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Happy Birthday, Nikki, my fellow Gemini!
Starsky was excited. He had finally figured out what to give Hutch for his birthday.
Hutch wasn't exactly `the man who has everything', but it had gotten increasingly difficult for Starsky to shop for him. After all, how many sweaters does a young man need, especially in sunny, warm California?
Starsky had been finding the task harder than usual this year, because this time he wanted the present to be perfect. Hutch had taken such good care of him when he was recuperating from his wounds from Gunther's henchmen's bullets, taking a leave of absence from work to stay with Starsky and help him in his convalescence. In fact, he had returned to the job a few weeks ago, and even so, he still came to see Starsky every night and stayed with him through the weekends. Starsky wanted to give him something special to reward such devotion.
Money was no object...well, within reason. He knew that the monetary value of the gift wouldn't matter that much to Hutch anyway. Actually, Hutch didn't attach that much importance to presents and got a little annoyed with Starsky and his childlike eagerness at gift-giving times. That used to hurt and baffle Starsky, who couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't enjoy getting, or giving, presents. Now, perhaps because of a deeper level of maturity owing to his latest, closest, brush with death, Starsky wasn't bothered as much by Hutch's attitude. He no longer cared what tangible presents Hutch gave him for his birthday or Christmas/Hanukkah. He knew Hutch was giving him the greatest gift of all, day in and day out: his unconditional love.
The only way to repay that was with the same kind of love in return and he freely gave that, and Hutch knew it. But he wanted to show how much he appreciated Hutch and all he had done for him lately, so a special gift was in order. He decided he would take Hutch out to dinner at a really nice restaurant on his birthday, and then give him his present at his apartment afterward -- along with a fancy birthday cake, something from a French pastry shop. The gift? A photograph of the two of them together, framed in sterling silver that was engraved "Hutch, Thank you with all my heart. Love, Starsk".
He thought Hutch would like that. The frame itself bespoke class, something Starsky always thought his partner had in spades. Hutch certainly would appreciate the sentiment of the engraving, and he surely would like having a picture of himself and his best friend. It would be a nice remembrance, in case anything ever happened to either of them. Starsky shuddered at the thought. God forbid I ever lose Hutch. He willed himself to banish such ideas.
Instead, he thought about the picture. He had taken up photography as a hobby a few years ago, and had really gotten into it when he was on leave after shooting and temporarily blinding Emily, the lookout who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. After she had regained her sight and he had gone back to work, he had put his camera away for a while. It reminded him of the incident with Emily and he wanted to forget all about that. But, soon enough, he had taken it out again and had used it occasionally.
He had gotten in the habit of bringing it along lately when he, Hutch, and sometimes Huggy, had gone on day trips. It had occurred to him that he had few photographs of himself and his friend together, so he made a point of always asking Huggy to take their picture on every excursion. Hutch seemed mildly surprised at this, but didn't complain. Starsky also took an occasional snapshot of Hutch and Huggy, and had Hutch take him and Huggy, and even once asked a stranger to take all three of them together.
Now, just a day before Hutch's birthday, Starsky was going to pick up the pictures that had just been developed. He needed time to look them over and pick the best one, then put it in the frame and wrap it before Hutch's birthday.
Looking forward to seeing the photos, he rushed back to the Torino to open the envelope as soon as he had paid for them. He happily examined picture after picture, considering its odds of being selected for the frame. He was having fun, enjoying the good vibes of friendship on display in all the shots, not just those of him and Hutch, but also the ones of them with Huggy and even with Captain Dobey and his family and others.
Then suddenly he came upon a picture that made his jaw drop. His heart started pounding. His knees felt weak; it was a good thing he was seated. What he held in his hands was not a photograph, but a revelation of his and Hutch's souls. It was as if it were true what people in some other cultures used to believe, that the camera is an instrument of magic. It had somehow captured not just their physical likenesses, which were certainly pleasing to the eye, but also the greater beauty of their love for each other.
Hands shaking, Starsky stared at the snapshot. It showed two men who weren't just good friends; they were in love with each other. They stood next to each other, arms around one another's shoulders, heads partially turned to face each other. Each was smiling slightly, lips parted, and gazing intently into the other's eyes. Starsky was shocked to realize that a stranger seeing this photograph would surely assume that the two had kissed right after the shutter snapped.
My God! How long has everyone known we're in love -- everyone but us? He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the headrest. No, this can't be. He didn't want to believe the truth, though his fingers held the proof of it.
