"I tell you, this rain isn’t normal. My wife says she feels it in her bones. Every time the weather changes, her left big toe gives her trouble. That was ten days ago, and it hasn’t stopped raining since. It hasn’t rained this much in years. I can’t stand this wetness. Makes me cranky." Hank Smithers stopped babbling for a moment to wipe the windshield clean with his sleeve. It was a futile movement and Hutch sighed.

"Yeah, not the best weather, and still one more hour on this stakeout. I can barely see the street. Do we even know for sure that Barker’s coming? If he’s clever, he stays at home, nice and dry." Hutch chuckled without humor and groped for the packet of cigarettes in the side compartment. Picking one out, he noticed that even the cigarettes were clammy. He looked at it, vaguely wondering why he had started smoking again.

Memories flooded his mind, and he pictured Starsky’s lifeless body curled up against the wheel of the Torino after Gunther’s men had shot him. He’d yelled Starsky’s name, trying to warn him, but it had been too late. Some time later, when it was still touch and go with Starsky, he hadn’t known what to do about his fears or how to fill the hours of waiting and had needed the first cigarette in years.


Hutch nodded absentmindedly. His temporary partner was a nice guy. He loved talking about his family and about the things he would do when he resigned in four years.

"Ya know, we have that cabin in the Sierra Nevada. My father-in-law got it in the sixties. You can’t imagine how beautiful it is there this time of the year. The snow…"

Hutch stopped listening to Hank’s babbling. He drew on his cigarette, trying to get a glimpse of the dark warehouse on the opposite side of the street. How often had he been on stakeouts with Starsky, killing time with the ridiculous games Starsky loved so much…

"Hutch, let’s play Twenty Questions."

"You’re kidding. You know, it’s not so easy to guess what I’m thinking of." Hutch suppressed a yawn and looked around. Something glistened in the gutter. It could be a coin.

"Okay, buddy, you’ll never guess what it is. Shoot!" He felt Starsky’s gaze on him, and looked questioningly back at him.

"No chance that you can read in my eyes where it is." Hutch made a poker face and started whistling a tune while Starsky craned his head to see the object Hutch had chosen.

"Is it that blonde at the corner?" Starsky looked at him expectantly, but received a negative shake of the head. "Damn! One more try, then you have to give me a hint!"

"You wish!" Hutch snorted, and when he didn’t give it away, Starsky used his last remedy—tickling until Hutch at last told him about the coin. Then Starsky was happy, like a child whod received a special treat.

Since the shooting…

"…but we can’t go this Christmas. An old school friend of my wife’s and her husband are coming for the holidays. What about you?" Hank asked.

"Huh?" Hutch had been miles away and now tried to focus on Hank’s conversation. "Christmas? I have no idea yet. Dobey’ll probably put us on desk duty, I mean, Starsky and me…" Hutch’s voice trailed off, thinking of his still weak partner who longed to be on the streets again. There was no chance of it happening anytime soon.

"Yeah, let’s hope it won’t be long until Starsky’s on full active duty again," Hank said, checking the time and giving a sigh of relief. "That’s it. I’m going to log us out. This weather is driving me crazy. Last month I felt…"

Hutch put out his cigarette, started the car, and they left the warehouse district. When Hutch let Hank out at his home, the rain had subsided and Hank gave a relieved, "Hey, it isn’t raining! I bet Mary’s toe has stopped hurting too. Tomorrow will be a better day. It’s my turn to drive then, Hutchinson. See you."

Hutch stopped at the deli on the way home to get something for dinner. Starsky had lost so much weight over the last year that Hutch had made it a habit to fix dinner for them both whenever his shift allowed it.

Half an hour later, he climbed the stairs to Starsky’s apartment, carrying a big bag full of groceries, whistling a song he had heard over and over on the radio that day. He knocked several times, and when nobody opened the door, he let himself in. The light was on in the living area and Hutch busied himself taking things into the kitchen and putting them away.

"I’m back. Anybody home?" he asked cheerfully. There was a sound from the bedroom that made him frown. In a few long strides he was at the door, peeking in.

Starsky lay on the bed, fully clothed, half covered with the bedspread.

"You’re not feeling good?" Hutch approached the bed and smoothed the covers. He looked at his partner and didn’t like what he saw. Starsky’s pale face was shiny with perspiration, and his breathing sounded flat and rattling.

"C’mon, what’s wrong?" Hutch’s heartbeat quickened. The old fear of losing Starsky was back in an instant. Why couldn’t they have some quiet time without any troubles? Since recovering from the shooting, Starsky had had several setbacks; his lungs reacted much more sensitively, and he’d had pneumonia twice this year.

"It’s only a cough, nothing to worry about. I just wanted to get some rest and forgot about the time. Stop fussing."

Starsky’s speech ended with a bout of coughing, and Hutch immediately put his arms around Starsky’s shoulders, helping him upright to make breathing easier.

"Okay, okay. Breathe with me. You know the routine," Hutch crooned. He sat beside his partner on the bed, legs outstretched, and drew calming circles over the damaged chest. Finally, Starsky relaxed, and both men leant back against the headboard.

"How was your day?" Starsky wanted to know, and Hutch saw in his eyes the yearning to be on active duty again.

"Nothing you would wish for. Rain all day and the perp we were watching for out at the warehouse didn’t show up," Hutch said. Pulling Starsky closer, he asked, "What about you? You drove Dobey crazy, didn’t you?"

Starsky chuckled under a new coughing attack, and shook his head. "Not at all. Dobey even praised my latest report. Said he hadn’t known I’d be capable of writing them without help."

Then he leaned his head against Hutch’s shoulder and sighed. "I miss being out on the streets with you."

"I know, buddy, I know," Hutch said, feeling desperate that Starsky was still far away from full time duty. He feathered his hand through Starsky’s hair and wished he could make the fear and pain go away.

Starsky drew away as if to get a better look at Hutch. "Hey, when do we go shopping for Christmas? I mean, I still don’t have anything for you. You need to tell me what you want this year."

"Starsk, there’s no need for a Christmas present, at least not for me. You know I don’t care a lot for these things. But I’m willing to think about it." Hutch smiled and he cherished Starsky’s flushed features, full of excitement.

"Really? Can’t wait till it’s Christmas!" Starsky drew back the covers and got out of the bed, then headed to the bathroom, a little unsteady on his feet. "I’m feeling better already. You’ll see. Tomorrow I’ll go Christmas shopping." The door closed after him.

Hutch stayed on the bed for a moment, his hand touching the still warm blankets where Starsky had just been curled up and leaning against him, and suddenly he felt alone and abandoned. His heart ached and it confused him. He shoved off the bed to take care of dinner.

When Starsky emerged from the bathroom, he looked refreshed, and his face wasn’t as pale anymore. They ate in companionable silence, and once Hutch had made sure Starsky took his medication, he got ready to leave.

"Call me if your cough gets worse, you hear me?" Hutch put a finger under Starsky’s chin and their eyes locked. "I would love to have you by my side at work. Hank is a nice guy, but I prefer your company. Need you to watch my back. You’ll be back soon. Believe me."

"Sure, Hutch." Starsky smiled, but there was a sadness in his eyes, too, and Hutch was afraid that the future wouldn’t bring what they both hoped for.

"See you. Tomorrow I’m planning to cook the Paul Muni special—if that’s okay with you," Hutch said, and turned to go. He heard the mumbled words, "Love you, too, pal."


