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"Starsk? You getting up?" Hutch shaved loudly, zipped his pants too
forcefully, jangled his keys discordantly and generally clumped about like an
elephant getting ready for the circus parade. Starsky pulled the blankets up
over his nose, curling his pillow around his ears in an effort to muffle the
noise his inconsiderate partner was making. "Starsky?" Hutch called
"No!" Starsky shouted. Not in this lifetime anyway. He felt like
crap and the sooner Hutch left for his all mighty teaching job the sooner
Starsky would get some peace and quiet.
"Do you want me to make you some breakfast before I leave?"
"No!" Starsky said into his pillow. "Just go."
"Hey," Hutch said more gently, his hand pressed to Starsky's
forehead. "You feeling all right? Got a fever?"
"Hutch, I'm just tired," Starsky groaned, wishing there were some
position that was even remotely comfortable. "I'm wanna get some more
sleep, I'll be fine."
"You call me later, huh?" Hutch stroked his cheek with a delicate
hand, running his thumb along Starsky's bottom lip. "If you're feeling bad,
I'm coming right home."
"It's your second week of teaching, get outta here." Starsky hated
seeing the concern in those clear blue eyes. It was always his fault those
little worry lines between Hutch's eyebrows were deeper than the Grand Canyon.
"I'll call, I'll eat some breakfast, I'll be good, Mom. I'm just
"You wore yourself out." Hutch kissed him sweetly on the lips and
then left, the bang of the front door punctuating his departure.
Reaching out from his mound of blankets Starsky snagged the bottle of
painkillers on the bedside table and swallowed his prescribed dose with a sigh.
Yep, the bitter truth he was suffering from a hangover, courtesy of Disneyland.
He'd walked too much, for too long, exacerbating the fierce deep down pain in
his broken bones. Every muscle in his body seemed determined to remind him that
walking around that huge park, with a gimpy leg, hadn't exactly been the
smartest thing he'd ever done. And he'd tried so hard to be good and sit in the
damned wheelchair, but that was so limiting. Mostly, he'd managed to ignore the
pain when he had attractions, fun and excitement to boost his adrenaline. Now,
there was just dismal pain and innervating exhaustion. He'd had to rely on the
pain meds just to get to sleep once they got home, even though he'd slept
soundly in the car. After backing off the crutch of his morphine tablets
recently, now he needed the relief enough to tolerate the nausea that went along
It wasn't as if he had anything better to do than sleep the morning away.
Without Hutch around the day stretched out blank and boring. There were no
scheduled appointments, no planned visits by any of his friends and no jobs that
required his immediate attention. Since he was feeling so much better at the end
of last week he'd even cancelled the nursing visits for the time being now that
he could get around on his own. So, no visits from Sophie, with her sweet accent
and get-up-and-get-to-it attitude or even the other nurse, Mick, who was short,
strong and sarcastically intelligent. Depression blanketed him as heavily as the
sheets, quilts and coverlet did. Right now he was just a burden, without purpose
or usefulness, a drain on Hutch's resources. His disability check didn't bring
in nearly as much as street pay did and cancer treatments ate up insurance money
faster than Pac Man gobbled up his enemies. Hunkering down into his nest,
Starsky wallowed in a rare spat of self-pity. What good was having fun if you
felt this lousy the next day?
With a contented mrow the cat bounded up into the soft hills of the bed
covers, burrowing in beside her master. Starsky refused to be comforted by the
warm purring body curved against his hip, but he unearthed one hand to sink his
fingers into Pansy's thick coat.
Sleeping for the better part of the morning, Starsky finally emerged from his
cocoon at nearly noon, stiff and achy like he was recovering from some rogue flu
bug. Turning on the shower so the water would get good and hot he wrapped his
cast in garbage bags, and climbed into the stall. Standing under the hot shower,
letting the water pummel his weary body Starsky began to loosen up just enough
to feel human again. Short dark curls of hair clogged the drain when he turned
off the spray, but he didn’t take the time to clean it up. Toweling himself
dry and dressing in his uniform of late--t-shirt and sweat pants, which were the
only thing that went over his cast, he wandered into the living room with Pansy
Food would be a good idea, but the drugs had left his stomach too unsettled
and a quick perusal of the refrigerator and larder just proved they needed to go
grocery shopping. Starsky poked listlessly through what he referred to as
Hutch's healthy stuff, mostly for lack of anything else to do and spied the
colorful boxes of tea Hutch had bought for him at the hospital. Pink stripes
decorated the peppermint one and the ginger tea had exotic Chinese women brewing
plump pots of tea on small braziers. Which one was supposed to be good for the
stomach? Unable to recall Hutch's sales pitch, Starsky picked the peppermint at
random, boiling his water the modern way, in the microwave.
Dunking the tea bag in the hot water, Starsky carried it back to his usual
haven on the couch and switched on the TV. Since they hadn't watched anything
over the busy weekend, the channel selector was still set on PBS, from when he'd
last watched the afternoon combo of French lessons with Madame Marie and Music
through the Ages. About to change the channel to something mindless, Starsky was
surprised to hear a bouncy voice speaking in French. When he looked up from his
teacup, a puppet Pineapple was chatting amicably with two small children. The
dialogue was silly, and Starsky recognized just enough of the language to
understand what they were talking about. After a few minutes he was sipping his
sweet tea and grinning with delight at the antics of the talking fruit taking a
balloon ride over the countryside. This program was three times better than the
dull Madame Marie's dry verb conjugation.
Miraculously, the tea lived up to its hype, calming his queasy stomach and
actually awakening the beginnings of an appetite. He considered getting off the
couch to find some food. The Ananas qui parle, or Talking Pineapple, had
segued into an episode of Sesame Street, anyway. He liked Ernie and Bert,
because Bert reminded him of Hutch, but today's lesson seemed to be featuring
the shrill voiced Elmo, who Starsky could live without.
Just as he was about to switch off the television, the phone rang. "H'llo?"
"Starsk? You okay?" Hutch sounded worried which put a sad smile on
"I'm on the couch with a cup of the tea you bought, watchin' educational
TV," Starsky reported dutifully.
"You eat anything yet?"
"Yeah," Starsky lied. It was only a white lie since he meant to eat
the minute the phone call ended, so the word yet was subjective, wasn't it?
"How's your day?"
"Just had a great class, really interesting discussion started about the
right to search and seizure," Hutch answered enthusiastically. "Went
on into the lunch hour. Many of the cadets didn't want to leave; we were into it
so deeply. I think these guys will be a real asset to the force."
"Great," Starsky said, his blossoming good mood dipping back into
the toilet. Hutch was having fun without him, in a stimulating atmosphere where
he was intellectually challenged. And here he sat watching Kermit teach a small
child to say the alphabet. "When're you coming home? There's nothing for
dinner, so don't expect me to cook."
There was a long pause like Hutch was formulating his answer. "About
five--I'll see you then."
"Bye," Starsky dropped the phone back down, staring at the TV.
Susan and Gordon were singing about love while Linda signed the words. He
flicked off the picture, the last la-la-la dying into the silence of the room.
What was he about to do before he was so rudely interrupted? Oh, yeah--food.
With supreme effort and the aid of his oft-neglected crutch he managed to toast
and butter some bread and cut off a few slices of Cheddar cheese. Another cup of
peppermint tea rounded off the meal, but Starsky's appetite petered out about
half way through the sandwich.
Sleep sounded good. Curling up on the couch, Starsky cuddled into the
comforting cat lump snugged up against him and drifted off.
"Starsk?" Hutch called. "Time to get up."
Blinking, Starsky roused, his mouth dry and cottony, his memory fuzzy. Didn't
they already play this scene? "Wha' time is it?"
"Five ten," Hutch informed him, unmercifully yanking the afghan
back and piling it on a chair. "Where are your shoes and socks? We're going
"Shoe," Starsky corrected, sitting all the way up. "I only
need one shoe. And one sock. They're probably in the closet like clothes should
be. Why're we going out?"
"You said there wasn't anything for dinner, so we're headed for Huggy's."
Hutch disappeared into the bedroom long enough to find one blue striped Adidas
and one red sock. "After that the grocery store."
"Can't you go by yourself?"
"Nope, not tonight." Hutch tossed him the sock, waiting expectantly
until he pulled it on his bare foot.
"What about ordering in?" Starsky asked dispiritedly, tying the
laces on his shoe.
"Starsky," Hutch said softly, dropping down on the sofa beside him.
"You have to make the effort or this will just keep getting harder when
you're feeling worse."
Shutting his eyes against that direct blue gaze Starsky nodded tiredly. Hutch
wanted to be with him, that was all that mattered. And going out would be fun,
if only because he had his partner by his side. "What's so special about
"Besides the 'special'?" Hutch quipped. "I thought that was
"I'm allowed to be fickle," Starsky tried a little smile. It came
out lop-sided but it was his best so far that day.
The Pits was fairly lively for a Monday night. A boisterous group crowded
around the TV mounted over the bar cheering on a baseball game between Chicago
and New York. Huggy waved at them but he was busy fielding drinks for the bar.
The new waitress Ella, wearing a tiny tight tee stretched over her amble
breasts, swooped in immediately after they'd arrived to take orders.
"Beer," Starsky said defiantly. He was grumpy and achy enough to
want the tiny buzz that would come from fermented hops and barley. It had been
hours since his last pain pill.
"Make that two," Hutch agreed, surprising Starsky because he'd
expected a lecture on the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol. "I got you a
few more novels at the library this afternoon."
"You takin' up residence there? You didn't used to go so often, in fact
I remember a couple spectacular overdue fines with your name on them,"
Starsky teased, feeling his whole mood lifting in the brightness and noise of
"I have to keep up with this class, Starsk. It's not like in the old
days. Most of these guys took criminology, pre-law…"
"Like you. You took some of those college courses before you hit the
Academy," he reminded. Ella placed the beers on the table, running off to
seat a large group just coming in the front door. "Those guys are wearing
cadet uniforms." Starsky noticed as several of the group started towards
their table. "Hutch?" He swiveled around to glare at his partner.
Hutch had a slightly guilty but enthusiastic expression on his face but he waved
the fresh-faced men and women over pointing out a couple of tables near theirs.
"Starsky, I was telling some of the new recruits where real cops hang
out and they started pestering me with questions about old cases."
The cadets pushed two tables together, clustering around them with a lot of
good-natured joking and shoving before all six had chairs and drinks ordered.
"Pestering?" A tall black man teased. "When asked directly the
Sarge reluctantly admitted he'd pretty much taken down James Gunther single
"The Sarge?" Starsky echoed, a smile sneaking out. These greenhorns
called his Hutch 'Sarge'.
"And brought in a serial killer who dressed up in disguises before he
murdered his victim!" a tiny Asian guy put in. Starsky wondered if the he
had to wear lifts in his shoes to meet the department height requirement.
"Wait a minute, guys," the lone woman in the group spoke up. She
had the tough, tomboyish stance of a girl who'd grown up with boys and knew how
to hold her own in a rough game of football or knocking back a couple of beers.
She wore her black hair in what Starsky's mother had once termed a pixie cut,
short and sleek but hardly manly. "Are you the Sarge's partner?"
"Dave Starsky," Starsky leaned forward to shake her small hand and
suddenly everyone was introducing themselves and asking nonstop questions.
The names came so fast Starsky quickly lost track, but it didn't take much
coaxing before he was regaling them with stories of their old cases. They were
enthusiastic listeners, and as Hutch had said, intelligent and knowledgeable
about the law. The hamburgers and fries all dug into were second to the lively
chatter and several hours passed before Starsky even remembered that he'd been
tired and depressed all day. Hutch had pulled a fast one on him and it had
worked, getting him back on his feet and feeling more like a cop than he had in
"We had to follow this yo-yo up the electrical tower, all the way up and
he was wearing aluminum foil around his body to stop the radio waves from
space," Starsky finished his story.
"Did you arrest him?" Bolden asked with interest.
"He fell to his death," Hutch answered with a sigh. "A real
"Doesn't this sometimes feel like you're never going to make a
difference?" Saeteurn questioned.
"Every time you get some drug dealin' slime or a rapist off the street
it makes a difference," Starsky looked over at Hutch, sensing the love and
respect pouring out. Hutch was still proud of him, no matter how messed up he
was with chemo and a gimpy leg. "Maybe there's another one right behind him
and another one after that, and Hutch and me can't go after every one of 'em, so
that's where you guys come in. You pick up the slack after we get old."
"Don't look like you're getting old from where I'm sitting," Kelley
teased. "I gotta get home or I won't be in any shape to run that obstacle
course at 7:30 in the morning. Sean?"
A lanky red head who hadn't talked much stood, revealing a considerable
height difference between he and Kelley, nodded his good-byes and ambled out
after her. There were a few more grumbled complaints, but the other four cadets
soon departed as well, using the same dreaded obstacle course as their excuse.
"Kelley and the tall guy?" Starsky finished the last of the beer
he'd been nursing all night.
"Husband and wife, if you can believe it." Hutch grinned, sliding
his hand along the outside of Starsky's leg, the action hidden from view by the
"They're letting couples on the force now?" Starsky edged a bit
closer to the questing hand creeping across his thigh.
"Only if they join different precincts."
"So we still have to be circumspect?" Starsky did a good imitation
of the purr Pansy taught him.
"Apparently. And Huggy's may not be the best place for what I have in
mind," Hutch's hand had reached a certain junction making Starsky squirm
Unfortunately, the hand stopped and retreated. "Damn, the
groceries," Hutch swore.
"Hey, we don't have to go tonight."
"I saw what you didn't eat today," Hutch stood, counting out
a few bills for the meal. "We need bread, eggs, something you'll be more
Perry's Market, only a mile from their house, closed at nine p.m., but they
were on friendly terms with the older grocer. He let them in with only ten
minutes to spare, on their promise that they'd get what they needed quickly.
Starsky hit the left side of the store, carrying a small hand basket on his
lap, rolling the wheelchair quickly up and down the aisles. Hutch had the right
side of the store and they planned to meet in the middle in the frozen foods
section for a decision on which ice cream flavor to pick. Starsky was all set to
argue for Oreo cookie mint chip.
Stopping to check out a pyramid stack of a new chocolate frosted breakfast
cereal, Starsky heard the front door slide open and another customer enter. The
cash lanes were out of view from his low vantage point behind the display piled
up on a counter, but he had seen Mr. Perry counting out the day's receipts when
he'd rounded the row a minute earlier. The old man was sitting at the first lane
closing out; leaving one register left open for when Starsky and Hutch finished
shopping. He could still hear Perry counting softly as he stacked the bills.
What he didn't expect to hear was the snick of a gun being cocked and a low
urgent demand for 'all the money you got in the drawers'.
Shit, Perry was being robbed. Taking a slow breath, Starsky could feel
his detective mode slide into place. There were no other customers in the store.
He and Hutch were cops, they were Perry's only hope; and here he sat without a
gun or a badge. Sliding one box of cereal slightly to the left, Starsky peered
through the gap. At first he saw nothing, then, shifting his gaze to the left he
caught sight of gray haired Milton Perry placing his hard earned money into a
bank deposit bag. A man wearing a black balaclava over his face held a gun on
the grocer urging him to go faster.
Stepping out of the wheelchair Starsky left his basket on the seat and walked
as carefully as possible down the aisle towards the back of the store. The bulky
cast hampered his speed and it was difficult to walk silently but he quickly
spied Hutch at the meat counter selecting some frozen chicken out of the
"Hutch!" Starsky whispered almost soundlessly, for once glad of the
upbeat music playing over the store's sound system.
As if alerted by some secret signal, Hutch immediately abandoned his half
filled grocery cart, his face intense and focused. "What's wrong?" he
asked, matching his friend's whispered tone.
"Are you carrying?" Starsky patted under his partner's left arm.
"Not when I'm teaching!"
"Perry's being robbed," Starsky scanned the area around them,
looking for weapons. The colorful birthday display on the nearest endcap
festooned with party supplies and gift suggestions caught his eye and he grinned
triumphantly at Hutch, grabbing up a pair of silver painted toy pistols.
Although too small for an adult man's hand they would have to do in a pinch.
There were two half-sized Smith and Wesson look-a-likes in the package along
with a tiny set of handcuffs and an 'official police badge'. He ripped open the
plastic, tossing one gun at Hutch who was already poised to sneak down aisle 3
to the front. Hutch held up five fingers indicating that they should wait five
seconds before going into action, and then pointed both ways with a question in
his eyes. Reading his partner's unspoken query, Starsky pointed to the left.
Next he made a number one at his own chest and held up two fingers indicating
Hutch. Hutch shook his head violently, not willing to go in second but Starsky
ignored him. Stalking back down the aisle he'd come from, Starsky stayed hidden
behind the mountain of cereal, watching the gunman and Perry. The illegal
transaction was almost completed. Balaclava had a bulging sack of money and
Perry was kneeling on the floor, his hands held up above his head.
Thinking fast, Starsky gave the wheelchair full of groceries a mighty shove,
sending it careening out towards the cash lanes. Cans of cat food and soup
rolled onto the floor with an ear shattering clatter. When that had sufficiently
distracted Balaclava's attention, Starsky leapt out from behind the display,
screaming at the top of his lungs and brandishing his toy weapon. It had the
desired effect on the robber, even though Starsky was instantly aware he was
going to regret slamming his cast down so hard on the linoleum floor. Pain shot
up his leg, throwing off his balance.
Balaclava dropped the money in surprise, squeezing off a shot that toppled
half the stack of cereal down onto Starsky. Falling to the floor under the
onslaught, Starsky brought his arms up to avoid being knocked in the face by
falling cartons, but he was soon covered in brightly colored pasteboard boxes
emblazoned with the picture of a grinning orange tiger. Punctured boxes spewed
chocolate flakes into the air like dirty snowflakes. Perry dove under a register
with a growl of anger, lobbing a price gun at the thief. Just as Balaclava took
another wild shot that ricocheted off a light fixture in the ceiling Hutch came
barreling out of lane 3 through the drifts of crunchy precipitation. The
fluorescent bulb exploded in a shower of sparks that rivaled commercial
Tackling his prey in perfect pro quarterback style, Hutch brought Balaclava
down without firing one cap in his toy gun. He expertly jerked the robber's
hands behind his back, reciting the Miranda at top speed. "Starsky!"
Hutch yelled, still struggling with his captive.
"I'm okay," Starsky assured, pushing aside boxes and sitting up
with some difficulty.
Although the toy handcuffs wouldn't work on the prisoner, Perry was able to
provide some heavy duty plastic bundle ties that were quite sufficient for
securing Balaclava's wrists. Hutch yanked the black knitted facemask off the
swearing criminal, uncovering a pimple-faced boy barely out of his teens. He
spat at his captor but and yelled for his father, claiming "he's a lawyer,
he'll get me off!" Hutch just laughed.
Leaving the underage thief in Perry's charge for a few minutes until a police
car arrived, Hutch knelt down beside his partner who was still half buried under
cereal packages. "You finally decide you were hungry?" he asked,
scooping up a handful of the sweet flakes to sample.
"This stuff is pretty good, we should buy some." Starsky crunched
another handful of the breakfast food, grinning. He ached all over but the high
of being in on a bust was better than any analgesic. This was where he was meant
to be. He'd always been an adrenaline junkie and this fix had been far too long
in coming. "You handled yourself like a cop out there, Professor
"Didn't look too bad yourself, Festus," Hutch tossed a frosted
flake at him.
Sitting in the squadroom waiting to give his statement and type up his half
of the arrest report Starsky had a ball. Every officer he'd ever worked with
came up to say hi and ask when he was coming back. Except for Dobey, most only
knew he'd broken his leg, not about the cancer so he didn't mention the chemo
treatments. There were pats on the back, hearty greetings and lots of comments
about the state of his raggedy cast. Between Disneyland and chasing down a
grocery robber, the cast was dirty, scuffed and cracked. Starsky wrapped some
masking tape around the middle of his thigh to keep the two halves of the cast
from splitting any further but he knew he'd have to go in for an unplanned visit
with his ortho doctor in the morning. Also, because of all the hullabaloo with
arresting the boy and taking Perry's statement, Hutch had never remembered to
pick up and pay for the groceries. So they still didn't have much to eat at the
"You finished socializing?" Hutch asked.
"Yeah, what time is it? Close to midnight? You're just lucky you don't
have to run that obstacle course like the cadets in the morning," Starsky
said. "This felt good, Hutch. It felt right. I know things are gonna turn
around real soon."
"Maybe you could add another job to your list of projects…"
"You mean find time between grading your classes' tests, taking
French and weeding vegetables?"
"How about coming in to the Academy once in a while and giving pointers
on real investigations. Next Tuesday and Wednesday the class is going onto the
Main Street lot to do ticket writing and arrest run throughs."
"Sounds like fun."
With shuffling Starsky to and from the hospital for more x-rays and a cast
revision and the various other sundry jobs that came up, there was still little
food in the house two days later. Starsky ate the previous night's left over
pizza for lunch and called Perry's Market to deliver what groceries they would
have bought Monday night. With the promise of a delivery in the next few hours
he went out into the back yard for a little recreational vegetable picking.
Tomatoes were hanging off the plants and several stalks of corn were just
begging to be harvested. A pumpkin the size of a basketball shone golden in the
middle of the plot and he had big plans to carve it for Halloween.
The afternoon sun warmed Starsky's soul and even though he had to wear a
baseball cap to protect his nearly bald skull, he relished the feel of the heat
on his head and shoulders. Despite the temperature rising properties of chemo,
Starsky often felt chilled after vomiting. That kind of cold was one that seeped
into the bones and stayed, and even after his body temperature went back up, he
still imagined he could feel the aching iciness deep inside. With a third chemo
only days away, he was beginning to dread the whole process and he wasn't even
halfway through yet. But that those thoughts were to be banished on a day like
today and he dug his fingers into the dark, rich soil with enthusiasm. His
basket soon overflowed with home grown produce, like a Dutch still life come to
life. The reds, yellows and greens were almost decadent, totally unlike the same
vegetables bought at a store. Limping into the house with his load he arrived
just in time to answer the doorbell. Perry's son, Milt Jr. carried three brown
bags into the kitchen, expressing his father's sincere thanks for Starsky and
Hutch's help with the thief the entire time.
"It's my job, like this is yours," Starsky laughed, investigating
the contents of the bags. Perry had included everything he'd ordered, even a
pint of Ben and Jerry's Oreo cookie Mint Chip. Perfect!
"After what you guys did for my dad, I want to join the force,"
"Hey, Hutch is working at the Academy now, I'll put a good word in for
you if you're serious," Starsky agreed. "Oh, and if your dad wants to
carry some really great bread, tell him I have the number of a new bakery that's
out of this world.
"Will do, sir!" Milt loped out on his long gangly legs. Starsky
allowed himself a moment of indulgent self pity seeing that youthful energy and
zest before firmly reminding himself to buck up and take it like a man. This
cast wouldn't be on much longer and then he'd have to start running laps around
the track and lifting weights to get back in shape. Sometimes being able to sit
around watching TV all day had its good points. However, he had other plans in
mind for the upcoming evening. A nice dinner, some good music to romance his
lover, and God, he wanted sex. Raunchy sex, just for the fun of it sex, rubbing
nude sweaty bodies against each other; long, lingering kisses while being
pressed back into the mattress. Sexy sex. So often lately he was too sick to do
anything and when they did manage to get together things degenerated into pity
parties, one of them comforting the other with loving kisses and tender strokes.
That wasn't at all what was going to happen to night if he had anything to do
Mindful of his limited energy, Starsky started early, setting the table,
cueing up the audio cassette player for the exact song he wanted, and then
sauteing onions and mushrooms to garnish the marinating steaks. Lastly he washed
the freshly picked vegetables, setting aside some tomatoes and corn. He felt
good; this was going to be a night to remember.
Enticed by the smells of meat and other good foods Pansy came prowling into
the kitchen, winding sensuously around Starsky's feet. As unbalanced as he
already was, he tried shooing the cat away but she was persistent, as usual,
talking non-stop in her Siamese kitty way.
