Son of a Preacher Man
Billy-Ray was a Preacher's son,
And when his daddy would visit he'd come along,
When they gathered round and started talking,
Cousin Billy would take me walking,
Through the back yard we'd go walking,
Then he'd look into my eyes,
Lord knows to my surprise:
The only one who could ever reach me,
Was the son of a preacher man,
The only boy who could ever teach me,
Was the son of a preacher man,
Yes he was, he was, oh yes he was.
Being good isn't always easy,
No matter how hard I tried,
When he started sweet talking to me,
he'd come tell me everything is alright,
he'd kiss and tell me everything is alright,
Can I get away again tonight?.
How well I remember,
The look that was in his eyes,
Stealing kisses from me on the sly,
Taking time to make time,
Telling me that he's all mine,
Learning from each others knowing,
Looking to see how much we'd grown.
Song by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins
Hutch was leaving.
Starsky watched as he packed, trying to tamp down the sudden anxiety in his gut. It's only a trip back home, he told himself. It's not like he's going forever. Still, he found himself watching his partner, memorizing details about him...his posture, his large, generous hands, the way his blond hair curled at the nape of his neck, making Starsky want to plant delicate kisses there. This was still so new to him; he didn't want to lose it even for three days.
He lay on his back on Hutch's bed, still rumpled from their lovemaking, watching until Hutch zipped up his carry-on bag and took it to join the larger bag by the front door. Then he pushed himself up to follow.
"Remind me why I can't take you to the airport?" He asked when he entered the living room. Hutch turned to look at him where he stood against the door frame, arms and feet crossed.
"Because I can't say goodbye to you like I want to there." Hutch reached for him. Out front, the cab blew its horn, and Hutch's mouth claimed Starsky's in a long, searching kiss, tongues mingling, questioning, answering. Their arms wrapping around one another, pulling each other closer-as close as humanly possible. Starsky held onto Hutch, his need for him strong, so strong.
He knew what Hutch meant about the airport---even if they said their goodbyes here, they wouldn't be able to help themselves from doing it again there. And two men holding and kissing each other in public simply wasn't socially acceptable. Two cops doing it was socially unthinkable. It was hard enough to hide it on a daily basis. Life now consisted of a massive effort to keep their emotions and physical attraction in check, and then letting it out in an explosive burst when they got home. It was most difficult in the squad room, where so many eyes were upon them. Captain Dobey knew about them, because Starsky had spilled his guts the night Hutch wrecked the Torino and almost died. But he'd never mentioned it again, and it wasn't like he and Hutch could be demonstrative in front of their boss, just because he knew.
Starsky thought this was hardest on Hutch, whose rigid religious upbringing acted as both judge and jury on every move he made. Sometimes his guilt was palpable, although he claimed to be open-minded and liberal about it. Starsky thought Hutch was even surprised himself at the guilt that had claimed him after their physical relationship began in earnest, and at the way, once his mind was made up, Starsky had jumped in with both feet.
Hutch pulled away reluctantly. "I have to get going, or I'll miss my flight."
Starsky grabbed his partner's collar and kissed him again. The cab honked.
"The cab's gonna leave, Starsk!" Hutch gently disentangled himself from his arms. "Three days," he reminded, pointing a finger at his partner, then sighed and grabbed him up for another kiss. He opened the door and disappeared down the stairs. Starsky watched him get into the cab from the window, his fingers running over his lips, still warm from Hutch's kiss. He smiled, feeling warm, fuzzy, and stupid.
Turning, he set about packing up his things. He stayed here at Hutch's a lot of the time now, although sometimes they switched to his apartment. Hutch's plants needed attention, and there was nothing living in Starsky's place, other than the mold on the cheese in the refrigerator, to demand their presence. Very occasionally, they stayed alone at their respective apartments, but that was rare and getting rarer. There was nothing Starsky liked more than to spend all night in his lover's arms, and Hutch felt the same. However, when at Hutch's, there was old Mrs.Higgins next door to contend with.
He ran into the old bag as he exited, his duffel bag in hand, locking the door behind him.
"Good morning, Detective Starsky," she harped from behind him, causing him to jump. "You're here awfully early." She eyed the bag as if to say, you're not fooling me.
"Good morning, Mrs. Higgins," Starsky smiled, trying to charm her. It never worked. Starsky suspected Mrs. Higgins had never been charmed in her life, even by Mr. Higgins, God rest his poor hen-pecked soul.
He tried to scoot past her in the hall, where she'd planted herself in front of the stairwell just outside her apartment door, but she jutted her hip out to block him.
"You and that partner of yours certainly do spend a lot of time together," she noted sourly.
Starsky smiled again. "Yeah, well, we work on a lot of cases, you know." He tried again to move past her. "Excuse me, Mrs. Higgins...I'm late for work."
She ignored him. "Did I just see Detective Hutchinson leaving with a suitcase?"
Nothing escapes this old crow! Starsky thought irritably.
"Yes," he said, taking a step forward into her personal space, hoping to make her move back. "He's going to visit his parents in Duluth."
"Hmph. If I remember correctly, his daddy's a reverend in the Lutheran church."
Starsky nodded, taking another step forward. Mrs. Higgins' small black eyes knifed him, daring him to come closer. Give him a perp, and Starsky could be as bad-ass as the next guy, but his upbringing demanded he give respect to an old woman, even a nosy, bitchy one.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, taking a step back and resigning himself to having a conversation he didn't want to have.
"Wonder if he knows about you?" she said.
Is she trying to get me to admit something? "I've met him," Starsky replied.
This bit of information seemed to interest Hutch's neighbor. "Oh? And what did he think of you?" She looked at Starsky like he was a cockroach in her salad."He seems to like me well enough," Starsky shrugged, wishing he could say something else-like, maybe lie and tell the old coot that the Reverend Hutchinson had given them his blessings---and married them in his church. That would shut up the old windbag! Yeah, or send her running down to the station to cause trouble.
Starsky sighed. "Mrs. Higgins, can I get by, please?"
Grudgingly, the old woman moved aside just enough for Starsky to slide past her large, cotton-clad bosom.
Quickly, he took the steps two at a time and exited the building, high tailing it to his Torino and throwing his overnight bag in the back seat. The less he had to see of that woman, the better.
Maybe we should move Hutch's plants to my place, he thought. That old woman is trouble.
At the station, Starsky was faced with a mountain of paperwork, all his own. Hutch had stayed late the last two nights clearing his, and then offered to help Starsky, which made the latter's heart turn to mush, and they'd ended up leaving together, hurrying home to get their hands on each other.
Starsky blew a gust of air past his lips, bringing an annoyed look from Sims, his homophobic coworker. Sims didn't have any idea about him and Hutch, of course, but Starsky knew that, of all the people they knew, Sims would be the most dangerous if he found out. Sims had always enjoyed teasing them anyway, even though he'd seen them with women dozens of times. Jealous, Starsky thought.
Which made him even more dangerous.
"Starsky!" Dobey yelled from his office, his booming voice perfectly audible through the closed door.
Starsky got up and opened it. "Yes, Cap'n?" He inquired, poking his head into his boss's office.
"Rodriguez is occupied downtown. I want you to take Sims on patrol with you."
"Captain...I can go out alone."
"You know I don't send my men out alone! That's why cops have partners!' Dobey yelled. "Now you and Sims get on it!"
Starsky sighed and left the room.
"I heard," Sims said, rising and getting his jacket.
Hutch slept on the plane. He hadn't slept much the night before, instead saying goodbye to his partner over and over again, a dozen different ways. He smiled, thinking about it as the plane descended through the clouds to Duluth International Airport. He hadn't wanted to leave Starsky so early in this new relationship of theirs, but his mother and father had been so adamant that he come. He hadn't been to see them in three years. And bringing Starsky with him was out of the question, considering. He wasn't sure if or when he'd ever get the balls to tell his parents about the two of them.
Three days. His head was hurting thinking about it, but he could do this---spend three days with his parents, and then it was back to Bay City and Starsky.
His father, a tall, impeccably dressed man with a thatch of silver hair, met him in baggage, giving him a one-armed hug and telling him how good he looked. Swinging Hutch's carry-on bag over his shoulder, he walked with his son toward the exit.
"I mean it, Kenny, you look much happier and healthier than the last time I saw you. Remember, when your mother and I came up for Easter last year? What's your secret?"
"No secret, Dad," Hutch replied casually, thinking about his little secret stashed at home...a dark, swarthy partner who fulfilled his every fantasy night after night after night...A secret his father definitely wouldn't approve of.
"Kenneth? Are you listening?"
"Sorry, what, Dad?"
"I said put your bag in here." Reverend Hutchinson was standing with the back of the van open, waiting. Hutch didn't even remember the walk across the parking lot---he'd been daydreaming. Like a love-sick puppy, he thought ruefully, hefting his bag and setting it in the back of the van.
On the drive to the house, Hutch's father told him about reseeding the yard and about the new youth minister he had taken on.
"That's what I'd always hoped for you, Kenny, a life in the ministry like your old man. But you had other ideas." The disdain his father held for Hutch's job crept into his voice, causing his son's head to pound harder. He had promised himself he wasn't going to stress on this trip---after all, it was only for three days---so he took a deep breath and changed the subject.
"Is Mom still growing her beautiful roses?"
"No, not so much this year, son." His father's voice sounded strange. Hutch looked at him, prickles of anxiety racing through his chest. "Dad? What's wrong?"
Reverend Hutchinson cleared his throat. "Well, I wasn't going to tell you this right off..." He glanced at his son. "Your mother isn't well, Kenny."
Hutch was quiet a moment, digesting. "What do you mean?"
"She has cancer."
Hutch felt his stomach drop out. He took a deep breath and looked out the car window, focusing on a billboard as it passed. His mom? Cancer? What was she...sixty now? That was young. But the cancer didn't care how old you were. "What type?" he asked, his voice husky with emotion.
"Ovarian. She's had it for a while. I guess it's better I told you now, because you will probably notice a difference in the way she looks. She really wanted to see you, Kenny. That's why we insisted you come."
"Of course...I-I'm glad I came."
"It would do your mother a world of good if you could tell her something to put her mind at rest about your future."
Hutch looked sharply at his father. "Are you saying she's dying?"
Reverend Hutchinson swallowed audibly. "It's stage four. She's had it for six months now."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Hutch demanded.
"Don't raise your voice to me, Kenneth!" the reverend said sternly.
"I'm thirty-six years old, Dad!" Hutch objected.
"I don't care if you're a hundred, you don't raise your voice to your father. We didn't tell you because your mother insisted. But now she wants to see you, Kenny. So tell her something that will make her happy."
"What am I supposed to do, Dad, lie to her? I'm still a cop. I'm not married. What does she want to hear?" His headache knifed at the backs of his eyes.
Hutch's father blew air from his mouth in a loud sigh. He put on his turn signal and pulled into the neighborhood where they had lived for the past twenty years. It was lined with oaks and every house looked impeccable. "We're here. Put on a smile. I wouldn't want her to guess we've had harsh words."
He pulled into the driveway and stopped. The front door flew open and Hutch's mother stood in the door, a small woman with a big smile on her face. Hutch got out of the car and went to her, enfolding her in his arms. She felt thin and brittle. Burying his face in her hair, he held her tight.
