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We're All Just Taller Children

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Joonmyun brings Sehun into the crew when the Macau job nearly costs Baekhyun an eye.

To his credit, he tries to ease Jongin into the idea—brings him down to the bar underneath their headquarters, pays for the first round and finishes it before Jongin's glass even hits the coaster. Which, in retrospect, should've been a tipoff, but Jongin's got a straw wrapper wound around his fingers before he even realizes Joonmyun's been oddly quiet this whole time, staring at the digital jukebox glowing across the bar.

"Hyung?" Jongin puts a hand on Joonmyun's forearm. An advertisement for Prince's Greatest Hits! flashes across the screen, electric violet and insistent. "You're spacing out. Want to call it a night?"

"I'm bringing in another guy for the next job," Joonmyun says suddenly. The words seem to create space between them, like Joonmyun's a million miles away in that instant. Jongin's hand freezes on the cuff of Joonmyun's expensive silk shirt, fingers retreating back onto the bar. "His name's Oh Sehun. He was on the National Bank job last month. Came highly recommended."

Jongin's heard of him. They came up in the neighborhood around the same time—ran with different crews, occasionally crossed paths when they were chasing the same score. Jongin didn't really know what to think of the guy then—scrawny, rubberband limbs. Wore a lot of ski caps, hooded sweatshirts. Didn't talk much, and when he was forced to, it was all quiet, unintelligible mumbling. Seemed more like a kid doing it for sport than a career criminal. "Is this because of Macau? Hyung, my earpiece fell out and those guys had the jump on me before I could—"

"Jongin, there was nothing you could've done, I'm only glad you got away—"

"—but it won't happen again, please don't bench me. I can do this."

Joonmyun draws a shoulder to his ear and regards Jongin with an amused sort of smirk. "You think I'm auditioning your replacement?"

"You're saying you're not? Sure feels like it," Jongin mutters into his drink. "We've never worked with an outsider before. Timing's about right."

"Jongin. I picked this crew. It took seven years to assemble—you think I'm rethinking things?"

Jongin looks up. "Are you?"

"I'm not benching you. We could use another set of hands on this one, that's all." He levels a gaze at Jongin's downturned mouth, offers him a fatherly smile. "Getting the job's more important than your pride, isn't it? Don't you want to do this one right? I wouldn't have asked him if I didn't think we really needed the help."

Jongin nods mulishly but he can’t help how sour he feels, the jealous heat curdling his stomach. Could have doubled anyone else’s role, why his? They’ve already got a thief on the team, and Jongin's never been comfortable sharing his things with anyone. He stirs the ice in his drink a little petulantly, ignores it when Joonmyun chides him for diluting his drink.

"It’s not your fault," Joonmyun reassures Jongin, hand heavy as it comes to rest on his knee. "Take good care of him, okay?"

Jongin can think of a lot of things he'd do for Joonmyun, lots of things he's already done and would do again in a heartbeat if he were asked—robbed a bank, run away from the police, fallen off a fucking building—but somehow, he feels that obedience faltering when it comes to Oh Sehun.

 

So of course they meet, because Joonmyun calls the shots—it's his crew, after all. Jongin immediately feels encroached-upon when Sehun walks through the door of headquarters like he owns the place, bright red hoodie as ostentatious as the white-blond hair he's currently sporting. He waves a brief hello to the group gathered around the table, offers a half-assed bow that can't be deeper than five degrees, maybe, and takes his seat in between Chanyeol and Joonmyun. Rude little shit. His eyes come to rest on Jongin and he nods briefly in acknowledgment. Jongin leans in to Kyungsoo and mutters, "Since when do we let outsiders into the office?" and is rewarded with an elbow to the gut for his trouble.

Oh Sehun's gotten taller in the decade or so since Jongin saw him last. He's lankier, too, but still slouches everywhere like his body's too heavy to hold upright, hands perpetually sunk into the front pockets of his sweatshirt. He still has that half-bored, half-unimpressed expression on his face and his mouth presses into line that nearly sections off his entire jaw from the rest of his face. It's cartoonish and more than a little ugly. Jongin wrinkles his nose and looks over to Baekhyun, who seems charmed. Figures, though—Baekhyun likes everybody (and vice versa).

"That was you on the bank job last month?" Baekhyun asks, sounding a little dazzled. "All by yourself?"

Even Sehun's shrug is lazy. "You make it sound like it was hard." He yawns, drums his fingers on the tabletop. "I'm sure anyone here could've done it."

Chanyeol's jaw drops in an unattractive gape. Baekhyun and Kyungsoo look at each other underneath their eyebrows, mouthing anyone here could have done it like they can't believe the balls on this new kid. Joonmyun's never looked more proud, Jongin thinks, noticing the way his chest puffs out.

Jongin sniffs. Show-off. The National Bank's security system is notoriously difficult to crack, involves a lot of legwork that has to be done the-day-of, thanks to a company-wide policy of changing passwords every twenty-four hours. It couldn't have been that much of a breeze.

"So what are we doing, exactly?" Sehun asks. He doesn't speak formally even though Jongin knows for a fact that he's the youngest one in the room. It doesn't seem to faze the rest of them. Joonmyun smiles, even, and Jongin bristles with even more annoyance when he remembers being smacked upside the head the first time he tried dropping the honorifics without asking permission first.

