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Superhero Love Story

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25th MARCH 2019

 

Minhyuk had enjoyed twenty-five years of being totally irresponsible.

 

He supposes after all that, it’s inevitable that the universe checks his ego a little, knocks him down a couple of pegs. He only wishes the universe wouldn’t do it in the most frustrating way it possibly could. He could’ve just gotten into some kind of accident, lost a limb, or something – anything would be less excruciating than his current plight. The universe, seeking to punish him for his arrogance, had decided to metaphorically and physically weigh him down.

 

Literally . Try as he does, he can’t lift the metal bench that has pressed itself over his feet. There’s a deafening crash nearby. He can only guess that a building is falling. (With any luck, it’ll be a building he’s already evacuated the residents from.) The bench is stuck firmly to his feet: Not pressing down hard enough to hurt, but as if the Earth’s gravitational pull was intent on keeping it on him. Which is probably what’s happening, given the bastard he’s currently facing.

 

Gravity’s eyes are covered by his grey visor, but Minhyuk can bet the asshole probably has the most smug look in his eyes right now to match the smug quirk of his lips. In fact, everything about the grey and blue-suited Super in this moment screams “smug”. Minhyuk grunts in frustration, trying and failing to push the bench off himself.

 

“There’s no shame in surrender, Chancer.”

 

Minhyuk ceases his attempts at escape. His eyes narrow up at Gravity. Horrific sounds of explosions can be heard a few blocks away, but Minhyuk can’t get there to save whoever it is that’s being hurt in the chaos. He’s engulfed in a mixture of fear, frustration, and fog. Gravity also turns his head in the direction of the sounds. Somehow, he still seems more focused on making sure Minhyuk can’t help.

 

“Can you just let me handle this? Don’t you have something better to do than take over my battles literally every day?”

 

He wants to sound venomous and condescending. Given his current situation, he just sounds like he’s begging for mercy. Gravity is clearly rolling his eyes, even though Minhyuk can’t see him. Casually, he waves away a chunk of building that’s flying at them. Then he answers Minhyuk in the most condescending way possible.

 

“What makes you think I want to be on babysitting duty? Mimic is my responsibility. I don’t need you to screw this up.”

 

Never meet your heroes. This old adage echoes in Minhyuk’s head. Honestly, he’d never thought this would apply to Superheroes.

 

When he was a teenager, Gravity was his favourite Super. Minhyuk had always been a huge fan of Supers, super-powered humans that saved the world day in and day out in their awe-inspiring supersuits.

 

When he was sixteen, a new Super started appearing on the news. Everyone called him Gravity . He was a Super like no other, his brilliant pastel pink and blue a sharp contrast to the gritty, mature Supers everyone was used to. Gravity’s trademark was rebellion – he took no one’s shit, not villains or fellow Supers. And he never preached morals, he just did what he thought was right. He was everything Minhyuk wanted to be – brave, beloved, badass.

 

It hadn’t taken long for Minhyuk to become obsessed with the hero: He followed the news religiously to hear of or witness his every showdown, and spent his classes in high school sketching him onto his textbooks.

 

The teenage Minhyuk would be heartbroken to be in this situation. The adult Minhyuk is slightly less heartbroken, just because it’s happened a few times now.

 

How the hell did he even end up in this situation? He doesn’t remember asking to be tracked down by Gravity whenever he’s battling a villain, and subsequently immobilized like he’s some kind of criminal. Shouldn’t his powers of “luck manipulation” be able to extract him from this situation? Then he supposes that is the difference between him and Gravity – he relies on chance and odds, and Gravity relies on the surest scientific fact of the world. No one is lucky enough to be able to cheat gravity.

 

“Doesn’t it make more sense to take him down together?” Minhyuk starts trying to argue again. “He can literally use your power against you –”

 

Gravity takes off in the middle of Minhyuk’s sentence. He’s apparently satisfied that Minhyuk won’t be able to escape. He’s sprinting out of sight and around a corner before Minhyuk can even shout at him to return. ( Why doesn’t the guy just fly? ) Minhyuk tries one last time to push the metal bench off his feet. A shout of exasperation escapes his throat, before he sits himself on the ground. If he’s going to be rendered useless in the middle of a high-stakes battle, he’ll be useless sitting down.

 

Now that the fight’s moved to a different place, the once all-consuming noise and chaos slowly dies away. It is replaced by the chatter of civilians and reporters all rushing onto the scene to look at the aftermath. The situation gets worse – and he really seems to have lost all luck for some reason – when the reporters start to notice him sitting in the middle of the rubble, being completely useless.

 

“Sir, sir,” shouts one of them, all but shoving a microphone into his face. “Are you the new Superhero known as Chancer?”

 

His suit of brilliant yellow and blue make the answer to that question all too clear. The overexcited reporter barrels on without waiting for an answer.

 

“Are you the same Chancer who saved our city from Centauri just two weeks ago?”

 

Minhyuk nods. He’s beginning to get a headache.

 

“Why are you hiding under a bench while Gravity is battling Mimic?”

 

“About that –” Minhyuk fumbles. “See, what happened was –”

 

Another explosion. Closer to them now. Screams sound from the same area. The reporters jump back in fright. Minhyuk keeps his voice steady as he tells them to clear the area, and not to return until he says the fight is over. In the face of danger, the reporters are finally quiet. They leave obediently. Minhyuk tries to think of a plan.

 

Gravity is a legend in their city, but even he must struggle when fighting Mimic, the copycat villain that could use any Super’s powers against them. Minhyuk knows he can’t sit by and watch the city be destroyed so easily.

 

There isn’t any time to waste on frustration or helplessness. He raises his gaze to the bench that is still holding him down. Now that he thinks about it again, the chances of the metal obstruction being easily lifted off of him are actually pretty high. About a hundred percent, actually . Minhyuk lets it fall off him. He takes a few moments to gloat to his general surroundings. Then he lets his legs take him to where the action is.

 

When he arrives, everything is flying everywhere.

 

A car comes hurtling at full speed in his direction. He throws himself onto the ground to avoid it. The pain from his scraped knees is searing.

 

Mimic is floating in the air, completely at ease. At a lazy wave of his hand, entire chunks of the surrounding buildings swirl like a tornado around his flying figure.

 

Minhyuk finds it hard to take a step. Everything on the ground seems to be sinking rather than sitting. This is not how gravity works. This is how Gravity works. Minhyuk spots him standing in the middle of the chaos, power rolling off of him in waves. He seems to be trying to weigh Mimic down, and everything else is getting pulled down instead.

 

Minhyuk thinks he may be a little out of his depth here, pun intended.

 

Then the ground itself is snatched from under his legs. He finds himself floating helplessly in the air, no gravity at all, stuck in the orbit that Mimic has casually placed him in. He can’t do anything but float. He’s become useless as soon as he arrived onto the scene.

 

“What do we have here?” He hears Mimic’s voice.  

 

“Looks like luck is in the air tonight!”

 

Mimic explodes into giggles even before he finishes his pun. Obviously, he’s the only one enjoying the situation they’re in.

 

Minhyuk cranes his neck to look up at Mimic, floating almost directly above him. As usual, Mimic’s entire face is covered by the metallic mask that makes him look like a caricature of a welder. The robotic distortion that disguises his real voice just adds onto the impossibility of him, this all-powerful maniac that copied Supers’ powers and used it against them. Minhyuk doesn’t have many fears, but he’s truly terrified of him.

