Disclaimer: I don't own the boys (but theyd look nice in my living room), didn't create them, have no intention of stepping on anyone's toes with this story, am not making any money from it, yada yada yada...Other than S&H, Captain Dobey, and Huggy, everyone else is the product of my own fevered imagination.
Copyright 1999 by Kimberly Heggen. All rights reserved. Comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Over the Edge"
Hutch reached up and massaged his forehead, between the eyes. The file before him was scattered over his desk, in an order only he understood. He sighed deeply, realizing that he had read the last paragraph at least three times without really comprehending any of its content. Absently, he snaked out his right hand toward his coffee mug, trying to keep his eyes on the paper and avoid losing his place again. After a few tries he succeeded in snagging the mug of lukewarm liquid, bringing it up for a gulp. Something bumped into his lip. He peered into the cup and started violently.
"What the hell!" he shouted, causing more that a few of the others to look up from their work. Bobbing cheerfully in the coffee was a garishly sculpted rubber eyeball, complete with authentic-looking blood vessels.
Hutch managed to set the mug back on his desk without any significant spillage. He fished around with his fingers, extracting the offending orb; as he did so he heard a snort of barely-contained laughter behind him.
"Dobey told me I should always keep an eye on my partner." snickered Starsky, coming around to sit on the edge of the desk. "I have to say, I'm disappointed. I expected you to be wearin' most of that java."
"Nerves of steel, partner, nerves of steel." Hutch cleaned off the ridiculous novelty with a tissue. "I take it this means you've been shopping with Allison again?"
"Yeah, we found a great toy store on Saturday. Rubber snakes, plastic ants, you name it. And a bunch of those little wind-up toys. Allison bought a wind-up that's shaped like a little desert island. It's even got a palm tree on it." Starsky's face lit up at the memory. "It's so ugly, her dog is scared of it."
He reclaimed the rubber eyeball. "Sorry about that, Hutch. Guess I've been gettin' carried away with the jokes. But you're such a good..."
"Sucker?" inquired Hutch innocently.
"No! A good sport, Blintz!" Starsky reached over and playfully ruffled his partner's hair. "Allison's the only other person I know that can take all this practical jokin', and she wants to be the one to pull the jokes on me!"
"So you get revenge on me instead. I see how it works." Hutch got up to get a refill of fresh coffee, hold the eyeballs. "Are you seeing her this weekend?"
Starsky grinned with anticipation. "A romantic picnic for two, I'll have you know. Sandwiches, wine, chocolate cake. That should do it, right?"
"Not burritos, beer, and Twinkies? She IS getting to you!" Hutch teased.
They chatted for a few more minutes, then both returned to their respective piles of hated paperwork, a process punctuated with occasional chuckles from Starsky, still idly playing with the rubber eyeball.
Hutch opened his apartment door after being dropped off by Starsky in the Torino. It seemed strange to be spending this much time alone. Since Starsky had begun dating Allison, his off time had been mainly taken up with her.
From what Starsky had said, he and Allison were at the stage of dating where just talking on the phone or watching television together had become meaningful. The few times Hutch had managed to drag his partner out to eat (even offering up the bribe of greasy Mexican food), Starsky's conversation had been so full of Allison that Hutch found himself feeling a little left out, a bit wistful.
Look at me, he thought wonderingly, I'm jealous. I should be thrilled that my best friend has found someone to love. He deserves it, after everything.
While Starsky had always been a bit of a Romeo, Hutch secretly felt that his partner's romantic escapades since Terry's death seemed forced and hollow, basically a string of casual friendships and one-night stands. Since his shooting last year by Gunther's men, Starsky had been living like a monk.
Actually, thought Hutch, we have both been living like monks...and I need to get a life.
Despite his best efforts, however, Hutch had not been able to really warm up to Allison. Until about a month ago, she had just been one of the dispatchers, an anonymous (albeit pleasing) voice on the radio. Then Starsky had begun receiving "secret admirer" notes on his desk, occasionally with poetry, which were finally followed by an enormous flower arrangement signed only with a phone number and the invitation, "Call me if you dare."
Starsky had been delighted by the mystery and immediately called to ask her out, sight unseen. That first semi-blind date had progressed quickly to what seemed to Hutch to be a close and rather exclusive relationship. Unlike other women Starsky had dated, she didn't seem to be interested in "doubling" with Hutch and a date, and she had very little to say to her boyfriend's partner.
Starsky had explained that Allison was very shy. "But, once you get to know her, buddy, she's terrific!" Starsky had assured him. "She'll get used to you, and then you'll get to know her better."