"World Jewelry Museum just acquired a new collection," Joonmyun says, pushing a set of blueprints across the table to Sehun. "Some Ethiopian Coptic crosses, some Joseon dynasty wedding jewelry. What do you think?"

Jongin leans back against his chair and tries to keep a sulk from wrinkling his brow.

Sehun is silent for so long Jongin wonders if he'd even heard the question. "Seems simple enough," he says finally, looking up. "Why'd you call me? This isn't anything Jongin can't handle." The way he says it makes Jongin's neck burn. This isn't anything Jongin can't handle, emphasis on this, as if there are some jobs which fall under that category. He wonders if Sehun knows about the Macau job, wonders if Joonmyun told him, and barely has his mouth open to retort before Baekhyun kicks him under the table, eyes dark with a warning: don't.

"Of course he can handle it," Joonmyun says smoothly, noticing the irritated way Jongin flops back in his chair. "But it's a six man job, and he's going to need someone he can rely on to follow his instructions. Someone that we know can get the job done without bringing the whole team down."

"And that's me?" Sehun smirks, redirecting his attention to Jongin. "You asked for me? I didn't know you even remembered who I was."

"I asked for you," Joonmyun clarifies before Jongin can reply. "This is my team." He coughs, sensing the tension, and barrels on. "Full disclosure here: I asked for Amber first. She's busy, but she recommended you. Said you're so good she'd even have your kids, which... I suppose is a ringing endorsement coming from her."

Sehun laughs for the first time, mouth open and wheezing. It's even uglier than when he's not laughing. "She really said that?" He slaps the table, then his knees, sound reverberating in Joonmyun's loft space. Chanyeol's laughing too, and Kyungsoo—Jongin notices, realizing he's hopelessly outnumbered here at the table, the lone holdout against Sehun's complete acceptance in the team. He crosses his arms across his chest.

"You ever worked with a team this big before?" Baekhyun asks. Sehun shakes his head.

"Usually prefer to work by myself." He leans forward. "Don't worry, though. I know I won't get paid if I fuck up and branch out on my own. I'm not, gonna, like, let anyone die, or whatever."

Jongin rolls his eyes, makes an irritated noise in the back of his throat that Kyungsoo manages to hide with a well-timed cough.

"I'm taking a risk, you know," Joonmyun says curtly, suddenly all business. "It's my crew's necks on the line if you can't handle this. I want you, but I'll find someone else if you won't do it. So, last chance: here's your out."

Sehun makes a tent with his fingers and looks at the blueprints with sobered interest, eyes darting left to right across the page again and again, studying, analyzing. "Alright," Sehun says after a moment. "I'll do it. I'm going to need a place to crash, though. No way am I making the commute in everyday. Waste of time."

"Fine, then." Joonmyun nods. "Why don't you crash with Jongin? He's nearby, and he's got a couch—you two can catch up, get re-acquainted."

Jongin groans, dread hanging heavy off his shoulders. He really, really doesn't want to have to go home to Oh Sehun. Having to work with him is punishment enough. "Hyung, I live in a studio—"

"Couch is fine," Sehun says quickly. "It's only for a few days, right?"

Jongin flashes a tight smile. He knows he's never going to earn any favors with Joonmyun by fighting this one. "Yeah. Sure. A few days."

 

After their meeting, Joonmyun orders everyone home to get some sleep before their dry run the next day. Jongin debates leaving Sehun behind until Joonmyun calls to him from across the room: "Don't forget Sehun! He doesn't know where you live."

"Neither do I, now that you mention it," Chanyeol says. "Hey Jongin—"

"Forget it. No." It's by design—it's not that Jongin doesn't trust anyone, it's more that he appreciates his privacy. No, more than that. Needs it. As much as he loves the job, it wears on him. His apartment's his sanctuary. The one place he can sit and turn his mind off and be safe.

Or, at least, it was. He briefly debates moving apartments after the job is over. He'll have the money for it, anyway. Now that Sehun knows—what's the point? He kicks open the door and gestures for Sehun to get inside. Sehun makes a beeline for the bed, drops his things to the floor and tries to crawl under the covers. Jongin stops him with an arm across his chest, pulling him back and away.

"Couch," he commands. "Bed is mine."

"It's big enough for two." Sehun wrinkles his nose. "You're really making me sleep on that thing?"

Jongin sets his mouth into a tight line and shrugs. The couch isn't ideal, sure—but Jongin's getting a small amount of pleasure thinking about Sehun sleeping on that thing, broken frame, understuffed cushions and all. "Take it or leave it. You can always go back to your place."

"I don't have—fine, whatever." Sehun drops his entire body weight onto the center section of the couch with a loud, dusty clunk. The frame creaks ominously. "It's only for a few days." He curls onto his side away from Jongin, not even bothering to shuck his clothes.

As a last-minute concession, Jongin tosses him a pillow from the bed and drapes the ratty old afghan from the back of the couch over his shoulders. "Don't break it, okay?" he warns. "Or you're buying me another one."

"How can you tell?" Sehun grumbles, voice already thick and drowsy, and rolls over. The couch springs squeal like Sehun's lying on top of an entire family of guinea pigs. Which, considering the state of Jongin's apartment, isn't entirely out of the realm of possibility.

