Hutch can’t wait for the holidays to be over. First Christmas, now this. Starsky says they need a name for people like him, people who hate New Year’s Eve. Grinch just doesn’t sound right after Christmas. “How about sensible?” Hutch suggests. “How about boring?” he replies. Starsky is going to some fancy New Year’s Eve dress ball tonight with his new girlfriend but Hutch has a date with a six-pack and an old movie. He’s been spending a lot of evenings alone lately, a lot of nights too. He knows Starsky’s curious, but he never comes out and asks. So Hutch is spared telling more lies.
At home, Hutch opens the first of the beers and settles in to watch the movie, but soon gives in to the tiredness that dogs him these days. He is beginning to drift when he is startled awake by a loud knock on the door that turns to pounding when he doesn’t answer it quickly enough. He swears and pulls himself off the couch. He opens the door, an angry “WHAT?” on his lips, and sees Starsky standing there wearing a black tuxedo and a pissed-off expression. “Took you long enough,” he growls. He doesn’t wait to be invited in, which is good, because Hutch has been left speechless in his tracks by the sight of Starsky in a tuxedo. Hutch is surprised at his own reaction, his fantasies these days don’t usually involve Starsky fully dressed. He shoves a corsage at Hutch as he brushes by him.
He finds his voice and struggles to keep it light. “Aw, Starsk, a corsage? You shouldn’t have.” He wonders if Starsky hears the huskiness in his voice.
“I didn’t, asshole. It was for her.”
“So what happened? Thought the happy couple was off to the prom.” The new girlfriend is young, barely out of college. Her age provides endless fodder for Hutch’s ribbing. “Her parents ground her?” He can’t resist the urge to smirk.
“Shut up. It was a charity ball. For the rain forest. Or whales. Or something.”
Hutch throws the corsage on the table and goes to the fridge. He opens it, pretending to look for a beer, and waits for the cold blast of air to have some effect. A cold shower would be more useful, he thinks. He grabs a bottle, passes it to Starsky and escapes to the couch. He needs to put some space between them and hopes the room is big enough. The tuxedo is doing strange things to his resolve.
Starsky removes the bow tie and opens the top few buttons of his shirt as he paces the living room. He runs a hand through his hair. Hutch pulls a cushion over his lap and thinks of nuns and puppies.
“She broke up with me. On New Years Eve! After I get there to pick her up! I should send her the bill for this stupid tux.”
Hutch suppresses a smile and wonders what Starsky would say if he offered to pay for it. He silently thanks her for the tux and for breaking up with him. Every time Starsky has a new girlfriend, Hutch worries. But most of them only last a few weeks, and Hutch gets him back each time, in more or less one piece.
“She say why?” Hutch hopes he sounds sympathetic.
“Yeah, apparently I don’t spend enough time with her. What the hell does that mean? She doesn’t like my job. She doesn’t like my manners. She doesn’t like my car, for chrissakes. How can someone not like my car?” He stops and points an accusing finger at Hutch. “Don’t answer that. And she says I’d rather hang out with you than her.”
Smart girl, he thinks. “What did you say?”
“Told her at least you don’t take an hour to get ready in the morning. Told her I don’t have to pretend to like stuff I don’t just to impress you. And the movies I see with you don’t have stupid subtitles.” Hutch raises his eyebrows. “Okay, sometimes they do, but only on your birthday.” Hutch laughs. “I even told her you were probably a better kisser.”
“I was mad. But she is the worst kisser, I swear. She does this slobbery, sucking thing when she kisses. I feel like I’m making out with a wet vacuum cleaner.” He pantomimes a kiss and looks like a fish gulping for air.
“Too much detail, Starsk.”
“Sorry.” He plops down on the couch beside Hutch and drains his beer. Hutch thinks he’d give up just about anything to be able to reach across the couch and touch Starsky now. Everything except Starsky, of course, which is exactly what it would cost him. So he keeps his hands on his beer and wonders what to say.
“I am you know,” Hutch says without looking at him.
“A better kisser.” The sound of his own voice, husky with what he is sure Starsky will recognize as lust, surprises him. As soon as he says it, he wishes he could take it back.
Starsky turns to look at him for a second, shakes his head, and goes to the fridge. Hutch tries to read his expression but for once he can’t. He brings back two more beers and hands one to Hutch.
He falls into the armchair opposite the couch and slings a leg over the left side. The view is distracting. Bastard, Hutch thinks, I swear you are doing this to torture me.
“Make any New Year’s resolutions, Hutch?”
Just one, he thinks, same one I make every year. But he says, “Nope, don’t believe in them anymore. You?”
