This story was first published in the stand-alone zine, If Love Is Real Addiction published by In Person Press. Comments on this story can be sent, as usual, to:

If Love Is Real: Addiction


Chapter 1

One man on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low...
And the White Knight is talking backwards...
            Go Ask Alice—Jefferson Airplane

The Addiction

Why did there have to be so many questions?

"Where is she? Come on. Where'd you stash her?"

Can you even remember? Can you remember anything? What's your name—who you are—what you are? Yes. You remember. Hutchinson. Cop. Remember.

Then try to forget.

Forget when it's good, so good, so sweet, like lightning in your veins, like the best orgasm you ever had magnified a thousand times—

Can you remember who you are? What you are? Hutchinson. Cop. Remember—?

"Hey, cop, what's your name?"

"Hutchinson. Hutchinson!"

More questions. Why did there always have to be more questions?

"Where's Jeannie, huh? Where is she?"

Can you remember? Jeannie? Jeannie....

"Come on, punk, where'd you stash her?"

Don't tell! Don't!

You have to. You have to tell. If you don't, they won't help you. No one will help you. And you need help. Why won't they give you any help? Maybe if you tell them....

"...At the point.... Seaview point...."

You answer the questions. All the questions. And finally, after making you wait a long time—too long!—they give you some help. Because of Jeannie. Something about Jeannie—

Jeannie visits you, kisses you, she's so pretty, she smells so good.... She unties your wrists. But you really don't care. A lovely girl...but you're high again, and that's all that matters. You don't even mind when she goes away.... Bye, Jeannie....

As she leaves you hear her tell Forrest, "I'll be anything you want." She sounds so sad. You try to understand what it means, why she would say that, but your mind drifts away and you can't hold it. You nod.


The scream of the ambulance is sounding in my ears
Tell me, Sister Morphine, how long have I been lying here
What am I doing in this place
Why does the doctor have no face
Oh, I can't crawl across the floor
Ah, can't you see, Sister Morphine, I'm trying to score
            Sister Morphine—Rolling Stones

Withdrawal—The first hour.

"Where d'ya figure, Monk?"

"Off the point. Water's deep. Current oughta carry that body out about two hundred miles. By then he oughta be shark's bait...."

Open your eyes. Think. Think hard. They're gonna throw you off the point. For the sharks. You can swim. But just not right now. Right now you can barely walk. And you need help. You can't swim off the point now. Not now, not like this.

You'll drown.

Think about this. You're Hutchinson. Cop. Try to think.

They're going to drown you. That's the answer to all the questions—you're going to die.

You need help.

Can you walk? Can you run? You have to run.

Kick! Strike out! Shove open the door.

Now run! Run hard! Run for help. Don't stop till you find help! Gotta find it, find help! But there is no one to help and soon you're all run out....

"He's your partner, isn't he?"


Partner. Yes. He's your partner. Starsky. Cop. Your partner. He'll help you. He's got to help you. You need help. Some medicine. Something. To stop the pain. Make it sweet again, just for a little while, just to stop the pain.

The pain is cresting, twisting, wrenching your guts. You can't stop yourself, you gag, everything turns inside like knives ripping you to shreds. Someone—Starsky?—is holding you, grabbing your arm, staring at it....

You don't want him to look at your arm, but you can't remember why. You still feel the terrible need to run, to hide...from Starsky? So Starsky won't see your arm? You can't remember. Everything's spinning out of control, and you're falling. Falling. Coming down.

"My God! He's a junkie!"

"Shut up, huh? I'll handle it!"

Then he's pulling you close, holding you tight, not letting you fall. It doesn't stop the fall, can't stop the pain, but at least you don't land in your own vomit. Because Starsky's holding you tight.

"I gotta make a report!"

"No report! This didn't happen, Bernie. I'll take responsibility...."

You're lifted, nearly carried, put in a car again. This almost makes you laugh. Are we going back to the point? Will Starsky take you for that swim? Maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. Just a little while in the water. You always liked the water. And Starsky would never let you drown....

This car is familiar. Red and white. A flashing light on top. You touch the car, the leather seats, trying to remember. Who you are. What you are. Where you are. You can't remember. You start to nod.

"Hutch? Hutch, don't pass out, okay? Can you hear me, Hutch?"

Someone—Starsky?—is forcing your eyelid open. You'd pull away if you had any strength, but you don't. Are my eyes still blue? Not like yours; mine are pale, yours are dark. But blue. Still blue?

You nod, feeling a shadow of the sweetness and ride it for as long as it might last. Forever, you hope. You just want to nod forever. You just want to feel the lightning one more time....

"Jeezus, Hutch...."

You start to slide in the seat, so Starsky pulls your head down. Your cheek rests on his thigh. You sigh happily, feeling a small rush, and let the nod take you, cuddling your face against his strong denim-covered thigh. You feel safe, for the first time in so long....

The car starts, the rumble as comforting as a lullaby, easing, for a little while, the terrible knives, the pain, and the cold. You nod. You sleep.

"Good lord, what the hell happened to Hutch?"

"Look at his arm, then figure it out. Somebody snatched him, did this to him, I don't know why. We gotta hide him, keep him safe. Get him clean. Come on, Huggy, help me. Can we get him upstairs without anyone seeing?"

You have no idea. Nor do you care. The car is familiar, comforting, warm. It smells good. Like food. Clean leather. Like Starsky. Such a good smell. You want to stay here and try to hold onto the thigh, but it slides out from under you. Still, Starsky's hands are there, gently supporting your head, not letting you fall. Not like the others. These hands aren't hurting hands. You remember that. These hands are kind, loving, comforting. And sometimes...sometimes these hands give pleasure.... You remember that dimly, from a long, long time ago....

"I think so. The place is jumpin', Starsky. But that's good; the more activity, the less likely anyone will notice. Put this hat on him to hide that hair. You keep your face turned, take his left arm. Stay on the inside of the stairs, by the wall. I'll take the banister. It'll look like I'm just helpin' another old friend upstairs to sleep it off."

Are you at the point? Is it time to swim? You try to remember who you are, what you are, and it starts to come back. You try to focus.

I'm Hutchinson. He's Starsky. That's Huggy.

Your friends. They'll help you. You'll get help now. And you need help. You need it bad.

You think you're bad now, punk, in two hours you'll be banging your head on the floor.

You remember that, remember feeling just that way, after you told them about Jeannie, after they left you for so long. Then they gave you that last shot and it was good again. And now you're coming down....

Your friends wrestle you out of the car and you're proud you don't throw up again. For a moment you wonder about how you look, how you smell, about the vomit spattering your clothes, or the blood, or even the urine. But the concern passes and you stop caring about that. You think about food; when did you eat last? Then you lose interest again. Who cares?

When was your last shot? That's all you care about now.

Everything hurts where they beat you, but you don't care about that either. Until your friends lift your arms, sling them over their shoulders. It hurts then, your body. Everything hurts. Your feet touch every third or fourth step. You just can't get your legs to work right, but it doesn't really matter because the two men get you upstairs so quickly you don't have time to worry about it. Then, carefully, they ease you onto something soft. A bed. You're not being carried anymore. You're not in the car anymore. You don't have to escape anymore. Finally, you can just lie there and feel everything. And it's starting to feel bad, really bad. It all hurts.

Just curl up and feel it. All that hurt.

"We need coffee, Huggy, lots of coffee. With sugar. Make it real, real sweet. The sugar helps a little. But be cool about it. Nobody can know. Come on, Hug, don't stare at him like that!"

"I'm sorry, man, I just can't believe—oh, God, Hutch! Yeah, coffee! I'm on it. And don't worry. No one downstairs is gonna say squat to anyone, you gotta know that."

"Right. I know. I just.... Just need that coffee, Hug...."

You're curled up in a strange bed, wrapped around your own gut. And now it's really cold. You're shivering. Really cold.

Why did there have to be so many questions? Questions in your own mind?

Where's Jeannie? What happened to Jeannie? You remember seeing her...but you're not remember her remember her saying...something....

Starsky will know. Starsky knows everything. Ask him. He'll know.

He gets into bed with you, starts moving you around, pulling you onto his lap. You grab his shirt, look up at him hopefully. Starsky will know.

"Come on, it's okay..." he said softly.


"Yeah, yeah, Jeannie. Take it easy. Try and relax."

He's rubbing your arms, tries to get you to unfold your legs, but you can't because you're too cold. The rubbing just helps you focus on how cold you are. You're shaking all over, trembling, freezing. Why doesn't he turn on the heat? He rubs your arms harder, moves you around, tries to wipe your face with a clean towel.

You need help. Starsky will get it for you. He knows how. He knows where it is. Starsky can help you. Just ask him.

"Please, Starsky. I need something. I'm so cold."

He keeps rubbing your arms, wrapping you up in the blankets, rubbing your back. Maybe he didn't hear you.

"I need some medicine. Something...." You're clutching his shirt again. "Get me some help."

"How about some coffee?"

He's wrapping you up in blankets, holding you tight, making you feel safe. Now, all you need is a shot, and everything would be perfect.

He holds up a warm cup to your mouth.

"Come on, Hutch, be careful, it's hot."

When did you last eat? When did you last drink? When did you last care about that? Not since the lightning, that last sweet shot.

He tilts the cup; the coffee smells good. It touches your mouth and you taste sweetness, and then you need it. It's sweet, and you need it. Suddenly hunger and thirst are real again, if dulled. You drink, the flavor, the fragrance filling your mouth. It's good. Not as good as the lightning, but it helps a little. Because you're hungry. And thirsty. And it's sweet.

But that's not what your body wants, so it tries to send it back. Your gut heaves, and it's agonizing when it does. Starsky holds a towel to your face, ready to help you if you lose it.

"Come on, Hutch, hold on to it!"

