Actions

Work Header

Do You Want Candy Corn With That Broccoli?

Work Text:

DoYouWantBanner01

"It was a dork and-"

Starsky ripped the paper from the typewriter and balled it up. He tossed it over his shoulder with an annoyed grunt.

"Hey!" Malone snapped. "Watch it, Starsky!"

"Sorry," Starsky muttered, weaving another piece of typing paper into the platen.

"It was a dick and stormy kni-"

"Not again!" Starsky grumbled, repeating his actions with annoyance. Rip out the paper, ball it up, toss it-

"Starsk," Hutch warned.

Starsky froze, hand poised to chuck the paper over his shoulder once more.

Hutch glared, his eyes flicking from Starsky's hand to the growing pile of paper balls that littered the floor. "Are we having a problem?" he asked haughtily, calmly taking his own report out of his typewriter. With a flourish that made Starsky want to smack the smug look from Hutch's face, Hutch signed the report, stood up and slid it into Dobey's in box.

It was when Hutch dusted his hands in glee that Starsky threw the paper at his partner. Score! The paper ball hit Hutch in the nose.

Hutch turned flashing eyes onto his partner and his finger pointed. "You're asking for it," Hutch snapped.

Starsky grinned. He glanced around quickly, leaned in, and said in a low voice, "And you're just the man to give it to me." He let the innuendo fill the air and enjoyed the quick blush that raced up his partner's pale cheeks.

"I- I-," Hutch said.

"Yeah, me too," Starsky agreed, his smile so wide his mouth ached deliciously. "And I'm famished."

"Finish your report in a hundred words or less, and stop with the flowery language! You know how much it bugs Dobey,"

"I know." Starsky threaded another sheet into the typewriter. "If you're willing to stop for food on the way home, I'm willing to type up a dull, boring, Dobey-acceptable report."

Hutch smiled. "Deal. Fifteen minutes?"

"You got it, babe."

"I'm hitting the head."

"And I'm getting to work. After all, we got leftover candy to get to once we get home. I got a MARS bar with my name on it."

Hutch gave a theatrical shudder before he disappeared through the double doors. Starsky smiled at his partner's disdain of all things processed and covered with chocolate. The man would never appreciate the finer things of life.

Starsky turned his attention to the keys and began to tap away. He left off the exciting beginning he'd planned. Once finished, he glanced over the boring, routine report that Dobey will approve of. It was dull relaying the facts about busting some woman for shoplifting. The report was as uninspiring as driving say, a 1980 Ford LTD. Grudgingly, he left out the details that would make Dobey go bananas: that the woman claimed she was a witch and that she would put a curse on the officers arresting her. After all, it was Halloween and everybody had an excuse for not wanting to be arrested.

In fourteen minutes, Starsky was finished. Pleased, he signed the report and dropped it into Dobey's box. By the time he'd gathered up his jacket, Hutch had returned.

"Ready?"

Starsky looked at Hutch, sure his shock showed in his eyes. Hutch's mouth was smeared with what could only be chocolate.

Starsky reached out a finger and swiped at the streak on Hutch's upper lip. "What the hell have you been doing?"

Hutch looked guilty. "I was hungry!"

"You hit the candy machine? Are you sick?" Starsky started to put a hand on Hutch's forehead, only to have it batted away.

"You're the one to talk. You use that thing like it was a Vegas slot machine! I'll bet you've put a hundred bucks into it in the past year!" Hutch said.

Starsky's surprise rose. Hutch was angry. Because he'd eaten a stupid candy bar? "Hey, buddy. Calm down. It's only a candy bar. You won't die from it."

"I know that," Hutch snapped. "Let's get out of here."

Without another word, Hutch turned and stomped from the squad room. He didn't stop to see if Starsky followed and from the set of his shoulders, Starsky knew he was furious about something. Confused, Starsky trotted after his partner. Sure, Hutch could be grumpy and annoying but this was not right. Something was wrong and he was determined to figure out what.

---------------------------------------

"Let's swing by Von's," Hutch said. "Nearest one's-"

"Von's?" Starsky echoed. "You want to stop at Von's? No way! There's a Trader Joe's two blocks from the house."

