(c) June 2011 by Charlotte Frost





In some part of his mind, Nicholas Starsky knew that he’d been forgiven a little too easily.  Perhaps forgiveness had come so readily, because shortly after the Frank Stryker incident, he had booked a plane back to New York.


Things had quietly started to go downhill when he’d abruptly canceled that flight, following the giddiness of teaming with his brother to successfully best Hutchinson and that Huggy Bear character at pool.  He had decided to remain in California an open-ended period of time, and get to know his own flesh and blood a little better.  But that seemed to be backfiring.


He was starting to feel that he’d overstayed his welcome. 


It wasn’t as though recent events had changed his basic principles regarding how to live the best life.  As long as one could go about living easily, why choose a difficult route?   It still irked Nick that his own brother hadn’t shown the slightest indication of being able to understand such.  David worked long days, on frustrating cases, sometimes getting shot at (and even got hit a few years back), and got paid a paltry salary.  And yet he sat as judge and jury over Nick’s cleverness at being able to live a more progressive life, which included knowing how to wheel and deal, making friends with people who were going places, and coming up with money whenever he needed to, despite having never been able to hold a steady job.


Despite all this, and he and David’s extremely diverse views on how to make it through life, he had been forgiven.  Not that he didn’t deserve forgiveness, but he hoped David didn’t think he’d changed, just because his older brother had, all these years later, actually come to his rescue.


Even that joined-at-the-hip partner of David’s seemed to have forgiven him.  Which was good, because nearly every time Nick got to actually spend time with his busy brother, that damned Hutchinson was always there.  Sometimes Hutch would try to bow out of social plans, and David would protest and want him to join them.  As though David needed someone else around to keep his attention diverted from his one and only brother.


David and Hutch had been home nearly an hour.  It was already going on eleven.  David had ordered Chinese for a late dinner, and they all sat down and ate.  Nick didn’t even bother asking why Hutch was joining them.  Nick had been visiting ten days now, and he doubted he’d even had more than a few hours alone with his brother in all that time.


Worse, David and Hutch barely included him in the conversation.  They were talking shop, in godawful serious tones, like they were still working, even though they should – finally – be relaxing at home. 


Nick had had enough.  “Can’t you guys relax for once,” he said, scraping together the last few bites of his Happy Family meal.  “The work day is over.”


They both looked at him, Hutch blinking as though he was trying to identify the source of an irritation.


David turned to him, “We can’t just turn off the day, Nicky.  We’ve got some hot leads going on.  Those don’t come along every day.”  But he did smile.  “What did you do today, kiddo?”


Finally, he was being included.  “I called Ma.  She says she misses me.”


David seemed to consider that, and Nick noted from the corner of his eye, how Hutch was also taking an interest in the conversation. 


David asked, “Is she wanting you to go back?”


Nick shrugged.  “She didn’t come out and say it.  But probably.”  He knew what their mother really wanted was for him to find a job and settle down, whether in New York or in California or… anywhere.  Fat chance.  She never seemed to understand that a nine-to-five job wasn’t for him.  His life was going in more interesting directions.


David grabbed a carton of rice and put more onto his plate.


“Hey, Gordo,” Hutch said, reaching for the carton, “don’t hog it all.”


David let Hutch take the carton from him.  Without skipping a beat, he said to Nick, “Did you tell her that you were too busy living the high life in my apartment?”


Nick made a point of not looking at Hutch.  Now that he’d spent a few more days with the two, he was coming to believe more and more that Hutchinson was a prick.  He always seemed to talk to David in condescending tones.  A few days after he’d arrived here, before Nick got into trouble, Hutch had said point-blank that he didn’t care about Nick, but cared a great deal “about what happens to your brother”.  Funny, he didn’t act like it a good portion of the time.  And yet, here he was, sharing dinner with the Starsky brothers.  What? Did David consider Hutch some kind of social charity case or something?


Nick snorted at his brother’s question.  “Ha ha.  Yeah, this is some high life.  There’s no girls, no action, no fun.”  He knew he was whining, which wasn’t cool, considering he was pretty much living for the time being off his brother’s generosity.  “I went to the golf course and hit some balls.”


David appeared thoughtful.  “Maybe we can all go golfing this weekend.”  His glance included Hutch, and then he asked Nick, “You any good?”


Nick basked in the attention.  “Why don’t we play and you can find out,” he boasted.  But why did Hutchinson have to be included?


Hutch jerked a finger toward his own left shoulder, while looking at David.


David said to him, apologetically, “Well, you can still play caddie.  Drive the cart.”


Hutch chimed in, “Tell you which club to use so you don’t hit the ball into every sand trap there is.”  He snorted, as though referring to a particular memory.


David grimaced.  “My game has improved since then,”


“Couldn’t tell by me,” Hutch said.


