“Alright Alright Alright. Everyone quiet down! The annual GaMIT stand-up comedy night is ready to commence!” Aster said, her voice echoing across the Rainbow Lounge.
A majority of the colorfully dressed crowd settled down, giggles still spreading out as the various young adults settled down with their bags of free popcorn and cups of fruit juice mix. The event was supposed to be for everyone at MIT, which meant those younger than 21, so there wasn’t any alcohol being served, but based on the tone and pitch of some of the giggles it was clear that someone people were spiking their cups once they settled down, as was tradition. As long as things didn’t get out of hand, Aster wasn’t going to say a word about it.
“I said shut it!” Aster yelled causing the crowd to finally quell down. “Alright, for those of you newbies in the crowd, here’s what happens tonight, some of the lovely members of our community will come up here and give us a quick 5 to 10 minute comedy routine. This can be anything, as long as it’s not illegal, so be prepared to see some weird shit.”
“Woo! Let’s get funky!” A familiar voice yelled out from the crowd.
“Shut it Fenton! You’re not allowed to participate after you made our ears bleed with a 10 minute pun-o-logue last year.”
“This is discrimination!” Fenton said, as many of the other students groaned in reminder of what Fenton had done. Some of the things he said should have been considered crimes against language itself.
“Anyway,” Aster said. “There’s free popcorn and punch, but try not to cause a scene if you want to get refills. No heckling, unless Fenton decides to torture us again, then we should all start throwing as much popcorn at him from every angle so he can’t dodge it all.”
The crowd giggled again while Fenton whined into his laughing boyfriend’s shoulder. Aster smirked and clapped her hands again to get everyone to calm down. The lights in the large room darkened except for the one above the stage, making everything seem more intimate and professional. Students were sitting in fold out chairs wearing a rainbow of colors and various pins and flags on their shirts, it was lovely to see.
“Great? We all on the same page?”
A chorus of agreement rang out and Aster smiled.
“Then with that I’d like to introduce our first contest, the current Vice President of the GaMIT, a graduate student studying political science, they’ll leave you laughing every time, it’s the non-binary ruler of us all, Melanie Hills.”
The crowd clapped as Melanie jumped onto the stage and gratefully took the microphone from Aster. Aster gave their friend a kiss on the cheek and whispered good luck in their ear before hopping down to take a seat. The seat was actually in front of were Fenton and Parker were sitting and Fenton leaned forward and gave Aster a clap with his one hand. They were both majoring in engineering and as much as she liked to tease him about his atrocious sense of humor, after three years of knowing each other, they were actually friends.
“Okay. To start us off, I think I’ll tell all you new members the greatest event to ever rock the world of the GaMIT.” Melanie said, lifting a hand to push back their short purple hair.
“Oh no.” Peter whined.
“Not again.” Danny agreed, as Aster turned to whisper at the two of them that they deserved it.
“Many of you already know this tale, or at least you think you do.” Melanie continued. “But I’m going to tell it to you straight, well not straight.”
“Oh, so they get to use puns.” Danny complained just loud enough for only the people closest to him to hear while the crowd laughed a little.
“This is a little tale I like to call Peter Parker and his One-Armed Boyfriend. A tale of woe and suffering, please lend me your ears as I tell you about how two of our most well known members tortured yours truly for an entire semester.”
The crowd whooped and hollered, and Melanie patiently waited for them to calm, one of their arms wrapped around their bare waist. The crop top they were wearing barely covered the bottom of their sports bra the neon pink quite stark beneath the black t-shirt that they had cut in half with scissors, and the deeply tanned chubby skin of their belly and waist on full display. Once people quieted down Melanie lowered their arm and put the hand that wasn’t holding microphone into the pockets of their pink fatigues. The pants were of course the same color as the bra because why wouldn’t they match?
“It all starts three years ago, around this same time actually, when we had two new additions to the GaMIT, I myself was in my first year of my PhD program and I was far too naïve not to realize the sort of chaos these two young men were about to bring into our midst. It began at the first hang out, here in the rainbow lounge. I spotted a young man standing by the wall, brown hair and eyes so chocolatey that you wanted to hand over your wallet to him if you looked into them for too long.”
Peter groaned while those in the crowd who actually knew him tittered.
“This kid, I mean he’s got innocent young queer written all over him. One look and you’re like, this is the queer of legends, the one that appears in films for the straights, the small and cute and oh so innocent gay that not even the most virulent homophobe would look good saying something negative about. The Disney Channel Gay. This is what peak young gay looked like, and I might not have liked it, but there it was.”
Aster could hear Danny as he whispered his agreement into his blushing boyfriend’s ear.
