This story is an unpublished wallow! Comments on this story can be sent to: email@example.com and will be forwarded to the author.
Just when you think you're home free...
Starsky tried to laugh at the thought and groaned instead, immediately losing the train of thought.
He tried to lift his head to orient himself but found that wasn't smart, either. Dizziness hit so hard, it hurt, and he squeezed his eyes shut against it.
Oh, yeah. He was going home, just walking in the door when the first blow fell, filling his mouth with blood and sending him to his knees. After that...
Starsky coughed, whole body jerking with the agony of the movement, and blood-red haze replaced any coherent thoughts again. His hand curled feebly around the wet strands of grass beneath them to give him something to hold onto against the pain that wanted to sweep him away. Didn't help much.
He blinked several times, trying to clear his vision. Safe...you were supposed to be safe in your own home. A refuge. Not that he'd ever had much of one, not since Pop had died, but at least he'd thought...
So cold. He tried not to shiver because it hurt, but it felt like he was lying on ice. Cold, wet ice. Starsky squinted, trying to see it, but all he could make out was fuzzy green. Was it really cold, or was it fear that shook him with chills? Something out there he was afraid of...
A massive shudder shook him without warning and he bit his lip to keep from crying out. Starsky struggled to focus instead.
He couldn't clear his head. There was danger somewhere, near. He should do something, but he felt sick and so tired. Didn't matter, nowhere was safe, not even home.
He was dying and it scared him to death.
Eyes squeezed shut against the anguish within, David Starsky lay helpless and terrified, waiting for the final blow.
It was coming, a presence he sensed more than heard or saw. His senses were unreliable, deluged and shorted out with pain, but he felt the approach and couldn't help but tremble harder in morbid anticipation.
The touch, when it came, made his eyes screw even tighter shut, and he tried to pull away from it but he was too weak. His eyes brimmed with involuntary tears behind the lids, humiliation at his own vulnerability mixed with anger at his tormentor.
Lousy creep...can't even fight fair...kick a man when he's down.
The invasive touch hurt less than he'd expected it to, though. One hand was light on his hair, the other skimmed his jaw. Then it pressed the swelling there and Starsky jolted out of resignation, using strength he didn't think he'd had to jerk his head away. A short-lived act of defiance and no doubt one he'd pay for, but Starsky swallowed his moan from the sharp movement. He'd be damned if he'd give the creep any satisfaction, even as he shuddered again from a wash of fear.
"Hey, easy now."
Starsky's breath hitched. That wasn't fair. The pain he could take, but to dangle the hope that his partner was there...
The touch was back and he held his breath, helpless to fight it. But it was even gentler than before. It feathered along his neck and jaw again, careful to avoid the throbbing bruise this time, before sliding under his head and, without warning, lifting it.
Starsky choked, managing to bring one arm up to try to defend himself, but only succeeding in getting tangled in the arms of his enemy. It didn't seem to deter the other. With one certain movement, a soft and slightly fuzzy bundle was slid under his cheek, his head slowly lowered back onto it.
That...actually felt better. Starsky hesitated, drawing back in confusion from what game his tormentor was playing with him now.
"Easy, easy. Don't fight me, I've got you."
That was what scared him. Except...something wasn't right.
"Starsk? It's over, buddy, you're safe."
You're safe--Hutch? Was that possible?
He couldn't help the thrill of fear as the probing fingers investigated further, feeling along first one arm, then another. The various bruises along his limbs barely protested, too insignificant amidst the general haze of pain, until his wrist was patted. Any relief of hope was lost in the sudden shot of agony, and he gasped, fresh tears springing to his eyes.
"Sorry, buddy," came the grieved whisper. "Sorry, just trying to check you out. I don't wanna hurt you."
Maybe he was hallucinating the person he'd most wanted to see, but the gentle touch matched the voice of his partner. He couldn't make out the shape bending over him, though, and couldn't make his arms seem to work, either. The frustration of uncertainty was nearly as distracting as the icy cold.
