(c) December 2011 by Charlotte Frost


Starsky had to admit that it was one of the stupidest things he'd ever done.  It reminded him of when Hutch had taken a drive clear across town to see a snitch, only to have hitman Ralph Slater run his car off the road.

Thankfully, Starsky was reasonably healthy.  For the time being.  But he'd done the same thing that he'd silently admonished Hutch for doing a couple of years ago.

You just don't go off and do cop work without your partner knowing about it.  Otherwise, when you find your lonesome self in a bind, it takes too long for your partner to come and rescue you.

Pride was a really stupid reason to create a roadblock to one's partner coming to the rescue.

Starsky had to admit that pride was the only reason he'd decided to drive out alone to Logan Street, near the docks, after the phone call from Billy Turner.  Despite making up with Hutch in public, his pride was still stinging from having found out that the female cop he'd thought he was in love with had slept with his partner.  It had hurt his pride even more -- and puzzled and confused him -- that his partner had slept with said female cop he'd thought he was in love with.  Especially after he had outright told his partner he was in love with her.  Apparently, the revelation of his feelings hadn't mattered.  Starsky had cheerfully gone over to Detective Kira's apartment with a gift, only to find that she and Hutch had coupled moments before.

After a few days, the sting still hadn't abated.  Starsky had felt humiliated.  And extremely angry.  But mostly puzzled and confused.  The anger had been extinguished, but the injured pride, puzzlement, and confusion was still with him.  And that's why, when Billy Turner had called Starsky's apartment around seven o'clock yesterday evening with some information on a theft case involved with two murders, Starsky had decided he'd drive out to see Turner without telling Hutch about it.

Now, as Starsky fruitlessly tested the cuffs around his wrists once again, he realized his unilateral decision had been pretty stupid.  All he'd had to do was pick up the phone, call his partner, and say, "Hey, I got a call from Billy Turner about the theft case.  I'm driving out to Logan Street, near the docks, to meet with him.  See ya tomorrow."  And then, when he hadn't shown up for work this morning, Hutch would know where to start looking.

Instead, a full day had passed, and Hutch would have no reason to think that Billy Turner had called Starsky at his apartment, or that Starsky had driven out to Logan Street near the docks.  Worse, when Starsky hadn't shown up for work this morning, Hutch might have written it off to Starsky deciding to take a day off (or two or three), as an expression of his dissatisfaction with his partner's recent behavior.


So, Starsky was on his own.  It could be days before Hutch decided that Starsky's absence meant that his partner was in danger.

Starsky relaxed his muscles, since trying the cuffs only resulted in irritating his already-sore wrists.  Hutch, you know me.  I wouldn't pull a disappearing act just to worry you, right?  Since when have I ever gotten back at you for anything?  You have to know that when I didn't show up this morning, it wasn't because I'd gone off in a pout. 

Well, okay, he had pulled a disappearing act before, after he had blinded Emily Harrison.  But Hutch had known where he was the whole time, even though Starsky wouldn't answer his phone.

I've always forgiven you anything and everything.  I don't understand why you went right over to Kira's to bang her after I told you I was in love with her, but you know I've already forgiven you for it.  Don't you, buddy?  You know I've never been able to stay mad at you for more than a few minutes at a time.  I understand you too well.  If I ever get a chance to think through the Kira thing, I know I'll be able to figure that one out, too.  It's kind of hard to be mad at somebody when you understand where they're coming from.

Come on, Hutch, I'm really needing a rescue here.

Though he was merely restrained at the moment, Starsky didn't try to pretend that his life wasn't in danger.  His cop instincts allowed him a penetrating glimpse into the criminal mind.  The group of low lifes that had been waiting for him at the warehouse didn't intend to let him live, once they were done loading up their goods.  The fact that they had taken his pocketknife from him, as well as his gun, made Starsky very nervous.  The head man, Ted Sutton, had also taken his cuffs and had his sidekick pull Starsky's hands back behind a wide utility pole in this upstairs bay area, and apply the cuffs.

