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An OldGuys Christmas story. For Tamminy, my Christmas Buddy, beta and Thyla. Yogalates, Buddy! :)

Kenneth Christian Starsky was a man to feel sorry for.
 
"... la la la laaa, la la la laaaa ..."
 
At least at the moment.
 
"... ’tis the season to be jolly, la..."
 
And he didn’t need any help in doing it.
 
" ... la la laaa-"
 
"Luke, please."
 
The happy singing taking place next to him stopped, eyes as startlingly blue as his own wandering up to cast him a casual glance. "Huh? You say something, Bro?"
 
It had indeed been a very quiet, almost whispered plea, though not lacking the necessary despair. But at that direct question, Ken let go of a deep breath, visibly restraining himself from jumping into his brother’s face - which bore the expression of utter innocence - and, shooting Luke a side glance, replied, "Just that I won’t be hold responsible for my actions, when I hear you hum one more damnable-"
 
"You said I could sing, once we’re off the plane," Luke reminded him with a hurt frown.
 
"That was a lie," Ken said. "What I meant was that you can sing, once I’m outta sight."
 
Rolling his eyes, Luke turned his head as if looking for an escape; his eyes gazed forlornly at the streets and houses that passed by outside of their bus window. "How many more stops?" he asked like a little boy.
 
Ken closed his eyes briefly for yet another deep breath. "I don’t know," he said very, very calmly.
 
Luke grumbled something unintelligible at the window. A moment of silence went by.
 
"Santa Claus is-"
 
Ken’s head turned sharply. "Luke!"
 
Throwing his hands in the air defensively, Luke glared back at him. "Why d’you get to tell me when to sing and when not to, anyway?!"
 
"Because I’m the older one," Ken stated. "So there."
 
The angry scowl faded into a 'ha, ha'-glance. "By twenty seconds."
 
"Still," Ken insisted. "If you’d wanted to sing stupid Christmas Carols all life long, you should’ve crawled faster."
 
Shooting him another look-to-kill, Luke glanced over his shoulder, then sat down again. "You do realize there’re plenty of unoccupied seats back there, don’t you?"
 
But Ken was looking past him outside the window. "How many stops did you say it was?"
 
*****
 
"... coming to tow-"
 
"Starsk, please."
 
Stopping in the act of trying to stretch high enough to put a loose piece of green, plastic garland back in its spot over the staircase, David Michael Starsky turned to look at the tall figure standing in the kitchen door.
 
"Sorry, Hutch, d’you say something?"
 
"Yes," Hutch sighed through a sarcastically sweet smile. "I said the neighbors called to complain about your singing."
 
Starsky frowned. "Really? Which ones?"
 
"The ones who went to Seattle over the holidays."
 
Rolling his eyes, Starsky turned back to his task again. "Funny, Grinch."
 
"Yeah, well, honest, Starsky, can’t you just keep the barking of the Christmas Carols to a minimum, while I’m-"
 
"... of a whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiite Christmaaaaaaaaaas...."
 
Literally flinching at the sudden, loud singing emanating from the kitchen (and drowning out the door being thrown shut with enough force to make the glasses hop on the table), Hutch jerked around in time to see his daughter entering the living room.
 
"Zoe..."
 
"Just like the ones I used to knoooooo..."
 
"Zoe!" At the instant silence, Hutch let go of an unnerved breath, before pointing out, "You’ve never known any white Christmases."
 
Zoe shrugged, walking on. "Why d’you think I’m dreaming of one, Dad? Hi, Dave," she added, genially patting Starsky’s head on her way up the stairs, ignoring his plea to "maybe give me a hand here?"
 
Scowling in frustration, Starsky turned to Hutch again, looking rather helpless with half of the garland having falling down on him by now, but his friend was already walking back into the kitchen again.
 
"Um, Hutch, could ya maybe-"
 
"Jinge bells, jingle bells, jingle ..." Zoe’s singing continued upstairs, as loud as if she was still standing in the living-room.
 
The kitchen door fell shut.
 
His shoulders slumping, Starsky glanced up at the remaining, if unsteady-looking, arrangement of garland. Humming along with Zoe’s yelling-singing, he tried to hold onto the loose part, while climbing up the stairs.
 
He’d almost made it up to the highest spot, when the doorbell rang and the entire garland crashed down to the ground. Well, as much as a green, plastic garland is able to "crash", anyway.
Swearing rather un-Christmas-like under his breath, Starsky walked down the stairs to open the door. It rang again.
 
