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That's Rock And Roll
It's been a fuck of a day. I turn off the motor, and both of us are just sitting there, too drained to move. Somehow we've ended up at Hutch's apartment—doesn't matter, really, his, mine, they both feel like home. Since we've spent the day down near the airport his was closer, and that's how we've ended up here, I think.
Most of the time, these days, we're together. I know you're probably thinkin', "Well, that's stupid, you never saw one without the other one anyway." But I mean, like, really together. We're still working on some of the details, 'cause it's been less than a year that all this has been goin' on. The romantic stuff, I mean. Well, if you want my honest opinion, it was always there, always lurking around under the surface. It's just that we were too dumb to realize it earlier on.
We had a tough couple of months there for a while. Hutch was hurt, his shoulder, then he went through this botulism thing, and then I got shot, all within a few months. Those things, more than any other experiences I've had, changed my life, changed his life, changed us. I don't even remember whose idea it was, or who made the first move between us. I know that probably sounds like a cop out (well, come on, we're cops after all) but it isn't. It wasn't this big earth shattering discovery, or revelation that made us "re-evaluate our lifestyles," as Hutch would say (I love it when Hutch says stuff like that, he's so great with words).
It was like... somehow it was just supposed to be the next step, and we took it. You know what the coolest thing is? Even with all these new feelings and emotions we're juggling, Hutch is still my best friend, still my partner, still the only guy I want at my back during tough times.
Hutch means the world to me.
I don't remember the last time we've spent a night apart voluntarily. It's just drifted into this pattern of both of us staying at his place, or both of us staying at mine, and it's kind of neat this way. Sometimes we need some time alone, and so far that hasn't been much of a problem either. He'll go out in the greenhouse at his place and play the guitar or work on a song while I'm making dinner, or I'll flop on my bed and read while he does the dishes. It works out great.
We've been talking lately about how stupid it is that we're both still paying rent like this. I mean, we could put the money together, maybe get a nice place near the beach or something. I think we might do it, Hutch has been working with the figures, and I've been talking to some real estate people, driving around, looking at 'for sale' signs, and I think it's a move we'll probably make soon. I think it'll be a good progression, and so does Hutch.
Anyhow, I look over at him, and he's all hunched against the car door, sound asleep. Can't blame the guy, he looks like he's been through a war. Actually what he went through today, was about twenty million screaming teenage girls. You know what? Teenaged girls are fucking nuts.
Hutch's hair is every which way, his clothes are all dirty, and his shirt has a rip up near where the arm is attached to the shoulder. That makes me feel bad, it's one of his favorite shirts, the one with the embroidered guitar on it. Just sitting here, though, I can see that it's ripped clean at the seam, so I'll bet if I take it to Chen over on Alpine he'll be able to fix it. One of our friends, Roger Murtaugh, who works homicide in another division, told us about him, Chen's a friend of his, and he does really nice work.
I hate to wake Hutch up; I know he's exhausted. Half the department's out with the flu, and the other half are struggling to fill in the gaps—today we didn't even work homicide or vice—we were like security, if you can believe that. There's this singer—Shaun Cassidy, if you've ever heard of him. He's got a TV show, and he's apparently every teenaged girl's dream. He was flying into LAX this afternoon, coming home from a concert tour or something.
Man, I felt so bad for him. He's this skinny, gangly kid with long blond hair and bedroom eyes, and every girl between the ages of thirteen and seventeen in Los Angeles County must have showed up to welcome him home today. He was trying to be cool, but the girls were out of control, screaming and yelling and fainting and grabbing—and all at once. The Cassidy kid looked scared to death—and I don't blame him one bit. What a hell of a life.
When we first got in the car, Hutch was lookin' at me real strange, and he said, "I wonder what it must be like to have to live like that."
"I don't know," I answered him. "Who would want to?"
"Sometimes I think about that," he said, "like if I'd decided to try to go someplace with my music..." He got this real faraway look in his eyes. "But those kids don't care about that guy's music, you know? They don't even care about him. How could they? They don't know him. You'd have to give away so much of yourself, you know? You'd have to—"
I wasn't sure what he was trying to get at, but I knew it was important to him. Hutch is about the most beautiful musician I've ever heard. He's kind of... I don't know...folksy, maybe? He writes these gorgeous haunting songs with words that absolutely break your heart. They break mine, anyway, hearing him sing half the time makes me cry, and at the same time makes me so proud of him I could burst. He's got an incredible voice too, and every time he sings for me, it's a gift.
