"Now this is what you'd call a picture perfect, Southern California morning, partner." Starsky breathed deeply while standing in the open front door of his tidy house. "This is why people come to vacation here from all over the world, just to get a little taste of what we can enjoy all the time."
"Then they get a big snootful of our special smog, and become grateful that their vacation will end and they can go home where they can breathe again." Hutch was pulling his shirt over his head when a loud sneeze erupted from him, surprising them both.
"Aw, come on, it's not like it's smoggy every day. I mean, look! It's gorgeous outside right now." Starsky reached a hand out to help pull the blue knit shirt lower over Hutch's belt. "God bless you, by the way."
"Thanks," Hutch murmured, sniffling a little loudly. "You wanna put your shoes on, so we can go? And do you have the lists?"
Starsky stared down at the floor pointedly. "You seem to be shoeless, yourself, pal."
Hutch wiggled his bare toes in the carpet and smothered another sneeze. "That's because, well, just because I get ready faster than you do, and I wanted to see if you were ready before I found my shoes." Hutch tried unsuccessfully to deliver the statement with authority.
"Uh huh, and God bless you again." Starsky went into the bedroom and quickly returned with two pair of sneakers in his hands. He jerked his chin at Hutch, indicating he should join him on the couch, then dumped the shoes on the floor and sat down. "What's with the sneezing? Your allergies acting up?"
Hutch ran a finger under his nose, "No, I don't think so. Maybe."
"You're not catching another cold, are you? You've had three already this year."
"Of course I'm not." Hutch started to put on a shoe then took it right off. "Where are my socks?"
Starsky pulled two rolled-up bundles from under his armpit. "Right here." He handed the white pair to Hutch and retained the red pair for himself. "Um, Hutch? How do you get dressed in the morning when you sleep at your place and I'm not there?"
"Oh, I manage somehow, and how often do we sleep apart anyway?"
Starsky grinned hugely. "Luckily, not very often."
Hutch started to return the grin, but it was interrupted by a yawn. He fisted a palm and rubbed his eyes.
"You still sleepy? You went out like a light before it was even ten last night."
"I know, I'm sorry. I hope you know it wasn't that I didn't want to stay awake."
"I know, because I was trying my hardest to keep you up."
Hutch flushed a little. "Um, really sorry?"
"Not to worry, babe, we've been working killer hours and you needed some shut eye. Let's not make a habit of it, though?" Starsky waggled his brows.
"That's a promise." Hutch finished putting his shoes and socks on, but had to stop once to catch two more quick, wet sneezes."
"Uh, oh." Starsky muttered darkly. "I think you're coming down with something. We better put off the errands and stay in today."
"Starsky, I'm perfectly fine! We can't put off the errands any longer. We agreed that we can't keep hauling things back and forth between both our places. We need to stock your bathroom and kitchen with stuff I use, and my bathroom and kitchen with stuff you use. Plus, I have to go to the bank and the dry cleaner."
"What's at the dry cleaner?"
"My black jacket and your beige one."
"Really? When did you do that?"
"The morning after you ran into me holding two full cups of coffee."
"You stopped dead with no warning at the squadroom door."
Hutch began to cough lightly, as he tried to get out a retort. "Does it really matter? And I had to open the door, you know." The coughing became a little deeper.
"I think you're getting sick."
"I am not!"
Starsky shook his head a few times before checking his pockets for the lists that Hutch had painstakingly drawn up. "Okay, if you say so. I got the lists so let's get goin'."
An hour later, they'd finished Hutch's banking and were moving up and down the aisles of a large drug store. Both men had their arms full of their own favorite shaving cream, toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant. "Hey, Hutch?" Starsky was trying to catch the blond's attention as Hutch was trying to free a hand to cover his mouth before coughing.
"What?" Hutch responded in a raspy voice once the coughing was over.
"Don't you think it's funny that we don't use any of the same kind of stuff?"
"Isn't that what I just said?"
"Yeah, but how come you don't?"
"We grew up using different products and we're both used to them."
"You grew up using extra whitening tooth paste? Did they have that in Duluth when you were a kid?"
"Starsky, you're missing the point."
"No, I'm not. You said we grew up using different products, so that's why I asked if they had this kind of whitening tooth paste in Duluth." Starsky reached for the box in Hutch's hand to study the picture of the model with gleaming teeth. "By the way, I think your teeth are plenty white enough right now."
"So did you?"
"Did I what?"
"Use the whitening tooth paste?"
"No, I used Crest as a kid."
"Hutch, that's what I use now!"
"So, your argument isn't valid, buddy."
Hutch wished he could free both hands to rub his throbbing temples. "I wasn't arguing."
"But you said. "
"Starsk," Hutch interrupted quickly, "what else is on the list?"
It took a moment for Starsky to get the drug store list separated from the one for the grocery store. "Um, just one last thing."
"Oh. Well, go get it. I'll wait here."
"Why don't you go get it?"
"Because--because my hands are full."
"So are mine."
"I don't feel real good, Starsk."
Starsky narrowed his eyes and tried to determine if Hutch was admitting to being sick and therefore was sick, or if this was a ploy to get out of getting it. A thorough inspection of the weepy blue eyes and reddish nose told him it was a combination of the two, so he acquiesced. "Fine, wait here, I'll be right back."
Hutch refrained from smiling until his partner was out of view. He juggled the items he held into a more comfortable arrangement, and did smile sweetly when Starsky rejoined him. He noticed that Starsky also held several items not on the list. Cough syrup, throat lozenges and a package of 24-hour cold pills. "Got 'em. One for my house." Starsky placed a large tube of K-Y jelly on the top of Hutch's bundles. "And one for yours. Let's check out."
