This isn’t a date, Starsky reminded himself for the tenth time. It’s a celebration. Nothing more.
Her slender hand closed over his. “You’re lost in thought again.”
Startled, he looked up into amused but concerned eyes of midnight blue. “Sorry,” he chuckled.
Hutch’s head tilted as she studied him. “Is something wrong?” she asked worriedly. “You keep spacing out on me.”
He shook his head and resumed rearranging his food. He managed one of his charming smiles. “Just… thinkin’ about a special lady.”
She squeezed his hand. “Yeah… I miss her too. Terri was one of a kind.” She pushed her chair out. “I’ll be right back.”
He watched her go to the restroom and sighed as the door closed behind her. No, she wasn’t, he thought. I thought she was… till this happened to you.
Starsky shook his head. Stop it, Dave. This is a dinner to celebrate Kay’s getting her sight back! This is NOT a date!
He watched her come out of the restroom and catch the waitress that served them. He couldn’t stop the thought that slid its way through his mind.
Oh, but how I wish it was.
They walked from the restaurant to Hutch’s apartment building. They’d walked because it was a beautiful evening and because Hutch was still thoroughly enjoying just being able to see the world around her once more.
Starsky took two steps before he realised she wasn’t with him. “Hutch?” He turned and felt himself smile at the sight.
Hutch was standing on the sidewalk, her hands jammed into the pockets of the too-large black and white jacket she would not get rid of. Her face was tilted upward, and she was smiling. Her eyes shown with wonder and gratitude.
He followed her gaze and found the rising moon hanging full and orange just above the buildings. He felt his own smile widen at the sight.
When he lowered his eyes, he found her smiling at him. “Let’s go in,” she said. “I’ve got half that cake still in the fridge….”
He laughed. “Lead the way! More fool me, if I passed on chocolate cake!”
Laughing together, they walked into the building.
Their laughter and banter abruptly stopped as they saw Hutch’s apartment door standing partially open. They knew Hutch had closed it completely and locked it.
Drawing their guns, the partners positioned themselves. Kicking the opened door completely inward, Starsky went high and Hutch went low.
The woman on the couch let out a startled yelp. Starsky lowered the gun as Hutch climbed to her feet. She was milky white as she choked out one word.
Mrs. Hutchinson took a deep breath. “Dave,” she gasped, her eyes dismissing the blonde at his side. “My, that was quite an entrance!”
Starsky managed a shaky smile. “Well, that was quite a surprise! We weren’t expecting anyone to be here!”
Now her eyes did slide to the blonde woman. They swept her body, disdainfully taking in the tailored pantsuit and too-large jacket. The eyes narrowed as they registered the gun still in the woman’s hand. “Yes,” she said slowly, her voice laden with icy censure. “I can tell.”
Startled, Starsky looked at Hutch. Her eyes went wider with every word her mother spoke. Finally, she handed the gun to Starsky and hissed, “Excuse me,” before bolting toward the bedroom.
Mrs. Hutchinson sniffed. “I see this has happened before – she knows where Kenny’s bedroom is.”
And that was when it finally penetrated Starsky’s shock-addled brain. Mrs. Hutchinson wasn’t being deliberately cruel to her daughter.
She didn’t know she had a daughter in Bay City! She didn’t know!
Excusing himself, he ran to the bedroom. The door was slightly ajar and he peered in.
Hutch was face-down on the bed. Though no sound was made, her shoulders were shaking with held-in sobs. Starsky walked over and sat down beside her. “You… ah… never told her, huh?”
She shook her head miserably.
Slowly, she turned to look at him. “You… tell her?”
“Nah.” He reached out to rub her back. “Not my place. I’ll be with you when you do, though.”
Hutch nodded and sat up. “She probably thinks you’re in here making love to me.”
“Way she was acting, probably.”
Hutch hugged him. “Thank you.”
Surprised, he hugged her back. “Any time.” He kissed the top of her head, thinking, Though it’s not for lack of wanting to…..
Hutch broke the hug and stood. Starsky put a supporting arm around her shoulders as he stood.
They moved to face Mrs. Hutchinson as they did all else – side-by-side. Together.
They walked out to find Mrs. Hutchinson on the phone. “I…I understand. Thank you.”
She hung up and turned, fixing Starsky with a glare. “I was just told that Kenny no longer is your partner.”
He took a deep breath and told her the absolute truth. “No, ma’am. He is not.”
She pointed at him. “Then why are you here? Where is my son, who is your partner, and who is she?”
Hutch took a deep breath. “I’m his partner.”
Mrs. Hutchinson glared at her. “In more that one way, hm?”
“NO!” Hutch roared. “I didn’t ask for this!” Her hand gestured in a fierce way to indicate her female body. “Starsky ahs been nothing but the friend I needed to deal with this!”
