For a brief moment, when Starsky first stepped
in his front door and saw Becky, the vision he’d had of her in his dream knocked him back on his heels. But then she
squealed happily and leapt into his arms and the warm delightful reality of her erased that nightmare utterly.
“So, have you had a good time today?”
he managed to say, once he had caught his breath. Monster was twisting around his knees in an agony of joy, his tail battering
them all indiscriminately.
“You bet! It’s too bad you can’t
see my new dress. The wedding planner started going on about how little time we’ve given her to do her job, and you
won’t believe what Dawn said to her! Never mind, I’ll tell you about that later. We’ve been trading life
stories, except that Dawn’s is much more interesting than mine. I’ve never even traveled out of state, but Dawn’s
lived everywhere!” she said, admiringly.
Becky wondered at the odd expression that
crossed Hutch’s face as she finished her speech. Dave started laughing helplessly, his body shaking in her arms. He
let her go and grabbed the doorframe to steady himself, one hand slapping his thigh.
“Okay, already!” snapped Hutch,
angrily. “I get the hint!”
“What did I say?” asked Becky,
completely baffled by their reaction.
Hutch simply glared at Starsky, who was turning
bright red in a futile attempt to control his laughter, and then turned to his wife and offered her his arm. “Dawn?
If you would?”
“Certainly,” she said, sliding
her arm through his and giving her husband’s giggling partner a bemused look.
After they left, Becky turned to Starsky
and asked, “What was that all about?” but he refused to tell her.
“It was just something we were talking
about in the car,” he said, grinning.
“Something about me?” she asked,
feeling a stab of insecurity. She was used to people not taking her seriously, but that didn’t mean she always enjoyed
it when they laughed at the things she said. Especially when she couldn’t understand what it was that was so funny.
He sobered and pulled her close, kissing
the top of her head. “No, kid. It wasn’t about you.” But he still wouldn’t tell her what it was.
Becky would have pressed further, but at
that moment Monster appeared in the bedroom door with one of Dave’s socks in his mouth. She was thoroughly occupied
in retrieving it from the giant pest, and by the time she had the sock back and the dog safely tied outside on the deck, Dave
was in the shower where he couldn’t hear her anyway.
She paused outside the door of the bathroom,
suddenly tempted to just walk in and…
She blushed, and jammed her fists into her
jeans. Oh good grief, now she was even embarrassing herself!
It was the effect of having spent the entire
day with Dawn - that was the problem. She really liked Hutch’s wife. Dawn was wickedly funny. But some of the stuff
she said was just outrageous. They’d spent lunch time at a table outside a diner, checking out the guys on the street.
Ogling them, really, and rating their, um, attributes. Becky hadn’t had this much fun since… She stopped, realizing
that she hadn’t enjoyed herself this much since Anna had died.
She had a strong suspicion that Anna wouldn’t
have liked Dawn very much. They were both strong personalities who coveted the spotlight, and they wouldn’t have cared
to share. Feeling vaguely disloyal to Anna’s memory, Becky wandered into the kitchen and began heating up some chili.
She didn’t know if Dave had eaten yet, but she knew he was never averse to a snack.
was up. Becky couldn’t put her finger on what it was exactly, other than the fact that Dave had been strangely preoccupied
all evening. He’d been pleasant enough company at dinner, but after that he’d spent most of the time on the phone
talking to various people about Reg. She shivered involuntarily, staring blankly at the newspaper in her hands. Was this the second or the third time she’d tried to read this particular comic strip? She kept missing
the punch line, her mind circling relentlessly back to the problem at hand.
Reg had disappeared that first time, she’d hoped that they’d seen the last of him. And as the weeks passed, she
had become convinced that they really had.
Now he was back and, based on what she overheard
from Dave’s end of the conversation, he was bent on finishing what he’d started.
She didn’t want to think about any
of this. She’d just wanted to enjoy a fun day with a friend, and end it with an evening in her boyfriend’s arms.
