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M. Decker and C. Davis
"Awo..o..o..o..o..w!" Hutch's howl echoed eerily along the length of the deserted beach. Baying at the moon seemed the only way to come close to expressing the way he felt tonight. He brought his head down and turned towards his giggling companion.
"Hutch, you crazy bastard," Starsky chuckled, grabbing his arm for support. "You think you're Lon Chaney, Jr., or what?"
"It's a full moon," Hutch explained, gesturing theatrically and none-too-steadily at the night sky. The sudden move threw him off balance and he staggered; only hanging onto his partner saved him from landing unceremoniously on his backside.
"You're also drunk, Hutchinson!" Starsky swayed slightly.
"Jus' wanted to keep you company," Hutch solemnly intoned, then ruined the effect by throwing back his head and letting another drawn-out howl escape.
Starsky grinned, white teeth flashing in the darkness, before joining Hutch in creating an unholy duet. The cacophony was cut short by another spate of giggles from both men.
As their laughter wound down, thoughts about their last case flooded Hutch's mind. It was a close call this time. I could've died. Would've if it hadn't been for Starsky. Why does it seem to get worse every year? He had felt like a time bomb ready to go off after leaving Laura and Hannah's earlier in the evening. He hadn't thought it showed but, as usual, Starsky had picked up on it. The two of them had returned to Venice Place and put down a number of beers--how many, he refused to think about. And, like always, just being alone with his partner helped. Slowly, the tension of the last two days ebbed, to be replaced by an almost desperate playfulness. He had gotten the brilliant idea that the beach was the perfect way to end the day. By that time, Hutch realized, he could have suggested skinny-dipping in the fountains of downtown LA and Starsky would have gone along with it.
"Come on, race you back," Starsky challenged abruptly and took off.
Hutch was startled by the sudden move. He let out a yelp of protest and set off in determined pursuit. "Cheat!" he accused. Up ahead, Starsky's feet threw wakes of sand and water back at him as he ran through the surf. Hutch, with his longer stride, soon closed the gap and lunged, trying to grab his friend's arm. At the last moment he stumbled; arms flailing, he managed to grab a fistful of shirt before he fell.
Hutch found himself face down in the surf, but rather than gritty sand as a cushion he found something softer and more yielding beneath him. It felt nice. He nestled his head next to Starsky's, wrapped his arms around him, and felt a satisfied smile settle on his face.
"Get offa me..." Starsky got out before a wave caught him in mid-sentence. The rest came out as a wet gurgle.
Hutch's laughter escaped as little soggy snorts which disappeared into the mass of dark curls where he had buried his face. He felt an answering shaking beneath him, as if the earth were moving. Finally the laughter ebbed and Hutch summoned enough energy to roll off his squashed partner. He lay on his back looking at his foot-race competitor. And such were the funeral rites of Hector, breaker of horses.
Starsky levered himself up on his elbows, shaking his head to get some of the water out of his hair and eyes. Another wave hit, washing over them both.
"Come on, ya big lug," Starsky wheezed, grabbing one of Hutch's limp arms as he struggled to his feet. "Neither of us is ready for the From Here To Eternity scene." He managed to drag his partner to his feet, draping Hutch's arm over his shoulder. "An' you sure as hell don't look like Deborah Kerr."
"Hope not," Hutch muttered and pressed closer to the compact body.
They managed to stagger twenty-five feet or so before collapsing onto dry sand. They lay on their backs, side by side, staring up into the night sky.
"We're a mess..." Hutch finally managed to say, gesturing weakly at their wet, sand-encrusted bodies.
"And whose fault is that, Ollie?" Starsky grumbled. "I think I got about half this beach down my pants." There was the grating sound of clogged zipper teeth. "Shit. I think I'm gonna have to cut my way out of these."
Turning his head, he studied the moon-lit profile of his partner. Starsky's dark, ocean-wet curls seemed tangled in a matrix of silver light. The profile seemed younger, wiped clean of the lines of stress that marked it after the violent ending of their case.
Starsky turned his head and Hutch found himself being studied.
"Thanks," Hutch drawled.
Hutch was vaguely surprised. He hadn't expected to be asked. Think fast. "For taking that pie in the face." He laughed, but the image of Starsky slowly licking the meringue off his fingers sent an old familiar shiver down his spine. "Yep, that one had my name on it, but you stepped right in front...."
"No, you ducked." The dark haired man smiled, and Hutch smiled back, content in their camaraderie. He got lost in the sensations.
"I've been thinking, Starsky," he finally murmured. "After this last case...." He turned his head away, eyes searching the night sky for the few brilliant stars that could struggle through the thick LA air. "This last year has been...tough. For both of us."
"Yeah," Starsky whispered, an undercurrent of pain in the single word.
"And I think we need some time off. Real time off, not like that sorry excuse for a vacation up at Pine Lake."
"Okay," Starsky agreed. "You think Laura might reconsider that Mexico thing...?"
"Starsky," Hutch cut him off sharply. He struggled for control. It was very important that there were no misunderstandings. When he continued speaking, his words were soft and controlled. "What I meant was a real vacation for the two of us. Together. A couple of weeks someplace we can just go, have a good time, forget we're cops." He shifted in the sand. The effects of the alcohol were wearing off, and he was getting chilly. "Trouble is, the stuff I've been forgetting lately is important. There are times I can't recognize who I am, or was, or even who you are. It's all getting lost in the shuffle of being cops. Doin' the job.... Needing to tie one on after the case.... I need a break. I want to get to know us again. Let's run away from home for a while."
He got a smile of epic proportions as an answer. "Sounds good to me..." Starsky began, then he paused and a flicker of unease appeared in the dark blue eyes. "Where did you...?"
Hutch grinned devilishly. "Relax, partner, I wasn't thinking about camping out in the middle of the woods. Actually, what I had in mind would be enjoyable for both of us. How about San Francisco?"
"Why San Francisco?"
"Why not?" Hutch felt like laughing at the expression on his partner's face.
"Hell, sounds like as good a reason as any. In fact, anyplace I don't have to worry about bears sounds fine to me. Haven't been to Frisco in a long time."
"Great. I'll put in for leave when we get to work...."
"An' maybe, if we're real lucky," Starsky continued, "Dobey might let us go in a couple years or so."
"Have faith, Starsky. We'll get there real soon. I feel it."
"What you'll feel is crippled if you fall asleep on this beach." Starsky groaned as he sat up. "It's not too far back to your place and I want to sleep on something soft."
"This is soft," Hutch chuckled, patting the sand with one hand.
"Not as soft as your head," Starsky growled. "Come on, Blintz. Home." He struggled to his feet and extended a hand.
