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Vita Nova

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Today is Starsky's birthday and Hutchinson hasn't stopped grinning since they walked into the precinct this morning bright and early. He must have something special planned for later; perhaps a dinner at Starsky’s favorite restaurant. Or maybe he’s planning on surprising his partner with a new set of spark plugs for the Torino, despite his disdain for what he refers to as the striped tomato.

They’re supposed to be on shift until 6, but I told them they could leave as soon as they finish up the Wallace report. Because they're my best detectives, I demand a lot of their time, but I'm not a heartless bastard. There are days when they need to get the hell out of here, and today is one of those days.

I’m standing at the file cabinet pretending to be interested in something I’m reading, but I sneak furtive glances toward them every so often. They’re sitting in their usual spots opposite each other at their shared desk, talking as they work, tossing about their playful banter as easily as they might throw a football in the park.

Those boys spend more time together than most married couples and get along better, too.

“Hey, how ‘bout we decorate Easter eggs this year, huh?”

“Should I buy you an Easter basket too, little boy?”

“Come on, Hutch, it’ll be fun.”

“Starsk, what are you gonna do with them once they’re decorated?”

“I don’t know. Eat ‘em?”

“Then what’s the point in decorating them?”

Their interactions have always mesmerized me, I’m not afraid to admit. One day not too long ago, I realized Hutchinson looks at Starsky the way I look at Edith, and Starsky looks at him the same way.

Ever since Starsky almost died last year, Hutchinson’s demeanor has been different around his partner, but lately, I’ve sensed a subtle change between them. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but one day I just knew. It’s like how at the start of autumn, just before the Santa Ana winds blow, you can feel a slight adjustment in the air and you know the weather’s about to change.

Some people believe that the Santa Anas affect people’s behavior because of the positive ions in the air, causing them to become irritable and edgy. For much of the year before Starsky was shot, I’d sensed an unusual tension between them that seemed to culminate and boil over around the time they were working undercover to catch a killer who was targeting blond dancers.

Perhaps it was the wind.

Things have been different since Starsky returned to work this past autumn, as if the latest winds brought with them a change for the better. My boys didn’t bicker or look past each other as they had the previous year. Instead, Hutchinson beamed at Starsky, and Starsky seemed to revel in those smiles that were directed toward him, as if he still couldn’t believe they were his for the keeping.

Not that there haven't been rumors for years, mind you, with the usual suspects whispering in the hallway whenever they didn’t think I could hear them speculate about the two detectives who, despite frequently bragging about their latest female conquests at the water cooler, have always had a conspicuous habit of touching each other, holding silent conversations with their eyes, and eating off each other's plates.

Whenever I’ve come across a group of officers engaging in one of those surreptitious conversations, I feign ignorance and come up with an excuse to break them up and send them on their way. I don’t tolerate rumor-mongering of any kind in my department, but I’m also protective as hell of my two boys.

Starsky and Hutch don't know that I know, and I'll keep their secret until they decide to tell me, if they decide, which they probably won't.

It's safer if I don’t know, because department rules state unequivocally that cops who are romantically involved with each other can't be partners, for obvious reasons.

But I don’t judge them one bit. The relationship between my men is something that just is, and there’s no point in questioning it. Just be thankful that it exists.

Just a few minutes ago, my blond detective walked over to the coffee machine and poured a cup for his partner, and I noticed that for just a moment, their hands brushed lightly against each other as the cup was passed, but not before Hutchinson took a sip first.

And Starsky didn't bother turning the cup around before putting his lips on the same spot.

Edith and I used to do that, when we were first dating. I’m not exactly sure when we stopped, but I think it’s a habit I’d like to get into again. Maybe I’ll surprise her with breakfast in bed this Sunday before we go to church.

Of course, sharing a cup of coffee isn’t something new between those boys. It’s something they’ve been doing for years. It’s just that recently, their hands seem to linger just a little longer whenever they touch, and sometimes I swear I can see Hutchinson blushing.

Now he’s laughing at something his partner’s just said. Starsky’s been prattling on about his latest get-rich-quick scheme, a plan to raise rabbits, or more precisely, baby bunnies to sell for Easter.

“Just think about it, Hutch, all I gotta do is buy a boy rabbit and a girl rabbit, and a pen to put them in, and in just a few weeks, they’ll have multiplied like—“

“Rabbits?”

“Exactly. And then I stand to make a bundle.”

Usually Hutchinson rolls his eyes when Starsky details one of his credulous ideas, but right now his eyes are smiling, turned up at the corners as he gently lets him down, reminding Starsky that with Easter being so early this year, there won’t be enough time to breed and raise rabbits.

Hutchinson watches as Starsky’s expression changes to one of dismay, and I can see even from across the room the look in my blond detective’s pale blue eyes. I can only describe it as one of boundless affection. In fact, if I squint hard enough, I think I can make out tiny pink hearts swirling above his golden head.

Like me, I have a hunch that Hutchinson is feeling especially thankful today after that terrible week last May, when we didn’t think Starsky would live to celebrate another birthday. That he did was a miracle, what I believe to be an act of Divine Providence. Others might say it was the power of love.

Whatever it was, it brought Starsky back to us. For a few breathless minutes, my normally bouncy detective’s heart stopped and my heart almost stopped along with it. But as his partner raced frantically down the hall toward him, Starsky returned to this earthly realm and his heart began to beat again.

I watch as Hutchinson, smiling, reaches across the desk and squeezes Starsky’s arm, trying to soothe his disappointment. As he does so, the world seems to decelerate and everything in the squad room blurs around them. Their movements slow until they’re almost frozen in time, their motion momentarily suspended as if the world has temporarily stopped spinning on its axis.

Then Hutchinson says something which brings out a contented smile from his partner, but I can’t make out what he’s said, as all sounds have ceased.

As Starsky looks at him in return, their eyes lock, and I wonder what they're silently conveying to each other.

I don’t have to wonder too hard, though. The answer can be summed up in one word. Love.