Chapter 6

Turn around/
      Every now and then I know
      there's no one in the universe
      as magical and wondrous as you
Turn around/
      Every now and then I know
      there's nothing any better
      and there's nothing that I just wouldn't do
Turn around bright eyes —
      Total Eclipse of the Heart—Bonnie Tyler

      For the first time in three days, Hutch awoke without a feeling of dread. He rose, stretched, and looked around his room. He felt good. Better than good, really. Satisfied. He smiled.

      The other half of the bed was empty, and the coolness of the sheets said it had been that way awhile. There was no way he could anticipate Starsky's reaction to seeing him this morning but, frankly, he just couldn't worry about it. He felt too good. There'd been no bad dreams, just good, solid sleep after an orgasm so fine that had it been a ticket-selling event, it would have brought the house down.

      You are really in love, Hutchinson, he chided himself, but that only made him smile more. Foolishly in love. Helplessly in love. In love with someone who might never be able to return half of those feelings. It didn't matter. The memory of Starsky reaching for him last night was burned into his brain, his heart. It was hopeless. No matter how he scolded himself, Hutch had the insane, optimistic notion that Starsky really was in love with him, but just wouldn't let himself face it. It would take time. Hutch would have to be patient. He truly believed those feelings were there buried deep inside, but Starsky's terrible childhood experiences were preventing them from coming to the fore. It had been a long time since Hutch had felt so optimistic, even though the reality of their situation was really so bleak. The dream-like mirage of Gillian's promise floated before his mind.

      Dimly, Hutch thought he could hear music playing. Could Starsky be in the kitchen? Possibly preparing food? That would be too good to be true. Scratching his stomach, he discovered the filmy detritus of what he and his partner had shared last night. He really needed to shower, but part of him hated washing away the evidence of their mutual passion.

      Starsky's right about you. You're a hopeless pushover. He didn't care.

      After showering, he draped a bright orange towel around the back of his neck, and knotted another around his narrow hips. Leaving the bathroom, he could hear the music was now considerably louder. Mingling with it was the slightly off-key nasal sounds that passed for Starsky's singing. It was some rock, bluesy thing.

      Moving quietly toward the kitchen, he found his partner working diligently at the counter, his back to Hutch. Starsky was wearing nothing but a pair of indecently small, garishly designed briefs, with a kitchen towel knotted around his waist that fell over his groin like an apron. Hutch had a perfect view of that wonderfully ripe butt sashaying around, as Starsky improvised Motown dance steps in his bare feet while joining Aretha Franklin in an impromptu concert. He was helping her get through the song, "Think," while wielding a large carving knife as a baton when he wasn't using it to hack away at a fresh fruit, or butter toast, or poke at some other things he had spread out across the counter. It looked like he was making brunch for a crowd. Gladys Knight and the Pips? Hutch wondered.

      "You betta think," Starsky and Aretha sang.
      "Think 'bout what'chu tryin' to do to me.
      "Think, think, think.
      "Let your mind go.
      "Let yourself be free."

      As they sang, apples and oranges met their demise under that knife. 

      Hutch watched Starsky dance on, mindless of his audience, and realized, maybe for the first time, just how beautiful he was. An odd combination of street-wise, hard-nosed cop and innocent child, Starsky wasn't just a pretty package with his strong, long back, broad shoulders, narrow waist, and sexually dynamite ass and bowed legs—he was a man who managed to be deep without being pompous, open without being naive, and as loving a friend as anyone could ever hope to have.

      "You need me," Starsky sang lustily, arranging food on a plate.
      "I need you!" He snagged toast as it flung itself out of the toaster.
      "Without each other,
      "there ain't nothin' we can do! Oh, ye-aah!"

      That friendship was the most important thing to Hutch, even now. As deeply in love with Starsky as he was, as sexually attracted to him as he'd become, he knew what was important. He couldn't let anything interfere with their friendship. It was everything to him, and it occurred to him suddenly what a very dangerous game he was playing. His attempts to make Starsky see how Hutch believed he really felt could jeopardize that friendship. He would have to be careful. He could live without Starsky's passion, though it would be difficult. But to be without his friendship—that would be impossible.