 

A loud clatter pulls Jongin out of bed at an ungodly hour to investigate, cross-eyed and blinking slowly at the harsh fluorescent light. The bathroom sink's a graveyard for half-used toiletries, mostly skin creams Jongin uses for a while before he grows tired of them and moves on to the next thing, a barely-touched bottle of aftershave that smells like his father.

The bare curve of Sehun's spine tapers into the rolled waistband of his sweatpants. He leans, hunched over the sink, bottle of something in his hand, a plastic cup and a brush laid out across the toilet tank. The blonde is long-gone, replaced by a violent shade of fluorescent pink. He looks like your average punk-ass teenaged kid getting ready to go to the rave, not a skilled cat burglar responsible for half a dozen break-ins across Seoul this year alone.

"You need to do that here?" Jongin asks crossly, rubbing his eyes. "You're fucking with my organizational system."

"Yeah. I can tell." Sehun's reflection laughs and stares Jongin down curiously, a strange sort of smile inching across his face. Sehun's face is distorted by the splattered water on the mirror's surface. "I'm really impressed by your collection of expired lotions. It paints a picture."

Jongin ignores the jab. "What the fuck are you doing, anyway?"

"How do you feel about pink?" He points his finger at his fuschia halo and pulls a face in the mirror that almost looks like he's posing for a selca. "For my hair, I mean."

Pink is the color of Jongin's favorite candy. He vaguely recalls the walls of his sisters' bedroom, growing up—also pink. Sehun's chosen a particularly ostentatious hue, too—about as bright as it gets, almost neon. "I don't have feelings about any color. Pink's—uh. Sure."

Sehun goes back to what he was doing, leans underneath the running stream of water in the sink to rinse his hair clean. "You'd look good with a change, too."

Jongin scoffs. "I've got better things to be doing. Going out and scouting the location, preparing for the climb. Looking over the blueprints. You know, the job."

"Oh. I just wing that stuff."

"You what?" Jongin asks hotly. "You can't wing this shit—not when you're working with us. We have a plan. A routine. No fucking deviations—you can't just do your own shit halfway through a job, you'll get someone killed. Joonmyun-hyung's the one who calls the shots."

Sehun smiles like an emoticon, eyes tight and high. "You always do what Joonmyun tells you? You never question it?"

"No," Jongin says. Irritation prickles at the base of his neck. "I do what's best for the team."

"Not even once? C'mon, Jongin—what about what's best for you? I've heard the stories about the jobs you used to do back in the neighborhood. You were good. What are you doing working under someone else?"

Jongin bristles at the question. Sehun sounds so young when he asks questions like this. Jongin's only got a few months on him, but he's not a damn kid anymore. He appreciates the value of teamwork, of this makeshift family Joonmyun's cobbled together for the sake of security. They've saved his ass more than a few times. "I like knowing that at any moment, if something happens, any one of them will have my back. You don't get that when you work alone."

"I don't fuck up in the first place." Sehun shrugs and pulls a towel over his head to dry his hair. "Seems easier than splitting the haul with people."

Jongin opens his mouth to retort, then closes it again. He's too fucking tired to fight about it now—he'll just have to talk to Joonmyun in the morning. He's not a goddamn babysitter, and if Sehun really can't handle doing the legwork for the job, Joonmyun really needs to know about it. "Whatever. I'm going back to bed," he says abruptly, turning to leave.

"Oh, come on, Jongin. Don't get pissed." Sehun laughs. "It was just a question."

"Pretty stupid question. You know, I have no idea why Joonmyun asked for you in the first place—"

"—aha, I knew you didn't want me on this job." Sehun's hands pause at the crown of his head. The towel's turning pink, too, and Jongin reminds himself that the murder probably wouldn't be justified over an old bath towel he could probably replace for 10,000 won. He takes a deep breath and steadies his voice.

"Doesn't matter what I want. I'll do my job because the team is counting on me. Which—I'm not going to be able to scout the location effectively if I don't get some sleep, so."

"Are you always such a prick, or is this your way of telling me you have a crush on me?"

"You little—" Jongin takes a menacing step towards Sehun. Sehun flinches involuntarily and his elbows go flailing. He starts a chain reaction—first the hand soap falls over, then the bottle of dye (which he'd forgotten to cap, of course), then the entire contents of Jongin's sink tumbles to the floor with a terrific crash. Lotion tubes explode, plastic lids crack—it's chaos. Perhaps the worst casualty is also the most pungent: the bottle of aftershave currently soaking into the bath mat. The whole place smells like a barber shop.

"For fuck's sake, look what you did." Jongin punches Sehun in the shoulder as hard as he can, frowning. "God—just get the fuck out."

This is a perfect metaphor for Sehun's style of thievery, Jongin thinks wryly: he's a bull in a fucking china shop, causes mass devastation and collateral damage, focuses more on showmanship, wants everyone to know he was there and what he's accomplished. It's not about the score with Sehun, it's about the process, it's about being as impressive as possible and being recognized for his brilliance. It's going to bite him in the ass someday.

"I'll clean it up, just. Move. Get out of my way," he says, pushing Jongin aside. Scowling, Jongin retreats back to his bed and sits with his ankles tucked underneath his body. He can sort of see Sehun at the edge of his peripheral vision, crouched on the bathroom floor, body blurred into a smear of fizzing light, pink at the edges.

