Adrift is a tale about a man's grief, and his struggles to find peace in the aftermath of loss. If you are uncomfortable with death fiction, please do not read on.
This story takes place at the end of Sweet Revenge, only in this universe, Starsky's heart refused to beat again.
I want to thank Anachron and Dawn for both their patient help in the editing process. Without them, this story would be nothing. All mistakes are my very own.
WARNING: Death fiction (death of a major character)
Hutch stood in the hospital entryway, staring out the exit doors. People passed him, some looking back to see what was wrong, others avoiding his obvious grief. His legs had fossilized in place, his heart pumping and pounding and twisting and aching.
He could feel his lower lip quivering. He held tight to the sensation of the single tear that rolled down the contours of his face, knowing that when that drop fell to the floor, so would he.
He was alone. Gunther had won. Starsky was dead.
Hutch was too heavy to support his own weight. He tried to move one foot. He couldn’t.
His partner was still inside. If Hutch wanted to, he could turn around. He could walk right up to Starsky and touch him. He could hold and cradle him.
Panic overwhelmed him. Leaving now would mean never looking at Starsky’s face again. He needed to feel Starsky. He needed to be with him. How could he leave his best friend alone?
How could he ever say goodbye?
God, no. This isn’t happening.
Starsky’s wallet filled his pocket, bearing down on his already burdened body. He took it out, rubbing his thumb over the worn leather. He smelled it. He breathed in whatever life was left in the old wallet, hoping to somehow bring back his buddy. If he could put his hand where Starsky’s had been, maybe Starsky wouldn’t really be gone.
Life and time went on around him, but Hutch stayed still. He could not walk out those doors. The rest of his life was out there, and he wanted no part of it. As long as he stood here, within the same walls as Starsky, he had something to cling to.
He saw his reflection in the glass. The eyes looking back were those of a stranger. He was numb. That person was tall with long hair, pale skin, dirty clothes. That guy had too many years under his belt, and too many left to fight. That man had nobody.
He heard Starsky laugh. Maybe felt his hand on his shoulder. Suddenly, Hutch was five years younger, full of vitality, confident in his job. A smile lit up his partner’s face from the driver’s side of the red tomato. The car was as bold as its owner—the owner as obnoxious as the car.
But that was all over.
Everything was over.
Maybe the doctors had been able to start Starsky’s heart again. Was that possible? Should he go in and check? He thought he might look through the hall window and see beautiful blue eyes sparkling with life. He felt his stomach flip at the idea.
He remained unmoving. Unfaltering. Stoic. Locked in hell.
And his heart kept on beating.
“Hutch, my man, I don’t want to have to say it.” Huggy leaned over the bar, putting his palm over the top of Hutch’s empty beer glass.
His eyelids heavy as lead, Hutch stared at the black hand, then forced himself to look up. “One more.”
“Hey, I can’t let you, Hutch. You’ve had more than your limit.”
“Give me one more, Huggy,” Hutch repeated, letting his head roll forward in his intoxication.
Huggy licked his lips, closing his eyes as he wrapped his fingers around the glass. “Sorry, friend, you’re done.” He turned away, taking the last sip of Hutch’s existence with him.
“Fuck…you.” Hutch would have swung a punch, but his arms didn’t work.
He was drunk, but he still hurt. He sighed and scanned the room. He swore that the first person who came into focus was the one he was going to pound on. The only face he could see with any clarity was setting on a shelf above the bar, nothing but a piece of paper surrounded by a frame. Starsky’s picture looked back at him, daring Hutch to hit him.
“And fuck you, too, Starsk.” He braced his hands on the counter and stood up. After knocking a couple people down and tumbling over a chair or two, he was at the door, pushing through into the cool night air.
He made it halfway to his car before bending over a black Camaro and puking every last bit of his soul onto the hood.
He didn’t give a shit.
There had been a time when Hutch would have risen from bed at six am, thrown on his jogging shoes, and gone for a morning run. Today, it was past lunch and he’d yet to have breakfast.
His pillow smelled like two weeks of sweaty nightmares and alcohol laden drool. He could have washed the sheets, but then he’d lose the one time Starsky had fallen asleep on his bed. And then Hutch would have to cry.
He nestled his face into the softness and pretended he was okay. He had mastered the skill of lying to himself, and could actually start to believe that he wasn’t a train wreck. In those instances, he imagined Starsky would be calling at any minute, begging him to go to some stupid restaurant where the menu was in any language but English.
