"So, what are you doing for the holidays this year?" Hutch asked his partner. "Are you going to your mother's for Hanukkah or Christmas?" Starsky was Jewish, but he celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas.
"My mother's? No way am I going to the east coast in December," Starsky answered. "What about you? Are you going to see your family?"
"No," replied Hutch. "Sometimes family is better kept at a distance." He didn't tell his partner that he had recently come out to his family as gay, and that was why he wanted to keep a distance from them. He hadn't told Starsky he was gay, though. He just hadn't figured out how to tell him. It wasn't like Starsky would have any suspicions. He'd seen Hutch with plenty of women, and he'd been there when the relationships inevitably ended. "So if you're not going to your mother's, what are you going to do?"
"I dunno," said David. "Probably just spend a quiet day at home, away from the murder and mayhem on the streets."
"I don't have any plans," Hutch told him. "You could come over to my place, and we could have dinner."
"Christmas dinner isn't too commercial for you?" Starsky teased. The last few Christmases he had been subjected to Hutch's annual rant about how Christmas was too commercialized and had no real meaning anymore.
Hutch made a face at him before answering. "No, it isn't too commercial. I'd like to spend Christmas with you. I think we have something to celebrate this year." Last Christmas Starsky had still been recovering from the shooting that had almost taken his life, and hadn't been up to much of a celebration. But this year he was fully recovered and back on duty. "So, what do you want for Christmas?"
"Anything but a tree," his partner replied. "I mean, I do hope you intend to have a Christmas tree, but please don't bother planting any more trees in my name. The way you've been going, I'll have an entire forest with my name on it."
"I will have a tree, and I'll even have a menorah if you like." For the past several years Hutch had been supporting a reforestation project by making donations in his friends' names at Christmas and on other holidays. A certain amount of money would pay for the planting of a tree, and a card would be issued to the person in whose name the tree had been planted.
While Starsky appreciated the idea of protecting the environment, part of him still wanted a real, wrapped Christmas present. Hutch sometimes thought that Starsky was a little kid in a grownup's body.
"All right," Starsky agreed. "Can I bring anything?"
"Just bring yourself," Hutch answered. You're all I want for Christmas. Hutch said silently. When Starsky had been shot and almost died, he had realized just how deeply his feelings for his partner ran. Yes, he was in love with Starsky, but he was too scared to say anything. Starsk had never exhibited any overt signs of homophobia, but Hutch was still cautious. "You still haven't told me what you want for a present."
"You're making dinner. You don't need to give me a present as well."
Bullshit, thought Hutch in amusement. He knew Starsky would want a Christmas present, but he had no idea what to give him. "If you say so," he replied.
Starsky dropped him off at Venice Place, and Hutch went inside. As he entered the building he saw his neighbour, a young man named Jackie. Hutch envied Jackie, who was gay and completely open about it. He wished he could be the same, but being out to his family who lived in another state was different than being out to his fellow cops, or to his best friend and partner.
"Hi, Ken," said Jackie cheerfully. "Happy holidays."
"You can wish me a Merry Christmas, Jackie," Hutch replied with a laugh. "How's it going?"
"Going great," his neighbour answered. "I just got a new job."
"That's wonderful! Congratulations. What are you doing?"
"I'm playing Santa Claus at Stedman's Department Store." He winked at Hutch. "Would you like to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what you want for Christmas?"
"How do you know I've been a good boy this year?" Hutch answered with a straight face. He knew that Jackie wasn't really interested in him. He had a boyfriend. But Jackie still flirted with him.
"I don't know. I saw your partner drive away in that fancy red and white car of his. I'm not sure if your letting him leave without jumping his bones is good or bad."
Hutch was about to protest when an idea occurred to him. "Hey, maybe you could do me a favour," he said. "Starsky won't tell me what he wants for Christmas. Maybe he'll tell you - that is, he'll tell Santa Claus."
Jackie shrugged. "Bring him to the store, then, if you think he'll go for it."
"Oh, I'm sure he will," answered Hutch. "Starsky loves everything about Christmas. I'm sure he'd enjoy a visit to Santa."
So that was how, a few days later, Hutch found himself taking Starsky to a department store and getting in line to see Santa Claus. It hadn't been difficult to persuade Starsky to pay a visit to Santa's workshop. Hutch had pretended it was a spur of the moment idea. He'd used the excuse of last minute Christmas shopping to get Starsky into the store, then when he saw Santa's workshop, he said, "Hey, Starsk, why don't you go sit on Santa's knee and tell him what you want for Christmas?"
"Me? You want me to go see Santa Claus?"
"Sure, why not?" Hutch asked. "Tell him you've been a good boy this year and tell him what you want for Christmas."
Starsky gave Hutch a look that suggested he thought his partner was just a little odd, but cheerfully went and sat on Santa's - Jackie's - knee. Hutch tried to refrain from eavesdropping, figuring Jackie would tell him what Starsky said.
"Ho ho ho," said "Santa" cheerfully. "So, have you been a good boy this year, David?"
"Yeah, Santa, I have," answered Starsky.
