This story first appeared in the zine, That's What Friends Are For #2 (1996). This zine and other fine S&H gen zines can be obtained from the editor at: Comments on this story can be sent to: and will be forwarded to the author. 

Finis: A Fourth Season Foursome
K Hanna Korossy


Hutch lay at the bottom of Starsky's staircase, stunned. The wind had been knocked out of him, but that wasn't what stunned him most. He slowly climbed to his feet, ignoring all the aches and twinges, and jerked off the blindfold. And stared up at the face that was peering down at him with increasing anxiousness.

"You okay?" Starsky asked, concerned, all the former teasing gone.

Hutch turned without a word and began to stride away, tossing the blindfold angrily to one side. If he heard Starsky clattering down the stairs behind him, he gave no sign.

Starsky skidded around in front of him, forcing him to stop short. "Hutch..."

"Get out of my way." Each word was clipped and utterly sure. Pure venom.

Starsky stood his ground. "Now wait a second. I just wanted to say I was sorry. That was a stupid thing to do, I don't blame ya' for being mad."

Hutch's eyes held no warmth, not even a buried spark to give Starsky any hope. The invisible bond had been stretched to non-existence.

"Mad?" The voice was almost normal. Hutch at his scariest: beyond anger. "Why should I be mad? Just because my so-called friend gets his kicks by sending me down a flight of stairs that I coulda broken my neck on? Just because my partner," he spit the word, "the person who's supposed to watch my back, stands by while I take a chance on endin' up in a wheelchair for the rest of my life? Mad isn't the word for this, Starsky. Try fed-up. Betrayed. Wiser." With one last searing look, Hutch pushed past his partner and marched on.

Starsky stood stiffly behind him, unmoving. He looked as though he'd been slapped, shocked into immobility. Then, coming to himself, he wheeled around to try one more time. "Hutch, please..."

Hutch spun in mid-stride to point an accusing finger. "I mean it, Starsky. I'm going to talk to Dobey in the morning." Without pause, he turned away again and walked to his car.

He didn't look back as he drove away.


The first thing Hutch did when he got home was to take a long, hot shower. It felt wonderful on the aches of his body, but it did nothing for where he hurt most of all. He got dressed, then fetched a beer and his book. Stretching out on the couch, he tried to put the last hour out of his mind.

"I'm sure he'd be very happy to take you anywhere you'd like to go, ma'am."

Annoyed, Hutch brushed the memory of Lionel Fitzgerald away. That had been different.

"I can't believe that I'd be partners with such a horrible, hostile person.."

Hutch shifted uncomfortably. This time Starsky had been wrong, there was no question about it. He turned the page and tried to concentrate on reading it.

Kicking out the crutch from beneath the person it supported.

Hutch swore and tossed the book aside. Another set of memories filled his mind.

Starsky, slipping into the car with him as he fought for every breath, his partner holding him tight enough that even his botulism-paralyzed body could feel it.

"He's my partner," and a crazy stunt that put Starsky in IA's line of fire with him.

Being half-carried into his house and gently laid on the couch and tended to while danger--and Diana's crazed screams--faded into the distance.

The drug-hazed panic of knowing he was going to die at Charlie Deek's hands, suddenly replaced by Starsky's impossible presence and quiet reassurances.

A lot of history, of mutual indebtedness--no, of mutual interdependence, to be dismissed by a few moment's thoughtlessness and some angry words. A lot of friendship.

Hutch grabbed his coat on his way out the door.


He pulled up in front of the apartment right behind the Torino. Hutch was glad to see it there; at least he wouldn't have to hunt his partner down. He climbed the short stairs--and stopped. The door was open.

Hutch slowly moved forward, all his senses on alert. He peered into the living room. "Starsky?" He stepped in all the way, then quietly made his way over to the bedroom. "Starsky?" Complete silence.

