This story first appeared in the zine, Compadres #16 (1999). This zine, and other fine S&H gen zines, can be obtained from Neon Rainbow Press at: http://www.neonrainbowpress.com/ Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
One of Those Days
K Hanna Korossy with Maria Farina
What finally woke him up was the smell of coffee. Right under his nose.
Hutch shied away from it and glared blearily at the dancing blue eyes right above the steaming mug.
"Good morning," Starsky said cheerfully, pulling the mug back to allow Hutch to flop tiredly back into bed. "Or rather," he amended, "good afternoon, since you decided to sleep in."
That caught Hutch's attention, and all sleepiness vanished as he lunged for the bedside clock. "12:20! Starsky, why didn't you wake me up!" The tone was halfway between panic and annoyance as he scrambled out of bed and reached for some clean clothes.
Starsky's face reflected his decided enjoyment at not being the one running late, for once. He leaned back against the dresser and sipped the coffee complacently. "Hey, you're the one always tellin' me I should be responsible and set my alarm. Figured you would, too."
Hutch's withering look as he hurried into the bathroom was the only response. Starsky laughed to himself and went out into the kitchen to try and find something edible for breakfast.
Hutch came into the kitchen a few minutes later to find Starsky sitting on the counter, contentedly eating crackers with peanut butter and raisins. Hutch didn't even bother, just shook his head sadly at the sight.
Starsky wasn't about to let the slight go by. "It's your fault -- 's all I could find in your cupboards that didn't turn my stomach. Besides, it's all healthy stuff!"
His partner shook his head again as he gathered ingredients for his elixir. "Yeah, I just don't think most people would think of eating them together like that." He filled the blender and turned it on, then grabbed for the lid as the contents began to spray out.
It was Starsky's turn to shake his head, although whether it was at Hutch's response or habitual forgetfulness, wasn't clear. He put the last cracker into his mouth as he glanced at his watch, then, with his mouth full, said, " 're gon' b'late, Huth."
Hutch looked at the clock and frowned, pouring the blender's contents into a glass with one hand and trying to put his holster on with the other. Starsky watched his partner's contortions with silent fascination until Hutch thrust the glass into his hands and finished attaching the holster. "Come on," he said shortly, grabbing his jacket and already heading out the door.
"Wait a minute," Starsky protested, pulling his friend up short. "You can't bring this in the car with you; you're gonna spill it all over my seat!"
Hutch tugged the jacket on with more force than necessary and unsolicitously reclaimed the glass from Starsky's hand. "No, I'm not. What do you think I am, some five-year old?"
Starsky went to the door and held it open. "Well..."
He was still grinning at Hutch's response when they got to the car.
Hutch had just checked them in and begun on his breakfast when the 459 burglary call came in. He glanced at Starsky, who nodded and put on the gas in response. Hutch muttered something in irritation before responding to the call, but they were only two blocks away. They pulled up in front of the store just as a battered old Datsun pulled away from the curb, the store owner excitedly running out after it. Hutch flashed his badge at the storekeeper and slapped on the mars light, then Starsky took off in pursuit.
It took them several minutes to pull close to the car that was weaving dangerously in and out of traffic, just managing to stay ahead of them. It made a few turns that even Starsky was a little hesitant to copy, and Hutch hung on for dear life both to his drink and the dashboard. They finally began to pull up behind the little car, and Hutch craned his head to get a look at the elusive driver. The driver had to be almost child-sized; all the detective could see over the seat back was a battered old hat.
A bright pink Studebaker suddenly pulled out from a parking lot just in front of them, directly in the Datsun's path. The Datsun's driver apparently didn't notice it as quickly as Starsky, not putting on his brakes fast enough. He plowed directly into the Studebaker's trunk.
Starsky had only seen the other car a few seconds before, and swerved the Torino sharply to keep it from running into both cars. The red-and-white car fishtailed for a moment before pulling up perpendicular to the Datsun, stopping just short.
Hutch's elixir, obeying the inevitable laws of physics, did not.
Starsky blew out the breath he had been holding, then turned toward his passenger and stopped short, gaping. Hutch, liberally drenched with the white liquid, gaped back.
Hutch found his voice first as Starsky opened his mouth to speak. "Don't say it."
Just then, the Datsun's door abruptly opened and the trenchcoated driver took off, running around a nearby corner. Personal matters were dropped for the moment. "I got him," Hutch vowed determinedly and scrambled out the door to give chase, leaving Starsky to deal with the Studebaker's driver.
