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Can't help falling in love with you

Chapter Text

“Hey Hug, this beautiful lady…she your new waitress?” Starsky asks.

“Indeed she is. Fellas, this is Pam.”

“Nice to meet you, Pam,” the guys reply in unison.

“Pam, let me introduce you to my good friends, Starsky and Hutch. And just so you know, they’re excellent tippers.”

Pam smiles shyly. “What can I get for you gentlemen?”

“Uh, Pam, no one around here calls them ‘gentlemen.’”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Huggy,” she laughs.

“We’ll have two specials,” Starsky says genially, ignoring Huggy’s playful jests.

“And two beers,” adds Hutch.

“Okay, I’ll put in your order and I’ll be right back with your beers.”

“She seems nice,” Hutch observes.

“Indeed,” Starsky agrees.

*****

Here you go -- two beers. One for Starsky and one for Hutch.”

“I’m Starsky, he’s Hutch,” Starsky clarifies.

“Oh, I am sorry,” says Pam, blushing.

“It’s no problem, we get that all the time,” Hutch says, smiling, but he’s looking at his partner and not the waitress.

Chapter Text

Every morning, Starsky goes to Frankie’s Gym and asks Hutch if he wants to share his coffee and danish, and every morning Hutch says no. It’s a dance they do every day, requiring no practice. It comes as easily to them as their own names. But Starsky really wishes Hutch would take him up on his offer someday, although he doesn’t know why he feels this way.

And he doesn’t realize it, but his eyes linger just a little too long on the back of those tiny blue gym shorts his blond partner always wears, even on cold days.

As he waits while Hutch showers, he occupies himself by making small talk with the gym manager, trying to distract himself from thinking too much about his tall blond partner who is standing just a few feet away under the water, warm droplets running down his long sinewy legs, lapping at them...

In the car, they make small talk about their female conquests of the night before, but it’s half-hearted, and the women are soon forgotten.

They have a habit of smiling at each other a lot, and not only when their partner says something witty.

After they solve their latest case, Hutch does two things for the first time which he will do many more times in the future.

The first is convincing Starsky to pay for whatever needs paying for; in this case, his gym membership, despite the fact he has the full amount in his own pocket.

The second is depriving Starsky of his beloved junk food. He promises Starsky he’ll follow him to the chili place for dinner, but then immediately heads in the other direction, forcing the Torino to turn around and follow him instead.

Chapter Text

“It’s okay, I’m right here.”

-Detective David Starsky

 

“Buddy, I’m here, I’m here."

-Detective Kenneth Hutchinson

Savage Sunday

Forced to work on a Sunday, Hutch inquires if Starsky would rather be lounging poolside with a blond lovely, to which Starsky responds absently, “Yeah, somethin’ like that.”

Hutch throws his partner’s requested chili-laden hot dog in the trash, pleased with himself. There is something that bothers him whenever Starsky tries to eat anything unhealthy. He doesn’t know what that thing is, or why it bothers him, so he pushes it to the back of his mind.

When Starsky is inside the recently-robbed convenience store, Hutch calls him outside, and after a long song-and-dance, he eventually reveals that he doesn’t have a pencil, so he pokes inside Starsky’s jacket looking for one. While Starsky doesn’t have a pencil, the witness does, but Hutch does not ask him before he calls for Starsky. For that matter, there are dozens of people standing around, including uniformed police officers, but Hutch does not ask them either.

The reason he doesn’t ask them is simple. It’s because he wants to ask Starsky, even though he knows full well that Starsky does not have a pencil.

Later, at the go-go club, Hutch can’t help himself. As they get up to leave, he pats the inside of Starsky’s thigh, as his partner sheepishly looks around to see if anyone in the bar has noticed, and then smiles as he follows Hutch out the door.

*****

As the police escort leads Starsky out of the parking garage in the dynamite-laden green Chevy, Hutch watches mournfully as his partner drives away and tries not to think of what will happen if the timer should go off before Starsky has a chance to jump out.

It’s the first time he can remember thinking about Starsky’s mortality and suddenly, he’s terrified of losing his partner. They have always been young, tough, and invincible.

But this will be his first of many reality checks.

Texas Longhorn

The comparison of Hutch to Cinderella and Starsky as his Prince Charming isn’t very far off the mark. But rather than a shoe fitting a young woman’s slender foot, the two men fit each other perfectly, only they don’t know it yet.

One wouldn’t think a normally mundane scene such as making a call from a public telephone booth would be worthy of a romance novel or a fairy tale, but these two aren’t your ordinary characters.

The dark-haired one and the blond one simply can’t help themselves. They trifle, they tease, and they look into each other’s eyes. They pretend to lean against the telephone booth but really, they’re leaning against each other.

*****

The two friends sit next to each other at Huggy’s Restaurant and sip their beers. Facing each other, as if they are completely alone instead of in a crowded bar, they lean in close. “Hey Starsky,” Hutch confides, “I’m beginning to think that everyone in this town is crazy, except you and me.”

“Funny,” Starsky responds, “I was beginnin’ to have serious doubts about you.”

It’s their way, to banter like that. To dally and seduce.

An elderly couple holding hands at a nearby table adorned with a single red rose watches the two men as they look into each other’s eyes, then turn to each other and sigh. “Ahh, young love.”

Death Ride

Of course Starsky orders the one thing on the menu he’s advised not to order: the meatloaf. And of course Hutch helps himself to a bite of it without asking, like they’re an old married couple, Linda Williams muses. She notices that Starsky only asks for gravy after Hutch has given his disapproval by spitting the meatloaf into a napkin.

She observes they have the most adorable habit of touching each other lightly on the chest, as if it’s something familiar and subconscious and which they’ve done a million times before, and she’s intrigued by it.

Later, in the hospital hallway, as Starsky rambles on about how they’re “Highly skilled servants of the public,” and Hutch, rolling his eyes, tells him to “Shut up,” she can’t help herself and gushes, “Gee, you two are just wonderful together!”

Snowstorm

Kalowitz is odd man out. As the five detectives sit in Dobey’s office, he watches sneeringly as Starsky and Hutch pass a shared cup of coffee back and forth as if it’s the last cup of coffee on earth, in complete opposition to partners Corman and Burke. He even feels a slight twinge of jealousy towards these brash young detectives and their obvious affection for each other. It’s why he prefers to associate with Corman and Burke and their contentious relationship, so he can privately gloat that he is better off alone and partner-less.

But today, the young detectives passing their beloved coffee cup back and forth are putting a damper on his positive mood.

What Kalowitz doesn’t see is Starsky later assuming that he and Hutch are still in sharing mode, and Hutch deciding that playtime is over as he pulls the cup towards him out of Starsky’s reach. If Kalowitz HAD seen it, though, what would he have thought? Would he have felt vindicated? Probably. Because it would never occur to him, with his rigid rules of conduct and order, that Hutch’s actions were his way of flirting with his curly-headed partner.

*****

At Huggy’s, one can observe how the partners silently communicate with each other through subtle gestures and eye contact. It would be hard for a bystander not to be mesmerized watching them interact, especially when their informant leaves and Hutch gets up and sits next to Starsky for no particular reason except to be nearer to him. Then their tough cop façades are dropped and they giggle like little boys as Starsky puts on his partner’s sunglasses and kicks him to get his attention.

*****

When Dobey recounts the story of how his late partner, Elmo Jackson, was murdered and found on a meat hook, Hutch impulsively places his hand against Starsky’s stomach in a gesture that is both protective and loving. Then their eyes meet and they have another one of their silent conversations in which so much is said in just a few brief seconds.

Later at the cabin, when Corman is dead and Burke has been subdued, Starsky finds his partner sitting on the floor, seemingly in shock at the events that have just unfolded. Hutch has killed a fellow cop. It doesn’t matter that it was in self-defense. It doesn’t matter that the cop was crooked.

Starsky kneels beside his partner, places his hand gently on his arm, and keeps it there. He wishes he could do more to comfort him, but he’s not sure what else he should do. It’s the first time he can remember seeing Hutch in distress, but in his gut, he knows it won’t be the last.

The Fix

I wasn’t panicked when Hutch didn’t turn up for work by Monday afternoon, because I just assumed he was still shacked up with Jeanie at wherever they were shacked up at. But when I found Hutch’s gun still in its holster in his closet, I got a feelin’ right away in the pit of my stomach that somethin’ bad had happened.

But I was completely unacquainted with what that somethin’ was.

When I finally found him in the alleyway -- dirty, beaten, and starin’ vacantly into space -- I impulsively grabbed his arm and pushed up the sleeve. And what I saw there horrified me more than almost anything else I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been to ‘Nam. A whole bunch of jumbled thoughts raced through my head at once. Was Hutch a junkie? Did Jeanie turn him onto it? No, that didn’t make sense, Hutch would never do that. Then how did he get like this…where has he been these past four days? I need to get him to a hospital, but no one can know about the heroin…someone must have nabbed him, shot him through with the stuff.

These thoughts raced through my mind in a matter of seconds as I pulled Hutch towards me, knowin’ he could hurl all over the ground, or all over me, at any moment. But I pushed the thought away and struggled to keep my grip on him while I got Bernie to help me get him up and into the Torino.

In the room above Huggy’s, I held Hutch on the bed, wrestlin’ with him and the blankets and the coffee cup, a towel draped over my shoulder in case he had to puke. Although considerin’ he probably hadn’t eaten in four days, he wouldn’t have had much to puke up besides the coffee.

And while I lost the battle of the coffee cup, in the end, I won the war.

When he started to calm down a little, I rubbed his neck and told him it was gonna be okay while he clung onto my arm for dear life. I tried my best to soothe and reassure him, although I wasn’t feelin’ too reassured myself, and at one point, I couldn’t help becoming overwhelmed with emotion. I looked up at the ceiling and tried to blink back the tears that kept threatenin’ to come. I didn’t want Hutch to see me like that, because that would only make him worry about me. That is, assumin’ he even had any idea what was goin’ on. He probably didn’t, though.

But man, I’d never seen Hutch like that, and it hurt me like nothin’ else ever has. Not since I got the news about my dad all those years ago. And I’d give anything to wipe those two memories from my brain. But I know that neither of ‘em are ever goin’ away.

Hutch can be as mean as a honey badger when he’s threatened and meaner still when it’s me who’s bein’ threatened, but on that day, he saw me as a threat to him, because I wouldn’t let him get his fix. I was fully prepared for him to let loose on me with a barrage of insults and I didn’t give a rat’s ass what he said in his withdrawal-fueled rants or how mean he got. I knew it was the withdrawal talkin’.

After we struggled briefly during his attempted escape, I blocked the door and stared him down, waitin’ to get a glimpse of the real man inside. I knew my partner was in there somewhere. And then I saw it, and Hutch knew, and he humbled himself, and laid his head against my chest in an act of humility as I rubbed his shoulders to let him know I wasn’t mad at him.

That’s my partner -- one minute he’s as ornery as an underfed junkyard dog, and the next he’s like an innocent puppy, lookin’ up at you with those pleadin’ eyes of his and askin’ to be petted.

Unfortunately, my partner is also stubborn and controlling. So after I’d left him alone in Huggy’s care, Hutch had the genius idea of goin’ to talk to Mickey the Snitch by himself, despite the fact he could hardly stand on two legs without wobblin’ about. And Huggy, who gave him cab fare and watched him leave…well, let’s just say I let Huggy have it once Hutch and me were done bookin’ Forest at the station and I had Hutch safely home and tucked in his own bed.

Those mob guys had almost got to him again, and would have, if I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time for the second time this week. When I finally had Monk and the others disposed of, I looked up at Hutch lyin’ there stretched out on top of the concrete wall where he was hidin’, lookin’ like a yellow alley cat lazin’ in the sun, and I smiled at him. I couldn’t help it. And after I helped him down, we looked into each other’s eyes and he just fell into my waiting arms. For a second I worried he might knock me off balance, but I caught him and held onto him tight. I think neither of us wanted to let go.

And you know what I realized? That even after he’d been beaten and starved, when he was lookin’ his absolute worst, covered in four-days’ worth of puke and sweat, he was still as beautiful as the day I first laid eyes on him.

Death Notice

The two partners share a special emotional connection that becomes more urgent whenever they’re faced with death or other tragic circumstances, and they instinctively touch each other even more than usual as a type of coping mechanism. It’s this physical contact throughout the day that keeps them grounded while both reaffirming and strengthening their bond.

The touches can be as simple as a squeeze of the arm or as fleeting as fingers lightly brushing their partner’s shirt.

In the squad room, Hutch reaches his arm towards the coffee cup that Starsky has been drinking from, walks with it over to the coffee pot, and pours himself some coffee. This despite the fact there are plenty of clean, unused cups next to the pot.

But Hutch does not want one of those cups. He wants the cup that Starsky has been drinking from. It’s another one of those things that keeps them physically and emotionally connected as they go about their workday.

*****

When they sing Black Bean Soup to each other, it doesn’t matter that their friends are in the room with them, dancing and carrying on. Because when they look into each other’s eyes and sing those lyrics, they are alone.

And if one listens to the lyrics carefully, one realizes that Black Bean Soup is a love song.

“All I want, is black bean soup

And you to bring it to me;

Be my love, while love will stay,

And wear your ribbons for me.”

Pariah

So much is said between them with just a look or a subtle touch. Hutch pats Starsky’s thigh under the table at Huggy’s, pats his partner’s stomach when they lose Tremaine and again when they question him at the station. He holds Starsky back from assaulting their suspect with only a light grip on his arms and a deep look into his eyes.

They look at each other silently from across the Torino, each understanding perfectly what the other is saying.

For the first time since they’ve been partners, Hutch has felt both exasperated and anxious about the state of Starsky’s mind. He knows that his partner is just blowing off steam, but he can’t help but worry about what would happen if Starsky really had followed through on his threat to quit the force in order to stop Prudholm from assassinating more innocent cops.

Hutch feels such profound relief when Starsky says he’s still a cop, but at the same time, he realizes what he would have done if Starsky had quit.

He would have quit with him so they could be together.

*****

That evening, Starsky lies in his bed contemplating the day’s events. He knows the only thing that stopped him from killing George Prudholm at the old zoo was his partner, and he realizes that he didn’t spare Prudholm out of the goodness of his heart.

He did it for Hutch.

But Starsky can’t stop thinking about the cops that Prudholm killed because of him. He thinks about how the wives and children of those men were home right now, mourning the loss of their loved one, and when he finally falls asleep, his slumber is fretful and disturbed.

Kill Huggy Bear

Starsky really wants Hutch to like his car. Just like he really wants Hutch to share his coffee and danish in the mornings. But Hutch stubbornly refuses his partner’s efforts at changing his mind.

But unbeknownst to Starsky, Hutch secretly really likes the Torino. In its own way, it’s as anti-establishment as his own beat up brown Galaxie. But what he really likes about the striped tomato is how much his partner loves it.

Still, he enjoys hassling him about it whenever he can. He relishes the way he can insult Starsky, and his partner will just grin and bear it, graciously receiving the invectives hurled his way because he knows it’s a game they play.

It’s a daily habit with them and they rarely think about it consciously. Hutch insults and Starsky mildly protests. To an outsider, it might appear abusive, but both men know it’s one of the ways they use to blow off steam, to cope with the day’s stress and anxiety, like opening a safety valve through which negative feelings can escape.

And it’s also their way of flirting with each other, even if they don’t know it.

When Starsky lets on that he’s intimidated (or is he impressed?) by mob boss Lou Malinda’s muscle-bound goons, lithe, slender Hutch can’t help but feel slighted at the unintentional insult. I work out at the gym every day, he thinks. I’ve got muscles. But I don’t look like a rigid bulked-up statue like those guys do. I’ve got lean muscle and I’m much more flexible than…

“How ‘bout that?”

“What?” Hutch asks as he’s jolted from his reverie, his feelings of jealousy slowly slipping away. But they’re destined to return.

The Bait

Hutch sits on the chair and watches as Starsky makes himself at home in Billy Harkness’ bed as they question him. Hutch observes how Billy, naked from the waist up, is a fine specimen of bulging, sinewy muscle and he unexpectedly feels himself getting hard, although he’s confused and doesn’t understand why. Then he scowls as his partner leans beguilingly close to Harkness while calling him “Pretty Billy” in a manner that scandalously borders on seductive.

Sitting on the bed on the other side of their suspect, Hutch catches him off guard, hitting him harder than he should have, explaining how it’s payback for roughing up Cheryl. But is it? Or is it because of the overpowering pang of jealousy he’s suddenly feeling?

Lady Blue

As they sit together in the morgue hallway, Hutch offers Starsky some coffee, but his partner is too upset about Helen’s death to consume anything and waves it away. Despite his normally unrelenting appetite and fondness for coffee and junk food, Starsky often finds himself unable to eat or drink whenever he’s upset or in a traumatic situation.

Hutch, realizing Starsky’s distress is even worse than he previously thought, places his hand over his partner’s as he murmurs “Oh, Starsk” in a soothing voice. Starsky, made slightly uncomfortable by his partner’s intimate gesture, responds cautiously with “It’s alright” as he hesitantly places his hand over Hutch’s.

As they sit there silently holding hands like a couple of teenagers on a first date, Starsky tries his best to act nonchalant, but he’s never held hands with another man before and the unfamiliar situation begins to make him feel self-conscious, so after a few seconds, he pulls his hand away, trying to conceal a nervous smile.

Starsky reflects that maybe if they hadn’t been sitting in a public place, if they had been alone somewhere instead, he might have liked to have held that hand just a little bit longer.

*****

Still mourning Helen, Starsky lies on Hutch’s sofa in an unusually quiet and pensive mood while Hutch tries to lift his spirits by enticing him to gaze at the sunset. In an attempt to cheer up his partner, he’s cooked Starsky’s favorite dinner, the “Paul Muni special,” and has even called Starsky’s mom to obtain the recipe. Mrs. Starsky, ever the worrywart, hopes that the familiar dinner will bring her son out of the funk he’s been in since learning about his ex-girlfriend’s brutal murder. She trusts Hutch will take good care of her boy.

As Hutch attempts to make small talk with Starsky about the colors of the rainbow in the evening sky, he casually brings two candles over to the table and lights them.

Suddenly distressed, Starsky asks who the candles are for and if Hutch is expecting someone. Hutch, looking away to avoid eye contact, hastily answers that he’s got a girl coming over later and that’s why they’re eating early. Starsky glumly asks when he’s leaving but Hutch deflects by changing the subject and never answers the question.

Because there is no girl coming over later--the candles are for Starsky.

So then why are they eating early? Starsky is a seasoned detective, but because of his despondent mood this evening, he fails to pick up on any of his partner’s clues.

But the reason should have been obvious. Hutch has invited Starsky over early so that they can watch the sunset together.

Captain Dobey, You’re Dead

In the squad room, Hutch doesn’t even try to hide his irritation towards Starsky, even though Starsky, who regards the entire thing as endearingly hilarious, helpfully tries to make light of last night’s embarrassing situation as he fondles his gun and playfully winks at his partner. But Hutch, still stewing over what happened, and quietly shooting daggers at Starsky with his eyes, hands Starsky a book he’s bought for him, an instructive tome entitled “Madame Olga’s Self-Help Program to Become Right-Handed.” He then proceeds to repeatedly belittle Starsky’s left-handedness over the next two days, at one point comparing his partner to his spinster aunt who he facetiously says his family locked in the attic.

You see, happy-go-lucky Starsky, or more specifically, his left hand, is the object of Hutch’s scorn on this bright and cheerful morning because he, or rather, the hand, had been the source of Hutch’s great discomfiture the night before, and passive-aggressive Hutch isn’t going to let him forget it.

The previous night, whilst sitting together on Starsky’s sofa watching the game on TV, Starsky had gotten a little too excited when his favored team scored a touchdown, raising his hands and shouting in triumph while temporarily forgetting the drippy slice of pizza he held in his left hand.

This sudden movement resulted in a hot, pulsating blob of greasy cheese unceremoniously oozing off Starsky’s slice and landing with a splat on Hutch’s right thigh as Hutch, momentarily startled by the unfamiliar sensation, yelled out “Fuck!”

Then Starsky, in his fevered haste to clean up the mess he’d made on Hutch’s favorite pants, and desperately trying to diminish his partner’s rising ire, quickly scrambled to scoop up the offending cheese, his left hand accidentally and repeatedly brushing against Hutch’s crotch, bringing about the immediate engorgement of Hutch’s member, which had previously lain lifeless and lax beneath the pants.

This sudden rigidity was not lost on Starsky, who proceeded to laugh uncontrollably at the rapidly escalating situation, as Starsky’s team proceeded to score a field goal while the fans erupted in exuberant cheers.

Needless to say, Hutch, his sweaty, red face quickly draining of color, was not amused.

*****

But as the two partners follow their captain into the interrogation room to question their suspect, the passive-aggressive taunting suddenly stops as they each reach out and hold onto their partner’s arm in a brief moment of solidarity. Being physically affectionate is one of the ways they reduce stress and keep each other grounded, and this day is no exception.

Still, Hutch spends the next several days fretting over what happened the night of the game, while Starsky tucks the incident into the back of his mind, not understanding its meaning but not comfortable thinking about it too hard.

*****

One night, Hutch dreams that he and Starsky are wearing rainbows as they cavort together on a warm, sunny beach, frolicking and happy as they hold hands and laugh. Suddenly, Hutch the ardent runner decides to race ahead of Starsky, daring him to keep up. But Starsky surprises him by not only catching up, but by passing him as they run parallel to the water, as raucous waves crash against the shoreline and the taste of saltwater lingers in the moist, warm air.

Then Starsky stops and Hutch slows his gait, approaching him hesitatingly, as Starsky pulls him close and plants a kiss on Hutch’s startled open mouth, grabbing handfuls of blond hair as they both moan in delight. When Hutch wakes from his dream, he discovers a throbbing hard-on beneath his pajama pants begging to be relieved.

Groggily, he reaches down, takes hold of his erect cock and begins to stroke it, his eyes closed and his mind picturing the salty kiss he and Starsky had shared on the beach. When he orgasms, it’s Starsky’s hand he imagines is stroking him.

Terror on the Docks

“I’m Ken Hutchinson,” Hutch says, shaking Father Delacourt’s hand. “This is my partner, David Starsky.”

“Partners?” Father Delacourt asks, clearly puzzled.

“I…yeah, we’re police officers,” Starsky quickly clarifies while Hutch smiles in an awkwardly shy manner, blushing as he looks down at the floor to avoid eye contact with his partner.

He knows Starsky has just said that to be respectful to the priest. Despite his general distrust of authority figures within law enforcement, Starsky is still traditionally respectful of his elders and members of the religious community, at least so long as they aren’t proponents of crime or corruption.

But still, Hutch can’t help feeling just a tiny bit disappointed at Starsky’s scrambling need to explain the nature of their relationship. As Hutch walks his childhood friend Nancy down the aisle towards his partner, who this day is standing in for Nancy’s fiancé, Billy, he unexpectedly finds himself fantasizing about what it would be like if he and Starsky were to marry each other. Lightly brushing his left hand against his stomach as he looks towards his partner waiting at the end of the aisle, he smiles again.

Later at Metro, Hutch is still looking at Starsky and beaming when Dobey barks at him to wipe the smile off his face, because he’s just found out that a cop has been killed on the docks.

The smile is gone in an instant and Starsky remarks glumly how the cop’s wife just had their first kid. They also know that Ed Jamieson wasn’t the first and won’t be the last murdered cop in the BCPD to leave a wife and child behind.

But while both detectives are hit hard by the news, it is Starsky who is most profoundly affected.

Deadly Imposter

At Huggy’s, Hutch impulsively places his hand on Starsky’s knee in full view of their friend John Colby. Is he subconsciously trying to mark his territory? Is he telegraphing to John that he and Starsky are tight? Or does he think that Starsky is sitting just a bit too close to their old friend?

*****

“Hutch, you okay?” Starsky worriedly runs his hand over his partner’s soft blond hair, looking for a head wound, after Colby has knocked Hutch unconscious and taken off. Come on, babe, wake up, he says to himself, as panic begins to set in when Hutch fails at first to respond.

Later, on the beach, Starsky casually snatches the handcuffs out of Hutch’s back pocket and leans his head in close. He has seen what Colby is capable of, and the advanced martial arts skills he possesses, and is relieved that Hutch has escaped with only a superficial head injury. He knows it could have been worse.

They still don’t consciously realize the depth of their feelings for each other, though, as they play their usual game of who gets the girl; first, with the nudie magazine, and later, with the beautiful Miss Abigail Crabtree.

Shootout

As they play good cop-bad cop while questioning accused suspect Harry Sample, arrested for putting a 19-year old girl in a coma, Hutch leans against the wall of the interrogation room pretending to be concerned for what his volatile partner will do next. Little does he know that he’ll be leaning against another wall in less than an hour, and at that time, he’ll be feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders and on the verge of tears.

*****

A sense of dread begins to creep over Hutch when he sees Starsky lying on the ground of the Italian restaurant, his body twitching unnaturally, and when he discovers the bullet wound behind Starsky’s left shoulder, his heart seizes up with fear. He realizes that Starsky is slowly bleeding to death and will soon go into shock, yet Hutch is unable to get him to a hospital because they’re being held hostage by a couple of out-of-state hitmen--one coldly unemotional, the other an unpredictable hothead.

Hutch, knowing that he needs to get his partner to the hospital if he’s to have any chance of surviving, is bravely defiant when dealing with the hitmen, who are too shocked by his brazen demeanor to take control of the situation themselves, agreeing to let him carry his injured partner to the back room.

Starsky is only comforted when he can feel Hutch beside him, and he desperately reaches out to touch him every chance he gets, disappointed when the hand he grasps turns out to belong to the waitress.

*****

I need to focus, to hear what’s goin’ on out there in the front of the restaurant. They could kill him any minute, and there isn’t a single thing I can do about it. There’s a strong possibility I might never see Hutch again. I love him so much, but try as I might, I couldn’t get out the words to tell him. It took all the strength I got left just to not cry. I couldn’t even look him in the eyes. I shoulda though, because it might have been for the last time.

Hey Hutch, promise me you’ll make it outta there alive, okay? Come back to me safe and I swear I’ll never drag you out to an Italian restaurant ever again. Next time, it’ll be scrambled eggs at your place, just like you wanted. Just you and me, partner.

I told Hutch I was only kiddin’ about his teeth, but of course he already knew that. He knows I only make light of things when the situation we’re in is deadly serious. And this situation is about as serious as it gets. I’m slowly dyin’ of a bullet in my back, and he’s out there facin’ off with two professional hitmen while he’s armed only with a gun so old it’s liable to kill him before he has a chance to nail them.

*****

All the police training in the world couldn’t possibly prepare me for what happened today in that restaurant. While they taught us basic first aid techniques at the police academy (much of which I already knew from my days as a Sea Scout), and instructed us to be calm while we tried to regain control of the situation, they never taught us how to not feel shattered as our partner lay near death in our arms, trusting in us completely to save their life.

We were never taught to comfort them, to reassure them we were doing our best, or tell them how much we love them. For that, I was on my own, but while the words didn’t always come naturally, my actions did. At one point, I instinctively leaned my head against Starsky’s in a brief moment of solidarity before I had to leave him again. But I don’t think my words or actions could ever fully convey how much I love him, nor how devastated I would be if I lost him.

Not even the hostage situation drills we went through prepared me for this day. They never trained us how not to cry after we discovered our best friend’s arm slowly going numb from the bullet’s pressure on the dorsal scapular nerve, while we hoped and prayed that the paralysis was temporary due to swelling and not because the bullet had caused permanent nerve damage.

When you wipe the blood off your hands with a white napkin and look at it dully, trying to register the meaning of its presence on your otherwise clean skin, you don’t realize until well afterwards the significance of your partner’s blood being on you, stickily coating your pale hands while painting them an unnatural shade of brownish-red. Starsky’s blood. Thinking about it now, it’s an incredibly intimate thing, his blood on my hands, a bodily fluid usually shared with no one else. At first, I didn’t want to wash it off. I kept feeling that I needed to put it back in his body somehow, but like toothpaste squeezed out of its tube, it could never be put back in.

This despite the fact I know full well that his body will replace the blood that was lost, with help from the infusion right now snaking into his veins. But it’s as if the blood which coated my hands was sacred, never intended by nature to leave his body in such a violent manner, never envisioned to be seen or felt by anyone. I mean, think about it -- the only blood that nature ever means to leave the human body is menstrual blood. And as with that blood -- a potent symbol of the absence of life because it only flows out after the body’s failure to reproduce -- the blood that spurted and oozed out of Starsky’s shoulder wound felt like a precursor of impending death.

It still haunts me now, even as I watch him sleep peacefully in his hospital bed. And as the nurse comes in to change his dressing, I watch as the once-pristine white gauze, when removed, has turned a grisly shade of dark brown from the blood soaking through it. I wonder at what point the freshly-changed gauze will cease to be sullied by the oozing wound.

After the nurse leaves, I pull my chair closer to Starsky and rest my hand over his, my finger carefully placed over his pulse so I can feel it beating beneath my flesh. The pulsing feeling is reassuring, as is the warmth of the hand I’m holding. “I’m right here, buddy,” I tell him, but in his deep medicated slumber, he can’t hear me.

*****

“You ever get the feelin’ you’re all alone in the world, that nobody loves ya?” Starsky jokingly asks no one in particular, after his friends, led on by Hutch, have left the cottage. Then a memory flashes briefly in his mind, of Hutch gently cradling his shoulder while tenderly leaning his head against him in the back room of the restaurant.

And in the next few seconds before his friends return to continue the evening’s revelries, Starsky thinks about the meaning of what he’s just said aloud. He isn’t alone in the world, because Hutch loves him.

The Hostages

They sit squashed together at the diner, shoulder to shoulder, even though the place is completely empty, while they stare into each other’s eyes like a pair of starry-eyed young lovers.

Later that day, as Starsky quietly watches Hutch talk with Sweet Alice at the bar, he realizes something he’s never realized before: that he sees Hutch in a different way than everyone else sees him. Everyone except Alice.

The way she looks at Hutch, Starsky thinks, with those puppy dog eyes and a faint blush on her cheeks from the warmhearted attention he gives her, is the same way I look at Hutch.

*****

Hutch realizes the one thing he doesn’t like about Starsky is his propensity to drive like a maniac, when his heart plummets into his stomach as Starsky speeds the wrong way down a one-way street to rendezvous with the stolen armored truck. One day, Starsky’s gonna get us both killed!

Losing Streak

Starsky begins to feel uncomfortable the minute he assesses the situation with Belinda. He’s seen those kinds of shakes before and doesn’t want to spend time thinking about them ever again. When Belinda admonishes Hutch for not knowing what it feels like to experience heroin withdrawal, it pains Starsky to see his partner wilt a little in response.

As Hutch sits next to her on the bed, Starsky has to suppress a violent urge to grab Hutch and immediately leave the room with his partner safely in tow. Despite the painful toothache he’s been nursing all day, he would gladly suffer a thousand toothaches if it meant keeping Hutch safe.

Silence

Dobey watches from the corner of the squad room as his two best detectives interact with the deaf-mute ex-cons and their testy patron, the priest. It’s not often that he has the chance to see how his boys relate to the most marginalized members of society, other than with the usual riff-raff brought in on charges like drug dealing, assault and attempted murder.

He’s always wondered what enticed Starsky and Hutch to be friends with each other when they weren’t on duty, given their almost polar opposite personalities. While a cop being loyal to his partner was practically a necessity, there was no guarantee that two partners would be friends outside of work. And in the case of Corman and Burke, for example, neither of those things was applicable.

But while watching Starsky and Hutch converse with Larry and RC, enunciating their words slowly and deliberately and attempting to use crude sign language, he realizes what it was that drew them to each other. It was that rarest of qualities, unfortunately lacking in so many people these days: their empathy and compassion for others.

