This story was originally published in Who You Know, What You Know, & How You Know It, put out by Hedonists Publications in 1983. This zine is still in print and can be obtain from Agent with Style: www.agentwithstyle.com. Transcribed from the zine for the web by Laura Schaal. Thanks, Laura! Comments from this story can be sent to email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
My name is David Starsky. I'm half of the best homicide team LAPD has. The other half is my partner, Ken Hutchinson—Hutch. That's him in the passenger seat. I just picked him up at the airport; he's been back East for the last two weeks and he looks wiped.
"You okay, Hutch?"
"Yeah, just tired. How are you? You feeling all right?"
"I'm fine. I've been fine for the last two weeks. I coulda gone with you. Shoulda been there."
"Pneumonia's nothing to fool around with. Besides, I'm glad you were spared the latest collision of the Hutchinson clan."
While I waited for a red light, I looked over at my partner. He was leaning back against the seat with his eyes closed. The anger I'd been living with the last two weeks returned. I knew it was because the doctors wouldn't let me go east with him. I was really down the whole time he was gone. All I could think of was Hutch's favorite uncle dies and I'm not even there with him. I mean, if the guy's your best friend, you want to be there with him, right?
He was gone two weeks and we only talked twice in all that time. When you spend seventy-five percent of your time with the same person for ten years, you kinda miss him when he's gone. I knew he wasn't having any fun and I wanted him here all right—here in bed with me. I knew I loved the guy; hell, when you've been through all we've been through together you don't exactly hate a person. I guess I should have realized it before, especially after all that time I spent in the hospital last year. Some goons hit us in the basement garage at Metro and I almost bought it. Anyway, whenever Hutch couldn't visit, I felt so empty and alone. Now I know why. Well, I've had two weeks to get used to the idea and it's okay with me—hell, it's great! I feel like yelling it from the rooftops but that'd be suicide. I don't know how Hutch'll take it; I only know I love him enough to let him leave if that's what he wants. Because, if you love somebody, you want what makes him happy, right?
I pulled the Torino into the parking space at my apartment. Hutch must've been awake because he sat up and looked around as soon as the car stopped.
"Hey, this isn't my place, Starsk! It's yours. I told ya, I'm beat."
"I know, babe, and what I've got planned'll help you relax, I promise."
"Just what do you have planned? I'm not in the mood for a 'cheer up Hutch' session."
You hear that? I'm planning to give him my heart and soul and he's tired. Pissed too, but that's my Hutch. When he's tired he gets as grouchy as a bear and when it's because he's just spent two weeks with his family, it's ten times worse. Of course he needs cheering up, he won't admit it though. When I'm done with you, buddy, you'll feel terrific—I hope.
"I planned sort of a quiet celebration."
"Celebration! That's supposed to make me relax? What're we celebrating?"
That I love you. But I couldn't come out and say it like that. I had to soften him up first so he'd listen, really listen, to what I was saying.
"You're home and the doctors said I could go back to work Monday. So we've got all day tomorrow, unless you have something else planned." Or you turn me down. It's your choice, love, I can't change the way I feel. I could see his shoulders relax and knew I'd won; his words only confirmed it.
"All right, a nice quiet celebration. We'll call it an early night and do something together tomorrow."
"Great! C'mon up. Wait'll you see what I've done to my place."
I led the way up the stairs, unlocked the door and flung it open like a bellhop at the Ritz. He stopped just inside and looked around slowly. Suddenly all the hassle of getting up at dawn so the workers could install the indirect lighting, and the cost—took a big chunk outta my savings—was worth it to see the look on his face. I mean, his face got all soft and sort of dreamy like it does when he looks at one of those expensive paintings he likes so much.
"Starsk, it's...it's beautiful." He sighed real deep—you know, like you do when you're real happy? Then he sniffed around. "What smells so good? Five minutes ago I didn't think I'd ever be hungry again." That's because he doesn't eat when he goes home. I knew he'd feel better after a good meal.
"Tossed green salad with herb dressing, eggplant parmesan and Chianti, with Napolean brandy for after dinner." I felt like Grandpa Jones reciting the menu on Hee Haw.
"Sounds like you've outdone yourself, partner."
"Been workin' all day but 's not done yet. So take off your jacket, loosen that ridiculous tie and relax till it's ready."
