It's another late night in Seoul, way past 11:00pm, and Minghao's body is still high on adrenaline after a previous rescue involving a bank, its employees, and a couple of cheap-skate gang members.
He's currently perched atop the ledge of the Gangnam Finance Center, hundreds of meters above the ground; his mask pulled up slightly over his mouth to munch on an energy bar that he kept in his pocket throughout the day. Ever since he got these superhuman abilities, he's been burning energy at an incredible feat, not to mention the fact that he's a college kid. In conclusion, his metabolism these past few months has been insane, which is why he always has a snack on him, whether or not he's on patrol.
The chilly air of the city, its flashing lights (from cars, buildings, and other shops) and the noise keep Minghao on his toes. Even in the evening Seoul remains alive and awake, just like him. He can't help it. His senses are dialed up to levels waaaay over normalㅡhe can feel, see, touch, sense everything so intensely that he oftentimes reminds himself to focus and get a grip. Easier said than done for said spiderling.
Minghao is just about finished with his energy bar when he hears a helpless scream from a 7/11 around a block away, and so he devours his snack with finesse, pulls his mask back down, and stuffs the wrapping back into the pocket of his knee-length shorts.
For one of those garbage cans in the alleyway later. Minghao muses.
He wastes no time in preparing to get off the ledge, unzipping his grey windbreaker to reveal an intricate silver design of a spider and its web engraved on the chest area of his black spandex suit, and tying the laces of his sneakers.
Can't have Spidey tripping over his own shoelaces on the job.
Overall, Minghao likes to believe that despite attaining the title of being everyone's "friendly neighborhood spiderman", he could still be his own fashion icon in his own right. Just because he wears spandex most of the time doesn't mean he can't change things up a bit. He likes mixing and matching clothes and items (fashion being a secret love of his besides art and photography as it is another form of self-expression), and he doesn't want to go swinging around Seoul in a tight body suit flaunting his everything (almost everything). No, thank you.
Which is why he decided that his "spidey get up" would include: a windbreaker (to help resist light rain and winds), and shorts (to keep snacks and other essentials like cash), worn over his black suit.
Flexibility and comfort are important to consider, especially with the kind of work he does.
On a personal note however, Minghao just feels more at ease with the additional clothes. He feels so exposed as Spiderman. Ironic, knowing that he's the one wearing a mask in order to hide his identity.
Minghao leaps off the Gangnam Finance Center with no hesitation (he's gotten rather used to jumping off tall buildings by now), and instinctively presses his web shooters. It's already been a few months, but the feeling never gets oldㅡthere's still that rush of excitement he gets when he's Spiderman and not Minghao, when he's climbing up walls, swinging to and from buildings, dodging bullets, and saving people in danger.
Minghao isn't even bothered by the cold wind anymore.
It's a combination of sorts really; with perfect timing involving shooting his webs and the precise angle of his wrists, Minghao swings swiftly from the buildings to reach his destination.
When Minghao gracefully lands atop the sign of the convenience store, his skin starts to tingle in warningㅡhis spidey sense alerting him of the foreseen danger ahead.
True to Minghao's fight or flight response, a gunshot is heard, followed by a scream, and the glass doors of the 7/11 shop burst open with a suspicious looking man rushing to get away from the scene with a briefcase in hand.
Minghao immediately intervenes, lowering himself upside down with his web to face the robber.
"Ey man, how's it hangin'?" Minghao asks teasingly.
The robber jolts in surprise. He's about to get his gun when a strong, sticky web latches onto his wrist, clipping it to his side to prevent him from further movement.
"Ah, ah, ah. No guns allowed here, sir. This is a no gun zone. Guns and I aren't exactly on good terms, so they gotta stay out of this one. Sorry, pal." Minghao tuts, waving his forefinger back and forth while shaking his head in mock disappointment.
"Why you little-"
Minghao cuts the robber off his talk by doing a backflip and kicking him right in the stomach ( he thanks his martial arts and dance classes wholeheartedly ), which causes the middle aged man to stumble against a wall for leverage. Immediately, Minghao webs him there, and the robber struggles- writhing and wriggling in an attempt to escape.
"What the fuck did you do to me? What the hell is this stuff?" The man grits out in frustration.
"I trapped you with super sticky semen." Minghao answers with a deadpan voice.
The culprit's eyes widen in shock at this.
A few seconds of silence pass, and Minghao laughs heartily, clutching his stomach as he leans back to let out more giggles of mirth.
"Holy crap, did you see the look on your face? Jeez, man. Even I wouldn't want to be the victim of super sticky semen. Shit, that would be a complete nightmare." Minghao chuckles between his words. "Can you imagine the smell? Gross." He adds before grinning, the apples of his cheeks lifting beneath the mask.
