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Wuemsel's Fanfic Corner

Afternoon


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With the content sigh of a hard working man drawing new strength from a moment of relaxation, Ken Hutchinson sank deeper into the cushions on his couch, propping his head up on his folded arms.
 
Life was good. Or, it was just being promoted from 'comfortable and okay' to 'yeah, `s good!', as the music of his favorite tv show started filling the room.
 
Oh yes, life was good. Lacking of couch food, but...
 
On cue to that thought, the front door was opened with a kick and shoulder-punch, and a mumbled stream of grumpy curses announced David Starsky´s arrival. Switching up the volume, Hutch rolled his eyes and made a show out of yelling over both, the dialogue on screen and his friend´s tirade.
 
"Hey Starsk!"
 
A grumbled "yeah, yeah, yeah" walked past him into the kitchen. Deciding to let that pass as an okay greeting, Hutch lifted his gaze from the screen to cast what looked like a monster, with three grocery bags as heads, an innocently blinking look.
 
"D´you stop at 'Arnatu-'"
 
He was effectively hushed by a small glass of something greyish-brown landing on his stomach. "Thanks," he grinned up at the scowling face now hovering above him. "Spoon?"
 
Tilting his head to one side, Starsky returned the gesture humorlessly. "Why, thanks for asking, pal, but, no, I didn´t get the apartment."
 
"Oh," Hutch made."Sorry. Spoon?"
 
Making a 'ha, ha'-face at his friend, Starsky held out a spoon, but too high for Hutch to grab it without sitting up. Which wasn´t an option.
 
So, while Starsky contiuned rambling, Hutch lay staring at the spoon as if to hypnotize it into falling into his hands.
 
"I hate visiting apartments. Did I mention that?"
 
"Only a couple hundred times," Hutch mumbled too lowly for his friend to hear, who had finally discovered the screen and was following the colorful action taking place there. Starsky´s guard down like that, Hutch finally managed to grab his sleeve and snatch the spoon out of his hands.
 
Startled, Starsky jumped a bit and glared down at a triumphant grin.
 
"I mean it," he continued where he´d left, and with a parting scowl turned for the kitchen again. "I´m too old to go visit an apartment with all those young giggly 'Where should be the children´s room?'-couples."
 
"Awww," Hutch made in mock sympathy, opening his glass, and happily started munching. "Poor Starsky. But it´s your own fault, you know?"
 
"And how d´you figure that?!" an unnerved voice carried over the sound of angry shoving and rummaging through the bags and the fridge.
 
"You don´t go to apartment visits alone," Hutch lectured, not taking his eyes off the screen. "Everyone knows that. Especially when you´ve reached a certain-"
 
"Age?"
 
"Sinility."
 
There was a pause, then, ever so sweetly, "I see. Want a beer too, buddy boy?"
 
"Yeah, thanks-" This time, it was a full beer can bouncing off his head that shut Hutch up. "Thanks," he mumbled, rubbing the connection spot on the back of his head, but otherwise ignoring the can on his belly and instead continued to busily shovel yogurt into his mouth.
 
A moment later, Starsky let himself sink into the chair next to the couch, stretching his legs out to have his feet rest against Hutch´s legs, sipping at his own beer.
 
Glancing at him, Hutch lowered his food and arched his brows in an at least a bit more honest gesture of sympathy. "That bad?"
 
Starsky didn´t look at him and shook his head. "I can´t believe I´m looking for a place."
 
Despite himself, Hutch couldn´t help rolling his eyes.
 
Either unseeing or not caring, his friend continued, "I mean, it´s like this is really it, you know?"
 
Hutch sighed. "Starsk... truth now, did you actually go talk to the owner or did you just glance into one room and left with a pathetic excuse like the eight times before?"
 
Starsky bowed his head.
 
Another sigh. "I know I said this eight times already, but just for the half deaf among us: if it´s that hard for you, you´re always invited to stay here a bit longer."
 
Gratefulness flashing through faded blue eyes, Starsky quickly glanced up, but then down at his beer again, almost sadly. "Thanks."
 
Silence followed, the also colorful noises from the tv an eerie background for the melancholy swipping through the room.
 
"Hey," Hutch finally said softly, ruttling his friend´s feet on his leg. He smiled offeringly, when Starsky glanced up, and lifted his brows. "Hm?"
 
