Not Precisely Cupid
When the number lights on the clock tell me it's quarter to five, I finally give up on the idea of sleep and ease out of bed. I'm not ready to deal with Dave and Hutch yet, so I don't bother to look for any of my clothes. My robe is in the bathroom—it'll do. I freeze for a second when the door creaks as I close it, but neither of them so much as twitches. They're still tangled up the way they fell asleep, and I don't think either of them has moved a muscle since.
There's enough street glow coming through the front window that I don't need to turn on any lights. That's fine with me—I'm comfortable with the dark. Ever since I was little girl, I've made a point of being able to find my way through any place I live even when it's pitch black. You never can tell what kind of emergency might come up.
I'd like my slippers—the kitchen floor is a little chilly on my bare feet—but they're in the bedroom, and I still need time to think before I go back there. I've learned something tonight, something that could have a big effect on my future plans, and I need to be absolutely sure about how I want to use it before I make my next move.
I put the kettle on the stove, and take the tin of Keemun out of the cupboard. I'm in the mood for a strong and bitter cup of tea. I need a clear head.
I don't understand how I could have read Hutch and Dave so completely wrong. I would have sworn I had them figured out in the first five minutes. Best friends, yes, but with enough competition between them to put an edge to it. Everybody had told me how tight they were. "Closer than brothers" is what I kept hearing, but from what I had seen it looked like a lot of that was the kind of exaggeration you get about people who have a reputation. People always want to believe their heroes are better, stronger, more loving and beautiful than real life. They don't want to see the feet of clay.
That kind of blindness always gives me an advantage. I look for the things other people don't want to see, because those are so often the things that are most useful.
The expression on Hutch's face when I said "Sure, why not?" was priceless. He'd actually thought they could intimidate me. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. I've faced down thugs with guns, and played departmental politics in the BCPD A couple of pretty boy detectives in black leather jackets? No contest.
For a second, Dave looked sick. He really did care, and I felt a flash of sympathy for him. But I held the thought: if he was going to play hard-ball with me, he needed to get one thing straight: I don't ever back down.
And I don't lose.
I have to struggle to get the tin open, and then of course, when the lid comes off, tea-leaves go all over the counter. I force myself to stop and take a couple of very deep breaths. I need to get hold of myself. Okay, so things didn't turn out the way I planned, but it's not the first time. I've always been able to think on my feet, and there's no reason why this can't work to my advantage in the long run. The key to success, I've discovered, is having firm long-term goals, but being very flexible in how you achieve them.
After all, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, right?
I made sure we were going to my house. When there's an issue of control, especially for a woman, the person who holds the turf has an advantage. I also made sure to drive my own car. I didn't want to have to depend on anybody for a ride in the morning. This wasn't really a date, after all.
Dave had stopped looking sick, and he was being a gentleman—smiling, opening the door for me, polite hand on my back. But none of that reached his eyes. That was when I first started to feel a little uneasy. Dave had gone back undercover, only this time what he was playing was my boyfriend. I always knew they were good: there isn't a cop in the city who doesn't have a whole file of stories about outrageous set-ups Starsky and Hutch pulled and got away with. But seeing it directed against some street scum loser, and seeing it focused on you—that's a whole different story.
Hutch just looked scared. I think he would have backed down if Dave hadn't been acting so completely cool and in control.
I haven't let the tea steep long enough. It's too weak, and the bite I was craving isn't there. With a shrug, I take the tequila bottle down, and pour a splash into the cup. It's five-thirty—the cocktail hour in New Zealand. Or Tahiti. Somewhere, anyway.
Sitting here with chilly feet, in the ice-pale grey just before dawn, there's a part of me—not a very big part, I have to say—that wouldn't mind going back into the bedroom and waking one of the them up—doesn't matter which one—and seeing if I can play the game a little longer. But the truth is, I've had enough. Of both of them. I've got some long-term plans, and being Mrs. Poor-But-Honest-Cop isn't part of them. If I play my cards right, there's no reason why I couldn't be the first woman police chief in Bay City. I'll probably have to shoot that old bastard Ryan to get the job—he's the kind they'll have to carry out feet first. But a good arrest record, and knowing the right things about the right people should take me a long way.
Good sex won't take me anywhere.
They were always very good in bed, in completely different ways. But tonight Dave was just going through the motions. Undercover—I almost laughed out loud when that thought surfaced again. Technically, he was as good as ever, but all the warmth and love that had been behind even the slightest touch was gone. He was fucking me like I was a ten-dollar whore. I could have told him not to waste his time—nobody's been able to make me ashamed of anything in bed since I was twelve.