The thief was running at an astonishing speed for the short man that he was, and even Hutch's long strides didn't seem to be getting him any closer. He pursued the little man down several blocks, passing warehouses on both sides, until the large buildings began to thin, giving way to grassy, unkempt lots occupied by crumbling shacks. Hutch ignored them all, concentrating on breathing and catching his prey, both of which seemed more impossible by the minute, as he barreled past the corner of one of the shanties.
And almost ran into the small man who had hidden behind the building, just out of sight.
For a half a second, they stared at each other in surprise. Hutch had just enough time to register the owlish face and shock of red hair before the other instinctively gave him a shove.
Unfortunately, the lot that they were on sloped steeply downwards behind the shack. And ended in a large pool of mud. The push caught Hutch completely off guard, but even as he lost his footing, he quickly pulled himself into a protective ball and prayed for an easy descent. The grass, slicked by recent rains, slid him along without impediment and he finally plopped unceremoniously into the thick mud.
Shock held him immobile for a moment, as did the uncertainty of bodily injury, but nothing seemed more than shaken and bruised. He finally propped himself up in the mud to look forlornly up the hill. The little man was still there, staring after him uncertainly, but at Hutch's movement, he ran off.
Hutch, knowing when he was beaten, dragged himself carefully out of the mud and flopped onto his back on the grass to catch his breath.
Ten minutes later, Starsky was just helping a petite, elderly lady into a black-and-white when Hutch limped down the street looking drenched and furious. Mud coated him liberally except for around his eyes where the once-blond had tried to clear some of the mess away so he could see, but it caked his hair and clothes and dripped off behind him in dollops onto the street. His eyes shone with defiance as Starsky looked up and stopped, jaw dropping in astonishment at the sight of his bedraggled partner.
"What happened t'you?" was all he managed to get out.
Hutch looked at him contemptfully. "Whaddaya think happened to me?!" he spluttered, raising both hands helplessly and splashing more mud onto the road. "I fell into a mud puddle and the guy got away."
Starsky was struggling between concern and amusement. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." The tone was one of long-suffering.
Starsky turned with suspicious speed and quickly busied himself with the old lady, who was also standing watching Hutch speechlessly. "Why, he's all covered in mud!" she exclaimed to him in surprise.
"Yes, ma'am." Starsky answered politely. He hustled her into the car and shut the door firmly behind her before waving the squad car on. He then spoke for a moment to another uniformed officer who was staying to take care of the wrecked cars, before turning back to his partner, attempting to stay serious.
It didn't work long. Despite the threatening look Hutch gave him, Starsky began to laugh, his partner's increasingly dangerous expression only fueling his humor. "Hey, look at it this way," he gasped after a moment, uselessly trying to restrain himself. "At least no one can tell you spilled your drink on yourself!"
"Are you done?" Hutch asked, irritation winning out over self-pity. He began to walk over to the Torino.
Starsky blanched. He ran around to in front of his partner, almost reaching out to him before thinking better of it. He shrugged and held up his hands in a stopping motion. "Hey! You can't get in my car like that!"
Hutch's eyes widened, then narrowed. "Cut it out, Starsky. I wanna get out of here and take a shower."
"My car's gonna need a shower if you get in like that," Starsky protested. He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "I know!"
As Hutch watched warily, Starsky ran around to the Torino's trunk and, after poking around for a moment, dug out several old newspapers. Those he took over to the passenger side and spread them all over the seat, covering the seat and seat back liberally. "There," he said, turning to his partner triumphantly.
Hutch sighed and, with a last look of silent indignation at his partner, got into the car. Starsky shut the door for him, not letting him touch the handle, then jogged around to his own side.
"You know," he said to his unhappy passenger, "we don't have time for you to go back home. You're gonna have t'shower and change at Parker."
Hutch didn't even look at him, apparently refusing to give any credence to Starsky's inevitable logic. He sat in grim silence all the way downtown, Starsky grinning next to him.
He felt considerably better after the shower. Hutch came out of the steaming room, towel wrapped around his waist, to find Starsky reading a magazine on the benches, waiting for him. "Have you been up to see Dobey yet?" he asked, his tone almost friendly.
"Naw, didn't want to face him alone. He's not goin' anywhere." The response was uttered from behind the magazine, Starsky completely immersed in what he was reading.
Hutch raised an eyebrow at him, then turned back to his locker. He began to look for something, his search becoming almost frantic after a minute. He finally sank down on the bench. "Oh, no," he moaned.
A curious pair of blue eyes peered over the magazine. "What'sa matter?"
"I don't have a change of clothes here! I must have taken them home to be washed and forgot to bring more."
Starsky's mouth quirked, but he remained stoic. "You wanna borrow some of mine?"
