ALWAYS ON MY MIND

by

Nikki Harrington

Set after the end of the series.

Hutch is finding it more and more difficult to show and tell Starsky that he loves him. Following the shooting, Starsky needs to know more than ever, and finally he has had enough and leaves Hutch. Hutch chooses a unique way to tell Starsky how he feels, but will Starsky be there to hear it?
An established relationship story.
Written: June 1999. Word count: 6,270.


This story first appeared in The Fix 21 which was published by Martha Bonds in 2000.

 

 

Kenneth Hutchinson turned to the mirror in the makeshift dressing room that had been set up at Huggy's restaurant for the third time, and again ran his hand through his hair. Glancing at his guitar, he caught sight, once again, of his drawn face as he turned  to the mirror. He sighed, and as he did he recalled the words of the night before . . .

 

 

"Damn you, Hutch. What is wrong with you? Why are you pushing me away? Why won't you tell me anymore that you care? Why can't you tell me that you love me? Why?" The exasperated voice of his partner, and lover, David Starsky spoke.

 

"Starsk, you know how I feel, you know I care, I. . ."

 

"That's another thing, 'Starsk', yeah, that's fine when we're with people, but what happened to the more intimate terms you've used - 'babe' comes to mind. It used to mean something Hutch, used to symbolize something special, but now, now you hardly use it."

 

"Come on, Starsk, babe.  You know that isn't true - I. . ." Once again Hutch paused.

 

"Great, now you use it because I ask you to. What the hell happened to spontaneity? Christ, Hutch, I've put up with all your games over the years. All your put downs, your pranks, your attitude.  I've put up with you fucking Kira, with you pushing me away over Marianne, even you fakin' amnesia. I know things weren't too good for that last year before Gunther, but I thought we'd gotten over it. But I dunno, we seem to be drifting further and further apart. I sometimes wonder why we bother living together." Starsky was getting angry now, hurt and angry. Hutch knew it, but somehow couldn't stop it.

 

"Starsk, what do you want from me? Do you want me to stand up in front of the whole precinct and declare my love for you?" Hutch asked.

 

"I'd settle for you saying the words just to me, or even just showing me. Do you know the last time you told me ya loved me? Do you? It was when I was so fucked up over blinding Emily - but even then it was a, 'I love you, but. . .'  speech. Ah, Hutch, I don't expect things to be all hearts and flowers, roses and romance - it ain't gonna happen. But I just want a part of you, I want my old Hutch back. Hutch, I need to know you care. I want to know. Is it too much to ask?" Starsky's voice sounded plaintive and very tired.

 

"You never used to need those things, Starsk. You used to know I cared. I didn't have to keep telling you, keep showing you." Rather than reassure and calm, Hutch knew he was provoking his partner.

 

"No, Hutch, you're right. Of course you're right, you always are, aren't you? You always have to be right. Okay, I didn't need it before, but right now I do. And do you know what hurts almost as much as you not showing me? The fact that you don't know that I need it." Starsky's voice was tight.

 

For a second, Hutch was tempted to reach out and take Starsky in his arms and comfort him. But he was fighting his own demons and they won. He stood and looked at Starsky.

 

Starsky sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm tired, Hutch. Tired of fighting you, tired of trying to balance your needs and mine. I feel like I'm givin' and giving and you're taking and taking. Hutch, for the first time, I don't think I've got anything left to give. And for the first time," Starsky broke off and stared intently at Hutch biting hard on his bottom lip, weighing a decision. Then he said quietly, "I don't think I care anymore.

 

"Starsk!" Hutch's voice held a note of panic. "What do you mean?"

 

"I mean, I can't play this game anymore, Hutch. I love you, I don't care who knows, who I say it in front of. I'd marry you tomorrow if I could. All I ask for is the Hutch I used to know. The Hutch who wasn't afraid to tell me, and show me, he loved me. I know what Gunther did to you, I think I know better than you do yourself. I know it, Hutch, but you won't let me help you. You won't let me close anymore. Sure I understand why - I do, Hutch, really." The last four words were said more quietly, with dignity. "But I can't keep on this way, it's destroying me - us. I know I've changed too, since the shooting. I know I need you more. I know I'm more vulnerable, that I cling more, and right now, partner, I need to know that you love me. That you still care about me, about the partnership, the friendship, the relationship. Because at the moment, Hutch, I'm not sure that you do. So prove you do. For once, Hutch, I need proof. I've done it for you enough. Can't you do it for me, just this once? Would it really kill you to say it? Or at least tell me what the hell you want." Starsky's voice was gruff, full of anguish, the tone he used when he was close to tears. Suddenly the anger had evaporated and an icy calm seemed to fall over him.