What a jerk David’s partner was.  But then Hutch said, “Nah, count me out.  I don’t need to observe the catastrophe of two Starsky brothers trying to play golf.”  He glanced at Nick briefly.


Oh.  Okay.  Maybe Hutch wasn’t a prick a hundred percent of the time.  He was actually going to let him and David have some time together.


But David’s eyes were on Hutch.  “You just wait, Blintz.  The next time you and I play, it’s going to be for some serious cash.  And you’re going to lose.”


Nick felt desperate to get his brother’s attention back, before David and Hutch returned to behaving like he wasn’t even there.  “Then can we play this Saturday?”  It seemed so far away.  Today was Wednesday.  If David didn’t have a regular job, they could play tomorrow.


David’s eyes moved to him.  “You’re on, kid.”


Nick knew he was smiling.  What a relief.  They actually had plans to do something together.


Gradually, the conversation moved back to the case, complete with mentions of coroners and snitches.  Nick felt a shudder go through him.  How could David stand to live his daily life doing these things?  Looking at dead people?  Driving around all day talking to sleezy snitches?  That Huggy Bear guy was cool, but Nick had seen his brother talking to some pretty seedy people in the days that he’d been here. 


Nick was content to stay quiet for the time being, and kept wondering when Hutchinson was going to leave and go back to his own apartment.  Eventually, they all moved away from the table and took up residence in the living room.  At one point, Hutch finished his beer, and as he moved past David, squeezed his shoulder while saying something about the case.  A little smile formed on David’s face, and he just nodded while his eyes followed Hutch as he dropped the beer can into the trash. 


It was at times like these that the envy in Nick welled up full force.  He wasn’t proud of it, but he couldn’t deny the strength of the feeling.  He and his brother could hug each other and bullshit with each other and pseudo wrestle, but those little tender touches only happened between David and Hutch.  Not just touches with fingers and hands, but with eyes.


He and David had never had a moment of tenderness together in their entire lives.  That was a fact.  For that matter, he didn’t consider his brother to be a very sentimental person.  But instead harsh, and very dense in his own way.  He lived in too small fish bowl to really know what the world outside was like.


But for some reason, there was a special something that went on between him and Hutch.


Nick wished so much that he could have that something with his brother.


At the very least, he would like to draw some attention back to himself.  He looked at his watch.  “Hey, I think the late reruns of M*A*S*H is going to be on soon.  I don’t like to miss them.”  He knelt by the TV and turned it on.


David was stretching and yawning loudly.  “Keep it down low, kiddo.  Hutch and me have to turn in early because we’ve got to get up extra early tomorrow and meet with somebody.”


Nick turned to look at his brother, who was standing beside the sofa, a few feet from Hutch.  Did that mean Hutch was going to leave now?  He asked hopefully,  “Does that mean you’ll get off early tomorrow?”


David snorted.  “Not likely.”  Then he leaned on the back of the sofa.  “You know, Nicky, if you’re bored sitting around here all day, why don’t you go looking for job?  It’ll give you something to do, and if you end up getting a good job, it might help you decide what you want to do with your life.”


From the corner of his eye, Nick could see Hutch watching them with something that looked like trepidation on his face.  He felt annoyed that his brother’s partner was standing here, witnessing what should be a private conversation.  He didn’t come to California to “see what to do with his life’.  He came to visit his brother, and had ended up spending far too little time with him.  He had quite a few retorts in mind, but was leery of complaining with Hutch standing there.  “Yeah, yeah, maybe I’ll do that.”


David grinned and nodded, as though pleased with the answer.


Hutch began to unbutton his shirt. 


Nick felt his mouth fall open.  Hutch was staying?  He got it now -- why Hutch was here instead of at his own apartment.  He and David needed to get up extra early tomorrow, and probably wherever they were going was in the opposite direction of Hutch’s place, so it would have been a lot of trouble to drop him off at his home tonight, only to go back and pick him up extra early tomorrow morning.


But why hadn’t they just said that, so Nick would have known what was going on?  It’s as though they were intentionally leaving him out of their plans.


And where was Hutch going to sleep?  With the opening credits to M*A*S*H playing in the background, Nick felt the anger well up as he looked at the sofa – the sofa he’d been sleeping on ever since he’d arrived.  His suitcase was beside it.  He was going to be kicked out of his own spot, just because Hutch was staying over?  And where was he supposed to sleep?  In the wide-backed whicker chair?


David jerked a thumb toward the bedroom and said to Hutch, “You’re with me tonight, Blintz.”


Obediently, Hutch moved off toward the bedroom, still unbuttoning his shirt, his jacket clutched in his hand.  “Goodnight, Nick,” he said softly, and then disappeared into Starsky’s bedroom.


Nick’s mouth fell open.  He’d never before seen Hutch respond so readily to anything his brother said.  Usually, Hutch protested or argued, or nitpicked at the things that David said.  Sometimes, it seemed like they had to go into a half dozen sentences with each other, just to get around to a conclusion that had merely required a Yes or No answer.  Nick often wondered why his brother put up with it – all of Hutch’s automatic protests.  Sure, some of it seemed to be playful, just bullshitting like guys did when they were friends.  But other times….


