Hutch laughed as he watched Starsky in the backyard pool. He had little Davey in his right arm as he used his left to spin Susie and then Jamie who were floating in green and blue plastic inner tubes. The girls laughed and squealed.
"Me!" Davey insisted.
"Oh, you want some of this too?" Starsky asked gruffly. He hooked Davey under the arms and dipped him into the water. He swam backwards, towing his son along. Starsky slid deeper into the water so that it was above his mouth. Hutch laughed again when he heard the motorboat sounds coming from his partner.
Hutch looked over to the playpen nearby and smiled at Sarah who was sitting quietly, chewing on a toy. "Your Uncle Stars is crazy, do you know that?" Sarah responded with gibberish. "I guess everyone knows it then," Hutch said back, making a silly face which caused Sarah to giggle.
Hutch heard a door to his left and looked over to see Allison coming from the back of the Starsky house next door. She waved at Hutch as she climbed into her Torino. She maneuvered around the other cars in the shared driveway between the houses and drove off. Starsky and the kids came up onto the deck wrapped in large beach towels. Starsky shook his hair spraying everyone with pool water.
"Daaaaddy, cut it out," Susie complained.
"What? You are just as wet as I am. Uncle Hutch should be the one complaining."
Hutch grinned. "Feels good, actually. It's pretty hot today."
Alice came out of the house holding a platter of hamburgers and hot dogs for the grill. "Which is exactly why I'm not cooking." She handed the platter to Hutch. "Here you go, Handsome." She looked around as Hutch took the proffered platter. "Where is Allison?"
"She went out with her girlfriends," Starsky said as he helped Davey dry off and put on a t-shirt.
"Again?" Alice asked as she glanced at Hutch who also looked concerned.
"I want my Fat Albert shirt, Daddy," Susie said as she stared at the flowered shirt her father had handed her.
"Okay, let's go get it," Starsky said with a grin. He jumped over the deck stairs and took off running. "Beat ya!" He called over his shoulder. Susie took off after him.
Alice reached over and finger-combed Davey's wet hair. "I can't believe she went out again with those friends," she said without looking up at Hutch.
"I'm all for having time with friends, but she's out more than she is here."
Alice nodded as she headed back to the kitchen door. "I feel like she's drifting off." She turned back to Hutch. "Does Starsky say anything?"
"No, not a word."
A week later Hutch heard a knock at the back door as he was pouring his first cup of coffee. He opened the door and found Starsky on the deck, a child's hand in each of his. "Starsk. What are you knocking for? Good morning, come on in."
"Hutch, can you do me a favor and watch the kids for a while?"
Hutch, who had been walking back to the kitchen, stopped and turned back. "Oh, yes of course, Buddy." Hutch looked down at his niece and nephew. "Come on in, kids. Good timing. Jamie is in the den making a fort."
"Come on, Davey," Susie said as she took her little brother's hand. "Let's go see!"
Hutch smiled after them then looked back toward Starsky. "Everything okay?"
"Thanks, Hutch," Starsky said darkly. He left the house, quickly shutting the door behind him.
Alice came down the stairs with Sarah. "Is that Starsky and Allison?"
"No," Hutch said bringing two cups of coffee into the living room. It was Starsky dropping the kids off. He didn't look happy. You know, ever since last weekend when you asked about Allison going out all the time, he has been kind of withdrawn and quiet."
"I've noticed that too," Alice said as she placed Sarah on a blanket on the floor and handed her some toys. And Allison hasn't been her usual bubbly self these last few days.
Hutch let out a sigh and took a sip of his coffee. "I sure hope they are okay."
Starsky went into the house and found Allison standing in the living room staring out at the front yard through the bay window.
"What's going on, Laura?"
Allison didn't move at first but Starsky saw her take in a deep breath. Without turning to face him she answered, "I…I think I need to leave."
Starsky's heart pounded in his throat as he took a step forward. "What have I done?"
Allison turned slowly and faced her husband. Her eyes shone with tears. "You haven't done anything wrong, David."
"What can I do to make you happy? I'll do anything, Laura." He took another step towards his wife but stopped when she took a step back.
"David, you are a wonderful husband. You are the most amazing father I have ever seen." She looked down at her hands and shook her head. After a moment she looked back up and her eyes scanned the house. "I…I just…"
"What?" Starsky's voice was a whisper.
The tears in Allison's eyes spilt over and ran down her cheeks. She shook her head again. "I just…can't." She took in a trembling breath. "I'm sorry."
A single tear ran down Starsky's face before he turned and wiped it away with the back of his hand. He felt Allison move past him toward the bedroom. He heard drawers open and then the closet. He moved to the couch and fell down onto it. He rested his head in his hands. Ten minutes later he heard her come down the hall. Starsky turned to see Allison heading toward the back door with a suitcase.
"Laura! Laura, wait!" He got up and rushed after her.
"Don't, David," Allison said, reaching for the doorknob.
"Where are you going?"
"I'll be staying with a friend for a while."
"That's it? Just a few words and you're leaving me? No explanation, no nothing?" Starsky's voice turned cold and it made Allison shut her eyes and turn away.
"You said that already," Starsky hissed. He took a breath and steeled himself. "There's someone else."