Her boyfriend, who was currently wrapped
up in a very thick black and white sweater, wearing wooly socks, and drinking one cup of coffee after another. He was cold,
he’d said, explaining a little about falling into a river or some such thing. But getting into bed fully dressed and
pulling the covers up seemed a little excessive. She had briefly thought about offering to warm him up, and then found herself
too embarrassed to actually speak. He was probably too distracted to consider anything like that, anyway.
She decided that companionable proximity
would have to do instead, and brought her newspaper into the bedroom, stretching out on the bed beside him while he made his
calls. Monster followed her as usual, finding a spot on the floor near the door.
Starsky replaced the handset beside the bed,
frustrated by how little he’d been able to accomplish in tracking Reg down. He looked over at Becky, who was lying on
her stomach with the paper folded over to the comics’ page. Her bare feet were in the air, ankles crossed, and her hair
was tangled. She looked very young, and he felt his gut twist at the thought of Reg getting anywhere near her. He couldn’t
always be around to protect her, and the thought that there was a unit parked outside of the house did little to ease his
anxiety. He’d already seen Reg take out two armed police officers.
Armed. Now, there was an idea.
Becky looked up from the paper as Dave suddenly
sat up, kicked off the blankets, and leaned over to reach into the top drawer of the nightstand. He pulled out a black pistol
and she watched with interest as he did something to it that resulted in a piece dropping out of the handle. He slipped that
into the pocket of his sweater and then slid the top of the weapon back and looked into it. Apparently satisfied with whatever
it was he saw, or didn’t see, he turned and handed it to her.
“Have you ever used one of these before?”
Starsky knew before she answered that she
hadn’t. It was in the way she handled the weapon, gingerly, curiously, a puzzled expression on her face.
“No?” The question was plain
in her voice.
“Well, you’re going to learn.”
He waited as she pushed herself up to sit cross-legged on the bed, facing him, the gun in her lap.
“You want me to learn how to shoot?”
Becky bit her lip nervously. The idea was definitely intriguing, but also very unnerving. She wondered if she could ever shoot
a person, even a person like Reg. She had her doubts on that score.
“Eventually,” said Starsky levelly.
“But not right away. First I want you to learn how to handle a gun: how to know if it’s safe, what all the various
parts of it are, and how to take it apart and clean it. Once you know all that, then I’ll take you to the range and
let you try firing it at a target.”
She gave him a sideways glance. “Do
I have to be able to take it apart and put it back together blindfolded and in less than thirty seconds?”
He grinned. “No, but pay attention
to what I tell you, ‘cause there will be a test after class.”
Becky lifted the gun and examined it. It
was heavy and cold in her hands, and it seemed strange to her that something so small could inflict the kind of damage she’d
seen marked in scar tissue on Dave’s body. She turned it around and looked down inside the barrel.
Starsky’s reaction was strong and immediate.
He closed his hand over hers and firmly reoriented the pistol, so that it now pointed down at the bed between them. “Don’t
you ever point that at anyone unless you’re planning on pulling the trigger,”
he said sharply. “That’s the first rule.”
“Oh!” She glanced up at him wide
eyed, hearing the clear tension in his voice. Then the full meaning of his words hit her. ‘Anyone’ could include
the person holding the gun.
“Did you ever stare down a barrel?”
she asked, without stopping to think. This evening had started out strangely and was getting more surreal by the moment.
He gave her a dark look. “That’s
a hell of a question.”
She reddened, realizing belatedly that she
shouldn’t have asked. “You don’t have to answer it,” she said, sincerely. To be honest, she wasn’t
at all sure if she even wanted him to answer.
He was silent for a moment and then; his
expression guarded, he said, “Yes.” He was facing her, but Becky had a feeling that he wasn’t seeing anything
in the present. “Once,” he said. “After Terry died… I was in a bad place for a while.” He shrugged,
reluctant to discuss the issue any further. Hutch had been the one who’d gotten him through that time, and God help
him, he never wanted to go through anything like that ever again.
