Starsky’s thick, dark curls are shorter now, cropped and streaked with greys and whites. Starsky’s still-muscular body is stockier, heavier at the gut, and Starsky’s face is shadowed by the ravages of time and heartache but in Hutch’s eyes – eyes tailed by crow’s feet and decades of his own share of regrets – Starsky is as gorgeous as he was thirty years ago.
“See, I told ya, didn’t I? This place is fantastic! Nice and quiet with soothing music and nothing like those clubs full a’ that techno, NASA-edited crap.”
Starsky’s voice has grown deeper too, lower and more growly when he gets mad …
“Hutch, did you hear what I said?”
Lower and huskier when he’s turned on like a thousand-watt bulb and he has those big, twinkling blue eyes set on his defenseless, damn blessed target of flirtation –
The pinch to his right cheek jolts Hutch out of his reverie like an electric shock. Instinctively, he rears back on the stool he’s sitting on and gives Starsky’s nimble hand a swat and Starsky is chuckling and oh, Jesus, it’s like the years just fall away from Starsky’s face and Starsky is a damn young thirty-two again and that breath-robbing smile is his. Only his, again.
Except … it never really was his alone to start with, was it? Seeing how thirty years have already passed since they both quit the force after the Gunther madness and the one time he ever made love with Starsky was just as long ago and Starsky’s never made a move on him since, never quite looked him in the eye the same way since or touched him the same way since –
“Huuutch, we finally find a quiet place where we can talk and there you are, daydreaming!”
What can he do but smile in return at that irresistible grin?
“Sorry. Was just thinking.”
“No kidding. About what?”
And what does he say in return to that, in return to the warmth in Starsky’s eyes?
About you. About all the years I’ve wasted not loving you like you deserve to be loved. About that day, that day I should have stopped you from leaving in your Torino and kissed you stupid in the open and showed you how much I loved you.
How much I still love you.
“About where all those tacos, nachos and guacamole you ate for dinner went to –“
“You calling me fat, Blondie?”
Hutch casts a glance at what he can see of Starsky’s relatively flat belly that isn’t blocked from view by the small, round table at which they’re seated, putting on an analytical expression he knows will drive his best friend in the whole world up the wall. He tries not to smile at Starsky sitting up straighter and – as predicted by decades of familiarity – outwardly bristling at his silent perusal of that … body. That body that’d felt so warm and solid and amazing in his arms. In his hands and against his lips and inside his mouth and … no. God, no, he has to stop thinking that way. He has to stop it.
Starsky doesn’t love him that way so. Stop. It.
No matter how much it still aches, deep within.
“I had a real good time today, Hutch,” Starsky murmurs, drawing circles through the rings of water left on the table surface by his drained, empty glass.
Uh oh, Starsky’s back in serious mode. It’s hardly the first time since they met up this morning at Starsky’s apartment and painted the city red the whole day just for the fun of it, just for the fun of being together, just the two of them and Hutch isn’t sure what to make of it. All that moping crap used to be his domain, his specialty he honed to excellence from the moment he gained self-awareness at the green age of two, until he woke up one day and studied himself in the mirror and saw a geezer going bald and saggy and just plain, goddamn old. Seemed pointless, right there and then, to waste more of his life brooding the hours away.
It still is, and it just doesn’t feel right when Starsky is the moody one.
Better do something to lighten up his pal again, before things veer into let’s-talk-about-the-things-we-never-dared-to-for-the-past-thirty-years territory. Scary, scary territory, that. Territory he doesn’t want to even touch with a hundred-foot pole without a big mug of something chock-full of alcohol and since he was diagnosed with severe alcoholism in 1990 and almost died from it, he hasn’t had a drop of it and it’s staying that way.
Humor’s the far better shield against the chronic pain in his heart anyway.
The pain that’s never quite faded, even after Starsky got married and he got married too, for the second time, and everything got shot to hell and back and ‘loss’ became the number one word in their internal dictionary for a long, long time.
“Yeah? It have something to do with the fact that I cooked breakfast and paid for lunch and dinner?” Hutch replies, smiling sincerely, even more widely when Starsky smiles as well and sends him a grateful look.
“Hey, I’m not gonna say no when an old buddy’s willing to feed me good food on his dime!”
“Those tacos you had were bad enough for you that they needed a hazard sign stamped on them. Skull, crossbones and all!”
“Oh yeah? I didn’t see you stopping me from eating them!”
How could I, when you were enjoying yourself so much and you looked so happy?
What Hutch says instead is, “Starsk, you do realize we passed the ripe, old age of sixty years ago, right?”
“Speak for yourself, old fart,” Starsky retorts good-naturedly, preening like one handsome peacock straight out of Brooklyn and stroking the lapels of his black leather jacket, and Hutch can’t help but throw his head back and laugh. Yeah, that’s his Starsky, alright, an eternally youthful imp with a stomach more ravenous than a black hole in space.
Starsky abruptly stands up.
“I’m gonna go get another shot. You want anything?”
One of Hutch’s eyebrows quirks up in surprise, though not at Starsky drinking alcohol in front of him. No, the trust between them – the absolute trust Starsky has in him and his self-control – is so resilient that even if someone were to pour him a brimming glass of the finest brandy and shove it under his nose right now, he’d hurl it onto the floor without a second thought.
No, it’s that Starsky’s drinking whisky tonight. Two shots down, and Starsky is actually going for a third.
Starsky hates whisky!
“Got a sudden hankering for whisky, Chicken Little?”
Hutch perks up inwardly at Starsky’s lack of a verbal answer and unexpected avoidance of eye contact. Okay, this is weird. One minute Starsky’s jolly and smiles everywhere, the next minute he’s pensive and revving to chug down liquor he doesn’t even like and … wait a minute, Starsky’s acting all … nervous.
Nervous about what?
“Look, if ya don’t want anything, I’m going to the bar.”
Hutch shakes his head once, then observes Starsky walk off with that swagger that hasn’t lost one iota of its sinuous sexiness, appreciating the lovely sight of Starsky’s plump ass in jeans still skin-tight and right. How the hell does Starsky get into those things? Does Starsky oil himself up or –
No, bad Hutchinson. Bad! No going down that road!
A long, weighty sigh escapes his lips. Leaning forward on elbows on the table, he lets his shoulders slump and his head dip forward. If there’s one thing more mysterious to him than Starsky’s technique for squeezing into those painted-on jeans, it’s that his feelings for Starsky simply don’t know how to just … perish. Go kaput. Go bye-bye, sayonara, adios amigo.
He’s had many lovers in his lifetime. Many of them. More than he can count on all his fingers and toes. Well, maybe the term ‘lovers’ isn’t so accurate. Many one-night stands is more like it. Yeah, he’s had many one-night stands, sometimes with two women or more a night, when his music career took off like a magnificent space shuttle in 1983. After years of obeying police regulations as best he could and dealing with often nauseating, prejudiced office politics and maintaining a goodie-two-shoes appearance at all times, he was … free. Free to pursue his ambition of writing and singing songs and, thank his lucky stars, make a generous sum of cash and set himself for life off it. Free to see as many women as he wanted, to travel and explore the world and ride the waves of his fame boosted by his exemplary history as a cop, to buy whatever he wanted with money that just kept gushing in as long as his albums – one of which went platinum several times over in the United Kingdom in 1993 and another here in the States in 1997 – continued to be sold and bought by fans around the world.
He was free to say or do whatever he wanted … and the one person who he yearned to love, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, till death and beyond was the one person he couldn’t.
The one person who made him really believe in true love for the first time in his deprived existence, in the everlasting marriage of two souls, in a happily ever after.
And then shattered it all with mere words.
I’m sorry, Hutch, I … I can’t. I can’t.
Hutch can’t recall what most of the women he fucked back then even looked like, much less what their names were, but the expression on Starsky’s face when Starsky whispered those words to him … he’ll remember it for the rest of his life. It would haunt him for years afterwards, in lavish hotel rooms that were all flash and no substance, in the shower while he hid burning tears in the waterfall and slammed angry fists into the stall’s tiled walls, in the king-sized, satin-covered beds whenever he was alone and didn’t have mindless, soulless sex to distract him from the merciless memory of Starsky backing away from him, shaking that head of curls and staring at him with eyes so wide and glistening in the morning sunlight.
He’s had many lovers and one-night stands in his lifetime, but no one else, no one, can and will ever make him feel love like Starsky does.
Oh, Starsky. His heaven and his hell rolled into one perfect package, one unattainable package … and maybe he’s finally beginning to accept that, after thirty years.