Starsky also told his partner that Allison had been in several abusive relationships, and had moved south from the Bay area to make a clean break.
There was an odd, childlike quality about her; unlike Starsky, who had retained a child's love of play, jokes and surprise presents, Allison seemed very concrete and literal. In his few brief conversations with her, Hutch had come away puzzled, not exactly certain why his partner seemed so taken with her.
Maybe I would feel better, thought Hutch, if I just knew her better. Maybe I should just invite the two of them out to dinner, without trying to make it a foursome.
The thought cheered him, and he flipped through the phone book, looking for possible restaurants while he munched on a sandwich.
The rest of the week was busy, if routine. There were no further reprises of Starsky's Allison-inspired practical joke; if anything, he seemed a bit quiet. It was Friday afternoon before Hutch finally managed to maneuver the conversation around to his partner's enigmatic girlfriend, as they left their lunch spot in the Torino.
"So, you all ready for your Grand Seduction Picnic, burrito boy?" needled Hutch as they climbed into the car. "She can't possibly hold out much longer against the famous Starsky charm."
Though the topic had never been explicitly discussed between them, Hutch knew somehow that his partner wasn't sleeping with Allison. Starsky didn't seem particularly dissatisfied with the arrangement, either, which had also made Hutch inclined to believe that a serious attachment was growing. To his surprise, his partner bristled at the mostly-innocent remark.
"Will you tell me what that's supposed to mean?"
Hutch stared at him. "Hey, take it easy, babe. I was just teasing. "
"What? You think I'm just gonna get her into bed, then forget about her?" Starsky retorted.
"It's your business, Starsk, you know that. Look, I didn't mean--"
"She's special, Hutch," the darker man said softly, his momentary anger evaporating. "She brings out the little kid in me. It's sort of magical, the way she trusts me so completely."
Hutch had to laugh at that. "You are a little kid, babe. You grow up temporarily when you need to, then you're ten years old again." He was relieved at the smile his observation was able to produce in his partner.
Starsky drove quietly for a few more minutes, and Hutch noticed his friend's fingers drumming nervously on the steering wheel. When he finally spoke again, it was in a more serious tone. "Hutch, I haven't really wanted to ask her anyway. I mean, she's been through a lot with men before, and some of it sounded pretty bad. She's been raped before, Hutch, and her last boyfriend up in Oakland useta beat her up pretty bad."
Hutch considered a moment before answering. "She'll let you know when she's ready, Starsk. Just like you have to let her know when you are."
"You know, she really thinks I'm great." Starsky went on, seemingly oblivious to his partner's last comment. "She says I'm the only one she trusts, the only man who's made her feel loved. She says she felt so bad for so long, after she left Rick.... Hutch, she tried to kill herself once, but she didn't take enough of the right stuff, and they got it out of her in time. I just don't want anyone to hurt her again."
Something in what Starsky was saying disturbed Hutch, and he struggled to bring it to the surface of his mind... but it was gone, and he was left, again, with only a vague feeling of unease. He took a deep breath.
Hutch looked at his partner, then changed what he was about to say. "Are you sure you should be telling me this? Allison might not want you to tell me."
Starsky laughed. "I warned her when we first started goin' out that I've never been much good at keepin' stuff from you, and she seemed okay with that. I mean, I've trusted you with my life enough times, I think I can trust you with my girlfriend's secrets."
Again, that disturbing feeling. "Just... be careful, buddy. Clear things with her first. I'd hate to get you into trouble with her, somehow."
Starsky's blue eyes glinted mischievously. "Now, Blintz, when am I ever not in trouble?"
Back from his run, early Sunday morning, Hutch was rummaging in the refrigerator.
Damn, he muttered to himself, the milk's gone sour again... Starsk never eats here anymore; I need to remember to buy smaller amounts.
There was a poignancy to that thought; it reminded him of changing shopping habits after his divorce, getting used to supplying one person's needs instead of two. Of course, Hutch had always bought the real food while his partner contributed the junk food and beer.
I bet Starsky never has to throw food out, thought Hutch, smiling to himself. Everything HE buys has a shelf life of at least two years.
Measuring coffee into the squat Mr. Coffee on the counter, Hutch was startled to hear an exuberant knock on the door. Who would be here at this time? he wondered. One of the neighbors? Can't be Starsk, it's only 7:00 a.m... He pulled the door open.
"Hey, mornin', buddy!" Starsky's face grinned hugely at him. "You gonna let me in?" He bounded past his startled partner.
