Staying Gold

This story was fondly written for Elisa. Hope this is what you had in mind when you gave me the idea, my friend. Thank you for always making me laugh!

He switched on the light and entered the apartment that he knew so well. He gently closed the door and stood in the middle of the spotless living room. It felt too quiet, empty somehow, barren and void of the one thing that made this place pulse with life.

The blonde curled his long, exhausted frame onto the sofa and dragged the crocheted quilt over his lap, rubbing the soft fiber of the yarn between his calloused fingers. It brought him comfort somehow, to be able to touch this simple belonging of his partners'. An item he often overlooked whenever he came over. The quiet emptiness of the room screamed loudly in his ears, as the blonde hung his head in abject isolation, Oh God Starsk, please don't leave me.

"C'mon Blondie, you gonna lounge around all day? Get up already would ya? If you like that quilt so much, I'll have my ma make you one just like it." Hutch snorted softly, almost seeing his cocky, self-assured, curly haired partner leaning against the doorframe of his bedroom, arms across his muscled chest, a lopsided grin pasted on his face. "Yeah buddy... okay " the weary blonde said to no one, as he hoisted himself up and dry washed his face. He had a job to do, a mission to accomplish.

He walked wearily into the bedroom and turned on the light. Opening his partner's closet, he quickly took out the large, black duffle bag and set it on the bed, unzipping the main compartment as he mentally checked off the things he needed to pack for Starsky. How long would his stay be this time? God, his heart had already stopped once... what if... what if... he didn't make it this time Hutch slammed that insipid, horrible thought down, refusing to acknowledge the sudden fear and desolation it drudged up from his broken, wounded heart, Oh God Starsk, please don't go where I can't follow... And yet, the blonde reluctantly mused, how could Starsky possibly survive? Four bullets... massive damage...

Hutch closed his eyes, dragging his hand through his fine, blonde hair, unable to prevent the image of his partner, lying so still against the wheel of the Torino, blood spilling out in an ever-widening pool. Four bullets from an automatic had ravaged across his partner's abdomen and chest. Starsky, trapped, unable to seek shelter, pressed against the sleek side of the Torino as the fiery, hot bullets burrowed their way into his body. Hutch, held down by the barrage of flying bullets was unable to stop the onslaught of the attack... unable to protect his partner and watch his back like Starsky expected him to, hearing the never-ending sound of glass shattering all around him.

Hutch sat abruptly on the edge of the bed, his long legs suddenly weak and rubbery, feeling himself shaking, trembling, as the unwanted image bombarded his being. "Starsk," he whispered quietly, clenching his hands together to still the uncontrollable tremors that vibrated throughout his limbs. The ensuing silence was almost palpable, mocking the blond in his wretched recollection, the heavy burden of guilt pressing him down, suffocating, crushing, impeding him from completing his task.

"Ya know buddy, you're the only one I know who could write a book on how to trip over 'it'... I got the title made up for ya already... 'Guilt trips for Dummies'... you'd be famous Hutch... will ya c'mon already? I'm waitin' for ya." The tall blonde exhaled softly, his heart slowing down its rapid beat, almost hearing the soothing drawl of his partner's voice in his ear as he stood and walked to the bathroom to collect Starsky's toiletries. He grabbed his partner's bathrobe from the hook behind the door and he quickly gathered his partner's shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush and comb, and then glanced at his image in the mirror above the basin. Hutch was shocked to see his appearance; deep dark circles smudged the area under his bloodshot, blue eyes. His skin looked almost pale, translucent in the bright light from the overhead fixtures. Hutch dragged his fingers through his blond locks, self-conscious about his haggard looks.

He opened the medicine cabinet and saw the expensive bottle of sandalwood cologne that his partner liberally doused himself with each morning. He smiled gently, softly chiding himself as he reached for the cap, but he couldn't resist opening the bottle to sniff that familiar essence. A flood of memories bombarded the blonde as the musky smell permeated the small bathroom. He closed his eyes and remembered the firm embrace, the warmth and the safety of being ensconced in his partner's arms when the world crashed around him, when pain and hurt was all he knew... like the pain he suffered from the heroin withdrawal or the loss of his beloved Gillian.

