All that bitching about burritos and petrified onions, all that goop Hutch goes back to whirring up in the blender every day, and it’s Hutch who ends up with cholesterol. It’s Hutch who ends up on disability for a while, and it’s Hutch’s chest that finally ends up looking like his partner’s after it’s cracked open in the ER and hastily sewn back up before family arrives. Family turns out to be a cop who holds a dead man’s hand for three hours, and who is treated with great respect in a hospital where the third floor knows each by name. Somehow Huggy finds his way there and urgent whispers take place behind curtains. He is the one who finally takes Starsky’s hands off Hutch, one cold finger at a time.
Starsky survives. He lives and breathes and works for Bay City PD, Robbery Division. They made that smart move after Gunther, before the streets embarrassed them into something worse. It worked well then and saves him now. His typing is as late and sloppy as ever, his case closed rates stay this side of respectable, and if he is quieter, that’s okay because so is everyone else around him. He survives. He goes to Minnie’s monthly cookouts, lets Edith mother him, and is sometimes heard laughing if Huggy gets just enough alcohol inside him.
It has to be just enough, though. Too much and he gets maudlin, not enough and the bitterness spills out. At the world for taking Hutch, at Hutch for letting it. A weakened heart, the doctors told him, silently swelling in Hutch's chest since... what? The plague? The botulism? No one knows.
A Friday night in his darkened apartment and no Huggy there to guess what enough is so he lets go and indulges, filling a glass to the brim. His back aches and he realizes he has slipped from a Monday to a Friday with no sense of the days. He swirls the amber liquid and wills his thoughts to stop swirling with it. He drinks deeply, then slowly, eventually stopping when the glass blurs and slips from his hand. His eyes squeeze shut, his heart thumps in his ears and his blood pressure soars. He knows what’s coming, he’s been here, lived this. The price of survival maybe.
Before the first tear falls he asks a God he no longer believes in just how an expanding heart kills and a breaking one doesn’t.