Hutch's voice was rising again. "You know your jeans are too small for me! And I can't wear your shoes at all..."
Starsky took pity on him before his partner worked himself into a worse mood. "Look," he soothed, "you can stand my clothes for a little bit, just 'til we check in with Dobey, then we can run home and get you some pants. And you can rinse your shoes out and wear 'em wet," he finished persuasively, eyebrows hopefully canted up.
His partner calmed at the soft voice and reasonableness of the argument, just as Starsky knew he would. They hadn't been partners for four years for nothing. "Okay," Hutch finally nodded, placated. "Thanks."
Starsky grinned cheerfully, then went back to his magazine.
Captain Dobey was beginning to seriously consider sending someone out to look for his two detectives when he paused to listen to an odd noise that appeared to be coming down the hall.
Squish, squish, squish, squish.
As the sound almost reached his office, a flirtatious, appreciative whistle interrupted it, followed closely by a flustered, "Cut it out."
Hutchinson, Dobey automatically identified the voice.
"I don't know, Hutch, I think she likes you," another voice spoke up, right outside the door.
Starsky. Dobey had long ago stopped being surprised at anything those two were involved in, but there was a streak of fatalism in him that waited almost curiously for each new antic they pulled. It sounded like this one was a doozy.
Starsky entered the room first, or rather, tripped into the room, as though pushed from behind. Which, considering Hutchinson's red face as he followed his partner in, was not an unlikely possibility. What Hutch was wearing, though, was what caught Dobey's attention. The T-shirt alone was unusual enough for the fastidious blond, but the tight jeans that ended a few inches above his ankles, and the sockless shoes that squished when he walked...perhaps there were a few surprises left in Dobey's line of work. He raised his eyebrows eloquently at his detective.
"Cap'n, I know what you're thinking..." Hutch began, looking imploringly at his boss.
"No, you don't," answered Dobey with uncharacteristic calm. "I don't know what Starsky and you have gotten yourselves into this time, but I don't want to hear it." His voice began to rise. "What I do want to know is why you both are over a half an hour late, and how you nearly ran down an eighty-two year old lady who was out for a morning drive in her 1964 Studebaker!" His voice was up to its habitual bellow, with Hutch looking increasingly pained and Starsky, sheepish. Dobey ignored them both, skimming the report, brow furrowed. "Says something about mud, too, although that's not very clear; they haven't taken her official statement yet."
Hutch blushed scarlet and looked at Starsky, who gave a slight shrug.
Dobey looked up at his two detectives with steely eyes. "Come to think of it, maybe I don't want to know." His voice lowered to business level. "By the way, your would-be thief didn't steal anything. Looks like the store owner noticed him before he could get anything so he ran out empty-handed. We don't have an ID on him yet, though." Starsky glanced at his partner, who looked as though he were trying to decide between being happy or depressed at the news. Dobey was still talking, "...I expect to see your reports on my desk by the end of the day. Now get out there and go to work," he waved toward the door.
Hutch gratefully headed toward the door, followed by his partner, when Dobey called him back again.
"Oh, and Hutch, if you're going to be late, I'd at least expect you to be dressed appropriately."
Disbelief flitted across the blond's face. He opened his mouth to say something when Starsky frowned and stepped in front of him.
"It was in the line of duty, Cap'n," he said defensively, then dragged his partner out into the corridor before either Hutch or Dobey could respond. Provoking Hutch in private was a privilege of friendship, but Starsky would be damned before he'd let anyone else get away with it.
Hutch stopped to look at Starsky, his earlier annoyance replaced by a flicker of warmth in his eyes. Starsky smiled at the subtle thank-you, then draped an arm expansively around the blond's shoulders as the two of them headed down to the car. "You know," he began over the renewed squish, squish, "this might be the beginning of a whole new look for you..."
"Look, we'll be at your place in a few minutes. I just wanna stop for a second and get something to eat. I'm starvin'," Starsky argued as they drove toward Venice.
Hutch shifted uncomfortably next to him on the seat. "Come on, Starsky, you can get something afterwards. I want to get out of these jeans. Honestly, I don't know how you can wear them so tight!"
"They're not so tight on me," Starsky argued reasonably, then brightened as he returned to his original train of thought. "Look, we're right here at Ernie's. I'll be back before you know it."
Hutch opened his mouth, then closed it again. Starsky's appetite was just like his taste in cars -- atrocious and absolutely incorrigible. Hutch knew he might as well be arguing with a wall. Except walls probably had better taste. He did, however, pause to give his partner a skewering look at Starsky's solicitous, "You want anything?"