Thoughts of her rose unbidden behind the lids of his eyes and the pain he thought long buried, surfaced once again. "Gillian," the blonde whispered softly, his mind racing back to the night he had found her lying dead in her apartment. "C'mon, what are ya gonna do... do you want to hit me again? She was a prostitute... and there's nothing you can do, or say, that's gonna change that fact... or the fact that she loved you... and she was gonna give all this up just for you. Hey... how many years we've known each other huh? You're the best friend I've got in the whole world. You think I like sayin' things like this to ya?" Hutch rubbed his watery eyes as his partner's honest words rang in his ears, remembering how he felt in his partner's strong embrace, as his body was wracked with hurtful sobs, "It's okay... it's gonna be okay... get it out boy... we've got some work to do." Hutch gently closed the bottle and returned it to its place on the cabinet shelf. If it weren't for his partner, the tall blonde knew he would have never made it during those valleys in his life, when all he saw was bleakness and despair.

"Aw, Starsk" the tall blonde whispered as he closed the medicine cabinet, taking the few things he gathered into the bedroom to stuff into the waiting bag. Hutch turned towards the dresser drawers to grab some clean underwear, a pair of pajamas, and then turned to where Starsky kept his many assorted tee shirts.

He carefully opened the top middle drawer and smiled, shaking his head as he held up several shirts of his own that were missing for some time now. "Should've known, buddy," the blonde said smiling. He pulled up a red sweater from the bottom of the drawer and a small book clattered to the ground. Hutch reached down and picked it up, "A Thousand and One Ways to Win Monopoly," he read aloud. A soft, gentle smile appeared on the blonde's face as he looked to the sweater he held in his other hand. It was the red sweater they sometimes shared, but Hutch hadn't seen it since the night Starsky had worn it. A night filled with sad memories of a spunky teacher who had touched both their hearts. A night of candlelight and beer, of laughter and tears, of a worn and ratty teddy bear named Ollie, and this book he held in his hand.

He shifted the book and a sheet of paper fell out, floating gently to the carpet at his feet. The tall blonde stooped over to retrieve it and was surprised to see that it was a poem. "Nothing Gold Can Stay" was scrawled across the top of the paper in his partner's messy handwriting. Hutch knew it was a poem written by Robert Frost, he had read it himself in the literature classes he had attended in college, but to see it hidden away in this small book caused the blonde to pause. He quickly read over the words of the short poem, rubbing his thumb over the familiar handwriting. To know that his partner was reading classical poetry like this astounded the blonde to say the least. "I don't know why this should surprise me buddy," Hutch thought fondly, "You never cease to amaze me!"

The tall blonde snorted softly to himself, re-reading the poem out loud this time. "Nature's first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold..." His voice grew softer as it reached the end of the poem, "So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay." The blonde frowned as melancholy thoughts flitted across his mind. At first, he had assumed that the brunet likened this poem to his relationship with Terry, but after reading it again he realized he could also apply it to his own relationship with Starsky.

He fondly remembered their 'green' days at the Academy, how they met and struggled with their differences for a while, but they built their relationship into something special and treasured. Something people envied. "Something Gold." Hutch said softly to himself. They were two halves of the same soul, able to almost read each other's thoughts before words were ever spoken. They were almost inseparable at times, brothers, though not by blood, willing to sacrifice everything for the other... even their lives. Joyful, 'golden' memories danced across the blonde's mind as he remembered all the times they'd spent together in the past, laughing, singing, joking around; and yet, things were different now. Something had changed between them; the 'gold' in their relationship had been tarnished.

