This story first appeared in the zine, Above & Beyond (1996). 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
If you have a friend worth loving,
Love him. Yes, and let him know
That you love him, ere life's evening
Tinge his brow with sunset glow.
Why should good words ne'er be said
Of a friend till he is dead?
Daniel W Hoyt
Hutch shut the bedroom door and glanced regretfully once again at the kitchen before heading for the living room. He speculated not for the first time that he ought to keep something edible at his partner's house for all the days and nights he spent here. A week-old chili dog and two bottles of ketchup just didn't do it. He winced as he sat down on the sofa. Not to mention a lumpy bed.
Hutch picked up a magazine off the coffee table and thumbed through it disinterestedly before throwing it down again. Of course, he wouldn't have had to be here at all if he had done his job a little better. He drew a hand across his face tiredly. No, that wasn't really true, it just felt like it. How could he have known the little old lady was really Fitzgerald in disguise? Starsky hadn't caught it either. But then Starsky was exhausted from driving all night, while Hutch was the one who was supposed to be...what? Omniscient? Psychic? He smiled sarcastically. He'd settle for just being one step ahead of the bad guys. Once again they had come too close to breaking up the nearest thing to a perfect match that he had ever known.
Hutch leaned forward to reset the alarm clock. After Fitzgerald had been taken away, Starsky began to throw up in the alley and Hutch had quickly hauled his dazed partner off to the hospital. The doctor had wanted to keep him overnight, but after Starsky's sleepy protest, he had relented and sent them home with strict instructions for Hutch to wake his partner every two hours and ask him his name and whether he knew where he was. Which meant that the blond wouldn't be getting a lot of sleep himself, but that wasn't important. All that really mattered was that they were both safe and together again, and that they had beaten the bad guys once more. He was just now beginning to shake that all-too-familiar cold dread that he'd felt since the moment he realized who Starsky's last passenger had been. At least for the next two days he could breathe a little easier and maybe even briefly shake off the worry that was always present but never acknowledged, the fear that something as good as they had couldn't last forever.
And yet... how did that quote go? "The hottest fire makes the strongest steel." That was what they had, the bond of life and death that had been forged in countless races and searches and vigils just like this one, a fire that had made a wisecracking junkfood-addict closer to him than a brother. It was Starsky who made a lot of life bearable for him. As he began to doze off, Hutch reminded himself again to tell his friend sometime how much he really meant to him before...well, before it was too late.
The response came to his mind just before sleep claimed him.
Starsky sank down in the chair and opened a can of beer. He knew he ought to be getting some sleep, but his mind was still too active to allow him the luxury, so he settled back to sort out his thoughts. And maybe to keep an eye on the still figure sleeping in the bed nearby. Hutch would have teased him about being a mother hen, but right now he didn't care. If he were being completely honest with himself, Starsky would've had to admit that it was reassuring to see his partner safe and almost healthy again, especially with three days of adrenaline and fear to work off. But he couldn't be that honest--then maybe he would also have to admit how much it scared him every time something like this happened, every time he was forced to wonder if Hutch would still be with him the next day. No, he wouldn't let himself think like that. After all, it hadn't even been the job this time.
Starsky closed his eyes for a moment and took a sip of the beer. He hadn't thought of that before. One of the things he hated most about the job was the fear that went with it; not the fear of dying, he had made an uneasy peace with that idea a long time ago, but rather the fear of losing that which was precious to him. Like Terry. And Hutch... He shook off the chill of that thought and returned to the present. No, it hadn't been the job, it had been something much more senseless. A lousy bet. He still couldn't believe that he had almost lost his partner because of a stupid bet. They had talked about it in the car on the way home from the hospital and he knew Hutch didn't blame him at all, but it would still take some time before he could fully forgive himself. That moment in the hospital when the nurse had read Hutch's note to him and he realized how close he had been... He had felt completely helpless, and the feeling still haunted him. And Hutch had called him the 'big winner'. Yeah, right. Starsky hadn't even started to breathe again until the doctor confirmed that the anti-toxin was working. Hutch was right, they were both to blame for the whole thing and had deserved every bit of the lecture Dobey gave them, but he still felt a little responsible. So close, so very close; too close.
His mind was beginning to get cloudy as he relaxed and sleep approached. But then, he thought, it was the job that had really saved them, Starsky doing what he knew best to find Hutch before it was too late. And he had found him, had beaten the odds again in the end. Maybe being a cop wasn't so bad after all. He almost laughed at the concept. Yeah, being a cop sometimes had its advantages. Like getting a partner who kept making him lose sleep time and time again. How many nights had he spent here in Hutch's living room on the couch or in this very chair, watching his partner sleep, ready to be there if he was needed? Too many, he thought wryly, shifting around to try and find a comfortable spot. He smiled to himself. But then, he had no regrets. Hutch had always been there for him, and Starsky would be happy to spend the rest of his life returning the favor. Assuming he had the chance, his mind added soberly. Once again he considered that maybe he took his partner too much for granted. He had never been one to show his true feelings easily, but Hutch deserved to know. Well, maybe he would tell him, even though he had an idea that Hutch already knew. In his last conscious thought, he could almost hear the answer he knew he would get.
Written in 1996