I know you are expecting a response to your letter, so here goes. Please ignore the grammar and punctuation errors as I’m just going to take your advice and let it all out. I don't know what it will help - rehashing the whole mess again, but for some perverse reason, I still trust you in some things. Old habits die hard, I guess.
It's difficult for me to even think about how I felt when you walked out of Kira's room. Betrayed, like you said, does not even begin...It's like I almost blacked out - seriously. I didn't even register that it was real. The one person I trust more than life...hell, the only person I have ever trusted my whole life with...had gone and...well...
I do feel kind of bad about going at you like I did. You know when people say they are so angry they see red? Well I saw red! I just wanted to hurt you back. I wanted you bloody! I never wanted you to be able to hurt me again.
Then, after I drove off - it all went away. Not the hurt - just the red. All I really wanted to do was to turn back and have you tell me it was all a big mistake and I didn't see what I saw. I wanted you to grab me and hug me tight and...sounds a little fruity, huh? Well that's what I wanted. I wanted you to tell me it was going to be okay. That it was still me and thee. That we could make it through anything...pipedreams, huh?
Then, I went to Westside Park. I don’t know why - I just did. I got out and went to my tree, the one you gave me two years ago for Christmas. I just went over to it and sat down and started bawling like a baby! Whacko, huh? I thought I was having some kind of breakdown. I couldn't stop. And then, I'm ashamed to say, I started tearin' branches off that damn tree! It was just standing there mocking me - mocking us! Like our partnership was crumbling all around me but that blasted tree was still standing strong! It just made me so mad. That tree was a symbol of us, of our strength, of our commitment...so I thought. Well, then a ranger or something (he had a uniform on) came by and told me to move along. After I dismissed the idea of plugging him one, I went back to the car.
I don't know if this makes any sense but it's what happened. I can't really think right now. I feel like when I think about it, my insides are being forced through a cheese grater. Getting shot didn't hurt as much. I'm just confused and pissed off and I feel like I want to go tell my best friend...but he's gone! It's not fair and it hurts and I just hope she was good enough for you to justify all this...oh I don't know what I'm saying except all I want to say is I miss you so much, Hutch.
But I'm not sure if I ever want to see you again. I'm sorry. I have to go now. I need some time or something - I don't really know. All I know is that if I stay in this city one more hour I think I will lose my mind! I already called Dobey. I did my end of the report on the explosion - it's in your top drawer.
He tore the page out of the typewriter and stuffed it in an envelope. He then scrawled "HUTCH" on the outside, and placed it carefully under the piggy bank. Tears threatened as he looked at the familiar bank. He had the urge to heave it across the room, but he and his partner had caused enough speculation in the last few days around the department, and they didn't need any more. He angrily brushed his hands across his eyes, turned, and ran from the squad room.
He was gone for a week.
"Hey, Blondie, take it easy on that, will ya?" Huggy cautioned.
It was two days later and Hutch had taken up permanent residence at the end of the bar at the Pits. Or so Huggy was beginning to believe. He had taken pity on the poor soul the first night and let him pickle himself on Tequila shooters. Tonight the drink of choice was bourbon, straight up, and Hutch had had plenty.
"Hutch, let me get you a cab – okay, my brother?"
Hutch looked up at his friend and smiled crookedly. "Don't need a cab, Huggy – Schtarsky’s s’comin ta get me."
Huggy sighed. It was the same thing last night. Hutch got blind drunk and then insisted on staying until Starsky waltzed through the door to rescue him. It was like Hutch thought if he could get into enough trouble, it would conjure up his partner. It didn't work. No Starsky.
"C'mon, Hutch. I'm gonna take you home personally tonight." Huggy came around the bar and put his arm around the drunken man's shoulder. "Hey, Anita – I'll be back in a few!"
Hutch turned on the stool to face Huggy and then buried his face into his chest. Huggy wrapped his thin arms around Hutch and gave him a squeeze. "Okay, ya big boy – let's go."
Huggy managed to get Hutch undressed and into his bed without too much trouble. Hutch had fallen sound asleep as soon as his head hit the pillows. Huggy was quietly walking toward the door when the phone rang. He jumped for it before the sound woke his friend.
“What it is.”
“Uh – Hutch…” a woman’s voice spoke tentatively.
“He’s a little indisposed at the moment,” replied Huggy. “Who is this?”
“Who is this?” asked the voice.
“I give up – who is this?” Huggy clutched the phone tighter, knowing full well who was on the other end. “Hutch is not receiving calls this evening. And if I were you, I wouldn’t bother calling here again.”
“Who the hell is this?” Kira sputtered angrily.
“Let’s just say it’s an interested party. Interested in keeping my friends, Starsky and Hutch, from being manipulated anymore, ya dig?”
“Well I. . .”
