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our hands speak for us (and complicate it)

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The irony isn't completely lost on him that he’s spent the past 48 hours saving London from a megalomaniac with an army of drones, but has to call his aunt to figure out how he’s going to get home. 

Most flights out of London have been delayed indefinitely, and he’s missing his luggage which kinda also contained his passport. 

“Huh,” May says in response to that, and he can almost picture her frown, the hand on her hip. “Well, that’s a little tricky.”

Despite the anxiety of being potentially trapped in Europe, he smiles at the wall of the alley he’s waiting in. There’s something calming about these normal Peter Parker worst case scenarios, and something even more bolstering about hearing May, even just over the phone, knowing that she’s going to help him fix it. 

After a few more minutes of humming and thinking, putting him on hold to make some calls, they decide he should go back to the class since Mr. Harrington has an extra photocopy of his passport and the rest of his travel information. The flight to New York had been rescheduled for the next morning and the class was being put up in a motel across the street. So May sends him off with the address while she hops back on a call with Mr. Harrington to figure out the rest of the details of getting him home. 

Ned is waiting for him in the motel lobby and wraps him in a tight hug practically the second he steps through the sliding glass door. Peter hugs back just as tight, and breathes out again, deeply, adding this moment to his timid collection of evidence that things are actually going to be alright.

Ned waits with him at the front desk and they catch each other up, and it feels like everything is normal again, settled and over. Peter’s still remembering how to breathe without the pressure and fear of failure crushing on his chest but this helps, having Ned thoroughly impressed with how he saw through the illusion tech and recounting his side of the battle. He does wish Ned would circle back to the whole MJ hitting a drone with her mace thing since the phrase alone makes him feel like he’s touching a live wire, electricity racing through his bloodstream, but it’s enough for now to hear about how Flash almost pissed himself five separate times. 

For now. He really really needs to know absolutely everything about MJ hitting a drone with her mace, like desperately in his soul, because he knows that even his thoroughly enamored imagination isn’t possibly doing it justice.

(He doesn’t tell Ned about the fact that he and MJ kissed and realizes he didn’t tell May either, even though he’s pretty sure he hasn’t stopped thinking about it for a single second. It kinda feels like if he says it out loud he’ll jinx it, he’ll wake up or the memory of it will fade back into the air. And oddly, it’s almost nice to not have to put it into words and define it, to just let the moment and the feeling of it exist amorphously in his chest, right next to his heart and the air in his lungs.)

He gets his room number and key, and then a clap on the back from Mr. Harrington who stares far into the middle distance for a few uncomfortably long seconds before wishing him a goodnight. Ned hugs him again before heading off to Betty's room with a shrug and a grin. And yeah, now that he’s pretty sure the world isn’t gonna end he definitely wants to circle back around to that as well. 

He stands absently in the hall for a second, staring at his closed door. 

A few rooms down, Brad pokes his head out, takes one look at Peter, and ducks back in, closing the door solidly behind him.

And then Peter’s alone in his own motel room, sitting on the edge of his bed staring blankly at a TV playing Friends reruns like white noise, trying to parse through his emotions like translating something for Spanish homework. Like he’s picking up on some things, but will probably have to put some effort, consult a textbook and maybe Google translate, to figure out what exactly is going on. 

He thinks he’s okay. He feels a little twitchy, a little wrung out and smudged over, but there’s also some dangerous kind of calm and triumph creeping up on him. 

Before he can get too caught up in that, in hope, there’s a knock on the door. 

He’s up and answering on instinct and well, he’s not exactly being dissuaded from dangerous good feelings like happiness when he opens the door and MJ is there, answering the hope in his chest before it’s even fully formed. 

“Hi,” he says, already smiling, already feeling like his eyes are shining out at her with all that wonder still building up from the bridge. 

“Hey,” she says, and before he can fully take her in, she’s stepping forward, her arms wrapping around him. He feels a little slow, like in a dream world made of honey, all gold and sticky. 

And then she moves back again, tugging something in his chest loose along with her, and clears her throat. 

“Uh, sorry,” she says, nose wrinkling like she’s embarrassed.

He shakes his head but can’t come up with any more competent of a response that explains that she should never apologize for anything, maybe ever, so he just follows his instincts right back to her, his arms around her waist. He can feel the way she exhales against his chest, the tension in her shoulders drop under his chin. 

“Okay, cool,” she breathes out like a whisper, but he hears it perfectly with her head right next to his. 

He doesn’t know what else to say, and he knows too well that they haven’t really defined anything in the space between them, even though his brain echoes forever with “I wasn’t just watching you because you were Spider-Man.” and “I really like you, too.” and every implication therein. But he kinda hopes that this is something that they do now. Holding, that is, not the standing in his doorway or fumbling around words.