"Anyway, there's no point in telling you what it is, since the cops will be here to get you by now. But fear not, citizen," Minghao breaks into a horrible American accent with a booming voice. "-you are most definitely not covered up in semen!"
The robber is about to yell profanities at him but Minghao's reflexes beat him to it, shutting him up by webbing his mouth as well.
"Careful, don't swallow." Minghao warns lightly, approaching him to take the suitcase from the man's grip. "I'm also returning this to its rightful owner, thank you very much. Remember, Swiper no swiping!"
Minghao ends his lecture by lifting his middle finger to the man, and bolting towards the 7/11 to check for any casualties.
Alas, all's well that ends well. The police arrive, the criminal is arrested, there's a short investigation and some questioning but thankfully, no one got hurt in all of the commotion. Apparently, the gunshot seemed to be a threat to frighten both the cashier and one of the customers (who is apparently a rather wealthy businessperson) in order for the man to grab the suitcase.
The businessman, a young adult named Kim Mingyu, gives a ninety-degree bow towards Minghao while taking his hands and shaking them earnestly.
"Oh, Spiderman! Thank you so much for saving me and my suitcase, I don't know what would've happened if you weren't there to help." Mingyu babbles on, before finally meeting Minghao's gaze to give him a bright and sincere smile. "I'm eternally grateful to you."
"I'm just doing what I can, sir. I'm relieved to know that both of you," Minghao then gestures to the cashier, "-are safe and unharmed."
At this, Mingyu wipes an unshed tear (probably the after jitters from experiencing a traumatic event), and nods in agreement. "I think I'll look at everything much differently after tonight. I feel like I just got a second-chance at life. Thank you again, Spiderman."
"It's no problem, sir. Life is a gift. Cherish it and make the most out of it; don't take anything for granted." Minghao says with earnest.
"I'll hold on to that. Oh-"
Mingyu fidgets around, muttering a soft "Aha!" when he finds the reason for his squirming. His phone is vibrating like mad, and he squints to check the screen, gasping in horror when he reads what's on it.
"Fuck, fuck! It's almost one, I'm going to be late for an international telecon-"
Minghao chokes on his spit.
One? As in, 1am?!
Oh, hell. Minghao is in so much trouble.
"I'm so sorry, Spiderman but I gotta go! Can't afford to be late for this one! The client is from the otherside of the world you know, so time differences!" Mingyu waves as he exits the store, giving a short bow before running off.
No, Minghao doesn't know. But what he does know is that he's going to have to pray to the heavens that he won't be later than he is to where he has to be at this hour.
The window of the apartment that Minghao reaches isn't locked (he doesn't expect it to be) and he slides it up, bending and stepping into an all familiar bedroom. It's completely dark, but he can still make out the outline of a figure-
There's a flick of a switch and everything is clear and bright, Minghao hissing at the unexpected light.
"You're late. But I'm sure you already know that, don't you?"
Shit, Jeonghan's pissed.
Jeonghan turns around on his swivel chair by his study desk to face Minghao, an unimpressed expression on his face. He's wearing cream colored pajamas, which complement his blonde hair. A perfectly shaped eyebrow raises in question, while slender fingers tap at the arms of his seat.
"Sorry about that. I got caught u-"
"Hold it, right there." Jeonghan cuts him off sharply. Minghao is already mid step in approaching Jeonghan, but obediently goes back to his place.
"You know the rules. No stepping inside this room with that mask on your face. Off with it." Jeonghan huffs.
Minghao lets out a sigh, removing his mask willingly and meeting Jeonghan's gaze without thin cloth separating them.
There's a short silence that passes, Jeonghan studying Minghao intently while the latter waits for a signal or an approval to move forward.
Without his mask, Minghao feels more like himself, a comfortable feeling, but at the same time more vulnerableㅡnot as Spiderman, no, but as himself , and it is simply because he is who he is when he doesn't have a mask on. He doesn't need to hide this time.
Tonight he is Xu Minghao, and no one else.
He thinks that maybe this is why Jeonghan made the rule in the first place, to make him remember who he is.
As Minghao waits, he feels a gnawing feeling in his gut. He doesn't like the way Jeonghan is surveying him.
Minghao hopes Jeonghan doesn't notice the bruise on his cheek. If he does, Minghao hopes he doesn't point it out.
Jeonghan however, can see everything (Minghao knows this). He sees that Minghao's brown hair is a tousled mess, he sees that Minghao's eyes are a bit sunken. He also sees that Minghao looks tired, and not just physically. He sees right through Minghao, and Minghao really has no fight in this. Jeonghan is the one with the upperhand now.