I smiled. "He seems like a nice kid," I said, "and he's cute, that's probably why they go nuts like that. Besides, he's got a hell of a lot more money than we'll ever have."
"Cute," harrumphed Hutch. "That's no reason to idolize someone like that. And money is—" He shrugged.
I leaned real close. "You're cute," I said, and that made him laugh.
So, anyway, we're sittin' here outside Hutch's place, and boy do I hate to wake him up. But we can't sleep in my car, so I lean over and tug on his arm a little bit. "Hutch?"
I get nothing.
He starts a little bit, and then slowly his eyes open, and he's blinking at me like a sleepy toddler. There's something about Hutch when he just wakes up, I'm tellin' you, he looks so innocent and young (except for the moustache, of course), that he melts my heart.
He rubs his eyes and yawns, and shakes his head, trying to wake up. "I must have dozed off for a minute," he says, yawning again. "I'm sorry."
I don't tell him that he was snoring before I pulled the car out of the LAX day lot. "'S okay," I say, "but let's go upstairs where we can go to sleep and not wake up with impressions of the steering wheel on our bodies where impressions of the steering wheel are not supposed to be."
He smiles at that, and he opens the car door, and begins to unfold himself from the seat. He's a big guy, and he's tired. It takes a few minutes.
Once we get upstairs, I push him toward the couch, and I start sorting through the refrigerator. I know there's beer and some decent food in there, because I bought it when we went shopping this weekend. "You wanna beer?" I ask over my shoulder.
"No thanks," Hutch answers, running a hand over his hair. "I'm too tired for a beer."
"Okay." I pop the top off my own can and take a swig. Boy does it taste good. "What do you want for dinner?"
He kind of shrugs at me. "Not hungry," he says. "You go ahead, I'll fix myself something later."
Fair enough. I start pulling cheese and pickles out of the ice-box. I turn around to put them on the table, and that quick, Hutch is striding toward the bathroom. I'm right behind him, of course, but before I even get to the doorway, I can hear him throwing up.
"Hey..." I say softly. I get right behind him and wrap one hand around his forehead, and rest the other on the back of his neck, the way my mom used to do. I wonder if it really serves any purpose, or if it's some kind of traditional symbolic gesture. "It's okay, it's okay," I'm murmuring as he throws up again and again.
Finally he coughs and spits, and although his whole body is drenched in sweat, I can feel him relax. I flush the toilet real quick with one hand, and I'm down on the floor, pulling him against me with my other arm. I kiss the top of his head. "What happened, there, huh?"
He's shivering now, because from the effort, and because he's all sweaty. "I dunno," he says, his voice all gravelly. "Sorry..." He clears his throat.
He's trying to get up, but I put my hand on his shoulder. "Stay there a minute," I tell him firmly.
I run a washcloth under warm water and wring it out. When I turn around to look at him, he's all hunched over, arms wrapped around himself because he's cold, so I get down on the floor next to him and run the cloth all over his face. He lets me, so I know he still feels sick.
His face is all red and splotchy, both from throwing up, and because he's embarrassed. Which is stupid, because we've been partners for a lot of years, and we've always taken care of each other. Once I got really drunk at Huggy's and he was trying to get me out of there and home, and I puked all over his shoes. He was real cool about it, he's always calm in a crisis, he mopped us both up, stuck me in the car, and took me to his place. Even gave me his bed, and he slept on the couch. So I didn't think he should feel bad about this.
As I'm pulling off his damp shirt, he tries to help me, and for just a minute he lets his head fall down against my chest. God, I hate it when he's sick, but I'm tellin' you...that little bit of vulnerability from him and I turn into a mushball. I get my arms around him, and I'm running my hands up and down his arms and his back, and I kiss his hair again, and smooth it down where it's all sticking out sideways.
"Thank you," he says, and gratefully wraps his arms around my waist. He squeezes me just a little.
"What happened, babe?" I tease him. "All those teenyboppers scare you?"
I feel him chuckle a little bit. "No..." he sighs. "My stomach's been kind of queasy for a few hours. Since before lunch."
I remember that he didn't eat lunch. "So that's why you didn't eat lunch," I scold him gently. "Why didn't you say something, huh?"
He shrugs his shoulders. "It wasn't that bad," he says. "I'm okay now, you can let me up."
We both get up, but he's moving real slow. He brushes his teeth like it's taking every ounce of energy he's got left. I bring him some warm sweats from the bedroom, and he gets changed, but he's still in slow motion. I pull him down a little bit and rest my lips against his forehead. "Warm," I tell him. "Looks like the ranks of the non flu-ridden LAPD officers have fallen by one."