Of course, the snitch Billy Turner was nowhere he sight.  He had merely been the instrument to get Starsky to come out.

It never ceased to amaze Starsky how the criminal mind worked.  These creeps would have a lot better chance of getting away scot free if they simply went about their work and disappeared with their loot under the cover of darkness.  Instead, Ted Sutton had decided he would kill two birds with one stone.  At least, that's how the logic worked in his twisted mind.  If he took care of Starsky, he'd have one less cop looking for his gang.  What's more, he'd had a grudge against Starsky from the past, blaming him for the death of his mother eight years ago, believing that her heart attack was brought on by the arrest and rough treatment given to her son. 

All the activity Starsky was hearing was taking place on the first floor of the warehouse.  The large room on the second floor had grown dim as dusk fell.  Now, Starsky heard the slamming of doors of a truck below.  He heard talking and occasional shouts between his captors, but he couldn't make out the words.

He heard footsteps coming up the stairs.

Starsky gulped.

Sutton emerged from the stairs and approached Starsky with a wicked grin.  He was holding Starsky's pocket knife, the largest blade jutting from it. 

Sutton stopped just outside of Starsky's kicking range.  He ran his fingers along the blade.  "I think this blade is small enough to insure that it'll take you a while to bleed to death."

Starsky growled, "My partner will hunt you down, Sutton.  He'll never rest until he's gotten his revenge."  Please get here, Hutch.

Sutton laughed and moved to Starsky's side, while still staying out of kicking range.

Starsky shifted around the pole, trying to keep Sutton in his sight.

But then Sutton suddenly darted behind the pole where Starsky couldn't see him.  The next thing Starsky knew, his hair was grabbed from behind and the blade was at his throat.

"I could make your death a lot faster," Sutton whispered.  He rotated the knife slightly.  "With the right force, this will be sufficient to slit your throat."

Starsky listened to his own harsh breathing.  If he was going to go down, he wanted to go down fighting.  But another part of him insisted that if he didn't do anything to provoke Sutton, maybe this could turn out okay.

He silently cursed the fact that Sutton was behind him and the pole, because he'd lost any chance of using his feet to kick at him.

Then, as though reaching a decision, Sutton casually said, "Nah." 

The relief Starsky felt was brief.  The grip on his hair tightened, and then he felt the most awful pain at the right side of his belly, inside his open jacket.  He cried out, realizing that the knife had been plunged into him, to the hilt, parting his skin and inner tissues. 

Sutton laughed and abruptly pulled the knife out, causing such a white hot pain that Starsky had to fight to stay on his feet.

"Bastard," Starsky managed to gasp, feeling his hair released, as his shirt was being soaked with the warmth of blood.

Sutton laughed again and moved to the front of Starsky, a few feet away.  He tossed the bloodied knife aside.  Then he reached into his pocket and took out a key that, through watering eyes, Starsky recognized as the key to his cuffs.  Sutton let it drop to the floor as he said, "Too bad this is just out of reach."

Raggedly, Starsky said, "My partner will hunt you down."

Sutton began walking backwards.  "Then I've got nothing to lose by making sure you're finished off."  He reached into his jacket and took out Starsky's gun.  "Just extra insurance, in case the knife didn't do the trick." 

As Starsky sagged on his feet, the cuffs still keeping him bound to the pole, he looked up through hooded eyes and saw the gun aimed at him.  Just when he tried to gather the strength to move out of the way, the sound of gunfire sounded.

He cried out again, hearing a "ping" against the pole and feeling a burn flair at the back of his right thigh.

Footsteps rushed up the stairs.  "Dammit, Ted, what the fuck did you do that for?  People can hear a gun."

"Doesn't matter."  The gun was tossed aside.

"Come on, let's get going."

Footsteps disappeared down the steps.

Starsky felt dizzy and let himself start to sink to the ground.  It crossed his mind that if he collapsed to the floor, he might never again stand up.  But even as his pride bristled against the thought, he was grateful to feel the security of the floor against his buttocks.

His knees were bent, and he drew them tight against his body.