Hutch lifts a heavy head to see Starsky standing at the bar to the left of the pub, propping himself up on the counter top on one forearm while waiting for his order to be filled. Starsky’s also watching an all-ladies band performing on a stage on the other side of the pub, enthralled and seemingly immortalized in place like a Greek statue. The music floating to Hutch’s ears is a lot like his later work, a harmonious mixture of rhythm and blues, soul and alternative rock, and when that fact hits him, another fact hurtles into him immediately after it: Starsky hadn’t insisted on coming here for himself. Knowing how finicky he can be of music in general since the success of his career, knowing what a difference outstanding music would make to his enjoyment of the evening, Starsky had insisted on coming here, to this specific pub, for his sake.
It’s nearly half past ten at night, but somewhere in the left side of Hutch’s chest, the sun is rising and the room must have gotten damn bright because his eyes are watering.
I love you, Starsky. Do you know that? I love you.
Hutch blinks, then turns his head to his right, in the direction of his name wobblingly uttered. A young, attractive brunette in a long-sleeved, low-cut jade dress is standing near his table, giving him an anxious albeit cute smile. She’s holding a plastic CD case in her hands. When she shows its cover to him, Hutch’s features break into a broad, welcoming smile and sure enough, it does the trick and relaxes the woman.
“I’m really sorry to bother you on your night out, Mr. Hutchinson,” the young lady says, glancing shyly at him. “I’ve been a big fan of your music for years and – and when I saw you, I just had to go get your CD from my car and, well, I hope you don’t mind if I asked you for a – an … autograph?”
It’s a good thing Starsky hasn’t returned to the table yet. Starsky would often tease him like crazy after fan encounters, especially if the fans were female and young and good-looking, and this young lady here would probably spark ribbing lasting hours.
Whassamatter with you, Hutch? She’s pretty! She had the hots for you! Couldn’t you tell? You’re always turning them down. I think your hot lady-radar’s in need of repairing, Blintz. You deserve good lovin’, all the time.
Hutch never did tell Starsky about all those one-night stands with fans of varying ages he had before he married Helena in the spring of 1988. Still hasn’t, not even after Helena passed away nine years later. It was great sex sometimes, but good loving? The sort Starsky recommended?
No, there’s only one person in the world who can ever give him that, and one night of it - that one night in his old Venice Place apartment in 1982 – had changed him. Addicted him. Forever.
And god, just look at that CD cover, at his former self smiling from ear to ear, blond hair still all there and shining gold, his face unlined and unblemished. At how young he’d been once upon a time, young just like this fan who probably wasn’t even born yet when he created this particular album.
“Of course I don’t mind, sweetheart. You got a pen?”
He signs his name and includes a message complimentary of the young lady’s friendliness and courtesy on the printed cover of the album, smiling again at the bashful though happy giggle the message elicits from her.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Hutchinson! You made my night. Enjoy your evening! Thank you again!”
“Thank you. You enjoy yourself too!”
Hutch watches her skip gleefully back to her table of friends in the middle of the establishment, feeling no carnal desire for her whatsoever despite her apparent physical beauty. Twenty-five years ago, he definitely would have … but he’d been another man then, a man who’d been rejected by love – the Real Deal – and was hurting bad and had no conscience about using any woman willing to throw herself into his bed to help him forget, if only for a little while.
What an asshole he’d been. A selfish, unthinking, exploiting asshole.
What the hell does Starsky see in him?
As if on cue, Hutch hears familiar footsteps approaching the table. He turns his head to his left and doesn’t look any higher than Starsky’s midriff. Starsky is standing in front of their table now, fresh glass of whisky on the table top. Starsky makes no move to sit down.
Knowing Starsky is smiling, Hutch rolls his eyes and says, “Come on, let’s hear it.”
When no teasing issues forth from the other man, Hutch glances upwards at Starsky’s face. The tender smile so full of pride and respect he sees there causes his heart to leap into his throat and his lungs to stop working.
Those throaty, murmured words are two of the most excruciating Hutch has heard in ages. Oh, they’re just two words, yes, but words have power and he ought to know that, being a songwriter and all, and what fucking hurts isn’t the words themselves. It’s the way Starsky said them, so full of love and everything’s he’s ever wished for in life, all the best, wonderful things that is Starsky.
All the things he can’t have.
Surprise strikes Hutch once more when Starsky, whose smile has waned, suddenly brings the glass of whisky to his lips and gulps half of it down in one go. Whoa, what was that? Some much needed courage-bolstering or something?
Courage for what?
What the hell, Starsky’s striding away, deftly maneuvering himself between jam-packed tables towards the stage where the band is taking a break. Mouth agape, Hutch watches mutely as Starsky hops up onto the stage to talk to the pianist, a petite woman all in black with a neon pink Mohawk and milky-white skin. The other band members, who are sporting equally colorful, radical hairdos, soon join the hushed conversation between Starsky and the pianist and, uh oh, the ladies are all glancing at him and grinning and ah geez, Starsky’s going to make him go on stage and sing live, isn’t he?
Hutch drags one hand down his face. Damn. It’s not that he doesn’t like singing live, because he’s damn good at it and he’s not ashamed to acknowledge it –
“Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for staying with us. We hope you’ve been enjoying our music –“
And it’s not that he doesn’t like impromptu concerts or anything like that, because he’s done that so many times in the last three decades that he can perform blindfolded with his legs trussed up like a turkey …
“And now, we have a very special guest who’ll be singing with us –“
It’s that tonight’s supposed to be his night with Starsky. Just them. Not singing on stage in front of a large crowd and having the spotlight on him again while Starsky – his best friend, his partner, his other half – stands on the sidelines in the shadows and can only gaze at him with those eyes so full of –
“So let’s give Dave a big applause!”
So full of …. what?
Hutch hears nothing of the enthusiastic clapping surrounding him. All he hears is Starsky’s first name echoing in his mind and, holy cow, Starsky’s strolling up to the microphone and standing in front of it like it’s second nature to him, winking at the pianist who gives him two thumbs up and a huge smile and the crowd is hushing and – and, oh man, there goes the piano with its euphonious notes and chords and, holy shit, Starsky’s parting those lips he’s dreamed of for years and years and Starsky’s singing:
You've been on my mind, I grow fonder every day
Lose myself in time just thinking of your face
He’s sung with Starsky many times, in his Beverly Hills mansion when Helena was still alive, before he sold it. In the studio when he’d assured an edgy Starsky it’s just them and nobody else, in Starsky’s new apartment after Starsky’s wife, Erin, dumped him and took their son with her, even at the beach when they have it mostly to themselves. He’s heard Starsky sing many times and has always thought Starsky has one of the divinest voices he’s ever heard in his entire life but tonight … tonight, oh, tonight there’s nothing else in the universe except that voice, that voice singing right now to him and him only …
God only knows why it's taken me so long to let my doubts go
You're the only one that I want
And oh, Starsky is gazing across the room and into his stinging eyes, and it’s 1982 once more and they’re outside his Venice Place apartment and it’s the most extraordinary morning he’s ever witnessed because he’s finally found the person he loves with every fiber of his being, the one he wants to be with for the rest of his life and it’s Starsky and … Starsky is telling him they can’t be. Telling him they can’t ever be because the world is a fucking cruel, unfair place and it’ll destroy them and their love and, oh god, isn’t Starsky already doing that by letting the world’s hate win?
“I’m sorry, Hutch, I … I can’t. I can’t.”
Starsky’s backing away, shaking that head of curls and staring at him with such wide, glistening eyes, left hand clawing at that broad chest through that snug, red t-shirt as if that great, big heart is splintering into millions and millions of fragments. As if it’s ripping Starsky in two just to rasp out the damning words, as if it’s not what Starsky truly wishes to say to him, at all …
I don't know why I'm scared, I've been here before
Every feeling, every word, I've imagined it all
Then it’s 1984, and Starsky is getting married today and attired in an elegant, black tuxedo Hutch had custom tailored for him. It’s Armani, the finest Hutch’s money could purchase, meticulously cut to fit Starsky’s lithe body, textured and made from the highest quality cashmere. Starsky had balked for weeks at the idea of Hutch paying for his suit, until Hutch told Starsky that it’s his wedding gift to Starsky and his best pal only deserves the best of the best and no less and what’s a suit compared to their friendship that has survived so much? What’s a suit compared to doing whatever he can to make Starsky’s day the happiest ever?
But as he gazes at Starsky so resplendent in the tuxedo, in the sunshine streaming through the window, a hollow smile twisting those beloved lips and a void in those big blue eyes where joy should be, there is a part of Hutch that knows he’s failed.
