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The Silver Spider of Seoul

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There was a time when Baekhyun didn’t find himself to be at all special. He was just average, with an average life. Nothing wrong with that; he enjoyed his average existence. Few people are truly gifted and worth noticing more than the rest.

Then he became the Spider-man of Seoul, and his life became anything but average.

It really began when he was a little kid, watching superheroes on TV and reading comic books and playing make-believe games with his brother and friends. He thinks he’d be a great hero! He’s kind, sort of selfless, friendly, pretty reliable, and his martial arts instructor always praises his strength and skill, so he’s a good fighter, too!

Unfortunately for little Byun Baekhyun, an aspiring hero, there’s not much crime to stop in his neighborhood. He stands against bullies, helps people cross the street, runs errands for elderly neighbors, and keeps dreaming.

By the time he’s twenty, the dream has died down a bit. Colleges don’t have superhero majors.

His calling still finds him, and he answers without realizing it.

Walking around the more heavily wooded part of a park, off the usual path, Baekhyun is singing to himself and picking up weird mushrooms when he hears something weird. He stops singing and turns his head, trying to find the sound.

He meanders, carefully lifting his feet up off the fallen leaves and playing hot/cold by the clarity of the noise.

There’s a pile of bricks, leftovers from some old building project or dropped off by someone who didn’t have the energy or ambition to dispose of them properly. It forms a cover for a hole dug into the ground, and he hears two distinct, whimpering cries.

Dropping to his hands and knees, he looks into the shadows but sees nothing. “Hello?” The noises stop.

He opens his camera app and records, sticking his arm into the hole up to his elbow and feels nothing but dirt.

Replaying the recording, the light reflects off three yellow eyes. Puppies.

Removing the bricks opens up the hole a bit more, but he doesn’t want to risk dropping more dirt on the babies, so he decides to just work by feel and hope he doesn’t find anything more than filthy puppies.

“No biting, okay?” he mumbles, putting his arm back into the hole until his cheek is against the brick. “I have to grab what I can reach, so gimme a paw, if you don’t want to come out butt-first…” Dirt, trash, sticky spider webs, fur!

Not able to see, picking the puppy up is like trying to catch wet soap, but he manages, and the other seems to follow its sibling’s cries, not wanting to be left alone, until it’s blinking the sunlight.

They’re filthy and tiny. One has green gunk crusting over an eye and its nostrils. They feel scabby and bony, not at all pleasant to touch, but they tiredly wag their tails as they’re wrapped in his sweatshirt and cradled close.

He’s not sure what he’s going to do, now. His building doesn’t allow pets, at least not dogs and definitely not multiple.

The decision was made when he reached beneath the bricks, however.

He’s responsible for their lives.

 

Somehow, that good deed and his sense of responsibility created Silver Spider, the Spider-man of Seoul. After handing over the puppies to a shelter, Baekhyun noticed a little pink bump on his hand that itched constantly.

He has a scar, now, from scratching at it so much.

But it’s the only explanation he’s got for the superpowers that developed seemingly overnight, just before a math test.

Thankfully, his professor liked him and allowed him to retake the test after Baekhyun’s frantic email about being prepared but sick and adding graphic detail about all the snot and vomit he was producing.

Good times. He looks back on them fondly.

And being a superhero really isn’t all that bad. The crime rate is low, but there’s a weird phenomenon in which the appearance of a superhero calls divine intervention and the appearance of supervillains.

Plural.

Because Baekhyun can’t have an easy job while working on his business degree. That’d be too simple. Heaven forbid.

Thankfully, the villains and their henchmen take their time preparing plots, so Baekhyun can study in relative peace and socialize with friends and keep up with his part-time job at a vintage record store sandwiched between a fashion boutique and a fish market and barely holding up the tattoo parlor on the second floor.

Which is where his life gets a little bit more complicated, if that’s possible.

Splitting his time among school, defending the city, and his part-time job at a vintage record store, if he gets four hours of sleep, he considers it a good night’s rest.