 

Hutch moved to try to take him in his arms, but for the first time ever, Starsky pushed him away. "No," he said, quietly. Then, "No," more firmly. "It's your choice partner, make it. I'll say it one more time - I love you. Just tell me what you want."

 

When Hutch did not reply, Starsky closed his eyes for a brief moment, and then opened them again. Hutch had never seen such pain. Then Starsky closed them again. This time when he opened them, they blazed ice, and Hutch was stunned. He opened his mouth to speak "I, I, I. . .." Starsky's eyes changed again, hoping, questioning, loving and he waited. Waited a heartbeat and more - but Hutch couldn't. Instead he said, "I. . .Starsk," the anguish was evident, "I. . . I. . . I don't know what I want."

 

Starsky nodded - reached out a hand and briefly touched his lover's cheek, "I know, babe, I know. But I can't stay here why you make up your mind. I'm sorry, babe, I really am. But I can't stay - I'll destroy us both if I do. I can't give you what you need. I can't give you space, I need too much. Maybe this way, we'll both be happier. Oh God." The tears came, but Starsky didn't pause. He turned and put his hand on the doorknob, then one more time he turned to Hutch, and his eyes begged.

 

Hutch opened his mouth, wanting to say the words that would keep his partner, his lover. . . but nothing came, nothing but his own tears.

 

Starsky closed his eyes briefly, and then without a backward look, he turned and walked out the apartment - but not before he placed his keys on the table by the door.

 

 

"Hutch, you okay?" Huggy's voice cut into his reverie, making him jump. "Hey, man, what gives?" Huggy's voice sounded concerned.

 

"Hug, it's you," he replied.

 

"Yeah, man, just me - so what gives?" Huggy was nothing if not persistent. As Hutch turned to face him for the first time, Huggy caught sight of his face and smothered an oath. "Hey, you okay?" he asked, moving a little closer and tentatively putting his hand on Hutch's arm. For a second he thought, Hell I wouldn't be tentative with his partner. I wouldn't have been tentative with Hutch a year ago, but it ain't easy to be sure just how much open affection he likes these days. Huggy was shocked to feel Hutch's arm trembling beneath his touch, and as he tightened his grip slightly, he was doubly shocked when Hutch moved his other hand and covered Huggy's. He gripped it briefly, but with such intensity that Huggy was moved to put his free hand on the other man's shoulder. "Hutch?" he asked softly, questioningly, his eyes searching the Hutch's face, trying to find some hint of what was wrong.

 

Then he said, "Hey, where's your other half?" At that, Hutch just dropped his head. When he raised it again the tears were shinning in his eyes. The anguish and pain were so deep that Huggy threw caution to the wind and stepping forward, pulled him into a fierce embrace. That broke Hutch and he sobbed into Huggy's shoulder for what seemed like an eternity. Huggy just held on and silently prayed that no one would come in. He didn't care for himself, but for Hutch. Finally Hutch seemed to get some sort of grip on himself and he raised his head, but still did not move from Huggy's embrace. The tears were no longer flowing, but the pain was so evident.

 

"He's gone," was all he said, his voice dull, his eyes shinning with the tears he fought to control.

 

Huggy spoke again, concern making his voice harsher than he had intended. Hutch's words had sounded so final.  "Gone? Gone where? When? Why?" He braced himself for more tears, but Hutch seemed all cried out. Finally pulling away slightly, he turned and picked up some tissues from the dressing table.

 

"I don't know, last night and as for why - simply put, because I couldn't - or wouldn't -  let him know how much I care, how much I love him. I couldn't tell him I love him. Damn it, Huggy, do you know how long it's been since I last said it? It was when he was so wrung out over that girl he accidentally blinded, and then it wasn't said in any great romantic sense. I've barely even shown him over the last year or so, I've pulled away, I've shut him out. I haven't once responded to his loving words and I've barely responded to his loving. He's always shown me - especially recently. Throughout all these years, in spite of everything, he showed me that he loved me, and he didn't care who knew. He would have told the world if I'd've let him. He even said he wished he could marry me, but I had to pull away, I had to run away from the one person who loved me unconditionally." Hutch's voice had started out flat and quiet, but by the end it had vibration in it and was louder.

