This story originally appeared in The Fix no. 6 published by Amapola Press, 1989. Thanks go to SHaron for scanning and to Lori for proof-reading. Comments from this story can be sent to email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
TEST OF FAITH
with thanks to Linda McGee
Starsky, pleasantly high, wandered out of the dark stairwell into the Oasis. He was halfway to the bar before the clientele registered. Men. All men. Gay men. In a fit of conscience he almost turned away, but it suited his perverse mood to stay. Damn him, anyway.
He pulled a stool out from the bar and settled down with a couple of seats between him and the nearest customer. A kid, probably underage, in skin-tight jeans and tank top, sized him up from the end of the bar. Starsky met the calculating brown eyes and shook his head. He wasn't looking for a pickup. That is, he didn't think he was looking for a pickup. But he was sure he wasn't looking for what the kid had to offer.
"What can I getcha?" The bartender had a gruff voice, a heavy blond beard, and an earring sporting two male symbols, circles with arrows, interlocked.
"Shot and a beer."
Starsky downed the whiskey and signaled for a refill. Sipping at the beer, he turned his back against the bar to better observe his surroundings. It was the first time he had been in a gay bar for pleasure. For any reason other than work. But this was pretty typical of the breed, he was sure.
It was a pretty big place, with low ceilings and exposed beams. The walls were painted with murals depicting the desert theme, the furniture was old, but serviceable, there was a wooden dance floor and a small stage in the back. The growing crowd was diverse; ages ranged from the hooker at the end of the bar (probably seventeen) to mid-fifties, but most were in their twenties. Starsky picked out several broad-shouldered blonds out of habit, then chastised himself. Hutch isn't here, won't be here, and don't be looking for any substitutes, Davey.
That had been the cause of today's argument, the first real fight they'd had since becoming lovers. Three months without a fight had to be some sort of record for them; their partnership had always been a stormy one. But Starsky hadn't seen this one coming. Hutch's accusations had really hurt. Maybe they hadn't discussed fidelity in so many words, but didn't Hutch know that he was the only man that would ever matter in Starsky's life?
Only three days into a ten-day motorcycle trip, and things were a mess. His borrowed bike had quit, stranding them until he could get it running, and Hutch's sudden, unexplained bad temper wasn't helping the situation. Starsky led the way into their rented motel cabin and tossed the bag of assorted spare parts on the linoleum countertop. They clanked loudly in the ominous silence. He took a deep breath, then turned to face Hutch's anger.
"Okay, Hutch. Que pasa?"
The blond exploded. "What do you mean, what's happening? I should be asking you what was happening back there. What were you doing with that guy? Do you know him? Who is he?"
Starsky flinched from the anger and the hurt in Hutch's voice. You'd think I was groping his crotch! Or did you just think we were heading that way?
Keeping a tight hold on his temper, he reassured his lover, "Hey, he was nobody. We just met talking cycles. He was telling me some sights we should see up ahead. It was nothing."
"Nothing?!" Starsky watched, fascinated, as Hutch picked up a paper napkin and shredded it to ribbons with precise intensity. "If you call that nothing, I'd like to see something!"
Starsky felt his temper slip away from him and his voice rose sharply. "Yes! I call it nothing. I talked with a guy in a hardware store. He was nice. I didn't even get his name, okay? What makes you think there was anything to it?"
Hutch drew himself upright, seemingly trying to get a handle on his emotions, but when he continued he was unable to maintain the facade. "You want to know what I saw, Starsky? What I saw was a guy hitting on you heavily, and you were eating it up. Smiling, laughing, and let's not forget body language. You were practically all over the guy! If I hadn't walked up when I did...." Hutch let the sentence fade away, as if just realizing where it was headed.
"What you're saying is that you don't trust me! Six years of partnership means absolutely nothing! You actually think that I was coming on to this guy? That I take our relationship that lightly? You probably think I'd take him up on it if he offered, don't you?"
