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A Joint Resolution

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“Wanna go to the Pits, play a game of pool?”

“No.”

“Okay, how ‘bout we just go and have a beer?”

“I said ‘No’, Hutch! You wanna go, you can go by yourself. Maybe you can pull Huggy away for a few minutes to join you at midnight.”

“Well, what DO you want to do? Sit here on the couch and mope some more? Because God knows, six months of moping isn’t enough.”

“Why doncha just leave me alone? I don’t need you here with me 24 hours a day. Go find yourself some hot chick to bang or somethin’.”

“Jesus, Starsk, did you really just say that? I’m not interested in banging some girl I met at a bar!”

“Well, you’re not gonna get much outta me these days; I figured you need some kind of outlet.”

“I’ve told you a million times, that’s not important to me. God, you’re infuriating! You think that’s all I want from you? That our relationship boils down to whether or not you can maintain an erection on any given day?”

Starsky didn’t answer. Pouting, he turned his head away from Hutch and pretended to examine something interesting on the wall.

“You know I hate when you do this? This incessant sulking like you’re a petulant child. For chrissakes, Starsky, you’re 36 years old. It’s time to grow up and act like a fucking adult. Maybe that should be your New Year’s resolution.”

“Fuck you. You think I like feelin’ this way? Huh?”

“Yeah, I do. I think you like to wallow in self-pity, and the more the better. I think you enjoy it, in a weird, perverse way. You did the same thing after you shot that girl, remember? Refused to answer the phone when I called. Got up from the couch and walked away when I tried to talk to you. Like a goddamn child. But at least that only lasted for three days. I don’t know how I’ve managed to put up with this shit for the past six months.”

“If you don’t like the way I act, then why are you still here?”

“That’s a good fucking question!” Hutch yelled, stomping out the door and slamming it behind him.

Furious, Hutch yanked the car door open and squeezed his long, lanky body into the driver’s seat, pulling the door closed with such force that the whole car shook. Impulsively, he smashed his fist down against his thigh, but the tight space between his body and the steering wheel left little room to maneuver, and his hand hit the side of the wheel hard as it came down on his leg. For a moment, the pain in his pinky finger was so intense that he briefly saw stars, and as he slowly regained his composure, he noticed through eyes stinging with tears the dark purple swelling that was rapidly developing.

He sat in his car, unsure what to do, wiping the tears with his sleeve. He considered his options. He could drive home using mostly his left hand, but he knew the sooner he iced the finger, the better. And besides, this was all Starsky’s goddamn fault. Let him help with something for once.

So the decision was made, then. Hutch got out of the car, marched back up to Starsky’s apartment, and grabbed the knob with his left hand, scowling when it wouldn’t turn in his grasp.

The sonofabitch had locked the door behind him.

“Starsk, open up!” Hutch shouted, pounding on the door with his uninjured hand, dimly wondering if Starsky would deliberately ignore his knocking while he cursed his stubborn partner under his breath. But then the door opened and there was Starsky, standing stone-faced in the doorway.

“What?” Starsky’s voice was cold and flat, and Hutch realized he couldn’t remember the last time Starsky’s voice held any warmth in it.

“I need some ice.” He pushed his way past Starsky and headed for the fridge, cradling his injured hand.

Starsky peered over Hutch’s shoulder as Hutch pulled out the ice cube tray from the freezer. “What happened? Lemme see.”

“I think it might be broken. Ah—” Hutch winced as he tried to bend the swollen, purple finger. His face was reddened and splotchy and beads of sweat had broken out on his forehead. Starsky wasn’t sure if it was due to the pain or the embarrassment.

Because whatever caused Hutch to end up with a broken finger not two minutes after he’d left Starsky’s apartment was most surely a cause for embarrassment.

“How the hell did that happen? You just left here.”

“It doesn’t matter. Fuck. Goddamn it,” Hutch muttered, breathing hard as he leaned against the refrigerator.

Starsky fished some ice cubes out of the tray and wrapped them in a dishcloth, gently pressing the homemade ice pack against the injured finger as Hutch let out a gasp.

“Sorry. Want one of my pills for the pain?”

“No thanks. I don’t want to end up bitter and numb like you.”

There was an icy silence as the words hung in the still air between them. Starsky stared at Hutch, mouth open in a surprised gape. The silence filled the room with a coldness that all the ice cubes in the world couldn’t have managed to do.

