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AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT A HOUND DOG

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THE FIRST SWING doesn’t come as a surprise, but sparks the same fanfare as an ill-timed party popper would behind his eyes.

Mark stumbles back in late reaction to put some distance between them, a hand — the hand that isn’t clutching onto a carefully packaged bundle of diamonds, coming to his mouth to check for blood and coming back empty. It feels like he’d swiped him, a phantom slash that hooks at his cheek and pulls but there was no contact, not really. Just another trick.

Haechan stands there a couple of metres in front, bent low not unlike cornered prey, a grin almost like this is just a 2D-scrolling fighting game. They’ve danced this dance before, too many times, each end to their meeting going exactly like the last — can’t stop Mark from trying, though, from doing his job. The image bouncing about his head at any given time of the world infamous treasure thief Haechan’s wrists behind his back is too alluring, the clink of the handcuffs like a siren’s song.

“Just come with me, Haechan. You can’t run away this time,” Mark calls out as he rubs at his wrist absently, a phantom sting resurfacing the moment he fixes his gaze on the thief. Haechan’s eye twitches before his usual expression surfaces like a block of ice dunked in water, something Mark wouldn’t have caught if this was just a routine arrest, like he was just going through the motions and apprehending someone who wasn’t in the slightest bit peculiar to stand apart from the rest. Haechan made that cut, though, went higher.

He’s annoyed, and Mark tries to ignore that subtle thrill running beneath his skin at the fact he’d left a crack in the other’s mask so soon. His words meant something at the very least — he was serious about the fact he couldn’t run, and Haechan knew that too.

They were stood on the top of one of the tallest buildings in Rome, after all.
Haechan’s laugh is bitter but still carries as if they were standing next to each other, still light as a feather but not quite matching the soft.

“You always say that, agent,” he practically purrs, setting Mark on edge with just the way his mouth moves, “you say that and then I always manage to slip away into the night. Or day, I suppose. Not very good at your job, now, are you?”

 


IT’D BEEN 5 WEEKS since the last time he’d seen him, and Mark feels a jolt at the memory the taunt had provoked.

Mark had been informed the thief was afoot again in the middle of the night: last sightings were in a quiet town off of the Finnish coast. He and his partner, Yukhei had been sent out almost immediately by charter plane, nursing a coffee that slowly made even his partner’s louder-than-average voice bearable. They arrived just at the cusp of dusk the following day, and split up to cover the town.

Mark had only bust into whatever lair he’d uncovered after (regretfully, might he add, but extensively) threatening the landlord milling about outside one of only two apartment buildings throughout the town. Not exactly innocuous, though, because by now Mark knew Haechan liked to play the border of flashy and exultant, even when the situation didn’t call for it.

He’d ran up the steps, chest heaving once he reached the eighth floor without taking a break and burst down the door with two solid kicks to reveal an empty apartment. Weak lock, but locked anyways, Mark found himself musing, alert at what that meant — somebody had to be here.

The window was open, fabric of the curtains being whipped out of the frame into the sky of slowly descending sun. He’d cursed, loud enough to be heard over the quiet running of Madonna coming from a portable speaker in the kitchen area, if not through the walls of the cheap apartment for sure, before heading further in to gain an inkling of where Haechan had gone were he not here.

Except, like the faithful spin of a record before the scratch, he was there.

The moment Mark had taken two steps forward into the space of the room, momentarily distracted by the 80’s memorabilia scattered around the room, practically swallowing him up and spitting him out, he felt a presence behind him and spun.

He looked ridiculous, so out of sorts in comparison to the way he usually looked whenever Mark had chased him to last that it sort of knocked Mark off kilter a little. Long gone were the expectations of tactical vest, the all black ensemble, the thigh holsters despite the fact he refused to carry a gun.

No, this Haechan was different, in light jeans and a thin white shirt with a cringeworthy university slogan in the middle. It’s the kind of thing you don’t wear in public, maybe exclusively to lounge around in bed or — at the very most, the gym.

It was helpfully covered up by the ridiculously oversized university jacket that was swamping him, the red washed out through years of wear and tear and wash. He was clutching a bottle of wine, but by far the most bewildering thing about it all was the 2002 NEW YEARS sunglasses he was sporting.

This wasn’t the first time he’d seen Haechan out of his usual skin. He’s seen him in a few disguises, over two years down the line — he’s been able to pick out Haechan in the middle of a DNB rave in London with the neon lights passing over and obscuring him like ocean waves, out of the shifting bodies of an underground club in an island just off of the Spanish coast — in any sort of Where’s Waldo-esque lineup in any sort of visage — yet this is what knocks him sideways a little.

Too normal, he thinks, mouth dry. Too normal.