Starsky examined Hutch's face carefully for a response. The denial, the affirmation of trust that he expected, didn't arrive quickly enough. He spun toward the door.
"Starsk!" Hutch called in a strangled voice.
"I'm going out. Gonna see the sights, have some fun." Starsky didn't even look back, knowing how Hutch would take it, too angry and hurt to care. He made a point of closing the door quietly as he left.
"WELCOME HOME, GIRLS!" the bartender roared. Starsky started, almost spilling his beer, and turned to see a group of guys in matching shirts, a sports team of some kind, piling in through the front door. One of the crowd, a compactly built guy with brown hair and a close-cropped beard, approached the bar. Starsky noticed that the team was sponsored by this place: a little palm tree insignia and "OASIS" decorated the man's shirtfront. It was embroidered with the name Stan.
"Hey, Marcus!" Stan called to the bartender with the earring, "give us four pitchers and some pretzels."
"You must've won, or you wouldn't be grinning like that," Marcus commented, filling plastic pitchers with draft beer.
"We killed them! Seventeen to six."
Not interested in a play-by-play, Starsky turned back to his current beer and the blurry television news on the set in the corner. A few minutes later, about the same time the local newscaster was replaced by dancing candy bars, Starsky's bladder made itself known. He ambled back toward the stage, returning smiles and greetings offered by several men, but not stopping to talk.
He was just zipping up and taking the time to read some juicy graffiti when Stan, of the pretzels and pitchers, walked in.
"Oh, hi there," Stan said.
"Hi." Starsky answered the man's broad smile with a very small one, and quickened his pace toward the door.
"Don't run away. I'm just trying to be friendly. Haven't seen you around before. I'm...."
"Stan," Starsky interrupted. "I know. I read your shirt. I'm from LA. Just passing through on vacation." He had his hand on the doorknob, but was feeling increasingly embarrassed for his nervousness. It was obvious the guy wouldn't jump him right here. Besides, I could take him in a minute, if I had to. Why shouldn't I get to know this guy and have some fun? He removed his hand from the door, but carefully looked in the mirror and concentrated on finger-combing his hair while Stan unzipped at the urinal.
"I'm Dave," he offered. "You guys a baseball team, or what?"
"Softball. We're in a fast-pitch league. Third place right now, but still hoping to win the pennant. You play?" Stan asked over his shoulder.
"Not softball. Sorry. Besides, I'm only up here for a couple of days with a friend. Gotta be home by next Tuesday."
"Didn't see anyone with you. You want some company?"
"No. Really. Just stopped in for a beer." Starsky resumed his flight for the door and the safety in numbers beyond.
"Hey, Dave, wait! That's not what I meant. Come on over and join the guys. We're gonna send out for some pizza. We could use a new face. I promise I'll keep my hands to myself."
Starsky examined Stan's earnest expression, remembering his determination to enjoy himself tonight. He sure hadn't done it so far. Pizza and beer with a group sounded better than drinking alone.
"Sounds like fun. But I'll warn you. I can eat my weight in good pizza."
"Great! You'll fit right in." Stan washed his hands, then led the way back to the bar.
Starsky trailed his new acquaintance over to the corner where the softball team had pushed several tables together. "Hey, guys, this is Dave," Stan called.
Starsky smiled at the group of interested faces. He tried to follow the round of introductions, but there were too many. Besides, he noted, I can always read their shirts. He grabbed a chair from the next table over and pulled it up between Stan and a redhead whose shirt bore the name Danny.
"Hi, Dave," Danny greeted him with a smile. "You from around here?"
"No. Just up for the week. Staying in a motel on Hillside."
"Do you know anybody in town?" The pickup line was less than subtle.
"Hey," Stan cut in, "I promised pizza and no pickups, Danny. Hands off!"
"It's okay, Stan. I guess I can stand up for myself," Starsky laughed. To Danny: "Yeah, I know one person in town, but we're not speaking right now."
"Is it serious?"
"The relationship, or the fight?"