“I’m sorry,” Hutch mumbled, the words sounding like ground glass in his mouth. “I shouldn’t have said—“

“It’s okay. Forget it. Besides, you didn’t say anything that isn’t true.”

“Starsk—“

“You should probably sit down, lemme have a look at it.” Starsky motioned Hutch towards the couch.

And that was that. Hutch knew his partner had intentionally changed the subject. For six months, Starsky had avoided discussing anything of substance that was bothering him. When he wasn’t bickering with Hutch about everything under the sun, he moped around the house feeling sorry for himself, and Hutch was fucking sick of all of it. He’d been sick of it for a long time.

He smirked and shook his head as Starsky sat beside him on the couch, still holding the ice pack against Hutch’s finger.

“What’re you laughin’ at? I thought you were in pain.”

“I am. It’s just that…this is the first time since you were shot that I’m in more pain than you.”

“And that’s somehow funny to you?”

“No. I don’t know.”

“Then what is it?”

“Nothing. Never mind.” Hutch shook his head while Starsky went back to sulking.

“Anyway, it’s fine now. I think the swelling’s going down.” He rose from the couch, pulling his hand away as he cautiously eyed the front door. He wondered what he’d do if Starsky didn’t try to stop him from leaving.

“The fuck it is. Sit your ass back down, Hutch. The only way you’re leavin’ my apartment right now is to go to the hospital and get that checked out. Besides,” he added, “you have no idea the kind of pain I’ve been in.”

Hutch sat next to Starsky, grateful for the doting attention, but at the same time, startled by his partner’s blunt admission, because he sensed that Starsky wasn’t just talking about physical pain.

Starsky gingerly held Hutch’s wrist as he examined the injured finger. While the ice was helping to keep the swelling down, the unmistakable purple bruising and Hutch’s inability to bend the finger confirmed what they both already knew.

“You wanna talk about it?” Hutch asked quietly, hopeful that Starsky wouldn’t clam up this time or change the subject.

“You want me to take you to the hospital now or in the morning?”

Once again, Starsky had slammed the door on any meaningful conversation.

“Are you serious? It’s New Year’s Eve. Do you know how many people are gonna be crowding the emergency room at this time of night? Besides, I’ll be happy if I don’t have to go to any hospital ever again,” Hutch replied solemnly.

Starsky started to say something, but instead he just shook his head and scowled.

“This is all your fault, you know. If you’d agreed to go to the Pits with me, we’d be sitting there right now, enjoying a rare night out, and my unbroken finger would be helping to hold onto a nice, tall glass of brew.”

“You’re right, Hutch. It IS my fault. All of it. Startin’ with when you yelled for me to get down and I didn’t. It’s my fault for pushin’ you away. It’s my fault for not makin’ as much progress as the doctors hoped I would by now, and it’s my fault I can’t maintain an erection, which the doctor says is all in my head. It’s like my dick is that stupid Jack-in the-Box from Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Hutch looked at Starsky, uncomprehending, a blank look on his face.

“On the Island of Misfit Toys, remember?” Starsky prodded. “We only watched it a week ago, dummy.”

“I remember the toys. But I don’t understand what the heck—“

“Don’t you get it, Hutch? My dick has been like a misfit Jack-in-the-Box ever since the shooting,” Starsky blurted out. “Because I never know when it’s gonna comply and stand at attention and when it’s gonna go all limp and keel over.”

Hutch looked at Starsky and then burst out laughing. He couldn’t help himself.

“What the hell’s so funny?”

“Starsk, that’s not why he was a misfit. It’s because his name was Charlie-in-the-Box. Jesus! Now who’s the dummy?”

But Starsky didn’t laugh. “I’m a misfit,” he said ominously.

It was the most Hutch had gotten out of his sullen partner in months. Hutch studied him, trying to make sense of Starsky’s mysterious pronouncements.

“What did you mean, it’s ‘All your fault’?  You think it’s your fault you were shot? Are you out of your goddamn mind?”

“Forget it. Can you just drop it, huh?”

“No, I won’t. It’s way past time that we talked about things.”

“Hutch, your finger is broken and I know you’re tryin’ hard not to admit how much pain you’re in, and you wanna talk about me right now?”

“Starsk, I’ve been wanting to talk about you for the past six months. And by ‘you,’ I mean ‘us.’ And you know why? Because without you, there’s no me, which means there’s no us. There’s no goddamn anything.”

