OUR FIRST CHRISTMAS

By: Karen B.

Summary: The partnersspend their first Christmas together.

What is Christmas

But a shiver of hope--

That little leap of faith

Your heart takes

When you look into

The face of a child,

Let the day shine with joy,

With Love, and the dream of peace.

Lord & Taylor

Author's Note: An affectionate thank you to all of you, my friends! And a very old wish: For a Merry Christmas--and peace on earth.

Thank you CC::::For always willing to share your heart and skill with others!

'Twas the night before Christmas...

And all law-abiding citizens were asleep in their beds. Nothing stirred, not even the unlawful citizens. It really was quiet. I like to think it was because all of us tirelessly dedicated officers making the city a better place.

As I drove down the streets of Bay City, under the clear crisp black sky that was studded with diamonds, I couldn't help but admire the colorful displays. Plastic reindeer, flickering decorated lights in every shop window, and finely trimmed trees. Earlier, today, there had been a Santa on every corner ringing a bell next to a Salvation Army charity kettle. I smiled, remembering all the kids hyped up on candy canes racing toward them trying to get in that last request. It warmed my heart.

"So."I glanced my partner's way. "Hutch, tell me what you really want for Christmas."

I had high hopes and visions of what I might be getting this year dancing around in my head, and I wondered what my partner had going on in his head. He'd been extra quiet tonight.

"I don't do the gift giving thing," Hutch piped up, and my mouth fell open.

"What do you mean?" I asked, completely shocked. Hutchinson had something dancing in his head. Sure the hell wasn't sugar plums.

" I don't get into the cosmic conspiracy of Christmas, Starsky. Dollars and cents, partner. That's what Christmas comes down to. Dollars and cents. Buy--buy--buy. Sell-sell-sell-"

"Come on Hutch, you don't really believe that do you? It's the spirit of giving."

"Starsky, did you ever hear anyone ask you what did you give for Christmas?" Hutch squinted his eyes in contempt. "No. They want to know what you got for Christmas. Where's the giving spirit in that? Huh, Buddy?"

"I give a lot of things for Christmas," I told Hutch. "Why just the other day I gave Landers a doozy of a gift" I puckered my lips and made a kiss-kiss sound. "She blushed the whole way back to Records."

"Starsky, was that you who put the mistletoe just outside the ladies washroom at the station?"

I put on my best poker face, not saying a word; remembering the kiss I planted on the lush soft lipstick pink lipsof Officer Landers as she came out the door.

She didn't seem to mind.

I smiled wickedly.

Hutch raised one brow. "It was you alright," he said, in unfeigned amazement. "And I suppose you also still put out cookies and milk for Jolly Ol' Saint Nick, huh?

"Sure," I admitted to that one. "But I don't hang around waiting to kiss him," I laughed heartily.

"Starsky." Hutch wasn't amused. "What do you see in the season? People, so miserable 11 months out of the year, shouting 'Merry Christmas' to perfect strangers. When what they really are saying is 'I wish this were over with already'. Bullying your way through the crowds. Frantically fighting over the last toy."

"What are you talking about, 'bullying', Hutchinson?" I glanced his way. "Just yesterday I walked into a store, picked out a gift, paid for it, and walked out five minutes later. No 'bullying' about it."

"Lucky you, Starsky." My partner sounded so irritated. I had to chuckle."What's so funny?" Hutch asked.

I just shrugged.

"I suppose you enjoy the shoving and pushing, and all those Christmas songs playing the same note over and over again?"

"Sure. Wouldn't be Christmas without them."

"All that forced cheer makes me sick," Hutch said, rolling his eyes and turning to look out his window.

Hutch is a real complex guy. I was having a hard time understanding his anti-Christmas grudge against the holiday.

"Keep talking like that, blondie, and Santa will pass you right on by." I stuck my tongue out at my partner, but drew it back in when he looked my way. "I don't think you've been a very good boy this year, Ken."

I gave a wolfish grin. There was no better way to aggravate my partner than to use his first name.

"Starsky, define good." Hutch continued to morph into Scrooge. "Look, D-a-v-e." He struck back. "Don't take this too hard. But I gotta tell you pal, there is no Santa Clause."

"Is that your gentle way of telling me you didn't get me anything?" I snickered, but my partner only growled, unwilling to answer. "Aw, come on, Hutch. What do you really want for Christmas? Everybody wants something."

"Starsky, I don't want anything."

"It's a holly jolly time," I said, standing my ground. "There has to be something you want."

"Starsk, I want you to stop it now, or I'm not going to survive all your good cheer."

Hutchinson was making it very clear the holiday didn't rank up there with Mom's fresh baked apple pie. In fact he led me to believe anyone who enjoyed the season at all must have been born with rocks in their heads.

I was growing tired of the lack of luster in my partner's attitude, so I decided to change the subject--for now.

