Title: Safety in Numbers


Author: Elizabeth Helena


Series: Starsky & Hutch


Rating: PG-13 or T due to bad language, some bad attitudes, and activities Mom said were so bad that they’d cause hair to grow on your palms.


Spoilers: This story takes place just after the episode Quadromania, however it may spoil all subsequent as well as previous S & H manias.


Warning I: Started off with an idea for a light, funny story, but Starsky got angry on me. Then Hutch got really angry, and the next thing I knew, Huggy was pissed off too. If it weren’t for Dobey keeping his head while all about him were losing theirs (I know, that surprised me too!), I don’t think any of them would still be talking to me.


Slash or Gen AKA Warning II: I think this story is slash, despite its complete lack of hot man-on-man sex (sorry). If the idea that Lieutenant Johnny Blaine wasn’t the only gay Bay City police officer makes you uncomfortable, this fic is not for you. However, I consider this story to be AU as in my heart I believe the opening credit character in question to be pansexual rather than . . . okay, stopping now before I make matters worse.


Disclaimer AKA Warning III: Not only do I not own these characters, neither do I own many of the opinions expressed by them either. Gays, ex-wives, doctors and soap operas are all verbally bashed in this fic, but I do not have a secret agenda to promote such behaviour toward the first three. 


Summary: In an alternate universe where concussions don’t heal in five minutes, a bored and horny Starsky makes an unsettling discovery.


Dedication: To Morgan Logan, whose S & H slash is far more enjoyable than mine will ever be. I figured I’d better thank her now, as this may be the last story of mine she’ll ever want to read.


Beta: The kind and generous Nik Ditty who slapped my story into shape, instead of slapping me for conning her into betaing it. My gratitude and virtual pepper potato chips are on their way!


Further Thanks to: Rebelcat who encouraged me by speculating on what might be hidden in S & H’s bedrooms, and tolerated my shouting out “Canon!” several times while we watched Deckwatch together. Also, thank you to everyone on the Me & Thee list who responded with excitement to my announcement that I’d been ambushed by a slash fic. To them I apologize, and promise to try harder for a slashier, hot man-on-man sexier storyline for the sequel.


Feedback/Critique: Yes please, including accusations that having Dobey be the voice of reason in this story is OOC. Now, I think he was perfectly calm and reasonable in the episode . . . er, it was in season . . . I can be reached searching episode summaries for further rationalizations at elizabeth loves her thesaurus @ (no spaces) or on “Me & Thee” (no daily reports).


Archiving: With the rest of my S & H fanfic which doesn’t violate canon as much as this story does. Well, other than Wayward Son but that’s clearly an AU, and yes, Unslashable obviously would never have happened either, and okay, Anger Management is a pretty extreme interpretation of Hutch’s . . . Ah hell, the rest of my fanfic of dubious validity can be found here:




“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”

Elisabeth Kubler‑Ross



Safety in Numbers



Sprawled on Hutch’s couch, Starsky was bored out of his aching skull.


It wasn’t fair, he thought. He’d had plenty of concussions in the past, and had shrugged them off within an hour. However, four days had crawled by since serial killer Lionel Fitzgerald had chosen him as lucky contestant number five, and while the blurred vision, nausea and vertigo had disappeared, the headache still lingered. The only thing slower than his recovery was Huggy’s cousin Teddy who was supposed to have fixed his broken TV days ago.


Hutch had been sympathetic enough to his woes to let him occupy his sofa all week. Unfortunately, his partner had been less understanding when it came to Starsky’s grievances against young, overenthusiastic ER doctors.


“Why the hell would I need a follow-up appointment for a smack on the head,” he’d complained when Hutch had come home with lunch for both of them. “A real Doc would’ve had me back on the streets by now.”


Instead of backing him up, Hutch had argued that having one’s skull smashed into a taxi door by a metal artificial limb was more serious than a ‘smack on the head.’ “Better safe than sorry,” he’d said.