Omaha Tiger

Eddie can tell right away that the two cops investigating Mac Johnson’s death are good guys. He normally doesn’t trust cops, but these two are different somehow. He can’t quite put his finger on it at first, but when he sees the blond one almost start to cry in the parking garage and his partner quietly ask him if he’s okay, it suddenly clicks.

Eddie knows he can trust them because he can see how much they trust each other.

Jojo

Hutch hasn’t been having a great month, between Mac Johnson’s recent murder and now having to deal with a psychotic, dead-eyed rapist whom the Feds have sprung out of their own interests. So when they find the woman’s brutally beaten body covered in orange spray paint in her apartment -- rapist Jojo’s calling card -- it’s all he can do to keep from tearing Agent Bettin from limb to limb for allowing that animal to roam free.

He knows the only thing standing between him and uncontrollable rage is his devoted partner, who is always calm when Hutch is at his angriest. He can always count on Starsky for that.

Still, he wonders if Stella and the world’s worst lemon meringue pie was all a setup by Starsky from the get-go. Sometimes he wants to strangle his partner.

Running

“Hey, look at those ducks!”

“We’re not lookin’ for ducks, Starsk.” It’s like I’m dealing with a small child.

“Okay, ya know you’re just wastin’ your time?”

“Well it’s my time.” I am getting increasingly pissed off each time Starsky opens his mouth. The guy wouldn’t know how to be emotionally supportive if his life depended on it.

“It’s my time, too. In case you’re interested, time belongs to no one man exclusively.”

Apparently, this is all a big fucking joke to him. “Oh, that’s brilliant.” I’m genuinely hurt by Kiko’s rejection, and my partner just doesn’t seem to grasp that. Or maybe he does, but thinks that joking about it is what I need right now. It’s not.

What I need is to have my feelings validated, and unfortunately Starsky just isn’t capable of doing that. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t have two little brothers.

“Look Hutch, some people just aren’t worth it. I mean, you can eat your guts out carryin’ the world for them.”

Some people? Jesus Christ, Kiko is a fucking eleven-year-old child. Why can’t he simply say ‘I understand how you feel, Hutch. I’m sorry that Kiko dumped you’?

Who am I kidding? I know he loves me, but that’s just not Starsky’s way.

It would be different if I was physically hurt or in some kind of danger – Starsky would be my guard dog, my fierce protector. He would defend me to the death. But I’m hurting just as much right now, in a way that he doesn’t seem to understand, and that hurts me even more. Goddamn it.

*****

“Hey, we makin’ the new business cards tonight?”

“Sure, I just need to find that ‘Plumbing Service’ rubber stamp we had made up.”

“Lemme call Ma first, she’s been waitin’ all day to hear from me.”

“Starsk, before you call her, can we talk about something?”

“Whatsa matter? You don’t wanna go with ‘Plumbing Service’? We could do a taco stand or somethin’, Dobey would—“

“No, it’s about the other day when we were looking for Kiko. I feel a little funny bringing this up now, but…I was feeling really down after Mrs. Ramos said he didn’t want me to be his big brother anymore.”

“I know you were.”

“Yeah? Well, I didn’t appreciate you making light of it. I didn’t get the impression that you cared all that much.”

“Hey…I’m sorry about that, Hutch. I know how much you were hurtin’. I think I just got carried away with the whole Sharman thing. And I really do hope Kiko realizes what he’s missin’ out on and changes his mind about associatin’ with you. If he needs references or anything, I can vouch for ya.”

“Thanks, pal.” Of course, I knew he cared -- I think I just needed to hear him say it.

“Could ya just play that guitar a little quieter so I can call Ma now?”

*****

“Empathy and compassion, my ass!” Dobey fumes in his office. “Someone needs their toilet unclogged -- do I look like a goddamn plumber! I know it was Starsky and Hutch who’re behind the series of prank calls to my office. It’s gotta be them. They’re two peas in a pod -- two little boys running rampant without adult supervision. That’s the REAL reason they get along so well! Hmmph!”

But Captain Dobey is just blowing off steam. He loves his boys despite the shenanigans they continue to pull. And he’s grateful that they’re able to have fun once in a while to let off steam.

“God knows they have enough stress in their lives, they need something to offset it,” Dobey muses aloud.

A Coffin for Starsky

I guess knowin’ I’ll be dead in less than 24 hours has Hutch a little testy this morning. Not that I can blame him. First he ranted at Collins in R&I about the files, then at Dobey for not bein’ able to find an address on Janos and Wedell, and then at Cheryl because she wasn’t doin’ enough to get in touch with her dad. He has a point, though -- Professor Jennings might be the only person in Bay City who can find a way to save my life. The only person besides Hutch, that is.

Hutch is frustrated and upset and he’s takin’ it out on everyone around him. Everyone except me. Which is kinda ironic, ya know? Because usually I’m his go-to punchin’ bag. He always feels safe venting to me, but because I’m dyin’, he’s gotta unleash his anger on other people.

At least Sweet Alice was safe from his wrath, which proves he’s able to control himself when he wants to. He just usually doesn’t want to.

It broke my heart when he joked about how he’ll still be around tomorrow. Jokin’ about stuff when one of us is in dire straits is usually my purview, which tells me that Hutch is really worried about me and doesn’t wanna let on how much he’s feelin’. We both thought we were gonna die in that Italian restaurant, but this time is different. This time, Hutch gets to watch me slowly die over the next 24 hours, and no amount of first aid is gonna help, and I know he’s feelin’ stressed.

I mean, what if I really do die tomorrow? What’s Hutch gonna do then? Poor guy, he’ll be devastated. I’m devastated for him. This whole thing stinks on so many levels. I’m sorry to do this to you, partner. I don’t wanna leave you alone but I guess I don’t have a choice.

*****

Fuck me. Fuck everyone. And most especially, fuck that psycho who did this to him.

Look at him over there, poor guy. He’s sweating bullets, going through his drawer and pulling out carnival prizes like he’s setting up to have a garage sale. And just what in the hell are we doing here sitting at our desks when we should be out looking for the guy who shot him up with that poison, the only guy in the world who knows how to save his life!

Now he’s reaching out his hand to me.  He’s breaking my heart, but I have to keep it together. I can’t let Starsky see me cry, or he’ll know there’s no hope for him.

I’ll hold your hand, buddy. And I’ll never let go.

*****

“Where are we goin’ now?”

“Where you do think? I’m taking you back to the hospital.”

“And then what?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t know what else to do, Starsk. Bellamy was the only one who knew, and now he’s dead.”

“And soon I’ll be dead.”

“Maybe the doctors can find something, give you some kind of antidote. Or maybe Cheryl’s been able to talk to her dad.”

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Just relax buddy, okay? We’ve still got a few hours left to figure something out.”

“Hey, we got time to catch a movie?”

“Oh, Starsk…”

*****

As the nurses place the oxygen mask over Starsky’s mouth and nose and the doctor injects him with a painkiller, Hutch looks somberly at the machine monitoring Starsky’s vital signs and then at Starsky lying on the gurney.

“I’m sorry, we’re gonna have to take him upstairs now,” Dr. Franklin informs him. “If his timetable is right, he’s got less than two hours.” Hutch nods, but his mind is elsewhere. Then slowly, he nods again, as if suddenly realizing the significance of the doctor’s statement. Then he walks over to Starsky’s bedside, places his hand on Starsky’s shoulder and leans in close.

“Hey buddy, I…I have to go now.”

“Okay,” Starsky responds weakly. “Hey,” he smiles at Hutch, trying to keep his eyes open as he stares into Hutch’s eyes.

Hey, partner. I’ve never had to say goodbye to you before. I’ve never looked into your eyes knowin’ it would be for the last time. Well, maybe I did in that Italian restaurant, but this time is different. There was hope for us both then. I wish I could get out the words to tell you how much I love you, but I can’t get myself to say anything out loud. Maybe it’s the poison makin’ me weak or because all the doctors and nurses are hoverin’ over us. Or maybe that’s just an excuse. But I know you know -- I can see it in your eyes. Those beautiful baby blues I’m probably never gonna see again. I love you, Hutch. You’re my pal and my best friend. I’m so grateful to you for what you’ve been to me.

*****

Goodbye, buddy. I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but the doctors said it’s time. They’re taking you away even though you’ve got two more hours left. But you know what, Starsk? It means I’ve got two more hours, too. Two more hours – one hundred and twenty minutes – to find a miracle. I just hope to God it’s enough time. I love you, buddy. I know you know that, but I wish I could say the words out loud. But I don’t think any words could fully express how I feel. And I can see in your eyes that you know what I’m thinking. Besides, if I try to speak, I’m just gonna start crying, and that won’t do either of us any good, will it?

*****

As I sit next to Starsky in his hospital room and watch him sleep, I try unsuccessfully to suppress a yawn. It’s only been a few months since the last time I sat by his bedside, but this time, instead of a gunshot wound, he almost died from a fatal injection of poison. I was two hours away from losing him for good.

We’ve been partners for about four years now, and we’ve been through hell together more than once. I hope we can be partners for the rest of our careers, but at the same time, it scares the hell out of me. Because if we’ve had this many close calls in four years, what are the next twenty or thirty gonna be like? How many times am I gonna watch Starsky almost die while I’m helpless to do anything? How many times is he gonna find himself in a race against time to find me before it’s too late?

It’s too painful for me to think about. Maybe we should have quit the force after Prudholm killed those cops, like Starsky wanted to. At least then we’d be safe.

Oh, man…I’ve been awake for almost 30 hours and now I’m starting to feel the effects of my sleep deprivation. Up ‘til now, I’d been going on pure adrenaline. We had 24 hours to come up with the chemical composition so the doctors could put together a cure, and somehow we made it in the nick of time. We got lucky. But what about the next time?

I know I should go home and get some sleep, knowing that Starsky’s gonna be okay now, but I’m not yet ready to leave his side. There’s something nagging me in the back of my mind and I need to figure out what it is.

Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for a bit so I can go over what happened on the roof tonight.

Starsky tried to trade his life for mine. If Bellamy really had been the only person who knew the composition of the poison, Starsky would be dead by now and he knew it. But he made the split-second decision to give his life for mine anyway, in the ultimate act of love.

But then again, he probably figured that if Bellamy killed me, he was as good as dead anyway, ‘cause there’d be no way he’d have been able to wrest the formula away from Bellamy without my help. So by saving my life, there was still a chance I’d be able to help find the cure.

No, no, no, no…what the hell am I thinking? That’s not why he did it and you know it! There’s no point in rehashing what happened up there! You KNOW that Starsky would give his life to save yours any day of the week, no matter the circumstances.

On the other hand, what if someday he really does end up giving his life to save mine? Who says I’d even WANT to live if it meant living without him? God! I can’t bear the thought of that.

Oh, just shut up already, Hutchinson! Go home and get some sleep.

The Bounty Hunter

Hutch does everything Abby instructs him to do. He eats the fruit she prescribed at the appointed time, takes his vitamins when the alarm sounds, and prepares his body for the long weekend to come.

Abby is really sexy and pretty. And spunky -- especially in bed. And she’s also a sweet gal, if a bit cloying, he thinks.

He’s really looking forward to spending unlimited bedroom time with her this weekend. Sex with Abby is always good. He doesn’t think she’s necessarily marriage material, but that’s okay, because he’s not at all ready to marry again.

So everything is fine. He’s happy. She’s happy. And Starsky’s happy.

Starsky.

Hutch grins.

I’ll invite him to have dinner with us Friday night, trick him into thinking she’s making steak and potatoes, and then I’ll pull the ol’ switcheroo. He’ll hate it, but I’ll make him eat it anyway. Ha!

But while Hutch spends the weekend in bed with Abby, and truly enjoys it, he confusedly finds himself fantasizing about his partner and prays that he doesn’t accidentally call out Starsky’s name as he climaxes.

*****

While Hutch spends the weekend cavorting in bed with Abby, Starsky spends the weekend alone, too preoccupied to even pick up a girl for a date. He can’t stop thinking about Officer Nedloe’s wife and how terrified she must have been when her husband was shot in the line of duty and she was told he was in critical condition.

A cop’s wife, always worrying about whether today is the day her husband gets gunned down.

And what about the wives and kids of the cops that Prudholm killed? The babies who’ll never know their fathers? Do I really want to put my own wife and children through that someday?

He turns on the TV to try to distract himself, but it doesn’t help. He can’t help feeling bothered by the whole thing and wonders if maybe he’s crazy for thinking he can get married someday and have a family.

Chapter Text

“Oh, Starsk, you know I love ya…”

-Detective Kenneth Hutchinson

Las Vegas Strangler

Why didn’t I tell Starsky about Jack’s brain tumor? Was it because I knew how tired he was and I didn’t want to interrupt his sleep? Or was it something about the way the doctor glanced at Starsky sleeping on the couch while telling me that I couldn’t visit Jack because he was unconscious.

Was I secretly relieved it was Jack who was dying and not Starsky?

*****

Why did I snipe at Hutch like that? I told him I was sick of his stinkin’ loyalty to his friends. Where did that even come from? Was it my lack of sleep? Was I jealous of his friendship with Jack? Now it’s got me thinkin’. Maybe I WAS jealous of Jack. And now that I think about it, maybe I was even jealous of Hutch’s friendship with Kiko. I think I was actually relieved when Kiko decided he didn’t wanna be Hutch’s little brother anymore.

Ain’t that the craziest thing you ever heard? He’s just a kid, for chrissakes!

Murder at Sea

“Have you ever seen your life flash before your eyes? I mean, if you knew you were gonna die? Like for instance, say there was a bomb that was about to go off and you only had seconds to live, what would you want to say to the person who means more to you than anyone?

I’ve heard that some people, when they’re in a plane with a lot of turbulence and they’re convinced it’s gonna go down, they wanna tell the people closest to them how much they mean to them, but then the plane lands safely and they never say anything. I guess they chicken out.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at, Dave,” Nancy says, wrinkling her eyebrows and scrunching her nose in confusion.

Starsky kisses the top of her head and runs his fingers through her long brown hair. “Never mind, it’s not important. Hey, how about we go bowlin’ sometime? We can double-date with Hutch and Gillian.”

Gillian

I could tell how much Hutch loved Starsky even before I met him, because Hutch constantly talked about him on our dates. It was sweet, knowing there was someone so special in Hutch’s life. When I finally met Starsky at the bowling alley the other day, it felt like I’d known him all my life.

And when Starsky came to my apartment earlier today, concerned about what he’d found out about me, I realized that he loved Hutch, too. And I don’t know, but there is something about the love between them that’s different somehow. It’s like a rare, precious gift.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never known two men to have feelings like that for each other. Most of the men I’ve had the misfortune to associate with are lecherous pigs, always trying to get into my pants. I can’t imagine them having any close male friends at all. Certainly Al doesn’t. After all, who would want to be friends with a self-absorbed creep like Al Grossman, and with a weird mommy complex to boot? Who could ever love a man like that?

After Starsky left, I knew then that Hutch would be alright, no matter what happened between us.

*****

When I found Gillian’s body lyin’ lifeless in her apartment, at first I didn’t understand who’d want to kill her. Until Grossman called and confessed to the crime, like the idiot he is. And he was too dumb to know the difference between Hutch’s voice and mine, despite havin’ had a conversation with us in his office earlier in the week. Mommy’s big boy sure ain’t the brightest bulb on the shelf, but it don’t take brains to strangle a defenseless woman to death.

I was so beside myself when I called the police dispatcher that I could barely form a coherent sentence. Grossman wanted Hutch to meet him at the Royal Theatre in twenty minutes. I didn’t even know where Hutch was. Should I have Dobey try to reach him on the police radio? Or was he already on his way over? And what the hell was I gonna do when he got here? I was so preoccupied thinkin’ about it that I didn’t even hear Hutch walk in, and his voice startled the shit outta me.

“What goin’ on?” he asked, so innocently. Oh, Hutch. I didn’t even know how to answer the question. I couldn’t look at him as he walked over to where Gillian’s body lay on the soft beige carpet. Should I have said, ‘Grossman murdered your girlfriend, I’m so sorry, Hutch’? Or maybe, ‘Gillian’s dead. Grossman killed her.’ Eventually, I blurted out, ‘She’s dead, Hutch,’ as if it was even necessary to state the obvious. Hutch knows dead when he sees it.

As he knelt beside her, I sat perched on the back of the sofa looking down at the floor. I couldn’t look at Hutch just yet. I think it was the first time since we’ve been partners that I’ve had to look away from him. He was in shock, I knew. The idea that Gillian could have been murdered was the furthest thing from his mind, because he didn’t yet know what I knew about her. How she was a high-class prostitute who worked for Grossman and had been tryin’ to get out but Grossman wouldn’t let her.

Hutch thought she was a writer, we both did. Until I saw her in that massage parlor with the congressman and she fessed up when I confronted her about it.

Hutch had been fallin’ hard for her and the news of her bein’ a prostitute would have been devastatin’ to him. But it never occurred to me that Grossman would kill her, or I woulda told Hutch the truth sooner, so that we could have protected her. I failed my partner, and now I needed to be there for him, to tell him the truth and comfort him, and do whatever he needed me to do.

Gillian was right about how much I love Hutch. She could see right through me, even though I’d only ever met her once before.

As Hutch sobbed over her motionless body, I finally got up the courage to tell him what happened. ‘Listen to me, buddy,’ I began, and he responded with questions, so many questions about what I was doin’ there and why Huggy had called him. He had to choke back the sobs as he tried to make sense of what happened, and it was so painful for me to see him like that, that I just kept lookin’ down at the floor.

Hutch was verklempt, my grandmother would have said, but I had to tell him the truth, there was no time to spare, because we had less than fifteen minutes before we had to meet Grossman at the theater.

‘She was gonna tell you,’ I began, and Hutch responded, ‘Tell me what?’ And I knew then it wasn’t gonna be pretty. Hutch was gonna blow at any second and I had to be ready for it. Slowly and calmly, I explained that she worked for Grossman, but I made sure he understood that she loved him and was tryin’ to get away so she could start a new life with him. But he flipped his lid at the idea of her bein’ a prostitute and decked me hard.

In hindsight, maybe I shoulda expected it, seein’ how angry he was, and knowin’ that he’d be in denial, but I honestly didn’t see it comin’. I went from calmly sittin’ on the sofa one minute, to bein’ knocked off my ass and rollin’ over on the floor the next.

I’ve said before that my partner can get real mean and ornery, and he was just as outta his mind the day Gillian died as he was when he was comin’ off heroin and woulda shoved his mother outta the way to get a fix. Both times, I understood that he was takin’ out his anger and frustration on me because of how much he trusted me. He knew I could take it and that I’d love him just as much after.

So I let him throw me around like a ragdoll while I told him everything. Whether he could handle it or not, he had to know. And I’d be there to catch him when he fell. When he briefly let me alone to go over to Gillian, I realized how exhausted I was from our brief tussle, and I tried to pull myself up by grabbing onto the sofa, but then he suddenly lunged at me like a wounded animal defendin’ its family. Hutch was fueled by pure adrenaline at that point and I needed to calm him down so we could deal with Grossman.

By then, I could barely stand up, but I let him grab me and pull me onto my feet, my arms dangling helplessly by my side, as he argued with me. Tryin’ to win an argument with Hutch is like thinkin’ you can negotiate with a rabid raccoon. You’re guaranteed to be torn to shreds. He was lookin’ at me but I was lookin’ down at the floor, tryin’ to compose myself and regain my strength. I could barely catch my breath but I’d had enough and decided that I needed to administer some tough love.

And as I told him everything I knew, he slowly came to accept I was tellin’ the truth. I dared him to hit me again but I knew he wasn’t gonna do that. He didn’t have the fight in him any longer. As we looked into each other’s eyes, I told him she was a prostitute and while he weakly protested, he let me continue, so I told him how Gillian loved him and was gonna give everything up for him.

By the time I told him he was the best friend I had in the whole world, I could barely get out the words. My mouth almost wouldn’t cooperate because I was startin’ to get verklempt myself.

Then Hutch started sobbin’ uncontrollably, even more than before, and by that time, we were both cryin’, and sayin’ anything coherent at that point was gettin’ more and more difficult, so I held him in my arms, squeezin’ him as hard as I could and pressin’ my head against his. ‘It’s gonna be okay,’ I told him, kissin’ his shoulder. ‘Get it out, boy.’

It’s funny how we say those words of comfort in times of stress and turmoil, as if by sayin’ it’s gonna be okay, it somehow makes it come true, like a kind of magical thinkin’.

I wasn’t lyin’ though -- I knew he’d be okay eventually -- but he definitely wasn’t okay the rest of that day. He went through the motions, but by the time we’d finished our altercation with Grossman and his goons at the theater and finished up at the station, Hutch was so mentally and physically exhausted he could barely type up the incident report or pick up a cup of coffee. I told him I’d take care of it as I hunted and pecked at the typewriter while he sat slumped in his chair.

Then I drove him back to his place and we sat on his sofa, drinkin’ beer and starin’ off into space, both of us too spent from the day’s events to have much of a conversation, but, just like Hutch did with me after Helen died, I held his hand as I sat next to him in silence. At some point, I realized it was gettin’ late, so I put him to bed and then I stretched out on his sofa to sleep.

Then Nancy and I spent the next couple of weeks takin’ care of him, or as he called it, babysittin’. He joked about it, but I don’t think he understood how much I wanted to protect him. Hutch might be bad-tempered and prone to anger, but I’m territorial as hell and I will always protect Hutch from those who want to hurt him and when he’s at his most vulnerable.

Bust Amboy

Dear Diary: I had the strangest dream last night. Starsky and I were on a stakeout at Amboy’s house, just like the one we were on in real life the night before. But in my dream, I was really horny and Starsky didn’t want to wake up – he said he had a headache – and I started to get frustrated.

Eventually I was able to rouse him and we ended up making out in the back seat of the tomato. Then suddenly, a 300-pound hairdresser appeared inside the car, screeching about how no one had gone in or out, and then he started giving Starsky head and I felt pangs of jealousy.

Then that somehow morphed into another scene, the way dreams seem to do, with Starsky sucking on a huge warty pickle while the hairdresser pulled down my pants, stuck his blow dryer in my mouth and his curling iron up my…oh Jesus, I don’t even want to think about it.

Thank god that dog started barking outside and woke me, because I really don’t want to know what would have happened next.

Now I’m sitting here drinking my coffee, waiting for Starsky to pick me up for our shift. I had to spike it with an extra strong dose of brandy to help calm my nerves.

Whatever was in that caviar the other day, I sure as hell am never eating that stuff again.

The Vampire

Good morning, plants! Guess what? I had another crazy dream about Starsky last night. He was standing next to my bed as I slept, whispering naughty things in my ear about how he wanted to make me his forever.

As I opened my eyes, drowsy and unsure what was happening, he bent down and moved his head towards my neck as if to kiss me there. But just before he pressed his mouth to my flesh, he spread his lips and I saw that his teeth were glistening white, and sharp, and there was bright red blood dripping from them. Before I could react, he pierced my neck with his sharp teeth as I cried out in anguish, and then he grabbed my hand and pressed it against his rock hard cock, moaning and writhing against it in ecstasy.

I woke up in a cold sweat with my heart pounding and a painful, throbbing erection.

What the hell is going on with you lately, Hutchinson?

The Specialist

Starsky watches distastefully as Flashy Floyd puts his hand on Hutch’s thigh and smiles to himself when Hutch pushes the unwelcome hand away. That Flashy Floyd repeats his actions three more times without Hutch decking him is a marvel in itself, muses Starsky, who for sure would have decked him had it been him on the receiving end.

On the other hand, Starsky briefly wonders what it would feel like to touch Hutch’s thigh like that.

Later that evening, when Starsky is home alone taking a piss, he thinks about it again as he shakes off his cock -- what would it feel like to put his hand on Hutch’s thigh? Absently, he begins stroking himself while imagining that Hutch is there with him, imagining that it’s Hutch’s hand gripping him, bringing him to climax. As Starsky’s body shudders and he ejaculates into the toilet, he blurts out his partner’s name into the empty room.

Tap Dancing Her Way Right Back into Your Hearts

“No one is a dip like Ramon,” Hutch snickers, thinking he’s being clever and witty, but it’s Starsky who gets the last laugh as he pulls Hutch into a surprise dip and taunts him with “When you got it, flaunt it, boy.”

Hutch, temporarily rendered speechless, eyes wide in surprise, allows Starsky to hold him in that uncomfortable stance for what seems like an eternity, because neither of them wants to let go.

Over the next two years, they’ll go together to many dance clubs, and will dance with both men and women, but will they ever again dance with each other?

Vendetta

Starsky’s not all that broken up about Abby leaving Hutch. Sure, he hates to see his partner distressed, but he knows that Hutch will be okay. Starsky has never thought Abby was right for him, anyway. She’s a nice girl and all, he thinks, but she’s also sorta whiny and needy, if I gotta be honest.

In fact, he realizes, he’s downright relieved about the breakup, even though he feels guilty for thinking it.

Yet, there is something that has continued to bother him all week. He tries to push it to the back of his mind, but it just keeps working its way forward. It was the way Hutch had called Arty Solkin a “Fagin” and a “faygele.” Fagin being a reference to the despised Jewish pickpocket in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, considered one of the most anti-Semitic portrayals in English literature, according to Starsky’s Ma, and “faygele,” a derogatory Yiddish term for a homosexual man that Starsky’s grandmother had, regretfully, uttered on occasion.

Where did Hutch even learn that word? he wonders. Starsky certainly hadn’t taught it to him. He furrows his brow. Hutch couldn’t be homophobic, could he?

Not that Starsky has ever been concerned with gay rights himself, but still, the way Hutch said it, and then followed it up by calling Solkin ‘vermin,’ just rubs him the wrong way.

Nightmare

Hutch puts Starsky’s clothes in the washer as part of his ruse to distract the robbers, but he doesn’t really need to turn on the water. He does that deliberately so he can watch his partner parade around half-naked for the time it will take for the clothes to finish washing and drying.

The next day, Starsky can’t help but notice how positively dashing his partner looks in his stylish ensemble of black leather jacket, red-orange plaid shirt, and dark flared jeans. He realizes he should be thinking more about Lisa and less about Hutch, but he can’t help himself. Besides, he could use a little distraction from the disturbing events that have taken place this week. He can’t see himself ever being able to pull off wearing dark jeans like Hutch, but he definitely resolves to wear more plaid.

As Hutch sits at the kitchen table with Lisa’s mom, Mitzi, while Lisa and Starsky play on the floor with Lisa’s new puppy and train set, Mitzi confides in Hutch how much she loves being a mommy and asks “What mommy wouldn’t love a child that never grows up?” Looking over at Starsky and observing his childlike exuberance, Hutch jokingly asks her, “How about two children?” to which she responds, “He’s all yours.”

Hutch laughs at the idea, but later that day, when he’s alone in his apartment, he thinks seriously about it. He IS mine, isn’t he? He realizes that sometimes he loves Starsky like a child while other times he loves him like a brother. But most of the time, he loves Starsky in a way that he’s never loved anyone else.

Iron Mike

Starsky and Hutch are older, weary, and have grown cynical and tired of the same old grind. They’re dimly aware they can no longer keep up with the physical demands of the job. Running and jumping, climbing and fighting, and making busts the way they always have, is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Mattie Coyle has just gotten out of the joint and wants to meet with them. Starsky knows in his gut that he and Hutch are making a mistake agreeing to the meeting, but he’s powerless to stop it.

Starsky wakes suddenly with a jolt, the unsettling dream refusing to fade away. Sitting up in bed, beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead, he’s not sure what he finds more disturbing. That he and Hutch were about to make a deal with Coyle that would tarnish twenty years of careers dedicated to justice and integrity, or that they were older and still cops, still putting their lives in danger every day out on the street, always feeling responsible for their partner’s life, yet never feeling satisfied or emotionally fulfilled.

As he mulls over the dream, he realizes that something is missing, something he can’t quite place. A sense that while he and Hutch were still together far into the future, they were each very much alone.

Little Girl Lost

I don’t know why I’m lettin’ it bother it me so much. So what if he says he’s not gettin’ me a present? He’s just lettin’ off steam.

But what if he really doesn’t get anything for me? I mean, we’re not just co-workers for chrissakes! He’s supposed to be my best friend. What kinda person doesn’t get their best friend a Christmas present? He said it was ‘nothing personal,’ but how could it not be?

*****

For a brief moment, Starsky has a flash of what it would be like to be happily married to a beautiful blond, the love of his life, with two kids in tow. A twin boy and girl, just like he’s always wanted.

*****

For a brief moment, Hutch has a flash of what it would be like to raise three rambunctious children. They would certainly be a handful, that’s for sure. He smiles at the idea.

Bloodbath

Hutch leans his head back against the chair, eyes closed. The long, exhausting day and lack of sleep catching up with him, he drifts in and out of consciousness, only barely aware of the sounds of Dobey snoring and Huggy stirring in his chair on the other side of Dobey’s desk.

Starsk, where are you, partner? I promise I’m gonna find you, but I’m terrified it’ll be too late. I feel so helpless, so useless. What the hell am I doing here? If I was the one who was kidnapped, you’d be running around all over town, intimidating every snitch you could find, and not stopping until you found me. So why am I just sitting here in Dobey’s office in the dark?

He starts to nod off again but forces himself to stay awake. The feeling of despair is increasing by the minute.

Think, Hutchinson, think! You need to go over what Marcus said again; there must be something you’re overlooking. Some little thing that Marcus threw out there, a clue he left intentionally in order to toy with you. But what? Dammit, if only I could get some sleep, clear my mind a bit, I could think more clearly.

I’ll find you, Starsk, I swear, buddy, if it’s the last thing I do. And if they hurt you, so help me -- I’ll make them pay…

He drifts off to sleep only to jerk awake again after a few minutes. Starsk! Fuck, where are you?

The Psychic

“Huuuuutch!“ Noooooo!!!! Hutch is dead, he’s dead and oh my god, what did I just witness? The car…can’t let them get away. Steady…aim…squeeze. I hit the gas tank. Did I mean to do that? It’s on fire -- I’ve killed them and our only chance to find the girl. Our… fuck…oh God, Hutch…where’s my bike? Please don’t be dead, oh God please, Hutch. Hang on, babe; I’m on my way, just hang on…

“Get outta the way!!!!!!” Oh thank god, he’s alive. “I thought you were dead.” I saw you die. I saw that bullet hit your chest and--

“Bulletproof vest, remember.”

“I forgot.”

The Set-Up

“So do you think Terry Nash will ever find out who he really is?” asks Starsky.

“I sure hope he does. I just feel like there’s something we overlooked; some clue that we could have pursued that would have led us to discover his real identity.”

“Maybe he doesn’t wanna know the truth,” Starsky muses.

“What makes you say that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Some truths are better left unknown, I guess.”

Hutch looks up from the Monopoly board at Starsky sitting opposite him, as moonlight from the greenhouse windows streams across his partner’s face, and ponders what to say in reply.

“Hey, Starsk?” He pauses to wait for Starsky’s response, delaying the inevitable by another few seconds.

“Yeah?”

“Do you want to know what Joe Durniak told me in the back of that truck?”

“I don’t know. Do I?”

Hutch sighs. “I’ll be honest, buddy. There’s some good things he told me about your dad, sure. But most of it…,” he hesitates, trying to find the right words, “...is not so good, ya know?”

“I guess you better tell me anyway.”

“Yeah, I guess I better.” Hutch stands up slowly, not looking forward to the conversation he’s about to have. “I’ll grab us some more beers,” he says solemnly, placing his hand on Starsky’s shoulder and squeezing it softly as he looks down wistfully at his partner.

We’re definitely gonna need a lot of beer tonight, Hutch thinks as he walks towards the kitchen.