Your gut is twisted, tortured. Starsky tries to give you more coffee, but you remember what happened last time, and you shove it away. Cup and liquid go flying, you don't care. You need help! What's wrong with him? Who the fuck needs coffee? He's your friend, he's supposed to help you.

"Man, he's hurtin'!"

Huggy sounds real upset as he climbs in the bed with you and takes off your shoes.

"Nothin' but sweat and pain for the next forty-eight hours!"

Huggy's wiping your face. How can you be so cold and be sweating so hard at the same time? Maybe if you could get some help from someone you'd have the time you need to think about these things—

"Tell me how? Who?"

Huggy keeps wiping your face, while Starsky holds you, rocks you, rubs warmth into you.

You don't know the answer to Huggy's question. And you really don't care. What do you know? Just this—you need help. You need it now.

But Starsky knows all the answers.

"They tied his wrists, pumped him fulla stuff. Somehow he got away...."

Starsky knows everything.

"It's okay, boy...okay.... They're gonna come lookin' for him, whoever they are. For now, nobody knows where he is except you and me, got that?"

Starsky knows how to get help.

"Here's another cup of coffee for you...."

"Starsk...I need some help! Some medicine...."

Starsky looks like he might start crying, but he doesn't say anything, he just holds you tight, rubs your arms while you shiver and rocks you in his lap. You grab his shirt. Maybe he didn't hear you. Tell him again. You need help. Medicine. All he does is pet you, stroke your face, your throat.

"It's okay. I'm right here, boy. You're gonna make it, ya big lummox."

It doesn't make any sense what he's saying. You need help. You need help. And Starsky can get it for you.

He rocks you in his lap and rubs your arms and begs you to rest, to sleep, but all you can do is shiver violently and plead with him for help. Why won't he get it for you? Why won't he help? You always thought he loved you....


Well, it just goes to show, things are not what they seem
Please, Sister Morphine, turn my nightmare into dreams
Oh, can't you see I'm fading fast
And that this shot will be my last
            Sister Morphine—Rolling Stones

The fifth hour

You lose your sense of time and place. You lose everything except this—need. You shiver and ache and tremble and beg and cry but it all falls on deaf ears until finally you doze fitfully, exhausted. But your brain keeps working, like a ferret facing a well-built hen house. There's a way around this, a way inside, a way to get help—you just haven't figured out how yet. But there's got to be a way. Even asleep your brain works on it, like the ferret. Nosing this way then that, skulking along the boundaries of what might work and what might not.

Your every nerve is screaming, you want to go crazy, smash things, shriek to God, to someone, to help you, why the fuck won't someone help you? but you don't make a sound. You're never sure anymore of where you are. Or who's with you.

Finally, cautiously, you open your eyes and look around.

Gone is the dingy room, the ancient, sagging bed, the thin bedspread, the hand-me-down furniture. All of it, gone.... You're alone on a bed, but it's firm, new, plush, with sheets of gleaming white linen, fresh and clean. You run your hand over the sheets, feeling their smoothness, so soft against your skin. You're nude against the white sheets, but clean. Freshly scrubbed, immaculate, your hair soft and shining, you practically glow. It feels so good to be clean again, lying against fresh sheets. Such a basic pleasure, cleanliness. You slide against the sheets just to enjoy the sensuality of it. Then you look around some more.

You don't know this place. A vast room, filled with art—O'Keefe, you think, but you're not sure. Her flowers. Reproductions—huge ones, giant blow-ups of some of her most famous works. The colors leap out from the brilliant orange-red poppies, the sparkling white of the nicotina.

There's a narrow mirror near the head of your bed. You see your face, clean and freshly shaven. There's no bruising, no blackening around the eyes, no mottling on the jaw where they struck you again and again. There's no pain either. Hesitantly, you turn away from the mirror and look at your arm.

There are no tracks. You touch the soft skin in the crook of your arm, rub it, trying to feel the scars. There's nothing. Just your soft, fair skin. Unblemished. Unbroken.

You don't understand.

You look around, stare at the art, all the beautiful flowers, so huge, so brightly colored, all the poppies.... Then you see the couch. The dark green velvet upholstery is half-covered by a bundled form sleeping under a clean white sheet. All you can see is a mass of dark curls, but that's all you need. He's turned away from you, but you know him too well to be mistaken.

Starsky, sleeping on his stomach, stretches beneath the sheet and slowly it slides away from him, revealing his nude form.

You stare, mesmerized as he is revealed. He's beautiful in sleep, the clean, spare lines of his body taut and powerful. Your breath catches, and you grow hard. You touch yourself. The ferret in your mind searches for answers, searches for entry, looks for all the ways it can achieve its end. You stare at the beauty of your friend and let yourself feel something you have never felt before—a physical attraction to his masculine grace. You have loved this man, but not because he was a man. You have loved him because he loved you, because his heart called to you and you had to answer. For the first time, in this heroin-laced hallucination, you see him as you never have before, as an object of desire.

The ferret knows there is an answer here, an answer that can help you. Help you fulfill the need.

You stare at your friend, as the poppies in the art come alive and sway in the breeze while still in their frames. Excited, you grip yourself hard.


Opened my eyes today
And I knew there's something different
Saw you in a brand new way
Like the clouds had somehow lifted
            Hopelessly Addicted—Corrs

"He finally asleep?" Huggy asked softly, as he came up to check on the coffee and the patient.

"For the moment." Starsky watched Hutch's eyes move restlessly back and forth under his bruised lids and felt thankful that his friend was able to sleep for at least this little while. He knew it wouldn't last long. He turned away from Hutch to speak to the man hovering over him. "You bring a fresh pot?"

"It's right here. Gonna take the old one down with me. Brought you some chocolate, too, 'case he gets hungry."

Starsky turned back to his dozing partner. "He won't be able to keep anything down for a while yet."

"Yeah, but he'll be wantin' somethin'. The candy'll help."

Both men grew quiet, staring at the sleeping cop who looked so unlike a cop right now they could barely believe it. Starsky felt Huggy's hand on his shoulder and looked back up into liquid brown eyes filled with compassion.

"How you holdin' up?" Huggy asked.

Starsky had no answer to that. He only shook his head and turned back to Hutch, his mind whirling.

"Ain't the first time we been here," Huggy reminded him, trying to comfort.

Starsky closed his eyes wearily and nodded. Indeed, he and Huggy had been here too many times, if truth be told. They were fourteen the first time they'd walked one of Huggy's best friends out of an overdose. Then there was that girl Starsky had fallen for when he was sixteen...until he found out she was a hype. He talked her into going cold turkey, and he and Huggy had stayed with her the whole time, keeping her together, keeping her safe. Three months later she'd gone right back to square one. Dead at eighteen, a ravaged, weary prostitute. Huggy knew better than to mention her name.

Too many friends from the streets, entirely too many....

But none of them were Hutch.

Starsky felt like his heart had been physically pierced. His relief at finding his friend alive was still there, and he had to remind himself to appreciate that. When a cop disappeared for four or five days with no word and nothing to go on, there was little hope he'd turn up alive. But to find Hutch like this, addicted to heroin...! It was a sickening nightmare. He should've found his partner sooner, turned up more heat on the streets, done something.

This was Hutch—a man who jogged faithfully every day, who rode Starsky constantly about his junk food diet.... Hutch, who epitomized the health-crazed golden Californian. Addicted. To Heroin. Starsky's mind could barely let him accept it. It was everything he could do to keep from bursting into tears.

The warm hand on his shoulder squeezed, and he glanced back at Huggy. But the man he'd grown up with on the streets wasn't watching Hutch. He was staring meaningfully at Starsky.

"If I didn't know better...." Huggy frowned, as if debating the rightness of his speculations. "Starsky—is it that way between you an' Hutch?"

He asked the question quietly, but with a surety that said he knew he had the right. When they were kids, Huggy's friendship, his honesty, his street smarts, and his openly fluid sexuality had been a comforting refuge for the young Dave Starsky—especially on those rare occasions when Starsky's own love life took a sideways turn.

They'd known each other too long for Starsky to even attempt an evasion. Still, the answer was too complicated for a yes or no. "Not really."

Huggy looked another question at him.

Starsky shrugged. "Hutch's straight, Huggy, you know that. And I told you long ago, I'm not playin' that game anymore. It's too risky."

Huggy nodded, entirely too knowledgeable. "But that didn't stop you from fallin' in love with him, did it?"

Starsky closed his eyes. "I can handle it. Most times. It's okay. He's my partner. My best friend. Closer than a brother.... You know that. Just, right's...." He trailed off, losing the ability to explain his feelings. "What they did to him.... It's as bad as rape. Worse maybe. I'm gonna find 'em, Hug. And when I do...." His throat tightened with rage and he couldn't speak anymore.

Huggy squeezed his shoulder again. "We'll find 'em, bro. You know we will. And you'll do what you have to. I'm'a take this cold pot downstairs."

"You may as well call it a night," Starsky told him. "One of us oughta get some sleep so they can be with it tomorrow."

"You sure? You might need—?"

Starsky shook his head. "He's sleeping now, and I'm gonna doze while he is. The fresh coffee'll hold us. We'll be ready for more in the mornin'. You know tomorrow's gonna be rough. He'll be wired, not helpless like he is now. I'm gonna need you for back-up, 'case he tries to fight me. You know how strong he is."

"You think he might?"

Starsky shrugged. "Hard tellin'. You saw how bad he was, and all the tracks. The stuff they used on him must've been close to pure, not street-trade, and they must'a hit him pretty often. It's the only way they coulda got him this strung out that fast. When he's feelin' stronger, it's hard to say how driven he's gonna be. But he'll have to kill me to get outta this room."

Huggy nodded, then took the cold pot with him. "I'll be up first thing in the morning," he promised. "Try to rest while you can."

Starsky nodded wearily, as he continued to stroke Hutch's filthy hair.

