Originally printed in The Fix #3, Aug. 1988, Amapola Press. Comments from this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author. Special thanks to Tex for getting it ready for the web.
Gathering of the Clan
The phone ringing woke him and he cautiously untangled himself from his lover. Not wanting to wake Hutch, Starsky kept his voice low. "Hello..."
"Who's this?" A woman's voice, unfamiliar, and he'd thought he knew all of Hutch's women.
"Starsky. Who're you?"
"Genevieve Hutchinson. I'm looking for my son, Kenneth. He gave me this number. Is he there?"
"Uh...yeah. Just a minute." Laying the receiver on the bedside table, he turned to the man beside him. "Hutch, babe. Wake up. Your mother's on the phone."
"Mmpf, Starsky? It's Saturday; we're off. What're you doing up so early?"
"Your mother's on the phone. She's asking for you."
Starsky watched the transformation from dreamy lover to wide-awake cop. He'd seen it a dozen times before and it never ceased to amaze him. When they were alone, Hutch played the hard to arouse sleepyhead and they usually ended up making love before he was fully awake. If a third party entered the picture, he was awake and totally alert instantly.
"What's the matter?" Hutch listened for several minutes. "Now calm down, Mother. I said we'd be there as soon as we can get a flight.... Yes, he's coming. I'll call you back with the flight number."
"Where are we going?"
"Huh-unh, you go. I'm staying here. You know what happened the one time I met your parents and we weren't..."
"Father's in the hospital. They think he's had a heart attack. I need you with me, Starsk."
Ambushed, just that fast. He didn't want to go, didn't want to put on an act, but if Hutch needed him... well, that was the bottom line... he'd be there. "How do you want to handle.... us?"
"We'll stay in my old room. I'm not going to hide what you mean to me."
"Yeah, but they don't know. If your father's had a heart attack, a shock like this could kill him."
"I don't think we'll have to tell him. Besides, he's tough and Mother gets a little dramatic sometimes. He might not be as bad off as she said."
"Then you won't need me."
"I'll always need you, love. I've never seen my father weak or dependent. It's going to be difficult. I need your strength and objectivity because, in spite of all our disagreements, I do love him."
"Okay, babe, it's your show. I'll play it however you want." He kissed Hutch. "I love you."
"Thanks. You throw some clothes into a suitcase for us and a suit apiece in the garment bag. I'll call Dobey to let him know what's happened so we can get extra time if it takes longer than our days off."
"Suits, huh? All right, whatever you say."
Hutch made the calls, seats were available and soon they were boarding a plane. They were met at the Duluth airport by a heavy-set man wearing a blue business suit. Hutch moved forward to greet him. Starsky motioned his intention to claim their luggage, and when they regrouped they were almost to the terminal door.
"Dave Starsky, my brother-in-law, Brad."
"Nice to meet you, Dave. The car's this way."
Reaching the car, Brad took the bags and put them into the trunk. Starsky grabbed the back seat, shutting the door so Hutch would take the front.
"He was doing fine when I left. Just between us, your mother and Ann are over-reacting, as usual."
At the hospital, they followed Brad to one of the large private suites furnished especially for V.I.P.'s. They entered the sitting room where Mrs. Hutchinson sat with the doctor and Hutch's sister.
After the introductions had been made, Mrs. Hutchinson spoke up. "Kenneth, I'm so glad that you finally made it. It's been such a terrible thing to happen to your father." She offered her cheek up for a kiss and Hutch leaned down obediently.
"Now, Genevieve," said the doctor. "I told you we ruled out a heart attack yesterday. We'll do more tests, but I'm reasonably certain that Richard has early peptic ulcer disease."
"But you do think he should cut down at the office, don't you, Joseph?"
"I think it's a possibility that he may have to consider. We'll know more when all the tests are completed."
Mrs. Hutchinson turned to her son. "See, Kenneth, you'll have to take your place in the business now."
Starsky felt Hutch stiffen. "I'd like to see my father."
"Of course. Go on in," the doctor answered.
"Go on. I'll be all right."
Hutch entered the bedroom and silence descended on the sitting area. All three of the remaining relatives turned to look at Starsky.
"Genevieve, I'll talk to you later, dear. I've got other patients to see." The doctor excused himself.
