He who plants a Tree loves others besides himself
-- English proverb
I guess I should be used to hospitals by now. Spent enough time in one... six long months. God, why can't it be me lying there hurt and broken?
I reach out and tentatively cover the hand I know as well as my own, fearful that in his unconscious state he will pull away from me. Tears clog my eyes as I start with his leg and work my way up to assess the damages. A broken leg, two cracked ribs, a broken hand, stitches under his left eye and last but not least a concussion.
All this because of a damn argument over a Christmas tree. Course that argument was one of many over the last few weeks. Seems that lately everything was a battle from the socks left on the floor, to the dirty dishes in the sink and the toothpaste tube being squeezed in the middle. He was the one who always started the fight. Is he that fearful of love that he has to try and push me away?
Well, I got news for him. I ain't going any where... at least without a fight.
******"Starsky, get your butt out here and help me!" Hutch grunted and moaned out on the back deck as he put the tree together. For their first Christmas, Starsky had insisted on a live tree. He'd tried to ignore Hutch's sneezing and constant nose blowing but when it was accompanied by his partner's bad mood, Starsky gave in. He'd finally decided that there were some battles that he would just not pursue. Whether they had a live tree or an artificial one didn't matter, as long as they had a tree.
But this year, he wanted to place the tree in a different place, in front of the big picture window, where it would be seen from the street. He had to plan his argument carefully, since Hutch was the one that never liked change.
It amazed him that his friend even refused changing brands of toilet paper.
Another swear word from the deck, caught Starsky's attention. He headed for the kitchen, grabbed two beers from the fridge and joined Hutch. The piercing blue eyes that greeted him were narrowed in an ugly glare as he took the bottle from Starsky. With a frustrated shove, he let the tree fall to the wooden floor. Only partially together, it looked more like a withered sparkler left over from July Fourth than a well shaped, perfectly appointed, artificial Christmas tree. With only an icy glare, he directed the dark-haired man's attention to what was in front of him. Somehow, the tree had been put away with the lights tangled in a mess of wire and silver tinsel which was all nestled in an untidy ball at the top of the tree. The tinsel had even gotten gummed up and stuck to the lights, so that it was more like bubblegum in a little girl's hair. It would be easier to cut the mess out than it would to fix the tree. The blond sighed as he stood up and massaged his temples.
"Why didn't you take everything off before you put the tree away?" His voice was deceptively calm but Starsky didn't heed the underlying glare that was directed at him.
"Well, ya see Hutch..." Before Starsky could finish his explanation, Hutch put up his hand in an attempt to stop the long explanation that he wasn't in the mood to hear.
"Never mind. I gotta get ready for that deposition. Just have all this stuff put away by the time I get home and be ready to go to Dobey's. I told him we'd be there at 6:00 for dinner." He gulped at his beer as he walked back into the house. The bathroom door slammed which made Starsky wince. But he refused to give in to Hutch's Holiday black mood. He busied himself untangling the lights and was deep in concentration so he didn't hear Hutch stomping back out to the deck.
"Damn it Starsky! I'm late as it is and now I can't find my favorite shirt. It's not in the closet. Got any ideas?" Starsky's smile was timid as he flashed to the laundry room where the basket full of dirty clothes was waiting for him. This day was not turning out as he'd planned.
"You've got other shirts, why ya need that one? Why not wear that blue one. It makes your eyes smolder." He stood up and played with a piece of blond hair that had dried in a cow lick on top of Hutch's head. His hand was swatted away as Hutch turned his back on him. He could see the broad shoulders tense and he refrained from massaging them, knowing it would only make Hutch more irritable.
"Look, you have your own pre-sentencing ritual of going to the john. I need that shirt when I give a deposition 'cause it makes me feel confident." He walked back into the living room and continued on to their bedroom. Starsky wasn't sure how to handle this. He knew Hutch was on the verge of being really angry, but he didn't want to jeopardize his partner's frame of mind when he was facing the difficult case.
He walked back into the living room in time to see Hutch buttoning a black button down shirt and tucking it into his pants. He offered no other conversation and would have headed out except Starsky didn't want him to leave with unresolved anger between them.
