First appeared in the Friendz letterzine waaaay back ! A follow on from 'Boys Of Summer'

GOLD OF AUTUMN

Hutch pulled open the refrigerator door and took out the milk. He smiled as he listened to his partner talking on the telephone. Starsky had been out of the hospital for almost a week now and his mother had called every day to check on his progress. He could tell from the tone of voice that this daily ritual was beginning to irritate his friend. However, he understood how Rachel Starsky felt. It was still a wonder to him that his partner had survived the Gunther hit, when he, and so many others, had given him up for dead. Now, 3 months later, with summer almost over, Starsky had beaten the odds and was well on the road to recovery. They would never know how much James Gunther had paid for the assassination attempt, but whatever the price, Hutch knew his partner had paid a higher one.

---

Lying on the couch, a blanket thrown over his legs, Starsky tried one more time to placate his mother.

"Ma, how many times have I gotta tell ya I'm fine. Hutch is gonna be here for the next few weeks till I can start doing more for myself, so ya don't need to worry." A knock at the door seemed to provide an excuse to end the conversation. "Look I gotta go there's someone at the door.... yeah I know Hutch can get it...."

As if in response to the suggestion, Hutch opened the door and smiled warmly at Minnie Kaplan, as she thrust a small brown paper bag into his hand.

"Here are those things you wanted," she said.

"Thanks Minnie.... You want to come in for a coffee or something?"

"No thanks, honey," she replied, "if I don't get back to the office soon Dobey'll be after my hide."

In the background Starsky was attempting to finish the telephone call. "I gotta go.... I think I gotta visitor.... Ma...."

Minnie nodded over toward Starsky and grinned broadly. "Say hi to wonder boy for me.... tell him it sure is good to have him home.... See ya." Turning to leave, she smiled as she heard Starsky raise his voice, endeavouring to interrupt the lecture he was obviously getting from the woman at the other end of the phone.

"Mother," he said, and then, in sheer desperation, cried, "Mommy."

Minnie turned back and stared incredulously at Hutch. "Is he ever gonna graduate from kindergarten?" she asked.

Hutch shrugged his shoulders, smiling as he closed the door.

Meanwhile, Starsky, it seemed, had succeeded in gaining his mother's complete attention.

"You don't have to call me tomorrow, okay. I'll be fine." He was mindful that she probably would anyway. "And Ma...I love ya.... Goodbye."

Putting down the phone he looked over at Hutch. "Who was that at the door?" he asked.

"Just Minnie...she couldn't stay. Dobey's on her tail.... Says to say hello and she's glad you're home."

Hutch opened the bag and began to extract it's contents. He placed the re-supply of drugs on the coffee table and then handed Starsky a small white envelope.

"Here. Gotta surprise for you," he said, as he returned to the kitchen to collect the glass of milk - it was time for another pain killer.

Starsky opened the envelope, then called out excitedly. "Hey...these are the pictures I took of that baseball game we played just before I got shot. Forgot about these."

"Figured as much," Hutch replied as he handed Starsky his medication. "Found the roll of film on the sideboard when I came over to clean last week." He joined his partner on the couch and together they began to look through the pile of photographs.

"Hey," Starsky cried, triumphantly, "look at this one." He held up a picture of Captain Dobey, resplendent in baseball attire, bending over to tie his shoelace. Immediately behind him stood Hutch, grinning at the camera, preparing to swing his bat down onto the large man's butt. Both men laughed, remembering Dobey's reaction when the bat hit target.

Picking up the next photograph Hutch fell silent as he stared at the image of Starsky posing happily for the camera. Taken only a few days before the shooting it was a reminder of just how much his partner had changed. The man who stood smiling in the picture, as he showed off his baseball swing, was not the same man who sat next to him on the couch. It wasn't just a physical difference, although clearly Starsky had lost a great deal of weight, it was more that there was something missing from his partner's eyes.

Hutch suddenly realised his hand was shaking; he also realised that Starsky had just spoken. "W-What d'ya say?" he said, turning toward his friend.

"I said, you okay?"

"Yeah.... Guess it just hit home how much you've been through since I took this." He held up the photograph.

Starsky laid a hand on Hutch's shoulder. "Hey...it's not been easy for you either partner." He smiled sadly. "Don't ya think I know what it's been like.... How you must have felt when it first happened.... How I would've felt if it had been you." He tightened his grip on Hutch's shoulder and continued, "I also know how you've had to put up with my bitching these past months..... I've said some pretty mean things to you haven't I?" Hutch made to interject, but Starsky held up his hand. "Let me finish, okay?"

Lifting the photograph out of Hutch's hand he laid it face down on the coffee table and turned to his partner. "You know how much I hate soapy scenes," Starsky grinned sheepishly, "so I'm only gonna say this once." He paused briefly to compose himself before continuing. "Thank you, buddy...for standing by me through those bad times.... Times when I didn't think I'd have the strength to make it...wanted to quit.... Thank you for being there."

They held each other's gaze for a long time, each man aware of what this moment meant to the other.

Finally Hutch broke the silence. "C'mon partner," he said. "Let's get you to bed.... Time to rest. After all, I promised those gorgeous nurses I'd take care of their number one patient!"

---

Returning to the living room once Starsky was settled, Hutch picked up the photograph and placed it on the sideboard, alongside the gold colored medallion awarded, 3 months earlier, at the same baseball game. He touched the cherished object, remembering how happy his friend had been to receive it. "You deserve this Starsk," he thought, "thanks for winning through for me."