Jongin breathes through his mouth until he can't take being silent any longer, he just has to channel his anger into yelling at Sehun again or he's going to wring his neck. "My whole apartment's gonna smell like that shit—"

"Why did you even have it hanging around, then?" Sehun challenges. "Seems stupid if you don't even use it." And then, "Ow. Fuck." He sits back against the cabinets with a quiet rattle, seething.

"What?" Jongin trips over himself and tumbles off the bed into a painful belly flop, legs still tangled underneath him. Sehun's clutching his left hand with his right, thumb pressed deep enough into his palm to leave a dent.

"Missed some glass," Sehun says through gritted teeth. He's even paler than usual, washed out by the light and the sight of his own blood. He licks his lips, manages a wan smile. "You always come running like that?"

"Shut up," Jongin says, face hot with embarrassment. "Are you okay?"

Sehun displays his wound—deceptively small, still bleeding. A dark, sanguine rivulet winds its way around his wrist. Jongin thrusts his hand out just in time to catch the droplets before they stain his bath mat. Sehun's eyes roll towards the ceiling in amusement.

"Did you get all the glass?"

"I think so." A pause. "You were right though," Sehun says quietly, settling back against the cabinets. "I made a mess. And this cologne burns."

Jongin smiles wryly. "Run it under the water. I think I've got a bandage somewhere in the cabinet."

 

Jongin leaves him to it after that. There's nothing much he can do for him, and like he'd said before—he's tired. Joonmyun always gets on his case when he shuffles into headquarters with his eyes still closed, and Baekhyun's been known to pinch his side whenever he yawns.

After a while, the lights go off, and the weight of the bed shifts, mattress dipping. A coil protests with a loud grinding creak that Jongin should probably be more concerned about, but it's fucking four in the morning and he smells like OId Spice and there's a fucking warm body curving to fit his shape. Fuck. No. Jongin signed up to be a host, not a fucking little spoon to some kid who's got hair like Animal from the Muppets.

"Get out," Jongin moans, arm flailing blindly at the body behind him. He makes contact a few times—Sehun's hips, his stomach, the hard bone of his ribcage. Sehun whines.

"Hey. Stop hitting me. Why do you get the bed, anyway?"

So he's rehashing this again.

Jongin snorts. Sehun's got a brass pair, that's for sure. "Because I live here and you don't. Move, this bed isn't big enough to share." It is, honestly, but Jongin doesn't like to. He's already being forced to share his job and his crew. His living space. The bathroom. The bed is the last safe space he has that's all his, although it looks like that's not going to be true for much longer.

"The couch sucks, though. I'm going to get stabbed with a spring and get tetanus and die—"

"Put a blanket down," Jongin grumbles. "You're not going to get stabbed, for fuck's sake, you make it sound like I live in a slum."

"I'm a guest," Sehun wheedles.

"Guest. Please. You're an imposition." Jongin stifles a yawn with the back of his hand. "I'm just doing a favor for Joonmyun-hyung."

"I cut my hand," Sehun tries, huffing.

"What does that have to do with sleeping in my bed?" Jongin sighs and rolls over. Sehun's face is pitiful, eyebrows drawn together, mouth small. "Look, whatever. I'm not sleeping on the couch either, but just—don't hog the covers, I guess—"

He's already asleep before Jongin can finish laying out the ground rules for sharing a bed. It's a shame he gave Sehun a head start, too, because Sehun's clingy as fuck in his sleep and Jongin can't find a spare square inch to breathe without some part of Sehun's body making contact. He gives up after Sehun makes a particularly disgruntled noise and catches hold of Jongin's shoulder, pulling him close. Even in the dark, Jongin can see the wound on Sehun's palm seeping through the poorly-wrapped bandages. He winces. It's pretty deep, probably needs stitches—not that Sehun seems the type to ever go to the hospital for anything. He covers Sehun's hand with his own and holds it to his chest to put some pressure on it, stop the bleeding (his shirt's probably done for, but he'll just add it to Sehun's tab).

 

Baekhyun pinches Jongin three times before they even get started on preparations. Jongin whines and pulls up his shirt, rubs at the dark pink fingermarks in his side. "Come on, hyung," he says. "I slept like shit. Sehun woke me up in the middle of the night."

"Oh really?" Baekhyun asks, eyebrows wiggling. "I'd ask for details, but I don't think I want to know."

Jongin's leg strikes out almost of its own accord, catching Baekhyun square in the ankle. He grunts out a pained laugh and hobbles off to talk to Chanyeol.

Sehun, that little shit, flits around Joonmyun, eyes half-mast and lidded as he leans in, obviously wheedling for something. He doesn't seem to be suffering from the lack of sleep—he was already awake and dressed when Jongin's alarm went off. Jongin slapped at his phone a few times and sat up, momentarily confused by the pink-haired boy sitting on the edge of his bed until he realized, "Oh, right, you," and collapsed back against the sheets, groaning.

But they're here now. World Jewelry Museum. Ready for the biggest score of their career.

