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Athena's Vengeance

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Logan enters his hotel room, exhausted after another day of law school classes. He came to Seoul from New York to further his education and escape his family name. That’s why he uses a disguise around campus, baggy clothes, motorcycle jacket, dark glasses. Anything to quiet the suspicion that an heir of the Lee family has forsaken the family business empire and opted to put criminals in jail. Being a prosecutor was the only thing he could do to atone for his parents’ sins. If he could be forgiven at all.

 

He takes his shoes off in the entrance of the room and feels his body sag from tiredness. The day was a never ending hell. 

 

But at least he got to see her

 

No, he thinks to himself. Let’s not think about her. She’s his professor. A distinguished prosecutor. Married. The word is stuck in his brain. 

 

But these eyes, another voice in him supplies unhelpfully. They spark of intelligence and courage. She has a fire when she talked about how the penal system is manipulated by the elite and our responsibility to punish them, while protecting the innocent. Even when it’s at the risk of our own life, she had said and her eyes found his in the crowd. 

 

He felt the flame of her passion for justice and he was marked forever. 

 

He puts his bag and helmet away and sinks into the plush sofa. He’d better find a less luxurious hotel soon if he wanted to stay hidden. 

 

He closes his eyes and feels waves of sleep coming. Images of long brown hair crowning a beautiful face, pink lips talking about prosecution bias and what happens when gang crime is fueled by the rich, in order to keep the police on the streets and not on their shady business. She was explaining the lengths she was going to publish her upcoming book, a deep look into gang-aided illegal adoption and teenage trafficking. How she had a gang member followed and how she learned about the meeting of some prominent businessmen with an orphanage director and a few criminals who were used as ‘muscle’. She wanted to find evidence of their wrongdoings to justify prosecuting and making them pay. She kept investigating, even if it’s a matter of time until the criminals learn her name and try to scare her off. She didn’t mention any name in class, but Logan knew who she was referring to. The same people who gave Sol A to his parents for a price, the same people who he’s becoming a lawyer to punish. 

 

Why does she do itthen? Logan thinks. She must have a personal reason too. Why would a wealthy mother of two risk her life and career to punish some lowlifes? She must want revenge. The fire in her eyes can’t lie. 

 

A text message illuminates the screen of his phone, stirring him out of his semi conscious musings. He grabs it and opens his secretary’s update.

 

Sec. Hong: We intercepted their phones and found an order from the boss. 

 

As he continues reading, cold fear rushes through his veins. He doesn’t realize it yet, but the course of his life just changed forever.

 

A hit has been placed on Professor Shim Su Ryeon

Chapter Text

Shim Su Ryeon can’t shake the feeling that someone’s been watching her all day.

 

Indeed, a few hundred sets of eyes are glued to her face as she gives a lecture on illicit practices in crime finance. The hall is unusually packed, even non-law students have come to audit her class. It gives her hope to see young people interested in serving justice, especially in an institution that many privileged people attend. Being a prosecutor is a thankless, and at times perilous profession, not a safe choice for rich kids. That’s why her class attendance matters. As she continues her talk, she glances around the audience and thinks they made the right career choice, hard as it may be.

 

Her eyes linger for a second more at a certain student. Him again. Despite his obvious efforts to cover himself up -leather jacket, dark beanie pushing his hair to his eyes, the occasional sunglasses- nothing can hide the rampant interest in his eyes. He seems to be taking every word she says and filing it in his memory, putting pieces to an imaginary puzzle. At times, he scribbles notes on a legal pad without looking away from her. As if he doesn’t want to miss a single expression of her face.

 

He seems slightly older than the other students, more determined. Su Ryeon thinks he’ll be a great match for criminals when he graduates.

 

“And that concludes the class today, we start the Internal Corruption segment on Monday. Office hours are the same and you may make a consultation regarding the subject of your final paper. Have a restful weekend, I want you all ready for battle next week”.

 

-

 

She stills feels she’s been watched. She’s walking from the main auditorium to the campus entrance near where she’s parked. It’s a long way on heels, balancing three heavy law textbooks and her leather handbag. The class completed, student questions answered, she can’t wait to go to her office and start the real part of her work.

 

For now, she enjoys walking across campus while the sun’s last breath casts a warm glow on the greenery surrounding her. She smells the air, filled with the aroma of flowers she doesn’t recognize. It’s as the world stops for a moment, and she’s not a mother with secrets, a lawyer with a dark agenda, a woman on a bloody mission. As her tan heels click on the ground, she’s only a person trying to make the world better, unburdened by the weight of reality.

 

“Professor Shim!”, she hears a voice and footsteps coming from behind her. She turns elegantly and comes face to face with a certain mysterious student. He’s taller than he seemed now that he’s standing next to her. The dark Rayban sunglasses now give their place to darker eyes. His firm body is angled towards her. “I wanted your opinion on something, if you have some time”. He looks at her expectantly.

 

“You’re in my L2 class, correct? I’m heading out now, Mr...”

 

“I’m Logan” He introduces himself informally, like people do in the States. She briefly wonders if he knows she studied in Columbia and that’s why he’s not correcting his American greeting. “I only have a question about Criminal Law III, regarding the topic you breached today. I have a special interest.” His tone is sincere. “Please”.

 

“All right, Logan. You can walk with me. Tell me what can I help you with. I introduced numerous topics in today’s lecture.” She starts walking and he follows adjusting his stride to match hers.

 

He immediately spots the books she’s struggling to carry. “Let me” he offers motioning to them.

 

“You don’t have to”. At his pleading expression, she accepts and thanks him. As he takes the lot from her, his fingers meet hers and for a moment, they are connected. A feather-like touch timestamps their fate.

 

Su Ryeon averts her eyes and he continues. “You talked about how in cases of crimes against minors, they push for maximum sentence of everyone related. That as prosecutors we also have to punish the people who benefited too, by tracing the financial relations of crime syndicates and wealthy recipients. But what if the benefitted party was later made aware of the crime?”

 

“That’s a question I don’t get often, I admit.” She starts explaining. “Most people only care about the first line of criminals, but the real criminals are also those who finance them. I can’t answer universally, as you know punishment is dependent on several factors, but I can assert this: any entity who is not directly connected to the syndicate through clear, provable financial transactions is very hard to be brought to justice. That doesn’t mean we should limit the search for evidence, but a jury focuses more on who did the crime, than who the crime was done for”.

 

He is nodding along. “I understand. But what do you think? Not what the jury or the judge will think. You, as my professor and as a renown prosecutor”.

 

It’s not meant as compliment, but people recognizing her work makes Su Ryeon proud.

 

“I believe it’s paramount to eradicate the structures of wealth that use the street crime to propagate their fortune and shield their families from their unspeakable crimes. I believe that the moment you find out a crime has been committed around you, it becomes your responsibility to bring it to justice. Even if this means going against your loved ones. Even if it means standing up to family. The price for justice can be crushing, but we should pay it”.

 

Logan stays still beside her, then looks at her in wonder and resumes walking.

 

“Is that the answer you were searching for?” Su Ryeon asks when he’s silently contemplating her words.

 

“This is the answer I was unconsciously dreading”. He purses his lips. “Are you implying that once we acknowledge a serious but not always prosecutable breach of the law, we should seek justice in other, more efficient ways?” He asks, his interest evident.

