This story first appeared in the zine, That's What Friends Are For (1996). This zine and other fine S&H gen zines can be obtained from the editor at: Intertwined@webtv.netComments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
K Hanna Korossy
"Yeah, Cap'n?" Starsky responded, peeking in at Dobey's door.
"Come in here for a minute." Dobey glanced up at him, then returned to his paperwork until Starsky had shut the door and flopped into a chair. "You look terrible," he began, setting aside some papers.
Starsky sighed, not trying to hide his impatience. "That's what you called me in here for, Cap'n?" he asked.
Dobey gave him a tolerant look. "No, I called you in here to ask you how Hutch was doing."
Starsky's frown softened at the mention of his partner. "Well, I haven't really talked to him much, he's mostly been sleepin'. I just wake him up every once in a while to make sure he eats. I think he should be ready to come back in a couple of days, though."
Dobey was studying him now and Starsky squirmed under the scrutiny. "You look like you could use some sleep yourself. You didn't have to come in for duty today, you know."
Starsky smiled humorlessly. "Guess I'm just restless."
Dobey eyed him skeptically, not believing a word of it. "Yeah, well, I want you to take off early and go get some rest. You're no good to anybody if you fall flat on your face from exhaustion."
This time there was some warmth in the tired smile. "Thanks, Cap'n." He got up to leave. "But first I'm gonna stop by and check on Hutch." He disappeared before Dobey could respond. Not that the Captain would have tried. He had learned a long time ago that nothing could come between those two, including him. He shook his head at the closed door and returned to his work.
Starsky pulled up behind the familiar brown LTD and grabbed the bag of groceries he'd picked up on the way, before trudging up the walk to Hutch's place. Four days ago he had bounded up that same walk looking for Hutch, not really worried yet about his absence, thinking as Huggy had that it was some 'foxy lady'. Then he had found Hutch's gun, and the first thread began to unravel. Even when he'd found his partner in that alley, dirty and strung-out, hardly recognizing him... Starsky stopped and shut his eyes at the memory. He had been reluctant to leave Hutch each night since, concerned about his friend but also dreading the long, lonely nights at his place. Hutch wasn't the only one who would have bad dreams about the past week. Starsky shrugged it off and walked to the door.
He didn't bother to knock, letting himself in with the spare key so he wouldn't disturb Hutch. He had come in the same way the day before to find his partner sitting slumped over the kitchen table, fast asleep, his head almost resting on the sandwich Starsky had made for him earlier. Starsky had awakened him to make him eat, then put him to bed, Hutch never fully conscious during the whole process. This time his partner was stretched out asleep on the sofa, his guitar propped up beside him. His battered face still made Starsky wince, bringing back the memories all over again. He slid past Hutch quietly, going into the kitchen to put the food away and to try to fix something both of them liked.
When he came out, Hutch was sitting up and looking around groggily. He started at Starsky's entrance, his hand automatically moving to his side, reaching for his absent gun. Starsky pretended not to notice, summoning up a weary smile instead.
"Hey, Sleepin' Beauty wakes up at last." He set a plate of pasta in front of Hutch with an exaggerated flourish.
Hutch looked at the food and then at Starsky as slow recognition dawned. The lean shoulders relaxed. "Hi." He yawned and picked up the food.
"Hi, yourself." Starsky sat back in an easy chair with his own plate and began to eat.
Hutch looked up after a moment. "Hey, this is pretty good, partner."
Starsky thought for a split second about how much he enjoyed that title. "Did you ever doubt it?" he teased lightly.
"Yeah, well, some of the stuff you eat they wouldn't feed to animals in a zoo." Hutch was obviously still worn out, but it was encouraging that he wanted to spar. Starsky mustered the energy to bite back.
"You're just jealous," he muttered in mock disgust.
Hutch caught something in the comment that he didn't recognize, and he gave Starsky a quick, unnoticed glance. "How are things down at the precinct?" he asked after a moment, finishing the last bite of his dinner.
"Oh, terrific," Starsky said, with a decided lack of enthusiasm. "The usual collection of two-bit thieves, hookers, junkies..." He stopped, stricken. "I...I mean...."