Huggy was just getting warmed up. “And another thing,” he interrupted the protest, “where I come from, we got a name for women like you. I can see your kind coming a mile away. So don’t think just because you can hide behind that badge that you are any better than the girls walking the streets. You stay away from them - both of them! Do I make myself clear?”
Huggy slammed the phone down and smiled. It felt good to take a little of his own frustrations out on the cause of it all. He still didn’t understand how his Caucasian brothers had let that vixen get between them this way. In all his years, he had never seen such a serious rift between them. He sighed and walked over to the refrigerator, grabbed a beer, flopped down on the couch and for the thousandth time wished the prodigal son would return.
Minnie Kaplan had heard about the now famous blow-up – both of them – as well as the subsequent flight of her favorite cop through the usual channels – the women’s room. As she walked to her car after work, she recalled the last conversation she had with Starsky.
“This thing with Kira…is it serious?” She had asked him and watched as the usually joyful face clouded over. She didn’t have the heart to push any more.
“I should’ve gotten more details. Mother Minnie is slipping.” she chided herself as she got in her car and headed home.
As she turned the corner and headed onto her block, she was startled to see the familiar red Torino parked at the curb in front of her house. Music blasted from the open windows and a sneakered foot hung out of the driver’s side. She pulled slowly into her driveway, giving herself a moment to regroup.
Starsky got out of the car and headed toward her. He had a full week’s growth of beard on his usually clean-shaven face. His clothes looked slept in and his hair was a bird’s nest of tangles. He smiled at Minnie, and she could see that the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes, which were red-rimmed and bloodshot. He looked like hell.
“Hiya Minnie, what’s shakin?”
“David Starsky – you look like death warmed over!” Minnie reached up and pulled a leaf out of the unruly curls. “Where’ve you been – sleeping in the trees?”
Starsky just shrugged.
Minnie, her maternal instincts kicking into overdrive, wrapped her thin arms around the pathetic boy and hugged him close. “It’s good to see you, darlin’ – no matter how you look.” She released him and said, “Come on in here and let ol’ Minnie fix you something to eat. You look like you could use a good meal.”
Starsky breathed a sigh of relief and said as he followed the woman into the house, “I thought I always looked good to you, Minnie.”
Hutch sighed heavily as he tossed the last of the daily reports on the finished pile. He had done enough paperwork in the past six days to last him the rest of his life. Six days. That’s how long it had been since he had seen his partner. Longer since he had actually had a conversation with him. Unless of course you counted the debacle at Kira’s, he thought to himself. He stared across at the empty chair. Well, my partner – are you ever coming back? Is this my punishment? Don’t you think it’s a little harsh? I feel like I’ve gotten the death sentence. Yeah, pathetic, huh, Starsk – your old pal is truly pathetic...
The phone interrupted his pity party.
“Hutchinson,” he growled.
“Hutch, honey – it’s Minnie.”
“Hey Minnie – how are you?”
“Fine, dear. Now listen. Your disappearing partner just reappeared on my doorstep.”
Hutch gripped the phone tighter. “Is he all right?”
“Sure – he’s fine. I got him soaking in the tub as we speak.”
Hutch breathed a sigh of relief that was immediately replaced by a growing anger. “That’s nice. Tell him I said hello.”
“Aw c’mon, Hutch – he’s in a bad way. Looks a little like one of those mime paintings – the ones with the big eyes and one tear rolling down the cheeks. Pathetic.”
“Minnie, I don’t know what to say…”
Minnie rolled her eyes. Sometimes men were so dense. “You don’t have to say anything, darlin’ – just get in your car and drive over here.”
“He’s made it more than obvious he doesn’t want to see me.” Hutch began to waver.
“Oh for the love of God, you two are worse than a coupla old women! Just give me and the rest of your friends a break and get over here and get this thing fixed up.” Minnie was practically shouting now, “I’m not running a halfway house you know!”
“Okay, okay – let me get these reports done and I’ll be over.”
Hutch hung up and found himself smiling for the first time in a week.
After a hearty meal, Minnie and her unexpected guest were sitting on the back porch, making great headway through a case of beer, Minnie keeping her ears open for the approach of the LTD. Starsky still hadn’t said much. He had cleaned up and changed clothes and was looking almost normal. Almost. Minnie couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something different about this David Starsky sitting across from her, nursing his beer.
“So, she ventured, “you wanna talk about it or are you just planning on getting drunk and taking advantage of my helpless virtue?”
Starsky chuckled and ran a hand through his still damp curls. “Aw, Minnie – it’s a big mess.”
“I gathered that, honey. And you know that you don’t have to explain nothing to me – I’m just glad you finally came over for dinner. But I need to know one thing…”
Starsky looked up sharply and answered the question before she asked it. “No, he doesn’t know where I am and he doesn’t need to.”
Okay, two things, Minnie thought as she took a deep breath and continued, “…and Kira?”
She watched as the dark cloud descended over the handsome features. “Fuckin’ bitch.”
“Well, I guess that answers that.”
