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What I've Learned

Disclaimer: This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit. It is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.

 

I would like to dedicate this story to two very special people who share the same name. To my dear friend LovinFace – for your never ending courage and your willingness to reach for the light in the darkness. And to my wonderful friend Karen B., who never fails to inspire me. Mahalo for being such great teachers on my journey here on earth. I am most blessed indeed.

 

I strummed my fingers gently against the strings, playing a melody that should have soothed my soul, but somehow it didn’t. Seemed like it only made it worse. I lay my hand flat against the vibrating strings, the sudden silence almost overwhelming me, reflecting the emptiness I felt within.

I closed my eyes; feeling the smooth varnished side of my guitar as it grew warm under my chin, while I held her sleek body tightly against my chest. Hair the color of sunshine, and twinkling brown eyes filled with mirth and stubborn defiance and . . . and love, rose unbidden beneath my closed lids.

My heart remembered a night by the fireside, of sharing and understanding . . . of bridging two worlds together . . . a night of gentle touching and acrobatic handstands, of smiles and soft whispered words . . .

If we ever had a child, he would look like the snowbank . . .”

She would look like the sunrise . . .”

I could feel myself smiling as I thought of her. There was something so innocent about Anna . . . something almost childlike in the stubborn tilt of her chin, or the way her eyes flashed when she was angry. It dawned on me then, that in a strange way, she reminded me of my partner . . . her childlike exuberance, her need to be strong and resilient. I snorted softly in the dark, as I remembered our pre-dawn arm-wrestling match, the firelight highlighting the accents in her golden hair . . .

I’m very strong . . .”

It’s not exactly what I had in mind . . .”

Are you strong?”

You gotta be putting me on . . .”

What means ‘putting me on’?”

Y-you don’t want to arm wrestle . . .”

I will win . . .”

It’s two o’clock in the morning, I’m with a beautiful woman, and she wants to

arm wrestle?”

Are you afraid?”

I could hear her whispered challenge reverberating in my heart. “Are you afraid?” If I were truly honest with myself, I would have had to admit that I was very much afraid . . . afraid to open my heart again, afraid to let someone in, afraid to reach out and let someone love me, to let myself love again . . . knowing that she would have to leave, and that I would let her go . . . when it came time to part . . .

Is it alright to love you, Hootch?”

She had whispered those simple, sweet words in my ear, amid the commotion and mayhem outside of the theatre, as I held her tightly against me, my throat swallowing the words I wanted to say, but my heart knew them anyway.

I couldn’t face her open honest question, the way she spoke those words so softly . . . so innocently . . . like a child seeking approval, asking to be loved. So I . . . I just held her tightly to me, burying my face into her sweet scented hair, not wanting her to see the pain that I knew was reflected in my eyes, hiding my heart from her . . . hiding my heart . . . from myself.

I stood abruptly from the stool I was sitting on, and leaned the neck of my guitar gently against the nearest wall. I dragged my fingers through my hair, her words tearing at my heart. Was it all right for us to love? Why did I let it happen? I crossed that line. I let my personal life get mixed up with my professional life . . . something I tried hard never to do. Was it okay for us to fall in love when I was supposed to be protecting her? When I was getting paid to watch over her. Did I take advantage of her in anyway?

No . . . there was nothing serious going on between us. We were both consenting adults. We had some fun that was it. I could hear my brain rationalizing away the guilt that was eating away at me.

“You can be a real idiot sometimes, Hutchinson,” I mumbled under my breath, cursing myself for being three times a fool. “You would think you would learn by now . . .” I knew that little ballerina was the braver one between us, putting into words, that which was already in our hearts.

I walked over to the couch and sat, leaning heavily into the soft cushions. Disgusted with myself . . . allowing the anger to momentarily take away the hurt. It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t go into this with blinders on . . . she was a Russian citizen and I was an American. I knew this wasn’t something lasting, and I reasoned at that time that if we had a momentary fling, at least it would be safe . . . there was no way I would get emotionally involved . . . I knew that . . . the only trouble was, nobody had informed my heart.

She left today . . . going back to her home in Russia and I thought I’d be able to deal . . . like I’ve always dealt in the past. Who would have thought that Anna would make such an impact on my life in the very short time that we spent together?

I closed my eyes, remembering her sitting on her suitcase, her legs spread wide, as I knelt before her, struggling with the latches, feeling her fingers softly caressing my hair . . .

I will miss you, Hootch . . .”

Me too . . .”

You should come to Leningrad . . .”

I will . . . someday . . .”

Do you love me . . . a little bit?”

I love you . . . a lot of bit.”

I loved her. I opened my eyes and stared into the candlelight before me. Shadows danced upon the walls and the ceiling of my empty abode . . . misty shadows of sunlit hair, twinkling brown eyes, warm, gentle touches of her hand wrapped around my thigh as I sang softly to her. I sighed to myself, remembering soft, tender lips moving under mine.

