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Wuemsel's Fanfic Corner

The Great Pretender


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Oh yes, he was the great pretender.

Pretending to manage. Pretending to cope.

Pretending to be Hutch.

"Hutch?"

But he wasn't.

"Hutch!"

He'd stopped to be.

"Earth to Hutch!"

Who was he now?

"Zebra three..."

What was he now?

"HU..."

"I heard you the first time."

From the corners of his eyes he could see his partner next to him tilt his head to one side, studying him.

Eyeing him with that look.

Was there ever a time you looked at me differently, Starsk?

Yes, there had been a time. He knew that. But it was gone now. It had been taken from him.

Or did I make it go away myself? I can't remember.

"Uh... okay."

He doesn't even yell at me for being a smart ass. Oh, what am I thinking here, do I really long to hear Starsky YELL at me?!

"Hey, I'm gonna go over there and get some lunch," his partner told him. Somehow his voice unnerved Hutch. As if he's talking to a child or something. I'm no child. I don't need protection.

"Yeah, go ahead."

I am coping.

"You want something too?"

I can mange. "Nope, not hungry."

"You haven't eaten all day."

"Wasn't hungry."

Stop worrying! Stop trying to comfort me! Leave me alone!

His partner's glance rested on him a few seconds longer, then he left the car to stroll over to a take-away.

Hutch looked after him, suddenly almost overwhelmed by the feeling of loneliness. He noticed that his hands were shaking and rubbed them on his jeans.

Is that me or is it cold in here?

It was him. He knew it was him.

God, how much time has passed since all this crap, anyway? A week now? Yeah, about a week. Why am I still feeling like this?

Two men walked passed the torino. They both looked like youth had decided to desert them. Maybe because it had been insulted by their attempts at making it go away. They had thrown it out of their body, their minds.

Both had long hair, filthy, dishevelled. Dark smudges dug into the skin under their glassy eyes like bruises. Grey, they looked. Sickly ashen. Dead.

Their gazes snapped from side to side, hunted. Lost. Though they were two, each one of them was alone.

Did I look like that?

He followed them with his eyes, turning in the torino's passenger seat.

Do I still look like that? On the inside?

The loud snap of the driver's door falling close made him jump.

"Damnit!"

"Uh... sorry," Starsky apologized in a small voice and held out a sandwich for Hutch, who just looked at it.

"I said I wasn't hungry."

"And I said you haven't eaten all day."

Their eyes met ever so briefly, before Hutch looked down quickly, grabbing in the sandwich unceremoniously and held it in his hands, not making any attempt at unwrapping or eating it.

Starsky sighed slightly, wondering when it had been last he'd actually seen Hutch's eyes. Had it been after the Forest incident? He couldn't tell.

"Doesn't look like anything more's coming in today," he broke the tensed silence after a short while. Yet another thing -- their silences had never been tensed before.

"Why don't we drive back to the precinct, finish off some reports and call it a day?"

"Okay," Hutch shrugged, staring down at the sandwich. He felt his partner's look upon him like heat.

"You know, I could do the reports. You look whacked. Want me to drive you home? Get some rest?"

Hutch swallowed past a tightening knot in his throat at the softness in Starsky's voice.

When did it start that I can't endure his caring anymore?

"Okay," he shrugged.

I don't wanna be alone, buddy.

"Okay," Starsky nodded and started the engine. His disappointment was almost visible on his face. But he'd learned to not push Hutch. He'd tried to stay with his partner during the first days after the cold turkey. But Hutch had practically thrown him out, yelling at him. He'd apologized instantly, calling Starsky that night, but still he didn't seem to be able to make up his mind about wether he wanted his friend around or not.

And so Starsky had decided to leave it to him. If Hutch asked, he was there. Always. If he didn't want him around, he respected that too.

He thought it to be the best for his friend despite how much it hurt himself.

He could endure everything if only Hutch would get better. Some nights Starsky would lay awake on his couch, staring at the phone with eyes that were bright from the lack of sleep, willing it to ring.