"Yes, to the relationship, I'm not sure about the fight."
"Oh, well, my loss," Danny sighed, feigning sorrow. "Would you share some pizza with me, then, in consolation?"
"Depends on whether you like black olives."
"It wouldn't be pizza without olives!" insisted someone from across the table.
"No onions on mine," Stan put in.
"What about Canadian bacon and pineapple?" Danny countered.
The serious bargaining began, and finally several pizzas were agreed upon. Danny went up to get more pitchers this time, and Starsky met Steve, across the table, who had also lobbied for the olives.
By the time eight pizzas and innumerable pitchers had been reduced to crumbs and flat dregs, Starsky knew that he'd stumbled into a great group of guys. He was now adept at smiling and shrugging off unwanted advances, countering them with Hutch stories from his extensive repertoire. He even anted up quarters for Danny's trip to the jukebox.
Everyone at the table watched the redhead's unsteady progress through the crowd, laughing and shouting encouragement after each collision. His effort resulted in a blast of rock music that shook the walls.
Starsky's attention was drawn back to the table, where Steve was holding court by virtue of his ability to balance a saltshaker, diagonally, on a single grain of salt. As drunk as the rest, Starsky tried to duplicate the trick, but it was beyond his present limited capability. Instead, he just watched Stan do it. Over and over again.
He only looked up when someone tapped him on the shoulder. It was Stan.
"Wanna dance?" he asked.
"What?" Starsky's mind lagged several seconds behind his mouth.
"Do you wanna dance with me?"
"Oh. Yeah. Okay. Terrific." He followed Stan out on to the dance floor.
Feeling foolish, Hutch picked up the phone from the bedside table again, just to make sure the dial tone was working. He didn't call the front desk; it had closed at eleven, but they had reassured him that any messages would be delivered promptly. He resisted the urge to check that the motorcycles were still parked out front.
Dammit, Hutchinson, you've really done it this time. You didn't trust him this afternoon, couldn't even discuss it rationally, and now you may have really driven him off. Where is he? Is he in a bar, is he hitching a ride back home, or what? Even in his thoughts, he didn't want to get into more specific 'what-if's'. They always got him into trouble.
Three months of heaven and you fuck it up with your damn insecurities. Why couldn't you just trust him, like you always have? 'Because they always lie, even if they don't know they're lying,' a little voice insinuated. "I'll always be here for you." How many have promised me that? Father, Van, Gillian, Starsky. Who stayed? Well, there's your answer, and you may have blown it with him. Needing some physical focus for his frustration, he threw a pillow at the floor lamp in the comer, but missed by a yard.
The voice of reason resurfaced. Don't kid yourself, Kenny. You can only get by on "I love you" and great sex for so long. You should have learned that long ago. Beyond that, you need common assumptions on some major issues. Monogamy is one of the biggies.
Bunching the remaining pillow behind his head, he contemplated the crummy western print on the wall by the front door. The killer is that I couldn't extend the same trust to my lover that I've given my partner for years.
But I know that guy was coming on to him! Why wouldn't he admit it? It's not like he's never been hit on before...." Maybe he likes it. Maybe he wants it. You always wondered why things went so well from the word 'go'." The little voice was vicious in defending him from all possible outside hurts, sometimes by inflicting them first.
Is that it, Starsk? Have you always been gay? Am I just a fling? No! Stop speculating without any facts. Wait 'til you can ask him to his face. Where is he?!
"Dammit, Starsky, if you're not back by midnight, I'm gonna...." His voice echoed loudly in the empty cabin. What? Yell? You already did that. Look where it got you!
"...I'll come looking for you."
Oh, yeah, Hutchinson, that's really a sign of trust. He's not home by curfew, so go hunting for him.
Hutch's thoughts continued to tread the same well-worn circles as the clock inched toward midnight. When the digital glow read 12:01, he rolled off the creaky bed. He strode from the room, grabbing his jacket off the chair, letting the door slam shut behind him.
