Who: Gwen & Harry What: Nightclub meetings pt 1 of 2 Where: Cielo nightclub. When: Before V-day plotness. Warnings: Adult themes.
Cielo wasn't Gwen's type of place. Or, maybe it was better to say that it hadn't been Gwen's type of place. Before her short trip back home, she would have never frequented a place where the sound decibels were so high that auditory damage was almost guaranteed. The vast number of older men that were looking for younger girls there would have made her uncomfortable and frightened, and she would certainly have never gone dancing alone. No- She would never have gone dancing period. But things were different now. Going back to her version of the world had been eye-opening. She'd had her Peter back. Her Peter, who loved and adored her, and who made her feel like everything in the world could possibly be alright. He talked about science, and he pleaded for kisses with the most endearing little boy smile. With him, she didn't feel awkward or stupid. And he'd even been perfectly willing to accept the fact that she'd changed, become less socially adept and more uncertain. But - and this was the hardest part to accept - she hadn't been in love with him like she had once. Once, even being around him had made her scuff her toe against the floor like a girl in love. But she hadn't been able to stop thinking about Harry this time. Even with Peter right there, his best friend had been foremost in her mind. And the fact that Harry from her world only knew her as a childhood friend now, that had been hard. And then, then the bridge had come, and it was all over in a flash.
And finding herself back here hadn't been any easier for Gwen. It had been harder. Harry was still in love with Mary Jane, and Mary Jane was still in love with Harry. Flash was gone, and Peter was gone, and the version of Spider-Man that had replaced him didn't like her and didn't want to know her. Loki had aged up, and she was reluctant to admit she missed having him around the apartment, and now Laura and Billy had moved in, and Gwen felt woefully under-informed about mutants and their plight. And none of that compared to the fact that she had lost a homicidal symbiote.
So, no, Cielo wasn't Gwen's type of place, but things changed. Gwen had changed.
The club was crowded and loud, and Gwen could barely think with the rotating lights that bounced off the disco ball in the center. It reminded her a little of prom, of that last dance with Harry, and of her comfortable conversation on the couch with Peter. Everything had seemed so complicated then, and she realized how foolish she had been to think so. Everything that had come after had been such a mess, and that night felt so simple now. The thought, melancholy as it was, made her head for the bar. She was dressed in a virginal sweater, pale cream and a prim white collar peeking out the top. Her skirt was short, pleated gray, and the stockings she wore went to the thigh, where they were held in place by visible black garters. She ordered something sweet and strong, refraining from asking for specifics about alcohol and sugar content. She wasn't there to make responsible decisions. She was there to get drunk, to feel pretty, and forget everything for a few hours; new habits that she was becoming embarrassingly fond of.
An older man at the bar, old enough to be her dad (if her dad hadn't been killed years ago) offered to make the drink a double, and she accepted. Two drinks later, and she was standing between his spread thighs, that cream sweater gone and forgotten, two buttons open beneath that prim, scalloped collar. The man's hands were beneath her skirt, fingers spread against those garters, fabric hitched for all the world to see. The music was loud, beat and beat and beat, and she swayed her hips, arms over her head, and she just didn't care.
He'd gone to these kinds of places once. All it took was youthful arrogance and cold cash to get into most of the backdoors in this city, and Harry had made use of that knowledge during his teenage years. He hadn't come around in a long time, though. Harry's absence from these kinds of venues wasn't something missed terribly by himself or, he suspected, any others. Even when he'd frequented the land of rhythm and noise, he'd been cautious and privatized in balcony rooms or corner booths. Any behavior that could have gotten back to his father was carefully guarded against. His company was selected with diligence and subsequently trimmed with an aggressive intolerance for gossip and ambitious social climbers. The only ones he let stay were the ones that didn't have a clue who he was or were just too fucked up to care as long as there was bottle service at the table or money folded out for complementary blow. Even when constantly surrounded by people, it'd always felt like such a lonely way to spend the night.
