Pairing: Tao/Gongchan (B1A4)
Warnings: [Spoiler (click to open)]There is a fairly brief mugging scene and some minor blood/injuries.
Summary: I may be Batman, but you’re Robin my heart. (Alternate title: your luv + my luv = super luv.)
Author's notes: I'm sorry for the incredibly off-the-wall interpretation of your prompt but I hope you like it! I wish I could've gone into greater depth for you but consider this Tao's origin story. Thank you and also many curses to everyone who didn't try to stop me.
Zitao's work routine is consistent. He arrives at his counter (five minutes late with Starbucks, but who's counting?) and straightens up bottles and tubes until the morning's first customers begin to trickle through the doors. Naturally, almost all of them walk past his counter in favor of either the escalator or one of the makeup counters, while Zitao does his best to look welcoming and knowledgeable in his white lab coat.
It isn't a bad gig, all in all. Just a little boring. Most of the department store's customers eschew the brand he represents in favor of some of the more youthful, trendier (see also: cheaper) brands, so Zitao is left to deal with demanding middle-aged women who regard him with a general air of suspicion because he's a guy. As though Zitao's eyeliner isn't always on point.
They are, however, willing to spend big money on any products, which means Zitao almost always makes his commission, but how many people can say that working at a makeup counter is their lifelong ambition?
Probably not many.
Halfway into Zitao's shift, he's finished selecting a night cream for a customer to go with her new serum and the coffee has come back to haunt him. As soon as his customer walks away, Zitao flags down Juhyun from MAC and shouts at her to watch his counter before he sprints away to the bathroom.
He's on his way back when he there is someone standing at his counter, surveying the concealers. There is a guy standing at his counter, but before Zitao can weave past a group of teenage girls trying on Etude House lipsticks—gross, he thinks—the guy makes his choice. Zitao catches only a glimpse of a nice jaw and a sharp nose as the guy hurries off to the registers.
"Did you see him?" Juhyun asks, leaning over a display of lipsticks to watch the guy's retreating figure.
"No, was he cute?" Zitao asks.
"He was gorgeous," Juhyun says, sighing. "Pity about the bruises, though. He had a shiner the size of your hand. I wonder what happened."
Zitao checks the concealer display. There's one missing, warm medium. He doesn't think much else about it.
Seoul, Zitao knows, is very safe. It's one of the reasons his parents didn't fight the idea of him moving here on his own and it's why Zitao feels comfortable enough to walk Candy around his block at 2 AM. He's not that much of a night owl these days, not when he has to be at work early in the morning, but he's too restless to sleep and he needs something to do with his legs. It's not exactly the long walk on the beach his body is craving, but it gets the job done.
His neighborhood is quiet at this hour. On the weekend, there might be couples returning home from bars, or older men smoking where their wives won't criticize, but it's just Zitao and Candy tonight.
He hears Candy's bark before he hears the footsteps behind him. A hand clamps tight around his upper arm and he's jerked backwards to a stop. Zitao feels hot breath on the side of his face just as a man's voice says, "Give me your wallet and your phone."
It feels like a bucket of cold water has been poured over his head, a shock to his system. Zitao's hands shake when he pulls his phone out of his pocket. He reaches around for his wallet but- "I didn't bring my wallet with me," he says, his voice is barely a whisper.
"Don't lie to me," the man hisses in Zitao's ear. Zitao can smell the alcohol on his breath now and he realizes that he could probably push the man away, but he never gets the chance, because a moment later there's a shout and the sound of something like an electric shock and Zitao's arm is released.
Zitao turns to find the man he presumes to be his attacker struggling with a man in a black face mask, sees the metal glint of a knife in the attacker's hand, and he does the first thing he can think of: he punches his attacker in the face.
It's a piss-poor shot, landing closer to his ear than his nose like Zitao intended, but with the combined efforts of Masked Man, it's enough to bring him to the ground.
"What the fuck?" Zitao shrills. A few feet away, Candy is barking like the guard dog she thinks she is while Zitao stands there, holding her leash limply in his hand. No, seriously, what the fuck.
Masked Man has crouched down over the attacker, securing his hands behind his back as he moans pitifully. "The police will be here in a few minutes," Masked Man tells Zitao. "I'd suggest you go home."
Then he takes off running. "Are you kidding me?" Zitao says, mostly to Candy, and then to the man, "Hey, wait up!"
