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LOS ANGELES POLICE ACADEMY, 1970
Hutch glanced across the room at the empty bunk.
Regulation neat as a pin, you-could-bounce-a-quarter-off-it, nice and tidy.
And Starsky wasn't in it.
Where the hell was he?
There was no bed check, but still, it was understood that ten fifty-five was lights out.
Hutch threw his robe onto the nearby chair, sat on his bunk and picked up the small alarm clock.
All right, Starsk... where are ya?
Reaching for the lamp light switch, Hutch turned toward the sudden sound of his roommate coming through the door. Starsky's running shoes were already being discarded and kicked under the bed.
"Where ya been?" Hutch asked, his shallow breath showing signs of relief as he settled into his own bunk.
"A walk. Then the rec room." Starsky flung an all-too-standardized grey sweatshirt onto the chair across from the one that held Hutch's robe.
Starsky was soon unzipping his pants, and in only a matter of seconds was clad in only powder blue pajama bottoms and sliding under the well-arranged covers of his tiny bed.
Hutch watched him, saying nothing.
How long had he known the guy?
Just over six months. Since they'd started together at the police academy.
Basically twenty-four hours a day, every day for the past six months they'd been a near inseparable duo.
Some might say that in that short amount of time they couldn't know each other well. Really well. Enough to become the closest of friends.
Those people would be wrong.
He knew Dave Starsky better after those five and a half, now six months, than he'd ever known anyone in his entire life.
And he knew the man well enough to know when to leave him alone.
When Starsky needed space. Down time for himself.
That's what this had been. But unfortunately, it didn't seem to have done much good. Starsky was still wound up tighter than a springboard coil.
What was worse, Hutch knew why. "Wanna talk about it?" he asked.
"Nope." Starsky pointed to the lamp, his head falling against the flattened pillow. "Lights out?"
"Big day tomorrow. We'd better get some sleep." Starsky listened for Hutch's voice in the dark.
"Yeah. Graduation... Shoes shined? Buckles buffed? Blues creased?"
Starsky attempted a chuckle. "All set." He turned his face toward the wall. Repositioned himself. Fluffed the pillow as much as he could. Repositioned himself again. Blew out a breath, staring at the darkness.
Hutch glanced over, his eyes adjusting to the dimness.
The lower portion of the scant moon caught both of their eyes at the same time. Unnerved, Starsky sat up, deciding whether or not to try sleeping again. He reached for the black robe at the foot of his bunk instead.
"I'm goin' outside for awhile," he said, instinctively searching for slippers, but winding up with athletic shoes.
"Starsk," came Hutch's voice, looking after him, "We're gonna have to talk about it, sooner or later."
Already at the door, Starsky knotted the robe's sash. "I'm not ready."
He closed the door behind him.
"Dammit," Hutch sputtered quietly, getting out of bed, reaching for his own robe and shoes.
The back door didn't lock until midnight when the guard made his final rounds. Starsky walked down the corridor, descended the small flight of stairs and pushed the thick metal door handle open.
Stepping outside onto the grounds, he became aware of Hutch following behind.
"Look," Starsky heaved a short sigh and began to speak.
"No, you look," Hutch's words covered his. "Evading the issue isn't the answer, Starsk."
"I'm not evading anything," Starsky shot back.
"Then you're in denial."
For a moment their eyes locked together like two bulls challenging each other in the middle of an arena.
Starsky walked past the small parking lot toward a large cleared field where preparations would begin early the next morning for the graduation ceremony and festivities.
"I know you're scared -- I'm in the same boat you're in," Hutch spoke matter-of-factly.
Starsky opened his mouth, expecting words to come out, but they didn't.
Instead, an engulfing tidal wave of thought washed over him.
Thought. Not memory. It had preyed near obsessively on his mind too much to have earned the title of "memory."
"I know you're shook about what happened the other day," Hutch said, as if remembering. "I am, too. But I think you re turning it into a bigger deal than either of us needs to."
Noticing the slight chill of the outside air, Starsky ran a hand swiftly up and down the side of his arm, a breeze blowing through his brunette hair.
The other day.
The other day...
That image bounced back into Starsky's mind the same way it had practically every minute of every hour since the situation occurred two days before.
