When your best friend suddenly turns into a superhero, there are a few things you are obligated to do. Ganke isn’t quite sure of the entire list yet, but he is beginning to learn that providing cover stories is getting to be a top priority.
“Um, making a phone call home,” Ganke says, looking up from his massive calculus book. He isn’t exactly hiding his face behind it, but he needs some kind of buffer between him and the justifiably frustrated expression Judge throws at him.
“This late at night?” Judge says dubiously from his side of the room. He gives Ganke a weighted look and simply asks, “Is there anything wrong?”
“No,” Ganke says and has to turn away before he can see Judge roll his eyes. Heck, he can practically feel it through his book.
And it’s never a great feeling, lying to Judge, who’s a pretty cool dude and a really great roommate. He’s also smart – they all are, in their own way – so it doesn’t take him long to see that Ganke and Miles are keeping something from him. With the way they had been handling the whole Big Secrets thing, Ganke knows you would have to be an idiot to not suspect something was up.
Ganke puts his book down over his lap and stares up at the top bunk where Miles should have have been resting. Judge has gone back to his homework, and Ganke can be imagining it, but he can swear there’s a distinct, annoyed way that Judge is scratching at his paper now.
"He's been having some problems," Ganke finally says. It’s not a lie. "You know. Adjusting and stuff."
Judge turns his head. Ganke can see his small frown from behind his thick-rimmed glasses, but it’s the sort of thoughtful frown that comes from concern and exasperation, not anger.
"Yeah. I miss my folks too, sometimes," Judge says.
Ganke lifts his head from his pillow, propping it in a hand. "You got brothers and sisters?" he asks curiously.
"Just one," Judge says, smiling. "Older sister. Total pain."
“Really? I don’t have any brother and sisters. Is it anything like the movies?” Ganke asks, surprised to hear Judge snort and shake his head.
“Nope. Better,” he replies, swiveling around in his chair to face Ganke with a big, goofy smile. Without any more prompting from Ganke, he launches headfirst into story, something about his sister and him and a couple of dresses. In no time at all they're snickering into their hands and trying to keep their laughter down.
A little later, there’s a knock on the door and Miles, smelling like he's been rolling around in hot asphalt, walks in, already wearing an entirely guilty look on his face. "Sorry. Am I interrupting?" and blinks in surprise when Judge doesn’t throw him the usual disappointed look, like he knows he's being kept out of the loop, or ask why Miles smells like wet concrete. Instead, he grins.
"Naw, man. I was just getting to the best part," Judge says, and waits for Miles to settle on the top bunk before continuing his story.
Ganke has read enough comics and seen enough movies to know the kind of bad stuff that can happen when superheroes aren't bringing in their A-game. So when Miles comes into their room, face all stormy and distracted, Ganke knows it's up to him to see what's wrong. Because when Miles gets down, it's usually in that self-deprecating way and Ganke can’t stand that. Miles is the coolest kid he knows, and sometimes when he thinks he can't figure out why Miles isn't over the moon about his new powers, he remembers that day in the alley, Miles half invisible and looking terrified out of his mind, crying and saying no no no. He always remembers understanding then, even if he doesn't understand now.
"You all right, Miles?" Judge asks when Ganke doesn't say anything, and even looks a little reproachful that Ganke hadn’t said anything in the first place.
"Yeah," Miles says, dropping his backpack on his side of the floor. He doesn't say much, but glances at Ganke, half-tentative, before he looks at Judge, and forces a smile. "Just tired, I guess."
"If you're having trouble with your classes," Judge begins, awkwardly, because Ganke gets the feeling he's still hurt about not being included, but at the same time he's sort of accepting it.
"Oh! Maybe," Miles says, a little surprised. He smiles, for real this time. "I wanna read over some stuff first, then we'll see?"
Miles leaves right after, muttering something about wanting to check out a book at the library. They're supposed to have lunch in a bit, but Ganke remains at his desk, nervous that Judge might get even more upset if he leaves right away. He pretends to flip through his textbook until Judge clears his throat.
“Aren’t you going to see if he’s all right?”
He stares, surprised, and Judge just shrugs his shoulders.
“Thought you were his best friend. He looked a little down,” Judge says in that blunt way of his, and adds earnestly, “You know him better than I do.”