“And since this new kid looks so nervous, so unsure, I’m like. Damn okay, guess I’m a parent now. Like this kid is 18, in MIT, and it’s like…the first week of the semester, and knowing the people who get into MIT this is probably his first social event, ever. So here I am, like turning into the non-binary fae godparent, ready to float over to bless this young queer with a nametag, a cup of soda, and a reminder to do his homework. I’m serious. You all laugh now but Peter Parker just awakens the parent instinct, like you can hate kids; doesn’t matter, one look into those puppy dog eyes and you’re already to trying to figure out how to contribute to his college fund.”
More laughter at the description of Peter Parker, a man who was almost 21 by now, if he hadn’t already reached that goal. Aster would have to double check, she couldn’t quite remember when Peter’s birthday was. The guy looked much more like an adult than he had three years previously, filling out and becoming far less gangly. Although Aster would always describe her friend as ‘lithe’ if asked.
“And we’ll get to the college fund thing,” Melanie warned, making those who already knew the story whoop with laughter. “Because that’s a thing, a thing-y thing that we don’t have time to get into right away but it’s a thing. Anyway. I go over there and introduce myself, do the whole spiel. Hi, I’m Melanie, my pronouns are they/them, you know, the normal introductions you have to do and this kid. He’s even smaller up close and he just smiles and I’m like, shit, apparently I’m ready to lay down my life for you now.”
“Please don’t!” Peter begged, causing yet another round of laughter as Melanie yelled back at Peter that he couldn’t stop them.
“Peter tells me his name and his pronouns, and I give him a nametag to stick on his shirt. We start talking about simple things, what we’re studying, where we’re from. It’s clear the kids nervous and every time he stumbles it just awakens the protective mama bear instincts that I had no idea were laying dormant in my genderless bones. I ask him if he’s out, and he say he’s bi and I’m like ‘that’s awesome dude’, and he blushed which is just. Look just take my wallet Parker, you shouldn’t have this sort of power.”
“Just keep telling the story.” Peter begged as Melanie jokingly reached into their pockets to pull out their wallet.
“Fine fine. Eventually we get to talking about our personal lives, I’m talking about my partner who’s another PhD student studying sociology at Berkley and then this kid just lights up. Like if I thought he was adorable before, the moment this kid start talking about his boyfriend he turns downright cherubic. And he starts monologuing about having met this cute guy at an internship in New York and how they were friends for a year before his boyfriend got into a huge accident and lost his arm. Apparently, they had a hospital bed love confession and first kiss and I’m like, wow, AO3 plot points are real, and they’re stored in the body of my new son.”
“Friends to Lovers, Hurt/Comfort, Mutual Pining, Slow Burn.” Aster said loud enough for most people in the crowd to hear and cackle too.
“Yeah exactly,” Melanie giggled. “I, being the idiot I am, don’t ask where the boyfriend is. Since he wasn’t here, I assumed that the one-armed hunk of a man was somewhere else. Most people don’t go to the same college as their high school sweetheart and Peter had already told me that they’d met at an internship and that a majority of their friendship had been long distance. So I make the assumption that the kid is in the same sort of lovely long-term thing that I’ve got going on. Reasonable right?”
The crowd murmurs their agreements, even as they all leaned forward, knowing that Melanie was wrong on all counts.
“Meanwhile, our dear friend Aster, is being charmed by the second part of our tale. Aster and about 60% of the rest of the club,” Melanie said. “Danny Fenton waltzes into the room 15 minutes later than everyone else; he’s tall, he’s got floppy black hair that looks like it belongs in a pop punk band, icy blue eyes and a fucking metal arm like he’s cosplaying as the sexier, younger, Winter Soldier. The kid’s bit pale yeah, and in some lighting his skin can even look almost greenish, some people even claim that he’s got fangs. All of this combined into the newcomer looking like he stepped out of the Sci-Fi AU of Twilight where all of the vampires are gay like G-d, herself, probably intended. And of course, everyone who had anything close to a goth phase, or had made that phase into a lifestyle, flocked to him like he was their oasis in the desert.”
It was Danny’s turn to blush a lot and hide his heated face into his palm while the people sitting around him all laughed and stared joshing him. Once things quieted Melanie continued.
“So yeah, that’s the scene. We’ve got me, mentally filing adoption papers for Peter on one side of the room and then we’ve got this one-armed Casanova with a hoard of sighing crowds on the other. And when Peter notices the crowd on the other side, does this precious bean tell me that that’s his boyfriend? Of fucking course, he didn’t. And when Danny spotted us and came over, did either of them have the common decency to introduce themselves as boyfriends to me? No, no that would’ve been too easy, that would’ve been kind. Instead, Danny walks up to my new son and does something absolutely insane. He says ‘Hey, are you a parking ticket, because you’ve got fine written all over you?’.”
There were groans all throughout the room at the terrible pick-up line. Danny only grinned at it.
