you open up your life to the living,
Detective Sergeant David Michael Starsky shed the towel carelessly knotted around his hips and stepped wearily into the precinct communal shower. Turning the water on full force, he ducked under the steaming spray, grinning. It didn't matter that he was filthy and exhausted, he'd had a good day at work. And after the last nine months, a good day at work was not something he took for granted.
As soon as the steaming water struck his body, Starsky began to mutate. From a tired, grimy, battle-scarred homicide detective, he felt himself change. It started with a soft humming, then the low, throaty trill of "Da-da-da-da, da-da, da-da-da-da," until, before he knew it, Starsky had miraculously transformed into a wet, soapy, naked--but lithesome--Gene Kelly.
"I'm singin' in the rain!" Starsky warbled, as water cascaded through his curly hair and over his lathered body.
"Just singin' in the rain!
Oblivious to the stares of other cops, he lathered and rinsed, his voice reverberating enthusiastically around the tiled walls.
"I'm la-a-a-ughin' at clouds,
As he rinsed the day's sweat away, he added dance steps to his number. Using a stationary pole as a stand-in for Kelly's street lamp, he swung around, sliding his feet wetly along the tiles, splashing his fellow police officers.
"Let the stormy clouds chase,
They took the cue and abandoned the shower as Starsky's choreography became more complicated. Oblivious to the critical walk-outs, he danced on, singing his heart out.
with the rain,
He swung an imaginary umbrella as he exited the shower and headed for his locker. Never missing a step, he slapped his soles noisily along the wet tiles to make up for his lack of dance taps. Leaping smartly unto a bench, he balanced precariously along its length just to add a little Astaire style to the number.
Stepping gracefully back onto the floor, Starsky did a sloppy soft-shoe—or rather, wet foot—dance step all the way to the lockers.
down the lane,
Leaving a puddled trail in his wake, he was sure he had out-Kelly-ed Kelly, as he knotted a towel around his hips while sashaying drippingly.
"I'm singin', yeah,
His high-spirited dance eventually brought him abreast of his partner, Ken Hutchinson. Hutch was drying himself by the lockers when Starsky spun and, without warning, grabbed his wrist, propelling Hutch into his wet embrace, then dropping him into a dramatic dance dip.
Staring down into his startled friend's handsome face, Starsky announced, "After six months of convalescence and three months of down and dirty cop work, I feel like I finally washed the remnants of Gunther's slime off me!"
Hutch scrambled to keep from losing his own towel and his footing on the damp floor, while his awkward attempts to regain both nearly brought them down on the tiles in a heap. By the time they regained their equilibrium they were convulsed in helpless laughter.
"Yeah," Starsky said, releasing Hutch. "What a glorious feeling. I'm ha-a-a-ppy again!"
Hutch readjusted his towel, then pulled fresh clothes out of his locker. "I think the entire precinct's figured that out, Starsk. What the hell were you singin' in there, anyway? Aida?"
"Nah! Didn't you recognize Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain?"
"No, and neither did anyone else you drove out of the shower with soap in their hair. Your fur coat's dripping everywhere! Where's your other towel?"
Starsky peered into his nearly empty locker, across from Hutch's. "Gone. Maybe Gunther got that, too, along with the tip of my liver, a piece a rib, and a half year of my life. I'll add it to the charges we'll be droppin' on his Vice-President, the chump we busted today. The last of the bad guys! Hah!" Starsky beamed.
Hutch grinned back as he pulled a towel from his own supply and draped it over Starsky's dripping hair. With a deft move, Hutch turned the towel into a tight nun's veil, trapping all the weeping, dark tendrils. "Will you dry off, already, Sister Mary Starsky, before we have to build a dam around you to control erosion?"
Starsky would not be distracted. "We did it, Hutch. We really did it. We got every last one of 'em. The entire Board of Directors. Each Vice-President who had The Knowledge. Right on down to the inside traders who knew the score. Got 'em. Nailed. Tight. Threw away the key." Absently, he fingered the rigid keloid scars that cut across his chest—Gunther's mementos.
Hutch glanced at the gesture, then looked away. "Don't I always keep my promises?"
Starsky's face started to hurt from smiling. He remembered Hutch's voice through the fog of his coma as he promised: We'll get 'em, Starsk. They're not gonna win this one. We'll get 'em, buddy, if it's the last thing we do. The miracle was that they had lived to do it.
They'd had to fight the effects of multiple slugs in Starsky's body. He'd actually died at one point, and had been brought back, the doctors said, on sheer will power—but whether it had been Starsky's or Hutch's, they didn't know.
They'd had to fight the resistance of Starsky's thirty-five-year-old body to recovering. Hutch had assumed that responsibility with a vengeance. He'd driven Starsky like a drill sergeant, sought out the latest nutritional advice, consulted the best physical therapists, sports doctors, and health gurus who'd helped him design the ultimate exercise regimen, the perfect diet, with martial arts training and yoga just to round things out. He'd put all the energy he'd formerly devoted to police work into curing Starsky and had joined him every step of the way. The result was two cops nearing middle age who were in far better shape than men ten years younger. Starsky had never been this fit, not even in the Academy, and neither had Hutch.