But it never did. And it was as if he could feel his friend falling apart just by the silence of the phone as it matched Hutch's own silence.

If only he could hold him like he had right after Hutch's capture. If only he could make it all go away. If only he could get him back.

Stop thinking like that! he chided himself, casting a quick glance at his friend who looked out of the window, unseeing.

He's not lost or gone or anything. He just needs time. You'll see.

They drove past a filthy, dark alley where a few figures stood close together, looking like a sticky fog made out of humans.

Again, Hutch's gaze stuck onto them, his head turning to look after them almost against his will.

Starsky noted.

Just time, he thought. Just time.

The great pretender stared at the ceiling of his bed-room.

If it wasn't me this would be actually funny.

But it was him.

Drowning in self-pity. Some hot shot cop, me.

But it wasn't self-pity he was drowning in. He didn't know what it was. He only knew that it hurt.

He was cold again, but he knew that dragging the covers over him wouldn't help. Nothing would.

No, that wasn't exactly true. Something would.

Stop thinking!!!

It would not only make the cold go away, and the pain, and the memories, but also the shame. The feeling of not deserving this life.

Not deserving anything.

Not anyone.

Don't you dare whine now, Hutchinson. You told him to go away.

His gaze wandered over through the open door to the phone sitting on the table in the other room.

Starsky... No, he shook his head as if answering himself. Gee, now he was having discussions with himself inside his head. How much more screwed up could a person possibly be?

No, I won't call him. Won't bother him with this. He's done enough. He's...

"Oh god what am I gonna do," he whispered, rolled onto his side, curled up on himelf. He couldn't recall ever having felt so damn miserable in his entire life. Not even when Starsky had found him. Not even at Huggy's. Not even when his whole body had screamed in pain, had writhed in agony. No, not even then.

That had only been his body. What was screaming now was his soul. And it just wouldn't stop.

Of course he knew what was happening to him. His mind knew. He was a cop, he knew about the effects of drug abuse.

Depressions. Despair.

The mind had become as addicted to the drug as the body had. And, yes, he'd cleaned his body off the stuff. The pain he felt wasn't real. The cold he felt was just his imagination.

He needed to also clean his mind. He knew that. And he knew he couldn't do it alone.

Yet...

I don't want to call him. I don't want to see that look in his eyes again. I couldn't endure it. I'm...

He squeezed his eyes shut against the thought, but it came, anyway. Worthless.

Not worth Starsky's friendship. Not worth the loving care he'd experienced before. Not worth anything.

Wherever that conviction came from didn't matter, he didn't doubt it, didn't question did, didn't think.

He just stood up, slowly, grabbed his jacket and left the house.

Oh damnit! You're such an idiot! Starsky cursed himself while he desperately searched every alley he passed for his partner.

"Just time, huh?!" he said aloud, hitting the steering wheel hard with his palm. "Sure. Time. Sure."

God, buddy, where are you?!

It hadn't taken him five minutes to call Hutch when he'd arrived at the precinct after having left him at his place.

And it didn't take him a second to rush back to his car and over to Hutch's place when the phone wasn't answered.

The dreadful feeling crawling up his spine almost made his hands shake when he first knocked, then opened the door.

Please be home, please be home, please be home! Please snap at me for waking you! Please just be in the shower. Please just...

But Hutch wasn't home, not asleep, not in the shower, and he didn't answer Starsky's calls.

Maybe he just went to get... something.

"Yeah, right!" he answered his own thoughts angryly as if it was the fault of the voice in his head that Hutch wasn't there. "Something!"

I'm so sorry, he now thought as he cruised around the neighborhood, looking for his partner. Hutch hadn't taken his car. He couldn't be very far.

Maybe he isn't here at all. Maybe I'm wrong. If Hutch ever finds out about this he's gonna kill me.

But then -- that was a risk worth taking.

He stopped suddenly when he saw a man rushing around a corner at the end of an alley. He hadn't seen the man's face, but his size and built had matched Hutch's.

Not missing a second, he stopped with squeeking brakes, jumped out of the car and sprinted down the alley.

"Hu... uh-uh."