And Hutch was going to sleep with David?  In his bed?  David had kicked Nick out of his bed that first night, and now he was inviting Hutch to sleep in it?


That went against every rule there was of the male code.  Whenever a bunch of guys were short of sleeping accommodations, if anybody was going to be in the same bed together, it would logically be the two guys who were brothers.


But Hutch hadn’t questioned it.  And David didn’t appear to have spent any time thinking about it.  It was just automatic.


Which meant Nick had missed his chance to spend a night in the same bed with his brother, and the opportunity it presented for some intimate, sibling conversation.


He hated Hutch.  He wasn’t proud of it, considering how puzzlingly important the man obviously was to David, but still, he hated him.


David seemed clueless as to his thoughts, but what else was new?  “Hutch and me will catch a shower in the morning.  So, the bathroom’s all yours tonight.”  


Nick could only nod.  He was going to be left all alone again, even though the other two were spending the night under the same roof.


“Hey,” David said wearily.


Nick looked up.


“Look, Nicky, I’m sorry we haven’t been able to go out hardly at all the past week.  But Hutch and me have this case and it’s about to break wide open.  We have to give it our full attention while we have the chance.”


It helped, that David said that.  Still, Nick wondered why Hutch just couldn’t go out and handle the case himself, while he and David spent some brotherly time together.  If Hutch cared so godawful much about David, then wouldn’t he be willing to take on some extra work, and thereby free up his partner to spend some quality time with his brother?


“Oh, and the golf date on Saturday is a sure thing.”


Nick grinned, wanting to make sure David understood how much that meant to him.  Especially since Hutch wouldn’t be coming along.


“Goodnight, Nicky.”  David turned toward the bedroom.


“Night,” Nick replied.


He sat back on the sofa and tried to watch M*A*S*H.  But his ear kept straining to hear what might be going on in the bedroom.  He heard bits of conversation, but couldn’t make out the words.  He heard the shifting of the mattress. 


He wondered if they were talking about him.


Abruptly, he punched off the television.  He marched around the apartment, turning off lights.  He wasn’t the least bit tired.  In fact, his brain was spinning.  He sat down and pulled off his shoes.  Then, stealthily, he made his way toward the entrance to the bedroom, careful to keep pressed against the bookcase that acted as a wall.


“…sorry about that,” his brother was saying softly.


“It’s a lot better now,” Hutch said, equally soft.  “Just know it’s not yet up to a golf swing.”


“Next time then.”


More shifting of the mattress.  Words Nick couldn’t quite catch.  He tiptoed until he could get a glimpse through the open doorway.


Hutch was on the near side of the bed, his blond hair making him easy to see in the darkness.  He appeared to be sitting up against the headboard, bare chested.  Nick saw his brother’s arm reach out toward Hutch, and then stop as though it was settling on him.


They were doing that touching stuff.  While in bed together, no less.


More words, and then Hutch was shifting to lie down, turning toward David, his right arm propped up, so his head could rest against it.


David was snuggled under the covers, facing Hutch.  Soft chuckles emerged from the darkness.


Then Nick heard Hutch’s clear voice.  “We’ll get him tomorrow, buddy.”


“Yeah,” David said, “this Turner guy had better show, or I’m going to be real pissed about getting up so early to meet with him.”


Oh.  They were just talking about the case.  Again.


Why couldn’t they ever talk about things outside of work?  Like sex.  If he and David were in that bed together, they’d be talking about girls and sex.  Maybe even teasing each other about jerking off as a substitute for girls.


There were noises of the mattress shifting.


Then, “Ouch!”  That was David.  “Dammit, you got me with a toenail.” 


A soft chuckle and noises beneath the bedclothes.  “Sorry.”


More rustling noises.  “Ugh.  I think I’m bleeding.  Don’t you ever clip those things?”


Hutch muttered, “I wasn’t expecting to be sleeping with anyone tonight.”


Suddenly, the lamp illuminated Starsky’s side of the bed, and Nicky jerked low into a crouch, backing away.  He held his breath, listening.


“Look at that,” David was saying.  “Look how scratched I am.”


“Stop whining, Gordo, I only brushed you once.”


“Once was enough.  Your toenails are lethal weapons.”


Strong noises of the mattress shifting.  Then,  “It’s barely bleeding.  Come on, turn the light back off.  You’ll live.”


Nick heard the lamp going off.  David’s voice now sounded amused.  “Keep those long legs of yours on your own side of the bed.”


“No promises,” Hutch said stubbornly, and there were more noises of the mattress shifting and bedclothes rustling.


“If you don’t clip those toenails tomorrow, I’m going to do it myself,” David threatened.  “I’d hate to think of what they could do to some lovely thing’s shapely legs.”