Which was why, come hell or high water, Becky
was going to learn how to use this pistol.
Taking the weapon back from her, Starsky
began taking it apart. “Now pay attention. This is a .38 caliber automatic Colt pistol. It’s not my favorite weapon,
but it’s the only one I’ve got at the moment. To disassemble it, you’ve got to cock the hammer and pull
the slide all the way back until the slide lock lines up with the hole in the bottom of the receiver. Then you just stick
this pin in there, and that holds it, so…”
This was going completely over Becky’s
head. She gave up trying to follow what he was saying and decided to tackle what was obviously the real issue at hand. She
said, “You know, I’m going to outlive you.”
“Huh?” Starsky was not following
her train of thought.
“I’m going to outlive you,”
said Becky, so confidently he found himself almost willing to believe her.
“Women have a longer lifespan in general,”
she explained. “And you’ve got over a decade’s head start on me. So, even if you survive to 100, I’ll
still have a few years left to make it with all the hot young eighty year olds in the nursing home.” She grinned at
“I can tell you’re a real sentimental
person,” said Starsky, surrendering to the inevitable. She obviously hadn’t understood him, which was understandable
given that he had nothing to go on but dim memories of his own instruction in firearms, years ago. Maybe if I took the gun apart first, and then named all the pieces and showed her how to put it back together…?
“I’m a woman. We’ve got
to be practical about these sorts of things.”
she’s definitely a woman. There’s no question about that. Starsky felt a chill crawl across his shoulders, a lingering reminder of his immersion in the
river earlier that day.
Becky stroked his forearm lightly, trying
to smooth the small hairs that were standing on end. He felt her touch as if his nerve endings were on fire, and he was suddenly
acutely aware of the fact that, besides the sweater, he was still wearing only his tracksuit. He shifted uncomfortably and
started to pull back.
“No, wait,” she said, and he
She had to know what she was doing to him.
He swallowed, unable to speak.
Becky took his hand and pressed her palm
against his. His hand was so much larger and browner than hers. She rubbed the coarse knuckles and felt him shiver. She did
not look up. She was thinking.
Reg was back. Whatever had happened today,
it had unsettled Dave to the point where he wanted her to learn to use a gun in order to defend herself. He was scared. It
occurred to Becky that it was entirely possible that she might outlive her love by a great deal more than just a decade or
Quietly, she said, “I don’t want
to wait any longer.” She could feel nervous anticipation building inside of her, but she damped it down ruthlessly.
He was silent. What if he says no? Maybe this is a bad time to suggest it.
“Are you…” his voice cracked
and he tried again. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure!” Becky
looked up at him indignantly.
“Mm,” said Starsky, speculatively.
He wondered how much thought she’d given to this before making her proposal. “Are you on the pill?”
Birth control? That was something that hadn’t
occurred to Becky at all, though she knew it should have. “No…” she said, slowly.
“How do you feel about kids, oh, not-quite-wife
“Kids?” By the look of dismay
on her face, she hadn’t considered that side of things either.
Starsky was beginning to enjoy himself. Shrugging
out of his sweater, he retrieved his battered leather wallet from the pocket. He dug through it until he found what he knew
had to still be there. He held up the small, rather pathetically squished, package.
Becky looked at the thing with an expression
of dubious alarm and it cost him considerable willpower not to start laughing on the spot.
At best guess, he figured the sad little
condom had to have been in his wallet for at least eighteen months. The package seal was certainly compromised, and it was
probably past its expiry date, too.
“You know,” he said, thoughtfully.
“I never used to have to worry about these things sitting around too long. The rate of turnover used to be pretty good.”
Becky squealed, dismay changing to laughter
well mixed with outrage in an instant. “You’re not supposed to tell me stuff like that!” She swung at him,
catching him on the bicep.
