This story was originally printed in CODE 7, VOLUME II, published by Bound in Leather Press in 1982. 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. Special thanks to Daphne G. for translating to electronic format. Comments about this story can be sent to Flamingo.
. . .
Dark head, bent over a book. Starsky had been reading for more than an hour while Hutch worked on his correspondence. Around them, the near silence of their home - and, for Hutch, a sense of security that he'd never known before. Here there was no need to fear, here all was perfect peace and contentment, and the knowledge that they would travel together . . . always touching, body or spirit.
"Starsky?" The beloved face turned towards him. "Starsk." Sweet smile. "Want to go for a walk?" he asked. You enchant me.
"A while ago."
Starsky shut the book and laid it beside him on the couch. "Sounds good." He held out a hand. Invitation . . . demand: "Help me up."
"Lazy!" Strong fingers gripped Hutch's hand and Starsky's weight became his for a moment. Touching, they were always one. Soft mouth turned up for a kiss, and he gave it, grateful for each chance to show his love. They left the house and walked slowly across the wet ground, side-by-side in comfortable silence. How fine it is to share our lives like this. Scent of damp earth teased him with a promise of life, a soft breeze ruffled his hair.
"Hey, look - a rainbow!" Breathless . . .
"Never seen a rainbow, city boy?"
"Not here, not with you." Starsky pulled free of the sheltering arm and bent to examine a clump of wild violets. "They're comin' up all over the place." He plucked a few and warmed them in his hands, then held them out to his lover. Hutch breathed the scented warmth greedily.
They walked to the edge of the forest that bordered their land. "Y'know, it's like this place is alive," Starsky said wonderingly, reaching out to touch a birch. "Think that's crazy?" He shivered slightly. "Chilly out."
"Let's start back." Hutch caught Starsky's hand in his own and tugged gently.
"Not yet, not so soon, Hutch. Let's walk a little further." Starsky pulled him along through the damp spring green. They stopped once or twice to investigate their new world, to share the discoveries and the peace of the place. They walked to the clearing where they rested a while and shared the sunset, then Starsky kissed him in the twilight.
"Home?" he murmured.
"Come on, lover." They crossed the thick carpet of fallen leaves and new grass. All around them life wakened, surged and reasserted itself. Green fingers reached out from under the blanket of winter; tiny flowers struggled towards the light.
"It's alive for me, too," Hutch said.
"I like it here." Soft admission. Hutch's arm closed around the slender figure, protecting . . . owning.
"'S beautiful," Starsky said as they came in sight of home, "to be here with you, to grow old with you . . ."
Sudden constriction in Hutch's throat, joyful tears welling up. He marveled at the richness around him - in his hands.
Spring, beginnings . . . their love made new. Beautiful indeed.
"That's a camel."
"No, it's not, it's a beaver."
"Starsky, beavers don't have long necks."
"I know that. That's his tail. Besides, what would a camel be doing drifting over Minnesota?" He laughed and threw an arm over the broad, tanned chest of his lover. "You don't know the first thing about wildlife, country boy."
"Oh, don't I? This is a pretty wild life we've been living."
"This pastoral idyll?" Starsky teased.
Hutch made a face. "You know what I mean." A quick move and Starsky was on his back, Hutch's weight settled half on top of him, half at his side. "We're something of an oddity here." He sounded vaguely bitter.
"Everyone's been nice about it." Then he recalled the occasional incident, the snubs that seemed to eat at Hutch. "Almost everyone," he amended. "Hardly anyone is shocked anymore. Could be worse."
"They'd be happier if we just kept to ourselves out here. I want to be accepted - is that so wrong?" He rolled onto his back again and stared up at the clouds. "Y'know, we're gonna have to think about getting some work," he added.
"Your money running out?" Starsky asked.
"I didn't earn it. What am I, your kept woman?" he teased.
Hutch grimaced. "Neither did I. My grandfather did. So it's ours - yours and mine. Okay?"