A grunt escaped the smaller man as he took his partner's weight. Getting to a standing position, he settled his arm comfortably around Starsky's shoulders, while his friend clasped him around the waist. Supporting each other in this way the two men set off unsteadily towards home. A baritone voice, off-key but very loud, broke the pre-dawn stillness. "I left my heart in San Fran...ci...scooo...."
After several minutes of creative Torino packing Hutch managed to fit his suitcases in with Starsky's. He brushed his hands together. "So, where's the rest of your stuff? In the back seat?"
"Nope. That's it. You've been getting ready for three months. I just started last night."
Hutch looked pointedly at the single piece of luggage. "You sure you packed everything?"
"Hutch, we're going to San Francisco, not the Mojave Desert. If we forget something we can always buy it there."
"It wouldn't hurt you to be a little more organized. All you have to do is make a list...."
"Are you calling your lists 'organized?' I've been finding little pieces of paper all over the place for the last week. I can quote 'em. They all said the same thing--'toothbrush, toothpaste, razor--'"
"Did you pack your toothbrush?"
"Of course I did."
"See, they worked."
Starsky elbowed the taller man out of his way and slammed the trunk shut. "Get in the car."
"Did you pack your toothpaste?"
"Shut up and get in the car."
The blond folded himself into the passenger seat and glanced at his partner who was keying the ignition. He couldn't resist one more shot. "Did you pack...?"
"I don't want to hear it."
"Just don't come running to me when you find that...." Hutch's voice lost the competition with the engine.
Starsky pulled out into traffic then spared him a look. "Are you seriously telling me that if I forgot toothpaste you wouldn't let me use yours?"
Hutch pondered for a moment. "Well, that--yes. But you can't borrow my socks."
"I don't want your socks. They're white. I don't wear white socks," Starsky pointed out archly.
"I've seen you in white socks before."
"They weren't mine."
"I know. "
After a meal of quantity, if not quality, they were back on Route 1. Hutch wrestled with the map, folding it down to the section he wanted.
"We coulda made the whole trip to Frisco without a layover," Starsky said. "Only twelve hours."
"Starsk, it's over 500 miles yet. Our motel is only about 120 from here. We should get there by 10 o'clock. If you want a break, pull into one of the overlooks and I'll drive."
"I'm okay. You navigate. What's the name of the place again?"
"The Jade Beach Motel."
Starsky chuckled. "Sounds like something out of a Charlie Chan movie. Honorable Number One Partner make reservation?"
"No. I thought we'd just take a chance and if there weren't any vacancies we'd sleep in the car." The sarcasm hung in the air like a bad smell.
Hutch peered out the windshield, ostensibly looking for road signs. "Sorry."
"S'okay. Been a long week. Just don't fall asleep on me or we'll be lost when you wake up."
"You can't get lost. This goes all the way to San Francisco. Besides, I don't think I could sleep after that dinner we ate."
Starsky drove silently for a few minutes, then gave in to his baser instincts. "Did you pack the Alka-seltzer?"
There was a beat of silence from the passenger seat. Then: "No, I didn't."
Starsky let out a wail. "Oh, whatever are we going to do?!?"
Hutch had the grace to laugh.
Starsky settled back in his chair with a contented sigh and pushed the now empty plate away, repressing the urge to loosen his belt. "This sure is the life, Hutch. Good food, a fancy setting...." He gestured at their posh surroundings--an open-air restaurant on the pier of Monterey Bay. The fine china and crystal on their table glinted in the sunlight. It made skipping breakfast for an early start worthwhile.
"...and thou?" Hutch finished, a questioning look in his eyes.
Starsky paused for a moment, as if seriously contemplating a new idea, and then nodded. "Yeah, I'll go for that." He couldn't keep up the act any longer and a wide smile lit his face.
The blond responded instantly with an answering grin.
The waiter's appearance interrupted their banter. Two refilled cups of coffee and a cleared table later, the two men sat in companionable silence, sharing the view. Starsky watched, fascinated by the white winged seagulls dipping and crying in the calm air. The small fishing vessels and the sweeping line of the bay made it almost too pretty to be real--like a picture post card.
"We're getting a late start, Starsky. Our schedule...." Hutch peered anxiously at his watch.
"Relax," Starsky instructed, slightly annoyed with his partner. Why d'you always have to be so worried about things, Hutch? Can't you just lie back and enjoy life as it comes? He waved a hand airily at the expanse of sea and sky. "Schedules are for breaking."
"Starsky, you always say that when it's your fault we're late."
"We're on vacation. That means we're here to enjoy ourselves, not get ulcers worrying about keeping up with some schedule. We enjoyed sleeping late this morning. We enjoyed this brunch. And we're both enjoying the view. Okay?"
Hutch opened his mouth, as if preparing for an argument, then shut it abruptly. "It's getting to be a habit...arguing with you." A smile warmed the generous mouth, dissipating Starsky's annoyance. "And you're right. I am enjoying this."
"Just listen to your partner. Starsky knows best," he added smugly.
"Don't let it go to your head, just because you're right once." Any sting to the words was lost as Hutch reached over to a flowerbox beside the table, plucked a small dandelion from the unweeded bed, and offered it to him.
Starsky took it with solemnity. For some reason the gesture got to him and he suddenly felt the need to lighten the situation. "Aw, Hutch, you shouldn't have. Your first born, too. I see it has daddy's hair." He reached over and held the flower against Hutch's cheek.
Hutch waved away the hand. "Will you get that out of my face?"
"You hopeless romantic, you." Starsky chuckled as he waggled his finger at him. He still made it a point to carefully tuck the dandelion into a buttonhole of his shirt. "But I warn you, babe, I'm not a cheap date. Next time you give me a yellow flower--make it a rose."
Hutch held up his cup of coffee as if for a toast, and a moment later Starsky mirrored the gesture. "I'll drink to that."
"How 'bout to us," Starsky counter-proposed.
"I'll drink to that, too," Hutch agreed amicably.
There was a distinct 'clink' as the china met in a toast.
"We should do this with champagne, y'know."
"Next time for sure."
"Yeah," Starsky agreed. "It'll go nice with the roses."
"Drink your coffee, Starsky."
Late afternoon sunlight streamed into the interior of the Torino. To the west the setting sun seemed to be easing into the Pacific. They had left Monterey Bay behind and were on the last leg of their trip to San Francisco. Even with the winding curves of Route 1, Hutch estimated they would arrive at their destination in another hour and a half.
The blond felt slightly foolish, realizing he was sitting there smiling at nothing. It seemed a reflection of the feeling of contentment which had held him since waking.
