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Birthday Day


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An OldGuys story for Tamminy. Happy Birthday, Buddy! :D

Hutch was bored. Making a show out of his failing at trying to suppress a yawn, he glanced at Starsky, who sat sprawled in his tv chair in their office, eyes glued to the screen.

 

Following his friend´s gaze, Hutch found himself once more looking at a rambling young actor, who had managed to give him a headache the moment he´d started speaking.

 

"Starsk?"

 

"Hm?" Starsky answered most unwillingly without looking.

 

"Care to tell me again why we´re watching a teenie show?"

 

But Starsky didn´t seem to listen. With slightly widened eyes, he turned to cast Hutch an excited grin. "Isn´t that the coolest idea ever? Chrismukkah." He paused as if tasting the word on his tongue. "I wonder why I never thought of it", he then added, truly surprised.

 

"Me too," Hutch sighed. "And before you let your hopes shoot through the roof - over my dead body."

 

Starsky stared at him in dismay. "What can you possibly have against Hanukkah? How can you hate Christmas and Hanukkah too?"

 

"Out of the same reason you love it, Buddy. It´s the effect it has on you."

 

Starsky scowled at him, folding his arms in front of him grumpily. "Just keep on grinching around, what do I care? I can have Chrismukkah, if I want to. Acually, we should have Chrismukkah. We´re a Jewish-Christian family."

 

"Really?" Hutch asked dryly. "You´re the only one-man family I´ve ever heard of, pal."

 

Starsky snorted. "Love ya too, Blintz." Suddenly, an all but evil grin spread on his face. "But speaking of family..." He raised his brows triumphantly.

 

Hutch´s face darkened. "Why is it you think you can get away with everything, if only you drag my daughter into it?"

 

"`Cause it´s the truth," Starsky explained casually.

 

Before Hutch had time to come up with a reply, Zoe Hutchinson´s voice announced "What´s the truth?" from the door.

 

Hutch turned on the couch to look at her, but kept his silence at her nearly disgusted expression.

 

"Oh my God," she stated, staring at the tv screen. "You guys are watching The O.C.? Don´t you have any dignity? My friend´s kid watches that," she continued, as she strolled into the room, plopping down on the armrest of the couch. Shaking her head, she let an almost pityful glance wander over her father and friend. "You two are, like, what, a hundred and fifty, combined? Honest." Once more, she shook her head. "Get a life."

 

Silence followed. Starsky and Hutch exchanged a glance.

 

"Yeah," Hutch finally muttered. "Thanks for the advice, hon. We´ll consider that. But, speaking of lives..." He turned his head to Starsky, who instantly held out his arm for Hutch to look at his wristwatch.

 

With an exaggerated gesture, they both raised their brows at Zoe.

 

"What?" she asked and slid down to sit next to her father. "Can´t an officer of the law take a lunch break anymore?"

 

"Lunch?" Hutch repeated. "You left my house two hours ago."

 

"Yeah, I know," she said, suddenly frowning. "How come The O.C. is on so early?"

 

Hutch just stared at her for a moment, then looked to his partner again. "Know what´s funny, Starsk? From how all the crime shows look like these days, I woulda sworn the streets have become rougher, not-"

 

"Dad," Zoe cut him off, unnerved. "I´m on call duty, okay? I´ve my radio with me, I´m always available. We don´t need to sit in our cars all day long, like you had to way back when you still had to chase dinosaurs by foot." The last comment was accompanied with a sarcastic smile.

 

A frown deepened on Hutch´s forehead, and his notorious warning finger had almost made it all the way up, when Starsky interfered. "Zoe, please. Don´t give him reason for the 'Hutchinson Reputation' speech."

 

"Oh. Right," Zoe agreed with the sigh of the martyr and nodded at her father in a humoring manner. "You´re so right, Dad: cops are not what they used to be. Streets too." She shook her head. "Everything changes. Sad, but true." Patting his knee comfortingly, she arched her brows and softened her voice, when she offered, "Wanna tell me about the good old times?"

 

Hutch let his shoulders slump and slouched down on the couch, a resigned expression settling on his face. "You just wait, until I start doing that, kid," he grumbled and for the sake of his nerves ignored the meaningful glance his daughter exchanged with Starsky.

 

"Yeah, sure," Zoe muttered and with a parting pat to his leg checked her own watch. "Hey," she turned to Starsky, who was pulling a face at seeing that they had missed the ending of the episode he had enjoyed so much.

 

"Hm?" he asked, looking at her.

 

"When´re you gonna pick up the twins?"

 

"I´ll leave in twenty minutes. Why, you wanna come?"

 

"Twenty minutes..." She tilted her head to one side, as if contemplating, then shrugged. "Yeah, I could. That´d be cool."

 

In slow-motion, Hutch turned his head to her. "Uh... Zoe... work?"

