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It started as soon as they walked into the squadroom the morning of November 2nd. Actually the discussion had started the night before but had been tabled in favor of more erotic activities. They resumed the debate that morning, picking up right where they had left off. This was the first anyone else had heard of it, this year anyway. Although no one ever quite figured out what they we're arguing over, the partners always seemed to have this argument around the beginning of November. Of course, with the way those two sniped at each other, no one ever wanted to get close enough to them to ask what it was all about.

"I'm telling you, Hutch, it was the sixth," Starsky said, holding the door open for his partner in a conciliatory gesture and ushering him though in grand style.

"No Starsky, it was the fifth, I'm sure of it." Hutch sounded slightly annoyed but he smiled at Starsky as he walked by and headed for the coffeemaker. It was Friday and they had the whole weekend ahead of them to look forward to and luckily, just a light workload to get though today. Barring any emergencies, it would be a boring but safe shift spent catching up on the interminable reports. But there was something to be said for safe and boring in light of the running around that they did on the streets. It was a relief to not have to worry about your partner's safety and your own every now and then.

Walking back toward their corner of the squardroom, Hutch looked at his partner in disbelief.

In the time it had taken him to get their drinks it looked as if Starsky had dumped the entire contents of his inbox out on his desk. Moving a wayward file folder aside so he could set his partner's mug down he asked, "Starsky, what are you doing?"

Starsky looked up at him and smiled in a way that always made Hutch's heart beat faster. It didn't matter how many times he saw his partner look at him that way, it had to be well into the thousands by now, it still made him happy every time just to know Starsky was still there with him. "Thanks for the caffeine," he said, picking up his cup and taking a sip, "I figured I'd see what I was up against. I know it looks like a mess, but once I get my desk cleared off, I get to go home. Besides, I know where everything is."

Standing behind his partner Hutch was very tempted to lean down and kiss him, but he knew that was out of the question. He figured he'd better get away from the source of his temptation quickly. He settled for a brush of his hand over Starsky's shoulder as he went by. Even though they had the place to themselves, it wasn't worth the risk.

"It's gonna take you longer to get done," Hutch warned, moving around to his own desk.

"We'll see. You do it your way and I'll use the patented Starsky method," he replied confidently, returning to the report he was reading.

"You're never going to find anything on that disaster you're calling a desk, and it was Wednesday," Hutch said definitively.

"Thursday," Starsky responded without looking up, sounding just as certain. "Or maybe it was Friday," Starsky couldn't resist throwing out. At Hutch's threatening grunt he quickly backtracked. "Or not. I still don't know how the hell we managed to forget our anniversary."

"Well, between you're being sick," Hutch tried to explain.

"And you fretting to death over it," Starsky pointed out.

"And the Rayburn case."

"God, what a slimeball that one was. I'm glad he got locked up for a long time." Richard Rayburn was a serial killer who liked to take out both people and their pets in creative and very graphic ways and they were both relieved when he had finally been caught.

"It's a wonder that we managed to get together at all," Hutch said.

"It would have happened anyway. I believe that." Starsky sounded as if he had never questioned that they would have found their way to each other.

"You're sure of that?" Hutch asked, although he didn't really doubt his partner.

"Yes." The answer was only one word, soft spoken at that, but it allowed for no argument. Not that Hutch actually intended to dispute that fact.

"But it still happened on the fifth."

"Sixth, Blintz. Trust me on this."

They were coming up on their fourth anniversary but they still weren't sure what day they were going to celebrate. Sometime one night in early November of 1980 they had either completed the long process of falling in love or admitted to the fact that they'd already been in love. Both could remember how and where, that was burned into their souls, but for some reason they didn't know exactly when.

They knew for a fact that it hadn't happened on Friday of that week, which would have been the seventh. Both remembered arresting Rayburn Friday morning, finishing the paperwork that night and taking off for a well—anticipated weekend. They had spent that time learning intimately the bodies that they had known so well in every other way but this one, making up for so many years of unacknowledged and for the most part unknown desire. The friendship had always been there, so had the love, even to some extent the lust and the sexual wanting, although who felt it first they never knew. Or maybe they had come to the same place at the same time.