Of course I love `im. And he loves me. We've felt that way for years. That's not unusual between friends. This picture doesn't mean anything. It must just be the angle it was taken at. He was growing concerned at his rapid heartbeat. The camera doesn't lie, the old cliché mocked him.
Trying to calm himself, he opened his eyes to take a good, hard look at the photo. You're a detective; figure this out. Maybe there were special circumstances when it was taken. Let's see. No, it was just a Sunday in th' park with Hutch `n' Huggy. We listened to th' game on th' radio and watched th' kids play, th' joggers go by, alla that kinda stuff. Nothin' special. Does that mean that's how we always look at each other? No, that can't be! This is nuts!
Starsky was not normally a man given to examining his feelings. He was intelligent, if not well educated, and had learned a lot from experience through the years, but at bottom, he preferred to operate on instinct. He trusted his gut.
Lemme think. How do I feel about Hutch? I love `im. That's th' first thing that comes into my mind when I think of `im. He's my best friend. He means more to me than anyone or anything. He's kind. He's smart. He's a good cop. He's dedicated to his job -- and to me. He watches my back. He'd do anything for me. I don't know what I'd do without `im. I wouldn't still be a cop, if he weren't my partner. I wanna work with `im the rest of our lives -- or, no, till we retire -- early. Then we can hang around together all the time -- even go campin', like he likes. He smiled fondly at that thought, but grew serious as he realized that his stream of consciousness had led him to images of him and Hutch together till the end -- with no one else in the picture.
Oh, I'm sure that doesn't matter. I'm sure we'll get married, have kids, all th' usual stuff. We're only thirty-six. There's plenty o' time yet. Then he remembered how many times each of them had almost been killed. Well, maybe there isn't plenty o' time.
Dad wasn't much older than I am now, when he was shot down on the street. It wasn't easy for Ma to raise two kids on her own. That's why she sent me out here to live with Aunt Rose. Maybe it's just as well Hutch and me never had wives or kids. He smiled ruefully. We've spent more time with each other in the years since we met than we woulda with our wives, if we'd had any. Oh, that's right...Hutch did have a wife, for a while. And look how that turned out! I rest my case. He snickered.
Yeah, maybe it's best we just have each other -- no wives or children to hurt. An image of Terry blazed into his mind, causing him to wince. Actually, we hurt some wonderful women without marryin' `em. Oh, God! Pain pierced his heart. He closed his eyes. I know it wasn't my fault that nut Prudholm killed Terry, but, if she hadna been my girlfriend, it never woulda happened. Maybe that was God or fate or Karma -- is that what Hutch calls it? -- tellin' me I shouldn't get involved with a woman.
Hutch was so great when Terry died. It was so hard, but he helped me get through it. `S funny, though, I distinctly remember thinkin' how it coulda been worse, how it coulda been Hutch that was killed. It was terrible losin' Terry, so sad, but if I had lost Hutch...What would I `a' done? Terry woulda been there for me, but it wouldna helped. It woulda been like I lost part o' myself. I wouldn't feel complete without Hutch. It wouldna mattered that I had Terry, and Huggy, and Cap'n Dobey, and all my other friends, and Ma and Nicky back East; I woulda felt so alone. No one could ever take his place.
Opening his eyes, he focused on the snapshot again. Listen t' me! I guess I am in love with `im. Well, dammit, why not? Look at `im! He's beautiful. Better lookin' than some women I've dated. He chuckled, as his thumb so lightly stroked Hutch's face in the photo. I never really realized how beautiful you are. I mean, of course I knew you were good lookin'; that's too obvious to ignore. But I never thought about it till now. You're beautiful! Hair like corn silk. Eyes the color of the Caribbean Sea. And those full pink lips! Unconsciously, he started chewing on his own bottom lip.
You're strong. You're caring. You're fun to be around. You have the most wonderful voice in th' world. I always feel better when you're around. Hell, I wish you were here right now... Think I'll frame a copy of this picture for myself, too; then I can look at it when you're not here with me... Oh, man, I'm gettin' too soapy for myself.
Grinning, he finally went through the rest of the prints, knowing there couldn't possibly be a better choice among them for the frame. Once finished, he carefully put all the photos back in the envelope, and then set off for physical therapy.
He was always wiped out when he came home after a physical therapy session, so when Hutch came over he brought pizza, which required no work on either of their parts. They ate on the living room couch, since it was easier on Starsky's back than the kitchen chairs were. After they finished, they continued to watch the ball game, as usual.
"It's not good for your digestion to fall asleep right after you eat" Hutch said, moving over next to Starsky and putting an arm around his shoulder to shake him slightly.
