crowding around him, but Peter’s typing speed didn’t falter for a second.

As Peter stared down at his screen, fingers flying over the keyboard, he noticed a pair of shoes come into his vision from behind his iPhone. Not just any shoes, but a pair of brown loafers Peter had all but memorized by now. His fingers halted their motion and he slowly looked up.

Peter's eyes paved a path past the brown shoes, past the khakis and past the light blue shirt the man was wearing. His eyes lingered a little on a hideously patterned tie before moving up to look into bright, ocean colored eyes. Subway man was standing directly over Peter, left hand clutching the rail above their heads while his right held a smartphone. A piercing gaze looked down at Peter, daring him to say something.

The air was heavy and Peter was drowning.

Caught ogling, Peter averted his gaze downwards once again while a warm blush spread across his face. Reassessing the situation from behind his phone screen, there was barely any space in between them. The gentle rocking of the train only brought them closer together. Peter realized fairly quickly that his seated position brought him eye-level with a rather inappropriate spot on the blue-eyed man.

Peter’s head flew up before his higher brain functions could step in and stop him. The man must have realized their position at the same time because he looked down at Peter, a little sheepish. Sorry, his expression said. Peter wanted to tell him he didn’t mind. Actually, he didn’t mind this position at all and would love to recreate it after work hours in a more private setting, but that’s not something you say to a stranger.

Before he could stop himself, Peter’s teeth started worrying his bottom lip as he looked up at the gorgeous stranger on the subway. The man’s eyes widened in surprise and they held each other’s gaze for a few beats. Peter forgot how to function and kept biting his bottom lip. It was a nervous habit he couldn’t quite shake. They had definitely wandered into uncomfortable territory now, and Peter wouldn’t put it past his body to make things awkward in the next ten seconds.

Blue-Eyes turned away from Peter and broke the connection first. The man audibly cleared his throat and shifted. Peter's blush deepened. He looked back down at his phone screen, emails long forgotten. Peter was also freely sweating underneath his jacket now, and his ears were ringing from holding his breath for so long.

The time between stops was spent calming himself down, since Peter dared not look up again the rest of his ride. Peter bolted off the subway the second their train pulled into Grand Central Station. He trampled at least five people in his haste, but it was worth it to be out of the suffocating underground.

During the next few subway rides, Blue-Eyes resumed his position on the other side of the car and Peter continued to admire from afar.

 

4.

For as long as Peter could remember, he always sat down during the morning commute. The earliness of the day paired with his quick feet and thinking ensured that he was never without a seat. Peter’s regular spot was at the end of the bench right next to the doors for easy enter and exit.

Today, however, Peter was standing. What spirit possessed his body and demanded he forego a seat? He would never know. Nevertheless, Peter was currently standing, backpack nestled between his feet, rocking back and forth to the rhythm of the subway. A metal pole was all that kept him upright.

He tried to focus on the soft pop music filtering into his ears to forget about the barricade of people surrounding him on all sides. Being part of the mob meant that the sounds and smells of the subway car were ten times sharper. It almost made Peter lightheaded. Lost in thought, he was caught off guard when the train abruptly stopped, bumping into the man behind him.

“Sorry,” Peter muttered. It was probably too soft for the man to hear, but he had no energy left to raise his voice.

The ‘whoosh’ of the subway doors alerted Peter as more people boarded the train car, greatly reducing what little space he had. He drew his phone closer to his body as his right hand tightened its grip on the pole, looking around as the newcomers boarded. Peter quickly spotted the handsome stranger since he was taller than most of the other passengers. Before he could catch the man’s eye, Peter glanced away, secretly hoping for the first time that Blue-Eyes wouldn’t stand near him.

Attentions turned back to Gmail, Peter didn’t see the hand that grasped his subway pole, but rather felt it. He subtly re-averted his eyes downward and spotted a pair of familiar, brown loafers. Peter sighed. He knew that if he looked up from his phone he’d find himself inches away from the handsome man’s chest. Their hands were almost brushing as they both held onto the metal pole for stability.

Peter’s palms were starting to sweat and his grip on the pole slid a little. Nerves had him shuffling from foot to foot. Mid-shuffle, the subway abruptly braked and Peter was thrown off kilter. The man behind Peter grunted once again as he was jostled significantly harder this time. Peter readjusted himself with ease, but panicked upon realizing his hand had slid down the pole in his effort to re-stabilize himself.

Peter was touching Blue-Eyes’ hand. With his own.

Staring at the offending appendage, Peter’s eyes widened. His brain started pumping out thoughts at a mile per minute: Was this okay? Should he move his hand? Should he move completely? Should he look at the man to reaffirm if this was okay? Oh God, there was no manual on subway etiquette and Peter was getting lightheaded.

Peter flicked his eyes upward at the handsome subway man and found him scrolling through his phone, seemingly unperturbed by this turn of events. He unconsciously nodded his head at the affirmation and allowed his hand to remain grasping the pole. Peter could do this; his subway ride was only five minutes longer.

No longer panicking, Peter deeply inhaled as the first step to calm himself. The plan backfired spectacularly when his nostrils and lungs were filled with the scent of Blue-Eyes’ cologne. Peter’s olfactory system was assaulted by vanilla, apple and something woodsy he couldn’t quite place. It smelled divine – it smelled like home.

