Cofee, Cream And A Spoonful Of Sugar

The gray skies outside were a mirror reflection of the emotions swirling in his heart. He watched as rivulets of cold water ran down the windowpane of his darkened apartment. Like tears, Starsky thought sadly, one hand scrubbed at red-rimmed eyes; unable to shed any more tears himself.

He sighed softly and raised his hand to press it against the cold glass of the window, silent water running swiftly down the slick outer surface of the glass; blurring his view of the garden in his back yard. Raindrops beat against the wooden picnic table outside and his mind drifted back to a time in the not so distant past...

They sat on the picnic table bench sharing a toast to their future, raised glasses twinkling under a moonlit evening. A soft, warm breeze lifted her tresses as she pressed her back into his chest and lifted shining eyes up to his. He could still taste the hint of wine on her lips as he kissed her tenderly; his heart almost bursting with the love he felt for her. The soft, sultry voice of Frank Sinatra floated on the cool, night air adding to the romantic ambiance of the evening.

"Dance with me," he whispered, as he took her hand and helped her up, then gently wrapped her small frame in his embrace; swaying to beginning strains of, "Just the Way You Look Tonight."

"Some day, when I'm awfully low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you... and the way you look tonight." Starsky sang softly in her ear, holding her close to him, a small, delicate hand held in his calloused one, his other arm around her slender waist and back. She laid her cheek against his chest, humming along with him, as they swayed in unison to the rhythm of the love song, listening together to the words as Frank weaved his golden magic around them.

He pressed his body against the window and leaned his weary forehead upon the back of his hand, closing his mind's eye to that beautiful memory. The stillness in the room was oppressive and the emptiness in his heart left him feeling desolate and tormented.

"I'll always be there when you need me. If you're scared, or your world seems to be falling apart... or just some dark night, when you're all alone ... if you just close your eyes... if you try to remember me... I'll always be there, I'll be there waiting... I promise."

"Terry..." he whispered softly, brokenly, his warm breath fogging the cold glass momentarily, before fading slowly and vanishing altogether.

He closed his eyes; heavy dark lashes hiding the anguish in his lost soul. He held his breath and waited ... almost expecting to hear her voice, but the only sounds he heard were the uneven cadence of the falling rain on his rooftop.

"Promises, promises..." he smiled softly to himself. He inhaled deeply and could almost smell her soft scent in the still air of his home. It would have been our home one day, he thought regretfully. Later on, they would have probably put a down payment on a bigger place once their children came along. They had talked about children. He knew Terry loved kids, as much as he did. She was a wonderful teacher, so nurturing, patient and positive with her students, like Sally... he knew she would have been the perfect mother too. When he had shared his thoughts about that with her one evening, she had laughed...

"Yeah... and I suppose we'll have many little dark, curly haired replicas of you running around driving me crazy all day huh?" Terry smiled teasingly, wrinkling her pert nose up at him. She laid her head back upon one of the many large pillows strewn on the floor of her living room and gazed up at Starsky, the soft light from the candles casting shadows to dance across the ceiling and walls of her cozy apartment.

"Only if we have as many sweet and spunky pigtailed replicas of you schweetheart." Starsky winked impishly back at her, his head upon the palm of his hand, his elbow sharing the same pillow her head rested on.

"Yeah? Well, with all those kids running around, I know which kid would really send me to Cabrillo State for sure... the tall, dark and handsome one with chocolate brown curls." She tugged playfully on an errant curl on Starsky's head.

"Hmmm?" Starsky replied absently as he gazed down at her, mesmerized by her mirth filled, twinkling eyes. He could always get lost in her eyes; they were the windows to that shining light in her sweet soul. He slowly traced her soft lips with his finger until she suddenly sat up, almost pushing him over in the process.

"Did you even hear what I said Dave?" she queried, "Hmmm?" Her sparkling eyes flashed indignantly, winged brows crossed in feigned outrage.

