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Simply the Best

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Keener Technologies, a corporation that had innovated everything from planes to mobile phones, pianos to refrigerators, prosthesis to alarm clocks, and even electric toothbrushes. KT had soared above its major competitors for years, crushing Apple, Android, Yamaha, and Microsoft to the ground. That was until Stark Industries had switched from weapons to tech. All of a sudden, the household name of Adam Keener was no longer relevant when Iron Man himself was making computers. 

Adam Keener wasn’t a good man. Sure, he was a visionary, a gift to science and the concept of technology itself, but he didn’t do it from the deep down goodness of his heart.

Adam started his company from the garage of his Rose Hill hovel of a home. He patented and sold his ideas for much less than they were worth until someone realized their value. He was a man who sought for as much power as he could acquire striving for the choke-hold of monopoly over every industry he could take over. And, for a while, he did.

Adam Keener hid behind the facade of a good man. He didn’t live lavishly, donating his earnings into charities and funding for his next project. He smiled for the cameras, charmed the paparazzi, and flaunted his perfect relationship with his girl-next-door wife, Cassandra Atkinson. To the public eye, he was the perfect man.

Harley knew better.

Harley Keener, the secret bastard child of Adam Keener. Before Cassandra was Macy Keener, a forced marriage after a high school mistake baby. Harley knew his mother would never say that, but that was what he was. A mistake.

One mistake turned into two when Macy and Adam got drunk on New Years Eve and made Abby. This delayed Adam’s abandonment.

Obviously, the marriage didn’t last. Adam began to take off, and two children and a high school dropout wife didn’t look the best for the face of a new company. So, he divorced her, moved to the big apple, and never spoke to them ever again.

The man at least had the decency to send child support, but there were no birthday presents, no family Christmases, no throwing the pigskins in the backyard. All he knew was that his dad went to get scratch off lottery tickets and never came back.

Everything changed when Macy passed. She never did change the paperwork, so before he could even process his grief, thirteen year old Harley Keener and his sister were shipped to New York to start new lives with the man that left them.

To say the least, Harley was shocked by the realization that the Keener last name wasn’t just a coincidence. Meeting Adam Keener was bittersweet, a man that was once an inspiration in the aspiring engineer’s life was now also the man that he had despised for years. 

Adam told them that they needed the fake last name so that they could live average lives in New York. That they wouldn’t be bombarded by the media and their normality wouldn’t be crushed under the pressure of being Adam Keener’s children. Harley knew it was really because he didn’t want the scandal to be revealed, but he never addressed it.

Being the son of the face of Keener Tech wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t robots and AIs and mansions. It was a penthouse on the secret fifty-first floor on the KT Headquarters building that could only be reached by biometric scanners secretly placed in the elevator. It was taking the subway to Midtown High because having a personal driver would bring too much attention to the teen. It was a personal gold debit card for whatever he pleased that he could never find the balls to overuse. 

Being the son of Adam Keener also meant that he was a part of his wild conspiracies. So, that’s how Harley ended up reconnecting his connection with Tony Stark and landing a personal internship with the man in attempts to act as a double agent to steal SI’s newest ideas. 

However, Harley favored Tony Stark much more than Adam Keener, and Tony Stark liked him too. So, that’s how he ended up being his new protege. And being Tony’s protege? Well, let’s just say it has gotten a little complicated.

Chapter Text

“Harley. Harley. Harley. Oh my God.” 

A pillow is violently smacked onto the blonde teens face, abruptly waking him from his comfortable slumber.

“Finally. Dad told me to wake you up. We’re gonna be late to the metro.”

“That’s very thoughtful of Adam. Did he really send you himself?” Harley asked, pushing himself out of bed lethargically.

“Well, he left a note on the fridge saying that if we are late again we have to have a parent-teacher meeting, and he doesn’t want to deal with that.”

Harley rolled his eyes. “Of course he did.”

“I don’t get why you give him such a hard time, Harls.”

“I don’t get why you’re giving him so much slack!” he responded unamused from the argument they seemed to often have, heading to his bathroom.

“It’s been three years,” she said as she followed him, leaning on the doorframe.

“And he left us for seven.”

“So when it gets to seven you’re gonna suddenly forgive him?”

“You know that’s not what I mean,” he squeezed out some toothpaste on his toothbrush.

“You can’t keep holding this grudge. This is our life.”

“In a year, I’ll finally be off to college, and I won’t have to care about Adam and whatever else he demands from us,” he said as he brushed his teeth.

“You know I haven’t liked this as much as you haven’t. I didn’t like him either when we first got here, but he takes the time out of his busy schedule to have dinner with us whenever he can, and he helps me with my math homework, and he takes me shopping when I outgrow my current clothes, and that’s good enough for me.”

Harley didn’t want to push further. “Get out of my room so I can change. We’ll leave in five.”

“I’ll make you a smoothie. All your favorites. Blueberries and cherries and peaches.”

“Please don’t!”

 

.-~*~-.

 

Midtown High, a school that his father insisted he attended. A school full of rich nerds, which Harley now was. It had been three years since Harley had been living with Adam and his new lifestyle, and so far, no one, not even Tony, knew. He was a secret well kept.

As he entered homeroom, he saw Ned chatting off MJ’s ear in their usual spot.

“Mornin’ y’all,” he greeted.

“Harley! Please, tell MJ that she’s wrong.”

He raised an eyebrow. “If I do that, I’m pretty sure she would end my life immediately.”

Ned, ignoring the statement, continued. “MJ doesn’t think that Barry Allen is using his full powers on the show.”

“It’s because he isn’t,” MJ stated monotonously.

Ned aggressively counted on his fingers as he listed, “he phased a plane through a bridge, he outran a nuclear bomb, he created a new timeline…”

“Several,” Harley added.

Several new timelines, became a part of the fucking speed force…”

“Yeah he did all those things, but he doesn’t utilize his speed throughout the series. There should be no reason that he gets taken off guard with his speed,” MJ argued.

“How?”

MJ put down her pencil that she had been using to doodle, and turned to Ned. “He can read a book in seconds and could be learning every language in the world in days, become a master in every scientific field, and be the strongest and fittest person in Central City. He could be perfect at every party trick and educated on every mathematical theory. He could have taken one day to read every book and article made about running faster, but instead wastes his time with meaningless love triangles and ‘I need to be faster’ speeches.”

“Welp, gotta agree with MJ on this one, Ned,” Harley stated.

Ned groaned, sinking into his chair. “I bet Peter would agree with me on this. He loves the Flash.”

Ah yes, Peter Parker. Honestly, Harley didn’t know what to think of Peter Parker. He was benevolent, intelligent, and downright impressive in the lab. He was a newer intern at Stark Industries that had some sort of ties with Tony like he did, so they sometimes overlapped in their time together. He knew what he was talking about when he rambled about thermodynamics and projectile motion and elasticity, but yet, he couldn’t quite hold a real conversation with Harley. It had been a couple years since they had started to get to know each other, but it always felt like Harley was mostly conversing with Ned and MJ while Peter quietly stood by in the conversations. Was it him? Was he intimidating? Or rude? Did he feel like he was replacing him? Whatever it was, he didn’t know. 