He first meets Do Kyungsoo at the record shop. It’s a sunny afternoon, and Baekhyun feels particularly dead after staying awake all night to write an essay after spending most of that day rounding up a group of bank robbers—points for their thinking ahead and splitting up so the one superhero couldn’t get them all at once, but it’d be nice if they were more considerate of his position.

So he’s tired and kind of grumpy and didn’t put any effort at all into his appearance for work, and possibly the cutest person ever shows up.

The guy stands out with his shaved head, heavy eyebrows, and full lips. Unconventionally attractive. He’s also muttering to himself while looking at Japanese records of trot music from the 1920s—unconventional taste—and white hairs stand out on his black-on-black ensemble.

Nothing like a cutie to recharge Baekhyun’s battery. He bounces from behind the counter and approaches the boy with a bow. “Welcome! Can I help you find something?”

Rather than face him, he casts a look up through his long eyelashes, and Baekhyun is thrilled he doesn’t blush or pass out right then.

Nix unconventional, the guy’s plain attractive.

“No, thank you. I’m just browsing.”

Even his voice is attractive, deep and even and nonchalant at Baekhyun’s friendly customer service. “That’s some really early music. There’s more of the same on the back wall, but they’re the original, first-run releases.” He smiles—he knows he’s even cuter when he smiles—and hooks a thumb over his shoulder. “I’d be happy to show you.”

“Sure. Thank you.”

“Great!” He clears his throat, trying to reel in his enthusiasm. Cute people make him forget his inside voice and manners. “I’m Baekhyun, by the way. Ask me for anything!” Like his number. Or a date.

Kyungsoo follows Baekhyun as he leads the way to the wall of obscure records behind the counter.

He jerks to a stop, and Kyungsoo bumps into his back. Almost invisible except in just the right light, a spider’s silken thread extends from the ceiling with a bulbous-bodied spider still at its end. It and Baekhyun stare at one another, and he resists his instinct to quickly leave the room.

He may be a Spider-man, but it’s by name only. Bugs are actually one of those things he’d be quite happy to live without.

An arm reaches around him, short fingers hooking the web and detaching its host from the ceiling. It pulls itself back up to find out what’s going on, and Kyungsoo watches it for a moment.

“I’ll put it outside,” he says.

That is the first time Baekhyun has seen anyone willingly remove a spider. Everyone, including himself, usually squeal and run away or squeal and squish it with something or just righteously whack it with whatever’s closest.

Oh, to be the spider hanging precariously from its web from Kyungsoo’s pointer finger.

He returns to a very grateful store associate. Baekhyun weasels his name out of him and convinces him—by talking so fast Kyungsoo can’t get a word in edgewise—to come back tomorrow so Baekhyun can repay his fearless hero.

He feels pretty good about himself. Not only did he get Kyungsoo’s name and number but also a sort-of date, all in one hour.

The real trick, he realizes later, is not letting on about his non-record-shop and non-school activities. What does he like to do for fun? Swing between buildings. Does he work out? He bench presses construction materials in closed building sites. How does he always seem to know where things are without looking? He has super enhanced hearing.

The last thing he wants to do is build a relationship—friendship or otherwise—around lies, but that’s what he’ll do, if it keeps Kyungsoo safe.

 

Kyungsoo first meets the Silver Spider of Seoul when he’s trying to cajole a kitten from the limb of a tree. The poor thing managed to get up just fine, but she’s too young or too scared to climb back down, and it’s too far to jump, although Kyungsoo’s confident he can catch her.

“C’mon, baby. You’re alright.” Standing on his toes does little, but he tries to express that he’s a friend and just wants to help. She watches him with wide, blue eyes and meows softly, tucking her feet beneath her and making herself smaller. “I’m here to help, just a little hop, and I’ll catch you. I promise.”

He could go and get a ladder or something to stand on, but there are a number of large birds that could try and grab her as food, or some jerk could use her for target practice, or she could try to come down on her own and hurt herself…

His plan had just been to pick up some snacks from the convenience store and go right back home to study for his English test, so his phone is still on his desk, although he’s not even sure whom to call for a stuck cat. TV always stereotypes firefighters saving cats from trees and helping little old ladies cross the street; neither seem emergent enough to warrant a call, in his opinion, but his mother didn’t raise helpless children.

