This story first appeared in the zine, Seasoned Timber 1 (2001). This zine and many other fine S&H zines can be obtained from Agent with Style at: www.agentwithstyle.com. Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
K Hanna Korossy
The Torino pulled up by the curb and its lone occupant got out. He looked around, getting his bearings, then slowly set off toward his destination.
The early spring morning was full of light and color and perfume, even transforming the solemn cemetery. People were scattered among the markers, their faces serious but God's caress of a sun-touched breeze lightening their steps just a little as they came to visit their loved ones.
The lone figure wasn't immune. He hadn't been able to come before, not ready to face the silent grave, but time had healed, time and friendship. He wanted to come now. Besides, it was his duty.
The gray marker came into sight and his throat constricted nonetheless. His was not the worst pain of loss, but he still felt it keenly, his own sorrow as well as that of his friend's. Which was why he was there.
He stopped in front of the grave, then, kneeling down, placed at its foot the flowers he held. They joined several other bouquets: she had been loved. He blinked a few times, eyes bright, before he spoke.
"Hi, Terry. I finally came to see you. I wanted to before, but..." He swallowed. She would know why.
"The kids are doing great. Sally's learning her cheers and the team actually won a game." He smiled softly. "They named the trophy after you." A silence. "I'll keep going every week until the end of the year, I promised them. Starsky hasn't been back, though. He's not ready yet."
Hutch paused for a long moment, regrouping his thoughts. This was no easier than he'd expected, but he was there for Starsky's sake as well as his own.
"He's doing good, Terry. The first two weeks, I wasn't sure. After you...were gone, something just seemed to die inside of him, you know?"
That had been hell for them both. Hutch felt Terry's loss acutely, mourning a dear friend, but he'd had to shelve his pain to keep Starsky from drowning in his own grief. How many times Hutch had gone over in the morning, or woken from spending the night, and found Starsky curled up in bed, eyes heavy ringed but not sleeping, just staring at the wall.
The blond head bowed. "It was hard. I couldn't even pry him out of bed or make him eat for the first few days." Starsky clearly hadn't seen the need to go through the motions in order to face an empty day and future. Hutch shook his head briefly, expression softening. He'd understood, even as he'd worked hard on shaking his partner out of the depression. "But then he went a little farther each day, started getting stronger. I think he got some of his will from you, honey."
That was when the guilt and the real grief had set in for Starsky. Hutch grew quieter.
"I only saw him cry once. Two weeks after...we opened the gifts you left, just like you made us promise." The corner of his mouth hitched even as his voice lost its steadiness. "When Starsk saw the book, that was the first time he'd smiled in two weeks. And Ollie...that was great of you, Terry. I gave him to Starsky to keep. I think that evening opened up something because later that night he held on to that bear and cried his heart out." Hutch hadn't even tried to calm him, had just taken his friend in his arms and grieved with him.
Hutch's head lifted. "He talked about quitting the force a few times. I guess you knew he was thinking about that already. You know Starsk--I don't think he'll ever completely stop feeling guilty, but don't worry, he won't do it. Whatever you told him, it stuck, and we've talked about it a few times, too."
A bird sang somewhere nearby and he stopped to listen. Terry would have loved the place. Hutch cleared his throat.
"I think he's finally getting over the worst of that now, but he's still pretty mad. A few mornings ago he showed up on my doorstep, soaking wet. Turned out he'd spent the whole night walking outside, in the rain, trying to calm down." The blond head shook. "I know this part'll take longer and I don't mind--even when he snaps at me, he apologizes a minute later. I just wish I could make it easier for him." The mood swings could be wearing, Starsky caustic one moment and stricken and sorrowful the next, but surely no worse than Hutch had subjected his partner to after his forced drugging and withdrawal, or after the loss of his own lover, Gillian. The year had not been a lucky one for either of them in that department.
Except that Terry had been a gift, even if a short-lived one. And you never regretted receiving a gift.
Hutch took a deep breath. "We caught Prudholm again, and everyone swears he'll spend the rest of his life locked up. I don't know if either of us believes that, but...you'd have been proud of Starsk, honey. He was the one who faced Prudholm down and he could've shot the guy and no one would have said a word, but he didn't." He smiled. "You've got yourself quite a man there." And Hutch a partner. That mutual love had been one of the many ties he'd shared with Terry.
Hutch glanced up at the scene around him, sober, gray reminders of the brevity of life intermingled with trees just beginning to bud and new flowers and spring birds building nests. Terry wasn't really there, of course, but in that setting it wasn't hard to think she was. Hutch's fingers brushed over the smooth, freshly hewed gravestone. "I'll be back to see you again, Terry, I promise. One of these days maybe Starsky'll be ready to come, too. Not yet, but it'll happen, you and I both know it. And I'll do what you asked me to. You didn't need to ask, you know that. I'll take care of him, for you and for me." He shook his head. "I won't let him change."
He stood there a minute longer thinking, remembering. His eventual smile was bittersweet. "Bye, honey," Hutch finally whispered. And then he turned away, heading back to the Torino.
He was looking forward to getting back. Starsky would soon be wondering where he was, finally starting to pay attention to what was going on around him again. And Hutch had his partner's car, too. He'd been sticking so close to the brunet that they went most places together, and Hutch had even lost track of where he'd left own his car last. Not that it mattered much; "yours" and "mine" didn't make a big difference anymore. That was why the grief was shared, too.
And the healing. Hutch climbed into the car and, without a glance back, sped off toward home.
Written in 2001