A Secret

(c) March 2012 by Charlotte Frost


Harold Dobey moved as deftly as his rotund body was able, holding his gun up, and standing with his back against the wooden building of the old house in the country.  A few yards away, Hutchinson came up stealthily to the wooden porch, hardly making a sound, as he straightened to stand between the front door and another window, his back also against the house.

He was dressed in a black leather jacket which seemed big on him, thereby adding a further factor of intimidation to his intense stance.  His scruffy mustache also projected the appearance of a determined man who had every intention of getting what he wanted.

What he wanted at this moment was his partner, who was hopefully being held inside the house.  That's where all their information the past few days had led -- to this house owned by Ricky Stanton, who had threatened retaliation against Starsky when sent to prison seven years ago.  He'd been paroled five months ago.  Starsky had been missing for three days.

Dobey watched as uniforms also took up strategic places, hiding behind nearby trees, as Dobey had instructed.

All was ready.  Dobey nodded at Hutchinson.

Hutch pounded sharply on the door with his fist.  "Police!  Come out with your hands up!"

Dobey listened.  There was no sound from inside.  Not of Stanton, or of Starsky.

Hutch pounded again, and repeated the demand, his anxious eye on Dobey.

Silence prevailed.

Hutch tensed with anticipated movement.  Dobey moved toward the front door, also tense, his gun ready, as he nodded at Hutch.

Hutch turned to the door and kicked it open.  It flew back so easily that he stumbled and almost went down.

"Starsk!" he called, recovering.

Dobey glanced over at the nearest uniform, Anderson, as all started to approach the house..  "Stay back for now."

He heard a noise from a back room.

Dobey couldn't keep up fast enough as Hutch rushed down a brief hall and turned into a room, his gun drawn.

Then Dobey heard a gentle, "Ah, Starsk."

Dobey called out, "Anderson?  Take two men and secure the house."  He doubted Stanton was here, but the house had to be secured, and now his and Hutchinson's attention was going to be elsewhere.

Dobey entered the room amongst murmurs of, "I'm here.  I'm here."

Starsky was standing naked in the room, his arms suspended above his head by ropes.  His damp gag had been pulled down to his chin, and he was breathing harshly, as though desperate to take in air.  He couldn't hold his head up, and it was resting against Hutch's chest.  Hutch was reaching up to where Starsky's hands were tied to a hook from the ceiling.

The most obvious injuries, besides his bruised face, were the cigarette burns on Starsky's inner thighs.

"Ah, buddy."

Dobey looked up at Hutchinson's words, following the blond detective's gaze.

Starsky's right wrist was swollen within the rope, as were two fingers on that same hand, hanging at an unnatural angle. 

It was all Dobey could do not to curse.  He took the two steps to the entrance of the room.  "Someone get me a blanket.  And where's the ambulance?"

"It's on the way."

"Water," Hutch said.

"And water," Dobey added. 

As he turned back into the room, Dobey saw that Hutch was working on the knots of the rope, having to stretch his full length and stand on his tiptoes. There was a single bed against a wall, and Dobey moved to pull it closer, so Starsky would have somewhere to collapse.

"Almost got it, buddy," Hutch whispered gently.  Then, to Dobey, "Support his arm when he comes down."


Starsky continued to take troubled breaths, his cheek pressed against Hutch's black leather jacket.  He lips were dry and chapped.

Dobey hated seeing him like this, hated thinking of what had been done to him..  He put a hand on Starsky's bare shoulder, and squeezed briefly..  "Easy does it, son."

"Here we go," Hutch warned.

Dobey reached to grab Starsky's right forearm.  He squeezed to hold the wrist still, as Starsky collapsed against Hutch. 

Starsky let out a harsh whimper, and then Hutch was lowering him to the bed, on his left side.  The bed had a single sheet, and the blanket had been pushed aside.

Dobey couldn't assist Hutchinson, because his entire focus was on keeping Starsky's wrist immobile.  He stepped to the head of the bed.

"Captain Dobey?" came Anderson's voice just outside the room.

Dobey noticed that Hutch seemed to be covering Starsky with his body, so his nudity couldn't been seen.  "What is it?"

The officer came in with a blanket and bottle of water.  He dropped them near Hutch.  "The house is secure.  There's no sign of Stanton."

"All right.  Get everyone out of sight, in case he returns.  But someone needs to watch for the ambulance."

"Right."  Anderson left.

Dobey's attention returned to his two detectives.  Hutch was kneeling and had loosely pulled the bed's blanket around Starsky, and then grabbed the bottle of water from the floor.  Starsky was still gasping, and had a strangle hold on Hutch's jacket, his fingers burying into the leather as though he never intended to let go.

"I've got water, buddy.  Hang on a minute."

Dobey wished he could help more, but he was using both hands to keep Starsky's injured arm from coming into contact with anything, to spare him a more intense degree of pain than he was surely already suffering.  He didn't want to think about how Starsky's two fingers had become broken, let alone his wrist.

Hutch lifted Starsky's head and poured the water between his lips.  Starsky's took huge gulps.  "Easy does," Hutch murmured.  "There's plenty."

Dobey admired the calm Hutch was projecting, for he knew he was outraged at his partner's condition.

As Dobey himself was.

