Being an officer is a noble duty. There is honor in working for your country, honor in fighting crime, honor in pursuing justice. There is also honor in a retirement pension and a reason to avoid his mother’s calls.
This is what Lee Minhyung reminds himself at the end of the worst day in his career as a rookie cop.
And if anyone were to ask, which they will when he's expected to hand in a detailed report breaking down one of the stupidest moments in his life, he'll tell it something like this:
He's biting into a day old triangle kimbap , his feet on the dashboard and the AC blasting at a roar, when the car radio crackles to life:
"Attention all units— robbery on Main Street, one armed suspect attempting to break into a bank vault—"
And he's off, slamming on the pedal with one socked foot, cheeks bulging with cold rice and spicy mayo tuna.
By the time he makes it to the scene, he learns three things:
One. Main Street is a sea of cop cars. There are police vehicles parked up and down the street, squeezed up against every bit of available curb, some even parked right in the midst of the street.
Two. Amongst the ocean, there’s a small, grey Toyota, parked just by the bend. This is unimportant, until it isn’t.
And three. "There's rice on your shirt," an all too familiar voice drawls. Minhyung whirls around, glaring when he finds himself on the receiving end of Lee Donghyuck's smirk.
"What's the situation?" he asks, because he is competent like that. (But he also runs a hand down the scratchy blue polyester of his uniform, just in case.)
Donghyuck sighs and clicks his tongue, in that way that makes Minhyung regret ever having helped him study when they shared the same room at the academy. "Officer Lee, didn't you hear? you must have been dozing off again..."
Minhyung grits his teeth as Donghyuck waves a hand at the human barricade by the entrance. "The suspect waltzed into the bank about thirty minutes ago, demanding they hand over the keys to the vault or he'd blow up the place. Weird dude— he's wearing this ridiculous catsuit, the whole mask and everything. Anyways, he's locked himself and an employee up in the vault. They're working on a way to crack it down but—" he shrugs, gesturing at the crowd of bodies. "You can see how well that's going."
On his tiptoes, Minhyung spies the chief of their station pacing back and forth, his mouth in a grim line that grows even deeper as another officer whispers an update in his ear. Muttering a gruff thanks to Donghyuck, Minhyung pushes through the throng of people.
Just as he makes his way to the front, a clamor rises, sending the crowd into a murmur. Then before anyone can react, a bang resounds through the open space, ricocheting off the glass walls.
The vault's open.
There is screaming, maybe, an elbow that jabs into his side that sends him sprawling forward and past the barrier line. Really, it's a blur and "Officer lee, what do you think you're doing— Officer Lee!" rings in his ear, even long after the moment is over, so shrill and piercing he's surprised it hadn't froze him in his tracks.
But Minhyung doesn't freeze. According to the accounts of his seniors (and a suspiciously red-eyed Donghyuck), he leaps to his feet, something like a leopard ("you looked like an absolute clown," Donghyuck had sniffled) and charges, arms spread eagle, toward the flash of black and grey bolting out from the vault door, feet refusing to stop until he's knocked into solid mass.
There are gunshots; from which side of the line, he's unsure. He just knows that when he comes to his senses, he's alive and reaching for the handcuffs in his back pocket.
"You're under arrest," he pants out to the squirming mass beneath him. "For robbery, weapon usage, and holding a hostage." His voice becomes firmer with every word, reinforced by the euphoria flooding his veins, chasing down adrenaline. He could see it now— the shiny presidential medal hanging on his shelf, awarded to one Lee Minhyung for defending justice in a crime-ridden society, and oh his mother will finally be so proud—
"Good job, Officer Lee, but we can take it from here."
And there's a hand on his shoulder, tapping for him to get up from the ground. The body beneath him sags in relief from the absence of his weight, and Minhyung flushes. "Please attend to the hostage victim instead."
So he does. Glimpses of glory dashed, Minhyung helps the employee to his feet and escorts him out of the building to the paramedics van, fetching him a blanket as the employee waves off medical attention.
