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The Santa Ana winds swept across the Los Angeles basin in their yearly
scourge. Sending the accumulated smog out to sea, they brought in hot, scorching
gusts that had the reputation for mayhem and violence. The Santa Anas had
actually figured into a long ago trial as the catalyst for murder.
As the searing temperatures frayed nerves and heightened tempers, police
watched the weather reports with hope of an end to the siege of nature. Starsky
and Hutch just worked their tails off attempting to keep down crime within their
little segment of Bay City. But even they were not immune to the unrest in the
air. They'd snapped at each other all day but it wasn't the heat that made both
"Did you make an appointment finally?" Hutch asked casually without
looking over as Starsky slid back into the car.
Steering his newest in a long line of unpretentious beaters back into
traffic, Hutch pretended to be engrossed in his job of scanning his side of the
sidewalk for one Vinnie Schroeder, a low life drug dealer suspected of hacking
his girlfriend to death when she tried to kick her habit. As it stood, Vinnie
was the last thing on Earth Hutch was currently interested in. He was far more
worried about Starsky, or more to the point, the swelling on the back of
Starsky's calf. As usual Starsky had dismissed it as the souvenir from an
unfortunate encounter with a steel-toed boot worn by a drunken dockworker they'd
arrested during a smuggling ring case. However, that had been over a month ago
and the leg was still swollen--and hard. Hutch could feel the lump when he
pushed his cold toes up against Starsky's leg every night when they got in bed
together. It scared him every night.
"Yes, Mom, I made an appointment," Starsky snapped grumpily. He
pushed the longish curls off his neck, wiping away the sweat. "The doc was
backed up, so it's scheduled for next Tuesday."
"Good, I'm coming along." Hutch stepped on the brake at a red
light, glancing over at Starsky. The interior of the un-air-conditioned car was
so hot heat ripples were rising off the dashboard. Starsky had his left leg
crossed over the right, left ankle resting on his opposite knee, but the
swelling wasn't noticeable under his jeans. "You'll act like there's
nothing there and refuse to cooperate."
"I cooperate!" Starsky protested.
"Yeah, the way you manage to 'forget' your physical every year until
Dobey practically has to put you on suspension to make you go get one,"
Hutch said snidely. He hadn't really meant to sound harsh, but Starsky's abject
refusal to take his own health seriously was getting on Hutch's last nerve. For
a man who'd spit death in the face and lived to tell the tale, Starsky acted
like he was immortal. And Hutch knew differently. "Starsky, I just--just
need to know you're going to be around for a while longer," he added
"What, you take out a life insurance policy on me or somethin'?"
Starsky grinned suddenly, transformed into the mischievous imp, all bright blue
eyes and elfin charm.
"Or something. There's that interdepartmental basketball game coming up
at the end of the month."
"Wouldn't miss it for the world. I can wait t'smear Sutter Precinct's
nose in the court." Starsky stifled a grimace when he shifted his legs, but
Hutch noticed. The bitter taste of fear hovered in the back of his throat and
Hutch swallowed tightly. Maybe Starsky was right? It was only a deep bruise that
was taking too long to heal. Or maybe he needed to eat less salt. That could
make your legs swell up. And Starsky could definitely cut down on his salt
intake. He could just improve his diet all the way around. For a man pushing
forty he had terrible eating habits.
Hutch smiled slightly to himself in spite of his worry. Starsky had
maintained the same food patterns in all the years they'd been together. Ten
years as partners on the police force, and then four and a half more as partners
in life as well as on the force. The last thing in the world Starsky would ever
give up was his pizza, burritos and beer. Even the small changes Hutch had been
able to instigate over the years, such as vegetarian night and bran muffins for
breakfast, were always grumbled about when Starsky wanted to get Hutch's hackles
"That new guy, Nugyen, he's starting to paint his face blue and howl at
the moon." Starsky said with a straight face.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Hutch exploded, managing to
keep both hands on the wheel despite the urge to wring Starsky's neck.
"You've worrying again and those little lines between your eyebrows turn
into caverns worthy of the Grand Canyon," Starsky accused. "Stop
glowering, Hutch. I made the appointment, I'll go. End of story." He
reached over in a rare public sign of affection and smoothed the lines away from
Hutch's forehead. "I worry about you too, you big lug."
The temperatures topped in the low nineties just after twelve but, like mad
dogs and Englishmen, Starsky and Hutch were out in the noon day sun. After a day
of running down leads and questioning a few of their snitches known to buy from
Schroeder, they grabbed some dinner at Hutch's new favorite restaurant 'The Good
Earth'. Starsky pretended to complain about his bean and avocado whole-wheat
burrito but in fact he enjoyed every healthy mouthful. It was important to keep
the status quo and not let Hutch know he was winning on the food front. Starsky
could feel the years creeping up on him. Forty was just around the corner
bringing with it the joys of middle age. Starsky cherished his supreme good
fortune to have reached this ripe old age, having nearly shaken off this mortal
coil when he was 34, so he was bound and determined to start dealing with the
trials of advancing age. Eating right was the easiest to do, since Hutch was
there to supervise nearly every meal he ate.
Taking a sip of his iced tea Starsky made a face. "They make the worst
"It's herbal, Starsk, get used to it," Hutch said taking another
bite of salad. "How's your burrito?"
"Edible," Starsky grunted.
Hutch nodded, their eyes connecting for a moment. The gentle expression on
his face told Starsky he was aware they were using routine as comfort. Hutch was
scared of what the doctor might say.
Starsky refused to let stuff like that bother him. Deep down he knew it
wasn't normal to have a lump below his knee for over a month but dwelling on the
worst wouldn't help matters. He'd heard of lots of people going in for consults
only to have their fears evaporate when the doctor proclaim the bump to be
nothing more than water on the knee or an infected bug bite. Nothing to stress
about. Except the damned thing did ache, especially at night when he was trying
to go to sleep. That was the hardest time to convince himself that it was
Bellies filled, Starsky and Hutch were just opening the doors of the car when
an announcement came over the police band that Schroeder had been spotted only a
few blocks away. With any luck they'd be first on the scene. Both had known
Schroeder's 'ole lady' Emerald, a once stunningly beautiful Asian girl who had
let poverty, drugs and life grind her into the ground long before Schroeder took
a knife to her. Hutch had been known to slip Emerald an extra twenty over and
above the money they paid her for info. They had both seen her mutilated body
and vowed to bring the drug dealer down.
As Hutch turned onto Del Prado, Starsky saw a familiar figure glance over his
shoulder at their car and abruptly disappear between two buildings. Twilight's
eerie light made identification dicey but the fleeing man sure looked like
"He's down the alley!" Starsky had the car door open and was
pelting across the sidewalk even before Hutch brought the Ford to a complete
stop. Starsky was already a brown and blue blur by the time Hutch joined the
pursuit. He took a parallel course to the unnamed alley hoping to bracket
Schroeder between Starsky and himself.
Dodging a jumble of discarded lumber next to a dumpster Starsky chased
Schroeder, swearing between hitched breaths when his prey went left onto the
next street. It was markedly darker in the alley than it had been on the street
and Starsky found it difficult to keep his speed in the littered passageway.
Some long abandoned construction project had scattered wood, sacks of powdered
cement and rolls of rotting linoleum in untidy heaps like a mock-up of the
obstacle course at the police academy. Starsky barked his right knee on an
unseen hurdle and nearly pitched forward but righted himself before he fell.
Luckily, he managed to keep a grip on his gun. Where had Schroeder gone?
His feet pounding on the bone jarring concrete Starsky tried to ignore the
deep ache in his left calf that was threatening to slow him even further. Using
the corner of a condemned apartment as a counterweight he propelled himself
around the end of the alley and burst onto 39th Ave.
Between one footfall and the next blinding, excruciating pain disabled
Starsky, driving him into the wall as his left leg suddenly refused to support
his weight. Frantically trying to remain standing he managed to duck Schroeder's
second swing with a section of two by two by sheer luck. Starsky's calf was a
concert of agony in every key and even touching his foot to the pavement was
unbearable. He forced up his gun hand, holding the gun towards Schroeder,
"Thought you had me, cop?" Schroeder took a menacing practice
swing, holding the rough length of wood like a professional batter.
Starsky balanced against the wall and sucked in his belly when the wood
passed fractions of an inch away from him but it knocked his pistol to the
ground. Clutching at a split shingle on the wall behind him Starsky knew his
strength was failing fast, draining down his useless leg. He didn't even want to
think about what kind of damage that log had caused, but the pain in his knee
and calf was indescribable, utterly immobilizing, and he began to fear
Schroeder's next time up at bat. If that plank connected with his head, he would
be dead and without a weapon, he was defenseless.
"Where's your partner now, huh, Starsky?" Schroeder laughed low and
deep in his throat. He didn't sample his own wares so he had none of the stringy
hunger of a junkie. His black eyes glowed with maniacal glee, a career criminal
suddenly presented with favorite fantasy--taking out a cop. "Think he can
save you? Where's Hutch?"
"Right here." The deafening roar from his long barreled Python
punctuated Hutch's words. Schroeder dropped the wood when a bullet tore through
his arm. He screamed, clutching the wound.
No longer needing to remain upright Starsky slid down the wall, the shingles
abrading the skin on his back where his shirt pulled out from his jeans, leaving
a line of splinters. A rush of relief washed over him. Hutch would take care of
things; he'd mop up the arrest giving Starsky time to rest. If he could just
endure pressure on his injured leg maybe he could get home without Hutch
insisting on a visit to the ER.
"Starsk?" Hutch's voice was pitched higher than usual with alarm
and Starsky wanted to tell him not to worry, that everything was all right now,
but for some reason he wasn't quite up to making intelligent conversation yet.
"Hey, buddy?" Hutch crooned softly. "Let me take a look at that
"N-no!" Starsky screamed when Hutch barely brushed a hand on his
jeans covered knee. "It's...don't touch, Hutch…"
"You're a poet," Hutch teased gently, taking his hand away.
"How bad does it hurt?'
Things were beginning to reorient themselves and Starsky realized it was
nearly full dark now; Hutch's face was a pale moon above him, indistinct and
almost featureless in the gloom. He must have passed out for a short time
because two uniforms were now hauling Schroeder away and a whooping siren was
approaching at all speed from the way the sound increased in decibels. Abruptly
the noise ceased when a squat red truck stopped only a short distance away,
"You called them?" Starsky asked in disgust, his righteous anger
diminishing the all-encompassing pain.
"You need to be checked out," Hutch said with that irritating
patience that he got when he thought he was right. "You can't stand. I
think your leg is broken."
"Is not!" Starsky retorted defiantly, struggling to get off his
butt. "Would you help me up? Some ice'll take care of this in no
Holding his hands up like a hostage in a bank robbery Hutch backed away.
"Sorry, Starsky, not until the pros take a look."
"Traitor," Starsky groused avoiding Hutch's gaze with the
truculence of a three year old. He focused instead on the two paramedics carting
out equipment. If he could take charge of the situation he'd avoid a hospital
stay. At all costs Starsky wanted to avoid the hospital. He'd prefer not even
enter the double doors of the ER but the determination on the faces of both
paramedics brooked no argument on that front.
"Don't cut my jeans," Starsky ordered when the small black woman
bent down to examine his rapidly expanding knee joint. "I just got 'em
"Can't get them off any other way." She shrugged; brandishing a
pair of oddly bent scissors and began to snip the hem of his latest favorite
jeans down near Starsky's foot. Just the touch of her hand on his skin sent a
jolt of agony up his leg.
"Oh, shit!" Starsky screamed. Rearing up, he tried to jerk away
from her grasp. Hutch pulled Starsky into a protective embrace, murmuring
comforting words but he barely heard them. The pain was a live beast gnawing on
the bone and as much as Starsky wanted to deny it, this was no ordinary broken
leg. When he was ten he'd broken his leg, the same one, as a matter of fact, but
it hadn't felt anything like this. The resiliency of youth didn't explain why
this one hurt so incredibly much more. He tried concentrating on the feel of
Hutch's arms holding him tight and the sound of Hutch's voice in his ear but the
words were as unintelligible as buzzing bees. The pain was taking hold, staking
its claim, sending spikes down deep into his bones and planning to stay awhile.
Attempting to stifle the anguished pleas coming from his throat Starsky couldn't
keep from crying out when he was transferred to the portable gurney and trundled
into the ambulance.
Going through every curse word he had ever learned, in every language he
could remember, kept the rabid beast at bay but it also blotted out what was
happening around him. Starsky was only dimly aware of Hutch holding his hand
when a needle bit into his hip sending cooling, peaceful streams of morphine
through his body.
Welcoming the release Starsky still fought the loss of control he was only
barely maintaining. It was too easy to drift off with the poppy juice. The
seductive haze was so familiar, a long time friend from his days recovering from
gunshot wounds, but he needed to keep his wits about him if he was going to
fight the inevitable hospital admission.
Hate was the only weapon left in his arsenal but it was a powerful one. With
every fiber of his being Starsky hated the ride in the ambulance. He hated the
doctors swarming around when he arrived in the ER and most of all he hated the
treachery of his leg for capitulating so completely to the swing of Schroeder's
"Your tibia is shattered." Tow headed Dr. Katherine Meadows snapped
an X-ray film into the viewbox and flipped on the light. "And your fibula
is snapped in two."
Ignoring the rising panic in his chest that threatened to close off his
windpipe Starsky tried to make sense of the picture. He remembered his high
school anatomy well enough to know that where there should have been two slender
bones just under the kneecap there was now a jumbled puzzle of white fragments.
Abstract sculpture created from his own living bone.
Looking over at the stunned expression on Hutch's face nearly did Starsky in.
Hutch was terrified. That wouldn't do. Starsky had to be strong for the both of
them, after all, it was his leg.
"How long will I be in a cast?" he asked. That sounded good, no
indecisiveness, no fear, just ask straight questions and get solid, dependable
answers right from the get go. "One a' my friends had a pin put in his
hip--that's what you gotta do? Put a pin in to hold it all together?"
Dr. Meadows let out a noisy breath fogging up the X-ray screen for a moment.
She tapped the film with a blunt trimmed fingernail as if not sure how to state
her opinion. Starsky judged her to be in her mid 20's, probably a second year
resident. He'd met her predecessors when he'd been Memorial Hospital's miracle
patient--the survivor of automatic gunfire--a living teaching opportunity for
all the senior residents and attending physicians. They'd all trouped through
his room, each stating his or her opinions on the chances of his survival and
recovery, but second years could sometimes be the worst. They'd been around just
enough to get over that first year of fear but had not quite learned enough to
be comfortable in their lofty position. Second years had done their tours in
nearly every department in the hospital, were starting to perfect their skills
and deciding what their specialties would be. But delivering the bad news was
still a work in progress. Meadows didn't have the poker face to pull it off. She
looked uncomfortable and sympathetic; both of which Starsky refused to
"What'll it take before I'm back on the force?" he demanded. A
second dose of morphine during the hellish visit to radiology had dulled the
pain to almost tolerable levels. On a scale of 1-10, maybe a 6 or 7, but much
better compared to the 12 earlier in the alley. It still shredded his composure,
forcing him to sweat for every ounce of concentration needed to comprehend what
the doctor had to tell him.
Starsky," Hutch entreated but Starsky ignored him. Hutch was too scared
of the consequences to think rationally, that was obvious. There would be no
accepting defeat here.
"Well, I've asked for a consult with an orthopedic surgeon,"
Meadows said finally. "He'll have more answers, I'm sure."
Dr. Bernardi had the doleful face of a Basset Hound, his watery brown eyes
somber and unreadable. "Mr. Starsky, while your fracture is a serious one,
it is within the realm of medical science to get you back on your feet."
"Good," Starsky agreed, liking the man's attitude.
"However, I am somewhat more concerned with this area here." He
poked his finger at a large white smudge on the x-ray. "Were you aware you
had a mass on the bone?"
"Yes," Hutch spoke up. Starsky wanted to refute the bald statement
but he deferred to Hutch's superior knowledge of medicine. "He'd already
made an appointment with a doctor to have it checked out. Did that contribute to
"Probably not. Getting hit with blunt force at a high velocity could
cause damage of this extent. But I'll need to biopsy the mass before I can give
a definitive answer. I need to know more before I decide whether there is
sufficient cause to justify the risk of the complicated surgery necessary to
repair your leg."
"What the hell are you sayin'?" Starsky demanded when he could
breathe around the basketball he'd swallowed.
"If that is malignant, amputation would be a more prudent course. Even
if it isn't, your leg may never heal correctly. There is a great deal of
shattered matter there, it may never knit into healthy bone."
"Back up and slow way down. No way am I lettin' you near me with a
scalpel," Starsky shouted but his inadvertent outburst jostled his leg. The
resulting pain swamped him in one giant wave, leaving him trembling and weak.
"Starsky?" Hutch asked anxiously. "Call the nurse, can he get
s'more pain meds here? Something that works?"
"H-hutch. No amputation," Starsky whispered with his eyes closed
against the vice gripping his lower leg. Serrated teeth were ripping into his
flesh, separating every tendon and ligament, igniting each nerve ending
separately so that each called out its own individual pain, inciting a war on
the cellular level. The numerical counter on the pain scale slid up towards nine
with breathtaking speed.
More needles came, some bringing pain relief, some taking away more of his
blood, but Starsky slept for a while, storing up strength for the next battle.
He awakened dry mouthed and cold, still lying flat on the gurney in the
examination room in the ER.
"Hey," Hutch whispered. "How're you doing?"
"I'll get you a blanket."
Starsky listened to the inner workings of his body, testing for the fearful
pain from his leg but it was muted, nearly gone. That frightened him. What if
Dr. Butcher had taken a hack saw and whacked off his leg right in the ER?
"Hutch?" he squeaked.
"Here we go," Hutch jollied with false cheer, bundling a lusciously
warmed blanket around Starsky's shoulders. "Feel better?"
"S'good," Starsky had to admit. The blanket felt like it had been
kept in a low oven until just the right time. Despite the enervating heat of
earlier in the day, he was freezing, even with the blanket pulled up under his
chin. "Hutch, my leg? I can barely feel it." Now that he said that, he
realized he could barely feel either leg.
"Doctor came and gave you an epidural while you were out, Starsk,"
Hutch explained carefully. "Put some Morphine straight into your spine so
you can't feel the break so badly."
"He didn't cut it off?"
"No, love, it's still there. They're waiting on some blood tests right
"Hutch, don't let 'em cut off my leg. I can't work on the force if they
cut off my leg," Starsky insisted. He opened his eyes to look up at Hutch
but the expression on Hutch's face was pinched, the pain raw and open despite a
transparent attempt to hide it.
"Starsk, you know they're checking for cancer, don't you?"
"I don't have cancer." Starsky said firmly.
"You don't know that!" Hutch exploded. "Dammit, Starsky, I
asked you! I begged you repeatedly to go to the doctor and now…"
"Don't," Starsky protested inanely, wanting to start the whole
conversation--no, the whole day over again. When had everything gone so wrong?
Was there a point when he could have said stop and none of this would have
happened? "Hutch, don't cry…" It pierced him through the heart to
see tears in those sky blue eyes, especially when he couldn't see very well
because of the film in his own eyes.
"God, Starsk, I won't let anything happen to you, but you've got to give
me a little help here," Hutch sat heavily on the silver stool next to the
gurney and lowered his head onto Starsky's arm.