Starsky grinned, then jogged inside, and Hutch watched halfheartedly as his partner placed his order with great animation, then fumbled for some change. And paused. Hutch's attention sharpened as the curly head turned toward him, and even through the screen, Hutch could read his expression. Oh, no.
Starsky began to make frantic motions for him to come in, while Hutch ignored them as long as he could. Life wasn't fair, he stonily decided. Not only did he have to come along with his partner to a greasy spoon no self-respecting cockroach would eat in, he would also have to get out of the car in those ridiculous clothes and help Starsky pay for his lunch. Hutch almost didn't move, enjoying the thought of teaching Starsky a lesson, but too many remembrances weighted his conscience until he at last gave in, opening the car door and levering himself out with a sigh of martyrdom.
"What?!" he asked impatiently as he opened the restaurant's door.
"I'm short a quarter. You got any change?" Starsky's look was a mix of apology and hope that Hutch couldn't resist. Making a face, he dug down into the pockets of his pants in search of change.
The loud ripping sound was hard to miss. Or misunderstand.
Hutch froze. "No," he whispered. Not that, too. It wasn't possible.
Starsky's face mirrored his distress, although whether it was vicariously for his friend or for his own welfare, wasn't clear.
Hutch slowly pulled his hand out of the now-loose pocket, and stood staring at Starsky blankly. His partner turned back to the cashier and gave him a cursory, "Never mind," then stepped behind the blond. He surveyed the damage for a moment before decisively putting an arm on Hutch's shoulder and propelling him out of the restaurant, following him closely until they got to the car and Hutch was in. Starsky went around to his side of the car and got in, looking hesitantly at his partner. The reddened cheeks and hand hiding the eyes surely told him enough. "Home," he said carefully.
Starsky had to smile at the tone despite the sympathy he clearly felt. Defeat was a far greater concern than sullenness. "Home," he confirmed, starting the car and setting out for the Venice canalside cottage.
At the house, Starsky collected his partner's mail as Hutch headed straight for his bedroom nook. "Anything interesting?" he called over the partition.
"Looks like mostly junk mail," Starsky answered distractedly as he flipped through the pile while hastily compiling an odd sandwich out of the meager pickings he'd managed to scrounge. "Letter from your sister," he paused at one and, at the sound of interest he got in response, set it aside. "Something from your bank," he added, as he got to the bottom of the stack.
"See what it is, wouldya?"
Starsky smiled a little as he ripped open the envelope and scanned its contents. " 'This is to inform you that your account number ' whatever, '...is overdrawn to the amount of $4,533.79. If we do not...' "
Hutch's head appeared around the partition, face livid. The rest of him followed shortly after, still tugging on a pair of socks. He stormed over to Starsky and grabbed the letter out of his friend's hand, reading it for himself. "They can't do that! I mean, I didn't do that!"
Starsky "tsked, tsked" as he chewed a bite of his sandwich and threw away the bottle of pop he'd emptied, rejoining Hutch in the living room. "You shouldn't write checks you can't cover, buddy. Banks don't like that." He shook his head chidingly.
Hutch glared at him, first with disbelief, then irritation. "Starsky, the day I need financial advice from you," he said, shaking his finger in Starsky's direction, "is the day I get my head examined. They," he waved his hand at the letter, "they're the ones who made the mistake, and I'm going right down there and clear this up."
Starsky considered arguing that they were on duty, but thought better of it when he saw his partner's eyes. He didn't have a death wish. "Okay," he agreed easily instead. They couldn't be in much more trouble with Dobey, anyway.
Hutch ranted about the injustices of life, the world, and being an LA cop, all the way down to the bank. By the time they got there, even Starsky looked like he was beginning to regret getting out of bed that morning. He couldn't seem to decide if the release was good for his partner or if it was merely working him into a lather. But after a few attempts at appeasement were all strongly rebuffed, he diplomatically kept silent for the rest of the trip, only nodding along.
Hutch was still at it as they got out of the car. "...and if it weren't for customers like us, they wouldn't even be here. I mean, it's people like me whose money keeps..."
His diatribe was interrupted at the doors of the building when a small man in a trenchcoat suddenly ran out of the bank, colliding directly with the blond. They ended up in a heap on the ground and Hutch unexpectedly found himself looking into a very familiar owlish face under a shock of red hair and a battered old hat. "You!" he sputtered.
The little man was nothing if not quick. He scrambled to his feet and took off down the sidewalk as Hutch struggled to untangle his long limbs and stiffly got to his feet. Starsky watched the whole thing with a mixture of astonishment and concern. "You know that guy?" he asked as he reached out a hand to steady his partner.