Survival

Starsky cradles Hutch’s face in his hands, thumbs softly stroking the dirty, hollow cheeks, and leans in close. “We made it, partner.” For a brief second, he has the strongest urge to place his mouth gently against his partner’s lips, but when he sees how dry they are and realizes that Hutch must be suffering from dehydration, the urge dissipates and he feels a twinge of shame. Poor guy is weak and in pain after bein’ trapped under his car for two days, and I’m thinkin’ about kissin’ him, of all things? What the hell is wrong with me? I’m pretty sure the only thing he wants touchin’ his lips right now is a glass of water and an aspirin!

*****

As Starsky’s hands lift his partner’s head and caress his face, Hutch wonders if Starsky is about to kiss him and finds himself disappointed when the kiss doesn’t come. In the ambulance, the paramedics hover and Starsky sits beside him as Hutch closes his eyes and imagines what it would have felt like if Starsky had kissed him as he lay there trapped between his car and his partner’s strong, wiry body leaning reassuringly against him.

*****

“Hey, Merle, ya know Hutch’s car, right? ’73 Galaxie? You fixed it up real nice with the fur a few months ago.”

“You talkin’ ‘bout that hunk of brown junk he calls a car?”

“Look, ya gotta find me another one just like it. Paint it the same color if you have to. I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“Why on earth would you want to replicate that piece of garbage, Starsky? Do you think it makes your jive stripe car better-lookin’ by comparison? Because it don’t.”

“Look, Merle, Hutch worships that car with every fiber of his bein’. I don’t understand it either. I mean, if it was up to me, I’d get him a sweet ride with bucket seats, mag wheels raised up in the back, electric mirrors…the works, but I can’t do that, even though it breaks my heart.

See, he’s my partner, and he loves that car, and I love him. So just find me another one, okay? And make sure it’s got everything the old one had. You know, the flat gray panel on the side, the horn that goes off whenever the driver’s door is opened, the dents, everything. Pleasssse?????”

Merle shakes his head in disbelief. “Man, of all the ridiculous ideas, this one is the most ridiculous by far. But okay, I’ll get it for you if that’s what you want. For a price.”

“That’s terrific, Merle, I owe you! But, hey, no fur on the inside or Hutch’ll kill us both.”

“I’ll try to restrain myself. Hmmph. A clone of the garbage car, imagine that!” He shakes his head again.

*****

Merle has the car ready for Starsky at the requested pickup time, but there’s one more thing he needs to do before turning it over to him. He thinks for a moment, then using his finger, he carefully writes Condemned © 1847 in the dirt on the back windshield.

He takes a step back and admires his latest creation, nodding approvingly. “Not bad, not bad at all!”

*****

As Starsky drives the Torino to the hospital, Merle following behind in the “Genuine Hutchinson Original,” Starsky reflects on their earlier conversation. I’ve never outright told anyone that I love Hutch. I guess I haven’t needed to, because all the people who matter already know.

He smiles, absently stroking the red-orange sweater he’s been wearing since yesterday, which he pilfered from Hutch’s apartment after he’d gone there to pick up clothes for his partner to wear home from the hospital. Upon spying the sweater in the closet, he’d decided to put it on. It felt comforting to keep Hutch close to him.

Starsky’s Lady

Starsky knocks but doesn’t wait for Hutch to answer. Striding into Hutch’s apartment, he finds his partner making coffee in the kitchen, early morning sunlight streaming in through the windows.

“I need to talk to you.” His demeanor is forthright and serious.

“Can it wait a few minutes? I was just about to jump in the shower.”

“It’s important.”

The look on Starsky’s face makes Hutch realize that Starsky is about to say something he probably doesn’t want to hear.

“Sit down,” Hutch says resignedly, waving his hand in the general direction of the kitchen table. He looks over towards the coffee pot but Starsky shakes his head in a silent “No” and sits down opposite Hutch.

“I’ve decided to quit the force. I’m plannin’ on tellin’ Terry later today.” Starsky says the words slowly and thoughtfully, looking directly at Hutch as he speaks.

“I see.” Hutch looks down at the coffee cup in his hand but makes no move to lift it.

“I have no choice, Hutch. If I had quit last year like I wanted to, after Prudholm killed those cops, Terry wouldn’t be walkin’ around with a bullet lodged in her brain right now! Besides, I don’t know how much time she has left and I want to spend as much of it with her as I can.”

“Of course you do, but why quit? Why not just take some time off… a leave of absence or something?” Hutch suddenly feels like the temperature of the room has risen twenty degrees as a warm flush spreads across his cheeks and chest. He pushes the cup away.

“Come on! Prudholm’s already tried to waste you once, what makes you think he won’t try again?”

“I can handle myself, partner!” Hutch snaps angrily.

But Starsky has made up his mind and Hutch knows it. “I wanted to tell you first; thought you deserved to know.”

Hutch closes his eyes and rubs his forehead with his fingers, trying to think. After a while, he shakes his head, looks directly at Starsky and takes a deep breath. “Okay, then. I’ll quit, too. We’ll find something else together. Nothing says we have to be cops, right?”

“Right.”

Hutch smiles and reaches for the cup.

*****

Hutch sits in the hospital waiting room while Starsky visits with Terry. He’s got a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that she’s not going to come out of it this time. Starsky’s been in there a while, and Hutch wonders if he should go down to the cafeteria and get some coffee when he sees Starsky approaching him from down the hall. He can tell instantly from his partner’s body language that Terry has passed.

He stands up and waits patiently for Starsky to approach, and as Starsky comes towards him, Hutch reaches out and pulls him into a close embrace, hugging him tightly. He wants to tell Starsky that it’s okay and that he’s right here, but the words don’t come. Silently, they cry in each other’s arms, Starsky’s body sagging under its own weight as if he hasn’t the strength to stand on his own.

A man carrying a bouquet of red roses on his way to visit his wife in the maternity ward passes by the two men and stares disdainfully at the sight of them. As he eyes the blond man consoling the other, his hand plunged into his companion’s dark curly hair as he slowly caresses it, he wonders what relationship they have to each other. Brothers? Not likely, he thinks, considering their different hair colors and textures. Friends? No, they’re much too intimate, he reasons. Lovers? He wrinkles his nose at that last item and continues walking down the hall, muttering “faggots” under his breath and shaking his head.

But the truth is, a judgmental man simply isn’t capable of understanding the true nature of their relationship to each other: partners, a word that encompasses all of the above and more. Partners, a word signifying everything. The two men are everything to each other, and thus conversely, are nothing without the other.

*****

Two weeks later at midnight, the partners sit on Starsky’s kitchen floor opening Terry’s parting gifts to them, a Monopoly board, three candles, and assorted bottles of beer scattered on the floor between them. As Hutch reaches out to take the gift Starsky hands to him enclosing Terry’s beloved teddy bear, Ollie, he notices that Starsky is wearing his orange sweater again, but says nothing. He knows he’s too drunk to drive home and is planning on spending the night on Starsky’s couch. I’ll just take it back from him in the morning when I leave, he decides.

What Hutch doesn’t realize is that Starsky has been wearing the sweater to bed every night for the past two weeks.

Huggy Bear and the Turkey

Thank God I’ve got Starsky to go undercover with. It’s the only way I’ve been able to get through this ridiculous assignment. Infiltrating a protection racket as hairdressers, of all things! Whose cockamamie idea was that? Maybe we should have quit the force when we had the chance. At least we wouldn’t have to embarrass ourselves like this!

And why does he have to keep that comb in his mouth? I find it strangely unsettling.

*****

Is it me, or is Hutch’s hair unusually fluffy today? And what’s with the overall strap that keeps falling down? It’s like his clothes just want to fall off him. Wait, why am I thinking about that?

*****

Starsky REALLY needs to do something about that comb. I’m gonna take it out of his mouth. There! Oh, for chrissakes, maybe I should put it back in so he’ll shut up.

*****

“Ya know your eyes flash when you get angry?”

*****

Is Starsky flirting with me again?

*****

Was that flirting, what I said about Hutch’s eyes flashin’? I was flirtin’ with him, wasn’t I? I do that a lot. Well, what about it? He IS pretty good lookin’ for a man, after all. Right? Nothin’ wrong with complimentin’ him. He really does have compelling eyes…

The Committee

It’s probably just as well that Starsky decked me a little too hard tonight, because I probably deserved it. After all, I punched him in the face pretty hard after Gillian died. Of course, I was upset at the time, and he kept telling me things I didn’t want to hear. But that’s no excuse. He’s my best friend. And I hit him! And you know what? I don’t think I ever apologized. I wonder if it’s too late to do that now. Shit.

*****

I can understand Knight being involved in vigilante killing, because that guy’s an all-around jerk on his best day. But Fargo? Lieutenant Fargo? That’s the part I can’t get past. I mean, we trusted him. We were supposed to trust him! I’m beginnin’ to think that Hutch and me will never be able to trust any other cops. Well, except for Dobey, I guess.

And I will swear on my grandmother’s grave that if Dobey ever turns out to be just another corrupt cop, I’ll eat my hat. Wait, I don’t actually have a hat. How ‘bout this -- I’ll eat my Torino! No, that sounds weird. Hey, I got it! I’ll eat my pet rock!

Oh, sorry Ignatius, I was only kiddin’, I swear!

The Velvet Jungle

For months, Hutch has felt confused and conflicted about his feelings for Starsky and the meaning of his ever increasing sexually-laden dreams. He’s been hoping to spend more time with his partner outside of work, but Starsky has been dating fashion model Laura Stevens, leaving Hutch little opportunity to interact with him alone.

So one night while Starsky is out to dinner with Laura, Hutch decides to distract himself by asking Paco Ortega to play a game of pool with him at Dirty Nellie’s. Paco is the undercover cop who’d been working with him and Starsky on their immigration case involving a murdered Jane Doe and a corrupt INS agent, and Hutch had taken an instant liking to him.

They’re enjoying a pleasant evening together when Paco brushes past Hutch to take a shot, and Hutch suddenly and unexpectedly feels his cock start to stiffen. He now feels more confused than ever. It’s not like him to be sexually attracted to other men, is it? But then he remembers the young man he sat behind in college sociology class whom he’d had a brief crush on, and his cock stiffens some more.

On a whim, he invites Paco to come back to his place for a beer. As they enter Hutch’s apartment, he quickly excuses himself and changes into something more comfortable.

They sit in the living room, Paco on the wooden chair, dressed provocatively in all black, and Hutch on the sofa wearing his bright yellow hoodie, chambray pants with the yellow stripe going all the way down the long legs, and brown sandals with clean white socks. He’s trying to decide which way Paco leans, but he doesn’t know how to pick up on his signals, if there are any.

As he sits on the sofa strumming his guitar and fantasizing about kissing Paco, there’s an unexpected knock on the door. Much to Hutch’s chagrin, Starsky and Laura walk in, effectively putting an end to his plan to seduce Paco with Mexican folk songs.

Later that evening, after his friends have left, Hutch begins to undress while still daydreaming about Paco. His cock stiffens again and he begins to stroke it, closing his eyes, moaning, and imagining that the hand belongs to Paco.

But when he opens his eyes briefly, he’s horrified to discover that his pristine white socks have been discolored a dark brown. Upon closer inspection, he realizes that the dye from the sandals has stained them and he panics, wondering if Paco had noticed. His cock immediately goes limp and he climbs into bed, discouraged.

Hutch dreams again that night, but his dreams aren’t about Paco. He wakes the next morning to the feeling of sticky wetness in his underwear and is unable to look Starsky in the eyes when he sees him later that day.

Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road

If one were to observe the serape-wearing blond man as he restlessly waits for his date to appear in the Country-Western bar, one would expect that date to be of the female persuasion. One certainly would not expect the date to be an ethnic-type male with dark curly hair attired in urban street clothes. But that is exactly whom the blond man’s date turns out to be, and one can observe that he’s positively giddy when his dark-haired companion enters the room.

Later that week, the two men are once again at the bar, as the blond one nervously attempts to sing “Loving Arms” while his friend enthusiastically urges him on from the audience. The dark-haired one focuses all his attention on him, encouraging him while singing along unselfconsciously to the song the blond is attempting to perform.

And one must take note that the song in question is a love song, which in addition to the chorus “And lying in your loving arms again,” also includes these lyrics: “If I could hold you now, just for a moment, if I could really make you mine…”

Murder on Stage 17

Wouldn’t it be somethin’ if we were actors on a movie set? Starsky thinks. We’d each have our own trailer equipped with beer, snacks, a place to nap, and anything else we could want. And if we were really famous, there might even be groupies camped outside just to get a glimpse of us when we emerged. We’d have our own hair and makeup people, a huge wardrobe, and…

Starsky’s mind begins to wander as he drifts off to sleep.

Interviewer: So Dave, tell us what it was like on the set of that movie you guys did together in ’77? The one where you weren’t on speaking terms one day and everyone in the crew could sense the tension between you?

Starsky: Oh, well, you know…Ken and I would often have a disagreement about something, but we never liked to hold a grudge. No matter what we might have argued about, we always tried to make up before the day was over.

Hutch: That’s right. On that particular day, everyone in the crew was tense, taking the cue from our demeanor. I don’t even remember what we were arguing about at this point. It was…what… 41 years ago? But something needed to happen, so Dave grabbed my hand, said ‘Let’s go,’ and led me towards his trailer so we could sort out our differences in private.

Interviewer: And did you?

Hutch: And did we what?

Interviewer: Sort out your differences?

Hutch: Oh, yes. Within 30 minutes, everything was fine. We had worked out whatever the problem was, and then we came out and filmed our scene.

Starsky: Yeah, and everyone thought we were fighting in that trailer, but we…

Hutch: Starsky!

*****

“Starsky! Starsk! Open the door, meathead, we’re late!”

Still groggy from his dream of being interviewed for a celebrity magazine, Starsky wakes from his sleep to the sound of Hutch banging loudly on his door. He looks over at the alarm clock on the nightstand and sees it’s 8:50am. Shit! They were due in court at 10:00 to testify at actor Wally Stone’s trial.

He ambles over to unlock the door as the dream slowly begins to fade from his mind, but he can’t shake the part where they’re in the trailer and Hutch slowly leans over and takes his cock in his mouth…

As he opens the front door to let Hutch in the apartment, he hastily moves his hand over his pajama pants to conceal his erection.

Starsky and Hutch are Guilty

After partaking of dinner and beer at The Pits, they decide to go back to Starsky’s place to relax and have another beer. Why not -- it’s only 10:30pm and they’ve got the day off tomorrow. Hutch yawns and leans tiredly against Starsky’s bookcase, drowsy and tipsy. He’s planning on sleeping on the couch, just like he’s done a million times before.

Only this time will hopefully be different, he thinks. He’s been doing a lot of thinking lately. As they stagger into the darkened apartment, Hutch thinks he’s got it all figured out. I’ll sit on the couch and he’ll sit in the chair with his feet up on the coffee table, because Starsky can never sit on furniture like a normal person, and I’ll come up with some way to make him move closer to me, and…oh I know how I’ll do it! You’re a genius, Hutchinson! I’ll grab some of his Playboys and suggest we look at the pictures together, and he’ll have to sit next to me. Then we’ll get good and horny and I’ll lean over and plant a kiss on him. Ha! Sometimes I’m too smart for my own good.

But Hutch’s evening doesn’t exactly go as planned when they discover that Starsky’s apartment has been ransacked, and the Playboys, along with his own prized tennis racquet, have been stolen.

*****

Starsky lies in his bed staring up at the ceiling, unable to sleep. He looks over towards the sofa where Hutch is passed out and snoring softly.

We really can’t trust anyone, can we? First, some stranger breaks into my apartment and violates my privacy and steals my stuff. And then the woman I’m dating, who I’m startin’ to fall for, betrays me, and for what? Her career? I trusted her and she used me to get what she wanted. I still can’t even believe it. She’s the Assistant DA for chrissakes! If we can’t trust her, who can we trust?

Chapter Text

“He’s MY partner!”

-Detective David Starsky

Murder on Voodoo Island

Hutch lies in his bed in their tropical hotel room while Starsky sits beside him, both trying their best to act nonchalant, while they each secretly fantasize about sharing the bed with their partner. Seeing each other half-naked for the past several days has sparked both of their imaginations in ways they have never quite been sparked before.

And while they’d witnessed each other in various stages of undress many times before, it had never been for this long. For several days now, each has walked around in shorts, unbuttoned shirt (or no shirt at all), and little to no shoes.

*****

Hutch wakes to the sound of the alarm and to Starsky sucking his thumb and moaning loudly, not realizing that the voodoo curse has caused Starsky’s thumb to throb in pain.

He looks over at his partner in stunned disbelief. Oh God, why is Starsky moaning? Is he actually sucking his thumb? What the hell? Is he having a wet dream or something? Hutch immediately gets hard but his erection quickly flames out when Starsky opens the curtains to reveal a large dead boar hanging from a tree outside their window.

“Oh my God,” Hutch says upon seeing the omen, while Starsky sits on the bed, woozy and dizzy from the spell cast on him by Papa Theodore.

*****

At the end of the day, they lay in their beds in the dark hotel room, the traumatic events of the long, tense day finally behind them. But Starsky is unable to sleep.

“Hey, Hutch? You awake?”

“I am now. What is it?”

“I’m sorry for trying to kill you today.”

“I’m sorry you tried to kill me, too,” Hutch jokes, but the joke lands flat and he can sense Starsky’s agitation. “It wasn’t your fault, you know that,” he tries to reassure him.

“I know. It was those damn voodoo dolls and whatever curse Papa Theodore put on me. And I don’t even remember anything. One minute we’re on top of the cliff and the next thing I know, we’re tryin’ to keep from drownin’ in the ocean.”

Hutch senses there’s more and waits for Starsky to continue.

“But even so, I could have hurt you, I could have--”

“Ha! You, hurt me? I don’t think so, buddy. Not a chance. I could beat you in a fight any day of the week.” Hutch hopes that his jesting will get Starsky to lighten up and smile for the first time that day, but it doesn’t.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Starsky replies half-heartedly, not really in the mood for joshing with his partner. He’s too tired and too disturbed by the day’s events. What if I had hurt Hutch? Or God forbid, killed him? I would never be able to forgive myself, Starsky thinks.

Exhausted, they both fall asleep and do not speak of the incident again.

Fatal Charm

Hutch begins to have second thoughts the minute he enters Diana’s apartment and even more so when she emerges from her bedroom in an unrevealing heavy purple nightgown that couldn’t be considered sexy by any stretch of the imagination.

But it’s too late to back out now, isn’t it, he reasons with himself. He doesn’t want to hurt Diana’s feelings, and besides, he really needs to do something about the sexual frustration he’s been feeling lately. Maybe sleeping with her will put an end to his persistent nocturnal dreams of Starsky and the constant stickiness he’s been waking to each morning.

*****

Hutch is vexed by Starsky’s uncharacteristic indifference to the threat that Diana poses and his lack of concern for Hutch’s very real worry that her violence could escalate. First, there was her unhinged tantrum at the police station, as she screamed at him and hurled an expensive watch at the floor, yelling how she would never marry him. Marry me? We just met two days ago. What the hell?

Then there is the violence she unleashed on Hutch’s possessions earlier that day -- slashing his mattress, knocking over his plants, and snapping his beloved guitar in half. Her behavior is unlike anything Hutch has ever experienced and it completely unnerves him. But what unnerves him even more is that his partner seems relatively unconcerned about the whole matter.

Trying hard not to think of what Diana has done to his apartment, he tosses and turns on Starsky’s couch most of the night, sleeping only in fits and starts.

Starsky also has trouble sleeping as he listens to his partner moving about in the other room. He knows Hutch is upset about his apartment being ransacked and his possessions destroyed, especially his guitar. In the past year, I’ve already bought him a new car and a new tennis racket. But I know how much he loved that guitar. I think I’ll buy him a new one; maybe surprise him tomorrow if I can get away for a couple hours.

After he resolves to surprise Hutch with the new guitar, he thinks that’s the end of it, and contentedly falls back asleep while Hutch continues to lie awake in the other room.

*****

Starsky drives as fast as he can to Venice Place. Frantic, he prays that the black-and-whites will get there in time.

Please, let him be okay. Oh God, I’m a terrible friend! Why did I ignore the warning signs? He kept telling me that Diana was dangerous and unhinged. He said she would escalate. I should have listened to him. Why didn’t I listen? Did I ignore the threat she posed because she’s a woman? Hutch, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, babe.

He’s shocked to find Hutch and Diana wrestling at the top of the stairs and pulls Diana off his partner as she screams bloody murder, and then he grabs onto Hutch’s arms, horrified to see blood there, as the patrol officers take her away. Did Diana do that to him? How? His gun? A knife?

Hutch’s face grows pale as he starts to sink to the floor.

“Where you goin’?”

“I think I’ll sit down.”

“Not here, huh? Come on.” Starsky lifts him up, carries him into the apartment, and carefully deposits him on the sofa as they wait for the paramedics to arrive. Then he presses the towel against the knife wound in Hutch’s arm to try to stem the bleeding.

I can’t believe it. I almost lost him. All because I didn’t wanna listen. As they huddle together on the sofa, Starsky notices that Hutch is beginning to shiver, realizes his hair is wet, and sees that his bathrobe has fallen open, exposing his partner’s flaccid penis, of which Hutch seems to be unaware. Forcing himself to look away as he pulls the bathrobe tightly closed, Starsky presses his hand against Hutch’s chest, gently stroking the red terry cloth of the robe.

“It’s okay, Hutch, I’m right here. You’re gonna be okay.”

Hutch looks into Starsky’s eyes for a moment and smiles, just before he loses consciousness.

I Love You, Rosey Malone

Starsky falls hard for Rosey Malone despite Hutch’s warnings about her, despite the very real possibility that she’s helping to run drug money from Mexico for her mobster father. And even if she isn’t, he’s still there to do a job, Hutch reminds him. Starsky had gone undercover to get information on Frank Malone, but he can’t help his feelings for Malone’s daughter.

Besides, he wonders if this is his last chance to have a normal life, to get married, have a kid or two. Maybe buy a house with a white picket fence. Just like his Ma has always wanted for him.

After all, he’s 34 years old now and he’s still a confirmed bachelor. His family back east is starting to whisper things about him and he knows it. Whenever he visits home, they ask him, “Davey, when are you going to find a nice girl and settle down and have kids? Your Ma isn’t getting any younger and she wants to be a grandma. She deserves grandchildren.” And it goes on and on.

Well, he DID ask Terry to marry him, didn’t he? Sure, she was dying at the time; but still, he asked. He would have married her. He would have had children with her. She was great with kids; she would have wanted a ton of them. At least, he assumed she would have.

He suddenly realizes he never actually had a conversation with Terry about that.

*****

Rosey tells Starsky that she loves him, and then she tells him she’s made the decision to go into hiding with her father because he needs her. She explains that her father has always been there when she’s needed him.

As Starsky drives away from her house, tears streaming down his cheeks, he thinks about Hutch, and how he’s always been there whenever Starsky needed him.

*****

Hutch is in his kitchen making breakfast when he hears a knock at the door. “It’s open!” he shouts.

Starsky enters but waves away the cup of coffee that Hutch offers him. “Got any beer?”

“At 9:00 in the morning?”

“Yeah, why not?” Starsky takes a bottle out of the fridge, pops the top, and heads over to the sofa. Hutch eyes him suspiciously, noticing that his partner’s usual casual swagger is gone, replaced by a dejected measured walk across the apartment.

When Hutch sits next to him on the sofa, Starsky turns his head slightly away. Curious, Hutch places his hand against Starsky’s cheek and turns his partner’s face towards him, trying to study it, but Starsky pushes the hand away and takes a swig of beer.

“Looks like you’ve been crying, buddy. You okay? Wanna tell me about it?”

“What’s there to tell? Rosey’s gone. She told me she loved me, but it doesn’t matter, because she chose to go away with her father. They’re leavin’ as soon as he finishes testifyin’ before the Senate committee.”

“You really love her, don’t you?” It hurts Hutch’s heart to say the words aloud, and he winces at Starsky’s response.

“Yeah, I really love her. And don’t gimme any attitude about how I’m a cop and I wasn’t supposed to have feelins’ for her, because I don’t wanna hear it right now.”

“I know. The heart wants what the heart wants, I guess, and who are we to argue?” Hutch says as he puts an arm around Starsky and pulls him close. “I’m really sorry, buddy.” Starsky leans his head against his partner’s as they sit together in silence, each mulling over the meaning of that simple yet complex phrase.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

Murder Ward

Hutch is worried about Starsky even though he isn’t injured or sick. He hasn’t been shot, or poisoned, or kidnapped by a death cult. He’s lying peacefully in his hospital bed at Cabrillo State, comfortably sedated, in a place that should be safe.

And yet, there’s an imminent threat to his life and the drugs have made him vulnerable. Much more vulnerable than Hutch is comfortable with.

He looks down wistfully at his partner, feeling duel twinges of anxiety and sadness that he cannot shake. But he must leave or risk blowing his cover.

Even the prospect of tying up a sedated Starsky, and binding his wrists and ankles, doesn’t secretly excite Hutch as it might have under other circumstances. Instead, it just makes him feel more melancholy. He’s too concerned about Starsky’s well-being to even think about anything like that right now.

*****

I had a lot of time to think when I was in Memorial Hospital recovering from the coma that evil Dr. Matlock put me in. I guess he somehow managed to figure out who I was: Jane Hutton, girl reporter. But my instincts were right about him. I mean, what kind of doctor would be so callous and cruel with human life that he would conduct potentially deadly experiments on his patients?

But of course, Dr. Matlock didn’t think their lives were worth anything. He considered them expendable. And to be frank, I’ll bet most people wouldn’t give the time of day to patients doing time in a mental hospital. Isn’t that sad?

But not Starsky and Hutch. They really cared about those people. They even put their lives on the line to protect them. How many people do you know would do that?

I wondered why they never even once flirted with me when we were undercover at Cabrillo State. I don’t mean to sound vain or anything -- it’s just that I’m used to guys coming on to me. And most of them are obnoxious assholes. But Dave Starsky and Ken Hutchinson? They’re different. They’re not like most guys I know. They’re really nice and sweet and sincere.

When Hutch first arrived there, in the guise of an orderly, I thought for sure he was going to flirt with me, or at least talk to me. So I was really surprised when a whole week went by and he avoided me like the plague. I guess he didn’t want to blow his cover, or maybe he didn’t want to blow my cover.

And then Starsky arrived a week after Hutch. And while he did come over to talk to me in the rec room, it was just to avoid one of the other patients who’d been hassling him.

I had been down to the police station a few times for one story or another that I was working on, so I’ve known these guys for a while, and when I thought about it, I realized they had never flirted with me there, either.

Anyway, when they didn’t try to come on to me at the mental hospital, I just assumed they had girlfriends or something. But then I saw them together one day and it didn’t take me long to realize I had them pegged all wrong. Those guys didn’t need girlfriends, because they were happily flirting with each other. I thought it was kinda cute. But it didn’t take me more than a day or two to realize that Starsky and Hutch weren’t just flirting with each other -- they were crazy about each other. Oh gosh, no pun intended!

But you know what really stands out about those two guys? Their empathy and compassion for others. It’s true. I mean, they risked their lives to save a bunch of nobodies confined to life in a mental hospital. They could have just bailed on their assignment, told their Captain it was too risky or something. But they didn’t.

They were so sweet to visit me at Memorial while I was recuperating. And when they asked me a few weeks later to go back to Cabrillo State with them to visit the patients and throw a birthday party, I thought they really were crazy.

If I didn’t already know how special Starsky and Hutch were before, I sure know it now. Because how many guys do you know would spend their day off visiting patients in a mental hospital?

No wonder they love each other so much.

Death in a Different Place

Hutch is profoundly disappointed to discover his partner’s implicit homophobia and mulls it over and over, thinking about the things Starsky had said and the way he had said them.

‘I think that you have the right to campaign and run for office and get elected just like anyone else. I don’t think you have to wear your private life on your sleeve. I don’t think you have to hide it, but I don’t think you have to use it as a platform on which to campaign.’

I mean, for God sakes, he may as well have complained to Peter Whitelaw about gay people having parades so they could flaunt their sexuality in public. It’s as if he only approves of people being gay as long as he doesn’t have to know about it.

Hutch tries, unsuccessfully, to excuse Starsky’s reaction to the news about John Blaine’s death and the revelation of his being a closeted gay man.

Starsky’s a product of his traditional upbringing. This is all new to him; he doesn’t know what to think. He’s in shock and is reacting to John’s murder more than anything else. He’s deflecting – instead of accepting the death of his friend and mentor and mourning him, he’s unhealthily focusing on the circumstances surrounding it.

*****

Starsky has been having trouble accepting the idea that John Blaine liked to fuck other men. Sure, I’ve been having fantasies about Hutch lately, but that’s different, because I like to fuck women. John didn’t. So that means I’m not gay, right? And besides, just because I’ve been fantasizin’ about Hutch, doesn’t mean I’ll ever act on those fantasies.

Besides, it’s probably just a phase I’m goin’ through.

And even if it isn’t, Hutch isn’t gay, and even if he was, he isn’t married like John was. For chrissakes, John and Maggie were happily married for twenty years! How could he have been gay?

*****

Hutch remains vexed by Starsky’s attitude on the subject and tries to convince his partner that “It’s no big thing.” But Starsky stubbornly continues to display his reluctance to accept the situation, observing that “A man preferring a man is not as casual as having a bad cold,” which irritates Hutch to no end.

In fact, he wishes Starsky would just shut the fuck up before he made things even worse, so he tries to change the subject by asking Starsky if he wants something to eat.

But then Hutch gets an idea. He asks Starsky if he thinks “a man who spends 75% of his time with another man has certain tendencies,” and his partner seems to agree. But Starsky assumes he’s referring to John, so Hutch has to clarify, “That’s the case between you and me.”

And, much to Hutch’s surprise, Starsky seems to approve of Hutch’s logic as sound.

*****

That evening as Hutch is in the bathroom getting ready to turn in for the night, he can’t stop thinking about his conversation with Starsky in the car earlier. Something has been bothering him since that exchange and he’s trying to put his finger on what it is.

“Seventy-five percent of the time we spend together, and you’re not even a good kisser!”

“How do you know that?”

That was Starsky’s response. ‘How do you know that?’ But was he joking? He didn’t take offense at the idea of us kissing. But then again, maybe he didn’t know I was serious.

So DO we have ‘certain tendencies’? Are we in agreement or not?

Hutch goes to bed that night more confused than ever and curses himself for ever bringing it up with Starsky.

*****

Ever since Hutch joked that I’m not a good kisser, I’ve been wantin’ to prove him wrong. I wonder what it would be like to kiss him? I’ll probably never find out, though, because I don’t think I could get up the nerve to do it.

The Crying Child

“You ever wonder what it would be like?” Starsky asks, taking a swig of beer.

“What what would be like?”

“Havin’ kids.”

“With you? Nope, never thought about it.” Hutch tries hard to act nonchalant, but ever since their dealings with 8-year old Guy and his sister, Vicky, and their introduction to the world of abused and neglected children, it’s all he’s been thinking about lately.

Daydreaming about it as he lay in bed each night. Thinking about what it would be like if he and Starsky moved in together and adopted a kid. Excitedly preparing for their child’s arrival by going grocery shopping and buying toys.

All things he knows will never happen. And every night he berates himself for even entertaining the thought.

“I’m serious, Hutch. I’ve always wanted kids. Haven’t you?”

Hutch tries to evade the question. “You’ll make a great dad someday, Starsk.” He pats Starsky on the shoulder, but the expression on his face is wistful and sad. “But I just don’t think it’s in the cards for me.”

“Whaddya talkin’ about, ‘not in the cards’? You can get married again one day. Just because you didn’t have kids with Vanessa doesn't mean--”

“Who says I want to!” Hutch snaps. He realizes how defensive he sounds but it’s too late to take it back.

