"I need food, a shower, and some quality time with Amelia--in that order," Hutch said through a yawn, shedding his jacket, gun, and holster with absent movements that spoke of habit.
"Amelia?" Starsky took charge of Hutch's gun and holster, and hung them with his own. Handling the physical proof of their profession, he remembered how some of the students in class had gaped at the bulges that showed too well through his and Hutch's light jackets. Their shift had kept them busy, and they had arrived on campus with just seconds to spare before the beginning of class. Both men declined wasting even the time required to lock their guns in the Torino's trunk.
"Amelia?" Starsky asked again, because Hutch hadn't responded.
Hutch yawned. "The maidenhair that's been trying to go sickly on me."
Starsky smiled. A fern. Hutch needed quality time with a fern. Well, that was one of the things about his partner he had always found endearing. Unfortunately for Amelia, Starsky had other plans involving his gorgeous fern-specialist. He would allow Hutch the food and shower--especially the shower--but after that, he didn't intend to share his blond with a plant, even a maiden in distress.
Urging Hutch onto the sofa with a promising kiss, Starsky ruffled his partner's hair and dashed into the kitchen before Hutch could retaliate. He set the table with all the edible leftovers he could find and yelled for Hutch like a chuck-wagon chef in a Western film. Hutch grinned and sat down at the table, but he didn't let Starsky take his own seat. Instead, Hutch grabbed him around the waist and pulled him into his lap.
"Hey!" Starsky protested. "Your legs won't thank you, goof."
"You think I care?" Hutch laughed. "Feeling your one-of-a-kind ass nestled against my groin like it belongs there--I've been needing this all day. You have a problem with it?"
Starsky wiggled back for firmer contact and made sounds of approval low in his throat. "You make one helluva chair, Blondie, especially the part of you that's getting harder and bigger by the second."
By the time they finished shoveling down the food, neither man wanted to spend time clearing the table. They left the mess for later and nearly tore a strip from the floor on a dead run for the bathroom and a shared shower. The noises that filtered through the closed bathroom door were comical--bangs and laughing curses, as clothing removal and lust combined with too small enclosed space; smacking kisses that transformed to yelps and shouts, when the water failed to turn warm as quickly as expected; and finally the moans and teasing of foreplay and bathing. Comedy yielded to passion. Someone listening at the door would have known from the panting and husky sexual commentary that Hutch was doing whatever he pleased with his partner's "one-of-a-kind" ass.
The lovers emerged wearing robes and sappy smiles. Hutch pulled Starsky close, delivered a grateful and deep kiss, and released the starry-eyed dark-haired man after a slurpy smack of lips on his forehead. Starsky rubbed his mouth and breathed deeply, watching Hutch head for the greenhouse. Shaking his still damp hair, Starsky tried to separate his brains and hormones. It was time for action of a different sort, and he had to snag Hutch's attention before he became absorbed in Amelia.
Hutch was already absorbed, mixing a delicate healing potion of liquid plant food, minerals, and distilled water in a watering can and humming softly. Amelia waited patiently on her shelf, droopy and in definite need of loving care.
The shout startled Hutch, and he dropped the watering can. "Dammit, Starsky!"
"Sorry," Starsky said, appearing behind him and wrapping his arms around the amateur botanist's waist. "I need you in the kitchen."
Hutch pulled away from the cuddling arms and bent to retrieve the watering can. "Now? I need to work on Amelia while I have a chance, Starsk." He held up the empty watering can and frowned. "That was the last of the plant food, too."
"Well, then you'll have to wait until you get some more, right? So you can come on into the kitchen."
"Funny how you always get your way," Hutch grumped. He tidied his work area, pointedly ignoring Starsky's fidgeting in the background, and whispered a few soothing words to the suffering fern.
He had never been able to deny that wheedling voice. Hutch sighed at his lack of willpower and followed Starsky to the kitchen to discover that his partner had cleaned the table. The half-eaten leftovers and dirty plates had been replaced by two glasses of wine, a tape recorder, and Starsky's copy of Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons," the text they had discussed in class just a couple of hours ago.
"What is this?" Hutch demanded shortly, still concerned about his troubled fern.
"Siddown," Starsky ordered, grinning. He softened the order with a tongue-tip kiss against Hutch's neck, directly on the sensitive spot beneath the right earlobe, and Hutch quivered on cue.
Dropping into the chair, Hutch absently fingered the kiss-tingling skin and wanted to be angry at his instinctive response to Starsky, but he couldn't even manage indignation at the curly-haired tempter seated just inches from him and fiddling with the tape recorder.
Hutch sipped his wine and watched Starsky flip through "A Man for All Seasons." Starsky had been especially vocal in class tonight, no doubt buoyed by his solid B+ on what had been a demanding "Measure for Measure" paper topic. Instead of shoving his paper into his notebook as he had last week with the disappointing C on the "Antigone" assignment, Starsky had left this paper sitting proudly beside his class text throughout the entire discussion on Thomas More, Henry the VIII, and the battle between absolute power in England and the Church in Rome.
"Starsky, we just spent over two hours discussing that book. Aren't you ready to give it a rest? What's with the tape recorder?"