That night Hutch lay sleepless for a long time, his head churning with Starsky’s words to him as he left. He’d been aware for a long time of being attracted to men as well as women, but had preferred not to think too much about it. Most of the time it wasn’t difficult—women were a good distraction and easy to come by—but Starsky’s near death had brought about a change in the way he felt about him, and tonight had been a revelation. He was both excited and scared about the feelings that had started to surface.

He craved Starsky’s closeness more than ever and didn’t want to let him out of his sight. At the same time, he knew that Starsky longed to be independent and wanted to live his own life. Hutch sighed and turned on his side, his thoughts still with his partner. What would the future bring? How would he be able to deal with his feelings for Starsky? Would it change their partnership? What if Starsky turned away from him, disgusted by a partner in love with him?

Hutch rolled over onto his back and took a deep breath. He had to make a decision. He would take it easy, give Starsky the space he needed. He had promised to cook dinner the next day, and hopefully Starsky’s cough would have subsided by then. Hutch closed his eyes and finally drifted off to sleep.


Next evening, Hutch tumbled in the door to Starsky’s place, dripping wet from the rain that had continued despite Hank’s predictions, and laden with groceries. Starsky was sitting, reading, and looked up as Hutch came in. Carefully, he got up to help with the groceries.

At least he’s not as sick as yesterday, Hutch thought as Starsky helped him. He was moving more easily and his breathing didn’t sound so labored. Hutch hurried to start on the vegetables and get the roast in the oven—he was hungry and didn’t want to wait longer than absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, Starsky had started reading the newspaper Hutch had brought, and he read aloud to Hutch a feature on a children’s day center that had difficulties with covering the year’s budget. There’d be no money for Christmas. "It says here they might have to close soon; can’t get enough funding."

"It’s too bad. Remember the Glenister kids? How it helped them to be able to go there after school when their mother died," Hutch said.

"Yeah. I remember Jamie. Cute kid. Would be great if the place could continue. It’s really bad the way their funding’s been cut."

Hutch looked up from the carrots he was cleaning, lost in thought for a moment. "What about donating our Christmas presents? I mean, the money we would have spent," he said. "It’s not much, but they could probably find a better use for it than we can. You know I don’t care much for presents anyway."

The only answer he got was silence, so he looked over at Starsky, who sat staring at him openmouthed. Starsky’s expression was so funny that Hutch couldn’t help laughing.

"Sorry, but you should have seen yourself. Bad idea, huh?"

"No! No, it’s great. I just thought…" Starsky looked away and fussed with the edge of the paper. "Yeah, it’s a great idea. We’re celebrating Christmas together, we don’t really need presents. Would feel nice to do something for them, too."

Hutch picked up a carrot and said, trying to sound casual, "‘sides, I’ve already been given my best present this year." Daring to let some of his feelings show in his voice, he added, "You." He hoped the blush he felt didn’t show.

"Thanks. I think." Starsky said, gruffly, and then smiled.

"Anytime, buddy." Butterflies did somersaults in Hutch’s stomach when he noticed Starsky blush a little, and his hands trembled while he finished getting the roast in the oven.

"Would you mind setting the table while I get a shower?" Hutch asked, drying his hands with a kitchen towel.

"Sure." Starsky put the paper aside and stood up. They met halfway and Starsky brushed past Hutch, letting his hand linger on Hutch’s stomach for a moment.

"I’m starving, so don’t take too long," he said with a smile. Hutch only nodded and hurried to the bathroom. He still felt the warmth of Starsky’s hand through the fabric of his shirt and knew he would need a cold shower after all.


While they were watching TV, Hutch listened to Starsky struggle with his breathing again. It had all come back after dinner, and Hutch anxiously watched him walk to the bathroom. He wanted him to manage on his own, but it was difficult to just stand by and watch. Starsky hadn’t been well lately. It was like he couldn’t get over the last bout of pneumonia, and his setbacks were looking to become a permanent condition.

Deep in thought, Hutch didn’t hear Starsky leave the bathroom and sneak up on him, and the feel of Starsky’s cold, clammy hand on his neck made him jump and fall halfway off the sofa. Shocked, Hutch looked up at the laughing and now livelier Starsky, who was trying to warm up the hand he’d cooled off in cold water.

"You should’ve seen yourself," Starsky managed to get out between giggles. Drying his eyes, he went round the sofa to help Hutch up again.

"Starsky!" Hutch felt the cold spot on his neck. "Why’d you do that?"

Starsky dumped himself down beside Hutch on the sofa, still giggling. "Dunno. Fun? At least, I thought it was pretty funny," he said with a smile. "Y’know, we used to play around more, once. Now it’s like… You watch me all the time, like I’m about to break or something."

"Yeah, but you’re…" Hutch blurted out. "I mean, were," he hurried to amend. "You were so hurt, and I couldn’t do anything." He ran a hand over his face, and, leaning back into the cushions, fixed his eyes on Starsky, trying to convey some of his feelings of protectiveness.

Starsky squirmed a bit under the stare and, looking down, toyed with the frayed edge of a pillow. "I know. I wouldn’t be here, if not for you," he said and looked back up, smiling. Then he jumped up and started for the kitchen. "My turn to make coffee, I think," but he had hardly taken more than two steps before he doubled over, coughing.

Hutch was up in a flash, supporting him to a chair. "Not all well yet, buddy. Huh?"

"God, I wish it were over and the colds didn’t keep coming back."

"Yeah." Hutch stood, rubbing Starsky’s back. "Me, too. I wish I could do something."


"Mornin’." Hank opened the passenger door to let Hutch in. A big smile crept over Hank’s face. "Didn’t I tell you? It’s finally going to be a nice day. My wife’s toe has stopped hurting and I didn’t catch a cold from our stakeout. What more could we wish for, huh?"

Hutch knew it was meant to be a rhetorical question, but he couldn’t resist remarking, "Wish Starsky would feel better. He’s caught a cough that worries me. You know, he recovered so amazingly fast, but the lung damage has left him vulnerable to bad colds and any bugs that are going around." Hutch stopped and picked up the mic to log them in.

"Hm, that sounds like my youngest daughter. Marcy has always had troubles with bad colds. She even had pneumonia once, and the doctor said it would be helpful to get her away from Bay City—a change of air, you know?"

He looked at Hutch, who nodded absently, knowing Hank would start babbling again about his family and their arguments and all their aches and pains. His thoughts went back to Starsky, who had been so cheerful the evening before. He’d been a little tired after dinner, but later he’d been affectionate with Hutch and hugged him when Hutch was about to leave. Hutch remembered that he had stiffened, being afraid that he would lose it otherwise. Feeling Starsky’s body against his had been too much, and he hadn’t known any other way out but to draw back, mumbling that he had to leave because of his early shift the next day. With Starsky’s gaze on his back, Hutch had fled, and now he was sitting next to his new partner and wishing Starsky was there instead.

"What d’you think?" Hank looked at him expectantly, and Hutch realized that he hadn’t listened at all.

"Sorry, was distracted for a moment." Hutch blushed and, trying to make amends, he said, "Your family must be special, and you get along with them really well, don’t you?"

"Yeah, like I told you, but with company coming over Christmas, we’ll all stay here in Bay City this year. The cabin is yours, if you want."

"The cabin?" Hutch didn’t understand.