As if in answer, the bank doors flew open again, this time revealing a neatly-dressed man in a suit and tie. He glanced wildly up the street after the fleeing felon, then, oblivious to the two detectives in front of them, cried, "Police! Help! That man tried to rob the bank!"
Hutch glanced at his partner for a fraction of a second before taking off down the street, long enough for his friend to read the obvious "this one's mine" in his eyes, and, with a little reluctance, Starsky turned back to the bank proprietor, already pulling out his badge.
Hutch followed the small man block after block, cringing inward at the strong feeling of déja vú. Nor could he understand how a little guy like that could run so fast, either. Determination fed his flagging energy, though, as well as some none-too-proper ideas of revenge, and he kept on after his prey.
Up ahead, he could see the fleeing man slow for a moment before the fence in front of a house, opening the gate and leaving it gaping behind him. Hutch frowned as he ran, trying to figure out why the other thought this would slow him down, the gate not even completely stretching across the sidewalk.
Several feet away from the gate, he found out why.
Two big, brown shapes came streaking out from the front yard of the house, through the gate, to stop and glare at him, eight legs spreading in an offensive stance, two mouths full of sharp teeth bared in unfriendly grins. Hutch screeched to a halt, his mind already working on figuring a way out from this new dilemma. Beyond the two dogs, he could see the running figure turn a corner and vanish, and Hutch sighed reluctantly at the fruitless pursuit. The dogs growled in response.
Still trying to catch his breath, Hutch put both hands up in surrender, smiling in a way he hoped the dogs would take as inoffensive.
The two parties eyed each other in distrust for several moments longer, the detective slowly backtracking and the two dogs advancing. Then Hutch took off, running for his life. He could hear the pursuit behind him, and fear fueled his flight. Absently, he wondered if this was how the little man had gone so fast, too, running on adrenalin and fear. But the approaching growl of his chasers soon cut off even that train of thought.
Up ahead, there was a mountain of trash cans and garbage bags set out at the mouth of an alley beside a restaurant. Relieved at the possible prospect of safety, Hutch headed for them, hoping they'd provide some shelter from the dogs that were almost at his heels. It was only as he was diving into the largest and only open trash bin that the overwhelming foul smell hit him. But by then it was too late and his jump landed him right in the middle of the mess.
The dogs, their keen senses of smell highly offended by the odor, turned back several feet away and took off just as quickly in the opposite direction. Hutch didn't know whether to laugh or cry as he watched them leave. All he could think of was what his partner would say upon his return. He had little choice in the matter, though. He was too far from the airport to skip town.
Resignedly, he climbed out of the trash bin and, ignoring several strange looks he got, set off down the street.
Starsky sat in the Torino, fingers tightly wound around the steering wheel. If Hutch was chasing the guy from the Datsun, Starsky couldn't blame him for being out for blood and wanting to handle it himself. But the bank manager couldn't tell him for sure whether the guy had a gun or not, and Starsky didn't like the idea of his partner being out there without back-up. Furthermore, after an over 15-minute absence, the likeliness that something was wrong kept increasing, as did Starsky's worry. He finally decided he'd give his partner two more minutes before calling in the cavalry. Distractedly tapping on the dashboard, he glanced into the rearview mirror. Then looked again, more closely.
The lone figure coming down the street appeared much more dignified than it had a few hours earlier, covered in mud. This time, the clothes were splotched with a wide variety of multi-colored stains, as were the hands and face and hair. But even more noticeable were the people on the sidewalk around him, all giving the blond a wide berth, shying away from him on both sides. And with every strange look he got, the figure straightened a little more, becoming more and more resolute.
"Terrific," Starsky groaned softly to himself as he got out and went around to the back of the car to wait.
Hutch looked up warily at his waiting partner, keeping an odd self-possession despite his ragged state. Starsky, catching the first whiff of his partner and trying to stay out of his way, silently crossed to the trunk, unlocked it, and pulled out the stack of newspapers again. Without further ado, he spread some more over the front seat once more and deferentially signaled to the blond. "What did he do this time?" he couldn't resist asking with genuine curiosity when his friend was close enough to hear.
"He didn't do it, I did," Hutch spit out, fuming. Then, exploding angrily, he waved behind him toward his long-gone pursuers. "It was either that or get chewed up by those dogs. What would you have done?!"
Starsky looked politely down the street but saw no dogs. Shrugging, he let it pass. None of that day made sense to him, anyway.
The blond continued past Starsky to the car, then stopped again to point an accusatory finger. "And if you tell anyone about this, so help me, Starsky..."