"Suits me. Is our money running out?"
"No . . . but I want to find something to do with my life." Hutch was restless; Starsky recognized the signs, but he wasn't sure if the cause was discontentment, or just the old puritan ethic surfacing.
"So we could work at something that, well, maybe wouldn't be so lucrative, yes?"
Hutch considered this for a long time, then he nodded. "We could do whatever we want. I just don't want to get too lazy." He frowned. "I don't think anyone will be too anxious to hire us around here though."
Starsky was worried about Hutch. Was it creeping paranoia? Hutch rarely mixed with the local people, he realized. Maybe that accounted for his fears. He decided to put matters right . . . starting now.
Starsky got to his feet and held out his hand. "C'mon, we're gonna go see what's happenin' 'round here." He pulled a reluctant Hutch to his feet and they crossed their garden. The soft carpet of manicured lawn gave way to a wilderness of weeds, seedlings and tiny wildflowers. Starsky slipped his hand into Hutch's back pocket, and the blond man blushed. "Come on. Alice is gonna make ice cream today and I'm not gonna miss that."
They walked on through the sheltering birch and spruce, pine and maple; past sun-dappled wild blackberries and raspberries, and the tiny wild strawberries that Starsky loved to bring to Hutch just after dawn when they were still dew-damp and cool. They walked on through the blue sea of chicory and the delicately swaying stalks of Queen Anne's lace. The sun here was gentle. Starsky turned his face up to the warmth. At peace, loving the man at his side . . . Now he asked only for the time to enjoy his life.
"You really like it here?"
"Really do," Starsky answered truthfully. Strong arm tightened around Starsky's shoulders. Hutch's shy smile transformed him into a child. "I love it here."
They climbed the rough wooden fence that separated their property from the Dahlquist farm, and cut across the open field to the house. Starsky tapped on the screen door. "Hey, Alice, where's my ice cream?"
"You two come in . . . and wipe your feet! I saw you cutting across that field." They entered the cool, shady kitchen. Alice Dahlquist pointed to the table. "Sit," she ordered. She set a huge bowl of ice cream in front of each man and folded her arms across her generous bosom. "It's peach, Davy. Now you'd best stop bothering me."
Starsky laughed. "Do I bother you, really?"
"Only most of the time," she said with an indulgent smile. "Now eat that before it turns to soup."
As they ate, Starsky's hand crept across the pale yellow tablecloth and covered Hutch's hand gently. Don't pull away from me, babe. Hutch glanced up in surprise, looked at Alice, busy at the sink, then back at Starsky. He smiled and twined his fingers in Starsky's, drawing the hand up to kiss.
"I am what I am," he said quietly.
Starsky looked up to see Alice watching them. She smiled, approving, and turned back to her work.
"Alice, that was terrific!"
"Flattery?" She gave his hair a tug.
"Not my fault. You make fabulous ice cream." He kissed her cheek. "Thanks."
"Thanks," Hutch echoed. He stood next to the table, looking for all the world like an awkward twelve-year-old. Starsky felt a sudden rush of tenderness for his tough partner, his gentle lover, his best friend.
Alice hugged Hutch firmly. "You come back, Kenny. You used to come 'round all the time when your granddad was alive."
Hutch nodded. Starsky took his hand and led him out into the late-afternoon sunlight. "They accept," Starsky told him. "Give them the chance and they accept."
"Everybody loves you."
"We can't hide for the rest of our lives. We are . . ."
"What we are, I know." He clung to Starsky as they walked back towards their home.
Cool mornings gave way to fierce afternoons - hazy, expectant days. Slowly, steadily, leaves began to crimson and die, crisp-brown underfoot. Small animals collected, hoarded, prepared for winter. There was a sense of immediacy in the air that hadn't been present even a week before.
Starsky sat back on his heels and watched the activity around them. "They know something we don't?"