Hutch turned away, and almost bumped into the wicker chair. Startled, it dawned on him that the chair had been the only thing moved from before, carefully returned to its original position. Even the vacuum cleaner stood silently by the sofa where it had been abandoned. Suddenly, Hutch didn't know why, but he was scared. "Starsky!" He ran through the rest of the house, calling, but there was only silence. Starsky was gone.

Hutch sank down on the floor and buried his head in his hands. "Starsky..."


"I'm right here, Hutch. C'mon, partner, please snap out of it."

The dream--nightmare? solidified into the reality of warm gentleness stroking his hair back. He was lying down on something soft, darkness surrounding him. And his head hurt.

As if in response, something cold and wet was placed on the side of his head, where the ache was concentrated. It felt good, numbing the pain. The gentle hand continued to stroke his hair, and Hutch relaxed with it, contented, memories of childhood illness and his mother's ministrations coming to mind.


"Hutch? Hey, c'mon now, you're scaring me..." The voice was pleading.

Hutch frowned at that, not understanding, then remembrance returned. Coming to see Starsky, the blindfold challenge, then falling down the stairs and the fight, pushing away his partner so hard that...

"Starsky!" Hutch's eyes flew open and he struggled to sit up.

"Hey, take it easy. I'm right here, partner."

The darkness receded and Starsky's worried face was framed in his vision. "Starsk," Hutch closed his eyes and relaxed back onto the couch with relief, reaching for and claiming the hand that had just been removed from his forehead. "I didn't mean it, I swear." Delayed flashes of pain shot through his head from the earlier movement, making him wince. He lifted his free hand to rub at his temples. "Oh, my head..."

The cold pack was wordlessly shifted and the stroking gently resumed. After a moment, Starsky's voice quietly asked, "Didn't mean what?"

The pain was fading away again and Hutch was fading with it. "...'Bout bein' fed up and not wantin' t'be your partner anymore," he said drowsily.

The soothing movement abruptly stopped and the hand that held his tightened, then suddenly let go altogether. Hutch could feel his partner move away. Fear filled him again, the same fear he'd felt when he'd arrived at Starsky's to find the apartment vacated, and then... what happened?

Hutch moved the ice pack away and sat up slowly, trying not to jar his aching head, and blinked at Starsky, who stood with his back turned several feet away. "What's going on?"

"Don't you remember?" Even with Starsky facing away from him, Hutch could hear the resignation that colored his voice. "You had the blindfold on and fell down the stairs. Thought for a minute you were... dead until I figured out you'd just been knocked out. So I brought you up here."

"But, how..."

Starsky whirled around. "Don't you get it? I tricked you! Almost got you killed, too. Ha, ha."

The words were full of false bravado, the eyes full of fear. Hutch reflected, slowly realizing that what he remembered so clearly hadn't happened, had just been a dream. Starsky, his Starsky, was still here; Hutch hadn't lost him. The conclusion made him grin.

Starsky stared at him, confused. "What's so funny?"

Hutch tried to suppress the grin but couldn't. "Oh, nothing. I'm just glad to see you."

His partner visibly cringed at the words and turned away again. Hutch stared at him in surprise, then comprehension. It was his dream, only in reverse; Starsky was the one who needed convincing now. Hutch stood gingerly, happy to note that the headache was staying at a manageable level, then moved over to behind his friend.

"Would it help if I were mad at you?" he asked curiously.

"You oughta be." Starsky turned back to him. "When I came out there after you fell and saw you lyin' there, not movin'... You coulda broken something, or wound up in a chair for the rest of your life, or even..."

"Like the time I sicced Fitzgerald on you?" Hutch quietly interrupted.

Starsky's face went blank for a moment before he made the connection. He dismissed it with a wave. "That was..."

"Different? How about that stupid amnesia stunt I pulled? Wouldn't have blamed you if you'd thrown me down a flight of stairs after that one." He smiled a little at Starsky's muddled expression.