 

But Zoe just waved at him dismissively, talking to Starsky again. "D´you mind getting something to eat on the way? I´m starving."

 

"Oh no, sure," he nodded, getting to his feet. "Sounds like a plan. D´you wanna come too, Blintz?" he asked Hutch, who didn´t move, only his disbelieving stare following them.

 

"When I was a uni, I had six 48-hour shifts a week! I slept on my feet!"

 

Rolling her eyes, Zoe quickly grabbed Starsky´s arm to drag him out of the room with her.

 

"I only took breaks to kick Starsky awake!" Hutch called after them.

 

The sound of the door falling shut was all that answered him.

 

*****

 

The first day of any of the twins´ visits was always a big deal in the house, and this time was no exception. They had a long weekend off from college, and none of them had to either prepare for an important test, nor were any papers due anytime soon. That alone would have sent Ken and Luke off to California, anyway, but this visit was special, because it was the first after their father´s birthday. They never could come on the actual day, because it was always set in the middle of the term, but that wasn´t the only problem that day provided, really.

 

Starsky´s birthday was a complicated thing, since it was also Kristina Starsky´s birthday. It had been one of Hutch´s favourite running gags that his party-loving buddy, of all people, was part of a family of four, that had only two birthday days to celebrate, since the kids were twins and the parents shared the same birthday.

 

Ever since Kristina´s death, though, there was no celebrating the latter anymore.

 

Hutch and Zoe had spent years of hard thinking and trying out things to come up with a birthday substitude for Starsky - they had tried to have him pick a new day or establish a rotating system, so that 'his' day would be a different one in each year, but nothing had really worked for a long time, and so this newest tradition of having it be the first day of the twins´ visit after the actual birthday had come like a blessing to the family.

 

Happily muching her way through a double-load of fries she held in a folded newspaper, Zoe listened to Starsky´s rambling about Chrismukkah, while they waited for the belated plane to finally land. Starsky had managed half a burrito, before discreetly shoving the rest over to Zoe.

 

Though she had grown up with her Dad´s constant claims that the twins had inherited their eating abilities from their father, Zoe sometimes found it hard to believe. As long as she had known Starsky - and that was, after all, all her life - he had been struggling to keep his weight, and when he got sick, his becoming dangerously thin too quickly was always the second top priority worry for all of them, right after the condition of his lungs.

 

But then, she hadn´t known him before Gunther, she figured.

 

"... and, anyway... so, what´s your old man going to give me, hm?" Starsky finished his last sentence casually, tensing slightly, when he tried his best to appear totally innocent. He even stole a chip from out of the newspaper, just to distract her.

 

Swallowing a grin at an attempt that lame, Zoe frowned deeply as if thinking. "He didn´t exactly tell me, but I think it had something to do with the woods and a tent." Taking the chip out of his hand, since he had frozen in motion, she smiled sweetly and popped it into her mouth.

 

His face fell. "You´re a real Hutchinson, know that?"

 

"Hey," she mumbled around the chip and shrugged, "we´ve a reputation to lose."

 

Starsky snorted. He folded his arms in front of him, but lifted one finger to point it accusingly at her. "If that´s what he´s gonna do, I´ll know who´s to blame."

 

"Aw, Dave, chill up. D´you honestly believe he´ll force you out into the greens again? That´d mean he´d have to leave the couch."

 

"True." Starsky nodded gravely after a moment´s thought. Suddenly, his eyes lit up, as he caught two figures approaching the waiting area. "Hey, hey!" He was on his feet in an instant and had crossed the distance to his sons before Zoe had even been able to follow his gaze.

 

"Luke, Ken," Starsky greeted them, managing to wrap both in one of his notorious Twins Welcoming Hugs.

 

Luke and Ken involuntarily gave a simultanious choked cough. "Hey Dad," they managed to croak out eventually, while discreetly shoving him back a step. They were both taller than he and could have easily freed themselves a lot faster.

 

"Happy birthday," Ken smiled, patting his father´s shoulder, while Luke did the same on the other side.

 

"Yeah, Pops. Happy getting old and senile." He grinned.

 

Starsky shot him a glance. "Actually I do seem to forget things of late, son. Like... wasn´t it you, who didn´t need financial support anymore?"

 

Zoe, who watched the scene from a step back, couldn´t help thinking he looked decidedly like her father all of a sudden. She wondered if he was aware of that.

 

Luke grinned. "And fit looking as ever, Dad." He nodded importantly, bending back to look him up and down. "People always think we´re triplets, right?"

 

Starsky exchanged a glance with Ken, who, with a small shake of his head and a rolling of his eyes, stepped past his brother to greet Zoe.

 

"Hey." After a quick hug, he gestured at her uniform. "You didn´t have to dress up like that just for us, y´know?"

 

"That´s what I get for sacrificing my lunch break for ya?" she asked and held out the remains of her fries for him.

