(c) August 2015 by Charlotte Frost


A Sequel to Love Is


Starsky decided that he could indulge in a degree of self pity.  It was 10:32 PM on a Friday night, and he was sitting alone in his Corvette, on a surveillance job.  The way things had worked out, either he took the job, or else they would have to subcontract it out to another P.I. firm, which would cut into their profit.  Since Starsky was going to be alone anyway, he may as well save the corporation money.

Hutch had been playing with Clark Taylor's band for nearly two months now.  The original intent was that he played guitar and was backup vocals.  Thankfully, Taylor figured out pretty fast that Hutch's voice was wasted on back-up vocals.  Each Friday night, during their two-hour performance, Hutch was the lead on at least a couple of songs.

Once making the decision to join the band, Hutch had told Taylor about his relationship with Starsky.  Taylor had immediately answered, "I'm interested in how well you can play -- not who you sleep with."  But he had also cautioned Hutch not to be overt about it, lest someone in the audience with too much to drink and feeling unkindly toward such relationships, decide to make an issue of it.  Therefore, Starsky had only been to the tavern a couple of times to watch Hutch play.  This situation was the first time he could recall their relationship being something they had to be careful about in front of others; otherwise, he didn't mind that Hutch had a passion of his own which didn't include his partner.  It wasn't much different than when Hutch used be away from home for a few hours to ride Poncho.

Still, that didn't change the fact that Starsky was feeling lonely, as he sat in the dark on Petunia Street.  Up ahead was an upper class, high rise apartment building.  On the fourth floor resided Henry Jenkins.  He was dating Katherine Larsen, a young, wealthy woman who wanted her new boyfriend checked out, before she got more serious with him.  She was more than willing to pay whatever it took to find out about his background, and what he was doing when he wasn't with her.  Though she never came out and said so, it was obvious that one of her concerns was other women that Henry might be seeing.  He was said to work at his father's investment consulting firm, but she suspected that any real effort toward his job was minimal, and was highly interested in how he spent his time.

For this particular Friday night, Jenkins was alone.  Starsky had paid a maintenance worker to let him know if he happened so see anyone going up to Jenkins' apartment.  Plus, Starsky had binoculars, and had been keeping an eye on the balcony of the apartment.  Jenkins had stood alone on the balcony a while ago, smoking a cigarette.  Then he'd gone back inside, and stayed inside in the hour since.  Some of the lights had gone out in the apartment, and Starsky wondered if his subject had gone to bed for the night.

Not always an exciting Friday night for the wealthy, he decided.  He'd rolled down the window a few minutes ago, hoping the crisp December air would help keep him alert.  It was getting downright chilly, and he considered rolling it up again.  For now, he put the binoculars to his eyes and saw that the balcony was still empty.

"Give me your wallet!"

Startled, Starsky lowered the binoculars and looked to his left, where the voice had come from.

He was staring at a gun.

His heart kicked into high gear.

"Move it, honky!  Right now.  Your wallet.  Or I'll blow you away and take the damn car!"

Be calm.  He doesn't know I'm a cop.

Except... he was no longer a cop.  Didn't even carry a weapon.

Still, instincts prevailed.  Starsky slowly reached for his back pocket, while his eyes rose to the man who held the gun.  "Take it easy."  A dark ski mask in the dark of night, that didn't tell him anything, though the voice was young and male.  He couldn't make out the type of gun in the darkness, which was held a couple of feet from the open window. 

What he did know was that he wasn't going to turn over his wallet. 

Starsky opened it, and pulled out a couple of twenties.  "Here, take this.  That's all you're getting."  He slowly held the bills out the open window.

One hand came up and grabbed the bills.  The other was trembling as it held the gun.

Is he scared, or on the edge from some kind of stimulant?  Or both?

"Don't give me that honky-assed bullshit!  I want the whole wallet.  Throw it out here.  Or you're dead, and I take the car."

Maybe he had miscalculated the danger.  One mistake, and it could all be over.  But, dammit, he wasn't going to hand over his wallet.

"All right," Starsky muttered, a plan forming in his mind.  His lack of practice at dealing with violence made his heart pound at the heightened danger he could be setting into motion.  He flipped the wallet closed, and let it fall from his fingers to the floorboard, sighing as though he'd been clumsy.  "Hang on."  He leaned down to the floorboard of the car, while his left arm reached to the door handle.

"Hurry, you rich honky fuck head!"

Now or never.  Starsky abruptly cocked the handle, and threw his weight against the door as it opened.

The man fell back, the gun sounding loud and hollow as it hit the pavement.  Starsky lurched past the door to get on top of the man, fully aware that he wasn't as agile as he used to be, when he and Hutch had worked the streets.

The man wriggled from beneath Starsky and struggled to one side.

Starsky barely saw the glistening edge of the gun from his interior car light, and moved to grab it.

The man got up and started running.

The gun felt lightweight and overly smooth to Starsky's fingers.  He held it in both hands and aimed at the retreating figure.  He pulled the trigger.  It made a soft "click".

Perplexed, Starsky lowered the gun and examined it in the light of the open car door.  It was a toy.

He wasn't sure if relief or anger was what he felt strongest.

He needed to call the police.

What would the police do about an attempted robbery -- technically a robbery, since the perpetrator got away with forty bucks -- when Starsky couldn't even give a description?

He was never going to get that forty bucks back.

He staggered to the car seat and sat in it sideways, with the door still open, holding the gun.

His hands were shaking.

A part of him wanted to analyze it -- that he had been in far more dangerous situations, far too many times, when he and Hutch had been on the Force.  So, this was nothing, compared to that.

Still, he listened to the pounding of his heart.  Watched as his hands continued to tremble.

Maybe the police could get fingerprints from the gun, though his own would also be on it.  Starsky reached to his car phone.  He dialed Information.  When the operator answered, he said, "I need the Bay City Police Department.  Robbery Division."


In the middle of the stage, to Hutch's left, Clark Taylor waved at the audience, "Goodnight, everybody!"

The audience clapped and cheered, and Hutch joined in at nodding in acknowledgement of the applause.

The members of the band began to pack away their instruments, and Hutch did, as well, putting his guitar in its case.

"Later, guys," Ben Anderson, the drummer, said, as he left his stool.

Hutch nodded at him, and then grabbed his guitar case and began making his way down the brief staircase to the floor.  He loved performing, but he also looked forward to getting home, once the show was over.  As he moved through the crowd, he reminded himself that Starsky wouldn't be home.  He was working a surveillance job that would likely last all night, until Carlos relieved him at six AM.

Hutch thought his love would surely appreciate it, if Hutch showed up with some food.

"You were wonderful."

Hutch paused at the voice, and saw himself looking at a slender blonde woman, who was probably pushing forty.  He smiled, "Thanks very much," and continued on.

She reached for his arm.  "Not so fast, cowboy."

Hutch held up his left hand and wriggled the fingers, showing off his wedding band.  "I need to get home."

The woman's grip tightened on his arm.  "If she's not here to watch you, then she doesn't need to know anything that goes on here."

Hutch could smell the alcohol on her breath.  He gently removed her hand from his arm.  "I'm afraid I'm as faithful as they come.  Goodnight."  He pushed on.

He was relieved to exit the bar to the crisp December air of the parking lot.  Others were leaving, as well. 