"You like baseball, Hutch?"

"Sure."

Finally! Pay dirt. I'd astound and amaze my blond friend with my knowledge of the game.

"Hutch? Do you know what the record is for the fastest base runner?"

I bet he didn't.

"Evar Swanson, Starsky" Hutch seemed to be happy for the change of subject.

"What was his average speed around the bases?" I challenged.

"18.45 seconds," Hutch said in a dull tone.

Okay, beginners luck.

"When was the first World Series played?"

I was sure he didn't know that.

"That'd be 1903, Starsky," Hutch yawned.

I bet he didn't know which teams they--

"Between Pittsburgh and Boston." Hutch interrupted my thoughts.

He couldn't possibly know who won-

"Boston won 5-3," he finished in between another yawn.

Damn! I didn't peg Hutch for a baseball fanatic. I'll stump him yet.

"Hutch, did you know in major league baseball, the distance between the bases is--"

"90 feet, Starsky. And the distance from the pitchers mound to home plate is 60 feet 8-"

"Inches," I finished for him, completely disgusted.

That's a first. Hutch usually hates my trivia and hardly ever plays along. Mostly just nods his head a lot. Guess I was in for a lot of firsts.

Like now. It was our first Christmas together.

You know-- there are a lot of firsts in a person's life. You're first words. You're first steps. The first time you took off your training wheels. Your first black eye. That first fast car, or tender lipped kiss.

For Hutch and me there were also a lot of firsts. Our first high speed chase. Our first domestic dispute, where Hutch ended up in hand to hand combat with a crazed man holding a baseball bat trying to wreck his wife's car. Hutch nearly got his head knocked off before he could disarm the guy.

Then there was the first time we rolled out the welcome mat for a couple of wide-eyed drug dealing scum who shot and robbed a 70 year old grandmother. Man, when we finally tracked down where the guy live,executing that search warrant before the ink was barely dry--what a real adrenalin high.

Then you had our first encounters with strippers. Erotic masseuses. Working woman of the streets. And don't forget your drunken rages. Traffic violations. Animal control, and purse snatchers. It was all very exciting.

But, firsts aren't always fun. When you get your first call that some ten-year old kid is packing heat in a school playground, it ain't like in the Hollywood movies, and you're left cheated on happy endings.

It's a painful profession, being a cop. How many people do you know remember their first maggot-ridden body?

Just your normal picnic in the park, huh?

To say the least, for Hutch and me our first six months was a real eye opener. Twilight Zone stuff. Glad we didn't have to go it alone. But we live for the job. Live for keeping the bad guys off the streets. One thing'sfor sure; we'll never be out of a job

First time I arrested a guy, read him his rights and told him to 'Save his arguments, and tell it to a judge, 'it' was orgasmic.

We always worked the graveyard shift.That didn't leave much time for dating and discos. Most of mine and Hutch's time was spent learning the ropes in uniform on patrol, and learning about each other. Hutch told me about growing up in Minnesota. How the snow would fall thick and heavy, turning everything cotton white. How he loved the bite of the cold as he shoveled a path to his grandfather'shorse barn, and how he'd spend his afternoons splitting wood and chasing after the farmer's naughty daughter.

I told him all about growing up in the big city of New York. About traffic-blackened snow, and how when the temperatures dropped, you stayed inside all day, reading baseball states or pitching pennies against your bedroom wall. You did whatever it took to keep busy, because you were afraid if you did go outside, something vitally important might freeze and fall off.

I told him how tough you had to play it out on the street even when you weren't so tough. And how, when I wasn't shining shoes to make a buck, I was planning a fight or in a fight.

He told me all about his college days. About harmless pranks and panty raids in the girl's dorms, and about how he used to get drunk off two beers. Told me about his wife and how they were probably headed for a divorce, and how his father disapproved of him being a cop. So much so, they hardly spoke any more.

I told him how I used to sneak my father's police issued .38 to an abandon warehouse on East 96th. How I'd set up an elaborate shooting gallery with bottles, cardboard cutouts, and tin cans. Got pretty good at it. A real marksman. Hutch laughed loudly when I told him how my father threw me over his knee and walloped me goodwhen he found out what I'd been doing. And as much as Hutch had laughed at that, he cried, gripping tight to my shoulder, when I told him the cheap way my Dad died in a hospital bed. Hooked up to wires, the day after he'd been gunned down on the cement steps of that courthouse.

I trusted Hutch. I was damn sure I'd never trusted anyone more. But more important than that, he trusted me.

I tell you the first time we walked into an armed robbery in progress, I was both scared and excited. I knew Hutch was too.

So here we were. 'Twas the end of our shift and I figured Hutch and I would settle down at my place for a long needed break.