 

“I’m not suggesting you beat up criminals, Logan”, she answers jokingly. “I’m your law professor! Don’t make me an accessory”. Her eyes dance with mirth. She resumes her position. “I’m saying that we should strive to include justice for all in the law and not bend the law to achieve it. That even though some crimes so far tend to go disproportionately unpunished, if they’re damaging, we ought to try. And it all starts with having a sense of justice inside and treat every case fairly, even the one who affect us more.”

 

Logan looks down and nods. Then he looks around the quiet campus trail and a more interesting question forms.

 

“Is that why you made a comeback to law, Professor? Did you spot a crime affecting you?”

 

She reaches his eyes and wonders how did he guess it. The reason why she resumed prosecuting criminals after 15 years of living as a wealthy and idle housewife. No one knows about Min Sol A, about the ordeal she passed while mourning her and the clues pointing to her husband’s indirectly involvement with the gang she’s been investigating. No one knows the hell she has lived every day since she found out last year. So why is this guy looking at her like that? With a hint of understanding and kindness. As if he’d know.

 

She can’t say all of that, of course.

 

“It was time for me to resume my work. I raised my kids and now I have incentive to clean the world for them.”

 

“You want to set an example”.

 

“I want them to know that having money doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard. Quite the opposite. The more privilege one has, the more they should strive to earn it. By doing things for others”.

 

“No crime reasons, then?” He looks away for a moment, giving her some space.

 

“Not for me, no”. They’re approaching her favourite tree in the end of the path. Its shade often covers couples enjoying simple dates, spontaneous picnics, students reading books and listening to music. All this, it’s a part of a reality she has abandoned. Revenge consumes everything.

 

They keep talking, both trying to figure each other out.

 

“What about you? What’s your special interest in my class that got you to ask such questions?”

 

He appears surprised at her genuine interest but quickly scold his face to a neutral tone.

 

“There was somebody I couldn’t help”, he offers. His expression hides pain and regret and she doesn’t miss it.

 

“Do you feel guilty about it? Even if it wasn’t your fault?”

 

“What makes you think it wasn’t?”

 

She stares at him pointedly.

 

“Even so, I should have known. I should have cared more.” I should have turned my parents to the police, evidence be damned.

 

“Put your guilt into something actionable, then”.

 

“Why do you think I’m taking your class?” He smiles. It turns bitters. “I left an MBA and flew across the globe to be a prosecutor and make things right.”

 

“I’m glad you did”.

 

“Me too”. When he says it, he’s looking at her as if she holds the key to his labyrinth and gave him his freedom.

 

They have entered the car park and she motions to her car in the far left corner. As they approach it unhurriedly, Su Ryeon thinks it’s been a long time since she talked that honestly and freely to someone. Not only about the law, but about herself and why she chose this rode now. Would her husband be that curious and understanding? He’s never been. Would her law associates be supportive if they knew about her revenge plans? They could never learn about them. As does Logan, his easy temperament notwithstanding.

 

“Thank you, you can put these in here”, she says as she unlocks the car.

 

Before he has the chance to do so, the car parked opposite hers suddenly reverses heading fast towards them. They hear wheels screeching. In that second, Su Ryeon freezes. Logan springs to action, grabbing Su Ryeon’s hand with his free one and pushing her gently but surely out of the car’s way. They end up glued together with her back on the wall and him covering her. Seconds pass and none of them breathes. As Su Ryeon wakes up from the momentary shock, she raises her head and finds him looking at her, their distance between them nonexistent. His hand is on her arm and his eyes can’t move from hers. If she was under oath in front of a jury, she would have to admit she sees longing in them. Pure and intense. She wonders what can he see in her eyes.

 

With that thought she gathers herself and gently pushes his still frozen body. He shakes his head and takes a step back, assessing her.

 

“Are you alright? I saw him at the last moment. I’m so sorry, Su Ryeon-ssi. Are you hurt?” Logan asks, forgetting her title amidst his worry.

 

“I am alright.” She says calmly, hiding her erratic heartbeat. “You can let go off me now”. With that, he retracts his hand as if it had been burning close to the sun and puts the books in her car. He opens the door for her.

 

She approaches and before she enters she asks “How are you going home?”

 

Logan smirks and motions to a red and black Ducati, parked a few spaces to their left. Low rise, turbo capabilities, sleek design. She tries to hide her how impressed she is, her own motorcycle hidden in her office parking lot.

 

“Very gangster of you, Mr future prosecutor”, she jokes instead to break the tension.

 

She gently lowers herself to get in the car, his palm staying on top of the door opening to protect her head. She notices. As he closes the door after her, he lower himself to the open window and utters:

 

“We can’t let the criminals have all the fun”

 

Her lips part in surprise but nothing comes out.

 

“Until Monday, Professor”. He bows in goodbye, never leaving her eyes until her car starts moving away.

 

As she drives, she checks her reflection in the mirror and finally smiles.

 

-

 

The figure in the dark SUV watching the exchange from a distance also smiles, though his reasons are much more nefarious.

Chapter Text

Logan finds a secluded spot in the busy college library. The modern architecture of the building, with the library spanning 3 floors and forming a labyrinth of shelves and audiovisual equipment, provides some semblance of privacy to the dozens of students. There’s always a quiet corner with good wifi, and that’s all Logan needs for the research today.

 

He came to find information about the threat to Su Ryeon’s life. It’s been two days since he got the news from secretary Hong, and he spent all day yesterday tracking her every move. He even stroke a conversation with her after class, to make sure she got to her vehicle safe. Then, he tracked her phone location, which showed she was safe in her office and later at home.

 

He had to find out why the Sapiro gang wanted her out of the picture. Was she involved with them besides the investigation for her book? The gang deals with trafficking people, mostly minors. It would make sense to approach and scare a prosecutor. Maybe a deal gone wrong? The only thing he knew is that Professor Shim was the key to putting them in jail. He owed that to Sol A. He couldn’t protect her from them a year ago, now he’d take revenge in her name.

 

“Excuse me. Hi”. A smiling girl approached his spot, penetrating his bubble of privacy. “I’m Yoon Sun Oh, we have class together!”. Ah, that explains why she’s vaguely familiar.

 

“Hello”. He answered politely, hoping she’d leave him be. She seemed perfectly sweet, but he was in no mood to socialize and risk his identity being exposed.

 

At her expectant gaze, he offered the name he’d been using on campus “Gu Ho Dong”.

 

Her smile sparkled and she continued: “I’ve seen you on class but haven’t said hi. And now I am. Hi!” She blushed. He already started feeling bad for the situation. The girl obviously wanted something he couldn’t give. “I’m a first year and I’m also taking econ law. Professor Shim is my idol, she was my mom’s junior at Columbia. But I don’t know if she’d recognize me” she faded out. “Anyway. Do you want to want to join our group for the paper? Professor said it can be individual or groups and we’re already two first years. We need a senior to have a broader scope. What do you say?” She looked at him hopefully with her bright monolid eyes.

 

“I’m taking the individual paper. But thank you for asking.”

 

“Okay”, she said as if it wasn’t okay at all. “Well, I hope you get good marks. You have chances for the internship too”. She said as she fiddled with the strap of her bag.

 

“What internship? Isn’t the paper only for the final grade?”

