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He sits in the back of a car, bleeding, screaming, fighting back an overwhelming truth as it tries to lift off his chest in a death fight with his rationality because between it all - the cheap diners and the casual exchanges and the shared weed and the way Larry doted over his hair, combed it back to reflect vintage respectability and, and, and

Freddy’s decided that he’s not a real person at all. That Mr. Orange, perhaps, had more natural substance than him and it hurts more than the metal crawling into his gut like mortar fire. It hurts more than the hand squeezing his and the need for a belt between his teeth so he could stop crying out in hysterics.

“I love you,” he mumbles, and then he says it a lot louder so White - Larry - Lawrence Fucking Dimmick - knows that he’s not lying, he’s serious. This is a confession not borne of pain even if he knows it’s destined to writhe until it dies like that.

“I love you man, I fuckin’ love you Larry, oh god, I’m gonna fuckin’ die -”

“I can’t believe she really shot me,  I hate the second amendment,” Newandyke laughs at the hopelessness of his own humor and beats his feet deliriously against the roof of the car the moment he realises what that does to his stomach.  “Shit, shit, shit, shit  Larry I’m scared man. I’m gonna die.”

Freddy’s words slur together so easily but His don’t. His grab Newandyke by the palm and looks him in the eyes and croaks out equally hysterical but astoundingly calm reassurances. “You’re not gonna die, kid.”

“I’m fuckin’ dying face it” are you a doctor? “no Larry I’m not a doctor” then how do you know? “I don’t,” that’s right, so,

(and then)

you’re gonna be okay.



-

 

There’s something that used to be  unbearable about Californian summer heat. But between the car air conditioning (which blew more like a dollar store fan than any real A/C) and the windows drawn down and the relaxed way Freddy’s decided to wear himself the stuffy heat is a lot less telling. More breezy, more reliable, relaxing.

In fact, it’s the first time in a few days that his heart hasn’t been jumping in his throat.

Freddy tosses a smoked-out cigarette from the window, closes his eyes and hangs his head against the car door. The vibrations stay where they’re supposed to. They don’t go crawling along his stomach, ripping around his arms and making it a little tight in the neck  while he’s thinking about a story, thinking about scripts, thinking about what kind of character Mr. Orange is and if Newandyke really can pull off such a great role. And when Freddy’s sitting here, elbow out the window with a pair of higher-end aviators on his face, mirroring out the larger part of his expression?

Yeah, he thinks he really can do something like this. Do it easy.

The radio thrums out its feel-good seventies serenades. If Freddy opened his eyes he’d see White tapping along to the rhythm on the steering wheel, the thump of fingerpads surprisingly quiet for a man with such calloused hands. They haven’t talked since White offered the ride to the cheap diner and back, but that’s alright because the music is so loud that bystanders can hear Paul Simon lamenting the Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover so even if Orange did want to talk his voice probably wouldn’t make it.

White is normal. Freddy expects that, of course. There’s a million different warnings against ever letting yourself call a career criminal ‘normal’, and he’s self-aware of every one of them. But Freddy still sits them with a little off to the side bias, analyses held loosely between the space of his chest and collarbone. They’re too real, have too much felony charm under their belts and relatability in the jokes about dicks and the obsession with seventies radio to only be picture-esque stories printed, finely, in font size twelve times new roman, on police reports. They’re real. Not movies, they’re real.

“He’s cool,” Newandyke’s told before, Holdaway raising a brow as he leans in to steal a sip of that cheap-ass vanilla milkshake with the cherry he’s been buying again and again lately. “Like old guy cool, y’know.”

He hesitantly passes back the milkshake. “I think he's important. He’s nice if you’re on his side.” Holdaway just sighs, still listening contently as he drops in a separate straw because it’s clear that this is going to be shared now. Freddy rambles about personal opinions but he he politely nods anyway, impatiently asks for useful information - Freddy doesn’t have any yet, of course, he’s working on it - and they part ways after he’s recounted on the assigned names. He slides out of the booth. Smooth-like, and when he turns around Holdaway’s giving him a sarcastic but nonetheless genuine thumb-ups (half of one, at least) and a little chirp in his head reminds him that he’s got this, he’s really got this.

His Heistman turns down the radio, slapping the back of his hand gently against Orange’s shoulder to get his attention. He’s practically his personal charter at this point ; anytime he needs a cab anywhere that associated with his undercover business, White was offering. Just for him, because everyone else was too far out of the way or something or he assumes that at least.  

Freddy blinks a few times and readjusts himself, looking over.

“You going home now, kid?” Orange hums in consideration, rolling his head back. He answers vaguely to questions like these at first, would just have White pick him up on a random sidewalk that was within walking distance or bullshit around like he was always somewhere else, just never home. Ramblers do ramble.

“Huh, yeah.  Just drop me off, it’s close.”

And Mr. White does, without another word, because asking for an address would be weird. Not because they’d personally think so, but because that’s just the way it is.

 

-

 

He’s not sure how White makes him feel.

There’s the faint trace of butterflies in his stomach when he looks at him some way, quirks a brow from beneath his sunglasses and says something cheesy and old and right out of the mouth of an old man jeering in his lost slang.

White makes him feel small but at the same time it’s in a secluded way. It makes his narrative better, he supposes. Orange is the rough kid on the block. Dabbled with drugs in highschool and got a few suspensions here and there for arbitrary offenses. Interested in the life because working at McDonald’s is dumb, he isn’t going to be some bumfuck waiter or an electrician or a carpenter for the rest of his life. He’s going to steal diamonds and roll in the parts of his two million dollar share and get more and more and more until he’s just like Cabot ; a modern King with a groupie of guys willing to suck him off to whatever rhyme he writes. Very ambitious. But it required planning, and taking every opportunity.

So of course he sticks with the loyal veteran. Mr. White. No way would a guy like Orange go looking for anything lesser. Not when the best is right in front of him.

It’s Their Heist. He’s in so fucking deep and playing everything just fine, he could tell them he’s from the circus and that he used to fight dogs and they’d ask him for how long. The whole thing is so much bigger than the little drug deal break-up’s he’s done and the domestic abuse arrests he’s made but it’s so similar. Easy. Get in, get out, get going. Cabot goes to jail. He goes back to work.

