The front door closed quietly. Starsky heard a muffled thud—something had been dropped on the floor—then footsteps, then nothing. A thin band of light hovered under the bedroom door.
“In here,” he called from the bed and waited.
He’d been waiting for a week, it seemed. Since Hutch had flown to Duluth alone for the funeral. Hutch had called each night as promised, but had filled the distance between them with weather reports and dinner menus and stories of relatives whose names Starsky never recognized. Until two nights ago, when Hutch had quietly told him how he’d sung Danny Boy at the service that morning. “It was my father’s favorite song and my mother said he’d asked her once if I . . . I wish you’d been there.”
Starsky had started to answer, “I’m not the one who decided. . .” but had said instead, “I know. Me too.”
“Give me a minute,” Hutch answered from the living room. His voice was flat, worn smooth by grief and fatigue and a three hour delay at O’Hare. “I’ll take a cab,” he’d told Starsky when he phoned from Chicago. “No point in both of us sitting around waiting. Go to bed. We can talk in the morning.”
Starsky gave him five minutes, then threw off the sheets and walked barefoot to the living room. He stood at the door and rubbed his eyes, blinking against the white light of the floor lamp. Hutch’s suitcase sat by the couch – it was new and leather and a color the salesman had worshipfully referred to as umber. After the phone call from his mother, with nothing to do but wait for the next afternoon’s flight to Duluth, they had gone shopping for luggage. The suitcase was too expensive, Hutch had admitted, but his father would have liked it. He’d always hated the old duffel bag his son had left home with. At the register, hands shaking, he’d fumbled with his wallet, swearing when he couldn’t find the right credit card. He’d let Starsky take the wallet from him, and had gone to wait in the car.
Now Hutch sat in the worn red armchair by the bookcase, elbows on his knees, head cradled in both hands. He was still wearing his raincoat – an old Burberry he called his Minnesota Special. His father had sent it to him years before, a birthday present as unexpected as it was extravagant. His father was like that, he’d told Starsky later, complicated and moody and miserly and generous. Starsky had just smiled and muttered something about the apple not falling far from the tree.
“Hey,” Starsky said from the doorway.
Hutch looked up. “Sorry if I woke you.” His expression was tired and a little wary.
“You didn’t. I wanted to know how it went yesterday at the lawyer’s. You didn’t say much on the phone.”
Hutch lifted one shoulder and let out a long breath, “Not much to say. Lawyers are lawyers.”
Starsky turned off the lamp as he passed. “How’s your mother?”
Hutch slumped back in the chair. “Cooking, cleaning. coping. Hutchinsons are good at that. Brave faces, stiff upper lips. We save our tears for dark and quiet corners.”
The rain made dancing shadows on the floor as the headlights of a passing car lit the room. He stood behind the armchair and let his hands fall to Hutch’s shoulders. His coat was still damp and smelled vaguely of wet wool and smoke and winter.
“Did you settle everything? The legal stuff, I mean.”
“Mostly . . .” He closed his eyes. “We can talk about it tomorrow. Okay?”
“Okay.” He wondered briefly if they ever would. “Come to bed.” He leaned down and kissed Hutch on his bare neck. His hair was shorter than it had been in years – he guessed the haircut had been for Hutch’s father too.
Hutch reached back with one arm and wrapped a hand around the back of Starsky’s neck. He held him there, his fingers laced tightly in his curls. It was explanation and apology and declaration. All the things Starsky knew Hutch could never say.
He let go and stood stiffly, then shrugged off the coat and let it fall back onto the chair. He turned and reached for Starsky’s outstretched hand and followed him into the dark and quiet corners of the bedroom.