Reaching up Starsky was amazed to notice that he had not one IV but two
coming out of his right arm--when had that happened? But he still carefully
reached over to stroke Hutch's thinning blond hair. The feel of the silky
strands was soothing like nothing else in the world. It spoke to him of their
love, being together in bed on a Sunday morning eating donuts and bran muffins,
drinking real coffee, not that decaf stuff Hutch kept trying out, reading the
huge L.A Times and cuddling when they should have been weeding their vegetable
"Don't cry for me, Hutch," Starsky whispered. "I screwed up. I
shoulda listened to you."
"After all these years?" Hutch's voice was muffled from his
position. He raised his head slowly, wiping his eyes. "Starsk…how're you
doing, huh? D'you need anything?"
Starsky recognized this avoidance ploy for what it was, Hutch trying to exert
some control over the situation. But anarchy was at the helm now and no matter
how hard either of them tried, there would be no chance of controlling anything
for a long time to come.
"My name is John Davies," the long legged doctor with a monogrammed
lab coat pulled up the remaining chair in room 217 and sat down. Hutch was
perched in his usual place on the chair next to the bed where Starsky lay
enthroned with his left leg suspended in a complicated system of ropes and
pulleys to keep the broken bones in some kind of alignment, and prevent atrophy
from damaged muscles. "I'm an oncologist." Dr. Davies continued,
"and from what we can deduce from the tests we've done so far, Detective
Starsky, you probably have osteosarcoma."
The dread hanging over him finally had a name after almost two days in the
hospital. There had been so many tests Starsky had lost track of which were for
what, and so many trips to radiology he was beginning to fear for his sperm
count. Not that he had plans to father any children in the near future; it was
just the principle of the thing.
"What makes that fairly unusual is that you're both too old and too
young to have this type of cancer."
"Come again?" Starsky asked, dry mouthed. He'd been expecting the
news. He knew they were testing him for cancer but the reality was jaw dropping.
Osteo-what? The doctors had stabbed a wickedly long needle into his leg bone for
a biopsy, mercifully while he was heavily sedated, to uncover the true nature of
his disease. At this particular moment he kind of wished he were still
"Seventy-five percent of all people with osteosarcoma are kids, most of them teenaged
boys," the doctor explained. "And most of the rest are elderly men.
You're a rarity."
"That's Starsky, always the nonconformist," Hutch joked, even
though there was a palpable edge in his voice. Starsky was just glad Hutch was
even making an attempt at levity. In his opinion, Hutch had been falling apart
in the last two days. He didn't sleep, barely ate and hadn't left the hospital
since Starsky was admitted.
"So what happens now?" Starsky inquired with steely resolve.
"What gets me back on the force in the least amount of time?"
"Dr. Bernardi, whom you have talked to, will operate on your leg to
reassemble the pieces and during the surgery the tumor will be excised. The lab
will immediately examine a minute portion under a microscope and get back to me
so I'll have answers even before you wake up from anesthesia. If it's malignant
then I'll begin a course of chemotherapy right away."
"No amputation." Starsky stated with finality.
"Not at this time," Davies shook his head. "However, I have to
warn you, that still is a possibility. If chemo doesn't halt the spread of the
cancer, it would be necessary to remove your leg to save your life."
"No amputation." Starsky began but Hutch rode over him with a sharp
bark of his name.
"Starsky, if it comes to a question of your life or your leg, I take
"Hutch, I can't be a cop without my leg," Starsky growled. This was
not a debatable point. That was his final answer. "When's surgery? I want
to get this ball rolling."
Outlining his plans took a few minutes and then Davies sent a nurse off to
get a printed surgical consent for Starsky to sign. Starsky barely listened to
the litany of what could go wrong until chemotherapy was mentioned again. He
sure as hell didn't want to have to go through months of drugs unless the
outcome meant a complete recovery and return to working the streets. "This
chemo stuff, how long will that take?"
"It all depends on the extent of your disease." Davies hedged.
"Give me a ball park figure," Starsky demanded. Hutch made a small
sound in his throat; partially distracting Starsky but he refused to be
deterred. Starring down the bed at the toes of his left foot peeking out from
the temporary splint held aloft by the traction centered him again. He had a
goal. He had to get back on his feet and reclaim his life. Cancer was curable
these days, all the newspapers and magazines said so. It wasn't the death
sentence that it had been in his childhood when he could remember his
grandmother wasting away from 'Cancer'. His mother always whispered the word,
giving it a capital 'C' and making little warding off signs with her fingers as
if just saying 'cancer' aloud could cause it to spread. It was probably all for
the best that Rachel Starsky had died last year so she wouldn't learn that her
oldest son had the dreaded scourge.
"Very hard to say a this point, and I'm not trying to be deliberately
obtuse, there's just no way of knowing," Davies massaged the small of his
back as if he had a kink there he couldn't quite reach. "If chemo succeeds
you may go into remission, at which point there are no detectable tumor markers
in your blood."
"And I'm cured." Starsky perked up at that.
"In five years you are considered cured," Davies corrected. "I
will see you tomorrow before surgery to go over any last minute details and Dr.
Bernardi will be in sooner or later to talk with you about his contribution to
the team effort."
"Thank you, doctor," Hutch stood formally, smiling genially until
the man was out the door. "He seems like a competent doctor."
"You should go home now, Hutch," Starsky remarked as if he were
talking about changing the channel on the TV. "Get some rest, somethin' to
"I'm not leaving the night before you have major surgery!"
"Hutch, I know hospital procedure. I've been through all of this
before." Starsky waved aside his protestations. Hutch needed to be
protected right now, he was in a fragile state and Starsky didn't want to be
hampered by his partner's fears for his safety. Starsky needed to concentrate on
recovery and moving forward. If that meant distancing himself from Hutch until
the crisis was past, so be it. In time Hutch would see that it was all for the
best and his concerns had all been for naught. Starsky had to keep the belief
that there was no malignancy and no need for chemo drugs and sympathetic looks
from friends, or he'd lose all hope completely. "You don't sleep very well
here. And frankly pal, you need to take a shower."
"How the hell do you expect me to sleep? I can't leave, Starsky."
Hutch gripped the back of the chair, then practically flung it away from him.
"I can't leave. The last time I left when you were shot…"
"Hutch, no," Starsky didn't have to hear the rest, he knew what
Hutch was alluding to. "I'm not gonna die. It's one night--I'm fine, I'm…reasonably
whole. You can't die from a broken leg."
"You have cancer."
"I have a broken leg right now, maybe it's cancer, Davies said probably
it's oseo-whatever. Probably's practically the same thing as possibly, maybe
they're wrong," Starsky couldn't bear the heartbreak in his lover's voice.
It made it that much harder to sever the bond but he had to, for now at least.
Hutch would understand, in time.
"Were you even listening? They wouldn't be doing all these tests if it
were just a broken leg!" Hutch flared. "God, how in the hell can you
be so pig headed? This is serious, Starsky. You have a life threatening illness
and you're lying there, with your leg in a sling, acting like it's some elective
"You don't have to yell at me. I am being realistic and doctors have
been known to be wrong. They sure as hell didn't give you any great odds after I
was shot, you told me, and look how that turned out," Starsky answered
patiently, although his heart was snapping in two. The last thing he wanted
right now was an argument. He just needed to be alone to gather the strength to
remain committed to his goal. Hutch couldn't help; his panic ran too deep.
"Hey," he dredged up a smile from somewhere but it was a pallid cousin
to his usual sparklers. "What about the cat, huh? Did Pansy get fed? She
must be waking up the neighbors by now." From the glacial expression on
Hutch's face Starsky's attempt at pacification had not worked.
"You want me to leave?" Hutch spit out. "Fine, I'll get out of
your hair and feed the damn cat."
The room seemed devoid of air when Hutch stormed out and Starsky sat rigidly
still for a long while just waiting, for what he wasn't quite sure. He stared
fixedly up at his traitorous leg hanging there so benignly from the traction
frame. Without Hutch in the room it was easier to kindle the hate he had so
carefully nurtured in the last 48 hours. Hate simmered, keeping him warm, and
hate would keep him strong and fighting, which was the only way to win. But
Starsky was not a person who could keep those fires burning without sacrifice,
and he threw his love on the pyre with a desperate heart.
It was becoming evident that he was due for another dose of morphine soon but
Starsky didn't call the nurse. Rather, he welcomed the increasing pain because
it fanned the flames charring his soul. It burned his tears away, denuding him
of any trace of weakness or fragility, leaving behind just an empty void where
his emotions used to reside. There would be no soft places for the cancer to dig
into and take hold. He had to be hard and mean to fight such a foe. Cancer had a
reputation as a down and dirty fighter, full of underhanded tricks but this
scourge wouldn't best David Starsky. It would be a fight to the death, but the
cancer would be the one left on the mat this time. Starsky only had to hang on
Pausing outside the entrance to the hospital Hutch was momentarily
disoriented. The argument with Starsky had left him shell-shocked, but not
entirely clueless. Hutch recognized the line Starsky had drawn in the sand and
it scared him. Starsky obviously wanted distance between them, which Hutch
wasn't about to tolerate. There was no way he would allow his best friend,
partner and lover to face cancer alone. But he'd seen the
damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead expression in those dark blue eyes and known
without a doubt that Starsky wasn't going to believe the oncologist until it was
far too late. That determination and inner fiber had served him well after his
shooting. It got him out of the hospital and back in his favorite candy apple
red Gran Torino with the white stripe down the side in record time, dumbfounding
the doctors in charge of his case, but Hutch was afraid that the cancer with the
tongue-twisting name might be too much for Starsky. Stubbornness and resiliency
didn't stop malignant cells from growing inside the bone. This diagnosis had
shaken Hutch to the core. He'd almost lost his partner once before, it wasn't
going to happen this time--even if it meant Starsky lost a leg to remain on this
earth for a few years longer.
After staring out at the parking lot for much longer than necessary Hutch
dredged up the location of his car from where he'd slotted it away in his brain
due to overload from the medical staff. One of the uniforms who had helped with
the arrest of Schroeder had driven the battered Ford back here after Hutch
accompanied Starsky in the ambulance. He remembered the achingly young patrol
officer handing him a slip of paper with the car's whereabouts written out
carefully and dug around in his pocket for the crumbled foolscap.
Lot D, left hand corner.
It took only a short time to find the car, climb in and lean his head back
against the headrest. Without warning tears erupted, swamping him completely.
Hutch cried openly for some time, scrubbing his palms into his eye sockets to
staunch the flow to no avail. He simply had to let the deluge pass in time, but
afterwards he was dishrag limp and barely able to drive. As much as he hated to
admit it, Starsky had been right, he needed some down time, food, a shower and
some sleep. Not to mention feeding the damned cat, who didn't deserve to go days
Thinking of the shrill voiced seal point Siamese, Hutch succeeded in steering
the car out of the lot and headed towards home. He was lightheaded with fatigue
and beyond hungry. Funny how the days he fasted to purify himself never gave him
the shakes but get hit in the gut with horrific news and forget to eat for two
days and he was wobbly as a newborn colt. Feeling like the world's biggest
hypocrite, Hutch pulled into the drive-thru lane to a popular burger joint and
ordered a cheeseburger, fries and ice tea to go. Starsky would have teased him
up one side of the street and down the other for that lapse in dogma, which gave
Hutch a slight smile at the thought. Even so, the greasy hamburger sat heavily
in his belly and he couldn't finish the fries. He kept wanting to offer one to
Starsky and then remembering that Starsky was attached to his bedframe by
several pounds of counterweights and probably unable to eat his evening meal
since he had surgery in the morning.
The cat's cries welcomed Hutch home to the small white bungalow he shared
with Starsky. They'd only combined their households a few years ago, maintaining
separate places long after they'd become a couple. Both had feared reprisals
from Departmental Internal Affairs and also the jeers of fellow officers, but
finally they'd gone in together on the little house, pretending to simply be
roommates. Each had his own room, but they generally slept in the one designated
as Starsky's. Hutch wasn't quite sure how that had ultimately come about but he
suspected it had something to do with Starsky's somewhat tidier habits. His own
room was often strewn with clothes, sports equipment and guitar strings while
Starsky always managed to tuck his jeans and t-shirts out of sight in the
drawers and was often the one who cleaned up the bathroom after they showered.
Hutch dished out kibble for Pansy, who yowled her disapproval at the wait
before tucking in to her belated feast. Then, dropping his clothes where they
landed, Hutch headed for the shower with single-minded purpose, He only barely
managed to dry off before dropping down onto his side of the bed, completely
Waking out of a sound sleep with a jolt, Hutch lay panting, unsure why he'd
been so forcibly ejected from a dream. Letting his still sleep shrouded brain
pull up fragments of the nightmare from his dreamscape Hutch shuddered,
remembering seeing Starsky's body lying on a small white bed while doctors
worked frantically over him with defibrillator paddles. He knew that dream; it
spouted like Old Faithful whenever he was under a lot of stress. That it had
really occurred made it all the more frightening even if he hadn't actually been
witness to the resuscitation. But, if he twisted it around and examined the
dream from another angle, it was a testimony to survival. Starsky not only
recovered from his resuscitation he'd bounced back with resilience. Would that
happen again? How many chances could a person get? Starsky wasn't a cat with
nine lives to squander, and he'd already used that proverbial second chance.
Although it was barely past dawn Hutch telephoned the hospital to learn that
Starsky had slept most of the night undisturbed and was already awaiting a visit
from the anesthesiologist for last minute instructions.
Hurrying to jam his legs and arms into pants and shirt Hutch made it out of
the house ten minutes later. He wanted to be there for that scary possible
complications lecture. If he was going to catch Starsky when he eventually came
to terms with the inevitable Hutch needed to have all the facts at his disposal.
He reviewed his list of questions as he drove.
Starsky was half-dopey from pre-surgical drugs and morphine but instead of
welcoming Hutch's support he almost seemed to resent Hutch's very presence in
the room. He was surly, uncommunicative and distant. Attributing Starsky's
attitude to jitters, Hutch posed his questions to the doctor, got answers he
didn't really like and helped prepare his friend for what was possibly the most
important day of his life. What would the next few hours bring? All too soon
Starsky was behind the OR double doors leaving Hutch alone with his dire
thoughts in the waiting room.
Huggy Bear, his eyes at half-mast from the early wake up, arrived mid
morning. He brought coffee and bagels, which Hutch nibbled on without hunger.
How long would this take? The tumor removal was supposed to be one of the first
procedures, so that lab technicians could examine the tissue and determine
Starsky's fate even before the wound was stitched closed in the surgical suite.
Waiting was interminable, a supreme test of endurance. Hutch kept looking up
at the doors, watching for a doctor to come through with the only statement that
would give him any comfort. That Starsky was out of surgery and everything was
perfect. They'd been mistaken about the tumor. It was just an anomalous growth,
one of those things. A fluke, interesting enough to be written up for an article
in a medical journal, but not cancer.
There are moments when words are superfluous, when a lengthy medical
explanation was unnecessary. Just the look on Dr. Davies face said it all.
Starsky wasn't even in recovery yet and Hutch felt the full force of the
dreadful news on his own. He staggered, just slightly, getting to his feet.
Behind him, Huggy put a steadying hand on his arm, but Hutch barely felt it.
"It's malignant?" Hutch pronounced each syllable with precision as
if choosing the wrong word would set off an explosion. He couldn't break down
now in front of the doctor. That was for private.
"Yes, and more advanced than I first realized," Davies confirmed.
"Bernardi is finishing up the reconstruction right now but we will need to
start Starsky on chemotherapy as soon as possible."
"When would that be?" Hutch asked hollowly, his skull pressing down
on his brain like a band had tightened around his head.
"In a few days. The sooner the drugs are in his system, the more quickly
we can start to fight the cancer."
"This osteo-sarcoma," Huggy said, the word sounding alien coming
out of his mouth, "That Kennedy kid, Edward, I think--he got remission. I
saw a picture of him skiing down a hill in 'People', man. This one's curable,
"With the proper treatment, remission is an attainable goal," Dr.
Davies agreed, but Hutch didn't hear conviction in his tone. "And a
positive attitude is always important. I'm glad to see Starsky's friends
rallying around him. He'll need your help to pull through this."
"Nothin's easier, good doctor-man," Huggy grinned affably.
"Since you're Starsky's main doc, you need anything, you call Huggy Bear. I
can line you up with whatever you need."
"I take it you're not referring to anything illegal?" Davies asked
with a frown but there was a glint of humor in his blue eyes.
"I am sorely offended, doc!" Huggy declared. "Hutch, tell this
man my place is a bastion of respectability."
"I wouldn't go that far," Hutch said, forcing himself to join the
conversation. "But Huggy does serve a great burger and beer."
"Thanks for the offer then, Huggy," Davies held out his hand,
shaking Huggy's firmly. "I can always use a good meal."
"Some fine women, too," Huggy added as the man strode down the hall
to the patient rooms. "Hutch, you okay? You're going kinda pale, and on you
that's about the color of skim milk."
"It's a lot to take in right now," Hutch admitted, sinking down to
the Naugahyde couch. "Huggy, what about that Kennedy? He's still
"Yeah, you know that family. Unless somebody like Oswald takes a pot
shot at one of 'em, they're a hardy bunch."
"And he had osteosarcoma?" Hutch persisted, hope flushing through
him. Starsky stood a chance. Other people had survived this disease; the doctors
just had to find the right treatment, as Davies had said.
"Yeah, I remember, cause it's the only other time I ever heard the
name." Huggy bent and picked up an ancient copy of the popular magazine
from the scatter on the end table. "I just read the article while we were
waiting and it just popped right out at me. Osteosarcoma. I mean, how many times
do you see that written down?" He flipped pages to locate the correct
article before handing it over to Hutch. "See?"
All that Hutch could see was the image of a healthy young man, bearing a
striking resemblance to the late president and attorney general, skiing down a
snow covered mountain--on one leg. The other had been amputated.
Starsky's first chemo was scheduled so soon after his surgery he was still on
heavy doses of morphine for pain. Thus, he slept through the whole thing, waking
up just in time to throw up on the bed. But other than that, the course went far
more smoothly than he'd anticipated; giving a brief hope that chemo might not be
as bad as advertised. Not that he mentioned that to Hutch. Or to anyone.
Nurturing his hate to battle the illness Starsky turned inward, refusing to
acknowledge his present weakness or discuss his treatment with the medical
staff. Forced to accept the chemotherapy when he was too groggy to protest
Starsky couldn't quite bring himself to stop the drug therapy after the fact but
he would not listen to subversive talk about lengthy hospital stays or
complications. He wanted out as soon as possible, even if it meant having to
rely on Hutch for his day to day care. Just having Hutch nearby hurt nearly as
much as the newly repaired leg so Starsky spent much of the time attempting to
alienate his friend. Hutch wanted him to talk about his feelings, about what the
future might bring. Starsky just wanted simple, direct answers. When would they
know if the chemo was working? How soon would his cast come off for good and
when could he start with a physical therapist to begin weight-bearing exercise
again? Every week he was away from the police force was another week of
criminals encroaching on his beat. He couldn't let that happen. He had to be so
careful to guard against vandals who damaged and destroyed. The cancer would not
destroy him, not if he were vigilant enough. But it was hard. Sleep in the night
was elusive after spending long days dreaming of being outside of the hospital.
Midnight often came and went with Starsky waiting for his next shot of
painkillers, fighting the dread that threatened after Hutch went home. The awful
dichotomy of it--wanting to keep Hutch, and his fears for Starsky's life, out of
the war he was waging for just that life, and needing Hutch near enough to keep
the bogey man from taking over. Because the bogeyman had already started
feasting on his leg and Starsky was terrified he'd bite it right off.