How'd you come to this, Hutch? he wondered, as Huggy went back down the stairs. What was it in that nice, clean, white-bread world of yours back in Minnesota that made you want to walk these mean streets with a badge and a gun? You ever even seen a junkie before you came out here? Now, look at you.... Oh, God, look at you...! How could I let this happen to you? My partner.... My best friend in the whole world....

He wouldn't put words to the other feelings he held for Hutch, had held for him since the Academy. He would not pull those feelings into the light, not now, or he would burst into helpless sobs at what had happened to his friend...someone he loved so much....

As he stroked Hutch's hair, his partner suddenly stirred.

Already? Starsky thought, disappointed, wishing his friend wouldn't wake for the next forty-eight hours. Please, Hutch, stay still, stay sleepin'....

He came up all at once, his eyes showing something Starsky had never seen before as they glanced around the room. There was a new haunted cunning in them, a wariness....

"Sssh," Starsky said, "go back to sleep, Hutch."

Bundled in his lap, the battered body rolled over. Hutch's arms eased away from his own stomach, shifting instead to slide around Starsky's hips in a loose embrace.

Hoping Hutch was just getting more comfortable, Starsky continued to stroke his head. "Easy, boy. Go on back to sleep."

The bloodshot eyes darted around, taking in everything, as if looking for his assailants.

"It's just us, Hutch. Just you and me. We're at Huggy's. We're safe here. We're alone."

But the taut body didn't relax. Hutch turned a bit more, pulled himself closer to Starsky. Thinking he needed more warmth from the constant chills sweeping through him, Starsky rubbed Hutch's back, massaged his shoulders.

"Starsk...need..." he croaked, finally fixing his gaze on his friend's face.

"I know," Starsky said sadly. "I know. Want some coffee?"

Hutch shook his head slightly. " Starsky, please. I need you."

The words cut through all his guilt and pain and arrowed straight into Starsky's heart. "I'm here, Hutch. I'm right here," he promised, wishing more than ever that he could make this nightmare go away.

Hutch shook his head as if Starsky misunderstood him. "Need you, babe. Need you." He moved his head until his cheek nestled right against Starsky's groin, then rubbed his face against the fly.

Starsky stared, still uncomprehending.

Hutch deliberately kissed the closed fly, then bit the fabric suggestively. "Need you..." he whispered, kissing Starsky's groin again.

He's out of it, Starsky thought, knowing how the drug and especially its withdrawal could mess with your mind. Typically, heroin diminished the sex drive, but not always. Starsky had heard of guys who played around with it because it turned them on and kept them going for hours. It was rare, but it happened.

He wondered if Hutch were having some kind of confused flashback, maybe to when Vanessa left him and he'd felt like he'd had to have a physical manifestation of caring from his partner, the one person he knew still loved him. Hutch had been drunk that night as he offered himself to his, fortunately, sober partner. Starsky had succumbed to Hutch's need, but only enough to get him off so he'd sleep away the drunk. He hadn't allowed Hutch to follow through on his ambitious suggestions.

The rare occasion after that always seemed to follow grief of some sort, but however spontaneous their sexual activities might be, they were always brief, simple, with one objective—the necessary purging of shared pain. Hutch was straight, and Starsky never forgot that.

"Come on, Hutch, try 'n relax. You need to sleep." Gently, mindful of his wounds, Starsky eased Hutch's head off his groin onto his thigh.

Bruised eyes fixed on Starsky's face. Hutch shifted, moved his arm, brought his big hand up to cup Starsky's groin and rub it seductively. And like a trained seal, Starsky's cock rose on command.

"Need you, love," Hutch whispered. "Want you. Let me, Starsk, please."

What the—?

"I can give you what you need, Starsk," Hutch whispered conspiratorially. "Give you everything you need." Hutch pulled himself up, gripping Starsky's shirt, drawing closer to his face. He tilted his face slightly, muttering, "And who else could know what you need better than me?"

As Starsky sat, a mesmerized cobra confronted by a crafty mongoose, Hutch's mouth drew closer. Starsky was suddenly assailed by a gust of his fetid breath, redolent with old blood from his battered gums. The shocking odor coming from the normally fastidious man snapped him out of it. He grabbed Hutch by the shoulders, pushing him back gently as he turned his face away.

Softly, he admonished, "Hutch, cut it out. The only thing I need is to watch you get some sleep."

Undaunted, Hutch brazenly nuzzled Starsky's ear. "You think I don't know you? I know you. I know your needs."

"Hutch, quit!" Starsky begged, repelled and confused by his advance. "You need to rest—"

Now Hutch sounded more agitated. His grip on Starsky's shirt tightened. "You-you think I wouldn't do it, but I would. It'd be okay, Starsk, it'd be good. I'd give you what you need, anything you need. We could do it all. I-I...I'll be whatever you want. And-and then, maybe then— could get me—what I need...."

The only thing Starsky could do was stare as his friend offered to trade his body for a fix. The words of the uniformed cop, Bernie, rang over and over in his ears.

My God, he's a junkie!

He's a junkie!

A junkie!

Hutch is a junkie!

As the words bounced around his brain, he resisted them, but the truth was clinging to him, rank body odor and all.

How many hypes have I used as snitches over the years? A hundred? And why? 'Cause they're reliable. They'll sell their mothers for the bucks to make a shot. But since their mothers aren't usually available, the next most convenient commodity is themselves. Male, female, don't matter. When hypes have the need, their bodies are their most reliable merchandise.

It was the most likely indicator of an addict's condition, how quickly they offered you whatever they thought you'd go for. A blowjob, a quick fuck, whatever. But Starsky was never in the market. Information only, no dessert. They all knew it, too, and no matter how hard up they might be, they never offered. If they did, he wouldn't say anything to them, just turn away. But he wouldn't be back for more information. It reminded him of too many rooms like this, and too many friends he'd helped quit cold.

But not Hutch. a cop! My partner. He didn't volunteer for this, it was forced on him. He knows he's gotta get clean. He knows—

"Everybody has needs, Starsky, everybody," Hutch argued reasonably, as if his worldview was the only one that made any sense. "You, me, everybody. I know what you need, and you know what I need—" He gripped Starsky's erection with the familiarity their brief encounters had given him and stroked his partner just the way he knew Starsky liked it. "I'll make it good for you, Starsk. Then all you gotta do is help me get through this. Get me just enough to take the edge off—"

Starsky's erection collapsed under Hutch's hand like a broken dream. "Don't!" he said sharply, his fingers digging harshly into Hutch's arms. "Don't talk like that! You're a cop! Think about what you're saying. You're talkin' like a junkie!"

"No, no," Hutch argued reasonably, shaking his head. "You don't understand. It's not like that. I need you, partner. I swear—it's just—"

It's just the drug talking, Starsky told himself, but he couldn't get past the fact that it was talking out of Hutch's mouth. The nervous, tentative touches Hutch was giving his groin weren't sexual, but obscene.

You knew this would happen. He really needs it now, it's comin' down hard on him. And that's why he needs you to be with him—the one person he can trust not to take advantage of him. Even when he's begging you to do it.

"Come on, Starsky!" Hutch snapped suddenly, his patience ended. "What, are you getting off on making me plead for it? Come on. It's a fair trade. You've waited so long—you can have it all. All of me. I'll do anything...I'll-I'll be anything you want! Just help me, just this once. Help me get through this, dammit!"

Starsky couldn't even help himself just then, as his eyes filled and spilled over. He blinked furiously, shaking his head to clear his vision.

I can remember a night we chased some suspects a couple of miles. By the time we booked 'em, we were ripe. You were supposed to meet that pretty brunette, Emmie. But instead, you broke the date. You wouldn't face her unless you could shower and change and brush your teeth. An' now you're tryin' to trade me a quick fuck for a single dose when you ain't been near a toothbrush, washcloth, or changed clothes in five days. Hutch, oh, God, Hutch. Are you even still in there?

Hutch tried once more to kiss Starsky, but he anticipated the move and slid out from under him. Getting out of the bed, he left Hutch sprawled in a tangle of sheets and blankets. The loss of body contact was so painful for Starsky he wanted to scream. But he couldn't comfort Hutch anymore with hugs or petting. They were past all that. Alone, trapped here together, they'd have to weather out the rest of the night however they could.

Miserably, Hutch curled up in a fetal ball again, only this time Starsky couldn't hold him, couldn't try to keep him warm. Alone in the bed, he started to cry. "You always said you loved me. How could anyone who loved me let me go through this without helping me?"

You've been here before, Starsky remembered, steeling himself against the anguish Hutch's soft sobs wrung from him. You know how it's gonna go. You can't let him get to you. You can't let him win, 'cause then you both lose.

Sitting on the floor by the bed, where Hutch couldn't easily touch him, Starsky leaned against the sagging mattress. Like the experienced cop he was—and the street-wise man he'd grown up to be—he hardened himself against his friend's pain and waited for things to get worse.


First the good news
It's gonna feel very nice
Then the bad news
You gotta pay a heavy price
            One More Addiction—Natalie Imbruglia

The twenty-sixth hour

How many times have you said in your life, "that makes my flesh crawl," without ever really understanding what that meant? To have your flesh crawl. Really crawl.

Hutch prowled the small confines of Huggy's upstairs room and rubbed his arms compulsively without really being aware of what he was doing. His flesh crawled with a million pinpricks of awareness as if his nerve endings had been dipped in caffeine. His need to do, to go, to find, was animal-like in its driving urgency. Yet he was trapped, just like an animal. His keeper barely spoke, rarely acknowledged anything Hutch said or did, but always managed to keep himself between Hutch and the door.

The door. The door to outside. If he could just get out the door....

They'd had a hundred battles over the door. It had started at sunup when Huggy came in with the first pot of coffee. He'd already started prowling the floor, tense and frantic, when the opening door screamed at him to make his break. But Starsky tackled him, giving Huggy time to get in with his burden. He tried to explain it to Huggy, tried to get him to see reason, but that was a no-go as well. He'd verbally abused both his friends most of the morning, but they just ignored him, and poured coffee down his throat. Then when he lost it, they helped him make it to the john, and cleaned up after him when he didn't.