Mrs. Hutchinson studied Starsky until he felt like a lab specimen, but he ignored her scrutiny. He was here for Hutch, not the family.
"Surely, Mr. Starsky, you can see the need for Kenneth to take his place in the family business? You're his partner and I'm asking you to help persuade him. He seems to respect your opinion."
"You'll have to talk to Hutch. It's his decision." Wonder what you'll do, lady, when you find out we're a packaged deal.
"You have to admit, it's about time Kenneth stopped playing games and settled down... accepted his responsibilities," Brad commented.
"I never considered police work a game and neither does Hutch."
The door opened and Hutch came out, saving Starsky from any more of the clan's wisdom. Hutch beckoned him over for a private word. "He wants to see you, Starsk."
"Yeah. I... I told him about us."
"You told him? Hutch, he's a sick man."
"He guessed and I couldn't lie."
"And he wants to see me?"
"He doesn't bite."
"You do," Starsky couldn't resist whispering as he passed Hutch and was rewarded with a deep pink blush.
He entered the bedroom and closed the door behind him. An older looking Hutch lay propped up on the bed. The green tube carrying oxygen to his nose was familiar, so were the intravenous fluids and the heart monitor leads.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Hutchinson?"
"Come in. Sit down here, beside the bed. Kenneth has told me quite a bit about you. I decided we should talk."
Starsky didn't know what to say. He was scared to death he'd say something to make the man sicker.
"Don't be frightened of me, Dave... I can call you Dave?"
"Uh, yeah, sure."
"I know Kenneth has told you about the differences we've had over the years. I want you to tell me about Kenneth. I'd like very much to understand my son."
Finally a subject Starsky could safely discuss... Hutch. "Hutch is the best cop in L.A. He knows his job and does it. But, more than that, he cares about the people, especially the little people."
"You love him very much, don't you?"
The question caught Starsky off guard. He was used to hiding his love but this man seemed to see right through him. He swallowed twice. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"And you want what's best for him?"
"Then tell me what's best for him. His mother thinks he should take over the family business. I'm sure she's pressuring him about that right now. I know he doesn't believe this, but all I want for him is whatever he wants."
Starsky was silent for several minutes, trying to sort out what he wanted for Hutch and what Hutch really wanted. "I told you, he's the best damn cop L.A. has. I think he'd suffocate behind a desk. Sometimes the job gets him down and I don't know how long he'll hang in there. I do know he won't be happy not working to help people."
"I think you're right. He seemed happy when he talked about Los Angeles and his work. I like the way you call him Hutch. It does fit better than Kenneth. He was especially happy when he talked about you."
Mr. Hutchinson laughed. "Yes, you. He's never talked to me before, about anything. But he talked to me about you. Do you love him as much?"
"I'd die for him." Starsky whispered the words.
"I believe you would." The elder Hutchinson pinned him with a stare. "I had a friend like that once. I fully understand."
"You don't mind? About Hutch and me, I mean?"
"Sometimes love isn't planned. I'd like to get to know you better."
"When you get outta the hospital, why don't you visit us?"
"I think I'll do that. Just the three of us. It's about time I got to know my son."
The doctor stuck his head inside the room. "Time to rest, Richard."
"I agree, but I'd like a minute with the whole family first."
"Well, all right. But make it fast."
Starsky put his head out the door. "Mr. H wants everyone to come in a minute."
Once everyone stood around the bed, Hutch's father looked closely at each one, finally stopping at Hutch. "Ken... no... Hutch, I understand you're the best cop in L.A. I expect you to keep it up. If a Hutchinson's going to be a cop, he'd better be the best."
Hutch opened his mouth but stopped from commenting when Starsky squeezed his upper arm.
"That's right, Dave. Keep him quiet. You, too, Genevieve. I've got something to say and you're going to keep quiet while I say it. Brad, you'll have to assume the major responsibilities at the office. I intend to spend more time with my family. I made a promise to Dave Starsky that I plan on keeping. I'm not going to die any time soon, so everyone can go home. I'm tired."
The family filed out, Starsky bringing up the rear.
"Yes, sir?" He returned to the bedside.
"Take care of him for me. I love him, too."
"Yes, sir, I will."