Two days after the first round of chemo and eight days after his surgery
Starsky gained his freedom. It was temporary at best--he'd have to return every
two weeks for a weekend of chemotherapy and there were doctor appointments, lab
draws and home nursing visits in between. Still, that meant there were whole
days to be spent at home without the constant background noise of nurses'
voices, ringing phones, monitor alarms and interrupted sleep.
Armed with instructions for caring for a patient with the double whammy of a
major surgical wound and bone cancer, Hutch shoe-horned Starsky into the back of
his car to leave the hospital. Neither said much to the other. Starsky had
finally managed to piss Hutch off, and in a coup of major proportions, had
earned a tongue lashing that morning. After a week of solicitous behavior, Hutch
let loose, lambasting him up one side and down the other over his attitude,
accusing him of wanting to be sick. Nothing was further from the truth but
Starsky simply hadn't the strength to refute the accusation. His battle was
internal and if he ended up losing a friend in order hold onto life, right now
he couldn't muster up enough energy to defend himself. Hutch didn't understand
what was going on, constantly bringing in articles about maintaining positive
vibes and holistic remedies to promote health. Those wouldn't help. Starsky
didn't really even have a great deal of faith in the unpronounceable cocktail of
drugs that made up his chemo. The only way to win against this foe in his mind
was simply to stand his ground and refuse to knuckle under. And never, ever let
it see his fear. Because Starsky was very, very afraid.
Getting from the car to the house proved to be an arduous task of Herculean
proportions. The cast on Starsky's leg was so heavy his balance was affected and
having spent ten days in bed on medication had weakened his muscles. Every time
he crutched forward, his left leg swung wide. The first time it glanced off the
side of the crutch he nearly cried out from the pain. After the second or third
time Starsky was about to toss the offensive sticks into the garbage can and
spend the rest of the day alfresco. Hutch's assistance just complicated matters
further by doubling the number of places the cast could smack into. Starsky was
trembling, sweaty and weeping with fatigue by the time he gained the sofa.
Hutch bustled about plumping pillows and arranging a blanket over him but
Starsky kept his face tucked against the black and red afghan draped over the
back of the couch, waiting for the pain and nausea to subside. God, this was too
much. The hate bubbled up inside of him like lava inside a cinder cone. It just
got worse and worse. How would he be able to go back to the hospital in three
days for the first cast change if he couldn't even manage the path from the
driveway to the front door? Thank God they'd moved out of their old bachelor
apartments with the mountains of stairs.
"You want something to eat or drink?" Hutch asked cautiously.
Squeezing his eyes shut tightly Starsky experienced a stab of guilt at the
loss of the easiness between he and Hutch. Hutch had every reason to be wary
with the way Starsky was acting these days. He just couldn't quite bring himself
to give a damn about much of anything. Some best friend he'd turned out to be,
giving a cold shoulder to Hutch's love and support at the worst time. Wasn't
there an expression about a fair weather friend? He certainly qualified. Hutch
had done everything but lasso the moon to cajole Starsky into a better frame of
mind, something Starsky was very aware of, so the fact that their relationship
was in tatters was his own fault. But holding onto the hate--and the powerful
anger aimed at the gruesome alien in his body took every ounce of strength,
sapping his emotions dry. There was nothing left to give out to anyone
else--even someone as deserving as Hutch. Starsky wouldn't be surprised if his
partner left him over this. Who in their right mind would stick around, tied to
a grouchy invalid soon destined to lose his hair?
"Soda," Starsky managed, the pain from his leg like cymbals
jangling every nerve in his system.
"I'll dig out the painkillers, too." Hutch said with forced
cheerfulness. Starsky could hear the strain this was taking out on him and he
knew he should care more. "Make you feel better."
Seriously doubting the validity of that statement Starsky inched his body
into a somewhat less twisted position, hissing with every single jostle to his
leg. He could feel all eight screws and both metal plates holding the bone in
place as if their location was sketched onto the top of his cast. Bricked up
behind a wall of his own design, he was imprisoned by the pain without an escape
route. It sucked.
"Take the pills," Hutch said in a voice that brooked no argument.
He set the glass of clear bubbly soda next to the small pills that were supposed
to relieve the pain. They didn't work. They hardly even put a chink in the wall.
Starsky almost gave a lame complaint that he'd wanted root beer but it took too
"You should just leave me," Starsky muttered after swallowing the
dose. Bubbles irritated the back of his throat, tickling his nose and he
sneezed. Pain shot up like a rocket from his toes to his solar plexus, snatching
away his breath. The earth could have gone out of orbit for all Starsky noticed
in the next little while. Muted colors arced across his retina, obliterating the
room from view. All was pain, pain was life and death and breath.
"Hey, hey," Hutch sing-songed, holding him close. "I got
"Damn," Starsky said fiercely when he'd relearned how to breathe.
Thinking and speaking took a bit longer. "Fuckdamnshit, damnfuck…"
He continued swearing until the impetus ran out along with his energy, his face
pressed against Hutch's chest. The soft cotton plaid shirt was wet all down the
front but Hutch didn't seem to care.
"Let it out, Starsk," Hutch said, making gentle circles on his back
that Starsky found highly distracting. Weirdly not only was it taking some of
the focus away from the agony in his leg, but it was leeching some of the rock
hard tension out of his body. "You can't keep it bottled up forever,"
"Don't be nice to me." Starsky wanted to shout, to pull away, to do
something violent but now he was the one who was afraid. The slightest movement
released the beast dwelling in his tibia. It was safer to remain still and
tolerate Hutch's kindness. "I don't deserve it."
"If you don't, who does?" He eased him gently backward until
Starsky was reclined on a pillow resting on Hutch's lap.
"Not me." Starsky allowed himself an infinitesimal degree of
relaxation without looking into the face of his former lover. Hutch could so
easily distract him into letting down his guard and that would be his down fall.
If Starsky let in any emotion except the all-encompassing hatred he'd start to
feel Hutch's loss and that pain was 100 times worse than the one in his leg.
"Me?" Hutch kept up the restful massage. "Why me?"
"You keep taking it." Starsky stared at the blank TV screen seeing
the past week like a disjointed, badly edited film playing just for him. He'd
rebuffed Hutch's friendship, yelled at nurses, thrown up on Hutch, said hateful
things, ignored Hutch's fears and concerns and generally acted like a total
bastard. "Nobody deserves the shit I been throwin' at you. You should just
up and leave."
"What if I don't want to?" Hutch asked in such a reasonable tone
Starsky finally looked straight at him.
"What makes you want to stay?"
"You," Hutch answered softly, his hand now cupping Starsky's cheek
with such gentle adoration Starsky couldn't bear it. He pulled away, turning his
head so Hutch wouldn't see how hard it was to maintain control. "I love you
so much, Starsk. This whole week has been like a roller coaster ride to hell and
back. I was scared down deep and the only thing that kept me sane was to be near
"That must have been real fulfilling, I didn't have my company manners
on," Starsky said crudely.
"You were scared out of your mind, and you have every right to be. But
you have to relax, or this thing will eat you alive."
"NO," Starsky sat up abruptly, distancing himself from Hutch as
much as possible on the narrow couch. "I have to fight. I can't let my
guard down for a minute. It's a war, Hutch, don't you understand? How can I
relax, huh? Could you?"
"Starsky, there are ways to defeat this thing without cutting out your
heart." Hutch's hand was again on Starsky's back, making the hypnotizing
circles. Starsky buried his head in his hands, desperately wanting Hutch's touch
but afraid to acknowledge his own neediness.
"I didn't have to, the cancer did it for me," Starsky said
distantly after a very long time. Hutch's hand stilled, then withdrew, leaving
Starsky bereft but almost glad at the same time. It was so much easier to hate
if he was alone and in pain. Hutch was comfort and solace, two needs he couldn't
indulge in anymore.
Behind him, Starsky felt the couch cushions rebound when Hutch stood and
walked away. He listened to the sounds of domestic puttering in the kitchen,
wrapping himself in a blanket of loathing. He had finally pushed Hutch far
enough away that he would leave soon, taking all things good with him. It would
just be so much easier that way. Starsky planned to sleep on the sofa for the
night, since getting up by himself was an impossibility at this point and in the
morning, when the visiting nurse came by to check on him, he'd inquire about in
home nursing care. Luckily, the hospital had included a urinal in his discharge
bag, along with all the antibiotics, painkillers, and the plethora of other
pills he was supposed to take to suppress nausea, promote sleep and ward off
anxiety. Starsky had adamantly refused to talk to the psychiatrist who'd come in
on the last morning to probe his feelings about his diagnosis. She'd just calmly
noted his rejection on her clipboard and left a script for tranquilizers
instead. He hadn't understood why, but when he rooted through the belongings
bag, there they were. Hutch must have filled the prescription without telling
"What are these for?" Starsky demanded, lining all his bottles up
on the coffee table beside him for easy access.
"Depression," Hutch was suddenly there with a bowl of soup. It
smelled chickeny, bringing forth memories of childhood lunches accompanied by a
peanut butter sandwich and a large glass of milk. Miraculously, on the tray
Hutch held, next to the soup was exactly that meal.
"I'm not depressed, I'm angry," Starsky stated flatly.
"You'll get no argument from me on that front, buddy," Hutch said
sardonically setting the tray in front of his patient. There were little legs
under the tray to hold it above his lap so Starsky could rest against the
cushions without anything touching his cast. "Have you ever heard of
"The name sounds familiar," Starsky made himself focus on the soup,
stirring the spoon aimlessly around, watching the noodles and bits of chicken
surf and bounce in the waves. "She write some book or something?" The
name was setting off alarm bells in his brain but he couldn't quite discern why
just yet. "Self help drivel?" He vaguely remembered seeing her on a
talk show, maybe with Dick Cavett or somebody cerebral like that. Certainly not
on the Carson show, which he planned to watch later if Hutch would just leave.
"Something like that." Hutch picked up half the peanut butter
sandwich, taking a sharp bite. "She wrote about the five stages of
"You think I'm going to die?" Starsky shouted, nearly toppling the
tray full of food.
"I don't know what to think at this point, Starsk. I'm hanging on by a
thread here and you're…gone. I don't even know where." Hutch looked over
at him with tears brimming in those celestial eyes and Starsky was nearly
undone. "You're either brimming over with such deep anger I hardly
recognize you or you're curled up in a depressed ball like a ostrich hiding his
head in the sand."
"You don't know what it's like!" Starsky accused.
"No, I don't," Hutch agreed with heartbreaking simplicity.
"And if you don't talk to me, I never will."
"Everything's black and nasty. You wanna stick with me? You wanna be
knee deep in puke? You want to watch while my hair falls out and they hafta keep
sticking me ninety times cause my veins are shit?" Starsky ranted.
"This is so much worse than after Gunther it doesn't even compare and it's
only the first week! I hate it. I hate it."
"Say it again, loudly."
"I hate it. I hate this," Starsky vowed. "I hate me."
"No you don't, you hate the cancer, and that's the way it's supposed to
be. But don't push your life out the window…you're depressed, Starsk."
"Where'd you get your diploma, doc?"
"You want to play it that way?" Hutch challenged, taking a seat on
the coffee table to be on Starsky's level. "Diagnose yourself then.
Describe your feelings."
Starsky faltered but he had never been one to back down from a dare, even
when his toes were hanging off the side of a cliff. He stalled, tasting the soup
"I never felt this…bad before. Not even when my damned lung wouldn't
heal and they hadda go back into surgery and close up the wound again."
Starsky attacked the sandwich on the plate, ripping it into ever increasingly
tiny pieces. "I was never so…angry, and afraid, all mixed up
"Starsky, you are one of the most optimistic people I know, but anybody
would be depressed in this situation."
"I've had it up to here with optimistic views of life," Starsky
said with a trace of humor. Hutch smiled tiredly, remembering another time his
partner had said the same thing. "I'm so tired, Hutch and this hasn't even
gotten bad yet. Chemo's s'pposed t'be bad. How am I supposed to fight when I'm
so damned tired? I can't let this win."
"You fight more efficiently by utilizing your back up," Hutch
rationalized. "Just like the first lesson in the Academy. "
"You talking about that big blond guy who doesn't have the sense to
leave when he had the chance?" Starsky reached out to brush a strand of
hair off Hutch's forehead. "Hutch, I can't just turn these feelin' off,
y'know? It hurts way down deep, like I'm stuck in a well, and I'm not gonna be
very good company."
"I'm not asking to be entertained, Starsk," Hutch captured his
hand, kissing the palm, then the back. Starsky's hands and arms were covered
with bruises and needle marks from the countless blood draws and IV's he'd
endured during his hospital stay. Unless medical science came up with a radical
new way to extract bodily fluids and insert drugs into the veins without sharp
instruments in the next week, Starsky was likely to remain pocked and scarred
for the immediate future. "I just want you here." Hutch placed
Starsky's hand over his heart. "Because this hurts me, too."
"I was tryin' to keep you out of it." Starsky bit down on his lip
to dam the tears threatening to spill but there were too many chinks in the wall
to keep Hutch out any longer. And letting Hutch in let in all the other
sentiments he'd been baring entry--desire, longing, trust and bright, shining
hope. Just like Pandora when she opened the box, he cherished the hope most of
all and dreaded it, too. Hope meant future and life. How could he cope with the
difficult days ahead if the intensely burning flame he'd nurtured so carefully
was outshone by hope? "So you could get away before it got you, too."
"Too late, you're stuck with me for good." Hutch closed his hand
tightly around Starsky's, holding on with all his strength. "We've always
worked better as a team. Us against them, huh?"
"Hutch, make me feel good," Starsky begged wearily, tugging his
hand towards the waistband of his sweat pants.
"Starsky," Hutch faltered. "I might hurt you."
"I don’t care," Starsky was so close to crying his voice kept
cracking, incapable of staying in a single register for the length of one word.
"I'm so fulla drugs it won't come up anyway, but I need to feel something
"Sweet boy," Hutch murmured removing the wooden tray with the
uneaten lunch. He knelt snug up next to the couch, easing Starsky's pants down
his hips. "Baby, I missed you."
Using both hands Starsky pushed himself up off the couch cushions just enough
for Hutch to slip the fabric past his bottom. Any movement set off alarm bells
in his casted leg, but he just grimaced, craving the touch of his lover. Just
that small exertion exhausted him, though, and he lay back on the pillow with
one arm covering his eyes, concentrating on the whisper soft passage of Hutch's
hands down his groin to his flaccid penis. Warmth closed around his cock,
fondling the soft skin, the purity of Hutch's touch soothing the pain of the
catheters nurses pushed up inside, easing the indignities of the hospital and
quieting tears so close to the surface. Never once did he jostle the nearby
injured leg. Starsky almost laughed when he achieved an erection, but it was a
wimpy thing without any action or staying power. Still, it was better than
nothing and the vibrating rage roiling through him was caged for the time being,
leaving him more relaxed than he had been since the diagnosis. "Let me do
you now." Starsky offered, looking up at Hutch. "If you stood next to
the couch, maybe?"
"As tempting as that is, I think I'll take a raincheck until you've had
a nap," Hutch deferred gently. "Let that nice after sex glow pull you
under, the painkillers'll work like gangbusters now."
"Drugs never made me feel like this," Starsky sighed, trying to
shift in minute increments to find a more comfortable position. There wasn't
one, so he finally settled with having his upper body slightly twisted so he
could look at Hutch without craning his neck. "They just dull the pain, you
give me something better."
"Glad to oblige, pard'ner," Hutch said with a sad smile. "You
"Not right now." Starsky gave himself to sleep, dreaming he was
chasing Schroeder down the alley and pouncing on him with two good legs. Only in
his dream there was no two by four bearing down on him and Hutch was right
beside him every step of the way. It was the best dream he'd had in a long time.
Life fell into a skewed but predictable routine. Every other day the home
health nurse came by to check Starsky's vital signs. The woman who came most
often was a short grandmothery sort who plied the patient with homemade cookies
and jams. Starsky was starting to feel better since he got much more normal
sleep at home and enjoyed her visits immensely. Hutch suspected it was because
Sophie resembled his late mother in both manner and attitude, but whatever the
reason, he was able to leave the house with a clear conscience, knowing Starsky
was in good hands. Starsky still spent much of his time asleep or barely moving,
showering Sophie with the boyish charm and roguish humor that Hutch loved to
see. Unfortunately, because of that he was sometimes even more disgruntled and
churlish after she'd left, leaving Hutch to deal with the grump in the cast.
Hutch used the days Sophie came by to get back into police work, which he'd
largely abandoned since Starsky broke his leg. He couldn't just do what his
heart demanded and quit the force all together to stay home with his partner
because they needed his income. Starsky had disability, but it barely covered
his bills much less the household expense. Being out on the street without
Starsky held no interest for Hutch at all, anymore. He'd worked with temporary
partners for periods of time before, most notably when Starsky was recovering
from his nearly fatal gunshot wounds, but this time seemed completely different.
Despite Starsky's conviction that as long as the cancer went away, he could get
back on his feet and fight crime again, Hutch wasn't so sure. The doctors hadn't
even given Starsky assurances that he would ever walk normally on the
reconstructed limb. The cancer just laid another layer of concern on top of that
one. With his mind constantly on what was going on with Starsky, Hutch couldn't
concentrate well enough continue with his former duties, that much was obvious,
and he accepted a desk job without complaint. He no longer had the patience for
protracted investigations because he couldn't afford to stay away from Starsky
for any length of time. Besides the mindlessness of typing out reports and
shuffling through witness interviews for clues kept his mind off what was going
on at home.
"Hutchinson?" Dobey called. "In my office?"
Noticing that the Captain had phrased it more as a question than an outright
command Hutch took the time to grab a cup of coffee. He bypassed the pink bakery
box filled with donuts. He'd never liked that much sugar and fat in the morning,
but more to the point, the sight of those plump iced pastries reminded him of
Starsky's gleeful daily ritual of selecting the most tempting, caloric treat
just to annoy his partner.
"You wanted to talk to me, Captain?"
"Sit down, it's not an interrogation," Dobey said kindly, wadding
up the napkin he'd used to wipe the last of the powdered sugar from his donut
off his round face. "How's Starsky doing?"
"A little better. He's in a lot of pain, although he denies it most of
the time," Hutch took a sip of the scalding, bitter brew. "And the
second dose of chemo starts this weekend."
"It's a terrible thing," Dobey shook his head. "Rosie was
really upset that she couldn't visit in the hospital, but between the flu that
went around her high school and the gymnastic trials every weekend, she's got
Edith running around like a chicken with her head cut off."
"Yeah, we watched the meet on the TV in the hospital when Rosie won the
gold medal in Sacramento." Hutch related. "Starsky was yelling so loud
the nurse had to come in and remind him there were sick people sleeping."
It had been one of the few good days Starsky had during that awful time.
"Won the state finals." Dobey was puffed up with pride.
"I don't know how Edith does it and she manages to get baking done,
too." Hutch smiled. "Starsky loved the apple pie she sent over."
He'd eaten most of it, to Hutch's delight, since Starsky's appetite was
improving but still no where near his previous level.
"The woman could win blue ribbons with her pie," Dobey boasted,
patting his ample belly. "Well, what I called you in for, d'you remember
"He went to the Academy with us." Hutch recalled a tall angular man
with buzz cut dark blond hair and a serious face. He'd finished in the middle of
their class, a good student but lacking the flair for police work Starsky and
Hutch had displayed.