It's a fairly inconspicuous museum, as museums tend to go, set back in a row of identical brick buildings in the middle of a neighborhood. The door made of smooth, brushed metal is one of the few indicators that this isn't just another bungalow. They wait around the corner, halfway down the block trying to survey the buildings for the best place for Joonmyun to play lookout.

Jongin takes Sehun on a quick walk around the perimeter of the museum, pretending to be neighborhood boys. Sehun looks the part, especially with his brilliant pink hair (Joonmyun hadn't even blinked when Sehun had arrived at the rendezvous point that morning and removed his hat, which only served to further darken Jongin's mood). Best point of entry seems to be from the ventilation system at the side of the museum. The building's old enough that the air conditioning unit will pull away easily, revealing a wide air shaft that should fit Sehun's broad shoulders without trapping him deep in the bowels of the building. From there, down to museum floor, and then: the vault.

Chanyeol's initial scan of the museum detected substandard security measures: some manual bolt locks, a camera. All easy to bypass, especially with a team as seasoned as Joonmyun's. The real trick is going to be the vault downstairs where some of the extremely valuable pieces are kept. The specifications list a host of precautions: an RFID scanner tied to an employee's identification card, a fingerprint scanner. Motion detectors, heat sensors. It's not going to be easy, and as much as Jongin hates to admit it out loud, he's really going to need the extra help with this one, since it's always his job to get past these things.

Jongin watches Sehun as he helps place equipment in strategic hiding places, easily-accessible in case they need to stage a hasty retreat tomorrow night. Kyungsoo hands him a long, knotted length of rope and stands back to watch him fix the mess. The rope twists past Sehun's hand onto the floor, spirals into a neat coil at his feet. He's had a lot of practice at this. He's not even focusing on what he's doing anymore, too busy laughing at something Baekhyun's just said to him. He nods attentively when Joonmyun says something to him and points out a nearby building—a grocery store front with wide glass picture windows, maybe four stories tall.

"Good vantage point, sheltered by the wind from the building next to it."

Joonmyun smiles indulgently and nods. "Good. That was my first choice."

"But—that top floor is completely residential. Tenants can be unpredictable, might see us and call the police," Sehun continues. "Otherwise, there's that building," he gestures at the squat, brick structure next to his original choice, "which doesn't have a great vantage point, but there aren't any cameras pointing at anywhere you'd need to be."

Chanyeol laughs and claps Sehun on the back. "He's good."

"Jongin," Baekhyun calls before Jongin can even think of rolling his eyes. "Come help me with this, will you?"

"What do you need?" Jongin asks, head whipping around.

Baekhyun waves his hand impatiently. "Just come on."

This turns out to be a job Baekhyun usually does by himself: reconnaissance. He saunters right up the front steps of the museum and holds the door open for Jongin, ushers him inside with an exaggerated bow. The lobby is beautiful—a lot of dark wood and glass, walls littered with brightly-colored photographs of some of the collections proudly on display. Jongin wanders over to check them out, one eye trained on Baekhyun as he pretends to consider some of the pamphlets, sizing up his next move. There's one necklace in particular that captures Jongin's attention: an arching, gold yoke. Intricately tooled, probably by hand. He peers closely at the neat calligraphy on the card beneath the photograph. 12th Century BC, Egypt. He makes a note of its location in the necklace hall and wonders if he'll be able to keep something for himself, maybe gift it to his mother after the pressure's off.

Jongin watches carefully as Baekhyun slides up to the information desk and smiles cheekily.

"Hi," he says. "I've got a delivery for the museum." He peers over the counter for a moment at the young man at the desk. "And I think you're the only one who can help me get this fixed, Park Jaejung."

The boy blushes, clearly unused to the attention. "What can I do for you? Deliveries are supposed to go around back. Acquisitions department. I'm just—tickets and stuff."

Baekhyun recognizes weakness and turns his charm up to full-blast. "I was supposed to make a delivery tomorrow afternoon," he says, leaning in. His voice drops into a conspiratorial whisper. "But I made a huge mistake. The jewelry's being appraised first, and they're not going to be finished until five o'clock." The boy nodded sympathetically. "Who do I see about making a delivery after the museum's normal hours?"

Baekhyun strolls out of the museum with a name and phone number of an acquisitions specialist he's supposed to call. Jongin follows behind, hand stuffed with pamphlets in an effort to look like a tourist. He throws the pamphlets in the nearest garbage can and watches Baekhyun hand the business card to Chanyeol, who's been sitting in the back of the van waiting. He sets to work cobbling together an ID card for Baekhyun that can use to let Jongin into the vault.

And that's it. Jongin's work is done. Nothing left to do but sit back and wait for tomorrow night to roll around.

 

Jongin's sitting in the front seat of the van dozing off, waiting for Chanyeol to finish up installing a back door into the museum's security system, when someone plunks down next to him and slings an arm over his shoulders. Baekhyun. He's the only one this physically affectionate without Jongin initiating it. Jongin cracks an eye open.

"What's up?" he slurs. "You need me for something?"

"Nah." Baekhyun props his feet up on the dashboard. "Just wanted to come keep you company."

"Where are the others?"

"Kyungsoo is teaching Sehun how to throw a punch. Chanyeol's just finishing up his job and I think Joonmyun's watching." He sniffs. "You know, I think Sehun's really got a knack for this stuff. He's fitting in more quickly than I was expecting him to."

