This story first appeared in the zine, That's What Friends Are For #8 (1998). 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
"Can't you find the key?"
"Just a minute, just a minute. Jenny didn't tell me which one it was and there's a lot of 'em here."
"So it's 'Jenny' now, huh? What happened to 'Officer Burkett'?"
I turned back to leer at my partner in crime. "Not to her friends." Hutch rolled his eyes. Good.
"Would you hurry?" he growled a moment later. "Someone's gonna see us!"
"Would you be quiet?!"
I could hear him shifting behind me, but I knew it wasn't really impatience or worry about being seen, even if we were sorta breaking into the evidence room. I worked on the keys even faster, trying another likely one, and the door suddenly clicked open. I slipped inside and, for good measure, grabbed Hutch's sleeve and pulled him in after me. Since this was all my idea, I wasn't about to take any chances of him havin' second thoughts. Then I shut the door behind us both before reaching for the light switch.
The whole room lit up, revealing shelf after shelf of confiscated evidence, everything from guns to bags to a bowling ball. I'd'a made a joke about that one except suddenly I didn't think either of us was in the laughin' mood.
The light also let me take a good look at my partner, and I wasn't surprised at what I saw--a little pale and sweaty, a lot nervous, and lookin' like he was ready to bolt. Well, to other people maybe. I saw his eyes, and they were as determined as I've ever seen my partner get, partly because he wasn't about to let this beat him, and partly because I'd asked him to come. But he was scared to death and I knew it.
Best to get this over with quickly. I picked up the evidence inventory sheet and hooked as casual an arm as I could manage around Hutch's shoulders while I read it, pretending not to notice all those tight muscles in his shoulders loosen up a little bit as I did. This may have been Hutch's battle, but I'll be damned if I was gonna let him fight it alone. Not now, not four weeks ago.
I found what we needed pretty fast, then looked for it on the shelf. And there it was, taking up the two bottom shelves of one of the large metal shelving units, and even that an unusually small amount. Guess we hadn't had any big busts lately.
I sorted through the LSD, cocaine, and marijuana bundles, and finally pulled out a bag of the white powder and a box of paraphernalia. "Hutch?" As I turned around, he stepped closer, rubbing one of his hands on his pants. My voice got softer without even thinkin' about. "Here it is." And I handed him the bag.
Hutch's face was nearly as white as the stuff, but he took it and stood there staring at it. I didn't even want to think about what was goin' through his head, but if it was near anything like what I was thinkin', it had to be rough. He licked his lips like his throat had gone dry, and when he finally said something, it came out hoarse. "Open it."
I shifted to my other foot. "Hutch--"
He looked at me for the first time, and I could see the fear this time, but there was still more determination. And trust. "Open it," he repeated.
I pulled out my pocket knife and cut the tape on the package, unrolling the top. A little white powder sifted out onto Hutch's hand.
He was staring at the bag again, and then, slowly, with me watchin' his every move like a hawk, he lifted the bag to his nose and sniffed at it. And his eyes closed.
For the first time in a long time, I couldn't read his expression. Suddenly I wondered if maybe this wasn't such a good idea. "Hutch?" I finally asked, ready to knock that bag out of his hand, clear across the room if I had to.
"I'm okay." A little too quickly. "I remember. . . they were working me over, asking me about Jeanie. I wouldn't tell 'em."
His eyes were still closed, but my heart was doing doubletime at that soft voice, like listenin' to a confession or something. I didn't know whether to be scared or relieved. But he just went on.
"When they untied me, I thought they were going to kill me. I. . . I smelled them getting the stuff ready but I didn't know what they were going to do until they tied off my arm and I felt the needle. . .But I couldn't do anything. One of 'em had grabbed my hair, the other one had my arm. . . I couldn't do anything."
"I know." I was practically whispering as I rubbed a hand up and down his arm. I had guessed a lot of this already, but I hadn't thought he'd remembered any of it, and we'd never talked about it.
He opened his eyes again, and stared at me like he was lookin' for support to go on. "After a while, they didn't bother to tie me up anymore, though, because I. . . couldn't have gone anywhere even if I'd wanted to. And I was. . .begging them for more."
It was too much. I swore, grabbing the bag out of his hand and thunking it down on the table next to me. "Hutch, 'm sorry, I wasn't tryin' to make you remember it. Let's get outta here." I took a step toward the door, reaching for him to drag him out if I had to.
He took my arm, desperate and gentle at the same time, and I froze. "No, wait. I'm okay, Starsk, I just. . . the smell brought it back. But I need to do this."
I turned around, skeptically studying his face. He wasn't okay, that much I knew. But he was here, doing this, not only because we both knew he needed to, but because he trusted me to be there with him through it and to make it easier by being there. And there was no way I could walk out on that. I sighed. "You sure?"
He just nodded. His eyes said the rest.
I deflated. "Okay. But you tell me if you wanna stop."
He nodded again.
I moved back to the table and held up the bag. "You ready to go on?"
Yet another nod. My partner, the eloquent one, I thought fondly.
I turned to the box and poked around in it, pulling out a bong and a syringe. "What about these?"
A hard swallow this time, as his eyes froze on the needle. I don't think Hutch'll ever feel the same about gettin' a shot again. That somethin' so small and simple could be responsible for so much pain and violation. . .