They sat silent for a moment. Minnie wavered between praying Hutch would hurry and wishing she had never made the phone call. Maybe this was one time that she had gravely miscalculated the situation. And then, the dam broke. Everything that the man before her had been holding in for a week came out in a rush.
“You know, Minnie, at first I was just so hurt. It hurt so bad, I couldn’t get away from it. I drove all the way to Seattle and back trying to outrun it but it didn’t work. All I could see in front of me was Hutch – my partner – my best friend – walking out of that room – out of her bedroom. He must’ve run over there the minute he left me! What the hell is wrong with him, huh? I tell him I think I’m in love with her – the first time I’ve said that since…well in a long time and what does he do? Goes right over and proceeds to pork her brains out! I mean – I don’t get it. Is he insane? Or did I completely misjudge everything between us? I know he’s been a little hinky the last few months, but what about us? Did everything that happened in the past eight years – was it all a big joke? God, Minnie – I didn’t know what I was gonna do with this. I thought I was gonna die. I’m not a stupid man, but this whole thing was just beyond me. I mean – what the hell am I supposed to do now, huh?”
Minnie caught a blond head duck out of sight behind a bush and breathed a sigh of relief. She only hoped he had heard the entire thing. She turned to Starsky with tears in her eyes. “So, what made you come back?”
“That’s the thing that has me puzzled the most. Because in the middle of all of this, the one clear thought that kept running through my brain was the certainty that what I needed the most was to see Hutch. Now, how crazy is that? The person who just tore my heart right out of my chest is the only one that can help me. Certifiable, I must say.”
“Not, really, darling – it’s understandable. Hutch broke it and now you want him to fix it.”
“Fix what?” Hutch chose this moment to stroll out from behind the hedge. He walked past a stunned Starsky and perched rather uncomfortably on the edge of the table. He smiled weakly at Minnie and finally looked at Starsky. “Hiya, partner.” It sounded like a question.
Starsky looked from Hutch to Minnie, realized he’d been had, and ran a hand across his face.
“Don’t blame Minnie, Starsky; she’s just trying to help.”
The words angered Starsky. He rose from his chair and faced Hutch. “Help? Help? Well, partner, you’d better tell her the dangers involved in trying to help! Why are you here, Hutch? You wanna sleep with Minnie now? In case that’s what I might do? Gotta stay one step ahead. . .”
Minnie gasped, stood, and headed into the house.
Starsky, realizing what he had just said, held a hand out to her. “Minnie…”
She turned and faced both men. “Starsky, I know how much you are hurting and that is why I’m not going to hold that statement against you. Actually, I hold the both of you equally responsible. Grown men, the both of you.” She muttered something else under her breath as she entered the house and closed and locked the door. The click of the tumblers echoed into the now still night.
Starsky turned and hurled his empty beer bottle into the bushes in frustration.
“Littering is illegal, officer,” Hutch said quietly, trying to break the ice.
“So arrest me.” Starsky retorted and flung himself back into the lawn chair.
The two men were silent for a moment. Then, as had happened so often in their partnership, they both began talking at once.
“Starsk, I’m so sorry…”
“I just couldn’t see you for a while…”
They both stopped, looking at each other.
“Go ahead.” Hutch smiled. He didn’t care if Starsky yelled at him from now till doomsday – he was just glad to hear his voice and know he was okay.
“No, after you.” Starsky noticed that Hutch looked thinner. He took some pleasure in thinking that he had not been the only one suffering this week.
“No, Starsky – I owe it to you to go first.”
Starsky sat silent, gathering his thoughts. He hadn’t been expecting this little reunion so soon. There was so much that he had to say to this man before him – and he knew that a good part of it would surely wipe that idiotic smile off his face. Watching as the moonlight glinted off the too-familiar blond head, he came to a decision.
He stood suddenly and spoke, “Hutch – I can’t do this right now…”
“What does that mean?”
“I feel like I was ambushed and I need more time.”
Hutch sighed audibly, trying to keep his own anger in check. It had been almost a week – just how long did Starsky’s game of torture need to go on? “How much more time, Starsky?” he asked evenly.
“Meet me tomorrow at Westside Park. At two o’clock.” Starsky began picking up beer bottles, not waiting for Hutch’s reply.
Hutch watched his partner for a moment, and then headed back around the house without saying a word.
Starsky smiled as he followed, carrying the bottles to his car, not wanting to disturb the irritated homeowner any more than he had to. He would smooth it over with Minnie tomorrow. Roses, maybe, he mused. As he came around the house, he could just see the taillights on the LTD as they disappeared down the street. His smile grew wider as he threw the bottles in the back of the Torino and started the engine.
He knew Hutch would be there tomorrow. He had known his partner far too long not to recognize the aquiesance that was written all over his silence.
He gunned the engine and for the first time in a long time, headed for home.
Okay, so maybe he had been a little cocky last night. Maybe Hutch hadn’t even heard him.
