"I don't wanna do this, Larry," Freddy groaned, half under his breath. But he didn't exactly start walking in the other direction.

"Hey, hey," Larry stopped and turned to him. They were both in the alley, their suits rubbing up against the gritty brick walls of the very building they were about to start some serious shit in. For all Freddy knew, everyone was already at their stations, just waiting for them. This shit was down to seconds, and here Larry was, taking the time to gently lay his hands on his protege's shoulders and give him some comforting assurance.

His eyes were hidden behind the shades, but his face was relaxed and friendly. They could have been about to go up on stage and play the fuckin' piano, the way Larry was acting.

Freddy knew that this nervous wreck shit wouldn't fly with anyone else, and it was only a matter of time before it wore thin on Mr. White. Didn't really matter how close they were, or what they did last night, Freddy could not let Larry suspect anything was amiss. So he made himself calm down. Made himself act cool and nod chew his lip into submission.

"We'll be outta there and counting our share of the loot before you know it," Larry was saying as he started adjusting Freddy's collar and lapels. A nervous habit of his own? "Jesus, kid. Where'd you learn to tie a fuckin' tie?" he chastised, roughly adjusting it.

A short, involuntary laugh burst from Freddy's lips, incongruous to the nervous lump in his throat. This made Larry laugh and drop into that cool, easy going demeanor that had charmed Freddy so much the other night. "Gotta look our best," he explained, brushing imaginary dust off the shoulders of Freddy's suit. "We're professionals."

A smirk played on Freddy's lips as he tried to read Larry's emotions. Seemed pretty stupid to Freddy, but Larry believed in what he was saying. Freddy was quiet as he let Larry fuss over his suit and then reach into his own jacket for a comb. Being with these crooks for all this time, he'd picked up a lot, learned a lot. But this little thing, something too insignificant to write in his report, was probably one of the most important lessons he could walk away with. It would probably make him seem sympathetic to them, but these guys really did give a shit. And that's more than can be said of plenty of other people. Like the kind of loser Freddy used to be, before the force, before all this.

The comb digging through his hair broke him out of that reverie, and when he shot his eyes up to Larry's face, he could just make out Larry's eyes glancing at him through his dark lenses. If it were anyone else, Freddy would have taken the comb, but since it was Larry, he just stood there and let himself be groomed. It felt pretty good, Larry combing his hair nice and slick and tight on his head, his other hand smoothing his hair and briefly, accidentally, brushing over Freddy's face and ears and neck. His body close enough to nudge against Freddy, who didn't feel the awkward need to move.

With a satisfied grunt, Larry swept his comb through his own hair a few times and put it away. He clapped a hand on Freddy's shoulder and looked him hard in the eyes. Now that it was back to business, Freddy went back to barely suppressing his nauseating dread. It was amazing he wasn't shaking.

"It's just a real quick job," Larry stated firmly. "In and out, no bullshit. Remember, you stay close to me the whole time."

"OK, Larry."

"You don't need to say shit, you don't need to do shit. Only if someone gives you a hard time, but you stay close to me, you won't have to worry about jack shit."

Freddy nodded, staring off into space just beside Larry's shoulder.

Larry put his hand rather roughly on Freddy's cheek, making him meet his eyes. "What are you gonna do?"

"Stay close to you. Don't say shit, don't do shit."

"That's right. What are you gonna do if anything happens?"

Freddy licked his lips. He didn't remember them ever discussing the possibility of failure. "Follow your lead?"

Larry smiled and patted Freddy's cheek. "Yeah, you follow me no matter what, but the correct answer would be: nothing's gonna happen. Got that?"

"Yeah."

"Say it."

"Nothing's gonna happen." He really didn't feel any better about this, but he loved Larry for trying.

Larry turned and put a hand at Freddy's back, leading him. He checked his watch as he walked; apparently they still had a few seconds, because he took the time to slow down and ask Freddy with a wry grin, "Who's a tough guy?"

Freddy couldn't control the sudden blush and wide, embarrassed smile. "What am I, five?"

"Come on, who's a tough guy?" Larry pressed. It was obvious from his voice that Freddy wasn't fooling anyone; he loved this shit.

Freddy looked him square in the eyes. For just a second he could forget worrying about the incredible shit storm that was about to take place and smile. "I am."