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Alone Again...Naturally

A Vendetta Missing Scene



Revised 12/29/00

But as if to knock me down
Reality came around

    "Hutch? Hutch?"

And without so much as a mere touch
Threw me into little pieces

    It was no use. Starsky could nudge all he wanted, but his friend's attention was still fixed to the retreating figure of Abby, gleaming blond hair swaying, injured arm carried carefully in its sling. Both men watched as she reached the top of the grassy hill, then approached the waiting car. Without a wave or a look back, she climbed inside, and seconds later, the car disappeared from view.

Leaving me to doubt
Talk about god in his mercy

    Only then did Hutch's eyes drop. Forehead drawn, mouth tight, he looked down at the bottle of wine and the corkscrew in his hands.

    "Hutch..." Starsky tried again.

    Expressionless, Hutch knelt down on the grass and began to pack the picnic lunch he had spread out just moments before.

    How the hell did this happen? he thought to himself with no small tint of bitterness.

    He had known she was scared. She'd barely slept a wink the last three nights, not even with his arms wrapped around her protectively and every light in the place blazing. But he had hoped they could put it behind them, now that Artie Solkin and his looney-tunes hitman were safely locked away.

    He guessed he couldn't blame her for leaving...but that didn't diminish the hard little nut of misery that was growing in his chest.

    He tossed the picnic cloth into the basket without folding it, followed it with the corkscrew, and got to his feet. In a swift, terribly efficient upending of the wine bottle, he emptied the entire contents onto the ground, then picked up the basket and started toward his car. He chucked the bottle into a waste can as he passed, shuddering with a mean little thrill as the glass shattered at the bottom.

    Starsky followed, clearly worried, but unsure what, if anything he could say or do to make Hutch feel better.

    "Dave!" The pert brunette who had been following Starsky around for the last twenty minutes, for some reason carrying everything for their own afternoon outing, dumped cooler, blanket, and shoulder bag to the ground...and descended after them with an attractive little pout.

    It was wasted on her once-companion, who had time only for Hutch.

    Starsky caught up with Hutch at his car. The blond detective started to wrestle with the wire that now held his trunk shut, but with his right hand out of commission, it was impossible. He quickly gave up and tossed the basket into the back of the car, then yanked open the front door and plopped behind the wheel.

    There, he somehow seemed to run out of steam, and just sat, keys dangling from his left hand, head bent as if he were exhausted, eyes filled with pain.

Oh if he really does exist
Why did he desert me

    "Hutch..." Starsky knelt next to the open door and laid a hand on his friend's knee. "Hey, listen..."

    "I can't do this right now, Starsk," Hutch said huskily. "You better get back to..." He shook his head. "What's her name?"

    "Hilary," Starsky said firmly...then, somewhat sheepishly, added, "Or Heather...or somethin' like that."

    "Whatever." Hutch gave a vague little shrug, then managed to draw one leg into the car. Lethargically, the other one soon followed, as he awkwardly inserted the key into the ignition with his left hand. The car reluctantly sputtered to life, as if it too, wondered what was the point.

    Starsky rose to his feet and closed the door gently. He watched as Hutch prepared to shift the car into gear, then laid a hand on his friend's shoulder.

    Hutch paused, and Starsky saw his lip tremble ever so slightly before he caught it in his teeth and composed himself. Then he nodded, and Starsky withdrew his hand and stepped away from the car.

    No words were necessary, as the blond detective pulled away from the curb and headed toward the sanctuary of his home.

In my hour of need
I truly am indeed
Alone again...


    You know what, God?

    You stink.

    He took a swig out of the beer bottle and narrowed his eyes, watching as the greenery swam in and out of focus. He thought he must be getting drunker; it never occurred to him that the visual disturbances were related to the tears sliding silently down his cheeks.

    Gillian. What'd she ever do to you, huh? Okay, so she was a prostitute...

    A part of him still flinched in pain.

    And okay, so she lied to me about what she did.

    He took another alcoholic swallow, and swiped at the moisture on his face.

