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Hutch walking into my place was like somebody shining a flashlight on his hair. His black leather jacket made it even more so. I knew the big blond had been living with it all his life. Heads turning, just because nature had given him a natural bleach job. Sort of like heads turned when I walked down any of these streets, but I knew what I’d signed up for when I left my old neighborhood. A better life.

Both Hutch and Starsky’d made enough of a difference in my life that it was worth putting up with the antics from these two trouble magnets. Whenever they walked into my joint, I never knew if it was gonna be a celebration, a disaster, or just chilling out.

Hutch approached the side of the bar that I’d slid towards when he zeroed in on me. It wasn’t quite a beeline from the door. He looked too skittish for it to be a casual call.

“Why are you lopsided?” I asked, wiping the counter, and getting ready to reach for his usual draft of beer.

Hutch did his fake double-take, like I didn’t know all his moves. I’m sure it must’ve still worked on his police buddies, but you have to put on a better show than that to get past me.

“Just hit me one,” he said, abandoning the pretend surprise. “Starsky went home.”

That was a rarity. I drew out the process of pouring him his favorite. I’m not given to asking a question twice. Prying ain’t my business. The grapevine was good to me, so I didn’t go digging when there was nothing on the line.

Hutch looked like he was suppressing nerves. His quicky darting eyes were checking the last-round crowd out, and not in a fuzz sort of way.

“Ain’t it past your bedtime, too?” I pulled myself closer to him over the counter.

He quickly grabbed the beer out of my hand. “Yeah.” Hutch took a swig like it was the hard stuff. As if. “Listen, I’m here on my own alright?”

To an outsider that statement could seem redundant, but Hutch was setting ground rules for his visit. “Mum’s the word,” I promised him. “But I’m hurt you gotta ask.” It wasn’t my business to tell one partner what the other was doing, unless one of them was dying, or doing me. That was a hotbed that I was smart enough to stay away from. Never get between a man and his partner, at least not when they’re carrying a torch for each other that they don’t seem to see.

“Sorry, Hug. It’s a game changer, and I don’t want to inconvenience you.”

“Why change your ways now?” Yeah, they were trouble, but they also saved my ass on a regular and continual basis. “Lay it on me, and I’ll let ya know if it’s too inconvenient.”

Hutch moved a little bit closer, and we almost bumped noses at this point.

What can I say? When I lean in, I lean in. Hutch wasn’t hard on the eyes, up close and personal, if you know what I mean.

“You noticed how I noticed that you know Sugar’s home address by heart.” Hutch just stared with those baby blues, waiting for my reaction.

I could’ve pulled out right there and then. I could’ve feigned ignorance, but I’d made up my mind many years ago when I gave Hutch shelter in my loft to sweat out the bad stuff. I put my ass on the line for them and with that decision my fate with the two of them got sealed. A thing like that brings a man closer to his friends. Like, real close. I knew then, if one of them ever confronted me with this, I’d be true to myself.

“We’re friendly,” I told him. “Sugar’s been good to me.”

Hutch’s face softened. It hadn’t been hard before, but tense. Egg shells, the whole nine yards.

“Okay.” He nodded. That said it all.

I was gonna pull away then, figuring that was what he needed to verify. The way my dick points isn’t easy to determine from the outside. As far as I was concerned, he now knew enough. Unless he wanted to date me, he wasn’t entitled to more details on my bed-sheets activities.

I’d better get a move on and start the last cleanup of the day.

“Hug,” Hutch’s voice stopped me.

It was late, and I was by myself. There were two dudes comfortably huddled over their drinks in booths, and one sleeping at a table next to a half-eaten plate of my Huggerino Special. I really should get more live music happening at night. Better crowds, and classier closing times.

I figured looking into my friend’s handsome face wasn’t a bad way to spend my time, so I leaned back in, waiting for his edginess to culminate into some sort of verbal translation. With Hutch waiting him out tended to work. Starsky could win a staring contest with a statue.

