December 24th- Starsky & Hutch Gen Christmas Stories list compiled by Flamingo

Updated for 2012 by Flamingo. Please note, new stories were added through searches of archives and livejournal communities, so some stories may have only mentioned “Christmas” or “Thanksgiving”. If you feel a story isn’t relevant, let me know and I’ll remove it. Likewise, stories may have been misclassified as gen or slash. Just let me know (flamingoslim at verizon.net) and I’ll make corrections.

Abacus by Kirsty Welsh

A Christmas Blintz by Edina Clouds

A Different Christmas Story by Ukkie

After-Christmas Blues by Anne S. (Dara Rose)

After-Christmas Special by Libra Three

After Thanksgiving Sale by Linda B. (Thanksgiving)

All I Want For Christmas by Pat. L.

An Artful Christmas by Chel

An Ill Wind by Jill MacCartney

And a Great Time Under the Tree by Provencepuss

Angel by Elisa Valero

Angels and Ankles Don’t Mix by Cindy

Angel in the Snow by Nicky Gabriel

Another Christmas Carol by provencepuss

A Very Starsky Christmas by Allie

Bad Luck Follows the Believer by Purry

Bah, Humbug by Bosco11

Behind Santa’s Beard by Karen B.

Best Christmas Ever by Bosco11

Big Kiss Under the Christmas Tree, A by Provencepuss

Blind Trust by Minnie K.

Blue Christmas by LovinFace

Brother For Christmas, A by Mary Miller

Brothers-In-Heart by bosco11

Canyon by Hylda

Choices by Hylda

Christmas by provencepuss

Christmas Angel, The by Buddy

Christmas at the Academy by Mary Miller

Christmas Blintz, The by Vg

Christmas Card for You, A, 2010 (captioned art) by MoniK

Christmas Cheer by rsb57

Christmas Eve, a Nice Mess! by Monika

Christmas in July by Linda B.

Christmas Memories by Linda B.

Christmas Ornaments by MysticWhim

Christmas Past by Pinto

Christmas Past and Future by Pat L.

Christmas Resolutions & Gifts by Allie

Christmas Pigout by Allie (Hutchie)

Christmas Shirt & Christmas Cactus by Allie

Christmas Snow by Karen B.

Christmas Spirit, The by Soho

Christmas Spirits by K. Hanna Korossy

Christmas Star, The by Brit

Christmas Story, A by Tooki

Christmas Surprises by Mary Kleinsmith

Christmas That Almost Wasn’t, The by Jacqueline

Christmas Tradition, A by Starsky’s Strut

Christmas Tree, The by Marlene S.

Christmas Trees by Allie

Christmas Trees and Snow Angels in the Sand by Bosco11

Christmas Wish by Brit

Christmas with Cassie by P&C Productions

Christmas Pig-out by Allie (hutchynstarsk)

Cocoa by Allie

Criminal Claus by Pinto

Curse of the Christmas Fruitcake by LilStripedTomato

D’ You Believe in the North Pole? by Wuemsel

Dark Night of the Soul by Aunt Mary

Darkest Night of the Year, The by Rebelcat

Dawn, The by Nicky Gabriel

Debt, The by Elisa Valero and Cristina Pereira

Decorating the Christmas Tree, Code 37, by provencepuss

Decorating the Christmas Tree, Candlelight, by provencepuss

Decorating the Christmas Tree, Another Ornament for the Tree by provencepuss

Decorating the Christmas Tree, a Seasonal Song by provencepuss

Difference, The by Hutchrules3

Different Christmas Story, A by Nelleke

Different Kind of Christmas, A by Mary Miller

Early Christmas, An by Sparkle731

Eggnog and Mistletoe by bosco11

Eleven Candy Kisses by provencepuss

Explanations by Susan Proto

First Christmas Away from Home by Verlaine

Forever Friends by Peruvian Gypsy

For the Life of Him by cognomen

Euphoric Sentimentalism by Bosco11

Explanations by Susan Proto

Family Christmas, A by Katherine Atkins

First Christmas Away From Home by Verlaine

First Love, Lost Love by Cindy

Ghosts of Christmas Past by K. Hanna Korossy

Ghost of Christmas that Never Came…by provencepuss

Gift, The by Bosco11

Gifted by provencepuss

Gift of a Brother by MinnieK

Gifts of the (L.A.) Magi by K. Hanna Korossy

Gift of the (L.A.) Magi–part 2 by Gretchen M. Cupp

Gift Wrapped Christmas by wightfaerie

Giving Thanks by Brit (Thanksgiving)

God’s Gift to the World by Aunt Mary

Gratitude by Mary Miller

Great Time Under the Tree by provencepuss

Happy Holidays by Judith

Holiday Hero by Karen B.

Happy New Year! by Monika11

History in a Sweater by Rivanna Michaels

Home for the Holidays by Striped Tomato

Hutchinson’s Trees by Linda B.

Hutch’s Christmas Carol by PatL

Hutch’s Heartaches #11 by Linda C.

If Everyone Had Candy Canes and Mistletoe by Rivanna Michaels

I’ll Be Home For Christmas by Bosco11

I’ll be Home for Christmas by prolixius5

In the Shadow of the Serpent by Margaret Sinclair

It’s a Family Thing by Momo

It’s a Wonderful Life, Tiny Tim by Tooki

It’s Beginning to Look a a Lot Like Christmas by Tooki

It’s the Thought That Counts by Margaret S.

Jingle Bells by Kirsty Welsh

Jive Turkeys by Kate Roman (Thanksgiving)

Just Before Midnight by Brit (New Year’s Eve)

Last Streetlight, The by Lizabeth S. Tucker

Leaving Well Enough Alone by Bosco11

Let it Snow by Monika

Let It Snow by Valerie Wells

Life of My Own, A, by Ashkevran-Angel

Light Bearer by Silverchipmunk

Little Boy Found by Hutchrules3

Little Christmas Tale, A by Elisa Valero

Little Holiday Spirit, A by Starsky’s Strut

Maybe Next Year by Pat L.

Merry Christmas, Best Friend by Jane

Merry, Merry by Verlaine

Model Behavior by Stephanie W.

Moonlighting by MysticWhim

Muffleby&Keek Meet Starsky and Hutch by Wuemsel

My Christmas Greetings for You, 2011, (captioned art) by MoniK

My List of Wishes by Monika

Night Before Christmas, The by Karen B.

Night Before Christmas, The by provencepuss

Norwegian Wood by Sue David

No Visions of Sugar Plums by Dawnwind

No Way to Spend New Year’s Eve by TibbieB (New Year’s Eve)

Of Trees and Ghosts by Wuemsel

O, Christmas Freeze by Hutchie Girl

O Christmas Tree by bluespiritgal

Oh, Holy Night by Valerie Wells

Oliver by Kreek

On the First Day of Christmas (Blinn and Spelling Gave to Me) by Hutchlover

One Hell of a Road to Christmas by prolixius5

Our First Christmas by Karen B.