Hank laughed wholeheartedly and settled his large hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

"Go ahead. Let Starsky breathe the clean air and enjoy the snow, and he’ll get his strength back. It’ll be good for his lungs. The cabin is a six hour drive from here. The roads aren’t bad, but your car needs to be prepared for snow and ice, so I can lend you my special tires. And if you want to buy some Christmas presents for your family, there’s a nice little village with enough shops. Last year I bought…"

"Hank, I appreciate your offer, but I can’t take it. A cabin is outside our budget, and even if it would be great for Starsky, we have to…"

"It’s okay. All you have to pay are the heating costs," Hank said quickly, and, pointing to the travel agency on the opposite side of the street, he added, "Let’s get you a map of the region. I’m sure Starsky will like it too. It’s a deal?"

Hutch swallowed. He hadn’t thought of his temporary partner as such a generous man. Not listening to his babbling, he had almost missed a great offer.

"Hank, how can I thank you—I’ll tell Starsky, and we’ll let you know our decision." Hutch smiled at his older colleague, and suddenly his spirits lifted. Christmas in the mountains, in a comfortable cabin, surrounded by fresh air and snow. Starsky would love it, and he himself had missed the white season since he had left Duluth. He could try skiing again. He shoved the thought aside. Most of all, he wanted to make it a special Christmas for Starsky.

Checking a mall for shoplifters, Hutch stopped in front of a craft shop where model kits of cars and ships were available. Starsky would love to have such a kit with… Hutch stopped himself, remembering they’d agreed not to buy presents, and hurried to catch up with Hank.


At noon they returned to the precinct.

"Hey, did you bust enough perps for today?" Starsky looked up from his half written report and beamed at Hutch. Hutch saw the question in Starsky’s eyes. When will I be at your side again, cruising the streets, back to being me and thee?

"Well, Hank and I caught so many, we ended up tossing them back," Hutch said, laughing. "It looks like you’ve been slacking, though. I thought we were going to have lunch together."

He stepped behind Starsky’s chair and bent forward, checking on Starsky’s report. It seemed as if Starsky leaned back slightly to get closer to him.

"Okay, you’re ready?" Hutch drew back and straightened, not allowing himself to be carried away by Starsky’s presence.

"Yeah, be back in a minute." Starsky smiled apologetically and headed to the door. "Where’s Hank anyway?"

"Having lunch at home—his wife’s toe has stopped hurting so they’re celebrating." Hutch grinned at Starsky’s look of confusion.

Dobey emerged from his office. "Not enough work to do?"

His gruff voice reminded Hutch to ask for some time off. Now, when Starsky was out of the room, was a good opportunity. "Captain, can I talk to you?"

"If Edith told you to talk me into trying another diet—forget it!" Dobey fumed and made his way to the hallway where the candy machine waited for him.

"Absolutely not," Hutch asserted, and when Dobey came back, eating a chocolate bar, Hutch followed him into his office. He hoped Starsky wouldn’t be back before he had explained that he and Starsky needed a week off. It would be a great surprise.

As it turned out, Dobey didn’t need much persuasion. As soon as Hutch had explained Hank’s offer, the captain reached for the paperwork that would put his two best detectives on vacation.

"Now get out of my office—and take care of your partner! I need you both back soon—ready for full duty!" Dobey raised his voice and Hutch thought he could hear a satisfied chuckle in it.

"Agreed!" Hutch left the office and almost bumped into Starsky. His face was pale, and his blue eyes looked even darker than usual.

"What’s wrong this time? He wants you to do a double shift again? Can’t he see that you need to relax, too? Let me talk to him. I want him to give you some days off. Then you can…"

"No need to talk to him, buddy. Let’s have lunch at that new diner. They have a great vegetarian special. Then we can talk about some days off."

"Now he’s lost it," he heard Starsky mumble as he drew his friend to the elevator and out of the building to the parking lot. Hutch felt Starsky hesitate and stiffen when they passed the spot where the shooting had taken place. He tightened his grip on Starsky’s arm and kept silent. No words were necessary to explain the horror when their world had fallen into pieces.


Sated, Starsky put the napkin next to the plate and nodded appreciatively.

"Not so bad, blondie. Their spicy burger tasted like real hamburger—not tofu. Nothing to complain about. Now spill it. What did Dobey want from you? He’s a bloodsucker sometimes. Doesn’t he know that you need…"

"Stop!" Hutch interrupted, and he smiled. "First of all, dummy, you had a real hamburger. I ordered it from the back of the menu. This place caters for people like you who don’t know anything about good vegetarian cuisine. Secondly, I wanted something from Dobey. I was offered a cabin in the mountains, and I asked to have some days off—and he agreed!" Hutch knew his smile could have lit the whole room, but Starsky’s face fell.

"Oh… that’s great. When?"

"In one week!" Hutch rummaged in his jeans’ pocket and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper.

"Here. It’s a brochure Hank and I got at a travel agency. His family loves it there. Every year at Christmas they go and spend the holidays in their cabin, but this year they have company and Hank offered it to me. Can’t wait. What do you think of it?"

"It’s fine, Hutch, really. You’re going to have lots of fun." Starsky’s face had paled even more, and Hutch couldn’t explain the sad expression on his partner’s face.

"I thought you’d love it too, but of course I can cancel it." Hutch couldn’t hide his disappointment. It had sounded so right, and Starsky would have been able to breathe fresh air and they could enjoy the snow and be together all day and…

"Hutch, do what you want to do. You should take Hank’s invitation. Have you met his family already? They must be really nice, inviting you to stay for Christmas in their cabin. I could ask Huggy to…"

"What are you talking about, mushbrain?" Hutch glared at Starsky, crumpling the little brochure in his hands even more. "What has Huggy got to do with our Christmas? It’s you and me, and nobody else. Dobey gave us a week off to celebrate the holidays in Hank’s cabin." Hutch had let his voice rise, and only when he saw the doubts on Starsky’s face did he suddenly understand what had gone wrong.

"Oh, shit; you think I’m gonna go to that cabin by myself? Are you crazy?" Hutch reached over the table and, not caring about any bystanders, covered Starsky’s hand and held tight.

"You know, I was thinking," said Starsky, staring at the tablecloth. "Hank is your new partner, and you said he’s a nice guy, and his family has a cabin, and I’m a burden for you…"

"Once and for all, you aren’t a burden and never will be. It’s you and me. I…" Hutch hesitated, not knowing how to go on.

Starsky looked down, and Hutch realized that their hands were still entwined. Suddenly he felt embarrassed and drew his hand back.

A mischievous smile tugged at Starsky’s mouth, "So you still love me like I do you?"

The words made Hutch feel lightheaded. He got up from the table and mumbled, "Just a second. I’ll be right back."

In the men’s room, he splashed cold water in his face and checked his reflection in the mirror. What had Starsky said? That he loved him? Okay, he knew how it was meant, but for a moment he’d hoped those words meant more.

Returning to their table, Hutch composed himself and acted as if nothing was out of the ordinary. He even teased Starsky about not having noticed that he’d eaten a real hamburger.

On their way to the car, Starsky slowed down and looked at the window display of a music store.

"Don’t stop, Starsk, or are you planning to buy a guitar for yourself? Remember, no presents this year. Let’s make the donation for the children’s center tonight. What about pizza for dinner?"

Starsky’s smile showed Hutch that everything was all right again, and back at the precinct they parted with a pat on each other’s shoulders, before Starsky continued with his reports, and Hutch met Hank on the way to his car.