 

“It is. But the top third year or above wins can apply to intern for two months in Professor Shim’s law firm! Didn’t you see the e-class post yesterday?” She didn’t wait for his reply. “The top mark wins an interview with Ms Shim and if you pass, you work in her practice! Full credits, ongoing cases. It’s an amazing opportunity, such a pity that it’s not open to us first years. But I’m doing the paper anyway, she’ll be impressed and hire me in the future!”

 

This changes everything, Logan thinks. Instead of following and tracking her, if he interns with her, he could find the answers about her and Sapiro first hand. He could search her and her coworkers’ office logs and find all the evidence he needs.

 

But what happens if you find she’s involved? What if she turns out to be on their side?

 

Nothing changes. He’ll take revenge as planned. Nothing and no one will stand in his way.

 

Or so he thinks, as he prepares his application for the internship position.

 

-

 

A few hours later, he stares at his screen, frozen. Evidence points to JK Holdings CEO being being involved with Sapiro gang in a child trafficking case from a year ago. He can’t find the names of the children even though he’s deep in the dark web. But they came from an illegal orphanage and “purchased” by the right hand of one Mr Ju. The name rings familiar, but not in the context of his investigation. A quick google search confirms his worst fear.

 

Name: Ju Dan Tae

Occupation: JK Holdings CEO

Partner: Shim Su Ryeon (m. 2002)

 

She’s involved.

Chapter Text

“How could you take Rona’s side, mom? She’s just a poor girl with no father! And I’m Ju Seok Kyung. How can you defend her to the teacher?” Su Ryeon daughter cries angrily after bursting to her office.

“You’re in the wrong, honey. And deep down you know it. Rona worked so hard to get in. And you cheated in your exams.” Su Ryeon speaks calmly.

“I just copied Seok Hyung’a answers. How else would I pass the test? Why don’t you think of me?”

“I am. And what you did was wrong. I know your dad helped you cheat through your teacher, and I won’t stand by it. We-“

“At least dad helped me! What have you done? All these years you’ve only cared about your sick daughter. Not about how I’m doing. You’re not my mother!”

“Seok Kyunh...” she whispered in pain, but her daughter had already turned around her left her office, slamming the heavy door behind her furiously. Su Ryeon hid her head behind her hands and tried to quiet her crying. After a few minutes, her embroidered handkerchief had erased the evidence of her familiar drama.

She turned to her laptop to continue her research, when a knock interrupted.

“Come in”, she hastily checked for signs of crying in her face. She was an expert in hiding her pain, her husband could never tell if she’d been shedding tears.

A leather jacket clad man entered and Su Ryeon barely hid her surprise. It was her student Logan, or Gu Ho Dong, as he was listed in the university files. The same files she read with the meticulousness of an experienced investigator. Logan was his American name. He transferred from the US to Korea last year, finishing classes from both the 1st and 2nd year of law school, because of transferred credits from his previous degree in economics and his hard work on the course. He was 28, from Korean parents, his grandparents emigrated to the US in 1960. One of the heirs of Lee Corporations, spanning from real estate to entertainment ventures. He had worked under the CEO Emma Lee, his grandmother, with a view to learn and take over someday. Until he quit and came to Korea to enroll in law school. No one knew why. That was all Su Ryeon could find about him, even less about his family. Now the man standing before her could fill the blanks.

“Professor Shim, is this a good time?” he asked as her approaches her desk.

“Of course.” She left an inaudible sniff. “What is it?”

“I enjoyed our conversation last time. What you said helped guiding me to what I want my degree to serve. And for that I want to learn from you. Thus, this is my application for the internship position”. He pulled a sheet of paper from a leather case and approached her desk. He handed it to her confidently.

“You’re aware that it includes open cases, are you? That means long hours, tons of research and studying previous cases. All this on top of your standard curriculum. It’s a lot of work, Logan, and it’s tailored specifically to future prosecutors”.

“So my degree in finance will help with following the money used for these operations. I have thought about it, Mrs Shim, and it’s what I want to do more than anything. I will work hard, give me a chance to prove it”, he pleaded.

“Very well, I will take your application into consideration.” She paused and looked at her screen, the affidavit draft open. “Could you hand me these files on your left?”

“What are you looking for?” He asked as he handed them. He took the state of her office in, the wood tones complimenting the sleek furniture. Files and law books open in front of her, but none of them had any notes or bookmarks, from what he could see.

“Certain names to cross reference”. She adjusted her position in an effort to sit more comfortably. This was heading for a long night.

“Tell me. I can help you.” he offered quickly.

“Don’t you have class? It’ll take a long time”. It was already past five and she had a lot more ground to cover.

“I finished for today”, he lied. “And I want to prove I’m the best person for the job”.

She nodded. “I won’t fill you in on the case completely, as you're not here in any official capacity and attorney client privilege applies. But let me show you what we’re looking for”. She started explaining and motioned him to sit on the chair across from her. She gave him instructions as to the names they were searching, pointing to certain photos on her laptop screen.

For the life of her, she couldn't understand if he was listening. Granted, he had all his attention on her, but his a piercing gaze was so focus on her eyes, as if he was more interested in what she was not saying rather than her words.

"Here is one", she explained. She showed him a transaction that passed through overseas accounts and ended in the bank account of a man related to the Sapiro gang.

"How can we be sure it's shady business? There's no receipt or trace".

"Of course there isn't. They are criminals, not morons." He chuckled. "Look at me" she demanded. "We are searching for connections, not evidence yet. Gangs don't operate like regular businesses, they use their outer members, ones that have a loose association in order to siphon money. Money that becomes almost impossible to trace. Hence, the difficulty in tying the leaders. They always keep their hands clean. I don't want you to think like a detective, I want you to think like a man who desperately tries to hide his footsteps. We underestimate them at our peril, we have to think like them. We can't wait for them to make a mistake, we have to be three steps ahead of their every move".

"You're amazing", the phrase left Logan's mouth before any of them could process it. It hung in the air, lingering in the space between them.

"I mean, your thought process. It's amazing how your mind works," he continues hopelessly, averting his gaze.

His effort to hide the compliment with another compliment makes her heart do a little skip. She's worked so hard to be acknowledged for her intellect and Logan just nails it. Judging from the heat in his cheeks, he means it completely.

"It takes practice", she deflects. "But thank you". His eyes go back to the screen and she sits up to retrieve another book. "This is why I petitioned for interns, we're in the gathering stage and it's all hands on deck. But only if they can be trusted".

"You don't seem like a person who trusts easily". He doesn't look at her. From the corner of his eye, he can see her stopping in her tracks and sitting slowly on the chair beside his.

"It's hard to trust in this line of work". It's not a lie, but definitely an omission.

"This is not what I meant", he challenges.

She pauses, inspecting his expression. It would be audacious if it was coming from someone else. But she gets the genuine interest in his question. Almost like fascination.

"I would be a fool to trust blindly".

"Any specific reason you're so adamant not to?" He asks expectantly.

"There is". She doesn't elaborate.

A beat of silence passes between them. They are at an impasse, neither willing to take the first step in building trust.

"You're married. Don't you trust your husband?"

No, of course not, is her first thought. He's a liar and a cheater. An entitled coward who takes and takes. A scum who used her daughter to make money and partnered with criminals to do so. Trust was the furthest thing from her mind.

But she couldn't admit all that to her student, clever and perceptive as he may be. She opted for a less dangerous version of the truth.

"Being a prosecutor can be dangerous. You have to keep many things to yourself if you want to succeed and protect your family. So, I don't trust my husband with work stuff. I can't."

