(c) July 2012 by Charlotte Frost



"He's sleeping now," Hutch said quietly into the phone at Starsky's apartment.

Dobey brusquely said, "You need sleep, too, Hutchinson.  I don't want to see you back in here until Monday."

Today was Thursday.  "I hope you take your own advice, Captain."

Dobey grunted.  "I just might do that."  Then, more softly, "Keep me updated on how he's doing."

"Right.  Bye."   Hutch carefully hung up the phone.

In his bare feet, Hutch moved to the bedroom.  The thick gauze on Starsky's right cheek was the most blatant external indication of the ordeal he'd been through, between Tuesday morning and sunrise on Wednesday morning.  He'd gotten released from the hospital first thing this morning.  The burn on his cheek would heal.  The lacerations on his wrists, and various other parts of his body, would heal.  The drugs had worked through his system.

These were all physical inconveniences that Starsky was well versed in handling.  It was the mental that Hutch was more concerned about.  Simon's goons were downright evil in a sickly grotesque way. 

Not that Hutch doubted that Starsky would recover fully.  It was more a matter of wanting to be prepared for whatever his partner might need.

For now, Starsky was turned partially on his stomach, snuggled beneath the bed clothes, only his bandaged cheek visible beneath his hair.  He had been washed thoroughly at the hospital, and had quietly dressed in both top and bottom pajamas upon arriving home, before seeking the sanctuary of bed. 

Hutch had showered, and then found some of his own sweat pants in a drawer.  He'd borrowed one of Starsky's t-shirts.  He now rubbed his fingers across the knuckles of his right hand, having his own share of bruises from the frantic fist fight. 

His reunion with Starsky had been one of a great deal of relief, but only partially gratifying.  There had been too many other people around, and too much urgency to get Starsky proper medical care, along with a thorough examination.  His partner had clung frantically to Hutch's clothing after Hutch had arrived on the scene, but otherwise had kept up his usual quips of humor to keep emotion at bay, so he could get through the next hours with his dignity intact.

Then, once reaching the privacy of his apartment, rest had been the priority and, coupled with the lure of the painkillers in his system, Starsky hadn't needed any prompting to shut out the external world completely.

Hutch leaned against the doorframe of the bedroom.  Starsky was still sleeping soundly.  Hutch was so grateful for that.

He was tired, too.  But Hutch also felt an inner restlessness.  And something he was chagrinned to identify as loneliness.

Maybe he could sleep it away.....

Hutch pushed off the doorframe and moved around the bed to the opposite side.  He carefully lowered himself onto the mattress, facing the wall.  He hugged a pillow against his head, and brought his knees closer to his body.

Eventually, he drifted into asleep.


Hutch's brain was foggy.  He needed much more sleep.  But as his eyes cracked open, he gradually identified the walls of Starsky's bedroom.  He was aware of something having changed in the aura surrounding him.

Before Hutch could consider turning over, he felt a hand on his back.

Starsky's plaintive voice said, "I don't need to know the details, to know what you've been through."

Hutch drew a deep, quiet breath.  He was lonely no more. 

Yet, he was also aware of how poignantly close he'd come to failure.  Despite Gail's decision to free Starsky, there's no way she and his drugged and injured partner would have been able to fight off all those determined goons.

"I didn't know what to do," Hutch said, feeling an urgent need to confess, as he gazed at the wall..  "Marcus was full of riddles and a total lack of concern.  I felt powerless.  I didn't know how to save you.  All we were left with was trying to decipher his words.  Huggy and Dobey were snapping at each other.  But then," Hutch suddenly realized, "it was Huggy who put the clues together that led to the zoo." 

The hand remained on his back.

Hutch drew another breath.  "It felt like... with Bellamy.  I was going to lose you, because I couldn't figure things out in time."

Starsky's quite voice, "I'm still here, both times.  You must have done something right."

The doorbell rang.

Hutch was on his feet.  "Damnit, who could that be."  He moved quickly out of the bedroom.  Huggy was the first thought that came to mind, but he usually waited to be summoned before assuming his presence was welcome.

"Who is it?" Hutch called, not interested in looking out the little glass window, if it was an annoying door-to-door salesman.  It appeared to be about three o'clock in the afternoon.


Pamela.  Pamela.  Starsky hadn't been seriously seeing anyone of late.  Hutch looked out the glass window and saw a young woman with a pan wrapped in tinfoil.

"I brought something for Dave," she offered.