One week later…

Hutch looked at his pocket watch, getting more nervous with every minute. It was getting dark, and Hank could be there any moment to help him with the winter tires. It was supposed to snow in the higher regions, and he wanted to be on the safe side with his car. The Ford Galaxie was a used car, but much better than his old LTD that had always broken down at the most inconvenient times. He had arranged to pick up Starsky about seven the next morning so they would arrive at the cabin in daylight.

His bags were already packed and his guitar leaned against the chair by the door. He went into the greenhouse to check if he had watered his plants. He found a friendly word for each of them and chuckled at his behavior. He was getting old, talking to himself and to his plants. Starsky had already made fun of him and had teased that Hutch needed someone to take care of him, otherwise he would turn into an old crackpot.

Yeah, but the only one I need is you, Hutch thought. It had been such a long time since he’d dated a woman. His life had become dependent on Starsky’s well-being. If his partner was hurting, Hutch suffered with him. And now his love for Starsky had crossed a fine line, and Hutch feared it could change their relationship forever. Starsky would never fall in love with a man, that was certain.

Somebody knocked at the door, and Hutch answered, "Coming!" He opened the door.

"Hank, I expected you… Huggy, what are you doing here?" Astounded, Hutch looked at the black lean man standing in the dark hallway and grinning mischievously.

"Hutch, m’man, here I am. Wanna show you something. C’mon." With that, Huggy stepped back and Hutch followed him down the stairs to the street.

"I’m waiting for Hank, a fellow cop, and he should be here by now," Hutch started, when Huggy took his arm and dragged him to the curbside.

"It’s all taken care of. My early Christmas present for you and your better half, so you’ll arrive safely at the mountains," and Huggy pointed to a big Jeep in front of them.

"A cousin of mine owed me, so here you are—but I want it back without a scratch, you hear?" Hutch was speechless and just stood there till Huggy dropped the keys in his hand and turned to go.

"Anita’s waiting to take me back. I have a business to run, ya know. She says hi, too."

"Wait, Hug." Hutch caught the sleeve of Huggy’s shirt. He pulled his friend of so many years close and hugged him hard.

"Thanks, for everything…" Hutch didn’t know why he suddenly felt so sentimental. Composing himself, he drew back, smiling. "Starsky will go nuts for this car. See you, Hug, and have a merry Christmas yourself."

Huggy waved one last time on the way to Anita’s car, and Hutch went back to his apartment. Tomorrow was the start of their vacation, and he intended to make it the best for Starsky.

The next morning was cool, and the sun had only just started to rise when Hutch pulled up outside Starsky’s place. Starsky was ready and waiting for him, bags packed—and looking very well, Hutch thought. He had brought coffee for them both and donuts for Starsky—his favorites. As they drove out of the city, the sun lit up the early morning sky. It was fairly clear and it looked to be a fine day.

Predictably, Starsky had been excited about the Jeep and insisted on driving. "This is great. I was really worried we’d have to go in your car, but then you show up in this. Don’t expect me to let you behind the wheel of this baby!" He put on his sunglasses and leaned back with a thoroughly happy expression on his face.

"Yeah, well, watch it with the donut and the coffee then. I promised to get this back to Huggy unharmed. I think that includes the upholstery." Hutch sounded more gruff than he felt. It was great to see Starsky so enthusiastic. Hank’s offer of the cabin had been a real godsend, he realized.

"So, did you bring enough winter clothes?" Hutch asked. For several days, he had nagged Starsky about packing sensibly. It would be much colder in the mountains, and thin sneakers and jackets would be no good in the snow.

"Sure. Stop being such a mother hen—just enjoy the day. I packed everything I’ll ever need for the next few days."

"Yeah? What was in that big box you insisted on carrying yourself?"

"You’ll see." Starsky smiled mysteriously. "It’s something I’m sure you forgot, so I got it."

"Oh. But you’ll let me in on the big secret now, right?"

"Sure. When the time’s right." He sent Hutch a dazzling smile.

Hutch felt his stomach flip. Starsky looked so good. A complete reversal from a few days ago. Thank God he’s alive and well, but how am I gonna survive the next week, Hutch asked himself. He took a deep breath and tried to relax. "Well, if that’s how you want to play it. You sure you remembered your gloves?"

Starsky stopped smiling and looked at Hutch, clearly shocked. "No! Hutch, I knew there was something… We gotta go back and get them." He slowed the car and prepared to turn it around.

"Hey! What are you doing? We could just buy some new ones. Starsky? Hey!"

Starsky had now stopped the car, and was laughing at Hutch’s expression. "Got ya. Sometimes you’re really too easy, blintz. Of course we could buy some—if I’d really forgotten them." Starsky started up the car again.


"What are we stopping for? There’s only two, two-and-a-half hours left." Starsky looked at Hutch, surprised.

"Exactly. We both need a break. The view is beautiful here. Perhaps we could find a place to get a cup of coffee and an early lunch."

Starsky perked up at the mention of lunch. It was four hours since the donut and coffee. "Yeah, okay. Soon’s we find a place."

Not long after, Hutch spotted a diner. There was a gas station and a few houses nearby, but apart from those, the landscape was empty of human habitation. They were partway up a mountainside and the view was breathtaking.

Starsky pulled in and brought the Jeep to a stop with a flourish. He hurried out and around to the other side, opening Hutch’s door. "As Sir requested," he said with a wink, leading the way into the cafe, Hutch following more slowly, taking his time to stretch, and breathe the air.

Luckily, the cafe served decent food, and afterwards they took their coffee outside. Hutch sat at one of the picnic tables, but Starsky wandered over to the car to get his camera.

"Hey, Hutch," he called out.

"Huh?" Hutch shielded his eyes against the sun.

Click. "Got ya!" Starsky smiled, satisfied, and continued to take a few more pictures of their surroundings.

Hutch just sat and enjoyed the sun and the hot coffee. They were so high up now that it had started to become chilly, and he thought about pulling out a sweater.

"Hutch, you coming?" Starsky had wandered over, carrying one of Hutch’s pullovers. "Here. Thought you might need it," he said and handed it over.

"Thanks, buddy. How’d you know?"

"Can’t you feel it’s getting colder? I thought I’d beat you to it before you told me to put a sweater on."

"Dummy." Hutch smiled affectionately, and cuffed Starsky lightly on his head. "I’m not that bad, am I?"

"No, not all the time. Hutch, I understand. It’s just too much sometimes, ya know?"

"Yeah. I’ll try to behave. Come on, let’s go." Hutch reached out for Starsky, pulling him into a sideways hug. "I’m just so damned grateful you’re all right."


They arrived at the cabin mid-afternoon. It was a modest, well-kept place, with two bedrooms besides the main room, kitchen, and bathroom. Starsky had hurried to explore and was excited, when he noticed the view from the larger bedroom.

"Hutch? Okay with you if I take this room?" Starsky asked, standing in the doorway as Hutch carried his own bags in.

Hutch came over and looked inside. "You were quick to choose the one with the biggest bed."

"What’re you talking about? Chose it for the view, of course. Think I could take some real nice pictures from here, and I won’t even have to go out in the cold." Starsky grinned and winked at Hutch.

Hutch knew when he was being played. "Sure. The bed in the other room looks okay. My back will probably be fine. I think. It’s good we’re on vacation, though…"

"Aww, Hutch, don’t do that. Please."

Hutch smiled at Starsky. "It’s okay, buddy. Really. The bed’s fine. And… I thought that maybe you’d like to make dinner tonight? Give my back a rest after the drive."