“You’d think Peter would groan but no! This kid giggles and blushes a little as if he’s just been paid a compliment instead of having a terrible assault done to his ears with that atrocious pun.”
“You’re just jealous you’re not as funny as I am.” Danny shouted.
“Oh you wish Fenton.”
Melanie continued their tale, describing watching Danny and Peter flirt all while believing that Peter was in love with some poor amputee from Illinois who’d been in an accident so physically traumatic that he’d had to delay going to college for a year to recover. And that was the conflict. Melanie had just adopted this baby queer and now their son’s virtue was under attack by a home-wrecking vampire. A vampire that also apparently had a boyfriend that was a year younger than him, a fact that left everyone to believe that his boyfriend was still in high school somewhere, unaware of his true scoundrel-like nature.
The smell of popcorn was in the air, strengthened when Danny produced an extra bag from…somewhere and offered Aster part of it. Melanie was a masterful storyteller, building the drama as more and more people noticed the flirting between the two of them as the semester went on. The rumors and gossip that had spread through the GaMIT that year had been virulent. Melanie gave a list of examples of the explanations people came up with to explain why Peter would allow Danny to flirt with him, and even going so far as to flirt back at times, when he had an amputee long-distance boyfriend that he’d spent the last few months nursing back to health.
“Maybe he had a kink for amputees.”
“Maybe he doesn’t realize that Danny’s flirting with him, he’s so innocent.”
“The guys from New York, maybe he has some sort of damage from all the supervillain attacks and that’s left him unable to push Danny away.”
“Could be magic.”
No one wanted to believe that Peter would cheat on his boyfriend. Anyone who spoke to the guy would inevitably fall into a conversation trap where Peter would gush about how handsome and wonderful and kind his boyfriend was. Danny was much the same, talking about his own boyfriend like he hung the moon, although with far less frequency than Peter. Danny preferred to flirt with a man who wasn’t his boyfriend instead.
Melanie told the story as if they were the only one keeping Peter from being ravaged in a broom closet by the dastardly engineering major. And it was true, Aster remembered Melanie acting as a buffer at all the club meetings, trying to cut down on the flirting and keep a bible’s distance between the two boys, unaware that their actions had only fueled Peter and Danny’s need for mischief. Melanie described themself as the victim of the story, as if Peter and Danny had orchestrated the miscommunication from the very beginning just to mess with them.
Peter and Danny both tried to defend their honor, but most people just threw popcorn at them as Melanie continued. They described their increasingly anxious and dramatic attempts to help keep Peter from cheating. They told them of the club group chats passing around gossip. Of the picture that spread through those group chats that someone sneakily took of the two holding hands on campus. Melanie had been desperate to ensure that Peter didn’t ruin his life and his reputation by cheating on his boyfriend. Their attempts to keep the two boys apart only got more and more desperate as the semester went on. Aster remembered one time when Shannon literally vaulted themself over a table when they spotted Danny lifting a hand to remove a piece of fluff from Peter’s hair.
The crowd was laughing more and more as Melanie built up to the reveal.
“Remember how I mentioned Parker’s College Fund? Right well, that’s relevant now,” Melanie warned. “Because when all of this nonsense was going on, we were also learning about Peter’s scholarship aka Peter’s sugar daddy.”
“Oh gross!” Peter shouted.
“End of semester is here and an email is sent out to the GaMIT. It’s from Peter inviting everyone to a party he and his boyfriend are holding to celebrate passing finals. And I’m like oh my gosh, his boyfriend is here? Like finally I can meet the guy that Peter belongs with, maybe Danny finally seeing the boyfriend in the flesh will make him back the fuck off.”
Yeah like anything could keep Danny away from Peter. At this point no one was stupid enough to believe that those two weren’t going to be together for the rest of their lives. It was impossible to imagine any other way. In Aster’s mind the two of them were always interlinked, even when she was only hanging out with Danny in their classes. In her mind they were just Peter and Danny or Danny and Peter, two parts of a well-functioning, pun-loving whole.
“Now, let me describe this party. Because it was intense, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my entire life. Peter managed to rent out like a venue for this. He didn’t have it in his apartment, oh no, this was a party. There were caterers. The place had decorations and a professional DJ. There were LED lights that pulsed with the beat. Most of us were showing up with like drinks to share or plastic cups or whatever because at most events everyone brings something to help the party to go on. This was insane by comparison. Please just try to imagine how confused we all were. Like we were expecting nothing, but Peter pulls out stops he shouldn’t have been able to dream of affording. So, like at first there are only 5 or so people showing up because who would come to a freshman’s party right? Of course, Danny is there, which annoyed me to no end, but like, I was more focused on finding this mysterious boyfriend. Texts start going out and soon people are flooding the venue, students who aren’t even part of the GaMIT are showing up to experience the weirdest party the school’s ever seen. I think I even saw Dr. Michaels from the Chemistry department there just taking food from the caterers.”