"I'm fine," the man insists. He's the tall and lanky type, and looks his job, all dark coiffed hair and stiffly cut grey suit. There's a crack in one lens of his glasses, and a cut on his lips. "Don't worry about me, officer, I'm sure you have more pressing matters to attend to."
Minhyung hesitates. No, this is his job, he's supposed to stay with the victim and make sure the man receives proper medical help, not to mention note down his witness statement later on, boy scouts’ honor and all that. But on the other hand— "Are you sure?"
The man smiles, dashing. "Positive."
"i'll be right back," Minhyung says, ambling back into the building. He sticks to the edges, hanging back to catch a glimpse of the criminal. The crowd only affords him a sliver of leather, here are there, and it's not long before he rushes outside, reminded of his task at hand.
“Mister?” His blood thrums in his ear. Shit.
The victim is not where Minhyung had left him.
"Minhyung!" and he turns just in time to catch Lee Donghyuck barreling into his arms, panic in his eyes.
"What is it?" he asks, dread already pooling in his stomach, right on top of that spicy mayo tuna kimbap.
Donghyuck's voice is a whisper. "The criminal's gone— escaped."
"This is the last time."
"The last time? C'mon, it wasn't even that bad— and you look so sexy in this suit! It’s Givenchy!"
Doyoung scowls, ripping off the broken glasses from his face and tossing them to the backseat. He has perfect vision, for fuck's sake. "I’m never playing dress-up for your stupid stunts again. You nearly broke my spine with that fall."
Ten laughs, discarding the black mask to pull a sweatshirt over his shoulder. It's Doyoung's; he hasn't seen it in two weeks. A sign of occupational disease, if anything.
"You weren't the one getting cuffed while getting your precious face squished against the floor." Cradling his face, Ten lets out a whimper. "I should sue that kid, this face is a money-maker, ya know."
Doyoung scoffs, jerking the wheel to the right. "Maybe you should hand over your mugshot to the interpol then, if it's such a good face."
"Don't be silly," Ten says, voice sweet as the hard candies he likes to sneak in Doyoung's jackets. For safekeeping . "You'd miss this face."
And that's the worst thing about letting thieves into your heart, Doyoung decides. They walk into every chamber like it's been unlocked all along, knocking down walls and rifling through cabinets, plucking up valuables for keeps.
The wind rolls through the open window, kicking up tufts of Ten's newly dyed hair. He keens his face towards the sun, a kitten trying to catch the last slivers of afternoon light. "What should I order for dinner? Italian? Chinese?"
Doyoung clicks his tongue. "We have leftovers at home."
"Chinese it is."
Too bad Doyoung had been a willing victim. Just sat there and let Ten turn him out, scraping his pockets clean.
They meet for the first time like this:
“Hey, can I put on something?”
It’s strange. He’s strange. Doyoung is used to weird— just last week he drove a guy with live birds in his top hat and a refusal to be addressed by any title other than Mr. Magician. Doyoung knows that there’s criminals and then there’s the crazies, and the unfortunate intersection of the Venn Diagram is one he’s used to dealing in. But the man sitting in his passenger seat, with a pink wig in his lap and a freshly manicured nails that he won’t stop tapping against the armrest, is a species Doyoung’s yet to have encountered to. He’s a slight thing, small-shouldered underneath a ridiculous dalmation coat, but something about the quirk of his lips unnerves Doyoung, like a record needle sliding over a scratch.
“The radio. D’you mind if I put on something on?” He crosses his legs and jerks a thumb over his shoulder, a haphazard aim towards the three cop cars trailing them. “Not a fan of sirens.”
Doyoung nods, quick and terse. Just as he rips a turn, sliding easily between cars, the radio crackles to life. A heavy bass bubbles up, turning just shy of boiling as the man cranks the dial to deafening .
Doyoung grits his teeth, sparing a glance to the side mirror. “Turn that shit down.”