And lastly, they'd had to fight administrators who would've been far more comfortable with Starsky's retirement on medical disability than returning him, a wounded cop-hero, to the streets. Only when they'd fought—and beaten—those adversaries, had they been able to tackle the octopus-like operation that was Gunther's dynasty. A dynasty they knew Gunther was still able to control from his cell. But not anymore.
Now it was finished. They'd broken the back of that complex crime organization with the same brash techniques they'd been using since the Academy. Me and thee. They relied on no one, trusted no one, but each other.
Works every time, Starsky thought smugly as he dried himself and started donning clean clothes. Even the paper work is done!
"I talked to Huggy," Hutch said, his voice muffled as he pulled on a fresh knit shirt over his damp hair. The dark red color brought out the gold tones in his skin. Damp blond strands stuck out every which way when his head popped through. Even his mustache was skewed.
Starsky was struck for the moment with his friend's open vulnerability. Good thing he's got me for a partner. He'd be so easy to take advantage of, with all that heart.
"Huggy says he saved these special steaks just for us. Prime rib. This thick." Hutch held out his fingers impossibly far.
"Y'mean, you're gonna let me eat red meat?" Starsky asked in mock wonder. "After all these months of rabbit food and bean sprouts? Tofu and bee pollen? Spring water and organic mushrooms? Enough rice and barley to feed the Third World? Ain't'cha afraid I'll go into shock?"
Hutch smacked the hard mass of muscle that was Starsky's chest with the back of his hand. "You're never gonna quit arguin' with success, are you? You can have beef. Tonight. But you're back on program tomorrow. I'm not gonna have all that work go down the drain so you can raise your cholesterol to its previous astronomical figures. Stick with me and you'll live forever."
"Or at least, it'll feel that way." Starsky groaned and hid his grin.
Putting Hutch in charge of his health had kept his friend sane, and helped him work out a lot of the useless guilt and grief he'd carried over Starsky's near-death. Giving up beef was a small price to pay to help Hutch recover from that terrible experience. Starsky had merely been shot. Hutch had had to deal with witnessing it, seeing him die, then watch him turn into an invalid inching toward old age. Giving up that kind of personal control to another man would've once been difficult for Starsky, but he'd watched his partner nearly die once and understood the frustrated helplessness Hutch had had to endure. Once Hutch became his partner in recovery, the big klutzy blond had shrugged off his over-protectiveness and his agonizing guilt. They were solid now. The perfect team. Mentally. Physically. Defensively. Me and thee.
And the remains of Gunther's organization had been crushed under their coordinated skills.
Starsky slid on a slim pair of briefs and reached for his black tee shirt. Moving closer to Hutch he lowered his voice as he became aware of others entering the facility. "This is gonna be the best, Hutch. Just you, me, and Huggy celebratin' the end of this. It's gonna be like a new start, y'know?"
Yeah, he thought, the sun's in my heart all right, and I'm ready for—
Before the shooting, they would've included a pair of nubile secretaries, or maybe a couple of stewardesses in the party. They would've ended the night trying to prove which one was the better man in bed so they could brag about their prowess the next day. But, to Starsky, none of that seemed important anymore. Maybe some of it was the discipline of yoga, or the martial arts they'd been practicing. Starsky had simply been too determined to recover and to exact his revenge to even care about getting laid. And it still seemed inconsequential now. Maybe they were both getting older—but who cared? He'd worry about women tomorrow. Now that Hutch had helped give him the tomorrows to use.
Hutch's sapphire eyes were soft, full of the same concern and caring Starsky had always seen in them. But there were new worry lines around his eyes, and Starsky's wounding had put them there. He was determined that there would never be another one on that handsome face—at least not one he'd be responsible for.
"You got that right, partner," Hutch said quietly. "Just us. And a new day."
"Oh, did we catch you guys in the clinches again?" a sarcastic baritone intruded.
Starsky tensed. It was Max Russo, whose caustic humor always bit too deep. But he wouldn't let the guy get to him today. Not today. He eased away from Hutch and donned his shirt. He felt Hutch watching him. Hutch knew how much Russo got under Starsky's skin.
It's okay, babe, Starsky thought. I'm doin' my yoga chant to keep cool, like you taught me.
A group of detectives came in and went to their lockers as the shift ended.
Russo opened his own locker, the one next to Starsky's, with a noisy invasive clatter. The guy was the ultimate macho red-necked cop, a stereotype Starsky hated. A beefy weight-lifter, Russo towered over Starsky and loved invading his personal space just to force him to back off. Russo swiveled his crew-cut, bullet-shaped head to peer down at him now. "Heard you guys made the papers again."
Russo's jealousy was well known. He was a mediocre worker and, Starsky suspected, supplemented his income with graft. His partner, Jim Wilson, was a decent cop and Starsky had always felt sorry for him, saddled with this festering boil. It certainly hadn't helped Wilson's career. The contrast between Russo and Hutch couldn't have been greater if they were different life forms. Then again, maybe they were.