“Well, Peter is also the one who thinks Thor is more powerful than Captain Marvel,” MJ said.

“And that is just another thing I can disagree with Peter on,” Harley responded. Before he could continue, their teacher shushed the class.

“Alright everyone, quiet down. It’s the moment of silence.”

 

.-~*~-.

 

Midtown High was different than the schools in Rose Hill. There were more options. Instead of just the core classes, there were APs and Mechanical Engineering and Ceramics and he was even taking Chinese (because, though he hates to agree with Adam, the Chinese are the future of business in America).

In his odd assortment of classes, he happened to share all of his core classes with Peter Parker, and Harley may not be able to carry much conversation with Peter, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to sit with the other people in his classes.

Harley had been the talk of Midtown when he had entered Freshman year. Everyone knew everyone at the school whether it be from middle school or from their million dollar home neighborhoods. So, when mysterious Harley Jenkins enters his first year, flannel rolled up to his elbows and thick rimmed glasses, the girls fell for his “rugged, country hipster” look.

But, there was only one person who caught Harley’s attention.

Spider-Man, the masked teen who he had been patrolling with since he had been appointed the Iron Lad suit. Tony had only meant the suit to be for emergencies, but then the Accords happened and then Toomes and then there was himself from the future who tried to convince him to go towards the path of evil faster (which was really weird) and Tony realized that maybe he needs to keep the suit.

Patrols were something freeing in his life. Something that was reassuring to always have, to share with Spider-Man. 

Though he believed in stopping evil, the whole Kang the Conqueror scare really began to make him question his morals and his fighting habits. Spider-Man really brought him back to earth, grounding him in the “friendly neighborhood” part of the job.

Harley’s fondest memories are the ones where they sat together on the skyscrapers of New York and talked about everything and nothing. It was the little things that he learned about Spider-Man, the way that he peeled and cut his apples and threw his fleece blanket into the dryer before he went to bed in the winter because his family couldn’t afford the heating bill and made an effort to pet every dog and cat they passed on patrol, even making Harley create a mechanism in his suit to only open his hand so he could pet him without the barrier between the pets. It was the way he listened to Harley lament about his household woes and gave him personal epiphanies with simple conversations and saved his life countless times. Spider-Man was the only one he didn’t talk to without a mask. The irony.

He hadn’t even realized he was daydreaming about his spandexed friend until Peter poked him with his pencil.

“Huh?” 

Peter pointed to the board, the AP Lang project information on the board. 

“Could you uh catch me up? I kinda zoned out,” Harley said sheepishly.

“It’s uh a it’s uhm it’s like well you know how we just read The Modest Proposal? ” Harley nodded. “Well it’s uh it’s like that except you make your own ridiculous solution to a real world problem like how they solved world hunger with cannibalism.”

He grinned. “That actually sounds kinda fun.”

“Yeah! You and I are partnered since we sit next to each other which I hope is okay because I mean you can switch partners if you want to but I have ideas so…”

“I like working with you,” Harley cut him off.

“You do?” he asked, eyes wide.

“Yeah. It’s nice to not be the only one doing the work. It’s like, seriously, we go to a STEM school and yet people can’t even carry their weight? I’m like fucking Atlas holding up the heavens, except it’s me carrying the project on my shoulders.”

Peter laughed, a genuine laugh, not the one he usually does that’s forced and nervous. Something about it feels familiar. “Yeah. It’s usually like that for me too.”

“So what were you thinking?” 

“Okay, imagine solving global warming with a bunch of fans.” Peter sketched a globe and little circles.

“Or…” Harley drew one big fan facing towards the Earth.

“Wouldn’t a force that magnitude knock Earth off of its axis?” Peter asked.

“Exactly.”

 

.-~*~-.

 

Harley’s day went on like usual, AP Lang to Calculus to Psychology to AP Us History, and then a fifteen metro ride to the Stark Tower for his internship with Tony. 

On internship days, Adam’s bodyguard, December, picked up Abby from school. December was not only their bodyguard, but the one who acted as their mother in all public situations. She went to parent-teacher meetings and Abby’s choir concerts and Harley’s Academic Decathlon Competitions. Abby thought it was sweet that Adam hired December to do these things, but Harley knew it was because, though there was security at school, extracurriculars were “dangerous.”

But, at least he could sit on that metro and be certain that Abby was getting home safely. 

He tapped his fingers on his thigh to the beat of the music in his headphones as he leaned against the wall of the SI elevator. The elevator was especially slow now that the employees had complained about its extreme speed. 

As the doors opened, Harley was greeted by the familiar scent of motor oil, freshly brewed coffee, and burnt metal. 

“Afternoon, Tony,” he greeted.

“Harley! Finally. I need to bounce some ideas off of you.” He threw the hologram to Harley.

He caught the blue light and spread it out around him. “Are these schematics for the new mark?”

“Yes they are.”

“Mine or yours?” he asked, scrolling through the details.

“Yours. I was thinking there could be some more patrol friendly options after what happened on Friday.”

Right. Friday.

Harley may have used a repulsor blast during a fight, and may have knocked over a tree in Central Park, and it may have been the oldest tree there.

“What were you thinking?” Harley asked, heading over to the lab.

“You know how Spider-Man started safe and soft and got additions that were more combat?”

Harley nodded. “Of course I do. That’s what made him Spider-Man in the first place.”

“Well, the Iron Man suit was always meant to be protection, combat, destruction. What if we went the other way? Made something more friendly, like the Iron Spider suit?”

His eyes widened. “You mean I won’t be wearing a full suit on patrols?”

“That’s what I’m saying.”

Harley sat down in his chair, speechless. Ever since he had been going on patrols he had felt like a nuisance and a dead weight. He could finally be in the forefront of crime, of the hero-ing, instead of holding it all back for just the big bads.

“I know you’ve been asking for something like this for a while, and I thought you should finally get it,” Tony turned around and handed him five squares of metals. “So, take your pick for exteriors,” he handed ten squares of fabrics, “and interiors.”

 

.-~*~-.

 

Harley scraped at his plate at supper, Adam sitting at the head of the table, Harley and Abby aside him. Their personal chef had made them beef wellington with a side of al dente asparagus.

It’s not al dente. It’s raw. 

“So, Harley. Did you get that calculus test back?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I got a 98%. I would’ve gotten a 100% but I forgot a negative sign on the final answer.”

Adam nodded as well, his fork scratching at the china. “And Abby, how was your day?”

“I finished Dinosaurs Before Dark during silent reading today and then I did minute multiplication tables and then in music class I got to play the congas!” she spouted excitedly.

“That’s very exciting,” Adam said, his lack of enthusiasm only being noticed by Harley.