"Okay, okay. Sure. If you’re really okay with the room. You brought food, right?"

"Of course I did. It’s still in the car—I’ll go get it. What about your box? Should I get it, too?" Hutch said, trying to sound casual.

Starsky noticed though, and hurried past Hutch and back out to the car, refusing any help with the large cardboard box, and even brought it into his own room after a suspicious glance at Hutch.

Hutch found it difficult not to laugh at that, and went to his own room to unpack. And later, it wasn’t hard to persuade Starsky to take a nap, while he cooked dinner after all.

After dinner, when Starsky had finished cleaning up—which he’d insisted on doing—he fetched the box and put it on the floor in the living room in front of the fireplace and sat down beside it, legs crossed.

"Time for the grand unveiling, Hutch. Come over."

"Do I really have to?" Hutch felt sleepy, and the sofa was a perfect vantage point for watching Starsky. In the light from the fireplace, which cast a golden glow over the room, the man looked thoroughly desirable. Relaxed, happy, deliciously sexy—and totally out of Hutch’s reach. Besides, Hutch had started to think that it would be better if he stayed where he was. "What if I find that jug of eggnog Huggy left us in the car, instead?" he said, and got up.

"That’d be great. It would be perfect for when we decorate," said Starsky, as he pulled out a small Christmas tree, followed by decorations.

"I knew it. Didn’t you get enough Christmas decorations at home?"

"You know you can never have enough. It’s only Christmas once a year, and I wanted…" Starsky’s voice faltered a little, "I want to have all the Christmases I can get, and this one is special."

The half-smile Starsky wore nearly made Hutch fall apart. He kneeled down swiftly, gathering his partner in a bear hug.

"Me, too. And they wouldn’t be much fun without you." There wouldn’t be any kind of Christmas without Starsky, Hutch was sure of that. There wouldn’t be any kind of life, either. The thought made him hug Starsky even tighter and bury his face in Starsky’s hair.

"Uh, Hutch? You’re squishing me. I mean, it’s nice, but…"

Embarrassed, Hutch let go of him and scrambled to his feet. "Sorry! I wasn’t thinking…"

"Hey, easy, it’s all right. Just thought we could use some of that eggnog now. I’ll unpack the rest, and you can help me decorate this place."

Starsky sounded a little out of breath, with eyes shining and a high color in his cheeks, and he looked rather like he’d enjoyed their embrace a little too much. Hutch knew it couldn’t be that, though, and put it down to the long day and Starsky being convalescent.

Hutch poured the eggnog into two large mugs and brought them and the half-full jug back to the living room. Together he and Starsky put up garlands and glass balls on strings, and Starsky talked about gathering spruce branches the next day and putting them around the room. The last thing they worked on was the little tree. Starsky had forgotten the lights for it, and they decided to buy some the next day. Until then, what was left of the decorations would have to do.


The next morning, when Hutch noticed the lopsidedly decorated tree, he couldn’t help thinking that it ought to feel lucky that they had run out of eggnog and decided to call it a night. Come to think of it, he was probably pretty lucky himself, too. The alcohol had made Starsky more than usually affectionate, and in his desperation, Hutch had ended up drinking more himself. He sincerely hoped he hadn’t done anything that could make Starsky suspicious.

When Starsky shuffled in a few minutes later, Hutch was sitting by the kitchen table, nursing his first cup of coffee.

"Mornin’," mumbled Starsky, trying to swallow a yawn. He padded over to the counter and poured himself some coffee.

"Good morning!" Hutch said, brighter than he felt. "Are you up for our big shopping expedition?"

Starsky looked like he had no idea what Hutch was talking about.

"The tree, dummy. You forgot the lights, and we agreed to buy some today."

When Starsky looked at the tree, he colored. "Uh, yeah, I kinda remember now. Say, Hutch… I didn’t do anything, you know… last night?"

"What? Don’t tell me you don’t remember." Seeing Starsky’s worried expression, Hutch stopped himself short and smiled. "Only razzing you, buddy. You were just a bit more affectionate than usual, but it was fine. Nothing to worry about. You do remember, don’t you?"

"Yes," Starsky peered over the rim of his mug, taking a drink, "and I think I remember something about teasing you for being so stiff when I hugged you. I thought that maybe I’d crossed some line or something."

Hutch suddenly couldn’t speak and only managed to shake his head. "No," he finally croaked out. "No, it’s all right. Look, I’d better take a shower. We could go to the village and find somewhere to eat breakfast. Or lunch," he amended when he noticed the time.

They found a cozy little café for lunch. On the door, Hutch spotted a poster that advertised skiing lessons on one of the courses nearby.

Starsky saw him looking. "What about going tomorrow?"

"Nah, it’s okay," Hutch said, but he looked back at the poster when they left, and Starsky persisted.

"Come on, Hutch, it’ll be fun. You know you want to. I can take care of myself for one afternoon."

"But we were supposed to…"

"Supposed to what? Spend all day inside? The weather’s great, Hutch. You’ll enjoy it."

"Yeah, okay. If you say so." Hutch smiled. "Come on. Let’s find those lights—and we need to buy more food, too."

After shopping, they went straight back to the cabin. Hutch suggested a walk, which they ended in style with a snowball fight. And that evening, Starsky cooked, saying he felt bad and chiding Hutch for talking him out of it the night before.


Hutch awoke to the morning sunlight that had found its way through the curtains and ghosted over the bedspread.

He stretched lazily and checked his alarm clock. Seven thirty, enough time to turn over one more time and savor the warmth of the bed. He snuggled into the covers and his mind wandered to the day before in the snowy landscape of the Sierras. Starsky had enjoyed the snow, and though he had still been coughing, he hadn’t looked pale, and his smile, whenever he hit Hutch in their snowball fight, was like in the old days.

Hutch chuckled when he thought of their silliness—acting like kids in the snow. Once, he’d slipped and fallen backwards in the snow. Starsky had gone down with him, trying to rub a snowball under Hutch’s collar. The icy cold had made Hutch gasp, and he’d groped for a handful of snow himself to take revenge. Hand in midair, he’d hesitated, not wanting Starsky’s cough to get worse. If he got cold again… At that moment, his hand full of snow was grabbed and shoved back into his face. Hutch had seen the mischievous grin on Starsky’s face, and then they’d both been fighting and rolling in the soft snow. Hutch remembered the feeling when they were finally standing up again, and Starsky had brushed the snow from his suit and then taken care of Hutch’s. Familiar hands roamed over his clothes, lingering for a longer moment in his hair…

Hutch cherished the memories and noticed that his body reacted in its own way. Before he could be tempted to take care of that side of things, he decided to take a shower. He drew the covers aside and got out of the bed. He tiptoed out of his room and was halfway down the hallway when he heard a noise from the living room.

"Starsk? Are you there?"

"Yeah, I was up early. Thought I could fix the lights on the tree." Starsky was crouched next to the tree, fumbling with the lights. His pajama jacket was pushed up and showed some bare skin.

"Don’t you think it’s a bit too cold for running around half naked?" Hutch teased, but his worry did not go unnoticed.

"I’m feeling okay, but you could bring me my bathrobe from my room. Then I’ll take care of breakfast."

Starsky smiled at Hutch and didn’t seem to notice the flush on Hutch’s face. He looked so vulnerable and lovable that Hutch had to turn away, otherwise he would have gathered him in his arms right there and then. He hurried to Starsky’s room to retrieve the bathrobe, then he helped Starsky up from the floor and briefly touched the chilled skin on Starsky’s back.

