Comments from this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author. This story was originally published in Fruit Cocktail Again. Special thanks to Kari M. for preparing it for the web.
Whispers From The Shadows
The old woman, given the birth name of Ukiah by her wise grandfather, faded back into the shadows, unwilling to risk being seen or heard.
The despair she saw on the darker man's face tore at her heart and she wondered if the wetness glistening in the half light was only the rain. His voice echoed through the alley, as dismal and gloomy as the night.
"Can't we at least talk this over?" the blond was asking with a mixture of desperation and fear in his voice.
"I can't take back the past, Hutch, or lie about the future."
"You owe me a better explanation at least. Not just me - us." He took a step forward, but his companion matched it with one back.
"I know exactly what I owe you."
The honesty of a friend was in his voice, but his eyes told of the pain of a lover. With the skills passed down from her ancestors, Ukiah could see into their hearts and souls with a special insight. The men were caught in a web of love, loyalty, and confusion.
She was rooted to the spot, drawn into the aura of energy which poured from the combination of these two beings. Almost visible to her eyes, the aura radiated outward in waves, a powerful, intense fire which could easily consume them as well as anyone who dared challenge it from outside.
The dark one held an apple, clenched tightly in the hand at his side. He had taken a bite from it and now was afraid of banishment from paradise, not realizing it was only the fruit of knowledge.
Yes, the path of the old woman's life had taken her out of her way for a reason this day. She watched the unfolding drama.
"Sometimes we gotta do things that hurt, Hutch. You gotta trust me when I say this is what's best. I was offered the job in New York and I'm taking it."
"Bullshit!" Hutch spat. "You just don't have the balls to face me with the truth, do you Starsky? After all we've been through together, you don't even have the decency to be straight with me."
"I'm doing it for you, can't you see that?" Starsky pleaded.
"We were partners. That used to mean something to you."
Starsky flinched, cut by the words. He steeled himself against the pain. "But it's over now."
Hutch's eyes widened in shock at the finality of the tone. "I can't believe you . . . "
"You don't get it, do you?! I don't feel that way anymore, and I can't change it. Don't you think I've tried? Wanting doesn't necessarily make it so."
"That's it, then? So long, Hutch, sorry but I decided I was wasting my time all those years?" Now water shown in his light blue eyes as well.
Ukiah noted that in his own pain he was blind to Starsky's obvious despair. Or was he baiting him as well, pushing for an answer? They were fascinatingly intertwined, yet seemed determined to play out this scene, even when there could only be one outcome. Separate the two of them? It would be easier to part the ocean.
Starsky reached the end of his composure suddenly. He let the apple fall to the ground and grabbed Hutch roughly by the arms. "You want your nose rubbed in it, fine. I can't be your friend anymore because I'm in love with you!" He released his partner and stumbled back. "I can't be your best buddy anymore. It hurts too much to even be around you. Look at you . . . . Can't you take a hint and get the hell out of my life?!"
Hutch seemed too shocked by the emotional confession to answer.
"I'm leaving because being around you is killing me." Starsky turned to walk away.
"Wait!" Hutch came out of his paralysis. "We've got to talk about this - please - I need time to think . . . ."
"No," Starsky interrupted him. He started to leave and Hutch reached out to stop him. Starsky wrenched out of Hutch's grasp and ran through the alley at top speed.
Hutch let him go.
Starsky stumbled, tears blurring his vision. The reality of what he'd done hit him full force. He sat down in a doorway, fighting the sobs that threatened to destroy him.
After a moment Ukiah dared to come forward, for this was why she had followed. She stood in front of him for several minutes before he lifted up his head and noticed her. The bleak emptiness in the eyes which met hers hit like a physical blow and she took an involuntary step backward.
Misinterpreting the reaction, he smiled slightly. "It's okay, I won't hurt you. I'm a cop."
People often mistook her for a bag lady and she didn't mind. Better to carry out her duties without attracting unwanted attention. This way she slipped through the alleys of people's lives with the stealth of a phantom wind.
"I have nothing to fear here. It's him you've hurt," she replied.
"What do you know about it," he countered defensively.
"I know that when one of you hurts, so does the other. I know what you're doing is wrong." How best to convey the ancient knowledge so he would understand and accept?
He peered up at her, now taking a deeper interest in the woman. "Who are you?"
"My name is Ukiah."
"Are you some kind of fortune teller?" he asked.
Ah yes, this one had a rare insight of which he was still unaware. "Of a sort. You have nothing to fear here," she repeated her words. "From me. I want only to help."
"I wish you could." He sighed, obviously decided he could trust her.
So stubborn, this one. "Only the truth can set you free. Go to him."
His head snapped up in surprise. "I can't. I'm doing this for his own good."
"No," Ukiah shook her head. "You're doing this because you are afraid."
"Okay, so you know everything - what am I afraid of?"
"Him. Yourself. The love between you that burns hotter than the most intense flame. There is cause to fear it if you don't heed its insistent power. Fight it and it will destroy you. Hasn't it already destroyed those others who would seek to threaten it? Or do you suppose it's coincidence that while other loves cannot withstand, this one always has? How many more deaths and ruined lives will you allow?"
Starsky was becoming scared now. "Are you saying that Helen and Gillian died because of our love?"
"No. Because you deny it. None of that would have to be repeated - if you accept each other. You must take responsibility for the power and its keeping. You must not deny it."
His eyes told volumes. Her words had touched and bound with the truth which lived in his soul. "It was meant to be," he whispered. "All along."
"Go to him. He will not reject you."
Starsky sprang up suddenly, running into the darkness as if propelled by an unknown force. He could barely see where he was going, but he continued on, calling Hutch's name desperately. Ukiah watched first with her eyes, then in her mind.
It had gone easier than she'd expected . . . .
Starsky's search ended when he ran full force into a solid form. He clung, knowing without senses who it was.
"You can stop running now," Hutch said quietly.
"I'm sorry, Hutch." Starsky met his eyes squarely. "I was scared to tell you that I was in love with you."
"I know." Hutch nodded. "I was waiting for you." Words which meant so much more for them.
"But now I'm more scared of the alternative," Starsky continued. "We need each other."
"Stay with me?" Hutch whispered.
Starsky held the body in his arms tighter. "Forever."