Echoes of the Past, Part One
by Candy Apple

SHSVS, Episode 7
Part 3

Back to Part 2

"Then you'd best do it, because we're taking Danny into custody now," Hutch stated. "If you don't want to go get him, we will."

"You're going to pay for this! You haven't seen a lawsuit until you see what kind of charges I'll bring against the police for what you're doing to my son!"

"I'll get him," Mrs. Sternowski said softly, much to the horror of her daughter. "Right this way," she said to Miss Hernandez, who followed her.

"I want to go with him," Mrs. Jenkins said firmly. "You can't take him out of here, away from me, and not scare him to death."

"You can ride with him in Miss Hernandez's car."

"Why can't you just accept my confession?" she asked, her voice carrying a more desperate quality now. "You have a killer. Lock me up but leave him alone! He's just a child!"

"He's a child who committed a murder," Starsky responded. "He may have had some understandable reasons for doing what he did...we don't know all that yet--the investigation is still underway. But hiding what he did...that's not going to do him any good in the long run."

"Neither will going to jail! He's a child!"

"We don't put nine-year-olds in adult prisons, ma'am," Hutch said. "What ultimately happens with Danny's case will be up to the DA and the judge. Our job is bringing him in and presenting the evidence we have. I can tell you that destroying a child is never the goal in arresting one."

Mrs. Sternowski came down the steps hand in hand with her grandson, the social worker behind them. As soon as they were at the bottom of the stairs, the child rushed to his mother and held on tightly.

"I don't wanna go, Mom. Don't make me go!"

"We have to go, honey," she said, holding the boy close. "Mom's riding with you. We're going to go with Miss Hernandez and answer some questions. Everything will be okay."

"Hey, uh, maybe he'd like riding in the squad car better," Starsky suggested. "What do you think, Danny?" He crouched down low near the child, who eyed him suspiciously from his haven against his mother. "You ever see the inside of a real police car?" Starsky waited while the boy shook his head. "I know those two guys pretty well out there. I bet I could talk 'em into lettin' you turn on the lights and the siren for our ride downtown. Whaddya think, huh? Beats riding in a boring old car, doesn't it?" That drew a nod. "Is it okay if Mom rides with us?"

"Am I going to jail?" he asked directly.

"We don't put kids in jail, Danny. But you might have to stay somewhere besides home for a while. That's not up to us," Hutch spoke up, sensing that though he was young, Danny Jenkins was a bright child. He might be momentarily enthralled with the prospect of the inside of a squad car, but he was nobody's fool, and he'd grown up way too fast.

"I told him not to hurt my mom anymore, but he didn't listen," Danny stated, and Kay Jenkins covered her mouth, tears trailing down her cheeks as her other hand caressed her son's hair.

"Danny, no, don't say anymore, honey," she advised.

"I was gonna tell 'em anyway, because they were gonna put you in jail. I heard you and Grandma talking. Remember when I blamed Sally for breaking your blue lamp?"

"What?" The woman looked positively puzzled a moment, then memory dawned. "Y-yes," she said, nodding, though still confused.

"You said you weren't punishing me for breaking your lamp--that I was getting punished for lying and making Sally take the blame. You said you're supposed to tell the truth when you do something wrong so other people don't get blamed."

"Oh, Danny," she sobbed, pulling the boy into an embrace.

Hutch lay staring at the ceiling, listening to the rain beating out a steady rhythm on the roof and the windows. The thunder and lightning were putting on quite a show, full of sound and fury, but through it all, Starsky slept soundly in his arms, only stirring a little at the loudest claps of thunder.

Their lovemaking had consisted of nothing more exotic than some humping and a shared hand job. Starsky had refused to relinquish full body contact long enough for anything more complex. Even now, he clung to Hutch like a lifeline, his face partially hidden against Hutch's neck, warm breath dancing over Hutch's collarbone with each exhalation.

His mind traveled back to that day in the back of the truck when he'd passed a few hours with Joe Durniak--an unnervingly likable man who probably had been responsible for as many people getting knocked off as some of the most notorious serial killers. Still, Durniak had that easy-going personality and a knack for storytelling in that gravelly voice of his that made it nearly impossible not to like him. Most of what Durniak shared with him were tales of the old days. Of running his territory in New York with a code of honor that the new guys just didn't understand. All he'd said about Mike Starsky was that he was a damn good cop who knew how to keep the peace in his district. He'd actually said very little about his connection to the Starskys, or why he'd paid for the funeral. Ironic that Starsky had made the arrangements for Durniak's. He and Starsky had been the lone mourners at the ceremony, since Durniak had sold out most of his cohorts and had no surviving family. Though the dead man's estate covered most of the expenses, Starsky paid for the spray of flowers on the casket himself. It all had a certain sad irony to it, a sense of coming full circle.

Still, Durniak had looked distinctly uncomfortable talking about Starsky's father, and Hutch never forgot the somewhat disconcerted look on Starsky's face when Durniak insisted Hutch ride in back with him. He'd spent a number of sleepless nights trying to imagine what it was he didn't know. He wondered now if Durniak knew about the abuse. If his glowing testimonial about the elder Starsky was merely an attempt to honor the family's almost obsessive desire to hide their dirty laundry. Hutch had felt uncomfortable with the odd eye-play between Starsky and Durniak, as if there was so much left unsaid beneath the surface....

"It's getting deeper," a sleepy voice said as one finger came up to trace the worry line between Hutch's eyebrows. Hutch caught the hand and kissed the fingertip.

"Just thinking."

"Supposed to be sleepin'," Starsky countered, yawning. "What's wrong? Back botherin' you lyin' flat?"

"Yeah, I probably better move," Hutch said, figuring blaming his cranky back was easier than opening up an uncomfortable conversation. Starsky kissed his neck and turned over on his side, which gave Hutch the attractive option of spooning around him. He did so quickly, savoring the physical connection.

