This story first appeared in the zine, That's What Friends Are For #8 (1998). This zine and other fine S&H gen zines can be obtained from the editor at: Intertwined@webtv.net. Comments on this story can be sent to: email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
A Real Break
K Hanna Korossy
It was Hutch's car, so Hutch drove. Besides, Starsky thought with a hint of petulance, the whole notion of going up to Pine Lake had been Hutch's idea from the very start, not his. Of course, his partner could never have guessed that they would almost lose their lives to Satanists up at the lake, but then Starsky had always said the wilderness was a dangerous place. Maybe next time they had a long weekend, the two of them could go to Vegas like Starsky had wanted.
A smile curved his mouth at the thought, and with the warm car rocking him and the little rest he'd gotten the night before, despite what he'd told Hutch, he soon curled up drowsily in the passenger seat. His conscience twinged a little because Hutch truly looked like he'd been up with nightmares the previous night and was driving nearly on autopilot, but Starsky talked himself out of it almost right away. Serves him right, he thought with a smirk before he drifted off and slept the rest of the way home.
Dobey had been grudgingly pleased with their work up at the lake, particularly as he seemed to be familiar with the sheriff and his family. The damage to his cabin was less easy to overlook, but apparently forgivable, since he hardly yelled at the two of them. But his good humor did not extend so far as to compensate for their lost vacation time. So, with only 1 1/2 days left of time off and no good way to spend it, Starsky and Hutch both opted for a return to work. They could always save up the time for their next break, in a few months.
Which was why the afternoon they'd returned home, the two detectives found themselves buried in paper at their desks.
"I don't get it," Starsky groused as he set aside the umpteenth signed sheet.
"Hmm?" Hutch didn't look up.
That was ample encouragement for Starsky, who needed none at all. "Paperwork. We're the good guys. We go out there, we bust the bad guys, all the stuff they trained us for. And what do we get for bein' good at what we do?"
"Justice?" Hutch offered, still glued to what he was working on.
"Paperwork. I'm tellin' ya, Hutch, there's somethin' wrong here. If we never caught a single felon, we'd have a lot less of this junk to do. Does that seem fair to you?"
Hutch finally glanced up at him. "If we never caught a single felon, we wouldn't be working here for long," he amended.
Starsky hesitated, all interest in the conversation suddenly gone. For appearances sake, though, he scowled. "I'm just sayin', maybe we should make the bad guys do the paperwork. We shouldn't be the ones bein' punished for doin' our job right," he muttered.
The corner of Hutch's mouth drew up in amusement, but he didn't answer, knowing full well when Starsky was through venting. He went back to his paperwork instead.
Starsky stared at the blond head thoughtfully. He hadn't noticed it before really looking at his partner a moment ago, but Hutch looked wiped. Not dead-on-his-feet kind of tired as when they came off a long, draining case, but utterly weary. This was weeks' worth of fatigue piled up.
He'd seen that same exhaustion of mind and body in Hutch before their "vacation," too. After the mess with Johnny Bagley had made them desk-bound for too long, they'd both needed a break. Starsky had been particularly concerned then at his normally fit partner's pallor and slowness. The brunet had always found himself recharging with a few nights out and some socializing and change of pace, but Hutch needed more than that to really rest. The plants and music and all those mystical trimmings Starsky always observed with amusement, helped, but Hutch needed an occasional real break in order to revitalize, usually a return to nature. Which was why Starsky had been all for the idea of borrowing the captain's cabin.
Then he'd found out that Hutch wanted him to come, too.
He'd grumbled a lot; he was expected to. And sure, going camping was near the bottom of his list of favorite things to do, together with babysitting his neighbor's cat and cleaning out his refrigerator after a long trip away. But secretly he'd been honored and a little surprised that Hutch wanted him along. They'd taken vacations together before, but he didn't usually go along on Hutch's real getaways. It had always seemed to him that one of the things Hutch was getting away from on his excursions, besides the city and the crime, was people in general. That he now considered Starsky part of the cure instead of the problem touched Starsky more than he could say.
Except that he knew Hutch would've been utterly embarrassed--not to mention digusted--to hear it laid out like that, and so Starsky had grumbled loudly about the whole plan... just enough. After over eight years, he knew thoroughly what "just enough" was for his partner.
Starsky had seen the tensions fall away as they entered all that green and fresh air, even as he fussed with only half-manufactured worry. When Hutch started teasing him about creepy things in the cabin, even Starsky's dread couldn't outweigh his delight, and he found himself beginning to relax too.
Then came the unfriendly little town and the snake and the cultists. For a few moments, Starsky had been certain that they'd finally reached their blaze of glory, and was surprised at how few regrets he had to go out fighting with Hutch at his back. But God had been watching out for them that night and they'd survived it after all. Only, the spell of rejuvenation had been broken, and despite his efforts to stay and recapture it, they'd come back the next morning. After a restless night, and with him sleeping all the way while Hutch drove. Starsky winced. Some break. No wonder Hutch looked almost worse than before they left.
Hutch was pretty good about looking after himself, going away to recharge when he knew he needed it, and Starsky was well aware of that. But the darkness had invaded his partner's sanctuary this time, and that wasn't so easy to deal with. And besides, for more than any other reason, Starsky simply wanted to do this for his friend.