Starsky put his hands up in surrender, cutting off the argument.
Hutch got in with as much dignity as he could muster, and Starsky closed the door after him before finally succumbing to the grin that pulled at his mouth. The teasing was gone, though; his partner was about at his limits and Starsky had no desire to be at the mercy of a raging Hutchinson. He started up the Torino and, in silent agreement, they turned again toward Venice.
An hour later, they were back at Parker Center, being chewed out by Dobey. Starsky rolled his eyes at the speech he could almost quote by heart, about their being troublemakers and not doing their jobs right and their usual antics. Only this time, brief glances at Hutch confirmed that the blond didn't seem to be taking it with as much aplomb as he usually did, Dobey getting him keyed up as everything else that day had seemed to. Hutch sat stiffly in the chair, listening to the tirade with hooded eyes, apparently taking personally what both Dobey and Starsky understood to be merely bluster.
Starsky quietly stood, stretching and pacing a bit, ending up behind his partner's chair where he inconspicuously slipped a hand onto the slumped shoulder. The blond head immediately came up a little, shoulders slowly relaxing as some of the tension left them. Satisfied, Starsky stayed there for the moment, until Dobey paused his lecture to take a breath and Starsky could take advantage of the lull. He dropped his hand, stepping forward.
"You're right, Cap'n, and we'll get on that right away." Giving Hutch a subtle nod of the head toward the corridor, he waited until the startled blond pulled himself out of the seat. "Come on, partner, let's go do some paperwork."
In the hallway, Hutch stopped to face him. "Hey, wait. You hate paperwork."
"Yeah, well, one afternoon of it won't kill me," Starsky deflected the question and disappeared through the squadroom doors.
Hutch stared after him for a moment, a shadow of a smile on his face for the first time that day. Then he followed his partner in.
They moved to their respective desks and, by force of habit, Starsky grabbed his typewriter and joined his partner at his desk while Hutch automatically cleared a space for him. It made no sense to them that detective partners were not assigned desks by or facing each other, but they were going to change that someday. For now, this system worked and they got by Dobey with the excuse of practicality, having to consult each other on reports often, privately enjoying the sharing of space. After the brief, habitual argument over who was going to do what, which Starsky gave in to none-too-obviously, they finally settled down to work.
For two minutes.
"Now what?" Hutch muttered, striking a few keys of his typewriter experimentally before whacking it on the side.
"What's wrong?" Starsky looked up.
"I don't know. Stupid thing doesn't want to work." He tried a few more keys, then threw up his hands. "This is no good." Hutch looked up and around the squadroom. "Anyone else got a typewriter I can borrow?"
The chorus of negatives didn't help. "Gonna have to go down to Supply," Hutch muttered, half to Starsky, half to the air. He was still muttering as he pushed open the doors and went out into the hall. Starsky's eyes lingered on the door for several moments longer before he thoughtfully went back to his work.
Hutch stomped down to Supply, stopping short when he saw who was on duty. "Bigalow," he muttered, raising his eyes in supplication. No heavenly intervention occurred, and Hutch reluctantly walked up to the counter. "Hello, Bigalow," he said with forced cheerfulness.
The dour supply clerk glanced up at him before returning to the report he was typing. "Hutchinson," he shortly acknowledged.
Hutch grinned winningly. "Uh, I need a typewriter."
Bigalow didn't even spare him a glance this time. "I didn't receive a slip on it. Did you fill one out and get it cleared?"
"No," Hutch tried as reasonably as he could. "Mine only just broke and I need one to do reports..."
"Without a slip and proper clearance, I can't help you."
Hutch's newfound patience was already stretched dangerously thin. "Bigalow, I only need it for an hour or two. Then I'll bring it back and fill out..."
"Not without the proper slip." Bigalow finally looked up at him, face carved in stone.
"Not without the proper slip," Hutch icily repeated.
Bigalow shook his head. "Not without the proper slip."
Hutch didn't trust himself to respond. Without a further word, he climbed the long flight of stairs back to the office.
He came into the squadroom again and threw himself into his chair, staring murderously at the broken typewriter. Cautious deep blue eyes watched him over the other typewriter on the desk. "So?" Starsky prompted when no explanatory tirade seemed forthcoming.
"So, what's wrong?"
That was response enough. Starsky's mouth curled in sympathy. "Oh," was all he said. Then, "Hey."
Stormy eyes came up to meet his. "Yeah?"
"Why don'tcha use mine for a minute, finish that report on today. I gotta go talk to someone."