"Trader Joe's?" Hutch asked, his tone disbelieving. "You want to stop at Trader Joe's instead. Where the food is organic and healthy for the most part. Are you sick?"

Starsky negotiated an intersection before he looked over at Hutch. "I'd'a thought you'd rather go to TJ's than Von's. They got better quality, or so you're always harping."

"I do not harp," Hutch said, crossing his arms. "Von's is fine."

Starsky shrugged and after three blocks of frosty silence between him and Hutch, he turned into the parking lot. He sighed loudly. Something was off, weird, wrong. He could feel that the vibes between them were wonky. He kept tossing quick glances at his partner, his long time friend, his other half. After all these years he knew when the stars were out of alignment, as Hutch would say when things between them were off kilter. Tonight, things were definitely off kilter.

Hutch climbed out of the Torino. "I want to pick up some things at the drug store. Meet you back here in ten minutes."

"I'll go with you."

"Starsky," Hutch warned. "I'm a big boy. I can go to the drug store on my own."

Starsky threw out his hands. "All right! Geez. Get a grip. You'd think you were gonna knock off the joint."

Hutch closed his eyes for a moment. "Sorry. I'm... Sorry."

"It's okay. I'll grab some stuff for dinner and breakfast. You want anything in particular?"

"Nah. Whatever you get is fine." Hutch turned away and practically ran toward the Sav-On.

Starsky watched him until he went into the store and then headed into Von's. He made his purchases and hurried back to the Torino. Hutch was nowhere to be seen so Starsky stowed the bags in the trunk. He started to close the lid when his stomach rumbled. He rummaged through the sacks until he found what he wanted. Gleefully, he climbed behind the steering wheel and dug into the bag, munching happily.

The passenger's door opened. Hutch slid in, his mouth full. Starsky turned towards him. Hutch's eyes met his. Starsky felt like a kid whose mom caught him with his hand buried deep in the off-limits cookie jar.

Starsky chewed rapidly, and shoved the handful of broccoli he held back into the bag.

Hutch chewed rapidly, and shoved the handful of candy corn he held back into the bag.

Holy hell, what was going on?

"I, ah-," Hutch muttered.

"Hutch." Starsky tried not to look guilty.

"Ah, you go first."

"No," Starsky said, shaking his head and picking a bit of broccoli from his teeth. "You go."

Hutch squared his shoulders. "I don't have to justify-"

"Stop being a schmuck," Starsky yelled. "Something creepy is goin' on here!" He held up the bag of broccoli. "I hate this crap yet I can't stop eating it! And now I want cauliflower or zucchini. I'm in agony here!"

Hutch let out a dramatic sigh. "Same here. Candy corn is full of corn syrup and preservatives yet I can't stop eating it." He popped another kernel into his mouth and grimaced as he chewed. "I love this stuff," he said unconvincingly. "It's made with wax and fake coloring." He ate three more pieces.

Starsky grimaced. "Wax? Like I use on my car?"

"Yup," Hutch said, holding out a few kernels to Starsky. "Want some?"

Starsky shuddered. "Not on your life! I got broccoli. It's not made with artificial coloring and car wax." He munched another stalk. "Here." He held out a small green tree to Hutch.

"No way!" Hutch pushed Starsky's hand away. "Ick."

They ate unhappily for a minute more before Starsky said, "Would you agree that somethin' is wrong with this picture?"

Hutch nodded, his mouth full of sugar.

"Okay then. Would you agree-" Starsky paused to crunch through more broccoli. "Would you agree that we've been cursed?"

Hutch stopped chewing and turned bright eyes on Starsky. "Oh good Lord. That's right!"

"We've been cursed."

"I'm going to shoot myself if I have to eat this crap for the rest of my life," Hutch whined. He ate more candy corn.

"And I'm gonna join you," Starsky said sadly as he bit into another stalk of raw, healthy, no-artificial-ingredients broccoli. "Rather plug myself before I die of good health." He swallowed. "So what do we do? Who can help us with this?"