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, hold ya horses, man, there’re old people living he... Luke!"
 
"Hey Da-" Luke Starsky started to grin back at him, but was cut off (cut off of air flow, too, by the way) by his father wrapping him in a bear hug.
 
"What’re you doing here so soon? I thought you weren’t going to make it until tonight."
 
"Dad... cough ... you’re crushing me."
 
"Oh." Grinning sheepishly, Starsky let him go, gave his arm a last gentle pat and turned to Ken, who had wisely sent his brother in first and was now holding up his hands defensively, effectively stopping his father long enough to take the opportunity to hug him, before he could do it.
 
"Hi, Dad. Merry Christmas."
 
"Kenny. Aw, it’s so good to see you boys. You’ve no idea-"
 
"How much you miss us," Luke and Ken finished the sentence in unison.
 
Their Dad just grinned.
 
"No," Ken added dryly, "absolutely no idea." Somehow, he’d managed to untangle himself from his father’s notorious welcoming hug and had closed the door behind them. "So where is-"
 
"Zoe!" his father cut him off, yelling up the stairs loudly enough to make him flinch, while Luke was already throwing his jacket... somewhere.
 
"What?"
 
"The twins are here!"
 
There was a brief silence ('The calm before the storm,' Ken thought.) then the noise of footsteps storming down the hallway, and when Zoe appeared on top of the stairs, she stopped again to stare down at the little family with a happy grin, she jumped once - and practically flew down the stairs, right into Luke’s arms, who just happened to be standing closer to the stairs.
 
As she moved away again, their eyes met, exchanging a sparkle.
 
"Aw, nooo..."
 
Ignoring Ken’s helpless little sigh next to them, the Christmassy pair of the family’s kids started to sing, "It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" in their own personal - slightly changed - version. While Starsky watched them, laughing, Ken stretched his neck, looking at the kitchen door.
 
"Hutch?"
 
The door was practically thrown open, revealing a very relieved-looking Hutch. "Oh, great, the cavalry," he sighed, approaching the lost-looking young man with large steps.
 
Their "So good to see ya," was said in unison.
 
"Hey, Hutch," Luke said over Zoe’s - and by now also Starsky’s - singing. "Merry Christmas."
 
"Hi, Luke," Hutch smiled, shooting his friend and daughter a half-pleading, half-ordering glance; they both silenced themselves, though Zoe was still hopping and jumping about in what looked like an uncontrollable happy dance.
 
Having spotted the garland, Ken discreetly picked it up, rolling it up in his hands.
 
"So why’re you here so early?" Starsky finally remembered his question, as the group moved to the couch, Luke sitting down with Zoe leaning against him from her perch on the armrest.
 
"Yeah, didn’t ya say you wouldn’t make it for dinner?" she asked, nudging his shoulder.
 
"We took an early flight," Ken answered from where he stood, looking around for some place to put the neatly rolled-up garland. Without hesitation, Hutch took it out of his hands, motioning for him to have a seat too. When no one was watching, he quickly and discreetly threw it into a nearby drawer, before strolling over to sit down himself.
 
"Oh," Starsky said. "I thought you had an important test today," he added, looking at Luke. The split second it took all the others to roll their eyes in expectation, a frown dug into his forehead. "Don’t tell me you’re playing hooky on a test."
 
Luke sighed. "No, Dad, I-"
 
"Did you drop out of college?"
 
The helpless glance the young man shot his brother was only answered with a shrug. "No, Dad, I didn’t-"
 
"You didn’t switch courses again, did y-"
 
"Daaad," Luke whined, effectively shutting his father up. "The test was cancelled. That’s why we could take an earlier flight. Okay? I have to take it in January now."
 
Starsky watched him closely, then looked at Ken sitting next to him. "That true?"
 
Ken just nodded.
 
Putting on his best hurt little boy look, Luke asked, "You don’t trust me?"
 
Starsky and Hutch both widened their eyes at that, exchanging a disbelieving glance. "With your studies?" Starsky finally asked.
 
Grumbling, Luke folded his arms in front of himself, sliding into an indignant sprawl.
 
Giggling, Zoe ruffled his curly hair comfortingly. "Don’t listen to them, Babycakes. You can still join the force like m-"
 
"Hutch," Starsky cut her off hastily, throwing his friend a sharp glance.
 
But the blond had just been having a silent conversation (with an agreement at the end) with the older Starsky twin and hadn’t been listening.
 