Jongin shrugs Baekhyun's arm away, annoyed at the mention of their newest teammate. "Yeah. He's fine, I guess."

"I remember the first time I heard your name." Baekhyun changes the subject, sounding suspiciously casual. This isn't his usual modus operandi—he's always giving Jongin shit, pinching him, laughing. Everything's a joke with Byun Baekhyun. "Kim Jongin. Some wunderkind thief, most talented kid Joonmyun-hyung'd ever seen. When he first started—you know, this," Baekhyun gestures around them at the van, "he floated around a lot of names—yeah, even Sehun's—but yours was always at the top of the list. He wanted you."

Jongin rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah. I remember, he followed me around for weeks. Kept messing up my job prep and getting in the way until I agreed to come meet you guys."

"Yeah." Baekhyun tents his fingers. Waits a beat, breathing slow. "Did you know I told him you were a bad choice?" He puts up his hands before Jongin can say anything. "I don't—think that way anymore, obviously."

Jongin's eyes can't help but focus on the faint greying mark at the crest of Baekhyun cheekbone and think about all of the tiny fuck-ups he'd committed that had led to his spectacular failure in Macau. "Hyung—"

Baekhyun's always been able to read his mind better than the rest of them and he's doing it now, whether Jongin wants him to or not. He puts his hand up to cover his bruise, offers Jongin a lopsided smile. "Jongin-ah. Accidents happen, this wasn't—you weren't being reckless, you couldn't have known." He chuckles, perfect canines flashing in the low light. "I told you not to worry. I'm fine. It's over. We got out."

Jongin hangs his head. "Maybe Joonmyun should've picked Sehun."

"No, Jongin—that wasn't my point." Baekhyun sighs. His fingers wrap around Jongin's knee, warm and reassuring. "My point is—Sehun knows you're good and that's why you were chosen. Sehun looks up to you."

Jongin wrinkles his nose, suddenly scornful. "What makes you say that? He doesn't look up to anyone else but himself. You should hear how he talks—"

"Yeah. I can imagine." Baekhyun ruffles Jongin's hair affectionately. "You used to be the same way. Just as much of a cocky little shit. Maybe a little quieter about it, but—we all knew what you were thinking."

Jongin scoffs. "That's not true—ow!"

The patient smile doesn't leave Baekhyun's face, even after his palm's finished coiling back from smacking Jongin upside the head. "Hey. You little ass. Do you even remember what you ate for dinner last night?"

Jongin rubs at the crown of his head where the sting is still acute. "Hyung."

"What? Need me to knock some more sense into your head?" Baekhyun asks harshly. "He's just a stray kid looking for a family."

Jongin glowers. "Why does it have to be this one?"

"Ah, middle children." Baekhyun sighs with the air of a put-upon father whose kids are warring. He stands, uses Jongin's shoulder for balance. "Don't be a dick, Jongin. You're better than that."

Jongin's gaze drops to his wounded knuckles, scraped and scabbed over from the morning's excursion with the air conditioning unit. "I'm sorry, hyung," he mutters finally. "I'll try harder."

"Yeah, good. You should be sorry—stop being a jerk. I don't like having to come down here and have serious conversations with you on Joonmyun's orders." Baekhyun puts Jongin in a rough headlock and yanks him to his feet. "Come on. Stop looking like I just killed your dog, you're going to be fine. I bet Chanyeol's finished by now. Let's go to dinner."

 

 

They meet the next evening at headquarters just as the sunset's drooping to completion past the horizon, the last few rays as brilliantly pink as Sehun's hair. He and Jongin are last to arrive, which pisses Jongin off because he's used to being first. He likes sitting on Joonmyun's kitchen counter, watch him put away the dinner things and talk shop.

 

Chanyeol greets them both with a cheery shout and turns back to the video game he's playing on Joonmyun's gigantic television. Baekhyun's losing to Chanyeol, badly, and does not turn to greet them, but he does say hello, immediately followed by fuck you, Chanyeol, you motherfucker—no! and Sehun laughs loudly.

Joonmyun and Kyungsoo are in the kitchen. Joonmyun's in the middle of cleaning and reassembling a gun—he always brings one, just in case, even though Kyungsoo hates guns and begs him to leave it behind every time. They look up when Sehun and Jongin come in. Joonmyun nods, a content sort of approval on his face as he looks them up and down.

"You ready?" he asks, mostly to Sehun. Sehun rolls his shoulders casually, still working that fucking apathetic teenager angle even though he's not in his teens any more and really should cut it out.

"Always," he says, a blatant lie. "I was born ready." Overconfidence seems to be Sehun's game. Too much pride in his work. It's going to get him in trouble and Jongin's fucking terrified now that Sehun's part of the team because Sehun's fall is going to come at a cost to the rest of them.

Jongin pats the bag full of his climbing gear in silent confirmation. He doesn't want to make a scene after Sehun's spectacular display of bravado. Just feels tacky. Joonmyun nods and goes back to loading his gun.

Kyungsoo offers Jongin a small smile and punches him in the bicep. Kyungsoo knows this side of Jongin better than the rest of the team. He'd worked on his own for years before Joonmyun recruited him and although he's the first person to risk his neck for any of them, there's still that wildness there, the untamed lone wolf that sometimes feels out of place, too independent to ever indicate that maybe he needs them just as much as they need him.