Starsky made a face - "aw shit, Hutch" - and took a sip from his beer. He sighed. "Sorry for being such a pain in the ass."
 
"Hey, you´re not. I understand."
 
"Yeah, sure," Starsky muttered. "It´s just... I´m getting divorced." The way he said it, it sounded as if it was headline news, not a fact for almost four months now.
 
"So I heard," Hutch wise-cracked and earned a wry smile.
 
"Divorce," Starsky said like a mantra and listened to the word. "Sounds so... strange, doesn´t it? Like I´m now officially an adult."
 
An affectionate laugh at that statement broke free, and Hutch actually made the effort to sit up ever so briefly to awkwardly pat his friend´s knee. "Don´t worry, buddy. The way you deal with it, there´s no immediate danger of that."
 
"Funny, Hutch," Starsky smirked, though he couldn´t contain a chuckle. With a wide gesture, he exclaimed, "I know it´s not like things went down yesterday, and I know I should be the furious one, and one day I will get angry at her... I think... But right now it´s just that every time I enter a new apartment, I can´t think of anything but 'Wow, divorced. I´m getting divorced.' And it feels so... wrong."
 
"Buddy," Hutch mumbled in shared heartache and finally sat up fully to offer comfort when it´d be needed.
 
But actually, it didn´t really look like Starsky needed a cuddle right now. More some serious... bantering.
 
"Divorce," he said again, as if trying to get behind the true meaning of the word. "It has such a... 'failure'-ring to it, doesn´t it?"
 
All sympathy vanished, as Hutch cast him a very expressionless look.
 
"Okay, yeah," Starsky quickly contiuned with a waving gesture, "but you were a kid."
 
"Hm-mm," Hutch made, unconvinced.
 
"And there were no children to suffer," Starsky pointed out.
 
Hutch blinked, frowned in thought, blinked again.
 
Unnerved, Starsky rolled his eyes. "Remember those two little guys hanging around at my place? My kids?"
 
"Oh! You mean those two grown-ups, who both moved east, when Mona moved in?"
 
"They never liked her, did they?" Starsky asked through a sigh.
 
"Didn´t I tell you `bout the phone-party they had with Zoe, when she´d told them you turned up here for asylum?"
 
The half smile didn´t quite reach Starsky´s eyes, as they dropped again to his beer. "Yeah. Looks like you guys were right after all. As always."
 
"Babe," Hutch said and waited until Starsky´s gaze met his again. "We didn´t want to be right. We just wanted you to be happy. As always."
 
"You never liked her too, did you?"
 
"Uhm..." Hutch stammered and smiled sheepishly. "You were in love with her. There´s, uh... nothing wrong with that."
 
"Right. And now I´m getting divorced."
 
Picking up his yogurt, Hutch studied the spoon. "If you want my opinion, there´s nothing wrong with that, either." Starsky shot him a glance, and he shrugged helplessly. "I DID like her."
 
"Sure."
 
"Yes! But... being the great friend I am, I hate her now, of course."
 
"Of course," Starsky nodded and, despite the topic, smiled. Once more, silence followed, both men unconsciously staring at the tv screen.
After a moment, Hutch´s gaze wandered over to his friend, taking in the expression. The memories crossing Starsky´s mind were so visible for him as if he could see right inside it. And Mona wasn´t in them.
 
His own eyes closing at the image of the twins´ mother flashing up in his own memory, Hutch unconsciously reached out to touch Starsky´s arm.
 
The contact was acknowledged by a quick squeeze of his hand, then an equally quick grateful look. "Yeah," Starsky said as if it meant anything, sniffed once and sat up straighter.
 
The same routine, whenever he had to think of her.
 
With an understanding, familiar nod, Hutch drew his hand away. "You can always take Zoe to visit an apartment, you know?" he offered after a moment.
 
"Riiiight," Starsky said, gratefully playing along. "That should be interesting. Either they think she´s my daughter and I´m too Methusalem to go check out a place by my own, or they find their conviction `bout all cops being corrupt the truth."
 
Hutch lifted his brows innocently. "Hm. You mean a guy your age would actually pay money to live with Zoe?" He paused, thinking in mock seriousness. "Think I should ask a few?"
 
Starsky chuckled.
 
"No, really," Hutch continued. It was his second favorite hobby that he had developed over the years - make fun of his very, VERY lively adult daughter. "If she moves in with one of them, you could have her apartment."
 