"I'm awake," Starsky replied, looking half-asleep.
"Okay, buddy, try to stay that way" Hutch said, rubbing Starsky's shoulder where his hand rested. "Hey, look at that...Garvey hit another home run!"
That roused Starsky for a minute but, shortly afterward, he was dozing with his head on Hutch's shoulder. Hutch rested his head on top of Starsky's for a moment, then shook his friend gently. "Come on, babe, you'd better go to bed. If you've got to sleep, it's better for your back if you lie down."
"Mmm" Starsky answered, nuzzling Hutch's neck.
"Starsk! Come on. Let me put you to bed." Hutch leaned forward to get up, but Starsky didn't lift his head, he only moved his arm, so that now his hand rested on Hutch's upper thigh. "Starsky! Get up!" Hutch said, a little more insistently.
Opening his eyes, it took Starsky a moment to become aware of his position, but, once he did, he immediately realized how much he liked it. As Hutch shifted to stand, pulling Starsky up with him, Starsky thought about how good it felt to be in Hutch's arms. They made their way to the bedroom, with Hutch supporting Starsky with an arm around his waist.
"I'll get the covers," Hutch said, as he turned back the sheet. "Here, give me your robe." His hands lightly brushed Starsky's chest as he reached from behind to help remove the shorter man's robe. Starsky had taken off all but his shorts when he got home from therapy, in case he had time for a nap before Hutch got there. As it turned out, he hadn't had the time.
"Okay, get in" Hutch said, throwing the robe over a nearby chair, then holding up the covers for Starsky to crawl into bed. "Good" he said, as he smoothed the sheet and blanket over his friend. "Now you can sleep. I'll see you tomorrow," he said softly, slowly brushing Starsky's hair back from his forehead with his hand.
"'Kay" Starsky answered groggily, reflexively raising his head for a goodnight kiss that didn't come.
Hutch looked at him quizzically, then turned and walked out, closing the door quietly behind him. He cleaned up the dishes and then left.
Lying in that surreal state between dream and reality, Starsky wished that Hutch had kissed him goodnight. Wishing further, he thought how nice it would have been if Hutch had gotten into bed with him. Picturing his beautiful blond next to him, he drifted off to sleep.
Clutching the extra pillow against his chest, Starsky awoke with a hard-on the next morning. As he kissed the cotton pillowcase, reality sank in. Oh, man, that's the best sex -- the only sex -- I've had in months, and it's just a dream. A dream of Hutch, at that! This is really weird. He rubbed his eyes, then rubbed his erection. I need a shower. Not only was he sweaty, but he was afraid of what a full-blown orgasm might do to his body, still tender as it was from the bullet wounds of a few months ago. He gingerly got out of bed and made his way to the bathroom, where he took a warm shower, letting his desire ebb away slowly. He forced images of Hutch out of his mind by concentrating on his sore muscles.
He tried to collect his thoughts while he made and ate his breakfast. Okay, I gotta think. When did I cross the line from being in love with Hutch to wanting to make love to him? And, more important, how does he feel about me? He thought about the photograph that he was going to give Hutch later that day. He knew that, though the camera might not lie, it can be misleading. Perhaps it really was just chance that the picture was taken at that exact moment when Hutch seemed to have a look of love on his face. Starsky didn't remember actually seeing such a look at the time, but then he was too lost in Hutch's eyes to notice anything else.
I think he feels the same, but I gotta know for sure. If I just ask `im, and I'm wrong about this, that could be real awkward. It might even freak `im out. But I gotta know. Life's too short to play it safe. If there's a chance I can make my dream come true, I gotta take it.
He pondered the problem for a few moments. I got it! I'll kiss `im...after he opens the present and looks at the picture. That should focus his feelings. When he turns to thank me, I'll plant one on `im. How he reacts should tell me what I need to know: how does he love me? It'll be a test. If he gets an A, my dreams come true. If he gets an F, I'll have to get a grip on myself and my feelings. He smiled at the double entendre. Since I won't get a grip from him. Hmmm, maybe the grade works the opposite way; an A for "ain't no way", and an F for...no, I'm getting ahead of myself, thinking of giving head. Whoa, wordplay's for Hutch, my college boy. He must be rubbing off on me. Rubbing? Ha! I can't stop this.
In a much better mood now, after having come up with a satisfying solution to his dilemma, he set about cleaning up his dishes. After doing the exercises his physical therapist had prescribed, he would go pick up Hutch's birthday cake.
