In gardens, beauty is a by-product. The main business is sex and death. ~Sam Llewelyn
“We’ve got to talk.”
Hutch didn’t respond. He slid his hand under the jade plant and pressed down on the earth, the stem safely nestled between
his middle and index finger. Smoothly he inverted the pot and lifted it away, letting the plant rest in his palm. Cool damp
earth crumbled and fell down on either side, leaving the roots exposed.
“Seriously, Hutch, you can’t ignore this.”
Oh, he could. And he would. The jade in one hand, he pushed some of the dirt in the new pot to the side, making room. The
smell of decaying vegetable matter was strongest in the greenhouse, but underneath he could also smell gun oil from the rags
he’d used to clean his weapon earlier. And beneath even that was the scent of Starsky, a mix of aftershave and sweat.
“I mean, I don’t understand what happened. I was... I thought...” Starsky trailed off. He was sitting on
the edge of the table behind Hutch, feet swinging.
Hutch settled the jade in its new pot. He held out his hand without looking up, and Starsky unhesitatingly handed him the
bag of new compost. Hutch hoped that if he just focused on his chores, Starsky would realize they didn’t have to look
so closely at the events of the day. No one was dead. No one had got hurt. They could just let it be.
“Right,” said Starsky. “I’m a detective. I’ve got detecting skills. Let’s look at this
Hutch pushed the new soil down around the jade plant’s roots, covering them securely. He wasn’t going to encourage
Starsky. Not with a single word. He had retreated to his greenhouse hoping for peace and quiet, and damn it, that’s
what he was going to get. Even Starsky couldn’t talk to himself forever.
When Hutch held out his hand this time, Starsky passed him the watering can.
“I go in low, you go in high.” Starsky jumped to his feet and began to pace. “That’s the way it always
works. Except today I went in high and you went in low. How did you know I wasn’t also going to try to go in low, and
end up with us both stuck in the door?”
Hutch shrugged. There was no point in answering, especially as he wasn’t entirely sure himself why he’d reversed
the order of things. It had just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. There hadn’t been enough time to think
about it, only enough to act. He reached for a miniature rose bush that had been neglected too long and began pinching off
the dead blooms.
“You know,” continued Starsky. “I thought for awhile there might be something in that whole psychic thing,
but I can’t get it to work right. I never guess your numbers, and I always lose at the track. And anyway, while it might
be useful between you and me, I wouldn’t want anything like what Collandra’s got. All it does is make him miserable.”
Starsky was covering a lot of ground, from one end of the green house to the other. Hutch pulled his feet back and crossed
his legs. He didn’t think Starsky would deliberately stomp on his toes to get a reaction out of him, but there was no
point in tempting fate.
“But...” Starsky suddenly turned and glared at Hutch accusingly. “You knew that Harry was going to
shoot low. So, maybe you’re the psychic one.”
Hutch snickered and got Starsky’s finger in his face in return.
“Don’t laugh! You could be. Bastard. It just about took ten years off my life when I thought he’d put a
bullet through you.”
Hutch gave Starsky a disgusted look, letting him know exactly what he thought of his whole psychic theory. Then he returned
to pruning his rose bush.
“Right, right.” Starsky threw up his hands and backed off. “Don’t be an idiot, Dave. Okay, so you
didn’t know what Harry was going to do. So today you just decided – right out of the blue – to go in low.
Why? Because...” Starsky stopped and stared at him, his hands on his hips. “Because Harry is four foot eight,
and he’d just naturally shoot low.”
Great, thought Hutch, he’s got it all figured out. Good for him.
Hutch hoped that might be the end of things. He had retreated to his greenhouse hoping to find some balance and renewal after
a very long and stressful day. He had not anticipated that Starsky would follow him, demanding answers. He felt the agitated
energy radiating off of his partner crackling through his own nervous system. Every sense was heightened, the clay pot rough
under his fingers, his skin prickling every time Starsky came near.
“So, what the hell did you think you were doing? Trying to take a bullet for me?”
No, Starsky clearly wasn’t done yet. His voice was getting louder and more agitated with every word. He had his teeth
into this thing, and he was going to worry it to death.
Hutch looked at his now thoroughly denuded rose bush and considered his options.
“Because I’m a big boy, you know. I’m more than capable of taking my own bullets. I don’t need you
hauling my ass out of the line of fire.” Starsky gestured sharply, his hands punctuating his words with force.
Yep, thought Hutch. Starsky’s pissed off.
Option one was to fight.
No, he didn’t want to fight with Starsky. Not today.
“Especially not if it means throwing yourself in front the bullet that was meant for me!” yelled Starsky.
Of course, pacifism might not be an option. Hutch opened his mouth to defend his actions, but Starsky cut him off.
“Yeah, I know you didn’t get hit, but you could have been. It was this close!” He held up two fingers
pressed together. “Damn it, I heard your jacket tear!”
Option two, flee.
Hutch felt a brief stab of resentment at the idea. This was his greenhouse and he hadn’t asked Starsky to follow him
in here. He glanced up, prepared to tell Starsky to get the fuck out. He wasn’t in the mood to be lectured. He didn’t
appreciate having his sanctuary invaded.
But the expression on Starsky’s face stopped him. Starsky didn’t look angry. He looked...
For a moment, Hutch stopped breathing. All of a sudden he could see the day’s events from Starsky’s point of view.