“Oh god,” Peter muttered under his breath, voice coming out slightly strangled.

Thankfully, the beautiful man next to him had AirPods in, oblivious to Peter’s existential crisis happening mere inches away. The remaining three minutes on the subway were the longest of Peter’s life.

 

5.

It was only Monday and Peter's week was already shit. His phone died overnight because Peter forgot to plug it in so his alarm never went off at 5 am. After speeding through his morning routine and jogging to Fulton Street Station, Peter was lucky to make the 7:27 train. Beads of sweat rolled down his neck as he forced his way into the corner of the crowded train car, uncomfortably warm underneath his jacket.

In his heart, Peter knew that Blue-Eyes wouldn’t be on the subway but he still looked around just to make sure. A fruitless sweep of the train car came up empty and Peter glanced down at his watch. At this rate, there was no way he’d be able to stop for coffee at Starbucks. His brow furrowed; Peter was allowed to be sweaty, un-caffeinated and grumpy first thing in the morning, but he could not be late. He had interned at Stark Industries for two summers during college before being offered a full time position post-grad. Peter was so close to completing his first year as an official employee and refused to make any mistakes this late in the game.

Foot tapping to a furious tempo for the entire train ride, Peter was nothing but a bundle of nerves. Before the train doors even had a chance to properly open Peter hit the ground running, bursting out of the station and onto the bustling street of New York City. He sped walked the rest of the way to Stark Industries and attempted to adjust his outfit on the way.

“Hold the door, please!”

Peter wasn’t frantically running through the lobby of SI towards the elevators. No, he was simply walking at a determined pace.

Before the golden embossed doors closed and took Peter’s perfect attendance record with them, a hand shot out. The leather briefcase in the man’s hand banged against the doors as they retracted. Peter deeply exhaled and slid into the spacious lift, elbowing a few people behind him on his way in. He looked over at the buttons and saw his floor was already lit up.

“Thanks, you really saved me there…” Peter trailed off, a little breathless, as he turned towards the man who had held the elevator for him.

No fucking way, Peter thought to himself. He was face to face with Blue-Eyes. Blue-Eyes, who was holding a briefcase in one hand and coffee from the hipster café down the street in the other. Blue-Eyes, who apparently worked at Stark Industries with Peter.

The man offered a lopsided smile as a look of recognition flashed across his face. Peter remained gob smacked. Before he could speak, the ‘ding’ of the elevator alerted them both that people needed to exit the lift. Peter shot one more desperate glance at the attractive man before he was pushed to the other side of the elevator. Four people got off and seemingly hundreds more got in. It felt a lot like being on the subway.

Peter spent the next twenty floors shamelessly staring at his mystery man from across the elevator. The morning was suddenly starting to look up.

 

+1

After seeing Blue-Eyes in the elevator, Peter had spent the rest of the work day trying to “accidentally” run into him again. This was also why Peter didn’t leave his lab until a little later than usual. Mystery man hadn’t gotten off the elevator before him, meaning he worked on one of the above floors. Peter devoted so much time to walking around the upper floors like an idiot with a purpose that he had let his work slip a little.

Not finishing his project until around 7:30 pm meant Peter was waiting in Grand Central for a later train to take him back home to FiDi. His earbuds were in and Peter was lost deep in thought when a presence made itself known to Peter’s right. Someone was standing beside him, a little closer than necessary.

Peter looked out of the corner of his eye at the figure next to him and internally screamed. It was Blue-Eyes. At this point, Peter was either being stalked or all of his good karma had been cashed in on one day. Between the AirPods and rapid texting the attractive man was engrossed in, it didn’t seem like he noticed Peter standing next to him.

His eyes flickered up at the departures board above their heads. Three minutes until the 4 train came. Peter licked his lips and he shifted from foot to foot, nerves starting to come alive. A feeling of ‘now or never’ overtook his body. Peter couldn’t gamble on Blue-Eyes taking the 4 train home, or ever having this opportunity again when they weren’t in a crowded train car or elevator.

Blue-Eyes pocketed his phone, now staring ahead as he gently bobbed his head to whatever music was playing through his earbuds. If Peter wanted to act, now was the perfect time. He started gnawing on his lip, eyes sliding between the electronic numbers counting down above him to the man standing next to him. Peter had to decide soon if he wanted to remain a wallflower for forever.

In the end, the other man made the decision for him. He looked down at his watch and frowned, moving to turn away when Peter finally blurted out, “Peter! My name is Peter Parker.”

He held out a hand towards the stranger as dark brown met ocean blue. Peter's surprise was mirrored in the other man’s expression, as if both couldn’t believe Peter had just done that.

“Harley Keener,” the other man – Harley – said with a grin as he shook Peter’s outstretched hand. Peter blushed a little as Harley’s hand enveloped his. The full contact was a little overwhelming on top of his adrenaline rush. “Did you make it on time this morning?”

Peter’s smile widened impossibly further. He probably looked like an idiot, but he couldn’t be bothered to care because Harley remembered him.

“Yeah, thanks for holding the elevator for me.” Peter ducked his head as his blush deepened, “I definitely owe you one.”

“Maybe you can give me your number, for starters?” Harley paused to chuckle, “This way, I don’t have to keep watching you from across a subway car like a creep every morning.”

Peter couldn’t help but laugh in return as he let out a sigh of relief, “I thought you’d never ask.”