After consuming half the bottle, Starsky's eyes opened more fully, and he gasped, "Hutch?"  He switched his grip from Hutch's jacket, reaching inside of it to where Hutch's shirt was and gripped his side.

Hutch stroked his head.  "It's all right, partner.  Ambulance is on the way."  He lowered his own head so he was more eye level with Starsky.  "I know your wrist and your fingers hurt a lot.  You hurt real bad anywhere else?"

Starsky gazed back at Hutch, and Dobey watched as Starsky's eyes started to water.  Then he said, "Ribs."

"Okay," Hutch said softly.  He squeezed Starsky's shoulder. "Keep hold of me, okay?  I'm right here."

While Starsky closed his eyes gratefully, Hutch shifted the blanket, moving it back from his partner's waist.  He lifted the second blanket from the floor and let it rest in front of Starsky.  Then he took one corner and gently moved Starsky's upper leg back.  "Easy does it, buddy."    Using the blanket, he touched Starsky's genitals, and got up more on his knees, trying to see more of the flesh.  "Easy, buddy.  Easy."

Hutch straightened even more, and pushed the blanket back farther.  He looked along Starsky's buttocks, and down toward his crotch.  He glanced at Dobey and said, "The burns are just on his thighs."

Dobey nodded, relieved.  He then understood that when Starsky was gazing at Hutch with his eyes watering, he was trying to tell him about the burns, even though he'd only verbally complained about his ribs.

"What's this?" Hutch said.  He had pushed the blanket from Starsky's back, while re-covering his lower body.

There were a few red welts across Starsky's flesh.  The skin hadn't been broken, but it was swollen, and the marks appeared too thick to be from a whip.

Dobey muttered, "Perhaps a billy club."

Hutch quickly looked away, and covered Starsky back up, murmuring, "It's okay.  The ambulance should be here soon."


Dobey looked up to see Anderson in the doorway.  The patrolman said, "The ambulance got a flat tire."  He nodded at Starsky.  "Maybe we should take him in a police car."

"Yeah," Hutch said quietly, "we need to get him out of here."

Dobey agreed wholeheartedly.  Plus, he wanted no sign of police when Stanton returned, so they could surprise him.  "We need something to stabilize his wrist.  Find something to splint his wrist and fingers."

"Yes, sir."  Anderson moved away.


Dobey had barely heard the whisper.

Hutch leaned close.  "Yeah?"

Starsky seemed to gather his energy.  "So tired."

If it were possible for a human being to melt, Dobey thought he was witnessing it in Hutchinson.

Hutch placed a hand on Starsky's head.  "I know, pal.  We're going to get you out of here.  You can sleep all you want on the way to the hospital.  Okay?"

Starsky's eyes started watering again.  "Hurts."

Hutch shifted closer.  "I-I know.  Keep hold of me.  I'm right here."

Dobey wondered if Starsky was most bothered by his broken bones, or by the burns.  He hadn't gotten a good look at the burns to see how bad they were, or how fresh they might be.

Dammit, if the ambulance had come, they could have at least given Starsky something for the pain.

As though to distract Starsky, Hutch said, "I've been looking for you for three days, partner."  He stroked back through Starsky's hair.  "Wish I would have figured it out sooner."

The distraction was working for Starsky whispered, "S'okay."

"Would you like some more water?" Hutch reached for the bottle.

Anderson appeared.  "We've gathered this.  And I found this pillow case and cut it up, so maybe it can be a sling."

"Excellent," Dobey said, as Anderson put a cut pillow case and various firm objects, such as a ruler, and sticks from outside, in a bundle next to Hutch.

Hutch glanced back up Anderson, while holding the water bottle to Starsky's lips.  "Try to find some kind of small sheet or something, and soak it in cold water."

Dobey realized Hutch was going to try to soothe the burns.

As Hutch took the water bottle away, Dobey felt the arm he held try to pull back, Starsky whimpering a protest.

He firmly said, "Don't move your arm, Starsky."

Hutch glanced up. "Easy, buddy.  We're going to get you all splinted up here, so you'll be more comfortable.  Just bear with us."

It seemed to take a long time.  While Dobey positioned Starsky's fingers, Hutch put two wooden sticks on either said and wrapped them in the gauze provided.  Starsky cried out.  Hutch's own eyes watered, but he kept to his task.

The wrist was easier, Starsky only gasping in recovery from the prior pain.  They put the ruler along his wrist, and then wrapped that in gauze. 

"There you go," Hutch soothed.

Dobey carefully lowered Starsky's arm until it rested across his chest. 

Dobey squeezed Starsky shoulder while Hutch worked with the pillow case, and then managed to put the largest portion under Starsky's arm. He tied the strips behind his neck.

Dobey noticed that Starsky's good hand still had a tight grip on Hutch's side.  Now, Hutch clasped the hand, and with a soft, "Hey there, pal," he was able to wrench it from his flesh.  He intertwined his fingers with Starsky's.  "Just hang on a minute and we'll have you ready to leave."

Dobey went to the entrance of the room, just as Anderson appeared with a pillowcase that had been torn down one side and was soaking wet.  "Thanks," Dobey said, taking it.  "We're going to take him in my car.  Put the front passenger seat as far forward as you can, and open the back doors."

"Do you want an escort?"

"That would be good, but just one car.  The rest of you stay behind and wait for Stanton."