"I'm interviewing you, but I have to get my questions in order. Drink your wine and relax."
"Yeah," Starsky said. "For the final paper."
"Oh." Hutch's brow furrowed, as he tried to figure out his partner's intention. Last week, before their "Measure for Measure" discussion got underway, Garner had outlined the requirements for their final paper--an interview project. "If you're using Thomas More as one of your subjects, I think Garner's intention is that you find a modern-day lawyer to interview."
"That's the spirit of the assignment," Starsky argued, "not the letter of the law. 'Sides, I don't know a single lawyer in Bay City I want to share air space with, long enough for an interview like this."
But why did Starsky want to interview him? Hutch swallowed the sip of wine that had lingered forgotten on his tongue, and decided to ask rather than wait for explanations.
"Why do you want to interview me, and why now? The paper isn't due until December, you know."
Starsky looked up and smiled. "I'm getting a head start on the project. I want to do this part while the book's still fresh in my mind, and you're my Sir Thomas More."
Hutch choked on the wine and set down his glass with a splash that almost spilled over onto the table. "Starsk, I--" He took refuge in cynicism. "I'm not sure I like that comparison. For one thing, in More's time, the real Sir Thomas might well have had a mile wide anti-Semitic streak."
Starsky blinked. "The book didn't say anything about that."
Hutch dismissed the book with a backhanded wave. "Ah, of course not. More is Bolt's protagonist; he's not going to insinuate that Sir Thomas might have--"
"We're supposed to be basing our comparisons on the text." Starsky picked up the book and wagged it. "This is the More I'm interested in, and you're him."
"Starsky, More was canonized as a Catholic saint, a martyr for the faith. I'm sure as hell no saint."
"Hutch!" Starsky sounded on the verge of irritable. "I don't see him as some saint. I see him as a damned incredible guy, and a lot of the things that made him incredible make you just as special…like idealism, dignity, class, courage, and intelligence, if you need a list. Why're you having such a problem with this?"
Hutch squirmed in his seat. How could he express the truth? Besides a twinge of embarrassment, Hutch felt overwhelmed. How could he tell Starsky that the adoration shining in those deep blue eyes humbled him, filled him with a sense that he'd never live up to the image Starsky had of him. Hutch would never have believed that this comparison with a sixteenth-century martyr could leave him so shaken. Perhaps it was because he himself stood in awe of Bolt's More, who was perhaps an idealized version of the real Sir Thomas, but still…. Starsky had said it was Bolt's More that reminded him of Hutch. The Thomas More of "A Man for All Seasons" epitomized love, zest for life, humor, wit, courage, humanism, and devotion to integrity.
Me and Hutch don't make deals. Hutch could still hear those words in Starsky's inimitable voice.
Neither had Thomas More, and he'd paid for it with his head.
"All right," Hutch said in a hushed voice. "Fire away."
"All right," Starsky replied, grinning to the point of showing all his teeth. "You read the text, so I don't need to give you background. I'll just start with the questions." He pressed the record button on the machine and cleared his throat. "What do you admire most about Thomas More?"
Hutch smiled. "His humanity. If you read between the lines in his relationship with his wife, More was a passionate lover. He loved his career and was good at it. He had friends and knew how to entertain them. He wanted his daughter to be more than just a pretty face--amazing, considering this was pre-Elizabethan England."
Starsky had been sipping his wine during Hutch's answer. He put down the glass and said, "What do you not like about him?"
Hutch rubbed his eyes and took another swallow from his own glass. "I understand why More felt the need to sacrifice his life for principle, but I'm not sure he gave enough thought to what his death would do to his family. Not just their grief, but also the danger they might be in, especially during those times. I think in the end, he became more concerned with his duty to God than the lives of the people he cared about. I have a hard time with that. But then, I've never felt I have a contract with God, so I can't relate to More in that capacity."
Starsky nodded. "Garner talked tonight about 'core belief' and how More knew what his core beliefs were. What are yours? What do you believe in that much?"
Hutch reached across the table and clasped Starsky's hand. "Our partnership, but then you know that."
He smiled. Starsky could pack ten thousand meanings into the way he said "Hutch." Right now the student was reminding his interviewee that this was a class project. Still, Hutch didn't release the hand his fingers caressed.
"I think I like what you said in our very first class session--about protecting the innocent," Hutch said, obediently backing away from more personal, private beliefs that couldn't be included in Starsky's paper. "I don't think I can say 'justice' anymore, because my idea of justice doesn't always match the legal system's. But I know I believe in strapping on that holster if it means that lives will be saved. When we pull a rapist off the street or put a child-killer behind bars, when we convince a kid to get off the street and go back to school--yeah, hell, that's what I believe in. That's my religion."
"Anything else?" Starsky's eyes gleamed sapphire as if backlit by a candle. Hutch knew three bottles of the potent red wine couldn't intoxicate him the way Starsky's eyes did when they probed past his barriers and searched his heart. In an instant, Hutch forgot the Law and Lit course, the class project, and Starsky's silent request to stick to answers he could use.
"You. My love for you," Hutch whispered. "I believe in those two constants more than anything else in life."
