Shell Game

By Maquis Leader





Rated: NC17 for language and sexual situations.

Author’s note: Set immediately before and during Starsky vs. Hutch.

For timeline purposes,  I’ve moved the epi back before the Targets Without A Badge arc, where – rumor has it – the epi was originally supposed to have aired but was pre-empted.




Saturday Night



“The wedding was beautiful, and the bride was perfect.”


Starsky frowned. That didn’t sound right. He tipped the bottle of champagne up and took a drink.


“The bride was beautiful, and the wedding was perfect.”


Much better. He took another drink. Some of the wine dribbled down his chin, and he wiped it off with the back of his sleeve. When his mother asked about the wedding, his lines were ready.




He looked up. Hutch was standing next to him. He smiled up at his partner. “Hey. The wedding was beautiful – damn. Messed it up again.”


Hutch sat down on the lounger next to Starsky. “Mind if I have a drink?” He held out his empty glass.


“Sure.” Starsky rolled partway over and carefully poured champagne into the glass Hutch was waving around. “Quit moving it.”


“Sorry.” Hutch steadied the shaking bottle. Starsky was at least two sheets into a three sheets to the wind drunk. “Thanks.”


“Don’ mention it.” Starsky took a swig from the bottle before laying back and staring across the pool at the wedding reception, still in full swing.


Sipping his champagne, Hutch studied his partner. Starsky had been acting very unStarsky like lately. He’d been quiet through the ceremony and reception. Usually Starsky would be found on the dance floor, gathering phone numbers, pinches, and kisses from every woman in the place. Instead, he was sprawled on one of the funky poolside loungers, working on a massive hangover.


“The wedding was beautiful – ah, Hutch…” Starsky took another drink. “How come I keep messing it up?”


There was a question with too many levels to consider. “You’re trying too hard.”


“You’re right – I’ll relax.” He cuddled the bottle to his chest.


“You want to tell me what’s wrong?” Hutch shifted on the hard fiberglass. “You haven’t kissed an old lady’s hand or dipped a single pretty girl all night.” Getting drunk at weddings is my gig, remember?


Starsky didn’t answer for several moments. When he did, his voice was soft and sad. “I’m lonely.”


Hutch reached across the space between them and laid a hand on Starsky’s shoulder. He squeezed gently. “Well, I’m here.”


“I thought I’d be married – have some kids by now.” He took a long drink, ignoring the wine that dripped onto his chin. “I’m thirty four – and there’s nobody – not even a steady girl.”


“Marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, buddy.”


“There’s happy couples. Plenty of ‘em.” He waved the bottle in the general direction of the reception. “Look at Dobey – Dobeys – the Dobeys – “


“I know there’s happy couples, Starsk. You know me, Mr. Cynical.”


“I’d have married Terry.” The sigh came all the way up from his heart. “Had some kids by now.”


“I know.” He squeezed Starsky’s shoulder again. “I’m sorry.”


“S’okay.” Reaching up, he patted Hutch’s hand. “I just need – somebody.”


Hutch caught the bottle before Starsky could take another drink, and set it down. “That’s enough. Too much more and I might start looking good to you.”


Starsky sat up, grabbing at Hutch for support. “I love you, Hutch.” He said seriously. “But you’re not what I need.”


For some reason he couldn’t pin down, that stung. “Always the bridesmaid – “ Hutch grunted as he pulled Starsky to his feet.  “Never the bride.”


“The bride was beautiful…”


“Starsk – “ His partner sagged in his arms. “You never could hold your liquor.”



Late Saturday Night



Hutch hung the towel up on the hook and shut the light off as he came out of the bathroom. Walking quietly over to the bed, he looked down at his partner. Starsky was sleeping restlessly, a frown on his face as his hands twisted the blanket into knots.


Pulling a chair up next to the bed, Hutch laid a hand on his shoulder. “Shh… it’s okay… everything is okay…”


Starsky began to settle down, his hands unclenching and his body relaxing. Whatever had been tormenting him in his sleep was leaving him alone for now.