Hutch couldn't understand, as hyper as he was, how he couldn't get past Starsky just once and get out the door. They'd wrestled, they'd fought, Hutch had swung out many times but never connected. He was a mess. If he could just get out, it would all be better. If he could just get out, he could...he could...

You're filthy. You reek. Starsky hid your shoes. Even if you could get out, where could you go? Who would help you? How would you get what you need?

For the first time, a glimmer of sanity crept through.

No one would help you. All the help you'll ever find is right in this room with you.

And then the crushing depression.

Your best friend. Your partner. The one man on the planet you can't bargain with.

Right now, Hutch hated him. He needed someone, something to focus his chaotic emotions on, his frenetic need, and Starsky was the only target. Throughout the night, he had alternated between trying to seduce and alienate his friend. But it didn't matter whether he was promising him sexual delights he had no idea how to perform or calling him every kind of sick perverted bastard he could think of. Starsky was unmoving, unflinching. Grim-faced, he refused to respond, even when Hutch had thrown things at him, called him a cock-sucking faggot, or accused him of trying to turn Hutch into one. Starsky didn't flinch, didn't respond. Just set his back against the door and stood firm.

The depression was on him now, as he nodded over a checkerboard Starsky had found somewhere. Whenever Hutch sat still, he'd nod off, completely exhausted, but any attempts at real sleep were futile as the chills and sweats or stomach churning nausea alternately swept over him.

He became convinced this was going to be his whole life, this nightmare of erratic emotional swings, this aching hunger that Starsky would never let him fulfill. The two of them would be trapped here together in their own little hell with only Huggy to be witness to it.

In a fitful need to move and vent his inner rage, Hutch swept the checkerboard off the table and began prowling again. He could feel the dark eyes on him, as Starsky quietly moved to the door, re-secured the lock, stood by it again. He'd always thought he was faster, stronger, more clever than Starsky. Why couldn't he get past him?

He heard a slight knock on the door, but it was only Huggy with all his false cheerfulness. Mercifully, Starsky shushed him up, but Hutch knew it was only partially in deference to him. Huggy had information—but it was for Starsky's ears alone. The whispering of the two men really grated on his nerves, but when he tried to figure out why, he didn't like the answer.

Huggy's information used to be for us both—but now there's only one cop in this room...and it's not me....

He could hear Forrest's taunting voice—

What's your name, cop?

Hutch ran a hand through his hair, his scalp crawling as if living things were throwing a party in it.

Did you tell him? Did you tell him everything? He found Jeannie, didn't he? He brought her to you just to rub it in. So, you must've told him where she was.

He didn't want to face that, wasn't ready to deal with the memories of groveling on the floor, begging for another hit. Forrest had played with him the way a cat does a mouse when it's already eaten. But at that moment, Hutch didn't care. He needed a hit. Needed it bad.

And just like Jeannie, you became whatever he wanted. Not a cop anymore. Just another junkie.

He blinked, not wanting to remember that, not wanting to think about it, but he had little control over what he got to think about now.

Then something caught his attention...out of the corner of his eye—

The door. It's unlocked. Starsky's not minding it—

The ferret made its move, frantically darting toward the unlocked barrier, but somehow, someway, Starsky was there, blocking him, resisting him.

They struggled, wrestling frantically as Hutch fought to get past his partner. Starsky's resistance was passive, ducking beneath Hutch's swinging arms, pushing him gently back, holding his arms so he couldn't do any real damage to either of them. Hutch wanted to scream.

Desperately, he tried to appear reasonable. "I-I-I just want some candy, some candy, that's all. I just want to get out!" He didn't think he'd ever said anything more honest in his life. He'd go crazy if he didn't get out. He began to think maybe he'd even die.

Starsky had that unflinching, Sphinx-look again. Nothing touched him when he got like this. Hutch was surprised when he mumbled, "I can remember a man who hated candy."

It was too much, a rude slap in the face with what he had once been—whatever that was. Right now, he could barely remember. He exploded in a white-hot rage. "AW, SHUT UP!"

A glimmer of a smile lit up Starsky's expression, and he said softly, "Now, that's the Hutch I know."

And then their eyes met, and he saw his own reflection in those deep indigo pools. He saw the shattered, shambling wreck he had let himself become.

Can you even remember? Can you remember anything? What's your name—who you are—what you are? Yes. You remember. Hutchinson. Cop. Remember.

It hit him so hard, so suddenly, he sagged in Starsky's grip. What was he doing? Trying to get out, trying to score? He was a cop! Or he had been, once.

Starsky grabbed the back of his head, eased his forehead onto his shoulder, rubbed his neck, patted his arm. Once more rewarding him with the comfort he'd been denied ever since....

Every since I offered him....

Offered him....

He couldn't think about it, not now, not with Starsky's strong touch letting that love and comfort flow back into him. How could he have been so stupid as to offend Starsky so much he wouldn't even touch him.

But he doesn't trust me. He won't pull me close, won't hug me. He doesn't trust me not to try to trade on it like I did before. Like I might do again before this is all over.

He accepted the caring from those warm, strong hands and basked in it for a few moments.

"Yeah, you've got a ways to go, huh?" Starsky said softly, still petting him.

You always used to say "we" when either of us was hurt, you'd say "we" like we were Siamese twins, as if when one of us is cut the other one bleeds. Not this time, buddy. You might be here, but this one's all mine. We might've gone through it together, but I ruined that by trying to buy you with sex.

Hutch had seen the Sphinx before—every time some junkie tried to soften Starsky up by offering him free head or a quick roll in the sack. As sexually aggressive as the dark-haired cop could be, he had no truck for addicted prostitutes, and thought that cops who took freebies from them were the lowest of low.

And that's just what you did, Kenny-boy. Offered him sex in exchange for dope. As if he'd have done it. How could you have been so stupid?

The thing that really scared Hutch was that he knew there was no guarantee that he wouldn't do it again. When the need crested—which it did every few hours—he was capable of anything. He could barely believe it, but, unfortunately, there was nothing wrong with his memory. What he wouldn't give for a decent dose of alcoholic amnesia now.

Wearily, he moved out of the loving embrace, feeling unworthy—and edgy. His flesh was crawling again. And the depression was hitting hard. He hated himself. Hated the way he felt. The way he looked. The way he smelled. He hated this room.

And he hated Starsky.

No! That's the problem, you don't hate him. You love him. The closest person in the world to you....

He hated Starsky.

In a frustrated burst of anger, he swept all the knickknacks off the long dresser, finding a strange comfort in their crashing clatter. Grabbing a hard-backed chair, he sat and rubbed his legs, fighting the urge to scream.

Suddenly, the Sphinx was in front of him. Hutch ignored him.

I feel like howling at the moon. I feel like beating you to death. I feel like running and running and running....

"Feel like talkin'?" the Sphinx said.

"No!" Hutch snarled.

"Good," the Sphinx said. It cared little for how Hutch felt. It was as clever as the ferret. Only the Sphinx wasn't hampered by its need. It was pure cunning. Hutch would have to be careful.

Starsky questioned him relentlessly about things Hutch couldn't care less about. What were their names? How many voices? He hammered at him, repeating the same questions again and again.

Dimly, somewhere, Hutch remembered doing the same thing to crime witnesses who were too upset to remember details unless you asked them over and over and over.

The questions touched memories, broke through the fog of his need...he found the answers...answers he didn't want to remember.... All of a sudden, it came to him with a disturbing clarity, and he confessed it to Starsky shamefully.

"They...wanted Jeannie...and I think I told them where she was...."

The Sphinx softened, his face taking on the same caring expression Hutch remembered from other painful times. "It's okay. It's okay."

Hutch wanted to weep. He knew damned well it would never be okay again.


It gets scary
to feel so much
to let somebody touch you
so hot
so cold
so far out of control
so hard to come by
and harder to hold
            I Need All the Love I Can Get—Sisters of Mercy

The fortieth hour

"Hutch," Starsky said quietly from where he was slouched in the old armchair, "why don't you lie down? Try to sleep." The very word held a tantalizing lure to Starsky. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stay awake. He couldn't figure out how his strung-out partner just kept on going.

Hutch sat cross-legged at the head of Huggy's bed, his back pressed against the wall as he fought the nods. He was wired, irritable, and depressed, but he was on the downhill side finally. His conversation made more sense, and he had either lost his desire to bolt from the room or had finally given in to defeat, Starsky wasn't sure. A few hours ago he'd taken some broth Huggy had provided and actually kept it down.

"Starsk?" Hutch mumbled, forcing himself awake.

Starsky managed to pay attention. Hutch hadn't exactly sought him out for lively conversation lately. He'd alternated between frantic begging, insane demands, and vicious accusations. This more reasonable tone was something new. "Yeah?"

"I...uh...I've been thinking. Remembering.... They must've gotten Jeannie."

"You think so?"

Starsky was ashamed to admit that he had to feign interest. As a cop, he should care about anyone who'd been abducted by a mobster crazy enough to snatch a cop and addict him to drugs just to get information. But the truth was Starsky had never warmed up to Jeannie Walton, and now he knew why.

He had been so happy that Hutch had finally fallen in love again that he had ignored troubling details while they'd been dating. But his cop's instinct was rarely wrong. To Starsky, she looked like a hooker, plain and simple. Not a street-walker, but one of those high-priced call girls who worked the hotels in Vegas and were usually controlled by some big macher who kept a string of them under his thumb. He wondered now if that was how she'd ended up in LA—trying to escape only to have her owner come after her. Even in his sleep-deprived state, he realized whoever Jeannie's owner might be, he had to be a powerful figure in the drug world and a very dangerous man. Any mobster who would risk killing a cop was not rational.

