Hutch smelled Dobey’s livid mood before his captain bellowed his name through the open door into the squad room. He grabbed his jacket, knowing he was about to be sent out, for whatever hell had broken loose now. That was right up his alley today, a hunt, a chase, a bad guy to take down.
“Hutchinson, close the damned door!” Dobey was furious, a thunder cloud across his face, and Hutch obeyed with a grin. He wouldn’t have his captain any other way. If an Alpha couldn’t express himself during his wife’s time of heat, then the world had gone nuts. Hutch could pick up the cycle of his Captain’s wife days before it was due. Fortunately, in the Department, it was all Alphas, and everyone was very quick on the uptake, when a colleague’s partner had gone into heat. Allowances were made, and Hutch rather enjoyed some righteous ruckus blustering through the Station, every now and then.
Hutch noticed the lack of Starsky by his side stung right then. He wanted to share the moment of silent acknowledgement with his partner. They’d share their stories about their own antics over the weekend in a few days over a beer at Huggy’s.
In the presence of Dobey’s vociferous fumes, Hutch stood to await whatever it was that needed the privacy of his captain’s office. Without his conspicuously absent partner, Hutch didn’t feel like taking the time to sit down. This was going to be blissfully short, as there were no running cases, and Starsky wasn’t due back for a few more days from his private time off. Hutch didn’t know where Starsky had gone off to, and he didn’t like it. You couldn’t press people in Starsky’s position too much, without being seen as too controlling, so Hutch had backed off on asking, but he did want to low-down after he had his partner back.
Dobey launched himself into his chair and sighed as if he needed to gather himself and take it slow, the ‘things are not good, and he doesn’t know how to say it neutrally’ move Hutch knew so well from his superior, who was also his friend.
“What going on, Cap?” Hutch used a calm tone of voice. Yes, he was an Alpha, but his position and slightly too attractive looks had driven other Alphas to the most unexpected confrontations with him. He preferred Starsky’s comforting Beta presence by his side. His partner’s presence neutralized most Alphas around Hutch, and he had gotten decidedly used to it. He enjoyed their dynamic, even on the worst of days.
Let’s face it, he already missed Starsky, even though he’d seen him yesterday. Starsky’d be back in no time at all. Just a few days. A few boring, lonely, uninteresting days. Starsky’s break couldn’t be over fast enough where Hutch was concerned.
“I don’t know where Starsky is,” Dobey looked up with piercing, dark eyes. There was something else behind the words. Hutch could feel it. He could smell anxiety in the pheromones pouring off Dobey.
“He’s probably out with some Omega chick,” Hutch offered. “You know how he’s been since Blaine died.”
Dobey dropped a hand on the desk. It rattled under the unexpected abuse. “Blaine, yes.”
There was something else going on here. “Out with it,” he commanded, before reining in his own need for dominance. “Cap, just tell me.”
Dobey started to fidget with both hands on the desk. Hutch rounded the chair and took possession of it, leveling the playing field. Both seated, no one had to look up. It was a dominance game Hutch played with Alphas when needed. Now was not the time for powerplay.
“Starsky’s fine, Cap. It’s just taken a while for him to adjust.”
“Your partner is fine, because he’s been spending time with me and my family,” Dobey spoke softly. Under any other circumstances claiming Hutch’s partner was in his pack would be a challenge to another Alpha. It could easily be taken as a putdown that Hutch didn’t have an Omega and no pups, and without a pack, he couldn’t add a Beta like Starsky. It was highly unusual he even stayed partners with a Beta, something the squad never let him forget. Hutch has had to face that for years already and it grated on him. He’d gotten particularly good at ignoring any reference to his choice of partner.
Hutch decided not to follow his baser instincts for the moment. He was more concerned about why Dobey brought Starsky up as if there was a problem he wasn’t aware of. Surely Dobey didn’t know more about Starsky than Hutch did.
