REM

by Verlaine

 

Hutch dreamed about Gillian fairly regularly.

 

The only mercy was that it was never a 'what if' kind of dream, the kind where he somehow got there before Grossman and saved her, or where it turned out she really was a writer of some kind and they were living happily ever after somewhere. He never even dreamed that Starsky had come to him first, instead of emptying his bank account in a dumb-ass gesture that was somewhere between quixotic and degrading. No, what always woke him up in a cold sweat was the moment when he walked into her apartment and saw her body on the floor, and the bottom dropped out of his world so hard and fast it was like his heart had stopped right along with hers.

 

He'd had some time to think about it over the years, and he'd come to the bitter conclusion that in her own strange way Gillian was doing suicide-by-cop. After all, she knew the Grossmans. If she'd ever for one minute believed that she'd survive slapping Mama Olga's face, she'd have had to be an idiot, and Gillian definitely hadn't been stupid. What she hadn't been was decisive. She'd dithered back and forth: in the life, out of the life, hooker, girlfriend, truth, lie. She hadn't been able to commit herself one way or the other, couldn't bring herself either to tell Hutch the truth or walk away from him or tell them all to go to hell, and then hop on a bus to Chicago. So she'd done the equivalent of throwing all the cards into the air and betting her fate on which ones fell face up.

 

Gillian may not have been decisive, but Al Grossman sure as hell had been. Didn't take him as long as thirty seconds to make up his mind.

 

Dead man's hand, all the way.

 

***

 

More rarely, Hutch dreamed about Vanessa. Those dreams were worse, because they did come with a lot of what ifs. What if he'd stayed with her that morning, instead of going for his run? Run faster? Taken a short cut? When he was awake, Hutch knew damn well what would have happened: he'd have fallen for her frightened-little- girl seduction routine again, and they'd have been in bed together when the bad guys showed up, with his gun all the way across the room, and there'd have been two bodies for Starsky to find instead of just one.

 

But in his dreams, Hutch could sometimes change the past.

 

There were other what ifs too, the kind that he occasionally thought about by day. What if he'd stayed with her? Done whatever it would have taken to make their marriage work, even if it ended up eating him away on the inside until there was nothing left but a Ken-shaped shell going through the motions of life? (He didn't imagine Vanessa's husband would have stayed 'Hutch' too long.)

 

Hell, what if he'd never married her in the first place?  Hutch had had some time to think about his marriage too, and for the past few years he'd had another standard for comparison. Knowing what he knew, he was sometimes still a little appalled at how blindly he'd walked into that marriage. He tried to tell himself that it wasn't his fault. He hadn't been dumb but he had been naïve. And horny, can't forget horny. When a guy's twenty-two, the way he acts can make it hard to tell the difference between dumb and naïve; throw in horny and he might just as well check his brains at the door for a year or two. Hutch had believed in true love and promises, and the kinds of ideals he'd read about in books and hadn't seen too much of in real life. He'd been convinced that the problem wasn't that the ideals didn't exist, but that the people he grew up with were too small to live up to them.

 

He matured pretty fast in that first year of marriage.

 

***

 

He'll never admit this to anyone, but Hutch enjoyed his dreams about Terry. Hutch had liked Terry a lot, and what he'd liked best was that she was a girl with no time for bullshit. She'd been warm, down to earth, affectionate, and the best thing was, it had all been real, not some act she'd put on for Starsky's benefit.

 

His dreams about her usually involved the one night the three of them had spent together, just before Starsky admitted he'd fallen for her really hard. Hutch had already figured it out, though. At first Starsky had talked about her, the same way they did about all their girls. He'd smirked a little about the way the nice-girl-next- door schoolteacher turned into a tiger behind closed doors. Once he stopped talking, Hutch knew which way the wind was blowing. Despite what he'd learned in his marriage, Hutch didn't always think with the big head as much as he should have, but when he saw the way Starsky was kissing her that night, he'd decided their friendship was going to last a lot longer if Starsky didn't have to carry around a memory of Hutch fucking the woman he sat down to breakfast with every morning. So he'd pretended to be a little drunker than he was and after a few polite gropes he made a show of stretching out to go to sleep and let them get it on alone.

 

Terry had had a surprise for them. Turned out she had a kink: she liked to watch guys getting it on.

 

That had been a first for both of them. They'd fooled around together occasionally when they couldn't be bothered to go on the prowl, and they'd been up for threesomes any time a girl couldn't decide which one of them she liked better, but this was the first time a girl had asked to watch *them*. For a few seconds they'd looked at each other, baffled, and Hutch had felt a lot like the way he felt when somebody tried to get him to stand up and sing in public.

 

Then Starsky laughed, a low dirty chuckle, and whispered, "Nobody dips like Ramon."

 

And Hutch drawled out, "If you've got it, flaunt it, boy."

