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Treacherous and sere

by Te

     Subject: Spider-Man: Treacherous and sere
     Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2002 5:08 AM

     Treacherous and sere
     by Te
     November 2002
     Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd sprinkle in a few happy
     Spoilers: Major ones for the Spider-Man movie.
     Summary: And they marked not the night of the year...
     Ratings Note: R.
     Author's Note: Not quite what I wanted to write, but close.
     An answer to the Circle Quote challenge. See end for quote
     in question, if you don't already know. g
     Acknowledgments: To my Webrain, of course, and to Jenn and
     Bas for encouraging noises.
     Feedback makes me squee.

Peter thinks about it more than he wants to, though he supposes that's only to be expected.

You kill your best friend's father -- the best friend you happen to live with -- and there's bound to be some fallout.

No matter how much of a whackjob Norman Osborn was towards the end, he was still Harry's father. Something Harry, at least, wasn't likely to forget anytime soon. Peter's listened to so many tearful rants about 'Spider-Man' in the last few weeks that he wants to punch the guy in the mouth. Or he would, if it wouldn't lead to large amounts of pain and possibly missing teeth.

And it's not like he wants to forget the facts of the matter, or that he regrets answering Norman's last request... He's never going to forget what it was like to pry that damned glider out of the man, to peel off the weird green flight suit and see nothing underneath but simple, human skin.

A few bruises here and there, cold, clammy sweat, but... nothing but human. Flopping dead limbs and a face that looked anything but at peace. It had taken time to get his eyes to stay closed. More to tie rocks to the flight suit and glider and watch it sink down into the East River with everything else New York wanted to forget. (But couldn't)

He'd stolen an old, horrible smelling blanket from an alley to cover Norman with and carried him back home.

And watched Harry break. He thinks he'd be in serious trouble if he forgot any of that, so he keeps it close. Tries not to let his tendency to snark first and apologize later make him any new regrets.

Except it seems that Harry is still breaking. Holed up in his room more often than not, skipping classes and generally looking like nothing so much but a downward spiral in progress. And then there's Oscorp.

Oscorp with it's dead board of directors and bombed-out competitors and Harry, staying up all night with books on business scattered all around him, calling in the remaining research staff and demanding they explain everything to him about the latest experiments, and explain again until he gets it.

Red-eyed and pale, and wearing even more black than he used to, and Peter had tried to get him to stay away from all that -- he knew better than anyone what Harry could find if he dug too hard --but in the end...

He'd come home to find Harry sprawled in their living room, holding a massive vial of something green. Tossing it from hand to hand and staring at Peter like someone else had died.

"What do you know that I don't, Pete?"

"I don't --"

"Christ, for once stop pretending there's nothing to you but some spaced out geek. I know better, okay? You didn't want me to know this."

"Harry, look, I don't even know what that is." And he hadn't, not for sure, not then, but Harry had told him, and told him about the strange murder of the only scientist on staff who had any reservations to its use. About the violent side-effects.

About how strangely his father had acted. And Harry asked, "so c'mon, Peter, why don't you tell me what I don't know?"

"I don't think there's anything left."

And Harry's face had crumpled like a kid's, everything showing all at once, and that had been another night Spider-Man didn't do much of a patrol, since Peter was busy at home.

"He still didn't have to kill him," Harry says, often enough to make the fist around his heart feel like just another singularly unhelpful organ.

Spring comes and Harry officially withdraws from NYU, just in time to take over more of Oscorp than Peter would've guessed was legal for someone that young.

"Money makes everything easier," Harry jokes, but there's nothing behind his eyes but the same bleak determination.

The job seems to give him life, though, so it's not like Peter can complain. Even if he could live without the way that more and more of the late Norman Osborn's effects seem to have moved into their apartment, until walking out of his room in the morning is a lot like walking into an unquiet tomb.

Or maybe just one of his nightmares.

"He always had a thing for monsters, you know?" Harry says one day, twirling some vaguely Asian mask on one finger. A mask that's probably worth more than Peter will earn in his entire life. There's something dreamy in his voice that makes Peter listen, even if it's getting harder to listen to Harry's Daddy Dearest stories without wanting to shake the man.

Or at least lose his mind.

"He'd say, 'Harry,'" And Harry was getting far too good at mimicking his dead father's voice, "'you can learn a lot about a man by what he fears.' And then he'd make me tell him all about my nightmares, in detail. Picking them apart piece by piece until I felt like an idiot for ever being afraid."

"That's... one way to handle things, I guess. Harry --"

"I never thought he was afraid of anything. Guess he should've been, hunh?"

And there are a lot of ways to answer that, but all of them feel too harsh. When Harry's there, really there, there's nothing to those wide, brown eyes but the kind of softness that makes Peter want to back away, and try to avoid touching anything.

Because everything he touched would be a bruise.

And as the weeks pass, he thinks about it a lot, everything he could've said, everything he should've said, if there might have been a way to stop that damned glider with anything but Norman's own body...

Mostly at night, while he watches the smoke trail of yet another glider arc and loop all over the city.

Mostly while he's following, silently as he can, watching and waiting for... for whatever it's going to be this time.

On mornings after the glider flies, Peter and Harry share late and silent breakfasts, huge ones, like they're sitting there daring each other to eat more and more, to pretend they're nothing more than ordinary guys who probably haven't even finished growing yet.

One day, probably soon, Peter's never going to be able to eat another omelet again. Not without thinking about the way the muscles and tendons flex and shift just beneath Harry's clothes. Not without thinking about the way Harry doesn't seem to notice.

He wonders what Harry sees in him while he eats.

He doesn't return MJ's calls.

"It's funny how pain never cancels out," Harry says one morning, and Peter's heart stops beating as he tries to remember the last time he saw the people he cared about alive and whole.

Finally, he manages, "I don't think it's funny at all."

Something flares behind those brown eyes, something more alive than anything he's seen on Harry since... God, since high school. "You're dead if you don't start laughing."

"Is that a threat?"

And the flare fades, and Harry offers him a smile that's sadder than anything else. "No, Pete. Just an observation."

That night, he watches from beneath a gargoyle as Harry -- the Hobgoblin, they're calling him, all the normal people who are waiting for the city to explode again -- takes off, and wonders what would happen if he didn't follow.

If he gave Harry the time and space to break this holding pattern they're in and do whatever it is he's flying for.

He doesn't try to tell himself that Harry doesn't have a plan, and that absence of rationalization just leads to image after image of every awful thing that could happen if he gives up his life as Harry's shadow.

And as he swings half-wildly into the night, some vague and uneasy part of his brain daring him to fall, he wonders when it's all going to end.

And if he'll care.


     "... Our talk had been serious and sober,
        But our thoughts they were palsied and sere-
        Our memories were treacherous and sere-
     For we knew not the month was October,
        And we marked not the night of the year-
        (Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
     We noted not the dim lake of Auber-
        (Though once we had journeyed down here),
     Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
        Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir."

     From "Ulalume," by Edgar Allen Poe. Thanks to Deb for the quote.

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