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I Thought You Were Him

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He was having a lovely dream and it was a rude and unwanted interruption, but he reluctantly gave in to the incessant ringing of the phone.

‘Wha?’ He said pissed, not nearly awake enough for a full word.

‘Starsky? Starsk…’ As his name came out shakily on the verge of tears, he sat up wide awake knowing something was really wrong.

‘Hutch, what’s wrong?’ He said as he clutched the phone to his ear.

‘She…I…I came home and she’s…she’s…’

‘Take a deep breath buddy, it’ll be okay.’

‘N-no it won’t…she…she’s…oh shit, she’s…b-b-blue…’

Shocked Starsky realized, he can’t even say it. She’s been murdered. Starsky didn’t even need to ask who, Hutch’s girlfriend was at Venice Place, waiting for him to come back from Duluth. He barely made it through Gillian, Starsky shuddered to think what this would do to his friend.

‘Listen to me Hutch, okay? I’ll be right there, Babe. I’m already on my way, sit tight.’

 

Starsky let himself into Hutch place and the scene in front of him was every bit as bad as he was expecting. Hutch was on the floor with Julie and had his head on her chest, so much like how it had been with Gillian it sent shivers down his spine.

Starsky kneeled and put a gentle hand on Hutch’s shoulder. ‘I’m here now Hutch.’ He said quietly and got no response. So he leaned right down to look in the man’s eyes, they looked through him, wide and unblinking like even that was too much effort.

‘Hey…hey, pal talk to me huh? You’re scaring me here.’ He stroked his friend’s hair offering comfort and also hoping to snap him back to the moment. He couldn’t hide from it unfortunately and if he sunk too far into shock he might not get back.

Hutch blinked and then the tears rolled down his cheeks.

‘Aw Hutch.’ Starsky couldn’t resist then he pulled Hutch up to him then and held on tight.

‘I…I couldn’t save her…she was already…’ Hutch mumbled into Starsky’s shirt.

‘I know buddy, shit I know.’

‘I…I don’t understand…w-who would d-do this to her. Julie never hurt a soul. She’s the sweetest…’ The words trailed off as Hutch started to sob. He hadn’t taken it in yet and Starsky knew part of him never would. Neither of them had when they lost a woman they loved. Hutch felt things so deeply, only one thing they could do and even that would only help so much.

‘We’ll get the bastard Hutch, I promise you that. He won’t get away with it.’

 

It wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been with Vanessa. Julie might have been killed in Hutch’s apartment but not with Hutch’s weapon and Hutch had a solid alibi for the estimated time of the murder, he was on a plane back from Duluth. He’d been visiting his Grandmother who’d taken a turn for the worse after a fall. So he was in the clear. Not that Hutch seemed to care much he was so desolate; nothing could reach him even Starsky. All Julie’s friends and colleagues said she was a kind, caring woman with no enemies, no one had a problem with her. The investigation naturally focused on anyone who could have a grudge against Hutch but that was a long list. And they weren’t getting anywhere with it, which was probably why they had focused their attention on someone close to Hutch.

Starsky had been seen leaving Hutch’s place the night of the murder by a nosy passer-by, his car more than him. But combined with an argument heard by a neighbour at the same time and he was up to his neck in it. That plus some pictures found on Hutch’s bed that Hutch himself had stated hadn’t been taken by Julie and with it known that Starsky was a keen photographer. He was in the shit alright.

Hutch was the first to quiz him over the pictures. He let himself into Starsky’s place at two in the morning a few days later.

Hutch put the light on in Starsky’s bedroom and then shook him fully awake.

‘Hutch? Wha?’

‘What the fuck are these?!’ Hutch bellowed throwing the photos at Starsky’s face.

Starsky grabbed for them and focused, ‘I…there…I can explain…’

‘Go on then.’ Hutch snarled.

It was hard to explain it though, pictures of Hutch asleep.

‘Shouldn’t they still be in evidence?’ Starsky stalled.

‘I took ‘em. What are you gonna do arrest me?’

‘They should still be-‘

‘Explain!’ Hutch demanded tapping the top photo hard.

Starsky sat up straight then and said, ‘Okay, okay Hutch. Just give me a minute, will ya?’ He took a deep breath and then continued. ‘What happened with Gunther wasn’t easy on either of us. And I know I was the one who got hit but the bullets were for you too. And I couldn’t protect you when they tried again and again. I was down and they kept comin’ for you. With no one to have ya back.’

‘What’s that got to do with this? You weren’t even, I mean you weren’t conscious so you couldn’t have known-‘

‘I put it together fairly quickly, you know when I was pain free enough to know my own name. I’m a detective and a damn good one at that.’

Hutch would usually have reacted agitatedly to talk of the shooting but his focus was elsewhere and one form of agitation was difficult to separate from another.

‘I repeat what has that got to-‘

‘I…I needed them alright?!’ Starsky was losing his temper too. ‘I needed them.’ His voice gentled as he continued. ‘I was scared for you too…had this need to check on you, make sure you were okay. It started when you were stayin’ with me to help with my recovery. When I couldn’t sleep but was at least able to move about a bit. I took photos, needed something to do. Wasn’t just you at the start…’

‘Some of these are at my place Starsky after I moved back. Taken in the middle of the night. You snuck in and watched me in the middle of the night. And if that isn’t creepy enough, I’m naked in this one.’ Hutch took the stack of photos from Starsky and showed him the one that Starsky had deliberately placed at the bottom of the pack.

‘It was a hot night…and I…there’s only streetlight and moon, you can barely make out anythin’’

‘And that makes you taking nude pictures of me okay, does it?’

‘It wasn’t about that…it was comfort, checkin’ on you like I said. I need you to be okay…I couldn’t…if anything ever…to you, I couldn’t get through it. You know that. I can’t get through anythin’ without you Hutch.’

‘I know what you’re tryna say Starsk, we need each other but I’m not sure I buy it. What is this all about, really? Have you…I mean do you, damn it! Are you attracted to me Starsky?’

‘Hutch…I, um when you were takin’ care a me…we got close, didn’t we? And you know how I feel about ya and well I sorta, I dunno, I guess I kinda started to-‘

‘Dame it Starsky I haven’t got the patience for this, you and Julie were fighting right, t-that night and I just want to know what about so just get to the point will ya?’

‘Yes…we were I guess she wasn’t happy with me.’

‘I got that much but why? Was it about these?’ Hutch shoved the photos at Starsky again.

‘Yeah, okay it was, she jumped to all kinds of conclusions.’

‘Were they the right conclusions?’

‘Hutch what does it matter now.’

‘It matters to me damn it!’

‘I didn’t touch a hair on her head, Hutch. You gotta know that.’

‘I wasn’t there was I?!’

‘But you can’t think that I would…I couldn’t do that, please don’t say you think I could-‘ Starsky’s voice cracked at the thought of Hutch doubting him.

Hutch just about noticed Starsky distress and tried to hold himself back.

‘Alright, alright…I don’t think you killed her but damn it Starsky I need ya to tell me the truth. What went on with you two. If you keep stuff from me what am I supposed to think and how can I defend ya if you…’ Hutch ran out of steam and Starsky could tell he was nearing his limit.

‘Okay she wasn’t happy with the pictures, not one bit. She thought I was…perving on ya,’ Starsky winced as he said that, ‘I think she wanted to know if we had somethin’ goin’ on. I told her no Hutch. She believed me. I swear she did, but she knew something was up so I…I had a tell her how I…that I liked ya, you know a bit more than maybe I should…’

‘Just say it Starsk.’

‘Shit, I…I told her I loved you, that I was in love with you. I mean, I didn’t, hell I didn’t wanna cause trouble between you I swear it Hutch you have to believe me.’

Hutch just stared blankly at him before rushing from the room.

‘Hutch…’ Starsky called after him.

 

Hutch was bent over the toilet when Starsky found him. He’d been sick. Starsky filled a glass and handed it to him. Hutch rinsed his mouth and then swallowed some to clear his throat.

