Summary: If Harry thinks about it, he’s like any enemy Spider-man’s ever had to contend with, really. Only difference being that while most of them would use Peter Parker to get to Spider-man, Harry’s all about using Spider-man to get to Peter Parker.
A/N: With the greatest thanks to abraxan's invaluable advice.
Harry Osborn won’t admit to knowing anything about why he’s standing at the corner of 32nd and Lex, waiting for Spider-man. There’s a firestorm of a building to his back, so close he could almost burn with it. He can’t hear the cries for help or the roar of the flames, isn’t even listening to the police sirens, he’s running on adrenalin and he’s going for Spider-man.
He knows he can run at any time, but he didn’t come here to run away.
Distantly, above the shriek of alarms and the wail of the fire engines, Harry still remembers a time when all Spider-man meant to him was the cover of the Daily Bugle, which never seemed to feature anything else. There’s more to life than Spider-man, he remembers saying once, to Peter, of all people he could have said it to.
And then Norman Osborn died, and hating Spider-man was easier than hurting.
Spider-man may be the biggest thing that’s ever happened to Harry Osborn, even if he doesn’t quite know it yet. Spider-man’s got him focused for the first time in his exquisitely spoilt life. It’s got him reading on a regular basis, for one thing, studying the Daily Bugle’s Spider-man articles as avidly as his best friend Peter Parker does his homework. And Harry does his homework, now. He knows everything about Spider-man – where he was first seen, how often he makes an appearance, what he does when he’s there, everything. He’s even got the pictures to prove it, taken by no less than his best friend Peter Parker, who seems to be the only one who ever gets to photograph Spider-man. And he’s got the first-hand accounts, too, from none other than Mary-Jane Watson, one-time girlfriend and biggest Spider-man fan he’s ever seen. Perhaps even more so than Flash Thompson, if that were possible.
Once he didn’t understand how Spider-man could be all they ever seemed to think about, but he’s several disasters wiser now.
Of the three of them, best friends all, Harry thinks he got the worst deal when it comes to Spider-man, and he knows how bad deals can be. He’s Norman Osborn’s son, after all. Peter gets to take Spider-man’s pictures, Mary-Jane gets a personal spandex-clad saviour, and he gets to lose his father at the hands of the Daily Bugle’s most-vilified menace.
Life’s not fair, and Harry means it. He doesn’t want Spider-man to be the only thing he and Pete have to talk about, and he didn’t mean to hit Peter. He shouldn’t drink so much, either, but it seems to be the only thing he’s good at these days.
Mary Jane never believed him, when he told her about Spider-man’s responsibility for his father’s death. But Peter was different. Peter’s eyes said he agreed, even if he could never bring himself to say the words.
And now Harry knew why.
Life without Peter’s pretty much the same as it was with Peter (seeing as how Peter never seemed to have the time for anyone these days), only difference being that Harry’s beginning to suspect he’s lost the only person he didn’t need to be anyone but himself with. He knew what Midtown High expected of an Osborn. What Norman Osborn expected of his son. But he didn’t expect Peter Parker not expecting anything but Harry.
It’s much like the way Harry didn’t expect, or wouldn’t admit, the way the Spider-man stories in the Daily Bugle caught his eye. Not at first, at least. Harry never read the papers – not willingly, at least. But it’s pretty hard to ignore Spider-man when he hits the front page of every newspaper in the city, when he’s on every news channel Harry could ever hope to watch, and of course, when he’s killed Harry’s father. But if anything catches faster than fire, it’s obsession, and before Harry knew it, he had every article on Spider-man ever written, and knew more about Spider-man than he’d ever thought anyone could know.
That, however, was before he discovered that he knew more about Spider-man than even he thought he did, around the time he discovered that he knew less about Peter Parker than he thought he did. That’s when everything started to make sense, right about when it all started to fall apart.
When Harry Osborn found out who Spider-man was, he felt the way he did when his best friend Peter Parker taught him how to solve chemistry questions and he realised that he should’ve known the way through that particular mystery, only he’d been unable to see through everything that stood between him and the answer. It was like that, only worse, because it turned out that Peter, of all people, was the answer he never knew that he had all along.
Just as he knows that everyone, eventually, does something on impulse, even if it isn’t what they’d ordinarily do, Harry knows that it’s possible to want something so badly that nothing else matters. That’s what it’s always been like for him when it comes to Peter.
Spider-man reminded him of what that felt like, and maybe that’s why he found him so hard to forget. Because if he was losing Peter, he was going to need another reason to get out of bed in the morning, and Spider-man was that, for a time.
Perhaps - like he suspects MJ did - he’s always known, all along.
Until Peter Parker, Harry hadn’t wanted anything he couldn’t have.
It’s kind of like the way that until Spider-man, Harry hadn’t wanted anything he couldn’t get.
But it’s funny that way. You win some, you lose some – lose a best friend, gain a worst enemy (no matter that he doesn’t want to be your worst enemy) - works out in a way, even if it doesn’t quite. Harry’s too busy hating Spider-man to complain. Norman Osborn would never admit to losing anything, but Harry’s not his father. Chief difference being that Norman’s dead, and it’s Harry’s turn now to rectify that particular inequity.
