Four People They Told, and One They Didn't by Susan


The day Starsky told his mother that he was in love with Hutch, his mother asked him why they couldn't just be roommates. "You know, like the Odd Couple," she said. "Or like your cousin Ari and that nice boy Raphael he lives with. The one he met in Mexico."

Starsky lifted one eyebrow. "Ma, Raphael is Ari's boyfriend."

His mother's eyes widened. "Not Ari too." She sounded so disappointed, as if she'd planning on dating Raphael herself.

"It's not catching, Ma. Really." He sounded more sure than he was. Because he'd never thought much about men - not in that way - until Hutch kissed him one afternoon in the middle of the empty squad room because as Hutch put it, "someone had to." He'd pushed Hutch away (eventually), but had spent the following week waiting (anxiously) for the next kiss.

"But what will I tell people? My son, the Jewish policeman, is also gay? Is that what I say?"

"Say what you want. I just wanted you to know." At that moment, he couldn't think of a single reason why.

"So now I know." She added more sugar to her tea. "And Hutch's family? I suppose they're happy about this? Such modern, educated people like them?"

"He hasn't told them. Yet."

"Lucky them."

She didn't say anything else, but an hour later he found her later sitting on the edge of the bed in the guest room, dabbing her eyes with a crumpled pink Kleenex. "Those poor babies," she managed when he asked what was wrong.

He had no idea what she was talking about. "What babies?"

"All those unborn babies," she sniffed.

He'd never known his mother felt that way about abortion. It wasn't something they'd ever talked about. He didn't give his own opinion (which was that it was a woman's body to do with what she pleased), because he'd learned a long time ago that his mother didn't really care about his opinions. She only wanted him to care about hers.

"You would have made such beautiful babies. What a waste."

"Hutch and I could adopt," he said, though he'd never thought of it once before that moment. His mother's tears made him say things he never meant to say. Like the time he agreed to take his cousin Peggy to the school dance. And he never would have joined the army if she hadn't cried when he told her he wasn't going to college. "What will you do?" she'd wailed and he'd said the first answer that popped into his head.

He sat down on the bed beside her. Put one arm around her shoulder. "I love Hutch, that's all."

She tucked the Kleenex inside the sleeve of her sweater. "I love him too, but I don't want to... you know... whatever it is you people do."

"Now I'm you people?"

"Put the kettle on. I need a cup of Sanka." Sanka was his mother's version of scotch. She drank it non-stop for a month after his father died. "With sugar," she added. He breathed a sigh of relief. The worst was over.

****

The day Hutch told his mother that Starsky was moving in with him (like most conversations in the Hutchinson family, the important facts were always left unsaid, only to be hinted at later), she looked up from her needlepoint and said, "That's nice, dear. But is it wise?"

"Wise?" He shifted uncomfortably in the brushed velvet Queen Anne chair. "I don't know." In fact, it was unwise in many ways.

She worked silently for the next ten minutes while Hutch watched. Finally, his mother used a pair of tiny scissors to cut a piece of red thread from the back of the canvas. "And you want me to tell your father for you? Is that it?"

"Yes."

"I see." She nodded. "Perhaps it would be best if I waited until you were back in California."

"Yes. Thank you." He stood and kissed on her cheek. She raised her hand and held it briefly against his face. "Sherry?" he asked.

"Please. A large glass."

He breathed a sigh a relief. The worst was over.

****

The day Starsky and Hutch told Captain Dobey that they were moving in together, he asked them if they could pretend to be roommates. "Like on that show - "

"Sanford and Son?" Hutch asked.

"He means The Odd Couple," Starsky explained. He'd had this conversation before.

"Exactly." Dobey said. "It would make things easier."

"I don't know. It would be a lie," Hutch said. He tried to sound indignant, but truth was, he was fine with lying. He was crazy in love, but in all other things he was fairly sensible. Starsky often questioned his choice of cars, but Hutch liked to think of that as quirky, not crazy.

"It's no one's business, Captain, but the place has two bedrooms," Starsky said. "In case anyone asks."

Their new apartment, in an old building near the beach, had a large kitchen, moderate sized living room and only one bedroom. The reason they chose it was because the bathroom had two sinks.

Dobey nodded and let out a sigh of relief. "Exactly."

****

The day Starsky told Huggy he was in love with Hutch, Huggy said, "No shit, Sherlock." He poured two shots of scotch (not the best brand he carried, but close to it) and made a toast to "living happily ever after." The toast sounded less than sincere to everyone who heard it. Starsky drank five more shots (which he paid for, knowing Huggy's latest business venture was fiscally insecure) and surprised them both by kissing Huggy good night. As a first kiss, it was unremarkable. As a last kiss, which they both knew it had to be, it was bittersweet.

****

Although Hutch no longer hated Vanessa (largely because his parents had taught him that thinking ill of the dead was both unkind and unproductive), he did regret not being able to tell her that he really was in love in Starsky. She had accused him of it many times over the course of their marriage, and each time he had denied it and called her jealous or a fool. Sometimes both.

"I've seen the way you look at him," she'd screamed.

"You're a fool. He's my partner."

"You spend more time with him than me." This would have been true even if Hutch hadn't been in love with Starsky. It was the nature of their job.

"You're just jealous. And it doesn't mean I want to fuck him." This was also true. In fact, Hutch had only gone so far as to fantasize about blowjobs and hand jobs and pinning Starsky against a wall and -

"God, you're thinking about him now, aren't you?" She reached behind her and picked up the first thing she touched.

He ducked and the vase hit the wall behind him. He stepped in front of her, pulled the next missile out of her hand (a Waterford crystal candy dish, a wedding present from his Aunt Beatrix) and kissed her. It was the only sure-fire way to shut her up. "I want you," he murmured.

"Starsky would hate you if he knew what you were thinking," she said between kisses.

He flinched. She always saved her best shot for last.

Since he was afraid she was right, he never told Starsky. Not until years later, after she was dead and Starsky had almost died and Hutch knew if he didn't tell Starsky how he felt, he would die a little too.

"Why then?" Starsky asked him in bed months later. They now had all their best conversations there. The truest ones, in any case.

"Mistletoe." Hutch's finger traced small circles around Starsky's nipple. It still astounded him, being allowed, even encouraged, to do this.

"Mistletoe?"

"Minnie had hung it in the doorway and you kept walking under it and every time you did, I expected someone to kiss you and no one ever did and then I just decided it had to be me."

Starsky yawned. "I'm glad it was you. Can't imagine being kissed by Simonetti." He was asleep in less than a minute.

Hutch smiled. Maybe next year he'd confess to hanging the mistletoe himself. Then again, maybe not.

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