A grunt was the only reply. 


Things fell silent.  Nick dared to straighten and peek around the corner again.


He could barely make out Hutch’s huddled outline on the near side of the bed, turned away from Starsky.  When his eyes adjusted, he could see that David was in a similar stance, turned away from Hutch.


Just when Nicky was about to move away, he heard a soft, “Hutch?”


“Huh?”  It came out like a grunt.


“Sure you don’t want to hang out at the golf course with Nicky and me?”


Nick held his breath, appalled that his brother would bring that up after everything had already been settled.


Hutch’s sleepy voice said, “You need to spend time with your brother, Starsk.”


Nick’s heart skipped a beat.


More shifting of the mattress, and David’s outline turned toward Hutch.  “What’s the big deal?  Nicky and I can do plenty of other things, just the two of us.”


Nick felt confused.  Something that Hutch apparently felt, as well, for he muttered, “But you haven’t been, have you?”


David’s form moved even closer.


Nick blinked.  They had to be touching, the way David was so near Hutch’s back, his head practically where Hutch’s neck was.


As though puzzled, David said, “But I make as much time outside of work as I can for him.”


A gentle sigh.  “Which includes me and Huggy and….”  The words were so mumbled that Nick couldn’t make out the rest.


“You saying I’m not spending much time alone with him?”


“Bingo, Sherlock.”


Nick absolutely did not want to like Hutch.  But the man was making it damn hard.


More shifting.  Nick could swear that David was practically on top of Hutch, or at least spooned around him.  He was up on an elbow, revealing he was also shirtless, leaning over Hutch’s head.


Nick had to strain to hear David’s next words, they were so soft.  “It’s just not that easy.  You know?  We’re so different.  We have completely different viewpoints on things.”


“He wants your love and attention.”


“He’s got that,” David insisted.


“Your love,” Hutch mumbled.  “Not your attention.”


Silence.  Then David murmured, “There’s so little time to give him any attention.  I just can’t drop – “  He trailed off when Hutch finally shifted, rolling onto his back.  Hutch’s hand reached up and settled on David’s bare chest, for David was still hovering over him.


Distinctly, Hutch said, “You give plenty of attention to me.  With or without work.  Don’t think he doesn’t notice.”


No reaction. 


Hutch’s hand dropped down to David’s arm, squeezing it.  Then he once again curled away from him.  “Go on, get back to your side of the bed and go to sleep.”  Then, without missing a beat, “Otherwise, my cock’s going to think that you’re interested.”


Hutchinson was joking… right?


It was a painfully long time before David moved, sliding back down into the mattress.  But not going to his side.  He remained curled around Hutch. It was hard to tell in the dark, but Nick could swear that David’s cheek was resting against the back of Hutch’s shoulder.  Almost like a little boy, seeking a parent’s security.


And to think that David had always seemed so strong and powerful.


Perhaps older brothers had weaknesses, too.


And then David spoke.  But it was too soft to hear.  It was all Nick could do not to step closer, so eager was he for every word.


Whatever David had said, it got a reaction, for Hutch turned back over, dislodging David’s head, and was now facing him.  David reached back to grab his own pillow and rested his chin upon it, so close to Hutch’s mid section that they were almost touching, while Hutch firmly whispered, “No, not like a contest.  That’s the last thing I want, or he would want.  Or you should want.”


“You saying I’ve been a bad older brother?”  The whispered words carried hurt.


Hutch put a hand to his own chest.  “I-I’m saying that I think you’re trying so hard to be the wiser, older brother, that you’re not able to see things from his point of view.”


“His point of view is skewed,” David said simply.


“No argument from me,” Hutch said,  “But it makes perfect sense to him.  You can’t expect you two to behave like brothers unless you can show him some compassion, buddy.”  Then Hutch reached out and patted David’s head. 


David seemed thoughtful.  Then, “I thought a firm approach would work better with him.”


“Your firmness is all about showing how superior you are to him.”  Hutch’s hand moved from David’s head to squeeze his shoulder.  “I think you feel guilty about the past, and that’s what holds you back from him.  And that makes him want to come on all the stronger.”


It was flattering, Nick had to admit, that they were talking about him.  He just couldn’t believe they were lying so close in bed like that.  Especially after Hutch had made the comment about his cock, whether joking or not.


Hutch gave David a gentle shove.  “Get over to your side and go to sleep.”


But David didn’t budge.  His voice was now amused.  “You know what would be funny?  If you and I pretend to hump each other and made lots of noise.  That would mess with his head.”  He snickered.


“That’s mean, buddy.  Come on, sleep.”


“It wouldn’t be mean.  It would be funny.”


Hutch sighed.  “I’m not humping you, to be funny or for any other reason.”  Hutch rolled away from him again, snuggling beneath the covers.  “Goodnight,” he said firmly.


