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An Idiot, a Girl, and a Fool in Love

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When Gillian opened the door, Starsky watched the brief glimmer of hope in her puffy red eyes vanish.

She looked gorgeous even like this, with tears staining her cheeks, her nose bright red, and her makeup streaked.

“Shouldn’t you—” She didn’t finish. She bit her lip and took a deep breath.

“He, uh, doesn’t want to talk to me right now.” Starsky slipped his hands in his pockets. “So.”

They stood frozen a moment, neither knowing what to say.

At last, Gillian stepped aside. Starsky ducked his head down as he entered. He had never done break ups well; not his own, not his kid brother’s, and not even Hutch’s. He could manage, at best, some beer, maybe some liquor, and a few choice words about the other party involved. When it actually came to the other party, it was a big, blank mystery.

Gillian picked up a cushion that didn’t need to be rearranged, but rearranged it anyway. “Please,” she said, after she delicately cleared her throat.

Starsky sat. He remained at the edge, not quite sure what the hell he was even doing here. Hutch had cussed him out and slammed the door in his face. Starsky didn’t know what else to do. He ran a hand over the back of his head and sighed.

“Hey, I’m... “ He shook his head. He heard Gillian take a seat across from him, but he couldn’t bring himself to look away from his knees. “I didn’t think he’d… Well.”

“No,” she said, and her voice cracked on the word. “No, you were right.” That made him look up. Unshed tears shone in her eyes, and she twisted a scarf tightly in her hands. “He needed to know.” She shrugged and gave a half-hearted laugh. “I can’t change what I am.”

“But you did.” Starsky’s eyes moved from Gillian to the bags that sat in a pile near the door. “I heard you cut it off with Grossman.”

Gillian took in a shuddering breath. “It didn’t change a thing.”

Starsky’s gut sank. “You didn’t—”

“No.” She shook her head, before meeting Starsky’s eyes with a steel gaze that chilled him. “I am never going back.”

Hutch, you idiot, Starsky thought. You great, big idiot.

“You can’t stay here.”

“I know!” The fire in Gillian’s voice cooled as she continued, “I… don’t have anywhere else to go yet.” She gestured around her. “I hate all this. I hate it.” She wrapped her arms around herself.

Gillian was a mystery. Her beauty, her passion, her manner, it all made sense that Hutch had fallen for her. That wasn’t in question. All this he had gleaned from a few shared moments, and Hutch’s endless praise. No, what puzzled him was how all that made Starsky care. Not still, when Hutch had already chosen to cut her from his life.

He reached into his jacket and withdrew the envelope. He felt the weight in his hands for a moment. “Grossman’s gonna come for you if you don’t get out.”

“I know. I will. I just… need a moment.”

Starsky stood and walked closer. He stood off to the side, eyes fixed one of the modern paintings on her wall. Without looking, he held out the envelope.

“Oh, Starsky, I can’t.”

“You can.” He met her gaze. “Start up that boutique of yours.”

Gillian shook her head. “It wouldn’t be enough.”

“Then use it to get started somewhere else, so you can open it one day.”

“Starsky…”

He shoved the envelope into her hands. “I’m not giving you a choice. Think of it as a loan if it makes you feel better.”

She stared at the envelope for a long moment, worrying her lower lip as she thought. “You don’t need to do this. He’s already done with me.”

“This isn’t for Hutch. It’s for you.”

Gillian looked at him for a long, long moment. The tears had dried on her cheeks, but her eyes still shone.

“Take care of him,” she said at last.

“Always.”

--

A month after throwing Grossman and that mother of his away for two counts of murder, extortion, and running a prostitution ring, Starsky received a postcard. The image was a hand drawn illustration of a bee sitting atop a violet. On the back, there was no return address.

It read, “Thank you.”

“Old girlfriend?” Hutch asked, when he grabbed it out of Starsky’s hand.

“Nah,” Starsky replied. He took it back and placed it in the top drawer of his desk to take home later. “Just a friend.”

--

To celebrate another successful escape from death, with only a few bumps and bruises to show for it, Starsky and Hutch decided to drink at the Pits until they couldn’t walk straight. Huggy, with much exaggerated sighing, got them bundled off into a cab headed to Starsky’s place, with promises that Starsky’s baby would be waiting for him right where he left it.

Starsky’s shoulder ached, but he didn’t bother pushing Hutch off as he leaned against him in the back seat. He let Hutch lean against him all the way up to his apartment. Once there, he did dump Hutch unceremoniously on the couch. Hutch laughed as he half rolled off. “Come on,” Hutch said. “Take it easy.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Starsky waved him off. “Gotta get, uh, my mail.”

