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Postscript

Part Five, Chapter Two

“Wait here. I’ll bring the car up to the door.”

Dawn folded her arms across her chest. “Why?” she asked flatly.

They were standing in the stairwell of Venice Place, and for the umpteenth time that week, Ken was blocking her access to the door. He gave her a distracted, slightly anxious smile. “Um, I - I thought… You know, with the pregnancy and all. Maybe you shouldn’t walk?”

Lord, give me strength, thought Dawn. “I’m fat and pregnant, not crippled.”

Finally his gaze focused on her. “You’re not fat.”

“I’m a hundred and sixty-three pounds and I’m getting bigger by the day. Don’t tell me I’m not fat.”

“Well, you look great,” he said, sincerely. She was wearing a simple black dress, with a bright orange print around the hem. It was made of some sort of elastic material that hugged her generous curves. She was frankly stunning, and a small unworthy part of Hutch was utterly delighted that his wife would be by far the most beautiful woman at Starsky’s wedding. Of course, he was sure Becky would be lovely as well, but she couldn’t hold a candle to the woman now scowling up at him.

Scowling.

Oops. Faced with her clear irritation, Hutch decided that walking half a block to the car probably wouldn’t be that much of a risk after all. He opened the door and scanned the street, automatically checking rooftops, alert for any flash of light that might reveal a camera lens or a rifle scope. When he was satisfied, he moved aside, allowing her room to pass him. His actions were largely unconscious, borne of a persistent sense of impending disaster.

He had no idea how close he’d just come to getting a two-inch heel planted firmly in his rear end.

Dawn appreciated the fact that he was worried about Reg, and she understood perfectly well that the madman might decide to use her to get to her husband. Up until last Monday, Ken had been handling that risk with rationality and sense.

Now, any respect he’d ever shown for her competence and independence seemed to have flown right out the window. She wasn’t sure what had triggered the change, but she was quite sure she didn’t like it at all.

Hutch held the car door open as his wife climbed in on the passenger side. Some of his tension eased as he closed the door, putting steel between her and a bullet. Still he quickly checked, first under the car, then under the hood and trunk, and finally under the dash, looking for red blinking lights, sticks of dynamite, blocks of plastique, severed brake lines, and anything else his mind could conjure up as a threat. Given that he was capable of imagining quite a few different ways to die, this task took a while.

Dawn propped her hand on her chin and watched her husband. He was not insane - that would imply that he didn’t have good reason to be anxious, and he did. He was, however, teetering very close to neurotic.

Hutch finally started the car. He wasn’t sure why Dawn was annoyed at him this time, so he decided to pretend that he hadn’t noticed. He had more than enough to occupy him in any case, reviewing the security for Starsky’s wedding and scanning the road for any strange cars that might potentially be carrying over-sized maniacs with a grudge.

Finding her husband apparently immune to her temper, Dawn settled back into her seat and began to consider his behavior over the past week.

Her mind conjured up an image of a courtroom, similar to several of the family courts she’d had the misfortune to visit as a youngster. She imagined the prosecutor standing up to speak, and was mildly disturbed to see that her psyche had created him with dark curly hair. She briefly wondered where that had come from, and then dismissed the thought as irrelevant.

Your Honor, the charge is as follows:

The accused, hereinafter known as Ken…

Dawn interrupted herself with, AKA utterly gorgeous, and damned hot in a formal suit, how can I be mad at him when he looks at me with eyes like that…

Shush, you! There was a brief pause while the imaginary prosecutor checked his notes. …has been driving the plaintiff, hereinafter known as Dawn, utterly insane.

He has been hovering, over-protecting, smothering, and in all other ways breathing down her neck, for the past five days.

Evidence for the prosecution is as follows.

Exhibit A: Tuesday morning, at 9:30 am, Dawn was waiting for Ken to finish up in the bathroom so that he could drive her to an early shift at work. This has been a necessary routine for them ever since he’d managed to get her car blown up.

It was a very nice car, too, Your Honor.

Dawn, desiring a little fresh air, said, “I’ll wait for you by the car.” She was not even halfway down the stairs before he came barreling past her in an obvious attempt to reach the door first. His shoulder hit hers and he very nearly knocked her down the stairs. He caught her and apologized profusely, but when she asked him what he thought he was doing, he only stammered and said he was ready to take her to work now.

This statement was made in blatant contradiction of the fact that he was still unshaven, and clearly not ready to go anywhere at all.