Starsky waited patiently for Hutch to speak, thinking he knew what judgement he would pass. But hoping he was wrong.

‘You…you can’t be in love with me…you can’t have those kinds of feelings, can’t be attracted to me Starsky, y-you just can’t.’

‘But I do Hutch, sorry if it’s not what you want to hear but that’s how it is. Can’t be that much of a surprise to you not after all we went through after Gunther.’

‘That was just…you’re getting mixed up, that’s gratitude buddy, not love.’

‘You’re wrong, I can feel it in here.’ Starsky tapped his chest.

Hutch suddenly shot to his feet. And Starsky who’d got down to be on his level next to the toilet also rose.

‘Don’t ever say anything like that again! Not to anyone you hear me? That’s why they’ll think you did…what they think you did. And I…I can’t lose you too Starsky.’

There was such fear and sadness in Hutch’s eyes that Starsky nearly missed what Hutch had come close to saying.

‘What they think? Or what you think, Hutch? Tell me straight do you think I did it?’

Hutch looked away for a moment.

‘Shit you do, don’t you?’ Starsky accused.

‘No of course not.’ Hutch denied.

‘Yeah right.’ Starsky moved to leave the bathroom.

Hutch grabbed his arm, ‘Listen I don’t okay I don’t think it okay? Maybe for a second, I considered that in the heat of the moment you…but I know you better than that. You wouldn’t do a thing like that, but you lay all this heavy shit on me, secrets you’ve been keepin’, lies you’ve told…you gotta give me a minute to catch up, take things in, alright?’

‘Okay.’ Starsky said softly.

‘I need to sit down.’ Hutch said and he went out to sit on Starsky’s sofa. Starsky soon joined him.

‘I…I don’t believe you’d do anything like that, buddy. I’m sorry okay? It’s just I’m strung out. We…w-we were gonna get married. I proposed just before I went to Duluth. We could have had it all house, kids, everything and now without her I…She’s…’

Hutch started to sob; his body racked with sadness. Starsky took him into his arms.

‘I’m so sorry, Babe. I had no idea you’d popped the question. It was supposed to be a celebration, oh shit Hutch I’m so, so sorry.’

They sat there holding each other and then Hutch said in a soft tear-filled voice. ‘I…I can’t lose you too, can’t let ‘em take you.’

‘I’m right here Hutch, I got you and no one will take me from you, okay?’

Hutch sniffed, ‘Okay.’

 

Hutch woke up the next morning with Starsky spooned around him. That was nice, it was comforting. But then Hutch felt it – Starsky was hard. He snuggled closer to Hutch and the result was Hutch felt that hardness pressed firmly to his ass. He panicked at the too intimate position. His discomfort had him jumping out of the bed and with such force that he lost balance and landed in a heap on the floor.

Starsky woke with a start, ‘Hutch?’ He said and then panicked himself when he discovered the bed empty. The groan from the floor alerted him to where Hutch was.

‘What are you doin’ down there? You fall out?’ Starsky asked leaning over the edge of the bed with an amused smile on his face.

‘No, I…I think I better go…never really meant to stay.’ Hutch said and quickly got to his feet and gathered his clothes and left the room.

What’s going on? Starsky asked himself but when he looked down, he found the culprit responsible for Hutch’s speedy exit, he was still hard.

When Starsky got out to his living room he found Hutch already dressed and putting on his shoes. He’d been so glad he’d managed to get Hutch to stay the night before and that he hadn’t insisted in being fully dressed or anything like that. He seemed comfortable with them in just underwear. It had been that way a few times when Hutch had got in to comfort him when he was recovering from the shooting. He was glad to be able to return the comfort and relieved that his revelation the night before hadn’t changed things between them too much. Well so much for that.

‘Hutch come on, at least stay for some breakfast, I’ll cook somethin’ eggs or-‘

‘No Starsky, I really gotta get going.’

‘I get it Hutch okay, you’re freaked, but we need to talk about this. It’s really not what you think. Please stay and eat somethin’. I’ll worry about you otherwise.’ It was a bit of emotional blackmail and he delivered it with his best cajoling smile. Underhand maybe but he had to get Hutch to stay long enough to explain.

They were quiet and tense through breakfast and while Starsky made short work of his own eggs Hutch only picked at his. He had made it clear he wasn’t hungry but Starsky hoped he’d eat a bit. His friend always went off his food when upset and to the point where it wasn’t healthy for him.

‘It isn’t what you think, Hutch.’ Starsky said unable to cope a minute longer with the tension.

‘And what do I think.’

‘Come on help me out here. Tell me what’s botherin’ you.’

‘Oh, I dunno Stark, my fiancée’s just been killed and I come to my friend for comfort and I can’t even get that because his cock tryna insert itself between my ass cheeks, tells me he’s more interested in fuckin’ me than being a good friend… helping me.’

‘Is that what you really think, where you think my mind’s at right now? Like you said the woman you love has just been murdered. You really think I’d try it on with you? What kind of a shit do you think I am? An’ besides you got it all wrong, if I was gonna try it on with you…I wouldn’t want to fuck ya.’

‘Yeah, right. Tell that to your prick.’

‘That happens to guys in the morning, you know that for Pete’s sake. Must’ve happened to you enough times. And it’s the truth, I wouldn’t try and fuck ya…I’d want you to fuck me, alright. This isn’t easy…but that’s how I’d want it.’

‘Who are you tryna kid? You…David Starsky, stud, with all the swagger and the tough guy, hard New Yorker attitude wants me to bend him over and-‘

‘Yes, damn it! Don’t make fun of it Hutch. I want you like that and it’s killin’ me, okay?’

‘Why? So I’ll owe you one and-‘

‘No, okay, because I know you Hutch. I know you wouldn’t…and I don’t need it, I just need you. But not right now okay? I just want you to let me be your friend. Take care a you like we always do.’

‘You’re right Starsk, I could never…and it wouldn’t be enough for you.’

‘That’s where you’re wrong, it would be…but this isn’t…we can’t talk about this now. I wanna concentrate on makin’ sure you’re okay, as okay as you can be. You need to eat somethin’ Hutch. I can cook you some-‘

‘I said I’m not hungry.’

‘Okay but at least drink your juice.’

 

They decided to put Starsky’s revelation and new feelings on the back burner for a while. Starsky just wanted to be there for his best friend and Hutch couldn’t cope with anything more on top of everything he was already going through. Starsky did manage to convince Hutch to come and stay with him though. Hutch’s place was no longer a crime scene, but it was still a mess. When there was a knock at the door Starsky thought it had to Hutch. His hands too full to use his key. But it wasn’t, it was two clowns for I.A there to read him his rights and take him down to the station.

 

It went to trial, the circumstantial evidence deemed enough to prove the Starsky had motive and opportunity. Starsky had a good lawyer who warned him that taking to the stand was a dangerous option. But Starsky insisted he had nothing to hide and was determined to prove his innocence. He quickly realized that it was a foolish mistake as the prosecution went after him hard.

‘So you don’t deny having an argument with Miss Dawson the night she was murdered.’

‘No but I-‘

‘And you will admit that it was about her boyfriend, forgive me fiancé Mr Hutchinson.’

‘No we did talk about Hutch, er Mr Hutchinson but we, I mean I-‘

‘And would you tell the court what that argument was about.’

Starsky just stared at him knowing that the answer to that question would probably be enough to send him to prison.

‘I have to remind you that you must answer the question and keep in mind you are under oath.’

Like he could forget. ‘We were discussing some p-pictures I had t-t-taken.’ Shit, where had that come from? He never stuttered that was Hutch’s nervous tick.

‘And what kind of pictures were they, Mr Starsky?’

‘Um, ones of Hutch, I mean Mr Hutchinson, relaxing and er well sleeping.’

‘And were they taken with his permission?’