Allison looked up at Starsky. "No. No, I promise you, that is not it."
"Susie has already lost one mother."
Allison began to cry again. "I'm still her mother. I always will be. Nothing will change that."
Starsky's stomach unclenched a little at that. He reached for his wife and brushed the back of his fingers along her jaw. "I love you, Laura."
"I…I love you, too." Allison choked back a sob.
"Isn't that all we need?"
Allison shook her head. "I thought it should be. I tried. I really tried. But I've let you down. I've let the kids down."
Starsky pulled his hand away. It was true she had been gone more than she was home. He realized he had ignored the problem hoping it was just something that would work itself out. He turned and leaned heavily on the kitchen counter. "Is there something you're not telling me?" He didn't look up.
"No, David. I have been truthful where I have been going. You have to believe me."
Starsky looked up and stared into Allison's eyes then nodded. "I believe you."
Allison put her hand on Starsky's forearm briefly. She opened her mouth to say something but then closed it and picked up her suitcase. She headed through the living room, opened the front door and walked out.
Starsky stood where he was, facing the sink. He heard the trunk of the Torino close and then the engine roar to life. He turned and rushed after his wife.
He came out the front door as Allison backed out into the street. "Wait, Laura, don't go!"
Starsky ran down the steps, across the lawn and into the street. He stepped on a stone and his ankle rolled. He fell to his hands and knees. Down the road, the Torino stopped. Starsky got up and brushed the sand from his scraped palms as he looked up hopefully. The dark blue Torino started to roll forward slowly. Starsky started walking toward it but Allison hit the gas and disappeared.
Hutch and Alice were in the backyard. Alice was supervising everyone on the swing set while Hutch weeded the flower garden near the deck. Hutch looked up as he heard a door slam. He heard Starsky call out to Allison. He stood up, looking back with concern at Alice. Hutch pulled off his gloves and moved to the driveway. He saw Starsky limping back into his yard.
"You okay, Buddy?"
"She left me," Starsky said, his eyes filled with anger and hurt. He heard Alice gasp and looked up to see her standing at the top of the driveway. Starsky quickly walked passed both Hutch and Alice toward the swing set. "Come on kids, time to go to our house."
"Starsky, you're hurt," Alice said seeing the blood through a rip in the knee of Starsky's jeans.
"I'm fine," Starsky said abruptly. He picked up Davey and took Susie's hand, ignoring her whining that she wanted to stay with Jamie.
Alice walked over to Starsky. "They can stay, why don't you…" She stopped as Starsky snapped at her.
"I'm taking my kids and going home."
Susie stopped complaining and followed her father and brother across the yard and into the house as Hutch and Alice looked on.
"Oh, Hutch. How did this happen?"
Hutch reached his arm around his wife's shoulders and pulled her close. "I don't know. Let's give him some space for now. I think he'll open up later."
"Mommy, can I go in the pool now? I'm hot," Jamie called from across the yard.
"Oh," Alice began.
"Hey, you go on back in the house. I know you have foundation work piling up. I'll put her in the pool and sit with Sarah." Hutch smiled sweetly.
"No, you have yard work."
"Which can wait. Now go on." Hutch turned toward his daughter. "Your suit is in the pool house. Go in and change, Sweetie." Jamie let out a happy yay and ran toward the pool house. Hutch gave Alice a quick kiss on the cheek and walked down the steps to get baby Sarah.
Alice stood on the deck and watched the Starsky house for a moment before heading into her own.
It wasn't until late afternoon that Starsky came out into his own yard with Susie and Davey. Hutch had just dried Jamie off after another swim and was back weeding while Sarah napped inside. He heard the back door open and saw Alice come out with a sleepy-eyed baby girl. Alice noticed Starsky and the kids then looked over at Hutch who just shrugged.
"Daddy, I want to play with Susie," Jamie said as she pulled on her sundress.
"Uh, why don't you help Mommy with dinner?" Hutch answered. He saw Starsky look over.
"She can come over if she wants."
"Are you sure, Starsky?" Alice called back. Starsky nodded and looked back at his children. "Okay, thank you. Dinner will be ready in less than an hour."
"I'll send Jamie back then. But the kids and I are eating at home tonight."
Hutch looked over at Alice and mirrored her confused expression. The Starsky/Hutchinson households almost always had dinner as an extended family.
"Oh, well, okay. I've got a ton of my famous potato salad. I'll bring you over a big bowl." Alice gave a strained smile.
"No, that's okay," Starsky answered without looking back.
Alice sighed and carried Sarah back into the kitchen. Hutch followed her inside. "You should go over and see if he is okay."
Hutch nodded. "I will but he seems pretty shuttered."
"I can't blame him, poor thing," Alice said as Hutch went back out onto the deck. "See if you can convince him to come over for dinner," she whispered.
Hutch put his hands in his pockets and casually strolled over to Starsky's yard. "Hey, Buddy. How are you?"
"I told you I'm okay."
Hutch looked over at the three kids playing in the sandbox and moved closer to Starsky. "We both know that isn't true, Starsk." Starsky glanced up at him with anger in his eyes. "Talk to me."
Starsky fought to keep his voice down. "I'm dealing with it. Let it go."