"Starsky, what are you doing here? Why are you up so early?" Hutch trailed his partner into the kitchen, watching as Starsky sniffed and then rejected the carton of milk. "Or have you even been to bed yet?"
Starsky's cupboard rummaging finally produced a bag of tortilla chips, which he tore into with relish. He waggled his eyebrows at Hutch, Groucho Marx style. "Oh, I've been in bed, alright. But who needs sleep? I'm in love, babe, in love!" He flung his arms wide, bits of Nacho Cheese Doritos flying out onto the floor.
Hutch leaned against the kitchen table. He was struggling to look annoyed, but the sight of Starsky digging through his food and dancing around his kitchen was so unexpected and welcome. "I take it your picnic was a success, Romeo?"
Instead of answering, his shorter partner startled him further by grabbing him and bending him down to the floor in a fair approximation of a tango dip. "Ze lady, she could not ree-sist ze handsome Ramon."
Laughing helplessly, Hutch extracted himself. "All right, sit down, you dancing idiot, while I make some coffee, and you can tell me all about it."
While the coffee dripped, Starsky did exactly that. "We really had a great time at the park. Eating, throwing the frisbee around, playing on the swings. Lots of fun, even if she did make me eat some stuff that she brought, you know, fruit 'n rabbit food, stuff like that. Then we went back to her place, and played some Monopoly."
Hutch snickered at that. "Did she win?"
"Hell, no, I kicked her little butt. But we got to talk a lot. Deep stuff. Lots of talking, both before we...well...and after."
Hutch was amazed to read a tiny bit of embarrassment in his friend's body language. "She's really incredible, Hutch, and she loves me! She says she's never met anyone like me, anyone that loves her and understands her the way I do."
The blond detective felt a brief tightening in his throat. Don't, please, don't let him get hurt this time... The thought rose uninvited into his mind. He loves her so much.
Aloud he said, "She sounds wonderful, babe. Hey, can I take you and her out to eat sometime? Just the three of us? I think it would be easier that way, since she's so shy."
"Sure, buddy." Starsky bounded up, unable to sit still any longer. "Just pick a nice place and let me know. No rabbit food, though."
Something was puzzling Hutch. "Where's Allison now? Shouldn't you be fixing her breakfast in bed or something, instead of throwing Doritos around my kitchen?"
The darker man shook his head. "She's still asleep, out cold. We were, uh, up pretty late, and I was too excited to sleep. I left her a note, said I was going out to get some donuts. I should get back over there." He stopped mid-stride on his way back to the door. "Hey, thanks for letting me bug ya, buddy. You've been pretty good about this, Hutch. I kinda feel bad, like I've been neglectin' you." He smiled again, a shy smile this time. "I'm a lucky guy, Hutch, to have two people to love me so much."
Hutch stood up and walked his friend to the door, giving Starsky's shoulder a brief squeeze. "Alright, you big turkey, get on back to your woman, or she's going to think you ran away with the donut girl."
He watched, smiling, as his friend and partner ran down the steps and vaulted over the hood of the Torino. He had been present for so many of the anguished times of Starsky's life over the years: illnesses, injuries, failures, and heartbreaks. Somehow, Hutch felt unspeakably rewarded to be able to witness the joys and triumphs as well.
The two detectives had agreed on the following Friday evening as the dinner date, and Hutch had chosen an Italian restaurant near his place. Starsky dropped him off after their shift ended. After showering and changing, Hutch looked at the clock and decided he had enough time to walk to the restaurant to meet the couple.
It will help me get my thoughts in order, he said to himself, help me figure out how to get Allison out of her shell and find out a little more about her.
He knew he had to be careful, though; he didn't want Starsky to think he was interrogating Allison. The very last thing Hutch wanted to do was to make Starsky feel as if he had to make a choice between his new love, and his old friend. He just wished he could put his finger on whatever was bothering him about the relationship. Starsky was crazy about her, and she seemed to worship the ground he walked on, so what could be wrong? Suddenly, something clicked in Hutch's head, so much so that he stopped briefly to consider it further before resuming his walk.
From what Starsk tells me, he thought, all of the other guys she's ever gone out with were complete jerks: abusive, manipulative, drunks. How can a girl who picked Starsky have such a history of picking losers?
He met Allison and Starsky in the entry of the tiny restaurant. Allison greeted him cordially enough, Hutch observed, and he had to admit she did look nice tonight, in a sparkly sort of blouse and black pants. The men were casually dressed as well. They were seated at a table for four, tucked away in a corner. Hutch sat closest to the wall, feeling the empty seat stare at him reproachfully.