I sadly wondered to myself if I would ever find that person who was made for me, who would fit me perfectly, like a hand to a glove. It appeared to me, that as the years have passed by, my dream of “living happily ever after” seemed to be fading into nothingness. Life was meant to be shared and yet, all I had was emptiness in my heart.

My eyes drifted to the door, hearing the quiet fumbling coming from outside. I snorted softly, seeing the dark curls first, before catching sight of the bright, blue eyes that peeped around the frame.

“Hey . . .” Starsky said, poking his head around the door, “Brought some pizza . . .” I watched silently, as my partner let himself into the dark room lit only by a few candles. I didn’t even bother to get up when Starsky put the large pizza box on the countertop. I glanced up at him, as he turned to give me the once over.

“Hey . . . who died . . . hmmm?” Starsky said, nodding his chin to the two candles on the table before me. I didn’t answer; silently taking the cold bottle of beer he opened and offered to me.

“You hungry?” he asked. I could read the concern in his eyes and I knew, he knew, that I was hurting inside.

I threw him a weak smile, “Nah . . . you go ahead, this’ll do just fine.” I said, raising the bottle in a silent salute, before taking a long swig from it.

I heard my buddy softly sigh, before he walked over and sat next to me on the couch, his warm body pressed into my side, putting his blue clad feet upon the table, silently mimicking my salute before raising his own bottle to his lips. I snorted softly, seeing his eyes softening with affection for me.

“Go ahead,” I said softly.

“What?” Starsky said just as softly.

“Go ahead and tell me what an idiot I am.” I said disgustedly.

“Don’ need to . . . you already know that.” Starsky snorted, his eyes twinkling in the glow of the candle’s light, his stupid joke brought a smile to my lips, and though I knew he said it in jest, I recognized a hint of truth to his buffoonery. I chuckled, taking another sip from my bottle, feeling my partner’s hand gently thump my thigh, as I closed my burning eyes wearily.

“Look Hutch,” he said, his voice soft and gentle, “For whatever its worth, I envy you. I thought she was very beautiful and even though your time with each other was short; you created some nice memories together.”

Memories. It seemed that’s all I ever had. Just memories. Thoughts of Abby and Gillian floated through my mind and I quickly opened my eyes, only to see my partner’s compassionate wink. I snorted softly again.

“Yeah?” I said, “Then I guess memories will have to do huh?”

Starsky shrugged, his eyes downcast, long dark lashes hiding the emotion behind his words, “Yeah,” he said softly, “Sometimes memories are all we have.”

I sat up straighter, feeling suddenly terrible inside, guiltily knowing my melancholy mood was making him think of his own lost love, thoughts of the woman who touched his soul like no other, making him remember the way she was cruelly taken from him. Terry. I knew he was thinking of her and my heart ached for him.

“H-hey buddy . . .” I said softly, placing my hand on his shoulder.

Starsky waved a hand slightly in the air, a slow lopsided grin tweaking the corners of his mouth, “Nah . . . it’s okay,” he said softly, patting me gently on the abdomen, “It really is Hutch . . . okay, I mean. I’ve learned a lot since then, a lot about myself, from Terry . . . from you too.”

“Yeah?” I said, my partner’s soft voice piquing my curiousity, “Like what?” I asked gently.

I smiled as I saw my friend peep up at me sideways from under his ridiculously long lashes, a hint of red creeping up his neck, a shy grin spreading over his face.

“I dunno . . .” he said shrugging, as he took a self-conscious sip from his bottle.

“Aww c’mon buddy . . .it’s just me . . .” I said, purposely making my voice low and soothing to put him at ease. I could feel my eyes growing soft with fondness for my partner. Sometimes he really was like a little boy . . . so endearingly bashful that one would never think he was a tough, street-wise cop when you saw him so soft and unsure like this.

I watched as Starsky lifted one dark brow and shrugged again, keeping his gaze on the bottle he held in his hands. When he finally spoke, his voice was so soft that I had to strain to hear him, even though we were sitting so close that his thigh was pressed to mine.

“I guess after Terry died,” he began slowly, “It gave me some time to think . . . I mean

. . . really think about things ya know?”

I nodded, remembering how Starsky withdrew from everything for a while . . . from work, from life . . . from me. Once the anger and guilt had dissipated, he had grown reflective and quiet, prone to mood swings, as he silently tried to deal with the death of his lady. Though it took some time, he had eventually begun to bounce back and I knew that somehow he had made peace with himself . . . somehow he had wrestled with the demons, and had won.

I continued to lay my hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently, silently encouraging him to continue, as I listened to his soft voice beside me. Those had been sad and dark days for the both of us, and it killed me inside to think that I might have reopened a wound that had taken so long to heal. Maybe wounds like that never really heal . . . maybe you just learn to live with them.