"Alright, then," Joonmyun says, tucking the gun into the holster under his arm. "It's nearly dark. Let's go."

 

It takes them over an hour to get set up at the location Sehun had scouted for them yesterday. The second one—the first rooftop had been occupied by a couple of handsy lovers who seemed more interested in each other than in any of the goings-on around them, but there was no way Joonmyun was going to risk the team to find out just how invested the couple was in consummating their relationship undisturbed.

Chanyeol's down the block in the van, already set up on his laptop and accessing the security protocols through the backdoor he'd installed the day before. Joonmyun and Baekhyun are on the roof watching out, and Kyungsoo's doing laps of the block, very slowly, just to keep an eye on foot traffic. No need, really, though—this part of town's long-since gone to bed. Even the dogs are asleep.

Sehun, for his part, seems ready to do the job he's been hired to do without fucking around anymore. He's all business pulling back the air conditioning unit by himself, hands the screwdriver back to Jongin for him to hold but doesn't once get angry or snap impatiently, which is more than Jongin could ever say about himself in situations like these. This is the worst part for Jongin and it always makes him antsy: the approach. He's also not crazy about sharing duct space with another person—anything could happen and then there'll be two people stuck in a caved ventilation shaft instead of just one, but. Joonmyun had insisted that Sehun's help was necessary and Jongin wasn't going to argue with the mastermind about this kind of thing even if he'd pulled jobs like this by himself a thousand times before—bigger jobs too, maybe, back when he was young and believed he'd never get caught.

Jongin takes the lead inside the air shaft. He insists—he'd spent the night before studying the blueprints Chanyeol had commandeered from the local zoning board while Sehun had curled up snoring on Jongin's side of the bed. He pulls himself forward on his elbows, inches closer, closer—until they're breaking free into a small storage closet that's barely big enough for one of them to stand upright, let alone two. He kicks the grate away and clambers out on his hands and knees, then sticks his hand back into the ventilation shaft to pull Sehun through and into the museum.

"Thanks," Sehun pants, pushing his bags onto the floor first and tumbling out after them. "Stuffy in there, Jesus."

Jongin remembers Sehun's injured hand—belatedly—and pulls away just as he's inside the room. It's dark and Jongin doesn't want to risk turning on a light but he can still make out when Sehun raises an eyebrow curiously.

"What, don't want to touch me?" he asks, and for a moment he almost sounds hurt. Jongin takes Sehun's hand again and spreads it flat against his own.

"No—just. How's your hand?" The bandage is wrapped neatly this time and it's relatively clean, considering Sehun's just dismantled an air conditioning unit and crawled through half a building's worth of ventilation pipes.

An amused twinkle lights in Sehun's eyes. "It's fine. Thanks."

"Yeah. Whatever," Jongin mumbles, burying his fists in his pocket. "Let's just get down to the vault, alright?"

"Give Chanyeol a second to divert the security guard," Joonmyun warns. "He's on the second floor right now just finishing up his rounds. He'll be back in the security office in five minutes. Hang tight and don't move around too much."

So they pause for a moment in the lobby, keeping to the edge of the room in the shadows. Jongin sidles up to the far wall, where he'd been yesterday, and stares at the photograph of the necklace. Sehun comes up behind him and chuckles.

"You like that one, huh?" he asks. His tone is a little too earnest for Jongin's liking and he turns away, annoyed.

"Okay, guys, you can move now," Joonmyun says, breaking the tension. "Get out of there. Cameras are off, you don't need to hide."

"What's next?" he asks, more to Chanyeol over the comms than to Sehun, who lingers for a moment longer over the photograph before falling in step with Jongin.

"I just patched in a feed from last night's security video, so the guard in the back thinks he's looking at an empty museum," says Chanyeol, sounding especially smug. "You've just got to get downstairs into the vault."

 

When they get down to the vault, Jongin reaches into his pocket to retrieve the ID card Baekhyun had procured the day before. It's light in his hand, plastic edges digging into his palm when he squeezes it just to make sure it doesn't go anywhere. It swipes easily and the latch disengages with a loud gritty click that echoes in the empty hallway. Jongin pulls it open all the way and leaves it like that to usher Sehun inside, empty duffel bags slung under their arms to carry their score.

Sehun stops dead in the threshold of the inner vault, hands braced against the doorframe to block Jongin from walking past. "No," he says. "We've got a problem."

"A problem?" Jongin bounces on his toes to look over Sehun's arm, and then, feeling embarrassed, ducks under. A fucking laser field. "Chanyeol? Anything about laser security in that briefing of yours?" he asks, still hunched under Sehun's elbow.

A long pause. "Laser... security?" Chanyeol asks faintly. "No."

"There's a whole field here," Sehun says. "Twelve by twelve. Grid's too small to hopscotch through it."

"Nothing in here about lasers," Chanyeol's muttering to himself, obviously distraught. "I have the blueprints—is this a new security measure?"

"Too late to worry about that now," Joonmyun chides. "Chanyeol, you really didn't catch this? Did you check the date of the blueprints?"