"So he doesn't understand every time you have a hard day and how much pressure you're under?" He wonders emphatically. He looks sad as he ponders it. "That must feel lonely".

Her throat constricts as she stares at him unblinkingly. Lonely. A world that encompasses her whole quest for revenge, her reality. A word that came out of Logan's mouth so easily, as if he saw her soul.

"It is", she reveals with an honestly that surprises her. Her hand touches her engagement ring and feels its sharp edges sting her fingers. "But being alone is the price for justice". For revenge, she thinks.

He turns his body completely towards hers, the motion making their knees a hair away from touching. He puts his elbows on his legs to be in her eye level.

"That's too hard for anyone. Not being able to really share your pain".

She feels oddly understood. She's reminded of what he told her last time, about the injustice he's trying to atone for. She doesn't intend to scare him into backtracking, but she can't deny the reality that committing to such a purpose is a road one walks alone.

"Does this have anything to do with why you were crying before I came in?"

Her eyes get wider as she calms her heartbeat that shot up.

"Logan", Her expression turns impassive. "If you're serious about the internship," she pauses to get her intent across, "get back to work".

"Yes, ma'am", he drops it and they continue working silently side by side, neither of them forgetting what has transpired.

---

"You can go, I have to return to the office now", Su Ryeon tells him after three hours of work. They managed to find another possible link of Sapiro and an aspiring politician. If the gang goes down, they'll take everyone associated with them.

"Is there anything else I could do?"

"Not tonight. Go home, rest. If you get the internship you won't be able to."

"I'm looking forward to working with you".

"I said if", she retorts, albeit knowing he's among her top candidates.

"I'll try my best to impress you, then", he promises with a lopsided grin.

"Goodbye, Logan", she ushers him out diplomatically.

"Goodnight, Professor". He turns to leave and she stands up and moves to the printer.

As soon as he touches the door handle, he pauses. For a second, he is grounded with his back towards her, seemingly contemplating something. Then he turns decisively and reaches her position with a few strong footsteps.

"About what you said before, not being able to trust your partner with everything". He's close enough for her to crane her neck upwards. "If I was with someone I love, I'd share everything with them. Full trust, no secrets. There's nothing off limits when you're with the right person".

The intensity of his words make her stare at him blankly. Her cheeks suddenly warming up and her breath catches. His eyes doesn't move from hers like he's begging her to understand.

Regaining her composure, she brings her hands together on her lap.

"Have a good night, Professor", he offers before turning away, this time closing the door behind him, as silence engulfs her. Questions are hanging in the empty space he leaves behind.

Was that directed at her? Is the interest in his eyes something more? Why does her heart speed up in excitement?

This is not the time for her heart to be on the driver's seat. There's nothing going on with Logan.

She pushes the thought away and opens a new tab. Time to see what her husband has been up to. Not only she'll put him in prison, he'll be the one who leads her to Sapiro. The monitor app in her computer beeps. The cursor is hovering around the icon, afraid of what she'll find. She double clicks decisively.

Somewhere in the city, another laptop screen flashes with her documents. Someone's spying on her criminal files.

Chapter Text

"Logan, you have to return home", secretary Hong pleaded.

"Absolutely not. And you should have known that". Logan was tired of this conversation. Secretary Hong was tasked with reporting his whereabouts to his parents, but he covered for him. That didn't mean he didn't speak his mind.

"Your parents' patience has run out. They gave you a year to pursue your side project-"

"Law's not a side project, it's my-"

"-but they're expecting you to be at the helm of Lee corporations by next financial quarter. That's next month."

Logan let out a humourless chuckle at his family's secretary. His parents had a special talent in belittling him while expecting him to follow their orders. Everything had to fit to their vision and if it didn't, they forced it. Like a prince, cutting off Cinderella's toes to fit the glass heel now drenched in blood. This is what they've done with his life, molding him into a cynical businessman and when his body's weakness threatened his company position, they bought the blood of a child to infuse him with. All for the family name, even though their family was broken.

"Tell them I'd rather be broke and homeless than return to them. I don't care if they've cut me off, I still have a few things on my name and I'll do everything in my power to to make them pay too. They won't harm me, after all the crimes they did to keep my body alive."

"They won't harm you, but they'll make your life hell. They have contacts everywhere, you know that. They're closer than you think", he presses.

That gives Logan pause. If they discover where he lives and how he spends his nights gathering intel on criminals associated with them, they'd destroy his plan. And with that, his only chance at redemption.

"What do you mean close? Do they have eyes on me?"

"Most of the day", the secretary said evasively.

The university, Logan connects the dots. They must have people inside and watch his moves. And he's made some moves on the criminology department. At the department head, specifically. A head with lonely brown eyes that turn fiery when she talks about justice. Will she get caught in his parents web?

--

He sits through the afternoon class, an hour on financial law related to business malpractices. There's a coffee and a heart shaped apple candy in a pink wrapper on the seat he's usually occupying and when he looks up, he meets a familiar pair of eyes. Sun Oh is smiling at him from a few seats away, a few of her friends laughing at her attempted cuteness. Dread fills him, cause she's unknowingly attracting attention to him and there's no polite way to reject someone's advances without a satisfying reason. And the reason can't be that he's so enthralled by his professor that even though he suspects her to be involved with the same criminals she claims to pursue, he can't stop thinking about her.

He leaves the coffee untouched.

---

Couples are walking hand in hand, enjoying the sunny afternoon on campus with lazy strolls and impromptu dates. In contrast to the warm atmosphere, Logan is sitting on a bench, sulking at his laptop.

That's when he sees her.

A form fitting woollen dress hugs her figure, ending in a flowing skirt of warm brown tones. A suit jacket with patched elbows is loosely draped around her exposed shoulders and a silk scarf complete her college professor look. As she heads unhurriedly to the building entrance near to where he's sitting, he can see her bold chain necklace swaying rythmically along the movement of her chest. She sports a matching ring, on the finger that's currently captured in her husband's larger hand.

Logan grimaces. The scene unfolding before him was custom made to torture him. Ju Dan Tae, the man whose real estate empire could have been erected by shady deals with gangs, this man was escorting his prosecutor wife to the law building, where she'd give a lecture on how to catch criminals like him.

He groaned as the puzzle of Shim Su Ryeon was getting more and more unintelligible in his mind. Was she blissfully unaware of his nefarious practices or was she supporting and benefitting from them? He needed to get closer to her in order to solve that riddle.

Very close, his traitorous mind blurts.

Very close to the woman who was all smiles to that man, letting him pat her hair and accepting a kiss on her cheek as he was saying goodbye. She even batted her eyelashes, something the husband rewarded with a disgusting smirk.

She watched him leave with the same joyful expression. But when Ju Dan Tae turned away from her, and just before Logan was convinced she was of the same cloth as her husband, her smile fell. For a moment only, the mask dropped and he saw revulsion marring her features. She looked at her husband's figure moving away as if the curtain closed and she didn't have to pretend to love him anymore.

A second later, she'd scolded her expression back to normal. It's as if he hadn't witnessed the fight inside her eyes. She continued walking cheerfully as nothing happened, greeting students along her way. She nodded a greeting to him when she passed in front of his bench, fully unaware that she'd just complicated things for him even more.

---

His motorcycle is parked way outside the campus. Logan has a job to do now, as the night falls and even the more studious students have gone home, no doubt to revise once more.