As his mind whirls and wonders and his arms begin to go numb from being held up so long, someone calls to him.

“Need a hand?”

They look ridiculous, wearing a white, head-to-toe catsuit with silvery accents that are only noticeable in the light. The mask has no mouth or visible nose, and the eyes are a stark black angled to sharp points at the outside corners. Kyungsoo recognizes the spider sprawled across their chest.

“Spider-man?”

“Silver Spider, actually…” He rubs the back of his neck as he shrugs. “No actual relation to the Spider-man, but yeah. In the flesh. And, uh, Spandex.” He doesn’t sound all that old or young, and he’s not much taller than Kyungsoo. “Your cat get stuck?”

“She’s not mine.” He lowers his arms, hands tingling with pins and needles.

Silver Spider looks between him and the cat. “...But she is stuck.”

“Yeah.”

“I can get her.” Standing beneath the branch, hands on his hips, Spider-man—Silver Spider—nods and sighs. “That is pretty high, and there aren't any lower branches to climb. Why’d you climb so high, if you’re just gonna get stuck, huh?” The kitten mews, as though apologizing. “It’s alright, baby. I’ll be right there.” Crouching, he jumps vertically and grabs onto the branch, swinging his legs up to hook his knees over it and sit just out of reach of the cat. “Hey, pretty. You wanna get down from here? That guy’s worried about you.” Leaning, he offers a hand. “Now, don’t let your predator instincts kick in, alright? This spider’s a friend, not food.”

The kitten slowly pulls out of its crouch to sniff his gloved fingers and eventually rub its whiskered muzzle on him. “There you go…” It doesn’t protest to being lifted but clings when he leans backwards to hand it to Kyungsoo as he hangs by his knees.

The kitten meows and shakes in Kyungsoo’s hands. He feels the little, needle-sharp claws pierce his skin and dutifully ignores the thought of what all the tiny paws have touched.

Most importantly, the kitten is safe. “Thank you.” Kyungsoo smiles and bows, holding the kitten close.

Silver Spider drops to the ground, flipping mid-air to land on his feet. “Uh—n-no problem! Just doing my duty, serving the public!” Shifting his weight foot to foot, he gives an awkward wave. “See you around. Stay out of trouble, kitten!” Throwing out a web to a lamp post, he tugs it and is launched into the air.

Kyungsoo watches until the hero disappears behind a billboard some artist decided to retouch by spray-painting the girl group’s skirts flying up to show ridiculously frilly pantaloon-style underwear.

“What a weird guy.”

The kitten meows in agreement.

He knows of the local Spider-man. The guy just showed up one day and never left. When not stopping crimes, he’s swinging through the city or showing up at hospitals or random birthday parties.

Must be nice to have so much free time.

Sometimes, Kyungsoo sees movement out of the corner of his eye and turns just in time to see a flash of white light—but it’s gone almost immediately. It might have been Silver Spider, but it also might have been a bird or the reflection of the sun off one of the smooth skyscrapers.

It’s not as though he looks for the hero.

But he finds Kyungsoo, anyway.

They’re in the middle of a dry spell when Kyungsoo comes across some dogs in a storm drain.

With the water level so low, the dogs can’t swim and climb out on their own. Kyungsoo lies on his belly and slithers until he’s leaning into the basin, but while the dogs are friendly and eager to be pet, he can’t get a good grip on either to haul up.

Next best thing is to get into the water and try to lift them out. As far as he can see, the water is clean, but the bottom may hide shards of glass or plastic. He can’t go in barefoot, and he can’t let the dogs meander and potentially cut their paws.

“Hi there.” Silver Spider crouches by the edge, watching Kyungsoo with his head tilted, curious. “Need a hand?”

Kyungsoo nods and shimmies back so he can sit up on his knees. “They’re too awkward to lift out and too scared to come near me.”