“What about you? How did that meeting go today?” Harley asked. 

Adam didn’t like to talk about business with Harley, unless it benefited him. “Oscorp has graciously partnered with KT and we have a lot of projects on the table.”

Harley nodded. “It’s great that you finally are getting your name back in the papers.”

Adam clenched his jaw. “Well how are things going at Stark? Have any interesting things that they are starting?”

This is how it always went. Adam would make it seem like he was doing it out of polite small talk, but all he wanted was stolen ideas to beat Stark at his game. “I overheard someone in the breakroom mention blockchain harvesting,” he said nonchalantly. He hadn’t. He had read it on a science Instagram that morning, but he wouldn’t let Adam know that. 

He hummed in satisfaction. “Anything else?”
Harley pretended to think but shook his head. “I’ve been pretty busy with my own projects to eavesdrop on everyone else’s. Have to keep my internship, you know?”

Adam didn’t make eye contact with his son. “I get that.”

“May I be excused? I have to finish some homework.”

Adam gave another cordial nod. “Don’t stay up too late.”

“I won’t!” he called behind him, already closing the door.

 

.-~*~-.

 

Test running the new suit was exhilarating. It wasn’t clunky; he felt lighter as he shot across the skies, the city lights shining against the titanium alloy. He caught sight of a familiar red and blue hero crouching atop a roof.

Even the metallic thunk of his land was quieter in his new suit. 

“Hey, Webs.”

Spider-Man turned around, his white eye details widening as he saw Harley. “Iron Lad! New threads?” He asked, his voice modifier on as per usual.

“Just got ‘em today. Tryin’ ‘em out. Whadya think?” he flexed and posed, strutting like he was on a runway.

“It suits you. You don’t look like Iron Man. You look like Iron Lad.”

Harley smiled under his mask. “Thanks.” He cleared his throat awkwardly. “Anything for us tonight?”

“According to Karen, none. It’s weird, it’s kind of been radio silent the last couple of days.”

“Sorry I haven’t been out recently. My sister had a stomach bug.”

Spider-Man waved his hand, dismissing the apology. “It’s fine. Life happens.” He looked out to the city. “I don’t know, I just… I’m getting this bad feeling. It feels like it’s the prelude to something bigger, something badder, something we should be scared of.”

Harley put his hand on Spider-Man’s, finally being able to feel the shape of his hand for the first time since they had met each other in suit. “Whatever it is, we can figure it out. I promise. We always do.”

“I’m just scared. I don’t usually get scared but now I… there’s just something off.”

The night was silent. Eerily silent. No robberies, no muggings, no anything. It was like the crime of Queens had disappeared off the face of the Earth.

“What if it’s some sort of mass murderer? What if it’s a Light Yagami situation where they are eliminating all of the criminals of Queens? You know I don’t like crime but I… I don’t want them to be dead , you know?”

Harley nodded. “I know.” His alarm beeped quietly in his ear. “It’s curfew. We should head home.”
“I... “ he stopped and shook his head. “Nevermind. It’s stupid.”

“No. Go ahead. It’s not stupid.”

Spider-Man sighed. “I just I… I was wondering if maybe we could figure out a way to talk to each other out of the suit? Maybe feed two birds with one scone and make Instagrams? People have been asking for it and I mean, I just, something is coming. And I need to know that I can talk to you.”

“I totally understand.” He paused. “I’ll make one tonight and have Tony follow me so you know it’s the real deal. Then we can go on from there. Okay?”

“Okay.” He looked like he wanted to say more, but he shot out a web and swung away.

Harley let out a longing sigh as he watched him. Biting the inside of his mouth, he turned on his repulsors and shot through the sky back to Manhattan.

Chapter Text

“Spider-Man! Please, stay with me. You have to wake up.” He choked out a sob. “Please. You have to wake up.”

 

THIRTY TWO HOURS BEFORE

 

Harley couldn’t stop staring at his screen. @officialironlad was a go, photos that had been taking up storage in his Starkphone that he could never share were finally out to the public. The candids that he had his AI, Marvin (named after Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy ), take on the serene patrols above the city and the selfies he took as he soared in the starless sky of New York, all these little moments stores on Instagram. They were worth more than any number that comes from a heart shaped button could ever mean. They documented the life he could only share with Spider-Man.

Ah, yes. Spider-Man. The reason why he was staring at his phone, typing and deleting and typing and deleting and drumming his fingers on the thick case on his phone.

“Fuck it,” he whispered.

@officialironlad: hey

 

“Oh shit. Oh fuck. Fuckin’ fuck.” Harley contemplated deleting the message, but he froze when he saw the “...” appear.

 

@nycwebslinger: hey

 

Harley stared at his screen again, overthinking every possible response.

 

@officialironlad: you get home safe?

@nycwebslinger: yeah, i did. you?

@officialironlad: yeah, i did.

 

‘Real original, Harley. Really smooth,’ he thought to himself.

 

@nycwebslinger: i saw you already started posting. i’m not sure what i want to put up, yanno? feels weird posting as spider-man and not as civvie me.

@officialironlad: yeah i hear you. i only started posting so you’d know i’m the real deal.

@nycwebslinger: well i know now :)))

@nycwebslinger: shit, sorry laddie, i totally forgot that i have to finish this chapter for apush. i’ll ttyl? keep you updated on my hunch?

@officialironlad: sounds good. night

 

Harley smiled softly at his phone. It wasn’t much, but it was something.

 

.-~*~-.

 

“Oh you’ve gotta be shittin’ me.” 

“I’m not gonna say it again! Get in line for the pacer now!”

Harley groaned. Sure, PE was nothing compared to the physical activity that he got up to in his night job, but it was a pain in the ass that made him sore for that night’s patrol.

It would never get any more normal to hear war criminal, rogue Avenger, Captain America spouting out the “the FitnessGram Pacer Test is a multistage aerobic capacity test” monologue. Harley had mixed feelings about Cap after everything that had happened, after what he had done to Tony. Hate is a strong word, but after his shield ricocheted off his head and left him with a concussion for a month, he had some strong opinions. 

Harley couldn’t help but stare at Peter as he held his feet while he did sit-ups. He wasn’t picking up a sweat at all but it seemed that he was purposefully getting slower and less precise in his form. It was like he was trying to look like he couldn’t continue.

But, Harley didn’t push. He wasn’t going as long as he could either. Less attention was better, and 100 sit ups was not subtle. 

“You got any plans this weekend?” Harley asked.

Peter froze. “W-what?”

“It’s the long weekend? Because of the teacher workdays?”

Dejected, Peter continued his sit-ups. “Oh. No I uhm I don’t have any plans. I mean I’m totally not just sitting around doing nothing like I do have plans but they’re not interesting and, I mean, I could totally not be doing my plans if you want to do something instead, n-not to say that you have to, no pressure, I mean uh…” he stopped his stammering, somehow not out of breath from either his rant or his fiftieth sit-up. “I mean, uh, what are you up to? This weekend, I mean. Obviously not right now because right now you’re doing this and I know you’re doing this and uh,” he cleared his throat, “and yeah, what are you up to?”