"You’re freezing," he scolded and put the robe around Starsky’s shoulder.

"Stop fussing, blondie. You take your shower and then let’s have a real good breakfast. You’ll need it before your skiing lesson. Can’t wait to see you making an exhibition of yourself," Starsky grinned and shoved Hutch in direction of the bathroom.

Half an hour later, they sat in front of a big breakfast, and Hutch noticed with satisfaction that Starsky’s appetite seemed to have normalized and he’d even managed to put something after Hutch’s fancy on the table. Hutch hadn’t drunk goat’s milk for a long time. Somehow he had lost his appreciation for healthy food, but now he savored the drink and, when he felt the craving after breakfast, he promised himself to stop smoking, too. He leaned back and looked at Starsky expectantly.

"So you want me to go skiing? What about you? Sitting in a café and watching the local beauties walk by?" Hutch smiled, but it hurt to make light of the situation.

"What d’you think? I’ll be watching you, though calling you a beauty would be a slight exaggeration." Starsky smirked and got up from the table, fingering the strands of hair on Hutch’s forehead.

"Be careful of what you’re saying. I’m the brains of this team," Hutch countered and went to his room to get dressed.


"Where are your gloves? It’s supposed to be quite cold today and there’s more snow expected." Hutch said and looked up at the sky that had turned light grey. It had to have snowed during the night, too; Huggy’s Jeep was covered with a layer of white.

Starsky tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, where are the keys?" Hutch turned out the pockets of his heavy parka.

"I always wanted to drive a 4-wheel drive vehicle in the snow. I’ll take you to the ski lift, okay? And I promise to put my gloves on." Starsky’s voice sounded a bit sarcastic and Hutch scolded himself for being overprotective.

"Let’s go," he said and got into the car on the passenger’s side.

They made their way to the village, and Starsky beamed at the little houses, decorated with Christmas lights.

"We have to go up there." Hutch pointed to the station, where crowds of people were lined up already.

"Just a moment. Let me try something." Starsky turned left into a big parking lot and moved to a less frequented area, where the snow was untouched. Then he accelerated the Jeep and rushed toward the farthest end of the lot. "Get ready for some sliding." Starsky’s enthusiasm was palpable, and before Hutch could protest, he was thrown against the passenger door. Starsky had braked abruptly, pulled on the handbrake at the same moment and turned the wheel around. The Jeep made a sharp turn to the left, whirling snow around, and with a shouted "Whoop!" Starsky had brought the car into a U-turn.

"Starsk, you’re killing me here! Ow!" Hutch rubbed his aching elbow and sat upright again. "Do you want me to get hurt before I even start my first skiing lesson?"

At once, Starsky calmed down, and a worried glance hit Hutch. "Did I overdo it? Hutch, I didn’t mean to hurt you. Shit! I just wanted to try… I saw it in that movie last week. I’m such an idiot!"

"Difficult to argue about that," Hutch said with a smirk. "But I promised to give the Jeep back to Huggy in one piece, and I don’t want him to be mad at us. Come with me to the ski lift. You can go up to the highest point of the mountain and enjoy the view over the ski area. It must be a great overlook."

"Okay, it’s a deal." Carefully, Starsky maneuvered the car closer to the station and parked near the exit. He went around the car checking for any damage then nodded, satisfied. "Everything’s okay."

They joined the line of people waiting, and the closer they came to get their own lift, the more restless Starsky became.

"Hutch? Ya know I don’t like heights… Just the thought of sitting in such a little chair, and being lifted though the air, makes me uncomfortable. I better stay in the village. Go have fun and you can tell me all about your skiing lesson later."

Hutch knew about Starsky’s fear of heights, and so he agreed, but felt a little downcast. "Okay, okay, I know you’re not ready for the tough stuff," Hutch joked and took hold of the next chair. "Last chance?"

Starsky shook his head and grabbed Hutch’s arm. "Take care and see you back in the cabin. Don’t be too late. You know I’m scared of the dark, too." A smile crept over Starsky’s face, and he turned to go.

Hutch would have loved to follow his partner right away, but he knew he should use this chance to practice some skiing. It had been years since he had gone skiing in Minnesota, but he remembered having had a great time and having been good at it.

Hutch took a seat on the chair and was lifted up into the cold air, leaving the village and the parking lot below him. He tried to spot Starsky in his red parka, but couldn’t see him. A feeling of loss washed over him and he distracted himself by watching his surroundings. All the mountains were covered with snow and the clouds were hanging low, hiding the peaks. Hutch had the impression that it wasn’t so cold anymore. Hopefully he could do some good descents and Starsky would have fun in the village or in the cabin, reading or listening to music. Soon they would be together again, and tomorrow it was Christmas Day.


"Well done, Ken!" The blonde skiing instructor complimented Hutch on the ski exercises and encouraged him to do the descent as the first member of the group.

It was a great feeling to rush down the hill, and Hutch enjoyed his ability to stay on his skis without falling. Others of the group hit the ground more often and they had trouble getting up again, getting caught in their skis when they tried.

Hutch was about to make another descent when there came a loud rumbling from the hill next to the one his group was on. Everyone in the group stopped they were doing; it was as if time itself had frozen.

"A snow slab!" cried the instructor and her pretty face took on an expression of horror. "Are we missing anybody?" Frantically she counted all members of the group, but everybody was there.

"We should go over there and see if someone is trapped under the snow," she said, trying to calm down. "Is there anybody who has enough training to go with me and start the rescue?"

"Me," said Hutch, already by her side. Without thinking, he followed her through the snow, trusting that she would find her way without setting off another snow slab or, worse, an avalanche.

Other rescuers arrived, and Hutch was given a long stick with which to look for victims buried under the snow. Time was a critical factor, and Hutch didn’t think of anything else but to keep searching. Poking in the snow, he suddenly hit something, and thought he heard a weak sound from underneath him. "Here! There’s someone here!" he shouted, and let the paramedics take over.

They rescued a young man, and Hutch stumbled back to the lift, exhausted, but happy. The young man had been the sole victim, and Hutch’s instructor had thanked him profusely for his help before sending him home. On weak legs, he caught a seat and tried to ignore the strong wind that tousled his hair.

The lift neared the ground and Hutch looked around, but there was no Starsky waiting for him in the parking lot. A glance at his watch told him that it was getting late, and so he decided to take a cab home. They had arranged to meet in the cabin for dinner anyway. Starsky had planned a special meal for Christmas Eve, Hutch remembered, and suddenly he was really hungry. What an afternoon!


He paid the cab driver and made his way toward the cabin. Light seeped through the windows, and the silhouette of Starsky in the kitchen gave Hutch a warm feeling of welcome. He hurried towards the door, wondering for how much longer he could manage to not tell Starsky of his changed feelings.

"Where the hell have you been?" Starsky stood in the door, yelling at him. "I’ve been waiting here for hours, and the only thing I know is that they say on the radio there’s been an avalanche and it was just in the area where you were supposed to be. Is it asking too much for you to call me and say that nothing happened to you? Ya know, there’s a phone here, and you should have had the decency to tell me where you were, and that you weren’t buried under the snow. I’m so pissed off, I can’t begin to…!"

Openmouthed, Hutch stared at Starsky, who turned his back on him and disappeared into the cabin, shutting the door with a bang.