Once reaching his car, Hutch put his guitar in the trunk.  Then he got in the driver's seat.  He should probably call Starsky first, to find out exactly where he was.  He just hoped that, by calling him, he wasn't somehow disrupting him, if he was in the middle of tailing Henry Jenkins.

Hutch started the car, and then pondered where a good place would be to stop for food.  At the thought of food, a shooting pain went up the side of his right cheek, and he reached up to clasp his jaw.  A tooth was bothering him greatly, at various times, but he wasn't even sure which tooth it was.  The pain seemed to be moving around his gum line, sometimes encompassing nearly his whole jaw, and sometimes even shooting up into his ear.  He had a dentist appointment scheduled, first thing Monday morning.

His car phone rang.  There was only one person that could be, this time of night.  "Hey," Hutch answered.

"You're done?"

"Yeah, just got in my car.  How's it going?"

There was a deeply drawn, shaky breath.  "I got robbed, Hutch."

"What?" Hutch was more alarmed by Starsky's tone, than the words that started to register.

"Just forty bucks, but he wanted my whole wallet.  Held a gun on me."

Dear God.  "Are you all right?" Hutch demanded.

"Yeah, yeah.  It  was just a toy gun.  I was able to knock him over, and he ran off.  The cops have come and gone."

"Where are you?"

"Uh, I'm still on Petunia Street, near Watsford, where the apartment building is.  For Henry Jenkins."

"Sit tight.  I'm on my way."  Hutch put the LeBaron in gear, and felt flustered with the traffic that was jammed at the bar's single exit. 

Starsky robbed.  At gun point.  How dare somebody do that to him.

Hutch took a deep breath and made a point a calming down, since it wasn't going to make traffic move faster.

Okay.  Starsky was safe.  Apparently, uninjured.  Didn't he say it had been a toy gun?  This was no big deal.

It was just the way Starsky had sounded rattled.  Hutch couldn't remember the last time he'd heard his love sound like that.

Finally, Hutch was on his way toward the area of town where Starsky was.  He was too eager to get there, to think of stopping for food.

What he was thinking, instead, was what could have happened.  What if the gun hadn't been a toy?  What if the perpetrator had simply shot Starsky and taken his wallet?  Starsky had been sitting in his car, no doubt focused on Jenkins' apartment, completely defenseless.

The twenty minute drive gave Hutch plenty of time to get worked up about that different ways the scenario could have played out.  The fact that one of the best possible outcomes is what had actually happened did little to soothe his increasing concern.


When Hutch turned onto Petunia Street, he saw Starsky standing beside the open driver door of the Corvette, his expression wary.  Then he relaxed, when he apparently recognized the LeBaron.

Hutch had barely turned off the motor before he rushed from the car, toward Starsky, who was trotting toward him.

Hutch grabbed Starsky's arm.  "Are you all right."

"Yeah, I'm not hurt or anything."

Hutch threw his arms around him, and felt the tension in Starsky's body, even as the embrace was returned.  When Hutch released him, he asked, "What happened?"

Suddenly, there was a flurry of words, as Starsky quickly detailed the event.  He was panting when he finished.

"So, the cops have the gun?"

"Yeah, they'll see if they can get fingerprints.  I'm not even sure if the guy was wearing gloves."  Suddenly, Starsky's fist curled.  "Man, I'd love to just grab that guy and bash his face in.  If I'd known that the gun was a toy...."

Hutch squeezed his shoulder.  "You had no way of knowing.  You were smart, played it cool.  At least, he just got forty bucks."

Starsky's fist curled again, as he snorted harshly.  "He shouldn't have gotten that much.  I was just hoping he'd go away.  Now, I wish to God I wouldn't have given him that money.  Rewarded him for being such a worthless shit."

Hutch's hand squeezed again.  "Easy, buddy.  It's over.  Thank God."  He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Starsky this angry.  To divert his attention, he nodded toward the high rise.  "Anything happening with Jenkins?"

"Nah.  I bet he's gone to bed.  Only spotted him on the balcony by himself, smoking a cigarette.  His apartment is all dark now."

"Then I say let's call it a night and go home, huh?  It's unlikely he'll go anywhere, before Carlos gets here at six."

"Yeah."  Starsky looked hesitantly at his car.

They couldn't leave their cars here overnight, risking theft, which meant they had to drive home separately.  To spare Starsky's pride, Hutch said what he knew they both were thinking. "I want to follow close behind you.  Don't get too far ahead, okay?"

Starsky finally seemed to relax  "Yeah," he said with a nod, turning back to the Corvette.


Hutch was in the bathroom, nude, preparing for bed, when he heard a sigh.  He glanced into the bedroom, and saw that Starsky had lowered his briefs and jeans, and was examining his legs.

"You okay?" Hutch asked, moving into the bedroom.  He could see scrapes on Starsky's knees.

Starsky winced as he pressed on one knee.  "Just got scraped up a bit.  I guess when I pushed him to the pavement."  He felt along his arm, which was bare past the short sleeves of his t-shirt.  "Bruised some places, too."

Hutch decided, "Let's soak you in a hot bath, buddy.  You'll feel better and it'll clean up the scrapes.  Then I can disinfect and put Band-Aids on them."  He turned away to the tub.

As Starsky finished undressing, he continued to examine himself.  He came into the bathroom, holding out his hands.  "I scraped up my hands a bit, too.  Seems like we only scuffled a second or two.  Then I saw the gun and reached to grab it, because he'd dropped it.  That's when he ran off."

"Pavement can be pretty damn hard," Hutch said, thinking back to when he'd suffered a severe concussion a couple of years ago, when falling backwards after being shot by a former client, who was bereaved over his daughter's death.  "Come on.  Come sit in the tub, and let me do all the work."

Starsky did, settling back.  Hutch grabbed a wash cloth and put it in the water.  He noted with humor, "At least, your face is still beautiful."

Starsky managed a lopsided grin, then grimaced as his hands went under water.  "Ouch."  Then he suddenly raised up his left arm.  "Scraped my elbow, too."

"Keep them under, so they can be cleaned out.  In the meantime, just relax."

Starsky closed his eyes, while Hutch washed his face and upper body.  Hutch realized that it had been a while since he'd had a chance to feel nurturing toward his love, so he dragged the moment out, washing slowly, in the name of being thorough.

After Hutch rinsed the cloth and started on Starsky's chest, Starsky let his eyes drift open and asked, "How was your evening?"

"Fine.  The show went great.  I debuted that Lobo song, Don't Expect Me to Be Your Friend.  It went over well."  He'd been the lead on that.

"Oh, good."

"Yeah.  And then a drunk woman came onto me, as I was leaving."


"Yeah.  She didn't care that I was wearing a wedding ring."

Casually, Starsky asked, "Were you tempted?"

"Not hardly," Hutch snorted.  "Was more interested in bringing you some food.  I was trying to figure out where to go, when you called my car phone."  Hutch reached to his jaw.  "I'm glad my toothache didn't act up during the show.  It's hurting some now."

Starsky grunted.  "You shouldn't have waited so long to call the dentist."

Hutch had already heard that lecture too many times.  "You need to eat something before bed?"


Gently, Hutch asked, "You feeling better, buddy?"

"Yeah," Starsky replied woodenly.  "Just one of those things that happens to thousands of people every day."

Hutch released a heavy breath.  "Just so glad you weren't hurt, beyond a few scrapes.  Thank God that gun was a toy.  Otherwise, it could have gone off when he dropped it."

Starsky muttered, "If it would have blown his brains out, I wouldn't have cared."