The hero gets onto his belly beside him and looks in at the dogs. Their ears fall back at the sight of him, and he sits back on his heels. “Well, okay, they’re terrified of me. Valid, due to the mask.” Looking at Kyungsoo, he asks, “Think you can get down there and coax them out some? I’ve got an idea.” Pulling out a long ribbon of webbing, Silver Spider dips his fingers in and out and eventually presents his woven construction with a proud ah-ha!. “Cat’s cradle! Or dog’s, as the case may be.” He hands an end to Kyungsoo. “Get it under the chest.”

Kyungsoo isn’t sure it’ll hold. The web seems awfully skinny, but if it can hold an adult swinging around, it can hold a dog.

He debates taking his shoes and socks off—there’s no telling what’s in the water—and just rolls up his pantlegs. It’s not deep water, at least, not to a human. He just ignores the voice in his head reciting all the little bugs and bacteria that are probably living in the water.

Bending at the waist, he holds out a hand and whistles. “Hey, guys. We’re here to help… You want some treats?” He opens a bag of azuki bean rice balls. They’re not made with dogs in mind, but they taste kind of like peanut butter, and he has yet to meet a dog that doesn’t love peanut butter.

To try and streamline things, Kyungsoo holds a handful of the sweet treats just behind the loop of webbing. A bolder—or hungrier—dog cautiously steps closer, leading with its nose, and ducks into the loop. It fights a little when Kyungsoo lifts its feet to get the loop around its chest, but treats buy forgiveness.

Silver Spider pulls the web up, dog and all, making it look effortless. The dog wriggles and writhes as it’s lifted, but starts to dance and whine once on grassy lawn, looking ready to leap in to join its friend again.

“Catch him!” Kyungsoo holds his arms out to block the dog. The masked hero quickly fashions a leash with more webbing and ties the nervous dog to a tree.

Finally, both dogs are out of the water and reunited. Silver Spider offers Kyungsoo his hands and pulls him easily from the water. He rolls the cradle between his palms and pulls it taut, tying an end to either dog as a leash and passing it to Kyungsoo.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Fists on his hips, he poses just like a comic book hero for a moment before deflating with a shy shrug. “Just...doing my job. You know how it is.”

Kyungsoo really doesn’t, but he smiles and bows and watches the hero slingshot himself into the air again.

“What a way to travel…” The dogs sniff around his algae ankles and pockets with hungry whines.

 

Kyungsoo is fun to hang out with. He has the sort of face that looks grumpy or unenthused, but Baekhyun discovers a goofy laugh and adorable smile when he does something stupid.

Baekhyun does a lot of stupid things where Kyungsoo’s concerned. He’s smart, strong, righteous, and logical and makes Baekhyun’s stomach butterflies even more jittery.

Sometimes, he argues with himself when he thinks Baekhyun can’t hear, which is weird, but Baekhyun throws himself off of buildings in a skintight suit, so he really can’t comment on weird behavior and doesn’t really care a whole lot, anyway.

 

Sometimes, all a guy wants to do is relax in a hammock several tens of stories in the air between a couple skyscrapers without being disturbed. Considering the great height, plus his very technologically-advanced outfit that makes him near invisible, Baekhyun thinks it should be possible.

But he’s wrong.

He smells the natural gas before the explosion shakes the earth, wiggling up the buildings to shake his handwoven webbing hammock. Civilians scream and run away to a safer distance, then pull out their phones to record the havoc and mayhem and long response time of the fire department.

“A guy can’t get a nap in edgewise around here,” Baekhyun mutters as he pulls his mask over his head. Tilting to his left, he flips off of his comfy hammock and plummets to the street below. Thankfully, his mask prevents any bugs from colliding with his mouth, but he will have to wash his suit and mask later.

A couple stories from squishing into nothing, he throws out an arm and rockets webbing at the side of the building, pulling his legs up and changing momentum to swing forward.

He rolls as he lands and hops to his feet.

It looks like a normal gas explosion, which is pretty standard to deal with, but it’s rush hour, so cars clog up the street and block in the caravan of highly flammable gasoline, oil, ethanol, and kerosene on their way from suppliers.