"Oh?" Starsky raised his brows. "Will you pay my rent too then?"
 
"Sure! Haven´t you heard? I pay everybody´s rent. Mine, Zoe´s, Zoe´s boy-friend´s, Zoe´s boy-friend´s pal´s, Zoe´s boy-friend´s pal´s band´s..."
 
"She still seeing that musician?" Starsky asked in mock interest. Actually, he was always a second earlier up to date than Hutch about who Zoe was seeing at the moment.
 
"Gotta be more specific," Hutch sighed and finally opened his beer. It was a well trained show. There didn´t go a day by without him sighing, whining and joking in the most cliché fatherly way about Zoe, but the truth was that next to Starsky, she was his life. Her mother had left when Zoe had been five, never called, never written.
 
When Starsky was Hutch´s life line, his safety, his home - Zoe was the sunshine, the twinkle on everything she´d enlightened in his being.
 
And having been raised the way she had, she was the master of banters. Under the careful eye of her Dad´s best friend, she had turned teasing Hutch into an art form, from distasting whatever he told her was healthy to recently having dropped out of college to join the academy. The day she´d told her father, when she had joined him and Starsky for dinner, he had only sighed and mumbled something intelligable. After all, who was he to argue over dropping out of college and joining the force?
 
"Crowe," Starsky helped out with the boy-friend´s name.
 
Hutch froze with his spoon in mid-air. "Who´s that? Wait... it IS a who, isn´t it?"
 
Grinning, Starsky patted Hutch´s knee paternally. "Don´t worry, Pops. Once she´s graduated, I don´t think it´ll be legal for her to see that guy anymore."
 
A dry look settled on Hutch´s amused expression. "You two are doing it all on purpose, right?"
 
Starsky shrugged. "Sure."
 
"Thought so."
 
Sliding more comfortably into his seat, Starsky took another sip of his beer. "Wouldn´t want your life to get boring."
 
"Well, thanks for your noble efforts, but I´ve everything I want right here, buddy," Hutch told him in mock indignation. "No added action needed."
 
"Muesli-yogurt and 'Spongebob'?" Starsky observed, unconvinced.
 
With an unnerved side glance away from the re-found screen, Hutch lifted his beer as if for an answer.
 
"Uh huh," Starsky made in even more dry a tone. "You know, some things never change. After all those years of training, you still can´t  couch potatoe right."
 
"Pardon?"
 
"No one watches cartoons with muesli-yogurt, Hutch. It´s weird."
 
Shooting him a scowl, Hutch leant back more comfortably and with emphasis swallowed a spoonful of yogurt. His friend chuckled, and they watched in silence, the expression of the half amused, half absent-minded mix of laziness and relaxtion, that´s common for late afternoon tv watching, settling on both their faces.
 
"Hey Hutch," Starsky announced unenthusiastically after a few minutes, having consulted his watch. "Hutch, Hutch, what´re we doing today?"
 
"Huh?" Hutch made, puzzled at first, then understood. "Oh." With some effort, he rose to grab the remote control from the table. "What we do every day, Starsky. We´re trying to conquer the world." And on cue, he switched to the first chords of 'Pinky and the Brain'.
 
They quietly hummed the tune along and fell silent again.
 
After the announcment of what Pinky and Brain would be doing that day or ep, Starsky emptied his beer, sighed and stood up to get a new one, taking Hutch´s yogurt out of his hands on the way, ignoring the look he received.
 
"You know," he stated, when he returned and threw a bag of crisps into Hutch´s lap. "This is pathetic."
 
Taking the bag with the very tips of his fingers to remove them onto the table, Hutch shot him a glance. "Oh? You´re feeling sophisticated today? We can always switch to Disney Channel."
 
With a 'ha, ha'-glance, Starsky opened his new beer and retrieved the crisps. "No, I meant us. It´s a perfectly normal Wednesday afternoon, and we´re playing melt with furtniture."
 
Hutch shrugged, turning his - tv-caused low - attention back to the lab mice. "My kinda game."
 
Starsky waited, studying his friend, and decided to finally, after weeks of thinking, give it a try. "Your kinda game used to be something else."
 
"Yeah, well, we´re not all blessed with your un-aging boyish looks, pal."
 