The main drag through town was pretty quiet. Even the late restaurant crowd and the bar trade were starting to head home. From their motel, Starsky could have gone right, uphill, into the main shopping district, or left, down toward the ocean. Hutch went left.
Armed with the photo from his wallet, taken last Christmas, Hutch entered the first bar. It was a sparsely populated, slightly redneck place, if the guys at the bar were anything to go by. Peanut shells crunched under his feet as he made his way through the cloud of smoke that shrouded the room.
"Hey...hey!" He had to call twice to get the bartender's attention. When the guy finally ambled over, Hutch showed him the picture. "Has he been in here this evening? Maybe around five or six?"
"I dunno. We get a lot of people in here, y'know? I don't remember him."
"You sure? He was alone. Usually drinks draft beer."
"Mister, you just described ninety percent of my customers. Now are you going to buy something?" Hutch shook his head. "Well then, shove off!"
Hutch turned to leave and collided with a body. It turned out to be a waitress returning to the bar with a tray in her hands. Fortunately, the tray was empty.
"Excuse me!" They both apologized at once.
"I'm really sorry, mister. I've been on since two. I'm out on my feet." She did look tired, but gave Hutch a nice smile. He reached back into his pocket for the photo and handed it to her.
"Do you remember this man being here today?"
"Is something wrong?" She looked furtively toward the surly bartender.
"No. He's my friend. He just hasn't come back to the motel, and I'm getting a little worried...." Hutch tried his combination anxious and harmless look. It worked.
"Yeah, he was here around happy hour. Seemed pretty down. Put away a couple beers and then left. Is he okay?"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure he's all right. It's just that we're visiting, and I don't want him to get lost or anything. Thanks very much for your help."
It was hit and miss in the next couple of places. Starsky had apparently been on the prowl. He'd stop for a few drinks, then move on. No one had talked to him, or knew if he had any plans. Hutch continued his search.
He almost missed the stairs leading down from the sidewalk level because a couple in a tight clinch blocked his view of the small neon sign with a palm tree on it. When they came up to the street, Hutch realized with a start that both were men. He nodded absently in response to their greeting, and contemplated the door they'd just exited.
He's not in there. Is he? Would he really be mad enough to end up in a place like this? How should I know? Maybe he's hung around gay bars before. Maybe he likes them. He never mentioned it, but then I never asked, either. He stood indecisively as another couple departed. The strong beat of rock music escaped through the open door. You'll never know if you don't look. Steeling himself, Hutch descended the stairs and entered the Oasis.
The bar was more crowded than the others he'd visited. The lights were low, tables were occupied, and music was coming from the back. People, men, were sitting around, drinking, talking, and dancing in couples, groups, and alone. What does that mean? Gays are automatically better partiers, they're nocturnal, or this is just a good crowd?
At first glance, there was no sign of his partner, and Hutch knew from experience that trying to get information would be tougher than pulling teeth. Instead, he summoned his undercover mindset and tried to fit in with his surroundings. He bought a beer and, sipping it slowly, wandered through the tables. His improvised cover must have been working because he received several smiles and even a lewd offer instead of the cold shoulder he'd always gotten as a cop.
Like subliminal radar, something drew his attention across the room to a group of tables in the corner. He didn't see Starsky, but a few men in uniform shirts were gathered at one end talking. A brown leather jacket was draped over the back of one chair. Who wears a leather jacket to a baseball game? Hell, who else wears a leather jacket this time of year at all? I wouldn't even wear one riding if it wasn't a safety issue. And that sure looks like his. Hutch approached slowly, trying to catch some of the conversation before his presence was noticed. It was a drunken argument over the likelihood of the Angels ever winning a baseball game; none of the participants even looked up at his arrival.
"Excuse me," he broke in. One man turned his head, but the others continued their dispute. "Does this jacket belong to Dave Starsky?"
"Well, I didn't catch his last name, but Dave was sitting there."
"Do you know where he is now?" With a determined effort, it came out as a friendly inquiry rather than barked demand.
