They had a delicious Christmas Eve dinner of popcorn and eggnog, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on TV and then opening all their packages from everyone at the station. Arturo had given them a plant, and Lizzie a butterfly sun catcher to hang in a window. And Captain Dobey had given them ties--a yellow and brown one for Hutch, and a red and blue one for Starsky. "Edith probably picked 'em out," Starsky said. "But where are we gonna wear 'em?"
"I guess we'll have to go to one of those restaurants where you have to wear ties," Hutch teased.
"Yeah. Hey, I wonder how everybody'll like our presents."
"I guess we'll find out on Monday," Hutch said. "Hopefully they'll like our gifts as much as we liked theirs."
Funny, he thought then, how they no longer used the words "me" and "my" anymore, but almost always "we" and "our." He wondered when that had happened.
Years ago, probably.
At bedtime, Hutch walked upstairs and found Starsky already in bed waiting for him. When he climbed in, Starsky pulled him into his arms and kissed him, and Hutch kissed back, tasting cinnamon toothpaste and essence of Starsky.
"Jeez, listen to the rain," Starsky whispered. "It's really comin' down. I'm glad we don't have to go anywhere tomorrow."
"Starsky...you're lying in bed here with me."
"So, can we skip the weather report?"
Starsky grinned. "You don't think the weather's romantic? I think the sound of rain falling on our roof is kinda sexy."
"Yeah. As long as the roof doesn't leak."
Starsky ignored that. "Hey, Hutch?"
"Let's celebrate Christmas Eve by doin' something we've never done before. I mean, in bed. You want to?"
"Starsk, I don't think there's anything we've never done before--oh, wait, yes, there is. We could go to sleep without making love. You want to do that?"
"No, I don't, smartass. C'mon, there must be something we haven't done. Let's try and think of it."
Hutch tried, but he couldn't. They'd tried bondage, they'd tried sex toys, they'd done every position in The Joy of Gay Sex at least once.
"I know," Starsky said. "We could pretend we're Butch and Sundance."
Hutch snorted. "Come on, Starsk. You really think Butch and Sundance got it on? Those two macho guys?"
"Hey, we're pretty macho, too, y'know. And c'mon, they were all alone after Etta left them, in a foreign country where they didn't even speak the language--what else could they do?"
Hutch decided, once again, that arguing with Starsky was a futile endeavor. "Well, whether they did or didn't, I don't feel like pretending to be Butch and Sundance."
"Okay," Starsky said agreeably. "How about Kirk and Spock?"
"Kirk and Spock?" Hutch pulled back to stare at his partner in the semi-dark. "That is really sick, Starsky."
"Ah, c'mon, Hutch. They were best friends, working together in space, no wives or girlfriends--it'd make sense they'd get together, wouldn't it? You have to admit they loved each other. Besides, there was pon farr."
"Pon farr, dummy. That's when a Vulcan male goes into heat and has to have sex or he'll die. Jeez, Hutch, didn't you ever watch the show? It's only on about twenty times a day."
"I've seen it, Starsk. I just don't recall ever seeing Kirk and Spock in a clinch, that's all. Sorry."
"You have no imagination. Pretty sad. Okay, no Kirk and Spock. Who d'you wanna be? And don't say anybody stupid, either, like Gilligan and the Skipper."
Hutch sighed, reluctantly coming to the conclusion that if he was going to get laid tonight, he was going to have to go along with what Starsky wanted. Again.
"Okay, okay, we can be Kirk and Spock," he capitulated. "But who's who?"
"Since I picked the couple, you can pick which one you want to be," Starsky said generously. "I guess you'll want Kirk, though, since you told me once you dreamed of bein' a captain back when you were a Sea Scout, right?"
Shit, Starsky remembered everything. "The captain of a ship is a little different from the captain of a starship, Starsk. No, I think I'd rather be Spock--when he's in pon farr." He felt as if he were in something a lot like pon farr at that moment.
"Okay. Spock in pon farr. That's good," Starsky said approvingly. "That'll be really fun."