“I think that finger injury is makin’ you delusional. There’s nothin’ to talk about.”

“Oh, for God sakes, Starsk. You’re doing it again. Please, will you just let me in, just this once? Talk to me, babe.”

Ignoring Hutch’s desperate plea, Starsky lifted the ice pack from the injured finger. “Great! We haven’t been payin’ attention. We’re only supposed to ice it for ten minutes at a time, and it’s probably been closer to a half-hour.” He unceremoniously dropped the washcloth, now dripping from the melted ice, on the couch beside him, where the cold water soaking into the cushions went unnoticed by both of them.

“Lemme get you some aspirin, at least.” But as Starsky rose from the couch, Hutch instinctively reached out with his injured right hand and grabbed Starsky’s arm to stop him. By the time either of them realized what had happened, it was too late.

“Oww…fuck!” Hutch cried, jerking his hand away as if from out of a hot flame. “Goddamn it!” he yelled, panting heavily as he collapsed onto his side. His cheek lay against the wet spot on the couch as he cradled his wrist with his good hand, and he squeezed his eyes shut in a failed effort to push away the tears that were beginning to well up.

“Shit, Hutch, what did you do?” Starsky crouched down beside him as he worriedly examined the wounded finger.

“Well?” Hutch grimaced, his eyes still tightly shut. A single tear escaped and made its way down his cheek, joining its liquid brethren as it sunk into the couch cushion.

“Well, what? It was already broken. It’s still broken. For chrissakes, Hutch, all this arguin’ we’ve been doin’ and neither of us thought to put a splint on it. Wait here.”

Starsky stood up and paced around the room, trying to figure out what he could use to support the injured digit. Then, triumphant, he spotted his latest model ship on his desk and rummaged around in the drawer, eventually pulling out a piece of flat driftwood and a roll of white tape.

When he returned, Hutch had managed to get himself upright again.

“Here, hold still.” Placing the driftwood under Hutch’s finger, Starsky wrapped the tape carefully around it, so absorbed in his task that at first, he hadn’t noticed that Hutch had leaned his head against him for support. Whether it was for physical or emotional reasons, Starsky couldn’t say, but he supposed it was a little of both.

He needed to get up and fetch some aspirin and more ice, but he didn’t want to move just yet. Hutch’s cheek was cold from where it had lain against the cushion, but his body was warm and comforting. So warm. Starsky wrapped his arms around his partner and pulled him close, taking care not to jostle the injured finger.

He thought about it, but as hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember the last time they’d held each other like this. Tenderly, he kissed Hutch’s temple and noticed a salty taste from the sweat that had dried there. Then he kissed it again and again.

###

Hutch had tried to help Starsky climb the stairs to his house but was harshly rebuked. It was the first time Starsky had had to maneuver any stairs since he’d been shot, and Hutch was thankful that Starsky’s house didn’t have quite as many stairs as his own place did.

Twice Starsky had to stop and hold onto the railing to steady himself, swatting Hutch’s hand away each time while insisting he could navigate the stairs himself. When he’d finally made it to the top, sweaty and red-faced, his mood had noticeably changed and he plopped down on the couch, defeated and downcast.

Concerned, Hutch hovered near Starsky, pulling off his sneakers and bringing him a glass of water and his pills.

“What are you, my nursemaid? I had enough of nurses fussing over me in the hospital for the past month.” He scowled at Hutch, looking him up and down. “At least they were pretty. What’s your excuse?”

That broke the ice, and Hutch sidled up next to Starsky, taking his hand. “I’m not a nurse, but I can give you a sponge bath later,” Hutch cooed, nuzzling his face against the nape of Starsky’s neck. He suddenly realized how horny he was.

It had been over a month since Starsky had been shot, and while sex was the last thing on Hutch's mind when Starsky was in the hospital recovering from his near-fatal injuries, now that his wounds were healing and Starsky was home, it was suddenly all Hutch could think about.

He wondered if Starsky was too tired to do much of anything, but then Starsky ran his hand through Hutch’s hair and pulled him in for a kiss, and soon they were making out on the couch like a couple of teenagers in a friend’s basement.

“I’ve missed you,” Hutch murmured, flitting his tongue inside Starsky’s mouth and tasting his partner for the first time since before the shooting.

“Mmm, you taste way better than that stinkin’ hospital food they’ve been feedin’ me,” Starsky purred, grabbing Hutch’s waistband and plunging his hand down the front of Hutch’s jeans as Hutch struggled to undo the button and zipper.