“Hey,” Starsky puts his hand on Hutch’s arm, suddenly concerned. “You might someday. You just gotta find the right person to marry.”

Hutch doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He gets up abruptly from the sofa and walks over to the window, pretending to look down at the street below. Starsky watches him, wondering what he’s thinking, unaware of the tears that are beginning to trickle down his partner’s cheek.

The Heroes

Lying in bed, Hutch drifts off to sleep thinking about the house that Starsky had shown him earlier in the day, the fixer-upper that his partner had put a $3,000 deposit on.

Their house.

He had to go and buy that damned house, didn’t he? The house we’ll never live in together. The house we’ll never raise a child in together.

He has no fucking idea how much this is torturing me.

*****

Lying in bed, Starsky drifts off to sleep thinking about the house he showed to Hutch earlier in the day, the fixer-upper that they were going to fix-up and sell for a profit.

Their house.

‘Are you asking me to live you with, Starsk?’

‘No, no, no, no, we’re not gonna live there, it’s an investment!’

It was a preposterous question. Of course he wasn’t asking Hutch to live with him. He wasn’t serious, was he? Does he actually want to live with me? Nah, he couldn’t have been serious. Although, if you think about it, there’s really no reason we couldn’t live together. The house has two bedrooms, so we could be roommates. We’d even save some money not havin’ to pay two rents.

‘Are you asking me to live with you, Starsk?’

What if I had answered ‘Yes?’ Oh, forget it. We’re not gonna be livin’ together any time soon, not even as roommates.

Why not? The question taunts him as he drifts off to sleep. Why not? Why not? Why not?

The Plague

“You know what the worst thing is about being a cop’s wife?” Virginia Donner asks Starsky and Hutch as they wait for news about Jake’s condition.

“Hmm?” Hutch replies absently.

“It’s waiting,” she says, laughing nervously.

“Yeah.”

“It’s even the little things. It’s waiting until he comes home for supper. Maybe some junkie stabbed him. It’s waiting ‘til he comes back from Europe. It’s waiting until the doctor comes and tells me that my husband’s gonna be alright.”

As if on cue, the doctor walks down the hall and approaches their group. “I assume you’re Mrs. Donner?”

“Please doctor, what’s with Jake? How is he?”

“You friends of the family”? He looks at Starsky and Hutch.

“Yeah,” they both reply.

“Mr. Donner died twelve minutes ago.”

*****

Please, God, don’t let Hutch die. I need him. I love him so much. I’ll do anything. I’ll—

“Starsky!” He turns around as Dobey’s voice intrudes on his invocation.

“Yeah, Cap’n?”

“Listen, we need to…”

But Starsky isn’t listening to anything that Dobey is telling him, because his brain keeps repeating over and over, Please don’t let Hutch die. Please. I’ll find Callendar. I’ll do anything. I’ll empty my bank account, I’ll hock my Torino…

But money isn’t what Hutch needs, is it? What he needs is a miracle and no amount of money can buy that. Only God’s grace can do that. But what was it that Roper said? ‘You cops got no grace.’ Roper can go to hell, Starsky thinks.

*****

‘You know what the worst thing is about being a cop’s wife? It’s waiting.’ Virginia Donner’s words echo back and forth in his head. Starsky knows a little something about waiting, too.

Waiting to hear if your partner has been spotted after he’d mysteriously disappeared for four days with his ditzy blonde girlfriend.

Waiting to see if your partner was going to come back as you lay on the sofa with a bullet in your back or if he would fall victim to the two hitmen out front.

Waiting for him to rescue you before the cult members butchered you up on that hill.

Waiting for the news that the hitman hired to take him out had succeeded in his assignment.

And now, it was waiting outside the observation window as you watch your partner gasping for breath, while he slowly dies from the mysterious virus that’s ravaging his lungs.

Is that the same fate my wife and kids will have to live with someday? Waiting for me to come home after a late-night stakeout with Hutch – assuming he survives this -- or an undercover bust? Terry waited for me. But by the time I’d gotten there, she was lyin’ on a stretcher with a bullet in her brain.

*****

Starsky insists that Judith let him into Hutch’s room, so he can talk to him before it’s too late. Donning masks, gowns, and gloves, he and the doctor somberly enter the room.

“Hey.”

“Hey, yourself.”

“I’m gettin’ closer.”

“Yeah?” Hutch shivers as he looks hopefully at Starsky.

“Gonna nail Callendar any hour now.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” He sits on the edge of Hutch’s bed. “Judith will tap his veins, find the serum in his blood, give you a shot, and allakazam, Captain Marvel, you’ll be up and around--”

Starsky always does his best to sound cheerful and optimistic in the face of overwhelming odds, and Hutch is onto him. He knows that’s what his partner does whenever they find themselves in a dire situation.

“That stinks!” Hutch finishes for him.

“Okay, you don’t wanna be Captain Marvel?” Starsky is still trying desperately to lighten the mood. “Would ya believe--”

“Oh, no, no, no…it’s no good, Starsk…” Hutch struggles through the pain to get out the words.

“What?”

“You never were a very good liar. Except when you’re undercover…” he winces and moans as the pain courses through his chest. “Ohhh…ahh…ahh.”

Starsky is trying hard to keep it together, struggling to hold back the tears. “What can I do for you?”

Hutch stares vacantly at the ceiling as he struggles to get out the words. “Just take care of that little sucker that’s twisting my chest into a knot…”

Starsky grabs hold of Hutch’s hands and grips them tightly as his partner grimaces through the pain, squeezing his eyes shut as the worst of it passes. He looks at Starsky though slitted eyes. “You…you…you did it,” he manages to say before a new wave of pain takes over and he opens his mouth to gasp for air.

Seeing Hutch suffering like this is almost too much for Starsky to bear. He desperately wants to take his partner in his arms and hold him tight, like he did at Huggy’s that time after the heroin ordeal. But he knows he can’t.

Hutch forces himself to open his eyes to look at Starsky one last time. “Now get outta here, will ya?”

Starsky is crushed. “What’s the rush? Tired of lookin’ at my pretty face?”

“No, hey, no more fun and games, huh?” He’s still looking directly into Starsky’s eyes. This ain’t no…fun, and the game is Hutch is dying…so you get out there, and comb the streets, and check the sewers, up in the holds…oh, God…God…it hurts, it hurts.”

Starsky can’t take much more of seeing Hutch like this, and his brows furrow as the tears threaten to burst forth at any moment, as Hutch struggles to take another breath. “Now get outta here…” Using all the strength he’s got left, Hutch smiles at his partner. “Get outta here….”

Reluctant to leave, Starsky squeezes Hutch’s hands and only lets go because he realizes he has no choice. His partner is counting on him to find Callendar and save his life.

Distraught, he strides towards the door of the isolation room, ripping the mask off in despair. In the antechamber, he throws the gown into the trash receptacle and storms out into the hallway, tears streaming freely down his face. Starsky’s emotions are a roiling, combustible mixture of grief and rage, but he knows that he needs to stay focused if he has any hope of finding Callendar in time.

*****

Hutch, Starsky thinks to himself, if I lose you  -- if I’m unable to find Callendar or if the doctors can’t make the serum in time -- I swear I will find you in the next life. I promise.

*****

Starsky is exhausted. He’s not sure how many hours it’s been since he last slept, but he doesn’t care. The only thing that matters is that Hutch is going to be okay. The serum that the doctors made from Callendar’s blood appears to be working, but he doesn’t want to leave just yet and he’s grateful that he doesn’t have to. In fact, he can stay here all night and watch Hutch sleep, if he wants to.

“Hey,” Judith says, coming in to check on her sleeping patient. “What are you still doing here?”

“Watchin’ him sleep. Lookit how peaceful he looks. Ain’t it beautiful?”

Judith smiles and pats Starsky on the shoulder. “He’s going to be okay, you know.”

“I know,” Starsky responds, but he doesn’t look at her. His eyes are focused solely on his partner.

The Collector

Hutch finds himself slightly annoyed at the way Starsky refers to the neighborhood around Venice Place as Hutch’s neighborhood,’ as if his partner hasn’t spent half of his free time in the past two years there.

It’s OUR neighborhood, he grumbles to his plants.

Manchild on the Streets

Forgetting all about the basketball game, Hutch impulsively grabs Starsky from behind, pulling him into a playful, loving embrace, delighting in their brief moment together. Hutch rarely allows himself to be this blissfully carefree around his partner. Or around anyone, for that matter.

While their embrace doesn’t last long, no more than two seconds, it lasts just long enough for Hutch to subconsciously register the feeling of Starsky’s hand intertwining with his own. God, how I love that man, he thinks.

With the escalation of events that follow, it never occurs to Hutch that Starsky didn’t try to pull away.

*****

 

Hutch juggles the Styrofoam coffee cups from the hospital cafeteria while opening the door but stops cold when he sees Sammie crying in Starsky’s arms. Oh, fuck. Jackson? He sits tentatively on the coffee table and gingerly puts the cups down, trying not to spill their contents.

Sitting on the couch cradling the sobbing doctor, Starsky looks up at Hutch as he struggles to keep it together. “Jackson’s dead.”

“Oh my God,” Hutch murmurs, beginning to shake as he tries to process the news of their friend’s shocking death. For a while they both look downwards, squeezing their eyes tightly shut to try and hold back the tears, unsure what to do next.

“I think…maybe we better go home,” Starsky says hesitantly. Hutch nods. But frozen in shock, they remain seated a while longer before gathering enough strength to stand up. But the sudden grief feels like a heavy cloak descended upon them and they move slowly and clumsily, as if the air around them is viscous and thick.

As Starsky leaves to escort Sammie home, Hutch takes hold of his partner’s arm and they lock tear-filled eyes as Starsky runs his hand through Hutch’s soft blond locks in an attempt to console him.

*****

Starsky knocks on Hutch’s door, hoping his partner is still awake. It’s late, and he’s been at the Walters’ house since early this morning, but he needs to see Hutch. He opens the door wordlessly as Starsky steps into the dark apartment. They look at each other for a moment and then come together in a quiet embrace.

“Want a beer?” Hutch asks as they pull away. “I’ve got a fresh six-pack in the fridge.”

“Yeah, I could use one.”

Hutch takes two bottles out of the fridge, handing one to Starsky as they walk slowly into the greenhouse, where they sit on the bench and huddle close together.

“How’s Mrs. Walters? How did Junior take the news?”

“About as well as can be expected, but as for Junior, not too good. He ran away when he heard, but I caught up to him. Told him how it went down. Said he needed to step up and become the man his dad always wanted him to be.”

Hutch hesitates for a moment. “Is that what they said to you?”

“Sort of. But I was only ten when my dad was killed. Can’t expect a ten year old to be the head of the family. So eventually Ma sent me to live here with my aunt and uncle. But Junior, he’s sixteen, so maybe he’ll be okay.”

“Yeah,” Hutch sighs, leaning his head against his partner’s and grasping his hand. As the pale moonlight streams over their closed eyes, they continue to sit quietly, the only sounds that of their beating hearts and the chirping of the crickets outside.

*****

The funeral over, and the morning’s ritual of grief now a relic of the distant past, Starsky sits alone on his sofa, the 11:00 nightly news droning on in the background. Tapping his fingers absentmindedly against his leg, he thinks about the unexpected death of his childhood friend.

How many years have I known Jackson, huh?  Nineteen? Twenty?

If it hurts this much to lose Jackson, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to lose Hutch, especially in such a violent way. But as long as we’re cops, that’s likely gonna happen someday, isn’t it? Eventually, one of us is gonna get it, maybe in the chest or the back, bleedin’ out in an alleyway somewhere in this godforsaken city.

Shit, I’ve already been through almost losin’ Hutch before to that damn virus. I don’t ever wanna go through that again. It nearly killed me to watch him suffer like that.

Starsky forces himself to think about something else. As he leans his head against the sofa back and closes his eyes, he remembers the basketball game they played the other day at the Walters’ house, which somehow feels like it was a million years ago.

Everyone was laughing and happy, sweaty and shouting, and suddenly Hutch was grabbing hold of him and swinging him around in a joyful and serendipitous display of…of what?

Love.

In that brief moment of bliss, Starsky had held the hand that was pressed against his waist and had twined his fingers within his partner’s.

Eyes still closed, he begins to nod off. As he enters the indeterminate state between wakefulness and sleep, a song begins to play in his head, a long-ago romantic song that he can’t identify.

¯ He twirls around and smiles and dances only with me

¯ We’re finally together as we were meant to be

¯ He looks into my eyes and then I finally see…

As Starsky falls down the infinitely deep well of slumber, a dream begins to take shape. He and Hutch are holding each other and spinning giddily, laughing and smiling in the hot sun, their t-shirts damp and smelling of the day’s sweat and grime. But then, as is often with dreams, one scene shifts seamlessly into another, and now they are indoors, wearing fancy suits and ties, and the heady scent of musk mixed with the cool scent of aftershave wafts through the air.

There’s a band playing and he understands they’re at a wedding. He looks down and sees that the intertwined hands are wearing matching gold bands.

It’s our wedding.

Then Hutch spins him around until they’re standing face to face, and Starsky feels like he’s falling into his partner’s clear blue eyes as Hutch presses his mouth against his in an exquisitely passionate kiss—

Suddenly, the intrusive sound of a car horn blaring outside jolts Starsky awake and the dream begins to fade from memory, even as he tries desperately to hold onto it. But instead, thoughts of the recent tragedy come flooding back into his consciousness and he’s forced back down to earth.

‘Jackson’s dead’ he had told Hutch. One minute they had been eating pie and ice cream in Mrs. Walters’ kitchen, and the next minute, Jackson was gone. Just like that. He had ruffled Hutch’s soft blond hair to console his partner, and in doing so, had tried to console himself.

If I ever find myself in a position where I have to tell someone ‘Hutch is dead,’ I think I’d rather put a gun to my head and pull the trigger than ever say those words.

The Action

They decide that the safest way to talk to Freddie is by meeting him in the sauna, but they also have other reasons for wanting to strip down to nothing but a towel and sit beside each other in the hot, steamy room.

When Hutch bets Starsky $500 in a sweat race, Starsky leans close, the soft hairs of his bare arm brushing seductively against Hutch’s smooth shoulder. Oh God, Hutch thinks, looking down at his lap and desperately hoping that the bulge of his erection doesn’t show under his towel.

Unbeknownst to Hutch, Starsky is in the exact same predicament.

The Heavyweight

“You shoulda seen this chick I was with last night,” Starsky boasts drowsily as he leans over the water cooler in Dobey’s office, dabbing cold water on his eyelids to try to reduce the puffiness.

“Yeah?”

“Flies L.A. to Honolulu...she don’t even need a plane! I’m tellin’ ya, Hutch, she’s an angel. I think I’m in love.”

Hutch has had just about enough listening to Starsky crow about his latest female sexual conquest. As Starsky closes his eyes, Hutch puts his cup of coffee under his partner’s hand. “Aaaah!” Starsky cries out after dipping his fingers into the scalding hot beverage, as Hutch laughs mischievously, pleased with his latest prank. Aww, was that mean of me to do that? Nah, Starsky just needs to shut the fuck up about his new girlfriend, ‘cause I really don’t want to hear about it.

Hutch is not happy about Starsky dating Sharon. I don’t like that he’s staying up late every night and coming to work half asleep. It compromises his ability to do his job. He could get us both killed. He could….

But as Hutch wrestles with his feelings of jealousy and resentment, he resigns himself to the knowledge that Starsky will one day fall in love, marry, and have kids without him.

*****

Starsky is desperately trying to convince himself that he enjoys Sharon’s company. But buried deep down in his mind is the idea that maybe he really would prefer Hutch to share his bed. Because at the end of the day, he realizes that he has no emotional connection to Sharon. None at all. In fact, the strongest bond he’s ever had is with Hutch.

And there’s something else bothering Starsky, related to the case they’re working on. He can’t stop thinking about Detective Frank Marchetti, killed while working undercover in the warehouse district. He had a wife and two kids, for chrissakes! Another cop killed in the line of duty leaving behind a grieving family. How many have there been? Will that happen to my family someday?

And Marchetti was working alone when he was killed, with no partner to back him up or come to his rescue. What if that had been Hutch?

A Body Worth Guarding

This time, it’s Starsky’s turn to be jealous. He thinks he wants to spend the night guarding Anna but what he really wants is to keep her away from Hutch.

When he discovers the next morning that Hutch hasn’t exactly been virtuous, he teases him and plays along with the game. But while he’s pleased that his partner seems happy and contented, he can’t help but feel a little…a little…what? Sad, perhaps. Wistful, maybe. Like something is missing, as if he is no longer whole. He jokingly refers to himself as Hutch’s better half, but deep down inside, he knows that without Hutch, he’s nothing.

*****

Hutch enjoys his one-night stand and getting to romance the girl and relishes the opportunity to temporarily alleviate his sexual frustration. But when it’s time for Anna to leave, he’s not especially broken up about it. It was fun while it lasted, he thinks, but that’s all it is. So when she and Starsky decide to arm wrestle in the hotel room on top of her packed suitcase, Hutch helps to tip the scales in Anna’s favor so that Starsky winds up in his lap.

The Trap

What the hell was Starsky thinking, coming up with a cockamamie plan like that? ‘I can’t really walk,’ he said, ‘but uh, I could crawl to the door. Do my Cagney impersonation. You can make it to the woods. Kid got away, maybe you could…you didn’t hear a word I said, did ya?’

I heard ya, buddy. I just pretended not to while I fiddled with that damn tractor. I needed to focus on getting us the hell outta that barn before Bagley set it on fire with us trapped inside, and Starsky’s rambling was distracting me. I needed to get him to the hospital. At that point, we only had a few minutes left to live, and he suggested that I leave him there to die alone while I ran to safety the way Joey had. Then he tried to give me his stupid watch, as if that overpriced hunk of metal was somehow comparable to having him with me, alive.

You fucking asshole – did you really think in a million years that I’d leave you? Did Butch Cassidy leave the Sundance Kid? I was gonna do everything I could to get us out of there or die trying.

Look at him lying in that hospital bed, sound asleep, all doped up on painkillers. He’s out like a light now, but when he was awake earlier, he was feeling pretty good, flying high as a kite. God, I remember that feeling. I almost envy him. Almost. And when the Percocet they gave him wears off in a couple of hours, the only thing he’ll feel is pain from the bullet wound in his leg, thank god. Not like coming off heroin.

Imagine if I’d have listened to him and took off into the woods by myself? I’d be visiting him in the morgue right now instead of in the hospital. And you know what? Heroin would seem pretty fucking good to me at that point.

Goddamn it Starsk, did you really think I would want to continue living without you?

Satan’s Witches

Now what should I pack for our weekend retreat to Dobey’s fine mountain cabin? Perhaps I’ll bring this special pair of red long johns that I bought just for this trip that Hutch is making us go on. They’ll come in very handy because it’s cold up there in the mountains and there’s lots of bugs and snakes and things. And I can’t help the fact that the long johns are two sizes too small – it’s the only size they had in the store.

I just gotta make sure I complain often enough and loudly enough so that Hutch doesn’t catch on that I’m actually lookin’ forward to our weekend alone together. Not that anything’s gonna happen, of course. Because we’re not gay or anything. It’s just that I like spendin’ time alone with my best friend in the whole world.

*****

My plan of bringing Starsky up here to this secluded cabin for the weekend was pretty brilliant, if I don’t say so myself. Yes, sirree, three days of Starsky being terrified of things that go bump in the night and he’ll want to jump into bed with me. Then we’ll be the ones who’ll be doing the bumping. <snicker>.

Let me just double-check that the Vaseline I packed is safely tucked away in my duffel bag…yes, here it is. Hee-hee! Holy shit, I can’t believe I actually packed that.

*****

Okay, so I chickened out last night and didn’t do anything to come on to Starsky. I just crawled into the bed all dejected. All the big plans I had, that I’ve thought about for weeks, carefully planning every move I was gonna make, and then nuthin’. Great job, Hutchinson.

Oh well, I guess I can always try again tomorrow night.

*****

Maybe some early morning fishing will do me some good. City boy is sound asleep on the sofa over there. Should I wake him? Hey, what’s that? Huh…how’d these get here? Starsky’s jeans. He must have hung them on my bedpost last night. That’s interesting. Now why would he do that?

<whistles>

“Fish are jumping, cotton is high…”

*****

Holy mother of…what the hell’s he wearing? Is that long underwear?

<gulp>

*****

I really did think there was a bear or somethin’ in the woods when I grabbed Hutch and pulled him close against me outside the cabin. How could I have known it was a couple of pretty girls on their way to meet their hiking club? It coulda been a bear. So in my fervor to protect myself and Hutch from whatever it was, I guess I pulled him a little too close. I almost didn’t notice when he asked me to let him go, because I was too preoccupied with the thought of how easy it would be to kiss him in that moment. And I might have done it, too, if the girls hadn’t shown up when they did.

And it felt really nice havin’ him pressed up against me like that. Maybe a little too nice, because I started to get hard. The girls were a nice distraction, though, and gave me an excuse to run inside and cover up. But once we realized they had tried to kill us by puttin’ that rattlesnake in our refrigerator, things just kept gettin’ weirder and weirder and I stopped thinkin’ about kissin’ him.

Hutch always feels nice whenever I’ve had the opportunity to touch him. He’s like a big, soft golden retriever. Not that I’d wanna kiss a golden retriever or anything. Maybe I should just do some fishin’ and try to forget about the whole thing.

*****

Well, this weekend turned out to be a bust. I couldn’t sleep last night because of those weirdo Satanists, and the last thing I wanted to do at that point was bang my partner. I just wanted to get some damn sleep and try to forget about how every time those cultists started chanting in the woods, all the birds and insects would go quiet. I don’t know how to explain that, and it’s scaring the shit outta me.

And Starsky, for all his paranoia about wild animals in the woods and his complaining about how fishing is so boring, is having a blast right now catching all those trout with my fishing rod. I’d like to catch him with my rod, if you know what I mean! Like the way he caught me outside the cabin and pulled me close. My God, I came so close to kissing him, but then those pretty hikers came along, and the next thing we knew, Starsky was two seconds away from being bit by that rattlesnake they planted in our fridge.

Now I need to figure out how to make the sound of a growling bear so we can get the hell out of here.

Class in Crime

Hutch looks into Starsky’s eyes as they squat down in front of the extravagantly expensive car, and he can see the want in Starsky’s eyes, can feel the yearning in his partner’s soul. The way Starsky pines for the car, his voice quiet and calm as it struggles to contain his burning desire, reminds Hutch of how he feels about Starsky, and how he’s been longing for Starsky’s affections in a way he knows will never be returned.

And even though Starsky will never be able to afford the car, Hutch wonders if his partner would be more happy owning it than being his partner, if it came down to it. It’s a silly thing to worry about, he knows, comparing himself to an inanimate object, yet he longs for Starsky to look at him, to YEARN for him the same way he looks desirously at the fancy chrome and the headlights and the grille.

Just as Hutch realizes that Starsky’s knees are tantalizingly brushing up against his own, Catlin approaches and Starsky abruptly rises to meet her, immediately turning on the charm at the sight of a beautiful woman while Hutch reluctantly follows suit.

*****

Hutch remembers when Starsky pilfered his sunglasses that day at Huggy’s two years ago and he decides that today is the day he will snatch them back. Right after he tells Starsky that he fully trusts him with his life. And he does. He just wishes that he could tell Starsky what’s in his heart.

*****

Jack and Allen were partners and now they’re both dead, Starsky had told Dobey. But even after Professor Gage and his accomplice Mickie Marra, aka the mime and Hutch’s would-be assassin, were in custody and Hutch was home, safe and sound in his own bed, Starsky can’t stop thinking about it.

Partners. Dead. Partners. Dead. The words repeat in Starsky’s brain as he tries in vain to sleep. But the proximity of the two words is like an incantation -- two words that didn’t belong together, their mere existence an abomination. And yet there they were, taunting him, blinking on and off in his mind like the lurid marquis of a seedy strip club at 2am.

Hutchinson for Murder One

Hutch lies awake on his sofa, trying not to think about Vanessa sleeping in his bed just a few feet away. She had tried to seduce him earlier in the evening but he had refused.

Huggy called me ‘one tight closet’ while I nervously waited for her at The Pits. How does he know?

*****

For a brief moment, Hutch really does believe that Starsky is going to arrest him. But it’s all a ruse, as Starsky handcuffs Lt. Dryden to Hutch’s kitchen table and the two fugitives flee to Huggy’s.

Hutch has been a bundle of nerves since the day began so many hours ago, beginning with finding his ex-wife’s dead body in his living room, being knocked out by the bad guys searching his apartment for the diamond, and finally, the pièce de résistance: a Los Angeles County arrest warrant issued for his arrest. As Hutch drives them to Huggy’s apartment, they narrowly escape detection by a black-and-white and he sighs with noticeable relief.

When they are safely at Huggy’s, Starsky calls Dobey at the station while Hutch leans in close and listens.

“Captain Dobey, please,” Starsky says to the dispatcher.

“I wonder if he’s still in this late?” muses Hutch.

“You kidding? By now there’s an APB out on both of us.”

“Dobey!”

“You have such a charming way of answering the telephone, Cap’n.”

“Starsky, where are you? And where’s Hutchinson? And where’s Dryden?”

“Dryden is relaxing in Hutch’s apartment, and we need your help.”

“How ‘bout givin’ me some? Simonetti’s about to go to the commissioner, hanging me out to dry. Hey, listen, if you don’t get in here with Hutchinson, you’re gonna have a new captain in 48 hours!”

“We think we can handle this one in 24 hours. Look, can you get me a picture of that diamond?”

“I guess so. Why?”

“Release it to the newspapers that Hutch, a cop, is wanted for murder one.”

Dobey is not amused. “You call that help!”

“Look, I can’t give you any details now Cap’n but I think we can nail Vanessa’s killer.”

“And what if it doesn’t work?”

“Well, if it doesn’t, you can come visit Hutch and I in San Quentin.” He looks at Hutch, who’s been standing only inches away during the conversation. Hutch resists the urge to correct Starsky on his grammar. It’s Hutch and ME, mushbrain!

*****

In the darkened motel room on the outskirts of town where they’re hiding out for the night, Huggy’s white Caddy parked outside, Starsky lies on his side looking over at Hutch, who is staring up at the ceiling in the other bed. Even in the dark, Starsky can see him wincing from time to time. Or perhaps rather than see it, he can sense it.

The only sound in the room is the ticking of the bedside clock counting down the hours, minutes and seconds before they’ll either arrest Wheeler and his goons or be arrested themselves.

“You okay?”

“Yeah, it’s just that lump in the back of my head hurting.”

Starsky has a feeling that’s not the only thing bothering his partner, but he gets up, goes outside to the ice machine, and wraps some ice in a washcloth.

“Here,” he says, walking back into the room and handing the homemade ice pack to Hutch.

“Thanks.” Hutch puts it behind his head and continues to stare up at the ceiling.

Starsky studies Hutch’s demeanor in the darkness. “Think you can sleep?”

“Guess we’ll see.”

“Okay.” Starsky is still concerned, but he pulls up the blanket and closes his eyes. They have a big day ahead of them tomorrow if they’re going to try to convince Wheeler to pay them for the stolen diamond.

In the other bed, Hutch continues to stare up at the ceiling, nervously tapping his fingers against the mattress, trying unsuccessfully to clear his mind, while Starsky drifts off to sleep in the other bed amid a backdrop of Hutch’s tapping and the ticking of the clock, but his sleep is fretful and uneasy.

A few hours later, Starsky wakes suddenly and looks over towards the other bed. Upon seeing it empty, he begins to panic, but then he hears a sound coming from the bathroom. He gets up and walks toward the open bathroom door, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness, contemplating the obscurity of the unknown and the uncertainty of their future.

He’s relieved when he spies Hutch sitting quietly atop the closed toilet, leaning over like the statue of Rodin’s Thinker, hand over his face, deep in thought.

“Whatcha doin’ in here? Trouble sleepin’?”

Massaging his forehead, Hutch takes a deep breath. “I keep going over what happened. If only I hadn’t gone out for a run this morning, Vanessa would still be alive—”

“Hey, you’ll drive yourself crazy thinkin’ like that. What happened is in no way your fault and you know that. You couldn’t have known Vanessa was in any danger.”

“Yeah, I know.” Hutch closes his eyes and sighs.

“Let’s get some sleep, huh?” Starsky takes his partner’s arm and leads him out of the bathroom. He watches as Hutch climbs into the bed, and then on a whim, he climbs in next to Hutch and pulls up the covers.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Hutch’s heart has begun to pound as he tries desperately to sound annoyed.

“Relax, Laurel and Hardy used to sleep in the same bed all the time.”

“That was in the movies, dummy, not in real life.”

“Well, ya never know. Besides, you’ve got this whole side of the bed that’s empty. Hey, turn over, will ya?” Starsky gently prods Hutch onto his side as Hutch dutifully complies, his heart thudding in his chest and his cock beginning to swell.

What exactly does Starsky have in mind? Oh my God, how long have I fantasized about this moment? How many months? And now he’s in bed with me. Is this real? I must be having some kind of crazy dream again! And how fucking ironic is it that the last thing I want to do right now is have sex. Not with my head throbbing and my nerves getting the best of me. And definitely not when my ex-wife has been dead less than 24 hours.

Starsky, lying on his side facing Hutch’s back, squeezes himself up against him, slinging his arm around his exhausted partner and snuggling close. He can sense Hutch’s nerves thrumming, his muscles tight and tense. Resting his hand on Hutch’s chest, he can feel his heart pounding beneath the smooth black turtleneck.

Unsure what to do, his hard cock throbbing inside his suddenly too-tight jeans, Hutch waits to see what Starsky’s next move is.

Starsky, unaware of Hutch’s erection, has developed a hard-on of his own, but he doesn’t want his partner to know about it, so he shifts position, moving his hips away from Hutch to avoid making contact with him from the waist down. He doesn’t even want to be hard right now, for chrissakes, and curses his hormones. All he wants to do is hold Hutch so they can both relax and get some sleep.

Leaning his head on Hutch’s pillow, dark curls mingling softly with the soft blond strands, Starsky whispers into his partner’s ear, “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Stanley.”

In the movies, whenever Hardy would utter the immortal line, “Well, it’s another nice mess you’ve gotten us into,” Laurel would break down crying and begging Hardy for forgiveness, but the scene was always played for laughs.

In the darkened motel room, Hutch smiles for the first time that day, even though the situation is deadly serious.

Foxy Lady

Another day, another dollar, another girl to compete for and not particularly care who gets her in the end. They really just want to end up with each other, anyway.

The competition is just to bolster their masculinity, to try to one-up their partner and impress him with their superior courting skills, something the male species is programmed instinctually to do, without giving it much conscious thought as to why they’re doing it. It’s an elaborate contest wherein they compete with each other to prove which one has the most impressive spread of feathers, the loudest mating call, and the biggest cock.

It’s all superficial posturing, absent of any heartfelt emotions.

This time the girl is Lisa Kendricks, who, in mixing up the two “romantic cops,” as she calls them, manages to get Hutch kidnapped, putting both partners’ lives in danger and almost getting them killed, and then follows that up by duping them, making off with the stolen cash, and leaving them in the airport literally holding the bag, her suitcase spilled open and her lingerie hanging around their necks while the airport passersby gawk with wide-eyed interest.

And the bad guys make the same mistake every other bad guy before them has made - abducting one but not the other. It’s a fatal flaw, as they soon discover, because when one of the partners is threatened, the other is made stronger and more determined, and will stop at nothing to save him.

Partners

I have to do it. I have to teach him a lesson before he gets us both killed. Before he gets himself killed. It’s okay though, because he’ll forgive me. He always does.