Hutch unfastened the chain on the door, but opened it just a few inches.  "Hi, Pamela," he said.  "David is resting right now."

She nodded.  "I saw in the newspaper what happened.  I don't want to disturb him.  I just thought I'd bring him something."  She held out the pan.  "It's homemade German chocolate cake."

"Thanks," Hutch said awkwardly, wondering if she even knew who he was, since he didn't remember her.  He took the pan.  "I'll tell him to call you, but it'll probably be next week sometime."

She nodded.  "Good enough.  I hope he feels better soon."  She gave a slight wave, and then turned away.

Hutch closed the door, and then took the pan to the refrigerator.

"Who was that?" Starsky asked when Hutch returned to the bedroom.

"Pamela.  I don't think I've met her before.  She brought German chocolate cake."

"Oh.  That's nice."


"I'm glad you didn't invite her in."  Starsky's eyes sought Hutch's.  "I'm just not up to it right now.  She's sort of high maintenance."

Like me, Hutch thought.

Starsky shifted back on the mattress, leaving a space at the edge.  He looked up at Hutch.

Hutch felt himself soften as he knelt on the space.  Then he curled into a sitting position, his back against the headboard.  He reached to squeeze Starsky's shoulder.  "How are you doing?"

"I need more sleep," Starsky admitted in a gruff voice.  Then, softer, "But it's hard to do that when I know my partner needs to decompress."

Hutch couldn't face that right now.  He always needed to decompress.  Starsky was there for him when he fell apart, in whatever form such shattering of his own sense of self took.  But such shattering never left pieces all over, in a state of brokenness.  Instead, after such times, he felt amazingly whole. 

He asked, "How long have you been awake?"

"Maybe twenty minutes.  You were sleeping so soundly, didn't want to wake you."

Hutch nodded, his head bowed.  He ran his tongue along his lips.  "I let Marcus get into my head.  I let him toy with me."  Hutch clenched his fist.  "I begged him.  To help me find you."  He abruptly halted at hearing the shakiness in his own voice.

"Hey," Starsky beckoned, reaching up to cup Hutch's cheek.  "You did what you needed to do."  He whispered, "Doesn't matter how it came about.  Only how it ended."  Starsky shifted in the bed, straightening.  "Come on, you need to hang on."  He squeezed Hutch's shoulder with one hand.  With the other, he took Hutch's hand.  "I still need to hang on, too."

Hutch moved enough so that their foreheads could touch.  He took both of Starsky's shoulders in his own hand, and felt Starsky squeeze his upper arms in return.  Hutch released a deep, halting breath.  After waiting a moment, he was relieved that there was no more where that came from.

Starsky was moving a hand up, reaching behind Hutch's neck, urging him down.

Hutch bent awkwardly to rest his head on his Starsky's shoulder, his face pressed against his neck.  He put his arms around the back of Starsky's upper body, wary of cracked bones and sore muscles.

Starsky's arms were fully around him now, pulling snug.  He muttered, "Sorry I keep putting you through so much, buddy."

Hutch released such a brief, strangled chuckle, that it came out as a sob.  He clutched Starsky tighter against him.

A hand was rubbing slow circles along his back. 

Starsky said, "It was up to you to figure everything out at that Italian restaurant."  Pause.  "I held you back when I got poisoned, because I couldn't keep up.  And now, because I couldn't fight them off in the men's room, you had to spend time with that fucking murderer."

Hutch found his voice.  "It was all worth it.  And you took out Bellamy to save me," he reminded.  He understood why Starsky had done that.  But still... it sometimes felt that he hadn't deserved that sacrifice.

"Yeah, well, we must be doin' somethin' right, since we're both still here."

Hutch thought his heart would break at that plaintive statement, and he hugged Starsky closer against him.

After a long moment of relishing the contact, Hutch carefully released him.

Starsky held onto Hutch's shoulder with one hand.  With the other, he brushed his fingers along Hutch's cheek.  "My big, strong Hutch. With the super soft heart.  It made all the difference, knowing you were searching for me."

His throat tight, Hutch admitted, "Wish it wouldn't have been last second."

Starsky managed a tiny smile.  "Better than a second too late."

Hutch couldn't deal with that thought. 

Starsky asked, "You talk to Dobey?"

Hutch was relieved to be on mundane topics.  "Yeah.  We don't have to be in until Monday."

Starsky nodded, his hands still on Hutch.  "Good.  You should be caught up on your sleep by then."  Then, just a touch threatening, "I'll make sure of that."