“What for?” Hutch said. Starsky watched him for a second as he tried to pull a shoe off and failed.

“Nosy neighbor keeps, uh, taking it.”

“Pff. That can wait.”

Starsky didn’t reply. He stepped out into the cool air. His brain was uncomfortably fuzzy, and it didn’t make it easy to deal with the way he still felt Hutch’s warmth against him.

Shaking it off, Starsky gathered his mail and returned inside.

Hutch had managed to take off one shoe, but he had given up halfway through the second.

“You look ridiculous,” Starsky said. He threw himself into his armchair and stared at the pile of mail in his lap.

“You look ridiculous,” Hutch retorted. Starsky rose an eyebrow. Hutch pouted back.

The alcohol finally starting to weigh them down, they decided to call it a night. Dropping his mail on his kitchen table, Starsky took a long drink of water as Hutch helped himself to a pillow and an afghan. There was a small crash behind him. Hutch had caught a framed photo before it had smashed to the ground.

“Watch it,” Starsky grumbled.

“Yeah, yeah.” With a sigh, Hutch curled up on the couch. After a moment, he said, “I hate this couch.”

“Then go home.”

“It’s lumpy.”

“You’re lumpy, mushhead.”

Hutch laughed. “Great comeback, Starsk.”

“As smart as you.” Starsky drained his glass.

Hutch tossed on the couch for a moment longer before finally settling.

Starsky, too tired to find any momentum to get to bed, leaned against the counter, keeping his eyes on Hutch. He could only see the top of his head from here, the rest of his long body curled beneath the blanket and his face turned away. Hutch had been distant the past few months. It wasn’t surprising. Hutch refused to let Starsky in, but Starsky couldn’t figure out why. He knew his partner well enough that he could do a better job than any sketch artist, and Starsky couldn’t even draw. This, however…

Starsky rubbed at one eye. Oh, what was he even thinking about. He was too drunk, too tired, and too stupid.

Hutch surprised him by suddenly saying, “It’s an okay couch.”

“Gee, thanks.”

He waited, but Hutch didn’t say anything more. A few moments later, his even breathing filled the room.

--

Starsky awoke to the delicious smell of coffee. His head throbbed, but the promise of sweet, sobering relief called to him.

“Morning, beautiful!” Hutch said, with a grin from the table. He had the paper folded up in one hand and was munching down on some toast that didn’t look anything like the cheap white kind Starsky kept.

Something in Starsky’s gut fluttered.

“It’s too damn early,” he muttered, resolutely ignoring the way the morning sun was catching Hutch’s hair. He stared at the mess on his counter for a long moment. Banana peels, avocado pits, and thousands of crumbs had taken over. “What’d ya do, dump a wastebasket out?”

“Some of us like to eat a well-balanced breakfast.”

“Some of us don’t live here.”

Hutch laughed. “Come on, partner, I’ll clean it up.”

“Like you do my car?”

Hutch shrugged and took a messy bite of his toast. Whatever he’d lathered on it was dripping off.

“Hey, hey, hey!” Starsky grabbed the stack of mail and wiped off the green, gooey mess from one envelope. Underneath, there was a stamped image of a bee on a violet.

Inside the envelope, he found a single dollar bill along with a letter.

Dear Starsky,

Here it is, the very first dollar from Bee Boutique. Still in the red, but it’s a start.

I’m only renting the side room of an old theater for now. It’s not the most glamorous, but I can’t help but feel it’s perfect. It’s mine, and it’s all thanks to you.

If you’re ever in San Francisco, I’ll give you the grand tour.

Sincerely,
Gillian Ingrahm
Owner
Bee Boutique

“Well, whaddya know,” Starsky murmured.

“Hm?”

Starsky shook his head at Hutch. “Nothing. Just won an old bet with a friend.” He waved the dollar in the air.

“Then you can pay for the trip back to the Pits for your car.”

Starsky groaned. He had forgotten he left his baby. “Come on, Hutch, that ain’t fair. Split with me.”

Hutch patted his cheek and refused to relent.

Starsky didn’t push Hutch too hard. This was the first time in a long while he’d seen Hutch so happy.

--

Dear Starsky,

I had a whole ten customers in yesterday. That beats the record by three. Silly thing to get excited over, huh?

I also received the personalized stationary with the new letterhead. Like it? The bulk of it are cards that are placed in every bag with the item sold. It’s about building a brand, and by this time next year, you can bet Bee Boutique will be the hottest place in town.