“If there’s something going on with Starsky, he’ll tell me,” Hutch stated, clenching his teeth hard with the innate confidence he had in the fierceness of their friendship.
He wanted to tear the information out of Dobey, whatever it was, but he kept himself from hardhanded action. Starsky’s trust was more important to him. His partner walked a tightrope just being in the Force and Hutch had vowed secretly to protect him. Starsky’s place in the Department was precarious as a Beta among so many Alphas. Starsky had entrusted himself to Hutch, or at least that was Hutch’s point of view. He had backed Starsky at every turn. They’d made it work, because Hutch didn’t want to partner with anyone else, not ever. Not for a million Alphas would he trade in the ‘mediocre’ Beta that Starsky was. There was nothing mediocre about Starsky, and Hutch knew that Dobey recognized it too.
They both respected Starsky and between the two of them, Hutch had been able to keep his partner this far, against all expectations. So if Starsky wanted to spend time with the Dobeys, to get over the loss of John Blaine, fine. Hutch would roll with that.
“He has been with me,” Dobey’s voice went low, so as not to carry through walls to ears who didn’t deserve to know the truth. “Not my family, not my pack. He’s not been recovering from Blaine’s death. He’s come to me for help.”
Hutch’s mind went back quickly to just after Blaine had died. Starsky had been distraught that the man hadn’t confided in him. Blaine was the Alpha who’d practically been an uncle to Starsky. After his death, Blaine’s backing of male Omega Peter Whitelaw’s shocking political campaign had come to light. Letting himself in with an Omega equal rights advocate was a smack in the face of every decent Omega spouse, and not in the least, of Blaine’s lovely, socially acceptable Omega wife, who hadn’t known anything until he and Starsky came to tell her. Then they found out Blaine had preferred Whitelaw and other Omega males to his wife. It had been unthinkable and completely unexpected, but Hutch had refused to cast judgement over the man’s life. He wasn’t going to cast the first stone, except on the infidelity towards Blaine’s wife. Starsky, though, had been much closer to Blaine, and had taken it hard.
The unsavory scandal was felt throughout the Department, condemning a respectable Alpha for cheating on his wife. His childless marriage had been the subject of underground gossip, but Hutch and especially Starsky had always ignored it. Starsky’s love for this man ran too deep to seek any dirt behind the unfortunate situation that Blaine’s wife had no pups. But to find out he was spending his Alpha seed on the side with male Omegas was the final straw and Starsky palpably suffered in a way that Hutch could only stand by and do nothing but hold his partner’s hand in comfort. Proverbially speaking, of course. Such hollow comfort. Half the department didn’t want any part of dealing with Blaine being killed in a seedy hotel room, shaming his wife and their legacy.
What legacy? No pups, no pack. That added up to a wasted Alpha life. Even Hutch had suppressed a culturally taught surge of disgust, but it was none of his business whom anyone chose for a mate. Even if they went out for one-night knotting.
Hutch would never pass judgement on anyone’s sexual behavior or their family planning. After Gillian, he couldn’t stomach the idea of ever starting a pack with any other woman, Alpha, Beta or Omega. He just made sure no one knew that, not even Starsky. Especially not his Beta partner.
Hutch and Dobey were some of the few Alphas who were quite indifferent to who other Alphas decide to knot. They had that in common, but they both felt Blaine had played his wife for a fool. They sympathized with her.
Starsky had a completely different reaction. He had been Blaine’s confided Beta friend, a relation, almost, because he’d been for all intents and purposes a part of Blaine’s pack. Starsky’d felt personally betrayed by John. His emotions ran deep, disturbing him even now, many months later. If Starsky had even confided in Dobey, there could be more to it that Hutch wasn’t privy to.
It rubbed Hutch the wrong way to think there was something Dobey knew and he didn’t. Hutch tried to ignore his gut-reaction misgivings for Starsky’s sake, for the moment. “Okay, so Starsk needs to have some one-on-one time with a strong Alpha like Blaine. I can see how you fit the bill better than I do.”