Slow the bleeding, he directed himself.  He tried to find a sliver of hope.  The knife blade wasn't that big, even if it went in all the way.  If I can control the bleeding....

He heard the noise of a truck driving off.

He was slumped forward, and made a point of resting back against the pole, drawing his knees even tighter against his body, trying to stem the flow of blood..  He was then aware of how much the back of his thigh was throbbing, and soaking his jeans with more blood.

There wasn't anything he could do about that.

Please, Hutch.

He opened his eyes and looked out into the bay.  Darkness was falling quickly.  But he could see the metal of the key to his cuffs.  He imagined himself stretching out his legs and trying to draw the key closer.  But it was too far away to even bother with an attempt.

He didn't want to die here.

He didn't want Hutch to find him after it was too late.  He didn't want Hutch feeling bad about the Kira thing, after Starsky was gone and buried and nothing else could ever be said between them.

Starsky heard himself groan.

His side and the back of his thigh were throbbing, but the physical pain he could bear.

Lie real still and hang onto as much blood as you can.  He didn't think the wound in his side was bleeding as badly as before.

Or maybe he was just kidding himself.

His arms and shoulders were so tired from being cuffed to the pole.

Least of my worries. 

It was hard to take deep breaths with his knees drawn so tight to his body.

He shivered, and wondered how much time had passed.  His prison was dark now.


Starsky's heart kicked into high gear before the word even registered.

Had it been his imagination?

He straightened, lowering his knees slightly.  "HUTCH!"  He cringed at the pain the shout had caused and felt his flesh began to part again.



"Where are you?"

"Up here!  Hurry!"

Starsky heard footsteps and watched the staircase, seeing a beam of light.  "Hutch!  Hutch!"

A moment later, Hutch emerged onto the landing, holding a flashlight.


The light shined on him.  And then Hutch was rushing toward him. 

"Get the key to my cuffs," Starsky gasped, nodding toward the floor.

"Are you hurt?" Hutch asked breathlessly, reaching for the key.


"Hang on," Hutch said, moving behind Starsky.

Starsky's voice quavered.  "Stabbed and shot."  It scared him to say it.

"Hang on, hang on."

Starsky barely managed to hold back a sob of relief as he felt a large, comforting hand squeeze his shoulder.

Then the hand was taken away, and the flashlight moved.  A moment later, Starsky felt the cuffs being worked with.

"How long have you been here?" Hutch asked.

"All day.  But they didn't hurt me until a little while ago."  It occurred to Starsky that he wasn't sure how much time had passed since the truck had left.  What if it had been a lot longer than he'd thought, and he'd lost a whole lot of blood?

Suddenly, his hands parted behind him, and he gasped with relief and pain from the sudden movement.

"I'm right here," Hutch said, bringing the flashlight with him as he squatted before Starsky and squeezed his shoulder.  "Where are you hurt?"

Though it was painful to move his arms, Starsky brought the left one up and grabbed Hutch's jacket.  "My side.  Right side.  Stabbed.  Shot behind my leg."

Abruptly, Hutch put the flashlight down and removed his jacket, causing Starsky to lose his hold.  "Hutch," he protested.

"Easy does it.  Hang on."  Hutch quickly unsnapped his shoulder harness and removed it, and then pulled his sweater over his head.  He repeated the motion with his t-shirt.  "Hang on.  Hang on."

Starsky grabbed Hutch's bare arm, trying to still his own trembling, as Hutch wrapped the t-shirt around Starsky's waist, inside his jacket and then pulled tight.

Starsky cried out.

"Sorry," Hutch gasped.  He tied the shirt.  Then he picked up the flashlight and shined it on Starsky's lower torso.  "Where were you shot?"

Starsky had to think of directions.  "Right thigh.  The back."

Hutch shined the light on Starsky's upraised right leg.  "Is there a slug in there?"

"Don't know."  Starsky didn't know if the ricochet off the pole happened before or after he was hit.

"Okay, easy does it, buddy."  Hutch was reaching into the pockets of his clothes.  Eventually, he had a handkerchief in hand.  "Easy does it now."  He placed the cloth against the back of Starsky's leg, above the knee.  And pressed.