 

While Mimic is distracted, Gravity attacks. But the tree that he sends in Mimic’s direction hurtles back at him faster than Minhyuk can say “power”. It knocks right into Gravity’s arm and knocks him off his feet. Minhyuk winces. Gravity doesn’t get back up immediately. The exposed part of his face is a bloodied mess. Mimic didn’t even turn to look at Gravity throughout the scuffle, still focused on watching Minhyuk struggle.

 

Struggling is obviously futile. Mimic watches him flail fruitlessly for a while before finally getting bored. He turns back to Gravity, finally, just as the Super has pushed himself back up. Gravity gets right back to trying to weigh him down, alternating between sending waves of gravity to bring him down, and sending everything flying in his direction. None of it works – they have identical powers, and Mimic can do everything that Gravity can.

 

“Come on, G, loosen up. Have some fun! You’re always so serious.” Mimic teases and flirts, as always. Gravity just growls. His legs are trembling, ever so slightly. His jaw is set. Minhyuk thinks he might be scared. Can Gravity even get scared?

 

Minhyuk realises Mimic seems to very luckily be dodging everything Gravity shoots his way. Nothing has hit him yet, and Minhyuk knows Gravity’s got good aim. So there’s only one explanation – Minhyuk’s powers. He swears under his breath. That fucking thief.

 

When he turns his attention back to the fight, Mimic has Gravity buried under a building’s worth of rubble. Minhyuk is trying desperately to withdraw his powers, take the luck away from Mimic, but he can’t. Mimic is the copycat villain for a reason; He can use the powers of all those around him, regardless of consent. Minhyuk is on the edge of panic. Gravity groans, quiet and pained.

 

Minhyuk keeps floating, helplessly. Then he has the only good idea he’s had all day.

 

Mimic may have his powers, but he has no idea how to use them. He thinks it’s just luck, everyone does. Minhyuk knows the extent of his powers, and he’ll use it against Mimic. He looks over to where Gravity is, fighting to escape the rubble when Mimic buried him in. It shouldn’t be that hard , he thinks. After all, there’s a hundred percent chance that the rubble will just fall off him so that he can escape easily .

 

Gravity finally breaks free, and takes the whole giant mass of rubble into the air. It’s so big that Mimic, still holding onto Minhyuk’s luck, barely manages to dodge it this time.

 

Gravity begins to pull. Mimic resists. There’s a struggle.

 

Minhyuk crashes first, when Mimic’s concentration finally breaks. He lands on the ground, tearing his suit. The rocks cut into his elbows. He tastes blood in his mouth. He stands, painfully, just as Mimic follows his descent, crashing violently into the smoking pile of jagged rubble.

 

Fucking finally .

 

Gravity starts to run on shaky legs, rushing to catch Mimic while he’s down. Minhyuk doesn’t hesitate to follow him. When they clear the rubble, Mimic is not where he landed. Where is he? There’s no way he could have escaped so fast. Gravity growls again. Minhyuk sees a hint of anger, a remnant of the bold Super he used to be, then he’s right back to protocol.

 

He does a scan of the area, and concludes that Mimic has escaped.

 

“That was impressive.”

 

The two Supers whip around, but Mimic’s voice is the only proof that he’s still hanging around.

 

“But there’s no need to be so mean, Gravity. I just came to give you a little workout, that’s all!”

 

“Is this all just a game to you?” Minhyuk demands, as he looks for anywhere the villain could be hiding.

 

“Sure. We broke so much stuff!”

 

Everything is floating again, but this time it’s because of Gravity. He lifts everything in the room, including Minhyuk, to try and find Mimic. But he’s really not around. Yet his annoying voice still sounds from nearby, so Minhyuk thinks he must’ve stolen invisibility from some other Super.

 

“Anyway, that was fun. But I’m a busy man, so I’ll get going now! Good luck trying to find me.”

 

And that’s that. They look everywhere, but Mimic seems to be gone for good.

 

Apparently fate isn’t sick of torturing Minhyuk yet, though, and the reporters from before rush back onto the scene. Minhyuk hears Gravity sigh deeply at the same time as he does.

 

“Gravity!” One man shouts, shoving a microphone into Gravity’s face. “Since when did you work with Supers that are not part of the SRGD?”

 

Gravity sighs again, less audibly to everyone but Minhyuk. His gloved fingers are wrapped tight around his left arm, and Minhyuk sees drops of red seeping from a gash in his suit. Can Gravity even bleed? It looks painful.

 

“I’m working with Chancer to take down these… bigger villains. Since he’s only a vigilante, he may not be used to dealing with such a high-level threat.”

 

Who does he think he’s fooling? The whole world knows as well as Minhyuk that the Superhero Regulation Government Department’s only goal is to get all the Supers under their thumb and use them for their own corrupt agenda. That’s the only reason Gravity’s stalking him at all; Now that he’s a high-profile Super, they can’t let him operate on his own. Gravity, rebel of the past, is just a government lapdog now.

 

“Thank you all for your concern. Please keep this area cleared until tomorrow at the earliest.”

 

Gravity has a sort of power in his politeness - people know when he’s done entertaining them. With his final instruction, the reporters and civilians clear away. Minhyuk realises, uncomfortably, that they’re alone on the street. It’s so silent. He can see Gravity hesitate, his lips parted slightly. He thinks Gravity’s about to thank him. Then there’s a sound of bells from his phone, as Minhyuk receives a text.

 

FROM: HYUNWOO

19/03/25 12:15PM

you didn’t come to work, so i told the manager u were sick  

let’s have dinner later :]

 

He’d forgotten something so mundane as his part-time job could exist, while being caught in the fight with Mimic. Oh well, they say being a Super doesn’t pay the bills. He has to make a living somehow. (Minhyuk really only has two rules in life: Don’t be in debt, and don’t give away his identity.)

 

“You brought your phone with you to a fight?”

 

Minhyuk looks up, cocks an eyebrow as if to say “and what about it?”.

 

“What were you thinking? Are you a complete idiot ?”

 

Minhyuk groans internally. He’s nagging again. He has a criticism for everything Minhyuk does, a nag for every way Minhyuk fails as a Super. It would break his heart if it wasn’t just so annoying.

 

“Where else was I supposed to keep it? And you’re welcome, by the way. I saved your ass.”

 

Gravity looks up, hesitates, sighs again.  

 

“I didn’t know you helped me...thank you.”

 

Silence. Minhyuk thinks he should get going, before Gravity starts scolding him again.

 

“You really have to be more careful, Chancer. You’re not fighting petty street criminals anymore. Everything little thing you do can be used against you.”

 

“Oh, is that the reason you’ve been stalking me and making my life hell? Because you want me to be safe?” He spits. He doesn’t let Gravity reply. “Drop the act, Gravity. You’re under the government, you might as well be a mall cop. I’m actually trying to fight for the people.”

 

Another sigh. Gravity sighs a lot. It’s condescending. It makes Minhyuk feel like a child throwing a tantrum.

 

“You can do what you want, but the SRGD doesn’t think you should go up against high-level villains without supervision. You’re not exactly careful.”

 

Gravity waves a hand in the same casual motion as Mimic had minutes ago. The rubble begins to part, creating a walkway. Gravity heads out.

 

“You don’t have to hate me. I’m just doing my job, Minhyuk.”

 

How does Gravity know his name?