"Hmm?" he asked, blinking. "What?" Catching his partner’s intense stare, though, he quickly understood, turning to the other two kids. "What she means is that if you feel college is too hard on you, you can still, uh... try harder," he finished with an unconvincing smile and looked back to Ken. "Hey, speaking of college dropouts, you haven’t seen our office, yet, have you?"
 
"No," Ken replied in horribly-feigned surprise. "You’re right, Hutch, I haven’t."
 
"Yeah, well," Hutch said, checking his watch without looking at it, "what d’you say we let the three Christmas Stooges finish preparing dinner and I’ll show you around there."
 
"Heeey," Ken nodded, stretching the word, as his face lit up. "What a great idea."
 
Instantly, they both stood up, heading for the door like they were following a carefully planned escape route.
 
"See ya later, guys."
 
And out they went, leaving Zoe, Luke and Starsky staring at the door, dumbfounded.
 
Zoe was the first to speak again. "Wow, I think the Grinches established a new record."
 
Tearing his gaze away from the door, Starsky frowned at her, then down at his watch. "Really? Ya think?"
 
"I think so," Luke agreed, nodding at Zoe, who nodded back. "That was real fast."
 
"Yeah," his father admitted, then waggled his head slightly. "Not very high on the elegance scale, though."
 
Again, the kids nodded.
 
Silence followed, as the three of them continued to stare into nothingness for a brief moment - then jumped to their feet in absolute unison, continuing their Christmas singing where they’d left off and marching into the kitchen, Starsky holding the door open for the youngsters, thinking that there was really
nothing like traditions.
 
*****
 
When Hutch and Ken returned, they’d played half a dozen games of chess (4:2) and had watched a Friends Christmas episode just in order to tear it apart verbally. In short: they both were in a mood allowing them to finally face the Christmassy part of their family again.
 
And did they need to be in that mood.
 
The living room looked like something out of a Dickens novel. Apparently, Zoe and Luke had at one point left the cooking to Starsky and had gone shopping for "real decorations."
 
Looking around, as he let the door fall shut behind them, Ken reached out to comfortingly pat Hutch’s shoulder, muttering a very low "wow" to himself.
 
"Hi, Dad. Hi, Ken," Zoe greeted them with a grin, when she walked down the stairs after having changed for dinner.
 
Very slowly, her father turned his head to look at her. "'Hi, Dad'?" he repeated. "What’ve you done to my house?"
"What, don’t you like it?" Luke asked from where he lay on the couch, lifting a bit to look at them.
 
Before Hutch even had the time to answer, Starsky entered through the kitchen door. "Oh good, you’re here. Dinner’s ready."
 
As different as they were on so many levels, the twins were Starskys after all, and so they sat down on the table in the far corner near the kitchen door - the traditional Christmas dinner place - immediately.
 
Hutch, though, just looked at his friend. "Did you know about," he made a small gesture at their surroundings, "this?"
 
"Great, isn’t it?" Starsky grinned, stepping up to come to a halt next to him and placing one arm around his shoulders so that they could look at the utter beauty of it all together. "The kids spent all day on it."
 
"Really?" Hutch said dryly. "Funny, I’d have thought they just threw a Christmas bomb."
 
Chuckling, Starsky gave the blond head a friendly pat. "Don’t think so much, Blintz." Then, he headed back for the kitchen, leaving Zoe to drag her father to the table.
 
*****
 
It was long after midnight when they were still sitting at the table, lost in never-ending conversations, the singing of Christmas carols, the fighting against that and, on the twins’ side, still occasional plate-fillings.
 
"You’re amazing, you know that?" Zoe mumbled into the hand that was supporting her chin, elbow placed on the table, as she watched Luke shovel yet another helping of mashed potatoes into his mouth.
 
Chewing, he lifted his brows at her questioningly, and she waved dismissively, exchanging a look with her Dad.
 
Smiling at the scene, the oldest Starsky glanced at his watch. A grin spread on his face. "You know, actually, it is Christmas Mor-"
 
Four sighs melted into one exasperated one. "Staaaarsk."
It was one of the extremely rare occasions that even the twins used the nickname, having learned to do so only when they were especially unnerved or annoyed with their Dad.
 
Grumbling, Starsky folded his arms in front of him. "Well, it is."
 
"Okay," Ken said into the chiding silence, putting down his fork, as if he’d just been convinced to give in. "If it makes you feel better, Dad, how about we open one present tonight and the rest later. Like, after sunrise. That a plan?"
 
