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: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
The first three days, it had been all relief and gratitude, almost short-circuiting him in its intensity. After fearing the worst for so long and feeling as though his own life depended on it--which in some ways it did--the joy of a happy ending first eclipsed everything else.
The next two days slowly turned into repressed confusion. Reality was beginning to sink in, along with delayed reaction, and the future and the past had to be considered now that the present was no longer in question. He was shaky and a little lost, but he swallowed it in the ever-present relief. And the presence at his side of a living miracle.
The following day, when Hutch finally came home, was devoted to making him feel comfortable and safe. The gratitude returned, warming him and briefly pushing the confusion into the background. But it was still there.
The seventh day started at 3AM with another vague nightmare, except this time the feeling grew and wouldn't let itself be ignored any longer.
A week of running away was exhausting.
It's 4 AM, do you know where you partner is? Starsky smiled humorlessly at the thought. He'd only left Hutch at Venice Place a scant three hours before, following a late-night movie. That is, once he'd made sure the blond was in bed and settled for the night, medication taken and leg not bothering him. Then, as he'd been doing all week, Starsky finally turned to his own needs after his partner's were taken care of. Asleep on his feet, he'd driven home and collapsed into bed.
And two hours later he was up again.
Insomnia was more his thing than nightmares. Starsky didn't need as much sleep as his overgrown boyscout of a partner, so the few late nights after particularly gruesome cases didn't bother him all that much. Even his brush with death after the Bellamy poisoning, Hutch's presence the first few nights of his return home had been enough to put the nightmare's to rest. Only after Forest, after going through withdrawal hell with Hutch, had he needed a little more help dealing with the demons. They both had, and they helped each other then, too, as always.
But this was different somehow. More than just lingering fear or visions of racing down Topanga cliff and seeing Hutch trapped and apparently lifeless under his car. The image would stay with him until the day he died, but it wasn't what haunted his dreams and disturbed him so much. The first thing he felt each time he woke, the reaction that made his heart pound, wasn't fear. It was anger.
That confused him more than anything. Starsky was used to resentment against those who had hurt others or Hutch, or even him. But this wasn't that simple. Yes, the thought of Vic Humphries and his shark lawyer still made Starsky's stomach turn. Nothing the law would do to those two would repay them for what they'd inflicted on Hutch. But that wasn't what troubled his sleep and hung over his shoulder. The one he was most angry with was...Hutch.
Starsky paced in frustration. Anger? At Hutch? But Hutch had been the victim... True, there was always a little bit of anger with the other when they got in trouble, for putting them both through that pain and worry. It was a natural, if irrational, human reaction that faded quickly. But this time it had only intensified into almost rage, and that didn't make sense. He loved Hutch. It had been like existing in limbo, searching for the blond and knowing that he could already be dead. The better part of Starsky would've gone with the blintz, a loss he couldn't fathom. Finding him meant waking up alive again, and there wasn't then or now a single thing he wouldn't do for his partner, including giving up his own life. How could he be so furious with Hutch when he was so grateful to have him back?
Starsky stopped and shook his head. No, he was just scared, for both him and Hutch. He was still disconcerted and a little off balance from the past week, and the fear of those days poured down on him now, icy and cutting. Watching each clue accumulate: the rumor, Slater, Humphries' smug expression, the paint on the car, the kid's report. Even talking to the colonel, being forced to play his game while hearing the news of Hutch's entrapment, knowing it was possible he was dead already. And then seeing that broken and bleeding body half under the car, motionless...
Starsky ran for the bathroom just in time.
After he'd rinsed his mouth, he went and dug his clothes out again. Yes, he was worried, scared out of his mind still from what could've happened. But rage was what made his heart hammer and his stomach lurch, and he wasn't able to deal with it anymore. Hutch would think he was crazy--heck, even Starsky thought he was crazy--and, worse yet, he'd be waking the blond up from the healing sleep he still needed, but if he didn't get this off his chest, it would eat through him. Starsky grabbed his jacket and went out the door, cursing his insanity as he went.