"Wha?" Starsky groused, the dreamy look in his deep blue eyes, abruptly replaced by one of bewilderment, as he peered up at Terry's alluring face... God, she was beautiful when she was angry! He smiled one of his dazzling, lopsided grins, which quickly faded, as she seemed to almost read his mind.

"Oh no you don't, I'm not falling for that 'you're so beautiful when your angry' routine. Hutch already told me you even used that line on him!" Terry huffed.

Colbalt eyes widened in disbelief, "Hutch told ya that? Well, what other little secrets did motor mouth spill the beans on... hmmm?" Starsky questioned as he wagged his dark eyebrows, "Inquiring minds wanna know!"

Terry giggled, eyes dancing in merriment, "Wouldn't you like to know ... I'll have you know that I'm on to all of your tricks pal... Hutch told me everything I needed to know to protect myself from your unscrupulous ways!"

"Yeah?" Starsky growled in a low sexy voice, "C'mere," he whispered huskily, as he snagged her arm and pulled her slight form across the pillow until she lay on his lap, cradled in his arms. He gently brushed back tendrils of hair from her face and gazed tenderly down at her while she glared back at him. "Okay, okay," Starsky grinned at the stubborn expression on her face. Tilting his head slightly to the side, he raised his hands in mock defeat, "Tell me again what you were saying honey, and I'll promise t' listen."

"Best friends don't need to promise," Terry whispered softly. She lifted a delicate hand to cup the side of his face, undisguised love shining in her eyes, as she stared into the deep blue orbs above her. She gently guided his head down towards her lips, "I love you," she said, her soft breath teasing his lips before he gently placed them over hers.

Starsky felt something grab at his heart, feeling the deepest part of his inner being meshing; his soul entwining with Terry's in that quiet moment of profound connection. For Starsky, moments like these were seldom and uncommon, for he jealously guarded his heart and selectively allowed only a handful of people to ever have a piece of it -- Hutch being one of the few, outside of his family, to be given this gift. To give his heart to someone meant that he could be opening himself up to being hurt and vulnerable and the wounded little boy within him held his heart tightly under lock and key. It frightened him at times, this intense feeling of oneness with a Terry. Women to Starsky, were like the model ships he enjoyed building... ships that docked in his harbor for a few days, then left, to happily sail on into the sunset... alone... and that was completely fine with him -- no strings attached was the motto he shared with all of his female acquaintances, until he met Terry that is.

With Terry, it was different from the start of their relationship. Maybe it was because she was a teacher and could nurture and cajole that little boy within him to open his tight fist and hand over the key to his beating heart, or maybe it was because he instinctively knew that Terry was the mate to his lonesome soul. They just fit together, like two peas in a pod, and though this feeling of 'belonging' was almost foreign to him, it felt so perfect and right!

"Three peas in a pod!" Starsky silently corrected, a soft smile cresting his lips, as the rain outside slowed down to gentle droplets. Terry had a special way with Hutch too, and that brought so much joy into Starsky's heart. It seemed none of the girls he and Hutch dated understood the unique relationship and chemistry they had with one another. Sure they were partners on the job, but it went so much deeper than that. There were no words to explain it without getting soapy, but with Terry, Starsky never had to define or defend his feelings for Hutch, she just knew. When she first met Hutch, she literally welcomed him with open arms and an open heart. They hit it off right at the start; often tag teaming with each other to throw playful insults at the curly haired brunet all night long.

"Hang onto this one buddy," Hutch advised warmly; eyes shining in the dim light of the bar they were at. Terry had just left for the ladies room and the partners had a moment alone to themselves.

"Man, Hutch..." Starsky said, sparkling, deep, blue eyes latched onto sky blue ones, "Ain't she somethin'? Ya know, I-I never felt like this before and sometimes it jus', jus'... seems almost too good to be true ya know?" Starsky looked down at his hands and were surprised to see them trembling slightly, he quickly clasped them together and watched as the large, warm hand of his partner reached over and covered his own clammy, shaking ones to steady them.