Hutch seemed too preoccupied for curiosity. "Okay," he agreed, getting up and replacing Starsky. Then, as a surprised second thought, "Thanks."
Starsky moved to the squadroom doors and stood watching his partner for a moment as Hutch found his place and began to type. Shaking his head, he opened the door and crossed the hall to Dobey's office.
A few minutes later he slipped back to find Hutch just signing the bottom of the report. "You finished?" Starsky asked in amazement.
"Sure. Not everyone types as slow as you do, Starsk." Hutch seemed a little more thawed now, sliding the report over to his partner and beginning to look for the next thing he had to do.
"Don't bother," Starsky said, not looking up from the paper he was scribbling his name on. "We're leaving."
Hutch's eyebrow rose. "We are?"
Starsky finished with the report and slapped it into the 'out' box, then looked up to meet his partner's eyes. "Yep. We're done. Goin' home. And I'm going to cook you the best dinner of your life."
Hutch peered at him suspiciously. "Dobey's not going to go for that. We hardly did anything today."
"Yeah, well, just one of those days, partner. We'll catch all the bad guys tomorrow. 'Sides, I cleared it with Dobey."
Hutch was still not convinced. "Why?"
Innocent eyes sparkled at him. "Why what?"
"Why did you clear it with him? Why is he letting us go? Why are you fixing me dinner?"
Starsky shrugged, eyes on the paperwork. "Just figured it was time something went right today."
Hutch blinked. "Oh." Very simple and very Starsky. And home must have sounded nice. "Okay."
Starsky looked up at him in surprise for a moment, then with a bit of suspicion at the easy agreement. But Hutch was already shrugging into his jacket and Starsky quickly did the same.
The drive home proceeded mercifully uneventfully. Hutch couldn't seem to relax, not quite yet, but Starsky was no slouch of a cook when he tried, and he was very determined to try that evening. He picked up the things he needed with a quick stop at the market, Hutch opting to play it safe and stay in the car. Then it was a brief fill-up at the gas station, Starsky again jumping out to take care of it while his partner impatiently drummed his fingers, waiting for him, trying to loosen up after a day that would have pushed even Murphy's Law to the limits.
Hutch glanced around idly, passing the time while he waited for Starsky, when movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He glanced at it briefly, did a doubletake and took a second look, already feeling his blood pressure rise. The gas station cashier was being held at gunpoint while he nervously argued with the gunman. A short gunman in a trenchcoat and battered hat.
"I don't believe it!" Hutch whispered incredulously to the empty car. Then, his hand already going for his gun, he jerked the door open and hunkered down out of sight behind the gas pumps. "Starsky!" he hissed to his oblivious partner.
Starsky, instantly on alert, dropped down to join him. "What?"
"It's him! He's back again," Hutch said disbelievingly.
Starsky squinted at Hutch and then around the pumps. "Him who?"
His partner caught sight of the hold-up and understanding dawned. "Oh, him!"
Hutch just nodded and, with a flick of the wrist, indicated which way he was going. Starsky nodded and they split up, Hutch sneaking around to the left and Starsky to the right of the cashier's office.
Hutch was just closing in on his side when the little man happened to look up and their eyes met through the glass of the small building. With amazing speed, the would-be thief suddenly took off, shooting out the door on the other side of the building. Hutch smiled to himself coldly. The guy would have to get past one of the detectives to get away, and this time, Hutch was furiously determined he wouldn't. He ran toward the back of the building to intercept the escapee. Hutch could hear Starsky's warning shout, but he was prepared for the guy.
But not for the tires.
He just managed to avoid the one that was rolling toward him as he rounded the corner, but his sidestep put him directly in the path of another that he couldn't avoid. The tire crashed into him and sent him spinning to the ground. Dimly, he was aware of his quarry making a break for it past him, and then the blue streak of his partner in pursuit. He just managed to get shakily back to his feet in time to see Starsky tackle and bring down the little man, then disarm and cuff him. The two marched back together, and Hutch could hear his partner briskly interrogating his prisoner as they walked. "...so, you decided to get money the easy way. With a toy gun?" The owlish face just looked at him timidly. Starsky shook his head. "You're not gonna believe this," he called to Hutch as they approached. "All those places he was trying to rob today, turns out he was using a plastic gun. And he didn't get anything here, either. Can you believe this guy?!"
Hutch stared at them both, speechless.
Starsky noticed. "Hutch, you okay?" he immediately asked, unconsciously tugging the felon behind him as they covered the last few feet to the blond.
"Yeah, I...a plastic gun?!" Hutch's expression was somewhere between outraged and offended.