“I’m not prying, you know?” Hutch’s voice went down to a whisper.

No, I didn’t know, but I took his word for it.

“Blaine, and all the shit that went down. Then Starsky.” Hutch wasn’t making full sentences, but I was getting the drift of things.

“You’re rattled,” I gave him. “You just wanna make sure, so there’s no surprises.” I didn’t appreciate that as much as I could have, but I could dig it. Everyone’s curious about what’s going on in another cat’s pad.

Hutch put his hand on my soapy rag filled hand. “I swear that’s not it. We’re cool?”

The sincerity was overriding his nerves, so yeah. “We’re cool.”

He let out a breath and looked down but didn’t move back or pull his warm hand away from my chilled, damp one. “I mean, you know places. You know the Green Parrot. I figure you might know someplace that is like really off the beaten track. Someplace safe.”

Now I looked down for a moment. Hutch not meeting me eye to eye when asking for information was different. That was new. I’d never known Hutch to be shy. This was circumspect, ass-covering caution.

I decided to meet him halfway. “I’m hip to some free-thinking places you and your fuzz friends don’t know about and it’s gotta stay that way.”

His blue marbles came back up to bounce the lights off the ceiling. “I need a safe place to find out, to experiment. I could go out of town, but Starsky would notice. He’d ask questions. There’d be too much lying involved, and you know how he is when he suspects something’s off. Especially since Jeannie, he always asks. He calls.”

Yes, I knew. Starsky’d come looking for Hutch more than once, even when Hutch had been on a two-day fuck fest with a honey.

“Hug, if you know of a local club of some sort. It’s got to be a lot more underground than the Green Parrot. I wouldn’t ask, but I can’t pay anyone, you know. It’s my ass on the line if it’s traceable, so escort services are out.”

I considered it. If I gave him access to one of my under-the-radar places, I’d expose some of my people to him. On the same token, he’d expose himself to them too, and gay cops don’t last long in their job.

“If I give you a private haunt to experiment in, you gotta be dead serious, Mr. Fuzz Man.”

Hutch let my hand go to spread his in surrender. “I’d leave my badge at the door, so to speak. It’s just for me. No one else. Not even,” he visibly swallowed, “not even Starsky.”

These guys never did anything without the other. Not on the job anyway. Chicks, yes, probably. I’d suspected that their double dates went further than your average best buddies. Maybe not, though. Looking at Hutch, I could see his desperation. Something had snapped. This Blaine thing had hit Starsky hard, but here was Hutch, pleading with me.  

I wondered if Hutch needed to get Starsky out of his system. Get down with a similar piece of ass and fuck it out. A part of me was surprised that they’d never tried it. Reading between white bread’s lines, I saw a man who had a need that had grown bigger than himself, bigger than society. He was even willing to lie to his partner.

“You sure you want to be doing this alone?” I asked, despite myself. It was none of my business and part of me didn’t want to know what was going on between them. A whole lot of nothing, it looked like. All those rumors seemed completely missing the mark. Even I’d been wondering about them since the beginning.

“No one can know, especially Starsky.” Hutch put his hands back on the bar, desperation straining his words, as his pretty brow furrowed. “This is about Starsky.”

I nodded. I’d put that puzzle piece together already, but a man doesn’t have the hots for his male partner just because they gel. “It’s not just Starsky,” I told him, keeping my tone even and staying cool.  

Even in the dim lighting, Hutch’s cheeks visibly reddened. “I know I shouldn’t have come. I haven’t acted on any of this for years.” But he wasn’t leaving. Hutch was in deep, and he was never a coward. The man had clearly made up his mind, and it wasn’t my business to change it for him.

I noticed Hutch wasn’t using any words like gay or bisexual to refer to himself or his feelings. No one likes to admit they need something that’s so looked down on by the pack they ran with.

He was asking a lot from me.

“I get why your boy can’t know.” I’d been undercover my whole life. There were things that were private, and no one had the right to mess with that.