Starsky had been tempted to give Hutch a concussion of his own.


See how much Detective Safety First enjoys being stuck on a couch watching soaps all afternoon.

The commercial faded, having assured him that his future wife would never inflict the horrors of “ring around the collar” upon him. Swallowing down two of his prescription painkillers, Starsky conceded that at least this soap opera offered one significant compensation for the dullness of its plots.


“Hey ya, Misty.”


What she lacked in acting skills, Misty more than made up for with her big, blue eyes and curves in all the right places. Misty was the daughter of the big cheese who ran their little corner of soap opera land, and she was in danger of being seduced by the local bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Rodney’s black leather jacket made it clear that he was up to no good when it came to young Misty’s virtue.


As he watched her trying to resist Rodney’s charms, Starsky adjusted himself. His jeans always became uncomfortable whenever this storyline was featured, but he never minded. 


“C’mon, Misty, you know he’s bad news,” he advised, as she failed to walk away from her seducer.


Starsky licked his lips and smiled as Rodney cornered the blushing Misty. During last night’s phone call, he’d told his mother that they were going to kiss before Friday, but she hadn’t believed him. When it happened, Starsky released a happy sigh, and brushed his left hand against the growing bulge in his jeans. He’d pulled his zipper half way down when he froze in horror.


What the hell am I doing? 


Starsky yanked the zipper back up so fast he risked doing himself serious injury. His breathing heavy, he leapt off the couch and snapped off the TV. Rubbing his forehead so he wouldn’t be tempted to stroke anything else, Starsky tried to reason with his insistent hard-on.


I can’t jerk off to something my Ma watches, for God’s sake!


However, his body refused to be swayed, arguing that it had been weeks since he’d seen any real action. K.C. McBride had almost succumbed to his charms, but then his concussion had completely killed the mood. At least, Starsky consoled himself, he’d only vomited over the female cabbie’s new agent, Buck “The Panhandle” Bear, and not the young woman herself.


Starsky ran a soothing hand downward, promising himself that by this weekend he’d be back in his own bed, nausea-free and not alone. However, visions of Misty trembling in Rodney’s arms undermined his resolve to wait that long.


Okay, but I’m not doing it with that image in my head. 


If Starsky had been at home, this wouldn’t have posed a problem. He always kept plenty of inspiration on hand, but he didn’t know where Hutch kept his supply. With confidence in his detective skills and a slight stiffness in his gait, Starsky walked past the divider into Hutch’s bedroom. He first checked in the bedside table, but other than some lubricant that he pocketed, he found nothing helpful.


Five minutes later, his dick had lost hope and blood pressure, but the search had become a challenge for Starsky. Hutch teased him about his subscription to Ahoy! magazine, and claimed that he only read such publications for the articles, but Starsky didn’t believe that act for a moment. He knew that all red-blooded American males kept girlie mags for times when their only date was with Rosy Palm and her five sisters. It was just a matter of discovering where his sneaky partner had stashed his pornography. 


Staring at Hutch’s bed, Starsky realized he’d overlooked one of the classic hiding spots. He dug under the mattress, and grinned in triumph as he felt the magazines buried there. “Bingo,” he murmured, as he yanked them out, several sliding to the floor.


Starsky’s smile vanished once he got a good look at their covers.


“What the fuck?”




Hutch opened his front door, and his instincts went into overdrive. He had a flashback of the last year of his marriage to Vanessa, when he could feel the tension the moment he walked into the apartment.




Wary, Hutch didn’t remove his jacket or his gun, but walked straight into the living room.


Starsky was on the couch where he’d left him after lunch. However, his partner was no longer in one of his characteristic sprawls, but sitting up straight. His expression also revealed that his mood had degenerated from the disgruntled sulking at lunchtime to seriously pissed off. Hutch realized that it was Starsky’s unusual silence that had alerted him of trouble.