      The radio station must've been running a block of Aretha numbers, because as soon as "Think" came to an end, the music moved right into the next. A ballad. By Starsky's reaction, one of his favorites.

      "Lookin' out on the morning rain,
      "I used to feel so uninspired,"
he and Miss Franklin sang from the heart.
      "And when I knew I had to face another day,
      "oh, it made me feel so tired."

      Starsky's butt swayed to and fro with the music as he punctuated the rhythm with his body.

      "Before the day I met you . . . " He poured coffee, one for him, one for Hutch.
      "Life was so unkind.
      "You're the key to my peace of mind . . . ."

      Hutch tried not to read too much into the words Starsky was singing, especially when the effect was somewhat diminished by the chorus.

      Starsky warbled out unabashedly to his audience of cabinets and dishes:
      "'Cause you make me feel,
      "ooohh, you make me feel,
      "ye-esss, you make me feel
      "like a nat-chu-ral woooo-man!"

      Starsky kept singing as he went to the blender, pouring in soy milk (the nutritionist had ordered them off goat's milk in light of Starsky's high cholesterol count), vitamin E (was that a double dose he threw in?), lecithin, nutritional yeast, and sea kelp. Then Starsky dumped in a healthy portion of his own special ingredient—without which he would not touch the brew—a double dose of Ovaltine. As the blender whirred and Starsky sang, he cleaned up the counter.

      Hutch knew he should slink back into the bedroom, but he couldn't pull himself away.

      The last chorus came soon enough, as Aretha and Starsky enjoined:
      "Oh, baby, what'chu done to me?
      "Made me feel so good inside.
      "And I just wanna be
      "close to you.
      "You make me feel so alive!"

      On the last line, as the famous refrain came up, Starsky spun around, eyes squeezed shut. Facing Hutch, he sang out heartily:
      "You make feel, yeah,
      "you make me feel, oh,
      "you make me feel like a nat-chu-ral—"

      He opened his eyes to see Hutch leaning against a wall, waiting expectantly on the last word. Starsky flushed all over, choking in shock, leaving poor Aretha to finish any way she could. Magnanimously, Hutch applauded anyway.

      "How long have you been there?" Starsky demanded, red-faced.

      "Oh, three or four songs," Hutch said blandly. "Isn't this a free concert? I must say, Miss Aretha, you are lookin' mighty fine this morning. I love your skirt."

      "Damn, Hutch," Starsky spluttered, "you scared the shit outta me!"

      He turned back to the counter, then, as if he'd noticed something in Hutch's expression, whipped back around to face him again. "Have you been standin' there starin' at my ass?"

      Hutch affected the most innocent look he could muster—pure Minnesota choir boy. "Me? Starsky! What a thing to ask your partner."

      "You were!" Starsky accused, blue eyes narrowing. "You were watchin' my ass!"

      Hutch had to grin at Starsky's shocked outrage. "Looked like two bear cubs in a gunny sack, Starsk, the way you were moving. Nice."

      "Fine partner you're gonna be on the street!" Starsky snapped, shaking the knife at Hutch like an accusatory finger. "You're supposed to be watching my back, buddy, not my butt!"

      Hutch ambled over, casually disarming his friend. Placing the knife on the counter, he moved closer into Starsky's personal space. Starsky tried to step back, but was stopped by the counter pressing against his spine.

      "Well, I hope, when we're back on the street, your butt will have a little more clothing on it and won't be so damned distracting," Hutch said, grinning. He placed his palms on the counter so that his arms pinned Starsky in place, but didn't touch him. "So, how'd you sleep last night?"

      "How the hell do you think I slept?" Starsky grumbled, trying to suppress a reluctant smile. "First sex I've had—that I could remember—in a year. I slept like the dead."

      "No dreams? No night terrors?"

      Starsky shook his head. "You?"

      "Same here. Never felt more rested. Think we're onto something? If we could bottle it, we'd put Sominex out of business."

      "Maybe," Starsky said, dropping his eyes. "Hutch, I, uh—"

      "Talk to me," Hutch said, serious now. "I need to know what you're thinking."

      Starsky looked up at him, his eyes clear. "I've got that 'new fish' feeling again, and it's weirdin' me out. You've got me cornered against the counter like some shy girl you just brought home. I've known some aggressive women, and I don't mind that, but I'm not used to being treated like a sex object by my partner."