David’s voice carried feigned offense.  “I was talking about me humping you, not vice versa.”


“Starsky, if you don’t shut up, I’m leaving the bed and sleeping out there on the floor.”  Not whispering now.


Finally, that got a response from David.  He put his pillow back where it belonged, punched it, and then snuggled beneath the covers.  Facing Hutch.


Nick listened a while longer but there were no further sounds.


He tiptoed back to the sofa, furrowing his brow.


He’d never seen his brother behave like that before.  So… needy.  Wanting so much to maintain Hutch’s attention.  He’d gotten a lot of it in the past few minutes, but he’d still wanted more.  And practically hanging all over Hutch, while lying in bed together.


Nick lay down on the sofa, wondering if he’d ever known anything at all about his own brother.



Finally, it was Friday.  Tomorrow he and David were finally going to have that golf game.  Without Hutchinson.


Nick had left the apartment at two, a phone call from David indicating that he and Hutch might actually get off work early today and start their weekend.  It depended on how things went when they interviewed more witnesses for the case they were working on. 


Nick went grocery shopping, picking up the things he liked best, but which David hadn’t been too interested in stalking up on.  They had gone to the grocery store together shortly after he had first arrived, but David had teased him constantly about his choices.  Nick hadn’t given it much thought at the time – just considered it sibling bullshit – but he had to admit that, today, it had been a relief to shop in peace and make his selections without being badgered.


He carried the two grocery sacks up the stairs to David’s apartment.  He set one on the landing, and then reached into his pocket for the lone key that David had given him.  He opened the door and picked up the grocery sack.  After moving over the threshold, he used his rear to push the door closed behind him.


He was startled to hear a voice coming around the corner where the laundry alcove was.  “Hey, Starsk, you back al….”  Hutch’s voice trailed off as he and Nick stared at each other.


Hutch was completely naked, save the jewelry around his neck.


Nick knew he was staring rudely.  But he couldn’t take his eyes off of it.  He’d never before seen anything on the human body that looked so… intense.


Hutch nodded toward his left shoulder.  “It happened less than three months ago,” he said quietly.


Nick shook himself, and then moved nervously toward the kitchen.  “I’ve never been in the hospital before,” he said, hoping that explained why he was so startled to see such an ugly scar.  And to think that his brother had one of those, though it was his understanding that the scar was on the back of David’s shoulder.  He’d never even seen it.


“Uh…,” Hutch said delicately, “I got a pitcher of milk poured on me by a hostile witness.  Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to use your brother’s laundry facilities.”


Nick started putting away the groceries.  That was supposed to explain why Hutch was walking around his brother’s apartment, completely naked?  Hadn’t the man ever heard of a robe?


Hutch was moving away, and Nick glanced up and caught site of another scar, though not as pronounced, on the back of Hutch’s left arm.  He doubted that it was a bullet wound, since it looked so long.  Almost as though it had been made with a knife.


This was worth being broke for?  All these scars?  He wondered how many David had that he didn’t even know about.


“I think your brother is going to be home before long.  We separated to interview witnesses.”


Nick glanced up again.  Hutch had turned from where he stood in the living room, and now Nick saw another one.  Some incredibly ugly thing, going down Hutch’s left leg.  Again, he wondered if it could have been caused by a bullet, considering its length.  Perhaps a surgical scar?


Nick quickly turned back to the groceries.


He could breathe when Hutch had apparently disappeared to tend to the laundry.  Hopefully, he would put on a robe or underwear or something, though Nick supposed he wouldn’t have one here.  But surely he felt the freedom to borrow David’s robe, considering all the other liberties they took with each other.


Nick had softened toward Hutchinson the last few days, due to how hard the man had tried to get Nick’s stubborn brother to see things reasonably.  But he was definitely not cool about Hutch marching around naked, displaying his battle scars.  Nick viewed himself as a man of class and sophistication, and walking around naked didn’t fit in with that view.


Didn’t matter what he thought, apparently.   Hutch emerged from the alcove where the dryer was running, and plopped into the wide-backed whicker chair, still in his birthday suit.


Did David know that Hutch did that?  Just sat down without any covering, getting his germs all over?


And worse, he didn’t seem the least bit shy.  It annoyed Nick greatly that he was the one with clothes on, and yet he felt completely vulnerable in the other man’s naked presence.  This man that his brother worshipped to such a puzzling degree….


“Hey, Nick, you got a beer over there?”


Nick sighed and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator.  Determined to not be shy, he walked over to Hutch and held it out to him.


“Thanks,” Hutch said, taking it.  He popped the tab.


“You off duty?” Nick wondered.


“Yep.  All done for the weekend.”


Nick sat back on the edge of the sofa and nodded toward Hutch’s shoulder, where the ugly scar marred the pale flesh.  “That’s why you can’t golf?”


Hutch flexed the shoulder, then grimaced slightly.  “I should be able to after a few more weeks.”