Sitting in front of Venice Place, he had a chance to reconsider. The drive over had allowed him to cool down a little and think about this impulsive late-night visit. He could drive back home again still, pretend this had never happened, talk to Hutch the next morning. Perhaps he'd even be able to get back to sleep. Even better, maybe he could deal with whatever was bothering him by himself and not mention it at all.
Starsky sighed wearily, resting his head on the steering wheal. Who was he fooling? He'd driven to Hutch's like a runaway projectile, out of control, dead set on his goal. The feeling he'd tried to ignore all week had grown beyond his ability to suppress or deny, and going home wouldn't fix a thing. He had to talk to Hutch before anger grew into resentment and damage was done. Already his partner had sensed something was wrong and had given him an odd look or two; Hutch knew him too well. Squaring his shoulders, Starsky got out of the car and climbed the steps to the apartment.
He hesitated at the door again, reluctant to wake the invalid. This is crazy! You want him to get better, don't you? He bit his lip. Heavily, he turned away from the door. And gazed down the stairs of the apartment building. Steep steps, just like the cliffside he'd barreled down without a thought, seeing only the overturned car, the wreck that looked too bad for anyone to survive...
Starsky shuddered, closing his eyes. With a moan, he swung back to the door and retrieved the key with shaking fingers, unlocking the door and charging in.
The call was just a warning; even through the anger he knew that Hutch would have a hard time getting out of bed with his broken leg. Starsky's momentum carried him right to the bedroom anyway.
The summons, or perhaps its tone, had already awakened his friend, and Hutch was fumbling for a light as Starsky charged in the door. For a split second, they squinted at each other, then Hutch was pushing himself up.
"Starsky, what the--" His irritation gave way to concern at the other's expression. "What's wrong?"
Starsky spoke without thinking, running on sheer instinct. "Why didn't you call me?"
"What?" Hutch was blinking at him with confusion now. "What're you talking about? I was asleep--"
"Not now. Then. When Benny called you. Why didn't you call me and tell me you were goin' for a meet?"
A little understanding trickled into the blond's face, but he still sounded puzzled as he said, "He just said he had some information for me. I didn't expect a--"
Starsky couldn't stand still, pacing agitatedly and stopping only to interrupt the explanation. "You didn't expect?! What kinda work do you think we do, Hutch? The bad guys don't usually tell us when they invite us into an ambush, dummy." There was none of his usual affection in the name, making it sound harsh and literal.
Hutch was beginning to stiffen and shift into offense to cover the hurt of the attack. A little part of Starsky cringed at the expression, trying to stop the angry words that were pouring out of him. Hasn't he been hurt enough already? But to his disgust, he couldn't seem to stop.
"Starsky, I didn't have reason to suspect an ambush, AND," Hutch raised his voice to cut off another interruption, "I don't have to report to you every time I go out!"
Starsky's mouth snapped shut but his eyes were blazing. There was so much love and anger, filling him as they fed on each other, tearing him in two. It was more than he thought he could bear, and now the unchanneled energy burst out. His right hand curled into a fist and he drove it into the wall next to the doorframe.
He barely heard the cry over the pain that blacked out everything else for a moment and he quickly cradled his bruised hand against his chest. He was losing it. No, he had lost it. What am I doing?! The tears in his eyes weren't only from pain, and upset and confused, he turned away in embarrassment and left the room to go sit on the couch and nurse his hand. He would've walked out altogether except that his hand hurt too much to do anything with for the moment.
There were some fumbling noises behind him and a muffled cursed, and he miserably added one more self-reproach to the tally. And yet the anger lingered, almost as strong as the guilt and worry. What was wrong with him?!
His head was bowed and he didn't see Hutch until the other was nearly in front of him, even though he was aware of the blond's approach. There was a moment of awkward arrangement as crutches were dropped and Hutch settled gingerly on the edge of the coffee table in front of him. Without a word, he reached out and tugged at Starsky's aching hand, but Starsky resisted the pull.
"Let me see." Quiet but firm.
Starsky reluctantly let him, wincing as Hutch cupped the injured hand in his own and gently poked and examined it.