 

"He knows you love him," was all Huggy could think to say. Then, "Man, the love you two have for one another transcends anything I've ever seen before. Shit, I've been to endless weddings, seen chicks and guys, chicks and chicks, guys and guys together, but I've never in my life seen the, the. . ." Huggy paused, lost for the right word.  "I don't know Hutch, love isn't enough devotion, absoluteness, rightness, completeness - you are two halves of a whole, two sides of a coin. You love him, I know it, and he knows it. Maybe you haven't said it recently, maybe you haven't shown it enough - but it's there. You love him Hutch and being blunt man, I don't believe you knew what love was until you met that crazy cop." Huggy broke off, for him it was a long speech. Unconsciously during it he had moved back to Hutch and had draped an arm around his shoulder; once again Hutch hadn't moved away.

 

Huggy swallowed and spoke again, this time more cautiously, "Hutch, I can't believe that Starsky would leave you over this. He ain't that kinda guy."

 

"I'd've agreed with you a year ago, Huggy, but Gunther took so much away from him. He's become more vulnerable, more needy - I've seen it and I've tried to ignore it. I've been so fucking scared that he'll die again, that the next time someone shoots him, he won't be able to pull through. I'm so frightened of losing him and being hurt that I've hidden from him. I know I couldn't live without him and so rather than get closer, I've pulled away for fear of being hurt when he goes." Hutch looked so helpless and lost that Huggy could only begin to guess at the pain he carried. However, he knew he had to say something, had to try and help.

 

"Hutch, I know you're scared of being hurt, but if you push everyone away you'll end up hurtin' a lot more in the end. You'll end up alone and bitter. Ya have to let people close you know. Especially someone you love as much as you love Starsky. Come on man, you had a college education, you know I'm right, don't ya?"

 

"Yes, Huggy, I know you're right, but it's too late now, he's gone. Only not in the way I thought. Do you know, it got easier to pull away, easier to ignore his need, until I guess I didn't know how much it meant to him, how much he needed me to show him and tell him. I've hurt him over and over again, by not showing him enough. Last night was the end. I don't know what brought it to a head, maybe nothing, maybe he just finally broke. He said that he had to go before he destroyed us both. Him, destroy us. Even then he wasn't blaming me - not really!  I never wanted to hurt him - and yet I did, over and over again.

 

Huggy, I used to do some pretty horrible things to him. I was always correcting him on words he used wrong, to show that college education you just reminded me of as much as I could. And what's worse, it wasn't just in private. I had to do it in public. He put up with it, I can see him now, eyes shinning when I corrected him, or a shrug, a smile - but never anger. Never embarrassment, never, 'why are you doing that?' None of that, instead simple acceptance that it was me. He used to put up with those terrible practical jokes of mine, too. I resorted to
disguises during our game of hide and seek or I kicked his stick out from under him. I pretended to have amnesia. . . But Huggy, if anyone else had done those kinds of things to him he would probably beat them  up."

 

"Or you would," replied Huggy softly. Hutch looked confused. "You should have seen the looks you'd get on your face."

 

Hutch shook his head wonderingly.

 

"I've seen you several times, the look on your face if anyone else picked on him, and not just a look - you jumped in several times. I know you stood up for him when those suits made him date Rosey Malone and then tried to blame him for what happened with her father.  I've seen you wipe the floor with anybody who dared to get in Starsky's face. And look how you went after Gunther," Huggy finished.

 

Hutch shrugged. 

 

"That's how it should be in any long-term relationship. The two partners can tease, bitch and criticize each other - but anyone else tries it and wham.. Starsky did it too for you. Your teasing and correcting don't bother him, never has, never will. He loves you too much, trusts you, believes in you. Simple. Just as it's a simple thing for you to tell him how wrong you've been. For you to explain to him, tell him you love him - show him you love him. Come on, Hutch, it's time to make up and I know how well you two make up, I've seen it." Huggy tried to lighten the mood.

 

"It's too late, Huggy." Hutch turned his back.

 

"Don't be crazy man," he said touching Hutch's back. "Of course it ain't too late. Look you two go too deep for it all to end with a simple lover's spat. You'll get your chance."

 

"I won't. It's over. Hug, you know that Starsky has a temper, and things he says and does in the heat of that temper can be undone. But have you known him to regret anything he did in cold blood?" Hutch asked resignedly.

