Chapter 25

Well, we all fall in love
But we disregard the danger
Though we share so many secrets
There are some we never tell
Why were you so surprised
That you never saw the stranger
Did you ever let your lover
See the stranger in yourself
      The Stranger—Billy Joel

      "You were the last one with the Ramos file," Hutch said pleasantly. "Where did you put it?" It was late in the afternoon and the squadroom was empty except for them. The after-effects of the corruption scandal were still impacting manpower.

      "If I knew where I put it," Starsky said irritably, as he dug through the file cabinet, "it wouldn't be missing, would it?"

      Hutch rifled through the disorganized files on their shared desk. "If you would put things away when you were done with them—"

      "Yes, Mom, I promise I'll clean my room tomorrow. Just help me find it, will ya?"

      The squadroom doors suddenly opened and Linda Baylor's voice called out, "TA-DA!"

      Hutch looked up to see her pushing a wheelchair. "Starsky! Look who's come to visit! It's Tomas!"

      His partner turned away from the files with a grin. "Hey, amigo! Welcome home!"

      Baylor pushed the chair close to Hutch's desk.

      Joan Meredith was behind her, smiling, helping her with the doors. "Review board just cleared him for desk duty," Meredith said.

      "That's great!" Hutch said.

      Tomas nodded. "Half days, but it'll be good just to go to work every day." He was still wearing dark shades to protect his injured eye, but that would only be temporary. "My physical therapist says I should be able to handle crutches in two weeks. Then four weeks after that, I'm supposed to be back on my feet. I've got to get back in condition, but at least I can see the end of the tunnel now."

      "That's really terrific," Starsky said, beaming. "You need anything from us? You've got a way to get back and forth to work?"

      "Trixie can drop me off and pick me up," Tomas said. "And Linda and Joan have offered to help."

      "He's a smart guy," Linda cracked. "He'll do anything to stay out of that Torino. Hey, isn't it about time you settled-down-types started looking at station wagons?"

      Starsky looked appalled. "Station wagons?"

      They all laughed.

      "Did you hear?" Meredith asked Hutch. "Higgins and his partner got back together."

      "Oh, yeah?"

      She nodded. "His partner had no part in the scandal and when he found out about it, and how Higgins was so pivotal in busting it open, he really had to re-think his attitude. He went to Ray and asked him if they could get past their differences and work together again. Said he wanted to have an honest cop watching his back. They're talking about taking the detective exam together."

      "That's great," Hutch said, genuinely pleased. A lot of other cops in the precinct were still uncomfortable around them, but many were warming up, especially when they realized Starsky and Hutch were still the same two cops they'd been before all this started. Hutch wouldn't exactly say things would ever be back to normal, but they were tolerable.

      Just then, Dobey came barreling out of his office as if he were about to start bellowing for his two favorite headaches. When he spotted Tomas, he broke into a huge grin and came over to shake his detective's hand.

      "Thanks for talking to the review board, Captain," Tomas said. "I know you influenced them a lot."

      "You think I can afford to lose a good detective? We need every honest man we can get, son."

      That was the truth, Hutch thought. Even on half days on a desk, Tomas would be a valuable addition.

      Dobey turned to Starsky and Hutch. "I need you two to go downtown and deal with the depositions on the Luray case. It's backlogged so bad the felon might be released because we couldn't get the case heard quickly enough. I need you to get the witnesses lined up so we can move forward with it."

      Starsky groaned. "Wasn't that one of Wilson and Russo's old cases?" Those were some of the hardest to deal with, the ongoing cases of the cops currently under arrest.

      "I know that one," Tomas said. "I was with them when the bust went down. Show me the files. I might be able to clear some things up for you. Maybe even testify."

      "Great!" Starsky said. "Lemme see if I can find them."

      Hutch rolled his eyes. The files were in chaos, just one more thing affected by the corruption scandal.

      "Starsky!" Dobey barked, as Starsky turned in his direction and he got a good look at his chest. "I thought you promised me you weren't going to wear any more political tee shirts on duty. You know the rules!"

      Hutch shot him a look. I told you Dobey would notice it.

      Starsky zipped up his leather jacket to obscure the message. "Sorry, Cap. Ran out of clean—"

      "Forget the laundry excuse! Next time you show up here with one of those political statements across your chest, I'm going to send you home without pay. I mean it!"

      The big man went back to his office, slamming the door as he did.

      Tomas looked at Starsky. "Political statements?"

