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In the Dark Places of the Soul
He didn't hear my whisper and I wanted to cry—he seemed so sad. He was huddled at the window, splashed with moonlight, arms wrapped protectively around a tiny something he was rocking gently. I couldn't quite see it without moving closer, but didn't dare make a sound. Something said it was a private sorrow and I could not intrude. I could only wait until he could share. I waited.
"Today would have been her birthday." His quiet words were a long time coming. The tears in his voice kept me silent, but his world included me again. "I was wondering what would have happened . . . if . . ."
He turned toward me slowly, and I saw what he had been cradling. Ollie. Terry's gift to me had disappeared months ago, but I had known better than to look for the little bear. "It would have been a good life, ya know?"
Suddenly, I saw it—the life that had been stolen from him—Terry's gentle presence, her loving support, a home together, children . . . Starsky's melancholy infected me.
"I'm sorry, Starsk." My own voice was full of tears and I ached with loss—his, mine. "I wish . . ."
"NO!" His harsh whisper shocked me, its fierceness shredding the misery between us. "I didn't mean—" He swallowed and tried again. "I loved her, Hutch. I really did. I know she loved me. We'd have gotten married, maybe had a dozen kids. And we'd have been happy together—Terry and me . . . and you.
"The funny thing is, whatever happened, we'd have made it work and had fun doing it." He looked at me steadily, the puzzled look fading from his face. "I can imagine what my life with Terry would have been like. But I can't imagine my life without you."
The love shining in his face belonged to me alone now—and the fear of losing it nearly broke my heart. He came to me then, wrapping his arms around me, Ollie nestled between us. I surrendered to him, needing him to be strong for us both while I struggled with the pain of my own imaginings. The embrace tightened as his touch healed us both.
"Love you, babe. Come back to bed."
I'm not sure which one of us said it, but it didn't matter. What Starsky and I share together blazes white hot—purer than anything we might have settled for separately. Terry had known. Somehow she made sure we knew, too. I'll always love her for that.
But nowhere near as much as I love him.