"Yeah, a blast," Hutch said. "But just remember, Starsky, my life is in your hands."
"You're safe with me, ya big blond Vulcan beauty. Okay, I'll get up and go out, and come back in--"
"What? Why do you have to do that?" Hutch was eager to get with the program.
"So we can both get into our characters, of course," Starsky said reasonably. "Now shut up while I go out and come back in."
He got out of bed and walked into the bathroom, and Hutch stared up at the ceiling, counting to ten. He loved Starsky, but there were times when he drove him nuts. He had to admit, though, Starsky was never boring. He really had to admit that.
Starsky came back into the bedroom, wearing a bathrobe. He sat down on the bed with a worried frown. "Spock, are you all right? You looked a little sick on the bridge earlier."
Oh, shit, Hutch thought. How the hell was he supposed to do this? Well, he could pretend he was undercover, he guessed. Yeah, right. An undercover Vulcan. "I seem to be experiencing some discomfort in my nether regions, Captain," he said.
Starsky just looked at him. Well, too bad if he didn't like Hutch's dialogue--all this shit had been his idea. "What kind of discomfort?" he said.
"I believe I am in pon farr--the Vulcan time when I must mate or die. I advise you to leave, Captain, before I lose control completely and attack you." Shit, he felt like a horse's ass.
"Spock, I'm not going to leave you when you're suffering. Is there anything I can do?"
Yeah, Hutch thought, you can shut up and fuck me. But somehow he stopped himself from saying the words aloud. "Lock me away," he heard himself say. "Lock me away where I cannot harm anyone. I am not to be trusted when I am in this condition."
"But if I lock you away, you'll die. I can't do that to you, Spock."
Staring up into Starsky's beautiful blue eyes, Hutch abruptly found himself unable to wait any longer. He reached up, grabbed his partner, and kissed him hard. Then he yanked him down on the bed and climbed on top of him, kissing him again, pushing off his robe.
Starsky wanted to resist. Hutch could tell he was trying to put up at least a token resistance, the way Kirk (maybe) would have if his best friend suddenly attacked him. But he couldn't. He was as excited as Hutch.
"You're mine, Captain Kirk," Hutch gloated. "All mine. Your beautiful human butt is mine."
"Dammit, Hutch! Stop talkin' and fuck me!"
So much for Kirk and Spock, Hutch thought, amused even in his excitement. He grabbed the lube and somehow managed to oil up, then pushed Starsky onto his belly and shoved his hard dick deep inside him.
"Ahhh..." Starsky whispered, half-gasp, half-moan. "Huuutchhhh...."
Hutch pushed harder, fast moving beyond words, beyond thought as he shoved deeper, deeper inside his lover, lost inside him, possessing him now and for all time.
"Mine," he mumbled. "Mine...."
It seemed like only seconds before his orgasm came, shaking him to the core. He cried out, hearing his voice as if from a distance, vaguely aware of Starsky crying out his completion, too, as if in counterpoint. Then he came to, panting against Starsky's back, gasping for breath like a man who'd almost drowned.
Shit. Had he passed out?
He trembled a little. Starsky, under him, trembled a little, too.
"Hutch," he whispered, reaching a shaky hand around, rubbing Hutch's butt. "God, that was...incredible. You did me fantastic, babe."
Hutch closed his eyes, letting the beauty of that voice wash over him. Babe. He loved that word. Starsky had called him that sometimes even before they were lovers. When he'd found Hutch after he'd been whacked out on Ben Forest's H and had just thrown up all over him. When he'd been sick as a dog from that damned plague. After Gillian had died, when they'd gotten drunk together and Starsky had put him to bed, thinking Hutch had already passed out and couldn't hear him. Babe....
"I love you," he heard himself whisper.
"I love you, too," Starsky said huskily.
A few more seconds passed before Hutch, reluctantly, pulled out, breaking their joining. Starsky gasped a little--he'd said once he'd never really liked that feeling--then lay there quietly while Hutch reached for the washcloth by the bed and cleaned them both up.