But that’s not the only reason you’re faking amnesia, is it? Admit it, Hutchinson. You NEED Starsky to prove to you that your friendship, your life, means the world to him. Because it sure didn’t seem that way when he was driving like a maniac and ignoring your pleas to slow down.

I almost gave up the ghost and confessed I was faking when he mentioned Gillian. His recounting of that awful day almost broke me. It made me want to cry all over again, because it made me relive both Gillian’s death and the way Starsky held me as I sobbed in his arms. And I remembered that I never did tell him I was sorry for hitting him. I should have just confessed that I was lying to him about the amnesia right then and there. But instead, I turned my head away and closed my eyes.

*****

In the end, I was right, though. He did forgive me. Dobey wasn’t quite so forgiving, but who could blame him?

Quadromania

I told Hutch to be nice. We were both tired after working an all-night shift and all we wanted to do was go home to our respective places and get some shut-eye, but instead, we got called to the scene of the brutal murder of a cab driver, simply because we happened to be in the right place at the right time. I guess it was our lucky day.

So as soon as I saw that rookie, Baker, standin’ near the victim’s taxi cab, I knew Hutch would get snippy with him. Poor kid. He’s only around 22 or somethin’, fresh out of the academy, but my partner doesn’t have a lot of patience these days and I was worried he’d give the kid a hard time.

Hutch has been really grumpy lately, even more than usual. I mean, it’s one thing to be in a bad mood once in a while because you can’t get your car fixed or you’ve had an unusually crappy day or somethin’, but it seems like Hutch has been in a whole lotta bad moods lately. Like he’s constantly wakin’ up on the wrong side of the bed.

Sometimes I feel like I hafta walk on eggshells around him or risk his wrath.

I’ve tried askin’ him if somethin’s wrong, but he just keeps deflecting. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when he seems fine and he’s his usual cheerful self. As cheerful as Hutch is capable of, anyway. But then other days, he’s a real challenge to be around.

I just wish I knew what was botherin’ him.

*****

Starsky leans against the cab as he fills it up with gas when another cab pulls up next to him.

“Hey, you’re new, aren’t cha?” the driver asks him.

Glancing absently down at the cab’s tires, Starsky blandly answers, “Yeah.”

“Kinda foxy, too,” the driver observes. And then in a loud and husky voice, “I’ll be, uh, workin’ downtown tonight if you get lonely, fella.”

Still looking away, Starsky tells the driver, “Sorry, I don’t go that route.” Unless you’re Hutch, maybe, he thinks absently.

“Well,” the decidedly female cab driver replies, “At least you don’t keep it in the closet like a lotta guys.”

Starsky looks at her and is temporarily smitten. But while Starsky flirts with the lovely K.C. McBride and they have a brief fling for a few days, he keeps thinking about the quip she made about him being out of the closet.

She’s wrong about me, Starsky thinks. Because I think that maybe, I’m actually IN the closet. Or maybe I’m just confused, because I really do like girls. I like K.C., for example. She’s blonde, and pretty, witty and sarcastic, and she plays the guitar. And she likes to sing Country-Western songs, just like Hutch.

Just like Hutch.

But what’s the point of datin’ a pretty blonde girl who sings and plays the guitar, when I already got the real deal?

*****

Hutch is tired and cranky. It’s 5am and they still haven’t found the master of disguise who’s been murdering Metro Cab drivers in the dead of night. Perhaps that’s the reason he decides to mess with Starsky, whistling to wake him out of his contented and desperately needed slumber.

So when the little old lady hobbles over to Starsky’s cab in the wee hours of the morning, Hutch can’t resist pulling one last prank before calling it a night. While Starsky informs the elderly woman that his shift is done, Hutch tells her to hop in for a ride. It’s a miscalculation that almost costs Starsky his life.

*****

Hutch finds Starsky sitting on top of some crates, woozy and weak from the head wound he sustained from his would-be killer, a delusional, crippled ex-actor now reduced to cowering in the corner mumbling tragic Shakespearean passages. Hutch reaches out and rests his hand against his partner’s injured head, examining the wound, while he puts a comforting hand on Starsky’s leg. He’s wracked with guilt.

Why did I set him up like that? What the hell would an old lady be doing out in the middle of the night alone in the red light district? I knew the killer wore costumes and wigs to disguise himself. I should have known better. I really haven’t learned my lesson at all, have I? I was so worried that he’d kill himself driving like a maniac, but it ended up being me who almost got him killed. Me and my stupid prank.

I’m sorry, buddy. I’m so sorry. I love you.

But he says these things to himself, and Starsky does not know of them.

Deckwatch

I don’t fucking want to be here. There, I said it. See, I’ve decided that it’s better if I try not to think about Starsky at all these days. I mean, what the hell’s the point? I don’t know if I’m gay or what, but I know for a fact that he isn’t.

Ever since that time I faked amnesia and Starsky mentioned Gillian, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how I was perfectly content not to sleep with her when she said she only wanted to cuddle on the couch. Her not wanting to have sex with me should have been a red flag for many reasons, the most obvious being that because she was forced by Grossman to earn her keep by having sex with creepy old men, it was probably the last thing she wanted do to with someone she liked.

But it also should have been a sign that I didn’t mind sexless cuddling in the least. She told me no less than seven times that she loved me, and I responded with awkward silence. I was so deep in the closet that I would have needed breadcrumbs to find my way out, but for a long time, I refused to even acknowledge the existence of those breadcrumbs.

Vanessa told everyone she divorced me because I had no future as a cop, and maybe that was a good excuse, but the truth is -- our sex life left her, um, shall we say…disappointed.

Ken, come to bed, it’s late.

I’ll be there soon, Van. I’ve got a bit of a headache right now.

You said that last night.

I know, I’m sorry. It’s been a stressful week at work.

 

Ken, when are you coming home? It’s almost 10:00.

Not for a while yet. Starsky and I are still working on a case.

You two are always working late into the night while I sit here alone in our apartment. I’m wearing your favorite negligee, Ken, you know, the black satin one with the intricate lace pattern, and I don’t know how much longer I can wait up for you.

I know Van, it’s just that it’s a murder case, and we’re really trying to bust it wide open.

You’ve always got excuses, Ken.

 

I’m sorry to hear you’re getting divorced, son.

Thanks, Dad. It was a mutual decision. Vanessa didn’t like being married to a cop, and who could blame her? She has expensive tastes and my salary just wasn’t enough to satisfy her.

 

Your father and I were really looking forward to you and Vanessa having children someday, Ken.

I know, Mom.

But you’re still young. Maybe there’ll be another woman in your future.

Sure, Mom, you’re probably right.

You’re a good-looking young man. It’d be a shame to let those genes go to waste.

Vanessa tried to seduce me in my own bedroom and I rebuffed her, even though I knew how scared she was about her supposed impending biopsy. She kissed me and I just walked away, like it meant nothing. Just like I didn’t care when Gillian didn’t want to sleep with me.

But I never understood what any of it meant, until now. Or maybe I didn’t want to understand. Maybe I still don’t.

And if I were to come out and tell Starsky that I think I’m gay, and that I love him, what fucking good would that do? The best I could hope for is he wouldn’t be so homophobic that he’d no longer want to be my partner.

It used to be that I could touch him, or be touched by him, and only feel love, comfort, and contentment. But that was a long time ago, so long ago I’m not even sure when I started to feel the tingling up and down my spine and in my groin every time he looked at me. Was it a year ago? Two? The day we met? Does it matter?

He had the nerve to stare at my leg as I fastened my holster in the cab. He even tried to get me to smile. Asshole. And of course it worked, didn’t it? I couldn’t help myself. Because whether my smile is on the outside for him to see, or secretly tucked away in the back of my mind, I ALWAYS smile when Starsky looks at me like that.

Lately, though, I’ve started to become terrified that one of us is going to betray the other. I have no idea why I feel this way, but it’s a feeling I can’t shake. Perhaps it’s a premonition of some sort. But that’s ridiculous, because that would mean I believed in ESP, which I most certainly do not.

And who do I think would be doing the betraying? And why? I can’t even come up with a believable scenario in my head, but I can feel it pulling me down into a black hole of despair. Something’s gonna happen, I can sense it. And this case we’re dealing with, it doesn’t sit right with me. We haven’t investigated a murder near the canals in I don’t know how long, but it feels like an omen, somehow. A wounded felon is a dangerous person when he’s cornered. And the fact it involves Laura and Hannah only intensifies the feeling of dread that keeps creeping up my spine and settling itself insidiously in the back of my mind.

Maybe I’m just worried that I won’t make it out of their house alive, because if our suspect realizes I’m a cop, I’m a dead man. He’ll be too close to me, closer than Starsky will be, and he’ll have the upper hand.

But I’m also worried that something will happen to Laura and Hannah if I’m not there to protect them. What chance does Hannah have without me? An elderly woman in a wheelchair can’t easily save herself, and I don’t have much faith in Laura’s ability to troubleshoot in a hostage situation when she’s worried to death about Hannah.

Or perhaps the dread I’m feeling right now has nothing at all do to with the case, and I’m just projecting because I know in my heart that I’m gay, and I don’t want to face up to it or tell Starsky, even though I know one day I’ll have to. He’s risked his badge, his freedom, and his life for me, but if I tell him who I really am, if I tell him I’m in love with him, what then? Will I lose him forever?

I know what he’s thinking right now. He’s pretending to concentrate on driving the taxi to Laura’s house, but he’s really thinking about me, worried about me going undercover. But as scared as I am of dying, I’m even more terrified of telling him the truth.

*****

Well, another crisis has been averted, another day in which I pretend to be interested in a girl. This time it’s Laura Kanen, who is clearly about as interested in men as I am in women. No wonder all her suitors end up playing cards in the kitchen with Hannah.

I wasn’t gonna go near Starsky at all. I planned on keeping my distance and staying on the other side of the kitchen with Laura. But I couldn’t help myself. I had to touch him; I had to taste that damn pie that was on his face. I was so happy to be near him that I let myself enjoy the moment a little too much.

I did learn something valuable, though. Working alone, trying to make sure that Hector didn’t hurt Hannah and Laura, with Starsky safely outside or several feet away, I was able to focus better.

*****

Dobey asked Hutch how he felt about going undercover as a paramedic, putting himself at risk to try to disarm Hector before he killed the women. He didn’t ask me, though. But what could I have said? Of course I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it one bit. Which is probably why he didn’t ask me.

Because how can I ever like somethin’ that puts my partner’s life at risk? But of course we had to do it; we had to save the women. It’s our job; it’s what we do. One of us puts his life on the line and the other is there to back him up. This was just another one of those times. Besides, I wasn’t gonna let Hector mess with my partner. If he did, there’d be hell to pay.

When Hutch had to meet with that psycho college professor on the beach that time, he told me he was countin’ on me to protect him, and of course I did. I will always protect Hutch or die tryin’. But that was a close call. Too close. If I hadn’t seen the rifle in the bushes that crazy girl was aimin’ at him, it would have been goodbye, partner, hello rest of my miserable life.

So of course he knew I’d protect him. But I worry sometimes. I mean, what if our luck runs out someday? And why in the hell am I even thinkin’ about it now? Hector’s dead, Hutch is safe and sound, and so are Laura and Hannah, and everything’s okay.

Isn’t it?

*****

Who am I kidding? I’ve been lying to myself. The reason I was able to focus when I was undercover wasn’t because Starsky wasn’t around to distract me – it was precisely because I knew Starsky was nearby, watching my back, that I was able to concentrate on what I needed to do. So maybe that’s the key to waking up each morning and facing each new day. We can still be partners, and we can still work together, but we don’t have to be together all the time, as long as we have each other’s backs. At least until I can spend some time thinking about what I want to do with the rest of my stinking life.

Chapter Text

“I already got a partner, I don’t need another one!”

-Detective Kenneth Hutchinson

Discomania

At first, I didn’t know what to think about Hutch’s mustache. I noticed he hadn’t been shavin’ lately, but for a while it just looked like five o’clock shadow. Then I didn’t see him for a coupla days and suddenly the thing had taken on a life of its own. It sort of hides his upper lip, though, and I started wonderin’ if that would get in the way when he kissed someone. Like, what would it feel like? Would it tickle?

For a long time, I’ve wondered what it would be like to kiss him, but now I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know anymore.

Still, I had the strongest urge to reach out and stroke it, but I did my best to suppress my urge and forced myself to think of somethin’ else, anythin’ else.

I’ll say this, though; despite the ‘stache, he’s still beautiful, even though he dances like a drunken chicken.

*****

“Why don’t you take a picture, it’ll last longer.”

“What?”

“You’ve been starin’ at my ‘stache for the past 20 minutes, meathead!”

“Oh, that? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Well, aren’t you gonna say something? You hate it, right?”

“Well, no, I don’t exactly…hate it…I, uh, I’m just not used to you havin’ facial hair on that part of, uh, your face.”

“Well, I like it. Mustaches are symbolic of assertive masculinity, you know – all the leading men in Hollywood have one these days.”

“So what you’re sayin’ is you’re a ‘leading man’ now?”

“Sure, why not?” I’d like to lead you right into my bedroom, buddy boy.

“You’re weird, ya know that?” Assertive masculinity, huh? What’s he tryin’ to hide?

*****

I was beginning to feel self-conscious with the way Starsky kept staring at my ‘stache all day, so I told him to go home while I offered to stay at Metro to go over the photos of the missing women with Harding. Besides, it fit in handily with my new work ethic to work separately from Starsky as much as possible.

The Missing Persons squad room looks a lot like our own squad room but it’s smaller and there’s no file cabinet next to the glass door. It felt strange being at the station so late at night without my partner, but he was always on my mind, because try as I might, I couldn’t get him out of my head. I told Harding that Starsky and I would check out Fever the next night, but I didn’t need to say that. I could have simply said that I would check it out or that me and my partner would, but I wanted, NEEDED to say Starsky’s name. It made me feel closer to him, somehow, as if saying it was some kind of invocation.

I had convinced myself that my plan was a solid one – that spending time away from Starsky would help me clear my thoughts and that I’d stop thinking about him all the time, but as it turned out, staying late at Metro, even on a different floor, just made things worse. It was late when I left Harding, and suddenly I had the strangest feeling as I made my way alone towards the door in the almost total darkness; a feeling that something bad was going to go down and I would be powerless to stop it.

As I sat in my car in the darkened parking lot, quivering in the late night cold, I felt a strange shiver pass down my leg as if a cold hand was gripping it. It brought back those feelings I’d been having about one of us betraying the other, but this was a different type of dread, a new, creeping dread that one of us was going to die, and I couldn’t shake it, not even once the engine heated up and it began to get warm in the car. You’re losing it, Hutchinson, you know that?

When I got home, I went to bed and fell into a deep sleep, and I dreamed that Starsky and I were standing outside in a blustery white landscape, surrounded all around by deep snowbanks that felt like they were slowly closing in on us. The bleakness of the setting was broken only by a single leafless tree far in the distance, and there was deep snow as far as the eye could see. Snow fell heavily from the sky as the wind whooped and whistled across the endless frozen landscape, threatening to topple both us and the faraway tree.

I tried to take his hand, so as not to get separated from him, but suddenly, I couldn’t breathe, and I felt that coldness gripping my leg again, only this time, Starsky was nowhere to be found. He had disappeared in the blink of an eye. I panicked, worried he’d fallen into the deep snow and was suffocating beneath it, but I could see nothing, not even a footprint or an outstretched hand. Starsky! I yelled into the white ether, but there was no response, only a cold, frozen echo of my desperate shouting, reverberating all around me, surrounding me in an icy, indifferent cloak. Starsky! Starsky! the echoes repeated hollowly, but there was no answer.

I awoke this morning to the warm rays of California sunshine streaming in through the windows, trying to rouse me from my slumber, but I could still feel the chill beneath the blankets. The motes of light seemed to want to beckon me to arise and welcome a new day, but with the strange, cold dream still occupying my consciousness, I pulled the blankets up over my head and closed my eyes, not ready to face anything just yet, especially not the thought of having to go undercover at the nightclub with Starsky later tonight.

*****

When Hutch and me were stakin’ out Fever tonight, we were sittin’ together at a table where we had a good view of Lizzie and Marty. We were sure that Marty was our man but then we happened to notice another guy sittin’ next to him who I’d noticed had been talkin’ to Lizzie earlier.

I moved my chair closer to Hutch and asked Judith who the guy was. I figured she knew everyone in that place and had come on to them all. She answered, “I don’t know, but if you fellas are so interested in guys, you’re in the wrong club.”

Then Hutch and me looked at each other, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of John Blaine and that conversation we had in Hutch’s car, which made me realize that I really DID want to kiss him with that mustache.

But I’m pretty sure he’d deck me if I tried.

The Game

Just look at him over there, filing away, happy as a clam, as always. Some days, I wish I could be more like Starsky, just going with the flow, finding enjoyment in the little things in life. His striped tomato, a hot night in bed with a pretty stewardess whose name he won’t remember the next morning, or the spiciest chili he can lay his hands on.

But there must be more to life than that. All those things are superficial; they don’t really mean anything. Well, maybe his car does, but those other things just provide a momentary feeling of fulfillment that’s digested away like everything else until it becomes nothing more than excreted waste, forgotten until the next tempting thing comes along.

And am I even worth it? I know he loves me. He’s risked his badge for me more than once. Hell, he risked going to prison for me. But how would he respond if I told him I was in love with him? What would he do if he knew what I was thinking right now?

So here I sit, feeling sorry for myself when I should be thanking my lucky stars that I have him as my friend and partner and that we’re both okay.

But I just haven’t been feeling very lucky lately. Maybe my biorhythms are off or something because I feel restless and anxious all the time. Maybe that’s the reason I keep having those feelings of dread. I just keep thinking that something’s gotta change because I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

So I got an idea. I think that maybe I need to get away from the police station, leave my house, and go live a different life for a while, even if it’s just for a weekend.

I need to go somewhere where Starsky can’t find me.

*****

I can’t stop thinkin’ about that mustache. I really need to find out what it’s like to kiss him with it. So I’ve been doin’ some strategizin’ and I got it all planned out. If he thinks he can get a head start on me by wakin’ up at 6 o’clock in the mornin’ while I’m still sleepin’ -- two hours earlier than the start time we agreed to -- I’ll show him!

If my partner thinks he can hide from me for a full weekend, he’s dumber than he looks. I’m gonna nail that big blond beauty by lunchtime today, and when I do, I’m gonna march right up to him and plant a big wet kiss on his mouth. He’ll never know what hit him!

*****

Hide-and-seek – a game played by generations of children and loved by all. A good choice for a man who wants to get away from his life for a while and become someone else. I can clear my head and see what it’s like to sleep somewhere where he can’t find me, someplace where I won’t find myself waiting up all night hoping to hear an unexpected knock on the door because Starsky has to use the bathroom or needs to borrow my plant fertilizer. Someplace I won’t fantasize about him ending up in my bed.

Instead of thinking about him, I’ll be thinking about my next move. So I donned a disguise – dyed my hair, put on a prosthetic nose and teeth, and got a room at one of Bay City’s sleaziest motels. I even wore brown contact lenses. I thought my plan was brilliant. For one glorious weekend, I would no longer be blond-haired, blue-eyed Kenneth Hutchinson, college graduate, partner of David Starsky, and cop. Instead, I’d be a nobody, with no money to his name, a guy who knows exactly who he is and has no regrets about anything.

But instead, I ended up having regrets about everything.

*****

I laid there in the hospital bed with an oxygen tube, hooked up to nothin’ in particular, juttin’ out of my nose. “How we doin’?” Dobey asked as he entered the room.

“How’d you like to have one of these up your nose?” I replied, not exactly in the best mood.

“If this doesn’t work, both of us are gonna have tubes comin’ out of more places than our noses!” Dobey exclaimed.

“If this doesn’t work, I don’t give a damn,” I replied miserably, starin’ up at the ceiling. I felt as miserable as I sounded. When Dobey went outside to talk to Simmons and Babcock, Huggy entered the room.

“What I wanna know is -- where’s Hutch?” he asked, getting increasingly worried and impatient. “He musta heard about this by now.”

“He’ll be here,” I answered, trying to reassure myself that there was still enough time to save Hutch’s life before the botulism did him in for good. Just then, a nurse walked in. She said, “Sergeant Starsky? A man just gave me this note and told me to read it to you.”

“Go ahead,” I told her, and she read it aloud:

“Dear Starsk,

Close, but no cigar.

Love, Hutch

P.S. How much of a cut did you promise Dobey and Huggy?”

 

Alarmed, I grabbed the note out of her hand. “Let’s see that!”

I read the note, ripped out the oxygen tube, and ran out of the room still clutching the paper. “Huuuutch!!!” I yelled frantically down the hallway, but it was no use. My partner had disappeared from the hospital without a trace.

Fuck! I said to myself as I crumpled up the paper. Now what?

*****

“We do our best,” I’d defiantly told Pardee. But what I didn’t say aloud was, “But what happens when our best isn’t good enough?”

*****

When I spied Hutch in the front passenger seat of Pardee’s car, I rushed over to him. I couldn’t believe my luck -- if I’d gotten there any later, it would have been too late, and both him and Pardee would have been gone forever.

I opened the door and grabbed him, unbuttoned the weird overalls he was wearin’, and pressed my hand against his chest, dimly registering the dull heartbeat thudding beneath his dirty shirt and feelin’ more thankful than I’ve ever felt in my life. But time was runnin’ out and I needed to get him to the hospital as soon as possible so the doctors could give him the antitoxin.

In my panic, I think I yelled, “Gimme an ambulance!” even though I knew one was already on the way. Then I told him he was gonna be okay.

He looked up at me weakly, with strange brown eyes, and said, “Looks like you turned up the big winner.”

I wanted to cry right then and there. Did he really think I cared about that?

Instead, I replied, “Yeah,” not givin’ a flyin’ fuck-all who won the game at that point. Why are you still bein’ so damn competitive, Hutch? I thought to myself. Are you really that insecure? You think this is funny? I wanted to scream it at him, shake him hard, but of course, I couldn’t do that. So instead, I said, “That soup you ate…it was contaminated with botulism. The ambulance will be here any minute, so just stay with me until it gets here, okay? Hutch?”

“Still here. Not goin’ anywhere…,” he mumbled as his head bobbled and his eyes began to close. He started to say somethin’ else but his words became slurred as the muscle paralysis from the botulism toxin began to take hold.

Pressing my hand against his chest to keep him from falling forward, I squeezed myself onto the edge of the seat next to him and pulled him close against me, cradling his head in my arms. “It’s going to be okay…you’ll be okay…” I told him, and for the first time, I noticed my voice was trembling.

When the ambulance arrived after what seemed like forever, I half-dragged, half-carried him out of the car, helping the paramedics move him onto the gurney. Hutch’s eyes were fully closed by then and I wasn’t sure if he was still conscious, but I kept my hand on his chest so I could feel the reassurance of his steady heartbeat.

“Cap’n,” I turned to Dobey, tossing my keys, “Take my car. I’m ridin’ with Hutch.”

*****

Watchin’ him sleep now, I can’t stop thinkin’ about the profound relief I felt when I found him in that car today, alive. I don’t know how long I’ve been awake at this point and my eyes slowly begin to close. Then I awake with a start and look over at Hutch to make sure he’s still with me. I gently touch his face, cradling his cheek, reassured as I feel it moving ever so slightly along with the repetitions of the ventilator.

I listen to the repetitive, sighing sound of his oxygen-assisted labored breathing, and, studying the bed closely, I briefly wonder how wide it is. Then, impulsively, I climb in next to my partner, squeezing up against him in the narrow hospital bed and hold him in my arms, both to keep myself from slipping off the edge and to keep him as close to me as possible.

I lean into him, feeling the welcome warmth of his prone body against mine and, for the first time that day, I notice he smells like a peculiar combination of ancient mustiness and present regret.

Amid a backdrop of the steady beating of our hearts, desperate thoughts drift through my mind, threatenin’ to keep me awake. I almost lost him again. How many times are we gonna do this dance where one of us almost dies and the other one has to save him? We’ve been lucky so far, but I’m scared stiff that one day our luck is gonna run out.

Finally, I start to fall asleep and I snuggle even closer when a sudden movement in the bed startles me awake. And then another. Oh God, what’s happening? “Hutch, what’s goin’ on?” My heart is pounding so hard I can feel it pulsing in my ears, and I realize with dawning horror that he’s convulsing, his body writhing and contorting every few seconds.

“Nuuuuurse!!!” I yell, but no one comes. I yell for the nurse again, holding onto Hutch, wrestling with him and trying to keep his arms pinned to his side in a desperate attempt to keep him from tumbling out of the bed.

But it’s no use. Hutch’s convulsions become more intense and as he wrenches his body into a violent twist, I lose my grip and am abruptly thrown off the bed, where I land with a resounding thud on the floor. “Huuuutch!” I yell as everything turns black and wavy around me.

*****

“What the…?” I blink, shaking my head, looking around and wondering how I got down here. I’m sweatin’ bullets and shakin’ like a leaf. “Must’ve fallen off the chair,” I think I say out loud. Still sittin’ on the floor, my breath soundin’ about as fast and shallow as my partner’s, I look up at Hutch and am relieved to see him safely tucked in his hospital bed, sound asleep, but my heart is still poundin’ from my terrifying dream.

Slowly I get up and sit in the chair again, still shaking a little. I take Hutch’s hand, feeling for the beating pulse in the wrist, and sigh with relief. I try to close my eyes, but it’s no use. I can’t sleep for fear of the nightmare returning.

Hey, Hutch? Can we not do this anymore? Huh? No more close calls, okay? I don’t think I can take much more. I love you so much that it hurts. Ya know? “No, you don’t know,” I say out loud, suddenly feeling mournful all over again.

Leaning over him as he sleeps, I gently stroke his temple, brushing back some stray strands of unfamiliar dark hair while I silently curse the brown hair dye that he used to disguise himself, making it that much harder for the cops in their desperate citywide search for the missing blond detective.

I squeeze Hutch’s hand, but soundly sedated, he doesn’t squeeze it back.

He even dyed his mustache, the sonofabitch. Suddenly, I realize I never did get the chance to kiss him.

*****

Well, that was one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever had. Playing hide-and-seek was stupid enough without a way for Starsky to reach me in an emergency, but what was I thinking going after Pardee alone? My plan to stay away from Starsky backfired in the most spectacular way and I only have myself to blame. My selfishness ended up putting my partner through hell. And for what?

Blindfold

I went through a rough time after I shot Emily and I was feelin’ really sorry for myself. All I wanted to do was punish myself – to feel as bad as possible -- because I didn’t think I deserved to be happy. Not when that poor, innocent girl was faced with maybe bein’ blind for the rest of her life because of me.

So one of the things I did was push Hutch away. First, I didn’t answer my phone for three days, even though I knew it was him. Then, when he finally knocked on my door, I walked outta the room while he was tryin’ to talk to me. Eventually, I refused to listen to his lecturing and asked him to leave.

But as soon as the door closed behind him, I knew I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t fair for me to take it out on him like that. I crossed a line that I shouldn’t have crossed. In the past, Hutch would always be there for me, no matter what I said to him, no matter how many temper tantrums I threw or how many mood spells I had. But not this time -- I pushed him too far and he finally got so frustrated that he walked out.

*****

I’ve had more intelligent conversations with a brick wall. I’ve seen Starsky get into a funk before, but never as bad as this. I could deal with him ignoring my phone calls for three days, if that’s all it was. And I didn’t mind letting him have some space. I know a little something about wanting space these days myself. But when I went over to see him, I never expected he would walk away from me like that. He actually got up from the chair when I sat down on the sofa next to him. It was like dealing with a goddamn pouting child. And when I followed him into the kitchen, he walked back into the living room, and then he topped that off by saying he wanted to be alone.

Now I’m an empathetic guy, but he just kept pushing my buttons until I got so frustrated I gave up. It was like trying to wrestle a pig – you end up down in the mud having a helluva hard time and the pig enjoys it. Bad analogy, I guess, because Starsky wasn’t actually enjoying anything. Finally I decided to cut my losses and regroup. There was always tomorrow.

So I told him “See ya around,” walked to my car in a huff, got in and started it up. And then I sat there, not wanting to leave just yet. I felt there was something I needed to do first. So I walked back up to his apartment, and this time I didn’t knock and wait to be let in. When I walked in through the unlocked door, he looked up from his position on the sofa.

“Forget to use the john while you were here?” he asked, his voice coldly flat.

Ignoring the asshole’s question, I marched straight over to where he was sitting and planted my ass right down next to him. I half-expected him to get up and walk away again, but fortunately, he just sat there staring at me, as if daring me to do something. So I did.

I said, “I thought you could use a hug,” and then I reached over and pulled him close. Thankfully, he didn’t resist. He let me embrace him, although at first, he kept his arms at his side, as if he was struggling to remain aloof. But then he got some sense into him and put his arms around me and I could tell that his demeanor had changed, at least for the moment. I knew he wanted to go back to hating himself, but I needed him to know that I didn’t hate him. So I held him for a little while longer, and then I got up and headed for the door. But before I walked out, I paused and turned to him.

“Hey, Starsk, the next time I call you -- pick up the damn phone, huh?”

And I swear I could feel him smiling as I walked down the stairs.

*****

Not only was I a bad friend, but I was a bad cop, too. I had abandoned Hutch to solve the stolen jewels case on his own, to visit the bad guys and question the witnesses without anyone to back him up. All because I wanted to mope on my sofa and feel sorry for myself. But apparently there’s nothin’ I can do that would make Hutch love me any less. So at least I got that goin’ for me. And while part of me wanted to wallow in self-pity for the rest of the night, the other part of me that didn’t, purposely left the door unlocked.

But after he left for the second time, I went back to moping and what happened -- Hutch and me almost shot each other in Emily’s apartment. And for what? Turns out she wasn’t so innocent after all. I mean, yeah, Don Widdicombe manipulated her into bein’ his lookout, but still, she coulda said no. But she didn’t. And what transpired next almost ruined both her life and mine.

But I still cared for her even after I found out why she was on that street corner on a Sunday morning. It didn’t matter to me that she wasn’t so innocent, because I got to know her and I believe she’s got a good heart.

And when she got her sight back, I can’t even begin to explain the relief I felt. I gave myself permission to live again.

And speakin’ of havin’ a good heart – that describes Hutch, too. And I know that his heart was breakin’ for me when he saw the funk I was in. After he left the first time, I kinda wished he hadn’t given up on me so easily, but I understood why he did. And then I felt guilty all over again for brushin’ him off when he was just tryin’ to help.

So when he came back a few minutes later, I found myself caught between wantin’ to continue punishin’ myself and wantin’ desperately to hold onto him and never let go. In the end, I sorta did a little of both.

I didn’t know how to tell him how grateful I was that he never stopped tryin’ to help me, but I came up with a little plan to break the ice. I really thought I was bein’ clever, askin’ him to come over tonight, because I thought that I had the perfect way to finally kiss him, mustache and all.

I set it up so that instead of him walkin’ into the bathroom with the blindfold on, he’d walk straight into my open arms. But my plan took an unexpected turn when my partner ended up nearly fallin’ down the front stairs instead.

So here I am now, sittin’ on my couch, feelin’ guilty and hatin’ myself all over again. After I took care of his – thankfully – mostly superficial wounds, and applied ice to the nasty bump that was developin’ on his forehead, I put him to sleep in my bed.

This just isn’t my month, I guess. I thought I’d take a page from Hutch’s playbook and play a harmless little prank on him, and then I’d tell him how sorry I was for shuttin’ him out earlier. But it didn’t work out at all like I’d planned.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what the mustache would have felt like.

Photo Finish

I’d never seen Starsky in a real tuxedo before, and I have to admit, I was taken aback by it. He looked beautiful. I mean, let’s be honest – the man is sexy as hell, especially when he wears those too-tight-for-primetime jeans of his. But I don’t remember ever thinking he looked beautiful before. Not even when he wore that penguin outfit on the cruise ship.

