Author: jat sapphire
Obligatory Semi-Legal Disclaimer Thing: I don't own either Starsky or Hutch, I just write down what I think up and I don't make money for it. This is slash, and it is about sexual love between two men. If this disturbs you or you're underage, please go away.
I'm Telling You
(post Sweet Revenge)
It was so cold in Duluth that Hutch's eyelashes were freezing. He tried to remember if that was normal for Thanksgiving. Couldn't.
He got into the cab and gave his parents' address. The wind was just howling across the flat runway space, and even the bulk of the airport building didn't really do much to stop it. Hutch's California-conditioned body was shuddering. Even the inside of the cab seemed cold, though he could hear the heater blowing. A fine white dust of snow was riding the wind, looking almost like fog. Not sticking.
He rubbed his hands together and clasped them between his knees. Of course he'd forgotten all about gloves. The cab driver was talking, and Hutch wished he'd shut up. The meter clicked, and the radio muttered, and the wind made a sound like waves in a storm; Hutch didn't want to hear any of it. Well, maybe waves. If they were waves--the Pacific, the way it would sound now, and Starsky lying on a blanket with his jogging suit on, trying to convince Hutch that he could wade a little ("just a little for Chrissake, I been out of the hospital for months now") ....
No. It was too early to start that. He had the whole weekend to do. He couldn't spend all of it thinking how Starsk had looked when he had rolled up on one elbow and given Hutch that look, the one that said, I know you can't say no to me now.
(All the way back to Venice Place, Starsky complained about the wet sand in his shoes. All the next day, Hutch complained about the sand in their bed.)
In the cab, now, he lifted his head and smiled at the luxury of being able to complain, of having a joint bed, even of feeling sand where sand had no business to be.
"Home for the holidays?" the cabbie asked, which surely must be starting over. In fact, Hutch vaguely remembered hearing it before. He should have answered to begin with.
"No," he said with absolute truth, "I'm visiting my parents." He looked out the window at the passing winter fields and the edges of the highway that he'd seen more times than he could count. But home wasn't here. And the only holidays in his calendar for half a year had been Starsky not dying, Starsky waking from the coma, Starsky sitting up, walking, getting out of the hospital. Starsky resting on the stairs, halfway up, stopping Hutch's offer to help with two fingers on his lips.
("I can," Starsky said. "So I will." And Hutch sat down next to his partner on the stair and put his arm around the too-thin shoulders. Then his other arm around Starsky's waist, and then his face in the unruly hair. "Hey, baby blue," Starsky said, softly, "don't fall apart on me now. We got nine stairs to go and I'm hungry enough to eat a horse."
He'd been close, but he just said, "I don't have a horse," and cleared his throat. "How's a chicken sandwich?"
"No sprouts," Starsky said darkly.)
Hutch wondered if he could bring home any turkey leftovers. Starsky would like them. He would make some sort of gross high-stack sandwich with mayonnaise and relish and mustard--and peanut butter for all Hutch knew. Like that day, after the beach and the stairs.
(Starsky took apart the perfectly ordinary chicken sandwich Hutch had made for him, and kept asking for things: "Got any pickles, Hutch? Can I have more onion? And--" Hutch was at the refrigerator by this time-- "isn't there any normal lettuce?"
"Head? Um ... " Hutch wasn't thinking of double entendres until he heard Starsky snort, and then cough--and even at that point, Hutch was thinking more about the cough. He looked up with some anxiety, but Starsky grinned.
"Oh, yeah, Hutch, give me some head," he said.
Hutch rolled his eyes, but replied, "I thought you'd want to finish that sandwich first." He turned back to the fridge, loaded his arms with the things Starsky wanted, and asked, "Now isn't there anything else? Avocado? Chutney? Hummos? Maraschino cherries?"
Starsky made a face. Hutch cut the onion and put it on a plate with some of the lettuce. When he came back to the table, he realized that Starsky had been watching him.
"You got a little burned, buddy," said Starsky with a slow smile. "Back of your neck's pink. It hurt?"
"Not yet." Hutch felt like they were talking about something else than sunburn.)
They were driving through the outskirts of Duluth now. There'd been a lot of building since Hutch had lived here, and he almost didn't recognize the area.
Starsky would have come with Hutch if he'd asked. But it wouldn't have been fair, and it would have exhausted his convalescent even if the weekend went well. And there were no guarantees that it would go well.
