A Good Deal
By: Karen B.
Summary: A Starsky and Hutch Academy story.
Disclaimer: Don't own a thing
From: A Boys in Blue Zine
Thank you, Dawn for beta reading…for teaching me how to step back, take a breath, and see the flowers through the weeds.
Merry Christmas to all.
Dedicated to: Debbie and Becky…you guys are so sweet. Really!
It was a rainy Saturday night. I sat at my desk near the window without a whole lot to do because our Sergeant had confined all cadets to quarters for the weekend.
The small Academy dorm room was hot and humid which had caused sweat patches to spread under my armpits, and my tee shirt was clinging across my shoulder blades. I'd already taken two showers, and wondered when maintenance would follow up on my request to fix the old radiator. It wasn't even midwinter and the damn thing kept running on no matter how many times I kicked the coils with my boot. Instead of taking a third shower, every ten minutes I peeled the wet material away from my skin to wring out the moisture. The action brought a few lewd looks from my roommate. Ignoring him, I went about the business of counting the drops of sweat that dripped off my nose. When that got old, I watched my lava lamp. The rise and fall of the red floating blobs always fascinated me. However, I don't recommend watching the liquid separating into different shapes for too long - my eyes were starting to cross, and from everything I'd read, they could end up staying that way.
I turned my attention to the one and only window in the room. Raindrops banged against the glass, reminding me of miniature hand grenades exploding.
Man, I felt like a prisoner in my own room-sometimes in my own skin. I really hated small confined spaces. Never could sit still, and I hated the rain. It brought back too many memories of my days trekking fearfully through the humid jungles of 'Nam.
It never seemed to stop pouring rain in the tropical forest, the precipitation coming in bursts every thirty minutes like clockwork. If I wasn't drenched in sweat - I was drenched in ugly brown slimy rainwater. I'll never forget the feel of that crappy water squishing inside my boots, or the sweat and dirt and stones aggravating the sores on the bottoms of my feet. Some days I didn't know how I kept going. Do or die, I guess. But that wasn't the worst of it. Not by a long shot. I felt so trapped. Even though I was outdoors, I hardly ever got to see the clouds, the sun, the stars - through the thick foliage. Mud pits became death traps, local blood sucking residents plagued me with malaria, and the trembling sound of thunder rattled deep in my chest and even deeper into my soul.
I hated thunderstorms. The sound was too close to the sound of gun fire and exploding bombs. Never could tell the difference between storm or gunplay. All I knew was both threatened to tear through my chest, scare me out of my boots, and send me to the bloodstained mud; crawling over my buddies whose names were no longer known, since I couldn't identify one from the other any longer.
I swiped the moisture off my upper lip and shook the nightmare away, forcing my mind back into the present. No longer stuck in the jungle but stuck in this room simply because we'd failed the Physical Training test.
Correction, everyone failed but me and Daniels. Yet, the punishment applied to us all, reminding me of when my brother Nick and I'd get into a brawl. No matter who was to blame-we both got punished.
Hutchinson, my roommate, and Myers were the worst of the lot. With their oversized hands and extra long legs, they bumbled over the course like a couple of two-legged virgin stags. Our punishment-confined to quarters for the weekend, until 6am. Monday morning. Where, come rain or come shine, Sergeant Ballard said we'd re-take the P.T. test over and over again until we got it right.
Our drill sergeant was the real deal. A pompous old guy, clearly proud of his twenty-five years on the force. He'd grill you like the sun if you screwed up even the slightest bit. I felt like I was trying out for the eighth-grade football team, listening to him yelling through his bullhorn.
"You dipshits get any slower and you'll be trampled by turtles," Ballard spat. "You think P.T. is tough, the streets are tougher! I'm going to see to it none of you dipshits ever forget that!"
I figured he was so hard on us because he didn't want any of us 'dipshits' to become dead boys in blue on our first day-guess that made him a cool guy in my little black book.