This was happening more and more lately. One of them getting falling down drunk and the other baby sitting. It had been only two days ago – or was it three? Hutch rubbed his face. Two days ago that he had awakened in his bed with no memory of how he’d gotten there. He had stumbled into the living room to find Starsky sleeping on the sofa. A few nights before that, he’d held Starsky’s head over the toilet while he heaved his guts up, too drunk to keep from falling face first into the toilet bowl.


By a mutual, unspoken agreement, they no longer got drunk on the same night. Four months ago Hutch had come to in his car, finding it up against a smashed guardrail, one front wheel hanging off the lip of the road. Getting out, he’d seen the drop off into a canyon just on the other side. A long drop. Starsky had been unconscious in the front seat with a gash across his forehead that matched the smeared blood on the dashboard.


Between the two of them they’d managed to untangle the car from the railing and get the wheel back up onto the pavement. Neither had mentioned that there were no skid marks leading up to the guardrail or that they had no memory of getting into the car and leaving Starsky’s place. Why they were way in the hell out in the boonies remained a mystery.


“We’ve got to stop doing this to ourselves, buddy.” Hutch leaned back in the chair and waited to be sure the demons wouldn’t come back. At least for tonight.



Sunday Morning



“Oh my God…”


“Good morning, sunshine.” Hutch watched Starsky stagger out of his bedroom and into the kitchen. “Want some coffee?”


“Kill me…” Sitting at the table, he laid his head on his arms. “Please kill me…”


“That’s what the coffee’s for.” Hutch poured a cup of hot coffee and set it on the table.


“Please tell me I didn’t do anything embarrassing.” The words were muffled. “Please tell me I didn’t say anything crude to Sharon.”


“You didn’t do anything embarrassing, and you didn’t say anything crude to Sharon.”


“Thank God.” Lifting his head, Starsky eyed the coffee cup. “Is there poison in it?”


“No more than usual.” The toast popped up in the toaster, and Hutch grabbed it and put it on a saucer. “Here, eat this.”


“No.” He pushed the saucer away. “I’ll throw up.”


“At least you’ll have something on your stomach to come up.” Hutch sat down at the table and picked up a piece of toast. “Eat.”


“I hate you.” Forcing himself to take a bite of the dry toast, Starsky chewed it slowly. “Some days I really hate you.”


“I know.” He pushed back from the table and got up.


The toast went down in a hard lump. “Hey, I didn’t mean that. You know I was kidding.”


“No you weren’t.”


Getting up from the table, Starsky steadied himself for the long walk to the cabinet where Hutch stood staring out into the backyard. “I was. You know, I dunno what I’d do without you.”


“What are we doing to ourselves?” He turned to his friend. “What the hell are we doing to ourselves?”


“I dunno.” Starsky cringed. “But can we do it quieter?”


“Sit down.” Taking Starsky’s arm, Hutch guided him back to the table.


“Do I have to eat the toast?” He eyed it warily.


“One piece.” The coffee was mild, perfect for someone with a hangover, and Hutch wished he had something stronger to put in it. There was a bottle of – the cup hit the table with a thump, coffee sloshing over the rim. “Starsky, do you see what we’re doing?”


“Give my eyes time to focus.” Starsky leaned on the table and chewed on another bite of toast.


“We’re getting burnt out. We’re tired and worn down.” The spilled coffee ran across the table, and he didn’t have the energy to mop it up. “Every day it gets harder and harder to do this job.”


“I know.” The coffee was weak, and he swallowed it gratefully. “We’re getting mean with everybody. I took Merle’s head off the other day when he said something about how I’d put off coming in for a tune up.”


“Not like you to go so long without taking care of that tomato of yours.” Hutch sighed when Starsky’s eyes hardened. “We’re even hurting each other.”


“I’m sorry.” He reached out to pat Hutch’s arm. “We’re drinking too much – aren’t we?”


“Let’s see…one of is us drunk just about every night, with the other staying sober to stand guard.” The tone was pure acid. “What do you think?”


“I think I’m glad I got you to stand guard.”


“Me too.” He covered Starsky’s hand with his own for a moment. “Me too.”


Starsky drank his coffee and forced down the piece of toast in silence.  Hutch got up and got a paper towel to wipe the spilled coffee off the table. He poured another cup of coffee for himself and Starsky before sitting down again.


