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We Are the Kids That You Never Can Kill

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Kim Taehyung has two secrets and his best friend knows both of them.

 

Well, he has three secrets if you count the time he stole a cookie from Jin’s secret stache. His best friend knows that as well, but that’s a secret that they’ll both take to the grave. Five years later and they still don’t talk about it.

 

Jeon Jungkook, aged 17 and a few months and a handful of days, also know as Kim Taehyung’s best friend, found out Taehyung’s first secret because he was Taehyung’s first secret. Taehyung had crushed on Jungkook for a month, panicked about having a crush on a boy for another month, and then pined for two more months before gathering up the courage to ask him out. They dated for all of two weeks, decided that they were better off as friends, had two months of awkward interactions, finally made up, and have remained fast friends until this day.

 

It’s fate, their friendship. But Taehyung thinks that a lot of things in his life are due to fate. Meeting Jungkook? Fate. Getting bitten by a radioactive spider? Fate. Having an internship with the one and only genuis Kim Namjoon? Fate. Becoming a superhero, or whatever a water-downed version of a superhero is? That’s all fate.

 

And because it’s fate, it’s out of Taehyung’s hands. And what also happens to be out of Taehyung’s hands and in the hands of beings greater than him is Jungkook finding out about his second secret.

 

“Holy shit,” Jungkook mutters, eyes wide in shock. He’s sporting a nice welt on the side of his face that’ll blossom into a pretty ugly bruise when he wakes up tomorrow morning. “You’re… you’re.” He tries to speak in complete sentences, but he can’t get the words out.

 

Taehyung leans against the wall. His hand meets with something sticky and he would curse the failing public sanitization of New York alleyways if he didn’t have more pressing issues. Like bleeding out from a stab wound on his stomach.

 

Jungkook finally finds his words. “Holy shit, you’re Spider-Man.”

 

Taehyung nods. His head feels light, like’s he’s floating on clouds, but not the good kind. The good kind makes everything feel fuzzy, like he’s wrapped in the softest and warmest blanket in the world. This kind makes him nauseous, as if he’s caught at sea in the middle of a thunderstorm. The floor sways beneath him and his knees buckle. He’s starting to not to be able to feel his fingers. “I am.”

 

“Taehyung,” Yoongi rings in his ear. He sounds alarmed, worried. Taehyung would be worried too if he was in Yoongi’s position. “Your vitals are dropping fast. I recommend getting medical attention. Immediately. Immediately get medical attention.”

 

The day hadn’t started like this.

 

--

 

The day started like any other Saturday morning would start: he was out of his house by nine, Jin pushing a sack lunch in his hands and telling Taehyung to be safe and have fun.

 

“What time should you be home?” Jin asks as Taehyung kneels down to tie his shoelaces. He double knots them just to be extra careful. It’s better to be safe than it is to be sorry.

 

“Um…” Taehyung trails off, thinking. All he has today is his internship– which means patrolling the streets of Manhattan and hoping that Kim Namjoon will give him a call with an important mission. In the six months that he’s known him, Namjoon hasn’t called him once. But Taehyung doesn’t let that fact get him down. Namjoon will call him one of these days, Taehyung just has to be patient.

 

Ha, that’s the biggest bullshit of a lie that Taehyung has ever thought of. He’s done waiting around for Namjoon to call him. He can do bigger and better things than chasing down a petty bike thief and helping the scrawny kid down the street fight off his bullies. Though, he will admit that both are very rewarding tasks and doesn’t every great superhero start from humble beginnings?  

 

Except Kim Namjoon, boy genius and the sole inheritor to the vast Kim Enterprise.

 

Taehyung hadn’t realized how long he had been lost in his thoughts until Jin clears his throat and lifts one eyebrow in the way he does when he’s getting impatient.

 

“Uh, late? Jungkook invited me over after the internship. He just got the super huge lego Death Star and he wanted both of us to work on it together.” Taehyung isn’t lying, but he’s omitting some details. Such details include the fact that Taehyung had denied his best friend’s offer, feeling slightly guilty for doing so. Slightly because Jungkook is his best friend, but the more hours that he’s out patrolling, the more chances Taehyung will have for Namjoon to see him as legit superhero. The world is all about compromises and Taehyung feels like in this situation, he’s made the right choice.

 

Jin purses his lips together. “So I won’t be making dinner for you?”

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “Nope. No dinner.” His eyes find the clock on the wall behind Jin and he jumps at the position of the minute hand. “I gotta go. I’ll be late!” Taehyung rushes forward to give Jin a quick hug and to wish him goodbye. Then he’s out of the door and running down the street.

 

He runs for two blocks before ducking in an alleyway and hastily changing out of his clothes. He shoves everything into his backpack, makes sure that the lunch that Jin had given him is placed carefully on top of his clothes, and then throws the bag onto the wall, securing it with a burst of webs. There really isn’t a set time for Taehyung to start his “internship”, but he likes having a schedule.

 

But just because Taehyung likes to have a schedule doesn’t mean that he gets one.

 

--

 

“Yoongi?” Taehyung asks, his mask pulled up over his nose so the bottom of his face is free to eat the sandwich Jin had made him. He’s sitting on top of an apartment building, his feet hanging over the edge. Taehyung used to be scared of heights but being able to catch himself when he is falling from a ten story building has taken away some of that fear.

 

He’s had a rather boring day. Manhattan is having a quiet day, or as quiet as a day can get in New York, the sudden heat wave pushing everyone inside towards the promise of air conditioning and ice cold water. Luckily for Taehyung, Namjoon made his suit out of a breathable material that keeps him relatively cool. The last thing that Namjoon wants is Taehyung collapsing from heat exhaustion. Taehyung appreciates the concern.

