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Wuemsel's Fanfic Corner

D´You believe in the North Pole?


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The sunlight twinkled in little sparks on the shiny red hood of the Torino as well as on the small puddles on the street--it looked a little like snow glittering in the morning--and David Starsky was in a good mood. A particularly good mood. Christmas Eve mood.
 
"Angels we have heard on hiiiiiigh..." his smooth baritone voice echoed through the hallway, long before he actually entered his best friend´s apartment at Venice Place. The moment he opened the door, though, he was met with an answering "...tell us to go out and buuuuuyyyyy" coming from the bedroom, quickly followed by a particularly grumpy looking Ken Hurtchinson, who just finished dragging a green shirt over his blond head.
 
"Mornin´ Grinch," Starsky greeted him with a sweet smile that Hutch replied mockingly.
 
"Mornin´, oh victim of the Western World´s intentionally invented false sentimentalism based on the essential greed for consumption."
 
"Huh?"
 
"*sigh* Mornin´ Starsk."
 
A smile spreading on his face as he watched his friend stroll over to the kitchen to prepare what he called breakfast, Starsky went after him like an excited kid, the fact that he was a bit shorter than Hutch adding to that image. "And what a GREAT mornin´ this is, huh?" he asked in an exaggerated version of his real childlike tone of voice, quoting his favourite Christmas story by Dickens.
 
Sighing deeply with his head following the action down, Hutch played along, while starting to throw his breakfast ingrediences into the blender. "Oh really? Why, what´s today?"
 
"Christmaaaaaaaas!!!" Starsky replied, finishing a well-maintained Christmas tradition, and jumped onto the breakfast bar to study his friend closely with eyes that were twinkling with excitement. He carefully avoided to pay any attention to what Hutch was mixing in the blender, though.
 
"Gee," Hutch said unenthusiastically, "is it again? Didn´t we just have that last year? Time really flies when you´re getting older."
 
Nodding just like a five-year-old, who hadn´t listened, anyway, Starsky stated, "And I KNOW this time I´ll get a real present."
 
Suppressing a small smile that seemed determined to show on his face, Hutch lifted his brows innocently as he switched on the blender and turned to look at his partner. "Yeees?" he asked curiously, stretching the word. "I thought only good kids, who drink their health shake evey morning, get something."
 
Cringing at the mere thought, Starsky replied, mockingly subdued, "You know, I really, REALLY don´t envy the kids you´ll have some day."
 
"Beg your pardon?" Hutch said idignantly, one brow traveling up again.
 
"Eelgrass cookies on Halloween," his friend started his litany, "no Christmas, 'Captain Yuck in a Cup' every morning..."
 
"Well," Hutch shrugged and switched off the blender again to pour his first glass of Morning Energy, that he was sure to need especially on Christmas Eve, when he´d be locked up in a car with Starsky, the Christmas Elf.
 
"What´re you moaning about? That way, you can be 'nice Uncle Dave' who spolis the kids every time he´s to sit them."
 
Eyes widening, Starsky stared at him. "You´d let me spoil your kids?"
 
"You kiddin´, mushbrain?" Hutch replied, lifting his health shake glass. "I won´t let you NEAR my kids. Cheers." With that, he drained the glass, restraining himself from grinning at Starsky´s "gna, gna, gna"-mumbles.
 
"Anyway," Starsky started, when Hutch put his breakfast dishes away and turned for the bedroom again to get his jacket, "I´ll get a REAL Christmas present this year, I KNOW it! I can feel it!"
 
"Hope you will, buddy," Hutch´s muffled voice answered from the other room. "Maybe then I´ll get a few seconds of silence when you´re busy unwrapping it."
 
"Huuuuutch!" Starsky whined and jumped off the kitchen counter. "C´mon, I´ll get you a real present too."
 
"Oh?" came the mockingly surprised answer, as Hutch returned to the living room, busy fastening his holster. "What, a bag of spare ants for the farm?"
 
"Shit, you guessed it," Starsky replied, unimpressed, and followed his friend outside, throwing the door shut behind them.
 
At that, Hutch suddenly turned, a frown settling on his forehead.
 
"What?"
 
"I just found out what´s missing," Hutch stated and walked on down the hallway. "The tree."
 
"What tree?"
 
"You didn´t grace my place with a dying piece of wood this yea... Oh wait!" Again turning, Hutch flashed his friend a quick, somewhat evil grin. "Is THAT my present? No dumb decoration this time? For if it is, you´d be sure to get a real gi-"
 
"Ha, ha, funny one," Starsky replied grimly, slightly shoving his friend into pace again, as they reached the steps."Nooo, I did not forget your tree, I just didn´t have the time yet. I thought we´d get it after work."
 