“I wasn’t expecting you for another day or so, agent,” he’d smiled, sweetly, like the first lick of the morning sun on his shoulder blades, before reluctantly placing the rosé on the closest surface to him. They were closer than Mark knew what to do with, but he knew calling in back-up was beyond the question, now.

“Oh yeah?” Mark had replied quickly, if only to keep him talking whilst he began to approach him, tongue pressing to the roof of his mouth.

“Yeah, don’t you know I got a veeery particular schedule to attend to? If you don’t keep it, that means I can’t keep it, and that right there is what we call a—a problem, you know?”

Mark’s eyes dart from his face to the discarded wine bottle, as Haechan raised the absurd glasses to peer from behind them with an irritating eyebrow raise, like he was the most comical thing in this situation and not the situation itself. He seemed tipsy, if the unabashed smile and slightly flushed look on his face were anything to go by.

Mark can’t help himself, finds himself snorting in incredulity at the whole thing. How could Haechan have let his guard down this much?

“You’re telling me a treasure hunter keeps a diary planner?”

“Down to the highlighted dates and — aww, too on the nose?”

Haechan interrupted himself then, with a kick aimed squarely at Mark’s chest, and whilst it takes him by surprise — that he’s that aware enough to strike first — it’s blocked with a fist closed tight and unyielding around the attacker’s ankle just before the foot could find purchase.

Haechan’s sly grin didn’t budge, despite his leg being cocked at an uncomfortable ankle. His balance and general posture were clearly trained, maybe classically if his sparse folder had anything to say for that matter. There wasn’t much known about the man that Mark didn’t already know himself, hadn’t already submitted to this reel on his own, but every meeting garnered something else like new eyes on an uncut diamond.

Mark wasn’t armed, is usually never in these situations because the company doesn’t want Haechan harmed, and frankly—neither does Mark. But the shit-eating smirk Haechan is offering him now, glasses down and jacket hanging awkwardly on him like a blanket, makes him wish fervently that they weren’t in a constant stalemate.

“Not quite your best move,” he hummed back, pushing him back purposefully with a firm grip on his ankle and watching Haechan stumble a little to keep steady. He braces against the wall closest to him, eyebrows twitching as he twists to look around himself and gauge his surroundings.

Mark shouldn’t have let him, not really, but he’d humoured him only because he finally had the instant upper hand and felt cocky for once in his life, but didn’t prepare for when Haechan grabbed one of the loose cabinets of various record disks and pulled it with a harried strength towards Mark, hard.

Mark let go of Haechan’s ankle if not to save the rest of his arm, as the minimal contact from the cabinet before he properly gets away stings a path of electric pain up to his shoulder joint. It crashes to the floor, glass, and plastic, and records going flying between them.

Haechan drops, taking both the glasses off and chucking them to the side and taking a step back from the mess, from Mark.

“Give it up,” he gritted out, eyes darting to the open door behind him as the other man takes another step back.

It was Haechan’s only escape route along with the open window behind him, but that was through him. Close combat is scrappy, and Haechan is scrappy, can fight tooth and nail and draw himself through the thin holes of the gutter every time if he needs to, but if he can help it, he prefers a clean getaway. Going through your self-proclaimed arch-enemy seemed counterintuitive if you could just slip out through the back.

Instead of backing up or hesitating more than he already has, Mark found himself striking first.

He shoved at Haechan’s chest with the ball of his other hand, less aim and finesse but brute force knocking through the ball park to surprise Haechan into twisting back a little, to regain his footing — but he wasn’t allowed any respite. Mark reached around, fingers finding purchase on his wrist; pulling it around him and digging back in, driving him against an adjacent wall with the pretty psychedelic design wallpaper. A choke escaped Haechan’s throat, winded as he braces against the wall before facial impact with his remaining hand.

“Ever heard of — heh, hello, sweetheart?” He’d laughed, struggling a little to keep up that accent of nonchalance as he pushed back against him.

Mark tightened his grip on his wrist and twisted up, not to needlessly inflict pain but to remind him he has nowhere to go from now. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t relish in the annoyed hiss of discomfort that leaves his mouth, strangled bird song resting pretty in his ears. That, along with the new track playing throughout the apartment that Mark actually took a moment to remember, because it’s his sister’s favourite.

“Seriously?” He found himself asking, eyebrows furrowing. “Open Your Heart? Seriously?”

“What can I say,” Haechan grunted back, flexing beneath him to find a little more comfort from being crushed against the wall.

“Our host has an eclectic taste.”

Mark was aware this wasn’t the time, knew well he shouldn’t be balancing this weird line between them, should erase the chalk on the board with a quick swipe of his palm but something about Haechan made this so painfully difficult to adhere to.

“And the host?”