"Better?"

"Terrific," Hutch said, kissing Starsky's shoulder.

"'Kay then, go t'sleep," Starsky mumbled, and within moments, he was snoring softly.

Hutch lay there holding Starsky's warm body close, figuring his worry line wasn't getting much of a break. Sleep was elusive, and too many questions plagued his detective's brain. He wondered how many answers Starsky had and hated that, for the first time in their lives, he just wasn't positive how open his partner was being. Though that thought plagued him uncomfortably as he drifted into a restless sleep, he found it impossible to be annoyed or angry with Starsky. He'd suffered more than enough for the sins of his father, and Hutch was not about to exact any more suffering from him for trying to keep them hidden.

With Kay Jenkins, her attorney and Miss Hernandez present, Danny Jenkins made a full confession to Starsky and Hutch two days after his arrest. After lengthy discussion between the DA, the family's attorney and Child Welfare, the decision was reached that Danny would confess to the killing. Consequently, he would be placed in a facility for emotionally disturbed children until it was determined that he was not a threat to himself or others, and that he had received proper counseling for the trauma he had suffered--not only from the shooting itself but from the abuse which led to it.

"I heard my mom crying, and I knew Dad was hitting her," Danny began, his calm demeanor somewhat unsettling. His psychological evaluation had revealed that he had an above normal IQ for a child his age, and his articulate speech was clear evidence of that. "I tried to stop him before, but I wasn't big enough to do any good," he said, pausing.

Hutch glanced at Starsky, who was also seated at the conference table. His folded hands rested on the surface of the table and his eyes were closed. He'd insisted on being part of this session, but Hutch couldn't help but wonder what value there was in it.

"What did you do next?" Hutch prodded gently.

"I went to the gun cabinet and got the rifle. My dad taught me how to load it and shoot it. He never would let me quit practicing my shooting until I could hit the center of the target," he added. "We used to practice out behind Grandpa's house."

"My in-laws have a farm with some acreage," Kay Jenkins clarified quietly.

"I was thinking I'd just scare him...make him think I was gonna shoot. I thought maybe it would make him leave Mom alone. When I was up in the hall, Sally came out of her room, and I told her to go back to bed or I'd tell. She was afraid of that, so she went back in her room and closed the door. I didn't want her to follow me downstairs."

"What happened when you got downstairs?"

"Dad was yelling at Mom, hitting her, and she was crying and she couldn't get up--she was on the floor, and when she tried to get up, he hit her again. I told him to stop it, to leave her alone."

"Did he listen?" Hutch asked, shooting a look at Starsky out of the corner of his eye. The knuckles of the clenched hands were turning white.

"Sort of. He stopped, and then he started coming after me. That's when I shot him. The gun kinda went up 'cause I didn't have time to aim it and hold it just like he showed me."

"What did you do then?"

"My mom was screaming, and she went over to look at my dad. I went upstairs to make sure Sally stayed in bed, and then the police got there."

"I knew Andy was dead the minute he fell," Mrs. Jenkins spoke up, "and when Danny ran out of the room and went upstairs, I wiped off the gun and picked it up myself. Lying was never Danny's idea. I didn't want him going to some home somewhere," she said, her voice breaking. "He did it for me."

When Hutch stole a glance over at Starsky, he was rubbing the bridge of his nose, his Adam's apple bobbing a couple of times.

"Are you okay?" Hutch asked, finally unable to leave the subject unexplored any longer. Starsky hadn't uttered a word since they'd signed out for the day and gotten into the car.

"Yeah, just tired."

"Your place or mine?" Hutch asked, trying to put a little levity into his voice.

"Yours," Starsky responded, his tone much more serious. "I don't think I can call Ma tonight." Starsky referred to his weekly telephone call to his mother. It was Friday night, and she'd be expecting it. "Could you call her...say something?"

"Will she worry too much if I say you're sick?"

"Not if you make it somethin' simple. Bad cold and I lost my voice, somethin' like that."

"Okay." Hutch didn't ask any more questions. It was Starsky who broke the silence again.

"He did the right thing," he said quietly. Hutch had to process that thought a moment before he fully realized what his partner was talking about.

"Danny?"

"He did it right. He took care of his mother. She's never gonna have to be afraid of that son-of-a-bitch again." Starsky let out a shaky sigh. "Me? I cut and ran. I left her there with him. Came out here and started over."

"Starsky, for God's sake, you were nine. You didn't have a choice!"

"I don't know how many times he hit her after I left." Starsky leaned an elbow on the car door, his forehead resting against his hand. "I wasn't there for her."

"You didn't make the decision to move. Your mother did."

"In my head, I know that." Starsky swallowed, then covered his heart with his hand. "In here, it feels wrong. Like I let her down. Like I should've known how to fix things. Here's this little kid the same age as me, and he took care of his mother."

"He still killed a man to do it."

"I know."

"There's no good ending for a situation like that unless it's intervention from the outside--help. A woman can only protect her children so much, and a child can only do so much to help his mother. Without someone helping...the family's bound to...implode. Just like yours, just like the Jenkins family, just like God knows how many other families all over the world."

"There's part'a me that knows that what this kid did was wrong. Shouldn't'a happened. I know I couldn't'a done it...at least, I don't think I could've. I don't think I could'a aimed at my father and...and pulled the trigger. This other part'a me thinks it's just as wrong for that jerk to be beatin' on his wife and that he got what he had coming."

"Danny's just a child. He'll get therapy, counseling...hopefully he'll get past this and be able to get on with his life someday." Hutch shook his head. "I don't know if he was right or wrong. I know when people take the law into their own hands, you've got chaos. I guess that means we have a stance we have to take." Hutch paused. "We've got the record of the domestic disturbance calls at that address. The guy was a real bastard. That's no surprise. Did he deserve what he got? Probably. But God help us if all the domestic violence victims in Bay City start firing shots at their abusers. Kay Jenkins never pressed charges. Not once. The system never had a chance to work because she never tried it."