He’s golden boy. A wouldbe front paper man, if his identity was a thing that could be broadcasted.

Freddy thinks a little more over the whole thing. He hums, bemused on his couch as he rolls everything over in his head for the umpteenth time today. The television is buzzing a shitty action movie and he’s pretty sure it’s Dirty Harry but he can’t remember until he sees Eastwood’s face again.

-

 

“Is it fucked up for me to say I’m likin’ this work?”

Holdaway is leaning against the door to the roof. Freddy is perched, precariously, on the edge of it. His grip on the concrete is too tight for him to worry about falling. There’s something pretty and cinematic about their meeting places. The sun is always hot and stuffy and one of them is always eating something. This time Newandyke has a cheap burger, discarded on the second bite. He drops cigarette ash on the sidewalk three stories below.

“I think it’s more fucked up that you’re sittin’ like that,” Holdaway quips back. Freddy shrugs and leans even farther, just to show that he can.

“These guys are easy.”

“Are they? Don’t let that get to your head. You’ll -”

“Wind up in a ditch with my face blown off, I know, I know. You never let me forget.” Freddy’s voice is dripping with cockiness. He leans back up again, both hands in the air so he can fully gesture how old and tired the line it.

“Well, Newandyke. The second you forget is the second it actually happens. So.” Annoyance. He hates when Holdaway’s all serious like this, even if he knows it’s for a reason. Maybe it’s good to wonder about your colleagues. “Excuse me for caring about your well-fucking-being.”

“I know. I know. I know it man, I’m sorry. Don’t get all tight about it, alright?”

That’s basically the signal for Holdaway to stop caring, which he does. He clasps his hands together and pushes off the wall, right down to business.

“Are you playing them?”

“Yeah, I’m playing them.”

“How so?” Holdaway smiles.

Freddy grins. “I think I’m a method actor, man.”

He raises a brow at that but he trusts it. If it wasn’t true then Freddy wouldn’t be here, after all. Holdaway’s proud of his work, proud of the coaching. You don’t go from a guy reluctant to memorise a four fucking page script to one proclaiming himself a method actor by doing nothing. Freddy catches on quick and once he does it’s smooth sailing.

“You suspect nothin’ of them -” Newandyke begins, jumping off his perch and walking lazily to the other, a hand running through his hair as he recounts his process. “You suspect nothin’ of them, and they suspect nothin’ of you. Now, I’ll say - I don’t know, man, I immerse myself in this, y’know? But it ain’t like the guys that get so depressed over their roles that they get fuckin’ hospitalised, ‘cause Mr. Orange - that guy ain’t depressed. He’s like me, he’s going for this. He’s euphoric. I’m euphoric, he’s stoked about these fucking diamonds. He does everything he can to get his hands on but he still lays - huh,” he twists his hand. “Kinda low. Like he’s into it but he’s not too sure yet, ‘cause he isn’t experienced. I’d call him my criminal alter-ego, but that’s setting off some serious red lights, yaknow?

“I don’t go overboard with it, but, I do what’s necessary to make it believable. He’s close enough to the real me but different enough to be a criminal. Nothing new. I tack onto the one guy, that Mr. White. No-one else knows me - that’s good, actually. ‘Cause they’ll think, they don’t know me ‘cause they haven’t had the time. They see Mr. White and I, though, and all they’re thinking is that the old man thinks I’m good , they aren’t thinkin’ about how or why. I’m socially adept, just not with them. ”

Holdaway grins. He’s pleased, he’s liking it. The cocky attitude and acting method and all. Freddy’s smart and unconventional and does what’s best and that’s what’s best.

“You’re gonna have enough to go off by the end of this to write a fuckin’ instructional book, Freddy.”

“Well,” he’s smiling like an idiot, “Guess I could.”

They’re about to part ways, leave it at that, but last second Holdaway turns around. Skepticism leaking into his voice. Freddy doesn’t bat an eye at it. This whole thing is brimming with it, constantly - it has to.

“Are you sure White’s the - ah, how you say, most easily manipulated?”

“Of course, man. He’s old. Said he know Joe Cabot long time .” Freddy’s tongue flicks out between his teeth, voice picking up the tacky accent. Direct quote from the chick in Full Metal. Holdaway laughs, tells him to shut the fuck up. Newandyke’s in such a good mood, such a good mood. Mr. Orange is fun.

“If you’re sure that he is -”

“Oh, I’m sure.”

“- then you’ve really hit the jackpot. Good work.”

“I know, I know. Thanks.” Freddy is halfway through the door going downstairs, but pauses to see Holdaway staring at him, level. His face breaks into the umpteenth smile today, fingers crooking into mockguns that when shot said you’re the man, man!

“Detective Newandyke.” He shows white teeth. Freddy does too. He likes Mr. White but he thinks he likes the gold shield he’s going to get even more.

 

-

 

I think I’m a method actor. He rolls the thought around in his head as a subtle justification of what he’s about to do. Vague recollections of shitty, ‘progressive’ and ‘truth-revealing’ documentaries about the prevalence of alcoholism and drug abuse in plainclothes cops. Because they were mentally unstable because of the frequency in exposure to crime. Because it was easy-access and easy to hook on. A plethora of other made up reasons.

Totally wrong, of course. The only reason why people smoked weed or picked up pills and white powder was because sometimes you got bored on your couch and didn’t want to watch your second runthrough of the Dirty Harry VHS or you were tired of SNL’s political jabs. Eastwood has an ugly looking mug and Mr. Orange doesn’t like the way he squints all the time. He thinks it’s a good movie but it’s boring. Could be better. More realistic. It all falls apart when the killer pulls out a big yellow fucking schoolbus.

Mr. Orange slaps a cassette tape in, it’s Bob Dylan from during his brief Johnny Cash esque country phase. Very seventies! Very feel good! He should buy some Van Morrison to fit in more. Old men love the political and hippie criticism of Vietnam, ten years after it started.