"Oh, Kenny. It's so good to have you here," she whispered, and Hutch held her even tighter.
Code 3. 211 in progress, Champ's Video, corner of Palm and 3rd.
"Zebra 3, we're on it, over." Starsky replaced the handset and made a sudden, car-rocking u-turn in the middle of the road."
"Hey!" Sims objected. "That's illegal!"
"Really?" Starsky asked sarcastically, barreling down the street. "You and Rodriguez wait at the light until it turns, or what? The lady said, Code 3 --Put the lights on the roof, dumbass!"
Sims muttered and turned on the siren, clamping the flashing light to the top of the Torino, then held on for dear life as Starsky made mind-boggling split hair turns up one street and down another.
"Hutchinson must have balls of steel to ride with you," Sims exclaimed.
Starsky didn't want to start thinking about what kind of balls his partner had, not on the verge of a life and death situation when he needed every fiber in his being on red alert-- Sims was not his idea of a trust-inspiring partner.
"You'll find out that and more, if you don't watch my back," Starsky said, parking the car with a screech on the street adjacent to the video store and opening his door.
"Whaddya think I am, a rookie?" Sims seethed as the two men unholstered their guns and high-tailed it to the building across the street.
Starsky leaned against the wall, carefully nosing around the corner to see what he could, while Sims stayed beside him, ready. Shouting, followed by a shot, and Starsky and Sims sprang into action, rounding the corner and shouting Police, halt! Aiming their guns at the two assailants who had just spilled out of the shop, one with a full bag. Starsky ordered them to drop their guns.
One assailant swung his arm, aiming his .38 at Starsky, and Sims fired, shooting the weapon out of his hand. He fell to his knees, screaming.
"I wouldn't move if I were you," Starsky told the other man. A moment later, the store owner poked his head out of the door.
"I've called an ambulance," he said.
"Anybody hurt in there?" Starsky asked. "We heard a shot."
"Hit the wall," the man said, running a shaking hand through thinning hair. "Can I get my money back?" He gestured to the bag.
"We'll have to take your statement first," Sims stated, cuffing the injured guy while Starsky took care of the other one.
Sirens blared in the distance, and a crowd started to gather. Sims dragged the bleeding perp to his feet while Starsky talked to the backup that had just arrived, directing them to escort the wounded man to the hospital.
"Quick work," Starsky told Sims later at the precinct, after they'd booked the assailant.
Sims shrugged off the compliment, but Starsky put a hand on his shoulder. "I mean it."
"Told you I was no rookie," he mumbled. He took a new toothpick out of his desk drawer and inserted it between his teeth, watching Starsky speculatively as he walked off.
"God," Hutch said later that night on the phone. "Now I've gotta be nice to Sims."
Starsky chuckled. "Well, whatever else that man is, he's a good shot."
"Lucky for us," Hutch said.
Starsky liked that. Us. "Yeah," he agreed. "So, you made me tell about my day, tell me about yours. How're the folks?"
Hutch was silent for a beat. "Starsk-do mind if I don't talk about it right now?" he finally asked.
"Sure, Hutch. Whatever you want. You wanna get off the phone and get some sleep?"
Starsky heard his partner settle deeper into the bed. "No, talk to me some more. I miss the sound of your voice."
So Starsky regaled him with office gossip for another half hour before they said their goodnights.
"I love you, partner," Hutch whispered into the phone before settling it on its cradle. He lay in bed for a long time, the comfort of Starsky's voice slowly wearing off, and his head beginning to pound hard. The shock of hearing about his mother's illness still lingered. He didn't want to talk about it, let alone think about it, and he was grateful for Starsky's ever-present understanding where his feelings were concerned.
He rolled over in the old twin bed he'd slept on as a teenager, his face to the once-familiar pale blue wall and away from his dresser stacked with wrestling trophies. Being in his parents' home made him feel young and vulnerable. Trapped. He desperately wanted to leave, but he also desperately wanted to be there for his mother. As if on cue, a soft knock on the door and whispered, "It's Mom," announced her presence.
"Come in, Mom" Hutch said, sitting up in bed.
Georgia Hutchinson quietly entered the darkened room. She was wearing a granny gown Hutch had seen many times before. Maybe he should get her a new one for Christmas. Would she still be here at Christmas? His heart clenched.
"Hey," he said softly, making room for her on the edge of the bed.
"I'm sorry I wasn't around at dinner," she told him. "I wasn't feeling very well. I know your father filled you in."
"Why didn't you tell me earlier?" Hutch asked, aggrieved.
Georgia sighed softly. "Because I knew you'd come here, and I knew it would drag out---and I didn't want to take you away from work that long. And from Dave."
Hutch looked at her, surprised. "Starsky?"
His mother smiled. "You think I don't know about you two?"
Hutch stared. "H-how could you? We haven't been together very long. A few weeks!"
"Really? What's taken you so long? I've always guessed there was something between you."
"Then why all the nagging about getting married and having kids?" Hutch asked, incredulous.
Georgia sighed. "That was mostly for your dad's benefit. Besides, there was always the chance. You have dated quite a few women. But after that visit last year, I didn't think it would ever happen. I knew you two were for real."
Hutch searched his mind, trying to remember Easter of last year. Starsky had gone to Easter brunch with them...had they acted differently? Hutch couldn't for the life of him imagine how his mother had deduced their feelings for one another, particularly before they'd known the extent of them themselves. And if she had guessed then, who was guessing now? The thought sent a ripple of fear through him. Everything that he and Starsky had worked for in their lives could be ruined if someone on the police force found out about them.
"So...Dad doesn't know," he clarified.
His mother looked pointedly at him. "I think you know the answer to that one, son."
"You don't think I should tell him."
Georgia sighed. "I don't know, Kenny. People do change and grow. But your father is steeped in his religious beliefs---he always has been. I don't see that changing. In his eyes, what you and Dave are doing is wrong, and he will always try to convince you of that if you tell him."
After a long, quiet moment, Hutch asked, "And what about you, Mom? Do you think what I have with Starsky is wrong?"
Georgia reached over and brushed the blond hair out of her son's eyes. "Who am I to judge love? Who are any of us?" she asked quietly. She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Go to sleep. We'll spend tomorrow together. Your father has a church meeting." She got up and left the room.
It was the closest Hutch had ever come to hearing her openly disagree with his father's beliefs.
"So he actually acted surprised, like he hadn't thought I could shoot a gun!" Sims told his partner, Ronald Rodriguez, the following day during their lunch hour. "I tell you, I am so sick of those two thinking they are the top cops around here!"
Rodriguez grunted around his pastrami sandwich. "You better not let them hear you saying that-" He wiped his mouth with his napkin. "You'll have a fight on your hands."
Sims rolled his eyes. "I can take ‘em. What I'd like to do is get ‘em out of here."
"Whaddya mean?" Rodriguez asked.
Sims lowered his voice, although they were the only two in the squad room, he wouldn't want Dobey overhearing-Starsky and Hutch were obviously his favorites. "I don't know, Ron, but I've been getting this funny feeling about them lately."
Ron looked a question at him, taking another sloppy bite of his sandwich.
"You know I've always kidded them about bein' hot for each other. Lot's of us do."
Rodriguez nodded, taking a noisy slurp of Coke.
"Well, it was always in fun, ya know? But lately I get the feeling that ...maybe I'm right."
Rodriguez laughed. "Aw come on. I've seen those two with more women individually than all of us put together. There's even been rumors of threesomes."
Sims sucked on his toothpick. "Yeah, whaddya wanna bet in some of those ‘threesomes' the girl ends up left out? Besides, something's different lately. Ever since Hutch got in that wreck, I haven't seen either one of them with a woman."
"So? It's just been a few weeks. What you think, they suddenly got it on? They've always been all touchy feely, and they've always had women."
"Not lately, though. I'm just gonna check it out for myself."
"How're you going to do that?" Rodriquez asked doubtfully.
"You just watch."
Rodriguez shook his head, wishing his partner would drop it.
When Starsky returned from lunch and settled down to make some calls, Sims approached his desk.
"Hey Starsky---I have a hot little number that would love to go out with you. Interested?"
Starsky looked up from his work. "What? Oh---well, if she's so hot, how come you're not going out with her?"
"I've been dating Wanda for months. This is a friend of hers. Hate to say it, but she has her heart set on you. She's seen you out and about---The Pits or something, I think she said. Anyways, Wanda is really pushing me to ask you for her. You know how women are." Sims twirled his toothpick with his tongue, watching Starsky. " ‘Sides---I noticed you ain't had a date lately. Ever since you broke up with that blond chick."
How did Sims know so much about his life? And what was he supposed to say to this?
"I don't know, Sims...."
"She's a real looker! She wants to meet you tonight. Wanda and I can go with, ya know, like a double. She's hot, I'm tellin'ya." He watched Starsky. "It'll give you something to do while your blond boyfriend'soutta town."
Starsky gave him the requisite middle finger that Sims' expected after that comment. He felt a little sick. He and Hutch had never discussed the possibility of something like this happening, although they had talked about maybe having a date with a woman just for show now and then. Should Starsky go along with it? Would not going along with it arouse suspicion on Sims part? Could they afford that? Intuition told him it was important to put up this ruse in front of Sims, and it's not like he had to go to bed with the girl.
"Well, okay, thanks, Sims," Starsky said, signing a report. Sims smiled, satisfied.
"Hot dog! We'll go right after work. I'll have the ladies meet us here." He sauntered away.
As soon as Starsky had a moment alone in the squad room, he phoned Hutch's parents' house. He'd probably eventually get into trouble for making a long distance call unrelated to police work, but he'd take that risk. It seemed to him that the phone rang forever before a man's voice answered.
"Uh...Reverend Hutchinson?" Starsky inquired.
"Hi, this is Dave Starsky. Hutch's-er---Ken's partner."
"Right. Hello, Dave." Reverend Hutchinson's voice was cool, the way it always was when speaking to Starsky. Hutch had told him he just hated everything that had to do with his job as a cop, so Starsky tried not to take it too personally.
"Is your son there by any chance?"
"He's out with his mother. I just stopped by the house a moment and heard the phone ringing. Is this work related? Should I have Ken call you when they get back?"
"No, no, it's not that important. I probably won't be here then anyway. Thank you, sir."
Starsky hung up, a bit crestfallen. He really would have liked to run this past Hutch before it happened, but he guessed that wasn't in the cards. He'd just have to do the best he could.
Wanda and her friend, Angie, showed up right on time. Starsky was a bit bowled over by Angie----she wasn't at all like he expected. She was dark and very pretty, way classier than Sims' girlfriend. She had a body that wouldn't stop---just exactly what Starsky liked-or used to. And she was friendly and outgoing.
The two couples went out to eat at a local Chinese restaurant, and Starsky actually found himself having a good time. Angie even liked the Lakers, Starsky's favorite team. And it wasn't too difficult to get away with just a chaste kiss at the end of the evening, although Angie pulled him a little closer than he'd planned. It was weird holding a woman again. Only a few weeks with Hutch, and he's changed everything.
Starsky was really hoping Hutch would call that night, so he could tell him how he'd handled the situation. This had to have reassured Sims, if he indeed had any suspicions. He waited up as long as he could, but the phone never rang. Starsky didn't want to phone the Hutchinson's again and risk having to speak to ‘the reverend'. He sighed in his empty bed, lonely without his partner, and went to sleep holding Hutch's pillow.
