Moving On

March 03, 2017:

Peter Parker meets up with his best friend Harry Osborn for cram sessions and awkward, guilt-ridden discussions about the past.

Grind'n'Munch

It's a restaurant beloved by hipsters!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Gwen Stacy, Big Wheel

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

'hay P u cn dis chase in town? Crazy!! Coffee and cram sesh?'

That's the text message that Harry Osborn, son of a missing, presumed dead Fortune 500 business owner, sends off from the latest version of StarkPhone that he's outright bought with the lodes-a-money, yeah probably, that trickle into his bank account on a regular basis.

It's sent to his BFF, the best chum he's ever had, that rascal Peter Parker, in hopes of having the maybe-but-not-going-to-admit-it more brilliant student show up to assist with the upcoming Advanced Chem exam that they're slated to sit in, oh, tomorrow morning.

That leaves a solid 12 hrs to go before the big exam! Come on out Pete, and join Harry at the Grind'n'Munch - a slick, burgers and fancy coffee place that's expanded into Queens in the ever-expanding gentrification wave - for some last minute boning! Bone-up, he says!

"Sure hope Pete shows up," Harry says, dressed in his usual preppy clothing of a double polo shirt and khaki pants, stuffing some double-fried fries into his mouth as he watches the TV. The volume is muted, but the screen is showing delayed footage from downtown via Chopper 6, of the Spider-Man fighting the Big Wheel after a brazen afternoon bank robbery.

"Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll run that spider over," he mutters bitterly to himself, jamming three fries into the ranch-ketchup dip that the fast-food-coffee place is known for.


'Maybe I'll get lucky and he'll run that spider over,' Harry mutters to himself.

AND DOES HE?

SPOILER ALERT

Spider-Man web-slings from city block to city block as a giant golden wheel bounces after him, flailing its pincer-arms menacingly/

"*WHEEL* GET YOU YET, SPIDER-MAN! YOU'LL NEVER GET A/ROUND/ MY IMPENETRABLE DEFENSES! YOU'LL -TIRE- OUT LONG BEFORE I DO, SPIDER-FRAUD!! Am I doing this right? Can you tell me?? I've been out of the game for a while now and I feel like I'm not really catching the menace-"

"Why is this my life now!!"

HE DOESN'T

"Y'know, you're gonna, like… kill yourself, stuffing down fries like you do, Harry."

This would be the observation the much-awaited Peter Parker makes from behind Harry Osborn's back; dressed in his typical, old blue parka and a currently untucked, button-down white shirt and black slacks he probably bought at Wal-Mart for work, he strikes a much poorer contrast to his friend. A much more tired one too, but that's also far from unusual, the bags under his eyes as pronounced as someone who'd been running on a hamster wheel for most of the day.

SPOILER ALERT

Spider-Man desperately runs on the top of the wild whipping wheel as its onerous owner pontificates perilous puns at him.

"WHY! IS! THIS! MY! LIFE! NOW! — OH GOD TRAFFIC SIGNAL-"

Not even all the alliteration in the world can make up for this. AND WE'RE BACK

"… or at least you're gonna, I dunno, get super-fat. And then look gross. … and uh, then die, I guess."

Still, Peter manages a smile for his best friend that's more-or-less genuine; if it's forced, it's for reasons far beyond Harry's control. Things that Peter can't help but think about every time he sees the Osborn heir. Regardless — he takes a seat opposite Harry, setting down his backpack and slumping with a sigh.

"Ugh. I'm beat. This was the worst day. The worst. Day."

And then he's just going to lean forward to grab a fist-full of Harry's fries and just stuff them in his mouth. It's do as I say, not as I do.

"Uhh. Sho yuh wahnded" gulp "to do some studying, or whatever, right?"


"Fuck!"

That would be Harry Osborn being startled by the sudden voice behind him. "Christ Pete, don't sneak up on me like that," he chastises immediately, giving his BFF a mild glare that fades into that easy grin. Years of togetherness, always leading to grins and laughs and the discovery of Uncle Ben's porno stash - probably!

"Hey don't worry about me getting fat, not when you look like shit yourself. You gotta stop burning it at both ends bro.

"And buy your own fucking fries! Man, I'll just buy you some, it's the least I can do since you're gonna help me ace this exam!"