Starsky was standing in Westside Park, feeling a little foolish. It was three o’clock and he had not see hide nor hair of his partner.
“Sorry I’m late.”
Starsky turned to see Hutch standing behind him.
“I was just about to leave.”
“I’m glad you didn’t.”
Starsky smiled and cocked his head toward the tree in front of him. “It’s getting bigger.”
Hutch took three steps forward and stood even with his partner and inspected the tree. “I guess the vandalism last week left it no worse for wear.”
Starsky grimaced. “Yeah, that was lame.”
“You were mad.”
“Not at the tree.”
Hutch closed his eyes and whispered,”So you wanna hit me?”
He had no idea what to expect from Starsky when he arrived at the park, but this little dance rattled his nerves even more, if that were possible.
Last night when Starsky had asked him to meet him here, he was relieved. Finally they could put this debacle behind them. Then, about three o’clock in his sleepless night he began to worry. What if Starsky was asking him here to end the partnership? It was possible. He had not exactly been holding up his end for quite some time. Kira was just icing on the cake. He couldn’t really blame Starsky if he was ready to pitch it all in.
Starsky watched all this play over Hutch’s face and without thinking laid a hand on his shoulder. This startled Hutch out of his daydream.
“Before you say anything Starsky, let me say one thing to you.” He took two steps back, hoping the physical distance could calm his thoughts. Starsky took the hint and leaned down, collected two rocks in his hand, and casually moved further away.
“Don’t leave me. Please.”
Starsky dropped the rocks, startled. He took a step forward, and Hutch, realizing he had just spoken aloud, turned and cursed. Starsky reached for his arm, but Hutch walked to the tree and wrapped both hands around the trunk.
“Well, so far, this is going great.” Starsky looked toward the sky, wishing the threatening clouds would open up and soak them both, saving them from the pit of hell they were sinking into. He turned back to Hutch.
“I already left you,” he said softly.
Hutch turned and once again they found themselves face to face.
“Yeah, for a week, didn’t you notice?”
“Oh, that’s why I got so much done last week.”
“You fuck off.”
“After you – or do you like going last?”
Hutch’s face reddened – this was getting them nowhere. Where was their famous simpatico? Their rhythm? The give and take? The push and shove. Well, maybe not so much the push and shove. . .
“Hutch, get outta your head and talk to me.” Starsky moved in and placed both hands on Hutch’s shoulders.
“I’m sorry. God, Starsk – I am so sorry.”
Starsky dropped his hands, shoving them into his pockets. “So am I.”
“You have nothing to be sorry . . .”
“I left you.”
“I slept with her.”
“I hate her.” Starsky kicked at the ground. He had an entire speech planned, worked out on the long drives – all about how Hutch had been so distant and how he didn’t know what else to do and how frustrated he was that they seemed so at odds much of the time and how when he really thought about it, he didn’t give two cents about her and he just wanted to know what was going on with him, but now all he could do was swap insults.
Hutch had his own speech planned – how it seemed like this past year all the cases were either ridiculous or so damn heartbreaking he didn’t know which end was up and that all the death was piling up on him and he felt so distant from everyone and then when he got shot and Meredith. . . how Starsky seemed to fade into the background of his life and then here comes Kira and Starsky slipped farther away and he just wanted to feel again and here he was in the park and all he could do was whimper at the man before him.
“You should hate me.” Hutch finally found his voice. “I hate me.”
“Don’t you say that.” Starsky replied angrily. “Don’t you ever say that!”
“How can you not hate me? Look what I did, what I’ve been doing?”
“You . . . we’re going through a rough patch, that’s all.”
“Stop it, Starsky.”
“Making it be about fixing Hutch. I should be on my knees begging you to forgive me and instead you are . . .”
“Trying to forgive you and figure you out at the same time. Partner, that is not easy.” Starsky walked over to a nearby bench, flopped down, stuck both legs out straight in front of him, crossed at the ankles, and motioned Hutch over. He wearily sat down and leaned his elbows on his knees and rested his head in his hands. Starsky patted his back and sighed. They sat in silence for a moment.
“How come you don’t run anymore, Hutch?”
Hutch smiled. Non-sequitors – Starsky’s specialties.
“I dunno – bad back. No time. No reason.”
“And how come you don’t eat all that squidgy stuff anymore?”
“Yeah, butterfly bones and black strap molasses and green grass shakes. You eat almost as bad as me now.”
“Almost. Although I’m not sure even you would have eaten cold soup from a can.”
Starsky winced at the mention of that poisoned can of soup that almost cost him his partner. “Seems like we’ve been playing lots of games, huh?”
“Seems we have.”
“Why? You tired of me, Hutch?”
“You’re doing it again.”
“I can’t help it. It’s what I do.”
Hutch straightened up. “Yeah, and it’s gotta stop.”