Soon, Hutch’s pants and underwear were pushed down to mid-thigh and his stiff, eager cock pressed itself against Starsky’s hand as he writhed against him.

It didn’t take long. “Oh God, Starsk,” Hutch moaned into the crook of Starsky’s neck as the warm liquid spurted out of his hard, pulsing cock, coating Starsky’s palm with its sticky dampness.

When he’d recovered enough, he leaned down, pulled Starsky’s cock out of his sweatpants and plunged his mouth over it. It had been too long since they’d been intimate. So goddamn long. It was just a little over a month, but it felt like a lifetime ago.

And considering that Starsky had come this close to dying, perhaps it WAS a lifetime ago.

At first, Hutch didn’t notice that Starsky’s cock remained limp. But then he realized that something wasn’t right, and he pulled his mouth away, shocked to see that Starsky’s cock was still flaccid despite the erotic machinations of his mouth. He looked up at Starsky and was shocked anew as he saw the look of utter humiliation on his partner’s face.

“Hey, you okay, buddy?” Hutch was seriously concerned. Had they overdone it? Had he pushed Starsky’s body too far, hurt him somehow? He should have realized Starsky was still so fragile, his deep wounds still healing. After all, it was just twenty minutes ago that Starsky could barely make it up the stairs in one go.

And now he realized that Starsky hadn’t yet said a word in response.

Instead of answering Hutch’s question, Starsky slowly pushed himself off the couch, walked limply into the bathroom and slammed the door.

###

How quickly time had passed, Starsky thought. It had only been seven months since the shooting, and six months since he’d been released from the hospital, but Christ, how much had changed since then.

Hutch was quiet as Starsky held him. “I should get some more ice,” he mumbled, half to Hutch and half to himself, but he made no move to release Hutch from his arms.

Because he was suddenly afraid it might be for the last time.

###

It was a crisp autumn morning when Starsky stood out on his deck looking out at the trees and their seasonal display of colors ranging from bright mustard yellows to shades of dark burgundy and every color in between. He tilted his head up to the heavens and smiled at the scattering of dainty white cirrus clouds wafting against the backdrop of a bright blue sky.

A sky that was the color of Hutch’s eyes and as boundlessly infinite.

Then he went back inside and closed the patio door, shutting out the sounds of the sparrows chirping and the mourning doves cooing. There would be time for mourning soon enough.

He went into the bathroom and took out his bottle of painkillers from the medicine cabinet. Opening it, he shook out two pills and swallowed them with a swig of water from the glass on the counter. Then he shook out two more and swallowed those as well. And two more again.

Six.

He stood and looked at the bottle as if he suddenly didn’t know how he’d come to be here, and then, remembering, he shook out the rest of the pills until they overflowed in his hand.

Starsky looked at the jumble of tablets that he held onto so preciously, a confused look breaking through the determined expression on his face. How did people do it? he wondered. Take their life with pills. How could they possibly swallow that many at once? Did they take them two at a time? Three?

He stood in front of the bathroom sink, fixated on the irrationality of it. At that rate, it’d take him most of the afternoon before he finished swallowing all of them.

For a moment, he screwed up his mouth as if he was about to laugh at the absurdity of it all, but instead of a laugh, a sob came out. And then a great many sobs followed as he turned his hand over the sink, spilling the pills every which way in the basin.

Then slowly, as if in a daze, he walked out of the bathroom and collapsed in a bawling heap on the bed, the bereaved wailing emanating from deep within him heard only by the plants on the kitchen windowsill.

###

Shit, Hutch, what did you do? He’d admonished Hutch for injuring his finger again, but that was his fault, too, wasn’t it? If only he hadn’t pushed Hutch to the breaking point, he’d never have stormed out of the apartment and done whatever the hell it was that caused the injury in the first place.

He really needed to get Hutch something for the pain.

“It’s okay,” he soothed, running his hands along Hutch’s arms and down his back. “I’m right here.” But was he? He’d been a ghost ever since he’d returned from the dead.

He just hoped it wasn’t too late to join the living.

“Hutch…” Starsky whispered into his partner’s ear. “If I could take away the pain, I would. It’s all my fault. I’m so sorry.”

Hutch wasn’t sure which kind of pain Starsky was referring to – the pain in his broken finger or the one in his breaking heart – but he supposed it was a little bit of both.