"Hey, it's alright to feel scared buddy... especially when you've stumbled upon your destiny Starsk. She's perfect... witty and fun, yet warm and patient... a perfect balance to your often times unrestrained exuberance pal. Hutch smiled fondly at Starsky's look of confusion, and simply nodded and said, "She's the one, buddy."

"Yeah? Ya think so Hutch?" Wide blue eyes stared across the table in almost childlike wonder and Hutch chuckled softly at his partner's innocent expression. It was hard to believe sometimes that the curly haired man sitting across from him was a street wise, hard-nosed detective who could handle his own with the toughest punks out there. Whenever Starsky's little boy persona slipped out, it always produced an almost protective instinct in the tall blonde and he marveled that his partner could still have that childlike faith and whimsical curiousity that drove him to insanity at times.

They released hands as the waitress brought over three mugs of steaming, black coffee. Hutch reached for his mug and took a careful sip from it, eyeing his partner as he dragged the cream and the sugar bowl closer to his side of the table; watching as a thoughtful expression crossed the brunet's face.

"Ya know Hutch, we're jus' like my coffee here..." Starsky murmured softly, dark head bent as he peered into his coffee.

"How's that buddy?" Hutch reluctantly questioned, steering himself for some inane, outlandish response from his partner.

"Well, this coffee here is like me in way... dark, hot and full of steam... sometimes bitter if left alone to brew too long on the stove..." Hutch would have snorted, but his partner's expression was almost somber and contemplative and Hutch remained silent; gazing fondly at his partner, as the brunet continued.

"And well... your kinda like this cream here, Hutch... rich, velvety smooth and soothing like that voice of yours, and your coloring is pale, like the color of this here cream..."At this last comment, Hutch did snort.

Starsky flashed the tall blonde a quick, lopsided, toothy grin, but his expression turned reflective again as he continued, "Now watch what happens to the coffee when the cream is added."

Hutch could feel himself leaning over the table to peer into Starsky's mug and he silently chided himself for it. As if I don't already know what'll happen to the coffee, he thought disgustedly, but the thought quickly slipped from his mind, as the soft voice of his partner went on.

"Ya see Hutch," Starsky continued, the dark brew turning into a light tan color as he gently stirred it, "That's what you do to me." He looked up into his partner's pale blue eyes, his own eyes shining with wonder, as if he just imparted the greatest secret known to mankind.

Hutch looked back at the cream filled coffee, and raised blank eyes at his smiling, satisfied partner. The brunet's expression slowly changed to one of frustration, as it dawned on him that his profound statement was lost to his partner. Hutch lifted his brows slightly and made a quick nod towards the mug of coffee sitting between his partner's hands.

Starsky sighed softly, almost embarrassed to have to say it, "See Hutch," he began hesitantly, soft blue eyes dipping down to look at his partner's big hands clasped around his own mug, "Bein' a cop an' all... we see things on the streets everyday that would turn even the nicest of guys mean and hard, but ya balance me buddy, ya help me t' remember that not all things in life are sad and hard and bitter. You're my reminder that it's okay to be soft sometimes and you mellow me out when all I wanna do is go off at the unfairness in this world." Hutch watched as heavy, dark lashes lifted shyly to reveal sparkling, bright sapphire gems that quickly lowered again to the mug in his hands, "Ya turn me into something better whenever you're with me Hutch, and somehow my life ain't so dark and lonely no more 'cuz I have you in it."

Hutch ogled the coffee mug wrapped in Starsky's hand, amazed at the simple, honest analogy that left a big lump in his throat. It always humbled him to see how much trust and love his partner had for him and knowing how tightly Starsky guarded his heart, Hutch also felt honored that the man sitting across from him would include him into his tight circle of family and friends, and would even go so far as to call him 'brother.' It almost made up for the lonely and hurt filled childhood Hutch grew up in. Never feeling 'good enough' for his parents, Hutch basked in the unconditional love and warmth the brunet always gave so freely to him. He watched as Starsky dug into the sugar bowl and came up with a heaping teaspoonful

Speechless, Hutch listened as his partner bashfully continued, a slight blush coloring his cheeks and neck, long lashes hiding the brunet's embarrassment, "And this spoonful of sugar, well... that's kinda like Terry ya know? I mean, the coffee's fine enough with the cream an'all, but a little spoonful of sugar jus' makes it a taste a little more sweeter."