Hutch thought back on how he used to be and he knew that he had changed over the years. He frowned, deepening the furrow between his pale brows, What was it that Simon Marcus once called me? Oh yeah, the White Knight. Well, I'm certainly not that anymore, the tall blond scoffed softly. Somehow he had lost his idealistic view on life, had grown disillusioned and dismayed with his job, with his inability to make a difference, his gentle poet's heart growing hard and embittered with the things he saw daily on the streets, and the dismal circumstances in his life. And who did I take this out on? the blonde mentally berated himself, On my partner -- that's who!

Hutch hung his head in shame, seeing in his mind's eye, his partner's ocean blue eyes smoldering with anger and repressed hurt as he walked out of Kira's house. Starsky, ever faithful, ever trusting, ready to defend his friends, to watch their backs and protect them even at the expense of his own life. How could he have done that to his best friend, the only one who believed in him, who trusted him, who encouraged and supported him. Oh God, Starsk... what was I thinking? What have I done? And now, with the possibility of losing his buddy forever... Hutch clenched his fist as anger and frustration took hold, the fragile paper crushing in his grasp. He hung his head as remorseful tears swam in his pale blue eyes. Hutch took a deep cleansing breath, dragging the back of his palm against his stinging eyes. He looked at the paper in his hand and unclenched his fist, slowly opening and smoothing the crinkles on the parchment. He read through the eight short lines of the poem again, reading the last two out loud; his voice soft and quivering, "So dawn goes down to day... nothing gold can stay."

Hutch closed his eyes, pale lashes hiding the anguish swimming in its blue depths. He remembered himself as a youngster, so naive and full of wonder, exploring nature and her beauty, as he visited his grandfather on his farm in Minnesota. There was one memory in particular that he always held close to his heart, in fact, he had never spoken of it with anyone, not even Starsky. His exhausted mind drifted back in time, and he saw himself as a lad, sitting on top a hillside in the pre-dawn hours with his grandfather.

"Yup Kenny, you just sit still and Pappy will show ya something wonderful, and when it happens, you hold your breath and you remember this time always." Grandpa said as he blew smoke from his pipe. They sat side by side in the gray darkness of pre-dawn; the young boy rubbed the sleep from his eyes and the chill from his arms. The golden haired youth looked up at the old man; love radiating out of his sky blue eyes. His Pappy always made him feel special, one of a kind, something he never quite felt when he was at home with his parents.

It was sometimes hard to believe that this jovial gray haired man was the papa of the stern, domineering man whom Kenny called 'Father' at home. They were like night and day, opposite branches from the same tree, where one was warm and loving, the other was cold and distant, where one was kind and forgiving, the other was hard and unrelenting.

The old man looked down at his grandson and smiled broadly, "You cold there boy?" he asked, bundling his large flannel shirt around the thin lad's shoulders. The gray haired man tousled his grandson's fine mop of golden locks, loving the sensitive lad with his whole being, "There... that'll hold ya," he said kindly, taking a puff on his pipe while he sat back to watch the rising of the sun. Kenny huddled closer to his grandfather and looked in the direction in which he pointed; "Now keep your eyes locked over yonder... she'll be coming up over there."

They watched together as the gray wisps of night dissipated into golden radiant hues of light. There was a stillness in the air, an awakening, a magical moment, a time where only a few ever witnessed its glorious arrival. Kenny watched as the sky lit up, bathed in hues of pinks and orange and gold. The young lad held his breath and watched as the morning sun demurely made her appearance, rising slowly to the twittering applause of the forest birds as she smiled her nurturing, golden warmth to one and all.

Kenny slowly let out his breath, not even aware he had held it; his sky blue eyes round with wonder. "Pappy, that was... that was b-beautiful," the young boy stammered, raising his eyes to the wrinkled, smiling face of his grandfather.

"You remember that, y'hear me boy?" Pappy said kindly, "Not many people ever take the time to witness that glorious sight, that enchanted moment when everything is gold."

The young boy watched as a sudden glimpse of sadness appeared in his grandfather's eyes and he slowly stuck his cold, small hand into the larger, warmer one of his grandfather's.