When that happens, I’ll be able to pay you back in full. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Gillian

--

“Hug scored me some tickets to see the ball game on Saturday. You in?”

Hutch shook his head. “Janet’s got reservations at L’Etoile.”

“I thought you were seeing, uh, what’s her face, Heather? You said it was pretty serious.”

Hutch gave him an amused look. “I stopped seeing Heather last month.”

“But the jazz concert last week—”

“That was Barb.”

Starsky frowned. Had Hutch mentioned Barb? Not that Hutch had to share all his girlfriends and trysts with Starsky, but they often picked up girls together. Lately, Hutch more often than not left Starsky high and dry because of whatever girl he was currently seeing. And, according to Hutch, they were all serious.

If Barb had been serious, too, for all of two and a half weeks that she’d lasted, that’d be, what, the fourth or was it the fifth in two months? Hell, Starsky had broken up with Nancy several weeks ago, and he had yet to go out on three dates total with anyone.

Of course, he hadn’t been looking that hard. He’d figured he’d get more time with Hutch for a while, but that proved as true as Dobey sticking to one of his diets.

"Well, before you go getting engaged to Janet or Marcia or whoever, don't count me as your best man again," Starsky said.

Hutch slammed his locker closed. “What was that?”

“Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy you’re back on the horse. But five girls, and in your own words, the ‘one,’ in as half as many months, some don’t turn tricks that fast.”

“Are you serious?”

“I’m just saying—”

“Oh, I know what you’re saying, and I don’t think I like being called some, some gigolo.”

Starsky reached for Hutch’s shoulder. “Hutch, come on.”

Hutch jerked out of Starsky's grip.

That struck a blow. Space between them wasn’t supposed to exist. Not like this. Not this gaping hole that Starsky found himself standing at the edge of.

He thought they’d been alright. When had that gone wrong?

Hutch grabbed his things and stormed from the locker room without another word.

--

Huggy kicked Starsky out of the bar before midnight. “Got a certain crowd coming in who won’t like a boy in blue, if you dig,” Huggy said, and Starsky slunk home.

He tried calling Hutch, but Hutch didn’t answer. Damn it. Who was Starsky to judge anyway, if Hutch was dating around? They used to do it all the time, didn’t they? But they’d done it together.

With a curse, Starsky kicked his coffee table. A pile of papers fell. There was the latest of Gillian’s letters, the familiar bee on top.

The store letterhead had the address on it, although she never put it on the envelopes. Starsky hadn’t written back to her once.

He stared at the damn bee for a long moment before getting up to look for some paper.

--

Dear Starsky,

If you ever decide to call it quits with being a cop, you know where to find me. In fact, I believe our clientele would quite enjoy your presence.

For what it’s worth, no, he’ll be fine. You said it yourself. He can be a big baby.

From,
Gillian

--

“Hutch, let him go!”

It took Starsky and another officer to pry Hutch away from Paulson. The guy was a creep and deserved to be shoved up against a wall, but Starsky knew that look in Hutch’s eye. It wasn’t just a little dust up for a confession. Hutch wanted to really hurt him.

Dobey gave them both an earful. Hutch groused and argued that Paulson had asked for it. Dobey slammed a fist into his desk and told them that if Hutch thought that, he could turn in his badge and walk out the door right now.

They were lucky to only be suspended for the next day.

“Well, hey, think of it like a surprise vacation,” Starsky said, slinging his arm around Hutch’s shoulders. “We can go fishing, go to the movies, sleep in, whatever we want.”

Hutch, sullen beside him, said, “I suppose.”

“Ah, but maybe you’d rather spend it with that girl of yours, huh?” The words were thick in Starsky’s mouth, but he forced them out along with a good natured laugh. “Don’t let me cramp your style.”

“I broke up with Janet.”

“That why you threw Paulson across the room?”

“Hell, no.” Hutch ran a hand through his hair. “Look, I’m… I’m sorry, okay?”

“No problem. What’re friends for?” Starsky patted Hutch’s back. “Come on, let’s get shit faced and play a few rounds of skee-ball.”

“What are you, twelve?”

“What? I’m a thriving young man. Besides, it’s gonna be cold tonight, and stumbling around on a courtyard with a ball doesn’t have that same oomph of a skee-ball lane where it’s warm indoors.”

“Or we could skip the games entirely, like normal people.”

“Aw, where’s the fun in that?”