There was nothing to be missed about the scene. Maybe he was beginning to walk in his father's footsteps after all. Secluded in the boardrooms of Oscorp, late nights spent staring at the contents of that secret room recently revealed in his father's abandoned study. Harry had been there tonight again, after putting Emily to bed. He still didn't know what to do about the discovery or who to tell. Didn't it just confirm everything that he'd long been denying? Wouldn't its unveiling do little more than disgrace the memory of his father? His father, who was no longer here to explain or defend himself. It wasn't right, and Harry knew that he couldn't tell anyone. Not even Gwen. Maybe it didn't quite matter if he told anyone or not, Harry knew that everyone suspected the truth. Especially now that the goblin had disappeared simultaneously with his father's more public presence. Anybody could connect the dots if they were paying attention.
Unless there was a way to suggest that the goblin hadn't gone away. Wouldn't that prove it had never been his father behind the mask? The idea took root and grew thorns. Harry stared at the shelves of explosives, the abandoned glider with its meticulously polished spare parts. And the mask. It had smiled at him from across the room until the moment Harry had turned to leave. The motion sensor fluorescents had gone dim until there existed a flat darkness that appealed to Harry's ability to forget. He'd promptly secured the door and left with the express purpose of forgetting properly. It seemed to Harry that he needed alcohol, a great deal of it, and the kind of chaotic volumes that didn't allow for significant thought.
So it was that he ended up at Cielo. It didn't immediately register why he'd chosen this particular club. Although once he saw her on his way to the bar, Harry remembered that it had been Gwen who'd told him that she frequented the spot. She seemed to have company tonight, and Harry considered the older man with a stare that might have been just a bit more pointed than necessary. Then, counterpoised from her new friend with the dancing Gwen caught somewhat in between, Harry leaned into the bar and motioned for the tender. "Am I interrupting?" He had to shout just a bit to be heard over the music, but it seemed important to ask. If she was on some kind of date, he certainly wasn't going to disturb her. Maybe he'd just watch from across the club like that wasn't creepy at all.
She didn't seemed dressed for a date, however. Although Harry couldn't be certain that her pleated skirt and stockings made for the typical attire that the club welcomed through the doors, either. Most of the women were dressed exotic as tropical birds, electric colors and plastic lipgloss. As for Harry, he was in a simple button-down shirt in powder blue and dark business slacks as if he'd come just from the office.
She was lost in the feeling of not caring. It was strange for her, not to be cataloging everything in the room, but enough alcohol and she forgot to plan for dehydration, and she forgot to anticipate the migraine that came with the ingestion of toxin into her body. Even the lights and their intentionally altered brightness, dark and vision impaired, escaped her notice. There were other things. There were things that were more immediate, on the skin, nerves instead of neurons. But none of that changed the fact that she was awkward on her feet. She'd spent time curled over microscopes, not dancing at school parties. But there was a carelessness that was strange, a letting go that was new. She was thin and small and fragile, a little bird, wings above her head and a twirl to her pleated skirt, and it fanned out like a princess, and she watched it with cornflower blue eyes that were all booze-wonder.
His voice came as a surprise. Something from a dream, and she didn't realize he was there until the older man cleared his throat, the beginnings of a "well, yes," on his lips.
But she turned before the older man managed to finish the dismissal, and she smiled shy-bright. She'd forgotten her conversation with Harry, because there had been no real belief that he would ever come to a place because she mentioned it. It had been discarded, like any unstable hypothesis. "You're here," she said, leaning back against the older man without thinking. "I mean, of course you're here," she clarified, "but I didn't expect to encounter you at this location." And she almost began to explain why, to tie his pattern of movements to anticipated locations, but she forgot almost as soon as the thought entered her mind. Instead, she reached for his hand, fingers long and light as they circled his wrist and tugged him from the bar and closer. "This is Harry. He's like my brother," she told the older man, though the adoring look she was giving Harry had nothing to do with anything familial.
She began to introduce the man with the hands on her thighs, but she had no idea what his name was. Her dad had always taught her to make sure strangers provided their names, but she really didn't want the permanence associated with identity. "I'm afraid I don't know his name. We were only going to engage in intercourse," she said, candidly unguarded and socially unacceptable.
The bartender made quick work of pouring a double bourbon, and took a twenty from Harry's extended fingers even as Gwen was tugging on his other wrist in a bid for attention and introductions. Harry took his drink, amber on a couple pieces of ice, turning to comply with a smile that could have passed for friendly if it hadn't been betrayed by the glint of distrust in his eyes when he looked over the man with his hands on Gwen. He took a considering sip of his drink to disguise the line of his mouth when he felt it slipping into a frown. It felt a little strange to be betrayed by something so simple, but he hadn't known that Gwen was seeing somebody. It didn't immediately occur to him that she might have only met the man tonight.
