Hutch hauled himself up from the couch and headed for the kitchen. “Want another beer?”
Hutch watched as Starsky considered for a second then shook his head. “Naw. I’m bushed. I’m just going to go home and crash.”
Hutch watched his subdued partner and felt another wave of guilt wash over him.
“Starsk, I’m sorry this wasn’t much of a Christmas. I shoulda’ checked with you before volunteering us to cover for Simmons and Babcock. I don’t do Christmas, but I know it means a lot to you.”
Starsky heaved himself off the couch and stretched. “Hutch, if I really had a problem with it I woulda’ told Dobey I had other plans.”
Hutch wandered back over to the couch. “But you could have been having a nice romantic Christmas with you’re nurse friend, Suzanne, instead of spending it with me doing paperwork and busting Santa for flashing people in the mall.”
Starsky laughed. “What, and leave you to have all the fun?”
Hutch sighed. “I didn’t even get you a proper present.”
“Hey, I love my sweater.” Starsky looked down at himself while running his hands over the green and red monstrosity of a Christmas sweater. Hutch found it in the shop and thought it was the tackiest thing he had ever seen. He bought it on a whim, a joke gift for his Christmas-obsessed partner. But to his horror, Starsky loved it.
Starsky smiled at him, his hand landing on Hutch’s shoulder and squeezing. “Look, don’t worry about it, Blondie, I know ya love me. I don’t need some expensive present to prove it.” Hutch looked at him doubtfully. “Honest, I’d love anything you gave me, Hutch, because it came from you.”
Starsky patted him on the shoulder and moved towards the door. “See ya on Tuesday.”
Hutch watched as his partner left, closing the door behind him. Shoulders slumping, he walked over and threw himself down on the couch. His eyes drifted to the beautiful guitar strap his partner had given him and thought on what he really wanted to give his friend.
“Love anything I gave you, huh! I wonder what your reaction would’ve been if I told you that what I really wanted to give you for Christmas was me.”
Hutch shot to his feet, turning towards door. His stomach dropped as he saw Starsky standing in the doorway looking stunned.
“I ah, I forgot to ask you to pick me up for work Tuesday; my car’s going in for a tune up.”
Hutch swallowed. “Yeah, no problem.”
*Great, great… Um, well, I’ll see you Tuesday.” Hutch watched as his partner glanced round the apartment, eyes skirting quickly over him before he turned and left, closing the door behind him.
Hutch stood frozen, eyes locked on the door, his mind reeling. “Shit.”
What the hell was he going to do now? He knew Starsky had heard him; the look on Starsky’s face gave that away. Hutch tried to think of someway he could explain it but his mind wouldn’t co operate. He ran his hand over his face. God, could this Christmas get any worse?
He jumped when the door opened again and Starsky stepped inside closing it behind him and looked around the apartment frowning.
Hutch noted that Starsky was looking everywhere but at him and felt his stomach churn. He waited, afraid to move, afraid to speak. Slowly, Starsky looked up but Hutch noted with dismay that he still didn’t look right at him, instead focusing somewhere over Hutch’s left shoulder.
“Hutch, care to explain what you said about my present?”
Hutch could feel panic surging through him. This could be it, the end of everything. The end of the best friendship he ever had, his partnership, his career, everything, all because he got a little maudlin. Damn Christmas, and all its euphoric sentimentalism.
He had to fix this; he couldn’t lose his best friend.
“Starsk I–“ His mind froze. What could he say? There was no way to misinterpret what he had said. Taking a breath, he tried again. “Starsky, look, I know what you heard. I thought I was alone. I’m sorry, I just…. Look it’s the season; it always gets me a little down. I was….”
Starsky finally looked right at him and Hutch felt his throat dry up. The indigo eyes seemed to bore right into his soul. Hutch searched Starsky’s face, trying to get a feel on what Starsky was thinking but he couldn’t, and that unnerved him.
Starsky pushed himself away from the door and started to walk towards him. Unconsciously, Hutch started to back away as Starsky advanced.
“L-Look, can you just forget the last ten minutes? Just go home and I’ll see you Tuesday.”
Starsky shook his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hutch. See, I know you; you will tie yourself up in knots over this, then you’ll just try and bury it, but it will eat away at you. I think we should talk it out.”
Starsky stepped forward and Hutch took another a step back. “Starsky I’m s-sorry, I didn’t mean for you to find out. I just…hell, I don’t know what I was thinking.”
“Hutch, you’re babbling.”
Hutch jumped as his back collided with the wall and he realized he’d boxed himself in. He froze, holding his breath, waiting for his world to end.
Time seemed to stand still; he didn’t know what to say, how to make it right.
He jumped when Starsky’s hands landed on his upper arms. “Hutch, breathe, babe, you’re scarin’ me.”
Hutch took a shaky breath, feeling a little light headed, his lungs burning.
“That’s it, Blondie, in and out. You look as if you’re gonna pass out on me.”
Hutch relaxed a little as his friend talked; at least Starsky hadn’t taken a swing at him. But he still had to fix this and find some way to get Starsky to forget this ever happened.
“S-Starsk, I’m sorry.”
Starsky frowned. “What for?”
“F-For ruining everything.”
Starsky’s hand came up and patted his cheek. “You haven’t ruined anything, ya big lug. But babe, I am gonna need you to explain to me what‘s goin’ on in that head of yours.”
He pulled in another shaky breath. “W-What do you want to know?”
Starsky smiled, dropping his hand to Hutch’s shoulder. “Well, I guess the big one. Do you love me?”
