Growing Old Friends
By Maquis Leader
It takes a long time to grow an old friend.
Author’s note: Set in the present time.
Rated: R or light NC17 for language
“Hand me the garlic, will ya?”
“Here.” Hutch watched Starsky liberally sprinkle garlic over the shrimp he was cooking. “Worried about vampires?”
“Not in my kitchen.” Starsky gave him a grin before turning back to the shrimp. “’Sides, Huggy cured me, remember?”
Watching Starsky throw together his Creole gumbo – which was neither Creole nor gumbo – he wondered, for possibly the millionth time, how things had ended up this way.
Starsky had never cooked anything more complicated than flipping open a pizza box or heating up a can of soup. Now he was a good – no make that an excellent cook. “Starsk, you’ll make someone a good wife someday.”
“Mama, I met a man.” Starsky held a hand over his heart. Laughing, he turned back to the pan of onions, peppers, and celery he was sautéing.
He picked up the bottle of olive oil and drizzled the last of it into the skillet. It wasn’t quite enough and he tossed the empty bottle into the trash. “I know we’ve got another one.”
Opening cabinet doors, he scanned the contents of each until he found a new bottle in an upper cabinet. “There you are! Come to papa!”
Starsky reached up for the bottle, grimacing as the muscles in his shoulder tightened up. Hutch was already beside him, plucking the bottle off the shelf for him. “Thanks.”
“You know – “ Hutch sat back down at the kitchen table. “If you’d just save your meat grease in a can like my grandmother did, you wouldn’t have to strain yourself.”
“If I used regular old meat grease, your heart would explode.” Starsky shot back.
There was no arguing that. How ironic was it that after years of eating wheat germ and tofu, taking vitamins, and treating his body like a temple – that he’d be the one with health problems?
A routine checkup he’d bullied Starsky into had revealed that years of chili dogs hadn’t affected his partner one way or the other. He, on the other hand, was at Cholesterol Central right down the road from Heart Attack Avenue.
Starsky had been slowed down a bit in the past few years by arthritis, especially in the shoulder that had taken a bullet when they’d gone to the wrong Italian restaurant at the wrong time. What was that mobster’s name?
“What?” Hutch blinked.
“Vic Monty. The guy the two hitmen were waiting on.” Judging the vegetables done, Starsky poured in the cans of tomatoes.
“How’d you know what I was thinking?”
“Because every time you get something off a shelf for me, you ask ‘hey, Starsk, what was the name of the guy the two hitmen were waiting on in that restaurant?’”
“Smart ass.” Fiddling with his wine glass, Hutch left foggy fingerprints on the cool surface. “You should have let me fix eggs.”
“Yeah, well – “ He didn’t look up from stirring. “I shoulda done a lot of things.”
The doorbell rang, and Hutch got up and gave Starsky an affectionate pat on the shoulder as he walked out of the kitchen.
He opened the front door and smiled at Cheryl, their next door neighbor. “Cheryl, hi.”
“Ken, I brought back your dish.” She handed the blue casserole dish to him. “Tell Davy the lasagna was wonderful and I still can’t believe it’s low fat!”
“It is – he’s a low fat fanatic.” Hutch laughed. “I’ll tell him you liked it.”
“And thanks for coming to the party, too.” Cheryl patted his arm. “We’ll have to have a party for you and Davy’s anniversary, too. It was fun having the whole block over like that.”
“Well, you guys have been together awhile, right?”
“Oh – uh – “ He thought back. “Oh yeah, since the mid – no – the early seventies.”
“Oh my gosh!” Her eyes widened. “That’s so wonderful! So when is your anniversary?”
“We don’t really have one.”
“You – “ Cheryl laughed. “You know, Ken, it’s okay these days.”
“What’s okay?” She was getting at something, but he wasn’t quite making the connection.
“Sure. I mean a couple doesn’t have to be man/woman anymore.” She smiled. “My cousin and her girlfriend even had a marriage ceremony a few years ago. Not that it’s technically legal – but it – “
“A – Cheryl, Starsky and I aren’t a couple.” He bit his lip to keep from laughing at the idea. “We’re just friends.”
She smiled, and he could see that she didn’t believe him. “Well, it’s good to see friends who’ve been together for over thirty years. And if you’d like to celebrate that friendship – Bob and I’d be happy to celebrate with you.”