Hutch rested a hip on the pillar at the back stairs where Starsky was sitting. "Okay. But anytime you are ready to talk, I'm here. We are both here.
Starsky sighed as he nodded his head. "I know." He looked back up at Hutch and tried to smile. "Thanks."
Hutch cuffed Starsky on the chin. "What are friends for?" He laughed but Starsky didn't join him. "Alice will kill me if I don't try to get you to come for dinner. Whataya say?"
Starsky shook his head abruptly and didn't look up.
"Okay, but stick up for me if she complains." Hutch laughed again with no response. He sighed and kneaded Starsky's tense shoulder. "See you later." Hutch turned toward home.
The word was so quiet, he wasn't sure he heard it. "Yeah, Buddy?"
Starsky stared down at the ground between them, his brow creased in thought. "Nuthin'."
Hutch waited a moment to be sure Starsky didn't want to continue then went on his way.
The next morning Hutch came downstairs clipping his holster on. He looked around the house as Alice busied herself in the kitchen. "Where's Paula? I thought I heard her car."
"She's here but Starsky stopped her on the deck." Alice waved a peanut butter-covered knife at the back door.
Hutch peered out of the curtains and saw Starsky talking with their nanny. After a minute, she nodded and said something to him then gave him a hug. Starsky told her something more then kissed his kids who were waiting beside him and walked toward the driveway. Hutch stepped away from the door as Paula came in with Susie and Davey.
"Good morning, Paula," Hutch said with a smile.
Paula didn't smile back. "Good morning. Oh Ken, Dave wanted me to tell you he was driving in alone today."
"Oh? Well, thanks."
"What were you two talking about out there, if I may ask?" Alice said lightly.
"Dave was asking me to help more with the kids while Allison is away." She looked sadly at Hutch and Alice and made sure the children were out of ear shot. "She isn't coming back, is she?"
Hutch shrugged. "We don't know."
"I can adjust my hours at the office so don't worry about taking on more. I don't want it interfering with your school work."
"I said that to Dave but he seemed adamant that he would pay me to cover the time."
Alice turned around and leaned back against the counter. "I just don't understand why he seems to think he needs to take on the world alone." She looked at her husband and Hutch shook his head.
"I know what you mean. He'll be with me all day so I'll try to get him to talk. I reminded him last night that we are here for him but he knows that already."
Paula folded her arms and nodded. "When my father left, my mother started cutting the grass in between the times he came back and did it. I guess she needed to prove to herself that she could do it all. For a while, my brother and I felt like we had one mother and two fathers. She even offered to take me to the father/daughter dance." Paula chuckled. "Oh sorry, this isn't funny." She covered her mouth, embarrassed.
Hutch grinned. "That's okay. And I think you've hit the nail on the head." He reached out and patted Paula on the shoulder. "Thank you." Hutch turned toward Alice and leaned over to give her a kiss. "I'm going now. Love you."
"Love you too, Handsome," Alice responded with a sweet smile.
Hutch rubbed his sore neck as he drove back from the court house. "Oh man, I'm beat." Starsky responded with a yawn from the passenger seat. "I'm sure I got more sleep than you last night," Hutch said, hoping to break the ice and start a conversation. Starsky just grunted in response. "Are you coming to dinner tonight?"
Starsky started to shake his head but then stopped. "Oh, I'll have to stop at the grocery on the way home." He rubbed his chin in thought. "That will make Paula late for school." He turned toward Hutch. "Do you think we can stop on the way to Metro?"
"Starsk, you don't need to worry about your kids or Paula," Hutch said, unable to hide the exasperation in his voice. "In fact, I spoke to Alice before we left for the courthouse and she was already home."
"Yeah but Jamie and Davey…"
"What? They are at my house." Hutch looked over and watched Starsky continue to rub his chin as he stared out the window of the Ford. "Starsk, look…" Hutch let out a breath and pulled the car to the side of the road. He shifted in his seat to face his friend. "You don't have to worry about your kids. Life is going to go on almost as it has up until this point." Hutch bit his lip as he realized how that sounded. He saw Starsky tense. "What I mean is…"
"I know what you mean. She was never there."
"No, that's not true. She was working just like us and we've always managed to handle it. That isn't going to change." Hutch watched Starsky as he continue to stare at nothing outside the window. He let out a sigh. "Talk to me, Buddy."
Starsky's head spun around. "Drop it, Hutch."
"I'm not going to drop it. You're hurting and I…"
"I don't want to talk about it. Just leave me alone." Starsky glared at Hutch and for a moment Hutch returned the stare but then turned away.
"When you're ready then…" he left the sentence unfinished, knowing Starsky understood. Hutch let out a long sigh, trying to get his anger in check. How could he be upset when his friend was the one hurting? "I'll stop at the market on South Street."
Starsky mumbled a 'thank you' as the radio crackled.
All units in the vicinity of 251 South Main, two eleven in progress.
Hutch looked up at the street signs as they passed through an intersection and turned toward his partner but was caught off guard by Starsky's vice-like grip on his wrist as he reached for the radio.
"Let it go." Starsky's hissed.
Hutch swerved then regained control of his car with his left hand as Starsky continued to hold onto his right arm. "Okay," he responded quietly. He took hold of the wheel with both hands as Starsky abruptly let go and turned his face away.