Hutch reached to grab a towel, not wanting to go down that road of thought.  "Come on, get out, and I'll dress your wounds."

After Starsky was dry, Hutch put the lid down on the toilet, and prompted Starsky to sit on it.  While Hutch applied antiseptic to the scrapes, and Band-Aids to a few of the larger ones, Starsky quietly said, "The police aren't going to do anything."

Hutch glanced up from removing the wrapper from a Band-Aid.  "I thought you said they were going to look for prints on the gun."

"They said they were, but they were just appeasing me.  They aren't going to be spend time on a forty dollar robbery.  Hell, we used to give shop owners a hard time for wanting us to go after shoplifters for fifty bucks of stolen merchandise."

"Yeah, but if they've had lots of other robberies in the area with the same MO, they might be motivated to find out who it is, if they can get the fingerprints."

Starsky insisted in a low voice, "You know they aren't going to spend time on this."

Hutch placed the Band-Aid over the most severe abrasion on Starsky's right knee.  He smoothed it into placed.  "Well," he said, rising just enough to put his arms around Starsky's shoulders, "I'm just damn glad you're all right."  He leaned down to rest his forehead against Starsky's hair.  "This could have turned out so much worse."

Starsky reached up and patted the side of Hutch's face.

Once in bed, Hutch curled himself protectively around Starsky, and eventually fell asleep.


The gun was at his car window.  "Hand over your wallet, honky."

"All right," Starsky soothed, "take it easy."  He feigned reaching for his back pocket.  Then he suddenly reached over, grabbed the gun through the car window, and shoved the gun, and the hand gripping it, up against the door frame. 

The man cried out. The gun fired once into the ceiling of the Corvette, and then dropped into Starsky's lap.

Starsky grabbed it, and used both hands to point it at the man, who was bent over, holding his broken wrist.  "You've got two seconds to get the fuck out of here.  Or, I blow your head off."

The man took off running.


Starsky looked up, from where he sat staring at his computer.  Lois was at his office door.  "What?"

"The Flanders family is here.  There's three of them.  Do you want me to seat them in Hutch's office, around the conference table?  He won't be back for a while."

The Flanders family had achieved new wealth, thanks to the husband's job in the computer industry.  They were very ordinary people, with likable personalities, that, upon receiving the advertising flyer, had decided they wanted Starsky & Hutchinson, Inc. to research their family background, starting with the mother's side, because so little was known about it.  The combination of Kyeesha and Nick had compiled a lot of information in recent months, and Starsky had invited the family to come in and review the research.

Now, however, he wished he would have canceled their appointment.  He wasn't up to the enthusiasm, that he'd witnessed a few times, of people seeing new information for the first time.  "Yeah, go ahead and seat them in Hutch's office."  Once there, they would be waiting for him.  Starsky swiveled his chair and grabbed the notebook with "Flanders" on the spine. He held it out to Lois.  "Go ahead and let them start looking through this.  It might be a while before I can join them."  Awkwardly, he lied, "I've got a few phone calls to make."

"All right," Lois replied as she accepted the notebook.  Her voice sounded puzzled.  "How long should I tell them it'll be before you can join them?"

Starsky felt irritated at being questioned.  "Just a bit."  He turned toward his computer, refusing to look up.

"All right."  Lois exited with a sigh.

Starsky gazed at his computer screen.

The gun was pointed at him, through the open car window.  "Give me your wallet, you rich honky fuck head."

Starsky pushed his car door open so fast, that the man didn't have time to fire.  Instead, he fell backwards, his loaded gun falling to the pavement.  Starsky quickly straddled the man, and began slugging him in the face with his fists.  He only stopped when there was blood coming from the man's broken nose.  "Get up, you worthless piece of shit," Starsky ordered, moving aside.  "Go home and tell your mother what a complete and total pussy failure you are."

The man quickly got up and ran off.

Starsky heard noise from Hutch's office.  The three members of the Flanders family all sounded female.

The gun was pointed at him, through the open car window.  "Give me your wallet, honky.  Hurry!"

Starsky calmly looked up at the man.  "No."

The gun shook in the man's hand.  "I said give it to me!  Or I kill you and take the car."


The man looked indecisive.  Then he turned and ran.

Starsky smiled and shook his head.  Losers were so predictable.

"Oh, look at this!" a shrill voice exclaimed from beyond the door that connected his office to Hutch's.  "This looks like Great Aunty Becky."  Another voice said.  "I wonder where they got this picture."

Starsky took a breath.  He was grateful it was winter, so that his crisp, long-sleeve flannel button shirt concealed his gun and holster, that was strapped to his t-shirt underneath.  He hadn't put it on, until Hutch had left before him this morning for his dentist appointment.

He stood and straightened his shirt down over his dark blue jeans, and then moved to the connecting door.  He put on a smile and held out his hand, recognizing the woman in the seat opposite him.  "Mrs. Flanders, how are you?"  She was simply dressed, in blue jeans, as were the two younger women with her.

She smiled brightly and held out her hand.  "Hi, David.  This is my daughter, Jenny.  And my niece, Linda."

"Jenny and Linda," he greeted them.  "Nice to meet you."  He sat in the remaining chair.

Mrs. Flanders held the notebook.  "This is so wonderful.  I can't believe all the information it has."

Starsky moved to flip it to the front cover.  "Let me show you how we've arranged things."  He turned over the first tab.  "This front section here is for the family tree.  It's got the actual family tree filled in, and some basic information on the family line.  Then, the first tab is for your mother, and then the next tab for her parents, and it branches out from there.  Each person's section has a basic summary of their life as the first page, and then the other documents are in chronological order -- at least, as best we can figure."

"This is fantastic," Mrs. Flanders said.  She flipped through one of the other sections.  "We were wondering where you got this high school yearbook photo of our great Aunt Becky."

"Our researcher found that in a yearbook at a library in Canton, Ohio.  She's very dedicated."  Kyeesha continued to be an enthused employee, who was willing to travel anywhere that was necessary.

The younger women leaned closer as Mrs. Flanders flipped through more pages.  "I can't believe you've found all this out."

"There was quite a vein of information in the Canton area.  Sometimes, it takes a lot more time, and a lot more travel, to find out even the most minimal information."

Linda reached to one of the tabs.  "What is there on great grandma Eleanor?"

There was more enthusiastic discussion among the table.  Starsky decided, hardly for the first time, that this was a much more satisfying work than tailing cheating spouses.  Or new boyfriends.

The gun was aimed at him through the car window.

"Oh, what is this?" Mrs. Flanders studied another page.  "This is Herb, the black sheep of the family.  I remember Granddad talking about how Herb was always getting into trouble.  Little things, like petty theft.  He was always needing to be bailed out of jail."

He probably should have stayed in, Starsky found himself thinking.

She went on, "They were afraid he was going to wind up in prison.  But the family was good friends with the judge's family, so I guess they were always able to pull some strings to keep him out."

Starsky shifted with discomfort.

Jenny said, "Wait until Dad sees all this."

Mrs. Flanders looked up at Starsky.  "Is this ready for us to take home?"

"Sure.  If you want us to go back farther, you can bring it back for us to add to it.  Or, we can start doing research on your husband's side of the family, if you'd like."

She gathered the notebook.  "I'll talk with my husband about it, and see what we want to do.  I love what you've done for us.  I'm going to show this to everyone I know.  Do you have some business cards I can take with me?"