Hutch smiled affectionately at his rosy-cheeked partner and gently tapped his wrist so that he could redirect his attention to the right of the bar with a quick nod. He watched as the brunet's dark blues eyes turned a soft shade of lavender blue when they fell upon Terry, making her way towards their table. Hutch lowered his head and hid his smile behind his coffee mug.

"Hey guys, what did I miss huh?" Terry's bright smile lit up the room and Hutch could almost feel an envious tug on his heart, as Starsky stood up and placed a gentle kiss on her soft lips. Terry gazed up into the tall brunet's face, noting his slightly flushed countenance.

"Nuthin' honey... jus' talkin' Blondie's ear off..." Starsky stammered, holding her small, delicate hand gently in his own. So different from the feel of Hutch's larger, sturdier one. Starksy thought absently, turning a darker shade of pink under the close scrutiny of Terry's observant eyes.

"Um... Gordo here, was just telling me about his fondness for sweets... did you know what a sweet-tooth you have for a boyfriend?" Hutch's soft voice filled the awkward silence and Starsky quickly threw a grateful look at his blonde partner.

"Gordo... hmmmm?" Terry smirked, eyes twinkling in amusement at the comical nickname. "Actually... I never really knew about his addiction to sweets, but I have witnessed his frightful burrito fetishes."

At this Hutch burst out laughing, earning him an irritated look from his dark haired partner.

"Don't encourage her, Hutch," Starsky pleaded, though he was secretly happy to see his partner so relaxed around Terry. It always filled his heart with joy to hear Hutch laugh out loud like that and knowing it was his Terry that produced that outburst from his sometimes stoic friend, elated him and made him squeeze her hand, heart filled with love and pride for the diminutive lady standing by his side. Yup, he thought gleefully, All I need is cream and sugar!

Starsky stared out into his wet garden; watching droplets of water drip from the leaves of his tall hedges, only to fall silently upon the well manicured lawn; sparkling crystals against a velvet backdrop of green...

"It's beautiful..." she whispered in awe, fingers caressing the crystal heart pendent as it lay in the velvet lined box he had given her. She raised sparkling eyes to gaze up at her tall brunet; who immediately began to blush and squirm in embarrassment. "It's beautiful," she quietly repeated as she gently cupped the side of his face in the warmth of her hand; almost losing herself in the brilliant, blue depths glowing above her. She watched in fascination as dark lashes lowered to hide the emotion behind the gift. She wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head against his muscled chest, moving in closer to spare him the embarrassment of eye contact. At times her man was such a sweet little boy, so shy and unsure that it melted her heart.

"Somethin' small... sort of ... reminded me of you" he softly whispered against her soft tresses. When she didn't let go to look up at him, he felt encouraged to add, "So bright and clear... shining like your eyes that night we sat in the moonlight drinkin' wine, 'member?" At her slight nod against his chest, he continued, closing his eyes as he held her tighter to him, "It's fragile, yet strong... pure, like your heart Terry, sometimes I can just see the light that shines from ya and it makes me feel complete inside... ya know?"

Starsky angrily turned from the window and sightlessly stared into his darkened living room; lit only by a solitary blue candle on the counter of his kitchen; shadows danced almost eerily along the walls and ceiling, so different from that night in Terry's warm apartment. Starsky heaved a long sigh, and sunk into the couch cushions. Memories bombarded his mind and filled his empty heart with bleakness and despair. He wondered how he could go on without her. He dejectedly leaned over and put his weary head into his hands.

"Dave, you can't stop living just because I do..." he could almost hear her soft, gentle voice whisper in his ear.