“Why didn’t you answer me?”


Starsky responded with a question of his own. “You got something you want to tell me, partner?”


Confused, Hutch followed Starsky’s gaze to a small pile of magazines on the coffee table.


Oh, fuck.


“So, is this why Vanessa left you?” Starsky pointed at the stack, but didn’t touch them. “She never did want to be someone else’s window dressing.”


Hutch opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

“I always wondered why you kept going after girls that couldn’t possibly last. But I guess they just had to be around long enough so no one would suspect, right?”




“Hell, did you even sleep with them, or did you think that was taking the act too far?”


Hutch felt blood rush to his face. “Now wait just one damn minute--”


“I remember you going on about how wonderful it was with Gillian, just staying up late with her and not doing nothing. It must have been great for her, not to be pressured to perform considering the life she’d led, but I never figured out why you’d felt the same way until now.”


Hutch’s hands curled into fists. “You leave Gillian out of this!”


“The way you left me out of this?” Starsky’s wide gesture struck the magazines, causing them to slide off the coffee table. Half-dressed men leered from their covers promising far more explicit misbehavior inside.


Jaw muscles clenching, Hutch looked away from them. “It isn’t any of your goddamn business.”


“Don’t you dare take that line with me.” Elbows on his knees, Starsky massaged his forehead, but Hutch had lost all sympathy for the pain his partner was experiencing.


“Why not? Just because you’ve never understood the concept of personal privacy?” His voice rose further. “You had no fucking right to go searching around in my bedroom!”


“And you had no fucking right to hide this shit from me!”


Hutch’s eyes narrowed. “I never thought you’d be interested in these kinds of magazines, Starsk, but feel free to borrow any you like.”


Starsky shot to his feet, and Hutch stepped back despite himself. He’d seen that cold, fierce look on his partner’s face before, but never directed at him. When Starsky spoke, his voice had become a menacing growl.


“You should have told me, Hutch.”


“No, this is exactly why I couldn’t tell you.” Hutch jabbed his index finger at him. “Take a look at yourself, pal. You’re one step away from beating the crap out of me.”


Starsky went very still. The slow, soft delivery of his next words chilled the room. “You stupid son of a bitch. You think I want to punch your lights out because you’re queer?”

The question took Hutch by surprise, but sarcasm rescued him from speechlessness. “No, it must be because I don’t store my gay pornography neatly in a magazine rack.”


Starsky stalked away from him, but then turned and pointed an accusatory finger. “You were never going to tell me, cause you would have after--” Starsky swallowed hard, and his hand fell to his side. When he resumed, his voice had become brittle. “I guess I was supposed to find out when I got the call to some dive to identify your body, murdered by some two-bit hustler or freak.”


Hutch felt all of the strength leave his limbs.


Blaine, that’s a hell of a legacy you handed me.


Hutch took a deep breath, and forced himself to meet his partner’s furious gaze. “John Blaine didn’t die because he was gay, Starsky. He was in the wrong place at the--”


“Johnny was in the wrong place at the wrong time because he was gay! He went to sleazy dives and sleazy bars, where he got drugged, and robbed, and killed, because he didn’t trust his partner enough to let him watch his back!”


Hutch pressed his knuckles against his legs to stop his hands from shaking. He knew he shouldn’t draw attention to Starsky’s slip, but he couldn’t help himself. “Blaine didn’t have a partner.”


Starsky’s gaze was ice cold. “Apparently, neither did you.”


Without another word, Starsky left the apartment, slamming the front door behind him.  


Numb, Hutch didn’t move for what felt like hours but was more like minutes. When his paralysis subsided, he slowly walked over to the scattered magazines, and bent down to retrieve them. He sank onto the couch and stacked the magazines back on the coffee table. Seconds later, he shoved them off onto the floor again.




Starsky pushed his way up to the bar, not bothering to sit down. “Gimme a beer, Hug.”