He reached out for it, hand trembling a tiny bit, and I gave it to him.
"It hurt." Hutch looked up at me, eyes naked. "I. . . I knew what they were giving me, from the smell, but I didn't know what it would feel like." His voice still sounded like it would fade out at any time, and for a minute I wondered what I'd do if he fainted. "And it felt so great--for a little bit. And after that. . ."
"You don't have to think about that," I said gently. "It's over, Hutch, not gonna happen again."
He looked at me then, and something had changed, I could see it. He didn't look so haunted anymore. "No. Thanks to you."
I got a little embarrassed at that; I didn't particularly want to go there, either. "You're the one who beat it. You got away from them, you hung on until I found you, and then you kicked it, cold turkey."
Hutch looked at the needle again, long fingers moving over it like they wanted to get every inch of it down in his memory. "No," he said quietly. "We kicked it. You doin' it with me made all the difference, partner." He reached out, his fingers steady now, and dropped the needle decisively back into the box. "It doesn't have any power over me anymore." And then he looked up at me and smiled, the lines of strain in his face going all soft and making me all uncomfortable. I think what we were talkin' about had somehow changed without my knowing it.
"So," I fidgeted a little. "We're okay with this now?" I was looking at him pretty carefully, needing to be sure about this.
He tilted his head, returning the look calmly. "Are you okay with this?"
That was the first easy question all day. I smiled at him, dropping a hand on his shoulder. "If you're askin' me if I'm scared about you goin' back to the stuff, I never was. It's not like you were a user, Hutch, just crashing from a high, and you didn't ask for this. I was just. . . worried about how you felt about bein' around it again."
Hutch's gaze went back to the bag of white powder, but there was no confusion in those blue eyes, and there was more color in his face now, I noted with approval. The stuff still made him uncomfortable, and I wouldn't be surprised if it always would, but he was right, I could see it. It had no power over him anymore.
"I'm okay." And as he looked up at me, his eyes added a "now" to that, and some other soapier things that're, well, between him and me. There's a lot we never say, but we don't have to because we know it's there, just between us.
"Okay," I nodded, and the matter was settled. I packed up the box again and retaped the bag, then stuffed them back on the shelf. "So let's get outta here already. I promised Jenny I'd meet her at ten to, uh, give her keys back."
Hutch's eyebrow went up knowingly. "Ten o'clock tonight? At her place, no doubt. Over a late dinner?" The humor was a little forced, but I appreciated the effort.
"Of course," I grinned, herding him out of the door before me as I turned to snap the light off. The bag of white powder sat gleaming on the shelf, but it was harmless now and I didn't spare it another thought.
"Officer Burkett certainly doesn't lie down on the job, does she," Hutch remarked dryly.
I tried to glare at him, but I was too cheerful to do a good job at it.
"Cap'n?" I leaned in the office door, trying to catch Dobey's eye.
He waved me in, serious and all attention. "Starsky. How did it go?"
I settled on the edge of the chair and grinned. "Great. It wasn't easy for him, but he was fine. I think he's finally got this behind him, Cap'n." If a little of my pride showed, I didn't care.
Dobey's face softened into a smile, the kind he doesn't like us to see very often but that he can't help when he's really happy for us. "That's good, Starsky. I didn't want to put you two on a bust until he was ready, but I think we're going to have to move soon on Danner. You're positive he can handle this?"
I nodded. "Hundred percent."
Not that we're the most objective judges of each other, but the captain seemed to accept that. Maybe because he knows that I worry about Hutch more than he does and would never let him get hurt if I could help it. "Okay, Starsky. Get your partner and I'll brief you two."
"Thanks, Cap'n," I jumped up.
He just brushed it off. Enough sentimentalism for one day, I guess, especially if neither of us was worried anymore. I grinned as I went out to track Hutch down.
Found him buried in paperwork at his desk, another sight to make me smile. Better him than me. "Dobey wants to see us," I said, stopping and pouring myself a cup of coffee.
"Didn't get much sleep last night, huh?"
I spun around, but Hutch bent over his work. How did he do that? "None of your business," I answered smugly, and saw his mouth curl up a little.
A pause. "Did you talk to Dobey?" I didn't even wonder how he knew, but I did catch the oh-so-careful nonchalance. Totally transparent, my partner. At least to me.
I leaned against the side of my desk, facing him. "Uh-huh."
He finally looked up, a little wary. "And?"
"We're goin' after Danner."
That only took a moment to sink in. Danner didn't operate in our division, but drug lords that powerful had reputations that got around. Hutch's eyes got a little wider. "Danner?"
"Uh-huh," I grinned. "You passed, partner."
The flicker I saw was probably the last bit of insecurity dying, because when he laughed, it was with pure joy. "Danner, huh?" Paperwork forgotten, he pushed himself to his feet and trailed around to my side. "That means we're going in undercover. Who do you wanna be this time?"
"How about we go Irish?" I asked irrepressibly. "You can be Pat O'Brien." I opened the door for him, then followed him out of the squadroom, still grinning.
Hutch absently took my mug and sipped it as he contemplated that. "Okay, but then I get to pick out the clothes. And this time, I drive."
I knew I'd regret it, but I wasn't about to argue. I had my partner back, intact and happy. The rest. . . well, the rest was just details.
Written in 1998