Although Gwen and himself were friends, the two certainly weren't as good of friends as they had once been, back before everything had gotten so fucked up, back before years and miles got wide as an ocean between them. Harry didn't have to remind himself that Gwen wasn't required to tell him anything about her life these days, he hadn't forgotten that they didn't talk like they used to, or that he'd fired her. Lately, Harry barely involved himself in her life out of respect. Because there was another thing he hadn't forgotten, which was the conversation they'd had after his engagement to Lily became public knowledge. So of course he wanted to see Gwen find somebody, somebody great. Harry couldn't quite pick out the reason that he didn't think this guy was great aside from the fact that he was notably handsy. The fact that the man was eyeing him with palpable annoyance wasn't winning him any favors either. Still, Harry revived his smile quickly when Gwen introduced him like a brother. "Yes, the overly protective kind," he said with the kind of warmth that made it seem like he was joking or teasing, but the temperature didn't reach his eyes, which remained locked on the man and quite cold.
Harry raised an eyebrow in muddled confusion when Gwen admitted to not knowing the man's name. The expression flatlined into something better classified as completely fucking stunned when Gwen made her comment about intercourse. "What the fuck, Gwen, are you drunk?" Then, accusation bled onto the man just behind her, and Harry jabbed a finger in his direction, "Did you get her drunk, you sonofabitch?" As if a club was not the sort of place to get drunk. Also as if he'd never gotten her drunk in their lives.
Normally, Gwen felt the gap that had grown wider and wider between herself and Harry with painful aclarity. But tonight she was too drunk to remember it the way she should have. The pain, which felt physical, even though it was an impossibility for it to be anything of the sort, was dulled in liquid toxicity. In that moment, everything was as it had been. He hadn't fired her, and she hadn't gone off and had his child without ever informing him. Things had never become terminally awkward, and he'd never told her that he thought of her as a sister. There was no Mary Jane wedged between them like a splinter. Peter didn't matter, and nothing had fallen apart like building blocks built high without the proper foundation. She smiled, sweet and young, and she gave him a knowing look when he mentioned being a protective older brother. "Harry isn't telling the truth. He hasn't been protective in years," she said, words without thought, for once. She was oblivious to the cold looks or the unforgiving line of Harry's mouth. The world was pulsing light and music and touch, and she was just a thoughtless thing in the center of it.
Her fingers slid along Harry's wrist, touch and tug, and they only stilled when Harry jabbed at the man with his other hand. She was formulating words through the cotton of her cerebellum, but the man spoke first, and she was almost grateful that he kept her from needing to explain.
"She's in here every night getting some. Back off, kid," the man scoffed, and he put his hands up. "You want her? She's all yours. I can wait until tomorrow. Go with your brother, baby." A smack to her ass, and the man reached for his drink.
And she didn't think to be insulted. The words, without the emotional filter that came with sobriety, were simply true. Ineffable fact, science, and she just regarded Harry with cornflower eyes that weren't very focused. "Do you want to dance?" she asked, as if nothing was amiss. And it was social awkwardness, perhaps, doused in alcohol, because she didn't think anything was wrong. "Please say yes," she added, her fingers slipping down to twine with his, and she tugged lightly. "We hardly see each other anymore."
Harry immediately regretted his outburst, and he grimaced into the amber wave of his drink while taking the vanilla burn down in one quick swallow. The glass was then put to rest a little rougher than necessary on the bar's ledge, and Harry pushed it away from himself in the brief glimpse of a good mood gone sour. Because Gwen was right, Harry wasn't the protecting type. That'd never been the kind of person he was. It still hurt to hear her say it, though. Mostly because he knew that she must have thought it was such an obvious, little statement that there was no point in lying about it to soften the blow. Obvious things weren't supposed to be offensive, he reminded himself.
Maybe he should just go, maybe he was out of line with interrupting here, maybe Gwen really was dating this guy. Harry was angry, but he only thought he understood why. After all, nobody liked to see their friends taken advantage of, and he'd certainly never stand idly by and play a witness to it. Protective type or not. Still, Gwen was a little drunk, which made Harry think that maybe he didn't have a full grasp on the situation.