But of course, I’m not gonna tell him that. And, frustratingly, I find myself fantasizing about what it would be like if we got married someday and had a big wedding with all our friends and family.

But I’m pragmatic enough to know that will never happen, not in a million years. Because even if a miracle occurred and we were somehow transported to some alternative universe where Starsky was gay and professed his love for me, our marriage would never be legal in the state of California. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

I’d never thought about it before, not even when we were investigating John Blaine’s murder. It simply never occurred to me that even if a man were to come out and publicly proclaim his love for another man, their love would never -- COULD never -- be legally recognized, and they most likely wouldn’t be allowed to adopt children.

Here I was, feeling sorry for myself, knowing that my love for Starsky will be forever unrequited, while there must be so many men in love with each other -- maybe even some at that fancy party we attended -- who would give anything to be able to spend the rest of their lives together instead of having to sneak around and live their lives in secret.

*****

So when we were at Huggy’s with our dates tonight and Hutch was havin’ trouble openin’ the champagne bottle, I don’t know if I’m the only one who noticed, but, uh, I think Hutch was pretendin’ to jerk off right there in the middle of The Pits for all and sundry to see.

See, he held the bottle in front of his, uh, groin area and scrunched up his face while he made these loud gruntin’ noises. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed but it didn’t seem like it. They were laughin’ at the fact that he was rattlin’ the table in this frenzied way and were probably worried he’d knock the glasses over or somethin’. But no one acted shocked or anything.

And when he finally got the cork out, he pointed the bottle at my face as the champagne sprayed out in my direction. I’m convinced he pointed it at me on purpose. What do you suppose that was about?

When I got home, I went into the bathroom, shut the door, and as I washed the champagne outta my hair, I jerked off in the shower, thinkin’ about Hutch the whole time.

Moonshine

So I finally got up the nerve to touch the ‘stache, outside the Smokey Mountain Inn when I was wasted out of my head on bootleg and my inhibitions were, shall we say, nonexistent. It felt…bristly, from what I can remember. I mostly don’t remember anything, though.

I still didn’t get to kiss him, but at least I got to stroke it. His mustache, that is. I’ve never thought about strokin’ any other part of his body. Yes, you have. I mean, I guess I have, but that was just a phase I was goin’ through.

Strange Justice

You know that saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”? Well, that certainly applies to my boys. Take Hutchinson, for example. My sometimes-surly blond detective sure has changed over the years. For one thing, his hair’s gotten longer while his fuse has gotten shorter. His clothing styles have come and gone – he used to favor plaid flannel but these days he’s taken to wearing a garish-looking blue bowling shirt, which I never thought I’d see him wear in my lifetime.

But the biggest change with him, at least on the outside, is that mustache he’s been sporting lately. I guess he finally realized how attractive my ‘stache was and decided to emulate me.

And Starsky, well, Starsky is mostly the same happy-go-lucky guy he’s always been, except when he’s in one of his moods, which he seems to be in more often lately, for some reason. I noticed something was up with him when he replaced those blue sneakers he’s worn forever with more sedate brown ones. But now that I think about it, Hutchinson’s always worn brown sneakers, so maybe Starsky’s trying to emulate his partner?

Anyway, where was I? Oh right—change. You know what’s stayed the same with those two? How easily they get along. Take tonight, for example. The two of them came strolling in here—well, that was Starsky doing the strolling, acting as nonchalant as always, while his partner could best be described as—how can I put this—stalking his way into the squad room. Hutchinson was going off on one of his usual rants, exaggerating the degree to which he felt put upon, while Starsky, enjoying the show, offered his usual sarcastic commentary under his breath just loud enough for his partner and me to hear.

It’s one of those things that, whenever I’m feeling out of sorts, I watch those two go at it with each other and suddenly, the world is righted again.

The Avenger

The tea cup fell outta my hand, as if my hand stopped knowin’ how to hold onto it. Somethin’s wrong with me; I can’t see straight. Everything’s wonky. My head feels bigger than my body, and my body feels like it’s made out of rubber bands. I can hardly move. And for some reason, Monique looks like a reflection in a funhouse mirror, duplicated over and over, like that whatchamacallit thing, a droste effect, I think it’s called. Like a hall of mirrors. Hutch would know. So instead of seein’ one Monique, I see endless Moniques.

I pick up the phone. “Hutchinson…call my partner…Hutchins–” I struggle to say, but the endless repetitions of Monique take the endless repetitions of the phone away from me and throw them against the window. “It’s time, it’s time, it’s time,” she keeps repeating. Time for what?

She leaves the room and I crawl on the floor towards my gun, tryin’ to reach it before she does. I understand now -- she’s tryin’ to kill me. It was her all along. I gotta get outta here but I can’t walk…I can only stagger around like a drunkard in the dark.

Where’s Hutch? Oh yeah, I sent him home from the club to get some sleep. That was stupid. Now I’m probably gonna die here.

Now she’s comin’ at me with a knife, but she’s dressed as a man. It’s Harry! I roll out of the way. There’s a crashing noise as she throws my gun through the window. Somehow, I manage to stumble my way into the other room but then I crash to the floor, lyin’ on my back, eyes open, unable to move at all now.

Huuuutch!!! My mind screams, but no sound comes out. Doesn’t matter, ‘cause he can’t hear me anyway. He’s home, safe and sound in his bed, dreamin’ of…well, whatever it is that Hutch dreams of these days. Harry’s outside the window now, yellin’ at me menacingly. “You! You!”

And now I’m about to be a dead man.

Wait, I think I hear somethin’ – is that a police siren? And now a crashing noise…wha???? Harry’s broken the glass with something, I think a shovel. It’s Hutch, I can see him! Am I hallucinatin’? How did he know I was in trouble? I can’t stand up at all…I think I’ll just stay down here on the floor…

Hutch is pickin’ me up now. “You okay?” he asks me.

“Monique put somethin’ in my tea,” I slur. Ow! Why’d you knock my head against the lamp thingy, Hutch? Monique keeps repeatin’ “You! You!,” over and over again. Or is that Harry?

Hutch sits next to me on the potting bench. Why does Monique have a potting bench in her house? Oh, I think it’s a greenhouse or somethin’, just like Hutch’s. Hey, maybe Hutch should get a potting bench. “You! You!” Oh my God, Monique is freakin’ me out. She was really gonna kill me. Now her demeanor’s changin’ and she’s askin’ her sister, “Is Harry gone?” She needs help, needs it real bad, but I don’t know if there’s anyone who can help her now, not even Bobbie. I think she’s too far gone.

Hutch has his arm around my shoulder now, holdin’ me tight. I’m safe. I shoulda known he’d come. He’s my white knight. I think I’ll just stay like this for a while…

*****

You know, it’s funny how things work out. I had wanted to spend more time working alone, and with this case, I finally got the opportunity. And thank God I did, because it ended up saving Starsky’s life. If I’d gone home to bed instead of going to Metro to futz around with the police Ident-O-Kit, I’d never have figured out that Monique was the killer, and Starsky would be dead now.

But then, when I was sitting there on the potting bench, holding him beside me, I realized I’d been a fool. Because I knew then that I never wanted to let him go.

Dandruff

I hated that stupid case that Dobey insisted we take. I mean, we’re supposed to be homicide detectives for chrissakes, not robbery! That division is down the hall, three doors on your left! And since when do we investigate international jewel thieves, anyway?

So when Dobey assigned us to go undercover as hair stylists in that fancy hotel, I decided I would wear the silliest clothes I could find and adopt the most outlandish French inspector accent. And when Hutch saw what I was doin’, he decided to do the same thing, so we both ended up lookin’ like a coupla clowns.

But you know what? I realized somethin’ about Hutch, workin’ that case. That even when he wears the ugliest clothes and a stupid-lookin’ wig, he’s still sexy as hell.

Black and Blue

I’ve never been shot before, and to tell the truth, I’d always imagined it would be different somehow. Not that I’ve ever wanted to test that theory. But still, it hasn’t been at all like I’d pictured.

For one thing, I never imagined it would be at the hands of a teenage girl in a suburban house. An armed robber in a convenience store or warehouse, maybe. Or the hired goon of a wealthy crooked businessman in a dark alleyway somewhere, possibly. But a kid?

And for another, I’d always imagined Starsky stubbornly insisting on solving the case alone, rather than ever agreeing to take on a temporary partner.

Turns out I was wrong on both counts.

When Starsky was shot those two times, in the restaurant and in the barn, we were trapped together, and both times I had to keep him from bleeding out while saving us from the hitmen who weren’t going to rest until we were dead. And after I’d managed to overtake the bad guys and they were either dead or in custody, I’d stayed at the hospital until I could visit with Starsky and make sure he was okay.

But now that I’m the one who’s been shot, the situation is totally different. For one thing, we were never trapped anywhere by anyone, so after making sure I was still alive, Starsky ran off to call for help on the police radio. When he came back, he grabbed a towel from the bathroom of the house we were in and started to apply pressure to the wound in my chest, but then the ambulance came and the paramedics took over from there. Probably a good thing, since my partner isn’t exactly known for his first aid skills.

At least he rode with me in the ambulance and reassured me I would be okay, even though he probably just said that to keep me calm, because he would have had no idea whether the bullet wound was serious or not. I wanted him to sit near me but he stayed back and let the paramedics do their thing.

And then they took me in for surgery and I didn’t see or hear from him until the next day. I know he had the case to investigate, but still, it felt strange not hearing from him. As I lay there alone in my hospital bed, post-surgery, I closed my eyes and imagined that he was sitting beside me, holding my hand. But when I opened my eyes, there was no one there.

And before Starsky finally visited me, Captain Dobey informed me that he’d assigned Starsky a temporary partner – a woman, of all things. I didn’t know if Starsky would love or hate being paired up with a female officer, but then I realized it depended on how hot he thought she was.

Turns out she must have been pretty hot, because after he sat with me for a bit, he couldn’t wait to leave my hospital room to go catch up with her. And he never held my hand.

I have to admit that I’m having a hard time getting used to Starsky calling someone else his partner. Even Dobey used that word in front of me. I’m not normally the jealous type…well okay, maybe I get a little jealous, but I have never been insecure about our partnership, and I of all people know that Starsky would give his life for me, no questions asked.

But yet, there’s something about it that doesn’t sit right with me. As far as I’m concerned, the word partner is sacred, and so it pains me that both Starsky and Dobey kept tossing it around so casually, as if the word had no real significance to them at all.

Because Starsky isn’t just my partner on the job. If we were to quit the force tomorrow and become bartenders in Bolivia, I’d still consider him my partner. He’ll always be my partner, even if we were one day separated by the vastness of an ocean. I simply could never bestow that honor on anyone else.

Perhaps it’s the painkillers they have me on – maybe they’re making me feel sorry for myself. Except I know that’s a crock of shit and the painkillers got nothin’ to do with it.

The Groupie

Okay, what I said about how beautiful Hutch looks in even the most stupid wigs and disguises? I take it back. His latest disguise is a bridge too far even for me, I gotta admit.

Nah, I’m just kiddin’. There is literally nothin’ that Hutch could do that would make me think less of him. He’ll always be my golden boy.

Cover Girl

Starsky leaned his arm on my thigh yesterday at work, and then kept it there. Right in the middle of the squad room. God, that felt nice. For a few minutes, I pretended we were an old married couple, me looking lovingly down at him while he looked adoringly up at me.

I slept with Kate, but I really wanted to sleep with him. I held her in my arms because she asked me to, but it reminded me of the time I held Starsky in my arms after he’d been poisoned, and I was filled with heartache at the memory. How I yearn to hold him close to me like that again.

And then Kate’s car exploded, and I had a near-death experience. I wasn’t as near to death as when I was dying of the plague, but at that time, my dying was excruciatingly slow and laborious, and there was always the chance that Starsky would find Callendar in time to save my life. In fact, I never doubted it, because if there was a way, Starsky would find it.

But when a bomb goes off right next to your head and your body is thrown several feet across the ground, it all happens in a split second. I don’t think I lost consciousness, but what if I did? How would I even know? All I remember, in the brief seconds between hearing the sound of the explosion and Starsky picking me up off the ground, was seeing my life flash before my eyes.

And Starsky was in every one of those flashes.

I told Kate “Life is all we’ve got, whatever the circumstances.” I’ve been thinking about what I said ever since. And mulling over what I’m planning to do about it.

Starsky’s Brother

This whole week has been a total shitshow, but I knew immediately, from the first mention of the Feds’ interest in Nick, that I would need to soften the blow that would inevitably come when Starsky found out the truth about why his little brother was in town.

One of the things I know about myself is, that no matter what, I’ll always be there to support Starsky unconditionally. It’s what I did when he wanted to bring Sharman back to his place to dry out that time, even though I strongly disagreed with him and I was still pissed at him for blowing off my feelings about Kiko’s rejection.

But I ignored my own feelings as well as my pride to help him, because that’s what partners do. Whenever Starsky is threatened, or vulnerable, or hurting, my feelings at that moment cease to matter. And so, when we were both almost blown up by Stryker’s goons the other day, I knew that I needed to be there for him, no matter what my conflicting feelings about him were. We were alive, thank God, and he was hurting.

*****

How many times has Hutch helped to calm me down when I was angry and lashing out at others? Five? Six? A hundred? He’s the only one who can do that; the only person who has that kind of power over me. Or maybe I let him have that power because of how much I trust him. That one time I assaulted Tremaine after Lonny died, all Hutch had to do to stop me was hold my arms and look into my eyes.

I would do anything for those eyes.

And so, when we were almost blown up by Stryker’s goons the other day, Hutch kept me calm when I got angry at Weldon for tailin’ my brother. He simply put his hands on me, leaned in close, and in that low, throaty voice of his, the one that, under other circumstances would have me creamin’ my pants, said, “Come on, just take it easy now.”

And that was it. But he didn’t even have to say anything, really. Just a look or a touch would have done it.

My brother Nicky told me he got involved with people on the wrong side of the law because I had abandoned him, left him to fend for himself after I moved out here. He blamed me for his own poor life choices. I understand where he’s comin’ from. I mean, I had our dad to help guide me through my childhood, most of which Nicky missed out on, bein’ so much younger than me. But I was still a kid when he died, and somehow I managed to make it through life without resortin’ to sellin’ weed or hot TVs that fell off the back of a truck. And I sure as hell never got myself into a situation where the FBI needed to tail me.

But I wonder sometimes where I would have ended up if I didn’t have Hutch in my life, if he hadn’t been my partner these past seven years. Would I have blown my cool one day and gotten myself relieved of duty? Would I have ended up bein’ killed in a shootout somewhere or dyin’ from that crazy professor’s poison? Or would I have ended up goin’ to prison after killing George Prudholm?

I don’t even think Hutch realizes how many times he’s saved my life.

And I can’t stop thinkin’ about what Weldon said after his partner, Bronson, was blown up by that bomb. Dobey asked if Bronson had a family and Weldon gave the most curious response: ‘No, he was lucky that way.’ Then he added, ‘Maybe there oughta be a law about people like us having families.’

And I can’t help wonderin’ if maybe he’s right. Because I can’t stop thinkin’ about all the cops who’ve been killed in the line of duty over the years and all the grievin’ wives and children they’ve left behind. And I don’t want to end up as one of those cops, leavin’ my family behind to cope without me.

As a kid who lost his dad too young and too violently, the last thing I want is to leave my own kids the same legacy.

The Golden Angel

Ever since I was shot, I’ve had this nagging insecurity about Starsky in the back of my mind. I was really hurt when he referred to Meredith as his partner and I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten over it. I think if he hadn’t used that word, their temporary work arrangement wouldn’t have bothered me so much. And while I was apprehensive that time Starsky threatened to quit the force after George Prudholm killed those cops, I’d never felt insecure about Starsky’s loyalty to me. At the time, he was caught between a rock and a hard place and was trying his best to do the right thing, the morally acceptable thing.

But lately, I’ve been feeling insecure about everything related to him. He keeps talking about the fancy cars and watches he’s gonna buy once the will is read and never mentions me in any of his indulgent fantasies. Not that I’d want him to buy me anything, of course. Material items don’t mean the same to me as they do to him. I just want us to be together, no matter what, but he seems oblivious, almost callous about it.

Maybe I should just come right out and ask him what his plans are. It would go something like this:

Me: ‘Hey, Starsk, are you planning on quitting the force if you really do inherit those millions from your uncle?’

Him: ‘No, I plan on holdin’ onto a job where my life is in danger every second of every day, but instead of us chasin’ the bad guys in my Torino, we’ll be chasin’ ‘em in a red Ferrari.’

Me: ‘Really?’

Him: ‘No, not really, dummy! My resignation letter would be on Dobey’s desk faster’n you can say—‘

Me: ‘But what about me?’

Him: ‘What about you? Do ya think I’d split town without ya or somethin’? You’d quit, too. And then I’d buy us a house, high up on a cliff overlookin’ the ocean, where we would be free to be whoever we want to be. Because I love you and I want us to be together—‘

Oh, for fuck’s sake! Who the hell am I kidding? As if he would ever say that last part. Get ahold of yourself, Hutchinson. If you keep rubbing your forehead like this and constantly worrying all the time, those creases will develop creases of their own.

*****

Oh, man, the dreams just keep on coming. This time, Starsky and I were standing behind Candy Reese while her dad, Tommy, taped his promo for Saturday night’s match between Hammerlock Grange and the Golden Angel. I remember it vividly. Candy was wearing a bright green blouse, and as we stood there looking at each other, Starsky slowly leaned in and kissed me. And I don’t mean an innocent peck on the cheek, either. No, this was right on the lips, deep and sensual. He smelled of sandalwood and sweat, and the dream was so vivid I could taste him. It was a salty, earthy taste and I wanted more. I wanted our kiss to last forever.

Then I woke up with my hand down my pants, everything sticky and wet, and now I can’t even think about the dream without getting hard.

I’m gonna have to find an excuse to tell Fifi about why I keep doing my own laundry.

*****

The Golden Angel -- what a weird costume that is, if ya think about it. I’ll tell ya who’s the real golden angel – Mr. Golden Fluffo sittin’ over there, typin’ away. My partner, Hutch, whose hair is as soft and delicate as the finest silk, and, when the light catches it just right, as luminescent as the most precious pearl.

He’s my golden angel.

Ballad for a Blue Lady

I’m starting to lose it -- my patience, my shit, and my goddamn mind. Stan accused me of getting his witness killed and I lunged at him, my anger exploding inside me like a grenade pin after it’s been pulled. I don’t even remember what happened next – did Starsky or Dobey help to calm me down? It’s all a blur. I’ve never been under this long without Starsky and I feel untethered. Dobey sent me undercover with the goal of nailing that mob asshole, Fitch, but now I’m finding myself needing to get Marianne out from under his control and I don’t like the person I’m becoming.

I shouldn’t have gone to see Starsky at the station, but I needed to. It wasn’t enough to hear his voice on the phone – I needed to see him, to feel him next to me on the stairs. I needed to listen to the sound of his breathing, to feel his warm body pressed against mine. I feel like I’m drowning and even though I’m reaching out to him, I can’t quite grasp him. Or maybe it’s that he can’t quite reach me. Things just haven’t been the same between us for a while, and I honestly don’t know if that’s his fault or mine. Sometimes I want to shake Starsky the way I did with Stan and demand an answer that he probably doesn’t have. I don’t know who I am any more, and the longer I stay undercover, the more I’m losing myself.

As I huddled beside him on the darkened stairway, I began to feel a semblance of calm, but then my usual feelings of self-loathing started creeping back into me and I had to walk away before I said something I’d regret.

I just need this goddamn case to be over.

*****

I’m really worried about Hutch and I don’t know what to do about it. I want him off this case, but I know he’s our only chance at nailin’ Fitch. We’ve been invested in it for too long and there’s no way we can quit now when it looks like we’re finally gettin’ to the finish line. Even Dobey knows Hutch is our last chance to keep Fitch from slippin’ out of our hands forever.

But I miss him. I don’t know the last time I’ve seen him smile. Some days, my partner’s smile is the only thing that keeps me goin’. It’s gotten me through all the worst shit that’s been thrown at me over the years. And now, every time I see him, he’s angry. And not just angry – he’s downright mean, attackin’ anyone who dares to challenge him, constantly on the defensive. I don’t remember him bein’ this mean since that time he went through heroin withdrawal. But this time, I don’t know what to do about it, and it’s tearin’ me up inside.

*****

When I was beaten by Fitch’s wiseguys, I wanted desperately to go to Starsky. After it happened, I slumped to the ground and closed my eyes, trying to remember all the times he had been there to comfort me. But I knew I had to go to Marianne if I were to have any chance of getting her to trust me again, to gain her sympathy, and to make her see what Fitch was capable of so she’d want to help us put him away. It was the only way of salvaging our rapidly dwindling case against him.

After she cleaned up my wounds, I slept with her to try to forget the pain. And I don’t mean the physical pain, which I’m used to putting up with. It’s the emotional pain that’s gonna kill me some day.

I did all I could for Marianne, but in the end, I couldn’t save her brother’s life, and I deeply regret that. Because I of all people know what it’s like to love a brother more than anyone else in the whole world, and I couldn’t imagine living my life without him in it.

But thank God the case is over, and I can finally share a relaxing evening with my partner. It feels like such a relief, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. Everything is back to where it’s supposed to be – I’m in my greenhouse watering my plants, doing my “I’m smarter than you” routine as Starsky sits beside me and reads the paper aloud.

I’m feeling particularly jaunty tonight and say dirty things to the plant, hoping Starsky will get the hint, but he doesn’t pick up on my quip about playing Donna Summer and getting him off later. But I don’t really expect him to, do I? Does he even know it’s fuck music? Probably not. But if he did pick up on it, he sure hasn’t let on. As always, he’s his usual blasé self.

But imagine if he did!

Dim all the lights sweet darling

Cause tonight it's all the way

 

Love just don't come easy

No it seldom does

When you find the perfect love

Let it fill you up

 

Do what you want

You can use me all up

Take me bottom to top

Don't leave even one drop

 

Ah, who the hell am I kidding? Maybe this is how it’s meant to be, and I should just accept it. Maybe I, Kenneth Hutchinson, a gay man in love with his most decidedly straight partner, should just enjoy the moments we have together and be grateful that we’re both alive and well and sitting beside each other, shoulder-to-shoulder, right now in the greenhouse, on my new bench. I definitely made a good call replacing the card table with it. For as long as we’re sitting here, I can pretend like we’re an old married couple enjoying our twilight years together.

But like that imagined couple, I can’t help wondering if our happiest times have already passed or if the best is yet to come.

*****

Wait, did he just say he’s gonna play Donna Summer and get his plant off?

Birds of a Feather

“Well, their turn’ll come, I’m sure,” I tell Gertrude as I book her in the squad room, after she complains about the two men publicly groping each other out in the hallway. I don’t care for the way Hutch is embracing Luke like that. I don’t care for it at all.

Have Hutch and Luke always been this close and I just never noticed before?

*****

“Who says she’ll want to live at all, Luke, without you?” I keep playing it over and over in my head, what I told him when he pleaded with us to let him keep the $50,000 for Doris so she could have something to live on after her husband of twenty years was either dead or in prison.

What had made me say it? Was I projecting my own feelings onto Doris and how I would feel if something were to happen to Starsky? Because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what would happen if Starsky died, and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live without him.

Luke asked me to come to the warehouse alone, without my partner. This despite knowing how tight Starsky and I are. Did he really think I was gonna leave Starsky in the dark about where I was going? Luke really doesn’t understand me at all, does he?

Ninety Pounds of Trouble

I had to shoot my partner the other day in broad daylight, in order to save his life. Doesn’t that sound crazy? I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I had little time to plan what I was going to do, and no time at all to warn him about it. The only reason I was able to pull it off is because I know how much he trusts me.

When Starsky’s cover was blown, I had no time to put blanks in my gun; I had to make sure I was aiming past him so that the bullet only grazed his waist. If I fucked that up, I’d never forgive myself.

As I jammed the cold, hard gun against his side, he looked at me for a split second, and in that brief time, he said so much without saying anything at all. He understood immediately what I had to do and trusted me implicitly, literally, with his life.

It all worked out in the end, as Starsky played along with the ruse, but what I did continues to haunt me in my dreams. Except in my dreams, instead of safely shooting past him, I shoot him point-blank in the stomach and he bleeds out on the sidewalk while I watch, helpless. He looks up at me with pleading eyes, a confused and hurt expression on his face. Why, Hutch? The expression asks, and I don’t have an answer. Then his eyes close forever and the last thing I remember is me putting the gun to my head.

That sense of dread I’ve felt all year continues to torment me, and it’s stronger than ever. And now I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Starsky is gonna die and I’ll be helpless to stop it—

“Hey, Blondie, somethin’ the matter?”

“Huh? No, no, everything’s fine, partner.” I manage to put on an artificial smile, but I know he’s not convinced.

“You sure? ‘Cause you seemed checked out for a minute. Been doin’ that a lot, lately. Was it somethin’ that Joey said before she ran off with her football player boyfriend?”

I look at him and hesitate before I answer. “No, it’s nothing. I’m fine.” I pat him reassuringly on the shoulder, but I know he knows I’m lying.

Huggy Can’t Go Home

“Huggy, you should reconsider marryin’ Cora Lee, ya know,” Starsky slurs as he downs yet another beer.

“Now why would I want to do that, Starsky? I told you, her mama weighs 300 pounds, and as you said, like mother, like daughter!”

“So that would mean the two of you put together would weigh – what – 390 pounds?” Hutch laughs, pleased with himself at his joke.

“I’m serious, Hug,” Starsky’s demeanor is thoughtful yet tinged with a slight air of melancholy. “No one should end up alone in this world.” As he finishes his solemn discourse, Starsky looks across the table at Hutch, who is staring at him a little too intently, and Starsky thinks he can see a wave of sadness briefly cross his partner’s face just before Hutch looks down and takes a swig of beer.

But unbeknownst to Starsky, Hutch has noted his partner’s sentiment and filed it away for later.

******

As Hutch drives Starsky home from the Pits, he keeps thinking about what Starsky said. One of these days, Starsky’s gonna meet the woman of his dreams and fall in love, because he’s still determined to get married and have kids, isn’t he? Hutch thinks to himself bleakly. Huggy might have made the choice to be alone, but I haven’t, because I can’t choose the one person I want to be with most in this world.

He briefly looks over at Starsky who is sound asleep in the passenger seat. He parks in Starsky’s driveway and hauls his passed-out partner out of the car, helping him up the stairs and carrying him over to the bed, Starsky drowsily staggering the entire way. Hutch pulls the bedspread down and gently coaxes Starsky to lie down, and then pulls the covers up around his shoulders.

Starsky, three sheets to the wind, turns onto his side and immediately begins snoring as Hutch watches him. Instinctively, he reaches out a hand and strokes his sleeping partner’s face before turning and walking out of the bedroom.

Looking around the living room, he mentally compares his choices of sofa or front door, trying to decide where he should go. Yawning and tipsy himself, he looks longingly at Starsky’s sofa with its colorful Mexican blanket and its array of soft pillows, a cozy space where he’d spent many happy drunken nights.

But not tonight, Hutchinson, he says mournfully as he walks towards the front door. Then, looking around wistfully one last time, he closes it behind him and slowly walks down the stairs towards his car.

Starsky vs Hutch

Where the hell is he? I wonder, growing more impatient by the second. I say hi to Minnie, trying hard to sound casual as I peer anxiously through the squad room windows into the hallway. I’m almost willing Hutch to appear, but there’s no sign of my temperamental partner. I’ll bet he’s stayin’ at Kira’s house tonight, that rat bastard, that--

“Are you carrying a torch for that gorgeous blond sergeant?” Minnie asks, interrupting my thoughts. Is she referring to Kira or Hutch? I honestly can’t tell. But then I decide it doesn’t matter.

“Don’t be ridiculous!” I answer indignantly as I leave the room in a huff.

But the truth is, I AM carrying a torch for one of the gorgeous blond sergeants. I’m just not sure which one. I’m feelin’ hurt and neglected by both of them and my head isn’t in the right place these days. I love my partner, and I think I love Kira. But do I love them both the same way? I’m so confused that it’s makin’ my head hurt. I want to confront Hutch, but at the same time, I feel like crawlin’ into a hole and not talkin’ to anyone, not thinkin’ about all the feelings that are swirlin’ around inside me. Just for a little while until I can clear my mind.

*****

As I drive to Hutch’s place, I keep goin’ over our interaction at the dance hall earlier tonight. I swear, my partner has been growin’ meaner and more bad-tempered towards me by the day, and tonight, he was downright nasty. He knows that Kira and me are a thing, but not only does he not seem to care, he acted like he no longer cares about me at all. I wish I understood what’s goin’ on with him or what I could’ve done to make him act out that way. I mean, it must have been somethin’ I said or did, right? But I’m honestly at a loss.

I should be drivin’ back to my own place right now, but I can’t. I need to go to his place. I need to talk to him, because this rift between us is gonna slowly kill me.

*****

Hutch never came home tonight. I knew he’d still be at Kira’s, but I held onto the slim hope that maybe he’d come home after. Look at his empty bed over there, made up so neat and perfect. I just know he’s sleepin’ in Kira’s bed right now. For a brief moment, I contemplate hittin’ the sack in his bed, but the more I look at it longingly, the more cold and empty it looks, so instead, I squeeze myself into a fetal position on his sofa, pressin’ up against the back of it.

I know I should get the extra blanket from his closet, but I don’t have the energy to get up. Think I’ll just hold onto this pillow instead. I just don’t understand what’s happening. Hutch and me have never been like this before, not in all the years we’ve known each other. He’s the best friend I got in the whole world, but it seems he no longer feels the same way about me, if he ever did.

And now that I think about it, he’s been actin’ kinda aloof towards me for a long time. Maybe this has been a long time comin’. Maybe he’s been wantin’ to get away from me but didn’t know how, and then Kira came along and he saw an opportunity. Or maybe he’s been stewin’ about me and Meredith because I called her ‘partner,’ lettin’ it get to him, and not talkin’ to me about it. Is that why? Did I cause all this to happen?

I have so much I want to tell him but now I’m not sure it even matters anymore, if he really, truly wants nothin’ to do with me. But dammit, I’m in pain, and nothin’ is gonna make me feel better until I can get what I’ve been feelin’ off my chest. So when Hutch comes home in the mornin’, I’m gonna tell him that I miss him and that I miss our friendship.

And maybe, just maybe, he’ll tell me that he misses me, too, and that everything that’s come between us has all been a great, big, fat, misunderstanding.

And if I’m feelin’ really brave, I’m gonna tell him that I love him.

*****

Fuck me. The world can just go to hell! My plans didn’t exactly go how I expected, and instead of tryin’ to patch things up with Hutch, I ended up accusin’ him of bein’ unprofessional.

Instead of tellin’ him how I felt about him, and us, I walked out of his place in a huff.

And the worst part of it is, I’m not sure he even cared.

*****

I couldn’t sleep a wink last night, so I made the world’s strongest coffee this mornin’. Tastes like literal shit, but I don’t care, I’m gonna drink it anyway. It epitomizes my life right now, since my life has turned to literal shit right before my eyes, so I might as well drink up. Hutch was probably with Kira all day yesterday. I’ll bet he’s still with her--

Annnnd, my partner just let himself into my apartment. I think my heart just skipped a beat. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see him in my whole life. Well, except for that time those cult members were about to kill me with meat cleavers and stuff. And also that time when Monique drugged me and her alter-ego Harry tried to whack me.

But what’s Hutch doin’ here, anyway? Maybe I shouldn’t be so happy. Maybe he’s come here to tell me that he wants to end our friendship. Or maybe it’s our partnership that he wants to end. I called Meredith my “partner.” Maybe that’s how he thinks of Kira now. Maybe he’s come here to tell me that.