Neither one of us had any real plans for Christmas. Hutch was in no big hurry to get home to his wife, and I didn't have anyone special right then., Plus being new on the timesheets,we got to work the graveyardshift again, the next day. We decided to spend a few quiet hourshaving our own little celebration of sorts-- put down a few sandwiches, a six pack, and open a few gifts. Although I suspected I wasn't getting a gift from my partner.

I couldn't think of a better way to end the day. We flipped to see who would pick up the tab; Hutch won.

Stopping at a little all night grocery store, Hutch pulled out his wallet, anxious to get the party started. And I, in a flash, flew to the very back of the store, before my partner could change his mind. While Hutch was up front at the deli counter, ordering himself tuna on wheat, and salami with hot mustard for me. I was trying to decide between pull tabs or caps, when I first heard it. The sound wasenough to put a shiver into anyone.

Gunfire.

I slid my weapon out of my hip holster, twisting out of the cooler I had my head stuck in. My heart was pounding in my chest. Laying low, I boogied over behind a stacked display of Cheese Whiz.

"You don't want to do this,"I heard Hutch say.

Peeking around the corner of my cover; to what should my wondering eyes appear?

"Shut up cop!" Yelled the beefy-shouldered, red-suited delinquent, with a soft white beard.

Yes, Hutchinson, there really is a Santa Clause. But this one was off kilter. Instead of pulling toys from his goodie sack, he had pulled a gun from a crumpled paper bag. Instead of asking if you were good, and what you wanted for Christmas, he was demanding what he wanted.

Money.

I wanted to rush the man in crushed red velvet, but I knew I couldn't run faster than 1,200 feet per second,which is the average speed of a 9mm slug. So, instead, I watched the jolly old elf wave his gun at the cashier, tossing him the now empty bag.

"Fill it!"

The cashier, a frail looking elderly man, hesitated, looking at my partner for help.

"You don't want to come between Santa and his money," Hutch sarcastically said, eyeing the perp. "Do what he says," he said gently, his eyes shifting to look at the old the man.

"Smart cop." Santa smiled behind his beard. "Now hand me your gun."

Hutch slowly did as he was told. While the cashier filled the sack with money, Hutch eagerly glanced arounduntil he made eye contact with me staring back at him in an overhead mirror.

I felt like Hutch and I were a million miles away from one another, but there was a level of intensity in those stone blue eyes of his. Something that I didn't recall ever seeing before.

Hutch looked worried, and it in turn sent a sliverof worry through me to see him that way. So much for a quiet night, as the air came out of our balloon. I wanted to take a potshot at Old Saint Nick, but he nervously kept shuffling around. I couldn't chance my slug ricocheting and hitting Hutch or the clerk. Wish I had a magic bullet for times like these. One that could zoom in on the bad guy, like a guided missile.

"Okay." Santa sounded satisfied, now that his bag was full of green. "Into the meat locker."

For a split second,there was an empty space of time.

Still using the mirror, I watched Hutch's eyes, our gaze stock-stilland riveted to one another.

Suddenly the eyecontact became like an out of body experience, as we began to talk back and forth without saying a single word. Somehow, I don't know how, I was in Hutch's head, and I knew what was happening in there. This was another first. A turning point in our partnership. It was an intense sensation, the connection we had found. Staring into his eyes, I felt like I'd just jumped into the deep end of a pool. Not a big deal-- if you like water. But I knew Hutch was there, and he wouldn't let me drown. Not now. Not ever. This new thing between us--whatever it was.I knew it had tilted the playing field in our direction. Not just for tonight, but every dayand every night we would have ahead of us.

A plan was thrown together. An unspoken agreement. As Santa ledthe clerk and my buddy toward the North Pole, I edged out from behind the Cheese-Whiz. The elderly clerk opened the heavy steel door to the meat locker and he and Hutch stepped in. I crept closer, something inside of methat I usually try real hard to keep bottled, desperately begged to be released. It was then I knew even after six short months as partner's I'd give my life for his.

I kept my body tight and compacted, as I neared, holding back my rage.

"All alone tonight, Santa?" Hutch asked, working on his distraction technique. "Where's Dasher? Dancer? Blitzen? Old Yeller?

"Barbequed," Santa snickered. "Get in there, now!" he shouted.

"Now!" Hutch yelled, grabbing on to the old man and shoving him out of the way.

Taking my cue with all the force of a wild hurricane, I dashed toward Santa, hoping to knock some teeth out of his head. I made contact, taking him by surprise and sending the beefy man face first threw the open freezer door.

Never thought there'd come a day when I found myself wanting to stuff Santa into a chimney and leave him there to rot.

That was the last thing I recalled thinking. The last thing I recalled seeing was a large frozen shank of lamb, just before I slid across the cold tiled floor like a wet seal.

Then a gray fog encircled my head, and the lights went out.

