Personal Space
Sarah Problem

SHSVS "A Day in the Life" Showcase Vignette

**********

Quietly shutting the door to his apartment, even though there was no one there to hear it, Starsky stood and looked around in the dim glow a single kitchen light threw across the room. They had worked late, and now the silence of his dark apartment after the noise and brightness of the station made the place seem almost museum-like. Artificial, as if this were a display of someone's home rather than a real one.

Wish Hutch had come here with me tonight. It just doesn't feel the same anymore.

He smiled to himself as he went through the rooms, turning on lights to make it feel more lived in. He glanced through his neglected mail, throwing the bills in one corner to wait for the morning, when he had a better head for figures. He had watered his plants that morning, so knew they should be all right.

He made a trip to the television, turning it on and grabbing for the schedule guide to see if anything was on. He found he really wasn't interested in watching anything specific, so decided to just leave it on the same channel. The house still felt empty. It didn't used to feel that way.

Guess having my own space isn't as much fun as it used to be.

Through the years, he regularly turned down offers from various ladies to move in to his place and play house, or vice versa. Of all the "in" things to do, shacking up had never been one that Starsky had particularly been drawn to. Oh, in the first blush of lust in any relationship it would be great. Sex anywhere and anytime you both felt like it, no dressing up or counting your cash to see if you could afford a night out to do some courting sounded wonderful. Starsky knew himself better than to think that sharing his personal space with someone wouldn't get on his nerves.

"You are what you own." That was it on the streets I ran. The possessions you had, the money you could flash and the people you could boss around told everyone how "important" you were. Guess I picked up that habit somewhere, the part of the street that said you kept the good stuff for yourself. You shared something and it was apt to disappear on you.

Except for Terry. He and Terry had talked about moving in together a few times, before she was shot. Part of him had always been relieved that she had seemed to need her own space as much as he needed his. For them, it would have taken marriage to get them into the same building. They had both played it safe, despite their feelings for each other.

Always protect what's yours.

Except when it comes to Hutch.

Starsky felt the room grow a little warmer, a little cozier.

Isn't he always the exception?

He walked through the living room, looking at all his possessions. They were only a fraction of the things he had purchased through the years. Like anyone else, there had been things he thought he liked but later found he really didn't care for. Those were sold or given away. What was left were the things he truly treasured, and it warmed him to see that many of them had actually been gifts. More than a few weren't even his to begin with, he just treated them like they were.

I don't think I ever realized how much of Hutch's stuff is here.

And there was quite a bit of Hutch around, even when he wasn't physically there. When Hutch had moved back into his own apartment after living with him during his rehabilitation, he had thought that most of those wayward things would have found their way home. Yet here were quite a few of Hutch's books and magazines on the table and the bookstand. A drawing pad with some colored chalk thrown over in the corner kept Starsky's own hobby supplies company. He knew there were extra sets of clothing, shoes, and toiletries in the bedroom and bathroom, as well as Hutch's favorite snacks in the cupboards and his records mixed in the record holder with Starsky's own. A mixture of his stuff and Hutch's, just like it had been for ages.

Funny how all his stuff was here even before I got shot. If you'd seen this place before, and could tell the difference between his stuff and mine, you wouldn't see any new signs that we're now lovers. He's always been here in one way or another.

Deciding he wasn't hungry, or thirsty, he turned off the television. What he really needed was a hot shower and some rest. He knew he needed to wind down before he could sleep, and staying up and watching TV wasn't going to help. Maybe tonight he should read something and hope to pass out when he wasn't paying any attention.

He checked the front door and went around turning off all the lights he had just turned on. On the way through the front room, he found himself listening again to the quiet.

When did it go from being peaceful to being empty?

He turned on the bedroom radio, leaving the bathroom door open so he could listen to the music as he showered. He could pretend he wasn't alone for that long.

Soon he was slipping into bed, turning off the radio and adjusting the lamp as he picked up his latest book. He smiled as he realized it was one he'd borrowed from Hutch. Not something he'd usually read on his own, but when Hutch got so enthused over something, Starsky felt he needed to give it a try.

Trying to read, the minutes passed slowly, and he found he couldn't concentrate. He had an odd thought or two about calling Hutch, just to talk.

I'm going to see him in a few hours. And what would I say? He could already be asleep.

Giving up and returning the book to its place on the nightstand, he turned off the lamp and tried to settle in to sleep.

Curled up in his favorite position, he smiled to himself as he realized that his "favorite" position had changed from sprawling over the center of the mattress to curling up on "his" side of the bed. He reached behind him and grabbed Hutch's pillow, wrapping his arms around it, glad that he could still smell Hutch's scent in the linen.