His face falling, Hutch rolled his eyes. "I knew it was too good to be true."
 
"And," his friend continued, ignoring the mutters, "Christmas trees are NOT dying, how often do I have to tell you that?! It´s an HONOR for every tree to become a Christmas tr-"
 
"Starsk, they´re cut off, dragged into too small places, decorated with plastic stuff, stared at for a week and then thrown away."
 
They´d reached the Torino by now, and Starsky opened his door, casting his friend an amused grin. "Never knew you had a soft spot for Christmas trees."
 
"I like everything that doesn´t talk too much," Hutch replied as he got inside the car and closed the door. "Besides, I´m just saying that this part of the tradition is sort of-"
 
"Mean?" Starsky interrupted him, arching his brows in mock understanding. "Poor, poor trees..."
 
"You know something," his partner said after an annoyed pause, "maybe we oughta be the first to do something about this dark spot on Christmas´ otherwise SO white west and skip the tree part."
 
"Uh huh," Starsky nodded eagerly and led the Torino onto the street, "keep on dreaming."
 
"No, I mean it."
 
"I know, Grinch."
 
At the casual reply, Hutch cast his friend a determined glance, turning slightly to fully look at him. "You do know that I just gave you that tree last year so you could decorate that and spare my home, don´t you?"
 
"Oh yes," Starsky nodded, still unimpressed. "I´m fully aware of that."
 
"Good."
 
"Yup." Pause. "So--what color d´you want your tree to wear this year? I was thinking silver-blue."
 
A deep sigh answered the already made decision, and the bodyless voice of dispatch saved the poor blond Grinch for the time being. "All units, all units, we have a hostage situation on Lincoln and 4th, I repeat, we have-"
 
Checking their position with a quick glance outside, Hutch grabbed the mike, while Starsky was already turning on their way, speeding up considerably, as they drove into the opposite direction.
 
"This is Zebra 3, we are respon..." A strangled low cry of startled surprise finished Hutch´s response, when the Torino suddenly turned around a corner, and he was thrown against the passenger´s door. "You  know, Starsk," he stated when he´d gathered his wits again, "you definitely won´t get a real present if you kill us."
 
That brought a wide grin to Starsky´s face as his gaze snapped to his friend in utter delight. "So I´m right, huh? You have a real present for me this yea-"
 
"Starsky, look out!"
 
Only Starsky´s quick reaction saved them from running straight into a slower car, and again, Hutch´s side met the hard material of the door painfully, while his partner, absolutely unimpressed, went back to their conversation the second they´d passed the shocked driver to their left. "I´m right, yeah? Huh? Am I? Am I?"
 
"Yes," Hutch nodded breathlessly, holding on to the dashboard. "Sure, buddy, anything. I´ll get you whatever you want if you SLOW DOWN NOW!" His gaze suddenly falling upon something that lay at his feet, he rolled his eyes. "Great, just great."
 
At Starsky´s questioning look, he produced the siren from down there and quickly placed it on top of the car, while trying with every bit of patience he could muster to ignore his friend´s sing-sanged "I´ll get a pre-sent, I´ll get a pre-sent, I´ll get..."
 
Falling back into his seat, he shot his over-delighted partner a grim glance. "Starsk, please!"
 
"I´ll get a-"
 
"I´ll even wrap it up if you stop this now!"
 
Instantly, Starsky closed his mouth, presenting his friend with a contend grin.
Hutch rolled his eyes, sinking down in his seat. "What´d I ever do to deserve this?"
 
His partner just grinned wider. "Hey."
 
"What?"
 
"Merry Christmas, buddy."
 
"Shut up and watch the street, will ya?!"
 
****
 
They arrived at what they thought would turn out to be a crime scene a few minutes later, exchanging a quick glance as they both emerged from the Torino, staring at the building in question.
 
"Thought the adress sounded familiar," Starsky finally broke the silence.
 
Shooting him a quick glance, Hutch gave a small smile at that. No toy store in the city his ever young partner didn´t know.
 
"Not my fave one, though," Starsky continued.
 
"Why not?" Hutch asked as they made their way over to the large entry,
preparing to take position at the sides of the closed door. The curtains in the small window had been drawn half close, and with the sun shining directly into it there was no way to look through the window without standing exactly in front of it. They still were the only officers at the scene--the holidays always were a stressfull time for the police.
 
Starsky shrugged and produced his gun from its holster. "No candy when you buy somethin´."
 