‘No, um, he didn’t know but he…he wouldn’t have minded because we’re friends and he-‘

‘I see, you say he wouldn’t mind and why is that? Why wouldn’t your friend mind you taking intimate pictures of him without his knowledge? It’s not the sort of thing many friends would accept easily, unless you’re telling us you’re more than friends. Are you and Mr Hutchinson lovers Mr Starsky?’

‘No! No of course not. Hutch was very much in love with Julie. He would never be unfaithful.’

‘So Miss Dawson wasn’t threatening to reveal your secret. You and Mr Hutchinson didn’t conspire to get rid of her before she could. While Mr Hutchinson was out of town and had a perfect alibi.’

‘Listen you bastard, say what you like about me but leave Hutch out of it. He’d never hurt a woman like that.’

‘But you would, you had to do the dirty work, is that what you are saying?’

‘No, I didn’t hurt her, I couldn’t do that to her or to Hutch, he loved her.’

‘And that was the problem, he wanted her, not you. That’s why you were fighting with her that night. You wanted her fiancé, but she wouldn’t give him up, so you had to kill her. Is that right?’

They had fought about Hutch. He’d had to try hard to convince her that Hutch didn’t think of him like that, and that it was a one-way attraction. He wanted Hutch but Hutch didn’t want him. She had agreed with him admitting that she knew Hutch loved him but that it wasn’t like that, because Hutch wasn’t like that. Unfortunately, he’d had to agree. Hutch had grown up in a conservative household and in a traditional neighbourhood. Where homosexuality was not talked about and near impossible to act on, without getting killed. Hutch was an open-minded guy but you couldn’t shake off your upbringing that easily. Not everyone came from a melting pot like New York or finished growing up somewhere more liberal like L.A. There weren’t nearly as many things holding Starsky back. But even if a physical relationship was not on the table, the love was and would always be there.

‘I’m waiting for an answer Mr Starsky.’

‘I would not and never could hurt my friend like that. I didn’t touch a hair on her head.’

Yes, the love was there and though Starsky didn’t doubt it he was hurt that Hutch wasn’t in the courtroom and hadn’t been all morning. Yes, Hutch was going through a lot himself but Starsky really needed him. So, where was he?

Starsky listened intently as the prosecution explained his motives and dismantled his character to make him sound like a woman killing monster. His heart sank further with every word. Until he was convinced that if he were on the jury, he would probably send himself down. The words were convincing and effective in obliterating Starsky’s self-worth. He still felt guilty for arguing with Julie that night, wondering if the argument they had scared her, if she perhaps thought Starsky might hurt her.

He’d sunk so far into himself that he only just noticed that his defence lawyer was being handed a piece of paper. The next minute the man was requesting a recess sighting new information that needed to be considered.

Things happened so quickly he couldn’t quite believe it. The real culprit had been found and the evidence was strong enough that the case had been thrown out by the judge. He was standing in the hall staring at the man he had to thank for his newfound freedom – Hutch. The man was something else. He had used his time that morning and some of the day before to do what Starsky had thought impossible find the real culprit. Who needed a whole police force when you had Kenneth Hutchinson? It wasn’t the first time he’d solved a case singlehandedly, without even Starsky’s input. But it was usually under difficult circumstances where Starsky couldn’t help and this was no different. But Starsky wouldn’t have blamed him for not being up to it this time. Except he had blamed him, judged him for not being present in court when all the time he was busy saving Starsky’s ass. He didn’t deserve a best friend like him, ungrateful bastard that he’d been.

Hutch had been talking to and then shaking hands with Starsky’s attorney but now he was walking off down the hall and towards the exit. Why was he leaving without finding Starsky? He ran after his friend.

When he got close enough he shouted, ‘Hutch wait up!’

Hutch turned round and looked at him like he didn’t even recognize him.

‘Where you goin’ huh? I gotta at least buy ya a drink. Thank you properly, we can celebrate my free-‘

Starsky cut himself off at the angry penetrating look Hutch gave him.

‘I’ve still got to bury my fiancée, what exactly do you think there is to celebrate?’

‘Hutch, shit no…I…I wasn’t thinking, I just meant that you pulled off something amazing and I want to say thanks that’s all. I know you’re still hurtin’ real bad and I wanna be there for you and I can now, I don’t know how you pulled it off but-‘

Hutch shook his head. ‘I’m too tired for this I’m not up to explaining how I pulled a rabbit out of a hat in time to save your ass at the last minute.’ Hutch turned away.

Starsky grabbed his arm, ‘Hey, wait I’m sorry okay I was just tryna say I appreciate it.’

‘Yeah, well you know what I would have appreciated? You not having a heated argument with my fiancée. You not takin’ those damn stupid photos in the first place. Then I wouldn’t have had to focus on you. It’s not all about you buddy, your torment might be over but I feel like mine’s just beginning. Now if you don’t mind lettin’ go I wanna get outta here.’

Starsky released Hutch and wondered how it was possible to feel so screwed on the same day you escape from facing a jail cell for the next twenty years. If he lost Hutch because of being an idiot and an insensitive dick it wouldn’t feel much different than a life behind bars.

It wasn’t until the threat of imminent jail time was gone that Starsky realised how selfish he’d been. He was so caught up in thought of losing Hutch and what would happen to him as a former cop in prison that he hadn’t paid much attention to how Hutch was feeling. How had it been for Hutch to think he could lose his friend so soon after losing his fiancée? When he needed him most he’d be behind bars. And how was Hutch coping, he hadn’t had the chance to mourn yet. His best friend was going through hell and all he could think about was own problems.

 

He was determined to make it up to him and that’s why he was outside Hutch’s place at 6 A.M packed and ready for when Hutch came out any second to get in his car and drive to the airport. Hutch had been avoiding him for days and Starsky had given him space but he couldn’t keep that up. Hutch needed him and would want him with him, on the surface he was probably still angry but deep down he wouldn’t want to do this without his buddy. Huggy had informed Starsky of Hutch’s travel plans as Hutch had asked Huggy to go with him, but they both knew that it should be Starsky at Hutch’s side. So he had Huggy’s ticket. He would accompany Hutch back to Texas and Julie’s home to put her to rest, he wouldn’t be talked out of it.

When Hutch came down the steps he quickly noticed Starsky who was leaning against Hutch’s car. He gave Starsky a look of reprove but Starsky simply shrugged as if to say, ‘You really expect me to be anywhere else?’ They got into the car quietly and had been driving quietly until Hutch said, ‘Remind me to thank Huggy for havin’ such a big mouth an bein’ such a good friend.’

Starsky sighed, ‘He is your friend Hutch an’ so ‘m I. I had ta come with ya.’

They went back to an uncomfortable and somewhat intense silence all the way to the airport and then all the way to Texas. Hutch was in no mood to talk and Starsky would respect that while patiently waiting for walls to crumble and the words to tumble out.

It had gone as well as stuff like that can and they were home again. In fact they were in Hutch’s place. Starsky was awake on the couch and he suspected Hutch was wide awake in bed. Hutch had been too exhausted and distraught to argue when Starsky refused to go home. So here they were lying awake in the same apartment but definitely not together. Starsky heard what he thought were muffled sobs from the bed across the way. He couldn’t just lie there and listen, so he got up and went to the sleeping area. Hutch’s face was buried in a pillow but he was shaking with the force of his tears.

‘Aw Hutch.’ Starsky said but Hutch didn’t respond so he got into the bed and knelt over Hutch with a hand on his shoulder. ‘I’m here babe, whatever you need.’

‘Go ‘way.’ Hutch mumbled.

‘No way I’m staying right where my pal needs me. I know you’re still angry but you don’t get rid a me so easy ‘kay?’

Hutch rolled onto his back and looked up at Starsky who’s hand having been dislodged from the shoulder, now moved up to his partner’s face. He wiped away the wetness he felt there.

‘Why are ya still here?’ Hutch asked frowning.

‘I told ya, I’m not going anywhere, I’m gonna take care a ya, you big silly lug.’