      With a guilty pang, Hutch took his palms off the counter and took a measured step back.

      Starsky's expression relaxed. He mumbled, "Still—on the other hand . . . ." He glanced down again and this time, Hutch followed his gaze.

      The towel apron was tenting outward as Starsky's rising erection lifted it away from him.

      "Seems my body's got different notions all of its own," Starsky complained.

      Hutch couldn't stop smiling. "I'm sorry. I keep promising myself I'm not gonna pressure you, I'm going to let you make up your own mind—but then I walk in the kitchen, and you're, well, you're just being you, and—I start to lose it."

      Starsky nodded. "I know this isn't easy on you, Hutch. I know you've been tryin' real hard to back off, too. Last night—I don't know how much self-control that must've taken. More'n I've got, that's for sure. Whenever I've been in love, I wanted everything, and I wanted it now. But you—you were good to me. You never asked for anything back. You never even tried to kiss me. That had to be tough. I appreciate it. I really do. I mean, I never kissed anyone with a moustache! I don't know that I could handle that."

      "Don't make too much out of it," Hutch said glibly. "I was trying to keep you from jumping out of bed."

      Starsky got serious then, reaching up and touching Hutch's cheek. Unable to stop himself, Hutch leaned his face into that warm, strong hand. His heart rate increased from that simple gesture.

      "It was good last night, Hutch. Your making me talk about all that stuff when I was a kid, and then the way you loved me . . . . I can't remember when something so simple felt so good. I could—feel all that love you've got, and I liked it. I just—I guess I'm just worried about the future."

      Hutch didn't say anything, waiting until Starsky worked it all out.

      "Things are nice, now," Starsky said, "but, Hutch—a year from now, two years, where are we gonna be? I mean, what happens if—?"

      "You're wondering what I'll do if you meet a woman," Hutch said for him.

      "Why just me?" Starsky asked. "What happens if you meet one? A woman you like. Your type. Then, how are you gonna feel? 'Specially if—we keep goin' this way."

      "You mean," Hutch asked, wanting him to be specific, "if we really become lovers?"

      Starsky sighed. "I'm worried about us, about our partnership. Our friendship. You were right when you said we'd be as good at makin' love as we were at everything else. But that's not what's really important, is it? Not compared to our friendship. I'm scared of losing that."

      "I've been thinking about that, too, Starsk," Hutch assured him. "I could live without anything physical between us—as much as I want that—if the choice were that or our friendship."

      Starsky exhaled in a rush. "I'm glad to hear that. It's not that I didn't think you cared, but—it's hard to think straight when you're filtering everything through your dick."

      Hutch had to laugh. "And about that other thing—the women—"

      Starsky looked away from him. "I shoulda said women or men, but—I'm still havin' trouble dealing with that. You and some other guy—"

      "Stop worrying about it, Starsky!" Hutch insisted. "I don't want any other man. And I don't want any woman, either. I've had more opportunities on that score than you've had, especially while you were still hospitalized. Shit, if I'd wanted, I could've nailed the entire night shift of nurses while you slept!"

      "I wish you had," Starsky mumbled. "Then, they wouldn't've been waking me for those damned shots and blood tests and stuff."

      Hutch chuckled. "Look, Starsk, I respect the fact that you don't feel the way I do. Be my friend, my partner—and if we can share something that gets us through the night—that'll be enough for me, for as long as it lasts. If a woman enters your life—" Hutch smiled too brightly, made sure his voice was cheerful, "well, I hope you'll ask me to dance at your wedding."

      Starsky's brilliant blue eyes searched Hutch's face. "You're a lousy liar," he murmured, "but I love you for it." He paused then and asked quietly, "Hutch, are we gonna end up bein' 'fuck-buddies,' like Russo always called us?"

      Hutch returned the searing gaze, wanting Starsky to see his sincerity. "Babe, if the labels are gonna be that hard for you to bear, I swear I'll never touch you again. I won't do anything that's going to make you think less of yourself."

      "I feel like two people, right now," Starsky confessed. "One of 'em wants to go four days in the past and change everything back to the way it was. And the other one . . . . The other one . . . ."