Harry hops off his chair, slapping his good friend on the shoulder as he heads over to the counter to order a meal for the terribly poor, destitute Peter Parker.

Returning without it, he drops the order number onto the table where one of the minimum-wage workers can see it. "Got you the Greasebomb with extra greaseballs," he says as he eases back onto the chair. He lifts a single fry, munching it down, before irritably picking at his lower lip.

"I just need help with this Chem exam. I'm having trouble focusing on it. I… really need to do well or my… well…" His eyes bounce right off of Parker's slovenly attire. "Uh, well, let's just say it won't go down so well with the lawyers if my GPA slips."

He lightly slaps both hands down on the table, an idle drum solo beginning. "You thought anymore about my offer?"


Oh, the memories! Mysteriously, all memories of finding anything of Uncle Ben's has been replaced by crippling guilt. Fancy that.

"Uh — aheh — sorry about that, Harry, I wasn't — like — yeah. Sorry," is Peter Parker's ever-eloquent response as he settles in across from his best pal. He rubs the back of his head, looking aside. "… I'm not that scary, am I…?"

There may be some self-conscious staring at himself in a mirror later. Especially with what Harry follows it up with. The awkward neck-rubbing intensifies. Way to hurt his fragile self-esteem, HARRY.

"Huh? I'm not, like — it's not that noticeable, is it??" he asks, with bloodshot eyes that are probably bloodshot for perfectly normal reasons squinting at his friend. He frowns, just a little, lifting a hand to his face and sort of… prodding at himself. He basically looks like a hot mess. "Shut up. I'm — I'm totally fine." Nope. "Yeah." Not even slightly.

"And anyway, it's the 'I'm bailing your ass out of bombing the chem test' tax, so just — deal with it. I can take anything I like — wait, what? Hey — Harry, c'mon, wait, I was just kidding, you don't have to-"

But Harry Osborn is set in his ways, and soon enough there's a order ticket slapped onto the table surface; Peter's brows furrow slightly. "… is that really the — you know — the food names? Because that's…" He can't decide whether it's disgusting or amazing.

"… that's disgusting. I mean, kinda. Like — in an amazing way. Right?"

That works.

"But Harry, you don't — seriously, I'm not, like, trawling around for handouts or something. Really. As much as I could totally go for a heart attack-on-a-tray." He hesitates, and then smiles one of those small, awkwardly lopsided smiles of his that's no less sincere for how tired he is.

"But — thanks. Seriously. It's… yeah. Thanks."

He listens, though, hands stuffed inside his pockets as he looks back Harry's way. When Osborn looks aside, Parker has a good idea why — and awkward kid that he is, he too ends up looking towards the ceiling instead of his friend. "I…" he begins, words trailing. "… yeah. I can — I can help you out with that, Harry. No problem. But…" But what can he even say? 'You have a problem with your father who's probably dead because of me and are trying to cope with it via drugs you should go to rehab, PS, sorry your dad got impaled with his own glider trying to kill me'?

"… it sounds like we've both been having a crap week, huh?" Ultimately, he settles for that.

Still — when that question is brought up, Peter blinks. "The off-?" he begins in tired confusion, before it clicks. "Oh! Yeah, damn, right — crap, sorry. The offer! Sorry I — yeah, I mean, totally, of course I have. I'd love to." He would. He also wouldn't. It's complicated. Why's everything so complicated, now? He knows very well why. "I mean… I'd be closer to school, and I'm sure Aunt May'd love to have me out of her hair already but…" He thinks back to that encounter he had at the Daily Bugle with the man calling himself Wesley. His brows furrow. "… I still worry about her too, y'know?"


Harry sits back down, and Peter rambles. It goes on, and on, and on, and by the end of it, Harry's just got a smile on his face. For all that they're getting older, going to College, eventually to graduate and both run multi-billionaire companies, some things just don't change. "Pete, you worry too much. Like I said, it's the least I can do."

It's heartfelt, which is a really great way to twist the knife in Parker's gut about that whole 'hey you killed my dad by accident and he kind of killed your girlfriend but you can't tell me any of that can you huh buddy?' thing.

Because for all that Harry's going through as a result, the one genuine thing that remains are those bonds of brotherhood he shares with a nerd named Peter Parker.

"And yeah, those are the names. It's a burger and some onion rings, they just go heavy on the frying here. I think they're angling for Guy Fieri to come in and rate this place, or I don't know, get more hipsters in?" He cocks a thumb at the table next to them, where two beardos are taking pictures of their food.