Hutch latched onto the ambiguity. “You know I do; you’re my best…”
Starsky shook his head in disappointment. “Hutch, you know what I’m askin’. Are you IN love with me?”
Hutch considered lying but, looking into his friend’s eyes, he knew he couldn’t, not about this. Knowing his answer could end the most important relationship of his life, he felt himself start to tremble.
“Yes.” The answer came out as more of a croak than the strong definitive tone he would have liked. But his throat had closed up and his mouth was suddenly dry.
Hutch watched as a sad smile appeared on Starsky’s face. “Aww babe, how long have you felt this way?”
Hutch couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment he lost his heart to his best friend; he only knew that for a long time now, the man that was standing in front of him was everything he wanted. Knowing Starsky was waiting for an answer, he formed the best one he could.
“A few years.”
Starsky’s beloved indigo eyes widened in surprise. He let go of Hutch’s arms and stepped back. Starsky ran his hands through his hair as he turned away.
Hutch suddenly felt very cold and very alone as he watched Starsky walk away.
Starsky turned back towards him, his brows creased in confusion. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Hutch flinched at the question. “What could I say? You like girls.”
“So do you.”
Hutch smiled sadly. “Yeah, but I just happen to like you more.”
Hutch felt his stomach flip as Starsky smiled at his answer. “Well, what can I say? You have good taste.”
Hutch felt a little of the dread inside him ease at Starsky’s joke. Perhaps things would be all right. “That’s it, that’s all you have to say? You’re not mad?”
Starsky frowned. “What, did you expect me to run away, screaming?”
Hutch tried to dredge up a laugh but it came out a little strangled. “That or deck me, then ask Dobey for a new partner.”
Hutch noticed that Starsky looked a little sad at his answer.
“You can’t help who you fall in love with, Hutch. The heart wants what the heart wants.”
Hutch sagged, his head falling back against the wall, his emotions swamping him. He closed his eyes in case he disgraced himself further by crying in relief that Starsky didn’t hate him.
But would he still want him as a partner?
Hutch tried to work up the nerve to open his eyes and have that conversation.
He was about gather up the courage when he felt Starsky’s hands on his shirt front.
His eyes shot open and he looked down as his partner started to undo the top button. “Starsky?”
“Yeah?” His hands popped the button and moved down to the next.
Hutch felt he should be reacting in some way, but he just watched transfixed as Starsky’s agile fingers worked at the next button. “What are you doing?”
Another button popped and Starsky’s clever fingers slid down to the next. “I’m unwrapping my present.”
Hutch’s eyes shot up to lock with his partner’s. He looked for some sign of a joke or that Starsky was making fun of him, but all he could see was Starsky regarding him fondly.
“Don’t tell me you finally got me something I really want for Christmas, and you’re gonna be an Indian giver an’ take it back?”
Hutch looked at his partner in confusion, his mind latching onto one word. “Want?”
Starsky’s smile widened. “What? You think you’re the only one that’s in love here?”
Hutch’s brain was still trying to catch up. “Love?”
Starsky’s eyes twinkled in delight. “I think I broke you! You think you can manage more than one word?”
Hutch was still trying to comprehend the turn in events. “You love me?”
Starsky laughed. “You know, partner, you’re not normally this slow on the uptake.”
Hutch could hear his blood pounding in his ears. This could not be happening. Starsky could not be meaning what he thought. “But…”
“Babe, you’re not the only one that was scared.”
Starsky suddenly looked a little haunted. “I realized it a few months back after you almost died from the plague. I just didn’t know what to do about it.” Starsky smiled at him. “Quite the pair, ain’t we?”
Hutch huffed, suddenly feeling wrung out. “Yeah.”
Starsky tugged at his shirt to get his attention.
“Hutch, can I open my present now?” He looked down at the fingers still paused on the last button of the shirt, then back up into his partner’s eyes.
Unable to get his throat to work, he nodded. His legs nearly gave way at the blinding smile that broke out across Starsky’s face. He sagged as Starsky’s dark blue eyes released him and lowered to concentrate on the last remaining button.
Hutch’s emotions were running haywire: confusion, hope, desire, and fear all churning inside him. He wondered if he was hallucinating, because none of scenarios he had considered, when thinking of telling Starsky how he felt about him, involved Starsky saying he felt the same way, then undressing him.
He watched Starsky’s fingers pop the last button then pull Hutch’s shirt open. Hutch shuddered as Starsky’s warm hands came in contact with his skin, sliding up his stomach until fingertips brushed across his nipples. He couldn’t help the moan that escaped him at the feel of his partner’s strong hands on him. If he was hallucinating, he didn’t want to wake up.
Hutch could feel the blush stealing over him at the reverently whispered word. “S-Starsk?”
They both looked up and Hutch’s breath caught at the look of love and desire in Starsky’s eyes. Swallowing, he tried again.
“Starsk I think…”
He never got to finish his sentence as Starsky leaned in and captured Hutch’s lips in a kiss that took his breath away.
He stood in shock as Starsky leaned back, smiling.
“You think too much, babe. Me, I’m more of an action kinda’ guy, so I figure I’ll just show you how much I love you.”
He felt Starsky take his hand and tug him forward as Starsky walked backward towards the bedroom.
Hutch felt powerless to resist. “Starsk?”
“Are you sure about this?”
Starsky stopped and smiled. “Hutch, I have never been more sure of anything in my life. You’re the best Christmas present I’ve ever received and I intend to enjoy every inch of you.”
Starsky tugged Hutch back into motion. “Come on, Blondie, I still have to unwrap the rest of you.”
Hutch helplessly followed his new lover, thinking that this might be the best Christmas ever.