"So, what excuse were you about to say to me this time?" Jeonghan breaks the silence, moving over to take a seat by the small table near his bed to arrange some paper plates and open take-out food.
"Well, I got caught up." Minghao shrugs (he takes Jeonghan talking to him as a cue to approach him), walking over to sit on the floor by the wooden table in front of Jeonghan.
Jeonghan snorts and shakes his head, passing Minghao a hefty serving of jjajangmyeon and fried chicken on a paper plate. It smells divine.
"Any guns?" Jeonghan asks without looking at his companion, serving himself some mandu and tteokbokki.
"Just a gun, there was only one guy." Minghao tries to sound reassuring, but he knows he does a poor job at it.
Jeonghan looks up to make eye contact with him again, giving him a stern look.
"If you hadn't hurried your stupid ass here, I would've died from starvation. What happened to pinky promises being unbreakable?" Jeonghan complains, but the corner of his lips twitching give him away.
Minghao smiles and slurps on the jjajangmyeon, humming approvingly at the taste. "We're not kids anymore, hyung."
"Hate to break it to you, but between the two of us, you're the one still acting like one." Jeonghan reprimands lightly, taking alternate bites of his food.
Minghao tries to ignore Jeonghan's jab, opting to focus on finishing his meal instead.
This is what Minghao meant by him being totally in trouble tonight(?), this morning(?)ㅡit's because of the number of sermons and reprimands he'll get from Jeonghan, and his hyung won't hesitate to let him hear it.
Minghao furrows his brows and lets out a grumble after eating a piece of chicken.. "I'm 23."
Jeonghan lets out a sigh at that. He stops eating and takes some ointment from his backpack beside him, placing a small amount on his fingers before reaching out towards Minghao to gently massage the medicine onto his bruised skin.
Jeonghan noticed, as expected.
Minghao stills as he feels careful fingers treat his flesh.
Jeonghan's eyes soften as he looks at the boy in front of him. "I know you are. And you can stick onto things, you have inhuman senses, you swing all over the city, and you can lift elephants, or buildings, and God knows what. And yet…"
"You forgot the part about my healing abilities-"
"Yet you still act so reckless." Jeonghan finishes, frowning at being interrupted but mostly at Minghao's bruise.
Healing abilities? Was this Minghao's way of saying he'd be fine? And yet here Minghao is, bruised in Jeonghan's bedroom past 1am.
During all of this however, Minghao has already leaned into Jeonghan's touchㅡwarm, comforting, familiar, and trustworthy.
"I won't be here all the time, Minghao. You need to realize that."
Minghao takes a sharp intake of breath.
No. He doesn't need to know that, he doesn't need to even think about it. He won't think about that. He refuses to.
Because whenever Minghao thinks of people not being around, the only thing he can associate that with is the possibility of losing people forever, people close to him. Like his parents.
Minghao isn't ready to lose Jeonghan. He doesn't want to lose Jeonghan.
Minghao flinches away, refusing to look at Jeonghan in front of him. "Don't talk like that."
"What do you mean?" Jeonghan asks in concern, worry swimming in his eyes.
It hurts Jeonghan to know Minghao refused him just now. It hurts even more seeing Minghao hurting.
"Don't talk like I won't be seeing you again tomorrow."
Jeonghan feels his shoulders sink. He knows what this is about. He knows how hard Minghao took the loss of his parents.
More losses dig deeper wounds.
Minghao looks spent in front of Jeonghan right now, like he's been carrying an unbearable weight for so long. Especially ever since he became Spiderman months ago. Jeonghan wants to help. Jeonghan wants to provide a solution. Jeonghan wants to make things better. He wants Minghao to know he isn't alone in all of this.
"Hao, I didn't mean it like that." Jeonghan murmurs guiltily, reaching out to take Minghao's hand in his. "I just want you to take better care of yourself. I want to remind you that just because you're a hero (Minghao mutters that he's not) doesn't mean you have to throw yourself away. You deserve just as much as the people you save."
Jeonghan's tone has changed so much from earlier, from stern and strict to soft and gentle. Jeonghan's actions mirror this, his hand moving to stroke the tresses of Minghao's dark brown hair.
"I mean, think about it. If I didn't invite you over for dinner tonight, you would have spent your entire evening patrolling the city without having eaten anything-"
"I have energy bars, Han." Minghao interrupts with a hint of frustration, this time having enough courage to look back at his hyung.
It can really get to him sometimes, the nagging.
