I like these cold, gray winter days.
Days like these let you savor a bad mood.
“Just don’t think about it,” said Starsky.
Hutch looked at him over the body on the autopsy table, and wondered if it was really that easy. Was that how Starsky did
it? Did he simply decide not to think about the things that made him uncomfortable? He sure as hell didn’t talk
Hutch felt a chill crawl up his back, and shrugged deeper into his jacket. The room was freezing. “Let’s get
out of here.” There wasn’t anything more to see. The woman was dead, and the cause of death was painfully obvious.
Murder. Another one.
Starsky’s shoulder bumped against his as they walked outside into the night. “Buy me a drink.”
“It’s your turn,” replied Hutch, automatically. Even out here, it didn’t feel much warmer.
Starsky’s grin was like the jaws of a trap snapping shut.
“No,” said Hutch, realizing that he’d just agreed to a night out on the town.
“Too late. You said it.” Starsky rubbed his hands together. “This is gonna be great. You, me, a pair
of lovely ladies...”
Hutch thought of bloodless white flesh, stained with red and purple bruises, lying on the coroner’s slab. He shivered.
“I’m not into that scene, Starsk.”
Starsky looked baffled. “Of course you are. Red-blooded all-American guy like you...”
Hutch rubbed his face with both hands. “I mean, I’m not into it tonight. I’m tired. I’ve got a
headache.” Hearing himself, he almost laughed. Not tonight, dear. I’ve got a headache.
But he did have a headache. It felt like a band around his head from his temples to the back of his neck, pulling the skin
tight around his eyes.
Starsky’s expression changed to concern. He cut in front of Hutch, blocking his access to the car. “You’re
not getting sick, are you?”
Hutch batted Starsky’s hand away from his forehead. “The only thing I’m getting sick of is people. Humanity.
This whole lousy town...”
He could tell the exact instant Starsky stopped listening – right after he got to “cesspool” – but
he kept up his rant anyway as he climbed into the car. He held forth at length about the hypocrisy, the pretense, the way
people freeze each other out because they’re too self-absorbed to see past their own problems. He felt the tension
around his forehead increase every time the Torino bounced over a pothole. The suspension was shot. The car was a piece
of junk to begin with, just another example of Starsky letting sentimental attachment overwhelm common sense...
“We’re going back to my place,” said Starsky.
Hutch looked out the window and realized they were halfway there already. At some point during his diatribe, Starsky must
have logged them both off duty.
“I don’t want–” he began.
“What I don’t get,” Starsky cut in, “is why you can’t just say, ‘I’m upset that
a pretty girl got murdered.’ Why do you have to make it into some kind of cosmic statement condemning all of humanity?
And my car? What’d my car ever do to you?”
“Just don’t think about it, huh?” There was a sour taste in Hutch’s mouth.
“Yeah,” said Starsky.
“Don’t talk about it, either. Right?”
“Uh...” Starsky glanced at him uncertainly.
“Doesn't it occur to you that maybe if she’d talked to someone, she might still be alive? Maybe she’d have
realized her old man was heading for a meltdown. Maybe someone could have helped her.” Hutch drummed his fingers on
his knee. “Except she didn’t think she had anywhere to go, did she? It’s a cold world out there, and she
figured he was all she had. She just made the best of things, because she didn't know.
“Now there’s going to be a funeral, and everyone will be lining up to say how much they loved her! Ten to one,
they never thought to tell her to her face.” Hutch could feel his headache sharpening to a needle's point. “No
one ever says anything. We all just play dumb, our heads in the sand, pretending everything’s fine and nothing’s
changed. And before you know it, it’s too late!”
Starsky pulled into the driveway in front of his apartment. “We’re not talking about that girl, are we?”
Hutch yanked the car door open. “I don’t know what we’re talking about!”
Behind him, he heard Starsky mutter something that might have been, “Me neither.”
They collided just inside the door, hip to hip and mouths coming together with something less than tenderness. Hutch felt
himself yielding to the heat of the moment. He desperately wanted to thaw the chill at his core, and for a moment he was
tempted to pretend, to try to believe that it would be enough... and then he thought, here we go again.
Hutch abruptly shoved Starsky away. “And this! Why do we keep doing this?”
Starsky grabbed his collar, and Hutch flinched, half expecting to get slugged. But instead Starsky said, “You
kissed me.” His brows were drawn down into a single dark line over his eyes.
Hutch opened his mouth, and then closed it again, speechless for the first time that day.
