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.net Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
A Friend In Need
K Hanna Korossy
"You want me to take care of Grossman?" Starsky asked, watching his partner carefully. He trusted Hutch, but his partner didn't need the extra stress of taking his lover's murderer downtown.
Hutch looked like he hadn't slept for a week. "Yeah," he said limply.
Starsky paused for a minute. He didn't want to press, but... "Where're you goin'?"
There was a long silence, and when he answered, Hutch's voice was rough. "I think I'm gonna go back to Gillian's place and pick up a few things."
Starsky began to say something, then checked himself. "Okay." He reached out and gripped Hutch's arm. "Hey." Hutch looked up at him numbly. "Call me if you need to talk, huh?"
Hutch nodded apathetically and left. Starsky watched him worriedly for a moment and then hauled up Grossman. "Come on, jerk. You and I got a date downtown."
It was midnight and Starsky was worried. He'd tried GIllian's and Hutch's place numerous times without any luck at either. He couldn't seem to keep his mind on the late night creature-feature, not when he remembered Hutch's face at the theatre. Grossman knew just which buttons to push, and that movie... Starsky shook his head and dialed Hutch's apartment again. Come on, buddy, please answer. He hung up after the eighth ring and sat still, thinking. Finally he grabbed his coat and turned the TV off. Something's wrong.
He arrived at Hutch's place in record time, not having to deal with much traffic in the middle of the night. The LTD was parked in front of the house but the house itself was dark and no one answered his knock. Starsky frowned, debated with himself, decided. He felt along the door ledge and, finding the key, let himself into the dark living room.
"Hutch? You in here?"
Silence. He was just about to call again when he heard a slight shuffle from over by the sofa and a bleary voice said, "Whatta ya' want?"
Five beers, at least, Starsky judged. He made his way in the dark around the sofa, and his adjusting eyes could just make out the dark form sitting on the floor in front of it.
"Hutch, you okay?"
"Yeah. 'Course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" He laughed humorlessly.
Starsky reached over and found the lamp on its side. He righted it and flicked it on, catching his breath. Hutch looked like he had aged ten years since that morning. His face was drawn, his eyes red, and his clothes looked like they'd been slept in, not that Hutch appeared to have slept. A bunch of crushed empty beer cans was piled beside him. Hutch cringed at the light. "Turn it off!" he said sharply.
Starsky obliged and sat quietly, letting his eyes adjust and listening to his partner breathe heavily in the dark. He had to do something.
"I'm sorry, Starsk." The voice was pitiful, almost childlike. Starsky was thrown by the sudden change of attitude. "I don't blame you for wanting a new partner. I'm no good for you. You deserve better..." The words trailed off, choked with emotion.
Starsky was thoroughly confused by now. What's going on here? "Hutch, what're you talking about?! Who said I wanted a new partner?"
Hutch was silent for a moment. "How did you know about Gillian?" he asked hoarsely.
Okay, we'll do it your way. "I told you, I saw her at the massage parlor, and Huggy confirmed that she worked for Grossman." He bit his tongue as soon as he said it. He hadn't wanted to tell Hutch that, but his partner didn't seem to notice.
"Then you went to see her, didn't you." Hutch wasn't asking.
"How did you... Oh. You found the money." Terrific.
Hutch nodded, still looking at the ground. "She left a note with it. I think she was leaving it behind for you to find later."
That didn't explain everything, but Starsky was beginning to understand. Hutch was hurt that his partner had gone behind his back like that. Starsky couldn't really blame him, he hadn't enjoyed doing it, either.
It was Starsky's turn to study the carpet. "I'm sorry, pal. I didn't want to keep it from you. I was just trying to keep you from getting hurt." Swell job you did, too.
Hutch looked up at him for the first time, his eyes wide and confused in the moonlight. "What?"
Starsky felt increasingly uncomfortable. "I thought if she left..."
"No, no," interrupted Hutch, waving his hand as though to dismiss that. "I mean, why are you sorry?"
Starsky looked up, lost. "Aren't you mad at me? I mean, I didn't tell you 'til it was too late..."
Hutch closed his eyes and shook his head as though in disbelief. Starsky watched him anxiously. He had a feeling the next few minutes would decide their future together.
Hutch began haltingly. "Starsk...first I froze up on you and almost got you killed, and then you offer up your life savings to try and keep me from getting hurt, and I pay you back by attacking you." 'Is that what you're telling me, buddy, friend?' He looked at Starsky in shame, determined to bear through the worst of it as tears rolled unnoticed down his cheeks. "You're the best friend I've got in the whole world, too, but you deserve someone better than that, Starsk, not someone who keeps hurting you." He buried his head in his hands and the rest was lost in quiet sobs, except for a strangled, "I don't blame you."
Starsky sat in open-mouthed disbelief. So it wasn't Gillian, it was his partner Hutch was missing. It all finally came together, but this was nuts! Does he really think a busted lip would ruin our friendship?! Gillian's death had affected Hutch's thinking more than he thought. Starsky shook his head. It would be no good trying to reason with him now; it was clear Hutch was hurting bad and that's what he knew he had to concentrate on first.
He moved down to sit by Hutch and put an arm around his distraught friend. Hutch tensed for a moment with the contact and then slowly buried himself in Starsky's shoulder just as he had done that afternoon, this time crying not only for Gillian, but also for the friendship that he had convinced himself had been destroyed. Starsky stroked the blond head and soothed his partner as best he could.
Hutch clutched at him and continued to cry for a few minutes, finally tapering off into exhausted sniffs. Starsky let him rest for a little bit, than pulled back slightly to look into his face. "Now, partner, would you mind listenin' to me for a minute?"
Hutch pulled back self-consciously, avoiding his partner's eyes. Starsky could tell he was preparing for the worst, and decided abruptly that gentleness would be the wrong way to go. He lurched to his feet, leaned over Hutch and began to shout. "So that's what your muddled mind came up with, huh? That I'm such a lousy friend that a belt in the mouth is gonna call it quits between us!" Hutch stared at him in astonishment. "I care about you, you idiot. So you got a little carried away, so what? I understand, and I'm not blaming you for it. If it would've been me, I mighta done the same thing, and then would you've walked out on me?" Hutch shook his head but Starsky didn't even wait for his response. "Of course not! That's cause we're friends and we stick by each other even through all the garbage the world throws at us." He straightened up and took a deep breath to calm himself, and his mouth twitched into a small smile. "Besides, if you ever punch me like that again, I'm gonna punch you right back, okay?"
Hutch nodded speechlessly up at him, and after another minute Starsky's words appeared to take affect as the strain faded from his face and he slumped, drained. Starsky sat back down next to him, pulling his unresisting friend to lean against his shoulder. "Okay, buddy. Rest now, it's been a long day." Hutch started a little to pull away and say something, but Starsky cut him off. "It'll keep 'til morning. I'm gonna sack out here and I'll be around when you wake up." Hutch seemed too tired to fight any longer. He gave a slight nod, and a moment later his breathing slowly evened out. Starsky sat still, enjoying the closeness to his partner. When he was sure Hutch was fast asleep, he pulled his friend up over his shoulder and made his way across the room to put him to bed. He knew each day would get a little easier, but he'd be there to help his partner over the rough spots just as Hutch helped him. Cause we're friends, and we stick by each other even through all the garbage the world throws at us. Starsky smiled and shook his head at his partner's thick-headedness, and then left to go watch the rest of the creature-feature on TV.
Written in 1995