To Hutch, Jeannie had been a damsel in distress who desperately needed him. When it came to women that seemed to be the only thing that ever stirred Hutch. Jeannie had been the first woman Hutch had shown any real interest in since his wife had left him years ago. While Starsky had been glad to see his partner finally getting involved again, Jeannie didn't exactly look like wife-and-kids material to him. Now he found himself hoping that this wasn't the kind of woman Hutch was going to make a habit of falling for.

"Yeah," Hutch agreed, still struggling to remember. "They must've picked her up.... I think they let her see me. I think I remember...her crying...." He blinked hard, struggling to recall, then turned to his partner. "She was so afraid of that, Starsk, so afraid they'd find her again—"

"It's okay," Starsky soothed, since Hutch was getting agitated. He felt a glimmer of joy. Hutch was starting to think like a cop again. "We'll find her, buddy. We'll get her back."

Hutch sagged back against the wall. "We will, huh?" he said softly. "That's the first time you've said 'we' since...."

The quiet insight cut deep. Starsky hadn't even realized he'd stopped referring to them as a team during Hutch's withdrawal. He was amazed that through everything he'd endured, Hutch was not only aware of Starsky's omission, but hurt by it.

"I'm sorry, partner," Starsky said. "I never meant—"

Hutch shook his head wearily. Shutting his eyes, he rested his head against the wall. "Don't apologize. You were right. If I'd treated you like my partner, I'd have told you what was going on with Jeannie right from the start, instead of doing it her way and keeping it all to myself. I guess I was afraid you'd see through everything and tell me things I didn't want to hear." He opened his eyes. "You knew, didn't you? Soon as you saw her. You knew she...she'd been a hooker."

Starsky couldn't think of a single thing to say.

Hutch smiled bitterly. "You got this funny look on your face when I introduced you. You went all blank— I knew there was something...but I didn't want to know. So, I excluded you. I cut out the 'we' between us long before you did."

"Hutch," Starsky said quietly, "even if I did think that about Jeannie—it don't mean anything. People fall into that kind of life because of hard luck and problems. It doesn't mean they can't turn their life around again. An' if you were Jeannie's big bright hope for a new life, and if you're okay about it, then I am, too. I wouldn't condemn anyone for the mistakes of their past. God knows I've made my own."

Hutch's expression nearly crumbled and he said in a tight voice, "That's nice to know, pal. But some things...I think some things are harder to forgive than others...."

"Like...?" Starsky prodded, wanting Hutch to keep talking, to find his way back to where they'd been before this happened.

Hutch looked like he was fighting tears. "How many times have one of us said, 'we aren't like other cops—we don't make deals.'"

"Lotsa times," Starsky confirmed.

"Well, I can't say that anymore. I gave them Jeannie for a fix. I gave them the woman I love...for a shot of dope."

"Hutch, that's different. You were hurting, they addicted you, you couldn't help it—"

He glared at Starsky. "Yes, I could. I could've handled it. I could've ridden it out. I begged them for it."

"Don't, Hutch. Don't do this to yourself. You couldn't help it—"

"You would've never done it. You would've never given in."

"Don't be crazy. I'd've done the same thing you did—"

Hutch shook his head. "Not you. You would've curled up around the pain and cursed them until you died. I know you. You would've never given up anyone you loved."

Starsky heard the underlying words he didn't say. You would've never given me up. Jeannie wasn't the issue anymore. Hutch believed that had they wanted Starsky instead, he would've given up his partner just as easily.

"That stuff's still messin' with your mind, babe," Starsky said gently. "It's making you depressed, down. It's part of the withdrawal. I don't believe any of that. You're my partner. Still my partner. And as soon as you're well, we're gonna get Jeannie back, and put a real hurtin' on those bastards. Now get some sleep, Hutch. You gotta get well."

"Sure, Starsk," Hutch said morosely. "Whatever you say." But he never changed his position.

And Starsky suspected he fell asleep long before Hutch ever did.

Wild boys wonder where is glory
And lovers war with arrows over secrets they could tell
            Wild Boys—Duran Duran

Chapter 2

My life makes perfect sense
Lust and food and violence
Sex and money are my major kicks
Get me in a fight I like dirty tricks
'Cos if you wanna run cool
You got to run on heavy, heavy fuel
            Heavy Fuel — Dire Straits

The fifty-fifth hour

"Detective Starsky!"

The sharp, nasal tone made him slow down just enough to allow the voice's owner to jog abreast of him and match his steps with Starsky's hurried ones.

"Make you're point quick, Counselor, I ain't in the mood for idle chatter," Starsky grumbled, looking straight ahead.

"You'll have to be in the mood once we get before the judge, won't you?" the lawyer snarled back. Latching onto one of Starsky's elbows he forcibly brought them to a halt.

They were in one of the endless corridors in Parker Center. Starsky's destination was near, but he had no intentions of sharing it with this...this.... His abusive vocabulary failed him as he stared down at Ben Forrest's lawyer. He yanked his elbow out of the man's grip, and fought his own surging anger. Beating the shit out of this guy wasn't going to help anything. Even if it would be fun.

"It is illegal to keep a client isolated from his lawyer once he's requested counsel," Attorney Samuel Garner reminded him. "Where've you got Forrest stashed, and why?"

Where've I got Forrest stashed? Ain't that irony? "What are you talking about? Look, thanks to your client I'm ass-deep in reports—" which was where he'd left Hutch, crouched over one of the shared typewriters in the squad room. And ever since he'd left him, he'd had to fight his own paranoid fears—is he still there, or did he slip out of the building to go looking for—

He blinked, forcing his mind away from that track and made himself deal with this parasite in front of him.

"Don't cry the blues to me, Detective," the lawyer shot back. "And don't give me the innocent act, either. You and I have had this dance before."

Ain't we, though? Starsky thought. He'd lost his share, too. He wondered if there was some special switchboard for bad guys who needed legal help. For great counsel call Sam Garner. Guaranteed to get off rapists, drug runners, and organized crime lords if they've got enough cash. Well, not this time, Garner.

"They're telling me in booking that they don't know where my client is," the lawyer insisted. "For some reason, I can't help but think that you do."

"Me? Look, you know the drill, Garner. He got his phone call, right? That's why you're here, huh? So, he's gotta still be in processing somewhere. These things take time."

"He's been processed. He's awaiting arraignment. This is when I'm supposed to have access to my client, but nobody seems to know where he is. And for some reason, no one will look me in the eye when I ask about him."

Starsky took a deep breath. "You tellin' me you can't figure out why any cop would have trouble lookin' you in the eye? Come on, Counselor. You know everyone here thinks the world of your work—"

"My client, Detective!" the lawyer all but shouted.

"Calm down, Garner. Go on down to processing and have yourself a sitdown. He'll show up soon. I'll ask my captain to look into it. I mean," Starsky gave him his most disarming grin, the one guaranteed to charm virgins right out of their inhibitions, "we certainly wouldn't want any citizen to be deprived of his constitutional rights, now would we?"

The lawyer sputtered a bit more, warning if he were responsible—but Starsky had already tuned him out as he proceeded down the hallway, glancing back just once to be sure Garner had taken the elevator off the floor. Backtracking, Starsky approached an interrogation room where a lone uniformed officer stood sentry.

"How ya doin', Bernie?" Starsky asked the veteran cop.

The older man nodded. "Just fine, Starsky."

"My man inside?"

Bernie glanced up and down the hall, ensuring their privacy. "Just like you asked."

"I owe ya, Bernie," Starsky said. "Twice now."

Bernie's eyes went soft. "How's your partner?"

I wish I knew, Starsky thought worriedly. Aloud, he said, "He's gonna be okay. We're gonna get through this." He'd explained to Bernie the circumstances of Hutch's situation, knowing the older cop would also have to tell his own partner. Starsky knew the veterans and knew the information would go no further. Bernie was a good man, had helped train Starsky in his rookie days. He knew he could trust him, and was thankful Bernie had been in the black-and-white that had first found Hutch.

"Sure he is," Bernie agreed. "He's got a good partner. That's the most important thing in this business."

"You got that right," Starsky said, patting Bernie's arm. He glanced up and down the deserted hallway. "Don't let anyone in."

Bernie nodded once, and Starsky slipped past him into the interrogation room.

The man inside was pacing nervously like a caged tiger. Caged, but not defanged, Starsky reminded himself as he closed the door quietly. Forrest was still wearing his pristine white suit, the expensive fabric accenting his physique in all the right ways. He turned toward Starsky and gripped the back of a chair, as if considering swinging it at him. Starsky leaned against the closed door and eyed his opponent.

"Where's my lawyer?" Forrest demanded.

Starsky's eyes narrowed as he struggled to contain his passions. He had to be cool—no, cold. He couldn't let anything this monster said touch him. As much as it repelled him, he was here to bargain. See, Hutch, you ain't the only one ready to cut deals. I'm here to deal with the Devil himself. He made his face impassive and just shook his head.

"No lawyer?" Forrest laughed mercilessly. "Just you and me? That's rich. Why don't you just violate a few more of my rights, cop? Maybe beat the shit out of me just for good measure! My lawyer's gonna love this! Come on! You wanna piece of me? Come and get it!"

"They pulled a set of works off of you when they booked you, Forrest," Starsky said, not letting himself respond to anything the mobster said. "You were gonna get Jeannie addicted again, weren't you? That's how you kept her quiet, kept her in the stable. Kept her jumpin' through your hoops."

Forrest grinned, his eyes narrowing, as if recognizing rules he could understand. One predator to another. "How's your partner? Still a little twitchy? Should be real interesting working with him on the streets from now on. You'd best be counting every little bag you confiscate or you might catch him sampling the goods." He laughed.

Starsky wouldn't react. "I came here to talk."

"I'm not supposed to be talkin' to you without my mouthpiece, cop," Forrest reminded him.

"This is just between you and me," Starsky insisted.

"Yeah, I bet it is. The arraignment should be real interesting. We might be able to work something out. Especially if you drop the kidnapping charge."

