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It was a relief when they finally pulled up to a building that said "Astronomy" on the front in big letters. Once they'd gotten to the campus area, figuring out where they were and where they needed to go turned out to be difficult.
"What time is it?" Hutch asked, turning off the motor.
Starsky looked at his watch. "Quarter `til seven."
Hutch nodded with satisfaction. "Good."
They went up the steps to the entrance, and once inside, climbed more steps until they reached the third floor. Hutch found a door that had the room number he'd written down, and turned the handle. It was locked and he knocked.
A moment later the door opened, and an older-looking man and a little more heavier version than the picture on the book stood before them. "I take it you're the gentlemen who called from Indianapolis."
"I'm Dr. Von Glick. This way please." He turned to lead the way down a short hall. Then they were shown to a small room with a large table that had a tape recorder and microphone set up.
"Have a seat, please," he said, indicating the chairs. "Would you like refreshments? There's a soda machine."
They both shook their heads.
"I would like to ask your permission to tape record the session," Von Glick said as he seated his bulky frame. "I won't record the preliminaries, but I would like to when you get to the actual events. Your real names will never be on record as being associated with the recording."
Starsky glanced at Hutch, and they shrugged at each other. Starsky wouldn't mind seeing their story in a book some day. "Sure."
"If you can indulge me, I'd first like to collect a little background information on you both, so I have a better picture of what your lives are like outside your alleged encounter."
They talked about their educational backgrounds, their partnership together as cops, Starsky's recent clashes with severe injury and severe illness, and the reason they were here.
"Either of you married?" Von Glick asked as he took notes.
They both shook their heads, but Hutch muttered, "Divorced six years ago."
Starsky wondered how long they were going to be able to keep the truth about their relationship in the closet. He stared at the man, this supposed alien "expert", and wondered what he would think if they told him.
The tape recorder was turned on. "All right. If you can now start to tell me what happened the day of your encounter." Von Glick relaxed back in his chair and listened.
Starsky did most of the talking. He focused on what they each remembered from that night, what he and Hutch had already discussed. How they had lost four hours of time and couldn't remember anything specific after the car had mysteriously died. He went on to talk about what had happened a few days later - Hutch's dreams. How he'd had a sense that he knew what Hutch was dreaming about, even though he couldn't remember any specific details himself.
Hutch then picked up the story. He was different now than on the drive over. He'd spent most of Starsky's recollection staring at the desktop, as though Starsky's re-telling was bringing it all back. He still was staring at the desk when it was his turn to speak. He told all he remembered from the dreams, his voice sounding tight and annoyed, as though bordering on anger. What was most surprising to Starsky was that, as he spoke with such care, Hutch was remembering more from the dreams than what he'd relayed to Starsky. He mentioned knowing that he didn't feel pain from any of the medical procedures, because he knew the "beings" had telepathically convinced him that the pain did not exist. Nevertheless, he remembered feeling a strong sense of violation when the probe was inserted up his ass. He also thought they had coaxed sperm from his penis. Starsky found that shocking but didn't comment.
"Do you have any remaining evidence of any of the procedures?" Von Glick asked. "Marks on your arms or legs?"
They both shook their heads. They'd seen each other nude in the shower a number of times since that night.
"Nothing at all?" the professor clarified.
Starsky carefully cleared his throat. Then he decided there was no point in being embarrassed. "We both had evidence of the rectal probe, but it went away."
Starsky swallowed. "Bruising. Bruising without pain."
The doctor seemed surprised. "You had a medical examination afterwards?"
"No..." Starsky hedged, wondering how to say this. Wondering how Hutch would feel about it. "We... noticed it on each other."
The doctor looked from one to the other, as though not understanding.
Sounding irritated, Hutch said, "We're in a homosexual relationship. We participate in acts of anal intercourse. So, it's not bizarre that we would notice that about each other." It was the first time he'd looked up since they'd sat down at the table.
Starsky released a breath. Guess that took care of it in a hurry. While it was a relief to have it said, he almost felt himself bristle at Hutch calling them both "homosexuals". Never thought of myself like that....
"And..." Von Glick pursued delicately, "the bruising - sorry to ask this - but... it wouldn't have come from your normal activities?"
"No," they both answered in unison. Starsky added, "At least, we don't see how. We don't see how we could have done something like that to each other."
"But it's gone away now?"
"And there's nothing else? No other physical evidence of what you, " he glanced at Hutch, "dreamed?"
"No," Starsky answered.
Von Glick was thoughtful a moment, then said, "Explain to me how you went from being puzzled by what had happened to you, to believing it may have been an alien encounter."
Starsky glanced at his partner, wondering which one of them should answer.
Hutch started talking while staring at the tabletop. "We were looking at books at a book sale. When I saw your book - the cover - I-I think I freaked. I couldn't believe it. It was the - the people from my dreams. I bought the book and - Starsky was still looking at other books - and I flipped it open and... saw the chapter about missing time. And it just hit me all at once. Like a ton of bricks." Suddenly, his head snapped up and he frowned defiantly. "I don't believe in any of this stuff."
"Lots of people don't," Von Glick soothed. "In fact, there are very good reasons for not believing, but let's continue on with your story. So, it never crossed either of your minds" - he included Starsky in his glance - "that you might have had a UFO experience. Not until you saw my book this afternoon."
"That's right," Starsky said. "I mean, it seems so far-fetched. I didn't believe it, either, even though I've always pretty much believed in stuff like that in general. I mean, I don't remember anything about that night. I haven't had any dreams. But, like I told you, I have a strong sense that I understand what Hutch dreams about. I feel some part of me knows what he knows. Like I was there, too. And when I was glancing through your book, it seemed to have some of the same stuff that Hutch had talked about in his dreams. So...."
Von Glick looked back at Hutch. "And you've only had the dream twice?"
Hutch nodded, staring at the tabletop again.
Starsky shrugged. "But it's only been a week or so since it happened." He muttered, "Seems like forever."
The professor looked from one to the other. "Is there anything else that either of you might like to add about your alleged encounter?"
They both shook their heads. Starsky said, "We've told you everything."
Von Glick turned off the recorder. "Thank you, gentlemen." His tone was one of finality.
Starsky shifted in his chair, disappointed that the professor was trying to draw their meeting to a close. "Well... so, what do you think?"
"Are you asking my professional opinion or my personal one?"
"Whichever one will help up understand what happened that night."
"Unfortunately," Von Glick dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief, "I don't think I'm going to be able to give you gentlemen what you're looking for. You seem to want peace of mind."
"I'm afraid it's not that simple. Perhaps the best thing I can leave you with is that literally thousands of people throughout time have had experiences similar to yours."
"And?" Starsky prompted when the professor said nothing more. "Do you think they're real alien encounters or something else?"
Beefy hands folded on the table top. "As a professional researcher, my stand is that you have no proof of anything that happened to you. If you'd both be willing to be hypnotized by an associate of mine, and you tell the same story under hypnosis, I would consider that a much stronger indication that something truly took place."
Hutch quickly shook his head. "I don't believe in hypnosis. You can plant a false story in someone's mind as easy as anything."
Starsky knew some part of him had always known Hutch felt that way about the subject. "What else, professor, would be considered proof?"
"As I mentioned, there are marks on the skin that are sometimes left by the examination. Marks that never go away. But please understand, even that in and of itself is not convincing proof. It merely adds credibility to the story."
Starsky let out a deep sigh, realizing that he and Hutch, indeed, weren't going to get the peace of mind they'd come here for. "What's your personal opinion about what happened to us?"