“Ow,” he said, laughing. He caught
her hands before she could hit him again. “Hey, it ain’t as if I’m
the virgin here.”
“You could let me pretend, though,”
“Pretend?” he asked, mildly confused.
“Yeah, pretend that all these years
you’ve been saving yourself, just pining for the pure sweet perfection of me.” Becky folded her arms across her
chest, her back ramrod straight. There was a smile in the corner of her mouth, however, that utterly ruined the effectiveness
of her pout.
Starsky leaned forward, forcing her backward
until she landed on the bed. He grinned down at her. “How about if we say that all these years I’ve been practicing,
and it was all so that when I finally found the pure sweet perfection of you, I’d be ready to do you justice.”
Becky didn’t know how to respond to
that. She could feel him leaning against her leg and his breath was hot on her face. There was a look in his eye that she
hadn’t seen before and suddenly she didn’t feel very much like laughing. She glanced nervously past him at the
door. The sliding doors of the deck were visible from where she was lying. “Can anyone see us?”
“No one can see,” Starsky said
reassuringly. “Trust me.” She was still looking doubtfully at the door, so he said, “We can turn the lights
off if you like.”
“No…” she said slowly.
“I think I’d like the lights on.”
“You want the lights on?” He
was surprised by that. He’d assumed she might be more comfortable in the relative anonymity of the darkness.
“Because I want to look at you,”
she said, regarding him seriously. Her hand came up to press against his chest. “You’re so pretty.”
Starsky tried to remember if any woman had
ever called him ‘pretty’ before. He was fairly sure Becky was the only one who ever had used that particular adjective.
“That’s such a crock,” he said.
Becky was indignant. “You are pretty!”
“You’re sadly deluded,”
said Starsky, tolerantly. “But I love you anyway.”
He leaned down and found her lips with his
own, lightly. She responded, pushing herself upwards to meet him, increasing the pressure. The tension of the moment increased,
desire built, and then suddenly she pulled back, blushed, and said, “I don’t think I can do this.”
What Starsky thought was, Oh God, girl, don’t do this to me! But what came out of his mouth was a remarkably cool, “Then don’t.”
Starsky wanted her to believe that she was
safe. He wasn’t going to pressure her. But if you tell me you’ve changed
your mind, I may have to go throw myself in the bay.
She ducked with a frustrated exclamation,
the top of her head pressing into his chest, her hands clutching fistfuls of his sweatshirt. “You’re not saying
the right stuff!”
He winced as she accidentally pulled on his
chest hair. Gently disentangling her fingers from his shirt, he dropped down to lie beside her on the bed. He slid his hands
down the length of her body, taking his time but inevitably finding his way under the waistband of her jeans. He felt her
hips move in response, and he suppressed a grin. She wanted to. Badly. Nerves or not, he was pretty sure he could convince
her to stay the course.
“I think they overlooked me when they
were passing out the script,” he said. Now where was the button to her jeans? He felt her elbow dig into his bruised side, but it was only a dull discomfort and
he blessed whatever stroke of genius had inspired him to take another couple painkillers when he’d showered. He was
going to pay dearly for this in the morning, but who cared? “Sorry, kid, this is something you’re just going to
have to decide for yourself,” he said, his mouth exploring the sensitive skin along the side of her neck.
“Oh, that’s mean!” she
protested, squirming uncomfortably.
“What?” he asked with a transparently
innocent tone in his voice. “What am I doing?” Ah, there was the button. She shifted again, the side of her hip pressing into his groin, the incidental contact
raising the intensity of his desire to an almost painful level.
“You know very well what you’re
doing!” She struggled, trying to move away, wanting to get closer.
“I’m not doing anything,”
he lied happily, his hands busy.
He felt her relax against him then, and he
knew she had finally made her decision. Her hips lifted slightly, allowing him to push her jeans off. “Jerk,”
she whispered, as she hooked one toe in the leg of her jeans and pulled them the rest of the way down.