Starsky looked at his son, thought, and then grinned.
 
Taking that as a yes, Ken nodded. "Good. I have something for Zoe." He looked at her smiling surprisedly, while standing up and waggling his brows. "And I think it’s a good moment for it, anyway."
 
To his right, his father put his elbows on the table, resting his face in his palms. Unable to suppress a chuckle, Hutch patted his back comfortingly.
 
"Why is it that no one ever wants to give me anything for Christmas?" the poor man asked miserably.
 
"I have something for you," Hutch said and grinned at the excited reaction he received.
 
"You do?"
 
"Yep." The blond nodded, but lifted his index finger. "Later, Buddy. Like, after sunrise."
 
Though grumbling at that, Starsky did look a lot happier, when he turned to watch Ken sit down again after retrieving a small package from under the richly decorated tree. With a playful bow, he put it in front of Zoe, who nodded in return, before carefully unwrapping the thing.
 
It was a tape. Old looking. The labels on it already having turned a faded yellow and crumbling on the edges.
 
"Um... what’s..." she started, but froze suddenly, holding the tape closer to her face in order to read the faded words on it. Her eyes sparkling, she looked at Ken, who was grinning like a Cheshire cat, then at her father, a full ear-to-ear grin spreading on her lips. Her eyes found Ken again. "And that’s really... ?"
 
He nodded. "Yup."
 
Having watched the scene with a frown starting to form, Starsky glanced at his friend. "Why do I get the feeling I don’t wanna know what it is?"
 
But Hutch’s gaze was fixed on the tape, a somewhat nervous looking, sick puppy look forming on his face. "Because I think I know that tape," he answered.
 
Luke only looked from one to the other and finally snatched the tape out of Zoe’s hands, reading out loud, "'Christmas Party 1978, Huggy’s... ' Aw no!" he laughed, already getting to his feet to head for the stereo. "Don’t tell me you’re on this!"
 
"Luke-" Hutch started warningly at the same time Starsky did.
 
"Lukas, don’t you dare-"
 
Yet, the hasty calls were soon blocked out by the noise of static. Then a distinctive voice could be heard somewhere in the background, but getting more clear, as the person was approaching the machine. "C’moooooooon, Blintz, how long can anyone tune a guitar, for crying out loud?"
 
As all eyes on the table settled on him, Starsky froze to a motionless figure. He stared down at his plate.
 
"Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutch!!!!!!!" the tape-voice whined.
 
It was the following high-pitched hiccup, though, that had Zoe, Luke and Ken bursting into laughter.
 
"Was kind of a wet party, wasn’t it?" Luke smirked, ducking at the scowl he received.
 
Seeing that even Hutch was grinning, Starsky lifted his index finger at him warningly. "You better not say a wor..."
 
Hearing the faint sound of a guitar being played, he trailed off, leaning back in his chair to smile smugly at Hutch, who was taking his turn at blushing, now.
 
To say the guitar solo was recognizable would have been quite an exaggeration. Only the loud singing allowed them to name the song. O, Come All Ye Faithful.
 
Zoe grimaced, swallowing a giggle. "Aw, man, Dad, that’s you?"
 
Hutch didn’t reply, but rubbed his eyes, before casting Ken a dark glare. "I hate you."
 
Starsky nodded. "Yeah, I’m on his side. Where the hell did you find that?! I can’t even remember taping us. You?"
 
Hutch shot him an 'are you kidding?'-look. "Remember?" he repeated disbelievingly, and Starsky rolled his eyes.
 
"I found it in one of the boxes we helped you carry in here, when you... um, when Mona moved you out."
 
Starsky grimaced slightly, but otherwise chose to ignore the expression. "And you kept it for four months?!"
 
Ken shrugged. "Thought it’d be a perfect gift for Zoe. Plus," he added casually, "I had to make copies for everyone."
 
Understanding, Hutch let his shoulders slump, watching realization working into his friend’s expression too. "Did I ever tell you your kids are as great with the gift thing as you’ve always been, Gordo?"
 
Starsky opened his mouth to shoot back a reply, but closed it, frustrated.
 
The background music had switched to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Zoe was almost falling off her chair with laughter at hearing her father more performing than singing the Christmas song he hated most of all.
 
Hutch watched her resignedly. "As long as you’re enjoying your present, Honey."
 
*****
 
Both parents spent two hours laying awake in their beds with their younger selves’ voices blaring away downstairs, before sleep finally, mercifully overtook the youngsters.
 