He sighs. "Maybe it's something I ate."
"You didn't eat," I point out.
"Oh, yeah..." He kind of grins at me, like he's been caught.
I point out the door. "To bed, Sergeant Hutchinson," I order.
He grins and sighs at the same time. "Not tonight, Starsk, I'm puking," he says, and laughs.
That's one of the best things about Hutch. He always tells these jokes or says things he thinks are really funny, but they're not, and no one ever laughs—which actually is funny. It doesn't hurt his feelings; he always just thinks his humor is so intellectual that we don't get it. Tell you a secret? I do get it. His jokes are not funny.
I roll my eyes at him. "Give it up," I offer. I tug him along to the bedroom and tuck him in nice and warm. "Think you can fall asleep?"
"Yeah," he says around a yawn. "I feel a little better now, at least my stomach's not hurting."
"Okay." I stroke his hair, as gently as I can. "You want me to stay here till you fall asleep?"
He closes his eyes. "Mm-mm," he says, in this drowsy voice. "Go relax. I'm fine now."
"All right, if you're sure." I bend down and kiss him on the cheek, and he smiles just a little bit. "Love you," I whisper in his ear.
"Love you too..." and I think he's already out.
Back to the kitchen I go, and I finish making my sandwich. I check the cabinets, and there's ginger ale and Coke both, so that's good, maybe I can get him to drink a little bit when he wakes up. I settle down on the couch with my dinner, and turn on the TV.
Before I get involved, though, I remember to call Captain Dobey to tell him Hutch isn't gonna make it in tomorrow. He's pretty nice about it, considering—in fact, he's kind of gruff, but he says I might as well take the day off too, since we've done two double shifts this week, and the department is fussing about overtime during the flu crisis. He's a pretty good guy, Dobey.
I'm watching an old Man From UNCLE episode on KTLA when Hutch comes lurching out of the bedroom and toward the bathroom again. I'm two steps behind him, and we go through the whole throwing up thing again, only this time there's nothing left in his stomach, so he's just dry heaving and coughing, which sounds like it hurts.
"Hurts, Starsk," he says, in between.
"I know," I soothe.
I can't believe how much warmer he is than he was an hour ago—and when he finally flops down on the floor, sitting against the tub, I can see that he's really flushed and has sick eyes, which is what I call it when he's running a fever. His eyes are the clearest shade of blue you've ever seen, but when he's not feelin' good, they get this weird color, and real shiny—glassy.
He's leaning up against the tub there, all drained and spent. I wish I had a better way with words, I wish I could put lyrics together the way Hutch can, because I look at him there...and I just love him so much. I want to hug him and hold him and make him feel good and happy and better.
He looks up at me, his eyes are droopy, and he has that little half smile that means he knows exactly what I'm thinking. "It's just the flu, Starsk," he says quietly.
"I know that," I say, feeling just a little defensive.
"I'm okay." The moustache quirks tiredly.
"I know," and I can feel myself blushing a little bit. Damn it, why does he always do that? I always do that with him too, but I don't want to think about that right now.
He makes this little noise that's not quite a moan or a groan, but it's enough to let me know that he feels crummy and he isn't minding me fussing. So what the hell? I kneel down beside him, and I hug him and hold him for a couple of minutes. He's shivering a little bit, either from throwing up, or from the fever.
"Ready to try the bed again?"
He doesn't even answer me, he just nods his head against my chest. I take my hand and tangle it in the long blond strands, damp now, that rest on the back of his neck. I smooth his hair, and I do it really soft, because I know when you feel that sick, even your hair hurts.
"My hair hurts," he says, with a little laugh. "Dumb, huh?"
"Not dumb," I assure him. "It's from the fever."
"You think?" He looks up at me. "Gotta brush my teeth again," he says, making a sour face.
I get him all settled in bed again, and covered up. I bring him a glass of ginger ale, with just a little ice, just the way he likes it when his stomach's upset.
He takes it from me, and smiles his thanks. He takes a few sips, little sips, and hands it back.
"Try to drink a little more," I urge him, because the last thing I want is for him to get dehydrated or something. That happened to a couple of guys in our precinct with this bug, they ended up in the ER with an IV for a couple of hours.
He does, but I can tell her really doesn't want it, and holding the cold glass is making him shiver again.
I put the glass on the night table so he can have a little more later if he wants it. For just the briefest of seconds, when he thinks I'm not looking, the tiny trace of a pout crosses his face. He replaces it almost immediately with his usual expression, and it's all I can do not to laugh. Big, tough cop. Uh-huh.