“Like not getting shot in Italian restaurants.” He smiles but Hutch can’t. He needs more time, more distance. Maybe next year.
Starsky takes another drink, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, and swallows a burp. Hutch guesses this was high on the list of things that annoyed his girlfriend.
Starsky continues, “Resolution two, no more stewardesses. One night stands are getting old.”
“You’re getting old or one night stands are getting old?”
“Shut up.” He swings his leg off the arm of the chair and leans forward. He is starting to peel the label off the bottle. “You’ll laugh at the last one. Which is your fault by the way.”
“No, I won’t.” This one sounds serious. He’s not sure he can do serious now.
“Trust me, you will,” Starsky answers without looking up.
“Try me.” Hutch resists the urge to tell him to stop dropping the pieces of label on the floor.
Starsky looks embarrassed. “After I got shot, I started thinking ‘bout things. Life and death, all that shit. And about us too. And how just because you been one way all your life doesn’t mean you can’t change.”
“Spit it out, Starsk,” he says and imagines for a second that Starsky is about to say what he has never been able to.
“So I think that maybe I need to start eating better, more vegetables or something. I’m not getting any younger.”
Hutch laughs as much to hide his disappointment as at the thought of Starsky eating Brussels sprouts and spinach. Starsky scowls. He turns on the TV again and they watch Dick Clark for a while.
During a commercial, Starsky asks, “Hutch, do you ever want anything so bad you could taste it?”
Every day, Starsk. But he says, “Sometimes, why?”
“Because I really want pizza. Do you think they deliver on New Year’s Eve? I’m starving.”
“What happened to eating more vegetables?” he asks.
“Hey, it’s not officially next year yet. I still got time.”
They order pizza and in case it arrives after midnight, Starsky asks for double mushrooms. They eat it sitting at the couch in front of the TV and drink the rest of the beer together. Starsky won’t let Hutch turn if off till the ball drops.
He decides to stay, too much beer in him to drive, he says. Hutch gets him a pillow and blanket for the couch and says good night. In his room, Hutch strips and lies on the bed, but tired as he is, he can’t sleep. He wonders if he can buy Starsky a tuxedo for his birthday.
He is still awake when Starsky appears at the bedroom door with the pillow and blanket tucked under his arm. He yawns and comes to stand over Hutch, who smiles when he sees Starsky is wearing boxer shorts with pictures of party hats on them.
“Those a present from her or for her?” Hutch asks, but thinks careful what you wish for. You did want him out of that damned tuxedo.
Starsky hits him with the pillow. “Tell anyone and you die. Now move over,” he says. “Found out something else I’m too old for. Your couch. My back is killing me.”
Hutch moves to the edge of the bed as Starsky falls in beside him on his back and is asleep before he finishes saying good night again. Watching the steady rise and fall of Starsky’s chest, Hutch thinks how his bed has never seemed so small before. There is a lump in his throat when he realizes he never felt so alone in it either. But then, with a courage fueled by too much beer and too little sleep, Hutch moves across the space between them. His face hovers for a second over Starsky’s before he leans down and kisses him lightly on the mouth. He brushes the corners of Starsky’s lips with his own and feels his warm breath on his face.
Starsky stirs beneath him and Hutch makes a move to pull away before he wakes up. But Starsky lifts his head from the pillow and without opening his eyes, wraps one hand around the back of Hutch’s neck. Hutch is pulled down and when their mouths meet, he kisses Starsky full on, mouth open, tongue searching. He tastes of beer and pizza and something else he can’t place. It leaves Hutch breathless and wanting more. But Starsky lets go and turns on his side, his back to him. As he finally drifts off to sleep, Hutch realizes that less than two hours into the new year, he has already broken his one and only resolution.
Hutch sleeps late and wakes up alone. He checks the bathroom and living room but Starsky’s gone, and without saying a word. With a sinking feeling, he realizes he has screwed it up between them completely. After all this time, he’s been undone by the combination of too much beer and a killer tuxedo. He has no idea what he will say to Starsky.
The apartment is littered with empty beer bottles. The pizza box lies on the living room carpet and Hutch reaches down to pick it up as he walks by. He notices a folded piece of paper on the coffee table. It simply says, “Hutch.” He picks it up, stares at Starsky’s handwriting for a moment and opens it slowly, bracing himself for the worst.
Had to get the tux back by 11. Didn’t want to wake you. Thanks for letting me crash here. Be back after lunch.
P.S. You’re right, you are a better kisser.
P.P.S. What took you so long?
Hutch wonders if he can get the sloppy grin off his face before Starsky gets back.