"Easy, easy."  Hutch squeezed Starsky's shoulder.

"Cold," Starsky said, hearing his voice tremble.  He rested a hand on Hutch's leg.  With the other, he held onto his arm.

Hutch picked up his jacket with his free hand, and let it fall open.  He draped it across Starsky's upper body.

"Buddy?  I don't see a phone around here.  I need to go back down to my car and call an ambulance."

No.  Starsky squeezed Hutch's arm harder.

"I need to, buddy.  It'll take less than two minutes.  That's all.  I'll get the blanket from my car and warm you up a bit while we wait for the ambulance."

Being warmed up by Hutch sounded very nice.

"Here, buddy, take your hand."  Hutch forcibly removed Starsky's hand from his arm and placed it near the handkerchief that was against Starsky's leg.  "I need you to take over here.  Keep pressure on that."

As Starsky obeyed, he felt Hutch remove his own hand.  His leg hurt even more, as he pressed against the handkerchief.

"Good," Hutch said.  He grabbed his sweater and slipped it over his head.  He reached to squeeze Starsky's shoulder again.  "Two minutes, buddy.  Not even." 

Starsky licked his lips, wanting to form a protest.

Hutch gentled his voice.  "I'll leave the flashlight here."  He moved it so that it shined toward the staircase.  "Be right back."

Starsky watched Hutch jog toward the staircase, and then hurry down it.

He listened to the sound of his own breathing.

The pressure on his leg had eased, and he realized that he was wanting to drift off.  He made a point of renewing the pressure against the handkerchief, even though it hurt.

He concentrated and found where the knife wound throbbed.  He didn't think he should be concerned about the bleeding anymore, since Hutch's t-shirt was wrapped tight around it.

He wished he didn't feel so cold, though Hutch's jacket had helped.  He wasn't sure that he could feel the tips of his fingers.  Then he realized that he could feel where his hand was pressed against the handkerchief.

His emotions welled up when he saw Hutch trotting up the staircase, carrying a blanket.

"Hutch.  Hutch."  He wasn't sure if he was speaking out loud.

"You still with me, buddy?" Hutch asked as he knelt before Starsky.

"Yeah," Starsky managed.

"Here we go."  Hutch opened the blanket and spread it over Starsky and the jacket.  "The ambulance is on the way, pal."

Hutch shifted closer, and Starsky reached to grab hold of his sweater.

"Easy does it."  Hutch got next to Starsky, against the pole.  "Easy, buddy.  I just want to shift you a little." 

Starsky let the hands manipulate him, so that he was closer to Hutch, resting against him.

"You still got pressure on that leg?"

Starsky thought that he did.  "Uh-huh."

"Here."  Hutch's hand reached inside the blanket, moving down until Starsky felt fingers against his own hand.  "Let me take over here.  You can let go."

He wasn't sure how to do that, so Hutch's hand gently pushed his hand out of the way.

Starsky grunted when he felt a new, painful pressure against the back of his thigh, causing his eyes to water.

In the midst of that pain, there was more shifting.  "Rest against me, buddy."  A hand pressed on the side of his head.

Starsky realized that his cheek was against Hutch's chest.  He closed his eyes and let his weight grow heavy there.  An arm came around his shoulders, and he liked that even more.

"Starsk?  The bleeding's under control.  You're going to be fine."

Hutch sounded so certain. 

Starsky relaxed further when he realized that Hutch wasn't afraid.  He opened his eyes to the darkness of the warehouse and mumbled, "Didn't think you'd come."

Hutch tilted his head closer.  "Huh?  You didn't think I'd come looking?"

"No."  He felt guilty as he said it.

"Ah, buddy.  Whatever else is going on with us, you're still my partner.  We've always looked out for each other."

Starsky wanted very much for them to be on the same wavelength.  He struggled to form words to explain what he'd meant.  "Thought you might think I didn't want to be found."

