Twenty four days until Christmas. Hutch looked around the beach house he and Starsky lived in together. There wasn’t a sprig of holly or mistletoe. There wasn’t garland hanging on anything and everything Starsky could hang it on. And most telling of all, there was NO Christmas tree standing in the corner of their family room.
Hutch didn’t know what to make of it.
Starsky usually had bags of ornaments and Christmassy stuff on the floor of the front closet. But Hutch had looked there when he walked in the front door today, and there were no bags. No decorations at all.
His partner seemed to be fine, wasn’t sick, wasn’t hurt… he also wasn’t normal for him.
Hutch shook his head and decided Starsky was just getting a late start on his celebration of the holiday season.
Something was definitely wrong. Nothing was right. Hutch couldn’t gripe about all the decorations and the euphoric sentimentality of the season. He felt like he had been robbed of something precious. He was loath to actually ask Starsky if anything was wrong. Other than Starsky not being a whirling dervish in the midst of a decorating frenzy, everything was the same. They went to work, solved crimes, came home, ate and, went to bed to make sweet, passionate love to each other. They still bantered back and forth with insults and dares, but there was no talk of what did you buy me or where did you hide my presents. And Starsky wasn’t sneaking around the house, looking in all the places Hutch had hidden his presents before. It was as if Starsky had given up on Christmas.
Hutch decided to give his love a little more time before he tried an intervention.
“Want to go do some shopping, since we’re off today?”
“What did ya have in mind, buddy?”
Hutch shrugged, not wanting to out and out bring up Christmas. “I thought we could go to that new shopping center. We can walk around and look at everything. I hear they have some great places to eat. We haven’t really been out of the house for a couple of weeks. Work has been pretty stressful. Let’s go and unwind a little.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll drive.” Starsky grabbed his jacket, put it on, and headed to the door. “Come on, blintz, there’s stuff to be bought!”
Hutch took heart at that, thinking Starsky was finally going to get into his usual Christmas spirit. He slipped his jacket on and ran out of the house after his energetic partner.
Starsky found a parking place fairly close to the entrance of the shopping center. They got out of the Torino and looked around. Hutch swore the place could have been decorated by his partner. Garlands and lights and tinsel and glitter abounded everywhere they looked. Hutch glanced at Starsky. Starsky pointed to a door and started walking toward it. “Come on, Hutch, let’s see what they got!”
Hutch followed him into the shopping center. If anything, the inside was a hundred times more Christmassy than the outside had been. But he noticed that Starsky didn’t seem to even see any of it. Instead Starsky headed toward a toy store that had a display of model ships in the window. “Hutch! Look! Man, I need to buy me one of these!” As Starsky walked into the store, Hutch felt his heart sink. In years past, Starsky’s comment would have been, “You gonna buy me one of these for Christmas?” And he would have smiled that child-like smile at Hutch. The next time Hutch was out, without Starsky, he would go back to the store and buy one for his partner.
Starsky was walking up and down the aisles, looking at everything except all the tinsel and mistletoe hanging from the ceiling. Hutch slowly followed him, taking note of what items caught Starsky’s attention for longer than a few seconds. He knew the minute his partner saw what he wanted.
It was a beautiful model ship kit. A display had one that had been assembled and even Hutch was impressed by the detail of the model. He slyly looked at the price and almost gasped out loud. It was normally two hundred dollars but was on sale for one hundred twenty five. He reviewed his finances in his mind and figured he could afford to get if for Starsky for Christmas.
“C’mon, Hutch, I’m gonna get this and then we can go see what other stores there are.”
Hutch watched Starsky pick up one of the model ship kits and head to the checkout counter. He was stunned into immobility. No whining for Hutch to get it for him. No subtle, and not so subtle, hints that it was what Starsky wanted for his Christmas present. No dodge to leave Hutch alone in the store so he could buy it, and have the store hold it for him. What the hell was going on?
“Hutch, let’s go!” Starsky started out the door, holding the bag that carried the ship kit. Hutch slowly followed him, trying to work out what was going on.
They had the coming weekend off, and had been discussing what to do with their time. Hutch knew time was running out for them to decorate their house. All the other houses near theirs had lights and decorations up. And every one also had a fully-decorated Christmas tree in a window. Their house was the only one that was bare of any kind of Christmas spirit and cheer. He knew he had to ask Starsky what was wrong if they were going to have time to decorate their house.
“Starsky? I, uh, want to ask you something.” He was standing in their family room watching Starsky working on the model ship he had purchased. “Can you come over and sit down so we can talk?”
“Sure, Hutch. Let me glue this last rope in place and I’ll be right there.” Starsky looked back over his shoulder. “Everything all right? You okay?”
“I’m okay. But there’s something wrong. Everything isn’t okay.” He turned and walked over to their couch and sank down on one end of it. He watched Starsky carefully gluing a rope in place. “That’s a great model, buddy. You’re doing a wonderful job putting it together. It’s like you’re bringing it to life.”
