(c)  2003 by Charlotte Frost


Hutch paused on the steps and shifted the grocery sack in his left hand, getting a better grip. His right hand also carried a bag. Enough here to keep him fed for a few more days, he thought as he continued up the staircase to Starsky's apartment, squinting from the sun. When he reached the landing, he kicked at the door. "Open up!" he shouted. His feet felt a slight vibration as footsteps from within the apartment moved closer.

The door opened, and Starsky stood with his left arm in a sling, scowling. "Whaddya trying to do? Bust down the door?"

"Stop whining," Hutch said, brushing past him. "My hands are full with the garbage you like to eat." He placed the bags on the table.

Starsky peered over edge of the first sack. "Yeah?" he said curiously. "Whaddya get?"

"Too much junk food. But I couldn't see wasting money on stuff you aren't going to eat, anyway."

Starsky glanced up at him. "'Bout time you figured that out." Hutch grunted and started putting away groceries. Starsky looked farther into the bag. "Anything I can have right now? Like maybe something sweet?"

Hutch's arm brushed past Starsky's cheek as he dived into the bag. He pulled out a box of granola bars. "Here, have one of these."

Starsky frowned. "Those are healthy," he accused.

"They're sweet," Hutch pointed out. Then he softened. "And they're good for you. Come on, these are cinnamon and have lots of flavor. Try one."

"Tried 'em before," Starsky muttered, "and didn't like them." Nevertheless, he accepted the box. His right hand held the box low enough that his left could encourage the top open without having to flex his arm. The doctor estimated that it was still two weeks before he'd be able to return to work.

Hutch took the bar that Starsky had pulled from the box and tore off the wrapper. He took the first bite, chewing contently, and handed it back to his partner.

Starsky scowled, but that was the extent of his reaction.

"Mm, good," Hutch said, swallowing.

Starsky turned away so his partner wouldn't take advantage a second time.

"What have you been watching?" Hutch asked as he put oranges in the refrigerator. The TV was turned on. Watching was about all Starsky was capable of doing while convalescing from a bullet in the back of his shoulder, courtesy of two hitmen at an Italian restaurant. Now that the groceries were put away, he began folding up the paper bags.

Starsky swallowed his first bite of granola as a grin spread across his face. "Watched some game shows and soaps." His grin widened. "Then I started watching some nature program. About zebras."

Hutch was intrigued by his partner's amusement. "And?" He pulled a beer from the refrigerator.

Starsky's voice became the stern, serious tone of a popular TV nature personality. "Zebras have unusually long penises." He snickered, taking another bite.

Hutch blinked. They really said something like that on TV? "You mean you were watching PBS?" he asked in disbelief.

Starsky shrugged. "Yeah. Was just flippin' channels and they were talking about the mating habits of zebras. So, I got interested."

Hutch grunted, pulling a pan from the cupboard and filling it with water. "I never knew you were interested in wild animals."

Starsky shrugged. "I'm not, particularly. But, man, it was about zebras, after all."

Hutch put the pan on the stove and turned the burner to High.

"You know," Starsky said, "Zebra Three. Zebra Three."

Hutch said, "Uh-huh," in an unimpressed manner.

"What are we having?"

"Macaroni and cheese."

"That's all?"

"And a nice, fresh salad."

"Oh. Anything else?"

Hutch looked up from the stove, frowning. "You're already eating dessert. What else do you want?"

"This isn't dessert," Starsky said, taking another bite. "It's just a snack to tide me over. Thought maybe we'd have something with meat in it."

"Tomorrow we'll have meat loaf," Hutch said. "Tonight, it's macaroni and cheese. The good macaroni."

Suspiciously, Starsky asked, "With the funny-tasting cheese?"

"You liked it last time," Hutch pointed out with forced patience.

The other shrugged and wandered back toward the living room. Then, using the nature man's voice again, he bellowed, "Zebras have unusually long penises."

Hutch rolled his eyes. As he poured macaroni into boiling water, he said, "Well, you're not a zebra, so why does it matter?"

"It's the symbolism, Hutch." Starsky was coming back toward the kitchen. "You know, some good lookin' lady might have watched that program this afternoon. And then when she finds out that this hot cop has a code name of Zebra Three, well...." He grinned broadly at the possibilities.

Hutch straightened, feeling smug, "I'd think that would set an awfully big expectation for you to own up to."

"I wouldn't disappoint her," Starsky said, equally smug.

Hutch decided to change the subject while he removed salad ingredients from the crisper. "How's the shoulder?"

"A little better," Starsky said, flexing it slightly. "How was work?"

"Richardson and I spent all day looking through files that might match up to the MO for liquor store murder." His temporary was tolerable enough, especially since he was just short-term.

"Yeah? You find anything?"

Hutch worked with the lettuce. "We've got Huggy finding out what he can about some black dude named Jeremy Willis. He's done some robberies before with a similar MO, though he hasn't ever been accused of killing anybody before."

Starsky grunted. Then, behind Hutch, he muttered, "Wish I could get out there on the streets. We'd nail this Willis guy in no time."

Hutch smiled gently. "We will soon enough, partner."

Starsky struggled for a neutral expression as he complained, "Getting bored sitting around here all the time."

Hutch started in on the carrots. "Can't imagine that, since you've discovered the fascination of nature."

The booming voice was back instantly. "Zebras have unusually long penises."

Hutch sighed wearily, sorry he'd re-introduced the subject.

"Betcha don't know why their cocks are so long," Starsky challenged. "You who knows everything."

Hutch was slicing radishes. He glanced over his shoulder, admitting, "No, I don't know why nature gave zebras such generous attributes."

"It's because when a zebra stallion breeds a pregnant lady zebra, his prick's so long that he causes her to abort. So, she can have his baby instead." He paused. "So, you gotta figure that the zebra stud with longest prick is going to probably have the most babies." He shook his head. "Tsk. Tsk. And they always say that size doesn't matter."