Rolling his eyes at the very dryly stated answer, Starsky threw a crisp at him. "`S not what I meant, Teens! I was referring to something involving actually getting your cushion-shaped ass out of here on the stree-"
 
The snap of Hutch´s head turning to face him was as effective as a verbal cut off. In fact, Starsky was so startled he bit his lip and squirmed under the intense stare of his friend, who undoubtly was just reading his mind.
 
"Tell me you´re kidding," Hutch finally said very quietly and put the beer he´d just retrieved from the table back down.
 
"Uhm..." Starsky stammered and settled for a sheepish grin.
 
"Please," Hutch said, pronouncing the word exaggeratedly, "tell me you´re not thinking what I think you´re thinking."
 
Deciding lying wouldn´t be a successful way into or out of this, Starsky waved a submitting gesture. "It did cross my mind, yes."
 
"I see. How long did it take it to cross your mind?"
 
"Two months," Starsky answered, though it sounded more like a question around a shy smile.
 
Hutch stared. "Okay, now I know you´re kidding," he finally said.
"Because we surely haven´t been working double-time in order to get off earlier, just so that you now want to head back to the streets. Have we?" he added very quietly.
 
Instead of an answer, Starsky arched his brows sick-puppy-like, knowing he´d just entered a long and stressful mission. "C´mon, Hutch. D´you never think about the old times? Is this really it for you, a three days a week desk job in a pile of old files and watching cartoons?"
 
Absolutely no expression of giving up on his face, Hutch shrugged, dry humor surrounding him like a senseable air, as it usually did these days. "I can always play in Zoe´s boy-friend´s pal´s band. Seems they´re lacking a second guitar."
 
Starsky only deepened his puppy-frown. "Hutch, be a pal, dedicate to me your daily serious moment here, okay? Have you never thought about working the streets again these three years? Don´t you miss it too?"
 
"No."
 
"Be honest."
 
"I am honest."
 
"No, be REALLY honest."
 
"I AM!"
 
"Then say what I want you to say."
 
Hutch sighed. "Starsk - I thought we decided it´ll be okay to quit."
 
"But now I´m not so sure anymore!" Starsky exclaimed. "And I know deep down you´re not, either. You hate this file-shoveling as much as I do, and there´re still people out there who know us, who don´t get along with the newbies. We could still be out there and try to make a difference. Actually, we still owe it to some of the folks."
 
"I have sent my brood out there," Hutch commented. "Doesn´t that sort of pay my bill? There´ll always be a Hutchinson protecting the city in a silly looking car."
 
"Exactly," Starsky stated and snapped his fingers. "We´d have Zoe as a connection to the department and-"
 
"Woah, hold your horses. A 'connection to'?" Tilting his head to one side with new resistance lingering in his eyes, Hutch rose into a sitting position again. "What kind of working the streets are we talking about here, Starsk?"
 
The unmistakable knowledge he´d just made his first mistake sinking in, Starsky settled for a puzzled reaction. "Why, uhm... something more like kinda... private... like... naturally. I mean, they wouldn´t - probably - let us return... like, officially. Now, would they?"
 
"Private," Hutch said in his special tone he reserved for when talking to Starsky like he would to a nutcase. "Hm-mm. Have you been watching All Night Classic Bogey´s again?"
 
"No, Hutch, I mean it. Think about it. Just for a second. We wouldn´t be obliged to any of their rules or regulations, we´d be our own bosses... It´d be like old times, but the job would be better. No one pulling plugs on us, no one forcing us into another case just to let another one go... Perfect," he concluded with a wide gesture.
 
Hutch watched him silently for a moment, before he quietly added, "No protection."
 
"What, have you felt very protected back then?!"
 
"No. Which is my point exactly," Hutch replied gravely, but before Starsky could even grab the real meaning of the words, continued, "Besides, unlike you, I can live with the prospect of spending my hard earned free evenings coming home with no street-hangover or a trail of enangered clients hovering at my door."
 
"Street-hangover?"
 
"Yeah, the kinda thing you always get when you open the driver´s door too fast, fity," Hutch commented, ignoring Starsky´s scowl. "Face it, buddy, a year or two and friendly boy scouts will be helping us cross the street. You´re pushing seventy now, Starsk."
 
Having lifted his beer to swallow his grumpy reply with a sip, Starsky nearly choked on it, as a coughing fit hit him at the remark. "The only thing I´ll push," he managed to croak out eventually, "will be you off the couch if you ever say the s-word again. And stop smirking like that, I mean seventy. Jeez, d´you also notice a frightening increase of imaturity in your personality since you´ve started to push years? And, by the way, it´s always five more, not ten!"
 