Even though our playing field in life was far from even, in this, we found ourselves in a similar boat. The righteously crummy times we’d gone through over the years had forged our unlikely friendship. I’d stand by him, whatever he needed, and I didn’t have to ask if he’d do the same for me.  

“I won’t let on to Starsky that you’re batting for both teams.” It was my gift to him. Others had helped me before, and I was in a position to pass on the favor.

The tormented look on Hutch’s face was confirmation enough. “For the most part, I’ve been okay just sticking to women since I joined the Force, but I gotta ride with him every day. I eat, sleep and breathe Starsky, and there’s only so far that women can be substituted for, for that need.”

I felt for Hutch. Satisfying that itch when jonesing for man flesh was harder when you’ve got the hots for that piece of flesh that’s in your personal space, twenty-four seven.

I knew how it was. Just dealing with short bursts in closed quarters with the two of them was enough to set my juices going. They were both sizzling in their own ways and they weren’t afraid to use it. Especially Starsky. The man would flirt with anything with a heartbeat.

“Does Starsky know you’re in love with him?” I asked. Before I’d trust him with my sensitive information, I needed to know he trusted me with his.

Hutch shook his head slowly, never breaking eye contact. His Adam’s apple was bobbing up and down. “I can’t tell him, Hug.” He was back to a whisper. “I can’t lose him.”

I couldn’t blame Hutch. Starsky was one of those people that either left you completely cold or made you run hot forever. I’d tasted the temptation myself.

“One of the old storefronts near the Crimsin on Carson. The boarded-up haunt?”

Hutch nodded. Everyone knew the shops that’d been vacant for the past few years.

“At night, that turns into a small gay nightclub. Really mixed joint, so most any type can walk through the doors.” I knew a few places that Hutch wouldn’t even get past the bouncer, but this one had a good mishmash of people. “Not just dudes either and the gamut runs from AC/DC to whatever you can dream up. Go early, like six. You don’t wanna deal with family men who sneak away after the kids been put to bed. That’s always a bad scene, even for a one-night stand. Between six and eight is your window.”

I watched Hutch take the information in, wide-eyed and grateful. He never reached for a pen. Writing stuff like this down was a liability, which is why I served the public with my perfect memory. It kept my ass out of a sling.

That was the best I could do for my friend in need here. The rest was up to Hutch. “Sow some oats. Do me a favor and score someone nice. And don’t make me regret this.”

“You won’t, I promise.” Hutch downed the rest of his beer and pushed away from the bar. “Thanks Hug.”

I was happy to do it, but this wasn’t like any other skinny I’d ever gotten him. “Better go on Tuesday. It’s nice and quiet.” I reached out and tousled his hair. “And cover up this dick-magnet, or you gonna have to beat guys off you before you’re properly acclimatized. Guys who won’t stop to appreciate what’s under all that blond, just another notch on their belt. Know what I mean?”

Hutch didn’t feign surprise this time. He just looked a little shocked to hear me say it.

I knew he’d been objectified by guys, chicks and the world’s questionable beauty standards. “I call ‘m as I see ‘m,” I told him, shrugging.

Hutch nodded in acceptance. He didn’t look any less stressed out than when he’d come in looking to quench a burning need. A big adventure lay ahead of him.

Instead of pushing away, Hutch leaned closer over the counter. A gentle kiss on my cheek stunned me into silence. Hutch lay his forehead on my shoulder for a moment, before sighing and straightening back up to all his glory. “You’re the best, Hug. I owe you. Big.”

“Don’t I know it.”

Hutch made his way out and I stopped for a moment, envisioning this hot and horny hunk walking into the radically open-minded gay club I was sending him to. Tomorrow happened to be Tuesday. He’d be alright. It was a good thing I’d given Starsky the same information when he came calling a few days ago.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when they both made an excuse to get away from each other between six and eight.

I’d already arranged a table there for six tomorrow. Sweet Alice and I wouldn’t want to miss this for the world.