"C'mon, Pansy," Starsky groaned good-naturedly when she had nearly
tripped him up for the third time. "Hutch'll be home any minute and I need
to finish the prep work." He slivered off a tiny morsel of steak and tossed
it into the corner to appease her. Pansy stared at him with her crossed blue
eyes for a moment as if considering whether she was being fooled then galloped
off to gobble up the treat.
Placing the tomato on a wooden cutting board Starsky proceeded to slice it
just like Julia Child had demonstrated on the repeats of her French Chef
program. He brought down the knife to slice off another thin section of the
plump red fruit just as Pansy jumped up on the counter to investigate, butting
into his arm. The knife's down stroke carved a big wedge out of the ball of
Starsky's right forefinger. Yelping in surprise, he dropped the knife with a
clatter. Pansy fled the kitchen, her tail rigid and all the hair on her spine
sticking straight up in the air.
Staring stupidly at the open wound Starsky realized he was seeing bone just
before blood gushed out, warm and tomato red. Sharp pain came second and he
cursed his lack of prowess in the kitchen while groping for the dishrag that was
slung through the handle of the refrigerator door. Winding the towel around his
bloody hand he kept hearing Dr. Davies' reminder that it was important to keep
his platelets up. Well, this certainly wasn't going to help a whole hell of a
Red splatters of blood decorated the linoleum and counter, mingling with the
juice of the tomato. Shit, he needed to get a bandage on his finger and
the kitchen cleaned up before Hutch came home or he'd just get hauled off to the
hospital again. His finger was throbbing; pain making it difficult to even bend
the joint, but Starsky just tightened the dishrag more firmly around his digit.
Maybe he should clean the kitchen up first so Hutch wouldn't see the evidence?
"What the hell happened?" Hutch demanded. Starsky had been so
preoccupied with trying to stop the bleeding he hadn't heard the door open.
"Nothing major, I cut my finger a little," Starsky lied, edging out
of the kitchen in the direction of the bathroom. "Gotta get a Band-Aid.
I'll clean up the mess, Hutch. Just sit down and relax, I got dinner nearly
"Looks like more than a little cut to me." Hutch stopped Starsky's
forward momentum, his face pinched with concern. "Let me see."
"Aw, Hutch, c'mon."
"Did you ever take any pre-med courses?" Hutch began to unwind the
blood soaked towel. Just one look at the mangled finger and he grabbed another
towel out of a drawer in the kitchen, applying pressure to the wound.
"We're going to the emergency room, now."
"Hutch, it'll stop bleeding soon. Doesn't even hurt," Starsky made
the expected effort but he'd already capitulated. He'd learned not to argue with
his determined partner when Hutch wore that particular look on his face. "I
had plans, this'll wreck everything."
"Yeah, and you bleeding to death right in our kitchen would wreck things
all the way around," Hutch snapped, guiding Starsky to the front door. He
paused long enough to help him into a jacket. "Starsky, dammit, you've got
cancer! You act like there's nothing wrong, what if this causes a set back or…."
Pushing past him, Hutch brusquely opened the passenger door to his Ford,
"Hutch," Starsky whispered, ignoring the irritating pain from his
finger. He hated when Hutch broke down; it always made the situation seem that
much more dire. "I'm not gonna die from cutting my finger. If Gunther
didn't succeed in snuffin' me out, this ain't gonna do it."
"You promise?" Hutch asked sarcastically, but his eyes were
"Pinkie swear," Starsky quirked a smile, letting go of his right
hand to hold up a bent left pinkie. Hutch relented, fitting his pinkie into the
curve of Starsky's with a mollified grin.
Luckily Wednesday night was a slow night in the ER and when Hutch uttered the
magic words "He's one of Dr. Davies' patients," Starsky was
immediately shown into an exam room. However, after a grumpy nurse took vitals
with a distracted air they were left alone for nearly half an hour, which only
fueled Hutch's already simmering anger. Starsky, feeling the effects of the
blood loss, didn't try to sweet talk him out of the temper but sat on the gurney
holding his throbbing finger up above his heart. The sterile drape the nurse had
wrapped around his hand was soaked through, which seemed like an awful lot of
blood for one finger.
"I'm going out to see what's taking so long," Hutch declared,
pushing aside the curtain separating him from the main part of the ER. Just as
he was about to storm out, he heard a somewhat familiar voice ask the nurse
which patient was next.
"One of Davies' cancers in curtain two with a finger lac. Needs
Glancing back at Starsky Hutch grimaced at the depersonalized description.
Starsky felt heat flush his cheeks and wondered vaguely why he was embarrassed
instead of angered the way Hutch was. The problem was, while the nurse probably
could have described him in a more compassionate way, there was no denying her
statement was true.
"Well, I really never expected to see you two here again." Tow
headed Katherine Meadows, who had been the first doctor to examine Starsky when
he broke his leg, smiled her welcome, reading over the chart. "Wendy's
already gone to get a suture kit so I don't think this should take too long. She
also called Dr. Davies, who was in hospital, and said he'd come down soon."
"It's just a cut," Starsky protested.
"A deep one," Dr. Meadows examined it with a frown. "Dr.
Davies also wants a CBC and platelets levels drawn."
"Why all this worry about my platelets?"
"They clot your blood," Hutch explained shortly.
"Exactly." The doctor injected Lidocaine around the edge of the
wound to numb the area requiring stitches. Starsky panted, the tiny needle
sticks almost more painful than the original injury. "And the reason you're
still bleeding is your platelets were probably low to begin with. It's a common
problem with someone on chemo."
"It all leads back to that, huh?" Starsky grunted. He'd had
stitches before and this time around didn't endear him to the experience any
more so. Dr. Davies made them wait around until the results of the complete
blood count, or CBC, came back. Starsky's platelets were in the basement, as the
doctor put it, which he insisted was an accepted medical term. Since he already
wanted Starsky to come in earlier than usual on Friday to have a special kind of
IV port called a subclavian line inserted into his chest to facilitate the
administration of the chemo drugs, it was the perfect time to schedule a blood
transfusion as well. Starsky was less than thrilled by these news. Especially
after the doctor ordered him to stay in the house, away from crowds and off his
feet for the next day and a half to avoid stress and exposure to germs.
"What was it you were planning for dinner?" Hutch asked quietly
once they were back in their little white house with the cat watching tensely
from one corner of the living room.
"Steak," Starsky ground out, brooding on the couch with his jacket
still on. The bandaged finger stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb, thick
with gauze and tape. "S'too late now."
"It's only nine o'clock," Hutch said brightly, heading into the
kitchen. It didn't take long to put a pot of water on to boil the corn. He
located a bottle of red wine in the fridge and poured two glasses of the garnet
colored liquid, sniffing appreciatively at the heady bouquet. Some time during
the stitching of Starsky's finger his unfocused anger had abated, relief that
Starsky was only wounded but unbowed taking its place.
Taking a long swallow of wine, Hutch thanked whatever gods there be who
watched over David Starsky that the only thing he needed was an extra pint of
blood. Every moment he spent with his lover seemed so precious these days, as if
he had to keep track of the good times to remember when things got too hard. The
exasperation hadn't really been directed at Starsky anyway, just the unfortunate
circumstances set in motion by the unexpected leap of the cat. He cleaned up the
blood-spattered floor with a quick wash of bleach and dealt with the rest of the
meal in under ten minutes, feeling his love grow fonder every time he discovered
something else Starsky had prepared for their special night. By the time he was
back in the living room Starsky had shed his outerwear and curled up with an
afghan. "Drink?" Hutch held out the second glass
"No mother hen comments about alcohol and pain killers?" Starsky
snarked, taking a sip.
Hutch placed a tray of cheese and English crackers on the coffee table,
pushing aside magazines and pill bottles with the name David Starsky on the
label. "I was with you the whole time, unless you slipped something while
the doctor was writing up the bill, you're clean." He crunched a cracker,
watching Starsky closely. Had the cat killed their needed romantic interlude or
was their still hope?
"God, the bill," Starsky said morosely. "The chemo treatments
cost an arm and a leg--no pun intended, but ER visits are like a couple of
hundred per second!"
"The corn is boiling, steaks under the broiler, tomato's a goner so I
tossed it. Anything else on the menu, Chef David?" Hutch pronounced the
name with a French flair bringing a little smile back to Starsky's face.
"But then I can't kiss you properly."
"Start now and maybe you won't notice if we both eat some." Starsky
looked up, pain and tiredness evident in his blueberry dark eyes but definitely
interested in what Hutch was offering.
"Might work," Hutch agreed, following the plan. It was an
imminently sensible one with benefits for both involved parties. The only hiatus
in the execution was when he had to get up to smear garlicky butter on a short
sourdough loaf and stick it under the oven. But business was resumed after the
break without a hitch.
The ding of the oven timer brought Starsky up short, his lips reddened and
swollen from the prolonged kissing. "What timing."
"I could eat, how about you?" Hutch teased, poking Starsky in the
ribs. He could feel bone too easily under the layer of skin which concerned him
but he made no mention of it. Without further ado he went into the kitchen,
serving up the meal on white plates edged in gold. They had been a wedding
present to Hutch's sister Karen several years earlier, but when that marriage
fell through she'd announced she was going to get rid of everything from the
unpleasant union. Hutch jumped at the chance to get the pretty china at a
discount and was floored when Karen gifted them to him outright. She was the
only one in his family who knew about his relationship with Starsky for what it
was, and she'd sussed it out without even being told. Hutch always considered
them a 'wedding present' from Karen, in spite of their tumultuous origins.
"Karen's china, you must be in the mood," Starsky sat down at the
dining room table as Hutch lit gold and white candles that matched the plates.
"Before we eat can you hit the play button on the tape player?"
"Something special?" Hutch smiled. Starsky's taste in music was
eclectic and the selections never ceased to surprise him. One day it could be
classic rock and didgeridoos from Australia, the next it was Gilbert and
Sullivan with an Elvis chaser. He punched the play button expectantly.
"We've been together since way back when, and there are days I never
want to see you again, but I want you to know, after all these years, you're
still the one I want whispering in my ear."
"You're still the one," Starsky warbled with the groups Orleans,
holding up his bandaged forefinger like a flag.
"We're still having fun and you're still the one."
Hutch couldn't help laughing, a warm happiness blossoming in his chest. He
didn't know when he'd felt more loved or genuinely touched, although Starsky's
gift of the bracelet he was wearing on his wrist came close. "You wanna
talk to me in bed?"
"Yeah, and you can scratch my itch, too," Starsky quoted the song,
waggling his eyebrows comically. "You're still the one…" He sang
along, spreading a huge pat of butter over his entire ear of corn.
"Consider that done right after we eat," Hutch held up his
wineglass, clinking it with his best friend in the whole world. "I've never
needed an excuse to get my hands on you."
"Yeah, and I'm beginning to worry about this kinky thing you have about
scars," Starsky zinged back with a twinkle in his eye.
Tuning out the class discussion on the proper way to frisk a suspect Hutch
stared moodily at the phone in the corner of the room. Should he call Starsky
before Huggy took him to the hospital or would that be construed as hovering?
After all, by all rights they weren't going to leave for almost another hour.
Then Starsky would have to get blood tests and settle in before the subclavian
line procedure. Then there was the transfusion, which gave Hutch a distinctly
uneasy feeling with all the talk of AIDS in the newspapers lately. Starsky had a
full afternoon ahead of him. And Davies probably wouldn't start the chemo until
evening, since that was the more usual schedule. With any luck Hutch could make
it to the hospital by that time, but he had to appear in court right after class
to testify in the trial of a child molester he and Starsky had arrested over a
year ago. By rights Starsky should have been there to testify as well, but the
lawyers had agreed to tape his statement next week.
"You wanna try it?" Kelley Leary challenged. "Go ahead, frisk
Hutch looked up in time to see the expression of alarm on Sean's face as his
wife stood up with her arms straight out. Joshua Bolden warily approached his
'suspect' but Hutch interceded. "Okay, we can probably save that for the
Main Street lot!"
Kelley's tight expression softened and she gave Sean a sweet smile before
sitting down. "Just getting' involved, Sarge."
"Which is a good thing, but as we were discussing, it's important not to
put the cart before the horse. Frisking someone is within your rights, since
concealed weapons are always a concern but just frisking the average citizen
could land you with a lawsuit if you ruffle the wrong feathers."
"What about…?" Saeteurn called out.
"Why don't you all read chapters seven and eight and write a comparison
on the citizen's rights versus the police in that circumstance?" Hutch
assigned hastily, more than ready to get them out of his classroom.
The cadets filed out quickly, running for their lockers to change for a class
in hand to hand combat and restraining the fleeing suspect. Hutch gathered up
his paperwork hastily, fleeing in the opposite direction to get to the
courthouse on time.
"Hey," Starsky greeted when Hutch walked into his room on the Rose
Tree Unit. Starsky was sitting up in bed wearing his Mickey Mouse ears while
watching TV. He switched off the remote control, grinning lecherously. "Wanna
peep show?" Raising up his blue and white checked hospital gown he revealed
a small rubber port sutured into his chest just above one brown nipple,
bisecting an old surgical scar. The attached IV tubing connected him directly to
a bag of clear fluid hanging from a pole next to the bed.
"Did that hurt?" Hutch asked curiously but he'd already decided he
didn't like it. It branded Starsky all that much more as a cancer patient, as if
his bald head didn't already give him away. It was smaller than he'd expected
and Davies had explained that it would minimize the number of times Starsky
would have to get stuck for blood or peripheral IV's but it was still a blot on
his lover's body.
"Nah, got drugs--same stuff they put in to sew up my finger,"
Starsky peered at the bag Hutch still held. "Whatcha got?"
"Milk shake for you, more books for me," Hutch handed over the icy
paper cup before settling into a comfortable if utilitarian recliner.
"What else?" Hutch grinned. Starsky eagerly sipped from the
gaily-striped red and white straw. His face had a healthier glow than the day
before, no doubt due to the extra blood circulating in his veins, but it was
nice to see. "Chemo started yet?"
"Had some trouble acouple of rooms over so everything's a little
late," Starsky muttered, concentrating on his shake.
"Died," he answered shortly. "Somebody died. I didn't know
"It happens, right?" Starsky licked chocolate off his lip, but his
eyes were pooled with tears. "It's all part o'the cycle a'life. Life and
death, can't escape…"
"But it's still scary," Hutch said, surprised his voice trembled.
"I don't…" Starsky gulped, tucking all the emotion and tears away
like a magician. "What you reading now? Cause I'm beginnin' to worry about
you, hanging around in the library all the time. S' not healthy."
"You've said that before," Hutch rolled his eyes. "I'm reading
up on alternative cancer treatments."
"Like what?" Starsky took a noisy pull on the milk shake.
"That one's been disproven," Hutch opened the latest book he'd
checked out of the library. Now that he was immersed in the Academy class the
work wasn't as hard as he'd expected, in fact grading papers was downright
tedious, but his research into cancer and medical procedures was fascinating.
He'd always had an interest in medicine, but after the aborted pre-med courses
of his early college days, hadn't expected to ever find much need for it.
"Wasn't it made outta peaches?"
"Apricot pits, I think."
"So what's the latest cures?"
"Microbiotic diets have been shown to have positive effects on many
cancers," Hutch read.
"Ick. Eatin' a mess of seeds and rice like a parakeet? No thanks."
"Surprisingly, or maybe not, a good mental attitude and prayer is highly
beneficial," Hutch said softly, watching Starsky's face go from open and
happy to guarded and slightly tense in a matter of seconds as the nurse entered
"David," Mika carried the bag of Cisplatin and a tray of meds to
ward off another allergic reaction. "I hear you were making time with the
ER nurses and didn't even come up for a visit the other day. What kind of friend
"Schweetheart, I gotta spread the love around," Starsky flirted
outrageously, holding up his wrapped finger. Hutch realized Starsky had just
stuffed all his fears about the chemo in the same place he'd tucked the sadness
over an anonymous death. "See what it got me?"
"A girl gets jealous when she hears stuff like that, is all I'm
saying," Mika teased. She pushed drugs into the IV port, cautioning that
they might make him sleepy. Sure enough, Starsky was drowsy by the time she had
finished checking his blood pressure and temp. He curled up with his back to
her, as if trying to ignore what she was doing.
Hutch pretended to read but watched the pretty nurse hook up the chemo
infusion and chart vitals before she left, leaving the clear fluid to drip
slowly into Starsky's brand new IV port. So began another round.
Starsky woke several hours later vomiting and didn't stop for most of the
night. The addition of the second chemo drug in the arsenal just added that much
more poison to his system and he was weak as a kitten and shaking with fatigue
by Saturday afternoon. Retching miserably, he reached out for the little kidney
shaped bowl the nurses called an emesis basin. He could think of a lot less
charitable names for it even though it had been his closest companion for nearly
24 hours now. As usual, Hutch was right there at his elbow, holding the bowl
under his chin. There was nothing left in his stomach to come up but he still
had the sensation that his insides were forcing their way out his mouth at high
speed. This was worse than the awfulest flu bug he'd ever had.
"I hate vomiting." Starsky grimaced. His tongue was furry and
tasted nasty, the smell in the room enough to start another round.
Hutch smiled gently, offering a cup of water. "Babe, if you took a poll
of the unit, I don't think it'd be on anybody's favorites list."
Struck by the absurdity of that statement, Starsky giggled almost
hysterically, his throat so raw even laughter hurt. "What's the number one
most popular side effect of chemo?" He rasped in an accent vaguely
reminiscent of British game show host Richard Dawson. In his own voice he
replied, "I haven't got a clue, Richard!"
"Poll says!" Hutch joined in the ridiculousness.
"There is none!" Starsky chortled weakly, leaning against his
friend's strong chest for support. "Aw, Hutch, I've had enough, I wanna go
"I know, champ, but the game's not over yet." Hutch pulled him into
an embrace, curving his arms around Starsky's body so that they sat back to
chest like children on a bobsled. "Still got a few more innings."
"Y'think we could call it 'cause a' rain or pukin' or something,"
Starsky asked wistfully. Sitting this way he could feel Hutch's heartbeat
against his backbone. It was such a steady, comforting presence he didn't want
to move for the next few years or at least the next few minutes. His body had
other plans, though, and the sickly sensation welled up inside his throat once
again. "Oh, God…" he moaned grabbing for the basin. His belly
spasmed tightly, almost squeezing the breath out of him but only thin strands of
watery secretions ended up in the blue bowl. Afterwards Starsky was even more
exhausted, his strength leached out by the drugs flowing through his veins.
"Try sucking on some ice," Hutch encouraged. Today's nurse, a tall
angular woman with a no-nonsense attitude and a gentle smile, had instructed him
to get any kind of fluids possible into the patient. So far Starsky hadn't eaten
or drunk anything since the milk shake the night before and Hutch was growing
Making a face Starsky still accepted a small sliver into his mouth, sucking
briefly before spitting it out into a an empty cup. "Y'know the chemo drugs
spell out ICE?"
"I-C-E." Starsky explained, clearing his throat. "I can't
remember the whole names now but there's three of them, right?"
"Yes," Hutch used a towel to wipe off the sweat beaded on Starsky's
"I-something, Cisplat, and…"
"Yeah." Starsky curled up against his protector, clutching at
Hutch's shirt, his belly clenching violently. "Oh, shit, Hutch…"
"You're gonna get through this," Hutch made loving circles on his
back, bared by the open hospital gown. "The last one must start with 'E'
"Yeah, 'E'." Starsky repeated. "Ol' Starsky had a tumor,
"That tumor's gone."
"Yeah, I forgot," he agreed weakly. "Sure doesn't feel like
it. This is only the third time, it's getting worse."
"You're half way through, before long this will all be behind us,"
Hutch rested his head on the top of Starsky's smooth scalp and held on tightly
to his love.
"Starsk," Hutch said softly. "Time to go,"
The man sleeping in the bed startled with a moan, his blue eyes opening
slowly, confusion and sickness still very apparent. Hutch wasn't at all certain
letting him go home so soon after such a rough weekend was a good idea but
Starsky had been insistent that there was no way he was staying in the hospital
"S'good, d'wanna stay here anymore."
"I know, so you've got to get dressed first. Think you can handle
"Been doin' it by myself for years now, maybe even decades…"
Starsky giggled hoarsely, then moaned again as Hutch helped him lever himself
into a sitting position. "Where're my clothes?"
"Starsky, if you're not up to this…"
"'M goin' home, Hutch." Starsky sat holding his t-shirt in
trembling hands, unable to pull it over his head. Without saying anything else,
Hutch dressed him, upset that his stubborn friend couldn't see reason. Sure the
hospital bed was much less comfortable than the one at home, and the nurses came
in at all hours of the night, but Starsky hadn't eaten anything except
applesauce since Friday night and he'd only stopped vomiting about two hours
ago. That was no guarantee there wouldn't be a repeat performance later on in
"Bring the kidney bowl with you in the car," Hutch pointed to the
discarded item on the bed when everything was packed into patient bags and
Starsky was seated in the wheelchair.
"I'm not gonna hurl on the Mustang's upholstery!" Starsky
"Just humor me, okay?" Hutch growled. He'd felt out of sorts most
of the day, probably from getting little or no sleep for the entire weekend. His
anger over Starsky's present predicament only made him feel worthless. There was
nothing either of them could do about it, and the sense that his life was
spiraling completely out of control was paramount. Each round of chemo was
taking ever more out of Starsky, leaving him weaker and achingly vulnerable. He
was susceptible to the mildest cold or flu bug that came down the pike and in
danger of becoming dehydrated at home if he continued to up chuck for much
longer. Sophie was already scheduled to come in the morning, which made Hutch to
feel like a traitor for leaving Starsky at his worst. Not that he'd be all that
much better if he didn't get at least a few hours of sleep before class in the
"You've got something on your mind," Starsky observed, leaning
against the car door, one hand pressing on his belly and the other clutching the
"You ever considered Marijuana?" Hutch steered through darkened
Sunday night streets, anxious to get home. There wasn’t much traffic, which
was a good thing considering his lack of sleep.
"In what context?" Starsky asked evasively.
"For nausea," Hutch specified, suddenly curious at Starsky's wary
expression. "Have you used it before?"
"Really?" Hutch mocked. "You use it in 'Nam?" It was a
minefield to even mention that undiscussed period of Starsky's life but he
needed an honest evaluation of his partner's views on casual usage.
"It was easier to get than candy," Starsky said simply. "But
I'm not takin' it for nausea cause it makes me throw up."
"That's nonsense. In that book on alternative treatments it said that
Marijuana is a potent anti-emetic."
"It makes me puke, which is the last thing I want right now,"
Starsky sighed, rubbing his abdomen in slow concentric circles. "Don't ask
me why, it just does."
"I've never heard of that--you're weird, you know that?"
"So I've been told."
Starsky lay on the couch, a sheet pushed down over his feet. He couldn't get
comfortable because of the lingering fever left over from the chemo. He was hot;
he was cold and every degree in between. Half the time he wanted the afghan
pulled up around his neck and the other half he was tossing it away because the
wooly yarn scratched his suddenly overly sensitive skin. Even television held no
interest, although the talking pineapple show had been mildly amusing for a
minute and a half before the unwelcome thought of eating pineapple had made the
bile rise in his throat and threaten to choke him.
Right now he contemplated the hideous green liquid in the tall glass Sophie
had placed on the low coffee table in front of him. The coffee table he'd bought
the first summer he and Hutch went to Catalina Island as a couple. He'd seen the
inlaid mosaic design and wanted it, enjoying running his fingers over the smooth
blue tiles of the frisky dolphins and the sharper gray stone of the rocks
jutting out from waves made of dark indigo, lapis and turquoise. Everyone who
came into their house commented on the expressions on the frolicking dolphins
and how harmoniously the colors went with the furniture they'd already had on
hand. Dark blue couch, with bluey-green throw pillows and the abstract but
lovely patterns on the Indian blue and gray rug. The design had become even more
special when he and Hutch had watched a program on marine mammals one day and
discovered to their delight that dolphins often bonded with same sex partners
and stayed together for life. So the table had a special place in Starsky's
heart. But by no stretch of the imagination did the obtrusive green liquid in
the tall glass belong there, separating the two dolphins from each other.
Red, he'd asked for red Gatorade. That was the kind he preferred, not some
green concoction that looked like it came out of Dr. Frankenstein's lab. But
Sophie had 'tsk tsked' in her French accent and given him green Gatorade just in
case he still needed to bring anything else up.