Starsky smiled sincerely for what felt like the first time since he'd looked into the barrel of the (toy) gun.  "Just ask Lois for them at the front desk."


Starsky had been back at his computer, getting hardly anything done, when he heard Hutch enter the outer suite.  After picking up his messages from Lois, Hutch moved into his office, and then through the connecting door.  "Hey, how's it going?" Hutch greeted.

Starsky sidestepped the broader question while gazing at the computer.  "The Flanders really like our work."

"Oh, good."

"Yeah, they might have us do some more.  She has to talk to the husband about it."  Starsky looked up at Hutch.  "How did it go at the dentist?"

Hutch put his hand up to his jaw and muttered, "They figured out which tooth it was.  I've got an appointment next week for a root canal, and then they want to cap it."

"Oh.  You ever had a root canal before?"


"They aren't fun.  But they're survivable."

"That's good to hear.  He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and said I should get started on them now, so I picked that up."  Hutch abruptly closed his mouth and furrowed his brow.  He tilted his head as he continued to gaze at Starsky.  "Are you -- Are you... armed?"

Starsky knew he shouldn't be surprised that Hutch could tell.  He shrugged.  "Decided to carry my gun."

"Why?" Hutch demanded.  Then he quickly noted, "From what you described to me, you having your gun wouldn't have changed anything Friday night, since he took you by surprise."

"So?  I decided I want to wear it.  My permit is still good."

Hutch sighed.  "I hope you aren't planning on keeping it on you at all times.  Like when you're around Melinda."

Starsky forced his voice to one of patience.  "I know about gun safety, dummy."

Hutch muttered, "Whatever you feel you need to do," and turned back to his office.


A few nights later, Hutch realized he was merely dozing, and had yet to fall into a genuine sleep.  He could feel Starsky's restlessness.

Hutch slid over to him and wrapped his arm around Starsky's waist.  He kissed his neck.

Starsky picked up Hutch's hand and moved it away.  "Not in the mood."  His voice was wide awake.

Hutch knew why, and decided to take the rejection gracefully.  He kissed Starsky's neck again, and whispered, "How about if I just hold you for a while?"

That suggestion resulted in a weary sigh.  Then, a quiet, "Go on back to sleep."

Hutch shifted back, and complained, "I'm not sleeping much, because you're not sleeping."

Starsky snapped, "What do you want me to do about it?"

Hutch kept his voice calm.  "Talk to me."

"Not now."

"When?"  Then, in a more assertive tone, "I don't deserve your silence. Or rejection.  I'm not the source of your anger."

The waterbed moved slightly as Starsky shifted onto his back.  "Don't try to fix this for me.  All right?  You can't fix it."

"What can?" Hutch asked in a softer tone.

"I dunno," Starsky muttered.  Then, "Yeah, I do.  I want to find the guy and beat the crap out of him, so he'll never do anything like that again."

Hutch knew that finding the guy was never going to happen.  He settled back on his pillow and said, "You know, back in our Academy days, they talked about this once.  How the victims feel, about even the most mundane of crimes.  Nothing about it is ever mundane to the victim."

Starsky drew a deep breath.  Then he said, "I know we've been through so much worse.  It's just different, you know?  Than when we were cops."  Starsky turned to face Hutch.  "Seemed like everything bad that happened to us, and happened to love ones because of us, all came back to the fact that we were cops.  It was part of the war we were fighting."

When Starsky left it at that, Hutch prompted, "And now?"

Starsky sounded perplexed.  "We aren't fighting that war anymore.  I guess -- I guess, I feel like this shouldn't have happened to me."

"Of course, it shouldn't have."

"But it did."

"Yeah."  Hutch tried to be reasonable.  "Maybe it'll help if you give yourself a chance to think about something else?"  He reached for something that had always been a pleasant subject.  "Let's cancel our appointments tomorrow, and then drive out to the farm.  See Darla and Danny?"  There was silence, and Hutch prompted. "Please?"

"Yeah.  Okay."

Hutch squeezed Starsky's hand, grateful for that concession.  Eventually, he fell back to sleep.


They shared a grin, as Hutch lied to Lois on the phone, telling her that they must have drank some milk that was borderline rotten last night and neither of them were coming in today, so she needed to move all their appointments.  He suspected that she didn't really believe him, but it wasn't her place to question her bosses.  At least, they were the ones lying, so she wouldn't feel she was lying to their clients when she canceled their appointments.

Starsky put on his holster and gun before leaving for the farm, and Hutch decided not to comment.  He did feel a flare of frustration that he didn't know how to help the man he loved so much.  The last time he could remember being in a similar situation, was when Starsky had blinded semi-innocent bystander Emily Harrison in a shootout.  Thankfully, she hadn't been permanently blinded.  Hutch couldn't help Starsky then, either.  Starsky had had to work through his guilt himself.

This time, Starsky was the victim of an intentional crime.  But the frustration Hutch was trying not to feel was similar to the Emily Harrison situation.

As they drove the nearly two-hour trip in Hutch's LeBaron, they were mostly silent.  Hutch couldn't help but note that Starsky spent a lot of time looking in his side-view mirror, as though keeping any eye out for anyone who might harm them.

The time spent at the farm itself was mostly relaxing.  Darla was pregnant once again, but not as obvious as she had been this time last year.  Then, she'd had a foal due in early February.  This time, she wasn't expected to foal until late May. 

They had to get back in their car and drive nearly two miles to get to another entrance of the large farm, to reach the separate barn and pasture where that year's crop of weanlings -- soon to be yearlings, on January 1st -- were romping out in their pasture.  The only farm hands in sight were working on a fence in the distance, so Starsky and Hutch took it upon themselves to walk out into the pasture to where the forty or so youngsters were in various groups, some galloping around for the sheer joy of it.  They eventually identified Danny -- officially registered as Depth Charge -- due to the crooked star on his forehead, and marveled at how much he'd grown.

They were able to walk up to him, and pet him, before he trotted off to play with his pasture buddies.

As they watched the weanlings, Starsky said, "It'll still be another year before he's broken to saddle, and all that?"

"Yeah, in the fall of their yearling year.  So, I guess that'll be another nine or ten months.  It'll happen eventually, buddy.  By then, I guess Darla will have had her foal by Storm Bird, and it might already be weaned."

"And then a break for her," Starsky said, "because we're taking the vet's advice and not breeding her next year?"

"Yeah, it'll be late in the season to try to breed her, so the vet suggested skipping a year and we can start breeding her early the following year.  That makes me feel better about the twenty grand we spent, knowing we can skip a year, where we won't have to pay a stud fee."


Starsky seemed more relaxed when they were driving back home.  Eventually, however, the air grew tense around him, and conversation was minimal.

Hutch finally asked, "Is it that you're thinking about it all the time?"

Starsky merely grunted.  Then he said, "I hope he got hit by a car.  Bastard doesn't deserve to live."


Hutch dropped Starsky off at home in mid afternoon, and then said he was going into the office to make some phone calls, since there were still a couple of hours left in the day.

Upon his arrival, Lois looked up in surprise, and Hutch quickly muttered, "I'm feeling better," and moved on to his office.  He closed the door behind him,  and then sat down and leafed through his Rolodex.  When he found the card he wanted, he picked up his telephone, and dialed the number on the card.

An efficient female voiced answered, "Drs. Lofton, Parkson, and Williams."

Hutch cleared his throat.  "Uh, I'd like to make an appointment with Dr. Judith Parkson."