      "Yeah?" Hutch whispered, afraid to breathe.

      "The other one wants to feel the way you made me feel last night," he admitted reluctantly.

      "Yeah?" Hutch said softly, hopefully.

      They were locked in place, each afraid to move, terrified of what would happen if they did.

      "I made you breakfast," Starsky said. "Was gonna bring it to you in bed."


      "Uh-huh," Starsky admitted. "Thought it would be nice to do something special for you. I didn't want you to think I didn't appreciate all you did for me last night."

      Hutch's heart was pounding. "I think my towel's having the same problem yours is."

      "I can see that," Starsky said as he glanced at his friend's prominent groin. "So, wha'd'ya say? Wanna have breakfast in bed?"

      "Detective Starsky," Hutch asked breathlessly, "are you propositioning me?"

      "I—I don't really know," Starsky admitted, looking adorably baffled. "I didn't let myself think much beyond the food."

      Hutch leaned closer, and Starsky held his ground. Suppressing an urge to kiss his friend, Hutch touched his forehead to Starsky's. "So—what's for breakfast, anyway?"

      "You mean, on the plates?" Starsky said distractedly. Hutch nodded, grinning. "Sliced apples, oranges, and grapes, with wheat germ sprinkled over 'em, the way you like it, and whole wheat toast with a little cream cheese and some of that good lox we found at the new deli. Coffee. And the Starsky soy special, of course."

      "Of course," Hutch muttered. "Breakfast in bed sounds great. Let's go."

      Starsky swallowed audibly, and handed Hutch his plate and the two glasses while he took his plate and the two cups. They were just about to move toward the bedroom when a loud banging at the door startled them both so badly, they nearly dropped everything, juggling dishware frantically to keep from losing them.

      "What the hell—?" Hutch swore. "Who is it?" he called out irritably.

      "This place is turning into Grand Central Station!"

      "It's Captain Dobey!" the familiar gruff voice called. "Any chance someone might let me in?"

      "Oh, Christ, Hutch!" Starsky yelped. "I can't go to the door in my underwear with a hard-on that can be seen for a mile. You get it!"

      "In a bath towel with a boner?" Hutch hissed. "You must be nuts!" He called out, "One minute, Captain!"

      They dumped plates, cups, and glasses onto the counter with a huge clatter and raced into the bedroom, bumping into each other two or three times as they scrambled around guiltily, looking for their clothes.

      Dobey banged on the door again, evidently unsure whether anyone had heard him the first time. Hutch managed to get himself stuffed into a pair of brown cords, and arranged so that he wasn't so conspicuous, while Starsky scurried around looking for a long-tailed shirt that might cover his obvious condition.

      "You'd think that, considering my total panic, it would go away by itself," Starsky said, furious, "but, no!"

      "Is anyone home?" Dobey bellowed as Hutch skidded to a halt before the door, face flushed, hair tousled, shirtless and shoeless, wearing an expression of total guilt. He opened the door and mustered a smile.

      "Well, hi, Cap'n," he said mildly.

      "What the hell's goin' on in here?" Dobey demanded as Starsky jogged out to greet him. He was still buttoning his shirt and nearly collided with Hutch in his haste to get into the kitchen. "It sounded like you two were running around like the Vice squad showed up. Should I check the toilet for evidence?"

      "Cute, Cap," Starsky muttered, tugging on the hem of his shirt.

      "Don't tell me you both just rolled out of bed?" Dobey asked them bluntly.

      "Well, as a matter of fact, Captain," Hutch admitted, "we did."

      "At eleven o'clock in the morning?" Dobey seemed shocked.

      "It's not like we had to be somewhere this morning," Starsky reminded him pointedly. "'Sides, we, uh—we had a late night."

      Starsky's choice of words brought silence to the group as they all shuffled in embarrassment and avoided each other's eyes.

      Glancing at the plates on the counter, Dobey finally asked, "What's this? Breakfast?"

      "Brunch," Hutch corrected. "Have a seat, Captain. Something to eat? Coffee?"

      "Soy milk shake?" Starsky offered sarcastically.

      Dobey eased into a chair. "You can keep the soy milk, but that platter doesn't look half bad."