"At least she had some options. Back in the fifties, a woman with two kids...married to a cop? A cop with a good reputation? If she'd made a call to the cops, they'd have laughed it off, sided with my dad, and that would've been the end of it. She knew it, too. Ma's always been pretty shrewd about stuff like that. Knowing what her options were."

"Yeah, well, Kay Jenkins had a lot more chances to change things for herself and her kids, and she didn't even try. She never tried leaving the guy, she never tried pressing charges, and she never tried getting her kids out of there. Your mother may not have had many choices, but she made the most of the ones she had. She got you out alive, and she kept Nick pretty safe, apparently."

"Nick wasn't even six years old when our father died. And he obeyed Ma and stayed upstairs, I guess. He never knew the real truth and he never wants to. So I gave up on telling him."

"Best I've got in the refrigerator are some eggs."

"Rainy night and eggs for dinner. You got the feelin' we've done all'a this before?" Starsky asked, one side of his mouth tugging upward in a grin.

"At least this time you're not fighting me."

"I didn't say that. We could order a pizza," Starsky countered as they got out of the car and sprinted toward Venice Place, trying to avoid getting soaked to the skin.

Once they were inside, Hutch turned on the lights and went to the kitchen to look in the refrigerator. As he'd predicted, the only fresh thing in sight was half a carton of eggs.

"I've got cheese, ham and onion," Hutch offered, checking out the rest of his supplies. "Huevos rancheros de Hutchinson. How about it?"

"Ham and cheese, huh?" Starsky thought on that for a minute. "Okay."

"Wash up and start dicing." Hutch put the meat, cheese and half an onion on the counter. There was something comforting and cozy about the ritual of preparing the meal together. Maybe Hutch found he felt a need for domestic peace in the midst of all the domestic violence they were facing.

Starsky washed his hands and started dutifully chopping onions, because he seemed better able to do it without tearing up than Hutch could. Hutch watched his lover working and got caught, earning him a sweet, slightly smug smile from Starsky. Despite his temper, despite his capacity to throw the fear of God into a perp at a moment's notice, Starsky was remarkably gentle. Even though theirs was a partnership of equals, he took care of Hutch and protected him solicitously whenever the chance arose--even if it was merely from the perils of chopping an onion. Hutch found himself unspeakably grateful to Rose and Al for the loving home they'd provided, and for the example they'd given Starsky. And to Rachel Starsky, for loving her son enough to do what was best for him, despite the fact that it had to be akin to cutting out her own heart.

"I should call your mother," Hutch said quietly. "You sure you don't want to talk to her?"

"Find out when she'll be home next week. I'll call her an extra time, before the usual Friday call. I just...I just don't want to talk with her tonight. She's gonna know something's up, and I don't want to get into this with her. Not now. She's happy, got a good life. I don't want to take her down a lot of old roads."

"Don't you think she goes down those roads plenty on her own, babe?" Hutch asked, resting a hand on Starsky's back.

"Yeah, but she's pretty good about movin' on." Starsky smiled, then shooed Hutch away. "Better get away from the onion, baby blue. Go call Ma. She likes talkin' to you anyway."

"Okay." Hutch patted Starsky's back and went into the living room to call Rachel Starsky and craft an excuse for his partner.

Once Hutch had given his partner a re-cap of his conversation with Rachel Starsky, the remainder of dinner was eaten in comfortable silence. Dishes were cleared away and rinsed off with the exchange of just a few routine words. Once they were heading for the living room, Starsky spoke up as he landed on the couch.

"Ma sound okay?"

"Yeah, she sounded fine."

"You think she believed that I was sick?"

"She believed it."

"I hate lyin' to her. Don't think I've done it more than once or twice in my whole life."

"Just as well to wait to talk to her until you feel like it. She'd just worry more if she knew you were having a hard time with this."

"I s'pose." Starsky turned on the TV with the remote control. "I gotta get one'a these," he commented, settling back into the cushions. Hutch's old set had finally died a natural death, and he'd decided to upgrade to a remote control model when faced with buying a new one. Truth be told, Starsky had decided he needed a remote control, and since it was rare for Hutch to spend an evening on the couch without his other half nearby, he'd caved in fairly easily.

"Maybe for Hanukkah, if you're a good boy," Hutch joked, sitting down next to Starsky, running his arm behind him on the couch and slumping down a bit.

"I'm always a good boy," Starsky said, looking up at Hutch with a devilish grin.

"Give me that." Hutch took the remote and turned it off.

"Hey--that looked like a good show."

"Shut up." Hutch covered the protesting mouth with his own, and within moments, the lips beneath his relaxed and became pliant and welcoming. Pulling Starsky into his arms, he relaxed into exploring that warm, responsive mouth, one hand cupping the back of Starsky's head, the other arm winding around him. "I love you," he said against Starsky's mouth, smiling as Starsky did.

"Sometimes I want to make time stand still, y'know? It goes by too fast," Starsky said, reaching up to stroke Hutch's cheek lightly. "One lifetime isn't long enough."

"Guess you'll just have to clean up your act so you can follow me into Heaven," Hutch teased, kissing Starsky playfully, smiling and waiting for the indignant response.

"You're the one corrupting me and making me do unnatural things," Starsky teased, one hand moving down to cup the bulge in Hutch's jeans.

"That's me. Corruptor of the virtuous, defiler of virgins."

"Yeah, well, this defiled virgin ain't complainin', babe," Starsky responded, pulling Hutch with him until they were stretched out on the couch, Starsky somewhat squished against the back of it, with Hutch's longer body blanketing him.

"I seem to remember you doing a little defiling of your own," Hutch said, nipping at Starsky's earlobe.

"Had t'even the score, didn't I?" Starsky claimed a long kiss.