Harley thought about it. Weekend with Tony, patrols, working on homework… “Oh. We should probably get together this weekend to do that Lang project. The Modest Proposal one?”

Peter’s eyes widened. “Uh yeah! We should. Should we do it at your place or…”

“Can we do it at yours?” Harley cut him off quickly. “My uh my dad doesn’t like having guests, even for school work.”

Peter nodded. “Y-yeah that would work. My place works. I’ll uhm I have to uh can I get your number? So I can text you the address?”

“Yeah of course. I’ll get it to you at lunch?”

Peter’s heart fluttered. “Yeah. That’d be great.”

“Monday work for you?”

“It does.”

 

.-~*~-.

 

“It’s not a date.”

“But it’s a step!”

“You’re just getting together to do a project.”

“Which is a step!”

Ned sighed. “Peter. You’ve liked Harley for what? Two years?”

“Three, actually,” Peter corrected.

“Ah, so you’re still counting. Dude, you’ve been hopelessly in love with Harley for three years. Don’t you think it’s time to, I don’t know, cool it?”

Peter shook his head. “You don’t get it, Ned. I can’t just give up when things are finally starting to go somewhere.”

“Not going somewhere. Just doing a school project.”

“That’s a step!”

“So you keep saying,” Ned said, unamused.

“It is. It is a big step because maybe getting to know him through this project—”

“You could’ve gotten to know him if you just talked to him—”

“And then maybe we’ll become friends—”

“You’d already be friends with him if you just talked to him when he hangs out with us—”

“And maybe if he likes me—”

“What do you mean likes you? You guys work in the lab together. You sit next to each other in like every class—”

“Then maybe I can try to make it something more. And I mean best case scenario, it works. Worst case scenario, he’ll reject me, break my heart, and maybe I can finally move on.”

“Peter,” Ned stated firmly.

“What?” he asked, exasperated.

“You’re late for patrol.”

“Oh shit. I’ve gotta go.”

“I’ll talk to you later, bro. Love you.”

“Love you too, Ned.”

He groaned, slipping off his shirt. “I’m going on patrol, May! I’ll see you later!” 

“Be safe!”

Swinging through the streets of the Queens was a breath of fresh air. It was freeing. It was the wind blowing under his feet and the pumping of his heart in his chest and the world dulling into something he could handle inside his mask. He wasn’t Peter Parker, he was something new. Something people looked up to. He was Spider-M…

“Hey Webs. Miss me?” Iron Lad hovering behind Spider-Man as he swung.

“Like I don’t see your ugly mug enough.”

“Technically you see my ugly mask. Is that what you think? My suit is poorly designed? Well, then I guess I’ll just have to tell Tony…”

“Oh please don’t. I’d never hear the end of it if you did.”

“And I’m sure you much prefer me talking your ear off than him.”

“Keep telling yourself that, Laddie,” he said with a bubbly laugh.

Iron Lad smiled under his mask, luckily able to hide his blush. “What do we got tonight, Marvin?”

“There is a bank robbery two blocks to the East and a car chase five miles North.”

“I’ll take the car chase. You take the robbery,” Spider-Man instructed.

“Anything you say, darling.”

“And don’t call me darling,” he said, before thwipping away.

After cleaning up the nightly crime, helping some old ladies cross the street, and finding a lost kid’s parents, the two retired atop a rooftop.

“It’s a lovely night,” Spider-Man said softly.

“Yeah. It is. But nothing is lovelier than you.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever, Laddie.” He stared up at the stars. “Can you imagine that only a decade ago, the sky was even fuller than it is now? We see the stars, and we see the moon, but before there were… there wasn’t the light pollution we have now. We didn’t have skyscrapers and streetlamps and headlights. But we had the sky. The big bright beautiful sky filled with stars ‘til the eye could see. Can you just… can you even envision a world like that? A sky like that? It just feels so magical. So wonderful.” He sighed in content. “My uncle took me camping once and there were so many stars there. It was amazing. The camping, not so much. But that view. I just… I don’t know. It’s beautiful.”

Before Harley could respond, there was a distant boom on the other side of the city. “The hell…?”

“We have to go.”

 

Spider-Man and Iron Lad both let out a collective gasp when they approached the bomb site. A giant hole where Central Park used to be stared back at them.

“Who would do this?” Iron Lad asked quietly.

“Come on. We have to investigate. See if there are any…” he trailed off. Bodies. He meant bodies.

“Yeah. We do.”

The air was thick with suspense as they neared the site. They grimaced as the scent of evaporated flesh entered their nostrils, Spider-Man especially recoiling in disgust.

“Who would do this?” Iron Lad asked again. 

Spider-Man’s head snapped up. “Be quiet. There’s someone here.” His eyes widened as a figure appeared behind Iron Lad, creating themself from what looked like a shadow. “Iron Lad! Look out!” He pushed him out of the way and felt a long dagger enter his torso, slicing down his spine. “Shit.”

Harley whipped his head around to find no one there. “Who did that?”

“I don’t know, but we need to find out…”

“No, we need to get you to the medbay.”

“Iron Lad, who knows what they can do. You didn’t see the way they… they’re dangerous,” Spider-Man insisted.

“Which is why we need to step back and plan. I’m not going to fight with you. Let me take you the medbay and we will plan our gameplan, but right now you need help.”

Spider-Man gritted his teeth beneath his mask. “Fine.”

Iron Lad picked him up, causing Spider-Man to whimper in pain. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

"Iron Lad I..." and he went limp in his arms.

“Spider-Man! Please, stay with me. You have to wake up.” He choked out a sob. “Please. You have to wake up.” Taking a shaky breath, he flew him as gently as he could to the tower where a team of doctors were ready waiting at the door.

Harley paced in the waiting rooms, his suit off. He knew he couldn’t see Spider-Man while he was a civilian, but he still waiting outside to hear any news.

Tony exited the room, eyes tired and red. “It was bad, Harley. Whatever that weapon was, it sliced through his suit and through his all of his major internal organs and hit his spine. He should be paralyzed and dead right now, so his body is really working overtime on repairing itself. He needs time. A lot of time.”

“Is he going to be okay?” Harley asked, not wanting to hear the answer.

“We don’t know. His metabolism is something we still don’t fully understand. He’s never… whatever this dagger was made of was more advanced than anything we’ve ever seen. It tore his inside to shreds. He needs a lot of surgery and a lot of rest.”

Harley’s eye’s darted around the room as he tried to process. “Okay. Okay. He’s… I should… I should head home. Adam is probably wondering where I am.”

“Harley, it’s your weekend with me. Remember?” 