Other Twenty-Five, The by kuonji

Over the Edge by by Linda B.

Partridge in a Pear Tree, A by the Blintz

Precious Present, The by Brit

Peace on Earth by Monika

Perfect by Momo

Perfect Tree, The by BellaDonna

Present, The by Kirsty Welch

Private Party by Rebelcat

Psycho For Starsky by J.M. Henderson

Reinstatement by Nikki

Resolution by Bosco11

Reunited Four by Mary Miller

Right Publication, The by Avoca

Role Reversal by Avoca

Roots to Grow by Muckel1470

Ruby Slippers by Lola

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Sue M

Santa Claus Lane by Vanessa Sgroi

Santas by Allie (hutchynstarsk)

Season of Miracles by Cherokeegirl

Second Choice by Nicky Gabriel

Second Season by Brit

Secret, The by Susan

Six Hours of Massage by provencepuss

Small Gift, A by Allie (hutchynstarsk)

Small Miracles by Verlaine

Socks and the Christmas Tree by Hutcherie

Stable Job with Christmas Benefits, A by Dawnwind

Starsky’s Christmas Letter by Vedette Ciel

Starsky’s Tree by cynatnite

Starsky’s Tree by Katherine Atkins

Sudden Change by Cheryl T.

Surviving the Titanic by Dawnwind

Sweet Christmas by Linda C (Huskyandstarch)

Ten Minutes in the Shower by provencepuss

Test of Faith, A by Buddy

Thanksgiving by Kaye

Thanksgiving by hutchynstarsk (Allie)

Thanksgiving for Hutch by hutchynstarsk (Allie)

Thin Line, A by Lola

Three Holiday Conversations by Dale

To Dance with My Father Again by Jane

To Know Peace by the Blintz

Toast, The by Brit (New Year’s Eve)

Travel of the Heart by Elisa Valero

TV Time by Allie

Twas the Week Before Christmas by Peruvian Gypsy

T’was the Night by Ekokai

T’was the Night by Vedette Ciel

T’was the Night Before Christmas S&H Version by HFGirl

Two Mars Lights Flashing by Provencepuss

Two Shots of Happy, One Shot Sad, A Dark S&H Story by Max

Two Weeks Ago by Brit (Thanksgiving)

Traditions by Wuemsel

Tree, The by Starsky’s Strut

Vengeance is Mine by Striped Tomato

Visit from St. Nicholas, A (or “What Was in Hutch’s Eggnog?”) by e-pony

Watch Stand, The by Avoca

We Miss You Every Christmas by Allie (Hutchie)

We Need a Little Christmas by Pinto

What Do I Want? by Brit

What’s your childhood trauma? by Bdonna

Whisper in the Dark, A by K.T.Weltch

Wish You Were Here by Diane C.

Xmas Tag by Provencepuss

Yes, Virginia Hutchinson, There is a Santa Claus by Elizabeth Helena

Yule in a Different Place by Ea

December 24th- (There’s No Place Like) Home for The Holidays by Cyanne

“You know Starsk, Christmas is supposed to be cold air and snow, not palm trees and…”

“… surfing Santas,” Starsky said along with Hutch. “I know, you’ve been complaining ever since Black Friday.  It’s not going to change anything, you know.”

Starsky and Hutch were sitting in the Torino two blocks down from Huggy’s place, killing time waiting for their informant Chrissy to arrive. She had called Hutch yesterday saying she had some information on her drug dealing boss. Her pattern was that she was either five minutes early or she didn’t come at all. Odds were she wasn’t going to show, given that she was fifteen minutes late already.

“Whadya think, should we give it up?” Starsky asked.

“Give her a few more minutes. Chrissy’s usually early but I’ve got a feeling she still might show.” Hutch was leaning back against the passenger side door, the light from the streetlamp making his lover’s hair look even more golden. “Maybe she had some last minute Christmas shopping to do?”

“Unlike some people, who’ve been done for ages,” Starsky teased. Hutch might hate Christmas but he certainly was organized about it. Starsky had been trying to find out where his presents were hidden for weeks now.

“Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Starsky said, after another few minutes of staring out at a deserted street. “Do you want to try to go home? We won’t get Christmas off again for another two or three years, but maybe we could go the first week of January or something.” Starsky had been at a loss at how to make the holiday better for his partner, even thinking about planning a ski trip for the New Year. But planned vacations, especially surprises, never seemed to go quite the way they wanted them too given the uncertainties of their jobs.

“I thought we were celebrating Christmas night at my place,” Hutch replied, without taking his eyes off the street.

“Yeah, we’re doing that, but I meant home, home. Duluth where it’s cold and Christmassy and there’s not a Santa with a surfboard in sight.”

“It’s weird but I haven’t thought about Minnesota as really being home for a long time now,” Hutch said, sounding thoughtful.

They sat there in a comfortable silence for a little while longer.

Eventually Hutch picked up the conversation where they had left off. “Do you still think of New York as home?”

“Like you said, it’s kinda weird. Yes and no. I’ve lived out here almost twice as long as I lived in Brooklyn. New York is back home, ya know, and it always will be, but here is really home.” Home is wherever you are, babe, Starsky thought. And if you wanted to pick up and move somewhere else, I’d be right there with you.

“Hey, is that Harry?” Starsky asked, pointing at the dark-haired Caucasian man turning the corner across the street from them.

“Yep, and he’s moving awfully fast for a guy with his arms full of suspicious looking brown bags,” Hutch agreed.

“He’s still got a warrant out for robbing Perry’s Pub last week,” Starsky said, as he pulled the keys from the ignition and opened his door. “He had a gun that time. Didn’t fire it, thankfully, but he waved it around a lot. One of these times it’s going to go off, even if it’s an accident.”

“Looks like a couple of bottles of liquor to me. What you want to bet he swiped them off the top shelf of the Pits when Huggy wasn’t looking? You know the place is jumping this time of year,” Hutch said, quietly opening his own door.

Harry looked over his shoulder, caught sight of the two detectives, and took off.

“Couldn’t have been a robbery this time, we would have heard the call,” Starsky agreed. “Up for a run?”

“Why not. Chrissy’s not going to show anyway. No point going back empty handed.”

They took off in pursuit, chasing Harry down a thankfully not too dark alley. Starsky saw him toss the package off to his right, the crash of the breaking bottles loud in the otherwise quiet night.

Still running, they crossed a street that was luckily devoid of traffic and headed into the next ally. Suddenly Harry hung a quick left and ran up a stairway past a small crowd of people. What they were doing hanging out in an alley on a cold December’s night was beyond Starsky, who lost track of their quarry as Harry ran through the open doorway at the top of the stairs.

“Don’t tell me you lost him?” Hutch asked, only a few steps behind Starsky and not even out of breath.