I guess my personal space just isn't what it used to be. It's taken me a few years to realize that it isn't what I have, but who I share it with. It's just not the same if you can't share it with the one you love.

Maybe...someday...we can play house for real.

One big houseful of us.

**********

Hutch found himself sighing tiredly as he gave the greenhouse a quick check before turning in. It had been a long day and he was tired. It was mostly a good tired, the kind you got when a case ended well, but there was still all the left-over baggage that went with it. Almost an anti-climax, in fact, when you knew that no matter what happened to the bad guys, that it couldn't begin to make it up to the victims.

How many cases do we have like that, where even if we get the best results possible we still have the nasty, ugly details follow us around for days afterwards?

He had just wanted to go home. By himself. They hadn't even had to talk it over; it had just been a given that they both needed some personal space. Some down time.

Even though it was what he wanted, Venice Place had sounded too empty when he had walked in. He had put on a record and hadn't even realized until he had showered and put on his robe that it was one of Starsky's. He smiled.

Here, even when you're not here, right, babe?

He thumbed through the mail he had thrown on his desk. Some advertisements, mostly bills. He felt a faint childlike pang of sorrow that there wasn't a card or a letter in the pile. There hardly ever was anymore. Of course, he knew it probably was his fault, not sending out many letters or cards himself.

What goes around comes around. If I don't work to keep in touch with old friends and family, I can hardly cry about being forgotten, now can I?

He decided to sit down and pay the bills. He liked to get them done as soon as possible, even if he wasn't inclined to mail them right away. There had been times when he had needed emergency money and had been grateful that he hadn't sent his payments out early. In their line of work, you never knew when you'd have to empty the bank account and make for the hills.

A sudden memory pulled its way to the front of his thoughts.

Heading for the border of Mexico if we couldn't prove who really killed Vanessa. Man, what were we thinking? We could never have lived like that.

Unless we had to.

His memories of that time were almost hidden in a fog of conflicting emotions. There had been Van's reappearance and his realization that what they had been to each other was truly dead and buried. That was soon followed by the horror and shock of finding her dead. Then there was his fear and worry about dragging Starsky down with him. He should have stopped Starsky when he realized they were escaping into an uncertain future.

As if I could have stopped you. You would have had me out of the country in a heartbeat if you thought it was the best thing for me. To hell with what it'd do to your life.

As he looked at the bills and wrote checks, he found himself comparing the way Starsky had treated him as a friend and partner and how Vanessa had treated him as a husband. There had been rough times with each, times when arguments were his fault and not theirs.

Starsky is always ready to forgive me anything, even if I don't ask for it. Van never let anything go. That woman could take an argument with her to the grave.

He winced at the thought. He still would never have wished her the ending she had found. Still, he realized he hardly thought of her anymore. She was a part of his past that seemed content to remain in the past.

He suddenly remembered what it had been like when she had left him at the end of their marriage. She had left him on a moment's notice, and although they hadn't had much, she had taken it all. He had barely had his clothing, toiletries and a few pots and pans by the time her paid movers had finished the job, just hours before he came home to find her gone, their house empty and his bank accounts barren. And yet, there hadn't been any real possessions of his that had gone missing but the money. He had never realized until this moment how little of him had been allowed into her personal space to begin with. He now saw that he had lived with her, and that he had always been with her on her terms.

He paused, looking at the corner of his desk, where Starsky had placed a box of his family pictures he had planned to go through and finally mount someday. There was his basketball and a worn pair of sneakers over in the corner. As the music from Starsky's album filled the room, Hutch took a look around, silently counting the items that were Starsky's. He chuckled to himself, feeling less alone.

And here I swore after Van left, that my space was going to be my space, and that I'd never let someone take over my life like that again. Little did I know how someone was going to creep into my life, and my home, inch by inch. Even now it's more our place than the house Van and I lived in.

Stacking the filled envelopes carefully on the center of his desk, he got up to lock the door. Passing the phone he had a strong urge to pick it up and call Starsky, just to hear his voice.

It's late. He's probably asleep by now. You've got all day tomorrow to talk to him.

He walked away from the phone and locked the door, shedding his robe as he turned off the main light and turned on the bedside lamp. He checked the alarm before pulling back the cover.

There was Starsky's pillow, on "his" side of the bed. Hutch gave it a fond pat as he slid under the sheets and turned off the light.

Maybe someday, there won't be any "his" and "mine" to worry about, or sort through. Maybe I'll just turn around someday and find he's taken over the apartment, and me along with it.

Not that I'd mind....

**********

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