The job was taking a toll on them. The years of catching criminals and watching the courts set them free. The endless current of junkies and hookers and killers that they could never block, no matter how hard they worked. It was piling up on them and grinding them underneath.


“Maybe… maybe if we didn’t work so hard at it?”


Hutch didn’t answer. They both knew that wasn’t an option.


“What else can we do?”


“I’ve been thinking, Starsk. Maybe we should take the Lieutenants exam.” A desk job might be good for them after so many years on the street. “Move up or maybe change departments.”


“And what’ll happen to our beat?” Starsky finished the second cup of coffee. “What about Huggy? And Larry? And old Eddie? And Sweet Alice?”


“I don’t know.”


“We’ll figure it out, partner. We always do.” Standing up, Starsky patted Hutch on the back as he walked carefully back to his bedroom. “I’m gonna shower and see if I can scrape the crap off the roof of my mouth.”


Hutch put the cups in the sink and tossed the uneaten piece of toast into the trash. Taking the Lieutenants exam was a suggestion he knew wasn’t going to fly. There was no way they were ever leaving their beat behind. Not until one of them was killed or injured so badly that he couldn’t work again. And then what would happen?


Walking to the bathroom, he cracked the door open and shouted over the running water. “I’m going to go home and clean up.“




“I’ll meet you downtown.” He started to leave and then stopped. “Starsk, I know you’re lonely.”


Behind the glass, Starsky stopped soaping his chest and leaned against the tile wall.


“Hell, I’m lonely too, you know?” Hutch looked at the dark shape behind the glass. “At least we can be less lonely together.”


Leaning on the wall, the hot water pouring down over him, Starsky waited until he heard Hutch leave. “Maybe we’re more lonely together.”



Sunday Afternoon



“Starsky, Hutchinson, this is Detective Kira Abrahms.” Captain Dobey waved a hand at the blonde woman seated in his office. “Detective Abrahms, this is Detective Dave Starsky and Detective Ken Hutchinson. They’ll be working with you on this case.”


“Nice to meet you.” She held a hand out to each of them. “Partners?”


“Yeah.” Starsky took her hand and squeezed her fingers. “But we’re not attached.”


“No, he changes his own nappies now.” Hutch lifted her other hand to his lips.


“All right, sit down!” Dobey growled. “We’ve got work to do! There’s a lunatic out there killing off dance hall girls and we’re gonna stop him.”


Starsky took the empty chair to Kira’s right while Hutch took the one to her left. Both of them leaned in closer to her.


“Let me guess?” Kira crossed her legs. “I’m the newest girl?”


“Well, Hutch dances like a chicken committing suicide, so that lets him out.” Starsky admired the length of leg on display. “I’ll bet you’re a great dancer.”


“Knock it off, you two!” Their captain leaned both fists on his desk. “No fooling around on this one – I need your head on the case! You understand?”


“Yes, sir.” They chorused. Hutch winked at Starsky behind Kira’s back. This wouldn’t be any different than any other case they’d worked on with a policewoman. They’d flirt and compete over her and see who won. Or if they both won.


Kira smiled.



Sunday Evening



“Here’s a fresh cup.”


“Thank you.” Kira took the cup of coffee from Starsky. “Nothing like precinct coffee.”


“It’ll put hair on your chest.” Starsky sat back down across from her and opened another file.


“I can see that.”


Normally that would have earned a woman a smile and a comeback along the lines of ‘would you like to see a little more?’  But without Hutch there to play, Starsky didn’t have the energy. Come to think of it, he didn’t really have the energy to play even when Hutch was around.


Kira studied Starsky carefully. The flirting had ended the moment they’d left Dobey’s office. He had divided the R and I files with her while Hutch went to talk to Mrs. Bouvet and Susan, the only blonde Mrs. Bouvet still had working for her who hadn’t dyed or otherwise covered her hair.


Kira had heard that Starsky and Hutch were real swingers. They flirted with every woman they came into contact with. When they worked with a policewoman, the intensity stepped up and usually one or the other ended up nailing her before the case was over – sometimes both of them, if the rumors were true.