Not unexpectedly, Masked Man does not wait up. Zitao huffs to himself, scoops Candy into his arms, and chases after him. Even with the head start, the masked man doesn't make it far. He stumbles into an alley up ahead and Zitao is hot on his heels, turning in after him.
Masked Man has stopped, leaning against an overflowing trash can as he clutches his side.
Now that Zitao is standing still, as Candy squirms and yelps in his arms, the jolt of terror he felt just a few minutes ago catches up with him and his chest feels so tight he can't breathe. "What was that all about?" He's shouting and Masked Man motions weakly for him to lower his voice. "Where did you come from? Who are-"
And that's when Zitao sees it. The guy's mask had been pulled down in the fight and it sits low enough on his face now to reveal his eyes, a smear of red and purple around his cheekbone, and his nose. Zitao isn't one to forget a good nose. "You were at my makeup counter yesterday," he says, mouth hanging open in shock.
"No I wasn't," Masked Man says.
"Yes, you were." Zitao takes a step closer. There's no mistaking it—he's the same guy. "You ran off before I could tell you that you got the wrong shade of concealer."
Masked Man just groans, the hand at his side clenching tighter.
"You're hurt," Zitao says, setting his confusion aside momentarily.
Zitao gives him a pointed look. "Clearly not. My apartment isn't far and I know first aid, come back with me."
Maybe the squeal of police sirens down the street spooks him or something, because Masked Man doesn't even try to argue. He pulls his mask back up and says, "Okay, fine."
When they get inside the apartment, Masked Man stumbles over to Zitao's couch while Candy makes a beeline for her dog bed, probably worn out from the night's excitement. Zitao emerges from the kitchen with his first-aid kit, which consists mostly of odds and ends left over from years of martial arts training.
"What's your name?" Zitao asks the man, kneeling down in front of him.
"Chansik," he answers through clenched teeth.
Zitao pushes Chansik's shirt up as gently as he can. There's the beginnings of a nasty bruise and a bit of blood from what looks to be a shallow cut, but nothing terribly serious. Zitao can't help but feel relieved. He goes to the kitchen again for a wet cloth and when he returns, Chansik has pulled off his mask, head thrown back against Zitao's cushion.
Juhyun hadn't been wrong; Chansik is gorgeous. He looks like someone out of one of the dramas Zitao watches, even with the black eye, like if Zitao licked his thumb and held it to Chansik's face he could just wipe it away.
"What happened to your face?"
"I'm in a fight club," Chansik says, deadpan, though the effect is somewhat mitigated by his audible wince when Zitao presses the cloth to his skin.
"Right," Zitao says, "and that stuff tonight?"
"Guy had gambling debts, he's already mugged two different people in the last two weeks. Wrong place, wrong time." Chansik shoots him a pained smile. He has nice teeth, Zitao notes. "You're safe now."
"Because you tased him," Zitao says. He puts down the cloth. "Wait, that's illegal isn't it?"
Chansik shrugs. "Maybe you're dreaming."
Zitao really, truly feels like he might be. "This is going to hurt," he warns Chansik, holding the bottle of peroxide over his cut. The muscles in Chansik's stomach flex in anticipation, and it is certainly not the right time, but Zitao can't help but notice he's got a nice body to go with his face. If he is dreaming, Zitao's brain knows him well.
"This could probably go without saying," Chansik says, inhaling sharply as Zitao pours the peroxide, "but don't tell anyone about tonight."
"Who would believe me anyway?"
"That's kind of the point of what we—ow ow ow—do."
We, Zitao notes as he reaches for the gauze, except he all finds at the bottom of his first-aid kit are a couple of expired packets of aspirin and, inexplicably, a candy bar wrapper. He pats Chansik on the knee as he stands. "Hold on, I've got more gauze in the bathroom."
Zitao probably should've been expecting it when he returns from the bathroom to find Chansik gone, but he can't help but feel a little worried. He leans down to scoop up the bloody towel and something black catches his attention out of the corner of his eye. Chansik's mask, the only tangible reminder he has that this night ever happened at all.
Zitao shows up to work the next day thirty minutes late and without any Starbucks to show for it. He's going to get a stern email from his boss about his absence, probably, but he's too tired to care. Even after Chansik left, Zitao stayed up for hours searching for anything to do with superheroes in Seoul. Of course, all he found were a bunch of VIXX fancams (which he stayed up another half hour watching) and nothing that could give him any insight as to who Chansik might be. It wasn't like there was anything he knew about Chansik to search for anyway. He wasn't wearing a cape or any brightly colored tights like Zitao has seen in cartoons. He just looked like any other guy Zitao's age, except with a nicer ass.