The darkness gives him cover as he slips into the main building from a back entrance. Secretary Hong, for all his pestering is a resourceful man, having provided him with an passcode machine for unlocking the doors.

There's no one inside the building. The moonlight shines through the glass ceiling, helping him in his mission. Only the securities guard should be inside at this hour, and he's planning to sneak past him and acquire his target. The camera control broom is far down the basement and he's eager to get his hands on the incriminating video.

He'll surely find something. He can sense it.

With careful steps he reaches the library section and heads for the stairs, his frame sticking to the walls. He descends the stairs and the modern layout of the university gives its place to a massive dark basement full of wires and machines. There's barely any room to walk, as the wires form a jungle around him. Boxes of electronic equipment are hanging from the shelves and obscuring his view. It's chaos and abandonment rolled into a crowded space.

He can see the door of the control room at a distance. A sliver of blue light is emanating from below the door. He approaches it quietly, as he sidesteps paper boxes on the floor. The moment his hand almost touches the handle, the door suddenly springs open and a huge man in a security vest appears. He's not looking at him yet, checking the lock inside the door but Logan is frozen on the spot, utterly terrified of being caught.

The next seconds several things happen at once. The night guard turns to look at his direction. But he doesn't catch Logan there. Before he realises, a hand comes out of the darkness and pulls Logan's arm, pushing him out of the guard's sight and straight into a wall. A body quickly covers his, cornering but not touching, except the same hand now covering his lips to keep him silent. As the guard waves his flashlight around idly, satisfied that the sound he heard wasn't anything suspicious, Logan slows down his heart beat and moves his eyes to the cape wearing figure who saved him. The person's eyes are obstructed by a large black hood and as they slowly turn their head up to him, the movement makes the hood fall off.

Hidden behind the shelves of the basement, he meets the piercing eyes of Shim Su Ryeon.

---

Time is suspended in the few seconds the guard walks around the room. Logan and Su Ryeon don't utter a word, both looking at each other with bewilderment. Two people who definitely shouldn't be there, tangled together. Su Ryeon lowers her hand but still keeps her gaze at him. Logan exhales deeply to calm his breath and assess the situation. He looks at the woman in front of him, all in black with over the knee strapped leather boots, pushing his body out of the way and he struggles to process it. The only thing he registers is that she's so close, he can smell her elegant perfume. Her figure is smaller but it's impossible to ignore. She's right in front of him, the shelves around them confining their bodies into a tiny space. They're almost moulded together. If he were to angle his head a little down, he could trace the shell of her ear with his lips.

The security guard makes a noise and returns to the room, the bang of the door echoing behind him.

"What are you doing here?" Su Ryeon hisses as soon as they're out of ear shot. "He could have seen you. Do you know how dangerous this is?"

"What are you doing here?" He asks back, still shocked.

"Logan!" Even when she whispers, she's commanding. She searches his eyes for an answer he's unwilling to give. He can't tell her the truth after all. Not when his reason involves her.

"Can I explain later, when we're not a moment away from being caught by a large man with a taser?" He evades.

"Didn't you think of that before you trespassed university grounds?", She retorts. "And the guard will finish his shift in half an hour, so as long as you're quiet I won't let him taser you. But you will tell me right now what are you looking for."

Logan looks around for answers, the dark basement offering him none.

"How do you know you won't suspend me? Then I'll be a college dropout and you'll know my secret too."

"Start talking or suspension will be the least of your problems", she retorts.

"Is that a threat?" He asks defiantly.

"If you don't give me one good reason why you're breaking in the camera room of your university in the middle of the night by the time the guard comes out again, in about twenty minutes, I'll deal with your punishment personally."

Logan huffs out a breath as he rests his head on the wall behind him. She's trapped him in every way. And he doesn't hate it.

"My parents have people to spy on me. I suspect it's someone inside the university and I want the tapes to prove it", he offers to appease her.

"Because you left home? You want me to believe that?"

"It's more than that." He makes a pained expression. "It's why I left home". He finds intrigue in her face. He's going to give her something, danger be damned. "Remember what I told you the first time we talked? About being aware of a crime long after the fact? My parents did it."

She raises her brows.

"I left the US and came here to study law to bring them all to justice. They know I want to punish them for what they did, that's why I'm hiding from them and from everyone. If they find me, they'll never pay. They'll leave scar free and richer than ever. I'm the only obstacle on their path."

Su Ryeon stays silent, contemplating his words.

"Do you mean they'll harm you when they find you?"

"No, they'll shut me up. They have ways. Anything to discredit me as a person so that my testimony wouldn't hold up in court. They tried to give me a huge share of their money and the family's corporation if I didn't mention it again. Change it all to my name. But I couldn't do it. Not after what they did."He can't hide his pained expression, even in the darkness of the room. She's close enough to capture every detail of his face, as he doing with hers.

Her eyes are coloured with disbelief and she fires more questions at him, the lawyer inside her bursting out.

"And how do you know they have a person inside the campus? What were you planning on finding in the camera roll?"

"I don't know, anything suspicious", he says exasperated. "I know every one of my father's trusted people, if they're here, I'd recognise them." He turns to her, pleading. "I have to know, Su Ryeon Ssi, you don't know what they're capable of".

She leans on the metal shelf behind her, averting her gaze.

"You don't know what it's like to be afraid inside your home. To live with a person who'd stop at nothing to get what they want." She turns to look at him, something breaking inside her eyes. "Even if this means putting their own children in danger", he whispers.

Her eyes linger on his as if to say "I do know". She hides pain in them. It's as if she recognises every word he's confessing. She continues tracing his face with her eyes in silence. The she swallows and pushes her shoulders back.

"I will not say anything about why you're here, provided that you're telling the truth about your family and you forget you saw me here too", she proposes.

"I am. And I can't forget you". If the last part came out wrong -or not wrong at all- she doesn't acknowledge it.

"We'll wait thirty minutes and right in the shift change we'll have a ten minute window to access the room. We'll copy the feed and go. No more than that and you'll destroy the copy as soon as you're done, whether you find something or not. Are we clear?"

"I want to inspect the copy, destroying it would-"

"Logan." His name never sounded so beautiful as when she gritted it. She puts her hand on his arm, the touch burning through three layers of clothes. "Can I trust you?", she implores.

The real question is, can I trust you?

He ponders whether he can give her an honest answer. To tell her to trust him he'd need to be sure of her motivation. He isn't.

"Your instincts are correct, you shouldn't trust anyone else. But I promise you I'll do what you want now. And I'll keep trying to earn your trust."

"Do you still want to work for me?"

"More than anything".

That's the truest thing he had said so far. If she's guilty, he'll discover her involvement, if she's innocent and was chasing the criminals, he'll help her bring them down. In any case, he wanted to be with her.

She seems to accept his affirmation. Slowly, he brings his hand up and touches the front of her hood. The heavy wool is clasped together with a beautiful silver broach. Her ivory neck is peeking behind it. He sees it moving as she shallows, acutely aware of his hand.

"Isn't it dangerous for you to be here? Whatever you're trying to find, is it worth being caught? You have your name and it's your career at stake", he whispers.

She debates what she's willing to share.

"I suspect my husband is affiliated with a professor here. The cameras outside her office would catch him and then I'd have proof".

He can't believe she's risking her position for a suspects affair.

"Is that what you're trying to find? Evidence of cheating? I don't believe that about you."