"Kiss for good luck?" Starsky offered as he handed Hutch his jacket. The blond silently but forcefully, took the jacket and closed the door behind him as he headed for his car.
The dark-haired man dry washed his face then let out a deep sigh. He went back to the deck and did his best to rescue the tree. He figured if he turned the bald area away from the front entrance and the picture window and filled the vacant space with tinsel, nobody'd be the wiser.
A few hours later, he finished up by running the vacuum and turned it off just as Hutch walked through the door. Without speaking, the blond headed for the bathroom. Hearing the water running, Starsky resigned himself to still being on the outs with his partner. At least his friend would have to fake being in a good mood around the Dobey's and once Rosie climbed on Uncle Hutch's lap, the detective's mood would melt for good and all would be forgiven. At least he hoped that was the way the evening would go.
Leaning on the closed door, the brunet tried to put his friend in a better mood. "Hey Hutch, did you notice I cleaned up. Even did a load of laundry and put the tree up. I think it looks nice by the window. This way the neighborhood can enjoy it. I had to do a little trimming on the branches and fill in some bald spots, but I think it looks pretty good. We'll add a few more lights and it will..."
Starsky never had a chance to finish before Hutch pulled open the door and shoved the startled brunet out of the way. Striding angrily over to the tree, he began pulling off the tinsel. "You call this piece of trash a tree? What the hell is wrong with you? Never mind... I know what's wrong. You don't give a shit about anyone but you. You do the laundry when you damn well please. Leave all the dirty dishes for me. Shit you can't even put the toilet paper on the roller. Hell, I think you'd be better off living by yourself, and then you can do whatever you want, however the hell you want. As it is now I'm more your maid than your lover. You gonna close that mouth of yours and come with me to Dobey's? Forget it, you can meet me there. I don't even want to be in the same car as you right now." Hutch grabbed his keys and slammed the door before Starsky had a chance to even think of a reply.
Feeling as if he had just been slapped, the brunet finished getting ready, cringing at the squeal of Hutch's tires. As he opened his car door he heard the terrifying sound of screeching brakes and metal crunching. Knowing in his heart what he'd find, he raced to the corner where he saw Hutch's car wrapped around a utility pole.
His heart may have known what he would find, but his mind was not ready. Before him in the twisted wreckage was his life. Hutch's body was thrown against the drivers' door, his head resting on the window frame. Closer inspection revealed a deep gash under the blond's left eye and a large bruise was already forming on his forehead.
Starsky knew better than to move the broken body before him, but he did place a shaky hand on the exposed neck to feel for a pulse. Relief flooded him as he felt the weak beat beneath his fingers.
Gingerly keeping his hand in contact with Hutch's neck he leaned in to whisper. "Babe, I'm here. Just hang on. Help is coming. It's gonna be okay." Pain filled eyes met his own. A soft voice struggled to form the words that made Starsky's heart ache..."Starsk don't."
Starsky swallowed down the lump in his throat. The bile churned in his stomach, but not because of the broken body trapped in the twisted wreckage. It was the two words spoken by his partner that had the power to make his knees quiver and weaken.
Lost in his own grief, he wasn't aware that the ambulance had stopped beside the accident scene. Not until the medic grabbed the dark-haired man's shoulder, did Starsky shake himself out of his own reverie.
"Sir, are you hurt? Were you in the car too?" He felt strong hands pulling him up off the ground. He blinked as if noticing the scene for the first time.
"Not me. It's him... in the car. You gotta help him." Starsky's voice quivered. He cleared his throat as he looked at his hands and jacket. No wonder the medic thought he was injured. Hutch's blood covered Starsky's hands. As if they belonged to someone else, he stared at the blood dripping down his wrists and noticed the bright stains on his jacket.
Limply he let himself be guided to a waiting ambulance. The medic checked his eyes and cracked open a vial of smelling salts. That did the trick. His head snapped back and he pushed the hand away that waved the smelly substance in front of his nose.