Hutch spent the day at the park with his mother, admiring the gardens and walking the trails. She seemed more energetic than she had the day previously, and this made Hutch feel better about her. He would be leaving tomorrow evening, and he felt guilty as hell about it.
They had lunch at a local restaurant that used to be one of his favorites, and Georgia told him about her book club and what they were currently reading. Finally, she asked him about Dave, and where their relationship might be headed.
"All I can honestly tell you, Mom, is that I love him, and I simply can't imagine not being with him. No matter what."
His mother smiled. "Well, I'm happy you have someone who is always there for you."
She fiddled with her food. Hutch had noticed she wasn't eating much. "Kenny---your father is probably going to hound you a little this evening about work. You know he'd like you to leave the force. Just take it in stride, okay? Tell him you'll think about it, then go your own way."
Hutch frowned. He didn't look forward to having that discussion again, but it didn't come as a surprise that his father wasn't finished talking to him. He just hoped he didn't start ragging on Starsky---his dad always acted a little cool toward him---like since he was his partner on the force, he was somehow to blame.
"Mom," Hutch said softly. "How...how long..."
"Not long, Sweetie."
Hutch's eyes filled with tears, and his mother reached across the table and put her hand on his. "Don't, Kenny. It's okay. I've made peace with it. Now I just want to know that you're going to be okay."
As promised, Reverend Hutchinson brought the subject up after dinner that night.
Hutch tried to be patient and just listen to his reasoning. His mother had gone to bed early, looking spent. She'd taken her pain medication and retired by seven PM. Hutch watched her go, worry eating at him. His head was pounding like a mother-fucker again.
"You could be here for your mother when..." Hutch's father let that trail off, looking upset. "If you would just consider quitting that dangerous job and coming home. And you still have friends here, Kenny. Friends from the university. There's so much you could do with that brain of yours!"
"I'll think about it, Dad," Hutch said, following his mother's instructions to just go with the flow. His father looked so hopeful at his words, though, that Hutch immediately felt guilty for lying. There was no way he was leaving the force where he shared so much with Starsky, and he wasn't going to lie about it every time he spoke with his father on the subject. Pressing his fingers against the bridge of his nose, where his headache had settled, he took a deep breath.
"Dad, I'm sorry. That wasn't the truth. I enjoy being a cop, most of the time, and I just can't see myself doing anything else."
"But your mother---"
"Mom knows this. We've talked about it."
"So you're just going to break her heart. Let her die without her son near." Reverend Hutchinson's mouth became a thin line and Hutch's pained look did nothing but spur his father on. "She wants you here; she just won't say that to you."
"She understands, Dad. But I hope you'll call me when she ...gets really bad." Guilt ate at Hutch's insides. He had barely spent two weeks total with his mother in the past ten years. A day here, two days there.
Reverend Hutchinson walked stiffly to the window and looked out. "I can't believe you are being so selfish. Your mother wants to die knowing her son is in a safe occupation, not getting shot at every day of the week." His voice was angry and full of pain. "I want Georgia to die a happy woman, and I'm doing everything I can to make it that way. I want every fiber of her being focused on meeting her Lord, not on worrying about what will happen with you." He swung around, his face grim and accusing.
Hutch's head throbbed. "Dad..."
"And there's Jeannette McDonald. She's asked after you the last few Sundays. I get the feeling she'd really like to see you again. Think about that, Hutch. You might start a new life with her. Have children."
Jeannette was an old high school sweetheart of Hutch's. They were king and queen of the prom and voted Most Likely to Marry. Hutch hadn't thought of Jeannette in a long time. But he had no desire to see her, much less start a relationship with her. He was in love with his partner.
"Dad, I am not going to quit the force," he said both quietly and emphatically. Shit, his eyeballs even hurt. He just wanted to go to bed.
Reverend Hutchinson pressed his lips together and fumed, but didn't say another word. Hutch could feel his disappointment and anger wash over him like a wave as he left the room.
The following morning, Hutch was met by his father in the kitchen, coffee ready.
"Mom up?" Hutch asked, pouring himself a cup.
"She'll probably be in bed all day. Your outing wore her out," his father replied.
Hutch looked at him, shocked. "I didn't mean to---"
"No, no. It's what she wanted. It's just going to take her a while to get her strength back." He leaned back in the kitchen chair, sipping his coffee. The cup was one Hutch had given him years ago. It was blue and had a cross on the front. In white script it read, God is good.
"Son, I want us to finish the discussion we were having last night." He watched Hutch put a piece of bread in the toaster and push the lever down.
"I thought we did finish it," Hutch replied, leaning against the counter and sipping his coffee.
"If you would just see things from my point of view..." when he realized Hutch was going to listen and not interrupt, the reverend continued eagerly, "you have to admit that your heart hasn't been in police work lately. Probably for a while now. I've noticed the change in you in our phone conversations this past year. The system's starting to wear on you, and that's only going to get worse. If you came here, you could do anything you want. Start over. Make way more money than you do now!"
Hutch listened, but didn't say anything. His head was starting the regular pounding that was becoming a daily thing. As if his father picked up on it, he said, "and although you look good, son, I know the strain can get to you physically. It'll age you prematurely. And the things you must see on a daily basis---what does that do to your spirit? Your soul?"
Hutch glanced up from his cup and back down again, feeling the familiar tug on his conscience.
"Hutch---I know there've been a lot of women. I ---assume you have led a very active bachelor life."
Hutch perversely wanted to laugh, listening to his straight-laced, God-fearing father struggling to find the words to say Hutch screwed around a lot.
"This is not God's plan for you, son."
"Dad. I really don't want to have this conversation."
"No one wants to face up to the things they do wrong."
Hutch's head jerked up. "Oh, yeah? And what about you, Dad? Is it difficult facing up to the things you do wrong?"
His father looked flustered. "Well, yes, of course! But I try to do right...I am an example to my congregation. I try very hard not to sin."
"Oh, you don't drink, or cheat, or even over-eat if you can help it, but you do something sinful, Dad. You judge." Hutch's pulse was racing at this unexpected confrontation with his father. He hadn't wanted this, but man, if felt good.
Hutch's father made a dismissive sound. "It's not judging to simply quote what the bible tells us. Fornication is a sin! Acts 15:20---"
"Don't. Don't quote the bible to me." Hutch put his cup down and ran his hands restlessly through his hair. Insidious guilt nipped at the edges of his heart. All those years of Sunday school teachings whispering in the back of his brain....fornication wasn't the only sin he committed. There was one that he was sure would be far worse in his father's eyes.
"Son, move back here. Get married and have a family. I promise you you'll be happier, and your mother can die knowing you are on your way to that happiness."
Hutch's eyes smarted. "Don't do that! Don't use her illness to guilt me into doing something I don't want to do!"
"But how do you know you don't want to do it? You aren't giving this enough thought, son!"
"Dad, I don't want to leave Bay City."
"Because of the job?"
"Partly," Hutch sighed and grabbed his now-browned toast, eating it dry.
"Is there---someone special?"
Hutch couldn't help it, he nodded. It was the understatement of the year---his life waited for him in Bay City.
"Well, why didn't you say so?" Hutch's father's face lit up. "Does your mother know?"
"As a matter of fact, she does," Hutch admitted quietly.
"Well, I'll bet that made her very happy! It's been a long while since you were serious about someone. What does she do for a living? You could bring her here! You just need to consider the possibilities!"
"My ‘someone' is not going to want to move to Minnesota," Hutch said wearily, not meeting his father's eyes.
"You don't know that---I bet you've never even brought the subject up with her."
"Son, you owe it to your mother and to me to at least talk to her about it. Ask her what..."
"Dad!" Hutch had reached his limit. He couldn't take it anymore. He couldn't heap deceit onto his list of wrongdoing. "It's not ‘her', it's ‘him'!"
The effect of this statement was like a bomb had dropped in the kitchen. Reverend Hutchinson stopped talking, his mouth open, staring shell-shocked at nothing in particular. Absolute silence settled over the room like a heavy blanket.
"It's a ‘he', Dad," Hutch said carefully, so there would be no mistake. "I am in love with a man."
His father had been leaning forward in his chair while arguing, and now he sat back, very still. "What are you saying, Kenneth?" He finally managed.
Kenneth. The first distancing.
"I guess you want me to say I'm a homosexual. All I know is, I am in love with a man. I love him, and I will always love him."
"Are you and this....man....having sexual relations?"
Hutch was quiet for a moment, the only sound the slightly uneven breathing of his father.
Reverend Hutchinson slumped in his chair as though all the bones in his body had broken at once. He was quiet for a long time, and Hutch didn't move, feeling terrible and wonderful at the same time. It was liberating, telling his father this. Yet, he could see he was hurt, and Hutch could already feel the disappointment wafting off of him. He was afraid of the can of worms he'd opened. His mother had told him not to tell, and he had. Now he didn't know what would happen.
His father looked up at him. "1 Corinthians 6;9-10...Do you not know that..."
"Dad! Stop! I grew up in the church and in this house with you! I know what the bible has to say on the subject."
"And you don't want to hear it because of the guilt!" Reverend Hutchinson almost shouted. He stood and grabbed his son by the shoulders. "Kenny, I love you! You know that. You must repent. This is even more of a reason for you to come back home..."
Hutch shook his father off. "No, Dad!" He stalked out of the room, his father at his heels.
"Kenny, you are sinning, and you know it. You can't go on living this life---sooner or later it will catch up with you!"
Hutch swung around. "Stop it! Stop it! You are purposely making something beautiful into something dirty!"
His father looked like he wanted to stop his ears up, but instead put his hands out pleadingly. "Can you honestly tell me you've never felt an ounce of guilt over this...relationship?"
Hutch stared at him, his chest heaving with emotion.
"Kenny!" his mother's voice called from down the hall. Hutch turned and went into her darkened room, closing his father out. He heard him cross the living room and go out the front door. Turning, Hutch could barely make out the small form of his mother on the bed.
"You told him," she said quietly. Hutch came to kneel beside her, putting his head on the mattress by her arm. She stroked his hair.
"He---he kept telling me I should move here. For you. I couldn't take it anymore. And I couldn't take the lies."
"Oh, Kenny. I wouldn't want you to move here for me. I won't be here much longer."
The words twisted like a knife in Hutch's gut. His mother---his wonderful mother who was so gracious and loving and kind. He couldn't imagine a world without her.
"Why should you uproot your life for me? I would rather know you are happy in California. It's your father who needs you here."
Hutch looked up at that.
"And now he thinks he has to save you, so he's doubly convinced, I'm sure," Georgia Hutchinson smiled wanly.
"I can't take this fighting, Mom," Hutch whispered. His head hurt so much.
"See if you can get an earlier flight, son. Go ahead---you need to get home to Dave." She smiled at the way his eyes lit up when she said that. "Now I don't want any guilty feelings over leaving slightly early today, either. Go call...."
"You liked her, didn't you. I could tell," Sims said to Starsky when they ran into each other in the locker room after a lunch-time workout.
"She was very nice," Starsky agreed.
"That's what she said about you. She hopes you'll call her."
