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: email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
K Hanna Korossy
Their voices rose kept rising until neither of the two men could hear each other, much less listen. After a moment, Starsky had all that he could take and cut the argument off with an angry wave of his hand. "Aw, forget it." He stormed out of the room.
Hutch lay back on his pillow, trying to catch his breath after the exertion of yelling. He could kill me? I could kill me! How could I be so stupid?
It had all started out innocently enough. When he had woken up in the emergency room that morning, Hutch truly had lost all his memory. He couldn't even remember his name, let alone his partner. What he didn't tell anyone, however, was that moments later it all came rushing back. Everything: the chase, the argument, and, most of all, the reason that he was in the hospital with a sprained neck and possible concussion. Not knowing if Starsky was even alive had overpowered any other thought before the doctor came by to tell him that his partner was in better shape than he was. But then it didn't taken long for the worry to become irritation--Starsky's irresponsibility could just as easily have had consequences he didn't want to contemplate. That's when it had come to him, the perfect way to get even with Starsky and to teach him a lesson about his driving that he would never forget. A part of Hutch had protested, knowing that the very reason this would be such an effective lesson was because Starsky would sincerely worry about him. But he had squelched his conscience. After all, he reasoned, it wouldn't do Starsky any good either if he killed one of them next time instead of just landing them in the hospital.
The plan had worked perfectly at first. He only had a faint twinge of guilt at the sight of Starsky's face when Hutch asked about a private room. And he downright enjoyed poking some fun at Dobey and Huggy Bear, and hearing Starsky's versions of the dune buggy ride and other escapades. Hutch figured to stretch it out to a day or two and then miraculously gain his memory back. Starsky would even be delighted. But somehow that's not how it worked out.
Hearing about Ben Forrest again was not pleasant and reminded him just how much Starsky had done for him in the past. His partner had really gone above and beyond the call of duty on that one, even sleeping on the couch at Hutch's place for over a week afterwards. Then it really began to bother him when he realized that Starsky wouldn't tell him about Gillian, wouldn't hurt his friend even in his own self-defense. Thinking about her was still painful, but Starsky's sacrifice was what touched him the most. And then. Hutchinson, you're a rat. He had never, ever meant to dredge up Terry again, to make Starsky talk about her, to make him relive that night. That was the last straw. No miraculous recovery, no more acting, he had to tell Starsky the truth and end this sick charade. It was a relief to have it out, but he couldn't blame Starsky for his reaction. The only question that remained was, what now?
Starsky strode down the hospital hallway, not sure where he was going, but the farther it took him from Hutch, the better it would be. He couldn't recall ever being this angry at his partner before. Not through all the practical jokes Hutch had played on him, not when Hutch nearly lost him on that dune buggy ride, not ever. No matter what, he had always trusted Hutch not to deliberately do anything that would hurt him. But this had hurt. It was malicious and cruel and Starsky didn't know what to believe about his partner anymore. And that scared him most of all. The one sure thing in his life had been shaken and the one person he had trusted completely had shaken it. Hutch's words came back to haunt him now. 'Horrible, hostile person.' 'So-called relationship.' Was that really what Hutch thought? How could he ever be sure again?
Starsky looked up and found himself at the doors of the hospital chapel. Appropriate. 'All lost souls, enter here.' How about lost friends? He went in and flopped down on the back pew in the empty room. A small part of him was glad Hutch was okay, didn't really have amnesia, but that relief was overwhelmed by the hurt. He wasn't even angry anymore, just...scared. And lonely. God, are you really there? What do I do now?
After a half an hour went by and Starsky didn't return, Hutch began to get worried. He had berated himself for a while, then tried and discarded all sorts of speeches and apologies, but nothing seemed right. It finally occurred to him that Starsky still hadn't come back and there were only so many places one could go in a hospital. Could he have checked out? Hutch doubted it, not without his clothes. Where then? Perhaps he had gotten another room? Hutch guiltily recalled his snide, "I thought I was getting a private room." He reached for the call button but then thought better of it. No, this was something he would have to do on his own.
It took him a long time to track his partner down. Hutch still wasn't supposed to be up without a wheelchair, let alone roaming the halls, and he was exhausted by the time he saw the chapel sign. Might as well try it. He had been just about everywhere else in the hospital, there weren't too many places left where Starsky could be.
The door opened silently and the sight of the dark curly head a few feet away made him give a quiet sigh in relief. His conscience twinged as he noticed that the head was bowed in an attitude of dejection. Okay, what now, Hutchinson? He forced his uncooperative body to move forward into his partner's line of vision. Starsky stiffened at the sound of the shuffling footsteps behind him, but he gave no other sign of being aware of the other man's presence. Hutch stopped next to him, resisting the impulse to sit down on the pews, cradling his splinted arm to himself instead and focusing on his partner. His concentration temporarily blocked out everything but the man in front of him.
