Hutch loved to watch Starsky sleep. He got a kick out of all those twitches and mutters and said it was like watching a mutt chase a dream rabbit down a dozen holes. But a Starsky crashed out on his couch and throwing cushions was one thing, a Starsky jammed up with him in the Torino for a late night stakeout was quite another. A flailing hand in his face and socked toes using his ribs as a foot warmer tended to make the whole pantomime somewhat less enjoyable.
And Starsky could get ‘octopussy’ with it, as Hutch saw it. He muttered “Rita” once, in a breathy voice as he was climbing his way onto Hutch’s lap in the front seat. But Hutch saw the twitch for what it was and deflected him neatly with a swat to the side of his head. Both then subsided into over-caffeinated giggles and nearly missed Rodriguez leaving the bar across the street.
So from time to time Hutch got to marvel at the pantomime his partner’s subconscious could put him through while still keeping him under. True, he got winged and dinged occasionally, but he also got enough ammunition for a dozen different anecdotes at the water-cooler.
Then Bellamy took the pantomime away for a good long while, and Hutch had no more anecdotes he wanted to tell, no toes in his ribs and no desire to watch Starsky sleep either. All that stillness and even breathing had him unnerved and hovering. Everyone medical and departmental had pronounced Starsky fit and clear of toxins, but Hutch kept an eye out and didn’t quite buy it. The night Starsky twitched his way through half of ‘Back In The Saddle Again’ on Hutch’s couch and demanded to know where his shoes were at 3 a.m., that was the night Hutch finally bought it.
In the morning the smell of fresh donuts and pricey coffee woke up a blinking, non-plussed Starsky. That and the news that the hot water was all his.
Starsky drank his coffee while Hutch made fun of his cowboy delusions and things got active again. Starsky went back to his twitchings and mutterings, and Hutch went back to the occasional hand in his face in the Torino and cushions and comforters on his floor.
Then Gunther took the pantomime away again and Hutch had to get used to a whole new way of sleeping for both of them. For his part, he learned to snatch it. On plastic, on benches, under strip lights, next to machines and without a pillow of any kind. And he learned to do it instantly and with a combat soldier’s ease.
He also learned that he had no idea what repose truly was until his eyes had zoned and burned dry on that image through the glass; of Starsky, flat on his back, swathed in white and with every twitch and mutter crushed out of him.
Like Starsky he learned to sleep and breathe to the rhythm of respirators.
Unlike Starsky he was now the one who twitched.