“Thanks, Cheryl. I – thanks.” Hutch watched her walk across the street to her house. She thinks we’re gay?
Going back inside, he shut the door. “We’re not a couple.” Gay men were guys in leisure suits who bought a dog and called it their baby.
Something slipped between his feet and he nearly tripped. A bit of quick juggling saved both his ass and the glass dish. Looking down, he saw the black cat rubbing against his ankles. “Huggy, you’re going to be the death of me one day. Break Daddy’s neck and – oh, hell.”
Going through the house and back into the kitchen, Hutch put the dish on the counter before sitting back down at the table. Huggy plopped down on the tile floor next to his feet.
“They brought back the dish?” Starsky checked the rice and gave it a stir.
“Yeah. Cheryl said – “ Some strange things. “She said thanks and she wants your recipe.”
“They’re nice people, you know?” He grinned. Anybody who liked his cooking was nice people in his book.
Leaning back in his chair, Hutch watched his partner put the finishing touches on the dinner he was cooking. His partner? They’d left the force twenty-five years ago, and he still thought of Starsky as his partner.
They’d gone through a variety of jobs. Worked as security guards and watchmen, even armored car guards for a time. Ames had been only too happy to hire them after they’d helped the company keep a million dollars from being hijacked.
Dead end jobs one after another – always working together – until he’d decided to go back to college. Going to school at night and working all day had been slow going until Starsky had made him go back to college full time.
They’d argued for hours over it, but Starsky had refused to back down. He’d pointed out that Hutch had no bills except for the mortgage on the old house he’d bought to fix up with the idea of renting it out.
With a paying tenant in one half of the duplex, he could cover the mortgage, live in the other half, and save the rent he was paying on the apartment in Venice Place. Loans and scholarships would pay for school.
Starsky was the tenant; who else would move into an unfinished, partly renovated house with a leaky roof and iffy plumbing? Who else would find piles of forms for grants and scholarships? Hutch smiled at the memories. Who else would work to put a friend through school?
He’d graduated just in time, right as the computer industry exploded. A job at an insurance company as a data entry clerk had led to an unexpected friendship with a young woman starting a computer gaming company. His love of programming combined with Starsky’s wild ideas had yielded a cops and robbers game that the fledgling company had been happy to produce.
“Hey, what?” Starsky shut off the rice. “Almost done.”
“You remember the first Rogue Shield game?”
“Of course I do.” He grinned at his partner. “Rafferty and O’Brien fighting crime in the big city? And their hot red and white Torino – how could I forget?”
“The car? You remember the car? That old striped hunk of junk?” He teased.
“That ‘striped hunk of junk’ saved your life more than once.” Starsky protested. “We ought to bring it back.”
The Torino had been left behind in the game’s sequels, replaced with newer model cars. The real ‘striped Tomato’ was up on blocks in the garage, a never ending rebuilding project for Starsky.
“Maybe. We could do a retro edition. Back to the seventies.”
“Yeah, with discos and bell bottoms!” Starsky set the pan with his Creole gumbo on the table. “And the hair, remember the hair? Everybody had great hair back then.”
“I remember your hair getting big enough to need its own zip code.”
“Hey, curly hair has a mind of its own.” He turned to get the rice from the stove.
Maybe a retro themed version was a good idea. The tropical island with the voodoo priest had sold like crazy. Hutch started a mental list, including discos and a certain striped car.
Setting the rice on the table, Starsky spooned some into his bowl. “Eat up while it’s hot.”
Spooning some of the fluffy white rice into his own bowl, Hutch ladled the seafood mix over it. Taking a bite, he savored the rich, spicy flavors.
“Good.” He agreed. “Still not gumbo. But good.”
“Okra makes me burp.” There was a twinkle in the sapphire eyes. “We’ll both be up all night.”
Shaking his head, Hutch took a drink of his wine. Carefully, he sat the glass down. “Starsky… are we gay?”
Starsky’s eyebrows shot up. He reached out and picked up Hutch’s glass, setting it to one side. “You’ve had enough.”
“Cheryl wanted to know when our anniversary is.” He scooped up a fat, pink shrimp. “She wants to throw us a party.”
“Isn’t she sweet?” Smiling, Starsky took a bite of his gumbo. “I told you – nice people.”