Here was the old neighborhood, basically unchanged. The Martins had a new wall with a security gate. The Goldmans had added a whole wing, it looked like. That house used to belong to Miss Ford, and it had been cream with brown trim as long as Hutch could remember. Now it was green, and the landscaping had been redone. Big bushes in front, and the old pine tree was gone.
And here was the house. His parents' house. It looked much the same. Big and blank and white. Paler than ever under this gray sky and with the dry light snow on the lawn and walk. Hutch dug out his wallet and fingered the bills there, craning his neck to see the taxi meter, not looking any more at the house.
"Keep the change." He'd overpaid, but it made up a little for being--well, unfriendly. Starsky would have known all about the man by now. Hutch gave him the bills and a belated smile, grabbed his bag and got out. The wind, not as strong or as harshly cold here, pushed him to one side, but he pushed back and got himself to the door. Pushing back was something he was good at.
Katie let him in. "Ken! Hello!" She hugged him, standing on tiptoe.
He put down his bag and hugged her back, lifting and swinging her halfway round, then dropping her. "Oof! You're heavy! What happened to my little sister?"
"You shut up, or you'll be saying 'what happened to my nose.'" She stepped back and made a fist, mock angry. He laughed and put an arm around her shoulders.
"It's good to see you. Am I in my old room?" He was; he took his bag there, Katie following and telling him about her new job. It was always safe to ask Katie about a new job. The old room had new furniture and looked nothing like the one he'd grown up in. A beautiful quilt on the bed. Lace curtains. Katie came in and smoothed the quilt. "You made that, didn't you?" he guessed.
"Yeah. For their anniversary."
He wasn't going to ask how it ended up in a guest room. "It's gorgeous, Katie. You're an artist."
She smiled up at him, resigned. "I'm a bank teller," she said, voice soft. That was the new job.
He cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her forehead. She leaned into it. "Oh, Ken," she said, moving back, "I love how you do that now! You never used to." This was true. They hadn't been close as children unless one counted that itchy sibling-rivalry closeness. And it was Starsky who'd taught him to touch people more. Katie patted his cheek. "If I ever find a man as comforting as you are ...."
"Babe, you will."
They went downstairs. On the way--and it was hardly a long way--he was beset by memory again.
(He reached for Starsky's plate to clear it, but Starsky put a hand on his arm and stopped him. Tugged on the sleeve until Hutch crouched beside the chair. Cupped his cheek in the other hand. Bent forward--and then caught his breath, paused--Hutch steadied him, both hands on the laboring chest as he breathed. But Starsky smiled, leaned again, and kissed him lightly.
Hutch was on his knees, and it was completely appropriate. He held Starsky's ribs and felt so incandescent, so filled with love that he could not move or speak. Anyway he'd promised himself not to say anything, not to force Starsky to a decision when he really couldn't leave even if he wanted to.
This would be affection. This kiss. Gratitude. Maybe even desire; they'd done that for years, intermittently, though Starsky wasn't able right now. It didn't change anything.
"Don't be afraid," said Starsky, thumb stroking Hutch's cheek.)
They went back to the kitchen, and Hutch hugged his mother, careful to avoid the hands she held away, smeared with mincemeat. "Kenny!" she said, as if she hadn't known for a week that he was coming. "Kenny! It's so good ... you're so tan!"
"California," he said. "Is there something I can do here?"
"Oh, no, just finishing the pie, and everything else is cooking .... I can't believe how well you look."
"Yeah, well, supervising Starsky's diet and exercise--" only seconds into the conversation, and he was already talking about Starsky-- "keeps me honest too."
"And how is he?" she asked politely.
"Better." It made him grin to say it, to think about it. "Better all the time."
"Good. Oh, it's good to see you. Now go in and say hello to your father so I can get done with this pie."
He grinned and obeyed. Katie stayed in the kitchen. Hutch knew his father would be in the family room, watching football. And just as he walked in, his father leaned forward and shouted. "Yes! Yes!" Then, registering the movement at the door, he looked up and said, "Incredible--he's just a rookie! Damn, he's gonna be great!"
That was his father. When Starsky claimed to hate soapy scenes, he had no notion what soapy-scene-hating was really all about.
"Hey, Dad," said Hutch, dropping onto the sofa, feeling sixteen all over again. "What's the score?" He meant the game, which was good because the game score was what he got.
