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"The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." ~ Proverbs 27:9

"I don't know what to say." Hutch muttered as they exited the station. It was finally time to go home. It had been a startlingly rough few days; in fact it had been miserable and not in the silly way it usually was. Hutch felt as if he had experienced true misery. He shook his head at the thought.

"Whaddya' mean?" Starsky asked. Pulling the car keys from his pocket, he unlocked the driver's door. Hutch leaned heavily against the Torino and waited for Starsky to lean over and unlock his door. When he did, Hutch collapsed into the familiar seat. He was quiet a moment before he realized that the normal crank and hum hadn't started and that his partner was staring at him.

"Well?" Starsky asked again. Hutch sighed. He hadn't expected an interrogation.

"Starsk, haven't you ever been in a situation where you didn't think you really knew yourself?"

Starsky leaned back and thought a moment. "I have, but not like you. It wouldn't compare to your situation." He almost laughed. Hutch didn't, however, and this sobered Starsky. This was not going to be dropped soon.

"Maybe you don't know yourself but I do," Starsky continued. Hutch looked up slightly. "And I know that you were out of your head and that none of it could have been helped."

Starsky kept his eyes on his partner. He took in the hollow face and remaining blue and purple tint around Hutch's eyes, all the consequences of a change in body chemistry and the brutality of his kidnappers. He had gotten some strange looks while they were inside, but no one had asked any questions. It might have been better to take Hutch home before bringing Forrest in, but Starsky was determined to keep an eye on him.

Starsky was still appraising his partner when Hutch became irritated. "Are you going to start the car?" he grumbled.

Starsky said nothing; he only smiled and cranked the car. Hutch leaned into the seat, finding comfort in the familiar hum and vibration.

Starsky switched on the headlights and pulled out into the road.

It wasn't long before Hutch felt the car slow and come to a stop outside his apartment. Starsky turned off the engine and got out of the car. Hutch's eyes screwed shut in confusion before he realized Starsky was opening his door and tugging at his sleeve.

"Come on buddy, you gotta' get in bed," Said Starsky softly as he lifted Hutch out of the car. Hutch hadn't realized just how zonked he still was until he was standing with the aid of Starsky's arms looking into the dark around him. The ground seemed too far away for his liking and he groaned.

"Thought so," Starsky laughed and began lugging him to the front door.

"Key?" Starsky asked.

"Yours." Answered Hutch groggily.

"Don't got it, s'in my other jacket," Starsky tried to speak under Hutch's heavy arm.

"Back pocket," His partner said with effort. Starsky maneuvered the man in his arms and reached for the key.

"You'll forgive me," snorted Starsky as he went after the key.

"Watch it, Buster," Hutch came back playfully but the groggy undertone held no laughter.

The door was opened and Starsky assessed the situation.

The large front room of Huth's apartment was one bedroom and living room rolled into one. Directly in front of the door and against the back wall lay the bed and a few feet to it's right sat the sofa.

Starsky used as much leverage as he could to propel Hutch across the room and plop him onto the bed. Hutch immediately curled into a comfortable sleeping position and closed his weary eyes.

"You're gonna' wake up sweaty if you sleep like that, you wanna' shower?" Asked Starsky as he switched off the light he had only just turned on in order to give Hutch's eyes a break. He flopped onto the couch.

"No, too tired," Hutch answered. Starsky sighed and shifted his weight on the cushions.

"You wanna' talk about it then?" Starsky asked the darkness.

"I just said I was tired; do you think I want to talk about it?" Hutch bit back angrily. "There's nothing to say anyway; you know what happened," he finished and turned away, shoving a pillow under his head.

"I know the details. It's more than details. Yeah, we say it all the time, --'stick to the facts,'--but with you and I it doesn't work that way." Hutch could sense the familiar smile without turning around, but it didn't faze him.

"Let's talk feelings, huh?" Starsky continued. "Somthin' ain't right about this. Tell me." He finished and waited, now sitting upright and expectant on the sofa. But all he received was silence.

"Well, let me read your mind instead," he said after a moment, standing. Hutch groaned. He could hear the pat of Starsky's shoes on his carpet and felt the pacing of his partner in the dark. He registered the sound of Starsky's jacket being removed and finally the sound of those blue tennis shoes clunking in the corner.

Finally comfortable, Starsky resumed pacing, confident in his approach at unwinding his friend.

"You know what I see?" he started; his voice reached the tone of a psychiatrist.

"I see pride." He paused.

"I see guilt." Another pause.

"And most of all, what gets me most… I see insecurity."

Realizing his partner wasn't going for the psychoanalysis just yet, Starsky continued.

"Now let's analyze these." He plopped onto the opposite side of the bed and leaned against the headboard.

"One bye one," he said matter-of-factly.

Hutch was as far as he could be from him, without falling off the bed.

Starsky held out three fingers, not caring if Hutch was pouting and couldn't see them; it helped his explanation.

"Pride," he sighed aloud.

"Why is pride not relevant? Are you listening?" he got no reply.

