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and the horses stopped running

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The scenario is absolutely surreal: police are out in full force, setting up patrols on the roads and choppers in the skies, the fugitive duo have just broken into an elderly couple’s house after letting their horses loose… And here is Leo, lounging by the windows, clumsily plucking at a banjo’s strings. A cold bottle of milk sits next to him. Vincent clicks his tongue- somebody is making themselves feel at home.

“You do know those horses won’t be running forever, right?” Vincent grunts, looming over the man.

Leo twangs out an A minor. The older man winces at the sound. Keeping a steady gaze on the banjo, he replies, “It’s the one thing they’re built for. Y’know, running.”

Vincent pinches the bridge of his nose. There it is- the headache. “I’m serious. Don’t be wise with me now.”

“I like what you picked out, by the way. Those pants make your ass look good.”

“Leo.”

Twang, twang.

An E chord catches in the air, coming to an abrupt stop when Leo slaps his hand on the fretboard. He shifts to face Vincent and frowns. “Oh, c’mon man. Get that stick out your ass. We both know we need a minute from all that running and crawling in shit.”

Something in Vincent caves- perhaps the realization that Leo’s stubbornness was stronger than his will to argue- and he moves to grab a chair. Leo breaks into a grin and takes it as a signal to continue.

“Sit down and listen to my awful banjo, grab some milk,” he muses, his form bobbing as he plays, “and maybe we can get that shitty fish taste out our tongues before we bail, huh?”

“Yeah, the fish was bad.” Vincent can’t help but chuckle at that. His mirth is infectious.

He has a reason to be so uptight, and it’s not just the cops combing the countryside. Somebody has to keep Leo in check, otherwise the loose cannon of a man might bite off more than he can chew. Otherwise, he might just fuck their chances of finding Harvey and the diamond. Vincent feels his forehead grow another wrinkle.

At the very least, helicopters can’t spot them when there’s a roof blocking their view. He relaxes at the thought.

That he feels relieved at the thought catches Vincent off guard. He has ridden in a police helicopter. As a police officer. No matter what he does, what damage he causes, the fact exists that this is an act, and that the Chief will pull him out eventually. As long as he has the Black Orlov.

But still, he’s found himself dreading the blue shirts, found his heart quickening at the sight of a searchlight. It’s funny- method acting can actually work. For a moment, Vincent felt like a real criminal. “Is that how Leo will feel about me?”, he thinks to himself. “We’re not the same, Leo and I, because I’m not a criminal like him,” he decides. He chances a glance at the other man. Leo’s lip is caught between his teeth. Looks like he’s trying to strum.

“I know we said we’d take just a minute,” Leo begins and before Vincent can roll his eyes, continues, “but moments like this- I wish they could last, you know?”

Something, something, deceit, something, cop.

“Everything is fleeting,” Vincent replies. It’s less an answer for Leo and more a mantra to himself. The man sitting across him is warm, animated, and unaware of his innermost thoughts.

“Sure, wiseguy, but I mean. I’ve been in the hole for six months, you know? Makes you miss little things.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

Leo hums, plaintively tapping the banjo’s frame. “Um, a room that doesn’t smell like ass. Real clothes. Milk? Actually, you first. Tell me what you miss from being in the hole for a whole week.”

Vincent chooses not to dignify Leo’s jab. “Let’s see. I miss not having to skulk around like a criminal. Living in my own place. Hell, the boring bank job.”

Leo smiles at that. Earnest. Vincent starts counting his lies.

“You miss banking? That’s sad, buddy.” Vincent makes a face at that. For a second, he can’t decide if it’s because of Leo or because of the sour taste is his mouth. He decides the former.

“Let’s see,” a short, thinking pause. Eventually, Leo clicks his tongue and answers, “the selection at the grocery checkout.”

When he meant little, he really did mean specific little. It takes Vincent by surprise. “What, the chocolates?”

Shifting in his seat, Leo’s eyes flit to the floor. Touched a nerve? The man pulls the banjo closer to his chest and mutters, “Yeah, i-it’s an impulse decision, I know. Sugar’s nice, alright? Plus, it’s that- there’s a whole psycho-ludical thing, putting all that stuff right at the counter-”

“I’m not judging,” Vincent interjects, putting a hand up.

Leo’s mouth opens, then purses shut. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but Vincent swears that his cheeks got a touch redder.

The two say nothing then, settling into a comfortable silence.

Twang-

And Leo’s fruitless attempts at music. Vincent decides that Leo’s music is packing heart but lacking in technique- it’s almost endearing. He pauses to take a swig from his milk bottle. Then, another strum. Bathed in the light streaming through the surrounding windows, he’s halfway there to looking serene.

It’s also then that he notices the milk stache on his lip. A strangled laugh dies in Vincent’s throat.

“What? It’s my soulful tunes, isn’t it?”

“Sure. You’ve got a,” Vincent gestures vaguely, “a thing. On your- there.”

Leo blinks and swipes at his face with his knuckles. Against his better judgement, Vincent has begun openly giggling. Soon, the two devolve into fits of laughter. Because it’s fucking stupid, is what it is. The police are out in full force, setting up patrols on the roads and choppers in the skies, the fugitive duo have just broken into an elderly couple’s house after letting their horses loose- and here they are, two grown men laughing at what must be the most inane thing in the world. A milk stache. Vincent must have lost it.

“My god, this is so dumb,” Leo gasps, echoing his thoughts, “‘s like we’re just two friends shooting the shit. Normal day.”

Finally, Leo gets up and sets the banjo down. Vincent’s ashamed to admit that he rose from his seat slower than the other man did. But his feelings abate quickly when the younger man places a hand on his shoulder, gives it a shake, and says, “You’re alright, Moretti.”

Then as sudden as it came, Leo quickly pulls his hand off of Vincent (too quickly, Vincent notes), and jogs past him in a hurry. Through the window, Vincent spots the couple in the green sunlit horizon, still chasing after their horses.

“Let’s get going while the going’s still good,” came Leo’s voice, a warm, distant thing. “I wanna show you a little trick I do whenever my friend’s car breaks down! Well, my friend’s car is actually a bike, but still!”

A touch that lingers a second too long, a chewed lip, a stare that’s become soft. Vincent’s not stupid. Leo likes him. Ah, fuck, he likes him. His stomach churns thinking about the other man, his cheeky grin. Not because of how he feels towards him, but because of the inevitable outcome- and how he’s seen it once already, when he pushed to take this job. He thinks of how he sat in the interrogation room, unaware of the man standing on the other side. Precinct, handcuffs, and the sullen, dreadful quiet on Leo. His heart sinks.

Running after the other man, Vincent calls out, “yeah? Five dollars says you’ll bungle our truck up worse than you started!”