Still, I was going nuts from the incarceration. I didn't even get to make it to the cafeteria before we were locked up-I was starving.
I didn't want my roommate to hear my stomach barking out orders, and I couldn't just sit, watching raindrops burst against the window any longer, tracing the drips, and trying to calculate their intended path.
I was reduced to another old Starsky family rainy-day tradition -roasting marshmallows over a flickering candle flame. Pulling out my stash of marshmallows and small roasting stick I'd cut down to size for indoor use from my lower desk drawer, I lit a candle.
Along with that, I had a new 'Starsky' tradition, watching another kind of drip - my roommate - Cadet Kenneth R. Hutchinson. Wasn't sure what the 'R' stood for. Maybe Rookie. I'd been boxed in with the big blond for a week and a half, and the only real thing I knew about my roommate was that he was a pain in my ass.
The thing is, I'm no country boy, b but I was pretty sure pigs kept their sty's cleaner than Cadet Hutchinson kept his side of the room. The man's desk was cleverly disguises as a trashcan, dirty clothing was shamelessly draped everywhere-underwear included. Crushed potato chips and books lay scattered on top of his unmade bed, but it was under his bed that was the real disaster. Four pairs of running shoes, three moldy towels, a string-less guitar, a busted up Monopoly box, and broken tennis racket, and a virtual rainbow of empty soup cans. Tomato. Chicken. Navy Bean. Potato. Hell, even clam chowder. But the real unappetizing kicker of it was-the guy liked to drink them all cold.
"Hutchinson, how can you stand to drink cold soup from a can?" I asked, to make conversation while I slowly rotated my marshmallow stick to toast my treat.
Looking completely distracted, Hutchinson didn't say a word. Just kept going about doing what he always did this time of day-caring for the three plants he'd brought to live with him.
"Hey, Schweetheart…" I started in on my Bogart routine to vie for his attentions, but was interrupted by my marshmallow bursting into flames. "Holy mackerel!" I blew hard, and it took several tries before the flame went out. I liked my marshmallows well-done, not completely charred. "Here's looking at you, kid," I said, pulling the slightly over torched puff off the stick, and popping the gooey treat into my mouth.
"Who are you supposed to be?" Hutchinson spared me a brief look over his shoulder. "Jack Nicholson?"
"Bogart," I said, trying not to sound disappointed.
"Bogart, huh? Hutchinson arched a brow, indicating to me he didn't buy my take on the worlds' toughest man.
"When I was a kid," I explained. "My dad took me to see the film Casablanca. I've impersonated Humphrey ever since." I was proud of that fact. "My family all loved my rendition and said I sounded just like Bogie. You don't think so?"
"There's no stove," Hutch answered, going back to his shrubbery.
"Huh?" I asked in confusion.
"How do you expect me to heat up soup when there is no stove," He muttered and then was quiet again.
So much for making conversation with a shrub.
From my seat at the desk, I continued the fine art of roasting marshmallows, watching the blond pain-in-my-ass water, weed, and lovingly prune the potted bushes like they were the only thing that mattered. He treated his plants like they were his pet dogs. Talking to each one in a tender, quiet voice, stroking the back of their leaves, and calling them his 'little darlin's'. I wondered what it would feel like to have someone care for you that much - I almost was jealous.
Each little lady had its own name, and he called them by name-like he was some sort of woodland Saint Nick.
"Now, now Beautiful Beatrice. Com on there, Gorgeous Gloria. Up, up, Sassy Sally."
No wonder all the other fellows thought he was a real flake. I really wasn't to sure what I thought about Hutchinson-for me, it was too soon to tell. At least he was good at keeping boundaries. His mess stayed just that-his mess, on his side of the imaginary line I'd drawn for him the first day we bunked together.
What Hutchinson wasn't good at was making friends. I could tell he must have been one of those kids in school who always got picked on. Didn't his parents ever teach him if he was friendlier, and talked to the other children more than he did to his pet salamander, they wouldn't pick on him so much?