Like this, Starsky could pretend that they were back to normal. He could pretend he didn’t feel the tension on Hutch’s shoulders that made Hutch feel a million miles away. He could pretend he had his partner well and truly back.

--

Dear Starsky,

I don’t want to overstep, but I hope you are taking care of yourself.

Yours,
Gillian

--

“Go right—no, my right, not—shit. Never mind.” Starsky rubbed with his free hand at his thigh where he had bumped hard into the corner of the side table. Hutch was absolutely no help, leaning on Starsky like he would crumple if Starsky let go.

Finally, Starsky managed to deposit Hutch onto the couch, and he sank to the floor. He felt fuzzy, but Hutch was absolutely smashed. He hadn’t stopped knocking back shot after shot, and Starsky hadn’t stopped him.

“Starsk. Starsky. Come here.” Hutch’s hand waved around in front of Starsky’s face, almost hitting him in the eye. Starsky swore and grabbed at it.

“Watch it. I’m right here.”

“Oh,” Hutch said. He turned his body to meet Starsky’s eye. “Good.”

Hutch moved his hand, and Starsky found their fingers locking together.

“You’re always there for me, Starsk. I should—I should just have fallen for you, in the first place. Instead of Gi—” Hutch cut himself off. He flung his other arm over his eyes and a moment later, Starsky felt as much as heard Hutch begin to sob.

Hutch’s hand clutched Starsky’s tightly.

Starsky’s heart raced. The fuzziness from the alcohol felt like a soup now. Had he heard Hutch right? No, he couldn’t have. It wasn’t possible.

Starsky let Hutch cry. He brought up their clasped hands, rested his cheek against their fingers, and kept his eyes on Hutch, face still hidden from view. Gradually, Hutch’s body stopped heaving, and he was left with soft little hiccupping gasps.

“You’re hair’s getting long, you know,” Starsky murmured into their hands.

Although it was a little awkward, he reached out to gently tug at a lock of Hutch’s hair. Hutch didn’t pull away.

“Would it be so bad to love me?” Starsky said.

“I—” Hutch’s voice rasped. He swallowed and started again, “I do, Starsk.”

But not like Starsky loved Hutch. He couldn’t possibly.

Yet there were Hutch’s words, echoing in his mind. In the first place. Surely there was something to that.

“You shouldn’t say that, Hutch.”

“Why?”

“Because you might regret it later.”

Starsky pushed away Hutch’s arm. Hutch did not look good after crying. There were tears and snot staining his face, and his skin was blotchy red. How many people got to see this side of Hutch? How many people got to see him break down or grin like no tomorrow or be so angry he almost threw a guy through a wall?

Starsky was so damn lucky.

“Fall in love with me, then,” Starsky said. “For real.”

He leaned up and over and pressed his lips to Hutch’s. Hutch inhaled sharply, and then he was kissing Starsky back. He tangled his fingers in Starsky’s hair and pulled Starsky into him, so that their still clasped hands bumped sharply into their sternums. But Starsky didn’t let that stop him from kissing Hutch.

His mind was still a fog, but everywhere Hutch touched him felt sharp and alive.

“Love me,” Starsky said, desperately. “Please.”

“I do, Starsk,” Hutch replied. They fell upon each other again.

--

Dear Starsky,

Enclosed are half of the first official profits. It’s happening. Everything I’ve dreamed of. It’s all because of you. Without your investment, I don’t know where I’d be.

I’d like to offer you an official partnership. Come to San Francisco. I have a friend who can take care of all the paperwork.

Something great has happened to both of us, hasn’t it? I can tell from your last letter. Thank you, for writing. I haven’t had a friend like you in a long, long time.

With affection,
GIllian

--

Kissing Hutch—having sex with Hutch, loving Hutch, being with Hutch—didn’t actually change much in Starsky’s day to day life. The most noticeable difference was only to him. He was walking on air of every minute of every day. Even when he and Hutch argued about what to eat, or Hutch muttered that Starsky’s breath stank because of his burger, or the awkwardness that arose from their relationship being the same yet somehow completely different as they kicked back with a couple beers, Starsky felt like Superman.

It was a dream he never wanted to wake from.

But good things somehow never stuck with Starsky.

“Morning, beautiful,” Starsky said as he crossed from his bedroom to the kitchen table where Hutch stood, back to Starsky. Starsky brought his arms around Hutch, because although he could always do it before if he wanted to with just a little teasing, now it meant something else entirely. Now he could without a wisecrack or a brush with death.

Underneath his embrace, Hutch tensed.

