<%@ Page Language="C#" %> What Yes Means

What Yes Means
(c) 2002 by Charlotte Frost

Hell hath no wrath...Starsky mentally quoted as he charged up the steps of Venice Place.

Diana Harmon was in full fury, pounding at Hutch's chest. "I love you! I love you!"

Funny way of showin' it, Starsky thought as he grabbed her and yanked her back from his partner, a chill going through him at the realization that Hutch hadn't defended himself, and the vulnerable way in which his partner was trying to lean back against the wall of the hallway.

"Everybody loves you!" she screamed as Starsky tried to hold her, sparing a moment to look over his shoulder at the slower moving cops, wishing they'd take her, so he could tend to Hutch. He was taking it all in... Hutch looking so pale and afraid, in his robe, wet all over, holding a towel tightly around his left bicep. Trying to say something to Diana, something about being sorry.

"Why can't anybody love ME?!" Diana cried as the patrol officers arrived on the landing and Starsky flung her into the arms of the nearest pair. Finally, he could turn his full attention to his partner.

"Oops," Hutch murmured as he started to slide down the wall, as though his legs were collapsing. Softer still, "Oops."

Starsky grabbed for him, careful not to touch his left arm. "Hey, where you goin', huh?" he pleaded, feeling a flush of compassion for the further wrath that Hutch had had to endure. He had felt so certain that Diana would no longer be a problem after she'd had the satisfaction of tearing Hutch's apartment to pieces.

Still, Hutch was sinking. "I think I need to go and sit down."

Starsky's grip tightened. "Not here," he beckoned, and tried to lift the lanky form. Hutch cringed, and Starsky quickly switched to Hutch's right side. "Hang on to me, partner. Hang on." He slipped his arm around Hutch's waist. With his other hand, he took the clutched towel. "Let me have it. I've got it."

Hutch's hand released the towel and dropped weakly to his side. Loss of blood, Starsky had already figured out the reason for Hutch's lethargy. But he didn't know the nature of the wound. He tightened his grip on the towel and looked down the staircase. To the uniformed officers he yelled, "Call an ambulance!"

"On its way!" One called back.

Good work.

Another started up the staircase. "Do you need help with him, Sergeant?"

"Get him some towels," Starsky told him, his grip tightening on Hutch as he let the officer pass. "In the closet just inside the door here." Even through the robe, he could feel how cold Hutch was, and he was still wet.

"Come on, you big lug," he encouraged softly, feeling the weight of Hutch's body grow heavier in those few seconds since he'd taken charge of him. "Just a few steps to the couch." He moved with his burden, realizing Hutch's feet couldn't seem to take any of his weight. "Come on, boy." He hated dragging him like this, but it was the fastest way.

The officer was standing beside the couch, one hand clutching towels, some folded, some not. He'd also dragged the quilt from the bed.

Good job.

"Just leave them there," Starsky told him, nodding at the couch. He could feel that Hutch was naked beneath the robe. Surely, with some sort of wound on his arm, his life wasn't in immediate danger. No reason to expose his partner's dignity to mere co-workers. "Wait downstairs and send the paramedics up as soon as they get here."

"Right, Sergeant." The man left the towels and blanket at the end of the sofa and moved past to the door, leaving it open.

Starsky's grip tightened on the towel around Hutch's arm. They were next to the sofa. "All right, Hutch. Down we go." He bent to the sofa and slowly released his burden to it. Still, Hutch cringed as the furniture took his weight.

"Easy, buddy boy. Easy." Starsky was on his knees beside him. He had to stretch while keeping the makeshift bandage tight, but he managed to grab a bunch of towels. He put a folded one near Hutch's head. "Easy, there. Can you raise your head up? Huh? Got a pillow for you."

Hutch turned his head the other way, and Starsky put the towel up next to him. Then he let go of it so he could lift the wet head and carefully lay it on the softness.

Hutch's eyes were fluttering. His breaths were shallow. Starsky wanted to elevate his legs, but that would be too difficult while trying to keep pressure on the wound. Besides, the ambulance would be here within minutes.

He picked up another towel and ran it briskly along his partner's wet chest, inside the robe. "Here now, buddy, we'll just dry you off good." Hutch's teeth were threatening to chatter. Starsky paused to pull the blanket from the end of the couch and covered the injured man's lower body, which wasn't as wet as the rest of him. Then he went back to drying his chest, just now noticing the streaks of blood along Hutch's forearms. "Did she shoot you, buddy, huh? Is that what happened to your arm?" In addition to wanting details for himself, he knew the paramedics would appreciate a coherent patient, as it would be easier to evaluate his condition. Hutch looked like he wanted to drift off, and Starsky wasn't going to let him just yet.

