Hutch wakes up to a hand stroking his chest, a warm body pressed up against his back, and the used feeling in his thigh muscles that comes from having spent the night before enthusiastically committed to making the very most of an opportunity.
Peter isn’t exactly an old boyfriend, though not from want of trying. A friend, really, though they hooked up repeatedly in college. Hutch hooked up repeatedly with a lot of people in college. Men, women, whoever caught his eye. He liked sex, liked his body, liked that other people liked his body too. Nothing serious; a night of fun or a few days, a return visit from time to time if he felt that extra spark at the tips of his fingers when he touched their skin, pulled them close.
He knocked it off at the Academy. Time to grow up – and time to narrow his dating pool to just the ladies. It’s fine. He gets tempted from time to time. Doesn’t act on it often. Doesn’t act on it at all with the person who’s most tempting, obviously: not after what happened the one time he did. But an itch you don’t scratch is still an itch, so when Peter called and asked if Hutch wouldn’t mind a house guest for the night while he was in the city for work – well, he wasn’t going to say no.
Hutch reaches up to catch the hand idly stroking his chest, laughing softly as he gets a kiss on his neck in return. The hand in his begins to slide down his body, skimming over his belly to reach down and –
‘What time is it?’ asks Hutch, catching Peter’s wrist.
Hutch is already up and standing in a heartbeat, panicked and naked, when there’s a loud knock at the door.
‘Hey hey hey, this is your early morning ride. And from the car parked out front I see you got a visitor, so you’d better have some pants on before I open this door.’
‘Get dressed,’ Hutch hisses, stalking the room in search of his own clothes and pulling on yesterday’s corduroys. ‘It’s my partner, picking me up for work.’
Peter quirks an eyebrow as he tugs on a pair of jeans from his carry-on bag. ‘You look a little stressed. Take it he’s not expecting your visitor to look like me?’
Hutch drags on a t-shirt. ‘It’s complicated.’
‘Oh shit. Are you dating him?’
‘Not that complicated.’ Hutch grimaces. ‘He knows I – he’s – look, I’m sorry, I lost track of time and I hate to do this, but – ’
‘Sorry Hutch, nature calls,’ calls Starsky, now apparently inside the apartment. ‘You’d better not be knocking boots in the shower, cos I’m coming in anyways.’ There’s quiet, then a flush, just enough time for Hutch to put on shoes and his holster and emerge rumpled into the living room before Starsky reappears.
‘Hi,’ Hutch mumbles, trying to smooth down his hair.
Starsky grins, not bothering to hide his amusement at catching Hutch so obviously post-sex ruffled – then his face stills.
‘Good morning,’ says Peter, apparently not quite willing to take the hint and stay out of sight. ‘Don’t mind me, please. Ken, I just need a cup of coffee before I head back to the airport.’
Hutch wilts under Starsky’s look, a mix of surprise and disappointment that quickly evolves into exasperation.
‘Starsk – ’
‘Sorry for the interruption,’ Starsky drawls sourly. ‘I’ll wait in the car.’
He pulls the door behind him with a bang.
‘Oh my,’ says Peter, amused. ‘You sure you’re not dating?’
‘Thanks,’ snaps Hutch, rubbing his face with a weary hand. Starsky’s going to give him hell for this all day, he knows it. And they’re on stakeout.
‘Hey. Being who you are is nothing to be ashamed of.’ Peter says it gently, stepping up and meeting Hutch’s eye, dropping a hand onto Hutch’s hip.
‘I know that,’ says Hutch crossly, walking away to grab his badge and his gun. ‘I just – I’m a cop. There are rules. The least he expects me to be is discreet, ok? I’m not ashamed of me or you or any of it. I just don’t really do this any more, and when I do, I would rather it be private. That’s all.’
‘Mhmm.’ Peter has an infuriatingly smug expression on his face that Hutch remembers from the old days: the one he’d wear when Hutch would be drunk off his nut and swearing blind he was sober.
It’s a fond memory, even so, and Hutch softens, realizing that he’s letting Peter down here too.
‘I’m sorry. Last night – it was great. Better than great. I’m so glad you called, and – hell, I really do have to go work now. Stay, wash up, help yourself to the kitchen. And let’s do this again? When you’re next in town?’
Hutch hurries over for a kiss, hesitating, then deciding a quick peck is probably all he has mental space for right now.
Peter narrows his eyes at the choice, and nods casually. ‘Sure. You let me know if you’re still single first though, right?’
‘Sure,’ says Hutch, a little nonplussed as he backs out of the door, grabbing his jacket. ‘I’ll see you.’
Starsky drums his hands on the wheel and tries not to implode.
He promised. He damn well promised. No guys. Not any more, not after the last time. Hutch was Mr Tits and Ass from here on out, just like the rulebook said, and he was happy with it.