Eventually Hutch would remember that he wasn’t eating anymore, and it was all make-believe. His partner had left him behind to fend for himself.
The phone used to ring, but had stopped ever since he’d yanked the cord from the wall. There used to be people knocking on his door, but the sign he’d hung saying, “leave me the hell alone” seemed to be doing the trick. The only person he wished to welcome in his home was the one who would never come again.
Damn you, Starsky.
With suppertime right around the corner, Hutch rubbed his belly. He prepared for his feast of pity and hatred. He couldn’t swallow anything else.
Through the thick haze of his brain, Hutch heard a voice that made his insides spark to life. “Starsky?”
“Yeah, partner. It’s me.” The mist parted long enough for Starsky’s face to appear, his shoulders and hands next. He was naked.
“Starsk.” Hutch reached out, not understanding why this wasn’t right. “What are you doing here?”
Starsky hovered over Hutch’s body, moving his hands over every last inch until his fingertips lingered between their bellies. Those lips that had breathed their last breath now opened to Hutch, stealing the heat from him. “Lover,” Starsky whispered.
Hutch pressed his hips up, arching his back and letting his shoulders take the brunt. This was the moment he hadn’t even known he wanted. The tender sensation made him feel alive. He watched Starsky’s hand glide lower.
His lips tingled, his skin burned. Hutch anticipated Starsky’s body building friction against his. He let himself fall into the love that came from somewhere so deep, it was unreachable.
Hutch came into his hand, strong and abrupt, until he had nothing left to offer his partner but moans of gratitude. Starsky made him come again, over and over. Hutch lost his control as a man. He was drained, emptied.
“Please stop,” Hutch begged. He felt Starsky’s hold over him. He could barely breathe. “I can’t take anymore.”
But the violation continued. Hutch looked into the haunting eyes that were staring straight into his. Starsky was taking what little strength Hutch had left, and squeezing it from him, drop by drop. Just when Hutch thought it was impossible, he was climbing the peak once more.
Starsky watched over him intently. “I love you, Hutch.” His voice echoed hollowly through the room. “I’m with you.”
“Starsky,” Hutch whimpered. “It hurts.”
When he lifted his hands to push his partner away, he felt himself pinned in place. He couldn’t get away from the horror. He was suffering, frantic to be free.
“No,” said Starsky. “You need me.”
Hutch writhed under the assault.
The unbearable pressure in his chest made Hutch suddenly aware of his surroundings. But how could he understand or do anything about something that was impossible? The only thing he was sure of was how much his heart ached.
He blinked Starsky away. As Hutch woke, he felt the impotence that had been raping his soul from the moment Starsky had been shot. That wasn’t his partner he’d been dreaming about. What had violated him, what had been assaulting him ever since that day in the parking garage, was the harsh reality of life without Starsky. His partner and best friend had been taken from him against his will. And there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.
“You can’t quit, Ken.” Captain Dobey stood up quickly as if he’d been stung by a bee. “I know things are tough right now.”
“Tough?” Hutch had cringed when Dobey used his first name, but the gross understatement that followed made him want to shake the captain violently until his head fell off. “What do you know about tough?”
“I lost a partner, too.”
“Not Starsky!” Hutch slammed his gun and badge onto the desk. “Not Starsky,” he huffed, walking deliberately out of the station.
What was the point of going on in a job that had stolen more from him than he could stand? His forehead was permanently furrowed, his trigger finger jumpy. He’d likely shoot the next creep who made the mistake of committing a crime on his watch.
He walked to his car with nothing. No job, no income, no hope. He didn’t care if he lost his apartment. Living on the streets wouldn’t be any worse than how he felt now. He’d already lost his true home.
He knew he had half a tank of gas, so decided to drive until he ran out. Wherever the hell the car stopped would be where he would spend eternity. He hoped it was somewhere far away and alone. He didn’t want to look at anybody.
The brick wall he’d built around himself for his entire life was now nothing but crumbling remains. He stepped into his car, the only refuge he had left. It wouldn’t start. He screamed.
He jerked and rattled the steering wheel until it loosened. Unable to pry it from the dash, he dug his fingers into the upholstery until the edge of the seat cushion came loose and he could tear at the inanimate flesh while his own became raw and bloody. Next, he attacked the radio controls. He took a thermos, Starsky’s thermos, and slammed it into the knobs until the only things remaining were a few wires twisting like the veins in his head.
When his fist went through the window, his breakdown came to a head and Hutch knew he’d officially gone over the edge. The burning tingle of rage washed through him, numbing any aches from his bleeding fingers. He exploded from the vehicle, shoving away the concerned people coming to his aid.