Hutch tensed a little at the reminder, but relaxed again just as quickly. He gave his partner a lopsided smile. "Starsk, it's okay." He sighed. "It's not like I had any choice, right? Jeannie's fine, and thanks to you and Captain Dobey, nobody else will know about it, so as far as I'm concerned, the matter's closed. Time to get on with life." He knew it wasn't that simple; the nightmares were fading, but slowly, as was his body's weakness, even though he himself couldn't consciously remember too much of the past week. There had been the voice that kept at him until he was ready to say anything to make the craving go away, the knowledge that he had to flee or he would die, and reflex lashing out and running, running until his body gave up.
But then, suddenly, there had been help and warmth and safety. That was Starsky, he had known it somehow even without recognizing him. Not to be alone anymore, to have someone to hold on to and holding on to him had made it bearable, kept him sane. And Starsky had stuck with him unwaveringly, cleaning up after him, comforting him, accepting Hutch's periodic flashes of anger. Looking at his partner now, Hutch considered for the first time what the ordeal had been like for Starsky. People who didn't know him very well often took his flippancy for shallowness or callous disregard, but Hutch knew better. In his own way, Starsky had suffered just as much in those two days as his partner had. And while Hutch knew he would get through this with Starsky's help, he wondered if his friend had the same assurance.
"You okay?" Hutch asked softly.
Starsky nodded silently, eyes fixed on his plate.
Hutch wasn't buying it. "When was the last time you got some sleep, Starsk?" he asked abruptly. "You look terrible."
Starsky grimaced. "Everyone keeps tellin' me that today."
"That's because it's true," Hutch returned reasonably.
"Yeah, well, I haven't been sleepin' too well." He shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
Hutch leaned forward, frowning. "Why not?"
Starsky murmured something into his food that Hutch couldn't catch.
"Nightmares, okay?" Starsky snapped. "I have these nightmares."
Hutch paused, assimilating that. He looked up intently at Starsky. "About...me? And...?" He didn't need to say it.
"Yeah." This time so quiet, Hutch could barely hear him.
Hutch's face softened in comprehension. "Starsk... I'm fine now. Or at least I'm getting there, thanks to you. If you hadn't have done what you did for me..." Starsky made a dismissive gesture but Hutch grabbed his arm and made his partner face him, see how serious he was. "If you hadn't looked out for me and helped me through that...hell," his voice trembled a little at the still-vibrant emotions, "I probably would've killed myself. Or at best, the shrinks at Parker Center would have had a field day with me and kept me off the streets permanently. In any case, I wouldn't have made it without you." His eyes didn't waver as they looked into his friend's face. More than anything, he wanted Starsky to realize how much what he had done had meant to Hutch.
Starsky stared at him for a moment, then gave a slight nod. Acknowledgement and thanks; Hutch understood.
In the ensuing silence, Hutch noted again the circles under his partner's eyes and the lines of strain and fatigue in his face. Starsky was truly exhausted and in no condition to be having a serious discussion. Nor, for that matter, he thought wryly, am I. He stood up and strode over to the closet to get out some bedding which he handed wordlessly to Starsky.
"What's this for?"
"You're spending the night. You're about to fall over, you're so tired, and I don't want you to drive home like that." He stopped to contemplate his friend. Besides, I think you'll sleep easier if I'm nearby and you don't have to worry about me.
Starsky gave a slight, embarrassed smile; he knew what his partner was thinking. The blond grinned back, unashamedly and fondly. After what the two of them had shared in the past week, what was a little irrational fear among friends? He had to admit that he, too, would sleep better with his friend there. He helped Starsky make up the couch, then made sure his partner went to bed over half-hearted protests that he could take care of himself. Hutch turned off the living room lights, then paused in the doorway to look back at the dark shape stretched out on the couch, chest already beginning to rise and fall in the rhythm of sleep. Yeah, buddy, I know you can take care of yourself, but sometimes we all need someone else and that's why we have each other. Tonight it's my turn. He grinned and shook his head as the dark figure began to snore. But only for tonight. Still smiling, he went off to go to bed.