And why did he fling that newspaper towards me so casually, like there’s no problem between us? Did he plan for it to land, rather ungraciously if you ask me, in my kitchen sink?

“Whoops,” Hutch says, “Mornin.”

Did he do that on purpose? Is he bein’ passive-aggressive again?

“Want some coffee?” I ask him, tryin’ to sound casual, but despite my worries about why he’s come here, I can’t help but smile as he stands next to me in my kitchen. It feels just like old times. It’s so natural, so comfortable for Hutch to be here, that for a brief moment, I forget all about our estrangement.

Then I remember that time we sat on my kitchen floor after Terry died, when we opened her gifts and cried together, and now I’m feelin’ more despondent than ever. What happened to us? My fleeting feelin’ of contentment has dissipated as quickly as a wisp of smoke, but I try my best to act nonchalant. I’ll let him drink his coffee before I pour my guts out to him.

Hutch grabs a cup off the shelf and I pour the coffee for him, but after taking a sip, he rudely spits the bitter brew into my sink. I laugh awkwardly with him, trying to pretend there’s no tension between us. Then, unexpectedly, Hutch says he wants to work out whatever problem is between us and I respond that there is no problem anymore. Dummy! Why’d you say that!

“I was jealous. But I’m not jealous anymore,” I tell Hutch. There. If I say it enough times, maybe I’ll start to believe it.

“You were jealous?” Hutch laughs. “You’re not jealous anymore?”

“No,” I say in a low, serious tone.

Hutch takes a moment to consider this. “How come?”

“I can deal with how Kira and I feel about each other.”

“Oh, how’s that?” Hutch asks, waiting for me to respond.

“I love her,” I confide. What the hell did you say that for, idiot? Keep your goddamn trap shut!

“You what?” Hutch exclaims, apparently caught off-guard.

“I love her,” I repeat. Hey, dummy, saying it twice doesn’t make it any more true!

And I’m not sure, but Hutch’s entire demeanor seems to have changed, and he seems kinda broken up by my news. Why? Does he love her, too? I silently curse myself as I watch Hutch run out the door on a mission to God knows where.

What’s his rush, anyway? That’s the reason you chickened out, isn’t it, dummy? You were afraid if you told Hutch how you felt about him, he’d confess that he doesn’t wanna be your partner anymore, and then he’d run outta here like a bat outta hell. And then look what happened! You told him a lie, and he ran out anyway.

But then I suddenly realize something about myself. I’ve got Kira now, and she loves me. I told Huggy that no one should be alone in this world, and it’s about time I took my own advice. I just gotta tell Kira that I love her, so she knows. Maybe I’ll go over to her place later. I’ll bring her a present or somethin’.

*****

Starsky told me he’s in love with Kira, and the news hits me like a ton of bricks. I’d give anything for it not to be true.

But does she love him back? I don’t know, but I sure as hell am going to find out.

*****

I still can’t even believe it. They both betrayed me. Kira never loved me; she just used me to get what she wanted. I gave her attention, poured my guts out to her, and helped her hang plates on the wall, and in return, she fucked Hutch. I’ve never felt this wounded in my entire life. But her actions don’t hurt me nearly as much as my partner’s.

But at least now I understand who and what she is. I didn’t fully comprehend it until the grenade thing happened. She knew Joey had already killed three innocent women and was gonna kill every one of us in that dance hall, herself included, but she chose to go to him anyway, to smother him with kisses and try to make it all better. She never even asked me and Hutch if we were okay, or thanked us for saving her life. She just wanted to be with whichever man would make the biggest fuss over her.

So of course, I wanted nothin’ more to do with her, but with Hutch, it’s not so easy. I needed to understand his motivations for why he kept pushin’ me away. It was the not knowin’ that was killin’ me the most. And besides, I can’t ever stay mad at Hutch for long, no matter what he’s done. I needed him to tell me why he slept with her, and why he seems to no longer want to be my friend. I kept worryin’ it was somethin’ I did that upset him, somethin’ that I could maybe rectify.

So the next night I knocked on his door, determined not to be a doormat this time. I told myself I wasn’t gonna leave until I had a satisfactory explanation. I needed to be able to forgive him. And in the end, I did. But since then, I just keep goin’ over and over what he said, and I can’t help feelin’ that he was leavin’ somethin’ out.

Maybe it was the way he wouldn’t look me in the eye when he started to tell me about Paco…

*****

“Hutch, you awake?” I bang loudly on his door.

Hutch opens the door, yawning.

“We need to talk,” I say determinedly, pushing my way past him into his darkened living room.

“Come on in, you want a beer?” Hutch watches me as I walk towards the kitchen.

“No,” I answer defiantly, settling myself in at his kitchen table.

Hutch grabs a beer for himself, opens it and sits down opposite me, but before he can bring it to his lips, I impulsively grab it from him and take a swig. Old habit, us sharin’ a beer. Then I casually hand it back, only I’m not really feelin’ too casual right now.

Hutch takes a swig and offers it back to me, but this time I wave it away. He looks at me and I get the sense that he wants to say something but doesn’t know how to say it. I brace myself for what it might be, expectin’ the worse. I’ve really become such a pessimist lately.

“I’m sorry, buddy.”

What did he say? I stare at him but say nothing. Meanwhile, my heart has started thuddin’ in my chest. So far, we’re on the right track. At least he didn’t lead off with ‘I don’t want to be your partner anymore.’

But I’m still nervous, and I wait for Hutch to continue. In fact, I stare him down, almost daring him to continue. Give it to me straight, partner, right now. I can’t wait another minute.

“I hurt you. And I betrayed your trust. I know it, and I haven’t forgiven myself for it. So I don’t expect you to forgive me without an explanation--“

“--Without a fucking airtight explanation, pal!” I interject. I wasn’t plannin’ on doin’ that, but I’m so frustrated that he’s not givin’ me any concrete answers yet. Does he still wanna be my friend or not?

“Right.” Hutch nods solemnly, takes a deep breath and continues. He takes another swig of beer and then looks directly at me, holding my gaze for several seconds while I never flinch. I feel like we’re in a Wild West movie, right before the hero and the villain walk six paces and face off in a duel.

Then he looks at me with those blue eyes of his and suddenly I notice how sad he looks. “I’m gay, Starsk,” he says.

“Wha…?” I trail off, shocked. That was the last thing I expected him to say. Now my mind is racing, I’m confused as hell, but I tell my mind to shut the fuck up, be patient, and let my partner continue.

“Okay…so you’re gay…but you slept with my very female girlfriend. And you’ve been actin’ like you don’t wanna be around me anymore. I don’t get it, Hutch.” I really didn’t. Hutch wasn’t makin’ any sense.

“I didn’t want to believe it myself. I’ve been back and forth for a long time, trying to analyze myself and figure out why I am the way I am. I’ve been in denial for a long time, Starsk. I didn’t want to end up alone, and I think that, deep down inside, I didn’t want to accept who I really am. So I convinced myself that maybe I just hadn’t found the right woman yet, that maybe if the right woman came into my life…and then Kira appeared, and I thought she was my last chance to prove to myself that I’ve just been in a slump--”

“And?” At this point, I don’t know if should feel angry, shocked, or sympathetic.

“And what? I’m gay!! That’s it! I betrayed you because I’m a selfish asshole who doesn’t deserve your friendship!” Hutch pauses, looking like he’s about to cry, and lowers his voice, which I notice has begun to tremble. “But I can’t live without it.”

Then he puts his hand over his forehead in that way he always does, where he squinches his eyes closed and massages all the worry lines with his fingers, and it takes me a moment to process what he’s just said. He needs our friendship. Then my heart drops two feet into my stomach, and now I’m squeezin’ my eyes shut, tryin’ to think. Hutch is gay. What does that mean? Is that why he’s been pullin’ away from me? Was he afraid to tell me? Or does he want to sleep with me? Is that what I want? I thought I was in love with Kira. Which blond cop am I in love with?

Finally, I gather myself together and ask him hesitantly, feeling a little uncomfortable, “Have you ever been with a man?”

“Do you remember Paco Ortega?” He has a pained look on his face as he says Paco’s name and then he looks down, as if he’s embarrassed.

My eyes widen. “You had—“

“No, no, nothing happened, although I wanted it to. But it didn’t work out.” Hutch says this while continuing to look down at the floor, and I realize that he’s unable to look at me directly. Then unexpectedly, he blabs out, “But you must know that I’d never intentionally keep you from marrying the woman you loved. I know you want to get married someday and have children and do all those things you’ve always talked about. But Kira was using us. When I went to her house, she told me she loved us both, but the truth is, she doesn’t love either of us.

But I love you, and I want you to be happy.”

My head is spinning as I try to process all that he’s told me, and I’m not sure what to make of his apology. And what does Paco Ortega and me wantin’ to get married someday have to do with anything? God, all I want is to tell Hutch that I’m in love with him, but then I suddenly realize that he hasn’t given any indication that the feeling is mutual. He says he loves me, but then he says that he wants me to marry a woman. It’s not the first time he’s told me he loves me. But he doesn’t mean it in that way. Just because he’s gay, it doesn’t mean he’s into me. Maybe I’m not his type. Come to think of it, he’s never said anything flattering about my appearance, not in the entire time we’ve known each other, even though I comment on his looks all the time.

It would just be my luck, wouldn’t it, for Hutch to be into every guy in Bay City except me. Is he into Huggy? Colby? Oh my God, he had a crush on John Colby, didn’t he! And he just confessed to being attracted to Paco. What did he mean, ‘it didn’t work out’? Was it because Paco isn’t gay?

But shit, none of it matters though, does it, because he obviously isn’t into me. But what about that time he said I wasn’t a good kisser? Was he thinkin’ of kissin’ me then? Maybe I should just lean over right now and show him how good a kisser I am--

“I’m sorry for hitting you,” Hutch says unexpectedly, looking as pathetic as I’ve ever seen him, and it knocks me out of my reverie.

“You wanna run that by me again?” My head is seriously spinnin’ at this point, and I’m startin’ to feel a little dizzy.

“I never apologized for hitting you after Gillian died. I was out of line and I’m sorry.” Hutch is all over the map tonight. What the hell’s he talkin’ about?

“You’ve been mullin’ that over for two years?” As usual, I act flippant, but I’m really startin’ to get mad now. It’s like he’s deliberately tryin’ to confuse me. I feel like a suspect in the interrogation room and he’s playin’ cop games with me to get me to confess to somethin’.

“Well, no, not 24/7,” he answers. “But it’s been something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while now.” Is he fucking kiddin’ me right now?

In the wake of this latest distraction, I forget all about kissing Hutch. Instead, I walk over to the fridge and grab myself a beer, taking several swigs before handing it over to him. What I really want is to down an entire goddamn bottle of hard liquor, and it takes all my effort to resist going into his kitchen cabinet and seein’ what kind of alcohol he’s got in there, because I still gotta drive home tonight.

Since tonight – hell, this entire goddamn week – has been some kind of bizarro world, I decide to take a different tack and try to lighten the mood. “Okay. I never held that against you, but I forgive you.” Then I wink at him. Am I doin’ this right?

“What about the other thing? Do you forgive me for that, too?”

I reply in jest, “You mean, the ‘you’re gay’ thing?” and he looks at me like I’ve got two heads. I need to get serious. “I love you no matter what, Hutch.” And I mean it.

He smiles at that but then sighs. “Thanks, partner, but I meant the ‘sleeping with the girl you love’ thing.”

“Oh, that? I’m not sure, actually. Think I might hafta mull that one over for a bit,” I tease, smiling at him for the first time tonight. Then I notice how the lamp over the table lights up his hair so much that it seems to glow. My white knight is back. And suddenly, I realize a great big weight has been lifted off me and I can finally breathe again.

Hutch nods his head and weakly smiles back at me, seemingly relieved, but he says nothing. I figure he’s okay but then he closes his eyes and puts his hand over his forehead like he did before, only this time it looks like he’s about to cry. It suddenly occurs to me that he’s been carryin’ these self-loathin’ feelings about himself, and I finally think I understand his standoffish behavior towards me these past months.

If it feels like I can breathe again, that must be an understatement compared to how Hutch must be feelin’ right now. He musta been terrified of what I’d say when he told me. Doesn’t he know he could never change my feelings for him no matter what he says or does? No matter who he is?

I notice he’s startin’ to cry now, poor blintz, so I get up, walk around the table, lean over him and gather him up in my arms. As he sobs into my shoulder, he issues a muffled “I’m so sorry” as he presses against me, grasping my shirt in his hands, and it makes me sad to think about what he’s been goin’ through all this time, and then I get even sadder when I think about how he’s had to go through all of it alone.

As I slowly stroke his hair, I notice for the first time how soft and baby-fine it is, and I murmur that I’m right here, that it’s okay. And for the first time in a long time, I believe it.

*****

It’s late, I’ve got three beers in me, and so I tell Hutch I’m gonna sleep on his sofa. He nods and smiles and I can tell how relieved he is to finally get everything off his chest. He takes one of the pillows from his bed, gets out the extra blanket from the closet and hands them to me, and even though his sofa isn’t as comfortable as my own bed at home, I know I’m gonna have the best night’s sleep I’ve had all week.

*****

I can hear Starsky snoring on my couch and it’s the most comforting sound I’ve heard in a long time. He doesn’t hate me or think differently of me. I wanted desperately to tell him that I love him, that I’m IN love with him, but despite his acceptance, I was terrified of the feeling not being mutual. After all, it was just a few days ago that he told me he loved Kira, so I decided not to push my luck. I’d made enough confessions for one night.

I honestly had no idea what he’d do when I confessed to being gay. Would he no longer want to be my partner? Would he be too repulsed to ever touch me again? Let’s face it, he didn’t have the greatest reaction when he found out about John Blaine, and I truly didn’t know what to expect.

And while I was relieved to finally get everything out in the open, I never expected to start crying like that. But I was suddenly overcome with so much emotion, for hurting him the way I did, and also, I think because saying ‘I’m gay’ aloud made it final, somehow. I knew I could never take it back.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around Kira and her motivations. She tried to come between Starsky and me. She deliberately tried to break us up by playing us against each other and telling each of us what we wanted to hear. She told Starsky that she loved him and then told me that she loved me more. And we both fell for it.

I believe she enjoyed every minute of it, and once she achieved her goal of causing a rift between us, she abandoned us in favor of Joey. And then she invited both of us to meet her at the Pits, as if the whole Joey thing had never happened. She thought she was being clever – she didn’t tell me that she’d invited Starsky, nor did she tell him that she’d invited me. It apparently never occurred to her that we’d immediately tell each other about her exclusive invitation.

Because there’s something she didn’t know about Starsky and me – it’s that we can’t be broken up so easily. We came close, though -- I’ll give her that. But in the end, she failed, and we prevailed. And once our bond was restored, we were stronger than ever. And we realized that as long as we presented a united front, no one -- not even a cunning and beautiful woman -- could ever succeed in breaking us apart. Perhaps only death could.

Which brings me right back to that feeling of dread I’ve had for too long now, that wrench in the pit of my stomach that Starsky is gonna die. I was right about the betrayal, only I never realized it would be me who did the betraying. It was almost like a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But what about my worry about something terrible happening to Starsky? Is that gonna come true as well? And is there anything I can do to prevent it from happening? I had the power to stop the betrayal, but I made a choice to go through with it anyway, and as a result, it almost destroyed our partnership.

The Snitch (Targets without a Badge, Part One)

Hutch almost died today. When I looked out the window and saw him carryin’ groceries, all I could think about was my stomach and how hungry I was. And then I saw his car explode, and my heart dropped into my stomach, and I forgot all about bein’ hungry.

Deputy DA Clayburn said afterwards that I shoulda brought Lionel downstairs with me instead of leavin’ him alone and vulnerable in the apartment. But he wasn’t there that time Joe Durniak was killed. It was precisely because we brought Durniak downstairs and in front of the hotel that the bad guys were able to get to him. Leaving Lionel in the apartment seemed like the better option. And even if it wasn’t, when that car exploded, I was forced to choose between Lionel and Hutch, and I made my choice. And I don’t regret it for a second.

All I could see outta the window was this immense fire and smoke, and of course I feared the worst. As I raced outta the apartment and down the stairs, my mind kept repeatin’ the same mantra, Please don’t let Hutch be dead, please let him be okay, over and over and over.

When I got outside and saw Hutch lyin’ face down on the ground, the chanting in my mind became even faster and more urgent as I ran to him: Please don’t let Hutch be dead, please let him be okay, please don’t let Hutch be dead, please let him be okay, please don’t let Hutch be dead, please let him be okay, until I found myself kneelin’ beside him, but at that point, the only words I could actually get outta my mouth were, “Hey, hey, hey!” as I frantically slapped at the ground next to his head like some crazed bird.

Then I recovered my senses and turned him over, mumbling, “Come on Hutch, come on,” as I held him in my arms, and suddenly it was just like that day four years earlier at Huggy’s. God, I love him so much. “Hey, you okay? Hey. Come on, it’s me, huh,” I murmured nonsensically, grateful to find he wasn’t injured. But even then, I didn’t wanna let him go.

But ya know what he did then? That asshole got upset over that stupid hunk of junk he calls a car. I almost lost him for good and all he could think about was that shithole on four wheels.

That is, until he realized what happened to Lionel. Then he couldn’t stop blamin’ himself. But it was both our faults. We’re real good at savin’ each other’s lives, but I think maybe everyone else needs to watch their backs when they’re around us, and maybe not trust us quite so much.

And I think the reason Huggy was especially upset about us lettin’ Lionel down was because in his heart, he knows we’d do the same to him if it came down to it. I don’t wanna believe that’s true, but I think he might be right. Because while Hutch and me will always be there for each other no matter what, I wouldn’t want anyone else to bet their lives on us.

If it’s us or them, we’re always gonna choose us.

*****

I thought that was it, what I’d been worried about all this time. That it was me who was gonna have a near-death experience and not Starsky. When my car exploded, I was thrown from the force of the blast, knocking me to the pavement. When Kate’s car exploded and I saw my life flashing before me, I had landed on her lawn. But this time, I was thrown farther and with greater force, and instead of soft grass to land on, I hit the hard pavement. I could have been killed. I’m sure I was knocked unconscious but I don’t remember anything except Starsky talking to me, trying to get me to respond. But I didn’t die. I didn’t die, and Starsky was right there beside me, holding me in his arms like I knew he would. I thought it was over. I thought that was it -- that the explosion was the cause of my ever-present prescient premonitions.

But today the feeling of dread came back again, and now I don’t know what to do. Starsky and I can’t seem to catch a break. But I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this. I can’t tell him that I’m afraid for his life because he would just laugh it off.

*****

“Want a beer?” Hutch asks me, as we sit down on his sofa.

“Nah,” I reply. I’m surprised he even asked. He knows how easily I lose my appetite when I’m upset.

“I’m gonna go down to Cabrillo beach, do some thinking,” he tells me. His tone is deadly serious.

“’Bout what?” I ask. But I already know the answer.

Then he turns to me, and in his eyes I see sorrow and regret. “I’m planning on quitting the force, Starsk. We’ve had too many close calls, lost too many good friends. And I’m afraid that one of us will be next. But I don’t know how to quit the force without quitting you.”

His words hit me like a punch in the gut. In the past, it was always me who’d wanted to quit. Me who’d threatened countless times to do it, when George Prudholm was killin’ all those cops, when Terry was dyin’, and when they wanted me to arrest Hutch for Vanessa’s murder.

But I’d never really understood how he’d felt all those times until just now, until it was him sayin’ it to me.

“You know I’d follow you to the ends of the earth, Hutch. We’ll always be partners, no matter what.” My voice is trembling, but I force myself to continue, to put on a happy face. “Doesn’t matter if we’re employed or not. Remember when we were gonna quit the force and play football in Canada?”

Christ, as soon as the words come outta my mouth, I regret sayin’ them. I think I’m makin’ a joke to lighten the mood, but all I do is bring back all those painful memories of Terry and how she died because of me. And it’s yet another reminder of how toxic our jobs are to everyone around us.

“A lotta people have died because of us, Hutch,” I say, and he nods in agreement. “Terry, Gillian, too many protected witnesses to count.”

“And now Lionel,” Hutch says, finishin’ my thoughts. He starts to say somethin’ else, but then he closes his eyes and shakes his head in despair.

I reach over and squeeze his arm. “Maybe I’ll go to the movies and do some thinkin’ of my own,” I say, leanin’ my head against his. And then I get up and walk out of his apartment.

*****

But I don’t go to the movies. Instead, I drive around for a while, mulling things over, and then I turn my car south and head towards Cabrillo beach.

I told Hutch I’d follow him anywhere, and I meant it. I just hope he waits for me.

*****

“Hey, Starsk?”

“Yeah?”

“So what do we do now that we’re no longer cops?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one who started the whole thing. What were you plannin’ on doin’ after throwin’ your badge in the ocean?”

“I hadn’t planned that far ahead. I thought you might talk me out of it.”

“Oh. Maybe I shoulda. But the guilt of gettin’ Lionel killed was eatin’ at both of us. So the way I see it, we didn’t really have much of a choice. Besides, we can get jobs someplace else. Jobs where the people around us don’t get hurt and killed on a daily basis.

Maybe I’ll look into makin’ appointments for us at the state employment office tomorrow.”

Targets without a Badge (Parts Two and Three)

At the concert, Allison smiles as she watches her two dates make eye contact with each other and communicate in a secret language that only they can understand. She wonders why they attempt to flirt with her at all, when it’s clear to her that they’re head-over-heels in love with each other.

*****

“Hey, can I ask ya somethin’?”

“Sure buddy. Ask me anything.”

“Why do you keep flirtin’ with Allison? You don’t really have to try to compete with me anymore, ya know, now that I know you don’t actually like girls.”

“Old habit, I guess. It’s not like I can flirt with men, can I? And besides, I have to keep up the plausible deniability.”

“Oh.”

*****

Starsky and I are standing up here with all these people watching us, and with all the camera bulbs popping, it feels like a wedding. Our wedding, with the mayor as officiant. We’re even dressed for the occasion in our finest attire.

But instead of pronouncing us husband and husband, he pronounces us cops. It’s funny – even though we committed to remaining partners after we quit the force, rejoining it makes it feel official somehow. It’s as if we were married before but we never said any vows, so we took our marriage for granted. It was never something we thought we needed to work at, never something we needed to cultivate. We lost sight of what we meant to each other and almost split up for good.

And now, it’s as if we’re affirming our vows for the first time. When we became partners seven years ago, we were assigned to each other by our police chief, both of us having newly been promoted to detective. We hadn’t chosen to be partnered. It was chosen for us, like fate.

And while we had known each other at the police academy before that, and had been good friends, there was a time when we had lost contact with each other after we graduated, as each of us was put in uniform and partnered with a more experienced patrol officer.

But Starsky is now officially and in every sense of the word, my partner. He’s mine and I’m his and we CHOSE to be together. We’re responsible for each other and no one else. So in a way, it’s an even stronger bond than simply lover or husband, because it encompasses all that those words mean and more, but without the sexual component.

Starsky is my partner, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything in the world.

Sweet Revenge

It’s the most heart-wrenching, difficult day of Hutch’s life.

When he finally gets up the courage to enter Starsky’s room and sit beside him as the man he loves more than life itself lies in a coma, dying, he has so many things he wants to say to him but nothing comes out. Instead, he holds the conversation entirely in his mind.

Starsk? Can you hear me, Starsk?

You’ve gotta make it. And you know why?

‘Cause without you, Starsk, there’s no me.

 

Hutch is a picture of inner rage and outward defeat. Muted, he sits for hours beside Starsky’s hospital bed, tentatively perched on the chair as if he’s unable to decide whether to settle in or stand up. Hesitantly, he starts to lift his hand, wanting desperately to touch his partner, but is unable to. As the minutes turn to hours, he looks at the tubes, at the machines keeping Starsky alive, at the ceiling, and finally, at his partner.

*****

My greatest fear has come true. It’s happened, just like I feared it would, just as I’ve been predicting. And I know now there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. We quit the force, and they still came after us. We re-joined, and they came after us again. They got Starsky, and it’s only a matter of time until they get me.

We were trapped; there was nowhere we could have gone where we would have been safe, except maybe somewhere in Bolivia. Ah, but now’s not the time to kid around. What happened to Starsky was our fate, our destiny. That’s what my gut had been trying to tell me all along. It wasn’t a warning so I could try to prevent it from happening. It was simply a message. A message I didn’t understand until it was too late.

I should have told him how I felt when I had the chance.

I yelled for Starsky to get down, but my words could never have travelled faster than the bullets from those machine guns. I wanted desperately to believe it was just my biorhythms being off, but instead, my entire world has gone off around me, leaving me flailing in despair. Starsky is my partner, my better half, my whole. Without him, I would cease to exist.

I sit in Starsky’s room as the minutes turn to hours, feeling dazed and numb. In a kind of emotionless trance, I’m completely silent, so my partner does not hear me. I want so desperately to touch him, and at one point, I lift my hand to place it over his, but a terrible fear of breaking something fragile and priceless washes over me, and I drop my hand back to my side, and Starsky does not feel me. I sit on the other side of the tubes and machines and think about how Starsky cannot smell me.

There is just the most tenuous connection between us, but I feel paralyzed to the point that I don’t possess the strength to move closer to where he’s lying. My brain keeps screaming at me to get up, to talk to him, to touch him – anything to let him know I’m here with him -- but my mouth doesn’t cooperate. I’m reminded of dreams I’ve had in the past, ones where a malevolent force is chasing me as I try to scream for help but can’t, and the force closes in on me just before I wake up in a cold sweat.

I’ve come to the realization that Starsky’s gonna die no matter what I do. Fate has already decided that. I could scream at him at the top of my lungs for hours and he’d never hear me in his coma. I could confess my deepest desires but my confession would only fall on deaf ears.

When Dobey tells me to wash up and find Huggy, I get up and walk hesitantly down the hall, but I find myself in an almost disoriented state. Despite having just passed by it minutes earlier, I suddenly don’t know where the men’s room is or where I am, and so I have to ask the nurse for directions. I barely notice the man coming out and absentmindedly bump into him as I walk through the open door.

But I do as I’m told and begin washing my face, not quite understanding why Dobey wanted me to, and as I splash the cold water on my face, I start to sob, and then I hastily finish washing up so I can catch up to Huggy. And that’s when I see the dead orderly slumped on the floor next to the grimy toilet in the stall, and I realize with dawning horror that the man I bumped into on my way in was there to finish the job that was started on Starsky.

I run down the hall and, spotting the perp sneaking into the janitor’s closet, I grab him and throw him to the ground, wrestling with him, but somehow he gets the better of me and manages to knock me down. He gets away despite the presence of the patrol officers as I lie on the ground, temporarily stunned, muttering “Fuck!” under my breath. Fuck fuck fuck!

Dobey wants to assign me a new partner, but I won’t have it. I seethe with righteous anger as I snap at him, “I already got a partner; I don’t need another one!” And if he EVER brings up that idea again in my presence, so help me….

*****

When I leave the hospital, it’s only because I’m re-energized with a purpose. I can’t prevent Starsky’s death -- I never could -- but I sure as hell can avenge it. And after that…well…I’m not gonna think about that right now.

And because this goddamn day just keeps getting better and better, I’m almost killed by two assassins in the hospital parking garage.

But at least I’ve got a lead now – one Jenny Brown, famous model extraordinaire turned accessory-to-conspiracy-to-commit murder. As I get in Dobey’s car and drive away, I’m suddenly overcome with intense sadness at the knowledge that Starsky will no longer be able to sense me at all, and I have to keep reminding myself that he couldn’t even when I was with him.

I berate myself that it’s purely magical thinking for me to think otherwise. He’s dying, I viciously remind myself, pinching my arm so sharply with my fingernails that I draw blood. Then, wincing through my teeth, I keep pinching and pinching with all the strength I’ve got, as my nails dig painfully into the flesh of my forearm, turning it ragged and red.

I need to make sure I consciously accept what’s going to happen to Starsky. I can’t keep holding out hope, there’s no point in it. The only thing I can do is make sure that the person who ordered the hit on him pays dearly for it.

And as for my battered and bruised flesh…it will heal with time, if I’m still around. But my heart never will.

*****

Turns out I was wrong about everything. After I left the hospital, Starsky went into cardiac arrest and his heart stopped beating, just as I feared it would. The doctors had expected it as he was gravely wounded by the bullets and they told me it was only a matter of time, but I think it stopped for a different reason. I had forgotten about the ESP he’d claimed to have just before that kid shot me in the suburban house she was robbing, and at the time I naturally thought the notion of Starsky having any kind of ESP was a whole lotta B.S.

But now I realize that Starsky DID have ESP, just not on the day I was shot.  When he was in that coma, I truly believe he panicked because he thought I’d died, after the tenuous connection we had was severed when I left the hospital. Simply put, his heart stopped when he thought I’d left him for good. How else to explain what happened next? The doctors told me they were just about to give up on him, when suddenly there was a normal rhythm on the heart monitor. They said it happened at the exact moment I burst through the double-doors to the ICU. The doctors can’t explain it. They say it’s never happened before. But Starsky, his consciousness wavering in the murky filigree between life and death, somehow knew I’d returned and that I was okay, and I truly believe he did everything he could to come back to me.

And the next day, my partner opened his eyes when he heard my voice as I spoke to him for the first time since he’d been shot.

Starsky fooled them all. It’s something the cynics will never believe, but to me, it’s nothing short of the most starry-eyed romanticism. He came back for me, my partner both in life and in death. Our bond can never be broken.

*****

I’ve been spending a lot of time in his hospital room, watching him sleep as he slowly recuperates, and I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. It’s easy to do when there’s not much else going on while you’re watching your partner slowly recover from his near-fatal injuries. He sleeps a lot, so I have all the time in the world to think, except when I’m home fiddling with my guitar. Those are the times when I feel most optimistic about his recovery, as I make my happy plans for when he gets discharged.

But watching him in the hospital, I’ve developed a new habit of biting my fingernails, worrying every time Starsky suffers a setback, paranoid that it was all a cruel trick and that fate was only toying with us. Could he really be alive? Will he truly recover? Maybe he died in that ICU and this whole time I’ve just been dreaming that his heart started when I returned.

There are times when I’m convinced I’m in a dream and he’s really not here with me at all, and I have to keep pinching myself to reassure myself that I’m awake. I have a lot of bruises on my arm now from all the pinching. But at least with my nails short, I’m no longer able to break the skin quite as easily, although playing the guitar has become a challenge, so I’ve taken to using a pick. The nail biting has become an almost-constant nervous habit now, intensifying whenever the nurse says he’s spiked a fever, or his pulse is weaker than she’d like, or his urine is the wrong color.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about Kira, too, and how she manipulated us to the point where I ended up making the choice to betray my best friend. She tried her damnedest to come between us, but ultimately, she failed.

Then again, not even Death could break us apart, so what chance did Kira have, really?

*****

So this was probably the best night I’ve had in a long time, for a lotta reasons. I celebrated my not dyin’ with the three people closest to me, and we drank and ate and laughed and got soaked with ice-cold sprinkler water. And then we laughed some more, until a very large nurse chased Dobey and Huggy outta my room, screamin’ at all of us for havin’ a party in the middle of the night when my health was still so delicate.

But she let Hutch stay to help her get me into dry clothes and transfer me to the other bed. It was almost 4am by then, and Hutch musta been freezin’ to death in those wet clothes of his. He had taken off his green baseball jacket, which weighs about fifty pounds when dry, never mind when it’s wet, and I decided it was a good thing I hadn’t been wearin’ my Mexican sweater.