The rumors also said that they’d never let a woman come between them. A smile twitched at her lips. Unless they were fucking her. They were tighter than brothers, Minnie had told her. Had their own motto: ‘Me and Thee’ and basically the hell with everybody else.


Turning the page of the report as if she were reading it, Kira watched Starsky’s face as he read through the file he had. Rose Booker had been a single mother, working to put herself through night school. Flickers of sadness moved over his face, and the full lips were turned down.


“God, this is too much.” Kira closed her file. Leaning back, she rubbed her forehead. “This woman – she didn’t deserve this.”


“I know.” Starsky shook his head. “This one had a kid. No other relatives. Poor kid'll probably end up in foster care.”


“Mine had a boyfriend. They were getting married in a few months.” She rested an elbow on the table. “A June wedding. What every woman wants.”


“S’what I hear.”


“I’m just so tired of this. It never ends and sometimes I’m so damned lonely – “ The sapphire eyes snapped up to meet hers, and Kira sucked in a breath at the yearning there. “You know, I thought I’d be married by now.”


“Me too.” Starsky shut the file he’d been reading. “Maybe have a kid or two.”


“Yeah.” She gave him a wistful look. “Detective Starsky – “


“Dave.” He smiled at her. “Call me Dave.”


“Dave.” Smiling, Kira reached out and touched his hand. “Do you think that we’ll ever find someone who understands our crazy life?”


“I don’t know.” He turned his hand over so that her fingers rested in his palm. “Who’s gonna understand late nights and robberies and dead bodies?”


“And a gun hanging on the back of the door?” She rubbed her fingers in circles across the warm skin of his palm.


“Are you really lonely?” Starsky had noticed Kira was pretty right off – he was tired, not dead – but now she seemed prettier than before. Her eyes were sad and her smile was shaky. She reminded him of himself.


“Yeah. Sometimes – sometimes I drink a little too much, you know?” She said, and when he glanced away, Kira knew she’d hit another mark. “Just so I can sleep – not too much, but – “


“But more than you should?” How many mornings had he greeted without a hangover lately? Easier to count the ones when I didn’t have a hangover.


“You know it.” She frowned. “Not you, too? Oh, come on, you have to have a girlfriend.”


“Not currently. Not for awhile now.”


“I find that hard to believe.” Kira pulled her hand away. “Is this a game? Playing on my loneliness to score – “


“No, no!” Shaking his head, Starsky reached for her hand again. “Nothing like that, I swear.”


“You know…” Kira looked down, letting her eyelashes hide her eyes. “A lot of men try to take advantage of a lonely woman.”


“Not me, sweetheart.” He put a finger under her chin and tipped her face up. “I’m lonely too. Sometimes there’s so much silence in my apartment, it just makes me crazy.”


“Do you walk through the rooms hoping you’ll run into someone?” She gave him her wistful look again. “Even though you know nobody’s there but you?”


“Sometimes.” He laughed softly. “Pretty crazy, huh?”


“Guess we’re both crazy then.” She laughed with him.


“Listen, why don’t we go get a bite to eat? It’s getting late.”


“Well… “ Kira looked at the closed door leading into Dobey’s office. “Captain Dobey – “


“You let me worry about the captain.” Starsky winked at her.


“Dave, I don’t want to get you into trouble – “


“You won’t.”


“Okay, here – “ Grabbing a pen, Kira scribbled an address down on a piece of paper and handed it to him. “This place is a little out of the way, but quiet and nobody will see us.”


“Are you ashamed to be seen with me?” The smile faded.


“No.” She reached a hand out to his face, pulling away just before she touched his cheek. The longing in his eyes made her smile. “I don’t think I’ll ever be ashamed of you.”


“Let me call Hutch and tell him – “


“No, don’t tell Hutch.” Kira caught his hand before he could pick the phone up. “Just the two of us?”


“Sure. Let me just tell him – “


“Can’t you tell him you’re just going to go home?” There was a narrowing of Starsky’s eyes, and they darkened slightly. “I don’t want you to lie to him – he’s your partner – but you will be going home.”


“Well, that’s not exactly the whole truth either.” He said with a smile, and she nodded. “But it’s enough of the truth I guess.”