The bedroom in Venice positively reeked of sex by late Sunday night but neither cared. They had gotten out of bed only when the need for physical sustenance became stronger than their need for each other and they were forced to get up and forage for food. After one such expedition they hadn't made it all the way back to the bedroom and had wound up on the living room floor. The whole experience was as if something had been unleashed in both of them and they fed on each other, both literally and spiritually.

They could celebrate the seventh, which was the first time that they had acted on their love. But both were romantics, although loath to admit it, and they really wanted to celebrate the actual day they first realized they were in love. It was either Wednesday the fifth of November 1980, or Thursday, the sixth. They both agreed on that much. In all fairness it had been a very confusing time. Starsky had been recovering from a minor bout of stomach flu; it hadn't been fun but hadn't been life threatening either. Nevertheless, Hutch had been worried about his partner, as he always was. On top of that, it seemed that they had been turning up bodies right and left, two men and three women, four dogs, two cats, and a ferret before it was all over. Granted, they were preoccupied and had a great excuses but still, one just doesn't forget one's own anniversary and it was inconceivable that neither one of them knew for sure. The fact bothered both of them greatly, hence the annual debate.

They worked in companionable silence for a while, making progress on the stacks of reports until Hutch asked," Do you have the original report on the Dawson robbery? I can't seem to find my copy."

Starsky reached over to the pile on his right, dug two folders down in the stack, extracted the report almost without looking, and handed it to Hutch with a smug look on his face. All Hutch could do was shake his head.

"Thanks." He was impressed but he wasn't about to admit it.

"Anytime." Told ya, he thought but didn't say it. "It was the sixth."

"Fifth," Hutch said reflexively. They settled back into their work again.

This time it was Starsky who broke the silence. "Hey Hutch?"

"You're hungry."

"Got it in one, partner." A friendly argument over where to have lunch ensured and they finally settled for the one place they could both agree on. Huggy was used to this annual debate and refused to get involved, although he did insist that lunch was on the house in honor of the occasion. He was one of the few that they had trusted with their secret.

By early afternoon they were making good progress on the dwindling piles of paperwork and their discussion had degenerated to the grade school playground level. At this point, they were concentrating on the work at hand in an attempt to get out of there at a reasonable hour and the debate had boiled down to a friendly back and forth of "fifth" and "sixth" every so often. Even though they'd been contesting the point all day, it was still a friendly argument, bordering on silly. At least it was a break from the monotony of writing. Each man was adamant that his point of view was correct, but they never crossed the line from teasing to angry. They were so in tune with each other that they never lost track of either their debate or the other conversations they had about various cases through the day. Around three—thirty they heard a commotion in the hallway that they couldn't help but overhear.

"And then Rick just up and hit him. Broke his jaw. Gene's threatening to press charges. He's over at Memorial; going to be a while before he'll be able to talk again."

"What the hell was their problem, anyway?"

"They've been fighting since day one; they're total opposites. Rick always said Gene wasn't smart enough to keep up with him since he didn't go to college, and Gene would never let him drive since he didn't trust him. This last argument was over evidence. Gene swears he logged in the stuff from their last case, but it wasn't there when Rick went looking for it. They never could agree on how to work together anyway. They're always fighting over who's the primary. I don't know why they were ever partnered in the first place."

As the voices faded down the hallway, Starsky started to ask, "How much you want to bet," when he was interrupted by a familiar bellow.

"Starsky, Hutchinson, my office! Now."

"We're going to get stuck with at least one of their cases," Hutch finished.

Resigning themselves to the inevitable, they entered Captain Dobey's office and took up their usual places. They could feel their weekend off and their precious time alone together slipping away from them.