 

“Hm?” Yoongi hums. Because Taehyung hasn’t had to do much today, he’s been talking to the AI in his suit more often than he usually does.

 

Taehyung takes a sip of water from a bottle he bought a few blocks down. “What’s the square root of 272,484?”

 

Yoongi doesn’t pause before answering: “822.”

 

It’s Taehyung’s turn to hum. He doesn’t doubt Yoongi’s answer for a second, but exactly how far does Yoongi’s knowledge go? “What’s the capital of Tanzania?”

 

“Dodoma.”

 

“How do you say hi in Creole?”

 

“Alo.”

 

“Why do humans have an appendix?”

 

“The exact function of the appendix is unknown, but one theory is that the appendix acts as a storehouse for good bacteria. Another theory is that it’s just a useless remnant from human’s evolutionary past.”

 

Taehyung finishes his sandwich in awe. He rubs the crumbs off his face with the back of his still gloved hands. (They’re hard to take off– so sue him for not following all the sanitary regulations. He’ll live. Maybe his appendix will help him live.) “Yoongi, what don’t you know?”

 

Yoongi gives this question a few seconds of thought. Or at least what Taehyung thinks is a few seconds of thought. Yoongi’s silence could very well just be to humor Taehyung. For an AI, Yoongi has a hell of a personality. “Well, my information database is directly linked to the internet as well as the personal database that Kim Namjoon has.”

 

That’s a lot of information. Hell, Namjoon has his hands on more information than Taehyung’s brain can process. Plus the entire internet? There’s probably nothing that Yoongi doesn’t know and Taehyung tells him just that.

 

“Eh,” Yoongi replies and if he had a corporeal form, Taehyung knows that he would be shrugging his shoulders. “There’s a lot that I still have to learn.”

 

Taehyung is about to ask exactly what Yoongi could possibly have left to learn, but there’s a flash of movement that catches his eye. He follows it and sees someone walk out of a building. It’s a tall man with a skinny frame and bleached blonde hair. He’s wearing a black hoodie, as if the summer heat doesn’t faze him at all.

 

“Bingo,” Taehyung says, He stuffs his trash into the sack lunch and pulls down his mask. After all, Taehyung didn’t choose to eat lunch on top of this particular building on a whim. There’s been a string of muggings in the past month and if Taehyung’s hunch is correct, the culprit is the person that just walked out of the building. But the thing about having a hunch is that it’s just that: a hunch. Taehyung doesn’t have any solid evidence and the last thing that he wants to do is attack an innocent person. No, that wouldn’t look good at all and if Namjoon caught wind of it– Taehyung doesn’t even want to think about that possibility.

 

Thus, Taehyung trails the guy from above, making sure to keep himself out of sight. The only way that he can be absolutely sure that this guy is the mugger is by watching him mug someone. Of course, Taehyung will step in before the guy is able to do any real damage. In this situation, he supposes that he's the mugger's mugger. 

 

However, the guy doesn’t do anything of importance. Taehyung follows him for an hour and nothing. The only exciting thing had been when he walked into a convience store, bought two monsters, and then proceeded to down both of them the second he stepped back onto the street.

 

“Maybe we’ve got the wrong man?” Taehyung asks Yoongi as he jumps onto the next building. “Maybe he’s not a mugger but a superhuman freak who can drink Monster like it’s water?”

 

“I… I don’t think so,” Yoongi says, his words coming out slow. “Look, Taehyung.”

 

Taehyung looks and doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Except the guy seemed to have picked up his pace, and the hood of his jacket is up and on. He’s following someone. 

 

“Aha!” Taehyung exclaims. “Now the fun begins.”

 

The mugger keeps his distance from his target, but from Taehyung’s point of view it’s obvious to see who he’s following.

 

The kid looks to be around Taehyung’s age, his shoulders slouched forward like he doesn’t have confidence in himself. Or maybe it’s because his backpack looks like it weighs more than Taehyung’s weighs. Taehyung thinks it’s too soon to make assumptions.

 

But now comes the hard part: the waiting.

 

Taehyung can’t go up to the man and stop him, even though he wants to. If he does that, the mugger is still an innocent person. Sure, he’s more than likely the one responsible for the string of muggings in the past month, but Taehyung doesn’t have any proof. His proof lies in this next mugging, which has yet to occur.

 

He follows the potential-mugger and the kid for a few minutes, staying out of sight but still close. He doesn’t know when the mugger is going to strike, but they’re still in a busy street. The kid turns into an alleyway, keeping the same pace as before. It’s more than likely a shortcut that the kid is familiar with, but for the mugger (and for Taehyung) it’s time for action.

 

Taehyung lands on the ground with ease. He ducks behind a trash can and watches as the mugger reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a pocket knife.

 

“Winner winner, chicken dinner,” Taehyung sing-songs as the mugger puts a hand on the kid’s shoulder.

 

The kid freezes and the mugger orders him to empty his wallet.

 

Taehyung jumps into action before he even has to think about it. He’s not sure if it’s because of his super high-tech suit (Thank you, Kim Namjoon and Co) or because he’s gotten more used to his heightened instincts, but his body always seems to be one step in front of his mind. The strand of web snatches the knife out of the mugger’s hand and pastes it against the brick walls.

 

“You look a little too big to be trying to make this kid give you his lunch money,” Taehyung says in the one second of hesitation where everyone is shocked at what is happening. After all, it’s not everyday that you get to meet the newest superhero on the block.