"Starsky, stop it! What’s going on?" Hutch pushed the door open and entered the cabin. Once inside, he felt the cold and wetness seeping through his parka and pants. It had been a hell of an afternoon, and the only thing he wanted right now was to relax and take a bath.

"I tell you one last time, I’m not up for this shit! I’m too old to be worrying about what may have happened to my klutzy partner. How often have I been waiting for you and you turned up late because you were chatting with someone. Or you went jogging, and let me wait at your place for hours! You’re going to kill me with that attitude!" Starsky threw down the dishtowel he held in his hand, missing the counter. The towel dropped to the floor. Starsky turned his back to Hutch and stared out of the window into the darkness.

Hutch took a deep breath. He shivered and looked down at his clothes. The parka was soaked, the same with his pants. His snow boots looked decidedly wet, too, his hair was damp, and Hutch wondered if some icicles had formed there, he felt so cold all of a sudden. The argument with Starsky would have to wait. Without saying anything further, Hutch walked to his room and undressed. He rummaged in his bag and found some sweats and a warm pullover. He had brought some woolen socks with him; they would be nice and warm.

Dressed in his robe, Hutch went to the bathroom, avoiding Starsky who still stood by the kitchen window. Hutch gave a sigh of relief when he was in the bathroom. He sat on the bathtub, watching the hot water flow, and tried to think straight. What was wrong with Starsky? Okay, he had been away longer than expected, but why was his partner so mad at him? How often had he waited for Starsky, who would finally show up with a grin on his face and a lame excuse for forgetting the time.

Hutch checked the water and took off his robe. He hesitated for a moment. On a sudden impulse, he locked the bathroom door, not ready to face Starsky’s anger yet.

The hot water slowly warmed his limbs and Hutch let the day pass. He had had fun skiing, and at the end he had helped to rescue a man from an avalanche. Didn’t that count? Why hadn’t Starsky listened to him? He would have explained it all.

Hutch took his time and ignored the sound of Starsky’s steps outside the bathroom. It seemed as if Starsky was waiting for him to come out, but Hutch didn’t want to be shouted at, again. Maybe he could disappear in his room, pretending to have a headache. On the other hand, he was hungry and he needed a decent meal before heading to bed.

Hutch decided to play it cool. Dressed in his comfortable clothes, he placed the snow suit and the parka in the living area, near the heating duct, to dry.

He trudged into the kitchen and ignored Starsky’s gaze. Neither said a word when he brushed past his partner and opened the fridge to get a beer. A brief glance around told him that there wasn’t anything prepared for dinner. Obviously, Starsky had preferred to focus on his anger instead of fixing something to eat.

Hutch sat down in the living room, drinking his beer. Astounded, he noticed that he had finished the bottle and got up to get a new one. It was good that they at least had something to drink, he thought, making his way back to the couch. Starsky still fumbled around in the kitchen. Hutch only waited for him to start cleaning the cabin. He snorted at this idea, and a sharp glance came his way from the kitchen.

"What’s so funny? You’re laughing at me? Okay, I deserve it. Don’t care though… I’m leaving. I’ve got some thinking to do."

With that, Starsky opened the front door and a strong wind filled the entrance. The door was slammed shut and Hutch could hear disappearing steps. The car wasn’t started though, and Hutch wondered if Starsky had only gone to fetch some wood for the fireplace—there wasn’t any left over from the day before. On any other day, Hutch would have helped Starsky build a fire, but this evening he didn’t feel ready to take on anything.

By the time his fourth beer was gone, Hutch felt a bit dizzy. He really needed something to eat, but at the same time, he felt too exhausted. He drifted off, thinking of Starsky.


Hutch was awakened by a shuffling sound. He shifted on the couch and opened his eyes slowly. What he saw made him bolt upright. Starsky stood, shivering, in the hallway. Snow covered his parka, and little puddles of water surrounded his feet. He struggled to get rid of the wet clothes, seeming unable to get a grasp on the zipper of the jacket and Hutch could hear quiet cursing between chattering teeth.

"Starsky!" Hutch scrambled off the couch and rushed to his partner’s side. Flailing arms tried to push him away, but he held on tight.

"God, Starsk, what were you doing outside? I thought you were picking up wood for the fireplace, and then I fell asleep. Shit!" Hutch unzipped Starsky’s parka for him and helped him to take it off. Starsky shivered even harder and the wet curls that clung to his forehead dripped water down his cheeks.

"Get out of these wet clothes and tell me where you’ve been." Hutch insisted.

Starsky turned away from him and mumbled, "Had to do some thinking and got lost. No big deal. I deserve it." He trudged toward the bathroom and Hutch followed immediately.

"What do you think you deserve? Getting sick again? Wasn’t your cough bad enough already?" Seeing Starsky like this had scared Hutch, and he suddenly felt angry with him. "Why didn’t you let me explain why I was late? I helped to rescue a man out of the avalanche, so maybe you can understand why I forgot the time. Yes, I should have called you, but I remember enough episodes when you let me wait."

Hutch got hold of Starsky’s shirt and, unresisting, Starsky let Hutch help him to get undressed. While the tub filled with hot water, Hutch fetched warm clothes and Starsky’s bathrobe and made sure that a pot of tea would be waiting after the bath.

As Hutch was helping him into his bathrobe, Starsky said in a very low voice, "I was so scared when I heard about the avalanche. When you didn’t come back, I was almost sure that you had been buried in it. I couldn’t stand the thought that I’d lost you." Starsky shivered and coughed lightly. He looked up at Hutch and smiled apologetically. "I’m sorry, Hutch, I got carried away and said things I didn’t mean. I mean, I never thought…" he trailed off, and Hutch shushed him.

"Later. Let’s get you in the tub first, then we can talk about today, what happened and what went wrong, okay?"

Starsky nodded, and it was like in old times when Hutch took care of his partner after the shooting, helped him into the tub, helped wash his hair, and wrapped a big towel around him when he was done.

Half an hour later, Hutch had made up two plates with sandwiches and warmed soup. A big pot of tea stood on the table, and Hutch called Starsky. "Dinner’s ready!"

"Wasn’t it my turn this evening? Instead I got mad at you," Starsky said, coming out of his bedroom, looking pale and depressed. Damp curls clung to his forehead, and the sweater he wore looked too big on him. Hutch noticed again how thin he looked, and his heart ached for his partner. If he got sick again, Hutch was to blame. If he hadn’t gone skiing…

They ate in silence. Then Starsky motioned Hutch over to the couch. Taking the afghan from the armrest, Starsky put it on his lap. "I’m still cold. It wasn’t the best idea to go outside like that," he said, trying to massage his feet.

"Let me do it," Hutch suggested and lifted Starsky’s feet onto his lap. Covered by the afghan, he wrapped his fingers around the chilly feet and carefully rubbed some warmth into them.

"That feels good, Hutch." Starsky looked at him with a cryptic expression. Nothing more was said, but Hutch felt a peculiar tension in the room. Hutch cleared his throat, intending to speak, but kept silent in the end.

"Wow, my feet feel much warmer now. Thanks, that was great," Starsky said and swung his feet off Hutch’s lap.

Hutch again had a feeling of loss, but then Starsky changed position and moved with his back toward Hutch. "My hair’s still wet. You mind drying it?"

"Of course not." Hutch took the towel out of Starsky’s hands to cover his head with it, and rubbed carefully.