"And what do you want for Christmas?"
Jackie/Santa saw Starsky shoot a longing glance in his partner's direction before he replied, "Nothing, Santa. There's nothing I want."
"Come now, young man, there must be something that you want." And Jackie thought he had a good idea of what it was, too.
Starsky looked at Hutch again, then said, "Well, maybe there is something, but it's nothing elves can make in your workshop."
"Tell me what it is, maybe I can arrange something. After all, I'm Santa Claus."
The detective smiled. "I'm afraid it wouldn't fit in a stocking, Santa. "
Jackie leaned close and said in Starsky's ear, "Would it have anything to do with that blond man you keep looking at?" The startled reaction he got in response to his question told him volumes.
David got up from Santa Jackie's lap and hurried away, refusing the candy cane he was offered by one of Santa's helpers. When he rejoined Hutch, he said, "Come on, let's get going. Time to get back to work."
"What's the hurry?" Hutch asked.
"It's all that commercial stuff. It's starting to bug me," his partner answered as they left the shopping centre.
Hutch was surprised. Starsky didn't usually complain about commercialisation of the holiday. He seemed to enjoy it. "Is that all, or is there something else that's bothering you?" he asked.
"Forget it, Hutch," Starsky stated firmly. 'Leave me alone' was the unspoken message. Bewildered, Hutch did so.
In the few days remaining until Christmas, Hutch didn't see Jackie. His neighbour's job as a department store Santa Claus kept him very busy. He tried several times to ask Starsky what he wanted for Christmas, but each time the answer was the same. "Nothing."
Early on the morning of Christmas Eve, Hutch finally ran into Jackie. "Hey, Ken, I'm sorry I didn't catch you earlier, but I was just too damn busy," Jackie apologized.
Hutch shrugged. "It's not easy being Santa Claus," he answered.
Jackie grinned. "No, but it can be rewarding. So, do you want to know what your partner wants for Christmas?"
"Yes, definitely," said Hutch, "but I hate shopping on Christmas Eve."
"Oh, don't worry. This isn't something you have to shop for."
"It's not?" asked Hutch curiously. He'd been thinking of a gift for Starsky, but had no idea what it was that Jackie was referring to.
"You really don't know what Starsky wants for Christmas?"
"No, I don't."
"Man, you really are blond," Jackie teased. "Listen, Ken, what Starsky wants is you."
"Isn't that what I just said?"
"But how do you know?" Hutch asked.
"Every time I asked him to tell me what he wanted, he looked straight at you," Jackie replied. "His feelings were written all over his face."
"Listen, Jackie, are you absolutely sure about this?" Hutch wanted to know. He wanted there to be no doubt about this.
"Absolutely one hundred percent," replied his neighbour. "That man is in love with you."
Hutch was stunned. "Thank you," he finally managed to say. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," answered Jackie with a smile. "You know what he wants, but you haven't done anything about it yet."
"Oh, believe me, I intend to," said Hutch.
Hutch spent a very long Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, everything would change, for better or worse. He hoped it would be better, but there was always the chance that Jackie was wrong, and that it would be for worse. He had no idea what would happen if Starsky really wasn't in love with him. Would Starsky walk out, reject him, never want to see him again? If that happened, what would he do? He couldn't imagine being a cop without Starsky as his partner. It had been bad enough when Starsky was recovering from the shooting. Then he'd taken an extended leave of absence and later ridden a desk just so that he didn't have to be on the streets without his partner. He was fortunate that Captain Dobey had understood and hadn't tried to fix him up with anyone else.
As he lay in his bed, trying to sleep, memories of the past few years drifted through his mind. It had been almost ten years now that he and Starsky had been together. He remembered when Starsky had almost died from being poisoned. He remembered Starsky helping him through heroin withdrawal, the plague, and botulism; Starsky holding him in his arms when Gillian died, and doing the same for Starsky when Teri had been killed; the party in Starsky's hospital room with Dobey and Huggy, once they'd known for certain that Starsky would recover from his bullet wounds.
Tomorrow he was going to tell Starsky that he loved him. Oh, he'd said the words before. "I love you. I love your caring" when Starsky had been beating himself up over shooting a bystander while chasing a robbery suspect, and "Starsky, you know I love you," when Starsky had replaced his wrecked car. But he hadn't meant them the same way. Or at least, he'd told himself he didn't.
Eventually, he slept.
Christmas morning came much too early. Hutch finished decorating the Christmas tree that he'd bought, and he put a turkey in the oven. He had no idea what exactly he was going to say when Starsky arrived. He'd play it by ear. At least he'd found a present for Starsky, practically at the last minute. Now he had something to put under the tree.
Starsky showed up around noon. He was wearing a red Santa hat and humming a Christmas carol. He carried a brightly wrapped, flat package which he presented to Hutch. "Merry Christmas, partner!" he said cheerfully.
Hutch started to put the present under the Christmas tree. "I'll open it after dinner," he said.
Starsky grabbed the parcel and nearly shoved it at him. "Open it now!" he demanded. So Hutch took the gift and started to unwrap it carefully, trying not to tear the paper.