Exhibit B: Wednesday night, Dawn realized that they had run out of eggs. She mentioned this offhandedly to Ken, as she was heading out the door. He immediately jumped off the couch, from where he had been watching TV, and offered to go and get the eggs himself. When she declined this offer, he then insisted on accompanying her to the store.

It is not so much that she objects to having her husband along for company as it is indicative of a larger problem. Namely, the fact that, aside from work, he has not been more than two feet away from her since Monday.

Further adding to the body of evidence against him, he also tried very hard that same evening to get her to agree to let him drive her, despite the fact that the supermarket is a mere three blocks away. When Dawn asked for an explanation, he simply cited her present ‘delicate’ condition.

Frankly, Your Honor, I find my current condition to be rather more indelicate, than it is delicate. I’ve ballooned into a hippopotamus, I feel like the earth shakes with every step I take, and yet my husband seems to think I’ve suddenly become more fragile than glass.

Exhibit C: Friday afternoon at the Pits, an unfortunately tall and heavyset customer stopped her with a hand on her arm and asked her if she could tell him what time it was. Before she had a chance to look at her watch, Ken grabbed the man from behind and swung him around, his fist cocked.

Catching his first good look at the man’s face, he froze, stared at the terrified fellow, and then rather shamefacedly apologized, explaining that he’d mistaken him for someone else.

Your Honor, he keeps asking when I’m going to quit my job!

*******

Hutch glanced over at Dawn. She seemed to be preoccupied with her own thoughts, and he was hesitant to interrupt her. But there was something they needed to discuss, and he’d been putting it off for far too long.

When Starsky had called yesterday, he’d asked Hutch if he and Dawn had come to any decision on the house. He said he knew it was short notice, but he’d really like to be able to tell Becky if the news was good. Kind of like a wedding present, he said, and Hutch could hear in his voice a hint of regret.

Nobody blamed Starsky for not being able to take his girl on a honeymoon. There was too much to be done here in Bay City, and even if he could afford to take her someplace nice, he’d already used up all of his leave. Hutch had heard Becky herself say that it didn’t matter, and it was obvious from the amused exasperation in her voice that this wasn’t the first time she’d told him that - or the second, or probably even the tenth.

Nevertheless, it was obviously still bothering him.

Hutch didn’t tell Starsky that he hadn’t yet mentioned the house to Dawn. He simply said that he’d have an answer for him by the reception.

He told himself that it wasn’t cowardice that had kept him from bringing up his idea of buying the duplex. It was simply that he’d had so much else on his plate this past week. That, and there just hadn’t ever seemed to be a good time to introduce it.

Now they were in the car, and Hutch realized that he was fast running out of time. Whatever Dawn was thinking about, it would just have to wait.

He licked his lips. “Babe? There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about…”

*******

“Ow! Ma!” Starsky’s voice slipped into a whine. “You’re pullin’ my hair!”

His mother was not impressed. “If you had just got your hair cut like I said you should, I wouldn’t have to use so many pins.” She pressed the yarmulke down firmly on the back of his head and slid another clip into place.

“Well, you’re not supposed to drive them into my scalp! How come I gotta wear it, anyway?”

She cuffed the back of his head, eliciting another protest. “It’s tradition, Davey! Now, show some respect! What would the Rabbi think if you showed up for your wedding with your head bare?”

Having finally arranged things to her satisfaction, Esther Starsky stepped back to admire her handiwork. David was wearing a long black jacket over a grey vest. He’d flatly refused to rent anything with tails, but he had acquiesced to a silver and black striped tie. The yellow rose pinned to his lapel provided the final touch and, unexpectedly, Esther found herself reaching for her handkerchief.

“Ma, are you crying?” His voice was caught somewhere between loving concern and intense exasperation.

She shook her head. “Of course not. It’s just that you look so handsome.” And so much like your father. Esther pressed her lips together. Soapy scenes were no more her style than they were her son’s and she took refuge in a familiar complaint. “Unlike that good-for-nothing bum who can’t be bothered to even come down for his only brother’s wedding…”

“Aw, Ma. You know Nicky’s real busy with that new job of his.” Which reminds me, I’ve got to find out one of these days what exactly it is he’s doing. “He called me last night.” And was extremely evasive when I asked him what he was up to. Starsky shoved the concern aside. Nick had a way of getting into trouble, but he was just as good at getting himself out of it again. He didn’t need his brother running interference for him.

He checked his watch. “Ma, why don’t you go look in on Becky and her mother? I’m going to go look for Hutch. He’s a little late.”

*******

“You want to do what?