And froze in mid-step, almost falling over, when he reached the end of it.

There, turning to face him, startled, stood three tall figures, all instantly pointing guns at him. Among them was the man he'd followed. Not Hutch.

"Hey, uhm, uh, guys, I'm a cop, okay? I really am."

He slowly started inching backwards, his hands raised before him.

"So why don't you just... lower your weapons and surrender yourself while I... turn and run away as fast as I can!"

As he did exactly that, he already heard bullets cutting the air around him, and then suddenly, without any warning, something hard hit him on the back of his head. All lights went out.

Starsky was unconscious before he hit the ground.

Hutch didn't know how long he just walked around. Aimlessly. Or no, not aimlessly, but afraid of the aim. Afraid of stopping, because then maybe he would really turn to one of the figures hiding in the dark, watching him.

Were they watching him? Had they ever before? Did they now? Did they know? Could they sense it? Smell it? Had he changed? Did he look like one of them?

Funny, he'd never thought of them as worthless. Never had judged them.

He looked after a swaying young man walking past him, not seeing him, brushing his shoulder, not feeling it.

And he felt pitied the poor guy. He still did.

Why couldn't he pity himself? Wasn't it as arrogant to feel different from them as it would be to judge them?

He shivered slightly and dashed his hands deeper in his pockets, staring at the ground as he hurried along. God, he was so confused. Here he was, it would be so easy to get something. Something to help him, something to get him out of his misery, to push everything away, but still he struggled. He faught. He faught so hard, and it hurt so much.

Why don't you just get it over with?! What are you waiting for?!

He knew the answer, but he forced himself to not even think it. And then, suddenly, startingly, his gaze snapped up. He blinked once, twice, and slowly, somehow fearing the sight, turned to look to his right, into one of the alleys, as dark, as long, as narrow, as much a filthy alley as they all were.

A crumbled figure lay on the ground, not far away from him.

Hutch caught his breath.

A familiar red jacket covered the still form, familiar brown curls fell into the unconscious man's face.

"St-Starsky?" he whispered, unbelieving.

It didn't take him a split second to snap out of his trance, though, as he hurried over to his friend, falling to his knees next to him.

"Starsk!"

Oh my god! What the hell...?

Quickly checking his partner over he only found a rather small gash on the back of the curly head that was bleeding a little. Otherwise he seemed unharmed, a diagnosis that was proved by Starsky's immediate reacion to Hutch's touch.

Groaning, he opened his eyes, jerking away from Hutch's hand. "Ow!"

"Easy," Hutch soothed, "it's just me."

His partner blinked to clear his aching head, confusion written all over his face. "Hutch?"

"Yeah pal, it's me. It's okay. No, don't sit up just yet," he ordered, gently pushing Starsky back down again when he struggled to sit up. "You might have a concussion." Noticing a small brick next to them, he picked it up for Starsky to see. There was blood on one of the edges.

"Looks like someone knocked you out with this."

"A brick?!" Starsky called out unbelievingly, but winced and lowered his voice. "First they shoot at me and then they throw a BRICK?! That's mean!"

Hutch's eyes widened in shock. "Shot at you? Who shot at you?!"

"Some kids," Starsky winked and finally managed to sit up despite Hutch's efforts to keep him down.

"Some kids?! What the... What're you doing here, anyway?!"

"Uhm..."

"Did we get a call after you left me? Why didn't you call me?!"

"I did," Starsky answered, but immediately bit his lip, looking guilty. "We didn't get a call, Hutch. I... uhm... I went looking for you."

Hutch let go off him as if he'd burnt his fingers. "You what?"

"I called you and you... you didn't answer your phone, and you weren't at home either, so I... Don't be mad, huh?"

Hutch swallowed dryly, let out a deep breath and came to his feet, so that he was now looking down at his friend who also struggled to stand up, but didn't manage right away.

"And you went looking for me -- here," Hutch said, letting go of a sarcastic laugh. "Gee, thanks, pal."

"Hutch..."

"No, 'sokay, I mean, hey, I AM here, right? Right."