"Me and thee, partner. Same as always."

"Yeah. In times like these, we got to stick together."

---------------------------

"What do you mean, she ain't here?" Starsky yelled.

The desk sergeant bristled. "Do not use that tone of voice with me, Detective! She was transferred! That is not my fault. The paperwork was properly submitted and signed by a judge. Now I suggest you leave!"

"Come on, Starsk." Hutch tugged on Starsky's sleeve. "Sergeant, you said Miss-"

"Mrs.," Sergeant O'Malley interrupted.

"Mrs. Zalinski was transferred to Cabrillo, right? It was rather a fast decision, wasn't it?"

"I don't make the decisions or hold the hearings. I can only tell you what happened. Mrs. Zalinski was transferred to Cabrillo by order of Judge Smith."

Starsky exchanged a look with Hutch. What's going on?

"Thank you, Sergeant." Starsky spun on his Adidas and headed toward the parking lot.

Hutch followed for a few steps. Starsky looked over his shoulder. Hutch was sliding coins into the candy machine standing against the wall.

"Hutch!" Starsky hurried back to his partner's side. "Not now!"

"But I'm hungry!" Hutch whined, pulling on the lever for M&Ms.

"I'm hungry too! I have some apples in the car. Don't eat that garbage. It'll rot your teeth."

Hutch poured a handful of the colorful candy into his palm. "I know," he said mournfully before he tossed them into his mouth. He chewed, a blissful expression on his face.

Starsky grimaced. "I want some brown rice and tofu, not all those empty calories. I need fuel for this fine body of mine." He patted his belly.

Hutch finished off the candy on the way to the car. "And a fine body it is," he said.

Starsky grinned, showing plenty of teeth. "Yours will be fat in no time if you keep up with the candy."

Hutch glared. "You eat just as much junk as I do now and you're not fat!"

"Better genes and a good metabolism," Starsky said confidently, turning once to show off his physique. "You, on the other hand-"

"Don't," Hutch warned, his finger poking into Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky danced out of the way of his hand. "You'll still be cute with a pot belly."

"You're a moron, Starsk."

Starsky laughed before he admitted, "If I don't get some decent food soon, I'm not gonna be responsible for my actions."

"So drive through somewhere!" Hutch climbed into the Torino. "Geez, but you're a baby."

"There ain't no good food at the drive thrus. You can't make me eat In-N-Out, Hutch, so stop trying. I'd rather starve than eat garbage like that." Starsky sounded odd to his own ears but he couldn't help himself. He wanted what he wanted and that was that.

"So now what?" Hutch asked.

"We go and talk to Mrs. Zalinski. Get her to lift this damned curse."

"They probably won't let us get near her if she's under a court ordered hold."

"Then we'll have to use our considerable charms," Starsky said.

Hutch looked at Starsky intently, and his gaze slowly traveled from the top of his head to his shoes. "I like your charms."

Starsky smiled. "Keep your charms to yourself until we get this figured out, blintz. Then after we're both back to normal, you can play with my charms."

With a guffaw, Hutch squeezed Starsky's shoulder. "Sounds like a plan to me."

--------------------------------------

Starsky pulled into the parking lot at Cabrillo State. He killed the engine and swiveled toward Hutch, tucking one leg up under him.

"Say, Hutch, don't you think this incarceration was quick? We only busted her what? Twelve, fourteen hours ago?"

Hutch rubbed a finger down his nose. "Yeah, I was thinking about that. What do you think's going on?"

Starsky picked at a string on his jeans. "Remember when Judge Smith was under suspicion for takin' bribes because he had a gambling habit that had gotten away from him? It was on the down low because the DA couldn't find enough evidence to accuse him but Dobey had us tail one of Monroe's numbers runners for two days."

"I remember," Hutch said thoughtfully. "We didn't gather any useful evidence from that jerk and the DA had to drop the case."

"Smith threatened to sue the city for defamation if any of it hit the papers."

"And maybe somehow our witch lady is involved.

"Or knows something."

"Should we tell Dobey?"