The expression on Hutch’s face was so heart-breaking that Starsky was compelled to kiss his forehead. When he pulled back the look he got back was so soft that he leant in again without thinking and kissed the lips beneath him. He pulled back but then went in for another kiss, longer and he thought the pressure had been returned. But then his chest was shoved.

‘What the hell are ya doin’ huh? Can’t you just comfort me without,’ Hutch gestured to what just happened, ‘I just buried my fiancée and it hurts so much…you really think I’d do that to Julie? And with you…why can’t you just be my friend damn it?!’

‘Hutch I-‘

‘Get out now, Starsky or I’ll throw you out!’

 

It had been three weeks and Starsky hadn’t heard from Hutch and both him and Huggy were getting worried. So when a hesitant Hutch had called him he held back his irritation at being held at bay for so long. He simply went round to Hutch’s place per his partners unspoken request. ‘I can’t stand this, Starsk. Just me here, and the walls. And some memories…’ He knew what his friend needed and even if things had been strained between them, he would make sure he would get it.

They sat on Hutch’s couch in silence for the longest while. Then Hutch whispered, ‘I need some comfort Starsk. I need you.’ Then he turned to his partner with arms open and Starsky pulled him in close, and held him tightly, strong hands on Hutch’s back. Hutch’s face turned in towards Starsky’s neck, he buried his face in the space between his friend’s neck and shoulder and it wasn’t long before Starsky felt lips on the sensitive skin of his neck.

‘Hutch?’

The lips became more insistent.

‘Hutch, what are you doin’?’

‘I…I need some comfort…need you…’ he was repeating his words from earlier but Starsky wasn’t convinced this was a good idea, regret would mean an end to their friendship. And even if Hutch started it this time that wouldn’t necessarily stop Hutch from blaming him.

‘I thought you didn’t want this babe. You chucked me out when I-‘ Starsky’s words were cut off when his lips were fiercely covered by Hutch’s. His mouth was demanding and insistent not that Starsky wanted to resist. He wanted this, more than anything else he could imagine wanting.

They were both getting deep into the kiss when Hutch suddenly pulled back and then jumped up off the couch. ‘I…I…I’m so sorry I don’t…I don’t want this. I want the wife I was supposed to have, the kids and the nice house, a d-dog even. I’m so, so sorry Starsk.’

Starsky got up and put a hand on Hutch’s arm. ‘Hey, look at me buddy please. It’s okay. Everything’s alright, nothing needs to happen. I just wanna look after my buddy.’

Hutch looked up at him, then straightened and nodded but then swayed.

Starsky grabbed both his arms then to steady him. ‘Hey, you okay? When was the last time you had a decent meal, huh? You sit down before ya fall and I’ll make you something nice to eat. How does that sound?’

Hutch smiled at him and then went to sit down. While Starsky moved towards the kitchen, eager to rustle something tasty up for his friend.

He hadn’t even finished fixing the lunch when there was a knock at the door.

‘I’ll get it.’ Hutch offered.

Starsky followed him to the door a few minutes later when no one had come into the apartment.

‘I’m sorry, that’s all we’ve got right now.’ Hutch was saying to a young woman Starsky felt he should recognize.

‘Okay, well I’m still going to stick around.’ The woman said.

‘I could make room for you if…’ Hutch offered.

‘No, no that’s not necessary, I’ve already booked a hotel nearby and you’ll call me if there’s any news.’

‘Of course.’

‘I better go then, speak soon.’

Hutch nodded and when the woman had disappeared from view Hutch finally closed the door and then lent on it supported by the arm out in front of him.

‘Everything okay,’ Starsky asked inanely because it was clear from how Hutch was standing that that was far from true. ‘I thought I recognized her but-‘

Hutch turned to him like a statue coming to life. Trying to shake of a lifetime of existing in solid marble. But his face was still expressionless when he said, ‘Janet, Julie’s sister.’

Oh, she didn’t want to come in?’

‘Nope, just wanted an update on the case. I told her there was an APB out on Jason Harris but until he was located, we couldn’t officially confirm he was the…m-murderer.’

The last word seemed to cost Hutch dearly and he flopped to the floor. His shoulders shaking but no obvious tears. Starsky gathered him into a tight hold, glad he’d had the presence of mind to turn off the soup before going to check on Hutch and the visitor. The last thing this moment needed was a smoke alarm going off.

Starsky had managed to get Hutch to eat something and drink a little juice. But he looked so lost sitting opposite Starsky. He wished he could hunt down Harris himself and take him apart limb from limb. He wasn’t the first monster who couldn’t let an ex-girlfriend move on from him. Or to kill the woman he once claimed to love because if he couldn’t have her no one could. They had sadly come across that many times before. But had never been so directly affected before. For the haunted pain now in Hutch’s eyes alone, he wanted to kill than man but also for the innocent woman who deeply loved his best friend.

‘I need comfort…’ Hutch said so quietly Starsky almost didn’t hear him. ‘Please I need something to take the pain away, some help…I need it…I need you.’

The words hit Starsky hard sounding too close to the ones his partner had once said above Huggy’s. The pain different then but just as real. And so hard to deny anything that might ease it.

‘Hutch I-‘ Starsky started but as the tear filled eyes looked at him and right inside him he couldn’t continue his refusal.

‘I need to feel something so badly, something else, something that doesn’t hurt, I need to feel that…to feel you.’

Without saying anything else Starsky came round the table and gently lifted Hutch’s hand from where it was resting in his lap, tugged on it gently to get Hutch to his feet and then led the way to the sleeping area.

They held each other without any clothes in the way and kissed and touched. But as things heated up Starsky knew Hutch needed more, to be even closer. So he retrieved the tube from his bedside draw, handed it to Hutch and instructed him in how to use it. Then he got on his hand and knees. Hutch wasn’t as impatient as Starsky thought he would be and realized he had to encourage him to the next step in case his friend’s fears of hurting him were getting in the way. They both sighed in relief when Hutch was finally in. The movement was tentative at first but then with Starsky’s insistence of ‘harder’ and ‘faster’ they got a good rhythm going. This was new to Starsky as well as Hutch, but he was soon enjoying it as much as he thought he would. The weight and feel of Hutch in and all around him was beautiful.

It didn’t last and soon they were lying exhausted on the bed Starsky managed to get up for something to clean them with and when he got back into bed when that was done he was pulled into the other man with strong arms, held securely before they drifted off to sleep.

It was only a few hours later and just getting dark outside when Starsky woke and despite the aches, he felt he needed to have what they’d shared again. He needed to ask Hutch for something, to be a little selfish. So he took Hutch’s cock in hand, encouraged it to hardness, covered it in some more gel and then straddled him. Just as he was lining himself up with Hutch, the man stirred.

‘Wha? Starsk?’

‘I need you now, Hutch. This time I need you, okay?’

Hutch’s hands came up to Starsky’s hips, to steady him but not to stop him. ‘I…you sure babe? It um… w-won’t it hurt ya to-‘

Starsky’s heart melted at the concern, ‘No buddy, I’m still kinda open and slick so I’ll just sink down if you let me.’

Hutch’s breath hitched at the idea, Starsky was relieved that he seemed to find the idea sexy and not demanding or desperate.

‘Yes, okay sweet man, if you’re sure.’

Starsky’s answer was to lower himself onto Hutch. They moved together perfectly and Starsky was thrilled when the passion overtook Hutch and he changed their positions, so he was then looking down at Starsky as he pounded him into the mattress, hitting his sweet spot with almost frightening regularity.

They held each other after for a second time and Hutch’s energy was all used up, that was why he was sound asleep again. Starsky felt a bit guilty because he knew Hutch hadn’t been taking care of himself and they’d just used the last of his reserves. But if he slept well that at least would help. As would the comfort they had given each other or at least that’s how he hoped Hutch would think about it in the morning. If not, he might be thrown out again, but this time permanently. With that unsettling thought Starsky too drifted into dreamland.