 

Without thinking twice, he grabbed a few. "Thanks. Lunch break, huh? Y´know, when your father was a uni-"

 

" - he worked six 48-hour shifts a week," Luke finished the sentence. He too had stepped up next to Zoe, really more to join in the fries eating than to pat her back for a greeting.

 

"Right," Ken nodded. "He slept-"

 

" - on his feet," Luke said through a mouthful of fries. "And he only took breaks-"

 

" - to digest disgusting shakes," Starsky quickly cut him off and stepped in between him and Zoe to give both of them a gentle but determined shove towards the exit. "Now let´s get outta here. I think I hear the streets calling out for Officer Hutchinson here."

 

"Uuuuhhh, does that mean we´ll drive home with the sirens blaring?" Luke asked.

 

Behind him, unseen, Ken rolled his eyes, then sped up to walk next to his brother, laying his arm across his shoulder. "Sure, bro, all the way to the playground."

 

"Nag, nag, nag," Luke muttered darkly.

 

With a chuckle, his father reached up to ruffle his hair.

 

*****

 

"Blintz!" Starsky announced, when he entered the living-room, the twins and Zoe behind him cringing at the volume.

 

As if to make up for it, Ken closed the front door with exaggerated care.

 

"Hutch! They´re-"

 

"Yeah, I know," an unnerved voice from behind the kitchen door cut Starsky off, and a moment later Hutch stepped into the room, rubbing one ear. "They´re here, it´s your birthday now, congrats, buddy, go nuts. But do it quietly. Hey boys," he then smiled at the twins, who stepped up to hug him. Before they even had the chance, though, his attention was drawn towards his daughter. "What´re you doing here?"

 

As if hurt, Zoe layed one arm around Starsky´s shoulders. "Why, celebrating my Uncle Dave´s birthday, what d´you think?"

 

"Playing hooky," Hutch answered.

 

"Oh. That. No." She waved dismissively. "Don´t worry. I called in sick." She grinned.

 

Catching Ken´s affirmative nods to his right, Hutch banned all helpless-father-exasperation from his face to have it be replaced with his usual, resigned expression. "Well... coffee anyone? How was your flight, little bits?"

 

Ten minutes later, the family had settled at the table and was happily chatting, munching their way through birthday cake and - at least partly - eelgras muffins.

 

The students reported their successes and - at least partly - their failures to their father, Zoe answered a few questions about her new boyfriend (Of whom Hutch at this occasion heard for the first time.) and at last Ken asked, "So, how´s your business coming along?"

 

Starsky and Hutch exchanged a glance.

 

"We have digital tv now," Starsky answered.

 

Hutch nodded importantly. "Beats cable any day."

 

"Yeah," his partner agreed.

 

The twins looked at them almost pityfully, then turned to Zoe, who pulled a face, but nodded.

 

"But they do have, well... cases?" Luke asked hopefully. "Right?"

 

At that, Zoe grinned, while her father and Starsky instantly grew extremely interested in their plates. "Weeeell... let´s see. They had this runaway cat the other day, now that surely was-"

 

"Dog," Starsky cut her off. "It was a dog, and it was huge. People could´ve gotten hurt."

 

"Yeah," Zoe nodded. "Right." She paused, then continued, "Anyway, Dave ran over it with the car."

 

"Okay, first of all," Starsky hurried to cut in, "it survived. And then," he turned to Zoe again, "why don´t we talk about the half dozen cases you solved, ever since your old man and I-"

 

"Don´t call me old," Hutch mumbled around a mouthful of weird looking muffin.

 

"... ever since Hutch and I got back into business, huh?"

 

"But you´re not supposed to work on my cases," Zoe explained. "You´re private eyes now, you´re supposed to work on cases us cops wouldn´t look at during a blackout."

 

Starsky opened his mouth, closed it, frowned and turned to his friend. "Hutch? Can I lecture your kid, please?"

 

Hutch wasn´t even looking, but seemingly fascinated by swirling milk into his coffee. He just waved. "`Syour birthday, buddy. Lecture away."

 

Having been discreetly poked by his brother, Luke quickly intervened, before his father could speak again. "So it´s going nicely, huh? That´s great to hear, Pops. Now, how about presents?"

 

Starsky grinned, but stopped just for the moment it took to point at Zoe and inform her that, "This ain´t over." Then, he was all giddy joy again, excitedly looking around the table.

 

"Okay." Zoe raised her hands in a surrendering gesture. "I´ll start."

 

Forcing a strict expression to his face, Starsky once more pointed at her. "Doesn´t mean I´ll forget you insulted my best friend."

 

"Speak only for yourself, Gordo," Hutch muttered.

 

"I am."

 

Hutch rolled his eyes. "Zoe, give him his present."