“She thinks we’re gay. Starsky – “ Hutch retrieved his glass. “I mean, look at us – two older men who live together. With a cat.”
“Having a cat makes you gay?” Mischief glimmered in his eyes. “I musta missed the memo on that one. Pack your sandbox, Huggy, you’re outta here.”
“Come on! Are we – I mean – “
“Are we gay? And we’ve just missed it all these years?” Starsky finished for his flustered partner. “And we’re just repressing?”
“I don’t know.” Leaning back in his chair, Hutch took a drink of his wine. “Maybe.”
“Maybe?” Waggling his eyebrows, he dropped into his Bogie impression. “I dunno if this is a ‘maybe’ kind of subject, sweetheart.”
“Look at how many relationships we’ve been through. Girlfriends – wives – one night stands – “
“Don’t forget the ones we shared.” The grin was part leer.
“Starsky, be serious for once in your life!” Hutch slapped a hand down on the table. “How many women were jealous of us? You know Jessica told me that I loved you more than I did her?”
“So did Sarah.” The grin on Starsky's face faded. “Just before I left.”
“I thought she threw you out.” It was an attempt to lighten the painful subject, and it only half succeeded.
“I was being nice.” Starsky took a long drink of his own wine. “You had the cancer scare, remember? She didn’t understand why your family couldn’t take care of you after the biopsy. Or why you didn’t hire a nurse. She just didn’t understand why I had to be with you through all that.”
A pang hit his heart, and Hutch looked away. He’d known, down inside, that he’d caused Starsky’s marriage to fall apart. They’d never discussed it, not really, and he knew that Starsky didn’t blame him, but it was there.
“I came home to grab a change of clothes – give my kids a hug.” A soft sigh. “And there were all my things in boxes on the porch.”
At least she hadn’t thrown it all in the front yard like Amy had done to him. Hutch thanked God once again that he hadn’t married her.
“She told me ‘you love Hutch more than you do me.’”
“What did you say?”
“I told her she was right.” Starsky grinned again. “Told her I’d be back with a trailer.”
He’d sat on the sofa and supervised Starsky’s return. Since he couldn’t take narcotics, and he wasn’t going to drink the pain of the biopsy away, he’d ordered Starsky and Huggy around.
Hutch felt guilty about how happy he’d been to see his partner move back in. Sarah had always made him feel like a guest and not family. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t – don’t even – “ He pointed his spoon at Hutch. “If she had really loved me – really understood me – then she would have understood.”
“What we needed was a woman who wanted both of us.”
“For more than one night, you mean?” Chuckling, Starsky took a bite of his gumbo.
“There’s plenty of cases of a man having more than one woman, why not a woman having more than one man?” Hutch warmed up to the subject. “We were never jealous of each other, so why couldn’t we find women like that? Love me, love my partner? Is that really so damn hard?”
“We found one.” He didn’t think of Terry often. There was still a twinge of pain when he did. She’d been the one.
“She was special.” Hutch didn’t need the name to know Starsky was thinking of Terry. He had the lopsided smile that wobbled as if he still might tear up, and his voice was wistful in a way it never was about another woman.
“Do you think – if things had been different – “ If she hadn’t been murdered. “Do you think we’d have made it? Would she have stayed with me?”
“I think so.” The little brunette had been the one woman who accepted them as a package deal. “All the times we went out on double dates together, and the times I didn’t even have a date, she never seemed to care.”
“Did I ever tell you about the time I picked her up to take her out to dinner?” Starsky laughed. “I had reservations in this fancy French restaurant – I even put on a tie. Then she gets in the car and she says ‘where’s Hutch?’”
“Did she?” It was easy to imagine Terry looking in the Torino’s back seat for him.
“So I say you’re at home. ‘He’s got a date?’ she asks. So I say no, you’re just staying home tonight.” The laughs began to bubble up out of him. “She’s looking at me – like she’s mad at me. I’m saying what?”
“Missed me, did she?” Hutch picked up his wine glass and took a drink.
“Terry says ‘You call him and tell him he’s coming along.’” He had to stop and wipe at his eyes. “All the way out to your place she kept saying ‘how can you leave Hutch all alone?’ like you were a little kid I’d abandoned.”
A mouthful of wine nearly came out as Hutch laughed. “You don’t mean the night we went to that prissy place… ah… Chez something… “
“Chez Enrique.” Starsky filled in. “Which I still say is not French.”
