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Who is this man who means so much to Hutch?

Abby stood in the middle of the room, watching Dave Starsky. After he had invited her in, he'd gone back to his former task. He was so absorbed in uncorking a bottle of wine, he seemed almost unaware of her presence. Which was probably just as well. Now that she'd gotten up the courage and was there, she didn't know what to say to him. She only knew she'd had to come.

After a long and difficult struggle with the corkscrew, Dave finally succeeded in opening the bottle. As if fancying himself a gourmet wine-taster, he sniffed the cork regally, then took a glass off the table and poured a small amount. He studied its color, then took a sip and rolled it around on his tongue.

Abby had to smile. She couldn't dislike him, even though...

Starsky looked up as if just remembering she was there, and smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. I was just testing tonight's wine. Care to join me?"

"Thank you," Abby said quietly, stepping forward finally. It might make this easier. She studied the label on the bottle while he got another glass. "Seventy was a good year for wine," she remarked, and they both laughed. "I...I'm sorry for just barging in on you, but...I'd like to talk to you about something."

Starsky ushered her into a chair and poured the wine. "Don't worry about it. How're ya feelin' now?"

"Better. Glad to be out of that hospital."

"I know what ya mean." He leaned against the table and fell silent, politely waiting for her to continue.

Get it over with. "The reason I came is...well, we've all known each other for awhile now, and I know how close you and Hutch are..." The question is, do you?

"Then you know you don't have to beat around the bush," he told her with a concerned and tentative smile.

Abby nodded. "I'm leaving, going home." I can't compete.

Starsky looked at her, brows knit. "Ain't Hutch the one you're supposed to be telling this to?"

Not necessarily. "I'm going to, tomorrow at the park." You don't realize it yet either, do you Dave? And I know now that I can't tell you. "I'm glad he has a friend like you." It's what Hutch wants.

"I don't understand..."

Abby fidgeted nervously, glancing at the clock and wishing her brother was there, that it was time to leave already. Wanting it to be over with.

"I had a lot of time to think while I was in the hospital," she began hesitantly, twining her fingers together. "The truth is, I do love him...but I can't sit around waiting, wondering. Taking what little time he has left for me." Will there ever be room for us in your lives? For girlfriends, wives? I suspect you don't really want to make room.  "Living in fear, for myself as well."

Abby dared a glance at Dave. He was waiting patiently for her to continue, compassion in his sensitive face. He was a good man, she realized. Good for Hutch.

" happened..." Abby faltered again, looking at the nick-knacks lining the bookshelves, the plant hanging from the ceiling--anywhere but at him. It made her feel embarrassed, weak, but she still couldn't speak of that insane man's attack on her, the pain was too close to the surface yet.

"Go on," Dave encouraged in a gentle voice, reaching out to cover her hand with his own.

"Before it happened I could close my eyes and pretend. Now I know the realities." All of them. "And when this whole thing started...he was so casual about it! As if the case was more important than his life. Has he always had a death wish?"

Starsky laughed. It sounded forced. "That's the problem. Finding someone who really understands."

Like a partner. I guess I've known for awhile now. Woman's intuition, maybe. How long will it be before he stops pretending? Before you find each other?

When Abby didn't comment out loud, Starsky continued. "When ya spend so much time on the streets, you learn to put things into a different perspective. I would it be for a big, tough cop to get all upset 'cause someone put a rat in his 'fridge?"

"In other words, worse things happen." It wasn't a question. She knew the answer, too well.

"And have," Dave agreed, removing his hand and shifting slightly, as if he was uncomfortable with the conversation now.

Do you feel the same for him? For his sake, I hope so. "Don't you worry about him?" Abby asked, even though she knew he did. Perhaps it was an unfair question, but she just couldn't fathom the world they lived in, the rules they played by.

Starsky paused, briefly letting a barrier down. "A lot...maybe it's easier when you're right there, when you have a certain amount of control over what goes down."

"Maybe he should stick to other cops."

Starsky looked at her sharply. "Why are you telling me all this?"

You don't understand yet. "Because you're here. And I'm leaving." I'm not bitter. I want him to have whatever makes him happy. And it's not me.

"What're you saying?" Starsky asked unnecessarily. Maybe just for something to say.

Abby rose. "I want to live, not have the shadow of maybes hanging over me. Find a man who'll let me love him, who needs and loves me in return."

Starsky followed her to the door. "You're certain?" There was resignation in his voice and on his face. As if it was a scenario he knew well.

"Yes." Very. I see it in his eyes, his soul. It's you. And it'll never be anybody else.

Starsky hugged her and kissed her cheek. "I hope you find him."

You, too.  "Thanks, Dave. Will you be there tomorrow?"  Go to him, David. He needs you.

Starsky nodded and opened the door for her.

"Take care of him. And yourself." Abby paused once before leaving. "I hope he...I hope you both find what you're looking for."  I really do.

As Abby left, she glanced back one last time. Starsky was corking the wine. Probably decided to save it for tomorrow night. When it would be needed.


the end