    But that wasn't any reason to kill her.

    There had been days, days of pain, followed by weeks of numbness. Days when he hadn't wanted to do anything but lie in his bed and stare at the ceiling. When he wondered whether it was really all worth it, anyway. He'd thought he'd found love twice in his life, and both times it had turned on him cruelly.

    So he'd decided to go back to Abby.

    Sweet, undemanding Abby...

    And despite the fact that he'd broken up with her after he'd met Gillian...and he knew he'd hurt her, no matter how kindly he'd tried to put it...she had responded warmly when he'd called, just a little over a month ago, to see if she wanted to give it another try.

    Okay, so she hadn't been Gillian, and he hadn't been the total and utter sap he had been, walking around in a sort of soft glow

    Balloons. Red.

that he had with Gillian. But she had been gentle, and a good companion, and just what he needed after the double blow of Gillian's death and deception. She didn't ask for his heart...which was good, since he didn't have it to give anymore.

    She hadn't known about Gillian.

    So guess what, God? I'm a liar, too. What're you gonna do about that?

    Things had been peaceful for a while. Even sort of pleasant. He had begun to perk up, to attend to his job again and begin to be proud of what he did, think maybe he could make a difference, do something with some meaning.

    Then they'd run into Artie Solkin...that slime, that utter piece of filth. Hutch's lip curled even now at the thought of the man. It wasn't the first time they'd run into him, and Hutch had seen the shattered boys who'd come out of Solkin's stable. By the time he finished with them, they were hard and cynical, thought that there was no hope for them but a life of stealing and hustling...because that's how Solkin made his money when the thievery pickings were slim. He sold the boys on the side. A little party here and there, and Solkin got a fresh supply of grease for his hair, while the kids got to stay in his dank and grimy hotel rooms for yet another week in Artieland.

    And to top it all off, the man was a weasly thing with a spine like jelly and a whine to match. Just looking at him got on Hutch's nerves, got up the hair on the back of his neck, had made his common sense give way to the full-fledged, undiluted strength of his utter loathing and disgust. You're going too far, part of him had cautioned...but it had been too little, too late.

    He knew he'd pissed the guy off, but he'd underestimated Solkin's cajones. He'd dismissed the rat in the refrigerator and the brick through his window; how many dozens of enemies did he have, anyway? Sniveling Artie Solkin was the last person he'd thought capable of this kind of devious, calculating, modulated terrorism.

    And he'd paid for his overconfidence. Oh, how he had paid.

    It had seemed annoying, but simple enough. Yeah, he'd just bought the recaps. Yep, they'd cost him a small fortune, and replacing them so soon would put a definite dent in his already-modest liquid assets. But car troubles were a fact of Hutch's life, and it had never occurred to him to worry, to think, to check...

    One minute, the key was in his hand; the next, it was in the trunk lock.

    And the next...

    Oh Jesus, the next.

    The force of the explosion had knocked him back several steps, ears ringing from the noise. Then there was a terrible silence, as Starsky stood frozen beside the car and Hutch lifted his hand into his own stunned view, as if the blackened, bloodied appendage belonged to someone else. For a moment, there was numbness, and a strange frozen quality to everything around him.

    Then the pain struck, as if someone had thrust his hand into a white-hot flame, and it went like lightning through his body, to his gut and his knees. His legs wouldn't hold him, and he crumpled to the ground, unable to restrain his moans as the hurt seared through him in unrelenting, agonizing waves.

Starsky was by his side in an instant, gripping Hutch's wrist in one hand and his shoulder in the other. At the top of his lungs, he ordered the crowd at the hospital door to get a doctor...NOW, dammit!...and then, in the next breath, he was crooning to his cruelly wounded partner, who could barely breathe for the strength of the pain.

It's all right, Hutch...I'm right's on the's okay,'s okay...

Mercifully, he had passed out then, and by the time he'd had to endure the burn treatment they'd given him something to numb the pain.