Hutch had found the community hall easily enough, but the conversation he’d started with Dawn was far from over by the time he’d parked in the lot. In fact, she was just warming up. He pulled his key from the ignition and dropped his forehead onto the steering wheel with a groan.

“He sleeps in our bed, he eats out of our fridge, he washes his clothes in our machine, and now you want us to move into the same house with him?”

“It’s a duplex, Dawn!” Whatever had possessed him to bring this up now? Bad timing didn’t even begin to touch on the disaster this had become. Desperately, Hutch tried to salvage the conversation, attempting to return it to a civilized level. “I’ve been looking at places for a while…”

She rolled her eyes sarcastically. “Yes, and thank you very much for consulting me on that!”

He sat up, slapping the wheel angrily. “I am consulting you!”

“Sure, an hour before your buddy’s wedding. And when did you consult him? The moment it crossed your mind? The two of you have probably got it all planned, don’t you?” There was a miserable feeling in the pit of Dawn’s stomach as she spat the words at Ken. How could she find herself wanting him to back off and give her space, while simultaneously raging against the inescapable truth that she would always, always be second in his life? It just doesn’t make sense.

A knock on the window cut Ken off in the middle of whatever he’d been about to say, and they both looked over to see Dave standing outside the car, giving them a quizzical half smile, one eyebrow raised.

Starsky stepped back as Hutch and Dawn climbed out of the car. They’d obviously been fighting, and from their faces and by the way Hutch was avoiding his eyes, he thought he could guess what it was about.

Aw, Hutch. You big dummy, you didn’t mention anything to her about the house until just now, did you?

Hutch plastered a smile on his face and looked up. I’m not going to ruin Starsky’s wedding by fighting with my wife. “Hey buddy, you look terrific!”

Dawn sighed. This was something they were going to have to hash out, but now was neither the time nor the place. She nodded, politely. “You do look good. Have you seen Becky?”

“Not since this morning. Her mother and sisters have her holed up in the building somewhere and they won’t let me anywhere near her.” Starsky gave Dawn a pleading look. “I was hoping maybe you could check up on things? Make sure they aren’t driving her nuts?”

Dawn glanced over at Hutch, only to find him scanning the grounds in that same distracted manner he’d had all week. “I’m sure they’ve got nothing on this guy in the ‘driving you insane’ department,” she said to Starsky, with a nod at her husband. There was affection in her voice. However infuriating he might be, he was still the man she loved.

Hutch caught the new note in her voice, and realized with relief that the argument had been shelved for the moment. He nudged her, grinning. “Am I driving you insane?”

“Stop that!” She swatted at him, her irritation only serving as a goad.

“No, really. Am I?” He poked her in the side, in a place he knew from experience she was particularly ticklish.

“Quit it!”

Starsky looked back and forth between the two of them. “Hey Hutch, don’t poke your wife! Don’t you guys have some kinda rule about that?”

Dawn glanced over at him, momentarily nonplussed. Then she realized that he had to be talking about the ‘no hitting’ rule. Of course, Ken would tell him absolutely everything. How lovely.

“No, the rule is that she can’t poke me, because then I’ll want to hit her.” Hutch’s words were delivered in a friendly enough tone, but there was something sharp-edged beneath them.

Dawn’s jaw tightened. Then again, maybe I’m not quite ready to forgive him after all.

Before she could speak, Starsky stepped forward and said, “You know what you should do, Dawn? You should give him a couple nice little snap punches right here…” He hooked his cane over his forearm, and balling his hands into fists, he feinted at Hutch, pretending to aim for his kidneys.

Hutch ducked, “Hey!”

“But you got to grab his shoulder when you do it, so he can’t turn around,” continued Starsky, cheerfully demonstrating. “See? That way he can’t hit you back.”

Surprised, Dawn felt herself starting to grin.

“Of course, you could always just kick him.” The toe of Starsky’s dress shoe connected solidly with Hutch’s ankle, causing him to yelp.

“Starsky! Lay off!” Hutch quickly hopped backwards, putting as much space as he could between himself and his smirking partner.

Dawn laughed, feeling an entirely unexpected rush of affection towards her curly-haired bÍte noire. Slightly unsettled by the unusual emotion, she said, “I’ll go find Becky.”

Starsky waved her off, his eyes fixed on Hutch. “Thanks, Dawn. I really appreciate this.”

As soon as Dawn was gone, Hutch fixed Starsky with a resentful glare and said, “You kicked me!”

Starsky started to lean against the car, and then thought better of it. Steadying himself with his cane, he brushed some invisible lint off of his suit, and said, “Yeah. You deserved it.”