Large shoulders shrugged. "I think it's very likely you were abducted by aliens. Examined. Samples taken. Released with no conscious memory of what had happened. I hear such stories all the time. And I believe most of them."
Starsky wondered if he was sorry that he'd asked. At least now, he realized, he felt calmer about the whole thing. It was almost as though they were discussing the weather. "So... as far as credibility, how does our story rank with other people's?"
The professor thought a long moment. Then he said, "If my next book was to publish twenty of the most credible encounter stories I'd heard since my last book, yours wouldn't be included." He leaned forward, as though anticipating Starsky's next question. "As I said, the most convincing stories are those where all the details have been revealed by hypnosis. And some of those people have strange marks on their skin. Some even have conscious memory of having actually seen a spacecraft hovering over their car, even landing. Sometimes, there are groups of people who have these encounters together, and all their stories collaborate under hypnosis. In your case," he sat back again, "there's a number of points I'd have to question in terms of validity. You say you know what your partner is dreaming, as though you've `been there'. Déjà vu, as the French say.
"But I'm afraid that, from an objective scientific standpoint, that can be easily explained by waking up to your partner's dreams. Your subconscious heard him cry out, made his talking in his sleep a reality, and so, upon waking, you believed his cries to be a memory of something real. Another point is Mr. Hutchinson's having not acknowledged the presence of the aliens in his dream. That only became real to him when he saw the cover of my book. There's a theory that the brain can take a picture - a snapshot - of something before the mind registers it. If one subscribes to that theory, then it's easily explained that Mr. Hutchinson saw my book, and his subconscious made the aliens `real' to him before the conscious part of his brain registered the picture on the cover. That theory becomes even more plausible when one considers your admitted distress over having not been able to account for the missing four hours.
"Your subconscious," he looked at Hutch's bowed head, "was searching for a reason to explain it, so it found one in order to put your mind at ease." He paused. "As for the bruising from the rectal probe, again - from an objective scientific standpoint - that is easily explained by your choice of sexual activity, even though you both deny that it could reasonably be caused by that. And as for the light you saw in the sky," Von Glick turned his attention back to Starsky, "there's no reason why it couldn't have been an airplane, even if it seemed to be hovering unusually low, and went from flying along the side of the car, to flying along the back of the car." The professor looked at his watch.
Quickly, Starsky said, "Okay, okay. Let's say, for just a moment, that we know we weren't abducted by aliens. What are the possible explanations for the four hours?"
Von Glick shrugged. "You'd have the answer to that better than I. There's such a thing as a blackout, but it's unlikely that it would happen to both of you at the same time. You both mentioned how extremely tired you were that night. Memory is a funny thing, and I promise you, it gets funnier as you get older. It could be that you both simply don't remember having taken a long time to fix your car so it would start again. Stranger things have happened."
Starsky sighed. "And I don't suppose you'd know any better than us why Hutch might have suddenly started having weird dreams."
Von Glick launched into what sounded like a tired lecture. "Dreams are even stranger than memory. There are all sorts of theories on various aspects of dreams, but the vast majority of them are unproven and not agreed upon. What I can tell you is that, right here at this university, there are experiments being conducted where, for example, a certain synapse in the brain can be stimulated and a person can smell oranges, even though they're just sitting in a chair and there isn't anything in the room any different from when they weren't smelling oranges just a few seconds before. So, extrapolating on that theory, it's believed that certain... energies, if you will, can stimulate parts of the brain. Some from that school of thought even feel it will someday explain literally thousands of UFO abductions throughout history. Certain parts of the brain are somehow stimulated, and a person thinks they've been lying on an examination table with short, grayish beings probing at them with instruments. The lab doing the "orange smell" experiments are convinced that they might be able to one day recreate an alien encounter in a test subject's mind, simply by stimulating various areas of the brain." Von Glick wet his lips. "Of course, if, say, the bruising you experienced was real and not caused by your activities, then those experiments are meaningless, because stimulating the brain can't create a physical result. It can only create an illusion. In other words, the bruising might be the best proof to you that you really did have an encounter with aliens." He stood and gathered up his equipment. "I'm sorry, gentlemen, but I'm expected elsewhere at eighty-thirty. I'm afraid I'm already late. I need to lock up this office."
Starsky stood, realizing they were going to get no further help from this man. He held out his hand and Von Glick shook it. "Thanks, professor, for seeing us and talking with us. It's helped." He was sincere about that. He didn't feel so panicked now.
Hutch stood more slowly and didn't bother holding out his hand. He was quiet, his head still bowed, as the trio made their way to the hall. Starsky and Hutch didn't wait while Von Glick locked the door. They continued to the stairs and down to their car.
Starsky drove. "Let's get a hotel," he muttered. "Then up early and drive back to Indianapolis and take the first flight out."
Beside him, Hutch's head was still bowed. But he nodded.
* * *
They were in a room within thirty minutes. They were silent as they showered together, put on underwear, and got into bed. A lamp was on beside the bed, but neither moved to turn it off. There was an unspoken disagreement about who should hold whom as they tried to curl up together. Finally, Starsky ended up with his head on Hutch's shoulder, the blond sitting against the headboard. Both of Starsky's arms were around the other man's waist.
A lamp was on near the bed. They sat quietly for many minutes. Then Hutch laid his cheek against Starsky's head and murmured, "No."
Starsky released a sigh. He's still in denial. He kissed Hutch's shoulder. "We may never know what happened that night, Hutch. But what I do know is that we have to go on." He looked up hopefully. "Put this behind us. As soon as we're back home, we need to officially resign and get working on starting our own investigation business."
Hutch shook his head. "No," he said simply.
Starsky studied Hutch's sad face. "What?" He felt anger building at the other's stubbornness.
"The first thing we're going to do," Hutch said firmly, "is send you back to your doctor. As soon as we land," he emphasized, swallowing thickly, "you're going in for... tests."
"What do - "
"We don't know what was done to you," he interrupted with frustrated sadness. "If my dreams have anything to do with what really happened, then something might have...," his breath became short with worry, "... triggered your virus again, and caused it to come out of remission. We have to know. I have to know."
Starsky closed his eyes. Here we go again. Hutch performing his bedside vigil and wondering if I'm gonna make it or not. So much for me making sure the rest of his life is healthy and happy. He didn't want to argue about it, because he knew it wouldn't do any good. He said soothingly, "I feel fine, Hutch. Really."
Hutch bent his head to look him in the eye. Grimly, he said, "You also felt fine before you first collapsed in the restaurant."
Starsky supposed that was true. He tried to think back and remember if he'd felt the least bit under the weather before he'd first collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember that being the case. He'd just been sitting at the dining table with Hutch, eating, and the next thing he knew he felt lousy. And then he "woke up" over nearly two months later in the hospital, an awful-looking partner at his side.
His arms squeezed the waist they held. "I know I'm fine, Hutch," he said simply, believing it. "But, sure, I'll go see the doctor, first thing, and put your beautiful little blond heart at ease." Anxious to change the subject, he said, "And then can we get started on our detective agency?"
Finally, there was a softening in the other man's features. He ran a finger down Starsky's nose. "Sure."
Starsky felt better after that. But neither of them tried to sleep. They dozed off and on through the night, still holding each other. They got up at six and drove back to Indianapolis. They were back in Los Angeles by noon, Pacific time.
* * *
Starsky didn't tell Dr. Williamson the truth about why he wanted an examination. He just said that, after having been on a vacation, he thought it wouldn't hurt to be checked out, even though he felt fine. While Hutch sat in the waiting room, Starsky was poked and prodded at. The doctor was satisfied with those basic tests, and now Starsky watched while a nurse drew blood from his arm. He wondered if, in fact, the news would be that the virus his body carried had started to attack his system again - in such a slow way that he hadn't noticed any of the effects yet.