Typical bad timing.

“Okay, everyone, I need to clear the street!” He starts ushering people away, and he’s not sure if he’s flattered or offended that a guy in a white, skintight suit and mask is more curious to look at than a gaping hole in the sidewalk with flames erupting from it.

There should be a shutoff valve or switch or something somewhere to cut the flow of gas. He knows this but does not know where it is.

And there is no opportunity to look, because something about imminently but not immediately dangerous situations draws people. They’re just moths, weak to the bright light of near certain death.

Baekhyun keeps busy herding people back and making barricades of blown concrete and webbing until first responders finally arrive. He sticks around until the utilities truck and workers get the gas under control.

By the time he leaves, traffic is slowly being diverted and moving steadily along, onlookers have gotten bored, and news vans are recording their reports. He can hear his name mentioned but leaves before anyone can call to him.

There always seems to be schoolwork to catch up on these days, but he’s too tired tonight. After a shower and leftovers for dinner, he turns on the TV to see clips of himself on the news and a rerun of a drama he never catches the beginning of.

He messages Kyungsoo to whine and get a little sympathy, but the guy is just too practical and suggests Baekhyun set an alarm for a nap, work for X-amount time with a snack break in-between, have dinner, then take a warm shower before going to bed.

Baekhyun falls asleep with his phone in his hand.

 

Holidays give the Silver Spider a welcome vacation.

Baekhyun dutifully ignores the news out of the city and works on improving his responses to his family’s well-meaning interrogations. He doesn’t like lying, but the truth would probably make his mom pass out.

How’s work? Sometimes dangerous but rewarding. Are you seeing anyone special yet? In a manner of speaking. When can I expect grandchildren? Probably never, at this rate. Where did all these bruises come from? An angry man with nunchucks.

All a part of the job, keeping people safe.

 

Personally speaking, Baekhyun finds Kyungsoo very attractive, but he also has strong animal magnetism, which is the only explanation for how he always finds something stuck in a tree or a drain or a box or a dumpster or, most recently, a sewer grate.

“We really need to stop meeting like this.”

“Why’s that?” Kyungsoo leans side to side, supervising. “Watch his paw.”

“Got it.

“Well,” Silver Spider grunts, maneuvering the dog’s leg to tuck it around the grate it got itself stuck in. “When trying to impress someone, I usually prefer to be clean, smell nice, and not be light-headed from hanging upside down in a sewer.”

“Is that all? And here I have so few expectations of you.”

“The light-headedness could just be from meeting you. Coming up.” He passes the dog first. Kyungsoo takes its shivering body against his chest and scoots back to let the hero pull himself up. Shaking his head, Silver Spider laughs. “Dizzy.”

“Thank you for helping me again.”

“No problem. I couldn’t let you crawl down there.”

“My hero.”

Silver Spider bows exaggeratedly. “I know what it’s like to want to help an animal in need, too. I’m just your friendly neighborhood Silver Spider-man.” He looks at the dog, probably smiling. It wags his tail hard enough to wiggle its butt. “Right?”

Looking at his wrist, he apologizes. “I gotta get going. Hot date. See you around!” He plants a kiss on the dog’s forehead, dashes a short distance, shoots a web, and flies into the air.

After a quick change of clothes on the roof of a magazine building, Baekhyun stuffs his mask into his backpack and takes the elevator to the ground floor.

He’s got a test to study for and promised to meet Kyungsoo for dinner later.

His phone buzzes while he’s on the bus. Kyungsoo sent him a photo of the dog, fast asleep in his arms.

Baekhyun’s a little jealous. Oh, to be the pup snug and protected in Kyungsoo’s embrace.

To get just a little bit closer to that reality, Baekhyun desperately needs a shower. A couple of older ladies scoot closer to the window, away from him, and he grins sheepishly. It’s not like he can explain the smells he accumulates or the scratches and scars that do heal sooner than the average person’s but also happen more frequently than average.

The world just has to get to know Baekhyun as the friendly, filthy klutz.