“How so?”

“C’mon, Hutch! You waited until the absolute last moment to mention the house to her, didn’t you?” His friend’s expression confirmed everything he’d suspected. Relenting, he patted the unhappy man on the arm and said, “Well, fine. We’ll sort it out later.”

Hutch nodded, but he still didn’t look happy.

Fishing in his pocket, Starsky found a small box and passed it to Hutch. “Here’s the ring. C’mon inside and I’ll introduce you to the Rabbi.” Giving his best man’s shoulder a squeeze, he added, “Really, don’t worry about it.”

It was just an idea, Starsky told himself, wistfully. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.

But it would be nice, if it did.

*******

Becky was thrilled to see Dawn, and quickly drew her into the wedding party. Her sisters were somewhat more reserved, but both the mothers accepted her with easy generosity. Dawn, who had been braced for the usual suspicion and polite frigidity that usually accompanied any meeting with the more genteel elements of society, was pleasantly surprised. She couldn’t help but contrast Becky and Dave’s families with Ken’s, and she found herself feeling sorry for her husband. He’d grown up with more money than she had, but he’d been just as much alone, if not more so. At least she’d always known that her father loved her, even if he wasn’t very good at being there for her.

It quickly became clear that Becky was having some difficulty dealing with the overwhelming amount of attention focused on her this day. Her sister Judith was hovering, and her other sister, Naomi, was patronizing. Her brother Ben repeatedly made unfortunate jokes that kept Dawn laughing, though no one else seemed to share his sense of humor.

During one all-too-brief moment alone with Dawn, Becky commented wistfully, “I wish we could pick our family the way we pick our friends.”

Then her mother reappeared, fussing about the flowers on the chupa, and Becky was dragged away again.

It was beautiful. There was greenery everywhere, and Becky’s dress was a simple white gown with an embroidered bodice that suited her much better than anything with ruffles or lace. Even her mother had eventually agreed on that point. Hutch disappeared at one point to witness the signing of something or the other, but after that, the ceremony proper was underway. Becky was escorted by her brother, and attended by her sisters. Dave had Hutch standing at his elbow.

Dawn had never been to a Jewish wedding, and under different circumstances, she would have been entirely fascinated by its traditions. But now she found herself watching Dave and thinking about Hutch’s plan to buy Becky’s cottage.

She really did like Becky, and it would be fun having a friend living right next door. But it would be strange, too, because in this city, you didn’t often get to know your neighbors. There would be added complications. If they disagreed over what to do with the yard, they couldn’t just move, or throw beer cans, or slap each other with restraining orders. Okay, that last had been more her father’s style of dealing with neighbors than her own, but the point remained.

Becky’s words came back to her. I wish we could pick our family… Living next to Becky and Dave would be very much like suddenly doubling the size of her family.

On the other hand, Dave was, in all practical senses of the word, family already. If he had his own place next door, she could tell him to go home any time she liked, and he’d never be able to complain that it was too far. Ken could spend more of his time over at Dave’s house, and still be nearby.

All in all, she might actually end up seeing less of Dave. And really, he’d been growing on her lately.

Like a fungus, perhaps. But still, growing.

Dave and Becky were ritually sharing a cup of wine, when the infant in Dawn’s belly decided to make its presence known. She rubbed her stomach, trying to soothe the restless child.

There were advantages for the baby, too, Dawn mused. There would be more space, and a yard to play in, and the beach not far away. It would be a healthier locale to grow up in, than Venice Place.

She watched as her husband handed over the ring, and Dave placed it on Becky’s finger.

Ken and Dave looked so right standing there together. In a very real sense, they were far more of a matched set than Dave and Becky. I wonder if she knows, Dawn mused, her eyes on Becky. She decided it didn’t matter.

Dawn told herself that she needed to get over it and stop being so selfish. Ken had given her as much of himself as he was capable of giving. She ought to be happy with that, instead of resenting the fact that he had given more to Dave.

Starsky placed a glass on the ground and stomped on it, shattering it utterly. The crowd cheered enthusiastically. As the others surged forward to convey their congratulations to the newlyweds, Dawn searched for Hutch.

Hutch felt a hand on his arm and turned to find his wife standing next to him. Buoyed up in the exuberance of the moment, he swept her into an enthusiastic embrace. It was several minutes before he realized she was attempting to tell him something.

He bent down, so that her face was near his ear. “What?” It was so noisy.

“I said, you can buy the house!” she yelled, smiling.

The look on his face, a combination of amazement and joy, was one she would treasure in her heart forever.

*******

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