Freddy would have picked something more recent. But Freddy isn’t picking for himself now, particularly. He’s in character. He’s a criminal getting high just for fun. He’s method acting. He’s going to do whatever he’s got on him and fall asleep on the couch. Call it a day. Maybe tomorrow he can think up a cool story, another bravado man tale of smokestench; but this one would be comparably pathetic to the wild conjurations of narratives where, say, Pink or Brown claim to have snorted coke off of a prostitute’s stomach for free (no-one laughs at or believes these). Maybe, at least, someone would say ‘me too’.

So he does get high. Walks around his bluewall apartment for a bit and absently kicks things around. Plays with the dumb construction paper cross on his wall that looks like it came out of a fuckin’ Catholic School’s arts and crafts day for first graders. He can’t remember why he has it but it stays up, regardless. God is watching. God should be grateful that Freddy’s nice enough to stick up some religious symbolism for him in the first place. He hasn’t gone to church in years.

It’s a secondary thought that creeps up his spine but it taps persistently at his temple. Yells in his face. So Mr. Orange listens to it.

He calls the late Mr. White, fingers ebbing into fuzziness as he dials the number, waits for a ring. It’s nine o’clock and most people are still awake ; Mr. White is not most people. But when he answers Orange makes a mental note that oh, maybe he is. This guy is so fucking normal. He isn’t shooting out kneecaps in trailer parks or laying in a bar for the fifth time this week, he’s just sitting at his motel, answering calls. There’s something endearing and feel-lucky about that but Orange isn’t sure that it really exists so he doesn’t pretend like it does.

“Hello?” old gravel voice asks. Orange grins, he’s not sure why. He blames it on the euphoria.

“Hey, White, it’s F-” close mistake, close mistake. He mentally condemns himself but Freddy recovers quick! He’s back on track of who he’s supposed to be right now in the snap of a finger and a purposeful ‘stumble’ in his speech, disguised as an absentminded slur in the word. “Orange, it’s Orange, hey man. You doin’ anything?”

“Not particularly, no.” The Godfather answers in his strange aged speech. He sounds constantly conserved, even on the phone. Orange finds the withdrawal fascinating.

“You smoke, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Anything else?”

“I can try.”

Funky-thrummin’ banjo, piano. Orange smiles. Freddy smiles. It’s the euphoria. Again. He’s never let White see where he lives before. Oh well.

“I’m thinkin’ - I’m thinkin’, as thanks for you covering all those lunches for me, you wanna come over? I’ve got some good grass, a few whatever-else’s,” Freddy starts walking around, stashing anything even remotely pro-police in his possession into random closets and cupboards. The Big Milwaukee Book is on his kitchen table, Holdaway gave it to him earlier. He hasn’t looked at it yet; he’s supposed to call in tomorrow around noon if he finds anything about White, and if he does then Freddy will be chatting the guy’s backstory up over cheap milkshakes and too-salty fries four hours later.

“Well, kid. Give me an address and I’ll consider it.”

Big Milwaukee Book is a curse. A very fatal thing to have in his apartment at all right now ; what if White’s the nosy type? Goes looking in the crawlspaces of people’s homes for the slightest little artefacts, the telltale signs? Book like this can get you killed. Orange hums absently into the receiver, ignoring White’s request until he decides to clear out a few not-incriminating-at-all books on a shelf, stash Big Milwaukee behind them, and cover it up again with Stephen King and stolen VHS rentals from all over the place.

“Brick apartment building, Adams. Fifteen minutes away from your motel, I think.” White doesn’t seem to be doing anything. Doesn’t exist, maybe. He’s a ghostman floating in his red carpeted room, leisurely existing beyond the realm of his white bedsheets and comforters. “I’m 404. Give me a yes or no, man. I ain’t got time for this cryptic shit.”

Orange fidgets restlessly. Waits for the actual feeling to kick in, not just the fake anticipation of it. White seems to take forever to answer, but he does.

“Yeah, I’ll come. You already start?”

“Uh-huh, yep.”

He can picture White’s smile over the phone, the one that’s supposed to be exasperated but isn’t, because he’s just happy. “Impatient.”

“It’s a ten minute drive, you aren’t missing too much.”

“You said fifteen minutes thirty seconds ago.”

“Changed my mind.” It’s so easy to quip back. To smile without thinking about it, and it’s not just Orange. It’s Freddy.

The line is quiet for a bit, and then it’s simple. Down to business. He loves the minimalism.

“Alright, kid. I’ll be there, and it better be in ten.”

White is there, in twelve. A good in-between of what Orange first estimated and last estimated. By the time Orange is hearing the gentle rap of knuckles on the door he’s already floating. Hovering, off the ground and slowly upwards. He does a subconscious once-over of his apartment one more time - if he dies here it is on the basis of self-incrimination, after all - and goes to answer the door.

White is dumbly well-dressed, professional. Smells like old spice and a cologne that’s worn itself down over the course of, what, maybe three hours? It makes Orange conscious of the Silversurfer poster on his back wall, of the t-shirt he’s wearing that proudly says GO! SPEED RACER! GO! and his tacky kid’s Catlick Cross on the wall directly next to the other’s face only serves to remind him of the differences.

But Orange decides he doesn’t care. Doesn’t even apologise for the mess as he makes a grandiose gesture, smiles giddylike and says “Hey, man. Come on in.”

His eyes have that glossy look to them, a little red White notices it immediately but doesn’t comment, just smiles and does as he’s directed.

“Nice place,” it’s not sarcastic, but it is joking. Orange laughs for no reason and haphazardly throws himself on the couch, gestures vaguely to the kitchen table where everything is right out in the open. Help yourself. No-one else is coming. Overdose, for all he cares.

White doesn't beeline to it nor does he show any real interest - he just sits down next to him, finally stops idling and takes a hit, looks at the television and gets up when he notes that the film isn't one that he particularly likes and it's stuck on it's bluescreen stop button, anyway.

“You got any good pictures, kid?” Freddy smiles. Likes how he calls them pictures. It's nostalgic even though it was never part of his nostalgia.

“Yeah, they're -” before he can stop himself, he realizes that the VHS’s are what cover up the Big Milwaukee Book, are what cover the line of self incrimination and not but it's too late now, White is asking. White wants to sit down and watch a crummy film and get high, get high, go home around eleven of midnight probably - and Orange invited him, so who is he to say no, I don't have any fucking pictures?