Kira gathered up the files and put them away while Starsky called Hutch. She listened intently to his half of the conversation. He told Hutch that he was going to grab something to eat and head on home. No, he didn’t mind if Hutch finished up with Mrs. Bouvet and yes, he’d see him tomorrow.


When he hung up, Kira laid a hand on his arm. “Walk me to my car?”


“Of course.” He smiled at her and patted her hand. “Not that the garage of the police department isn’t perfectly safe – but why take chances?”


“Nice to see there’s still gentlemen left.”



Late Sunday Night



He wanted to call Hutch. Tell him how good he felt. Starsky ran his fingers over the phone. Only he’d promised Kira that he wouldn’t.


She’d pointed out how much tougher they were on women than men when it came to fraternization and conduct. She was right. He’d seen good cops reprimanded and suspended for things that wouldn’t have mattered if they’d been men. It wasn’t fair, but it was how things were.


Not telling Hutch was hard. He’d never held back a secret from him before. Anytime he agreed he wouldn’t tell a soul, that never included Hutch. His partner could be counted on not to spill the beans, and he understood how things were.


Sighing, Starsky put the phone back on the bedside table. He’d promised Kira, and he couldn’t go back on a promise. It wasn’t like it was an important secret anyway.


He rolled over and went to sleep, dreaming of children and a wife who loved him. Sleep pulled him down deeper, and he smiled as Terry wrapped her arms around his neck.



Monday Night



“It’s sleazy, but at least it’s honest.”


“What?” Hutch pulled his attention back to Kira. He’d been scanning the dance floor, only half heartedly paying attention to the backgammon game they were playing.


“Here – this place – “ She waved a hand at the crowded dance floor. “It's one step up from prostitution, but it's honest.”


“You lost me.” He waited until she rolled and moved her pieces. “Since when is prostitution honest?”


“Hey, a guy comes in and picks a girl and they dance.” Handing over the dice cup, Kira let her fingers brush his. Hutch had nice long fingers. “He pays – she dances – no games.”


“And that’s barely above prostitution?” Flicking his wrist, he tossed the dice out onto the felt. “There’s no sex.”


“Isn’t there?” She smiled. “Isn’t dancing just sex standing up?”


“I guess that depends on how you do it.” He handed the cup to her, going back to scanning the floor.


Starsky was dancing with a brunette who towered over him, laughing and talking to her, but he was only a few feet from Susan should anything go down here in the dance hall.


“And how do you do it?” Kira waited until Hutch turned back to her.


Normally that would have earned a woman a smile and a comeback along the lines of ‘why don’t we go find out?’But without Starsky there to play, Hutch didn’t have the energy. Come to think of it, he didn’t really have the energy to play even when Starsky was around.


“Well, isn’t that my line?” Kira prompted him.


“Your line?” Hutch looked back out at the dance floor. “I guess it is, if I were coming on to you.”


“That’s where this is more honest. There’s no ‘hey don’t I know you from somewhere?’, ‘can I buy you a drink?’, or ‘do you need a lift home?’ crap.” Kira picked up the dice and dropped them into the cup. “Just a simple no strings, no guilt, no games transaction.”


The baby blue eyes were completely focused on her now, and Kira shivered. She turned it into a shrug. “Sorry, Hutch, feel free to ignore the cynical divorcee.”


“You were married?”


“A few years back. Big mistake.”


“How’s that?” He leaned forward.


“It was good at first – I won’t lie and say it was all bad.” Kira let her gaze focus on something over Hutch’s shoulder for a moment before she brought it back to meet his once again. “But then the games started. I think my favorite was ‘why do you work at night so much?’”


“You were a cop then, too, I take it?” Hutch had noticed Kira was pretty right off – he was tired, not dead – but now she seemed prettier than before. Her eyes were hard and her smile was bitter. She reminded him of himself.


“Hey, it’s my life.” She rolled her eyes. “Some life, huh? Trying to save an endless stream of people – half of who don’t want to be saved.”


Kira knew that Hutch had been married and divorced – a messy divorce at that, according to Minnie. He’d been accused of murdering his ex-wife a year or so ago, partly because his skin had been found under her fingernails. It wasn’t hard to figure the pattern of jealousy and head games in that marriage.