He reaches out and smooths out non-existent wrinkles in the jacket’s lapels with both hands. Starsky is staring up at his face, unwaveringly, and says nothing when he leaves his hands flat upon Starsky’s rising and falling chest, a chest he’s seen bare and caressed with fingers accepting of every scar upon it. Does Erin, the future Mrs. Starsky, accept them like he does, without question? Without repugnance, without pity?
No one loves you like I do.
Verbally, Hutch says with a smile as hollow as Starsky’s, “You look gorgeous. Like a prince.”
Starsky is still staring him. In the sunshine, Starsky’s eyes seem to shimmer, and it hurts Hutch to gaze into them, it hurts so bad because he’s almost convinced that he’s seeing the same agony he’s feeling right now in those eyes and it can’t be because Starsky’s getting married today. To Erin, a junior high school teacher. To a woman. To someone who’ll be able to bear him children, someone the world judges as normal for a man to marry and bring up 2.5 kids with and live together with in a nice, cozy home with a white picket fence in the suburbs.
Starsky’s eyes are shimmering, and it’s all Hutch can do to not pull Starsky into his arms and hold him so close and never, ever let go.
“There gonna be a happily ever after for me?”
Hutch thinks he should be smirking or raising an eyebrow in amusement or at least say something flippant, but he doesn’t. He can’t.
“Of course there is. You’re getting it, buddy. Today.”
Hutch thinks he’s given the correct answer, that it was the right thing to say but even Starsky’s hollow smile can’t endure it and it crumbles and for a moment, just a moment, Hutch thinks that Starsky’s whole face has crumbled too. Starsky’s averted his face, away from Hutch towards the window and into the sunshine and maybe he’s just seeing things, maybe that shiny streak going down Starsky’s cheek is simply a trick of the light.
“Starsky. You’re going to be a great husband and dad.”
Starsky’s face is back the way it was once more. Composed. Strong. Stunning.
And utterly bereft of happiness.
“Yeah. Yeah … I will.” The smile-but-not-a-smile Starsky shows Hutch is one Hutch hopes he’ll never, ever see again. “Living the American dream, right?”
Hutch wants to say yes, that the American dream is what Starsky always wanted and it’s become Starsky’s at last, that everything’s going to be alright now. He doesn’t. He can’t, for dreams are only worth something to those who’re always asleep. To those who don’t live in the real world. Who don’t live at all.
So Hutch does what he promised himself three years ago that he’ll never do again: He bends down and kisses Starsky on the cheek, just once, and feels dampness upon his lips that infuses its saltiness and anguish into him long after he’s staggered away from the room where a noise that sounds suspiciously like a sob trails after him …
You'll never know if you never try
To forgive your past and simply be mine
It’s 1988 now, and Hutch is getting married today, for the second time. He’s in a custom tailored Armani tuxedo Giorgio himself had cut and sewn, a tuxedo so splendid that it’s been featured in the entertainment section of various national newspapers along with the ostentatious announcement of his nuptials to the only daughter of a Russian billionaire.
Helena, sweet Helena, with her thick, dark curls and her large blue eyes, resembling a certain ex-homicide detective turned highly sought police consultant so much that the aforementioned police consultant’s three-year-old son, Jason, once pointed out that Aunt Helen looked just like daddy. Everyone else had laughed in amusement, even Hutch. Starsky, to Erin’s and Helena’s shock, had stormed straight out of Hutch’s mansion where they were having a personal dinner party without a word and sped off in the Torino and stayed away for hours. It was probably best that Starsky did, as Jason’s next enlightening comment was that Uncle Hutch had nice hair and eyes just like mommy’s.
Erin hadn’t laughed then.
“Oh, please, Ken! Do it for me?”
Evening is here, and Helena is still in her extravagant, layered Armani bridal gown with its ivory silk train suffused with lace and crystal embroidery. She’s glowing in the glittering light cascading down from the chandeliers of the grand Ritz ballroom in which their wedding dinner is being held, but all Hutch sees is Starsky. His best man, so handsome in a black suit and bowtie and standing there so regally while the cameras focus on them and snap a multitude of photographs that are sure to be splashed in papers across the country by tomorrow.
“Please, Ken, just one dance? You and Dave?”
Little Jason, hair as dark and curly as his father’s and so adorable in a miniature tuxedo, dashes to Starsky and clamps chubby arms around one of Starsky’s legs and prompts cheery laughter from Hollywood celebrity guests and photographers alike.
“Daddy, daddy, dance!”
Starsky glances downwards at Jason and pets his son’s head and oh, the smile that Starsky gives the little guy is one Hutch has missed so damn much. That smile that spreads from ear to ear and overflows with love, that Hutch had thought conquered by the discord in Starsky’s life lately, by fights with detectives they’d once worked with so favorably, fights with the new captain and fights with other consultants who dread Starsky’s now notorious outbursts of wrath. Fights with Erin, who has obviously stood at a distance from Starsky the entire night and glares at her husband with icy eyes.
Her husband who is now staring at Hutch, as if there’s nobody else in the world. As if it’s just them, the two of them.
“Anything for you, my darling,” Hutch says. He’s grasping and giving Helena’s hand a squeeze, but he’s staring back at Starsky and then he’s floating six feet in the air as he saunters towards the other man who’d been his partner for nearly a decade, who’d saved his life countless times and accepts him as he is, faults and all.
Starsky. His heaven and his hell rolled into one perfect, unattainable package, here in his arms once more.
“Let’s give ‘em something to talk about, huh?”
Starsky’s right hand is resting on his flank while Starsky’s left hand is holding his right, entwining their fingers and Jesus, the huskiness of Starsky’s voice, the way Starsky had said that … Starsky had sounded exactly like that that fateful night in Venice Place six years ago. Six years, and Hutch still hasn’t forgotten the warmth of Starsky in his bed or Starsky’s kisses all over his face and chest or how he’d fit so flawlessly inside Starsky, like they were two pieces of a celestial puzzle that’d finally found each other, and if he gazes into Starsky’s big, beautiful eyes deep enough, he can tell himself that the Bay City Super-Cops are back together again and Starsky hadn’t roared off in the Torino and left him standing there with half of him missing and, oh … if only. If only.
“Lead on, Ramon,” he murmurs in the present that he can still change unlike the past, and Starsky is giving him that spectacular smile and fuck the world if it’s watching them sashaying across the ballroom floor amidst applause and frisky whistles from a flamboyantly, majestically garbed Huggy and their former co-detectives and thinks it’s wrong, evil of him to love this man with all his heart. He doesn’t need the world like that.
What he needs, all he needs, is gazing at him right here and now with those eyes and whispering a vow far more profound and real than the vow he’d recited earlier today in a church.
“I remember, Hutch.” Starsky’s eyes are gleaming, gleaming with something blinding and heart-melting. “I remember what day it is.”
Starsky doesn’t grimace or complain when Hutch squeezes their hands so tightly that their knuckles turn white. Hutch knows, yes, he knows that Starsky is also thinking of another day with the same date as today, the day he set foot in the police academy for the very first time and like the klutz he was, tripped straight into the arms of an unsuspecting guy with cropped, dark hair and mischievous blue eyes and the most incredible smile he’d ever seen.
Hi, I’m Dave. David Starsky. Nice to meet ya.
I’m Ken Hutchinson. Nice to meet you too. Sorry about that.
Nah, don’t worry about it. Good-looking blondes are always falling for me. I’m used to it.
Funny. I was just about to say that gorgeous brunettes have a thing for me too.
“Happy Anniversary, huh?” Hutch says with what he hopes is a steady voice and not one about to crack.
Starsky’s smile softens, becoming impossibly more affectionate.
“Yeah,” Starsky whispers in reply, and then, Starsky is dipping him ala Ramon and everyone’s laughing and shouting approval but all Hutch cares about is the man propping him up and stopping him from crashing to the ground, cradling him just like that time they danced in secret in Dobey’s office. Starsky is still smiling at him. Starsky is still here, with him, and everything’s going to be alright, it has to …
I dare you to let me be your, your one and only
Promise I'm worthy to hold in your arms
So come on and give me a chance
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile
Until the end starts
And then it’s 1991, and he and Starsky are playing Monopoly on the carpeted floor of his private study in his mansion. They’ve been playing for hours and they’re drinking only non-alcoholic beverages because he almost fucking died last year when his abused liver quit on him and made him pay big time for his boozing. Thank the good Lord for organ transplants and the young, wretched bastard whose time had come to return to nihility. Hutch has no idea who his liver donor was, but he’s grateful, damn grateful, for the second chance he’s been granted and it’s going to weigh on his mind for a long while to come that someone else had to die so he can live.