Morning faded into noon, before any part of the family could be seen walking into the kitchen to get coffee started.
 
It took all the parental power Starsky and Hutch could manage to banish 'the tape' from breakfast, and at last the kids took pity on them. Following a tradition created by the twins, breakfast came before more presents.
 
"We’re the only family where it’s always Christmas Afternoon instead of-" Starsky started to complain after a little while, but was cut off by Hutch.
 
"Oh, for Christ’s sake!" Unnerved, he produced a key from his jeans pocket and put it onto the table between Starsky and Zoe. "There. Your present. Yours and Zoe’s. Now go nuts and let us others eat in peace, will ya?"
 
Surprised, Zoe and Starsky exchanged a glance, Starsky picking up the small item to study it. Suddenly, all lights went on on his face. "Oh my... Are you serious?"
 
Hutch just nodded curtly.
 
"That... You..." Starsky stammered and practically jumped to his feet. "Zoe, get the camera!"
 
"Huh?" She frowned, but stood up too. "What-"
 
"Just get the camera," he repeated, heading for the door, then turned around again to quickly wrap Hutch into a hug. Calling out for Zoe to hurry again, he then vanished, leaving the door open. Confused, Zoe ran after him.
 
Her happy cry could be heard ten seconds later.
 
Busy chewing, the twins had merely watched after the two and now turned their heads to look at Hutch again.
 
"You’re not giving them the LTD, are you?" Ken asked.
 
Hutch didn’t even need to answer.
 
"Wow," Luke said. "And you’re sure you know what you’re doing?"
 
Hutch sighed and waved casually. "Just because they have the car now, doesn’t mean they’ll make it on the show. After all, the car is not that..." Seeing the expression on the youths’ faces - a mixture of pity and amazement, as if they couldn’t believe his stupidity - he trailed off. "What?"
 
"Hutch," Luke started carefully, "of course MTV will take them. You don’t really think they won’t, do you?"
 
"Wh-wha... Yeah, I do. I-I mean, what makes you think they will?"
 
"Yeah, Luke," Ken asked dryly, not even bothering to look up from where he was busy shoveling scrambled eggs onto his toast, "what makes you think Pimp My Ride will go for a funny old man and a hot blonde owning Teddy Roosevelt’s first car? Come on!"
 
Hutch stared at him, something like fear working into his eyes. "The car is in perfect shape," he finally stated, pointing at Ken with his fork warningly. "And don’t call my daughter hot!"
 
At that, Ken looked up, amusement twinkling in his eyes, but he was kept from an answer by his father and Zoe half-dancing back inside, singing "We’re getting our car pimped" to the melody of Jingle Bells.
 
Luke watched them, unimpressed. "Were you on something, when you made that decision?" he asked Hutch.
 
Looking very much like he was in shock, Hutch opened his mouth, but was kept from replying by Zoe’s sudden, tight hug.
 
"Thank you, Dad! Thankyouthankyouthankyou!"
 
"Um... y-you’re welcome, Honey. Are you done with the, uh, tape?"
 
"Oh, no," Zoe waved. "We just decided what we want it to look like. I’m gonna change into my uniform for the tape. We think it’ll probably look cooler, when they see I’m a cop."
 
And with that, she vanished upstairs, leaving Hutch staring after her helplessly.
 
"This is so cool," Starsky announced excitedly, as he sat down again and picked up his coffee. "I can’t believe you did that, Blintz."
 
"Neither can he," Ken muttered, hiding a grin. Luke choked discreetly on a piece of toast, suppressing a giggle.
 
Not having heard, Starsky continued, "This absolutely makes up for every tree and star and whale sponsorship and whatever you gave me over the years."
 
Hutch didn’t answer.
 
"I’m sure he’s glad to hear that," Ken said, patting Hutch’s back kindly. "Aren’t you, Hutch?"
 
"He so is," Luke nodded. "Look how happy he is for you guys."
 
"Yeah, such a heart-warming sight."
 
Looking from one twin to the other, Starsky felt a small frown starting, but was distracted by Zoe running down the stairs again and jumped to his feet to follow her outside. "Thanks again, Blintz! Merry Christmas!"
 
Studying the very withdrawn-looking blond, Luke and Ken exchanged a glance, then both nudged one of his shoulders.
 
"Yeah, Merry Christmas, Hutch."
 
At his scowl, they presented him with real Starsky Special Grins.
 
"Wanna join us in watching some TV?" Luke asked.
 
THE END

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