Hutch wanted to speak but sneezed instead, so he simply followed his partner to the registers.
By the time they reached the grocery store, Hutch's sneezing and sniffling were reaching the point where it was becoming harder for him to deny that he had another cold. He fumbled in the glove box for some tissue but came up empty handed. "Where's the tissue?"
"I think you used it all," Starsky answered, taking a hand off the wheel to squeeze Hutch's knee sympathetically. "You know, you're sounding really sick now, babe. I think I should take you home, and I'll go back out and finish the shopping myself."
"Nuh uh. It's not that bad, and it might just be allergies." Hutch sniffled loudly and hoped he sounded convincing.
"Hutch--will you just one time admit when you're sick? You said yourself back at the drug store that you didn't feel good."
"That doesn't mean I'm sick."
Starsky rolled his eyes while removing his hand from Hutch's knee to place it on his forehead. Heat radiated back to his palm. "Okay, smart guy, does a fever mean you're sick? You're really hot."
"Well, your hand isn't a thermometer. I want to go to the grocery store with you; you'll never remember all the stuff I want."
"You wrote it all down."
"Not everything. I just wrote vegetables, not what kind."
Starsky decided that his best course of action was to simply take them to the store, do the shopping and then get Hutch home with a minimum of fuss. "Okay, I'll take you to the store so you can pick out all the fresh vegetables you want, that you won't eat because you're sick, and you never eat anything that I don't shove down your mouth when you're sick."
Hating to have the truth tossed in his face, Hutch tried to maintain some dignity while he ignored the comment. Two minutes later, Starsky pulled into an open slot near the front of the store and hopped out. Hutch joined him and together they found a cart. Clearing his throat, Hutch looked around, trying to decide where to start. "Maybe we should get two carts so we can keep the stuff for my place separate when they bag it?"
"I doubt that we're going to your place today, partner. Let's just throw it all in one cart and later on I'll sort it out for when we go back to your apartment."
"That wasn't the plan."
"I'm changing the plan. Now shut up, and let's get this done. I want to get you home."
"I'm not sick."
"Oh, yeah, sure you're not. Let's just go buy vegetables, okay?"
In the produce aisle, Hutch made a few choices, but it was Starsky who really filled the cart with fresh carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic.
"You want all that stuff at your house?" Hutch's voice was positively husky now.
"Yep. I think I'll make a pot of my aunt's chicken soup later on."
"Today? How are we going to have time for that?"
"I think we will. Now, do you have everything you want here?"
"Moving on, then."
They continued down the aisles, Hutch adding almost nothing to the cart, while Starsky found most of the selections from their lists. He added a plump whole chicken and some extra orange juice before they were done, and headed for the long check-out line. Hutch slumped against the cart, no longer trying to muffle his sneezes. Starsky noticed the other people in line with them moving as far from Hutch as they could, and he hid his grin behind the magazine he was glancing through.
"You're still sure you're not sick, Hutch?"
Hutch ignored him as they were finally rung up. The clerk glanced at Hutch sympathetically as she processed their items. "That sounds like a real bad cold you have there, sir. I hope you feel better soon."
"I'm not sick."
"You're not?" The girl looked confused.
"No," Starsky sang out. "He's just faking it for sympathy."
Starsky yelped when he felt the kick Hutch delivered to his shin, and the clerk looked from one face to the other, apparently deciding to stop talking while she finished with their groceries.
Once back at the car, Hutch made a half-hearted attempt to help unload the cart, but Starsky pushed him into the passenger seat unceremoniously. "Just sit there and enjoy not being sick." He finished the unloading on his own, got inside and started the engine.
"Okay, we're done."
"What about the dry cleaner?"
"We're done. I didn't even know my jacket was there, and you own at least ten other jackets so it can wait for our next day off."
"No buts, we're done. I wanna go home." Starsky was in full take-charge mode now, and he noticed that Hutch didn't continue arguing.
Thirty minutes later, they were back at Starsky's place with all their purchases cluttering his kitchen table and counters. Hutch began searching through the bags.
"Whatcha looking for?" Starsky asked while putting the perishable food in the refrigerator.
"Tissue. Did we buy tissue?" Hutch's eyes were almost puppy-dog helpless, and Starsky gathered the long body up for a hug.
"Yes, we bought tissue. We bought everything we need for me to take care of you, so how about you quit being so stubborn and let me?"
Hutch sighed as Starsky began to rub his back. "Starsk?" He spoke against a shoulder.
"Yeah?" Starsky continued his rubbing.
"I think I'm sick."
"You don't say?" Both men laughed, although the laughter turned into a coughing jag for Hutch. Starsky released him, swatted his rear and started walking them both to the bedroom. "How about you lay down and get some rest, while I finish putting the groceries away?" He sat Hutch on the edge of the bed and then got to his knees to pull the blond's shoes and socks off.
"Okay, I am tired." Hutch pulled off his shirt, while Starsky pulled him back to his feet in order to lower the covers and fluff the pillows. He was starting back to the kitchen when Hutch called after him. "Hey, Starsk? Are you really going to make me home-made chicken soup?"
Starsky smiled. "Bet your ass, Blondie, with noodles even. Go to sleep, I'll be back in once I get done in the kitchen."
Hutch took off his jeans and slid between the sheets. "Will you bring me orange juice when you come back?"
"And maybe some of that cough syrup you picked up?"
"What about ?"
"I'm gonna bring you everything you need, now go to sleep."
Starsky watched for a moment as Hutch settled himself against the pillows. He couldn't quite make out what the blond was saying as he drifted off, but it sounded something like "I love you." He smiled again, before closing the door and thinking about how much garlic to add to chicken soup.
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