Maybe I should have brought a date after all, he thought.
The same thought recurred several times during dinner. While the food was good, and the men tried to keep up a lively banter, the dynamics felt wrong. In previous interactions with Allison, Hutch had felt she merely seemed indifferent to his presence; tonight, while she smiled at him occasionally and made adequate conversation, he could almost feel little waves of resentment coming from her. He noticed something else: while he and Starsky had been doing most of the talking, Allison had been doing most of the drinking. She had put away most of the decanter of red wine that they were sharing, as well as a couple of cocktails from the bar.
Starsky didn't appear to notice anything; he was in fine form. Jokes, Bogart impressions, stories; Hutch and Allison were treated to some of the best in Starsky's repertoire. He also seemed to be developing a budding talent for ventriloquism, "making" Hutch's food scream piteously every time he tried to approach it with a fork.
While they waited for the waitress to clear away their plates, Starsky dragged Hutch into a debate regarding each other's Monopoly win-loss record.
Allison took a small mirror and a tube of lipstick from her purse, and raised her hands to her face to touch up her makeup. The motion caused the loose sleeves of her blouse to fall away from her small wrists, and the brief flash of candlelight reflecting off her lipstick tube caught Hutch's eye, momentarily distracting him from the conversation.
"I'm tellin' ya, Hutch, I had you beat in less than 40 minutes! With only the slums and the utilities! Two of the properties were still in the bank!"
"Starsky, you were just incredibly lucky. You landed on all the properties, rolled lots of doubles in your first couple of turns, and I only landed on Chance and Income Tax." Hutch glanced back at Allison, trying to get a good look at her arms.
I don't believe it, thought Hutch. Those scars on her wrists. They're faint, but they look like leftovers from a suicide attempt. Didn't Starsky say she had tried it once, that she had taken pills? He shook his head briefly.
"I guess we'll just have to have a rematch, buddy!" crowed Starsky. "I'll even give you a head start this time, or somethin'."
"Oh, grow up, Starsk." growled the blond. Seeing the puzzled look on his partner's face, he berated himself for that response. That's not what I meant, he thought, or at least not how I meant to say it. He decided it was time for a change of subject.
"Who wants dessert? Starsk, this place has some ice cream concoctions that were just made for you..." which successfully distracted Starsky.
Hutch rolled over and wearily confronted his bedside alarm clock. 3:21 a.m., and he still hadn't really slept. At least he didn't have to work in the morning. He still couldn't believe that he and Starsky had been given three weekends off in a row.
On impulse, he reached down to the floor for the phone and punched in Starsky's home number. Dully, he listened to it ring. No answer. Starsky must have stayed at Allison's... not exactly a surprise. He replaced the phone, and rolled over on his back, staring at the ceiling.
All right, he thought to himself, act like a cop. Put this together. What do you really have on this woman?
Not much, he decided.
All he knew was that Allison had attempted suicide at least once, probably twice. She'd been in abusive relationships. She couldn't have a record, or LAPD wouldn't have hired her as a dispatcher. She seemed to think of Starsky as her knight in shining armor. And during the one meal Hutch had shared with her and Starsky, she'd put away a lot of booze.
She's a shy person, Hutch reminded himself, maybe she's a little scared of me and was using the wine to get her nerve up... to do what?
This was, after all, the woman who apparently had the nerve to leave ardent "secret admirer" notes to the most sought-after ladies' man in the precinct. It didn't add up to much. Certainly, nothing that Hutch felt he could confront his best friend with.
Besides, he thought, who am I to judge? Look at some of my relationships, I can sure pick 'em when I want to.
Melancholy thoughts of Gillian, of Diana, of other ill-fated romances then occupied him until he finally succumbed to sleep.
Saturday afternoon the phone rang. "Hey, Blintz! You want that Monopoly rematch still?" came the familiar voice.
"Sure, turkey, anytime."
These days, thought Hutch, I'll take whatever I can get, especially if it helps me shake off this feeling that I have about your mysterious girlfriend.
"How about tomorrow night? I'll bring some food and stuff. About 7:00?"
"Sounds good, Gordo. Or should I say, 'slumlord'?"
Expecting Starsky to come bounding in later that evening, and anticipating a possible late night, Hutch was drowsing on the couch Sunday afternoon when the phone rang again.
"Hutch?" One word only, spoken with anguish, as a dying man might speak it--or one who wanted to die.