Starsky shook his head. "There's only one thing on the table right now. And you know what it is."

Forrest laughed again. "You must be talking about the long-term business relationship I had with your partner. How he started sleeping with my hooker. How she got him addicted. And how he came to work for me—"

"The dope we hauled out of your warehouse, and the evidence we pulled out of your house on the hits you ordered and your other 'business transactions' is gonna put you—and a whole boatload of your associates—away for a long time, Forrest. You may never get out. Now, I've got enough people who can testify to Hutch's relationship with Jeannie, and there's enough physical evidence still on him to support his claim to abduction and forced addiction—"

And torture. You stinkin' motherfucker, you tortured my partner for days, and if there were any justice in this world I'd be given a half-hour alone in this room with you and a crowbar—

"Not to mention Jeannie's abduction. But the reality is—"

"That admitting Hutchinson was ever addicted to heroin would cause him untold complications within the department," Forrest said.

"There's nothing for you to gain by bringing this up in court," Starsky reminded him. His voice was calm, unemotional. "The only thing it might do is muddy the water for Hutch. You'll be risking a lot more jail time if you bring it up. And you're already in for twenty-five plus. You talkin' about Hutch's addiction is only gonna guarantee that they lock you up and throw away the key. Keep it out of court, and we just go on the charges we got now, and we don't push for anything more."

"You call this a bargain?" Forrest's laugh was nearly a bray. "You gotta give me something else. Or your partner's gonna be spending every Wednesday with the department shrink until his retirement."

Starsky walked carefully up to the table separating them. He kept his voice contained. It was important that Forrest understand him clearly and believe him. Because he had never been more serious.

"You ever wonder why Monk couldn't find Hutch once he got away?"

"You had him hidden," Forrest said as if it didn't matter.

"You made one big mistake, when you snatched Hutch. See, my partner, he's the original White Knight. Sometimes I call him the choirboy. He's never even had a traffic citation. He's got the cleanest record in the entire state. Puttin' mud on Hutch ain't gonna be that easy. Too bad you didn't snatch me. My record's a little different. I got some history. But that history sure comes in handy on the street. I hid Hutch at an ol' friend's place. A brother. A brother with more connections than you could imagine. This brother and me, we're tight. Tight as me and Hutch are, and we go back, further than me and Hutch, we go way back."

"I'm not surprised that you'd freely associate with the lower classes. But why should I care about this touching family history?"

"I've already talked to my man, and he's made the arrangements. Now, I'm playin' the odds, Forrest, but I'm pretty good at this. I'm suggesting to you that if you go before the arraignment with your lawyer and work out whatever you can try to work out on the charges we've already got against you, you're gonna end up with twenty-five to forty years of serious time. Not much to look forward to. But the chances are good you'll end up in the same pen and in the same wing with all the other 'businessmen' who've run into similar misfortunes. Life there, with your own, could be fairly comfortable since you're so high up on the food chain. On the other hand, you bring up Hutch's addiction, and we're pulling out all the stops. You against the choirboy. And maybe he'll have trouble in the department, and maybe he'll be benched, but you—I'm willin' to guarantee that you'll end up in the wing with all the hardened, violent criminals. No tidy, civilized businessmen on that wing. The real bad-asses. And that's where my family's got connections."

Forrest's eyes narrowed. "Are you threatening to have me killed in prison, Detective?"

Starsky rested his fingertips on the table and leaned forward, balancing on them. He shook his head slowly from side to side. "Oh, no, Forrest. I don't want you dead. I want you to live. So's you could enjoy every single day to the fullest. Just like you made Hutch and Jeannie enjoy it. You know, there are drugs in prison, too, Forrest. And what goes around comes around. For twenty-five to forty years."

There was silence between them for a moment as the criminal considered what Starsky had told them. Then Forrest's cheek twitched and Starsky knew he had won.

"It's up to you, Forrest. I'll make sure you get connected to your lawyer now. See you in court."

The gangster glowered in silence as Starsky backed out of the room. Never turn your back on another predator, he thought as he left, his face, his voice emotionless.

"How'd it go?" Bernie asked, when Starsky left the room.

"Good. Real good. His shyster's downstairs waitin' on him. You mind delivering him?"

"Sure, Starsky," Bernie assured him. "You get used to hauling garbage in this job."

Starsky stood in the hallway while Bernie manacled the prisoner and watched until the elevator closed on them. So he was taken completely by surprise when his arm was grabbed roughly from behind and he was spun around. Before he could recover, he was shoved into the same interrogation room Forrest had just left.

The door was slammed shut and he found himself confronted by his outraged captain. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Dobey bellowed. "Do you know everyone in this building has been looking for that prisoner? His lawyer's raising hell with the DA on down! And you've got him stashed in a private conference? Are you trying to get this case dismissed?"

"No, sir," Starsky said meekly. He knew when to capitulate. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen the captain this furious.

"What were you talking to him about? He can claim violation of his Miranda rights. He can—"

"He won't. It's okay, Cap...there were just some...things I had to say to him. It won't hurt the case, I swear."

"If it does...!" Dobey wagged a beefy finger in Starsky's face. "I'm not kidding, Starsky. You can't afford any private parties on this one. You know what it would do to Hutch if this were dismissed?"

A rush of blood colored Starsky's face and all the bottled rage he'd kept in check with Forrest threatened to explode. "You think I'd do anything to hurt Hutch, after all we've been through?"

Both men seemed to pause then and regroup, as if each realized they were just giving each other a chance to express emotions they couldn't otherwise.

"He still workin' on those reports?" Starsky asked, not allowing himself to face his own concerns.

"Yes," Dobey said, admitting that he'd been watching Hutch. "He looks like he needs to be hospitalized, not working on a police report. After the arraignment later today I want the two of you to take a few days off. Give yourselves time to recover."

"Thanks, Cap'n. We both need it."

"Are you...going to be with him for awhile?" Dobey asked.

"You know it. He's gonna be surprised when the need comes on him again in a few days, or two weeks from now. He ain't gettin' rid of me."

Dobey nodded. Then he looked Starsky right in the eye. "Be honest with me, Starsky. Is Hutch going to be okay?"

Starsky flared again. "Of course he is! How can you even ask me that?"

"I'm asking because I know what that stuff can do to a man. It destroys him from the inside out. If it had been you, I don't know that I'd need to ask, but Hutch.... He's strong, but he's not you. And you can be strong for him, and I know you will...but you can't give him back what they took from him, Starsky. Not even you can do that. And I'm asking because I've got two men to worry about. Is Hutch going to be there for you when you need him? On the street? With the pushers? And the junkies? And the junk? Or will you find yourself alone one night in a tight spot just when you need him?"

Starsky's jaw clenched as all his own fears slapped him in the face. "He's gonna be okay. He will. I'll make sure of it."

"Starsky—" Dobey admonished.

"It's my back he's gonna be watchin', ain't it?" Starsky snapped. "Then, it's my worry. He's gonna be okay. Now, I'm gonna go help my partner with our latest creative writing project. See you, Cap." He stormed to the door and yanked it open, then paused before leaving. Without looking back at the imposing black man, he said softly, "And thanks, Captain. Don't think I'll ever forget what you did for Hutch. I know it cost you, too." And then he shut the door to go back to the squadroom.


I come along but I don't know where you're taking me
I shouldn't go but you're wrenching dragging shaking me
Turn off the sun, pull the stars from the sky
The more I give to you the more I die
And I want you
You are the perfect drug
            The Perfect Drug — Nine Inch Nails

Two weeks later

Hutch briskly toweled himself dry, then cleared a section of the fogged mirror in Starsky's bathroom so he could shave. He no longer flinched whenever he faced his image since the worst of the facial wounds had faded. There was still a slightly yellow cast under one eye, and a faded cut over the other one, but they weren't that noticeable, and Hutch had never been that obsessive about his appearance. Basically, his face had once again assumed its familiar countenance. He glanced in the mirror, lathered his face efficiently and wielded the razor the same way he always did. But these days, he couldn't shake the impression that the face he was shaving wasn't his. The face he was shaving was actually a mask, something he'd put on to help him get through the day. He wasn't sure what his real face looked like, or that he'd recognize it if he even saw it, but this bland, white-bread exterior wasn't it. This was a choirboy's face. And he wasn't a choirboy any more.

"D'j'ou die in there, or what?" Starsky griped blearily from the other side of the door.

The familiar, cranky, nearly ever-present whine evoked so many conflicting emotions in Hutch he could no longer sort them out. As comforting as it was having Starsky with him constantly during the bad times—which still showed up with alarming regularity—it was equally exasperating to have him as a constant reminder of his own personal failure. He wondered if he'd ever be allowed to have a completely private moment again. Tamping down warring feelings of gratitude and resentment, he washed the remaining soap off his face and wiped his face clean.

Slinging a towel over his neck, he pulled open the bathroom door and faced his friend. "Good morning, partner. Haven't had our first cup of coffee yet, have we?"

"Me neither," Starsky grumbled and shuffled past him.

The dark curly hair was tousled in a thousand directions, as if malignant elves had played havoc with it all night. The deep blue eyes were narrowed to sleepy slits, while the heavy beard darkened the masculine, triangular face. Hutch noted all the familiar details of Starsky's typical morning appearance as they passed briefly in the doorway. He noted all of that and more.

Too much more.

He noted that not only were the bright red skin-tight briefs Starsky's only article of clothing this morning, but that their color stood in bold contrast with the dusky shade of his skin and the dark hair covering his well-shaped torso. He also noted how the briefs hugged his body like a second skin, outlining the voluptuous curves of his ass, and revealing the perfect contours of his heavy sac. Hutch wished he hadn't noticed these provocative details, just as he wished he hadn't spotted the vivid image of Starsky's morning erection, struggling to escape those bright red briefs as his partner made a beeline for the john.