"Aw, there oughta be a law against that," Hutch whispered, while lifting his hand to knock at the door.
 
At the other side of it, Starsky nodded eagerly in agreement to the statement. "I think there is," he whispered back.
 
Rolling his eyes, Hutch decided to stop the discussion for the time being and pounded at the closed shop door once. "Police! We´ve been call-"
 
"Just a moment, please!" a deep voice answered almost instantly.
 
The detectives exchanged a confused look.
 
"Uhm," Hutch started again, stopped himself and cast a quick look at Starsky, who shrugged helplessly, gesturing for Hutch to say something.
 
"I-is everything alright in th... Ow!" The rest of the question was aburptly cut off as the door suddenly flew open, hitting Hutch´s nose with enough force to send him stumbling back a few steps. "Shit!"
 
Squeezing his eyes shut while covering his aching nose and feeling a small drop of blood trickling onto his fingers, Hutch continued to express his feelings about the incident with more colorful words, until the same deep voice sternly talked over his words, saying, "Would you mind watching your language in the public, young man? There might be children around, you know!"
 
Surprised, Hutch blinked his eyes open, hand still on his nose and froze in mid-procedure of telling whoever it was that his language was his business. His gaze jumped over to Starsky, who stood behind the stranger, also gun still in hand, and stared at him with the same look Hutch could feel on his face--wide-eyed, chin traveling south.
 
The man they looked at it was about Starsky´s height, elderly looking with white hair as long as Hutch´s and a huge, white beard resting on his big belly that threatened to force its way through the soft material of his red pants and coat that was decorated with bushy white seams and silver buttons twinkling in the sunlight.
 
"Uh... s-sorry," Hutch suddenly heard himself mutter despite himself, and frowned as if wondering where that had come from. "I-I mean... uh..." Again, he  threw a glance at Starsky who just continued staring at the man in childlike awe. That look, though, was enough for Hutch to gather his wits, and he rolled his eyes at it as if out of reflex, before turning to adress the man directly, producing his badge. "We´ve had a call about some sort of hosta-"
 
"Oh," the old man nodded gravely. "Yes. That. Well, as you can see, everything´s okay now."
 
"Now?" Hutch repeated, arching his brows and taking a step forward, when the man across him nervously avoided his glance. "Would you step aside, please, so my partner and I can take a look inside there?"
 
No answer, but a hasty shifting of the man´s body as he obviously tried to block their way inside.
 
"Sir?" Hutch asked innocently and took yet another step forward.
 
"It´s not what it looks like," the man tried to explain, but still didn´t move.
"See, I made the call, so you´d get here and... uh... But I thought I´d be long gone by then. I mean, heavens, you guys are fast! Who would anticipate that?"
 
"Hm-mm," Hutch nodded, unimpressed and looked over at Starsky, who hadn´t moved an inch ever since the old man had stepped in his line of sight. Neither had his features. "Starsky."
 
No reaction. Hutch rolled his eyes. "Starsk."
 
Blue eyes snapped closed then opened again. "Huh?"
 
Unnerved, Hutch pointed at their suspect with his thumb, and after a second of clear confusion, his partner nodded. "Oh. Yeah, sure. Uhm, Sant... Uh, Sir, will you step aside... please?" he added in a very small voice, that brought a warm smile to the man´s face and earned himself an annoyed look from his friend.
 
"Alright, alright," the man nodded, submittingly lifting his hands, "I´ll step aside. Under one condition."
 
"And that would be?" Hutch asked unenthusiastically.
 
"I can´t have you two arrest me. Not today."
 
"Okay," Hutch stated, seemingly genuinously, "we won´t. Now step aside and let us in there."
 
"I can see it when someone´s lying," the man warned, and to his annoyed surprise, Hutch found himself to be the target of not only one disapproving glance for his obvious lying, but two.
 
"Uh..." he started, taken off-guard by Starsky´s grim look, and lifted his hands as if submitting. "We´ll see what we can do about it, okay? And now, please, step aside."
 
With a deep sigh, the stranger finally obeyed, but stopped in mid-step as a thought hit him. "Oh, wait, before I forget--he will tell you that I threatened him with a weapon."
 
The detectives exchanged a quick look, and Starsky asked, "Who will?"
 
"The owner of this terribly disgracing place," the man answered with anger coloring his words, and before either of them had a chance to follow his actions, produced a large candy stick from underneath his coat.
 