Then, for some reason, Hutch looked at the time. He smiled. "Merry Christmas, Starsky," he said.
Starsky snorted. "Merry Christmas, Hutch," he returned, giving him a hug.
Hutch closed his eyes. He didn't really feel sleepy--he felt too good to sleep--but he must have fallen asleep, because he woke up in the morning.
"Hutch? Hutch? You awake?"
"Mmmmffff," Hutch mumbled. He was unpleasantly aware of cold air on his face, also the sound of pounding rain rattling their bedroom windows. But he still didn't want to wake up.
"Babe, c'mon. There's somethin' wrong. The furnace isn't on." Starsky was standing by their bed.
Feeling disgruntled, Hutch opened his eyes. "Maybe it's not cold enough for the furnace to kick on, Starsk," he said, in what he thought was a patient, agreeable tone, considering he'd just been awakened out of a sound sleep--again.
"The hell it's not. It's like fifty in here."
Hutch felt alarm banish his irritation. "Shit," he said. Okay, this was Southern California, so they wouldn't freeze to death even if their furnace was on the blink, but the nights still got cold enough in the winter to require artificial heat. And having a furnace on the blink sounded like a major financial expense--something neither of them could afford right now.
He climbed out of bed and yanked on his bathrobe. Starsky, he noticed, had put on his red long johns and was now tugging on his bathrobe over them. Despite his worry over the furnace, Hutch found himself enjoying the view. Starsky did look so good in his red long johns.
"Maybe it's a fuse," Starsky said, apparently not noticing his partner's lascivious gaze. "Where's the fuse box?"
"You're asking me?" Hutch countered. "How the hell should I know?"
Starsky stared at him. "What d'you mean, you don't know? What kind of homeowner doesn't even know where his own fuse box is?"
"Hell, Starsk, I don't even know if we have a fuse box. And why the hell should I know where it is? This is the first house I've ever owned, remember?"
"Yeah, but you have a college degree." As always, Starsky managed to make the most ridiculous arguments and have them sound almost logical.
"Well, I never took Fuse Box 101. C'mon, let's go look at the furnace."
They went downstairs to look at the furnace, which, predictably, was not running.
"Thermostat's on sixty-five," Starsky said helpfully. "But the temperature is fifty-four."
"Meaning the furnace is busted," Hutch said.
"Brilliant deduction, Blondie. What next? The theory of relativity?"
"No, I thought I'd invent instant beer next. You have any suggestions?"
"I dunno. Who do you call when your furnace is busted?"
"Beats me. The furnace repair people?"
Starsky gave him a look that made Hutch suspect his partner was seriously reconsidering his heretofore exalted view of Hutch's intelligence. "Thanks a lot, Blondie. Should we look in the yellow pages under 'F'?"
"That wouldn't do much good today. I suspect even the furnace repair people aren't making calls on Christmas."
Starsky sighed. "Yeah, probably not. Well, let's worry about it tomorrow. Right now, I could use some hot coffee."
They walked into the kitchen. Hutch measured out some grounds into the Mr. Coffee and flicked the switch to start the coffee percolating.
"Starsk, I have some good news."
"Yeah? What is it?" Starsky was cutting some of Lila's homemade bread for toast.
"The furnace isn't broken."
Starsky shot him a look. "What? How d'you know that?"
"Because the power is out."
Starsky didn't react for a second or two. Then he reached up and flicked on the light switch. Nothing happened.
"Shit," he muttered. "Must be the storm did it, huh?" He opened the refrigerator door, but no light went on.
"Starsk, dammit, close the fridge. The food will spoil if we open it. If you leave it closed, the food should be okay for at least today, anyway."
Starsky obediently shut the door, then his eyes widened. "Food! Oh, my God, Hutch! Our Christmas dinner!" he cried. "Our Cornish game hen! And pumpkin pie! We were gonna cook both of 'em this morning, and now we can't. We won't be able to have any dinner with the power out."
Hutch also felt a rush of disappointment. He'd been really looking forward to a delicious Christmas dinner, and now, unless the power came back on in the next few hours, it was ruined. "Fuck," he said.