"Um..." Concentration seemed beyond the man's capability at this point. "I think he's dancing. Back there." He jerked a thumb toward the dance floor.
"Okay, thanks." Hutch picked up the jacket and headed that way. As he drew closer, he noted that men were dancing on a small, raised stage as well as the wooden floor. With a shock, he realized that many men were dancing shirtless, and some had even stripped down to their shorts! He felt himself flush with embarrassment and furtively examined the reactions of the men around him. Apparently, to them, it was no big deal; the crowd was more interested in enjoying the music or each other than in spectating. He scanned quickly for dark, curly heads, and was relieved that Starsky seemed to be missing. But a familiar laugh drew his attention to the back of the stage.
Oh. My. God. I'm not seeing this. That is not my partner dancing in a gay bar. In his underwear! I must be hallucinating. But as he continued to stare, Hutch catalogued the hair, the body he knew so well, and in a flash of memory he saw Starsky donning those faded purple bikini briefs just this morning.
The underwear, now damp with perspiration, rode low on his hips and clung to the curve of his buttocks as he shifted to the tempo of the music. The concealment it was meant to provide was only a formality--the swell of sex clearly visible for Hutch, and anyone else who was interested, to see. Abruptly, the blond's attention shifted to Starsky's dance partner. The son of a bitch was dancing in nothing but a jockstrap!
Hutch trembled with the force of barely controlled emotions. The compulsion to drag his errant lover bodily off the stage warred with a deeper, primal urge to batter someone's face in...his partner's or the bearded interloper's, at the moment he wasn't feeling particular.
I can't believe he's doing this to us, to our relationship. Picking up guys in a bar! Is this what you need, Starsk? 'Cause I don't think I can handle it. Not from you.
STARSKY! he shouted mentally, willing his partner to be listening in on their psychic wavelength. But Starsky was oblivious. He continued to sway and dance with the beat. He might have been in the privacy of his own apartment for all the concern he showed.
Hutch spun toward the exit, tripping over someone's feet in his haste. It was the drunken softball player that had answered Hutch's questions earlier. He was looking slightly more alert now that he was standing up.
"Hey! Watch where you're going!"
Ignoring the protest, Hutch pushed past and continued his flight for the door.
"Wait a minute! Aren't you Dave's friend? Where are you going?"
He pulled up short, asking himself the same question. Yeah, Hutchinson. Where are you going? Walking out, but on what? Starsky? Our relationship? The Partnership? What are you doing?
I'm not leaving. Starsky can leave, if that's what he wants, but I didn't come all the way down here to give up. Not without a fight!
Hutch turned back to meet the man's questioning look. "I'm not going anywhere right now!" He nodded sharply, then maneuvered his way back through the crowd to stand at the edge of the stage. Dammit, Starsky, I refuse to climb up there after you. Notice me!
He waited there, trying to figure out what he'd say when his lover did finally see him. I honestly don't know. I guess it depends on what he says to me. God, Starsk, what's happening to us? You're the best thing that ever happened to me. Isn't it the same for you? Where do we go from here?
Through the next three songs, Hutch observed his partner closely, and noticed that he wasn't doing any of the things that had infuriated him this afternoon. He wasn't touching his dance partner at all, and the sense of connection that had so thoroughly shaken Hutch's faith in his lover earlier was nonexistent. He treats that guy like dozens of girls who never really meant anything to him.
Contemplating the slow writhing in time with Eric Clapton's Cocaine, Hutch found other emotions creeping up past the jealousy. Christ, nobody moves like you do. You'd never get me out there, dressed or not; I'd feel like a fool. But you look so sexy!
Lightly sheened with sweat, Starsky's skin glowed even in the murky light of the bar. There was something about the interplay of the muscles in his back and legs that sang of strength barely leashed. The tune segued into something faster, and power was transmuted to playfulness as the handsome ass began to twitch. It was as if the music climbed inside his body and it was out of Starsky's control. He was tapping his toes, snapping his fingers, enjoying himself thoroughly, and Hutch was entranced.