Huggy’s eyebrow lifted at the abrupt demand. “Hey, just cause I forgave you for redecorating my cowboy boots, doesn’t mean I’m prepared to let you drink in your condition.” 


Starsky slammed an open palm against the bar’s surface. “One beer ain’t going to kill me!”


Huggy raised his arms in surrender. “All right, all right. But I’ll bring it to you at one of the back tables. You’re obviously not fit for civilized company today.”


“Hey, that’s not--” Starsky’s brain caught up with his mouth and he snapped it shut. Giving Huggy a dirty look, he marched to the rear of the bar, and slumped behind the table in the far corner. He stared at the empty seat across from him, doing his best not to think.


An open bottle of beer appeared before him, and he lifted it up, without acknowledging the source. Huggy wasn’t so easily discouraged, and slid into the opposite seat.


“Want to tell a brother what’s wrong?”


Starsky took a pull from the beer, and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Nothing’s wrong.”


“Uh huh. You come in here by your lonesome, looking like you want to challenge me to a duel over a beer, and then sit back here nursing the biggest sulk since your car got blown up. And I’m supposed to believe it’s all for no reason.”


Starsky fingered the label on the bottle. He took a deep breath, hesitated, and then asked, “Hug, you’d tell me if you were gay, wouldn’t you?”


Huggy’s eyes bugged out. “Come again?”


Starsky made a disgusted sound. “Nothing. Forget it.”


“Something remind you of Johnny today?”


“I said, forget it!” He picked up his beer. “Just leave me alone.”


“Fine.” Huggy stood and looked down at Starsky. “No extra charge for that service.”




Hutch tried to ignore the ringing telephone. After the fifteenth ring, he snatched up the receiver and snapped, “What?”


“Well, you’re in a charming mood, imagine my surprise.”


Hutch closed his eyes. “What do you want Huggy?”


“I would like for my head not to get bitten off. But as long as I keep talking to you two that doesn’t seem likely.”


“Starsky’s there.” He tried to think of a way he could hang up on Huggy and get away with it, but nothing sprang to mind.


“Glad to see all that detective training paid off. The man marched in here not five minutes ago demanding a beer.”


Hutch sighed, and ran his fingers through his hair. “One beer isn’t going to kill him.”


“So I’ve been reliably informed. But I don’t think he’s going to want to stop after one.”


“What do you want me to do about it?” Hutch opened his eyes and stared at the magazines still covering the floor.


I’ll have to throw them out.


“What I would like is for a bit of police protection when I tell him his next beer will be the kind the A & W Bear usually serves, if you get my drift.”


Why bother? I’ll only buy replacements if I toss these magazines out. 


“Hutch, are you listening to me?”


Yeah, but after today, I’ll never be able to jerk off to these ones again.




“Yeah, Hug,” Hutch answered, feeling exhausted. “I just don’t think I’d be any help right now.”


“Hey, I get that something heavy went down today, but going it alone ain’t never the answer with you two cats.”


Hutch’s hand clenched the receiver, but he remained silent.


“C’mon, Blondie, there’s safety in numbers, you know that.”


“Sorry, Hug. Not this time.”


Hutch hung up the phone, and went to the kitchen for a garbage bag.




“Are you sure you should be drinking that with the medication you’re taking?”


“One beer won’t kill me.”


“No, I suppose not.”


Starsky forced himself to look up at his unwelcome company. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”


“Didn’t expect to be here.” Dobey settled himself in the chair across from Starsky. “I expected to go straight home from work today, enjoy dinner with my wife, make sure my son did his homework before watching TV, and then defend my Parcheesi title against my daughter.”


“You don’t need to be here. Huggy’s overreacting.”


“I’ll be the judge of that.”


Starsky recognized Dobey’s no-nonsense tone of voice, and nursed his beer in silence. After several minutes of trying to ignore his captain’s presence, he gave up.