###

Hutch really had to pee, but Starsky was in there taking a shower. He debated whether he should wait until Starsky was done, as he was in no mood for arguing at the moment. He just wanted to piss in peace, and these days, talking to Starsky felt like walking on eggshells. He’d sooner walk barefoot across hot coals than endure another bickering session.

But his bladder made its urgent request known and wasn’t willing to wait. Carefully, he pushed open the bathroom door and called out to Starsky.

“I’m just here to use the john!”

“Hutch?” Starsky’s muffled voice echoed distantly from within the shower.

“I’ll be outta your way in a minute.” Hutch pushed his pants down to mid-thigh, pulled out his soft cock and aimed it into the bowl, finding blessed relief in the release of the warm urine. Just as he’d finished pulling up his pants, a hand appeared unexpectedly on the side of the curtain, drawing it open.

Hutch turned and observed Starsky’s wet, naked body, his mouth falling open in a gape as he tried to ignore the water that was now beginning to soak the floor around his feet, because Starsky’s other hand was holding his rigid, erect cock, pumping it up and down methodically as he looked fixedly at Hutch.

“You want me to help you with that?” Hutch asked, unsure of Starsky’s intentions. It had been a while since Starsky’s cock had been able to get hard, and he worried that if he touched it now, some magic spell might be broken and it would retreat once again into flaccidness, taking Starsky’s congenial mood along with it.

“Yeah,” Starsky croaked, causing Hutch’s own cock to stiffen beneath his pants. “Please,” his voice begged.

This time, Hutch pushed the pants all the way down, almost tripping over his own feet as he stepped out of them, and then quickly pulled his shirt over his head. He stepped into the stall facing Starsky, and then reached out and gently pushed Starsky’s hand away, grasping the hard cock in his own as Starsky’s hand dropped limply at his side.

Slowly, he began to run his hand up and down the hard shaft, squeezing the base and moving gently over the tip as Starsky moaned. He placed his hand under Starsky’s balls and squeezed them lightly, missing that familiar feeling of heaviness against his palm. After Starsky had returned home and Hutch felt safe touching him, knowing intrinsically that his partner’s body wouldn’t crumble to pieces at the slightest caress, he’d yearned to run his hands all over the too-thin muscles, place it over the heart beating against all odds beneath a mass of shaved chest hair and healing skin, and feel the aliveness of it all. But most days, Starsky would push his hands away, unwanted.

His delicate fondling of Starsky’s scrotum elicited yet more moans, and Hutch thought what a wonderful sound it was. So much better than the bitching he’d had to put up with recently. This was good. Maybe everything would be alright now.

Looking up, he saw that Starsky’s eyes were closed, as if he were trying to focus all his concentration on the sensation of Hutch’s strong, firm hand pleasuring him.

On a whim, he leaned his body against Starsky’s, feeling the slickness of his partner’s wet skin against his own, and rubbed up against the wiry hairs that lovingly coated his partner’s body, being mindful of the scars that mottled the landscape of Starsky’s chest and back.

Grateful that Starsky didn’t push him away, he rested his other hand against the side of Starsky’s face and pressed it close against his own as he grasped the thick wet curls and twisted them between his fingers.

Then, turning his head slightly, he pressed a kiss against Starsky’s moist, open mouth.

“Starsk,” he moaned softly, savoring the feeling of the wet, unshaven skin against his cheeks, and as his hand tightly gripped Starsky’s turgid cock, he relished the feeling of the showerhead raining down on them, rivulets of warm water cascading down their faces, their necks, and their slick, muscular bodies.

As Starsky’s moans came to a head in a paroxysm of ecstasy, Hutch felt the cock pulsing beneath his grasp as it released a warm white liquid that joined the cascading water on its journey down Starsky’s body and into the drain.

That had been about two months after Starsky had come home from the hospital, and the last time they’d been intimate.

###

“Don’t, Starsk,” Hutch murmured, his face buried in his partner’s curls. “None of this is your fault. I should have been more supportive. I should have been there for you, the way I used to.”

“I don’t want us to be miserable any more, Hutch. I wanna try to be happy again. I want you to be happy, but there was a time not too long ago when I thought the only way that could happen was if I was gone.”

Alarmed, Hutch stiffened and pulled away. “What do you mean, gone?” He grasped Starsky’s shoulders with both hands, holding the splinted pinky away to avoid putting pressure on it. “What do you mean, GONE?” he repeated, more urgently this time.