"Good. It's because pride means you think you have to live up to something to be accepted and you won't accept your own human error. I read that…somewhere."

He thumped one finger and left only two standing.

"One down; two to go, partner. You wanna take a shot?" He asked, looking at the non- responsive lump next to him.

"Didn't think so," he sighed and concentrated on the next finger.

"Guilt. Now that's something we feel when we do something on purpose and then regret it." Starsky turned to look at Hutch's back again.

"What did you do on purpose, in your right mind?" He paused.

"I'll answer that: nothing."

He prodded Hutch's back and got a squirm out of him. "Ya' catching on?"

"Good." He thumped the next finger and one remained.

"The last bad guy's always the toughie," he grimacesd

"Insecurity." He glanced over to see the expected flinch.

"Yeah, I figured you could explain this one to me, 'cause I'm out of answers here."

He looked down hopefully, but nothing happened.

"Come on Hutch, I know you're hurting. Problem is I can only see it in your eyes… and you're not looking at me." That was it, it was all he had; Hutch would have to respond or Starsky was just going to sleep away the night on the couch and leave his partner to himself the next day. There wasn't a plan 'B'.

But just as he was about to give up, Hutch turned over and gazed up at the ceiling, his tired eyes a new shade of red. Utter exhaustion showed on his face.

"I let my self down," Hutch said in a raspy voice. "I disappointed myself. I caved big time. I gave in. I bent to it. There are a thousand ways to describe what I've done." Hutch stopped and Starsky stayed quiet, real quiet.

"I don't… trust myself anymore." It came laboriously, like a newborn baby. It was painful but had to come out for new life to start. Once it was out however, Starsky began to breathe easy again.

"I trust you."

"You shouldn't." Hutch turned away.

" I'll tell them where you are, if they ask. I'll draw them a map. I'll mark their way to murder you. I told them about…I…"

"I know. She's alright now," Starsky comforted. Yes, Hutch had told the men where to find Jeannie in his delirious state. But since there was no going back and fixing it the mental stress Hutch was experiencing had to be resolved through reason.

"But I told them and it could happen again. I could betray you and not even know it." Hutch argued. Starsky rolled his eyes.

"Yes, when you're so strung out you can't remember my name or why exactly I might be important to you." he mumbled.

"That's not the point," Hutch seethed suddenly and sat up.

"It is the point!" Starsky retaliated raising his voice to the same volume as Hutch. "It's the whole enchilada. It's the one and only reason you caved. If you hadn't had the dope in ya' you would have gone to your grave with that information intact. I know it. You know it!"

"Yeah," Hutch said, finally.

"Yeah," Starsky echoed, anger dying, his retaliatory reflexes calming.

"So, we've shot 'em all down." Starsky clapped Hutch's shoulder. "Now, the question is; -- did you believe in the ammo?" He smiled.

Hutch was quiet a moment. He was thinking seriously.

"I suppose I can't live in guilt for the rest of my life." His eyes screwed shut.

"I feel like I should be punished."

Starsky reached out and touched him.

"Hey, you've given all the punishing yourself. Now, get over it, huh?"

Starsky said in a slightly forceful tone of voice. Hutch nodded and sighed in resolve. Starsky smiled again.

"Good work."

Starsky leaned back comfortably. Hutch got up; refreshed from letting off steam he undressed instead of miserably sleeping in his work clothes. He gestured to Starsky's shoes in the corner.

"I assume you're staying,"

"No, I'm going to leave you all alone after a day like today," Starsky smirked in sarcasm.

"What do you take me for?"

"I'm not sure," Hutch answered, entering the bathroom and shutting the door behind him.

After a moment Starsky heard the toilet flush and the door open, the light was switched off as soon as the door opened. Hutch faltered in the sudden darkness.

"You should let your eyes adjust," Said Starsky in a conversational tone.

"Keep talking," Hutch laughed in return.

"Hutch, this is Starsky, come in. Go to your right. I see you; keep comin'. Yeah… watch the… no ouch!" he seethed, shoving the other body off him.

"You better crawl over, you know I sleep on this side," Starsky said, still shoving.

Hutch settled on one side of the bed and quieted. The whole room was suddenly quiet.

"You alright now?" Starsky asked, wondering if Hutch was asleep.


"Work tomorrow?" Starsky asked.

Hutch laughed. "Ask me tomorrow."

"I think I may have caught a cold looking for you," Starsky mumbled, half asleep already. "I think I may be sick tomorrow. My glands are swollen," He said, feeling his neck, below the jawbone. There was a quiet moment and he thought Hutch must be asleep. But then he heard his voice again.

"Thanks for telling me that. It better not be catchy."

Starsky laughed. "Oh I'm sure it is."

"Too bad," Hutch sighed.


"Won't be in any shape to work tomorrow… Are you really sick?"

"Hey if you tell yourself a lie enough, you'll believe it." Starsky stated clearly through the dark.

Hutch smiled in the same darkness. "Yeah."