“Did you know --” Starsky stopped himself. He glanced up at Dobey, but there was no impatience or judgement in the dark brown eyes watching him. “You didn’t know Johnny was gay, did you?”


Dobey shook his head. “Did you think I was covering for him when I said you two had to be wrong?”


“No, I -- It’s just you were friends with him a long time, longer than I even knew him.” He started picking at the beer’s label again.


“He was a good friend.”


“Yeah. Shit, he practically raised me when I moved out here. He --” Starsky broke off once more, and pushed away the bottle. “I loved him. We both loved him; how could he not tell us?”


“Starsky, it wasn’t safe for him. What he was. . .what he did was a crime in California until just a few years ago.”


“Okay, I get it. It wouldn’t have been safe if those bastards in IA found out, and shit, most cops couldn’t be trusted either. But we would never have turned him in, or nothing. We loved him, he could have told us.” Starsky hated the plaintive tone in his voice, but was powerless to stop it. “How could he not know that, Cap?”


Dobey sighed heavily. “Maybe he couldn’t tell us because we loved him.”


Starsky shook his head and reached for his beer. “That doesn’t make any sense.”


“You’re trying to tell me that you’ve never been afraid of losing someone you loved if they found out something they didn’t know about you.”


“Yeah, okay, I get what you’re saying. But Cap, with something this big, you gotta. . .” Starsky pointed a finger at Dobey, daring him to disagree. “Living a lie, that ain’t right. And he was married, for God’s sake. He wasn’t just lying, he was making -- making her live one too.”


Dobey’s expression saddened. “To be honest, I don’t think John meant to do that. I think he married Maggie with the best of intentions. He probably thought he could change.”


Starsky thought this over for a while, before asking, “Do you think he could’ve?”


“Starsky, I don’t know. My church says it’s a sin, and that . . .they can change.” He looked troubled, and shook his head. “But I knew John for more than twenty years and I can’t believe he was any worse a sinner than any of us. And I know for a fact he wasn’t a weak man.”


“Maybe he just didn’t want to change.” Starsky muttered, peeling away more of the beer’s label.


“I don’t think John would have hidden away in that fleabag hotel if he’d accepted what he was. Sometimes I think he wasn’t just hiding it from us, but from himself too.” Dobey shrugged. “But I guess we’ll never know for sure.”


Starsky tore his gaze away from the beer bottle. “You’ve been thinking about this a lot.”


Dobey met his eyes. “Haven’t you?”


He looked down. “Tried not to. Whenever I did, I just . . .” He shredded the last of the label he’d peeled off. “I’d get so angry with him, and that’s not how I want to remember Johnny.”


“Then don’t remember him that way.”


Starsky lifted the bottle, and took a swallow. “It’s not that simple.”


“I’d expect that argument from your partner not from you.”


“He lied!” Starsky slammed the beer bottle down. “He didn’t trust me, so he lied!”


Another sigh from Dobey. “Yes, he did.”


Starsky looked up in surprise, but then realized that Dobey thought he was still talking about Blaine. He frowned. “You’ve forgiven Johnny for not telling you, haven’t you?”


“Yes, I have.”


“I don’t know if I can.” He heard the sadness in his own voice, and knew that he wasn’t just mourning Blaine.


Dobey cleared his throat. “One Sunday, years ago, I confided to my minister that I wasn’t a forgiving man. I’d tried, I knew it wasn’t Christian, but I still had trouble letting go of my anger.” He smiled at Starsky. “I know you’d find that hard to believe about me.”


Starsky attempted to smile in return, but was pretty sure he hadn’t succeeded.


Dobey’s expression became serious again. “He told me to go home, look in the mirror and ask myself, did they do whatever they had done in order to hurt me? If I could honestly answer, yes, that was their intention, then I should just leave the forgiving up to God, and get on with my life. But if I couldn’t answer yes, then I was to ask myself, do I love this person?”