“How did it happen?”


Hutch drew a breath and glanced away.  “Fifteen year old girl.”


Nick gasped.  “A girl?  Fifteen?”


“Yeah,” Hutch said with a sigh, briefly meeting his eye. 


“Where was David?”


“He’d gone around back,” Hutch replied softly.  “It happens.”  His tone indicated that Nick shouldn’t blame his brother.  “Even when she pointed the gun at me, I didn’t think she’d really do it.  I had my weapon out, but I didn’t defend myself.”


“Why did she do it?”


“They were robbing a house.  They were serious about it.”  His tone was overly calm.


“Man,” Nick said, “I can’t imagine having a job like you do.  I mean… why?  Why would somebody choose an occupation where they can be shot or even killed?”


Hutch made a point of looking up at him.  Then he said, “It complicated, Nick.  We all want… things… from this life.  Things that are important to us.  We all just go about different ways of obtaining them.”


Though the words didn’t make sense to Nick, he appreciated that Hutch answered the question more thoroughly than his own brother had.  He muttered, “Just seems like you must have a death wish.”


Hutch’s blue eyes darted up to him.  “Not hardly,” he said quietly.  Then, “I intend to live to be a hundred and fifty.”


Nick’s eyes narrowed.  Hutch couldn’t be serious.  And yet, he didn’t get the feeling that he was being teased, the way his brother might have done.


The door rattled, and then was pushed open.  There stood David, looking surprised to see himself and Hutch both there.


Hutch sipped his beer and then said, “I’m using your laundry facilities.”


“Yeah?” Starsky said as he stepped into the apartment.


“Yeah.  Ms. Tillman didn’t take too kindly to me asking a lot of questions about her son.  Unfortunately, she was holding a huge pitcher of milk at the time.”


Starsky grinned as he came farther into the apartment and then took off his jacket.  He began divesting himself of his holster when he glanced at Nick.  “What have you been doing today, kiddo?”


Nick waited a moment, expecting David to say something about Hutch’s state of undress.  When it was apparent that he wasn’t, Nick turned toward the kitchen.  “Did some grocery shopping.  Got some things I want, for once.”


David followed and opened the refrigerator.  “Tomorrow is our big golfing day.”


“Can’t wait,” Nick said sincerely.


The dryer made a loud buzzing noise, and Hutch got up from the whicker chair and moved out of the living room.


Nick waited a beat, and then whispered, “I came home and he was here… completely naked.  I mean, sheesh.”


David had pulled out an apple, and turned around to gaze at him, waiting for more, and then finally prompted, “Yeah, and?”


Nick blinked.  “You don’t think that’s weird?”


David’s face didn’t change.  “What’s weird about it?  He needed to wash his clothes.”


Nick muttered, “I’d feel weird having a naked man running around my apartment.”


David’s eyes deepened, and he whispered, “He’s not ‘a naked man’.  He’s Hutch.”  He said it as though that explained everything, and then reached to an overhead cabinet.


Nick rushed to save face.  “Well, don’t hold it against me if I don’t want to sit in the whicker chair.  He could have at least put on some of your underwear while he was marching around here.”  Nick snorted.  “It’s not like you’d mind.”


David didn’t take the bait Nick had put out there.  Then, feeling he had a made a total fool of himself, Nick made one last ditch effort to sound reasonable.  “Germs, you know.”


David reached for a box of crackers without taking his eyes off Nick.  Box in hand, he stepped closer so Nick could feel his breath, like he was purposely trying to be intimidating.  David’s expression intensified, almost to the point of anger.  “In our partnership, Hutch and I have puked all over each other, for starters.  It would be pointless for either of us to start worrying about something as irrelevant as germs.”


The words had been so soft.  Distinct.  But Nick suddenly realized that he had stepped onto sacred territory where he was absolutely not welcome.  It was almost as though David was proud that he and Hutch had had reasons to throw up on each other.


David finally broke eye contact and moved off toward the living room, apple and box of crackers in hand.  He sat down in the whicker chair, his hard gaze on Nick, and then took a bite from the apple.


Okay, okay.  He got it.  He just didn’t understand why his brother had to be so mean about making his points, especially where his blond partner was concerned.


Compassion.  That’s what Hutch had said he needed.  Why couldn’t David simply be compassionate toward him?


Hutch emerged into the living room, dressed and carrying his tennis shoes.  He sat down on the arm of the sofa and began to put them on.


David watched him a moment, and then said, “Last chance, Blintz.  Sure you don’t want to go golfing with us tomorrow?  I’ll let you drive the cart.”


Hutch glanced up and almost appeared bashful.  “No, no.  You Starsky boys go on.  Just don’t kill each other with your games of one-upmanship.”


“We don’t one-up each other,” Starsky said with a smile.  “It’s not necessary because it’s a fact that I’m the older brother.”