Anderson nodded and moved away.

Hutch turned and took the pillow case from Dobey.  After his attention was back on Starsky, he said, "We're going to try to cool you off a bit, partner."  He pushed the blankets back from Starsky's legs.  "Easy, buddy.  Easy."  Carefully, Hutch placed part of the pillow case over Starsky's upper thigh. 

Starsky seemed puzzled by what was happening, and then tensed.

Hutch then folded the pillow case so that it was double-layered, and then shifted Starsky's other leg, so that the thigh on top of it.  He whispered, "Does that feel better?"

Any answer Starsky had was delivered as he gazed back at Hutch.

After a long moment, Hutch broke the eye contact and looked up at Dobey.  "I think we should wrap the blankets around him, and then carry him out."

Dobey moved to assist, and Hutch squeezed Starsky's hand.  "We'll be taking you out in a minute, and you can sleep on the way to the hospital." 

Starsky gasped heavily as they shifted him, trying to get the both blankets wrapped around him, and his sling, so that he was almost in a cocoon.

Dobey asked, "I'll get Anderson to help carry him."

"No, I'll carry him."

"You can't carry him by yourself."

Hutch's face closed.  "Yes, I can.  I've done it before."

"Over your shoulder?"  Surely, that would be awkward and painful.

"No.  I'll carry him.  You just hold his head up, so he can breathe."

Dobey wondered in what circumstance Hutch, who was known to have a bad back, had carried his partner.

Hutch placed his hand against Starsky's cheek.  "Buddy?  I'm going to lift you up and carry you to the car.  I know it's going to uncomfortable, but you'll be able to rest then.  All right?"

Starsky hadn't been specific about where his ribs hurt.  Dobey wondered how bad this was going to be.  And then there were the marks on Starsky's back.

The whisper was barely audible.  "'Kay." .

"Here we go," Hutch said, gathering Starsky up.

Dobey watched in disbelief as Hutch slipped his arms beneath the blankets, and then lifted while getting to his feet.

Starsky's head fell back, and Dobey rushed to grab the back of it with both hands, lifting it, while moving with Hutchinson's steady steps.

Starsky gasped at they moved out the room, but it was Hutch who had sweat breaking out on his forehead.

Anderson had the front door open wide, and they carefully moved through it and onto the porch.  And then, so carefully down the three steps, Hutch cutting across the front lawn to get to Dobey's car faster, where the back doors were opened.  Anderson was on the far side.

Hutch leaned into the backseat with his burden, and carefully placed Starsky on the vinyl.  "Hang on, hang on," he said, straightening.  He then trotted around to other side.

Dobey moved toward the driver's side.  He watched as Hutch got in, lifting Starsky's upper body in the process.  Eventually, he nodded at Anderson to close the door.  Once it was shut, he leaned back against it, with Starsky's upper body against his own upper body.

Anderson said, "I told Martin to not put on the siren until you hit the city.  Maybe you should take the back way out, so you don't run into Stanton.  The road leads to Shimmer Street."

Dobey nodded.  "Good idea."

Anderson moved to the squad car in front of them to relay the message to Martin. 

Dobey got in the driver's seat.  "How's he doing?" he asked as he pulled his door closed and started the car.

"Hanging in there," Hutch said in a gentle voice, as though speaking as much to Starsky.

After they started moving forward, Dobey glanced back in the rearview mirror.  Starsky's good hand was sticking up from the cocoon of blankets, and Hutch had clasped it.

"We're rolling now, buddy," Hutch said gently.  "Try to sleep, okay?  You won't have to move again until we're at the hospital."

Dobey watched as Hutchinson rested his head back against the window.  He seemed eager for sleep, too.  Still, Dobey felt compelled to ask, "When have you carried him before?"

"When he was shot in the back of his shoulder at the restaurant.  The Vic Monty intended hit.  Starsk was shot in the dining area, and I carried him to a sofa in a back office."  Hutchinson's gaze was toward the opposite of the car, rather than looking at Dobey.  Distantly, he said, "Thank God for that back office.  I don't think we could have gotten out of there alive, if we hadn't had some privacy there to strategize."

Dobey heard Starsky make some murmuring noises.

"Easy does it," Hutch soothed.  "I'm right here.  You're going to be all right, pal.  Just hang on a little longer."

Dobey asked, "Did you get a good look at the burns?"

"No.  I don't know how bad they are."  Hutch's voice was flat.  "They just looked really painful."

Dobey glanced in the mirror to see Hutch squeeze Starsky's blanketed shoulder, and then close his eyes.

Dobey focused on driving.


There wasn't much for Hutch to do at the hospital.  They gave Starsky pain killers and that put him right to sleep.  He had a developing infection in a few the burns, and was being treated with antibiotics.  The doctor wanted to keep him in the hospital until his fever subsided.

He did get the news that Stanton had been arrested and brought in.  But the man refused to cooperate and wouldn't answer any questions about what had taken place between him and Starsky.

The next morning, Hutch stopped at the hospital before going into work.  Starsky was on his side, a sheen of sweat on his forehead, lying with his legs parted, where ointment and bandages had been applied beneath the hospital smock.  His right wrist was in a cast that went partway up his forearm, the two protruding fingers also in the protective plaster covering.  He had two cracked ribs in his back.