"Starsk? What's wrong, babe?" Hutch came fully awake.
"Hutch, she said she wanted to meet with me... and I thought... what she told me... Hutch, she can't mean it..." The words were barely intelligible, choked with tears.
"Starsk, where are you?"
"At the park, where we had the picnic... she wanted me to meet her here... Hutch, she doesn't want to see me anymore."
"Calm down, babe. Where are you calling from?"
"P-pay phone, across the street from the park."
"Come on over here, now. Do you think you can drive okay?"
Christ, thought Hutch, I should go and get him. But I've got hardly any gas, and who knows where he would wander off to while he's waiting?
This way, he reasoned, at least Starsk'll have to concentrate on driving.
"I think so. Hutch, what am I gonna do?"
"You're going to come over here. Now. If you're not here in twenty minutes I'm going to come looking for you."
"Okay... I'll be there soon." In his mind's eye, Hutch could see his partner rubbing his sleeve across his face, trying to compose himself.
It seemed like hours before there was a knock at the door, but it was only about fifteen minutes. While he was waiting, Hutch started some coffee and grabbed an ugly old afghan out of the closet, tossing it on the couch.
Hutch had the door open before the second knock, and physically pulled his partner inside, leading him to the couch.
"All right. Sit down, and start making some sense. What happened?" asked Hutch. Instead of sitting next to Starsky on the couch, he knelt on the floor at his friend's feet, where he could get a better look at his face.
"My God, babe, you look like hell." Hutch's voice was low and shaking.
Starsky's right cheek bore the unmistakable imprint of a small hand. His eyes were red-rimmed from crying, but it was the lost, helpless look in them that brought tears to Hutch's own eyes. "Starsk, come on, pal. Talk to me."
"She called me this mornin', said she wanted to meet me at the park for the afternoon, since I was gonna be over here tonight. She sounded a little funny... didn't say much, you know, but I didn't think much of it at the time." He scrubbed his hand across his eyes.
Hutch prompted him again. "So, you met her at the park."
"Yeah. She seemed mad from the start--didn't want to play on the swings or anything. Then she just told me straight out that she didn't want to see me no more. When I asked her why, she just said she didn't want to talk about it."
Hutch shook his head. "That's it? No, 'Dave, we have to talk,' or 'It isn't you, it's me,' or 'let's just be friends?' None of the usual double-talk bullshit?" No wonder Starsky looked so pale. Breakups were never fun, but most people were kind enough to do it gently; clearly, Allison was lacking in the relationship finesse department.
"No, she wouldn't explain it." whispered Starsky, dropping his elbow to his knees and covering his face with his hands. "She was... weird, hostile. Hutch, I know this sounds crazy, but I was almost afraid of her. She wasn't makin' sense...said she knew I was just using her, that I was like all the others. She said that if I tried to call her again or see her, she'd call the cops." He swallowed hard. "Now, that would be a scene." he muttered, with uncharacteristic black humor.
"Let me look at your face, babe. She hit you, didn't she?" Hutch slipped his hand under his friend's chin to lift up his head. "Why did she hit you?"
Starsky's eyes filled with tears. "'Cause, even after all she said, I didn't want her to go. I followed her out to her car, and I begged her, Hutch... then she hit me.."
"Starsk, did anything happen last night? Or Friday night? Anything that could have made her mad?" The darker man shook his head helplessly, eyes now squeezed shut again, and Hutch realized that he wasn't going to get much more information out of Starsky right now. He climbed up onto the couch and gently slipped his left arm around his friend.
"I'm so sorry she hurt you like this, pal." he whispered, leaning his head against the dark curly hair. "You didn't deserve this." He stroked his friend's back for a few minutes while Starsky cried almost silently into his shoulder, choking with misery.
"It'll be okay, babe. You're stronger that this. You'll be okay." Hutch waited until he felt the clenched muscles relax a little and the breathing grow quieter. Then he reached back for the ugly afghan, gently wrapping it around his partner.
"Starsk? I'll be right back." He padded into the bathroom and grabbed a clean washcloth, soaking it in cool water, and stopping at the kitchen to collect a mug of hot coffee. As he returned to his partner, he saw Starsky open his eyes blearily and blink.
"Thanks, buddy." he croaked out as he accepted the washcloth first, wiping his face before taking the cup as well. "I'm sorry to dump all of this on you."
"Hey, what else am I for?" answered Hutch lightly. "Now, have you eaten anything today?"