"He died last night."
"How?" Hutch choked out. He hadn't seen the man more than a handful
of times in over fifteen years but, due to his present circumstances, the
thought of a fellow officer dying was shocking. His belly twisted back into the
knot that had held it fast for the entire length of Starsky's hospital stay.
"Car accident, drunk driver." Dobey sighed, obviously affected as
well. "Doesn't look like it had anything to do with his being on the force.
Just bad luck."
"Anyone taking up a collection for his wife?" Hutch asked, still
stunned. "When's the funeral?"
"Collection's already in the works and the family still hasn't worked
out the details for the service, but there is one thing you can do to
"He'd been teaching at the Academy for the last six years."
"No wonder I never ran into him."
"You can teach his class."
"He's got law and procedures." Dobey smiled ruefully. "Despite
your partner's tendencies to flaunt departmental protocol, I'm aware you studied
some criminology and with your years on the force, you qualify as an
"It also gives you a more flexible schedule and shorter hours. The pay
isn't as good as street pay, but you'll still get benefits." Dobey sat
back, he'd obviously thought it all out and was prepared for any argument Hutch
might give. "And don't think I'll let you off the hook, just sitting around
the academy grading exams. I'll still expect you here some days, filling in,
getting those damned rookies to solve a few crimes."
"I thought that was your job," Hutch put in, enormously grateful
for all Dobey had done.
"Got to groom a successor before I retire." Dobey grumped with good
Hutch was even more surprised with this revelation. "Captain…you've
got my whole future already mapped out. I don't know what to say."
"I know times are hard right now, son, and you'll get through this.
Think about the teaching job for a day or two, but I'll need an answer by the
beginning of next week, they're pretty short handed out there and Bob Scarlotti
will have to keep filling in."
"That man must be 90!" Hutch exclaimed. Scarlotti had been the man
who'd taught him the basics of handling a gun. Starsky, already a marksman in
the Army, had been way ahead of his partner at the shooting range, but under
Scarlotti's tutelage, Hutch had caught up quickly.
"You see the problems they're facing." Dobey said without a hint of
a smirk. "Now get out of here and get something done. Oh, and tell Starsky
Edith is baking cookies this morning. Rosie plans to deliver them later."
"Will do, Captain," Hutch left the office still stunned. The
academy job was perfect for his current situation, since the class on law and
procedures only met three times a week. Like Scarlotti, he'd probably be asked
to substitute in other classes on occasion and Dobey had intimated that he
expected Hutch still work with Metro when the need arose, but all in all it gave
him much more flexibility, freeing him up to go with Starsky to appointments and
treatments. The possibility of taking over Dobey's job was too overwhelming to
think about. He'd have to take a lieutenant's exam and then the Captain's…It
wasn't until Hutch was back at work on the mountain of files that covered his
desk that he realized Dobey had never once added Starsky into the future
equations. Dobey didn't expect Starsky to have a future, and that chilled Hutch
to the bone.
"What's that I smell?" Starsky sniffed the air like a puppy at
mealtime when Hutch came through the door bearing a wide white box and a sack of
"Daytime TV has already turned your brain to mush if you don't recognize
this box," Hutch teased.
"A bribe pizza," Starsky said to Sophie who was gathering her purse
and nursing supplies to go. "Never gets a pizza unless there's bad news
attached to it."
"There's no bad news." Hutch retorted, opening the box, which
released even more sausage and tomato aroma into the living room
Sophie just laughed. "Pizza is good for you, bread, vegetables and meat
all on in an easy to eat form."
"Now I know why he likes you," Hutch mimed consternation. "You
think just like him!"
"I'll see you next week, David," Sophie called, letting herself
"Bye!" Starsky called from the couch. He attacked the slice of
pizza Hutch gave him with gusto, picking off the gaily-colored bits of pepper
off the top.
"You're in a good mood." Hutch sat down with his own slice and a
beer. "How'd it go today?"
"Comme ci, comme ca," Starsky waggled his hand back and
forth, still stuffing his mouth.
"Sophie says since I have so much free time I should learn another
language," Starsky carefully removed the offending peppers off a second
"Wouldn't Spanish be of more use here in Southern California?"
"You already speak that," Starsky shrugged. "And French is
Sophie's first language. She's going to find me a book." He discarded a few
more bits of pepper onto his plate, glad of the neutral subject matter. He
didn't want to admit to Hutch how bored he was already; unable to move without
fearsome pain and feeling his whole body succumb to generalized weakness. He was
jealous when Hutch left for work in the morning and lonely when he was gone,
then unaccountably irritated when he returned. And with chemo looming just one
day away, things would only get worse, not better. Since his memory of the first
course was fuzzy at best, this might be the second dose, but it felt like the
first to him, and down deep he was afraid of the nausea, vomiting and reports of
"Keep you occupied." Hutch nodded.
Starsky gingerly moved his casted leg so he could reach the soda on the
coffee table and froze, wincing. Even that small amount of movement sent
agonizing flashes of lightning pain up and down his limb. He so wanted this to
be over. It was already weeks after the surgery and the pain was still strong
enough to keep him immobile most of the time and leery of the smallest amount of
weight bearing. Taking a slow, steady breath he waited a minute before picking
up the can. Pansy, the cat, jumped lightly onto the back of the sofa nosing
against Starsky's ear as if in sympathy before investigating the mess he'd made
of the pizza on the plate.
"Need a painkiller?" Hutch asked blandly, sipping his beer.
"No, I don't want a painkiller. Makes me nauseated if I haven't eaten
and then they knock me out." Starsky replied irritably, pushing the cat
aside with a curse. Pansy expressed her disapproval by digging her claws into
his arm before leaping to the safety of Hutch's chair with a screeching meow.
"What do you want then, Starsky?"
"I want to walk. How's that for simple, huh?" Starsky clenched his
fists, the anger and hate he managed to suppress most of the time welling up in
one unstoppable wave.
"Sophie gets me up today and I just about passed out. Y'know how that
makes me feel? I can't walk! I can barely make it off this couch. It's like…hell."
His fury dwindled out with the last of his breath but he hunched over, hiding
the glint of tears in his eyes. He was not going to cry over this. Not now, not
in front of Hutch. Hutch already caught the brunt of his labile emotions. It
wasn't fair to dump it all in his lap when he'd only been home for half an hour
and brought pizza to boot. "I'm frustrated and hard to live with,
"You know I'd give you a couple of new bones if I could." Hutch
reached out, folding his hand around Starsky's.
"I know." Starsky looked up, reading the love and concern in
Hutch's eyes. He bounced their hands up and down, soaking in the love but
needing to get rid of that concern. It deepened those creases between Hutch's
eyes and aged his intelligent face. Changing subjects, Starsky selected a fresh
slice of pizza, ignoring the one he'd mangled and bit into the cheesy goodness.
"So, what's the occasion? If this isn't a bribe pizza, I'll drink some of
your disgusting vitamin shakes."
"Be good for you. I'll have to ask your oncologist which vitamins would
do the most good."
"Remember, I still own a gun." Starsky remarked wickedly, chewing
his pizza with enjoyment. The first slice had gone down so quickly he barely
noticed the flavor. He'd been starving since neglecting to eat lunch after his
midday morphine left him queasy and tired. Not that Hutch had to know.
Remarkably hungry now, in between doses, he mentally weighed the pros and cons
of a third slice. Probably better to err on the side of caution. Still, he
wouldn't feel much like eating after Friday evening when they started the chemo.
"Talked to Dobey this morning," Hutch started.
"Oh, yeah!" Starsky gave up on the pizza debate because there were
cookies! "Rosie and Edith dropped by with chocolate chip cookies. They're
in a blue tin."
"Is that your so subtle hint that you want me to go get some?"
Hutch teased standing up. Pansy complained at this disruption, transferring her
loyalty back to Starsky.
"I'd get up if I could…." Starsky let the cat curl up on his lap,
sinking his fingers into her silky fur. She was a warm, comforting lump as long
as she stayed far enough away from his cast. "But the cat needs a place to
sleep. What did Dobey have to say?"
Hutch located the cookie tin on the kitchen counter next to the coffee maker
and opened the lid, taking two for himself. "He offered me a job."
"Unless you forgot to tell me something, don't you already have
"Teaching at the Academy."
"Wow--I coulda gotten away with murder back then with you as the
"You did get away with murder, and how could I have taught your classes?
We attended at the same time." Hutch groaned, once again sucked into
"So, Professor, what class you teaching?"
"What makes you so sure I took the job?" Hutch retorted.
"Would ya give me a cookie?"
"Oh, here." Hutch finally sat down, handing over the round tin.
Pansy stalked off when her lap was usurped by a cookie tin and curled up on the
afghan Starsky had used earlier in the day for a nap.
"It's a chance to do something different--get off the streets, which I
know you've been wanting to do," Starsky answered. He didn't mention the
deep down relief he felt knowing Hutch wouldn't be out there alone, without a
partner at his back. He selfishly wanted Hutch to take the secure job, out of
way from homicidal maniacs brandishing 2 by 4's and other criminals.
"It's only temporary," Hutch reminded. "But it will be an
interesting change. A new challenge, I think. And the hours are better. The
pay's a little less."
"We'll get by. Congratulations are in order." Starsky held up his
cookie and tapped it against Hutch's. "To the best looking sub at Bay City
"Best looking?" Hutch blushed, looking flustered.
"I tell ya, if you were my teacher I woulda flunked your class just to
take it twice."
"But I always grade on a curve, nobody flunks, least of all you."
Hutch took a bite out of Starsky's cookie instead of his own, then had the
temerity to look innocent about it.
"Eat your own cookie," Starsky barked, gobbling up what was left
"Yours looked better."
"Yours is rounder now."
"Then take a bite out of mine and even things up."
"That's not quite what I really want a bite of." Starsky wasn't
exactly sure how the conversation had taken such a sexual turn, but for the
first time in days he was aroused and very horny. Licking cookie crumbs off his
lip he leaned forward just enough to use his tongue to flick the remains of
chocolate chip off Hutch's mouth. "You taste like dessert."
"Starsk…" Hutch returned the sweet kiss, but held his lover at
arm's length. "Not that I don't want to do this, but are you sure?"
"Hutch, I want to eat you up." Starsky reached down, loosening the
zipper of Hutch's fly. "C'mon…" Starsky wheedled, then pouted when
Hutch stood up out of range. "Hutch, don't be a party pooper." Slumped
back on the pillows he grimaced at his casted foot. That was the cause of all
the problems. He was dopey on pain meds half the time, even when both of them
were in the mood, and now, when he wanted to jump that big, beautiful blond's
bones, he couldn't move more than a few inches without help. Really ruined a
"The logistics of such a thing are staggering," Hutch mused,
rubbing his chest thoughtfully.
While Starsky didn't really mind watching Hutch running his hand down the
front of his off-white button down shirt, there were much more exiting things to
do than just watch. "Help me up and let's get naked in the bedroom,"
he said but Hutch left the living room without a word.
Returning almost instantly, Hutch pushed the wheelchair in front of him.
Starsky really hated the thing and tended to pretend it wasn't in the house, but
after that dreadful hike from the car to the front door on the first day Hutch
had insisted they rent one. "I wasn't running away, I was getting your
"That ain't my ride," Starsky griped. "With the Torino on
blocks, I don't mind settling for the Mustang, but that ain't my ride."
"You want what I got, buster, you'll climb aboard." Hutch leveled a
stiff finger at him and Starsky grinned, snapping his teeth within millimeters
of the digit.
"To the bedroom, James."
As usual, there was quite a production to get Starsky off the couch, settled
in the wheelchair and transported the short distance into the bedroom. Even
after he was ensconced on the king-sized mattress the question still remained
how he could maneuver enough to perform the feat of gymnastics necessary to go
down on his favorite sausage meal. And all the jostling and repositioning had
awakened the monster in his leg. Starsky knew he had a very short while before
the pain was bad enough that he had to take a pill, and it was downhill from
there. He had to get the show on the road as quickly as possible. Suddenly, a
song popped into his head causing him to grin broadly. "Hutch, remember
"You want to watch British comedy right now? I thought…" Hutch
had started to undress, but stood half naked, looking bewildered.
Starsky began to sing at the top of his lungs the raunchy song from side one
of Monty Python's Instant Record collection Vol. II "Sit on my face and
tell me that you love me. Sit on my face…I forget the words," he hummed
the next bar and concluded with, "Life can be fine when we're both sixty
nine, if you'll sit on my face…."
"You're weird, you know that, don't you?" Hutch roared with
"Takes one to know one," Starsky beckoned urgently, ignoring the
lurking menace that was his lower leg. "Take off your clothes and come on
up before I have to call out reinforcements."
"Don't rush me, this is complicated." Hutch finished shedding his
outerwear before climbing onto the bed as slowly as possible to avoid bumping
into the rigid cast. He awkwardly straddled Starsky's chest so that his half
interested cock was now within poking distance of a certain very interested
"We got some problems here," Starsky observed, taking a handful of
Hutch and tickling the sensitive underside while palming the loose balls with
his other hand. He pumped that cock enthusiastically, feeling his own dick
starting join the party. It didn't take much to make Hutch's begin to grow and
swell like rice in boiling water. Very soon Hutch was moaning softly, gently
rocking his hips in time to the rhythm Starsky had begun.
"That's what I like to see," Starsky encouraged, then mouthed the
very end of that needy cock, pushing the tip of his tongue under the foreskin.
From there is was easy keeping Hutch's attention, sucking and blowing until
Hutch was gasping for breath, crying out in a strangled voice. His excited
movements kept sliding his ass up against the first really good erection Starsky
had managed in weeks, which felt so incredible Starsky kept suckling on his
flesh Twinkie long after the cream filling had disappeared. At long last he
bucked against Hutch's pelvis feeling a sudden wet spot spread across the front
of the cut off sweat pants he wore. The delicious after glow was only partially
diminished by the fearsome pain radiating up from his calf. That had been worth
it, even if he'd have to take a double dose to get some sleep. "Man, Hutch…"
"How're you doing?" Hutch dismounted, hovering worriedly on the
edge of the bed. "You're looking a little shocky there."
"It's love, Hutch." Starsky said weakly with his eyes still shut.
"And really good sex. One to remember when Little Davey won't stand at
attention any more."
"The doctor said that would only be temporary." Hutch smoothed
Starsky's hair off his sweaty forehead. "A common side-effect."
"That an' the hair loss."
"It's just hair."
"Easy for you to say," Starsky laughed tiredly, turning to meet the
hand that cradled his springy locks. "Cause yours falls out if you comb too
rough, but I've always had hair, y'know? Born with it."
"Hey, I was born with it, too, but it fell out when I was two months old
and never came back until I was two years."
"See, you're used to it." Starsky sighed. "I never been
bald--what if I look stupid?"
"You already do, won't be much of a change."
"Some comfort you are."
"Starsk?" Hutch stroked his cheek almost lulling Starsky to sleep
and he hadn't even had the pain pills yet. "How are you doing with all of
this? You're still keeping a lot inside."
"Don't worry, I'm not going off the deep end or anything," Starsky
snuggled into Hutch's arms as much as he could, kissing the wrist that was
resting on his cheek. "But this whole thing sucks, y'know?"
"It definitely does." Hutch agreed. They stayed there, Hutch with
his arms around Starsky's head and upper body for a long while, soaking up love
and security from one another to gird them for the hard days ahead. It wasn't
until Starsky stifled a groan when Hutch moved causing the mattress to dip that
either remembered they had gone long past time for Starsky's nightly medication.
Real life intervened then and all the preparations for bedtime and other usual
routines. No more quiet intervals for somber reflection. The Earth continued to
revolve on her axis, time moving forward whether they liked it or not and
Starsky was due to be admitted to the hospital in just 24 hours for his second
round of chemo.
Being an identified cancer patient really streamlined the admitting process
and Starsky was dressed in a hospital gown and in bed with pre-chemo blood
levels already drawn in less time than it usually took for Hutch to sign
paperwork on any of the past ER visits they'd ever had for injuries on the job.
The Rose Tree Unit was a specially constructed Oncology ward to give the
patients a feeling of being--if not at home--at least in a pleasant setting.
Since many had to stay for long periods of time all the rooms were private with
an extra bed for a family member. Every effort had been made to provide
upholstered chairs, nice art and to hide some of the more intrusive medical
equipment behind panels when not in use. Families were encouraged to bring
brightly colored coverlets, photographs or belongings to remind the patients of
home and give them a certain sense of autonomy in the restrictive environment.
There was even a small kitchenette where families could warm up favorite foods
to entice finicky appetites and the waiting room was one of the nicest Hutch had
even seen in a hospital, with a real coffee machine and a refrigerator stocked
full of juice. Still, it was a hospital, and Starsky was there for a very
serious reason, no matter how pleasant the décor.
Starsky pretended to ignore the nurse tightening a rubber tourniquet around
his bicep and probing for veins. She'd already drawn about a quart of his red
stuff and started an IV in his right arm for maintenance fluids but this one
would be specifically for the chemo infusion. "Hutch, you don't have to
stay the night, it's gonna be boring. You'll get more sleep at home."
"What else do I have to do?" Hutch smiled. "It's raining,
can't work in the yard tomorrow, can't go hiking. I'd rather spend the day with
Grimacing when Mika inserted the needle into his skin, Starsky still managed
to give Hutch a look of disbelief. Like the next day would be any kind of
exciting--more like long stretches of dull monotony interspersed with bouts of
vomiting. Yeah, that sounded like good times. "What books did you bring
"Some for you, some for me." Hutch stacked the books on the over
the bed table separating them into two piles. Starsky's pile had two Dick
Francis mysteries and a nonfiction work by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Starsky had to
laugh at this blatant attempt on Hutch's part to get him to read the book and
checked out what was in the other pile. For himself Hutch had chosen the Police
Department's manual of regulations and the required text for the class on Law
"Those'll put you right t'sleep." Starsky teased when Hutch cracked
the spine on the text to read the table of contents.
"How does that feel, Dave?" Mika asked when she had finished taping
the IV in place.
"Just about like every other one I've ever had." Starsky shrugged
watching as she attached plastic tubing to the catheter and thumbed the roller
clamp open to start the flow from the bag hanging on a metal hook overhead.
"That the chemo?"
"The first of three drugs." She inspected the label on the bag
"Don't look like much," Starsky craned his neck to examine the
innocuous looking plastic bag full of clear fluid. So that was the stuff that
would knock the cancer cells to their knees--or more correctly, out of his knee.
Hard to believe that a bag of ordinary looking fluid would produce such huge
results, along with a whole host of nasty symptoms unrelated to the Osteosarcoma.
"No, but it packs quite a punch. Tell me if you have any side effects,
especially problems breathing or fever." Patting Starsky's arm, Mika looked
sympathetic. "Unfortunately nausea and fatigue are expected."
"Already acquainted with those, schweetheart." Starsky waggled his
eyebrows flirtatiously. That never failed to charm the nurses even when he
wasn't feeling very good. But just making the effort to stay cheerful usually
resulted in improving his own mood. It was just hard to deal with the rigors of
chemo when his leg still hurt with absolute relentlessness. Starsky caught Hutch
looking over at him with naked fear and plastered on a grin to face his lover.
"Hutch knows the ropes. There must be other really sick people around here
you can needle."
"You're a live one, I can tell," Mika winked a brown eye, shaking
her finger in mock seriousness. "I'm going to go hang Mrs. Miniver's chemo
next but I'll be back to check on you soon."