He took a deep breath before continuing. “If I loved this person and they didn’t do it to hurt me, then the final question I needed to ask myself was why I was hurting myself by driving them out of my life with my anger.”


Starsky’s hand tightened on the bottle, but otherwise he didn’t move.


With a sigh, Dobey pushed himself up out of the chair and rose to his feet. “I have to go. Edith hates Parcheesi, and she’ll never forgive me if I don’t get home soon.”


Starsky nodded, but as Dobey turned away, he said, “Thanks, Cap.”


Dobey turned back, and gave him a quick pat on the shoulder. “My pleasure, son. When you want to talk some more about John, just let me know.”


Starsky finished the beer. He didn’t try arguing with Huggy to let him have another one, knowing it wasn’t worth the effort. Besides, Starsky just wanted to go home and sleep off the rest of his headache. He’d worry about looking at the man in the mirror in the morning.




Hutch woke up to the alarm, having barely slept. Forgoing his morning jog, he went through the rest of his morning routine on autopilot, postponing thinking about the day for as long as possible. He was supposed to accompany Starsky to his doctor’s appointment this morning and then go into work with him, but that game plan had been made before yesterday.


Starsky’s first act back on the job would be to demand a new partner, Hutch thought as he made his breakfast drink. He was tempted to call in sick, not wanting to be there when Dobey hit the roof. He wondered what reason Starsky would give the captain; Hutch doubted that his partner would expose him by telling the truth.


He could always say it was because I’m a stupid coward, and that wouldn’t be a lie.


After Blaine’s death, Hutch had realized he could no longer stay in the closet. Starsky had been far from comfortable with the revelation of his mentor’s homosexuality, but Blaine’s secrecy had made him feel betrayed. Hutch had come close to admitting everything once the murder case was closed, but at the last moment had turned it into a joke about Starsky being a lousy kisser. As the months passed, Hutch had kept promising himself that he’d tell him soon, rehearsing confessions in his head that were too pathetic to voice.


Starsk, I’m gay. But don’t worry, you’re not my type.


Hutch had always been grateful that, other than fleeting moments of admiration for a very fine ass, he’d never felt any sexual attraction for Starsky. If he had, Hutch knew that he would never have allowed them to become so close. After college, Hutch had steered clear of men who stirred up feelings he didn’t want to have. Following his divorce, he’d gradually accepted that his fantasies were something he couldn’t change. However, he’d also decided that acting upon such desires was far too risky.


So, I played it safe, and still ended up fucking up the best friendship I’ve ever had.


Shaking his head in disgust, Hutch moved toward the kitchen sink when a familiar knock at the door froze him in place. Clutching his half-empty glass, all he could do was listen as Starsky let himself into the apartment, kicking the door shut behind him.




Neither fight nor flight had gained the upper hand by the time Starsky reached the living room and spotted him. Hutch looked down at the glass in his hand, thinking that Starsky looked like he hadn’t got much sleep either.


“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”


Hutch considered a number of responses before deciding that even if it was too late, he wasn’t going to lie anymore. “Didn’t expect to see you this morning.”


Starsky cleared his throat. “Couldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”


He didn’t explain himself, but came into the kitchen and took the glass away from Hutch, wrinkling his nose at its contents before depositing it in the sink. Starsky then invaded his space and forced him to meet his eyes. Hutch tried to read the expression in them, to be ready for whatever was to come, but his partner’s searching gaze revealed no clues.


Starsky closed his eyes, and took a steadying breath. “Thought it would work better that way.”


His partner’s strange pronouncements were off-balancing Hutch, making him feel as if the floor he stood on could no longer be trusted to remain solid. “What are you saying?”


Starsky opened his eyes. “I’m so sorry, Hutch.”


“But after--,” he looked away, unable to face the remorse in his friend’s gaze. “No, I should have told you.”


Starsky put a hand on his shoulder. “Ain’t so simple. And even if it was, still doesn’t matter.”