"We're keeping score now?" Hutch nuzzled Starsky's neck until he found a perfect spot to do his devilish business. He began working on a large passion mark, waiting for Starsky to give that little telltale undulation from beneath him, that gave away just how much he liked the hot suction on the tender skin of his neck. Starsky's hands grasped Hutch's shirt and pulled it out of his jeans, then began fumbling with the buttons.

"Somebody's in a hurry," Hutch whispered hotly against Starsky's ear, darting his tongue into it briefly.

"Oh, God."

"Not quite. Just me, love," Hutch responded, the gentleness of his tone reclaiming their earlier romantic mood.

"Just you. Just everything that matters," Starsky said, sliding both hands into Hutch's hair and drawing him down for a demanding kiss. "Want you so bad, Hutch," he muttered before another breath-stealing kiss.

"Maybe we ought to move to the bed, huh?" Hutch suggested, recalling that their last night of passion on the couch had ended with Starsky's ass getting more intimate with the coffee table than it did with Hutch, as he'd slid off the couch and bruised his butt on it before hitting the floor. Hutch had lost count of how many times he'd been called on to kiss that particular "boo-boo", and how many times he'd willingly complied. Still, a large, soft bed beat a narrow, lumpy couch any day.

They got up off the couch and moved about the apartment, turning off lights until they met again by the bed. The rain had subsided, and the moonlight was casting a silvery glow on the greenhouse and filtering through to the sleeping alcove. Starsky turned away a moment, tuning the little radio on the nightstand until he found an easy listening station. The soft instrumental strains from the tiny speaker wafted around them as they slowly undressed each other, worshiping each bit of revealed flesh with hands and mouths, making love as if they'd never made love before.

When both were naked, they pushed the covers back and lay on the bed.

"I wanna love all of you, babe," Starsky whispered against Hutch's mouth before moving down to the semi-erect cock where it rose from its nest of gold curls. "Love you, Blondie," Starsky said with a grin, kissing Hutch's thigh. Then, without further preliminaries, he engulfed the head of Hutch's cock in his mouth, one hand wrapping around the base while the other gently cupped and rolled the heavy sac beneath it.

Hutch let his head drop back on the softness of the pillow, moaning in pleasure as Starsky's talented mouth teased and pleasured him, his tongue at first dancing tantalizingly over the slit before moving down to take more of Hutch into his mouth. Grabbing fistfuls of the sheets, Hutch willed himself not to thrust upward too much. Starsky slid a hand beneath him and kneaded a buttock firmly.

"Ooh, yeah, babe, that's it...." Hutch murmured, finding himself moving with the motion of Starsky's mouth. The questing hand on his buttock moved lower, finding the valley there, a finger dancing over his center, probing until it lingered there and just rubbed at the wrinkled skin. "God, Starsk, more...." Hutch was trying to bear down on the finger at the same time he moved up into Starsky's mouth.

Unexpectedly, Starsky slowly withdrew, then moved up to whisper in Hutch's ear.

"You're gonna come while I'm inside you, babe." Then he moved in for a kiss, and Hutch pulled him tightly into his arms. When they parted, Starsky was smiling. "Guess that means you like the idea?" he teased, grinning and kissing Hutch again quickly before moving away to find the lube. Hutch took that opportunity to move up on all fours. "Talk about a room with a view," he quipped, kissing one exposed butt cheek before approaching the tight opening with a coated finger.

For as teasing and passionate as he could be, Starsky never rushed this part of the process. He carefully stretched and lubricated Hutch, stroking his hip and thigh, planting little kisses down his spine until he concentrated his efforts with those hot, moist lips on the soft skin of the pale, firm but fleshy buttocks.

Hutch moaned and whimpered at the stimulation, so much and yet so little where he felt the need the most. His straining cock was deliberately neglected--Starsky knew he was close, and he was determined they were going to come together.

Just when he thought he could take no more preliminaries, Starsky withdrew the stretching fingers, and Hutch could feel the motion behind him as his lover prepared himself. Then, a moment later, a blunt slickness was rubbing against his sensitized opening, then easing past the initial resistance.

Hutch exhaled and concentrated on relaxing. Starsky would never push until he knew Hutch was ready, and that peace of mind made relaxing for the penetration much easier. Starsky was moving in now, slowly and steadily, until they were fully joined.

"Wish I could get inside you and stay there forever," Starsky whispered against his back, kissing the soft skin there. "God, I love you, babe."

"You are inside me forever, Starsk. Always have been."

Starsky didn't have an answer for that. Instead, he reached down and gently massaged the neglected cock as he began to move slowly in and out of the slick passage.

"Come on, babe, let's move," Hutch urged, grabbing the brass headboard and thrusting back against his partner. He knew Starsky would take the counter-thrust as the playful, passionate challenge it was.

Taking his cue from Hutch, Starsky began moving more rapidly, going deeper, the bed rocking with their motion, their combined moans and grunts of pleasure drowning out the radio.

"Yeah, that's it," Hutch managed. "Harder."

With a groan, Starsky complied, angling his strokes to graze against Hutch's prostate, dragging shouts of pleasure from the pit of his soul. He could feel his body seizing up for release just as Starsky's moves became more erratic and frenzied. They came together, incoherent cries mingling until neither knew their origins.

Hutch slumped down flat on the bed, Starsky lying on his back, making a feeble effort to kiss his shoulder, tired fingers pulling damp blond hair back from his face. Warm lips found his cheek then, and he couldn't help but smile as Starsky's cheek rested against his own.

"Mmm," Starsky purred, nuzzling Hutch's cheek.

"That was good, babe," Hutch managed, stifling a yawn.

"Just 'good'?" Starsky prodded.

"Phenomenal. That better?"

"Yeah, that's more like it." Starsky moved enough to ease out of Hutch. "C'mere, Blintz." Starsky was on his side, and Hutch shifted to face him, accepting the waiting kiss and settling into Starsky's arms.