The ride to the grocery store was made in silence. Hutch knew they were not required to respond to calls but often did when they were in the area. Although, in the years since they both got married, they did so less and less, as was their prerogative. But this time the almost crazed look in his best friend's eyes worried him. He pulled up in front of the Piggly Wiggly supermarket and turned to face Starsky but he was already climbing out of his seat.
"Give me ten minutes." The door slammed and Hutch flinched at the sound.
Pulling into a nearby spot to wait, Hutch killed the engine and slunk down into the bucket seat. He went back to rubbing his sore neck, contemplating following his partner into the store and buying some Tylenol.
Hutch pulled into the driveway that evening. Starsky got out of the car and waited for the trunk to pop open. Pulling the two bags of groceries from the back, he slammed the trunk and headed toward his house mumbling a thank you back at Hutch.
"Starsky?" Alice called from the doorway of her house. "Wait."
Starsky stopped and slowly turned to face Alice. He saw the expression on her face. "What's wrong? The kids okay?"
"Oh, yes. I…I just wanted to let you know."
"Allison was here." Starsky looked surprised and looked over his shoulder at his house then turned back toward Alice. "She took…took her things."
Alice and Hutch both saw a look of misery pass over Starsky's face then disappear behind a stone-like expression. "She didn't waste any time," he said almost to himself. "Did the kids see her?"
"Yes. She sat with them outside for a long time," Alice replied. "If it helps, Susie seemed okay after Allison left."
Starsky's jaw tensed as he looked down at the ground for a moment. "Thanks. I'll be over to get them soon." He turned and walked away.
Alice opened her mouth to say something more but saw Hutch shake his head. "Let him be," Hutch whispered. They turned toward their house.
"I take it he didn't open up today."
A week passed and Starsky's mood hadn't lifted. Hutch leaned against the passenger door of Starsky's car and watched his partner. He rubbed his temple which ached from tension, most likely. Taking in a breath, he asked, "How about all of us go somewhere fun this weekend?"
Starsky seemed far away. It took a couple of blinks before he could respond. "Go away?"
"Yeah, you and the kids, me and Alice and our kids. You know, us." Hutch hoped that leaving Allison out wouldn't be misunderstood. For a moment, he wasn't sure his question had even been heard then Starsky gave a one shoulder shrug.
"I guess so."
Hutch sat up straight, a real smile spreading across his face. "Great. Where do you want to go? Hey, how about Disneyland?"
Starsky glanced over at Hutch as he slowed at a traffic light. "Disneyland?"
"Sure! The girls will love it. They are at a good age. And the little ones will love the sights and the sounds. How 'bout it, Pal?"
Hutch's smile faded a bit. "Starsk, Alice and I miss seeing your kids."
Starsky looked over again with confusion on his face. "You do?"
"Well of course. Don't you miss my kids? I know they miss seeing their Uncle Stars." Hutch leaned forward in order to see Starsky's face more head on. He grinned and was glad to see a smile in return.
"Yeah, okay. I think that sounds fun."
Hutch slapped Starsky's arm with the back of his hand. "Fantastic! I'll call Alice later and work out the details." As they pulled into Metro's parking lot, Hutch let out a happy sigh.
Starsky cut the engine and stared down at the keys in his hand before looking over at Hutch. "I do miss your kids, Hutch. I miss Alice too."
Hutch reached over again and put a hand on his friend's shoulder. He left it there for a moment then pulled it away as he cracked a grin. "I was beginning to think you didn't love us anymore."
Starsky returned the smile and although not as bright, it made Hutch's heart jump with happiness. "'Course I love you, you big lummox."
Hutch tossed his head back and let out a hearty laugh. "Come on, Partner, let's get inside so I can call the wife." He jumped out of the car and waited for Starsky to join him on the stairs. Hutch draped an arm around Starsky's shoulders. Starsky gave him a shy grin and together they ascended the steps.
Hutch hung up the phone and slapped his hand down on his desk. Starsky, hunched over the typewriter, was engrossed in a report and jumped. "Oh sorry," Hutch said with an impish look. "Alice is taking care of everything. We'll leave Friday night after rush hour. She's going to borrow the foundation's van so we can all travel together. We'll have all day at the park Saturday and then Sunday morning, head back home.
Starsky rested an elbow on his desk and propped his chin in it. "Sounds t'rrific." Hutch nodded happily and began to shuffle through the papers on his desk. "Hey."
Hutch looked up at the soft tone. "Yeah?"
"Thanks for putting up with me." Starsky nervously scanned the squad room to be sure no one heard him but the one person who meant the world to him. They locked eyes.
Hutch placed the paperwork down and leaned toward his friend. Smiling warmly, Hutch replied, "Is this for just recently or for the entire 12 years we've known each other?"
Starsky snorted and looked away. "Smartass."
"No really, Starsk, I want to know."
Starsky picked up a rogue rubber band and aimed it at Hutch who put up his hands defensively, all the while trying to hide the fact that his heart was bursting with happiness that Starsky's walls were coming down.
Two hours later, Hutch leaned back and stretched. "Come on, Buddy, let's go home."