"Yeah. Fuck. That's a good summation of the situation, Hutch."
Hutch went to the phone.
"Who're you callin'?" Starsky wanted to know.
"Dispatch. They might have some news on when the electricity is coming back on, or how widespread it is." He finished dialing.
"Hi, Mildred, it's Ken Hutchinson. We woke up this morning without any power."
"You and about ten thousand other people in the city."
"Yeah, no kidding. Apparently, the storm brought down some power lines. Lights should be back on sometime today, though, according to Southern California Edison."
"Any problems? Do you think we need to come in?"
"Not as far as I've heard. Things are pretty quiet here, actually."
"Okay, thanks." Hutch hung up. "Good news--the power should be back on sometime today," he told Starsky. "And it looks like we won't have to go to work, either."
Starsky grunted. "Yeah, great. We don't have to go to work, but we can't have Christmas dinner. We can't watch White Christmas and Scrooge on TV. We can't play Christmas music on the stereo, or look at the lights on the Christmas tree. We couldn't even buy each other presents! What kind of Christmas is this, anyway?"
"Guess we're jinxed," Hutch said. "Hey, why don't I go light a fire in the fireplace? At least then we won't freeze to death. While I'm doing that, why don't you rustle us up some breakfast?"
"With no oven or stove? Shit, we can't even use the toaster."
"Be creative," Hutch said.
He walked into the living room and put a Duralog in the fireplace. After making sure the damper was open, he crumpled up some newspapers and laid them on top, then lit a match. The newspaper burst into bright flames, and a few seconds later, the log began to burn. The warmth felt good.
After closing the screen, he went to the couch and pushed it closer to the fire. Then he went upstairs and brought down two blankets from their bed. On impulse, he also brought down their battery-powered radio--one they kept on hand in case of an earthquake--and set it up on the coffee table. They couldn't play records, but at least they could listen to the radio. He moved the dial around until he found some Christmas music.
Starsky walked into the living room with a tray. "Breakfast comin' up," he said.
"Looks delicious," Hutch said, with only a trace of sarcasm.
"Hey, it's a masterpiece of culinary expertise, considering our situation," Starsky said, setting the tray down on the coffee table. "Behold, a meal fit for a king." He indicated each object on the tray in turn. "Coke--I figured that's almost as good as coffee, since it's got sugar and caffeine in it. Lila's whole wheat bread with strawberry jam, and peanut butter for protein. Annette Funicello says peanut butter has more protein than tuna fish, right? And, for dessert, vanilla Hagendaas ice cream. I figure we might as well eat it before it melts."
"Good thinking, Starsk. And great meal planning, too. You've got all the basic food groups--dairy, protein, fruit, grains, and caffeine." Hutch uncapped his Coke and took a swig. Okay, Coke was probably the most horrible thing you could put in your body, nutritionally speaking, but he needed his caffeine, Christmas or not.
"Wish we could light up the tree," Starsky said wistfully. "Hey, I've got an idea." He went back into the kitchen and came back within a minute with some candles. He lit each one, then set them around their Christmas tree in a half-circle. Then he stood back to survey the effect.
"Hey, Starsk, that looks great. You're a genius."
"Yeah, I know," Starsky said, as he sat back down on the couch next to his partner and pulled the blankets over them both. Hutch leaned against Starsky, enjoying his warmth as well as his presence.
They ate the ice cream first since it was already melting, not bothering with bowls, eating out of the carton with two spoons. Then they started on the peanut butter, eating that out of its container, too, washing it down with cold Coke. All the while enjoying the flickering candlelight, the snap of the log in the fireplace, and the tinny sound of Christmas carols from their battery-operated radio.
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing.
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
"The fire feels good," Starsky said.
"Yeah, it does." Hutch reached up and stroked Starsky's hair. Looking at it, he noticed not a trace of gray in the dark, curly strands. Somehow that made him happy.
Noel, noel, noel, noel,
Born is the king of Israel....