Starsky sighed. "Yes, I had some lunch, and no, it wasn't anything good for me. I'm not hungry. I almost threw up on the way here, anyway." He studied the coffee, swirling it absently. "Hutch, why do you think she did it? Things were goin' so well. I mean, I wasn't ready to propose or anything, but it was definitely serious."
"I don't know, buddy. You know her a lot better. Are you sure nothing happened the other night?"
Starsky snorted. "Nothin', unless you count a night of wild passion. I don't think I called out another woman's name, or anything." He was silent for a moment. "We did argue a little bit, but it sure didn't seem like a big deal at the time."
"You, Blondie. For some reason, you make Allison nervous. She thought you were staring at her the other night... sort of givin' her the evil eye, made her uncomfortable, she said. I told her she was crazy, and she dropped it, and we went back to... what we were doing." Starsky set the coffee cup on the table and put his feet up beside it, still wrapped in the ridiculous afghan. "Nothin' to dump a guy over."
Hutch returned to the couch, next to his friend. "Starsk, maybe you were right. Maybe she is crazy, or at least a little unbalanced."
"What? She ain't hearing voices, or anything! C'mon Hutch, I know a nut when I see one."
"I just meant... her reactions don't seem to make sense to me. Maybe there really wasn't a reason for her to dump you. Maybe she can't make any sense of it herself."
Starsky leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "Maybe. I don't know. I'm tired, Hutch. Gettin' dumped is hard work, my brain's all messed up and my guts are in knots."
"Why don't you take a nap, Starsk? And when you wake up, we'll see if you still think you can beat me at Monopoly."
"That's not fair, Hutch, not today." his friend mumbled drowsily.
When Starsky awoke from his brief nap he admitted he felt a little better, and even consented to the threatened Monopoly rematch. He remained subdued and downcast, however, and Hutch beat him easily.
Not that I can gloat over it tonight, mused the blond.
He smiled at Starsky, who was lying on his back, surrounded by "mortgaged" property cards. "Had enough abuse for one day, buddy?" Hutch winced when he realized how that had come out, but Starsky didn't take offense.
"Yeah...sure beats the abuse I was gettin' earlier." He sat up, with effort. "What time is it? Aw, shit, it's almost 11:30 and Dobey wanted us there early tomorrow!"
"Starsk, we could probably get you the day off. I could tell Dobey you're coming down with something."
Starsky shook his head. "No, if I don't show up, Allison'll hear about it. Sounds funny, babe, but I guess I don't want her to know how bad she's hurt me."
Hutch thought about that for a moment. "I'm glad to hear you say that, Starsk. You know, you already sound better that you did this afternoon."
His partner rolled over, resting his chin on his folded arms. "It hurts, buddy, but... I dunno, I guess nearly gettin' killed last year, it gave me a little perspective. I guess if I can heal from that, I can heal from anything."
"A broken heart's not the same as bullet wounds, babe." chided Hutch gently. "Don't overdo it on the tough-guy routine. You looked terrible today when you walked in."
"It was just such a shock. You know, things were going great. She loves me, then, bam, she loves me not. Only instead of petals gettin' pulled off a flower, she's rippin' my heart out." Starsky snorted. "I think I'll be okay in a few days."
Hutch studied the curly head in front of him. "Anyway, I think you should stay here tonight. I hate to think of you going home by yourself. Besides, if Allison has second thoughts and calls you, it'll make her sweat a little."
This prompted a hollow chuckle from Starsky, as he got up to fetch a pillow and blankets from the hall closet, tossing them on the couch.
"Get some sleep, pal, and wake me if you need anything, okay?" said Hutch, standing at the foot of the couch. "I'll have the door open, so just mumble." Impulsively, he stepped closer to his friend and pulled him into a quick hug. "Starsk, I'm glad you called me right away when this happened."
"Who else was I gonna call, Blondie? You're the only one I can bawl all over." Starsky plopped down on the couch. "You know, Hutch, I couldn't have come to Allison like that, if I was hurtin'."
"Of course not, dummy, she's the one who dumped you." Hutch said lightly.
"That's not what I meant, and you know it. With Terry, I could tell her when I was down, and she could usually make it better. And if she couldn't, she still respected the way I felt. And some of my other girlfriends, well, it never came up, but I think I could have cried in front of them, and it would have been okay. Allison wanted me to laugh and play all of the time."
Hutch sat down on the couch. "But you're a real person, babe. I mean, you're a lot of fun, but everyone has their off days."