 

"Well, I. . ." Huggy struggled, "not often, but I'm sure there have been times," he finished lamely, desperately searching. "But, hell, man, whatever he's done in the past, that's been with others - this is now, this is you. You, the person he loves." Huggy stopped, he'd finally run out of things to say.

 

"Yes, Huggy and I love him. I love him. I love him. Great. I can't stop saying it now. Now that it's too late. Do you know I'd give anything, everything, if I could turn back the clock twenty-four hours. If I could just say to him, 'I love you'? But I can't. There's nothing I can do, not now, not ever." Hutch looked at Huggy. There were no tears this time, nothing but eyes of slate, eyes that Huggy feared would never register emotion again.

 

"Hutch, you'll get that chance, I know you will. Look man, I bet he'll be here tonight - he won't pass up the chance to support you. Especially since he all but bullied you into singing tonight. I know you didn't wanna do it, but he kept on and on and you gave in. If that ain't love - well what is? He'll be here, you can walk over to him and tell him. You'll be able to kiss and make up, and forget last night. Maybe it was for the best -  'cos  it's made you confront your fears, made you realize what you have. What you could have lost."

 

"Nice try, Hug. You're a good friend, but it's not what I could have lost, it is what I have lost. Simple. Past - it's over. He won't show up. Hell, I don't even know where he is. And do you know something? Dobey would be livid if he knew. Cops are meant to know where their partners are at all time, all times Hug, and for the first time in a long time, neither of us knows where the other one is. God knows how I'm going to tell Dobey about this. Hug, in at least ten years we haven't really spent more than a few hours apart, and now it's been twenty-four hours since, since. . . No, he won't come tonight. I doubt if I'll ever see him again." Hutch was quiet now, pale and yet composed. He picked up his guitar and walked to the door. "Right, now I'd better get out there and give them what they want."

 

"Hutch, forget it, I'll cancel. Say you're sick, something, anything. I mean, you look as though you haven't slept since. . ." Huggy broke off as Hutch shook his head.

 

"I haven't but, no. Thanks Hug, but no thanks. I've screwed up too much for too many people in the past. I'm not about to screw this up for you."

 

"He'll be here - believe me Hutch. He'll be here. He has to be, he has to be." The last words were said to an empty space and said so softly, that it was doubtful Hutch would have heard.

 

Huggy followed him and found Hutch waiting for him. He started to ask if again he was sure, but the look of defeat and pain in Hutch's eyes caused him to bite back the question. Huggy hesitated. Hutch sang on emotion; usually he sang for Starsky. But now, there was no emotion, nothing. And, as far as Hutch was concerned, no Starsky. Yet he was standing there waiting for Huggy to do his part.

 

Against his better judgment, Huggy went out on the stage set up for the performance to a wild clapping. He milked it for a few seconds and then held up his hands for silence. "Okay, folks - here we are again, Amateur Night at The Pits, and tonight we have someone, who many of you will know and love, Detective Sergeant Kenneth Hutchinson - otherwise known as Hutch. So come on folks, give him your encouragement." Huggy led the applause that accompanied Hutch's walk onto the stage. The regulars knew him well. They had heard him sing spontaneously and - badgered into by his partner - when he was drunk.

 

The applause and calls were welcoming. The regulars liked Hutch; they had always responded enthusiastically to his infrequent performances. Hutch had always figured lot of them knew - or at least suspected - about him and Starsky, but it didn't seem to matter too much to them. The atmosphere almost - not quite, but almost - helped to heal the ache in Hutch's heart. For one brief moment he panicked and thought, I can't do this, I can't go on as though nothing has happened. . . But then he saw the patrons eyes, heard their encouraging words and he saw Huggy, still standing by the edge of the stage, concern showing in his eyes. So instead he gave a forced smile to Huggy, strummed his guitar and started to sing.

 

 

Huggy walked to the bar and there he saw Starsky standing, watching Hutch on stage. "Man I don't know who looks worse - you or him." Huggy said, as he passed Starsky a beer.

 

"Hug". Starsky acknowledged, draining the beer in one long drink. Huggy replaced it immediately. "Thanks. I gather from your comment that you know." The words were a flat statement, no accusation there, just the obvious.

 

"Yeah, man, I know. I've had your blond buddy crying on my shoulder for the best part of the past half hour." Huggy spoke the words lightly, but kept a measured stare at Starsky. The words had an impact on Starsky, and for the first time he turned from the stage and looked directly at Huggy.

