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Starsky couldn't stop thinking about last night. His partner had been acting so strangely for weeks, seemingly avoiding him, his “best buddy!” He'd had enough of Hutch's evasive answers to his questions, and decided to follow him. He'd borrowed a car from Merle that Hutch wouldn't recognize, and waited down the street from Hutch's apartment. Just when he'd about decided that Hutch was staying home, the blond sauntered out to his own car and headed out. Waiting a safe distance, Starsky'd followed. 35 Minutes later, he'd given up trying to guess where Hutch was headed. Finally, after a good hour of driving, Hutch had pulled up to a very busy bar that Starsky didn't recognize. The lighted sign read, "The Male Box." Wait, what?! Sounded like a name for a gay bar. He'd waited 15 minutes before heading in himself. Standing in the doorway, waiting for his eyes to become acclimated to the lighting, he'd scanned the room for his partner. His gaze passed over the couples in groups around the room, and the couples on the dance floor. Nothing unusual here, except for the fact that everyone here was a man. Finally, there was Hutch: standing with his back against the bar, talking with another man. Hutch's body language was very intimate; he was leaning in to hear what the man said, while resting his hand on the man's arm. Starsky's heart had started pounding. There could be no mistaking where he was and why. Hutch suddenly threw his head back, laughing, and Starsky had a better look at his companion. His pounding heart had suddenly seized up in his chest: the man looked quite a bit like Starsky himself – same curly dark hair and general build. He'd finally shaken himself, turned and left. Now, in the light of day, Starsky simply didn't know how to approach his partner about this. Clearly, Hutch would not be pleased to have been followed, but Starsky couldn't pretend he didn't know.
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Starsky hadn’t heard from Hutch all weekend, and hadn’t sought him out. He’d thought of little besides the implications of Hutch’s presence at that club. That, coupled with Hutch’s distracted demeanor in past weeks was deeply disturbing. He tried to recall the last time Hutch had mentioned a woman by name. He did make vague references to hot dates, but Starsky now realized that no names had come up. The more he thought about it, the angrier he became. How could his best friend keep something like this from him? What happened to “Me ‘n Thee?” As the anger subsided, Starsky started to feel something unexpected: jealousy. He thought back to the man in the club who really did resemble him. What did that mean? He was having trouble processing it all: his partner was gay, or at least bi, and given the appearance of that man at the bar, had feelings for him. How could he keep this a secret from him? Finally, he just felt sad that they’d somehow gotten to a place in which Hutch couldn’t confide in him. The roller coaster of emotions was exhausting, and Starsky finally fell asleep.
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On his way to pick up Hutch for their shift, he decided to drop a few hints and see if he could draw out his partner. Hutch was waiting at the curb when Starsky pulled up at Venice Place. Handing Starsky a bakery bag, he gave him a cheery “good morning.”

“Good morning, yourself,” Starsky said. “What have you been up to all weekend, anything good?”

Hutch laughed a bit, saying “No, nothing special.” He wouldn’t meet Starsky’s eyes. Starsky realized that this was nothing new; Hutch had avoided any meaningful contact, either eye contact or physical for some time. Why hadn’t he noticed?

“Well,” Starsky said, “my weekend was pretty quiet, too. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a date, and you haven’t mentioned anyone in awhile, so how about I call Kathy and see if she and a friend can meet up with us Friday night? I think this is her layover weekend. We can all go out dancing, and – you know – whatever?”

This was met with a noncommittal “Hmmm hmmm” from the man next to him.

Starsky decided on a more direct approach. “Hutch, I really need to talk to you about something.” Another grunt from the blond. “You’re going to be really pissed off at me, but you have to understand, I’ve been worried about you lately. You’ve been so distant and moody.” Still no real response. Starsky took a deep breath, and looking out the windshield quietly said, “I followed you Friday night.” THAT got a reaction from his partner. The air seemed to have been sucked out of the car, despite the open windows. He looked over at his best friend who was making incomprehensible spluttering sounds. Hutch’s eyes were panicked, and all the blood had drained from his face. After a few moments of this, Hutch exploded. “HOW DARE YOU! You had no right, Starsky! Pull this car over!”

Before Starsky could respond, the police scanner crackled to life: “All units in the vicinity of Edderton Ave. and Foster, respond to a 211 in progress at East End Variety. Call came via silent alarm.” Starsky made a u-turn and hit the siren, while Hutch snatched up the mike and responded to dispatch, “Zebra 3, we’re 3 minutes out and responding.” He slapped the mars light on the roof and hung on though the u-turn. His face was red and his lips were compressed. He was clearly struggling to focus on the matter at hand.

