[This story is a sequel to Family Loyalty. Thanks to CC for the incredibly exacting beta.]
Teach Your Children
By Morgan Logan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It was just after noon, and Hutch was stinko. Smashed. Soused. That much became obvious to Starsky as he pushed open the door at Venice and stood staring down at his partner in total disbelief.
"Hutch. Ferchrissake. You’re blotto." Dismay tinged his voice. He could never remember Hutch drinking this early in the day, ever. And they were supposed to be into work by two.
Hutch’s head lolled to the side so he could look up at Starsky blearily. His eyes were an angry red shot against the blue. He blinked a couple of times before speaking.
"Starsky, ol’ pal. Have a drink on me. I’m celebratin’." His dark chuckle was anything but joyful.
"Yeah, huh?" Something bad had gone down, no doubt about it. "Tell you what, I’ll make us some coffee. That’s a good way to celebrate." Starsky walked over to the kitchen and put some coffee in the percolator, filling it with water and setting it on the stove, thinking hard the whole time. Nothing going on at work that he knew of. They’d closed a couple of easy cases this week, one an accidental death that had looked suspicious at first; the other an old man killed in a robbery. Nothing too gruesome or stressful.
Starsky waited until the coffee was done before pouring a couple of cups and bringing them to the living area. Hutch was raising himself from the couch while reaching for the half-empty bottle of brandy. Starsky grabbed the neck and held it down firmly.
"You’re gonna want to let go of that." Hutch’s tone grated low and ugly.
Instinct told Starsky not to argue the point. But maybe he could persuade.
"How ‘bout I pour some in your coffee, Hutch?"
Hutch stared at him for a long moment as if suspecting a trick. Starsky kept his eyes evenly on his partner’s until he sighed and released the bottle. He poured a small dollop of the brandy into Hutch’s cup, then handed it to him.
Hutch took a sip and let his head fall back against the cushions. Starsky sat down and turned to face him.
"Don’ you want one, Starsk? Don’t you wanna celebrate?"
"Depends. What’re we celebrating, Hutch?" Starsky kept it light. He took a sip of his coffee while Hutch seemed to consider the question.
"Missed opportunities," Hutch said vaguely.
No help at all. "What kinda opportunities?" Starsky leaned forward, trying to catch Hutch’s eye, but he just snorted a laugh and looked away.
There was a moment of silence and then Hutch said, in a seeming subject change, "You ever hate someone, Starsk? I mean really, really hated 'em?"
Starsky gave it thought. "Well, sure. Guess I still hate Prudholm, for what he did. And maybe Gunther."
Hutch shook his head. "No, not like that. Anybody not from the job? Anybody...close?"
Starsky frowned. "You mean like a friend?"
Hutch's face didn't twitch.
"Or you mean like a family member?"
Hutch grimaced and sipped his laced coffee.
Ahhh. "No, Hutch. No one...close. How about you?" Starsky drank some of his coffee, watching Hutch surreptitiously.
Hutch swallowed, and his voice came out in a terrible whisper. "I do. Oh, how I do."
The rage hidden in the low tone gave Starsky a momentary shiver of dread.
Starsky tried the direct approach. "Who do you hate, Hutch?"
But Hutch just shook his head. "Go home, Starsky," he said. "You don't wanna be here for this." Hutch hid his mouth behind his mug, cradling it in both hands. His eyes gleamed darkly over the rim.
"I wouldn't be here unless I wanted to be. You know that."
Hutch shook his head again, this time more vehemently. "You're too good by half. God, you're a fuckin' saint sometimes," he muttered into his coffee.
"Yup. A Jewish saint. We're kinda rare." Starsky tried to lighten the mood.
Hutch shot him a glare, obviously way beyond humoring. He rolled off the couch, somehow managing, in spite of his inebriated state, to lurch to his feet without losing his cup.
"I mean it. I want you to go," he said over his shoulder.
"No, you don't," Starsky said quietly, but it only seemed to anger Hutch further.
He spun to face Starsky, some of his coffee sloshing to the floor with his movement. "Don't tell me what I want. You don' belong here right now," Hutch slurred.
Starsky felt the words like a stab to the gut. "What the fuck?" he said, unable to keep the hurt from coloring his voice.
But Hutch didn't seem to care. "Only devils belong here, see, and I think we've established you're a bleeding saint." Hutch's voice lowered evilly. "And you come from a long line of 'em, don't you?"