“Tied up in the bedroom.”

The officer recoiled a little bit, thoughts drifting to where they desperately did not want to go. He spluttered a bit, and Haechan laughed, looking over his shoulder and up at the bewildered man with a curled smile. His eyes are pretty up close, sparks of egotistic joy reflected by the dim lighting of the room.

“Not like that. He’s not my type.”

Mark didn’t allow himself to dwell. Haechan continued for him anyway, ever faithful.

“He’s someone you’ll be interested in, anyway. Sooooo… means I can be on my merry way, right?”

There’s something about his blasé tone that — for lack of a better word — pissed Mark off, instantly.

“You think this is gonna end with you being able to go scot free? After I finally got my hands on you?” Haechan stilled at the way Mark hissed this at him, closer to the shell of his ear than he would’ve liked. “Oh no, here’s what’s gonna happen, sunshine. You will be taken into custody, you will be questioned, and you will be out of my goddamn hair after all of this time.”

It easier for him to completely barrel past the way Haechan’s teasing lilt slips a feeling up the back of his neck, to reach behind him to draw out the reinforced metal, company property handcuffs.

The first clink of metal wasn’t how he expected, doesn’t sound like the others of apprehended criminals, but he’s so pleased these two years are over and done with that he doesn’t really think about it further. He reached up, covering the other’s wrist to pull it around and properly apprehend him, but then Haechan decided to open his mouth again, finally, and shatter all illusions of future world peace.

“I’m not sure I quite like that ending, agent,” Haechan hummed, sounding awfully light, before slumping against the wall and making the momentarily distracted Mark go with him, covering him, hand slipping from the other’s wrist to prop himself up.

He felt uncomfortably warm against him in the uncomfortably warm night air that’s swimming around them and the uncomfortably warm feeling of a familiar song playing between them; so much so that it knocked him sideways enough so that when Haechan slid his foot back to knock Mark’s own out of place in one quick motion, he was still a little behind on the uptake.

Haechan swivelled, slippery as an oil slick and fast enough that Mark couldn’t stop him when he gripped the officer by the neck and used the momentum of the spin to drive him into the wall he was just against. Mark let out a choke of pain, a bark of defiance as he struggled around him; desperately attempting to relieve himself of the hold. Haechan’s fingers felt like fire, burning the grooves of his fingerprints into his skin.

“No, I think I quite like you like this,” Haechan hummed, still as uncomfortably close as Mark had just been, lips almost brushing the thin cartilage of Mark’s ear which made him run to a still — even when his arm is twisted up behind him and crying out in stinging discomfort.

Everything with Haechan was heady and shiny, just like the rare jewels and idols that lead him and his employers all across the globe to steal — the main reason Mark’s job at Interpol has been recalibrated to HAECHAN CAPTURE DUTY (˘̩̩ε˘̩ƪ) if Yukhei’s scribbled note on the frame of Mark’s desktop is anything to go by. None of this is new, more the same chord played over and over, but there was something about the thief that stole breath right from your throat with no apologetics.

“Out of your way?” Mark gritted out instead, looking over his shoulder. Haechan was close, and he should’ve expected this, knew how the man enjoyed pushing and pulling and moulding any situation between them to invoke some sort of reaction out of Mark. 99.9% of the time it works, with Haechan being so unbelievably unpredictable and Mark being so volcanic in his reactions.

Mark backs off a little, craning his neck back and absolutely despising himself when his eyes dart down to curled, heart-shaped lips, when Haechan hooks his chin over his shoulder, eyes earnest and wide like milk saucers.

“Never,” Haechan murmured, “I can’t function without my favourite blood hound on my heels.”

There’s a pause between them, charged tension, but Mark tore his eyes away from Haechan’s move as soon as he heard a clink behind his back, something that made his blood run cold as he pulled his arm in reflex and saw a flash of silver.

“Oh, you bastard,” Mark tried to growl out, desperately, but there’s no denying he’s lost all energy, can’t put up a fight when he heard the trickle of metal from moving his arm other than extended annoyance. Haechan laughed, low and smooth like running wine from a popped cork as he pulled off of Mark before tugging on the chain between them. He was getting rid of the extra space the chain allowed them by covering it with a clenched fist, drawing Mark’s arm closer and closer to him.

Mark almost laughed, looking at their joint hands. It was like a metaphor for destiny. It was like a metal string of fate, the kind of thing he used to read about as a kid when he couldn’t sleep, a fairy tale come true.

“So, like, what’s your end game, Mark?”

It’s not the first time he’s used his first name, but it doesn’t happen often.