And it’s not like he hasn’t shown plenty of commitment to that since the Academy. The pair of them have something like a revolving door when it comes to girlfriends, and he figures they’re both pretty happy with that arrangement. Plenty of sex. Plenty of variety. Neither of them exactly has trouble finding a date. And Hutch, with that blond hair, and that body, the way he dresses it, the way he stands? Starsky does fine, obviously; he’s got plenty of moves and an ass that you could bounce coins off. But Hutch is a pretty boy, and he talks nice. The women, they like that.
And, evidently, some men.
Hutch jogs out of Venice Place and drops into the passenger seat, wearing a pair of sunglasses that it’s not bright enough out for him to need and a guilty frown on his lips.
Starsky puts the car in gear without a word and speeds away.
No calling in at Metro this morning. They’re headed straight to relieve the night shift staking out Pelagio Trucking, a front for Marvin Keppler’s lucrative coke smuggling operation. And they’re late, which means the night shift are going to be mad, and they don’t have time to go for breakfast, and also Hutch is an asshole.
He plans to hold it in until they get there but he can’t help himself.
‘For god’s sake, Hutch.’
‘Please. Could you spare me the lecture? I’ve heard it. I know it. I don’t even disagree with it.’
‘Since apparently that makes no difference, maybe you need to hear it again!’
‘Starsk. I’m sorry, ok? I’m sorry. He called, he was in town for one night, it was just – ’
Starsky damn near drives into a parking meter.
‘Hey!,’ he yells swerving and then getting the car back on track. ‘Did I ask for details? I don’t want to hear that!’
‘Ok. I’m sorry.’
Hutch sounds completely miserable, which is good and right, but also now Starsky feels kind of shitty about it, and now everything sucks. He takes his foot off the gas, getting his wheels back under control.
‘I’m sorry too, ok? I didn’t mean – ’
The radio bleeps.
‘Zebra Three, Zebra Three, request ETA at your rendezvous.’
Hutch sighs heavily, taking the radio.
‘This is Zebra Three, en route, five minutes away. Tell the fellas Hutchinson owes them a couple of beers.’
They make it in silence and Hutch smiles and cajoles his way out of the late handover, once he’s promised a pizza to go with the beers.
Then they’re stuck in the car, for the next twelve hours, with nothing for company but the view of an empty truck lot and each other.
Starsky’s silence lasts about two minutes.
‘I mean, come on. Hutch. What the hell were you thinking?’
‘Are you going to do this all day? I said I’m sorry. I can say it a couple of hundred more times if you need me to, Starsk, but I don’t know if that’s going to help.’
‘It’s not.’ Starsky glares out at the parking lot. ‘Not while I don’t think you get it.’
Hutch groans softly, under his breath.
‘I get it, partner. I get that as a police officer, there are requirements placed upon my personal life that I happen to think are egregious, and unreasonable, and downright unfair – but which also happen to be upheld by law and by regulation. And therefore, I should, as a serving officer, abide by them. And I do. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the time.’
‘Not good enough. And you know why I’m yelling at you, so don’t be all snotty about it. You get made, you’re done. The end. Out of the force, no questions asked, and me stuck here on my lonesome without you. No disrespect to your pal, but one night getting your rocks off doesn’t feel worth it to me.’
He’s said it before. The last time it happened, two years ago, practically the exact same situation with a car in the driveway and some oblivious guy opening the door to him wearing Hutch’s bathrobe. And one time before that, when he actually walked in on them and god, that image of Hutch – the back of his blond head, his back tense, pants open and falling down to show the top of his ass cheeks and a guy on his knees in front of him, pulling a long deep groan of pleasure out of his partner with his mouth – that image, right before Hutch’s head snapped around and saw him, it haunts him. Keeps him up at night. Hutch starts fights with him all the time about literally nothing – his car, his food, whatever – but this is what Starsky fights with him about, the only thing. Hutch can do whatever he wants with his life, except that.
Starsky glances across at his partner, and finds blue eyes looking back – not angry, just kind of sad.
Hutch sighs. ‘Starsk. Sometimes I don’t do what I’m supposed to; by mistake, by choice, because the thing I’m supposed to do doesn’t feel right. I’m a human being. We’re built to be curious, to crave experience. If that bumps up against a job that’s all rules and rigidity, so be it.’
‘Nice. So what, the rest of us are just too dumb to be curious, huh? I learned to keep it in my pants, Hutch, why couldn’t you?’
‘Since when did you learn to keep it in your pants?’
‘Since you taught me, Hutch!’
Starsky’s furious at this point, at Hutch for being so oblivious, and for making him bring it up, because what this is really about is the time before all of those others: what is probably the most awkward and humiliating memory he’s got.