Starsky grinned at me then, his eyes as deeply blue as the ocean on a stormy day, “What have I learned?” he mused softly to himself, turning his head away to gaze at the light from the candles, “Well, I learned that you cannot make someone love you, but you can make yourself into someone who can be loved. And I learned that you can get by on charm for about ten minutes, then after that you better be up and up, because people who are honest get farther in life. And I learned that no matter how badly broken your heart might be, the world continues on and it doesn’t stop just because you’re grieving. And I’ve learned that you shouldn’t be afraid to show love, and speak loving words to the people you care about most, because it might be the last time you see them. I’ve learned that your whole life can be changed in a matter of hours, even seconds, and I learned that the ones you love most are taken from you too soon. I’ve learned that wisdom comes from the journey and not the destination. And I’ve learned that the pain you go through in life sometimes becomes the greater ropes to pull others up with,” Starsky sighed softly then, his voice growing even softer as he said, “But most of all, I’ve learned that you can keep going . . . long after you think you can’t.”

He looked at me then, a shy grin on his face, “That’s what I learned from Terry.”

My hand dropped quietly from his shoulder and rested lightly on his thigh. Sometimes the things that came out from my partner’s mouth just astounded me. I stared at him in awed silence.

My partner snorted self-consciously then, turning away from me, his cheeks growing warm under my scrutiny. I wondered silently what this man could have possibly learned from me? God knows; I’ve learned so much from my buddy about love, family, friendship, and the support and encouragement that a warm touch could bring. These were certainly things that I had never learned at home . . . especially the “touching” part. It was frowned upon to be demonstrative in the Hutchinson’s household.

I guess my silent question must’ve been speaking pretty loudly on my face because my partner chuckled softly. Looking away, he continued, his voice still so soft and gentle.

“From you, I’ve learned that two people can look at the same thing and see something different . . . and that it’s completely okay. I’ve learned that there are always two sides to everything, no matter how thinly you slice it. And I’ve learned that no matter how good a friend is, sometimes they’re gonna hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that. I’ve learned that a friend can tell you things that you don’t want to tell yourself, can see things about you, that you are blind to. And I’ve learned that it’s not always enough to be forgiven by others; sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself too. I’ve learned that true friendship continues to grow especially through the valleys in life and that friends are the siblings God never gave you. But most of all Hutch, I’ve learned that it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts. And I have you buddy. I’ve learned all this from you, because it’s always been me and thee . . . no matter what.”

Starsky looked at me then, a sheepish grin on his face, and I knew he was feeling uncomfortable with the soapiness of the moment. I sat there, touched beyond belief by his simple honesty . . . his Starsky wisdom. The warmth I felt in my heart at that moment overwhelmed me and I remained speechless. I just sat and stared into my friend’s dark blue eyes that seemed to almost glimmer with the soft reflective glow from the candlelight.

“Hey . . . you okay Blondie?” Starsky finally asked, breaking the silence that ensued, as we sat together in my dark apartment, the candles nearly burnt to the wick.

“Yeah,” I said softly, “I-I guess I’m just . . . just really touched buddy . . .”

Starsky snorted softly, “Look Blintz,” he said, gently slapping my thigh as he got to his feet, “How ‘bout some pizza huh? It’s been sittin’ there gettin’ cold the whole time we’ve been blabberin’ away. And I spent my hard earned money on that . . . just for you buddy.”

I knew he was trying to change the subject, being sentimental always made my partner feel embarrassed and awkward somehow . . . I’ve learned that about him . . . he has a heart of gold, but he hates to wear it on his sleeve for all to see. He guards it well, his heart that is, letting only a handful of people into his tight circle, but once you were in, you were there for life. No matter what, he’d stand behind you, watching your back, defending you tooth and nail. That’s my partner, loyal to a fault. I guess if my buddy had a shortcoming . . . that’s what it was. He was blind to the faults of those he loved, and I guess that’s why I love him so very much.

I grinned then, Starsk was right. It’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts. My dream of ‘happily ever after’ may never come true with Anna or with anyone else for that matter, but somehow I didn’t really care anymore, because I realized tonight that I have everything that truly means anything and that’s Starsky.

“Okay Gordo,” I said smiling, “We’ll eat pizza and then afterwards, how ‘bout you and I go catch the late show at the Rivoli?”

Starsky grinned, his ocean blue eyes twinkling mischievously under his long, lashes which he batted shamelessly, “Your eyes are the color of the Balaya River . . . how can I say no, Hootch?” he said with a low Russian accent.

I stared at him, my mouth wide and open. I heard him laugh out loud and I joined him, as he ducked the flying pillow that I whipped at his head. Yup, I sure was one lucky guy. Me and Thee. Hootch and Starepski all the way, no matter what.

I smiled as I followed my best friend into the kitchen. Cold pizza never sounded so good before.

. . . finis . . .

 

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