"But nothing. Yeah, what you did was stupid, but it's forgotten. Just don't do it again. Hey, aren't I supposed to be the practical joker of the team?"

Starsky stared at him seriously. "I'm glad you're okay, Hutch."

Hutch matched his expression, although his eyes were still smiling. "Same goes for me, partner."

Starsky didn't lighten up. "I'm really sorry, Hutch, it was a dumb thing t'do."

Hutch accepted the apology with the sincerity it was given. "Hey, I figure we've both pulled our share of stupid stunts. People in glass houses..."

Starsky grinned sheepishly. "Really." Then, sobering, he touched Hutch's arm. "You sure you're okay?"

The blond reached up and winced as he touched the bump on the side of his head. Starsky immediately pulled him over to the sofa and sat him down, directing his hand to hold the ice pack to the swelling. Hutch silently let him, appreciating the concern and not minding the coddling. He suppressed his amusement, however, when Starsky continued to hover worriedly. "Starsk, you still wanna watch TV?" he finally asked, gently.

Starsky's face cleared. "Oh, yeah. Sure." He turned the TV on, then paused, hesitating.

Hutch sighed in exasperation and leaned forward to pull his friend onto the couch next to him. Starsky shifted for a moment before finding a comfortable position. Five minutes later, he was fast asleep against the blond's shoulder, still wrung out from the events of the past week.

Hutch smiled quietly at him, then settled back to watch the news.

Black & Blue

The first thing that registered in Dobey's mind was Hutch sagging against the wall, looking on the brink of collapse. Which he probably was, in fact, considering how quickly he had left the hospital and how hard he had pushed himself ever since. Dobey wouldn't have thought to try to stop him, though; they both knew that with Starsky's life on the line, Hutch's welfare came second. But the captain didn't have to like it.

The second thing he noted, almost as a contradiction of the first, was the idiotic smile and full attention Starsky was directing at Meredith... completely oblivious to the miserable blond. Warning bells went off in Dobey's head, but he ignored them. He had a duty to perform--he'd let his two wayward kids sort out their own problems. Assuming Hutch would still be on his feet.

Dobey moved forward and untied Starsky first, diplomatically giving him another opportunity to do something about his ailing partner. Starsky, in turn, got up quickly, and went to untie Meredith. Dobey paused for a brief second to watch him with some disbelief, then stole a look at Hutch, who was also watching the pair, his expression unreadable. Dobey shook his head and reached over to cuff Train.

Meredith was soon free and Starsky helped her pull up and cuff Vivian, then, stepping aside to allow Dobey to pass with his prisoner, prepared to follow.

That was when Hutch quietly sank to the floor.

They all turned, startled at the sound, and Starsky blanched at the sight of his dazed friend slumped over on the ground. "Hutch," came out in a horrified whisper, then he was skidding to the blond's side, gently leaning him back against the wall. Starsky eased open the shirt, grimacing at the sight of the fresh blood from pulled stitches. It didn't look too serious, but together with the weakness of a still-recovering body, the only real surprise was that Hutch had been able to stay on his feet as long as he had.

Hutch's eyes never left Starsky's face as he checked his partner out.

"Whaddaya think you're doin', runnin' around like this when you oughta be in the hospital?" Starsky groused softly, almost under his breath, as he carefully pulled the shirt together again and rested his hand on the tousled blond head.

"Told ya'," Hutch murmured in response.

Starsky remembered and made a face again, this time at himself.

We figured you might need some help.

Oh, we were doin' all right.

He swallowed at the memory. It had been a tactless thing to say, especially to someone who had staggered out of the hospital to come to his rescue. And if it hurt Starsky to think about it now, it had to have hurt Hutch then.

Starsky looked up and met the cloudy eyes. "S'okay, Hutch, you're gonna be fine. We just gotta get you back to the hospital." He glanced over his shoulder at Dobey and Meredith, who still waited uncertainly by the door with the two arrestees. "Call an ambulance," he demanded. Dobey turned to leave.