Hutch liked football. He always had, though unlike Starsky, he'd never played in a team. But now he had a hard time concentrating on what was played and who was running and where the ball was. He knew that in California, Starsky was watching this game. Hutch could almost see him sprawled on the couch in his apartment. He imagined boxes sitting on the table and the floor, half-packed, full ones stacked next to the walls. He hoped not too many were full. Starsky had promised not to overdo, and better yet, Huggy had promised to keep an eye on him. Hutch added Huggy to his mental picture, long limbs draped over his end of the couch. Starsky grabbing his arm, shaking it, as he yelled about something happening in the game, the way he would have grabbed for Hutch if they'd been watching together.
Or maybe he'd gone to the Dobeys', where they had a standing invitation. Maybe it was Starsky and Dobey bellowing about the plays. Starsky would devil the older man by disagreeing when Dobey yelled about an unjust call or praised his favorite players. Dobey would roar until little Rosie put her fingers in her ears and Edith came in to tell her husband to hush.
"What are you grinning about?" said his father. "Didn't you see that?"
He had been looking in the right direction but didn't know what had happened. But before he had to admit it, there was a commotion in the hallway, and running feet. "Grandpa!" called Richie, heading across the room so fast that Hutch could see no more than a blur of pale hair and wheeling limbs. How old was the child now? Young enough to get away with this, or maybe it was something about being a grandparent. Anyway, the older Richard Hutchinson caught his grandson in midair and plopped the child on his lap.
"Okay, Richie, okay, sit quiet, now. Grandpa's watching the game." But he was also hugging the child, even kissing his hair or maybe his ear or cheek. Hutch shook his head in wonder.
Renie looked in the door. "Ken, when did you get in?"
"Just a little while ago."
"Kids--" said their father, and Hutch got up. He looked at Renie and put a finger on his mouth, miming as outrageously as Starsky would have done.
"Shhh!" He tiptoed out the door. She had turned and was leaning against the wall of the hallway, laughing.
"Hey, Irene." He hugged her. "Where's Dan?"
"Must've gone in to say hi to Mom. Hey, Ken, congratulations."
For a crazy moment he thought she meant what he wanted to tell her, and he stared.
"Hello? Earth to Ken? I saw you on TV, about that arrest? That big criminal guy who tried to have you killed?"
"Oh, yeah, that."
"'Oh, yeah, that'? Don't you think that's taking modesty a little too far? Now let me show you something." She took his hand and pulled him into the front living room, where they rarely sat. She flipped on the overhead light, rose-pink through its carnival-glass shade. Still, the room felt colder than the rest of the house, and the antique furniture seemed to radiate an air of fragility. "They're never gonna mention it, but let me tell you, you were top kid for a long time there, on the strength of this. If you'd come back and let them show you off at cocktail parties you might still be." She led him over to a spindle-legged desk and tugged sharply at one of its little ring drawer-pulls. Inside was a fake-leather photo album, which she pulled out. It was the kind with a metal spiral binding, and those self-adhesive sheets over each page, he noticed as she accidentally opened the blank back end. She turned it over with a grimace and opened it again, and his own face looked out, a microphone in front of his mouth. He remembered the photo and the journalist with the mike. She turned the thick, stiff pages; he saw newspaper clippings and pages from glossy magazines and a little gray box from TV Guide's announcement of the Sixty Minutes piece on Gunther.
"Good grief," he said inadequately. It was crazy, like finding his father's cache of Playboy magazines, like ... he couldn't think of another time he'd had to re-evaluate the people his parents were. They were proud of something he'd done as a police officer?
But then she turned a page and his hand shot out to stop her from turning the next one, to cover the photograph, and his parents' motivations just weren't in his mind. He slowly lifted his hand, as if the picture could attack him if he were not careful. It was Starsky during his coma, in Intensive Care, laid out like a dead thing and covered with bandages and tubes and wires. "How'd they get that picture?" His voice was hoarse. He hated remembering that.
"It was in the magazine."
He shook his head. "I mean when did they take it? The photographers?"
"I don't know."
Of course she didn't. He took the album from her, shut it, and replaced it in the drawer.
"He's better now, though, right?" she asked. "Your partner."
"Yeah," he said, and smiled.
("I'm better now, right?" Starsky said.)
Richie ran into the room. "Grandpa said to find you," he said.
Hutch watched them and thought of Starsky.
("Of course you're better--can't you tell?"
"I'm askin' you."