"Shit."

"What?" Starsky frowned, opening bleary eyes that were ready for sleep.

"I'm in the wet spot."

"It's your wet spot," Starsky countered.

"It's your fault I made one," Hutch shot back, and Starsky snorted something that resembled a laugh.

"Can't argue with that logic." Starsky hauled himself out of bed and staggered to the bathroom, finding a couple of towels. "Raise up." He stuck a bath towel over the offending spot. The other towel they used to clean themselves off.

"I suppose a washcloth would have been asking too much."

"It won't kill ya to be a little sticky," Starsky replied, yawning and settling back into bed.

"You're too good to me," Hutch shot back sarcastically.

"You want a washcloth, babe?" Starsky seemed to be rallying a little more now, and Hutch really didn't want to see him lose the lassitude of their lovemaking. He'd had a hellish few days, and if he was boneless and relaxed, Hutch wanted him to stay that way.

"Go to sleep, buddy. I'm fine." Hutch let Starsky quiet down, the two of them nestling together in each other's arms, before adding, "It's your belly hair tonight, but it'll be mine in the morning."

"Enjoy it," Starsky mumbled through a yawn, cuddling close to Hutch. "Love ya."

"Love you, too, babe." Hutch smiled and let himself drift.

Hutch was reluctant to give up on sleep. He was warm, comfortable and relaxed...and Starsky-less. He pawed the sheets nearby, but the familiar form he was used to finding under his questing hand wasn't there. He heard music, and since he was somewhat discontented without his partner in his arms, he finally opened his eyes and confronted the new day. The music was coming from the little radio on the nightstand and Starsky was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed in his favorite blue robe.

"I was hopin' you'd wake up pretty soon, Blondie," Starsky punctuated the love name by lifting a few stray strands of blond hair off Hutch's forehead. "Man, you sure are somethin'." There was so much love in the look Starsky was giving him that Hutch felt his breath catch in his throat when he met his lover's eyes. "Last night was really magical."

"It always is," Hutch responded, smiling and catching the hand that was in his hair, kissing it. "What're you doing up so early?"

"I dunno. Something woke me up and then I got thinking and couldn't go back to sleep."

"Case bothering you?" Hutch asked unnecessarily. He knew what was on Starsky's mind, enough so that he'd wriggled out of his usual phone conversation with his mother.

"Just a bunch of stuff I can't get out of my head." Starsky swallowed. "It's so stupid how you can go for years and not think so much about something, and then you get thinking about it again, and it won't go away."

"Pretty understandable how this case would get to you, buddy." Hutch slid up into a sitting position.

"Feelin' okay?" Starsky asked, concerned.

"I'm fine, babe. I know you were in there, but I'm fine," Hutch added with a chuckle. "You left the radio on."

"Didn't wanna wake you up. Guess we better make breakfast, huh?"

"We ate the eggs last night."

"We also ate the ham, cheese and onions, and toasted all'a the good pieces of bread."

"Guess we better start out early enough to stop for breakfast," Hutch suggested, getting out of bed, kissing Starsky on the end of his nose as he moved past him, heading for the bathroom.

"Who died and gave you automatic first turn in the shower?" Starsky challenged.

"If you don't want me to go first, you better get in with me, stinky," Hutch shot back.

"You didn't think I was stinky last night," Starsky challenged, pouting a little as he followed Hutch into the bathroom.

"My brain was clouded with passion. Besides, everything that smells sexy at night is stinky in the morning."

"Damn, if those aren't words to live by," Starsky quipped, laughing.

The two men shared a quick shower, foregoing anything more exotic than a shared hand job in deference to the need for breakfast. As they moved about the bedroom with the coordination of two well-practiced dancers, grabbing fresh underwear and clothing and putting it on without seeming to get in each other's way, Starsky noticed the radio was still playing quietly near the bed. He reached to turn it off and paused. Then he turned it up instead. Moving back toward Hutch, he wound his arms around the firm body from behind.

"You're tonin' up real nice, babe," Starsky said against Hutch's ear. Hutch could feel the hot blush spreading across his face. He'd worked hard to get back into shape, and was finding it more and more of a challenge to keep the body he'd taken for granted several years ago. "'Course, I loved your love handles, too. Just more'a that gorgeous skin of yours to love."

"We're gonna be late, Starsk," Hutch managed, trying to dislodge the arms that were keeping him from buttoning the last few buttons on his shirt.

"Dance with me."

"Starsky, we're gonna be late if--"

"We've got now, Hutch. I don't want to wait for tonight. Dance with me."

"What's wrong, buddy?" Hutch asked gently, turning in Starsky's embrace.

"When something means a lot to me now, something I really wanna do? I don't like putting it off for later." Starsky paused, then looked Hutch in the eyes. "Sometimes, you do that, and then later doesn't come."

"Don't say that," Hutch responded quickly. "God, Starsk, don't say things like that." He framed Starsky's face with both hands. "See, if you don't have a 'later', I don't either."

"Then dance with me. I wanna dance with you right now, to this song."

"I suppose you want to lead?" Hutch teased, smiling.

"Don't care. Just want to hold you." Starsky illustrated his point by winding an arm around Hutch's neck, the other latching onto Hutch's hand and holding it close to his heart. "I saw this movie when I was off work, and I got sick--remember?" Hutch nodded, remembering the flu that had sidelined Starsky on his first foray back into nightlife. "All I could think about was you."

"'Love Story'? I guess that's us, huh?" Hutch responded, kissing Starsky's cheek, loving the smile that earned him.

Starsky straightened a little as they swayed slowly to the music, and then a warm mouth was near Hutch's ear, and that light, sweet singing voice of Starsky's was wrapping itself around the words of the song.

He fills my heart with very special things
With angel songs, with wild imaginings
He fills my soul with so much love
That anywhere I go, I'm never lonely
With him along, who could be lonely
I reach for his hand, it's always there.