“Beats the alternative.”


“True. Ah, I’m just a bitter old bitch.” Kira laughed as she tossed the dice and moved her pieces. “One of my friends is getting married and she’s wanting me to be a bridesmaid. Weddings aren’t my idea of fun anymore. I end up drinking too much, you know? Not that I don’t drink too damn much lately anyway.”


“Yeah.” He laughed softly. “I know how it goes.”


“But that’s what she wants – what all my friends want.”


“And, ah…” Hutch took the dice cup and rolled it so the dice tumbled around. “What do you want?”


“A damn good fuck – with no games and no guilt.” She reached out and ran her fingertips over his hand. “And no strings.” She said, and when his eyes slid away, Kira knew she’d hit another mark. “Now your friend there – Starsky – “


The blue eyes were back on her, cold as ice and Kira scrambled to make her point. “He’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong – but I can see what he wants.”


“And what does Starsky want?” He pulled his hand away from hers. “In your expert opinion.”


“He wants the wife and the kids and the white picket fence.” She sighed. “He’s not a no strings kind of guy.”


“Starsky hasn’t learned what all of that means.” Hutch’s eyes softened as he watched his partner twirl the brunette around. “One day he will.”


“And you’ll be there – " Kira reached out and tapped a fingertip on the back of his hand. "To pick up the pieces.” Shrugging, she traced along the line of his knuckles. “Starsky’s a nice guy, and you know, I wouldn’t mind dinner or even a roll in the sack with him. But he’s the kind who’s looking for a commitment.”


“And you’re not?”


“No.” She rubbed her fingers gently over the knuckles of his clenched fist. “It’d just waste my time and his. He’s not who I want.”


“And who do you want?” He leaned closer.


“Like I said, someone who’s a good fuck. With no games and no guilt.” She smiled at him, letting the desire she felt show through. “And no strings.”


“Listen, why don’t we get out of here, it’s getting pretty late.”


“Well…” She licked her lips. “Let’s go.”


“Let me tell Starsky – “


“No, don’t tell Starsky.” Kira caught his arm as he started to get up. “Just the two of us, okay?”


“Sure. Let me just tell him – “


“Can’t you tell him you’re just going to make sure I get home safely?” There was a narrowing of Hutch’s eyes, and they darkened slightly. “I don’t want you to lie to him – he’s your partner – but you will be making sure I get home safely.”


“Not exactly the whole truth, is it?” He said with a smile, and she nodded. “I suppose it’s enough of the truth. And I am assigned to you tonight anyway.”


“See how nicely that works out?” Hutch held out a hand to help her to her feet, and Kira let him pull her against his body for just a moment before she stepped away. The lust in his eyes made her smile. “I’ll go punch out.”


Kira punched out and got her coat and purse while Hutch waved at Starsky to come over to the lobby. She listened intently to the conversation. Hutch told him that she was worn out and that he was going to follow her home to make sure she got in safely. No, he didn’t want to trade assignments and guard Susan, and yes, he’d see him tomorrow. And what the hell was the matter?


Catching Starsky’s eyes over Hutch’s shoulder, Kira could see that he didn’t look happy. Too soon for that type of thing. She shrugged and gave him a ‘what can we do?’ look. Starsky smiled back, and his body lost its tension. Hutch patted him on the shoulder.


Turning to leave, she felt a rush of power flow through her as she heard Hutch’s footsteps behind her.



Late Monday Night



Starsky shifted, trying to get comfortable. The Torino’s seats were wonderful if you were driving, but unforgiving as hell if you were sitting on a stakeout. Susan had told him he could sleep on the sofa. Susan’s husband had made it clear, however, that he wasn’t welcome.


“Pardon me for trying to protect your wife.” Starsky reached down to slide the seat back another notch, only to find his seat was already all the way back against the carpet covered cement blocks in the back floorboard. The Torino’s rear tended to tip if he took corners too fast – which he often did – making the cement blocks a necessity to keep her on her wheels. Unfortunately, they also kept the seats from sliding all the way back.