“Do you wanna come in?” he asks, after he adjusts to being able to smell her coconut shampoo like exposure therapy and remembers how to speak. 

She nods, and the promise of more time with MJ is a very good argument for letting go of her. 

His head spins and his chest burns, watching her hands twist in front of her as she walks past him into the room. He has a brief panic about the implication of closing the door behind him, leaving them alone together in a hotel room, but then MJ starts to turn her attention to the TV, and a canned laugh track that he doesn’t want to have to explain, so he lets the door shut and hurries over to the bed and the remote to change the channel. 

He lands on a commercial for an antidepressant and decides that he’ll take it. 

MJ is next to him again when he turns around. He finally has a moment to take her in. Her hair spills down around her shoulders. She’s changed into a pair of loose slouching sweatpants and a long sleeved t-shirt. Pajamas, he thinks, and for some reason it makes his heart race.

“Your leg seems better,” MJ says and his eyes snap back to hers as he blinks absently. She gestured vaguely downward. “You were limping before?”

He glances down, frowning down at his leg and trying to remember exactly when he stopped feeling pain radiating up his side with every step. “I, uh…” But when he looks back up, MJ is even closer, like incredibly close, her nose almost brushing his. Her hand hovers by his cheek like asking for permission, but he’s already closing the distance, snapped to her like a magnet. 

There's a little counter in his head that ticks up again. This is the fourth time he’s kissing someone. This is the fourth time he’s kissing MJ. 

It’s heady and sweet and soft, sending his head spinning and his stomach dropping out. 

It’s almost like a familiar feeling now, after three other times, and it warms like a fire in his chest when he realizes that kissing MJ is going to be a familiar feeling, that he might get to become intimately aware with what it means to kiss MJ. 

For all the ways he’s recognizing these sensations, the warmth of her mouth, the gentle press of her fingers against his skin, there’s also all these new details, the soft worn fabric of her shirt beneath his palm and the tickling brush of her loose hair against his face. And in all the ways that he’s been dreaming of this, of being with MJ, all his wants, his nerve-wracked hopes that she’d reciprocate, that he’d get to do this at least once, they suddenly snap into deeper broader focus, from wanting to kiss her to wanting to kiss her again and again in every location, in every iterative circumstance possible. 

They shift apart after what can only be a few moments despite the eternity born and destroyed in them. And he doesn’t even feel it as a loss, because he’s pretty sure they’re going to do it again and the anticipation bubbles in his chest. 

MJ’s eyes are soft and wide for a split second before some intense action scene on the TV ends in a comically large explosion and her attention snaps away. Her eyebrows furrow and he wants to kiss the space between them and also her forehead and her nose and run his hands through her hair and along her spine and up her arms and…

He swallows and reaches for the remote again, knowing so deeply that he’s in trouble. 

*

MJ’s always considered herself a patient person. She carries two books everywhere, so it’s not like she’s ever been bothered by late trains or buses or boring classes or boring conversations either. 

She actually thinks there’s a lot of power in waiting, loves long stretches of uncomfortable eye contact to see people squirm and not saying anything just to know what someone else will do to break the silence. 

And it’s not like she hasn’t been waiting for this for a while, waiting for Peter. 

Though it sounds so strange and passive like that, like she’s been spending her days wistfully staring out a window, pining away for Peter Parker. She does other stuff most of the time, reading and volunteering and glaring at people who are rude to food service workers until they apologize, pining after Peter is more of a hobby. A hobby she’s had for two and half years now. One she’s committed some time to thinking about, most of it while she was close to 89% sure it was all completely unrequited and unlikely to ever go anywhere. 

So now that she’s here, after all that waiting and wanting and reluctantly hoping, she feels so incredibly and uncharacteristically impatient. 

Because the waiting wasn’t passive, it was active. Like foraging, like cultivating an art collection, picking up details of Peter and mixing and matching them with all the feelings in her chest. Two two years of catching his hands or his hair or his eyes in different angles and different lights and following the pull in her chest to full coherent images of his hands on her waist, her fingers in his curls, his eyes on her, rearranged and repositioned in dozens and dozens of ways. 

It’s all in front of her, all tangible, and not passive, not anymore, not when she’s leaving the wanting and the waiting behind, not when she’s kissed him and he’s kissed her. She wants, embarrassingly and earnestly, and all of it at once and all of it now. 

Only she follows her impatience right into Peter’s motel room before realizing that actually just because she’s pretty sure she can kiss Peter, it doesn’t necessarily mean she has any better idea how to than she did twenty four hours ago. 