 


 

Everything had been easier when he had first taken up the job. He was twenty-two years old when he’d first gone to fight crime.

 

He still remembers his hastily thrown on ‘Supersuit’: His yellow graphic tee shirt, ripped jeans, a blue jacket. He hid his face with a Kakashi mask he found in his drawers from childhood (okay, teen hood) and pulled on a sweatband over his forehead to keep his hair out of his face. No wonder the villain couldn’t take him seriously when he’d shown up. When he’d demanded in his most serious voice for the villain to let the hostages go, he’d been laughed at. (He eventually changed his costume to something less hilarious, but he kept the jacket and mask. He’s fond of them.)

 

Lower level villains aren’t exactly dangerous. They’re so low on the evil hierarchy that they are basically just mobsters with superpowers. These goons are much easier to defeat with luck alone. All he has to do is defeat them once, quickly and with all the odds on his side. If he’s lucky, and he always is, they don’t show up in town again. Problem solved. Easy peasy.

 

Everything went downhill when he ran into Centauri.

 

Running into Centauri was not in and of itself a bad thing. In fact, having a huge showdown with one of the country’s most notorious Supervillains was Minhyuk’s longest dream.

 


 

3rd JANUARY 2019

 

Blinding. Everything was blindingly bright, the minute Minhyuk stepped out of the coffee shop he worked at on the weekends. Every source of light in the vicinity was shining into Minhyuk’s eyes. The sun was gleaming, painfully white, and continued to burn his eyes even when he closed them. He could hear, touch, smell – but he was nearly losing his sight, everyone was. Around him, people screamed. Children wailed for help. He could hear the screeches of cars as they stopped, their drivers unable to see. A crash, somewhere. Minhyuk was on the wrong end of panic.

 

Through the chaos, laughter rang out.

 

“There’s no need to be afraid! Just accept me as your Overlord, and I’ll show mercy on you.”

 

Minhyuk was too distracted to tell where it was coming from. But everyone knew who that voice belonged to. Centauri. He’s arrogant, he’s cruel, and he enjoys grandstanding and theatrics. He is the most persistent Supervillain the city had seen yet, coming back every other week with a new scheme to ruin their lives. His power has something to do with light, if it wasn’t obvious enough from all the blindness in the area.

 

The sensible part of Minhyuk was telling him to run. With his luck, he would’ve managed to escape from the terror in good time. This was not his mess to clean, and besides, how could he possibly win against Centauri ? The villain may be ridiculous, but he’s also ridiculously powerful. This was way above his pay grade.

 

But then again, the sensible part of Minhyuk was not a very prominent part of him. Common sense lost out, as it always did.

 

He stopped to think. Centauri’s powers are light manipulation, but how do they really work? It seems impossible that he’d create light. His mind whirred. Using muscle memory, his legs took him to an alley nearby. There were fewer sources of light there; His hunch was proven right when the world stopped being so bright. His eyes still burned, but at least he could see more than a few steps ahead of him.

 

He squinted. Where was Centauri? The Supervillain was known to turn invisible whenever it suited him. But in a situation like this, Minhyuk was sure all his efforts would be concentrated on the task at hand. If he was assuming that everyone is blinded by the extremely bright light, then he wouldn’t see a need to be invisible. Minhyuk prayed hard that he was right. He was.

 

Centauri, decked out in tacky white and gold, stood at the mouth of the street. Minhyuk couldn’t see him well, obviously, but he could still hear his cackles ringing down the street. He edged a little closer, narrowed his eyes a little more. Centauri seemed awfully stiff, despite all the laughter. Like he had to maintain concentration.

 

It would be a shame if someone were to distract him. Minhyuk smiled.

 

There was no way he could do anything all the way here. He had to get closer. But there was no way he’d be able to see anything once he got closer to Centauri. He remembered who he was. If he was lucky, and he always is, he’d get to Centauri without being noticed or losing his way. He hoped for his (and the city’s) sake that this was true. There was nothing left to do except blindly make his way to the power-crazy Supervillain.

 

People were still screaming. Minhyuk’s heart ached at the sound of crying, terrified children.

 

“Where are all your Superheroes now?”

 

Minhyuk pressed himself against a wall, steps away from Centauri.

 

Step two: Minhyuk would say he had great aim. He’d won his middle school’s archery competition three years in a row. And he knew that if he was lucky, and he always is, he could break Centauri’s concentration. What would he use, though? He’d only thought as far as making his way closer.

 

Another crash. The area hadn’t been cleared yet, people were getting hurt, someone could die – there was no time to be wasted. Minhyuk stopped thinking. His body moved on its own. When his common sense returned to him, Centauri was on the ground. And so was he, on top of him. In his panic, he'd apparently full-body tackled the Supervillain to the ground.

 

Shit. What was Step Three, exactly?

 

Before he could think of it, he felt his back slam the ground. Centauri pushed him off himself (embarrassingly easily) and threw him to the ground. Minhyuk swore, and dodged the kick that came his way. One knock from Centauri's heavy boot could probably knock him out cold.

 

Centauri laughed, as if amused by his failure. It was pretty embarrassing, even in this kind of situation, to be laughed at by the villain one is trying to defeat. Centauri kicked him aside easily.

 

"Next time you wanna fight, make sure you have real powers first, okay?"

 

But Minhyuk couldn't focus on his pride. The longer Centauri went on, the more people got hurt. Minhyuk had not stopped panicking since the situation started – the stakes were so much higher now than he'd ever had to face before. His eyes were burning terribly now that he was this close to Centauri. In fact, the villain seemed much more invested in hurting him specifically now that he's been attacked. A petty villain. Who would've thought?

 

Minhyuk looked around, desperate, for anything that could help him take Centauri down. Where the fuck was his luck when he needed it?

 

He had to try something new. Luck couldn't be where his powers ended. It couldn't be, or everyone was going to die.

 

The world was too bright – he thought of the neighbourhood, the way he remembered it. Where Centauri stood, there was a building nearby that Minhyuk had always looked at from the coffee shop during his shifts. It had looked strangely shaky these days.

 

He wondered: How likely was it to fall? It must be very likely. He concentrated on the thought. His heart was about to jump out of his chest. He thought: If this doesn't work, I'm going to die while acting like a complete fool.

 

Then the building crashed straight onto where Centauri was.

 

The light left the world. Sight returned to Minhyuk.

 

Everywhere, there were burning areas, smoking cars, families hiding wherever they found shelter. Minhyuk couldn't help the gasp that escaped him when he finds the wreck of a car at the end of the road and the carnage inside. The hum of the world returned, a little louder now that they knew they were safe. Minhyuk had saved the city.

 

The scene was cleared up. Minhyuk wanted to help, but he was pulled away by medics, ready to clean him up. They only let him go when they realised that he wasn't hurt at all. Lucky for him, but then again he always was. Still shaken, he let people surround him. They were full of questions, and he was too exhausted to tell them that he was. He answered them all quietly, shell-shocked.

 

When he calmed down a little, he was over the moon.

 

He'd saved the city. He'd had his big hero moment, he was on the level of his childhood idols. Maybe he'd get to meet Gravity. Maybe he'd be famous. He let a crowd children run right into his arms, screaming "What's your name?" and tells them: "Chancer!"

 

This was the blaze of glory he'd dreamt of, as a tortured child.

 

(The area was combed thoroughly. Centauri was nowhere to be found.)