He tried to look away, to remind himself that there were others present, but they were ghosts compared to his lover. Besides, in this environment, he could ogle him all he wanted. With a jolt of surprise, he looked up from the skimpy covering to find dark blue eyes fixed on him. He wasn't sure what he was expecting... Anger? Guilt? Fear? Instead, a broad smile split Starsky's face. He's happy to see me. Here. And he's dancing in his underwear. I can't believe this. He must be drunker than I thought. More of the jealous resentment slipped away in the face of the artless reception.
"Hiya, Hutch!" Starsky called. "Hey, Shtan, this is my friend Hutch." Before he knew it, Hutch was reaching up to shake the nearly-naked man's hand.
"Good t'meetcha, Hutch. Dave's told us a lot about you. Glad you could make it."
Hutch tried not to make a point of extricating himself from Stan's grasp, but turned to face his partner. "Hey, Starsk, I was starting to get a little worried. Are you about ready to come home?"
"Sounds t'riffic. Let's go home." Starsky clambered awkwardly down from the stage. "'M not tired, though."
Hutch had some cause to doubt this statement as he found himself supporting a substantial portion of his partner's weight. He steered the uncoordinated body toward a nearby chair and draped the leather jacket across the almost-bare lap.
He looked up again to meet Stan's concerned glance. "Thanks for keeping an eye on him. I'll take it from here." It came out as more of a dismissal than he'd intended and the other man eyed him warily before turning away. "Stan," he called after the departing figure, "I mean it. Thanks."
"Anytime." He disappeared into the crowd.
"Starsk? Hey, Starsk. Starsky!" Hutch reached out to bring the dazed, still grinning face up to meet his eyes. "Where'd you leave your clothes?"
"Wha—? Clothes? Hey! Somebody stole my clothes!"
"No, you moron. You took them off. Do you remember where you left them?"
"Oh." This was news to Starsky. He grimaced, thinking hard, then smiled broadly. "Over by the jukebox. I'll get them."
Hutch pushed him back down in the chair. "That's okay. I'll bring them over. You just wait here." He found a familiar pair of jeans, along with the ratty cowboy boots that had resurfaced especially for this trip. The plaid shirt Starsky had been wearing when he left the motel was nowhere in sight.
"Here you go." Hutch handed over the jeans, retrieving the jacket when it slid to the floor in Starsky's struggle to dress. He watched, amused, as it took three attempts before the jeans were correctly fastened. The boots went on by trial and error.
"Ready to go, champ?" he asked.
It took Starsky a moment to realize that he was being addressed. "Huh?" Hutch pulled him out of the chair and returned the dusty jacket. "Where's my shirt? Hey, Hutch! Where's my shirt?" Starsky leaned over to peer blearily under the chair as if he expected the missing garment to suddenly materialize.
"It's lost. Starsky, forget it! Let's go back to the motel, okay? I'm tired, even if you're not."
Starsky looked ready to argue, but some of Hutch's renewed irritation must have gotten through to the muddled brain. Meekly, he slid his arms into the jacket and zipped it halfway up. The blond led the way to the door.
Out on the dimly lit sidewalk, the night was chilly. Hutch slid an arm around his shivering friend, doing double duty as blanket and bridge support. Starsky snuggled closer and returned the gesture, wrapping his left arm around Hutch's waist. As they started up the gentle slope toward their motel, the cool breeze seemed to clear out some of the drunken man's cobwebs. Hutch decided to indulge his curiosity.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"How did you end up, up there?"
"Up where?" The dark brows drew together in confusion.
Hutch searched for some remaining thread of patience. "Up on stage, in a gay bar, dancing in your underwear." He took a second to admire the blush that stained the dark-stubbled cheeks.
"Oh. That." Running his free hand through tousled curls, Starsky looked like he was trying to massage his brain into action. "I don't know exactly."