"This isn't good," Jongin says, looking at the threads of red light crisscrossing the floor. "How are we going to get past this. I can't jump that far—too close to the wall, no way to get a running start."

Frantic clicking from Chanyeol's keyboard on the other end of the comm. "Sorry—guys, I had no idea—they're not controlled by the main grid. I have no way of accessing them remotely."

Joonmyun huffs loudly but doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to: they've worked together long enough to know what that means. Figure it out or get out of there, now.

"Give me a second—"

Sehun pipes up. "I've got an idea." Jongin jumps. He'd been so focused on Joonmyun and Chanyeol that he'd completely forgotten he had company, that Sehun was standing right next to him. Another body, another criminal mind ready to help.

"Yeah?" Joonmyun asks. "Go on, then."

Sehun drops to his knees on the floor and rummages in his bag for a moment. Baekhyun gets on the comm and starts spitballing ideas—stupid, outlandish ones, like using the climbing rope to swing across the room like Tarzan, or Jongin somersaulting off Sehun's shoulders like circus acrobats. Baekhyun yelps mid-sentence and goes silent; Jongin assumes someone's smacked him into silence (probably Kyungsoo).

"Got it." Sehun sits back, holding a roll of tin foil in the air triumphantly. Jongin frowns.

"What are you going to do with that?"

"What is it?" Chanyeol asks.

"It's foil," Jongin says slowly. "What the fuck, you just carry that shit around in your kit? Waiting for a barbecue?" Joonmyun chuckles at Jongin's outburst and Sehun rolls his eyes.

"Just give me a second, alright?" He sits cross-legged on the floor and sets to work crafting something from long pieces torn off the roll with recklessly loud tugs. Every once in a while he'll hold up his masterpiece to the light and frown at it, then return to working on it in his lap, hunched over, neck bowed over his hands.

Jongin paces by the door nervously, listening. If the guard hears them—

"Got it. Watch this." Sehun rises to his feet, looks pleased with himself as he folds the tin foil in half and eases the two angled pieces away from each other. The beams cleave neatly, reflected by the smooth surface of the foil. Jongin waits, poised for flight, but the alarm never sounds.

"Wow," he whispers after a moment, unable to keep the amazement off of his face. "How'd you come up with that trick?"

Sehun doesn't answer for a moment. Everything in the vault is still, waiting with bated breath for a misstep, for something to go wrong. He slides one foot into the path created by the tin foil, then the other. "Saw it on TV once. Seemed legit."

Jongin gapes, eyes still zeroed on in the way Sehun's toes creep forward in the space he's cleared for himself. "Are you insane?" he asks, locating his voice. "You had no idea if it was going to work?"

"It makes sense though, doesn't it?" Sehun almost looks bored when he bothers to glance at Jongin over his shoulder. "Reflects the laser, blah blah, physics."

Joonmyun's chuckle over the earpiece startles Jongin, who'd completely forgotten for a moment that he was on a job with his team, not just this unruly kid who keeps taking leaps without looking for a net first. "Sehun," Joonmyun says quietly, laughter in his voice. "Please don't do that again. I can hear Jongin having a heart attack from here."

"No problem, hyung." Sehun smiles sweetly. He's passed through to the other side by now, a trickle of sweat tracing the prominent bulge of vein down his forehead. "Jongin. You coming?"

Jongin eyes the space beyond the laser field warily. Sehun's got broad shoulders. It'd be a tight fit. "No," he says. "You pass the things back to me."

"Work quickly, guys," Chanyeol warns. "I've got the security tape from last night looping, but the guard's going to take his walk through of the place any moment. If he sees that open door you left, we're blown."

So they get to work, filling their bags with as many trinkets as Sehun can pull from the vault and pass to Jongin. It turns into a rhythm—Sehun pulls something out, inspects it, tosses it across the laser field to Jongin, who wraps it in a soft swath of paper towel to stop the clinking from impeding their getaway and arranges it gently in one of the four bags they've brought along.

He loosens up and gets into it after the first bag's been filled. It's a little fun, the way Sehun wiggles his eyebrows mischieviously each time he winds up to throw a necklace or a bracelet, like he's going to whip it across the room like a fastball. It always leaves his fingers gently, though—arcs right into Jongin's outstretched hands like they've been doing this forever. Jongin smiles and catches Sehun's eye, has to bite back his delighted laughter because if the team hears he's actually having a good time he's never going to be able to save face in front of them after all of his complaining.

 

It doesn't fully dawn on him how desperately Sehun's help was needed until they're back outside and he's watching Chanyeol inspect the silver crosses, a manic grin plastered across his face like he's just discovered some hidden treasure. That foil trick? Actually pretty fucking genius, and it saved the score. They'll make millions pawning this on the black market, maybe enough to retire if they really wanted to. Jongin's sweat hasn't even evaporated off his forehead when he turns to congratulate Sehun and sees a broad pair of shoulders slouching away down the alleyway. He's pulled away from his trance by Baekhyun's arm, Kyungsoo squeezing his elbow.

"Good job," Joonmyun says, following Jongin's gaze. "That's more like it." He pushes that necklace into Jongin's hands with a small smile. "Sehun said you'd been eyeing this one. You earned it. Just don't sell it right away."

"I won't," Jongin says. He pockets the necklace.

When he looks again, Sehun is nowhere to be seen.