After a moment, Hutch said, "That did cross my mind.  But if that meant I spend days looking, only to discover that you didn't want to be found, that's a price I'm willing to pay for being your partner."

Starsky was so touched by the words that he tightened his hold on Hutch's sweater.

"Thankfully," Hutch said, "it wasn't that difficult.  I went over to your apartment and saw that card file you keep.  The card for Billy Turner was sticking up."

Oh.  Starsky had totally spaced out the fact that he'd opened the card file box, which he kept at home as information he might need outside of regular work hours.  In addition to more personal phone numbers, he also kept information on snitches and numbers he might need in an emergency.

"So," Hutch went on, "I had to hunt down Billy Turner.  It took some razzing to finally get him to fess up.  It's Ted Sutton who did this to you, isn't it?"


"I was what?  An hour too late?"

Starsky's hand released Hutch's sweater and patted him instead.  "Never too late," he whispered.  If he said anything more, he was afraid his emotions would break.

"You warming up?"

"Yeah."  How could he not be warm while resting against Hutch?

"I hear the ambulance."

Starsky wasn't sure if he was happy about that.  An ambulance meant paramedics, who were going to separate him from Hutch.

"I told them we were on the second floor, when I gave them the address."

That would allow him to absorb Hutch's warmth a few moments longer.  "Be with me in the ambulance?"

The arm that was around his shoulders hugged him closer.  "Of course, I will, buddy."  Then Hutch mouth leaned close to his ear.  "It's still me and thee. That's never changed.  Never gonna change."

Starsky closed his eyes, tightly.  Otherwise, a tear might spill.


Hutch rubbed at his eyes, moving back toward the row of chairs at the emergency wing of the hospital.  He'd just been informed that Starsky wasn't going to need surgery.  The bullet had gone through his leg and wasn't embedded in it..  The knife wound was deep, but it hadn't penetrated anything vital.  Starsky's flesh was being sutured back together, and then he would remain in the hospital overnight for observation.  Assuming there were no complications, he'd be released by noon the following day.

Hutch rested a hand against the wall and leaned against it, letting relief filter through him.  He hadn't been concerned that Starsky's injuries were lethal, but it was still an ecstatic feeling to know that his recovery would be relatively quick.

What was on his mind most now was that Starsky had apparently thought that Hutch wouldn't come looking for him.  Ah, buddy, how did we get so messed up that you could ever doubt me?

A woman's heels were heard against the hospital floor, sounding sharp in the otherwise subdued atmosphere of the emergency wing.  Hutch looked toward the sound and straightened.

And saw the reason that things had gotten so messed up.

Kira looked grim as she approached him.  "Have you heard anything?"  She was dressed in designer jeans, despite the heels.

Her worry was sincere.  "He won't need surgery," Hutch replied mechanically.  Then he allowed the relief to show in his voice.  "He'll probably be released tomorrow."

"Oh, that's good.  I was in the squad room when the call came in to Dobey."  She reached to squeeze his arm, as though in sympathy.  "He got shot or stabbed or...?"

Hutch made a point of stepping away from her, causing her hand to drop away.  "Both.  But not that seriously."

"Have they taken him to a room yet?"

"That won't be for a while yet."

"I'll sit with him tonight, if they allow it."

No.  Hutch absolutely did not want that, and he was pretty certain that Starsky didn't either.  Whatever feelings his partner might still have for Kira, he was sure Starsky didn't want to display them while vulnerable in a hospital bed.

"That's not necessary," he stressed.  He's MY partner"Besides, if he can talk at all, I need to get whatever information I can from him, as soon as possible, about the case."  He didn't care if she knew that most of what he'd said was a lie.  He'd already relayed information to Dobey about Turner and Sutton.

She snorted softly, and made a slight motion of shaking her head as she gazed up at him.  "I'm not the enemy, Hutch."

"Perhaps not," Hutch answered honestly.  "But you're not exactly a friendly relation, either."

Her voice firmed.  "It's not like either of you was some sort of helpless victim, coerced against your will.  It takes two."

Hutch felt anger heat his voice.  "Apparently, you aren't satisfied unless there's three."