He watched as Pappy took a deep puff of his pipe, as his gravely voice rambled on, "All too soon boy, the magic is lost as day begins... people are just too busy, going about their business, worrying about this or that, letting life get to 'em. Pretty soon, life's just run 'em over and they don't know what even hit 'em. They look around and scratch their heads and stare at themselves in the mirror and they don't even know who they are anymore. It's a shame boy, but it happens all the time. And the worse of the lot, are the people who turn nasty and mean." At this last statement, Pappy looked down at the small hand he held, his eyes were sad, defeated. The young boy wondered if his Pappy was thinking about his own son, so lost in his world of corporate law and social climbing.

The little boy watched as his Pappy took a deep breath in and put a smile on his face. "Yup Kenny," the old man said at last, "You stay gold y'hear? Stay gold. It's those few people who've learned how stay gold that make life worth livin'. You find those people Kenny, surround yourself with 'em and always remember this moment."

Hutch sighed deeply. He'd forgotten. He looked up into the large mirror hanging over his friend's dresser drawers and took a long hard look at himself. Had life run him over? Had he become one of those hardened, nasty people Pappy was trying to warn him about? Hutch slipped the paper back into the book and replaced it at the bottom of the drawer, closing it gently. He took the gathered items and packed them into the duffle bag, zipping it closed.

You stay gold y'hear? Stay gold. He could hear the gravely voice of his grandfather echoing in the stillness of Starsky's bedroom. Starsky. His curly haired friend was the nearest thing to gold that Hutch knew of. Despite the youthful hardships the brunet lived through, he had still managed to keep his almost childlike enthusiasm for simple things like Christmas, guinea pigs and pet rocks; his demeanor was one that was always filled with hopeful optimism, even though he too, witnessed the same dark and ugly things on the street that Hutch did.

God buddy, you're one of those few people who's learned how to stay gold, Hutch thought silently, awed by the realization and humbled by that fact. He slowly walked back to the mirror and gave himself the once over. "And look at me," he whispered softly to the empty room, "I've become like my father." Hutch shuddered at that thought, and looked himself in the eye, "But not any more! Things are going to change around here," he said determinedly, raising his Hutchinson's finger to himself in the mirror. "Y'hear me, boy? Things are going to change... I'm going to stay gold and make it up to Starsk for all the heartache and hurt I've caused him." Please God, let him pull through this, let me have the chance to make it up to him... he prayed silently, cleansing tears filling his eyes, washing the bitterness and frustration from his heart, filling it with the gentle, golden compassion he was always known for. He felt renewed, rejuvenated, cleansed and whole, and he watched as a genuine smile lit up his features. He could almost hear his partner's soft drawl, "Had enough soap Blondie... hmmm?" He smiled softly to himself as thoughts of his partner filled his mind.

"Hutch? You in hea? What is takin' you so long huh? Huggy's slightly irritated voice rang out from the living room. "I've been waitin' so long, my ass has grown roots!"

Huggy. He'd forgotten all about his waiting friend. Dobey had asked Huggy to drive, worried about Hutch's state of mind. Hutch knew his softhearted Captain had sent them on this errand so that he could have something to do. Sitting at Starsky's bedside with nothing but his own thoughts, were eating away at his soul.

Hutch snorted softly and looked at himself in the mirror again. His reflection looked different somehow... settled, resolved... at peace for the first time, in a long time. He looked almost younger... 'golden' almost. He knew what he had to do and God willing, he would do it. Some things can stay gold... like his relationship with his best friend.

"Don't tell me the man has no clean underwear lyin' around," The skinny black man said as he poked his head into the bedroom doorway. "Hey... you okay Hutch?" The dark man's large, chocolate brown eyes perceptively looked over the tall blonde, "You look different somehow... mellow like... man Hutch, you been messin' with curly's liquor cabinet?"

Hutch laughed, a huge grin on his face as he put the duffle bag under his arm. "I'm all ready to go Hug," he said fondly, wrapping his free arm around the tall lanky black man, "Just needed to find the soap." The two men shut off the lights, locked up and left.

~ finis ~