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fear me! i am in debt

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Brian wasn’t having a good day.

First, his car battery died in the middle of a traffic jam, resulting in a high stressful situation of being barraged by the cursing of angry drivers while desperately attempting to jump-start his car with the help of a rare, kind soul. Then his car got towed when he parked haphazardly along the sidewalk to quickly grab his coffee. Then he had to half-walk and half-run to the office while trying not to spill his coffee -- which he did, in the end, with the big stain on the front of his dress shirt as a glaring indicator -- because he was an absolute dumbass who just had to wake up late because he forgot to set his alarm the night before.

But it was fine. All was fine. Brian had gone through worse things. His day may have started horribly but things could get better. The sun was clear and riddled with wispy clouds, the sun was shining, and there was something in the air that smelled like good fortune. It was fine.

It was not fine.

Of course, the concept of fine was gullible and wishful thinking of his when two hours later, Brian found himself tied up in a chair in the middle of his office accompanied by a self-proclaimed villain. A terribly cheesy, cringeworthy, and awfully cute villain in a rabbit mask.

Brian didn’t know how this happened. Fuck.

“Dowoon, are the police here yet? No? Geez, what’s taking them so long! You’d think they’d pick up the pace a bit more with a civilian’s life on the line,” The villain, who had introduced himself as Wonpil, exclaimed into a garishly pink flip phone -- something that Brian hadn’t seen since the early years of high school. Wonpil covered the speaker of the phone as he whispered to Brian, “Don’t worry, I’m not actually gonna hurt you. I mean, it was standard protocol to incapacitate you so I could tie you up, but I assure you that no serious bodily harm will be required today!”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Wonpil tilted his head. “Um. I think so.”

Brian heaved out a deep sigh. At first when the office had been under danger and everybody else had evacuated except for Brian, who was held at knifepoint, Brian had been scared shitless. Now, Brian was just tired, a little bored, but mostly confused.

“Look, we’re a small company. We don’t got a lot of money, man,” Brian said in a resigned tone. “Couldn’t you attack a larger company?”

“A larger company entails a lot more effort, and I’m not into that,” Wonpil said flippantly. “Do you really wish this upon another person? You seemed like the type to give yourself up for somebody else’s safety, though.”

“On any other good day, I probably would.”

Wonpil hummed as he peeked out the window. He brought his phone back to his ear. “Dowoonie, do you think I should spice things up a bit? Spunk up this jazzy joint? I can tickle him and make it seem like he’s crying out in pain instead. Wh -- hey, don’t twist my words, punk!”

Brian sighed.

“Oh, I see the police!” Wonpil lifted the bottom part of his mask up to reveal his mouth. His voice sounded more clear and soft than Brian expected when it was no longer muffled by the fabric. Wonpil knocked against the glass and with a sonic voice, belted out, “Sungjiiiiiiin! Helloooooo!”

Brian winced at the projection. What surprised him the most, however, was the voice that responded through a megaphone, “Wonpil, please let the captive go.”

“But I just want some money! I need to pay rent and buy more illegal things to build cool contraptions for world domination.”

“Wonpil, you can dominate the world without being illegal.”

Sungjin sounded tired too. God, this was comical. Brian threw his head back and groaned.

“That’s no fun. You don’t want to make Dowoonie sad, do you?”

“Dowoon can eat shit for all I care. Now, please let the captive go. Don’t hurt him.”

Wonpil pouted. “Why would I hurt him? He’s very handsome and kind. He didn’t even fight back when I tied him up. I didn’t lay a single finger on his pretty face!”

“Um.” Brian was startled by the sudden compliments. “Thank you?”

Wonpil glanced around his shoulder, a grin on his face. “Are you blushing?”

Brian squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t have enough coffee to deal with this right now. He had a mild case of rope burn on his wrists and his skin felt sticky from sweating a lot -- not from fear, but more so from the humid office that was being shone upon by direct sunlight through the windows. Lady Luck was not on his side today. He wondered if Jaehyung was watching this on television somewhere, laughing his ass off at Brian’s demise.

“What do you want, Wonpil?” Sungjin asked. “How much money?”

“Five grand, maybe?”

“Five -- oh, fuck off!”

“Even my savings barely have that much, dude,” Brian said incredulously.

“Fine, four grand!” Wonpil brought his phone up to his ear. “Ah, correction -- fourty-five grand! Dowoonie wants to buy a new drum set. Bring me the money first and I’ll let him go.”

Brian sure hoped Sungjin was being paid enough to deal with his. “You are a first-rate festering dicksore, Wonpil. Give me an hour.”

Wonpil was beaming. Brian didn’t understand how the police could just bend to a villain’s whims. Sure, maybe a life was on a line, but to speak with so much familiarity as though they were bantering rather than bargaining was a little unbelievable. Superpowers weren’t uncommon, but Brian at least expected to be threatened by some laser-beaming metahuman that was an actual danger to all of humanity than some dude with a bunny mask who had sonic voice powers.

As though Wonpil had read Brian’s thoughts, Wonpil came to sit down across from Brian, peering up at him with a smile on his face. “Me and Sungjinnie go way back. We went to high school together, actually. He understands the perils of student debt so, you know, gotta help a financially unstable peer out! And he knows that I don’t actually harm people. I just like to scare them.”