"No, wait." Hutch's soft voice brought both their heads around. "I don't need an ambulance." Dobey paused as Hutch struggled to sit up, but between Starsky's gently restraining hand and his own fading strength, he didn't get very far.

Reinforcements chose that moment to arrive, two uniformed cops appearing in the doorway to take charge of the prisoners. Meredith, after a quick glance at Starsky who seemed completely unaware of her now, left with them.

Dobey came over to bend down next to Starsky. "How is he?"

Starsky was looking at Hutch, who silently looked back at him. Trusting him. Starsky sighed. Hutch had always hated to be fussed over. "Gimme a hand, Cap'n?"

Together, they got Hutch to his feet, his good right arm around Starsky's shoulders and Dobey supporting him around the waist on the other side. They made their way slowly out the door and to the Torino where, after a brief conference, they eased the blond into the front seat, propped up to slow the bleeding. Hutch remained grimly quiet the whole time, though Starsky was a little shaken to see how pale he was by the time they got him settled.

Starsky hurried around the car and got in on the other side, turning to his passenger as

he started the car. "Just relax, partner, I'll take care of everything. You're gonna be fine."

For the first time, something shone in the depths of the blue eyes that were dark with fatigue. Hutch regarded him for a moment, then nodded briefly and closed his eyes, body going limp.

Starsky swallowed and pulled out the mars light, sticking it on the roof as he quickly said good-bye to Dobey and pulled away.

The captain stared after them for a minute, feeling both concern and a somewhat guilty satisfaction. For some reason, it was the first time since Hutch had straggled into his office that afternoon, that Dobey wasn't really worried about him. The blond was in good hands now.


The stop in the emergency room was brief; the bleeding had mostly stopped and only minor repair work was required. But the doctor had not been pleased with Hutch's early departure and avenged himself by immediately sending the blond back to his room for a few more days' rest and recovery. Hutch, only semi-conscious throughout, was in no shape to argue, and Starsky also contritely listened to the doctor's lecture, silently grateful for being allowed to stay with his partner. He accompanied Hutch up to the room, dismissing the nurse's suggestion that he go home for a while with a terse, "Not this time!"


Dobey found him there several hours later, an all-too-familiar image slumped over in a chair, tiredly watching over his sleeping partner. Now that Hutch was out of danger, the captain could secretly smile over the whole thing. Not that he'd had any doubts, but it was nice to see that some priorities had been restored.

Starsky straightened in the chair as Dobey entered, but the black man waved him back down and, after a brief look at the patient, joined him on the other side of the room.

"How's he doing?" the captain whispered.

"He'll be okay." Starsky's eyes rested on the still figure as if still convincing himself of that fact. "They're just keeping him here for a few days t'make sure he stays flat on his back." His attention shifted back to Dobey. "Why'd he leave in the first place?"

Dobey huffed a little, feeling rather defensive and not liking it. "I called here looking for you. I guess he thought we wouldn't find you without his help." His voice was softly indignant as he leaned carefully against the foot of the bed.

Starsky's expression held a trace of amusement. "Would you've?"

The captain was avoiding his eyes now. "Well, Hutchinson made the connection to the phone answering service that gave us the break we needed..."

Starsky's half-hidden smile sobered as he turned back to toward the bed. " 'Bout near killed himself to do it, though," he said quietly.

"Are you surprised?" Dobey's honesty startled Starsky and he looked at the captain again. Rhetorical question.

There was a brief silence. Dobey spoke up first. "Don't you want to know about the case and your partner?"

"My part--oh. Forgot about her." Starsky sounded a little sheepish as he slouched even further into the chair. Meredith had deserved better than that and he knew it.

Dobey swallowed a sigh. "She's wrapping up your case for you, figured you'd be busy. Vivian is talkin' and looks like her information will send Train up for a long time. Your partner's doing the paperwork now."