He’ll never drink another drop of alcohol ever again. Ever. He promised Starsky that, after he woke up from surgery all groggy and saw a quietly weeping Helena on one side of his bed and Starsky sitting ramrod straight in a chair on the other, stubbly face streaked with wetness and those blue eyes ablaze with infinite resolve and anger, lots of righteous anger reined in for his sake.
No more, Hutch. No more alcohol. You almost DIED. I’m only going to say this once, so you LISTEN to me, Hutch. If you EVER drink again, I WILL knock that block you call a head right off your shoulders! You swear to me, right now, on us, on ME and THEE, that you’ll NEVER drink again. SWEAR IT!
He’s never had the heart to tell Starsky that Starsky didn’t have to say any of that for him to promise and mean every word. The sorrow on Starsky’s features sallow from sleepless nights and anxiety had done the job just fine. Sorrow his self-centered, destructive actions had placed there, upon the one who owns him wholly.
And tonight, the sorrow is there once more, although not by his hand. Starsky is sitting with knees drawn up, muscular arms around shins, staring into nothingness with dead eyes set in a face too haggard. Hutch has been where Starsky is, literally: All the way from the fights in the beginning to the escalating resentment and wounding accusations in the middle and then to the end. To the coldness, the numbness as signatures are scrawled onto legal documents declaring the death of the union between two people in the eyes of the law.
Divorce. An ugly thing, regardless of the reason it happens.
At least with Vanessa, rest her soul, he had no kids with her. Their split was hasty, the alacrity for it mainly on her side as she’d been dating a model photographer for months before the divorce was official. By the time he’d learned of the affair, he honestly hadn’t given a shit about it. He was just relieved the disaster that was his marriage to her was over. As for Starsky’s separation from Erin –
“D’you know how far away Miami is from here?”
Starsky hasn’t budged an inch. Hasn’t moved his racecar token anywhere on the board for over an hour, or drunk his Coke or even looked at Hutch.
Hutch doesn’t mind. He can sense the imminent deluge heading his direction and he remains where he is, sitting cross-legged on the floor on the opposite side of the board from Starsky.
“Two thousand, seven hundred miles,” Starsky answers himself hoarsely, almost inaudibly. “Two thousand, seven hundred miles. That’s how far away she’s taking him.”
Hutch shuts his eyes and bows his head, aching for his best pal.
“That’s how far away she – she’s taking him away from me. He’s only six years old, Hutch, six years old and he’s going all the way there and he’s gonna call that sonofabitch his dad when I’m his dad, I AM, and I can’t be a part of his life and he’s going to FORGET me, oh god, oh god, I miss him, I MISS him so much –“
And the flood arrives, a devastating torrent of tears from big blue eyes no longer dead but scorching with grief and sobs that wrack Starsky’s rocking body and Hutch is instantly at Starsky’s side, embracing the crying man with both arms and he’s crying too, crying for Starsky and the pain the man must live with now, the pain he wishes he could take into himself so Starsky will be happy again and smile and laugh and live. From the corner of blurry eyes, he sees Helena standing at the open door, wiping her own eyes and he is glad, so glad that she is his wife and is there for him and for Starsky and loves with a heart as vast as an endless field of sunflowers at noon.
“Never get married again ... I’m done ...’M sick of the American dream.”
The flood has abated, but it was merely the first of many that will come later. Starsky’s voice is a coarse, tragic shadow of itself. Hutch has enfolded him in a golden afghan wrap Helena had handed him, and Hutch sits on the floor with Starsky slumped against him, in his arms, between his spread legs. Starsky’s head is tucked under his chin.
“S’not a dream. S’a nightmare.”
Lowering his nose into Starsky’s dark curls and inhaling its pleasant scent, Hutch murmurs after an eon of calm silence, “Dreams and nightmares are only worth anything to those who’re asleep.”
Starsky’s hand, sliding out from beneath the afghan wrap and up his chest to cup the back of his neck, marks him like a searing brand.
“I wanna wake up, Hutch. I don’t wanna be asleep anymore,” Starsky whispers, eyes inflamed and still wet and still so damn beautiful to Hutch. “I don’t wanna be dead anymore.”
Hutch closes his own reddened eyes. What can he say in reply to such a request, stated with such trust in him?
“I’ll be here when you wake up,” he whispers back, touching their foreheads together and listening to Starsky’s breaths even out in a slumber of enervation. “I’ll be here …”
If I've been on your mind, you hang on every word I say
Lose yourself in time at the mention of my name
Will I ever know how it feels to hold you close
And have you tell me whichever road I choose, you'll go?
And now, oh, now it’s the summer of 1997 and Hutch’s short hair is going gray and brittle and his Helena – his sweet, exquisite, charming Helena who loved him with all she had even though she knew his heart didn’t belong to her, who loved him as he is, always, and loved Starsky like a brother – is in an oak coffin beneath the verdant ground of the Valhalla Memorial Park cemetery. He’d buried her this morning while encircled by Helena’s family and his dearest family who’d flown in from Minnesota and friends from all over the country, while Starsky stood tall and sturdy beside him, those expressive eyes shielded by reflective sunglasses.
Was it just last week when Helena had smiled at him and stroked his face and told him how thankful she was to have him?
Was it just last week when she had smiled at him and told him she loved him?
Last week, when the doctors said that her endometrial cancer was going into remission? That she was going to recover, that she was going to be his sweet, exquisite, vibrant Helena again?
But she’s dead, dead and six feet under and gone and he can hear someone bellowing in annihilating rage and he sees vases of flowers, statues, books, photo frames, phones, lamps and many, many other objects being smashed to smithereens and it takes him an eternity to realize that it’s him, screaming and flinging all he has left of his darling Helena at walls and the floor. Helena, oh, his Helena who should have lived long after him, an ex-cop and ex-alcoholic with a transplanted liver and – and they were supposed to grow old together, to watch a thousand sunsets and a thousand sunrises together but she’s … she’s –
Later, sprawled on his side on the floor for another eternity, hemmed in by the wreckage of what used to be the master bedroom, he doesn’t hear Starsky shuffling into the room. What he does hear are Starsky’s tiny hitches of breath, and what he does feel is Starsky collapsing onto knees behind him, lying down and hugging him from behind so tight and touching their damp cheeks together and Starsky is crying too, crying for him and the pain he must live with now, the pain Starsky wishes he could take into himself so he will be happy again.
“I’m s-so sorry, Hutch … So sorry.”
Starsky’s right hand is on his quavering sternum. Still catching his breath, he grabs it and presses it on the left side of his chest, directly over the hurt that seems like it’s going to devour him completely.
“I’m here, Hutch, I’m not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere,” Starsky rasps, and then … Starsky truly is taking some of the hurt out of him, caressing his head and planting kisses of solace on the side of his neck and god, please, let it be so that everything will be alright one day and that Starsky will still be here with him, let it be so …
I know it ain't easy giving up your heart,
I know it ain't easy giving up your heart …
Six months later, and Hutch is wandering with Starsky through the Beverly Hills mansion he’d called home for twelve years, for the last time. Starsky’s left arm is around his waist, his right arm around Starsky’s shoulders. They say nothing as they go from room to room, letting the past speak to them instead, letting it speak before they walk away from it for good.
Hutch’s private study educes fond smiles from both men. They’d spent much time here, playing board games like they used to when they were still Starsky and Hutch, the renowned homicide detectives of BCPD. Playing games and chatting about nothing and everything under the sun and writing songs that Starsky wouldn’t allow Hutch to flaunt to other people because he thought his were mediocre compared to Hutch’s but Hutch didn’t think so, and still doesn’t. The bedroom causes both men to constrict their grip on each other, their shared bout of mourning all too fresh in their minds.
“Lots of memories here, Blintz,” Starsky says to him when they’re back at the mansion’s main entrance doors.
Hutch glances around, for one last time, a bittersweet smile arching his lips.
“Too many,” he replies, his tone mellow, but Starsky understands what he’s really saying and Starsky smiles too, a sympathetic smile from someone who’s been down the same road: Starsky had to sell off the house he’d lived in with Erin and Jason after the divorce because, as Starsky had persuasively put it, Jason’s essence lingered in every corner of the house and it was killing him inside, little by little. Afterwards, Starsky had moved into an apartment by the beach and even then, Hutch had already considered its culture-rich, modern and dynamic neighborhood a place he could see himself also calling home one day.
And so it seems an inevitability that he would choose that very place as his new home, choose a modest, secure apartment just a block away from Starsky’s and when people ask him about it, he tells them it’s just a coincidence it’s so close to Starsky’s place, that’s all. What, is it a crime now to live really, really close to his best friend in the whole, wide world? To have a crap ton of money that he can buy multiple new mansions with and still pick a humble, two-bedroom apartment just a promenade away from Starsky’s?