Dr. Michaels was considered one of the harshest professors in the department with a Rate My Professor review page so bad it could give one PTSD just reading it. He was so well known that most of the students laughed at the idea of him being anywhere near a party even as some winced at the reminder of his existence. Aster herself recalled Michaels being there, she’d been the one to tell him where the snack table was.
“So, I’m losing my mind trying to figure out what’s going on. I lose track of Peter and Danny both in the chaos of hundreds of sweaty, likely drunk college students dancing to EDM and drinking expensive, probably spiked, sodas. People are making out in corners, the scent of hormones and bad decisions is in the air and I am panicking. Oh no. Peter’s boyfriend is here. My son. He needs protection. If ever there was a time for Danny that scoundrel to strike, this would be it.”
Melanie had always been protective of younger students in the club, no matter what they claimed otherwise. Peter had struck a special chord in their heart though and they had seen Danny actions as taking advantage, or at least trying too. At the time it had been more serious, Melanie hadn’t known Danny well then, not like they knew him now. And Danny had always been the more…provocative of the two when it came to flirting. From an outside perspective it truly did seem like Danny had a younger boyfriend still in high school that he didn’t talk about much and that he preferred instead to actively pursue another man already in a relationship.
“When I finally spot Peter it’s because he got up onto the stage with the DJ to speak to the crowds. I’m trying to push my way to the front, but it’s too late, Peter’s already got the microphone in hand and he’s talking.”
“Can I at least give my own speech?” Peter interrupted.
“Nope! I tell it better anyway.”
The crowd laughed as Peter rolled his eyes and leaned against his boyfriend’s right side, their hands interlinked together.
“So this is what he says,” Melanie begins, immediately changing their posture so they stood and spoke like Peter had all those years ago.
“Hello everyone! Thank you so much for coming! It’s amazing to see so many of you here! I admit I didn’t expect so many but hey! The more the merrier! I’m holding this party to celebrate getting through the semester, so for everyone who survived finals let’s have a cheer!” Melanie recited. “And of course the crowd cheers, there’s a toast and I’m almost starting to calm down, I can’t see Danny or the mystery boyfriend anywhere. Peter’s not done though, because of course he isn’t.”
Melanie readjusted their stance so that they look like they’re giving a speech.
“I want to give a special thank you to my boyfriend for-” They began before cutting herself off. “And who steps forward dramatically to interrupt him but the villain of our tale, Danny Fenton!”
“Guilty as charged!” Danny shouted.
“Danny interrupts and he said ‘WAIT’,” Melanie called out dramatically. “He climbed onto the stage and he kept talking while Peter looked at him like he was shocked to see him. He said ‘I can’t hold it in any longer! This semester has been one of the best few months of my life and it’s all because of one thing.’ And I was enraged. He was not going to do this with Peter’s boyfriend in the audience! Peter was blushing! He looked shocked and I was ready to tackle Danny to the ground, one arm or no. Peter said Danny’s name, shocked and trying to get him to stop and Danny ignored him ‘No. Peter, please, let me just say this one thing to you, in front of everyone here!’”
Melanie continued to describe their attempts to push through the crowd, getting almost to the front right as Danny dramatically said as loudly as he could that he loved Peter.
“‘I know, I love you too.’ Peter had said. And then I finally got to the stage and I was enraged. Peter! I shouted. You have a boyfriend!!” Melanie said using their body to reenact things in the most ridiculous way they could. “And Peter just looked at me like I was the idiot and said ‘I know, he’s right here making a fool of himself.’ And of course, the GaMIT, went ape shit.”
Ah memories. Aster could remember screaming ‘WHAT’ loud enough for it to echo through the room. Everyone had lost their minds as Danny had jumped up and pulled Peter into a kiss right in front of the gaping Melanie.
In the present everyone was laughing, both those who’d been there and those who hadn’t. Melanie was a truly gifted story teller, their voice so perfect for deadpan delivery that everyone couldn’t help but want to shriek with laughter as they described their shock and embarrassment at having been pranked so handily. Melanie explained that Peter and Danny had found out about the rumors going around about them had had planned the entire party as a way to reveal their relationship to a group that should have honestly seen it coming. When the crowds finally quieted and the explanation done a younger student spoke up.
“But wait. If this was all planned, how did Peter afford that party?”
“Oh, did I forget to mention?” Melanie asked. “Peter’s sugar daddy paid for it.”
“He isn’t my sugar daddy! Mr. Stark is my mentor.”
“Wait? Tony Stark is your sugar daddy?” Another student yelled.
And that was how Aster knew the comedy night was going to go great.