He looked up. “Oh, right. Right. Right right right. I’m here with you. Well uh I think I’m gonna take a shower because I’m just covered in Spider-Man’s blood right now and that makes me feel very very bad so I’m just gonna… I’m gonna go take a shower.”

“Harley—”

“I need to take a shower,” he cut him off. 

When he made it to his room, he stared at himself in the mirror as his hands shook. He shouldn’t have gotten out of the suit when they got to the tower, but he wanted to hold Spider-Man’s hand until he couldn’t anymore. He had to feel his fingers. He had to know that he was there and not through his suit. But, because he did that, his hands were filthy with red. They were drenched and he felt, he felt sick. He felt absolutely horrified.

He washed his hands and he washed his hands and he washed his hands until his hands were raw and he was starting to bleed his own blood. Spider-Man had been hurt before but he never got out of his suit. Never. There was never a reason to. But tonight? Tonight there was.

A gut-wrenched sob escaped his lips as he collapsed on the tiles of the bathroom. He curled into himself as the pressure in his head was pushing harder and harder because the tears wouldn’t come out. Why couldn’t he cry? All he wanted to do was cry. This was definitely a reasonable reason to cry. So why the hell couldn’t he cry?

He trembled and he gasped for air and he squeezed his eyes so tight that he was seeing stars but he couldn’t cry. It wasn’t long until he passed out on the cold floor, completely exhausted.

Chapter Text

Harley’s back ached as he awoke, head throbbing and mouth dry. He peeled himself from the floor and steadied himself on the sink. Already he felt his breath tremble uneasily as he remembered the night before. Spider-Man’s blood was dry and hard on his clothes and it felt disgusting. He ripped his clothes off and got into the cold shower, too impatient to wait for the water to warm. The tears finally came, mixing with the red droplets of water cascading down his body. His shoulders shook as he held his face in his hands. 

He was already too tired. He found himself sitting on the floor of his shower, unable to steady himself long enough to stand. He scrubbed and scratched and rubbed until the blood was gone. He never had to feel this way after a patrol, the blood only staining the suit that the various machinery in Tony’s labs would disinfect and clean without him laying a finger on them.

Blood was a tricky thing. It held life in them and it held death in them, and this blood? It sure felt like death.

After what felt like too long and not long enough, Harley got himself out of the steamy water, his skin pink and wrinkly. 

Upon throwing on whatever clothes he could handle wearing, he trudged to the kitchen and stared at the cabinets, unsure if he could he even stomach any food.

He looked at the cereals and every one reminded him of Spider-Man.

“You can’t be serious,” Iron Lad said with a laugh.

“No, I am absolutely serious. Cereal preference is very valid. My aunt and uncle, when I first came to live with them, bought me a different cereal every week because it was one of the only things they could afford to vary in my life, and it just became something we did for years to come, so I have opinions on any cereal possible,” Spider-Man explained.

“Okay. Rice Krispies?”

“Good with fruit, especially strawberries. Good in the treat form. Best when it’s the Crispy Rice generic brand.”

Iron Lad raised an eyebrow. “Raisin Bran?” 

“Literally slaps. Underrated and deserves more love.”

“Reeses Puffs?”

“Overrated and better in generic brands.”

“You had a lot of generic brand versions of cereals?” he asked, amused.

“They’re cheaper, more accessible, and just as good quality,” he said with a shrug. “Don’t even get me started on the supposed diet cereals and the dietary restriction cereals.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, curious.

“Gluten free cheerios? A bop. Fiber One? Atrocious. An abomination of humanity’s modern innovation.”

Iron Lad guffawed loudly. “Good to know.”

 

Harley continued to stare at the cereals, knowing which ones Spider-Man deemed worthy and which ones he didn’t. He settled on raisin bran, something he had started to give a chance after he… and poured himself a bowl.

Chewing was tiring. Moving the spoon to his mouth was tiring. He was tired.

“Harley?” 

He looked up. “Good morning, Tony.”

“It’s two AM. What are you doing up?”

“Oh. I didn’t even realize,” he said hollowly.

“How are you feeling?” Tony asked softly.

“Not good.”

“Yeah. I figured. What… what happened out there?” 

“I have no clue i-it… I don’t know. It was like there was with shadow and then he got stabbed and then the shadow it disappeared.”

Tony furrowed his brows. “Disappeared.”

“Yeah. Disappeared. It just vanished into thin air. I didn’t get a good look at their face or their body or anything. All I know is that this shadow did some major damage and disappeared with the weapon.”

“Are you saying this guy… teleported?” 

“That’s what I think,” Harley said.

“That’s not good.”

“Yeah.”

“Keep an eye out for any new enhanced people on the streets. If there’s more from where this guy came from, then we’ve got a big storm coming.”

 

.-~*~-.

 

Harley Keener, 8:04AM: hey, we still on for today? 

Harley Keener, 8:10AM: sorry you’re probably still asleep

Harley Keener, 8:11AM: it’s saturday after all

Harley Keener, 8:11 AM: text me when you can

 

Harley stared at his phone and sighed. As much as he wished he could stay all day, despite not being able to sit by Spider-Man’s bed and hold his hand while he recovered, he knew he had to do something, and if that meant doing busy work all day, then so be it.

He found himself hunched over a workbench, doing all of the problems in his calculus textbook for the next quarter, then making notes on ten chapters in his AP US History textbook, then annotating the entirety of his AP Psychology textbook, and then finishing his AP Lang book. By the time he checked the time again, lunch had long passed and it was 5PM.

 

Harley Keener, 5:07PM: so i’m guessing that’s a no on working on the project today?

 

At least the messages weren’t left on read, instead followed by the familiar text of “delivered.”

As if on cue, his stomach rumbled, yearning for some sustenance, but with the lingering thought of Spider-Man’s blood all over his hands, he figured he could try to just stomach some water.

When he entered the kitchen, there was a sense of dread dawning on him seeing Tony with his head held heavy on his hands.

“Tony?” Harley called out.

He snapped up, trying to shift into a calm, charismatic persona. “Harley! Haven’t seen you all day. What have you been up to?”

“Homework,” he responded, eyeing him suspiciously. “You never came to the lab so I figured you were busy.”

“Yeah I was I was uh… well you see… there was…” He took a breath. “Spider-Man had to have another surgery. Last night I mentioned that this sort of injury should have caused paralysis and we thought he didn’t have it but he… he can’t walk. He can’t feel anything below his neck right now.”

Harley felt the air knocked out of his lungs. “He…  he what?”

“His healing factor should kick in the next week or so, we hope, but he was barely awake long enough for us to realize that he had no feeling. He just needs time.”

He bit his tongue to hold back tears, tears he’d become too familiar with the last twenty-four hours. “Is he going to be okay?”

“We hope…”

“You hope. So you don’t know.”

“He’s never… it’s never been this bad. You know it hasn’t. Whatever they used to do this, it’s nothing like we’ve ever seen before. We don’t know what it is or what it does so this is all uncharted territory. We can just hope that he’ll recover.” Tony looked solemnly at his fidgeting fingers.