“Me? Never. Up there,” Starsky said, gesturing, quietly catching his own breath. They pushed past the grumpy people in line, taking the stairs two at a time and found themselves in a hallway with peeling green paint. Two of the three doors were open and faint voices were coming from behind the closed one.

“Police, open up.” Hutch pounded on the door but there was no answer.

At a nod from Hutch, Starsky pushed the door open and they quickly moved to both sides of the doorway, covering the room.

“I did it. I killed him, killed my partner. Ran away and left him for dead like the coward that I am,” came Harry’s voice from inside the room. He sounded defeated.

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other questioningly and peered around the doorframe. What the hell was Harry up to? He was a small time robber, not a killer. There was no evidence that the gun he waved around was even loaded. And there had never been any sign he had a partner. Harry was too greedy to share any of his spoils.

Harry was sitting in a dingy room in front of a long table. There was a camera set up behind it and a man and a woman who looked like typical studio executive-types sitting on folding chairs taking notes.

And Harry was holding a script and apparently reading lines for an audition.

Starsky couldn’t resist. “Cut!” he yelled.

“You know this script real well already, Harry,” Starsky said as Hutch cuffed him. “You have the right to remain silent….”

“Awwww, man,” the guy running the camera whined. “He was perfect too.”

The woman who had been feeding him lines tried to plead with them. “We’ve only got three weeks ’til the show, and rehearsals start tomorrow. Can’t you just let him go until after Christmas? You can find him at the Harmony Theater on 10th.”

“Sorry, our Captain can been a real Grinch about these things. You can come watch the jailhouse talent show though,” Hutch told her as he and Starsky hustled Harry out of the room.

A resigned voice called out from the room, “Next.”

“What say we drop him off and go home?” Hutch asked as he bundled Harry into the back seat of the Torino and shut the door.

“Sounds like a plan,” Starsky replied, leaning on the roof of the car. “Which one? Yours or mine?

“Does it matter?”

“We really oughta do something about that.”

“About what?” Hutch asked, as he took up a position on the passenger side of the roof across from Starsky. Both men ignored the banging from inside the car. Harry could wait a few minutes.

“This two-homes thing. Seems kinda stupid to be paying rent in both places when we’re always together in one.”

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while now, too,” Hutch agreed, sounding pleased.

“Could be a Christmas present to ourselves, finding a new place,” Starsky replied, idly drumming his fingers on the roof of the car. The banging had stopped for the moment.

“Are you implying that I haven’t bought you a present yet?” Hutch asked, with an indulgent smile.

“Not implying anything, Hutch. I know all your hiding places and they’re all empty.”

“You only think you know all my hiding places. You’re not trying hard enough.”

Starsky thought for a minute. “You’ve got that look. That’s your devious I’ve-thought-of-something-really-clever look. Out with it.”

“New house means new hiding places.”

“I like the way you think. Does it mean more presents too?”

“Don’t push your luck, Starsk,” Hutch told him.

“I’ve been through my place, your place, our desk and lockers at work, your locker at the gym…”

The last clearly surprised Hutch. “How did you manage that?”

“Just because you don’t like Danish doesn’t mean Vinnie doesn’t,” Starsky told him with a smirk.

The banging from inside the car started up again, this time accompanied by unintelligible shouting.

Starsky opened the driver’s side door and leaned in. “Yeah, yeah we’re coming.”

He popped back up to grin at Hutch. “We’d better get going, the natives are getting restless. Drop him off, your place tonight, house hunting tomorrow night.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Hutch agreed, opening his door and ignoring Harry.

“And then maybe go surfing with the Santas.”

“Starsky!”

* audition scene blatantly stolen lovingly borrowed from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

December 24th- Starsky & Hutch Slash Christmas Stories list compiled by Flamingo

Updated for 2012 by Flamingo. Please note, new stories were added through searches of archives and livejournal communities, so some stories may have only mentioned “Christmas” or “Thanksgiving”. If you feel a story isn’t relevant, let me know and I’ll remove it. Likewise, stories may have been misclassified as gen or slash. Just let me know (flamingoslim at verizon.net) and I’ll make corrections.

After Christmas Blues by Dararose

Almost Paris by Karen B.

All I Want for Christmas by Becky (and Debbie?)

All I Want For Christmas by xtexan86

All I Want for Christmas by Mahlia Belonn

All the Weary World by Azzy

And Tied With a Bow by TimberWolf

Appearances by Candy Apple

As In Golden Days by Ginalin

Auld Lang Syne by silver chipmunk

Bare Necessities by Ellis Murdock

Best Christmas Ever by SPowell

Blame it On the Mistletoe by Rebelcat

Bookends by cbtreks

Bugatti Veyron, A by Lolabobs

Callie’s Boy by Susan

California Christmas by Elizabeth Lowry

Christmas Cabin, A by wightfaerie

Christmas at Three Rivers by Terri Beckett and Chris Power

Christmas Bunny by Didi

Christmas Cartoon 1 by Dawnwind (art with captions)

Christmas Cartoon 2 by Dawnwind (art with captions)

Christmas Carol by Det. David M Starsky, transcribed by Hutchlover

Christmas Joy by CC

Christmas Presence by silver chipmunk

Christmas Present, A by Donna McIntosh

Christmas Rush by Didi

Christmas Shirt by Hutchynstarsk (Allie)

Christmas Song by Verlaine

Christmas Songs by Hutcherie

Christmas Special, The, by BellaDonna

Christmas Star, The by Dawnwind

Christmas Story, A by Alleycat

Christmas Tail by Morgan Logan

Christmas Tide by Avoca

Christmas Tree, The by Marlene S.

Cracker Jack by MysticWhim

Crazy Season, The by Morgan Logan

Darkest Night of the Year, The by Rebelcat

December by Susan

Decorating the Christmas Tree: A Rude Food Interlude by provencepuss

Ding-A-Ling by Didi

Everlasting by Veronica

February 2nd by Alexis Hunter

First, Last, and Always by ultrapsychobrat

First Noel by Nyssa

Four Christmas, A Lifetime by Tat

Four Ways Starsky and Hutch May Have Visited Neverland by Audrey

Friday Night by Athena

Eureka, What an Epiphany by Dawnwind

Every Year Again, It’s Christmas by Monika and Ea

February 2 by Alexis Rogers

First Noel by Nyssa

For the Gift by Dara Rose

For the Man Who Has Everything by Dawnwind

Four Christmas by Tat

Ghosts of Christmas Past by Kaye

Gift, The by hardboiledbaby

The Gift of the Magi by Jen Hall (Greenlady)

Great Aunt Gladiola’s Fruit Cake by Kaye Austen Michaels

Greatest Gift, The by Morgan Branca

Grinch’s Gift, The by Morgan Logan

Heathcliff Variant, The by Dawnwind

Ho, Ho, Ho and a Bottle of Rum by Dawnwind

Home For Christmas by mah

Home for Christmas by Kate Roman (romankate)

