Disclaimer: I do not own any recognizable characters in this work of fiction, and no profit, monetary or otherwise, is being made through the writing of this.
A/N: Written for my trope bingo square - snowed in, and the cotton candy square - meeting the family.
"So, remind me again why we're in Duluth?" Starsky turns to Hutch, eyebrow raised, hands cupped in front of his mouth so that he can blow warm – warmer – air on them.
Hutch rolls his eyes and pulls Starsky along. It's cold. Record breaking cold and neither of them is prepared for this kind of weather.
"Visiting my Aunt Trudy," Hutch reminds his friend.
"Right, your Aunt Trudy, who thought we were here to rob her blind and take her to a home," Starsky says, and he sneezes, twice, in rapid succession. "That Aunt Trudy? The one who was allegedly expecting us for Easter, except for the simple fact that, obviously, she wasn't?"
Hutch sighs, and shakes his head, shoves Starsky ahead of him, mindful of the snow bank they've got to practically climb to get to their rental car.
"Starsky, I'm sorry," Hutch says, and it must be about the millionth time he's said those words since they started on this journey several days ago.
"You've said that." Starsky slips on a patch of ice, hidden by the newly fallen snow, and for a moment, there's a panicked look on his face, arms wind milling as he tries to regain his balance.
Hutch catches one of his partner's flailing arms, nearly ends up on his ass for his trouble, because it's more slippery than it should be this time of year.
"Shouldn't all of this be melting?" Starsky says, once they've regained their balance and the danger of falling has passed.
"This is Duluth."
It's answer enough.
In Duluth, snow sometime starts as early as mid to late October and can go on as long as early May. He's even seen some snow fall in the middle of June.
This winter, though, has been one of the longest, harshest winters that the North land has seen in literally centuries. Of course, Hutch hadn't known any of that when he'd arranged for this visit home – it had been years since he'd seen family, and he'd kind of wanted to show Starsky off to his family.
"What kind of answer is that?" Starsky shakes his head, and blows warm air on his cupped hands as he waits for Hutch to open his car door.
"You'd have to live here," Hutch says, shrugs, and chuckles when Starsky nearly bowls him over in his haste to get into the car.
"No, thank you." Starsky slams his door shut and waggles his fingers at Hutch through the window, which is slightly frosty.
It's a wonder that it's not completely frozen over, though, to be fair they'd only been in the convenience store for fifteen minutes, picking up Aunt Trudy's favorite brand of cigarettes, brandy, and mints, and a few things for themselves. Not even Duluth, Minnesota could freeze the windows of a car over in fifteen minutes, though it looked like it was giving the windows a hell of a fight.
As it is, they've got to wait several minutes for the defroster to clear off the rear window and the windshield enough for Hutch to be comfortable with making their way to Aunt Trudy's, which is just off London Road, near the ICO – a local gas station/convenience store that his aunt had sent him and Starsky off to.
"It kind of grows on you," Hutch says.
"Which is why you've moved to Southern California." Starsky gives him a pointed look, and puts his hands in his armpits. "Because you like the cold."
"Didn't you have winter in Brooklyn?" Hutch asks, and he inwardly curses when several white flakes hit the windshield.
Still, it's manageable, and they've only got a few blocks to go before they reach Aunt Trudy's, and then they can either wait the new snowfall out there, or head to the hotel that Hutch booked for them shortly after they'd arrived. One night of sleeping on his aunt's pullout hadn't done either of their backs any favors.
"Sure, we had winter," Starsky says, and he's eyeing the snow dubiously, lips pursed. "But, last time I checked, April is spring. You know, 'April showers bring May flowers…' and all that. I don't think that April showers are supposed to be white. Don't you have spring here?"
Hutch hums thoughtfully, turns the windshield wipers onto their highest setting, because the snow is coming down in earnest now, and it's hard to see. He doesn't want to get stuck in one of the snow piles that've been left on the side of the road by the plows from previous blizzards.
"Some years," he answers honestly. "Others…it seems to skip us."
"Which is why you moved to Southern California," Starsky says, and he shifts forward in his seat, hands clenched, and Hutch would bet that the man's as tense as he gets when they're working a difficult case.
"Which is why I moved to Southern California," Hutch concedes with a laugh.
He turns down the side street that leads to his aunt's house, and prays that the rental car will be able to navigate the slippery alleyway, which the city plows have not bothered to clear, believing that winter had come to an end as the weather forecasters had said. There'd been a day, maybe two of snow melting weather, but it had barely made a dent in the massive amounts of snow that had accumulated over the record breaking winter.
His aunt's driveway is a mess. He'd shoveled earlier that week, but now it's slick with ice, because the temperatures had dropped overnight, and the new snow, which had just begun a few minutes ago, is already beginning to accumulate. The car swivels and for a few breathtaking seconds, he thinks it's going to spin completely around and get stuck in the impressive bank of snow that's been amassed in his aunt's backyard. He manages to right the car, and get it up the driveway.