At least, that's what he thought until the man spoke up for himself with talks of waiting for tomorrow. "What the hell did you just say?" Harry stared with blue eyes narrowed when the stranger vilified Gwen. Caught off guard, he actually balked for a moment, too sober to immediately know how to react to something so insulting. By the time he decided that assault and battery was the logical response, the man was already turning to leave and Gwen was crowding close with her hand wrapped up in his. Distantly, he was aware that she was asking him something, but for a moment his attention was all for the vanishing businessman drifting through the crowd. Didn't matter, he decided. Harry would remember his face.
"What," he asked, looking back to Gwen. Please say yes, he knew he'd heard that part. Harry wanted to ask her what the hell that guy had been talking about. Gwen wasn't really here every night was she? And all of the other stuff the guy had said, that wasn't true either, right? Harry stared at her for a moment, noting the warmth in her eyes that spoke of alcohol spiking her blood. She looked at him like she was genuinely happy to see him, although he suspected that might have something to do with the alcohol too. He knew that it probably wasn't the time to ask her about the stuff that guy had said, and maybe he was too much of a coward to ever ask her. Some things he probably didn't want to know. "Sure, Gwen," he agreed mindlessly, following when she tugged on his hand.
She was too drunk to measure words. Though, truth, she wasn't very good at knowing what to avoid saying. It was a flaw in the socially inept, the candid truth talkers; they said everything, without holding back the things that normal people kept close, hidden beneath a vest or tucked away in a pocket. He had never been protective of her, but she had never needed him to be. Her dad had been protective enough for ten people, and Harry had always been Harry. A boy lost in melancholy, and too caught up in his own dark to notice the dark of others. But she'd always known, and it had always been fine. Personality was determined in the frontal lobe. Personality lived there, along with other high-cognitive function, like problem solving and selective attention. And everyone was different, composed of different percentages of things in that frontal lobe, and she didn't hold that against him, even when it stung.
"Shhhhhhhh," was her response when he questioned the man. He didn't matter, the man, no more than anyone mattered. His what was met with another smile, another tug. And he might be feeling cowardly, but she wasn't. She'd been back over a month now, and she'd managed to break her entire life into pieces that she could never hope to glue together. What was there left to be afraid of? Nothing, there was nothing, and she tugged him into the center of the dance floor. People greeted her along the way, and she greeted them back. Names and nods and a wave of fingers, and even the bartender here knew how she liked her drinks.
She stopped, and she looked up at the screens that circled the dance floor when a band wasn't playing. The video was big screens and loud, and she smiled at him, arms around his waist, and she didn't bother with his shoulders. "I love this song," she said, and she swayed her hips and didn't care that he would walk out after the song. She turned her face up to his, defying science and gravity by keeping her balance. But she had practice at this now, and her fingers rested on his hips with the care that they normally gave to microscopes and delicate specimen slides. "I like it here," she added of the strobing lights and the crowds. "I like not thinking." And maybe being sixteen again had reminded her, but she'd been doing this before that; they just didn't talk anymore, and so he didn't know. She had no job to go to in the mornings, nothing to wake up for. Her days were spent hunting a symbiote, and she couldn't stand the quiet of the evenings.
Harry went quiet at her instruction, and he followed Gwen onto the dance floor without much of a protest. Maybe he should have brought forth a bit more of an argument, but it didn't occur to him until it was too late and they were already on the dance floor. Harry wasn't much of a dancer, really. That realization occurred to him without any real anxiety attached to it, just a solemn grinding of teeth while the video screens sent fire-licked glow all across his eyes. Harry figured that the last time he'd danced anywhere had been for some school formal years ago, and thinking on that made him realize that the last time he'd danced might just have been with Gwen as well. Although he hadn't thought on the event in years, he could now recall the night with almost perfect clarity(save for a bit of champagne fuzziness that came later in the night).