He’s usually more disposed to tease at him like they’re old friends meeting at the local bar after ten years, but rarely dares to properly mix things up, to go any step further than they already have. It’s strange, how Haechan practically relished in humiliation, in being the little itch just out of reach that burrows into Mark’s mind and drives him crazy, but some things were still out of the question.

“Preferably you under control,” Mark responded after a pause, honestly, testing the waters. The other man’s grip is still on him, still drumming an incessant beat not quite in tune with Mark’s heartbeat but close. Following.

“Okaaaay,” he drawled back, thumb brushing over skin, “and if you can’t get that golden ticket, what then? You planning on giving up?”

“I can’t just give up, Haechan,” Mark grumbled, head sloped against the wall, suddenly very tired.

Haechan sounded affronted, as he replied. The thumb stops. “Why not?”

“Are you going to stop smuggling to any of the highest bidders?”

“Well… no,” and Haechan looked frustrated, eyebrows pulled in to create a dent in the middle of his brow like he can’t quite understand why Mark Lee, Interpol Agent and #1 Pain in Haechan’s Ass won’t let this go, “but —“

“Then what do you expect from me? To waive everything you’ve ever done and ever will do just because you politely asked me to?” He snapped, feeling the pretty wall paper dig into him uncomfortably. He was nervous, can’t properly clock his charge from this position, and this is new territory they’re breaching here. Between the clipped links of the metaphorical fence. “You think the police would be happy with that solution?”

“You wouldn’t be willing?” Haechan asked, and he can’t see him but the exaggerated pout affected his already nasally voice so potently it made Mark wince. “Not even for me?”

“Not even for—no, I don’t think I could sacrifice my job just on a whim.”

Haechan hummed, at that, and Mark realised he managed to say the wrong thing just a little too late.

The exchange ended abruptly after that, with Haechan pulling Mark towards him and revealing the concoction of metal in between his incisors, that served a single purpose of replicating the click of the handcuffs closing. He flashed a grin that made the bottom of Mark’s stomach drop out and onto the metaphorical floor in a gory and formidable mess. In a swift movement, he clicks the cuff that was supposed to be snug and tight around his own wrist on to one of the nearby supporting bars, promptly locking Mark in.

“Seriously though,” Haechan had grinned infuriatingly sharp, brushing Mark’s fringe back from his eyes and cutting off his slew of curses, “once you get out, go check out the master bedroom. This guy’s a freak, you’ll be thanking me later.”


He patted the other’s cheek in a painfully teasing way before heading out, making Mark’s fury and embarrassment boil down into a single feeling as he watched Haechan slip through the door as simple as Mark had entered.

 

 

THIS HAECHAN WAS very different to the Haechan he had spoken to, weeks back.

Looking at this Haechan, with the cool blonde locks that curl across his forehead easily, in the dark threads that he always wears on field missions that require a sliver of stealth, with that stupid, disarming grin, Mark finds it very easy to revisit what had happened in the middle of that shitty Finnish apartment, his momental slip, way too easily.

When he’d busted the roof door open, he had twirled around so easily it stole Mark’s breath away.

“Miss me?”

Haechan’s voice is sly, like the rustling sound of a snake sliding through the grass. It makes

Mark’s stomach turn, at how much had changed since that night. That Haechan, swaddled in a another Interpol target’s old high-school threads, a little drunk and genuinely bewildered to see Mark. Pleased, even. This Haechan looks pleased, too, but in a different way. Like the way a cat looks when it’s caught a bird with its wings in between its paws, playing with its dinner.

Mark, oddly, feels like the main course.

“Not particularly,” Mark replies, trying to come across as relaxed. Every time they meet, it puts him on edge no matter what the situation was. “Though I have been meaning to thank you about dumping Clive Donohan into our hands. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

Arresting a (knocked-out cold), high-ranking, tainted-drug smuggling Interpol target had definitely smoothed our the wrinkles in his boss’ brow. Even though Haechan remained elusive, this offering created a peace where there was surely going to be none if he’d left Finland without even one arrest.

“So now we’re even, right? ‘Cos whilst it’s a dream to see you and all, I really must be going…” Haechan trails off with a blinding grin, sharp gaze darting around for some sort of escape route, an emergency ladder that rails down the side of the building — something to get him out of this situation.

“Can’t do that, though, can you?” Mark scoffs, taking a measured glance around at the empty rooftop. “Something tells me you’re waiting for EVAC, right?”

Haechan laughs at that, a loud and boyish sound that echoes around them and off, into the air, but refuses to answer. Or look at him, something that infuriates Mark even further. He was good at that — pissing him off.

“The reason you’re here was for these, right?”

Mark decides to bowl on, holds up the white cloth package he’d been obscuring from view all this time and noted the way Haechan’s eyes practically zero into what he’s holding. He shakes it a little, moving it from side to side, confirming his suspicions when the thief follows his hand like he’s watching a tennis ball be flung from one part of the court to the other.