Starsky's voice was tired when he spoke. "Come to hear more 'wonderful stories'? 'Cause sorry, I'm fresh out." His eyes remained glued to the floor.
Hutch sighed and closed his eyes for a moment, trying to find the right words. "Starsk...I'm sorry. I don't know what else to tell you. It was a lousy thing to do to you and I never meant for it to go that far. It was just supposed to make you squirm a little, get you back for..." His voice trailed off.
Starsky sat motionless, his only response an apathetic, "Yeah." Whatever.
A realization hit Hutch hard now, one that had been somewhere in the back of his mind all the time but that he had not really considered before. He knew his partner well enough to know that Starsky was quite aware that the accident was his fault; he would've punished himself with his own guilt and worry far more than was necessary, even without Hutch's act. And that had only made things a lot worse. How could I have been so stupid?
Hutch's knees were giving way on him; he compromised by leaning against the row of pews parallel to Starsky's. "I don't know what else to say, buddy." Starsky flinched at the word and it tore at Hutch's heart to see it. Dumb, dumb, dumb... "I really did lose my memory, you know? At first." Like he's gonna believe that now. "And then when it came back and I remembered our argument in the car, it just seemed a good way to teach you a lesson..." He inwardly cringed at the words as soon as he said them.
Starsky looked up at him almost savagely. "A lesson?! I thought I'd killed you! I was worried sick about you, wondering if you would ever get your memory back, wondering if you'd ever remember me again, us again, and you wanted to teach me a lesson?! What lesson did you want to teach me by making me tell you about Terry, huh? I trusted you, buddy." His voice was choked and he broke off to lean his head forward on his arms and regain control.
Hutch opened his mouth, and then closed it again, tightening his hold on his aching side. He wished Starsky had just been angry, he could have handled that, but what could he do if his partner's confidence in their friendship was shaken? The thought scared him, and suddenly he forgot the excuses and apologies. "I just... I kept thinking next time maybe we wouldn't be so lucky, maybe you'd end up dead, and I couldn't..." He cut himself off, not willing to finish the thought, then began again, haltingly. "The one thing I don't regret, the one thing I wouldn't do over from the last two days, is telling you thank-you for being there for me during those rough times. I've forced your hand before, made you show me you cared about me but I never really thanked you before." The pain in his side was beginning to be unbearable but Hutch was too desperate to give into it, not when Starsky looked like maybe he was listening. "Please, Starsk, you're the closest friend I've got. Don't let my stupid stunt ruin that." Anything else he wanted to say was washed away by the pain that he had been ignoring and that refused to be ignored any longer. He bit off an involuntary groan, but his legs began to buckle beneath him.
Starsky looked up and his answer died on his lips as he saw Hutch sway, ashen-faced. Condemnation forgotten, he leapt up to ease his partner down onto the pew behind him. Hutch's eyes were screwed shut and he was breathing rapidly, almost gasping, biting his lip as he fought the pain. Starsky hovered over him uncertainly, reluctant to leave his partner, not sure if Hutch needed help. "Hey, easy, take it easy," he coached, relieved to see Hutch's breath slowing. "You look terrible. You want me to go find a nurse?"
Hutch shook his head without opening his eyes, and Starsky reached up to gently disentangle the hand that was tightly wound in his sleeve, letting Hutch clutch his hand instead. A minute went by before the painful grip slowly relaxed and Hutch half-opened his eyes. Starsky gave him a lopsided grin.
Hutch nodded in relief. "Yeah."
"You know, you don't have to put on these acts for me to get my attention."
Hutch's eyes snapped open at that remark, and he looked at Starsky, dumbfounded. Then he saw his partner's eyes. For the first time since the accident, he relaxed, and his smile was small but genuine. "Thanks, Starsk." His eyes conveyed a lot more.
Starsky's smile was unreservedly warm in response. After a moment, it changed to amusement. "Say, what're you doin' wanderin' around like this in the middle of the night for anyway? You're supposed to be in bed."
Hutch's eyes were sliding shut again despite himself, the events of a long day finally catching up with him. "Had to clear up somethin' important first," he murmured tiredly. He suddenly made a face, dreading the thought of moving. "Starsk..." he hesitated.
His friend read his mind. "Now you stay here and I'll go find one of those pretty nurses to wheel you back where you belong." Starsky awkwardly pulled his hand out of his partner's grasp, resting it on Hutch's shoulder for a second before he went off in search of a wheelchair. The faint smile that lingered on his face matched the one on Hutch as he settled back to wait for his friend. Where I belong is with you, partner.
Written in 1995