Starsky had been listening silently, but cringed at the last sentence. "Case is over, Cap'n, she's not my partner anymore. Never really was. Was fun while it lasted, but..."

He didn't need to finish, Dobey already knew. When it came down to it, there was no contest between the petite beauty and the hulking blond, and, after the last two hours, he hoped Hutch knew that, too. But the captain couldn't let the insubordination go without comment. "She's your partner 'til I say she's not, Starsky, and since Hutch will be off his feet for a few days..."

Starsky flared up angrily. "Hutch is my partner, always has been, always will be, and that has nothin' to do with the job. I paired up with Meredith for this case, but that's over. Nobody replaces Hutch."

Dobey hid his grin. "All right, all right," he placated, "I guess you can solo for a week or so." He wasn't about to go where angels feared to tread. The captain straightened gingerly, not wanting to rock the bed. "But I expect to see you at work tomorrow," he added sternly. He didn't say when; it was an unspoken agreement that Starsky would stick around until he could at least talk to his partner.

Starsky noticed the omission and backed off with an apologetic grin. "Okay, Cap'n. Thanks." Then he settled back to watch and wait.

Dobey moved over to the door, glancing at the bed's occupant again as he passed it. Something caught his eye and he paused for a second look.

On Hutch's cheek, out of Starsky's line of vision, glistened a single tear.

Dobey left the room soundlessly, gently closing the door behind him.

The Snitch

Starsky almost ran into his partner as he left the judge's chambers. Hutch had apparently been waiting for him, but now turned without a word and stalked off. There was no question about Starsky following or not.

He had to run a little to keep up with Hutch's long, determined stride. Starsky could feel the turbulent emotions coming off his partner in waves, and wondered if it was as obvious to others, too, then found the answer as people looked up, startled, and immediately scurried to get out of the way. Hutch was a volcano ready to explode, and Starsky only hoped he would wait till they were in private to do it.

Up ahead, there was a men's room to the right. Starsky saw his partner hesitate for the first time, debating, then slap the door open before striding in. Starsky swallowed hard and followed him.

Inside, the room was mercifully empty. Starsky took a position just inside the door, his back to it, waiting tensely. He didn't have to wait long.

Hutch reached the end of the small bathroom and turned sharply.

"How could you?"

It was said quietly, either from hurt or anger--probably both, Starsky surmised. Whatever it was, it had affected Hutch to the core, and although Starsky knew he wasn't the sole cause of it, it still shook him. He would've preferred yelling.

"We didn't have much of a choice," he countered just as softly, persuasively.

"We?" We didn't talk about it. You made the decision." Still deadly quiet.

Starsky took a step forward and brought up his hands for emphasis. "Look, Hutch, we all knew it could come down to this. We kept foolin' ourselves, tellin' Dobey we wouldn't need Lionel, tellin' Lionel we'd keep him clear, but we all knew it could come down to this, even Lionel."

Hutch blinked at Starsky's vehemence, his first real reaction to his partner since he had pulled up short in the chamber doorway a few minutes before, shocked at Starsky's apparent surrender of Lionel. He paused for a moment, then the driven intensity returned. "We still should have talked about it. It was our decision, partner." There was no way Starsky could miss the emphasis on the last word.

Starsky was silent, weighing the truth and consequences of what he'd done. They'd spoken for each other many times before, apart, together, it made no difference. Hutch often knew better what Starsky was thinking than Starsky did himself, and Starsky had, in turn, spoken the blond's words for him. It was the same.

But not this time.

Or was it?

There was a quiet sadness in his voice when he finally spoke. "There was no other way, and you know it. And that hurts somethin' awful; I know, I feel it too. But we didn't have a choice. Would you rather have made the call?"

Hutch's eyes caught and held his; contemplation, self-examination, realization. Who had really lost out, the pillar of righteous indignation, outraged at not being consulted, or the quiet spirit in front of him who had taken upon himself the burden of damning another? It would make no difference--they would share the responsibility and the repercussions, but it still wouldn't have made the decision any easier.