Hutch ducked his head bashfully.  He tried for a serious tone as he looked Starsky in the eye.  "Are you doing okay?"

Starsky gazed back at him.  "I'll do a whole lot better when I know that you're okay."

Hutch let that go.  "What about physically?"

Starsky released a sigh and finally dropped his hands.  "I ache all over.  That about covers it."  He reached up to touch the gauze.  "This hurts the most, when I think about it."

Hutch indicated the nightstand, where there were a couple of prescription bottles.  "Probably time for another dose.  I'll get you some water.  Want anything else?"

"I guess I should try the chocolate cake that Pamela brought."

Hutch furrowed his brow as he got to his feet.  "You sure you want something that sweet on an empty stomach?"

Starsky considered the question.  "Yeah, maybe you're right.  Why don't you order Chinese, since I don't think I have anything around here."  He glanced away.

Hutch tilted his head.  "What is it?"

Starsky shrugged, grimaced at the movement, and then looked sheepish.  "I can hear them chanting in my head.  Feel them throwing me around while I was blindfolded. Threatening me." 

"Yeah," Hutch said with compassion.  It was the usual stress symptoms after a traumatic experience.

Starsky lowered his gaze.  "I tried to put up the tough guy act as long as I could."

Hutch felt himself soften even more.  He reached down to briefly run a thumb along Starsky's uninjured cheek.  "Like you said, we're both still here, so something must have worked right."  He allowed a smile.  "You don't need to do the tough guy act for a few days, at least."

Starsky swallowed thickly, and then abruptly looked away. 

"I'll get some water," Hutch said.

He moved to the kitchen and got a glass of water.  He grabbed the phone directory while moving back to the bedroom.  After placing the glass on the nightstand, he handed Starsky the prescription bottles, and then sat down.  "What's the place you order from?"

"There should be a menu in the kitchen."

Hutch leafed through the yellow pages.  "I don't want to look for it.  Just tell me what the place is called."

"Panda something.  Or something Panda.  On Brenton Street."  Starsky opened a pill bottle.

Hutch ran his finger down a column of Chinese restaurants.  "The Hungry Panda?"


"What do you want?"

"Doesn't matter."  Starsky moved closer to the edge of the bed, and reached for the glass.

"How about I order extra, since it might be a while before we go out for groceries?"

"Yeah.  Whatever."

Hutch ignored the bland tone for the time being and reached for the phone.  He ordered a variety of meals and appetizers, thinking that should last them at least two days.  He scribbled down the total, and then hung up.  "It'll be forty-five minutes." 

Starsky was turned away, staring at the wall.

Gently, Hutch asked, "How about I put on some soft music?  It might help block out the chanting."

Starsky turned toward Hutch and slipped his arms around his waist.  He snuggled down into the covers, which Hutch sat partially on top of with one foot on the floor.  Starsky murmured,  "Not right now."

Hutch looked down at where Starsky's cheek rested against his hip.  He stroked back through his hair, and then let his hand settle on Starsky's shoulder.  He rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.


Hutch was startled by the doorbell. 

Starsky gasped and came awake, his eyes wide.  The one arm that was still around Hutch tightened.

"It's all right," Hutch said softly.  "Food's here."  He squeezed Starsky's shoulder, and then maneuvered out from beneath him.

Hutch went to the bathroom and found his discarded pants from earlier in the day.  He retrieved his wallet and sorted through the bills, thinking that his brain was still fuzzy from lack of sleep.

The doorbell rang again.

"Coming!" Hutch called, as he walked briskly toward it.  He checked through the glass window to make sure that it was indeed someone delivering food, and then opened the door. 

He wrestled with all the sacks, while giving the man a twenty, with the instructions, "keep the change", and then kicked the door shut.

After putting all the sacks on the kitchen table, he moved back toward the bedroom.  "Starsk?  How you doing?"

Starsky had burrowed back beneath the blankets.  "Don't wanna get up yet."

Hutch placed on hand on Starsky's back, on top of the covers.  "Come on, it can only do you good.  Besides, if you have a full stomach, you'll probably sleep better."

Starsky made the slightest noise of a protest.

Hutch tried, "I'm hungry.  So, come eat with me."  He grinned.  "For some bizarre reason, I seem to like your company."

That brought an answering smile.

Hutch hovered until Starsky managed to wrangle himself from the covers.  Then he slipped his arm around his partner's waist, guiding him out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.  It felt good that Starsky seemed to want to lean on him.