Startled, both detectives quickly took aim at him, and stared, dumbfounded, when they saw his 'weapon'. Rolling his eyes, getting more annoyed by the second, Hutch lowered his gun, while Starsky started to grin, stating, "This is evidence. Hand it over to-"
 
"Me," Hutch cut him off sternly and took the candy stick, before his childlike partner could. "I´ll take care of that," he informed both their suspect and Starsky, whose feelings about the loss of the 'evidence' were expressed in an absolutely heartbreaking sick-puppy- look that didn´t touch Hutch the least, as he gestured for him to enter the shop first, while he kept watch over the stranger, who slowly followed Starsky inside.
 
"See?" the old man exclaimed when they were inside. "See how horrible this is?! Where are the real toys?! Where are the cars, where are the teddies?! Where is everything?! Look at this! It´s like a miniture war zone!"
 
Indeed, it was. The store was obviously specialized in model war equipment, small planes, tanks and jeeps filled the shelves and what was visible of the floor. What wasn´t to be found there, though, was the owner.
 
"Yeah," Hutch nodded soothingly. "We see. But you said there was someone in he-"
 
"Wow, Hutch, look at this!" Starsky´s excited voice cut his question off, and, sighing in anticipation, he turned to see his friend marvelling at a huge model of a 19th-century warship. Before Hutch could even reply something, his delighted partner was already crouched down next to the thing, studying it closely. "This is so cool. Look at it, it even has-"
 
A deeply sighed "Starsky" sent the curly head up again, the body quickly following. "Oh. Yeah. Uhm... didn´t you say something about an owner?" he dutyfully asked the old man, who´d watched him with a warm smile and answered with a nod.
 
"Yes. Troy. A very rude boy," he added sadly and shook his head. "Very rude. I locked him in the cellar."
 
Starsky and Hutch exchanged a quick look. "Why?"
 
"As I said, he was rude," the man explained.
 
"Hm-mm," Hutch nodded slowly. "But, Sir, you can´t lock people up in their own store just because they´re rude. It´s against the law."
 
"It is?" the man asked, frowning.
 
"Yup," Hutch nodded. "`Fraid so."
 
"Why didn´t you just leave?" Starsky asked, finally managing to tear his eyes away from the ship.
 
"I thought I´d take the toys from here," the man explained. "That was before I found out that there´s really just this," with a disgusted gesture he pointed at the objects of his disapproval, "in here. I was about to look for another store when you came."
 
A short silence followed, before Hutch asked, "So you came here to... steal toys?"
 
"Yes," the man answered and smiled.
 
"Oh," Hutch made, nodded, and exchanged a quick look with his partner. "Mind to tell us why?"
 
"My elves quit."
 
After another brief pause, a somewhat desperately looking grin appeared on Hutch´s face. "That´s what I thought. Starsk," he then turned to his friend, who was again on the staring-in-disbelief-road, an expression forming in his cobalt blues that started to worry his friend, who, at the lack of response, once more repeated his name firmly, until he was met with a waking-up-like look.
 
"Yeah?" Starsky asked, blinking as if to clear his vision.
 
"Why don´t you go get Troy, and I´ll read Mr... uh...?" Looking at the man questioningly, he earned a genious smile.
 
"Santa," the man said, waving casually. "Just Santa´s fine."
 
Again, the helpless grin appeared, and Hutch nodded. "Sure. Thanks. Mr... Uh, Santa," he quickly corrected himself at the man´s lifted index finger, and continued, "while I read him his rights."
 
Starsky frowned. "I thought you said we won´t-"
 
"Starsky, go get Troy," Hutch ordered, his own index finger making an appearance and sending a grumbling Starsky turning around to head for the cellar.
 
Looking after him for a second, Hutch looked back at the patiently waiting man. "Santa," he finally said flatly and sighed. "Okay. You got a last name too?"
 
"Of course," the man smiled. "Claus. C-L..."
 
At Hutch´s quick nodding and waving of his hand, he stopped spelling the name and watched with his kind smile fading as the detective wiped over his eyes with his thumb and index finger, mumbling a tired "What´d I ever do?" to himself.
 
****
 
Starsky´s gaze never left its target, his occasional blinking seemingly happening in slow motion that send a loud noise echoing through the room.
 
Peeking up from his typing for the hundreth time within two minutes, Hutch finally sighed deeply and leant back on his chair, casting his staring partner an unnerved look. "Okay, what?"
 
Chin resting on his right palm with his elbow on the table, Starsky didn´t answer, but sulkingly pursed his lips.
 
His friend rolled his eyes. "Okay, I´m sorry. Happy now?"
 
No reaction.
 
"Starsk, c´mon, I need to get this done, and you´re driving me nuts with this!"
 
Nothing.
 