"I take it you heard about Deutsch and Reilly?" he asked without preamble.

"Yes, Cap," Starsky answered for both of them.

"I can't say I'm surprised; that was a disaster waiting to happen. I should have split them up before this, but I was hoping they would work it out. Stranger things have happened," he said, with a pointed look at the two problem children sitting in front of him. "Lord knows you two have put me through enough over the years. I still don't know how you manage to work together so well, but I've got to admit it works." That was Harold Dobey's way of acknowledging how proud of them he was, and the indirect compliment meant a great deal to the two men. "But that's neither here nor there. I need you to take over the Duke case."

Neither man protested; they were far too professional for that. But Dobey saw the look of disappointment on both their faces. He could never admit that he knew the reason why they would be upset to be working this weekend of all times, but he could at least do something about it.

"But it can wait until Monday. Get me the rest of those reports, and get the hell out of here."

"Thanks, Captain." This time it was Hutch's turn to answer from them both.

As they were on the way out the door, Dobey hollered after them, "And would you two please resolve whatever it is you're fighting over. I'm tired of hearing about it."

"How does he do that?" Hutch asked. Harold Dobey hadn't been near them all day until just then.

"Damned if I know, but I'm glad we've still got the weekend. How close to done are you?"

"Two more. You?"

"Just one . . . no wait, I forgot about the rest of the Flagg report. Make that two."

"Math never was your strong suit, Gordo."

"Don't tell me I can't count. Who figured out that Somers was short four grand?" Starsky responded in defense of his skills, referring to their previous case.

"Yeah, that was good work, Starsk, but who figured out where she stashed it? And just because you're good with numbers, it doesn't mean that you're good with dates. I'm telling you, it was the fifth. I know it was because I remember that I had to wait two very long days before I could finally get you into bed."

"It was one very long day that felt like two, which means it was the sixth, and I thought I was the one who took you to bed. Why don't we just celebrate both? That's what we usually wind up doing anyway."

"If we don't settle this, we'll just have this argument next year and the year after that and the year after that."

"Hey, we gotta have some kind of tradition. Besides, I like the sound of that."

"Of what, a perpetual argument?"

"No," Starsky answered, giving him a look that said don't be dense. He continued, "I like the idea of spending all those years with you. Besides, you could say that our whole relationship has been one perpetual argument. If you think about it, we've never really agreed on anything: food, cars, clothes, movies, vacations, you name it, we've argued about it. It took us three months to find a house that we both loved. When you think about it, it's amazing we're still together."

To anyone looking at them from outside, they would appear as incompatible as Deutsch and Reilly. But even as he was pointing out their differences, Starsky knew it wasn't true. They were nothing like Deutsch and Reilly. What was left unsaid was what they did agree on and that was what was important——who they were, why they were cops, why they still believed in the work they did, even after all they had seen and done, and what they meant to each other. Those were only a few of the critical things that bound them together. What they had ran so deep that it often defied description.

"You mean that it's amazing that I still put up with you," Hutch said in a light, teasing tone that conveyed the love he felt. He said it in the tone that you can use when you know that there is solid rock under your feet. They had a foundation that went layers deep, built up over the shared years of friendship and love. He knew exactly what his partner was thinking because he felt the same way.

Another forty—five minutes passed, without resumption of their argument. Both men were anxious to go home and the anticipation of the night to come hastened their work. They might not agree on the date, and whichever date they settled on this year wouldn't fall until next week anyway, but they still had an entire weekend to spend together. Celebrate early and often was one of Starsky's mottos, and one that Hutch was hard pressed to argue with.

"You done, Starsk?"

"Yep, sign this and we're out of here. See, told ya, clean desk."

"Yes, I see that. Very good, little boy. Let's blow this joint." This time he did give in to the temptation and stole a quick kiss from his partner.

"I know what I want to blow," came the cheeky reply.

"C'mon Starsk, let's go home."

Still dancing their verbal tango, they headed out into the night together.