He sounds a little annoyed and hurt by it, but Ganke smiles gratefully. “Yeah. I’ll go check up on him. Thanks.”
Judge shrugs again, and Ganke leaves, trying not to run out of the room.
He finds Miles at the library, head pillowed in his arms.
“What happened?” Ganke asks, taking a seat across from him. He mirrors Miles’ position and stares, waiting.
Miles glances at him, miserable. “Spider-woman hates me,” he sighs.
“What? No! You’re the coolest person I know,” Ganke starts, and begins to elaborate until Miles starts to laugh and they get kicked out of the library.
There's one thing Ganke draws the line at, and that's doing Miles' homework for him. Sure, Miles hasn't exactly asked him yet, but Ganke's made sure to prepare a whole speech consisting of no, no, and no. Doing his own homework barely leaves him enough time to finish up his important projects like his Lego ship and written epic about sea monsters versus robots.
“Hey, Miles.” Ganke prods him.
Miles’ eyes fly open and he sits up, blearily looking around. There’s a small trail of drool on his desk and Ganke wrinkles his nose at it until Miles wipes it away with the cuff of his sleeve.
“Don’t tell me…” Miles sighs, looking around the empty classroom.
“Yep. The whole time,” Ganke confirms.
“I did not win an enrollment lottery here to fail,” Miles says, exasperated.
He means the class, but that doesn’t stop Ganke from saying, “You saved an entire building full of people from collapsing last night. I wouldn’t call that failing.”
“Yeah, but a building full of people doesn’t give me good grades to show my parents,” Miles says with a sigh. He starts to pack his things, but before he could zip up his backpack, Ganke shoves a few sheets of paper in his hands.
“Today’s notes,” Ganke explains. “But don’t expect me to do your homework!”
Miles looks at the papers, tensed shoulders relaxing, and he grins.
“Heck no. Someone’s got to finish that Lego ship.”
It takes him the entire summer, but Ganke finally invites Miles over to his apartment and texts him to come up through the window. Miles’ answering straw-walrus icon looks really skeptical, even though he hasn’t actually changed it.
‘trust me,’ Ganke texts back, practically hopping around his room because he can’t wait to see the look on Miles’ face when he shows up.
‘only u :/’, the phone screen flashes in reply.
He walks back and forth in his room while waiting the whole twenty-two minutes and forty-three seconds for Miles to get his butt over. The moment a pair of hands flop across the open window, Ganke runs over to help pull Miles up into his room.
“Hold on, hold on, my bag’s caught,” Miles says, wiggling around. There’s a harsh scraping noise and a sharp crack that Ganke can’t be bothered with, so he waves off the beginnings of Miles’ panicked apologies about the gutter drain.
“Okay, are you ready for this?” Ganke asks, gesturing expansively to a cardboard box on his desk.
Miles sits on the floor, pulling off his mask. His face is damp with sweat and he opens his backpack to pull out a half-frozen bottle of water. “Ready,” he confirms, twisting off the cap.
Ganke watches Miles down the water in big gulps. He pauses, hands around the box in mid-lift. “Maybe you can get one of those water camelback things.”
“Yeah, but aren’t those expensive?” Miles says, chewing thoughtfully on the plastic rim. “You can probably build me one.”
Ganke sort of snorts and smirks at the same time, partly in disbelief because he just can’t make things like he does with Legos, and partly because – well.
“That’s not all I can build,” he says, grinning, and flips the box over.
“A can of shaving cream,” he says, sounding both confused and way more enthusiastic than he should be about shaving cream.
“No. Not shaving cream. I just needed a cheap container.” Ganke rolls his eyes and takes the can from his desk. With a grin that feels like a mile long, he tosses it to Miles. “If you think camelback packs are expensive, you don’t want to see the price tag for webshot canisters.”
Miles’ eyes go wide even as he catches the can. “You didn’t. Oh, my god. Are you serious?” he asks, turning around so he can aim it out the window. He presses the top. “You are a freakin’ genius-“
White foam jets out from the can in a pathetic, defeated squirt. It lands on the carpet, not even remotely web-like at all. Miles lets out a neutral ‘huh’ sound and for a moment, Ganke can feel his whole heart sink to the floor.
“I really thought I had it,” he mutters.