The sting of the slap she delivered across his face was welcome.  Hutch didn't even care that others in the waiting room had looked up to see it.

He managed a slight grin.  "The truth hurts, doesn't it?"

"It's pathetic when men don't know what to do with a genuinely sensual woman who's comfortable with her own sexuality."

Hutch shot back, "It's pathetic when a woman is so caught up in her own sexuality, that all relationships outside the bedroom become expendable."  When she didn't retort quickly enough, he attempted to maintain the upper hand.  "You're outside the bedroom, Kira.  Your brand of compassion isn't wanted or needed here."

"I hate you."  She turned on her heel and headed for the exit.


Hutch figured that that made them pretty much even.


Hutch liked this particular hospital.  They respected those who put their lives in the line of fire, for the safety of the public.  Starsky was automatically given a private room, and visiting restrictions didn't apply to a cop's partner or superiors.

It was the middle of the night, and the room was dark, save for a lamp Hutch had left on atop a corner table.  He was sitting in a chair, his head resting against the back of it, dozing off and on.

When he heard Starsky stirring, he stood and went to his partner's side.

He leaned over the bed's railing and clasped the hand that didn't have an IV.  "Easy, buddy," he whispered, "you're going to be fine."  Starsky had appeared so shaken when Hutch had found him at the warehouse.  Of course, getting shot and stabbed would rattle anyone, but Starsky had had the further concern that Hutch might not be trying to find him.  He'd had to deal with the possibility that he might bleed to death, cuffed to that pole, perhaps not being found by anyone for days.

Hutch was glad, at least, that he'd been able to comfort Starsky and give him a chance to get his equilibrium, by the time help came.

Starsky's eyes fluttered open, and Hutch squeezed his hand.  "How you doing?"

Starsky spent a moment studying his surroundings, and then his eyes moved to Hutch.  He managed a nod.  "Okay."

"You didn't need surgery, buddy.  You'll probably be out of here before lunch tomorrow."

Relief crossed Starsky's features.  Then he asked, "What time is it?"

Hutch glanced at the wall clock.  "Three-fifteen in the morning."

Starsky appeared to let that sink in.  Then his mouth corner twitched.  "Thanks for being here."

Hutch squeezed the hand he held.  "Where else would I be, huh?"

Starsky looked away and swallowed audibly.  After a moment, he said, "Hutch?  I want us to agree on something."

Hutch automatically leaned closer.  "What is it?" he prompted gently.  Never sleep with each other's girl again? 

Starsky had to a draw a breath, and then his eyes darted to Hutch.  "I want us to agree that we always tell each other when we're going alone to do cop work."

Cop work.   Hutch tried to focus on the unexpected subject matter.

Starsky said, "I didn't like not knowing if you were looking for me or not.  And when Ralph Slater hit you, a few hours were wasted with my trying to talk Dobey into agreeing that something might be wrong."

Hutch felt his own throat convulse thickly, as he was reminded of those endless, agonizing hours of being trapped under his car.

Starsky pressed, "I want you to promise me that you'll always tell me when you're going to see a snitch or whatever by yourself, no matter how harmless it seems.  And I promise I'll do the same."

Hutch wanted to distance himself from the intensity of the conversation.  He said with gentle amusement, "That almost sounds like being married."

"Maybe it is."  Starsky's eyes intensified as they gazed at Hutch.  "I don't mind having a ball and chain if it means keeping each other alive."

Hutch so admired the depth of Starsky's conviction.  "Whatever you say, buddy."  He released Starsky's hand and pressed his own hand against Starsky's chest.  "I promise."

Now Starsky managed a slight grin.  "Thanks."

Hutch's voice held a similar tone as he lightly brushed his fingers along Starsky's arm.  "I'm just a little hurt that you doubted me."

Starsky muttered, "We'd left some business unfinished."

"Yeah," Hutch reluctantly admitted, bowing his head.  He knew he needed to tell Starsky what had happened a few hours ago.  "Hey, uh, Kira was here earlier, when you were still being treated."