The aggressive stance and the fire in the eyes both died away.

Starsky had withdrawn too far into himself to perceive the change, though, noting only the silence. He pulled back against the door almost defensively, eyes downcast, and sighed. "I'm sorry, Hutch, I thought.. I guess I blew it. It wasn't the job, it wasn't even Lionel, it was about us, about what we believe in." A glance up was aborted midway and his gaze returned to the ground, fearful of the censure they might find in the burning blue eyes. "What we'd worked for. I thought..."

The door behind him opened suddenly, almost knocking him into his partner, and causing Hutch to step back in surprise. A timid little businessman stuck his head in to see the obstacle in front of the door. His eyes lighted first on the darker figure, slumped and turned away, leaning into the wall, and then on the blond, wired and standing rigidly, his attention fixed on the other.

"Uh, I, um... Excuse me, I'll just, uh, go somewhere..." He trailed off, neither figure having moved or apparently even heard, as if carved from stone. " 'Scuse me," the little man finished quickly and slipped back out the door.

The silence stretched, filling every last corner of the room until it was hard to breathe. Hutch's voice finally dispersed it.

"You're right. It's not you, it's the system." They had made the choice together, in that little interrogation room with Lionel and Dobey. Or, to be exact, nine years ago, when they had first accepted their badges and taken their oaths. Starsky had simply been the first one to find the courage to stick with it.

Starsky turned around, head tilted back against the wall and eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. "No, I shouldn't have decided for both of us like that, partner. I'm sorry." Partner--part of another. Sharing the glory, sharing the blame, sharing the responsibility.

Hutch shook his head, a sad smile pulling incongruously at his mouth. "Starsk, it's okay. You're right, there wasn't any choice." His voice was softened by fondness this time, the edge gone. Starsky's eyes met his, surprised. I understand and I appreciate it. There was a moment of full silence, then Starsky nodded.

Hutch smiled for real this time, then grew serious again. "So what're we gonna do?" he asked softly.

"Only thing we can do. Our jobs. Try and keep Lionel alive."

The moment held for long, precious seconds of reaffirmation of duty, of partnership, of unity. Yes, all the decisions had been made a long time ago.

Me and thee.

In unison, Starsky and Hutch walked out side-by-side to face the future together.

Starsky v. Hutch

With appreciation to Cindy R.

"Thanks for dropping by!"

Starsky's voice rang out after him in hopeful friendliness as Hutch walked out the door, his world suddenly deflated by those three simple words, "I love her." They were not words Starsky said lightly or often, and, coupled with the expression of perfect joy on his partner's face, had left Hutch with no doubt of the other's sincerity. For the first time since Rosey Malone, Starsky was really in love. With Kira.

Hutch got into his car and sat, suddenly too drained to start up the LTD or to figure out where to go. Starsky loved Kira. It was nearly an impossible thought. How could this have happened? They had competed for women before, but when the lady chose or one of them became more than casually interested, the other always backed off with no hard feelings. Hutch hadn't noticed Starsky's sincerity before, and Kira certainly hadn't seemed to have chosen between them, not if her whispered affections only two nights before were any guide...

He closed his eyes at the memory of that night and the pleasure it had brought him. Not physical, although there had certainly been that, too. No, it had been the joy of being for the first time in a long time with someone he cared about, someone who was more than just a one-night stand. But even more so, someone who cared for him. He could still hear her professions of love, repeated over and over, unsought but so precious, filling a craving, a need he'd not even known was there. It had felt so good to be loved again.

He grimaced. That wasn't completely fair and he knew it. His parents had never been stingy with their love, and he had always felt it even through the many miles that separated them, as with his sister. And then there was Starsky...