Anxiety rises in Freddy as he says it (it suffocates and stamps out the earlier euphoria) but he gestures a shaky hand to his shelves anyway, voice a distracted mumble but just enough so that he didn't seem scared. He wasn't scared, just high.

“They're over there.”

White heads over.

“But we can just watch, ah, TV, if you want.”

“That's fine.” He smiles to himself. “I trust your taste.”

When he smiles like that Freddy wants to feel warm - why? He’s not sure, just assumes that it's the weed because he was always pretty giddy when it came to it. He remembers laying his head in a girl’s lap in highschool and she combed empathetic fingers through his hair, and they did nothing but he felt good and he left two hours later without another word. He wants to feel like that but White - sweet, oldvoiced White, with an uncanny love for cheap tacos and tabasco sauce, might see Big Milwaukee and kill him in his own apartment.

And even when White comes back with Serpico tucked under his arm he can’t help but feel threatened, ill ease.

The prologue puts a rock in his stomach and when the burly, youngfaced image of some plainclothes cop in the 70’s is ruined by the blunt of a bullet Freddy feels choked. Harsh reminder, but one he needed. This is not a man to get high with and you are not to focus on anything but the positives of your career future.

He smokes a little more and realizes it’s too much and when they finish he tells White he’s sorry for getting totally stoned but he enjoyed it, have a nice night.

White pats him on the shoulder and says thanks and suddenly Freddy’s thinking that he is invincible, that White is not a thing of danger but a thing of safety but he knows that one of those contradictions is wrong; just can't decide which, so he tucks his chin to his chest and closes his eyes and dreams of a black and white narrative.

 

-

 

Freddy makes a date out of his findings with Holdaway. They meet in the quiet solace of public eye that does not spy, the abandonment of graffiti walls and harsh-sun concrete a small comfort. Holdaway brings him a thirty cent McDonald’s cone, half-melted. He doesn’t care. Freddy’s forgotten all about the night prior - his and Larry Dimmick’s subtle exchanges, the weight in the air that he could not quite place, the sporadic thoughts to some time in his past that was never too interesting but pleasant nonetheless - and instead faces the intention of his job.

He is a cop. Lawrence Dimmick is a criminal. He felt nothing when he dryfired the gun into his picture as he talked on the phone only three hours ago, but Freddy knows there is purpose.

There is purpose when Holdaway grins and says, ‘let’s go get this bastard’. There is purpose in a gold shield. There is purpose in his arrests. There is purpose in getting rid of Joe Cabot and seeing his weeks of dedication go somewhere. And he’s not so dumb and unprofessional as to ever forget that purpose.

“You’ve been warmin’ up to a real sick bastard, Newandyke.” He’d never admit it but his heart skips a little at the news, it’s almost shocked. Him? No, never. Larry Dimmick is a good man! Freddy quirks a brow as he accepts his cone from Holdaway, watches as the other wipes off liquified vanilla on his pants and he does the same, too. There’s no reason for them to ruin two pairs of jeans.

“Huh, must be bad if you’re saying that.”

“Yeah, yeah - well,” Holdaway pauses, resigns himself away from Newandyke without further comment. He bites his cheek and Freddy knows that he’s in for a good story, that this information is juicy and one hell of a find.  “Debbie could’ve given you a fuller report, but you know how she is. Always doin’ something, so you get me instead. The abridged but just-as-fucking effective version. I’ve got files in this manila if you want, too. But I know you ain’t much of a reader.”

Freddy lifts his hands in mock-surrender, sitting back down on the heels of his shoes when he decides that this will be a long run, that he better just eat his cone and enjoy the show of information and be glad that he can justify himself.

“Hit me, man. C’mon. I gotta get back to makin’ these guys believe I’m not worth killing’, I ain’t got all day.”

He hopes it’s bad (he hopes it isn’t he hopes Holdaway is joking and that Holdaway will cite traffic tickets). It’ll make the end result easier. He hopes it's bad and that Holdaway is joking.

But Holdaway is not joking. He’s serious in the preening way, the kind of serious that Newandyke very rarely sees. It’s smug and self-contained and undeniably real, because his voice switches between those friendly booms to a soft and conserved throattalk that’s almost threatening but Freddy knows it isn’t, knows that it’s just that when Holdaway holds these truths that are self-evident he doesn’t want to hear them because they are terrible, terrible facts.

“Alright, alright. Well, this Mr. White - Lawrence Dimmick, whatever the fuck, just forget his real name, man, you know? Never say it to him, in-fact, I won’t even say it anymore - he’s got a basic multitude, far as offenses go. Public drinking, indecency a bit back in late 70’s, shit like that, but has only ever done time,” Holdaway juts out two fingers, lips pursed and eyes blown just a bit wider. Emphasis, emphasis, he’s taking Debbie’s spot here and he’s doing it well. Freddy knows she does this over-dramatic shit too.  “Twice. Eighteen months and two years. Which is, uh, pretty good, since he’s an old motherfucker. Armed robbery when he was twenty, another case about a decade later, y’know, very basic. Delinquent shit, I ain’t worried about that. I bet any of the other guys you’re working with have more legal dirt on his hands than he does, but that’s the scary part.

“Undercover cop like yourself, John Dolance. Now, Freddy, I ain’t trying to scare the shit out of you here. From what you’ve said so far I’m damn sure you’re smarter than this John motherfucker, you know? But his job was pretty closecut with yours, too - bank robbery, worked his way in, the whole process. They found out he was a cop beforehand, though. Kept it low. Didn’t act automatically, and maybe I’m makin’ assumptions but they’re reasonable - the bonus sadism is probably on the part of The Godfather.”

Holdaway pauses. Despite the severity of the discussion he breaks into a grin. Ironic grin. Freddy has to, too, but he doesn’t want to.

“Ain’t that funny, man? Godfather’s a sadist? You pin who and how these guys are real good.

“Now, I personally think this was dumb as shit on Dolance’s part too, and definitely on the department’s end. It’s his birthday. Guys throw him a huge surprise party, like real cliche and shit. You’d love something like that.”

“Yeah, I would. You should throw me an after-job party, make it an affair.”

“You ain’t popular enough to even garner that kinda thing.”

“Ah, man, fuck you. The guys love me.”