Hutch made small talk for a bit, trying to be cheerful, and also trying to gauge his partner's mood. 

Starsky's eyes get blinking, as though he was having a difficult time staying awake.  He said with soft gruffness, "You don't need to stay here.  I'm just sleepin'."

Hutch laid a hand on Starsky's good arm, which rest on top covers.  "I'll just stay until you've fallen asleep again.  Then I'll check back with you this afternoon."

Starsky's made a point of opening his eyes wider.  "Hutch?"

Hutch cleaned closer.  "Yeah, pal?"

Starsky took a breath, then whispered.  "I need to tell you something.  Later."  He swallowed heavily.  "Don't let me chicken out."

Hutch blinked, feeling a sense of alarm.  But his voice was calm when he said.  "Sounds important."

Starsky closed his eyes.  "Later," he insisted.  His eyes squinted open.  "When I've got my sense of humor back."  His mouth corner twitched.

Hutch felt better with those words.  "Okay, pal, I won't let you forget."  He squeezed Starsky's hand and softened his voice.  "Go to sleep now.  I'm right here."


"Stanton?" Hutch asked as he entered the squad room, where Dobey was at a filing cabinet.

"Still not talking."

Hutch sighed.  He wondered what Starsky wanted to tell him -- something serious enough that he might be tempted to "chicken out".  Of course, it's possible that it might not have anything to do with Stanton.  But Hutch couldn't imagine why it wouldn't.

"How's he doing?" Dobey asked.

"No worse.  They're just waiting for the fever to break.  At least he's been able to sleep."  Hutch firmed his jaw.  "I want to talk to Stanton."

"I don't know what good that would do."

"I want to try."

"He'll want his lawyer present."

"That's fine."


Later that afternoon, Hutch was at the jail, and he met with Stanton and his lawyer in a room.

Stanton had a scraggly red beard and mustache.  He was between Starsky and Hutch's heights, and had a heavily muscular build.

As Hutch approached the small table where Stanton and his attorney were seated, both smoking cigarettes, he saw the ex-con give him a blatant up and down look.

It could simply be an intimidation tactic.  But Hutch had a feeling that it was intended to tell him something.

Considering the way Starsky had been restrained, it was difficult not to consider sexual assault.  But when Hutch had given his partner a quick cursory onceover, while looking primary for burns in sensitive areas, he'd also noted that there hadn't been any bruising, bleeding, or abrasions in his partner's waist area, and had felt confident that Starsky hadn't been assaulted in the worst possible way.  In addition, the hospital's thorough medical exam hadn't turned up anything beyond the obvious injuries.

But there was the mysterious something that Starsky was wanting to tell him.

Hutch sat down.  Calmly, he asked, "How did Sergeant Starsky's fingers get broken?"

Stanton shrugged.  "You'll have to ask him."

Starsky hadn't been well enough to give a statement yet.  Hutch wasn't looking forward to knowing how the broken bones had come about.

Stanton grinned with a leer.  "So, you're the one."

"The one what?"

Stanton's grin widened.  "Oh, no.  I tell when I need something to negotiate with.  I'm sure there's a lot of citizens of this county, as well as your superiors, who would like to know about the two of you."

Hutch glanced at the attorney and noticed that he seemed disinterested, and was even looking away while enjoying his cigarette.

"Know what?"

Stanton snorted and shook his head.  "Play dumb all you want.  Starsky made a big mistake with me.  He shouldn't have been such a pussy and spilled the beans." 

Hutch's insides jumped at the offensive word.  It was all he could do to not launch himself across the table, which would be a pointless exercise. 

He remained outwardly calm.  "You're going to have to do better than that.  There aren't any beans to spill, so you don't have anything to negotiate with."  Hutch was afraid, however, that there might be.  He just couldn't imagine what.  What had he and Starsky done that Starsky would have revealed to Stanton during a torture session, that could somehow be used as ammunition against them?

It didn't make sense, and he was all the more eager to talk to his partner.  But he didn't want to push when Starsky wasn't ready.

Hutch tried a few more questions about Starsky's kidnapping, but Stanton remained silent and smoked his cigarette.


When Hutch entered Starsky's hospital room early in the evening, his partner was looking more alert, and was sitting upright against the pillows.

"Hey, buddy," Hutch greeted with a smile, "you're looking better."

Starsky smiled back, and said in a gruff voice, "Fever broke a little while ago.  I can go home first thing in the morning."

"Fantastic."  Hutch sat in a chair beside the bed.  "How are your injuries feeling?"

"The burns don't hurt as much, but they sort of itch."  He indicated his cast.  "This doesn't really bother me anymore.  It'll be just learning how to maneuver around with it."  He grimaced.  "My arms and shoulders are sore as hell, from being trussed up like that."

"Yeah."  Hutch hesitated, and then carefully said, "I interviewed Stanton."

Starsky looked up at him.  "Yeah?"

"Yeah."  Hutch drew a heavy breath.  "He's talking like he has something on us."

Starsky snorted.  "He doesn't.  I guess he might think he does, but he doesn't."

Hutch gazed at Starsky a long moment.  Gently, he said, "There's something you want to tell me."

Starsky swallowed and looked away.  "Not now, Hutch.  Not here." 

Hutch reached to squeeze his hand.  "Does it have to do with what Stanton thinks he has on us?"

