Gin, Ginny to his close friends, Skinny Gin to his enemies, and Jeremy to his mother, had been in the alley for forever, since the dawn of fucking time, maybe, or probably before, since he couldnít remember when he got there, except that it was dark then and it was dark now, but he wasn't sure if it was the same dark or a new one. He was waiting, was just waiting for the night to crawl on and on like a lame rat going nowhere. He was waiting for the man with the magic, the little bag and a needle full of time. Where are you, you fuck fuck fuck? he thought in time with the drip from the drain pipe next to his foot. Where, where, where and When, when, when and fuck fuck fuck, rosary beads counted off under his fingers. He wrapped his hand over the lip of the dumpster at his shoulder, and stared hard over the lid at the end of the alley where the man would come from, a shadow bringing everything, everything, everything in a little bag. If he stared hard enough he could conjure him, if he said the words right. Where, when, when, god, please, when, you fuck?
He thought he'd done it when the alley door on the other side of the dumpster burst open, swung hard enough to crack against the brick wall. He thought he'd done it, brought the man out of the nothing by staring and he almost laughed out loud, almost turned into a cloud of all-powerful holyfuck, except it wasn't the man who came through the door, but two guys, one lean, and wound tight, the other not quite as tall, moving slower but with flash under the skin, energy bound up, ready to go. Electricity. He couldn't see no sparks from them, not really, but he could feel it like static, or maybe a cold-burn whip-slash like the slick slither of streetlight on the folds of the tall guy's black leather jacket. Gin put his hands over his mouth to keep from wailing with disappointment.
Out on the street a bus lumbered by and the light shot down the alley and collided with the men like a wave against a breakwater, turning them blank and lighting them around the edges. The lean one had blond hair, glowing around darkness; the other one was curly-headed. They flickered together against the passing windows of the bus, caught in the poses of a fight, the blond one knifing the air between them with his finger, the other, his arms spread, waiting for the shiv like he didn't care if it hurt. Then the bus was gone and they were three-dimensional again and their voices were shreds left behind by the roar of the bus's engine.
"--like there was a choice!" the curly one said.
"There was a choice, Starsky! You could--"
"What? Run? Right."
The blond one turned away, paced to the far wall of the alley. His fists were opening and closing at his sides. Gin shrank away from them deeper into the shadows. He could see them, though, through the gap where the lid of the dumpster didnít close right, those big hands opening and closing like the guy was needing something to pound and there was nothing, except maybe a Gin in the shadows, who was a good punching bag and lots of guys would say so. But Gin couldn't crouch down and still see what was coming, so he made himself small and invisible in his head and watched and sang please, please silently, like there was a god who cared. The blond didn't notice him, prowled between the other one--Starsky--and the wall. Gin had seen cats in the zoo like him.
"Hutch." Starsky's hand came up to reach for him when he came close, fell empty as he moved away. "It don't matter. We got him."
No answer. Hutch just stopped walking, shoulders hunched under the leather, and he was still, still, still. A hysterical giggle snaked up Gin's throat, and he thought There she blows and had to put his hands back over his mouth to keep it in. Hutch turned around real slow, head low. Gin could feel the slice of the guy's gaze as it swept past the dumpster and the electricity crackled and it wasn't just in Gin's head, no way, and even the Starsky guy could feel it because he said, "Hutch" again like you say the name of your favourite dog who turns on you all of a sudden, shows it's nowhere near tame like you thought.
"We got him," Starsky repeated. "Forget it."
Hutch's voice was a low, warning growl. "It could've been you."
Starsky didn't even take a step back when Hutch got right into his space. "If you weren't the luckiest sonofabitch on this planet," Hutch said, his face right close up to Starsky's, and his breath silver-hot in the cold black, and then he was moving, so fast that Gin lurched away, and Hutch had Starsky by the front of his jacket and was shoving him backward, against the wall, and then suddenly they were just one shadow, no spaces between them at all, and Gin didn't get it at first, couldn't, and then he did and the breath rushed out of him as his hand clutched the edge of the dumpster and he went up on his toes to see them, melded together at the mouth, and the street was silent and there was the sound of rasping breath and the squeak-creak of hands gripping leather, a struggle, force against force, to get away, to get closer.
And then the light speared between them again and there were two of them, still pressed together, forehead to forehead, and their breath was a cloud that caught the streetlight and made them shadows, blurred. Gin almost missed it when Hutch whispered, "It could have been you." And Hutch got even more blurry then, sagging, electricity bleeding away as he gave in to something. "Starsky, you sonofabitch." And it wasn't a curse. It was something else, like Gin remembered from when he was a kid, the hushed and reverent voices in a church, someone kneeling.
"It wasn't." Starsky's hand gripped the back of Hutch's neck. "It wasn't me." And the kiss he gave him was gentle enough to make something in Gin twist away from the memory that pressed against him, tender hands, soft voices from before the dawn of time. He bit his thumb so the little kid's voice wouldn't betray him. "C'mon," Starsky said. "Huggy's making double cheeseburgers."
Hutch raised his head, then pushed away and settled his jacket with a shrug. "Double cheeseburgers? You think maybe you could restrict your near death experiences to one a day?"
"Are you kiddin'? With this kind of positive reinforcement, I'm thinking of taking up sky diving."
Hutch opened the door and waved Starsky through it. "Next time I'm just going to kick your ass."
Starsky's "Promises, promises" was almost lost to the murmur of voices from inside the restaurant.
When the door closed, Gin was alone, except for the man standing at the mouth of the alley, a bag of nothing in his hand.