The same held true here at the police Academy.
If Hutchinson would stop outperforming every cadet on the written exams, and be a little more open, he might not be spending so much time babbling to his plants every night. He's the only guy I know who could ace a test without breaking a sweat. I thought about that a moment. Maybe it wasn't that Hutchinson was more intelligent-maybe I was just book lazy.
I sort of felt bad for the guy. I know how it feels not to be popular. Take me for instance. I'm not high on the friendly list for one Cadet Robert Mills. I very much doubt h e will forget the lesson he got from me under the hot sun for our jujitsu lesson a few days ago. It sure wasn't even-steven when I was paired off with Robert. He is bigger than me by about twenty pounds and three inches taller.
I had at least one thing going for me. Being a lefty gives me a natural advantage. Most righties are not used to fighting us lefties, while lefties are very experienced in fighting against both. Robert laced leverage, and coupled with his 'I can do no wrong' attitude, gave me the advantage. But not before Robert threw one good punch to my gut and I dropped down to one knee. He mistakenly figured that was game, set and match, and pranced around the circle of watching cadets.
"Can't beat a Mills! Starsky's down and he's staying down!" Robert sing-songed.
Gloating before the fat lady sings is the downfall of a lot of people. Which is something I wasn't in the habit of doing. I learned the hard way out on the streets of New York. Mental toughness becomes a habit you don't have to think about, and that street smart habit can beat brute strength any day of the week. I feigned right, then one high kick and cross punch later - Robert was down and out.
Back in the gloomy dorm, I watched Hutchinson spritzing his plants. We all could be one of those kids who gets made fun of on the playground at one time or another. I remember when I was in school, I didn't get hassled because I was too book smart. I got hassled because I suffered from a condition known as 'big mouth syndrome.' My mouth got me in more trouble, more times, than I cared to count.
I remember after each hallway fist fight, Principal Johnson would pull me off the other kid, drag me by one arm into his office, and plop me into a chair in front of his desk. Then he'd give me a choice; a call home to mother and three days suspension, or bend over and take the paddle.
I never did want to disappoint mommy, so I took the swats. Eventually, my mom-not to mention Principal Johnson-were at a loss on how to get me to toe the line, so I was sent off to my Aunt and Uncle's home in California in the hopes that Id fit in there- not go.
I suspect none of us ever really change. Hutchinson seemed like a good guy. I think he was getting a raw deal. Just because he'd rather study at night instead of thinking up new ways to sneak a twelve-pack into the dorm rooms didn't make him a flake.
Still, the plant thing was freaking me out. Bet he spent most of his time in the greenhouse when he was a kid. The other thing that bothered me was the fact Hutchinson was always looking at himself in that damn mirror he'd hung up on the wall. You'd think the ten minutes he spent every morning blow drying his hair would be enough mirror time for anybody. He was either that vain or had a secret desire to work in a beauty parlor as a hairstylist.
Or maybe he was keeping tabs on me. My vote was for the latter, since I'd sometimes catch his eye and he'd look away. Hutchinson sure needed to learn a thing or two about fine-tuning his people watching skills.
"Here you go, darlin'," Hutchinson's soft voice pulled me from my thoughts.
"Why do you waste your time with those plants?" I frowned as I watched him tenderly pluck a few dried leaves off one of his 'little darlings'.
Hutchinson turned my way and looked at me with confusion before picking up the spray bottle.
"What do you mean?" he asked, generously misting the ladies.
"What I mean, Hutchinson, is, they don't even talk back. Why do you bother?"
"Because, they like it."
"I like artichokes and sex-they like that, too?" I gave my sexiest wink.
"What do artichokes have to do with-" Hutchinson rolled his eyes, something he did a lot. "Forget it, I'm not even going to ask," he groaned.
"So, seriously, " I said. "How do you know they like it?"
