NS: Four Times Hutch Told Starsky "No" (and one time he gasped "no" to the fires of Hell)
Gen or Slash: whatever you want it to be, I'm easy. But not cheap.
Rated: PG for language I guess
Genre: post-Fix, Hutch-angst, with a glimmer of hope
Author's Note: the result of my pitiful call for a writing prompt on LiveJournal. The title came from Thayln (slightly modified), while the line "And that's why I can't go back to Milwaukee...at least until Big Frank is dead,” came from KimberlyFDR. Oh, and it's un-beta'ed too, as befits a writing exercise I think.....
They book-ended Tommy Gun in the corner booth at The Pits, having lured him there with the promise of cold cash for a hot tip. Like sweat bees to beer, the hype with the unfortunate name couldn't resist.
Starsky slowly pinched a paper napkin into shreds. Hutch tapped a butter knife in a hardened puddle of ketchup. Tommy shifted his blood-shot eyes from one to the other, scared to pick the wrong one.
“I don't know what you're askin',” he finally muttered to neither in particular.
“Yes. You do,” Hutch said. “First, we're asking you to give up Big Frank. Then, we're asking you to skip town until we've got him locked up.” He ticked off each suggestion on his fingers with the tip of the knife.
“I ain't got nowheres to go.”
“Don't you got folks in Wisconsin?” Starsky asked. He'd done his homework that afternoon, learned all about Tommy Gun and his unfortunate history in a quick session of “Snitch 101”.
“Yeah. But Frankie does too. And that's why I can't go back to Milwaukee... at least until Big Frank is dead. Or locked up for good."
Starsky balled up the napkin bits and tossed them at Tommy's face. “You're hurtin'.”
Tommy deflected the disintegrating ball with shaking hands.
“100 bucks gives you what you need,” Starsky continued. “And we get a gangster in return. Sounds like a match made in heaven.”
Hutch reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He made a show of rifling through the contents. Tommy followed the movements intently, eyes glittering. Hutch pulled out a 100-dollar bill.
“C'mon Tommy, you need it” Starsky pushed.
“A week's worth of horse, right here in my hand,” Hutch shoved.
Tommy talked for five minutes non-stop, spilling like a swollen river over a tangled branch. At the end of his five minutes, Hutch handed him the money. Starsky stepped out of the booth to release him. Tommy bulleted out of the booth and through the door.
Starsky slid back into the booth.
“That's that then.” He brushed his hands on his jeans. “You wanna order dinner?”
“No.” Hutch poked Starsky on the shoulder. “Let me up. I'm going home.”
The heroin sang to him, a siren’s song of longing, offering nothing, yet promising everything. It sang when he strummed the guitar, or caressed the piano keys, in the dark hours of wakeful night.
He was its unwilling accompanist.
The phone rang. The song stopped. Hutch looked at the clock. 2 a.m.
“No,” he lied.
“Then why did you call?”
“It was bugging me. You. How you left Huggy's. After Tommy. It was bugging me.”
“At 2 a.m. it was bugging you? It couldn't have bugged you when sane people are awake?”
“It bugged me then too. But I couldn't put my finger on it then.”
“You can now?” Then help me put my finger on it too.
“You're worried you would have given up someone too, for a 100 bucks and a fix.”
“Starsk, I did give someone up. I gave up Jeannie. And it wasn't even for money.”
“Not then. I mean later. If there had been a later. If it had gone on. Like that. Like....”
“... like it would have been you and your new partner meeting me at The Pits, waving money under my nose, advising me to move back to Duluth for a while.”
“Yeah. Like that. Except, it wasn't like that. And I guess that's my point, if I ever had one.”
“But it could have been. I would have sold you, my sisters, my life....”
“...your gun, your plants, your favorite corduroy jeans. But you didn't.”
Hutch had to smile. “I'm hanging up now. This is me, hanging up. At 2:05 a.m. Go to bed already. I'll pick you up in the morning.”
He hung up. The song took residence in his head again. He turned the TV on to drown it out.
Hutch was on the tall fence after evading Monk, shivering as if someone had named his grave. He looked down at Starsky. His partner smiled and beckoned. He slid down, expecting to be met with firm arms. But instead he continued downward, past his partner, past the pavement, his hair singeing from his scalp as the earth rained daggers of dirt and flame all around him. He opened his mouth to scream, felt the air sucked from his lung, replaced with ash and rock. His thoughts narrowed as he lost consciousness, panting for elusive breath...
“No!” he gasped and awoke, askew in a tangle of blankets on the couch. Starsky stood there, reaching out a hand as if he had been about to shake him awake.
“No,” Hutch said again. “Don't.” He ducked under his partner's hand and stood up.
Starsky ignored the snub and grabbed Hutch's arm. “A hell of a dream you were havin',” he said. “I let myself in. You didn't pick me up like you said, so I came.” Starsky's voice held the slightest shadow of panic.