A part of him knew that that was a love he could trust in, one that was not so easily broken or lost, just as his love had never wavered for his partner. And yet...there had been times of late when Hutch knew he had been rather unlovable, and every person had their limits. Surely Starsky would reach his sooner or later. Already, Hutch could feel the wall that had been slowly building between them in the past several months or so, every mean-spirited remark, every unshared pain, every testing of limits adding another brick to the wall. The knowledge of what was at risk scared him to death, but he just watched the wall rise helplessly, not knowing why it was there or what to do about it.

And then Kira had come along. Starsky's joy in her had been what had drawn Hutch to her in the first place, wanting to know what his partner responded to so strongly. Kira had been more than willing to show him, too, and after all the doubts and fears of the past few months, just being loved fully and openly felt wonderful. A love he didn't have to worry about being unworthy of or abusing or owing. Or hurting, the greatest burden of all. Thoughts of the night at Gillian's still haunted him... No, here there were no responsibilities or obligations. And he didn't know if he could stand to lose both that and Starsky.

Kira had told him that she loved him. Starsky didn't have that same assurance, had all but said so just minutes before. Perhaps he was just fooling himself. Hutch's head came up at the thought. That was possible. If Kira truly loved him, his partner wouldn't want her to stay with him, Hutch was sure of that. Starsky would surely accept it, just as Hutch would've accepted it if the reverse were true. But there was only one way to find out. Hutch started up the car and turned toward Kira's house.


It was getting late. Hutch knew somewhere foggily that he ought to have been home and in bed hours ago, but there wasn't much chance of that now. Not as drunk as he was. Well, it wasn't like he'd never spent the night on Starsky's couch before. Or maybe, he considered, on Starsky's bed, seeing as his partner was sprawled limply all over the couch already, fast asleep. Hutch had been drinking a lot more than his partner, but Starsky never could hold his liquor as well as he could. It would take a lot more than a few beers to deaden all the thoughts that still crowded his head.

He studied the familiar face, relaxed in sleep. There were dark circles under the eyes, but they were the only sign of the crucible of the last few weeks. The lines of pain and despair from just hours before were all smoothed out now, the expression relaxed and peaceful, reflecting a contentedness of heart. Starsky was so quick to forgive...

There had been a lot to forgive. It still hurt to think of the look of complete betrayal in the other's eyes when Starsky had found him at Kira's that morning. Starsky had never hit him before in anger, and the rebuke of that would be felt far beyond the soreness of his body from the attack. That was when he'd realized what he'd done. In chasing after a fleeting moment of fulfillment, an elusive love with a woman who didn't know the meaning of the word, he'd almost thrown away the real thing. And had deeply hurt the one person who had loved him unconditionally.

For a few dark hours, he'd not been able to face what he'd done. The bleakness in his heart was beyond his experience or capacity to deal with, and the thought of his having willfully, permanently wrecked the trust of absolute friendship, shut him down. It was unbearable. So, hopeless and lost, he had gone the only place he could go. He went back to Starsky.

And Starsky had forgiven him.

Hutch had not been able to accept it at first, not even the love he needed so badly and that was once again so freely offered him. Starsky could perhaps forgive him, but he couldn't forgive himself. Until they'd faced down Kira together and Starsky had fallen apart moments later in the dirty alley by Huggy's, the mocking in Kira's eyes wearing away the last of his reserves. Only then had Hutch found it somewhere in himself to provide solace and healing love. Starsky had needed him and he had been there, and in helping his friend begin to heal, he had also helped himself.

The next few hours were a celebration, a victory over Kira and life and a crumbling wall. There was still a lot to dismantle with rebuilding of a different kind to do. But they had made a start, and that was the hardest part. Hutch had no doubt now that they would continue, but this time neither of them would allow the other to start building again. If Kira had given them anything, it was a new understanding of how precious what they had was, and for Hutch, the knowledge that Starsky needed him as much as he needed his partner. That was a responsibility--no, a privilege he was glad to have.

Anything else, they could handle together.

Written in 1995