 

The moment is over too quickly. “You little shit,” the mugger says and he swings his fist in Taehyung’s direction. Taehyung quickly dodges and he sweeps his leg out in front of him, catching the mugger’s legs and making him tumble towards the ground. Man, they really need to get better criminals out here. It’s getting too easy.

 

The man groans on the ground and Taehyung turns to the kid. “Hey, you okay?”

 

The kid is up against the wall, his face down as he looks at the man on the ground. It’s understandable, Taehyung muses, getting almost mugged is a traumatic experience. Then the kid looks up and he nods.

 

“Well, shit,” Taehyung says and the kid furrows his eyebrows in a familiar way. But everything about the kid, to the mismatched sneakers on his feet, to his nose that he hasn’t quite grown into yet, is familiar. It’d be pretty hard to not be familiar with your best friend of ten years. Taehyung would have never guessed that the mugger’s next victim would be Jeon Jungkook, but the world works in mysterious ways. It’s fate.

 

“What’s going on?” Yoongi asks and Taehyung doesn’t have enough time to respond with an eloquent enough answer before he’s hit in the back of the head with a heavy object. Taehyung collapses to the ground, his vision spotting.

 

Taehyung hears someone yell out and he’s too disoriented to figure out who it’s coming from. For all he knows, it might be coming from himself. His ears are ringing, drowning out all other noises. He closes his eyes, but that makes the dizzy sensation worse. He shakes his head and stands up. The world slowly comes into focus, but the ringing sensation doesn’t stop.

 

The ringing sensation turns out not to be a ringing sensation at all. It’s Yoongi yelling at him.

 

“Taehyung!” Yoongi yells. Everything seems too loud, too bright, too much. Wow, the last time Taehyung had a concussion was when he played soccer in middle school and tried to head the ball but instead head-butted the goal post. This is the same feeling, but so much worse. And this time he needs to focus too. Last time he had cried until his coach had rushed onto the field, but crying won’t do any good now. Plus, he’s pretty sure that his coach doesn’t live on this side of the city.

 

Taehyung blinks heavily and that seems to make everything clearer. Taehyung couldn’t have been out of it for more than thirty seconds, but a lot can happen in a those seconds. The knife is still stuck to the wall, but that’s the least of his concerns.

 

“You little brat,” the man says, facing Jungkook, his hand forming into a fist. He swings and unlike Taehyung, Jungkook doesn’t dodge it. The man’s fist meets Jungkook’s face in a loud crash and Jungkook stumbles back, gasping in pain.

 

The man looks up and meets Taehyung’s eyes. Or at least Taehyung meets his eyes. It’s pretty hard to look through the fabric that makes up the eye sockets of his suit. But that’s beside the point. Taehyung can see the anger in his eyes, can feel the maliciousness move in waves in the air. This guy is violent, but Taehyung is ready for violence.

 

“Ever heard that you should pick on people your own size?” Taehyung asks. His tongue feels too heavy in his mouth, but he’s still able to speak. Man, once this adrenaline wears off, he’s going to feel like dog shit left on a hot sidewalk. In other words, bad. Really bad.

 

“You have a mild head injury,” Yoongi informs him, a bit late. “I would say that you should get medical attention but I don’t think you’ll be able to at the moment.”

 

“Thanks for stating the obvious,” Taehyung says under his breath as the man charges at him. Taehyung jumps, shooting out a strand of web that attaches itself to a fire escape above them. Taehyung swings over the man and quickly lands.

 

Before the man can turn, Taehyung shoots out two pieces of web that land right besides his feet. Damn, his aim is off. He shoots two more pieces, but those pieces also fail to land. Taehyung doesn't pride himself on his hand-to-hand combat, but it’ll have to do for now. He already was able to knock the guy down once, so maybe he’ll be able to do it twice.

 

He lands a hit on the guy’s jaw, but his hit lacks power. The man gets him in the stomach and it takes every fiber of his being to not bend over and wheeze. He eyes the guy, hands up in front of him, looking for a chance.

 

“Go for his knees,” Yoongi says, being the helpful AI that Taehyung needs at the moment. “Web them down or kick them down. Same move as before, just a little higher. But don’t be stupid. Just knock him down and then leave. You can leave him for the police to catch.”

 

Taehyung scoffs. As if he’s going to do all this work just to let the mugger escape. He can do this, he knows he can. It’s not the toughest job in the world, it just needs a little extra elbow grease. Before Taehyung can think of his next act, the man slashes at the air in front of Taehyung with a knife. A knife? Didn’t he get the knife out of his hand already? Does he have two knives? Who brings two knives to a web fight? This guy, apparently.

 

“So you’re the little shit that they’ve been calling Spider-Man.”

 

Taehyung nods. “That’d be me. I would say it’s a pleasure to meet you, but it’s really not.”

 

The man slashes again with his knife and okay, change of plans. First, get the potentially dangerous and very sharp knife out of his hand. Second, go for his knees. The man swings again and Taehyung swings as well. The knife meets nothing and Taehyung’s fist meets the mugger’s neck. The man stalls, surprised, and Taehyung takes that small sliver of time to grab his wrist and twist it up. But the man doesn’t let go of the knife. Taehyung twists more but the man is steadfast. Taehyung takes a step forward, forcing the man to take a step back. God, this man is strong.

 

Then the man seems to get even stronger. He pushes against Taehyung until Taehyung is forced backwards, his back hitting a wall. “You little shit, thinking that just because you call yourself a superhero you can go out and be invincible.” Taehyung can feel his grip loosening on the guy’s hand. This is bad, Taehyung’s grip is the only thing that is keeping the knife away from his body. The man moves his hand lower and lower until it’s by Taehyung’s abdomen. The blow to the back of his head affects him more than he thought it would: Taehyung is overpowered, the pain from the concussion rising back up as the adrenaline slowly fades into fear.