 

"Hutch was crying?" Concern for a moment and then nothing,  just like Hutch's eyes. "He ain't cried for years - not really cried - not since Gillian. Not when Abby walked out or even when his father died last year. I thought he'd forgotten how to."

 

"Yeah, well he has a good reason this time. He's feels like he's lost his best friend, his partner, his lover - his whole life."

 

Starsky looked at Huggy skeptically, "He told you all that?"

 

 "He told me everything, man, including how he feels about you. How he'd do anything to make things right."

 

"It's too late for that," Starsky said draining the beer and looking expectantly at Huggy, who obliged.

 

"Is it?"

 

"Yes." Flat. No arguing. "Way too late." Starsky returned to watching the stage.

 

"But you're here," Huggy spoke quietly.

 

"I didn't intend to be, Hug, really I didn't." Again Starsky turned from the stage. Huggy noticed that he had to physically turn away, turn his back, just turning his eyes wasn't enough to keep him from glancing back. "But somehow my car brought me here - and in the end it does serve a purpose."

 

"Yeah, you could talk to him. Come on, Starsky, it ain't like you not to forgive," Huggy started to say.

 

"No. It's over, Hug, I can't fight him anymore. I gave him chance after chance, but nothing's changed. No, the time for talking has passed. I meant, the purpose is this." With that Starsky placed two large manila envelopes on the bar. "Do one last thing for me, Hug?"

 

Huggy appraised him, as if trying hard to decide what to say. In the end he said simply, "Last? That sounds final."

 

"It is. I'm out of here. Will you?"

 

"Man, talk to him, just for a moment.  I. . ." Huggy started.

 

Starsky's eyes flashed. "No." Final. "If you won't take care of these envelopes, I'll do it. It's just that. . .. Fuck. Give me another beer. Let me listen to him one last time. Let's make it a night of 'one lasts. . ..'" Starsky drained the beer and the look he gave Huggy silenced him.

 

For three songs they listened. To all the other patrons Hutch sounded great, no different from the other times he'd sung. The only two people who knew differently were at the bar. Huggy found himself watching Starsky watch Hutch. He wanted to reach out and grab Starsky and shake him, but he knew that at that moment no one - possibly not even Hutch - could reach him.

 

Finally Huggy closed his eyes, and when he opened them he accepted what was apparently inevitable. "You mentioned one last thing I could do for you?"

 

"Huh? Oh yeah. Huggy, you'll do it?" Starsky once again pulled his gaze from the stage and focussed on him.

 

"Sure, what are friends for?" Huggy tried to appear relaxed. If Starsky noticed anything different from the norm he chose to ignore it.

 

Picking up the two envelopes, he handed them to Huggy. "This one is for Captain Dobey, it has my shield, my cuffs and my gun." The last word was said very softly.

 

"Oh, great man, a cop's gun, here. That's all I need." Huggy again tried for levity.

 

"Hug, I'm sorry, I didn't think. Look, I don't want to compromise ya. It's just. . . well I can't mail it, and I don't wanna go back there to turn it in. But, I'll find another way." Starsky started to pick the envelope up.

 

"No. Man, hell, I'm kidding. Probably one hell of a lot safer here than at your apartment. Is that all?"

 

"Huh?" Starsky had momentarily turned back to watch Hutch

 

"I said is that all? A shield,  some cuffs and a gun. No, 'goodbye Captain Dobey'?"

 

"Of course there's a letter. My official resignation and somethin' personal for Dobey, explaining." Starsky sounded annoyed.

 

Huggy didn't care. Somehow he had to try to stop the destruction of the closest and most meaningful relationship he'd ever encountered. Even if he provoked anger from Starsky he'd do it, regardless of his personal knowledge of the man's fiery temper. "You explained? Explained what, may I ask? 'Dear Captain Dobey, Hutch and me had a lover's tiff so I'm quitting the force. Thanks for the last ten years. Give my best to Edith, and kiss Rosie and Cal for me. Regards, David Starsky.' That sort of explanation?"

 

"Fuck you, Huggy." For a second Starsky's eyes blazed fire and he reached across to grab Huggy, who didn't move. Instead he met Starsky's eyes with a cold, uncompromising, 'go on then' stare.

 

A couple of patrons hissed, "Ssh," without even bothering to turn round.

 

Starsky let go. "Sorry, Huggy, I guess I asked for that. Sorry." He repeated, draining the bottle of beer.