 

So Ramon and Charlie had jerked each other off, and once they got into it, they put on a show that could have probably matched the kind of stuff that went on after hours at the Green Parrot. They took their time getting undressed, showing off their bodies to Terry and to each other. Hutch would have sworn he knew Starsky's body as well as his own: they'd spent enough time together in the locker room and the hospital over the years that there were no particular surprises, but that night was the first time Hutch had really looked at Starsky, the way men looked at someone desirable.

 

Hutch had never paid much attention to Starsky's chest before, and he was intrigued to see the way Starsky's nipples hardened up as soon as he ran a fingernail over them. His own nipples didn't seem to be connected to anything much, but when Starsky leaned over and licked his belly button Hutch nearly came right in his face. That had inspired Starsky to try going down on him—something they'd never done either—and they'd ended up in an awkward sixty-nine that nearly strangled both of them before they gave up and went back to basics.

 

Terry had watched them avidly, her eyes sparkling, a warm pink flush running from her hairline all the way down over her breasts. She'd stroked her fingers through their hair and across their arms and shoulders, and kissed them both, and whispered over and over how beautiful and how sexy they were, and what a turn on it was to watch a couple of gorgeous men like them playing with each other.

 

Afterward, Hutch really had gone to sleep, so he never knew what Terry and Starsky did the rest of the night. But when he woke up, his arms had been wrapped protectively around both of them. Hutch used to wonder sometimes when he woke up from that dream what would have happened if she'd lived. Would the two of them have gradually drifted away from him, as couples and singles tended to do? Or would he more and more have found his way into their house and their bed? Maybe even left a little blond Hutchinson cuckoo in the nest someday?

 

In a sad way, he was always glad that was one choice that had never had to be made.

 

***

 

If he ever dreamed about Jeannie, Hutch never mentioned it. He told himself it was because he'd be too embarrassed if Starsky started humming the theme song to that really stupid show, but the truth was, he didn't talk about those dreams because he knew it would upset Starsky. The two of them had gotten over all the heroin shit surprisingly well. After all, it wasn't like he'd been a junkie for years, or even weeks. And they'd coped with drug dealers and drug addicts and the truckloads of smack and pot and coke they busted without any trouble.

 

But any reference to Monk or Forrest—even Bernie Glassman—always made Starsky a little twitchy. The day Forrest came up for parole, Hutch found Starsky sitting on the couch cleaning his gun, a bottle of whiskey on the coffee table in front of him. Starsky didn't scare Hutch very often, but by the time they'd made it to bed that night Hutch had had the shakes.

 

He didn't let Starsky out of his sight for the next three days.

 

***

 

Hutch never dreams about Starsky.

 

It worries him a little, because it seems to him that what with Starsky being such an important part of his life, he at least ought to dream about him sometimes. And it's not like there isn't plenty of trauma—and sex—to fuel both potential nightmares and wet dreams.

 

The daymares are bad enough. He'll be walking down the street, not a care in the world, and he'll get a whiff of tomato and garlic from a house he's passing, and suddenly he'll smell blood, and for a moment whatever he's carrying will feel as heavy as the end of the world in his arms, even if it's only the day's paper and a couple of carrot muffins.

 

But at night—nothing.

 

Maybe it's because at night Starsky is so solidly and uncompromisingly there. He's kind of hard to miss, snoring like an engine with a mistimed valve, delivering the occasional knee to the back or elbow to the gut. Hutch has gotten used to waking up with the covers all kicked away and Starsky flopped half on top of him, an arm firmly wrapped around him (and occasionally one hand possessively gripping his cock. Even asleep, Starsky isn't subtle.)

 

In the beginning it was disorienting, waking up to the feel of muscle and chest hair and callus and scar tissue, smelling sweat and stale aftershave instead of perfume. There were even a few times he'd groggily shaken Starsky and told him to go sleep it off at home. Luckily, Starsky never took offence; as far as he was concerned there was never a bad time for playing hide the nightstick, and since they were already naked and awake in the middle of the night, well, that just left more time for the good stuff.

 

Occasionally Hutch feels the urge to pinch himself, just to make sure this whole thing, this whole life he's got with Starsky now, isn't what's really the dream. After all, maybe the reason he's not dreaming about Starsky is because he's still sitting in the chair outside the ICU, watching Starsky die through a light-year of unforgiving glass. Maybe these past few years of grounded happiness and crazy contentment are nothing but the product of a grieving mind fantasizing about 'what could have beens' now that it's too damn late.

 

But then Starsky will sneak up behind him and goose him, or call him in the middle of the day to tell him a joke so old it's growing barnacles (and laugh like a hyena) or surprise him with some new plant that Hutch would never have bought for himself but that fits perfectly with the rest of the collection. And he knows that this is reality, that nothing he could imagine would be this good.

 

Because right from the beginning, when neither of them had a clue where it was going or even exactly what they were doing, before they'd ever imagined that what was between them was going to become the defining factor in their lives—even then, Hutch knew this was what he'd been dreaming about all his life.

 

The End

 

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