 

"A´right." With a waggling of her brows, she shifted on her seat to reach into the back pocket of the jeans she´d changed into and produced a small cumbled piece of paper. "Happy birthday, Dave." With that and a grin, she put it in front of him onto the table, unsuccessfully trying to smoothe down the curling edges.

 

Starsky looked like a 5-year-old, who had just gotten a bunch of underwear for Christmas. "I get garbage? Not even loose change?"

 

"Hey, I´m a busy girl," Zoe explained, causing her father to glace away meaningfully. "I didn´t have time to wrap it, sorry. But it´s cool!" she assured and picked up the piece of paper to hold it right in front of Starsky´s eyes. "You didn´t even loo... oh." With a sudden smirk (a mixture of an understanding smile and the expression of pure cruelty only the young wear) she tilted her head to one side sympathetically. "You can´t read it without your glasses, huh?"

 

Starsky´s smile at that seemed rather forced.

 

"Okay, okay," she apologized and started to have her present dance playfully in the air before his face. "This is... a ticket to Disney´s California Adventure!"

 

All annoyance instantly vanished from Starsky´s eyes, which grew huge, as he grabbed the ticket. "No! Really? Zoe," he beamed, "that´s so cool!" Bending over, he pressed a kiss to her cheek, then grinned widely at Hutch, holding the ticket up. "Look what I got!"

 

Hutch picked up his coffee cup. "That´s great, buddy," he nodded, as if talking to an overexcited child.

 

"There´s a catch, though," Zoe cut in conspiraciously.

 

Starsky looked up from where he´d stared at his ticket. "Hm?"

 

"I´m gonna give one to Dad for his birthday too. And," she added with a shrug, as if it was understood, "I bought one for myself, of course."

 

The grin on Starsky´s face doubled in size, when he looked at his partner again, who had let his cup sink down without taking the intended sip. "I love your kid, Blintz."

 

"Oh yeah? Wanna adopt her?"

 

"Dad," Zoe chided, "it´s gonna be fun. It´s a whole new park, new attractions, new roller coasters, new everything. It´s gonna be cool, trust me."

 

"First of all," Hutch replied, "Starsk´s not gonna go on any roller coasters. And second: I hate amusement parks."

 

Starsky almost choked on his coffee. "I beg your pardon?" he gasped. "The last time we went to Disneyland-"

 

"Ooookay," Hutch cut him off, unceremoniously dumping a new piece of cake onto Starsky´s plate, "it´s the little bits´ turn now, they´re beginning to get impatient. Aren´t ya, boys?" he added urgently.

 

"Not really," Ken smiled, but at the look to kill he suddenly found himself the target of quickly turned to his father. "I mean, sure w´are. Luke, go get our gift."

 

"`Meatin´," Luke protested around a mouthful of cake.

 

Ken just looked at him.

 

"`Kuh..." Luke rolled his eyes and got up to head for their suitcases.

 

Starsky was still marveling over his ticket to a day of fun. Catching his best friend´s glance, he patted Hutch´s shoulder comfortingly. "Cheer up, Brains. We´ll buy you a bag of raw sugar before going in."

 

"Not in front of my daughter," Hutch quipped.

 

Starsky laughed and turned his head, when Luke put a wrapped box in front of him.

 

"There ya go, Pops."

 

He hadn´t even sat down again, when his father had already dug his way through the colorful wrapping paper.

 

"Woo-hoo!" Starsky exclaimed happily at what he saw: a Humphrey Bogart-as-Philip Marlowe- DVD set. "Thanks, kids." He grinned.

 

"We thought," Ken said, "what with being a private eye yourself now, you could look at `em as advice tapes."

 

Starsky smiled. "That´s my boys."

 

"We thought about giving you the books first," Luke said, "but Hutch said that might stir unwelcomed memories?" He v´ed his brows questioningly.

 

"Huh? Wha... oh." Starsky´s expression darkened, as he cast his suddenly quite cheerful looking partner a glare.

 

"Yeah," Ken continued inquiringly. "He said you read `em in a looney bin?"

 

"That was an undercover assignment!" Starsky snapped. He didn´t catch Hutch´s discreet shake of his head at the twins.

 

"Sure, Dad," they nodded in unison, but before their father could get into the topic some more, Hutch nudged his arm.

 

"My turn."

 

Instantly all excited again, Starsky looked at him with big eyes, but his face fell, when memory reached him belatedly. "Alright," he muttered.

 

Hutch smiled. "You´re gonna like it," he promised, patting Starsky´s head, as he stood to walk to the coffee table, where he picked up a plain white envelope. Handing it to his friend, he sat down again. "Happy birthday, pal."

 

Starsky cast it a dreadful glance. "You a busy girl too?" he joked.

 

Hutch raised his hands defensively. "I put it in an envelope!"