 

Starsky woke first the next morning which was surprising as of the two of them he was not the early riser. He studied Hutch’s face and it was clear his friend was deeply asleep. He felt another pang of guilt at the thought he had worn the man out but consoled himself with the thought that Hutch probably needed the sleep and was getting it. He probably had missed a lot of sleep in the last few weeks. He had the worry about his grandmother to contend with even before what happened to Julie. He could guess that Hutch was probably beating himself up, and would for a long time, about not being there to protect Julie when her ex came calling. He would give Hutch whatever he needed he decided and try not to get carried away with his own desires.

Starsky had decided to do some cleaning up around the place and then get some breakfast going. He had checked on Hutch every so often and it was on his third check he found him awake and staring intently at the ceiling.

‘Hey buddy, how you doin’?’ Starsky said in his gentlest voice.

Hutch looked at him as he came closer to the bed. His eyes held such torment that Starsky was nearly knocked off his feet.

‘Starsk, I…I’m not sayin’ I regret anything but Julie…what would she think?’

Starsky sat on the edge of the bed and took hold of Hutch’s hand, ‘That you desperately needed a little comfort and I hope I gave you that.’

Hutch just nodded.

‘I’m still your friend Hutch, whatever else we might be, I’ll always be that.’

‘I know buddy, I’m just not sure I can…this isn’t the right time for…a, a commitment. I…I’m sorry.’

‘I’m here for you Hutch, for whatever you need. You need a friend you’ve got one. I told you I just wanna look after ya, and give you whatever you need.’

‘Doesn’t seem very fair to you.’

‘Hutch if anything, uh…physical happens between us again I want it to be because you’re ready and you want it. Not just for comfort but for more than that. So if you’ll just promise me we’ll at least talk about it when your heads in it, that’s enough for me.’

Hutch gave Starsky’s hand a little Squeeze. ‘Thanks babe and you got yourself a deal. We will talk and listen too.’

‘Okay, so how about some breakfast? I don’t know about you but I’ve worked up quite an appetite.’ Starsky said with a wink that caused the first genuine laugh from Hutch in what felt like far too long to Starsky.

 

They got news a couple of weeks later that Jason Harris had been arrested. He had been laying low at his cousin’s place back in Texas. The cops there had escorted him back to Bay City. Dobey had only informed Hutch after he was in custody in town not wanting to give Hutch the chance to do anything foolish, like take revenge. Hutch had chosen Justice after Gillian but Dobey had been a cop far too long to not know that a man can only be pushed so far. Hutch had insisted on being in the room next door to where his fiancée’s killer was being questioned. He knew he couldn’t have an active role in the case. Procedure about these things had become tightened and they didn’t have the liberties they used to. But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t do whatever he could to make sure things were done correctly and if one mistake was made he would come down on the detectives leading the investigation hard. Starsky wanted to be in the room with him but Hutch had insisted this was something he had to do alone. Starsky hated sitting at his desk when he didn’t have to work so he opted to sit in his car instead.

When Hutch returned he rushed by so quick he almost didn’t hear his name.

‘What?’ He snarled turning in the direction the voice came from.

Starsky was up against the wall and three men surrounded him, one had a meaty hand on Starsky’s chest to hold him in place.

‘A little help here.’ Starsky said plaintively.

‘What’s goin’ on?’ Hutch demanded impatiently.

‘We were just gonna show your boyfriend here what we think of faggots on the force.’ The smallest of the men threatened.

‘He ain’t my boyfriend. I just lost my fiancée so if you want a fight I’ll give you one. Teach you to respect a man and the woman he loves.’ Hutch stepped forward menacingly.

‘He’s not like that, you can tell, he’s been married and you only have to look at him to see he loved the woman he lost.’ The man with a meaty hand on Starsky decreed. ‘But this one’s one a them alright, dirty little bastard.’ The man continued.

‘We’ll be doin’ him a favour then takin’ care a this one.’ The small man concluded.

All three men then fixed there attention on Hutch awaiting confirmation.

‘Maybe you would.’ Hutch said more to himself than the men.

‘Hutch?’ Starsky said scared and not just of the beating he was about to get but of what could make his best friend turn on him like this.

‘Don’t Hutch me, you brought this on yourself.’ With that Hutch turned and went to walk away.

The first man pulled back a fist but before it could land Dobey flew out of the door and called, ‘Hutch wait.’

Starsky took his chance to shake off his would-be attackers and Dobey’s attention turned towards the sound, ‘What the hell is goin’ on here?’

‘Nothing Captain.’ Starsky’s attackers seemed to say at the same time.

‘Yeah right, I won’t allow any of my men to be hassled, got that?’

The men made noises of agreement.

‘If this happens again I’ll go to your superiors.’

The men skulked away and Dobey turned to his Detective, ‘What was that about?’

‘Nothing.’

‘Yeah right and why did Hutch walk off, not like him to back away from a fight especially when his partner needs him.’

Starsky’s silence spoke volumes.

‘Something was said in Harris’s interview I think you should know about.’ Dobey’s face told Starsky everything he needed to know.

 

Starsky let himself into Hutch’s place without bothering to knock and slammed the door behind him. Hutch jumped up from the couch in instinctive defence mode.

‘Wanna tell me what the hell that was about. Since when do we leave each other to get beat up, partner.’ Starsky made sure he put heavy sarcasm into that last word.

‘I heard Dobey behind me, knew you’d be fine.’

‘You were walkin’ away before that, don’t give me that shit.’

‘Like I said, maybe you deserve it.’ Hutch said getting close to Starsky his face twisting and voice snarling.

‘Fuck Hutch, he was right…you really do blame me.’

‘If you hadn’t taken those stupid pictures, had that stupid argument then she wouldn’t have opened the door thinkin’ it was you.’ Hutch shouted.

‘You think I wanted any of this huh? I wouldn’t hurt you for the world. I didn’t show her the damn photos she found them in my bedroom draw.’

‘She was looking for a pen, you didn’t exactly hide them well.’

Julie had gone into Starsky’s bedroom to call her folks and write down the flight details for the trip they were making to Bay City to meet Hutch. As Hutch and Starsky were talking and laughing it was somewhere quieter to hear them better.

‘They were in my bedroom not displayed on the fucking coffee table and she asked me to come over.’

‘You blamin’ her now?’

‘Of course not she’s not to blame and neither am I. I know you’re angry Hutch but it’s not okay to take it out on me. Unless this is about something else.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like maybe you’re feeling bad about how much you liked what we did, liked it so much maybe you wanna do it again. Because maybe sex with me, with your cock up your best friend’s ass is the best you ever had. I could tell you loved it.’

Starsky’s tirade was cut off when Hutch punched him hard enough to knock him off his feet.

‘How dare you bring that up now, you bastard.’ Hutch was pointing at him and radiating with fury.

‘S-sorry Hutch, shit I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean it like that…it was beautiful and about love and comfort. I think we’ve both been heading this way since the shooting and our feelings are changing or at least gettin’ deeper. I get you’re freaked out, you never thought of something like this but there’s no need to be scared it’s just love.’

All of the pent-up emotion seemed to drain out of Hutch, he let out a long breath and then dragged himself to the couch and dropped down on to it. He sat there like a doll a child had carelessly abandoned and forgot instantly.

Starsky picked himself up off the floor and sat carefully down next to Hutch like someone trying not to spook a wild animal.

‘I…I’m sorry about everything Hutch. Really damn sorry, I wish none of it had happened, but I care about you, I can’t ever be sorry about that and I just want you to be okay.’ For us to be okay, he silently added.

‘I…I’m sorry too, for h-h-hitting you and for b-blaming you. I know it’s not your fault. I shouldn’t take it out on you…damn, why do I keep hurting everyone I love.’

‘It’s hard not to feel guilty right now, I do feel bad…thinking maybe if I’d come back or done something differently but there’s only one person to blame Hutch and that’s Jason Harris. She should have been safe to answer the door, he should have accepted that she was happy with you and let her go. Like any decent guy would.’