Perfect day. Perfect companion. He knew his thoughts were bordering on the sloppily sentimental, but he found he simply didn't care. Starsky's right. I've got to relax, go with things. We're on vacation. If it feels good, go with it. He surreptitiously studied the driver's profile, lit from behind by the swollen sun. The tousled curls seemed particularly wayward this day, tossed by the wind, high-lighted by the dying light, making his partner particularly...endearing. Hutch searched for another word, but was soon forced to admit it was the only adequate description for Starsky. He restrained the urge to sink his fingers into the soft mass of hair. Good thing you can't read my mind or you'd probably turn three shades of red.
Suddenly a swift glance was directed at him and dark eyes were studying his face. Starsky's gaze was quickly gone, once more focused on the road ahead. Hutch felt himself blushing.
The red Torino fish-tailed into a parking space on the quiet street. Hutch unpeeled his death-like grip on the dashboard, slowly sinking back into the seat. "Starsk...."
"Well, we're here," the driver announced cheerily, oblivious to the impending storm.
"Those were hills, goddamnit," Hutch finally managed to choke out.
Starsky peered at his partner. The only illumination was from dim streetlights at opposite ends of the block, so it was difficult to read the other man's expression, but he was good enough at picking up other signals to recognize trouble. "So?" he questioned, still somewhat puzzled at Hutch's reaction.
"So.... You don't drive on them as if you're on a straightaway at the Grand Prix. I thought I was going through the roof even with the seat belt on. It would've been just great to get a ticket for insane driving the moment we get into San Francisco." He turned his head to stare at Starsky, his voice lowering an octave. "If you expect me to get into this moving violation again, I'm driving."
Starsky knew when he shouldn't push his luck. He shrugged as he escaped from the car, heading around to the trunk. "Course it's all right that you got us lost for half an hour as soon as we got into the city," he muttered darkly.
Hutch followed. "Starsky...."
"Okay, okay," he grumbled. "You can drive...while we're in the city." He opened the trunk and removed his bag. "All right, where's this place we're staying."
"The Bayberry," Hutch muttered. Delving into the trunk, he pulled out various pieces of luggage and began piling them on the sidewalk. Finishing this task, he straightened and glanced around the dim street. A fog had started creeping in, misting things over, making it difficult to see. "There," he finally said, pointing to an old Victorian house across the street. "One eleven Elm. Hey, it looks even more atmospheric than I thought it would." He grinned at his partner, but the smile faded as Starsky picked up his lone piece of luggage and started across the street.
Starsky ran up the steps and knocked energetically on the door. He turned, watching Hutch's balancing act with his bags, slowly tapping his foot. Complain about my drivin', will ya?
A beam of welcoming yellow light poured over Starsky's shoulders and down the steps as the front door opened suddenly. He turned around, fixing a friendly smile on his face.
"May I help you?" A slender man in his early forties stood in the doorway, slowly wiping off his hands with a towel.
"Yeah, matter of fact, you can. I'm Dave Starsky...and that," he pointed down at the figure struggling up the steps, "is Ken Hutchinson. I think we've got reservations."
"Welcome to San Francisco." He opened the door wide for the over-laden blond. "I'm Keith Palmeroy."
Hutch, by this time, had made it into the entrance hall and had dumped his luggage in a pile around his feet.
As Palmeroy closed the front door, Starsky took a closer look at the hall and the room visible through a pair of open French doors. It was old fashioned, reminding him of his grandmother's, with its dark woodwork, faded carpets, and Victorian furniture. There was even a large Chinese vase filled with potpourri on a hall table, filling the air with the scent of faded roses.
"Ah, I see they've gotten here," another voice added. A stocky man stood framed in the French doors. "We were getting worried. You're quite a bit past the time you set for your arrival." He had a smile that could light rooms, mated to a face that could stop clocks.
"Rolf, I'd like you to meet our guests." Palmeroy made the round of introductions, ending with identifying Rolf Howard, his partner in the bed and breakfast business.
They signed into the hall guest book and were led up the stairs to their room. Starsky kept his laughter under control when their two hosts took most of Hutch's luggage in hand. They climbed two flights of stairs and were shown to a large front bedroom. Keith was beaming with pleasure when he opened their door.
"This is the best room in The Bayberry. Most of the furniture in here is antique. Except for the bed, of course," he said waving at the king-sized four- poster.
"It sure looks old," Starsky commented.
"A reproduction," Rolf said, setting down the last of Hutch's luggage. "It's more comfortable than an original." He stuck his hands in the front pockets of his jeans and smiled. "Well, c'mon Keith. Let our guests get some rest."
"Rolf is right. You've had a pretty good drive and it's late. Breakfast is served between eight and ten in the dining room. We're having waffles, sausage, eggs, and fresh fruit."
"That's not the only fruit in this place," Starsky muttered as the door closed behind their hosts.
"What?" Hutch asked from the depths of an open suitcase.
"Nothin'." Starsky began investigating the room thoroughly, unsure if he liked it or not. It wasn't exactly his idea of how a swinging vacation should start out. It was much too domestic, like home.
"Isn't this great!" Hutch enthused. "This sure isn't the sterilized, homogenized, early nothing you'd get at a Holiday Inn." He pulled open the top drawer of the walnut armoire, stuffing some of his clothes inside.
Starsky muttered something under his breath as he opened his suitcase.
"What'd you say?" Hutch straightened up, rubbing absently at the small of his back.
"I said," Starsky's voice rose, "at least the Holiday Inn would've had a TV."
"A TV?" Hutch echoed. "A TV!" A myriad of expressions flickered over the blond's face--disbelief, annoyance, hurt, anger. "I thought a good vacation would mean more to you than getting in your quota of Saturday morning cartoons. I...." He cut himself off, slamming the drawer to the armoire shut. "I'm going to take a shower and cool off." He grabbed his bathrobe and shaving kit and withdrew like a storm cloud into the bathroom.
Starsky stood, holding a shirt in his hands, staring at the closed door. "Damn," he muttered to himself. He had wanted to make this a good vacation for himself and Hutch. He knew how much of the last three months Hutch had devoted to planning these two weeks. To making it perfect. He sat gingerly on the edge of the king-size bed and looked around at his surroundings. It is nice here, even if it does remind me of grandma's. And damn, I can survive without a TV. He listened to the sound of the shower and sighed. Sorry, Hutch.
A knock at the door brought him out of his thoughts. He opened the door to find Palmeroy waiting in the hall.
"Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Starsky, but I wanted to talk to you or Mr. Hutchinson before you retired. I know the advertisement for the room said TV included, but at the moment it's at the repairman's. Rolf took it in yesterday and forgot to tell me. It should be back tomorrow or the day after at the latest."
A dull flush crept up Starsky's cheeks. "Uh, thanks." I think. A sudden frown creased his brows. "New York?" he asked hesitantly.
"How'd you know? The accent?" Palmeroy grinned at Starsky's knowing nod. "East Side. And you?"
Starsky grinned back. "Brooklyn."
"Thought I'd lost enough of it not to be spotted."