Home for the Holidays by MLM

Hotwire by Morgan Logan

How to Separate a Pea From a Pod in a Million Easy Steps by Sue

I Dream of Thee by Liz Ellington

I Give Him Christmas by Laura McEwan

I Give Him Christmas by Laura McEwan Podfic by Equusentric

I Remember L.A. by Nicky Harrington (Thanksgiving Story)

I Saw Starsky Kissing Santa Claus by Dawnwind

I Saw Starsky Kissing Santa Claus by Iris Gray

In the Mood by Monika

It’s a Twilight Christmas Tale by Rebelcat

It’s Light Out by CC

It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Candy Apple

Jenni by Charlotte Frost

May the Force be with Youna by Nancys_soul

Magus by Verlaine

Merry Christmas, Perkowitz by Jat Sapphire

Mother Nature’s Son by Paula Wilshe

Much Too Close by Monika

My List of Wishes by Monika

My True Love Gave to Me by Sebastyn

‘Neath the Christmas Tree by Dawnwind

New Beginnings by SPowell

Not On Christmas by Rae

One Wrong Step by Rosemary (Tira Nog)

Only Gift, The by Kaye Austen Michaels

Partly Grouchy With a Chance of Snow by Dawnwind

Perfect Christmas Gifts, The by Nikki Harrington

Picture Postcard Christmas by wightfaerie

Process in the Weather of the Heart, A by Susan

Return of the Magi by Susan

Rolly the Reindeer by JoJo

Sergeant Light Guy by Leeesa

Silent Night, Starry Night by Hutchlover

Silk Wall by Dararose

Silver Bells by KimberlyFDR

Sing a Song of Gladness and Cheer by Theresa Kyle

Special Christmas For Hutch by barancoire

Special Gift, A by Tina

Splish Splash by romankate

Stakeout in the City of Black-Winged Angels by Ashkevran-Angel

Stuck On You by Dawn

Substitute, The by Nancys_Soul

Switches and Ashes by CC

Tandem by Paula Wilshe and Hutchrules3

There’s No Place Like Home (for the Holidays) by Cyanne

Tibetan Hut Theory, The by Kaye Austen Michaels

Tiny Treasure, A by Ashkevran-Angel

Time for Easy is Over by Blue Starsky

To Marriages And Family by Tat

Tradition, Tradition by silver chipmunk

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas by Dawnwind

Twelve Days of Christmas, The, (Starsky Style) by Sparkle731

Twelve Days of Christmas by provencepuss

Unwrapped, by diane_c

Weight Lifted, A by AW

When Christmas Comes to Town by LilyK

Without Partner, No Christmas by mah

You Are My Holiday by Candy Apple

December 24- Personal Shopper Results

On Day 2 of the Advent Calendar, we put out an appeal for help. Our guys were undercover with no time to do Christmas shopping. We asked you to suggest gifts each of the guys could give each other. And we said that for each person that suggested gifts, the Personal Shopper organizer would donate cash money to Paul and David’s favorite charities. Later, another fan offered to match that donation dollar for dollar.

Well, you came through in spades. Our guys will never again have to agonize over what to give their partner; that problem is now covered for possibly the rest of their lives! And we are proud to say that David’s favorite charity, the Idaho Black Bear Rehab, and Paul’s charity, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS foundation, each received $60 apiece thanks to your participation. In addition, three fans whose names have been pulled from a hat will receive free zines. We are working out those details now.

The boys’ gifts are all documented in words and pictures. There are even links that will take you to websites that will allow you to learn more about specific gifts. We hope you will enjoy this imaginative and fun Starsky and Hutch fantasy gift catalog. Click here to view the catalog, right click to save.

Special thanks to our anonymous Personal Shopper for putting together such a fun idea!

Flamingo and Cyanne

December 24th- One Wrong Step By Rosemary (AKA Tira Nog)

“There must be some mistake.  I have a reservation,” Ken Hutchinson said into the phone, doing his best to keep his guitar balanced on top of his duffle bag in the tiny airport phone booth.  Outside his booth, the last of the unfortunate travelers trapped on his Chicago flight were making their way through the deserted Newark baggage claim to the equally empty cabstand.

“Sir, your reservation wasn’t secured by a credit card.  The clerk explained when you booked your room that you would need to call for late arrival,” the harassed reservation clerk repeated.

“I was stuck on the runway at O’Hare for four hours.  There was no way to call,” Hutch explained for the third time.

“I’m sorry, sir.  We had to give your reservation to a paying customer.  Good luck and happy holidays.” The woman hung up on him.

“Yeah, right,” Hutch muttered, doing his best not to slam the phone down.  Two a.m. in Newark Airport.  He couldn’t imagine a less likely setting for happy holidays. 

The bus he’d planned on taking into New York’s Port Authority to catch the subway to take him to his Queens hotel had stopped running two hours ago.  Now, he was going to have to take a cab.  Not that he had anywhere to go.  The board behind the unmanned hotel reservation desk across from the baggage carousel had shown all the hotels booked solid.  That snowstorm over Chicago had stranded thousands of travelers.

Hutch pulled out his wallet, knowing before he even opened it that he probably didn’t have enough to swing a cab from Newark to Manhattan.  While he was counting the bills, his gaze was distracted by a slender brunette wearing a fluffy rabbit-skin jacket just like the one that had been with Van’s effects when he’d had to ID her in the morgue.  The woman looked so much like his dead ex that it was eerie.  She gave him a smile as she strutted past, but he couldn’t even manage a polite nod in return.

He’d given up his whole life for that face and body – and it hadn’t been enough.  He’d done everything humanely possible to keep his marriage afloat.  He’d dropped out of the Bay City Police Academy, gone back to law school, passed his Bar, done the intern’s shuffle for two years, and Van had still left him for greener pastures. 

But that was ancient history.  These days, Hutch lived his life the way he wanted.  He’d left the law firm a week after Van filed for divorce.  He’d thought about going back to the Academy, but his time in the law firm had soured him on the criminal justice system.  And, he’d missed his chance.  Starsky and Colby were no doubt detectives by now.  He would have been ten years older than the other recruits and, while he probably could have done it, his passion was gone.  Yet, when he thought back on his days in the Academy, he realized they were the best days of his life.  How pathetic, he thought as he picked up his gear and cleared out of the phone booth. 

Dismissing those melancholic thoughts from his mind, Hutch tried to figure out a game plan.  Turning his back on the money-grubbing lifestyle Van and his parents had picked out for him had made him feel like his own man. However, not being able to make cab fare was getting old.  Or maybe he was just getting old.  He didn’t know.  All he knew was that he was bone tired from the exhausting delays, his gig wasn’t for two days, and he didn’t have anywhere to sleep in the most dangerous city in the country.

