When you’re on a date with a beautiful blonde and she says you remind her of her brother, your chances of going out with her again aren’t very good.
“Your brother, huh?” Starsky sat back, increasing the distance between Deputy District Attorney Maggie Wiseman and him. “Terrific.”
The night had started well enough, with dinner at a new Greek restaurant he’d been bugging Hutch to try with him. While Starsky was taking care of the check, Maggie had suggested they go back to her place so they could “have some privacy.”
It wasn’t for the reason he’d thought she’d meant, but at least she’d spared him the humiliation of being dumped in public.
“Oh, he is,” Maggie said from the flower-patterned upholstered chair she was curled up in. “My brother. Sam. He’s terrific. Like you.”
“Uh, thanks. I think.” He raised his arms and stretched theatrically. “Look. It’s getting late, so I—”
“No!” She untucked her legs from beneath her and held out her right hand, palm toward him. “No. Please. There’s something I should—uh, something I want to talk to you about.”
Starsky cocked an eyebrow. “About how I remind you of your brother?”
“Well, yes.” She rested her elbows on her knees and clasped her fingers together. “From the day we met in your captain’s office, there was something… comfortable about you. Familiar.”
“It wasn’t until we were on our first date that I had an inkling of what that was. But now, after tonight, I’m sure.”
He folded his arms over his chest and, annoyed but curious, gave her a slight nod.
Maggie looked down at the rich brown shag carpet for a few beats. When her head came back up, the warmth and kindness of her expression had Starsky thinking that her brother must have a severe learning disorder or something.
“Dave,” she said softly, “this is only our second date, so it’s not like I should know every little thing about you. But what I didn’t expect was that I’d know so much about Hutch.”
“Huh? What’s Hutch got to do with anything?”
“I’m getting there. Do you realize that you talk about him all the time?”
Starsky wiped his hands on his chinos. “No. Because I don’t.”
Maggie started counting on her fingers. “He grew up in Minnesota. Duluth. He went to college. He goes for a run nearly every day. He plays guitar. He’s a good singer. He’s not much of a dancer. He—”
“So what? So what if his name comes up in the conversation a few times?”
“A few times?” She sat up straight and fixed her gaze on him. “‘Hutch has had a rough year,’” she said, affecting a lower octave. “‘He was accused of murdering his second ex-wife, Vanessa, in his apartment, so I want to get him something really special for Christmas even though he thinks Christmas has gotten too commercial and—’”
“Okay! Okay! You’ve made your damned point.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I’d have thought someone in your line of work—someone who spends so much time around cops—would understand how close partners can be.”
Maggie bobbed her head. “I’ve also spent a lot of time around gay men, especially since my brother came out of the closet, so—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” He waved his hands frantically. “I’m not—”
“When Sam was a teenager,” Maggie plowed on, “he had a best friend named Jason, and it was always ‘Jason this’ and ‘Jason that.’ He also dated girls, but he rarely talked about them. And when he did, it was never with the same kind of warmth and passion he used when he talked about Jason. He didn’t tell me he was gay until he was in his twenties, but I’d already figured it out by then.”
Starsky jumped to his feet. “You got me all wrong, lady. Dead wrong.”
She remained seated and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t think so.”
“You’re crazy. You know that?”
Now she stood. “If you’re afraid to tell Hutch how you feel, don’t be. I’d bet anything that he’s just as love struck—and scared to death about it—as you are.”
“All right.” Starsky threw up his hands. “That’s enough.”
But Maggie persisted despite the fact that her guest was bolting for the front door. “When I met you at work the other night for our date, I thought that maybe he didn’t like me—didn’t think I was right for you—because of the way he wished us a good night. The way he was smiling at you. It just didn’t seem genuine. Then, you held the door open for me, but something—I have no idea what—but something made me look over my shoulder at him, maybe to see if he was glaring at me. I know; call me paranoid. But I may as well have been invisible. He was completely focused on you, and he looked so sad and miserable. Just how Sam used to look whenever Jason was with a girlfriend.”
Starsky didn’t understand why he was still in Maggie’s apartment. He flinched when he felt a light touch on his arm but remained rooted to the floor.
“Dave.” She swallowed. “I’ve seen how difficult it is for two men who want to be together. Especially for nice Jewish men whose families expect them to marry nice Jewish girls and have lots of kids. And if you’re a cop, too? Oy vey, as my mother would say.”
Starsky managed to get his feet moving again and reached for the doorknob.
“Want to give him the best Christmas present ever?” Maggie asked. “Tell him how you really feel about him. Sure, you’ll have to be extremely careful at work, and maybe go on some fake dates with women, but it’ll be worth it. Don’t you think?”
“I—You—Dammit! We’re done here. ’Bye, Maggie.”
Starsky’s hands were shaking, and no matter how hard he gripped the Torino’s steering wheel, they shook all the way home. And while he kept trying to tell himself it was because he was furious with Maggie, even he didn’t believe it.
It was the kind of Sunday morning Starsky normally loved, but he was too anxious to appreciate how spring-like it felt this late in December.
