There’s a strange fondness with which Woong-Cheol and Tae-Soo call Jung-Moon “Psycho.” At first it was almost an insult, a careless, flippant way for them to address him without the need to show any respect, or even derision; it was blank, emotionless, barely meant to sting. Woong-Cheol can’t remember which of them started it, or if it began naturally, but it’s become a bit of a habit now, two years down the line, the four of them coming together every few months or so to catch a serial killer or a particularly dirty gang-banger. Jung-Moon, being a free man now, tends to show up early to their meetings (a stark contrast to their first fated meeting, when he was not only the last to arrive but needed to be dragged away from his own personal mission to join them), quiet in the dark, abandoned church that has become a weird home-away-from-home, and Woong-Cheol greets him every time with a warm, fond, “Psycho!”, at which Jung-Moon will meet his gaze, eyes heavy lidded and clear, and give the barest hint of a smile.
Woong-Cheol hopes that Jung-Moon doesn’t hate the nickname. Even when Woong-Cheol is in prison on one of his short breaks from running around and beating up bad guys, he finds himself referring to his team as “Detective Oh” (no longer a detective), “Tae-Soo-yah,” and “our Psycho.” He never speaks of the warmth he feels when he mentions their names, but he knows it’s there.
“Psycho” is as close to a term of endearment as a middle-aged ex-gangster like himself will get, and only he and Tae-Soo ever use it; Detective Oh still just refers to Jung-Moon as “Jung-Moonie,” which Woong-Cheol has poked fun at before, but Gu-Tak only swatted him away, muttering to himself about old habits and good kids.
Woong-Cheol finally asks Jung-Moon about the nickname on a lazy Thursday afternoon, when the summer heat is hanging thick in the church, and they’re stuck on a particularly nasty murder case.
“Jung-Moon-ah,” he calls across the aisle from where he’s sprawled on a pew, using papers that he hopes aren’t important to fan his face.
Jung-Moon glances up from the folder he’s been staring at for the past fifteen minutes, as much acknowledgment as Woong-Cheol is going to get.
“Do you mind when we call you ‘Psycho’?” Woong-Cheol asks. He senses rather than sees Tae-Soo perk up slightly from his own lazy sprawl in the next pew over, clearly also interested in the answer.
Jung-Moon stares at him for a second, brow furrowing slightly, and then he looks away towards the front of the church.
“No,” he says, his quiet voice thoughtful. “Maybe I should, but… it’s not a lie, is it? And you never say it cruelly.” He turns back to Woong-Cheol, face expressionless again. “You don’t have to stop.”
Woong-Cheol nods and slumps back down on the pew, and for the moment, that’s that.
It’s a Tueday night, they’ve cornered their murder suspect in an old warehouse, and the asshole brought friends.
Woong-Cheol settles grimly into the fight, letting his instincts take over, ducking at the slightest movement in his periphery, kicking chests to keep men down, throwing punches at any unfamiliar face. He knows that Tae-Soo is at his back, graceful and deadly as a tiger; Woong-Cheol can follow his progress through the gang by the sound of breaking bones and choked off screams. Detective Oh went for the leader, the one Jung-Moon suspects is the culprit, and Woong-Cheol catches a glimpse of the detective and Jung-Moon closing in on the bearded man, Gu-Tak’s gun out and aimed, Jung-Moon’s stun baton ready by his side.
They never see the two guys coming up behind them with knives.
“YAH, PSYCHO!” Woong-Cheol hollers, and Jung-Moon spins, baton crackling, just in time to catch one of the attackers in the chest, sending him writhing to the ground.
Woong-Cheol slams a fist into a man’s jaw, feels bone crack and give, and glances over at Detective Oh and Jung-Moon just long enough to see both of their would-be attackers on the ground, and the bearded man sprinting away.
“He’s bailing!” Woong-Cheol yells, planting the heel of his right boot into a hefty young man’s kidney, sending him sprawling.
Gu-Tak lets out a stream of colorful curses and starts the chase, hot on the heels of the bearded man. Jung-Moon hesitates, glancing over at Woong-Cheol and Tae-Soo, still working at getting all of the bearded man’s goons to stay down.