The terminal was now completely empty.  The place felt like the set for a serial killer movie.  Without all those bodies moving frantically about in the enclosed space, the deserted baggage area was cold, too.  He pulled his sheepskin jacket closer to him, closed the buttons, pushed his dangling brown Stetson up on his head, and headed towards the nearest seat.

It took a few minutes to find the bus schedule in his backpack, but he finally located it stuffed in the middle of his Christmas song book.  As he’d suspected, the first bus to Manhattan didn’t run until 7 AM.  Sighing at the way his luck seemed to be running lately, Hutch settled into his seat for a long, cold wait.

*~*~*

Predictably enough, his dreams brought him back to happier times.

It had been years since Hutch had seen the Bay City Police Academy dorm, but the room he’d shared with Starsky still looked exactly the same:  Starsky’s side as neat as a pin, a picture of his mother and younger brother on the nightstand; Hutch’s own looking like a tornado had hit it, clothes and books scattered around the twin bed and nightstand, the guitar under the bed the only really personal thing in the mess.  Looking at the dream scene now, Hutch was struck by the fact that there wasn’t a picture of Van on his nightstand.  Somehow, that small oversight took on strange significance viewed more than a decade down the line.

Hutch was standing beside his bed, stuffing dirty clothes in his duffel bag when the door flew open and a breathless Starsky charged in.  His roommate’s cheeks were flushed, his red tee shirt soaked with perspiration, as if he’d run all the way from the gym to get here.

“Colby said that you were leav–” Starsky’s words cut off as he took in what Hutch was doing.

“Yeah,” Hutch said, concentrating on stuffing his dirty socks in the bag, knowing what would be waiting when he met those eyes staring at his back.

“Are you nuts?  We’re less than three weeks away from graduation.”

“And I’m less than three hours from the divorce court,” Hutch said hollowly, still ripped apart by the choice he was being forced to make.

“You think quittin’ the Academy is gonna change that?” Starsky moved to stand beside him, his voice soft and no longer angry. He stood so close that Hutch could smell sunshine and sweat on him.

The audible compassion drew Hutch’s gaze to his friend, despite his intention to avoid this scene.  “Van met me for lunch today.  I’ve . . . never seen her like that.  She said if I weren’t home by six, she’d be on a plane by seven.  She meant it, Starsk.”

“So, you’re gonna give up the chance of a lifetime to – “

“Save my marriage,” Hutch cut Starsky off.  “She’s my wife.  It’s not just about what I want.  I’ve got to – “

“To what?  What are you gonna do if you leave the Academy?”

Hutch drew a deep breath.  “The next term in law school starts in September.  I still have time to register.  I can be a prosecuting attorney and make sure the scum you bust go down for life.”

“She’s got it all worked out for you, huh?” Starsky’s bitterness was a tangible presence.  “You know those suits spend ninety percent of their time making deals with the defense to get the creeps off.  That isn’t you, Hutch.  You’re the best recruit this damn Academy’s got.  You can’t throw it all away because Vanessa had a hissy fit.  Put the bag down.  She’ll cool off by tomorrow.”

“And if she doesn’t?  If she gets on that plane?”

“Then maybe it wasn’t meant to be.” Starsky’s gentle voice always made Hutch feel better.  “You told me how rocky it’s been between you – how much you’ve been fighting the past few years.  Do you really think walking away from your dream is going to be enough to satisfy her?  I’ve only met her a couple of times, Hutch, and I mean no offense to your lady, but Vanessa doesn’t strike me as the kind to be satisfied until she’s living in one of those Beverly Hills mansions next to the stars.”

Hutch wished he could be mad at the appraisal, but, as usual, Starsky was dead on when it came to scoping out someone’s personality.  Starsk hadn’t come out and called her a gold digger like Colby had, but they both knew that was what Starsky thought of her.  Subtlety had never been his roommate’s strong suit.  Taking a deep breath, Hutch said, “I’m never gonna get her there on a cop’s salary.”

“You think she’s gonna be content to wait it out ’til you get outta law school?”

“I can take an accelerated course up at Berkley.”

“You gonna get an accelerated internship, too?  Interns don’t make much more than cops.  You know how long it’s gonna be before you’re making that kinda dough.”

“I know,” Hutch said.  “But I have to try.  I made a vow three years ago.  ‘Til death do us part.  I’m not going to be the one who wrecks our marriage by being selfish.”

“I know how important that is to you and I respect you for it, but . . . I think you’re making a major mistake here, buddy.”

“Maybe.” In his bones, he feared Starsky was right.  Every time a concession had to be made in their marriage, it seemed he was always the one who had to make it.  But it wasn’t Van’s fault that he’d finally figured out he wasn’t the man she’d married.  She still hadn’t forgiven him for walking away from his father’s company.  She hadn’t signed on to be a pauper’s wife.  He’d chosen to walk away from the Hutchinson fortune, so it was his duty to make it up to her somehow.  “But I still have to try.”

“How are we gonna be partners if you do this?  You know we had it all planned out.  A couple of years in uniform and then – “

“It was all a pipedream, Starsk.  You know they’d never let two young cops partner up as detectives.”

“You stay, and we’ll make it happen.  I give you my solemn word on that.” Starsky’s promise had more sincerity than Van had managed when she’d repeated the “richer and poorer” part of her oath.

They’d been roommates for over five months.  Hutch had clicked with this fiery New Yorker as he had with no other human being, including his wife.  Meeting Starsky’s pleading blue eyes, his heart was torn.  His every instinct told him Starsky was right, that giving into Van’s demand was only a stopgap measure and not a cure to the problems plaguing their marriage.  But, if he didn’t leave the Academy, he wasn’t going to have a marriage.  That much, he was sure of.

“I can’t, Starsk, I’m sorry.  I can’t lose her.”

“Why?”

The simple word froze him.  “What?  What do you mean ‘why’?”

“How long’s it been since you went a whole day or even an hour with Van without fighting over something?”  Starsky had clearly seen enough of Van and his interaction to know the score.

“That’s not the point.  She’s my wife.”

“You told me yourself how miserable you’ve been for years, that being in the Academy was the first thing that felt right to you in forever.  Do you think you’re really going to be happy with someone who’s blackmailing you into giving up something you love that much just to get her way?”

Hutch couldn’t lie to those eyes. 

“She’s bluffing, Hutch.  She’s not gonna leave you.  Stay here this weekend.  Let things cool down some, then talk to her on Monday.”

“And if she takes that plane out of here tonight?”

“You won’t be alone.  I promise you.”  That oh-so-tempting solid-as-stone sincerity was there again in Starsky’s eyes and voice.

Needing to lighten the heavy scene, Hutch joked, “What are you going to do?  Move in with me?  Keep house for me and share my bed?”