The doctor had told him grimly that he'd been lucky. Much more juice into that bomb, and he could've lost his hand. As it was, it would take weeks of treatment before he'd have his flexibility back. Hutch had considered briefly his life without it...the hand that held his gun...the hand that strummed his guitar...then shoved the image aside and refused to look again.

Yep, you just kept shoving it aside, didn't you, Hutchinson? Refused to believe there was any real danger. Wanted to be the tough cop, handle it on your own, refuse to be terrorized or scared away.

And that would have been fine, except...except...

Somehow, the beer bottle was empty. He sailed it through the air and again took satisfaction in the sound of breaking glass at the bottom of the wastebasket. He wanted to break things, to somehow vent this tremendous pain that wanted to be unleashed inside of him, to lash out at the world that he was beginning to think didn't care a damn for Ken Hutchinson.

Or for anyone who was close to him...for the cherry on the top of Solkin's sundae had been Abby...patient, tolerant, forgiving Abby, who had already put up with a shell-shock victim who had been more cop than man from the time she had come back into his life.

He felt his gut twist again as he pictured her lying on the floor amidst the detritus from his coffee table, face bruised, arm splinted, half-delirious from pain and sheer terror.

I'm so busy playing Boy Wonder that I put the people I care about in danger...and you're so busy thinking of ways to put me back in my place that you don't care who gets in the way, do you? Guess we're both just a couple of arrogant, macho assholes.

He sighed heavily, a sound that seemed to come from his toes and ripple painfully up to his head, and somehow managed to hoist himself to his feet. He'd had only two beers, but combined with the painkillers and the day he'd had, the movement was just slightly less difficult than a tightrope walk. He was navigating toward his refrigerator, hoping one final brew would send him into oblivion for a while, when he stopped dead in his tracks.

There was something on his bed.

Not done yet, huh?

Changing directions, forehead furrowed into a frown, he moved into his bedroom. Dropping heavily onto the mattress, he stared down at the carefully wrapped package and the envelope beside it. His name was written across the front in a handwriting that made his heart turn.

"I was really scared. I guess I never thought about dying before."

"I can't stay with you, Ken. I know I said for better or worse, but this isn't what I bargained for. We had a future, together, but you changed it without even asking me. And I just can't live with that, Ken. I'm sorry, I - - I'm sorry."

"She's dead, Hutch...Grossman did it."

It seems to me that there are more hearts
Broken in the world than can be mended
Left unattended

He took the package and the envelope in his hands, carefully, as if they would break, and rose shakily to his feet. He intended to open them both, but not until he'd had that third beer.

What do we do...what do we do...

There was a rap on the door.

Swaying slightly, he somehow managed to bring his wrist up before his eyes.

Amazingly, it was the middle of the afternoon.

Annoyed that he couldn't even be irritated about the hour, he turned and started toward the front door. Before he'd gone three steps, however, the key had been swept down from the sill and was turning in the lock. He stumbled back, reaching for his gun...oops, left it in the bedroom...and was trying to decide how to defend himself when Starsky stepped into the room.

They stood there for a second, Starsky taking in his friend's disheveled appearance, Hutch blinking at the dark-haired detective, trying to absorb his presence into the self-deprecating mud wallow in which he had immersed himself.

"You okay?" Starsky asked, for lack of anything better to say.

"Sure." Hutch lied, and Starsky knew it, but for once he let him get away with it. "Wanna beer?" Hutch added over his shoulder, as he turned back toward the kitchen.

In truth, Starsky did, but one look at Hutch changed his mind. "Actually, I'm in the mood for a good, strong cup of coffee."

Hutch glanced back at him with a scornful expression and a snort.

Oh, right, you got me with that one, pal.

"Really," Starsky said, but he sounded unconvincing even to himself. "Here," he went on, as Hutch decided to take him seriously and began preparations for coffee. "Let me help..."

"That's okay," Hutch said heatedly. "I can do it." He held Starsky's gaze for just a moment, then turned again to the task at hand. Very carefully, he laid a small wrapped package on the kitchen counter, then took his coffee pot from the stove and started to fill it with water.