"I might," Starsky replied, not knowing what else to say. What possible reason could he make up for not seeing her again?
Sims closed the locker and went into the hall where Rodriguez had paused to wait for him. "We'll have our answer soon," he crowed, and his partner sighed. Sims could be tenacious when he got something into his head, and Rodriguez could only wait.
Starsky toweled off from his shower, wondering what he should do. Perhaps when he got home he would call Angie and tell her he's sorry, but he didn't want a relationship right now. That would be the proper thing, not leave her hanging and waiting for another date he didn't intend to go on. Shaking his head, he dropped the towel and got dressed.
All afternoon Starsky worked on his reports and answered calls. The day wore on, and he found himself more and more eager to see Hutch. His plane wouldn't be getting in until midnight, and he wondered if he should be at Hutch's apartment waiting for him. Old Mrs. Higgins wouldn't be up that late, so they wouldn't have to worry about what she'd think. He looked forward to showing his partner how very much he'd missed him these past three days. Just thinking about it made him have to reach down and adjust himself in his jeans.
When he finally looked up from his pecking and erasing, Starsky realized the night shift was filtering in and most of the day officers had left. He tucked the report in a folder, grabbed his jacket, and headed out, stopping on the way home to pick up a burrito from his favorite stand. He thought about taking some candles over to Hutch's, along with a bottle of wine. Maybe he'd massage the long, tedious trip out of his muscular shoulders with some scented oil. He'd just stop at home, change clothes, and make that call first. He pulled up outside his apartment, more than a little surprised to find Angie waiting for him on the steps. He hadn't remembered telling her where he lived, but Sims knew, so that probably explained it.
"Angie! Er, what are you doing here?" he asked, climbing out of the Torino and approaching her. He didn't relish having to do this face to face.
"Hi, Dave." She blushed, her cheeks prettily pink in contrast to her pale skin and dark hair. "I'm sorry for being so forward, but...well...the Lakers are playing tonight, and a friend just gave me these tickets---" She waved them in the air. "I know you said you were a fan, too, so---do you want to go with me?"
The Lakers! Oh, man. Starsky thought quickly. Hutch wouldn't be home until late, and he could stop by for the wine and stuff after the game.... He really would love to see the Lakers play, and he could explain to Angie that he didn't want a relationship at the same time. What was the harm? He smiled and told her he would just be a minute. Hurrying inside, he pulled on some comfortable sweats and a blue T-shirt. Donning his jacket, he snatched up his keys, and they left.
Hutch was exhausted. He leaned his head against the back of the seat and felt the tense wall of emotion that had been building up inside of him the past three days. Emotion that he couldn't let out at home with his parents, or here on the plane. His head ached.
Turning and gazing out the small window of the plane at the limitless expanse of clouds coating the sky like a carpet, his thoughts turned to his partner. The night before he left, Starsky had lain with his head on Hutch's chest...the moon shining through the bedroom window, casting an ethereal glow on the bed and their entwined bodies.
"You know what, Hutch?" Starsky had said suddenly.
"What, babe?" Starsky's fingers were playing with his nipple, sending electric sensations through the sensitive nerve endings, and he could barely think straight.
"I was thinking. I don't lust after men...I mean, I don't see guys on the street and wanna get in their pants."
"Well, that's good to know!" Hutch replied, running a finger down his partner's bare back. causing him to shiver. He took a breath and continued.
"So I'm not exactly what you'd call a homosexual. And I do lust after you, and you're a man," he pinched Hutch's side, eliciting a squeak and jump from his partner, "And even though I've been with a lot of women, I don't wanna be with one now, so that let's out heterosexual and bisexual." Starsky continued. "I just wanna be with you. That makes me a...Hutchasexual."
Hutch's sudden laughter sent Starsky's head bobbing on his chest. "You're crazy, Starsk, you know that?"
"Yeah?" Starsky'd lifted his head and looked him directly in the eyes with that ferocity that never failed to make Hutch's heart flip. Emotion larger than anything he'd ever felt with any other lover welled up in his chest, threatening to spill out of his eyes as tears.
"Crazy for you," Starsky'd said, and kissed him forcefully, powerfully, demandingly, until Hutch opened his mouth wider and let his partner's tongue in to take what it wanted.
Now all Hutch could think about was getting back to Starsky. His mother was dying, his father was disappointed in him, evidently God didn't think much of him either, and he'd had a fuck of a headache for three days straight. Only the comforting arms of the man he loved could make him feel like he could get through it all. He had been incredibly happy that he was able to trade his ticket on an earlier flight. Now he might be able to make it home before Starsky got off work. Then he'd have plenty of time to shower and change and head over there for a spectacular reunion. He'd figure out what to do about his mother later.
The game was the most exciting Starsky had ever witnessed. The Lakers were playing the Buck's at the Staple Center, and the score stayed so close that Starsky was hoarse from shouting and sore from jumping in and out of his seat. His favorite player, newly acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, wowed the fans play after play, and won the game for the Lakers. Angie seemed to enjoy it just as much, and Starsky thought fleetingly that, if things were different, he would probably want to date her. As it was, he never wanted to be with anyone other than Hutch. Twice he'd spotted a tall blond in the crowd and his heart had sped up, thinking for a nanosecond that it was his partner. He was so excited to see his big blond tonight, he was antsy to leave.
As they exited their seats, surrounded by excited fans, Angie followed him, a hand on his waist. It felt odd to Starsky, who had become accustomed to the feel of a larger, more territorial hand. A wonderfully talented hand. Thinking of Hutch, he told himself he'd better get things straight with Angie. Now.
"Um, Angie?" he said, half turning to her as they mingled into the crowd. Suddenly he heard his name, and he turned in the other direction, surprised to see Ron Rodriguez.
"Hey, man, wasn't that some game?" Starsky said, clamping his hand on the other man's shoulder.
"You're telling me," Rodriguez agreed, and they spent a few minutes discussing particularly exciting plays as they made their way out of the stands. Rodriguez was with a red-head that Angie evidently recognized, because they slowed to talk and got separated from the men.
"Listen, Starsky, can I have a private minute with you?" Rodriguez asked.
Puzzled, Starsky let him pull him off to the side, in an area slightly less crowded with people exiting the arena.
"Look, you know," Rodriguez began a bit uncomfortably, "Sims is my partner, and he's an okay guy."
"Sure, Ron, I know that. In fact, he probably saved my life the other day, shooting that guy in the hand..." Starsky's voice trailed off, wondering where this was going.
Ron nodded. "Remember that when I tell you this. Sims is pretty closed minded, as you've probably noticed. He's got this idea...about you and Hutch."
Starsky's stomach lurched, but he coolly maintained his neutral expression.
"I tried to tell him it's all bull, but when he's got a bee up his ass..."
"What are you trying to say, Ron?" Starsky asked, watching the Puerto Rican's face.
"I'm sayin' that Sims hatched this plot to prove you don't really go for women. He hired that girl you're with...and she's gonna report back to him. I want this thing settled once and for all, so Sims'll shut up. So I thought if I told you, maybe you can just make sure she gives him a good report, you know what I'm saying?"
Anger sparked in Starsky's eyes. "Why, that little son of a bitch!"
"I know," Ron said. "It's stupid."
"It's crazy!" Starsky said. "Here I am with a woman who was hired to go out with me?" He purposely directed his anger toward that, rather than the fact that Sims was delving into his private life and threatening to ruin his career, and Hutch's along with it.
Rodriguez put a hand on his shoulder. "I know it's crazy, but that's why I'm tellin' you, so you can nip it in the bud tonight." He took his hand away. "See you tomorrow."
Starsky stood dazed a moment, and then looked around for Angie. She seemed like such a nice girl, and here she'd taken money....he had a thought.
"Rodriguez!" Starsky yelled, stopping the man before he got lost in the crowd. When he returned, Starsky asked, "She a hooker?"
"No. I think she's Sims' cousin, why?"
"Don't want the clap," Starsky lied. Rodriguez smiled, and walked off.
"Hey, there you are!" Angie's hand was suddenly on his arm, entwining like a vine until her large breasts were pressed up against him. Starsky couldn't help the ripple of excitement that raced straight to his groin...followed by a stab of guilt. His mind raced through possibilities. He had to end this, like Rodriguez said. More important than what happened with the girl was his future with Hutch. They couldn't be outed at work. It would be the end of their careers and partnership.
"How about a drink at my place?" Starsky finally asked, and Angie smiled.
"Sounds perfect," she purred, hanging onto his arm as they made their way to his car.
All Starsky could think on the ride back to his place was that he had to make this good. He had to convince Angie that he was completely heterosexual without actually taking her to bed. His hope was that she didn't want to take it that far either. After all, she was Sims' cousin...surely he wouldn't whore out his relative to prove a point!
While he unlocked the door, Angie did a great job of driving him crazy, running her hands all over his body. He was breaking out in a nervous sweat. His mind was racing. It was ten o'clock. Hutch's plane got in a twelve. He hadn't told Starsky to pick him up...that meant he'd be taking a cab, probably back to his apartment. He would call Starsky from there...that gave him about three hours. Plenty of time to make out with Angie, let her down graciously, and get her out of there.
Starsky wished for the millionth time that he and Hutch had discussed this kind of thing a little more. Although they both still admired the opposite sex, they had had a completely monogamous relationship for the month they'd been together. It hadn't seemed necessary to spell it out...they wanted to be together exclusively. Their one conversation about women had sprung from the fear of being outed. They had casually agreed that they would have to do something about that, but exactly what that something was had not been discussed. Starsky wondered what Hutch would say about this situation. It was imperative to get Sims off their case once and for all, and he felt sure Hutch would agree with him on that point. He was grateful to Rodriguez for warning him, and wondered if he was just being nice or if he suspected his relationship with Hutch but felt it wasn't anybody's business.
As soon as they were in the door, Angie was all over him.
"Whoa, there, don't you want a drink?"
"Only of you, sugar," Angie almost snarled, startling Starsky. He opened his mouth to speak, and suddenly Angie's agile tongue was in it, licking and teasing, sucking and wiggling. "You want me, don't you, Dave?"
"Oh, yeah, baby," Starsky improvised, giving in and kissing her back, knowing it was the only way to prove to her that he was truly interested in women. He ran his hands over her body and she moaned. Yeah, take that to your fuckhead cousin! He thought triumphantly.
Hoping to scare her into leaving, Starsky maneuvered her onto the couch without breaking the kiss, his body falling onto hers, displacing the pillows.
"Come on, baby, I know you want me," he growled. He felt Angie hesitate, and he pushed forward, putting all his big, bad, virile male aggression into it. "I am going to screw your brains out. I need this, babe."
Just before Angie pulled back and put the brakes on their little love fest, Starsky heard a faint click behind him, as though the door had shut. But he was certain he had closed the door when he came in. As Angie pressed on his chest, he sat up and looked around. Everything seemed okay...
"Listen, Dave. This is a little too much too fast. Maybe we should stop," Angie began her backpedaling, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she had started the whole thing. She stood up, buttoning the front of her blouse where Starsky had opened it.
"Oh, well...I don't wanna force you, or anything." He held back a smile of triumph.
"Yeah, well, I'm not that kind of girl." She snapped up her purse and headed for the door.
"Thanks for the game!" Starsky called after her as she headed down the stairs, then slammed the door with his foot. "Bitch."