“What?” the passenger shouts, eyes turned crescent.
The three cop cars have dwindled down into two, and despite his irritation, the familiar sinking feeling in his stomach eases. “I said, turn that shit down. It’s distracting and you’re gonna kill us both.”
“I’m not the one driving,” the passenger sniffs, doling out the obvious fact like a revelation.
“Right, I am, which means when we crash, I’ll run away and leave you to feign for yourself, Mr. Robber.” For emphasis, Doyoung slams the brakes.
Hand bracing the dashboard, the man lets out an indignant squeak. “You’re gonna leave poor ol’, little, helpless, defenseless me to the big bad cops?” He brings a dramatic hand to his forehead. “Oh, Mr. Getaway Driver, I’ve heard that you’re a cold man, but I should have never underestimated the rumors.”
The rearview mirror reflects a lone car, weary on their tail. Out of the corner of Doyoung’s eye, he can spy a truck merging their way. Chasing the pedal, he accelerates the car forward, weaving to and fro until at last, the navy blue dot disappears like a wink of light in the sky.
“Good one, Nascar.”
They’re at the outskirts of town now, and Doyoung slides to a stop in front of a small church that looks like it’s seen better wars. He shifts the gear into park and turns to the passenger with a glare.
“Wish I could say the same about you, Cruella de Vil.”
A gasp, then hands clutching at invisible pearls. “You did not just—”
“Is that what it is? You’re the kinky type that’s got a hard-on for breaking into safes while dressed as Disney villains?” The words are out of Doyoung’s mouth before he could swallow them down under a veil of disinterest, leaves a film on his tongue like the traces of freshly pickled toads. He clamps down on his lips in realization.
Talk less, kid. And drive more .
“I wouldn’t say it’s exclusively Disney villains.” From his periphery, Doyoung can see the way he inches forward, a kid pressing up his face against the glass at a zoo. “What about you? What’s your schtick, Nascar?”
“This is the part where you get out.”
The passenger peal of laughter erupts, and Doyoung hates the way his shoulders shake, like Doyoung’s just hit the punch line of an hour long stand-up piece. He keeps his eyes forward as the man kicks open the door and steps out onto the cracked pavement in his stiletto boots. Then he pauses, holding the door ajar.
“What, did you leave something behind?” Doyoung scowls.
“The name’s Ten.”
He’s still there, standing, waiting. Expectant.
This is the part where Doyoung should drive away, mouth cinched in a thin line. But instead—
“Doyoung,” he mutters, and reaches across to shut the door.
Actually, they meet for the first time like this:
An autumn afternoon, on a beat up little corner store. Doyoung's made the trip down for instant ramen and some ice cream for Jungwoo who'd stared up him with puppy eyes. It's raining when he steps out the store and his keys slip from his hand into a murky puddle. He bends down to fish it out and when he looks up, someone's trying to break into his car.
"Looking for this?"
The hooded figure whirls around, just in time for Doyoung to grab him by the shoulder and slam him against the car door. He makes out a pair of wide eyes underneath the matted mop of hair and cut lips forming a perfect 'o', before they press into a thin line. He looks young, desperate.
"Give me a ride," the boy demands. He's stopped squirming underneath Doyoung's grip, just stares up at him with hollow eyes. "Please."
Doyoung sizes him up. "How do I know you're not trying to kill me?" The kid’s a head shorter, sure, but it's always the little ones who pack a mean punch. His bruised rib was all about that— Moon Taeil and the element of surprise.
The boy cracks a wry smile. "Lotsa people trying to kill you around here?"
Doyoung shoves him off, flinging him to the road. He stumbles in the rain and clutches at his side, glaring up at Doyoung with venom. The memory stirs, a dust bunny with razor fangs, and when Doyoung blinks, he's staring at a phantom portrait.
Eighteen . A boy with scorching eyes, a trusty blade in his back pocket and another on his tongue. The bruise around his right eye had just began to turn green, not unlike the pallor of spring. A fresh out of juvie look.