“No one loves your scrawny ass, Freddy. Everyone thinks you’re batshit for taking the job in the first place Maybe you won’t want no party after this, there’s a lot of connections to be drawn here and I’d rather have you paranoid than skipping around like you’re twelve. They have the party. Whole buncha cops, all in one place, pretty privately squared, ain’t that a pighater’s dream?”

 

“Fuck,” Freddy knows what comes next.  “Really?”

He eludes to it carefully, suspensefully. Freddy admits that beneath the casual demeanor the details of the story he has not yet heard make him feel nauseous, make him feel wrong, and he knows it’s because The Godfather matches the description perfectly. He can see Larry, in his oldened and wisened gusto, walking into a room full of cops and plowing everything down with an orchestrated ease that allows him to just walk away from it all at the end. No other man seems that talented, that twofaced, and Newandyke is reminded of those details everytime the other recounts a grizzly story in the car, brags to the other guys, talks Big Joe Bananas.

“Now, when Dolance shows up, he ain’t alone, he’s got White with a gun pressed to his ribs. Before anyone knows what to do, Dolance is - y’know, fucking dead, and the other motherfucker is just shooting into a crowd. Officers, wives, girlfriends, he don’t give a shit, it’s a free for all. If you weren’t a cop in that room you supported one. All-around win. Three dead, not countin’ our dearly departed Johnnyboy, and six wounded.

“Only testimony to their robbery was Dolance, unable to speak, no shit. So they just skipped over that job and called it a win.”

Skepticism. Something he’s sure will be banished in a second but Freddy wants to know, anyway. Wants to pin this sadism on exactly the right man.

“You sure that’s our guy?”

“Two guns, Newandyke. Motherfucker’s known for using two guns, and he went at it with a double .45 show.”

“Yeah,” Freddy nods, shifting a cigarette out from his pocket. White. Clean. Unused. Red Apple. Holdaway grabs one from Freddy’s same pocket and has the audacity to ask for a lighter - maybe someone else would care, but they're practically in the habit of impulsive what's-yours-is-mine shares.

“You’ll be fine, man.” Grey smoke wafts from between Holdaway’s teeth. Freddy blows his own cloud into the vast corner of air opposite of him. “Your cover’s goin’ well, you’re a method actor.”

“Mmmhmm.”

 

-

 

“Nerves a jangled, honey?” White teases, thrums the back of his hand on Freddy’s knee. Freddy smiles, he’s always smiling and it’s not nervously. No matter what he tells himself he still thinks White is normal, and that Larry is a normal name and how he’d like to doze off next to him but he just can’t. Not physically but because if he does it it means something horrible to his moral integrity, it means he’s thinking heart over head.

Big Milwaukee’s and Holdaway’s revelations sting him. They prick at his fingernails and hold his eyes open with rough thumbs. Freddy feels sick when he sees White - Larry, Larry Dimmick - smile. When the man offers him cheap tacostand tacos he feels sick. When he goes for a higher end approach and they buy actual restaurant burgers Freddy feels like he might vomit on the inside when he sees him putting ketchup down, it's so stupid. So stupid. He smiles and says he isn't hungry, White quips back with cute, relaxed words. A guy so normal, an aging and single man whose status was miraculous considering the olden charm that lingered about him, you’d barely believe that he got anything more than a traffic ticket his whole life. But Freddy can’t get the description of Not Normal White out of his head.

Surprise party, killed an undercover cop and all his colleagues and their wives and extended family and oh man you never knew them Freddy but they were one of your own - are you just going to forget about that? Be happy you’re getting the bastard. You’re pining after the big trouble.

He knows he can't avoid Larry and he keeps latching on accordingly, careful not to seem distant or tired. Freddy smiles at jokes but he can’t lull himself to sleep against the vibrations of White’s shitty car. He’s too nervous, he’s jarred. He can’t stop thinking about the other fitting a pistol under his jaw and finishing it. The rat is out, the rat is dead. Hu-rah for us instead.

“You want to get high, kid? Just for the hell of it.” Larry asks it two days after Big Milwaukee Book’s revelation. Freddy thinks it's ill timing but he knows that it’s not. It's a perfect correlation with his four day earlier offer, where the atmosphere was mellow and comfortable and Freddy can't decently remember himself wanting that again.

“I don’t know, man. If I take you up on it I’ll be in your debt again.”

It’s six o’clock. This is not a sporadic nighttime offer as his had been and there is no reason for Orange to say no. So Freddy doesn't either.

“You’ll be fine. Get out of my debt after the heist, how about that?”

There is no after heist. Freddy isn't sure about how he thinks, doesn't know if it's okay to feel almost sad about that fact or if it's terribly wrong. “Sure, alright, sounds good. I’ll be there -”

“I’ll pick you up.”

“No,” Orange assures. “You don't have to.”

“You don't have a car.”

“Oh, fuck. Yeah.” He forgets to laugh but he can't help but smile. “You're right. You’ve been such a good chauffeur I kinda forgot about that.”

“It's been no problem. I’ll see you then. I have a few movies if you want to watch.”

And it's like that. It's like that, so simple. When Freddy’s alone with his thoughts all he sees are circumstance and his job but as soon as White starts talking it's all yes, yeah, sure, please! But he’s not sure that exists because it's been clouded, lately.

Clouded by truths and circumstance.

That word. It's so cruel to him. It's such a long word, cushioning him with its soft c and then breaking him with the hard k.  Normal and not normal. What a bitch.

Larry says, do you want to get high? And instead of saying no, I’m tired, he’s thinking ; I can't refuse. He's thinking, I want to see his motel again. He's thinking, I want our eyes to be glazed and I want to ride in his car. I want to exist with him, I don't want much. I just want to make the best of our time. He's thinking that he doesn't know a damn thing.

That's why he clambers on into the car and sits still and silent and ramrod and also not, because he is so relaxed. Just at home. They made eye contact three weeks ago and yet he is totally languid, tangent, happy. Normal (that word keeps popping in his head popping in his head popping

Larry has a proper bong and everything but it feels less casual if he’s using that, so Freddy doesn't. He just huffs away at a glass pipe and a bud on the couch instead. Larry doesn’t move, just shuffles around and watches him but it’s only in a reserved and observant way. It’s not creepy, it’s not analytical it’s just

He’ll kill himself before he thinks ‘normal’ again.