Starsky's voice was leery.  "She was?"

"Yeah."  Hutch was still studying the tiled floor.  "She wanted to sit with you tonight."  He swallowed.  "I didn't want her to."  He looked up.

Starsky met his gaze.  "So, she left?"  He sounded like he didn't quite believe it, considering her forceful personality.

"Yeah."  Hutch continued to fidget.  "After we sort of had an argument.  We didn't say very nice things to each other."

Starsky released a sigh.  "Yeah, well, I'd say she's history all the way around."

"Hey, uh....."  Hutch was surprised at how tight his throat felt.  He forced himself to meet his partner's eye.  "That day you walked in on us, I swear, buddy, I didn't go over there for that.  You'd told me that you and she were in love with each other, and I-I-I couldn't reconcile that in my head, since she'd slept with me earlier that week.  So, I went over to confront her about it, to try to figure out what kind of game she was playing with us."  He snorted harshly and confessed, "Stupidest thing I've ever done.  I should have just called her."  He looked away, swallowing heavily.  "It's impossible to be in the same room with her and actually have a conversation.  She won't allow that."  He wondered if he was being unfair to put what had happened that day all on her shoulders.  Then he decided that he didn't care about fairness.

"What an idiot I was," Starsky grimaced.  "Thinking she and I had those kinds of feelings for each other."

"She did have those feelings," Hutch told him, not wanting Starsky to feel bad about his own side of it.  "She insisted to me that she was in love with both of us, and she didn't see anything wrong with that.  Didn't see any reason why it should be a problem."   The latter, Hutch realized now, is why he currently felt such venom toward her.  There was no point in holding anything back.  "As soon as she turned on that sensual charm she has, I-I-I stopped thinking with my head.  You know?"

Starsky whispered, "It's okay, Hutch."  But he was looking away.

"No, it isn't," Hutch said sorrowfully, feeling a weight lift from his shoulders.  "That wasn't what I had wanted, what I had intended.  And I sure as hell hadn't expected you to show up there.  That's the last thing I wanted to happen."

Starsky snorted, and then grimaced and touched where the stab wound was.  After a moment, he said, "Best favor you could have done for me.  You know?  It showed me what she really was.  Before I started making plans to walk down the aisle."

Hutch felt compelled to point out, "She told me that, when she's ready to get married, she'd be the most faithful wife on Earth. I just didn't get the impression that she was ready to walk down the aisle anytime soon."

Starsky turned his head to look at Hutch, a grin at his mouth corner.  "So, I walked down the aisle with my partner instead."  He slowly shook his head.  "It doesn't feel like a burden, having a ball and chain.  Kind of freeing, actually."

Hutch wrapped Starsky's hand in both of his and brought their combined fist to lips.  He kissed it.  Then he said, "I love you."  He realized that his tone was matter-of-fact.

Starsky began to shift beneath the covers, and he groaned.  "If you're gonna start gettin' mushy, then it's time for me to figure out how to get up and take a leak."

"Maybe we should call the nurse to give you something, and give it a chance to work first.  So, it won't hurt so much to get up."

Starsky shook his head and said seriously,  "I want to be done pissing before the nurse comes in."

Which meant he needed his partner's help.  Hutch reached to lower the bed's side rail.


Ten hours later, Hutch stood aside after unlocking the door to Starsky's apartment.  Leaning heavily on a cane, Starsky entered, and then slowly made his way to the sofa, Hutch hovering at his elbow.

When Starsky seemed as comfortable as he was going to get, sitting up with his weight resting against an array of pillows, Hutch gestured to the fridge.

"Soda," Starsky said.

Hutch grabbed a soda, and took the lone remaining beer for himself.  After handing Starsky the soft drink, which he'd already opened, Hutch sat in the wide backed chair and popped the beer's lid.

After taking a sip, Hutch noted, "You've been awfully quiet since getting out of the hospital."

It was a moment before Starsky replied.  He was frowning.  "There was more going on with that dance hall case than the sex stuff."

Hutch cocked his head.  "What do you mean?"