This is what Jeonghan doesn't realize though.
"-anything sufficient. We both know energy bars barely last with you, Hao. You know I don't fall for that bullshit." Jeonghan pulls his hand away from Minghao's hair to fiddle with the edge of his pajama shirt.
Jeonghan can sense the tension in the atmosphere brewing. It's nauseating. He didn't expect the evening to turn out like this.
Minghao responds to him by letting out a defeated sigh.
Minghao dislikes how Jeonghan is right, and yet he's thankful that he is.
"They need me, though. The people need me, and I've been able to help them somehow." Minghao murmurs softly, as if thinking to himself.
"Which is exactly why you also need to take care of your health and well-being. Minghao, you not only do this crime-fighting thing, but you also balance family, friends, school and... life. You are also Xu Minghao." Jeonghan takes a breath. There's a crease in his brow now and he balls his hands into fists by his lap.
"They don't know that though, Han. They're not like you. You know me, they don't. Spiderman is a part of me now, and that's the person they've all come to associate with. You...you can't just tell me to compartmentalize two sides of me. It's not as easy as you think, okay? I'm also not just Xu Minghao, anymore."
Minghao stands up, and shakes his head, turning away to head to the balcony of Jeonghan's bedroom.
He has too much on his mind right now.
School. Patrol. Creating a newer, improved version of his webbing. His aunt. Jeonghan.
"You tell me to take off the damn mask, and yet all you've talked about with me right up till now is still related to that ." Minghao snaps, fingers gripping at the edge of the balcony.
Jeonghan remains still by the table, Minghao's words cutting him like a knife.
Jeonghan feels a heavier sense of guilt, his chest constricting at the thought of him being the reason for Minghao's frustration right now.
He doesn't want to be a burden. He didn't mean to. It wasn't Jeonghan's intention to piss Minghao off; it never is.
Without a second thought, Jeonghan immediately rushes over to where Minghao is standing and follows what his heart urges him to do, even if his mind tells him to fall back and stop.
Jeonghan wraps his arms around Minghao from behind, and feels heat rising onto his cheeks.
He's glad Minghao can't see him right now as he presses his forehead against his back.
" Please , Minghao. I do want to talk about other things with you, normal day to day thingsㅡdumb shit topics even. Hell, that's what I look forward to. But it's just…" Jeonghan trails off before taking a breath, "-when I see you beat up like this, I can't help but nag at you and reprimand you. Because I worry and I care about you."
Jeonghan feels larger hands cover his own. They're warm.
"Mm." Minghao hums in reply. He seems to have calmed down now. "For the record, you worry and care too much."
Jeonghan feels his heart sting another time this evening after hearing that.
He bites his lower lip and releases his hold on Minghao.
"D-Does it bother you?"
Minghao hears the hesitance and insecurity in Jeonghan's voice, so he turns around to face him.
Jeonghan only realizes he's been looking at the floor the moment Minghao holds him by the chin to tilt his face up to look at him.
"I never said it did." Minghao's voice is enchanting, sweet, and honest, but his eyes…
Minghao's eyes look sad.
"I just think you'll age quicker if you worry and fret too much."
"It's difficult not to." Jeonghan murmurs, lost in Minghao's forlorn gaze. Jeonghan's heart starts to race.
The two of them stand in silence, the moonlight illuminating both their features.
It isn't the first time that the two have fallen quiet together (as demonstrated moments ago).
Jeonghan and Minghao have known each other for a very long time; Jeonghan being the handsome, wealthy, intelligent student who was popular with both the boys and the girls; and Minghao, the quiet, artistic, and pensive exchange student from China.
Who would've thought that a photography class project involving Minghao as the photographer and Jeonghan as the muse, could bring two contrasting but compatible souls together.
Jeonghan, who was always the center of attention (which he didn't enjoy), found himself drawn to Minghao's energy and aura. The company he provided was relaxing, comfortable, and safe. He liked how he felt with Minghao. He didn't feel like he had to keep a facade on, he didn't feel any societal pressure. He could show Minghao all of his imperfections and know he'd still be welcomed.
Minghao, on the other hand, who preferred being by himself, found joy in the presence and companionship of Jeonghan. Jeonghan was always there to cheer him on, support him, and boost his confidence. Jeonghan was also always taking care of him. For Jeonghan, Minghao wouldn't mind not being alone.
Ever since then, they've become almost inseparable.
"I'm sorry, for snapping at you like that. I just got really confused." Minghao breaks the silence with a gentle tone but even tone. "I didn't know exactly what you wanted from me when I came over. I mean, I thought it was company, but then it turned into a nagging fest. You always encourage me to put aside Spiderman whenever I'm here; but tonight, it was all linked to him anyway. So I just...didn't get it."