Hutch sat up straight. They'd been lounging on Starsky's couch after dinner. Starsky had his head on the far armrest, and one arm behind it; his legs were across Hutch's. He moved his head just a little to one side, and his eyes were warm and happy.
"Well, yeah. Seems like every day you can do something you couldn't before, or do it longer. You cooked tonight."
"Wanted to show you that you don't have to wait on me hand and foot now. Or stay with me every minute."
"Oh." So that was what this was about. Hutch could have sworn his actual, physical heart dropped right down his body. He swallowed, feeling almost sick. "Um, I ...." He tried to get his thoughts together. He should get up, say good night, get the hell out of the apartment before he embarrassed himself. Starsky's legs held him down. "Okay," he said softly, looking at Starsky's feet.
The feet moved; the couch shook as Starsky scrambled up. "Hey! No! What're you thinking?" Hutch was grabbed hard; fingers dug into his shoulder; he was pulled half onto his side, into Starsky's arms. "What's in that empty blond head of yours?" Starsky was indignant. "You look like I just said the world was ending. Like I was telling you to get lost." Hutch said nothing. Starsky held him tighter, put one hand into his hair. "Don't be dumb. I need you. I needed you before, you big dummy, I don't have to be half-dead to need you."
Hutch took a deep breath. "Well, that's true," he said into Starsky's neck.
"What I meant was," and Starsky's voice was still scolding while his hand stroked up and down Hutch's spine, "you don't have to keep thinking I'm gonna fold up and die if you're not actually looking at me. If you have to go out, you can go. If I have to run an errand, I can run it. Get my own medications. Get myself to PT and back."
"You've been doing that." Hutch sat up, but Starsky's hand stayed on his back.
"And you've been practically hyperventilating the whole time. I can tell."
"Okay, Starsk. I'm sorry. I'll try not to hover."
Starsky's expression shifted, and Hutch knew the real point of the conversation was coming. "You could even go to Thanksgiving like your mom wants you to.")
"So will you play, Uncle Ken?" asked Richie, breaking into the memory.
"I'm sorry, Richie, play what?"
"Chinese checkers. We brought it along."
"Sure." He looked at Renie with new respect. "You brought along a game with a million little marbles in it."
She grinned. "Grandchildren can get away with almost anything," she said. "And we bought Mom the strongest vacuum cleaner there is for Christmas last year."
Irene had to meet Starsky. But, on second thought, would the known world survive? Hutch said, "We'd better not play in here, that's tempting fate."
"Dad's office? The dining room?"
"The breakfast nook?"
"Good idea." Renie bent over Richie. "Go ask Daddy, quietly, where the box is. Okay? Shh, like a mouse."
"Okay," said Richie, jigging in place.
"Okay." Renie let go and he sped from the room.
"A really fast mouse," said Hutch.
Renie shrugged. "Wait'll you have one."
Hutch nearly laughed. Not likely. Not now. But Renie was looking at him curiously and he lost his nerve and joked, "I've got traps."
"Kid traps," she said thoughtfully. "Now there's an idea."
"The sticky kind, or the kind with the snap-down wire?" They went out of the room.
"No, no, the kind like you use with field mice, where you can trap them and then release them somewhere. Somewhere far away."
"Wouldn't that be even more useful once he gets to be a teenager?" Hutch asked.
"It'll take me a while to build it," said Renie.
When they reached the kitchen, Hutch saw that Dan and Richie were already in the breakfast nook with the game box. Katie was mashing potatoes and his mother was making a green-bean casserole. Out the windows over the sink and around the breakfast nook, the evening was blue as Wedgewood. "Is Daddy playing too?" asked Renie.
"Daddy would rather not," said Dan.
"Then go on," Hutch told him. "I'm going to play, and Renie, that's enough."
He didn't know Dan well. They'd met at the wedding, and he and Irene had been at Hutch's wedding to Vanessa, and then the holidays Hutch had visited Minnesota, Dan had been there. That was all. But he seemed nice, and he was steady, calm, no matter what happened among the Hutchinsons. He was taller than Hutch, and broad, and his voice was deep and slow. Now he stood and shook Hutch's hand. It wasn't often Hutch felt dwarfed, but Dan came close to making him feel that way.
"Glad you came, Ken," Dan said, and then left the room. Renie and Hutch sat down and Richie began to explain the game in great, if not entirely clear, detail. Fortunately Hutch already knew how to play it.