He lifted his eyes to his Baretta, hanging in its' holster draped over the front closet door. Pity parties were something he usually never indulged in, but he knew he was indirectly responsible for her death and it weighed heavily on his mind and heart. If he had never met her, if she had never come into his life, she would be alive today. Yet, Starsky knew if that had been so, he would have never known what true love was all about.

Prudolm. It had taken every ounce of his strength to not fire a slug into his smug face that day they caught him in the grocery supply house -- to divorce himself from the rage the ripped into him and to remain an officer of the law when it would have been easier and more satisfying to turn vigilante -- so much had been taken away from him that day. Anger replaced the despair in his heart and he clenched his fist in frustration; smoky blue eyes flashed to the front door as he heard the key fumbling in the lock. Hutch. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed heavily in the stillness of the room, slowly releasing the black cloud of rage that filled his heart.

"Hey buddy..." the soft, familiar voice called out, blonde head peeking around the door, "You here?" The smell of pizza wafted throughout the room and Starsky suddenly realized how hungry he was.

"Nope, nobody home!" Starsky retorted; almost smiling, knowing the blonde had seen the bright, red Torino parked outside. One would have to be blind to miss that!

A soft sigh from the door, and the tall form entered the room, shutting the door behind him. "In that case... um... I better come in and blow out that candle over there, before it burns down the house... my, ah... partner would kill me if I ever let that happen, especially when he's not home." The gentle tone was filled with concern and it pierced the grieving man's heart even more.

"Hey... thanks for comin' Hutch," Starsky said gruffly, clearing his throat as he rose from his place on the couch.

"I, ah... brought pizza... and ah... beer," the tall, blonde said lifting both items in front of him; almost like a peace offering or better yet, a shield, as he entered the darkened lair of his brooding, wounded partner.

"Thanks Hutch," Starsky murmured, struggling to push down the anger and hurt that had ravaged his heart all day long. He glanced up into sad pale eyes, almost gray in color, like the sky outside. It pained him to see Hutch suffering along with him, for he knew how much Hutch had truly cared for Terry too.

"Hey... it's okay, Hutch... she wouldn't want us to be sad like this... she wanted us here t'night, t'gether to celebrate her life, not mourn her de..." Starsky's voice caught in his dry throat, and he lifted rapidly blinking, red-rimmed eyes to the ceiling, breathing deeply to steady himself. Getting a handle on his emotions, he took the pizza and the beer from his silent partner's hands, "I'll ah, I'll get the glasses and napkins... meet'cha in the kitchen." Turning quickly, the dark haired man walked out of the room.

Hutch sighed sadly, pain filling his heart as he watched his partner leave the room. In the two weeks since Terry's death, Hutch knew that Starsky had had little time to grieve for his lady. With the arrest of Prudolm, paperwork, funeral arrangements and the cleaning of Terry's apartment, Starsky had been too busy to give way to the anguish, guilt and rage that ravaged his heart. Hutch wanted to reach out and comfort his wounded partner, but words of consolation seemed so meaningless at a time like this. He stood in the deserted room and brushed his hair back in helpless frustration. God, he missed Terry too. He longed for her quick smile and her sharp witty playfulness. He missed how they used to gang up on Starsky and tease him endlessly.

Hutch looked down and spied the Monopoly game on one of the lower shelves of Starsky's bookcase. He smiled as he remembered their last game together in this very room. Christine's unintentional slip of future vacations had caused an uncomfortable silence to permeate the room, but Terry's quick and optimistic outlook had cleared away that awkward moment and the wink Starsky gave her was filled with love and pride. Hutch stooped down and dragged the game out; taking it with him to the kitchen to follow in his partner's wake.

He stood in the entrance of the kitchen and watched as Starsky took out two pillars of candles and lit them. "Wanna play tonight after we eat buddy?" Hutch asked smiling, holding up the Monopoly box with a hopeful expression on his face.

Starsky locked eyes with his partner's and softly snorted, "Sure... after we eat." And drink, he silently added to himself; opening the beer bottles; already pouring the foamy amber colored liquid into two glasses.