"Yeah. What about your arm?" Starsky turned it carefully with his free hand, and Hutch was surprised to see it badly scraped from the palm up into the sleeve, enough to be dripping blood onto the ground. Funny, he couldn't feel it. He shrugged it off, still staring sullenly at the quiet prisoner.
Starsky took his friend firmly by the elbow and directed him toward the car. "C'mon, partner, lets drop this guy off and go home," was all he said.
Hutch pouted all the way back to the station, unwilling to admit that he was beginning to hurt. Starsky let him be. At Parker, Starsky took their would-be thief in, quickly doing the preliminary booking and promising a complete report in the morning. Then he came back to the car, finding the blond in much the same position he had left him in, and silently turned them back toward home.
By the time they got to the cottage, twilight was falling and Starsky was glad to see his passenger begin to unbend a little. Hutch even gave him a brief smile when he opened the blond's door for him, but it still struck Starsky how wound up the other looked. After he took the groceries into the kitchen, he came out to find his partner pacing the living room, unconsciously cradling his arm.
"Let me take a look at your hand," Starsky said, guiding his partner toward the bathroom.
"It's okay, Starsk, don't worry about it," Hutch resisted the nudging.
"No, it's not okay," Starsky patiently countered. "You know it could get infected, and you're not gonna be able to wrap it with just your left hand." The corners of his mouth and eyes crinkled a little. "Now if you were left-handed like me..."
The jibe had its desired result. Hutch rolled his eyes and let himself be propelled into the room, "Okay, okay, Dr. Starsky, just no left-handed jokes."
Starsky sat him down on the toilet and carefully unbuttoned and rolled up the bloodied sleeve, wincing at the ugly scratch. He turned the water faucet on a little and held Hutch's hand under it carefully, trying to wash the debris out of the wound.
Hutch tried to pull his arm out from under the water, but Starsky held on to him firmly.
"Baby," he muttered fondly.
Once he was satisfied he'd cleaned the scrape as best he could and patted it dry, he got out the first aid kit from the bathroom cabinet and towed Hutch back out into the living room where he directed him to the sofa. He spread antibiotic cream liberally over the abrasion, then gently bandaged it.
"There, that wasn't so bad, huh? Might even earn ya' a lollipop," he grinned as he put away the supplies and looked up for the first time into the eyes that apparently had been fixed on him for a while already. His grin faded with the sincerity of emotion in their depths.
"Thanks," Hutch said softly.
Starsky nodded after a moment, then, embarrassed, got up to put the first aid kit away and start dinner. "Hey, why don't you take it easy for a little bit while I fix dinner," he called over his shoulder as he went into the kitchen.
The dinner preparation took Starsky longer than he'd thought, but when he came out at one point to say something to his partner, he found Hutch stretched out on the sofa, fast asleep, so Starsky didn't hurry to finish. He had just begun setting the table when Hutch wandered in, rubbing sleep from his eyes. "Dinner ready?"
"Yep. Was about t' call you." Starsky was satisfied to see that already the blond looked much better, calm eyes and the easy grin back again and the strained attitude of before almost gone.
Dinner was the perfect finish to an imperfect day. Both of them were fairly good cooks, although Starsky only usually bothered with it for the sake of female company and Hutch's tastes ran healthier than Starsky cared for. But habit and much experience had taught each what the other liked, and this meal was another in a long line of mutually pleasurable ones they'd shared. Hutch seemed genuinely touched by the care Starsky had put into it, though, and Starsky was glad to see his friend's mood improving. Finally, their luck was changing.
They were just finishing dinner when the phone rang. Hutch rose to answer it, and returned a minute later, smiling.
"That was the bank. Seems they made a mistake."
"And?" Starsky prompted.
"My account's been cleared and they're sorry for the inconvenience," Hutch shook his head in disbelief.
Starsky just grinned, pleased, as he began to clear the table.
When they finished, he settled down comfortably in front of the TV to see what was on. Hutch, beer in hand, strolled in from the kitchen, pausing for a moment at the window to look at the canal reflecting the light of the moon before moving on to the next window. There he stopped.
His strange tone caught his partner's attention. "Yeah?" he responded, looking up.
"You're not gonna believe this..."
Starsky climbed to his feet to join him at the window. "What?"
Hutch pointed. The light from the street illuminated the Torino a little, and something seemed off about it to Starsky. Then he realized it was because the car was canting a bit, as if...
It had a flat tire.
"Oh, no," he moaned, already considering the implications of this turn of events.
"Uh, Starsk," Hutch said solicitously, putting an arm around his friend's shoulder. "Maybe you should take tomorrow off..."
Written in 1996