He stood up as he intended on going to Hutch. But a determined grip held him back. He watched as the rescue crew split open the car in order to free the blond. Only once did Hutch cry out and that was when they got him on the ground. There was a flurry of activity as the medics tended to the wounded man. By now Starsky had control of his emotions. He supervised the rescue effort, lending a hand as they brought his partner to the ambulance. He climbed into the vehicle after Hutch. He glared at the rescue worker, stopping the negative comment he was about to make die in the air. There was no way he was letting Hutch out of his sight.
******Not sure how much time had passed, Starsky kept his hold on his best friends hand. The rain running down the window matched the tears streaming down his face. "Starsk, don't."
What exactly does he not want me to do? Don't help? Don't comfort? Don't stay? Don't love?
Unable to speculate his friend's plea any longer the brunet released his hold and strode towards the door. Why should I cause him more agony by staying?
He dared one last look over his shoulder and moist blue eyes met his. The blond turned his head away and uttered "Don't."
No longer able to hide his frustration, Starsky angrily snapped, "Don't what? What the hell do you want? You want me to go? Fine... I'm outta here. Have a great rest of your life."
Starsky was able to ignore the call of his name as he marched out the door, but years of loving Hutch could not allow him to ignore the unmistakable sound of his friend's cry of pain.
Rushing back into the room, he was witness to Hutch's already broken body landing in a heap onto the floor.
Starsky rushed over and gathered the blond in his arms. "Oh babe. What do you think you are you doing?"
It took a great deal of effort, but Hutch was finally able to whisper, "I was trying to come after you. Please don't leave. I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said earlier." A sob escaped his lips and in an even more painful voice, he managed to say, "I was just scared that you would leave me like everyone else. I guess I thought if I pushed you away, I wouldn't be as hurt. But, Starsky, I don't think I can live without you. Please don't leave. I promise, no more complaining. Just please..."
His weakened body contorted in pain. Starsky gently lifted the blond and carefully laid him back in bed. Reaching over he took Hutch's hand in both of his and brought it to his lips. Kissing it gently, he looked into his other half's eyes. "Hutch, there are not many things in this world that I can promise, but one thing is for certain. I will always be in love with you. We will have disagreements and misunderstandings. Hell, there might be times one of us walks away in anger. And yes, I'll still throw my socks on the floor and leave dirty dishes in the sink. I know you will still bitch about it, but that's okay. We feel comfortable enough with each other to be ourselves... in my book, that's the deepest kind of love."
******After that, the two friends had a renewed spirit between them. It seemed to speed up Hutch's recovery because on Christmas Eve day, he was able to come home. Armed with discharge instructions, a large bag full of get well cards and crutches, Starsky led the way toward the elevator and down to the parking lot.
Groaning as he saw the red car, Hutch asked about his.
"What's the story on my car?"
"Sorry Blondie, but Merle says it's a total loss."
Hutch twisted around in his wheelchair, continuing to grumble his frustration.
"Of course he'd say that. He hates my car and always did." Hutch stood up as Starsky backed the wheelchair out of the way. One of the crutches fell out of Hutch's hand and slid down the side of the car and landed on the ground.
Starsky abandoned the wheelchair and squatted in front of the freshly waxed Torino to inspect the damage.
"Look what ya did! You scratched my car! I knew this would happen!" Not giving Hutch another thought, he lovingly caressed the body of the car.
"A little help here?" Hutch's louder frustrated words caught the dark haired-man's attention. As Starsky complained under his breath, the blond smiled to himself.
The blond realized he'd missed the friendly teasing between them over the last few months.
They shared a laugh and glanced contentedly at each other as they drove home.
"I got a surprise for you when we get home." Starsky wagged his eye brows at his passenger. Just as he'd hoped, Hutch's face turned red with embarrassment but the look in his eyes showed the love and lust that he had been saving to share. "It might be kinda awkward, with this cast and my sore ribs..."
Starsky said nothing further and instead began humming to himself.
As they turned into their driveway Hutch's eyes welled up with tears. Before him was a freshly planted six foot, live Christmas tree adorned with ornaments and lights. "Starsk, you did this for me?"
"No, my love. I did it for us. Now not only will it be Christmas all year long, but each day we will be reminded that our love is as strong and as full of life as that evergreen tree."
The two men looked into each others eyes and their lips met for a gentle kiss... a very Merry Christmas to all.