How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in a day?
I have no answers now but this much I can say
I know I'll need him till the stars all burn away
And he'll be there.

Long after the song ended, they stood there in each other's arms, still swaying a little, despite the fact that the radio was now broadcasting the morning news report.

"That was beautiful," Hutch whispered, tightening his embrace.

"This is beautiful. Just bein' with you." Starsky pulled back a little. "Sometimes 'now' is what matters most, because it's for sure."

"I want you now," Hutch leaned in for a kiss, "later," another kiss, "and until we're so fucking old that we can't dance without banging our walkers together."

"Even when I'm old, I think I can figure out somethin' better to bang than your walker," Starsky quipped, patting Hutch's butt before kissing him one last time and breaking their embrace. "But I like the idea of all'a those years, just you and me."

"It's always been just you and me, buddy. Me and thee, remember?"

"Always," Starsky responded, smiling softly, the expression incongruous with the gesture of handing Hutch the holster that carried his weapon. Love and guns...they certainly could come together in some strange ways.

Danny Jenkins was en route to a juvenile psychiatric facility within the week. It was a nice place, and everyone involved with the case felt satisfied that the child would receive counseling and care there. Still, the child's mother was devastated at being separated from her son, and Starsky still struggled with the feeling that a young boy was being punished for doing something to defend his mother--and that his mother should have done something to change the situation before it escalated to such a horrific climax.

Starsky forced himself to concentrate on the report in front of him as he sat at his desk. Hutch was hunting and pecking his way through a number of forms, and Starsky's job was the report on the arrest of a purse snatcher earlier that afternoon.

Danny Jenkins was incarcerated, his father was dead, life went on.

"You want anything?" Starsky asked Hutch, standing and digging in his pocket for change.

"Grab me a soda, huh?"

"Okay." Starsky made his way to the hall, pushing the swinging doors open and wandering to the soft drink machine, still counting his coins.

"Detective Starsky?" A woman's voice startled him. He looked up to see Kay Jenkins standing there.

"Mrs. Jenkins," he said, a little puzzled.

"Could we talk a moment?" she asked, casting an eye around them.

"Sure. There's an interview room right down the hall. Would you like anything?" Starsky gestured at the machines, but she shook her head. Together, they walked down the hall and into the small interrogation room.

"I got a letter from Danny today," she began, sitting down. "He wrote it as soon as he arrived."

"How's he sound?" Starsky asked, sitting. He wasn't sure where this was leading.

"He's such a...little man," she said, smiling. "He'd never tell me if he was miserable. He'd want me to be happy and not worry."

"For what it's worth, I think Danny's a good kid." Starsky paused, weighing his next words carefully, but feeling they needed to be said. "I understand why he did what he did."

"I know you do," she responded. "I saw how you reacted to his statement. And after some of the things you said to me that day when you came to my mother's...you sounded like someone who'd been there." She seemed to hesitate, then continued. "I hope everything worked out all right in your situation."

"More or less," Starsky said cryptically. He'd only recently shared his memories with Hutch; he wasn't ready to discuss them with virtual strangers.

"I guess I mainly wanted to thank you for getting Danny into a good place, instead of one of those horrible juvenile homes."

"That was up to the DA and the judge."

"But I know you and your partner helped."

"We did our best to support that idea," he admitted. "Putting a nine-year-old in a detention facility isn't the best way to go if you can avoid it. They learn more criminal behavior there than they probably knew before." Starsky paused. "How's Sally doin'?" He smiled. "She's a great little kid."

"She is," Kay confirmed, smiling brightly. "I think she's doing okay. She misses her big brother, and it's hard to explain all of this to her--especially about Andy." She sighed and raised her eyebrows a little. "Sometimes I don't understand about Andy." She smiled again slightly, and started to get up.

"Mrs. Jenkins?" Starsky's question halted her progress, and she remained seated. "I know this is probably none'a my business, but...I'd still like to know."

"What?"

"Why did you stay with him? Why didn't you press charges one of the times the cops showed up for a domestic disturbance call?"

"Loaded question, Detective," she responded, visibly impacted by the thought of trying to explain it.

"I shouldn't have asked," Starsky said quickly, feeling a bit guilty at using this woman to gain an insight into his own mother's motives. He'd never pose such a question to her; it would make her feel as if he blamed her. Nothing was further from the truth.

"No, I think you have a right to know. After all, I do know that I narrowly escaped being charged myself for concealing evidence. I guess those good words you must have put in for me, too, should entitle you to some answers."

"Any good words we put in for you, we believed in. You don't owe us for that."

"I loved him. It sounds so lame and so...school-girlish to say that's the reason you let a man beat you and hurt your children. But it's the truth. When you love someone so much..." She paused, swallowing hard. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I shouldn't have asked--"

"No, it's just...hard." She pulled a tissue out of her purse and dabbed at her eyes. "I know that when Danny did what he did, I should have been relieved. I should have been happy. But now all I can think about is how things used to be, before everything fell apart. I loved him so much. When you love someone so much that you'd die for them without a moment's thought, when they're everything in the world to you, sometimes taking a few blows to stay with them doesn't seem that impossible. He only got that violent when he was drunk, and he'd be so sorry the next day. Things would be really good for a while, and...and when we made up, it was almost like having a honeymoon all over again."

"What about the kids?"

"That's the part of this I can't forgive myself for. Probably don't deserve to be forgiven for it. I loved him too much to walk away, to put him in jail, to end it. So I stayed, and I didn't do a very good job protecting Danny and Sally. Especially Danny. He's older, he's an active little boy, and he gets into the kind of trouble little boys do, and when Andy had a few drinks under his belt and Danny got into something...." She shook her head. "Sometimes he just talked back or didn't do something he was told, and it set Andy off. Andy always had a violent temper. I knew that when I married him. The worst thing he'd ever done before we got married was grab my arm really hard once, and then he apologized for it for two straight weeks." She twisted the tissue in her hands, then looked up at Starsky. "When you love someone more than your own life, when you think you can't live without them, it's amazing what kind of a hold they have on you."