Starsky shook his head. "Let's talk to her first. Then if she makes any sense, we'll let him know."

"Dobey is pals with Smith," Hutch said.

"Dobey won't let that interfere with him doing his job."

"True."

"How do we play this?"

"Long lost relatives?"

Starsky snickered. "Works for me. I'll be her brother and you can be the husband. Ya look like a Mr. Zalinski."

"Terrific."

"What? You'll make an adorable husband."

"I do have a gun, you know."

---------------------------

Turned out there was a mini-riot at the facility. When Starsky opened the door and waved Hutch in, he could hear the sounds of shouting and running feet before he got into the foyer. He skirted Hutch and looked around. Several attendants rushed past, not bothering to glance at the new arrivals. Starsky waited beside Hutch until the coast was clear before they approached the reception desk.

"What's going on?" Starsky asked. "Looks like a lot of confusion." He glanced at the name tag on the woman's dress, Miss Jones.

"We've had a bad day," Miss Jones said, peering over her glasses. "A water main broke and flooded the first floor. Sixteen of the residents have food poisoning and one of the women went into labor in the middle of breakfast. A half dozen other residents took the distractions to heart and tried to escape. Otherwise, it's a normal day." Miss Jones shook her head, her brown hair brushing her chin. A buzzer rang. "Oh, excuse me." She rose and pushed on a button that opened the door into the main part of the facility. Three men dressed in dark brown overalls with "Harry's Plumbing and Supply" embroidered on the backs of their shirts exited, their arms full of plumbers' equipment.

When she returned to her desk, Hutch gave her his most ingratiating smile. "You're doing a marvelous job keeping order."

"Thank you," Miss Jones replied, her brown eyes alight at the compliment.

"I'm here to see my wife. Mrs. Zalinski, please," Hutch said. "This is her brother, Morty." He waved a hand at Starsky.

Starsky gave Miss Jones the most innocent smile he could. The telephone rang. Miss Jones answered it, putting the caller on hold. The phone rang again and another set of workmen entered the main door with more equipment in their hands. Miss Jones punched the hold button on the second call and stood up. She unlocked the door so the workmen could once again enter the facility.

The workmen filed through, Hutch at the last fellow's heels. Starsky smiled at Miss Jones. "Thank you, ma'am." He made sure the door closed behind them before Miss Jones could think of anything else to say. The sound of the phone ringing once more echoed through the closed door.

The plumbers veered off down a corridor.

"How are we going to find your wife?" Starsky asked.

"We're detectives. We'll detect," Hutch answered smartly.

Starsky snickered. "You're an ass, you know that?"

"Listen, Starsk. We've both been in this joint before. We know the schedule. It's a little past noon so what does that mean?"

"Lunch!" Starsky brightened. "Maybe they're havin' mixed veggies. I'm hungry!"

"Right," Hutch said, his dubiousness showing.

Starsky ignored his partner and headed to the cafeteria. "So let's go and see if your beloved is having lunch. There could be chocolate pudding for you."

"Starsky," Hutch warned.

"What?" Starsky threw out his hands, plastering an innocent look on his face. "You aren't in love with the missus or you don't want pudding?"

"You're asking for it."

"I'm sure your wife is also."

"Starsk!"

Giggling madly, Starsky hurried along. Several attendants hurried past but nobody paid them any attention. Patients wandered the halls, some looking lost and others looking like they'd love to make some trouble. No one gave them the time of day. He pushed open the cafeteria door and bowed at Hutch, waving with a flourish.

Hutch walked passed him, muttering, "Moron."

Starsky smirked and looked around. "There she is," he said, pointing to a table where two women sat.

Mrs. Zalinski raised her head and spied the detectives as they crossed the room. "You two!" she said, rising and waving a hand in their direction. "Look what you've done to me! I'm locked up with a bunch of loonies."

"Who are you calling a loony?" said her table companion.

Starsky noticed that the second woman had curlers in her hair, lipstick on her forehead and a football in her arms that she'd wrapped up in a blanket. He kept quiet. Two hospital attendants lounging against one window smoking looked askance at Starsky and Hutch. Starsky waved like they were old friends before he looked away. Bored, they didn't bother questioning their presence.

