This story first appeared in the zine, By My Side #1 (2001). This zine can be obtained at: Comments on this story can be sent to: and will be forwarded to the author. 

Safe Places
K Hanna Korossy

Dumb, idiotic, stupid, dense, feeble-minded, oblivious, moronic, vapid, Starsky rattled off the self-condemning vituperations in his mind. That last one was from Hutch and he didn't exactly know what it meant, but from the context it sounded appropriate. Any name in the book, he deserved it.

From day one at the Academy, they drilled into you that you were a cop 24-7, on duty and off. You kept your gun with you at all times and never let your guard down. It could be and sometimes was a wearying way to live, but it also kept you safe. Usually. There were times when even vigilance wasn't enough, but Starsky didn't have even the comfort of knowing he'd tried all he could. He'd let his guard down, pure and simple. Only a rookie assumed you were safe if you were inside your home. Instead, Starsky had dismissed the small signs of something amiss: the window he hadn't remembered leaving open, the chair that was turned slightly differently from how he usually had it. Something in him had twinged a warning, and he hadn't taken his gun off until he'd peered into every room in the house, but he hadn't done a thorough search.

Which was why his head was now bouncing off the insides of a pick-up truck bed with every turn and swell of the road.

Knuckle-headed, dim-witted, feeble-brained...

Not that either he or Hutch would have had cause to suspect Starsky's kidnapper-to-be. Yeah, they had their suspicions that quiet, hulking Gene MacDavitt knew more about his wife's disappearance than he was telling, but there had been stories of her constant abuse of her husband, of excoriating him in public and sleeping with other men out of spite. Starsky had almost pitied the guy, even as he and Hutch had slowly built their case. But MacDavitt had seemed only a hen-pecked husband who'd finally reached his limit, not some kind of raging psychopath. Certainly not the kind who seemed likely to break into a police detective's house and ambush said detective in his skivvies, getting ready for bed and just coming out of his bathroom. Starsky wasn't quite sure what had happened immediately after the blow to his head that knocked him woozy, but he was clear enough to realize a few minutes later that he had been moved into the back of a covered pick-up, hands bound expertly behind his back and eyes blindfolded. Very methodical and cold. Not a scenario destined to have a happy ending.

He graduated to epithets. Chump, bozo, dummy...

A hard curve rolled him into something solid and protruding before he could brace himself, and Starsky winced at the new, sharper pain in his head, followed a moment later by the warm seepage of blood down his face. Terrific. This was getting better and better.

The sounds of urban life were beginning to fade, Starsky suddenly realized, the cop part of his brain working despite plentiful distractions. The road was growing less straight, too, and less smooth. They were leaving the city, heading into the depths of Griffith Park, maybe, or into the hills. Starsky had been bounced around too much to be sure of direction or angle of the road, or even time elapsed, but they were certainly going somewhere less populated. Maybe even where Jackie MacDavitt was buried. They never had found the victim's body.

Starsky was already freezing, the chill wind blowing through the cracks in the cover and over his partly clad body, but a new shiver ran through him. Cursing himself ten times the fool had been a good distraction, but the bottom line was that he was in serious trouble. This could easily be a one-way trip. And with their heading someplace out of the way and MacDavitt's sudden unpredictability, Starsky had no idea if the end would even come quickly. There certainly were some who liked to toy a long time with their prey, and they were often the quiet ones, too...

Starsky shivered again, tightening into a ball to try to conserve some heat and protect himself against the hard corners of the truck. He couldn't panic. That would have been a perfectly logical reaction and the tide of fear was already pulling at him, but he couldn't do that, not if he wanted to make it out of this alive. And, by God, he did and would. Hutch would kill him if he did anything less.

At least MacDavitt hadn't gone after Hutch. Starsky knew that much for sure, having seen his partner only an hour or so before. No way would there have been time for MacDavitt to make this little trip twice, and besides, the signs of his entry had been there when Starsky had arrived, had he paid more attention to them. But the thought that he was the victim was a mixed source of comfort. As fervently as Starsky wished he were anywhere but there, the one person he'd never have wished in his place was Hutch. Starsky already had too much experience looking for a lost partner, and that gut-ripping helplessness was one of the few things he could think of that was worse than being hog-tied and helpless like this. At least here he knew what was going on--well, mostly--and the power to act was in his hands.

So maybe it was time he did so and keep from subjecting his partner to that same horror of unknowing.