"Are you a current patient, sir?"

"Uh, no, but I've met with her before.  In a different capacity."

There was a pause, then a puzzled, "Are you wanting to make an appointment for her psychological services?"

The term psychological services sounded embarrassing.  "Uh... yeah."

"What is your name, sir?"

"Ken Hutchinson."

"She has an opening next Tuesday morning at eleven.  Would you like to come then?"

"Uh, I have a root canal scheduled at ten.  So, I don't think I can make that."

He heard a page turn.  "All right.  She's just had a cancellation for Wednesday at two.  How about then?"

"Uh, yeah, that should be fine."  He hoped his root canal wasn't going to be bothering him much.

"The name was Ken Hutchinson?"


"What's a number you can be reached at?"

Hutch gave both the office and home numbers.

"Are you willing to say what the appointment is concerning?"

Hutch smiled to himself.  He was well familiar with the reluctance of clients to be forthright about why they wanted the services of a private investigator.  That reluctance was surely even more prominent for those seeking help from the mental health fields.  "Uh, I need to know how to help a friend."  He didn't want to use a more personal term than that to the receptionist, but found his eyes watering.

"All right, Mr. Hutchinson, we'll see you Tuesday at two p.m."

"Thank you."  Hutch hung up, and wrote the time down on his calendar.  He normally had Lois keep track of his appointments, but he didn't want her to know about this particular one.  Besides, he hoped that in the few days between now and Wednesday, that maybe he'd see signs that Starsky was doing better, and he could cancel.


"You nervous?" Starsky asked with a grin, where they both sat at the kitchen table in their robes.

It was Tuesday morning, and they were eating breakfast.  For Hutch, the meal was just an orange, so he wouldn't have to do much brushing.  He shrugged.  "As long as I don't feel anything."

"It just takes so long," Starsky said.  "After they drill your tooth, then they have to make a mold for the permanent cap, but they have to also give you a temporary cap, in the meantime.  Takes forever."

Hutch sighed.  "As long as it doesn't still hurt afterward."  The antibiotics had helped keep the pain manageable.

"It can be like a filling.  Sometimes it's really sensitive afterward, sometimes not."

Hutch nodded.  He chewed a slice of orange on the good side of his mouth.  Starsky seemed fairly normal this morning, which was surprising, considering that he had rejected Hutch's advances once again, last night.  They hadn't made love in the eleven days since the robbery.  Hutch had decided that he wasn't going to try anymore.  It was up to Starsky to make the first move.

They went through their usual routines in preparing for their morning. 

It was when Starsky picked up his gun and holster, to strap it around his body, that Hutch didn't think Wednesday afternoon could come soon enough.


"All right, Mr. Hutchinson, you're all done here."  The dental assistant removed his bib.  "We'll call you when we've received your permanent cap, so you can make an appointment to come back in."

Hutch struggled out of the chair, grateful that this ordeal was finally over.  He'd been in that chair nearly two hours.  He put his hand to his jaw, to make sure it was still there, because the right side of his face was so numb, that even his nose felt like it was missing its right nostril.

As he gathered his jacket from another chair, the assistant held out a paper to him.  "Here's your instructions.  In short, try not to eat things that are sticky or crunchy.  If your temporary starts to get you any trouble, please let us know.  Be aware that some soreness and extra sensitivity to hot and cold is normal."

"Thank you," Hutch said dismissively, as he just wanted to leave.  The temporary cap felt strange inside his mouth, but hopefully it meant his days of having shooting pains through his gums and jaw were over.

Once in his car, Hutch took a deep breath.  It was going on noon.  Lunch was out of the question, until his could feel his jaw again.  He wasn't sure, though, that he was eager to go into his office.  He decided to call Lois and see what was happening, and picked up his car phone.

"Starsky and Hutchinson," Lois answered.

"Hi, it's Ken."

Lois's voice immediately became a tense whisper.  "Ken, did you know that David is carrying a gun?"


"I saw it as he was leaving for the men's room.  He has a gun inside his shirt."  She sounded angry.  "Why is he armed?"

Nobody at the office knew anything about the robbery.  Hutch had to remind himself that Lois had spent most of her working life being a receptionist for her lawyer husband, and he wouldn't have needed to carry a gun.  He tried to understand how startling the sight of a weapon could be to a civilian, and made his voice soothing.  "It's okay.  He's got a permit to carry a gun, and he knows as well as anyone on the planet how to use it properly."

"Why would he need it?" she demanded.  "Has one of these husbands we've tailed threatened to harm us?"

Hutch's mouth fell open.  Of course, Lois didn't have much choice except to make an assumption of that nature.  "No, no, no.  Nothing like that.  He has a particular reason.  It's nothing to be afraid of.  I'll talk to him.  I'll be there in twenty minutes or so."  He realized some of his words sounded awkward, because of his numb jaw.

"I think he left.  I'm not sure where he went.  Katherine Larsen had to cancel her appointment this afternoon.  She rescheduled for Friday at four."

She was the girlfriend of Henry Jenkins, the man Starsky had been surveying when he'd been robbed.  With the help of another P.I. agency, they had gathered all the information on Jenkins for her, and were prepared to present their findings.

"Okay.  I'll talk to David."  Hutch abruptly hung up.  He then dialed Starsky's car phone.

"Hello?" Starsky answered.

"Where are you?"

"Are you done at the dentist?"

Angry at the diversion, Hutch yelled, "Lois saw your gun and it scared the shit out of her!"


"You can't be carrying your gun around the office.  Everyday people don't expect to see somebody with a gun."

There was silence.

Hutch went on, "She thought it meant the cheating husband of one of our clients had threatened us.  Which means her life would be in danger, too."


"Yeah.  Oh.  Where are you?"


"Where?"  Hutch demanded.

"Well, Katherine Larsen moved her appointment to Friday, so I just thought... just thought I'd go to the shooting range, out on Pierro."

Hutch sighed heavily.

Sounding defensive, Starsky said, "I don't want to be rusty, if it turns out I ever have to use it."

"Yeah, fine," Hutch snapped.  "Have a good time."  He slammed the phone down.

He waited for a couple of minutes, wondering (hoping) that Starsky would call right back, given their history of working out problems between them.

The phone remained silent.


Hutch kept himself busy during the afternoon, since he wasn't eager to go home.

It was nearly seven when he finally did arrive. 

Starsky was lying on the love seat, watching TV.  He looked up at as Hutch entered the living room.  "Did your root canal go okay?"

Woodenly, Hutch replied, "It went fine."  He was unbuttoning his outer shirt.

Starsky watched him.  "How come you're mad?"

Hutch closed his eyes and took a breath, trying to find his patience with such a ridiculous question.  When he opened them, he couldn't keep the sarcasm out of his voice.  "Oh, I don't know.  Must have something to do with the person I love more than anything, feeling he has to carry around a dangerous weapon.  Oh and, by the way, who doesn't have any interest in making love to the person he loves."

Starsky looked back at the television, his mouth in a straight line.

Hutch sat on the sofa, which was perpendicular to the love seat, and pulled off his shirt.  "If Lois was startled to see your gun, you can bet that clients will be, too.  It's not something they expect in an establishment where the employees are all civilians."  He reached to his feet to pull of his boots.

Starsky sighed and scratched the back of his neck.  "All right."  He said, eyes still on the TV.  "I'll just keep it in the car."