"Cut it out!" Hutch practically begged, and indeed his friend at least lifted his head from his palm and leant back too, stating in a clear, indignant voice, "You put cuffs on Santa."
 
Hutch helplessly arched his brows. "Starsky, that man´s not Santa Claus."
 
"How d´you know that?" Starsky shot back, leaning forward again. "You don´t know that."
 
Hutch stared silently for a moment, before he softly said, "Buddy, I hate it that I´ve to do it, but you gotta hear the truth some day, so here it is: There is no Santa Claus. It´s a lie. He doesn´t exist."
 
"And how do you know that?!" Starsky insisted, pointing at the man they´d arrested an hour ago, who was sitting outside the squad room on a bench, waiting. "Look at him. I mean... look at him."
 
"I am," Hutch answered patiently.
 
"And what d´you see?"
 
"A shop lifter dressed up as a fictional character, whose outfit was designed by a soft drink company."
 
Shaking his head in disbelief, Starsky sank back in his chair again. "You´re hopeless, Blintz, d´you know that? Absolutely hopeless. You should watch out for ghosts tonight."
 
"What, d´you mean the three pale punks that showed up last year?" Hutch joked and waved his hands. "Don´t worry, send them away again."
 
"Wouldn´t surprise me," Starsky grumbled and was about to add something, when Dobey´s door opened, and their superior cast them a questioning glance that Hutch answered with a curt shake of his head.
 
"No one called yet. He´s still here, Cap," Starsky verbalized the answer and turned on his chair to look at the captain, then back at Hutch. "See, he doesn´t want to arrest Santa, either. You´re the only one who´s out there to destroy Christmas. Just like the real Grinch. And I think," he added, ignoring Hutch´s annoyed expression, "you´re actually turning green. Don´t you think he´s turning green?" he asked, glancing up at Dobey and back again. "I think he is."
 
Looking up at Dobey too as if searching for help, Hutch lifted his brows in dismayed despair when he found the look on his superior´s face matching Starsky´s. "Oh please," he said, exasperated, "the guy commited a crime and-"
 
"So?" Starsky cut him off. "He didn´t mean any harm. He called us so we´d find Troy in the cellar."
 
Looking from Starsky to Dobey, who followed the conversation with his arms crossed in front of his chest, Hutch gestured helplessly. "He believes he´s Santa Claus."
 
"If I looked like him, I´d believe that too," Starsky replied, still sounding like a sulking kid.
 
"Well, partner, we´re all glad you don´t," Hutch remarked dryly, but suppressed a wry grin at the glance he received from his friend. "Starsky, please, c´mon, you don´t really believe that he´s-"
 
"No," Starsky replied, fiercely enough for Hutch to close his mouth, surprised. "But he does. Think about it, Hutch. I mean, if you were a looney toon believing you´re Santa, what´d be the one day of the year you really wouldn´t want to get arrested?"
 
Feeling Dobey´s glance upon him, Hutch looked up just in time to see the captain giving him a 'he has a point there'-look, before he vanished inside his office again, the door falling shut behind him.
 
Hutch was just about to continue their argument, when the ringing of his phone interrupted him. Gesturing for his partner to wait a second, he picked up. "Metropolitan Division, Detective Hutchinson. Uhm... yeah, we called to... Oh." His gaze wandering over to 'Santa' sitting outside on the bench, a sad expression settled on his face. "I see. Yes. Hm-mm. Yeah."
 
Frowning, Starsky looked at his friend questioningly, but Hutch waved, turning aside a little as if wanting to keep his part of the conversation from Starsky too. "Unfortunately," he said, suddenly sounding very convinced, "that description doesn´t fit the... What? Oh, course. Sure. You can come over here and have a look for youself. Yep. How `bout," he checked his watch, and froze suddenly, as he listened. "Twenty minutes? Uhm... okay. Yes, we´ll be here. Yeah. Okay. Bye."
 
The second he´d hung up, he was on his feet, gesturing for his partner to follow him. "C´mon, buddy, we´ve work to do."
 
"Work?" Starsky repeated, confused, as he hurried after his friend. "What d´you mean? Who was that?"
 
"No one," Hutch winked and stopped at the bench outside, looking at 'Santa' seriously. "So your elves quit, yeah?"
 
"Unfortunately yes," the old man nodded sadly.
 
"Hm," Hutch made, glancing at Starsky, then back. "Have you ever worked with cop elves?"
 
"Uh... Hutch?"
 
Ignoring the whisper, Hutch pointed his thumb at his partner, stating convincingly, "Take him, for example. He´s a great elf. Aren´t you?"
 