I went into the kitchen but made sure I kept an eye on Hutch. He needed to relax and let go of the last two weeks; he doesn't let go easily. I put wine glasses in the freezer to chill—he says that's the only way to serve wine, in a cold glass. Then I set the table, with a tablecloth and everything. It looked kinda nice, especially with the flower and candle centerpiece. Finally, I saw Hutch relax back against the couch so I went in and put a selection of his favorites on the stereo. There was some time to kill and I wanted an excuse to touch him, so I massaged the back of his neck and his shoulders. He may have looked relaxed but those muscles felt like steel ropes and I knew how bad it'd been for him.
My massage was cut short by the timer. "Dinner's ready. Have a seat at the table and I'll bring it out."
I was feelin' pretty good; almost high on Hutch's presence and I guess I got a little silly. I put a dishcloth across my arm—you know, like waiters do—then carried in the wine and glasses. I held the bottle out, label up and bowed in front of Hutch. "Is the wine acceptable, señor?"
Hutch chuckled, "Señor is Spanish, not Italian..." Then he got a good look at the label. "Damn, Starsk! That must've cost you a bundle...sí, perfectamente."
I poured the wine, then served the salad. I was beginning to get a little nervous. What if I couldn't pull this off and Hutch walked out on me for good—friendship, partnership, the whole bit? "I thought about making soup, too, but I had so much in the hospital that I don't think I'll ever be able to face another bowl."
Hutch smiled but didn't say anything. He thinks you have to pay attention to what you're eating. From the way he was shoveling it in, he managed to let me know how good everything tasted. I wouldn't know, I didn't taste much because there was this big knot in my stomach and no room for food.
The knot grew when Hutch insisted on helping me with the dishes. My kitchen isn't all that big and there's not much room to maneuver when two people are trying to move around in there. But when you want someone as badly as I wanted Hutch, the closeness can be suffocating. Our hands kept touching whenever he put a dish into the water and each time electric fire ran up my arms. At one point he leaned full against me when he reached to put something in the cupboard over my head. It's a good thing I had the edge of the sink to hide behind, or the game woulda been called right there. Finally, the dishes were done and Hutch went into the living room. I heard him turn over the records and he called to me but all I could do was stand where I was and try to slow down my racing heart.
"Starsky? Are you going to spend all night in the kitchen?"
That did it. I poured two snifters of brandy so I'd be busy if Hutch looked in to see what I was doing. When I could walk, I carried them into the living room and sat beside him on the couch.
"Just fixing the brandy."
He sipped a little and I could tell by the look on his face how much he liked it and he said so.
"This is a great way to come home, buddy. I almost feel like you're trying to seduce me."
My whole stomach jumped into my throat. I took a sip of brandy to stall until I could talk. There he was, sitting completely at ease against the couch, eyes closed, at peace. "Would it be so bad if I was?" I whispered.
"If you were what?"
"If I were seducing you. Would that be so bad?"
He sat up and looked at me. I knew I had his attention but I wanted him to say...I don't know...anything. He just looked at me hard, the way he does when I say something dumb. His mouth kept opening and closing like he was trying to talk but the words wouldn't come out. I gulped my brandy without tasting it, I was so nervous. I had to explain but still wasn't sure what to say.
"I missed you so much while you were gone. I didn't realize how much until one night after I woke up from a very real dream. I dreamed I was making love to someone and...and...I was more turned on than I've ever been in my life. The feeling of love was stronger than the sex. When I woke up I was sweating and my cock was harder than it's ever been. I tried to remember who was with me in my dream and I could see was...was your face. It took me a few minutes to accept it and know the truth; to know it's been there since before Gunther's attack. I...I love you, babe."
Boy, I was scared now. I figured he'd get up and leave but he just sat there and looked at me. For once I couldn't read what he was thinking.
"How much do you love me?" he finally asked, voice calm but very quiet.
"Enough to let you leave if that's what you want." I thought I'd die right there. I couldn't take my eyes away from his and I don't think I breathed once while I waited for his answer. Then he put a hand on my face, so soft I almost couldn't feel it.
"Leave? Because you love me?" Then he kissed me. Nothing passionate, just very gentle...and loving. He whispered against my mouth, "Never, babe, never."