So instead she crouches by the mini fridge, slowly and carefully stealing out soda cans by replacing them with sample size shampoo bottles while Peter watches from next to the bed. 

(She’s trying very hard to ignore the bed.)

(She absolutely cannot stop thinking about the bed.)

“Here,” she says, turning and tossing a can back at him with little warning. She half expected him to fumble with it in that wonderful Peter way, but instead his hand just snaps up and grabs it, his eyes not leaving hers and it’s like a punch to the gut. She has to turn her attention back to the mini fridge or she might literally die. 

It's easier to do this in her head, for so many reasons, but mostly because of how the feeling of wanting him burns in her and always threatens to explode out. At least when she’s thinking about it, she can bury her nose in a book and flip off anyone who gets close enough to see. 

But acting on it means a lot of things, like not being able to turn away, like being up front about what she wants, which usually isn’t a problem for her, but is now because what she wants is too much, how she feels is too much. It’s one thing for her to know exactly how deep the too much-ness goes, but it’s another to have someone else, to have Peter see it too. 

She runs out of things to fidget with in the fridge, takes her own can of ginger ale before getting up and turning around even though the sight of him, watching her, eyes soft and smile sweet, is like drowning on dry land. She practically has to breathe through her mouth just to get enough air. 

Her feet carry her closer to him, and she aches to kiss him again, press close and get her hands on his skin. 

She drinks some of her ginger ale instead, forces herself to pull it together. 

Peter keeps fidgeting like he wants to say something, before he seemingly gives up, squeezing his eyes shut and wrinkling his nose. 

She needs to leave. The room and then the country maybe (which, well, she is in the morning but she needs to be heading to a different country than he is) because it’s too much, she’s going to blind herself against him. 

He gestures vaguely to the bed and she can’t even bring herself to make some unimpressed face that conveys how absolutely dorky he’s being right now, that’s how bad it is. 

She just hops onto the bed, clinging to her can like a lifeline, and remains as still as a statue as he sits down next to her. 

This should be the easy part. He likes her. She knows this, and he knows she likes him. They’ve already kissed. She shouldn’t be this nervous but she is. 

She feels horribly needy, like she couldn’t stand to be alone in her room knowing he was this close, knowing he wants her even a fraction as much as she’s wanted him, and now she’s here and she doesn’t even know what to do about it. 

So she takes another sip of her goddamn ginger ale and stares down an ad for eczema cream like it’ll solve her problems. 

Peter clears his throat and his leg shakes absently against the bed. Her eyes are drawn to the action but get caught along the way, spotting his hand by his side, inching along the duvet towards hers. She takes a moment taking him in, his face in profile as he also pretends to be deeply invested in the TV, his throat bobbing as he swallows nervously, his hand slipping over another precarious inch. 

Oh , she thinks and almost smiles to herself because in an instant she knows that she can do this if he needs her to. 

She lets her hand close the distance, pressing her lips together when she feels him jump a little, coaxing his fingers against hers, into place with their palms brushing. 

He glances down at their joined hands, almost blinking in surprise, his cheeks going pink, before sitting forward again. 

“Thanks,” he says quietly after a moment. 

She squeezes his hand in response, letting her nails scrape lightly over his skin. “You’re welcome,” she says and bites down hard against a smile. 

This makes sense. This she can do. 

She feels it as sure and steady as she had in the bridge, watching him ramble and flounder, something heartbroken beneath his eyes, and not having to hesitate or hold back, just moving forward and calming him, fixing it, helping him. 

This is the easiest part of wanting him, the deep need to catch him before he falls, the longing to pull him in and protect him. 

She feels half selfish the rest of the time, with how much she wants him, his attention and his time and him, closer, closer, closer, but never in moments like this, when she can see him smile and know, for some reason, that she’s the reason why.

She takes a deep breath and basks in the security of “I really like you” and his shining eyes and his hand solid on her arm. And then she tugs his hand a little closer, and reaches with her other hand too. His pinkie twitches, like he’s also realizing that she’s fully holding his hand in her lap and playing with his fingers, tracing over his skin carefully and deliberately, like learning him down to his bones, every little space and mark and scar. 

“So,” she says, clearing her throat. “Uh, what are you watch—?”

“I don’t know; can I kiss you again?” he says in a single breath. 

“Yes.” And she barely has to turn to find him there, his free hand against her cheek, pulling her in. 

*

For some reason he feels the need to keep talking to her. He’s actively kissing MJ, softly and repeatedly, as they lean against each other on his bed, but he can’t stop pulling back just enough to be able to speak. 