At home, he takes a little longer than usual to shower, letting the soap sit on his skin for a little while before rinsing off, sudsing up again, and repeating. He also manages to submit an assignment early instead of the hour it’s due or begging for it to be accepted a day or two late.

That, plus the earlier rescue and pending kind-of date with Kyungsoo drives Baekhyun’s spirits sky high. Not even the smell of refuse clinging to his uniform brings him down. He washes everything by hand, wrings it out, and hangs it to dry in his bathroom with a fan blowing on it.

He could go a night without wearing it, but it’s been long enough that he feels somewhat naked without it.

It’s not completely dry by the time Baekhyun planned to head out. He spends a few precious minutes with a hair dryer, trying to get rid of enough damp that he can wear it without thinking about mold. Luckily for him, he has a quick way of leaving his apartment and leaps out of the bedroom window to the building next door.

Even at night, it’s a little risky; the last thing he wants is to be seen or recorded by some too observant person with a high definition camera phone, but the shadows are heavy and city lights disorienting.

He scuttles up the building face and jumps from its roof, swinging back and forth over the streets until just a block away from the agreed meeting spot.

Dropping down in the shadow of a skywalk, Baekhyun pushes his hair around into something more deliberate than suspiciously windblown and ambles down the sidewalk to the little barbeque place. He sees Kyungsoo walking towards him and jogs the rest of the way.

“Were you waiting?”

“No. I just got here. I had to lock up my dogs…”

“How many do you have, now?”

“Just three.”

“Three more than I’ve got,” Baekhyun sighs. “My building doesn’t allow pets. My dog lives at home and has gotten super fat, thanks to my parents.”

Even before becoming Silver Spider, Baekhyun ate a lot. His appetite increased after donning the Spandex—he looked it up out of curiosity, and spiders eat ten percent of their body weight a day—and he feels bad for anyone else having to pay for him.

They almost split the bill—Kyungsoo insists, but Baekhyun physically holds him back when the waiter brings the bill and passes his card. “I’m older than you,” he declares, victorious.

Kyungsoo frowns and rolls his eyes but accepts it. “I’ll pay next time, then.”

Next time. Baekhyun dials back his enthusiasm and just switches his hold to a one-armed hug rather than tackling him to the floor.

 

Just before getting the drop on some smugglers on the river, Baekhyun gets a call from Kyungsoo, asking if he’d like to hang out.

It’s the first time Kyungsoo initiated anything, and Baekhyun isn’t about to let some drug smugglers stop him from embracing the opportunity.

Bad guys are never happy to see him, but Baekhyun doesn’t let them relax when they can’t see him, either. His suit can change with the environment, becoming as close to invisible as possible.

Maybe it’s excitement making him hyper-focused, but he ties everyone up neatly without getting any sort of personal injury. Once a police boat arrives, he happily hands over the reins of his webbing and rushes to his hiding place to change.

A cat sits beside a trash can and watches him, which is unsettling, but just watching is harmless, and he’s on his way soon enough.

The weather is muggy and hot, but Baekhyun can’t risk his webs and suffers on public transportation like everyone else. At least on the river, there was a bit of a breeze.

Kyungsoo is waiting for him at his stop. They head to an ice cream shop and sit beneath the air conditioning.

“It’s way too hot,” Baekhyun complains, subtly picking at the leg of his suit beneath his jeans. “Everything should close down when it’s this hot, so no one has to leave home for anything.”

“Sorry,” Kyungsoo says. He’s eating his sundae much more slowly than Baekhyun, avoiding brain freeze and actually tasting what he’s eating. The air conditioning eventually draws out goosebumps, and he unties the button-up shirt from his waist and puts it on.

“I like hanging out with you! As long as it’s indoors.”

Kyungsoo points out a pet supply store across the street. “Think you can hold up long enough to go there? I need another collar and some bowls.”

“For you,” Baekhyun gestures with his spoon, throwing bits of melting ice cream onto the table, “I can suffer.”

They brace themselves for the wall of humidity waiting for them. Somebody up there likes them, at least, and they get a green crosswalk light right away.