"What do you remember?" Hutch prompted.
"Um...I remember Stan asking me to dance. I was pretty wasted, Hutch. The pizza wasn't great and the beer was better...." The narrative trailed away.
"But, your clothes?"
"Oh, well, I guess you'd call it peer pressure." Visibly embarrassed, Starsky dropped his gaze to his toes. "I mean, everybody was doin' it. They asked me to join in. What was I supposed to do?" Looking up into Hutch's face, he tried for his cocky grin, but didn't quite pull it off.
Stay home with me, Hutch almost blurted out. Instead, he leaned close to kiss the trembling lips. "You taste like pepperoni, Starsk."
"Don't be. I want to tell you something."
"I love you."
"S'good. 'Cause I love you, too, Hutch. Hey!" He pulled to his friend to a stop and cast a suspicious look at the bank they were passing. "Where'd we leave the bed? I'm beat."
"It's up the next side street. C'mon, I'll show you."
When they got to the front door of the rented cabin, Hutch leaned his burden against the wall and searched his pockets for the key. The door swung wide and he ushered Starsky inside, locking it securely behind them. He smiled, bemused, as his sloshed partner carelessly discarded his favorite jacket on his way to the bathroom. It was something a sober David Starsky would never have done.
The blond took the time to turn back the covers on the bed, then crossed to where the bathroom door stood ajar. He looked in, and couldn't control his laughter.
"Wha-?" Starsky jerked upright from the sink, toothbrush in hand. He stood there in naked glory, blue jeans and briefs tangled around his feet. "Whassa matter?"
"What did you try to do?" Another giggle escaped. "Try to take off your pants before your shoes?"
"Well...who asked you anyway?" Starsky turned back to the sink to rinse his mouth. But as soon as he tried to step away from the basin, he tripped on the twisted denim. Hutch's hands were there instantly to steady him, easing him down gently on to the closed lid of the john.
"Here. Let me help." Deftly, he unsnarled the fabric and slipped off the offending footwear as well as socks, jeans, and the now-infamous underwear. He looked up in time to see Starsky's eyes falling shut. He brushed back a curl and asked softly, "Hey, don't you want to come to bed with me?"
"'M comin'," Starsky muttered, forcing his eyes open. "But I don't think I'll be much good...." He looked in dismay at his limp penis.
"Don't worry about it. We'll take care of that in the morning. Along with a few other things. We've gotta talk. Starsk. Are you hearing me?" he asked sharply as the dark head rolled back against the tile wall.
Starsky roused again. "Yeah. Gotta talk. Inna morning. 'M too tired. Sorry. We'll talk, promise. Gotta lot to say."
"Me, too. Let's go to bed." He pulled his sleepy lover up from the toilet and installed him in the bed before stripping off his own clothing. After cutting the lights, he slid under the light covers and Starsky snuggled close again. Hutch pressed a kiss against the smooth forehead.
"Starsk..." he whispered softly, wondering if his companion had already drifted off.
"Wha', H'tch ?"
"Can I ask you one more question?"
"Anything," the permission was mumbled into his shoulder.
"Did you ever love a man before me?" Even the phrasing sounded awkward, now that he'd finally voiced the fear that had been driving him all day.
The question startled Starsky up onto one elbow. Hutch looked up at him uncertainly, only able to make out white teeth and shining eyes in the moonlight. The mouth widened to a gentle smile.
"Course not, idiot. No one else, ever before, no one else ever again. I love you."
"Love you, too."
Starsky nodded his acceptance, subsiding into the crisp pillow face first and started to snore. Relief and a glorious new feeling of security washed through Hutch. Consumed by his love for the man next to him, he turned on the small bedside lamp to indulge in the pleasure of watching him sleep.
We will talk tomorrow, Starsk, get this worked out. I want this to last forever, and we need to lay a solid foundation. I know we can do it.
Then we can make up for tonight, lover.
Gliding his hand down the warm back, he drifted off stroking one smooth cheek.