"If you faites vomir the red could be mistaken for blood and then
off we would have to go to the hospital," she'd explained before bustling
off to clean up the bathroom from his earlier mess.
No siree, wouldn't want anyone to think that now would we? Starsky snorted,
reaching for the glass and closing his eyes. He was kind of thirsty. If he
didn't have to look at it maybe it would go down easier. The first gulp wasn't
so bad and he drank about half the contents before putting the tumbler down on
the edge of the inlaid picture in the coffee table so that the two dolphins were
no longer isolated from one another.
A rapid knock on the front door made him cringe. Every noise was too loud
today and anything but sunlight streaming through the muting white chiffon
curtains was too bright. Thus there were no lights on and until now, the room
had been almost silent. Who could that be?
"I'll get it!" Sophie called out gaily, swinging out of the
bathroom still toting a bucket filled with used towels. "Rest yourself,
David." She peeked through the peephole in the door with a nod. "It is
the woman from the hospital, Miss Borunda, to talk to you."
Oh, her. Starsky had successfully evaded the woman for weeks now, but
apparently she'd tracked his address down through his medical records. That was
really low, coming after a guy when he was laid up on the couch in his own home.
Well, he'd just have to dig in his heels and resist her feeble attempts to talk.
He was a police detective, after all, and she was nothing but a therapist with a
penchant for talking to cancer patients. The last thing Starsky wanted to do was
discuss his feelings about the tumor and his illness with some woman he'd never
Saiisa Borunda was a surprise. She was so tall the jaunty bow on top of her
turban brushed the frame of the door and her skin was the darkest shade of
coffee brown Starsky had ever seen. She would have made Huggy Bear look pale by
comparison. When she spoke, her mellifluous voice had the lilting music of
Africa, which coordinated perfectly with the ethnic style of her clothing. The
orange and red turban was made from the same bright print as her floor length,
loose fitting dress. Taken all together she looked like the colors of autumn
come to vibrant life.
"Mr. Starsky, you've a hard man to connect with," Saiisa smiled
slightly, sitting down in the chair opposite the couch. Sophie traipsed into the
kitchen to get her some tea. "I was hoping we could talk, so I arranged
with Mrs. Saint Clare to come over."
"You didn't have to bother, I don't have anything to talk about,"
Starsky shrugged darkly, pulling the afghan back over his shoulders. He was
perspiring but still felt chilly.
"Nothing?" Saiisa tilted her head, her broad cheekbones catching
the slanted rays of the sun and warming her whole demeanor. In spite of himself
Starsky was drawn to her. She had such an easy open manner he felt comfortable
quite quickly, which was unusual for him after years of dealing with drug
dealers and criminals. Starsky had always prided himself on his good judge of
character. She was a kind soul, but that still didn't mean he had to spill his
guts to her. If course, lately he his guts pretty much did what they want, and
ended up all over the floor most of the time.
"I'm fine. The chemo's goin' fine, there's nothing to talk about."
Starsky bluffed. Sophie delivered cups of steaming tea to both of them,
peppermint by the smell, and retreated to the kitchen again. Glad of the
distraction Starsky sipped his tea. The sweet sharp flavor warmed his throat and
soothed his belly.
"That's good then," Saiisa smiled benignly, drinking her tea with
calm serenity. She didn't rush Starsky to lay bare his soul or push him to
rattle on about what might be bothering him like other shrinks he'd had,
especially after the Gunther shooting, for which he was grateful. In fact she
just sat there, drinking her tea like some big brown cat who'd wandered in off
the street and made herself at home. Even Pansy seemed both fascinated with the
new arrival and a bit disconcerted at the same time. The little Siamese sat at
Saiisa's feet staring cross-eyed at her.
"You do this all day long? Hunt down people from the Rose Tree Unit and
drink tea with them?"
"Sometimes," Saiisa nodded. "Sometimes they hunt me
"Some people need a way to express their emotions away from their loved
ones. It is often difficult when our family and friends don't always understand
what is going on--they are overwhelmed with the fear of losing their loved one
to a horrible disease and it puts them in a different space than you might be.
As if they are looking into a mirror and you are looking out, both seeing the
other but neither able to understand because they can't exist in your stead,
under the grip of the disease."
Starsky hid his confusion with a big swallow of tea. She'd described his
relationship with Hutch lately to a 't'. "How'd you know all this?"
"I had cancer in my youth," She set her cup on the edge of the
coffee table, in no way impinging on the dolphin's play.
"In Africa?" Starsky asked curiously.
"In Nigeria, yes, but my father was able to send me to London for my
treatment." She sighed, touching her breast. "My mother had to remain
at home with my brothers and sister so I was often alone and very lonely. My
father got work in London, so he was terribly busy. I was so sick, so alone and
very frightened until one day a woman came to visit me. She taught me a trick to
help me cope with my disease and help me fight back. Before long she and I
became close friends and I vowed that when I became well I would teach others
what she had taught me."
"How old were you?"
"Sixteen. I was in England for a year."
"What did she teach you?"
"A form of self hypnosis, in a way. Or day dreaming," She settled
back into her chair, crossing her ankles, totally at ease. "A popular term
for it is creative visualization."
"Oh, yeah, one of the nurses mentioned something about that,"
Starsky tucked his chin into the warmth of the afghan, not ready to be seduced
by a simple mind trick. How the hell would that help him?
"I can just give you the tools to work with, what you do with them is
your own business," Saiisa shrugged. "How about it?"
"I can't stop you."
"Then close your eyes and relax your body as much as possible. If there
are pains or bodily discomfort, try to isolate them with your mind and put them
aside." She paused, waiting until Starsky had done what she'd said.
"If you've ever taken Yoga you might recognize the technique of
concentrating on your breathing, letting it flow in and out, exhale and inhale,
bringing in good, life giving oxygen and letting out the CO2. Just
Starsky felt a little silly, but whether it was the peppermint tea or
Saiisa's soothing cadence, he did feel better, maybe even stronger. His whole
body was so relaxed his fingers and toes tingled like the blood hadn't been
there in a long time and was reacquainting itself with the tinier capillaries.
The deep ache from his mending bones eased up which was a rare event and one to
be very much appreciated. Even his capricious stomach was quiet and peaceful for
the first time in days.
"Once you are relaxed, think about your cancer. Isolate the tumor from
the rest of your body. The cancer is not you, it has invaded you. Your doctors
are using modern medicine to destroy it but you can do your part by picturing
yourself and the cancer in a very private battle. Picture yourself
Starsky laughed, picturing some crazed druggie high on PCP coming at him with
a knife--no make that a 2 by 4. But he hadn't won the last time against a
dangerous foe. Would his hate for the cancer work in this case? Lately he'd felt
the dark stirrings of the hate seeping out into his brain again, taking over his
rational mind the way the cancer had taken over the rest of his body. Maybe that
wasn't the best way to fight back. Maybe Saiisa's suggestions did have some
She smiled at his laughter, nodding when he opened his eyes to look over at
her. "I can't tell which way works best, every person has to find the key
"Sounds like hocus-pocus in some fantasy movie," Starsky said
derisively, still unwilling to divulge his inner most thoughts to her.
"Like what is the wing velocity of an African Sparrow?"
"'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'?" Starsky recognized the quote.
"My favorite movie," Saiisa confirmed. "It is a bit like the
obscure questions asked by gatekeepers in self discovery fables. The cancer can
be anything--a dragon, Moby Dick, whatever imagery has meaning to you. If
nothing comes to you right away, just work on the idea for a few days." She
drained her teacup, gathering up her purse. "I don't want to stay too long,
as you look like you need to rest and I know how annoying it is to have some
stranger barge in on you when you don't feel at your best."
"Well…" Starsky eyed her, wondering if he was being conned by one
of the best or just teased. "I'll think about what you said."
"That's all I ask. Here's my number, if you'd like to talk about
anything." She set a small business card next to the empty teacup.
"Would it be all right if I stopped by again next week around the same
Surprised to hear himself say the words, Starsky said a simple yes, waiting
until she had let herself out before falling asleep with the afghan pulled up
over his head. He dreamed he and Hutch were roaring through Bay City at
midnight, the moon like a silver dollar on a black velvet carpet. Menacing
shapes loomed at the car but none came near him because he and Hutch were
together, driving out towards the sea. The headlights of the Torino illuminated
hundreds of crabs crawling up the beach, their claws snapping at the air.
Weirdly enough, Starsky realized he was hungry, but in the dream there was
nothing to eat. He awoke abruptly when Hutch came in the front door after class
bearing soup and bread from Daisy Peducci's brand new bakery.
Life proceeded forward, although altered. It was as if each round of chemo
took them one more step away from their old life as detective partners and one
step further into cancerland. Starsky slept a lot more, needing to conserve his
energy, but he still kept up with the French lessons, some gardening and helping
Hutch at home with his class work. Hutch found himself busier than ever since
Dobey needed him on a few short-term assignments so that between teaching, one
particularly tedious stakeout, and finishing up his court appearances in the
child assault case, he was rarely home.
Luckily there were friends willing and eager to help out and Starsky and
Hutch were never without food, support or the occasional ride to a doctor's
This was very much on Hutch's mind as he went over the witness reports in a
rape case for Dobey. The Captain was taking a well-deserved vacation cum
gymnastics road trip with his family to see Rosie and her team perform in the
regional championships which were in Reno, Nevada. Even Cal had taken a hiatus
from his master's thesis in electrical engineering at UCLA to see his little
sister's routine. Dobey had basically conscripted Hutch into assuming the role
as commander of the detective squad for the few days he was gone. There was an
awe-inspiring responsibility to lead up all the on-going investigations but it
also kept Hutch away from home much more than he'd have preferred. And he'd had
to renig on a promise to accompany Starsky to his ortho appointment at the last
minute. Sophie had driven Starsky over and Huggy was going to deliver him back
home but the delegation of what he considered his job still rankled Hutch.
The phone had rung incessantly for over an hour, breaking his concentration
so often Hutch finally asked the switchboard to only put through the most
important calls until he could make headway in the pile of paperwork on Dobey's
desk. He was just gnawing on a late lunch tomato and cheese sandwich when his
intercom buzzed insistently.
"Hutch? There's a personal call for you," Marcel's disembodied
voice hissed through the poor quality speaker. "Starsky on line four."
"Starsk?" Hutch snatched up the receiver, his heartrate doubling in
under a second. Why was he calling? Was something else wrong? Shouldn't he be at
his appointment right now?
"Hey, " Starsky greeted. Hutch could hear the anguish in his voice
even from across town. "I just saw Dr. Bernardi."
"Yeah, how did it go?"
"My leg's not healin' very well."
"Aw, babe," Hutch could feel tears welling up, but he swallowed
hard to banish them. Truthfully, he wasn't all that surprised at the news. It
didn't take a bone surgeon to know that two months was a long time to still be
wearing a cast.
"There's three places were nothing's changed in all this time,"
Starsky said bleakly. "It doesn't look real good. And I'm not supposed to
walk on it so much."
"I could come right over and get you."
"Huggy's just driving up, I'll be okay, Hutch, I just--just wanted
you to know."
"Starsky," Hutch whispered, feeling lower than a common garden
"You gonna be late?" Starsky asked without much interest.
"No, I'm leaving early," Hutch decided impulsively. "We're
going out to dinner. Some place nice, so dress up."
"Hutch!" Starsky finally sounded alive. "I can't…I'm
"Too tired for…" Hutch though frantically for some place that was
both romantic and palatable for Starsky's finicky stomach. "Zodiac?"
"That place is expensive," he protested, then replied to the faint
greeting Hutch could hear from his chauffeur. "Hey, Huggy, I'll be just a
minute." Coming back on the phone, there was a hint of joy in his words for
the first time in days. "You really want to go out in public with me in the
middle of the week? I got chemo in three days."
"What better day to go," Hutch was suddenly choking on tears, but
they weren't entirely ones of sadness. "I love you, I want to show you off
to the world."
"Love you, too," Starsky mumbled, probably because of Huggy's close
proximity. "But you've always been kinda weird."
"So I've been told."
Zodiac was an oddly eccentric restaurant that appealed to both Starsky and
Hutch's opposite tastes. Since they arrived early on a Tuesday they were seated
right away near a stone hearth with a mantle made of gray and silver streaked
marble. A crackling fire welcomed the diner chilled from the cool autumnal
evening. Buff colored walls were decorated with the pictograms for all twelve
signs of the Zodiac, with detailed paintings of the heavens and constellations
on the ceiling.
A blue shirted waiter with a nametag proclaiming him a Libra seated them
under the sign of Aquarius, at a table with blue table cloth and blue water
glasses. The table across the way, under the sign for Taurus, had a red cloth
and orange glassware. Other star signs were portrayed in bright colors denoting
their spiritual aura, giving the whole room a rainbow effect. Depression was
checked at the door in this place. The menu featured a large assortment of
vegetarian recipes with fresh, organic ingredients but also served meat dishes
gleaned from various countries around the world. Chinese noodles might share the
plate with Italian sauces, or French goat cheese topped Arabian pita bread and
Starsky particularly loved the personal sized pizza dripping with creamy
mozzarella cheese and wickedly spicy Thai chicken. Alas, that wasn't in the
stars for him tonight the way his belly had been acting lately so he perused the
menu without any real interest. And he'd rather look at Hutch anyway; who looked
fantastic in a black turtleneck and shiny leather jacket. The outfit accented
his Nordic blond good looks to perfection. By comparison Starsky thought he
looked like a withered up old shoe. He'd changed from the grubby sweats he'd
been wearing all day into a dark red sweater and slacks which hid the cast, for
the most part, but nothing disguised his wan complexion and naked scalp.
"You want anything?" Hutch asked.
"Dunno," Starsky shrugged doubtfully. He was considerably cheered
just being out with Hutch but that didn't completely eradicate his gloomy
disposition. With the distressing news about his leg still fresh on his mind he
was having a hard time getting up any enthusiasm about whatever bland food he
could eat tonight. Sometimes it was just easier not eating at all than having to
pass up the good stuff for a sick room diet.
"There's a nice endive and spinach salad with poppy seed dressing. You
could have the bran and carrot muffins on the side," Hutch said.
Staring moodily at the sign for Cancer across the restaurant it took Starsky
a moment to reconnect with his partner and realize Hutch was grinning at him.
That horrendous sounding meal had been a joke to pull him out of his reverie and
"I'd rather eat greasy grimy gopher guts and French Fried eye
balls," Starsky retorted, humming the childhood rhyme that described grubby
little boys being made of such fare.
"Luckily, they don't serve that on the menu."
"What are you gonna eat?"
"I was thinking about the salad Nicoise," Hutch pointed to the
"Doesn't that have anchovies? You don't like anchovies."
"Not this one, they substituted salmon instead." Hutch raised his
blond eyebrows coaxingly. "We could share."
"I don't want salad," Starsky looked back at the big red crab on
the wall, its huge claws filling half the space between the front door and the
large plate glass window. "Why is Cancer the crab?"
"That's the symbol," Hutch shrugged. "I don't recall the exact
mythology for each sign. I'm Virgo and you're Aries."
"The virgin and the ram," Starsky said with a wolfish grin. "Kinda
"The ram is the male symbol for fertility but I'm no…"
"Crab," Starsky announced suddenly. "I want to eat crab."
Libra, the waiter, returned just as he decided and nodded gravely. "We
have both crab cakes and crab salad. We only feature fresh Pacific crab claws on
"Crab cakes--with some French bread and mayo," Starsky ordered.
"And some iced tea--got peppermint?"
"Of course," Libra wrote everything down on a little pad, his pale
green eyes peering at them over the tops of wire rimmed glasses. "And for
Hutch gave his order with a distracted air, glancing over at Starsky in
expectation. When Libra left he shook out the folded napkin from the table with
casual grace and placed it carefully over his lap. "You've never eaten crab
in all the time I've known you--what's with the change?"
"You remember I told you that African girl came by? Saiisa, to talk to
"Last week when you weren't feeling very well."
"And again this week, too. She was talking all this mumbo-jumbo about
creative visualization and crap like that." Starsky waited while Libra set
two glasses of peppermint iced tea in front of them and then offered sugar and
lemon. Both declined. Taking a long swig of the naturally sweet, refreshing tea,
Starsky decided not to tell Hutch he was really beginning to like peppermint tea
and not just because it settled his stomach. "She said everybody had to
find a way to fight the cancer in their own way."
"Cancer's the crab," Hutch surmised with a smile.
"I'll bite down real hard, crunch it up with my teeth and get rid of
that damned thing," Starsky declared fiercely, feeling a sort of power
rising up in his chest. This was right for him; this would make his stronger. He
sniffed the appetizing aromas from the kitchen with renewed interest, still
craving a fat, spicy pizza, but no longer disappointed that he couldn't have
one. "This'll work, Hutch, I can feel it."
"I can feel it, too," Hutch blinked suspiciously bright eyes and
ducked his head to take a drink of tea.
Libra brought the food over in a remarkably short time and both dug in
Strangely, with every bite he took of the crispy fried crab cake sandwiched
between two thinly sliced pieces of sourdough Starsky sensed the hate that
blackened his mind losing its hold. He felt rejuvenated, almost exhilarated at
this unique and easy solution. This was how he could defeat the cancer, not with
hate and anger, but with positive, grinding tooth power, using his own body
functions to fight back. Besides, the crab was succulent, tasty and almost sweet
on his tongue. He'd never tried the hard-shelled seafood before and now couldn't
remember why not.
What had started out as a sort of desperate attempt to cheer Starsky up ended
up with a festive atmosphere. They lingered over their meal, just enjoying each
other's company and tuning out the world. There was even a bit of discrete hand
holding under the table. After leaving Zodiac Starsky encouraged Hutch to buy
ice cream at the parlor next door, so they headed back to the car licking their
"There's something I'd like to lick even more than chocolate fudge
ripple," Starsky waggled his eyebrows, standing up so Hutch could fold up
the wheelchair. He watched his partner with a raunchy smile before climbing into
"And what would that be?" Hutch asked as if he didn't know,
slamming the car door after he climbed in. "Hold my cone while I back out
of this parking space. Don't eat any."
"I'm savin' room for Hutchsicle." Starsky said but boldly took a
lick from Hutch's Vanilla Caramel.
"Hey! You're awfully frisky tonight!" Hutch grabbed at the cone but
Starsky held it out of his reach, laughing gleefully. He finally surrendered the
frozen treat when the sticky ice cream began melting down his hand, handing over
the messy cone when Hutch stopped for a red light. "Feeling better?"
"I couldn't feel any better if I tried," Starsky showed his teeth
with a growl low in his throat. "Drive us home fast."
Not even waiting for the wheelchair to be unfurled, Starsky dashed up the
front walk of their home with all the speed he could muster on crutches. Dr.
Bernardi had pretty much banned the use of the walker cast because of the stress
it placed on the still broken bones, strained muscles and tendons. In fact, with
all probability the rubber walker base would be removed for a more conventional
cast once Starsky was back in hospital on Friday for his fourth round of chemo.
Swinging through the front door Starsky left it open for Hutch to follow and
headed straight for the bedroom. He paused only long enough to pull back the
burgundy and gold spread before sprawling back on the pillows in a sensual pose.
"Starsk?" Hutch called, closing the front door. "Where'd you
"You have to ask?" Starsky called back, giggling with mischief. He
wanted that big blond Viking all over him, right now. Sex had found a chink in
between all the drugs that kept him flaccid and uninterested and there was no
time to waste. He actually had stirrings of arousal in his limp cock. This was a
"Ah, there you are," Hutch lounged against the doorframe, his long,
muscled body backlit from the hall light. Blond hair haloed around his head,
arraying him like a god. Just beautiful from Starsky's point of view.
"Lying here in the dark all alone?"
"Not for long," Starsky flicked a match and lit several of the
lumpy, well used candles on the bedside table. Hutch took another long handled
match and ignited the candles nestled into odd niches around the room.
Now the flames guttered and flickered, dappling Hutch with shadows and
brightness, sculpting the very air around him. "Get undressed, I want to
see you naked," Starsky purred in a voice that was impossible to refuse.
"Only if you do," Hutch stalled.
"Nah, I look like a bag of bones, you're a god."
"Starsky." A flicker of sadness crossed Hutch's face, but he
nodded, bending to untie his shoelaces. Shoes dropped away followed by socks and
then the zipper of the black jeans he wore went southward. Starsky grinned when
Hutch wiggled his hips like a $10 a dance stripper performing for a customer and
then slid the jeans down his long pale thighs until they pooled around his
ankles. He was wearing tight black briefs that did nothing to hide the rising
flagpole between his legs and he thrust forward suggestively. Starsky groaned,
rubbing his own still clothed erection with pleasure. It had been weeks since
he'd felt this good. Hutch tugged on the sleeves of his turtleneck sweater
suddenly flipping the whole thing over his head and onto the floor in one fluid
gesture that left him wearing nothing but underwear. The candlelight bronzed his
pale skin, illuminating him around the edges as if he'd been dipped in gold
"What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason. How infinite in
faculty, how like a god…" Starsky sang never taking his eyes off his
Hutch. The subject of all his private fantasies and dreams.
"David Starsky quoting Shakespeare?" Hutch teased, gliding onto the
bed to help Starsky with his personal massage.
"Hutch, it's from 'Hair'."
"Before that it was from 'Hamlet'," he corrected fondly.
Starsky let his hands drop away as Hutch continued caressing his cock. He
reached up to disengage the zipper and free the prisoner confined inside.
"Oh! See, I know a couple of things."
"More than a couple," Hutch agreed slipping his hand inside the
slit in Starsky's boxers and closing his fist around what he found inside.
"You're hard!" he crowed in surprise.
"Nobody's happier about it than me," Starsky chuckled. "Hutch,
come inside me, now, before I lose it."
"Starsk!" Hutch protested. "You--bleed so easily, you've got…"
"You don't think I remember that every minute!" he retorted too
loudly. Rage roared in where it wasn't wanted, obliterating everything in a
single instant. "Not here, not now. Don't let that get in between us in
bed. It's taken over every other part of my life, not here!"
"I'm just scared," Hutch whispered. "I could hurt you so
"No you won't." Starsky was so close to crying it was hard to
breathe and unfortunately the unexpected anger had deflated his cock. It felt
light and weightless in Hutch's hand, hardly there at all. Only Hutch's skin
still touching his had any meaning anymore and if he lost that, all the crab
sandwiches and positive creative visualization wouldn't amount to anything
because he couldn't live if he didn't have Hutch with him. He'd tried so hard to
push his lover away there in those first few days and it hadn't worked but now
his stupid body was effortlessly succeeding where common sense had failed.
"Please, Hutch. It's all I have left to give you."
"You don't have to give me anything, fish breath," Hutch tucked his
head down, kissing Starsky with a love than washed over them in a tidal wave.
"Crab, not fish," Starsky mumbled, light headed from the rush.
"Turn on your side," Hutch said gently, aiding in his instructions
with a push on Starsky's back and a minor adjustment of the pillows to use as
support. He tucked one of the throw pillows from the bottom of the bed under
Starsky's upper leg to cushion it from the casted one, carefully divesting him
of his pants at the same time. Starsky couldn't stop the few tears that filled
his eyes but he sighed with happiness as Hutch's fingers skimmed over his now
naked bottom seeking the anal opening. "Just tell me if it hurts."
Hutch took the well-used tube of KY jelly from the bedside drawer, smearing a
liberal amount around the puckered space. He dipped two fingers inside. Starsky
gasped, arousal leaping across his skin as if Hutch's touch set off a static
charge. "I can just see tryin' to explain this to Dr. Davies…" Hutch
chattered nervously, his fingers still inserted up Starsky's ass. "You see,
Doctor, Starsky made me do this…he's insatiable. If you need another
transfusion, don't complain to me."
"Hutch, shut up," Starsky said simply. "Just do it. 'S'not
like you haven't done it before. 'S'not hard, but I am, again." He grinned,
holding onto that wonderful thickness, feeling life pulsing against his palm
just as a blunt force pushed into him from behind. For a second he was just a
conduit, the beating of two hearts vibrating through his bones in concert. He
whimpered when Hutch entered him fully, not from pain but from the achingly
beautiful perfection of the act. This was life, this was unity. The cancer
hadn't completely robbed him of everything he held dear. His job was uncertain,
and the future was murky but the present was love.