“Couldn’t you, I don’t know, find a job?”

“I wish! You think a degree in engineering is gonna land me a six-figure salary in this economy? Superheroes get paid waaaay more and they hog all the limelight. As if I’m gonna outshine them and make a bunch of zeros on my own.”

Brian couldn’t see the logic there. “Your brain works in fantastic ways, did you know that?”

“Well if you’re struggling, you can always come to me for help. People like us with near empty savings accounts gotta stick together, you know? Plus, you’re cute and I’d like to buy you a coffee to make up for this. I mean, I wish we got to meet in a more palatable light, but this isn’t so bad of a first meeting, right?”

“Sir, I am tied up in a chair being held hostage. This is the worst of all first meetings.”

“I didn’t hear a ‘no’ in that answer!”

Brian rolled his eyes, refraining himself from mocking Wonpil’s words in case he was actually provoked enough to end Brian’s life. “Being associated with a villain means I’m gonna get arrested. I enjoy my freedom, thank you very much.”

“Don’t you worry, Mr. Kang. I’ve got perks,” Wonpil said. Brian swore he saw him wink behind the mask, or maybe the barista put a shot of L-espresso-D in his coffee earlier that was making him see things.

So, while Wonpil talked Brian’s ear off for the majority of the hour, Brian found that listening to him wasn’t so bad. He had a soothing voice, and sounded like basically any other normal twenty-something year old with crippling debt and existential crises, except with a colourful imagination that aided his outlandish creations. Wonpil talked like they were old friends, and maybe that was a quality of his that made him such a likable villain.

God. A villain. Brian couldn’t believe he was thinking nice things about a villain. A villain who actually had real-people problems and a real heart. A villain who was cute and definitely not pure. Maybe causing low-level terror was a side hobby.

At some point, Sungjin interrupted their conversation with an exhausted, “We got your money. It’s in a leather briefcase. We left it at the lamp post around the block of east sixth. At least try to pay the government back, Wonpil. There’s nothing wrong with being a responsible villain.”

Wonpil shot up from his seat and skipped towards the window. “No guarantees, but since you asked so politely, maybe I’ll give it a try!”

“Jesus --”

Wonpil talked to his phone, “Dowoon. Are you down there? Do you see it?” He turned around and whispered commentary, “Dowoon’s superpower is invisibility. That’s why he handles most of the actual physical transactions while I do the bartering. Pretty clever, huh?”

Brian smiled painfully. “Absolutely.”

“You got it? Alright! See you later at HQ. Byebye,” Wonpil said cutely before he shut his phone and pocketed it. He spoke to Sungjin again. “Okay, Sungjinnie. Thank you for your cooperation and let’s go drinking sometime! My treat!”

“Shove those drinks up your ass, Wonpil.”

Wonpil looked offended as he clutched his chest. “Why does he always reject my invitations? So mean.”

He sounded genuinely hurt that it shocked Brian into saying, “I’d take those drinks, if you don’t mind.”

Brian mentally berated himself for volunteering to go drinking with a goddamn villain, because why would he care about a villain's feelings? He had no answer to that, but working nine to five almost everyday was dull and soul-sucking, and Wonpil piqued his curiosity enough to have propelled him into making such a choice -- albeit impulsively. Plus, seeing Wonpil preen with excitement and enthusiasm made Brian’s face go warm and his lips twitch.

“I knew you were a good man, Kang,” Wonpil said as he stepped forward and placed a hand on top of Brian’s shoulder, grinning down at him. “I’ll pay for drinks and coffee. Maybe we’ll even pass each other on the street, who knows! I’m a man of my word, after all.”

Brian watched him as he headed towards the door. Before he officially left, Wonpil snapped his fingers and the ropes tied around Brian’s ankles and wrists fell off. Wincing slightly, Brian rubbed his wrists as a poor way to alleviate his red skin. And when he looked up again, Wonpil was gone.

---

A bad day was a bad day. Brian had to go to the hospital despite his insistence that he was fine, that all he had was rope burn and a temporary state of culture shock regarding villains, and had to go claim his towed car with Jaehyung’s help who taunted him the entire car ride about what happened during the duration of being held hostage rather than expressing concern like a best friend should.

Yup. A bad day. Maybe a bad day that turned amusing that turned bad again, but when Brian arrived at his apartment, he found a small package at his doorstep when he was loosening his tie.

Bringing it inside to his unit, he opened it up and found a jar of expensive ointment specifically for rope burns. There was also a pink sheet of paper with random doodles that read:

Thx for being a trooper! Let’s set up a date sometime if you don’t mind me calling that heh
Here’s my phone number ♡
(xxx-xxx-xxx)
Also don’t worry I’m not a stalker I’m just like really good with technology. Also because coincidentally enough I go to the cafe down the block, so like, we’ll totally run into each other somehow. I’m gonna stop writing now because when I get going I reaaaally get going. Okay I’m stopping now. See you soon! ≧◠◡◠≦

Brian felt his lips twitch at the cute note before he broke into a large grin. Then he threw his head back and laughed.

He was starting to think bad days had its silver linings after all.