      Keeping his back to Dobey's office, Starsky unzipped his coat. His shirt carried the logo for their new organization, The Bay City Gay and Lesbian Police Officers' Alliance. The motto, "Justice and Fairness for All," sat beneath the logo. The out-of-court settlement from the city was substantial. Huggy had talked Kelly into moving out of her five story walk-up into a larger place with an elevator and a small office suite. Huggy had them hysterical, complaining that after having traversed those stairs just to see Kelly, he was then too tired to do anything with her. He was also determined to see her start separating her private and business life more. Hutch wondered what Buddy was thinking about all of this and if they were going to have to start looking for wedding presents in the foreseeable future.

      Tomas smiled. "Can't stay out of trouble, can you?"

      Starsky smiled crookedly. "Hey, will you be at the meeting tonight, Tomas?"

      "Meeting?" Hutch said in surprise.

      Starsky looked at him, exasperated. "I told you about it! Seven o'clock. We're meeting at Peter's office to work out the demonstration at that hotel that fired their head chef when they found out he was gay. The hotel manager's a real jerk. That new guy Peter's started seeing, that lawyer, what's-his-name—"

      "Kincaid," Hutch reminded him, "Robert Kincaid."

      "Right. Robert suggested that a peaceful public protest in front of the hotel would bring them so much bad publicity they would reconsider even before Kelly hits them with a discrimination suit." Starsky was animated, totally involved in the situation.

      Hutch sighed. Just what he always wanted—a professional civil rights agitator for a life-mate. He wondered again about his bizarre karma. "Starsky, you're a cop! You can't get involved in every civil—"

      "I know, I know," Starsky said impatiently, "but that doesn't mean I can't help with the planning. They need to know about fire zones and safety ordinances that could cause them problems they don't need during the demonstration."

      "Trixie's going," Tomas said. "But I'm still under enough medication that I'm in bed pretty early."

      "Don't worry about it," Baylor said. "Starsky can cause enough problems for the entire police force. Ain't that right, Starsky?"

      "Anything you say, doll!" He winked at Tomas. "Me and Hutch are gonna be owing her for the rest of our lives. So the answer to anything she says is automatically 'yes'."

      "And I'm loving it," Baylor admitted. "Come on, Tomas. Bus is leaving. Trixie said she'd be downstairs in the car in ten minutes and that was twenty minutes ago."

      They waved goodbye as Tomas rolled out of the squadroom and down the hall.

      Hutch snagged Starsky's sleeve. "I thought we were going to have dinner at home tonight. Alone!"

      Starsky's smile warmed Hutch to the pit of his stomach. He wanted to have that smile all to himself tonight and get to see it in his favorite lighting—their bedroom.

      "You're insatiable, you know that," Starsky teased.

      "And you make sure I stay that way, don't you?" Hutch shot back. He tried not to react to the flash of memory from this morning's intense lovemaking. The mental image of Starsky riding his cock, with a rapturous smile on his face, while murmuring pornographic pillow talk designed to drive Hutch insane was enough to make him squirm. All he'd been able to think about all day was the moment when he would offer his own complete surrender in reciprocation. That was still his favorite thing. Giving himself body and soul to Starsky. Having the freedom to do that. A chill ran down his spine in anticipation.

      Starsky's crooked grin broadened. "Damn right. Look. Just come with me for an hour tonight, that's all. Then we'll pick up some carry-out and a bottle of wine and still have the rest of the night to ourselves." He winked. "Put out the 'Do Not Disturb' sign. Take the phone off the hook . . . ."

      "Cut that out," Hutch grumbled quietly. Starsky knew all the trigger words that could get Hutch to throw a rod in public. "Okay. An hour. No more. No getting involved in Kelly's latest cases. No stopping off at the Parrot for a quick cold one just to 'keep in touch with our community'."

      "Promise. 'Sides . . . it's not like I need any prompting to spend time alone with you."

      "Okay," Hutch said, mollified. "Now, how about you keep looking for that Ramos file, and I'll see if I can dig up the Luray information?"

      Starsky blew him a kiss and sauntered off to the file cabinet. Hutch surreptitiously watched him go. He missed the leather biker pants, but Starsky's typical overly-tight jeans were still a thing of beauty.

      Hutch didn't realize that he'd fallen into the trap of staring at Starsky's mesmerizing rear until Starsky suddenly twitched it enticingly, deliberately trying to aggravate him.

      "Starsky!" Hutch growled.

      His partner only snickered and waved the rediscovered Ramos file at him.

      Hutch's only remaining wish was that he'd have many many years to watch that twitching rear and be aggravated by his one true love.

You're in my heart
You're in my soul
You'd be my breath
Should I grow old
You are my lover
You're my best friend
You're in my soul
      You're in My Soul—Rod Steward