Starsky made a rude noise. Dragging Hutch over to the couch, he deposited him unceremoniously on the cushions. Standing,
hands on hips, Starsky said, “Despite what you obviously think, I didn’t invite you over to do that. I
invited you over because you need to get your head back on straight.”
With that, he turned and stomped over to the kitchen. Hutch winced as he heard a cupboard bang, followed by the rattling
of silverware as the drawer was yanked open. Starsky was talking to himself again. Something about how certain people didn’t
have the sense God gave a grapefruit. Especially certain people who were dumb enough to try to piss off their only friend
in the whole wide world.
Hutch rubbed his temples, trying to think clearly. Was Starsky really his only friend?
That couldn’t be right. He had lots of friends. There was Huggy and Dobey and... others. He was sure there were others.
But maybe Starsky didn’t mean ‘friend’ in that way.
Maybe he was talking about something more than friendship.
Hutch looked up to see Starsky standing over him with a glass in one hand and three white pills in the other.
“Thanks,” said Hutch. He took the aspirins and washed them down with the cold water. The chills crawling up
and down his shoulders intensified. Putting the glass down, he rubbed his arms.
“Cold?” asked Starsky.
He was standing with one foot on the coffee table, his elbow propped on his knee. His jeans were frayed, and the sole of
his left sneaker was beginning to come unglued. Hutch’s gaze travelled up, taking in the way Starsky’s jeans
pulled tight over his hips, folding into wrinkles that he knew would be printed in red on the skin beneath. His t-shirt had
ridden up under his leather jacket, revealing just a hint of his stomach.
“I’m freezing,” said Hutch. He reached out and caught the band of Starsky’s jeans with one finger.
“Are you going to kiss me again?” asked Starsky, his voice tight.
Hutch tugged and Starsky’s foot slid off the table and hit the ground with a thump. “Can I?” asked Hutch,
looking up at him.
Starsky shrugged out of his jacket and holster, dropping them behind him. Hutch turned his attention to Starsky’s belt.
This was easier than trying to explain what he couldn’t say. It was easier than trying to get Starsky to say something
he never would.
For a few minutes, maybe, he wouldn’t have to think about dead girls, and dead end jobs, and dying dreams. He wouldn’t
have to think about anything at all.
Pushing up Starsky’s shirt, Hutch leaned his forehead against Starsky’s warm stomach and wondered why he still
felt so damn cold. He felt Starsky’s hands settle on his head. He knew how this would go. He knew the struggle and
welcomed it, because this was what defined their relationship these days, and lust didn’t leave any room for
But this time Starsky wasn’t pulling or demanding. He wasn’t even asking. Starsky’s touch was gentle,
his fingers weaving through Hutch’s hair, caressing.
The affection in those hands made Hutch’s eyes sting, and he abruptly wrapped his arms around Starsky’s hips.
Starsky stumbled, and Hutch felt the couch rock as Starsky caught himself with both hands braced on the back of it. He tightened
his grip, pressing his cheek into Starsky’s belly. He could feel a heart beating, but he didn’t know whose it
“Hey, hey,” said Starsky. His hands settled on Hutch’s shoulders and pushed him away.
Hutch reluctantly let go, and Starsky hunkered down in front of him. His eyes were serious.
“I have a feeling,” said Starsky, slowly. “That I’m part of the problem here.”
Hutch felt a stab of panic. “There’s no problem. Why do you think there’s a problem?” He tried
to smile. “Couple of red-blooded guys like us, we’re not stuck on convention...”
Starsky covered Hutch’s mouth with both hands. “Shut up,” he said. “I can’t think when you
I thought we weren’t supposed to think about it, thought Hutch. But he didn’t say anything aloud. Couldn't,
which was almost funny, all things considered. He watched anxiously as Starsky’s gaze turned inward, and the seconds
Then Starsky’s eyes cleared, and he smiled.
“I love you,” he said, sounding surprised.
And in the end, it wasn’t any more complicated than that. There was no irony in Starsky’s words, no layers of
meaning, no caveats or exceptions.
Hutch had been tying himself into increasingly complicated knots for months, and three little words were all it took to make
everything straight again.
In a manner of speaking.
“Mmmph,” said Hutch, grinning. He licked one of Starsky’s palms.
Starsky snatched his hand away. “Sorry! Was there something you wanted to tell me?” He raised his eyebrows
invitingly. He obviously wanted to be told he was loved, too.
“I’m not cold anymore,” said Hutch, instead.