“You’re so beautiful,” he says in the second he can spare not kissing her. Her fingers ghost across the side of his neck, her other hand balled in the hem of his shirt. 

“And smart,” he adds, gently pushing her hair out of their faces and pressing his forehead into hers. “And funny and—”

“Peter,” she says, and it doesn’t sound like a shut up but he chooses to interpret it as one and leans back in again, catching her lips between his. 

Colors splash across the inside of his eyelids, sparks flash inside his blood. And he’s never felt anything like this before, both literally in that he’s never made out with anyone before but also figuratively he’s never been this amazingly stimulated in a dozen different ways. He doesn’t have any points of reference but he feels like MJ is maybe the best kisser in the universe. She does it like she does everything else, with a focus and a fire in her eyes, smart and sharp and also somehow miraculously, a little sweet. 

And he never wants to stop doing this but also can’t help himself from pulling back again. 

“You’re really good at this,” he says, and then his brain shorts out because MJ is surging up against him, turning and throwing her leg over his until she’s balancing in his lap. And he’s not sure if it’s superpower related instinct or something deeper, but there’s something magic in how his arms come up around her before he even thinks about it, supporting her as she rebalances. 

Her hands slide against his sides, his shoulders, into his hair. 

Her eyes burn into his. He has to tip his head back a little to meet her gaze, and it makes him feel pinned in place in the best way. 

“Hi,” he breathes, leaning up to brush his nose against hers. 

“Hi,” she says back, something in her expression scrunching up. “Uh, is this—?” He nods quickly, and the corners of her mouth quirk up. “Okay… cool.”

All of this is so overwhelming in the best possible way. He tries to trace out exactly how he got here, how they got here, how he’s lucky enough to have MJ this close with her fingers brushing against his jaw. She’s warm against his chest but her fingers are cool, and he feels almost feverish between all the different sensations. 

“MJ,” he says. “I--” He cuts himself off, pushing up to kiss her again and again. 

It’s going too fast, he thinks. Not the kissing, which is kinda slow, a little languid, still shallow and careful. But he feels frantic inside, feels spinny and speedy, his heart racing and his thoughts like white noise. 

He’s already lost count of how many times they’ve kissed, each of the times they part and crash back into each other again. Maybe he can just count this whole thing as one, but… it feels like so much more than one. 

And it feels important to know exactly how to quantify this, like there should be an upper limit on how many times he can feel something this wonderful. He needs to space it out, needs to ration, to save this. 

He pulls back, to catch his breath, to remember what numbers are again so he can figure out these calculations. 

And MJ turns, her lips on his cheek before trailing down along his jaw, soft and steady and with mathematical precision. His hands tremble against her back, and her hair tickles against his nose, and it’s the small details of the fabric and textures that keep his brain from melting out of his ears. But then she leans forward and presses a kiss against his neck, the soft space where his pulse pounds, and he leans his head back to give her room, to ask for more, more, more… and then kinda slams his head into the wall. 

Which on any other day wouldn’t be that big a deal, but he’s spent the past twenty four hours being thrown around somewhat violently and might be recovering from at least a few concussions, and so pain explodes from the back of his skull, and he yelps, his vision clouding over. 

He squeezes his eyes shut against the stars and the pain and breathes through his teeth. 

“Are-are you okay?” MJ asks. She’s leaned back and for the first time in a while he can take her in properly. Her eyes are wide and unblinking, mouth in a thin frowning line. 

There’s still pain thumping through his head, but he thinks he’d say almost anything if it meant kissing her again, so he nods quickly. Only it sends stars sparking again, and he winces, tipping his head forward and hiding his face in the crook of her neck. 

“Ow,” he mumbles. But with the soft fabric of her shirt under his forehead and her arms tightening around him, the tension slips out of his shoulders. 

This is good too. Not quite as good as kissing her, but still really good.

“Uh,” she says after a moment and he leans back, following her gaze over his shoulder to the wall above the bed, where the drywall is cracked in a way it definitely wasn’t before.

“Oh my God.” 

MJ exhales sharply, her lips pressed tight together, like she’s trying desperately hard to seem concerned, even though there’s something dancing in her eyes. 

God, she looks amazing in the soft golden light of the room, head tipped as she stares at the crack, half confusion, half alarm, barely holding back laughter. And he breaks first, falling back against her shoulder to muffle his high-pitched sleepover giggles. After a second, her chest shakes against his, her breath ruffling against his hair. 

He thinks he never could have expected this, or planned for this, or known that this moment is somehow everything he’s ever wanted, with the crack in the wall and his head still aching and every other anxious nervous twist and turn of being with her even now. If it was anything else, anything more perfect or anything less messy, he doesn’t think he’d believe it was real. 