 

"Hm." Without much care, Starsky tore the envelope open and drew out a small, equally plain white piece of paper with a single line scribbled on it. Frowning, he glanced at Hutch, then read out loud, " 'This gift certificate ensures David Starsky...' " He rolled his eyes. " '... of a whole December week of...' " Trailing off, he widened his eyes. His gaze snapped up at Hutch. " '...of    completely unhindered christmassyness' ?"

 

Hutch nodded gravely and folded his arms in front of him.

 

"Y-you mean that?" Starsky asked incredulously.

 

Hutch nodded.

 

"A whole week?"

 

Hutch hesitated - but nodded.

 

"And... and you won´t be grinchy at all? You´ll sing Christmas carols with me and let me decorate the house and all?"

 

"Whatever you want," Hutch replied. He lifted his index finger. "One week."

 

Starsky grinned. "But I can pick the week, right?"

 

"Uhm..."

 

"And the year too," Starsky continued. "Like, just if, for example, you decided to go on an all-December-vacation this year. Or to volunteer for 24-hour-shifts somewhere. Right?"

 

"Starsk," Hutch sighed, "it´s June, okay? Let´s just wait until December, and we´ll see."

 

Holding his gift certificate protectively against his chest, Starsky backed away from him. His eyes narrowed in distrust. "I´ll hide this. Be sure of that."

 

"Please, buddy," Hutch said sarcastically, raising his hands, "your display of gratitude makes me blush."

 

"I´ll be grateful, when I´ll hear you singing Rudolf, while putting the cookies into the oven," Starsky let him know and folded the piece of paper sharply to stash it into his pocket.

 

"So what," Zoe suddenly cut in, "we others get trees and stars and wale-names, and he gets something as cool as that?"

 

"Oh please!" Starsky answered for his friend. "Trees´ve been planted 'in my name', before you were even born, kiddo. You´ve to collect more stars than just a galaxy to earn a real birthday gift."

 

"Hey," Hutch stated indignantly, "my gifts aren´t-"

 

"I think getting stars is cool," Luke mumbled, earning one grateful and two quite disapproving glances. Catching them, he looked at his brother for back-up. "Don´t you? Ken?"

 

But Ken hadn´t listened. He was staring at Hutch in what looked like pure dismay. "How can you do that to me?"

 

Hutch shrugged apologetically. "Maybe he won´t pick the week you kids are here," he tried to assure, but Starsky just gave an all but evil laugh.

 

"Hah! You wish, son," he grinned at Ken, then at Hutch. "Thank you, Blintz."

 

"Yeah," Ken grumbled darkly, glaring at Hutch. "Thank you, Blintz."

 

*****

 

"Oh my God," Luke announced a while later, as the family had spread all over the living-room, Hutch and Ken playing chess, Zoe and Starsky watching afternoon cartoons and Luke reading a new tv guide he had bought at the airport in Boston, but hadn´t read yet, since he´d been too busy going on Ken´s nerves by forcing him to play 'long boring flight'-games. (Upon hearing that, by the way, Hutch had exchanged a knowing look of utter sympathy with his namesake.)

 

At the dismayed outcry, everyone looked up from what they were doing.

 

"What?" Ken asked, but quickly snapped his gaze to Hutch again, who lifted a hand - that had snaked towards the chess board - defensively, his expression switching from a snicker to innocence with impressive speed.

 

Unaware of that, Luke replied, "Says here they´re gonna change the Cookie Monster into - wait for it - the Vegetable Monster. They think its eating habits are no good for a role-model."

 

Ken´s reaction of "Since when´s the Cookie Monster a role-model?" was drowned out by simultanious exclamations from Starsky and Zoe.

 

"What?"

 

"They gotta be kidding! Gimme that!" Snatching the newspaper out of Luke´s hands, Zoe stared at the article for a split second, then unceremoniously handed it back. "It´s true," she confirmed.

 

"Aw... what?" Starsky repeated. "Veggie Monster? And it´ll yell 'Vegetables!'" He gave quite an impressive immitation of the brain-washed muppet that earned him a praising glance from Luke. Starsky catch it, though, since he was already rambling on, "And it´ll do what, throw around broccoli bits? It never eats the cookies, anyway, it just throws `em all over the place. How can they change that? How can anyone want to change the Cookie Monster?" He thought for a moment, then added darkly, "And into Hutch too!"

 

At that, Zoe turned on the couch to inspect her father through narrowed eyes. "Tell me you´ve nothing to do with this," she ordered.

 

Hutch lifted his brows. "I wish," he replied. "`Sabout time someone shows some responsibility in kids´ tv, y´know." Hit by a thought, he frowned. "And how come you´re so shocked, anyway? You hated the Cookie Monster when you were little."

 

"I didn´t hate it," Zoe explained, "I was scared of it. But I´m a cop now, okay? I carry a gun. No need to be scared of monsters anymore, especially not if I agree with their eating habits."