He nods as the other boy sums it up pretty aptly. "Yeah, crap week and then some. I mean, I shouldn't complain, I know - it could be a lot worse, it really could. And I /know/ I can get this stuff-" He probably means the Chem content, and not whatever elusive party drug he's currently trying to organize. "-if I just apply some of that Osborn genius I got from dad, but it's just…"

His hands explode out, pantomiming a smoke bomb going off. Also his favorite talent for the Ninja he played in that Legend of the Five Rings tabletop a few years back. Pokey McStabby.

"My focus is everywhere else."

The offer, though! And the response to that. Harry takes a big bite out of his burger, chewing away, ultimately talking with his mouthful because it is hard to swallow that much ranch dressing and organic beef, no matter how the ranch helps the meat slide. "Luhk Pete, i's simple, you jus' gotta-" Gulp! "-ugh, do it. I know you don't wanna spread your wings and fly, but you're not getting any younger! And I bet Aunt May would want you to be enjoying your prime McLovin' years-" Does anyone still make that reference? Harry does apparently. "-before they dry up. The girls on campus don't want to come back home to see Aunt May-they want to party, and you can borrow my clothes, I can be your wingman just like always, and you can help me graduate!"

That's it, really. Harry wants his friend, but he's also using Pete. At least he's offering to help elevate Pete and get him back onto the playing field?

"And, look, I hope I didn't just tear open any old wounds by saying all that but…"

Those strung-out blue eyes fill with compassion.

"It's time to move on from Gwen, man."

Perfect time for the food to arrive, still greasy-hot.


It's an unpleasant churn against that icy pit in his stomach that just never quite goes away no matter how good things are usually going for him.

And to Peter Parker's mind, he deserves every degree to which that knife is twisted.

It's why he can only offer an awkward smile and a barely-there "thanks" at Harry's reassurances, like he's half-distracted by something. It's also why he's all too happy for the distraction of talk about the restaurant, taking a look around before zooming in on those bearded, ironically be-scarfed men talking about how "real" this place is as they take food selfies. His brown brows furrow inwards towards their center. His lips purse. "I — ugh. I can't even deal with that right now. I'm going to look away." He doesn't. He just frowns. "Thanks for ruining my first greaseball experience, Harry. Thanks. A lot. Like. Totally." He's still staring.

"… It's like watching a train wreck…"

He knows. He does. Harry's his friend, and Harry's in trouble. Peter's no blind. And he knew what Harry's relationship with his father was lip. He knows he has to say something. Stage an intervention. Something. It's why his brows knot and he falls into thoughtful silence even as Harry talks about how rough his week has been, how much difficulty he's had with his Chemistry work. Because he should say something. But at this point, with how responsible he is for it all, what right does he have to say anything?

So he settles for this instead:

"Maybe you oughta take focus away from perfecting your smokebomb gesture. I mean. You're totally ready for the next campaign. Stabby's ready to go. Just, like — a suggestion."

And for focusing on making his grin look at least passingly sincere.

"Seriously. You're gonna do fine. You're smart, Harry, you just…" he considers, scratching at the back of his head. "… just gotta… y'know, manage your time a bit better." Like he's one to talk. "The stuff covered this chapter is really easy, anyway. Shouldn't take too long, probably. I…"

But his words are cut off, and whatever he might be about to suggest dies at that offer, his thoughts somewhere else. Somewhere far away. Part of him is scrambling for a way to politely turn Harry down. Part of him is telling him to just accept, he's your friend. The other, bigger part, is saying 'WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM, YOU IDIOT, THAT'S THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER.'

"I don't think McLovin's a thing anymore Harry, are you trying to like, bring it back, or something?" is what he chooses to focus on first, as if to divert from that more pressing issue. "Besides, I'm not — calling me McLovin is a low blow, dude, that's just — god. Just… ugh. Ugh!!"

But there Harry goes, cutting to the quick of it. Talk about meeting girls just mounts up what's likely going to be a weak protest and reasonable excuse about Peter's workload, but it's not exactly the real reason, and Harry knows it. And when he says that, with a voice filled with compassion, it still has a bite to it that makes Peter Parker wince.

'It's time to move on from Gwen, man.'