Hutch stood and pulled Starsky to his feet. “Don’t you get it? You’ve been doing it since I met you. You’ve had my back since the first time John Colby tried to switch our test scores at the academy. And what have I done? Let’s see: I cursed you for not giving me a fix, I slugged you when you told me about Gillian, I let Simone’s goons snatch you, I slept with Kira . . .
“. . . fucking bitch . . .”
“. . . yes, but I . . .”
Starsky once and for all grabbed Hutch by the shoulders and shook him slightly. “What’s going on with you? Yeah, that stuff happened. But if you wanna make a list – you also found me at the zoo and you saved me from the poison and you saved me in the restaurant and you lied to Dobey about Sharman and by the way, if you would care to recall, I threw you off a cliff and I almost got you killed when I wrecked the Torino and I let that kid shoot you and, by the way, you then turned around and saved me and Meredith. . .”
Hutch started to protest, but Starsky waved him off and everything he thought about during the last endless week away from his partner came spilling out of him. In ten minutes he got out an entire year of worry and anger and frustration and hurt. Then he came to Kira – and he stumbled.
“I told you how I felt about her.”
“You just left me . . . and went to her.”
“I know, I know. God I wish I could take it all back. All of it. All last year. Every damn day. I swear Starsky – it’s killing me to finally realize that as lousy as I felt, I was hurting you too.”
“We’re partners, remember? You itch and I scratch.”
“We were partners.”
“I know you’ve been thinking about it. I know you have every right to request a new partner – maybe Meredith and you should give it a go . . .”
“Meredith – what the hell does Meredith have to do with this?” Starsky frowned, as some missing pieces floated together. “You think I wanna partner up with Meredith? God, I can’t leave you alone for a minute before you start thinking. . .”
“You DID partner up with Meredith.”
“Cuz you were shot and Dobey made me.”
“Aw come on, Starsk – when do you ever do what Dobey says?”
“When I’m trying to find who shot my partner.”
“But you liked Meredith . . .”
“Yeah, she’s a good cop, not to mention a great kisser, but hell Hutch – is that what you really think? What the hell is wrong with you? I mean it! What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I don’t want to be a cop.”
Hutch said it so softly, Starsky thought maybe he dreamed it. He opened his mouth to reply but Hutch whirled and took off towards his car. Starsky, stunned both by the confession and then how fast Hutch bolted, stood rooted to the spot.
“Not a cop?” He shook his head and, realizing Hutch was getting away, ran to the Torino. By the time Starsky pulled into traffic, his partner had disappeared.
He banged on the steering wheel in frustration. “Terrific, just terrific!”
The phone was ringing before Hutch could get his door open. He let it ring. He tossed off his jacket, unhooked his gun, hung it on the hook, and threw himself on the bed. He figured he had about 20 minutes before Starsky would come barreling through the door. He did take the extra step of parking around the block in the grocery store parking lot, but it was only a token deterrent. Starsky knew him too well. Then he had a chilling thought. Maybe Starsky wouldn’t even look for him. He was basing all his assumptions on the old days – the old Starsky and Hutch – the days when everyone just slurred their names together – Starskyhutch – saved time since they were never apart – the days when he knew which end was up and who the bad guys were and he didn’t go sleep with his best friend’s girl. ‘Fucking bitch’, he unconsciously thought as he got up to pace.
He opened the fridge and pulled out a beer. He stared at the woeful contents – two empty pizza cartons, seven beers, and an egg. Where was all his squidgy stuff? Starsky was right. When did he stop caring about what he ate? When did he stop caring about what he looked like? He fingered the moustache, thoughtfully.
Right on cue, he heard the lock turn as Starsky pushed the door open and stood in the doorway, fingering the key. He watched Hutch cross the room in front of him and sit down on the piano bench, his back toward the door.
“Well, put the key back and come in.” Hutch took a long pull on the bottle.
Starsky turned to comply and then instead, whirled and threw the key across the room, where it bounced off the kitchen window and landed halfway back across the living room.
“Starsky!” Hutch jumped up.
“That’s it!” Starsky shouted back. “That fucking key! That’s your whole problem.” He held up a warning finger. “And don’t you dare go pick it up!”
Hutch sat back down. Starsky turned, slammed the door and stood for a moment with his back toward Hutch. Then he walked past the stunned man at the piano, and headed for the fridge. He pulled out a beer, twisted open the top, pulled out a chair at the table, and sat. He glared at the bottle, and then glared at Hutch.
“My key’s the problem?” Hutch ventured.
“Yes it is. Hutch, why the hell do you still keep it up there?”
“Everyone knows where it is – why don’t you just keep the door wide open – on second thought – why do you even have a door?”
Hutch stood and crossed the room. “I didn’t ask you over here to lecture me on home safety.”