"Zitao," Juhyun says, clicking her tongue at him as he slumps over his counter. "Your eyebags have eyebags. No one is going to want to buy makeup from you."
"Good, can I go home then?"
"Don't go home yet," says a familiar voice.
Zitao perks up immediately. Chansik is standing in front of him, which means the entire night wasn't just a lucid dream. "Hi," he says. "How's your rib?"
Chansik scrunches up his face. "It hurt like a bitch, but I'm tough."
"That's good," Zitao says. Chansik's mask is sitting on his kitchen counter at home, because it didn't feel right to just throw it away. He wishes he'd brought it with him, but he didn't think he'd see Chansik ever again. "What are you doing here?"
"You told me I got the wrong shade of concealer. I work at a children's museum and the kids are giving me weird looks, plus my co-workers keep asking if I'm in a bad relationship, so I'm here for your expertise."
"Why don't you just tell them you're in a fight club?" Zitao teases as he rifles through his kit, looking for the right shade to match Chansik's skin. "Go sit down."
Chansik laughs. "That would be breaking the first rule."
Doing makeup for people is the part of Zitao's job that he actually likes the most, but he's never worked on someone this handsome before. Chansik's skin is smooth, blemish-free, not too oily. A little dry around his forehead, but nothing Zitao couldn't work around if Chansik were here for a whole makeover. Zitao brushes Chansik's bangs away from his eyes and applies a thin layer of primer to his skin, careful to keep his touch light.
"First I'm using the green primer before I use the concealer," Zitao explains. "It'll neutralize the red, even out your skintone a little bit."
"I'll take your word for it," Chansik says. His eyelashes flutter against the back of Zitao's hand when he leans in to pat on the concealer.
"Let's let that dry," Zitao says, stepping back to survey his work. He'll need to apply a second layer, but Chansik already looks better fit for society. "So, is it like that every night?"
"Is what like that every night?" Chansik asks, eyebrows drawing together.
"Being a superhero?"
Chansik doesn't even look surprised. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Masked stranger saves innocent boy and dog?" Zitao says, tilting his head. "Yeah, right. I can put two and two together."
They reach a stand-off. Zitao holds his gaze steady; he's never been good at staring contests, but he isn't going to back down. Finally, Chansik sighs, eyes shifting away.
"We can't talk about this here."
Zitao leads Chansik out to the landing dock through the back door, which he knows will be open despite the EMERGENCY EXIT ONLY sign because Dohyun from the shoe department likes to smoke out here. He half expects Chansik to run away again, but he seats himself on top of a crate and says, "It's not like what you think."
"Then what is it?" Zitao asks.
Chansik shrugs, looking a bit sheepish. "We're not superheroes. I didn't get bitten by a radioactive spider or anything, we don't have powers. We're...vigilantes."
Zitao recognizes the word, but he doesn't really get it. "What does that mean?"
"It means we help people. We're there where the police aren't, or where the police choose not to be."
"And does that involve getting your ass kicked a lot?"
"Hey, I'm new," Chansik says, a touch defensive. "There's a learning curve." He looks down at his watch, then back up at Zitao. "I have to go, my lunch break is almost over and I'm supposed to bring food back for everyone."
He reaches out, catching Zitao's elbow in his palm. "Thank you for everything."
And just like that Zitao's day goes back to normal. No more potential muggings, no more mysterious hot guys. The most exciting part about Zitao's evening is being yelled at by a woman for being out of the perfume she wants.
Life continues on as it had been.
Except Zitao can't stop thinking about Chansik.
He stands in his kitchen that night, passing Chansik's mask from hand to hand as he waits for his takeout and thinks about what Chansik could be doing at that moment. Stopping a thief about to take a woman's purse, protecting someone who's gotten on the wrong side of a gang, saving a bunch of orphans from a fire-
Probably not that last one. There's only so much a normal guy can do after all.
The mask in his hands is just as normal, black and cheap like so many others he's sees every day on the faces of strangers or in the aisles of convenience stores. Just enough to cover the lower half of Chansik's face and maybe the worst of that black eye he walked in with that first day, so Zitao figures it does the job.
