Sail on Silver Girl, sail on by
Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way.
See how they shine . . . *

Hutch watched the ferry and its two passengers make their slow, sure way across the troubled and turbulent waters. Every now and again the water would pick up the rays of the sinking sun and the angry sprays would sparkle like diamonds.

No pain, she'd said. No pain, but no pleasure either. Just an endless numbness. At least Roxy was free to experience joy perhaps for the first time in her life. He knew he'd had more than his share. In fact, his life had been so full he'd often wondered how he'd stumbled upon it all. Then after all he'd been given he'd dare to play with fire.

The moment he first felt a love that was more than platonic for his partner he knew he was heading down a destructive path. It was what he'd been taught all his life. Men don't desire other men. But what he didn't understand was how the love he felt for Starsky be so wrong? It had made them stronger together. Indomitable. But that was the ultimate irony. The love that had bonded them made him impotent alone.

He cursed his weakness as Roxy and Charon reached the other side. He saw Roxy place her hand on Starsky's arm as she told him why they'd come across and left his partner behind. Explained the exchange Hutch had made on her behalf. Saw him shake his head then fall to his knees.

He could almost hear Charon's dispassionate explanation to his friend. "Rules are rules. There's nothing I can do." The man put his hand on Starsky's shoulder but Starsky angrily jerked away. After a few minutes Charon shook his head once again then indicated to Roxy the road that led to the town. He started down the path with Roxy in his wake, her pace a dance of reluctant excitement.

Starsky remained, silhouetted against the deepening indigo of the sky. His devastation drifted across to Hutch like a current of air, the fiery frost of it burning through him like dry ice. Hutch hoped he understood his choice.

Hutch longed to tell Starsky he was content to stay if that was the price loving him had cost. He knew now he wouldn't have denied the way he felt even for a place in heaven. Maybe some day the rules would change and if so, he'd still be there. For now, they could only look at one another and Hutch determined that if that was all he had, he would make it be enough.

On the other side of the river, stars appeared overhead like jewels set against velvet. Still the men remained on their respective sides, neither willing to walk away. Soon the darkness would obscure them from each other but it wouldn't matter. They'd been separated long enough.

Hutch watched as Starsky dug in his pocket and pulled something out in his hand. He waived it in the air and the silver of it caught a fragment of starlight.

It was Starsky's badge.

Hutch remembered when they'd been awarded them upon graduation, a time when they'd been youthful and cocky. How they wanted to change the world and finally ended up changing each other.

They'd made plenty of missteps since then. They'd become tempered, harder perhaps. They'd had lost their superhero visions and toward the end had turned more to each other than their careers for fulfillment. They could understand each other the way no one else could.

Hutch always seemed to questioned things too much -- not like whether Big Foot was real or if Foxy Lady would win in the fifth -- but what their purpose was, why the bad guy sometimes won and if loving Starsky was wrong why did it feel so right.

And when Hutch had stood on the sand that day and tossed his badge into the waves, unable to endure the disillusionment any longer, Starsky had stood at his side, sending his badge into the depths right along with him. He hadn't asked him to, hadn't even told him he was going to do it. Starsky just knew.

The gray mist that billowed around him held no answers, either. Just Starsky on the other side, turning his badge in his hand, the badge Hutch had laid down when it became too heavy. Suddenly Starsky flipped it up in the air and for a moment it glittered among the stars, then fell back down and splashed midpoint into the river. Hutch caught his eyes and could almost hear him saying in that musical drawl, "mind if I join you?"

Hutch watched little metallic shape disappear. With that small act of rebellion, he knew Starsky to be telling him he'd cross over to his side if he could. He'd give up Paradise to be with Hutch, because being together was their own kind of paradise. The darkness all but obscured him now, but Hutch didn't need to see him to feel his presence.

Suddenly the place in the water where Starsky's badge had fallen began to bubble as though it was super-heating. The bubbling effect spread from one small point outward in ever enlarging circles. Silver spires rose from where the water stirred. They reached upward then arched gracefully apart, at intervals dropping branches back down into the water, serving as piles to support its elegant span. The silver spires curved down to rest on either side of the bank, precisely at Starsky and Hutch's feet.

A bridge across the troubled water.

Hutch thought perhaps the fog had distorted his vision like a mirage in the desert. Or perhaps this was some new kind of test. What more did he need to prove that he was worthy?

Charon's wraithlike image appeared at his side. "It's no mirage, Hutch. It's real. It's your way across."

"But I thought you said I didn't have the toll. That the rules couldn't be broken."

Charon smiled and for the first time Hutch could see how glorious a smile it was. "Rules can't be broken it's true, but for the right reasons they can be bent a little."

Hutch looked up at the glowing bridge and saw Starsky standing in the middle above the river, half wrapped in shadow, half illuminated in moonglow.

"Humans are flawed creatures. You've made your share of mistakes. But love overcomes all." Charon nodded his cloaked visage at Starsky. "Go ahead, he's been waiting for you."

Hutch stepped onto the bridge that appeared as delicate as lace yet held his weight steady and strong. As he met Starsky midway he reached out for him and they drew together, wrapping their arms around each other so tightly only a filament of moonlight could pass between them. When they broke apart, Starsky curled his fingers in Hutch's hair, pulling him down so that their foreheads touched.

"Why did you go and do a stupid thing like that for?" he admonished him softly.

"Seemed like a good idea at the time," Hutch responded. Starsky must have recalled the same words he'd said in the dark rooftop doorway before he fell into Hutch's arms, because he gave him a little smile.

"We made it, partner."

Then they crossed together into Paradise as behind them the arches of the bridge were lost to the mist.

FIN

Chapter End Notes:

* "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Paul Simon

** "Silver Lady" by Tony Macaulay and Geoff Stephens

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