Then what would he do? There was no cure. And, more importantly, what would Hutch do?
And whose fault would it be? Those bug-eyed whitish-gray little short creeps? When Hutch had curled up in his seat and tried to sleep on the plane, Starsky had taken out Dr. Von Glick's book and read some from it. Many of the abductees had spoken of their cars up and dying on the road. And mysteriously restarting later. Some reported having tested their cars for radiation and finding it. That's something he and Hutch would never know, since their rental car had been turned in at the airport.
Starsky realized that in the back of his mind he was beginning to accept it as fact that he and Hutch had been in alien hands. Had been raped by their instruments.
Starsky watched as the nurse withdrew the needle from his arm, the barrel of the syringe filled with a good helping of his blood.
If the virus was attacking him again, did that mean the aliens did something to cause it to happen?
He felt angry at that thought. But how could he ever get justice for such a crime from somebody who resided in outer space?
Starsky swallowed. "How long will it take for the results to come back?" he asked the nurse.
It was ironic that he'd always thought that it would be fun and exciting to be abducted by aliens.
But there was nothing fun or exciting about what he and Hutch had gone through. It was awful. Horrible. Little grayish-white beings shouldn't be allowed to get away with doing what they did to innocent people.
"Three days usually," the nurse replied. "We'll call you if there's anything abnormal."
She'd placed a
bandage over the insertion point, and Starsky rolled down his
sleeve. "You only call if it's abnormal?"
Starsky buttoned his sleeve. "Thanks."
When he emerged to the reception area, he saw Hutch sitting in a chair, staring at the floor with a big, sad frown.
Will I ever, ever see him smile again? he wondered forlornly.
* * *
The waiting was awful. Not because of the waiting itself, but because Hutch was so impossible. They had no jobs to go back to, because both were still officially on leave and had no intention of going back. There was no point in trying to focus on a project such as how they were going to start their agency, because Hutch refused to think of the future without knowing the status of the present. Hutch had no interest in making love. In fact, Hutch had no interest in anything. All he wanted to do was... worry. And, worse, there was nothing else to do.
On the afternoon of the second day after seeing Dr. Williamson, Starsky was out walking by himself, because he had to get out of his apartment, where Hutch was so insistent upon moping around. He'd found his partner's presence downright suffocating. He'd been firm that he didn't want Hutch to accompany him, and he didn't care if he'd hurt Hutch's feelings. He wanted to live. Not mope around.
After a half hour of blissful solitude in the warm, afternoon sunshine, Starsky realized he might be able to get Hutch to agree to something that would make him leave the apartment for a few hours. With their future - or lack of one - looming over their heads, Starsky had forgotten about how... rich... they were. That was something he thought he could remind Hutch about, and specifically about something the blond had wanted to do because of it.
Starsky stayed away another hour, then stopped at a small restaurant and ate a sandwich in peace. Finally, he decided he was ready to go back.
Hutch was lying on the sofa, staring at the ceiling, when Starsky entered. His expression was neutral, and Starsky waited a moment to see if there was going to be an attempt at apology, not that he necessarily needed to hear one.
Hutch remained silent.
Starsky sat in the chair with the wide-fanned back. He hunched forward. "Listen, Hutch. Remember when we were back east and you said you wanted to put the money in accounts with both our names?" The blond showed no reaction. "Well, I want to do that. I want to do it right now. Because... you're right... it'll help me to feel like it's ours instead of yours. Then I won't feel like you're paying for everything for me."
Hutch also drew a deep breath. He slowly sat up. "Yeah. Okay."
Starsky turned back toward the door, not wanting Hutch to see his grin of victory.
* * *
They took care of the bank accounts that day. They made an appointment for the following morning to see Hutch's financial advisor, Mr. Emerson. They were in Emerson's office a long time, filling out forms to transfer the accounts, making themselves each other's beneficiary - something Starsky was aware they were both feeling very self-conscious about. Hutch probably thinks he's going to get my portion of the money back within a matter of months. Stupid blond.
It was past noon when they were finally on their way home. Both were silent, and Starsky knew it was because they were so conscious of the fact that it was the third day after blood had been drawn. He intended to call the doctor's office as soon as they were home.
The phone was ringing when they opened the door. Starsky trotted over to it. "Hello?"
A pleasant female voice said, "May I speak with Mr. David Starsky, please."
"Mr. Starsky, this is Dr. Williamson's office."
Starsky gulped. They wouldn't be calling unless it's something abnormal. He couldn't look at Hutch. The blond had already moved closer after seeing his expression.
"We're very sorry to have to call you about this, but we need you to come back in."
"Come back in for what?" Starsky asked slowly.
"I'm very sorry, sir, but I'm afraid we need to draw blood again. Your first sample was misplaced."
Starsky released a heavy breath, relief making its way through his system. "Oh... uh, sure." Dammit, it's going to take another three days before we know. "When would you like me to come back in?"
Hutch's eyes had widened with worry, as he obviously knew Starsky was talking to the doctor's office.
Starsky put his hand over the receiver and whispered, "It's okay."
Hutch continued to frown, unconvinced.
"If you can come back this afternoon, we'll be able to squeeze you in. It's just to draw blood. Won't take more than ten minutes."
"Yeah. Sure." His stomach tightened, wondering if all this was truly on the level. "I'll be there, say, one-thirty?"
"That'll be fine. We're busy this afternoon, but we'll make time for you. I'm very sorry the first sample got misplaced."
Starsky swallowed. "I'll be there." He hung up.
"WHAT?" Hutch demanded, nostrils flaring. His whole body was tense.
"It's okay," Starsky soothed, moving away from the intense aura of his partner. "They just need me to come back in for another blood sample because they misplaced the first one."
Cautiously, Starsky turned and looked up at Hutch.
The blond's complexion had gone pale, his expression still alarmed. "Oh, no," he said raggedly.
"Hutch, come on," Starsky said irritably. "Somebody screwed up, that's all."
Hutch shook his head defiantly. "No. My God, Starsky," his voice was shaking, "don't you realize what this means?"
"Somebody fucked up," Starsky insisted, scowling.
"No." Hutch was still shaking his head. "It means... it means... they need another sample. To confirm the first. To make sure there's no mistake." His eyes were watering.
Starsky made a deliberate attempt to stay calm. "Hutch, they don't do it like that. If the first sample was bad news, they'd call me in, tell me the bad news, and say they wanted to draw a second sample just to be sure. Jesus, Hutch, doctors and nurses just don't up and lie like that."
Hutch collapsed in a heap on the sofa, as though desperately wanting to believe, but not able to.
Starsky thought of something. He knelt before his partner, took his arm, shook it. "Hutch, listen to me. Listen." He waited until so-weary eyes raised to his own. "They weighed me at the doctor's office, and I weighed myself this morning. And you know what? I weigh a hundred and seventy-eight pounds. I've never weighed that much in my life. I'm puttin' on weight, babe. Getting' downright flabby. If that germ was havin' a field day inside me, I wouldn't be gaining weight." That's true, isn't it? Sick people don't gain weight?
Hutch blinked, a spark of hope showing on his features.