"Sounds good to me," Starsky said as he tossed what he was working on in his drawer. "Come on."
Hutch picked up his long sleeve shirt and pulled it on as he looked over at Starsky waiting impatiently at the doors. "We came in separate cars today – you do know that?"
Starsky's brow knitted and he felt his jeans pocket then pulled out his keys. "How could I have forgotten that teeth cleaning? That woman was a butcher." Starsky pushed open the double doors as Hutch came up behind him.
"Come on, Starsk, it couldn't have been that bad. It was only a cleaning."
"Hey, you weren't there. I was bleeding when I got out of that chair."
Starsky descended the back stairs lightly. Hutch could see more improvement in his mood as the day had progressed and looked up at the blue sky to send up a thank you to whoever was listening. "I'll see you at home," Hutch said as he turned to his left but stopped and turned back. "Hey, Alice is making friend chicken tonight."
Starsky glanced over his shoulder. "Oh?"
"We'd love it if you joined us."
Starsky looked down at the ground for a moment then looked back up, his expression very serious. "I'd like that."
"Are you sure there is enough for all of us?" Starsky asked as Hutch started toward his car again.
Laughing, Hutch pulled out his keys to unlock the car door. "Starsk, she's been making too much food every night." He leaned his arms on the roof of the Firebird. "Just in case."
Starsky blushed and gave a lopsided grin. "Oh. Okay."
With another laugh, Hutch climbed into his car and pulled into the street soon followed by Starsky's Camaro. Hutch switched on the radio and sang along with 'Rhinestone Cowboy.' The light at the intersection turned green as he approached and he accelerated. He glanced back in his rear view mirror to see Starsky's car behind him also make the light. As Hutch's eyes went back to the road he caught a flash of red in his rearview mirror. He looked back just in time to see a bright red Mustang collide into the side of Starsky's black Camaro.
"Oh my God!" Hutch exclaimed as he fought to watch where he was going and not cause another accident. He quickly maneuvered to the side of the road, thankful that most of the other drivers had slowed when the accident occurred. Jumping from his Firebird, Hutch took off in a dead run shouting at people on the sidewalk to call for an ambulance. Hutch passed the Mustang and gave a quick glance to see the driver, a young Latino, pushing open his door. His lip was bleeding and his arm was bent at an odd angle. Hutch didn't stop to check on him. Slipping on the broken glass scattered in the road, Hutch skidded to a stop as he reached the Camaro. Inside, Starsky's bleeding head rested on the cracked drivers-side window. He was motionless.
"Starsky," Hutch whispered in anguish. He forced himself to reach for the door handle. The door wouldn't open so he ran around to the other side. The door was locked. Hutch looked around frantically at the gawking spectators. "Call for an ambulance, please!" Hutch spotted the Mustang's side mirror on the ground and picked it up using it to smash the passenger side window of Starsky's car. Once through, Hutch pulled up the lock and opened the door. He carefully climbed in.
"Starsky? Starsk, are you with me?" Hutch asked as he gently touched Starsky's right shoulder. "Come on, Buddy. Talk to me." Hutch was rewarded with a low groan from his partner. "That's it, come back to me, Starsk." Starsky moaned again but then was silent. Hutch heard sirens in the distance and sat back on his heels to wait.
The paramedics, a fire department engine, and an ambulance all converged on the scene. Hutch got out of the car and met with one of the medics to tell him as much as he knew. Hutch noticed the Mustang driver was now sitting on the sidewalk near his totaled car. Anger boiled up but he pushed it aside and focused on his friend. He stood by and watched helplessly as the paramedic climbed into the passenger side as he had. A firefighter used a long tool to pop up the drivers' side door then reached in to help support Starsky as a brace was placed around his neck by the paramedic. Another firefighter came up with a short backboard and a basket-like bed. Hutch heard what appeared to be the Captain relaying the information from both paramedics about their respective victims. He watched as the Mustang driver walked unassisted into the waiting ambulance. Hutch looked back to see the firefighters pulling Starsky from his mangled car.
As the paramedic emerged from the other side, Hutch asked, "How is he?"
"He took a bad blow to the head as you can see. I don't see any broken bones or sign of internal injury." The medic followed the firefighters as they laid Starsky's bed onto the ambulance's gurney. "He responds to pain stimuli," he said over his shoulder as he checked his patient's vitals. Looking over one more time as they loaded Starsky into the ambulance the medic said, "I have a good feeling about this." He smiled and stepped up into the ambulance. The firefighters closed the ambulance doors and gave two taps before the vehicle pulled away.
Hutch whirled around to see a young officer looking at him nervously. "I'll need your statement if you witnessed the crash."
Hutch swallowed hard then shook his head. "I…I was ahead of him. Surely others saw what happened?"
The officer nodded. "I have quite a few statements, actually."
Hutch glanced around at the sea of worried and concerned faces. "I've got to go. I've got to get to the hospital."
Hutch ran toward his Firebird and sped off down the road, slapping the bubble light on the roof. He entered the ER and headed toward the desk but there was a line of people so he took a quick right and planned on finding Starsky himself. He glanced into a curtained cubicle then heard his name being called from down the hall. Hutch looked up to see an ER doctor he and Starsky both knew. Hutch rushed toward him, relieved to see a smile on the other man's face. "How is he?"