Hutch felt his anger leave him, surprised that Starsky was willing to give that concession. 

They watched TV until bed, each on a separate sofa.



Hutch looked up and found Judith Parkson smiling at him, from where she stood in her office doorway, dressed in a conservative pantsuit..  He put his magazine aside and rose from his seat, heart beating nervously,

She held out her hand as he approached.  "Nice to see you again."

"Yes, you, too."  He shook her hand while returning her smile.

"You shaved your mustache."  She stepped back to let him into her office, and then indicated the sofa, which he'd sat on a year or so ago, when seeing her about her missing nephew, whom they'd found safe and sound in Tennessee.  A couple of months later, he'd taken her to lunch, with the intention of thanking her for her help with the case, and instead found himself discussing how unsettling it was that his mother was so eagerly looking forward to the birth of her grandchild, when he felt she'd never been that excited as a mother about him.  Judith had assured him that it wasn't unusual for an adult child to have those feelings, once a grandchild was in the picture.

She settled into an easy chair, which was placed at an angle to the sofa, and crossed one leg over the other.  Gently, she asked, "How can I help you?"

Hutch appreciated that she didn't have a notepad, but instead was giving him her full attention. He took a deep breath.  "I'm here to talk about my partner."  He described the robbery, as Starsky had described it to him.  Then he relayed Starsky's behavior, in the twelve days since.

Hutch pushed back his hair.  "I don't know how to help him.  Always before, we've been able to work through any difficulty.  This time...."

She prompted, "Do you feel he's shutting you out?"

"Not intentionally.  He'll participate in a conversation, but there's also a distance, an aloofness, about him.  He always seems to be looking around, wondering if harm is going to come to him."

"Does he talk to you about what he's feeling?"

"Yes, and that's what I can't help with.  He's angry.  He keeps talking about all the bad things he wishes would happen to the guy that robbed him -- getting hit by a car, and things like that.  It's -- "  Hutch hesitated, trying to figure how to say what was on his mind.  "When we were cops, we had a reputation.  We were hard-nosed and successful.  The bad guys hated us.  We felt we were fighting a war on the streets, where the victory was justice.  We've both looked death in the eye many times.  We've both been shot, had our apartments broken into, been kidnapped, had all sorts of other injuries."  He drew a breath.  "By comparison, getting robbed of forty dollars, even at gunpoint, should be nothing, considering all the other things we've been through.  And yet...."

Judith finished, "And yet, his sense of security has been taken from him."

Hutch gazed at the carpet, and slowly nodded.  "Yes."  He looked up.  "We've had such a great life, since we left the Force.  We've been very happy, very successful.  We have a great relationship, we enjoy our jobs.  We've both gotten over issues with family members, and have what's left of our immediate families nearby.  And then this... thing... happens, and all of sudden, all those good things aren't what our lives our about, anymore.  It's like it's all about protecting himself."

"I assume that, as policemen, you've had some training in how even small crimes can affect victims."

Hutch nodded, "We had someone come and talk to us at the Academy, but that's about it."  He presented a brief smile.  "It really wasn't our job to hold the victim's hand.  That's more your arena."

She nodded back.  "Yes.  And I do have some clients that are seeing me, due to having lost their sense of security, usually because of some type of crime. It's been less than two weeks since David was robbed.  That's not a very long time for a person to have recovered from something like this."

Hutch's mouth corner twitched.  "Are you saying I need to be more patient?"

"That's going to be part of the solution.  Have you talked to him about your feelings?"

Hutch tilted his head, as he considered how to answer.  "I don't think there's room for my feelings.  I feel that it would selfish of me to try to make things about me, when he's going through this... stuff."

"You have a right to your feelings.  You might try reminding him that your relationship is a partnership, and that there's two of you involved.  Giving him something else important to focus on can be a step toward normalcy."

Hutch let a memory settle in.  "I feel like I've already tried that, in a sense."  He shifted on the sofa.  "Back when we were cops, on a Sunday morning, we responded to a silent alarm at a jewelry store.  Long story short, a innocent bystander, a woman -- who turned out not to be quite so innocent -- suddenly appeared in David's line of fire, and he shot her in the head.  She was blinded, and the doctors didn't know if she'd get her sight back.  Thankfully, she did, after maybe a week or so.  But until then, David was full of guilt."

Judith said, "Oh, my goodness, anybody would have been."

"Yeah.  Maybe I didn't handle it the best.  I was trying to preach to him about 'line of duty', and of course that didn't help things.  After he'd been holed up in his apartment a while, I went over there and tried to rouse him, by talking about how we could break the case open, if he did his part, so to speak.  Didn't faze him.  I eventually left, having gotten nowhere with him."

"What happened?"

"Emily got her sight back.  I don't know what would have happened, if she hadn't."  Hutch went on with more memories.  "We've both suffered a lot of losses, personally, beyond injuries to ourselves.  We always blamed everything on the fact that we were cops.  A long-time girlfriends breaks up with one of us, and it's because we're a cop.  I get my apartment broken into and ransacked, it's because I'm a cop.  It was always the convenient excuse.  I guess we never had to examine anything too closely, about our own selves, because that excuse was always available."

Judith prompted, "And now you don't have that excuse?"


"And so you think that's why he's having so much trouble with having been robbed? Now, he's just an ordinary guy, and he can't explain how something that felt very un-ordinary -- thought statistics will say that's it's extremely ordinary -- happened to him?  How he became a victim, without it having anything to do with being a cop?"

Hutch nodded.  "I think so.  He's even said as much.  He feels like it shouldn't have happened."  Hutch shrugged.  "I guess that's how everyone feels, when they've been a victim of a crime.  They can't believe it happened to them."

"However common that may be, it doesn't invalidate any one person's feelings or trauma about it."  She tilted her head.  "How do you feel about the robbery?"

Hutch was surprised by the question.  Then he considered, "I'm angry, too.  That somebody did that to him.  That it could have turned out so much worse, if the gun had been real.  If -- " Hutch stopped abruptly, as realization dawned.

"If what?"

"He attacked the robber.  Which worked out all right.  But... I wish he hadn't.  I wish he hadn't put himself at risk.  He didn't know the gun was a toy.  He could have been shot."

"Have you talked to him about it -- how you feel about him taking a chance like that?"

Hutch quickly shook his head.  "God, no.  Like I said, I feel it would be selfish to make this about me."

"But it is about you.  You're a victim, too.  He needs to be reminded of that.  The robbery didn't just happen to him.  You have a right to expect him to respect your feelings about his actions, however much he might disagree."

While Hutch appreciated being given that permission, in a sense, he found himself thinking of something that made him sad.

After a long silence, she asked, "What are you thinking?"

Hutch's mouth corner twitched, as he bowed his head.  "We've always connected at night, in bed.  If we were apart most of the day, we'd catch each other up, with what we think or feel about anything that's gone on.  We've always been so proud of the fact that we communicate.  That we solve any problems before bed."

"And now?"

"There just hasn't been any of that, since the robbery.  And sex -- " Hutch was determined to not blush, "he hasn't been interested, since it happened."

"Because he's angry?"

"I guess so.  He doesn't sleep particularly well, either."

"Do you think that, however hard-nosed you say your past was, that this situation scared him?"

"I'm sure it did.  But we've never been afraid of admitting our fear to each other.  Even back when we were young and thought we were going to conquer the world -- or, at least, the bad guys in the city."

She nodded.  "Has he considered seeing someone?"