 

Hutch wasn´t even listening anymore. Suddenly looking very tired, he rubbed his forehead, elbows placed onto the table. "Ken, your move," he muttered, but wasn´t talking to someone who´d pay attention.

 

"Will it still look the same?" Ken asked. "Won´t that confuse kids?"

 

His father shrugged. "Maybe it´ll grow a mustache."

 

With a sigh, Hutch stood up, heading for the kitchen. "You´ll go on wondering, I´m gonna get myself-"

 

"Beer!" Zoe and the Starskys interrupted him in a Cookie Monster-ish voice and grinned at the door falling shut.

 

*****

 

Time flew, and when dusk had long faded into deep darkness, the five of them sat in a friendly lit, rather loud bar Hutch had picked after having left Starsky´s favourite Italian restaurant. The one, as Hutch would sardonically put whenever he was forced to go there, that always reminded Ken and Luke of the place their great-grandmother used to live over long before they´d been born.

 

No matter how often he heard that line, Starsky never grew tired of stating how totally unfunny the running gag was.

 

It was some time into the third beer that Luke found the karaoke flyer and grabbed it to interestedly study it, while his father was just rambling on about yet another great idea he had and that he, as always, shared with Zoe, who was his back-up on it as usually.

 

"C´mon, Dad," she was just asking, "how come you don´t think it´s a good idea to have food places be forced to have delivery services by law? You´re the laziest of all of us!"

 

"Now, wait a sec-"

 

"If," she interrupted his half-hearted attempt at self-defens, "the health food place under the office had delivery - you´d make use of it. While at work!"

 

"Okay," he pointed his finger at her to prevent any more ranting. "Now, first of all: that´s true." The warning finger was withdrawn. Zoe grinned. "And second: I´m not against the idea, I´m against its representers." He smiled and lifted his beer as if for a toast.

 

Ken joined him. "Hear, hear."

 

Starsky, who had turned to them just then after having ordered the next round, frowned. A not too steady gaze found Hutch´s. "What, because I suggest something it´s wrong?"

 

"No," Hutch soothed, patting his friend´s shoulder, "`course not. But, you see, if I say yes to one thing you two come up with, you´ll start to take approval as granted. And then suddenly I have to listen to all of your nonsense, because you think I´m on your side. I´d rather go with arguing against the zero point nine percentage of stuff I agree with." He took a gulp of his beer.

 

Starsky narrowed his eyes at him, but then let them wander upwards as if thinking. "Makes sense," he finally stated and touched his glas to Hutch´s. "Cheers. Know what? You´re my favorite opponent, anyway."

 

"Back atcha," Hutch grinned.

 

A collective moan came from the second generation. "Aw, c´mon, Pops, no soapy scenes, huh?" Luke pleaded, earning back-up in form of fierce nods from Ken and Zoe.

 

Both Hutch´s and Starsky´s index finger shot up at that, but whatever they had planned to call Luke, he cut it off by holding out the flyer for them to see in a desperate measure of self-protection. "Look what I found. This place has karaoke." He beamed.

 

His back-up changed its nature, as Zoe and Ken simultaniously let their eyes wander over to glare at him.

 

"Hey Hutch, looka tha´," Starsky exclaimed happily. He threw a glance over his shoulder at the stage, where there was indeed a karaoke machine to be seen. The excited grin on his face spread even more, when he turned to his partner again. "Didja know that?"

 

"Who, me?" Hutch asked in unconvincing innocence, brows lifted, but not enough to hide the smile twinkling in his eyes. "Would I do that?" With a faked strict expression, he gazed at each kid. "Whose idea was it to come here, anyway?"

 

"Aw, please, guys," Ken begged.

 

"Yeah," Zoe nodded. "C´mon. It doesn´t look like it´s a karaoke evening, anyway. Just forget about it now, and then later in the car, you can sing this song about soup you´re so fond of. Deal?"

 

But Starsky was already scanning the background for some waitress, muttering something like "So what? `Smy birthday," while Hutch was starting to softly hum Black Bean Soup under his breath.

 

Zoe turned a helpless glance to Ken, who was trying to kick his still smiling brother under the table.

 

"Uuuhhhh," Starsky giggled. He had to turn to the table again to grab his beer and grinned at Hutch. "This is gonna be cool. Thanks, Blintz!"

 

"What for?" Hutch shrugged. "I keep telling ya, it´s a coincidence." He winked.

 

"I believe him," Zoe cut in conspiraciously, as an idea had just hit her. "I mean, Dad would never choose a karaoke place, would he? He´d know you´ll make him sing in front of an audience, and Dad is," she bent in closer to her father and lowered her voice, "scared to death of singing in front of crowds."

 

Unimpressed, Hutch picked up his beer. "Yeah. You know what´s funny about having kids? Suddenly the fear of embarrassement pales in comparison to the delight of embarrassing your children."