He thought this must be one of the few board games he had never played with Starsky, and decided to find a set somewhere.
(Starsky grinned cheekily. "Checkmate."
Hutch looked at the board carefully, and sure enough, it was. He tipped his king over. "How do you do that?" He heard the irritation in his voice.
"No, Starsk." Hutch wagged a finger at him. "Chess is not easy."
"Well, it probably would be hard with somebody else. But I know how you think. I know where you're gonna look on the board, what piece you're gonna move. Like I know where you're gonna be on the street when we work."
Used to, Hutch didn't say, because no matter how exasperating his chess game, Starsky didn't deserve that reminder. "So why doesn't that work for me?"
"You think too much." Now it wasn't just jauntiness in the smile, but a sultry humor that got right under Hutch's skin--or his belt. "Always thinkin' too much. Makes you tense."
Starsky was convalescing. Hutch told himself that. Looked at the chessboard, put some pieces back in their starting places, then raised his head and found Starsky still watching him with that smile. Convalescing. Getting better, but not there yet. Muscles still tender, heart still healing, lungs still apt to catch when he exerted himself ....
"Hutch," said Starsky, dropping his voice, and Hutch could no longer be accused of thinking too much.
"Damn it," he said, standing up and taking the two quick steps around the table, "Starsk," and he pulled his partner up and kissed him. And yes, Hutch had been tense with months of fear, and so had Starsky with the long pain of his injuries. But now in the sweet, wordless vows of these kisses, Hutch felt all that dissolve, for this moment. In this love.)
Renie tapped the back of Hutch's hand and he jumped. "Uncle Ken," she said, "it's your turn."
"Oops, sorry," he said, and moved a marble without much consideration.
Richie squealed and reached for the game. He jumped a marble into hole after hole across the board.
"What happened to my brother the chess club boy?" asked Renie.
"Don't know," said Hutch. "Stolen by aliens?"
"Distracted, I think," Renie said meaningfully, and Hutch just smiled.
"Mommy, look, Mommy," said Richie. "It's snowing! Really snowing! Look, Uncle Ken!"
The temperature had to have risen, because instead of the pale dust of the afternoon, the snow now was drifting properly in flakes, flashing into magical being as they entered the light and whirling in the air. "Mommy, can I go out? Please? Please?" Richie stood on the chair seat and put a knee on the table, trying to see further out the window, and shoved the game board into the box, jarring all the marbles in their little holes. Some jumped and rolled around the table and some just ran into each other, popping more out of the board, and both adults frantically tried to stop the rolling things.
"Oh Richie!" said Renie and their mother at the same time.
Hutch knew a difficult family moment as it sped toward him, and abandoning the marbles, he scooped the child off the table and strode though the kitchen into the hall. "Ken--" his mother began, but this was one he wasn't getting into, and he just kept going.
"Renie, why can't you ever ...." rose behind him.
"Richie," Hutch said conspiratorially, "let's go outside. Let's get your coat."
He'd put the child down and crouched in front of him. Richie was inclined to pout, even to wobble his lip, but Hutch just waited in silence until his nephew got over it. They heard Irene: "Can't you let me deal with my own son in my own way?"
"Okay," said Richie at last. Hutch got their coats out of the closet and they slipped out the front door.
Outside, the wind had stilled and the porch-light captured the snow just as the nook windows had. "Isn't it pretty, Richie? All the snowflakes?"
"They're sticking, look!" And it was true: already there was snow gathering along the blades of grass. Richie ran out onto the lawn and Hutch looked at the prints of his shoes. He hoped those shoes were waterproof. "I can't pick any up," Richie said, disappointed.
"There's not enough yet. Can you catch some on your tongue while it's falling?" So Richie tried to do that for a while. Then Hutch said, "Let's go around and see everybody through the windows."
They could see the light cast onto the ground from the family room. Their feet fell softly in the snow-cushioned grass. "Look, there's Grandpa."
"I can't see," said Richie, whining a little. Hutch picked him up. "There's Daddy! And Grandpa!"
"'S right," said Hutch, and then realized he'd caught the abbreviated expression from Starsky. "Let's try another window."
The back porch ran under the windows for the nook, so it was easy for Richie to peer in through them. Hutch did too. Irene wasn't there; the other two seemed to be working quietly, getting out plates and silverware.
"Looks like we should get back in for table-setting, kiddo," said Hutch, but then Irene came around the corner of the house.