"Will ya come on, huh?" Starsky grouched, barely listening to the mumbled voice droning on in the background, "It's your turn." He had lost count of the beers they had consumed, but he knew the amount was quite substantial for the numbing buzz almost deadened the burning emptiness and pain in his heart.

He raised blurry, weary, blue eyes up at his partner sitting on the barstool with the phone attached to his ear and snorted, his hand covering his face as he giggled. They had discussed turning in their badges to Dobey the next morning -- 'not worth the price' they had both proclaimed, and the White Knight had immediately set upon a quest to find new careers for them as Canadian football players. Starsky snorted and chuckled drunkenly as Hutch neared the end of his conversation with someone from the Vancouver Lines.

"No, we're not playing football for anybody right now... ah, we're policemen, but um... ah, we're tough... and we're gonna give it up, we're gonna quit... hello, hello? He hung up on me!" As drunk as he was, Hutch seemed a tiny bit perturbed by the rude telephone manners of someone in Vancouver.

"Will you please give me seventy dollars?" Starsky gruffly demanded, tired of waiting for his turn.

"Starsky, you know something? You really stink at this game!" Hutch pointed out, as he hung up and slid off the barstool, and then turned to hang up again after he untangled the cord from around his neck.

"Maybe we oughta go down to South America and try robbin' banks," Starsky suggested after realizing that freezing his butt off in Canada wasn't as appealing as he first thought.

Seeing his curly haired friend chuckling, sitting cross legged on the floor, caused the tall blond to smile stupidly as he settled his long frame on the cold, tiled floor with his back against the lower cupboards. He laughed out loud at his partner's suggestion of doing a Butch and Sundance remake, and though he wasn't sure why he laughed, it felt so good to release some pent-up emotion; but the chiming of the clock, brought all silliness to a stand still. It was time to get serious. Amazing how that thought created instantaneous sobriety! He watched as Starsky leaned over to take out two wrapped packages from a side cupboard.

"Here you go bronco..." Starsky said softly; reaching over the game to pass a bulky gift wrapped in powder blue paper to the tall blonde; holding the smaller wrapped item for himself.

"You know I feel... feel kinda strange," Hutch began hesitantly, his soft blue eyes picking up the color of the wrapped present he had placed on his lap.

"Hey... it's midnight." Starsky gently reminded his partner, feeling his heart suddenly tighten in agony as he fought back the sadness from spilling over into his voice, "Two weeks. Terry said, that two weeks after she..." his voice caught in his throat, he just couldn't say it, not yet. "You should open it," he shrugged lamely, seeing the same sadness and loss reflected in his partner's light blue eyes.

There was a pause as Hutch debated Starsky's suggestion, but a quick nod in the direction of the smaller package held in the hands of the dark haired man silently conveyed Hutch's need for Starsky to go first.

Starsky looked down at the gift in his hand. A last gift from his Terry, a gift he did not want. To open it, would make her departure seem so final. Starsky would have traded any gift, just to get her back. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a brief moment, opening them to look Hutch determinedly in the eye, "I'll show ya," he whispered bravely.

He concentrated on opening his gift and was surprised to see the title of the small book he held in his hand, "A Thousand and One Ways to Win Monopoly!" he snorted. He could hear Hutch chuckle softly at the irony of the situation with the Monopoly game spread out before them the way it was. Was it only a minute ago that Hutch said he stunk at playing the game? He smiled as he stared down at the book in his hand. God, it was almost like she was there with them; teaming up with Hutch again to throw a mock insult into his face. How he loved her... and missed her! He could almost picture her bright, smug smile and sparkling eyes gleaming in mischief and he began to laugh, softly at first, shoulders shaking quietly.

"No time for feelin' sorry for yourself!" He could almost hear her soft voice whisper in his ear. Terry.

Starsky raised his eyes expectantly to his partner when he heard him softly read the print on the envelope of the card that was addressed to him. "Hutch." It was said with an almost wistful sigh that tugged on his heart. He watched silently as Hutch unwrapped the blue wrapping paper to reveal Terry's old stuffed bear.