“Now how did you get your hands on that little bundle of joy, agent?” Haechan purrs, trying to bury whatever negative reaction was threatening to rise up from his carefully crafted shell. He stops trying to flee, rounding out and instead slowly prowling toward Mark. “I’ve been looking for those all night.”

“You think we haven’t kept any eye on any grand item shift since the last time we met? Nice suit, by the way. We had eyes on this evening’s auction.”

Haechan pretends to swoon, clutching at his apparently beating heart. It’s annoying how Mark wasn’t joking in that regard — it was a nice suit. He’d looked good in red velvet, looked different — and Mark hated with a vitriol about how that word sounded so odd on his tongue whenever he used it to describe Haechan — with his hair styled up and a wine flute clutched in his hand as he bent heads with high society in between money pledges.

“Now, you saw me in my Sunday best and I get nothing in return? You wound me, officer,” he drawls, “but maybe those diamonds can be of use in soothing my broken heart?”

“Why don’t you and I have a little talk, first?”

At this point, Haechan stops dutifully in front of Mark, arms wedged across each other and fingers playing a dutiful beat on his elbow crease.

“I bid for those items fair and square.” He looks unhappy, leering at Mark a little.

“And we have the jurisdiction to intervene if we think a person of interest will be using items for nefarious purposes,” Mark recites back the guidelines log he was forced to study back in policing school with a steely glare.

Haechan doesn’t budge, metaphorical tail swishing as he studies Mark momentarily. Then, another grin swallows up his face like a refreshing gulp of lemonade.

“So you’re interested in me?”

There were many things Mark disliked about Haechan. His profession. The way his words curled around his tongue without an ounce of shame. His perpetual smile. But his incessant need to flirt was definitely ranked #1 on his list, a flare of irritation tickling his chest.

Mark’s jaw clenches, and he does what he does best. Ignores it.

“There is a deal that can be made. All you have to do is come with me.”

“Sounds divine. And if I don’t?”

The constant dimple in Mark’s brow whenever he has to deal with Haechan deepens, and he prepares himself as he answers:

“It’s not really an option.”

That brought them to now, with Haechan taking him by surprise with a feint swipe and putting some distance between them to taunt at him.

He doesn’t wait, isn’t lax like any of the previous times they fought and prowls around Mark with a calculating gaze. The man in question was quickly realising he couldn’t quite handle a Haechan on the offensive, backing off.

The thief darts forward suddenly, aiming a hit to his chest that Mark blocks, but only just. Being trained in various fighting styles, it was useful whenever a particular charge didn’t want to come easy. His arrest record was one of the best throughout the bureau—all but one constant thorn in his sign a success. Haechan remained different.

He couldn’t let him go, not today.

Haechan’s punches didn’t have much power to them, but they were quick. He was swift, fast enough to run away and fast enough to add weight to the rungs and turn the situation on its head, fast enough to turn it into his favour. Mark is caught by one, and it’s in that moment that Haechan grabs his wrist and pulls towards him with one hand in order to lunge for the parcel with the other.

In a calculated panic, Mark flings the package behind him, and clutches the thief’s other forearm to keep him from going anywhere. They’re a tangle of limbs, and it’s impossible for Mark to miss the way his expression twists as the diamonds go flying.

Haechan lets out a grunt of annoyance, before spinning them around with a sharp tug and letting them tumble to the ground ungraciously.

The hit hurts, the smooth stone of the roofing leaving very little cushioning for Mark, with the little pieces of sediment pricking into the back of his neck. It doesn’t land well for Haechan either, a clumsy spill that makes the other man groan in turn.

Mark reaches for the other man’s wrist whilst he thinks about it, jerking it to the side and rolling them with little finesse but more momentum so he could end up on top. He doesn’t anticipate for Haechan’s legs to wrap around his middle like pincers of a scorpion and continue that momentum so they keep bowling on.

Mark curses loudly as they roll over a pretty sharp bit of debris from the satellite towers above and rolls them to a halt, too focused on the pain and letting his concentration slip for a brief moment. That was definitely a tear, and now his work suit is ruined. Not even a dry cleaner job can fix a fucking tear. And how would he even explain this to the tailor? Or to Yukhei, for that matter?

In the midst of Mark’s fabric related meltdown, only then does Haechan take the initiative to pin Mark’s dominant hand, the one that had slipped away to check his handcuffs were still there, above his head like a trophy.

Critics agree, this is where it starts to get messy.

ADDENDUM #1: Mark, too, deems that it’s only then that the things like well-placed barriers between them began to crumble, like their whole working relationship thus far wasn’t completely tangled in convolution, but that’s only because he doesn’t want to think back on the telltale signs for this event to come to fruition. He always was avoidant, though.