"You did. 'Cept maybe by another New Yorker."
"Oh, by the way," Palmeroy continued, "I wanted to give you this. Compliments of the house." He reached to one side and plucked a wine bucket off a hall table. A bottle of chilled wine and two glasses lay nestled amid the ice.
"Hey!" Starsky grinned again. "That's real nice of you."
"Have a good night, Mr. Starsky. And enjoy your stay."
Maneuvering the door shut with his foot, Starsky arranged the glasses and wine on a small table. The shower was still running. He got undressed slowly and shrugged into his own dark blue bathrobe. Settling in a chair, he stared out the night-filled window.
Silence fell over the room as the shower cut off, then the small sounds of Hutch getting ready for bed filtered through the bathroom door. When it finally swung open, Hutch emerged, wrapped tightly in his terry-cloth robe, cool and in control. Too much in control, Starsky realized with long practiced reading of his moody partner. Time for one expert how-to-get-a-Hutchinson-out-of-a-bad-mood exercise.
"Hutch," he said, addressing a broad expanse of back. No answer. He got up and grabbed the wine bottle and poured two glasses. "Look what the management brought. Now that's what I call service."
The blond turned and stared at the pale liquid, his glance following a small drop of water that trailed down the frosted glass that was held out to him. There was a slight thawing of the arctic gaze. "Glad you found something you like here." Hutch accepted the proferred peace offering, taking a small sip. "Not bad."
Starsky copied the action. "Mmmm. Hey, this is good." He took another healthy swig.
A small smile tugged unbidden at the wide mouth. "Should be, it's Californian." Hutch settled gingerly into one of the cane-backed chairs, sitting ram-rod straight.
"Hutch," Starsky said softly, "sorry."
The pale blue eyes locked with his partner's. "S'okay, I was in a bad mood anyway."
"I've been looking around at this place," Starsky waved his hand at the antique-filled room, "and it's nice...real nice. I feel comfortable here."
A smile lit Hutch's face, chasing all the remaining shadows away. "Really? You're not just saying it to...."
"Nope," Starsky interrupted firmly, shaking his head. "This'll be great." He grinned back, a lopsided flashing of teeth. "To our vacation...if we don't kill each other first." He extended his glass.
There was a soft clink as the glasses met. "I'll drink to that." There was a twinkle in Hutch's eye as he continued. "But I did promise you champagne for the next toast. Take a raincheck?"
"Okay. Holding you to it." Starsky drained his glass and studied his partner with a knowing eye. The big blond was sitting in the chair, back straight, giving all the unspoken signals that he had come to read so well over the last year. "Back's botherin' you again?" he asked quietly.
There was a pause and a muffled, "Uh-uh."
"Come on. Time for a Starsky special," he said with a grin, flexing his fingers like a mad pianist.
Hutch chuckled. "If I had any sense I wouldn't let those ten wiggling snakes of yours within fifteen feet of me."
"So who ever said you had any sense, Blondie?" Starsky moved toward the bed, flipping down the spread, blankets, and top sheet with a flourish. "Come on, move it. Oh...wait." He disappeared abruptly into the bathroom, but emerged a moment later, flourishing a small bottle. "Body lotion, compliments of the house. Okay, down on the ol' tummy."
Hutch rolled his eyes heavenward but nevertheless obeyed the command. Slipping out of his robe he lay stomach down on the wide bed, the length of his tanned body an abrupt contrast to the white sheets.
They jostled for comfortable positions, but within moments had settled with Starsky kneeling at Hutch's side. Starsky applied the lotion in long, even strokes, giving special attention to the lower back and attendant muscles. His fingers dug into tense areas with practiced ease. Starsky smiled as he felt the gradual loosening under his hands. Ever since the attempted hit by Slater, when Hutch had been pinned under his car for two days, his back periodically gave him trouble. Starsky had bullied the doctors into giving him instructions on how to help with Hutch's physical therapy. He had put it to practical use ever since. When his partner was hurting it made him feel a hell of a lot better when he knew he could do something to help. Like now. Starsky could see enough of the other man's face to observe relaxation, mingled with pleasure, steal over the tensed features. Any second the walls would be falling....
"Mmmmm," slipped like honey from Hutch's throat.
Eureka, Starsky thought. You're always in control, aren't you, Hutch, with that WASP mentality of yours. Takes a while for you to start showing me this feels good.... His thumbs marked slow parallel trails up either side of his spine. But once you start, you sure let me know loud and clear that you're enjoyin' it. He grinned as another little moan of pleasure issued from the pillow. Hope this doesn't disturb the neighbors.... His hands faltered for a moment at what interpretation might be placed on such sounds issuing from their room. Then he grinned evilly, resuming the steady pressure, the slick gliding of flesh against flesh. Let 'em think what the hell they want. They're not real.
As the minutes passed Hutch's noisy appreciation slowly subsided, fading smoothly into the deep, even breathing of sleep. Starsky's hands, as if on automatic, continued to stroke the smooth back. The sensation of touching Hutch like this felt good, the contact having unconsciously grown into a caress. He blinked suddenly, pulling himself out of the almost hypnotized state into which he had slipped.
Starsky's open palms rested gently against the evenly rising and falling back. He leaned forward until his mouth was a scant inch from the blond's ear, his breath stirring the fine gossamer hair. "Hey, Blintz," he whispered. "You awake?" There was no response. Starsky chuckled silently and gently pushed a few golden strands out of his friend's eyes. "Sleep tight, sleepin' beauty."
He carefully levered himself off the bed and covered the totally lax figure with the sheet and blankets. A few minutes later he had joined his friend and was soon sound asleep beneath the covers.
Starsky woke slowly. The first thing that registered in his mind was the few dim glimmers of daylight which managed to filter in through the drawn drapes. He opened one bleary eye and finally focused on the bedside clock--6:14. AM, his mind supplied unnecessarily. He moaned and pushed his face further into the pillow, snuggling back into an encircling warmth. Part of his mind registered this last sensation. It was definitely pleasurable. It was also something that shouldn't be there. He opened his eyes and saw a large hand with an accompanying muscular arm draped loosely over his chest. He immediately knew it was not his own because there was blond hair on the arm. Hutch. He identified the warmth. His not inconsiderable-sized partner was plastered spoon-like against his bare back, and Hutch's knee had somehow managed to insinuate itself between his legs. He felt warm breath tickle against his neck, timed with the slow, even rhythm of sleep.
Starsky considered the situation. Hutch and he had certainly shared beds before this, but somehow they always managed to keep roughly to their own sides. With this giant expanse of mattress at their disposal there wasn't even the excuse of crowding. Sleep tugged at his eyelids. It was too early to think, he finally decided. He snuggled back into the familiar presence, feeling very safe. He'd worry about it...later.