For a moment, he seemed uncertain about where to place his hands, but ultimately he settled them on her waist. "How often do you come here?" Prior to tonight, he wouldn't have been able to imagine her frequenting places like this. The only clubs he'd ever been able to associate with her had been the scholastic kind, and Harry was only now - quite belatedly - realizing that it had been a long time since they'd been in school, and people changed. People seemed to especially change around here. He thought that it might have something to do with the journals and the hotel and everything, but he couldn't be entirely sure. Besides, it seemed like everybody was making their own destinies anyway, so what did some comic books have to do with anything?
Gwen was certainly different. Not just from the girl he'd known as a child, because she was light years from that. She was even somehow different from the Gwen that had worked with him at Oscorp until recently. She seemed to fit in here, as well as anybody did, anyway. It was Harry who strangely felt out of place. "It didn't know this was your kind of thing," he said after a moment. Conversation seemed like a good way to steer clear of becoming awkward. He hadn't quite known what to say when she said that she liked not thinking, because that didn't seem very Gwen at all.
The alcoholic toxin in her system ensured that she didn't get lost in nostalgia. Memories flitted across her consciousness, then hid themselves away in her subconscious, camouflaged by the strange calm that came from a toxic depressant in her system. For the longest time, she hadn't understood the appeal of getting inebriated. From a scientific perspective, a central nervous system depressant should only serve to make existing melancholy worse. But no amount of science could adequately explain the layer of fuzzy not-caring that came with being drunk.
His hands on her waist felt like slow nothing, and she glanced down at them, trying to remember when he'd last touched her. Dreams didn't count, neither did memories, and she couldn't remember before that. Years ago, another lifetime, and he was right that she had changed. She liked to blame the story. After all, her research indicated that she had intercourse with his father willingly in every version of her story's canon. There were two constants: One, she died. Two, she slept with his father. Peter wasn't a constant, as she'd recently learned. He didn't always love her, and she didn't always love him. Mary Jane was Peter's constant. Her constant was death and sex with Mr. Osborn. So maybe debauchery was in her veins, even though it seemed the most unlikely thing, and she would never approach this lifestyle in the same way Mary Jane did.
"I come at regular intervals," she said, still the nerd, even under these circumstances. "I no longer have to get up for work in the morning, and my days are spent looking for the symbiote. Gwen and Billy live in the apartment, but it gets lonely at night. Neither of them are very happy," she said, as if she was the most knowledgeable person about happiness. But life with Flash had been different. Flash had dragged her out to arcades and movies and to spray paint buildings. He was always loud, always insisting on joint meals and bad television. Now, things were just quiet, and she didn't like it. "It began as a good escape from the domestic environment." She shrugged her shoulders, molasses slow and she peered up at him, unfocused cornflower blue. "It's uncomfortable to be here at first, but once I imbibe one-and-a-half drinks, I no longer care. And the touching is pleasant. I know it's only nerve endings, entirely physiological, but it's nice to remember what it was like. It had been over four years." She didn't add that the occurrence four years prior had been him; there was no point in that utterance.
When she made mention of not having to get up in the mornings for work any longer, Harry crammed the guilt away somewhere deep inside. From a human resources standpoint, he knew that he'd done the right thing in firing Gwen. She'd been irresponsible and careless, and her security failures could have ultimately been responsible for a lot of people getting hurt. Not to mention the damage that would ultimately be inflicted on Oscorp's reputation if it came to light that they were responsible for a dangerous(and lost) alien symbiote. The fact that the symbiote hadn't managed to do much damage could be overlooked because Gwen still hadn't caught the thing. Besides, from a human resources standpoint, Harry knew that they weren't supposed to work together. He'd been friends with Gwen all of his life, and that should have been enough to dismiss the fact that they'd slept together, but Harry couldn't dismiss it. He wasn't capable.
Maybe that made him the one that was in the wrong here, and maybe firing Gwen was a selfish act for that alone, but Harry couldn't look at her like just a friend. As much as he desperately wanted to, he couldn't make it be. Everything would have been a whole hell of a lot easier if he could, but Harry was discovering that he couldn't exactly control the paths that his thoughts went down. He obsessed about a lot of things these days that he didn't necessarily want to think about. Like the goblin, and his father, and sometimes Gwen. While their dance slowed, Harry rested his chin on her head for a moment, thinking. He drew back a moment later, however, and glanced down at the moment that she glanced up. The smile he gave her was reassuring, even if her words made him a little heartbroken. He didn't know why the idea of her hanging out in nightclubs all night to kill the loneliness and boredom was so sad, but it was. He wondered if she understood that needing to be drunk to be here probably meant that she should have been somewhere else all along.