Starsky opened his mouth, wanting to ask, but all that came out was another series of chest-crushing coughs.
It took a minute for him to realize the pressure on his chest was a warm hand splayed there, providing an odd form of support. All his attention was consumed for a moment in taking in air and not passing out from the hot pain, but to his surprise, the brace took some of the strain off his ribs. He managed to steady himself against it enough that he could hear the voice that had been coaching him.
"Breathe, partner, breathe, nice and slow. It's gonna be okay."
Starsky collapsed back to the ground, utterly spent and too drained to feel any more now than a throbbing ache. His partner was really there. Starsky tried to wrap his tired mind around that. He absently traced Hutch's continued exploration, down both his legs, avoiding the obviously injured ribs. Then back up to his head, and Starsky let his eyes close as careful fingers felt along his head. He hissed a little as they found the blood-crusted lump at the base of his skull, and the hand apologetically moved on, finally coming to rest along his neck, rubbing gently.
"Doesn't look too bad, buddy, but I bet it hurts. Ambulance is going to be here soon, just hang on. I've got it covered."
Hutch... The reality was finally sinking in. Just when he'd been bracing him for one last assault, to find himself suddenly rescued and cared for left his already confused brain reeling. Safe--he really was safe now. Hutch was bent over him like an iron shield, protecting him from everything beyond.
Except the cold that was leeching the last of his strength. Starsky tried to stop another round of trembling, succeeding only in making his lip bleed again as he bit it hard.
"You're so cold," sounded worriedly above him, and before he could stiffen in protest, he was suddenly scooped up, his upper body now vertical and against something blessedly warm. He tried not to shiver, burrowing strengthlessly closer to the source of heat. It moved around him, wrapping a coat around him, then a pair of arms.
If he hadn't been positive before, that removed the last of the doubts. The familiar hold, that smell, but most of all that concern, was uniquely his partner's.
"I'm right here, Starsk, I've got you. Just rest now. You're safe with me."
The last of his guarded tension melted away. He really was safe now. With a sigh of surrender, Starsky passed out.
What followed was a blur of doctors, white walls and tiled ceilings, nurses with needles. It was a disorienting muddle except for the pressure that remained constant around his hand. His partner's promise of safety, both the spoken one before and this continuing silent one, kept the fear at bay and eased him repeatedly into relaxing enough to doze off.
Somewhere along the way, the hospital became his own familiar beige walls, though Starsky couldn't remember the trip home. Still, he slept on, uncaring, waking only to eat and be reassured he wasn't alone. Sleep held no demons then, and he couldn't get enough of it.
Until finally he woke and found he wasn't ready quite to go right back to sleep. Instead, his sluggish brain began to work again, trying to put in some order the confusion of recent events. He was in his house again, the same place he'd been ambushed, yet Starsky felt curiously ambivalent about it. The house still felt safe, despite that violation.
And the reason why was softly snoring next to him. Starsky slowly turned his head, with only slight twinges of protest from his neck, to the now-given sight of his partner slumped into the fanback chair from the living room, one hand stretched out and warmly entangled in Starsky's own. He hadn't even been consciously aware of it until that moment, and yet that sense of protectedness had no doubt penetrated his sleep too, shorting out the usual nightmares.
His home in New York had never felt safe after his father's shooting, childhood innocence and security ripped away in one awful day. His aunt and uncle's home in L.A. had been little better; no matter how much he'd been loved, it still hadn't been home and he'd never quite trusted it. The foxholes of Vietnam had been followed by this apartment, his first own home, and now even that had been desecrated.
But maybe it wasn't the place that mattered. He trusted Hutch as a cop, but even more so, he trusted him as a friend. Hutch would look after him just as he'd looked after his partner in the past, if in more subtle ways. Starsky did have a safe place, he realized, a blond, clumsy, softhearted one.
Perfectly secure, Starsky fell back into dreamless sleep.
Written in 2001