"They grow better." Sighing, Hutchinson set the water bottle on the nightstand next to his bananas. He ate so many of them I wondered if he wasn't part monkey.
"Like you said, Starsky-" Hutchinson continued, plopping down on his bed. "They don't talk back. Why do you waste your time roasting marshmallows…indoors?"
"Oh, you noticed."
"How could I not?" Hutchinson drawled.
"How do you like them?" I asked.
"Your marshmallows, Hutchinson. How do you like 'em?"
"Over easy," he said, sounding disinterested.
I cringed and said, "Every decent marshmallow lover knows they taste best well-done."
"Yeah," Hutchinson snorted. "Not this decent marshmallow lover."
I plucked a white puff from the bag, speared it with a stick and roasted it until it was a pretty light-brown color.
"Here you go." I tipped the stick toward him. He moved to the edge of his bed to take the perfectly cooked puff.
"Thanks." Hutchinson slid the marshmallow off the stick, juggling it from one palm to the next and blowing. "Hot," he said just before he popped it into his mouth, and chewed happily. "Why do you like roasting them over a candle flame?" He gave a small nod toward the open bag. "In Minnesota…we roast them over an open fire after the hayride or on campouts."
"Back where I come from in New York…we don't have hayrides and campouts."
"What do you have?"
Graffiti and cockroach races."
"You mean t tell me you've never been camping-" Hutchinson laughed. "Starsk?"
"So, what of it-" I frowned, not sure if I liked the shortened version of the Starsky name. "Hutch."
Hutch, as I decided I'd call him, wrinkled his nose, and I was certain he didn't like the shortened version of his name.
"Oh, you haven't lived until you've roasted marshmallows using a fresh cut branch, under a cloudy winter sky, while watching the snowfall."
"What re you? Some sort of inner city ninja?" Hutch snapped.
"What do you mean?" My mouth dropped in surprise. It wasn't often I came across someone who could match my quick wit.
"You really got tough with Mills during our jujitsu lesson a few days ago."
"So, what of it?" I snapped back.
"S0-make my next one well done, would you?" Hutch pointed to the bag of marshmallows.
"And 'what of it' is-I was impressed." Hutch looked away, but I caught the small smile playing on his lips.
"Thanks." I brightened. "So you like how I handled Mills huh?" I fished, as I speared another puff and began to roast it.
"Was the best imitation of a tumbleweed I've ever seen," Hutch laughed. "Guy was rolling head over heels before he knew what hit him. I stink at Physical Training," he groaned inwardly. "I don't know how you do it."
"It's all in the attitude," I replied. "If a guy is tough-you get tougher."
"Then?" Hutch asked, suddenly seeming to be very interested in what I had to say.
"The you give them the death stare."
"Intimidation? That's a mistake."
"Trust me-" I assured. "you gotta let them know you're not afraid. If they think you're a wimp, that's when they'll run you over.
"Okay, then what?" Hutch asked as I served him up another marshmallow."
"Then you think of the one thing in this world that makes you the maddest and you let it flash inside you like a lightning bolt; let it burn and churn inside your guts until it vaults up your throat and fills your mouth with the taste of stomach acid."
"And then you let it all go like yesterday's hangover-and you hit 'em." I gave the old one-two jab for emphasis.
"Is that it?"
"Then what? Hutch's tone was full of uncertainty.
"Then I teach you a few good moves."
"You will?" His baby blues went wide.
"yep Just wish I was as good on the written exams.," I mumbled, secretly hoping he'd pick up on my not-so-subtle hint.
"It's all in the attitude," Hutch said. "You have to focus." He tapped the side of his temple.
"Then?" I asked, stirring restlessly in my seat.
"Then you gotta understand what type of learner you are," Hutch popped the marshmallow into is mouth, and mumbled, "I think you're a haptic learner." He swallowed. "That is someone can't sit still. Instead of fighting against your nature, you gotta find your footing, and go with it."