Something incomprehensible sparked in Starsky’s bright eyes before he answered in a dead serious tone. “If that’s what it takes to keep you from screwing up your life.  And, you know for a fact that I’ll keep house better than Vanessa ever did.”

Starsk had a gift for making him laugh.  Hutch chuckled at the absurd proposition, but his merriment slowly faded when he realized Starsky wasn’t sharing it.  He wasn’t joking.

If this had been John Colby or any of the other Academy recruits, the scene would have taken on a creepy connotation, but Hutch knew this man well enough to trust that there wasn’t anything unwholesome in the offer.  Starsky was just following his heart like he always did and clearly hadn’t thought through how his words might be misinterpreted.  Loving his friend very much at that moment, and aching because he knew no matter how hard they tried, they would never be this close again once he left the Academy, Hutch cocked an eyebrow and asked, “And the sharing my bed part?”

Starsky blinked at the question. 

Hutch nearly grinned, watching as his roommate replayed what Hutch had actually said and realized where his impetuous offer had left him.

“You promise not to hog the covers, and we’ll work something out,” Starsky said, holding his gaze without a trace of humor or fear.

Hutch’s smile dropped from his face, his throat and stomach tightening with emotion when this incredible man refused to back down.

Starsky spoke into the silence. “We’re meant to be partners.  You know that.  Don’t throw everything away for someone who doesn’t care about your happiness.”  Starsky’s hand settled on his shoulder, giving him the same kind of bracing, encouraging squeeze he’d given him a dozen times in the last few months when they’d faced difficult tests.

Hutch’s nerves were vibrating so fiercely, he felt like he was going to shatter.  That touch finished him.  He fell, as if from a great height, into Starsky’s arms. 

Starsky hugged him tight, rubbing his back, murmuring over and over that everything was going to be all right.  The emotion was so pure, so bright, it felt like coming home.  Hutch hugged back with all his might, something inside him knowing that once he stepped away from this embrace that all warmth would vanish from his life.  Standing there, basking in Starsky’s caring, Hutch tried to remember the last time he’d felt anything like this with Van. 

His already shaky mind jittered to a screeching halt at another cliff edge when he realized he was actively comparing this man to his wife.  The fact that his wife was coming up wanting was in no way reassuring.

What the hell was he doing?  What was Starsky thinking saying that kind of stuff to him?  His roommate had volunteered to stand in for his wife in both the housekeeping and bedroom departments.  Every instinct he had was telling him that Starsky hadn’t meant any of his words as a come on, but . . . who the hell said those kinds of things to their buddy?  They were pressed together tighter than lovers.  If anyone walked in on them now, there would be no question about Hutch staying.  They’d both be tossed out on their asses for conduct unbecoming an officer.

Raw panic shooting through him, Hutch pulled back.  His breathing as ragged as if he’d just run ten miles, he rasped in a breath and stared in shock at Starsky’s equally astonished face.  For all that Starsky was a major toucher, they’d never hugged that way before.  It was clear that Starsky had felt the same things he had.

In another world, Hutch knew he might have been a better man.  In that perfect world, he would have found the courage to face the feelings that hug had brought to life – the almost sexual thrill that was still singing through him.  But in this imperfect reality, he couldn’t handle this development, not on top of all the stress of dealing with Van’s ultimatum. 

The emotion was too much; he shut it down.  He had years of experience at closing himself away and putting on his game face – first in his father’s house and more recently in his daily skirmishes with Van.  But never had it hurt this much.

Assuming what he’d always thought of as the Hutchinson Freeze when his father did it to him, Hutch said, “I can’t do this.  I’ll come pick up my stuff tomorrow morning when you’re at class.”

Hutch forced himself to stay strong and distant as the hope died in Starsky’s eyes.  He’d never seen his friend look that crushed.  He couldn’t remember being that important to anyone before.

Starsky stared for a long moment, his silent accusation and disappointment clear before saying in a tight voice, “You’re gonna regret this decision for your entire life.  You know that, don’t you?”

Hutch nodded.  “I know.  I still have to try.”

And with those final, pitiful words, Hutch shot out the door.

The memory had been so vivid that Hutch had forgotten he was dreaming.  When he stepped out of the dorm, the dreamscape altered.  Gone was the boring, institutional hall outside that room.  Instead of beige walls with police-oriented posters, Hutch found himself in a winter forest.  A blizzard was raging around him.  There was nothing but tall pines as far as he could see.  It was beautiful in a wild, dangerous way, but cold enough to freeze his blood.

Wind battered him and threw stinging snow in his eyes.  He lifted his hand to brush the snow away and banged his guitar into his head.  Smarting under the painful impact, he realized he was only wearing his usual cowboy boots, jeans, sheepskin jacket, and Stetson, and carrying his guitar.  He had no clue where his duffle was or how he’d ended up in this wild wood.

Shivering, Hutch looked for a trail, but he seemed to be deep in the wilderness.  There was nothing manmade in sight, only wind, snow, ice, trees, and stone.  He had no idea where he was, where he was going, or why he was here.

Concentrating, Hutch tried to wake himself up, but the winter-locked wood around him refused to vanish.

Shaking with cold, he realized he would have to find shelter fast, before he froze to death.  His leather boots weren’t designed for this kind of weather.  The snow was halfway up his calves and falling heavily.  His toes throbbed in agony as the snow underfoot leeched the heat out of them.  He had gloves, but they were in his backpack, which seemed to have disappeared with his duffle.  His blood red fingers holding his guitar case were starting to ache as well.  He prayed that this intense cold wouldn’t warp his guitar.

Recognizing the first signs of frostbite, Hutch staggered between the towering pines.  The snow was so deep, he couldn’t see what he was stepping on.  He prayed there weren’t any holes or covered streams. Trying not to panic, he realized the sun was setting.  The trees were so thick, he couldn’t see the horizon, not that it would matter in the middle of this raging blizzard.  All there was was white in front of him, behind him, above and below.  He came to an abrupt halt when he stumbled right into a small tree that was completely buried.

As his face landed in the scratchy pine, the top of his guitar case crashed through the snow-heavy branches.  A small bird chittered in terror and skittered away through the deepening shadows.

“If you’re not more careful, young bard, you’re going to severely injure yourself or one of my children,” a pleasant female voice said from behind him.

Hutch spun at the sound.  Already unsteady, he ended up on his butt in the snow, staring up at the speaker in astonishment. 

If he’d had any doubts that he was trapped in a dream, this figure would have confirmed that.  She was tall and slender, clothed chin to foot in a flowing green velvet robe with bright colors embroidered on the trim.  Her hair was white, flowing down to her waist, her eyes were blue as his own, and her skin milky and smooth.  She wore a holly wreath around her head like a crown.  He sucked in a breath of the freezing air as he realized that the icicles dangling from her headpiece were real.

“W-who ar-r-re y-you?” he questioned through chattering teeth.