"Whyn'cha move over there, Blintz," I suggest, giving him a nudge.
"What for?" he asks, but he's already shifting toward the other side of the bed.
I kick off my shoes and slide down under the covers with him, and he immediately slides back over to cuddle with me. God, he's hot. I can feel the fever through his clothes, and still he's looking for the warmth from my body. I hold out my arm, and he burrows in all up against me.
He's not relaxed, though, I can feel it, he's still really tense. "When you need to get up again," I say, "Tell me quick. I'm kinda in a vulnerable position here."
He snorts and clamps a hand over his mouth, then he tilts his head back to look up at me. "Just kidding," he assures me, with a tiny grin, as he pulls his hand away.
"Turkey," I say, fondly. "Come on, close your eyes and try to rest."
He closes his eyes, but he's still tight, and I know he's hurting. I slide my free hand under his sweatshirt, and just inside the elastic of the sweat pants. I hold my hand on his belly, right where I think it is probably sore and achy. He inhales deeply, and I know I've hit the right spot. I begin to rub, but very softly, wishing I could make it feel even a little better.
He sighs. "That feels better."
We stay like that for a while, and then all of a sudden he gulps. "Um..."
"Okay," I say, yanking the covers away, and we both scramble up and repeat the bathroom drill. Now it's really awful, because there's just nothing left in his system to come up, and his face is flaming red from the effort and from the fever. He looks like he's sunburned, and he's all sweaty again, and shaky besides.
This time he washes up quickly, and brushes his teeth, but it's like he almost doesn't have the strength to move when he's finished, and I walk him back to the bedroom, my arm around his back.
I give up on watching TV, I've already missed the end of UNCLE anyway, and it doesn't matter, I've seen that one a dozen times—and Napoleon manages to get Illya off the island at the last minute, before it blows up. I like watching that show, sometimes they remind me of us, although Hutch always tells me that's nuts, he's much taller than Kuryakin.
I settle Hutch in bed, and he drinks a little bit more soda. I turn out the lights in the living room—but I leave the bathroom light on, just in case we need to make another run. I figure if I trip and break an ankle or something, I'm not gonna be any good to him.
I slide in next to him again, and I pull the covers up around both of us. He's all shivery again, and I wrap my arm around him. This time he picks up my hand and sticks it under his sweatshirt, laying it right on the place that hurts. I know that having my hand there really isn't going to help all that much, but I guess it's the warmth and the contact that feel good to him. He yawns and rubs his eyes a little.
"How's it feeling?" I ask him.
"Not hurting so much," he says, and now his voice is all scratchy from throwing up. "Think maybe I'm done."
"That'd be nice," I say. "How'm I supposed to get any sleep with you jumpin' up and down all night?"
"Deal with it," he mutters, but he throws an arm around me and burrows in like he plans to stay.
I wrap my arm tighter around him. What the hell, there's nowhere I've gotta be but here. "It'll be a stretch, but I'll do my best." He knows I'm kidding, but I kiss his hair anyway.
"Starsk?" he asks me real quiet. "You know that guy?"
"The guy today. Shaun."
God, I'd almost forgotten, it seems like weeks ago. "Yeah? What about him?"
"All those people," Hutch says, "and they're yelling that they love him and they adore him and they'd die for him..." He yawns deeply.
"It was pretty wild," I agree. "He seems like a nice kid, though."
"Yeah...it's just...if he...if I..."
I give him a little squeeze, because I know he's really struggling with something, and the words aren't coming out.
"All those people," Hutch says again. "But...it's not..."
"Not what?" I ask him, because I have absolutely no idea where he's going with this. I wonder if he's wishing he'd pursued his music a little more enthusiastically.
"Not like this," he finally says. "Not like us." He turns over, so he's facing me. "This," he says, waggling a hand between us, "is love. What you did tonight, all of it. That's love." He yawns again.
I lean over, closing the space between us, and I kiss him on the forehead. It's still awful hot. "You're delirious," I tell him.
His mouth quirks up in a smile. "Not hardly," he says.
He turns over, away from me, but he's all up against me under the covers. I put my arm around him, and he reaches up and laces his fingers loosely through mine. I lean in closer, until my nose is burrowed in his hair. He smells like soap, and toothpaste, and fever, and trust, and vulnerability and incredible strength. "You know what, Blintz?"
"Hm?" He's relaxed now, and drowsy.
"Yeah?" He yawns again. "'Bout what?"
"This is love." And I settle in for the rest of my life.