Miles glances at him, and there’s no way he knows that Ganke’s worked ages on the webshot formula, or how much chemistry he had to bang into his head during the summer, or the amount of money he’d spent on getting the stuff. There’s no way, but Miles smiles at him as if he did.
“Maybe I just gotta shake it first,” he says, throwing it up in the air. He catches it one-handed and gives it a vigorous shake before trying again.
This time, the webshot shoots right out the window. It’s not exactly perfect – leaky stuff still gets on the carpet and it’s foamier than it should be, probably leftover shaving cream, but that’s stuff Ganke can keep in mind for later. Right now, though, right now the web is actually sticking to the next building over and the both of them are yelling and laughing at each other.
“How?” Miles asks, giving the web a strong tug. The rope holds for a grand total of three more tugs before coming loose and falling apart, but his grin is still in place as he shoots out another webshot.
“You are really not gonna believe me,” Ganke says.
“Ninjas?” Miles screams at him. “Undead ninjas?”
“They seemed reliable online! They had good reviews!” Ganke shouts back, ducking under the teacher’s desk as six shurikens embed themselves into the wood. He stares in disbelief at the pointed blades. “And don’t call them ninjas! These are just zombies dressed in spandex with random Asian characters on the back! They’re cultural appropriations, that’s what!”
Miles leaps over the table to take care of the shiruken-throwing jerk with a few quick jabs. The zombie gurgles once before collapsing on the ground and Miles moves on to his next enemy. Ganke’s not sure how the venom zap works on the undead without the nerves working, but he figures he’ll probably learn more about that next year in anatomy class.
“Yeah, I thought the writing looked Chinese,” Miles says as another zombie goes down. It’s the last of them for now, coming through the classroom window. He takes another look outside before helping Ganke up to his feet. “You okay?”
“Just great,” Ganke huffs. “You know, I should have known something was up when I found para-aramid synthetic fiber on on Amazon for really cheap.”
“Easy mistake, accidentally ordering webshot ingredients from undead cultural appropriations trying to hunt Spider-Man down. Don’t worry about it,” Miles says, though he looks a little freaked out himself. He pats down his pockets and pulls out his cell phone, looking a little surprise that it’s still miraculously there. “Uh. You think I better call S.H.I.E.L.D.?”
“I think you better call anyone that can clean this up and explain to our teachers that we had nothing to do with this.”
Miles thumbs through his contacts and Gankes tries not to look over his shoulder to see, but he does wonder how Miles labels people like Nick Fury or Captain America on his phone. He doesn’t find the answer since Miles seems to have some kind of secret dial function – probably made by Iron Man – and puts the phone to his ear before Ganke can actually get a glimpse of anything.
“Hello. Um. Hi, Mr. Fury?” Miles says, sounding as if he’s going to get in trouble for defeating a whole classroom of zombies.
In an attempt to not be nosy, Ganke turns away, heading back to the teacher’s desk to check out the shurikens. Curious, Ganke plucks one off from the wood, turning it in his hands. They’re exactly like the ninja stars in the cartoons and movies.
“Hm,” he says, about to tell Miles exactly just that when he sees one of the dead undead slowly stumble back onto its feet. It starts to head towards Miles and its being really slow about it, but Ganke is shocked enough to do nothing but hurl the shuriken straight at it.
His aim sucks.
“Woah! Watch where you’re throwing those things-” Miles ducks as the shuriken sails over his head.
It ends up landing at the zombie’s feet, but that’s okay since it gives time for Ganke to bash it over the head with his calculus book, which only requires gravity and no aiming skills.
The both of them watch the zombie topple over. It doesn't get back up. Ganke breathes a sigh of relief.
Very formally, Miles turns to Ganke. They talked about a scenario just like this last week.
“Ganke,” he says, “You saved my li-”
Ganke swats him over the head with the calculus book a lot less harder than he did with the zombie.
“That,” he says, “didn’t count. It was supposed to be more dramatic! More cooler!”
Miles rubs his head. “Well, thanks anyway.”
“What are best friends for,” Ganke sighs. “Beating up zombies over the head with a calculus book.”
Miles grins. “I bet I can name a few more things.”
Miles laughs, ducking as Ganke tries to hit him again with the calculus book.
“Yup! I can name at least five.”