Hutch shrugged. "Sixty-five, seventy, what difference does it make?"
 
"As strange as it may sound to someone obviously living in an invisible coffin, a big one."
 
At the by now actually angry tone, Hutch´s gaze snapped up, meeting his friend´s narrowed eyes. When he spoke after a pause, his voice was soft, all sarcasm gone. "Is it really that important to you?"
 
"Yes," Starsky answered, suddenly equally gently. "It´s that important to me. And," he added through a deep breath, "I´m not expecting you to say 'yeah sure' right now or anything, but... think about it. REALLY think about it. Does it really do you much good spending your days just watering your jungle and forgetting your daughter´s boy friends´ names?"
 
That brought a wry smile to Hutch´s face, which faded quickly, though, under Starsky´s changing observation. Suddenly, for the first time really studying Hutch´s reaction to his idea, he saw something else in his friend´s face as well as in his mind.
 
"Hutch?"
 
Knowing he´d been made, Hutch lifted his gaze hesitantly, but didn´t reply.
 
"Are you so stubborn about this because of Gunther?"
 
Funny, weren´t things? Over twenty years later, they both still would refer to Gunther as if he´d been a natural catastrophe, not a person. They would never say 'the shooting' or 'when you got hurt', but always 'Gunther'. No one in the family - temporal, kid or girl-friend - ever used another word. The name itself had turned into a whole lot of meanings, carried a whole lot of memories.
 
Hutch averted his eyes. But he wouldn´t be let off the hook that easily, and he knew it. He knew he just had been made. Yes, he missed it too. Of course he did. For both of them, being a cop had always been more than a job. Giving it up hurt, still it hurt. And yet - some things, he just knew, he would not miss. After 'Gunther', some things HAD changed, even though they´d never allowed it to be true. And that he would not miss. Though... still...
 
"Aw c´mon," Starsky´s sudden voice tore him out of his thoughts, and he blinked as if to clear his mind. "How does that go along with your philosophy of pushing numbers, huh, old man? Don´t you figure if we´d step on anyone´s toes again, they´d just let time do the work?"
 
Hutch blinked once more, stunned. "Wow, that was ONE cynical line, buddy."
 
"Yeah, well, I had a good teacher," Starsky smirked.
 
Lifting his beer, Hutch nodded approvingly. "Touché."
 
Cheering back with his own beer, Starsky settled for a contend smile.
 
"Well, brains, I know you won´t give in today-"
 
"Or tomorrow."
 
"Or tomorrow. But it´s in your head now." He tipped one finger at his temple with a mischievious smile. "And it´ll stay and grow in there. Believe me. I know you."
 
Knowing himself well enough too, and so knowing it was the truth, Hutch grumbled something unintelligable into his can and pretended to be watching the show.
 
Starsky, on the other hand, was savoring his soon-to-be triumph, rolling the can in his hands. "What d´you think sounds better? 'Starsky and Hutch' or 'Starsky and Hutchinson'? For the glass entrance door, you know."
 
Hutch glanced at him with a suppressed chuckle, then back. Suddenly, his grin widened. "'Starsky and the Brain' has a nice ring to it," he observed, as the end chorus of the cartoon show started, and he sang his own "new" vocals over the real ones, before casting his friend an innocent look. "Don´t you think?"
 
"I´m so glad you´re hilarious, Blintz. Might come in handy, when we have to go undercover. Oh, I MISSED going undercover," Starsky added, suddenly excited, as if the idea had just popped up in his mind.
 
Hutch rolled his eyes. "I haven´t said yes, yet, Starsk."
 
"You mean you haven´t said no, yet."
 
"So let´s say it´s not my talkative day." He paused, when suddenly another thought hit him. "And IF we do this, there´ll be one condition."
 
"What now, a food list?"
 
"No," Hutch replied, but froze and lifted his brows in a 'good idea'-gesture Starsky had to roll his eyes about. "I meant your car. If you ever want your new career to come true, forget taking your car."
 
"But..." Starsky protested, dismayed. "What´s wrong with my car?!"
 
Smiling in mock sympathy, Hutch patted his friend´s knee and lifted his beer again. "Sorry I never told you before, partner, but orange just doesn´t flatter your eyes."
 
THE END (?)

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