Hutch beckoned Starsky to sit at the table, and then took charge of scooping a half serving of food onto his plate.  "Start with that," he directed. 

"You're mothering," Starsky said, but it wasn't a complaint.

Hutch sat down with a hint of a smile.  "Whatever helps."

He realized that he was famished, and sampled a little of everything that was in the square containers.  Starsky focused on his food, and it was gradually disappearing.  Every once in a while, he would furrow his brow.

Gently, Hutch asked, "Would you like me to put on some quiet music?"

Starsky shrugged without looking up.

Hutch got up and went to the stereo.  He spent a moment finding an easy listening station.

When he returned to the table, Starsky's plate was empty.  "How about a little more?"

"Sure.  Is there more eggrolls, or did you eat them all?"

Hutch smiled at Starsky's appetite, and found more eggrolls.  "Here you go."  He pushed other containers toward his partner.  Conversationally, he asked, "Who is Pamela?"

Starsky was transferring food to his plate.  "Someone I've been seeing on occasion.  Nice girl, but I know it's not going anywhere."

Hutch turned on the oven to preheat to two hundred degrees, so he could keep the food warm, because they'd probably indulge later tonight.  When he sat back down, Starsky was staring into space.

"Hey," Hutch prompted, "what are you thinking about right now?"

Starsky's eyes darted to him.  "Keep thinkin' I should have been able to get out of there.  It was a big zoo.  I should have been able to find a way out."

"Yeah," Hutch said sincerely.  "Like, I should have been able to get away when Ben Forest's men had me.  Before they juiced me."

Starsky regarded him sadly.

Hutch said, "There were guys with guns there, right?  You didn't know where you were, within the zoo.  They drugged you.  You mentioned a bear."

Starsky drew a sudden breath.  "Yeah.  Scared the hell out of me.  At that point, I didn't know if they intended to feed me to him."

Hutch watched the emotions play over his partner's face.  "You want to tell me about it?  All of it?"

Starsky looked away.  "Not right now."

"'Kay," Hutch whispered.  At some later point, he would need to hear the details of Starsky's ordeal, so he would know exactly what it was that Starsky had been through.

Starsky sipped his water.  Then he said, "I'm feeling bushed, still.  How about you?"

Hutch nodded.  He was full and sleepy.  "Yeah."

Unsteadily, Starsky said, "You're going to stay real close, right?"

Hutch knew what Starsky was asking, and his partner's willingness to be vulnerable in his presence was something precious.  "Of course, I am.  Let me get all this food put in the oven, and I'll come join you."

Starsky left the table.

Darkness was falling.  Hutch spent some time straightening up the kitchen, and making sure all their leftovers were in the oven, in closed containers.  He shut off lights, except turned on a lamp next to the sofa, so the apartment wouldn't get completely dark.

When he entered the bedroom, he could see in the grayness that Starsky was burrowed beneath the covers.

"We need to change the bandage on your cheek, and put some ointment on it."

"Not right now," Starsky said softly, his eyes closed.

Hutch didn't have the heart to argue.  He moved around to the other side of the bed and got on top of the covers, and then carefully moved closer to Starsky.  He spooned himself around the covered form, and then reached over Starsky until he found a hand.  He clasped it.  "I'm right here, partner."

After a moment, Starsky said, "It sort of hurts, where your head is."

Hutch took his weight off Starsky's shoulder, and shifted to grab a pillow.  He placed it beside Starsky's pillow, and then lay his head on it.  "Better?"


They were silent a moment, then Hutch asked, "You going to be able to sleep?"

"Hope so.  Now that I'm in bed, I'm more and more alert.  I can feel myself starting to get angry."

"Ah, buddy, you'll have time later for that."

"If I'm not angry, then I'll be scared."

"Hang onto me as much as you need."

Starsky intertwined both arms with the arm that was draped around him.  After a moment, he said, "You can get under the covers.  I won't tell."

"I'm fine," Hutch said.  He didn't think he'd get cold.  Besides, he felt more protective this way.

They were silent a long moment.  Hutch knew Starsky wasn't sleeping.  He thought back to the memory that he most cherished.  When he was so weak.  So sick.  So wanting.  No matter how offensive those needs had been, Starsky had held him close.

The words were out before Hutch had a chance to think about them.  "Want me to hold you?"  He realized, then, that it could be said that he was already holding Starsky.  "I meant --"

"Yeah," Starsky replied, already shifting beneath Hutch's grip.