Now fully dressed, Hutch reached to squeeze Nick’s arm.  “You have my sympathies, Nicky.  The only way to knock that smugness from his face is to beat the pants off him.”


“I intend to,” Nick replied with a grin, still feeling the remnants of the squeeze Hutch had put on his arm.


Hutch made a gesture of salute as he moved to the door.  “See you Monday.”



It was a beautiful morning to be driving to the golf course.  Nick was puzzled, however, as to why this didn’t seem to be the great idea that it had been on Wednesday.  He and his brother out doing something fun together, just the two of them.


Yesterday’s interactions had left a strong impression on his mind.  Finally, he asked, “Does Hutch do that often?  Just walk around your apartment like that, stark naked?”


Starsky looked over at him, definitely not happy with question.  “What is it with you?  You act like you’ve never even been in a locker room.  What?  Did Hutch’s dick sprout horns or something, and that scared you?”


Nick refused to be teased.  “No.  But you know what did scare me?  Those scars he has.  I saw three.  And they were big.


Starsky let out a deep breath as he accelerated the Torino past a car.  “Tell me about it.”


“You have scars, too.”  He said it as a statement, though he’d never actually seen them.


“Not as big as Hutch’s.”  David sounded grim.  Then his voice softened.  “He’s been through a lot.  I try my best, but… sometimes….”  He shook his head.


“He says he wants to live to be a hundred and fifty.”


David’s sudden smile was full of affection.


“Don’t see how he can expect to live to be that old with what you guys do.”


Nick wasn’t surprised that he didn’t get a response.  He never got anywhere when trying to discuss with his brother why he and Hutch did what they did.


They sat in silence for a while.  Since he and David weren’t seeing any more eye to eye that when they had first met at the airport, Nick didn’t see any reason not to ask something he’d been wanting to ask for a few days now.  “David?”




“Are you and Hutch queer for each other?”


David almost seemed to sigh.  And then he looked over at him.  “What do you mean?” His tone was one of exaggerated patience.


Nick felt annoyed.  “Just how many definitions of ‘queer’ are there?”


“Hutch and me aren’t banging each other, if that’s what you’re wondering.”


That statement didn’t answer the question.  Not in the least.


“You’re in love with him,” Nick blurted out.  He was surprised to feel the sensation of a weight falling from his shoulders.


David was thoughtful for a long moment.  Then he shrugged bashfully and glanced over at Nick.  “I guess I am, in a way.   You know.  Not the way most people think about something like that, but…,” elaborate shrug.  “Can’t deny it, I guess.”  He shifted in his seat, grabbing the steering wheel more securely.  “Don’t want to deny it.”  Then he released a breath and sat back.


“I’m fine with it,” Nick assured, feeling very peculiar that he appeared to have the upper hand with his brother at this particular moment in time.  “Doesn’t bother me.”  For some reason, David needed Hutch.


His brother had no reply.


Nick waited another couple of minutes, and then asked, “Do you think he’d reject you if you came onto him?”


“What kind of question is that?  I have no reason to come on to him.  We both like girls.”


“Isn’t being in love with him a reason?”


“I told ya.  I didn’t mean it the way most people mean it.”  David took his eyes off the road to look squarely at Nick.  “I mean… if Hutch and I were doing it with each other, what’s that supposed to do for us?  It’s not like we’d love each other any more than we already do.”  He turned his attention back to the road.


Nick sat silent, and then David abruptly said, “Don’t try to define us, Nicky.”  He shook his head.  “People have been trying to do that for as long as we’ve known each other.  They say things like, ‘My partner and I are tight, just like you and Hutch.’  Or ‘I care about Hutch just as much as you.’  And they’re always wrong.  Nobody on God’s green Earth has what Hutch and I have.”  He paused to concentrate on driving, and then said, “It’s a love that goes so deep that no word has yet been invented to define it.”


Nicky wondered what it would be like to have that kind of relationship with another person, beyond what he’d already observed the past two weeks.  “Then… what’s going to happen when one of you wants to get married?  How could you keep a wife and still be so close to Hutch?”


Gruffly, David said, “I don’t think marriage is in the cards, for either of us.”


“That seems weird, David.  I mean, you guys going out with girls, and yet loving each other the most.”


David shrugged.  “It works for us.”


Nick contemplated the truth of that, and found it lacking.  He thought of how his brother had been so all-over Hutch when they’d slept together.  As though he’d wanted something from Hutch that he’d been afraid to ask for.


The car was silent for a while longer.  “How much farther until we get to the course?” Nick asked.


“Ten minutes.”


Ten minutes so they could have the game that didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore. “David?  I’m going to catch a fight back to New York on Monday.”


David didn’t hide his surprise.  “Yeah?”


“Yeah.  Time for me to head back.”


David seemed contemplative, as though he were debating if he should say something or not.  Then he said, “I should be able to give you a ride to the airport, depending on what time of day it is and what’s going on at the station.”