"We need to talk," Hutch said to Mrs. Zalinski. He took her by the arm.

"Hey!" she protested. "You're the one who's nuts if you think I'm going anywhere with you!" She pushed back her lank brown hair and with one hand, tugged on the over-sized sweatshirt she wore. It came down to her thighs, covering her thin body. She wore blue jeans and tennis shoes with no socks. She did not have on a witch's hat nor did she have warts, Starsky noticed.

Mrs. Zalinski glared at Starsky. "Not all witches have warts, dingbat," she snapped.

Starsky made a funny noise.

"Don't look so surprised. You didn't know I was psychic too?" Mrs. Zalinski said, raising one eyebrow. She laughed. "Just kidding. You got one of those faces that's easy to read."

"Come on," Starsky said, taking Mrs. Z's elbow. Hutch opened the cafeteria door and looked both ways before he signaled for them to follow.

Hutch crossed the hallway and opened a closed door quietly, peering in. "In here."

Starsky pushed Mrs. Z ahead of him. He did a quick survey: an empty room, with a bare mattress and no personal effects. Good.

"So what's going on?" Hutch demanded the second the door was closed. "Why does Judge Smith want you out of the way so badly?"

Mrs. Z shrugged. "Could have something to do with the dirt I got on him."

Starsky asked, "You got dirt on a judge? How did that happen?"

"I'm not exactly how I appear, Sergeant. I used to be a beautiful women before that asshole ruined my life."

"Exactly how did the judge do this?" Hutch asked.

"I was a woman who provided a much needed service, pulling in two grand a month. Judge Fancy-pants was on my list of regular patrons." Mrs. Zalinski smiled coldly. "He talked a lot while he- Well, you get my drift. I was afraid something would happen to me if he ever thought about what he'd told me, so I took notes."

"You took notes," Starsky said. "Really?"

"Well, not like some secretary," Mrs. Z said with a sniff of disdain. "With a tape recorder, sugar."

Hutch's eyebrows rose. "What do you have on him?"

"Oh, enough to bury the man for good." Mrs. Z laughed. "Well, enough to get him a one way trip to San Quentin."

"What happened to ya?" Starsky narrowed his eyes. "Why didn't you go to the cops?"

"You're kidding, right?" Mrs. Z said, her tone conveying how dumb she thought Starsky was. "I was a working girl, pal, and he's a judge. Look at me now! He got me locked up but before that he froze my bank accounts and got me booted from my apartment!" Mrs. Z let out an angry sigh. "I went to his office one day and threatened to blow his operation sky high. One of his ole boys, a cop I might add, took me for a ride and showed me what my face would look like if I said anything."

Mrs. Z. lifted her sweatshirt to expose her flank. An angry red scar blazed across her pale skin. "I tried to put a curse on the piece of crap but my powers aren't that good. I can only do penny ante shit. I hope he got a good case of the runs, though."

Starsky stared at the scar until Mrs. Zalinski pulled down her shirt.

"Do you believe me?" she asked.

Starsky nodded. Hutch did as well. "We'll help you," Hutch said, "but you have to help us."

"No way!" Mrs. Z said. "I'm not that stupid."

"We'll work with you. Get you protection," Starsky offered. "Come on. You deserve justice."

"Listen. If Smith is as dirty as you say, we can probably set something up to trap the bastard that wouldn't include you. Think about it." Hutch held out a hand. "We'll make sure you're safe and we'll make sure the city reimburses you for your time and trouble."

"Yeah," Starsky said. "Come on. Give us a hand and we'll get you so far away from Smith and Bay City you'll hafta learn another language. What'd'ya say? Give us the tapes and you're home free. Pretty please."

Mrs. Zalinski eyed Starsky before giving Hutch the once over. "Would you rather me lift the curse I put on you two dorks for busting me or would you rather take down Smith?" she asked, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

Starsky exchanged a look with Hutch. They didn't need to speak but a barely perceptible nod to each other sealed the deal.