“Go!” Woong-Cheol calls, gesturing for Jung-Moon to follow Detective Oh. “We got this!” Jung-Moon gives him a tight nod, bolting for the wide open door the bearded man just ducked through.
A garbled scream comes from just behind Woong-Cheol, and then a body hits the floor. Tae-Soo steps up beside Woong-Cheol, sharp eyes focused on their few remaining opponents.
“Go after them,” Tae-Soo says quietly. “Psycho will catch him first, with those long legs, and the kid can fight, but we shouldn’t risk it. That man is almost certainly armed.”
Woong-Cheol nods grimly and punches one last goon before he slips out of the brawl, leaving the last few men to Tae-Soo’s tender mercy.
A gunshot cracks through the night air, coming from outside, and Woong-Cheol quickens his pace; there’s no telling whether that was Detective Oh or their suspect, but Woong-Cheol has a bad feeling, and he’s learned after all of these years to trust his gut.
He sees them a ways ahead, along the wharf, silhouetted against a guttering yellow light. His fears are confirmed when he sees the bearded man turn a gun on Jung-Moon while Detective Oh twists onto his side on the ground, right hand clamped around his left shoulder. The bearded man seems to be saying something, his teeth flashing, and his hand shakes as it holds the gun. Jung-Moon doesn’t move, frozen with his stun baton half-raised, clearly wary of the man in front of him.
Woong-Cheol slows down, staying in the shadows; he doesn’t think the bearded man has seen him yet. He creeps forward until they’re clearly in view. He sees the blood seeping through Detective Oh’s fingers, sees a pistol lying abandoned a short distance away, sees Jung-Moon’s carefully expressionless face, lips pressed tightly together. And he can hear the mad man’s rambling.
“—know about justice, huh?” he rants, spittle flecking the air in front of him. “He deserved to die. He was a psychopath who paralyzed my daughter in that hit and run, and he didn’t even care.”
Woong-Cheol flinches slightly at the malice with which the man spits the word “psychopath,” but Jung-Moon shows no reaction, still carefully watching the man, waiting for any opening. It comes when the man takes a moment mid-speech to gesture with the hand holding the gun. For one second, the gun is turned away, no longer aiming at Jung-Moon, and Jung-Moon takes his chance.
The kid is fast. Woong-Cheol has been caught by his speed multiple times while sparring, and now Jung-Moon lashes out, quick as a cobra strike, and smacks the man’s arm aside using his stun baton, shocking the man and making him drop his gun. The stun apparently isn’t enough to drop the bearded man, though; he bares his teeth and locks a hand around Jung-Moon’s throat, squeezing tight as he shoves Jung-Moon back against the brick wall of the nearest building, hard enough that Woong-Cheol hears the crack of skull on brick.
“That’s enough,” Woong-Cheol growls, coming out of the shadows. The bearded man glances at him, barely surprised, and tightens his grip on Jung-Moon’s throat. The stun baton clatters to the ground as Jung-Moon starts clawing at the hand around his throat.
Woong-Cheol clenches his fists. “Let him go,” he says. “He’s just a kid. I’ll fight you, if you won’t come quietly.”
“‘Just a kid,’” the bearded man spits, eyes wide and wild. “You think I don’t know who you guys are? I might seem like some lowly gangster, but even I can recognize the police’s dirty little secret, the so-called ‘Mad Dogs,’ right?” He jerks his chin at Detective Oh, who is back on his feet and glaring. “The disgraced detective, the retired hitman, the ex-gangster, and the psychopath.” He snarls the last word, turning back to Jung-Moon, his hand tightening enough to partially lift Jung-Moon off the ground. Jung-Moon chokes, shoes kicking uselessly against the pavement, fingers scrabbling at the bearded man’s hand.
The bearded man drops, howling in pain, clutching his left thigh. Jung-Moon gasps in a breath and starts coughing, slumped against the brick wall; Woong-Cheol is at his side immediately, looping a supportive arm around his chest, keeping him upright.
“You okay, Psy—Jung-Moon-ah?” Woong-Cheol catches himself, but not fast enough; Jung-Moon meets his eye, his own gaze giving nothing away, and nods even as he continues to cough, dragging in ragged breaths.