His throat is dry and he knows it isn’t because of the weed but Larry thinks so, it’s why he tentatively rises off the couch and pauses their shared ‘picture’ - whatever he picked, it sure is an interesting selection when you’re high - and gets him water. Freddy can’t remember if Larry’s even taken a hit so far but that’s alright. That’s okay. White is being his personal chauffeur again and he’s very good at it, very doting. He tells old stories and moves his hands in a casual (normal) way and smiles in an equally pretty (normal) manner.

Freddy laughs and smiles at every joke, feet propped up on the coffee table. Jeans loose and white t-shirt sleeves rolled. He’d taken care to make a better impression, to not leave his apartment wearing self indulgent five-to-ten dollar purchases. Larry sits up straight in his seat but Orange is all slouched, all casual, neck buried in the cushion of the cute little motel thing and body practically slumped off the rest.

He would almost fall asleep but the voices ticking away at the television keep him ; the then-contemporary art of eighties filmography. Dusty and neonblown narratives of a supposedly passionate people who are not at all and it gnaws at him, gnaws at him, he hates it, so Freddy doesn’t open his eyes and hits White with the back of his hand instead, foot kicking just a little.

“Can you turn this off?” he’s surprised by the annoyance in his voice. White is too - he can feel the other looking at him, eyes very open and not tired at all. He’s been so passive lately and now he’s not. Now he's the opposite.

“Don’t like it, Mr. Orange?”

“No, I hate it,” he reads the SIlversurfer, listens to quippy detective talkshows and the pretty tales of sympathetic policemen in the position of genuine goodness who love their wives and girlfriends fully and realistically. He looks at action films as simple entertainment and nothing more, nothing more ; Freddy just wants easy. Call him soft but if he’s watching a lovely narrative he wants love, not the darkvoice of prostitution’s grim circumstances and outside mafias that mercilessly beat upon the protagonist as the protagonist himself beats his women, too.

“It’s too dark.”

“Really? They’re known for good lighting.”

“No, you know what I mean, I’m serious. I just - hate it right now, turn it off.”

White doesn’t complain, just sighs and walks a fuzzy walk towards the television, sticks a pencil in the spot that a button should be and turns it off. The resulting silence is a bit dramatic and he feels bad. Explains himself for no reason.

He opens his eyes again, impossibly slouching even further and knowing that he’s breaking character here, that this is himself saying this and Mr. Orange is not here at all, or maybe he is. Maybe this is the total fusion between Freddy Newandyke and his artfully crafted character. They’re more similar than different, after all. Why split to reveal the truth?

“Didn’t mean to be an asshole, but y’know, I’ve been - “  Newandyke gestures helplessly in-front of him, shrugging. “Stressed lately, heist is comin’ around the corner and all. Not that I don’t trust anybody but, you get it. Big thing. Little jitters gonna come with it.”

“If you aren’t scared you’re stupid. It’s fine.” There is gratifying pressure in his voice. Freddy appreciates it.

“I don’t wanna watch once-over shit, where the guy gets, all shot up. Lady leaves him or dies, doesn’t give a damn. And that’s it - it. No-one remembers what happens, ‘cause it was all secluded and no-one cared anyway. I don’t like that kinda story.”

“What kind of stories do you like, Mr. Orange?”

“Corny stuff, tasteless shit. Like, ah - Top Gun, where you got minimum problems. Minimum conflict, but it’s enough to make you feel, and you end it all with a decent finale. Romantic. Better than dying in a ditch. It’s real because it’s organised circumstance, not just circumstance. You love em’ ‘cause you found them, and you wanted to find them. Not ‘cause she held a gun to your head and told you to strip when you walked into her apartment on accident and kept coming back because you felt bad.”

“Well, isn’t that cute?” White grins, brings a hand to his temple and just grins some more and Freddy does too.

“I’ve got shallow tastes, man. I’m an idealist.”

“Kid, I don’t care what you are.  All I know is that I think you need another hit.”

Freddy takes another hit. Slouches impossibly as time drolls on, as their starting hour at six turns to eight and eight into ten, but Freddy knows that he’s sleeping by nine-thirty at least and Larry is, too. His head leans on the other’s lap ; he’s not sure how or when, just that he knows it’s comfortable and natural with his feet hanging off the arm of the couch, his hands folded neatly over his stomach and his chest rising and falling in a synch with the older man’s.

He’s at ease, for the first time in awhile - again. At eleven his subconscious ticks, thinks that maybe they are met by the chosen circumstance rather than circumstance. This is the soft c. They have picked each other from their crowd and stuck together for a reason. Freddy is using White for more than just social leverage and White is returning the favor because he genuinely likes ‘the kid’, really wants to have an impact and maybe in his little crimecharmed mind, separated by Freddy in its twenty years of seniority, sees a future for them. Maybe he wants to stay with him. Become partners. Make a new Alabama for himself.

But at three o’clock he wakes up and thinks that chosen circumstance is not real. That this is just another circumstance, hard k. That Freddy is only here because he is the tired plainclothes cop drawn in by the scent of blood and stale cologne and an up-and-coming crimescene. He is staying here to find out more and he is doomed, doomed, and White will crush him or he will crush White. He is not high anymore. The melancholia is gone. He doesn’t want to take another hit and it’s dark out and he doesn’t want Larry to wake up to find him strewn across the other’s body so he gets up and walks home - doesn’t search his house, doesn’t look for evidence and extra details even though the opportunity is there and so ready to be taken.

The streetlamps light his way and his walk lasts for two hours. Grudging feet, fleeting mind. He fluctuates wildly between comfort and discomfort and Freddy would just like to pick one, stop being faced with two. Head does not know why his chest thumps in wonder. Head does not know if there is a chance for romance here ; his brain is so unaware of his own body because the body’s language is so alien, so irrational.

All he knows is what he’d like to do and what he will do and that they are two very different things.

 

-



Confession sweeps the air and it is a warm blooded, Burning. God Freddy can feel something warm, something searing and dead.