Starsky's expression was still grim as he looked at Hutch.  "Your behavior.  That night when you agreed to go home with Susan, and you went home with Kira instead.  Stuff like that.  I didn't like that."

Hutch lowered his gaze.  Perhaps, in retrospect, it had been ridiculously childish on his part.  But he'd felt he had good reason.  Trying to keep any accusation out of his voice, he said, "You were acting out of character, buddy.  You were so bossy about everything, trying to control everything about the case and those of us involved in it.  I guess," Hutch shrugged sheepishly, "I rebelled against your trying to control it.  Because I wasn't used to our partnership working that way."

Starsky snorted.  "You mean because you're the one who's usually so bossy and needing to control everything?"  He tilted his head back for a large swallow.

Rather than answer the unflattering observation, Hutch pointed out, "It's never bothered you before."

Starsky was thoughtful for a long moment.  Then he said, "Yeah, well, I guess I was falling for Kira in a big way.  And I guess, in the back of my mind, I knew she wasn't seeing things the same way, so I tried to make it so I could pretend that she did."

Before Hutch could answer, Starsky added, "It blew up in my face in a big way."  He presented a gentle smile.  "I guess that ends my attempt to control things concerning us."

It bothered Hutch that Starsky gave in so easily.  For the thousandth time in all the years he'd known Starsky, he wondered why his partner put up with him.  Let him get away with so many trespasses.  Let him play at being bossy and nagging and scolding, while Starsky seemed content to be bossed and nagged and scolded.  And so easily played the fool that Hutch could make fun of.

With the Kira situation, Starsky hadn't been willing to play the fool.  But he had ended up feeling foolish and humiliated, anyway.

Hutch couldn't round up his thoughts well enough to say anything coherent.

Starsky lowered his gaze.  He muttered, "I'm starting to think that, no matter what happens in our other relationships, we're always gonna come back to me and you as being what's most important."

That made Hutch feel good inside.  And then he wondered if he should feel guilty that it made him feel good.  He quietly admitted, "That idea works for me."

"Yeah," Starsky agreed, but his voice was distant.  After a long moment, he said, "Sometimes I catch myself thinking that nothing can ever come between us."  He glanced warily at Hutch.  "That we're solid.  Then I wonder, at times, when life is going to play a big joke on me and show me how wrong I've been for thinking anything is forever."  He lowered his gaze again and sighed heavily.  "I had a little bit of a taste of that at the warehouse."

"But you were wrong," Hutch pointed out quickly.  "It never crossed my mind not to look for you, even when I considered that maybe you'd gone off on your own because you wanted to be alone for a while."

They were silent for a long moment, and then Starsky's expression softened, and he finally looked up.  "I guess I'd prefer to look on the bright side of all of this."

Hutch felt heartened.  "Yeah?  What's that?"

"That our partnership hit a bump in the road.  But we still came through it okay."  Starsky's mouth corner managed a grin.

Hutch grinned back.  "Yeah." 

Starsky ventured, "Maybe it's made us more aware of how we never want something like that to happen again?"

Hutch answered that need for reassurance.  "Yeah.  I'd like to think so."

Starsky tossed the empty soda can aside and was shifting minutely along the sofa, as though he couldn't get comfortable.

"Hey, partner," Hutch said, "you want to sack out there on the sofa, or would you rather me help you to bed?"

"Think I'll stay here.  Just need a blanket or two.  You can have the bed."

Hutch was about to protest that it was only early afternoon.  But he'd hardly slept last night at the hospital, and he realized that the idea of a nap sounded good.

He took some blankets out of the linen closet and brought them over to the sofa.  He pulled off Starsky shoes, and helped him with his clothes until he was down to his underwear.  They spent a while working with rearranging the pillows until Starsky sighed with contentment.

"Holler if you need anything," Hutch said as he straightened.  He started to walk away, but then felt his hand clasped.

"We're okay, Hutch," Starsky said softly.

Hutch squeezed the hand back, as his heart softened.  "Yeah, we're okay."

He retreated to the bedroom, knowing that he would fall asleep easily.



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