"Sure. Winter will happen one day while we're lying around in our cut-offs. Any excuse not to work, I swear . . ."
"Slave driver," Starsky muttered. He went back to his task of burying the bulbs in the holes Hutch had made and covering them with dirt. "This is gonna look nice next spring." He watched a squirrel running back and forth, transporting nuts. "How do they remember where they put 'em?"
Hutch shrugged. "Maybe they don't." He watched the little animal for a moment. "Starsky, have you been giving them almonds again?"
Starsky patted down a mound of dirt. "It was a treat. Special occasion." He frowned. "Kinda sad, though," he mused, "everything dying like this."
"It's not. Just settling in for the winter - like us."
Starsky smiled. "Been hoarding nuts and berries when I wasn't looking?"
"Enough to keep us happy all winter in our gingerbread house."
"Crazy in love, Starsk." He sat back and wiped the film of sweat off his face. "Seems too hot to be doing this."
"Then why are we doing it? I've got a dozen pieces of greenware to be fired."
Hutch grinned. "Freddie Hansen swears that his corns are acting up, and that this is Injun Summer, sure as God made green apples."
"Hayseed! Freddie is an old drunk. He tried to sell me his cow last month so he could buy some whiskey."
"What'd you do?"
"Gave him a can of beer and told him to go home." They watched the swirling eddies of dust sweep across the dirt road that ran alongside the fence. "It's crazy how much I love this place, Hutch."
Hutch crawled across the grass and launched himself at Starsky, pinning him to the ground. They both started to giggle. "Like this place, huh? Love it, city boy?"
"You asshole, let me up!"
"I want a kiss first."
"I'd sooner kiss Freddie Hansen's cow! I'd sooner kiss Freddie!" Starsky gurgled with laughter as Hutch made a terrible face and tried to kiss him. "Ick, ick, ick!"
"You didn't say that last night."
"Mmm," Starsky purred. His arms stole around Hutch's neck and drew him into an intense embrace, their bodies flowing together in shared rhythms. Heady scent of cologne and sweat and sunshine intoxicated Hutch.
"Sometimes I get scared of how much I need you," he observed as he lay back on the grass, panting after their brief tussle. "Everything I am is because of you." He caressed the sun-bronzed flesh of the man beside him.
Starsky pressed his face against Hutch's arm. "You make me so happy," he murmured. "I can't stop smiling . . . my face hurts."
As they lay amid the promise of daffodil and sweet white narcissus, hyacinth and blue iris, their clumsy Dalmatian puppy - a gift from one of the nearby farms - bounded over to be included in the affection. "Hey, Sam, careful!" Starsky said with a laugh as the puppy tried to climb on top of him. Hutch watched them with pleasure, then scratched the puppy's ears as it settled between them with a sigh. Starsky stroked the silky coat. "I like havin' a dog. Like to have more . . . and some cats."
A large, fuzzy bumblebee drifted along, close to the grass, and hovered over Sam. "What's up, pup? Huh?" Hutch whispered. Sam watched the bee with rapt attention.
"He's bigger'n you, Sammy-Boy," Starsky warned. "At least, his bite is. Don't mess with the dudes in the black and yellow jackets." The bee drifted away, convinced that the trio wasn't worth its time. Sam yawned hugely.
"We keeping you awake, dog?" Hutch lifted the puppy and settled him on Starsky's chest. "Here you go, Daddy." He rested his head on Starsky's shoulder and felt an arm curve around him.
"That make you mom?"
"Whatever. Close as I'm gonna get."
"You really mean that?" Starsky asked thoughtfully.
"You figure out a way to make one with me and we'll do it," Hutch told him. Starsky struggled to a sitting position, and Sam slid off his chest. The puppy seemed dazed for a moment, then loped off to pursue a red squirrel.
"Hutch, think about it. Don't cut yourself off from the idea of a family."
"You want babies?" Hutch asked.
"Don't know. You?"