“I tried to swallow some pills.”

“What pills? When?” Hutch shook his head in disbelief. How could he not have known about this? How could he not have fucking known?

“Two months ago. See, I figured if takin’ two painkillers every four to six hours could dull the pain in my body, then the whole bottle would get rid of all my pain forever.”

“Jesus Christ,” Hutch sputtered, visibly shaking as hot tears began to stream down his face. “Oh God. Why didn’t you tell me?” he gasped, the sound coming out raspy and hoarse, as if he’d suddenly developed a severe case of laryngitis.

“It was after we had that big argument. You didn’t come back for two days, and by then, it was over.”

“You…you thought…I’d be happy if you were gone?” Hutch sobbed, squeezing Starsky’s shoulders in a near-death grip despite the pain that was ramping up again in his finger.

“Hey, take it easy,” Starsky cautioned, gently prying Hutch’s injured hand off his shoulder.

“Do you have any idea what I fucking went through when I thought you were gonna die in that hospital? How could you possibly think I’d be happy if you killed yourself? You ASSHOLE!”

His fury unleashing itself, Hutch began pounding his fists against Starsky’s chest and shoulders, pummeling Starsky’s neck and head and face with his hands, punching and slapping him, not caring a whit about the damage he was inflicting on his poor finger.

Starsky, horrified, tried to grab Hutch’s wrists before his suddenly deranged partner managed to break his finger in even more places.

“Hutch!” Starsky commanded, now as red-faced and sweaty as his partner. “Stop it right now! You’re gonna hurt yourself!” He finally managed to grab hold of Hutch’s wrists and held them down, as Hutch, realizing the futility of his efforts, gave up and hung his head in defeat, shaking every few seconds as his breath hitched in his chest.

“Jesus, Starsk,” he managed to choke out as he tried to catch his breath, “You really thought I’d be happier if you were dead? Why…why…”

Starsky was crying now, too, his voice breaking as he tried to explain, and he released Hutch from his grasp. “Because I thought you felt as miserable as I did.”

“No.” Hutch shook his head violently, his voice shaky and weak. “What makes me happy is you. God, you’re so dense! Being with you. Feeling your heart beating against mine when you hold me in your arms. Looking into your eyes and knowing that you love me. The rest of it – the job, the sex, none of it means a goddamn thing without you. Christ, Starsk…what’s it gonna take before you get that through that thick skull of yours?”

“You weren’t happy when we were together.”

“How could I be? I was angry and frustrated because you constantly pushed me away when we should have been closer than ever. But I never stopped loving you. I never stopped hoping you would one day come to your senses and ask me for help. I just wanted you to stop being so goddamn miserable all the time, and I didn’t know how to help you because I was too consumed with my own feelings of rejection.”

“It’s not your fault, Hutch.”

“I should have been there for you.” A combination of tears and sweat ran down Hutch’s bright red cheeks, leaving a trail of pale flesh in their wake. The pain in his finger should have been excruciating, but he was pumped full of so much adrenaline that he hardly noticed it.

“I thought maybe it was a mistake that I didn’t die. I was supposed to, ya know? I got hit with three bullets in the back, Hutch. I shoulda died that day. The doctors told me that I flatlined. That means my heart stopped, it fucking stopped, and for a few minutes, I was clinically dead.

I’ve had lots of time to think about it, and I came to the conclusion that there must have been some great, big cosmic mistake, and I was sent back to earth by accident. And the fact that both of us were so miserable was proof of that.”

“No!” Hutch was angry, livid that Starsky hadn’t told him any of this before, enraged that Starsky had come to that stupid conclusion all on his own. Goddamn him.

“Starsk, you fucking died in that hospital when I wasn’t even there to hold your hand and say goodbye. And then a miracle happened and you came back to me. And you thought that was a fucking mistake? We were given a second chance, but we squandered it, as if it meant nothing. And if we can take something like that for granted, maybe we never deserved it in the first place.”

“I’m sorry, babe.” Starsky leaned over and buried his face against his partner’s, their warm tears blending with each other to form new droplets that streamed down their burning cheeks, and they held onto each other for dear life. “I love you, Hutch. I don’t wanna bicker any more. Six months is long enough, doncha think? I want us to be happy and—“

Abruptly, Hutch pulled away and grabbed Starsky’s wrist. He held it up to his face, squinting as he tried to read the time on the expensive silver watch through eyes still burning with tears. At least this stupid, overpriced hunk of metal is good for something, he thought.