Doyoung unlocks the door. "Get in. Know that if there's any funny business, I'm throwing your ass out to the curb."
The boy scrambles into the car, spouting thanks. Rolling his eyes, Doyoung watches as the boy drags rain and mud into car, but cranks up the heater anyways, watching as he wiggles his fingers against the air vent.
"It's just several blocks down," the boy promises, shifting in his seat. He's yanked the hood off his head, revealing a pale face and a mottling bruise on his cheek. "You can drop me off by the old church."
The drive is short, just like he'd said. They make little conversation, other than bits of direction, but the boy spends the entire time peeking over his shoulders, eyes searching for ghouls in the grey streets. And when they pull up to the church and the boy gets out, Doyoung doesn't ask for his name.
In fact, he doesn't remember this at all.
They say, second time's a charm. But then the second becomes the third, and the third winds to a fourth, fifth, sixth and Doyoung's slamming on the brakes, tires screeching against asphalt because—
"You're doing this on purpose."
Ten yanks off a rainboot and waves it dismissively in the air. "I'm not doing anything," he says, like that explains why Doyoung's become his personal uber driver. The last time he'd seen a client more than once, it'd been at a funeral and they were about to go six feet under.
"Yuta put you up to this?" Doyoung grits out. "To piss me off?"
Ten blinks at him, eyelashes batting. "Does he seem like the type?"
No, but— Doyoung shakes his head. His lips pull into a scowl, and he jerks his thumb towards the curb. "We're here, get out."
Ten doesn't get out. "I'm hungry."
"Want to get breakfast together?"
You gotta toughen up, punk , his case worker once said. It's a rough world out there for kids like you . Doyoung took his advice. He put on what muscles he could, dipped his hands in the city's blood, decorated his skin in scars like the magnets his roommate Jungwoo puts on their fridge, alphabet soup. But he's still weak, so weak, too soft and pliant under that hard shell—
"You know you're paying for this," Ten says, shoveling a forkful of pancakes in his mouth. When he looks up, his cheeks are stuffed like a chipmunk's and his eyes glimmer sweetly under the diner's fluorescent lights. "First date etiquette and all that."
Or maybe, it's just because it’s Ten.
"—a robbery occurred today on main street, targeting the local bank. While the police had initially apprehended the criminal, he soon escaped with the help of an accomplice, who had previously been known as a hostage. The police have yet to identify the two suspects—"
"God, they're always so bad with the descriptions," Ten muses, waving around the Q-tip in his hand. They're sat on the couch, a parting present from Jungwoo before he jetset off on another rich boy inheritance conquest. Ten dips the cotton swab in antiseptic, dabbing it against the cut on Doyoung’s bottom lip. "No wonder they can't catch us, no one can do their job properly."
Doyoung bites back a hiss from the sting. "You want to go to jail?"
Ten rolls his eyes, getting up to dispose of the cotton swab. " No , but I look really good in orange. Plus we'd be cute cellmates!"
"They'd separate us," Doyoung deadpans. His hand are needy though, open and ready to latch onto Ten’s waist as he saunters back to the couch.
Ten sighs into his touch, preening against the warmth. "And then you'd have to defend me from all the big bad guys, inciting a mass fight in the cafeteria that puts us both in solitary. Que horreur!"
"I'd rather just feed you to the wolves," Doyoung says, like Ten couldn't break a neck with bare hands. He loves to remind Doyoung of that in any situation he can ( "You forgot the milk? Did you know that I can break— ").
“Liar,” Ten murmurs, pressing a kiss to Doyoung’s shoulder.
And like always, he catches Doyoung red-handed, sirens on, lights off, holds him down in the way Doyoung likes best.
“You know,” Ten says, breathless as he straddles Doyoung’s waist. “You really did look good in that suit, Mr. Banker,” and Doyoung moves before his mind, yanking Ten down to shut him up in a kiss.
A liar and a thief.