This story was originally published in the zine: The Fix #13, published by In Person Press in 1995. Comments from this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author. Special thanks to Evelyn L. for preparing it for the web.
The Face In The Headlights
Another in the "Secrets" series . . .
The date had not gone well for Kenneth Hutchinson. Bitter memory of failure mocked him down the lonely road he traveled, illuminated in each passing car, every lit billboard. He was halfway between Long Beach and Venice, but no closer to resolving his personal crisis than he'd been when he left Donna's apartment.
Nothing like this had ever happened to him before . . . Untrue. Still, it hadn't prepared him for the beautiful but untouchable images that danced too temptingly in his head as he reached for Donna in the darkness. Fear replaced desire, and bitterness swallowed the comfort of her reassuring words and arms. "Happens to everyone," she'd said. What a cliché. He personally didn't know of one person who started out making love to a woman and ended up fantasizing about his partner. Starsky . . .
Suddenly everything had changed, from his perspective, anyway. Yesterday, Starsky's tight, faded jeans were a mere sense of annoyance, and today . . . Where had Starsky's best friend gone? If Hutch himself felt the betrayal and loss these new feelings caused, what would his trusting partner feel? Worse yet, he couldn't keep his taunting mind from wondering . . . was it really tonight that things had changed, or was he lying to himself as well?
Just how long had he been in love with his partner?
The neon sign of the bar caught Hutch's eye and he pulled in, already tasting the badly-needed drink. He wasted no time and was at the bar with drink in hand before his surroundings registered—with a jolt. The patrons around him were all male. Talking, drinking, laughing and dancing. With each other.
The irony of the situation wasn't lost on him. He finished his drink and contemplated the pros and cons of staying. By the time he found another place to drink in, it might very well be closing time. Besides, as Starsky would say, it must be fate. Predestination. Meant to happen.
The question, never asked, should have been why.
Hutch had a healthy start on his second beer when his attention was captured by a man taking the stool next to him. Suddenly he couldn't look away. The man bore an amazing resemblance to the subject of his thoughts. Dark, curly hair, same build . . .
The man noticed the scrutiny and smiled. Not a bit like Starsky's smile though, this one was straight compared to the crooked grin Hutch was so used to. Straight. His choice of words brought a wry smile to his lips. Encouraged by it, the man slid closer.
"Hi. Can I be brash and daringly forward and buy you a drink?"
"Uh . . . " Hutch's smile faltered uncertainly as he wondered where it was all leading.
"No strings, I promise." The man offered his hand. "I'm Rob."
"Ken." Hutch shook his hand.
Maybe this was a golden opportunity in disguise, something to be taken advantage of. He couldn't live like this, wondering. He needed at least some of his questions answered, something to bring him that much closer to peace with his new-found knowledge.
"Sure you can buy me a drink," he answered.
The conversation was light; they discussed sports, the news. Hutch began to relax. Maybe this would be easy, after all. He tentatively turned on some charm, while a part of his mind still marveled: here he was, Ken Hutchinson, trying to charm another man into propositioning him—and maybe because he didn't have the balls to make the moves himself. Especially on the one he really wanted . . .
All thought fled as Hutch felt a hand on his leg, and realized he was just tuning back in on a conversation he'd been a part of all along.
" . . . and I know how it is. We're all afraid of commitment. That's why I want to get out where we stand right away. We're both attracted to each other, and no strings in sex is still in fashion."
No strings . . . And what of commitment? Was it really out of style? Certainly had been as far as he was concerned . . . except where his heart really lived. Starsky. He'd made that commitment many years ago, they both had. And lived by it, for better and worse. Everything but the sex.
How would he feel if he found out Starsky had taken another man to bed, deprived him of that important communication, the special first time, just to 'spare' him the harsh reality of truth?
Their long years of intimate friendship guaranteed his reaction.
Commitment. Partnership. Problems shared, and pain eased. Shutting Starsky out would hurt him, but going to someone else for help . . . Could he do that to his friend?
The wandering hand slid higher up his leg, eager to sample the merchandise.
Suddenly feeling sick, Hutch fled. He made it out to his car and stood leaning against it, breathing deep gulps of ocean-scented air. He knew what had to be done. He had to go home.
Home to Starsky.