Starsky was still looking away.  "Sort of.  But he doesn't have anything."  He turned toward Hutch, suddenly weary. "I'll tell you tomorrow.  After you've taken me home."

Hutch couldn't argue with Starsky's determination.  "Okay."

"Look.  Why don't you bring me a notepad and a pen from the gift shop, and I'll write out my statement.  It'll give me something to do while I'm waiting to get sprung from here."

"Okay, but are you planning on writing it, or do you want to just tell me and I'll do the writing?"

"Hutch, come on.  I want you to go home after you bring me the paper.  I don't want to see your reactions while I'm trying to recall everything, okay?  You'll get to read it tomorrow morning, when you come and get me."

Hutch's stomach tightened as he bowed his head.  "That bad, huh?"

Starsky's managed a slight smile.  "I survived it, buddy.  I'm going to be fine."

Hutch shifted restlessly.  "I know you are."  He reached to squeeze Starsky's hand again.  "I just don't like you reliving that nightmare, all alone."

"The nurses coming in and out will keep me distracted.  They keep wanting to look at my upper thighs."

Hutch snorted at the attempt at humor.  "All right, but I'm going to be calling you a couple of times this evening, just to make sure you're doing all right."  His gaze hardened slightly.  "Don't lie to me, buddy."

Starsky swallowed.  "Fair enough."

Hutch left to go down to the gift shop.  He was more puzzled than ever.  If Stanton thought he had information that wasn't really true, then why had Starsky told Stanton such information in the first place?  And if it was something that wasn't really true, then why couldn't Starsky simply tell him?  Why wait until he was surrounded by the comfort of home?

What bothered Hutch most was that he knew Starsky had his reasons.


Hutch called Starsky's room when it was going on seven.  "Hey, it's me," he said when the phone was answered.

"Hey, Blintz."

"How's it going?"

"I actually haven't written much, because I start falling asleep.  Guess I'm more tired that I thought."

"Yeah, well, you can always write it later, buddy.  You need to rest while you can."

"What did you have for dinner?"

"A chicken sandwich from leftover chicken.  It was stale, though."


"What did you have?"

"Something that was supposed to resemble roast beef, but it tasted like cardboard."

"Sorry, pal.  Hey, um, I'm going to check in with you in a couple of more hours, okay?"


Hutch hung up a short time later.

Hutch called again at nine. 

Starsky sounded subdued when he answered.  "Hello?"

"How you doing, buddy?"

"I was able to focus for a while, so I've gotten most of it written."



"Are you all right?"

"Yeah.  I'm just giving the facts, you know.  The stuff that matters."

Hutch's chest tightened.  That meant Starsky was leaving something out.  "Uhm, as long as, you know, you can't be tripped up in court."

Firmly, Starsky's dry voice said, "Stanton isn't going to say anything that's not the report, if he says anything at all.  That would be like a confession."

Hutch reminded, "He thinks he has something to negotiate with."

"That's just tough talk.  If he was going to negotiate, he'd already be involved in talks about it, but you didn't mention anything about that today."

"No,  It just sounded like he was waiting for the right moment."

Starsky repeated, "He'll never say anything against us, because it'll just make him seem the guiltier."

Hutch felt some of his worry slip away.  That also meant that, whatever Starsky was going to tell him tomorrow, apparently just concerned the two of them.  He said, "Do you think you're going to finish the report tonight?"

"Yeah.  I want to."

"Why don't you call me when you're done?  Or, if you change your mind and decide to sleep instead?  I won't be able to sleep unless I'm sure you're all right."

With affection, Starsky said, "You're a big baby."

Hutch had no interest in denying it, where his partner was concerned.  "Okay?"

"Yeah, all right."

"Thanks, buddy."


It was forty minutes later when Hutch's phone rang.  "Hello?" he greeted.

"All right," a tired voice said, "I'm done.  I'm going to sleep.  Here's your phone call." 

"You okay?"

"Yeah, it's okay, Hutch.  I'm glad it's over with."

"How do you feel?"

"My shoulders are really bothering me," Starsky said in a mumble.  "It's hard to get comfortable.  The nurse gave me a shot, some kind of muscle relaxant."

"Sounds like you're fading out.  I'll be bringing you some clothes, some sweats tomorrow.  Dobey let me have the day off, so I can babysit you and we can talk."

Hutch heard Starsky's thick swallow through the line.  "It's going to be okay, buddy." 

"Yeah."  Then, "Hey, Hutch?  Bring me one of those breakfast burritos from Sammy's.  I can eat it and get dressed while you're reading the report."

"You got it, partner.  Sleep tight."

Hutch heard the smile in the reply, "Same to you."


Starsky didn't want Hutch in the room with him while he read the report.  So, Hutch went to a waiting room down the hall, while Starsky ate his burrito and got dressed.

Stanton had broken one of Starsky's fingers almost immediately after capture, to subdue him.  He had lured him out to the house, and with help from a couple of goons, had restrained Starsky by tying his hands to the hook in the ceiling.  Starsky had been desperately trying to use his feet, and that's when Stanton had grabbed his finger and broken it, so the pain would give him something else to think about.

That's how the other finger and hand had gotten broken, as a way of punishing Starsky for putting up a fight.  As for the marks on his back and cracked ribs, that was from a heavy wooden baton, that he'd hit Starsky with for the pleasure of it.  Just like the cigarette burns.  Stanton had threatened sexual assault, but it was all talk.  He'd threatened to kill Starsky eventually -- after he had a lot of fun with him.

His wrist had gotten broken when Starsky had promised to behave when Stanton untied him from the hook.  Instead, Starsky had taken a swing at him, but in his weakened condition, didn't have much affect, and Stanton had slammed his hand back against a window sill, which broke the wrist.  Then he immediately tied him as before.  Though Starsky was merely stating facts, Hutch felt nauseated, just thinking about the pain Starsky hand and fingers have had to been in, to be tied up like that, on top of the pain from the broken bones.

Thankfully, Stanton tended to get bored easily, and he'd often be gone for a few hours after tormenting Starsky.  Otherwise, Starsky's injuries would have been much worse.  Still, when Stanton seemed tired of hitting him with the baton, he had resorted to burning Starsky's sensitive flesh with a cigarette.

Starsky ended the report with, "And then Hutch came."

Hutch folded up the report and put it in his jacket pocket.

When he pushed the door open to Starsky's room, Starsky was sitting on the bed, dressed in sweats, and staring out the window.

Gently, Hutch asked, "Ready to go?"

Starsky turned his upper body toward the door, and then restrained a gasp, which Hutch knew was from his sore shoulders.

"Easy does it," Hutch said, approaching the bed.  When he came around it to face Starsky, Starsky looked up at him with worried eyes.

Hutch met those eyes.  "If I hug you, it'll hurt, won't it?"

Starsky's mouth corner twitched.  "Probably."  Then, "It's okay, Hutch.  I'm okay.  I'll be as good as new eventually.  In some ways, it wasn't any worse than what Simon's goons did.  Except for the breaking my wrist and fingers part."

Hutch felt his fist curl.  "If I'm ever alone in a room with Stanton....."

"Easy," Starsky soothed.  "You're not ever going to be in a room alone with him, so forget it.  So, how about getting a nurse with a wheelchair, so I can get out of this place?"


When they arrived at Starsky's apartment, Hutch got Starsky settled on the sofa, with a quilt, water, and a soda nearby.

"Comfortable?" Hutch asked, when he thought he'd done everything he could toward that goal.


Hutch stood looking at him with his hands in his back pockets.  Softly, he asked, "You ready to talk now?"

Starsky glanced away.  "No.  But I know we have to."

Hutch sat on the coffee table.  Gently, he asked, "Can you come right out and tell me what it is?"

Starsky closed his eyes, still looking away.  "You read where he was threatening to do it to me."

There was no question what "do it" meant.  "Yeah," Hutch said.

"The first day, he talked it a lot, but that's all, and I was thinking he just liked threatening it."  Starsky swallowed thickly and opened his eyes, while still looking away.  "The second day, he kept talking about me being fresh meat.  And then I heard him, behind me, unzip his pants."  Starsky squeezed his eyes shut.

Oh my God, Hutch thought.  And yet, there hadn't been any sign of sexual assault.

Starsky forced his eyes open.  His voice trembled as he said, "I knew there wasn't going to be anything I could do to stop him.  To prevent it from happening.  But, I hated him so much for what he was going to do, and the one thing I wasn't going to let him have was think he was getting fresh meat."  He struggled for a moment, trying to swallow.  Then he abruptly reached for the water Hutch had left on an end table, and downed a few heavy swallows.

Hutch reached to place his hand on Starsky's knee.  He was leery of offering any further compassion, because he suspected that Starsky needed space to say what he needed to say.

Starsky placed the glass down heavily.  He drew a few deep breaths and stared at the glass.  "So, I told him....  I told him.... I told that-that you and I had been doing it for years."  His mouth clamped shut.

Hutch waited, holding his breath, thinking that it had been a clever tactic.

"I didn't expect it to mean anything to him," Starsky said, his voice now filled with relief.  "But it made all the difference.  He lost interest in that.  So, he started torturing me instead, doing the cigarette burns."  Another swallow.  "As much as that hurt, it was better than what he'd intended."

Hutch waited an extended moment.  When no other words were forthcoming, he squeezed the knee he held.  In his softest tone, he said, "Surely, you don't think for one second that it bothers me that you said something like that to spare yourself the worst kind of assault."  Then, more forcefully, "That's brilliant, buddy."

"I didn't expect it to work," Starsky said in a small voice.

"But thank God it did."

Starsky still wouldn't look at him.  He drew a deep, deep breath.  "There's more."

"What?" Hutch prompted in a whisper.

Starsky ran his tongue along his dry lips.  His voice trembled even more.  "At the time I said it, I wanted it to be true."

Hutch stared at him, uncertain of what to say.  He was puzzled, mostly, that Starsky seemed to think this was such a serious trespass against their relationship.

Starsky closed his eyes, as he continued, "Because....  Because if it were you doing it to me, it would be something warm... and tender.  It wouldn't be anything like what he wanted to do."

"Buddy," Hutch said in his softest tone, rubbing his thumb along the edge of Starsky's knee, "none of this is bothering me, if that's what you're worried about."  His own voice trembled.  "I'm just so sorry you had to go through that.  That I wasn't there."