The words chilled Starsky at the same time they made a sort of tragic sense. If Hutch turned on him tomorrow and beat him to a pulp and he were unable to defend himself effectively, would he walk away at the first opportunity, or would leaving hurt more than the bruises? Would he cling to the hollow apologies and impossible promises that it would never happen again? The answer was frightening, and the understanding it brought dispelled the need for any further questions. He offered silent thanks that he loved someone that intensely who would easily choose hurting himself over hurting Starsky.

"Love is a powerful thing," he said, still reeling a bit himself from that revelation.

"It can be a prison of sorts. There are no bars and no locks, but getting out of it is just as impossible." She stood up now, and Starsky did the same. "It's strange how much I miss him. Things were so difficult these last few years, it was hard to focus on the good things. But I miss him so much. How twisted is that?" she asked, mostly rhetorically.

"Sounds pretty human to me." Starsky hesitated, then added, "My mother lived through a lot before...things ended. I'm sorry if I pried with what I asked you. I just didn't know how to ask her."

"She finally left your father?"

"No, he was killed in the line of duty. I don't know how long she would have stayed."

"What about you?"

"Me? I was living with other relatives by then."

"She did the right thing for you, anyway," she said sadly. "I wish I could have had the courage to do that for Danny. Sally was so little yet, and Andy never really hit her. I'm not sure why he didn't, but I was always grateful for that."

"I hope everything works out okay for you and your kids."

"Thanks. I'm going up to see Danny next weekend. They didn't want me to visit right away, but they said I could see him then. Thank you again for doing what you could to watch out for him."

"I'm glad it worked out. Take care of yourself--and those kids," Starsky added with a smile.

"I will." She returned the smile, then turned and walked down the hall and through the swinging doors leading to the stairs.

"Thought you got your arm caught in the soda machine again," Hutch quipped, coming up behind Starsky, who jumped a little at his approach. "Hey, you okay, buddy?"

"Yeah. Uh, that was Kay Jenkins."

"What did she want?" Hutch frowned a little.

"Just to say thanks for helping get Danny where he is, instead of a juvenile home."

"He's better off where he is. But she ought to be thanking the judge, not us."

"She knows we put in a good word for him. How much longer d'you need to get through that paperwork?"

"Couple hours. There's something else, isn't there?"

"Guess I just learned a lesson or two from talkin' to her. You mind if I leave early? I wanna go home and call Ma."

"No, I can finish up here. You want me to come by when I get done?"

Starsky just cocked his head and smiled, as if Hutch questioning that he should do precisely that, was the most absurd and needless query ever made.

"See you at home tonight then," Hutch replied, grinning and patting Starsky's shoulder before returning to the squadroom.

I'd do anything, be anything, endure anything for you. I'd die for you. If you had it in you to hurt me like that, would I still love you? God help me, I could stop breathing easier than I could stop loving you no matter what you did, were or became.

Starsky shoved his hands in his pockets and headed for the exit.

Starsky picked up the telephone and dialed the familiar number. It rang quite a few times, but finally his mother's voice came over the line.

"Hello?"

"Ma?"

"David! Are you feeling better, honey? I tried to call you earlier but there was no answer, so I thought you must be back to work."

"Ma, I...I lied about bein' sick." Starsky wasn't sure what he was going to tell her was the reason, but lying to his mother was something he almost never did, and on the rare occasions he had, it ate at him until he confessed.

"Why?" The question wasn't angry or accusatory. She sounded more worried than anything else.

"I was kind of havin' a bad night and, uh, Hutch was willing to call for me." He struggled for the right thing to say next, and decided on the truth. "We've been working this case about a lady and her kids...the husband was drinking and..." He paused again, not sure how to go on, but his mother was as perceptive as always.

"It brought back some bad memories from when you were a little boy?" she asked gently.

"I told Hutch, Ma. I couldn't help it. He knew somethin' was up and I...I needed t'tell him. I know you said it was family business, but--"

"Hutch is family, honey. I know that." Then she asked, "What happened in this case you were working on?"

"There was a little girl, just four, and a little boy, nine. The father had hunting guns in the house, and he taught the boy how to shoot.... One night when his father was beating on his mother, he shot him."

"Oh, no," she muttered. "That poor child."

"I got thinking about how...how he fixed it for her. He took care of her, Ma. She doesn't have to ever get hurt by that guy again." Starsky felt his voice breaking and fought to maintain some control. "I'm sorry I left you, Ma. I'm sorry I...."

"Oh, honey, don't," she said, her own voice cracking a little. "You were a little boy. You did your best. It wasn't your fault." There was a long, painful silence. "It was mine."

"No, Ma, it wasn't your fault either. But I should'a done something more for you--"

"David, you were my little hero. You never let your father hurt me badly. I didn't want you to come downstairs and...and I didn't want you to be hurt," she added, tears in her voice. "You took the hurt yourself to protect me. There's no greater love you can give someone than to take pain for them."

"But I left you there," Starsky countered, angry that he wasn't better able to keep his voice steady as he wiped at his eyes. "I went with Rose and Al and I stayed out here and I didn't look back."

"That wasn't your decision. You didn't want to go. I remember how hard it was for Al to hold you back and drag you to that plane. Nothing in my life has ever made me as happy as it did to know that you were happy. That you were safe. You were safe from your father, and then later, safe from...from growing up without him. You had the kind of life you could have never had here."

"I shoulda done more. Somethin' to help you so he didn't--"

"Honey, you did. You stood up for me, even when you were too little. After what happened, after you moved away...things changed with your father. When Sol talked to him, something changed. Whatever he said got through to him."

"You're trying to tell me he never hit you again?"

