Hutch drove towards the hospital, lost in thought, a blissful smile spreading across his face. He would tell Starsky that he loved him, and Starsky would say he loved him back, and they would share their first kiss, and embrace each other, and it would be like a little slice of heaven.
He parked the red Ford LTD in the hospital visitor’s lot and walked towards the main entrance. I’ll drive Starsky home, open the door for him, get him comfortable on the sofa, and then I’ll tell him.
But as he got in the elevator, he began to have second thoughts. Am I really going to go through with this? What if it ends up being a disaster? He might laugh at me or get angry. Or worse, what if he asks me to leave and never come back? Look at what his reaction was to the news about John Blaine. While he wasn’t outright homophobic, he wasn’t exactly thrilled by the news, either. And Blaine had never propositioned him.
Stop it, he commanded himself. You were going to be an adult about this, remember? You were going to spill your guts and accept the consequences in their entirety, whatever they are.
But suddenly he was terrified of the possibility that the entire thing would blow up in his face and he would lose his best friend. It doesn’t matter, he tried to convince himself. The only thing that matters is that Starsky’s alive. Even if he never wants to see me again, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen. The worst thing would have been losing him to those bullets.
The elevator doors opened and he stepped out into the hallway. But as he started to walk towards Starsky’s room, he stopped and sat down on a nearby chair. Something wasn’t right. His puerile little pep talk wasn’t very convincing. In fact, it was downright myopic. ‘The only thing that matters is that Starsky’s alive.’ What an asinine thing to say, Hutch thought. Sure, Starsky being alive is the most important thing, of course. But it’s certainly not the only thing. What the hell would be the point of irreparably damaging our relationship over some romantic whim? He’s alive, and he’s still my best friend despite how much I hurt him, and I should thank my lucky stars every day for the rest of my life that he forgave me. But instead, I’m walking around like a starry-eyed teenager pining for more.
Hutch realized he was acting selfish and self-absorbed, and yes, even superficial. Wasn’t it enough that he and Starsky loved each other, not in a romantic way, but in a way that mattered just as much?
Hutch put his hand up to his forehead and absently began massaging it. The whole thing was beginning to give him a headache, and now he had a whole new reason to feel guilty. He should be concerned only with Starsky’s recovery and the long road back to health that lay ahead. And while they still didn’t know if Starsky would ever be able to rejoin the force, Hutch had known from the very beginning that he’d never want to be a cop without him. Hadn’t they agreed to quit together after Terry died?
No, “manning up” and telling Starsky the truth about his feelings for him wasn’t at all what he needed to be doing right now. Sometimes being an adult meant you had to be willing to put aside your own wants and needs for the sake of others, regardless of how frustrated and unfulfilled you might end up feeling.
He looked at the clock hanging above the nurses’ station. He’d been lost in his thoughts longer than he realized and Starsky was probably wondering where the hell he was.
By the time Hutch walked down the hallway and approached Starsky’s room, he’d talked himself out of saying anything at all. Maybe another time, but not today. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen in its own course. And if not, well then, it simply wasn’t meant to be.
As Hutch entered Starsky’s room, he made a feeble attempt to sound casual. “Hey, buddy, ready to go?”
“Sorry, I had to stop by your place to pick up your clothes. I wasn’t sure which ones you wanted me to bring, so I grabbed the first things I could find.” It was a lie. He had carefully picked out the items yesterday when he’d gone to Starsky’s apartment. He handed Starsky his light blue Etalage shirt with the single white stripe on the left arm (one of his sexiest, thought Hutch) and a pair of medium blue Chemin de Fer jeans that Starsky had been favoring the past several months. The jeans had a tiny slit front pocket that Hutch often found himself daydreaming about. He wanted desperately to put his finger in that little pocket to see what it felt like in there, and then he would pull Starsky close and—
“Hey, Earth to Hutch.”
“Whaa?” he realized he had gotten lost in his thoughts again.
“I said, what about my shoes? How am I supposed to walk down to the car without them?” He pronounced car like cah, one of those Starsky affectations that always coaxed out a little smile on Hutch’s face.
“Well, at least you’ve got your pants. I brought your watch too, here.”
“Hutch, why is it that you never bring me everything I need to walk out into society? Is it really that hard?” Starsky thought he’d get a rise out of Hutch, was counting on it, in fact, but Hutch didn’t take the bait. He was too preoccupied thinking about Starsky saying “everything I need” and “hard.”