Pet stores always smell funny, like hay and hamster food. There’s a wall of metal kennels with adoptable cats, another wall of aquariums of fish, and stand-alone cages of squawking birds and sleeping rodents.

Baekhyun has to greet all of the animals, and Kyungsoo follows him. A big-eyed bird watches them curiously, trilling and starting to dance when Kyungsoo whistles. Some of the hamster cages look empty until they crouch down to see into the little houses; everyone is crammed inside and on top of one another.

Dog leashes have their own aisle. Baekhyun suggests a cherry red leather collar with metal studs, which is flatly rejected.

Along with the solid colors, rhinestones, and studs, there is a section of accessories decorated with licensed brands. Music groups, cartoons, clothing designers—

—and superheroes.

It’s wild to find products with his likeness on them; it’s wilder when someone he knows and likes a lot picks a white collar with silver accents and explicitly states that he happens to like this hero.

Baekhyun can’t explain his goofy grin. “I like him, too,” he titters nervously.

He dances foot to foot while Kyungsoo pays for the new dog gear and backs into the door to hold it open.

They walk quietly, comfortable with the ambient city noise, until they stop at a crosswalk. “You wanna come over?” Kyungsoo asks. He’s watching the light across the street; Baekhyun almost isn’t sure he’s the one being addressed. “My dogs would love the company.”

Fireworks explode in Baekhyun’s chest. “Sure!”

“We can cut through here,” Kyungsoo points to an alley, “to get to the bus.” It’s the middle of the day, hot and humid, and still crowded on the sidewalk. Plus, Baekhyun kind of has an advantage just in case, so he doesn’t mind a shortcut.

He acknowledges the folly of his assumptions when a couple of men amble towards them. Another man behind them hems in their exit. Crime knows only opportunity; the heat makes people lazy and slower targets. There’s nowhere for them to go; Baekhyun can’t just pull his mask on in front of so many people. He may trust Kyungsoo, but…

He falls against the wall when pushed, caught off guard and stunned as Kyungsoo throws an arm across his chest and plants his foot squarely in a man’s gut. He doubles over, wheezing, and Kyungsoo chops the back of his neck.

Baekhyun’s impressed, but who’s the superhero, here? He sidesteps the blundering steps of one of the men, off-balance and confused when Kyungsoo throws his button-up at the man’s face. Baekhyun doesn’t like feeling helpless, and he likes seeing his friend put himself in danger even less.

But he can’t put his mask on, yet. He can’t give himself away, no matter how much he trusts Kyungsoo and how confident he is in taking out these goons.

So he prepares to fight the old-fashioned way and grabs a 2x4 board from a scrap heap. Wielding it like a baseball bat, he swings at the biggest guy’s back. Unsurprisingly, it breaks. Surprisingly, the big man just stumbles. He turns and stands his full height. Baekhyun fully expects some remark like “Do that again,” or something, but he evidently understands how tiresome bad guy monologuing is and just swings a meaty fist at Baekhyun’s face.

There’s something shiny in his fist. Baekhyun feels a sting as he dodges, and warm blood trickles down his cheek.

“You’re that big, and you have a knife? Where’s the fairness in that?” He hops and ducks, keeping just out of reach while trying to figure out how to knock him out or at least knock him down, so they can escape—although he’s loath to leave such bullies running loose.

Casting a look to his right, he sees Kyungsoo doing a remarkable impression of a raccoon drowning a predator. He’s attached himself to the man’s back and has an arm across his throat, holding it tight with his other forearm. Catching his eye, Kyungsoo scowls. “Run, you idiot!”

Stupidly, his immediate response is to ask why, but the answer sneaks up on him.

So much for spider-sense. It’s all knocked out of him by a swift hammerfist to the back of his head.

 

Baekhyun wakes up in a living room, which is much more comforting and homier than a morgue. Trying to sit up, he lies right back down. Fireworks explode behind his eyeballs, and there’s a goose egg on the back of his head.

From his prone vantage point, he can see into the kitchen. It’s Kyungsoo’s apartment; everything is monochromatic, covered in fur, and neatly in place.