“What’s going on?” Starsky peered over Hutch’s shoulder at the paper Hutch held. His grip crinkled the paper, distorting the words. At the top of the page, a bee sat on a flower.

Shit.

Hutch jerked his arms up, breaking Starsky’s hold.

“I am surrounded by liars,” Hutch said. His words were quiet, but Starsky caught the anger and the disappointment. It was the latter that cut through his heart.

“It’s just a letter,” Starsky began, but Hutch whirled around, holding the paper aloft like a damning motive.

“Don’t say one word,” Hutch warned. He paced, his movements tense and jerky. He didn’t look at Starsky. “Since when?”

Starsky gave a little shrug. “You told me not to speak.”

“This isn’t a fucking game.”

“Never said it was.” Starsky put steel behind his own words. “It’s a letter. I helped her get out of town.”

“You went into business with her.”

“That was—”

“Forget it.” Hutch’s voice was sharp. “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. I don’t care about you or about her or about any of this.” He threw the paper to the ground. “I’m getting out of here.”

“Hutch—” Starsky reached for him, but Hutch swung as Starsky tugged at him, bringing his fist up and catching Starsky in the jaw. Starsky fell back into the table. The door slammed as Hutch left.

Fuck.

--

Dobey was going to give him hell, but since Hutch hadn't felt like getting his ass into work the last three days, why should Starsky bother? He’d called Hutch until Hutch had left the receiver off the hook and then he had banged on Hutch’s door until the neighbors threatened to call the cops on him. “I am the cops,” he told Mrs. Martinelli, but she just kept giving him the stink eye until he slunk back to his car.

Huggy was no help, either. “Haven’t seen him,” Huggy said with a shrug, “and even if I did, I don’t want to get in whatever shit you two’ve got stirred up between you.”

So Starsky ran away to the one person who would understand.

He found the shop easily. It had its own proper front door and sign, though it still occupied space leased from the theater.

As he entered, a little bell tinkled, and a cheery voice called, “Welcome!”

Around a corner of shelves lined with scarves, Gillian stepped out, a friendly, professional smile on her face. She stopped at the sight of Starsky. He raised a hand. “How you doing?”

“Oh, Starsky!” Gillian flung herself at him. Starsky couldn’t help laughing and swinging her around. “Let me look at you,” she said, pulling back and dusting off the shoulders of his jacket. “Just as fine as ever.”

“You’re looking happy,” Starsky said with a genuine grin.

“That’s because I am.” Gillian leaned up and kissed his cheek softly. “Now!” She clapped her hands together. “Let me show you around!”

The shop was beautiful. Gillian was beautiful. Starsky let himself bask in the joy she radiated.

She insisted he take her couch for as long as he was staying. Starsky accepted her offer. She woke early to open the shop and worked well into the evening. She was friendly and charming to all the customers, and Starsky, set to menial tasks, found himself realizing once again what an absolute idiot Hutch was.

Over drinks the night before he left, Gillian got most of the story out of him. She unknowingly parroted, “Hutch is an idiot,” and Starsky laughed and toasted to that.

“We clearly have awful taste in men,” she said, resting her head on Starsky’s shoulder.

“Mmm.”

“You should punch him back.” She giggled into her hand. “And punch him again for me, too, while you’re at it.”

“Wow, Ingrahm, I didn’t realize you’d become so bloodthirsty.”

She laughed, which is what he’d intended. But then she reached up to gently touch his hair. “Don’t punch him. That would just make you sad, I think.”

Starsky leaned into her touch. “Maybe. Or maybe I’d be finally over all of this.”

--

He didn’t get home until the evening. When he walked in and turned on the light, he was greeted with Hutch on the couch.

Starsky held back a sigh. He wasn’t in the mood for this. He walked by Hutch to deposit his bag in the bedroom.

“Starsky—”

“You’re an asshole, Hutch. Anyone ever tell you that?” Starsky spoke as he began tossing his few clothes into the hamper. He wasn’t going to give Hutch the satisfaction of looking at him.

“I’m sorry.”

“Hmph.”

Damn, he was hungry. And there wasn’t anything good in the fridge. Maybe he could grab a bite at Huggy’s.

“Starsky, talk to me.”

“I tried.”

“You shouldn’t have lied—”

“Where the hell do you get off being all high and mighty?” Starsky couldn’t help it now. Hutch was the biggest idiot to ever exist. “You threw away the best woman you’ve ever met because, what, she got trapped in the same shit we see week after week. And then you go and fuck yourself up for months, and now I’m the bad guy? Take a good look in the mirror.”