“I normally don’t like just shooting them,” Detective Oh says, lowering his gun and stepping closer to the bearded man, still writhing on the ground. “It seems so violent.” Woong-Cheol carefully maneuvers himself and Jung-Moon away from the injured man, watching as Detective Oh crouches beside him. Handcuffs glint in the dim light, and then snap onto barely resisting wrists. Detective Oh leans over the bearded man, making sure to press a hand against the gunshot wound in the man’s thigh, eliciting another scream of pain.
“Listen to me, you son of a bitch,” Detective Oh says, his voice strangely calm. “He might be a psychopath, but he’s our psychopath, and we intend to keep him.” He pats the bearded man’s wound, making the man whimper, and then he gets to his feet, glaring down at the slowly bleeding gunshot wound on his own shoulder.
“So inconvenient,” he sighs. He looks up at Jung-Moon, who’s leaning a bit less heavily against Woong-Cheol’s side. “You all right?”
Jung-Moon nods slowly, and Woong-Cheol swears that one corner of his mouth lifts, just slightly.
“Where’s Tae-Soo-yah?” Detective Oh asks.
“Are you smiling?” Tae Soo seems to materialize out of the dark, barely looking rumpled, but for a small cut on his lip. He steps in front of Jung-Moon, reaching out to gently touch the back of Jung-Moon’s head; Jung-Moon winces, and Tae-Soo’s fingers come back bloody. “He must be concussed,” he says with a smirk.
“I think we could all do with a good visit to the hospital,” Detective Oh says, his right hand once again pressed to the gunshot wound in his shoulder. “Woong-Cheol-ah, are you okay to drive?”
“Good. Get Jung-Moonie to the van. I’ll watch this asshole and make sure the cops come and pick him up. They should be here soon; I called them about ten minutes ago.”
“Optimistic of you,” Tae-Soo says.
Detective Oh shrugs and seems to immediately regret it, grimacing as his shoulder jostles.
“Go, go,” he says, flapping a bloody hand at them. “I’ll handle this.”
The three of them head back through the warehouse, strewn with bloodied, moaning, and unconscious men, and out front to their old silver van. Woong-Cheol helps Jung-Moon climb into the backseat and tries not to worry too much about the dark bruises forming around the kid’s throat.
They sit in comfortable silence for a while as they watch the police arrive and start packing up all of the men from the gang. The flashing lights on the cop cars are hypnotic, lulling Woong-Cheol into a shallow doze.
“I told you that you didn’t need to stop.”
Jung-Moon’s voice is quiet, but it cuts through the silence suddenly enough to make Woong-Cheol jump.
“What?” he asks, turning in his seat to look at Jung-Moon. Jung-Moon is staring out the window, face serene, at odds with the ring of livid bruises on his neck.
“You don’t have to stop,” Jung-Moon repeats. “Calling me Psycho. Just because someone else chooses to use it as an insult doesn’t mean anything. It’ll always be thrown at me as an insult, but it’s just the way I am.” Jung-Moon finally turns to face Woong-Cheol. “You don’t need to stop,” he says again.
Woong-Cheol stares at him, considering, then glances at Tae-Soo, who is also watching him. Tae-Soo gives the barest shrug, eyebrow lifting, and Woong-Cheol makes up his mind.
“You know what?” Woong-Cheol says, turning back to the front with a lazy stretch. “Jung-Moon-ah rolls off the tongue easier, anyway. I think I’ll just call you that from now on, if that’s okay.”
He sees Jung-Moon blink at him in the rear-view mirror, looking a bit befuddled.
“Well… yes, that’s fine,” Jung-Moon says, and Woong-Cheol nods.
“Get some rest, Jung-Moon-ah,” he says. “But don’t actually fall asleep until we know whether or not you’re concussed, got it?”
Jung-Moon nods, settling back in his seat, and Woong-Cheol swears he sees him smile. Satisfied, Woong-Cheol glances over at Tae-Soo, who is watching him with an annoyingly knowing smirk.
“Oh, shut-up,” Woong-Cheol grumbles, and starts the van with a low rumble; Detective Oh is walking towards them, and they have a hospital visit to get to.