‘Starsky, what the hell are you talking about?’
‘Academy party, term one, graduation. Don’t you dare tell me you don’t remember.’
Hutch remembers all right, he can see that. He still looks kind of bewildered though, like he’s about to claim amnesia or something.
‘What exactly do you remember of the term one graduation party, Starsk?’
Starsky glowers. ‘You really want me to go through it? Fine. Ok. We went out, you, me, John, out to a tiki bar to meet up with the rest of them to celebrate getting the first exams under our belts. We knocked back a load of tequila shots, and then John threw up, and we sent him home in a cab. And then we had more shots, you and me, and I leaned in, and I kissed you, Hutch.’
Hutch looks caught out, like an animal that’s cornered.
‘Now, I was drunk enough to kiss my Aunt Helen at that point of the night, and I don’t even have an Aunt Helen, so I’m not gonna claim I was exactly giving it my best performance. But you made no bones about where you stood. Wagged your finger in my face, and said it straight: we’re cops, nope, none of that.’
Hutch’s eyes are wide and dazed.
‘That’s not what happened, Starsk.’
‘Ok, maybe you didn’t wag your finger. I don’t think you’d started doing that yet. And maybe those weren’t the words you used, exactly – ’
‘They’re not the words I used, they’re words you used! And it wasn’t you that kissed me. I kissed you.’
‘I kissed you. We were talking about things we were going to miss once we graduated and I said sex, and you said that you were planning to keep that up, thanks, and then I started to tell you a little more about, you know, where I stood on who I liked to have sex with.’
It’s weird, because Starsky’s thought about that night a lot, more than he wanted to, and what Hutch is saying has never replayed in his head before, but it sounds familiar. Real familiar.
‘And then I said,’ Starsky says slowly, piecing it together, ‘so basically you fuck everyone.’
Hutch swallows, like he didn’t expect Starsky to actually start remembering.
‘And I said, not everyone. Just the people I’m attracted to. And then…’
‘You kissed me.’
Starsky doesn’t know how he got it turned it around, apart from maybe the tequila. He just remembers a blur, and some yelling, and waking up in a bush feeling dejected and rejected and like he couldn’t have a thing he hadn’t even known he wanted.
‘I kissed you, Starsk. And you said: we’re cops, cops don’t do that. I don’t know, something like that.’
‘I didn’t – Hutch, I was drunk, you caught me way off guard and I – I don’t think I meant that like that. We were talking about stuff we wouldn’t be able to do, after we were cops. And you and me, kissing – I think I was asking you: cops don’t do that? And then you just got mad and walked out on me.’
‘I thought you were telling me to leave!’
‘I thought you were telling me to! And the next day I figured ok, I can suck it up. And it was fine, except for how you keep slipping like you did last night, which meant it was just an excuse all along, and it wasn’t because you were a cop. It was because you didn’t want me. Not so long ago, you even said I wasn’t a good kisser.’
Hutch stares at him, lips parted, high color in his cheeks.
‘Starsky, you’re telling me, after all this time, you’ve been sitting here thinking I rejected you?’
‘We’re idiots. Who the hell gave us a badge? How is it possible we even get up and put the right shoe on the right foot each morning? I sit next to you every damn day of my life wondering why you’ll bend every rule there is for me but that one and – ’
‘Shut up,’ says Starsky, because apparently they just wasted five years and he’s not wasting another minute. He grabs Hutch’s shirt in his fist, leans closer and drags him near enough to kiss, hard.
It was meant to be a quick gesture to show the man he meant it, but instead when his lips meet Hutch’s something electric fires through every nerve in his body directly to the contents of his pants, and when Hutch doesn’t pull away but instead kisses back, relaxing into it and sucking Starsky’s bottom lip into his mouth, Starsky makes a noise he’s never made before in his life.
He breaks away for breath, stunned.
‘Oh no you don’t,’ says Hutch, reaching a hand up to his face and pulling him back into another, deeper kiss.
His long fingers wrap around the back of Starsky’s head, knotting in his hair, caressing gently while the kissing gets more frantic and needy. Starsky releases his grip on Hutch’s shirt and snakes his hand inside it instead, roving across that beautiful smooth warm skin to skim a thumb over a nipple. Hutch likes that, hums into his mouth and gives Starsky’s lip a little nip in return that makes the situation in his pants considerably more urgent.
Starsky lets go and scrabbles at his belt, unbuckling it and unzipping his jeans, reaching in and releasing his fully hard cock from its confinement.
‘Shit. We shouldn’t be doing this,’ he says, hand on his dick, looking up at the parking lot, the stakeout, the job they’re on that neither of them has given a glance at for the last god knows how long.
‘Well, you keep your eyes on the parking lot, and I’ll take care of it. What are partners for, right?’