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Best Buds

by

Cherrel

The red with white striped Torino screeched to a halt at the park's curb.

"I don't believe this," Starsky gritted through his teeth, watching Hutch and Jake running side by side on the green grass. After slamming his fist on the steering wheel, Starsky laid his head down on its cool surface and remembered the first time they saw Jake.

Walking in to the bullpen with Tony, another young detective, Jake' s dark brown eyes swept the room, as if measuring each man for partnership. Once he left, Starsky tried to explain his reaction, but Hutch only laughed, threw his arm around Starsky's shoulder, and vowed nothing would ever split them up. But now it seemed something had.

"Okay. Okay. I'll admit it. He's younger than me. Sure, more agile too. But I bet his body doesn't carry as many scars as mine does," he muttered. Looking up to see the two flop down beside a large picnic basket, his eyes were swamped with misery.

"You think he's gonna laugh at those sorry excuses you use as jokes?" he blustered, then swallowed hard. "You tell him about the secrets and dreams that we exchanged during late night stakeouts yet?"

He felt as if he'd been kicked in the stomach as a blanket of panic closed in around him. Never had he let anyone get as close to him as Hutch had done.

"Where does that leave me, partner? I'm not gonna just sit by and play the third wheel!" His words gathered strength as anger once more took over. Getting out, he slammed the door and stormed over to the pair.

Hutch was laughing as Starsky dropped silently beside him. Glancing into Starsky's emotionless face, Hutch broke off abruptly. "Hey, you okay, Starsk?"

"See you found yourself another partner," Starsky snapped. Jake's head swung around at the angry words, but, seeing who it was, ignored them and went back to eating.

Hutch drew back in surprise as Starsky's harsh words washed over him. "Hey. No. It's nothing like that—"

"Then how come I had to find out from a uniform that you two decided to take the day off," Starsky mumbled, unable to keep the resentment out of his voice.

Tearing his sandwich into little pieces, Hutch quietly answered. "Tony got shot last night. He spent four hours in surgery. But he'll make it," he quickly added, seeing Starsky's stunned expression. "Jake was pretty upset so I said he could stay with me." Hutch put a hand on his arm. "Dobey didn't want Jake hanging around the office, moping, so gave us a couple of days off to help him get through this. I tried calling you at home, but you had already left. I figured you'd be told," and squeezed the still tense arm.

Starsky was silent for a minute, thinking of the officer who had volunteered seeing the pair take off earlier, laying it on thick about Hutch's overheard plan to spend the whole day at the park with Jake. "Oh, I was told all right," Starsky growled, realizing he had deliberately been mislead. Suddenly, with a grin that meant trouble for someone, Starsky said, "When I get back someone is gonna learn exactly how to deliver my messages right." He glanced in the basket to see his favorite sandwiches also had been packed. "So you're not replacing me, huh?"

Chuckling, Hutch pointed to Jake, who had steadily ignored them as he watched the passing joggers. "With him? No way." He paused to throw a half grin at his partner before adding thoughtfully, "Now if it was a blonde—"

Hutch knew he couldn't get out of the way in time as, without warning, Starsky lunged. But instead of grabbing him, Starsky grabbed his sandwich and threw it far out into the grass. Jake immediately jumped up and ran to gobble the scattered food. Finished, he trotted back and tried to wedge himself between the closely sitting pair. Starsky blocked the big Shepherd's efforts until Jake gave up and lay out in the sun.

Understanding Starsky's gesture as a piece offering, Hutch asked, "Still friends?"

Starsky tapped him on the shoulder lightly. "Best buds." Then with a look of mischief he added, "Wonder how Dobey' s gonna explain this to payroll?"

At the sound of their blended laughter Jake glanced over at them then, closing his eyes, went back to sleep.