 

Taehyung’s hand slips and that is all it takes for the knife to drive home. The pain doesn’t come as expected. There’s no shock as the blade pierces his skin. It’s a slow warmth, like lukewarm water spilling and spreading over his lower body.

 

“That’ll teach you to mess with things that aren’t yours to mess with,” the man says. He smirks and Taehyung has seen some disgusting things in his life, but the expression on the man’s space definitely makes the top five. It sends a shiver up Taehyung’s spine, but that might also be because of the blood that’s dripping out of his stab wound. It’s a good thing that his suit is red.

 

But then the man does something that Taehyung doesn’t expect. He suddenly takes in a breath of air, eyes and mouth both wide, then collapses to the floor. Jungkook stands behind him, his backpack raised near his face and a wild look in his eyes. The man groans and Jungkook slams his backpack down again. The man stills and Jungkook drops the bag.

 

It’s then that the pain hits. The warmth is still there, but it’s fire now. Fire that feels like it’s going to each up his entire self. The flames lick at Taehyung incessantly and he can’t help but let out a whimper of pain. And it stings too, like having a million wasps sting you at once. The reality sinks in. “Holy shit I’ve been stabbed,” he says out loud.

 

“Are you okay?’ Jungkook asks. He steps over the unconscious mugger and squats down next to Taehyung. “Should I take you to a hospital? Call an ambulance?” His voice is surprisingly steady for a kid that was almost mugged and then knocked out said-mugger with his backpack.

 

“I’m–,” Taehyung says and words are hard for him to find. His head is swimming and his body is telling him to take a nap, but Taehyung knows that he can’t do that. “I’m fine. I think. I don’t know.”

 

Jungkook looks at him weirdly and for half a second Taehyung thinks that he knows. But that’s impossible. Taehyung’s mask shows no part of his face and although Jungkook might have been able to pick it up from his voice alone, Jungkook has never heard Taehyung when he’s bleeding out from a knife wound in an alleyway. His voice has to be a little bit different that usual.

 

“I’m calling an ambulance,” Jungkook says and he reaches into his pocket to pull out of his phone. “Superhero or not, you were stabbed.”

 

The last thing that Taehyung needs is an ambulance. They’ll take off his mask and then it’ll be revealed who he is and then Namjoon will take away his internship and then Jin will ground him until he’s twenty-five and then he’ll be known as the failed superhero who couldn’t even stop a mugger. Okay, so maybe he’s being a bit dramatic, but he doesn’t need an ambulance.

 

So Taehyung does the only logical thing he can think of to keep Jungkook from dialing 911: he stands up and takes off his mask.

 

Which brings this story back to the present.

 

--

 

“Jesus, Taehyung,” Jungkook says as Taehyung falls to the floor. Taehyung puts a hand on his stomach and the blood soaks through the glove. Yikes.

 

“This isn’t fair,” Taehyung whines. “Isn’t this suit supposed to be super high tech? Yet it’s not knife-proof?”

 

Yoongi pauses before answering: “The knife-proof feature was not enabled. It is now, though.”

 

Taehyung moans, half from the pain and half from the ridiculousness that is the AI in his suit. He tilts his head back until he hits the wall. This day turned sour very quickly. Too quickly.

 

“We gotta get you to a hospital, Tae,” Jungkook says and he kneels next to Taehyung and puts an arm under him. With his help, Taehyung stands, albeit a little shakily.

 

“No hospital,” Taehyung says. “Can’t do that.”

 

“You’re ridiculous, we’re going to a hospital.”

 

Taehyung tries to shake his head but it already feels like his head is constantly shaking. A hospital does sound like a good idea. “Okay hospital, but I can’t go with my suit on. That’s bad press.”

 

“Bad press?” Taehyung doesn’t have to be looking at Jungkook to know that he’s rolling his eyes.

 

“Mhm. Let me change, then we’ll go to a hospital, okay?” Taehyung puts his hand in front of his stomach and shoots out a bit of web. It covers his wound and acts like a bandage of sorts. It’s not going to fix it all, but at least it’ll work for now. “I’m not bleeding anymore, just let me change.” Jungkook doesn’t say anything so Taehyung adds: “Please.”

 

“Fine,” Jungkook replies, voice clipped. “But you’re telling me how you became Spider-Man and then you’re explaining why you didn’t tell me. Deal?”

 

Taehyung lets himself slump into Jungkook’s hold. “Deal.”

 

The mugger stirs on the ground and both boys freeze. Before they can do anything about it, Yoongi says, “Leave him be and go to a hospital, Taehyung. The webs will hold him for a little while longer.”

 

“Let’s go before he wakes up,” Taehyung says and Jungkook grabs his backpack and although they have to take all the alleyways and are walking like they’re in a three-legged race, they go.

--

 

The thing about having a secret identity is just that, it’s secret. While Taehyung might be known to the public as the cool superhero that swings from building to building and fights evil on a daily basis, at school he’s just Kim Taehyung. If he’s being honest with himself, it sucks.

 

If he’s being really honest with himself, it really sucks. If everyone knew that he was the guy that people are always talking about, maybe then it would be easier to go up to the incredibly handsome dance captain and ask him out on a date. But here, Taehyung is just Taehyung who awkwardly walks behind Jungkook as they enter the practice room.