 

Zoe groaned.

 

"You stop it," Starsky ordered, shooting her a glance. "Your father´s a great singer."

 

"Why, thank you," Hutch smiled at him.

 

"You´re welcome. Did you know he even-"

 

"If you tell the story of how you got Hutch a gig in a country whatever place again," Ken interrupted him, "I´ll leave. I mean that. To Boston."

 

"Hold a seat for me," Hutch mumbled into his glass, then reached out to turn Starsky´s head to the side. "C´mon, Gordo, focus on finding that waitress."

 

*****

 

Ten minutes later, two slightly swaying private eyes were occupying the stage, both holding their beer in one hand, while discreetly steading themselves with the other by pretending to have it layed around each other´s shoulders.

 

The first chords of their chosen song started, and Ken let his head slump onto the table.

 

"An-d noooooooow, the end is neeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaar..."

 

"If only," Ken moaned into the wooden surface and lifted his head again to see Zoe casting him an understanding look.

 

Luke, on the other hand, was beaming the exact same way he´d been ever since he had handed his father the flyer.

 

"We did it ooooouuuuuuuuuuur waaaaay..."

 

Zoe and Ken rolled their eyes.

 

Luke laughed. "Hey," he told his brother and friend, "they´re not even bad, huh?" Excited, he turned again, before he could catch the two glares he was receiving for an answer.

 

The song went on, and you had to give it to the old guys that their volume was impressive. As was their enthusiasm.

 

"Ken," Zoe said without looking at him, "if I ever start showing symptoms like that when aging - shoot me."

 

He just nodded.

 

"To think we did aaaaaall that, and may we say..." Hutch stopped to have Starsky continue with "not in a shy way" alone, before joining him again. "Oh no, oh no not weeee. We did it ouuuur way."

 

"Know what´s funny?" Ken asked. "People keep telling me my Dad used to be cool."

 

Zoe lifted her brows at him as if out of pity. She nodded slowly. "Wow."

 

He gave a half shrug of pure resignation. "Yeah."

 

Catching a sudden third voice, they turned to notice Luke was half-loudly singing along, swaying his head to the music.

 

Abruptly, Ken nudged Zoe´s shoulder, and without even needing to look at him, she followed him up and to another table in the far, far back of the bar. "Hey, know what I just figured? You probably helped saving the world," he told her, when they sat down.

 

She blinked questioningly.

 

"Well, look at him," he pointed at his twin brother, who was by now happily singing along. "Now, there´s a fifty percent chance you inherit mental... let´s say, errors from your father, right? So naturally it had to hit one of us, but you´re a lonely child. So you had to escape the gens that would´ve turned you into..." He vaguely gestured at the stage. "And because you managed to do so, there´s one of them less on this planet." He lifted his beer at her. "I´ll drink to that."

 

She didn´t join him, but stared at the stage as if suddenly terrified.

 

"Zoe?"

 

"Uhm... I was just thinking... uh... y´know, Hutch wasn´t one of them, when he was my age."

 

"Oh." Ken´s expression darkened. "Right." He sighed and squeezed her shoulder comfortingly. "Well... I promise to shoot you."

 

"Thanks."

 

Just then, the song stopped, and over Luke´s drunken cheering and 'Bravo!'-yelling you couldn´t hear the other customers clap their hands politely.

 

*****

 

Ken wasn´t sure what had woken him, Luke´s snoring from across the room or his father´s that came through the wall. Or maybe it was the fact that Zoe had fallen asleep with the tv up full blast down the hallway.

 

Grumbling, he sat up in his bed, casting his brother a scowl that ended in a rolling of his eyes, when he saw that Luke had managed to fall asleep with half of his body hanging off the bed and his shoes still on.

 

With a sigh, Ken swung his legs off the bed, then stood up and shuffled over to Luke. "C´mon," he muttered, while unceremoniously shoving Luke´s upper body onto the matress again. "Not that you don´t deserve to have a stiff neck tomorrow..."

 

Luke gave a particularly loud snoring sound and rolled onto his side. 

 

Nodding, Ken patted his shoulder. "Yep."

 

The sun was already up outside the window, the fresh golden light of the early morning pushing against the light blue curtains.

 

With a yawn, Ken rubbed his eyes, drew Luke´s blanket up higher and left the room.

 

First, he sneaked into Zoe´s room to turn down the volume. Knowing her, though, he didn´t even bother to think of switching it off.

 

Downstairs, he strolled on into the kitchen.

 

"Mornin´," a muffled voice greeted him, when he pushed the door open.

 

"Aaah!" Grabbing his chest, Ken stumbled back against the swing door and almost out again. "Man!" he panted, eyes wide. "Give a guy a heart attack!"

 

"Sorry," Hutch said, unimpressed. "What´re you doing up? It´s six o´clock." Not waiting for an answer, he stood up from the kitchen table to get a second fork.