Dr. Fialho placed a comforting hand on Hutch's shoulder. "He's fine. Awake and complaining."
"Ree...ally?" Hutch colored as the word caught in his throat.
Dr. Fialho chuckled and gave Hutch's shoulder a pat. "Yes, really. We'll be doing a good work up on him to be sure but I think he just got his bell rung, to use his words. Go on in. I'll be back soon."
Hutch turned toward the room the doctor had motioned too then stopped and called over his shoulder, "Thanks, Doc." Dr. Fialho waved without looking back.
Hutch took in a calming breath and stepped into the dimly lit room. He could see hooded blue eyes looking up from the bed. "Hey, Buddy. How ya doing?"
"How do you think?" Starsky complained and Hutch couldn't suppress a grin. "It ain't funny, Hutch."
"I know. I'm sorry. I'm just so damned happy to hear you griping."
Starsky sighed then a small smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. "I can understand that. What the hell happened, anyway?"
"Guy in the Mustang rang the light and t-boned you."
"Aw, my car!" Starsky wailed then winced at the pain in his head.
"That's what insurance is for, Starsk," Hutch said, gently pushing Starsky back onto the mattress.
"How's the other guy?"
"Walked into the ambulance."
Starsky sighed loudly. "Well…that's good."
"You're a good man, Starsk. I don't know if I could be that forgiving."
"Hey, I'm not saying I forgive the putz. I'm just glad he's still around for me to deck him later." Starsky chuckled then put a hand on his bandaged head. "Ow."
Hutch grimaced in sympathy. "Looks like we'll have to postpone Disneyland. That reminds me, I have to call Alice and let her know."
"What? No! We can still go."
"Don't be ridiculous, you've got a bad concussion at the very least."
Hutch shook his head and laughed. "Disneyland isn't going anywhere."
Starsky let out a hmph and sighed. "I suppose so."
"I'm sorry this had to happen now, Buddy. It was nice to see you looking forward to it."
Starsky nodded slowly. "I'm sorry I've been such a…"
"Hey, don't even think of apologizing."
"When she left…I just felt…" Starsky's words trailed off.
"I understand. I do. Your family means everything to you, Starsk. You just temporarily forgot that me, Alice, Jamie and Sarah are your family too. You don't have to take on the world, remember that."
"I will. Thanks, Blondie."
Hutch laughed lightly. "You're welcome."
"David?" Allison rushed into the room. "Oh my God, David."
"Laura?" Starsky said as his wife leaned over and hugged him. "What are you doing here?"
Hutch instinctively took a step back as Allison came to Starsky's side.
"What do you mean what am I doing here? Janet called me. I came right away."
Hutch backed out of the room and quietly shut the door. He headed down the hall to the waiting room and spotted Alice at the desk, holding Sarah in her arms. "Alice."
Alice turned toward the sound of her husband's voice. "How is he?"
Hutch took his wife in daughter in a hug. "He's fine. Scared the hell out of me, but he is going to be okay."
"Oh, thank God. When Harold called…"
"Oh, that's how you found out."
"Yes. I tried to get a hold of Allison but there was no answer at her office or apartment."
"She's with him now. Her nurse friend called her." Hutch turned her towards the waiting room to get them out of the flow of hallway traffic. He thought back to the day when Allison came into the ER when Starsky had been shot. That was the day he found out she and Starsky were dating. So much has changed since then, he thought to himself as he sat down next to Alice and took Sarah from her.
Inside the ER, Starsky maneuvered the head of the bed up with the remote control. Allison stood with her hands folded. "Do you need anything?" she asked.
"No, I'm okay." Starsky fiddled with a string on the edge of the sheet.
He looked up briefly. "Oh, a car ran a red light. I guess the Camaro is toast." He heard Allison gasp but didn't look up. "You don't have to be here, Laura."
Allison took a step closer. "What are you talking about? You're my husband and best friend and you've been hurt. Why wouldn't I be here?"
Starsky dropped the string and looked up at his wife. "Best friend?"
Allison's eyes filled with tears and she nodded. "You'll always be my best friend, David. If anything ever happened to you…" She wiped a tear from her cheek then reached for a tissue from the bedside table.
Starsky watched her sadly. "Don't cry, Laura." He watched her tuck the tissue into her sleeve and fold her hands in front of her again. She didn't meet his gaze. "Hey," he said softly and she looked up. He held out his arms to her.
"Oh, David," Allison said as she eased into his embrace. She cried quietly while he stroked the back of her hair.
"It's okay. I'm fine." He felt her nod into his shoulder.
"So stop your bawlin', okay?" he said lightly and was rewarded by feeling her smile.
Allison pushed away from him and smiled again. "Okay."
Just then an attendant came into the room. "Mr. Starsky, I'll be bringing you down for a CAT scan."
"Oh, I'll wait for you down the hall." She stepped toward the door and waved back at her husband.
Starsky nodded and waved back.
Allison slowly walked down the hall toward the waiting room, wrapping her arms around herself. She saw Hutch and Alice sitting with baby Sarah and stopped just outside the room. She watched them as Hutch bounced Sarah on his knee and Alice laughed at their daughter. Alice looked up and locked eyes with Allison. She stood up and met her at the doorway.