Starsky clicked the stop button. His smile was tender, but his voice scolding, "Hutch, you know I can't put that in my paper no matter how much I want to."
"I know, but you don't have to turn in your interview tape. You can use a different tape for your other interviews. Now, push that record button because I'm not through."
Shaking his head, Starsky lifted Hutch's hand to his lips and then released it. "You know it's not safe to have stuff like this on tape."
Hutch couldn't restrain a rush of anger. "Oh, come on! More could give his life for a belief, but I'm not supposed to risk my damn job on the slim chance that somebody would find this tape and actually listen to it? Where's my fearless Starsky?"
"Am I Thomas More or not? Don't ask me to live up to that standard and then keep me from doing it…even with something this simple."
Starsky turned his eyes from the determined soft blue stare. He traced patterns in the moisture on his wine glass and tried to ignore the pounding in his chest. Maybe he should have let Hutch carry out his rescue plans with Amelia. Damn his tendency to give in to impulse, Starsky condemned himself. All during the class discussion, he had been reminded that he saw Thomas More's equal in his partner every day of the week. It had seemed a given that he should interview Hutch for his paper.
He opened the class text to a quote that prefaced the play. Robert Whittinton, More's contemporary, had said of Sir Thomas:
More is a man of an angel's wit and singular learning; I know not his fellow. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness, and affability? And as time requireth a man of marvelous mirth and pastimes; and sometimes of as sad gravity: a man for all seasons.
If that weren't Hutch, Starsky would drink desiccated liver shakes for a month.
Hutch--the White Knight, his guardian angel, protector of the weak and needy, gifted with an intellect he didn't show off, sometimes concealing his education in a vernacular that sounded more farm boy than Renaissance man.
Gentleness? Starsky smiled. He would never forget Hutch pleading with deaf Larry not to cry when he brought him in on shoplifting candy bars. Though five years in the past, that moment remained vivid and strong as a memory.
Lowliness and affability? Hutch would be at home in the centers of wealth and prestige, but he had chosen a simple life and got along best with the everyday people who populated his inner city world.
Hutch had the range of emotion, too. At the most surprising times, he could get downright silly, or he could be deadly serious--and grave--like yesterday, when he had shed silent tears at The Angel's funeral. He could be stoic, happy, vulnerable, and any emotion in between.
Hutch was a man for all seasons, all right.
But with talk of Thomas More inevitably came talk of death.
Starsky shuddered. He knew what lay behind Hutch's desire to record the words. The shadow of losing Hutch to the dangers of their job hung over the room. His tenderhearted partner obviously hoped the tape would be a source of consolation in the event that he did have to give his life for his core belief in protecting the innocent.
Realizing that he'd been lost in thought, Starsky shrugged free of the gloom and turned on the record function. "Knock yourself out," he said gruffly.
In a flood of words with only the occasional, faintest stutter, Hutch poured out his heart. Starsky wanted to concentrate on the words, but he couldn't. Mesmerized by Hutch's earnest expression, the movement of his lips, the spell of his voice, Starsky knew he was experiencing a miracle. He was seeing raw emotion, hearing it slip past his ears, seep through his skin, fill the air with the scent of love. The flavor of the wine on his tongue gave way to the taste of Hutch's mouth and skin.
Starsky shook himself. Hutch had already stopped the recorder. Reaching for the record button, Starsky fully intended to try giving Hutch the same precious gift he'd just received, but Hutch clasped his hand and drew it away. "I--" Starsky began, unsure what to say.
As usual, Hutch read his mind. "You don't have to say anything. I'll interview you some other time. Come here."
Starsky left his seat and bent over Hutch, encircling his partner with an iron grip and burying his face in Hutch's hair. He kissed down to Hutch's cheek and slid his mouth over for an insistent, open-mouthed union. "Not through asking you questions for the paper," he mumbled against Hutch's lips.
The mouth beneath his curved into a smile. "Can we put that aside for a while? I want to do some exploring south of the equator." Hutch's large hand crept beneath Starsky's robe in a strategic location to emphasize the desire.
Laughing, Starsky pressed against the roving hand. "Yeah, but, after this interview, I'm kinda scared you'll think I'm pretending you're someone else."
Hutch frowned, clearly confused. "Huh? What do you mean?"
"Aw, you know what I tend to do when you put those world-class lips of yours around my cock." Starsky winked.
Scratching the bridge of his nose with his free hand, Hutch shook his head. "Remind me-- I'm not following you."
Starsky threw back his head and shouted, "More, more, more!"
Hutch burst out laughing. "Don't tell me all this time I've been competing with the ghost of a sixteenth-century lawyer. A lawyer, Starsky, where's your shame?"
Grinning, Starsky took Hutch's hand from its exploration of private secrets and licked a trail of moisture across the palm. "I have no shame, Blondie, want me to show you?"
Hutch shivered. "Yeah, come to bed, my lewd scholar-clown."
Pulling Hutch by the hand toward the sleeping alcove, Starsky reflected that his relationship with Hutch mirrored Whittinton's view of More as well. Gentle, down-to-earth, full of life, love and lust, exhibiting everything from humor to the most solemn emotion….
They had a love for all seasons.
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