It was painful to watch. Between the alcohol buzz and his injured hand, it took Hutch three times longer than usual to make a single pot of coffee. Somehow, Starsky found the wherewithal to hold his tongue and let Hutch do it.

But when the coffee was finished, and Hutch began to reach in his refrigerator for another beer, Starsky gently pushed the door shut, took down another cup, and poured his friend a helping of the strong black brew. "You go sit down," he ordered, tenderness and firmness mingled in his voice. "I'll play maitre d' this time."

"Maitre d' doesn't serve coffee," Hutch muttered. However, he left the beer behind; picking up the package and the envelope, he made his way back to the greenhouse. "Waiter does that...maitre d' just seats you and glares at you if you have the wrong tie."

Starsky allowed himself a half-smile, then poured a two-second glob of honey from the smiling bear dispenser into Hutch's cup, and added just a touch of skim milk. Then he heaped sugar into his own cup, and followed Hutch out.

"Here," he said, handing Hutch the cup. "Drink it. All of it."

Hutch took a sip, and despite himself, he couldn't help but feel a little better. Not just from the warm, bracing liquid, but the fact that Starsky had known exactly how to prepare it.

They drank in silence.

Eventually, Hutch drained his cup, then set it on the floor and took the envelope in his trembling hands.

"Easy," Starsky said softly. He finished his own coffee more slowly, then set the cup aside, and leaned forward. "What's that?" he asked gently, though he knew.

"Abby." The word was barely a whisper. Hutch wouldn't meet Starsky's gaze, but the dark-haired detective saw the tears swimming in his friend's eyes. And he knew this was about more than just Abby...he knew her departure had triggered a whole new wave of mourning for Gillian, and god knew what else that was simmering in Hutch's tortured mind right now.

Hutch turned the letter over and over in his hands. He began to open it, stopped. Tried again, then gave up and handed it to his partner. "You read it, Starsk," he requested, his voice as wobbly as his fingers. "I can't...not seein' too good right now."

Starsky snorted, somehow managing to make the sound affectionate. "I'll bet," he said wryly, but he took the letter from his friend in one hand, while the other squeezed Hutch's shoulder.

Dear Hutch,

I'm really sorry to have to do this like this, but I know both of us. If I try to talk to you in person, I'll never get the words out...and I'll just end up living the same way I have for the last few days. Or actually, the last few weeks.

Obviously, I knew you were a cop when I met you. But I guess I really didn't have any idea what that meant, or how many times it would interfere with us and our plans. I tried to be patient, and I tried to be understanding. And most of all, I tried not to be scared. But the more I felt for you, the harder it was to be without you, never knowing when you were coming home, and not knowing what kind of shape you'd be in when you did.

So, I made a decision, and I had a plan. I probably shouldn't tell you, but I don't want you to think that I left because I didn't care about you. That night, when...well, you know...I wanted that dinner to be very special. I wanted to surprise you...I took some money out of my savings and I had a special vacation planned, just for us. Plane tickets. Romantic hotel right on the beach. The whole nine yards. I was going to tell you that night, give you the package with everything in it...and I was going to tell you that I had come to love you.

But after that man broke in, I just couldn't. Oh, God, Hutch, I was so scared. It was bad enough living day after day, never knowing if this were the night when you would never show up again. I was willing to do it, because I loved you, and I figured each day I had with you was better than not being with you at all.

But when I realized that the danger extended beyond me...well, I just couldn't live with that. I was willing to live with the fear for your life, but not with the fear for mine. Maybe that makes me a coward, or terribly selfish, and for that I'm sorry. But I have to be honest, no matter how much it hurts us both.

Dave knows I'm leaving and why, and he's probably on his way over right now. I got a refund on the hotel reservations, but I couldn't exchange the plane tickets. I want the two of you to take them and use them. Don't put them away in a drawer somewhere and save them for someday, okay? You both need a break...and somehow, you have to understand that someday may never come.