Well, if it’s a crime, then it’s a crime for which he’s willing to pay for a lifetime … as long as Starsky doesn’t mind, of course.
“Huuuuutch! You’re late for dinner so get your ass over here! And don’t gimme any excuse about needing time to travel ‘cause I know precisely how far you live from me!”
Apparently, Starsky doesn’t mind him living so near one bit as it’s 1999 now, two years since he moved into the apartment and oh boy, here’s Starsky yelling at him through the phone again, commanding him to go over to his apartment for a meal and this – this domestic bliss should be frightening the fuck out of him because he’d been so certain he would grieve for Helena’s passing for a decade, at least, and yet …
“Have you been stalking me again?” he says blithely, grinning like a nut.
“Stalking you? You wish, Popstar Boy! It’s you stalking me!”
And yet, he’s happy, happy to be teasing Starsky, to have Starsky making him laugh, to be listening to Starsky rant about him being still here and not there enjoying a delicious hodge-podge of Starsky Specials and Hutch has to bite his lower lip from saying, hey Starsky, are YOU one of those Specials on the menu too?
“You get over here right now or I’m gonna eat all a’ your tofu soup!”
“Starsky, you hate tofu.”
“Yes, you do. You once said tofu reminded you of gelatinous semen cake.”
“I did not!”
Snickering, Hutch asks, “Is tofu soup one of your euphemisms for something else, Gordo?”
“I’m not talking to you anymore. Pervert!”
Hutch guffaws into the phone as the dial tone beeps in his ear. He’s still smiling when he finally struts over to Starsky’s apartment and gets an earful of Starsky’s husky, growly voice and an eyeful of Starsky’s animated face beaming like the dawn and Starsky’s still-buff body in a denim shirt and jeans and oh yeah, this domestic bliss is something he can live with for the rest of life, if he’s fortunate enough.
“This is really good stuff, Starsky.”
Hutch had commented as such about Starsky’s home-cooked Chinese dinner of sweet-and-sour fish in tomato sauce, stir-fried Chinese cabbage with garlic, deep fried pork dumplings – of course there had to be something deep fried – and yes, tofu soup, but Hutch is also referring to the final draft of Starsky’s autobiographical manuscript. It’s a labor of love, typed from start to end on a classic Olivetti Lettera 12 typewriter that’s older than Starsky’s son in spite of computers being the fad and the norm now. Starsky had commenced work on the project after Hutch moved homes, citing Hutch’s nearness and availability as a decent enough reason to do so and Hutch has never asked Starsky about it, about why Starsky wants to write a book about them and their days as partners on the force when it ought to be a book about Starsky himself. Why Starsky calls him at all sorts of hours in the night – almost every night, even the nights when he’s loitered at Starsky’s place – to ask him everything from the name of that icky vegetarian restaurant he liked to where they’d gone on vacation in 1977 with those busty Swedish twins to how long his hair had been in 1979, when Starsky knows these details by heart.
Why Starsky gazes at him with such unguarded, adoring eyes when Starsky thinks he doesn’t notice, why Starsky buys him little gifts like the books on his reading wish list, new guitar picks and strings when they’ve broken from excessive usage and t-shirts with silly slogans like ‘I’m too sexy for my hair, that’s why it isn’t there’ and ‘When there’s a will, I want to be in it’ and his favorite, ‘Waiting for Mr. Right’. Gifts that mean everything and then some to him because Starsky bought them for him.
He doesn’t ask, because it’s too good to be true, because the world’s a fucking cruel, unfair place and something as precious as Starsky loving him not only as a best friend but more is something just too damn good to be true.
He’s been lucky, really lucky, in the past. But he isn’t that lucky.
“I dunno. My English’s nowhere near college level or whatever.”
Starsky, who is sitting next to him on the couch in the living room, fidgets and doesn’t look at him.
“Starsk, who cares if you don’t write like a Harvard professor or a Nobel-winning author? The point is that you wrote it, with your own words about your life. Can’t get better than that.”
“It’s excellent,” Hutch says with absolute truthfulness, grasping the inches-thick manuscript in his hands as if it is the Holy Grail. “New York Times bestseller material.”
“Hey, no need to kiss my butt any more than you have to.”
Hutch is ready with a roguish smile and riposte, but when he glances at Starsky’s face, the former softens into a smile of immense fondness while the latter never rolls off his tongue. Starsky’s cheeks are flushed and his lips are curved into the rarest of Starsky smiles, the self-effacing, endearing smile Starsky only shows when he knows he’s really loved and he knows what a superb, irreplaceable thing that is to have.
“You already got me anyway,” Starsky adds, voice even hoarser and crammed with affection, and Hutch feels as if the doors to the highest echelons of nirvana have just opened before him and are bidding him entry.
Do I? Do I truly have you, my one and only?
For the sake of his own sanity, Hutch cools the conversation with, “Has your mom told you yet what she thinks of your bestseller-to-be?”
Starsky’s gorgeous features instantaneously brighten like a star going supernova.
“She loved it. Said it was one of the best books she ever read.” Starsky quickly shrugs his shoulders and curls one corner of his mouth. “Well, yeah, it’s not a book yet, I know, but ya know what I mean.”
Hutch smiles and says, “Nothing to do with the fact you described her as ‘the greatest mother and maker of baked cheese blintzes in the universe’, huh?”
To Hutch’s ears, Starsky’s laughter is akin to a divine melody composed by the most virtuous of angels.
“That’s my Ma, no exaggeration.” Starsky pauses, then says, “Speaking of baked cheese blintzes, she’s been mailing them to Jason whenever she can. She knows he loves them to bits like I do.”
“Like I do too.”
Starsky smiles at him, but a cloud of gloom suddenly passes over Starsky and Starsky is turning away from him. Starsky’s voice is small and miserable as he whispers, “I miss my son.”
Hutch places the manuscript still in his clasp onto the coffee table and wraps his arm around Starsky’s drooping shoulders. Starsky glides into his embrace willingly and easily, resting that head of dense curls in the crook between his neck and shoulder and wrapping arms around him too and once more, two pieces of a celestial puzzle are finding their places with each other. A perfect fit.
“I called him up on Saturday.”
Starsky’s hair smells like apricot. Like a smidgen of honey in sparkling, luxuriant water from Évian-les-Bains, like morning sunshine upon his skin.
“Yeah.” Starsky sighs into the velour of his long-sleeved sweater and tautens the hold around his waist. “He ended up in detention again. He said some punk two grades higher up than him was bullying a girl till she cried and he got real mad and punched the sucker right in the face! Wham!” Before Hutch can chuckle at the smugness in Starsky’s voice, Starsky clears his throat and says in an ostensibly sagely tone, “‘Course, I told him that hitting people is a bad thing to do and violence isn’t the wisest solution to problems …”
The ensuing hush lasts for four seconds.
“But I’m so proud of him. He saw injustice and he didn’t just stand around or close an eye to it. He did something about it when nobody else did. I’m so proud of my boy.”
Starsky is smiling into his sweater, into his chest and he smiles as well, petting the back of Starsky’s head.
“Jason’s a good person. Just like his father.”
The silence this time is lengthier, and when Starsky speaks again, his voice is subdued with worry.
“He … he sounded so full a’ anger, Hutch. So much anger in my little guy.” Another sigh, a heavier one. “Guess he inherited it from me, huh?”
“Full of anger at you?”
“No, not at me, thank god. I meant, he sounded like he was so angry at the way his life is. Like he’s not happy there. Maybe – maybe it’s just me wishing for something I can’t have but … he never sounds happy when he talks about Erin. And his step-dad.”
Hutch grimaces in blunt distaste.
“The second step-dad, right? The one with the … home movie studio? Who kept trying to call me when he found out who his step-son’s dad’s best pal is?”
“Yeah. That one. As if he’s worthy in any way to chat with you, much less work with you. I shoulda punched the sucker right in the face when I had the chance.”
“You punched the first step-dad, remember? The ‘aspiring movie producer’? Who kept trying to call me too?”
Starsky’s second snort is one of amusement.
“No lie, Hutch, it felt good.” While they both shake with mirth, Starsky continues, “He made the mistake of treating my boy as anything less than the purest gold. Nobody makes my boy cry and gets away with it.”
“At the risk of being too candid here, I don’t have a fucking clue why Jason’s with Erin and not with you. Her choice of men after you have been … less than beneficial for Jason.”
“Tell that to Erin and the courts. Tell that to the people who think a man and woman together automatically make for better parents than a single man.”
Hutch goes back to petting the back of Starsky’s head.