This has gotta end, Starsky decided. I can't take it, seein' him like this. "Hutch, listen. This being rich stuff sucks. We have nothing to do. So, listen to me, Hutch. I'm goin' back down to the clinic so they can draw blood again. And then I'm going down to Vinnie's gym for a long, long workout. Meet me there. Please, babe?" Hutch's expression didn't clam up, and Starsky felt hope. "Hutch, we're both goin' stir crazy, not havin' anything to do. So, let's both work out and work off some of the tension. Meet me there. Okay?"
Hutch released a deep, deep breath. "Okay."
Starsky reached up and put his arms around him. "Thanks, sweetheart." He hugged him, grateful for the warmth. "I know this has all been so hard on you. The past year. Doin' nothin' but waiting for me to get better. And then bein' fucking abducted by aliens. That's - "
"That didn't happen!" Hutch announced angrily, pulling back.
Starsky blinked, sitting back on his haunches and looking up at Hutch. Okay, okay, sorry. I know you can't deal with this. "Right. Sorry." Starsky fumbled for an explanation as to why he'd said that. "Just makes me a little crazy, not knowing what happened that night."
"Whatever happened," Hutch said, still harsh, "it had nothing to do with aliens from outer space! Listen to yourself. That's the most ridiculous thing that's ever come out of your mouth the entire time I've known you."
Starsky's jaw dropped. Is he mad at me? No, that couldn't be right. Hutch was a mess. Nothing made sense in their lives right. All because of four lousy hours....
More calmly, Hutch said, "I don't even have the dreams any more, so let's just forget about that whole ridiculous idea."
Starsky blinked again. Hutch, in order to have dreams you first hafta fall asleep, babe. If you don't sleep, you don't have dreams. Wonder if they'll come back after this is all over and you'll actually be able to sleep soundly again....
Starsky squeezed his hand. "Okay." He stood. "I better get going. You'll meet me at the gym, right?"
Hutch nodded. But he was frowning.
* * *
It was enormously rewarding to be exhausted for physical reasons rather than emotional ones. After working out, Starsky felt healthier than he had in a long, long time. Even Hutch seemed to carry a spark in his eye, though his mouth still remained fixed in a frown.
Since they were close to Hutch's apartment, they stopped by there so the plants could be tended to and the mail picked up. Starsky wanted to start a conversation about moving in together, but he knew it was pointless with such a huge Unknown hanging over their heads. He hoped they would have lighter hearts and be eager to talk about their future in a few days.
Afterwards, they had a quiet meal at Starsky's. As they were cleaning up, Starsky said, "I keep thinking we need to call Dobey and make arrangements to officially resign." When Hutch showed no reaction, he reminded, "Because, no matter what happens, we know we aren't going to go back."
Hutch merely nodded.
* * *
Starsky called Dobey and tried to keep small talk to a minimum. He just made sure they had an appointment to see the captain the following afternoon. He didn't say why, but he was certain Dobey had to suspect what they had in mind. Afterwards, he went to the gym. He was stiff and sore from his workout the previous day, so he kept it light, but still managed to keep himself occupied for an hour. He then headed home, feeling somewhat prepared to face his partner's the grim depression.
* * *
Starsky opened the door to his apartment. "I'm home," he announced cheerfully. But then felt a brick crash through his stomach.
Hutch was sitting hunched over on the sofa, his head in his hands.
Starsky cautiously moved toward the couch. "What's wrong, babe?"
A hand moved just enough so that the blond could speak. His voice was shaky. "Dr. Williamson's office called."
Oh, no. That means it wasn't normal.
Hutch's body seemed to be trembling. "He wants to see you at ten o'clock tomorrow morning."
Oh, Jesus God. His heart was pounding, his stomach twisting, his chest tightening. Reality Check. Big time.
"Hutch," Starsky said gently, moving to kneel at the edge of the sofa, "what exactly did they say, babe?"
Hutch lowered his hands. His eyes were so sad. "Just that they had the lab results back and Dr. Williamson wanted to see you at ten o'clock tomorrow."
Starsky considered that, anxious to focus on mundane details. "Hmm. I'm surprised they even talked to you."
"They thought I was you. I let them believe I was."
"I even asked them," Hutch went on, gazing at the floor, "what the results were. The lady said she didn't know; she'd just been told to call and schedule an appointment."
Okay, okay. Let's keep a level head.. Here we go. He squeezed Hutch's hand. "Babe?" He waited until sad, weary eyes looked up again. His voice was carefully tender and soothing. "Let's keep this in perspective. I mean, I feel great right now. So... even if the doctor gives us really bad news tomorrow, it's not like I'm gonna keel over. I mean, they'd have the ambulance over here if I was in any immediate danger. I beat this thing before, Hutch. And this time around, we'll have caught it early. The doctors can start treating me right away. Even if they can't cure it, at least it can be... managed. I mean, people live with incurable illnesses all the time. Every day. They do what they can to adapt."
Hutch simply gazed at him, as though appreciating that Starsky was making an effort to be positive.
Starsky shifted, straightening on his knees. "And, Hutch, I need you to help me through this, babe." I'm so scared. He squeezed his hand... hard. "I need you to be with me every step of the way. And, in return, I'll fight this thing like crazy."
Hutch's face softened. He reached out and slowly ran a finger down Starsky's cheek. "I haven't been a very good friend to you lately, have I?"
Starsky sagged, grateful that Hutch was talking without getting angry or full of despair. "Jesus, Hutch. I haven't exactly given you reasons to be a good friend. Seems like, the past year, all your love for me has cost you nothing but a shitload of worry and endless bedside vigils."
Fingers gently grasped his jaw. "It's been worth it," Hutch whispered. "So worth it."
Ah, Hutch. Starsky swallowed to clear the lump in his throat. "Listen, babe. No matter what they tell us tomorrow - no matter how bad it is - I-I-I need for us to go on. I can't handle all this sitting around thinking about how crappy everything is. We've got lots of things to be thankful for, Hutch. And we've got the money to do anything we want. So," he pleaded, grasping both of the blond's hands, "can you promise to at least try to move on? I really, really want us to start our own detective agency. I want, so much, for us to build something together. I really need to do that, babe." And hope like hell I don't leave you behind to run it yourself. Alone.
Hands grasped the sides of his face. "I'll try," Hutch whispered. "I promise." His face came forward and a tender kiss settled on Starsky's lips.
Oh, man, Starsky marveled, letting his hands drop to his sides. They'd never even kissed since getting back to Los Angeles. Maybe we can fuck all night tonight. But no. It was unlikely that either of them would be capable of erections, considering all their mental anguish. Gonna be a hell of a long night. Neither of us is gonna be able to sleep. What are we going to do with ourselves until ten o'clock tomorrow morning?
Starsky gulped as Hutch slowly released him. So ironic. My days are counted, and I don't know what to do with my spare time.
He looked up into those sad eyes that were trying so hard to be hopeful. Love him. That's how he needed to spend his time. Just love him. Any way I can. Love him, love him, love him.
* * *
They spent a long time gently nuzzling each other. As Starsky suspected, neither of them were capable of doing anything more than that. Eventually, they went to bed and nuzzled some more. They took turns holding each other, petting and loving. Then one of them would drift off a little, but always wake up and need be soothed and reassured all over again.
At dawn, Starsky convinced Hutch they needed to eat, so they went out for breakfast. Afterwards, Starsky insisted on going to the gym, needing to work off his restlessness. Hutch's exercise was much less enthusiastic, but he tried.
Clearer of mind, they finally headed to the clinic.
* * *
Starsky kept his eyes on the clock. It was now ten minutes past ten. He and Hutch hadn't said a word to each other since leaving the gym. They sat side by side in the uncomfortable waiting room chairs, both with their heads bowed. Waiting.
Butterflies danced in Starsky's stomach as they both straightened.