Clearing his throat nosily in the silence after Mika left; Hutch turned a
page of his book with studied care. "They've changed this course since you
and I took the class," he remarked, pointing to the syllabus.
"Hutch, that was nearly 17 years ago!" Starsky admonished, picking
up the Dick Francis entitled 'Odds Against'. "They probably rewrote half
the laws since then without telling us."
"Starsky, that's what all those memos we get every month are for--to
keep you updated on the most current policies, not to make paper airplanes
"I always wondered about that." Starsky commented dryly but Hutch
was pouring over the textbook with characteristic intensity. Smiling fondly at
the blond head bent over the book, Starsky reminded himself to have Hutch get
some reading glasses at the drugstore. He was squinting trying to read the tiny
print. Hell of a thing to be 39, the body started to wear out, needing reading
glasses, adding more aches and pains to the old souvenirs. And look what
happened to him, perversely he'd contracted a kid's cancer. Scary and just plain
weird when he thought about it.
Flipping to page one of his mystery, Starsky was jolted by the first
sentence, 'I was never particularly keen on my job before the day I got shot and
nearly lost it, along with my life.' Well, that was a hell of a way to begin a
book, and he was engrossed immediately, feeling a strange kinship to the hero
At first Starsky dismissed the odd prickling in his lips and face, rubbing
the back of his hand over his mouth to alleviate the annoying sensation of pins
and needles. His lips felt puffy and warm, very sensitive to touch. It was as if
his face were starting to come out of Novocaine or something except he hadn't
been given that particular drug. There was a tightness in his throat like he was
coming down with a virulent sore throat and he hitched a breath, wincing at the
sudden pain in his chest. Focusing on the book to ignore the disconnected
feeling in his head Starsky blinked to clear the black spots flickering across
the page making it increasingly difficult to read.
"Hutch," Starsky said, surprised at how hard it was to breathe. His
chest ached abysmally and abruptly it was nearly impossible to draw in a
satisfying lungful of air. "H-hutch?"
"What's wrong?" Hutch touched his cheek trying to calm him.
"I c-can't…" Starsky heaved a tight breath but he was being
strangled by an invisible cord, his throat as narrow as a straw. Dimly he could
hear Hutch calling frantically for Mika, but all his efforts had to go into
pulling oxygen into his starving lungs so he wasn't paying much attention to the
swarm of activity around his bed.
Noise assaulted Starsky's ears as voices rose in a confused babble, all
crying out instructions, requests for meds and equipment. Needles were pushed
repeatedly into the rubber port on the IV tubing sending medicines rushing into
his veins to stop whatever reaction had robbed him of his breath. Very slowly
Starsky could feel the vice like grip around his chest loosening, allowing sweet
oxygen into his respiratory passages. He just lay, listening to the now much
quieter voices discussing his care, enjoying the simple pleasure of being able
to breathe unencumbered. But after a while he began to notice the annoying
presence of a plastic nasal cannula poking him in the nostrils and the fact that
his heart was beating about a thousand times faster than usual. Previous
interments in the hospital had given him a healthy dislike for the useful but
uncomfortable nasal cannula, and his racing heart rate was all too reminiscent
of the aftermath of some of the more powerful asthma type medications he'd been
on after lung surgery five years ago. He'd hated the effect then and still hated
the way he felt revved up and exhausted at the same time, although, blessedly
able to breathe.
"Hey, you coming around?" Hutch asked with such tenderness it made
Starsky absurdly tearful. Now what was that all about?
"What happened?" Starsky coughed, his throat dry as dust.
"You unfortunately had an anaphylactic reaction to the Cisplatin."
John Davies said soberly. "Luckily, we caught it quickly, or it could have
been even more serious."
"Doesn't that cause his throat to close up?" Hutch asked, holding
Starsky's hand so tightly to it was beginning to hurt.
"But why didn't that happen the first time?" Starsky asked, trying
to follow the conversation even though every cell in his body begged for sleep.
"It's the same as an allergic reaction," Davies explained, rubbing
the small of his back absently. "When the body is exposed to something the
immune system sees as a threat, it jumps into defense mode, so the second time
you encounter the allergen, your body fights back. In your case, that was the
drug, and it's something you very much need right now."
"Is this going to happen every time?" Starsky asked wearily, his
heart still banging maddeningly in his chest. Hutch finally let go of his hand,
but only long enough to get him a glass of water that he could sip from a straw.
That helped his throat, but already he could sense the nascent queasiness
building in his belly.
"Not if I can help it," the doctor said studying Starsky's chart.
He tapped his pen on the edge of the binder, before making a few notes.
"We'll premedicate with drugs that will help alleviate the worst of the
symptoms and keep you on 100 percent oxygen during the infusion. I can also make
some adjustments to your dosage to lower the chances of such an extreme
"But he still could have another reaction?" Hutch interjected
angrily. "You'll sacrifice his health for that damned drug?"
"Right now, this is the top line chemotherapy agent for Osteosarcoma,
and combined with two other drugs in the cocktail regimen, are his best shots
for remission." Davies said. His tone was careful, but there was a glint of
anger in the words. He didn't like being argued with. "So, no, I don't plan
on sacrificing his health for the sake of medical science."
"Instead you'll make an already sick man put up with life threatening
side effects?" Hutch raged.
"Hutch!" Starsky admonished, his voice still brittle from the
residual swelling in his throat and lips. "Don't antagonize the people I
That single phrase pulled Hutch up short. He swung around, staring at Starsky
with undisguised anguish. Starsky mustered up a quirky grin, curling his fingers
in a 'come over here' gesture since both arms were immobilized with IV's. Hutch
ducked his head, breathing hard; them complied with the unspoken request.
"That got your attention, huh?" Starsky rasped, knowing he'd just
played Russian roulette with Hutch's emotions in harking back to a time when
both of them were afraid Starsky was dying from an unidentified poison.
"Starsk," Hutch pleaded, dropping down on the side of the bed.
"Doc, what's the bottom line?" Starsky asked once again taking the
helm to let Hutch battle his inner demons.
"Unfortunately, this is the reality of chemo. Sometimes the cure is as
bad as the disease, at first." Davis toyed with the cap of his Bic pen
before tucking into the monogrammed breast pocket of his immaculate lab coat.
"After six courses of this treatment we'll draw more blood tests to
determine if the cancer load in your body is depleted. Then you should start to
"Six courses?" Starsky fought to stay awake, trying to remember if
he'd previously known how many there would be. He'd probably been informed
before the first one but with everything that happened had simply forgotten.
"That would put the last one at the end of November?"
"Yes." Davies agreed.
"Then we'll be done?" Starsky persisted. "I'll be out of a
cast before then, right?"
"As long as the bone is well healed, yes," the Doctor hedged.
"And as I said, blood tests will determine what course we'll need to take
after this run of chemo is concluded."
"There could be more?" Hutch asked dully.
"There could be. But don't focus on the 'what if's' right now,"
Davies advised. "Focus on staying healthy during treatments. Try to keep
your strength up, eat regularly even if you don't feel like it, continue with
the physical therapy but get a lot of rest. Your body is fighting right now and
needs all the support you can give it."
"You been watching old John Wayne movies to get your material,
doc?" Starsky teased, but he was more than tired. The drugs were pulling
him under, forcing their will on his.
"I'm a big Wayne fan, but I prefer Gary Cooper," Davies smiled.
"Get some rest now, Starsky. I'll check with the nurse later to see how
"Thanks." Starsky sketched a wave, but didn't have any energy to
raise his hand off the bed. "Hutch, you okay?"
"You're the one who nearly had to be revived, again!" Hutch railed,
smacking the bedside table hard enough to startle both of them. Starsky flinched
at the noise. "Aw, damn, Starsk, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
"Hey," Starsky tugged at Hutch's sleeve until they were close
enough to embrace, mindless of who might see them. "It's okay, Hutch,
things'll turn around pretty soon, I can tell." They were placating words,
meant to sooth, and Starsky was truly trying to believe them. It was hard,
especially with Hutch crying on his shoulder. Hutch hadn't cried in front of him
very often during the whole ordeal, and the sight and sound of his big strong
partner breaking down was frightening. If Hutch was still that scared what right
had Starsky to hold onto any hope? But it was the only thing he could hold on
to. Hope that the nagging pains in his leg would go away completely as the
shattered bones knit neatly into whole, strong bone as the tumors faded away
from the chemo. The hate he'd harbored early on had been supplanted, but he
could feel the menace of it curled in the back of his brain. Hate or hope, both
took so much energy to hold on to.
He fell asleep dreaming of patrolling the streets once more, Hutch at his
side with his face reflecting the scarlet of the Mars light as they cruised
slowly along a road, looking for a fleeing suspect. It was a pleasant dream.
Once Starsky was soundly asleep Hutch bolted form the room, taking the stairs
so he didn't have to wait for the elevator and endure the sympathetic glances
from the other family members on the unit. Anyone coming out of the Rose Tree
Unit knew that if you were on this floor, someone in your family had cancer.
He thought about getting something to eat in the cafeteria but everything on
the menu reminded him of Starsky. The hot meal of the day was burritos, which
sent Hutch right out onto the deserted patio beyond the dining room. With the
end of September only a day away it was already nearly dark at 7pm. The rain had
stopped and the secluded spot was quiet and calm. He took in great lungfuls of
damp air, forcing the fear back into a place where he could shut it away.
Starsky wasn't going to die. He'd pulled through, again.
Oh, God, Hutch trembled, he couldn't do this. Not again. He'd sat vigil over
Starsky five years earlier after the Gunther assassination attempt. He'd watched
Starsky struggle to breathe, to recover and thrive. It wasn't fair. It wasn't
right. Why did Starsky have to suffer like this? How could he sit next to
Starsky's bed again, watching him waste away? The damn chemo was almost as
deadly as the cancer. There had to be another way; different drugs or treatments
to cure what Starsky had termed 'the scourge'.
Hutch kept remembering the photo of a very healthy looking Kennedy kid skiing
on one leg down the snow-covered mountain. More and more he was becoming
convinced amputation might save Starsky's life, even though he was fully aware
that Starsky would never agree to it. Hutch didn't have the heart to argue the
point with Starsky, who'd already had enough pain in the last month and still
insisted he was going to go back to police work 'when this was all over'.
Starsky had such confidence that he would beat this, but Hutch no longer thought
of working their beat with anything but loathing. He wanted out, even if Starsky
To be totally honest with himself, Hutch had wanted out for a long time. Just
before the shooting five years ago, he'd thrown his badge into the sea, ready to
give up life as a cop forever. Starsky's steady presence beside him, supporting
his decision, and then going back to the force with him when he'd reversed that
decision, had been the only reason Hutch had stayed on the force. Then, the idea
of being a working detective again had kept Starsky afloat on the long hard days
of his recovery and Hutch had celebrated every minute once Starsky was back at
Now they were nearing forty--well, he had just had his 39th
birthday, but that was still eleven months closer to forty than he'd been in
July, and the daily grind of criminals, stake outs and dead bodies was becoming
even more depressing. He knew he was burned out and might have rejoiced at this
new career as an instructor if it hadn't been achieved under such horrible
circumstances. If Starsky did manage to pull through and return to the detective
squadroom, Hutch wasn't going with him, and if he had his wish, Starsky would
never work the streets again, either. A good, safe, desk job. That's what
Conquering his nerves, and discovering the beginnings of hunger, Hutch pushed
through the swinging door back into the dining room. At a table not too far from
the windows over looking the patio, a woman sat close to her ailing husband. He
clearly was in the midst of chemotherapy, with his bald head and a mask over his
nose and mouth to protect against germs. His wife leaned into him, talking
softly as they shared a bowl of ice cream, love streaming out of her. But the
other, prevailing emotion Hutch could feel even from ten feet away was fear. She
feared she was losing her love, and it was all Hutch could do to walk past the
table without stopping to ask her how she'd gotten this far.
He knew that fear. He had seen the terror in Starsky's eyes and he knew
Starsky could see it in his, but they both pretended to ignore it, like having
an elephant standing in the living room and walking around it rather than having
to acknowledge the elephant's existence. That was the essence of living with
cancer, knowing it was there and still pretending to lead a normal life in spite
Friday night slid into Saturday morning and Starsky got the second of the
three chemo infusions. This one didn't cause any life threatening side effects,
so both partners spent the morning reading their respective books, making the
occasional comments, but mostly comfortable just to be close and together.
"Hutch, did you know what this book was about when you got it at the
library?" Starsky asked curiously.
"Which one?" Hutch asked distractedly, making notes for his class
on ruled paper. He'd never be able to teach this class. Half of the police
procedures he didn't even recognize and the rest he'd at least bent in pursuit
of a criminal.
Starsky held up his paperback enough for Hutch to see the title and the cover
illustration of a jockey on a brown horse jumping over a bushy green hurdle with
a leering skull hidden in the leaves.
"'Odd's Against'." Hutch read. "I knew you'd read a couple of
Dick Francis and asked the librarian which one had a sequel since you like
series. Any good?"
"Yeah, I like it a lot. They're private detectives--Sid and his partner
Chico." Starsky said so strangely, Hutch really looked more closely at him.
Starsky appeared remarkably well for someone on chemo, and hadn't vomited yet,
which the dayshift nurse had been happy about. He was needing fewer pain meds
for his leg in the last few days and the crisis of the night before had
definitely passed. "Sid's going to get his hand amputated." Starsky
took a deep breath before continuing. "Did you…?"
"Starsky! No! I honestly didn't know the plot of the book." Hutch
felt punched in the stomach by his partner's half veiled accusation. Starsky
didn't really believe he'd push for amputation in such an underhanded way, did
he? "Starsky, I wouldn't…"
"I didn't think so." Starsky smiled sweetly at him leaning back
against the pillows of his hospital bed. "That part just hit kinda hard,
"Hey, you getting second thoughts about this?"
"Nothing but. This is the pits, an' I don't mean Huggy's." Starsky
scratched around the tape holding the IV in his right arm. "It's gonna be
all right, right, Hutch? We're gonna be out there on some perp's tail by
Christmas. This'll all be behind us."
"Sure, Starsk." Hutch agreed, pasting on a smile he hoped passed
inspection. Starsky mustn't know about his capitulation. "Hey, you want me
to go get you a different book? No more Dick Francis."
"Nah, I'm nearly finished with this one, and there's a second one for
part three of the chemo tomorrow."
"Your call, buddy," Hutch reached out and patted Starsky's good
leg, suddenly craving his warmth, his aliveness.
"Wish we were home," Starsky whispered with an impish wink. "I
could love that look right off your face."
"You just did." Hutch kissed him quickly; glad they had a private
Lunch was served soon after the chemo had finished but it was patently
obvious Starsky wanted nothing to do with food. He still hadn't thrown up but
was decidedly green around the gills. When the tiny Asian nurse with the winsome
smile gave him a drug to settle his stomach, Starsky fell asleep quickly.
Looking over the contents of the tray before stowing it in what the nurses
called the 'dirty' room, Hutch had to admit the fare left something to be
desired. Maybe if he found something Starsky liked a lot better, he'd eat.
Luckily, so far, Starsky hadn't been bothered by much nausea in between
treatments, so he'd kept his weight up during the week, but from what Dr. Davies
was saying, things would get worse before they got better. Hutch decided it was
his job to keep Starsky eating. There was so little else he could do to help.
Unfortunately, most of Starsky's favorite foods were out of the question. His
tastes ran to the spicier the better, just the sort which caused stomach upset
on the best of days. But Huggy 's cook could probably whip up a half-sized
burger, which might entice. Therefore, The Pits was the first stop, especially
since Hutch was pretty hungry himself.
"Hutch, how's our curly headed patient?" Huggy greeted the moment
Hutch entered the dim establishment. He was never quite sure if Huggy just kept
the lighting low for atmosphere or whether he saved money buying 60-watt bulbs.
"Already tired of lying in bed," Hutch sat at the bar. "And
we've got a long way to go. The doctor told us yesterday that the minimum would
be six courses of chemo and I've got this bad feeling that there'll be more than
"Damn," Huggy swore softly, a mournful expression on his face.
"I didn't know."
"I did, I just forgot with everything else going on. But after the first
six they'll do lots of blood tests and with any luck he'll be in
"That's more like it!" Huggy said heartily, drawing Hutch a draught
beer. "But you're worried."
"Yeah, I guess that's my job right now. Huggy, yesterday his throat
swelled up because of a reaction from the drugs and I couldn't do anything but
stand there and watch while the nurses and doctors saved his life--again."
Hutch stared down into the foamy head in his mug. "I felt so damned
helpless, like he doesn't need me right now."
"Blondie, you're the one he needs the most and you know it, you're just
down in the dumps right now." Huggy signaled the cook through the
pass-thru. "What you need is some food. My Great Aunt Beulah used to say
bad news always sits better on a full stomach. Howie, make our friendly cop a
"No, Howie, make it the soup of the day for me," Hutch corrected.
"And I'll be by in about a couple of hours for a kid sized special for
"Will do!" Howie saluted cheerfully, going back to his stove.
"We don't have no kid menu here, this is a strictly over 21
establishment," Huggy lectured.
"Not even for Starsky?" Hutch grinned as Huggy placed a bowl of
Minestrone in front of him with a large hunk of bread on the side.
"Mrs. Peducci, who lives down the street, gonna start up her own bakery.
I'm selling some of her stuff until she gets a shop." Huggy broke off a
piece from the main loaf and ate it. "This bread's been the hit of the
"She make cannoli?" Hutch tasted the soup and the bread, both were
"Far's I can tell, the woman can bake anything. She's magic in the
"Maybe I could special order some from her for later in the week?"
"For Starsky again?" Huggy winked. "I b'lieve I could convince
the woman to make him a whole Italian feast, spaghetti, the works, with a little
sweet talkin'. We could come over and deliver it personally. I bin tellin' her
about the two of you."
"Huggy, is this a potential lady friend?" Hutch asked in delight.
He needed to hear some good news.
"How can the woman resist my charm and good looks?" Huggy boasted,
adjusting the bright melon scarf tied around his neck. The color was a
surprisingly good match to the pink and yellow shirt he wore. "Her no
'count husband's doin' 10 to 20 in Soledad so she divorced the bum, and being
Catholic was kinda depressed, so I offered to help her get back on her feet, so
to speak. Just neighborly…"
"Of course," Hutch murmured, finishing his soup. "She
"A veritable Diana, Helen of Troy's twin, the model for Botticelli's
Venus." Huggy rapturized.
"I get the picture," Hutch said dryly, impressed at the scope of
Huggy's knowledge of the arts. The man certainly kept his book learning under
his flamboyant hat most of the time, but his street smarts were second to none.
Hutch made a few stops for supplies, ending at a health food store to pick up
several kinds of teas. The hamburger was ready for him when he arrived back at
The Pits and he loaded that into the car, pleased at what he'd accomplished.
Starsky was curled into the fetal position under a pile of blankets, only the
top of his curly head sticking out. The room had the sour smell of old vomit and
Hutch sighed with discouragement. Starsky probably hadn't gotten much sleep if
he'd been puking up his guts.
"Hey," Hutch called, noticing the mop of curls turn towards him
when he set down his purchases. "You hiding?"
"Yeah," Starsky pushed the blankets down level with his nose, blue
eyes red rimmed and bleary. Hutch cupped his cheek, savoring the feel of his
skin, but also assessing for fever. One of the side effects of the chemo was a
mild elevation in temperature, but Starsky's cheek held only the usual warmth of
someone who'd been buried under mounds of bedclothes.