Pale lids fluttered over eyes that were bleary with pain. "No," Hutch mumbled in a low voice. "Knife. Like Psycho."

Starsky blinked as he closed the robe around Hutch's chest; that part reasonably dry. "Stabbed you in the shower?" he clarified as levelly as he could. He drew the blanket up to Hutch's collarbone and tucked it around him.Fucking bitch. Talk about stabbing somebody in the back... He now rubbed the towel along his partner's neck.

Wearily, Hutch nodded.

"Do you know what kind of knife?" He asked gently. Please say a table knife. Even something as small as that could cause a lot of bleeding if it was used with excessive force.

"Felt big," Hutch muttered.

Ah, Hutch. Starsky grabbed a new towel and tossed it over Hutch's head. Then he rubbed it briskly around.

The muscles of his partner's face cringed.

"Take it easy," Starsky soothed. "Just dryin' off your hair." And trying to keep you awake. He gentled his motion, but still massaged firmly with his fingers.

Hutch suddenly sucked in a breath.

"Easy, Hutch," Starsky whispered even more gently. "Easy does it. The ambulance will be here any second."

Hutch swallowed thickly, his eyes closing. "Throbs."

"Yeah," Starsky said with sympathy. "You'll be able to fall asleep soon, but stay with me until the paramedics get here." Hutch's hair was reasonably dry and Starsky put the damp towel aside. He leaned closer to Hutch and picked up one of his hands and squeezed it. "You're gonna be fine, buddy boy. Just hang onto me."

Hutch did, his grip tightening.

Where's the damn ambulance?

Hutch's eyes drifted open, though they were mere slits. "Didn't mean... hurt her."

"Of course you didn't." Starsky squeezed the hand he held. "You ended up the one hurt most of all. So, don't waste your heart hurting for her. She's the one who got to Linda, too."

Hutch's fluttering eyes widened. "Diana?"

Oops. Starsky realized he shouldn't have said that. But perhaps it was just as well. Hopefully, his partner would feel less guilty. "Yes, Hutch, we found out it was her. She's a monster. That's not your fault, sweetheart."

Hutch seemed to deflate, eyes closing again. Sorrowfully, he muttered, "If I'd never gone... with... her... wouldn't... got-ten Linda."

Starsky gulped. He hadn't realized Hutch would make such an indirect connection to himself. He leaned close, his voice earnest as his heart pounded. "Hutch, no. It's not your fault. It's my fault, baby. Okay? It's my fault. You tried to tell me how sick Diana was, and I wouldn't listen." Why hadn't he listened? "You tried as hard as you could to tell me, and I just blew you off. My fault, Hutch. Not yours." But, then, his own guilt wouldn't necessarily make his partner feel any better. Starsky softened his voice. "Doesn't matter now. Diana is in custody and Linda's gonna be okay." He swallowed thickly, not knowing if the latter were a lie or not. The last word he'd had was that Linda was still in surgery, prognosis uncertain.

Hutch's eyes were still closed, and his face was more relaxed, as though in sleep. But Starsky's hand was squeezed hard.

"I'm right here, partner," he soothed, wishing both hands weren't busy so he could have petted Hutch along his shoulder and back. "It's gonna be okay now. You'll be back on your feet in no time. Hear me, babe?" He really hoped to get an answer to that question.

In the distance was the sound of a siren.

"Ambulance is just up the street," he soothed, then realized he hadn't given Hutch a chance to answer. The blond was quiet. "Hutch?"

The eyes didn't open. "Still here, partner." The voice was very low.

Starsky grinned and leaned closer. "Of course, you are," he whispered, squeezing the hand again. "Maybe next time, I'll get here a little faster, huh? Be here for you before you really need it?"

Still the eyes didn't open. Outside, the siren was very loud, then was abruptly silent.

The corners of Hutch's mouth turned up into a tiny smile. "Here now," he whispered. "'At's what counts."

Starsky gripped his hand harder. "Aw, Hutch."

Footsteps pounded up the staircase.


In the middle of the next day, Starsky entered Hutch's private room. The blond's eyes fluttered wearily.

"Linda's gonna be okay," Starsky announced, taking a chair beside the bed.

A broad, tired smile answered him. "That's good," Hutch said in a low, but very pleased voice. "That's terrific."

"Yeah." Starsky was grinning, too. "Go on back to sleep. Don't mind me. I'm just gonna be sittin' here and not botherin' you."

Hutch made the slight motion of a nod. Then his eyes closed.

