by Enola Jones

The red and white Torino pulled up outside Venice Beach a few minutes later than planned. Starsky bombed out of the car and dashed into the building. Racing up the stairs, he pounded on the apartment door. "Hutch!" he called. "Hey, it's me! Ya ready to go?"

No answer.

"Hey!" he pounded again. "Hey, you in there? C'mon, buddy, open up!"

After a moment, the door opened, to reveal Hutch ---

Still in pajamas, struggling with a brush. "What time is it?"

Blinking at the sight of his normally impeccable partner, Starsky said, "Uuuh....a little after eight."

"Shit!" Hutch whirled, racing into the bathroom. Starsky automatically took a step to follow, then reined himself in.

He no longer could follow Hutch into the bathroom, the bedroom -- could no longer tease his partner over who caught the pretty lady's eye or swat at Hutch with a wet towel in the locker room. He was no longer comfortable with being around Hutch in only a towel, and he was certain Hutch felt the same way now.

He still remembered the look of horror in Hutch's eyes when his partner had been informed she was locked in female form while Starsky had changed back to male before her eyes. The crushing grief there had taken days to lessen.

But still, the 'Me and Thee' partnership had stubbornly remained intact. Neither of them was willing to work with another partner, even though one of them was now so altered as to be another person altogether.

Hutch came back out of the bathroom, in jeans and a blue plaid shirt, shrugging on her holster and cursing as it snagged her long hair.

"Let me help you there, partner," Starsky said, moving behind her. His deft fingers bound the flaxen tresses into a tight plait, which he wound around the back of her head, securing them with bobby pins he retrieved from the bathroom.

"Where'd you learn to do that?" Hutch whistled, visibly impressed.

"Ma taught me." Starsky grinned. "C'mon, let's go before Dobey has both our hides. Wouldn't do to be too late your first day back on the job!"

In the Torino, Hutch's small hands drummed nervously on her thighs. "Y'know, I never realised how much longer it takes women to get ready," she sighed. "You showed up a few minutes late, and I still wasn't ready!"

"Huh. What was the holdup?" Starsky asked. "You didn't seem to have a problem the last few weeks --"

"Starsk, I barely got out of the pajamas the last few weeks." She sighed. "All I wanted to do was curl up and die."

Starsky blinked over at her for a moment, then returned his gaze to the road, guiding the Torino into the station's parking garage. "....what brought you out of it?"


"Me?" he gasped, shutting off the car. "What'd I do?" Other than lock you in that form for the rest of your life...

As if reading his thoughts, her hand snaked over to take his now larger one. "Hey. You thought you were reversing the effects, making me male again. You had no way of knowing the second dose of radiation would seal me female. I don't blame you; I never have blamed you."

He looked down at their hands, unable to meet her eyes. "Then why did you wanna die?"

"Self-pity. Look at poor Ken Hutchinson -- no, excuse me, looks more like a Barbie than a Ken...."

Despite himself, Starsky felt his mouth curve into a grin.

Hutch was grinning too. "But you never let me give up on myself. You were always there, treating me more normally than anyone else. You still teased me, still bullied me when you had to -- and always, always, you loved me like a brother would love. Same as you always have." She squeezed his hand. "And you gave me the courage to get to the point where I am gonna walk into that station today and face the stares, face the whispers, face whatever's gonna come. "

He did meet her eyes. "Not alone, Blintz."

She studied his eyes, her grin changing into a tender smile. "No, babe. Not alone. Never alone. Always Me...."

"...and Thee." He squeezed her hand in return.

Hutch got out of the Torino and buttoned her blazer over her stomach. "Let's go, partner."

Starsky got out and proffered his arm. "Shall we, milady?"

"Why thank you, kind sir!" she said with a grin, crooking her hand in his arm and matching his jaunty stride, taking two steps to his one.

It was time to begin again.

The End

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