But even as he wished to be oblivious to the poetic movement of taut muscle under tanned skin, he turned and started to say something else to his friend, if only to get Starsky to pivot once more in his direction. But before he could frame a thought, the bathroom door shut firmly in his face.

He was absurdly grateful yet disappointed at the same time. Silently, he placed his palm on the closed door as though he could absorb some needed vibrations right through the wood.

My partner. My buddy. The man who saved my life and my sanity. The man who keeps me safe. He closed his eyes wearily.

The man who's become my latest addiction.

He rested his forehead against the door and wondered if life would ever be normal again.

No. Not ever. Never. How could it? After what had happened to him. After what he'd done. After what he'd said. And especially now, with the way he felt.

We both need privacy, he realized. It's making us crazy, all this time together. But that was his fault, too. He couldn't bear to go back to the little yellow bungalow in Venice. The place where Monk had captured him all too easily. Starsky had brought his clothes and Huggy's cousin was watering the plants. Hutch needed to go apartment hunting, but there never seemed to be any time. Or at least he couldn't make any. The truth was, he wasn't ready to be out on his own yet. Living with Starsky was becoming too comfortable, too secure.

We both need time apart. Or with a change of company.

Even as he thought it, he knew it was a lie. The thought of being alone even for an evening terrified him. He didn't trust himself, and he knew damned well Starsky didn't trust him either. Why should he? Yet, their constant togetherness gave Hutch a pervading sense of claustrophobia that dogged his heels. Somehow, it always seemed more pronounced in the morning.

You'd feel better if you went back to jogging, he told himself, not for the first time. But he couldn't seem to get started. He didn't feel well enough. It was raining. They'd be late for work. There were always enough reasons to put it off.

And besides, Starsky hated jogging and wouldn't go with him. And leaving him behind had become impossible for Hutch.

You'd feel better if you got laid.

He slammed a door shut on that thought before it grew wings. But that was the truth, too. He would feel better...but there was only one person on the planet he had any interest in. He might as well be angling for a trip to the Moon. He'd just have to get over it. It couldn't be any harder than—

The memory of silver lightening in his veins came over him uncontrollably, making him shudder and bite his lip. Then it was gone that fast. Just a reminder. Of how good it was. How sweet. Would fucking Starsky be that sweet? Would he feel the same jolt of power, of heavenly euphoria if he slid inside that tight, hot mystery? Starsky—

He told himself it was just some weird backlash reaction to his experience. He'd had courses about this in the Police Academy, about how victims might react to violent crimes. They might become overly paranoid, dependent on others, obsessed with details, the need to control every aspect of their lives. Yeah, Hutch knew all the symptoms. But the focus in the Academy was how to help the victim give accurate testimony or to be a reliable witness in spite of these problems. Those courses never dealt with how to cure the symptoms. That wasn't a cop's problem. They never talked about what happened when a cop was a victim of violent crime. And they surely never talked about what happened when a cop was-was—

He didn't want to think about it, didn't want to put the words to it, but suddenly it was right there, in the forefront of his brain—

Abducted out of your own house. Beaten. Starved. Tortured. Shot up with junk. Addicted to horse. Injected into you. In your body. That seductive euphoria the only relief from the pain. The hunger. The terror. Until Starsky found you. Held you in his arms. Touched your face, your throat, freely giving you the absolute purity of his love. Which you promptly threw back in his face in the vilest way possible, showing him just how corrupt you had become.

He didn't even realize he was leaning against the door with his eyes squeezed shut and his hands balled into fists until Starsky opened it suddenly and Hutch nearly fell against him. Startled rudely back into the immediate present, Hutch vainly struggled to recover, but he knew the blood had drained from his face, knew he had that spacey, shell-shocked expression that was too familiar to them both.

Starsky grabbed his upper arms, supporting him as he regained his equilibrium. He didn't ask if Hutch was all right, or question what he was doing nearly lying against the bathroom door. He just held him up, his face a careful mask of non-emotion.

For Hutch, the contact was like an electric charge as his body reacted predictably to his partner's nearness. He could feel Starsky's heat, smell his personal musk, and his body went into overdrive. His nearly instant erection was just another slap of humiliation and regret that just added to a constant pileup of shame and embarrassment. Could he get any more screwed up?

"It's okay," Starsky murmured.

Hutch yanked himself out of Starsky's grip and turned his back in a desperate attempt to get himself under control. "The hell it is," he choked out, furious with himself and the body which had once done anything he'd wanted it to and now couldn't seem to mind the simplest request.

"You just need some coffee," Starsky insisted, moving over to the percolator and filling it with water.

"No coffee!" Hutch insisted, louder than he intended.

"Hutch," Starsky said, sounding exasperated.

"I said no coffee!" he said again firmly, his voice more controlled. "There are enough chemicals in there to start a factory. Not just caffeine and other addictive stuff, but stomach irritants and carcinogens. Pesticides from the growing fields—all kinds of crap. No coffee! You ought to give it up, too."

He hadn't touched a drop since that last morning in Huggy's upstairs room. I can still taste it though. Bitter. Yet sweet. So damned sweet. Almost narcotic. Starsky held the cup to my mouth and I drank, as I trembled all over and clung to his arms. It made me sick, but he didn't care, he just held me in his lap, giving me his love, trying to heal me. The way he touched me—

He jerked his mind away from the image.

Since then, no coffee, no beer, no alcohol of any kind, no sweets—nothing that might ever, in any way, claim his soul and remind him of the hunger he could never again satisfy.

He'd made his blenderized health drinks, scrutinized every scrap of food that entered his body for wholesomeness, and swallowed a regimen of vitamins and minerals that was so complicated it nearly took a chemist to figure it out.

"Hutch, you gotta stop this," Starsky said patiently. "You've drunk coffee since you were a kid and it never did you any harm. You act like a cup of coffee or a single beer is gonna—"

"You don't get it, do you?" Hutch snapped. "It could. When you've got an addictive personality...."

Starsky clenched his jaw. "Listen, partner, those people at AA are helpin' a whole lotta folks, and they know their stuff, but they're dealing with hard-core alcoholics. People who can't sniff a cork without getting the DTs. What happened to you has nothin' to do with what that. You didn't belong at that meeting you insisted on going to."

Hutch shook his head. "You didn't hear a word they were saying, did you? Sure, anybody fed the stuff I was fed would've gotten addicted, but most people would've gotten over it easier, shook it off faster. They wouldn't have-have—" The words jammed up in his throat.

They wouldn't have fought you the way I did. They wouldn't have tried to use you the way I did. They wouldn't have abused you, said the things I said to you...and they sure wouldn't have tried to sell themselves to you for a shot the way I did.

Hutch rubbed a hand over his face. No. He knew what he was. And he would spend the rest of his life fighting it. And that meant no coffee. No beer. Nothing addicting.

Which meant the only thing left for his brain to focus on was his partner, and the sudden, overwhelming and unreasonable desire he'd developed for him. Your only remaining addiction. Just something else you can never indulge. He wouldn't look at Starsky. At the sleek body clothed in nothing but the tormenting briefs. At the strong, confident sex that curved deliciously inside the front panel of the skimpy pants.

He knew the feel of that sex, knew its size, its heat, its strength. He'd held it in his palm, made it purr, made it come. So long ago, but he remembered. Such a simple contact, his hand on that rigid, responsive flesh. He'd never tasted it, but he wanted to. He could do that for Starsky, take him in his mouth. Starsky had done that for him long ago. Hutch had never done it before, but he was willing.

He imagined for just a second going down on Starsky and shivered a little. Starsky's erection moving in his mouth, against his tongue, held fast by his lips. Then almost immediately he imagined Starsky's erection moving forcibly into his body. Inside him. If he were honest, he'd admit that he wanted that, too. He was afraid of that, a little, of all the unknown factors of that exotic, erotic act. But he wanted it. He wanted it all.

Sure you do, he thought, annoyed. It doesn't take a Freudian analyst to figure that out. You need to be penetrated. To be injected. Fixating on a sex act with your partner is just a substitute for getting injected with some other fluid you can't have.

His body reacted helplessly to the sensual, visual images assaulting his brain.

"I thought you were gonna go jogging this morning," Starsky said quietly, startling Hutch out of his reverie so much, he flinched.

"I never said that."

"Last night. We were talking about it and—"

"You were talking about it," Hutch corrected.

"You were complaining about getting out of shape," Starsky reminded him.

"Maybe if we got up earlier I could go to the gym and work out," Hutch hedged. He knew they couldn't get up earlier because he still had trouble sleeping, and Starsky never closed his eyes until he was sure Hutch was out for the night. Because there's a part of him that's still afraid you'll go looking for a connection while he's asleep.

"Scenery's nicer around here, Hutch," Starsky said with a sly smile.

He felt himself go cold all over. Starsky was referring to Sharon, the cute brunette bank teller that lived a few houses down who went jogging first thing every morning. Hutch had gone out once for a run when they first started staying here and she'd appeared, almost out of nowhere, and accompanied him, trying to make small talk, until Hutch insisted he was out of breath, and had a serious stitch in his side and had to go back. She was such a nice girl, so clean and all-American, an open-hearted beauty. She deserved something a hell of a lot better than a broken cop with an addictive past and a weird jones for his partner. Hutch hadn't gone jogging again.

"Starsky," Hutch said, not looking at him. "I'm not ready for that yet." He wasn't talking about the physical act of jogging.

His partner didn't need a translation. "Why not? You're healthy, Hutch. You're gainfully employed. Fully functional."

So, you've noticed, Hutch thought mockingly. How could he not, since, lately, Hutch spent more time at full bloom than he had since he first hit puberty. Self-consciously, he rubbed the inside of his arm. The marks were still vivid. The very thought of a woman touching him there made his manhood shrivel. He shook his head. "No, I'm not. Not fully functional. That's a nice girl, Starsk. I'm not ready for that." He had serious doubts that he'd ever be again.