Taking a deep breath and congratulating himself on a plan well-executed, Starsky went into the bathroom to start a shower. He wanted to be nice and clean and fresh-smelling when his partner got home. He figured he had just enough time to clean up, go for the wine, and set things up at Hutch's before the taxi brought him home.
Wet and dripping, Starsky padded into the kitchen a few minutes later, searching for the candles. Partway in the door, he stopped short.
"Oh my god," he breathed. He looked around. Everywhere, there were signs that Hutch had been there recently. His jacket, draped over a chair, the most obvious. Hutch had brought wine. It was breathing on the counter with two glasses next to it. The candles had been taken out of the cabinet. A bouquet of flowers sat on the table.
Starsky wanted to cry. A second later, he clutched his chest, wanting to die.
"Oh my GOD!" his voice rose to a shout. The clicking noise! Hutch had been there! Hutch had witnessedwhat had gone on with Angie. Grabbing up the phone, he dialed Hutch's number, messing up twice before getting it right. It rang. And rang. And rang. He'd had enough time to get home, Starsky felt sure. He started for the door, caught a glimpse of himself in the hall mirror, and realized he'd almost left the apartment without a stitch of clothing on. He swerved and headed into the bedroom, grabbing clothes off the floor and pulling them on haphazardly.
If Starsky had ever pushed his Torino, he pushed it now. Heart beating frantically, he defied regulations and slapped the light on the top, turning on the siren. He took several corners on two wheels, events of the past hour running through his head. Exactly what would Hutch have seen? Starsky leaping on a woman, trying to rip her clothes off, telling her he needed this....oh god. It couldn't look any worse. He and Hutch launch into this unconventional relationship, and as soon as his back is turned, Starsky jumps a woman.
I need this, babe...he'd said. Starsky wanted to rip his hair out, he was so frantic, but he kept his hands on the wheel and drove like hell to Hutch's. His heart slowed a little when he saw his partner's car at the curb. At least he hasn't run somewhere. At least we can talk. He knew he would've gone crazy if he'd had to go looking for him. With a screech of tires, he pulled up to the curb and raced upstairs.
"Hutch!" he banged on the door. When he tried the knob, it opened. Hutch was sitting on the couch. When Starsky walked in, Hutch rolled his head to look up at him. His eyes were bloodshot and so tired that Starsky yearned to hold him.
"Who dressed you, Goodwill?" Hutch asked.
If Starsky didn't know him so well, better than he knew anybody, or ever wanted to know anybody, better than he knew himself....he would have thought at that moment that everything was okay. Maybe Hutch hadn't seen them...maybe he hadn't jumped to the complete and utter wrong conclusion.
But he did know Hutch. And Hutch was pissed.
"Hutch, it wasn't what you thought," he began without preamble, closing the door and walking straight to where his partner sat. He fell to his knees before him, his hands resting on Hutch's thighs. His partner was slumped back, his head resting on the couch. He wore the blue turtleneck that made his eyes look like sapphires shining out of that beautiful face. God, Starsky loved him. He swallowed. Waited.
Hutch was too calm. Pissed and calm. Not really a good combination, in Starsky's opinion. Hutch stared him down.
"Hutch, let me explain."
"I don't think you need to explain, Starsky. I get it."
"No, you most definitely do not get it, Hutch. You are so far off the mark....listen, this is complicated."
Hutch nodded. "It is complicated, Starsk." He put a hand to his head, his eyes squeezing shut. "Oh god, my head."
"Want some aspirin, babe?" Starsky offered. Hutch was off the sofa like a shot, knocking Starsky onto his ass.
"DON'T call me that!" he shouted, all the veins on his neck and forehead standing out. Formidable, mean, and scary as hell, Hutch.
"Okay, okay. I won't call you that," Starsky said from the floor. "Hutch, you gotta sit down and listen. The reason I was with that girl..."
"Save it," Hutch said menacingly, towering over him. Starsky thought he looked just like a fucking Viking in a novel, all blond hair and masculine strength. All he needed was a spear and a woman thrown over his shoulder.
Hutch turned and walked into the kitchen, got a bottle of whiskey out of the cabinet, and poured himself a glass. He didn't want to hear Starsky make up reasons why he was with that woman. He had seen him---all over her. He'd practically ripped her blouse open, said he needed her. That was the worst part. He'd been needing a woman. Hell, Hutch wondered how many he'd had in the past three days. Starsky could be quite the Casanova, sniffing out women like a hound and bedding them one by one. Maybe even two by two. Hutch laughed mirthlessly and drank another glass.
Starsky was behind him, he could feel it. The heat emanating off his body in waves that touched him, softened him before he could pull his anger back over him like a shield.
"Hutch," Starsky said hoarsely, and Hutch squeezed his eyes shut. "Listen to me, please."
Hutch let out a breath, shakier than he would have liked, and poured himself another glass. Now thishelped his headache. He downed it.
"I'm listening," he said quietly.
He could hear Starsky breathing, and god, he wanted him. He waited, eyes unfocused.
"That girl...she is a cousin of Sims. He set me up with her because he was trying to prove that you and me are an item. Rodriguez told me all about it, so I decided to call her bluff. And I did---she left fast. Right after you did. I -I heard the door when you left. I hadn't known you were there."
Hutch gave another humorless laugh. "Well, I should hope not. If you had, I'd hate to think what you'd do if I wasn't watching!"
Tentative hands on his shoulders. The heat moved forward, and Starsky was there, pressing against his body. Hutch squeezed his eyes shut again and swallowed a sob. He was so damned miserable. Starsky's hands moved around his waist, and he pressed his cheek to Hutch's back.
"I just wanted Sims off our case. You didn't call, and I couldn't run it by you. It all happened so fast."
Hutch started to pour another glass, anything to get rid of this awful pain in my head, and in my heart...but his hands shook so, he had to put the bottle down. He lowered his head, trying his damnedest not to cry. Not because he cared about crying in front of his partner, but because he was so bone tired and sick to the soul, he didn't have the extra energy to expend. And he was going to need every ounce of energy he had for what he needed to do tonight.
"You believe me, don't ya, Hutch? You believe me...I had to do what I did."
Hutch took a long, shaking breath, stilling the sadness within. "I believe you, Starsk," he whispered.
Starsky relaxed, he could feel it. "Aw, that's good." He nuzzled Hutch's back with his nose. "I was real scared that you wouldn't." he paused a beat. "You know I wouldn't, Hutch. I couldn't. You know I love you." The last five words were said low, beseechingly. Something broke in Hutch and he turned around, wrapping his arms around Starsky, holding him to him, his hand tangling in his curly dark hair.
Tenderly, he kissed his head. "I know you do. I love you, too. I always will."
Starsky turned his head to look at him, fierce intensity in his eyes. "I would cut off my arm before I intentionally hurt you, Hutch." He brought his hands up and clutched his partner's face between them. His eyes mirroring his soul, he leaned forward and Hutch saw hooded lids with impossibly thick lashes close over velvety blue eyes, just before he kissed him. The kiss was tender, in contrast to the tight hold he had on his face. He tasted Starsky, and Hutch responded-he couldn't not respond. Not to this man. His lips moved over his mouth, his tongue traveling over his lips, eliciting a low moan. His heart and groin were on fire for him. Reaching around, he cupped Starsky's ass roughly with his hands, wanting to pull him even closer. He could feel his partner's heart pounding like a jackhammer against his own. Starsky's hands were in his hair, molded to his scalp, his mouth working over his.
"God, I've missed you," Starsky panted between kisses. "I can't get enough of you. Being without you is like missing my leg or something." His mouth traveled down Hutch's neck, and Hutch's breath caught. This was going too far. He hadn't meant for it to go this far. Not when he had to leave again.
"Starsky---I've got to talk to you."
"Sure, Hutch," Starsky's mouth traveled to where his shirt buttoned, and he deftly popped it open to allow himself access. "After."
Hutch was breathing hard, but he grasped Starsky by the shoulders, pulling him away. His hands were firm, and his face pained.
"What the matter?" Starsky asked, suddenly concerned. Hutch closed his eyes for a moment, centering himself. He had to do this.
"Starsk---I'm going to take a leave absence and go back to Duluth."
Starsky took a step back. "What? Why?"
"I have to go. My mother---she's dying."
Starsky's face fell. He raised a hand to Hutch's cheek, stroking it gently. "Aw, partner. I'm sorry."
Hutch captured his fingers and brought them to his lips, pressing them there devoutly, his eyes closing as though in prayer.
"Let's sit down, and you can tell me about it." Starsky led him to the living room and down onto the couch.
"It's ovarian cancer," Hutch said quietly as Starsky stroked his hair. "She doesn't have long. I feel...like I need to be with her. I feel so guilty not being there when..." He put his hand on his head, which was pounding.
"Hey---you still having those headaches? I think you need to see a doctor. Here, lean back." He positioned Hutch's head on the back of the couch, and he continued stroking his hair, brushing his fingers across his temples. With his other hand, he gently kneaded Hutch's tense neck. "When are you planning on going back to Duluth?"
Starsky's hands stilled. "Tomorrow?"
Hutch nodded without opening his eyes. He was so tired. He felt Starsky's head bow onto his shoulder, his breath tickling his neck. "So soon?"
Hutch knew if he didn't get right back on that plane tomorrow, he'd never leave. "Yeah. I---I'm not sure how long I'll be there. I need to talk to Dobey in the morning. Starsky?"
"Let's go to bed. I'm so tired. I just want to hold you all night."
Starsky watched his partner, wondering what was going on in that blond head of his. Something was not right, and it wasn't what happened with Angie, and it was only partly his mother.
"Sure, Hutch. Come on." He stood up and held out his hand. Hutch took it, and they went into the bedroom where they quickly divested themselves of their clothes. Under the covers at last, Starsky moved into Hutch's embrace.
"Are you sure you have to go tomorrow, Hutch? Can't you take a few days?" Starsky whispered into the darkness. He watched his partner's smooth, tanned chest rise and fall with each breath he took. He put his hand on his abdomen, feeling the tight muscles that rippled just underneath the skin.
"She's really bad," Hutch said. "She looked awful when I left. They knew about this six months ago and didn't tell me. I couldn't wait to leave there, but I immediately felt pulled back."
Starsky moved his mouth and kissed Hutch's ribs. "Do you want me to go with you?"
Hutch breathed deeply, taking in the words, savoring the love there, before letting out the breath. "You know you can't leave. Dobey wouldn't let you, even knowing about us." He squeezed Starsky to him. "I appreciate it, though."
"You know I'd do anything for you, Hutch. Anything." He splayed his hand over Hutch's stomach, watching as he moved it back and forth over the soft skin.
"You already do everything for me, Starsk. You are everything."
They fell asleep, breathing deeply, in and out, as one.
Hutch spoke to Dobey early the next morning and booked a flight back to Duluth that afternoon. It all happened so fast, Starsky had to convince himself his partner had really been there for the night. It was unsettling. All that had happened with Angie, then finding Hutch all mad, then sad. Then he was gone again---*poof*! Something was up with his partner. He could practically see the wheels turning in his head---but if Hutch's mother was dying, Hutch had to be there with her, and that was all there was to it. However, Starsky wasn't going to let him be away from him too long, no matter what Hutch said.