"I see you commandeered every blanket in the place," Hutch kept it
light, aware Starsky wouldn't want to go into how he'd spent his afternoon. He
wished he could just climb under the covers and cuddle up next to Starsky like
they might have done any other Saturday afternoon, but this was no ordinary
"I was cold," Starsky said flatly. "Get your errands
"Yeah, stopped by Huggy's--Howie made you a special."
"I'm not very hungry right now," Starsky said evasively, pressing
his lips together.
"I figured that so we can just put it in the microwave later,"
Hutch brought out two boxes of tea from the health food store sack. "You
can try the tea instead."
"Peppermint tea is good for stomach upset," Hutch explained,
pointing to the caption on the label. "And ginger tea is proven to help
reduce nausea. Pregnant women use it all the time."
"I'm not pregnant, in case you hadn't noticed." Starsky said, his
wary expression conveying how dubious he was of the restorative powers of a tea
"If you were pregnant, I'd have noticed, believe me. You'd be on the
cover of the National Inquirer," Hutch teased. He could tell Starsky felt
like shit, but as usual his partner was stoic about it, bottling up his hurt
inside him rather than burden anyone else with his pain. So totally Starsky.
Hutch wondered how long it would be before Starsky had to admit how bad off he
really was. "I'll go swipe a cup of hot water from the nurses and fix you
Mika, back for her second night nursing Starsky, was happy to oblige and
produced a cup of steaming water in very short order. She stayed in the room
while Hutch dunked the ginger tea bag into the cup to let it steep.
"My mother swears by ginger tea," Mika nodded. "Dave, let me
take your temperature and scribble down a few vital signs before you have your
afternoon tea. You'll have to invite Mrs. Miniver and Gemma, one of the other
nurses, the next time. They're both British and love what Mrs. M calls a 'good
"There's no guarantee I'm gonna drink it," Starsky said darkly.
"But it does smell good." He submitted to Mika's ministrations without
complaint, watching the tea preparations.
"Grump," Hutch squeezed the soaking tea bag against a spoon, then
dropped it into the trash. "Try it, Starsk. I know you don't feel great
right now, but give this a chance."
Starsky eased up into a sitting position, moving like every part of his body
hurt but he accepted the cup, blowing to cool off the liquid. Mika immediately
reached behind him, snatching up the topmost pillow and stripping off the case.
It wasn't until she was dropping it in the blue bagged linen hamper that Hutch
noticed a proliferation of dark brown curls over the entire surface of the
fabric. Starsky's hair. His belly clenching, Hutch mourned the sight. Starsky
was already starting to lose his hair and there was nothing they could do about
it until the chemo ended. Mika expertly slipped another pillowcase on and
plumped the pillow behind Starsky without his noticing the exchange.
"Tastes hot!" Starsky proclaimed in surprise. "And I don't
mean the temperature. This is like spicy."
"That's the ginger." Mika quickly jotted down a few notes in the
"Not like your grandmother's tea, huh?" Hutch asked affectionately,
making up a cup for himself. The ginger had quite a bite, filling his mouth with
hot, sweet flavor.
"I can feel it in the back of my throat," Starsky took another
speculative sip. "But it's staying down for the moment."
"Drink the whole thing and you win a prize," Mika pointed her
forefinger at him. "I want to see the bottom of that cup when I come back,
"What's the prize?" Starsky called after her. "She's got a
finger like yours, Hutch." He took a few more sips before setting the cup
down. "What else did you do this afternoon?"
"Went to the library again. Got some more study material for the
class." Hutch hauled out a book called 'Keeping your Students Interested'
by Marvin Jackson and 'Bay City Municipal Police Department Handbook'. "I
don't know if I can pull this one off, Starsk. This is a lot of hard work."
"Don't sell yourself short, you'll be great. Who's Marvin Jackson?"
Starsky questioned, picking up the first book. "He one of the Jackson
"That was Marlon."
"How'd you know?"
Blushing, Hutch briskly opened a third book, flipping the pages to find the
correct chapter. "I just do, okay?"
"You gotta tell me, I'm sick and need entertaining."
"Oh really?" Hutch marked the page with his finger. "A couple
of years after we joined the force, the first girl I dated, after the divorce…
"Missy," Starsky guessed. "No, Misty."
"Yeah, like the Clint Eastwood movie."
"Play Misty for me," Starsky said in a spooky voice.
"Do you want to hear this?"
"Yes," Starsky lay back against the pillow, mischief in his eyes.
"Misty liked the Jacksons and we went to their
"Like more than once?" Starsky asked in surprise.
"Yes--more than once," Hutch avoided Starsky's mischievous look,
bending over the book once again to locate the correct section. As much fun as
it was to spar with his partner like they were whiling away a boring stake out
in the old Torino, every moment like this one hurt deeply inside. Would there be
more times like this one? Would Starsky get too sick to enjoy the simple
pleasures of teasing his friend?
"Well, I don't think you need ol' Marvin's book, then," Starsky
shoved the offending object away. "When you got stories like that one to
keep the cadets interested. Just mix in a lesson on crowd control at a Jackson
Five concert and how to frisk a pretty girl, and you've got 'em in the palm of
"You can teach that lesson, Lothario," Hutch said.
"I just might," Starsky agreed, sounding sleepy.
Hutch worried his bottom lip, reading over the medical text he'd obtained.
While he hadn't deliberately hidden the title from Starsky, he wasn't entirely
sure he wanted Starsky to know what he was reading, either. But he hated feeling
so helpless when confronted with the overwhelming mountain of information
presented to them by Starsky's doctors. The title 'Knowing your own Cancer' had
jumped out at him at the library and he'd grabbed the book like a life ring.
Maybe if he studied up on the treatments and options for osteosarcoma, he'd be
able to ask more informed questions.
The chapter on Starsky's particular cancer was surprisingly short and was
mostly facts Davies had already told them. Most osteosarcoma patients were
teenaged boys and most had amputations. Not the best of news. But a high
percentage of patients did survive five years after their diagnosis, and most
went on to live normal lives. That was much better news.
Gulping down the rest of his tea, Hutch started to read more on which chemo
drugs worked best, and was surprised to hear Starsky's voice.
"Hutch! I need…" Starsky gulped air convulsively, his lips
tightly pursed like he was holding something in.
Reflexively Hutch shoved a curved basin from the bedside table under
Starsky's chin just as he emptied out the meager contents of his stomach.
Blessedly, that didn't take long but Starsky was drained and weak afterwards.
"I did like the tea, Hutch, honest."
"I know you did, Starsk. Better luck next time."
"Yeah." Starsky leaned into the curve of Hutch's arms, dozing off
again. Keeping his arms wrapped protectively around his lover, Hutch could still
see where he'd left off on the open page of the book, 'nausea and vomiting occur
in 76-100 % of patients and is dose related.'
Sunday morning was a virtual repeat of Saturday, but by Sunday night Starsky
was okay to be discharged if he felt up to it. Despite feeling like he'd been
flattened by a cement roller, Starsky insisted on going home to sleep in his own
bed. He wanted Hutch by his side, in fact, was already beginning to dread the
long days ahead when Hutch would be busy with Academy work and anything else
Dobey threw his way. Even counting his near fatal shooting, Starsky could not
remember a time when he had been so cooped up and unable to function. It
rankled, and he was determined to do something about it. When Sophie came over
Monday morning, Starsky began discussing his options with her, and by evening,
he had a few ideas of how to constructively use all this free time he had forced
upon him, and consequently had also completely recovered from the flu-like post
"Welcome home!" Starsky crowed from the couch, blowing on an old
birthday party horn, when Hutch walked through the front door.
"What's going on?" Hutch looked around in astonishment. Not only
was the room decked out with a banner that said 'Teacher of the Month' but Huggy
and a beautiful brunette were accompanying Starsky's horn with kazoos while
Sophie just clapped her hands in rhythm.
"Bravo, Hutch," she crooned in her lilting French accent.
"I'll be going, but enjoy yourselves. Your friends have planned a little
"Won't you stay?" Hutch asked politely. "I don't know what
this is for, but it looks like there'll be a lot of fun."
"No, no, au revoir, David!" She waved, letting herself out.
"Hutch, ma'man, we weren't about to let the first day of professor-hood
slip by unnoticed," Huggy announced. "This is to celebrate getting
through your first day at the Academy."
"All over again," Starsky added, giving a final blast on his horn.
"Huggy called this afternoon about a day for the spaghetti dinner you
ordered and this was the perfect opportunity. Say hello to Daisy." He waved
at the woman still hanging back behind Huggy, her cheeks pink with
embarrassment. Daisy had a pretty, almost exotic face, most probably a mixture
of two or three different gene pools blending together into a dark creamy
caramel completion, light brown eyes with the slight tilt of Asian heritage and
masses of brown curls.
"Daisy?" Hutch held out a hand. "You must be the Mrs. Peducci
Hug was going on and on about."
"He'd be hawking my bread on the street corners if I let him," she
giggled, shaking Hutch's hand. "You're Hutch if he's Starsky."
"See, I like her already," Starsky approved. "Most people get
us mixed up."
"I can't imagine why, he's…" Daisy glanced from one man to the
other. Starsky waggled his eyebrows at her.
"All white people look alike," Huggy muttered with a smirk.
"Let's get this par-tay happening, brothers and sister! Hutch, take a load
off while I and my favorite chef marvel you with delights from the
"You planned this?" Hutch looked still bewildered but amused when
he perched on the arm of the couch next to Starsky's casted leg.
"It just kinda fell together," Starsky shrugged. "Meant to
"How are you doing?"
"Good, don't I look good?"
"You look good to me, and I'd prove it to you if we didn't have
guests," Hutch said in a sultry voice.
"But are you feeling alright?" Hutch asked more pointedly.
"Haven't hurled all day."
"Have you eaten anything?"
"Look what we got here!" Starsky proclaimed. Huggy emerged from the
kitchen wearing Starsky's 'Kiss the Cook' apron holding a plate of freshly baked
bread and several types of cheese aloft. "You could bottle up the smell of
that bread and perfume the world, Daisy. Just like my grandma used to
"Thank you," she curtseyed quaintly. "Eat up."
Starsky selected a slice, spreading it with creamy Havarti cheese, nibbling
on one side. It was true he hadn't vomited all day, and the chemo nausea had
completely gone away. The bone doctor had reduced his pain meds while he was in
the hospital, so even the usual upset stomach caused by the morphine was
lessened and he truly felt like eating. But, somehow, his appetite had shrunk in
the last month after going for days on only small portions of food. His eyes
wanted the food, but once he started eating he got full quickly. Better to save
lots of room for the main meal and dessert than fill up on the hors d'oerves.
"So, spill, man, how's the new crop of baby cops?" Huggy leaned
forward with interest.
"They already know more about this subject than I do," Hutch sighed
melodramatically. "They had an excellent teacher in Ben Logan."
"And they got an excellent teacher in Ken Hutchinson," Starsky said
staunchly. "You studied all weekend and you been on the streets for all
"Starsky's right," Huggy agreed, munching on Brie and bread.
"How the hell they gonna learn just outta books? You got the real thing,
"I hope so, but this first week's gonna be a killer," Hutch bit
down on the bread, his expression changing to one of surprise. "Daisy, this
bread is even better than the kind I had at The Pits. You gotta get your own
bakery, Huggy's place isn't good enough for you."
"Well, I did look at two locations this morning," she admitted
shyly. "But I don't know if I can swing the rent and do all the work
myself--a bakery would mean three, maybe four times the amount I'm baking
"Sophie," Starsky proclaimed.
"She left, or didn't you notice?" Huggy reminded. "This is
"No, man, Sophie has a daughter--Marie. They both cook almost as good as
Daisy does," Starsky said, winking at the woman. "It's a perfect
partnership. Marie needs a job and Daisy needs help."
"Give me her number and I'll call her up," Daisy agreed.
"Un six trois sept six sept huit," Starsky said slowly.
Daisy laughed, nodding. "How did you know I spoke French?"
"He didn't, he was showing off," Hutch elbowed Starsky in the ribs.
"You've been practicing."
"Mois, je parle Francais." Starsky declared with a grin.
"Sophie's been teaching me."
"So what did he say?" Huggy asked.
"He gave me the phone number, 163-7678," Daisy explained. "And
I'd better get the spaghetti, I can hear the water bubbling from here."
"Looks like everybody's got new interests but me," Huggy said.
"Hug, you've got The Pits. " Hutch said reaching for more cheese.
"That place is always interesting."
"And Daisy," Starsky leered.
"To success." Huggy declared raising his glass.
"To success," Starsky echoed, clinking his glass to Hutch's.
Success--the only success he wanted was beating the cancer and getting back out
on the streets. It was his mantra, his goal and his finish line. He was
determined to beat the odds and come out a winner. "To success."
Spending the evening with good companions lightened spirits but Starsky was
exhausted by the time good byes were said and the empty spaghetti pot carted
away. He hadn't socialized so much in weeks which only illustrated how cut off
he'd become from the world around. He was either prostrate on the couch or
hooked to an IV in the hospital. It was time for a change and the plans he'd
made with Sophie that afternoon fit right in.
"Sophie and I are going to fix up that vegetable garden you started on
the side of the house," Starsky said, watching Hutch get undressed for bed.
Even at first, when his leg hurt no matter how many pain pills he'd thrown at
it, he'd always welcomed Hutch into his bed. He felt safe with his partner by
his side, protected from whatever might befall them. Together they were
unbeatable; apart was a different story. He should have realized that when he
was pushing Hutch away. Now, he felt panicky when Hutch left for work in the
morning, not that he'd admitted it, so far.
"That pile of weeds?" Hutch pulled on a t-shirt. "Most of
those beans and tomatoes must be dead on the vine."
"We're going to go out there tomorrow and start in," Starsky
declared. "I can't stand bein' cooped up inside anymore. The walls are
starting to close in on me."
"Good luck, maybe the potatoes are still alive--and the carrots."
Hutch slide into the bed, careful not to jostle Starsky too much. "I've got
a job for you, too. Grading tests."
"How can I do that if I haven't even taken the class?"
"There's a key, Starsky. You just line the papers up against the key and
mark the ones that are wrong. I don't have time to do that and keep ahead of the
class. I'm going to be reading the chapters the night before as it is."
"Hey, with that and the garden and learning French, there's no time for
doctor appointments and chemo…"
"You wish," Hutch kissed him lightly on the shoulder, resting his
head against Starsky's cheek.
"Sophie told me there are classes on PBS where all you have to do is
register with the local college and watch TV," Starsky ran his fingers
through Hutch's fine blond hair. It had thinned over the years, although Hutch
disguised the fact with judicious blow drying, but after a long day like this
one, the pale hair was flat against his skull. Starsky hated the thought of
being bald. He wasn't exactly sure why, except that as far back as he could
remember people had commented on his hair. It had always had a mind of its own,
never laying flat when his mother slicked it back with water for the Sabbath,
growing long, tangled, curly, wavy and shaggy in Viet Nam, just like the song
from 'Hair'. He'd had to sheer off the magnificence to get into the police
Academy but since then had often let it grow past acceptable lengths before
submitting to another hair cut. But he'd never been bald. He'd seen his hair
coming out on the comb the last couple of mornings, and steeled himself for the
denouement, complete hairlessness. Not only on top of his head, but his beard,
chest hair and even arm pits, too. Along with the helplessness forced upon him
by the shattered bone and the chemo, now he'd be as smooth as a baby as well.
Sensing the black hate welling up again inside, Starsky forced it back into its
vault, throwing his feelings for Vinnie Schroeder, who had started this whole
mess. It didn't matter that the cancer had already been gnawing on his bone long
before Schroeder took his first swing, Starsky needed someone to blame and that
vile excuse for a human being was it.
"Baby, are you asleep?" Hutch asked softly.
"Huh?" Starsky arranged his mouth into a smile. It wasn't that hard
since just looking at Hutch made him smile, but the memories of Schroeder still
lurked too close for comfort. "Just thinking. Tonight was fun, huh?"
"It was fun."
Leaving Starsky at the hospital for a round of x-rays, cast revision and the
start of his physical therapy, Hutch set off with a long list of errands.
Between the Academy classes, checking in at the detective squadroom, and
squiring Starsky to appointments, his week was busy. There didn't seem to be
enough hours in a day to get everything done. Luckily, numerous friends helped
with the mundane chores like grocery shopping and laundry but Hutch liked being
responsible for getting Starsky to and from, as often as he could. Today, he
also had something special in mind once he finished his list.
After returning books to the library, collecting his dry cleaning, refilling
some of Starsky's prescriptions and picking out some gardening supplies for the
intrepid vegetable growing duo, Hutch ended up at the barber. He explained how
he wanted his hair cut and settled back into the padded chair with a sigh of
relaxation. Closing his eyes, Hutch listened to the snip of scissors at the back
of his head. The creamy lather of shaving cream on his skin was the height of
luxury and he reveled in the pampering. Hutch was aware that Starsky had stopped
shaving in the last week, defiantly growing what little facial hair he had left
into a scraggly beard but it was a losing proposition. It had almost seemed mean
spirited to shave in front of him recently, so this trip to the hair salon was
not only a treat, it was a necessity.
"Tip your chin up," the barber murmured, scraping away the frothy
Starsky tipped back his head, gulping the last of his Gatorade. The hour of
physical therapy had wiped him out. Although he'd been up-graded to a waking
cast by the orthopedist, he wasn't able to do much weight bearing yet, so the
therapist had concentrated on helping him build up arm strength to use the
crutches more efficiently. Starsky was coached through repetitions of weight
lifting and modified pull-ups that left him panting and wringing wet. All he
wanted to do now was go home, pop a beer and sleep. Not that he got beers these
days. The closest he got to an alcoholic substance was the occasional stolen sip
of Hutch's. He was beginning to feel like a prisoner, not only of his own body,
but of the master warden, Ken Hutchinson. Eyeing the trashcan about six feet
away, Starsky lobbed his plastic bottle in, cheering loudly for himself.
"Two points," Hutch called out from the door of the therapy room.
"You gonna try out for the Laker's next season?"
Turning the wheelchair around with a flick of his wrist Starsky stared at his
partner, his jaw hanging open in surprise. "Hutch, what the hell did you
"Felt in need of a change," Hutch ran his palm over the smoothly
shaved curve of his skull.
"Oh, my God, you look different," Starsky said in awe. "You
got less hair than I do." His own skull wasn't quite showing through
completely yet, but each day more and more hair was left on the floor of the
bathroom, the bedroom and anywhere else he had been. Hutch had accused him of
shedding more than their cat. "At least for now. What did you want to go
and do that for?"
"You," Hutch said simply. He leaned his hands on the armrest of the
wheelchair, bending down to be more on Starsky's level. "It's the one thing
I can really share with you, Starsk."
"Grow it back," Starsky whispered with tears in his eyes. He copied
Hutch's move, running the palms of both hands over the smooth scalp. "So
soft, but I don't want you to be like me, Hutch. It's too…scary." Seeing
Hutch bald didn't so much reinforce his own impending alopecia as much as drove
home how really different he would be without hair. It was one of the signs
people recognized--weight loss, naked scalp, vomiting-- these all pointed to a
sick person undergoing chemo. It made Starsky want to curl up and hide.
"Thank you for doing that, but grow it back. One of us oughta have hair for
the fall season."
"Don't like my new style?"
"The old one suited you much better." Starsky thumbed a tear away,
ashamed at his emotional weakness. "Except, no mustache. Looked like a big
hairy caterpillar. I was never so glad as when you shaved that off right in
front of me in the hospital that time."