Starsky stood up and moved to the couch, sinking down on the other end of it. “So, what’s wrong? You sure you’re okay? You’ve been awfully quiet the last few days.”
“Starsk…” Hutch wasn’t sure how to broach the topic of the lack of Christmas in their house. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m feeling great. What’s this about, Hutch?”
Just as Hutch started to say something, the phone rang. Starsky reached over and picked it up. “Yeah, okay. We’ll be there.” He hung up and turned to Hutch. “Dobey needs us now. One of our cold cases just got hot. Let’s go. We can talk later.”
They grabbed their holsters and jackets, walked outside, got in the Torino, and sped toward the station.
They had arrested three people in a murder-for-hire cold case. By the time they had all their reports taken care of, all they wanted to do was go home and crash for 24 hours. So they headed home, making a stop on the way to buy a couple six packs of beer.
Hutch headed to the kitchen and put the beer in the fridge, minus two cans he took back to their family room. Starsky was just walking into the room as Hutch headed back out to put his gun and jacket away. Then he walked in and sat down on the couch by his partner.
“We did good, Starsk. Dobey was sure happy to get that cold case solved.”
“Yeah, I thought he was gonna go buy some medals and pin them on us before we got out of there today.”
They both laughed, touched their beer cans together, and took deep drinks. Hutch stood up, walked over to the entertainment center and put a couple of albums on the turntable. He walked over to sit down by Starsky as the first record started playing “White Christmas”.
“Christmas music? I thought you were gonna put on some rock and roll or country?” Starsky took a drink and leaned back against the back of the sofa.
Hutch sighed to himself. He had thought putting on the album of Christmas music might have made Starsky happy. Starsky had always loved playing it, usually starting right after Thanksgiving. Something was definitely wrong with his partner.
“Thought we might want to have some holiday cheer.”
“I guess so, blintz.” Starsky shrugged and picked up the book he had been reading from the coffee table, opened it, and started reading where he had left off.
Hutch was too tired to talk to Starsky tonight. He needed time to decide how to handle this. “I’m gonna head to bed. Don’t read too long.” He leaned over and kissed Starsky.
“Just a chapter.” Starsky kissed him back and smiled. “I know you miss me when I’m not in bed with you.” Starsky laughed. “You always say I’m better than six blankets cuz I’m so warm, and I tend to sleep almost on top of you.”
Hutch laughed and walked into the bedroom to undress, get in bed and, wait for his own personal furnace to join him.
Four days till Christmas. Hutch was running out of time. He couldn’t stand the thought of not having “Christmas”. He had to talk to Starsky. Had to ask him why he wasn’t doing any of the things he usually did this time of the year.
They were on their way home from work. “Starsk, when we get home, I need to talk to you about something.”
“Sure, buddy. Everything all right?”
“I hope so. Let’s wait until we get home.”
Starsky looked at him and nodded. “Okay.”
They took off their jackets and guns when they walked into the house.
“Is this a beer conversation?” Starsky asked as he headed for the kitchen.
“Might want to bring a six pack.” Hutch mumbled to himself. “Yeah.” He said out loud. He walked into the family room and looked at the fireplace. They hadn’t even built a fire yet this year. The mantle had their favorite photos on it, most taken by Starsky, but no Christmas greenery. He heard Starsky come into the room and turned to face him.
“What’s wrong, Starsky?”
“What do you mean? Why do you think something’s wrong?”
“It’s December twentieth.”
Starsky glanced at the calendar on the wall. “Yeah?”
Hutch sighed. Dropping hints was getting him nowhere. He walked over and sat in a chair across the table from Starsky. “It’s almost Christmas. In five days it’ll be Christmas.”
Starsky frowned at Hutch. “Are you all right? I know what day it is.”
Frowning, Starsky said, “What?”
Totally losing his patience, Hutch stood up and paced in front of Starsky. He started almost yelling, “It’s Christmas in a few days, and there’s not a speck of any kind of decoration in this house! There’s no Christmas tree dripping tinsel and ornaments in the corner! No garland hung everywhere! Nothing on the mantel but pictures! No lights anywhere! And no wrapped presents!”
As Starsky listened to Hutch go on and on, he started with a small grin, which turned into a thin smile, which turned into a huge smile, which turned into a choked laugh, which turned into uncontrollable hilarity. By the time Hutch stopped pacing and talking, Starsky had fallen off the couch and was lying on the floor holding his sides, with tears running down his face.
Hutch stared at him. He didn’t know what was going on. He didn’t know what to do. “Starsk? What… why… why are you… laughing?”
Starsky took a few seconds to catch his breath and stood up. He was still smiling ear to ear when he said, “Oh, Hutch. You should have seen your face!” He laughed again and stepped over to grab Hutch in a bear hug.
