The Family Way
The sound of hurrying feet woke Hutch. For a moment he lay there in the dark, muzzy with sleep, vaguely wondering who those feet belonged to, and why the sound of footsteps in his apartment in the middle of the night wasn't bothering him. Then his memory kicked in. Oh, yeah. Starsky. On the couch. Making a bathroom run. He rolled over, and pulled the pillow closer, hoping he could drop off again quickly enough to make it worthwhile staying in bed.
The bathroom door clicked shut, and from behind it came the sound of someone being violently sick. Hutch jerked upright, all traces of sleep gone. He fumbled blindly for the light switch, finally catching the trailing lamp cord and following it up. Even the dim glow made him squint as he looked at the clock.
Five-thirty. Shit. Haven't even had five hours of sleep, and we're supposed to be in early today.
By the time he got himself untangled from the sheets and made it out to the hall, everything was silent again. Hutch hesitated for a moment, then tapped lightly on the door.
"Starsk? You okay in there?"
"Oh, hell, yeah, I puke every morning just before I have my shower," Starsky snarled. The effect was spoiled when he suddenly moaned and retched again. Hutch reached for the knob, and then decided against it. Instead he went to the closet and pulled out a clean washcloth and towel.
In the kitchen, he wrung out the cloth under the cold water tap, and rummaged around until he found some ginger ale in the back of the ice box. Leaning against the sink, he rubbed his damp hands over aching, gritty eyes. Dawn was no more than a vague pink glow on the horizon, barely making an impression against the tenacious remnants of night. Getting old, Hutchinson. Used to be able to pull double shifts like this with no sleep at all. He scrubbed his forehead with the cloth, and then rinsed it again. For a moment he considered getting coffee started, and then decided that if Starsky's stomach was in rebellion it would be a wasted effort.
When his partner finally emerged from the bathroom, he was pale and looked disheveled and somehow fragile. He shuffled slowly and carefully over to the couch and sank down with a little sound of misery, rolling himself into a ball and pulling the blanket around his shoulders. Hutch settled on the coffee table in front of him, and nudged his hand with the damp washcloth.
Starsky looked at the washcloth blankly for a moment, then grabbed it and wiped his face with a little grateful smile. Hutch noted his hand trembling slightly. "Sorry," Starsky croaked.
"No sweat." Hutch held the back of his hand to Starsky's forehead, then to his cheek and the back of his neck. "I don't think you've got a fever, anyway." He held out the glass of ginger ale. "Let's see if this'll settle your stomach. Slow and easy now."
Starsky gave another weak smile. "Jeeze, Hutch, I must be dyin', you letting me have a soda before breakfast." He sipped cautiously, and then cradled the glass against his chest.
"Smartass. You keep that down for a while, I'll make you some dry toast."
"Starsky shuddered. "No way. Nothing goes in my stomach until I feel more human."
"Too bad you didn't say that last night." Hutch shook his head. "I told you that the seafood burrito is an idea whose time has not come."
"Wasn't the burrito," Starsky said defensively. "I think I've got a bug."
"Yeah, and it's called la cucaracha," Hutch replied. Starsky muttered something towards the pillow, and Hutch looked at him in disbelief.
"Third time this week?" His voice rose sharply. "You didn't say anything."
Starsky looked down sheepishly and fiddled with the glass. "Well, it always went away once I was up and moving around, and I haven't felt that bad the rest of the day. Figured it was just stomach flu."
"Well, that takes care of our morning, at least. I'll call you in sick first thing, and then take you over to the clinic."
"I don't need a doctor. I'll be fine."
"You just said you've been throwing up all week. Now unless it's morning sickness, we need to get you to the clinic. And if it is morning sickness, we really need to get somebody to look at you." Hutch fought to hold back a smile.
"Morning sickness?" Starsky sounded simultaneously confused and appalled.
"Hey, when my sister had her first, she threw up practically every day during the first trimester. According to Mom, she just about lived on ginger ale and sardines for two months."
Starsky struggled to sit up. "Hutch. Pay attention. I am not pregnant."
"You sure about that?" Hutch leaned over and gently rubbed Starsky's stomach. "I think you're starting to show a little."
"I still can get into the same jeans I wore—" Starsky broke off. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" he said accusingly.
"Took your mind off your stomach, didn't I?" Hutch grinned. "You want any more to drink?"