Kyungsoo himself is at the kitchen sink, dropping ice cubes into a cold pack and humming quietly.

An ice cube drops into the sink, toppling around the food trap in the drain; he swears under his breath as he tries to catch it.

Baekhyun quickly closes his eyes when Kyungsoo turns and returns to the sofa. “How do you feel?” Baekhyun flinches as Kyungsoo places a new ice pack on his head. He also offers a bottle of water, which Baekhyun accepts and holds against his face.

“I wish I was dead,” he groans at the refreshing coolness but painful weight of the ice. “What happened?”

“You got knocked out. Someone called the cops; they tried to run. One got away, one got batoned and is in the hospital, and one is in holding at the police department with only superficial physical injuries and potentially lasting emotional trauma.” Kyungsoo leans over the back of the sofa. “I figured you didn’t want to go to the hospital and show off your unusual Under Armour.”

Baekhyun can feel his triple chin as he looks down at himself. He’s not wearing his shirt. This one is black and covered in fur. “Um… I can explain?” He could say he’s a hardcore Spidey fan. Like hardcore. Printed bedsheets, underwear sets, tableware, the works.

He can even prove the bedsheets and underwear.

Kyungsoo shakes his head and drops it to his shoulder, draping an arm over himself in a way that will make his shoulder hurt in a few minutes. “It’s alright. I’ve known for a while.” He tucks his arm tighter, muffling his mouth and nose so only his big, round eyes are visible. “Your mask was in your backpack; I’d grabbed your stuff and put mine into it, as well.”

Baekhyun struggles with the water bottle; it’s slippery, and the plastic just crunches in his fist.

He straightens with a sigh, rubbing his sore shoulder and offering his other hand. “Need a hand?” He opens the bottle and passes it back. “You also don’t even try to disguise your voice.”

That’s something Baekhyun had never even considered. Who really recognizes voices, anyway? True, he can pick out individuals’ voices in idol groups, even the really big ones that have kind of made a comeback in popularity among studios, but that’s after listening to the songs a few times.

He’s also at the point that the little voice in his head, warning him against doing something stupid, no matter how brave, sounds a lot like Kyungsoo.

But regardless, there’s a more important matter to address—

“Why would you take on those bad guys, knowing who I am? You even pushed me behind you! I felt like a damsel in distress.”

“You don’t always have to be the hero.” Kyungsoo shrugs. “I just reacted. It’s how I trained in the Army.”

“But it’s dangerous. What if you’d gotten hurt?”

“Then I’d probably be in pain, but I’d heal. And you’d still be safe.” He frowns, crossing his arms over his chest. “This experience is good for you. Maybe you’ll realize how you make the rest of us feel, throwing yourself at danger given any opportunity.”

“I don’t do it because I enjoy it!” Fighting back the starbursts, he sits up. “I do it to. Protect. You. It’s literally my job,” although he’s never been officially hired; he kind of just started doing it, “to protect this city and its people, and it sucks balls a lot of the time. I get hurt in ways and depths that should probably kill a normal person. But I do heal. I do go right back and do the same thing over again, but I do it so nobody else has to! There will always be a Spider-man or Silver Spider or whatever, but there’s only one Do Kyungsoo. That I care about, anyway.”

“And there’s only one Byun Baekhyun.” Kyungsoo sees something on the floor at his feet. Baekhyun still hears his softer remark. “That I care about, anyway.”

The last thing he wants is to invalidate Kyungsoo’s feeling when they’re feeling the same way. He thought he could protect him by keeping things to himself.

“I’m sorry,” he says. A warm nose touches his hand, and he pets a familiar dog with a soft smile. “Hello, again.” Finally finding the courage to look Kyungsoo in the face, he asks, “As long as we’re bearing our souls here, how do you feel about guys in Spandex?”

Kyungsoo bends down and stands again with a cat in his arms. “Depends on the guy and the situation, I guess.”

“Me, and near constantly?”

“Pretty good, then. I told you, I like Silver Spider. Think you could arrange a date with him?”

Baekhyun smiles through the pain. “Definitely.”