An inkling of what Hutch was thinking came a few days later during one of their nightly calls. Starsky was unprepared for what he had to say.
"Starsk, since I'm gone...and we aren't sure for how long...I think it would be a good idea for you to see some women."
"What? You want me to cheat on you, Hutch?"
"Well, that's not exactly what I'm saying..."
"It sounds like what you're saying to me."
"Just go out and have fun with some girls so nobody at the precinct becomes suspicious, that's all."
"If I remember correctly, you didn't react too well to my date with Angie," Starsky reminded him.
"That's because I wasn't thinking straight, Starsky. After giving it some thought, it seems wise for you to be dating. What are people going to think?"
Starsky let out a frustrated breath. "I don't give a fuck what they think!"
Hutch was quiet on the other line.
"Okay," Starsky finally said. "I'll go out on you."
Hutch chuckled. "That's my boy."
"Just remember that. Your boy. I may be out with some girl, but my heart's with you, Hutch."
"How's your mom?" he asked after a thick silence in which they both just listened to the other breathing.
"Okay. I've been taking her to her treatments. She says she wants to stop them. They make her sick, and they're just prolonging things a little."
"What do you think?"
"I guess she's right. Why draw out your time when you're going to feel miserable?"
"How's your dad holding up?"
Hutch was quiet for so long, Starsky thought maybe he'd fallen asleep.
"He's fine, I guess. He's...I don't know."
Starsky didn't press it, but long after they'd hung up, he thought about Hutch's father and the kind of pressure he could be adding to his son's life. It made Starsky angry as hell. Hutch was a good person, goddammit, and he didn't deserve having a father that made him feel less than worthy.
And what was this about Starsky going out with women? Hutch had been jealous as hell about Angie, and hurt, too. Starsky had seen that clearly. That's why it had torn him up so bad. He'd never felt so relieved in his life as when Hutch forgave him for that. In his mind, he had seen months of Hutch agonizing over all he'd heard him say to her that night. He was so afraid he'd believed it. But Hutch had seen it for what it was, a farce to keep their relationship safe, and now he was suggesting that Starsky keep that farce going while he was away. Only Starsky didn't want to keep it going. He had no desire to date a woman, or a bunch of women. He only wanted Hutch, and he wanted him now. Hell, he didn't want to wish Hutch's mother would hurry up and die, but sometimes it felt that way.
At work Dobey paired him with Marah White, a detective he'd worked with a time or two before. She was a hell of a lot better than working with Sims, so he didn't complain. Sims seemed disgruntled and didn't bring up Angie to him. Starsky figured she'd reported back what a sex maniac Starsky had been on their date, and Sims' nose was out of joint because he'd failed to prove Starsky didn't like women.
Hutch's calls became sporadic. He said he was so busy helping with his mother that sometimes he forgot to call Starsky until it was too late.
"So wake me up," Starsky said.
"You need your sleep, Starsk."
Starsky didn't see how Hutch could be waiting that late, considering it was two hours earlier in California than in Minnesota, but he didn't push it. He figured Hutch was under enough stress living with his dying mother and his holier-than-thou father, without him adding to it.
"Have you had a date yet?" Hutch asked him during the next call.
"Do it, Starsk. Keep what we have safe."
Starsky sighed. "O'kay, okay. I'll go out with a beautiful woman. But I'm not gonna enjoy it."
Hutch chuckled. "Poor baby."
Starsky asked after his mom, and then his dad. This time, Hutch seemed a little more willing to talk.
"He's suffering about Mom, but...he and I aren't getting along so well."
Starsky waited for Hutch to tell him why. It took a while, but it finally came. "I told him about me. That I have a relationship with a man."
Starsky drew in a breath. He hadn't expected that. "You did?"
"Yeah. On the first trip. I was just so sick of the lying, and of him trying to get me to hook up with my old flame from high school. Not to mention him trying to get me to move back here."
"How'd he take it?" Starsky asked.
"About like I expected. Disgusted...upset that I'm going to hell. Disappointed. Now he's looking at me differently...I don't know. I can't describe it.
Anger welled in Starsky's gut. He wanted to shout that Hutch's father was an idiot. He wanted to fly out there and punch the man in his nose. Of course, he didn't do either of those things. This was Hutch's father, after all.
"That was pretty brave of you," he said instead. "To tell him like that."
Hutch didn't say anything. They changed the subject to lighter topics.
The following day Starsky reverted as best he could to his old, outrageously flirtatious self. No female in the precinct was safe from his teasing advances. Several told him they'd missed him---thought he'd become a monk. He even gave Sims a big hug and thanked him.
"What the hell for?" Sims grumbled, pushing Starsky off of him.
"That Angie really jacked up my libido," Starsky told him. "I'm feeling great! Got a date every night this week."
Sims just scowled. Behind him, Rodriguez smiled into his coffee.
Late Saturday night, the phone woke Starsky up.
"Hey," Hutch's voice was soft.
"Hey yourself," Starsky propped himself up on his pillows. He glanced at the clock. "It's awful late, especially for you."
"That's what I was thinking. I tried calling earlier. You on a date?"
"Yep, Veronica from the commissary."
"Short brunette with tits the size of watermelons?"
"That's the one."
"Have a good time?" There was no indication in Hutch's tone that he was jealous or that he was pumping Starsky for information. Starsky asked himself how he'd want these questions answered, if the situation were reversed. He decided on complete honesty.
"It was fun, Hutch. But she isn't you."
Hutch was quiet for a beat. "How far did you go?"
Starsky sighed. "I'm not gonna cheat on you, Hutch. I'm not gonna take some chick to bed just to prove something to a bunch of idiots at work."
"You know it's more than that, Starsky."
"I don't care what it is. I never bedded a woman for any other reason than I wanted to before, and I'm not gonna start now. I don't expect Sims or anyone else to be interviewing my dates, either."
"I wouldn't put it past him," Hutch said sourly. "Starsky...I just want you to do what you want to do without worrying about me."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Starsky asked uncertainly.
"It means exactly what you think. If you want to be with a woman, be with her."
"Are you breaking up with me, Hutch?" Starsky asked, a little raggedly.
"No! No, Starsky, no. Hell, no. God, Starsk, I love you. You gotta know that. I love you, and I trust you. But it's always been like that....before we were a couple and now. I just don't want you to give up anything you want for me. If you find that you want to go back to the way things used to be...."
"Hutch!" Starsky almost yelled. "Stop it! Now I'm wondering if what you're saying is you wanna go back to the way things used to be."
"I'm not saying that."
"What the hell am I supposed to think?"
"I don't know, babe, I'm sorry. My nerves are so strung out now...don't listen to me."
Starsky relaxed marginally. "I'll come out there to be with you."
"No, Starsky, don't do that. Dad knows about me, but not that it's you....I don't want to give him any more ammo against you. He already doesn't like you much. Besides, with me gone, Bay City needs its second best cop out there on the streets."
Starsky's mouth twitched. "Second best, huh. Last time I looked, I was covering your ass out there while you tripped around trying to intellectually piece together bits of information."
"Just be careful," Hutch said, a smile in his voice.
"Always. You just take care of your mother. It's the only reason I'm lettin' you stay away so long."
Starsky found the next few days some of the busiest he'd had in a long time. It seemed every crazy in Bay City was out and making mischief. His temporary partner was competent and there wasn't anything he could complain about, except she couldn't read his mind or bust the moves that Hutch could. It wasn't her fault---she just wasn't a blond dynamo with a heart of gold. There was a two night stake out that ended in a bust, but sent Starsky's system out of kilter, making him tired and cranky. He was so busy at work and catching up on lost sleep whenever he could, that lunch time on Friday it hit him like a mac truck that he hadn't heard from Hutch since that last conversation.
He looked around the squad room. Nobody was around. Should he make another long distance call from the squad room? He couldn't exactly call Hutch's parents collect....
Grabbing his jacket, he decided to have lunch at home so he could make the call.
It was around one when he sat down on the couch with the phone in his lap. That was three Minnesota time. Hopefully Hutch was at home and not at an appointment with his mother. Suddenly, Starsky was dying to talk to him, couldn't dial the number fast enough.
The line was answered by a female voice.
"Mrs. Hutchinson? Dave Starsky."
"This is Mrs. Hammond. I'm a friend of the family."
"Oh...well I'm calling from Bay City, California. I'm actually looking for H-Ken Hutchinson."
"My dear, he's not here. I believe he's taking care of some last minute details. You thought I was his mother---I'm sorry to tell you this, but she passed away yesterday morning. The funeral's tomorrow at two."
Starsky's heart sank. He leaned back on the couch. Hutch's mother had passed away? Had Hutch called, and he wasn't there? It was possible, but wouldn't he have left a message? Even with Dobey? He shook his head to clear it. Hutch was going through hell. He would call him when he felt he could.
"I-I'm sorry to hear that. Could you give me the address there, please? I'd like to send flowers."
Starsky scribbled the information down, thanked her, and hung up. To hell with flowers, he was going out there.
In Dobey's office, Starsky paced back and forth, listing the reasons Dobey should let him take personal leave to fly out to Minnesota. "I'm like family to Hutch. I never take personal leave. I've worked my ass off the past two weeks. Hutch needs me!"
"Whoa, Starsky," Dobey growled, stopping him. "What makes you think I'd deny you personal leave for this? Go to your partner."
Starsky was so relieved, he threw himself on his superior, giving him a smacking kiss on his jowly cheek, and causing the older man to sputter and curse. "You're a prince, Cap'n. Now if I can just get a flight."
"I'll take care of it, Starsky. I'll get you on a flight to Minnesota in time for the funeral tomorrow. It's on me---for Hutch. Now go pack."
He picked up the phone and shooed Starsky out with his hand. Starsky didn't argue, just left as fast as he could.
As fate would have it, the late-night flight Dobey got him was delayed for the most deadly thunderstorms they'd had in that area in decades. Starsky dozed all night in the airport, finally boarding a plane close to eight AM. He did quick figuring in his head as they prepared to take off. It was two hours later in Minnesota...the funeral was at two PM....if he was incredibly lucky, he would make it. He had taken down the funeral information from the lady he'd spoken to on the phone. He'd catch a taxi from the airport. He was already dressed for the ceremony in his dark navy suit and powder blue shirt, and the tie Hutch had given him for his birthday. Hutch loved him in this suit---said it made his eyes as blue as the sea on a stormy day. Hutch loved the ocean. Hutch loved him. Starsky's heart constricted, thinking about his partner and all he was going through without him. You ain't gonna be without me long, Hutch. Hang on.
The flight came in on time, but the airport was crowded and the lines long. Starsky had trouble getting a cab, and the cabby was new and got lost. Starsky barely contained his temper. He was missing the fucking funeral! He would have to head for the gravesite. He pulled the paper out of his pocket. Memorial Gardens. He gave the name and the address to the cabby. "Think you can find this? If you do it quick, there's an extra twenty in it for you."
Starsky's intense stare made the young cab driver nervous, but he managed to pull it off, letting Starsky out at the curb just as the family gathered around the open grave, heads bowed.