"Its been four years since what?" Harry idly smoothed a bit of blonde off of her shoulder, then slid the hand once more down to the curve of her waist.
Her career was done. Her entire work history was with Oscorp, starting with the internship Mr. Osborn had given her during her sophomore year in high school. Doctor Connors had written all her letters of recommendation for college, long before he'd ever become the monster that had terminated the life of her dad. Mr. Osborn had let her freelance from California, while she studied, and her job had been waiting when she'd returned to New York. She'd never anticipated a future without Oscorp, and she'd tried to apply for a few jobs since her termination, but she'd had no success. Being fired had made her appear unappealing as a prospective employee, and she couldn't explain to her employers that Mr. Osborn had approved her symbiote proposal. Mr. Osborn was gone, and there was no point in attempting to clarify things with Harry. He knew about the hotel, and he still felt she was responsible; she never considered his decision had anything to do with that one day in the science lab.
And none of that mattered in that moment. There was too much soothing liquid in her veins. She wasn't worried about secrets or future stability. Her dad's life insurance meant the condo was paid for, and the former was something she'd been living with for years. And that was the reason she came to these clubs, these places, even the old terrors drowned themselves in alcohol and hands, and she finally understood the entirely illogical appeal of inferior coping mechanisms.
She smiled when she felt his chin rest against her hair, because she couldn't logically remember being that close to him in years. Memories faded, she knew. She'd conducted her senior year experiment on the biological degradation of memories over time, but she knew it had been years, if you excluded strange hotel occurrences. She might have continued the train of thought, warm and lulled and a lazy progression from one idea to the next, but his hand on shoulder and waist derailed the thought process, and she looked up at him. "Since I'd engaged in sex," she clarified. "But I've been going out since before the holidays, so that is no longer the case. There's a club in East Manhattan called Paddles. This is tame compared to that location." Her hands drew geometry along his sides, unthinking obtuse triangles and parallelograms.
The connection was barely made because of the pattern tracing of her fingers, but he got there eventually. When she made mention of four years ago, did she mean the time that they'd been together in the high school chemistry lab? Because that hadn't been sex, Harry thought. Or, more accurately, he didn't think that it should have counted. She'd been fucked up, and he hadn't known how to do anything right back then. Thinking back on it was more than a little mortifying, and Harry found himself glancing toward the bar despite himself. He felt far too sober to think about that. Such a bad situation shouldn't have been linked to such a twistedly good memory. It was fucked up and embarrassing and he squeezed his eyes closed to keep from thinking about it. He wasn't worried about blushing because Harry Osborn didn't blush, but his body could betray him in other ways. He mindfully took a step back from Gwen to ensure a few inches of distance as something of an after thought.
"Paddles?" The way that he asked, it seemed clear that Harry had not heard of it. However, to be fair, he didn't get out very much anymore. There'd been a great deal of expectation on his shoulders when his father had been around, but now that it was only Harry, he thought that he somehow felt the massive weight of it even more so. Like, he needed everything perfectly in place for when his father ultimately returned. Oscorp needed to be better than ever, he needed to be better than ever.
Again, his thoughts strayed to the discovery he'd made in his father's study. What Would Norman Osborn Do? He'd do what needed to be done, no matter what the cost was. No matter who hated him for it in the end. "I've never been," he spoke up a bit belatedly.
It was an unthinking thing when she matched his backward step, closing those inches that had barely settled between them. She wasn't even consciously aware of why he'd moved. For all her new experience, she was still Gwen Stacy, still hopelessly naive in so many ways. She didn't expect his body to react to hers, and she didn't expect his body to react to a long ago memory that she was certain he found repugnant.
So, she closed the space, a thigh pressing to his as her hands found their home against his sides again. "It's a scene club. People go there to play, to reenact sexual scenes that could be considered taboo in other, more public and mainstream places. I met a man here, and he took me there. It's a safe environment, and the activities there are sensory in nature, making it difficult for the parietal lobe to focus on cognitive things such as thinking." She said the words like she was imparting knowledge, and like it was a perfectly acceptable way to keep from thinking. The confession was followed by a lift of one fragile and delicate shoulder. "The previous iteration of Peter thought I was a whore," she admitted, the words tumbling freely over the alcohol. She'd never done anything with the previous iteration of Peter Parker, but his opinion of her remained, long after they'd shared breakfast and after she'd confessed about Harry.