Nick said, “If you can’t, that’s okay.”




“It’s open,” Hutch called from the sofa.  He gave his guitar a final strum and then set it aside. 


Starsky entered.


“So, how did the golfing go?” Hutch asked as his partner plopped on the sofa next to him.  It was Sunday night, and Starsky had called a little while ago to invite himself over.


“Okay,” Starsky said, putting his feet up and resting his hands behind his head.


“Just okay?”  Hutch settled back against the crotch of the sofa arm, sipping a beer, and drew one bare foot up on the sofa, next to Starsky’s leg.


“Yeah.”  Starsky shrugged.  “Fine.  I beat him by three strokes.  He’s actually not a bad player.”


Hutch waited a moment, then decided to ask, “Did you guys talk about anything heavy?”


Starsky grimaced, and then gave an exaggerated shrug.  “We don’t get into much heavy stuff.  We don’t have that kind of relationship.”


“I’ve noticed,” Hutch said.  “You speak so fondly and protectively of him when he’s not around, and then you tread lightly around him when you and he speak directly.”


Starsky’s head remained resting on the sofa, but it turned to face Hutch.  “What can I say?  We’ve never been what you’d call close.  I mean, I love him to death, and I want him to have a great life, but the fact is, we’re always going to be two brothers who just sort of drift in and out of each other’s lives.  We’re never going to see eye to eye on much of anything.”


Hutch didn’t respond.  He wasn’t sure he and Starsky were ever going to see eye to eye on Starsky’s relationship with his brother.  It seemed as though his partner put the emphasis on all the wrong things where Nick was concerned.  Not that Hutch felt Nick was worth much investment of emotion, but he did feel for the kid’s intense desire to have a brother who spent time with him and really cared.


Starsky suddenly grinned.  “You really threw him for a loop when he came home on Friday, and you were here doing your laundry.”


Hutch knew that was true.  He had sensed Nick’s intimidation, though he wasn’t sure why the other had felt that way.  Granted, it wasn’t an ordinary thing to expect to walk into your temporary housing and see a naked man there.  “I think seeing all my scars made him nervous.”  Then Hutch asked, “Where is he tonight, anyway?”


Starsky gazed at the ceiling.  “Out.  Having a night on the town.  I couldn’t join him, since I didn’t want to go to work tomorrow with a hangover.”  He paused.  “He’s leaving tomorrow.”


Hutch blinked.  “That’s kind of sudden, isn’t it?”  He sipped his beer, feeling relief filter through him.


Starsky shrugged.  “Not really.  He came in kind of suddenly, not really intending anything specific, you know?”


Hutch waited, feeling there was more to be said.


Starsky rubbed a finger along his lower lip.  “I think he was here long enough to realize that’s nothing really going to change between the two of us.  I’m still the older brother with all the answers, still devoting my life to a job that he doesn’t approve of or understand, and nothing I say is going to fix the neglect he’s always felt he’s suffered.”


Hutch couldn’t help but point out, “Yet, for all of that, you worry so much about him.  And want to believe so much that he’s a straight shooter, who doesn’t lie or get into trouble.”


Starsky looked over at him, his head still resting against the back of the sofa.  “He’s my brother, Hutch.”


So he was.  Hutch gave Starsky a tiny smile of acknowledgment.


Starsky was thoughtful again.  “And he doesn’t get my other brother.  My blood brother.”  He laid his hand on Hutch’s ankle, squeezing, and glanced up.  “My brother of the heart and spirit.”


Hutch closed his eyes, feeling a warmth drift through him, while keenly conscious of the hand that rested on his ankle.


Softly, Starsky said, “He asked me if we were queer for each other.”


Hutch opened his eyes.  “I hope you didn’t jump down his throat for asking that.”  How could one blame Nick for trying to define the very thing that so many others had tried to define… and failed from every conventional standpoint?


Starsky shook his head.  “Na.  I mean, I can hardly blame him for trying to figure us out.”  He smiled fondly.  “But he did make sure I knew that he was okay with it, if we were.”


“That’s nice,” Hutch said, meaning it.  “A lot of siblings wouldn’t be able to be that supportive.”


Starsky was gazing at the ceiling for a long time, appearing very comfortable and relaxed.


“What are you thinking about?” Hutch finally asked.


“It’s dawning on me that the word queer doesn’t even really bother me anymore.  I mean, that people have to resort to that word, because they can’t figure us out.  And it does apply, in a sense.  You know, referring to that which is uniquely unusual.”


“We’ve always been that,” Hutch said gently.  He took a final sip of beer, and placed the bottle on an end table.  Then he picked up his guitar.  “Why don’t you get yourself a brew, and let’s sing a few tunes before the neighbors go to bed.”


“Good idea,” Starsky said, getting to his feet.  He ruffled Hutch’s hair in passing.


Hutch gripped the guitar and strummed the first note.





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