“You didn’t ask me over here at all.” Starsky stood and began pacing. Somewhere deep inside Hutch, something cracked. How many times had
he watched his partner do this very dance? The dance where he tried like hell to figure out what was wrong with Hutch. Whether it was a tough case, or a tough break, or a bad break-up, or a bad bust up, Starsky always paced and Hutch always sat and somehow they figured it out. He took his position on the couch to watch and wait.
“You don’t want to be a cop – you don’t hafta be a cop. We could be lawyers or dentists or truck drivers or cab drivers. You don’t hafta do anything, Hutch – but you can’t stop being my partner.” Starsky stopped and glared at the man on the couch.
“I don’t think dentists have partners.” Hutch tried humor. It was either that or just start boo-hooing right here in his living room.
“How would you know? When’s the last time you been to the dentist, Hutch? Or the gym or the barber or . . . or . . .” Starsky stood before Hutch hands out, defeated. He was done. If Hutch wanted to end the partnership and walk away from police work, there was really nothing he could do to stop it. Why had he even come over here? Hutch was right – it always ended up being about fixing Hutch. No matter what Hutch did, Starsky put everything aside to be there for his friend. Everything. Every time.
“Forget it – just forget it.” He didn’t know where he was headed but he had to get out. Away from Hutch and away from his own thoughts – which were beginning to confuse him even more.
Hutch met him at the front door and held his hand against it as Starsky pulled on the handle. He looked hard into his friend’s blue eyes, as familiar to him as his own. “Stay. Please.”
Starsky gave up the tug of war and threw himself on the couch. He was exhausted. He had no idea how to play this game. He just wanted it all back to normal. When Hutch ragged him about his diet and about his car and about his choice of women. He felt the couch shift as Hutch plopped down beside him.
“Can we start over?”
“You want me to move over?” Starsky pulled his legs up under him.
“No, you’re fine. I said, can we start over?”
“Yeah – we could you know.”
“I don’t wanna start over. I just want you back.”
“For now. But what about next week when you still hate being a cop?”
“I’ll figure that out next week.”
“So you want us to forget everything that’s happened?”
“Fucking bitch.” Starsky stood. “Even her name puts me in a bad mood.”
“So let’s exorcise her.”
“I thought that’s what you were doing when I walked in on you.”
Hutch stood, not quite understanding. Was Starsky actually making a joke? “Excuse me?”
“Well, I guess if you’re not going to the gym – you gotta get your ex-or-cise somewhere.” Starsky attempted a grin.
“Fucking bitch,” Hutch growled and smiled. He hoped it was the right response. Could it all really be this easy? Could they just slide back with a quip and a hug?
“Yeah, we showed her, huh?” Starsky punched Hutch in the shoulder – hoping he would follow him out of the dark woods they had been in.
“Starsk – I’m so sorry.” Hutch held out his hands.
Starsky grabbed them both. “For the last time, Blintz, I forgive you. Sure I gotta sore spot still – who wouldn’t? But I’m more interested now in figuring out why you’re so down on yourself. Why you sprouted that bush on your lip?”
“You’re doing it again,” warned Hutch.
“Oh, keep your finger holstered Hutchinson – it won’t work. You said it yourself. I’ve had your back since John Colby set us up on that date with those contortionist twins from the Bulgarian Circus and I don’t plan on moving anytime soon. Deal with it.”
Hutch took one last look at his partner, who stood there grinning, and pulled him into a fierce hug.
“Smashing me, you’re smashing me.” Starsky struggled to breathe.
Hutch released him and headed to the fridge. “You want another beer?”
For the next 20 minutes, they chatted. About past cases, about the weather, about Cal Dobey’s curve ball, about nothing and everything. Starsky watched Hutch relax, actually relax, for the first time in months. Hutch watched Starsky relax, really relax for the first time in weeks.
“Want another one?” Starsky got up and headed to the fridge.
“Sure, but maybe we should think about eating.”
Starsky pulled open the fridge door and shook his head. “This is a sorry state of affairs. I guess I should be glad there are no rats.” He grabbed two beers and hesitated.
“On the counter,” Hutch answered without the question.
Starsky grabbed the opener and walked back over to hand Hutch a beer. “Speaking of leaving your key out in the open. . .”
“Were we speaking of that?”
“C’mon Hutch – it’s dangerous. How many times has your place been tossed? Or maybe you want I should mention the name of a certain nurse?”
Hutch shuddered. “Only if you must.”
“Can’t you just carry a key ring?” Starsky moved to the piano, lifted up the lid and ran a hand over the keys.
“Don’t get beer on my piano, please.”
“Don’t leave me.” Starsky spoke quietly, not looking at Hutch.
“Starsk . . .?”
“That’s what you said to me in the park isn’t it? Don’t leave me? Well, I ain’t leaving Hutch. Ever. The rest is up to you.”
“I don’t know what to say, Starsky.”
“How about, ‘okay Starsk – I will never leave you,’ huh?”
“Sounds like wedding vows.” Hutch shifted uncomfortably on the couch. This new turn in the conversation felt different. Intimate. Dangerous.