"That's Ollie," Starsky said softly. "She used'ta keep 'im on the bed with her" he explained quietly, as Hutch lifted the bear to gaze into his round, dark eyes.

Hutch snorted softly and gently put Ollie down, silently pondering why Terry would give such an intimate gift to him and not to Starsky. He wondered if his partner felt the same way. He took the card and read aloud, "To Dearest Hutch. To you, I entrust Ollie and Dave. Please love them both... and don't let either of them change." He could feel the hot tears wanting to spill over and he lifted his eyes to look at his partner. "It's a beaut..." he said simply, taking a deep breath to get a hold of his emotions. How could she have known that they were planning a career change this very evening?

He glanced again at his partner, who started chuckling as that very same thought crossed his mind; deep blue eyes swimming in tears, shoulders shaking quietly again. Whether Starsky was laughing or crying, Hutch had no clue and it didn't even matter because they could both feel her presence right there in that kitchen with them, helping them to accept, forgive, and to heal from the pain of her passing. She truly was a phenomenal person... one whom Hutch was honored to have known.

Starsky squinted at the meager light that filtered through the thick drapes in his bedroom. He cautiously widened his eyes; expecting the blinding pain that usually accompanied a night of indulgence, but was surprised to feel only a slight throbbing behind his eyes. He wondered how he had gotten into bed, but figured that Hutch must've dragged him in here after they talked and laughed and cried into wee hours of a new day.

He slowly sat up in his bed and noticed that his shirt was gone. He saw the red sweater he wore last night folded neatly, draped over the back of the arm chair in his room. He smiled softly to himself in the partially lit room. With Hutch near, who needed his mother? On the pillow next to him lay Ollie. Starsky lifted the stuffed bear to eye level. Ollie's dark, round eyes looked almost sad to him and he gently ruffled the white fur on its' head. "Jus' you and me now, Ollie," he whispered to the bear. He remembered how Terry used to hug the bear tight to her chest and he did the same. God, he could still smell her soft scent on Ollie and his throat tightened with the loss he felt in his heart.

"Hey you're up buddy," the blonde's soothing voice called out as he walked into the bedroom carrying a tray with two steaming mugs on it. "How are you feeling this morning?" he asked as he laid the tray on the side table and pulled up a chair next to the bed.

"Okay... you?" Starsky asked, lifting dark blue eyes up to lighter ones. He watched as Hutch settled himself into the chair and reached out to take the offered mug of coffee, laying Ollie down next to him.

"Fine," Hutch murmured, "Take a sip of that, it might help to clear that head of yours, Starsk."

"Mmmm... bitter..." Starsky grumbled softly after he took a cautious sip. He took another sip and when he lowered his cup, he was surprised to see Hutch, front and center, holding a little pitcher of cream.

He watched as Hutch poured a generous amount of it into the black brew, stirring it as he gently said, "The sugar might be gone now buddy, but you still got the cream, and if you look closely at the color of the coffee now Starsk, you'll see that it's turned to a lighter shade because the cream will always be there to balance that darkness out; to remind him that it's okay to be soft sometimes, and not remain hard, or sad, or bitter at the unfairness in this world."

Starsky stared in open mouth wonder, as his own words were softly whispered back to him, watching as his partner's pale lashes dropped to hide the tears he held in check. He listened carefully to his partner's soft, gentle voice, hearing it quiver slightly as the blonde took a deep breath and continued.

"But what you don't know buddy, is that the cream needs the coffee too. Without the strong taste of the coffee, the cream would be too sweet to drink and left alone, it would curdle and rot. It would be worthless and unacceptable." Hutch lifted liquid eyes up to gaze at his partner, "You turn me into something better too, Starsk, when I'm with you. You fill my days with laughter and make me see the beauty in simple things that only children can see. With you, I'm able to see the light after a long day of darkness and my life is so much richer because you are in it."