Starsky studied the sleeping form. Linda was going to be okay, and Hutch would be released tomorrow morning. Though the wound had never been life threatening, since the bleeding had been stopped so quickly, the stab from the butcher knife had gone deep into the muscle. It would be quite a number of weeks before Hutch would have full use of the arm.

With the assurance that everything would eventually be back to normal, Starsky now found himself focusing on the question that had been teasing the back of his mind.

Just two days ago, Hutch had been over at his apartment, and had babbled non-stop about how sick Diana was and how desperately she needed help. Starsky had ignored him.

Well... not completely ignored. He now shifted in his seat, gaze lowering to his clasped hands. He'd truly thought that Diana had taken all her aggression out on Hutch's apartment. She was a scorned woman, and she'd extracted her revenge. End of story.

Except... Hutch had obviously known her better than Starsky. So, why had he, Starsky wondered now, been so nonchalant about Hutch's concerns?

Because Diane wasn't worth the consideration, a part of him answered. She didn't deserve Hutch spending so much time worrying about her. Maybe he wasn't as up front as he should have been about how their first night together was just a one night stand for him; but she sure as hell had no right to assume one roll in the sack meant they were halfway down a church aisle.

And after what she did to his apartment ... Sheesh, she sure didn't deserve any more of Hutch's concern after that.

But was that any reason to treat Hutch's feelings about her with so little regard?

"How's he doing?" a nurse asked as she walked in.

Starsky held his finger to his lips.

The nurse cringed with a smile, then fussed around the bed. Hutch moved his head, but his eyes remained closed, as though determined to not let anything interfere with his rest.

That's it, buddy boy. Get a lotta rest. You've certainly needed it since you met her.

The nurse made a notation on a clipboard at the end of the bed, then stepped out.

Starsky's thoughts strayed back to when Hutch had been at his apartment. Never seen you so worked up. Not since... I guess not since you'd been so happy about Gillian. Starsky frowned. Not exactly the best track record with women, is it?

But he forced himself back to the issue at hand. Cripes, after what Diana did to you earlier that night, it was incredible that you were so concerned about her. Embarrassing you like that. In front of everybody. Making a scene. And sayin ' you aren't a good lover, of all things. Starsky shifted in his chair. Talkin' about hittin' a guy right where it hurts. At least, she had the decency to direct that comment to me, rather than shouting it to the whole building.

Starsky furrowed a brow, carefully shifting again. She did say that to me, didn't she? Just to me. Like she thought it was somethin ' I oughta know about. Starsky flinched and scratched his head. Sheesh. Does she think...?

He shifted again. Naw, that's silly. Sure, other people have thought it about us, but she wouldn't have. After all, why would she have slept with you in the first place, if she thought that?

He shifted yet again. Or did she mean it that....

He rubbed his hands along his jeans. Hmm. Then laughed silently. No, that's crazy. No way would she have meant as, like, warning me or somethin' about you. In case I was interested. She was just mad and wanted to hit as low as she possibly could. Content with that, he glanced at Hutch again.

The Blintz slept on.

Wonder what you thought about her sayin' that to me. 'Course, guess you were probably too embarrassed to think of anything else except how humiliating that whole scene had been. He grimaced. Sorry about that, Hutch. No man deserves to be treated like that, huh? I mean, a couple of no-good felons callin' us faggots is no big deal. But when a woman you've actually slept with doesn't have good things to say about the experience, and then seems to think your best friend needs to know about your lack of abilities....

He stood up a half second, then sat back down again, trying to get comfortable in the chair. Sheesh. How am I supposed to watch my buddy boy get his beauty sleep when these chairs are as hard as metal?

Man, Hutch, you better be a lot more careful from here on out about whom you sleep with. Those golden boy good looks have gotten you into more trouble....

'Sides, wouldn't you rather spend your evenings with me a good part of the time, anyway? Just because she asks, doesn't mean you hafta spend the night with her, you know. You can go a while without. Trust me. I know. It might seem like it's impossible, but you get used to havin ' it only a couple of times a month or so. Bein' selective is worth it. Honest. You just gotta learn how to say "No ", even when all her body signals are sayin' "Yes ". You need to be sure she's gonna be worth it, Hutch.

In the meantime, while you're waiting for somebody worth it to come along, you can come help me put my model ships together. It's kinda neat, Hutch, learning about the different ships and what they were used for way back when. More fun than model trains, even. More challenging putting together the masts and stuff. And they aren't gonna expect you to marry 'em, just because you spent an evenin' with them. I've still gotta a couple of more kits to put together. I think that's how you oughta spend your evenings while your recuperating. Come to my place and help me with my ships. He frowned. 'Course, it's gonna be kind of difficult to do much with your arm bein' messed up for a while. Putting models together takes two hands. He brightened. But you can watch me while I put them together. Keep me company. And stay outta trouble.