 

Chancer, the lucky hero. Chancer, controller of the odds. No one knew this, but Minhyuk had never been able to do it before. He'd always been lucky. But he'd never realised the extent of his power until Centauri. Controlling the odds... Would that not make him invincible?

 

He held that thought deep within himself, and smiled all the way to sleep.

 


 

26th MARCH 2019

 

Well, he's not smiling now.

 

Ever since the big showdown with Centauri, the SRGD had not allowed him a moment of rest.

 

He's a high-profile Super now, and apparently that means he has to be under government control. The first time, they'd sent an official to corner him after he saved a bank from being robbed. The second, and the third, they'd sent more than one official.

 

No matter how much he told them he didn't want to join the SRGD, they remained persistent.

 

“I told you, I don’t want to sign up to be a glorified lapdog. Just give it a rest already, asshole.”

 

“Yes, we have already accepted your many colourfully worded rejections. I am here today to inform you that because of the damage caused by your latest… escapade, down in 19th Street, the SRGD has decided to put you under temporary supervision.”

 

Minhyuk knows damn well that he causes about as much damage as any other Super. The destruction is the price they pay for saving the world. (Besides, it's not his destruction, do these people not see the villains destroying all the stuff?) He knew all this was just an excuse for them to corner him into working for the government. But they're the government, and he can't do anything about it if they impose their will.

 

The day after that conversation was the first time he met his childhood hero. Yippee.

 

Speaking of the asshole, though– How had he known Minhyuk's name? The question has been plaguing him since the day before. He sits in lecture, completely distracted, doodling in his notebook absently. If Hyunwoo notices that he's a little out of it, he doesn't say anything. Or maybe he's just lucky enough to have a best friend who's not very observant.

 

His identity is the most important thing to him in the world. He's not like those gritty Superheroes in comic books or movies; He doesn't have nothing to lose. Honestly, he has everything to lose: His friends, his job, his university, Hyunwoo. Not to mention, he'd also like to keep his life for as long as he can. With his secret identity, he can keep the action to when the world needs his help. If he's exposed, he'd never be free.

 

The world asks so much, too much, of Supers. Minhyuk can't give all of himself away. But Gravity had said his name so casually, carelessly spit out the thing he protected most fiercely. How? Just thinking about it makes him tense. His fingers close tighter around his pen, and the cartoon bee he's drawing suddenly has a hole for a stinger. Holding back a scream of frustration, he crumples the post-it into a ball and shoves it into his bag.

 

He can't take this anymore.

 

He knows where Gravity will be, this time of the evening. All SRGD 'participants' (or Super mall cops, as Minhyuk thinks of them), are tasked to patrol the city for signs of villain activity. He'll find him there.

 

When he packs his things into his bag and stalks out of the lecture hall, the professor is fortunately busy handling a technical difficulty and doesn't notice. When he changes into his blue and yellow in a hidden alley, he's lucky that no one walks by and sees him.

 

Gravity jumps in shock when he meets Minhyuk on an empty street. Can Gravity even get shocked?

 

"I'm going to make this quick, because I hate you."

 

Gravity snorts, but doesn't reply. He tilts his head as if to say 'go ahead'.

 

"How do you know my name?"

 

Gravity sighs. Minhyuk read online once that sighing a lot helps people live longer. If that's the case, Gravity may live forever. (He doesn't know if that's a miracle or a tragedy.)

 

"Your name is Lee Minhyuk. You study Economics at the University of Seoul. You pay for your own tuition and you work part-time at a coffee place called 'coffee-hero'. You are in debt from student loans. You know the SRGD. They know everything about every single Super that comes under their radar."

 

Some silence. Minhyuk reels in shock. He wants to slap himself – why didn't he hide more? How could he think he was safe, hiding in plain sight?

 

"We can't talk here." Gravity tells him.

 

He takes his hand. Minhyuk doesn't feel slightly tingly when Gravity's gloved fingers wrap around his wrist. He lets himself be pulled into a shady alley and hopes that he's not about to be beaten up. He may not like Gravity much anymore, given the way he betrayed everything he once stood for, but being beaten up by his childhood crush idol would really break his heart. And also his bones, probably.

 

"I know you think you're doing the right thing. But you can't do it on your own."

 

Minhyuk opens his mouth to argue. Gravity continues talking.

 

"You wanna save lives? You want to do good for the city? This is the only way you can. There. Is. No. Other. Option ."

 

Minhyuk hates him so much. But he's right.

 

If the SRGD knows everything about him, then they know everything they can use to make him comply. What else could they take from him? Gravity looks at him, pity obvious in his small smile.

 

"Or you could just stop being a Superhero."

 

"There's no way that'll happen."

 

Minhyuk sighs. Damn, it's contagious.

 

When he walks out of the alley without another word, Gravity doesn't ask him whether he's changed his mind about joining the department.

 


 

Life is so unfair, Minhyuk thinks, as he sits in the cab. The boring grey building of the SRGD looms near. It even looks evil. Minhyuk kisses his freedom goodbye as he pays the driver and steps out of the car. The people that walk in and out of the building are all grey, grey, grey. The sidewalk is grey. Their cars are grey. The building is grey. It's just grey upon grey upon grey. Minhyuk can feel himself losing colour just by being in the vicinity.

 

When he's done navigating his way through the maze of a building, he finally arrives at the registration office. It doesn't look like there's much activity here. (But then again, it's not like new Supers appeared every single day. If they were that common, there would be no villains at all.)

 

No one is waiting for him when he arrives. He didn't really expect anyone to, but some part of him did think that after all their wrangling, Gravity would at least show up to gloat. But when he comes in, there's just one bored looking worker behind a desk. His eyes only widen a little when Minhyuk hands him the form.

 

Name: Lee Minhyuk

Power: Luck, Manipulation of Odds (?)

Alias: CHANCER

 

He must be used to meeting Supers, though, so that's the extent of his reaction.

 

Only when Minhyuk is waiting for the lift after the exhausting experience, then does he meet Gravity again.

 

Gravity is in his shark colours (does he ever wear normal clothes?). He's talking to someone Minhyuk doesn't recognise, a tall man in a doctor's coat that looks like he'll blow away if Minhyuk sneezes. They're walking his way, but neither of them see him immediately, too engrossed in conversation. Their hands are brushing, like they were planning to hold hands but changed their minds at the last minute.

 

Minhyuk considers whether to acknowledge them or walk in the opposite direction. Before he can think too hard on it, Gravity notices him.

 

"Oh, Chancer."

 

("Oh, Chancer"? After months of hunting him down and ripping all the fight from his body, is that all he has to say?)

 

"I thought I'd see you here today. I'm glad you've changed your mind."

 

A smile – the same shark-like smile that had teenage Minhyuk head over heels in love with him. It doesn't make his heart a little wonky. The doctor smiles at him too, a gentle sort of smile that makes him look instantly friendly.

 

"This is Doctor Chae. You'll probably seeing him a lot."

 

(Doctor Chae – superhero in his own right. Targeted by villains almost as much as Supers were. Also, he's exceptionally handsome.)

 

“Nice to meet you, Minhyuk.”

 

Minhyuk acknowledges the handsome doctor with a nod and a pained smile. He turns to Gravity.

 

"Well, I signed up for the stupid department. Are you happy?"

 

Gravity laughs. Can Gravity even laugh?

 

He walks forward, and holds out a hand. Teenage Minhyuk is squealing.