“Neither was the food, as I recall.” They’d ended up at the Pits and eaten hamburgers and fries and played pool half the night. “She made you come and get me?”
“Yeah. Said she didn’t feel right knowing you were home alone.” The wistful tone was back. “God, I loved her, Hutch.”
“Me too, buddy.” Reaching out, he took Starsky’s hand and squeezed it. “I think she’d still be with you. Terry was – special.”
“Yeah.” He squeezed Hutch’s hand, grateful for someone to share the memory with. There were times he thought he’d only dreamed of Terry – that she’d never been real. “I bet she’d want to live here, too.”
He and Starsky had never locked the doors between their two halves of the house, and not a single one of their girlfriends had ever wanted to live there. Starsky's wife certainly hadn't. Sidestepping that line of thought, Hutch went back to his original question. “So we’re not gay?”
“Hutch, you’re killin’ me.” Starsky sighed and set his spoon down. “Let me ask you this: have you ever wanted to have sex with me?”
“Sex?” His mind came up blank.
“Sex.” Leaning forward, he gave Hutch the slow smile that had made women fall for him time and time again. “As in fucking… as in sucking my cock… ever want to? Suck my cock, I mean.”
The pale blue eyes went wide. “Christ, no! What the hell kind of thing is that to ask?”
“You started it, buddy. So you’ve never wanted to have sex with me?” Starsky was enjoying Hutch’s discomfort. “Not even a little?”
“Not unless there was a woman in the middle.” They’d shared a willing woman on more than one occasion and Hutch had never had a problem watching Starsky perform. Starsky didn’t have his hang-ups about sex. He was pure and sexual, in it for the pleasure and nothing more.
Hutch’s face was red, and Starsky could guess what was going through his mind. He knew Hutch would almost rather watch him fuck the girl they’d taken home than do her himself. One drunken night, his partner had confessed ‘watching you fuck, Starsk, is a thing of beauty’. It hadn’t bothered him one bit.
“What about you?” Hutch shook a vision of some nameless, faceless woman being ridden by the two of them out of his mind. “You ever want to have sex with me?”
“Without a woman in the middle?” He made a show of thinking it over. “Not ever.”
“That’s settled then.”
“Good for you, ‘cos I’d have to be the top.” The look on Hutch’s face destroyed his nonchalant attitude, and he laughed.
“In your dreams, buddy.”
“Shut up and eat, your dinner’s gettin’ cold.”
A sound woke him, and Starsky rolled over. He’d fallen asleep on the sofa again. Hutch had shut the TV off and covered him up. Again. Sitting up, he listened carefully; too many years of being a cop wouldn’t let him ignore anything that woke him up.
The sound came again. Creaking of the floorboards in the upstairs hallway. A shuffling, limping sound, and a soft huffing. Wrapping the afghan around himself, he got up and made his way up the stairs.
Light came from under the door of what had once been Hutch’s half of their house. Easing the door open, he found Hutch standing by the windows overlooking the back yard. “Hey, you okay?”
“My back.” The blonde shrugged. “Overdid it today, I guess.”
“I told you the deck could wait till tomorrow.” Walking to where Hutch was standing, Starsky rubbed his hands over the other man’s back. The muscles were knotted up. “Go lay down, I’ll get the stinky stuff.”
“You know, I’d like to work on the house or the yard just one damn time without my back acting up.” He groused as he walked toward his bedroom.
“Hang on, Blintz.” Starsky caught his arm.
“Starsk, I’m not sleeping in your bed.” Hutch shook his hand off. “That damn waterbed makes me seasick.”
“That damn waterbed is better for your back than that damn mattress you have.” Pulling the afghan off, he wrapped it around Hutch’s shoulders. “Like a rock. You need one of those air beds.”
“Not for that much money.” Now that he’d offered a token protest, he headed across the hall and into what had once been Starsky’s half of their house. Not for a million dollars would he admit that the waterbed was more comfortable than his bed was. “The waterbed is cheaper. Maybe I’ll look at one.”
“You must be hurting.” Grinning, Starsky went into the bathroom and came back with a bottle of liniment. “That’s the first time you’ve even considered looking at one.”
“You’re wearing me down.”
