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Twilight gave her last performance of the evening then faded into ever-lengthening shadows, exiting as the curtain slowly rose on a perfect California night. A full yellow moon hung low against an ebony sky, and showers of stars glittered like jewels atop a velvet bed. Rustling through trees and shrubberies, a balmy Pacific wind cooled the humid air and blew through the opened window, enhancing the fragrant jasmine and orchids sitting about the room.
Ken Hutchinson dried and put away the last of the dinner dishes, then turned and leaned against the counter, exhaling slowly and running both hands through his hair as he fixed concerned eyes upon his partner. Starsky sat on the couch with his legs propped up on the coffee table and crossed at the ankles, his back was arched and his arms lay folded across his chest, his head rested back against the couch, and his gaze was fixed upon the television, though Hutch doubted little attention was being paid to the program. Starsky's entire posture spoke of the intense mood that had been ever present since John Blaine's death two weeks ago.
He watched Starsky a moment longer and sighed. Then he walked over to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a glass and bottle of whiskey then moved over to the kitchen table and sat down. He sloshed a healthy shot into the glass, wrapping his fingers around it and bringing it up to his lips where he downed it in one gulp, the amber liquid bringing a sharp sting to his eyes as it burned its way down his throat, spreading warmth into his belly.
The man had mentored many a young police officer, Starsky and Hutch included. John had had a stellar law enforcement career and a thriving marriage; he had been a friend and confidant. But he had carried a secret, a dark one that had come to light after his brutal murder in a seedy hotel. And upon being given the task of bringing John's murderer to justice, he and Starsky had been thrown into the middle of half-truths and hidden double lives.
Hutch sighed again as he took a slower sip of the next glass of whiskey.
Although learning the truth about John's sexual preference had been a shock, he had prided himself that he had no deep-set opinions against homosexuality, and had been willing to accept alternative lifestyles with an open mind. Starsky, however, had reacted far differently. It had greatly disturbed him to learn the true nature of a man he had known since childhood. But that was not all. The whole idea of men having sex with other men confounded him, and he had border-lined quiet anger at the notion of lifestyles other than heterosexual. During the investigation, they had talked quite a bit about their personal opinions, but there had been no meeting of the minds or concessions to points of view, and, so, they had silently agreed to disagree.
Stalemate . . . .
"Hey, what's the score?"
Starsky turned his head and looked at his partner. "You say something?"
"The game—what's the score?" Hutch replied, nodding toward the television.
Starsky dragged away his gaze and fixed it on the screen, then exhaled, shrugging. "Not a clue. Guess my mind's somewhere else tonight."
"Starsk, we need t—"
"Everything's fine, Hutch."
Hutch drained the last of the whiskey from the glass with a grimace, lips curling back as the liquid burned a hole in his gut.
It had started earlier that afternoon with a simple conversation in the car. They had just dropped off one of the other detectives that had needed a lift home and were on their way to grab a couple of beers. The conversation had drifted to John Blaine, but this time Starsky's comments had been more along the lines of questioning rather than opposing. Finally, he had asked his partner if he thought that two men who spent seventy-five percent of their time together had certain tendencies. Starsky had replied yes and was then somewhat stunned upon learning that the two hypothetical men in question were themselves.
And you're not even a good kisser.
How do you know that?
He had meant the comment to Starsky as a jest, a barb designed to render the king of comebacks speechless. But as soon as he had uttered the words, an unexpected longing had washed over him as sudden as a squall, and though he did not understand the why of it, at that very moment he had wanted nothing more than to discount his statement and find out for himself exactly what kind of kisser Starsky was. And as he had looked deep into his own eyes, reflecting back from the rearview mirror, he had found Starsky's locked onto his own, and had watched them widen in surprise as they registered his emotions and then fill with confusion and then, finally, turn away.
"Can't believe how much it's cooled off."
Hutch looked up, startled. Starsky had moved from the couch to the opened window and was staring up at the night sky. Finally, Starsky faced his partner, and then after a moment turned back to the window.
"I don't understand, Hutch."
Hutch grabbed the whiskey bottle and poured another drink. He took a small sip then slid the glass away from him. Then he got up and walked over to stand behind Starsky, placing his hands upon the man's shoulders and breathing a heavy sigh of relief when his touch was not rejected.
"Don't suppose you'd believe me if I told you that it was a first for me, would you?"
"You've never given me a reason to not believe you." Starsky shrugged. "Been thinkin' that maybe I've been wrong."
"'Bout what?" Hutch replied, sliding his hands inward to rest at the juncture of shoulder and neck, jolting slightly at the feel of bare skin.
"Remember those guys we saw comin' out of the theater?"
Hutch frowned in confusion for a moment, and then recalled that when they had left the bar, Starsky had stopped cold to stare at two men coming out of the movie theater across the street. They had looked to be no more than buddies having a great night out; however, anyone paying close attention could see that these two were more than friends by the way they laughed and walked together, casually touching by hand or brush of body. He smiled as he remembered thinking how much they reminded him of Starsky and himself.
"They looked happy."
"Yeah, buddy, they did."
"Hutch . . . I'm not . . . we're not—"
For several long moments, Starsky gazed at the glittery sky, and then nodded as if he had found the answer to which he had been searching for there amongst the stars. He nodded again, and then tilted his head to the side, rubbing his whisker-roughened jaw against the backs of Hutch's fingers.
"I still don't think what John did was right . . . but when I saw those men . . . I . . . I realized it's different when it's love."
Hutch reached down and interlaced their fingers together, and then wrapped their arms around Starsky's chest, pulling him close. He smiled as he felt Starsky's head fall back against his shoulder and replied by laying his own head against his partner's soft hair.
"It usually is, buddy," he whispered. He felt Starsky's whole body relax against him, and he closed his eyes, relishing this quiet, peaceful time. Soon, his breathing slowed and harmonized with his partner's in a symphony of deep, even breaths. Their hearts beat in tandem, and he fancied their souls melding together as one.
Check . . . .
Later, long after the moon had reached its zenith, Starsky moaned softly and pulled away.
"Guess I better go. We've got a long day tomorrow."
"Damn," Hutch replied, sighing. "I . . . ."
"I liked having you in my arms."
Starsky smiled, reaching up to card his fingers through the fine blond hair. "I liked being there." He pulled away. "But, I have to go. C'mon, see me out."
They walked over to the door and Hutch opened it. For a long moment they looked at each other, and in that special way they had of communicating without words, they agreed that the events of this night would never again be mentioned. After Starsky left, Hutch shut and locked the door then clicked off the lights and stood there in the dark, thinking about his partner.
There was a loud pounding on the door. "Hutch!"
He hurriedly undid the locks and swung open the door, "Starsky, what's wr—" His knees went weak and his heart pounded as Starsky grabbed him and pulled him close, burying their mouths together in a firm, demanding kiss. He shuddered and groaned deeply, all rational thought fleeing as that talented mouth moved hungrily over his, as those lips moved restlessly, teasing and taunting, yielding as an agile tongue swept inside, plundering and claiming, igniting wave after wave of white hot flames.
And then he was released and Starsky was gone.
I stand corrected.
Checkmate . . . .
Well, maybe they would mention it again . . . someday.