I was really quite loopy by that point, after all the wine and painkillers and whatnot, so I hope I didn’t say anythin’ inappropriate while the nurse was there. Who knew that sprinkler water could be so goddamn cold? I was shiverin’ all over which was causin’ me to not feel too good, what with the strain on my injured muscles and everything, so I fixed all my concentration on what Hutch was doin’ with my clothes.

In order to get me into dry ones, he first had to take off my wet ones, which he started doin’ while the nurse went down the hall to the linen closet to fetch a standard-issue hospital gown to replace the soppin’ wet blue pajamas that Hutch had bought for me. As he slowly unbuttoned my pajama top, I watched him intently, fascinated as he took each button between his fingers and removed them from their button holes. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion and I could feel the beating of my heart getting louder and louder, until it was thudding in my ears, and I was sure he could hear it, too.

Then he carefully pulled the sleeves off my arms, and as he did that, he leaned over me with his head near mine and I could feel his hot breath on my neck. It was warm, so warm, and warm was just what I needed so, naked from the waist up, I reached over and grabbed his shoulder, pulling him against me, and then I held him there with my arms wrapped around him so he would stay like that, even though the movement of my arms put a painful strain on the muscles in my shoulder and abdomen and I winced in pain.

Just then, the nurse returned and Hutch abruptly stood up and backed away from me, and I’m not sure if it was because he didn’t want the nurse to see what we were doin’ or if he was terrified that he’d hurt me. I looked at him and nodded so he knew I was okay. The nurse looked at me and then over at Hutch, eyein’ us suspiciously, and then she asked him to help her put my arms into the robe, and after they wrangled me into it, she began to tug off my wet pajama pants.

I wasn’t wearin’ anything under them, but that didn’t seem to faze her, although Hutch turned his eyes away. But she insisted he help her and he reluctantly took hold of my waistband while tryin’ to cover me with the robe, as he slowly wrestled my wet pants down past my hips on one side of me while the nurse pulled down on the other side. I don’t know if I was exposed or not, or for how long, but I didn’t care. I carefully watched Hutch’s expression but he stoically kept a straight face as he tugged my pants down, so I couldn’t tell what he was thinkin’. Finally, my pants were off, the robe was wrapped around me, and the two of them, standing on either side of my bed, gathered up the blankets and brought them up around my shoulders before I caught another chill.

As she walked out, the nurse curtly informed Hutch that he had five minutes to gather his things and leave the hospital before she notified security. At first, he continued to stand next to me, unsure what to do, his hand resting gently on my shoulder, and again I noticed the warmth emanating from him. If only he would lie beside me and hold me, I could feel warm and comforted. But I knew that could never happen, because the nurse would kill us both if she found him there in the morning.

“Guess I better go,” he said, a shy little smile appearing for just a moment before he turned and walked towards his jacket that was draped over the chair. He was just about to leave my room to go home and get some sleep, the jacket drippin’ water across the floor as he walked towards the door, when I motioned for him to come closer and lean in towards me. And that’s when I did it. Maybe I chose that moment because I was high on four painkillers and half a bottle of wine, or maybe it was almost dyin’ that had made me rethink my priorities, but whatever the reason, I grabbed a handful of that luscious blond hair, pulled him close, and planted my mouth right on his.

And man, was all that waitin’ worth it! I felt all these electric sparks reverberatin’ all around my chest like the world’s most erotic defibrillator, but in a good way. Hutch’s lips were soft but firm and tasted of beer and wine, tasted of HIM, and it felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.

So what was it like to finally kiss Hutch with his mustache? Well, would you believe, I was so preoccupied with the feelin’ of my lips on his that I forgot to notice! But I guess I liked it, because I kept kissin’ him. And I guess he liked it, too, because he kept lettin’ me. And when he finally pulled away, I think it was because he was afraid I was gonna overdo it and hurt myself.

But you shoulda seen him standin’ there, all smilin’ and blushin’. He was so beautiful, my Hutch.

*****

Starsky kissed me tonight! I keep having to pinch myself so I know it’s real and not a dream. Even now, I can still taste him.

But what does it mean that he was high as a kite when he did it?

I once read an article about alcohol’s effect on human behavior. It said that one of the outcomes of too much imbibing is that it causes a person to have reduced inhibition, which can lead to an increase in sexual behavior. The person will become more promiscuous and less self-conscious, doing things they might subconsciously want to do sober but never would under normal circumstances. In addition, they might blurt out feelings which they would generally be uncomfortable expressing.

So it seems I oughta get Starsky drunk more often.

Chapter Text

Post-Sweet Revenge (sometime in 1979)

Whistling a jaunty tune, Hutch waltzes through his front door, hangs his holster on the privacy screen next to the bed, throws his badge on the bureau where it lands next to Ollie, and settles down on the sofa in the living room. He’s feeling optimistic and cheerful tonight as he picks up his guitar and begins strumming a tune, trying out different tempos and tunings and singing softly as ethereal moonlight streams in through the greenhouse windows.

We would have to sacrifice

So much in our lives

 

He changes the tuning again as he’s done many times over these past several weeks, adjusts the tempo, and practices another verse.

I don't want to chase my own dreams

Without you by my side

 

When he’s satisfied with the song, he puts down the guitar and picks up the phone. After three rings, Starsky answers. “Dobey gave me the day off tomorrow. You don’t happen to have dinner plans tomorrow, do you, buddy?”

“Yeah, I was plannin’ on eatin’ dinner,” Starsky replies in his usual sarcastic manner.

“Why don’t you come over to my place after your PT session. I still owe you a three-course meal.”

“Whaddya mean -- from our bet? You already paid me what you owed, the stuffed veal you brought to the hospital, remember?”

“Technically, that was a two-course meal, veal and antipasto. Unless you consider Château Martin to be a course.”

“So the burgers, fries, and milkshakes we had at the Pits the other night didn’t count then, I guess? Good.” Starsky squints his eyes on the other end of the phone, suddenly suspicious of Hutch’s motives.

“No, that didn’t count. Besides, I’m serious, partner. I mean it, I’m going to cook you a three-course meal, just like you wanted. Tomorrow night, okay?”

“The bet was that you were gonna take me out to a fancy restaurant.”

“Yeah, I know. You wanted to go to a place where you can only get in with references. Well, sorry to break it to ya, but we don’t have references, buddy. And besides, I’d rather have you over to my place, alone. I’m making filet mignon and lobster, just like you said you wanted before you were…” Hutch trails off and sighs as a fleeting sadness crosses his face, and he can’t bring himself to say the words before you were shot. Instead, he finishes softly, “Just like you wanted.”

Starsky is touched by Hutch’s determination. “Sure, I just gotta take a shower after my session and then I’ll be over. Anything I can bring?”

“Just yourself. That’s all I want.”

*****

The next day, Starsky lets himself into Hutch’s apartment, carrying a bouquet of fragrant red roses which he hands to his partner.

“What’s this?”

“Got them for you. Figured I oughta contribute somethin’ to this meal other than my pretty face.”

Hutch takes the flowers and leans into them, inhaling their spicy scent, and then he looks at Starsky and smiles. Starsky thinks to himself that his partner’s smile could light up Bay City in a blackout on the smoggiest day of the year.

“Thanks. They’re lovely. Why don’t you put them in some water while I finish getting dinner ready?”

Hmm, weird. Starsky thinks. He didn’t even take a stab at my comment about my face, and I left it wide open for him. He sure is actin’ serious tonight.

Starsky walks into the kitchen and grabs a vase from the shelf. He fills it with water, unceremoniously plops the flowers in, and places it in the center of the kitchen table, where he notices there are two lit candles and two place settings complete with china, wine glasses, and cloth napkins.

Hutch has cooked dinner for Starsky many times before, with candles even, but somehow, this feels different, urgent. Starsky’s heart begins to pound in his chest and beads of sweat break out on his forehead. When he swallows, it feels like a lump has caught in his throat.

Is it time, then?

As they sit down at the table, Hutch raises his glass in a toast. “To my best buddy,” he says, looking straight into Starsky’s eyes.

Starsky proclaims “May we live long, healthy lives” and then adds “together” before he can help himself. Hutch smiles and they clink their glasses.

As they eat their dinner, they make casual small talk. “How was your session?”

“Same as usual. Hurt like hell, but I’m gettin’ stronger every day. It’s amazin’ how much muscle tone you lose when you’re lyin’ in a hospital bed.”

They continue eating in near silence as they make constant, almost shy glances towards each other.

Starsky thinks to himself, Is this how things can be, going forward? He has always pictured a future wife cooking dinner for him. But Hutch cooks for him, too. And he’s long since given up on the idea of having a wife and kids in his future.

Hutch thinks to himself, Since my divorce, I never wanted to commit to another long-term relationship with a woman, although at least now I know why. But here I am, with my best buddy, in the longest relationship I’ve ever had, and the one that’s made me the happiest.

“Here, lemme help you clean up,” Starsky offers. He carries the plates over to the sink as Hutch begins washing them. Abruptly, Hutch turns off the water and faces his partner who is standing beside him.

“Starsk…” he begins. But the words do not come.

“I know,” Starsky finishes, as they lean in close and embrace each other for a long, lingering moment.

When they pull away, they hold each other’s gaze for what seems an eternity, and then, as if by a secret communication, they both move their heads towards each other as their lips come together in a passionate kiss.

And this time they are both fully sober.

So that’s what the mustache feels like – kinda itchy, actually. I guess I didn’t notice that before, on account of the painkillers.

As their lips and tongues find each other and soft moans escape them, Starsky moves his hand down, slips it inside Hutch’s shirt, and as he strokes the smooth skin, his hand finds Hutch’s necklace and he begins to absently twine his fingers around it.

“Hey, ya know somethin’?” Starsky asks, pulling away slightly to break the kiss.

“What?” Hutch asks, grabbing Starsky’s hair and pulling him back in.

“You’re the moon,” Starsky mumbles through the kisses.

“Am I?”

“Yeah, because you light up the darkness of my world with your radiant luminescence.”

“Stop talking.”

“And I’m the star in your sky,” Starsky continues, ignoring Hutch’s plea. “Get it?”

Hutch pulls away slightly and looks into Starsky’s eyes, a serious expression on his face now. “Why do you think I bought the necklace in the first place?” he asks, winking as he leans in and kisses Starsky again and again and again.

Dreamily, Starsky moves his hand down from the necklace and begins caressing Hutch’s chest. Without hair, it feels silky and smooth but Starsky doesn’t think it reminds him of a woman’s skin at all. Instead, it feels strong and manly and he can feel Hutch’s thudding heartbeat and his strong chest muscles rippling beneath his hand. They both close their eyes, breathing deeply as their erections press against each other beneath their jeans.

Hutch begins to undo Starsky’s belt loop when Starsky suddenly pulls away and removes his hand from inside Hutch’s shirt. As Hutch starts to ask what’s wrong, Starsky leans against him and embraces him tightly, burying his head in the crook of Hutch’s neck.

“Something the matter, partner?” he asks, suddenly concerned.

“I’m scared,” is Starsky’s muffled response, his head still buried against Hutch’s neck.

“Why? Afraid I’m gonna fuck you without lube?” Hutch blurts out, laughing maniacally. Immediately the color drains from his face as he regrets his callous joke.

Starsky pulls away, horrified. “What the hell!”

“Fuck, I’m so sorry, buddy, that was a really bad joke. I was just trying to lighten the mood. God, I’m such an asshole!” Hutch clasps Starsky’s hand in a humble act of contrition, a pleading look on his face, the color just starting to come back.

Starsky looks into his partner’s serene blue eyes and tumbles down into them, unable to resist, and takes both of Hutch’s hands in his own.

“All my life, I thought I was supposed to get married, buy a house, and churn out a coupla kids. First I thought Helen was the one, but we argued all the time. Then I asked Terry to marry me, but only after I found out she was dyin’. I thought I loved Rosey…but… Sharon, Meredith, they were just casual flings. Nothin’s ever worked out for me in the marriage department. And the bottom line is -- cops shouldn’t get married, Hutch.”

“Starsk, no one’s talking about getting married.” Besides, I gave up on that idea a long time ago.

“I don’t know who I’m supposed to be anymore, Hutch. You say that you’re gay and that you’re not into chicks. But I don’t think that’s who I am, because I’m not into guys. Well, there was that one time when I was in the army, but I thought it was because of the circumstances. You know -- the stress and all.

But most of the time, I like women. I enjoy havin’ sex with them. I thought I wanted to spend the rest of my life married to the woman I loved.” Starsky reaches out and strokes Hutch’s face. “But it’s you that I love, and who I wanna be with. Is there a word for a man who’s in love with his partner, because I don’t know what it is.”

“Bisexual, maybe? Queer? I don’t know either, Starsk, but gay, straight, what does it matter? Labels don’t define us. Society doesn’t define us. We define ourselves. Isn’t that what we’ve always done? How many times have we been told that we don’t dress like cops? That we don’t look like cops? They can’t even be bothered to get our names straight most of the time.”

“I love you, Blondie,” Starsky replies in a trembling voice, tears beginning to well up in his eyes.

“I love you, too, dummy.” Hutch places his hand against Starsky’s cheek and holds it there, catching the tears that fall and noticing the dampness on his own cheek.

“I think I’ve loved you since the first time I laid eyes on you,” Starsky says. “I just didn’t know it until now. But I’m scared, Hutch. We’re cops. We don’t have the kind of jobs where we can be open about this kinda thing.”

“Then we don’t have to be open about it. Nobody says we have to.”

“You called Arty Solkin a faygele.”

“What the hell are you talking about? Arty Solkin?”

“Yeah, when we were hasslin’ him that time. You remember?”

“Fuck. Yeah, I remember. I shouldn’t have used that word. I was just trying to rile him up.”

“But you DID say it. And what if other people say it? What if they say it about us? ‘Hey, look at those two faygele cops. Hey, faggots, why dontcha get a room or somethin’!’”

“Oh, come on, Starsk!”

“Hutch, you and I both know there’s a lot of homophobic people in this world and I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with it.”

“Starsk, no one has to know. Not unless we tell them. It took me a long time to come to terms with who I am. I came out to you, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and I have no intention of coming out to anyone else. Do you? Although I have a sneaking suspicion that Huggy already knows.”

“I don’t care if Huggy knows. It’s all the other people I’m worried about. Shit. I gotta think this thing through. I should probably go before we do somethin’ we can’t take back,” Starsky says, abruptly turning towards the door.

“Don’t!” Hutch exclaims, angry and panicked now. He beats Starsky to the door and stands there blocking his escape, holding tightly onto Starsky’s arms. It’s a mirror image of the day four years earlier when he’d tried to escape from Huggy’s apartment in his bottomless quest for a heroin fix, as Starsky stood defiantly in front of the door, patiently waiting for his partner’s withdrawal-fueled agitation to pass.

“Look, I’m scared too, buddy, but there’s nothing that scared me more than when I almost lost you to Gunther’s goons. Nothing can ever scare me more than that.” Hutch closes his eyes and remembers seeing Starsky hooked up to the tubes and machines, hovering precariously on the verge between life and death. He opens his eyes and tries to blink away the painful memory.

Starsky looks unsure, makes a slight move towards Hutch, and then hesitates.

“Oh Starsk, just…come here.” Hutch pulls his partner into a tight embrace.

But when they pull away, Starsky still has second thoughts. “I don’t know, Hutch. I’ve wanted this for a long time. I thought I was ready, but now I don’t know. I’m sorry,” he says, squeezing Hutch’s arm. “I think I should go now. I’ll see you tomorrow, maybe.” Then he turns and walks out the door before Hutch can see the tears forming in his eyes.

Hutch stands in the doorway in shock, mouth agape, not quite believing that the moment is slipping away out of his grasp.

When Starsky gets downstairs, he carefully slides into the Torino, his abdominal muscles aching from the physical therapy session. He starts the engine, but makes no move to drive away. “Fuck!” he yells into the abyss, pounding his fist against his thigh. He shakes his head, angry at himself, angry at the world, and remains in the car with the engine running.

“Oh, fuck me!” he exclaims, abruptly turning off the engine. Then he gets out of the car and strides determinedly back towards Hutch’s apartment. As he runs up the stairs, he barely registers the stabbing feeling in his abdomen and he absently winces in pain with each step. When he reaches the top, he pushes the door open and finds Hutch sitting on the sofa, strumming his guitar and singing softly to himself in a trembling voice tinged with lamentation.

I wish I could guarantee that I

Could give you the life you deserve

We would have to sacrifice

So much in our lives

But I'm aching to make this work

 

I don't want to chase my own dreams

Without you by my side

Together we'll face adversity

I'm yours to keep

Even if we face an uncertain ride

 

I know I can't give you a wedding ring

I can't buy you a fancy car

But I can write you this song 

And I can give you my heart

 

When I thought I'd lost you, my heart shattered into

A million jagged pieces from the pain

But when you came back to me

Opened your eyes and smiled at me

Those pieces came together again

 

I know I can't give you a wedding ring

I can't buy you a fancy car

But I can write you this song

And I can give you my heart

 

“You wrote that for me?” Starsky asks, genuinely touched.

Hutch turns around, startled. “Yeah,” he manages to sputter as he wipes the tears from his eyes. “While you were recovering in the hospital. I guess I was crazy for ever thinking that—“

“It’s beautiful,” Starsky says as he walks over to the sofa and sits beside Hutch. “I’m touched. Really.” He takes the guitar from his partner’s grasp and carefully places it on the rug, and then he places his hand against Hutch’s cheek and looks into his eyes. “So we’re really gonna do this, huh?”

Hutch rests his hand over Starsky’s. “Only if you want to. I don’t want to push it.”

“To be honest, Hutch, I’m not even sure I know how,” Starsky answers candidly.

“Neither do I, partner, but we’ll figure it out together. I mean, how hard can it be?” Hutch assures him, laughing.

“Well, now that you mention it, I AM pretty hard.”

They both laugh as Hutch takes Starsky’s hand and leads him towards the bed. Then suddenly, he remembers that his partner isn’t the healthy, virile man he’s always known, and he’s swiftly overcome with a combination of sadness and panic. I know the physical therapy session today has tired him out, but he doesn’t want to admit it, to me or to himself. As they stand in front of the bed, he places both hands on Starsky’s shoulders and kisses the top of his head.

“Maybe we should wait until you’re up for it.” Hutch says this with utmost seriousness, but Starsky takes Hutch’s hand and places it against the growing bulge in his pants, flashing him a lopsided grin. “Too late to stop now, Blondie, seein’ as I’m already up.”

Hutch smiles, but despite Starsky’s cheerful reassurance, he can sense that his partner is tired. He can see it in his eyes. He carefully removes Starsky’s shirt and pants, leaving his underwear on, and instructs him to lie down on the bed as he pulls back the covers. “Just relax, babe, I got this,” Hutch says as he strips off his own clothes down to his underwear and carefully slides in the bed next to his partner. He traces his fingers on Starsky’s cheek and then down his neck, stopping at his chest where the ragged pink scars from the exit wounds are plainly visible. He notices that even after all these weeks, the hair has not grown back where the nurses had shaved it.

He stares at the scars and then, as if in a trance, he begins to trace his fingers over them and kiss them gently. They are a part of Starsky now, he thinks, for better or worse. Then he gently turns Starsky over onto his side so he can examine the upper back where the deadly projectiles had entered his partner’s body, and notices that the scars from the entry wounds are smaller and much smoother than those on Starsky’s chest. Impulsively, he leans over and kisses them gently.

Then he helps turn Starsky onto his back again and begins weaving his fingers through the dark chest hair that encircles the scars, mesmerized. As Hutch twirls and examines the tight, wiry curls that are spread across Starsky’s chest, he finds himself amazed that a sex partner could have hair there. He’s wanted to run his fingers through that chest hair for a long time and is relieved that the scars haven’t completely replaced it.

As Hutch begins moving his fingers and his mouth downward, Starsky tries to lean over and stroke his partner’s soft blond locks before they are out of his reach, but his chest begins to twinge with pain and he finds himself stunned and frustrated that such a simple act is so difficult for him.

Immediately, Hutch senses that something is wrong. “Take it easy,” he says as he fusses over Starsky, moving Starsky’s hand off his head and gently pushing his shoulder back down against the bed. “Just relax, buddy,” he coos softly.

Hutch knows how much physical discomfort Starsky has been in these past several weeks and it pains him to think about it. He knows that his partner is frustrated that he’s not making progress as fast as he’d like. But he’s also scared to think about how once Starsky is back in prime physical condition, he’ll be ready to return to work and hit the streets.

And that terrifies Hutch more than anything else.

But tonight, he doesn’t want to think about that. Tonight, he wants Starsky to feel only pleasure. He circles his fingers just above his partner’s groin, being careful not to tickle him, knowing how ticklish Starsky can be, and then finally, he takes a deep breath as he pulls down Starsky’s white briefs and takes hold of his partner’s hard cock, causing Starsky to utter a deep moan in surprise. Amazed at the feeling of Starsky’s cock in his hand, he rubs the side of it as Starsky relaxes and his breathing becomes shallower. “God, Hutch.”

How many months have I dreamed about being with Starsky? How many years? Am I really awake now?

Starsky utters a low, continual guttural sound as Hutch grips his cock firmly and runs his hand up and down the shaft, squeezing the base of it with his other hand. Then Hutch leans over and begins kissing it all around, and Starsky flinches when Hutch’s soft lips brush over the sensitive head. Then, after a slight hesitation, he places his mouth over it and takes his partner inside him, as Starsky cries out and his moaning intensifies.

Suddenly, Hutch becomes scared of what will happen when Starsky climaxes. Will it put too much strain on the still-healing muscles in his abdomen? Fuck! But it’s too late to stop now, isn’t it?

Starsky can sense what Hutch is thinking, because they have always been sensitive to the slightest change in their partner’s demeanor, tone of voice, and body movement.

“It’s okay, babe, I’ll be okay, keep going, oh God, don’t stop,” he pleads with Hutch, although he’s secretly scared of what will happen with this newly unfamiliar body of his.

Hutch prays that Starsky’s pleasure will outweigh any pain that comes from it and continues moving his head up and down, amazed at the thickness and hardness of Starsky’s cock. Even though they’ve been undressing in each other’s presence for years and Hutch has stolen many glances at his partner, it still feels strange and foreign. And utterly wonderful.

He’s also seen the bulges in Starsky’s too-tight jeans many times, not to mention that revealing red underwear, which had caused his imagination to go to all sorts of places he’d never thought of before, and he’s always wondered what Starsky’s cock would look like when it was hard and free of the confines of his clothing. Then he remembers he’s still wearing his own underwear and stops briefly to remove it.

On a whim, he leans over Starsky and begins to grind his hard cock against his partner’s, writhing as he does so, his moans joining that of his partner.

“Gives new meanin’ to the phrase ‘Me and Thee,’ don’t it?” Starsky asks innocently between his own moans, and then they both break down laughing as Hutch slides off Starsky and plops down beside him on the bed, one arm slung lightly over Starsky’s chest, as their raucous laughter causes their erections to temporarily soften.

Then Hutch notices Starsky is no longer laughing and he becomes concerned. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. All that laughin’ did a number on my stomach muscles, though.” Starsky winces and closes his eyes.

“Oh, babe,” Hutch says mournfully as he leans over and tenderly strokes Starsky’s cheek. After a few seconds of silence, Starsky begins kissing Hutch again, and as their mouths explore each other eagerly, the temporary deflating of their cocks is successfully reversed and Starsky’s discomfort is momentarily forgotten.

Then Hutch decides to explore Starsky’s cock with his mouth again and soon Starsky’s moans become more intense as Hutch moans with him in unison, squeezing the base with his hand and moving his head faster up and down over the warm throbbing cock, savoring the taste of it. He can detect a slightly fresh and soapy tang from Starsky’s recent shower, but there is also a saltiness which he attributes to the combination of his partner’s anxiety, sweat, and desire.

He presses his lips against it firmly, licks the head, and, continuing to grip the shaft with one hand, he runs his other hand along a hairy, taut thigh. Earlier, he’d made a callous joke about fucking Starsky without lube, and suddenly he wants more than anything to make love to him now, but he knows that Starsky doesn’t have the physical condition to endure it.

But it’s okay, Hutch reassures himself, it doesn’t matter. It will happen when Starsky’s ready. Maybe not until next month; maybe not until next year. But as long as there IS a next year for us, that’s all that matters.

As he senses Starsky’s buildup and realizes that his partner’s moans are becoming more urgent, he tightens his mouth around the swollen, turgid cock and decides it’s time for the grand finale. He takes Starsky down his throat as far as he can until he can almost feel the eruption begin. But before he can feel it, he can sense it, the way animals can sense an earthquake just before it hits.

Then as the pulsing begins, Starsky’s moans increase even more in their intensity, and Hutch feels a warm liquid beginning to trickle out, coating the back of his throat. He forces himself to take Starsky’s cock even deeper, suppressing the gag reflex, willing it to go away. With one hand still gripping the base of the stiff, throbbing cock, he instinctively moves his other hand off Starsky’s thigh until he finds what he’s looking for, and takes Starsky’s hand in his own, gripping it tightly as Starsky, his breathing shallow and fast now, comes in full force. Starsky cries out in ecstasy but towards the end, Hutch thinks he detects another type of sound emanating from his partner: pain. He swallows hard and turns his head towards Starsky, still holding his hand.

He had expected Starsky’s eyes to be closed, but when he looks at him, he sees Starsky’s head is lifted, his breathing still fast, and his deep blue eyes wide open and staring at him, a contented, crooked smile on his face.

Suddenly, a memory flashes in Hutch’s mind; a memory of Starsky opening his eyes for the first time after being shot. Fuck, not now! he hisses to himself, knowing he’ll continue to have memories of that awful time for a long time to come, maybe for the rest of his life. But it’s okay, he tells himself, because I’m going to slowly replace those awful memories with better ones.

For both of us.

Trying not to wince, Starsky leans his head against the pillow and breathes deeply, but Hutch senses that he’s in pain. Must be from all the muscle contractions. Fuck.

Concerned, he moves up next to Starsky and lies beside him, barely noticing that his own hard-on has dissipated as his cock lies limply against Starsky’s naked thigh. “You okay?” he asks him, looking into Starsky’s eyes as he presses his hand lightly on Starsky’s chest.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Starsky answers, reaching up to stroke Hutch’s face. “God, Hutch that was beautiful. You’re beautiful.”

“I might be beautiful, but you’re a terrible liar.”

“It’s just some muscle soreness; it’s nothin’. Don’t you worry your pretty blond head about it.”

Hutch leans over and kisses Starsky’s forehead. “I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”

“Don’t worry, I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Hutch walks into the bathroom and when he returns, he’s holding a wet washcloth.

“What’s that for?”

“I put some cool water on it. Tell me where it hurts.”

“Ooh, are we gonna play doctor now?”

“I think we already did that.”

“But now it’s my turn. I haven’t examined you yet.”

“Come on Starsk, where’s it hurting? I’m serious, buddy.”

“Well, it’s my stomach, mostly. I guess it’s sore from the exercises. Or maybe from when I ran up the stairs. You don’t think about the muscles your body uses when you, um, when you ejaculate. This body of mine is continually surprisin’ me, and not always in a good way.”

“I was afraid that would happen. Hopefully it’s just temporary, until your muscle strength improves. Just lie back and relax now.” He places the cool washcloth on Starsky’s abdomen and presses down lightly.

“Hey, Hutch?”

“Yeah?”

“It really was terrific. Like, outta this world terrific. Don’t let me bein’ in a little pain fool ya. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

“I’ll bet you would.” Hutch says, smiling, as he slides his hands underneath Starsky’s lower back and gently massages the oblique muscles with his fingers, leaning over to gently kiss Starsky’s contented and sticky limp cock. “How’s that feel?”

“Oh yeah, that’s nice, God that’s nice,” Starsky replies dreamily as his eyes begin to close. Then, groggily, he half-opens them. “Hey, what about you?”

“I’m fine,” Hutch says, trying to reassure him. “I think you might have overexerted yourself a little, though. Maybe doing this right after physical therapy wasn’t the best idea. Your body is still healing, and knowing you, you’re willing to push it past its limits, but I’m not.” He continues massaging Starsky’s lower back, leaning over briefly to kiss Starsky’s chest just above the washcloth. “Besides, we’ve got all the time in the world now, partner. I can wait.”

“You always were more patient than me. How’s tomorrow mornin’ sound to you?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Hutch smiles as he lies beside his partner and snuggles up against him. Suddenly, Starsky recalls a memory of his own: seeing Hutch’s smile when Hutch saw Starsky open his eyes for the first time after being shot. He’s never forgotten that look on Hutch’s face in his hospital room that day.

Like Sleeping Beauty but without the kiss, he awoke from his coma to the sound of Hutch’s voice and was greeted with the most wondrous sight he’d ever seen: a beatific smile beaming back at him and crystal blue eyes sparkling with glee. His beautiful blond partner, standing beside his bed, looking truly happy for the first time in a long time.

That same beautiful blond with whom he was now sharing a bed -- not in a hospital, fully clothed and soaked to the bone with ice cold sprinkler water -- but completely naked, their warm bodies pressed together as they lay contentedly in each other’s arms on Hutch’s soft off-white sheets.

“I love you, Hutch,” Starsky mumbles sleepily.

“I know.”

“But hey, uh,” Starsky adds as he drifts off to sleep, “maybe you could think about shavin’ off the mustache?”

Chapter Text

Starsky and Hutch finish their beers and specials.

“Play some pool, Curly?” asks Hutch. “Loser pays the tab.”

“You’re on, sucka!” Starsky responds eagerly as they walk over to the billiards table near the bar, his hand gently pressed against the small of Hutch’s back.

There’s a lull in the evening, and Huggy and new waitress Pam take a moment to chat. From across the room, they watch the partners as they playfully banter with each other.

“Starsky is the dark-haired one?” Pam inquires.

“Hey, you got it right this time!” Huggy responds.

“I think he’s cute. I’m thinking of asking him out for coffee after we close.”

“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Pam, but Starsky’s already taken.”

“Oh, damn,” she replies. “I saw he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, but I didn’t realize he had a girlfriend.”

“He doesn’t,” Huggy responds coyly as Pam looks at him questioningly.

As if mesmerized by the scene before them, they continue watching the two partners as a customer puts Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” on the jukebox.

Wise men say only fools rush in

But I can't help falling in love with you

Hutch is about to take a shot when the song begins to play. Abruptly, he stops, puts down his cue, walks around to the other side of the table, and embraces Starsky from behind. As he snuggles up close against him, Pam notices their faces are set in the same tranquil expression as they slowly sway to the music.

She remarks that she didn’t realize they were a couple and asks how long they’ve been together. Huggy says they’ve been partners for about eight years but have known each other since their Police Academy days.

Pam clarifies that she meant how long have they been lovers.

Huggy answers, “That depends on how you look at it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, they’ve only officially been dating a few months, but when they met all those years ago, it was love at first sight.”

Pam smiles as she continues watching them sway back and forth to the music, Hutch still leaning against Starsky, eyes closed, their hands intertwined; and she wonders what they’re saying to each other.

Take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can't help falling in love with you

“Whatsa matter, Blondie, afraid to take the shot ‘cause you know you’re gonna lose?” Starsky teases.

“Nope,” Hutch says, snuggling even closer. “I don’t need to take the shot, ‘cause I’ve already won.”

Can’t Help Falling in Love

Sung by Elvis Presley

Songwriters: George David Weiss / Hugo E Peretti / Luigi Creatore

Listen to the song on YouTube:

https://youtu.be/vGJTaP6anOU

Wise men say only fools rush in

But I can't help falling in love with you

Oh, shall I stay, would it be a sin

If I can't help falling in love with you?

 

Like a river flows, surely to the sea

Darling, so it goes, some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can't help falling in love with you

 

Oh, like a river flows, surely to the sea

Darling, so it goes, some things are meant to be

Take my hand, take my whole life too

For I can't help falling in love with you

For I can't help falling in love with you