"How is he, Allison?"
"He's okay. They took him for a CAT scan."
"Come sit down with us."
"Are you sure, Alice?"
"Get your butt over here," Alice said and pulled Allison into the waiting room and over to where Hutch was sitting with Sarah.
Hutch smiled up at Allison and patted the seat next to him. Alice sat down wearily. "I'm so glad he's going to be okay." She leaned over and gave Sarah a kiss on the forehead. "May I hold her?"
"Sure," Hutch said as he handed the baby over.
"Hey, little girl. Auntie Allison has missed you and your sister."
"They've missed you too," Alice said.
Allison smiled up at her friend. "Thanks." She cooed at Sarah for a moment then sat back and settled her in the crook of her arm. The baby rubbed her eyes and began to fall asleep.
"If I knew you were going to be here, I would have brought Davey too."
Allison swiped at the corner of her eye. "I've ruined everything. I'm sorry."
"Don't be silly, Allison. You need to do what makes you happy," Alice said softly as she sat down next to her. Allison just nodded and sniffed as she rocked the dozing baby in her arms.
"I'll make arrangements to be home with David when he gets out of here." She looked at Hutch whose face was unreadable. After a moment, he nodded at her.
Hutch came into the back door and kissed Alice on the forehead. "He's all settled in over there."
"The kids must be happy to have Allison home," Alice replied.
Hutch shrugged. "I guess. They sure were happy to see their Daddy, though. Telling Susie to keep her voice down was a waste of effort," he chuckled.
"I'm sure Starsky didn't mind too much. And we gave him those pain pills right before he left the hospital, don't forget."
Hutch poured himself a glass of sweet tea and leaned back on the counter. "It was even a little odd for me to see her back and it hasn't been that long."
Alice washed out her glass and put it in the strainer to dry. She wiped her hands on a dish towel. "You don't think she'll come back, do you?"
"I don't know. What do you think? Have you and she been keeping in touch?"
Alice shook her head as she propped a hip on the counter and faced Hutch. "Not really. It is as if she has found a new set of friends and a new life. I don't want her coming back and then leaving again. Make a clean break and let everyone move on."
"I agree. That is tough on the kids most of all. They need to find their new normal."
"Well put, Handsome."
Hutch turned to face Alice. "Why thank you, Love." He leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek. "Mm, is Jamie still at camp?"
"Uh, huh," Alice replied as she nuzzled Hutch's neck. "And Sarah is asleep."
"Oh, really?" A wicked smile spread across Hutch's face. He kissed Alice on the lips and took her hand. They hurried upstairs.
Across the driveway, Allison fussed over Starsky who was sitting in the arm chair in the living room. "Would ya stop it, Laura. I don't need anything else." He pushed away a proffered pillow.
"Are you sure?"
"I just have a little bump on my head." Starsky saw Allison's face fall and felt bad. "How about a cup of coffee?"
"You shouldn't have caffeine."
"Why the hell not?" Starsky sighed. "Okay, I'd love a glass of chocolate milk." He looked hopefully up at his wife.
"Okay. I'll be right back."
Starsky shook his head and smiled as he picked up the newspaper. He squinted at the small type and tossed it back onto the side table. He picked up the remote and turned on the TV. The mid-day news was on. He looked at his watch and grumbled as he shut off the TV again and leaned his head back on the cushion and closed his eyes. He heard Allison come back into the room and squinted up at her.
"Here's your milk. Let me shut the blinds, David." She handed Starsky the glass then hurried to pull the shades around the room.
Starsky took a long swig of the milk. "Thanks, Laura. Now sit down here with me."
Allison looked around the house as she reluctantly sat down. "Just for a minute. I should do some laundry. I vacuumed before you came home so the noise wouldn't bother you. I bought everything for lasagna. Does that sound good – or would you like something light?"
Starsky's eyes lit up. "Lasagna? That' sounds t'rrific. Thank you." He smiled. "I think the kids will appreciate it too. As you know, I'm not the best cook."
Allison looked over at Starsky and was going to ask him about why he was cooking with Alice right next door but changed her mind. Her foot bopped up and down with nervous energy. "Do you want to lay on the couch?" Starsky shook his head. "How about we get you in bed?" Allison stopped and her cheeks tinged pink. "That's not what I mean."
Starsky's face became sober. "I'm fine right here."
Allison stood up and walked across the room. "I'm going to get that laundry going."
Starsky finished the chocolate milk and placed the glass down on the table next to him. He crossed his arms with a sigh.
Starsky woke up to the sound of whispering in the kitchen. Allison and Susie were working together on the lasagna. Davey sat in his high chair eating what looked like macaroni and cheese. His face was smeared with it. With a yawn, Starsky pushed himself up and padded down the hall to the bathroom. He returned a minute later and picked up his glass and brought it into the kitchen.
"I'm sorry if we woke you, David."
Starsky kissed his son on the top of his head then leaned over and did the same to his daughter who was standing on a step stool near the counter. His eyes briefly met Allison's and he moved away to sit at the table near Davey. "That's okay. I won't sleep tonight if I'm napping all day. Right, Davey?" The baby held out a stick spoonful of pasta. "Yeah, you know how that is." Starsky ate the spoonful of macaroni and laughed along with his son.