“Okay – till death to us part then.” Starsky crossed the room and sat on the coffee table, knees touching his suddenly agitated partner’s. “What do you say?” He watched with amusement as Hutch tried to maneuver his long legs out of the way, but Starsky’s knees clamped them together.
“Been down that road, buddy. No thanks.” Hutch struggled to keep his voice even. His heart was racing.
“Ain’t been down it with me, buddy.”
“Starsky, this is a ridiculous conversation.” Hutch ran a hand through his hair.
“Why you so nervous, Hutch?” Starsky gathered confidence. The itch at the back of his neck he’d been trying to reach since Kira entered the picture was just about to get scratched. He wondered why Hutch didn’t notice all the puzzle pieces clicking into place. In Starsky’s mind, the noise was deafening.
“I’m not nervous – I just have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Yes you do, college boy – you figured it out long before me – is that what’s been eating you?”
Hutch closed his eyes briefly, took a measured breath and racked his brain for a clue to what Starsky was talking about. Starsky watched it all play across his partner’s face. Finally, he got the look he wanted.
“Yeah, Blintz, that’s what I’m talking about.”
“Starsky . . .”
“Some detectives we are, huh? So how long you think you’ve been in love with me?”
Hutch sputtered and tried to get off the couch. Starsky just squeezed his knees tighter and held up a finger. “Huh uh! Not until you fess up. Me, I’m figuring it’s been a while. Since Rosie at least. And then John died and I guess I just buried it. Kira musta just broke it all open again.”
“Starsky, are you drunk?”
“Don’t worry, babe. I’ve had about an hour to sit with this – you’ll catch up.”
“Sure. On my way over here I couldn’t figure out why I was right back in the same old scene. Here I was again – chasing after you, making sure you were okay. So right in the middle of Washington and 5th – it hit me. Cuz you’re it, Hutch. The one, the brass ring, the grand prize. And here I’ve been – sitting right across from you this whole time.”
Hutch finally managed to wrench himself away from Starsky’s knees. He crawled over the arm of the couch, stood up and began pacing the small kitchen floor, careful not to look at his partner. How long had he been in love with Starsky? Since the first time he pulled up in that candy-assed car, probably. Somewhere in his consciousness he always knew he felt something different for his partner, but he had learned long ago to keep those thoughts hidden. Besides, they were close because of the job, because of the work they do, because of those endless blue eyes . . .
Hutch stopped dead. Where did that come from? He looked over to where Starsky had plopped himself on the couch, feet propped on the coffee table, looking oh so pleased with himself – waiting. For what? For Hutch to now confess and profess? He watched a wave of uncertainly flicker across Starsky’s face and the crack he felt earlier broke wide open.
He made his decision in a moment, closed the space between them in two strides, pulled Starsky to his feet, took him by his shoulders, and kissed him senseless. After the first initial shock, Starsky wrapped his arms around his partner, pressing his entire body against Hutch’s long, lean form. The kiss deepened. It was at this very moment that the front door – the topic of conversation all evening – swung wide open to reveal Minnie and Huggy, holding a pizza and a case of beer respectively, standing in the doorway.
At the sight of the man-pretzel in front of her, Minnie squeaked and stumbled into Huggy, who rolled his eyes, shook his head, and pushed Minnie through the open door and onto the piano bench. The two detectives untangled, both out of breath. Huggy walked over, handed Hutch the case of beer, patted Starsky on the back and headed into the kitchen.
“I take it you cats made up,” he said as he switched on the oven. “Get the pie away from that woman before she drops it.”
Minnie sat on the bench, her mouth wide open, making small gasping noises. Starsky, recovering first, grabbed the case from Hutch, casually tossed a “Hiya Minnie,” as he pulled the pizza out of her hands and joined Huggy. Hutch blew out a breath, wiped his moustache and tried to look nonchalant.
He smiled weakly at Minnie. “Hi, Minnie. What’s shakin?”
“Sorry if we interrupted you, my brothers, but Minnie showed up at the Pits worried about you and we decided to pay you a visit. I guess the worry was for nothing. You got an opener?”
Minnie found her voice. “Starsky.” She stood. “Hutch.”
Hutch gave a half wave. “Minnie?”
“Starsky and Hutch? You and Hutch? You and Starsky? You? What? How? Where? What about . . .? And . . . ? Why? How?” She ran out of words and sat back down on the bench.
Starsky walked over to her with an open beer. “Here, drink this.”
Minnie chugged the entire contents, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and offered the empty bottle back to Starsky, who smiled and shook his head.
“I know it’s a little surprising . . .” Starsky started.
“Surprising?” Minnie sputtered. “You can say that again!”
Hutch walked over and took the empty bottle from Starsky, catching his eye and what he saw there made him blush right through his moustache. “Yeah, kind of surprised us, too.”