 

Ken frowned, suddenly realizing that Hutch was eating cake. The remains of Starsky´s birthday cake, to be precise. "Uhm... couldn´t sleep," he muttered absently. "What about you?"

 

"Oh, y´know," Hutch waved slightly, "listening to the home shopping channel makes me hungry." Putting the fork next to the plate he shoved into the center of the table, he sat down again. "C´mon, sit down."

 

Ken smirked and joined him. "Thanks." He picked up the fork, but instead of digging it into the cake looked at Hutch, arching his brows. "You´re eating cake? Should I be worried?"

 

Hutch´s expression turned very serious. He pointed his fork at Ken. "You tell your Dad, you´re gonna be sorry, kid."

 

"Figures," Ken grinned. "So... you do this often?" At last, he too started munching happily.

 

Hutch shrugged. "Nah."

 

Ken´s grin widened, but he kept his silence.

 

"Okay, yes, but you gotta understand I´ve a reputation to lose," Hutch explained.

 

Studying him closely, Ken swallowed, bent in closer and lowered his voice. "Okay, tell me - Blintz," he grinned, "for how long have you been secretly eating real food?"

 

Hutch just chewed in silence, until Ken raised his hands as if in self-defens. "Alright. Your secret´s safe with me," he promised, but giggled a little under his breath. When he looked up again, his eyes twinkled with amusement. "You owe me, though. You know that, right?"

 

Hutch gave a single cough and blinked. "Oh," he said dryly. "That so? Funny, I though what with me being the guy you called, when you needed to be picked up after this house party, where you - illegaly, I might add - got dru-"

 

"Aw, now, come on!" Ken exclaimed around a mouthful of cake. "That was years ago!"

 

Hutch halted, as if thinking, then nodded. "Yeah, you´re right. I mean... yeah." Wrinkling his nose in fake agreement, he continued, "We both know Starsky´s the kind of Dad whom you can tell stuff like that yeeeeaaaaars later, and he´ll laugh about it and pat your back." He grinned. "Don´t we?"

 

A very long silence followed.

 

"Isn´t it amazing," Ken finally said with absolutely no color to his voice, "how much cake a single person can eat at six in the morning?"

 

"Not really, if that person´s a Starsky," Hutch answered contently.

 

Grumbling, Ken swallowed. "Still," he stated after a moment´s thought, "you owe me for this year´s Christmas desaster, that will be entirely your fault."

 

"Hey," Hutch defended himself, unimpressed. "I asked you if you wanted to join in, and you laughed and hang up. You had your chance, kid, don´t blame me."

 

"I thought you were joking!"

 

"Would I joke about something like that?"

 

"But... damn," Ken sighed, stabbing the innocent cake with his fork, before pointing it at Hutch warningly, "I´m gonna give him the same thing next year, and then you´ll see how much fun being the loner is."

 

"Kenny," Hutch said softly. He shook his head as if disappointed. "I´ve been the loner up until you learned how to throw Christmas ornaments. If you wanna spoil your Dad, go ahead. I´ll live."

 

Ken seemed to think about that for a moment, then sighed resignfully. "Double-damn."

 

Hutch shrugged. "Life´s no strawberry field, better learn that early."

 

An unsuccessfully suppressed laugh broke free at that. "Man, I hope I´ll have kids one day to use old-`n-wise-lines like that."

 

Hutch cast him a blank look. "I got that one from Zoe."

 

Instantly, seriousness found Ken´s eyes again. "Figures," he said.

 

For a while they ate in silence, until Ken glanced over at his namesake. "Hey Hutch?"

 

"Hm?" Hutch asked, lifting his gaze. Surprised at the change of expression on Ken´s face, he lowered his fork. "Yeah?"

 

"I´m..." Ken started, then smiled and shrugged. "I just wanted to say thanks for... y´know, for giving in to Dad´s business plan. It´s really been good for him."

 

Hutch blinked understandingly, but gave a faked sigh. "`Sabout time someone thanked me. I mean, no one seems to care that retirement was good for me, but, hey..." He spread his arms generously.

 

Ken rolled his eyes. "How does Zoe do it, living with you fruitcakes? When I tell Dad I´m glad he´s doing so much better, he holds this speech about no soapy scenes..."

 

Hutch nodded.

 

"... and you..." Waving dismissively, Ken turned for the cake again. "And, by the way," he added with his mouth full, "retirement introduced you to Nickelodeon, and we all know what happened next, don´t you forget that."

 

"I´ve no idea what you´re talking about," Hutch said stoically and checked his watch. "But speaking of which..." He glanced up with a smile in his eyes. "Care to join an old man for an hour of Cow and Chicken?" He stood up, heading for the door.

 

"Sure," Ken nodded and put down his fork.

 

"Great. Bring the cake."

 

THE END

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