 

“You don’t even dance,” Jungkook hisses at him. The school’s dance team isn’t the biggest club on campus, but it is the most highly decorated one. In the hallways, the trophy cabinets are full of their seemingly never-ending awards and medals. His co-captain of the academic decathlon team self tells him to be envious of the dance club’s awards (and funding), but he really can’t bring himself to feel that way. Sue him, dance is cool.

 

“I can at least try,” Taehyung counters. He really can’t. The stitches are out from the wound, but the area is still tender. He doesn’t want to add bad dancing to the reasons why he has to go back to the hospital. Jin still doesn't completely buy his story of trying to stop a mugging. It's true, too, and he still doesn't believe it.

 

The two of them find a spot near the wall and set down their stuff. Taehyung really isn’t prepared to dance, but he is prepared to watch. If anyone asks, one of their topics for AcaDec involves kinesthetic motion and he’s here to get a first-hand understanding of the concept.

 

“Psh,” Jungkook says, sitting down on the floor and starting to stretch. “You’re only here because Hoseok’s going to be here. Don’t lie.”

 

“He’s coming?” Taehyung asks, trying his best to keep his facade cool, calm, and collected. He picks at the cuticles on his nails. He’s never gotten a manicure before, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt. His nails probably need it. Being Spider-Man is a very hands-on activity and his fingers are starting to show the damage. “Nice, didn’t know that.”

 

Jungkook sighs heavily and rolls his eyes. “You’re unbelievable, you know. Just ask him out, he’ll let you down easily and then you can move on to your new infatuation of the month.”

 

Taehyung frowns. Liking people is hard. Liking boys when you’re also a boy if even harder. Liking a straight boy is the absolute worst. “I know, that’s what makes it worse.” Taehyung sits and leans against the wall. He can see his reflection in the floor-to-floor mirror that covers the wall across from him. He doesn’t look like a superhero at all. He looks like a sad teenage boy that is in need of a hug. Which he is. Taehyung always feels like he needs a good, long hug. Preferably from the dance captain himself, but he’s not too picky. “He’s so nice, too nice. I’m going to get rejected, but if I don’t ask him there’s always that tiny sliver of hope that I can latch onto.”

 

Jungkook leans forward into a stretch that makes Taehyung shiver by looking at it. Don’t get him wrong, Taehyung’s flexible but Jungkook is on another level. A sudden idea pops into his head. “Hey, what if you become my sidekick?”

 

“Your sidekick?” Jungkook turns so he’s facing Taehyung. He lets go of his stretch and sits upright, pointing at himself. “Me, a sidekick.”

 

“Yeah! Wouldn’t that be cool? We could be like Captain America and Bucky, but without all the sexual tension. Been there, done that. No thanks.”

 

Jungkook makes a face like he’s smelling an egg-salad sandwich that’s been left over the weekend in a locker that gets direct sunlight. Unfortunately, both boys know exactly what that smells like. It’s a long story.

 

“So,” Taehyung says just as the door is opening, “I take that as a no.”

 

“A big fat no,” Jungkook says. Hoseok walks into the room and all the thoughts go flying out of Taehyung’s head. It’s not fair to be that handsome and straight. It’s just not fair.

 

“Are you staying for practice?” Jungkook asks as the rest of the room starts getting in order to start their session. Jungkook himself is making sure that his shoes are double-laced and tied tightly. Taehyung nods. After all, he’s here to do work, right?

 

“Mmkay,” Jungkook replies and before Taehyung even knows it, the dance practice is in full swing. It’s amazing to see them all dance together. There are a dozen or so people, but it looks like they’re moving as one body, with one mind controlling them all. Taehyung knows that this is because of the enormous amounts of practice that each member puts in, but it’s still fascinating to see. Their next competition is just around the corner and Taehyung really hopes that he won’t have to do his “internship” with Kim Namjoon on that day. Sometimes even Spider-Man has to take a break.

 

As much as Taehyung would love to watch all the dancers move, there comes to a certain point where Taehyung knows that he has to be productive. Sighing heavily and making a mental note to his future self to thank him for not having to do homework until the wee hours of the morning, Taehyung takes his work out. He’s always had a knack for being able to easily zone out and focus on one specific thing, and it’s helpful when doing things like fighting petty thieves and doing homework.

 

Before he knows it, he’s made his way through his calculus homework (Why didn’t he just take the easy route and enroll into the AB class instead of the BC one? The AB teacher doesn’t even check his classes homework. Woe is Taehyung.) and half of his economics homework when the dance team takes their first break. Or the first break that he’s noticed. When Taehyung gets focused, he really gets focused. It’s both a curse and a blessing. Three years ago when Jin first was comfortable leaving him in the apartment by himself, Taehyung had gotten hungry and decided to make himself rice. He had seen Jin make rice a million and a half times and the process was simple: get rice, get water, put it in the rice cooker and wait. Taehyung had done all the steps, but then he turned on the TV and started playing video games to pass the time. And did time pass. It wasn’t until Jin came back hours later that Taehyung remember that there was another step after the ‘wait’ one: get the rice out of the cooker.

 

Even though the rice cooker is supposed to have an automatic off switch, Taehyung managed to burn the entire pot of rice. He was wondering why the apartment was beginning to smell a bit like charcoal and smoke, but he was too focused on his game for the smell to garner his attention. And now, an 18-year-old and in his first semester of senior year, Taehyung is still banned from even looking at the rice cooker.

 

But missing the dance kids take a break is on an entirely different level than forgetting that you have food cooking and running the risk of burning down the apartment. It’s kinda worse, really, because if the dance team did indeed take a break and Taehyung didn’t notice, that means he also blew a chance of talking to Hoseok and possibly making him realize that he isn’t as straight as he thought he was. And Taehyung is always ready to make compulsory heterosexuality his bitch.