At the direct, absolutely seriously sounding question, Starsky straightened up and saluted, stating, "Yes, Sir. Best elf around," while Hutch quickly reached out to squeeze one of his friend´s ears until it looked more or less pointed.
 
"See?" he asked the unconvinced looking man and flashed on his most charming smile.
 
"Well," 'Santa' finally nodded and stood up, "I guess you two will have to make do."
 
Satisfied, Hutch gestured for him to lead the way and followed him, but was stopped by his partner, who lifted his brows at him. "Elves, Hutch?"
 
"Yup. Don´t you think 'Starsk'´s a great name for an elf?"

****

"Okay," Starsky started, when they were inside Hutch´s apartment a few minutes later, where they´d sent 'Santa' to get some rest, before they would continue their "journey", as Hutch had put it. "What´s going on here? Five minutes ago, you were about to bust the guy, and now we´re Starsk and Goldie Locks, Christmas Elves?"
 
"First of all," Hutch replied, turning from where he´d been scanning his room, obviously looking for something, "don´t call me Goldie Locks."
 
Starsky chuckled.
 
"And then..." A deep sad sigh introduced the information Hutch was about to share and Starsky´s grin instantly faded. "What?"
 
"Our friend in there," Hutch started, "escaped this morning from Cabrillo."
 
"Cabril... Oh."
 
"Yup. His real name´s Alan Scofield. Apparently he´s been there for four years now, ever since his daughter commited suicide." A pause, then, "On Christmas Day."
 
"Wow," Starsky stated quietly, his gaze wandering over to the closed bathroom door. "Poor guy."
 
"Yeah, but that´s not the whole story," Hutch told him. "He has a grand-daughter, four years old, who´s living in an orphanage. He´s never seen her since he´s been admitted."
 
Sadness settling in cobalt blues, Starsky´s shoulders slumped and he followed the gesture by sitting down on the couch. "If there´s still more to come, tell me quick and leave, okay? I don´t want you to see a grown-up man cry."
 
A soft smile crossed Hutch´s lips and he sat down on the couch´s armrest with his light blue eyes twinkling conspiraciously. "There IS more to come."
 
"Oh?" Starsky asked, suddenly curious. He knew that look.
 
"Yep. Every Christmas, he escaped and tried to get to his grand-daughter to play Santa for her. But," Hutch added, "he´s never made it."
 
The silent message instantly hit home, and a smile spread on Starsky´s face.
"Untill now."
 
"Untill now," Hutch nodded.
 
"So how do we find out which orphanage it is?"
 
"Hm, hm, hm, hm, hm," Hutch sing-sanged with a playful grin, grabbing the phone. "Watch and learn. Yes," he spoke when a connection had been made, "this is Detective Hutchinson, Metropolitan Divsion. I´ve been informed about one of your patients being missed?"
 
Glancing up, he found Starsky grinning at him from ear to ear and had to suppress a chuckle as he spoke on, "Right, Scofield, Alan. Yes. Yeah, uhm... No, we haven´t found him yet. We think we´ve a lead, though, but we need some more information. Yes, are there any relatives or... A grand-daughter. Hm-mm. And where... 'Noah´s Arch', I see. Okay. Yes, thank you very much."
 
Hanging up, he flashed his friend a contend smile and was rewarded with an almost proud grin. "You know, Blintz, when they fire us one day, you´ll make a great private eye. We could open up a detective agency. 'Starsky and Hutch'. It has a nice ring to it, don´t you think?"
 
"And just why wouldn´t we call it 'Hutchinson and Starsky'?" Hutch asked innocently.
 
Starsky shrugged, unimpressed. "Because it was my idea."
 
"Oh. That makes sense," Hutch joked and checked his watch. "Speaking of getting fired, what d´we do with Santa untill tomorrow morning? We´ve to go back to work, we can´t Santa-sit all day."
 
"Hm," Starsky made, thinking, and suddenly lifted his gaze again, just in time with Hutch having reached the same conclusion.
 
"Huggy," they decided in unison.
 
****
 
After they´d bribed Huggy into Santa-sitting with the promise of getting back to "The Pits" after having returned Alan Scofield to Cabrillo the next day, in order to get "real christmassy loaded and actually pay for it" as the bar-owner had put it, they faced a rather quiet day before Christmas with only minor activity from the other side of the law taking place.
 
"You know," Starsky stated, when they´d parked for a quick cup of coffee, glancing at his friend innocently, "that was pretty nice of us. Taking care of Santa."
 
"Alan, Starsk, his name´s Alan, and he´s not Santa Claus."
 
"Right," Starsky nodded, stretching the word. "Tend to forget that."
 
