Chula Chula's was rather highbrow for an exuberant celebration, but the maître d' wisely steered the merrymakers to an inconspicuous corner behind a room-divider near the kitchen. He tried not to scowl at the garish orange sneakers on the noisy one. It could have been worse: at least the well-dressed black man, or the conservatively-suited white man, looked like they would own credit cards. The maître d' left them to the revels and hurried back to the other guests.
Starsky ran around Hutch to hold the heavy, carved chair for him, making an ostentatious display of helping him into it. Hutch ignored the display, though he appreciated the gesture. He eased himself into the chair carefully. He was still uncomfortably stiff from his healed incisions, as well as more than a little buzzed from the drinks they'd had first at Huggy's.
"All set there?" Starsky said, grinning like an idiot.
"Will you cut the fussing?" Hutch complained.
"Listen here, Hutchinson," Captain Dobey said. "Starsky's right. This is your first time out, and you don't want to overdo it."
"Overdo it? Captain, I've been out of the hospital for a week. I feel fine. I'm ready to go back to work -- "
"Desk duty for a week," Dobey said. "You still look a bit peaked to me."
"Can I help it my suntan's faded?" But·Dobey and Starsky turned their attention to ordering drinks. Hutch looked to Maggie, then John Buehler, shrugged, and sat back in the chair. Actually, he couldn't complain. Healing took time, and he knew he'd been extremely fortunate. The bullet that had hit him had been partially deflected by his ribcage, so that instead of drilling directly through his vitals, it had passed around the muscle sheath of his abdomen before exiting. He'd escaped the lethal infection of peritonitis, but the combined blood loss, shock, and exposure had come close enough. He'd spent three weeks in the hospital, another at home. Even desk duty, at this point, sounded good. At least he'd be in touch with things again. A legitimate reason for a night on the town, even if he'd regret it in the morning.
"Hey hey hey!" Starsky cheered as the waiter arrived with a pitcher of Margaritas. He didn't even wait for the man to set the salt-rimmed glasses down before he grabbed two from the tray and began to pour. "Here we go, folks, here we go," he said, passing one to Maggie -- "Margarita por Margarita, si?" -- and the other to John Buehler. Then he filled three glasses for Dobey, Hutch, and himself. "Wanna propose the toast, Hutch?"
"Don't you think we should order some food first? Okay, okay. Friends, here's to the end of a hell of an adventure. At least I hope it's over."
"I assure you," Buehler said, "that it is." He sipped from his glass, looked at it approvingly. "The investigations will continue on a classified basis, of course, but the statements you recorded for the committee should be more than adequate. As far as you and I are concerned, the case is closed."
"If I may," Dobey said, "I have another toast. Gentlemen, here's to the beautiful new lady-about-town." He raised his glass to Maggie.
"Cactus juice for our cactus flower," Starsky added, all teeth.
"Wait a minute, don't rush things," she said, laughing. "I'm not ready to move back to the city quite yet. I still want to finish my dissertation."
"You mean you're going back?" Starsky protested. "Back to the desert?"
"Well, I -- "
"Back to the hundred-and-twenty degree heat? The sand in your teeth? The scorpions? Rattlesnakes? Cactus spines?"
"To archeologists, Davey, home is where you hang your trowel."
Starsky shook his head, looked to Hutch. "Give me a nice safe street war in Watts any day."
"We each have our unique environments," Buehler said. He smiled at Maggie. "But I do hope you'll find reasons to visit us city denizens from time to time?"
"I've had my share of being a hermit, if that's what you mean."
Conversation halted as the waiter brought the menus. Hutch glanced over his, and looking up, happened to notice that Starsky hadn't opened one.
"Know what you want already?"
"I'll just have the special."
Hutch searched for the special. Looked all over the menu for it.
"Starsky, there isn't a special."
"Oh. Well, I'll have whatever you're having. No -- strike that. I'll have whatever Captain Dobey orders."
Hutch peered at his partner across the candle-lit table.
"You could read the menu if you'd take those stupid sunglasses off."
Starsky grabbed at his shades in horror.
"You know I can't do that, Hutch! The doc said I should avoid bright light."
"That was over two weeks ago. And if the light in here were any dimmer you'd need radar."
"So, can I help it if I heal slow? Besides, the shades add Dignity. Distinction! Mystery, even."
Dobey was snickering behind his menu.
"You have to have some first before you can add any," Hutch muttered.
"Listen to Mr. Critical. You wanna kid me about my shades? Mag, did I ever tell you about the time Hutch and me went undercover as extras -- stuntmen -- in a cowboy movie? No, really. You remember that, don't you, Cap'n? Anyway, the director gave Hutch this one line. What was it, Hutch?"
Hutch glared across the table silently.
"I remember," Starsky went on. "It was 'Here comes McCoy now.' And when we went to the screening, after the flick was finished, Hutch shows up in -- "
" -- a trench coat and one of those French beanies, and a pair of shades that he wore right through the whole movie -- "
"Starsky!" Hutch growled.
Starsky slid his sunglasses half an inch down his nose and peered over them at Hutch innocently.
"You say somethin', partner?"
Hutch glowered. "Your shades do a lot for you," he said stiffly. "You look very dignified. You look like you want to live through this meal."
For a moment, challenge gleamed in Starsky's eyes, but he looked away and smiled, then reached for Hutch's glass. "Had you goin' awhile, didn't I?" He refilled the glass, handing it back. "Feel like things are back to normal, yet?"
Starsky's grin was contagious: a matching expression spread itself across Hutch's face. He knew the others at the table were smiling, too, but his gaze was riveted on his partner.
"You're a silly-looking ass, do you know that?" he said, accepting the drink.
Starsky laughed, took off his shades, then clinked his glass to Hutch's.
"Takes one to know one, partner," he said, and winked. "Here's lookin' at you!"