I heard a guttural moan, quickly realizing it was me. It was dark, and my head hurt badas I lay against something hard and cold. My mind was working overtime, but my body wasn't. One thought, however, never left me. The safety of my partner.

I heard sirens, then a shuffling by my side, and I went stiff. Where the hell was my gun? I tried to open my eyes, lift my head, move a pinky finger. Nothing would respond. What if Santa was back with reinforcements? No way I had the strength to fight off a horde of angry little men with pointy shoes and wearing green tights. I struggled, but knew I wasn't getting far.

"Starsk, easy." I heard a voice.

Think. Think, Starsky.

Suddenly I felt a warm hand raise my head up off the cold floor.

"Hey, buddy. You okay?"

I sucked in a full breath of frosty air. "Hutch," I coughed.

"I'm right here."

I felt Hutch pull me up and lean me against his chest. The soothing body heat relaxed my tense body; it was like crawling into a warm bed, on the coldest night you could remember. I unfroze my eyelids and looked around in confusion. For a moment everything spun badly out of control, and all I could think of was one thing.

"Wh-where's my-my hat?" I slurred like a drunken sailor.

I felt Hutch move me a little. "You're sitting on it, dummy," he laughed quietly, now holding my crushed cap up for me to see.

"That was my best hat."

"That, Starsky, was your only hat."

"Terrific."

Hutch placed my hat in my handsand bent closer. His eyes were full of concern as his fingers lightly examined my forehead. After a few minutes of silence between us, things started to slow down.

"How you feeling?" Hutch asked.

"Feeling like I ran headlong into a frozen shank of lamb." I hissed when he touched a tender spot.

"Sorry," Hutch apologized, quickly taking his hand away.

How's it look?" I asked.

"Looks like you ran headlong into a frozen shank of lamb." Hutch gave me a thin smile, then added a serious note. "There's no blood; it's just really bruised, buddy." He winced, obviously feeling my pain.

"What happen to Saint Nick?" I shifted position, feeling uncomfortable at the way Hutch was looking at me. The movement made my head spin,and I shivered hard, feeling ice cold.

Hutch crossed an arm over my chest,pulling me closer. "Being booked. All he's going to be wanting for Christams is his two front teeth, pal. You knocked him for a loop," Hutch laughed.

"Me and him both." I sat forward. "How 'bout helping me up, huh?"

"Oh, right," Hutch muttered. Gently he put his hands under my armpits and lifted. "Okay, stand up, I got you."

As I came to my feet, my breathing accelerated, and I felt a bit dizzy. I squeezed my eyes shut. The action nearly made me slip back down.

"Give yourself a minute, buddy." Hutch coaxed, not letting go of my arms. "I think we should call you an ambulance."

"No! No, Hutch," I said, opening my eyes and meeting his gaze. "It's Christmas Eve. We can still get those sandwiches and beer. Go back to my place," I practically begged.

I hated hospitals. I was fine. Just a bump on the head. No blood. Hutch had said so himself, and I only had a small headache. Nothing a couple aspirinand a few presents wouldn't cure. Besides, Christmas was important to me. We never celebrated it when I was a kid. I never told Hutch this, but when my Dad died the day after Christmas, I had spent the day before milling around the near empty hallways of a cold and gloomy hospital. I was lonely as shit and empty. There was no laughter. I'd been robbed and denied a childhood. All I could see ahead of me were years of sacrifice and grown up tasks.

I made a vow to myself. I was going to celebrate Christmas. Every year. Anyway I could. I wasn't ever going to feel that bad again, at least not on that day.

Hutch glared at me intently for a long time. I figured he was thinking of all the ways he could grill me about procedures and rules and departmental policy.

"Hutch--" I whispered, but he shushed me with an index finger held to the side of his nose.

"Point taken, Starsky," Hutch said, the look on his face softening. "Sandwiches. No beer--hot chocolate. You get to bed early--and" Hutch paused for a breath. "Don't expect too much ho- ho-hoing."

I smiled, and gave an agreeing nod. "Thanks, partner."

"You're welcome, partner."

Don't know what made Hutch agree, but I was happy he did. Maybe someday I'd tell him more about my Dad. Without another word he slipped an arm around my shoulders and glanced over at the clerk.

"I'll be back in for those sandwiches, and Officer Hansen will finish up with your statement," Hutch told the elderly store owner. Then he slowly walked me outside to the car.

"Hey, Hutch?"

"Yeah, buddy?" Hutch kept a secure hand on my arm, balancing me against the car, as he opened the door.

"I got you something." I said, as he helped me into the passenger seat.

"I know." Hutch leaned down and grinned. "I got you something too, babe--Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The World Of Baseball." Hutch gave me a wink, then slammed the door shut.

Smart ass!

I smiled to myself. Wait till he sees what I got him.

The end.