"The laundry is done. There wasn't much at all. I also cleaned the kids' bathroom but I have to say, it wasn't bad."
"I did the laundry before I went to work the other day-the day of the accident. And I spent Sunday scrubbing the rest of the house." Starsky hadn't turned back to face Allison as he spoke. When she didn't respond he turned and found her fighting tears. "Hey," Starsky said as he got up and went to her. He pulled her away from the kitchen. "What is it?"
"I'm sorry. You shouldn't have to do all this alone, David."
Starsky gave a half shrug and he smiled. "I kinda like it. Yeah, it's a lotta work but…" He shrugged again and returned to the kitchen.
Allison sniffed and watched him as he grabbed a facecloth by the sink and wet it before going over to clean up Davey. The little boy whined but Starsky made a game of it and soon he and both the kids were laughing and having fun. Allison wiped away another tear then went back to the lasagna preparation.
The next morning, Starsky took his coffee and went out onto the back porch. He leaned on the railing and watched Susie and Jamie playing house in the shed in the corner of the yard. Allison came out with Davey and put him down on the deck. She gave him some toys and sat down near him.
"Beautiful day, isn't it?"
"Yes. How do you feel?"
"Pretty good," Starsky replied. I just took Tylenol this morning and the headache isn't bad. I hate those pain pills. I'm going to flush the rest of them. I don't like having them in the house with the kids."
"That's true," Allison said quietly. Starsky turned to her.
Allison got up and came to the railing. "David, I'd like to come back home."
Starsky put his coffee mug down on the railing as he gathered his thoughts. "Home. Here?"
"Why? David, you're my husband. These are our kids. What kind of question is that?"
Starsky took a sip from the coffee and cleared his throat. "Laura, you weren't happy here. Nothing has changed."
"I know. I know that. But I want to be happy here. I do. Please?"
Starsky took Allison by the shoulders and smiled sweetly. "Laura, I love you. You are the mother of my kids and you will always be a part of my life."
"But don't let this episode of playing house fool you into thinking you should move back in."
Allison looked confused and glanced over at the girls in the shed. "Playing house?"
"That's what it felt like we were doing last night. Hey, it was great having you visit. We all loved the dinner…but, that's all it was. I understand that you don't want to be 'married with children.' And I am going to accept that."
Allison shook her head adamantly. "It isn't like that."
Starsky took his wife into a hug. "It's okay, Laura." He pulled away but kept his hands on her shoulders. "You are welcome anytime. But, you need to go make yourself happy."
Allison blinked back her tears and after a minute nodded. She looked over at her daughter and then down at her son. When she looked back up at Starsky, her eyes were wet. "I'm going to get going now."
Starsky returned the smile. "Okay. Thanks for everything." As Allison went into the house to get her things, Starsky took a deep breath and looked at both of his children. He swallowed down the lump of emotion in his throat and blinked back his own tears as he saw Hutch come out onto their back deck. He waved at his best friend then went back to drinking his coffee.
A few minutes later, Allison came out of the house with the small duffle bag she had brought with her. "Okay, I'll just say goodbye to the kids." Allison went down into the yard and gave Susie a hug and a kiss. Starsky watched her also say goodbye to Jamie. The girls went back to playing. Allison came up onto the porch and picked up her son. She hugged him tightly and smiled as he patted her cheek. "I'll see you soon, Davey Doodle. You be good for your Daddy." She placed the little boy back down on the deck, stood up and pulled the duffle bag onto her shoulder. "Goodbye, David."
"Bye, Laura. Thanks again." Starsky pulled Allison into a warm hug. As he released her, he kissed her on the forehead.
Allison walked down off the porch and around to the driveway. She gave a meek wave to Hutch who was watching from his back door. Hutch waved back. After Allison drove away, Hutch walked slowly over to Starsky's yard. He stood on the grass and stared up at his friend then came up onto the porch.
"So, she left."
"Yeah," Starsky said simply.
Starsky looked up at Hutch and a bright smile spread across his face. "Are you kidding me?" He bent down and picked up Davey. "Look at this life I have. The best friend anyone could ask for who comes with a fantastic family. My son—my namesake—right here. And then a daughter that was God's gift." He took in a deep breath and looked back at Hutch. "I'm really blessed."
Hutch smiled slightly, closed his eyes briefly and nodded. He opened them just as Starsky turned and headed down the steps and into the back yard. He lifted Davey up into the air and made airplane sounds as the baby laughed. The girls ran over and joined the fun.
"Me next, Daddy!" Susie called out.
"I want a turn, Uncle Stars," Jamie chimed in.
Hutch laughed loudly and looked over to see Alice coming out of their house with Sarah in her arms. He waved at her. "Come on and join the fun, Love!"
Hutch trotted down the steps. Starsky handed Davey to him then bent down to scoop up Susie and swing her around. He laughed as Jamie latched onto his arm. He could hear Alice and Hutch hooting as he eased down onto the soft grass, instantly covered with two girls. Hutch and Alice looked down at him holding the two little ones.
"Here come two more."
"Oh noooo," Starsky joked as two sweet faces descended down on him and the girls.