It's insane. But, like he'd said to Starsky, it is Duluth, and he's been away from home for far too long if he can't take the cold and the hazards of driving in crappy road conditions.
"When's our flight back?" Starsky loosens his death grip on the door, when Hutch finally parks the car, and flexes his fingers.
"Another week, after Aunt Trudy's nephew, twice-removed, Henry's birthday party," Hutch reminds his partner, and pointedly ignores Starsky's groan.
"You're lucky I love you," Starsky says.
Hutch winks and blows him a kiss, before hopping out of the car and nearly falling flat on his ass. "It's like an ice-skating rink out here, Starsky. Sit tight. I'll come around and help you out."
"I'm not exactly geriatric here, Hutch. Not like I'm gonna break a hip or something," Starsky complains, but he stays put. "Brooklyn's got ice."
Hutch shakes his head, and helps Starsky when he slips on a patch of ice that's hidden beneath the freshly fallen snow. They slip-slide the rest of the way to his aunt's house, and stomp the snow off their shoes when they enter the foyer. The home is warm, almost suffocating in its heat, and Starsky pulls off his borrowed scarf and coat.
"Boys? Is that you? Shut the door, would you? No need to keep Mother Nature warm, especially if she's going to see fit to give us more snow." Aunt Trudy shuffles into the hallway, drawing her woolen sweater around herself as though shielding herself from the little bit of cold which has seeped in through the door when Starsky and Hutch had entered the house.
"Door's shut," Hutch says, and he gives his aunt a kiss on the cheek as he passes her, grateful that, this time, she's remembered him and Starsky.
Her memory's been sketchy at best, one of the reasons that he'd taken some time off of work, and asked Starsky to accompany him. He'd feared that he'd have to put his beloved aunt into a home, but her nephew, Charlie, is taking care of her while he attends the University of Minnesota in Duluth. It's an ideal situation for both of them, according to Charlie.
Hutch had done a background check on his cousin, and, other than a speeding citation he'd gotten when he was a new driver, Charlie's record was squeaky clean. Due to their age difference, and the fact that Hutch had left home as soon as he'd gotten the opportunity – his Aunt Trudy had been the only bright spot in his life when he was growing up – he hadn't met Charlie before the night that the young man picked him and Starsky up at the airport.
"You two didn't run into any trouble out there now, did you?" she poses the question to Starsky, peering at him over the tops of her horn rimmed glasses.
Starsky gives her one of his most charming smiles – complete with dimples, takes her by the elbow and draws her along in his wake as he makes his way toward the living room, and the fire that's roaring away in the fireplace. He plants a kiss on her cheek as, with a flourish, he deposits her on the armchair.
"No trouble that Hutch, here couldn't talk us out of, ma'am," Starsky says. "That nephew of yours is a real charmer."
Aunt Trudy blushes, and she pats Starsky's hand. "He's always had a way with words, that one. Since he was a little boy, he could wrap anyone around that little finger of his. Had many girls swooning over him. Boys, too, I'd imagine. Though I never heard about them."
Hutch feels his ears growing red, and he glares at Starsky when the man turns his toothy grin his way and bats his eyelashes. Hutch clears his throat. "I'll just put your mints, brandy and cigarettes in the kitchen."
"Would you boys like some brandy hot chocolate? " Aunt Trudy moves to rise from the armchair, but Starsky places a hand on her shoulder, and moves to sit down in the armchair across from her.
"Hutch'll get us some brandy hot chocolate, won't you, honey?" Starksy's voice is teasing, and Hutch would give his partner the one finger salute, but his aunt is looking. Instead, he smiles and nods and heads toward the kitchen.
"Hot chocolate's in the pantry," Aunt Trudy calls, and Hutch can hear his partner's voice, a low murmur, as Starsky tells his aunt about some of their tamer escapades, or maybe he's telling her how they met, or about their first official date.
Whatever Starsky's telling his aunt is a hit, because Hutch can hear laughter trickle into the kitchen. He shakes his head, tries not to let his mind go to the various stories that Starsky could be telling his aunt – certain, embarrassing stories he'd rather that his aunt not know, even if she'll just forget them after they're gone.
Hutch busies himself with preparing hot chocolate the old-fashioned way, the way his aunt had done when he was a kid, and he'd been outside building snow forts with the neighbor boys. He pulls the pan out from beneath the cupboard – where it's always been, even after all these years – pours milk into it, adds the powered cocoa, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Stirring, he brings the mixture to a simmer, and then adds a liberal amount of brandy, knowing that if he lets it get too hot some of the alcohol will evaporate. The routine is soothing, eases some of the tension that he hadn't realized he'd been holding in – the fact that his aunt is no longer as sharp as she used to be is hard for him to accept.
The mugs are where they've always been, in the second cupboard to the left of the sink. His aunt's favorite, a simple multicolored mug with a chip – he'd made it for her when he was in second or third grade – is still there, in front of all of the others, as though it holds a place of honor.