As unobtrusively as possible, Starsky approached the grieving family, standing toward the back of the rather large group, bowing his own head. The moment of prayer ended and he caught site of Reverend Hutchinson, dressed in a dark suit, bending to pick up a handful of dirt, which he tossed into the grave. Starsky's eyes were drawn to Hutch, standing next to him, blond hair gleaming in the afternoon sunlight--- a beam of light over the dark suit he wore. His eyes ran over his partner, searchingly. He looked extremely tired and heartbreakingly sad. Hutch tossed a clump of dirt after the first one.
When the crowd broke up, Starsky made his way toward where Hutch was being hugged by various people. He impatiently waited his turn.
"Hey, buddy," he said. Hutch's head shot up at the sound of Starsky's voice. Every muscle in his body seemed to tense like a tightened bow string that would break at the slightest touch. Then he practically collapsed into his partner's arms. Starsky wrapped him within his embrace, holding him as tightly as he could. "Shhh...it's okay. I'm here, buddy. I'm here." He wanted to kiss and pet him. He wanted to make it all better and show him just how much he loved him, cherished him. But he had to be content with putting all his feelings into the hug.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and reluctantly let go of Hutch.
"Detective Starsky, it's so nice of you to come all this way for Georgia's service," Reverend Hutchinson replied sincerely. Starsky moved away from Hutch, keeping his fingers entwined with his under cover of their bodies. "I'm very sorry for your loss, sir."
Sadness and weariness played across the reverend's face. "Thank you. There is plenty of food at our house. We have neighbors who have been working for days. Please come home with us."
Starsky thanked him, relieved there was no sign of the reverend's usual coolness toward him. Hutch didn't need the strain.
After the perfunctory thanks to the people attending, father and son got into their van, Starsky in the back seat. Starsky had met Hutch's parents on their trips to California. He had never visited their home in Minnesota. He wasn't surprised to find it to be in an upper middle class neighborhood with a beautiful lawn surrounded by ancient oak trees.
The house was full of family and friends who had spread an array of casseroles, vegetables, sandwiches, desserts, and drinks on every available table. Starsky perched on the arm of Hutch's chair, chatting with people, and trying to tempt his partner to eat something. Hutch looked like he was barely keeping it together. Starsky noticed Hutch's hands shaking, and how he was so tired his speech occasionally slurred. Even more telling was the way Hutch kept his arm firmly pressed to Starsky's side, as if needing the contact.
After a while, Starsky leaned down and whispered, "Why don't you go lie down? You look like you've been mown over by a freight train."
He thought Hutch would argue, but he nodded, got up a little unsteadily, and walked down the hall.
Starsky noticed that Reverend Hutchinson appeared to be almost as spent as his son, so he took over the responsibilities of host, helping neighbors offer food, refill glasses, and clean up the mess. When the last person finally left, blessed silence spilled over the house.
"If you'd like to lie down and rest, sir, I'll take care of this trash before heading out," Starsky offered.
"That's awfully kind of you, Dave. You're welcome to stay here if you like. We have a guest room."
Starsky considered. He wanted to be near Hutch, to help him. But it was probably unwise for him to stay when Hutch wanted to keep his father in the dark about their relationship. He was torn.
"Please stay," Reverend Hutchinson said quietly, shocking him. He was sure the man was only being polite and hoped he'd turn down the offer.
"If you'd really like me to, thanks," Starsky answered.
Reverend Hutchinson nodded. "I think I'll go take that nap. Make yourself at home, Dave. The guest room's down the hall, the last door on the right." He turned and walked away, leaving Starsky staring after him.
Gathering up the loaded trash bags, he found the garage and stacked them in a corner. Then he returned to the house and quietly knocked on the bedroom door he deduced to be Hutch's. When there was no answer, he turned the knob softly and looked in.
Hutch lay on the bed, knees up, hands tucked under his chin. He'd stripped to his underwear, his eyes were closed, and he was breathing evenly, his face unlined and youthful in sleep. Starsky wanted so badly to curl up next to him and pull him close, but he resisted. Instead, he crossed the room and pulled the coverlet up over him. With a glance at the door, he lovingly smoothed Hutch's hair out of his face, then left the room.
It wasn't surprising that both Reverend Hutchinson and his son slept on through the night. Starsky unpacked his bag in the guestroom, showered, ate some leftovers, and turned in himself. The house was unfamiliar and quiet, the only sound a small anniversary clock ticking on the table in his room. Every hour it would chime softly, a refined, classical sound that spoke eloquently of Hutch's background. He hadn't grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, as Starsky had, playing stick ball, getting into fights, and trying not to get killed.
In some ways it was amazing that Hutch had become a cop---he had some innate sense of timing and control coupled with inbred honesty and a sense of right and wrong that made him a master at his job, and that made Starsky instinctively trust him from the moment he'd met him. Those qualities also made Starsky love and admire him---more than a friend, more than a brother, and eventually more than any other person in his life. And Hutch gave him love in return, more than he could ever deserve.
Starsky was up and had coffee made when Hutch entered the kitchen the following morning looking bedraggled and a little confused.
"How'd you sleep?" Starsky asked, pouring Hutch a cup.
"Not great...I woke up on the floor." Hutch rubbed at his eyes. "Must've fallen out of bed. And my muscles are all cramped up, like I worked out too much after months of lying around or something."
Starsky sat across from him at the kitchen table. "Hutch, why didn't you tell me?" he asked quietly.
Hutch took a sip of coffee, then raised sleep-blurred eyes to his partner. "I-I thought I had. Then I remembered I hadn't. Then I had to make the arrangements, because Dad was a mess. It was so sudden...we hadn't expected it. She just went to sleep and didn't wake up." He rubbed at his forehead.
Starsky reached across the table, covering his hand with his, and squeezed. "I hope it's okay with you that I came."
Hutch smiled. "It's more than okay. I'm so glad you're here."
Starsky gave his hand another pat, then pulled back. "You still got a headache? Let me get you some aspirin." Hutch pointed toward a narrow cabinet in the corner, and Starsky got up and fetched the bottle. Shaking two into Hutch's hand, he suggested, "Why don't you go take a shower. You look like the walking dead. Take your coffee with you."
Hutch nodded, swallowing the aspirin with a gulp of coffee, and stood up. Picking up his cup, he slowly walked out of the room.
Starsky had seen a breakfast casserole in the refrigerator and had turned on the oven before Hutch walked in. He now took the casserole, uncovered it, and slid it onto the oven rack. He heard the shower come on down the hall and the door click shut. A few minutes later, Hutch's dad walked into the room. Unlike Hutch, he looked infinitely better than he had the night before. He was clean and dressed, and other than some dark bags under his eyes, he looked rested.
"Smells like you have breakfast under control," he poured a cup of coffee. "And coffee...great." He took a seat at the table across from Starsky. "Sounds like Kenny's in the shower."
"Yeah. He looks really worn down."
Reverend Hutchinson cocked his head to the side. "He hasn't had much rest. He took over of his mother's care these past two weeks. Wouldn't let me do a thing, and barely let Hospice do their job."
"I wouldn't expect anything less of him," Starsky said.
They were silent for a while.
Hutch's father broke the silence. "I've been trying to convince Ken to move back to Minnesota. Give up police work."
"He mentioned it to me," Starsky said, noncommittally.
"I wanted him to be near his mother---but now I just think it would be better for him all around."
Starsky heard the shower turn off.
"How so?" Starsky asked, controlling the wave of anger that threatened to break.
"He's in such a dangerous job. And he doesn't make enough money. He's let his education go to waste..." Starsky could feel the slow burn of anger starting up in his gut. He shut out Hutch's father's list of reasons Hutch should move far away from his job and from him, and concentrated on breathing slowly through his nose. Finally, it was just too much.
"Excuse me a moment, will you?" Starsky interrupted, and left the room. He'd reached his boiling point. Taking a couple more deep breaths, he regained his control and went in search of Hutch. The bathroom door was open, steam pouring out into the hall, and Hutch's bedroom was empty. The door to the master bedroom stood ajar. Starsky stuck his head in.
The room appeared vacant. Starsky started to close the door when he heard something from the direction of the closet.
He walked toward the sound. "Hutch?" he called softly, pulling the closet door open to find his partner crumpled up in the corner, his arms full of his mother's clothing, his face buried in them.
Starsky knelt down beside him. "Hutch? You okay?"
Hutch made a strangled sound in his throat.
"Oh, buddy, I'm so sorry," Sitting next to him on a pile of belts and hangers, he pulled Hutch into his arms. "Shhh, it's okay. Everything's gonna be okay." He rocked his partner back and forth, holding him tightly. "I know you're brokenhearted." He kissed the top of his head, taking in the smell of his still-damp blond hair. "Everything's gonna be just fine. Let it out."
Hutch sobbed like a baby. He hadn't seen him cry like that since Gillian, and, just as it had that day, it broke Starsky's heart. He wanted to hold him so tightly he'd soak up all the hurt.
When Hutch had finally cried himself out, Starsky helped him up and led him to his bedroom.
"Lie down, buddy. You haven't gotten enough rest. Not by a long shot." He covered him up, closed the blinds, and left the room.
To Starsky's surprise, Reverend Hutchinson was still sitting in the kitchen, waiting for him. Starsky had completely forgotten about the man.
The casserole was made of cheese, eggs, and sausage, among other things, and it smelled delicious. Hutch's father had taken it out of the oven and put some of it on three plates. Despite his worry, Starsky's stomach growled. He wished Hutch felt like eating, but it was probably better that he got the sleep he needed.
"Hutch went back to bed. He's very upset," Starsky told Hutch's father, digging into the casserole.
"I heard him," the reverend said. "He was very close to his mother."
They ate in silence for a moment. "I've invited an old friend of Hutch's over later this week. She might cheer him up," Hutch's father said conversationally. "She's an old flame."
Starsky met his eyes, and the reverend faltered. "I-I know that Hutch is seeing someone in Bay City, but I think it would be good for him, because...well, because..."
"Because you would rather him be in love with a woman than with a man," Starsky finished for him. His voice was calm, and he managed to keep the steel out of it. He'd told Hutch he wouldn't give away the identity of his lover, and he was trying very hard to keep that promise, although he knew that if Reverend Hutchinson had come into his bedroom a few minutes ago, he would have figured it out for himself.
The reverend got up and topped off their coffees. When he was again seated, he said, "Dave, I know I've been a bit standoffish to you in the past. I'm sorry about that. It's just that I don't approve of Ken's choice of career. And since you're such an integral part of that, well...."
"Hate by association," Starsky finished for him.
"Not hate. That's too strong a word."
"And ‘He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him'. Proverbs. Sorry, I can't remember the verse."
Reverend Hutchinson looked surprised. "I didn't take you for someone who can quote scripture, Dave."
Starsky shrugged. "I'm Jewish. Comes with the territory. The old testament, anyway."
"Well..." the reverend cleared his throat. "what I'm trying to say is, something that I admire very much about you is your manly strength."
Starsky considered batting his lashes at him and simpering, but thought better of it.
"You're a real man's man, and I'm sure it's been great for Hutch to be around you so much."
Starsky almost choked on his bite of casserole. He put his fork down. "Are you trying to say that Hutch is less than what you would call a ‘real' man?"
"I'm saying that he's sensitive and easily hurt. And what I found out about him---about his relationship---makes me wonder just how impressionable he is."