 

“Hey,” Jungkook says, more an exhale than actual words. He collapses to the ground next to Taehyung in a sweaty mess. Taehyung a few years ago would have blushed at the sight of a sweat-slick Jungkook but the Taehyung at the current moment just scrunches his face up in disgust and leans away from him so he accidently doesn’t get some of Jungkook’s sweat on him. Jungkook reaches for a water bottle and drinks half of it in one go.

 

He’s about to say something snarky and slightly inappropriate because that’s just how his and Jungkook’s friendship works when a word coming from the other side of the room catches his attention. He whips his head around and sees Hoseok running his hands through his hair and talking to a kid that’s definitely a dancer. It might be dumb to make that observation since they’re in a dancing studio and the only person that isn’t dancing that’s there is Taehyung himself, but hear him out. He doesn’t say things without meaning, most of the time.

 

The kid has to be about Taehyung’s age, but that’s where the resemblance stops. In short, the kid’s built: his thighs look like they could crush Taehyung’s neck in a second flat, and although he’s not as broad as Taehyung is, Taehyung has no doubt that he’d be able to deadlift Taehyung’s weight and then some. But then while he is all muscles, he has an air around him that’s more gentle than expected. He’s laughing at something that Hoseok is saying and his eyes do this weird, but also somewhat adorable, thing of disappearing when he smiles.

 

“But,” Hoseok says, “Spider-Man is so cool! Who wouldn’t want to have superpowers like that?”

 

They’re not talking that loudly, but they’re talking about him so Taehyung can hear every word of their conversation. It’s making the airs on his arm stand up. Is this what being famous feels like?

 

“C’mon, Spider-Man is cool and you know it,” Hoseok says and Taehyung can’t help but let a small smile cross his face. Hoseok thinks he’s cool! Well, he doesn’t think that Taehyung directly is cool, but he thinks that his hidden persona is, so that’s about the same thing. It’s like when someone takes a sip out of a water bottle and then you take a sip too. An indirect kiss! Hoseok likes Taehyung indirectly, and that’s a good enough place to start.

 

The other kid rolls his eyes and wipes the sweat off his forehead with the edge of his shirt. “Sure, Hoseok,” he says and his voice is higher than Taehyung expected it to be. “Whatever you say.” He shakes his head fondly. It seems like this is not the first time that they’ve had this conversation, so that means that this isn’t the first time that Hoseok has talked about Taehyung. Indirectly or not, that thought makes it feels like there’s butterflies exploding in his stomach. Watching Jungkook’s dance practice is the best decision that he’s made in a long time.

 

Hoseok shrugs. “Not my fault that you don’t appreciate the coolness that is Spider-Man.”

 

The kid scoffs. “Hoseok, sorry to break your heart but Spider-Man is kind of lame. Well, no. I take that back. He’s really lame. Being able to shoot webs from his hands? C’mon, there are so many better powers than that. Plus, all he even does is take care of small things. I’m sure the police are able to a better job than he is.”

 

Hoseok sticks his tongue out at the kid. “Jimin, you’re no fun.”

 

Somehow, Taehyung is able to contain himself until dance practice finally comes to an end and he and Jungkook are walking to the subway. He should probably not talk about Spider-Man in public, but it’s New York and he’s sure that there are weirder conversations for people to eavesdrop on. He kicks a small rock and watches it go flying into the street. “He said I was lame, Jungkook! Lame! Spider-Man isn’t lame!”

 

Jungkook sighs and adjusts the straps of his backpack. “You don’t even know Jimin, Tae. Why are you so worked up over this?”

 

“Because he said I wasn’t cool! That’s, like, slander or something!” He really isn’t that upset about Jimin (Park Jimin, he learned from Jungkook. It turns out that they’re in the same grade, but he just transferred in at the start of this year, which would explain why Taehyung didn’t know him. Taehyung is as social as they come, but he’s also a bit of a nerd and it’s hard to get to know every single one of your classmates when they all don’t share a common interest with him.) not liking him as Spider-Man, but he feels like he has to prove a point! Especially since Hoseok said he was cool ; so his motivation is partly split between proving Jimin wrong and partly proving Hoseok right. Like everything in Taehyung's life, it’s a complicated story.

 

“You’re exaggerating,” Jungkook says and Taehyung doesn’t have to be looking at him to know that Jungkook is rolling his eyes. “And it’s just one person’s opinion, so why are you letting that phase you? A bunch of people think that you’re weird, but that doesn’t stop you.”

 

Jungkook does have a point, but it’s a small one so Taehyung doesn’t want to acknowledge it. “The difference is,” he says as they finally get to the subway stop. Why does this stop have to be so far away from their school? Granted, there is a stop right at their school’s entrance, but it’s not the line that Jungkook and Taehyung need to catch to get back home. So, walking it is, “–that I know that I’m weird. That’s a fact, like saying like I’m 18 years old and that I’m a Capricorn. These are facts. But I’m not lame!”

 

“So, you’re not lame then,” Jungkook counters. “Just Spider-Man is lame.”

 

Did Taehyung just hear that right? Did Jungkook actually say what Taehyung thinks he said? “You take that back, Jeon Jungkook. Spider-Man is not lame. I am not lame.”

 

They board the subway and as expected, it’s jam packed. They can’t find seats and so they stand in the middle, squished next to each other. Jungkook is holding onto the rail above his head and Taehyung holds onto him. “I’m not lame,” Taehyung whispers.

 

“Then prove to him that you’re not,” Jungkook says, voice weary.

