The jazz club was a lump of cinderblock, cradled in a wasteland of cars and weeds.
“Are you sure about this, Hutch?” Starsky cast a dubious glance over the blackened glass doors and the neon saxophone, reclining above them.
Hutch finished paying the driver, and the cab took off before a startled Starsky could stop it. “What’s the matter, Starsk? Don’t you trust me?”
“Of course, I trust y….” Starsky narrowed his eyes at Hutch who was threading his way to him through puddles of reflected neon.
Hutch sighed. “Starsky, would you please look around you? Would there be this many cars if the place was a dump? You know, I’m beginning to feel hurt. Did I not let you drag me through every diner in town during your search for the perfect pancakes last month?”
“Yeah, but see, ya gotta cook them in butter. They just don’t taste right….”
“Can we please go inside before this drizzle starts to take all the curl out of your naturally curly hair?”
“Yeah, all right.” Starsky reluctantly turned and followed his partner through the black doors.
It was a lot nicer on the inside, very Hollywood Thirties glam, complete with cigarette girls and a Lana Turner wannabe for a hostess. Hutch threw him an amused glance as they followed her slinking form towards their table and Starsky felt his lips twitch in response. She led them down the steeply tiered levels and along the narrow walkway to their seats. Each level only had enough room for one row of tables. The tiers circled around a tiny stage, dark for the moment.
Starsky tried not to fidget as they ordered drinks and got settled. He knew Huggy’d only been fucking with him last night, but he still felt strangely reticent around Hutch. He wasn’t really sure why.
“Yeah!” Hutch wasn’t often excited about anything. Starsky thought it looked good on him.
“You’re gonna love this Starsk, trust me. This band is terrific!”
“Yeah, well…we’ll see.” Starsky hid a small grin behind a sip of beer and watched the lights change around them, darkening in the audience and lighting up the stage. Then the band strolled on and casually took their places and began to fill the room with intricate sound, rich as whisky.
Suddenly everything was different. The lights sparkled more brightly. The soft clink of cutlery played an accent to the bass. Whispers of shifting nylon and low-voiced negotiation charged even the small silences with sexual heat.
Starsky watched a stockinged toe slide slowly up a pinstriped leg at a table on the tier above them and nudged Hutch with his elbow. When his partner didn’t respond, Starsky turned to catch his attention. He saw Hutch’s face and something in him paused.
Hutch was lost in an ecstasy of music and math, eyes closed, fingers twitching chord changes on the tablecloth. Starsky was caught by the way stage-lit shadows chased over his face. How they highlighted its planes, flickered and teased at the lips. Then the shadows moved again and Starsky followed them down, down to the darkness in the parted shirt collar, the faint glint of hair, the running pace of a frantic pulse.
Starsky jerked his eyes up.
Hutch was looking straight at him, eyes filled with utter want, and Starsky gasped like he’d been doused in hot water. Then a wry glimmer shone briefly in Hutch’s face and those knowing eyes were looking in their turn, following the planes of Starsky’s body down as far as the table allowed. There they lingered, as if they could see the shadowed lines of what was swelling beneath. Starsky bit back a moan of bewildered lust and Hutch dragged his gaze away and shifted in his chair, breathing hard.
“Sorry, buddy. I…” Hutch snorted and shook his head. “First step’s a doozy, huh.” He reached for his glass and took a small sip. “Don’t worry Starsk. It does get a little easier after awhile.” His tone was casual, but his eyes stayed hidden.
Starsky concentrated on catching his breath. God, it was true then. He heard Huggy’s rich laughter in his head. He wanted Hutch. And Hutch, God, Hutch wanted him. Wait a minute… “What do you mean it gets easier?”
“I’ve…” Hutch cleared his throat, fiddled with his glass. “Thought about it before…a time or two.”
“You...” Starsky squeaked, tried again, “You have?”
“Yeah.” Hutch shifted. “Look Starsk, it’s no big deal. Like I said, it gets easier to ignore after awhile.”
“Ignore?” Starsky wished Hutch would slow down so he could catch up. His brain seemed to be running in a different time zone or something.
“No, Starsky.” Hutch did look at him then, clear command in his eyes, a Hutchinson decree. “Look, let’s at least finish this set, and then we’ll head on downtown. See what we can turn up for the rest of the evening. What do you say?” He leaned towards Starsky a little, nudged him with his arm. “I heard Wendy was in town this weekend.”
Starsky looked at him for a long moment. “Hutch, I…”
“What do you say?” Hutch’s voice was iron.
“Yeah, all right.” Starsky threw up his hands and slouched back in his chair, giving up. This wasn’t really the place to get into it, anyway, and besides, it was hard to argue a point when you weren’t even sure what your point was. He’d need to think on it.
Starsky reached for his beer. Maybe it would help ease the ache in his gut.