Hutch nearly fell asleep as Starsky rubbed the liniment into his aching muscles. “I smell minty fresh…”
“Like sleeping in a gum wrapper.” Washing the green stuff off his hands, Starsky pulled off his jeans and shirt and slipped into a pair of sweat pants. He sat on the edge of the bed and turned the t-shirt he’d grabbed from the drawer right side out. The scars across his back drew Hutch’s attention.
The trio of scars formed a neat line across the tanned skin starting just below Starsky’s left shoulder and angling down. Farther up on the left shoulder sat another, larger scar. A single shot – a single night in the hospital. Reaching up, Hutch touched the scar. More trouble than the other three combined.
“What?” Starsky looked over his shoulder.
“I didn’t think this was the one that would give us trouble.”
“Just a few weeks in a sling and it was good as new.” He looked down at where the old wound was barely visible on this side, hidden by the hair on his chest. The hollow point had made its hole on the way out. The other three stood out. One – two – three. Luckily ‘you’re out’ hadn’t followed. Unless you counted his career as a cop. “Not like the coma kids.”
“We got lucky.” Two of the bullets had passed dangerously close to Starsky’s spine, and the doctor had warned him repeatedly of the possible consequences. The expected swelling and paralysis never happened, however. “We’re lucky Joey’s second shot bounced off that thick skull of yours.”
“You’re the brains of the outfit anyway.” Tugging the shirt on, Starsky got into bed carefully, trying to minimize the rocking of the water inside the mattress. He reached up and killed the light.
“Well, someone had to keep you in ratty jeans and t-shirts.” The comment came out automatically, and Hutch stopped. How many times had he put Starsky down over the years? How many tricks had he played on his gullible partner? “You know I didn’t mean that.”
“Go to sleep.” With a grunt, Starsky rolled over. “If you feel guilty in the morning, you can make breakfast.”
Envying Starsky’s ability to fall asleep instantly, any place and anytime, Hutch closed his eyes and tried to relax his aching back enough so that he could fall asleep as well.
After a few minutes, he opened his eyes again. Sleep wasn’t coming anytime soon. If he were a normal person, he’d have a Vicodin or some other drug to help ease the pain and put him to sleep. Too bad he wasn’t normal.
Absently, he rubbed the inside of his left arm. The needle tracks had faded years ago, but he still felt them at times. An itch along his memory. A moment when the haze of heroin called to him.
Starsky was sleeping peacefully, his face barely visible in the dim light. If Cheryl could see this picture. Hutch grinned. Or the time they’d shared a very snug sleeping bag on one of their misguided attempts to vacation. He and Starsky plus a vacation had always equaled disaster.
The liniment was working, and he closed his eyes again. Making a list of things for the new game would help lull him to sleep. Flare-leg pants, hot pants and halter tops for the girls. Girls – lots of girls, a disco, maybe The Pits. Huggy, of course. No Rogue Shield game was complete without Huggy Bear. What would Huggy think of being immortalized in a video game?
The car – can’t forget Starsky’s – Rafferty’s car. He’d never confess to a soft spot for that striped junk heap. It sat in the garage while Starsky’s new car sat in the driveway in the sun and rain. The Torino rested comfortably under cover, sheltered from the elements, fenders draped with protective leather fender covers so that the candy apple red paint wouldn’t be marred or scratched while he worked on the engine.
Opening his eyes, Hutch smiled at his sleeping partner. The chrome manifold and tappet covers should be in by Starsky’s birthday. They’d cost a pretty penny, but it’d be worth it to see the little boy joy that they’d bring. It was only money and – a memory jarred him.
“Starsk.” There was no answer, and he reached out to touch the other man’s shoulder. “Starsk, you asleep?”
“I was.” He grumbled.
“I talked to Aaron, about our situation.”
“We have a situation?” Opening his eyes, he frowned at Hutch. “Is it me killing you so I can sleep?”
“If something happens to me – you’d have no protection under the current laws.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“The house. It’s in my name.”
“So?” Starsky yawned. “You got a will.”
“Wills can be broken.”
“Who’d want to fight your will?” He propped himself up on his elbow, squinting to see Hutch in the darkened room. “Nobody wants our house.”
“My nephew might.” Carefully, Hutch eased himself up on an elbow as well. “He called last week. Wants me to come back to Minnesota.”