“It’s 11:55!” Hutch proclaimed, triumphant. “We didn’t miss it, Starsk! We can make our New Year’s resolutions right now, while we’ve still got time.”

“Are you insane, Hutch?“

“They call it a joint resolution,” Hutch blurted out, sniffling as he wiped his nose with his sleeve.

“A joint what?” Starsky asked, confused.

“It’s a written motion adopted by both branches of a legislature that requires the signature of the chief executive to become law,” Hutch called out as he darted into the kitchen and grabbed the last bottle of beer from the fridge.

“Chief executive? You mean like Dobey or somethin’?”

“No, not Dobey. Not a person. It.” Hutch opened the bottle and placed it on the coffee table.

“Hutch, you sure you didn’t get a concussion along with that broken finger, ‘cause you’re not makin’ any sense. What’s a legislature got to do with anything?”

“Starsk – something, or someone, snatched you from the brink of death and returned you to me. So they’ve already done their part. They gave us their signature seven months ago. And then you tried to kill yourself, but something made you dump those pills. Don’t you get it? It wasn’t a mistake at all. We’re the ones who’ve been remiss in our duties.”

He looked at Starsky’s watch again. 11:58. “This year’s legislative session is about to come to a close, and we have less than two minutes to adopt our end of the deal.”

Starsky stared at Hutch as if his partner had gone mad. Certainly, he looked as if he had, his long, sweat-soaked hair swirling every which way about his reddened face, a face with an expression determined to do something which Starsky couldn’t quite comprehend.

But then suddenly it dawned on him and he understood. “Okay,” Starsky nodded. “Let’s do this.”

They closed their eyes and grasped each other’s hands as they quietly proclaimed their joint resolve.

When they opened their eyes, the time on Starsky’s watch read 11:59pm, and they held onto each other as they watched the seconds tick down to midnight. Fifty-nine, fifty-eight, fifty-seven…

And as the clock struck midnight in Bay City, California on the morning of January 1, 1980, ushering in not just a new month and a new year, but a new decade to come, both men swore to uphold their joint resolution.

For theirs wasn’t a trivial thing like declaring they’d lose weight, or exercise more, or pay their bills on time, but a declaration made together with help from a higher power, an indefinable someone or something that had decided that these two men’s lives were worth saving, if only they would try to save themselves.

As the partners looked into each other’s eyes, they joined their lips together in a sacred covenant as the indistinct sound of revelers cheering on the deck of a neighbor’s house wafted in from outside, accompanied by the clanking of noisemakers and a drunken, off-tune rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

“Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne?”

 

“What’s it mean, ‘Auld Lang Syne’?” Starsky asked, gently stroking Hutch’s face. How could he ever have said no to that beautiful face? “Is that French or somethin’?”

“It’s an old Scottish tune, attributed to the poet Robert Burns. Literally translated, it means ‘old long since.’”

“And that means?”

“Days gone by…for old times' sake…something like that.”

“For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.”

 

“Hutch, how do you know all this stuff?”

“I learned it in college.”

“Really? In what class?”

“I’m kidding, meathead. I read it in Reader’s Digest.”

“But what’s the song about? The words don’t make any sense.”

“Sure they do. It means that people should reflect upon and recognize old friendships that have stood the test of time. A ‘cup of kindness’ refers to the tradition of sharing a beverage among friends or performing a toast.”

Hutch suddenly remembered the solitary beer bottle on the coffee table and took a swig. “To me and thee,” he proclaimed, handing it to Starsky.

“To me and thee,” Starsky repeated, taking a swig himself.

By this point, Hutch had calmed down enough that the adrenaline rush was gone, and he looked down at his finger, wincing hard. Starsky fetched some more ice and the bottle of aspirin, and did what he could to numb the pain from Hutch’s injury, as Hutch gazed adoringly at the man who was his best friend in the whole world. The man whom he'd always loved was finally back where he belonged.

And so it was decided that from now until the sands of time, the two lovers would embrace the precious gift that had been bestowed upon them and never again take it for granted.

-The End-

 

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

And auld lang syne?

 

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!

And surely I’ll buy mine!

And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

We two have run about the slopes,

And picked the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,

Since auld lang syne.

 

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since auld lang syne.

 

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

 

And there’s a hand my trusty friend!

And give me a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll take a right good-will draught,

For auld lang syne.

 

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.