She had no idea what had stolen his thoughts, but something obviously had. Even drunk, she could tell the physical signs of distraction, and she moved away from him and looped skilled little fingers in the waistband of his pants. "There are quiet rooms in the back," she told him with a tug, and with the knowledge of someone who'd been in those rooms often.
Harry thought he understood the manner of club that the so-called Paddles was, after all why else would it be called that? He somehow couldn't make himself believe that she was hanging out on late nights with Olympic ping pong teams. He desperately tried to think of any other reason that it might have a name like that, even as Gwen went on about the merits of finding distraction from worry through sensory stimuli. He didn't say anything on the matter, but made a subtle sound that might have been polite agreement forced through a throat that felt suddenly tight. Harry didn't think he'd ever be drunk enough for this degree of candor from Gwen, but he was determined to try. He knew that the private rooms in the rear of the club would at least have bottle service. He felt like a bottle was one hundred percent necessary at the moment.
Harry Osborn wasn't accustomed to anxiety, but it'd been creeping up on him as of late. Endless chatter in his head, the kind that just wouldn't turn off, wouldn't let him sleep, wouldn't let him think. Surrounded by so many people, it was crawling onto him now, up his arms and the back of his neck like spiders. Spiders. He snapped back onto what she'd said about Peter with a blink as the song bled into something else. "Did he call you that?" The Peter that Harry had known would have never said or even suggested something hurtful like that to Gwen. Although there'd been so many different Peters around lately, Harry couldn't find it that hard to believe.
She tugged him into that room, where a hostess came and asked about bottles almost immediately. Gwen deferred to him, and then it was shut curtains and a too-red, too-lush couch. She sat, knees together and the hem of her skirt baring garters and endless pale thigh. She'd left her sweater somewhere, somewhere, and logic refused to provide her with a physical location for a proximity search, so she ignored the braless state of her camisole and the sheerness of the fabric. Only drunk would she be able to do that in front of Harry. He wasn't interested in her, but she'd always felt the need to cover up around him. But there she sat, hands on her bare knees as she watched him blink himself back into the present with the unconcerned mien of someone inebriated. "He didn't say it like that. He disapproved of our relations-" She pointed to herself, then to him, in order to illustrate the two people in question. "He took me on a date before he found out about it, but I told him about it, and he felt we were no longer well suited. He didn't want to kiss me either, so I should have realized his morals were different than the Peter I was accustomed to." And she shrugged her shoulders, because none of it was relevant. There was a new Peter, one that found her tedious, and the state of her virginity no longer bore mentioning. "What's bothering you?" she asked, one hand outstretched and a length of pale arm and birdbone and china wrist. "I'm not your employee any more, so you can tell me. Unless you don't want to resume our friendship?"
Harry was quick to order a bottle of Courvoisier, and he made a face that was part wincing apology and part embarrassed grimace when Gwen explained that Peter had pretty much dumped her because of what'd happened between Gwen and himself. He knew, or at least figured, that the two hadn't been dating-dating, but there were so many different incarnations of Peter Parker that came and went, it was entirely possible that Harry had missed something along the way. He thought Gwen would have surely made mention of a relationship if there was one at any point. Not because she would feel obligated to tell Harry, but just because she was notoriously candid with her friends. She'd never been a very good liar, but he also believed that she never tried to be. She was always honest with him, and Harry knew that was one thing he could always count on Gwen Stacy for.
"I'm sorry," he said as sincerity took his bones into a saddened slump on the cherry red couch. The apology was real, and for reasons wholly different than what he was usually apologizing to her for. He was sorry that Peter disapproved, that maybe he'd ruined her chances with Peter. Maybe it didn't quite matter anymore because there was a new Peter, one who was apparently an asshole. When she asked what was wrong, harry laughed softly. It wasn't a happy sound, however. It was tired and familiar. "Why does everybody keep asking me that?" Was it that obvious?