This story was originally published in Starsky and Hutch Special Collection, published by Neon RainBow Press Thanks go to Marlene for typing/first proofing and to SHaron for final proofing.

Mary L. Milliard

For at least the tenth time that day, Starsky saw Hutch cover his eyes with his hand and rub them before glancing up. Eager for a respite from the reports he'd been reading, he decided Hutch was providing the perfect excuse.

"'Bout ready to call it a night 'n go find some food?" he asked lightly. "I dunno about you, but I'm starvin'."

"You're always starving, Starsk," Hutch replied. "But what the hell, let's go."

Closing the file on his desk, the blond rose, grabbed his jacket and headed out, abruptly stopping just outside the door. Trailing close behind, Starsky nearly ran him over as they collided.

"Hey, what's wrong? Hutch, you okay?" Starsky moved to his partner's side, frowning as the blond rubbed at his forehead again. "You got another headache like yesterday?"

"Not quite as bad, but yeah," Hutch admitted reluctantly. "Guess I got up too fast. I just got dizzy for a sec."

"Hutch, this has been goin' on for three days now," Starsky said quietly, laying a hand lightly on his partner's arm. "Why don't we stop by the hospital tonight and let 'em check you out? You've never had headaches before, and it hasn't been that long since you got hooked on Monk's stuff. We can stop in there after we eat. Whaddya say?"

"The same thing I said yesterday, that there's nothing wrong." Hutch impatiently shrugged off Starsky's hand and headed out of the building. "It's probably just eyestrain from reading all those damn reports."

"Hutch, yesterday it got so bad you couldn't read 'em. You know something's goin' on." As he bent to unlock Hutch's door on the Torino, Starsky discreetly watched the blond wince when he brushed at his eyes. Caring too much not to be concerned, Starsky caught his partner's arm when he straightened, then shivered at the icy blue stare that confronted him.

"Drop it, Starsk. Okay?" Hutch pulled away again. "If I need a doctor, I'll see one. Until then the problem's mine." He got into the car and slammed the door, effectively locking his partner out.

After standing outside a moment, Starsky unlocked his own door and got in, trying hard not to look over at Hutch. But he could see the lowered blond head in his peripheral vision and couldn't help but glance that way. Hutch's fingertips were white as they pressed hard against his sagging forehead.

"Babe? Please? Won'tcha at least let me try 'n' help?" Starsky said, resting a hand on the back of Hutch's neck and squeezing gently. "I don't know what I can do, but maybe... I know you've had a lot on your mind lately. Maybe we just need to talk."

Though he wasn't sure why, Starsky felt an almost desperate need to help his friend, and was determined to ease, or at least, share Hutch's pain. He was encouraged when the blond didn't pull away from him, and Starsky gently kneaded the tight muscles at the base of his neck.

Though he kept his hand fixed over his eyes, Hutch finally released a heavy sigh. "That was nice, " he said softly. "Thanks. But we can go now."

"You sure you're okay?" Shrinking away from Hutch's irate glance, Starsky reluctantly withdrew his hand and started the car.

* * *

Starsky felt more than a little disturbed by the angry tension emanating from Hutch, but he bit his tongue and said nothing more as they drove. He never used to get mad when I cared, he mused. Wonder if that's related to these headaches too. He refused to admit he was being more that just a bit of a mother hen.

"Just drop me off at home, will ya?" Hutch requested, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. "You can go on from there. I'm just not very hungry tonight."

Suspiciously glancing over, Starsky noticed an abnormal pallor to his friend's tanned cheeks that he didn't like.

He made no verbal response to Hutch's request, continuing toward the destination he'd originally planned and hoping the blond's eyes would remain closed until they arrived.

* * *

Much to his relief, his wish was granted, and Hutch didn't move until the car was stopped. Even then he remained still until Starsky opened his door and touched his arm.

As though startled from sleep, the blond head shot up, and he looked around with a frown. This time Starsky held firm against his partner's glare.

"I thought I told you to take me home," Hutch said icily. "Meaning my home, not yours." Still glowering, he got out when Starsky beckoned to him. "What're you trying to do, kidnap me now?"

"If that's what you want to call it." Starsky led the way to the door. "We can order a pizza and eat here tonight. I don't feel like eating alone."

