Comments on this story can be sent to the author:

    Crab Sandwiches
    Book One



    PART 1

    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 surly.

    "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 quietly.

    "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 up.

    "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 tea here."

    "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 nothing.

    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 Vinnie Schroeder.

    "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, identifying himself.

    "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.

    Fat chance.

    "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 leg."

    "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, discouraging paramedics.

    "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 time."

    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 broken in."

    "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 improvised bat.


    "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 acknowledge.

    "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 the break?"

    "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. Damn.

    "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 now."

    "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 garden.

    "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 anesthetized.

    "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 your life."

    "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 eat."

    "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 surgery!"

    "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 long enough.


    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 without food.

    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 exhausted.


    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, right?"

    "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 alive?"

    "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 much effort.

    "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 you."

    "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," Hutch murmured.

    "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. "Only you."

    "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 you."

    "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 him.

    "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 Elizabeth Kubler-Ross?"

    "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 death."

    "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 before speaking.

    "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 before."

    "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 good, you…"

    "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 hungry anymore?"

    "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 Ben Logan?"

    "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 help."


    "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 instructor."

    "But, Captain…"

    "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 humor.

    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 groceries.

    "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 out.

    "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 slice.

    "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 hair loss.

    "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, huh?"

    "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 one?"

    "Teaching at the Academy."

    "Wow--I coulda gotten away with murder back then with you as the teacher."

    "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 Starsky's illogic.

    "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 Academy."

    "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 over.

    "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 spontaneous moment.

    "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 ride."

    "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 Monty Python?"

    "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 laughter.

    "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 mouth.

    "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 my buddy."

    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 there?"

    "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 and Procedures.

    "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 carefully. "Cisplatin."

    "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 with."

    "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 Sid Halley.

    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 reaction."

    "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 need."

    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 feel better."

    "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 you're doing."

    "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 did not.

    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 his side.

    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 Starsky needed.

    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 of everything.


    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, y'know?"

    "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 room.

    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 that."

    "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 remission."

    "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 special!"

    "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 Starsky."

    "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 lunch crowd."

    "She make cannoli?" Hutch tasted the soup and the bread, both were excellent.

    "Far's I can tell, the woman can bake anything. She's magic in the kitchen."

    "Maybe I could special order some from her for later in the week?" Hutch wheedled.

    "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 pretty?"

    "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 weekend.

    "I was cold," Starsky said flatly. "Get your errands done?"

    "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 bag.

    "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 right up."

    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 cuppa'."

    "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 chart.

    "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, mister."

    "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 Five?"

    "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 concerts."

    "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 your hand."

    "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 chemo illness.

    "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 fete."

    "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 kitchen."

    "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 be."

    "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.

    "Damned inconvenient."

    "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 make."

    "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 these years."

    "Starsky's right," Huggy agreed, munching on Brie and bread. "How the hell they gonna learn just outta books? You got the real thing, experience."

    "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 now."

    "Sophie," Starsky proclaimed.

    "She left, or didn't you notice?" Huggy reminded. "This is Daisy."

    "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 cream.


    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 do?"

    "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 you."

    "Yeah?" Hutch folded the wheelchair into the trunk, then climbed into the driver's seat. "I'll believe that when I see it."

    "Doubt, baldy?"

    "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."

    "C'mon, try!"

    "Uh--Joe Montana?"

    "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, too."

    "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 does."

    "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 and sick…"

    "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 mean?"

    "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 his hand.

    "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 rhythm.

    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 murmured.

    "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 eyes.

    "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 case.

    "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 wheelchair backwards.

    "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 castaways.

    "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 come."

    "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 room."

    "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 girls perform.

    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 their bows.

    "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 the show.

    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 performers.

    "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 Temple.

    "Samantha, how'd your knee hold up?" Starsky asked, licking his Popsicle.

    "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 staunchly.

    "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 dinner."

    "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 heat.

    "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 World', girls?"

    "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 five thirty."

    "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 excitement.

    "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 infusion."

    "That's just terrific," Starsky snorted. "Nothing's my own any more."

    "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 wearing them."

    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. "David!"







    "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 'dance' with.

    "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 cheek.

    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 night.

    "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 long."

    "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 beautiful."

    "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.

    PART 2

    Comments on this story can be sent to the author: