This story was originally printed in the S/H zine TURNED TO FIRE, published by Idiot Triplets Press in 1994. This zine is still in print and available from LCabrillo@aol.com. Special thanks to Daphne G. for translating this story to an electronic format. Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
Starsky's eyes were open.
Staring at nothing. Blackness. Like anger.
He was afraid suddenly, a feeling of panic that gripped his soul and squeezed. Alone, he felt so alone. Locked in a prison of darkness.
Then, suddenly, he sensed a presence, one he knew only too well. In this new state of awareness, he could feel the other's thoughts as if they were his own . . .
Hutch moved with the graceful stealth of a cat, his sneakered feet silent on the floor. Never asking himself why he was being so quiet. He stopped beside Starsky's bed and hesitated a moment before lightly laying his hand on top of his partner's, calling his name softly.
No reply. No answering pressure either. Starsky's hand lay immobile on the white sheets.
Not knowing what else to do, Hutch continued speaking meaninglessly. "How you feelin'? Doc says you're gonna be up and around in no time, even be able to leave the hospital in a week . . . Starsky?"
Starsky wanted to close his eyes to shut everything out, realizing the absurdity of that . . . He didn't have to. He turned in on himself, but still couldn't shut out his partner's thoughts . . .
Hutch watched the blank face. Tears began slowly trickling down his own quietly, like a summer morning rain. Pain built steadily until he had to finally cry, "Starsky, dammit . . . Talk to me!"
Starsky turned his face away, wishing to withdraw even further. "What is there to say?" he spoke finally.
"Say? I love you? I'm scared?" Hutch whispered. "Please . . ."
Was his hearing already over-compensating? The soft plea cut right to his heart, and at long last he squeezed the warm hand in his tightly.
Hutch stood frozen as Starsky's other hand came up to touch his face, finding it as if by instinct. It was wet.
"Oh, God . . ." Starsky was torn between a powerful urge to run - if not literally, then inside himself - and an equally strong desire to hold Hutch and ease his pain. Take away the tears and hear him laugh again. Smile. See that smile. Those blue eyes. Please, God, I couldn't take never seeing them again. Never . . . His own eyes filled.
Hutch held on tighter, too. "I'm here," he said quietly.
I can't take this. Can't drag him down with me. The thought of Hutch spending his life nursemaiding a useless partner was too much to take. He knew it would be offered. How to play it? He'd long ago admitted that he needed Hutch. But did it really matter now? He could turn away, force Hutch to leave. The best thing.
Hutch's voice interrupted his thoughts, trying desperately to get through the wall he'd built up. "Don't turn away from me . . . Don't let go, Starsk." There was a pause. "Starsk?"
He couldn't help but catch the empty fear in the last words. He imagined Hutch's reaction to a rebuff. Knew he didn't have the strength to break that heart, two hearts. "Gotta go on with your life. Can't let you . . ."
"Together," Hutch whispered.
"Don't want you to be saddled with taking care of me all your life!"
"You'd let me die for you."
Starsky found a rueful smile somewhere. "Wouldn't have much say in the matter."
"What makes you think you do now?" he challenged.
"I just want . . . I wish . . . I'm sorry, Hutch."
Hutch moved his free hand so that Starsky's left was clasped between both of his. "I don't have much choice in the matter, either." He waited, almost holding his breath. Hoping Starsky knew the truth for what it was. Needing reassurance, but knowing that would be his job to give during the long road ahead. He blinked back a tear, then remembered it didn't matter and let them have their say. One advantage.
Starsky sighed, almost wishing they weren't so close, that he couldn't hear his partner's thoughts, screaming inside his head. Almost. No good fighting something that strong. The price to be paid for the gift. No way to spare him, for what was done to one was felt by the other. Sometimes even more intensely. His free hand joined the clasp by grasping Hutch's. It encountered even more warm wetness. "Don't cry for me."
Hutch gave what came out as a half-laugh/half-sob. "Don't be conceited - I'm crying for me."
They both did then, enfolding each other in desperate arms. Holding on to the only thing left - love. Time ceased to have any meaning; they were suspended in a world of their own. Sharing, as always, be it joy or pain.
When they finally separated, Hutch wore a very soggy smile. One that his partner would never see.
Starsky yawned. He was tired, so very weary. "Hospitals must turn out more drug addicts than the streets, all the stuff they pump into ya." His eyes fluttered closed. Sweet sleep. Time enough to hurt another day.
Hutch lightly touched Starsky's nose with an index finger. "Be back later."
Starsky waited patiently for sleep to claim him. With Hutch's face clear and bright before his closed lids.
At the feel of a hand in his curls, Starsky drifted out of his reverie, stretching out his legs and leaning back against Hutch. The warm summer morning flowed around them pleasantly.
"Daydreaming again?" came a gentle voice.
Starsky turned his face up to Hutch's, those warm blue eyes a loving sight. "Would you still love me if I were blind?"
Hutch raised his eyebrows. "With your imagination, you oughtta be a writer."
"Avoiding my question?" he teased.
Hutch sighed, and Starsky knew he'd caught the hint of insecurity behind the casual tone. It would always be the same. The blond spoke solemnly, sincerely. "Love you till I die."
Starsky sat up, twisting around to face Hutch, his expression feigned indignation. "That's all?!"
Hutch gave his partner an exasperated look, smile slowly breaking out to meet Starsky's tender grin. He ran a finger down Starsky's nose affectionately.
A light rain began to fall.