"Thank God for footprints," she said, "or I would have gone off into screaming hysterics. Richie, aren't your hands cold?" She rubbed them, and Richie told her about the snow and the windows Then he ran out to see if there was snow in the rose garden.
"I thought you'd guess right away," said Hutch.
"Yeah, I did, or almost. Thanks for getting him out of the war zone." She sighed. "First grandchild."
He put his arm around her shoulder, and she leaned on him. "Family holiday," he said.
"Gosh, I can't fathom why you don't come for them more often."
"It's that ulcer," he said apologetically.
She giggled. They stood on the porch watching Richie for a while. Then Irene said, "So tell me who it is, Ken."
"I could always tell when you were in love," she reminded him. "Really head over heels. Like you are now."
"Yeah," he said, smiling, "you always could."
"So who is it?"
That easy. The dark, the snow, this quiet question. "Starsky."
Renie froze. Then stood straight, slowly, as if he might not notice she was drawing away. "Oh."
"Uh, how long have you ... I mean I never knew ...."
He tried to think of an appropriate way to say this to his older sister, and fell back on high-school terminology. "I've always liked both." She didn't say anything. "But you're right, now I'm head over heels. In love. Renie, are you upset?"
"I don't know," she said. "Let me think about it." She rushed on, breathless, "And anyway we have to get back inside. It's almost dinner time. Richie!"
He let her go, down the lawn to her son, and didn't wait for her to return before he went back around to the front door and let himself in. It could have been a lot worse. But it wasn't exactly encouraging.
It had been his own idea to come out, though, so he had to make it work or live with the consequences.
(He lay beside Starsky in his bed, in their bed, at Venice Place. Hutch could tell by the way Starsky's eyes moved under his lids and by his breathing that he wasn't asleep. But he was too tired to talk much and definitely too tired to make love again.
It amazed Hutch that they'd both been able to get off. But they had, and if not the best sex they'd ever experienced, it had been a loving celebration of each other. Hutch traced the planes and angles of Starsky's face, the edges of his lips, the bridge of his nose, with a feather-light touch. Then Hutch moved his fingertips down Starsky's neck and chest and belly--Starsky squirmed lazily--and hips and legs and hands and arms. Alive. Still alive, still here with Hutch.
"Learning me by heart, babe?" Starsky murmured.
"Don't need to do that, after all these years."
"No ... s'pose not." The scarred and hairy chest lifted in a long sigh.
Hutch rested his hand above Starsky's heart. "What was that for?"
"All these years." Starsky's eyes were open. "All those other people."
"Don't regret them, Starsk. I don't. Everywhere we went led us here."
Starsky's hand came up, wavering a little, and settled on the side of Hutch's face, pushed into his hair. "Here," he said.
He'd said everything then, though he claimed to be bad with words. And Hutch wanted to say everything back, and to everyone, to marry Starsky and put it in the newspaper, to take out billboard ads on Highway 10.
To tell his parents, and his sisters. And that he really could do.)
Renie was stiff and odd all through dinner, but given the argument with her mother beforehand, no one was surprised, and of course no one said anything about it. Hutch wondered if he was imagining the brittle feeling all around the table, which usually presaged or followed a harsher storm than any he knew to have happened. Perhaps he was just being paranoid about his own news. He knew he had to tell his mother soon, or no matter how recently they'd fought between themselves, Irene would do it.
At the end of the meal, he designated himself plate-collector, and moved into the kitchen with a stack. He scraped the remains of stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce from the china, and ran the garbage disposal, and bagged the turkey bones, and generally cleaned up. His mother got out the ice cream, dessert plates and forks and cut the pie.
It wasn't a good time, but there'd never be a good time. "Mom."
He tried to zip the plastic bag of bones closed, thought he had, but it gapped open again. "Mom ...."
"Make sure the zip is fitting together before you start," she said, and turned back to the pie.
"That's not it," Hutch said with some irritation. "I need to tell you ...."
She looked up, curious at first, but when he didn't say anything her face gradually became wary.
"You know," he pushed on, "since Van, I've had, oh, a bunch of relationships."
"I didn't tell you about them. Even the ones I thought would last, because I was waiting ... and then they never did. Last. But now I've found someone--" (never lost him, he thought, but never mind that) "--and I think this is it, this is forever."
"Oh, Ken!" She put down the knife, came over to the sink and kissed him. "Honey, that's wonderful!" She shook his shoulders a little. "You scared me, the way you started!" Then she went back to the table, picked up the knife and put it into the pie again. "Now tell me all about her."