Poor Hutch could barely keep it up. Whether it was because he felt guilty doing it with me in front of Dave, or because he felt sorry for me, I couldn't tell, but it was frustrating as hell. If a man's going to try to pull something like this off, he should at least be able to do it right.
I have some more tea. There's no reason why police chief has to be the last step. A trusted public servant with a good reputation can always take a shot at politics. Mayor? State legislature? Provided I can hang onto my looks into my fifties, why not?
I don't talk about those plans. A lot of the time it's useful to have people focus on your looks, assume you're maybe a little cunning but not really smart. Men don't like women with ambition. And right now, it's still fun to have men like me. Once I move up in the ranks, I'll have to be more careful. Can't have the underlings gossiping about the lieutenant, or the captain.
Not that there won't be that kind of talk anyway. People usually assume that when a woman gets somewhere, she slept her way there. Provided it doesn't get out of hand, it's not a bad thing to have them think. It makes them underestimate me.
I take another sip of my jazzed up tea, and suddenly find myself laughing. Be honest, Kira. Sure, I got about as much out of Dave and Hutch as I reasonably could. But that's only part of the reason I don't feel like going back in the bedroom. Because, just between me and the teapot here, I don't think there's any point.
When Dave stretched out his hand, I wasn't sure what he was reaching for, but what he got was Hutch's leg. He ran his fingers up along the knee, stroking gently, almost absently.
I couldn't see Dave's face, but Hutch was looking straight at him, and I could see the expression on his face clearly. Hutch was scared again.
The truth hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly all the stupid crap these two had been pulling on each other ever since this case had started made sense. I could have kicked myself for not seeing it before; it could have made everything a lot more interesting.
Then it occurred to me that things might get too interesting now. Hutch hadn't been able to hide his reaction to Dave's touch, and if Dave's reputation was even half-way true, I might just be watching the last minute or two of a famous partnership. I took a quick glance around to make sure the way to the door was clear, in case I had to make a fast exit.
Both of them had frozen in place like kids playing statues. I shifted back an inch or so, ready to jump off the bed before the punches started flying.
Then Dave whispered, "Hutch?" and reached up and ran his hand very tenderly through Hutch's hair. "Babe?"
He'd never called me "babe". Sweetheart, honey, a couple of other things. But never babe. And never in that tone of voice. The scared look on Hutch's face slowly went away, to be replaced by—I'm not quite sure what it was. Wonder? Hope?
Dave reached up with his other hand, and slowly pulled Hutch down and kissed him.
I've done three-ways before, and I can tell when guys have been playing on both sides of the fence. It was painfully obvious these two hadn't. They kept bumping noses, and neither of them seemed to be able to figure out where to put their hands. I was all ready to laugh, and move my way into the middle before it got totally embarrassing for both of them, when something—clicked.
I could practically hear the sound as everything that was wrong and awkward and out of synch between them just got blown away like a pile of sawdust in a windstorm. All the passion and tenderness that neither of them had even been able to try to fake with me came pouring out, wrapping them up in an almost tangible blanket of love.
I watched for maybe five seconds, and then rolled over. They never even noticed.
I keep thinking I should have seen this. Are they that good at being undercover, at hiding all their real feelings and thoughts from everybody? Or did Dave truly and honestly not know it about himself until he knew it about Hutch?
Or—and this is worrying—am I losing my touch? Did I miss it? Or did I not want to see it?
No. Definitely not. I did not buy into Dave's little love-and-marriage fantasy. Some people may be meant for domestic bliss, but it has no attraction for me. Hutch probably hasn't realized it yet, but his tomcatting days are over. Dave's staked his claim, and I suspect all Hutch will get any say in is what color the paint on the picket fence will be.
Well, better him than me.
The sky's finally starting to show some peach and pink over the trees. It'll be a good day, I think. I can wrap up the paper work for Captain Dobey, get on with my next assignment. It won't hurt to throw in a little comment about how much I learned working for him.
I'll let the guys sleep another half hour before I roust them out. I think the best way to play it will be woman-of-the-world: a little amused, a little chagrined, but willing to concede gracefully to the better man—whichever one he is. They'll remember that, once they have the time to get some perspective on all this. After all, it could be useful in the long run to have some allies among the street cops. Especially if they've got a reputation for being honest.
But I draw the line at breakfast.