Hutch kissed the hairless back pressed close up to him, taking his time with
the penetration, not allowing the least bit of force. Starsky almost mourned the
loss of the wild abandon usually associated with their physical acts of love but
he let himself float in Hutch's embrace, comforted by the connection between
them. Chemo was in three days but he no longer cared. Reaching behind him he
guided Hutch's right hand to his waiting penis. There was no need for words,
Hutch immediately began stroking in harmony with the gentle rocking motion he
started to push himself more deeply inside Starsky's core.
Starsky panted as he came, the orgasm weak but satisfying all the same. He
understood all too well why Hutch never climaxed--he was too frightened of
damaging the sick man to lose all control even for a single moment. Starsky was
saddened by that but he pulled Hutch into a clinch, protecting him from all the
worry and fear that surrounded them in an inescapable wall.
"You never told me what Dr. Bernardi said," Hutch spoke after a
long time, stroking his palm on Starsky's bare, baby soft chest. He skittered
his fingers around the subclavian catheter sutured into the skin and kissed the
area just above as if in apology for what the doctors had done to him.
"He doesn't want me walkin' on it, I told you," Starsky answered,
not really wanting to discuss his traitorous bones any longer.
"Does he have any new strategies? And treatments?"
Rolling away from the soothing rubdown, Starsky nodded. "He
wants--" He paused, summoning up courage for the harsh reality. "He
wants t'do more surgery. Maybe--um--something about titanium alloys and a couple
more pins or something. But not until after the chemo is over, so not until
December. Wants me to be healthy for the surgery." He couldn't voice the
other ominous things Bernardi had said.
"I'm sorry, Starsky."
"Always something else to look forward to, huh?" Starsky asked,
knowing he sounded bitter, but not caring. How did he manage to hit so many
emotions in one single evening? How did Hutch even keep up? "At least I
won't have to deal with the chemo by then. That's a good thing. Three more to go…"
"The glass is half empty," Hutch agreed.
Starsky stiffened, his rebellious stomach suddenly rumbling uncomfortably.
Damn, he hadn't puked in two days, although there was no telling what could set
him off. "Aw, shit…" He pursed his lips, but the crab sandwich had
"Basin?" Hutch asked unnecessarily, having witnessed far too many
of these episodes to be unprepared. He had the battered blue bowl in front of
his best friend in less time than it took to say the words.
Starsky emptied the contents of his belly in one tremendous heave, supporting
himself against the bed with trembling arms. Luckily, that was it for now, there
was no second act. Hutch covered him up with a blanket and disappeared into the
bathroom to clean up the useful little bowl.
Starsky giggled abruptly, a weird idea popping into his foggy brain.
"You feeling better?" Hutch gently sponged him off with a wet rag
and then dried his face before crawling under the covers to warm Starsky's
chilled body with shared body heat.
"What did, crab breath? You need to brush your teeth." Hutch
wrinkled his nose but didn't make a move to go get toothbrush or paste.
"The crab sandwiches. Tasted good the first time, not so good on the
repeat but I know--down deep--that it took some of the sarcoma with it."
Starsky curled lazily into his favorite place, facing Hutch with one hand draped
over the other man's hip.
"Faith," Hutch said after a time.
"Faith, the belief of things unseen. It can move mountains."
"And cure cancer."
Hutch couldn't seem to wipe off the smile on his face every time the doorbell
rang and Starsky dropped candy into the outstretched bags of tiny Draculas, Jedi
Knights and Fairy Princesses. The smile burst out of him each and every time as
if making up for the last five days when he hadn't smiled much at all. The last
weekend of chemo had been brutal. Starsky was so weakened by the ordeal he'd
willingly stayed in the Rose Tree Unit an extra day as long as Hutch promised he
could hand out candy on Halloween. And as much as having his increasingly frail
partner that near several dozen little germ carriers scared him more than all
the miniature goblins did, Hutch didn't have the heart to deny Starsky such a
small pleasure. By the looks of things, the holiday spirit had inhabited David
Starsky right and proper. He lurked by the front door, leaning on a crutch but
in costume, ready for the almost constant parade of trick or treaters. Every
time he hauled open the door he gave a ghoulish howl sending the children into
gales of laughter.
As if to highlight his plummeting weight due to the ever present nausea and
vomiting caused by the chemo Starsky wore a T-shirt and sweat pants imprinted
with a skeleton. Hutch had been reluctant when Starsky dragged him out to the
mall just prior to being admitted to the hospital for a last minute shopping
spree to find the 'right costume for Halloween'. When his bright eyed imp of a
partner held up the skeleton shirt Hutch wanted to be appalled by choice but
recognized Starsky's need for such a darkly humorous selection.
"Hey, Hug!" Starsky greeted holding open the door. "Want a
little Almond Joy?"
"Don't feel like a nut t'day, Starsky. Got anything else?"
"Take the last Snickers." Starsky handed over the miniature sized
candy, eyeing Huggy speculatively. "You look familiar."
"Can't you guess?" Huggy trooped into the room wearing a long
swirling blue cape and tight pants. He'd penciled in a narrow mustache over his
upper lip and carried a toy pistol in one hand.
"Lando Calrissian," Hutch identified.
"And you said you didn't even like 'Empire Strikes Back'," Starsky
He hadn't even closed the door when a half-pint Darth Vader and an even
smaller Chewbacca chorused out, "Tricker treat!"
Darth Vader grabbed the chocolate Starsky held out and used it as a pointer.
"Lookit, there's Lando!" Chewbacca barked and hooted, his fur matted
"May the Force be with you!" Huggy called out cheerfully when they
trooped down the front walk to their mom waiting with a flashlight.
"Happy Halloween!" Starsky waved with a grin, but Hutch could see
he was tiring. He'd already been doling out sweets for an hour now and it was
time to close up shop.
"Starsk, turn out the porch light and come sit down. Huggy's here. You
don't want to be completely worn out before 'Fright Night' starts…"
"I still got some candy," Starsky protested.
"Won't go to waste," Huggy laughed, relieving him of the bowl.
"Siddown before you fall down. You're all skin and bones."
"I'm a skeleton, I'm supposed t'be!" he crutched over to the couch,
sprawling out with a sigh.
"Hey, blondie, what are you supposed to be?" Huggy carried the bag
he'd brought into the kitchen.
"An undercover cop." Hutch followed in after him and opened a bag
of chips to go with the guacamole he'd prepared earlier.
"Never would have guessed it," Huggy said dryly popping the tops on
a couple of beer bottles. He inserted one into Hutch's empty hand, leaning back
on the counter. "How's it going, man? Starsky looks…"
"Bad," Hutch gulped, both from the beer and the overwhelming
emotions that would swamp him at the weirdest of times. "What the hell is
"Pumpkin Ale," Huggy took another drink, turning the bottle around
so the leering orange gourd on the label was visible. "'Specially for the
"Well, I'd prefer the old stand by, thanks just the same." Hutch
grimaced, rooting around in Huggy's provisions for some Heineken. "Hug, I
don't know what to do anymore. Starsky doesn't eat, he throws up all the time,
he sleeps for hours--all day almost, this is the longest he's been up and alert
for days and doctors say by now the chemo's just about wiped out his immune
system so a cold could put him in the hospital and…"
"This might not even work. All this suffering and he might not go into
remission at the end," Hutch pressed the bottle against his forehead to
stave off the headache that started almost every evening, glancing across the
hall into the living room, hoping Starsky didn’t hear them talking about him.
The last thing he wanted Starsky to know is that he'd begun to lose hope. He
already felt like a mutinous crew on a voyage into hell, but the last round of
chemo had worn Hutch down. He rarely felt like eating or sleeping when Starsky
was so sick, and between having to care for his partner and getting up to teach,
Hutch was exhausted.
"Th'both of you need some food and sleep," Huggy advised. "Daisy'll
be here soon with the grub and I expect you t'eat every bit, hero, or you'll
hurt her feelings. She said Starsky wanted crab?"
"He's craving things he doesn't normally eat," Hutch explained,
since it wasn't his place to explain about Starsky's private coping mechanisms.
"Problem is he can't keep anything down. If he keeps this up they'll have
to put him on IV fluids for dehydration and he hates being tied down."
"Have you tried marijuana?" Huggy held up his hands like a traffic
cop stopping a line of cars. "An' don't give me the jive that it's a
misdemeanor. It worked great for my cousin Hakeem who had the big 'C'."
"Starsky said marijuana makes him throw up, so I asked Davies,"
Hutch smiled; the explanation as to why had been so quintessentially Starsky.
"He said it's rare, but some people have idiosyncratic reactions--the exact
opposite of what the drug's supposed to do."
"Typical," Huggy nodded ruefully.
The doorbell rang as Hutch was hoisting the bowl of dip and chips onto a tray
and Huggy was laden with the drinks.
"I'll get it!" Starsky called sleepily, struggling to get up off
"No, you won't," Hutch placed the tray on the coffee table.
"Some little hooligan dressed up like the Hulk can wait two seconds for me
to open the door."
"Remember to howl!" Starsky added, watching Hutch to make sure he
greeted the candy seeker with the proper decorum.
"OO-waaah," Hutch obliged, feeling foolish. He felt even more
foolish when a grinning Daisy Peducci, wearing a pointed purple witch hat and
blinking jack o'lantern earrings, stood on the front step. There wasn't a pint
sized Frankenstein's monster to be seen in either direction, although a lanky
boy dressed as a bum lurked on the sidewalk for a moment before disappearing
down the street.
"Trick or treat," Daisy said brightly. "Your howl could use
some work, Ken."
"Blame Starsky, that was his job," Hutch stepped aside to let her
in, blushing furiously. Just his luck to look stupid in front of a beautiful
"What did you bring, O lovely Witch of the West?" Huggy greeted
giving her a friendly peck on the mouth.
"Cream of pumpkin soup, pumpernickel bread and for dessert…"
"Let me guess, pumpkin pie?" Hutch asked in dismay.
"No, silly, sugar cookies shaped like bats," Daisy laughed.
"They've been a real hit, can hardly keep them in the shop."
"How's the bakery going?" Starsky asked. "I been meaning to
come down, but…"
"It's amazing, I never dreamed owning my own business could be so much
fun!" Daisy proclaimed, setting out the food on the coffee table. Hutch
went back in the kitchen for bowls, spoons and napkins. "Marie Saint Claire
is a godsend. Not only can she cook but she's good with the books. I can't thank
you all enough for the help."
"Just keep bringing the food by." Starsky grinned waving a hand at
the fare. "Hutch, siddown, the movie's about to start."
"'Plan Nine from Outer Space' is considered one, if not the, worst movie
ever made," Hutch scooped up some guacamole on a tortilla chip, settling
into the space Starsky made for him on the couch. It hadn't escaped his notice
that while Starsky was regaling Daisy with praise for her culinary selections,
he hadn't sampled any of it. "Tell me again why we're watching this?"
"It's a classique," Starsky said with a fakey French accent.
"And besides, it's a hoot when the Fright Night guy adds commentary--didja
know that Bela Legosi died during the filming and it's some other guy at the end
with his black cape over his face?"
"No," Hutch pretended surprise at that revelation.
"I just hate when the Mom takes the baby's temperature up the
back," Daisy giggled, snuggling into the overstuffed chair with Huggy.
Huggy didn't appear the least crowded by 120 pounds of woman on his lap. In
fact, he looked downright happy about it.
Hutch barely watched the movie, instead watching Starsky out of the corner of
his eye. They'd scootched together into a comfortable tangle, Starsky 's feet,
one bare and the other casted, resting on a pillow on Hutch's lap, Hutch's arm
curled over Starsky's belly. But with his hand in that position Hutch could feel
the sharp jut of Starsky's ribs under the painted rib bones on his t-shirt. And
while the rest of them feasted on the Halloween meal, Starsky only nibbled on
some crab and bread, hardly making a dent in either. Before the credits were
rolling Starsky had fallen asleep, both hands wrapped around Hutch's.
"Hey, we'll clean up and get outta your hair," Huggy promised
softly. "You need any help with him?"
"It's okay," Hutch assured as Daisy packed what she had brought.
Huggy and Daisy talked softly as they worked before leaving, with the intimacy
only two lovers could bring to an ordinary conversation. Hutch was truly happy
for his old friend and his new one, too. With any luck, maybe there would be a
wedding in Huggy's future, with all the happiness and craziness that went along
with that. Hutch had never stopped to think about marriage since he and Starsky
become a couple. His first one had been such a disaster that he rarely
contemplated making another relationship official. But, now, with all that was
going on he suddenly wished there were some way to legalize their union. Even
when he accompanied Starsky to the hospital, there was no designation for what
he was. Not spouse, not family member, just friend. Just friend--like a
co-worker or neighbor kind enough to drive a sick man to his appointment, but
nothing special. It really brought home how tenuous his position was. There was
no official status for male lover. Luckily, they had appointed each other their
next of kin in an emergency, but there were times when Hutch could feel some of
the doctors and nurses, certainly not Starsky's regular ones but employees of
the hospital, looking at him with suspicion in their eyes. He could hear their
jeers; the accusation that he was doing something nasty and sinful with that
poor guy who had cancer. Just one more stresser to pile on top of the mound he
already had to carry around.
Looking down at his partner pillowed down on the edge of the sofa, nearly in
danger of dropping right off the side, Hutch decided none of that mattered. This
was all that was important, right here, the two of them on the couch together.
He loved David Starsky so deeply that the strong and constant presence of their
love wiped clean all the other stuff completely. Even if things got worse, and
he was fairly certain they would, that alone would be the cement to hold them
together until happier times.
Worried that Starsky might take a header, Hutch slid one hand under him,
pulling him more securely onto the couch and repositioned himself so that he was
cradling Starsky in his lap. Starsky muttered and stirred but never woke. The
mass of the warm body on his legs was heavy, even with recent weight losses, but
Hutch was loath to disturb his slumbering friend any further. Besides, it wasn't
often that he could indulge in such shameless cuddling without Starsky
complaining about being mother henned or treated like an invalid. Hutch watched
the clock over the TV inch forward towards midnight holding his precious burden
close to his heart.
Pansy leapt up on the backrest, rubbing her silky fur against his neck. His
hair was all grown in but still far shorter than he'd worn it in years and the
rumble of Pansy's purr on the base of his skull was like a professional massage.
The cat sniffed the air, jumping from couch to coffee table in one fluid
movement to investigate what remained on the discarded plates. Starsky's
unfinished crab lured the sleek cat and she chowed down to Hutch's amusement.
When she had eaten up every succulent morsel and nosed the bowl of left over
miniature candy bars without interest she sat defiantly on the mosaic of
frolicking dolphins, grooming her forelegs delicately. Hutch stuck out a bare
foot to nudge her off the coffee table, then propped both feet up, falling
asleep just before the witching hour.
He woke with a groan, his neck stiff and back protesting the awkward
arrangement of arms and legs. He had somehow slouched down in his sleep, head
resting on the back of the couch, Starsky sprawled lengthwise across his lap.
And Starsky was moaning even louder than he was.
"Starsk?" Hutch shook his shoulder gently, trying to align Starsky
to see his face better but his own right arm was all pins and needles from being
squashed under a 148-pound body.
"WHA…?" Starsky jerked awake with a cry, struggling to sit up but
he was too tangled up with Hutch and the momentary confinement only exacerbated
"Hey, hey," Hutch pulled Starsky into a hug succeeding in
separating their legs and righting his partner all at the same time. "It's
me, you just fell asleep on the couch, remember?"
"Those goofy aliens were attacking…" Starsky shuddered a breath,
breaking away from Hutch's hold, his body tense with pain. He rested his
forehead on a trembling hand. "Wha's that movie about anyway?"
"You picked it out." Aware that Starsky was just rambling to give
himself time to readjust, Hutch stretched, getting up. "I'll get your
pills," he said to give credence to his actions. He had to use the john,
too. It was three forty five in the morning according to the clock, and for
whatever reason, Hutch felt fully awake. "You hungry?"
"No," Starsky winced, settling his cast up on the couch again.
Hutch hurried to find the painkillers because if Starsky was hurting enough to
wince, his leg had to be aching badly.
"You need to eat something, buddy."
"It's the middle of the night," Starsky protested.
Collecting the pills from the bathroom where he'd stashed them before their
little Halloween soiree, Hutch shook out the required dosages. "You don't
eat in the daytime, what's the difference?"
"Cause I don't want to eat!" Starsky shouted.
"The pills won't stay down unless you take something with them,"
Hutch tried to be reasonable. Starsky was sick; he couldn't be, so Hutch had to
be the navigator of every conversational sea. Already this one threatened to
beach them both in the rocks unless he maintained a steady hand on the tiller.
And the problem was he often felt like a nagging parent instead of a concerned
lover. Nothing about this whole situation ever got any easier. Every day seemed
rougher than the day before, small issues mushrooming into giant ones because
the base of their whole lives was so screwed up.
"Nothing stays down," Starsky retorted violently and threw a pillow
for good measure, knocking the Halloween candy bowl over. Individually wrapped
Mounds and Almond Joys tumbled over the carpet as if he'd taken the killing blow
to a piñata.
True enough, but Hutch was still determined to find the magic solution--the
perfect food that would somehow provide all Starsky's nutritional needs and
sooth his oh-so-touchy stomach. Ice cream often worked where nothing else did,
and as luck would have it he'd found a limited edition Peppermint flavor at the
grocery. If anything would appease Starsky, pink ice cream loaded with heart
shaped red hots would do the trick. A couple of banana slices on top added some
necessary vitamins to the treat.
"It's pink." Starsky declared flatly as if Hutch had personally
colored the ice cream just to piss him off.
"Maybe they ran out of blue dye," Hutch snapped. "Take the
damn pills and eat the ice cream before it melts."
Starsky dipped the spoon into the creamy concoction, tasting it warily. He
took several more bites, including some of the banana before abandoning the dish
and swallowing the pills. His shoulders were drawn up practically to his ears;
his mouth set in a line that boded no good. Hutch could feel empathetic stress
along his own spine and longed to rub his lover down with relaxing eucalyptus
oils. What had happened to the joyous Starsky handing out candy, dressed like a
Not ready to become ensnared in some argument he didn't even understand Hutch
cleared away the melting ice cream and the now empty plate that Pansy had licked
clean, dumping them in the sink. Daisy had tidied up the kitchen enough that he
didn't feel pressed to do any dishes, but sitting next to Starsky right now
didn't have the appeal it held a few hours ago. Casting about for things to do,
he started shoveling the candy back into the pumpkin bowl, unwrapping one
without really noticing he was doing so.
"I want an Almond Joy."
Hutch was so startled by the request he stared dumbly at his friend for
several seconds before looking down at the chocolate he held. It was the correct
type so he handed it over without a word. Starsky ate it glumly displaying no
outward evidence that he enjoyed the candy whatsoever.
"D'you have to go into the station today?"
"Yes, Dobey's back but neither of us has had time for a debriefing of
when I was in charge, so we're finally getting together to go over recent
"Can you get out of it? Stay home?"
"I don't think so…"
"How long'll you be gone?"
"Starsky…" Hutch consciously put his irritation aside. Something
was going on here, Starsky was rarely so needy or clingy. He, of all people,
knew a cop's schedule was unpredictable. "I'll try to make it as short as
"Do you still go out on calls?"
"Not very often."
"Then, I want to come down to the squadroom. I can go over reports--do
Oh, God, how did he counter that? "Thanks for the offer, Starsk, but
didn't you tell me you learned not to volunteer in the army?"
"So I'm not wanted?" Starsky stared Hutch down, daring him to
refute the simple question.
"Starsky, you haven't had a decent platelet level since the transfusion
two and a half weeks ago--Davies says any infection could put you in the
hospital again. D'you want to risk that?" Using Davies' name was the trump
card, taking Hutch's own fears out of the equation. Starsky couldn't argue with
"So I just stay home, a useless cripple?" Starsky asked savagely.
"No more me and thee, huh, partner?" The latter was delivered with
cutting accuracy, meant to wound and scar. Hutch could feel it slicing open his
"Go to hell. Leave me alone!" Starsky lurched to his feet, but the
crutch wasn't within easy reach so he propelled himself forward with clumsy hops
hanging on to the furniture for balance and made it into the back hall and their
bedroom far quicker than Hutch had realized he could move.
What had just happened? No right answer would have fixed what was just ripped
asunder. Hutch realized Starsky was scared, hell, he was every single minute of
the day, but never before had Starsky so viciously attacked with so little
provocation. He looked down at the candy bars still clenched in his hand. Some
were twisted into chocolate pretzels, and he hurriedly dumped them into the
bowl. Weariness weighed down on him like the globe Atlas carried and he
approached the bedroom door with trepidation. No way Starsky would welcome him
into their bed now, it was the spare room for him tonight. Except he was too
worried about Starsky's health--and his state of mind right now to turn away.
Sighing, he drug the wingback chair into the hall, shoving it against the wall
just outside the bedroom door and hunkered down to keep vigil.
Pushing the covers off his face, Starsky shivered when the cooler air hit.
Damn, he felt like shit. It was the Disneyland hangover all over again but this
time he'd only been up and active for about an hour--two, tops. How did other
people do this? Other people with cancer, that is. How did they tolerate the
awfulness of the disease and go on living? Before the chemo his calf had ached,
particularly at night, but otherwise he'd been in fine shape, able to run, eat,
live, like any other normal guy. Now he was sick all the time, or asleep. What
kind of life was that?
And the argument with Hutch. Over nothing, and everything. He didn't even
know where that anger had come from, could hardly even recall feeling that
strongly about anything to cause such stomping and shouting. Why? There was no
explanation, anyway, nothing made sense anymore. His head hurt so much he
couldn't think past the pain and he was too tired to figure out what course to
take to rectify things. What if he'd irreparably ruined everything?
Too demoralized to even wipe away the tears dripping off his nose, Starsky
huddled down in the covers. Across the hall he could hear the shower splashing
in the second bathroom. Hutch must be getting ready to go into Metro, leaving
Starsky alone for the better part of the day. The idea of being separated from
his best friend and partner gripped his heart and Starsky cried harder, suddenly
sure that some horrible fate awaited Hutch if he left the house. God knows
they'd had their share of trauma through the years, who could blame him for
worrying about Hutch?
There was a hesitant knock on the bedroom door before a damp blond head poked
in, an uncertain smile on his face. "Starsk? I need to get some clean
Pulling the coverlet closer Starsky gave a muffled affirmative, peeking at
Hutch over the edge as he rummaged through a dresser drawer. He wore nothing but
a towel wrapped around his waist, and in the early light his back was golden and
unblemished above the terry cloth. Despite keeping up the illusion of separate
bedrooms their clothes invariably ended up tossed into the same drawers and
shoved into one all encompassing closet. It had gotten to the point--right
before Starsky's illness--where he wasn't even always sure which shirts and
briefs had started out his and which were Hutch's. The pants and shoes, being
different sizes, were easier to sort out. Now everything was too big for Starsky
to the point that he really needed to go out and find sweat pants in a smaller
Hutch dressed with a fluidity of motion, putting on a blue plaid flannel
shirt and darker blue pants quickly. Starsky watched, not with any sexual
desire, but more a longing to have that ease of movement and freedom from pain.
He must have made some small, unconscious noise because suddenly Hutch was
sitting on the edge of the bed, one hand hovering as if he wanted to stroke a
cheek or massage out a tight muscle.
"Hey, why're you crying?" Hutch asked gently, and then Starsky was
scooped up, coverlet and all, and pulled into his arms. It was the most
wonderful hug Starsky could remember, all softness and whispers of love, even
though his head pounded louder and his belly heaved from the abrupt movement.
"Hey, hey." Hutch soothed. "It's okay, you big lug, nothing's
"Don't go," Starsky managed past wrenching sobs. "Stay
"Starsk," Hutch gathered up the unresisting Starsky, settling him
more securely his lap. It was a clumsy cuddle; he was all hard angles and sharp
edges anymore with much less muscle or fat to pad his bones. Starsky leaned into
Hutch's strength, spent and exhausted. "I gotta make an appearance or Dobey
will have my head and you don't want that, do you?"