This, Hutch knew coldly, was not going to be good. "It's Starsky."
The knife trembled in the pie, and she took it out slowly and laid it down. "I don't understand."
"I'm living with Starsky."
"I know you were taking care of him--"
"No, we're living together. I love him, Mom. We love each other. We're a couple."
"It just doesn't .... You've known him for years and .... Are you sure that it's not just that he was so badly hurt? I know he's your best friend, and you've always been so--so intense about friendship, Kenny, and ... have you really thought about this?"
"But you can't ever have, you never--"
"Mom." Firmly. He didn't want to get angry, but she had to stop that. "You don't know what I've ever."
"Oh." She wouldn't look at him. She moved a plate off the stack and then put it back on. "Oh, Ken. You mean it."
"Yes, I do."
"That you're--you're a--"
"I'm in love." And all he had to do was picture Starsky, see that face saying those words, or nearly, and the smile on his own face was involuntary. "I'm just telling you, Mom, I have a live-in lover, and the next time I'm here, he'll be with me."
"Oh, no, Ken. Then your father would have to know."
"Of course." He frowned now, because she was still shaking her head. "Come on, Mom. I'll tell him myself, tonight. As soon as I can."
"Ken, don't!" she cried, as suddenly as if he'd struck her. "Don't tell your father! Let me--let me break it to him. This will kill him. Ken, I can't let you."
He made his voice as gentle as he could. "You can't stop me, Mom."
She pressed the back of her hand to her mouth, and he could see that she'd begun to cry. He moved to take her in his arms, and she made a sound and almost ran out of the room.
"Well," said Katie in the doorway, "what was that about?"
Might as well get it over with, Hutch supposed. "I told her that Starsky and I are lovers."
"Yeah?" Katie went over to the table. "We better get this dessert together or the whole family'll be in here." She began to put slices on plates, setting them in a crescent around the far side of the pie pan. Then she looked up at him, as he stood motionless near the sink where the ziplock bag still sat. "She'll get used to it, Ken. You okay?"
"Sure." He didn't know quite how to ask--it seemed like looking a gift horse in the mouth--but he couldn't just let it go. "You're okay about it?"
"Well, yeah. You look happy, so .... " She cocked her head to one side, frowned a little. "Ken, is it new?"
"Committing to each other, yeah, that's new."
"Oh, well, I couldn't tell that. I just sort of thought you were together. A long time ago." She smiled. "It's like getting engaged after dating forever, isn't it? I bet nobody's said congratulations." She came over and hugged him. "Congratulations! There."
"Oh, Katie." He held on when she would have pulled away. "Thank you. Thank you."
"Can I come visit sometime, and really meet him?"
"Please! Just let us know when. We'll, uh, we'll look for a place with a guest room."
"I could sleep on the couch. Don't go overboard." She put a hand against his cheek. "I love you, Ken."
He kissed her forehead. "Love you, Katie."
They took the pie and the ice-cream into the dining room, leaving a slice at their mother's place, and she came back in a few minutes as if not much had happened. Their father and Dan went on rehashing the football game and Katie and Irene talked about Christmas shopping. Richie began to bang on the table with his spoon and sing a song which Hutch couldn't make out clearly enough to recognize. Irene stopped him twice, and then Dan seemed to notice for the first time and said, "Well, there's a young man who belongs in bed soon. Richard, Helen, I think we'd better get going."
"So early?" said Hutch's mother, but there was relief in her voice.
Irene was even more plainly glad to be going. When she had her coat on, she came around to give hugs and kisses, but hesitated in front of Ken. He hugged her anyway. She relaxed just a little in his arms. 'Think about it," he said softly, and then, "I love you."
"Oh, Ken," she said. "Goodbye."
When they'd gone, there was silence in the hallway for a moment, and then his mother said, "I'm glad Dan gives that child some discipline."
"Oh, Renie does all right," said his father irritably. "I'm going to be in my office for a bit."
He went through the door and closed it behind him.
This was the opportunity Hutch had been waiting for, and his mother and sister stared at him and waited for him to take it--his mother with fear in her eyes, Katie just expectant.
"Well." He'd done harder things on the street. He went to the door, knocked two raps on it, half-facetiously, and then went in.
He didn't let the use of his full name daunt him. This was the one approach he had planned beforehand. "Dad, I need to talk to you about the trust fund. I may need to draw from it--not sure how much."