Hutch shook his head.  "He won't go for something like this."

"Certainly, therapy doesn't work for everyone.  Do you think he'd object to you being here?"

"I doubt it.  I intend to tell him.  I don't think he minds the idea of me seeing a therapist."  Hutch smiled.  "He even recommended I see you, a few months back, when he felt my mother had said something hurtful to me.  I don't even remember what the situation was, but he was concerned about how I felt, and thought he might be too close to the situation to be what I needed."

"It sounds like he's a kind and thoughtful person, under normal circumstances."

Hutch nodded, his heart feeling full.  "Yes, he's definitely that."

She shifted in her chair.  "I assume that he's well versed in how to handle a gun."

"Oh, yes."

"Then I wouldn't make an issue out of him feeling he needs to have it with him.  Anything that makes him feel safer -- that he's in control of his circumstances -- is probably part of what will be necessary for him to heal.  And especially since he's agreed to just keep it in his car -- that sounds like quite a big step, after such a short time."

"He wants to get better," Hutch said.  "I know he does.  He's just... lost.  He's not accustomed to being in a situation that he doesn't know how to handle.  He's used to being the one who's always stable, at least since we've retired from law enforcement.  He keeps me calm when I get riled about something.  He usually can take a complicated situation and see the simplicity of it.  But not this."  His voice lowered to a mutter.  "As his partner, I feel I should pick up the slack.  But I don't know how."

"Here's what I recommend."  She held up her fingers to tick off her suggestions.  "One.  Don't hassle him about anything he feels he needs to do to feel safe.  He's trying to re-discover his sense of security.  Two.  When you're ready to talk to him, insist that he hear you out, about how you feel about the robbery, and your concerns about him risking his own safety.  Make sure you keep the emphasis on how you feel, and not judging how he feels.  Three.  Be patient, with his anger, the lack of sex.  Time has a way of healing virtually everything."  She smiled.  "And Four.  Applaud yourself for coming here to talk about it, and giving yourself a chance to get on the road to healing."

Hutch's mouth corner twitched.

She went on.  "Our time is about up.  Did you want to make another appointment, in a week or so, to let me know who you two are doing?"

"Uh, sure."

"You can schedule with my receptionist, out front."


Hutch returned to the office.  The session with Judith had made him feel a lot better, even though a part of him was disappointed that she didn't have a magical wand to wave -- something specific that he could say to Starsky -- that would make everything better.  He realized that it had been unfair of him to expect such.

Starsky could be heard in his office, on the phone and typing on the computer, with the door between their offices opened a crack.

Hutch focused on his own work, as much as he could.  He was developing various mental speeches, in the name of making sure Starsky understood how the robbery had effected him.  By the end of the day, he realized that he wanted to talk with Starsky right after work, because he couldn't put it off any longer.

He left before Starsky did, and stopped at the grocery store to stock up, wanting to take that time to make sure Starsky was home when he arrived.

Starsky's Corvette was indeed in the garage.  Hutch pulled in next to it, and then shut off the car and opened the trunk.  He grabbed a trio of grocery sacks and moved to the door.  He managed to turn the handle, and then went inside.  He heard the TV on, and placed the sacks on the counter.  Then he went back to his car, to retrieve the rest.

When he entered the kitchen the second time, Starsky was there.  Casually, Starsky asked, "Where were you this afternoon?  Lois didn't know."

Hutch hunted around for the items that needed to go into the freezer.  He made of a point of looking at Starsky.  "I had an appointment to see Judith Parkson."  He turned to open the freezer.  "Remember her?" he asked, though Starsky had never met her.  Still, Starsky had, with amusement, accused Hutch of having a crush on her, a while back.

"She's the psychologist that was the relative on a case."

"Yep."  Hutch grabbed items from the sacks that needed to go into the refrigerator.  He worked in silence, knowing that Starsky was waiting for him to elaborate.

Finally, Starsky prompted, "Why did you need to see her?"

The perishables had all been put away.  Hutch closed the refrigerator door, and turned to face Starsky.  "To talk to her about the robbery, and how helpless I feel that I can't help you."

Starsky had the grace to look away guiltily.  "What did she say?"

Hutch sighed as he decided to take the long way around.  "To be patient.  To understand that you need to do what you need to do to reclaim your sense of safety and security."  He drew a breath.  "That I should be forthright about how I feel about it."

That caught Starsky attention.  "How do you feel about it?"

Hutch nodded toward the living room, where the TV was heard.  "You ready to listen?"

Starsky turned toward the living room, and Hutch followed.

Starsky picked up the remote and clicked on the TV, and then turned toward Hutch, frowning.  "I've always been ready to listen."

"No you haven't.  You're too wrapped up in your own anger.  There's no room for mine."

Starsky immediately took on an expression between anger and trepidation.  His voice raised.  "You aren't the one who just up and gave that mother fucking creep forty dollars."

Hutch furrowed his brow, not expecteding that particular defense.  His own frustration made him snap, "Of course, you did.  You made sure you stayed alive."  He felt an inner explosion, as he shouted, "You should have given him your whole fucking wallet!  Instead, you ATTACKED him.  Like a FUCKING IDIOT!"

Starsky stared back at Hutch.  Then his chest heaved, as he shouted back, "I wussed out!  I was a complete pussy!  I gave him the money because he said so!"  His voice was breaking.  "How am I supposed to protect my family, when I can't even PROTECT MYSELF!"

Hutch's mouth fell open, his anger replaced by shock.

Starsky went on, voice loud and full of sadness.  "What if Melinda had been in the car?"

Hutch immediately moved past the high unlikelihood of infant Melinda being in one of their cars during a stakeout.  His own anger wasn't spent, for he seethed "You would have given the motherfucker your whole fucking wallet, because that's what would have kept her safe.  You would have stayed in the car. "  He drew a trembling breath.  "But I -- " he rapidly pounded on his own chest, "wasn't worth it!  I wasn't worth you making sure you got home safe that night!  You risked your life, rather than insure that you would come home to me!"

Starsky challenged, "You saying you would have just handed your wallet over, if it had been you?"

Hutch blinked, and felt the air rush out of system.  He turned away, quietly admitting, "I don't know."

Starsky's voice was sorrowful once again.  "Even when I pushed the door open and got on top of him, I could feel that I was no match for him.  If he wouldn't have run off, I wouldn't have had a chance, if he'd wanted to beat on me, or something.  What does that say about me, as a man?"

Hutch whirled around, Starsky's recent statements clicking in his mind.  His anger was spent, and he was eager to discard it, though sorrow roared up in its place.  "Oh, dear god."  He reached to clasp Starsky's upper arms.  "How can you possibly feel that about yourself?"  His own voice was breaking.  "Your body is full of scars, from fighting the war we fought on the streets.  How can you possibly feel that you are anything other than the most bravest man I've ever known?"  Hutch eyes watered, as his grip tightened.  "I worship you."

Starsky's wide, bleary eyes were gazing up at him.  "Maybe you shouldn't."

Hutch shook his head and firmly said, "Don't ever say that to me."  He felt enormously weary, and moved past Starsky to collapse on the couch in a sitting position, his head in his hands.

Starsky's voice was unsteady.  "I can't stand that you're hurting.  I guess -- I guess I've been so selfish, that I wasn't thinking about what this was like for you.  I had no idea you were this angry."