In spite of himself, Starsky felt a rip of anger at the caustic words. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" He rose restlessly to his feet. "Rag on me all you want, Hutch, but leave my family out of it."
Hutch smiled, mostly teeth, none of it touching his eyes.
"You heard me. All of you, goddamn saints. Including your perfect dad, plastered in concrete and hanging like a statue in your mind." Hutch crossed the room to stand before him, bloodshot eyes slitted with cruelty.
Starsky was frozen.
"Aren't I right, buddy? Wasn't he the perfect pop? Only, how do you know? Why did he die, really? You ever ask that wart on humanity, Joe Durniak?"
Starsky's paralysis broke and he turned away from the stare to stand facing the door.
"You bastard. You'd better back away from that." Starsky could feel his muscles start to hum with tension.
"Oh, sorry," Hutch said, oozing sarcasm. "Can't touch the sacred image, can we? The perfect pop who died a hero. Except, of course, you don't really know, do you?"
Starsky spun and stalked back to Hutch, getting in his face. "You stop it. You get your mouth offa him."
"What's it like, huh? Having the perfect father? I wonder. Did he take you to the park? Teach you to play catch?" Hutch leaned in closer, his voice dropping to a hissing whisper. "Then did he go to work, walk his beat? Such a nice neighborhood, all the cars lined up in a row, and someone paying protection to keep it that way. Maybe perfect pop made a few stops on his route, following his orders and picking up a little on the cuff for his troubles?"
The rage that had been burning rose to speed the breath in his lungs, and suddenly Starsky moved, hauling his hand back and then letting his fist fly, slugging Hutch directly in the mouth.
Hutch's head snapped back and he toppled like a tree, landing splayed out on the living room floor. He sat up immediately and fingered his jaw while Starsky clapped his other hand over the burst of pain in his knuckles. He stood panting over Hutch, a little dazed by his own action.
Hutch looked up at him, an odd smile of satisfaction twisting his bloody lips.
"You happy now? Is that it?" Starsky said hoarsely.
"Oh, yeah," Hutch said, then groaned and rolled over to retrieve his fallen mug. He staggered back to the couch and dropped down to pour some more brandy into it.
Starsky's breathing quieted, and along with it the rage that had momentarily clouded his head.
"That who you hate, Hutch? Me?"
Shock drained the blood from the ruddy features, leaving Hutch looking pale and slightly sick.
"N-no. Of course not. Jesus," Hutch whispered, his voice uneven.
Starsky exhaled harshly and went over to sit in the chair opposite the couch. He looked at Hutch, who had abandoned his drink to tilt his head back. His tongue came out and licked at the blood on his lips as he dropped his eyes to meet Starsky's.
"Yeah, my dad took me to the park. We played catch. He taught me to ride a bike," Starsky said softly.
"Your dad ever do that, Hutch? Teach you to ride your bike?"
Hutch blinked and looked away.
"He teach you to swing the bat, make a free throw?"
Hutch didn't respond.
Starsky sighed and went to the kitchen. He ran his knuckles under a cold stream of water and pressed a napkin against his cuts until the bleeding slowed. Then he wrapped some ice in a towel, brought it over to the couch, and settled on the arm next to Hutch's head.
Hutch looked up, and Starsky held the ice to his mouth. Hutch's hand came up to join his briefly before Starsky pulled away.
"What about this, Hutch?" Starsky said, his voice low. "He teach you how to ice your lip? Teach you to take a punch?"
Hutch's eyes dropped.
"Teach you to hurt the people you love?"
Shame twisted Hutch's features, flushing his cheeks.
Starsky patted his shoulder and Hutch looked up, surprise on his face.
"Tell you what. I got nothing going on this weekend. What say we fly out to Duluth and kick his ass?" Starsky smiled, but his voice was grim.
"Gonna need a shovel," Hutch mumbled into the ice pack.
Starsky looked the question.
"He kicked it two days ago," Hutch explained, his voice a little firmer. "Jus' found out this morning."
Starsky took a deep breath. "Christ."
"So we'll bring a shovel."
Hutch made a pained noise and lowered the ice from his face before raising his eyes to Starsky's.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice a dry sound, like tearing paper.
"Putz," Starsky responded.
Hutch winced, nodding.
"Didn't mean it. What I said a-about—"
They sat for a long time, neither speaking. For a while, the slow tick of the clock on Hutch's table was the only sound in the room.
"Your bleeding stopped?"
"No. But it's starting to."
November 30, 2005