And okay, Hutch was right. He was shook.
They'd been at Hutch's place in town. All the recruits had been given the weekend off after final exams.
Yeah, it was all that beer...
It was the fervent conversation about lost loves, missed chances and dead dreams...
It was feeling too high, too sleepy, too close...
Then things just got tense.
And when Hutch said, "Lets just get it out of the way," and kissed him, Starsky was stunned by it. But more so by his own response.
His brain was reeling.
Yeah, he was shook.
"I--" Starsky started, then quieted his voice, taking a swift look around the grounds. "I never in my life--"
"Same here," Hutch told him.
"So why did it happen? How did it happen?"
"I don't know."
Starsky blew out a breath and shrugged his shoulders, noticing how blue-grey the dark sky was above him. Only a few stars were visible.
Hutch tossed his head back, a wisp of blonde hair that had fallen onto his eyelashes going back in place.
"So what if it happens again?" Starsky asked, looking point-blank into Hutch's eyes.
"So what if it does." Ken's gaze was unyielding. Matter of fact. Just like before. It wasn't provocative, but it wasn't tame either. "Starsk, we can say a lot of things... come up with a lot of reasons and rationalizations," he began. "We can say a lot of shit. We can say that it was experimental, or for curiosity's sake or happened because we were drunk... but personally, I don't buy any of it."
Starsky listened, unmoving.
"I think whatever it was -- whatever reason it happened, came out of this," Hutch pointed to himself then Dave. "This closeness between us. This friendship between us that's so," he searched for the right word, "intense."
Hutch mused for a moment. "And I wonder in the long run if it matters -- that you and I got a little physically closer than either one of us expected."
Starsky squinted, shook his head a little. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that this," he moved his index finger again from himself to Dave, "was what it stemmed from. This. This closeness. This friendship between us that I honest to God believe will always be here.
"This is here right now after the fact. This will be here tomorrow after we get our badges and leave the academy. This will be here when we hit the streets one day and it'll be here ten years from now, twenty, thirty years from now. This is what really matters when it comes down to it, don't you think?"
Starsky nodded, one side of his mouth beginning to curve upward.
Hutch straightened out a crook in the back of his neck. "Look, Starsk, I don't know. Maybe that was something that just happened and it's over. Maybe we needed to find out how close we might really get. Maybe it was something we had to do to get past it. Or maybe it's unfinished business we'll deal with later.... Maybe some idiot shrink would say we're trying to find 'boundaries' in this relationship or whatever. Maybe a lot of things. But what's the bottom line of it?
"Isn't it this? The fact that we're friends. The fact that we're close. The fact that we care?"
Starsky began to smile, then stopped just as suddenly, feeling almost sullen.
"Is that what really worries you? That we've become so close?" Hutch asked.
Starsky shook his head, thoughtfully. "No," he answered. A short stream of people flowed through his mind. People who'd mattered. People he'd loved. People who'd come and gone. "I guess what worries me is losing it."
Hutch grinned, his eyes misting slightly. "I don't think there's much danger of that.... Like I said, this is gonna stay here."
Hutch's hand went to Starsky's upper arm. "Do you think there'd ever be a time you needed me and I wouldn't be there?"
Starsky smiled, shook his head.
"I can tell you that you're the best friend I've ever had. And I plan on stickin' around."
Starsky's hand went to his friend's arm in reciprocation, and his smile broadened. He nodded toward the academy building. "We'd better get back."
Walking through the parking lot, Starsky was still a bit pensive.
A lot had happened in his life recently. A lot had changed.
Three years in the Army was over, the police academy... tomorrow he'd officially graduate and receive his badge. And he'd discovered a better friend than he'd ever thought he'd find. Somehow he knew Hutch was right, that when the chips were down, they would be there for each other as time went by, no matter what.
"Hey," Starsky began, "tell me somethin' ..."
"Hmm?" Hutch's eyes shifted toward him.
"After we get our badges -- when we do get out there on the streets --" Starsky mused, "do you think we'll make any kind of real difference?"
Hutch thought it over seriously for a beat. "...Yeah...." He smiled. "I think we might."
Starsky smiled back. Perhaps his future was still uncertain, but finally he was feeling a hell of a lot more secure. "Yeah. We just might at that." He winked.