Starsky studded his friend’s face or at least the side nearest him. He noted the hard set of the jaw, the strain round his eye, pain etched into every feature. He wondered if it could be that simple, it should have been obvious as well as he knew this man. Hutch was drowning in his own guilt, just like he always did when something happened to someone close to him. And blaming Starsky was just a distraction, a way to avoid the truth or what he’d convinced himself was the truth. Well he wouldn’t get away with it while Starsky was there to put him straight.

‘You’re blamin’ yourself aren’t ya Hutch?’

Hutch didn’t react but Starsky continued like he’d confirmed it.

‘Well cut it out right now, there’s nothin’ you coulda done babe. You couldn’t have known what would happen and you weren’t even here w-‘

Starsky was cut off when Hutch jumped off the couch with a burst of energy Starsky wouldn’t have thought he still had in him.

‘Exactly I wasn’t even here when she needed me. I woulda stopped it, I’da stopped him.’

‘I know buddy, but please you can’t blame yourself it wasn’t your fault. I…I love you Hutch, I can’t bear to see you torture yourself like this.’

‘Starsky…’ Hutch said in a warning tone.

Starsky grabbed hold of Hutch’s arms and turned him so they were facing. Hutch was breathing hard still not in control but despite the possible blow up Starsky continued.
‘No, I don’t just mean romantic love, I mean best friend love, family love, love for a partner. Love for the person who’s been everything to me, always there for me, closer than my own skin.’

‘Starsk, I…’

‘You don’t have to say anything Hutch, just know I’m here for you, whatever you need, okay?’

‘Yeah, I know that buddy but thanks.’

Starsky opened his arms then and Hutch went into them for a hug.

 

Things were difficult for both of them over the next few weeks as Harris’s trial started. Hutch went every day but sat next to Janet and her parents and although Starsky sat on Hutch’s other side he felt more and more outside of things. And even outside of the trial Hutch was spending more time with Julie’s family, especially Janet. He could understand Hutch’s need to do this, because at the last trial Hutch had been torn between supporting his partner and being there for the family who at that time had thought that Starsky might be guilty. The whole thing was a mess and Starsky’s presence was awkward for everyone, so he stopped coming to court. He talked to Hutch about it and his friend understood.

While Hutch was at court one afternoon Starsky decided to hit The Pits hoping Huggy could take his mind off things and if not, the alcohol might.

Huggy noticed his friend sitting alone at a table and came over.

‘Hey, my man thought you’d be at court with our Hutchie.’

Starsky let out a long sigh, ‘I would be but…things are pretty awkward. Easier for me to keep away.’

‘Is that what Hutch thinks too?’ Huggy enquired while taking the seat next to his friend.

‘He don’t need me under his feet, he’s got them, won’t hardly notice I ain’t there.’

‘We both know that’s not true, you two are like that, ‘ Huggy said crossing his fingers to show what he meant, ‘ bet he needs you pretty bad, even if he ain’t said it. Must think he don’t have to.’

‘I thought so too, until she came along…thought we were gettin’ somewhere.’

‘Who’s She?’

‘Janet, she’s Julie’s sister.’

‘She got in the way of things…things like those pictures suggested.’

‘Huggy the pictures were just of Hutch sleepin’ nothin’ else he didn’t even know ‘bout ‘em before…’

‘But you wanted something more from him right.’

Starsky just looked away then.

‘Oh, so it’s like that. When did things change?’

‘They didn’t really, he was upset is all…needed some comfort is all.’

‘So he regretted it after.’

‘No, yeah….uh hell Hug, maybe.’

‘No surprise there…he’s um, not like us. Where he grew up it was more strict, traditional not like New York or L.A and Hutch’s kinda a regular guy you know. He digs that traditional stuff, even if he says he don’t. That’s why he married young…he still wants the whole thing wife, kids and a nice place to bring them up.’

‘You think I don’t know that?’

‘So, why’d you push things…man, how far did you push them? I mean if you…if you even tried to, I’m surprised you got any teeth left.’

‘No Hug, I didn’t I know better than that…he didn’t want it and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him. I only want what he can give me.’

`Are you sayin’ that you…’

‘Hug, it’s between us, okay?’

‘Sure, but you want it all with him, don’t you? I just want to look out for you, coz I don’t think he’ll ever-‘

‘Doesn’t matter, whatever he can give like I said.’

‘You can’t do that to yourself…give and not expect nothin’ back.’

‘He gives me plenty and ‘sides I like it fine, you might not believe me, but I like what he can give me just fine. And if that’s what we can have together, as long as I got ‘im, that’d be wonderful, Hug.’

‘If you say so…I just didn’t think a guy like you-‘

‘I do say so. If I could just have him…if it wasn’t for her.’

Huggy studied one of his two best friends and wondered if he could ever be content with the part of himself that Hutch could give him.

 

Jason Harris was convicted of murder and sentenced to a minimum of twenty-five years. It was a positive outcome but Starsky was convinced that it didn’t satisfy Hutch, no punishment would be enough to truly mend his friend’s heart. He did however hope that it would be the start of them moving forward, and the best way to do that was always together but Starsky could still feel that Hutch was pulling away from him. He didn’t know what to do to change that. So he was surprised when he received an invite to Hutch’s place for a home cooked meal. ‘Just bring yourself.’ Hutch had told him when he asked if he could bring wine or anything.

‘That was fantastic, Hutch.’ Starsky said pushing his empty plate away from himself and patting his tummy.

‘I’m glad you enjoyed it buddy. I know it’s one of your favourites.’

‘That it is but then anything you cook is pretty damn good if you ask me. But what’s the occasion?’

‘Doesn’t have to be a reason for me to spoil my best pal, does there?’

Starsky would have believed the words if Hutch had been able to maintain eye contact until the end of his sentence. But he’d looked away and couldn’t seem to look back. Then he got up abruptly and stared clearing the table.

Starsky followed him into the kitchen.

‘Okay Hutch, wanna tell me what’s goin’ on?’

‘N-nothing, what makes you think-‘

‘Cut the crap and spill it.’ Starsky’s words came out harsher than intended but an unexpected feeling of fear had overtaken him and he couldn’t help it.

Hutch turned back to look at him now he’d put the plates down on the side, and there was no excuse not to.

‘Janet’s going back to Texas, next week.’

‘Yeah so?’

‘S-she’s asked me to go with her and I said I’d think about it. But I…I think I want to go, yeah, I’m gonna say yes. I think I need a fresh start. You know somewhere new and-‘

Hutch cut himself off because Starsky’s face was a mix of shocked and stormy.

‘This better be one of your stupid jokes Hutch, it’s not damned funny but if you tell me quick, I’ll forgive ya.’

‘It’s no joke Starsk I’m sorry but I’m just so damn tired. I mean I’m a fucking cop and what difference did it make to the woman I love huh? None that’s what, I lost Julie and I came too close to losing you too and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.’

‘Hutch, I get it okay, this whole thing has wrecked ya. You’re not thinking straight. No one could’ve stopped those things from happening, you’re not superhuman. But that’s no reason to go runnin’ off-‘

‘Starsky I need to do this, please understand.’ Hutch’s interrupted with a begging tone.

‘No…no Hutch, I’m not gonna let you do this, okay? I don’t understand it, you’re making a mistake and I’m not gonna stand by and let it happen.’

With that Starsky clenched his fists tightly in an attempt to stop himself from punching his friend. He hadn’t been this pissed at his pal since Kira. He knew though that Hutch was hurting and mixed up, so he couldn’t hurt him. But as he turned and left he was infuriated by the idea that Hutch could think leaving him, his friend’s and his home behind would help him.

 

He couldn’t do anything to stop Hutch starting a new life in Texas. He wanted to stay angry and they hadn’t exactly gone their own way as friends. But his animosity towards his friend soon turned to deep sadness as he missed his best friend and partner more with every day that passed. Starsky went over their last conversation much more than was good for him.