He’d parked in front of Venice Place and was leaning against the driver’s side door, arms and ankles crossed. Three times he’d started the short walk to Hutch’s, and three times he’d retreated to the safety of his car. Attempt number four was about to get underway when Hutch came into view. He slowed his pace from a jog to a walk and, for no obvious reason, began scanning his surroundings before spotting Starsky.
“Starsk!” he called, loping over to his partner. “What are you doing up so early on a Sunday?”
Hutch was wearing abbreviated running shorts that emphasized how long and muscular his legs were, and Starsky found himself wondering if they were the kind that had built-in underwear. “Uh… what’d you say?”
“Didn’t you have a date with Maggie Wiseman last night?” Latching on to Starsky’s shoulder, Hutch grabbed his right ankle to stretch his quads.
Starsky blinked a couple of times. “Uh, yup.”
“I’m thinking it didn’t go so well.”
“She’s not my type, apparently,” Starsky said, fighting the temptation to look down and check out those damned tiny shorts again.
Hutch sniggered. “Smart?”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
“Hey, pal.” Hutch’s grin vanished and he squeezed Starsky’s shoulder. “Let’s go inside. Have you had breakfast? I’ll make you breakfast.”
Starsky made a face. “Just coffee, thanks.”
Once inside the apartment, Starsky followed Hutch’s every action with new eyes, from wiping his face and neck with a towel to padding off to the kitchen. And he liked what he saw—so much so that he high-tailed it to the window and pretended to be interested in the scenery. By the time he heard Hutch approach from behind, he’d managed to regain some semblance of control over his stupid body.
“Here,” Hutch said, wrapping an arm around Starsky. “Drink this.”
Mumbling his appreciation, Starsky turned around and accepted the offering. “Hey! I thought you were making coffee.”
Hutch punched his arm playfully. “And how long do you think that takes, mushbrain? Ten seconds?”
“Oh. Right. Uh, cheers,” Starsky said, clinking his glass of water against Hutch’s.
One of Hutch’s eyebrows rose. “Okay. Cheers,” he echoed, then started drinking. And although it was something Starsky’d seen him do a million times, he was unexpectedly fascinated with the movement of Hutch’s throat. The way his Adam’s apple bobbed. How elegant his neck was.
“I said, why are you looking at me like that?”
“Like I have two heads.” Hutch squinted. “Are you okay? You’re a bit pale. You coming down with something?”
“I’m fine.” Starsky began gulping down his water, hoping Hutch’s detective skills were temporarily on hold.
“Babe,” Hutch said, removing Starsky’s glass from his shaking hand and setting it aside. “You’re going to break a tooth. What’s wrong? And don’t tell me it’s nothing.”
Starsky groaned inwardly as Hutch felt his forehead, first with his palm, then with his own brow.
“You’re warm but not feverish. Did something happen last?” He started taking Starsky’s pulse. “Could it be food poisoning? Because surely you can’t be that upset that things didn’t work out with Maggie…”
“I’m not. And don’t call me Shirley.”
Dr. Hutchinson, evidently unable to provide a diagnosis, released his patient. “Okay. Did she say anything, uh, insulting? Hurtful? She is a lawyer, after all.”
Starsky shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and spoke to a spot directly under Hutch’s chin. “Did you—are you glad I won’t be seeing her again?”
“Glad? No.” Hutch gripped him by the biceps. “Why would I be glad about that? She seemed to make you happy, and that’s what I want. For you to be happy.”
“You really care about me, don’t you?” Starsky asked quietly.
That produced an eye roll of epic proportions. “Of course I care about you, dummy. Of all the people in the world, you’re the one I care about most of all.”
“Good.” And before he could chicken out, Starsky leaned in and pressed his lips to Hutch’s.
When he pulled back to assess the reaction to the kiss, Hutch was staring at him with mouth agape and bulging baby blues.
“I—oh, shit.” Starsky started backing up. “Look, I got some terrible advice and I’m—I’m—Just forget this ever happened, okay? I gotta go.”
But Hutch grabbed him before he could escape. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you’re not going anywhere. You can’t just kiss and run.”
“Why not?” Starsky made a half-hearted effort to break free. “It’s not like you enjoyed it or anything.”
“Oh, Starsk,” Hutch chided gently. He pulled Starsky in tight, buried his fingers in the dark curls, and gave Starsky a long, slow, deep kiss that was returned eagerly.
“I think you enjoyed that one,” Starsky panted.
“Oh, yes,” said Hutch as he pushed Starsky’s windbreaker off his shoulders. “But who told you that should kiss me? It couldn’t have been Maggie…”
“I don’t get it.” Now he was working on the buttons of Starsky’s shirt. “How did she know—?”
Starsky touched his index finger to Hutch’s mouth. “This is Starsky’s new rule: talk a little, kiss a lot.”
That Monday, a dozen white roses were delivered to the office of Deputy District Attorney Maggie Wiseman.
“Thanks for Saturday night,” the note attached read. “Hutch loved his early Xmas present. Happy Hanukkah. XOXO, Dave.”