His partner considered this. "Hutch, you were askin' me if anything happened that made Allison mad. I didn't think much about it, but she was pretty mad at me for comin' over to see you that morning like I did. She was awake when I got back. She was ticked off, but I didn't think much of it. Honest, Hutch, I thought she was kidding."
The blond smiled ruefully. "Sorry, pal. Didn't mean to make her jealous."
Starsky shook his head. "Not important now, anyway. Go get some sleep, Blondie. I'll be okay."
"I know you will." Hutch squeezed his friend's shoulder and trudged off to bed.
Midmorning on Monday found the two detectives trooping back into the precinct to look up some information on a suspect. As they entered the squadroom, one of the other detectives, Joey Rigante, looked up. "Hey, Starsky, Captain wants to see you."
Hutch looked quizzically at his partner, who shrugged. Starsky, his partner was glad to see, was in reasonably good shape. Despite the shambles of his love-life he had been functioning well and had even cracked a couple of jokes during the course of the morning. Hutch felt certain it would be a long time before the practical jokes made another reappearance, however.
"I guess we better go see what the man wants, then." Hutch answered, as they headed for Dobey's office.
Rigante looked uncomfortable. "Uh, Hutch, I think he just asked for Starsky."
Starsky actually laughed, a welcome sound. "C'mon, Joey, you know any trouble I get into is at least fifty percent Blondie's fault. No, more like seventy percent."
Just then, Dobey's door opened. He looked exasperated, annoyed, overworked: in other words, like he always did.
"Starsky, get in here. Hutchinson, not you. Go find something useful to do."
Hutch raised his eyebrows. Starsky shrugged again and sauntered into Dobey's office. His partner stared sourly at the closed door a moment, then wandered back to his desk and busied himself with some routine phone calls he had been planning to make later in the day. Between conversations, he strained his ears for sounds coming from the Captain's office, but he could catch nothing. So, no shouting, anyway; Hutch wasn't sure if that was a good sign or a bad one.
After about fifteen minutes, the door opened and Starsky came out. To Hutch's eye, he looked somehow deflated, with the earlier forced jauntiness gone. His face was unreadable. He walked past his own desk, toward the exit. Without a word, Hutch put down the phone and fell into step behind his partner.
When they were in the hallway, Hutch asked quietly, "Where are we going?"
The muscles along Starsky's jaw rippled as he answered through clenched teeth. "Locker room. I'm goin' home."
"Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
Starsky continued walking. "You can't guess?"
"How the hell am I supposed to know? I wasn't in the room, Starsk. What did Dobey say?"
They had reached the locker room, which was fortunately empty. Starsky sat down on one of the benches and exhaled loudly. "It seems that, according to Allison, I'm not only a lousy boyfriend, I've been botherin' her for months with suggestive phone calls. And, of course, I practically raped her when she finally went out with me."
He looked up at his partner. "Hutch, Dobey says Allison came in this morning and complained to her supervisor about me. She screamed and yelled until they got Dobey involved, too."
"And he's sending you home. Are you suspended? This is crazy, Starsky. They can't bust you for having a consensual adult relationship..."
"Hutch!" the darker man yelled. "Will you shut up and listen? I'm not suspended, Dobey's not mad, he sent me home for my own good, and I'm probably not in any trouble. But it's complicated." Starsky ran his hand through his dark curls, further disheveling them. "Look, go check in with Dobey, tell him you're comin' with me. He's probably expecting that anyway, and it's not like we were doing much. Then let's go somewhere else and I'll try to explain."
As Starsky had predicted, Dobey could be persuaded to let Hutch play hookey. "You're going to fuss over him, anyway, so punch out and do it on your own time." he growled. Hutch could get no further information out of him.
He met Starsky back at the Torino. As he slid into the passenger seat, Starsky said, "Let's go to your place. A walk on the beach sounds good, and it's windy enough no one'll be out."
The men made the drive to Hutch's in silence, as well as the short walk to the beach. Other that an older man out walking his large dog, there was no one in sight. Starsky sat down in the dry sand, and his friend joined him.
"Okay, spill it." said Hutch, more gently than his earlier interruptions.
"She flipped out." Starsky said tonelessly.
"What do you mean?"
"Flipped out. Went off the deep end. Crazy. Nuts. The boys in white."
"Okay, okay. I get the picture. What happened?"
Starsky sighed, picked up some of the sand. "Like I said earlier, she came in, started making accusations. About me. But I guess she wasn't making much sense. Dobey got called over since I was involved, and he and the dispatch supervisor tried to calm her down. Then she really started freakin' out... thought Dobey was someone else, took a swing at him. He... Dobey had to take her down, cuff her, and they hauled her off."