“I meant what I said, you know. You were the best husband you could be, and you’re a great dad. And don’t even think about protesting that because you’re not the only one who chats with Jason over the phone. He likes to tell Uncle Hutch lots of things, like how proud he is to have the best homicide detective the BCPD ever had for a dad and how happy he is that his dad hasn’t forgotten him and still loves him.”
Starsky has shifted his head higher up, and Hutch feels the flickering of Starsky’s lush eyelashes against his neck, as if Starsky is blinking rapidly.
“See, he never forgot you,” Hutch murmurs.
Hutch says nothing about the gruffness of Starsky’s voice. He isn’t aware that he’d shut his eyes until Starsky is moving away from him, sitting up and gazing into his re-opened eyes with such warm ones, their faces inches apart.
“I’m glad you’re here with me, Blondie.”
Me too, Starsk. Me too.
“Blondie?” Hutch tugs at the short strands of hair sprouting from the side of his head. “More like Grayie now.”
Starsky doesn’t snicker at his joke.
“You’ll always be my big, blond beauty.”
And this time … this time Hutch is giving insanity its turn for attention, and he asks quietly, “Will I?”
“Am I a gorgeous, naughty, big-spending creature with a gorgeous scowling brow?” Starsky replies, grinning like the gorgeous, naughty creature he is, and Hutch laughs and captures a squealing Starsky in a ruthless headlock and yes, oh yes, this domestic bliss with Starsky is something he can undoubtedly live with, till death and beyond …
I know it ain't easy giving up your heart
Trust me, I've learned it
I know it ain't easy giving up your heart …
Fast forward, and it’s 2000, the first year of the 21st century and Starsky’s autobiography, Starsky and Hutch: Me and Thee, has been at the number one spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list for months. A book tour is, unsurprisingly, organized to promote the book as well as give readers the opportunity to meet and interact with its author and at first, the plan had been Starsky going solo. Starsky had summarily nixed it and shut his PR agent up with, “Hutch’s my partner and he’s coming with me and I won’t take no for an answer.”
Starsky at fifty-seven years old is as formidable a force of nature to be reckoned with at thirty-seven, and no one, not even Hutch, objects to Starsky’s ultimatum for long. He’ll never admit it, but his fleeting protestations were just a sham and he’d been dying to go on a tour, any tour, with Starsky to spend quality time with the best friend he’s got in the whole world wherever they go. Starsky had never accompanied him on his concert tours due to his police consultant job, and after Helena passed away, he’d taken an official sabbatical from gigs and retreated into semi-obscurity.
To emotionally recoup from the loss of his wife, he’d informed the press, to have privacy to re-evaluate his life and the path it’s taking. What he hadn’t informed the press was that he already knows which path he intends his life to be on … a path leading straight to Starsky, and no one else. Ever. He can already imagine what the tabloids would make of that: STARSKY AND HUTCH – SECRET FRENCH-KISSING HOMOS?!
God, if only he could French-kiss Starsky!
“Geez, I’ve done this a dozen times now and I’m still nervous, Hutch.”
They’re in Miami, their last stop on the book tour after San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin then back up north to Kansas City and Minneapolis – where they had dinner with Hutch’s family who drove in from Duluth – down to Chicago, New York City – where they stayed with Starsky’s mom and a self-disciplined, much more sensible Nicky and were stuffed to the gills with scrumptious food – and Atlanta. Starsky is dressed in a dark grey, striped sports jacket and a white t-shirt and jeans, looking so damn good and ingenuously nervous like a little boy about to appear on stage in a school play for the first time.
Hutch gives one of Starsky’s shoulders a squeeze and says hearteningly, “Don’t worry. You’ll do great, like you did the last dozen times.”
“You gonna come up with me this time?”
Before he can answer, Starsky is being herded onto the furnished platform the bookstore had set up just for the occasion and now, it’s his turn to be in the shadows and watch from the sidelines with a big, proud smile as the packed crowd in the store ardently claps their appreciation and Starsky shines in limelight most deserved. As expected, Starsky blows everyone away with his natural, alluring charisma and that sun-rivaling smile and eclectic intellect, answering the questions of fans with poise the queen of England would be impressed with and making everybody wish the book promo will last for hours yet.
Well, everybody except Starsky’s ex-wife and her sleazy third husband who’ve brought Jason to the promo on the teenager’s vehement threat of running away and disappearing if they didn’t.
There is a massive part of Hutch that’s still flabbergasted by the fact that Erin had initially and actually forbade Jason from attending the event. He recalls the way Starsky had looked while Starsky clashed with Erin over the phone on the issue, like the poor guy had gotten kicked in the nuts, received a vicious uppercut to the chin and then got his heart cleaved out. Erin had given Starsky some bullshit excuse that Jason had to go for extra classes at school, but Starsky had deliberately set the event during the weekend and both he and Starsky knew she was lying thanks to Jason frequently updating them via email and furtive phone calls from his friends’ houses.
Jesus, what the hell does the woman have against Starsky, her ex-husband and the father of her child, to hurt him like that?
Erin doesn’t even greet him and gives Starsky a cursory one before Jason – fifteen and so close to becoming a man already – is running into Starsky’s outstretched arms, calling Starsky dad over and over, and a lump grows in Hutch’s throat at the sight of Starsky clutching his son so dearly and Jason clutching his father so frantically, as if they never, ever want to let go of each other. Starsky constantly touches his son for the all too brief half hour that Erin permits of the heart-wrenching reunion: Stroking thick, dark curls so much like his own as Jason yammers at Mach 5 speed in excitement, stroking an angelic, winsome face he mostly sees in mailed photos and so seldom in person, and the hugs, years of hugs squashed into a half hour of them.
“Jason, time to go.”
When Jason won’t release the sleeve of Starsky’s jacket or Starsky’s hand, Erin roughly grabs the teenager by the arm.
“Jason! We’re going! Your father’s been waiting in the car for –“
It’s a terrible mistake on her part, a mistake she will pay for the rest of her life for her son is snapping and has had enough and is flaring like a newborn phoenix out of the ashes, showing the world exactly who his real father is.
“NO, mom, that disgusting deadbeat is not my dad!” Jason roars at his shocked, pale mother, and then points at an astounded Starsky. “THAT’S my dad there, David Michael Starsky! My dad who LOVES me even when he’s two thousand seven hundred miles away!”
Later that day, after giving Jason one last, long hug and watching his son taken away from him for the umpteenth time, Starsky vanishes for hours into the bathroom of the hotel suite he shares with Hutch, and Hutch feels like cold-bloodedly murdering a certain blonde bitch with a rock for a heart. No, wait, death would be too lenient a fate for she who’d hurt the one he loves, who’d hurt the cherished child of the one he loves.
What the fuck did Starsky ever see in her? Did Starsky ever love her, or she him?
And if she did, long, long ago, can’t she find it within herself to be generous and let their son choose?
Five months later, in 2001, as he and Starsky are eating lunch in Starsky’s apartment, Hutch receives the answer to that question in the form of a phone call from Jason. Starsky patches it through loudspeaker mode so he can also listen and Jason sounds so damn blissful telling them that he’s free to leave Miami as soon as possible and dad, can I go to Bay City and live with you ‘cause I’ve missed you so much and I love you, dad, I wanna make up for all the years we couldn’t be together so tell me I can live with you, please, dad?
It’s an invigorating change, indeed, for Starsky to be weeping tears of elation and for Hutch to begin believing that wishes really can come true after all.
And before they know it, Jason has flown across the country and moved into Starsky’s apartment and the years are zooming past like seconds while they’re creating more and more memories. Better memories, happier memories, of weekly parties at an ageless Huggy’s glitzy downtown pad where Jason never fails to be enraptured by Huggy’s thrilling, firsthand accounts of the adventures of Detective Sergeant David Starsky and his White Knight and their diet-loathing, awe-inspiring Captain Dobey, may the Big Man rest in peace. Of contemplative strolls on the beach where they speak of the past with poignant nostalgia and of the future with kindling hope, of wacky nights of spontaneous dance-offs and singing competitions between Starsky and Hutch at Huggy’s popular-as-always, now five-star brasserie which cause Jason to laugh his ass off till he’s tumbling off the chair.
Of marvelous, miraculous days of being able to watch Jason mature into a fine, intelligent and kind young man, a Starsky man who will soon be graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree with Distinction in microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics from UCLA.
“Uncle Hutch, you still have that Armani suit, right? The one you wore to the Grammys last year?”
It’s 2007, and the three of them are lounging on the couch and watching a season four episode of The Wire on HBO. Hutch, who’d been immersed in the TV show’s engrossing realism and hadn’t seen Jason’s questions coming at all, scratches the side of his head and stammers, “Uh, y-yeah, I do.”