Though not unfriendly, there was little warmth in her smile.  “It’s not considered polite here to ask that kind of question of a stranger.  Has no one told you that names have power?”

He shook his head. “Why am I here?”

“Men have been asking that question since the dawn of time.  There isn’t any response that can adequately answer it.”

“Are you tr-rying to be funny?”

“No.  But there is a certain irony to the situation.” Her blue eyes studied him with open curiosity.

“Irony?”

“You plop yourself in the middle of my wood, terrify one of my children – “

“Are you talking about the bird?” Hutch was mystified.  It was the only other living creature he’d met since arriving in this dismal, frozen slice of Hell.

“He lives here.  You are an uninvited visitor.  You need to have more respect.”

Realizing that she was completely serious, Hutch tried to keep the pique out of his voice. “I didn’t mean to frighten him.  It wasn’t intentional.”

“And, yet, you made no apology.”

“To the bird?  Lady, unless it’s escaped your notice, I’m in real trouble here.” Hutch could barely keep his voice the right side of civil.

“So it seems. That’s why I stopped to talk to you.”

“Did you bring me here?”  Hutch still had no idea where here was.

“Your choices brought you here.”

A different type of chill spread through him.  He had the sudden memory of old Ebenezer being condemned to an icy purgatory in the musical version of Scrooge.  Not sure he wanted the answer, he asked, “Am I dead?”

“Not physically.”

“What other way is there to be dead?” He was too cold to deal with word games.

“Some would say that a man’s spiritual life is as important as his physical life.”

“So you’re saying I’m spiritually dead?”  Somehow, that didn’t sound a hell of a lot better than being physically dead.

“No.  Those beyond hope do not come here.  You still have a chance.” Her answer had the first trace of warmth.

“A chance to do what?”

“That’s up to you, isn’t it?”

“If you didn’t bring me here and I’m not dead, then how did I get here?” Hutch tried to make sense of this insane situation.

“It is only Seekers who are drawn here.  I would suggest your spirit is searching for something.”

“What?  I’m not searching for anything.”

“Aren’t you?”

“I was on my way to a gig, fell asleep in the airport, and ended up here.  All I’m searching for is a way out of this crazy place.”

“This crazy place, as you call it, is a reflection.”

This was getting weirder and more frustrating by the second.  “A reflection of what?”

“Your soul.”

“My what?  This is nuts.”  Hutch gave up on politeness. 

“Those who come here who are happy and fulfilled, seeking only spiritual guidance find this place a lush, summer wood.  The more empty a Seeker’s soul, the more inhospitable this place becomes.” Her tone held no censure; it was as matter-of-fact as if she were telling a stranger where the bus stopped nearby.

“My soul is not a frozen forest.”  Hutch was ready to storm off, but realized he had no place to go.

“No?  Who loves you?” Her question had a challenging tone.

“W-what?” he stammered.

“A soul is measured by the love it gives and receives in turn.  Your people’s most important holiday will take place in a few days.  Who are you spending it with?”

“I booked a show in New York so I could spend the holiday touring the seasonal sites,” Hutch said, getting really angry.

“And the last holiday, where did you spend that?”  It was like she knew the answer before he gave it.

Feeling his cheeks heat from something other than wind burn, Hutch thought of the Chinese restaurant in Chicago where he’d spent Thanksgiving.  “I’m a musician.  I’m on the road most of the time.”

“Other bards travel together as a musical family, so that when they are away from blood kin, there is still love in their life.”

“I’m not part of a band,” Hutch said.  “That doesn’t mean I don’t have love in my life.”

“No?  So, who loves you, young bard?  Even a dog or cat’s love would be sufficient to turn this land into a paradise.  But here you are in a frozen wilderness of your own making, with no one to your name, no one to know you are lost and in need of help, no one to miss you.  The only thing that is keeping you from complete despair is your instrument, but even that is losing its hold on you.” Once again, there was no accusation in her tone.  She sounded sad.

Everything inside him wanted to protest her assessment, to tell her to stuff her metaphysical gibberish and just tell him how to get back to civilization.  But the part of him that gave birth to his music was listening and believing.  That scared him more than this deadly wilderness.

When he made no response, she continued in a gentle tone. “Because you serve us by spreading joy through your music, I have been sent to warn you.”

“Who is it you think I serve?  Who are you?”

“We both fight on the side of Light.  The fact that you don’t know that should tell you how much danger you are in.”

Hutch digested that in silence before echoing, “The side of Light.”

“In all your spirit walks, you have always been among our staunchest defenders.  You have taken a misstep in this walk, pledging yourself to the wrong partner.”

Her use of the word ‘partner’ brought his previous dream to mind.  “Are you talking about Starsky?”

“That spirit has walked by your side through nearly all of your journeys.   You are not the only one who has been hurt by your misstep.”

Hutch’s gaze jumped from her face to the snow-riven forest around them.  “Is Starsky lost somewhere out here?  He’s a city boy.  He doesn’t know anything about the woods.”

His worry for his old friend brought the first smile to here regal, pale features.  “No.  He is not lost in the wilderness.  That spirit has always known how to call love to itself.”

“Thank God.”  Something in Hutch relaxed.  He might still be in dire straits himself, but at least Starsky wasn’t blundering around alone slowly freezing to death.

“We offer you a chance now to set things back on course.  Do you accept this gift of your own free will?”  Her voice and face were even more solemn and earnest than they’d been throughout this bizarre conversation.

“Is there a price to this gift?”  Nothing in their interaction had given him cause to trust her.

“You will have to leave this wasteland behind.”

“And my music?” he asked, a little panicked, not sure what a person who could bring him to this savage wilderness might also be capable of.  There was a fairy tale-like air to this meeting.  The one thing he remembered about traditional fairy tales was that they didn’t usually end happily.  Would he wake up tomorrow and not be able to play? 

“Your music is part of you.  No one but you can take it from you.  Fare well, young bard.”

And with those words, the snow-locked forest around him faded to black.

*~*~*

“Hutch?”

Hutch started awake in panic at the soft, questioning sound. 

He half expected to see that blizzard-locked wildwood around him, but he was perched uncomfortably on one of the ugly orange plastic chairs in Newark Airport’s baggage claim area.  No blizzard, no tall pines, no Snow Queen, just a blessedly normal, impersonal airport.

Still, the voice was familiar.  He’d heard it in his dreams enough over the last decade.

Blinking the sleep from his eyes, it took his groggy mind a moment to recognize the grinning man with the dark curls standing in front of him.

Starsky???”  Incredulous, he jumped to his feet, holding his hand out, part of him believing he was still dreaming.  At least this was a sweet dream.

Starsky stared at his outstretched hand for a moment, laughed, and said, “A handshake ain’t gonna do it, old buddy,” and flung his arms around Hutch to draw him into a tight hug.

The impulsive move was so in character with the man Hutch remembered. 