A nurse held an armful of files. "Right this way, please."
Starsky followed her, aware of the foreboding presence of his partner behind him.
The nurse stepped to one side of an open door and gestured to the interior.
Starsky entered the room where Dr. Williamson sat behind a large desk. The doctor gestured to a chair. "Mr. Starsky. Nice to see you again. Please. Sit." He seemed genuinely pleased to see him. The doctor indicated a chair closer to the door. "Yes, please have a seat," he said to Hutch.
Through the corner of his eye, Starsky watched as Hutch sat heavily. As soon as the door was closed behind them, he prompted, "You wanted to see me, Doctor?"
The man took off his glasses. "Yes. The results of your blood tests are... shocking."
Starsky's heart quickened. "Tests? As in more than one?"
"Yes," the doctor replied. "I know you were told that the first test was lost. I'm afraid that was not the case. We'd thought there had to be a mistake with the first sample, because the result was so unbelievable. That's why we had you come in for a second test. But the second test came up the same as the first. I even went to the lab and ran the second test through another time myself, to be sure."
The doctor's manner seemed pleasant. Starsky dared to hope. "So... how did it come up? What's so unbelievable about it?"
The doctor folded his hands on the desktop. "Mr. Starsky, there is no evidence whatsoever that you were ever infected with the Herpes-B virus. Your tests were all negative."
Starsky's mouth fell open. W-w-w-hat?
"That's why the result is so unbelievable. Even if you'd merely been `cured' of the disease, your blood would have antibodies. But that is not the case. It's as if you never had the disease at all."
Starsky heard a soft gasp and he glanced at Hutch. His partner was still staring at the floor, more hunched than previously, and a tear fell from his eyelid and slid down his cheek.
"Needless to say," the doctor again put on his glasses, "I'm extremely curious as to what's happened to you in the past few weeks since you left this hospital. A situation such as this is almost unheard of."
Happened to us? Oh, my God.... Oh, my God....
Starsky gulped. "Uh, Doc, I'm afraid I can't tell you anything that would be helpful."
The doctor's expression showed confusion.
Starsky looked at Hutch again. More tears were streaming down his staring face. Some splashed onto the floor. He can't accept the fact that I'm all right until he first accepts that fact that we were abducted by aliens. How's he supposed to deal with all this at once?
"Doc," Starsky said, desperate to finish. "I-I... Look, there's really nothing I can tell you." Nothing you would believe. "Please understand. I'm as shocked as you, but... now that everything's okay," his breath was coming faster. I'm gonna be fine! I'm fine! "I just... just want to live my life."
The doctor smiled. "Of course, I understand."
Hutch was shuddering now, even though he hadn't moved from the chair nor made any further sound. He's gonna fall apart. He needs to fall apart. And that's fine, because I'm okay now. I can pick up the pieces.
Starsky looked at the doctor again. "Look, Doc, I promise that I'll always make sure you'll know where to reach me in case you need information from me, or samples of my blood, or whatever. But I've been in hospitals for a good portion of the past year, and I'm done with it." He drew a deep breath, then more gently, "Please. Can you leave us alone for a few minutes?"
The doctor glanced at Hutch. "Certainly." He got up and walked out, closing the door behind him.
Starsky moved the few feet between the chairs and dropped to his knees. He looked up into that wet, red face, and puffy eyes still staring at the floor. He held out his arms. "Hutch."
Hutch collapsed to his knees, into Starsky's arms. He grabbed at the back of Starsky's shirt and clung to it, crying loudly now, his chin resting on Starsky's shoulder, sobs racking his body.
Starsky stroked the back of the blond head. "It's okay, Hutch," he cooed gently. "In fact, it's wonderful." He grinned, and realized his own emotions were close to the surface. "It's gonna be truly, truly fine for the first time in a long, long time. And it's gonna last the whole rest of our lives." He squeezed him.
The lanky body shook. Starsky had no desire to "shush" him. Tension had been building up in his partner ever since Starsky had taken Gunther's bullets. There had been small moments of euphoria, but Hutch had never had any genuine release from all the worries that had poisoned his soul since that time. Fall apart, partner, he encouraged as he slowly rubbed Hutch's shuddering back. Cleanse yourself so we can start all over. "I know, Hutch," he whispered tenderly as he continued to pet, "I know. But it's gonna be all, all right now. It's gonna be great."
Hutch's sounds eased, but Starsky still held him close. He swallowed thickly, wondering how Hutch was handling the fact that it was the aliens who had cured him. Or was Hutch conveniently ignoring that part and merely expressing his extreme relief that it was all going to be all right now?
Doesn't matter, Starsky decided. However he wants to play it, we'll deal with it.
Hutch started sobbing again, but it was in small, periodic spurts. Starsky went back to stroking his hair.
A knock sounded at the door.
Starsky pressed Hutch closer and called out, "A few more minutes, please." He listened, grateful when footsteps moved away.
He went back to stroking fragile strands. Hutch was quiet now, other than gasping for breath, his chin still resting on Starsky's shoulder. "A lot to take in, huh?" Starsky said tenderly. "Comin' in here expectin' the worst and finding out it's all gonna be better than we coulda ever hoped. Man. Sometimes life deals you a full set of aces, huh?"
Finally, Hutch moved. He pulled back.
His face was blistered red and his eyes were still full of moisture. Mucus was in his mustache. But he looked so... loving... as he gazed at Starsky.
"Ah, Hutch," Starsky whispered, just as loving. Gotta get you cleaned up. A little bit, anyway. He looked around, then squeezed Hutch's shoulder. "Just a sec." He pulled a tissue box from the desk. He pushed it into his partner's hands. "Here. Use some of this, if you can."
Lethargically, Hutch pulled a tissue from the box. As though moving in slow motion, he brought it up to his cheek and dragged it across his lower eyelid.
Jesus Christ, he's a mess. Starsky looked at his partner. He is the single most exhausted man on this Earth, he decided. Gotta get him home and take care of him. His heart swelled. Ah, man, Hutch, are you ever gonna get it. I'm gonna love you to death. Starting right now. I'm going to love you so much you're going to forget all about what burden it was to carry all this bad stuff around for so long. He shifted close again and put his arms around Hutch. "Listen, buddy boy, we need to go home now. Think you can manage to sit back in your chair? Huh?" He shifted, grabbed Hutch by the shirt and the waist. "Come on, you big beautiful lug. Come on." He pulled and Hutch managed to climb back into the chair, the tissue box falling to the floor.
Oh, man. Starsky picked it up and put it back on the desk. He took the single tissue from between Hutch's fingers. Too weak to even handle a Kleenex. He tossed it into the trash. Then he squeezed Hutch's shoulder. "Hang on. Just a sec." He went to the door and stuck his head out.
Dr. Williamson was approaching from the hall, and he quickened his stride.
"We're ready to go," Starsky said when Williamson was close enough. "Like I said, I'll make sure your office always knows how to get in touch with me, in case I can be of any help to someone else later on. But, for now, we just want to get home."
"I understand," Williamson replied. He hesitated, "Is your friend... all right?"
"Yeah. Just exhausted. I think I can get him out of here under his own power, but... is there a wheelchair nearby?"
The doctor looked surprised at the idea that Hutch might be in that bad of a condition. "Yes. Perhaps we should look him over."