They’re both panting hard at the exertion, bursts of flame from the flick of a lighter, and Mark flexes his fingers under Haechan’s tentatively. The other’s seemingly always perfect hair has gone into a bit of disarray; the blonde strands tousled. There’s a scratch on his cheek, where Mark’s watch might have caught him, or more likely where a rock scraped at it during the scuffle.

Mark can’t look that much better, that’s for sure, dark fringe curling into his forehead and stray hairs meeting his eyelash, leaving him to freely blink in order to get them away in annoyance and not just blink in pure shock at what was happening, at Haechan.

They’re frozen, Haechan a little triumphant at the way their exchange has gone, but seemingly unsure how to make the next move. His eyes dart over to where the package was tossed through lack of judgement and more sheer instinct, before back down at Mark.

He’s sitting rather uncomfortably just above the agent’s hips, hand that isn’t pinning Mark’s to place is scrabbled against the floor beneath them, next to his head. Any movement, even just from them breathing, practically, brings an awry swirl of pleasure around Mark’s gut and by the pinched look on Haechan’s face, now, it seems he’s not alone in it. How mortifying, Mark thinks, feeling a stab to his lungs, making no motion to move.

Their chests are both heaving, with Haechan hanging over Mark like a sickness he can’t get rid of, because he can’t stop staring—no, cataloging Haechan’s face with that same sense of fear intermingled with something else entirely.

Downturned eyes, pretty when they weren’t screwed with the intention of saying something mean. Pretty when they were, actually. Squished nose, a little scar across the bridge—from Denmark, he thinks. Mouth shaped like a fucking heart, designed for all things breaking. God, his sense was down the goddamn drain, but it wasn’t like this hadn’t been a long time coming. Not after the years of obsession, of chase. Hardly harmless.

ADDENDUM #2: Haechan has always been as handsome, and as pretty in the beginning as he is now, and still not one bit of fucking good for him in the slightest.

It was the longest he’d seen Haechan without a smile, carefully calculating his next move. His mouth was parted slightly as he dragged in breaths, moving the fisted hand into a flat palm, but the two of them were seemingly unable to shift from these positions; locked as they collected themselves.

That swirl of pleasure grows as the seconds go, and Mark feels his skin heat up like static running across him, and he feels the scrap of the gravel against his Chelsea boots as he tries to shift. The pause is like poison, slowly sapping away at Mark’s rationality as it extends, until the gears finally start turning in Haechan’s head.

The flattened palm beside them becomes a pillar of strength; as Haechan slowly lowers himself down to arch over Mark like a cover of uncomfortable warmth, eyes never leaving Mark’s to gauge for a burst of negative reaction. Mark is frozen, at this point, unwilling to break whatever magical field in and amongst them that’s making this, whatever this is — a reality. Tangible, even, as Haechan settles himself a little more squarely on Mark’s waist.

His hand leaves where it was clutching at Mark’s other one, momentarily mourning the feeling of fingers twisted in his, and once he’s comfortable, places both of his hands around his neck.

Mark would cackle, would laugh until his body is wracked with quakes if the reason he met his end was just by falling a little before his time, with the boy who he’s been chasing for years.

“Hey, agent,” and his voice is still as slippery, still dulcet in the dark night in the middle of Rome, he’s still the same person and pretty much last rung for Mark to be doing—this with, and yet. And yet. “Relax a little, will you?”

He doesn’t properly lean down until his thumbs are lined up across Mark’s Adam’s apple, smile pulling at the corners of his mouth as he moves that has Mark caught in the headlights because he can’t. He can’t relax, not when his mind is running a mild a fucking minute with all the possibilities, all the alternate pathways and threads in Mark’s universe that could change the outcome, change what Haechan would do next. That, and wishing something would come to fruition already. He was already fucked, may as well follow through.

He noses just below his jawline, bringing a shudder to Mark he couldn’t prepare for. When he trails up, the slight drag of his mouth across his skin makes him feel like his lungs are going to pop like a latex balloon, but he doesn’t stop there. Act #2 of the Pantomime begins when he finally kisses him.

The sensation of Haechan’s mouth pressing the first chaste kiss on the corner of Mark’s mouth dulls his senses, before something like a pipe bursts in his heart, or his head, or his ribcage, and it’s like a flurry of petals caught on a long-moving breeze sweeping up within him.

They get stuck in his throat, and Mark feels like he’s choking, this heady feeling of slightly chapped lips tentatively easing him out of his cage once, twice. His eyes don’t close until Haechan finally bites the metaphorical bullet and brushes a left-behind smidgen of saliva across Mark’s bottom lip with hands that have finally travelled up to cup at his jaw.