"Okay." never asking my eyes off Hutch I fetched another marshmallow and started roasting.
"Starsky, when you feel frustrated or clogged up you have to try something different. Maybe play music while you're studying or punch a bag while you go over and over the facts in your head."
"Is that it?" I asked with doubt.
"Then I study along with you, highlight key points, and run you through the paces."
"Yep." Hutch leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees.
It was very quiet the next few minutes, except fro the sound of the rain pattering heavily against hew window. I roasted Hutch three more marshmallows, neither of us saying a word, until a flash of lightning followed by the crash of thunder made me nearly jump out of my skin. I tried to hide my hang-up by pretending I'd dropped a marshmallow.
"You okay?" Hutch's sincerity really showed through when I actually paid attention to the guy. Swallowing hard, I could feel my Adam's apple bob. It was weird to see so much compassion and caring in someone I barely knew. I didn't get that much emotion out of my own brother most days.
Fine," I muttered, picking up the sticky mess with a napkin and tossing the marshmallow into the trash.
"You sure?" Hutch's tone was composed and light-almost fatherly.
I couldn't have that. I was a full-grown man. I couldn't let another full-grown man know thunderstorms made me edgy.
"Starsky, are you-"
"Did you know marshmallows date back to ancient Egypt?" I cut Hutch off by using another Starsky family tradition. Talk a lot-sidetrack the subject. "They actually used the sap of the marshmallow plant to make the candy." I quickly pulled another puff out of the bag and began roasting. "And did you know, one of the quickest ways to curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake sweetened with honey?" I gestured with the tip of my chin toward his banana bunch. "And did you know, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their plantations?"
"Starsky, what are you talking about?"
I contained a shudder as another flash of lightning and loud clap of thunder rattled the window, and continued to toss out trivia in my effort to hide my phobia.
"And did you know a pig's orgasm lasts for thirty minutes? Al Capone's business card said he was a used furniture dealer. Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks, otherwise it will digest itself." I studied the marshmallow, watching for sings of burning.
"Stewardesses' is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand. Reindeer…like to eat bananas…" I paused just a second to draw a breath. "A group of ravens is called a murder…a whale's penis is called a dork…and if a man trips and falls face down while he has a hard-on…it is possible to break his penis.?"
"That is not true. A penis can't break."
"It ain't a pretty sight, Hutch. I can't believe you didn't know that."
"That's the problem, Hutch," I cut him off. "If a guy's penis is broken he can't - you know."
Having someone to talk to was making me feel better. I wasn't so sure that Hutch was feeling or thinking. He just kept staring at me with his mouth wide open, not saying a word. I bet he never knew half of the stuff. I could go on all night, but didn't want to make Hutch feel bad about my vast array of knowledge, so I stopped. Besides that, I had run out of breath.
A few moments of silence ticked by. Hutch kept staring-that's when I knew he was one of those types who could engage in verbal combat and never say a word. He didn't believe any of my trivia-especially that last one.
"What?" I nervously asked, thinking Hutch was going to be great at interrogation-just like my father used to be.
"Starsky?" He raised one brow. "do you always believe everything that comes out of that motor mouth of yours?"
"Yes." I batted my lashes. "Of course."
"Of course." hutch rolled his eyes again and mumbled something else that I didn't quiet catch, but was certain wasn't very nice.
"I read somewhere if you roll your eyes like that too many times they'll stay that way."
"Will you come on!" Give it up Starsky."
"You know-I don't give up so easily."
"You know…" Hutch's tone was serious. "You really should," he said, turning on his side, and plumping his pillow before jamming it over his head.
My heart skipped a beat. Hutch was a true competitor, someone who could really give me a run for my money. Don't ask me how but somehow I knew-me and Captain America over there were more than just Academy roommates-we were a good deal that would never go bad.
Note: All trivia used in this fic is true to life. (Except not so sure about that last one…LOL.)