Starsky shook his head mutely, vainly trying to get his tears under control
but his breath still came in painful hitches.
"I'll be back as soon as I can--maybe by lunch time, you can hold out
until then, huh?" Hutch's soft words held a hint of teasing, but there was
fear in between the lines. He was as worried about Starsky as Starsky was for
Starsky closed his eyes, weary beyond belief. "I can't do this anymore,
"Starsk, you're just tired. You'll feel more like fighting again when
you're stronger. You haven't eaten anything. Give it a few days. "
"I can't," Starsky whispered. "I don't want to anymore."
Bracing his forehead against Starsky's sharp shoulder, Hutch just held on
tighter, He was making a wet spot on the back of the skeleton shirt, but neither
made any mention of the fact. "Things'll get better, Starsk," he
finally said lamely.
"No," Starsky answered with conviction. "They won't."
Clearing his throat, Hutch knuckled tears out of his eyes. "Starsk, Mick
is coming this morning, it's Sophie's day off. Get some sleep; you'll hardly
know I'm gone. I don't want to leave you, buddy, like this but..." The
doorbell came on the end of his sentence, sending a shiver through Starsky's
body. Hutch patted Starsky's arms assuringly, calling out, "I'll be right
"Hutch," Starsky winced at the loud noise.
"I know, I sound like Dobey," Hutch began tucking him back into bed
with clucking noises while smoothing wrinkles in the pillow case and
straightening sheets. Starsky let himself be coddled like a small child, drained
of any left over fight. Hutch kissed him on the crown of his head, wiping away
Starsky's tears with a damp Kleenex. "You're depressed right now, which is
okay. Anybody in their right mind would be. Want me to call Saiisa Borunda?"
"Don't go," Starsky wept, turning away when Hutch went to let Mick
in the door.
Having every intention of leaving early Hutch was inundated with projects
from the moment he hit the detective squadroom. He tried to push Starsky's
strange behavior out of his mind, but the desperate pleas and tears had been so
unusual, so un-Starsky like. Was this something more than just acute depression?
The look on Starsky's face when he'd said 'I don't want to anymore' haunted him,
filling him with fearful speculation. Was the cancer worse? Could Starsky be
preparing for the end? It wasn't possible, not Starsky, not ever. Hutch was so
inattentive during the debriefing with Dobey the older man finally pushed the
reports away with a look of pity.
"Hutchinson, what's going on here? Is Starsky worse?"
"I wish I knew," Hutch sighed. The headache that had started the
night before was worse than ever despite constant influxes of aspirin and
coffee. He'd been dragging the whole morning from a combination of worry and not
enough sleep. "He was great on Halloween--dressed up like a skeleton."
"Macabre." Dobey shook his head with a smile. "That's Starsky
in a nutshell. Rosie, Samantha and Cait were all dressed up like that singer
Madonna. I almost didn't let them out of the house. Rosie had on a ripped
t-shirt, a cross and fishnet stockings! She started to cry when I put my foot
"I'd be on your side," Hutch chuckled sympathetically, glad to have
something else to think about besides his partner's troubles.
"Well, Edith wasn't. She'd even helped the girls pick out their
costumes! Samantha was a strange sort of bride and Cait was wearing plaid pants
and a purple top. Her hair was blue and pink, stuck out in all directions."
"I think that's Cyndi Lauper," Hutch said helpfully.
"Another popular singer on MTV. Starsky listens to her."
"I don't know where Rosie gets this stuff, she doesn't watch that
channel at our house!" Dobey harrumphed. "Went over to the Curtises
for a party, came home at 11 on a school night!"
Hutch couldn't help recalling his high school freshman years, going out with
friends, standing back to watch the older ones toilet paper a house and stow
smashed eggs in the mailbox on Halloween night because he was a too straight
laced to join in. Starsky would have, he was certain of it. He hadn't had any
problems soaping the windows of his grand dad's outhouse, but that was
different. The old man never got mad at his grandson, not once, and besides,
nobody used the outhouse after they'd installed indoor plumbing on the antique
farmhouse ten years before.
"Starsky loved seeing all the kids dressed up," Hutch related
sadly. "But in the middle of the night something happened, I don't know.
He's having such a hard time, and I can't fix it right now."
"You both are having a hard time," Dobey chided gently. "Go
home, Hutchinson, find out what's wrong and get some sleep. He's not the only
one going through chemo."
About to negate that statement Hutch was startled when the intercom bleeped
loudly and Marcel called in. "Hutch, there's a call for you on line three.
From a guy named Mick."
Snatching up the phone almost before Dobey could hit the button to connect
line three, Hutch panted, "Mick?"
"Hutch, I called an ambulance and they're taking Dave to the hospital.
His temperature started going up after you left. It's 103."
"I'll meet you there," was all Hutch said, the lump in his throat
making it almost too hard to speak.
"He's got a UTI," John Davies explained. "Urinary tract
"How did he get that?" Hutch demanded, the unwelcome thought that
sex could have caused the infection--not that they'd had intercourse very often,
certainly not in the last few days.
"He's on chemo, it's common, if very unwelcome. Most patients get that
or pneumonia…" Davies explained, concern drawing down his mouth.
"I've started him on antibiotics, but don't be surprised if the specific
drug changes in acouple of days after we get the bacterial cultures back. We
often start with a broad spectrum drug and then customize with a more specific
antibiotic when we know which bug we're actually dealing with."
"Seven days, most likely. IV meds work best, but we can try him on oral
in a few days and if he keeps them down, he can go home for the remainder of the
"He doesn't eat."
"That's the other problem, because he's developing mouth sores, another
side effect of the chemo. So he's on something to deal with that, now. Hopefully
he'll start feeling better soon and we can work on getting his weight back
"Thank you, John," Hutch returned the man's firm handshake,
watching him walk only a few feet down the hall to the next patient's room. How
did he do that, day after day--deal with death and cancer with such calm
assurance? He made the patients comfortable and still gave them all the
necessary information germane to their disease process without dumbing down the
explanations. Hutch valued the man's honesty, even when he didn't want to hear
it. The more he became involved in the whole experience of having a loved one in
the hospital with a devastating disease, especially for the second time, the
more Hutch had come to admire the medical staff. These were the people he wanted
to have been like had he continued on his path towards a medical degree. But
that was behind him now, he was a cop, and that wasn't much help to a partner
with a virulent bacterial sepsis.
The tall gray haired nurse with the British accent--what was her name, Gemma?--smiled
at Hutch when she emerged from Starsky's room and he managed to give her a
passable greeting in return.
"He's sleeping comfortably and his temp's already down to 101.5,"
she reported in that accent that reminded him of old Sherlock Holmes movies.
"Can I go in now?"
'Of course, you're his partner," she assured and from the way she said
it, there was no confusion as to what sort of partner Gemma was referring to.
She knew, what's more, she understood. And there was no censure or judgment.
Hutch liked the fact that Rose Tree Unit patients always got to come back into
the bosom of their hospital family, even when the readmission was for something
other than chemo treatments. Probably, had Starsky been contagious, they might
not have allowed him entrance because of the glassed in isolation rooms across
the hall. These double walled white rooms sometimes housed gaunt men and women
awaiting transplants, their immune system stripped clean by powerful chemo
drugs, but luckily a UTI was only dangerous to the sufferer, not to others.
With all his heart Hutch wanted to go in and see his lover, but he was rooted
to the linoleum just outside the door. He'd left Starsky, sick and crying, to go
in to work. He'd recognized how out of the ordinary Starsky was behaving and
chose to ignore it--abandoning the man he loved more than life itself to pain
and anguish without a thought. He didn't deserve to be admitted into the sick
room, and the ache encompassing his chest expanded with remembered guilt.
"Ken Hutchinson?" A beautiful coffee skinned woman touched his arm
"Yes?" Hutch found himself looking straight into nearly black eyes
set in a lively face surrounded by long flowing braids that trailed past
shoulders clad in bright green and vibrant blue. "You're Saiisa."
"Yes, I guess David's discussed me behind my back." Her onyx eyes
twinkled with amusement, but she sobered quickly. "How is he doing? Some
sort of infection, Gemma said?"
"He's on antibiotics now, Davies said it's not uncom…" Hutch
caught the almost-sob before it escaped but he found, suddenly, that he couldn't
"Would you like some coffee?" Saiisa asked tenderly. "The
family room is empty just now."
Hutch allowed himself to be led into the pleasant waiting room and plied with
caffeine and sugar. He was halfway through a large chocolate chip muffin before
he even realized he was eating it but it helped fill the emptiness in his belly.
After the confrontation with Starsky just before he left he hadn't been able to
stomach any breakfast.
"Feeling a little bit more on solid ground now?" Saiisa sat
patiently, her hands folded in her lap, as if she had all the time in the world.
"Chemotherapy's hard on everyone in the family."
"Starsky's the one sick, not me," Hutch sipped the coffee, as usual
surprised at how good hospital brew could be.
"But you have to be there every minute of the day, holding his hand,
listening to his distress, ministering to his illness--it takes it's toll just
as certainly as the disease."
"I left him alone when he needed me."
"There was a nurse there, wasn't there?"
"Then how was he alone?"
"Because I…" Hutch swallowed hard. "He begged me not to go.
"It's no shame to need some time away," Saiisa didn't touch him but
somehow Hutch felt her calming spirit trickling into his pores like a life
giving balm. "A respite," she added.
"He's probably angry, and he has every right. I feel like I owe him
"For letting him down?" Saiisa smiled sweetly, cocking her head to
one side. "I doubt that the David Starsky I've met could hold a grudge
against anyone, especially someone he loved as much as he loves you."
"He told you?" Hutch asked in surprise, wondering what they had
talked about besides creative visualization.
"I have ways…" she teased, her lyrical accent fighting with the
outrageous fake German one she'd affected. "But I believe he's already
forgiven you even if you aren't able to forgive yourself. Go see him, Ken. It
will do you as much good as it will him."
Thanking her quickly Hutch suddenly needed to be with his best friend
immediately. He slipped into the darkened room, drinking in the sight of Starsky
sleeping. He lay curled on one side with his back to the door.
"Hey," Starsky murmured without moving. "I been waiting for
"How'd you know it was me?" Hutch grinned with pleasure.
"Golden boy, after all these years I could recognize you in a bear suit…"
Starsky turned carefully, the strain showing in his face for just a second
before he schooled his features.
"Starsk, I didn't know you had such kinky fantasies," Hutch joked.
He sat on the side of the bed, absurdly happy to be talking such utter nonsense.
Starsky's whole disposition had changed for the good. If antibiotics were the
cause, the stay in the hospital was worth more than gold.
"Sorry about this morning," Starsky sighed, biting his bottom lip.
"Hey, baby." Hutch kissed that maligned lip, then worried that the
exchange of spit could send even more germs into Starsky's beleaguered system
and drew back.
"More?" Starsky pouted reaching out for him.
"I'm the one who should be sorry…" Hutch caught his hand and
kissed the palm. Starsky closed his fingers around the tiny spot.
"Then it's mutual," he quirked a grin and said something that
soundly oddly like shut the door, only with a French accent.
"Starsky, are you sure you're all there?" Hutch tapped his knuckles
lightly on the bald scalp. "The door is shut."
"Nooo," Starsky laughed hoarsely, obviously already tired out from
the brief conversation. "Je t'adore." Speaking slowly he said
it out phonetically, "Jhew tah door. I love you."
"Same to you, in any language," Hutch nodded, stroking the smooth
skin of Starsky's head until he fell asleep.
Sometimes every day things can be a miracle under the right circumstances.
The antibiotics worked like a charm, vanquishing the UTI, which allowed Starsky
to leave the hospital by Wednesday of the following week. That only gave him one
full day at home before having to return for his fifth course of chemo, but
Starsky didn't seem to care. He was just pleased as punch to be in his own
place, with a cat in his lap. Hutch loaded his patient up with lactobacillus and
chocolate yogurt to combat the ravages antibiotics did on the digestive tract
and somehow, after everything that had happened, Starsky was thriving. But Hutch
was aware of a subtle change in both their outlooks. The last hospitalization
had really had a profound impact. It was as if they had come to accept cancer in
their lives and acknowledged that it wasn't going away anytime soon. That this
was only the first inning in what might be a very long game. In fact, Hutch no
longer found himself planning anything long term. When asked if he could attend
a Thanksgiving celebration with the Dobeys he hesitated, unwilling to commit to
something barely four weeks in advance for fear that Starsky might be too sick
to be left even in the care of competent nurses and doctors. Christmas seemed
like a fond vision of the future without any reality and 1985 was not just
another year, it was centuries from the beginning of November.
"I brought home Pasta Alfredo," Hutch announced, hanging up his
jacket in the front hall closet. Southern California was advertised as the
tropical paradise of the West Coast but Bay City and the surrounding cities were
in the grips of a record breaking polar cold snap. Wind howled around the house,
rattling the windows and whipping trees that scraped the roof. Rain had been
predicted for the weekend, with the threat of snow in higher elevations. In the
past Hutch would have taken a day off to drive up to Big Bear Mountain, maybe
ski or just walk in the frozen white stuff, but this year all he could think
about was the necessity of keeping Starsky indoors, warm and dry, away from
crowds and cold. "Bread from Pani Peducci, some dark green leafy
vegetables, and we're all set."
"I'm starved." Starsky said absently but to Hutch's ears that
phrase was more beautiful than a Shakespearean sonnet. He unloaded the food in
the kitchen, putting the pasta dish in the oven to warm up and took a seat next
to Starsky on the couch.
"Whatcha doing?" Hutch asked.
"Makin' a list." Starsky bit the end of his pencil in thought then
added the name Patricia O'Neal to a list that included Franklin D. Roosevelt,
and the former police chief's wife who was in remission from breast cancer.
"Starsk, who are all these people?"
"Survivors," Starsky said softly. "You didn't tell me one'a
the Kennedys had the same kinda cancer I do."
"Yeah," Hutch sighed. "What about Patricia O'Neal, she didn't
have cancer. Wasn't she the mom on 'The Waltons'?"
"Only in the movie--a Christmas movie," Starsky folded his paper in
half. "The mom in the show was Michael Learned. But Patricia O'Neal had a
massive stroke when she was pregnant and still came back totally fine to be in
more movies and stuff. She survived amazing odds. All these people
"What about you? Came back on the force after being shot…"
"To get cancer," Starsky added. He didn't sound depressed about it,
"So, is your name on the list?"
"I'm not sure yet," he shrugged. "The jury's still out."
But the subject had been dropped as surely as a fumble at the 25-yard line in
the Superbowl and was not to be discussed. Starsky looked up expectantly.
Leaning against the door to the bathroom, Hutch fought to regain his
composure, holding fresh-out-of-the-dryer towels against his body to keep in
their heat. Tears streamed down his face unchecked as he listened to the
terrible noises coming from inside the little room. This was too hard; he
couldn't do it anymore. He was so weak, so cowardly--Starsky was literally
fighting for his life, puking until there wasn't an ounce of strength in his
body while Hutch cowered outside, unable to bear the sound, the smell, the
reality of cancer one minute longer. He wiped at his eyes, disgusted with
The most recent chemo had been the worst ever, boding ill for the sixth and
hopefully final round. Starsky was still barfing days later, so much so that
Hutch had taken the day off to care for him. Except now he yearned for the
ability to leave the house, get away from the disease and dive into the
mundanity of normal life. How did Starsky do it? He'd been amazing all through
this, wearily accepting what had come to be his norm without much protest. This,
most of all, scared Hutch who wanted the feisty, stubborn, healthy Starsky back.
Summoning up his courage he opened the bathroom door, wrinkling his nose at
the stench. Starsky was prostrate on the tile, his face so pale white didn't
even begin to describe it accurately. Hutch knelt; pulling the sick man up to
settle the warm towels under his head and pile them around his shivering
shoulders. Starsky was cold despite his current temperature of 99.8. He'd
maintained that number for so long Hutch had taken to betting on whether it
would rise or fall at any specific time. He'd even plotted out a graph, earning
a precious Starsky grin for his efforts, but so far Hutch had lost for two
straight days in a row. 99.8 remained steady every time the thermometer was
checked. And if Hutch won Starsky had to eat something--anything. If Starsky
won, Hutch didn't bug him about eating. The point was moot thus far. Nothing,
even water, stayed down long and Hutch was beginning to calculate the odds of
how long it would be before they had to return to the hospital.
It felt distinctly weird to be so complacent about things that used to scare
the bejesus out of him. Chemotherapy and blood transfusions were old hat by now.
He had learned how to flush the subclavian catheter sewn into Starsky's chest
with heparin to prevent it from clotting off, and could now judge pretty
accurately when Starsky needed intravenous fluids to combat dehydration--which
would probably be fairly soon, at this rate.
"Hey, buddy, I'm just going to get some tea, huh? Think you can drink
something?" Hutch soothed, elated when Starsky opened those midnight blue
eyes at the sound of his voice.
"Peppermint," Starsky whispered.
"That'll fix you right up, huh?" Hutch asked with forced
cheeriness. Starsky made what could pass for a nod, his eyes closing. But at
least the vomiting had stopped for now. With any luck Hutch could lure Starsky
into bed and take a shower while the other was napping. "Be right
back," Hutch promised, grimacing at the pain in his back and knees when he
stood. He ached all over, hadn't had enough sleep in days and walked around in a
haze watching the world go on normally while his own spun increasingly out of
control. When was the last time he and Starsky had cruised their beat, joked
together…? Two months had passed--almost, and their lives as detectives were
gone, smashed irreparably into dust. He knew without a doubt he'd never go back
to that and was beginning to seriously think about another career all together.
The teaching job was only a stopgap; it wasn't what he wanted to devote the rest
of his life to.
"Hutch?" Hearing Starsky's plaintive voice stopped Hutch in his
tracks. Starsky had barely said anything all day. He stretched out a frail hand
without opening his eyes, latching onto Hutch's bare foot, just leaving his hand
there as if he needed the physical contact.
"Starsk? I'm right here. I was going for the tea."
"Do you still love me?"
"I will love you…" The phrase 'until the day you die' welled up
but Hutch swallowed reflexively, guilt washing over him in waves. "Forever,
my darling." Those deep blue eyes opened again, searching Hutch's with
"Even when I puked on your shoes?" Starsky chuffed a short laugh,
wheezing. He pointed lazily at the sneakers Hutch had discarded earlier in the
day when they'd been royally christened.
"Any time at all," Hutch promised with his whole heart. They were
old shoes, anyway.
"Love you, too. Je t'adore."
The phone began ringing in the front of the house but Hutch was almost
reluctant to leave. In a few seconds his melancholia had disappeared with the
sweet words from his partner. But his cop's brain didn't like to ignore the
phone, always on the alert for emergency. "Stay there, I'll help you up in
a minute…" he called out, running across the house to the telephone.
"Hello?" he gasped into the receiver.
"Hutchinson?" Dobey's voice was gravelly over the phone line.
"I know Starsky's been doing pretty badly, but I have some information you
need to be aware of. How soon can you come in?"
"Captain…" For one moment Hutch was ready to drop everything,
leave all the pain and the smell of vomit behind and dash on into the police
department. But common sense kicked in swiftly. "Now? I can't…what time
is it, anyway?"
"Uh--give me two hours?" Hutch bargained. "I can call one of
the home nurses to come in for a while. Say about five o'clock? What's this all
"I'll wait until you get here, five o'clock," Dobey confirmed,
Consumed with curiosity Hutch hurried to the kitchen, ignoring the pile of
medical texts he'd been searching though to find a solution to the persistent
nausea and vomiting that kept Starsky so sick. He'd already tried the most
common solutions and even some uncommon ones. Ginger root was only one of the
variety of herbs and homeopathic preparations he'd found at the health food
store. None worked very well to quell the problem. Starsky disliked the side
effects of the anti-nausea medicine they gave him at the hospital, refusing to
take it much when at home. Marijuana was often mentioned in the books as a boon
to chemo sufferers but there weren't many other things that combated barfing.
Still, delving into the books was by far the most interesting part of his day
and he was learning a hell of a lot about cancer.
After rescuing the teapot he'd left to boil some time ago, Hutch filled two
cups and added a tea bag to steep in each. Hoping Starsky might be persuaded to
eat, he toasted some bread and placed everything on a tray. Getting Starsky off
the floor was the toughest part since Starsky didn't have enough energy to help
much, but once he was on his feet he seemed to catch a second, or perhaps third,
wind and limped carefully into the bedroom leaning on Hutch's arm.
After giving him a quick sponge down Hutch popped a fresh t-shirt over
Starsky's head and shoveled him into bed. Surprisingly, Starsky was quite
interested in the little meal and the mysterious news Dobey had hinted at.
"You think you got a promotion?" Starsky asked after Hutch had
called the nursing agency and Perry's Market for a delivery of food.
Laying out a clean pair of jeans and a Henley shirt, Hutch was mentally
trying to recall all the errands he needed to do if he got away from the
department quickly. Clothes needed washing, there were meds to pick up, and
unless he fed Pansy Bumblebee Brand tuna, there wasn't any cat food left in the
"A promotion?" Starsky took a tiny sip of tea. He'd actually eaten
two thirds of the piece of toast and looked remarkably less like death warmed
"That would be a surprise, but I'm not expecting it," Hutch
frowned, sniffing himself. He really needed a shower, and soon. "Dobey
sounded kind of tense--worried."
"Starsky, I'm not going out in the field anymore, I told you,"
Hutch retorted irritably. He cringed inwardly at the stricken look on his
partner's narrow face. "Sorry--let me get a quick shower, then I'll take
your temperature before I leave. Don't drink any more tea for a few minutes--I'm
positive that number's going to change this time."
"Wanna bet on it?" Starsky lay back on the pillow, closing his eyes
looking all the world to Hutch like the male version of Sleeping Beauty. Starsky
would probably laugh derisively at the appellation, with his current boniness,
pallor and bald head. Nevertheless, Hutch still saw his lover, all impish charm
and sexy swagger underneath.
"99.9." Hutch read the thermometer in astonishment after his
"I don't feel any warmer," Starsky said sleepily, having woken up
when the doorbell chimed announcing Sophie.
"One degree," the nurse gave a Gallic shrug. "It is not much,
but you need more fluids. I'll get a glass of water, un verre d'eau,
which you will drink right up."
"Yes, ma'am," Starsky murmured, burrowing deeper into the covers.
"You never obey me like that," Hutch said in wonderment, pulling on
"An' give you even more of a swelled head?" Starsky said into the
"Hutchinson, in my office," Dobey called as soon as Hutch walked in
the squad room.
Thinking how wrong that phrase sounded without the addition of 'Starsky' at
the beginning, Hutch waved to a few of his fellow officers, grabbed a cup of
coffee from the communal pot and followed his boss through the door.
"How's your partner?" Dobey asked as a greeting.
"Throwing up all the time," Hutch admitted tiredly. Now that he was
away from the mess, knowing that Sophie would clean up the bathroom, throw the
towels into the wash and probably fix him something delicious for dinner he felt
both freed and incredibly guilty for leaving. "It's rough, Captain, really
hard. But there's only one more round of chemo left and then…"
"The most we can hope for is remission at this point," Hutch
swallowed some coffee, letting the caffeine revitalize him. "What'd you
want to see me about?"
"Vinnie Schroeder has been in with his lawyers and the D.A for the past
couple of days giving testimony on cases and guys we've had on the books for
years, in exchange for a reduced sentence in the murder of Emerald Hsieh. If all
goes to plan they'll be letting him out on bail in the morning--when court
"What?" Hutch came half out of his chair in surprise, sloshing the
coffee over his shoes. Two pair of shoes ruined in one day --a record. "We
had him on murder one and assault with a deadly weapon for what he did to
"Unfortunately, his lawyers have already argued that there's absolutely
no way the D.A. can prove that Starsky's leg wasn't already damaged because of
Dobey leveled a stern expression towards Hutch but nodded. "About what I
would have said. However, the D.A. has agreed to an aggravated assault charge
and manslaughter for Hsieh in return for the testimony and Schroeder's singing
like the Mormon Tabernacle choir. This is important stuff--hard evidence,
verifiable evidence that could put away several others--Carmen De la Rosa, Mike
Hennessey and Jamal Mohammed, to name just a few. All were previously indicted
but acquitted and have never gone to trial because we could never get the goods
on them. This is it."