He drifted back to sleep easily and slept deeply. His second awakening was much more abrupt. Hutch was still pressed close, their bodies lying in the same intertwined embrace. However, this time, Starsky realized his friend was very much awake. He lay there, afraid to move, wondering if Hutch was mirroring his own feelings of awkwardness over their intimate position. Neither of them, it seemed, wanted to be the one to make the first move. He had just about dredged up the courage to pull away when a small snort of expelled breath exploded into his hair and he could feel Hutch's chest vibrating against his back. Suddenly, the comic aspects of the situation hit him, and a snicker escaped his lips. Within moments they were laughing helplessly. When the fit started to die down to weak giggles, Starsky managed to gather enough strength to roll over, coming eye to streaming eye with Hutch. "My partner...the...octopus," he managed to get out between hiccuping breaths and affectionately ruffled the already mussed hair into an even worse state.
When they finally managed to roll out of bed they dressed quickly, goaded on by Starsky's single-minded desire to attack the gourmet breakfast and Hutch's worry about a late start. Even hurrying as they were could not make up for their sleeping in, and the hall clock was striking half past nine when they finally made it downstairs. Because it was a beautiful morning, breakfast was served on the small patio at the back of the house. Without the usual inland fog to obscure the bright blue of the August sky or the August sun, the day was already heating up, but in the distance they could see a thick bank of gray still hovering over the bay. Rolf was their visible host for the morning, but they could hear Keith clattering away in the kitchen. He served them the promised fare and a half-hour later both men pushed back from the table feeling replete and totally content. It was over their last cup of coffee that Hutch innocently asked how Starsky felt about boats.
It was still foggy on the bay. Starsky sat on one of the benches along the back of the tour boat, his arms hugging each other. He squinted against the wind and spray at the block of buildings on the little island.
"Looks like a tomb."
Hutch sat beside him in much the same pose. "I guess in a way it was."
Starsky turned to watch the seagulls following the boat. He had to speak loudly to be heard over the engine noise. "Whenever I think of Alcatraz, I think of George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, and those guys. The movies. Not about the people who really had to stay there."
Hutch shrugged. "It served its purpose in its day."
Starsky surprised his partner with a grin. "My father used to tell me he'd send me here, and that he could arrange it. Then he'd say 'Ha-ha,' and I'd go 'Ha-ha,' but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought he just might do it. Then I used to think that I could survive there. I'd work real hard and become top-con and everything would be just fine. 'Course I was about eight. Got over that real fast."
"My father used to threaten me with West Point."
"Really?" Did he ever take the time to 'threaten' you with anything?
Hutch considered for a moment, then smiled slightly. "Nope. Made it up."
"Well, I think I'd rather have gone to Alcatraz."
Hutch chuckled. "Me, too."
"You? You wouldn't have lasted five minutes." Probably less than three, judging from the way that turkey in the leather pants is eyeing you. Starsky watched as the man wandered off, obviously not encouraged by Hutch's failure to notice him. If I had a nickel for every guy who's goggled at you today, we could retire.
"Whadaya mean? I bet I could last just as long as you. Maybe longer."
Starsky stared at him through slitted eyes. No you couldn't, Hutch. Not looking the way you do. They'd have been all over you. His jaw came up belligerently. "Bet my mom could beat up your mom."
"What?!" Hutch laughed, taken aback, as if he had been prepared for a longer round.
Starsky stood and pointed. "Hey! Look--a bridge!"
Hutch just looked at Starsky.
Hutch was feeling mellow. They had just finished a leisurely dinner at a small restaurant. The food had been excellent and the wine good. He and Starsky had talked of little things, nothing of great importance, but the closeness felt so palpable he wondered if it could not be seen by casual passersby.
They had decided to take a walk after dinner, to stretch their legs and to soak up the feel of the city. The fog-heavy air felt wonderful to his slightly flushed cheeks. Even in August, San Francisco was chilly at night, a far cry from the smothering heat of Los Angeles. A low, lonely sound suddenly echoed eerily in the distance.
"What's that?" Starsky asked, looking around suspiciously.
"Fog horn. To warn the ships."
"Sounds kinda sad."
"Someone once wrote that it reminded him of the cry of a lost soul."
Starsky shivered dramatically. "That's creepy."
Hutch grinned evilly. "I know lots of stories that would make your skin crawl. There's this one that's a favorite of mine about a mad doctor who stalked the fog-enshrouded streets of Victorian London."
"Hutch...!" Starsky growled warningly, eyes nevertheless scanning the fog-enshrouded street they were traversing with a nervous glance.
Hutch's voice lowered dramatically. "He crept up behind his victims like a phantom, a long wicked blade clutched in one claw-like hand and...." He ducked as Starsky made a swipe at his head. "...then he'd cut out...." The blond tried to continue the lurid tale but had to run for his life when his partner lunged for him. The chase was short but energetic, lasting only to the end of the block. A temporary truce was called, but Hutch secretly vowed to tell the rest of the story once they were in bed and the lights out.
Their evening stroll finally took them on to a street with a number of brightly-lit restaurants and bars. "Hey!" Starsky pointed at one sign. "'The Labyrinth.' Didn't Palmeroy mention this as a neighborhood bar worth going to? Has dancing, too."
"Want a beer?" Hutch asked.
"Sounds good to me. Walking makes me thirsty."
Once inside, they found The Labyrinth aptly named. The interior was divided into two discrete sections. The bar half was decorated in wood and cut glass, but the stone floor was patterned in black and white with a design that looked like a maze, while over the bar hung a l9th century painting of Theseus battling the minotaur. Through a large archway beckoned an open space where patrons were dancing to the beat of loud music. This room was more modern in feel than the bar area, but the floor in there looked as if it were marked with the same maze pattern.
Hutch spotted a free table near the bar and homed in to claim it. Starsky was momentarily diverted from the siren call of the music and trailed after his partner. "Beer first," Hutch directed, as he settled into a corner seat.
A waiter ambled up after a few minutes and took their order. Two large iced mugs of beer were soon placed in front of the thirsty men, on napkins patterned with a labyrinth. Hutch could tell it wouldn't be long before his partner was up and heading for the other section. The lithe body sitting opposite him was already moving in time to the insistent beat of the music. He drained the last of his beer, then stood, smiling down benignly at his restless friend. "Come on, Astaire, let's go look at the dance floor and see if there are any friendly ladies who feel like cutting loose."
"Terpsichore, anyone?" Starsky offered as he jumped up, eager for one of his favorite pastimes. He led the way and stood in the entrance doing a quick reconnaissance. The wide grin on his face slowly died as he carefully studied the dancers.
"Won't be dancing here, will we, partner?" Hutch let his amusement show.