Hutch snorted, and found a sliver of humor.  "Neither did I."  He raised his head and gazed at the coffee table.  "I didn't realize it was questioning your manhood that was bothering you so much."

Starsky moved to sit beside him.  "I know it doesn't make much sense of the surface.  But," his teeth grit, "I just wish I wouldn't have handed him that money."

"You were following your instincts.  Your instinct to survive.  You did what they always taught, what we've always preached to others.  When someone has a weapon, and you don't, you follow their orders.  You stay calm.  It's the best chance at survival.  Your instinct was to survive, and that's the best instinct you can possibly have."  Hutch drew a breath, feeling further weariness in his body.  He tried to harden his voice, but wasn't successful.  "And then I guess your pride kicked in."  Strained, "Could have killed you."

Starsky was silent.

Hutch turned to look at him, though his vision was blurry.  "We're ordinary people now.  We've paid our dues to society.  Did the tough-guy thing.  Hauled in more than our share of bad guys.  Took more than our share of hits.  We've built this wonderful life."  He drew a breath.  "I don't want to exchange it for a bit of pride that accomplishes nothing." 

Starsky remained silent.

Hutch realized, "I'm not mad at you for being upset about what happened.  Just that you've been so... distant from me."

Starsky quickly said, "I've tried not to be."

"I know.  I've seen how hard you've tried to not just curl in on yourself, and at least trying to talk to me a little bit.  But still... it's been a really lonely couple of weeks.  It seems so wrong, feeling lonely when I'm with you."

"Okay, I hear you."  Starsky shifted restlessly, then muttered, "Can't get a hard-on."

Hutch quickly soothed, "That'll appear in its own time."  In a near whisper, he said, "What I want, more than anything, is to be allowed to hold you."

"Ah, Hutch."  Still, it was a moment, before Starsky turned and started to put his arms around Hutch.

Hutch returned the embrace, while lying back against the sofa arm, Starsky on top of him, his head on Hutch's chest.

Hutch closed his eyes, relishing the weight against him.

After a few minutes, Starsky asked, "Did Judith tell you to yell at me?"

Hutch snorted.  "No.  Judith said to be patient.  Mostly, Judith said that I had a right to my own feelings, and that I needed to make you aware of them.  That I was a victim, too."

"Oh.  It's a wonder that she agreed to see you -- you know, as one of her patients."


"Because you're friendly with her, in a sense.  You took her to lunch that one time.  Seems like it would be a conflict of interest, to see you on a professional basis."

"One lunch date hardly counts.  Plus, like I told you then, it sort of turned into an unofficial therapy session."

In a soft, teasing tone, Starsky said, "It'll be interesting to see if she sends you a bill."

"Of course, she will."

Starsky shrugged.  "We'll see."  He rubbed his cheek against Hutch's chest.  Then, "Judith says, Judith says."


Starsky snickered.


In Hutch's office, the smartly dressed Katherine Larsen gathered up the manila folder they'd given her.  "This is perfect.  I really appreciate this, gentlemen."

Hutch was curious, but it wasn't his place to ask her what her intentions were concerning Henry Jenkins.  They hadn't found anything in his background that would be concerning to a future serious girlfriend.  He'd only been spotted in female company briefly, and it hadn't appeared to be anything romantic.

Starsky said, "If you need anything else, be sure and let us know."

"I certainly will."  She reached to her purse.  "How much do I owe you?"

"We'll send you a bill at the end of the month," Hutch said.  "Our secretary has left for the afternoon."

"All right, then."  She stood and shook both their hands.  "Have a lovely weekend, gentlemen.  I can see my way out."

Hutch began clearing off the conference room table. 

Starsky leaned back against Hutch's desk and crossed him arms.  "Do you want to go to dinner, before you have to go the tavern to play?"

Hutch usually ate there, before the band took to the stage at eight.  He shrugged, while tossing some unneeded papers into the trash.  Since they'd yelled at each other a couple of evenings ago, they'd spent a lot of their free time snuggled up together.  It was more than Hutch could have hoped for.  As soon as Starsky had become aware that Hutch was in pain, too, Starsky had only wanted to soothe. 

Hutch straightened.  "Sure.  Where did you want to go?"  Just as he moved past Starsky, Starsky reached to him and clasped his face in both hands.  He gently kissed Hutch... once, twice, three times.

Hutch bowed his head bashfully, when Starsky released him.  "It seems that you might be feeling a little frisky."  He hoped so, though this wasn't exactly an ideal time.

Starsky smiled and crossed his arms again.  "Maybe."

Hutch mindlessly moved some other items around his desk.


Hutch paused and looked up.  "What?"

"Just because I wasn't thinking that night, doesn't mean you aren't worth everything -- everything -- to me."

Hutch nodded, lowering his gaze and swallowing thickly.  Of course, however angry he'd been at Starsky for putting his life in danger, he'd known it hadn't equated to how much this man cared about him.

"And you know what I've realized?" Starsky asked.

Hutch waited.

"That I'd much rather take care of you, than you take care of me."

Though a part of Hutch was warmed, another part wondered, "Because I'm so bad at it?"

"Don't you dare think that," Starsky scolded, serious now.  "You've pulled me through the roughest times of my life -- things I wouldn't have survived, had you not been there, every single day."  Then, "We've always taken care of each other."  The smile returned.  "I just like it more, when it's me taking care of you."

Hutch wondered if that was Starsky's way of explaining why he was better now, knowing that Hutch had needs, too, after the robbery. 

Starsky turned to place his hand on Hutch's chest.  "Let's go to dinner.  Then let's go to the tavern together, and I'll watch you play.  Then, seeing me sitting there, while you're singing and playing, you can wonder what might happen when we go home together."

Hutch felt himself blush.  "I'm not sure that's a good idea," he stammered, "for me to be distracted, when I'm working."

"It's a good idea."  Starsky kissed Hutch again.


"Bite down," the dental assistant directed, as she put a blue paper in his mouth.  "Move your jaw back and forth."  Hutch did so.  "Okay, open."

She removed the paper and looked at it.  "That looks good.  Does it feel all right?  Not like it's too high?"

Hutch felt the smoothly polished permanent cap with his tongue.  "It feels fine."

"All right, then.  You're all done here."  She removed his bib. 

"Terrific."  Hutch quickly left the chair, glad this ordeal with his tooth was over.  It had a permanent, protective cap and shouldn't cause him any further problems.

"You have a Merry Christmas."

"You, too."

He left the clinic and emerged into the bright sunshine of a Saturday morning.  Christmas was the middle of next week, and he was actually looking forward to going shopping with Starsky this weekend, since they had various family members to buy for.  Of course, he expected that most of their purchases would be for little Melinda.

For himself, he felt like he already had the best gift possible.  Starsky was still more vigilante than necessary at times, and he still kept his gun in the glove compartment of the Corvette.  Otherwise, he seemed particularly attentive to Hutch, which felt very good -- however impossible it was that his love could be even more attentive than he'd already been, all these years of their partnership.

Hutch started the LeBaron, and then gave into his impulse to pick up the phone.  He dialed home.


"I'm all done.  On my way home."

"Good.  I was thinking, let's drive out to that new mall in Dowery.  Check it out."

Dowery was nearly fifty miles away, and would likely have the same stores as the local malls.  But it felt like something adventurous that they could do together.  "Sure.  I'm on my way."

"Love you."  There were kissing noises.

Hutch's heart flipped over.  "Love you, too."  He hung up, and drove out of the lot.





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