“It’s like a dance,” he
murmured reassuringly into her ear, as he helped her divest herself of certain other inconvenient articles of clothing. “Except
there’s no wrong steps, and you can make things up as you go along.”
She sounded breathless as she said, “You
“This time, sure. But pay attention,
‘cause I won’t always. Sometimes you’ll have to take the lead, too.” Before she could panic at that
idea, he did something to her that banished all rational thought from her mind.
was giggling. The dog wandered over to the bed, curious to know what was going on. He pressed a cold nose to the man’s
thigh, only to find himself sternly ordered out of the room by both of them, speaking in chorus. Then they laughed some more,
and he knew they were laughing at him. He pressed his ears down to the side of his head unhappily, feeling very unwelcome
indeed, and padded over to the door where he flopped down on the cold floor.
It wasn’t fair.
was… interesting. That was the only word Becky could come up with to describe what had happened to her that evening.
She had never felt quite so comfortable in her own skin as she did both during and after. She felt as if she could run around
utterly naked and never care in the slightest.
She felt free.
She also felt a little sore, and she also
felt as if there was something that she’d not quite managed to achieve. Maybe a tiny bit dissatisfied. She decided not
to tell Dave about that last bit. Obviously sex was an activity that required a certain amount of practice to master satisfactorily.
She suspected he wouldn’t mind in the slightest helping her out on that score. We’ll
just have to do this again, and again, until I figure out exactly what it is I want. And then we’ll do it even more.
“Happy?” he asked.
She wondered if she’d imagined that
hint of anxiety in his voice. “Yeah,” she said from where she lay on his chest, her chin resting on her crossed
arms so that she could look at him comfortably. She sighed contentedly, thinking of her plans for the future, which at the
moment mostly consisted of more sex. “Definitely happy.”
Examining his face, she traced the shape
of his mouth with her fingers. I really love this guy.
He caught her index finger with his lips
and she grinned. When she withdrew her hand, he said, “You’d better get up soon, or we’ll have to change
the sheets.” Not to mention, you’re digging your forearm into my neck and
it’s hard to breathe, but I really don’t want to tell you that right now…
She sat up and reached for her bra, which
had ended up near his head. He’d kept his sweatshirt on, and his socks, but she’d somehow ended up divested of
every article of her own clothing. He watched with interest as she began putting the bra back on, hooking it behind her back.
“You close your eyes when you do that?”
“I can see better this way.”
His belly laugh nearly unseated her.
“Hey, don’t laugh! It’s
true!” she protested.
He laughed some more, bouncing her, and then
had to stop as a sudden twinge shot through his abdomen, up towards his chest, the muscles protesting. Oops, that hurt, he thought. It’s a good thing I didn’t try
that before we had sex, or she might have been very disappointed. The thought did not bother him particularly. He was
Becky missed his brief wince of pain. She
was completely distracted by all the movement. Grinning, she patted his belly. “Those are strong stomach muscles. You
could be an amusement park ride.”
He laughed, “Only one rider a day.”
“Because you just don’t have
the stamina you once had,” she teased. Pre-sex she couldn’t have imagined saying something like that to anyone,
much less Dave, but now she felt like she could say anything. Freedom.
“Yes,” he agreed, mendaciously.
“I just don’t have the refractory period I had when I was sixteen. Or twenty, or twenty-five, or even thirty…”
She slapped his chest lightly. “Don’t
start! You’re not old.”
“You’re the one who brought it
“Yes, I did, didn’t I?”
she said, and then blushed. I can’t believe I just said that!
“I’ve created a monster,”
he said, happily.
dog looked up hopefully at the sound of his name, but the people on the bed were obviously still only interested in each other.
He dropped his head with a heavy sigh and went back to dreaming of younger days, hunting antelope with his master in the hills
above the city.