Starsky leaned back till his head almost touched Hutch. Then he said, quietly, "I’m sorry I got so mad at you. I don’t even know why, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what if… What if you didn’t come home at all."

"I know. I should’ve called, or asked someone to call or something. I forgot. I’m sorry, too."

Starsky’s hair was almost dry, and Hutch dropped the towel on the floor, about to move away, when he felt Starsky relaxing against him. Carefully, slowly, Hutch let himself relax and leaned sideways into the cushions. Starsky just followed and relaxed even more. Hutch wondered if Starsky could feel his heart beating—ought to, the way it hammered against his ribs.

"So…" Starsky paused, as if looking for the right words. "Tell me about what happened with that avalanche. You found someone, didn’t you?"

"Yeah, I did. I think he’d broken his arm, but at least he was still alive. Look, I know I should have called or something, but it all happened so fast."

"It’s okay. It just, I don’t know, hurt so much. I didn’t know what to think, and then when you came back, I just blew up, I guess."

"I think you were entitled." Hutch smiled and put his arms loosely around Starsky. When he felt no adverse reaction, he allowed himself to tighten his hold. Hutch felt lightheaded—God, it was good to hold Starsky like this.

They sat like this for a few minutes, then he felt Starsky squirming around. "Do you need to get up?"

"No, but do you think you could move back a bit? My legs are cramping up."

"Sure." Hutch moved backwards, not quite loosening his hold. "You all right like this?" he asked, when he was leaning back against the armrest of the sofa, and Starsky was leaning heavily onto his chest.

"Yeah, it’s fine." Starsky mumbled.

"Fine," Hutch thought. I feel I’m about to explode, and he thinks it’s "fine."

With a shaky hand, he allowed himself to run his fingers through Starsky’s almost dry hair. Starsky sighed and seemed to enjoy his touch. Daringly, he let his fingers run down Starsky’s neck and caressed his shoulders and upper arms. Still no reaction, other than small noises of pleasure. Hutch couldn’t believe this was happening. He felt on the verge of running away, it was almost too much, and suddenly he was afraid.


"You all right, Hutch? You sound funny. Should I move? Am I too heavy?"

"No! No, I just wondered…" Hutch trailed off.

"You don’t like it?

"It’s… Maybe I like it too much." Hutch blanched, he hadn’t meant to say that. Starsky was going to catch on for sure, now.

"Oh." Starsky raised his head and looked at Hutch, who held his breath. Quietly and solemnly, he said, "I know." Then he looked away and almost whispered, "Hutch, I think I like it, too. But I can’t… I don’t know…"

Hutch exhaled in a rush, a wide grin spreading over his face. The relief was too sudden, too much, and he realized he was shaking and clinging to Starsky. "When? I mean, how did you know?"

"I don’t know. I mean… Oh, hell!" Starsky laughed a little. "No, I think I sorta noticed something changed with you lately—sometimes you’d look at me in a certain way. Made me think. And the last couple of days were so nice, and when you didn’t come home earlier and I was worried. I don’t know if I want to think too much about it. Have to get used to it, first." He grinned a little shyly and leaned into Hutch’s touch.

"But you’re okay with this?" Hutch asked.

"Yeah, I think so. It feels good. Right. I want that. I don’t know what I don’t want, Hutch, just let’s take it one step at a time. Okay?"

"Everything’s okay with me, as far as I’m concerned. I was so afraid I’d fucked up everything. And then you…."

"I know. I was afraid it was too much, the way I was kinda coming at you, and then you… Hutch, can I kiss you? I think I want to find out what it feels like," Starsky said with a mischievous grin.

"You can do anything you want, buddy," said Hutch and drew Starsky closer.


The next morning, Hutch was the first to awake. Carefully, he extricated himself from Starsky’s arms. Despite the relative coolness of the room, he felt warm from sleeping close to another person. He could hardly remember the last time he’d done that, and he marveled at the feeling of contentment and security it gave him to know that that person was Starsky. That what was between them could contain all that love. Bending down over his still sleeping partner, he blew into his ear. Starsky mumbled, but didn’t seem quite awake, so Hutch blew again and whispered, "I love you."

"Huh? Hutch, what’re you doing?"

"Waking you up." Hutch slipped a hand under the covers.

"That’s it, right there. God, Hutch. Don’t stop, don’t…"

"Hutch, that was… Wow! Don’t think it’s ever been better. My turn now?"

"Come on, turn over. Yeah, that’s better. Did I hear you say please?"

"Hutch? Hutch! Wake up!"

"Mmh? Sorry. I think I passed out for a moment there."

"Oh." Starsky’s look of concern turned into one of smug satisfaction. "It was that good?"

"Yeah, it was. Whew! For someone saying he doesn’t know what he want, you’re a fast learner."

"Right. And I think I know what I’d like now. Breakfast." He gave Hutch a thorough kiss and hurried out of bed. "Don’t forget it’s Christmas, blintz," he called out, before disappearing into the bathroom.

Hutch got out of bed himself and started to find something for breakfast. Starsky was finished quickly and came out to join him in the kitchen.

"Good morning, again," said Starsky, and embraced Hutch from behind. "Want a bath? It’s all yours."

"That bad, huh?"

"Sorta, but I think I can live with it a little longer." Starsky wandered over to the little tree on the living room table to turn on its lights. He caught sight of the small, brightly wrapped present beneath it. "Hutch? I thought we had an agreement about no presents this year?"

"I know, but it felt so wrong not to give you anything at all." Hutch came over and sat down on the table. "I wanted to give you everything, but I settled for this. Don’t you want to open it?" He looked up at Starsky.

"I think I’ll wait for breakfast. Go get that bath while I finish up in the kitchen."

When Hutch came out of the bathroom, he found Starsky pouring coffee for them both. "Hey, you’ve made French toast. Looks great," he said. To one side of his plate he noticed something that looked suspiciously like a present, and he looked inquiringly at Starsky.

"Well, I..." Starsky began. "It’s Christmas, you know. There has to be presents. Hutch, I know you know, ‘cause you bought me one, too, so don’t give me that look."

Hutch remembered his own present and realized he was being foolish. "Sorry. If I open it now, can I make it up to you?"

"Sure." Starsky smiled and began to unwrap Hutch’s gift to him.

"This is too much." Hutch was looking at the snow goggles Starsky had given him. "I know what these cost."

"Yeah, I noticed you looking at them the first day. Hutch, sometimes you just have to say thank you. Right?"

"Right. Yeah, sorry again. Guess it’s not my morning, huh?"

"You didn’t do too bad an hour ago, schweetheart," said Starsky, and winked at Hutch. "And don’t tell me this thing was cheaper than those snow goggles." He held out a small, gold pendant on a chain. It was round, like a ball, with etchings in the surface that made it look like a tiny moon. "You gave me the moon, Hutch."

"Yeah." Hutch suddenly made himself busy with his coffee mug. "I really wanted to buy you everything, and when I saw that pendant, it looked just right. It’s not too much, is it?"

Starsky stood up, walked around the table, drawing Hutch up and into an embrace. "Never. Nothing is too much where you’re concerned. You can do anything you want." Starsky paused, and whispered into Hutch’s ear, "I love you, too." When he felt Hutch stiffen slightly at his last words, he laughed quietly. "Yeah, I heard you this morning. It’s good to know you didn’t seduce me just so you could get to sleep in the best bedroom."

"Hutch! Stop it. It tickles. Stop!"

"I’ll give you bedroom."




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