"Yeah," Wilson said good-naturedly from the other bank of lockers, "heard about the bust. Tight work, you guys."
"Thanks," Hutch replied to the smaller, graying cop as he finished dressing. Both partners spied the rookie, a young, tall black kid named Tomas Diega, who was riding with the two older men. Wilson made the introductions.
"Yeah, these are Metro's official glory hounds," Russo said snidely.
Oooommmm, Starsky repeated mentally, drawing out the syllable in his mind, focusing on the space between his eyebrows. He could hear Hutch saying, Focus on that place between your brows, and try to see with your inner eye. At first, he had nearly collapsed in laughter over that silliness—until he found that the mental concentration really did help his healing. He had been dead, and was now alive. More than alive. He was young again, strong, renewed. He would not argue with success.
"If there's a reporter within ten miles," Russo went on as Starsky slipped on red socks, then his favorite faded jeans, "these guys'll find him. They make more headlines than Liz Taylor."
Hutch finished combing his hair, then stood behind Starsky. Watching his back. As always.
"Y'know, Russo," Hutch said, the humor clear in his voice, "if you spent as much time hitting the bricks as you did griping about the workload, maybe you'd make the papers, too."
"Yeah," Starsky added, shifting his genitals in his tight pants until they were comfortable, then zipping his fly. "The funny papers."
Hutch and Russo's partner Wilson both chuckled, as Hutch casually laid both hands on Starsky's shoulders and squeezed. They had always been comfortable touching, but since the shooting, Hutch had seemed to need that even more, as if he had to keep feeling Starsky's living warmth.
"Oh, Christ," Russo grumbled, "you're not gonna kiss him in front of the kid, are you?" He indicated the rookie. "We're used to your fuck-buddy routine, but he's still an innocent."
Hutch's hands tightened on Starsky's shoulders as he tensed. No, he would not respond to Russo's constant homo-baiting. Not today. Russo knew it got a rise out of him, that was why he did it. Starsky focused on his inner eye, and repeated his mantra. Oooommmm. But he couldn't unclench his jaw.
"You gotta excuse his bad manners," Hutch said to the embarrassed Diega, indicating Russo. "He had a lack of support at home. His mother tried to drown him when he was a puppy."
"Don't worry about it, Max," Starsky said, pouting as the other cops chuckled. "Hutch says I'm a lousy kisser. So, I'm goin' celibate."
The rookie hid a smile as the cops laughed.
"We try not to be in here when they take their shower," Russo shot back. "They spend more time in there on their knees than nuns."
That's it! Starsky swore, the yoga, the martial discipline, everything forgotten in a flush of heat from a comment that crossed an invisible line in his mind. But Hutch was in front of him, hands on his arms, gently restraining.
"Not today, Starsk," he said softly. "Don't let him get to you today. Dinner's waiting."
Starsky struggled with his rage, found his center, and felt the anger slip away. Hutch felt it, too, because he released Starsky. No one in the locker room made a sound.
"Not today," Starsky agreed, his eyes burning into Russo's big frame. He did not fear the man's size. It might've given him a moment's pause once, but no longer. The martial arts training had seen to that. He shrugged off the anger and made his body go slack. He had to save it for the bad guys. "Not today, Russo."
The big cop cupped his own genitals, grasping his dick in a gesture of masculine contempt. "But someday, Starsky. You and me. One on one. Keep your knee pads ready."
The threat was clear. Russo's partner hissed, "Max!" The rest of the room went still.
Hutch's eyes were on Starsky, worried. But Starsky had released his anger. "Need only one hand for that, Max?" he drawled, grinning crookedly. "Takes me two hands to hang onto mine." He gripped his well-endowed phallus through his tight jeans with both fists. Every cop in the room burst into laughter as Russo's posturing proved his undoing.
Brazenly, Starsky donned the brown leather jacket studded with Gunther's bullet holes across the back, holes stained dark with his blood. He wore the jacket proudly, even though it made other cops uncomfortable. It was his taunt to death and all the forces that had tried to destroy him and Hutch—and failed. Then, together, the partners sauntered out of the locker room, arms around each other's shoulders.
Once out of ear-shot, Hutch had to cover his mouth to hold in his laughter. "Starsky! You should be ashamed!"
"Of being hung?" Starsky asked, laughing just as hard.
"No! Of flaunting it in the face of those less privileged." Hutch nearly dissolved as, no doubt, he recalled Russo's shocked expression.
"Hey, what can I say?" Starsky replied, still giggling, as they made their way to the parking lot. "We are the Chosen People!"
Laughing and leaning against each other, they staggered to the repaired Torino. Starsky tried to remember when they'd last felt this good. When things were so right. It had been a long time. Years maybe. Before women had come between them. Before Hutch had started feeling burned out. Before Hutch had gotten sick once from an enforced addiction, then later from a plague. Before Starsky had been poisoned. Before he'd been shot. It had been awhile.
But now they were both healed, body and soul. Healthy, strong, together. Me and thee against the world. Today and always, Starsky vowed. Always.
I can feel it coming in the air tonight,