He wanted to run to the ocean and wash the broken glass from his hand, let the salt water sting his wounds, and then keep going until he was at rest on the sea floor.
But he didn’t have the energy to go that far, so he sat on a bench and bled. Other officers gathered around. Before long, his captain arrived, joining him on the seat.
Where was Starsky to comfort him? He watched, fascinated, as his blood dripped only yards from where his partner’s had stained the pavement.
“Maybe we can get you some help,” said Dobey quietly.
Hutch’s hand was swollen, and his head ached when he woke at his kitchen table with his face plastered to the wood. After his tantrum the day before, he’d left his damaged car in the lot and had accepted Dobey’s offer for a ride home.
Following another night of dreaming, he was in desperate need to be held, to be cared for. He craved intimate contact, but sexual fulfillment was meaningless. Hutch wondered if he could have had that kind of relationship with Starsky. Maybe Starsky had wanted it, too? Or was he tarnishing his partner’s memory? Now he’d never know.
He ended up in the bathroom, staring at the mirror that warped him into an unrecognizable monster. He didn’t recall when he’d last showered, or shaved. Working mechanically from years of routine, he opened the cabinet and removed the razor. It was heavy in his sore hand, but he didn’t care. He remembered all the times he’d listened to Starsky’s voice calling from the front door as he was getting ready for work.
He rolled the razor handle in his hand, transfixed by the edge of the blade. He got scared and put it down.
His hand trembled on the edge of the sink. A little tickle started in his gut, and surged through his arteries, bringing the feeling of desperation like oxygen to every cell in his body. He had to escape the anxiety. The pain was beyond what Hutch could bear. He couldn’t go on living like this.
Time was merciless, and now Hutch had more than he knew what to do with. He was caught in a web of mourning, trapped by a misery he never could have imagined. Something had to change, or he would lose himself entirely.
He could figure his future out later. Right now, he needed a drink. Anything to bring him to a different dimension.
He just didn’t want to feel.
Hutch sprawled across Starsky’s couch, studying the way his knee looked resting against the old afghan hanging off the back. If he focused on that spot, he couldn’t see the boxes lining the walls, filled to the top with Starsky’s belongings. The next day, all traces of his partner would be gone. Hutch barely tasted the last swallow of whisky before flopping his arm over the edge of Starsky’s sofa. The bottle fell to the floor.
“Oh, Starsk, I’ve missed you so much.” Hutch wallowed in unrequited love, saturated by the need to express himself to his partner. “Come here.”
“What have you done, Hutch?” Starsky whispered the question into Hutch’s ear. The absence of living breath didn’t faze Hutch in the slightest.
“I’ve found you again.” He reached for Starsky’s face. “I want you to come back to me.”
His partner pulled away. “Hutch, look at yourself. You’re sloshed.”
“I’m with you, that’s all that matters.”
“You think I want some drunk who can’t keep his head out of his ass?”
Hutch searched Starsky’s eyes, hoping to see some sign he was joking, but there was nothing amusing about any of this. “Why don’t you kill me and get it over with?”
Starsky laughed at him. “I’d rather see you straighten up.”
Hutch shook. Starsky’s sentiments bore holes through his heart while the alcohol warmed him from the inside out. Drunkenness was pleasure in the most painful form. Dishonest. False.
Later, after Starsky had gone away, he reflected on his partner’s words. Maybe what Starsky had been trying to tell him was that it was time he began to cope. He felt like his partner was still trying to protect him, and that brought Hutch the first fragment of relief. But it wasn’t enough.
She was just some girl—probably a hooker. She didn’t matter. He couldn’t bring himself to fuck her, anyway.
They sat on the beach, disconnected. She had nothing worth saying, and he pretended she was Starsky whenever he had to speak to her. Starsky was always interested in what he had to say.
He watched the sun set, hopefully for the final time. He prayed that every day was his last, and that every time he slept, he wouldn’t wake up. His hand dropped from whatshername’s shoulder, and onto the sand.
“What’s the matter, babe?” she asked, not very sympathetically.
“Don’t call me that.”
“Hey, you know, this has been fun—“
“No it hasn’t.”
She turned to him. “—but it ain’t working out.”
“No shit.” Hutch never so much as looked at the girl as she stood up and left, mumbling profanities as she went. He hated her.
He would never love again. The one person he loved more than anyone else was gone. Forever. Hutch hadn’t been able to tell Starsky how he felt when his partner was alive, and expressing it now would be like sending a message in a bottle. Pointless.