So Harry wants Spider-man, not Peter Parker.
And he wants Peter Parker, not Spider-man.
And there’s one thing that his best friend and Spider-man have in common, besides sharing the same face, and that’s Harry Osborn.
(Well, there’s Mary Jane, too, and it’s funny how that works out.)
So Harry Osborn decides to make what Peter has to do and what Spider-man has to do one and the same.
What he found in a hidden room behind a shattered mirror still whispers to him, but there’s enough Harry in him yet to remember that while he’s wanted to be a lot of things to Peter, he’s not sure he wants to be Peter’s worst enemy.
Not yet, at least.
Still, he can’t ignore the voice within when it tells him this simple rule:
If he puts someone Peter loves in danger, Spider-man will come.
If Harry thinks about it, he’s like any enemy Spider-man’s ever had to contend with, really. Only difference being that while most of them would use Peter Parker to get to Spider-man, Harry’s all about using Spider-man to get to Peter Parker.
He still doesn’t know how he got so close to that fire. How he knew, in the moment he saw it, that Spider-man would come. How he knows, now, to stay there, against all reason. Won’t admit it, even with the best therapists NYC can summon. (And he knows quite a few of them. On a personal basis.)
While it’s hard enough getting hold of Pete without having to stand before a burning building hoping your best friend will come for you, Harry knows that some things are important enough to warrant going to extremes.
But Harry doesn’t want to hope. He wants to know.
Still, he isn’t sure.
And he’ll never admit how much it takes out of him to stand there, trusting that Peter will come for him.
And when he’s with Harry, Peter doesn’t have to pretend that he’s anyone else.
So he takes Harry home.
By the time they get to the Osborn penthouse, Harry’s not thinking, but he knows Peter isn’t, too, because the last time Spider-man was here, he didn’t crash into the windows like he does tonight, scattering a shower of glass across the floor.
Harry knows why Peter’s doing this. And Harry hates sympathy, more than anything in the world. Perhaps even more than Spider-man.
He’s furious. He knows he shouldn’t be, but he is. He’s furious that that Spider-man’s gone and saved him again. Worse than that, Peter’s gone and saved him again. He knows he shouldn’t be this angry, since that’s what he wanted to happen, but then he wanted to know who Spider-man was, and look what happened to that.
His temper doesn’t improve when he realises where he is. He’s on the couch where he found Spider-man standing over his father’s body, where he found out the biggest secret his best friend and his worst enemy had been keeping from him. Where Spider-man’s still holding on to him, as if Peter Parker doesn’t want to let Harry go just yet.
So Harry locks an arm around Peter’s neck and rips off that ridiculous mask.
He’s done it before. Still, even when he knows, now, who he’ll be looking at, he’ll never be ready to see Peter’s face behind the mask he’s hated for so long.
And so he does what he’s always wanted to do from before Spider-man got in the way.
Neither Peter Parker nor Spider-man has been kissed by Harry Osborn before, so their combined reaction is perhaps understandable.
“What is wrong with you, Harry?” Far too easily, Peter pushes him down and holds him there, eyes vivid with fury. “Don’t you know when you’ve gone far enough?”
“As far as you –”
“Shut up, Harry!”
And now Harry has no idea who he’s got, whether it’s Peter or Spider-man, and right then he realizes that this is a problem in more ways than the one he thought it would be.
Then Peter vengefully webs Harry’s wrists to the couch, and pretty much all the rules change.
But Harry’s an Osborn first, and they’ve always had more than one trick up their (expensively tailored) sleeves. And so he waits until Peter’s done before sliding that dagger out from his sleeve with a flick of his wrist, and slicing through the webbing that’s got his wrist secured.
It’s the way that Peter looks at him - as if he’s always known what Harry was going to do, as if he had just been waiting for Harry to get himself free - which annoys Harry so much. And so he dispenses with holding the dagger against Peter’s throat in favour of hooking his free arm around Peter’s shoulders before pulling him in for a kiss.
There’s something watchful in Peter’s eyes when he draws back, but he slides his fingers down Harry’s arm until he reaches the knife. Harry lets go of it before Peter says anything, and watches Peter catch the falling blade with almost contemptuous ease before tossing the knife across the room.
And it’s almost as if Pete knows what he’s thinking, because Peter doesn’t wait for Harry to ask before he rips Harry’s other wrist free of its webbing.
So neither of them bothers with words before Harry locks his arms around Peter’s shoulders, before Harry kisses Peter, and before Peter wrenches away, shoving Harry against the couch as hard as he can.
“What the hell were you thinking, Harry?”
Harry’s thinking that he’s never seen Peter this angry before. Then again, he’s never done anything quite like this before, either. Still, he feels quite safe in looking right at Peter, and saying, “Don’t you know, Pete?”
Fury takes over Peter’s eyes, and before Harry knows it, he pins both of Harry’s wrists over his head. Easily. And with just one hand, at that.
Then again, Harry’s not fighting. And Peter knows it.