“No I… I understand. Thanks, Tony. I think I’m gonna… I’m gonna head back to the lab. I have some Chinese to study for.”

“Harley wait…”

“Just…  I need more time.”

 

Harley Keener, 6:16PM: can we meet tomorrow?

Harley Keener, 6:17PM: for the project?

Harley Keener, 6:18PM: i’d really like to get out of the house and do something

Harley Keener, 6:19PM: i’d really like to just get my mind of thi

Harley Keener, 6:20PM: i’d just really like to get this project done sooner than later

Harley Keener, 6:25PM: text me when you can

 

@officialironlad: hey webs. i miss you a lot and i’m scared shitless because i am just so afraid that the worst is coming and the truth is i’m completely and utterly in love with you and am too much of a wimp to tell you because i’d never ruin our partnership just to be selfish and tell you my feelings and now i’m terrified that i’m gonna lose you and i can’t because you’re all i’ve got and you’re what keeps me standing on my feet and i just i just miss you already and miss your quips and miss knowing that we’re gonna go out on those roofs and talk about nothing because now apparently you can’t even feel your feet and that’s just i’m so fukcin terrified webs that youre notgonna that youre justgonnanot

 

Harley deleted his message and clicked out from the Instagram app. His head shot up when he heard a ding from his phone.

 

Peter Parker, 6:59PM: Hey. Sorry, but I won’t be able to get together this weekend. I got a really bad stomach bug and my aunt doesn’t let me have people over when I’m this sick. It’s better that you don’t come over anyways. I’ll write the script and do all the behind the scenes work and you can do the filming without me.

 

He furrowed his brow in confusion. That didn’t sound like Peter.

 

Harley Keener, 7:05PM: we can work on it together? google docs exists for a reason?

 

In reality, Harley just wanted another distraction and would much prefer working with Peter than sitting around waiting for him to be done.

 

Peter Parker, 7:09PM: That won’t be necessary. I don’t want to be dead weight on this project and would rather opt to do my equal amount of work.

 

Weird. Harley figured Peter’s feverish mindset was the reason for his strange behavior and responded,

 

Harley Keener, 7:11PM: okay

Harley Keener, 7:11PM: just let me know what i can do

 

In the medbay, Peter leaned his head back against his pillow, about the only movement he could manage.

“What did you reply with, Karen?” he asked.

“I told him : “That won’t be necessary. I don’t want to be dead weight on this project and would rather opt to do my equal amount of work.”” she responded.

“Karen, what? That’s so… weird!” Peter whined. “I can’t believe you said that.”

“I do not see the issue with my response. It is cordial, includes modern slang, and is grammatically correct.”

“But it’s Harley! He’s gonna think I’m a total nut job!” 

“I apologize, Peter. Would you like to formulate another message?” she asked.

“No, it’s okay, Karen. Thank you.” He stuffed his head further into his pillow and groaned. “Karen, can you call Ned please?”

“Of course, Peter. Calling Ned Leeds.”

“Hey dude, what’s up?”

“So uh I’m paralyzed.”

“You’re what?!” 

“But that’s not why I’m calling—”

“Well it definitely should be why you’re calling—”

“I missed my project session with Harley today—”

“That should literally be the least of your problems right now, Peter—”

“And I’m just worried that I totally screwed things up between us—”

“Dude seriously I think you should be much more worried about your paralysis

“So I was just hoping you could test the waters with Harley to see if he’s pissed at me—”

“Peter. Paralysis.”

“Because I’m just worried because Karen took the wheel and texted him some weird stuff and—”

“Peter,” Ned interrupted firmly. “Are you okay?”

He sighed. “I will be. I’ll heal.”

“Are you sure? Because this has never happened and I’m sure it’s scary—”

“I’ll be fine. Seriously. I’ve had worse.”

“Have you? Because you’ve never been paralyzed before,” Ned stated.

“I’ll be fine.”

You keep saying that and the more you say it the more I don’t believe it.”

“I’ll be fine, Ned. Seriously. Just, can you guys take notes for me the next week? I told Harley I have a stomach bug since I’ll probably be out for a while.” 

“A while? That doesn’t sound good…”

“I’ll be fine, Ned. Dude, you know me. I always get back up.”

“Fine,” he said hesitantly. “But if you’re not, I’m gonna show up and I’m gonna build the millennium falcon without you while I make you watch.”

He gasped jokingly. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Oh, yes I would.”

They both laughed.

“Do you promise me that you’re really fine? That you’re not just saying that because I’m worried?” Ned asked.

“I promise, Ned. Really.”'

“Okay. Then I’ll talk to Harley. Play up the whole ‘Peter feels very guilty and needs your notes’ thing,” Ned reassured.

“You’re the best, Ned. Thank you.”

“Least I can do to help my best friend who…” he trailed off. “What happened?”

“I don’t really know. There was this guy who just appeared and then disappeared. Stabbed me and sliced down my whole back.”

“Well, shit.”

“Yeah.”

“You’re gonna leave that up to the Avengers, right? I mean, this guy sounds like the real deal,” Ned said, worried.

“Yeah they w…” There was a knock at the door. “Hey, I gotta go, Ned.”

“Dude, what? You can’t just…”

“Karen, end call.” He tilted his head as much as he could. “Who is it?”

“It’s just me.”

His eyes widened. “Come in!” The greying man entered. “Hey, Mr. Stark. How are you?”

“I didn’t know you were awake,” he stated.

“Yeah I just woke up a little bit ago. I figured they would notify you or something…”

“How are you?”

“Why does everyone keep asking me that? It’s not like I’m paralyzed or anything,” he tried to joke, but Tony just looked at him with the same concerned, stern look. “I’m fine. As fine as I can be. I know I have to heal so I’m just waiting it out.”

“Peter… you don’t have to be okay. You’re going through a lot. I mean, Rhodey, when this happened he…”

“Well he wasn’t me. I mean, I’m gonna heal.” He paused. “I’m gonna heal, right?”

“It’s most likely that you will—”

“Most likely. So you don’t… you don’t think I will?”

“I didn’t say that—”

“But you also didn’t say that you think I will—”

“We hope you will.”

“But you don’t think I will.”

“Peter, that’s not what I’m saying—”

“Then what are you saying? That this is too much for my healing factor?”

“What I’m saying is this is a lot of uncharted territory and we don’t know what will happen—”

“I’m gonna be fine! I’m always fine so it’s gonna be fine!”

“Peter, calm down. Please. It’s gonna be alright.”

“Well you just said it wasn’t, so now I… I just…”

“Peter, I don’t want to fight. Okay, bud? Just take a breath, okay? I’m sorry I worried you. You’ll be alright no matter what happens.”

“Like what, me being paralyzed for the rest of my life?”

He took a sharp breath. “You’re gonna be fine.”

“I just need some time.”