"Uh-uh." Starsky settled back and took hold of Hutch's hand, moving it slightly higher on his abdomen.
Hutch resumed the rubbing motion, concentrating on synchronizing it with Starsky's breathing, keeping everything quiet and slow and calm. The tension gradually eased from Starsky's body; Hutch was pretty sure he'd relax enough in a few minutes to be able to go back to sleep. He was unaware that he'd started to hum under his breath, until Starsky's voice joined his.
"You and me and the devil makes three, don't need no other lovin' baby," Starsky sang softly.
"Still remember that one, huh?" Hutch chuckled at the memory of his attempts to master Appalachian folk songs.
"You sure spent long enough pickin' it out on the guitar. Every time I came over, there you were—" Starsky ducked his head away from Hutch's pretended swat.
"Think you can get to sleep now?"
"Yeah, I'm better. Sorry 'bout getting you up."
Hutch shrugged. "Let's see if we can get a little more rest before I call Dobey." He had only taken two steps from the couch when Starsky's voice stopped him.
"Hey, Hutch, if I did get knocked up, you'd do the right thing, wouldn'tcha? I mean, I'd probably get kicked off the force, and I'm not sure my health insurance covers something like that."
"What? Why me?" Hutch spluttered, waving his hands, as Starsky collapsed in a weak fit of giggles. "You moron. The only 'right thing' to do would be to put you in a chastity belt."
Starsky sniffled dramatically. "You mean you'd turn me and my innocent child out into the streets, to freeze and starve and be eaten by wolves?"
"You know, I can't remember the last time I had to shoot a wolf inside the Bay City limits," Hutch said dryly. "And we haven't had a frost since the early sixties. Besides, if you've been fooling around with somebody who leaves you high and dry, you deserve—" he stopped abruptly. His suddenly shadowed eyes seemed to be looking not at the bookcase across the room, but at a much darker scene.
"Hutch?" When there was no response, Starsky reached out and nudged his hand. "Hey, earth to blondie."
With a start, Hutch looked down. "Sorry. Just couldn't believe how much like my father I sounded right then."
"Ah." Starsky nodded sagely. "So, did you ever? Get a girl in trouble?"
Hutch shook his head. "I was always damn careful. Even as a teenager, I wasn't about to inflict the Hutchinson Family Experience on a girl I liked enough to sleep with. The way my father used to behave any time I got up the nerve to bring a girl home, you'd think half of Duluth was made up of grifters and fortune hunters. How about you?"
"Not that I know about, anyway." Starsky looked up. "I . . . I sorta hoped—with Terry—we'd have an accident, ya know? And then I could say 'hey, let's get married' like it was no big deal. And then—" he raised his hands. "And that's all she wrote."
Hutch patted his shoulder. He'd never told his partner how often his own dreams of family life had included being 'Uncle Hutch' to a houseful of little images of Starsky and Terry. Not that he'd needed to. "Come on. Let's get some sleep."
In the bedroom door, Hutch paused, and then turned. "Starsk? If you ever, you know, needed, um, anything, I probably, um, you know, might—" his voice trailed off.
Starsky rolled over, a huge grin lighting his face. "Hutchinson, that was the lousiest excuse for a proposal I ever heard."
Hutch felt his face flame. "It wasn't a proposal. I was just saying if you needed anything before I went back to bed . . . "
"It was a proposal," Starsky said firmly. "And I'm holdin' you to it. Not that you deserve it, seeing you didn't even go down on one knee or tell me I'm beautiful or nothin'."
"I brought you ginger ale. I rubbed your tummy. And I'm the one who gets to clean the john and drive you over to the clinic—and probably hold your hand while the doctor jabs a needle in your ass. Not to mention putting up with you bitching about it for the next two days. I'd say I've more than done my job."
Starsky sniffled again. "Typical man. All hearts n' flowers until you lose your figure and then—pfft."
Hutch rubbed his forehead. "Starsky, you're insane. So am I. I'm going back to bed until it's time to take you to the clinic."
He'd just settled comfortably under the covers when Starsky's voice came from the darkened living room. "Hey, blintz?"
"Thanks. For everything."
"Don't mention it. Please don't mention it." Hutch rolled over and thumped his pillow into what he hoped would be a more relaxing position. He could feel himself drifting off, just as Starsky spoke again.
"Hey, Hutch? Which would you like better: a girl or a boy?"