"Schroeder almost bashed in Starsky's head, not to mention his leg, and
they 've got the balls to sit there and let him off with an Ag. Assault?"
Hutch raged, ignoring the rest of Dobey's speech. He slammed a fist into the arm
of the chair, wondering how he was going to tell Starsky.
"That's more your partner's response to this kind of news," Dobey
said wryly. "The D.A. does plan to argue that Schroeder's a flight risk,
since it took so long to find him after the murder…"
"This is just great. A terrific way to end the day, as Starsky would
have said." Hutch rubbed the palm of his hand where it had come in contact
with the wooden chair.
"Have we got anything else outstanding on the guy? Can't we pull him in
on some other charge?"
"What would you suggest, Hutchinson?" Dobey asked dubiously.
"This isn't a Chinese menu."
"He's a dealer, for god's sake, just because he didn't have a grain of
smack on him in September…I'll find something to stick on him."
"May I remind you that your partner is lying sick at home?" Harold
Dobey said harshly, a growl deep in his throat. "No grandstanding and no
"No," Hutch agreed reluctantly. "I already promised Starsky I
wasn't going out on the street alone."
"Good, remember that promise," Dobey's face softened. He rubbed his
head, scratching his fingers through bristly hair as if he had a headache he
wanted to erase. "I'll keep you informed of developments but I don’t want
you going near Schroeder, do you hear me?"
"Loud and clear, Captain, loud and clear."
Starsky put a tiny morsel of crab into his mouth, chewing thirty times just
like his ma had always said. The crab was pulverized in a matter of seconds, and
he swallowed carefully, the sores in his mouth and throat better but not fully
healed. After waiting a few moments to determine whether the seafood was staying
down Starsky pulled another miniscule portion off the cake sitting on a bed of
lettuce on top of a Kaiser roll. He masticated slowly. In the hours since Hutch
had brought the succulent sandwich home Starsky had eaten almost a fourth, and
hadn't heaved once. That, in itself, was a miracle of major proportions, which
Starsky celebrated by biting off a slightly larger piece of crab, this time with
bread attached. He liked imagining the crab cakes as giant cancer cells that he
could demolish, pulling them savagely apart with his hands before sending the
sarcoma molecules down his throat and into his stomach where they were washed
with caustic belly acids and melted down into inconsequential nothingness. The
fact that he hadn't eaten in almost a week was a bit discouraging to this
philosophy--the David Starsky Cancer Annihilation Technique or DSCAT for
short--but that he was able to partake of the important meal tonight, when there
was little else to be happy for, was strangely satisfying.
Hutch had given him the bad news after Sophie left for the evening. Starsky
wasn't even sure how to react to Schroeder getting out on bail. He wanted to be
angrier. He wanted the drug dealer to rot in jail for the murder of his life as
a cop, but sickness had drained away all his passion, the rage he'd once felt.
He found he wasn't half as disturbed by the news as Hutch was, which was
unusual. Hutch had stomped around the house, scaring Pansy until Starsky ordered
him out into the yard to quiet down. All that racket had just exacerbated the
headache he'd been plagued with since the last chemo. It increased and decreased
throughout the day entirely unrelated to whether he'd taken a painkiller or not.
Right now, it was quiescent although when he bit down firmly, he could feel the
pain all the way to the back of his eyeballs. He'd grown so accustomed to the
persistent ache from his left calf that it no longer registered on his hurt
"Hey," Hutch said, leaning against the doorframe in a manner that
used to send jolts of electricity straight to Starsky's cock. Just now, nothing
happened down south, which was one more thing he could heap at the feet of
Vinnie Schroeder but he still didn't feel any angrier.
"Hey, yourself," Starsky replied affably, picking off another bit
of crab and putting it in his mouth.
"That food's cold by now, Starsk."
"It's a sandwich," Starsky shrugged. "You finished with the
next chapter in Ken Hutchinson railing against the system?"
"You mock. You're my mentor there."
"I dunno, you take it to all new levels." Starsky patted the bed.
"C'mon, take a load off, get in with me. Wasn't it cold out there?"
"Yes," Hutch stripped quickly to t-shirt and shorts and slid under
the covers. "Aren't you tired? It's nearly midnight. Twelve hours ago you
were lying on the bathroom floor, barely alive."
"I been sick or sleeping for a week, my internal clock's all fucked
up." He bit down on the sandwich again, wincing at the sharp pain in his
head and decided he'd had enough food for the day. His belly was beginning to
feel distended, but since this was the first good-sized meal he'd had in ages,
that was probably to be expected. "So, what's the plan revolving in that
brain of yours? How you going to bring Schroeder in again?"
"I've been thinking about this since Dobey's office," Hutch
absently picked up the tomato off Starsky's plate and ate it with his fingers.
" He's a dealer! There has to be some drug-related charge we can pin on
him. But he wasn’t carrying when he...."
"Used my leg for batting practice?" Starsky finished the sentence.
Hutch's face had that half stricken look of someone who'd inadvertently put his
foot in his mouth. Waving away Hutch's misplaced guilt Starsky chased down the
thought that had just occurred to him. "That alley off'a Del Prado."
"What about it?"
"What if he was goin' there for a reason?"
"The drugs?" Hutch guessed, catching Starsky's line of reasoning.
"You think he had the drugs hidden somewhere around there?"
"Could be, or I could be hallucinating--hard to be sure these
"It's worth a look. It's not an hallucination, it's good solid detective
work that someone else overlooked two months ago."
"There was a bunch of wood and building crap around like somebody was
going to fix that abandoned building on the left," Starsky pointed out.
"Maybe there's a way in to the basement or something behind them? A drug
"I'll get a team together in the morning to check it out," Hutch
"Shroeder's been incarcerated since September, if it's been there that
long, what's one more night?"
"I guess," Starsky sighed, shifting his aching casted leg. "I
want to go with you."
"Oh, come on, Starsky!"
"I won't get out of the car, but it was my hunch. I wanna see if it pans
out," Starsky sat up straighter, determined to get his way. A surge of
adrenaline helped fortify his resolve and he nodded. "You promised you
wouldn't go out alone anymore."
"There'll be a team of lab guys there!" Hutch declared darkly.
"You--you get sick at the drop of a…"
"No more of the top ten reasons why Starsky-on-chemo can't go anywhere.
I'll stay in the car, I won't talk to anyone--even you, but I'm involved here,
whether you like it or not," he said emphatically. He couldn't put into
words why this was so important except that being part of the investigation
suddenly seemed vital. He had so little energy for anything these days, but
helping put Schroeder away would go a long way to making him feel whole again.
"No donuts, no weapon, only one hour, then we're home for the rest of
the weekend, right?" Hutch gave in so abruptly Starsky was disappointed not
to use the rest of his ammunition.
"Those are the terms, take 'em or leave 'em." He leveled his
pointer in Starsky's direction with a steely gaze.
"Take 'em," Starsky grinned happily, ignoring all of the aches and
pains in anticipation of getting back into the swing of things, even for just an
hour. He leaned against the pillows, reaching out for the other man's hand and
twining his fingers in between Hutch's. Feeling far less nauseated than he had
been in days, he didn't want to lose any easy time with Hutch with such mundane
tasks as sleeping or arguing. Weariness was just another one of those constant
companions he had to put up with. "Hutch, did you like police work?"
"Starsky, what kind of a loaded question is that?"
"See, I did. I liked helpin' people, being' on the streets, the
unpredictability of--everything. Being ready for anything that came at ya."
Starsky focused on their two hands braided together, Hutch's slightly longer
fingers curved over the top of his own. They were a pair, never better than when
one was with the other. But that was changing irrevocably. Could they still hang
on to each other when everything else was different? "And I really liked
detective work--figuring out clues, digging around for the little details…"
He thought a moment, remembering the fun times--those marvelous 'I've got it'
moments when he and Hutch solved the unsolvable working in tandem because their
two minds complemented each other perfectly. Each time they found that one clue
that uncovered the whole convoluted plot he'd look up and see Hutch gazing back
at him triumphantly. But there were the other times; the hard, depressing,
soul-dirty nights when the only way he could take another step was because he
and Hutch were side by side. He even missed those times. He wanted it all back
again, the good and the bad. He craved it the way a pregnant woman craved ice
cream and avocados, but was very close to acknowledging that he might not ever
get it back. That being a street cop was a thing of the past. His old life was
too hard anymore, and besides, he knew, with his whole heart, that Hutch didn't
want to go back to cruising a beat and roughing up pimps. He had set his sights
on something else.
"I liked it all the more because you were my partner, but I think I
woulda liked it anyway. Which is strange because I only became a cop as a last
resort 'cause I already knew how to shoot a gun." Starsky squeezed Hutch's
hand, feeling the love that knit their skin into one seamless fabric and held
them together. "But I don't think you liked it all that much."
"I wanted to," Hutch admitted reluctantly. "And I did at
first. Righting wrongs, bringing control out of chaos…"
"Sounds like Maxwell Smart," Starsky teased.
"God, I loved being out there with you, driving around in that striped
tomato," he declared reverently. "You made it more than a job. You
made it fun. And I liked detective work more than being a beat cop."
"Amen to that, brother."
"I think I was a good detective, but all the ugliness, the rage, the
pervasive inhumanity that plagues the underbelly of society--I had to start
distancing myself from the nastiness before it sucked me under and I started
going dead inside." Hutch shook his head, lost in the memories. "I
don't know when exactly that started--but you knew what was going on. You sensed
it." Starsky made a small noise in agreement, reaching up to stroke the
shining blond hair. Hutch leaned into the caress, continuing to speak. "I
was floundering…Then you got shot and it was like a wakeup call from--I dunno--God."
Starsky laughed at this, bringing Hutch out of his reverie. "No, I read the
writing on the wall and it said 'shape up, Hutchinson, he's fighting and you've
got to, too'."
"I got basically the same message."
"You bounced back so quickly…"
"Huh," Starsky grunted derisively, the pain all too easy to
remember with what was going on now.
"And suddenly you were back on the force, raring to go. My own private
miracle walking beside me. You carried me over the rough spots for a couple of
years. I was so thankful you were back I could take at all the filth and
degradation without shriveling up inside."
"You're the White Knight and you couldn't fix the whole world,"
Starsky said softly, his heart going out to his partner.
"I've never liked that term and not just because Simon Marcus was the
one who first used it," Hutch retorted huskily. "If I'm the White
Knight, who are you?"
"The Black Knight?" Starsky grinned, adopting a squeaky Monty
Python accent. "It's just a flesh wound!"
"Starsky!" Hutch admonished laughing. "That's just what you'd
"Your leg's cut off!" Starsky kept up the goofy dialogue from the
Holy Grail movie. "No, it's not!"
"You're insane." Hutch caught him around the neck, gently knuckling
his hairless head Three Stooges style.
"Probably," Starsky agreed cheerfully. "But you've been saying
that for years. Tell me something, though? If you stop bein' a cop, what'd you
really wanna do?"
"Who said anything about me not being a cop any more?" Hutch froze,
staring down at Starsky with an expression of fear mixed with relief. Starsky
could see he'd guessed right. Hutch was scared of leaving the familiar--maybe
even just of leaving behind what Starsky still wanted.
"What about medical school?"
"What about medical school?" Starsky repeated calmly.
"Now I know you're insane. Medical school? Do you know how much that
would cost? I'm 39 years old. I'd be nearing 50 by the time I finished
residency--if a man in his late 40's even could."
"So you've thought about it." Starsky asked, but this time it was
he who felt mixed up inside. Hutch did want to move on, and Starsky was very
afraid he wouldn't be coming along for the ride.
"Yeah, okay, it's entered my mind," Hutch retreated off the bed,
pacing restlessly around the room. "Why wouldn't it? We're surrounded by
doctors all the time. I needed to be able to understand what they were saying,
keep up…so I started reading up on it. And yeah, the urge came back."
"How far along did you go in pre-med, back before the Academy?"
"Not far. A couple of anatomy courses, paramedic stuff…but I can't,
Starsky!" Hutch wailed, turning to face him from the end of the bed. He
picked up one of the red and gold throw pillows tumbled in a heap there, looking
like he wasn't sure whether to bury his face in it or rip it apart. "And it
isn't just the reasons I just gave, it's everything-- I'm teaching now, Dobey's
grooming me to be Captain, he wants me to take the lieutenant's job, you…"
he paused, panting, one hand out beseechingly like a beggar asking for help.
"If I'm a lieuy, you can work with me, cold cases…departmental stuff…
as long as we're off the streets…Starsky?"
"Don't use me as the reason you stay on the force," Starsky
whispered but his voice was sharp as glass.
"You were. You haven't got the guts to look me in the eye and tell me
what's in your heart?" What had started out an accusation ended up a plea.
Starsky pressed his palm against his splitting head, wishing with all his might
that it hadn't interfered at a time like this. Damn. Shards of glass
jabbed along his jaw up to the temple and back to the neck. He was caught in a
vice crushing his bones to dust. "D-damn."
"Just tell me," Starsky ground out, his whole skull throbbing.
"Admit you want off the force."
"I w-want off the force," Hutch whispered white faced, kneeling
down by the side of the bed. "What's wrong? D'you need…"
"I'm not the issue here," Starsky snapped. "Was that so hard
to say out loud?"
"Because it changes everything," Hutch cried.
"It only changes where you work, dummy," Starsky would have leaned
over to touch his forehead to Hutch's but the pain had risen to almost blinding
levels. "It doesn't change us unless you let it."
"Don't let it."
"Never," Starsky agreed.
"Want those pain pills now?" Hutch put his hand unerringly on the
pain's center, just below Starsky's temple, his touch feather light.
"Might be a good idea," Starsky closed his eyes, tired beyond
measure. But then, it was after midnight and he had to be out supervising a
crime scene investigation in the morning. Between that lovely thought and the
magic analgesics Starsky slept very well indeed.
"Dammit, Starsky, how do I let you talk me into these things?"
Hutch hunched his shoulders, shivering despite thermal underwear, a thick
turtleneck and his heaviest jacket.
The cold that had gripped Bay City and the surrounding areas had only
intensified, bringing with it the threat of actual snow at sea level, an rare
occurrence that only came along once every other decade or so. So far, there
hadn't been any actual white stuff except in the mountains, but tropical plants
were withering everywhere, Banana plants and tall palms not used to such cold.
Ice slicked puddles in the street making driving treacherous and walking
hazardous. The alley off Del Prado looked darker and less inviting than ever
under leaden skies. "Coldest day of the year! Do not leave this car and
keep the heater running."
"Carbon monoxide poisoning," Starsky pointed out, curving his
fingers around a cup of hot tea fresh from the thermos at his feet.
"Leaving the heater running--and the motor in an enclosed space could
cause a build up of CO2."
"No more science programs for you, Mr. Wizard," Hutch grumped,
stomping his feet to keep circulation going. "There's Marty and the lab
guys--you going to be all right?"
"I'm not ten years old, Hutch!" Starsky retorted. Before rolling up
the window he pointed to the building on the left. "Try on that side,
there's lots of wood and linoleum piled up there. Maybe there's a door or
something hidden behind it all."
"First on my list," Hutch promised, hurrying over to coordinate
with the men climbing out of the BDPD van. He was worried about Starsky, even
safe in the confines of the Mustang. Despite the fact that his recalcitrant
partner had eaten toast and yogurt for breakfast and slept six hours without
interruption, the headache that had necessitated morphine scared Hutch. Starsky
was incredibly sick--and without fat or reserves to insulate him from the cold
what if he became sicker because of a cockamamie outing to hunt for what was
essentially buried treasure. Not that Hutch didn't believe that Starsky's hunch
had been right on the money, he just wanted the sick man back at home with
Sophie or Mick while he ferreted out the stash.
After explaining the theory of a basement or hidden room behind the trash
Hutch joined the group carefully sifting through the debris. Every so often he
glanced back at the pale face watching them from the car window. Starsky gave
him an encouraging smile, raising his red mittened thumb in approval.
"Hutchinson!" Vonce Jefferson, the patrol officer assigned to help
out, bellowed, his dark face barely visible in the gloom because he was
directing his high-powered flashlight beam in front of him.
"Find something?" Hutch asked, his breath puffing out in a white
"Sure 'nough. There's a metal door locked with a standard padlock--which
looks much newer than the door itself," Jefferson explained, blowing on his
ungloved hands. "Starsky was right, it was hidden by all that wood and
"Put on some rubber gloves," Hutch ordered peevishly, peering at
what was revealed in the white light of the flashlight. It was a small door,
hardly tall enough to permit a full sized adult but the hinges weren't rusted
and the chain securing the padlock to the door handle was still shiny. "I
don't want any chance of fouling this crime scene. If we can get fingerprints
off that lock and whatever's behind the door, that solidifies our case."
"I'll get a bolt cutter," Jefferson nodded.
Hutch quelled his impatience by arcing the flashlight beam around the alley
picking out a roll of linoleum, a trashcan overflowing with empty Jack Daniels
bottles and the startled green eyes of a black kitten who hissed and spit at him
before streaking off. Was this really where Schroeder kept his drug cache or
were they on a snipe hunt?
The wily drug dealer had never been picked up with enough product to be
charged with dealing, only possession, which had a much shorter prison sentence.
If Hutch could add the dealing charge onto the other ones, and make it stick,
Schroeder would be spending the rest of his natural born days behind bars. That
thought warmed him up more than a cup of Starsky's tea would have.
Once the door was open Hutchinson walked in first, using the flashlight as a
pointer and his Magnum as protection. A quick circuit of the dark, dank room
revealed there was no one there except fleeing rats. He waved the lab crew
inside while poking around further. It was obviously a small anteroom for the
basement of an old apartment building, but the place had been uninhabited for
years. Another door opened onto a laundry room and beyond that were the water
heaters and furnaces that heated the upstairs apartments. But in the main room
was a long table made from an old door propped up on saw horses with several
large metal lock boxes sitting in a row on top. Although mold and dirt covered
the walls, the table and boxes were only coated with a thin layer of grime. They
hadn't been there for more than a few months.
"Dust for prints first--and take establishing pictures of
everything," Marty spoke swiftly, examining the strong boxes with his eyes
only until the crew set up their equipment. "Then we can open them."
Although fingerprints were discovered everywhere they would have to be
compared to Schroeder's back at headquarters. Still, Hutch was elated when the
first box contained heroin and the next two, large quantities of crack, that
highly addictive version of cocaine that had was so popular on the streets right
now. Other pushers dealt in the drug that looked like sweet rock candy and gave
an immediate, short acting high, but it felt good to get any amount off the
"You called it, Starsk," Hutch pulled open the car door with a
triumphant grin. "Horse and crack all over the place--we found Shroeder's
"Terrific!" Starsky crowed, his eyes twinkling. "Now, let's
bring him in!"
"You're going home. I'll go after him…" Hutch groaned, his class
at the Academy completely forgotten in the excitement of the morning. "We
don't have probable cause yet--it could be some other turkey's drugs."
"Hutch!" Starsky protested.
"It'll take time to process the fingerprints."
"Yeah, and who else's stuff could that be?" Starsky argued. He
ticked off on his fingers, "Schroeder was here, we saw him, and the drugs
"It's not that simple and you know it. I have to get to the Academy,
like now--how 'bout if Jefferson drives you home?" Hutch longed to give
that determined face a kiss, but Marty and his gang were carrying the boxes out
to their van, and all had cameras. Hutch could just imagine seeing a picture of
he and Starsky kissing up on the detective squadroom bulletin board. "You
can play with the siren and turn on the flashing lights if you're a good
"Spoilsport," Starsky pouted, but he hopped out of the car, leaning
on the doorframe to keep his cast off the ground.
"Mick should be there by the time you get to the house, I'm coming home
after class--well, after my office hours--I have to give out evals to three…"
Hutch rambled off, his whole day slamming back into the forefront of his brain.
"No, four cadets today. Damn, I wanted to leave early. Study your French
and I'll bring home something from Daisy's bakery."
"Cannoli?" Starsky asked hopefully.
"Didn't she ever bring those over?" Hutch asked distractedly,
realizing the extent of what he had to do far exceeded the hours in the day. He
probably needed to at least call in a report of the crime scene to Dobey, if not
write one up himself. There went any chance of getting home early. "I meant
to bring you some cannoli months ago. Get some rest, Starsk, eat lunch, I'll
call you…" He switched on the ignition, driving off with a plume of
exhaust in the frigid air.
"Be careful with my car!" Starsky called out, glancing over at
Jefferson. "Any chance you'd let me drive?"
"Sarge'd have my head on a platter for Thanksgiving!" the officer
laughed heartily slapping Starsky on the shoulder. "But you can run the
siren when we drive past the fire station. Love to mess with them fire
Using the morning's work to illustrate how to re-examine old cases to deduce
new conclusions and find new evidence Hutch more than made up for his tardiness.
The class was enthralled to hear about an on going case and asked many
questions, extending their lesson time far after the bell rang. Hutch was
already beginning to see the strengths and weaknesses each cadet would have when
they were out working in the real world. Kelley Leary was brash, quick thinking
and seemingly without fear--but her tendency to leap before she looked put her
at a disadvantage and could put others in danger if she didn't learn to tone it
down. Her husband Sean was the complete opposite. Quiet, meticulous and slow to
react, he'd be perfect in an investigative role but those same qualities could
bring him grief in the midst of a fast moving crime scene. Billy Saeteurn was by
far the star student of the class--intelligent, well coordinated, a great shot
and excellent driver but being Asian and short could be his Achilles heel. There
were still people in the LA area who remembered the Viet Nam war and hated
anyone who came from that part of the world. The last evaluation Hutch had to do
was the problem student of the current graduating class--Joshua Bolden viewed
life with a chip on his shoulder and a condescending attitude. He was smart,
fast on the obstacle course, and knew the laws of the city and county down cold.
However, he lauded his abilities in front of the others, got into fights and
snubbed the female officers completely. Hutch had already given him a warning,
and so had other instructors. Any more, and Bolden could be out of the Academy
without a badge. Thus, the session with Bolden was difficult and tense, leaving
Hutch with a headache and the sincere wish he were at home watching goofy French
children's shows with Starsky. When he phoned at noon just to listen to Starsky
talk he could hear tinkly music in the background and a piping girl's voice
crying "An ananas qui parle! Alos!"
As he'd expected, Dobey wanted a complete statement on exactly why Hutch had
brought together an entire lab team to investigate an abandoned cellar room.
Just the fact that they'd uncovered a wealth of illegal substances wasn't enough
for Internal Affairs. In fact, Starsky would need to give a report, as well,
which set off worry alarms in Hutch's brain. No way was he letting his immuno-suppressed
partner anywhere near the germ infested squadroom. A stenographer would just
have to come to him.
Hutch finally made it back to the house on Dahlia at just before seven. He
was exhausted, having been awake talking with Starsky until nearly one and up
again at six to coordinate the Del Prado alley investigation. He'd swung by Pani
Peducci mid afternoon, taking a few moments to chat with Daisy before buying the
cannoli, but now the box was dented and grease stained where the cream was
leaking out of the pastry. Starsky would probably eat it anyway, but the
presentation was less than perfect.
"He's asleep," Mick reported in his gravely voice. Hutch liked the
compact body builder. Although shorter than Starsky, he was probably bench
pressing 200 pounds or more from the definition of muscles in his upper body.
Mick could easily pick skinny Starsky off the floor if he fell. "Lessee,
busy day--that Borunda lady came by, a cute little girl named Rosie and her mom
sold us gymnastics team candy." He held up a box of chocolate mints as
proof. "Dave slept for the rest of the afternoon--after telling me about
the morning raid about twelve times. And your cat hacked up a hair ball. I
always know I'm gonna be cleanin' up something off the carpet here!"
"Thanks, man," Hutch said sincerely, "Sorry I was late."
"Hey, it's overtime, no sweat," Mick shrugged affably. "G'night."
"Goodnight," Hutch sighed, placing the squashed box in the kitchen.
He idled in the doorway of their communal bedroom, watching Starsky's chest rise
and fall in a regular, unlabored rhythm. The dim light coming from the hall only
highlighted his pale skin instead of accentuating it the way true sunlight did.