 

"We'll probably be seeing a lot of each other then."

 

"Wish I could say I’m glad about that.”

Chapter Text

1st APRIL 2019

 

“You look so exhausted for a man who claims to be celebrating.”

 

It’s 8.30 a.m. Kihyun is in casual wear for once, a denim jacket thrown over a pink tee-shirt and tight jeans. The pink and blue flatter Kihyun far more than his ‘shark’ colours ever will. He’s hunched over a plate of scrambled eggs and toast, either brooding or asleep – or brooding in his sleep (as he’s been known to). Having done physical training until late last night, a completely unnecessary thing in Hyungwon’s opinion, Kihyun must be completely drained.

 

Hyungwon had been preparing for an afternoon meeting when Kihyun invited him to breakfast earlier that morning. Surprised and more than a little flattered, he accepted immediately. The surprise has now turned into worry, as is the customary emotion when dealing with somebody like Kihyun.

 

Kihyun snorts, not looking up. “I’m always exhausted, Won.”

 

But still, as if to alleviate Hyungwon’s worries, he flicks his wrist. The fork on Hyungwon’s plate floats up and slowly goes beyond his reach. With a laugh, Hyungwon tries to snatch it back, but finds his hand pinned to the table. When he glares at Kihyun (never with malice), Kihyun is smiling his sharp smile. It can light Hyungwon on fire. (It probably will, eventually.) The fork drops soundlessly back into his hand.

 

Kihyun never wants to make Hyungwon worry. Yet he can’t hide his tired eyes - a little red, and staring ahead like he’s too tired to focus or blink. Hyungwon wants to rub the exhaustion from his eyes and give him rest. Rest, the world isn’t held up on your shoulders alone. But bringing it up always makes Kihyun even more tense, and Hyungwon wants to keep this happy, unaffected Kihyun. At least for this morning.

 

“So, what’s the occasion?”

 

“I’m celebrating my freedom, of course.”

 

“You’re breaking up with me?” Hyungwon jokes,  feigning hurt. “Is it something I did?”

 

Kihyun rolls his eyes. Hyungwon has to dodge a napkin that Kihyun throws at him, but pride blooms in his chest when he sees Kihyun’s lips quirking. He can’t resist Hyungwon most of the time, especially when he’s being stupid like this. And Hyungwon, loving to see Kihyun smile, happily eggs him on with playful flirting and stupid jokes.

 

“If I were to escape you at last, I’d throw a fucking ball and invite Centauri too.”

 

Hyungwon smacks his arm in retaliation (not the one that got injured in the previous fight). Kihyun doesn’t even flinch. Well, to be fair, he has faced much worse much more often. He’s not so fragile, no matter how careful Hyungwon wants to be with him. Hyungwon bites back a shout of surprise when he lifts off his chair, just a little. There’s a mischievous glint in Kihyun’s eyes that tells Hyungwon: If they weren’t in a public diner, he’d be stuck to the ceiling by now. He sticks out his tongue. Kihyun lets him fall.

 

“I’m celebrating my freedom from babysitting duties!” Kihyun sighs contentedly and grins at Hyungwon. “Chancer finally gave in. I was getting so sick of him, you have no idea.”

 

“He doesn’t seem so bad,” Hyungwon comments idly, as he stabs his fork into his food. “He’s still young, he’ll grow more responsible.”

 

“Won, he’s our age.”

 

“And we’re still young.”

 

“It’s not a matter of age. It’s a matter of knowing what’s at stake. Chancer isn’t ready.”

 

Hyungwon can’t really argue - what does he know about being a Super? So he lets Kihyun have the last word.

 

He still doesn’t think Chancer’s so bad.

 


 

It’s completely overwhelming. Minhyuk is about to lose his voice, barely staying afloat in the gigantic crowd.

 

He is lucky enough to make barricade at the JOOHONEY concert, but his superpower hasn’t saved him from the craziness of his fellow fans. He waves his lightstick wildly, unleashing banshee screeches every time the idol comes his way. His knees go weak, and his voice goes dolphin-mode, when Jooheon looks in his general direction and blows a kiss. Jooheon begins his next song - one of Minhyuk’s favourites, one he hasn’t performed in concert before. Again, Minhyuk’s luck.

 

Most Supers aren’t known to go to concerts. But still, Minhyuk thinks he deserves some consolation after dealing away his autonomy to the SRGD just a week before.

 

People like to say it’s the darkest before the dawn. But the week following his registration has felt like that period after the sun sets, before darkness begins to set in: The vaguely grey world, waiting for the dark to finally settle. He just keeps waiting for the moment to come when he has to deal with the reality of the decision he’d been cornered in to making.

 

For now, he can enjoy himself a little. Jooheon comes to Minhyuk’s area of the mosh pit and sits on the stage. His legs dangle off the edge of the stage as he raps a sweet song. It’s one of Minhyuk’s favourites, but all of Jooheon’s songs are one of his favourites. It’s called being a fan. Minhyuk swoons a little. He’s always weak for pretty boys with soft cheeks. The rapping and idol-status is just a big bonus to his huge crush on Jooheon.

 

His phone buzzes in his pocket. (Gravity would be so pissed if he knew that Minhyuk turns his phone to silent mode for concerts and not for Superhero fights. In his defence, he forgot, that time.) It may be from Hyunwoo, or Hyunwoo’s boyfriend Wonho, or if his luck is done for the day it’s probably from the SRGD. Regardless, he ignores it until the concert is fully over. Jooheon disappears backstage for the last time after a final bow. Minhyuk’s still full of adrenaline.

 

Outside the concert venue, people mill about, taking pictures and trading in unofficial merch. Minhyuk jogs around to see if he can find anything cute. His phone buzzes again. He checks the notification -

 

All excitement drains out of him when he sees the messages he’s received.

 

FROM: UNKNOWN

19/04/01 9:53PM

Lee Minhyuk, please report to the SRGD building by 2300h.

Report to #07-8B

 

FROM: UNKNOWN

19/04/01 10:30PM

Lee Minhyuk, this is a reminder: Please report to the SRGD building by 2300h.

Report to #07-8B

 

Ah, so there’s that darkness he’d been expecting.

 


 

When he arrives on the seventh floor of the SRGD building, it’s already 11.15PM. At least Minhyuk has never been known for being punctual. Especially on such short notice. He’d been planning to go home and crash after the JOOHONEY concert, but fate (or the SRGD, same thing) had other plans for him.

 

Now he drags his tired feet along the many hallways and corridors, trying to find the ever elusive #07-8B. This building is a maze. The seventh floor seems to be mostly populated with science laboratories. He passes by #07-5, #07-6, #07-7, and #07-8. No sign of #07-8B.

 

“Are you lost?”

 

A voice that is slightly familiar calls from behind him. He whips around and comes face to face with Dr. Chae. He’s in a pressed white shirt and black tie, a doctor’s coat making him look bigger than he is. He’s standing in front of a door that is engraved with “#07-8B”, right next to #07-8. Minhyuk had missed this door when looking around.

 

“Come in,” Dr. Chae beckons. “I just need to take some blood, and after you fill up some medical forms, you’ll be good to go.”

 

Minhyuk follows him into the office and stands at the doorway. Dr. Chae has a kind smile and a welcoming presence, but he works for the SRGD and Minhyuk firmly believes that everyone who works here can’t be trusted. Of course, he may be a little biased.