Hutch spread some jam on a slice of Lila's whole wheat bread, then held it out to Starsky, who ate it, licking his fingers.
Said the king to the people everywhere:
Listen to what I say!
Pray for peace, people everywhere.
Listen to what I say!
A child, a child, sleeping in the night,
He will bring us goodness and light....
"I was just thinking, even though we can't exchange presents that cost anything, due to our current financial state, we could exchange presents of another kind."
"You mean like me doin' the laundry when it's your turn? What you said before?"
"No. Like you said, we do stuff like that for each other anyway. But how about something like this--each of us asks the other for something he'd like him to do for him, I mean something that doesn't cost anything."
Hutch shrugged. "Like...like when we were first partnered and you complained about my smoking, said it bothered you when we were on stake-outs together. So I quit."
"Oh, yeah, that. Worst mistake I ever made," Starsky joked. "That's what got you into health food."
"Or like when you stopped wearing that stupid knit hat because I made so many comments about it."
"Hey! My mother gave me that hat."
"Yeah, I know. But your mother doesn't have to look at you all day and I do."
"Okay," Starsky said after a moment. "So what you're sayin' is, you do something for me and I do something for you. Right?"
"Right. And that could be our gifts to each other."
"Great," Starsky said, and grinned. "Except I can't think of anything I'd want you to do for me, Hutch. I mean, now that you stopped smoking, you're perfect."
"Well, maybe you can think of something if you put your mind to it," Hutch teased.
"Yeah, maybe. Okay, you go first while I'm thinking. What d'you want me to do?"
Hutch hesitated. He wasn't pretending he didn't have anything in mind, because he did. He just wasn't sure how to ask. And Starsky, looking at him gravely, seemed to read his mind.
"Go ahead, Hutch. Ask me."
"You look like you know what I'm going to say," Hutch said.
"Yeah, I do." Starsky sounded resigned. "And it's okay. I mean, I'm willing to try it. If you'll help me. Just don't laugh if I puke, okay?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You're gonna ask me to go vegetarian, aren't you? Give up pizza and chili and eat grass for the rest of my life." Starsky sounded as if he were talking about the worst tragedy imaginable. "But, hell, if it means that much to you, I'm willing to try."
Hutch was touched. In fact, for a second or two, he felt a lump in his throat. "Ah, Starsk," he said softly. "That's so...that's so great of you, you know? But no, I'm not going to ask that. I mean, becoming a vegetarian is a decision an individual has to make for himself. I can't force you into it."
"No?" Starsky looked visibly relieved. "Okay, what is it, then? And don't tell me you're not thinking of something. I know the wheels are turnin' in that big blond brain of yours."
Hutch tried to smile. "I was just going to ask...if...if you would try to take a little better care of yourself," he said.
"Well, you know we're going to both turn forty next year. Okay, that's not old these days, but we're not kids anymore, either. And I'd really like it if you'd...you know...try to develop a few more healthy habits. Maybe have some healthy meals with me once in a while, cut down on the visits to Taco Bell and McDonalds, cut down on the junk food and start eating more fruit and vegetables. And...and maybe you could start going jogging with me. We used to jog together at least two or three times a week, but we kind of got out of the habit. I'd like it if we could do it again. If, you know, you would," he added self-consciously.
"Hey, Hutch." Starsky squeezed his thigh. "That sounds great. And, yeah, I'd like to do that, too. Go jogging with you again. And I'll try to eat better. Maybe not a lot. I mean, if there's nothin' around to eat but a corn dog, I'll eat the corn dog. But I'll give it a shot."
"Yeah? Really? You will?"
"Yeah, you dumb galoot, I really will." Starsky smiled. "How's that? You like your present?"
"I love it," Hutch said honestly. "It's the best present you could give me."
"Great. Anyway...it's my turn now, right? For you to give me my present."
"Yeah," Hutch said. He had a sinking feeling he knew what Starsky was going to ask for--that Hutch give up his beloved car and buy some horrible piece of "sculpture" from Merle the Earl. But hell, if it meant that much to Starsky, he'd do it or break his neck trying. "Go ahead," he said, inwardly bracing himself. "What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to marry me."