      Starsky ushered Hutch into the opposite seat, and set one plate before him and the other before his boss. Turning to the counter, he started cutting up fruit and making more toast.

      "That Aretha on the radio?" Dobey asked around some apple. "That woman sure can sing."

      She was belting out "Chain of Fools" at the moment. Hutch found he couldn't look at Starsky and keep his composure.

      "It's nice to have you visit, Captain," Hutch said as he downed his shake, "but I doubt if you just wandered over here because you had nothing to do. Got something for us?"

      Dobey met his eyes as he drank coffee, and Hutch realized for the first time how tired he looked. "Yeah, I've got a few things."

      "Your phone don't work, Cap?" Starsky asked as he spread cream cheese on toast.

      Dobey hesitated, then admitted, "I didn't want to do this over the phone."

      He finished his coffee, and Starsky turned to refill the cup. His indigo eyes caught Hutch's and there was a wealth of information in that look. They could have been back on the street working an informant. Hutch could almost hear Starsky saying, It's who-do-you-trust-time, partner. Only this man was their captain. He and Huggy had been the only other men who had been included in their narrow trust parameters. Clearly, Starsky didn't feel that way now.

      "So, what's the bad news?" Hutch asked as Starsky sat at the table with them.

      Dobey speared an apple slice too hard. "Blood results are in. You were right, Hutch. There was a narcotic base to the drug. I'll spare you the convoluted recipe—it was a chemical cocktail designed to enhance sexual desire and reduce judgment and inhibitions. The effect is cumulative, and there was enough residue left to tell us that you'd both been given very high doses. Fortunately, there should be no permanent physical damage or lasting effect."

      Starsky snorted. "No lasting effect?"

      Hutch glared him into silence.

      "I've been in meetings with the DA," Dobey continued, "the mayor, and the union. I've been authorized to make you an offer."

      They glanced at each other. Hutch had a feeling they weren't going to like this.

      "You can both come back to work," Dobey said solemnly, staring at his plate.

      "If—?" Starsky prodded.

      "You're willing to take assignments in other departments," he said. "Hutch can go to the lab, and there's a place for you, Starsky, in Records."

      They paused as they digested the news. But finally Starsky put his finger on the problem. "They're splittin' us up, Hutch. They're never gonna let us back on the street together again."

      "Easy," he said as his stomach clenched.

      "Now, look," Dobey said, meeting their eyes, "I was promised this would just be a temporary measure until things died down. The mayor knows I can't afford to lose two detectives of your caliber for long. He's promised me that you'll both be back under my supervision—"

      "But not as partners," Starsky insisted, his voice low, angry. "You'll bring us back at two different times, team us up with other cops 'til we get used to it. Ain't that right, Cap? And you agreed to it!" He rose from the chair, his eyes taking on that flat, narrow look that often presaged a complete explosion.

      Hutch grabbed his wrist, squeezing hard to distract him. "Starsk! Wait a minute."

      Starsky relaxed back into his chair, but his body was still tense. "Wait for what? To cool my jets for six months pushing paper while cops like Russo are out every day, taking kick-backs and busting little guys for nothin'?"

      "Starsky," Dobey said mournfully, "you've got to believe I fought for you. This was the best deal I could get, and we negotiated for hours."

      "Why should you negotiate?" Starsky argued. "We were drugged. You've got proof. Why should we be punished for something we'd've never done if we hadn't been drugged?"

      Starsky must have realized the effect his words would have on Hutch and turned an apologetic gaze on him. In spite of the ego blow he felt from the statement, Hutch shook his head, signaling Starsky not to worry about that now. He even managed to deny to himself the hurt the words caused.

      Dobey leaned toward Starsky, as if he could prove his sincerity by moving closer. "There are bigger issues involved in this situation, Dave."

      They both started at their captain's use of Starsky's first name. The only other time he'd done that was when Starsky was dying from Bellamy's poison.

      "The main reason the mayor agreed to ease your suspension," Dobey continued, "is because of the huge stink Gunther's lawyers are raising."

      "What?" Hutch muttered, baffled.

      "They've already got some congressmen calling for a grand jury investigation of the work you did in bringing down Gunther's empire. The lawyers are questioning your, uh, well—" Dobey couldn't make himself say it.