He is dying. There is no if’s or but’s about this plain and simple fact; the likelihood of his survival is a grandiose zero, nada, zilch. No-one will take him to a hospital and no-one will get him a fucking doctor. As Larry carries him, childlike and weak and clutching at his tie his shirt anything oh god he’s getting it all red isn’t he he’s knowing that this is the end, that right now he’s not even sure if he’d like to live because the sentiment is so touching. The I Love You’s in the car so genuine.

His back touches the floor, cold and hard and he writhes, Larry nestled next to him and then under as he pulls his head into his lap. Freddy looks up and the care is genuine. Touching. It sears his throat and beckons tears from the corner of his eyes but he doesn’t let them go; just makes animal noises and holds his hand. Holds his hand.

“Larry, Larry, oh fuck, Larry -” lungs betray him. He pauses to breath. Dimmick’s eyes are still trained on him with such gentle care and it hurts.

It hurts so much that he betrays professionalism - he is no longer Orange, no longer Detective Newandyke in a compromising position. He’s Freddy. The one that smoked high on a couch and watched shitty VHS and ate cheap tacos with White for the short weeks that he knew him; the Freddy that laughed endearingly at pathetic old men jokes and smiled and felt cool because he was a little shitrat of a dog in a pack of wolves, and this particular wolf just loved him.

Freddy’s hand reaches to cup the other’s cheek but it falls limp. Spastic and stiff. Nestled between his leg and Larry’s but that’s okay because their eye contact is perfect. You don’t have to tell White when to look because he’s already looking.

“Larry, I mean every word, man. I mean it. You have to mean it too, I’m - I’m dying here, fuck, don’t lie to me when I’m dying, I have to know.” White combs his hair. Cradles his face and smiles a sad smile at him ; a mockhopeful thing that revealed the true hopelessness of this situation. Freddy’s legs move of their own subconscious accord and he wants, desperately, to kick that hopelessness away. “Don’t lie, I want -”

“I’ve been genuine day one to you, kid. I’m not going to stop now, do you understand that?”

“I didn’t know. I’m not sure. Fuck, fuck, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry Larry.”

“Why you fuckin’ sorry?” His hand reaches down, undoes his belt - Freddy assumes it’s to get a look at the wound, but then there’s a second thought that grabs his face and he doesn’t. White doesn’t want to see. He can barely handle all this blood and he won’t handle more of it. “You couldn’t have known. The bitch was crazy, Mr. Orange.” (he likes the way he says Mr. Orange, like they’re playing pretend and their names are funny and it’s a good time, good time). “You kill someone over your car, huh? That’s bullshit. Just give it up and let em’ go on. She deserved what she got.”

Kill someone over a car. Kill someone over diamonds. They had just left a bloody-fucking-massacre and yet White smiles at him, his teeth and eyes sad and his hands even more depressed still. His morals are selective; applied specifically to him, no-one else. Would he make an exception to the Truth, capital-T?

Truth claws at Freddy’s throat, killing him far faster than any bullet could. He wants to tell Truth - wonders if White really loves him, loves him so much that in response to a three-word curse (i’m a cop!) he’d say; that’s alright, honneybunny, baby, kiddo, Mr. Orange - that’s just fine, Mr. White would croon right back, because cops aren’t real and you are.

He won’t risk it. There’s still a chance that they are lying to each other - God knows Freddy still is, and God knows that White’s history is questionable.

Freddy nods weakly in agreement, pathetically throwing his head to the side of the floor until he’s saved from near-concussions and rattling by yet another hand - there’s so many hands, aren’t there? Everywhere, everytime he needs them.

“Please hold me.”

“I am, kid.”

He is.

“Okay,” it doesn’t register, the pain is just fuzzy and he wants to black out but there’s still duty. It’s a goldplated heavy thing weighing in his heart, demanding that he stay awake - just to know, just to see what’s going on and assume his future survival. If he falls asleep he might not wake up. If he falls asleep White might not be here anymore. “Please hold me.”

He does, but

“Please hold me.” - “Yes”

Over and over.

At some point his broken record track dies out, and he almost fades what feels like entirely. It’s easy, when his head is in Larry’s lap and there’s sweet brevity in their mutual confessions, that even as he dies at least there will be one last content part in him. The job can go to shit. Larry can get arrested. He’ll be in a coffin, too young to see it; but he’ll be happy. The ambiguity of their end is relaxing. He does not know if he wants to see what would happen. White prods at his face a little, knows that he’s trying to stay awake - and cruel reality queues up, of course. He talks exactly about their hypothetical future.

“We could go to Mexico, Canada. But that’s more expensive. Whatever you’d want, kid, yeah?” Freddy smiles. But he’s not smiling, really.. “I don’t age, we can do jobs forever, one’s that don’t go to shit, you hear? No more fuckin’ psychos like Blonde, no -” Larry combs his hair, “women, bitches with guns in their glove boxes. No more of that shit. And your gut’s gonna feel just fine.”

They could go to Mexico, take advantage of an economically ruined country while Freddy gets them by with four years of highschool Spanish, maybe learn the ropes as they go along - and Larry would remain clueless, too old to learn something so different, or just not wanting to.

Maybe they’d go European, Middle Eastern. Do the same thing in Malaysia or Indonesia. He likes the warm weather, the food, the simple who-gives-a-shit policy of everything; social restrictions are entirely aside to Freddy, he’s hardly a leftist and White isn’t either. NRA motherfucker. Don’t Tread On Me, he once quoted with o-shaped lips - up until, at least, Miss Blondie with the second amendment shot his latest babe in the gut.

At some point, someone else arrives. Freddy figures out through his haze that it’s Pink; ranting, raving, rattling the floor with vibrations and gesturing unsympathetically at him. What the fuck happened, he says. What the fuck is it to you, White steps right back. He hasn’t gotten up - he’s dedicated to his position, right up until at some point in the bits-and-pieces conversation Freddy picks up on he’s got to go, Pink is moving into another room. Mr. Orange is not allowed to be part of this conversation.

His heart thumps. Truth. What Larry does with Truth is one thing - what Pink does, it’s not up in the air at all. Rattyfaced diamond faggot is going to shoot him without a second thought, buh-bye, sweetheart. I don’t fucking tip waitresses, so why should you tip the fucking cops?