Starsky would have felt the same tension and fear that Hutch had felt, knowing that the man behind that hotel door could very
well be armed. Starsky had gone in high, without even knowing why. Unconsciously, Starsky had taken his cue from Hutch. The
two of them had acted in perfect synchronicity, until that first bullet had scored past Starsky’s thigh and the second
crossed the spot Hutch had been in a fraction of a second earlier.
It would have all happened too fast for Starsky to understand.
Hutch knew he’d deliberately dropped down to make himself a smaller target, returning fire in the same instant. Hutch
recalled the rush of accomplishment he’d felt as he saw Harry slam up against the wall, clutching a bloodied shoulder.
He’d felt real satisfaction knowing that he’d placed the shot correctly, disabling the gunman without killing
Starsky, on the other hand, hadn’t known why Hutch went down. He had simply seen Hutch fall, and heard the thud as his
body hit the floor. Hutch could still remember Starsky’s arm around his body, hauling him upright. He remembered how
clearly he had felt Starsky’s anxiety as he patted him down, demanding to know if he’d been hit. Hutch hadn’t
been so sure himself that he was uninjured. When Starsky had found the rip in the side of his jacket, just under his arm,
Hutch had felt a little sick. A fraction of an inch in any direction...
He couldn’t leave Starsky. Not now. Fighting wasn’t an option, and neither was fleeing.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Starsky, bringing Hutch back to the present. “I don’t know if
I wanna kill you, or kiss you.”
A long time ago, in another lifetime entirely, Hutch had been a college student. A memory emerged now of his psychology professor
explaining the reptilian brain. There were three main drives, he said, and when human beings are under stress they revert
to these three primitive impulses.
Starsky wouldn’t flee, because it wasn’t in his nature to run from anything. He was a fighter. But Starsky wouldn’t
fight Hutch, because Hutch was his best friend.
Hutch watched Starsky stalk away and then return, his fists clenched and his back stiff. He was a twisted knot of tension,
stymied. Stuck. Unable to move in any direction...
The last of the three drives.
Hutch stood, feeling over-stressed muscles protest as he unfolded his limbs. Starsky stepped back warily, and then stepped
forward, his expression defiant.
“You want to fight about this?” demanded Starsky. “Because I’ll have you know, I’m not letting
you take stupid chances with your life. You’re my partner. You don’t get to...”
Hutch grabbed his collar, hauled him in close, and kissed him.
There, he thought. That’ll shut him up.
He never saw the fist that cracked him across the chin and knocked him back into the table, sending pots crashing to the ground.
“This is not a joke!” shouted Starsky.
No, it certainly wasn’t. Hutch kicked Starsky’s feet out from underneath him, feeling entirely too much satisfaction
in the sound Starsky’s rear made as it impacted with the floor. It was just unfortunate that Starsky managed to bring
three of the hostas down with him.
Hutch didn’t stop to worry about his plants. It looked liked this was going to become a fight after all, and he wanted
to maintain the upper hand. He scrambled to his knees, only to find Starsky already up and in his face. Starsky’s fist
twisted into Hutch’s collar, and he flinched, bracing himself for another blow.
Instead a pair of lips pressed against his.
Hutch started to protest, but the instant his mouth opened, Starsky’s opened as well. The kiss deepened and Hutch felt
a sudden heat flare inside. All thoughts of fighting left his mind, leaving behind only one inescapable conclusion.
Starsky released him, and Hutch fell back onto his heels, dizzy. Distantly he thought he heard Starsky say something, but
it didn’t make sense. His face must have shown his confusion, because Starsky repeated himself.
“I said, you can hit me now.”
Hutch shook his head.
The energy abruptly left Starsky. The light went out of his eyes and his shoulders sagged. He rolled over onto his knees and
began to push himself up onto his feet.
Hutch didn’t stop to think. He moved, just as he had earlier that day when he’d gone in low without even consciously
deciding to do it, only knowing that he had to. He reached for Starsky and was somehow unsurprised to find him reaching back.
Hutch went high this time, and Starsky went low, and they didn’t have to discuss this either. Hutch did wonder, briefly,
if the parallel would continue even to Starsky yelling at him about it once all was said and done. But then he decided it
He was straddling Starsky in the middle of a scattered collection of pots and spilled dirt. There were shiny green and yellow
leaves caught in Starsky’s hair and there was dirt on his nose. Starsky’s face was soft and open and he looked
younger than Hutch had seen him look in years. It was as if all of the crap that had built up over time had suddenly crumbled
Perhaps tomorrow Hutch would have to put everything back together. But for now... He leaned down and Starsky tilted his head
back to meet him. When he slipped his fingers into the front of Starsky’s jeans, Starsky’s hands were already
there, undoing his belt and pulling down his zipper.
Hutch was not a stranger to sex. He’d even had a bit of experience with other men when he was in college, when anything
and everything had been possible. In his experience first times were awkward, and required a lot of negotiation as each person
tried to figure out the needs and desires of the other person.
This time was different.
It wasn’t like making love to someone he’d just met. Somehow he already knew that Starsky would like it when he
pulled the soft skin of his earlobe into his mouth and sucked on it. And Starsky, for his part, seemed to know all about the
sensitive spot at the small of Hutch’s back. He raked his nails across it and chuckled when Hutch arched back with a
In loving, as in a firefight, they were in synch.