“Good. Dad’s got a matching suit for it.”
Starsky, who’s on Hutch’s right, sits up to glance across Hutch’s chest at his son with one eyebrow lifted, but says nothing. Starsky always has the most eloquent facial expressions and that one is masterfully reflecting what Hutch’s thinking at the moment too. Okay, sure, both he and Starsky know that Erin can’t make it for the graduation due to some ‘emergency situation’ with her husband – still the ‘disgusting deadbeat’ guy – but huh, Jason actually wants him to go in her stead?
Chewing on some popcorn shoveled up from a giant bowl of it on his lap, Jason looks pointedly at Hutch and says, “You’re coming to my graduation ceremony with dad. Right?”
“I, uhm …”
Hutch glances at Starsky who gazes back at him with a buoyant expression, then back at Jason who has an identical countenance. Oh man, one tenacious Starsky is challenging enough to handle on a good day, but two of them?
Shiiiiit, he’s known ages ago that he just doesn’t have a clue how to say no to either of them, and they know it too!
“Yes, Jason, of course. I would be honored to be there,” Hutch replies, his heart as enormous and as bursting with life as the Atlantic Ocean.
Erin’s loss. His gain.
Watching the TV again, Jason nods.
“Dad looks all lop-sided without you. Like a pig without the poke.”
Hutch beams even as he thinks in amusement that Jason’s been spending waaay too much time with Huggy, and he swivels his head all prepared to grin at Starsky and nudge, nudge, wink, wink at his best pal over Jason’s droll comments. When he does see Starsky’s face, however, see Starsky’s face red as the restored Torino in the apartment building’s garage and Starsky’s smile, he’s smiling the same way too, like his already enormous, bursting heart is going boom and he raises his arms and rests them on the broad shoulders of his two most favorite people in the world, and hears the word family reverberating within him.
And then it’s 2010, and the three of them are at a lively carnival on the docks swarming with people who’re enjoying the summer heat and freedom. Starsky’s just won a shooting game and gripped between his forefinger and thumb is a rainbow-colored, imitation gemstone ring.
“What do I do with it?!” Starsky exclaims in a high-pitched voice, and Hutch thinks that he shouldn’t find it so damn cute after nearly thirty years, but he does. Oh, he does.
“It’s your ring, dad. What else are you gonna use it for?”
Jason is smirking, appearing so much like his father that it’s uncanny.
“I thought I was gonna win that gigantic teddy bear! Not – not this! What do I do with this?”
Jason’s expression abruptly goes solemn, as if he is a priest standing at the altar about to deliver his blessings and, what the, Jason’s grabbed Starsky’s left hand holding the ring and Jason’s grabbing his left hand and the ring is sliding onto the fourth finger of that hand, all the way to the edge of the knuckle.
It fits just right. Like it’s always meant to be there.
Starsky is still sputtering nonsensically as Jason, smiling enigmatically, tells them he’s going to go buy some candy floss and swaggers off just the way his old man would, drawing admiring gazes from folks nearby. Hutch, on the other hand, is silent and tranquil and staring downwards at his left hand, at the ring around the fourth finger.
“I – oh geez, I’m sorry, Hutch, I dunno what that silly kid a’ mine was thinking –“
“I like it, Starsk. I like it there.”
And the look on Starsky’s face when he said that, the way Starsky’s blushing redder than the candy apple red of the Torino and the love, the hope in those wide, blue eyes …
So I dare you to let me be your, your one and only
I promise I'm worthy to hold in your arms
So come on and give me a chance
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile
Until the end starts
The love and the hope that’s still there as Starsky sings his heart out to him and him alone on a stage with an all-punk ladies band in a pub in downtown Los Angeles in 2011, and Hutch’s eyes burn with the rarest of tears, the kind that someone bears when every element in the universe are precisely where they should be, when someone has been granted a second chance at transforming a dream into reality. A miracle, there for the taking to make things right again, to go back to that morning in 1982 outside his Venice Place apartment where he and Starsky are standing next to the Torino, staring into each other’s eyes and it’s the most extraordinary morning he’s ever witnessed because he’s finally found the person he loves with every fiber of his being, the one he wants to be with for the rest of his life and it’s Starsky and … and …
Starsky loves him with every fiber of his being too, loves him and wants to be with him for the rest of his life and oh, Starsky, only Starsky – his gorgeous, gorgeous, naughty, big-spending creature with that gorgeous scowling brow and generous, great heart – would dare him to let Starsky be the one, his one and only, the only one ever worthy to be held in his arms …
Come on and give me a chance
To prove I am the one who can walk that mile
Until the end starts
The deafening ovation that follows the end of the song sounds a thousand miles away to Hutch as Starsky bows with a flourish, hops off the stage and walks totteringly – though only to Hutch’s discerning eyes – back to where he’s sitting with his three-quarter-full glass of mango juice, with his heart and soul on his sleeve for Starsky’s taking even after thirty years. Hazy as his eyes are, he knows Starsky doesn’t look at him at all and doesn’t bother to sit down to finish off what’s left of his whisky with a guzzle and a cough.
“Starsky, that was –“
Starsky doesn’t wait for the rest of his murmured statement and darts straight out of the pub and away from its patrons who are still applauding, leaving him at the table. Leaving him there, with an expanding smile and feet that are floating higher and higher off the floor with each second and a rainbow-colored, imitation gemstone ring that’s still around the fourth finger of his left hand. Here it is, that miracle, here for him to do things right this time, to do what he should have done that morning and no, there is no way he is going to fuck it up this time.
He takes out a hundred-dollar bill and tosses it onto the table next to his glass of mango juice. Then, without another glance back, he ambles out of the pub as well, his blinked-clear eyes requiring a couple of seconds to get used to the shift in lighting. He sees the Torino where it is in the almost full car park on the opposite side of the street, parked in a corner and the driver’s side is vacant. He sees Starsky standing there at the driver’s door, just like the man did that morning, back facing him and shoulders hunched and head bowed and Hutch strides across the road towards Starsky with his head held high, with each and every step purposeful and ever nearer to the wish of a lifetime coming true.
Come on, buddy. Look at me.
Starsky is sucking in a shuddering breath, straightening up and squaring those broad shoulders just like he did that morning.
Come on, buddy, don’t be scared of me. Of us.
Starsky is turning around, and under the stark illumination of the street lamp, Starsky’s red t-shirt is luminous and, holy crap, the leather jacket, the red t-shirt and jeans, it’s … it is the same outfit Starsky had worn that morning in 1982 and the clothes he’s wearing right now … there was a reason Starsky had been so insistent on picking his clothes today because it’s the same sort of clothes he’d worn that morning –
Starsky is staring into his eyes now, but unlike that morning, Starsky is concealing nothing from him and oh, Starsky is wearing his heart and soul on his sleeve and they’re his for the taking. His, even after thirty years.
You planned this whole thing from the start, didn’t you, you gorgeous human being?
Swallowing visibly, Hutch reaches out with his right hand, a trembling hand, to caress the side of Starsky’s beloved face. That morning, Starsky had flinched away from him as if his touch was acid. Tonight, Starsky is leaning into it as if his touch means everything to Starsky, and Starsky’s eyes are shimmering in the lamplight as if the world’s going to end, as if he’s already sure that what he’ll hear is I’m sorry, I can’t, I can’t and that what he’ll see is Hutch backing away from him, shaking a head of shorn, grey hair in farewell.
Oh, Starsk, my best friend I have in the whole world … I’m not the only one who’s been waiting for this second chance, this miracle, am I?
It takes approximately six seconds for Hutch’s whisper to sink in. Six seconds in which Starsky’s eyes widen in momentary disbelief and Starsky’s left hand flies up to press itself against his, as if Starsky’s convinced he simply imagined that one word, that one word that’s unlocked the door to a future of even more better, happier memories, of catching up on all the years of love they’d believed lost to them forever.
“The answer is yes. It’s always been yes.”
And then, and then Starsky is smiling as radiantly as a star even as those big blue eyes spill over and those lips Hutch has dreamed of for years and years are molding against his and holy mother on a cheese whiz cracker, Starsky is kissing him again and stealing his breath away and oh man, oh man, there’s that unique, exceptional Starsky taste tinged oh-so-little with the whisky Starsky had drunk earlier but Starsky will be forgiving of him for breaking his vow of alcohol abstinence just this once, he’s certain. Starsky’s kissing him, all over his face and his eyelids and jaw and when Hutch kisses Starsky all over the face too, the dampness under his lips are those of saltiness and rapture and instead of a sob, all he hears now is laughter, sweet laughter that paradise is missing and angels would envy.