Hutch released him and sat back against the headboard.  His legs automatically spread as Starsky, still wrapped in covers, relaxed against him, his good cheek on Hutch's chest.

Hutch felt his heart melt at the fact that Starsky felt entitled to thoroughly violate his partner's personal space.

There was more shifting by them both, now subtle, until they were comfortable.

Hutch's arms went around Starsky, as he rested back against the headboard

"Mm," Starsky grunted with approval.  "Better."  He released a deep sigh, as though preparing for sleep.

Hutch closed his eyes, his hands rubbing slowly along the bundle in his arms.

After a time, Starsky's quiet voice said, "That bear really scared me, Hutch."

Hutch's hands continued to rub.

"Everything about them scared me.  And then I thought --"  Starsky's voice suddenly choked.

Hutch felt an arm through the covers, and squeezed.

"I thought they were all gonna stab me, when I couldn't defend myself.  And all I could do was plead and beg with Gail."  A sob escaped.

Hutch's eyes watered.  His arms tightened.  "I've got you."

"I've never been so scared in my life."  It was a blatant sob, and Starsky was suddenly wrestling with the covers.

Hutch wasn't sure how to help.  When Starsky's arms were free, one looped around Hutch's neck, and the other grabbed his side, through the t-shirt.  He rested his cheek against the top of Hutch's shoulder and sobbed again.

Hutch felt relief and placed his cheek against the top of Starsky's head.  As the body within his arms shuddered, he stole a moment to take charge of the blankets and wrapped them back around Starsky, so that were now covering them both.

"I was so scared," Starsky said in a childlike voice.

Hutch rubbed at Starsky's back, beneath the covers.  His other hand held Starsky's head against his shoulder.  "I'm so glad you're going to be all right."  He waited a beat.  "So, so glad I have you back."

Eventually, Starsky's breath evened out.  "Tired," he whispered.

"It's all right to sleep," Hutch assured.  "I've got your back, buddy."

Starky withdrew the arm that was around Hutch's neck.  He patted Hutch 's chest, in the way one would fluff a pillow, and then sunk down so that his head slipped from Hutch's shoulder, to his chest.  "I'm glad you're my partner," he said simply.

Hutch thought his heart was melting.  "So'm I."

"I love you and all that mushy stuff."

Hutch smiled and admitted, "I wouldn't want to do without the mushy stuff." 

"I'm gonna sleep now," Starsky informed him.  His weight grew heavier.  Barely audible, he whispered, "You're my everything, Hutch."

Hutch swallowed.  "Right back at you, partner."

"You make everything okay."

Hutch rubbed a pair of fingers against Starsky's neck.  "I think things will be even more okay, if you can fall asleep."  He stopped himself from suggesting that Starsky be quiet, since he knew his partner might find it more healing to keep talking.

Silence fell about them, save the soft music from the living room.  Then Starsky patted Hutch, from within the blankets. "Are you gonna be all right, Hutch?"

Hutch bent to rest his cheek against the top of Starsky's head.  "What will make me most all right the fastest is you letting me take care of you."

"That's what I'm doing, dummy."

Hutch snorted.  "Yeah."  He raised his head and shifted his arms around Starsky.  "And a fine job you're doing of it, too."

That brought a soft chuckle.  Then, "You probably need your sleep, too, huh?"

"Yeah.  But if you need to talk, that's okay."

Starsky resettled his head against Hutch's chest.  "I want my Blintz to get his rest."

"Then you need to rest, too."


Hutch rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.  It wasn't the most comfortable position, so he focused on the bundle in his arms.  Safe and sound.  That made him feel content.  Relieved.

He'd dozed off when he felt Starsky shift, and turn to lie across Hutch's lap, his head on the mattress.  Starsky made a few grunting noises, and ended up hugging a pillow against his upper body.

Hutch took his opportunity, and lay down alongside Starsky, moving a few pillows out of the way, though kept one for his own head, and adjusted the covers around them both.

Starsky made a noise of puzzlement.

"Shh," Hutch whispered.  "It's all right.  Don't wake up."  He relaxed blissfully, now mostly stretched out, spooned along Starsky, beneath the covers.  He draped an arm over his partner, and Starsky clutched it.

As he drifted into sleep, Hutch wondered which of them needed the other more.

He decided it was a silly question, as he gave himself over to a secure darkness.



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