 

Huggy nodded, "It's okay. Guess I'm sorry too. Here," and he handed his friend another bottle.

 

"Thanks. It wasn't an easy letter to write. How do you write to the man who's been like a father to you for ten years? Who's gone out on a limb more than once, risking his own badge for you? Who's stood by you, even though he didn't really understand or - at the beginning at least - approve of your sexuality, yet helped you keep it from IA? The man who hid Hutch's heroin addiction from everyone? The man who even gave up eating when he thought Gunther had. . .  The man who shared his family with you, who let his kids play with you - even his son - whose wife will shed the tears he can't when she finds out you've gone. Tell me, Hug, how?"

 

"I don't know, Starsky, I really don't," Huggy replied quietly.

 

"Neither do I, but somehow I found the words. I'm not sure they'll say what I really want to. Words often don't. Hutch was the one with the fancy words. The. . ." He broke off.

 

"Maybe, but you were always the one with the emotion. I guess Dobey will see that." Huggy handed him yet another beer. "And the other envelope?"

 

"That's for Hutch. In it is a fully legalized document disclaiming all my interest in our apartment and everything in it - it's his. Also a check for my half of the place. I cashed in a life insurance policy - well it would have been his anyway if. . . But he'll need it now. " He broke off.

 

"Do you really think he'll want to stay there?" asked Huggy.

 

"I don't know, but if not, well he'll have more than enough to find somewhere else to live."

 

"Anything else in Hutch's envelope?" Huggy probed deeper.

 

"No, Hug, no letter. Not this time. There's nothing left to say. After all how do you say goodbye to your life?" Starsky spoke frankly. "Nothing else, except. . ." He paused and then, slowly lifted his hands and removed the gold chain from around his neck. For a second he held it tightly then passed it to Huggy. "Give him this."

 

"Starsky, not that. That was his grandfather's. His most prized possession, he gave it to you because. . ."

 

"I have no right to it now. Give it to him. Please." Starsky was fighting the tears now, but was seemingly determined not to break down.

 

Huggy took the chain and shook his head. "Where will you go? What'll you do?"

 

Starsky shrugged. "I'm not sure. Become a PI maybe? I dunno."

 

"Do something for me?" Huggy asked

 

"What?" Starsky asked non-committally.

 

"Write to me, when you're settled. Let me know you're okay?" Huggy asked.

 

"I dunno, Hug, I want to try to. . ."

 

Huggy broke in. "Look, Starsky, I knew you before you knew Hutch. You and me were buddies. I happen to care about you. I just want to know that you're okay. I promise I won't hassle you, I just. . . oh shit."

 

"I care too, Hug, maybe that's the problem. I've always cared too damn much. But yeah, okay, I'll write, I promise. Now. . ." He drained the beer and shook his head at the one Huggy proffered. "No, that's the end of the song he always does before his final one. I'm leaving. He reached across the bar and grabbed Huggy, pulling him into a fierce embrace. "Don't get into too much trouble, Huggy." Then as he pulled away, with one final glance at the stage, he said softly, "Take care of him."  And then he turned and swiftly moved to the door.

 

"Starsky. . ." Huggy started to call after him. Then he stopped as he heard Hutch speaking.

 

"Thanks. Before I sing my last song, I want to make a dedication. I want to dedicate it to someone; to the most important person in my life. To the person who taught me what love was. Who taught me how to love, live, have fun and be someone." Hutch paused, and Huggy glanced toward Starsky. He'd stopped dead and was staring at the stage, a look of. . . Huggy couldn't make it out.

 

Hutch went on. "To the person I love more than life itself. To someone who risked life, limb, reputation and career for me more times than I can number. Who put up with every kind of crap I could throw at him, still came back for more, and never once let me down. To the person who showed me what commitment was. Who was there for me - for me - throughout the good and the bad. Who loved me in spite of, and maybe because of, everything. To the person who never demanded anything of me. Who gave - unselfishly and unstintingly - all his love, compassion, friendship, caring, devotion and  time. Recently I haven't returned that love, not in words or actions - I won't go into why - but it's always been there and it always will be. If only. . ." Hutch broke off and swallowed hard. Then raising his head higher he spoke again,   "All I really have to say is this: I love you, babe. I love you. I love you." Hutch's voice broke for a second, and you could have heard a pin drop.  Huggy noticed that Starsky had moved back to the bar during Hutch's speech, but his eyes were still unreadable. Then Hutch raised his head, his blue eyes shining with unshed tears, strummed a chord and started to sing:

 

 

Maybe I didn't love you, quite as often as I could have,

Maybe I didn't treat you, quite as good as I should have,

If I made you feel second best, babe, I'm sorry I was blind,

You were always on my mind; you were always on my mind.