Jeonghan shakes his head and places Minghao's hand against his cheek. "I apologize for that. I'm so sorry for nagging the hell out of you. I do want this to be about you and not Spiderman, but it's just the things that happened tonight were linked. And…"
Jeonghan pauses before taking Minghao's hand in his.
"You're right. I can't separate you and Spiderman. Spiderman is a part of you that I have to accept fully. It's just, that side of you, that part of your life, gets me so worried and frazzled. It was different when things wereㅡ"
"Normal?" Minghao finishes with a small smile on his lips.
Jeonghan returns the smile. "Mhm...normal. But then again, Spiderman helped you grow a lot too. I'm really proud of you and how much you've grown, you know that right?"
Minghao turns away, the tips of his ears scarlet. "Aren't you in the middle of apologizing? Don't sweet-talk me."
Jeonghan chuckles and swings their hands back and forth lightly. "Haven't I been sweet-talking you all night?"
"No." Minghao huffs. "Scolding isn't sweet-talk."
Jeonghan grins and pinches the apples of Minghao's cheeks.
They're okay now.
"I'm sorry about that too. I really am. I'll work harder at giving you space, and taking it easy. I'll be more conscious about letting you be more independent from now on." Jeonghan says with certainty.
It's amazing, really. How much Minghao has really grown since then.
He glows now.
"And, I won't nag too much anymore...maybe just a little, if you let me." Jeonghan finishes with a pout.
At hearing this, Minghao beams. "I'd love that a lot. Thank you, Han."
Jeonghan playfully rolls his eyes and starts walking back to his room. "Whatever. I spoil you too much."
Jeonghan however, never reaches his bedroom because on his way there, a string of web sticks onto his waist and he's suddenly pulled back with alarming strength and speed.
Jeonghan's body moves back in reverse and is twirled to have him right in front of Minghao once again, the latter's arms holding him in place. "Don't walk away from me, I'm not done with you yet."
Jeonghan's face flushes pink, and there's a twinkle in Minghao's eyes seeing Jeonghan this wayㅡflustered at being taken off guard, by him nonetheless.
"What is it then? Spit it out, it's way past my bedtime." Jeonghan mutters, disliking how nice Minghao's body feels against him: strong and firm.
"I just wanted to let you know that you can let me take care of you too, yeah? And spoil you, if you want."
Jeonghan begins sputtering incomprehensible words while Minghao begins to laugh.
"I save thousands of people in this city, Han. I can take care of myself and you. I just hope you let me. Think about it, okay?"
Jeonghan nods timidly, mouth sewn shut at this sudden forwardness from Minghao.
Minghao looks off into the city, surveying the area quickly, before facing Jeonghan again to poke him on the forehead.
"Hey, I gotta jet. Still got unfinished homework to take care of."
Jeonghan frowns and tuts. "Why didn't you say so? We could've finished it tonight-"
"Well, we spent it arguing."
Minghao grins before climbing on the edge of the balcony railing.
"Hm?" Minghao has already taken his mask out from the pocket of his shorts.
"Do you...ever get tired of this...superhero thing?" Jeonghan inquires carefully, rubbing his wrist to distract his uneasiness.
Minghao thinks for a few moments, but smiles. "Do you ever get tired of me coming over to your place past midnight all the time?"
Jeonghan shakes his head.
"Then that's your answer." Minghao winks. "Admittedly, I do get tired sometimes, physically, emotionally, mentally, but the happiness and protection that I'm able to give others? I would never trade that."
Jeonghan can’t help but smile. "You’re always putting others before yourself. Well then, I'll always be right here, whether or not you're tired. You've got me." Jeonghan says fondly while watching Minghao put on his mask.
"I know. I trust you." Minghao says with confidence as he throws the wrapper of his long-eaten energy bar into the trashcan nearby, Jeonghan watching in amusement as he waits for Minghao to leave.
Once Minghao's laces are double-knotted and secured, his masked face turns to Jeonghan to give him a mock salute. "Thank you for tonight. See you tomorrow, Class Pres."
Jeonghan snorts, placing a hand on his hip. "See you tomorrow, bright and early, Spiderman."
And just like that, Minghao jumps off the balcony, Jeonghan rushing over to the railing to watch in awe as Minghao swings across the city with ease and expertise.
Tomorrow. That's right. There's still a tomorrow waiting for Seoul; waiting for Jeonghan and for Minghao.
There are many more tomorrows to arrive and look forward to for the city and them both. The universe is damn sure of that.