He stares down at it long and hard enough to feel a stirring of desire in his chest that has nothing to do with the fact that Chansik is hotter than any boy he's slept with in the last year, even with the bruises. A simple mask like this isn't the only difference between the two of them. But as he holds it out over his face, his hands tingle with the memory of punching his attacker in the face, the jolt of adrenaline he had felt right as his knuckles had connected. Just as his fingers are itching to fit the straps around his ears, the doorbell rings.
He blinks, slowly setting down the mask and heading over to the door before it rings again and Candy starts barking. On the other side is the delivery guy, holding his order of fried chicken in one hand and reaching into his pocket with the other and for a moment, Zitao's entire body tenses up in anticipation, only relaxing with he's presented with a receipt instead of whatever he'd been expecting. The exchange, the delivery guy, Zitao- they're all normal.
He doesn't know what vigilantes do, he doesn't even have the faintest idea. But it has to be more exciting than waking up in a daze every morning to sell products to people who don't even deserve them. His body is still buzzing as he sets his meal down, just like it had the night before, and he closes his eyes and imagines feeling like this all of the time. Like he could be doing something exciting. Something more.
Chansik doesn't look all that surprised to see Zitao soaking up the last of the day's sunshine on one of the benches outside of the children's museum the next day.
"Should I be worried that you're stalking me?" Chansik asks, even as he settles down next to Zitao.
Zitao is pleased to note that Chansik is wearing the concealer Zitao picked out for him, though his application leaves something to be desired.
"You should be impressed by my ingenuity," Zitao says confidently. (Not so much ingenuity as dumb luck. His first attempt calling one of the local museums and asking, Is Chansik working today and he got a yes. Chansik doesn't need to know that.) "Besides," Zitao says, holding out his hand a scrap of black fabric, "I had to give this back to you."
Chansik takes the mask from Zitao with a small, surprised laugh. "This cost 2,000 won."
"I thought it might've had sentimental value," Zitao says innocently.
"Of course," Chansik says. He gives Zitao a look that is, if possible, a cross between thoughtful and suspicious. "I know why you're really here."
"And why's that?"
"You probably want to be a superhero," he says, careful to keep his voice low as mothers tug their hyper children through the museum's exit doors. "I could see the wheels turning in your head the other day."
Zitao doesn't refute it.
"You think you're up for it? You landed one good punch on that mugger, but there's a lot more to it than just that."
"Then tell me," Zitao says, scooting forward until his knees touch Chansik's. "I couldn't find anything about you on Naver."
"Of course not," Chansik says with a snort. "We don't exactly advertise ourselves. That would defeat the purpose."
"The Justice League," Chansik says, so sincerely that Zitao believes him for a second.
Zitao kicks him in the shin, not hard enough to leave behind any additional bruises but hard enough for Chansik to yelp. "I'm serious," Zitao says, "I want to know."
Chansik sighs and leans back, tilting his face up to the sun. "There's not a lot I can tell you besides there's a bunch of us running around trying to make the city a little bit safer at night. My hyungs are better at it than me for now. They've been at it for years, but I'm still training. I won't have to worry about getting the right concealer to match my skin eventually. I shouldn't be telling you any of this stuff anyway."
"Then why are you?" Zitao asks, feeling faintly shy all of a sudden.
"Because you seem like the kind of guy we need," Chansik says, turning to look at Zitao. "Or maybe I'm just tired of getting beaten up and could use a hand."
"I could lend you a hand," Zitao says. Then Chansik laughs and Zitao realizes his innuendo, cheeks going pink. "No! I didn't mean it like that!"
Chansik pats him gently on the knee. "Sure you didn't." Zitao grumbles something about changing his mind and not wanting to play sidekick to someone who is so mean. Chansik just looks pleased.
"I want to help you though. I want to do something that matters," Zitao says, because it feels important that he says it, even if he thinks Chansik might already know it. "What you did for me was really cool. I didn't get to thank you for it."
"You're welcome," Chansik says, squeezing Zitao's knee.
The tinny sound of an AOA song coming from Chansik's bag kind of ruins the moment. "Jinyoung hyung," Chansik tells Zitao as he fishes his phone out. "It's almost dark. You think you're ready, Robin?
"What is it?" Zitao asks, jumping eagerly to his feet. "Robbery? Fight?"
"Kitten stuck in a tree," Chansik reads from his phone.
Every superhero has to start somewhere.