"Uh huh."
 
"Anyway, it WAS pretty nice of us. Pretty... christmassy. Don´t you thi-"
 
"Don´t start!" Hutch cut him off, waving his warning finger at him. "You get on my nerves with spotting the spirit of Christmas in me, I´ll go get him straight back to Cabrillo."
 
"You wouldn´t," Starsky grinned.
 
A pause, then, gaze dropping. "Nah, I wouldn´t."
 
"Thought so." A brief silence followed. "Hey Hutch?" Very brief.
 
"*sigh* What now?"
 
"Did you have a recurring Christmas wish when you were a kid?"
 
"Depends."
 
"On what?"
 
"On what the hell a 'recurring Christmas wish' is," Hutch replied.
 
"Something you never got, though you always put it on your Christmas list," Starsky explained as if he couldn´t believe Hutch didn´t know what it was.
 
"Dunno," Hutch muttered, shrugging. "Probably." Though, actually, he knew exactly what his recurring Christmas wish had been. A brother. Yet...
'That doesn´t count, does it? I mean--I got that,' he thought with a smile, secretly glancing at his partner. "Did you?"
 
"`Course," Starsky nodded eagerly.
 
"Let me guess--a red car with racing stripes?"
 
"Nope."
 
"Oh?" Hutch asked, surprised. "What then?"
 
"D´you remember that warship in Troy´s-"
 
"Staaaarsk!"
 
****
 
They had Christmas Day off, but only because they were signed up for the night shift on Christmas Eve, which definitely marked the top of the Top Five Stressfull Nights of the Year, not really because so much took place during that particular night, but because there was so much lonliness, so much frustration to witness in the victims, the criminals, the bums on the street, everybody detectives came across that night.
 
Actually, this shift--that, since they both were without family, they were signed up for most years--had always been the reason for the tradional "real christmassy getting loaded" (without the "actually pay for it"-part, though) at Huggy´s. Even Starsky, though he´d never admit it and though it´d never ever change a single thing about him being the most christmassy guy Hutch had ever met in his life, would appear beat, slightly frustrated and definitely in the need for that particulat tradition after those shifts.
 
But this year was different. This year, they both checked Starsky´s watch every few minutes not out of pure frustration, but because they had something to look forward to on Christmas Day.
 
This year, they´d be elves.
 
"Hey Hutch, don´t you think Santa ought to bring the girl something? Like a gift or so?"
 
"Don´t you think finding out her grand-father´s Santa Claus is enough?"
 
"No."
 
Sighing, Hutch cast his driving friend an exasperated glance, though most of it was an act. It was almost dawn, the shift almost over. "Anyone ever told you you´re spoiled, buddy? I mean as in absolutely and utterly spoiled?"
 
"What, because I believe in Christmas gifts?"
 
"Yes!"
 
"Oh. Uh, nope," Starsky grinned after a moment´s thought, leaving his friend to roll his eyes once more. Christmas time was definitely Hutch´s record time of eye-rolling. "I also believe in Santa, you know. And in elves and in the North Pole."
 
"Starsk, the North Pole´s a real place."
 
"See, you believe it too."
 
"*siiiigh* What time is it?"
 
"No, honest, come on now, Hutch, we oughta get the little bit something. I mean, she´s four years old. She´ll like her grandpa a lot better if he brings her something."
 
That brought an honest chuckle to Hutch´s mockingly annoyed expression.
"You know, buddy, you´re the only one who makes cynism actually sound heart-warming."
 
"What´s that supposed to mean?"
 
"That you´re right. We should get her something. And I think I already know what."
 
****
 
"A plant?"
 
At his friend´s dumbfounded question, Hutch looked up from where he was busy stroking the small plant´s leaves, lifting his brows. "What, I thought you liked plants."
 
"And I do, but I´m not a four-year-old."
 
Hutch couldn´t help but grin widely at that. He was kept from voicing a matching remark by a quickly lifted finger. "Save it, Blintz, save it."
 
Visibly swallowing down his comment, Hutch suppressed the still spreading grin as best as he could and stated, "I think it´s a great gift. I got this from my grand-father, when I was a kid."
 
"A plant?"
 
"Yup."
 
"You know, I always thought it was something genetic."
 
Throwing his friend a glance, Hutch made a 'ha, ha'-face, before explaining, "He said it´d be like a friend to grow up with. Literally."
 
At his partner´s glance slightly fading as if lurked into a long-gone past by shining memories, Starsky grinned. "That´s nice."
 
"Yeah, it is."
 
"Hm-mm," Starsky nodded, briefly brushing a hand against his friend´s shoulder as he took the plant from him to study it closely. "And that´s the one?"
 