But this is all just disastrous enough to be his life. 

“You broke the wall,” MJ says flatly, disbelieving, if MJ could even be such a thing. 

He’s never going to live this down. 

*

They search the room but surprisingly there isn’t anything in the drawers or the mini fridge to replaster a wall. 

So she and Peter end up standing by the dresser, shifting awkwardly on their feet. Peter has been blushing since they got off the bed, rubbing at his neck and smiling shyly.

He’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. 

“It’s… late,” she says, dragging her eyes away from the slope of his neck and the dozens of embarrassing fantasies about it her brain is trying to figure out how to enact. “I should… Should I go?”

“No!” he says quickly, and her heart pounds. “I mean…” He grimaces helplessly. “You should stay. If you want.” He shifts again, his hand fidgeting together. “B-because I… I want you to stay.”

It swells up in her chest, the bare honesty and hope just splashed across his face. 

“Okay,” she says, helpless to anything else. 

He smiles with a sigh and nods. “Okay.”

And she desperately wants to push him back onto the bed and get back to business, but forces all that neediness down. “So, uh… what now?”

Peter blinks at her. 

They end up beneath the covers. Like fully beneath, the sheet over their heads. There are inches of space between them, and she makes her peace with it because his hand is in hers and she can make out his smile in the dark. 

“When did you figure it out?” he asks, in a whisper. “The Spider-Man thing?”

She shrugs. “Probably Washington. But that was just one piece of evidence. It was more of an aggregate realization over the past few years.”

“Washington,” he echoes, exhaling deeply. “That was so long ago.” His thumb strokes against her wrist which is the only thing that keeps her from running. 

“Yep,” she says slowly. There’s a knot in her stomach right next to all these stupid butterflies. 

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner?” 

It’s Peter, she reminds herself. She likes him for a reason, likes him because there’s this light in him, this kindness and this softness that she trusts in, so she knows he’s not going to hurt her with this, but it’s still feels so against her nature to admit to something like this, to open herself up to the vaguest possibility of ridicule, to work against her own self preservation instincts. 

“You were ridiculously into Liz, nerd,” she says, grateful that she can at least keep her voice in control, sound steady and above it. 

His weight shifts. 

“I… I meant about Spider-Man,” he says, and she squeezes her eyes shut, genuinely considering slamming her own head against the wall so hard that this moment will disappear. “You liked me back then?” 

“I barely like you now, loser,” she hisses as quickly as she can. But he’s pulled her hand closer to his chest, and presses his mouth to her knuckles, stopping any other thoughts in their tracks. She’s so embarrassingly weak for him. 

“MJ,” he breathes against her skin. 

“Don’t,” she warns, bracing for the pity or the false reassurances that she’s not a second choice. 

“I thought you hated, like, everything,” he says. 

This was such a mistake. Because she needs something here, some dry joke or sarcastic aloof quip, but Peter is kissing the inside of her wrist and it’s so distracting. 

“You liked me?” he asks again, shifting towards her. He says it like it’s some wonderful exciting thing, and not the most embarrassing fact about her. 

“Peter,” she says, warningly. “If you make this a thing—”

His lips land on her forehead, his arm loose around her waist. “MJ…” He makes a noise in the back of his throat, something soft and helpless that echoes into her chest. 

When he presses his lips to hers, she kisses him back. It’s soothing and sweet, a warmth that settles her just a little, just enough. 

“I like you so much,” he says, his eyes wide and intent on hers. “You don’t even know… I’ve, like, never felt anything like it and you…” 

He looks so desperate to reassure her, and… she realizes that he does actually really like her, like Eiffel-Tower likes her, glass-necklace likes her, break-the-wall likes her. 

She swallows and makes a show of rolling her eyes. “Yeah, okay,” she says, raising her eyebrows daringly. “Well, I literally took comp sci as an elective last year so we’d be in the same class.”

He blinks at her for a second before he seems to recognize what she’s doing. 

“I watched all of American Vandal in like a night because you brought it up at lunch that one time,” he says, practically pouting. 

“I follow four different Spider-Man watch Twitter accounts.” She squints across the pillow at him. “Including Flash’s.”

Something in his eyes flashes, like horror and delight, her sweet spot. 

“I wiped down an airplane toilet for you.”

“Disgusting,” she says and tugs him into her again. 

There’s so much she wants to do with him, so many more horrifyingly embarrassing confessions she knows are better than his, because god knows she’s not going to let him win, she’s put in the time for this one. 

But for now, she feels completely content to just be here, kissing him beneath the sheets.