Mrs. Hutchinson frowned. “I don’t understand you, dear.”
She took a deep breath. “Mom – I am Ken.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Kenny is a man—“
“Not anymore. Here, I’ll prove it!” She took off her left shoe and held out her foot, leaning on Starsky for support.
On the last three toes were a distinctive system of crossed scares, pale white with age. “I got these sledding – I lost control and skidded full-tilt into a plane glass door!” She put her foot down – literally – and let go of Starsky.
“I was seven – and the only reason I didn’t lose part of my foot altogether is that I was wearing such thick socks under my shoes!”
Mrs. Hutchinson had gone paler and paler during this speech. Then her eyes narrowed. “Why?”
She gestured at Hutch’s body. “Why have you become a…a….”
Starsky and Hutch looked at each other and then began to laugh incredulously. “I’m as fully female as you are, Mom!”
There was another pause, then Mrs. Hutchinson walked forward. The room rang with the CRACK! of her palm against Hutch’s cheek.
“I have one daughter,” she growled as she picked up her purse. “I don’t need or want two.” Without a backward glance, Mrs. Hutchinson stalked out of the apartment.
For a long moment, Hutch just stood there, her hand cupping her cheek. Her eyes were huge, fixed on where her mother had fled.
Starsky walked over and laid a hand on her shoulder. ”She’s… just havin’ a little trouble.”
Hutch turned incredulous eyes to her partner. “Little understatement there, huh?”
“Slightly.” He squeezed her shoulder. “You gonna be okay?”
She sighed. “Don’t have much of a choice, now, do I?” He winced at her harsh tone and she sighed again, running a hand down her face. “Shit … Starsky, I’m sorry. It-it’s just…”
“I won’t even try to tell you I understand,” Starsky said gently. “Because I don’t. I can’t. But I will be with you for as long as you need – as long as you want.” He smiled slightly. “As long as it takes.”
She nodded. Then her eyes swept the room. “I wonder why Mom was here, anyway?”
After bombing out the door, Mrs. Hutchinson stormed through the streets of Bay City. As the street people noticed her stylish clothing and purse, they began to take an interest.
But upon seeing her fury and pain, they realised she needed comfort and help more than they needed her money. So they distracted the more ruthless in their ranks and subtly began to herd the well-dressed woman toward help.
She soon found herself sitting on a set of steps. She was tired, achy – her anger had long since faded, leaving a numb emptiness in its place.
Overwhelmed, in shock, and in sheer disbelief of what she’d been told, Mrs. Hutchinson began to weep.
“Hey, hey….” a voice said and she felt a presence seat itself next to her. She raised her eyes and found herself looking into a careworn face with gentle eyes. To her shame, she found herself automatically cringing from the darkness of his skin.
He smiled a crooked smile at her. “Easy, there – I ain’t gonna hurt you. But see, I got a rule – no pretty lady is allowed t’cry at my place. What’s wrong?”
She sniffled. “Nothing that can be fixed.”
“Ah, now see, I sincerely doubt that. If not fixed, then at least made better.” The smile grew and his thin, dark hand petted her pale one comfortingly. “C’mon inside – have a drink and a meal on th’house and lemme call a pair of cop friends t’take you home.’
Mrs. Hutchinson studied him. “You’d… do that? You don’t even know me—“
“No, but when I find a pretty lady cryin’ on my steps, I gotta find a way t’help.”
She looked at the sign over their heads. “Your….steps?”
He nodded. “The Pits is my place. I’m Huggy Bear – owner, proprietor, and chief bottle-washer.” She found herself laughing, and his large smile showed that’s what he’d had in mind.
He stood and held out his hand. “Let’s go. I’ll feed you and call my cop friends.”
Mrs. Hutchinson put her hand in his larger one, and allowed herself to be led inside.
Starsky thanked Dobey, then hung up the phone with a sigh and returned to the table. “No luck.”
Hutch groaned and rubbed her forehead, which had started to ache fiercely. “She’s out there...she doesn’t know anybody in Bay City…who knows what trouble she could get into?”
“Hutch – don’t. Try not to think about it.” The phone rang and Starsky stood up. “We just have to trust that someone kind found her and is helping her.” He lifted the receiver. “Yeah?”
“Hey there, m’main curly one,” Huggy’s cheerful voice sounded. “Got a minute?”
“Not really, Huggy – we’ve gotta keep the phone clear.” Starsky took a deep breath. “Hutch’s mom is missin’, and—“
Huggy interrupted, “She a pretty lady with short blonde hair in a stylish purple pantsuit?”
Starsky’s eyes widened and flicked to Hutch. “You’ve seen her?”
Hutch’s head snapped up, her eyes wide.
“Yup. She’s sittin’ at my bar, havin’ one of my famous burgers and salad.”
“We’ll be right there, Hug.”