From here Starsky looked good, relaxed and healthy, if too thin, sleeping
peacefully. With all his heart Hutch wished all that were true. Relaxed,
peaceful and healthy. Not even taking the time for a shower Hutch
stripped off his clothes and climbed under the covers with his love.
"Hey," Starsky pinched the end of Hutch's elegant nose, peering
closely at his victim to watch the sapphire blue eyes snap open. "Awake
now?" Starsky inquired wickedly.
"I guess so," Hutch grumbled. "What the hell time is it?"
"I dunno, I couldn't sleep."
"Starsky! I was!" Hutch ran a hand through his bed-rumbled hair,
rubbing grit out of his eyes. " And you were sleeping a few hours ago. What
woke you up?"
"Too much sleep?" Starsky asked evasively. "It's early, I
Peering at the bedside clock Hutch groaned again. "Starsky, it's four
"You never told me about the fingerprints yesterday," Starsky
deliberately ignored Hutch's inquires by substituting a few of his own. The last
thing he wanted to explain was how pain could wake him up from a sound sleep and
that the utter exhaustion which sent him to sleep in the afternoon also kept him
awake in the wee hours. "Didja bring Schroeder back in?"
Sitting up Hutch regarded him with such consternation and yet love Starsky
was almost distracted from his inquiries. "By the time the lab confirmed
that most of the prints on the lock boxes were Schroeder's he'd already made
bail. Dobey sent a team out to his house, but the place was locked up and
deserted. Landlord said he hadn't been there since before September."
"Damn," Starsky collapsed back on his pillows with a noisy
exhalation, trying to hide the grimace that movement caused.
"No--wanna make something of it?" he asked to sharply, regretting
the response the minute it was out of his mouth. So much for minimizing his pain
and insomnia. He glanced guiltily at Hutch's stunned face, remorse blanking out
the nausea swimming in his belly. "Sorry, ignore that. What's next on the
"Getting some more sleep?" Hutch asked hopefully. Starsky shook his
head, then pressed the flat of his hand against lips, bile rising up in his
esophagus unheeded. There'd been no warning this time, just overwhelming
sickness when he'd done nothing to cause it.
"You about to be sick?" Hutch grabbed the basin they kept at the
ready by the bed.
Taking slow, careful breaths Starsky managed to sit out the need to toss his
cookies, feeling the queasiness abate to manageable levels before he spoke.
"No,'m okay, now. Just can't sleep."
"Lean back," Hutch whispered, pulling him into his arms. "What
is it Saiisa tells you? Think calming thoughts."
"That's the problem," Starsky rolled his eyes, holding his aching
belly. Added to the headache he couldn't get rid of and the always present
reminder that he had a broken leg, he was constantly on edge, never able to
relax because whatever position helped his leg made his head pound, and lying on
his back to relieve the headache made his innards heave. "I don't wanna be
calm. When was I ever calm? I want action, Hutch. I wanna be on the street
huntin' down that slimeball Schroeder myself."
"He's gone to ground--like a weasel in the dirt," Hutch said
sensibly. "We have to wait him out, he'll surface. It just takes
"Don't got any," Starsky grumped. The closeness to Hutch helped his
composure, though, a tranquil place to rest in, except he couldn't sleep. Had
been this way for the last few days, a week or more, perhaps. In the darkest
hours, when the unusual polar winds pounded against the house, he woke, staring
into the black room for hours. Conversely, with the sun streaming in the living
room windows he could drop off in an instant. It was a maddening routine that
had gotten annoying very quickly. The sleep depravation was costing him precious
energy that he could hardly spare.
Only one more week. Starsky had begun counting the days until the sixth round
of chemo. Seven days. If he'd had any brain cells left he could figure out how
many hours that was--more than 100, less than 200. But after the puking was
over, what then? Freedom? Remission? He would cling to this last bit of hope in
the night when Hutch slumbered next to him, snoring softly. Tonight, however,
the fear had come on so powerfully he'd had to wake up his partner. He couldn't
face the cancer in the night anymore, and even though he'd treated the wake up
like a silly prank, he'd needed Hutch's bravery and courageous company. The fear
carried so many other things in on its coat tails--memories of scary times, his
shooting, Hutch's battle with the plague, his mother's death last year. He could
only push away those things for so long until they pressed against his
breastbone, weighting him down.
"What's wrong, Starsk?" Hutch asked when Starsky had wiggled and
squirmed, changing positions constantly in the vain attempt to find something
remotely comfortable. "You're jumpier than Pansy. What's on your
He'd admitted fear to Hutch in the past but this time the words stubbornly
refused to come out. "I just wanted talk," he bristled. "You were
gone all day."
"So you had to wake me up before the rooster crows?" Hutch smiled
against the back of his head. Starsky could feel the wet heat of his lips
curving on his bare scalp. It sent shivers down his spine, good ones,
reminiscent of desire and arousal.
"Do that again," Starsky gulped, grabbing onto something good to
banish the heebie jeebies of the dark.
"Like this?" Hutch licked just at the base of his skull sending
ripples of need through his body.
Yeah." Finally, something wonderful had come from losing his hair. He'd
never imagined the place where the neck met the skull could be such an erogenous
zone. Not that it had any effect whatsoever on certain lower portions of his
anatomy which just lay there like a day old fish, but the sweet appeal of
Hutch's breath and mouth on Starsky's skin was bliss in and of itself.
"You are the moon, the stars, the sun," Hutch sang, the vibrations
from his throat climbing through Starsky's ribcage and capturing his breastbone
until it rumbled in harmony. "You're every beat of my heart. But if it all
turns out to be only a beautiful dream, let's keep on dreaming…"
Starsky smiled, the words of the song melting him like butter, banishing all
the terrors he'd conjured up.
"Millions or trillions can't equal your worth, your love is a blessing
to me," Hutch warbled in his ear, arms closed firmly around him. "Do I
adore you? You know that I do, but defin'ally."
"Mmmm," Starsky murmured, limp and languid. "Where'd you learn
"You'll never guess." Hutch circled the heel of his hand in slow
revolutions around Starsky's belly button, not sexually but placidly, easing out
the last of Starsky's demons.
"Sounds like I've heard it b'fore."
"Yeah, Shirley Temple sings it."
"Yeah?" Starsky grinned sleepily, snuggling against his big, broad
pillow. "I like your version better."
"You don't feel as hot as yesterday," Hutch nuzzled his neck,
placing the back of his hand on Starsky's forehead. He felt around on the
bedside table for the thermometer, tucking it unerringly in his patient's mouth.
"I'm not, my toes are freezing," Starsky announced around the glass
tube in his mouth. And they tingled as if they were asleep all the time, which
he neglected to mention because that would just give Hutch one more thing to
"Keep your mouth closed for three minutes." Hutch climbed out of
bed despite Starsky's protestations, rooting around for his bathrobe and
slippers. Seeing her blond master up Pansy yowled her need for an early
breakfast in strident Siamese. "I'll feed you, dumpling," Hutch cooed
to the cat, scratching her behind the ears. "But first, the number of the
hour is…" He held out his hand for the thermometer, which Starsky popped
out of his mouth into the waiting palm. "99.6"
"And the crowd goes wild!" Starsky teased, hooting and hollering
like a frenzied audience. "Hutchinson finally won."
"That means you eat," Hutch grinned.
"I've been eating."
"What'd you have for dinner?"
Starsky fiddled with the bed covers, pulling them up to his shoulders with a
shiver. "Food--I don't remember. Mick writes that stuff down, doesn't
"I can go find the his notes or I can ask you." Hutch shook some
white pills from a prescription bottle, adding them to the assortment of
medications and vitamins Starsky had to take in the morning.
"You sound a lot like some'a the nurses back at Rose Tree," Starsky
grumped. He didn't feel like eating. The nausea was low level but persistent and
he'd rather not puke up something first thing in the morning. "I'm
beginning to rethink the whole medical school idea for nurse's training. You'd
be a natural."
"Can we shelve the whole medical school discussion?" Hutch
bristled, shaking down the thermometer. "You can eat something you halfway
enjoy or I'll go find that nasty milkshake drink Davies wants you to
"That stuff gives milkshakes a bad name," Starsky grimaced with a
shudder. The nutritionist at the hospital had sent home a whole case of the high
calorie supplement but one sip and Starsky headed straight to the emesis basin.
It was thick, chalky and only increased his queasiness. "How 'bout some
"Tea has zero calories, Starsk."
Glancing up at his partner's concerned face Starsky knew he was being
difficult. Hutch was only doing what the doctors wanted but food held absolutely
no appeal lately. Where once he'd reveled in grabbing a burger, indulging in a
hot fudge sundae or blissing out on burritos with extra jalapenos now he tried
to avoid the mention of food altogether. "It does if you put sugar in
"Touché, but how about some nutrition to go with those empty
calories?" Hutch suggested. "Tomato soup?"
"Nahhh, " Starsky made a face, determined to make an effort.
"Edith brought over some mac and cheese yesterday when Rosie sold us the
"Have you tried it?"
"Now's as good a time as any, I guess." Starsky sighed. He couldn't
pin down his emotional state with any certainty. It was as if every second he
cycled through a whole list of feelings without really settling on any one of
them. As much as he'd enjoyed being out and integral to the Schroeder case
again, it was sobering how debilitated he'd been after only one hour of
activity. And the news that they'd discovered Schroeder's drug stash only to
have the suspect disappear was disappointing but he couldn't get all that
excited about it. He felt marginally--hell--a lot better than when he'd been
spewing his internal organs into the toilet but not enough to be happy about it.
Even having his temperature finally head towards normalcy wasn't a big deal.
Everything seemed blanketed by a big muffling gray cloud of disinterest.
"Macaroni and cheese for breakfast coming up!" Hutch announced with
forced cheeriness, heading out to the kitchen. Pansy, obviously hoping for her
meal, followed behind, dark brown tail help up like a flag at the end of a
Moving very slowly Starsky got up and hobbled his way to the bathroom, the
unsettling pins and needles sensation in his feet even stronger when standing
up. He leaned on a crutch, looking out the mullioned bedroom window that showed
the dark expanse of frost-slicked backyard. The sounds of birds calling out in
the pre-dawn morning broke the silence but otherwise, all was motionless. Dark
and still as death. Shivering, he had to make a concentrated effort not to fall
into that beckoning pit of depression. The sun would rise today, full of
brightness and glory and repel the blackness of night. He just had to wait long
enough--be patient. The way he had to wait for the rainbow he wanted so badly at
the end of the last chemo. All this puking, pain and sickness had to have a
fantastic payoff--remission. He didn't want to have to face anything like this
By the time Starsky had finished in the bathroom Hutch was setting up the
small lap table with the little legs on the bed. Amazingly enough, the creamy
cheese dish had an appetizing smell and he took a tentative bite just to make
"You want some?" Starsky offered generously. Hutch had heaped
enough in his bowl for two, at least with his present appetite.
"I'm leaning more towards granola at five thirty in the a.m.,"
Hutch shook his head, watching Starsky eat. "What's going on in that head
of yours, huh, Starsk? You're--hard to pin down tonight…" he chuckled at
his mistake. "This morning."
"I don't want this," Starsky said fiercely and gave his cast a
"Mac and cheese is what you asked for."
"Not the food. I don't want…" he growled unable to express the
tangle that was his life. "I wish…the Torino worked, but just like me
it's up on blocks. I wish I could hunt down Schroeder and snap his leg with a 2
by 4, so he'd know just what he did to me. I wanna be normal." Starsky took
a bite of food, but what had tasted good for three forkfuls was no longer
tempting. He blinked back tears, looking anywhere in the room except at Hutch's
agonized face. At the plethora of pill bottles all bearing his name, at the pile
of clothes Hutch had left in one corner. At the wall of framed photos that
included groupings of both his family and Hutch's centered around a large
portrait of the two of them with their arms around each other. At the worn teddy
bear named Ollie wearing a jaunty pair of Mickey Mouse ears embroidered with the
name David in yellow thread. "I wanna go to Disneyland."
Hutch gulped and Starsky could almost hear the wheels turning in his brain.
How to give credence to his wishes without actually giving in to any of them.
Before he could speak, Starsky said more slowly. "I know I can't really
go--not right now, it'd be no fun anyhow, but I wish I could go--just go
anywhere without worrying that I’ll get sick and having to bring crutches and
wheelchair and the damned puke bowl."
"It's not much longer, buddy." Hutch rubbed his back with a loving
touch, finding all those kinks and knots that made it hard to lie flat.
"I'm always here to listen, you know that, don't you?"
"You got so much on your plate right now."
"You are always my number one priority," Hutch assured, nailing the
worst of the muscle spasms in the middle of his back and pushing down on it with
point of a sharp knuckle. Starsky had always loved the weird whoosh of
pain/relief that shot through him when the cramp relaxed. He could sense the
increased blood flow rushing to the area and up the back of his loosened neck to
"But I gotta say one thing, you were never normal to start with,
Letting his head hang down while Hutch continued to work his magic, Starsky
closed his eyes, almost afraid to face the fear that had kept him up half the
"Give it to me straight--no bullshitting, do you think I can go back on
Hutch's fingers froze, then dropped away, his silence telling Starsky the
truth more surely than inadequate words could ever do. "Starsky…"
Hutch whispered, placing his palms against Starsky's scapula like the folded
down wings of a guardian angel.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Starsky agreed in monotone.
"I'm gettin' tired, now."
The massage finally did what all the tranquilizers and pain pills had not,
put Starsky back to sleep. Hutch lay down next to him, one hand touching his
back, and fell asleep with his slippers still on. When Pansy finished her kibble
she settled down in the tiny gap between the two men, purring contentedly.
Starsky slept the morning away, never even moving when Hutch got up for the
second time around nine thirty. He ate the neglected granola while reading the
newspaper, the weird night going over and over in his mind. Starsky was
depressed; it was easy enough to diagnose that, but what to do about it? Hutch
had no ability to turn back the hands of the clock to before all of Starsky's
problems had begun but he could, in some small way, grant at least one of the
requests. As the old saying went, if Mohammed couldn't go to the mountain then
the mountain had to come to Mohammed. Well, at least it went something like
With the beginnings of a plan in mind Hutch was on the phone for an hour
before he took a shower and got dressed.
When Starsky finally did wake up mid-afternoon he was withdrawn and
non-communicative. Nothing Hutch did had any affect on the stony face and hooded
eyes of his partner. Starsky rejected games of chess and Scrabble, a bubble
bath, and even peppermint ice cream. Out of ideas for the moment, Hutch was glad
there would be entertainment in the evening. The question was, would it cheer up
Starsky or just leave him even more morose? With nothing left to do Hutch just
worked around the lump under the covers, vacuuming and tidying up in the bedroom
so he could be near if Starsky wanted anything. It was nearly time for the
guests to arrive when Starsky agreed half heartedly to a quick shower so that
Hutch could change the sheets on the bed. Without a word he handed Starsky a
sweatshirt with the logo of 'Policeman's day at Disneyland-1983' printed below
Mickey's grinning mug. Starsky pulled it on without so much as a comment on the
selection, but did protest some when Hutch urged him out into the living room as
a change of pace.
"I wanna go back to bed," Starsky said tiredly as if the mere act
of speaking was too much work.
"You're supposed to get some exercise every day. Moving into the next
room won't kill you."
"Fuck off, Hutch."
"See there. Actual, honest anger--keep it up, Starsk." Hutch
encouraged, not the least offended by the epithet. "Tell me how you feel
"Black," Starsky shot back, looking almost surprised that he'd
"Then paint over it," Hutch challenged. "The David Starsky I
know doesn't let this stuff drag him down. He fights back. He gets angry and he
"I got angry right at the beginning and where did it get me?"
Starsky shouted, ejected out of the wheelchair by righteous indignation.
"Here! A gimpy, bald skeleton, and don't even try to tell me that ain't the
truth. I have eyes, Hutch. I look like shit and you just sit there watching me
puke all day, every day. You should have left when you had the chance."
"I never had the chance, Starsky. There was no where else for me to
go." Hutch enveloped him in a bear hug, elated when he could feel Starsky's
heart banging against his own chest as if they shared the same internal organs.
"I told you I'm in for the long haul. Things'll get better."
"But we won't be cops," Starsky whispered into his shoulder.
"No, and I could care less." Hutch murmured into his ear. When the
doorbell rang, he was almost as surprised as Starsky was, both jumping apart
like teenagers necking behind the woodshed who'd been caught by an outraged
"Who's that?" Starsky asked suspiciously.
"Daisy said she'd bring over some food," Hutch said evasively,
running out to answer the door. Starsky grabbed a crutch, natural curiosity
overcoming his melancholy.
It wasn't Daisy at the door; it was Rosie Dobey surrounded by her fellow
gymnasts all sporting Mickey Mouse ears. When they trooped noisily into the
house Hutch realized several of the girls were dressed like princesses--Rainbow
wore the distinctive yellow and blue dress of the Disney Snow White and delicate
Cait was a perfect blond Cinderella in a blue ball dress. Behind them Edith came
bearing a covered dish and the captain himself carried in a large satchel full
of mysterious items. There wasn't even time to close the door before Daisy
Peducci and Huggy Bear hurried up, each carting more surprises. In short order
the room was full of happy voices and activity as the girls flitted around
putting up fairy lights and balloon decorations.
"Would you look at this?" Starsky said in wonderment. "Hutch,
what did you do?"
"Made a few phone calls, buddy," Hutch confessed, astonished at the
extent of what he'd started. He was pulled away to direct people setting out the
food and selecting music, leaving Starsky in the whirlwind of party making.
"Rosie, where'd you get all this stuff?" he asked, watching as she
push-pinned a picture of the seven dwarfs up on the wall next to a crooked
picture of Mickey and Donald. A sprightly rendition of 'Supercalifragilisticexpialladocious'
was playing on the record player and several of the girls began to sing along
until Starsky had to laugh at the silliness of it all.
"Old birthday decorations," Rosie explained, eyeing the decorations
with a frown. "It still needs something. Samantha, where's the twisty crepe
"I'm twisting it, but it's all tangled up!" she groaned holding up
two colors of crepe streamers now hopelessly knotted around each other.
"I'll straighten this out," Dobey announced with a straight face.
"Detective, be of some use, take one end." He handed the astonished
Starsky the blue and pink streamers and began expertly twisting them into a
beautiful unit. Starsky just kept the proper tension on the crepe as Dobey
backed up when the streamer lengthened. Then, using the multi-colored push pins
the police captain tacked the decoration up along the upper edge of the wall.
"Cap, I didn't know you were so handy," Starsky remarked.
"Two children--one in college, that's a lot of birthday parties."
Dobey looked a bit out of breath after climbing down off the ladder back chair
he'd used as a step stool, but he surveyed the results of his efforts with a
"It's perfect, Daddy," Rosie gushed throwing her arms around her
father. He grinned, kissing the top of her head.
Watching the little tableau, Hutch was more aware of Starsky than the father
and daughter duo. Starsky was smiling! Face shining, he looked energized. He was
chatting easily with Samantha about something outrageous from the eye rolling
she was doing, and appeared pain-free and content. A far cry from the forlorn
man only a short time ago. If nothing else, this party had accomplished more
than Hutch had ever wished for.
"My friends and fellow Mouskateers," Huggy waved his long slender
arms over his head to get the attention of everyone in the room. In keeping with
the theme he wore a tie with Mickey and Minnie kissing repeatedly all the length
of the silk. "May another meeting come to order--madam Chairwoman, do you
have a few words to say?"
"Oh, goodness," Edith waved him away with a long suffering smile.
"No big speeches--but Daisy and I have put together a spread some of you
might find familiar…"
"First time I've every made a mouse eared shaped chocolate cake,"
Daisy grinned, giving Huggy's tie a tug.
"Fried chicken and salad are over there," Edith continued. She had
on a red dress with white polka dots quite reminiscent of Mickey Mouse's
favorite girl and a gigantic red bow atop her black curls. "And the girls
are performing over there." The girls had gathered with their backs to the
front door, all posing prettily on one knee with their fingers poised under
their chins. Each held a small ball in the other hand and at the first note of
'Whistle while you work' from the record player the gymnasts started tossing
their balls in intricate patterns in time to the music.
Hearty applause concluded the show as the girls abandoned their balls and ran
straight for the food. Dobey was next in line, taking a heaping helping of
potato salad and chicken. There was much good-natured pushing and shoving in
line and peals of laughter when Huggy just ignored the rules and reached over
the heads of the smaller ones.
"Hey," Starsky said softly, but Hutch could always hear that one
particular voice in a crowd. "Thanks."
"It may not be a ride on 'Space Mountain' but there's maybe a little
piece of Disneyland in our house right now." Hutch grinned, unbelievably
happy at the smile on his true love's face. "But you're underdressed."
"I got my Disney shirt--you don't," Starsky pointed out.
"Hey, I'm Walt himself." Hutch winked and drew on a fake pencil
thin brown mustache over his upper lip with an eyeliner pencil. "Daisy
brought this. But you still need your hat." He plopped the Mouse ears Ollie
had been wearing on top of Starsky's head. "Good look for you."
"You'd grab at any excuse to grow a 'stache, but wash it off before you
kiss me goodnight," Starsky teased.
"You want me to bring over a plate of food?" Hutch offered.
"Uhhh," Starsky started to shake his head but stopped at Hutch's
expression. As much as Hutch suspected his partner would try to refuse the
delicious meal, he also knew Starsky would never want to hurt Edith or Daisy's
feelings. "A chicken leg? A small one?" Starsky agreed.
"Coming right up," Hutch laughed. Good old fashioned guilt--worked
every time. With everyone else in the room eating Starsky would stand out like a
sore thumb if he didn't have a plate on his knee.
The capper of the party was a videotape of some old Mickey Mouse cartoons
that Huggy swore weren't hot in any way, shape or form. The girls sprawled every
which way on the floor as long as they were able to see the TV and wolfed down
huge pieces of cake. Everyone else pulled up chairs to form an impromptu
theater. Hutch arranged Starsky on the couch with a plate of chocolate cake
between them. Starsky only tasted the cake, just enough to leave a swipe of dark
frosting on his lower lip . Hutch longed to kiss the sweetness off but had to
content himself with wiping the mess off with the ball of his thumb. Just at
that moment Starsky extended his tongue enough to lick the frosting and licked a
certain thumb instead.
While Mickey and Goofy plotted a silly plan to help Minnie, Starsky and Hutch
gazed into each other's eyes, almost oblivious to everyone around them. Even
years later Hutch would remember that instant whenever he heard the rinky-tink
music from a Mickey Mouse cartoon. As are all things unplanned but in perfect
synchronicity, it was a sublime moment.
"I consider the Mouse a brothah," Huggy proclaimed loudly.
"He's dark like my people."
"And me!" Rosie giggled. "I never thought about that
"That makes Donald Duck more kin to Blondie over there--being so pale
faced," Huggy winked at the little girl. Hutch dropped his mouth open in
pretended offense and Starsky roared with laughter, holding his belly.
"Hmm, well, I don't know about that," Daisy waggled her head.
"Are you a man or a mouse, Mr. Bear?"
"Daisy!" he pleaded.
"Which reminds me, I share the same name as a Donald's pretty
lady," Daisy got up from where she sat cross-legged between Huggy's knees
and circled the couch to Hutch's end. "I guess that pairs me with
"Minnie's not even here to fight for her man," Starsky mused.
"Minnie Kaplan, that is."
"That woman's got nothin' on the goddess that is my Daisy," Huggy
held out one hand, all lovesick suitor. "Will you marry me, Mrs. Peducci?"
"I think I might, Mr. Bear," She batted her eyes with a twinkle,
running over to his arms. They hugged and kissed with sweet passion.
The girls oohed almost in unison but Edith looked skeptical. "I have a
feeling we've been set up, Harold."
"Edith?" Dobey blinked, looking up from the cartoon.
"You two have a bit of explaining to do," Edith challenged.
"You don't want to get on her bad side, Daisy, she's tough,"
"They found us out," Huggy inclined his head at the woman by his
side and she pulled a ring out of the pocket of her black pants, sliding it onto
her ring finger.