Starsky shot back a sheepish smile and shrugged. A couple undulated past, the two men moving in perfect unison. "Didn't look like a gay bar," he whispered.
"Come on..." Hutch began, turning as if to leave. He halted in his tracks when his partner did not copy his retreat "Starsk...?" The rest of his sentence froze in his throat when he noted the interested gaze.
"Those two are doin' pretty good," Starsky observed, pointing to one male couple who looked like they were professional dancers.
Hutch nodded mutely and then really studied the mixed composition on the dance floor. About half the pairs were male, a smattering were female, and the rest were mixed.
"Heard that in Frisco there were mixed bars," Starsky observed. "It's more accepted here than in LA; the straights like to mix in some of the nicer places."
"Uh-huh," was the most intelligent thing Hutch could think of in response. A niggling feeling of disquiet assailed him when he noted the renewed sparkle in the wide-open, eager blue eyes and the resumed body movement. One part of his mind acknowledged the danger signals, warning him to drag his impetuous partner away. "Starsk...."
Starsky turned to him, a wide smile lighting his face. "Hey, Hutch, you don't think we could...?"
"No," Hutch snapped emphatically, realizing his friend's intent, "we...."
"Why not...?" Hutch realized he was communicating in partial sentences.
Starsky laid a hand on the blond's arm. "Look, we both like to dance. And there sure as hell aren't any free ladies here, so...."
"Because we're two guys, that's why not. We can try another bar."
"We sure won't be standing out in this crowd, Hutch."
"Starsky, I've heard some crazy ideas from you before, but this...."
"Don't have such a closed mind. Don't you want to try it? If we were back in LA I'd agree with you. Someone we know could see us, get the wrong idea. Here, who cares what we do? After all, we're on vacation. Let's live dangerously and try something completely different."
"Oh no, of course, we don't live dangerously already," Hutch muttered. He could feel his objections melting before his friend's enthusiasm and his own curiosity. If he were honest with himself he knew he wanted to try it.
"Come on. I dare ya."
"Yeah! You're just scared I'll dance you into the floor."
A distinct note of challenge rang in Hutch's voice; "You and what ballet company?"
Starsky grinned victoriously. "C'mon, Blondie," he laughed, grabbing an arm, pulling Hutch after him on to the dance floor, "show me if you can dance or if you're just all talk."
The song was a fast one and Starsky's body moved easily in time with the tempo. It seemed to Hutch as if nothing on the smaller man was attached, each portion of his anatomy moving independently of the whole. In comparison he felt awkward, stilted, sure that every eye in the room was making note of his presence dancing with another man.
"Hutch," Starsky admonished gleefully, "ya look like somebody put a rod up your...."
"Starsky!" Hutch hissed. He stopped dancing and glared ominously at his companion.
The gyrations of his partner did not cease, his body moving in ways that would be considered unacceptable in polite society. He was obviously having a wonderful time. "Forget about what you're doin'. Just let your body move."
"Okay, okay. You talked me into this, Starsky, so I'll do it. But I won't enjoy it," Hutch growled. He could tell by the answering grin that he was not believed. Trying to take Starsky's advice anyway, he forced himself to stop thinking about what he was doing.
"Better," Starsky encouraged, moving his hips in a grind that made his partner blush. "Now try this...." He moved to one side and bumped his hip against Hutch's. "And again...."
Hutch tried it and felt a small glow of accomplishment when it worked. "Attaboy, Hutch!" Starsky crowed, and tried some other serpentine movement. Hutch followed suit.
By the third dance Hutch had forgotten to feel conspicuous. In fact the only thing he was conscious of was that he was having a damned good time.
Many dances later, they took a break--hot and sweaty and grinning like idiots. Finding a free table around the perimeter of the dance floor they settled down to enjoy a couple of cold beers. Hutch grinned over the top of the glass, "Ya know, this ain't half bad."
"Neither are you, schweetheart," Starsky tossed back in his best Bogart imitation.
After a few minutes of rest, Hutch was the one who led the way back to the dance floor. Two more dances took place before the music turned to a slow beat. Hutch stood frozen, unsure for a brief instant what he should do, when Starsky grabbed him around the waist and started to lead. Hands maneuvered awkwardly as each man jockeyed for the leading position.
"Hutch, let me...."
"Why not me? It's aesthetically more pleasing when the taller person leads."
Starsky made a rude sound and glared up at him through slitted eyes. "Taller, my ass. I'm the better dancer, so I should lead."
Hutch glanced around realizing they were being a tiny bit obvious. "Come on, let's dance," he hissed, trying to maneuver the smaller man.
Starsky whispered back, "Okay, but Ramon will lead."
Hutch gave in, muttering imprecations under his breath about shrimps and taking advantage of people in public places and that if Starsky tried to dip him he'd deck him.
Starsky just beamed beatifically and swirled the other man around the floor.
The hour was late and the rest periods they took between dancing were becoming more frequent. It was during one of these that they had returned to their table to cool off and have another drink.
Hutch sipped appreciatively at his beer and studied the dancers. "It's society's fault...our society."
"Hmmm?" Starsky looked at him questioningly. "What'sits fault. Gays?"
"No, dummy," Hutch said solemnly, then giggled. A part of his mind registered that he had had perhaps a little too much to drink, but he simply filed that bit of information away under 'interesting facts.' "Cultural...conditioning. Lotsa countries...men dance to...together. An' nobody makes any cracks."
Starsky stared intently into his now empty glass, nodding his agreement. "Yeah."
"In Greece men...dance t'gether."
The dark head rose and Starsky peered owlishly at him. "Lesh go to Greece."
"Sounds good." Hutch grinned. "But right now let's dance." He rose grabbing an arm in passage.
The last song was slow, and there weren't many people left on the dance floor. The two men were tightly pressed together, the dark head resting on the taller man's shoulder. Hutch realized he was finally leading. It felt good to hold his friend like this, close to his heart, and there was no pain. He smiled into the dark curls. The words of the music filtered slowly through his consciousness. All I want is a lover with a slow hand. All I want is a lover with an easy touch. He gripped the body in his arms a little tighter.
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"We're...lost," Starsky informed the world in general.
"Not...loss," Hutch said firmly, "Ju's made an un...unexpected detour." The blond propped himself against the streetlight and tried to focus on the map in his hands.
"Lost!" Starsky muttered under his breath. He looked around suspiciously. They had closed down the bar at 2 a.m. and had perhaps unwisely decided to walk back to the Bayberry instead of taking a cab. The fog had grown very thick and he acknowledged that neither of them was thinking too clearly. He glanced back at Hutch and was suddenly fascinated with the effect of the streetlight illuminating his partner's bent head. Looks like beaten gold threads. Or a halo. Nope, he thought, you're no angel, are you, babe? You're my partner. Always will be my beautiful partner. Follow you anywhere. Even if you are lost. He knew he was getting maudlin, but he was enjoying the sensation. He stumbled slightly as he moved towards his companion. He'd get them out of this situation.