 

A sudden idea pops into Taehyung’s head. Jungkook’s right: he could just do something super cool and make Jimin realize that Spider-Man really is worth all the hype.

 

“Actually, don’t,” Jungkook says. “Just don’t.”

 

“Don’t do what?” Taehyung asks, a lilt to his voice that tries (and fails) to imitate innocence.

 

“Don’t do whatever you’re thinking of doing. Just don’t.”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Taehyung sing-songs.

 

Jungkook groans and then a baby starts wailing their poor lungs out. They have ten more stops until they’re home. Taehyung leans his head against Jungkook’s back and groans too.

 

--

 

“What if I just tell him?” Taehyung asks his phone, his mask half up his face, and a churro that he got from a nice Cuban lady he gave directions to in his hand.  He can talk through the mask, sure, but it’s so much nicer being able to breathe fresh air. Plus, Taehyung can’t exactly eat through the mask. You would think for a billionaire genius like Namjoon, the ability to eat comfortably while wearing your super suit would be higher on the priority list.

 

He’s calling Namjoon, as he always does at this time of day. Per usual, he’s met with Namjoon’s voicemail and his voicemail only. At this point, Taehyung is confident in his ability to repeat Namjoon’s slightly boring but insanely practical voicemail verbatim. Nothing important had happened today, so he’s letting his thoughts out to the dialtone that had started a few seconds before. It’s not like Namjoon will even hear his message. Calling Namjoon has turned into more a way to go sorting through his head and less of reporting back on his actions.

 

“That’s a dumb idea and you know it,” Yoongi counters, always the voice of reason. Taehyung muses that if Taehyung’s conscience was ever to make itself have a corporeal form, it would take the form of Yoongi. But, Yoongi doesn’t have a corporeal form either so that train of thought is a lame one. In another universe, maybe. But not this one.

 

“Yeah, but,” Taehyung says and he ends the call because the dial-tone was starting to get annoying. He can still faintly hear the ringing in his ear even when he pulls the phone away from his ear. He takes a bite of his churro and is disappointed to find that it’s cold. He eats it anyway.

 

“But what, Taehyung?” Yoongi asks, sounding like he would rather be anywhere but listening to Taehyung’s lamenting. However, wherever Taehyung goes, Yoongi goes too. They’re attached on the hip, or in this case by the seams of his suit. “You know Namjoon would get mad at you if you told an unrelated bystander.”

 

Taehyung hums and swings his legs. He’s sitting on his favorite building of the neighborhood. While it isn’t the tallest building around, it is tall enough that Taehyung feels himself getting a little rush everytime he looks down at the stories beneath him. It’s an apartment complex, if the window ACs sticking out on every floor are any indication. “I told Jungkook though,” he counters.

 

“One, Namjoon doesn't know that you told Jungkook,” Yoongi starts and Taehyung is about to interrupt him when he realizes that Yoongi is right. He didn’t tell Jungkook his secret identity just because either. If the only situation where it’s okay to let his identity slips involves him getting stabbed in the stomach, Taehyung will take a hard pass. “And two, Jungkook wasn’t an innocent bystander. He was getting mugged.”

 

“About to be getting mugged,” Taehyung corrects, but his voice trails off as he gets lost in his thoughts. He really can’t come up with a good reason to tell Jimin that he’s Spider-Man. Unfortunately, “to make Jimin think I’m cool” is not a legitimate reason to let a person who is almost a complete stranger know his biggest secrets. But how else is he supposed to make Jimin realize that Spider-Man is cool? Is it as simple as doing a few more tricks as he’s rushing through the air? Or will it involve more ass-kicking and less churro-eating? Whatever it is, Taehyung is determined to make Jimin realize that Spider-Man is worth the hype.

 

“Yoongi,” Taehyung says, pulling down his mask and standing up. All that’s left of his churro is the wrapper and he puts it into one of the many hidden pockets of his suit, dusting off the sugar that’s left on his fingers. He might be an up-and-coming superhero, but that doesn’t give him the excuse to litter. Making the world cleaner starts one person at a time.

 

“What’s up?” Yoongi replies.

 

Taehyung takes a minute to finalize his thoughts. He doesn’t have to make Jimin think that he’s cool right away. The small steps forward are just as important as a big leap. “Let’s do something cool,” he says and then he’s running towards the opposite side of the building, taking a jump as he reaches the edge. There’s just a brief moment of freefall before Taehyung activates his web-shooters and they attach to the adjacent building, but that moment is all Taehyung needs to confirm to himself that being Spider-Man is the coolest thing that has ever happened to him.

 

--

 

Impressing Jimin is hard because the only time that they see each other is during lunch and during Jungkook’s dance practice. And while Taehyung is happy to sit and watch the dance practice and admire the lines of Hoseok’s body, he’s got things to do and places to be at. Balancing a secret identity, school work, and AcaDec doesn’t come without a little bit of time management.

 

It’s almost two weeks later that Taehyung gets to see Jimin. Taehyung has put in a lot of work behind the scenes, trying his best to make his superhero persona stand out more than it already does. But from what Taehyung can overhear, it doesn’t look like the Taehyung’s extra work has had much of an effect on Jimin.

 

“Think about it, Jimin,” Hoseok prods, untying his shoelaces. He has his hair pushed back by a brightly colored headband and Taehyung wants to thank whatever higher being there is because Hoseok looks so good with his forehead showing. The practice is coming to a close, and Taehyung isn’t sure where to place his concentration. Should he focus on Hoseok and his words? Or should be focused on Jimin’s reaction? What really is his end goal here?