I love you, Ken. I know I never said that while I was there...I guess I was a coward about that too...but I do. And a part of me always will.

                                                                                                                                                Love, Abby

Goddamn you, you bastard.

Starsky put the letter back into the envelope. She'd tried to do it gently, and she'd told him last night, so he could help cushion the blow and make sure Hutch didn't descend completely into his own seventh circle of hell...but there was only so much he could do. Beside him, Hutch grew more tense, and thumped a fist into his own thigh.

"This profession, Starsk...this goddamned job."

"Hey." Starsky's eyes turned determined, and he gripped Hutch's shoulders, bringing the blond man around to face him. "In the first place, who you are and what you do has nothin' to do with what happened to Abby. That was Tommy Marlowe...and the sick mind of Artie Solkin, who you know wound him up and pointed him in the right direction."

"But if I'd been here...if I'd put my foot down and not let her come..."

"You know better than that," Starsky insisted. "They knew where you lived. They knew who she was, and they were obviously watchin' the place. If they hadn't gotten her then, it just would've been some other night."

"And if I hadn't been a cop, we never would've run into Solkin in the first place," Hutch pointed out bitterly.

"Right, and chances are he wouldn't be behind bars right now," Starsky shot back. "C'mon, how long're you gonna do this to yourself? This wasn't you."

"But Gillian..." Hutch's voice trailed off, as his face took on an anguished look that nearly ripped Starsky's guts out. Steeling himself against it, he held Hutch's gaze with his own, knowing what he was about to say would hurt, but feeling it needed to be said.

"What happened to Gillian had nothing to do with your job, pal," he reminded Hutch. "And everything to do with hers."

For a moment, Hutch's eyes turned cold, and Starsky saw a flash of that grieving fury that he had seen in Gillian's apartment. He braced himself, remembering what had happened the last time Hutch had worn that expression. But the anger passed swiftly, leaving only the grief once again. Hutch bowed his head, staring down at his hands.

"I'm not gonna win this one, am I?" he said softly.

"Nope," Starsky responded, his tone just left of cheerful.

"And you're not gonna let me stay in this mood, are you?" Hutch continued, glancing up with a raised eyebrow.

"Nope," Starsky repeated, the left side of his mouth twitching toward an affectionate, lopsided smile.

"And if I asked you to just let me be alone tonight, you'd probably say..."



There was a beat or two of silence, then Starsky wrapped a hand around the back of Hutch's neck and pulled him forward, until their foreheads touched. He kept his friend there for a moment, unable to find the actual words to say what he wanted, somehow hoping that the feeling would go straight from his head and his heart to Hutch's, to give him some sense of relief and comfort. He felt hot dampness on his hands as Hutch took in one last, shuddering breath, then raised a hand to his friend's arm.

"I'm okay," he murmured. "I'm okay."


"For now," Hutch assured him, drawing back to look him in the eyes. "The rest of it we'll have to take as it comes."

He looked at the gaily-wrapped box for a moment, then lifted the lid and extracted the two airline tickets inside. "Bahamas," he said with a half-smile and a dry chuckle. "Guess we're gonna have a real vacation after all, this year."

"Abby wants us to use those?"

"Yeah, I guess...that's what she said." Hutch busied himself, putting the box and the letter carefully into a drawer of his nightstand. "C'mon...I think I'm ready for polite society. Let's get somethin' to eat."

"I'm fresh outta polite society," Starsky advised him. "How about Huggy's?"

"That'll do."

Shrugging into jackets, they were both heading for the door when Starsky stopped. Hutch looked back at him inquiringly.



"D'you suppose Abby knows something we don't?"

"Like what?"

Starsky pondered the question for a moment, then shook his head. "Nah. Nothin'. C'mon. First round's on me."

I promise myself to treat myself and visit a nearby tower
And climbing to the top
To throw myself off
In an effort to
Make it clear to who
Ever what it's like when you're shattered...

    Screw you. I got somethin' better to do.


"Alone Again (Naturally)" - Lyrics by Gilbert O'Sullivan