"Hutch," he enunciated carefully, throwing an arm around the other man's shoulders. "Look." He pointed to a small Chinese laundry located at the other side of the intersection. "Th'ash right up...from...our place."
"The map...." Hutch began.
"Blintz...you can't e'en see the map." He started to snicker.
"Can too!" Hutch straightened haughtily.
"Okay, you can," Starsky agreed. "But we're still only two blocks...from Bayberry." He sagged slightly against his equally inebriated partner.
Mollified, Hutch slipped a supporting arm around his waist. "S'okay, we'll try it."
Surprisingly, Starsky was right. He had a slight problem finding the key and then fitting it into the constantly shifting lock. He never did remember just how he made it into their room or managed to undress.
Starsky tipped his wrought iron chair back on two legs. "So, what're we going to do today, Hutch? Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge?"
Hutch took a sip of lukewarm coffee. "Nope."
"Climb up a redwood?"
"No. Not even close."
"Give me a hint."
"The play's the thing to catch the conscience of the king." Hutch fished out his wallet and removed a pair of slightly curved theatre tickets.
"I don't want to see Hamlet, Hutch."
Hutch waved the tickets. "Would I make you see Hamlet? I saw this play about six years ago, and I've been wanting to see it again. The Chronicle had an ad for ACT and they were putting it on, so I mailed for tickets. You'll like it. It's funny."
"You've done a lot of homework for this vacation." Starsky took one of the tickets. "'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead'? Sounds depressing."
"Think of it more like an intellectual Abbott and Costello meet Hamlet."
"All right. If you don't want to...."
Starsky avoided the grab Hutch made for his ticket. "No, no, no. If you wanted to see it again after all this time, I guess it can't be all bad. As long as there aren't any subtitles."
"It's live, Starsky." Hutch held out his hand and Starsky surrendered his ticket which joined the other back in Hutch's wallet. "Everyone in the play keeps mixing the two main characters up. Calling them by each other's names."
Starsky laughed. "I'm Rosencrantz, he's Guildenstern, huh? I can relate to that."
"I thought you might."
"What's with you, Hutch? You wanted to come to this restaurant. We're here. I even bought clothes to eat in. The food is wonderful--excellent. I approve. And you just sit there like someone knifed your petunias."
"It's not this place. It was the play."
"I liked the play. I've been telling you for over an hour. I liked it. It was very funny."
Hutch stared into his coffee cup. "It was depressing."
Starsky stopped in mid-gesture. He lowered his dessert fork. "Sometimes I think we have a real problem here. Okay. Was it funny in a depressing sort of way, or depressing in a funny sort of way?"
Hutch folded his napkin. "It was depressing in a depressing sort of way."
"Your problem is you take death too personally. Sure, they all ended up dead at the end, but then, doesn't everybody? At least they got from A to B with a laugh or two."
"Not for them.... You're not cheering me up."
"I'm not trying to." Starsky reached over and covered one of Hutch's hands with his own. "Hey, look, they all got up, dusted themselves off, took a bow, then left the theatre to do whatever it was they wanted after the show."
Hutch pulled away. "I'm not 12 years old. I know it was a play. I bought the tickets."
"If I offered to lick your toe would you find that depressing?"
Hutch shivered, "No, I'd find that disgusting."
"Wanna build a short blunt human pyramid?"
"You can stop quoting from the play, Starsk."
Starsky signaled the waiter for the check. "Ya know that coin they kept flipping-- and it came up heads 92 times in a row? Well, I wonder how different it would have been if it had been tails instead. Maybe they would have killed Hamlet's uncle and all have lived happily ever after."
"You're giving me a headache."
"One of the characters reminded me of you."
"Starsky, every time you see anything, someone reminds you of me..."
"...I don't usually mind--except when you compared me to Mothra...Guildenstern?"
"Yeah, he thought the play was depressing, too."
"Leave it, Starsk."
"You're the one who said it was a comedy."
"No, I said it was funny. Six years ago I thought it was. I don't now."
"How come, Hutch?"
"Don't change too much, okay?"
Hutch reached over and opened the leather folder holding their bill. His eyes grew very large. Starsky just laughed.
Hutch emerged from the bathroom, tucking the white silk shirt into his white pants. His partner, already dressed for another night on the town, sat cross-legged on the bed surrounded by his cache of Chinatown trinkets. Lacquered chopsticks, paper fans, and plaster buddhas were sorted in small piles; only a few items remained mysterious in their paper bags.
"Well, Mr. Memento, do you think you bought enough junk?" Hutch reached for one of the bags and got his hand slapped.
"This isn't junk--these are presents; and that one is yours, so don't touch." Starsky held a little fat Hotai figurine. "This one is for Dobey. Looks like him, don't ya think?"
"An authentic replica of a Japanese god bought in Chinatown. I'm sure he'll be delighted."
"Aw, you're just jealous 'cause I thought to buy stuff to take back to people and you didn't." Starsky gave the long, white-sheathed body an appreciative once-over. "Didn't do too badly for yourself though. That shirt looks a lot better on you than it did in the store."
Hutch felt a warm flush creeping up his cheeks. Suddenly, he found something of overriding interest in the interior of the armoire drawer. His searching fingers closed over a small notebook which he flipped open before turning back to his partner.
"I thought tonight we'd try a disco downtown which is supposed to be great. It's on top of the St. Francis Hotel, and would you believe it's called Oz?" He waited for the expected response and when it failed to appear, looked up from his notes in time to see a disappointed look flicker briefly over the dark, gypsy features. "At least that's what Joe Hackman down in Vice told me," he finished lamely.
"What is that, anyway?" Starsky asked abruptly, pointing at the notebook clutched in the blond's ample hand.
"It's our schedule."
"Lemme see." Starsky gestured for the pad and began leafing through its contents. A small frown line grew between the thick brows. He looked up, a strange glitter in the deep blue eyes.
"Hutch, this looks like a damned bootcamp training schedule. You have every minute here accounted for." He tossed the booklet back to his slightly miffed friend. "Remember, we're here to relax...not to cause stress."
"I spent weeks doing research for this trip," the blond complained, a hurt edge to his voice. "I'm sorry if my wanting us to have a good time...."
"Remember what we promised in Monterey?"
After a slight pause, Hutch nodded, head bent slightly, and handed the booklet back to his companion. "Okay. So what do you want to do?"
"Hey, this ain't no contest, babe. We'll do whatever feels good at the time. Just like what we've been doin'. Okay?"
The wide smile was impossible to resist and Hutch found himself nodding and smiling in return.