Hutch found himself staring at him. "What? What do you mean?"
"I want us to be married." Starsky was serious.
"Starsky, we've been living together for a year now. We sleep together every night, we work together every day. How much more committed can we be?"
"I know. But I'm talking about something more than that." Starsky's eyes were still holding his. "You keep thinking you're gonna lose me, that one day I'm gonna disappear--or die. And I told you that I'm scared, sometimes, of losin' you, too. But I was thinking if we were married, maybe both of us would feel a little more like we'd never lose each other. Like we'd be together forever."
"We are going to be together forever."
"I know," Starsky said impatiently, as if that should be obvious. "But, I mean, maybe if we got married, we would really feel it. Both of us."
"You mean...you're talking about us actually getting married? Like going to Canada?" Hutch was incredulous, but he had to admit, a little intrigued as well. "Or go to Van Nuys to that gay Episcopal priest that I hear performs weddings for anyone who asks him, even if they're the same sex?"
"No, no, that's not necessary," Starsky said. "I don't think we need other people to say the words, or for friends and family to witness it, or have a cake or anything. We can just say the words to each other and be just as married."
"Like a private ceremony," Hutch said.
"Yeah, basically." Starsky looked a little embarrassed now. "Does that sound stupid?"
"It doesn't sound stupid at all. Do you want to wear rings?"
"Well, I guess that wouldn't be very practical," Starsky said after a moment. "I mean, people would probably wonder why we were wearing 'em if we did. Maybe later, sometime, we can have rings--or something else, something to symbolize our commitment. But for right now, I think words would be enough. What d'you think?"
"Starsky, I'd be happy to commit myself to you any time, any place."
"How about right now?" Starsky asked.
"Yeah. Right now." Hutch smiled at him. "Who goes first?"
"How about alphabetical? 'H' comes before 'S'."
"Okay." He took Starsky's left hand in his right, lightly stroking the palm with a finger. "I, Ken Hutchinson, take thee, David Michael Starsky, to be my lawfully wedded partner, to love, honor, cherish, and protect him all the days of our lives, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others till death do us part."
Starsky gazed into his eyes for a long moment. Then he put a hand over Hutch's, holding Hutch's hand in both of his, and said, "I, David Michael Starsky, take Ken Hutchinson, the most gorgeous man who ever lived, to be my lawfully wedded partner, to love, honor, cherish, and protect him, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, forsaking everybody else...forever and ever."
They gazed at each other in silence for a few seconds, Hutch thinking he would be perfectly content to look into Starsky's eyes for the rest of his life.
They moved their faces together and kissed. Not a passionate kiss. After a few more seconds, they broke apart.
"Now we're really married," Hutch said. "In every way."
"In every way," Starsky said. He looked somber, but his eyes, as they gazed into Hutch's, were full of love. Not just love. Adoration.
And Hutch realized there was nothing more that needed to be said. Not really. Like many people who had loved for a long time, they had, once again, gone past the need for words.
Now it was Christmas night, and they were again curled up on the sofa in front of the fire, wrapped in their blankets, kissing once in a while. The power still hadn't come back on, but they figured it probably would sometime during the night.
"I guess we should go to bed," Starsky said, not sounding too thrilled at the idea of leaving their nice warm nest, their fire, and their candle-lit tree.
"Yeah. In a few minutes, okay?"
"Okay," Starsky said agreeably.
Hutch smiled against his partner. "You know, Starsk, in all honesty, I think I have to say this is the best Christmas I've ever had."
Starsky grinned. "Yeah, me, too. Why is that, Hutch? I mean, we couldn't give each other presents, we couldn't eat a real Christmas dinner, we couldn't watch Christmas movies... Logically, this should be the worst Christmas of all time."
Hutch gave him a squeeze. "Maybe it's just because, like you said, every year is better than the one before."
Starsky gave him a squeeze back. "Yeah," he said softly. "I think you're right."
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