 

He looks around the office. It’s reasonably neat, though it looks more lived-in than regular scientists’ offices did. A door at the end of the room is open, and seems to lead to a private room of some sort. Dr. Chae closes the door of the room before Minhyuk can take a closer look to see what it is.

 

“That’s just a resting room,” he explains. “I tend to spend the better part of my days working, so it’s more convenient to keep a bed here.”

 

With a wave of his hand, he calls Minhyuk over to the table. Minhyuk only remembers then that he has a slight fear of needles. He swallows his momentary panic and joins Dr. Chae at the table, sitting on the chair in front of him. He only trembles a little when Dr. Chae takes his arm and begins searching for a vein. The needle is resting on the table, unopened but already intimidating. Minhyuk looks away.

 

Dr. Chae smiles at him. “You Supers always look so tired.”

 

It’s probably from those three months trying to protect the city while Gravity was stuck to his back like a rabid monkey. He doesn’t say that - he’s already seen how close they appear to be. He doesn’t want to push away a potential ally by being rude.

 

“See, the thing is that I was tired before I was a Super. No causation.”

 

This earns him a laugh from the doctor.

 

“What terrible villain did you fight today to be this tired, Chancer?” Dr. Chae looks at him intently, but a smile is already brightening his face. He’s clearly just teasing.

 

“The most terrifying - a mob of fans so that I could stand at the front of a JOOHONEY concert. Much scarier than any villain.”

 

The doctor laughs again. He’s easy to amuse. Minhyuk already likes this about him.

 

Dr. Chae tells him to look away when the needle is prepped and ready, and Minhyuk is happy to oblige.

 

“Wouldn’t your power kind of give you a legs-up in that kind of situation?” Dr. Chae asks. Minhyuk shrugs. While he is getting the hang of his powers, they’re still pretty hit or miss most of the time. He’d rather his luck abandoned him during a JOOHONEY concert than in the middle of an actual battle with a villain.

 

“And… we’re done.”

 

While they talked, Dr. Chae had already finished taking his blood. Minhyuk is charmed by this tactic - most of his experience with needles had been traumatic and the nurses had never done anything to distract him. Weak, as always, to boys with handsome faces and soft cheeks, Minhyuk already finds himself trusting this man more.

 

“By the way, I haven’t introduced myself properly.” Dr. Chae mentions. He removes his gloves and disposes them before holding out a slender hand. Minhyuk takes it.

 

“My name is Chae Hyungwon.”

 

“I’m Lee Minhyuk. But I guess you already knew that.”

 

Hyungwon nods. They shake hands.

 

Minhyuk takes a few medical questionnaires from Hyungwon. Who knew that registering to be a Superhero would be such a tedious process? Hyungwon tells him to take his time - “We can leave together when you’re done” - and turns his attention to his laptop. Minhyuk looks around; His attention is caught by a file on Hyungwon’s computer screen.

 

Alias: GRAVITY

Name: YOO KIHYUN
Power(s): Gravity Manipulation  
Affiliation: SRGD  
Years Active: Nine
Danger rating: High

 

‘Yoo Kihyun’. Minhyuk finds it hard to match the name ‘Yoo Kihyun’ to everything he knows about the Super, but it’s just because Gravity doesn’t look like someone who would have something as common and mundane as a name. All these years, Minhyuk has just known him as Gravity, after all. Behind all that bravado, Gravity - Yoo Kihyun - is still a regular guy with a regular name.

 

“Is ‘High’ the highest rating?”

 

Hyungwon looks over at him. He’d been typing away at his laptop for a few moments.

 

“Not really. There’s also ‘Extreme’ and ‘Exceeds Extreme’. Not that we’ve had anyone under Exceeds Extreme, except for Black Diamond - and he was killed before the SRGD was even set up.”

 

“Who’s under Extreme, then?”

 

Hyungwon thinks for a while, trying to remember. He’s cute when thinking; His eyebrows furrow a little, and his lips pout in concentration.

 

“I can only remember Centauri, off the top of my head.”

 

Centauri’s danger level is Extreme ? Minhyuk can’t help but snort.

 

“Is that funny? You’re just like Kihyun.” With the mention of the name, Hyungwon seems to soften. He looks fond, for a minute. “Both of you laugh at him, which is funny because neither of you managed to catch him yet.”

 

Minhyuk puts a hand to over his own heart, pretending to be hurt. Hyungwon’s eyes twinkle with mirth.

 

“Touché.”

 


 

2nd APRIL 2019

 

The minute Minhyuk crashes on the couch, ready to rest after a long day, his phone buzzes again.

 

FROM: HYUNGWON (DR. CHAE)

19/04/02 12:37AM

hi :D it’s hyungwon

 

Minhyuk has no reasonable explanation for the smile that appears on his face when he sees the message. They’d barely talked just now, and he knows nothing about the doctor. Still, the smile remains on his face as he types an immediate response.

 

TO: HYUNGWON (DR. CHAE)

19/04/02 12:39AM

and this is minhyuk

what’s up?

 

He turns off his phone and plugs it into the charging port. Despite his workaholic reputation, Hyungwon must be a pretty friendly guy to message Minhyuk when they’d just met that day. He likes him already. He can’t help himself.

 

“What are you looking all happy about?”

 

Minhyuk is snapped out of his thoughts by a teasing voice. He knows it’s Wonho without looking carefully - it’s hard to miss the hot pink head of hair. (Sidenote, Minhyuk also wishes he could dye his hair. But he knows it’d be too conspicuous, and his identity is still his most guarded secret.)

 

He makes a face in response to Wonho, and rolls off the couch as Wonho unceremoniously shoves him off. Wonho is Hyunwoo’s boyfriend of only a few months, but in that time he’d not only managed to win Hyunwoo’s heart but also Minhyuk’s. He treats Minhyuk like a little brother, which is a good explanation for why Minhyuk has been rudely knocked onto the floor. Wonho holds out a hand to help him back up, laughing.

 

“I would’ve thought you’d be more upset these days. Hyunwoo told me you were being bothered by the SRGD?” Wonho asks with curious eyes.

 

Wonho’s curiosity is understandable - the SRGD has built up a reputation for getting almost every Super under their thumb, and being entirely too pragmatic in their work. Minhyuk doesn’t want to discuss the sequence of events that led to his desertion of his values and eventual registration with the department, so he just shrugs.

 

“Long story short, I work for them now.”

 

Wonho hums but doesn’t reply immediately, making himself comfortable on the couch he stole from right under Minhyuk’s body. Minhyuk expands a little.

 

“Gravity hunted me down till I gave in… They had my name , they knew everything about me.” After a moment’s pause to calm himself, he adds, “Also, they stole my blood.”

 

He shows Wonho the band aid on his forearm, pouting. Wonho pats him on the arm pityingly, but his stance is tense, eyes narrowed. Minhyuk isn’t the only one who has a reason to be annoyed with Yoo Kihyun.

 

A hand rests on top of his head. He tilts it back to see Hyunwoo, back from his open dance class. Hyunwoo strokes his hair, for a while, and Minhyuk leans into it. Hyunwoo is a man of few words, but he’s Minhyuk’s best friend in the whole world, and he knows that sometimes the solution to all of Minhyuk’s problems is just unconditional affection. Hyunwoo pushes Minhyuk to a corner of the couch so he can sit, and Minhyuk reciprocates by throwing his legs over Hyunwoo’s lap.