 

And maybe I didn't hold you, all those lonely, lonely times,

And I guess I never told you, I'm so happy that you're mine,

Little things I should have said and done, I just never took the time,

But you were always on my mind; you were always on my mind.

 

Tell me; tell me that your sweet love hasn't died,

But give me; give me one more chance to keep you satisfied, I'll keep you satisfied.

 

Little things I should have said and done, I just never took the time,

But you were always on my mind; you were always on my mind.

You were always on my mind; you were always on my mind.

 

 

The applause was tremendous. As one the audience rose, calling out, "More, more." Some had tears in their eyes, others were moved beyond tears. The clapping and cheering went on and on. Meanwhile Hutch stood, head bowed, not moving, not knowing what to do. The bar lights still hadn't come up. When he finally raised his head, tears were streaming, unchecked, down his face. He suddenly seemed aware of them and groped - to no avail - in his pockets for a handkerchief.

 

"Well, I'll be dammed, there's a first." Starsky's gruff, tear-filled voice broke into Huggy's hearing. "He hasn't got a handkerchief. What would he do without me?"

 

Huggy had tears in his eyes as well, and said simply, "Don't let him find out, don't ever let him find out."

 

Starsky turned to him as if seeing him for the first time. Then brushing his hand across his eyes, pulled out a rumpled but clean handkerchief and strode toward the stage. The people in the room parted for him as he passed. Finally he reached the stage where Hutch had his back to the audience.

 

"Hey, Blondie - try this." The soft voice, the words the hand - the so familiar hand - touched his back and Hutch spun round as though he'd been shot. Starsky stepped up on the low stage with him.

 

He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He reached out to touch Starsky, as if to tell himself it wasn't a dream, but he was shaking so much.

 

"Hey, babe, careful," a soft voice said in his ear, and then those well remembered, strong arms enfolded him, and pulled him close. Lips that he had known to be so passionate, so demanding, now gently brushed his cheek, his eyelids, and finally met his own.

 

Hutch wanted to stand there locked in the embrace forever, but he had to be sure. He pulled away slightly. As he did, Starsky loosened his hold marginally.

 

"Starsk?" His voice broke and croaked. He swallowed and tried again. "Babe? Are you. . .? Is it. . .? Do you. . .?" He broke off fumbling for words, for thoughts, for grip.

 

"Yes, sweetheart." Again the soft voice. That added to the blue eyes filled with love and the strong arms holding him all threatened to engulf Hutch. He couldn't hear the silence, didn't see the people staring at the two of them.

 

"Babe. Oh babe, I love you. I love you, God, I love you." Suddenly he was laughing and crying at the same time.

 

Starsky's eyes lit up. He had never seen such happiness, such total and utter joy there. "I know, babe. I know - and so does the whole place."

 

Starsky's words broke the spell, and The Pits erupted into cheering and feet stamping. Hutch looked around amazed, as though he didn't know what he was doing there. He'd quite simply forgotten that the mike was still on.

 

He reached for Starsky and said, "I don't care who knows, I want to tell the world. No, even the world isn't enough - I want to tell. . ." Starsky's kiss silenced him for a moment. But Hutch hadn't finished, pulling away from the kiss, he said, "Oh babe, there's so much I want to say to you, so much I need you to know, so much love I want to share with you. I. . ."

 

"It's okay, babe, it's okay, we have a lifetime," Starsky drawled softly, gently petting Hutch's hair. "Come on, let's stop the show and go. I'll buy you a beer." Again he pulled Hutch's head down and tried to kiss him. But now Hutch was stronger. He pulled away from Starsky's embrace and held his wrists.

 

"A lifetime, a lifetime, together - it won't be long enough, love, but it'll have to do for now. But one final thing, babe," Hutch dropped to his knees in front of a stunned Starsky and the audience, and still holding Starsky's hand he looked up and said simply, "Marry me, babe. I love you. I love you."

 

As Starsky's tears fell and he too dropped to his knees, Huggy killed the stage lights and sound.

 

"After all," he reasoned. "Some things are private. . ."

 

 

 

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