Getting exasperated, Starsky began to whistle. That got his partner’s attention.
“Oh, sorry. I guess I forgot to bring them.” Starsky looked intently at Hutch, trying to figure out what he was thinking, and watched as Hutch sat down tentatively on a chair. Painstakingly, he removed his hospital gown, robe, and slippers, stripping down to his underwear, and attempted to change into the street clothes.
Hutch was torn between watching his partner in his various states of undress and modestly looking away, until he realized that Starsky was struggling. “Do you need me to help you?” he managed to croak out.
“Yeah, I might need some help with these jeans,” Starsky groaned, struggling to bend over as he tried to wrestle them on. He had only managed to pull them up around his ankles when he gave up and lay back down on the bed, panting hard, bare feet planted firmly on the floor.
Why the hell didn’t I bring him sweatpants? What was I thinking bringing him jeans so tight that he probably has difficulty getting into them on a normal day? So I could ogle his ass in them? The guilt began to take hold again, gripping him, taunting him. He hadn’t considered Starsky’s still-healing tender and painful abdominal muscles. Hutchinson, you are one selfish bastard!
As Hutch approached the bed, he realized that he was almost face-to-face with the bulge of Starsky’s ample manhood as it pushed up against his thin, white underpants, and he swallowed hard. He wasn’t exactly sure what to do.
“You gonna help me or not?”
“Oh. Yeah.” He knelt beside Starsky’s legs, feeling the dark hair and taut muscles of Starsky’s calves beneath his hands as he placed them into each opening in the jeans. But the task was a daunting one. When he’d gotten them up past Starsky’s knees, he began to pant heavily from the effort, and as his fingers unintentionally brushed against the inside of his partner’s muscular, hairy thighs, he felt like he suddenly couldn’t breathe at all.
He forced himself to take slow, deep breaths and tried to distract himself by grabbing the slippers and sliding Starsky’s feet into them. Starsky, still laying face-up on the hospital bed, had become strangely quiet and hadn’t said a word since Hutch had begun dressing him.
He needed to help Starsky off the bed. Leaning over Starsky’s naked torso, Hutch wrapped his arms around him, keenly aware of their groins being pressed together in their awkward position, and wondered what the nurse would say if she walked in on them right now. Bravely pressing on, Hutch gently pulled Starsky up from his supine position until all of Starsky’s appendages were standing more or less upright. Hutch was visibly sweating now, but he wasn’t sure it was entirely from the physical effort.
“I think I can take it from here,” Starsky said, not looking directly at Hutch, but in a voice that Hutch was convinced sounded almost strangled. He let go, standing awkwardly in front of his partner as he watched Starsky slowly pull the jeans up over his buttocks and his now-swollen groin. Hutch blinked at the sight of it. Did I do that? Then, mesmerized and unable to turn away, he watched as Starsky grimaced as he carefully zipped his fly and fastened the button.
Hutch let out a deep sigh. “Well, that wasn’t too bad, was it?”
“Pull this over my head, will ya?” Starsky asked as he handed Hutch the blue shirt, still not making eye contact with Hutch, and wincing as he raised his arms up in supplication.
His breathing fast and shallow now and his heart pounding in his ears, Hutch slowly eased the shirt down over Starsky’s head and gently wrestled his arms into the sleeves. When he grabbed the bottom of the shirt and pulled it down over Starsky’s waist, he could feel the smooth bone of Starsky’s hips under the soft fabric. Oh God.
Suddenly, Hutch realized he was hard and quickly backed away, terrified that Starsky had noticed. Starsky’s firm gaze in his direction, head tilted downwards as if studying him, confirmed that he had. Hutch began to panic. It was too soon -- he wasn’t yet ready for Starsky to know how he felt.
For a moment, they both looked down at the floor, neither of them sure what to say, until finally, Starsky broke the ice. “Guess we should get goin’ huh? I can’t wait to leave this place behind.”
“I’m ready if you are,” Hutch replied hastily, trying on a forced smile as he felt his face start to burn red.
Starsky eyed him for a moment before reaching for the doorknob. “Let’s go, partner,” he said, resting his hand on the small of Hutch’s back as they exited the room. And as they closed the door behind them, Hutch could swear that Starsky’s hand had begun to rub his back ever so slightly.