They All Wear Masks

"Give a man a mask and he will tell you the truth." -Oscar Wilde


2. ~ Two ~


    When Peter Parker first saw on the news that Harry Osborn had returned to New York, he wasn’t sure which feeling hit him first. Was is recognition, that stormed through his veins like an icy fire? Was is confusion, that sent his mind reeling into memories of the Harry Osborn he knew- the Harry who confessed to him, and only him, how alone and scared he was? Or was it that feeling he’d christened the Harry feeling- the one that clenched at his heart like a steel fist, twisting and churning.     

    It was even stronger than he’d remembered. 

    As soon as he could, Peter was out on the streets, swinging from building to building, anticipation growing with each gust of air under his mask, each yank on his muscles. OsCorp loomed in the distance, casting shadow on the passers by.

    Peter slid into an alley, wriggling out of his suit and stuffing it into his rucksack. That done, he rounded the corner of OsCorp and sauntered casually up the front steps. 

    The receptionist seemed reluctant to let him through to see his old friend, but a buzz and a voice changed her mind fairly quickly. 

    Harry was waiting for him.

    He stood tall, shadowed by the darkened corridors behind him. Peter squinted, letting his feet carry him forwards a few steps, where his vantage point was better. Harry stood like a statue- no, like a mannequin- a perfectly poised, smoothly carved mannequin. 

    Except no mannequin had ever had such bright blue eyes. In fact, Peter doubted if anyone had ever had such bright eyes. 

    Bright smile, too, when he finally opened up and the Harry that Peter had known came tumbling out of the shell that was the new Mr Osborn.

    “You got your braces off.” 

    Peter paused.

    “Now… there’s nothing to distract from your unibrow.”

    He turned, and there he was; Harry Osborn, the seven year old boy that Peter had loved like a brother- like more than a brother. Peter ascended the steps, a lightness in his heart that he hadn’t felt for eight years. 

    Harry’s clothes were starched and hard, but his body was warm. They fit together perfectly; Peter had heard that phrase before, and never quite realised what it meant until now.




    “Pete… I need to see you.” 

    Peter almost fell off the ceiling. 

    He scrabbled at the hard cement to keep his purchase, phone slipping in his hand. “What- where? Now?”

    Harry’s voice was cracked- with pain? Alcohol? Peter couldn’t tell. 

    “Now. Please, Pete.”

    Peter actually did fall off the ceiling then. Stuffing his phone in his bag, he scrambled out the shed door in a flurry of really rather dangerous scientific equipment. 

    Not even the swinging motion of his webslingers guiding him from building to building could calm him- Harry had sounded so desperate, so hurt. How was it possible to be so worried for someone you’d only just become reacquainted with? How was it possible for him to love Harry as much as he loved Gwen?

    Peter ignored the secretary entirely, stabbing at the lift buttons madly. It couldn’t come quick enough. 

    Upstairs, he was not even sure how he found Harry’s office, but outside it he stood, panting. Peter straightened his glasses, took a deep breath, and walked inside. 

    Harry was not, in fact, dead. He was not writhing in pain, being brutally attacked, or transforming into a cannibalistic monster.

    Peter relaxed slightly.

    Harry was facing the wall, but spun his chair round as Peter entered, ice blue eyes meeting unbroken brown ones. He gave a wan smile. 

    “Hey Pete. Take a seat.”

    Peter did not, in fact, take a seat, but he did sit down. He did not believe thievery was the wisest course of action. “You, ah, sounded worried over the phone. Should I… be worried?”

    Harry smiled again, but it was not a real smile. It pasted itself on his face like some garish ribbon. “I’m dying Pete.” 

    Something invisible stabbed Peter inside his chest, and it was all he could do to stutter out a choked, “What?”

    “I’m dying. Hereditary disease. Father had it. Very nasty. Painful. I’m going to rot. Already am, come to think of it.” Harry pulled down the collar of his shirt and showed Peter the rotted section of skin on his neck.

    Peter leaned forwards, but before he could get a good look, Harry was standing, speaking, as though he hadn’t just shattered a section of Peter’s heart. 

    “Spiderman’s blood. It’s the only thing that can save me now.”

    It was too much to process.

    Harry turned back to Peter, some expression finally in his eyes, but it wasn’t a Harry expression. It was Norman, still gripping his son, even after death. “I know you know him.” 

    Peter jumped as Harry slammed a paper down on the table before him. He shook his head. “No, Harry- I just take photos, I don’t know him, I don’t know him, I just take photos.” Peter stood and backed towards the door. He knew what would happen if Harry received Spiderman’s- his- blood. Harry would die, or go insane, or worse. 

    Peter was backed against the door now. Harry stepped closer, the light of desperation in his eyes. “Please Pete. I can’t end up like my father.” Harry’s voice had dropped to a cracked whisper, and he slid his arms around Peter’s waist, pulling him close and turning his head into the crook of his neck. Peter hugged him back, hesitantly at first, afraid that the moment might shatter.

    It didn’t.

    Harry’s head was still at the crook of Peter’s neck, but he leaned ever closer, his mouth just brushing Peter’s skin. Peter’s breath hitched as Harry kissed his neck gently, tenderly, as though it was the kiss of a soldier to his fallen comrade. 

    But Peter wasn’t fallen- Peter was very much alive. He pushed Harry backwards, kissed him, tangled his hands in his hair, backed him against the desk. It was as though Harry had said I will give you everything if you help me, and this was Peter’s acceptance. He could kiss Harry like he could never kiss Gwen; rough, hard, a beautiful thing supported by bars of steel. Harry gasped for air and pushed Peter backwards slightly. “Stop… Pete, stop.” Peter held Harry at arms length.

    “Did I hurt you?”

    “No- no, but- you should go.”

    “What?” Peter didn’t understand. Why couldn’t he kiss Harry into oblivion, figure out some heroic cure, and then kiss him into oblivion all over again? He wasn’t even with Gwen anymore- not that he didn’t love her, but he didn’t love her.

    “We’re in OsCorp, Peter. In a glass office. In the middle of the day. And I’m dying, remember?”

    “Oh yeah.” Peter stepped back sheepishly, straightening his shirt. “I’ll, um, go on a spider hunt then. You just, um…” Peter gestured vaguely to Harry’s desk. 

    “Sit here and keep dying?”

    “Yeah. That.”

    Harry quirked a grin- a Harry grin, not a Norman one. “Okay then.”

    “I’ll help you Harry, I promise. You’re not going to die.” 

    Harry watched Peter leave his office, rucksack still slung from his shoulders. He straightened his tie slowly. “Jury’s still out on that one, Pete,” he whispered. 


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