He’s not going anywhere, not anymore, not like the selfish part of him that’s been dying for this ever since he first saw him even wants to. Where could he go? Face first off of this rooftop was a no-go. No, he was trapped under Haechan’s spell and at this point, with the thief’s thumbs brushing over his bottom lip in a mock kind of tenderness, he’s not sure he wants to.

The moment he kisses him—properly this time, no pussy-footing about to tease him, Mark doesn’t react apart from his eyelids fluttering shut. A part of him is still short-wiring, still sparking at the fact that Haechan is the one arched over him, Haechan is the one kissing him, Haechan is the one who’s manually stripping him for parts like this and there’s not even a single percentage of him that thinks this is a bad idea.

And that’s terrifying, he thinks, as Haechan’s mouth slides against his with a terrible joy that he yearns to reciprocate. This shouldn’t be want he wants, went against every fibre of his judicial borne morality as a member who had took up the case of Haechan with an unwavering assurance that he would succeed in putting him behind bars.

And yet.

He was thinking that a lot, lately. Second guessing.

Maybe thinking wasn’t the smartest thing to do, right about now.

Haechan tilts his head, trying to coax something out of Mark, like a curse or a whine or even a hard stop so at the very least they quit whilst they were ahead and could progress a little less like animals, but instead, Mark kisses him back slowly, embarking in small steps.

It surprises Haechan, pleasantly like a sunbathing cat rolling in a sun-warmed, grassy bank if the quiet noise that rumbled from the back of his throat is anything to go by. Maybe he was a cat, a part of Mark muses, a little removed from the situation at hand, but with a little bit more thought—nah, he was too vicious for a house cat. No, he was more like a leopard, looming over anyone who tried to stop him, up in a shaded tree. A carcass of diamonds trapped under a paw, tail swishing in extravagance.

Haechan distracts him then, taking a hand away from his face to frame Mark’s flank with an assuring grip. It’s under the navy suit jacket, the one that’s definitely ruined by now, fingernails dragging against his back at the white cotton shirt underneath. Mark twitches at that, trying not to keen at such a minor action, and the other man smiles through the kiss at the reaction.

Haechan’s knees are either side of Mark, so be takes a timid initiative to grip the crease behind his knee and pull him a little closer. His fingers stretch, pressing past the harsh material of his stealth gear and a stray buckle strap from his thigh holster into the firm muscle underneath and —

Haechan honest-to-god moans at that, pushing himself up with a free hand on Mark’s chest like he needs to keep him down at a costs, and away from his mouth at the feeling to give him a moment to breathe. His lips are parted, looking down at Mark with a lidded expression like he’s not sure he wants to eat him or stab him or—well, both, with a nice little steak knife to take the first cut.

He must’ve done something right though, slowly massaging both of the back of his thighs now and coaxing him back down to curl into him again because this time Mark finds himself a little impatient to get Haechan’s mouth back on him now he’s had a taste.

This time, it’s a refreshing sense of plunging into the depths, like he’s fallen off of a diving boat the wrong way, when Haechan licks into his parted mouth with a renewed sort of vigour that leads him to be even more breathless than he was before. Mark meets him well, ocean or blood roaring in his ears, lost in the fucking feeling of his so-called enemy’s tongue in his mouth. The slide of his mouth is soft, heady, everything so heady like he’s drunk on the feeling.

Whatever timidness that was surrounding him like an invisibility cloak had sort of melted away, like cotton candy the moment it touched your tongue, weirdly content to lie back against the uncomfortable roof of the Torre Eurosky, particularly when Haechan slides a little back and groans into his mouth at the feeling.

Mark can’t blame him, heart thudding in his chest and stuttering at any movement or noise Haechan made as he tips his head back a little to meet the other’s mouth in a better position that makes him keen himself. It’s more harried, charged, Haechan grinding his body up lightly with the feeling of Mark’s mouth under him lighting him like a fresh candle, like the scrape of a match box.

And he can’t deny this isn’t nice, this isn’t leaving goose flesh and red warmth up his arms and the back of his neck, can’t deny that Haechan’s mouth is like a drug and the slide isn’t driving him insane. No, it’s not that he can’t—more like he physically refuses.

If he could spend the rest of the chilly night curled against each other, he would, and that’s too scary to pick apart, so instead he curls his tongue around Haechan’s and draws another noise out of him instead.

His chest is heaving against Mark’s, a push and pull tally, when they suddenly hear the thunder of helicopter wings in the distance and both pull away a little to glance towards the edge of the roof.