The birthday dinner went very well. It was a Thursday night, so the restaurant wasn't crowded. The food was excellent, as was the wine. The waitress was very attentive to her two young male customers, who looked very good indeed in their dress shirts and sport coats. Although Starsky eagerly anticipated the climax of the evening, when he would give Hutch his gift, he was able to keep his excitement under control and enjoy the quiet meal with his best friend. He toasted Hutch's birthday, and Hutch toasted him on his recovery. At first they talked about current cases, but by the time they left, they had moved on to discussing their early days at the Police Academy together.
They were feeling pretty mellow when they arrived at Starsky's apartment. Starsky turned on one lamp in the living room, then went into the kitchen to get the dessert and coffee. They didn't have decorated birthday cakes at the little patisserie, so he got a Sacher torte instead. When he served it to Hutch with a flourish, the blond looked suitably impressed.
"Starsk, this is delicious! You didn't have to go to all this trouble and expense for my birthday. It's not even like it's a special one or anything. It's still a few years till I turn forty," Hutch said, giving his friend a fond smile, as he enjoyed the cake.
"All your birthdays are special to me, because you're special to me" Starsky replied, knowing full well that he must have a look of adoration on his face. He turned his attention to the dessert and coffee, trying to bank his mounting anticipation.
"I thought you hate soapy" Hutch said, still smiling between bites and sips.
"Well, not as much as I usedta" Starsky admitted with a grin. "Hey! We need some music." He got up and turned on his sound system. An Oldies station came on.
"What...no ball game tonight?" Hutch asked.
"Would ya rather watch th' game? Whatever ya want; it's your night," Starsky answered.
"Music's fine, for a change" Hutch said.
"Good." Starsky was about to search for a more romantic station, but Hutch said "That's okay, leave that one on. It'll be fun to hear that old stuff."
Starsky had his doubts about that, but acquiesced to the birthday boy's wishes. "Now it's time to open your present" he announced with glee, going into the bedroom to get it. He emerged a minute later with a box wrapped in silver paper, with a silver bow. Sitting down near Hutch on the sofa, but at an angle, he handed it to the man he loved.
"Wow! This looks very special, Starsk. You really shouldn't have done all this for me" Hutch said, as he took the box.
"I wanted to. Just open it." Starsky said eagerly. The big moment was almost here.
Tearing the paper off carefully, Hutch uncovered the box, opened it, and took out the frame. "Oh, it's beautiful" he said, as he saw the gleam of the sterling. He leaned toward the light to read the inscription and take a good look at the photograph. "Oh, babe, I don't know what to say. It's so beautiful. Thank you." His eyes were full of love when he turned to face his friend.
Starsky hadn't planned on saying anything, but the words escaped him before he could think about it. "I love you," he said, as he moved forward and gently kissed Hutch's lips, holding Hutch's face with his left hand. The kiss only lasted a few seconds, but to Starsky it seemed an eternity. His heart was beating rapidly; he thought it might explode. He drew back a few inches, looking into Hutch's eyes. The blond hadn't responded, but Starsky knew that might have been because he was so surprised. He waited a moment. His heart stopped; time stood still.
Then Hutch wrapped his arms around him and kissed him passionately on his mouth. "I love you, too. Have for so long now,' he said, as he planted kisses on and around Starsky's lips. "I've wanted to do this so many times." He kissed Starsky's chin, then his neck, then below his left ear, as his hands started unbuttoning Starsky's shirt.
"Oh, babe, this is too good to be true" Starsky said, as he thought You passed the test with flying colors, Blondie. Life can't get any better than this. "Who said this isn't a special birthday?" he asked, as "The Shoop Shoop Song" came on the radio. "Mmm" was all Hutch could answer; he was too busy kissing his way down Starsky's chest.
The Shoop Shoop Song, sung by Betty Everett
Does he love me, I want to know.
How can I tell if he loves me so?
(Is it in his eyes?) Oh no! You'll be deceived.
(Is it in his sighs?) Oh no! He'll make believe.
If you wanna know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss.
(That's where it is, oh yeah!)
(Or is it in his face?) Oh, no! It's just his charm.
(In his warm embrace?) Oh no! That's just his arms.
If you wanna know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss.
(That's where it is.) It's in his kiss. (That's where it is.)
Hug him and squeeze him tight and find out what you want to know.
If it's love, if it really is, it's there in his kiss.
(About the way he acts?) Oh no! That's not the way
And you're not listenin' to all I say.
If you wanna know if he loves you so, it's in his kiss.
(That's where it is.) It's in his kiss. (That's where it is.)
Hug him...(repeat to end)