Hutch stood and took a step toward Starsky. “So what, you want me to get back with Gillian or something?”

Starsky struck the back of the couch. “I didn’t say that!”

“Then what are you saying?”

Hutch was suddenly too close. It wasn’t fair, the way his presence made Starsky want to both hit him and kiss him.

So Starsky gave in to both impulses.

His fist hit Hutch hard enough to stagger him back a step and then he pulled Hutch back up by the shirt to kiss him. Hutch reached around to grab at Starsky’s ass, because Hutch was a complete jerk.

When they broke apart, Starsky leaned his head against Hutch’s and focused on breathing deeply.

“What are we doing?” Hutch asked.

“I have no clue,” Starsky said. “I just want things to be good again.”

“Okay.”

Hutch moved one hand to Starsky’s front. Conversation became secondary.

Starsky let himself be swept away. There was no one who made Starsky feel crazy like Hutch did. He was still pissed off, but he was surrounded by Hutch, his voice, his touch, and Starsky somehow still felt so damn happy at the same time.

He loved Hutch, irrevocably.

As they lay in bed together, Starsky said, “She told me to hit you once for her.”

Hutch frowned and gently touched his face. “Glad you didn’t, buddy.”

“Still could.”

“Please don’t.”

Starsky moved to lean over Hutch. He smiled down at him. “Nah, I can do much nicer things. Cause I’m a nice guy, see.” He leaned in to lazily kiss Hutch.

He didn’t want to fight with Hutch even if the make-up sex was pretty good. Whether this thing between them would work or not was anyone’s guess. But Starsky wasn’t about to let go. If Hutch tried to pull the same shit he’d done with Gillian, Starsky wasn’t going to let him get away with it. He’d fight tooth and nail for Hutch. There was something in that knowledge that Starsky found strength in.

“What are you thinking?” Hutch asked.

Starsky shrugged. “Just how long we can stretch this fight to get a few more days to spend in bed. Think we’ve made up yet?”

“Oh, no, definitely not,” Hutch said. He shook his head earnestly. “We’re definitely still fighting and unable to work, very sorry, Captain.”

“Yeah, like I’d forgive you that easily, you big blond lug,” Starsky said, and he kissed a laughing Hutch again.

Hutch's fingers curled in Starsky's hair. Starsky felt the tension in Hutch that didn't leave even as Hutch welcomed Starsky into a deeper kiss.

“You know,” Starsky said, forehead against Hutch's, “you gotta have some trust in me. I'm your partner.”

“Funny, I could say the same thing to you.”

Starsky rolled off of Hutch with a sigh. He didn't want to do this now. He was worn out, sweaty, and covered in lube and come. But if not now, when?

A moment later, Hutch's fingers found Starsky's. “Let's not keep things from each other, okay? And we need to have a longer talk.”

“So our three day vacation's not gonna be just sex, sex, and more sex?”

“Starsk.”

Hutch looked at him with a familiar crease between his brows. Hutch liked to pull off serious and earnest a lot more than Starsky did. Starsky made a show of capitulating. “Yeah, I got it. Consider me an open book. So long as you don't shut me out again.”

“I won't.”

“Okay.” Starsky's gut felt queasy with mild anxiety, but a little heart to heart wasn't anything he couldn't manage. “But we flip for who gets to pick meals.”

“Fine by me.”

--

“Hey, Starsk, mail came for you.”

Hutch held out an envelope with a familiar bee on it. “You didn't...,” Starsky asked.

“It's your mail.”

Impulsively, Starsky leaned in to kiss Hutch. “Thanks, babe.”

Starsky tore open the letter, the usual check almost falling out before Starsky caught it. He grinned as he read Gillian's latest report of San Franciscan living. “Hey, Hutch, Gill's found a real nice restaurant she wants to take us to sometime. Italian. You in?”

He didn't look at Hutch as Hutch considered. It had been several months since their fight, but there was a difference between Hutch putting up with Starsky's correspondence with Gillian and actually going to meet with the woman himself.

It was a pleasant surprise when Hutch said, “Yeah, sure.”

“You mean it?”

“Wouldn't say yes if I didn't.”

Starsky kissed Hutch's cheek. “You're cute, you know that?”

Hutch rose an eyebrow, but instead of responding, he took Starsky's face in both hands, pulled him in, and gave him a smooching kiss wetter than any aunt's. “Of course I am,” he said and fled to the safety of the bathroom before Starsky could react.