The blindfold was soaked and heavy with blood, sticking to his skin, the very thought of which made Starsky queasy. Rubbing his face against the bottom of the truck only smeared the blood over his cheek and chin, too, but the blindfold didn't budge. Okay, sightlessness it would have to be. Starsky had worked with less.

They'd had to learn in the Academy to slip their handcuffed arms around their body in order to bring their hands to the forefront. Hutch simply hadn't been able to do it, his legs too long for it to work no matter how he'd tried, and Starsky had taken great glee back then in showing off his ease with the maneuver. Hutch would have gotten the last laugh now. With the jostle and bounce of the truck, Starsky couldn't brace himself long enough to manage the slide-through. One more sharp bump jammed the cuffs hard into his wrist bones and decided the end of that. Starsky slumped back down to the pick-up bed in frustration.

Well, maybe the failure could work to his advantage. If MacDavitt ever stopped--

The truck slowed, then jounced to one side onto an even rougher shoulder before stopping. The engine was cut a moment later, followed by the squeak of a door opening and then gently being shut. Either the guy was still playing mild-mannered Dr. Jeckyll, or else he was hoping his passenger was still out. Starsky was banking on the latter.

Heavy footsteps crunched gravel the length of the truck, and Starsky tensed, drawing up his legs into what he hoped looked like a limp sprawl. Unfortunately, MacDavitt had stuffed him in feet first so kicking was out, but maybe that would also make his captor less on guard.

The tarp lifted, cold November air whistling freely over bare skin now and raising goose-flesh. And in that moment's pause, Starsky braced his feet against the wheel-well and sprung, his lowered head and upper body aimed squarely at the spot the heavy breathing was coming from.

The impact jarred through every bone in the detective's aching and cold body and seemed to break half of them. It was like hitting a wall.

But even walls fell.

The next thing he knew, Starsky was hurtling through the air, momentarily disoriented at the lack of sight and gravity. And then he was crashing down onto a body that had met the ground first and lay still beneath him.

As much as he'd liked to have had a different cushion, Starsky lay panting there for a moment, unable immediately to move. Besides having the wind knocked out of him, his shoulders and back ached, threatening worse if he moved, and blood was flowing freely down his face again. Starsky could just imagine the sight he made, lying on top of his unconscious captor in his shorts and t-shirt, bloody and probably in a ridiculous-looking position. Hutch would have laughed.

No, he wouldn't, Starsky amended guiltily. His partner probably would have been worried sick about him until he was sure Starsky was okay, and even then would fuss and look after him. Maybe finally tease a little, but in that gentle voice he used when he was concerned about Starsky and trying to make him feel better.

Starsky would have been hard pressed to wish more fervently than he already was that his partner were there.

But in absence of that...well, the LAPD hadn't wasted how-many-thousands training him for nothing. First thing--his captor did seem out for the count, but MacDavitt's chest rose and fell under Starsky's head, which meant that he could conceivably rouse at any moment. And Starsky didn't particularly want to be there for that.

He wouldn't get far with the blindfold, though, and that was the second thing. With a groan, Starsky levered himself up and rolled over onto the icy gravel. Man, it was cold. Why couldn't MacDavitt have kidnapped him in his clothes, at least, or in the middle of summer? Or not at all, since Starsky was wishing, and he made a face at the useless train of thought.

Instead, he squirmed his way through the loop of his aching arms, adding a few gouges to his bruised wrists as he finally got his hands in front of him. Thank God; his stiff left shoulder couldn't have taken much more of that. One step done. Next was the blindfold, which didn't want to seem to come off. Starsky finally gave it an angry jerk and left it dangling around his neck.

So much better.

Or maybe not. The sight around him wasn't worth seeing. MacDavitt lay sprawled on the ground next to him, unconscious. Starsky barely spared him a second glance, especially as there was no gun in sight. Around them, the landscape was less than encouraging. A slight moon illuminated waist-high grass and clumps of trees as far as the eye could see, which wasn't far. No light glimmered to give sign of civilization, and dark silhouettes of hills cropped up on all sides to further hide any potential landmarks. Only the long, rutted dirt road they were next to gave any indication that humankind had ever visited there before.

Not that it really mattered if he had a truck, right? Starsky wearily climbed to his feet, grimacing as he wiped dripping blood out of his eye. All he had to do was drive back the way they'd come and get some help. Even if MacDavitt disappeared before their return, he wouldn't get far. The man was certifiable, not one of the shrewd sociopaths Starsky and his partner had hunted down in their careers.

Walking was discouraging, more bruises announcing their presence and the stiffness and outright pain of cold making his movements clumsy. Still, it was only a few feet to the truck cab and Starsky gratefully climbed inside.

No key.

He almost groaned; apparently none of this was going to be easy. The hard way it would have to be, then. Starsky bent down to find the ignition wires.

MacDavitt uttered a moan from outside, gravel crackling underneath him as he moved.

The wires weren't forthcoming; Starsky's bound wrists were too unwieldy to get to them easily. With time, he could have maneuvered the wires out from under the dash, but...

MacDavitt groaned again, a mutter following.

Starsky scanned the dash in desperation, hoping for a miraculous sign of the missing key, but none was to be found. And there was no time left for anything else. With a despairing curse, Starsky jumped out of the truck, casting a glance at MacDavitt, who was already drawing up his legs for leverage to rise. No time at all.

Without another thought, Starsky ran.


LA wasn't supposed to be cold. His ma had told him that, when she'd tried to convince him that she was sending him to a better place by shipping him out to her sister's in California. All a confused nine-year-old David Starsky had known was that his father had been killed in front of him a year before, and now he was losing his remaining family. It had been a harsh lesson in the lack of sanctuary of the place he'd always called "home."

But it was cold in LA, especially in the winter. Especially when you were running around in your underwear with blood, one of the body's natural insulators, running on your outside instead of your inside. His bare feet, battered and scraped from running over rough ground, didn't even hurt anymore, too chilled to be more than numb, cloddish lumps.

It didn't stop Starsky.

He'd taken to stumbling, stooped, through the tall grass, hopefully invisible to his hunter, but still MacDavitt had managed to remain on his track. Starsky had already stopped twice to set the kind of traps he'd learned to make in-country, but the hunter had eluded them both and doubled back, coming too close when Starsky had once tried to hide in a tree. Stopping him wasn't the answer, so Starsky had continued to flee, small sounds behind him promising that MacDavitt continued to follow: a crunch of a hasty footstep, the flutter of a startled bird taking off, once even the distant but unmistakable cocking of a rifle. So MacDavitt had been armed. Starsky wished tiredly he'd found the gun, or the keys, or even kicked the man hard in the head while he'd had the chance. Again, he hadn't thought like a cop, and the lapses were going to get him killed. Hutch would really chew him out for being so careless...

Starsky stumbled again and absently righted himself. His partner was what he needed. Cops were partnered because it was safer that way, with someone watching your back, catching what you missed, being your second line of defense. Of course, no one really cared if they'd become more than that, best friends. And even more, a relationship Starsky couldn't put into words or wrap his mind around. What did you call someone who practically lived inside you, feeling what you felt, hearing your thoughts, and being such a part of everything you called "life" that life without him didn't figure?

Hutch really would be furious at him for messing that up. Maybe he already knew Starsky was in trouble with that uncanny sixth sense he sometimes seemed to have where Starsky was concerned? If only Starsky could talk to his partner just for a minute. He blinked hard with the futility of it, then determinedly raised his head, eyes tracing the road he was loosely following.

And the emergency phone that sat beside it not twenty feet away.

Starsky rubbed at his tacky eyes, not sure for a moment if he was seeing what he thought he was. It was just the dim outline of a post and the box that was on it, but Starsky had seen hundreds like it before. Maybe Someone was finally feeling sorry for him.

He doubled his speed to cover that last bit of distance, muttering a thanks of prayer and hope all the way and almost lurching against the phone's post when he reached it. Numb fingers trembling with cold reached out and picked up the phone, their grip spasming in relief when Starsky heard the heavenly sound of a human voice asking if he needed help.

It took a minute to identify himself and get transferred to the department, and then another minute more before they patched him through to the person he'd really wanted to reach.


The sleepy half-greeting brought a frightening rush of deja vu that made his throat close up, memory of lying on the floor in his house only, what, one, two years before? Poison already circulating through his body, calling the one person for help that he could think of in his drugged panic. He'd been attacked in his own home then, too.

"Hello?" the query repeated, a little more awake and on the edge of getting annoyed. And then maybe the speaker was also hit with the familiarity of the middle-of-the-night call, for there was a hitch of breath and then a soft, worried, "Starsky?"

That made him find his tongue again, the cure-all automatic response to his partner's anxiety. "Hutch, I need help--MacDavitt's here, he's comin' after me."

Despite the fact that the words came out slurred and jammed together and with far less sense than Starsky had planned, to his credit, Hutch was already putting the pieces together. "What--MacDavitt? Starsky, where are you?"

"I don't know, somewhere out in the hills. I got away from him but he's comin' after me--I think he's snapped." Starsky looked behind him, searching the dark for any signs of his kidnapper. Somehow the fact that he didn't find any wasn't very reassuring. MacDavitt wasn't far. Starsky gripped the phone tighter, forcing his rattled mind to work. What had he forgotten? "Hutch, he's got a shotgun. Broke into the house--he's probably comin' after you when he's done."

"Done?" Hutch's voice was sharpening with every word, punching through some of Starsky's befuddlement. "Starsky, is there a number on the phone?"

Another deja vu distracted him, of a similar exchange he'd had with his wounded partner when Hutch had once called him for help. But this wasn't a regular phone and he could see no number on it. His confused silence answered for him.

"Okay, Starsk, listen to me. Leave the phone off the hook and get out of there. Try to hide somewhere close by and wait for me."

Hutch's voice was soothing and scared all at once, a pretty motivating mix. Starsky was reluctant to break off the contact, distant as it was, with the one person he could trust absolutely to help, but Hutch couldn't trace the call otherwise and know where to come.

Starsky swallowed, feeling disconcertingly like a kid being asked to let go of a security blanket. Like when his mother had coaxed him onto the plane and then left him there. Except he wasn't going to be left this time, Starsky knew that. "Hurry, huh?" was all he whispered.

"I'm on my way, Starsk--I'll be there soon. Now get going!"

He didn't wait, setting the receiver on top of the phone so it wouldn't be obvious that it wasn't hung up, then darting back into the grass. The glint of moonlight off metal caught his eye as he moved, hard to tell how distant in the darkness and cluttered landscape, but closer than Starsky liked. Hutch had said to hide, but there wasn't anything to hide in there, and so Starsky had no choice. He kept going.


Pushed beyond its limits, the body stops responding to pain and pure will takes over. The mind no longer listens to the physical protests and simply does because it would take more effort to stop doing. Starsky kept going because he didn't have the strength to figure alternatives, to realize he had no energy left to run, even to fall. And so he stumbled on, no longer feeling the sharp grass cutting his feet or hearing the sounds of the pre-dawn birdsong in the trees above him, conscious only of the need to keep going.

The knowledge lingered that there was danger near, though the particulars had long since evaporated, and that if he kept on long enough, he'd reach some kind of safety. As vague as the awareness of his own body, it gave him just enough hope that he couldn't give up. Anyway, he had a feeling that once he stopped, he'd never get going again. Which was beginning to sound like not such a bad idea.

There was some noise ahead of him, some new sound. It was just one more sensation in the puddle of greens rushing by him and the growing lightness around him and the swish and harsh panting sounds as he ran, but still it pricked his mind with a warning of danger. Automatically, he ducked lower down, nearly toppling forward at the low angle, and continued forward.

It didn't work.

A shape--a person--suddenly loomed above him.

With a strangled sound of frustration, he tried to duck around to one side of the danger, only to have it mirror his movement. That wouldn't work. He was running on pure instinct now, lowering his head and lunging against the threat, the momentum of his running changing into one last primal attempt at survival.

His overtaxed body was no longer willing to cooperate, however. His attack simply toppled him into the arms of his enemy. He didn't even have the energy to struggle anymore as he was caught, too tired to even let free the sob of frustration that lodged in his chest. There was just no strength left to care anymore. At least the ordeal would be over and he could finally rest.

Falling, he was falling, but slowly. Befuddled, he tried to make sense of the contradictory sensations. He was held firm around his waist, and another...hand?...supported his neck. He was being lowered to the ground.

The cold beneath his body didn't register anymore. It was just intense gratitude that he could finally stop, and an equal amount of instinctive terror that he was helpless now, at his enemy's mercy. The enemy who held him so close that Starsky would have panicked if he could have made his mind work enough to do so. The body he leaned against felt strange, and it took a moment of hard thought to realize it was warm. The sensation was almost a forgotten one, and danger or no, he couldn't resist pressing closer to it in an effort to penetrate even a little of the ice he felt encased in.

More sounds above him; with difficulty he realized they were words, but he couldn't make sense of them. They sounded like his grandmother's Yiddish. She'd died when he was little but he could still remember her chiding him when he was bad with words he didn't know. She'd made good latkes, though...

His body was shifted, and it was with detachment that he felt something warm draped over it. It didn't even seem to be his body anymore. Another thick, confining layer was wrapped around that, and the instinct to fight it nearly choked him. But his body wasn't listening to him any longer, and the chagrin at his impotence cleared a little of the bewilderment from his head. He was being enshrouded--did they do that before a person was dead? But at least it was keeping the cold out now...

He frowned, or at least thought he did. That wasn't right, was it? Making him comfortable for the kill?

The warm, almost hot, hand was back on his neck again, holding up his wobbly head. It reached around with one thumb to probe the stickiness that ran down the side of his face, and he winced as it got close to where his head was beginning to throb.

It was all so confusing.


That was his name. That much he knew. And the voice made his muscles unknot instead of tensing them. Maybe his body knew something his mind couldn't think clearly enough to figure out.

"Starsky, look at me."

It was too dark, he thought dumbly. Maybe if he opened his eyes...

Dawn-silvered hair and intense blue eyes and a row of nice white teeth revealed in a quick grin. Starsky didn't have to think to know who that meant.

His body turned to jelly in sheer relief and the release of fear and adrenalin. Safe. He felt it, reacted to it, before he even could even process the thought. Not only wasn't he in trouble, but he was safe now.

His sudden lack of bones didn't seem to matter because he was being held too securely to fall. In fact, he was all but cradled, tucked close against the warmth and protection that was his partner. He'd have burrowed closer if he'd had the strength to do so, but Hutch seemed a step ahead of his plodding thoughts, arms wrapping more securely around him to keep him as warm and near as possible.

"Starsk?" The warmth on his cheek both felt good and hurt. Come to think of it, the rest of him was feeling just as weird, the glorious heat beginning to sink in but bringing to life with it every scratch and scrape and ache of abused muscles, not to mention the prickle of thawing skin. It seemed to make his thoughts move a little faster, too, more aware. Like of the fear in Hutch's voice.

Starsky forced his tongue over paper-dry lips, then tried out his parched vocal chords. "'M okay." And he really was. Nothing a week of sleep and a tray of hoagies wouldn't cure.

"Sure y'are. You're just covered in blood and couldn't fight your way out of a wet paper bag." But Hutch's voice had lightened and if Starsky'd had the energy to look, he'd have bet the blond was smiling.

Still, it was worth mustering an answer for. He really was fine now, nothing hurting worse than a heavy ache, even the cut on his head having long stopped bleeding. And even though it hurt, the warmth felt heavenly, changing all his physical exhaustion into a muzzy sleepiness. Okay, so he couldn't move a muscle, but extreme fatigue wasn't fatal. "'S not bad. Jus' tired," he murmured vaguely, mind wandering as Hutch seemed to be talking to someone else. But his partner wasn't afraid so he didn't have any reason to be.

Hutch's attention returned to him, and Starsky's head was gently let back down against a shoulder that, for all its lack of padding, felt wonderfully comfortable. Apparently his partner had decided he wasn't bleeding to death. "This what you got me out of bed for, then?" Hutch's voice was full of gentle teasing even as he rested his hand a moment on Starsky's curls, then turned up the collars of his jacket around the brunet's neck. No wonder his wrappings were so warm, Starsky thought absently; Hutch had put his own varsity jacket around Starsky before wrapping him in a blanket. "At least I took the time to get dressed."

Starsky snorted. No fair, poking fun at him when he was too tired to poke back. But Hutch's tender touches gave away his real feelings, even if Starsky hadn't been able to hear the concern and affection in his voice.

Hutch shifted a little behind him and suddenly the stiff, bloody handkerchief was pulled away from his neck and tossed roughly aside, then the blond was tucking the blanket more tightly around him. "The cold and all the blood you lost didn't help. I think you've earned the right to sleep in, Starsk." He pulled Starsky's legs up under the blanket, beginning to massage warmth into one of the frozen feet. "And I'm afraid you're not gonna be walking for a while, partner."

Starsky could feel it, the soles of his feet unpleasantly hot and stinging. But at the moment, he couldn't seem to care. It had to be sinful to feel this comfortable, everything vague and inconsequential except for the powerful sensation of being safe. He took a long, deep breath, as the long fingers carefully chafed his other foot, nestling his face into the folds of Hutch's shirt with a comfortable groan. "Girls like...takin' care o'...wounded heroes."

Hutch laughed. "Not if the hero keeps going to sleep on them." He gave Starsky's cheek a pat. "I want you to relax, but don't go to sleep on me, okay?"

"Detective, the ambulance is almost here."

That other voice again, and Starsky only opened one mildly curious eye to see who it belonged to. The uniform some paces off was studying something in the grass, but he was the only other person Starsky could see in the area in the early morning light, though no doubt there were others, maybe hidden by the trees around them. Just like he'd tried to hide. There was still danger about and it made sense that Hutch would bring help. After all, someone had to take care of...

MacDavitt flew out from behind a tree in a blur.

Starsky stared at him in disbelief, watching as the hunter caught the nearby uniform unaware and clubbed him on the back before the man could react. The cop fell hard. And then MacDavitt turned toward Starsky.

That same flat, unemotional stare. It would haunt his nightmares for weeks to come, if he survived that long. But Starsky couldn't move, couldn't run from the threat anymore, even though his mind was screaming at him to do just that and fear squeezed the air out of his lungs. All he managed was a voiceless croak of, "Hutch."

But his partner was already in motion. Twisting around so that his body was between Starsky and MacDavitt, his other arm whipped around in MacDavitt's direction, out of Starsky's line of sight now. Apparently armed; the Colt fired a fraction of a second later, over and over until the gun was emptied. Starsky could feel the vibrations of recoil through the blond's rigid body, the sound of the shots nearly deafening. He closed his eyes at the first one and waited.

A long silence followed. Then Hutch shuddered once, the Colt thunk-ing softly into the grass, and his arms went around Starsky again, holding on more tightly than before.

Starsky already knew from his partner's reaction, but nevertheless he had to ask, his chest still tight. "He dead?" he whispered.

"Yeah," Hutch said softly. "He's not gonna get to you again." There was nothing soft about that vow.

Other voices approached, several more uniforms breaking into the clearing and tending to the wounded officer, who was already sitting up. One asked Hutch a question and got a terse answer, but the blond's hold on Starsky eased.

Starsky closed his eyes, swallowing thickly, feeling Hutch do the same. "Hey," he finally murmured.

"Yeah?" Only he would have caught the slight unevenness in Hutch's voice. The blond would have shot MacDavitt again without a moment's hesitation to protect his partner, Starsky knew, but that didn't make killing a man easy.

"F'get the girls. Le's go home 'n...order a pizza 'n take it easy."

That won him an abbreviated laugh and a squeeze. "Sounds good. Let's just get you checked out first, huh?"

Starsky blinked slowly, realizing that the wail in the distance was an approaching ambulance. He hated ambulances, but he wouldn't fight the ride this time, not if it meant being someplace warm and making his partner worry a little less. Besides, his feet and his head hurt and he didn't think he could have stood up if his life depended on it.

It didn't anymore. Plastered shamelessly against his warm and solid partner, Hutch's hand rubbing the base of his neck with that uncanny sense of where it hurt, Starsky would've been content to stay there indefinitely. It wasn't just that he was finally warming up and comfortable, or even that he was out of danger. It was the feeling of being protected, the same feeling he got every day on the streets with Hutch at his back, and only increased a couple hundred times now that he was helpless as a baby. They just didn't make partners better than his.

The ambulance arrived and, with some regret, Starsky let them peel him away from Hutch. The cold crept back in, and aches flared into real discomfort from the movement, but Hutch hovered close, his expression determinedly cheerful and his eyes worried as the medics worked on Starsky, then got him into the ambulance. Hutch crawled in after him without asking, taking a place by Starsky's head, out of the paramedic's way.

With all the bustle and different people talking, Starsky's sluggish mind started to shut down again. Dirty, hurting, and exhausted, all he wanted to do was to be left alone to sleep, but they kept prodding him and asking questions, and things were making less and less sense.

A hand settled on the top of his head, sinking into his curls with an air of custody. Groggily, he turned his head slightly to look at his partner. Hutch was leaning forward in the small space, his elbows on his knees and only affectionate reassurance in his face. Go to sleep, he mouthed, and patted Starsky's head lightly in promise that he'd stay and keep an eye out for him.

That sounded good. Starsky's gaze stayed on the blond even as his eyes drooped, finally closing for good. He could still feel the guardian hand in his hair. Oh, yeah, definitely protected. Here he'd thought home was his safe place, but he'd been wrong all along. It wasn't a place, it was a person.

The fear gone and all the aches receding, Starsky fell asleep without reservations.

Written in 2001