"Never seemed too important. I wish we could have one together. That makes me a little sad."
Starsky lay down again and snuggled close to Hutch. "Maybe we oughtta become research biologists and invent a way to do it," he said. Hutch chuckled. "I guess Sam'll have to do. Weird-lookin' family, huh? Maybe I'd better send Sammy's photo to my mom before he grows up." He brushed the hair off Hutch's forehead. "Y'know, at this rate we'll never finish the planting. Snow'll just come and cover us up."
"Maybe Freddie's corns are wrong," Hutch said absently. Starsky began to laugh and Hutch caught the infection. They laughed until the tears rolled down their cheeks. "I guess one more day won't hurt."
"We got the rest of our lives together, after all."
"Yeah." Contented sigh.
He pulled Starsky's slim body into the circle of his arms and held him until the sun faded behind the trees.
Starsky tossed another log on the fire and watched as the flames tasted, then devoured it. The orange-striped cat that had adopted them in November stretched on the braided rug and clamped both paws firmly over his face. "You sure do know how to sleep, Charlie." Starsky scratched the battle-scarred head and was rewarded with a rumble of happiness. All around him, the lights of the season glowed softly - candles reflecting in the rich finishes of the furniture Hutch had built for them: tables, bookcases and his most ambitious project - a rocking chair for Starsky, his Christmas gift. Starsky touched the satiny wood tenderly, awed that his lover could shape such fine things.
His own work - ceramic plates, bowls, goblets and the whimsical self-portrait that he'd given Hutch for Christmas - a plump, naked cherub with a mop of shiny, dark curls and a sly grin, which had made Hutch roar with laughter - littered the cabinets and shelves. Everything said "home" to him. Christmas, Hanukkah - the return of the sun. He waited for the return of his sun. For the hundredth time, he went to the window and looked out into the grey-violet darkness. Snow weather. He loved to watch the big white flakes swirl past the windows, blending into the endless white landscape. All around the house was silence - within, the crackle of the flames and the beating of his heart. Sam whined in his sleep and settled again. Charlie looked up, licked a paw and curled into an even tighter coil of cat.
Then, suddenly, Hutch was there, bursting into the house . . . rosy-cheeked, sparkling-bright snow-child . . . beautiful beyond anything that Starsky had ever known. "I forgot how lovely you are." Shy smile, hint of an embarrassed flush stealing up to deepen the glow of cold and good health. Starsky touched him with a sense of wonder. Mine. My man.
"I stopped by the farm on the way home from the store, and mom sent some stuff for Christmas - julekakka, two bottles of wine and some cookies."
"What kind?" Starsky asked, peering into the bag.
"Spritsar . . . and this is for Davy." He opened his jacket and carefully drew out a small, flowering geranium. "She thought you might like it."
Starsky carried the plant into the kitchen and cleared a space for it on the windowsill over the sink. Then he turned to watch Hutch put the food away. Charlie sauntered in and miaowed a hello. Starsky's heart seemed to swell and pulse with the life around him. He could think of nothing more perfect. "Love me," he said simply.
Hutch took his hand and led him into the living room, laid him on the couch and entered him, body and soul. Starsky accepted, drew his lover into himself and became Hutch as surely as Hutch became Starsky. The mouth he kissed was his own, the body he touched was his own, and when the moment came, the joy that filled him was a resonance - two notes vibrating together - one chord that would always sound clear and true.
"You take away my darkness," Hutch murmured, content, sleepy. "My sunshine."
"You warm me." He ran a fingertip over Hutch's rosy, love-swollen mouth. Under his hands the cool flesh had become hot, had flushed with pleasure. He welcomed the weight of his lover's body. "Sleep," Starsky said. He listened to the soft, steady breathing for a long time. Life, breath . . . He looked towards the small, pink-flowered geranium. Promise of spring. A year, we've been here a year; married two years, lovers three . . . The cycle played itself over and over. Together - one. And life was as it should be.