“Not me.” Huggy joined them, sprawling onto the couch. “Although I was starting to wonder if you all would ever figure it out. Just wish it wasn’t that pit viper I have to give the props to.”
Hutch joined Huggy on the couch. His knees were already weak from the kiss, the unexpected guests, and the look Starsky kept tossing him while he filled the fridge with the case of beer.
Minnie felt like she had entered some strange dimension of time and space. Starsky and Hutch? The two foxiest, most eligible, straightest men in the entire city – together? She needed another beer.
No one spoke. But no one was silent. Starsky clanged bottles, Huggy be- bopped a beat on his thigh, Hutch smoothed out wrinkles on his pants, and Minnie clicked her tongue against her teeth. Starsky finished his task and swaggered over, perching himself on the arm of the couch, locking his leg over Hutch’s.
“Okay, Minnie – let us have it. I can hear your wheels turning from over here.”
Instead of a reply, Minnie stood and held out her hand to Huggy. “Mr. Bear, let’s go.”
“You don’t have to go,” Hutch protested.
“Minnie! Come on.”
Minnie held up her hand to the two detectives. “Boys, you’ve thrown ol Minnie one hell of a curve here. I gotta go home and figure out how I could have missed what now seems completely obvious. Of course, I am in no way letting either one of you off the hook. It just looks to Mother Minnie like you two need a little time to yourselves. But never fear – I will be back for a complete and thorough interrogation.” She turned again to Huggy, who had unfolded and was standing beside her. “You ready?”
“Always, my sweetness.” He offered Minnie his arm. “That goes ditto for me. Soon as you two are done with each other, let’s rap. I still got drink coupons from the Green Parrot.” As the door closed they heard Huggy shout, “Oh, and keep the pizza.” The apartment fell silent.
Neither man moved for a moment. Then Starsky let gravity carry him down onto Hutch’s lap.
“I’m hungry.” Starsky whined and wiggled into a more comfortable position.
Hutch didn’t dare move. “If you get off me, I’ll warm up that pizza.”
“I’m not moving. Took me too long to get here.”
“Then I guess you’ll starve.”
“I guess I will.” Starsky turned to face his partner. “You gonna kiss me again?”
“I don’t know.”
“Didn’t like the last one?”
“You’re kidding, right? One more minute and I couldn’t have stopped if Dobey, my mother, and the Pope walked in.”
“Dobey’s Baptist. He wouldn’t be seen dead with the Pope. I do wish Kira woulda walked in, though. What I wouldn’t give to see the look on her face . . .”
Hutch shifted out from under Starsky and eased himself onto the other cushion. He pulled Starsky’s legs onto his and watched him settle back against the arm of the couch.
“That’s better, thanks.” Starsky sighed.
“What about you?” Hutch kneaded the muscles up and down Starsky’s leg.
“What about me?”
“You gonna kiss me?”
“What you’re doin’ now feels great. I might start purring.” Starsky closed his eyes. He could get used to this in a hurry.
“Okay, Starsk – I will never leave you.” Hutch said softly.
Starsky opened his eyes. “Till death do us part?” His voice was almost a whisper.
Hutch’s hands stopped. “Not even then.”
Starsky grabbed Hutch’s hand and looked him right in the eye. “From this day forward?”
Hutch couldn’t look away. He took Starsky’s free hand and clutched it to his chest. “Me and Thee.” He pulled Starsky forward until they were nose to nose. “I solemnly swear.”
“I do. And I will.” Starsky brushed his lips across Hutch’s. He frowned and pulled away. “But you must lose the fur.”
“I will. And I do.” Hutch kissed the back of Starsky’s hand. “Okay, now what? You seem to have all the answers today. What do we do now?”
“Well, seems to me, we oughta eat that pizza, shave your lip, lock the door, and see what happens.” Starsky lifted his legs off Hutch’s lap, swung them around and stood up. He held out his hand and helped Hutch off the couch. He walked into the kitchen, pulling Hutch with him, put the pizza in the oven, keeping a grip on his partner’s hand so that Hutch followed right behind and headed over to lock the door. He leaned down to pick up the key from the floor, almost pulling Hutch over in the process, and then led him into the bathroom, where, with one hand, he shaved off the offending growth. Hutch allowed himself to be led back out into the living room. When Starsky headed toward the kitchen, Hutch stopped.
“Okay Ramon, I’m taking the lead.” He pulled his partner – his friend, the love of his life – close and tested the new face.
“Mmmnnn, better,” Starsky murmured, grabbed Hutch’s hand again, led him into the kitchen where he turned off the oven, reached around and clicked off the ringer on the phone and headed for the bedroom, picking up his pace until he was literally dragging his partner – his soul mate, the love of his life – over the end of the couch.
“This has been a very weird day,” Hutch commented as he tumbled onto his bed and into the eager arms of his lover. “Good. Productive. But weird. . .”
Any further analysis was forgotten as Starsky claimed his partner – lips, heart and soul.
or just another beginning?