The tide had risen, the water now lapping at his feet. He was adrift, floating along the currents, letting them take him away. He was lost, and the anger still welled inside him. He didn’t know what he needed. Well, that wasn’t completely true; he needed Starsky. His partner would have sat here with him. They would have laughed together. The vastness of the ocean only amplified the fact that Starsky was gone, leaving Hutch to ride out the waves alone. He didn’t think he could take the pain.
“Starsky, you son of a bitch,” he called to the sea. “Why? Wasn’t I worth coming back for? Huh? Didn’t you care what this would do to me?”
He threw a handful of sand. “I can’t do it without you, Starsk.”
Anguish overwhelmed his fragile heart.
In a moment of weakness, he reached for his gun, but he’d turned that in weeks ago. He considered sleeping where the tide would wash him away. He was ready for it all to end—to be over with. He relished the thought of that first moment of reprieve. Would Starsky be waiting for him? Was he really ready for this?
Collapsing onto his back, he realized the implication of what he was contemplating. He’d obsessed with finding an escape for so long that those dark thoughts had become habit.
Since when had he become so dependant on Starsky? For a decade of partnership, he’d never seen himself stooping over and burying his head in the goddamn beach just because his partner was wasn’t there. Now he was a self-pitying, bumbling waste of existence. Is this how Starsky would have wanted him to end up?
He had always been resilient. He’d suffered losses before, even prior to meeting David Starsky. He knew that deep inside, there was strength he could tap into. Maybe he could find peace in the outside world. He felt the water surrounding his legs, the sand cold and heavy on his pants. Darkness had finally fallen, and the moon reflected over the water. He sat up and studied the rippling light, an ounce of determination setting in.
He had the capability to focus on something better. Something beautiful.
Making love to Starsky.
Hutch folded his arms tightly against his chest. “I lost my best friend,” he said, leaning beside the window. “My partner. What the hell else do I need to say?”
“And how does that make you feel?” Janet Bixby, the staff psychologist asked, politely. Too politely. She sat forward in her chair, a small notebook resting in her lap.
Hutch sneered at her, wondering why he’d let Dobey talk him into using the therapy services offered by the department even though he wasn’t a cop anymore. Maybe he’d hoped it would help.
“How does it make me feel?” he repeated. “It makes me feel like shit. I-i-it makes me feel like my whole world has just burned to a crisp and I’m being forced to sift through the charred remains looking for that one thing that I want but can never have. That’s how it makes me feel, God damn it.”
“Is that why you destroyed your car?”
Hutch just stared at her.
She jotted something down on her stupid fucking notepad. Hutch refused to sit down. He paced, moving to keep Starsky’s ghost from catching him. “So, doc. Why don’t you tell me how I’m supposed to feel?”
“Ken, there are stages to grief…” She held her pen between her index finger and thumb, tapping it like she was conducting an orchestra.
When she crossed her legs and leaned back, looking like she was going to explain away his pain, Hutch had had enough.
“I’m outta here,” he said, stomping from the room. He wasn’t going to waste any more time with a person who was little more than a robot. He could handle this on his own. No shrink was going to understand the bond he’d shared with Starsky. Only Hutch was aware of his lost opportunity to love Starsky with his whole body and soul. He alone recognized the magnitude of his loss. Hutch had to help himself.
He walked outside the building, not looking before stepping onto the street.
This time, Hutch could feel Starsky’s hand upon his cheek. They shared a glance before Starsky smiled. For the first moment since Starsky had died, Hutch felt comfortable, at ease. “Am I dead, Starsk?”
Starsky’s smile turned into the laughter that Hutch had been hearing in his daydreams. “No, Hutch. You’re not dead, and I won’t let that happen to you for a long time.”
Hutch watched his best friend’s eyes sparkle with joy, squinting as his familiar grin grew. But Hutch’s eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want to live. I want to stay here with you.”
“But, Hutch, I’m not really here. Don’t you see that? You have a lot of living to do…for the both of us.”
Hutch’s throat tightened as he tried to fight back his sobs. He just wanted his best friend by his side. He ached for Starsky’s companionship. He wanted to go to a ball game with him, eat a hotdog, play Monopoly. Anything.
It had been three months since Starsky had died, and Hutch hadn’t breathed in that entire time. He’d let himself go, hoping for the sweet chariot of death to take him away. It hadn’t happened. Starsky wasn’t going to allow him the pleasure.