"Yeah?" Now his father was interested. "What's the problem?"
"I don't think Starsky's going to be able to go back on the street as a cop. If he can't, I don't know whether he'll want to stay on the force at all. And I--I can't get used to another partner now, Dad. Couldn't put Starsky though it anyway. So I don't know what we'll be doing. Might need startup money or moving money. I'd be forfeiting my pension and Starsky's disability payments may not be enough."
His father laughed a little, and said, "You sound like you're married to him."
Easier than Hutch had thought. "Close as it gets," he said.
"Well, now, Ken," his father said, leaning forward, "I've been meaning to talk to you about that. Sit down."
Hutch did, in a leather chair with brass studs that he thought he'd only sat in to be lectured or plain yelled at. But there was a weird comfort in experiencing this as the latest in a long line of 'talks' with his father. Not anything unique.
"You worry me." His father spoke slowly. "You do. It's all very well to be loyal--"
"Dad." Loyalty was the least of it, the small change.
"--and you've always been tight with your friends, and that's good. I'm proud of that. I--your mother and I brought you up right."
"But this, this is beyond .... You've nursemaided him. You've taken care of him like family."
"I love him."
His father shook his head benignly. "You're such a big warm-hearted kid, Kenny. Some ways, you've never grown up."
"I love him. I'm in love with him."
"No, you're not," said his father impatiently.
"Yes," said Hutch, feeling like half a comedy team, and not the funny half, "I am."
"No!" Now his father shouted. "Don't do that ... sixties shit! That, that flower child summer of free love stuff!"
"Dad, this has nothing to do--"
He stood up, hung over the desk. "You are not a fag, Kenneth. You are not queer. You were married."
"I never loved Van like I love," a small pause, because they didn't use each other's first names, "Dave."
"Stop saying that!" One fist struck the desk and jolted the lamp.
Hutch paused, as he would have when he needed to talk down somebody on the street who was focussed on his own anger. "Okay," he said, "I don't need to. You heard me." Swallowed. "But it's true."
"You," his father sputtered, alarmingly red in the face, "you're just--you need--"
"I need the trust money, Dad," Hutch said. "Or I might."
"You are not spending your grandmother's money on living like a pervert!"
Hutch let the ugly sounds die in the air. No way to reason with that. But the money was his and he might need it. Starsky might need it. Hutch stood up too. "My lawyer will get in touch with your lawyer."
"Over my dead body."
"I can't wait that long," Hutch said. "It'll be next week sometime." He began to walk toward the door, and it really did feel like the end of a cop confrontation, except that his partner was not there to trade a look with.
"You can't do this. You are not going to do this, Kenneth!"
He turned at the door and took a long look. An old man with a red face glared back.
"Get out of my house."
Hutch knew that husky voice from his own bad times, the voice only a few words from tears and the iron need not to cry. He hated that anybody should feel that way, especially over something as beautiful as his feeling for Starsky, but he knew there was just nothing he could say. Except what he'd said to Renie, hoping then too that it would sink in later, around the edges of the anger and fear. "I love you."
His father bellowed, "Get out of here!" and Hutch went.
His mother, who was still in the hallway with Katie, rushed past him into the office and slammed the door.
"I think I'm not staying the weekend," Hutch said mildly to his sister.
"I'll give you a lift," she said. "Airport, or hotel?"
One night wouldn't make much difference to his parents' attitude, he was afraid. "Airport, unless I can't get a flight."
"We'll see when we get there. Go and get your bag." She smiled. "You're okay, aren't you?"
He put an arm around her shoulder. "Lately," he said, "I feel like I'm never going to be not-okay again."
"You got it bad," she said, squeezing his waist.
"Oh, I do." They let each other go and he went up the stairs two at a time. He let himself feel that he was going home early, and the name of the feeling was exhilaration.
(Starsky's face was cupped in his hands, every dear cell of it, right here, alive.
"I'm telling you. I'm telling you, Hutch."
And after that, he didn't need to, but the thought of hearing the words actually spoken was so sweet that Hutch just waited.
Starsky said--as if he were in court, on the stand, speaking for the record, solemn; as if he were in bed, hanging over Hutch, flushed and passionate--"I'm so much in love with you. Now you say it."
"I love you, Starsky. With my whole heart. Always."
"That's right. Always. Nobody else."
"I don't need anyone else.")