It made a lot of sense to Hutch, now that he considered it from Starsky’s perspective. He’d never had to think about it before. What Betas did and why was unclear and unfathomable to most Alphas and Omegas. But Starsky’s welfare was Hutch primary concern. It stood to reason that Starsky would need the protection of a powerful Alpha now that his longtime pack-Alpha was no longer there.
Dobey gently shook his head. “Hutch. He’s been with me. He was with Blaine before, and now he’s with me.”
Hutch could see Dobey as an uncle figure to Starsky like Blaine. Hutch never wanted to be that to his partner. He wanted equality. He wanted more than the status quo. What he wanted he wasn’t going to get. If Hutch had an Omega wife, like Blaine and Dobey, and a proper pack to as an unattached Beta to join, things would be different. Hutch had long since accepted reality, and right this minute, reality sucked big time. But he’d face it head-on. “Starsky is now part of your pack, is that what this is about?”
“No.” Dobey met his gaze strongly, with no excuses or attempted lies.
Dobey paid him the compliment of not putting into words what was starting to dawn on Hutch. The truth was on the table, one that Hutch hadn’t ever suspected.
Starsky had been going to spend weekends and short holidays with Blaine ever since Hutch could remember. Being part of a pack meant staying in the pheromones of the Alpha of the pack, so proximity was key.
The change came after Terry. Starsky gradually spent more time in Blaine’s pack, as if it gave him comfort and a nest, making up for the potential home he had lost when she died. Hutch had never questioned it, but he missed Starsky sorely every time he spent time with Blaine. Hutch felt like choking when he had to endure the days of Blaine’s pheromones that clung to Starsky’s skin and clothes after each visit, until they wore off. Starsky had had issues to work through after he lost Terry, and Hutch could only support him up to a point in that. He’d wished more than ever that he could form a pack for Starsky, with Starsky.
Damnit. Betas were so inconvenient! No wonder no one wanted to have them around. Starsky seemed to buck the trend of the traditionally ‘ignored’ Beta, though. Everyone seemed to want Starsky, not just Hutch. This wasn’t the first time he’d noticed that, but he had no reason to suspect anything sleazy was going on.
Now Starsky was part of Dobey’s pack. No, it was worse than that. Starsk was not just another Beta pack-mate, he was in fact Dobey’s sordid plaything.
Hutch felt a tempting surge of jealousy wanting to overtake him. He got to his feet, knowing his own hostile pheromones would already be bleeding into the room. They effects were bound to hit Dobey faster than Hutch could retreat. Neither Alpha was fooled by the other for a second. But they were trained officers of the law. Hutch knew how to handle himself. No matter what ever went down between them, Dobey’d always remain his friend, even in an Alpha stand-off. He was going to cool it somewhere else, far away from this room.
Time to get the hell out of there.
“Hutch, there’s more.” Dobey flawlessly controlled the art of stopping any man in his tracks with just the tone of his voice. No shouting necessary, he was that good at it.
Hutch halted with his hand on the doorknob, unwilling to turn back around to face his Captain. “What?!” he barked. All his instincts told him to possess Starsky, to claim him for his own pack. His instincts didn’t care that he didn’t have one, or that Starsky was only a Beta. Yes, he knew how messed up that was, but he craved it more now than ever.
“Starsky isn’t what you think. He’s been taking pills, so you don’t find out.”
“Stop beating around the bush,” Hutch was struggling to keep his temper at bay, purely for the years they’d known each other and the unquestioned respect he had for his Captain, his friend. At this point, rank was out the window. Only friendship was left. This was Alpha against Alpha, a more primal mode of society, ruled by the strict biology they couldn’t ever escape. They’d both been trained to deal with this all their lives, and Hutch kept himself in check.
Hutch held on to the love he had for this formidable man and all the years he’d happily, willingly served under Dobey. He was proud to be in Dobey’s unit.