This fear resides when Larry moves back over to him - leans across his body, careful not to disturb the tender spot that’s been ripping him in two for the past half an hour, hour, two? Whatever, he didn’t know. There are very few simple facts in life right now - besides the simple fact that there are not many, one was that Larry was the only defining thing at the moment. Not Holdaway. Not the job. Not Cabot’s arrival.

If definition had to leave the room, so be it. Freddy would just stop having meaning.

“You’ll be alright, kid,” he mumbles, words sound so close. It’s because they are. They’re right next to his ear - then on his forehead, his eyelids. The kisses are inherently groggy and violent despite the gentleness, and he feels sick to his stomach (morally wrong morally wrong Freddy Newandyke you are in the moral wrong) but it’s a simultaneous euphoria - he says he’ll be alright, so it must be true. No-one can sound that genuine and be lying at the same time.

-

Sharing the narrative now is awkward, but maybe it’s needed. Freddy dragged himself from sleep and saved one of his own. Head still in the game, in the game - romance and chivalry are dead, he has intention to live and he is painfully aware that Lawrence Dimmick will likely spend a life sentence in prison while he props a new pair of expensive boots up on a new desk, gets a new job and wears a new gold shield.

Pretty boy. Love you. You’re gonna do fine, kid.

“He said he was gonna shoot me, man,” White’s crouched against him, a hand on his forehead. Doting. Caring. Totally neglectful, of course, to the new collection of bodies gathered in their concrete meeting. Marvin the Cop is not a real person. Mr. Blonde was a psycho, mouth-foaming cocksucker who by all means was the reason why their collective world went to shit.

“He was gonna shoot me, burn the cop alive, and make off with the diamonds. I fuckin’ swear to you Nice Guy, he said it all while he was cuttin’ him up.”

Bam, bam, bam. I’m deformed. Shut the fuck up. What cop? This cop? Bam, bam, bam, all his hard work has gone to shit and now he’s got to explain, got to explain.

Nice Guy Eddie is a vehement piece of shit, soaking in the sun and rancidsmelling and very dearly similar to the mediocrity that every other dead heistman before him has held. He thinks he’s in power. He might be. He’s pissed, either way. Pissed that a young kid like Mr. Orange thinks he can just waltz into a job like this and desecrate the memories of family-servicing veterans as the self described Mr. Blonde must have been.

But White backs him up through the whole thing (assisted, perhaps by accident, thanks to Pink).

No-one listens, of course, and Pink is a rat. Pink never gave a damn about Orange and he isn’t going to start anytime soon; he’ just going to scamper away, tiny feet, wrinkled face, ugly nose. When the heat of the argument gets heavy Freddy catches him out of the corner of his eye, a gun in hand, pointed at Eddie’s chest while the rest of him lays half under the cover of the ramp. He’s going to miss. He’s going to fucking miss and that’s the end of them all, because Nice Guy Eddie will have a gun and no-one else will.

(you’re going to base a man’s life on your instinct stop pointing that fucking gun at my dad larry we’ve had a lot of good jobs are you going to throw that away i know this man he’s good and

Death signifier, Freddy’s heard it before and felt it in his gut but when he watches White fall it’s guilt-centred, tears at his face and draws a sob from his chest he didn’t know he had left. He’s surprised that Eddie is down, backofmind impulse says to thank Pink but he doesn’t, he doesn’t, he wants to move but his own blood is thick and he’s sure that Larry is dead. That’s two shots, two shots, he only felt one what is two like?

I LOVE YOU , in big, sloppy, diamond encrusted letters.

“Larry, Larry.” He croaks, throat so tight and so dry he wants to go to Mexico he wants to spend time he wants to abandon Gold Shield priorities he’s a cop he’s a cop oh god he’s a cop, isn’t that sad, Mr. White - that Mr. Orange was never a real person to begin with?

“Larry, I’m a cop.”

The words are drowned out by the high pitched painnoise Dimmick makes, slowly lifting himself off the ground, trudging in an army crawl pathetically towards Freddy. Dragging a belly gutted apart by bullets against dirty concrete, bleeding on a blood floor. He didn’t hear him. Genuinely didn’t hear him. He would’ve reacted, somehow. Would’ve said something - they are simple men and simple men love conversation. Love the clarifications and lack of mystery in classic dialogue ; all of it self contained in yes, no, I hate you’s, and I love you’s.

“Larry.”

He smiles, “looks like we’re gonna be doin’ some time, kid.” His fingers brush through Freddy’s hair. It’s hysterical. He’s going to cry. He does.

“I’m a cop.”

“No.”

“I’m a cop.”

Sirennoise. Joe Cabot is a dead motherfucker and Detective Freddy Newandyke is worse for wear. Plainclothes hero might not make it. Their clean job is not clean anymore. The Department is going to be trudging through deep shit for awhile - they knew about the robbery, told no-one about it, and (bam, bam, bam, bam) the whole thing turned into a fucking massacre. One civilian casualty on the hands of their own.

“I hate cops.”

“I’m sorry Larry, I’m so sorry.”

Gun to his cheek, gun to his cheek. It’s so cold but that’s okay, he’s accepted himself but at the same time Newandyke regrets it. He could have had a gold shield. Could have had a second chance. Could’ve kept his fucking mouth shut ; it might’ve been beautiful, it might’ve been better than Marvin.

Witness protection programme.

Larry can’t hurt him. Larry can’t love him.

It all seems so pathetic. Holdaway would kick him senseless but the stupidity ; he’d kneel over his body and tell him he’s selfish and fuck you, how could you, over his body (and he’d deserved it - Larry has killed people, has done despicable things, after all).

“I really loved you. I’m so sorry. I’m not just sayin’ that, I’m bein’ genuine with you. Larry. I’m sorry.” Larry responds with a guttural animal sound, unable to compose himself between this news and the two gutshots he’s nursing. Won’t be nursing. He’ll be dead.

For now, though, Freddy just wonders what he looks like with a bullet going in and out of his cheek.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Don’t shoot me, Larry. Please. I’m scared. Hold me.”

“I’m holding you, I’m holding you.”

 

Bam, bam, bam, bam.