“Whoa, hold up – gimme fifteen ‘fore you charge in. Lady’s upset and needs a bit of a rest.”
Starsky took a deep breath. “Thanks, Hug.”
“Anytime.” He hung up.
Hutch jumped to her feet. “Where is she?”
“At the Pits. Huggy’s tryin’ to calm her down. He wants us to give her some time.”
Hutch blinked at him, sheer relief making her slightly dizzy. “She’s…. safe?”
Starsky took both her hands. “She’s safe. Huggy’s got her.”
Cursing herself for the emotional reactions she still could barely control, Hutch burst into tears.
Huggy hung up the phone and grabbed one of his closers’ arms. “Jill, put out the sign and make yourself scarce for awhile.”
She looked at him. “A ‘situation’, then?” At his nod, she nodded as well. “See you tomorrow, boss!”
Once the Pits was closed up an entire three hours early, Huggy returned to the bar and sat down beside Mrs. Hutchinson. “Feelin’ better?”
“Some, yes,” She smiled shakily. “I’m sorry – you’ve been so kind to me and I don’t even know your name!”
“Huggy Bear,” he said with a smile. “I told ya earlier, but in the excitement, I think you forgot.”
“Did I tell you mine?” At his headache, she said, “I’m Hannah Hutchinson.”
“Nice t’meet you,” Huggy smiled. “Look, I got a pair of friends comin’ by t’pick you up.” At her frightened reaction, he held up a hand. “They’re fuzz – cops. This ain’t the part of town for a classy lady t’be.”
She lowered her eyes and he laid his hand over hers. “What’s got you so upset?” he asked.
Mrs. Hutchinson sniffled. “I’m the mother of a freak!”
Huggy frowned. “A freak? Why d’you say that?”
The tears flowed freely from Mrs. Hutchinson’s eyes. “I-I gave birth…to a son! A son! I… I come to see him…and find a daughter!”
“I thought you was her mom,” Huggy nodded, his voice gentle. “Would it help t’know she didn’t choose this?”
Mrs. Hutchinson frowned at him. “What? How could someone not—“
“Now hush and listen t’the Bear,” Huggy said, still gently. “Got a story t’tell ya – and it’s gonna sound absolutely fantastic. But I swear t’you, every word of it’s true.”
And he told her about the radiation gun. And he told her about how they both were turned female. Lastly, he told her about how Starsky had tried to turn Hutch male again, but had accidentally locked her in female form.
When the fantastic tale ended, Mrs. Hutchinson was shaking her head. “Amazing…that’s just….amazing!” She ran a hand along her forehead. “But it’s the only thing that makes sense!”
“So you believe it?”
She sighed again. “I don’t know what to believe.”
He lay a thin hand on her shoulder. “Kay – that’s her name now – Kay loves ya. She needs all the support she can get right now. This ain’t easy for her.”
Mrs. Hutchinson looked up, and Huggy recognised the look in her eyes. She was on the verge of emotional collapse.
He smiled at her. “C’mon. I got a room you can crash in. Nobody’ll mess with you there.”
She nodded and shakily got to her feet. He guided her back and sat her down on the bed. He lifted her shoes off her feet and drew the worn but warm coverlet over her.
“…thank you….Mister Bear….” she mumbled as her eyes began to close.
“Hey,” he corrected, laying a gentle hand on her forehead. “Pretty ladies get th’honour o’callin’ me Huggy.”
She smiled. “Huggy…” And she fell asleep with a sigh.
He brushed a gentle kiss across her forehead, then closed the door behind him as he left her.
He had a pair of partners to wait for.
Hutch ran into the Pits with Starsky right behind. “Huggy?” she panted. “My--- my mother?”
Huggy nodded. “She’s in the back, sleeping it off.” He held up a hand. “No, she’s not had anything. Her version of reality’s been severely wrenched and she’s in a bit of shock.”
Hutch’s eyes lowered. “My fault….”
“No,” Starsky and Huggy said together. Starsky went on, “This isn’t your fault. She still loves you –“
“That’s right,” Huggy put in. “She’s just havin’ some trouble adjusting. She’ll be fine. Let her rest, then take her home.” Then he tilted Hutch’s face up. “Get yourself some rest too, Kay. You need it bad as she does.”
Starsky nodded. “I’ll take care of them both. That room we bum sometimes still free?” At Huggy’s nod, he put an arm around Hutch’s shoulders. “Come on – you are as stressed out as she is.”
Huggy watched them vanish into the room and smiled after them. Starsky would make sure Hutch rested, and then they’d see about Hutch’s mother.
Everything was going to be fine.
Huggy paused, then looked at the closed door.
Well, he thought, it will be once Curly-Top there admits he’s in love with her so they can move forward. He shook his head.
It’s so obvious… the way he treats her… That is a man completely head-over-heels. Wonder what he’d say to a gentle little push in the right direction?
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