But this - stealing his Beta, his partner - that was going too far. “You fucked Starsky, Captain. That’s what you’re saying, right? You knotted my partner and,” he had to reach deeply into himself not to give into blind fury, “and Starsky let you do it.”
It hurt beyond anything that Starsky hadn’t come to Hutch for whatever it was a Beta needed when he’d lost his pack. Hutch hadn’t been taught much about Betas when he was growing up. They weren’t supposed to figure into his life one way or another. One can’t acquire social status by hanging out with Betas.
He had been expected to take his place in society as an elite Alpha. That meant the whole package: an Omega wife, or an Omega husband, if need be. A female Beta’d be tolerated in a pinch, but pups were expected from Hutch, one way or another. Offspring was what an Alpha’s life was about. Especially one placed decidedly up the social rankings, as the Hutchinsons were. Hutch felt he was meant to be more of a breeding stallion than a person. He had always known he didn’t want to spend his life that way.
When he had the perfect opportunity, Hutch had walked away from all that to make a difference in the world. No one in his family had understood his decision. His mating with the highly sought-after Omega Vanessa had proved unsuccessful in the long run. As a divorced Alpha with no pups, he was considered spoiled goods. Even another mating with the right type of Omega wouldn’t win back the favor of his family. The only son of the Hutchinson line in Duluth had failed. A childless union was the kiss of death in his social circles.
At least now they let him be. They wouldn’t even ask whose defect it was. After the divorce, they’d stopped expecting things from Hutch, and he realized he was free. He had said goodbye to that life he had never wanted. In a way, Vanessa had done him a favor. What she’d gotten out of it, he’d never know, nor did he care.
At the academy, he met Starsky, a beta male. Rare in the Police Department, but not unheard of. There was some controversy over allowing him to rise the rank of Detective Sergeant, but Starsky weathered it well. He’d earned Hutch’s respect and then some. During it all, Hutch found out Blaine, a Police Lieutenant at Metro had taken Starsky under his wing. Some family connection or another. Hutch didn’t ask. He was glad of it, because that meant he wouldn’t be the only one protecting Starsky’s position. Their partnership had a chance.
Hutch found himself wishing every single day that Starsky was an Alpha, so they could rocket their careers together. Yes, that was what he’d been telling himself. He had only lost his honor by leaving his family, his pack, but nothing could take his Alpha ambition away from him. He could see himself with Starsky at his side, two bright stars in the Department’s firmament, bringing peace and brotherhood to Bay City. It was a beautiful dream he’d made himself believe. But it covered up a lie.
Now he was confronted head-on with the sexual favors Dobey was giving to Starsky. He realized what he really wanted from Starsky, what he’d wanted all along, even though Starsky was only a Beta. Hutch should be totally disinterested in Betas, but this was Starsky. Hutch knew it was the man himself he wanted, needed, regardless how demeaning it was to admit desiring a Beta, and worse, falling in love with one. With Starsky all that didn’t seem to matter for Hutch, but the thought of bedding Starsky had never been possible. They were partners, that was all. He had never even considered crossing that line.
It galled him that Dobey was receiving what he so craved. Starsky had been giving it away, to Blaine, to Dobey, to everyone but him. Why? Why not him?
“You’re just gonna sit there and tell me this has been going on under my very nose. I trusted both of you.”
The world was turning upside down with possibilities with his revelation. His self-esteem was reeling with the blow. Had he been oblivious to this going on? Had his cop’s instincts completely failed to smell this out? Both Blaine and Dobey had been keeping this from him. He must have been blind as a bat where Starsky was concerned.
Yes, he always had been. He couldn’t afford to inspect Starsky’s life too closely. It had been self-preservation for Hutch, making sure he’d never think of Starsky’s love life, sex life, pack life.
He gritted his teeth and refused to face Dobey as he fantasized on. “So, the aftermath of heat I’m smelling, that’s you knotting Starsky? When? Last night? You like a piece of young flesh, do you? You like them defenseless? Or do you just want a Beta because he’s safe?” He couldn’t stop himself from biting out the words at Dobey.