There was tension in Hutch’s voice, an undercurrent of fear that Starsky hadn’t heard in years. “Did he threaten you?”
“Not in so many words. He – “ Now that he was telling Starsky about the phone call, he felt foolish. “This isn’t the first time he’s brought it up. He wants me to sell the house and move in with him and his family.”
“That sounds safe enough.” Personally, he’d faint if his brother asked him to move back east and live with him.
“Told me I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. He’d handle all my bills and things.”
“Ah… and your bank account?” A grin tugged at the corner of his mouth.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Give the man a kewpie doll.”
“You told him no. Now go to sleep.” Starsky lay back down. There was silence from the other side of the bed. “You did tell him no, didn’t you?”
“Of course I did.” He reached out to slap Starsky lightly on the shoulder. “But it bothered me.”
“To say no?” Another slap made him chuckle.
“We’ve done that crime scene.” Hutch reminded him. “The old relative dies and conveniently leaves everything to the grieving family.”
“Or to the new wife.” A grin and a sigh. “The nubile, twenty year old wife.”
“I had lunch with Aaron the other day to talk about the contract for the new Street Rampage game, and I asked him if there was anything to worry about.”
“What’d he say?”
“That if something happens to me, that my family could step in and take the house from you.” Laying back down, Hutch rubbed his forehead. An ache was starting behind his eyes. “My will could be contested, and if they bring up the grounds that we’re domestic partners, then they could probably get it thrown out.”
“Domestic partners? What the hell does that mean?”
“That we’re a gay couple.” The light blinded him as it snapped on. “Christ, Starsk!”
“Why would they say that?” Starsky sat up, the bed sloshing noisily. “We’re not.”
“Do you have any idea how much money we’ve made from our games?”
“I dunno, I let you handle that stuff.” The sapphire eyes sparkled. “I’m just the ideas man.”
“They could take my half of the royalties. My half of the house bank account.” Hutch sat up and nearly fell over as the water inside the mattress rolled away from the movement. He winced as his back protested the move. “They could take the house and throw you out.”
“You know, Hutch, I’m pretty well off, thanks to you.” Hutch had given him half of his own royalties from the first Rogue Shield game and insisted that the company list him as one of the game designers and pay him accordingly for the sequels. “You don’t hafta – “
“Thanks to me?”
“Yeah, you know how to do the programming.” A shrug. “I don’t know any of that stuff.”
“Rogue Shield, Street Rampage, Sharpshooter – all those were your ideas.” Starsky’s childlike enthusiasm for computer games was a gold mine. “If I had pitched my idea for a chess program, we’d probably still be eating Tuna Helper twice a week.”
“I like Tuna Helper.”
“Starsky, you’re hopeless.” Hutch pushed Starsky so that he fell over. The waterbed rocked and nearly pitched him over as well. “Shut up and go to sleep.”
“I was asleep.” Crawling back under the covers, he turned the light off again.
Hutch fought with the tangled covers until he was comfortable before turning his back on his partner. “I don’t know why I worry about you.”
For once, Starsky couldn’t fall asleep. The tension from Hutch was thick enough to suffocate in. His partner was genuinely worried. He thought about the house they’d fixed up over the years. Hutch’s kitchen had become the sunroom, and his den had been turned into their computer room. At some point they’d realized there would be no more live in girlfriends or wives in their future and they’d remodeled the house to suit themselves. Maybe they were domestic partners of a sort.
Reaching out in the dark, he found Hutch’s shoulder and rubbed gently. Slowly the tense muscles relaxed. “Go to sleep, babe.”
“Babe?” Patting Starsky’s hand, he chuckled. “Should I fear for my virtue?”
“If I don’t get laid soon, maybe.” Closing his eyes, he fell asleep.
The steady rhythm of Starsky’s breathing lulled Hutch toward sleep. “I’ve got papers for you to sign.”
“Nobody’s going to – “ Rolling over, he brushed a kiss across the graying curls, something he’d done only rarely. “It’s who do you trust time. Again.”
“Hmm… me and thee…” There was a soft chuckle. “M’worried for my virtue…”
“You’re not that pretty.” As he settled back on his side of the bed, Hutch gave in and let the sound of his best friend’s steady breathing ease him to sleep. Tomorrow he’d figure out when their anniversary was. They deserved a party; growing old friends was something to celebrate.