Hutch felt smug again, and delivered his next statement in a like manner. He leaned toward his partner and said in a sotto voice, "The size doesn't mean anything if you don't know what to do with it."

Starsky was unfazed. His chest puffed out. "Yeah, well if you got that size and know what to do with it, then all you gotta do is let the chicks know you're willing and available."

Hutch grunted delightfully. "Guess that explains why nobody's knocking down your door."

"You really know how to hurt a guy," Starsky pouted.

Hutch chuckled.

"Zebras have unusually long penises," Starsky bellowed again. He had reached with his good arm for the dishes.

Hutch shook his head hopelessly, and muttered, "A one track mind." He watched Starsky bring the plates to the table. "You know what they say about that, too," he warned.

Starsky glanced at him. "No. What do they say?"

Such easy prey, Hutch thought fondly. "Those who talk about it the most are the ones who see the least of it." He stirred the macaroni, then started chopping celery.

That produced a full-blown pout. "Well, gee," Starsky indicated his sling, "it's not like I've had much opportunity lately." He moved to the silverware drawer and grabbed some forks, brightening. "But maybe my buddy will be a good pal and take me out tonight so I can meet somebody."

"So you can talk some poor lady's ear off about zebras?" Hutch wondered.

"Zebras have unusually long penises."

Hutch sighed. "Will you shut up about that? You've made your point. I know more about zebras than I ever wanted to know. Can we please talk about something else?"

Having delivered the silverware to the table, Starsky moved to stand behind Hutch and looked over his shoulder. He sniffed the steam coming from the pot. "When's it gonna be ready?"

"Not for a while yet. After the macaroni is cooked, I still have to put the cheese and other stuff on it, and then put it in the oven for about twenty minutes." He turned the oven on to Preheat.

"We should get a microwave," Starsky said.

"Nothing tastes as good in a microwave," Hutch pointed out.

"Yeah, but havin' one around would keep me from dying of hunger. We could just heat stuff up really fast."

Hutch straightened, then looked down his nose at his partner. "Don't expect me to eat with you, if you get one. I don't have any desire to share a meal with somebody who's such a Neanderthal when it comes to food."

Starsky jerked his head back in surprise. "Neander-?" His voice sounded like he was trying to figure out if Hutch's statement was a cut-down or not.

"Yes, Neanderthal." Satisfied with the insult, Hutch pulled the strainer from the cabinet and put it in the sink. He picked up a spoon, scooped out a noodle from the pan, blew on it, then put it in his mouth. "Mmm. It's ready." He took a potholder, picked up the pan, and poured its contents into the strainer.

Starsky was still hovering near. "What do you mean, Neander-whatever?" he asked worriedly.

"Primitive," Hutch explained. He was shaking the water from the strainer. "Food," Hutch grunted in a deep, primeval voice. "Zebra. Food. Kill. Eat." He took out a baking pan and poured the macaroni into it. "You think cavemen cared about making a meal good? They just wanted to rip the dead animal's flesh apart and shove it down their throats."

"At least they didn't go hungry," Starsky reasoned.

Hutch took out the good cheese and started slicing it over the macaroni. "And neither will you," he said in the over-patient tone of one talking to a child. "I think you watching that zebra program tapped into your true nature and got your stomach to growling." He brushed past Starsky to get to the spice rack. Then he glanced over his shoulder and accused, "Neanderthal."

"Watching that program did not get me thinking about food," Starsky protested. Then he grinned and bellowed, "Zebras have unusually long penises."

Hutch was back at the baking pan and he froze in his tracks. He silently counted to ten. Then he sprinkled paprika over the cheese. Jaw tight, he growled beneath his breath, "If you say that once more...."

"Well," Starsky defended, "I'm just pointing out that I'm not a Neander-whatever, and watching zebras did nothing to my appetite, since I was already starving anyway." He snickered. "I just learned a little more about their love lives."

Hutch nodded impatiently, placing the pan in the oven. "Uh-huh. And when you're not thinking about food, you're thinking about sex. Like I said: Neanderthal."

Starsky challenged, "Since when do you know so much about the sex lives of Neander-whatevers? Maybe they didn't even think about sex. Maybe they just did it whenever they felt like it." He paused. "Since when are you so hung up on cavemen, anyway?"

Hutch looked at him squarely. "Since I realized my partner was one." There. That got him. Grinning with satisfaction, he picked up the salad and brought it to the table.

Starsky firmed his jaw. "One of these days..." he threatened.

Hutch pulled the dressing from the refrigerator and straightened. "Yes?" He batted his eyelashes innocently.

Starsky sighed pitifully. "Is it ready yet?" He glanced hopefully at the stove.

"I just put it in the oven," Hutch scolded. "The timer will go off." He patted a chair. "Here. Start on your salad."

"Rabbit food," Starsky complained as he sat down.

Hutch opened his mouth, loving that Starsky gave him the perfect opening.

But the other held up his hand. "Don't say it," Starsky said in the contrite voice of one having lost the war. "I know. If I wasn't a Neanda-whatever, I would appreciate rabbit food."

Hutch grinned widely, loving the victory, even if it would only last as long as their meal. He served them each of helping of salad. Then opened the dressing and handed it to Starsky while sitting next to him.

"It's a good thing you don't cook for me all the time," Starsky said as he soaked his salad. "Otherwise, I'd be down to skin and bones."

Hutch leaned toward him and said sweetly, "Wouldn't matter, would it? As long as the zebra part of you still works." He winked.

Starsky stared at him. Then, "Really, Hutch," he said in a tone of mock disapproval. "You have a one-track mind."

Hutch smirked and dived into his salad.




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