This story was originally printed in the S/H zine BONAVENTURE, published by Esperanza Press, 1990. Special thanks to Daphne for transcribing it to the net.
David Starsky pulled the paper out of the typewriter and glanced at his partner, not for the first time since they'd come in to book Forrest. He'd offered to do most of the paperwork, and now, except for their signatures, it was finished. Over. Except for the hearings, the trial, the nightmares.
Knowing he should feel only relief, Starsky threw another concerned look toward the blond, careful that he shouldn't notice. He's okay . . . God, let him be okay . . .
Hutch looked drained, both physically and emotionally. He sipped slowly at his coffee, as if it were a chore. He rubbed his eyes as he silently accepted another report, scrawling his name with a shaky hand.
"All done." Starsky briefly allowed his concern to show. "Feeling okay?"
Hutch looked up at him, expression unreadable. "Let's get the hell out of here."
The silence in the Torino was a blanket, oppressive, yet consciously enforced. Vaguely, Hutch realized that it was wrong: they should be at ease now, but he was too lethargic to care. They pulled up in front of his cottage and Starsky cut the engine, turning to face him. He was studied silently, openly, for a time, by Starsky's questioning eyes. Unexpectedly, the earlier irritation he'd felt at his partner's protectiveness came surging back.
"You need company?" Starsky finally asked.
"Sure?" he pressed.
"I just want to be alone." Hutch reached for the door handle.
"Well, if you need anything . . ."
Hutch cut him off as the anger burst out full force. "Cut the crap, Starsky! You think I can't read your mind? You don't need to worry - I'm not gonna go downtown and score a fix!" He paused, letting the words sink in. "And I don't need you to hold my hand anymore, so just leave me the hell alone!"
Ignoring the hurt shock in his partner's eyes, he slammed the car door shut and started for the house. He didn't look back.
Inside the haven of the house, Hutch swallowed three aspirin and stripped off his clothes. He stepped into the shower, turning gratefully to meet the stream of hot water that beat down on his sore body. Leaning against the tile wall, he closed his eyes, relaxing for the first time in days.
A short time later he stood staring into the mirror. Telltale hollows in the drawn face before him brought painful images. He couldn't look down at his arm. Shuddering, he hugged himself. Relief washed over him with the knowledge that it was over.
He was exhausted, yet he approached the bed as one would an enemy, wondering what nightmares awaited. Monk with a ten-foot needle? Guilt - his own pitiful breakdown?
Finally his eyes slid shut, deep sleep claiming troubled spirit . . .
. . . and he was running . . .
Legs threatened to fail frail body at any moment. He felt the danger, forced himself on, blindly.
"Gotta . . ."
"Falling . . . can't go on . . ."
Sounds . . . points of light whirled . . .
He tried to focus, glimpsed dark, curly hair.
Voice became clearer . . . feeling . . .
Feeling strong arms around him . . . feeling their comfort.
He wanted to speak. Couldn't
Dry heaves wracked his body.
. . . still he was held . . . tight . . . lifted . . .
The voice became clear -
"Come on - let's go, babe . . ."
. . . and he was awake. Staring at the ceiling.
He reached for the phone and dialed the familiar number. It was answered before the first ring ended, the voice at the other end sounding all too awake.
"Starsk . . . it's me . . ."
There was a pause. "How ya doin'?"
"Okay. I - I wanted to apologize for before . . . I didn't mean it, Starsk."
"And I'm all right. You get some sleep."
"Same there," Starsky ordered mildly. "It'll be over tomorrow."
He heard the soft click of the receiver. "Thanks."
He hung up and closed his eyes, wondering why he should find it so hard to say to Starsky -
"I love you, too."