 

Wonho tugs them apart, teasing Minhyuk – “don’t steal my boyfriend, now” – and Minhyuk sticks out his tongue.

 

The night passes easily; Hyunwoo is exhausted from his class but stays up talking to Wonho about their day, and Minhyuk stretches across their sturdy bodies and listens to their voices as he drifts off. Hyunwoo keeps stroking his hair. Wonho plays with his hands. Of all the things that his luck has brought him, he knows that they are the highest blessings. Minhyuk has things to lose, even if Supers shouldn’t, and he’ll do anything to make sure he doesn’t lose them.

 

“Good night,” he mumbles before he drifts off.

 


 

 

4TH APRIL 2019

 

Just three days later, a text from Hyungwon summons him to the SRGD once again:

 

FROM: HYUNGWON (DR. CHAE)

19/04/04 1:17PM

could you come over whenever it’s convenient?

i need your medical records

 

Minhyuk finds he doesn’t dread the visit to the building nearly as much this time; Hyungwon is friendly and easy to talk to, and they’ve already established a text relationship. Also, Hyungwon is very handsome and sometimes flirts with Minhyuk. Probably for fun – there’s no way he’s actually interested in him, of course.

 

When Minhyuk enters the office, Hyungwon is asleep. He’s removed his doctor’s coat and balled it up to create a makeshift pillow, his cheek pressed into the cloth. In one hand, he loosely holds his phone which is still on. The other hand is under the coat, probably going numb from where his head rests on it. The sight of his sleeping state tugs at Minhyuk’s heart, and he wants nothing more in that moment than to scoop Hyungwon into his arms.

 

Instead, he clears his throat. Hyungwon whines, and pushes his head off the desk with what seems to be a tremendous amount of effort. He rubs his eyes with his fists for a while before looking up at Minhyuk. His eyes widen with recognition, face breaking into a sleepy smile.

 

“You Doctors always look so tired.” Minhyuk tells him, a teasing echo of their first conversation.

 

“I know you’re just joking, but I was also tired before I became a doctor.”

 

Minhyuk laughs. Hyungwon waves him over to his desk, pulling a chair out for him.

 

“How’ve you been?” Hyungwon asks, while looking through the file of Minhyuk’s medical records.

 

“Honestly? I’m surprised the SRGD hasn’t come and put a leash on my neck yet.”

 

Hyungwon smiles. For someone so famous for helping the SRGD, he sure doesn’t seem to mind the insult Minhyuk throws their way.

 

“Well, they haven’t gone so far yet. Although if you do want one, I can let the designers know?” Hyungwon laughs at his own words before Minhyuk can react. Minhyuk feels blood rushing to his cheeks.

 

“I’m good with the child-friendly costume, thank you very much.”

 

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure kids love to see Superhero Naruto running up and down the street, fighting bad guys.”

 

Minhyuk scoffs. “It’s Kakashi , don’t be uneducated.”

 

Hyungwon’s eyes become crescents as he laughs again. He smiles easily and laughs a lot.

 

While they chat, the door opens quietly.

 

He nearly leaps out of his seat, a little jumpy after the action-packed days of late. But Hyungwon doesn’t seem alarmed in the least, and continues to flick through Minhyuk’s medical records after a quick glance up. Minhyuk turns to the intruder.

 

Gravity is smouldering. That word has two definitions: ‘smoking but not in flames’ and ‘barely suppressing anger’. At this moment, Gravity is both. He can actually see a bit of smoke rising off Gravity’s wrecked suit. Some bits of skin, exposed by the tears in his suit, are completely covered in blood. His stance is slumped, but his hands are balled into tight fists.

 

(This is a more familiar sight to Minhyuk: Gravity’s anger. The exhaustion and silence came with this older, government-lapdog version of Gravity. But the anger, that’s always been there. Gravity, Minhyuk’s beloved angry Superhero.)

 

Hyungwon finally stops working. Minhyuk sees Gravity relax once their eyes meet. He visibly opens up, his fists loosening, his jaw unclenching.

 

“Won.”

 

“You look like shit, Ki.”

 

Hyungwon gets up noiselessly. His hands are stretched outward before he even reaches Gravity.

 

He puts both hands around Gravity’s visor. Gently, he lifts it off of his head.

 

Minhyuk sees Gravity’s face for the first time. He appears nothing like the invincible hero he’s supposed to be: He looks to be just about Minhyuk’s age. His cheeks are soft, an angry bruise spreading along his left cheekbone. His lips are chapped, and the corner is freshly stained with blood. His eyebags are terrible, and his skin is taut and pale. In another world, he could just be another boy in Minhyuk’s lecture group, minus all the terrible injuries.

 

So this is Yoo Kihyun. He looks so young, and so tired.

 

Gravity’s - Kihyun’s - eyes are closed, his stance open. Vulnerable. Hyungwon’s hand is on Kihyun’s chin. He guides Kihyun’s face slowly side to side, looking at his injuries. Kihyun winces when he pushes the bruise with one finger. Hyungwon murmurs an apology.

 

After looking at his bruised face, he moves on down to the body. His hands reach for Kihyun’s and lift them silently. Kihyun’s jaw clenches, biting back the pain. His arm must still hurt from last week’s battle with Mimic. They stay like that longer than they need to. Kihyun’s fingers are a little calloused, but otherwise uninjured. Now they rest on Hyungwon’s palms. It’s like a process, a routine, a formed habit: Hyungwon scans Kihyun from the top to bottom, looking for injuries, something broken, something cracked.

 

The air is full of something Minhyuk can’t name. There’s almost no room for him.

 

Minhyuk knows everything about Gravity the Superhero. How he lost his parents as a child, how he lost everything he had in one day. How he can make things float and make things sink, how he could potentially fly into Earth’s orbit. How he used to save the city dressed in pastel pink and blue, the bold and beloved face of youthful pride, until the day he drove a metal pipe right through Black Diamond’s heart with his bare hands. Above all, he knows Gravity has nothing to lose, nothing but his life and limbs.

 

It’s a terrifying, tragic story. It’s a beautiful tale. Minhyuk used to love the impossibility of it - that all that could happen to one man and that he could still survive. For many years, he’d convinced himself he was in love with Gravity. Gravity was impossible, unreachable. He lived in a comic book world where the good would suffer but ultimately thrive, just as long as they depend on no one but themselves.

 

But he’s right here. He’s just a few steps away from Minhyuk, bruises on his young face, resting ever so slightly against Hyungwon.

 

For all he claims to have nothing to lose, Minhyuk can’t imagine that Kihyun wouldn’t die protecting Hyungwon, if he had to.

 

(When Minhyuk was in high school, a literature teacher told him that stories, art, and poems would all be nothing without conflict . He’d believed it back then - the tortured teenage boy he’d been needed so desperately to believe he was suffering for a higher reason, that pain was the only thing that could birth beauty. Superheroes were all born from tragedy, weren’t they? Of course no story would exist without pain.)

 

Hyungwon sits Kihyun down, pushes a glass of water into his hands. He doesn’t take his eyes off Kihyun until he finishes drinking it all. As if to rebel against Hyungwon’s concern, Kihyun waves the glass into the air just as Hyungwon reaches to retrieve it. It floats for a while before Kihyun, chastised by Hyungwon’s pout, places it onto his lap.

 

(What about love?)