"You got shot, the least I could do is shave off the cookie
duster," Hutch said affectionately.
"I wouldn' a have kissed you if you'd kept it," Starsky whispered.
Hutch was so close Starsky just leaned forward and planted one on that naked
upper lip. "You got a barbershop shave, too. I can smell that bay rum a
mile away." Winning the fight against his tears, he gave Hutch a tiny
smile. "Hey, Kojak, didja bring me a lollypop?"
"Rots your teeth," Hutch took over the handlebars of the chair,
pushing Starsky down the hospital corridor towards the parking lot.
"Spoilsport," Starsky grumped as they neared his midnight black
Mustang. Even though he couldn't drive it, he insisted on being chauffeured to
the hospital in the snazzy car. He didn't want his favorite nurses and
therapists seeing him arrive in the latest version of Hutch's beater cars.
"Hey, didja see? I got a walker cast. I can walk now." Starsky held
his leg up briefly to show off the rubber base on the bottom of his cast. Just
that little bit of movement sent red flares of pain over his knee and down the
ankle, but he'd grown used to the momentary reminders of the unhealed bone. He
tucked his chin down, riding out the hurt without comment, breathing rapidly.
Hutch didn't say a word, although Starsky knew he recognized the signs of his
pain all too well.
"You need any help?" Hutch asked casually, unlocking the car door.
"Nah, I'm good." Starsky lowered his good leg to the ground,
grasped the edge of the car door and lifted himself smoothly into the seat
without having to ever completely put weight on his left foot at all. Strange to
become adept at something like this in so short a time. It was the last thing he
wanted to be good at, too. He wanted to run, chase criminals, take the stairs
two at a time, not hobble like an old man. "When this cast comes off, it's
gonna take a lotta work to get the muscle back. I'm gonna start jogging with
"Yeah?" Hutch folded the wheelchair into the trunk, then climbed
into the driver's seat. "I'll believe that when I see it."
"Starsk, I've been encouraging you to come jogging with me for the
last--probably ten or more years." He started up the engine. "It
hasn't happened so far."
"I don't wanna look like some gimpy hairless Mexican dog."
"Geshuntheit." Starsky bounced slightly in the seat. "Hey,
guess who goes to the same P.T as me?"
"I haven't a guess."
"No, but close--Samantha Goldwyn."
"Who's Samantha Goldwyn?"
"C'mon, Hutch, you remember her. Ona Rosie Dobey's best friends. We met
her at the Captain's pool party last summer." Starsky mimed swimming.
"They're on the gymnastics team together. She won the silver medal in
Sacramento when Rosie won the gold. We saw it on TV, remember?"
"Tiny thing, long brown hair?"
"Yeah, that's her. She had knee surgery last year and has to come in for
the weekly torture, like me." Starsky explained. "Anyways, we got to
talking and their whole squad is performing in Disneyland this weekend, Hutch!
In front of Mickey Mouse and everybody, I think it's gonna be on the TV,
"Sounds exciting," Hutch agreed. "She must be thrilled. We
should call Rosie to congratulate her."
"I wanna go see them." Starsky dropped the bombshell and glanced
warily at Hutch, waiting for the explosion.
"What do you mean?" Hutch asked slowly, as if truly confused.
"You can, you just said it will be on TV."
"No, I wanna go to Disneyland."
"What no?" Starsky snarked angrily. He'd meant to remain calm,
knowing Hutch would refute all his arguments, but a simple no without any
explanation at all was down right insulting.
"Starsky, that place is huge. You can't walk."
"Walker cast, remember?" Starsky pointed to his foot. "I'll
even submit to the damned wheelchair, so that ain't no argument, Hutch."
"That place is full of people--germy people," Hutch insisted,
gripping the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were bleached white.
Starsky laughed abruptly, startling Hutch, but his anger had vanished.
"And a hospital isn't? Y'know more'n a fourth of the patients get an
infection after they're already there for something else?"
"Where did you hear that?" Hutch asked suspiciously.
"In that book you were tryin' so hard to hide from me," Starsky
said blandly. "The bottom of the laundry hamper isn't a very good hiding
place." He waved a hand dismissively. "But back to Disneyland."
"Starsky, you've got cancer," Hutch said in a tiny voice, full of
hurt, as if his heart was torn in two.
"Hutch," Starsky melted under all that pent up emotion spilling out
at such an unexpected time. "Don't be afraid of this. I'm a cop, Disneyland
is not the most dangerous place we'll ever go."
"No. You've already been there, twice."
"You mean stand in as a target on the rifle range and then bone tumor
land?" Starsky chided lightly. "Frankly, Frontier land and Adventure
land sound a lot more fun."
"I know, don't joke about stuff like that," Starsky angled his body
towards Hutch as the other pulled the car into their driveway and turned off the
motor. "But it's the only way to get through it and stay sane."
"The Hawkeye Pierce guide to life?"
"As good a role model as any," Starsky ran his hand gently up
Hutch's flannel sleeve, briefly kneading the rock hard muscles on his shoulder.
"I love you, Hutch, but you can't box me up for the rest of the chemo
treatments or this feels even more like a prison sentence than it already
"Damn," Hutch swore softly, but he turned his face towards Starsky
like a flower seeking the warmth of the sun. He kissed his lover and then
repeated the endearment with more heat. "I just want to keep you safe. Is
that so strange? But nothing I do has ever worked, you just keep getting hurt
"You're doing a bang up job," Starsky murmured against his lips.
"I'm the one with health issues."
"I love you, did I say that recently?"
"Can't remember, but maybe if you hum a few bars?" Starsky giggled,
kissing Hutch's baby smooth cheek, his ear and then the top of his bare skull.
"This is kinda weird, you without any hair. Like you're someone new. I
think I need to meet this new Hutch, on a more intimate level, you know what I
"Don't you think we'd better take this in the house?" Hutch hummed
the Partridge Family hit 'I think I love You' to Starsky's delight. He had the
car unloaded and the wheelchair unfolded in a minimum of time. They were barely
inside the house when Starsky curved a finger into a belt loop on Hutch's pants
and pulled him close. With Starsky still seated in the wheelchair, that put a
certain blond's groin area right where he wanted it.
"You've got too many clothes on, Kenny-boy wants to come out an
play," Starsky rubbed his hand over the bulge between his lover's legs,
increasing the friction and heat until Hutch moaned with delight.
"You don't know what you're starting there, Starsky."
"I've been around the block a few times," Starsky industriously
began to unbuckle Hutch's belt and then unbuttoned his button and lowered the
zipper. "I think I got a pretty good idea…" He slipped his hand
inside the pants to locate the straining cock.
"You up for this?" Hutch asked weakly, his eyes glazing over with
Starsky's finger play.
"Oh, I know I got you good when you resort to puns," Starsky
chortled, applying a bit of tongue to the thick red flesh swelling alarmingly in
"Was that a pun?" Hutch gasped, balancing himself on Starsky's
shoulders with both hands before he fell over.
"Sounded like it from where I'm sitting," After getting the object
of his affection just wet enough with saliva, Starsky began to pump slowly with
his left hand, alternating with a bit of ball rolling with his right, just to
keep things lively.
"Oh, baby…" Hutch panted, rocking in time to the primitive
Laughing, Starsky sped up his movements, feeling his own neglected penis
strain against his sweatpants. That's what he was hoping for. Little Davey was
Johnny-come-lately but he wasn't out of the ball game all together, yet. Rubbing
with a certain amount of force, Starsky could sense the build up of Hutch's
orgasm almost at the same time as his partner did. Hutch stiffened, his body
long, lean, and reeking of sex when he roared out his approval and climaxed, cum
spurting out all over the front of Starsky's shirt.
"You got to ride the roller coaster, so now can we go to
Disneyland?" Starsky asked coyly.
"You're devious," Hutch retorted, dropping his undone pants to the
floor. "And a mess, I think you need to get cleaned up." He gestured
for Starsky to put his hands in the air and slipped the soiled t-shirt over
Starsky's head. "Bedroom or couch?"
"Bedroom," Starsky pushed off from the wheelchair handlebars and
stood awkwardly. He hadn't had much practice with the new cast and the lumpy
rubber base on the bottom made his legs uneven, so he wobbled when he stood. It
felt good to be upright, though, even if his leg throbbed with pain after a few
seconds. This would take some getting used to.
"Careful," Hutch cautioned, but his blue eyes shone with approval
at this new sign of improvement. "Need a hand?"
"Only once I get into bed," Starsky waggled an imaginary Groucho
Marx cigar and hobbled slowly down the hall. It was only a matter of time before
the pain in his leg would cancel out his erection, but so far he was having too
much fun to let that get him down. Peeling down his sweatpants he levered
himself onto the bed.
Hutch stood in the doorway, looking down at his nude lover lying on the bed.
"You inspire me."
"Huh?" Starsky beckoned, arching up to show off his needy organ.
"I just want 'Eine Klein nachtmusic'."
"A little night music." Hutch translated, interpreting the words by
drumming his fingers lightly on the pretty flute standing ready. He didn't need
sheet music, just the songs only the two of them could hear, which he could play
from memory. Using fingers callused by years of strumming a guitar he played out
his love and adoration in one sensual sonata.
"Yeah, maestro," Starsky sighed happily. "You got the best
fingers in the biz, ma Coeur."
"Starsky, all these languages are really turning me on," Hutch
"I'm soakin' up the culture. There's music appreciation on right after
the French show on PBS," Starsky lay back, blissing out on the music of the
spheres. Unfortunately, he didn't come, but it was a close thing, his whole body
vibrating like a plucked violin string. Just to have Hutch so near and to be
able to enjoy each other was good enough for now. They would have years and
years to come together, once all this cancer business was out of the way.
Hutch spread out on the bed, his length a secure base for Starsky to lean
into. "Just as long as I don't have to go on Space Mountain," he
murmured into his ear.
"Would I make you do that?" Starsky chuckled.
"You have, last year at the annual Police and Emergency personnel get in
for half price day," Hutch reminded, stroking Starsky's cheek.
"Only so's we could hide in the dark and hold hands." Starsky
nodded, butting his head against Hutch's hand. They'd sat close together,
holding hands as the metal car chugged up the incline and he could still
remember Hutch's involuntary clutch of fear when they'd hurtled down the other
side of the track, screaming with laughter in the darkened ride. He wouldn't be
able to get on that one this year. There were signs all over Disneyland warning
people with heart problems, back problems and pregnancy not to chance injury on
this roller coaster or that high velocity ride. That probably went for casts,
too. Still, there were lots of things he could do. "Can we stay all day and
watch the fireworks? I'll hold your hand in the dark."
"Sweet talker," Hutch teased.
The weekend heralded the kind of weather tourist agencies sing praises about
when advancing the myth that Southern California is sunny and warm every day. As
is common in October, the thermometer topped off at 85 degrees. But it was, in
the parlance of the area, a 'dry heat', without cloying humidity or the constant
irritation of scorching winds. All in all a perfect day to go to Disneyland.
Hutch convoyed with the Dobeys, and several other parents of the gymnastic
squad, so that all the cars arrived in the 'Dopey' area of the vast Disneyland
parking area at the same time and parked in a line.
"Dopey, Dobey--that shouldn't be hard to remember," Starsky teased
his superior. "Just change one letter…" He balanced against the hood
of the car, standing on both feet, one sneakered and the other casted.
"You'd better watch yourself, Starsky," Dobey rebuffed. "I'm
known in our family as the fastest arm in the west at the revolving wheel on the
teacup ride. Makes lesser men lose their lunches." Edith dug her elbow in
his ribs with a shocked hush at his last comment, but Starsky only laughed.
"I can lose my lunch any day of the week, lately, and not have half so
much fun." He winked at Rosie who looked like she didn't know whether to
laugh or not. "I'm riding with your dad, on the tea cups, Rosie-o-day, you
can go with scaredy cat Hutchinson."
"I prefer to think of myself as cautious." Hutch unfolded the
wheelchair and stared Starsky down until he folded himself up into it. As much
as he wanted to just relax and enjoy the day, a small part of him was
scared, despite Starsky's insistence that the happiest place on earth could not
possibly be dangerous. Starsky was doing very well, keeping up his platelet
count, not succumbing to any secondary infections and managing to maintain his
weight, mostly. He'd lost some in the first rough weeks of his illness and never
gained it back, but for the most part he remained surprisingly healthy when he
wasn't hooked up to chemo. Luckily with the freedom the walker cast had given
him and reduction of the pain meds, his disposition had improved recently, as
well, much to Hutch's pleasure, since he was the one who had to take the brunt
of Starsky's frequently inclement mood swings.
"That's okay, I never liked the teacup ride in the first place,"
Rosie groaned dramatically. "Makes me all wonky inside."
"Me, too. But I want to see Mickey Mouse and then go three times each on
the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and the 'Haunted Mansion'," Samantha Goldwyn
came up with her younger sister Cait, also gymnast, and their parents.
"First rate plan," Starsky enthused. "I’m sticking with a
woman who knows her mind. You wanna date?"
"My parents say I can't go out with guys til I'm 16," she shot back
gleefully, much to her mother's amusement.
"You're a younger woman?" Starsky replied in mock surprise. "I
would have taken you for 22 maybe even 26, if you're a day."
"You're funny, David," Samantha laughed, linking arms with Rosie.
They began chattering with excitement when the other members of their squad
crowded around and were soon far ahead of the parents, keeping their distance to
appear as if they were going to Disneyland on their own.
"Guess your date deserted you," Hutch said dryly.
"Guess so," Starsky glanced at the group of parents following their
offspring before leaning his head back against Hutch's hand holding the
wheelchair handlebars. He stroked his fuzzy cheek along Hutch's wrist.
"Stuck with you, again."
"You'll just have to make do," Hutch smirked, drinking in the way
Starsky's dark blue eyes sparkled with liveliness. He'd lost more than 75
percent of his hair, the rest cut short to minimize the scarcity, and he still
hadn't shaved, sporting a scruffy mustache that gave him a passing resemblance
to some seedy 19th century Mexican bandito.
"Don't forget to wear sunscreen, baldy," Starsky smiled.
"You're head's getting pink already."
Digging the bottle of lotion out of the backpack he'd slung over the back of
the wheelchair, Hutch poured a liberal dollop on his hand and smeared a goodly
portion onto Starsky's nose. "Speak for yourself."
"I still look like I got more hair than you," Starsky rubbed the
cream over his face still looking up and backwards at Hutch. "You wanna
kiss me in the 'Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse'?" he seduced with hooded
"I wanna kiss you anywhere but right here with cars trying to
park," Hutch gently cuffed the back of his head and pushed the wheelchair
forward just as Edith called back to them to come on.
The girls scattered to all the lands in the park, their parents chasing after
them to keep up. After arranging with the Dobeys to meet at the Bayou Restaurant
for a 12:30 lunch, Starsky and Hutch set off to discover the wonders of
Disneyland. As Starsky had suspected, the cast members operating the attractions
looked askance at his injured leg when he wanted to get on, and Hutch vetoed any
of the more action packed roller coaster type amusements, so they had to stick
to what Starsky termed 'baby rides'. Those still held their own pleasures and
the morning passed in a haze of fun.
"C'mon, Hutch, we got about half an hour before we hafta meet the
Captain and Edith," Starsky encouraged, pulling Hutch away from a display
of dark green, red and black African beaded bracelets.
"I kinda like this one," Hutch pointed to the last one in the glass
"It's not bad, but if you don't get a move on it, we'll never make
it." Starsky tugged on Hutch's shirt, using his left hand to propel the
"What are you is such a hurry for?" Hutch groused. "I was
gonna buy that."
"The treehouse!" Starsky pointed. "Half the visitors in the
park are out on Main Street cause the noon parade's about to start so we got the
place more or less to ourselves." He cocked his head towards the majestic
man made tree festooned with furnished rooms for those fictional Swiss
"Oh, yes," Hutch started to smile, but it died away when he took in
the enormity of the leafy bower. "Starsk, the wheelchair will never make it
up there. It's all stairs."
"I can walk," Starsky announced huffily, parking the wheelchair in
the designated area and standing proudly. "I'll go by myself if you don't
"Did I say I wasn't coming?" Hutch hurriedly followed his partner
through the turnstile and up the first flight of stairs. The Disney artisans had
erected ingeniously clever devices to make the Robinson family more comfortable
including a Rube Goldbergian series of gears and ropes to haul provisions, and a
system of bamboo poles providing the rooms nestled in the branches with running
water, but Hutch barely noticed them. He only had eyes for Starsky walking ahead
of him. Starsky had obviously been practicing on his walker cast since he'd
gotten it and the effort had paid off. He took the stairs slowly and
deliberately, but his old mischievous smile was back whenever he'd glance down
at Hutch from an upper landing. With a lump inside the size of the Hope Diamond
Hutch scrambled after him, wondering why the sight of Starsky walking again had
affected him so strongly. Was it because deep inside he'd begun to believe it
would never happen again? Once again, Starsky's drive and determination had won
out and he was walking. Remission from the cancer couldn't be far behind.
"Hey, slowpoke, whatcha lookin' at?" Starsky teased when they were
nearly at the top.
"Their bedroom is nice." Hutch cleared his throat, hoping Starsky
didn't notice. The depicted room, like the rest of the house, was a blend of
items culled from the wrecked ship and tropical flora used as accent pieces.
"I wouldn't mind a nap on that big bed."
"You getting tired?"
"Nah, I made it up here, I can get back down on my own." Starsky
leaned against Hutch's chest taking a conspiratorial look around in every
direction. "The coast is clear, I want my prize." They kissed,
savoring the brazen naughtiness of doing it in Disneyland, and broke apart
giggling when they heard the creak on the stairs leading up to the bedroom
announcing another visitor.
"Gotta go," Hutch whispered, urging him forward.
"Our bedroom would look good with mosquito netting, doncha think?"
Starsky hung back, staring over his shoulder at the Victorian style bedroom.
"Maybe a couple of coconuts?"
"Wouldn't exactly match the décor." Hutch kept a sharp watch on
his partner as they made their way downward. He could tell Starsky was tiring,
even if he wouldn't admit it. This was more exercise than Starsky had had in
over a month.
"We have a décor? I thought it was just early bachelor with a dash of
Mom's remnant lamps and side tables thrown in for good measure." Starsky
triumphantly took the last flight of stairs with a flourish before dropping down
into the wheelchair.
"Leg hurt?" Hutch asked blandly. He could see the tightness in
Starsky's shoulders and jaw like he was holding something in. Every little
twinge and pang worried him. Was the cancer worse? Was Starsky failing? Hutch
constantly felt like he was inching his way along a ledge, holding Starsky back
from the edge for fear he'd fall over the side without possibility of rescue.
The kiss had been wonderful but it wasn't worth Starsky suffering for the rest
of the day.
"It's getting hot," Starsky used his hand as a fan, hanging his
tongue out like a panting dog. "That restaurant has the best air
conditioning in the park."
"And the best Jambalaya," Hutch agreed, propelling the chair
through the crowd beginning to return from the parade. He could hear a
rinky-tink version of the Mickey Mouse theme coming from the direction of Main
Street. Starsky sang along, laughing when he mangled the words. The trip to the
elegant New Orleans style mansion that housed the 'Pirates of the Caribbean'
ride was a short one so they were inside waiting to be seated even before the
Dobeys and several other members of the group spilled into the restaurant.
Lunch was a raucous affair, with lots of laughter and jokes. Hutch constantly
had the odd feeling he should be recording every moment on film for posterity.