There’s an expression Mark hasn’t seen before as they look back at each other, can’t place anything that’s usual fodder from his common range of smug looks as thick as honey, or annoyance that’s like sparks from a lighter flint. This is subtle, more charged, flickering a feeling between Mark’s ribcage that burns. It’s quiet between them, before Mark finds himself blurting.

“You could just quit it all, you know?”

His voice comes out quiet over the approaching blades, but Haechan cranes his head a little closer. If not to listen to Mark a little better, then to stun him into silence over such a stupid choice of words.

“Now, why on Earth would I want to do that?”

Haechan’s smile is wide, a little mean, and all encompassing as he leans in for the kill. Mark sighs into his mouth, tentative this time in the way he curls his fingers around the straps of the tactical vest he’s wearing to — he doesn’t know what he’s doing, not really. To keep Haechan in place, to selfishly extend this moment as long as possible. It’s wet, charged, messy.

Not quite a goodbye, but a pause on whatever this was. A moment in time dunked in a vat of liquid nitrogen to freeze and melt during their next meeting. Whenever that would be, that is. All of which would be on Haechan’s terms, his annoying ability to fizzle into the shade and resurface whenever he wanted to almost always in employ.

Haechan leans back on his haunches over him, looking as pleased as a cat who got the cream. He thumbs at the wet corner of Mark’s mouth, scratching lightly at his jaw with two fingers in lieu of properly cupping it before standing up in one movement.

The angle switch, the perspective of Haechan leaving and then returning in a mere moment, looming over him and sliding that white bundle of diamonds into the enforced leather pocket on his thigh in full view of Mark; with that fucking grin, makes something stir further in his gut.

He was officially fucked, that much was clear, and even imagining his boss—no, imagining Yukhei’s disappointed stare heavy on him as he reached the roof, the pure judgement he could wield made Mark’s stomach turn a little, vastly far from arousal.

Before either of them can say anything again, to continue the moment in some way, shape or form, the thudding of the helicopter blades spur the two of them to look to where the machine has newly surfaced.

The driving compartment is hidden with darkened windows, but if the dossiers on Haechan and the team he belonged to were correct, the only person who could be piloting something like that was a one Jaemin Na. The doors slide open with a purpose, revealing another man with dark hair, crouched down on one knee and clutching onto a bar by the threshold of the door if only not to fall out.

Mark recognises him too, had run into him once before, alone, in Peru and left with the bruises to match. Haechan is a good chunk of talk, usually prefers to wind a long tale over an actual fight, but Huang doesn’t pull any punches. He’s ready to leap into the fray or cause one at any given time, Mark is well aware.

“‘Til next time, sweetheart,” Haechan smirks, speaking in a lovely tone that’s teasing as Huang holds out a hand, wordlessly glaring at the both of them and mentally willing Haechan to hurry up through his metaphorical laser eyes.

Mark’s gaze doesn’t leave Haechan’s frame as he turns away to jog, all black like a puma as he quickly begins to full pelt run towards the edge of the roof. He wills himself up on his hands, if only to gawp with his world turned the right kind of way as Haechan doesn’t stop.

Words don’t come to him, too wracked with shock and the rustling of the wind whipping at his clothes and his hair. The only sound is his sharp intake of breath when Haechan doesn’t falter one moment, pouncing off of the raised edge and into the air.

It’s strangely poetic, the lights of the skyline that aren’t blocked by the helicopter creating a heady glow as the thief reaches out with unwavering trust to Huang, who catches him assuredly with unrelenting grip around his arm. He hauls the other man up steadily, Haechan scrambling onto the floor of the helicopter like a drenched cat trying to reach the river bank.

Huang smacks the back of his head with no real fire, standing to take his seat. He sends a sharp look over his shoulder, like Mark is his own personal target board for dart shooting, before disappearing further into the machine.

Haechan remains, standing by the open door whilst clutching the safety handle and simply stares at Mark with his head tilted like he has to commit this to memory. Then, turning his head to catch something Huang has said, he turns back moments later with a coy wave and that sharp smile, even as the helicopter begins to power away and towards the moon line.

It takes Mark three minutes exactly to clear his head, once he’s gone.

In those three minutes, he allows himself to think back on what the fuck had just happened and how he had just sacrificed his morality and job security to get off with his literal arch-nemesis. To smack his forehead and chew himself out for his lack of restraint.

Then, and only then, does he allow himself to radio Yukhei.

Bzzt, “Any updates, Mark? Over.” Bzzt. He sounded worried, low voice a little choppy through their receivers but still easily readable, which made Mark feel worse almost instantly.

Bzzt, “Yeah...” he starts, trailing off as he brushes at his trouser legs, as if that could get rid of the dirt and dust littering his whole suit right about now, and preparing himself to explain to his partner what on Earth had just happened. “’M sending you the coordinates now. May have… had a run in.” Bzzt.