"Hutch," Starsky said, "life doesn't have to be this complicated. I swear it don't." He turned away and proceeded to make a pot of coffee.

Hutch felt his throat tighten in response and for the two thousandth time since this had happened to him, wished that Starsky's simple view of the world could be his as well.


Wild boys fallen far from glory
Reckless and so hungered on the razors edge you trail...
They tried to break us, looks like they'll try again
            Wild Boys — Duran Duran


He heard the baritone bark before the squad room doors had even swung shut behind them.

"Not yet," Starsky griped softly, fighting a nearly instinctive urge to hide behind his slightly taller partner.

Hutch glanced at him questioningly as if to say, Now what?

Dobey exploded out of his office into the squad room, amazingly quick for such a big man. His meaty fist clutched a tattered file jacket that he waved in the general direction of the seats they usually occupied. Not seeing them there, he swung around, finally spying them standing by the double doors. "Starsky!"

He tried to disarm the angry bear. He smiled sweetly. "You bellowed, mon capitan?"

"Don't give me that jive," Dobey snapped, using the file folder for emphasis. "You're late!"

Starsky lifted his left hand to glance at his watch, opening his mouth for a useless protest, but Dobey never gave him a chance.

"This report is a joke, Starsky. I want you in my office! Now!"

Dutifully, Starsky moved forward to enter the lion's den. Hutch moved quietly but steadily at his back.

"Your name's not Starsky, is it?" Dobey growled at him. "Don't you have some reports to finish?"

"Actually, no, Captain," Hutch said, in that calm, reasonable voice that drove Dobey nuts when he was on a tear. "You already have all my reports, typed and signed in triplicate—"

"Then finish one of his!" the captain shouted, pointing at Starsky. That stopped Hutch dead in his tracks.

Starsky glanced back at his friend, giving him a bit of non-verbal gratitude for his support as he slid past Dobey's bulk into the trapped confines of his very angry captain's inner sanctum. The door slammed tightly on Hutch's concerned expression.

Dobey slapped the folder down on his desktop and nearly threw himself into his beleaguered desk chair. Starsky didn't dare make himself comfortable, not when Dobey was this kind of pissed. "I want it straight, no fooling around." The crumpled file folder was shoved in a drawer and forgotten as dark eyes pinned Starsky in the center of the room and he felt all his natural defenses gathering around him. "What's going on with Hutchinson?"

Starsky felt his stomach muscles tighten as for one vertigo-induced moment he wondered if Dobey had found some way to spy on them this morning. He saw him and Hutch in their tense tableau, neither of them wearing much, Starsky clutching his partner to keep him on his feet, Hutch swaying, as if he were high, and sporting an erection that was positively scary.

Snap out of it! he warned himself. He couldn't afford to be paranoid now. Dobey knew them as well as anyone did, but if he suspected anything about their past, he kept it to himself.

"What do you mean, Captain?" Starsky asked, keeping his face and tone carefully neutral.

"Don't hand me any of that Brooklyn okey-doke!" Dobey shouted. He was making sure that was heard beyond the doors, to maintain the fiction of a report-gone-bad. "You know damned well what I mean."

But Starsky wasn't taking any chances. "Spell it out," he said abruptly.

Dobey stood and came around the desk. His voice was quiet, contained, yet deadly serious. "I've been watching him for the last two weeks. You know I have. You expected me to. So that means I know the same thing you know. Hutch isn't getting any better. In fact, I think he's getting worse."

Starsky felt the blood rush to his face as Dobey put words to the traitorous thoughts that had been trying to make themselves heard over his denials all this last week. "You're wrong!" he argued, but even he could hear the doubt.

"The hell I am," Dobey said, standing nearly toe-to-toe with him, as if he could force him to accept the truth simply by his proximity. "He's gaunt. He's not eating, is he? He's not sleeping well. I've seen him fast for a week and not look this pale, this haggard, this tired. Three days ago, Matthews said Hutch hesitated before pulling his weapon when the two of you showed up at firefight—"

"There were twenty cops on the scene with their guns out. I didn't—"

"Matthews said you were out of the car and armed and ready to go on the scene, but it wasn't until you moved around one of the black-and-whites and got in the line of fire that Hutchinson 'woke up,' as Matthews put it, drew his weapon and covered you."

"Which he did. And that's his job, isn't it? Covering me? Protecting my back. Matthews needs to worry more about that boob he's got riding beside him every day than paying attention to a cop of Hutch's caliber!"

"Forget the snow job, Starsky," Dobey growled, stalking around him. "You're covering for him. He looks like hell."

"Wha'd'ya talkin' about? He looks fine. All the bruises have faded, and the ladies can't take their eyes offa him, just like always."

"Yeah, the bruises have healed all right—on the outside. But inside, he's still bleeding. And you know it. I don't like what I'm seeing. He's covering the details almost obsessively, handling all the little things, while the big issue just sits there on his back—"

Starsky rebelled at the analogy. "Hutch is clean!"

"Chemically," Dobey specified. "I know that. But psychologically, physically—he's not healing. He's lost his inner strength, his confidence. He hesitates. He doubts himself. He second-guesses his every decision. What happened to his flash, his drive, his self-esteem? Not only has he not put this thing behind him, he hasn't even dealt with it. He's denying it and carrying it around with him. Instead of a monkey on his back, this experience is turning into a rabid gorilla!"

Starsky's jaw worked back and forth, but he couldn't find the words to deny Dobey's truth.

"It's hard to believe that it was just a few weeks ago he was such a strong, vital cop," Dobey said, more to himself than to Starsky. "He had everything going for him, a good career, a good life. He was a young man in love, at the peak of his form. And now—?"

It was almost painful for Starsky to remember back that far.

You know how it is, Cap'n, Starsky had said to Dobey right in this office. He's in love. Love! Pinches the capillaries.

When he failed to fight back, it seemed to take some of the harshness out of Dobey's stance. "Look, Starsky, I know it's asking a lot, expecting Hutch to just get over this. He's been victimized in the most brutal way. He should be under psychiatric care."

Starsky's head jerked up, his eyes wide. No! That'd kill him!

"I know, I know," Dobey acquiesced wearily, "that's the problem. The secrecy is part of Hutch's burden. Is he at least talking it out with you? In the evenings?"

No, we just shadow box around real issues, turn on the television, quarrel about what to eat and then watch as Hutch prowls the house like a prisoner not being given enough time in the yard.

"I didn't think so. He needs to open up, Starsky. He needs to talk to someone. If it's not gonna be you...well, I might be forced to send him to the department's doctor."

"You can't!" It was a whisper. A soft, helpless plea. Starsky had never heard himself sound this way in this office.

"He needs help, Dave," Dobey said just as quietly. He returned to his chair, looking defeated. "You think you know what's best for him, but I think you're too close to this whole thing."

Starsky felt as if the ground were turning to sand under him. There was a time when he was sure he knew what was best for his partner, but his own confidence had been roundly shaken by Hutch's addiction. But that didn't sway his defiance. He approached the desk. "We need more time." He was afraid it sounded too much like begging.

Dobey sat like an intractable Buddha, a potentate with total power over Starsky and the man he was determined to protect. There was a long silence as the two men held eye contact. Then finally, Dobey dropped his gaze. "Okay. You've got some. But not much."

"How much?" Starsky couldn't believe he'd had the temerity to push it, but he needed to know.

Apparently, Dobey was just as surprised by his brass. "I don't know!" he snapped. "That's my prerogative! But I'll tell you this: it won't be much longer. You find a way to help him pull it together, or he's on a desk in the mornings and a couch in the afternoons. You understand that?"

Starsky drew into himself and acknowledged the statement with sullen silence.

Dobey frowned. "I'm worried about you, too, Starsky. Because you're the one who'll get hurt if he's not functioning. I'm worried about you both."

"Hutch would never let me down," Starsky insisted.

"I sure hope you're right about that, son," Dobey said quietly. "Because it's your life you're betting."

Starsky gave an abrupt nod, then, without waiting for dismissal, left the office.

Hutch was sitting in his usual place at their desk, dutifully working, tapping away on the typewriter. Not only can he type, but he's got great legs. He'd make someone a perfect secretary, Starsky thought sarcastically.

"Wha'd'ya doin'?" he asked his partner wearily.

"Well, Dobey has a point," Hutch said blandly. "You are behind on your reports."

"So, you're writin' 'em?" Starsky asked incredulously. "Cut it out! Come on. We gotta hit the streets."

Hutch looked peevish. "I'm almost done with this—"

Starsky suddenly became painfully aware of the other detectives staring in astonishment as they realized what Hutch was doing. Normally, Hutch would rather spend three days nagging his partner into doing his half of the paper work, rather than three minutes actually doing it for him. It was a point of pride with him that he had a much easier time writing up the endless stream of reports than Starsky ever did.

Starsky reached over and abruptly yanked the paper out of the machine, making the carriage whir. "Later." He tossed it into their inbox, and without looking back marched toward the doors, trusting Hutch to follow.

"What's the rush?" Hutch asked, closing the gap. "And what the hell was going on with you and Dobey?"

"Later," Starsky growled again, storming through the corridors of the precinct. A precinct full of cops, and none of them able to help Hutch when he needed it. And with all these dozens of peace officers, there was only one who could help him now. And that one was wracked with doubt. Because Dobey was right. Hutch was in trouble. He needed help, serious help.

Starsky could hear those plaintive words from Hutch's own mouth as he lay shaking like a plague victim in Starsky's lap. I need help. Please. You gotta help me, Starsky. Help me....

He was still pleading for it, if silently. And Starsky was still unable to provide it. But they were running out of time. Hutch needed him. And if he couldn't find it within himself to produce a cure they would lose everything. Starsky wasn't ready to face that. He couldn't even think about it. But he had serious doubts that he could provide his partner with whatever help he really needed.

Wild boys never lose it
Wild boys never chose this way...
            Wild Boys — Duran Duran