Hutch pushed him away. “I don’t see what’s so funny, buddy.”
“I was gonna give you one more day to say something, then I was gonna give in and give up.” Starsky picked up the phone and made a call. He said into the phone, “I win. Bring it over, and pay up!” He hung up.
“Who did you call and what did you win? And who is bringing ‘what’ over?”
Starsky pulled Hutch over to the couch and pushed down on his shoulders to get him to sit. “That was Huggy. At Thanksgiving he asked me how soon I would be decorating for Christmas. Well, that led to a discussion about you calling Christmas a lot of ‘euphoric sentimentality’. And somehow we had two bets going. One was that I couldn’t keep from decorating the house. The second was if you would say or do anything about it.” He paused. “I won both!”
Hutch stood back up and leaned into Starsky’s face. “You put me through all this for a bet?”
“Hutch, how long have we known each other? And in all those years, have I ever even asked you if it was okay to decorate? I got to feelin’ bad about that, so I decided if you didn’t comment on the lack of decorating, I wouldn’t do it this year. But I still bet Huggy you WOULD comment.
“I love you, Hutch, and I know how you’ve felt about how Christmas has become so commercialized. Just because I become an idiot about it, doesn’t mean you should have to.”
Hutch’s shoulders slumped. “Starsk…”
“It’s the twentieth. There’s only four days left till Christmas.”
“Yeah, I know. So?”
“How are we going to get the house decorated in just five days? Your mom is coming and my mom may come with my sister. What will they say?”
There was a knock at the door and Starsky ran out to open it. “C’mon in, Hug!” He watched Huggy struggle through the door with a Christmas tree that was almost as tall as Huggy was. “Take it into the family room.” He followed Huggy and the tree. As soon as the tree was placed in front of the window, Starsky held out his hand. “One hundred twenty five bucks. I’ll let you slide on the tax.”
As Hutch watched, Huggy pulled out his billfold and handed Starsky a bunch of bills. Huggy said, “You just had to buy the most expensive thing.”
“Hey, you were the one who agreed to the bet.”
Hutch was no dummy and he added two and two and came up with one hundred twenty five. “That’s why you got that model ship? Huggy lost, so he had to pay for it?”
Starsky was grinning ear to ear. “I know you better than anyone else in the world does, Hutch. I couldn’t believe Huggy thought he knew you better.” Starsky pulled out his wallet and put the money in it.
“Come on Hug, Hutch, we need to get the other stuff.” Starsky headed for the front door. Huggy grabbed Hutch’s arm and pulled him toward the door. They stepped outside, and over to the Torino, Starsky opened the trunk.
Hutch gasped. There were bags and bags of decorations and lights! And a lot of brightly wrapped presents. “You… you kept it all out here?”
“I couldn’t put it in the closet or you would have known.” Starsky shrugged. Then he started handing bags and presents to Hutch and Huggy to carry back to the house. It took them three trips to get all the stuff out of the Torino’s trunk and things from the trunk of Huggy’s car, including more cold beer.
Over the next few hours the three friends decorated every inch of the house that could be decorated. The tree had so many ornaments on it Hutch was afraid it was going to fall over. Greenery had been woven through all the pictures on the mantle. The front door sported a huge green and red wreath. And Starsky had hung mistletoe in every room of the house.
They decided to wait until the next morning to hang the lights on the outside of the house. Huggy promised to come back over to help out.
Luckily the guys had the next day off. They got out of bed around ten in the morning and began decorating the outside of their house with lights. Starsky was in his element, directing Huggy, who arrived about ten thirty, and Hutch on what to put where.
Hutch’s heart swelled with love seeing Starsky so happy. Seeing him being himself made Hutch very happy. He followed Starsky inside to get a few more strands of lights. Starsky stopped and looked at Hutch. “There are only three more strands. I got this.”
“Yeah, and I got you.” Hutch put one hand behind Starsky’s back and one on the back of his neck. He pulled Starsky close and kissed him deeply. “I love you, Starsky, Merry Christmas!”
Starsky was a little dazed by the kiss. “Merry Christmas and I love you, Hutch.”
Huggy stepped into the house and looked at his friends. “Oh, no! No sneaking off to the bedroom before all the lights are up! Break it up and get out here before your free helps leaves!”
“Later,” Hutch whispered to Starsky.
“You better believe it,” Starsky replied.
Starsky went outside but Hutch delayed a bit. There was STILL something wrong. He stood quietly, looking around the house. Garland? Check. Tree? Check. Presents? Ch…? PRESENTS! In all his worrying about Starsky he had forgotten to buy Starsky any Christmas gifts! He reminded himself not to panic; he could take care of it tomorrow. Mentally kicking himself, he headed out to join his two friends in finishing up the outside of the house.
The next hour and half was filled with laughter, friendship, and love. And as many kisses as Starsky and Hutch could sneak in without Huggy seeing.