The detective shook himself out of his thoughts and pulled a pad of notepaper over to him. Hutch, concentrating on his piles of work, didn't notice as Starsky began making his list and planning his strategy. For it to have its desired effect, he'd have to be sly about it. He grinned as he scribbled on. That was just the way he liked it.
On their way back, this time Starsky. Munson had grudgingly lent them his truck to carry the tent and their supplies, and so Hutch hadn't said a word when Starsky said he'd take the wheel back to L.A. Not that the blond--or either of them, for that matter--needed the rest after their long weekend.
The difference in his partner, contentedly humming to himself from the passenger seat as he watched the scenery go by, was amazing to Starsky. Gone was the subtle droop in his posture, the smudges around his eyes, and the previously permanent lines of fatigue in his face. But best of all, the sparkle of life was back in his eyes, the light that had hinted to Starsky way back when they'd first met at the Academy that there was more to the blond than the stiff, serious klutz he'd appeared to be at first sight. This was the Hutch he knew who enjoyed life.
Not that the trip hadn't been beneficial for him, too. The face he'd studied in the shaving mirror that morning was clear-eyed and content. Nature really wasn't so bad when you were with someone who knew what he was doing...and when you were so in tune to that person that their enthusiasm was catching. Starsky had put on his best "virgin in the woods" look all weekend, listened attentively to countless lectures about plants and fish and stars, and thoroughly enjoyed himself. It was what they were both most comfortable with, Hutch teaching, Starsky playing along.
It had been a real break, and now they were both ready to get back to work.
The tuneless whistling stopped, and he became aware of his partner watching him. Curious, he glanced over to meet the gaze.
"Wonder what made Jim think of offering us loan of his camping gear?" Hutch asked conversationally.
Starsky shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe he heard about Pine Lake."
"Hmm." A pause. "And Hank hardly ever lends his precious truck to his wife, let alone to friends."
"Guess we got lucky."
He could feel Hutch's eyebrows go up in mock surprise. "Lucky? You're saying that about camping? You sure all that fresh air didn't go to your head?"
Starsky made a face at the windshield. "Ha, ha. Actually, it wasn't that bad. Not as exciting as Vegas, mind you..." he ignored Hutch's snort of derision, "...but not bad. Little hot water in the mornin' and some real plumbing and I could even kinda get used to it. For a weekend or so every couple'a months, of course," he quickly added.
"Of course," Hutch agreed dryly.
Starsky cast about for something else to say. "It was nice of the cap'n, wasn't it, to give us another long weekend?"
"Yeah, especially when we didn't even have to ask for it. At least, I didn't ask for it."
Starsky ignored the leading, uncomfortable with where this was going. He thought he'd covered his tracks pretty well, but if Hutch put it together, it would color everything Starsky had tried to do.
Hutch was reading his mind again. "I know this was all your work, Starsk." The tone was just as mild, but there was a gentleness to it now that was so typical Hutch.
Denying it would've been insulting, so Starsky just shrugged again, the embarrassment he'd wanted to avoid Hutch now tinting his own cheeks. "I felt bad about Pine Lake," he confessed reluctantly, hurrying on as he heard Hutch draw breath to speak. "Not that it was anybody's fault, but it wasn't much of a break for you. I just thought we deserved a real vacation." "Even though you hate camping." Softly.
Starsky squirmed. He was truly sorry Hutch had seen through it; it wouldn't be as easy for him to enjoy that way. Starsky hadn't wanted the blond to feel indebted or to defer for Starsky's sake, but the brunet had also acted covertly to keep from having to have just such a conversation. "You needed it," he finally said simply, still fixed on the windshield.
"What about you?"
"I needed you to be happy." He nearly bit his lip--where had that come from?
There was a slight inhalation from next to him, then a sigh. Then, softer still, "Thank you."
Hutch had taught him it was okay to give, something Starsky had never been invited much to do in his whole life. Starsky, in return, had taught his partner about receiving, which was even harder for the blond. It was little wonder he wore out as easily as he did, the brunet had often reflected. But that was all right, because Starsky had a lot to give.
He smiled at all the affection and real gratitude in the tone, for far more than just arranging the trip, and mentally checked himself for thinking that he'd have to fool Hutch into taking it. They both gave--and took--from each other constantly, in their own ways. And maybe he hadn't done his partner such a big favor after all. A shared look told the other as much.
Then mischief slid into Starsky's grin. "Hey, I was the one who caught the basketful of fish, Nature Boy. And you lost the bet, so you're gonna clean 'em."
"You don't have to clean them if you're going to boil them," Hutch answered without missing a beat.
Starsky frowned, uncertain. Was that true? Surely Hutch wouldn't lie to him about something like that. . .
His passenger's stoicism only lasted a moment longer before breaking, confirming his suspicions, and Starsky gave him a withering you-didn't-fool-me-for-a-minute look that he knew wouldn't fool Hutch, either. But the true happiness in the sound of his partner's laughter soon had him smiling too. It had all been worth it.
Now if only he could figure out a way to make Hutch eat one of those boiled trouts...
Written in 1998