"You were there in my imagination," Starsky said in a tight voice. 

Hutch nodded his head.  "Good."  His thumb continued to rub at the knee.  "If me being there in your imagination gave you some kind of comfort, some kind solace, then I'm glad you could think of me like that."  His hand moved from the knee, to partway up Starsky's leg, through the quilt.  "Did you really think I was going to be upset by you telling me this?"

Starsky seemed to burrow down into the quilt.

"Buddy, can you look at me?"

Starsky hesitated, and then his pained eyes met Hutch's. 

Hutch asked, "What are you so afraid of?"

Starsky expression turned sheepish.  "It felt like selling us out.  Using our partnership."

"We've always used our partnership," Hutch said emphatically.  "That's what it's for.  To be there for each other. We've never put boundaries on what kind of need is acceptable and what isn't."  Hutch lowered his own eyes.  "God, buddy, do you think for one minute that, under any circumstances, I'd want you to be raped, rather than have you tell Stanton what you said, or be even more scared than you already were, when thinking about me brought you a little bit of comfort?"

Starsky asked, "Even thinking of you like that?"

"Like what?" Hutch demanded.  "Like love?"

Starsky's expression seemed to soften, as he gazed at Hutch for a long moment.  "When you put it like that....."

"That sounded to me like how you put it."  More gently, Hutch said, "If thinking of me loving you is what made that horrible time a little bit bearable, then I'm glad you can think of me... like that."

It suddenly occurred to Hutch that there might be more to it.  But he wasn't sure how to clarify that.  For one thing, Starsky had had a traumatic experience, and he was on various drugs for the physical aspect of that trauma.  His defenses were lowered.   In less vulnerable circumstances, he might have kept all, or most, of this confession to himself.  Hutch didn't want to pry something out of Starsky when it would be taking advantage of his current mental state.

Instead, he tried to reach for neutral ground, asking, "Is there anything else you want to tell me?  That you think I should know?"

Starsky gazed at him for a long moment.  He blinked.  Then, "No."

"I mean," Hutch decided to venture, "is this the first time you've ever thought of me... like that?"  Maybe that was pushing, just a bit.

"Consciously, yeah."

Hutch wasn't sure what that meant.  But maybe that was something better left for Starsky to reveal on his own time.

Hutch asked, "Can I sit by you?"


Hutch moved from the coffee table to the sofa, sitting next to Starsky's quilted form.  He reached to squeeze the nearest upper arm.  "You feel better now?  That you got this off your chest?"


"And you know I'm not going to run away screaming or anything like that?"

Starsky snorted softly.  "I wouldn't have told you at all if I thought you were going to run away."

"But you've been afraid of telling me."

Starsky swallowed thickly, and then appeared thoughtful.  "This is a line we've never crossed, Hutch.  Even in imaginary circumstances."

"Our partnership can handle it," Hutch said firmly.

"Yeah.  Guess I should have known that, huh?"

Hutch shifted to rest his head against Starsky's upper arm, because he was leery of hurting his sore shoulders.  "Does this feel okay?"

"Yeah," Starsky said warmly.

"It's okay, buddy.  You went through a really rough time.  I don't blame you for being afraid of the fallout."  Hutch paused.  "Even if you're wrong about Stanton, and he does use what you told him to try to negotiate a lighter sentence in exchange for keeping his mouth shut, I don't see how that could be used against us.  You made something up to keep yourself from being sexually assaulted.  Nothing can be proven."

"Yeah.  I just don't want to be on the witness stand, talking about it.  That's why I left it out of my report."

"You're probably right, anyway.  Anything Stanton admits would just be evidence of his own intentions."

After they were silent for a moment, Hutch placed his hand against the quilt, over Starsky's stomach.  "I hope you feel better about everything now."

Starsky worked his left arm from beneath the quilt and plopped his hand down on top of Hutch's head.  "I don't know what I'd do without you, Hutch."

Hutch smiled warmly.  "Hopefully, you won't have to ever find out."

"Yeah."  Starsky released a heavy sigh.  "I think I'm ready for a nap.  You can stay here, if you want."

Hutch closed his eyes, leaning more heavily on Starsky's arm, and his fingers spread over Starsky's quilted stomach.  "Maybe for a while," he whispered, and waited for Starsky to drift off to sleep.


That night, Hutch lay awake in his own bed.

He had felt relief after he and Starsky's conversation.  There was no longer some big unknown out there to be afraid of. 

He was still a little puzzled by Starsky's hesitancy in telling him what had happened.  It seemed to be making too much of a ploy to spare himself a horrible assault and further pain.

Now, Hutch wondered at his own self.  He should be able to sleep peacefully, knowing that his partner was safe and recovering from his injuries.

Instead, he found himself thinking of Starsky's words, of what he had imagined.

And now Hutch was imaging it.  Making tender, sweet love to Starsky, leaving him with a memory of warmth and joy, rather than one of anticipated pain.

If he were ever to make love to Starsky, he would be so gentle with him.  So careful.  Open him so patiently.  Ease into him with a slow steadiness that would feel natural to them both.  He would love Starsky in a way that would get him off, before thrusting gently and steadily for his own pleasure.

Hutch rolled onto his side, refusing to touch himself.  Refusing to grant himself that pleasure when he was alone, rather than having Starsky with him.