She scowls. "What is it to not believe? People are not always how they appear, Logan. You don't know what's happening behind closed doors. Not that it's any of your business". She fumes and punctuates her last point with a growl.

"No, I meant that if you suspected an affair, you'd have trapped them into revealing it themselves. You're smarter than sneaking into the university at night and looking for the feed of her office, as if they'd be that careless to do it in your place of work. If there's an affair, you already know it. It's not why you came here today." He searches her eyes and pleads, "Please, Su Ryeon Ssi, tell me the truth".

He comes close but doesn't touch her and his large frame hovers over hers. She has that pull on him, it's magnetic. He wishes he could hear her inner voice, find her secrets and treasure them forever. He's in this purgatory of not knowing if she's on the side of justice or on the side of crime. She's standing between heaven and hell and something inside tells him he'd follow her to both.

He sees the exact moment she takes a leap of faith.

"My husband is a vile man. I didn't always knew it, but I had a burn in my chest every time he disappeared into his private office. Or when he called the kids there. For a long time, I didn't know why he married me. I already had a child, a child who's sick and I was a widow. I was working day and night as a prosecutor, but he didn't mind anything and said he'd give me the best life. He was good to me, that's why I'd been so blind." Tears start to form in her gleaming eyes and she lowers herself to sit on a cupboard. "If I listened to my instincts and payed more attention, I'd see the horrors that were happening in my own house. He only wants to make more money and gain power. He'd literally kill for it. That's why he married me. Cause what better cover for a criminal than to be a prosecutor's husband. And he and his prima dona mistress have built an empire based on the information he's stolen from me. He has names and people of the underworld working for him." She pushes through, begging him to understand her reasons. "But when he used my daughter in his deadly games, this is when I vowed I'd bring him down. I'll get revenge for my girl. I'll hunt down everyone involved." At the intensity of her promise her bangs fall on her eyes, like the metal bars of a prison, hiding the world.

His world crumbles as he hears her confession. His throat tightens and he runs a heavy hand through his hair. She's fighting for justice, she's fighting alone and her biggest enemy is the closest to her. His heart screams at him to stop her pain, as he's hurting too.

She pushes her chin up, finally meeting his eyes. He hasn't realized it, but they are glistering with unshed tears. Gazing at her sorrowful eyes it's impossible not to feel her pain.

She's searching for a reaction and he lowers himself to his feet in front of her, his knees touching the ground. Now he's looking up at her bloodshot eyes and reaches for her hand. He stops midway and puts his arm next to her, leaning on it. He wets his lips and talks softly. "I'm sorry, Su Ryeon Ssi. This shouldn't have happened to you. It's unfair. It's a lot to bare by yourself. If he's done all that, he must pay along with everyone involved. And I can help if you let me."

She opens her mouth to say something but he continues.

"You're teaching us how to catch criminals and restore justice. I want to be part of that. But please, listen to me: you weren't blind. It's not your fault that he did these things. It's his. He's a bad person and you're trying to protect your family."

At that, a tear finally descends her cheek, glistering in the almost darkness. It illuminates her face, as if it sheds light to years of pain and torture, coming to an end by her.

She talks more and with each new piece of information about her life, Logan sinks into sorrow. That can't be her life, a life he thought was perfect just a few days ago. She doesn't say who her husband's working with, or what he did to her daughter, but spares no details in explaining the hell she's been facing these years.

"He even lied about my children to use them against me. I have to punish him, Logan. Only once he's gone they're going to be safe".

"You should do that. Punish him and protect your kids. And I know you can. But you don't have to do it alone". He is kneeling in front of her, mirroring her vulnerability. "I'll help you in every way that I can. And you can help me with bringing my family to justice. Let's not let them get away."

She parts her lips and blinks back tears.

"Let me be there for you" he pleads as he touches her arm, right above her palm. He circles her wrist with his long fingers and runs circles with his thumb on her pulse point. He can feel her heart drumming under it, sending pulses of tenderness to his body. "Let's be partners".

A clash interrupts their moment, as the security guard finishes his shift and gets out of the control room. They stay silent, but he's coming towards their hiding place, carrying some equipment to store. With each passing step, it gets painfully clear that what he's heading for their corner. Terrified but lucid, Logan meets Su Ryeon's worried eyes and nods towards a group of boxes on the ground.

Praying she gets his plan to move behind them to hide, he puts his palm on her shoulder. In a swift move, he pushes her behind the boxes while his body makes contact with the wall, protecting hers. His eyes shut close as he braces himself. A moment later, the guard's flashlight bathes their corner with unforgivable light, the two of them gone.

Logan opens his eyes when the danger has passed. He assesses their position and wonders if the darkness is planting illusions in his brain. He has his arms around Su Ryeon Shi protectively, one in the space above her neck, gently covering her head. He feels her breath on his chest and when she lifts her head, he sees two clenched fists on the front of his jacket, keeping him impossibility close. She's holding onto him for dear life.

He moves his fingers in her hair to soothe her and she watches him with an unreadable expression. Her pink lips are parted but no word comes out.

For the second time, he witnesses as she scolds her expression to neutral and she nods for them to go inside. It's not hard to find the relevant feeds and they copy them in flash drives. It's too risky to spend time watching the feed now so they hurry and head to the stairs. They make it to the building exit and exchange a look of camaraderie.

"Hey! You two! Stop right there!" A security guard appears just a few meters away from them.

"Next shift came early", she whispers as they run to the parking lot, the man hot in their tails.

They make it there and hide behind a car. In a moment of serenity, Logan knows what he has to do.

He turns to Su Ryeon. "I told you I want to be your partner." He unties the dark green scarf from his neck. "You can count on me". At her puzzled expression, he brings the scarf to her face and delicately puts it on her. He lifts the silk up and covers her face, save from her eyes and above. "The guard won't see your face". With a parting touch, he brushes a strand of her hair, his thumb grazing her forehead lovingly. "Now run!"

He pushes her in the direction of the exit while he rushes out, running full speed towards the guard. This diverts his attention away from her, allowing her to make an escape.

He's got a menacing man chasing him in the darkness, but as he runs for his life, Logan smiles.

--

It's only later, sitting in his empty hotel room when he takes note of his entanglements. Guilt starts swimming in his stomach. Not only he suspected Su Ryeon of crimes, but even when she beared a piece of her soul to him he didn't have the courage to confess the reason he was there. It was him who installed the spyware in her computer. Last time they were in her office, working on a case. He needed to erase the evidence of him doing so, hence deleting the university camera feed.

He pushes his face on his hands, amazed at his impossible position. Partners don't spy on each other and as the image of Su Ryeon molding her body to his, her eyes captivating his heart, he thinks he wants to be more than that.

A lot more.

Chapter Text

Su Ryeon looks at her reflection in the vanity mirror. Now, with the sunlight bathing her bedroom she's a professor in a white embroidered suit, the epitome of a professional playing by the rules.

As she puts on her trusted chain earrings and necklace she sees a blush in her reflection. Memories invade her mind when she looks at the exposed skin. His hand touching her face softly, his body protecting her own. How she couldn't keep lying to everyone and revealed to him her piercing sorrow. She doesn't need anyone, but for the first time since she concocted her plans, she thinks she'd like someone by her side. Someone who could share her secrets with.