"We'd rather take down a dirty judge any day of the week," Starsky said firmly.

"I'm learning to enjoy candy corn," Hutch said woefully.

Mrs. Z laughed. "I'm putting my life in your hands, cops. Get me hurt and you'll regret it." She didn't put any heat into her words and Starsky blew out a grateful sigh.

Hutch cocked an eyebrow. "I thought you said you didn't have a lot of oomph behind your powers."

Mrs. Zalinski looked Hutch in the eye. "Have you ever had a raging case of jock itch?"

Hutch blanched. Starsky stepped between him and Mrs. Z before she gave that particular curse a test drive. "Yes, ma'am. You got us at your mercy." To his partner he said, "Let's get this set up and get our girl here outta this joint pronto. I don't know about you, but I ain't taken any chances of having my balls fall off."

"Now you're talking, Starsky," Mrs. Z said, punching his arm. "You aren't too bad either, Hutch."

"Thanks," Hutch said. "I think." He stepped back to avoid Mrs. Z's fist.

Starsky laughed and punched Hutch's arm for Mrs. Zalinski. It was the least he could do since Hutch was enjoying good food and he was turning into a damned rabbit.

------------------------------------

LAX was its usual busy hub of activity. Hutch parked the LTD in a no parking zone and climbed out. Starsky got out of the passenger's side and opened the back door.

"You ready?" he asked, putting out a hand. He helped Mrs. Zalinski to her feet.

"As ready as I'll ever be," Mrs. Z said.

Hutch walked to the rear of the car and popped the trunk. He took out three suitcases and set them in a row on the sidewalk. "Officer Morgan will take good care of you," he told Mrs. Z.

The young woman standing next to Mrs. Zalinski nodded. The plain clothes police officer accompanying Mrs. Z was dressed in a dark blue business suit and had her brown hair pulled into a neat bun. She smiled at her companions. "I'll get her settled in and be back by the end of the week."

"Call and let us know when you arrive and we'll pick you up," Starsky said, hefting one of the cases. "I guarantee you it won't be in this heap. We'll cruise in style."

Hutch eyed the other two suitcases. He grabbed one, glaring at Starsky. Starsky ignored him. Hutch sighed and picked up the second suitcase. "Disparage my car once more, Starsk, and you can take a taxi back to Metro."

Starsky grinned at his partner as the women walked into the terminal. Leaving Hutch to wrestle the two big suitcases, Starsky hurried to catch up with Mrs. Z. "Thank again, Monica. We appreciate everything you've done."

"Everything?" Mrs. Z said with a glint in her eye. "How are you liking your new diet?"

Hutch groaned aloud. "In the past three days, I've eaten more triple beef and jalapeño burritos than I have in my entire life. I'm sure my intestines will call for a retreat soon and I'll find myself in a hospital on a permanent IV drip."

Starsky added his groan to Hutch's. "And I'm really, really tired of tofu and bean curd stir-fry. If I don't eat somethin' good soon, I'm gonna join Hutch in the hospital, only they'll have to tie me down because I'll be bonkers eating another plate of zucchini and cauliflower surprise!"

Mrs. Zalinski and Officer Morgan burst out laughing. Officer Morgan said, "We have a lot to thank Monica for. You boys will survive your new diets just fine. Right, Monica." The two women giggled, their heads bent together.

Hutch rolled his eyes. "Starsky, we're doomed."

"I know," Starsky said mournfully. "Small price to pay, though. Dobey, the DA and the governor's office will take down Smith and anybody else on his payroll; Monica will be safe. Eating crap that good for me won't kill me." He smirked. "I hope."

"Besides, we did agree to the bargain," Hutch said.

"You did," Mrs. Z agreed.

"Here ya go, ladies. This is where we leave you. Don't tell us which gate or which airlines. We don't wanna know." Starsky put one bag close to Mrs. Z's feet. "Bon voyage." He gave Mrs. Zalinski a peck on the cheek.

"Thanks again. You did a brave thing." Hutch set the two bags he carried close to the women. "Travel safe."

"Thanks, boys. Bye!" Mrs. Z grabbed one bag and Officer Monroe the other two.