Starsky shook his head and said firmly, "He just needs... sleep. Wait out here and I'll see if I can get him out under his own power." He went back into the office before Williamson could reply. He put his arm around Hutch's shoulders and bent close. "Hey, buddy," he whispered, "think maybe you can walk outta here?" He waited, listening to yet another shuddering breath. "S'okay if you can't. I can wheel you out in a wheelchair, if that would be better." He massaged the nearest shoulder, amazed at the lethargy of the muscles beneath his fingers. Now I know what it really means when someone is `dead on their feet'. Except... he's not really even on his feet, he corrected as a wave of affection washed through him. "Whaddya think?" he prompted. "Think you can maybe walk out of here?"
There was a bare nod of the drooping head, as though Hutch was incapable of holding it up.
"Okay, buddy boy," Starsky said, not at all surprised that Hutch didn't want to be wheeled out like an invalid. He reached down and grabbed the top of Hutch's jeans with his left hand. With his right, he gripped him about the waist. "Stand up, okay? Here we go." He tugged.
Leaning heavily on the arm of the chair, Hutch staggered to his feet.
"That's my pal," Starsky gushed. "Okay, one foot at a time...."
They made it to the door, Starsky still holding onto Hutch with both hands. As they crossed over the threshold, Dr. Williamson was there, and a nurse stood a little farther behind him with a wheelchair.
"We'll be okay," Starsky said to the physician, not allowing Hutch to pause in his deliberate stride. "And, thanks, Doc."
Williamson nodded, still watching them.
Hutch seemed to develop the confidence to move a little faster as they passed the waiting room. They made it down the hall and into an elevator, where they rode alone. Hutch was still drawing weary, shuddering breaths, as though he couldn't take in the necessary amount of air.
Still need to blow your nose, dummy, Starsky silently scolded. Standing at one side, he was able to duck his head a little and see up into his companion's face. You look like utter hell, he decided, taking in the bright red, flushed cheeks and swollen eyes that still carried a hint of moisture. And you're the most beautiful thing on this Earth. In this universe, he mentally corrected, not imagining any of those grayish-white creatures being anywhere near as attractive - in any category -- as Hutch. Man, am I gonna have the greatest life ever lived, loving you.
Thankfully, they had been able to park close to the entrance. Starsky only had to keep his arm around Hutch's waist to support him now. It wasn't any problem at all to unlock the door to the passenger side of the Torino with his free hand. He ushered Hutch into the seat, then unlocked his own door and gratefully sat down. He inserted the key into the ignition, anticipating getting home and taking care of his partner.
He heard a particularly long, shuddering breath to his right, and looked over.
Hutch sat staring at the floorboard. Without raising his head, his ragged voice asked, "Do you love them or hate them for what they did?"
Starsky blinked. Them. The aliens? You understand then, he thought with a mixture of relief and awe, that it could only have been "them" who cured me? After a moment, he realized Hutch was still waiting for an answer, and he was forced to look inside himself. After thinking, he replied, "I can't love them, Hutch. They had no right to do what they did to us." He drew a deep breath. "And I can't hate them, either." He turned the ignition, put the car in gear, and started out of the lot.
He kept glancing to his right, but Hutch showed no reaction to his answer. Just kept staring at the floorboard.
I can't ever hate them, Starsky thought. They cured me, so of course I can't hate them. He furrowed a brow. But... why did they do it? We told that Von Glick guy about my illness, and he never mentioned anything about anyone claiming to having had their illnesses cured after being abducted. I read his whole book and there was no mention of anything like that.
His mind worked the problem more intently as he maneuvered the Torino through traffic. What made my situation special?
"PLEASE. PLEASE DON'T HURT HIM. HE'S BEEN SICK. HE'S BEEN SICK. PLEASE DON'T HURT HIM. PLEASE."
Starsky's eyes stung. He gulped, and blinked frantically, willing the moisture to go away. A few moments ago, he'd received some of the greatest news an ill person could ever be given. And he was on top of the world.
Now, in the span of a heartbeat, he became the most humble of human beings.
* * *
It was a slow climb up the staircase to his apartment. A couple of times, Hutch almost completely lost his balance. He seemed unconcerned about it - as though incapable of reacting to save himself - and it was only because Starsky held on tight that he prevented a disaster from happening. Is it not just fatigue, Starsky wondered, but shock from finally admitting the truth about what happened? He remembered how pale Hutch's face had been when he'd first held Von Glick's book. And, just like that, he insisted it didn't happen to us. Like... that's the only way he could have any hope of going on. Denying it, because it's so unbelievable.
And now he has no choice but to deal with it, since my being cured is the proof that it actually happened; and he's got to try to deal with it at a time when he's so emotionally exhausted that the only thing he has the energy for is crying.
"Just a few more steps," Starsky directed, more with relief than encouragement, once they were inside his apartment.
Hutch was a genuine burden now, and Starsky almost had to push him from behind while also supporting him by the waist, to get him into the bedroom. Finally, he released his blond charge to the bed. Hutch collapsed upon it like a rag doll, dropping to the mattress in a sitting position with his arms dangling at his sides.
Starsky stepped to a hall closet and pulled out a clean handkerchief. He pushed it into Hutch's hands. "Blow your nose, Hutch." He brought Hutch's hands, which included the cloth, up to his face. "Come on, Hutch, blow your nose so you can breathe again." He turned to the bathroom, grateful to hear weary noises of effort behind him.
Starsky opened up the cabinet of the vanity and reached way into the back. He found a box of bubble bath that a previous evening companion - he couldn't even remember who anymore - had left there. He took the box to the bath and started the water. He poured a fourth of the box's contents into the tub and turned the hot faucet on full. Then turned on the cold handle not quite as high.
Starsky quickly divested himself of his outer shirt so that only his t-shirt remained. He went back into the bedroom where Hutch was wiping at his nose, the blond using the same slow motion that had characterized his actions at the doctor's office. Starsky knelt in front of him and started unbuttoning his shirt. Glancing up as he worked with the clothing, he saw that Hutch still seemed to be staring at nothing with swollen eyes, but they did look a little dryer. He imagined all the redness in Hutch's face had to sting uncomfortably.
After his shirt was open, Starsky unsnapped his jeans and pulled the fly apart. Then he bent to coax off Hutch's shoes and pull off his socks. He straightened, then picked up Hutch's arm and had to manipulate the heavy limb to get it out of the shirt. Pulling it off the other arm was a lot easier. Starsky then had to work with the undershirt, pulling if off Hutch's arms while also coaxing it over the blond's head. It seemed a major victory when that was done.
He leaned down to Hutch, wrapping an arm around his body, and said, "Stand up a sec so we can get your pants off. Come on." He lifted the lanky body and pushed at his clothing. Hutch seemed to try to stand, but wasn't very successful, and collapsing back onto the mattress. But it was enough for Starsky to get his clothing halfway down his hips. Starsky then squatted and pulled at Hutch's pants legs. It took a lot of yanking, but finally the denim was free. The cotton briefs had ended up halfway down Hutch's thighs, and Starsky moved to roll them down the long legs, then slip them off.
Both arms went around Hutch's nude form. "Okay, Hutch, just a few steps into the bathroom. Got a nice hot bubble bath that's gonna put you right to sleep." He lifted and Hutch made a deliberate effort, moving forward on unsteady legs. It was awkward going, but finally Starsky was encouraging him into the tub, where the bubbles were piled high. Hurriedly, he turned off the water. The tub was almost completely filled.
Water splashed over the sides as Hutch, having crawled over the edge, finally plopped down. He made a little noise, as though the water was uncomfortable.
"Oops," Starsky whispered, "a little bit hot for you, huh?" He watched for a moment, wondering if he should try to add more cold, but Hutch was sitting hunched over with his knees drawn up to his chest, and he realized after a moment that his partner's pale skin was already adjusting to the heat.