      "They're questioning our integrity as cops?" Starsky asked, incredulous.

      "Essentially," Dobey said, embarrassed. "Gunther's lawyers are even trying to get him released until the grand jury convenes and examines all the evidence."

      "They're gonna let him out?" Starsky came out of the seat so fast, he knocked the chair over. "What does that bastard have to do to stay behind bars? Draw and quarter us in a public square? Or would that be okay now that we had the bad judgment to love each other one night?"

      His whole body was coiled in rage, both fists clenched tight. Hutch was afraid he would lose it completely and take a swing at their captain. Hutch stood, placed both hands on Starsky's tight shoulders. "Easy . . . . It's not Dobey's fault."

      That took some of the fire out of Starsky's anger and he sagged under Hutch's palms.

      "Thanks, Hutch," Dobey said, looking aged. "That's why I didn't call. I couldn't say something like that over the phone. I'm just sick about this. Of course, there's no guarantee they'll let Gunther out. We can hope . . . ."

      "As long as he's got lawyers," Starsky grumbled, "we'll have to sweat it."

      "If you were back on the force," Dobey reminded them, "you'd be in a better position to testify against him—"

      "We shouldn't have to improve our positions," Starsky insisted, pulling away from Hutch and pacing around the room. "The work we did to bring Gunther down was solid, some of the best investigative work the department's ever seen. The DA told us that himself. And nothing we've done privately can change that."

      "Unless people judging that evidence want to be influenced by it," Hutch said softly. Starsky stared at him, eyes wide and hurting. "You said it yourself. It's the way the world works."

      "Hutch," Starsky said plaintively, "if we let them split us up, it'll make us more vulnerable to Gunther. Anything could happen."

      Hutch smiled grimly. He was working out the problem, trying to be fair, trying to see all the angles, the advantages and disadvantages. "I don't want to work without you either, but—"

      Before he could continue his thought, the phone rang. He picked it up. "Hello?"

      "Detective Hutchinson?" a woman asked.

      "Yes, that's right."

      "I'm sorry to call you at the last minute," she said, "but I was tied up in court longer than I expected. Peter told me he'd set up a lunch time meeting, and I was afraid you'd think I'd forgotten. Are you still available? I've got you penciled in for two hours. Is that okay?"

      Hutch blinked, confused. "And you are—?"

      "Sorry again, Detective," she apologized pleasantly. Her voice was soft, friendly, with a pure clear tone that made Hutch think she might be a good singer. "I'm a little harried at the moment. This is K.R. Callahan—"

      His eyes widened and he looked at Starsky, wishing he could tell him who was on the phone. His partner instantly picked up on his surprise, and he frowned.

      "—I'm still very interested in your case," Callahan continued. "Can we meet for lunch?"

      "Well," Hutch said, conscious of Dobey's presence. "Our captain's here and he's offered to take us off suspension, if—"

      "Don't agree to anything," Callahan said, her voice changing so rapidly it rattled Hutch. All the softness and femininity was gone, and in its place was a cold intelligence that had cowed powerful men. "If it's a good deal, we can always agree to it later. Tell him you'll consider it. Then come have lunch with me, you and your partner—" she paused as if checking her notes, "Detective Starsky."

      "Uh—" Hutch felt weird discussing this with her without being able to share it with Starsky.

      "It's just lunch, Detective," she assured him, her voice silken again. "Nothing will happen unless we all agree. I understand how you might want to accept your captain's offer, but please let me discuss it with you before you make a commitment you might regret."

      "All right," Hutch agreed. "Where would you like to meet?"

      "There's a Greek diner near the courthouse. It's called the Athens."

      "I know it," Hutch assured her.

      "Twenty minutes?" she asked. "If we can get there before noon, we can get better seating."

      "Sounds good," Hutch said, and they bid goodbye. He gave Starsky a familiar look that said let me handle this, then turned to Dobey. "Is there anything else tied in with this offer that we should know about?"

      Dobey glanced at them. "No. I've presented it as plainly as I know how, Hutch."