Starsky killed the siren a few blocks prior to arriving on the right block. Upon arrival, both men jumped out of the car. Without speaking, Hutch headed down the alley to the back of the store, while Starsky waited at the side of the building and counted to 20, giving his partner time to get into position. Whistling, Starsky sauntered into the store, as if he were a customer. As he entered, he quickly assessed the situation: a Caucasian male, approximately 5’10”, red hair, wearing a denim jacket and black jeans, was pointing a 38 Special at the elderly man behind the store’s counter. The redhead started at the detective’s entrance. He swung his pistol toward Starsky, who could see that the man with the gun was just a teenager, and a scared one at that. The elderly man started shouting teenager, who swung his pistol wildly back in the storekeeper’s direction. Approaching slowly and with his hands held placatingly in front of him, Starsky spoke soothingly to the young man. “Hey, it’s okay, nothing major has happened here. Just put down the gun, and we can talk.” The sweating youth kept swinging his pistol between the detective and the storekeeper.

“Everybody just shut up!” he shouted. “I can’t think!” Suddenly, Hutch stepped into the store from the back. “Freeze! BCPD! Lower your weapon, and put your hands behind your head!” Before Starsky could unholster his own gun, the youth swung his pistol toward the blond detective and fired. Two shots rang out, almost simultaneously. The young shooter stumbled back, holding his right shoulder, and his pistol hit the floor. At the same time, the blond detective dropped like a stone.

“HUUUUTCH!” Starsky ran to the redhead, secured his weapon and handcuffed the man’s hands behind his back. He yelled to the now-silent shopkeeper to call 911 and request police and an ambulance, as he skidded to a stop next to his partner. Hutch’s head was bleeding profusely, and Starsky ripped his t-shirt and used it to put pressure on the wound. It felt like hours to the curly-haired detective before he heard the approaching sirens. He gave Hutch’s information to the paramedics, who said he’d have to follow the ambulance. By the time Hutch was loaded into the ambulance, he still had not regained consciousness.

 

Hours later found Starsky standing next to his partner’s bed while he spoke to the doctor. “He hasn’t woken up,” he said to the doctor. “Why not?”

“Detective,” the doctor began, “your partner has come through surgery better than we’d hoped. The bullet was, incredibly, lodged quite shallowly, and we were able to remove it without difficulty. He should awaken in an hour or so, but he may be disoriented, between the trauma and anesthesia. Let the nurse know when he wakes up.” With that, the doctor left.

Starsky exhaled heavily, as he collapsed onto the chair. Taking his partner’s hand, he spoke softly. “Babe, I really need you to wake up. The doc says you’ll be okay, but I need to see those beautiful blues for myself. I hate that you were so mad at me before all this went down. I really need to talk to you. I’ve had hours to think about everything. I was so upset with you for keeping secrets from me, and I guess my feelings were hurt that you felt like you couldn’t talk to me. I mean Geez, Hutch, you’re my best friend. Actually, you’re more than that, you’ve become everything to me. I saw you with that-that man at the club, and I was so confused. I guess the more I think about it, I have to admit I’m kinda jealous. I mean, if you’re interested in a guy, especially a guy with dark, curly hair, what’s wrong with me?”

The dark-haired man stood up and went to the window. He stared, unseeing, out the window. When he heard a sneeze, he absently said, “Bless you.” After a beat, he whirled around to see his partner gazing at him. He rushed back to the bed and grabbed Hutch’s hand. “Hutch! You okay? What do you need? Are you in pain? Are you thirsty? Let me call the nurse!” The words came out in a rush, as he pressed the call button attached to the bed. Hutch looked slightly bemused, and the nurse entered the room.

“Well, good to see that our patient is back with us! How are you feeling, Sergeant Hutchinson?” Hutch cleared his throat, and finally managed, “not too bad, but my head really hurts, and I’m parched.” As the nurse left to consult with the doctor about pain medication, Starsky about fell over himself getting water and holding the straw to his partner’s lips. He found himself staring at those lips, and felt his face grow hot.

“Starsk,” Hutch began, “I’m so sorry I blew up at you. I was just so surprised and embarrassed. I’ve kept this secret from you for so long, I was horrified that you’d be disgusted if you found out that I like men.

“Hutch, don’t you know that you can tell me anything? Yeah, I was surprised, but nothing about you could ever be disgusting. Besides, I’m glad we can talk about this. When I had time to think about seeing you at The Male Box, I realized that the guy you were talking to kinda looked like me.” Starsky blushed a bit and looked away. “Did I imagine that?”

Hutch closed his eyes for a moment, then looked directly at his best friend. “No, you didn’t imagine that. Now that it’s out, it might as well all be out. I love you, Starsky. Well, I’ve always loved you, but I’ve come to realize recently that I’m in love with you.” He held his breath, awaiting his partner’s response.

Starsky looked right back at him, and slowly graced his friend with a brilliant smile. “Look, this is all new to me, but I’ve had a few days to sit with it, and I really want to explore this with you. I love you, Hutch, have forever. I have a feeling I’m in love with you too. Need you to get sprung from this place, and we can do some investigating into this new situation.”

Content for now, Hutch finally relaxed. Squeezing his partner’s hand, he drifted off to sleep.

FIN