His Captain now stood up. That effectively shut him up. He’d have to resign if he went on, unless Dobey fired him first. Dobey’d be in his rights to do so, according to any Alpha. Alphas ruled the police department. Hutch knew he was on thin ice, and he almost didn’t care.
Dobey didn’t make a move for him. That wasn’t the kind of man he was, even though he took no bull from anyone, including Hutch. “I’m gonna overlook you accusing your superior officer of raping your partner, Hutchinson. I don’t need to tell you about the unforgiving laws protecting Betas from Alpha harassment.” Dobey turned to a softer tone again.
Hutch wished he could stop listening and walk out, but he needed to know it all. Not to save his job, but because of Starsky. He knew that as of now, everything had changed between them as partners.
“Starsky came to me,” Dobey fidgeted a moment before clasping the desk behind him. He spoke in a subdued voice, “He used to have Blaine to come to, to help him out when the pills couldn’t hold it off any longer. Now that Blaine is dead, Starsky couldn’t let the truth come out. He doesn’t want you to know because he won’t burden you with his truth. He’s living a lie every day, so he can be partners with you, Hutch.”
Pills, Hutch’s detective brain told him. Focus on the pills. He took one step towards his captain. “What would a Beta need pills for? That makes no sense.”
“A Beta doesn’t,” Dobey sighed, drawing his hand through his short-cropped hair. “A Beta doesn’t have Heats. Starsky is using hormone suppressors.”
“Only Omegas use suppressors,” Hutch stated the obvious.
Suppressors were illegal in any part of civil service. If Starsky needed them, that meant Dobey was liable, Blaine was liable. They’d all been covering for Starsky. But Betas don’t need suppressors.
Dobey nodded, head slightly bowing in deep regret. “Starsky’s an Omega.”
Dobey reached out a hand to Hutch, then dropped it and leaned back onto his desk. “Why?”
Hutch’s head was spinning. “I’d’ve known.”
“Your partner’s the best, you’ve said so yourself. Ruthless when undercover.”
“Not this. This is more. I’d know. I’ve seen him naked, many times.”
Dobey exhaled before asking, “Have you really?”
“Back at the academy,” Hutch started. But no, he hadn’t really inspected Starsky naked. The outward differences between a Beta and an Omega were subtle and a hand or towel spread just loosely over the right spot could do it. In fact, Hutch had made sure he never looked, because of his own attraction to Starsky. He had made sure he was always looking somewhere else whenever Starsky was in the showers, or when they went on their double dates.
“But all the women, all the Omegas, the one-night stands. Cap?”
“That’s the same for a male Omega as a Beta,” Dobey shrugged. “If the woman doesn’t mind, there’s no one the wiser.”
Hutch didn’t know what his brain needed to correct the world on first. “Did Terry know? And what about his mother?” Come to think of it, Hutch realized Starsky had never talked his Presentation, only his bar mitzvah. Even that wasn’t ever discussed in any great detail. To Starsky’s mom, a bar mitzvah was possibly more important than how Starsky had presented.
To Hutch’s WASP family, when he presented as Alpha, they had reacted like he had done right by the family, as a good son was expected to. He knew presenting as an Omega would’ve gotten him married off to a sleazy magnate’s son as soon as possible, maybe even as a second spouse. Needless to say, he was always grateful for his Alpha status. It had protected him from a life he couldn’t see himself leading, and he truly felt being an Alpha was right for him.
He'd always felt being an Alpha would’ve been better for Starsky, but he had secretly adored Starsky’s Beta life. It was so much part of him. It was how Hutch had always seen him, thought about him, and silently pined after him. And now it was all a lie.
His fury was softening into sorrow. Soon it would crash into something he didn’t yet know he’d be able to handle.