"Okay. So, should I rather ask if you feel like going to Oz?" He couldn't help chuckling at how strange that question sounded.
"Well...." Starsky peered at him disarmingly from beneath thick lashes and Hutch was afraid that the next thing his partner would do was flutter them. "Now that you ask...what I'd really like to do is go back to The Labyrinth."
Starsky looked as if he could barely keep back his laughter when he took in the open mouthed, dazed expression on his companion's face. "You tryin' to catch flies, Hutch?" he asked innocently.
The mouth shut with a snap. "Why do you want to go back there?" There was honest bewilderment in Hutch's voice.
"For a lotta reasons. First off, we both had a hell of a good time there. Next, we now know how to get there and back. And last, we won't have this chance again."
"I thought you'd want to pick up a couple of girls...."
Starsky interrupted him. "Most times you'd be right, but I dunno, somehow, I just don't feel as if I need it here. I'm not in a one-night-stand kind of mood. Besides, I don't think our hosts would be ready for that kind of foursome. What do you think?"
"I...I already told you I wanted this time to be for us," ...and I don't really want to share you with anyone--at least this once. Hutch didn't dare voice these last thoughts aloud.
Starsky grinned wickedly. "If you're having trouble deciding, we can always leave it to the flip of a coin." He had to get up off the bed and struggle to get a coin out of his left rear pocket. From the tightness of the pants, Hutch could tell it was the only bit of change in there. "Heads it's the Labyrinth, tails we go to Oz to find you a brain."
Hutch watched the spinning quarter. A curious feeling of satisfaction washed over him as his partner announced, "Heads." He schooled his features to sudden seriousness and stared earnestly into the laughing eyes. "Can I lead?"
"Not very well."
The Labyrinth was already packed when they arrived. Bypassing the bar, this time they headed directly for the disco. As Hutch looked over the crowded room, he spied a couple leaving a small corner table free and managed to claim it before anyone else could move in.
They were only partway into their first glass of beer when the siren call of the music dragged them out to the dance floor. Hutch was slightly daunted by the decibels. Seems to be louder than last night. Should have brought some cotton to stuff in my ears.
"Hey, Blondie," Starsky observed with a wide grin a few minutes later, "You're gettin' better."
"What do you mean, 'better'?" Hutch demanded over the blare of the music, undulating in a fairly rhythmic manner. "How can you improve perfection?" His challenging smile dared Starsky to contradict him.
Starsky made a face. "Talk about getting a swelled head...." His complaints were cut short when Hutch grabbed him around the waist for a dizzingly quick series of spins.
They had been dancing for some time and were into a quieter song when an unexpected tap on Hutch's shoulder made him stop short. He pulled away slightly from Starsky and turned towards the source of the interruption. A well-dressed young man was standing next to him, a half-apologetic smile on the attractive face. He brushed nervously at the thick strands of hair that fell over his forehead.
"Excuse me, may I cut in?" he said to Hutch. He turned his admiring glance to Starsky. "I watched you all last evening and tonight, well...I finally got up enough courage to ask you to dance."
Hutch stood frozen in his tracks, sensing an echoing surprise in his friend. Before he could phrase a response Starsky sidled close. He slid an arm provocatively around Hutch's waist, dark eyes twinkling with mischief, and demurred politely, "I'm flattered, but I'm afraid my partner here is the jealous type."
The man looked as if he were about to argue the point but then took in Hutch's forbidding expression, and obviously thought that in this instance it was safer to look elsewhere.
As soon as he was out of hearing, Hutch pulled out of the embrace. "You've got a perverse sense of humor. Why the hell did you tell him that?" he hissed, eyes slitted with annoyance.
"Now, don't get like that," Starsky admonished sweetly. "You wouldn't have wanted me to dance with him, now would you?"
"And we didn't have to get into any lengthy explanations or hurt the poor kid's feelings."
"Yes, but...." Jealous?
"No buts. C'mon, my big blond beauty, let's cut a rug."
Hutch just shrugged. "You're crazy, you know that?"
"Yep." A wicked gleam sparkled in the dark fringed eyes. "And ain't you glad?"
At that, Hutch allowed himself to be pulled into a tight hold and led back into the easy flowing rhythm of the song. Sometimes I'm glad. Sometimes.
The evening passed quickly. They would dance for a time, return to their table to cool off, have a beer and try to talk above the music, then invariably return to the center of the room.
During one of their breaks, Starsky was feeling mellow, not drunk, just knowing that everything was right with the world. Especially Hutch. He realized that it gave him a bit of a forbidden thrill to know how attractive his friend looked and that he was drawing the admiring glances of the other patrons. He's mine, he wanted to call out for everyone to hear. Hutch's gold hair seemed to him like a nimbus of light, and the tall, muscular body clad all in white created a feast for the eyes.
God, Starsky thought dazedly, he is beautiful! A sudden tightness grew in the pit of his stomach as he found himself inexplicably but intensely aware of how the other man looked. The way he moved.... The way he was watched....
"Starsk? Are you okay?" Hutch's concerned voice cut through the mental fog.
The dark haired man flushed with embarrassment, realizing that something had been showing on his face.
"Yeah, I'm okay," he reassured quickly, his usual cocky grin reassumed as a protective mask. He felt dizzy. A well-established excuse rose automatically to his lips. "But I won't be if I don't make a fast trip to the john."
"I should have known," Hutch laughed. "I'll be here at the table."
Starsky made a hasty retreat to the men's room. Bending over a sink he turned on the cold water and splashed some on his face. It helped a bit, but his thoughts were still chaotic. Wow, that was some trip. Finally he brought his head up from the basin and was confronted with the reflection of a dark-haired man regarding him from the mirror. "You got something to say? Say it," he demanded of the insubstantial image. Nothing to it. It's just the time and the place and the beer and...Hutch.... He did a double-take and stared at the reflected lips. He could have sworn they hadn't moved. Must be a little more mellow than I thought.... He gave a start when he heard an unfamiliar voice that belonged to a face which had suddenly appeared a little behind his own.
"Cruising yourself? An interesting situation in a bar as crowded as this one is tonight."
Starsky turned slowly and leaned back against the sink. "Not so unusual if you happen to be the best looking thing in it." He grinned at the whoop and raised eyebrow he got in response.
"I suppose, under those circumstances, it would be pointless for me to...."
Starsky nodded. "Utterly. No offense, but you're just not my type."
"Well, if your type happens to be big, blond barbarians, like the one you came in with, I suggest you get out there and save her. There is a dark, hulking brute about to carry her off for parts unknown."
To his surprise he was enjoying this game; he sighed mightily. "Can't leave her alone for a minute." He gave a conspiratorial wink as he brushed past to exit the men's room. Save Hutch, huh? From what? He's a big boy. He can take care of himself. Still, he found himself hurrying, just a bit.