Starsky turned and headed out the front doors, Hutch at his heels. He looked at the wreck of an LTD. This current land yacht that Hutch insisted driving began its life blue but now it looked like it had a raging case of an infectious disease that oozed things Starsky didn't want to think about. He opened the passenger's door. It screeched loudly, making him cringe.

"When are you going to fix this piece of trash?" Starsky complained, climbing in. He reached for the seat belt and pulled. It came off its mounting and he threw the belt over the back seat.

"Hey! Stop ruining my car. You can walk, you know," Hutch snapped. He yanked on the door handle. It took three tries before the button would release so that the door would open. "There's a bus too, so don't push me." He got in and turned the key. Nothing.

"Hutch," Starsky warned.

"Shut up. Eunice hates when you make fun of her. She's sulking now. Apologize!"

"I ain't apologizing to this heap!"

"Starsky, do you want to sit here all day? I'm not paying for a tow!" Hutch insisted.

Starsky let out a long suffering sigh. "Eunice, I'm sorry." Under his breath, he muttered, "that you're a pile of garbage." Hutch glared at him through narrowed eyes and held up the key. Starsky relented. He petted the peeling dash. "Sorry, Eunice. You know I love you." He glared at his partner. "Now can we get moving?"

Hutch tried again. The engine turned over, coughed once and roared to life. "Yes!"

"Now that this bucket of bolts is running, let's stop for lunch. I'm starving."

Hutch looked over his shoulder before he pulled into traffic. "How can you be starving? You had a nice bowl of yogurt with bananas and granola for breakfast. I had cold pizza and root beer. If anybody should be hungry, it should be me. I had to chew four antacids."

"Bitch, bitch, bitch," Starsky said. "Come on. Let's go to Mel's. I'll buy."

"Mel's? They have a veggie casserole that I like."

"Yeah, and they make a killer triple cheeseburger with chili and cheese."

Starsky jerked in his seat. He turned to Hutch, his heart racing. "Hutch! Did you hear what I said?"

"Yes, Starsky."

"Did you hear what you said?" Starsky said. He knew Hutch hadn't heard a word but his own excitement began to grow.

"What?" Hutch stopped at a red light and glanced over at Starsky. "I said that Mel's-" His eyes widened. "Oh! I said they make a great veggie dish!"

"Yes!" Starsky pulled on Hutch's arm, bouncing in his seat. "And I said the magic word: cheeseburger! No more broccoli for me!"

"And no more candy corn for me!" Hutch said, equally excited.

"Mrs. Z!"

"The angel! She lifted the curse."

"If there was one in the first place," Hutch said.

"Bite your tongue. Did you eat all that great stuff because you wanted to?" Starsky demanded.

"Well, no."

"I rest my case."

"Thank you, Judge Starsky."

"Any time, Hutch. I'm here to help you navigate the mountains and valleys of life," Starsky said.

Hutch laughed, his eyes tearing.

"Careful. Don't wrap this heap around a tree before I get my teeth into Mel's cheeseburger."

"Perish the thought," Hutch said, sniggering.

"Be nice to me for lunch and I'll be nice to you for dinner."

"Does that mean what I hope it means?" Hutch asked, his eyes twinkling with invitation as he caught Starsky's leer.

"As in I'm gonna have you for dinner." Starsky licked his lips. "Don't hit that garbage truck up ahead." He shouldn't tease Hutch while his partner was driving but he couldn't help it. He was feeling great. He was back to his old self and he was with Hutch. His life was complete. Starsky playfully adjusted his jeans, tugging at the zipper.

"Starsky," Hutch said, his gaze flicking down Starsky's body, hunger evident in his heated eyes. "It's a deal."

"Thought you'd see it my way." Starsky grinned, staring over at his partner. The breeze blew in, ruffling Hutch's hair. He admired the way the light reflected off Hutch's head. The picture made him smile. "If you're really nice to me, I'll show you some very inventive ways to use candy corn."

"In that case," Hutch said, "I'm stopping at Sav-On for another bag."

-----------------------------------