Starsky swallowed hard. He wanted to jump up and drive this creep into the wall behind him, even if he was Hutch's father. How in the hell this man could've had anything to do with creating the man in the bed down the hall, he couldn't imagine.
He pointed his finger at the reverend and said in the low, steely voice that scared the bejesus out of perpetrators in the interrogation room, "Let me tell you something, Reverend Hutchinson. Hutch is more man than anybody I know. I trust my back to your son every day of my life---I've done it for the past seven years! He's as tough as they come!" He threw his napkin down and stood up. "And let me tell you another thing---" His words were cut off by a moan to his left. Starsky looked to the doorway, where a distraught Hutch stood, teetering on his feet.
"Hutch-what's wrong?" Starsky went to him immediately, supporting him with his shoulder under his arm.
"I don't-feel so good, Starsk. My head--- " He put his hands to his temples and doubled over. The next thing Starsky knew, his partner was down on the floor, seizing.
"Call an ambulance!" Starsky directed the reverend, who stood, transfixed, still at his place at the table.
Starsky put a hand under Hutch's head to keep it from pounding on the floor.
"Dammit, hurry up!" Starsky yelled, the veins standing out in his neck, and Hutch's father snapped out of his fog, crossed to the phone and dialed.
"Hutch, it's okay, baby, it's okay." Hutch seemed to be unconscious. He was jerking, and his eyes had rolled back in his head. Starsky was pretty sure he'd peed down the front of his pants. "Tell them he's seizing...he's had a headache on and off for weeks," he called over his shoulder. "I shoulda made you go to the hospital, Hutch. I shoulda drug you there myself." Hutch's body stopped flopping around, and Starsky positioned his head so that it rested in his lap. He couldn't believe this was happening...what was wrong? His stomach knotted in pure, unadulterated fear.
"They're on their way," Reverend Hutchinson said, coming back to where his son lay sprawled on the floor, unconscious, his head in Starsky's lap.
"Open the front door and watch for them," Starsky ordered. As he did so, Starsky leaned down and murmured comforting words to the man in his lap. "It's okay. You're strong, Hutch. You'll get through this. Come on, buddy, open up those beautiful blue eyes and look at me." His voice was breaking, but Starsky didn't care. People didn't have Grand mal seizures for nothing. Something was very wrong...something bad. Brain tumor entered his mind, clenching his stomach into a tighter knot of anxiety. Forcing himself to breathe, he ran his fingers gently over Hutch's forehead, pushing the blond hair back, caressing the beloved features with his eyes. Memorizing it just in case...
"Where in the hell is that ambulance?" Starsky shouted. It was taking forever!
Hutch stirred. "Don't yell," he whispered.
"There you are! That's it, look at me, Hutch. I'm sorry I yelled; I'm feeling a little stressed," he laughed unevenly.
Hutch's eyes blinked, then orbs of blue stared up at him, delving into the very pit of Starsky's soul. He took a breath.
Sirens in the distance. "Thank God!"
"Amen," Reverend Hutchinson breathed from behind him, and Starsky looked over his shoulder. He had once again forgotten all about him.
As the paramedics checked Hutch out, and then proceeded to load him on the stretcher, Starsky gave them his medical history as best he could, hovering over them and following them out to the ambulance, Reverend Hutchinson trailing behind.
Hutch grabbed ahold of Starsky's hand, his eyes seeking his. "Can I ride with him?" Starsky asked the nearest paramedic.
"Only one of you."
Starsky looked back at Hutch's father, who signaled for him to go ahead. "I'll follow in the van."
Starsky didn't hesitate, he climbed in behind the stretcher and sat with Hutch.
A paramedic continued taking Hutch's vitals, while Starsky sat and held his hand. Hutch's eyes never left Starsky's, saying all kinds of things that Starsky somehow understood. I'm scared.Don't leave me. I love you.
Starsky was at his emotional edge. It would take practically nothing to push him over---he'd be jello and of no use to anyone, least of all Hutch. Gazing down at the man who meant everything to him, he tried to convey his feelings through his own eyes. I'm nothing without you.
When they arrived at St. Mary's Medical Center, Starsky was separated from Hutch as nurses took over and they rolled him away. A Dr. Fischer came out to meet him just as Hutch's father caught up.
"He's been having these headaches," Starsky told the doctor. "Real bad, for weeks. I kept tellin' him to see a doctor." He realized he was wringing his hands and forced himself to relax, shoving them in his pockets. "Then today he collapsed and had this seizure."
"Has he had a head injury in the past year?" The doctor asked.
Starsky thought. "It's not too unusual in our line of work...we're cops." He snapped his fingers. "He was hit over the head a couple months ago during a bust."
The doctor wrote this down. "What about fatigue...slurring of words...loss of coordination."
"Yeah---I noticed that yesterday. He was staggering, and slurring his words just little. He's been real tired."
"His mother just passed away," Hutch's father supplied, and Starsky realized he'd been doing all the talking.
"Okay," the doctor continued writing on his clipboard. "Let me look him over some more, and I'll get back with you. We're going to give him a CAT scan, too. It might be a while. The waiting room is over there." He pointed down the hall to a brightly lit room with dozens of chairs, most of them full.
Starsky grabbed him by the arm. "Doc, please....do you think it's a brain tumor?"
Dr. Fischer put a hand on his. "It could be, but I'm leaning more toward something injury related. Perhaps a blood clot."
"Is that bad?" Starsky's eyes searched the doctor's face.
"Anything involving the brain is bad, Mr.---"
"Starsky. I'll let you know as soon as I know, all right?"
Starsky nodded, watching him go.
He followed Reverend Hutchinson to the waiting room, where they took two seats in the corner.
"I didn't know any of that," Hutch's father said after a moment. Starsky looked at him.
"All that medical history, and that he was acting funny yesterday. I'm glad you're here."
"Me and Hutch...we've been through a lot together. I know more about him than most people, I guess."
"He's lucky to have a friend like you," the reverend stated.
"I'm lucky to have him."
Reverend Hutchinson wet his lips. "I guess you think I don't appreciate my son's finer aspects. I do. I just worry about him. He's my only child...and in such danger all the time. Look what's happened now---due to a head injury!"
"We know the risks we're taking as cops, and it's worth it to us," Starsky answered, settling back in the chair and staring up at the ceiling.
All they could do was wait.
It seemed like forever before the doctor returned, informing them that Hutch did, in fact, have an injury-related blood clot that had, in all probability, caused this delayed Grand mal seizure. They were giving him steroids and other medications to dissolve the clot, but if it did not dissolve, they would have to perform surgery to remove it.
Starsky and Reverend Hutchinson thanked him, and asked when they could see Hutch.
"He's being put into a room now. You can see him soon," Dr. Fischer told them.
Hutch was asleep when they were finally able to go in. As they stood looking down on him, Starsky said quietly, "He said he woke up on the floor this morning, all cramped up. I wonder if he had a seizure then."
Reverend Hutchinson bowed his head, his shoulders suddenly slumping. "I don't want to lose him."
"You're not going to," Starsky said, a little more forcefully than he'd meant to.
"Even if ...he's okay, he's not going to want to see me anymore. I've been too hard on him."
"Yes, he will. He loves you, sir." The room was quiet for a moment, the only sound the beeping of the heart monitor.
"I'm not the only one in this room that he loves," Reverend Hutchinson said with certainty.
Starsky didn't answer.
Hutch was in the hospital for three days. Starsky spent all of his time there with him. Once the doctor told them the blood clot had disintegrated, Hutch only needed to rest and regain his strength. There would always be a possibility that he would experience another seizure, but the chances were slim.
The first day that Hutch felt well enough to eat and sit up in bed, his father came to see him, asking Starsky to give them some time alone.
"I'm glad you're okay, son," Reverend Hutchinson told him. "I don't know what I would've done if I'd lost you, as well as your mother."
Hutch smiled weakly.
"I love you, Kenny." Hutch was surprised to see his father was getting teary-eyed.
"It's okay, Dad. I love you, too."
"I hope---you'll come to see me a little more often in the future."
Hutch opened his mouth, but the reverend cut him off.
"And bring Dave with you, of course.'
Hutch stared at him, nonplussed.
"I know that Dave is your...boyfriend. He didn't tell me---I figured it out."
Hutch cleared his throat. "I don't know what to say, Dad."
"I think you know I can't say that I condone how you're living. But what I've seen between you and Dave is love. And I know that love isn't wrong. I'm going to have to rethink some things. Do some praying and soul-searching." He put his hand on his son's arm, and Hutch covered it with his own.
There was no place Hutch loved being more than deep inside his partner, his hands wrapped around him, watching his eyes as he took in all his love. It had seemed like forever since they had been like this, and it didn't take long to tip them over the edge. Starsky was so exhausted, he rolled over and pressed his cheek to the bed, breathing hard.
"Hutch, you wore me out," he breathed, his voice partly muffled by the mattress.
"Good. I have to keep you happy, with all the women after you at work. I heard you've been a regular Lothario."
Starsky raised up on one elbow, watching his naked partner walk into the bathroom and turn on the shower. "You told me to!"
"I told you to date a little, not turn on every woman within a twenty-five mile radius."
Starsky pulled himself up and joined Hutch in the shower, pressing him against the wet tile and growling, "Make up your mind, will ya?" he kissed him possessively.
After a leisurely shower, Hutch got out first, turning the tap onto its coldest spray before grabbing a towel and running. Starsky's screech of outrage rang throughout the apartment as he took after his partner, a towel in hand, trying to whip him with it. It was no wonder they didn't hear the knock at the door and were surprised, mid-race, by Mrs. Higgins standing in the foyer.
She stood rigid, taking in the scene before her.
Two completely naked men running around the apartment and flirtatiously whipping each other with towels. Starsky had just leapt onto the couch, and when he saw the old woman, he gasped and clasped the towel around his private parts. Hutch did a similar jig in order to cover himself.
Before either one of them could speak, they heard a male voice from the hall, and all three turned around to see Sims walk in the door. Sims' mouth dropped open like Marley's ghost after he took off his burial cloth.
Dead silence reigned for a full minute on the clock while Sims took in the tableau before him.
Mrs. Higgins was the first to speak. "Boys, I thank you for fixing my plumbing...I'm sorry you got soaked. I have your clothes in the dryer. I'll bring them over as soon as they're done." With a look at Sims, she left.
Starsky and Hutch did their best to regain their composure, Starsky hopping from a standing to a sitting position, and draping the towel more carefully around him. Hutch backed toward the bedroom to get his robe.
"So...Sims, what can we do for you?" Starsky asked casually.
"Er, oh. I just came by to bring Hutch this. He handed Starsky a letter. See you fellas at work." He turned and left. Hutch raced out of the bedroom and locked the door, white faced.
"I cannot believe that just happened!" He groaned, leaning against the door.
"Yeah, and Old Lady Higgins supplied us with an alibi! Will wonders never cease?"
Starsky ripped open the envelope. "Hey, it's a note from Dobey. Says he's giving us the rest of the week off! And here's our pay checks. How ‘bout I treat us to a steak dinner?"
Hutch, sudden euphoric relief replacing the terror of thinking they'd been found out, walked over to his partner and took the papers out of his hands.
"Hey, what're you-" Starsky began before his mouth was consumed by Hutch's. Giving up, he wrapped his arms around his lover and held on.