“Why didn’t he tell me?” He heard his voice croak, as he pushed the words out. “I thought we trusted each other, with everything.” Alphas don’t cry. At least not in front of their Captains or other Alphas. Damnit, he felt the burning in his eyes and pressed his mouth as he searched Dobey’s face. Dobey held no answers, but his expression was teeming with sympathy. “I guess that’s why you haven’t fired me yet, Sir?” Hutch said, adding the respect in, on purpose.
“Sit down,” Dobey nudged him back to the chair, while continuing to lean on his desk, towering over Hutch.
Hutch let it be. Alphas didn’t only spar, they also helped each other. At least he liked to believe he lived in a world where people helped each other.
“Starsky confided in Blaine, and between the two of them, Starsky got as far as he did in the department, passing for Beta. Even as a Beta, Starsky knew most Alpha’s wouldn’t accept him for a partner. He told me he wanted to stay with you for as long as possible. With you both coming through the academy together, he didn’t seem to stand out too much. He’s far more dependent on you than you thought, Hutch. We were only figuring on you riding with a Beta. But an Omega, he’s gonna be out on his ass the moment they find out. And that’d be the best scenario.”
Hutch shook his head. Surely, this wasn’t his fault. “And then what? He’d be found out sooner or later.” Though Hutch wondered because he’d never questioned Starsky either. And he’d been up close and personal with Starsky for all these years. Being played for a fool, it turned out.
“I guess Starsky was willing to bargain on later,” Dobey shrugged. “I don’t like it either. I wish he’d never told me. I wish I didn’t need to tell you.”
But then Blaine died and later had become right now, Hutch realized. “He could’ve confided in me. He could’ve trusted me. How am I the bad guy here?”
“Hutch, what do you think would’ve happened if he’d told you about what he really is?”
Images of Hutch taking Starsky and knotting him flashed in his mind and his body started to respond. He had to get the hell out of there. “Where is Starsky?”
“That’s just it, Hutch.” Dobey’s voice regained its usual depth, signally they were back to business and everything that had been discussed was not going to be repeated, even behind closed doors. “He was supposed to, ah, be with me last night. I arrived at his place at ten and there was no one there.”
Hutch stopped thinking about himself for one goddamned minute and realized Starsky’s absence was more important. “And you’re telling me this now, Cap? That’s over 12 hours ago. Hug?”
“Called already, last night. He hadn’t seen Starsky, and he’s not made contact since.”
Hutch knew Huggy’d immediately let them know if he knew anything. So, no news was bad news. But this was different. This time Starsky didn’t want to be found.
“Why wouldn’t he show up? If he knew you were safe, and this wasn’t the first time,” he paused to look at Dobey, now detective sergeant to his captain. Dobey’s look said enough. “Right. So what’s changed?”
“The timing’s off.” Dobey shook his head.
Omegas had cycles. Hutch knew all about it. Vanessa’s cycle was basically the calendar that his world had been set to for the years of his marriage. He shouldn’t miss that, but he did. He just didn’t miss her. Starsky had a cycle. Just the thought of living with the headiness of Starsky’s cycle made him giddy.
He had to get to Starsky as soon as possible. If an Omega doesn’t get serviced properly, great suffering was the cost. It wasn’t anything an Alpha was going to let happen to their Omega if it was within their power.
But Starsky wasn’t his! He had to remind himself of that fact and shake himself out of a mindset that he was finding out was all too easy to slip into.
“Sweet Alice,” Hutch announced, while he grabbed Dobey’s phone and started dialing. “Be home,” he mumbled as the rotary mechanics of dialing took too damn long.
“Hutch?” Sweet Alice’s voice had her usual singsong, but she sounded self-assured, showing she’d been waiting for his call.
“Is he there?” Hutch asked. No need for anything more.
“He doesn’t wanna see you, honey.”
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
She probably knew he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. “You’ll have to break his door down.”
Hutch took that as information, rather than caution. “I will if you believe it’s that important.”
“I do, sweet Hutch. Break that door down. He needs ya.”
“I’m on my way.”
Fuck him if he’d ever let a door come between himself and Starsky’s welfare.