This story originally appeared in the SH zine, Code 7 #3. All 4 Code 7 zines are available again through Agent With Style. Her web page is: http://www.agentwithstyle.com, or you can email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks to Tammy R for helping get this story ready for the web.
He hadn't intended to fall asleep. But when he opened his eyes the room that had been dim with evening was brilliant with sunshine and fragrant with the smell of fresh coffee. Someone was humming softly, the ritual of plant-tending that Hutch always--
"...another bud--that's four. You're doing fine, sweetheart. I got a special treat for you, baby--fix you up real good..."
What a guy. Talks to his houseplants like they were his kids. But it can't be--he's--
"You're awake. About time. Want some coffee?"
Oh. Jesus Christ. It can't be.
"Hu-Hutch?" It came out as a croak.
"Who'd you think it was, dummy?"
I've flipped. I've finally flipped.
"Is it--really you?" Dumb thing to say. "I thought--I mean, you're--"
"I'm what?" Hutch put a mug of coffee into his hands, and sat down beside him on the bed, grinning. "Drink that. You still look wiped, Starsk. Thought you were going to sleep the clock around, you were so out of it. Feel better?"
"Uh--yeah. I guess." The coffee was real. Hot and sweet, the way he liked it. So maybe--maybe the rest was real, too, and everything else the dream. Nightmare. God, yes, nightmare. Blood on my hands, everywhere. The sound you made as you tried to breathe through the blood clogging your throat. The light going out of your eyes....
"Rough time, huh?" Gentle sympathy. A hand on his shoulder slipped up to caress the nape of his neck. He felt the tension begin to ease, drawn out of him by the loving touch.
No. I couldn't imagine this.
The sunlight tangled in the blond hair, firing every strand with living brightness. Eyes the clear blue of the sky above the winter mountains. The face he knew as well as his own--better--every plane and angle and line. In the nightmare, stark with pain, dying hard. He shuddered, screwing his eyes shut.
Oh dear God--if I'm dreaming--don't let me wake up. Please.
"Starsk." The quiet voice was a balm, soothing frayed nerves. "Starsk, just take it easy, okay? It's all over, buddy. All over now." Arm around him, holding him--strength remembered, comfort longed for. Haven. "Shh. Easy. Rest easy. I'm here."
"Hush. It's all right."
Face hidden in the hollow of Hutch's throat, he was rocked like a child, his friend's hand rubbing his back gently. He closed his eyes, relaxed in the enfolding love, breathing the clean scent of Hutch, soap and warm skin and the fresh cotton of his shirt. Familiar and reassuring and real.
This is real. It has to be real. I know what I saw--no, wait, I know what I thought I saw, but that was just a bad dream. I've had them before. I want this to be real. I want to believe--want it so bad--
Tears burned beneath his eyelids, seeped past his lashes, trickled onto the skin of Hutch's throat.
"Let it out, babe," the soft voice breathed, and he obeyed, unable to hold back any longer. He burrowed his face into Hutch's neck like a hurt child and sobbed helplessly, while Hutch held on to him and let him cling and talked to him quietly, meaninglessly, voice murmuring counterpoint to his anguish.
When it was over, he felt drained. Hutch lay beside him, stroking his hair. His breathing steadied to normal.
"God. I'm sorry. That wasn't...."
"S'all right. Take it easy." Fingertips brushing his wet eyes--lips following the light touch. "Everything's all right, babe...." Tracing the line of his mouth now, then warm lips seeking, meeting his, lightly as breath at first, then parting as his parted, tongue-tip darting swift and sweet. His whole body quivered in startled response--because he had wanted this for so long and never known it until now.
Again, but for a different reason, his breath caught in his throat.
"Hutch--" he heard himself moan.
"It's okay." Hands on his body, stripping him, touch lingering on his naked skin. "Now me, lover--" Fumbling at buttons, zippers, fabric bunching as he thrust it aside to find the smooth honey-tan, dusted with almost-invisible down, clothing the power and strength of athlete's muscle and bone, the vitality of the long lean body leaping now to his touch.
"I love you." He could say it now, at last.
"Love you." An echo murmuring in his ear. "That's why I had to come back, babe. To tell you. Wish I'd told you before."
"It doesn't matter." He didn't want to talk. "Oh, Hutch--"
I'm going out of my skull. And I don't care.
"Love me, David...." Command and entreaty, both in one.
Everything I've always wanted--dreamed of. Right here. Mine. To have and to hold. To love and to cherish.
A New World of wonder and delight, exploring and explored, questing for deeper pleasures to give and receive--sensitive skin rippling under his fingers, warm living velvet. Sweat breaking out, an iridescent sheen that tasted salt to his lapping tongue. Hutch writhing under him now, breathless with need.
"Don't make me wait...." Body arching, pressing against him, demanding his possession.
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You can't. You could never hurt me. Don't you know that?"
Hard muscles, and in the cleft between the hidden secret revealed now to his fingers, open for his taking. Impaled and impaling, they moved together slowly at first, locked in timeless embrace, until the pace quickened and he knew he couldn't make it last. He didn't want it to end, but the urgency was building inside him, pressure at the base of his spine threatening to burst out of him. He eased back, trembling uncontrollably, but Hutch bucked under him, arching up, and all restraint was gone. He thrust deep, cried out in the same moment that Hutch thrashed, calling his name--collapsed onto the heaving body, gasping.
"Hutch--oh, Hutch, never leave me--"
Never leave me. Never. Never.
He was tangled in sheets, sticky liquid warm over belly and thighs, heart racing. He gasped like a swimmer breaking water, chest hurting--blinked dazedly at the bleak emptiness of the grey-dim room, the dull gleam of the brass bedstead. Shudders racked him in long spasms--he doubled up, knees to chest, in a fetal huddle, too spent even to cry any more.
Three days since it happened. No sleep for three nights. Didn't believe it at first--like it was some enormous sick joke. But even though we always knew it could happen, we never expected it to happen to us. It's always somebody else the bullet hits, the knife stabs, the poison kills.... Always somebody else. It could never happen to us. He had a sawed-off shotgun, but he wasn't going to pull the trigger. We had him cornered at the back of the store--no way out.
Cornered rats are the most dangerous.
Did we really think we could live forever?
Blood on my hands. Trying to stop it pouring out of you, as if I could seal the wounds by touch, by magic, but it flooded through my fingers and you couldn't breathe either, it filled your lungs, your throat, bright scarlet foam on your mouth. I saw the light go out of your eyes. I held you, and watched you die, and a part of me died with you. Didn't know it hurt so much, to be dead alive....
I got him for you, anyway, if it matters. They'll find him, and come looking for me. But not yet.
It was dumb to come here. But I couldn't go home. I wanted to feel close to you, somehow. I didn't want to believe that it was really over, that you were really gone. But you are.... There's nothing left of you here, only what my memory and my need can conjure up. Not enough, Hutch. Not ever enough to hold off the loneliness.
Never leave me.
Nevermore the comradeship, the shared laughter, the fights. Nevermore the closeness, the loving, the answered need.
Never leave me.
Never. The saddest word in any language.
The ghost of a kiss lingered on his mouth as he reached out and lifted the Colt Python from the night-table. The sound of the shot was oddly muffled.
Never leave me.