“I'm fine. Just a dream.” Hutch shook off the help and stumbled to his closet, stripping off yesterday's clothing as he went. He stood naked for a moment in front of the closet door, in that half-awake, half-asleep state that greets all unwilling dreamers. Eyes gritty. Mouth of cotton. Head heavy. “Nothing important.”
“You gonna let me help you?”
“I've been dressing myself since I was five.”
“You know damn well what I mean.”
“No Starsk, I don't.” He grabbed a shirt and pants out of his closet, stomped over to his dresser, snagged clean underwear and socks. “I don't know what you mean.” He sat on his bed and started putting on clothing with grim enthusiasm.
“I'm fine.” Pull on pants. “Just fine.” Jam shirt sleeves over arms. “I overslept.” Shove feet into socks.
“Then why are you wearing long sleeves in 80 degree weather?”
Hutch stopped, frozen in the act of buttoning his shirt.
“No one can see the scars anymore. But you act like there's still something to hide.”
Hutch flopped backwards on his bed in resignation. “You can't see them anymore,” he said slowly, his hands behind his head. “But I can. Every day. A reminder of my weakness, how I gave her away. How I could have given anyone away. I look at Tommy Gun now and think 'There but for the grace of God go I.'”
Starsky sat down on the bed next to him.
“It talks to me, you know,” Hutch continued, staring at the ceiling. Starsky looked at him sharply.
“The heroin. It sings and forces me to sing along with it. My soul... my soul is filled with its song.”
Starsky took Hutch's head into his lap. They stayed there for some time... Hutch hearing the whispered tune, Starsky wondering if he could ever do enough to muffle it.
Tommy Gun got his head blown off at the bus depot a few days later. His ticket to Milwaukee was tucked neatly in his pocket. When interviewed, the ticket agent remembered distinctly that Gun had paid for the ticket with a 100 dollar bill -- held tightly in a shaking hand.
Starsky and Hutch never got to use the information that Tommy Gun had given them; the feds nabbed Big Frank for tax evasion just a few hours before Bay City police were scheduled to knock on his door.
That evening the partners were back in The Pits, after a day of arguing custody issues with the feds. Captain Dobey had joined them in a rare show of camaraderie, but left after two beers and beating them both in pool. They gravitated to the back booth after his departure, nursing their billiard wounds.
“I'll grab us some snacks,” Starsky said. He hopped up from his seat and bounded over to the bar, to charm Diane into some free chips and dip.
Hutch was left on his own. He looked down at the table, saw a hardened puddle of ketchup, and wondered vaguely if it was the same puddle he'd picked at a week ago. He was scratching at its edge with his fingernail when Starsky came back.
“Quit picking at stuff,” Starsky scolded. “Let's talk about the feds; we need a strategy.”
Hutch quit picking. Now he had ketchup under his fingernail. “Look,” he said, holding up his finger and grinning. “looks like blood under my nails. I could drive the crime lab crazy with this... death by condiment.”
Starsky suddenly felt uneasy. He grabbed the hand. “Knock it off.”
“I'm making a joke Starsk. A stupid joke.”
“Fine. It's a joke. Ha ha. Now lets talk about tomorrow.” He released Hutch's hand.
“Of course, we know that blood doesn't really look like ketchup. Doesn't smell like it either.”
Starsky stood up, violently upending his basket of chips. He grabbed Hutch's arm. “Let's go.” He dragged his partner through the kitchen and outside, out back where the Torino was parked.
Starsky cut to the chase. “You didn't kill Tommy Gun, you moron.”
“Didn't I? Didn't you? We got him to talk. He was killed for being a stoolie. And he wouldn't have talked if we hadn't played right into his habit. His stupid fucking habit.”
Starsky tipped his head heavenward. “But don't you see?” He looked back down at Hutch, staring with cobalt blue intensity. “He didn't use the money for heroin. He used it to get away.”
Hutch leaned heavily on the Torino hood. “Fat lot of good it did him. They tracked him to the bus depot and splattered his brains all over a bench.”
“That's beside the point,” Starsky said, waving his hand dismissively. “The heroin lost. Chalk one up for the good guys.”
Hutch snorted. “You are a goof ball. Only you could consider a bloody hit in a bus depot a victory for the good guys.”
“Stop leaning on my hood. Only people who speak respectfully to me can touch my car.” The cobalt blue stare softened.
“Let's go back inside and eat. I'd hate to have wasted all that charm on chips that are going stale.”
“No. Take me home. I've got some hummus in the fridge that's gonna go bad if I don't eat it soon.”
Hutch took off his jacket in deference to the warm summer night. Starsky grabbed his partner arm, now bare in short sleeves.
“C'mon you,” he said as he led Hutch to the passenger side door. “I'll watch you eat hummus.”