"Starsky, damn it, stop it!" There was no gentleness in either his voice or his actions when Hutch roughly grabbed Starsky's arm. "I'm getting damned sick and tired of the way you've been acting. Sick of you, as a matter of fact. Now either get back in that car and take me home or I'll drive it home myself!"

"Sorry. Can't do that." Difficult as it was, Starsky ignored his partner's rage, hoping avoidance would have a calming effect. "My car. My house. And you're my guest." With an effort he managed to break free of Hutch's grip, unlocked the door, and stepped inside the house.

But Hutch wasn't so easily placated, turning on Starsky as soon as the dark-haired detective shut the door. Viciously twisting Starsky's left arm behind him, Hutch slammed him against the nearest wall, his eyes two blue topaz stones, fiery with rage. "Don't push me any further, Starsky," he growled in warning. "I can't take much more. Now give me those keys before I do something we both regret."

Though his heart was pounding wildly, Starsky maintained a calm fašade, silently wondering if Hutch really was losing his mind. The only time he'd ever seen his friend get so angry was in the line of duty, and even those occasions had been rare. This was the first time he'd ever been afraid of his partner, and he decided it was a feeling he didn't like at all.

"Hutch, c'mon now," he cajoled. "Knock it off. Let me go."

Instead of being released, however, Starsky felt his arm being pulled even further up his back, prompting a painful cry. "Hutch you're hurting me," he pleaded, unable to stop the tears welling up in his eyes from the pain. "Let me go, babe. Please. Hutch, don't." What's happened to him? he thought frantically. He really is out of his mind. Never had Starsky seen the pale blue eyes filled with such steady, intense hatred before. It can't be me he's lookin' at that way. He's gotta be seein' somebody else. Before he had time to analyze who or what had taken hold of his partner, Starsky abruptly found himself free, with Hutch sinking to the floor at his feet, both hands tightly pressed to his eyes.

"Hutch? Easy, babe. Take it easy." Kneeling beside him, Starsky wrapped his arms around the blond's trembling frame. "Everything's gonna be okay now. You just stay here. I'll go call an ambulance."

"No! No doctors!" Hutch grabbed the front of Starsky's shirt with both hands. "You hear me? No one! No one else."

"Okay. Okay, I hear ya," Starsky soothed, gently removing himself from the desperate grip. "But'cha gotta level with me, Hutch. Tell me what's goin on."

He knows exactly what's happening and why. The reality hit Starsky like a brick. He's known what he's been doin' all along. He's playin' some kinda sick game. Either that or he's just hurtin' so much he can't help it, like he was... "OhmyGod." Inadvertently spoken, the words emerged in a whisper at the same time Hutch dropped his head to his hands again. Watching the tall form sway back and forth, Starsky could momentarily do nothing but stare... When he recovered his senses, he caught the blond in his arms and pulled him close in a tight embrace. "God, Hutch, why didn't ya tell me?" he murmured. "I thought it was all over. That you were okay. I didn't dream that's what was wrong."

The headaches began shortly after Hutch's cold turkey withdrawal, Starsky realized, wondering why he hadn't made the connection before. The headaches, dizziness, and mood swings were all typical residual effects of the addiction. It wasn't surprising that Hutch had lost control. As he held his shuddering partner in his arms, Starsky chided himself for having been so blind.

"I didn't want you to know," Hutch whispered, his breath warm against Starsky's neck. "You went through so much with me before, I didn't want... Oh, God, Starsk, it hurts!"

His arms around Starsky's waist, Hutch's fingers dug into the sturdy back as he dropped his forehead to the waiting shoulder. Starsky sensed his agony as Hutch pressed his head down tighter, apparently struggling against waves of pain.

Reaching up, Starsky stroked the flaxen head gently, silently conveying the tenderness he felt. "What can I do for ya, babe?" he asked softly. "Does anything help?"

"Hold me. Just...hold me." Hutch snuggled closer, wrapping his arms tightly around his friend. "Maybe it'll get better now. God, Starsk, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to do this to you again."

"Do what, let me help ya?" Starsky smiled. "Don't be an idiot. Whaddya think partners are for?" He blinked back the hot tears he felt rising behind his eyes. "Only next time just tell me what's going on, will ya? And don't try 'n break my arm first." He felt the blond half sob - half chuckle, and squeezed him tight. "It's gonna be okay now," he murmured, really believing the words this time. "We've still got Me 'n Thee, remember? Together we'll make it through just fine."