He'd talk Hutch into it. Hutch would say "no" at first, because he was a strong believer in being contrary, but he'd come around. Starsky grinned, already hearing the blond's automatic protests in his mind.

"What's so funny?"

Starsky looked at the bed. Hutch's eyes were open. "Just thinkin'." Starsky leaned forward and patted the hand that was visible above the covers. "How ya doin' there, Blintz?"

"Okay." He sighed. "I'd do even better if they'd let me go home and sleep in my own bed."

"Tomorrow," Starsky assured. "They wanna keep you one more night just to make sure there's no infection."

Hutch grunted. Then he grimaced like it had hurt.

"That'll teach ya," Starsky noted. "Just lay there nice and quiet. Did it sink in earlier what I said about Linda?"

"She's going to be okay?" the blond asked hopefully.

"Yeah." Starsky's grin was wide.

"Thank God." Hutch released a sigh. "Don't know that I could have ever forgiven myself ...."

"Hey," Starsky admonished. "I thought we got that cleared up back at your apartment. It was my fault, Hutch, that Diana was still loose on the streets. You tried to warn me about her and I wouldn't listen." His voice softened, as he pointed out another truth that just occurred to him. "Not that it would have necessarily made any difference. I don't know if she ever even went back to her apartment. I mean, it's not like we coulda just gone and picked her up."

Pale brows furrowed. "Where is she now?"

"The loony house. Where do you think?"

Hutch's expression became distant.

"It's all over now, Hutch," Starsky insisted. "So you can close the door on that short but very eventful chapter in your life. We all make mistakes. And it's not like you had any way of knowin' what she was like when you first met her at the hospital."

Hutch snorted. "I never should have gone home with her when she showed up at that bar we were at." A thick swallow. "I always think I want it, but..." he trailed off.

Starsky squeezed his hand, feeling sympathetic now that Hutch had admitted that perhaps he should have more willpower when it came to sex. "Hey, I know how it is. You get used to playin' the game. If a woman says Yes, what guy's gonna say No?"

Hutch turned to look at him. "You would," Hutch whispered, as though with admiration. "I've seen you say No, when you didn't want it, didn't like her. Or when you thought it would be for the wrong reasons." Another self-mocking snort. "I didn't even enjoy myself all that much with Diana that night. She just really... wasn't my type. That's one reason I was so surprised that she kept pursuing me. There hadn't been many fireworks when we were in bed."

Starsky considered that-- what Hutch said, and what he didn't say. As casually as he could manage, he teased, "Oh, so that's why she said you weren't a good lover."

The smooth features pinched together to cringe heavily. "I can't believe she said that in front of everybody."

"She didn't say it in front of everybody," Starsky pointed out, glad to be able to say something to make Hutch feel better. "I'm the one she made that crack to."

Hutch furrowed a brow, as though trying to remember. "Really?"


Now the blond seemed amused. "Wonder why she felt she had to let you into our bedroom."

Maybe because I was already there, Starsky decided. And then made a motion of startlement, surprised that the thought had crossed his mind.

Hutch raised his head from the pillow. "Buddy, what's wrong?"

Starsky grinned, grateful to have recovered so quickly. "Nothing, Hutch. Nothing at all." He squeezed the hand he still held. "Hey, when you get outta here, wanna spend your convalescence helping me with my model ships?" He made his voice deliberately enthusiastic, which was easy because it wasn't feigned.

Another brow furrowed, as though puzzled by the enthusiasm. Then a slight lift of Hutch's left arm. "Not sure how much help I'd be."

Starsky shrugged, having no desire to hide his eagerness. "You can read me the instructions, if nothing else. Fetch thread. Hold pieces in place with your good hand while I glue them together."

"Oh, great," Hutch said with sarcasm. "I'll be your slave. That sounds like a great idea, buddy."

Starsky stood and patted Hutch's arm. "Good. I'm glad you're so agreeable. Now, think I'll mosey on down to the cafeteria and see if there's anything edible. Want me to bring you back anything?"

Hutch glared at him. Then said, "No." Firmly.

"Okay." Starsky patted him again, already calculating what No meant this time. I'll bring him up one of those high energy granola bars. And... he'll want part of any sandwich I get, so I'll get two. A large order of fries, cause he'll eat a few of mine.

"Be back in a bit." He turned toward the door. Gee, Hutch, how come you can't say No to women who say Yes, but you almost always say No to me?

Starsky had started down the hall. And now he stopped in his tracks. What if I said... Yes?

He considered that for a long moment.

Then continued on his way.




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