Hutch tried to shrug him off, but his partner didn’t release him. “You’re telling me it doesn’t matter that I lied to you? About something this big?” Hutch knew he should shut up, but he couldn’t resist the impulse to push Starsky away, anymore than he could understand why he was doing it.


“I’m saying it doesn’t matter ’cause you didn’t lie to hurt me. You were only hurting yourself.” Starsky shook his head. “Should’ve known that would be the case with you.”


Hutch started to shake. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.


“Good, that makes two of us.” Starsky said, and pulled him into a hug.


Hutch fought back tears, until he realized he was behaving like they’d never seen each other cry before. As if hiding anything from his partner had ever been a good idea. Digging his fingers into Starsky’s back, Hutch loosened his grip on his chaotic emotions, and his breath caught on a sob.


“It’s okay, let it out,” Starsky said, his arms tightening around Hutch. 


Assaulted by the memory of the last time his partner had held him while he lost control, Hutch insisted, “They weren’t all lies.”


“I know.”


These simple words undid him. He held onto Starsky, and grieved over the fucked up world that had killed Blaine, but that he still had to live in.  


When his breathing evened out at last, Starsky guided him onto the couch. “Here.” A box of Kleenex was shoved toward him. As Hutch blew his nose, he noticed that Starsky had grabbed a handful of tissues too.


We’re so damn macho.


Starsky glanced over, amusement in his eyes. “Big tough cops, huh?”


“Yeah.” Hutch released a deep breath. “I really should have told you.”


“Yeah, well, I really shouldn’t have said the things I did yesterday.” With a hint of a grin, he added, “Even about Vanessa.”


For the first time since her murder, Hutch found himself thinking about his ex-wife without any bitterness. He’d been so depressed that first year of college, when Jack Mitchell had told him that more than just high school had ended. Then Vanessa had appeared like an answer to all of his parents’ prayers. Marriage with her had promised a normal future, a way of proving that his first love had been nothing more than some teenage experimentation.


“Vanessa never knew. She accused me of just about everything else, but not that.”


“Hey, you don’t hafta explain.”


Kissing a beautiful lady was easy, Hutch thought, and as long as he never went beyond second base, he could fool himself into thinking he felt more than admiration. Until they began to wonder why he never pressured them for more. He remembered the look of disappointment in Laura’s eyes as she’d broken up with him.


“There’s such a thing as taking being a gentleman too far, Hutch.”


He’d genuinely liked Laura, had even cared about her, although no more than he had about her sweet grandmother who beat him at cards. He always felt a bit guilty for leading his girlfriends on, but the ones he’d really loved were far worse. Like Vanessa, they’d left scars. 


“Gillian wasn’t an act,” he said, “and Abby, I loved her too. I just--”


Had to fantasize about Mr. November to get it up for them.


Hutch shook his head. “I just kept hoping that each time. . . it would be different.” He exhaled slowly. “And then I’d have nothing to tell you.”


“Big dummy.”


Hutch felt his lips twitch upwards. “Yeah?”


“You don’t need to change. Not for me.”


He told himself to leave it alone, but couldn’t stop himself from testing Starsky’s acceptance. “Not even my taste in food?”


“I can put up with it, as long as I don’t have to eat it too.”


“And my preference in cars?”


Starsky smiled. “I don’t claim to understand what you love, but I don’t have to. I just gotta know that’s the way you are.”


As a feeling of warmth encompassed him, Hutch closed his eyes. He wondered how he could have doubted that his partner would accept him. Starsky always had, unconditionally. Which was more than he’d ever been able to do for himself.


Maybe that’s been the real problem all along.


Starsky clasped his shoulder. “I just need to know that you’re safe, okay?”


Hutch thought back to Huggy’s words of wisdom the night before.


“There’s safety in numbers, you know that.”


Hutch opened his eyes. “I am now.”


- end -