"To where? To Holding?"
Starsky shook his head, still looking down at the sand. "No. To a hospital, I dunno which one. Dobey thought they would keep her for a while."
Hutch tried to study his friend's face. Difficult, because Starsky didn't want to look up. "I'm sorry, babe. That couldn't have been much fun to hear about." That got him another shrug and a noncommital grunt. "You're not in trouble?"
"No. Dobey just wanted to tell me himself, and it was such a scene, he thought it would be a good idea for me to go home. I guess she was screamin' all sorts of things about me." He returned to his study of the sand, letting it dribble through his fingers. "He wanted to know if I wanted to talk to the department shrink about it, you know, help figure out how I felt about the whole thing."
Hutch felt a wrench at his heart. To go in approximately 24 hours from being blissfully in love, to this: not only dumped, but accused of near-rape and harassment and told that his girlfriend was mentally ill... most men would benefit from at least a debriefing with a counselor of some kind.
"What did you tell him?"
A ghost of a smile appeared on Starky's face, one that didn't quite reach his eyes. "I told him I had you for that."
Hutch closed his eyes momentarily, then opened them, feeling tears beginning to sting. "Starsk... I appreciate that, but maybe you should talk to a professional."
"Naw. Poor Allison's gonna see enough shrinks for all of us."
Silence for a while. Hutch lay back, staring at the hazy sky. "Starsk. How do you feel about her, now?"
Starsky also flopped back onto the sand. "Confused. I don't hate her, don't love her anymore either. Maybe I never really knew her. Why?"
"Because I've got a confession to make." Now it was Hutch's turn to play idly with the sand. "Starsk, I didn't like her. From the beginning, something about her bothered me. I don't know why." He was quiet for a moment. "No, I do know why. She never wanted to talk to me, and I couldn't believe she had such a bad track record with guys, but still had the sense to pick you."
"Maybe I'm not such a bargain either, buddy. You can't exactly say that I made her happy in the end."
"No, but you could have, if she'd really trusted you. I think you could have helped her a lot."
"Maybe." Starsky said doubtfully.
"There's another thing, Starsk. Did you ever notice the scars on her wrists?"
Starsky shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, I guess I did. I hoped they were just scratches, or somethin', or that she'd eventually explain them to me. She told me about the pills, but not about those." He turned to his partner. "Hutch, why didn't you say anything about this before, if you didn't trust her? And why tell me now? It's kind of like saying 'I told you so', and it doesn't feel too good."
Hutch looked at his friend, trying to keep his face unreadable. "How would you have felt if I had told you that, Starsk?"
"I don't know, dammit!" Starsky shouted. "How can I know? The thing is, you should have told me, and let me decide. If we were on a case, and somethin' really bothered you about it, you'd tell me, right?"
"Right." Hutch said carefully. "But Starsk, a romance isn't the same as--"
"Let me finish! Hutch, put yourself in my shoes. If I came to you and told you I was worried 'cause your girlfriend gave me the creeps, sure, you'd be pissed off. But you'd listed to me, and you'd think about it."
"Because I trust you." said his partner slowly.
"Yes. You trust me. Hutch, I mighta got mad, who knows, I might have even popped you one, but soon's I thought about it, I woulda come cryin' to you with an apology. And I might have talked more to Allison, found out what I was gettin' into."
"Starsk, I don't know what to say. I'm sorry. I...I just thought I was jealous, and imagining things. I guess I didn't trust my own judgment."
"Well, Blondie, I trust it - - 'cept about food, of course." This generated a pained chuckle from Hutch, lifting the serious mood a little.
Starsky stood up, dusting the sand from his clothes, and extending a hand to help pull up his partner. "Hutch, promise me. You ever get feelings like that again about someone I'm dating, you gotta tell me. Even if you think you're just jealous. And I promise I'll look out for you the same way."
Hutch felt a lump in his throat. "You're giving me veto power over your love life?"
"No. But I want your opinion. Always." The dark blue eyes were serious now. "You know I'm pretty free with mine."
His partner looked at those eyes a moment, then nodded. "Agreed." He was able to smile then, feeling the guilt over Starsky's doomed relationship finally ease away.
The shorter man clapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, we've got the rest of the day off, 'cause Dobey is sure I'm an emotional wreck. I think my therapist should take me shoppin'."
Starsky grinned wickedly. "Yeah, I really need some more rubber eyeballs, and maybe a couple of plastic cockroaches..."