A strident hoot of approval from far away pierces the euphoric miasma enveloping them, and they reluctantly separate, just enough that they can turn their heads in the direction of the holler, their cheeks brushing. The fab ladies of the band are standing in a row outside the pub, clapping their hands and hopping wildly and cheering and how else can Starsky and Hutch respond to such wholehearted support of their matrimony except to each delightedly display a thumbs up and huge grins?
“Dave! You going to invite us to your wedding with your cute guy, huh?!”
Laughing exuberantly, Starsky shouts in reply to the pink-haired pianist, “You’re damn right I am! And this cute guy’s MINE and don’t you forget it!”
And amidst even more cheering and clapping, Starsky is kissing Hutch once more and Starsky shivers when Hutch murmurs into his mouth, “My one and only.” Everything is beautiful and good and wonderful and this time, oh, this time Hutch is getting into the Torino with Starsky and as they drive off and wave goodbye to the pretty, talented, iridescent-haired ladies who’ll become their wedding’s official band in eight months’ time, Hutch is already plotting a devious strategy to overcome Starsky’s shyness and persuade his other half to come into the studio with him to write and sing for a new album.
Addendum: In Which Coming Out of the Closet is a Lot Simpler than It Looks
Starsky is waddling like a duck.
Hutch is waaay smarter than to point that out though, seeing as a specific, well-endowed portion of his anatomy is the direct cause of it and that specific, well-endowed portion of him is very interested in thrusting its way back inside a specific, well-padded portion of Starsky as soon as possible. Nuh uh, wouldn’t do to piss off the owner of those well-padded, ample buttocks, no sir.
“I still think we can do it on the kitchen table,” he whines as they trundle out of Starsky’s bedroom to the kitchen, him with his arms clinched tight around Starsky’s robed, robust body that should belong to a man twenty years younger.
Starsky’s response is to grin like the Cheshire Cat up at him.
“Damn, Blondie, who knew you’d be such a sex maniac?”
“Do you know how much of it we have to catch up on? We’re talking thirty goddamn years here!”
“Yeah, and I think you caught up on at least ten last night!”
“Mmmmmmm, oh yeah.”
Hutch dips his head and kiss-attacks Starsky’s forehead, bristly cheek and neck, reveling in Starsky’s high-pitched squeak and chortle and Starsky squirming exultantly in his embrace. He wants to catalog every squeak and sigh and moan and scream of ecstasy Starsky has to offer, every arch of that long neck and that defined back, every flutter of those lustrous blue eyes and brush of those thick curls and drag of those trimmed fingernails down his back as he plunges in and out of Starsky’s warm depths and –
“Hey,” Starsky rasps, stroking the back of his head, gazing into his eyes with an indulgent, sensual smile. “We got time, babe. Lots of time. Let’s take it slow, huh?”
“Whatever happened to the legendary Starsky Refractory Period, hm?” he replies, a smile of his own softening his words.
Starsky chuckles, eyes twinkling.
“Oh, it’s there, believe you me. It’s the refractory period of my ass that’s the issue.” Starsky smacks him on the forearm. “Who asked you to be hung like King Kong, huh? I’m so gonna need one a’ those butt donut thingies.”
“Was that supposed to be an insult? I certainly didn’t hear you complain about it last night.”
“Mm, no, no complaints … no complaints at all,” Starsky says throatily, those big eyes half-lidded and smoky with desire, desire for him, and Hutch is powerless against the lust, the love that compels him to turn Starsky around and devour that open mouth that’d devoured him last night, worshipping his body like a temple, making him feel young again, young enough that he was rigid as stone and hot as fire and Starsky was panting as he sank in inch by inch into the nirvana of Starsky’s body and god, the shattered moan Starsky had let out when he was fully inside, swelling unbelievably larger and the exquisiteness of Starsky coming so fucking hard, arching off the bed and up against him, just from one –
Hutch’s shut eyes snap open at the out-of-place exclamation. The hell, he sure hadn’t said that since he’s still dreamily locking lips with Starsky who evidently hadn’t said it either so who –
Hutch glances over Starsky’s head for just an instant and oh shit, there’s somebody in the kitchen and that somebody’s watching them make out big time and it’s … uh oh.
“Uhm, St-Starsk … Starsky!”
Uttering Starsky’s name simply encourages the man to go into heavy loving mode, kissing him all the more deeper and slithering those burly arms around his shoulders and behind his neck and it almost hurts Hutch just to push at Starsky’s chest and put some distance between their famished lips. Starsky, bless his voracious sexual appetite, just lunges forward and recaptures his lips in another long, dizzying kiss, clinging onto him even more and Hutch pushes harder at Starsky’s chest, reluctantly suspending Starsky’s seductiveness at bay until Starsky regains his senses.
“Hutch, whassamatter? “
Starsky’s frowning at him now, frowning and pouting and geez, only Starsky at his current age can pout and still look so adorable.
Wordlessly, Hutch points one forefinger downwards and twirls it in circles, signaling Starsky to turn around and face the kitchen. He holds his breath as Starsky does so, gazing at last at the very familiar albeit unanticipated person in their presence.
Jason, tall, dark and handsome and so much like his father at twenty-six, is standing behind the kitchen counter and gapes back at them, an opened carton of orange in hand and halfway to his mouth. Jason had moved out of the apartment three years ago but always visits his dad during the weekend whenever he can, usually on Sundays and yeah … it’s Sunday. Damn, they forgot!
Hutch would have laughed at Starsky’s lower jaw sagging and Starsky’s eyes bulging comically like they are, except his eyes are probably bugging out just as much and his mouth is clammed up tighter than a nun’s legs in fear of saying the wrong thing and making the situation more awkward than it already is for poor Starsky.
“J-Jason, son …”
Yeah, that’s a good start, Starsky –
“I know this is a, uhm, probably a - a shock to you …”
Starsky trails off into silence at Jason putting down the carton of juice on the kitchen counter and very deliberately crossing muscular arms over an extensive chest. Ooh, crap, Jason’s got that scowling brow thing going on, the way his father does when something bad’s going down and he doesn’t like it one bit.
“Jason, we – we can talk about this, huh –“
Starsky is hushed with the elevating of one of Jason’s hands, palm forward and fingers up. For one very long, tense minute, the young man goes back to crossing his arms on his chest and eyeballs them each of them in turn, brows furrowed in what looks to be a stern frown. And then, all of a sudden –
“It’s about damn time.”
Jason’s frown is metamorphosing into an ear-to-ear grin, and it’s such a mind-blowing transformation that both Starsky and Hutch gawk at Jason while the grinning man picks up the carton of juice again and swigs down several mouthfuls of the cold beverage like he’s drinking a toast to the long-awaited acknowledgement of their love for each other and Hutch is … Hutch is grinning as widely as Jason is, so much that his cheeks are aching and his eyes are crinkled to slits and his heart is flying.
“S’okay, dad. I was gonna go see Sam anyway.”
Jason has placed the carton back into the fridge and is slinging a rucksack over his shoulder, winking at them and looking so much like Starsky who’s frozen to the spot with one finger in the air and that mouth gaping even more that Hutch has to bite his lower lip to stop the laughter bubbling inside him from frothing up.
“I’d tell you two to have fun but … something tells me you already did.”
Finding his voice, Hutch nods sagaciously and puts on a mock serious expression and says, “You’re a very perceptive, young man, Jason.”
“Thanks, pop! Hey, I’ll give you guys a call tomorrow, okay? See ya later!”
After the front door clicks shut, over two minutes of awed silence tick by before Hutch realizes what Jason had said to him. Once it penetrates his mind, he tucks his hands into the pockets of his robe and tilts his head back, basking in the simple, monumental acceptance of his place in Starsky’s universe. God, he loves that kid. Such a good person, just like his father.
His father who is covering luscious lips with one hand and staring at the kitchen counter, as if the shock hasn’t quite dissipated yet.
“Well.” Hutch bounces on the balls of his feet, also staring at the kitchen counter and smiling, smiling, smiling. “I think that went rather well. Don’t you?”
Starsky turns his head at the same time he does and they stare at each other instead, their faces deadpan. One, two, three seconds later, they’re throwing their heads back and roaring with thrilled laughter and Starsky’s leaping into his arms and oh, Starsky is blabbing at Mach 5 speed about all the fun, exhilarating things they’re going to do today and tomorrow and the day after and about contacting Huggy to arrange a private, terrific party to announce their partnership – in all senses of the word – to their loved ones and oh, it’s the most extraordinary morning Hutch has ever witnessed because the one he loves with every fiber in his being loves him that much too and it’s Starsky and … everything is alright now.
Yes, everything is just fine. Finally.