‘This is something I have to do, if you’re my friend-‘

‘It’s because I’m your friend that I can’t let you chuck it all in and go off to somewhere you don’t know, with a woman you know hardly anything about.’

‘I know enough.’

‘You know she’s Julie’s sister but she ain’t Julie Hutch.’

Starsky got a look that was normally used to cut into the hearts of the toughest criminal in response.

‘Okay, I won’t go there but buddy you got to understand, what you’re doin’ makes no sense.’

‘And what would make sense huh? Me and you, just us two makin’ a life together and everyone else can just go to hell.’

‘Would that really be so bad babe. We’ve always loved each other, and nothin’ can change that not even you pullin’ away coz you’re scared and doin’ something dumb.’

‘Why do you always get like this? You were like this after Gillian too. You were intense…and I remember what you-‘

‘I know I pushed things back then and I think I was tryna steer us to something more even then and maybe I pushed things too soon this time as well but I care about you. And I want to look after you. I know I can love you right like you deserve.’

Starsky could tell Hutch was touched and he started wavering. But it didn’t make any difference because he wanted the kind of life that Starsky could never give him.

 

It was over a year since Hutch had started his new life and Starsky had heard a lot about him through Huggy, it hurt too much to be in contact himself. Hutch had married Janet and she had recently made him a father when she gave birth to his daughter.

Starsky had intended to leave Hutch to enjoy his new life but had given in late one night and called him, using the number Hutch had given Huggy and told him to tell Starsky that if he needed anything, he could call him on that number.

‘Hello?’ Hutch said sounding grumpy but when silence greeted him his tone changed, ‘Starsk, buddy is that you?’

‘Hutch…’ It was all he could get out before he broke down.

Hutch calmed him and listened patiently as Starsky explained that his new partner had been badly injured and he felt it was his fault. It wasn’t until they’d been talking for some time that Starsky heard a woman’s voice and Hutch’s attention drifted to his wife. When Hutch returned to the phone Starsky asked, ‘Everything okay?’

‘Yeah, just Ella’s been having some trouble sleeping through the night…uh, and the phone sorta woke her.’

‘Oh, shit buddy I’m so sorry, what was I thinkin’ callin’ at this hour.’

‘It’s fine you needed to talk.’

‘Yeah, well I’m gonna let you all get to bed. Thanks for listening Hutch.’

‘Hey. I know what it’s like, anytime pal.’

‘Night Hutch.’

‘Night Starsk.’

Hutch called Starsky back the next day and told him he planned to come visit. He’d talked it over with Janet and she said she and Ella would come along too. Starsky said there was no need but his quite voice put lie to the words. Hutch told him that his best friend needed him and that was enough for him and besides it would be a chance for Starsky to meet his daughter.

Starsky was beginning to worry he had been expecting Hutch an hour ago. He could have been delayed somehow but Starsky had a bad feeling that he couldn’t ignore. He had wanted to pick Hutch and his family up from the airport but with Dobey short on staff, with his partner off perhaps permanently, he couldn’t take the time off. But as it turned out he was home not long after he had expected Hutch and family to arrive. But instead of a grumpy Hutch waiting on his doorstep like he expected, there was no one and fifty minutes later, still nothing.

The phone rang and Starsky jumped on it.

‘’Lo.’

‘Starsky.’

‘Captain, I can’t come back in I’m expecting-‘

‘I know that’s why I’m calling. A doctor I know from the hospital just called me, he recognized Hutch when he was brought in and thought I’d want-‘

‘How bad is it?’ Starsky cut him off, desperate for that information.

‘Both Hutch and Janet went straight into surgery, I think it’s serious, I’m sorry Dave.’

‘What the hell happened Cap’n?’

‘A dunk driver hit their Cab, there was nothing the driver could do and he was killed on impact.’

‘Shit.’

 

Starsky rushed down to the hospital and was trying to get the attention of someone at the desk when he heard a familiar voice behind him.

‘How is he Captain?’

Dobey looked as sombre as Starsky had ever seen him.

‘No…’ Starsky choked out.

‘Take it easy Dave, Hutch is in recovery, he’s not in the best shape but they think he’ll make it.’

‘Then why...’ Starsky asked and Dobey knew what he was asking.

‘It’s Janet, I’m afraid they couldn’t save her.’

‘Oh, shit, no that’ll…’ He didn’t need to finish they both knew what he was thinking it would kill Hutch to lose another woman he loved.

‘What…what about the baby…what about Ella?’

‘They think there might be some bleeding, but she’s stable and with her being so small they don’t want to operate unless they have to.’
Starsky nodded.

‘Come on son, let’s sit down until they say we can go in and see them.’

Heads down they walked dejectedly to the waiting room seats.

 

‘I just can’t believe it’s happening again.’ Starsky said.

‘Me neither.’ Dobey concurred.

‘Hutch’ll be devastated, and I don’t think he’s gonna get over it this time. And worst of all it’s all my fault.’

‘What are you talkin’ about Starsky?’ Dobey blustered wanting to tell his friend that he was talking nonsense.

‘I…it was me, I called him, upset in the middle of the night. I woke the baby and everythin’ all coz I couldn’t handle what had happened with Ronnie. He only came out coz a that, if I hadn’ta called him.’ Starsky’s voice started to tremble and Dobey knew he couldn’t let Starsky crumble because when Hutch woke up he would need his best friend more than he ever had.

‘Starsky, of course you were upset, of all people Hutch would understand that. It’s not your fault it was that damn driver who was to bl-‘

Dobey was cut off when a young nurse came over and said, ‘Excuse me are you here for Mr. Hutchinson, he’s awake and he…I’m afraid he’s been asking for his wife. He’s agitated and getting very distressed we thought it would help if he someone could talk to him; he needs a familiar face.’

 

As soon as Starsky entered the room Hutch’s gaze flew to him.

‘Starsk, I’m so glad it’s you, where is Janet and where’s my girl, they…they said there was an accident but they won’t tell me anything else.’

Starsky had made his way to Hutch’s bed by the time Hutch had finished speaking. He looked down at his friend dreading the words he knew he would now have to say.

‘You…you’re scaring me, you’re never this quiet…not unless, oh please tell me where they are. Where’s my family.’ The words sounded like they were torn from Hutch’s soul.

Starsky picked up Hutch’s hand and held it gently as he said, ‘Ella is being looked after, they’re keeping an eye on her but she’s stable… but I’m so sorry Hutch Janet didn’t-‘

Starsky was cut off by an anguished cry from Hutch. ‘No, no …not again. No!’

‘I’m so, so sorry.’ Starsky said feeling his words were as useless as he himself was.

‘This…this is all my fault, I never should have brought them here…. never should have come back to this awful place.’

The words cut Starsky deep, he could understand them but it still hurt. Hutch was talking about his home, their home like it was the shitiest place in the world. But then again, he thought right now with what Hutch had just suffered, he guessed that description was painfully accurate.

‘Hutch I know what you’re thinkin’, sadly we’ve both been here before, me with Terry, you with Gillian but you’re the one who made me realize it’s the bad guys that are to blame not us. We’re not the bad guys buddy and this time the only one to blame is the drunk driver.’

‘You know nothing. You lost one woman you loved, one. I’ve lost three…you have no idea how I feel. And Gillian was not my fault, I wasn’t the one givin’ her ultimatums, that was you. And this was my fault if I hadn’t needed to be here my wife and child would be safe at home. And why did I come here huh? Because of you! I swear there are times when I wish I never met you David Starsky. If you hadn’t been so petty and childish after I moved away, I wouldn’t have had to come back and fix things with you. And this wouldn’t have happened. You couldn’t have me how you wanted so you didn’t want me at all, well now I don’t want you. I never want to see that face of yours again. Get out, get the hell out and don’t come back!’ Hutch was shouting and turning red by the end of his outburst, breathing hard and then he suddenly grabbed for the area where he’d recently been stitched up after surgery.