 

“I am thinking,” Jimin retorts. He’s shrugging on a pair of sweatpants with his shoes still on, which is a somewhat impressive feat. “And I still don’t get why you have a crush on him.”

 

Hoseoks sputters. “I do not have a crush on Spider-Man. Can’t a guy just think another guy is cool?”

 

Jimin stares at Hoseok, eyebrows raised and mouth drawn into a thin line. There’s a beat then he says, “Sure, Hoseok. Sure.”

 

Hoseok sputters again. Both of his shoes are untied now and he’s sliding into his sandals. “What the hell does that mean, Jimin?”

 

Jimin shrugs his shoulders and lets out a breath of a laugh. “I don’t know. What do I mean, Hoseok?”

 

Hoseok throws his hands up in the air and then starts packing up his bag. Jungkook slides next to Taehyung’s side and wipes his sweaty forehead on Taehyung’s sleeve. Taehyung gasps in disgust and shoves Jungkook away. The nerve of this kid, Taehyung swears.

 

“You’re disgusting,” Taehyung says and for the first time he realizes that room is emptying itself out. Taehyung only has a book out (He just read through three pages, but it’s the thought of studying that counts, right?), so his clean-up is easy.

 

“I am,” Jungkook confirms, the smug bastard. Jungkook is quick to pack up too and within minutes, they’re walking into the hallway, or at least what resembles the hallway. Sometime between the end of school and the end of dance practice, the ASB kids had plastered homecoming posters on every available surface. The hallway looks more like a gigantic advertisement and less of the place that Taehyung knows as his school.

 

“Homecoming is next month?” Taehyung asks, walking closer to a brightly colored poster. On the poster is a group of students that he doesn’t recognized dressed in outfits that look to be too fancy for just a high school dance. He reads the poster’s details and winces at the ticket price. What place did the school book their homecoming for? The Empire State building?

 

“Uh, three week to be exact,” Jungkook says, looking at another poster down the hall. He turns to Taehyung, a dumb smirk on his on face. Taehyung rolls his eyes; the last time that Jungkook had given him that look was last week when they found an rickety and abandoned shopping cart and he suggested that the two of them push themselves down a street in it. Taehyung’s forearms are still scratched up and he’s sure that a few of the cuts are going to leave scars. Ugly, bad-ideas-instigated-by-Jungkook-looking scars.

 

“No, Jungkook,” Taehyung says. “Whatever you’re thinking, no.”

 

“C’mon, you’re supposed to be the daring one out of the two of us.” Jungkook walks towards Taehyung and throws an arm over his shoulder. Taehyung easily shakes it off. “All I’m thinking is that you should ask Hoseok to homecoming.”

 

That is the most absurd idea that Taehyung has ever heard and he makes sure that Jungkook knows that too. First of all, Taehyung doesn’t even know if he’s going to homecoming. Secondly, he’s perfectly content admiring Hoseok from afar. They both know that Taehyung is going to rejected. “Me? Ask Hoseok out to homecoming? Are you insane?”

 

Jungkook is about to reply when the door to the practice room shuts with a loud bang. “Ask me what?” Hoseok asks, adjusting his headband. Jimin is standing by his side, looking curiously at Taehyung and Jimin.

 

“Uh,” Taehyung says, all of his words doing dances around his head. “Uh.”

 

“Taehyung wants to ask you if he can join the dance team,” Jungkook supplies, jabbing Taehyung in the stomach with his elbow.

 

“Well.” Hoseok shrugs sheepishly. “Tryouts already passed and we’re kind of already in the swing of the fall season, but if you really want to, maybe? You’ve probably watched enough of our practices to get the basis of our choreography.”

 

“No, no, no,” Taehyung rushes out. Hoseok has to be one of the nicest people in this world and if he had to get turned down by anyone, Taehyung would want it to be by Hoseok. “Jungkook was just playing around, but thank you. I can’t even dance.”

 

Hoseok grins at his last sentence and it makes Taehyung feel warm, as if he’s sitting on the grass on a beautiful spring day. Get a grip , he chides himself. “That makes more sense, to be honest. You don’t seem like the dancing type.”

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “Trust me, I’m not. It sometimes feels like I have two left feet.” Okay, so Taehyung might be exaggerated his lack of coordination because it does require a certain level of agility to be able do the things that he does, but what Hoseok doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

 

Hoseok laughs. “It’s alright, we can’t all be good at everything.”

 

“Hey, we have to leave if you want to make it to the bus on time,” Jimin interrupts, looking at his phone. “I don’t think you want to wait thirty minutes for the next one, right?”

 

Hoseok nods. “Very right. Have a good weekend, guys!” Hoseok smiles again before turning with Jimin to walk down the hallway.

 

Taehyung and Jungkook both wave goodbye and Taehyung can’t help but watch Hoseok as he walks away from them. Taehyung hears Jungkook mutter You’re whipped under his breath but he’s not paying attention to that. He’s paying attention to the way Jimin is smiling at Hoseok, leaning into his space ever so slightly. Taehyung knows that smile, knows that body language.

 

It’s how Taehyung himself acts around Hoseok.

 

First Jimin thinks that Spider-Man is lame and now he also is going after Hoseok? What part of this is fair? He has to prove himself not lame to Jimin and has to deal with Jimin’s crush on Hoseok as well?  Taehyung is feeling so many emotions at once that he doesn’t know how to process them. Not knowing how to react, Taehyung summarizes his thoughts in a concise manner:

 

“Fucking hell.”

 

Jungkook looks at Taehyung, surprised at his friend's words, but then Jungkook shrugs his shoulders in agreement. He probably doesn’t even know what he’s agreeing to. “Same.”