That regal woman he’d met in the forest hadn’t been far off in her assessment of his life.  Hutch couldn’t recall the last time anyone had hugged him.  He’d been on the road for most of the last six years, playing solo gigs.  Occasionally, he’d had one night stands, but human contact was rare.  He basked in the warmth of his old friend, breathing in the scents of sandalwood and Starsky.  Those arms clutched him like they’d never let go, which was fine with him.  The trauma of being lost in the woods during a hazardous storm might have been nothing more than a dream, but emotionally, it had felt real.  He was still shaking inside, and not from the cold.

Eventually, Starsky pulled reluctantly away, still laughing.

It had been nearly twelve years, but David Starsky hadn’t changed much.  Still trim and fit, the tight blue jeans his old friend wore looked like they were going to cut circulation off to some important parts, but they suited his lithe figure.  As a concession to the freezing weather, Starsky wore an old brown bomber jacket, bright red scarf, and a Mets’ baseball cap. 

“My God, it is so good to see you, Hutch.  You just disappeared off the planet after you left the Academy.  Once I got my badge, I ran you through DMV.  San Francisco, wasn’t it?”

“For a while,” Hutch said.  “Van loved it there.”

“How’s she doing?” Starsky’s gaze made a quick scan of the area, as if searching for her.

“She, ah, died about four years ago.”

“Damn, I’m sorry, man.” Starsky wore the expression any caring person might after receiving such startling news, and reached out to squeeze his arm.

“We’d been divorced a long time by then,” Hutch said.  Figuring he ought to say it straight out, he added, “You were right about her.”

“Some things you’d rather be wrong about.  So, what are you doing here in scenic Newark?” Starsky gave him another of those crooked grins, obviously trying to lighten the mood.

“Waiting for the bus to the Port Authority.”

Starsky looked confused.  “That doesn’t start running again ’til morning.”

“I know.” Hutch smiled.  “I got delayed in Chicago and my hotel gave my reservation away.  I’m just waiting ’til morning to start shopping for another hotel.”

“Forget the hotel,” Starsky said.  “I got a spare room you can use.”

“Starsky, you don’t have to – “

“What haveta?  I haven’t seen you in a million years.  You sure as hell ain’t spendin’ the night in an airport lounge when I’ve got a spare room.”

“You live here in Newark?” Hutch asked.  It had been years, but he was fairly certain Starsky came from New York, not New Jersey.

“Because we’re friends, I’ll forget you asked that question,” Starsky said with another huge smile. 

“You’re not in LA anymore?”

“No. Ma got sick a few years back.  I came back east to take care of her ’til she passed.”

Starsky had called his mother every Friday night when they’d roomed together in the Academy.  Colby used to razz him for it, but Hutch had always envied their sweet relationship.  “Sorry.  I remember how close you were.”

“Yeah.  The place has been pretty empty since she’s gone,” Starsky said, “so you’d be doing me a favor by staying.”

“Is your brother still living at home?” Hutch recalled the other family member he could remember Starsky talking about.  Starsky had a boatload of aunts and uncles, a few of whom had lived in LA, but Hutch couldn’t think of any of their names.

“Nicky got his sorry ass locked up for selling stolen goods.  Then he got into a knife fight in Wallkill Prison that upped his sentence to fifteen years.”

“Jeez.”  Hoping to change the subject without stepping into another conversational landmine, he asked, “Are you still on the Force?  Did you move to NYPD?”

Starsky was quiet a moment, then said in a low voice, “My partner and I got shot during a syndicate hit in a restaurant a few years back.  He didn’t make it.  I couldn’t pass the medical review to go back to active duty.  Mom got sick about the same time, so I just moved back here.”

Hutch couldn’t imagine how much that must have hurt this man who’d been so proud at making the grade at the Academy.

“I’m so sorry.  Sounds like you haven’t had an easy time of it.” Hutch felt guilty. Starsky had been a good a friend to him, but in twelve years he hadn’t called even once to see how Starsky was doing.

“I’m still standing,” Starsky said.  It should have been a joke, but there was something in Starsky’s face that made it a victory.

They stared into each other’s eyes as the memories moved through them.  Needing to break the silence, Hutch said, “Sometimes standing is all you can hope for.”

“Yeah.  But enough about me.  What have you been up to?  You don’t look much like a lawyer these days.” Starsky’s deep blue eyes gave him a quick once over. 

“After Van split, I left the law firm.”

“Good.  I could never picture you as a suit.”  Starsky’s eyes fixed on the guitar case at his feet.  “Can you play that thing?”

The question startled him.  His guitar was so much a part of him that he couldn’t remember a time he hadn’t played, but then Hutch remembered that, while he’d had the guitar stored under his bed at the Academy, he was usually too tired to play after training all day.  The only time he’d actually practiced was on those rare occasions when he had the room to himself. 

Seeing that Starsky was waiting for an answer, Hutch grinned.  His music was the one thing he was sure of.  “Oh, yeah.  I can play.  It’s. ah, how I make my living these days.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m doing a Winter Solstice Concert the day after tomorrow down in the Village.”

“At St. John’s?” Starsky asked.

Hutch nearly gaped.  “I thought your tastes ran to R&B.”

“Yep, they do.  I had a fare there last year.  Had to drop a harpist off at the concert.  Have you ever tried to fit a concert harp into a cab?”

Hutch tried to conceal his shock.  Starsky was a cab driver?  That just seemed too wrong for words.  When he thought he could keep his feelings out of his voice, he asked as casually as possible, “You drive a cab now?”

Whatever was in his face made Starsky burst out laughing.  “Not by necessity.  After Mom passed, I was going nuts with nothing to do.  One of the guys on my bowling team owns a cab company.  He couldn’t find any decent drivers in a dry period, so I offered to help him out.  I sorta like it.  I meet a lot of interesting people and the hours are flexible.  Most importantly, no one’s shooting at me on a regular basis.”

“I thought you said you lived in New York?  People are always shooting at each other there, aren’t they?”

“Tread carefully there, cowboy,” Starsky warned with a wild waggle of his brows that made Hutch laugh.

“God, you haven’t changed at all, Starsk.  It is so good to see you!”

“You, too.  Hey, you like Christmas lights?”

“Who doesn’t?”

“I’m going to drive you over to Dyker Heights and show you the best Christmas lights in the world.  Come on, let me take that bag for you.”

Hutch didn’t protest as Starsky commandeered his duffle.  He quickly donned his backpack, picked up his guitar case, and fell into step beside his old friend.

He didn’t know if what had transpired in his dream had really happened, but meeting Starsky again like this on the heels of that weird nightmare sure felt like a miracle.  Feeling like he’d been offered a second chance, Hutch swore to himself that there’d be no more missteps.  He didn’t know how, but he was determined to keep that promise he’d broken.  Some way, somehow, they’d be partners again.  He was going to make sure of it.

The End

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