Each time Starsky teased one of the gymnasts or made some outrageous comment
that caused everyone to groan Hutch ached with a pang deep inside. He recognized
it for what it was, fear, preventing him from just having a good time like
everyone else. Fear that this would be the last time. Fear that Starsky would
die and leave him alone. Fear that he couldn't bear that loneliness.
He was able to enjoy himself by burying the fear deeply enough, but it never
left entirely, just crouched in the dark recesses of his mind, waiting to
overwhelm him when he least expected it.
Since the girls were to perform in Tomorrow Land at 2pm, most of the group
departed to gather their team leotards from the locker where they'd been stashed
and warm up, leaving Starsky and Hutch alone in the permanent twilight of the
restaurant. Across the fake lagoon they watched the mechanized boats carry
groups through the darkened 'swamp waters' teaming with fireflies and katydids
up river to the start of the ride. The whole illusion was so uncanny it was
almost possible to believe they really were relaxing in New Orleans after a long
day exploring Bourbon Street. Unless, of course, you looked too closely and saw
the outline of metal tracks under the shallow water and glimpsed the wires
holding the fireflies in place.
"C'mon," Hutch counted out the change the others had left for a
tip, adding another dollar of his own. He wanted to sit quietly with his lover
in the dark for hours, but the wait staff was already clearing the plates and
silverware off their table. "Let's go check out the Tiki-tiki-tiki
"Where the birds all sing and the flowers bloom?" Starsky trilled.
He rolled the wheels of his chair around in a tight arc, propelling himself out
of the restaurant. There was another thing that Hutch wasn't sure he liked
seeing. Starsky was getting quite adept at maneuvering the wheelchair. Of
course, it wasn't the first time he'd ever spent considerable time in one. After
the shooting he'd also had to rely on wheeled conveyance before he'd gotten his
stamina back, so it made sense that he could pilot one with ease. It just didn't
seem natural somehow.
The automatromic birds chirped their hearts out with a clacking of plastic
beaks and the dancing flowers joined in with the corny jokes in their plastic
tropical paradise. The goofy attraction whiled away the time until Starsky and
Hutch had to make their way across the vast park to Tomorrow land to see the
Billed as the Western Division All-American Youth Gymnastics Showcase, the
show had drawn quite a crowd by the time they arrived, but Edith Dobey had saved
them a coveted spot up front. Having the wheelchair helped, too, since
technically Starsky qualified for the handicapped zone. When another parent
brought up this fact Starsky acted horrified at the thought and shook his head.
"Rosie has been so excited about this," Edith pointed out the
television cameras setting up on the edge of the stage. "Marie Osmond is
the hostess today."
"You ever go to an Osmond Brothers' concert, Hutch?" Starsky asked
with studied innocence, his face alight with mischief. "Or didja just stick
to the Jackson Five?"
"I'll stick it to you if you don't give up on that subject," Hutch
warned, using his long forefinger for emphasis.
"Is that a promise?" Starsky teased with twinkling eyes. Luckily,
no one but Hutch could hear him since Mickey Mouse and Marie Osmond walked out
onto the stage at that moment and began to banter about the upcoming
performance. Within minutes a troop of pre-teen boys were tumbling and rolling
over the blue regulation mats spread on the elevated platform.
Hutch tried to keep his attention on the show, but he was distracted by
Starsky and Edith whispering together. Edith had a conspiratorial smile on her
pretty dark face and she nodded as Starsky described something to her with small
hand gestures. Unfortunately, the music was too loud for him to hear what they
were saying without leaning in close and interrupting their conference.
The boys tramped off the stage to thunderous applause and were replaced by an
adorable team of five and six year old girls who sang a pretty little song while
somersaulting backwards and forwards under the direction of a Slavic coach. The
woman had flaxen hair and the stance of a ballet dancer and for a moment Hutch
was reminded of his brief affair with Russian prima ballerina Anna Anatovna. But
the resemblance was only superficial. When he turned his attention back to his
partner Starsky was clapping in time to the 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' song and Edith
was no longer beside him.
"Where's Edith?" Hutch asked when the little girls were taking
"One of the girls got stage fright," Starsky said in a loud
whisper. "The Capt'n was riding herd on them back stage, but I guess he
couldn't take it when Rainbow puked on Mickey Mouse's big shoes. Big clean up
goin' on." He ran a hand across his forehead, wiping away sweat.
Hutch groaned, trying not to laugh at the mental image, but he still couldn't
suppress his worry that Starsky was overdoing it. Even though this had been a
relatively good week, just last Saturday Starsky had been doing quite a bit of
puking himself. There wasn't time to discuss anything further because Marie
Osmond bounced out on stage again, flashing her legendary toothy smile at the
barrage of cameras catching her every move.
"Give a big Disney welcome to the gold medal winning girl's gymnastics
team from Bay City!" she cried enthusiastically.
Rosie and her friends ran out waving sticks adorned with colored ribbons.
Prancing and racing around the stage they performed an intricate pattern, never
getting the ribbons, or their own legs, tangled up. Rainbow appeared to have
recovered from her brief attack of nerves, waving her purple ribbon with
prowess. Samantha stumbled once but showed consummate professionalism and
finished the dance without a hitch. Laying their ribbons aside, the team
launched into a complicated routine packed with forward rolls, flips,
handstands, one handed cartwheels and splits. Then each of the six girls got her
own moment of glory to perform her specialty. Rosie's floor routine was
effortless; her feet seeming to barely touch the mat as she danced like a sprite
on the wind in a pink leotard. Even a few of her teammates seemed to be watching
with open-mouthed awe.
Hutch could see Dobey and Edith standing on the sidelines, holding hands,
their pride in their daughter shining out of their faces. For a moment he
wondered what it would be like to produce such a child, see her begin to grow
and change from babyhood into maturity, gaining knowledge and love with every
day of her life. He'd never really thought much about parenthood. When he'd
married Van she had quickly made it clear that she wasn't about to lose her
figure and then her livelihood as a model to raise some mewling, messy brat. So,
any hope of biological children had dwindled, unattained. Hutch had been a big
brother to Kiko, which helped those odd yearnings but they had never completely
gone away. He knew Starsky would have loved to have children, but that was out
of the question now. Even if they tried to adopt once his health problems were
resolved, Hutch was fairly certain that cancer was a strike against their
possible parenthood. Adoption agencies, like insurance companies, often disliked
taking a risk on anyone with a 'pre-existing medical condition'. So, for now, he
watched other people's children, enjoying unclehood. Of course, he did have a
full time charge to look after in Starsky, who could very much be like that
child who never grew up-- the Peter Pan of BCPD. Even the fact that he'd gotten
a kid's cancer bore that out.
The girls bounded off the stage chattering excitedly, red faced and sweating.
The heat was becoming oppressive with so many people around and many of the
crowd improvised fans from the Xeroxed list of the gymnasts handed out before
With the girls surrounding her, Kristianne's very organized mom hauled out
her blue and white cooler, handing out popsicles all around to the deserving
"I always want the green one," Rosie announced. "Starsky,
which one do you want?"
'I get a choice?" he laughed. "I figured they were only for the
team. Rosie, you were great!"
"Thanks," she grinned proudly; shoving a cherry flavored frozen
treat into his hand. "There's tons here. You want one, Hutch?"
"Uh-why not," he agreed. He'd never been a Popsicle fan, but it was
hot and the already melting ice looked cool and refreshing.
"Look, I got a rainbow colored one!" Rainbow giggled. She had pin
sized dimples in both cheeks and blond curls like the '80's version of Shirley
"Samantha, how'd your knee hold up?" Starsky asked, licking his
"I flubbed up there at the beginning cause I stepped wrong," she
sighed. "Good thing this wasn't a competition or I'd of lost points."
"I was right behind you and it barely showed," Kristianne said
"Every one of you deserves a gold medal for this show," Edith
looked so proud she could have burst. "We're having a celebration dinner at
the Crystal Pavilion at five thirty this evening. So when the show is over
change back into your street clothes for another two hours on the rides before
"I'm not sure I'll last this day out," Dobey turned to speak
directly to Starsky and Hutch. "Those girls are wearing me out."
"Have another Popsicle, Cap," Starsky waved his hand at the rapidly
dwindling stash. Another gymnastics team had claimed the stage and were
strutting their stuff so the noise level was rising again.
"Think I will," Dobey said in a louder voice to be heard above the
scratchy cassette recording of Bolero the children were performing with.
"How are holding up, Starsky?"
"Never better, Cap," Starsky sucked the last of the cherry juice
off his wooden stick. Hutch glanced over at him, but if Starsky was lying, he
was doing a damned good job of it despite looking like he was melting in the
"Rosie's really talented, Captain," Hutch said sincerely.
"Does she have any thoughts of the Olympics or anything like that?"
"Only every other day and twice on Sundays," he helped himself to a
very wet purple Popsicle. "That's a lot of work and a lot of money."
"She'll go far," Starsky winced as a boy on the stage took a tumble
wrong and landed on his head. "Especially with competition like that."
"Daddy, we want to go on the Matterhorn," Rosie announced.
"Me, and Kristianne and Samantha. Rainbow, Aria and Cait are going on Space
Mountain, with Rainbow's dad, but that one's too dark for me."
"And you want me to go with you?" Dobey asked in dismay.
"Those are all too fast for me."
"The big bad captain of the metro police department afraid of some
little ol' Disneyland ride?" Starsky crowed, again wiping sweat from his
damp forehead. "I'll go!"
"No you won't." Hutch negated. "What about 'It's a Small
"Baby ride," several chorused with much giggling.
"See, Hutch, I told you," Starsky sing-songed.
"'Haunted Mansion'?" Hutch compromised. That attraction had thrills
and chills with a minimum of speed or sharp corners.
"I love scary houses," Samantha agreed. "Maybe we could all
meet later and go together."
"She's always the one with a plan." Starsky nodded. "About
four thirty, since we have to add in line time and get back to the restaurant by
"Great!" Rosie grabbed her father's arm, pulling him away. "I
just gotta change and then we're going, c'mon, Daddy!"
"You're getting to be a party pooper here, Hutch," Starsky said,
his eyes following the last of the gymnasts off the stage. Mickey and Marie were
giving their final words as most of the crowd began to drift away towards more
"You look exhausted, and don't deny it," Hutch accused.
"Maybe a little," Starsky fiddled with his Popsicle stick before
tossing it end over end into a nearby trash receptacle. "I just hate like
hell that this thing…" He smacked a flat hand on his cast, spitting out
the next words. "Cancer, tumors, chemo, all of it, interferes with my life.
I'm so ready for this to be gone, Hutch. So damned ready."
"Me, too, Starsk," Hutch said softly, rubbing a gentle hand across
Starsky's neck. "How'd you like some shade and a quiet hour?"
"Here?" Starsky grit his teeth as if fighting demons but nodded.
"Where you gonna find that in Disneyland?"
"I have my ways," he smiled. "Want me to push?"
Hutch steered the wheelchair across the swarming streets, heading past
Frontier Land into the quieter back route to Bear Country Jamboree. For whatever
reason there was always a vacant bench and far fewer people out that way, even
with the entrances to 'Splash Mountain' and 'Thunder Mountain' close by. Having
let down his guard Starsky was drooping with tiredness by the time they found a
relatively peaceful spot under a leafy tree. The shade was heavenly, cooling the
air by several degrees. Starsky stood, stretching the kinks out of his spine
while Hutch bustled about getting bottles of water and a small pillow out of the
sack dangling from the back of the wheelchair.
"I'm beginning to think you're Mary Poppins with her magic carpet
bag," Starsky observed wryly when Hutch produced a bottle of painkillers
and a baggie containing a wet washrag.
"I'm not your nanny. Take the pills and wipe off your face."
"No, you must be nurse Rached," Starsky retorted doing as
instructed. He took a long drag from the bottle of water. "I dunno why I
got so hot there."
"Because it's 85 degrees?" Hutch damped down his unreasonable
irritation and wiped his own face with the cooling rag. Sharing the bottle with
Starsky, he drank down half of it. "And I think the chemo makes you more
sensitive to heat. Sure raises your temperature when you're on the IV
"That's just terrific," Starsky snorted. "Nothing's my own any
"Get some rest," Hutch stroked Starsky's curls, listening to the
happy screams coming from the nearby roller coasters. "I need a break from
all this relentless cheerfulness."
"You just parked us here to torment me with the sounds from 'Thunder
Mountain'." Starsky grinned to soften the accusation, stretching out on the
blanket and pillow Hutch had spread over the bench. He was asleep in minutes.
Using the wheelchair as a temporary seat, Hutch meant to read the lesson
plans he'd brought for Monday's class but sitting there watching Starsky sleep
in their own little island of sanity he finally felt at peace. Across the way he
could still hear excited shrieks as the simulated mine cars hurdled around on
their continuous loops. Roller coasters were as good a metaphor for life as
anything. There were the ups and the downs. They'd been on the down slope for
too long and now, it really seemed like they were headed for a long, torturous
hill upwards. Times would be hard with the stress of four more rounds of chemo,
but soon, very soon they would see the light at the end of the tunnel and pull
into the station. The chemo ended in November. That was an attainable goal, only
about two months to go.
Starsky snored slightly, his casted leg pillowed on the healthy one, and
Hutch put out a tentative hand to touch the hard fiberglass shell protecting the
injured bone. Starsky would bounce back from this. He had to. Once again they
would patrol the streets, side by side in a flashy car with the endlessly
flashing mars light splashing red shadows on the pavement like a beacon from
hell. The papers almost sliding off his lap Hutch fell asleep, too.
They had to scramble to make it into line at the 'Haunted Mansion' on time
but all had a great time pretending to be scared by the eerie ghosts and goblins
inhabiting the graceful old white house.
"I've got a great idea," Rosie announced breathlessly, multiple
black braids bobbing around her head like mini exclamation points. "Let's
all get our names embroidered on Mickey Mouse ears and get a team picture
Although there were a few good natured grumbles from the parents about the
cost of hats the girls might never wear again, everyone agreed on the idea and
packed into a Millinery Shoppe on Main Street to purchase the quintessential
Disneyland apparel. Some of the girls decided on the more feminine Minnie Mouse
ears, which featured a big bow on the top, but all soon sported two black
plastic ovals on their heads like a new troop of Mouskateers. Never one to be
left out, Starsky bought one, too.
"Mouseketeers roll call, line up now!" Starsky chanted, sporting his
new chapeau with the name David spelled out in yellow thread on the brim.
"Mickey Mouse Club, Mickey Mouse Club…" they sang, dancing down
the street behind their Pied Piper, heading towards the beautiful Victorian
style restaurant. Starsky thumped his cast on the ground in time to the music,
and the strolling street band took up the tune with their brass and drums.
"M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E."
"Do you think they'll calm down by the time the fireworks are over and
we drive home?" Samantha's mother asked plaintively.
"Starsky'll be asleep by the time we get out of the parking lot,"
Hutch assured pushing the empty wheelchair down the street. He'd been surprised
how much Starsky had relied on the chair during the long day, but apparently
even he recognized the limits of his ailing body. But a broken leg couldn't keep
David Starsky from having a little fun where there were six pretty girls to
"So will Harold," Edith teased her husband. He tried to keep a
gruff exterior but didn't succeed, particularly when Edith kissed him on the
Fried chicken was the most popular meal on the menu, followed by the
chocolate cake for dessert. After Minnie and Mickey came to pose with the mouse
eared wearing group all decided to plan a return visit at the end of the school
year for another day in the Happiest Place on Earth.
Fairy lights adorned the trees when they left the restaurant, transforming
Main Street into an enchanted wonderland. Sleeping Beauty's castle seemed to
light up the darkening sky, the fairytale palace where dreams were born. The
girls oohed and aahed as if it were no longer the same park they'd spent all day
roaming around in. Each attraction suddenly became even more inviting and they
spread out to explore Disneyland after dark, this time dragging their parents
along by the hand, all of them still young enough to be slightly scared of the
"You know what'd be fun?" Starsky asked casually.
"Workin' on the police force here."
"They look like the Keystone Cops in those uniforms," Hutch
observed one of his Disneyland colleagues walking his beat with an old fashioned
tall helmet and a billy club.
"I bet there are plain clothes guys," Starsky waved away that
objection. "I mean, how much crime could there be around here? It's like
the cleanest place I ever saw. And you probably get to go on the rides all day
"You want to join up, you go right ahead," Hutch offered, light
hearted and full of good humor. They took one last twirl on the 'Dumbo' ride and
sat with their knees pressed close together on the very last voyage of the day
of the 'Jungle Cruise' before staking their place out on the sidewalk for the
fireworks show. A few other families with drooping children and sleepy eyed
babies were settling on the sidewalk curb to either side of Starsky and Hutch
but for the moment they were alone on their little expanse of street near the
ice cream emporium.
"Hutch," Starsky was holding out a small box when Hutch turned
around from listening to the wandering barbershop quartet. "You never got a
souvenir today, so I picked up--well, Edith picked up something, but I told her
what to buy." He stood up, leaning in to the curve of Hutch's arm and
dropped the box into his open hand. "Open it!"
"What did you do?" Hutch asked embarrassed and glad of the dark to
hide his blush. He slit the tape holding the lid closed with his thumbnail and
opened the little white box decorated with a picture of Mickey Mouse wearing a
bush hat. Pulling out the African bracelet he'd admired earlier in the day,
Hutch nodded his thanks, surprised beyond words. The way Starsky had pulled him
away, he wasn't even sure Starsky had seen the beaded jewelry. "It's
"I could tell you liked it, the way your eyes looked…" Starsky
trailed off when Hutch's eyes settled on him. He grinned broadly. "Like
that. The way you look at me."
"I'd never look at an inanimate object the way I look at you,"
Hutch touched his lips to Starsky's so quickly the contact could have been
measured in microseconds. "I like it a lot. Now get off your feet before
your ankle swells up from all the walking you've been doing."
"Put it on," Starsky typically ignored Hutch's nagging. "I
want to see it."
Sliding the beaded loops over his hand, Hutch modeled the bracelet just as
the Dobeys arrived.
"I see you gave it to him." Edith smiled.
"That's pretty," Rosie touched the red and green beads with her
forefinger. "The colors of Africa. Can I borrow it when I do my oral report
on Nigeria for class?
"Rosie!" her parents chorused indignantly.
"Sure you can, Rosie," Hutch assured.
"Can't wear it on the job, anyway," Starsky winked at the girl.
"S'not regulation, right, Cap?"
"I'm surprised you remembered there were regulations, Detective Sergeant
Starsky," Dobey said grumbled. "That thing on your leg doesn't square
with departmental regs either."
"It's coming off soon if I have anything to do with it," Starsky
vowed. Above them the sky lit up with a brilliant explosion of blue and red
fireworks, each blossoming into smaller cascades of sparkling light accompanied
by distant booms from the cannons and a prerecorded soundtrack of Disney hit
tunes. Green and gold punched the sky, followed by fiery red flowers mushrooming
in violent bursts above the heads of the admiring crowd.
Hutch slipped his hand into Starsky's, unnoticed by those around him, but a
special moment for him. Holding hands with his lover watching fireworks. The
perfect ending to a perfect day. Starsky turned to share the secret moment, his
shining eyes reflecting the multicolored display as a purple mandalla detonated
in the heavens. Concentric waves of twinkling purple sparks showered down to
earth, disappearing before they ever hit the ground. Starsky ducked his head,
kissing their joined hands.
"Now, sit down in that chair!" Hutch ordered with mock severity.
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