"Yep," Hutch nodded.
 
"Looks like you took the growing-part a little more serious," he commented dryly, but at Hutch´s glance quickly added, "But, gee, what a beautiful plant she is, honest. I bet she´s on dates with your trees all the ti-"
 
"Shut up, buddy," Hutch muttered, taking the plant back and with the same motion checking Starsky´s watch. "We gotta get going."
 
"Okay, plant it is then. Though I´d say we decora-"
 
"Keep your fingers off my plant, Picasso," Hutch snapped, swapping his partner´s hand away. "Green happens to suit her best."
 
With that, he stepped outside, followed by a chuckling Starsky, who, as he caught up with him, threw a quick glance at Hutch´s green shirt and opened his mouth to say something, but was kept from it.
 
"Save it, Gordo. Save it."
 
****
 
"What d´you mean, he´s gone?!" Hutch´s exasperated voice echoed through "The Pits" a few minutes later, where he and Starsky had a very desperately looking Huggy cornered behind the counter.
 
"I don´t know, man. One sec he´s sittin´ here, rambling about reindeers, and the next he´s gone. I swear I was only checking something at the other side of the roo-"
 
"You didn´t watch him all the time?!" Starsky exclaimed. "Jeez, Huggy, which part of 'this is Santa, the lunatic runaway' didn´t you understand?!"
 
"Starsky, I swear, there´s no way he could´ve left without me notici-"
 
"But he did!" the detectives cut him off in unison.
 
"Hey, I´m really sorry `bout this, guys, I´m-"
 
"Nah, `sokay, Hug," Starsky waved, casting Hutch an exhausted look. "He probably went to this 'Noah' place, don´t you think?"
 
"Probably."
 
Leaving a still apologizing Huggy behind, they drove off, heading for the orphanage Alan Scofield´s grand-daughter had spent most of her life at, when dispatch called to inform them that "missing patient turned up at Cabrillo. I repeat, Cabrillo informed us that missing patient Scofield, Alan turned up this mor-"
 
"This is Zebra 3," Hutch cut the female voice off urgently, "are you sure `bout this?"
 
"They called to take back the APB on him. Looks like he showed up this morning."
 
"Thanks."
 
There was a very long silence in the car, before Starsky opened his mouth, but didn´t make it to saying anything as the Hutchinson Finger snapped up.
 
"Don´t," he started, emphasizing the word, "say it. Don´t."
 
"Okay." Pause. "But you gotta admit it´s sorta stra-"
 
"What did I JUST say?!"
 
"Okay, okay," Starsky hurried to mutter, shrugging slightly. Yet he just couldn´t let it be. "Did you ever think that maybe Santa doesn´t really live at the North Pole, but is a normal human being who just happens to become Santa on one special day in the year?" he asked, the words too fast for his friend to interrupt.
 
When he was through, Hutch simply stated, "No."
 
"Me neither."
 
Pause.
 
"Maybe we ought to check if he was there. To see his grand-daughter, I mean."
 
Starsky shot his friend a quick glance. "D´you want to do that?"
 
"No."
 
"Good. Me neither."
 
Pause.
 
"He did look a lot like-"
 
"Starsk!"
 
****
 
Hutch couldn´t believe how incredibly tired he actually was, when he finally dragged himself up the stairs to his apartment. It was still early, before noon, and they had decided to get a few hours of shut-eye, before meeting at Starsky´s again for a very late Christmas dinner and then head off for the tradional party at "The Pits".
 
They hadn´t talked about the Alan-incident anymore, and the second he entered his apartment, Hutch noticed he´d forgotten the plant in the Torino. But then, oh well, that´d make for a great "real present" for Starsky, he thought with a wry smile as he slowly shuffled along into his bedroom and all but fell onto his bed, soaking in delight at the prospect of getting a few hours of real sleep after having worked all night long.
 
A sudden scratching feeling under his cheek made him lift his head, though, and he blinked in surprise at the neatly folded small paper that lay on his bed. Sitting up and looking around in confusion, though he saw nothing else that was out of place, he picked up the paper and opened it.
 
There was just one sentence on it, written in a handwriting so neat it almost looked like it´d been typed. "Three ghosts will visit you today."
 
At first startled, he rolled his eyes with a wry grin, throwing the paper over the edge of his bed as he slowly crawled under his covers, muttering a sleepy "Very funny, Starsk" as he faded off to sleep, though wondering when Starsky had been in the bedroom without him noticing.
-----
 
TO BE CONTINUED in "Of Trees and Ghosts".

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