Looking at the scarf Logan put on her two days before, she's not just the pristine image of the lawyer everyone sees. She's also the black night, sneakily into buildings to get answers.

Upon reviewing the tapes, she found the answer she was looking for. Dan Tae indeed met Cheon Seo Jin, they were seen together entering her sister's office. Cheon Ha Jin was a professor of Korean literature and served as chairwoman of the school board of their children's high school. The sisters presented a united front, but they were known to fight often, thus Su Ryeon can't figure out why her sister was coverings for Seo Jin's meeting with her husband. She had to get more information on that dysfunctional family dynamic.

She puts on a bold hue of lipstick and braces herself for the day to come.

---

"You really insisted on suspension! After all Rona did to me", her daughter screams at the breakfast table. Her anger towards her classmate has far from dissipated.

"Seok Kyun", Su Ryeon attempts to calm her.

"Am I not right, brother?"

Seok Hoon nodded, his eyes dejected. She thought he was fond of Rona. She's sad to see her boy siding with his sister today. No doubt Dan Tae had something to do with him changing his mind.

"You shouldn't have humiliated Rona. She deservedly fought back".

"I don't believe it. Whose mother are you?"

Su Ryeon's mouth falls open.

"First you punish us for that unimportant girl, Sol A and now you're siding with Rona. You're everyone's mother but ours."

Seok Kyun throws her napkin on her plate and leaves the table. A moment later Seok Hoon stoically follows her, sparing a look back at his mother without slowing his pace.

"Congratulations, honey", Dante's voice cuts through the air. "I told you to get over it. Now they won't talk to you for a long time. Stop pushing them away".

"I am going to the firm", she ignores his veiled threats.

"Good luck with your little trial, honey".

Trying to hold back her disgust, she clicks her heels towards the door and puts on her sunglasses. Dan Tae will be the last to go. But it'll be by her hand.

---

"Why do you think criminals go free even with overwhelming evidence against them?" She poses the question as hundred of eyes stare at her contemplatively. The class is in session and she has opted to teach the material through dialogue, as they did in Columbia.

The audience doesn't respond, likely thinking it's a trick question. Su Ryeon leaves the podium and approaches the front line of the auditorium. She's dressed in a light grey ensemble of dress and suit jacket, in clean lines. It's her fighting uniform, she chose it because after the lesson there's a court hearing. She's prosecuting an affiliate member of Sapiro in charges loosely related to the child trafficking of the gang. She's watching the big picture.

"Come on, guys. Speak your mind", she encourages, lifting her eyes to reach to the final rows. That's a mistake. She meets Logan's steady stare and everything comes back to her. Her pulling him away from the guard, hiding, getting the security tapes. Him protecting her. His fingers on her wrist. Only seeing his burning eyes though the darkness of the basement. Let's be partners.

"Because they buy the judges", a student calls, thankfully interrupting her train of thought.

"It's one factor. Can you elaborate?".

The student, Im Han Ji offers arguments for criminal organisations and powerful individuals bribing high ranking judiciaries to dismiss their cases. That leads to more people joining in, pointing out the faults of the money exchanging practices and favours.

"And why does such a high percentage of judges participates in these unethical acts? What do they get in return?"

"Money".

"Correct, but it's not the whole story. Think about what and how do they make such risky decisions as disregarding evidence and throwing out cases. We have to understand it because this is what a prosecutor is up against. What's the long term benefit they gain?"

"Power".

The voice that broke the silence is the same voice that pleaded to trust him in a whisper. Now it was as loud as clear.

"Explain please. What kind of power?"

Logan elaborates. "The kind that important families have. In Korea, it's almost impossible to be a judge without it being in the family. Today, first generation judges comprise a mere five percent of active judges in Korea and many are assigned to non city courts as a way to strip them of their little influence. Moreover, they are not getting the consequential cases that build careers. These are given to the fourth generation judges, whose families have ties with every branch of the state. This is why they go out of their way to appease powerful individuals. To secure their family's name and future financial endeavours. They have to feed the machine with bribes and favours, in return getting more power for their kids and grandkids. It's a never-ending cycle". An approving murmur is coming from the students.

"Is it?"

"Unless we end it, of course", he challenges, looking straight into her eyes. He's daring her to remember their conversation in the dark, to believe him when he said he'd help her bring her husband down. But he doesn't know her whole story.

"And how would you propose we do that?", she questions. All heads are turned towards them, the students rapt in their heated exchange.

"Expose them one by one. Take revenge on behalf of the victims of crimes that they pushed under the rug. Publish evidence of their malpractices on the internet for the whole world to see who they are. What dynasties prize the most is their reputation. Let's hit them where it hurts". He says the words with such a calm exterior, but his passion is burning in the subtext that's only for her. He's reaffirming his committment to revenge. To her.

"I appreciate your sense of justice, but is this a prosecutor's job?"

"You tell me, professor. Is it?"

----

She exits the class in a hurry, dismissing politely the requests for office hours, stating she has to leave for court promptly.

She grabs her bag and coat from the office and enters the elevator to the bottom flour. As she waits for the doors to close, the old timey design catches her eye. It has metal bars and tainted glass, even a wooden lever, although the mechanism is completely modern. A quiet relic of the university's older days.

She pushes button for the doors to close hurriedly, almost breaking her manicured finger. Before she can see her reflection on the closing doors, they slide open revealing a handsome face. Logan looks like he hasn't slept for days.

He enters wordlessly and stands next to her, facing forward.

"We have to stop meeting like this", he leans over to her and whispers. At her look he clarifies. "In confined spaces".

"Logan. You had some interesting ideas in class".

"I thought you'd agree".

"By interesting I mean never to share with anyone ever again", she faces him and sees his smile fall off. "What do you think you're doing? Suggesting revenge in a room full of future people of the law, do you want to draw attention to your extra curricular project?"

"I wanted to remind you of my question the other night-"

"Stop. There's no other night. Forget it ever happened. I can't risk it".

"How can I pretend nothing happened? You were there first! You pulled me into the shadow. I told you about my family. I know you understood why I want to investigate their crime. You'd do the same thing. In fact, you are. Your husband-"

"Keep your mouth closed!" She took a step forward, her movement pushing his back to hit the wall. He lifts his hand in an attempt to pacify her, when she grabs it and twists it behind his back, effectively immobilising him. The lift had long arrived but neither noticed. "The things I told you, if anyone even suspects anything, it's over. I won't let you put my plans in danger. If you ever pull a stunt like this in public you're done. I have to get my revenge and I won't let anyone stand in my way", she fumes.

He purses his lips in pain and attempts to escape her grip. She applies more pressure, pushing her nails to his skin, enough to hurt, but not to scratch.

"Do we have an understanding?" Logan winces and with a sudden move he unlocks her grip on his wrist and brings her hands between their bodies.

"Let me help bring them down". He closes her palm inside his two larger ones, like a knight pledging an oath to his queen.

"I can't let you risk my plans. I have to do it alone". Her expression softens. "Let me go", she isn't refering only to her hand.

Logan's shoulders sag and he slowly does as he's told.

"If you need help, promise you'll ask me".

At her silence, he touches her hand and whispers "Promise me, Su Ryeon Ssi".

Her nod is imperceptible but brings hints of a smile on his face. As she squeezes his hand and turns to exit the elevator, she misses his smile deepening. With his hand still not leaving hers, he tugs at her towards him, so that her back is almost to his front. Her nerve endings are oversensitized. Without touching her, she feels leaning in her ear. His breath is creating hot vibrations tickling her neck as he speaks.