The phone rang.

Startled, Hutch looked at the clock.  It was a little after one in the morning.  He reached for the phone.  "Hello?"

Starsky's plaintive voice said, "You sound awake."

"Yeah.  What's up, buddy?"

"I thought I was okay, but I guess I'm not." 

Though Hutch didn't need any further explanation, his silence prompted Starsky to add, "I don't want to be alone."

"I'll be there in a few minutes, okay?"

"Thanks, Hutch."

Hutch hung up and threw on some sweats.  They'd both been through this various times before.  It was an unwritten law that middle-of-the-night requests for company were never questioned.  If the summoned one had a date, she got left behind or sent home.

He sometimes wondered why he and Starsky didn't live closer together.  Or maybe even in the same apartment complex.  Granted, they had different tastes in their preferred neighborhoods.  But they spent so much time together, that he doubted the peripherals would really matter.

Upon arriving at Starsky's apartment, Hutch knocked once in warning.  Then he used his key to open the door.  The apartment was dark.  "Buddy?"

"Hey," Starsky said from the bedroom, where Hutch had last left him.

Hutch carefully got on the bed, not wanting to jostle it.  He got beside Starsky, and then moved under the covers with his sweats still on.  Starsky was dressed similarly.

When Hutch was settled on his back, he asked, "You able to move over here?"

Starsky shifted, and then gasped.  "My shoulders just hurt like crazy, even with the pills.  Ribs still tender, too."  But he was able to move enough, so that his head eventually landed on Hutch's chest.

"How come you were awake?" Starsky asked.

"Just was."  Hutch let his arm rest along Starsky's fleece-covered lower back.

"Thinking about everything we said earlier today?"

"Yeah."  Hutch felt that Starsky had a right to know the specifics.  "Buddy?  If we ever made to love to each other, I'd want it to be so slow and tender.  You know?"

"Yeah."  Starsky's left hand rested on Hutch's stomach.  "That's how we always are with each other, when it really matters."

Hutch felt Starsky's cast against his side.  "Your wrist and fingers doing okay?"

"Yeah, like I told you before, they don't hurt anymore. I just keep getting reminded that I have this clunky cast on, and it gets in the way sometimes."

After a moment of silence, Hutch asked, "You have a nightmare?"

"No.  After you left, I wasn't able to sleep enough to have nightmares."

"I really thought you were going to be okay."

"I know.  I did, too."  Starsky sighed heavily.  "But I guess I still need my big, strong blintz to keep the boogie man away, however imaginary he might be."

"We've both had our boogie men."

"Yeah.  And our secret little way of dealing with them."  Starsky's patted Hutch's stomach.  "You think we'd get thrown off the force if anybody knew how we dealt with things like this?"

"If anybody ever saw us like this, they'd be jealous."


"Yeah."  Hutch snorted.  "What's not to like?"

Starsky rubbed his cheek against Hutch's chest.  "Yeah."  He sighed blissfully, as though preparing to settle into sleep.  Then, "Hutch?"


"You know, we could try it sometime.  Loving each other.  That way.  Nobody would have to know about it, any more than they know about times like this."

Hutch closed his eyes and rested his hand on Starsky's head, loving the feel of that weight against his chest. 

"I mean," Starsky went on, "this is the progressive seventies."  Then, more seriously, he clarified, "You were thinking about it tonight?"

"Yeah, sort of.  How I wouldn't want it to be anything like what you were afraid was going to happen."

"Of course, it wouldn't be anything like that, with us."

"Buddy?  We both need to try to sleep.  I've got work in the morning."

"Yeah," Starsky agreed quietly.  Then, "Hutch?  I don't know how long it'll be before I'll be clear of all the drugs in my system and stuff."

Hutch's eyes were still closed.  "Mm-hmm."

"After that, when I'm feeling better, maybe we could....."

"Okay, pal," Hutch agreed automatically.  "Whatever you want."

"You have to want it, too."

"Of course, I do."  It wasn't until he'd spoken, that Hutch realized what he'd just said.

"I bet it's going to be really, really special between us," Starsky said sleepily.


"Another one of our special little secrets."

"Yeah."  Hutch leisurely rubbed his hand along the small of Starsky's back.

The hand on his own stomach left.

"Dammit," Starsky grumbled.

"What?"  Hutch opened his eyes.

"I have to get up and put cream on.  My burns are really starting to itch.."

Hutch moved his arms away.  "Are they scabbing over?"

"Yeah.  The worst ones are still a little raw."

As Starsky started to get up, Hutch said, "I'm so glad he didn't burn you anywhere else, buddy."

"I know.  Me, too."  Then angrily, "It was only a matter of time before he was going to start on my balls.  And then my cock.  He said so."

Hutch drew a heavy breath as Starsky carefully left the bed.  He though he should offer to get the medicated ointment, but Starsky seemed to want to do it himself.

He listened to the sounds in the bathroom, where the light shown, and wondered at what had been said tonight.  How it had all come about so easily.  Naturally.

As though them making love to each other was an obvious next step for them to take.

But first, he needed to nurse Starsky back to health.

Hutch curled onto his side, preparing to sleep.

When Starsky got back into bed, he shifted around with a few groans, until his cheek was resting against Hutch's back.

No words were spoken.  And they both drifted into sleep.




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