He looks down quietly as that food sets down in front of him. He reaches out, pokes at those onion rings, and eyes the smear of grease on his finger. "Wow, they weren't lying about the name," he mumbles numbly, shutting himself off as he picks up that ring and takes a bit. It's too hot. Burns his tongue a bit. He doesn't really notice.

"I'm not… it's not, about that," he manages, after the longest moment, his focus entirely on his overfried food. "It's not. I'm just… I don't have time in my life for anything like that right now. I don't…"

Need to get anyone else killed because of me.

"… don't need… the hassle."

He hesitates a moment. And then offers, tentatively, perhaps as a distraction, "If I say I'll move in with you, will you promise not to try to dress me up in your clothes? Because that's like. That's just weird. Okay?"

It's easier than addressing the heart of the issue, at least.


The nuts and bolts of it happens. Harry tells Pete exactly what he thinks Pete needs to do, because clearly the well-adjusted Osborn knows precisely what the right course of action is at this stage of life. But he tells it as he sees it, even though he knows it's gonna hurt.

That's just what you do for your friends.

Sometimes, you have to hurt them to make them feel better.

When instead of trying to face it head-on, Parker instead retreats to the offer, the cracked lips of Harry twist. "No dice Pete, if you move in and we're hosting a party, I can't have you slumming it. You gotta look the part, and your wardrobe is not exactly what I would call looking the part. I bet you still have all those anime shirts from your weeaboo phase, right?"

He spreads his hands, face acknowledging that that was a cheap shot. "Look, its fine if you want to think about it some more, but think about the other thing I just said as well. The one you're trying so hard to burn your mouth over."

Yeah, he saw that. That was gross. You don't go full Greaseball when they're fresh.

"Just think about it yeah? When you're ready, and I hope it's soon, I can set you up with this friend of the girl I'm after right now. Maybe if everything goes alright, we can take 'em out on dad's boat, head out into the open water, you get me?"

His eyebrows need to stop waggling, but they don't. He starts pantomiming the act, leading to something that sure seems like the smoke bomb gesture but definitely isn't.

"Sploosh, just like that!"

He can't keep a straight face after that, and he laughs at his own crude gag. "Ah, but seriously, let me know by the end of next week and we can make it all happen that weekend. I guess we should probably start though, huh?"

He stares glumly at the textbook on the table, mirth fading.


"Wh — I didn't — That's — That's — You're the one who bought that body pillow, not me!"

Damning words, shouted in a distractingly loud sort of way. Peter Parker freezes up. Looks around at the hipsters staring at him. Judging him. Ironically. He sinks into his chair and manages an apologetic smile.

"-You-," he whispers accusationally. "-You- did. That thing was creepy and I don't even wanna talk about it anymore — and why did you -name- it-"

But this, too, is just a distraction from addressing the elephant in the room. That he's not ready to move on. That he might never be ready to move on. Instead, he tries to broach a compromise he can easily reneg on later, if only to appease his friend, "… look, I'm — I appreciate it, I do, really, it's just…" He sucks in a breath. "… it's not easy. And I'm not exactly, like… a some kinda smooth operator, or whatever. I mean, I just used the phrase 'smooth operator.' Just… if I move in, if I do, let me — let me do all that at my own pace. Okay? I just…"

He smiles, hesitantly, even appreciatively.

"… need a bit more time."

And lies like a natural.

A second passes as Harry starts pantomiming. Pantomining something that definitely isn't a smokebomb in disguise. Peter Parker, mid-bite of his hamburger, squints. He chews, slower and slower, eyes getting squintier and squintier, until they're just little slits. He swallows.

"… no. I don't get you. I don't want to ever get what you're doing right now. Don't explain it to me. Just… don't."

But still — he manages to crack a smile. A genuine one. And the smile becomes a laugh that joins in on Harry's, flopping back in his seat as he sets his hamburger down. "You're gross, Harry. Like, seriously. But… yeah. I'll let you know. I promise." He hesitates a moment, as if looking like he wants to say something more.

Instead, that smile just goes lopsided once more as the tired young college student flips open his backback to rummage around for his books. For his friend.

"Yeah, we should probably get started before these people start tweeting videos of us or something. The last thing — seriously, the last thing — I need right now is hipsters making fun of me…"

Really, it's just been that kind of month.

-Big Wheel-. Come -on-.

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