"Good luck on the trial today. I wouldn't want to be the council opposing you".

----

"And do you admit that the price for your silence was monetary reward?" Su Ryeon interrogates the witness on the stand. It's Kim Jung Oh, the banker whose money was transferred to a bank account of one of Sapiro's members. If she establishes a connection, Su Ryeon will gain legal access to all of his business deals. She has to break him.

"I didn't speak to the police because I had nothing to say", he pleads.

She walks confidently towards the stand.

"Did your daughter like her previous school?"

"What does this have to do with the case?"

His lawyer stands up. "Objection, your honour. Outside the scope".

The judge nods affirmatively. "Sustained".

"I will rephrase, your honour", Su Ryeon reassures the judge. "Mr Kim. Did you receive money from the Sapiro gang in order to cover up their crime, abducting and selling a minor to a rich family in America?"

"No-"

"You're under oath, Mr Kim. And I want to introduce to the court evidence number 34, a bank statement with the amount of a year's tuition for Mr Kim's daughter. The account belongs to Oh Jong Won, whose association with Sapiro has been established in this same court. So, the cost for you turning your back on the crime was your daughter's elite school tuition, isn't it true Mr Kim?"

Silence falls in the audience. Su Ryeon has trapped him. If he denies it, the money will be investigated and his daughters will lose her place, if he admits it, he's going to prison and will be permanently associated with a criminal organisation. Unless he cuts a deal.

"I plead the fifth".

"If you do, the prosecutions request further investigation into Mr Kim's finances, ranging from ten years ago. Any liable amount should be investigated for fraud and illegal use. Including the funds that go to his daughters", she petitions the judge.

"No! You can't do that!". He looks at the judge to save him, but she sides with the prosecution.

"Ms Shim is right. If you don't comply with the court, you'll give us reason to further investigate your malpractices. Would you want that, defendant?"

"No!", He turns to Su Ryeon. "You win. I covered cause they promised me my daughter would have a bright future. As long as I didn't say anything about their moving orphans to rich family's and using them". He looks down at his hands, painted with blood, metaphorically. "You have kids in a private school, you know what people give to get in".

Su Ryeon's stare turns icy. She ignores his implication.

"If you can protect me, I'll give you all the names".

Su Ryeon hides her triumphant look. She gazes at the modest audience where a few of her students are seated and meets Logan's eyes. He's looking at her like she's hung the sun up. Pure admiration. Just for a second, she stays in the moment, soaking it all in.

---

As she's walking to her car, holding the flowers her colleague congratulated her with, Su Ryeon feels hopeful for the first time in a while. Kim Jung Oh took the deal and is currently in the police station, compiling a list of names. She'll get her hands on that list, likely be connecting Sapiro members to the buyers of the children. The people who benefitted from the children will also pay a steep price.

A message notification interrupts her musings.

Oh Yoon Hee: Unnie, I hope your trial went well. Can you take Rona to spend some time with you one of these days?

She shoots her a quick answer, agreeing to take Rona, to give her mother some space to figure things out, likely with Ha Yoon Chul.

She rounds up to her car when she sees a dark figure leaning against it.

As soon as he spots her, Logan stands up and waits for her to reach him. His eyes flicker to the bouquet in her hand and confusion passes before them. Wisely, he doesn't address it.

"Congratulations. You made him talk". He says as she stops before him.

"Did you come here to tell me that?"

"I came to apologize. Seeing you kick ass in court was a delightful bonus". He smiles tentatively.

Su Ryeon studies his face, wondering whether to give him a chance to set the record straight. He has an answer for everything, but she senses he's not giving her the whole story.

"Go on", she gestures.

"I'm sorry for bringing up revenge in the classroom, I tried to make it discreet but I can see why it put you in a difficult position. This is the last thing I want." He blabbers. "I'm sorry, can you put these flowers away, I can't-"

Su Ryeon opens the passenger door and puts her things inside, then looks at him expectantly.

"Thank you. What I wanted to say is, I want to be your partner. That night, you saved me from getting caught and because of you I now have the tapes I wanted. And I know you still have doubts about me, but I'm willing to prove myself to you. Use me. I have information to give you and I will tell you how I got it".

"What kind of information?"

"Can we go somewhere more private to tell you?"

"Start talking and I'll decide".

"There's a hit on you. Someone either wants you dead or permanently silent. My secretary intercepted it when looking through Sapiro's activity. You're in danger".

"They can't take down a prosecutor in the middle of an active investigation". Gangs don't usually operate that way, they're more into silencing and intimidation than public manslaughter.

"Can't they? Are you willing to risk that? They may find out you're not just assigned this case, that it's personal for you. What if they go for your kids to scare you?"

Su Ryeon contemplates that. She's been feeling watched lately, and though her job always had been dangerous, she's started to wonder how far they are willing to go.

She leans in on the car door and closes her eyes. This has been a lot.

"How do you know all that?"

"There are things I have to tell you. You should know about my past if we're going to work together".

"Do you mean the internship?"

"Yes. And us being partners to bring Sapiro down".

"Neither of these has been decided. Let's talk tomorrow in my law office".

"I'll be there. In the meantime, you should watch out. Today was a big win, but it's exactly these kinds of moments when smart people lower their guard. Please be careful", he advises softly. A lock of her hair has fallen in front of her eyes. With a tender movement, he pushes it back, his pinky finger grazing the shell of her ear. He's got the same look in his eyes as that night, when he put the scarf on her to hide her face protectively. His black irises radiate concern and longing.

"I don't want anything happening to you", he whispers.

Su Ryeon parts her lips but no word comes out. She's been so preoccupied with her revenge, how to use her prosecutor job as a means to investigate them, and how her plans are already affecting her family. She has forgotten what it's like to worry about herself. And this man shows pure concern about her wellbeing, like he's afraid to lose something precious. His eyes are cataloguing every feature of her face and she feels the burning on where his eyes linger.

She swallows. She has to show restraint as always. First revenge, then untangle their complicated interactions. She can't risk to be distracting from her plans, even faced with a pair of pleading puppy eyes.

She reaches into her pocket and produces the green silk scarf he gave her last time. The symbol of his protectiveness. She reaches for his hand and places it in his palm, her fingers grazing his skin.

"Thank you. For helping me last time".

She moves to take her hand away, but he closes his palm, keeping it inside.

"Keep it". He touches her wrist tentatively and circle her wrist a few times and ties the folded material around it. Needing more precise for the knot, he brings his mouth closer and pulls the strand with his teeth. His hot breath tickles her sensitive skin. She hope her pulse doesn't betray her flushed state, though she feels she's blushing. When he finishes, his eyes return to hers and he reluctantly lets go.

Neither of them dare to break the spell by talking. Su Ryeon nods a small goodbye and gets into the car, feeling his eyes following her movement. As she drives away, she sees him through the rearview mirror, frozen in place and looking at her car driving away.

---

It's early the next morning when she gets a call about the list of names the defendant gave to the police. Her co-worker is reading them, when she hears three names that make her blood run cold.

James Lee.

Stella Chun.

Logan Lee.

The crime he was referring to, the crime it now looks like he most likely commited is the one she's hunting down. Her heartbeat accelerates.

He got close to her to cover his tracks, she thinks. Now he'll pay just like the others.