Starsky closed his eyes, heavy dark lashes spiked with unshed tears. Hutch's frankness touched him deeply and he tried to get a hold of his emotions. The loss of Terry was too close to the surface and hearing the love in Hutch's soft voice pushed him over the edge. Warm, salty tears ran silently down his cheeks; as he felt Hutch's warm hand affectionately squeeze his shoulder in comfort, then pull his limp and willing body into a strong and compassionate embrace.

"It'll take time, but it's gonna be okay buddy... we're gonna be okay because it's still me and thee all the way. I'll always be here for you Starsk, just like you were there for me with Gillian. I know I can't even begin to compare the love you had for Terry to any of my relationships. Yours, was a special bonding of two perfect souls Starsk, you completed each other. I always knew Terry was special, but last night, I realized what an exceptional human being she was and how blessed and honored I was to have known her, no matter how brief our time together was." Hutch slowly released his partner when he felt Starsky gently pull away.

"Yeah," Starsky softly agreed, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, "I miss her Hutch," he said sadly. Grief filled eyes lifted to focus on his partner's face, and then it lowered to the package the blonde held carefully in his hand.

"I do too, buddy." Hutch's gentle voice soothed his friend's wounded heart. Hutch slowly handed the brown paper package to Starsky, who took it with one hand, the other still holding the mug of coffee. "I wanted to give you this last night Starsk," Hutch began, "But I think we had enough gifts for one night huh?"

"What is it?" Starsky asked quietly, eyeing the package he had put on his lap.

"Open it." Hutch suggested and he watched as Starsky took out the beautiful wooden frame from the brown paper that surrounded it.

Starsky stared at it, holding it up for a closer look. It was a picture of Terry and himself. "When did..." he began.

"It was taken at one of our basketball games with the kids," Hutch interjected, "I had it blown up and framed just before this nightmare happened."

Starsky gently rubbed his thumb over Terry's delicate features; the glass was smooth and cold under his fingers. "God Hutch, she was so beautiful, wasn't she?"

"Yeah buddy, inside and out." Hutch agreed. "Here," he said, taking the frame from Starsky's hand, standing it up on the side table next to the bed, "She'll always be here for you Starsk..."

"Yeah, I know," Starsky said softly, "It's what she told me, jus' before she... jus' before she died." There, he finally said it, and though it still filled his heart with incredible pain and emptiness, he could somehow accept it now, after last night. "She told me that if I closed my eyes and tried to remember her, she'd always be there for me, Hutch." He sighed softly and lowered his eyes to stare into the coffee mug in his hands, already becoming lukewarm. He turned to look at the picture frame once more.

"She may be physically gone Starsk, but I think we both felt her with us last night; helping us to heal and accept, and I think that's what she meant when she said that to you buddy. She loved you so much Starsk."

"Yeah," Starsky said quietly, as he continued to stare at the picture on the table next to him, "I loved her too, Hutch... still do, and always will." He took a sip of his coffee and put the mug next to the picture of Terry. "Every morning Hutch, I'm gonna sit right here and drink my coffee and cream with my little spoonful of sugar." He flashed a lopsided grin at his blonde partner and winked, feeling his spirits rise for the first time in many weeks.

"You do that partner, you do that!" Hutch smiled broadly, "But for now, you're gonna come with me into that kitchen and we're gonna eat a decent breakfast. How do scrambled eggs, pancakes and ham sound to you hmmm?" Hutch threw over his shoulder as he walked out of the bedroom.

"We got any pizza left from last night... huh? Blintz?" Starsky waited a moment for a reply and when none came, he quickly rolled out of bed, grabbed his mug of coffee and cream, and hurried to catch up with his blonde counterpart before he could throw the leftover pizza out. "Huuuuutch!"

"Love gives life to the lifeless... love gives hope to the hopeless... love brings joy to the sorrowful... so is love. Where there is love, there's always sunshine. Where there is love, nothing is too much trouble... and there's always time... to love!" (From the song, "Where There is Love.")