"He gave this to me last night," Daisy held out her hand with the
sparkling gem. "It's official, but we haven't set a date. It's a little too
"Congratulations!" Starsky clapped eagerly. "Hutch, doncha
have any champagne or anything?"
"I was saving that."
"Get it out for the happy couple," Starsky ordered. "He's such
a party pooper."
Hutch obligingly climbed over the gaggle of girls at his feet, going into the
now cluttered kitchen to fetch the bottle of bubbly he'd been saving for the
finish of chemo. Of course, it didn't matter; he could always buy another when
Davies gave Starsky the green light--that he was in remission. Gathering up
champagne flutes and a tray to carry them on Hutch listened to the chatter from
the living room with a glad heart. He didn't care that Starsky brought out his
charm mostly for visitors, and that the last few days had been difficult beyond
reason to endure--he had Starsky at his center and that is where he needed him
to stay. Whether Starsky was in a good mood or bad, he was alive and that was
all that mattered.
When the toasts had died down and the last cartoon ended the party-ers
departed, leaving behind Mouse ear shaped balloons and a crush of
Winnie-the-Pooh napkins and paper plates all over the floor. Starsky lay curled
on the sofa, asleep with a smile on his face. Hutch wasn't quite sure whether to
leave him there or wake him up and trundle him back to bed.
His decision was made when Starsky opened one dark blue eye, his impossibly
long dark lashes fanning out on pale skin. "I can' believe you did all this
"It was either that or strangle you and I didn't want to be tried for
murder so near the holidays."
"Pleading self defense would win you the case," Starsky started a
grin but it ended in a grimace and he pressed both palms over his eyes with a
"Head hurting?" Hutch asked, finding the pain pills in a flash.
"Something's always hurting." Starsky swallowed the pills with a
big gulp of the iced tea he'd had all evening. "Sometimes all at once. But
this is just temporary, right?"
"Yeah, Starsk," Hutch winced at the pain deep in his gut that what
he was agreeing to might be a lie.
"Hutch, I'm a big boy, I can be by myself for an hour," Starsky
insisted. "I'll fall asleep the minute you leave the house, anyway. It's
all I do anymore."
"Starsky, it's too risky. I should call someone over." Hutch
argued. They'd been going at it for nearly half an hour since Hutch discovered
that there was no milk, no bread and, of most concern to a small tan feline, no
cat food. He waffled between wanting to get out in the air for just a short
while and imagining a wealth of terrible fates that could befall his unprotected
partner. And after knowing Starsky for such a long time, Hutch's imagination was
"It's Sunday afternoon, it's raining, who would come?" Starsky
reasoned. "Go! I promise on my…Joe Dimaggio autographed baseball card
that I won't move one inch off this couch for the entire time you're gone."
"That's a solemn oath," Hutch frowned. "Don't move from that
spot, right?" Starsky gave a somber faced nod but there was a twinkle in
his eye. "Have you got water? A basin, just in case? Something to read? The
phone is right at the end of the coffee table…"
"Hutch! The day will be over before you get out of here." Starsky
made shooing motions with his hands. "Bring me a crab sandwich and I've
love you forever."
"Hey, and I thought our love was unconditional." Hutch leaned down,
planting a kiss on Starsky's parted lips, feeling the smile that broadened when
he did so. Starsky had been in such a good mood since the party, this almost
felt like old times.
"I always have," Hutch said as he opened the door on a downpour and
ducked his head to run out into the rain.
Starsky tugged at the afghan around his middle, not quite cold but enjoying
the warmth supplied by both blanket and sleeping cat. He took a deep breath,
letting it out in a noisy whoosh. He was alone! That happened so rarely these
days that he wanted to savor the solitude. No hovering Hutch, no mothering from
Sophie or sarcastic chiding from Mick. Alone. Grinning Starsky snuggled down
next to Pansy, shifting his cast minutely to stretch out on the couch. Both his
feet were tingling again, which was annoying in the extreme. Wiggling the toes
of his right foot didn't really change the situation and he was loath to try
that solution with the left. The unhealed bones still ached all the time, and he
wasn't looking forward to the planned surgery in early December after the chemo
was done. How many more months in a cast would that tack on? He hated being an
invalid, hated being subjected to countless sticks for blood tests, hated how
the chemo made him feel so sick. Even now, content, and what passed for
comfortable with his ravaged body he had so little energy a change of position
was an occurrence of major proportions. But not for much longer--chemo for the
weekend starting on Friday, then a couple of days to recover from
that--Thanksgiving holiday--after that he was free until the surgery was
scheduled. Starsky was looking forward to that little vacation from nausea,
vomiting and illness.
He fell asleep with a smile on his face.
The ringing phone brought him to consciousness. Why didn't Hutch answer that?
Oh, yeah, Hutch had gone out.
Lurching up Starsky reached blindly for the phone at the end of the coffee
table, shifting his right foot enough to put weight on it. He'd forgotten about
the weird prickling sensations, pins and needles shooting up his good ankle like
an electric shock. His foot didn't seem to hold him and he toppled, striking his
left knee against the wooden frame of the inlaid table. Howling from the
white-hot pain, Starsky jerked forward with the momentum, and blood spurted out
of his nose. In a few seconds he'd gone from peaceful sleep to pain wracked and
gore spattered shock. The phone broke off ringing just as Starsky dropped
heavily onto the sofa, trying to pinch his nose and stem the blood gushing out.
He'd had a nose bleed once before, in the hospital. Davies had explained that
the combination of low hemoglobin and low platelets caused chemo patients to
bleed easily, and nosebleeds were one of the most common problems.
Starsky's problem right now was that there was no way he could get up off the
couch with one foot nearly numb and the other leg zinging in agony. Already
covered in gore he tipped his head back, fingers pressed to the bridge of his
nose, gagging from the blood trickling down his throat. Not only was this not
working to stem the flow but the position made it distinctly hard to breathe. He
opened his mouth, trying to take quick breaths without inhaling any blood.
The sound of a key in the front door was salvation in the form of a tall
"I got your crab…" Hutch called out cheerfully but broke off at
the undoubtedly disturbing sight. "God, Starsk, what happened?" He
grabbed a dishtowel from the kitchen before coming to his partner's aid.
"Tr'd t'answer fone," Starsky choked out, shoving the towel under
his nose to mop up the red stuff.
"Didn't I tell you not to move a muscle?" Hutch scolded tightly,
his voice quavering with strain. "I'll get a bag of ice."
Unfortunately all the usual home remedies didn't work and after an hour
Starsky was light headed and woozy from fluid loss. Being able to breathe
unencumbered might be nice, too. Not being able to talk intelligibly Starsky
hadn't mentioned that his left knee ached abysmally under his sweatpants. The
less Hutch had to stress about, the better. Probably just a bruise, anyway.
"Hospital," Hutch said succinctly.
Starsky wasn’t about to argue, not at this point. His only stipulation was
a muttered "M'stang, no' am'blance."
"Into the wheelchair and I'll hold the umbrella over your head,"
Hutch grumbled, gathering up all the supplies they'd need to bring with them.
Starsky had already vomited blood once after swallowing what was draining
down the back of his throat and he was fairly sure that wouldn't be the last
time. He'd actually been almost queasy-free until the phone call, but now was on
the verge of retching every few minutes. Thus, the ride to the hospital was very
"I want to admit you overnight, Starsky, get some packed cells and
platelets into you," John Davies declared after the admitting ER doc had
cauterized the inside of Starsky's nostrils and pushed wads of cotton up inside.
"Can' I hab the trans'f'sions down herah?" Starsky argued, holding
out his hands for Hutch to wash off the red stains. "Jis' stay a coup'la
"You never quit bargaining, do you?" Davies laughed. "Can't
just take what the doctor says as gospel like the rest of my patients? They
worship the ground I walk on."
"That's Starsky in a nut shell," Hutch said with a tight smile,
scrubbing Starsky's face clean. "Won't knuckle under to anyone. Has trouble
with authority figures."
"Princ'ple," Starsky said thickly, enduring the washing up because
he understood Hutch's need to care for him. He was grumpy and out of sorts,
though. The nice morning was spoiled by a spilt second misstep and it was all he
could do not to snap at the other two men.
"Still, I went to medical school for all that time so I could be the
boss," Davies tapped his patient's knee with his pen. Starsky grit his
teeth, pretending that didn't set off red rockets of pain. "So, a
compromise--it was about ten when you came in, if your blood levels are
acceptable, you can go home in twelve hours."
"No obernigh'?" Starsky asked suspiciously already tired of the
clogging cotton in his nasal passages.
"Starsk, I think you'd better accept the offer before he takes it off
the table," Hutch advised.
"I fold." Starsky said miserably and was sent up to the Rose Tree
Unit for a series of transfusions.
"Where you been all afternoon?" Starsky asked sleepily when Hutch
nearly tripped over a dirty linen bin in the dimly lit room.
"Went home to get your sandwich and some clean clothes." Hutch held
up a white sack. "It's dark in here, where's the switch?"
"Turn on the one above the bed, and watch out for that…" Starsky
winced in sympathy when Hutch banged into the IV pole. However, he found the
lights because brightness flared, illuminating the familiar room. "I like
the room on the end of the unit better," Starsky grumped. "More
"It's night, what's to look at?" Hutch rubbed his shin, unsettled
and jumpy. The sight of Starsky practically doused in blood had scared him
badly. He'd immediately assumed the worst--that some maniac had broken in while
Starsky was unprotected and defenseless, and shot him. Hours later, secure in
the knowledge that it had only been a commonplace nosebleed, he was still
flashing back to the day assassins had nearly extinguished his partner's life in
a hail of automatic weapon fire. He'd held himself in check all day but now with
Starsky looking healthier than he had in weeks due to the abundance of red blood
cells circulating through his veins, the fear suddenly came crashing in on him.
He dropped heavily into a chair, dumping the bag onto the bed.
"Hutch?" Starsky asked cautiously. "You okay? Cause take it
from somebody who knows, you look terrible."
"You scared the shit out of me," Hutch hunched over, arms close to
his body, rocking slightly. "How many times is this going to have to
happen, Starsk? I don't know how to feel anymore. I'm scared all the time."
"Hey," Starsky gulped, fumbling with the sheets to climb out of
bed. "Nothin' to fear but fear itself."
"Oh, so now you're Winston Churchill?" Hutch pressed a shaky hand
the corner of his eye, willing the tears to dry up.
"Bully," Starsky grinned impishly, holding up the 'V' for victory
"I'm so thankful you're with me," Hutch grabbed him around the
waist basically pulling Starsky into his lap, the IV pole tipping treacherously.
Inching the pole nearer, Starsky settled into his lumpy seat, cradling
Hutch's face in the palm of his hand. "I'm just as thankful you're with me.
Sometimes I think we wasted all those years on meter maids and stewardi…"
"Plural of Stewardess, don't you know anything?" Starsky flicked
him on the temple, which stung but made Hutch laugh all the same. "But then
I think that it wasn't wasted time at all--Terry was love, Gillian was love, but
they all just made me realize that you're my heart, Hutch."
"Heart, soul and skin…" Hutch kissed Starsky's belly through the
flimsy hospital gown he wore. "Every fiber of my being. I'm so thankful
"Gonna stay that way," Starsky vowed sincerely. "It's almost
over, it's almost over…"
"You look good, rosy." Hutch roamed the contours of a body he knew
as well as his own, feeling the sharp angles of Starsky's bones through thin,
delicate skin and the steady beat of arteries delivering needed oxygen to every
cell. "And you don't talk funny any more."
"Never did talk funny."
"When I first met you--outside the gym at the Academy, the first thing I
noticed was that funny accent."
"Mine?" Starsky huffed with pretended indignation. "You had
the funny accent, Minnesota-boy. Where's my sandwich?"
Grunting when Starsky shifted his weight to reach for the bag Hutch just
endured the slight discomfort for the distinct pleasure of having Starsky in his
lap. The bulky cast bumped heavily against his lower leg, reminding him of how
much his partner had endured. "Want me to call the nurse to have her warm
"Nah--" Starsky separated the crab patty from the two buns and tore
off a tiny strip. "Hot hurts my mouth."
"I thought that had gotten better," Hutch leaned his forehead
against Starsky's naked back, the sharp knobs of his spine poking him in the
nose. Hutch felt his cock becoming interested in the intimacy, something that
was both a shock considering how upset he'd been, and the fact that they were in
"Mostly," Starsky swallowed, then tore off another morsel. "Somethin's
pokin' me down there." He spread his legs to take a look at the swelling
bulge. "Is that a gun in your pocket or you just happy to see me,
"I always carry concealed--you want the nurses to notice?" Hutch
joked wishing he weren't quite so stiff right then. The doctor could walk in at
any moment. At least Starsky was wearing boxer shorts under the scanty hospital
"Flattering considering what I look like."
"You look great." Hutch kissed the sweet dip between neck and
scapula, savoring the clean smell of Starsky.
"Compared to what?" Starsky closed his knees, suddenly distant.
"Not now, okay? Maybe when my hair grows back and I got some muscle. At New
"Askin' me out on a date, sailor?" Hutch's cock had deflated
rapidly with Starsky's change of mood. His emotions swung so rapidly it was like
living with a manic-depressive. Hutch wrapped his arms around the man in his
lap, offering silent love and support.
"D'you think we could get some fresh crab for New Year's Eve?"
Starsky asked wistfully, leaning into Hutch's hug.
"Sounds like a good plan to me, ring in the new year with an old
fashioned tradition." Hutch grinned, imagining how wonderful to have a
fresh new year without the specter of cancer hanging over their heads. "But
we aren't even at Thanksgiving yet--a little too soon to place our order in at
Perry's. Which reminds me, Edith wants us for turkey dinner a week from Thursday
but I told her we'd play it by ear."
"Yeah," Starsky said soberly, poking at his meal. "I'm usually
okay four days later." Hutch knew he was specifically referring to the
chemo because Starsky hadn't been okay for a long time.
"I am," Starsky popped another bite into his mouth and, twisting at
the waist to face his friend, did the same for Hutch so that they chewed in
unison. "Can we go home yet?"
"It's not even 7:30, Starsk, got a couple of hours to go, but I could go
borrow the Monopoly game out of the games closet if you want a rematch?"
Hutch proposed even though he was loath to let Starsky off his lap. If he'd
never gone to the store this morning, if Starsky hadn't gotten up to answer the
phone, could the nosebleed have been prevented? The answer, unfortunately, was
no. He'd never been able to protect Starsky from the horrors of life even though
he'd wanted to desperately, just as Starsky had wanted to do the same for him.
They could only hold onto each other and be grateful for the time spent in love.
Crutching carefully Starsky made it from the bedroom to the couch under his
own steam. This feat, which a few months ago would have been nothing to brag
about, was both ego boosting and depressing at the same time. Proud that he
hadn't had to rely on Sophie for help getting around, the fact that he was
exhausted after the short trip only brought home how weak he was after the
prolonged illness. But the transfusion had given him a burst of energy that
hadn't dissipated in three days.
Determined to keep an optimistic frame of mind with the end in sight, as it
were, he pulled the red and black afghan around his knees, grinned when Pansy
immediately took that as an invitation to settle onto his lap and flipped on the
"In an exclusive channel 11 report." a pretty brunette wearing too
much eye shadow for Starsky's taste looked seriously at the camera, her voice
low and earnest. "A group calling themselves The Friends of Emerald Hsieh
are criticizing the way the Bay City Police Department is handling the
investigation into her murder. Hsieh's boyfriend, suspected drug dealer Vincent
Schroeder, was being held on charges of first degree murder and assault with a
deadly weapon on a police officer, but these were reduced to lessor charges
after he agreed to testify against several former associates in the mob and drug
world. On November 16th he was released on bail and has not been seen
since." Pictures of Schroeder and Emerald appeared on the screen but
Starsky was glad his own picture hadn’t been included.
"He's a terrible man," Sophie harrumphed, placing the little tray
over Starsky's knees and adding a bowl of clam chowder and a peanut butter
"Can't argue with you there," he agreed, picking up a quarter of
the sandwich. Sophie sat down on the sofa to watch the program, idly picking up
another quarter for herself.
"Shortly after the bail hearing police uncovered a secret drug stash
allegedly belonging to Schroeder and are now looking in earnest for the suspect.
The Friends of Emerald Hsieh, who include her elder brother Cam Yin Hsieh and
his wife, Bay City supervisor Adrianna Michaelson-Hsieh, gave a statement on the
steps of Bay City courthouse," the newswoman said.
The image on the screen changed to a handsome Chinese man and a raven-haired
Caucasian woman surrounded by a bevy of what could only be politely described as
call girls. Starsky even recognized one or two of the faces as prostitutes he'd
rousted in the past. Politics made strange bedfellows if a city supervisor was
rubbing shoulders with street walkers.
"My sister Emerald was only 25 years old when Vinnie Schroeder
repeatedly stabbed her to death." Hsieh said carefully, his accent barely
noticeable. "She bled to death in a shabby apartment without friends or
family beside her. Her beautiful child, Diamond Anne, who is in my care, will
never know her mother. Yet, even after the police had Emerald's murderer in
custody they let the vile man free just because he named names in other ongoing
investigations. Police cared more about their own arrest quotas than for the
murder of a fallen woman. The fact that my sister was a drug addict who sold her
body for money was a hard thing for our family to acknowledge but we still love
her dearly and insist that the police department rectify their error in
judgement by bringing Schroeder to justice today!"
"To this end," Supervisor Michaelson-Hsieh took up the impassioned
speech. "We are prepared to offer a $10,000 reward for any information that
leads to the arrest of Emerald's murderer. This man, who is also wanted for a
variety of crimes including assault of the detective trying to arrest him and
drug dealing, should not be wandering the streets. These women behind me, all
who have had previous dealings with Schroeder, all fear for their lives unless
he is caught."
"They didn't mention your name," Sophie pointed out when Starsky
switched off the TV with a savage twist.
"I'd prefer not to be a cause celebre," Starsky picked the crust
off the square of bread and peanut butter he held before taking a bite.
"But if this brings results, more power to them."
"Hey, Survivor, you ready to go yet?" Hutch called.
"Just give me a minute." Starsky grinned triumphantly, then took a
deep breath, going back to work on his ensemble. Dressed more like his old self
for the first time in ages, Starsky wore faded blue jeans--the left leg slit up
the side and held together punk rocker style with safety pins at the seam--and a
red t-shirt covered with a jaunty vest decorated with cornucopias and turkeys.
Returning the smile, Hutch packed up the green bean casserole he'd made with
a glad heart. He still had some reservations about taking Starsky to the Dobey's
for Thanksgiving, not to mention having him home after he'd vomited for five
days straight but the patient had been unequivocal--he was not spending a
holiday in the hospital. Although the last bag of chemo had dripped into
Starsky's body Sunday afternoon, he'd been ravaged by the depleting side effects
of the chemical cocktail and spent the first few days of the week curled over an
emesis basin barely able to sit unsupported. Still, they'd left the safety of
the Rose Tree Unit Wednesday afternoon for home. There hadn't been much change
between being in the hospital and being out. Starsky had last vomited just after
midnight, so he was tottery and weak but possessing of a brilliant fire that
dazzled anyone who saw it. He'd withstood the miserable prison sentence of
osteosarcoma and made it through to the other side. All that was needed to set
him completely free was the blood work due to be drawn next week. The blood work
that would, hopefully, proclaim him tumor free.
"How'd I look?"
"You look really good," Hutch answered assuredly. Good for someone
who weighed 25 pounds less than his usual fighting weight, had no hair and was
paler than an albino fish. "Let's get on the road before the freeway is
mired with people like us crazy enough to leave their houses for a turkey
The weather was flawless, skies azure blue with just the remnants of clouds
left from rains earlier in the week. Temperatures were a balmy 70 degrees so
Hutch didn't fret about exposing Starsky to the elements. The ride was joyous,
Starsky was in a good mood and ready for a party which put Hutch in an equally
The trek from the Mustang to the Dobey house reminded Hutch of a mountain
climbing expedition and he was the Sherpa guide. He schlepped Starsky's
crutches, meds, and the casserole in before rolling the special guest up to the
front door. Then went back for the extra chairs he'd brought over. Starsky
presented Edith and Rosie with matching bouquets of golden mums and autumnal
leaves, and charmed the pants off of Edith's elder sister Ethyl Mae by kissing
her on the cheek, insisting she resembled Eartha Kitt.
"First day we were in town I turned on the news and saw this controversy
about a murderer you all set free," Jonas Broadman, Ethyl Mae's husband,
handed Hutch a beer and a dish of fresh veggies.
"We didn't have much say in it," Hutch crunched down hard on a
"And if we'd had our say, he'd…" Starsky began indignantly but
was cut off by the appearance of his Captain.
"Starsky, Hutchinson--and Broadman," Dobey roared in his best
'I'm-in-charge-around-here' voice. "This is a no shop talk zone--and the
game is about to start."
"Dad-dee!" Rosie protested pointing at the TV showing a giant
balloon of Snoopy floating over the frosty streets of New York. "Santa
hasn't come yet in the parade!"
"Harold!" Edith called. "You're needed for some carving
"Don't carve off one of your fingers in the process," Starsky
teased, waving his scarred digit while watching the parade. "I've done
that, it's not a pretty sight."
"You watch it, Starsky, or there'll be no turkey for you at all,"
Dobey warned with a grin before going off to do his wife's bidding.
Hutch opened up a folding chair next to his partner in the wheelchair, since
Cal had taken the spot beside his uncle on the couch. Both were arguing over
which team to root for in the game, chomping pretzels. Rosie was on the floor
cutting out turkey shaped place cards for the table and commenting nonstop about
every aspect of the colorful parade. Ethyl Mae had gone in to supervise the
putting of the pies in the oven. Starsky filched a pretzel from Cal that
resulted in a sudden flurry of tossed snack foods, much to Rosie's dismay when
several fell on her head. There was a general sense of coziness and warmth in
the room that filled Hutch with contentment. This was a lot like the
Thanksgivings of his childhood--a house full of family and friends, the rich
aroma of turkey perfuming the air and the annual argument about watching the
Macy's parade or whichever college game started before the meal.
Looking over at Starsky teasing Rosie about the pretzel stuck on the top of
her braids, Hutch realized he was relaxed and happy for the first time in a long
time. This is what Thanksgiving was for--a reminder of what was most precious in
life. He had his lover back--maybe not entirely whole yet, but on his way to
healthy--and supportive friends who had helped him through the ordeal. When the
group gathered around the festive looking table, complete with turkey shaped
place cards, Hutch raised his glass of wine with a toast.
"I give thanks for this whole year. Now maybe some people would think I
"Always have been," Starsky said in a loud voice.
Taking his hand in front of their friends, Hutch continued. "After
sitting next to Starsky through six rounds of chemo, I know I am, but weirdly,
I'm not sure I would have changed a thing. Those hard days and nights made me so
truly grateful that this day has come. Starsky's done with chemo drugs, and with
a meal like this one to fatten him up, well on his way back. It's been a
terrible journey." He glanced around the table, clinking glasses with each
Dobey and Broadman, before turning last to touch his glass to Starsky's. With
the crystal chime still in the air he mouthed a silent, 'I love you,' and faced
the assembled group once again. "But we couldn't have done it without each
one of you here. Thank you, thank you."
"And we give thanks to God that David and Ken were able to join us
today," Edith raised her wine and then took a drink. "Thanksgiving for
all at this table on this day."
"Amen," chorused the group.
"Can I have a turkey leg?" Rosie asked.
"I wanted it!" Cal countered.
"I'm the father around here, I think I should get it." Dobey
"I was saving it for Starsky, put a little meat on his bones,"
Edith filled his plate and passed it along to the surprised detective.
"I'll share with my girlfriend," Starsky winked at Rosie, both at
the far end of the table where their southpaw eating styles didn't bump elbows
with righties. "There's enough to go around."
"I knew I liked you!" Rosie grinned.
Hutch laughed, watching to make sure Starsky took a bite of everything on his
plate. It wasn't until he felt Edith's hand on his arm that he realized how much
he was hovering. A gentle smile from his hostess and a little extra warm gravy
on his mashed potatoes nudged him into eating his own meal. Digging in, he
enjoyed every mouthful, looking forward to the future with renewed vigor.
End of Book One.
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