I’m hearing that a lot today. “Okay. I’ll give you time. Tell FRIDAY to get me if you need anything, and I mean anything.” And with that, he left.

He took a shaky breath and calmed himself down. “Karen? Call Harley.”

“Calling Harley Keener.”

“Hey, Peter. I thought you said you were gonna —”

“Can we work on the project together? Like you said? I mean, two heads is better than one, right? I just thought talking through it would be easier than uh than texting back and forth.”

Harley sniffled lightly, something Peter definitely noticed. “Yeah let me just uh get to my computer.” There was some shuffling. “Are you at your computer?”

“Oh uhm…” He hadn’t thought this far. “I actually can’t use the computer right now so I was thinking maybe you could take the notes and I could just help brainstorm.”

“Yeah, that works.”

And they talked and they joked as much as they could in the states they were in and they finished their script. It was almost enough to get their minds off of things and with the weight of the world on their shoulders, they forgot about the different weights that were holding them back from being themselves to each other. Talking to one another almost felt… familiar. It felt nice. It was just what they needed to forget for just a moment.

Chapter Text

“So, Harley. How was your weekend with Stark?”

The blonde teen looked up from his chicken alfredo. “I didn’t get to see him much. There was an Avengers emergency so he was out of the office most of the time. Plus, I had a lot of homework so I worked on that.”

“Seems a bit of a waste of time, dontcha think? I mean, he’s not paying you to sit around and work on times tables. He pays you to do innovative scientific work.”

“Well it doesn’t always work out that way,” Harley said harshly.

His father simply hummed in response, the tense silence filled with the sound of their forks scraping against their plates. “Well we’re working on the newest model of K-Phone. Know if Stark is planning anything new for his new line?”

Harley shrugged. “I think they’re upgrading the cameras. Higher quality, lower price.”

Adam cursed under his breath, hoping Harley didn’t catch his slip. He did. “Well that’s… that’s interesting.”

“What are your plans for the new K-Phone?” Harley asked, uninterested.

“The standard. Faster offline data, more efficient storage,” he lowered his voice and muttered, “higher quality, lower priced camera features.” 

“Sounds real great, Adam. I better study for my Calculus test tomorrow. May I be excused?”

“You may,” Adam responded, not looking up from his plate, his mind on hyperdrive as he schemed his plan on besting Stark Industries which, lately, hasn’t been often. 

Harley rolled his eyes as he entered his room, locking his door as per usual, and shimmying his t-shirt off and replacing it with tight under-armor. 

Equipping the newest suit after everything that happened felt wrong. It felt wrong and disgusting and threw him back into a place he didn’t want to be thrown back into, but he knew that he had to keep making new memories in the suit so he could forget the feeling of Spider-Man and… no. Don’t think about it.

With a swift blast out of the window, he was in the air, the feeling of nothing but the propellers beneath his feet. In that moment, everything was gone. His worries. His anger. His grief. It was just him and the sky and…

“Hey Laddie. Fancy seeing you here.”

His eyes snapped open, wide as he stared at the red and blue cladded hero swinging beside him. “You… but you’re…”

“Believe me, they don’t know. I feel totally fine though! They didn’t believe me and made me lay in bed for another 48 hours even though I could move everything. And then Mr. Stark was like “P… Spider-Man, you can’t go on patrol! You were just paralyzed from the neck down! Who knows what could go wrong!” And then I was like “but Mr. Stark! Crime doesn’t stop for anyone!” And then he was like “Iron Lad is out there.” And then I was like “more the reason I should be out there! We’re a team. And we’re… hey, can we like go sit on a roof or something? It’s hard to hold a conversation when I keep swinging down and having to yell.”

“O-oh, yeah. Of course. You need to rest.”

“I need the opposite of rest, actually, but I want to talk to you because it has already been too long.”

He laughed a bubbly laugh. “It’s been two days.”

“Too long! Queens missed me! And I’m sure you missed me too.”

More than you could imagine. “You’re always on my mind, Webs.”

“You flatter me,” he said, posing as he thwipped away. “Race you to the top of the Keener Tech office!” 

“Oh, you’re on!”

Though his face was covered by a mask, Iron Lad could tell that Spider-Man had shit-eating grin of triumph. He held his arms out and spun around and jumped in glee. “It’s amazing to get out of that stupid hospital bed! It has been absolute torture just waiting for my stupid legs to start working. Do you know how embarrassing it is peeing in a tube? Horrible! And uncomfortable!”

Iron Lad stared at Spider-Man in adoration, unable to fully convince himself that it was real. That he was really okay. “And you’re okay now?”

 “Better than ever,” he responded, voice excited. He sighed in content. “I missed this. The fresh air. The night sky. The feeling of the wind. It’s only been a couple days and yet I already was longing for…” he stopped when he heard Iron Lad sniffle. “Hey,” he said softly. “What’s wrong?”

“I-I was just so worried about you. I thought you were gonna die. You almost did die! Your heart stopped and they said that it was irreparable damage. You were asleep for so long and you flatlined and you couldn’t walk and I thought you…” His voice broke as he held back a sob. “Please never do that to me again.”

“Hey. It’s alright. I’m alright. Everything is fine. C’mere.” Spider-Man pulled him into a hug, thankful that his new suit made it easier to give him a tight embrace. “I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll try not to get distracted like that again and listen to my Spidey Sense.”

“I felt your blood on my hands, Webs. I suited down because I just had to feel you for real because I thought that it might be the last time and I… I had to wash you blood off of my skin and it was…”

“Hey hey hey. I’m here now. Do you trust me?”

“More than anything,” he said surely.

“I’m gonna close my eyes, and you’re gonna take of your helmet.”

“I… okay. Okay.” He made sure that the eyes on Spider-Man’s suit were closed before unequipping the helmet.

“Come sit down with me.” He sat criss cross applesauce and patted the cement under him.

Hesitantly, he sat beside the smaller teen.

“Now c’mere.” He wrapped his strong arms around his shoulders and guided his head to his chest. “Listen to my heartbeat. It’s going on strong. Listen to its steady pulse.” He ran his gloved hand through Harley’s curls, massaging his scalp gently. “It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

They stayed there for a while, Harley relaxing against Spider-Man’s chest. It was safe and serene and…

Spider-Man tensed. “We have to go. I’m sorry but we… I heard something.”

Harley felt dejected, disappointed that the moment had to end. He put his helmet back on and turned to Spider-Man whose eyes were still closed. “You can open them now. It’s back on.”

The whites returned and he separated himself from the titanium teen. “I heard a police radio. It’s Midtown High.”

 

.-~*~-.

 

Whoever broke into Midtown High wasn’t subtle. The doors blasted through with a big rectangular mark of melted metal.

“I hate to say this, but I’m really hoping this is some really high tech alien weapon,” Iron Lad said.

“Because if it’s not…”

“Then we’re facing hell,” he finished. “Marvin, how much heat is required to melt these doors?”

“About one hundred twenty to one hundred eighty degrees Celsius.”

“In American please?” Iron Lad asked.

“Two hundred forty-eight to three hundred fifty-six degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Holy shit,” Iron Lad breathed.

“That’s… hot,” Spider-Man added.

“To make a hole this substantial and this precise, it is most likely closer to four hundred degrees Fahrenheit.”

“So, we’re facing someone who can potentially shoot fire hot enough to bake cookies in promptly fifteen minutes and also our faces in a second,” Spider-Man stated.

“That would be correct ,” Karen responded. 

“Welcome back,” Iron Lad said to Spider-Man.

“Feeling that warm welcome.”

“Oh, that one was bad,” he said with a chuckle.

“C’mon. Let’s scout this out.”

They tiptoed through the school, both on high alert.

“What could they possibly want with a high school? There’s nothing interesting here,” Spider-Man said confused.

“That we know of. Maybe it’s not something they’re looking for. Maybe it’s someone.”

“But who?” Before Spider-Man could continue to put his palm to Iron Lad’s chest. 

“What’s so special about this Harley Jenkins kid anyways?” A distant voice asked.

Spider-Man froze.

“Who fuckin’ knows? Him and this Peter Parker kid are apparently the personal interns to Tony Stark and you know how boss feels about Tony Stark.” Another voice responded.

“Let’s just get into the database and get that info and get out of here.” The first voice stated.

“We have to go,” Spider-Man whispered.

“What?” Iron Lad questioned.

“They’re heading this way. Come on!” He pulled Iron Lad into the boys’ locker room. “You’re wearing the nanotech suit, right?”

Iron Lad furrowed his eyebrows, confused. “Yeah, why?”

“Suit down. Right now.” Trusting Spider-Man, he did so. “Okay, I’m not looking, and you have to promise you’re not going to open your eyes either.”

Hesitantly, he nodded. “I promise.” The world went dark as he shut his eyes, the mechanic whir of his iron spider suit disappearing.

“Okay, now just trust me. Okay?”

Before Harley could respond, Peter’s lips were on his. Without being able to process it, he found Peter’s hands running through his hair, his strong arms pushing him against the wall, a lacrosse stick falling next to him. Suddenly hyper aware of what Spider-Man was wearing, or lack thereof, Harley hungrily deepened the kiss, licking his bottom lip, and running his hand down his back, under-armor covered chest pressed again bare chest. Hot damn, does Spider-Man have abs.

The door creaked open, a familiar villainous voice groaning. “Fucking teenagers.” The door closed once more.

Peter, relieved, pulled away, heart beating hard against his chest. “Awesome. It worked.”

“What?” Harley asked, not fully understanding, eyes still closed. Oh. It was a cover. It wasn’t… “Yeah. It worked.”

“I’m guessing you don’t have a change of clothes with you for us to escape under the raydar?” Peter asked, too casual considering what they had just done.

“Nope. You?”

He shook his head. “Nope.” He thought for a moment. “Turn around. It’s dark in here but… just in case.”

Harley followed his command and faced the wall. He could hear Peter rummaging around the locker room, pulling at lockers, until he heard a faint “aha!”

“Lost and found,” Peter stated from behind a door in the distance.

“I could’ve told you that,” Harley drawled sarcastically.

“Yeah yeah, of course you could. Hindsight is your superpower.” He threw out some clothes and miraculously hit him perfectly in the stomach. “Throw those on.”

“Well we can’t exactly leave together,” Harley said, amused and dry.

The cogs in his mind were turning as he tried to decipher what he meant. “Oh. Right. Well uh, you get changed first and you go first. Let me know if the cost is clear and then I’ll go.”

“Throwing me into danger, are you?” he teased.

“You know that’s not what I meant, Laddie.”

“You’re voice is so different than I imagined it,” Harley said softly.

Only then had Peter realized that he was right, there was no voice modulator anymore. It was just Peter and… Iron Lad, whoever he was. It was just them and so very very close to knowing each other’s identities.

“We better get out of here. We got lucky, but we won’t get lucky again.”

Harley slipped on a ratted up sweatshirt, gym shorts, and tennis shoes. “I guess I’ll see you out there, Webs.”

Peter rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say.” He shut his eyes. “Eyes are closed. You’re free to go.” He paused. “There’s a back exit through the gym. Go through there. They’re gonna be in the main office downloading school files of two students.”

He stopped. “Two students? Why?”

“Harley Jenkins and Peter Parker. Tony Stark’s personal interns. They have a bone to pick with Mr. Stark.”

Harley’s face paled. “They… uh but uh… we should really protect those files I mean… there could be some damning information on there…”

“I know Harley Jenkins and Peter Parker, and believe me, they’ve got nothing to hide, especially on just their school files.”

His neck almost cracked from how fast he turned to face Peter. “You know them?”

“That’s not really important, Laddie. We can figure out what they took on our own time, but at least we have a lead now. They want something to do with them.” He muttered explicits as he realized the situation. “We have to get Harley into protection.”

“Well what about Peter?”

“He can… he has protection already.”

“Well uh so does Harley,” he tried to reason.

“And how would you know that?” 

“I see him around the lab when I go in for repairs. We talk. Isn’t that how you know Harley and Peter?” 

Spider-Man’s eyes widened. “Uh yeah. Right. That’s totally why I know them. Look, I don’t think this is a fight we are gonna fight tonight. I think we’re gonna have to wait this one out until we get more of a… a uh… a lead.”

“Spider-Man, are you… you’re scared, aren’t you? After what happened last time?”

“Of course I’m scared!” he snapped, eyes beginning to fill with tears. “I’m terrified because I felt so helpless in that bed and I don’t want that to ever happen again because one day it’s gonna happen for real and I… I don’t want it to happen.”

“Close your eyes, Webs.”

Peter sighed and did so.

Harley stared at the floor until he saw his feet, and pulled him into a hug. “Oh how the tables have turned,” he joked.

He let out a wet chuckle. “They sure have.”

“You know, a very wise person once told me it’s gonna be okay. And I trust this very wise person. So you have to trust this wise person right here telling you that it’s gonna be okay. This job we’ve got is one that’s filled with danger, and we knew that signin’ up, and sometimes we feel real invincible in these suits, but we aren’t. We aren’t invincible. We’re just two kids with too much responsibility bestowed upon them.”

“Do you really think it’s gonna be okay?” he asked quietly.

“I think we’re gonna get through this, and the most I can do is have hope and faith that we’re gonna get down to the bottom of this and beat some bad guys.”

He smiled against his chest. “Okay. I believe you.”

“You better because I believe in you and it would hurt my feelings if you didn’t believe in me.”

“I always will, Laddie. You’re my partner. Always will be.”

His heart fluttered. “Are you ready to go or do you need to stay here for a little bit longer?”

“We should go,” he stated, not completely sure in his own words.

“See you in the skies.”