"No, David, I can't tell you that. He really tried." She paused, swallowing audibly. "I think he always hoped we could be a family again, if things changed enough at home. He did love you, even though things were so...so bad at the end."

"Ma, I know you always told me things weren't so bad with Pop after I left, but I gotta know if you're tellin' me the truth, or just tryin' to make me feel better."

"He did his best, David. He didn't mean to hurt any of us."

"But he didn't stop, did he?"

"He stopped," she said softly.

"As long as he was alive, he didn't stop, did he?"

"He never laid a hand on your brother. I saw to that."

"I knew it." Starsky was up and pacing now, carrying the phone. "I knew I shoulda never left you like that."

"I needed more help that you could give me, David. It was beyond what a child could do and you didn't accept that, and that's why I had to get you out of there."

"Why didn't you leave him, Ma? Take Nicky and go stay with some'a the relatives? Come out to Rose and Al's and--"

"Stop it!" she snapped back unexpectedly, making Starsky flinch a little at the loudness and the sharp tone. His mother rarely raised her voice, but when she did, it was for a good reason. "It's over, it's history, and it's done. Your father is dead. Let him rest in peace."

"But, Ma, I'm just--"

"You're just reliving a lot of old pain for no good reason. You're forgetting all the good things your father was--"

"He abused you!"

"That's enough! You don't know anything about what my life was like back then. You don't know anything about what was going on, or why I had to handle things the way I did. It's over. It's in the past. Let go of it!"

"I know it was hard for a woman on her own with kids, but we had Uncle Al and Aunt Rose, and they have a big house, and you know they would've let you and Nicky move in, too--"

"Oh, David, you're looking at this through the simplistic eyes of a little boy. You're a man now. You know that very few things in this life are ever that easy. Rose and Al weren't responsible for my life and for my mistakes. I was. Nicky loved your father, and imperfect as it was, we still had a family. Nicky stayed upstairs like I told him, and we got by."

"You sent me away because I was causing trouble, is that it? Ma, I love you. I couldn't stay upstairs and let him hurt you like that!"

"Why are you doing this?" she asked, her voice sad and defeated now, with a faint tremor. "David, I did the best I could. I didn't do what all the women's rights people would tell me I should have done, but times were different. People took marriage seriously, as a lifelong commitment. Keeping a family together was important. There were a lot of reasons I couldn't leave your father. I did the best I could--"

"I'm not blaming you, Ma. I just want to understand this."

"Maybe you can't. You aren't a woman, and times have changed. Maybe you just have to let it lie. You didn't do anything wrong, and you have nothing to feel guilty about."

"Neither do you, Ma. I...I don't want it to sound like I blame you or I'm judging you. It's just that this case...seeing this woman and everything she went through, it makes me realize how bad things were for you, and I guess I wanna go back and fix it somehow. Understand how you could still love him--"

"I did what I had to do. Please, David. Let it go."

"Okay, Ma." Starsky sighed as he sat back down on the couch. "I'll call you Friday, usual time, huh?"

"I'll be here, honey," she said, her tone softening considerably.

"I love you."

"I love you, too. Be careful now. Give Hutch a hug for me."

"Yeah, okay," he responded, chuckling a little. His mother was working hard to come to terms with the new dimension of his partnership with Hutch, and little comments like those were a small way she showed her acceptance. "'Bye, Ma."

"'Bye, honey."

Starsky hung up the phone and stared at it. Leaning back into the cushions of the couch, he felt no more resolved than he had before he called. In some ways, he felt worse.

Hutch walked through the front door of Starsky's apartment carrying an armload of groceries.

"Honey, I'm home!" he called out jokingly, kicking the door shut. It wasn't until then he noticed the slumped figure on the couch, dark curls resting against the bright afghan. "Starsk?"

"What time is it?" Starsky straightened a little in the seat, squinting at his watch in the shadowy apartment.

"Almost seven. I called to tell you I was gonna be a little late, but there was no answer."

"I must've just ignored the phone. I was thinking."

"Anything wrong?" Hutch set the two bags on the counter and walked into the living room, sitting on the other end of the couch.

"I called Ma."

"You talked to her about...things with your father?"

"Yeah. She got pretty upset. Wanted me to back off. I don't know what it is, Hutch, but somethin's not right."

"How do you mean?"

"There's something she's not telling me. I know Ma pretty well, and there's something she won't say."

"Sometimes it's a little difficult for people to talk over their marriage relationship with their children. It's a little...unnatural. At least, I can see how it would feel that way."

"I understand that."

"But it doesn't answer your questions."

"Not really. I know her, Hutch. I know how she reacts to things. This isn't like her." Starsky stood and walked over to the table to look in the bags.

"You probably just caught her off guard."

"Yeah, maybe."

Hutch moved up behind him and slid his arms around the body that was stiff with tension.

"This has to be hard for your mother to relive, too," he suggested gently. Starsky sighed and leaned back into the embrace.

"There's this missing piece'a the puzzle, Hutch. The rest of this isn't fitting together right. Guess it's just a gut feeling."

"What do you want to do about it, buddy?" Hutch asked, moving away and starting to unpack the groceries.

"I wanna go to New York."

Hutch froze in his movements, a box of crackers suspended in his hand, interrupted in its journey from bag to table top.

"You think talking to your mother in person is going to solve something?"

"My mother's not the only Starsky still alive out there. My Uncle Sol is still alive, and some'a the other relatives." Starsky paused. "And some'a the cops who worked with my dad when he was killed have gotta still be there."

"You want to re-open that whole can of worms, don't you? What about your mother and Nick? You've been afraid for them--for what would happen if you probed into your father's death."

"I've been a cop a long time, Hutch. We both have. And after all those years, we've got instincts." Starsky walked over to the window and stared outside a moment before speaking again. "And all my instincts tell me that somethin' doesn't smell right here. I'm never gonna rest until I know what it is."

TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2...

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