Because they worked so closely and lived so closely, Starsky picked up on it first. He headed over to Huggy's after their shift ended and Hutch was safely home.
“Bit surprised t'see you here alone,” Huggy observed as he passed Starsky a beer and sat in the booth across from him. “Where's your prettier half?”
“She's at home,” Starsky said as he nursed the amber liquid but didn't drink.
“I'm guessin' she's why you're here, though.” Huggy smiled. “Everythin' you do lately revolves 'round her.”
Startled, Starsky met his eyes. He gave a half-smile. “Am I that transparent?”
“Fraid so,” Huggy chuckled. “T'me, at least. She hasn't got a clue, has she?” Starsky shook his head. “How come?”
Starsky shrugged, running a finger along the edge of the glass. “Maybe I don't wanna mess things up. She's got enough to deal with – to adjust to – without my feelings on top of it.”
Huggy leaned forward. “So anyway – what can th'Bear do for you today?”So he does love her, he thought. I was right.
Starsky pushed the beer aside and leaned forward. “Huggy,” he said softly, his eyes consumed by worry. “Am I goin' crazy or does Hutch seem...really sad to you?”
Leaning back, Huggy considered. “Yeah – started with the first day she's a woman. Got worse after Mama Hannah's visit.”
“At least they left on good terms,” Starsky sighed. “She'll be checking in on Kay.”
Huggy nodded, and waited for Starsky to continue.
“It's almost like she's still denying things. I know how hard it is – I lived it for a few days...”
“But yours ended,” Huggy pointed out. “Hers never will.”
Starsky sighed. “What'm I gonna do, Hug?”
“Love her, man. Just love her and be there.” Huggy smiled. “Leave the rest to me.”
Looking sideways at him, Starsky gave a half-smile. “You got somethin' cookin' in that brain of yours?”
“Always, man.” Huggy grinned and leaned back. “I might. You go get some rest.”
Starsky nodded and left the Pits. Huggy picked up the untouched beer and downed it.
He then moved to the phone behind the bar and looked up a number. Dialing it swiftly, he grinned as it was answered. “Hey, Jazz. It's Huggy. ... I'm doin' good, ladybird. Listen, is Holly there? ... Yeah, please.” He drummed long fingers as he waited, then burst into laughter.
“It's hangin' bout like always, Holly.” Then he sobered. “Listen, I think I might need your... special expertise.”
Huggy's smile grew as she replied. “That's wonderful. Listen, her name's Kay Hutchinson, but they call her Hutch. She's a cop and she's real down...”
Starsky knocked on his partner’s door and waited. When she didn’t answer right away, he knocked again.
When she still didn’t answer, he knocked “shave-and-a-haircut”.
The door opened then. When the blue eye saw her partner, she withdrew and released the chain, opening the door fully.
“Paranoid?” Starsky asked as he walked in.
“Slightly,” she admitted with a chuckle. The smile seemed a little forced, and didn’t reach her eyes.
Starsky watched her close and lock the door. “I don’t blame you. Going to bed a little early?”
“What?” She looked down at her dressing gown and sighed. “Yeah – wasn’t expecting company.” She winced, a hand making an aborted move toward her left side.
“Hey, you okay? You seem—“
“Female trouble,” she chuckled ruefully. “Cramps.”
Starsky smiled. “Go on, then. I’ll stay and watch your back.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You didn’t. I volunteered.” He smiled and lay his hands on her shoulders, turning her around. “Go on. Do what you gotta for the pain and go rest.”
“Idiot,” Hutch teased affectionately before she headed into the bathroom.
Starsky chuckled and sat down on the couch.
Hutch was back a few minutes later. “Just checked – you got a change of clothes here.”
“Thanks,” Starsky smiled at her.
“G’night.” Starsky watched her go back into the bedroom and the door close. He sighed and reached for the TV remote, when Hutch’s phone rang.
“I got it!” Starsky called as he picked it up. “Hutchinson’s place.”
Huggy’s laughter rang out through the line. “She still there?”
“She’s gone to bed, Hug.” Starsky grinned. “What’s up?”
“Watchin’ her back, huh?”
“If ya didn’t, I’d think you’d gone crazy.” Huggy chuckled. “I called someone that may be able to help. So you want me to send her on over?”
“Well, like I said, she’s gone to bed…”
“I heard ya,” Huggy said. “I want her to talk to you first – so you can introduce her to Blondie when you feel the time is right.”
Starsky thought for a long moment. “Yeah, Huggy…. Send her over. I need to talk to someone about this.”
The soft knock on Hutch's door came a half-hour after Starsky had hung up the phone. He looked through the peephole and opened the chained door. “Yes?” he asked.
“My name's Holly,” the brunette on the other side of the door smiled gently. “I'm a friend of Huggy Bear's.”
Starsky nodded and closed the door. Releasing the chain, he opened the door to her. “Huggy said he was gonna send you over.”
She walked in and looked around. “Nice.” She looked back at Starsky. “I hope she's in bed – I want to talk to you first.”
“I just checked on her,” Starsky said with a nod. “She's sound asleep.” He gestured to the sofa.
Holly sat down, pulling her long peasant skirt into a more comfortable position. “Huggy told me about her past.”
Starsky frowned as he sat in the armchair beside the sofa. “He what? Why would he tell you all that?”
Holly smiled. “Because I am able to help her. She hasn't adjusted to being female. I can help her with all that – and so can you.”
Starsky just blinked at her.
Holly chuckled. “Don't worry – I'll teach you what you need to know.”
“Are you a shrink?”
“No – I'm a dancer down at Joly's who moonlights as a waitress at D'Angelo's.”
“Then... I—I don't understand. How can you sit there and talk so knowledgably? How do you seem to know about --”
Holly leaned forward. “Three years ago, my name was Jasper. I was a man as much as you are. Your partner was the last victim of the radiation gun.” She sat back. “I was the first."
Hutch woke to voices in her living room. She grabbed a robe and jerked it on, then grabbed her gun and snuck down the hall.
She whirled into the room, gun at shoulder level – and froze. "….what?"
Starsky and a pretty brunette were sitting in different chairs and talking. They both looked up and Starsky smiled. "You're awake!"
"Starsky…" Why was her mouth suddenly so dry? "Who is this?"
"This is Holly," Starsky smiled.
The brunette stood. "Huggy sent me," she explained. "To talk to you."
Lowering the gun to point harmlessly at the floor and thumbing the safety back on, Hutch shook her head. "Me? But….why?"
"We have much in common," Holly said with a smile. "Most importantly – an encounter with a double blast from a certain radiation gun."
Hutch's eyes went huge. "The rad—you?"
Holly nodded. "Huggy figured you needed to talk to someone who's been there and is still there – like you."
Hutch just stared at her for a long moment, then wiped a hand over her mouth and chin. "I… I thought I was all alone…"
"Oh, no," Holly said with a gentle smile. "No, honey. You're not alone. I'll teach you. I'll help you adjust. You'll be all right – I promise."
Hutch's eyes slid to Starsky, who smiled at her. "You will be, Kay. I promise, too."
A slow nod was Hutch's answer as she lay the gun on the table. She nodded again, then put her face in her hands and began to shake.
When the sobs began, Starsky embraced her. She clung to him and the tears of release – long denied – poured from her.
Holly rubbed her slender back and repeated the words that had finally set healing into motion.
"We swear it, Kay Hutchinson. You are not alone."
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