"Man, you do NOT know how to open presents," Dave observed.
Ignoring him, Hutch finished opening the present. When he saw what it was, he nearly gasped in astonishment. There before him was the same Buddy Holly record that had been incinerated in his oven when Starsky had mistaken it for a pizza. It was even autographed, just as that record had been.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
His partner grinned. "I have been searching the entire country for that hunk of wax ever since I destroyed your old one. Took me almost two years, but I finally found it. Was hard convincing the collector who had it to part with it, but with the right amount of coaxing and the right amount of money, he finally let me have it."
"This must have cost you a mint!"
"It was worth it," Starsky replied. The look on Hutch's face was worth ten times what he had paid for the album.
"I can't accept this," Ken finally said. He knew how much the original had cost, and he knew that this one must have cost even more.
"You can, and you will," his friend insisted.
"There is no way you can afford this," Hutch said.
"I'm not going to go broke or anything. I'm not rich, but I have a little money put away."
"For your retirement."
"Retirement's a long time off," Starsky told him. "Will you just take it, already?"
"All right," Hutch agreed reluctantly. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. So where's mine?"
Hutch grinned. "After dinner."
"Aww! Do I have to wait ?" Starsky whined.
"Yes," said Hutch firmly. "After dinner."
Starsky grumbled but gave in. He didn't seem to have much choice. So he sat obediently at the table while Hutch served Christmas dinner. He noticed that his partner seemed preoccupied.
"Everything okay, Blondie?" he asked.
"Sure," answered Hutch. "Why wouldn't it be? It's Christmas, nobody's been murdered, you're here..." he let his voice trail off.
"Glad to know you appreciate my company," Starsky said with a grin.
Supper was finally finished, and Hutch cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. Then it was present time. He removed a box from under the tree. "Here you go," he said as he presented it to Starsky.
The dark-haired detective quickly tore the paper from the box. Opening it, he let out a small gasp. Inside was a beautiful leather jacket.
"I know it's not exactly like the one you lost," Hutch said, swallowing hard at the memory of that jacket being cut off his friend's body as he lay bleeding from gunshot wounds. "Didn't have enough time to break it in for you."
"Hutch, it's gorgeous," Starsky breathed.
"Just like you," Hutch replied, leaning forward and kissing him.
Starsky pulled away. "Wait a minute, Hutch. What's going on?"
"Um, I'm kissing you?" Hutch responded, trying to stall for time until he could figure out how to answer.
"That much is obvious, but why?"
"Because ... because I hoped you might want me as much as I want you," the blond man finally answered. "Listen, my friend Jackie was the one playing Santa Claus that day at the mall. He said that when he asked you what you wanted for Christmas, you kept looking at me. I hoped that meant what I wanted it to mean: that you wanted me for Christmas."
Starsky stood up. "You don't get it all, do you?" He sounded angry.
"What? What don't I get?" Hutch asked in confusion.
"Want you? Want you? You mean, physically, right?" When Hutch nodded, he continued. "For God's sake, Hutch, I want Raquel Welch. But you ... It's not about *wanting* you. I love you." He turned to leave.
"Starsky, wait!" Hutch cried out. His partner stopped but didn't turn around. "Starsk, I do love you. I guess - I guess I'm not all that good at saying it at the right time. Yes, I want you, but more than that, I love you. I've loved you for so long. It took you almost dying for me to admit it to myself. You're my partner. You're my best friend. You're part of me. You have my heart."
Slowly, Starsky turned around. "Your heart?"
Dave walked over to Ken and wrapped his arms around the other man's neck. "Is that part of my Christmas present?" he asked.
"No. You had it long before this," Hutch answered.
"Good, 'cause it would look kinda funny wrapped up under the tree."
Hutch kissed his partner again, and this time the other man didn't resist. "Merry Christmas, Starsk. I love you."
"Love you too, Blondie. Always."
Later that day, after the two cops had finally left Hutch's bed and cleaned up, they ran into Jackie and his boyfriend in the hallway.
"Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?" Jackie asked the two of them.
Hutch grinned. "We did," he answered. "Starsky, this is Jackie, my neighbour, the one I was telling you about."
"Santa Claus?" asked Starsky.
"Part of the time," Jackie replied.
Starsky grabbed Jackie and kissed him on both cheeks. "Thank you, Santa," he said.
"You're welcome," said Jackie, slightly stunned.
As they walked out to Starsky's car, Hutch told his partner, "Are you sure you have to go home?"
"Just temporarily, babe. I'll get some stuff and come back tonight. Okay?"
"Okay," Hutch agreed reluctantly. He kissed Starsky. "No more kissing anyone but me, okay?"
"Not even Santa Claus?" Starsky teased.
"Not even him."
"Well, I guess I can live with that. Provided, of course, that I get to kiss you enough to make up for it."
"Oh, that will be a hardship, but I'll survive," laughed Hutch.
As Starsky kissed his lover one more time and started to drive away, he thought he heard Hutch singing a familiar Christmas song, but he seemed to have changed the words slightly:
"I saw Starsky kissing Santa Claus..."