Neither of them looked up and the blond's voice was almost casual as he asked, "You mind telling me what that was all about?"
If the even tone was meant to soothe, it didn't. Starsky could feel the anger rising again at the calmness of the question. "We're partners, Hutch," he said bitterly. "I'm supposed t'back you up. If you woulda called me before you went out on the meet, none of this would've happened."
"Or we would've both ended up at the bottom of that cliff," Hutch answered mildly, still intent in his examination.
"Maybe. But that's not the point," Starsky argued desperately. "You should've told me you were goin' on a meet. That was my right, Hutch." To look after him, worry about him, even to die with him.
Hutch was still for a moment. "I'm sorry I scared you," he finally said softly.
Starsky nearly cursed, jumping up and dislodging Hutch's hold in one movement. "Don't ya get it?! You almost got yourself killed out there! I can deal with goin' out together, Hutch. I don't like the idea much but, okay, it's part of what we do. But you going off and doing something stupid and almost getting yourself killed ain't in the plan, partner. You did that with Jeanie, too. Do it again and..." He trailed off, not knowing what he wanted. "I'll get another partner!"
Shocked blue eyes stared up at him. Hutch was very good at getting tough and holding his own when they fought on occasion, but this time it seemed as though he had no desire to fight. Seeing that expression, all the anger suddenly whooshed out of Starsky and he collapsed back onto the chair. All that was left was the worry. And the love.
"Hutch... I didn't mean that. It was a stupid, but..."
It suddenly made sense, the avalanche of contradictory feelings. He was mad at being left out, and terrified at the thought of what could have happened, but what really was bothering him was that no one had the right to endanger Hutch, even Hutch himself. Starsky leaned forward, meeting the other's eyes squarely and grasping the blond's arm with his good hand.
"I was scared. I can't even imagine what it was like for you, but I was sure I was gonna find you dead, or never find you at all." Hutch winced but Starsky just held on tighter, pleading for understanding. "It was like Forest all over again. I can't keep doing this, Hutch." He shook his head. "Maybe that's my fault, but I can't stand t'watch you throw your life away by doing something dumb. We might not be so lucky next time."
Hutch's eyes were so warm again, unoffended and sympathetic, but most of all contrite with understanding of what Starsky meant even better than Starsky understood himself. Love wasn't always expressed the same way. "I am sorry, Starsk," he said gently.
"I don't want you to be sorry," Starsky insisted, grimacing. "I'm your partner. I just want you to treat me like it and take care of yourself. It's important t'me, Hutch. No more dumb stunts, okay?"
Hutch smiled fondly at him in answer.
"I was worried about ya." Starsky felt himself color a little. "I'm glad you're okay." It was his own apology.
"Thanks to you."
Starsky grinned. "And good old Sonny. I'm gonna go see him soon, thank him for his 'aid in the war effort'." He made a face as he jarred his hand.
Hutch frowned again, leaning forward to study it once more. "Doesn't seem like you broke anything, but you sure bruised it. Couldn't you find something softer to hit than my wall?"
"Better than your jaw." Starsky's voice was rueful.
Hutch blinked at him for a moment, then returned the look. "Yeah, guess it is," he said sheepishly. "So why didn't you?"
"Your head's harder than my hand."
Hutch looked startled for a moment, then laughed. Starsky's regrets began to fade. It probably had been crazy to come here and lash out like this, but he wasn't sorry he did it. He'd had to say this, make sure Hutch knew, and then maybe he could finally start dealing with the past week now. At least they both knew where they stood. Hutch was too important to him for any less.
Time for a change of subject. "You'd better get back to bed," Starsky suddenly said, voice brisk. "You're gonna catch cold out here in your underwear."
Hutch humphed with indignation. "Who was it who dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night, huh?" He snatched the crutches Starsky offered him as he continued to grumble, ignoring Starsky's offered hand with dignity. "You're worse than that nurse in the hospital. She woke me up, but at least I didn't have to get out of bed, and--"
"What?" Hutch peered at him suspiciously, his eyes shining with the contentment mirrored in Starsky's.
"Shut up or I will hit you."
Written in 1998