      "Okay," he said, glancing again at Starsky. Predictably, his partner waited to see what Hutch was up to. "We'll think about it, Captain. We've got a lunch meeting with our lawyer and after we discuss it with—"

      "Lawyer?" Dobey said, taken aback.

      Starsky must have realized who'd been on the phone because his expression changed subtly.

      "You've retained a lawyer?" Dobey asked.

      "Don't you think we should, Captain?" Starsky asked bluntly.

      "You two know better than anyone how twisted things get once lawyers get involved," Dobey warned. "Don't you think we can solve this within the department?" He seemed hurt.

      "You mean the way the department's handled it already?" Hutch said quietly, allowing some of his own anger to come out. "By suspending us without pay without even a hearing? By having the same knee-jerk reaction that they had when they discovered Johnny Blaine was gay? Bury it. Cover it up. Deny it. Thanks, Captain, but I can't think of two people who need representation more than we do. So, you'll have to excuse us. We've got twenty minutes to make a meeting with our lawyer. We'll discuss your offer. Maybe she'll advise us to take it."

      Hutch started toward the bedroom to finish dressing as Dobey called after him. "Who is this lawyer? I hope you're using someone reputable."

      "Her name's K.R. Callahan," Hutch said casually. "Maybe you've heard of her."

      Dobey's mouth opened and he went gray in shock. "K.R. Callahan? You can't be serious. The mayor will have a fit! It could completely destroy the delicate negotiations we've had—"

      "We have the same right to legal representation as any citizen," Starsky said. "Whose side you on? Ours? Or the mayor's?"

      The question completely flustered Dobey, but only for a second. He got out of the kitchen chair slowly and advanced on Starsky. "I shouldn't have to explain that to you, Starsky. Or do I have to remind you who suppressed the report of Hutch's drug addiction while you dried him out? How many times have I bent the rules for you two, endangering my own position, my own badge? We've worked together too long for you to ask me a question like that."

      "Point made, Cap," Starsky conceded without backing down. "But this issue's different, isn't it? When Johnny died you nearly caved under pressure from the mayor's office. The same kinda pressure you're getting now."

      Hutch remembered Starsky fighting with Dobey then, refusing to let his captain even consider covering up the circumstances around the gay cop's death.

      Dobey and Starsky were still squared off, eye-to-eye, daring the other to blink. And finally Dobey did. "You're right, Starsky. This situation is different." He glanced away. "And maybe I'm having to confront some of my own prejudices."

      Then his back stiffened. "But I'm still a man who's suffered under—and fought—prejudices all my life. I'm not going to stop now. Especially when it involves my two best detectives—who're also my friends. You're just going to have to trust that I'm on your side in this."

      Starsky nodded. "Hutch and I can trust that. But we still gotta meet with our lawyer."

      Dobey conceded with a nod. "Call me when you make a decision. Thanks for breakfast." Wiping his mouth on a napkin, he left.

      "Think we were too hard on him?" Hutch asked.

      "Maybe," Starsky grumbled, moving to the closet and rummaging for clean clothes. "That's what happens when you drop in without callin' first! Can I borrow this shirt?" Without waiting for an answer, he slipped the red plaid on and started jamming it into his pants. He stopped in the middle and turned to Hutch who was waiting patiently to get into his own closet. "Hey. I'm sorry about breakfast."

      Hutch shrugged and smiled wanly. "It's the thought that counts. And besides—tomorrow's another day." Starsky stepped away from the closet so Hutch could retrieve a shirt for himself.

      "Yeah," Starsky agreed, a little subdued, "tomorrow's another day."

      "Cheer up," Hutch said, grabbing a pair of boots. "We're meeting Callahan at the Athens."

      Starsky perked up immediately. "No kiddin'? That's terrific! That place makes the best pies—"

      "You haven't eaten breakfast yet!" Hutch warned, knowing it would do no good.

      "And the Athens has all that health kinda stuff, too, Hutch. So, we'll have a good breakfast—and then pie! I mean, a guy deserves somethin' sweet when he's cheated outta breakfast in bed, don't he?" Starsky was all innocence as he batted his lashes at his partner.

      Hutch had to laugh. "If you say so, Starsk."

They tried to break us
Looks like they'll try again
Wild boys never lose it
Wild boys never chose this way
      The Wild Boys—Duran Duran