‘Okay, just calm down buddy please, you’ve just had surgery.’ Starsky tried to remind him in his most calming voice and trying his best not to choke on the hurt Hutch’s words caused him.

‘I said get out now!’ Hutch screamed.

‘Alright, alright I’m going, please…’ Starsky wanted to say look after yourself but he couldn’t so he turned and left. He should be the one taking care of Hutch, to leave him now hurting so badly and in so many different ways, to him nothing felt as wrong as that.

 

He couldn’t be the one to take care of his best friend but he could make sure the person who was nearly as close to him as he was himself would stand in for him. He watched sadly as the man who had been a true friend to both of them through many trails went into Hutch’s room and hoped his presence would offer the distraught man some comfort.

‘Hey, pal it’s me…Hug.’ Huggy said as Hutch’s sad and wary eyes flew up to meet his own.

Hutch just looked up at him and said something Huggy couldn’t make out before he burst into tears. Huggy went straight to him and held him tightly, offering what little he could to his friend who was now sobbing into his silk shirt.

It wasn’t long before the doctor joined them with some difficult news about Hutch’s little girl.

 

Huggy joined his other friends in the waiting room and Starsky could tell instantly that something awful had happened as the blood seemed to have drained from Huggy’s face and it was set in a hard line, a way of trying to hang onto control. He hadn’t seen that expression on the man’s face since he demanded to know who had hooked Hutch on the heroin. He was terrified that Hutch had taken a turn and was worse than when he’d seen him.

‘Hug, is it Hutch is he…’ He couldn’t finish his sentence.

When Huggy didn’t speak up Dobey demanded, ‘Spit it out man, tell us!’

‘Hutch is…he’s physically okay but…man it’s worse than that, it’s his little girl, they think she’s…she could lose her liver and if she does, she’ll need a transplant. Hutch’s adamant he’ll give her his, but he’s not really up to it. I don’t think the doctors can stop him though…. we, we could lose ‘em both.’

Starsky stumbled and Dobey had to steady him, he was hit with an icy fear that he would lose Hutch, he knew nothing would stop his friend from saving his child.

It wasn’t surprising that so many cops turned up to get tested to find out if they were a match. A lot of them had their own families and they still thought of Hutch as one of their own even if he was no longer on the force. He’d been working for Janet’s father’s company for the last year. Starsky only wished he shared Hutch’s blood type; it would have helped over the years but he did not. It was good to see so many friends trying to help out, Minnie, Simmons and Babcock and Bernie but it was a big surprise when Simonetti showed his face.

‘What you think I’m that much of an asshole? Simonetti had challenged. ‘I was wrong about Hutch, we put it behind us and anyway you know I got kids myself.’
He knew Hutch would be touched by everyone’s help but he also knew that there was little chance anyone would be as good of a match as Hutch and nothing would stand in his friend’s way when it came to giving his daughter the best chance. He wanted to make it up with Hutch before anything else went down. And he only wished they were brothers in the biological sense so he could give his liver instead.

 

‘Hutch please I need to talk with you.’ Starsky said as he tentatively opened the door and stood there hoping his friend would invite him in.

Hutch remained silent so Starsky walked over and stood next to his bed.

‘I…I can’t lose her too, I…I just c-can’t…’ Hutch said breaking down again.

‘Oh buddy, I’m so sorry.’ Starsky put an arm gently around Hutch’s shoulders not knowing how much touching he would tolerate.

Hutch turned to him and grabbed him around the waist and gave him a crushing hug.

‘I…I’m sorry for what I said Starsk, I know it’s not your fault or mine, it’s his. I just can’t believe this is happening again and now Ella…I need you.’

‘I know you do babe and I’ll be right here for whatever you need.’

‘If…if something happens to me promise you’ll look after Ella, swear it.’

‘Hutch I…there’s still a chance someone else will be a match.’

Hutch pulled back from the comforting hold.

‘You know as well as I do, I’m her best hope and nothin’ is gonna stop me from saving my baby Starsk.’

Starsky knew the truth in that, his friend was the bravest man he knew, he would give his life for anyone he cared about or even to protect an innocent member of the public. So nothing would stop him saving his own daughter. Starsky wished he could talk him out of it but Hutch wouldn’t be the man he loved if he could and nothing would survive of that man if he lost his child, so with great sadness he accepted that he was powerless. The only thing he could do was offer his support and hope things would turn out better than it seemed like they would.

 

It was to Starsky’s enormous relief that his friend didn’t need to keep his promise to save his daughter. Hutch and Ella were both released some weeks later. They just had to decide where Hutch would do his recuperating, he knew he should return to Texas to be close to Janet’s parents but he wasn’t physically or emotionally up to the travel that would involve. Starsky wanted Hutch to be comfortable so he didn’t bother to discuss the idea of his friend staying with him. Without really talking about it in any detail, it was decided that Hutch and Ella would stay with Huggy. It was the logical choice because his place had a spare bedroom unlike Starsky’s apartment.

 

It was a couple of months later when Starsky braved having the very conversation he’d been trying so hard to put off for what felt like forever. They had just finished a meal at The Pits and Hutch was just done feeding Ella.

‘I…I’d like you to come stay with me…I know it’s not very practical, but w-we could get somewhere bigger. I just want to be close to you again and if you’ll let me, we could look after Ella together.’ Starsky felt like he was holding his breath waiting for an answer.

‘That…is so kind of you Starsky but I can’t ask you to do that, put everything on hold for me like that. It’s a lot to ask and I’m sure you’ve got better thing to do than stay home with a single dad. It’d put a kink in your dating that’s for sure and besides, I still feel bad keeping this little one from her Grandparents, I’m thinking I should return to Texas.’

‘That’s just a lot of excuses Hutch. What do you want? I know what I want and that’s you, it’s always been you. I’m not interested in dating anyone else. And if you feel you hafta go back to Texas, fine I’ll go with you. You’re not going without me this time.’

Starsky let his words sink in for a few moments debating if he should be really honest with Hutch and hold nothing back.

‘There’s nothin’ I wouldn’t do for you Hutch, I’d have…if I thought you’d have gone for it I’d have shared you with Janet. I’d have taken whatever I could get. I…I love you Hutch, more than anything. That has never changed.’

He heard Hutch gasp. ‘I love you too. I might not always show it with how I behave but I do, I really do. But there are things I can’t give you and I’m not sure it’s fair on you.’
‘I know you always think things should be equal Hutch, but I don’t need that I swear. I don’t need to fuck ya. I like what we’ve done so far, love you in me,’ At Hutch’s raised eyebrows Starsky nodded with sincerity, ‘I mean it. We can make love any way you want. And besides you’d be giving up on the Wife and Mother dream you had. That’s a real sacrifice because just because it hasn’t worked doesn’t mean it couldn’t with some nice lady. Maybe I’m the selfish one askin’ you to give that up.’

‘No one ‘cept me could love Ella more. You’ll be a wonderful parent to her Starsk, you already are. And maybe It could work out with a woman in the future but if I’ve learnt anything from what happened to Janet it’s that you have to hold onto those you love with everything you’ve got. Take your chances when it come to love because love is love and love is all that matters whatever form it takes. So I’m not giving up anything, as long as I have you and Ella I’ve got everything I need.’

‘You mean it. you’ll stay with me.’

‘Yes babe, I want that more than anything.’

‘So we’re gonna look for a place, to live together.’

‘Yes, we need to find a family home because that’s what we are, what we’ve always been. And as great as Huggy’s been I’m sure he’ll be glad to get his place back, so he can sleep and enjoy his dates again.’

Huggy suddenly appeared in front of them like his name conjured him up.

‘Gentlemen I think we all have something to celebrate, you dig?’

Huggy held out the champaign he’d been holding.

‘Well open it Hug, I got some celebrating to do, I’m a family man now. Thanks to my new daughter and my partner. I’ve got everything I could ever want.’ Starsky beamed.

‘I’ll drink to that.’ Hutch said with first true smile to light his face in far too long.