“What are you trying to do, Harry?” Peter asks, again, but this time, there’s more bewilderment in his voice than there is anger.
And since Harry would rather kiss Peter than repeat himself, he does. And wonders if this screams louder than all the words he’ll never say.
It reminds him of the way Peter glances away when he catches Harry looking at him, as if Spider-man isn’t the biggest secret his best friend’s keeping from him. Harry knows what he wants that secret to be. But he doesn’t know. And this, here, now, is the only way he’s ever going to find out.
Once, Norman Osborn told Harry that people needlessly complicated their lives when they inevitably involved their emotions in situations where the heart was never intended to belong. And Harry wonders if he hasn’t gone and made that mistake, after all.
Peter must know all there is to know about equal and opposite reactions, but the look on his face tells Harry that even he can’t explain how Harry turns his no into a yes, how his pulling away drives Harry to crush him close, and how his stifled protest becomes a wordless cry for more.
“I still love her,” Peter gasps. Harry crushes Peter’s mouth to his as if it would make those words untrue. Peter almost breaks away, but he hesitates, an opportunity which Harry seizes to kiss him again. There’s never been any gentleness to Harry, and there isn’t now.
“This doesn’t change anything,” Peter tells him, almost as if his words can will it to be true.
Of course it doesn’t, Harry knows. It changes nothing, and it changes everything, and Harry Osborn cannot believe how stupid the both of them have been. And when Peter doesn’t push him away, when Peter just lets Harry be there - that’s really all Harry needs right now.
Harry knows it isn’t love, but he also knows that this is all Peter can give. He doesn’t know what he’ll have to do to make this happen again, but he knows that he’ll do it again in a heartbeat, because knowing that this can still happen between them is worth more than anything he has to give up. With the reality of Peter in his arms, Harry can’t hear vengeance calling, even when it whispers in his father’s voice.
And then Peter stops.
Harry had almost let himself believe this was real. He’d almost forgotten that Peter’s reservations were equally real.
“Harry, I can’t.”
Harry opens his eyes.
Peter looks almost stunned, as if shocked that he’s allowed it to get this far – allowed Harry to go this far. Harry can already see him distancing himself – Peter blinks, shakes his head ever so slightly, and Harry knows Peter’s already pulling away, even if he hasn’t moved.
Harry’s only thought is to hold on to Peter before he slips away again. So before Peter can, Harry catches his wrist.
Spider-man could pull away, but Peter Parker doesn’t.
Peter can come this far and say no. Peter’s like that. Harry’s seen this him do this to MJ, saw it the day he buried his father. Harry’s been with Peter so long he knows exactly what Peter’s thinking even before Peter knows it himself. So much of what Peter does is what he thinks he should. So much of what he doesn’t is what he thinks he can’t. Harry’s watched Peter watch MJ for too long not to know him like this. It hasn’t ever been safe for Peter to want something, because he just never gets it. Peter knows what he wants, all right, but he’s so sure he won’t get it, he doesn’t even try. Peter’s spent so much of his life looking at how far away what he wants is from what he has, so much so that when what he wants and what he can have are the same thing, he doesn’t realise it when it’s looking right at him.
Harry knows that right now, Peter doesn’t even know what he wants.
So Harry makes up Peter’s mind for him.
For a moment, Peter makes the mistake of letting uncertainty look out of his eyes, and Harry uses that hesitation as any Osborn would. Easily, he slides an arm around Peter, and flips him over, on his back and on to the couch. Peter actually looks surprised, and Harry’s torn between laughter and kissing him senseless. Then he sets out to prove to Peter that no one can say no to an Osborn who wants anything this badly.
And Peter discovers the truth of this when Harry kisses all refusal out of him.
Somewhere after Harry starts kissing him again, Peter cautiously slides his arms around Harry’s waist. Harry can’t read that as a no, even if he isn’t trying. When Harry breaks the kiss to gaze down at Peter - who offers him an achingly tentative smile - Harry realises that this is worth any price he has to pay. Peter looks directly in his eyes, and even though the number of times he’s wanted this far outnumber the times he’s wished Spider-man dead, a shock of unadulterated adrenalin courses through him when he realises Peter’s kissing him back, as nervous and awkward and undeniable as everything he’s ever wanted.
By the time Peter undoes all the buttons on Harry’s shirt - the last two so quickly that he snaps them both - he looks as if he isn’t thinking any more, which is an expression Harry could definitely get used to, seeing as how he’s waited for longer than he’s ever waited for anything to see Peter like this. Harry isn’t thinking much either, because soon he realises that when Peter locks his arms around Harry’s shoulders, when he arches into Harry’s touch, when he says Harry’s name, Harry forgets all about Spider-man, and Peter becomes the only one that’s real.
That night, a fire breaks out on 5th Avenue, a robbery happens on 42nd Street, and the umpteenth heist is staged at the Savings and Loan. But tonight, Spider-man lets the firemen, security guards and policemen of New York City earn their keep, and Peter Parker lets Harry Osborn happen to him.
It’s clumsy. It’s awkward. It’s probably the most stupid mistake either of them will ever make.
Harry’s never wanted anything more.
Not even Spider-man.