 


 

Minhyuk’s forms lie abandoned on Hyungwon’s desk. Hyungwon is gone, having disappeared into his private room. Kihyun has been stripped of his visor, gloves, and boots. He looks less dangerous like this. He still hasn’t said anything to Minhyuk; He can’t tell if he’s being ignored or if Kihyun is genuinely too beaten-up to notice him. Either way, he clears his throat.

 

“What?” Kihyun asks, head resting on the wall behind him. His eyes are a little unfocused.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I will be.” Kihyun pinches his temple. “It was just a burning building. Bunch of people were trapped inside, had to get them out before it got too bad.”

 

Oh, so that’s why he was smouldering when he entered.

 

“You were pretty badly hurt though.” Minhyuk can’t mask his concern. Kihyun’s bruise looks worse up close.

 

“Yeah, the building fell on me.”

 

What?

 

“Not the whole building.” He adds, as if it makes it better, “Just about a third of it.”

 

“Why were you so angry just now?”

 

Kihyun looks at him, alertness returning. He seems to have remembered to be curt. “None of your business.”

 

Minhyuk withdraws, stung.

 

Kihyun’s eyes soften, almost immediately. “Sorry. My Supervisor’s being a dick, that’s all.”

 

Hyungwon emerges from his bedroom with a cellphone in hand. Kihyun holds up a hand. Hyungwon lets go, and Kihyun grabs it. So this is where he keeps his phone when he’s off fighting villains. It’s strangely heartwarming to see this casual dependence. It humanises Kihyun, which is helpful since Minhyuk has spent the last three to four months hating his guts.

 

“How long are you planning to stay in this suit? Go change.”

 

Kihyun is pulled out of the chair, complaining all the way, and shoved into Hyungwon’s bedroom. (“Stop, I can walk!”— “I’ll believe that when I see it.”) Hyungwon closes the door behind him.

 

Then he finally returns to Minhyuk. He drops into the seat next to him.

 

“He’s a pain.” Hyungwon says. He’s smiling, though. His eyes keep flitting to the bedroom door like he’s impatient for Kihyun to come back. Minhyuk just laughs in response. He knows all too well how much of a pain Kihyun can be.

 

He lowers his voice to a whisper. “You know, he used to be my favourite Super.”

 

Hyungwon’s eyes widen. “But you said you hated him!”

 

Minhyuk grins, pleased by Hyungwon’s surprise. He nods. “Now I do. But when I was a teenager, he was my idol. And I can’t believe he’s actually my age… Hasn’t he been around for nine years?” Minhyuk tries to do the math in his head.

 

“Yeah. He started when he was sixteen.”

 

He reels from the shock of that for a bit. At sixteen, the worst thing he had to handle was his annoying parents. Meanwhile, Kihyun was running around nearly being killed by Supervillains. He should be more awed the more he learns about Kihyun, but he’s filled with something like pity.

 

Hyungwon leans back in the chair, eyes on the ceiling. “If I had to go through as much as Kihyun did, I’m not sure I’d have the strength to be as good as he is.”

 

Minhyuk makes a face. Gravity may have a tragic backstory, but honestly, he’s still bit of a dick. Hyungwon notices his reaction and smiles.

 

“Minhyuk, I hope you can try to understand – After everything he’s been through, after everything he’s done , he thinks he can’t be trusted with his own powers.”

 

“Well, I can’t trust them with my powers.” Minhyuk hopes it doesn’t come out too aggressive. Hyungwon doesn’t reply. This doesn’t surprise Minhyuk. Hyungwon is working for the SRGD after all, and one doesn’t become a high profile doctor in the SRGD by fighting the higher-ups.

 

“Anyway,” Hyungwon starts. Minhyuk is thankful for the change of subject. “Sorry for the wait. Are you done with the papers?”

 

Minhyuk nods and hands them over. Hyungwon smiles at him.

 

“I guess I’ve kept you for too long, Minhyuk. You should probably head home.”

 

“Right. Aren’t you going to have lunch?”

 

“I was planning to, but -” Hyungwon looks over at his bedroom, where they can hear Kihyun’s movements. “Maybe later. There’s a cafeteria here, anyway.”

 

“Ah, and is Gravity- uh, Kihyun- gonna…?” Minhyuk doesn’t know how to complete the question. “You know - is he gonna stay with you?”

 

Hyungwon lets Minhyuk fumble and stutter, laughing. He shakes his head.

 

“Kihyun isn’t my boyfriend, if that’s what you were wondering.”

 

Minhyuk doesn’t know which part of that sentence fills him with relief. Either way, he hopes Hyungwon can’t see it on his face.

 

“I’ll walk you out.” Minhyuk nods in acceptance. Hyungwon doesn’t look like he has an unfriendly bone in his body, but Minhyuk can tell their conversation tonight has exhausted itself.

 

Hyungwon holds out a hand. When Minhyuk hesitates to take it (regardless what Hyungwon says, there’s something between him and Kihyun), Hyungwon lets it drop to his side. Hyungwon walks Minhyuk back to the elevator.

 

“Thanks for coming today, Minhyuk.”

 


 

18th April 2019

 

Centauri’s colours are white and gold. He thinks they’re regal. Not that it’s necessary at this particular time, given that he’s currently invisible. Completely unseen, he strides through one of the busiest areas in the city, looking for the best place to reveal himself. This is his favourite part of being Centauri: Revealing his presence in a crowd and hearing the screams and shrieks as people scramble to save themselves. Their terror is exquisite. And why shouldn’t they fear him? It’s only right.

 

His cape billows behind him as he walks. Everything is drab, dull, dark; The world always needs him to brighten things up. (He knows this isn’t true.)

 

The piece in his ear crackles a little.

 

“Are you in position?”

 

“Yes,” Centauri replies.  

 

It’s a little windy today, Centauri notices. It may be about to rain. That’s not a big concern - big showdowns in the rain are significant milestones in Superhero-Supervillain enmity. But his cloak could get wet in the rain, and he does not have the patience to wait for it to dry out.

 

“You know what to do?”

 

Centauri holds back a growl of frustration. When he replies, his voice is sharp and curt. “You don’t have to keep tabs on me, I know what I’m doing. I’ve been at this for years.”

 

A laugh from the other end of the line. He simmers with annoyance. His hand reaches up, slowly, and cups the earpiece. He tugs on it lightly.

 

“Hey, now, C. Leave it alone.

 

He keeps his hand up for a few seconds, but it drops eventually. Sighing, he continues his solitary troop through the main street.

 

“No need to be sulky. I’m just checking up on you. You have to be careful today.”

 

“I’m always careful.” He resists the urge to pout (it would only prove that he is indeed sulking).

 

Reaching the end of the street, Centauri looks around to assess the size of the crowd. Since it’s a weekend, people mill around in large busy groups from place to place, unaware of the danger. (They should always be aware of the danger; Their Superheroes are never really able to stop it, after all.) He does love an audience. And for today, he needs one.

 

Keep it short. We’ll join you soon.”

 

He knows he can be seen from the black car stashed in the parking lot a few blocks away. A dark figure behind the dashboard watches him. He plays along, as he has to –

 

“I’m ready.”

 

The tips of his fingers burn and glow, lighting up like a sunrise. Soon, when he reveals himself, the Earth will outshine the Sun.

 

“Good boy.”

 

His fingers hum with power. Centauri drops his invisibility. The area fills with light. The world buffers, then explodes with noise. He smiles.

 

“Let’s show them that Black Diamond still lives.”