Hutch swallows past a lump in his throat, tries not to think about how much time he's missed with his aunt, and blinks his eyes dry. He pulls the mug, and two others, from the cupboard and fills them with the doctored hot chocolate.
When he was a kid, his aunt had put just a touch of brandy in the hot chocolate, not enough to do any real damage or create a future drinking problem, just enough to give the drink a little kick. The concoction he's made today has more than a little of that old, nostalgic kick to it.
He glances out of the window. The snow's coming down so thick that he can't see out to the front street. He and Starsky won't be heading to their cozy little hotel room tonight. They'll be lucky if he can dig them out in the morning.
Sighing, Hutch places the mugs of cocoa on the silver serving tray that has been in his aunt's family for generations, according to the stories he was told as a child. It's burnished, and he can see a distorted reflection of his face in the silver. He's older than he once was, but he doesn't feel as old as he is, doesn't feel old enough for his aunt to be as old as she is.
"Hey," Starsky's voice startles him, and the man's hands on his lower back, offering support that he didn't even realize he needed, are the only thing that keeps Hutch from dropping the hot chocolate. Starsky's hands are still, strong, and Hutch leans back into his touch, breathes deeply.
"Thought you could use a hand in here," Starsky's voice is light.
"Thanks," Hutch says, his own voice low and thick with emotion.
He turns his face toward Starsky's, and relishes the moment, the soft, almost chaste kiss, before carrying the hot chocolate into the living room, where his aunt is waiting, watching him and Starsky with shining eyes.
Aunt Trudy is smiling as she reaches for the hot cocoa, and she pats Hutch on the hand. He bends close when she tugs on his wrist, breathing in the scent of her – menthol and mint – and offers her a smile of his own.
"I'm glad that you found love," she says. "And that I lived long enough to witness it." Her voice is whisper soft and sharp as ever. "You hold onto him. You hear me?"
Smiling, Hutch nods. "Yes, Aunt Trudy, that's what I aim to do."
"See to it that you do." Aunt Trudy pinches his cheek, and Hutch can feel himself blushing when Starsky laughs.
Hutch rubs at his cheek, sits on the arm of the chair that Starsky's appropriated for himself, and nurses his cocoa. It's a little stronger than he'd intended to make it, and Starsky raises an eyebrow in question. Hutch shrugs.
"We ain't going anywhere tonight, snow's coming down too hard," Hutch says.
"So, we're snowed in?" Starsky looks at the fire, the lumpy couch that houses the uncomfortable pullout.
"Yep," Hutch hides a chuckle behind his mug when Starsky pouts.
"You boys are welcome to the pullout," Aunt Trudy says, her eyes narrowing as she looks out of the window. "Mother Nature sure is angry about something."
"That she is," Hutch says, letting Starsky pull him into his lap and settling back against him. He bats away the man's wandering hands, grateful that his aunt is still peering out of the window and not bearing witness to the less than chaste kiss that Starsky applies to his throat.
Later that night, after Aunt Trudy's gone upstairs for the night, and Charlie's just barely made it home only to go up to his room and collapse in bed– the roads had been atrocious – Starsky and Hutch are cozily ensconced in way too many blankets, the fire blazing nearby. Hutch is almost too warm, his Minnesota roots coming to the fore, but Starsky's cold, and his nose feels like ice in the crook of Hutch's neck.
"I can't believe we're snowed in," Starsky drawls, the tips of his fingers crawling over Hutch's skin, making it tingle. "In April."
Starsky kisses Hutch's collarbone, and Hutch sucks in a breath, bites down on his tongue, because he suddenly feels like he's a teenager again, and he's invited Becky Little over to 'study,' and he doesn't want his aunt to hear, to come trudging down the stairs to find him and Starsky doing anything other than sleeping. It's silly. He knows this, but he still places a hand over one of Starsky's wandering hands, effectively stilling the other man.
Starsky groans. "Hutch, c'mon, man…we're snowed in, and there's a fire, it's perfect for…"
"My aunt and cousin are upstairs, sleeping, what if –" Hutch's hushed admonition is cut off by a kiss, strong fingers digging into his hips, and he forgets all about Aunt Trudy sleeping upstairs, how good her hearing is, in spite of her age and her addled mind.
"And your aunt said that you were supposed to hold onto me," Starsky says breathlessly when he finally breaks the kiss.
"And making out on the pullout couch in my aunt's living room is the key to your heart?" Hutch asks after a beat, pulls Starsky's bottom lip in between his own and sucks on it. Starsky shudders, and nods, and opens his mouth to the kiss.
By the time they fall asleep – spent, limbs tangled, Starsky spooned up behind Hutch – all, save for one, of the blankets have been shed, and the fire's down to a low blaze, it's light flickering on the wall, the crackle-pop of it a kind of white noise of the North land, a reminder of Hutch's youth. The stress he's been carrying since his estranged father had called him to tell him of his Aunt Trudy's declining health, is all but gone, and he's got Starsky to thank for that. Starsky, and an aberrant snowstorm in late spring.
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