“You’ll wake up soon, Hutch, and when you do, you’re gonna be hurtin’.” Starsky rubbed Hutch’s head, then smoothed his hands down over Hutch’s bruised ribs. “You took a nasty hit from a pickup, but you’ll be okay.”
Hutch thought he could smell Starsky’s shampoo. He wanted to nuzzle his nose in those curly locks forever, whispering all the things Starsky meant to him—all he’d meant to Hutch from the very start. That he was sorry for the mistakes he’d made, and for not being able to save his partner. He started to open his mouth, but his words vanished.
“I know, partner. I love you, too.” The image of Starsky wavered. “Just remember, I’m still watching your back. Okay?”
Hutch had to let go again as Starsky faded into a black nothing, his smell lingering in Hutch’s mind. He savored those last sensations of Starsky’s fingertips on his skin, his vibrant eyes taking hold of Hutch’s soul as if he would never let go. “See you, Starsk,” he said, as he always did.
He would see him again, someday. As he woke to a hospital bed, his shoulder cramping and his bandaged head throbbing in time with his pulse, Hutch swallowed hard, refusing to relinquish those last moments. He knew that in every waking hour, he’d hold tight to Starsky’s remembrance.
“Starsk?” he asked, rhetorically.
It was a final plea to make sure it wasn’t a dream, and that Starsky really was alive and by his bedside, crooning over him the way only Starsky could.
But Hutch was alone.
The empty wine bottle on the table felt like a small victory, because he’d poured the contents down the sink instead of his throat. It was the pretty glass container and cork that was his main objective.
There was something he’d wanted to do, but hadn’t found the right voice. He wanted honesty without sadness overshadowing his words. While recovering at home, he knew the very instant he was ready.
With pen in hand, he sat slowly onto the couch, feeling the pillows and cushions embrace him as he gazed at the sheet of blank paper on the coffee table. He gave himself one piece, front and back, to explain to Starsky what he never had the opportunity to say to him in person.
He loved Starsky. He would have been willing to commit to Starsky. He would have died for Starsky, and now, he would live for Starsky.
The sentences fell from him like raindrops, flooding the paper with confessions and regrets. Every line became smaller and smaller from his fear of running out of space before he was done. He had one sheet of paper to tell the tale of an entire lifetime.
He stretched his legs out under the table. His heels knocked into the blue Adidas that lived there, as if the wearer had kicked them off to put his feet up for a rest. Hutch rolled his ankle so he could stroke the shoes with the ball of his foot. He felt them, considering all they had seen in their time.
He stared at the tear-stained scribbles, feeling his sorrow release. Writing the final words, seeing the ink leave the indelible mark of his heart, he signed it. “I love you, Starsk. Always.”
He rolled up the paper and put it in the bottle.
A month had passed since he’d been hit by the truck, and in that time, he’d searched his soul. This morning was as good as any to climb out of bed. He had to start somewhere. Now that his injuries had healed, he had no excuse.
Not all his wounds were closed. The gaping gash in his heart would always be there, so he was figuring out how to live around it. His heart still pumped, feeding his body with the necessary oxygen to survive. For that, he knew he should be grateful.
He could stay in bed all day. Or, he could rise…and shine. Starsky was the brilliant sun that gave him life. Even though he couldn’t touch his partner, he could feel him, deep within himself, crossing his every thought. He could weep if he needed to, or he could go for a run.
He cried as he put on his jogging shoes.
The stairway down didn’t seem as long as it had for months. The sun warmed his skin the minute he stepped out the door. That made him sad. He was starting to feel again, and he didn’t know if that was a welcome sign or not.
He started by walking, one foot in front of the other, followed by longer and longer strides. He compared the blue skies to the eyes he missed so dearly. He gulped the air and picked up the pace. Every step was a challenge, every breath a betrayal. He wasn’t over Starsky’s death, just learning to live with it. After all, he wasn’t dead.
As he finished his mile, thinking about Starsky the whole time, he came to a stop on his front steps, knowing he had gone a hell of a lot farther than the mileage. He ached, but a hint of fortitude moved through his fatigued muscles.
He closed his eyes and enjoyed the breeze. The gentle wind wasn’t Starsky’s hand, but it was his breath. He could feel his partner’s essence ruffle through his hair. “Thank you, Starsk.”
Edith Dobey invited him to a roast chicken dinner, and Hutch went. He’d been invited every Sunday for the past four months, but this was the first time he’d accepted. Somehow he’d dragged himself back into society.