He grabbed a washcloth and submerged it. When it was soaking wet he brought it up to Hutch's neck and ran it slowly, but firmly, across the skin of his partner's back.
Hutch turned his face away and rested his cheek on his knees.
Starsky hoped the bath would relax Hutch a little, and bring him down from the emotional turmoil of the last few hours. Then Hutch would hopefully get the sleep that he so badly needed.
Starsky continued to scrub, using soap, then the washcloth, liberally. He realized the bathing was also fulfilling his own deep need to take care of Hutch. Once the back of the blond's silent body was tended to, Starsky lifted Hutch's arm and scrubbed at the area beneath it. He rinsed the cloth, then washed beneath the other arm. Hutch remained silent and unmoving throughout his partner's handling.
He'd done all he could with Hutch in this position. Starsky placed his hand protectively on the back of the blond's head. Gently, he beckoned, "Lie back. Just lie back and relax." Hutch let himself recline so that his head rested against the back of the basin, bubbles up to his neck, his eyes still staring away.
However, Starsky could see his face now. He was amazed at how red Hutch's skin was, how puffy his eyes were. But his eyes were dry and he did seem a bit more alert. "Hang on a sec," Starsky soothed, then moved to the sink. He found a clean washcloth and ran it under cold water. He knelt back beside the tub and held it near Hutch's face. "Here, this is cold water." He dabbed at Hutch's cheek, watching for a reaction, and when there was none, he spread the cloth out and let it lie across most of his face. He brought Hutch's hand up and put it on top of the cloth. "Here, pal, wash your face with that."
Starsky put his hand in the water and retrieved the other washcloth. He started working on Hutch's knees, which jutted up from the bubbles. As he massaged them, he was pleased to see that Hutch's hand was actually moving, that he was gently pressing the cool cloth along his face. When he pressed it across his eyes, Starsky took the opportunity to scrub Hutch's mustache, to clean the dried mucus out of it.
By the time he was finished, Hutch had actually pulled the washcloth away from his face under his own power. The blond's eyes were less puffy, and he was looking in Starsky's direction. In fact, his face had softened and, in its own tired way, radiated love.
Starsky took the cloth from him and stretched to lay it on the corner of the sink. Then he settled next to the tub again, facing Hutch, and lovingly ran his hand up and down his partner's knee.
Hutch swallowed and his lips moved as though he wanted to speak.
Starsky laid his head against the knee and waited.
It took a couple of deep breaths to gather strength, but then a small, weary voice said, "You've always been... so much... stronger... than me." Another deep breath, then another. His expression seemed apologetic. "You can... handle this." He blinked, and his eyes looked like they were filling again.
Starsky straightened and moved a few inches closer. His heart was full, and he wondered how much he could say that would sink into that blond's brain in its current state. He decided to try. "Hutch, don't talk to me about strength," he pleaded. He leaned forward, wanting to drive his point home. "Do you understand," he took a deep breath, for his chest was tightening, "why they saved me?" Hutch only gazed at him. Starsky became more animated. "They've never done that before, Hutch. That professor never mentioned anything about it; his book never mentioned anything about it. I've never read of a UFO case ever where anyone claimed they were cured of any sort of illness." Starsky swallowed down a lump, as his voice thickened with awe. "Those damn beings - or whatever they were - don't fly around curing people, Hutch. It may have been their technology which cured me, but it wasn't them who did it." He paused significantly. He felt Hutch was listening, even if the blond didn't have the strength to react. Starsky's voice softened further. "They only did it because of you, Hutch. You cried for me, begged for my safety, for my life. Somehow - " he swallowed thickly again, "that got through to them." He settled more fully onto the floor. Speaking distinctly in the hope that Hutch would understand, he asked, "What can I ever say to you; what can I ever do for you, that will ever, ever make up for what you've done for me?" He stopped, his own eyes starting to fill.
Hutch's mouth had drifted open as he teared up again. None of the moisture made it over his eyelids, but then he turned his head and looked toward the wall of the bath.
Starsky reached into the water and found Hutch's hand. He brought it up so he could kiss it.... Once, twice... three times. Then he held it, in both hands, to his chest. "You saved me, Hutch," he whispered. "You cured me." He smiled. "And now you're stuck with me. For a long, long time. And I'm gonna take care of you for that whole long, long time, Hutch. That's what I'm gonna do with the life you gave back to me."
He wasn't sure that Hutch comprehended it all. For that matter, he wasn't sure if Hutch comprehended any of it. The blond continued to stare at the tile.
Starsky gently placed the hand back in the water and searched for the washcloth.
"I'm so tired."
Starsky looked up. The one sentence had been whispered so clearly, so honestly. So wearily. Hutch's gaze remained on the tile.
Starsky had the washcloth and put it aside. Tenderly, he said, "I know. And what we're going to do is get you outta this tub, dry you off, and then we're going to put you to bed. I want you to sleep for a long time. And when you wake up, I want you to go back to sleep. And if you wake up and I'm not in the room, don't worry about it, because I'll still be here. And if you wake up and you're hungry, I'll bring you something to eat. If you're thirsty, I'll bring you something to drink. If you need to use the john, you can get up and do that, but then I want you to come right back to bed." He paused, then more firmly, "I want you to stay in bed, Hutch. I want you to sleep. I want the next few days to be the laziest days you've ever had in your life." Still, Hutch showed no reaction. Starsky asked, "Understand?"
Staring at the wall, Hutch gave the barest hint of a nod.
"All right," Starsky said with satisfaction as he released the drain. The water made a satisfying noise as the tub began to empty. Now, to get his partner out of the tub. Standing up and stepping out was far too dangerous, especially considering the slippery nature of the bubbles. Instead, he put his arm around Hutch. "Okay, buddy, gotta make just a tiny bit of effort. Gotta get you over onto the rug here so I can dry you off." He tugged on Hutch. "Come on, Bronco, hang onto me and crawl over the edge."
It turned out to be more complicated than he'd anticipated. He pulled on Hutch's body, and Hutch tried to get his long, uncooperative legs, one at a time, over the edge. Finally, the second leg was over, and he landed in a kneeling position in front of Starsky. Starsky reached behind him for a couple of towels on the rack. Just as he began the task of drying, he caught Hutch's eye.
Hutch had that look again. That weary, totally drained look, his face still flushed and sagging. But his eyes were so soft with tenderness and love, and tears.
Starsky melted and threw his arms around his love as Hutch collapsed against him. He held tight while Hutch's cheek took residence on his shoulder. And then, as Hutch's body began to shudder with sobs, Starsky used the towels on his wet skin.
"Can't stop," Hutch managed to gasp.
Starsky's arms tightened around their captive once again. "S'okay," he assured. Then, more firmly, "Don't try to stop, Hutch. It's okay to fall apart. Because I'm just fine because of you, and I'll hold all your pieces together, so you don't have to." He went back to his tender drying, wondering if it had really even sunk into his own brain that he was truly okay. He felt himself say the words - I'm fine - but the only way he cared to celebrate was by taking care of Hutch.
He wasn't surprised that Hutch had more pressure to release. Starsky was well familiar with carrying the responsibility for the life of a loved one. Terry had been one life that he could not save. Hutch's was one he had been determined to save when he was searching for Callendar. But while focusing on Hutch kept him going, the back of his mind had been aware that the whole health of the city rested upon his ability to find one man. After he'd been successful, he'd ended up collapsing from exhaustion at the hospital. That had been the physical release of all the pressure he'd been under. It wasn't until later, within minutes of taking a weak but healthy Hutch home, that the emotional stress had caught up to him, and he'd clung to Hutch and cried uncontrollably for what had seemed like a long time. Hutch had simply... let him... and he'd been enormously grateful for that.
