HAPPILY EVER AFTER
“Remind me why we’re drunk, Starsk.” Hutch was slouched down beside him on the couch, legs crossed at the ankles and resting on the coffee table. He balanced a glass on his chest and looked pleased with himself.
“Because we drank too much?” Starsky swallowed a burp.
“No, I mean why did we start drinking? We don’t do this anymore.”
“The anniversary, remember?”
Starsky lifted his glass—still half full with the best single malt scotch the liquor store sold—in Hutch’s general direction. If the scotch hadn’t gone down so easy, or if they’d had somewhere to be that evening, or even if they’d thought about how hung over they’d be the next day, they might have stopped after two.
“Oh right, the anniversary. I forgot.”
Hutch stared at his empty glass, then at the half-empty bottle of fifteen-year-old Laphroaig on the table, and wondered how he could get some more of it into his glass without moving. He twitched his nose. Nothing happened. Damn. He wondered if now was the right time to tell Starsky about his secret crush on Samantha from Bewitched. Probably not. Not when they were celebrating an anniversary. Which reminded him . . .
“What anniversary is this?” He picked up the glass and held it off his chest in case Starsky whacked him.
Starsky whacked him. “Tenth.”
“No, I mean the anniversary of what? You didn’t exactly say.”
Starsky had come home earlier with the bottle of scotch, two sirloin steaks, and a pecan pie. Two hours later and they still hadn’t made it past the scotch.
“I stopped being able to think three drinks ago.” But he tried really, really hard. He did all the right things – closed his eyes, furrowed his brow, stroked his chin. Nothing. “At least give me a hint.”
“Nope. You should know this. You were there, for chrissakes. August? 1974?”
Hutch thought more scotch might help, so he pulled himself up and poured some into his glass. Into Starsky’s too. Then he leaned in and kissed him. Awkwardly and drunkenly maybe, but it still managed to give him a buzz that scotch never would. But then it always had, even those first few times years before, when kissing him was strange and scary and more than a little brave.
Starsky laughed and pushed him off. “You don’t get off that easy, Blondie. Think. Ten years ago.” He kissed him quickly and pulled himself up off the couch. “I’ll be back,” he said as he made his way unsteadily to the bathroom.
Ten years ago? August, 1974. Starsky had just bought the Torino and they drove it up the coast for a few days. “To try it out,” Starsky had said. “To show it off,” Hutch had countered. “Well, that too,” Starsky’d admitted. They’d packed a tent and camped out near Big Sur for a few nights, surfing and swimming, and cooking on an old Coleman stove. Their last night out, in the middle of roasting marshmallows, Hutch had wrapped one hand around the back of Starsky’s sunburned neck and pulled him close. His lips had brushed against Starsky’s skin in that small hollow just behind his ear. He’d expected Starsky to pull away, but instead he’d just sighed and turned his head and kissed Hutch long and slow. But then they heard the sound of car doors closing and laughter coming up from the beach. Hutch had pulled back and dropped his hands and the moment had passed. The next morning, they’d put it down to too much sun and too little sleep, and they never talked about it again. It had taken five years and three bullets to get to the second kiss.
“I had no idea you were keeping track,” he called to Starsky. I had no idea you even remembered that night.
Starsky came back with a box of Wheat Thins and a block of Vermont cheddar on a plate and set it on the coffee table.
“Appetizers. This is a classy joint, you know.” He handed Hutch a knife and a napkin and sat beside him. “Of course I keep track. It was one of the best days of my life,” he said around a mouthful of cheese. “I waited so long for it.”
“You never said.” You should have said.
“You never asked.” He shrugged like it was no big deal.
“I feel the same as I did that first day.” Starsky’s voice was husky with emotion. Scotch and love were a powerful combination.
“Me too, Starsk.” Hutch cleared his throat.
“Though I figure we only have another few years together, then it’ll be time to move on.”
The Hallmark moment evaporated.
“Excuse me?” he sputtered.
“Everything has a shelf life, Hutch. Even us.” He said it in that “trust me, I know these things” voice that drove Hutch crazy.
“If that’s the way you feel, why the hell are we celebrating?” He sat back and folded his arms across his chest.
Starsky rolled his eyes. “Great, now you’re pouting. You always get like this when you drink. It’s no wonder you love Hamlet so damned much.”
Hutch winced. “What does Hamlet have to do with this?” He’d dragged Starsky to see it at last year’s Shakespeare Festival and had been paying for it ever since.
Starsky waved an arm around. “All that thinking. And pondering. And deciding. I wanted to go up on stage and off the guy myself. Get it over with. Enough with the fucking angst, already.”
“But how can I celebrate now? After what you just said about us?”
“Us?” Starsky tilted his head and looked confused.
“Yeah, us. About how we only have a few years left together.”
Starsky burst into laughter. “Us? You think we’re celebrating our anniversary?”
“Mushbrain. Ten years ago today I bought the Torino.”
“Oh.” He felt a blush creep up his neck. “Oh.” He cleared his throat. “Well, that’s okay then. Ten years, huh?”
“Ten years.” He was still laughing.
They ate the rest of the cheese and crackers in a silence broken only by Starsky’s occasional giggle.
Later, in bed, Starsky turned to look at him. “Hutch?”
He cracked open one eye. “Yeah?”
“What did you think we were celebrating?” He said it softly, like maybe he knew the answer already and just wanted to be sure.
“It doesn’t matter. You probably don’t remember anyway.” He reached out and brushed a curl off Starsky’s forehead. He let his hand linger against his face.
“Tell me,” Starsky kissed his palm.
“That night, up in Big Sur, when we, you know . . .”
“Made that huge mistake?”
“Kissing was a mistake?”
“Pretending it never happened was the mistake.” He yawned into the pillow. “Took us long enough to get to happily ever after, didn’t it?”
Hutch was too tired, and still just a little bit too drunk, to find the words that would say what he wanted them to – so he borrowed someone else’s and hoped they would be enough.
“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.”
“Good night, Sweet Prince,” Starsky whispered.
Hutch smiled and kissed him in that small hollow just behind his ear