When he crossed the threshold into the Dobey household, he could feel his emotions just below the surface and it was almost difficult to breathe.
“You’re here!” Rosey came running and threw her arms around his waist. Her glee and giggles overwhelmed him. He shut his eyes to absorb the moment. Instead of dark clouds, he felt clearing skies surround them. Instead of despair, he felt a shaky hope.
“Yeah,” he whispered. “I’m here.”
After holding himself together through the meal, he helped clear the dishes. Rosey clung to him, hanging from his shoulders while he pretended not to notice. Her weight was nothing compared to the burden he’d carried for so long, and their play lightened his mood.
Once the dishes were done, they all sat in the living room to visit. Rosey climbed onto his lap. “We miss you.”
For the second time that evening, he felt himself open to the compassion around him. A child’s words could make things so clear. “Me, too,” he said, brushing the little girl’s cheek. Maybe he’d been away for long enough.
The conversation went well into the night, long past the breaks to tuck Rosey in and for Edith to say goodnight. Hutch appreciated his former captain’s warm hand resting on his shoulder as they talked about old times, about Starsky. He held back most of the tears, but a few fell. His voice cracked once or twice, but Dobey didn’t seem to mind.
He took a detour on the way home. A brief moment at the water’s edge. He didn’t make a sound as he studied the horizon, and with a single sweep of his arm, his message to Starsky was in care of the ocean, the bottle handed over to the sea. When he got to his apartment, Hutch went to bed for his first night of sleep in months.
He'd finally let go.
He’d thought he had hung up his badge, put away the gun. Police work had brought him a lot of hardships, but the job was in his blood. There was no other way to honor his best partner than by staying on the streets, sweeping them clean the way Starsky always strived to do.
Clean shaven, a laundered shirt, and a renewed sense of well-being, Hutch was ready to take the next step. Being in the squadroom seemed empty without Starsky, but he also felt the pull to face life head on.
“I’m Craig Manning, it’s a real privilege to get to work with you, Detective Hutchinson.” The young man made eye contact, but respectfully, not intrusively. “And I want you to know, I don’t plan to take Detective Starsky’s place.”
Hutch had expected to hate the prospect of having a new partner, but when he smiled at the man, it felt real—like the possibility of friendship. He stood next to his desk, putting his hand out to shake Manning’s hand. He was probably a decade younger than Hutch, with neatly cut dark hair and a smile to beat the band.
“Nobody could take my old partner’s place.” He thought about Starsky pulling up in his fiery red
His new partner looked to the floor, seemingly uncomfortable under the heavy presence of Starsky’s legacy. Hutch put his arm on the man’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Manning. I am what I am because of Starsky, and what I am is a damn good partner, partner.”
Hutch led the man through the doors, and out into a fresh day. This was the beginning of a new era. The Hutch without Starsky era. He looked down the aisle of cars. “So, which one’s yours?”
Craig Manning tossed his keys in the air, catching them on the way down. “That one.”
Hutch followed his gesture and saw a blue, ‘65 Mustang. A car to make even Starsky blush. “Yeah,” said Hutch. “I think we’re going to get along just fine.”
While Manning was starting the engine, Hutch settled into the unfamiliar seat. He pulled out his wallet, removing the picture he carried of his old partner for one final glimpse.
Starsky looked up at him and smiled his approval. With that same old swelling in the back of his throat, Hutch finally found he had the strength to push his grief aside. He was mending that torn heart, slowly, but steadily.
“Which way to our beat?” Manning asked as they exited the parking garage.
Hutch nodded toward the right, feeling a sense of freedom in the normalcy.
With Starsky’s help, he’d made it back, at least partway. He’d still think about the could-haves and the what-ifs. Starsky had trained him well. But he could also wake up and look forward to his life, curious as to what his future might hold. Maybe he’d love again, but if not, Starsky had given him enough to last.
Starsky had given him everything. Friendship, family, security, and happiness. His best friend had kept Hutch safe, pushed his buttons, fought him, and had never given up. He’d almost given his life for Hutch multiple times. In every way he could, Starsky had given Hutch the world.
And he was still giving, because the memories of Starsky kept Hutch alive. His old partner would be with him each day he hit the streets, whenever his back was against the wall, every time he pulled his gun. He’d carry Starsky’s love through the dark hours of sleep, and the sunny mornings he walked along the beach. Starsky would exist within Hutch through his memories, and stories to Manning. Starsky would always be the beautiful, indomitable spirit who had helped make Hutch who he was.
So Hutch went on living.