The incident with the plague had lasted only a few days. Hutch had been carrying around his worry for Starsky for a full year now. Added to that was the stress of having something completely unbelievable happen to them just a few short weeks ago. And then the intense worry from assuming the appointment with Dr. Wiliamson meant bad news. And now, the best possible news, but Hutch couldn't enjoy it until he first cleansed his system of all the prior poisons, the most potent of which was simple exhaustion.
Perhaps the end was finally near. Hutch's body hiccuped a couple of times, and then his head remained still against Starsky's shoulder. Starsky was very thorough in his drying, reaching every possible inch of Hutch that he could without disturbing their embrace. When he was finished, he put the towels aside and whispered, "Okay, Hutch. We've got one small little task left, and then you can sleep. But we've got to take about five steps to the bed. Think you can stand up?" He gathered his burden by the waist. "Huh?"
Hutch's arms weakly came up against Starsky's back.
"That's it," Starsky encouraged. "Hang on to me, and let's get you on your feet for just a minute." He braced himself, then stood while carrying most of Hutch's weight, though the blond was making an effort. "Come on, one foot in front of the other. Just a few steps."
Hutch was trying to walk quickly, as though eager to reach the bed. Finally, they were there. Starsky braced one arm around Hutch's slim waist, then threw the covers back. "In you go, Bronco." He let Hutch flop onto the bed in a half-sitting position. Now free of his burden, Starsky bent and petted as much of Hutch as could he while he worked at maneuvering his partner's long legs beneath the blankets and pushing Hutch more toward the center of the bed. When he had him where he wanted him, he noted Hutch's newly wet eyes, though they didn't look nearly as bad as they had a little while ago. "Just a sec," he whispered, then returned to the bathroom. He took the wet cloth from the edge of the sink and ran it under cold water, squeezed it out, then returned to the bed. He gently patted the cool material along Hutch's cheeks. "There, big fella." Hutch lay there passively, gazing at nothing.
Finished, Starsky tossed the washcloth aside, then knelt carefully on the bed and maneuvered Hutch's frame until he was curled up on his side. He brought the covers up to Hutch's neck and tucked them in. "There," he whispered soothingly. "Everything's fine now, Hutch. Everything's wonderful. You just go to sleep for a long, long time." He paused, then added, "You can't get out of bed, anyway, until I say so; you may as well just sleep. Sleep. Sleep." He patted Hutch's head while carefully dislodging himself from the mattress. He stood back and regarded his charge.
Hutch was lying there with his eyes barely squinted open. His body looked completely relaxed. "Sleep, Hutch," Starsky insisted. "Close your eyes."
Hutch blinked, swallowed, then closed his eyes.
Starsky watched a moment, then went into the living room. He picked up the fan-back wicker chair and brought it into the bedroom. Placing it a few feet from the corner of the bed, he sat in it with his legs drawn up. It occurred to him then how utterly exhausted he was himself, and he made a deliberate attempt to relax into the contours of the chair.
All was silent. Hutch's eyes fluttered as they gazed at nothing.
Too tired to sleep, Starsky realized. He wasn't sure if Hutch could see him through the corner of his eye. He was tempted to find something in the medicine cabinet that might put Hutch out. But, after the heroin incident, Hutch was wary of drugs, and particularly of downers. Even though he would be too lethargic now to realize what Starsky was giving him, let alone have any strength to protest, Starsky didn't have the heart to try to get him to take anything. He hoped time - and not much of it - was all that was needed. As it was, he had no desire to get into bed with Hutch and disturb him with his movement.
Hutch's eyes closed again.
Atta boy, Hutch. Let yourself rest - really rest - for the first time in a long, long time.
Starsky knew that he needed rest, too. I received the most wonderful news possible this morning, and I can't even feel jubilant about it. Just... happy.
As he sat there, watching Hutch, he began to realize that any celebrations that took place were going to be intimately personal.
You just wait, Hutch. After you're all re-energized and ready to get out of bed, you're going to have to stay in bed for yet a few more days, because that's how long it's gonna take for me to love you like I really need to love you. Starsky's hand drifted down and felt along his crotch. It was soft there, for he was too exhausted to even respond to his hand. Doesn't change how I feel, Starsky decided. I'm insane for you. And after we're both rested, there's going to be a lot of fucking going on between us. I'm gonna pump a gallon of cum down your throat. And ten gallons up your ass. And the next time some damn aliens stick a probe up inside you, it's gonna come out with nothing but my sperm on it. Then they'll know you're mine. In fact, they won't even get that far. You'll have my love bites all over you. Hickeys. And they won't want you, Hutch. You'll be a reject. They'll throw you back. They'll see that you're mine and not want anything to do with you. They won't even bother with that damn probe.
Starsky took a deep, steadying breath. While he'd been raped in the same way, it felt like an event outside of himself, since he had absolutely no recollection of it. But Hutch had dreams. He'd had to relive it in the peace of sleep. No right to do that to you, Starsky thought angrily.
He continued to watch Hutch's still form.
Wish I coulda protected you from that, he thought helplessly. Or even if he couldn't have, at least made it all better. Kiss you back there and try to make it better. He'd kissed Hutch there a couple of times. You're sweet back there, Hutch. There's lots of other things my mouth can do to you back there, you know. Wait until you're all rested. Man, are you gonna get it. He drew a deep breath as realization dawned. Everything we've done up to now has just been child's play. Kid stuff. You don't know nothin' about how capable I am at loving. How passionate I can be. How possessive....
Images filled his defenseless brain. Man, I'm gonna fuck you. Ten times a day. And ravage you before, during, and after. You're gonna know nothin' but pleasure for the next few months. Then, heart beating with love, he thought, How's that for a nice change of pace from all your months of worrying?
It all couldn't be one-sided though. He'd have to let Hutch fuck him. Ram his big, long pale prick down his throat, then up his ass. Any way you want it, babe. His heart swelled at the memory of how he'd most intensely pleased Hutch. Dance my fingers all along the inside of you. Stroke your magic place. After I've first got you all wet and hot with my tongue. Make you insane for my prick. Then stop and suck your toes a while. Then crawl up your beautiful self and kiss your delicious mouth. Taste your breath with my tongue. Then stick my prick in there while I turn around and suck your cock while also shoving my fingers up your ass. Make you come like a friggin' volcano. Then pull my cock out of your groaning mouth and turn around and fuck you. Fuck you hard. Fuck you like mad. Send my sperm all the way up to your stomach, up farther until it tickles the back of your throat....
Aliens won't know what to do with you if they ever abduct you again. My mark will be all over you....
A heavy breath emerged from the bed.
Starsky roused himself from his thoughts and looked at Hutch. Hutch's eyes were closed, his face relaxed. He was breathing even and deep.
I love you, Hutch. God, I love you. Not sure you really even have any idea....
But he'd show him. When Hutch was ready.
* * *
Starsky went out to the sofa and slept for a few hours. He then took stock of the kitchen and realized that they were low on groceries. After all, they hadn't been able to think further ahead than the test results. Starsky didn't want to leave Hutch alone. He ended up calling Huggy and asked him friend to go to the supermarket and pick up a lot of groceries. He told Huggy to knock softly when he arrived, and promised him that he and Hutch both would sit down and catch him up with what was going on with them when they were ready.
He did not anticipate telling Huggy about their abduction. He couldn't imagine ever telling anyone about that.