Luck of the draw had paired him up with Susan for tonight, leaving Hutch to watch Kira. If Dobey hadn’t been breathing down their necks, he’d have tried to get Hutch to switch. Not that the big dope would have. The Game was on.


Kira had caught him on the way out of the squad room and told him not to worry about it. Tomorrow, they would switch and she’d have a wonderful dinner cooked for them to enjoy after they got in from the dance hall. For Hutch, she had lunchmeat and chips.


A smile curved Starsky’s lips as he remembered Kira glancing up and down the hall to be sure no one was looking before she kissed him. It was a quick kiss, just a brushing of her lips across his, and she was gone before he could respond. But still, it was a kiss.


His shoulder began to ache, and Starsky shifted around to sit with his back to Hutch’s door. The early spring night was chilly, and he zipped his jacket up, stuffing his nose down inside the collar. Stakeouts were crap under the best circumstances, and miserable when it was cold. The only consolation was that Hutch was equally miserable across town.


“There’s a thought.” Leaning down, Starsky picked up the microphone. He and Hutch seemed to be catching each other coming and going on this case. Maybe this would give them a chance to talk.


“Zebra Three to control, you there, Minnie?”


“I’m here, sweetie. What’d’ya need?”


“Patch me through to Hutch, would you?” He grinned. “I wanna make sure he’s as cold and miserable as I am.”


“Sleeping in the car, Starsky?” Minnie clucked sympathetically. “Let me see what the other half of the dynamic duo is up to.”


“Thanks, Minnie.” Starsky waited while she contacted Hutch and patched him through. It took longer than he expected, and he jumped when Minnie’s voice finally crackled from the radio.


“Sorry, Starsky, I’m not getting an answer.”


“No answer?” He sat up in the seat and reached for the key. “When was his last contact?”


“He called in about two hours ago and said he had detective Abrahms tucked in for the night.” She chuckled. “Guess he ain’t having to sleep in the car.”


“Guess not.” Starsky slumped back into the seat. “Thanks, Minnie. Zebra Three out.”


“Night, Starsky.”


So Hutch wasn’t in his car, which meant he was either walking around the perimeter of Kira's house or he was inside. With Kira.


It made sense. Kira was a cop, and she wouldn’t make Hutch sit out in the car all night. It made perfect sense except that his hand was clenched on the key hard enough to cut into his skin.


“There’s no reason to be jealous of Hutch.” Starsky forced his hand to let go of the key and rubbed his aching fingers. “Kira isn’t interested in Hutch.”


Leaning back, he took in a deep breath. “No reason to be jealous.” Another deep breath. “Except… Hutch is interested in Kira.”


Jealousy wasn’t an emotion he was used to. Starsky had never been a possessive person, and he’d never had any reason to be jealous of Hutch. Jealous over Hutch sometimes, like when they’d met Hutch's old buddy in Vegas, but never jealous of Hutch.


Whenever he was genuinely interested in a girl, Hutch always backed off. That was the rule – unspoken but there. If one of them really liked a girl, then the other turned off the charm and backed off.


Except that this time Hutch didn’t know he was interested. He hadn’t told Hutch that he and Kira had gone out to dinner two nights in a row or that they’d sat and talked for hours. Kira had said it would be best to keep things as low key as possible, and he’d agreed – reluctantly – but he’d agreed.


Kira had warned him that she was going to flirt with his partner and the other men at the club just as the other girls working there would do. And she’d done just that. Flirted with Hutch until Starsky wanted to strangle him.


Heat crawled up the back of his neck. She’d spent at least an hour laughing and playing backgammon with Hutch. Hutch, who’d followed her home and was probably in her house right now. Flirting with her –


“Stop it!” Starsky slammed his hands down on the steering wheel. Hutch could flirt all he wanted – he wasn’t Kira's type. She’d spotted Hutch as the no strings, one night stand type right off, and she’d had enough of those encounters. Kira thought Hutch was a nice guy, but not what she was looking for.


“Just stop it.” He unzipped his jacket and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck in an effort to cool down. “If I could only tell him. Only – only – “ Only he couldn’t.


“Mr. Rock, say hello to Mr. Hardplace.” Stretching out on the seat, Starsky leaned back against his door. It was going to be a long night.




Shell Game: Part 2