"Hutch please, I just... I was afraid you might be in trouble or something. I didn't mean to..." Starsky practically pleaded. He had made it halfway to his feet when a wave of dizzyness hit him and he would have fallen back if it hadn't been for Hutch to grab his arm and steady him.

God, look at him, the blond thought as he watched his partner squeeze his eyes shut, fighting with the sudden nausea.

It's my fault he got hurt, and he's the one apologizing. And he was RIGHT, goddamnit! I AM here.

Gently he brushed away the hair surrounding the gash on Starsky's head, causing a slight gasp of pain.

He could have gotten hurt. Badly. Or killed. A sudden feeling of distance grabbed hold of him as he glanced at Starsky who still cast a pleading look on him. His throat felt so tight he was surprised he could speak when he tried.

"Come on, I'll drive you to the hospital. You probably need stitches."

He could have gotten killed because of me.

Slowly he guided his partner to the torino, wondering how he had missed the car parking there when strolling along.

Starsky didn't have to wait long in the ER, and when he returned to the waiting area with a few stitches and a bandage covering the gash on his head, Hutch was gone.

"Oh 'triffic."

Relieved that he hadn't already taken the pain medication the doctor had given him, he hurried out of the building to his car.

"Buddy, you gotta stop doing this," he muttered as he started the engine. "Or you'll have made me an old man long before my time."

He was actually surprised that Hutch opened the door when he knocked.

Before the blond could say anthing at all, Starsky pushed passed him, turning in the middle of the living-room to face him.

"Okay partner, that's it. You and me are going to have a little talk now."

Hutch shrugged in a "whatever" sort of way and closed the door, leaning against it as he looked at his partner again.

At that reaction Starsky sighed desperately. "Hutch..."

"What, uhm, what did the doctor say?"

"Huh? Oh. 'sjust a scratch. Nothing serious."

"Pretty large bandage for something not serious. Did you take something against the pain?"

"I'm not here to discuss my head with you."

"Well, what d'you wanna discuss?" Hutch asked innocently.

"Oh for christ's sake will you cut it out?!" Starsky burst out. "You know exactly why I'm here! I have eyes, Hutch! Don't you think I know you're still hurting?" he asked in a softer voice, approaching his friend slightly. "Don't you think I know it when you're suffering? I want to help you, buddy."

The pleading look on his face was almost more than Hutch could bear, so he forced himself to look away, at the ground.

"I don't need help."

"Hu..."

"I don't want help!" he added fiercely. "I want you to leave me alone!"

Starsky opened his mouth, closed it, just eyed his friend, then suddenly said very softly: "No, you don't."

"Yes I do!" Hutch snapped, hurrying away from the door, away from Starsky as if fleeing from him. "I don't want you around! I don't want you to care! I want you to leave me the hell alone, don't you get that?!"

Starsky looked after him, but didn't try to appoach him again. His voice was as calm as Hutch had never heard it before when he spoke again. "So what now, partner, hm? We're through? Done? Because some fruitcake tortured you and shot you up? Hm? That it? We're gonna let them win?" He shook his head sternly. "Uh-uh. No way, Hutch. Sorry to tell you, pal, but you're not alone. No matter what."

"Get out!"

"No," Starsky stated simply. "I won't leave you."

"Starsky ..."

"What d'you wanna do, Hutch? Fight me? Hit me? Go ahead, if you feel better then."

Hutch stared at his friend standing before him and felt the stinging of tears in his eyes. How could he forget how stubborn his friend could be, how very caring? And if Hutch really was to take his anger, his fear, his frustration out on his partner, Starsky would just let him do it, wouldn't complain, wouldn't flinch, wouldn't defend himself.

The love he saw reflected in the blue eyes was unconditional, he knew that. He'd earned it once, though right now he couldn't remember how he'd accomplished that. He only knew he didn't deserve it. Knew it with all his heart that was breaking at the realization.

A single tear cascaded down his cheek, as he spoke, his voice merely a whisper. "You want that for a partner, Starsk?" He sniffed. "A fucking addict?"

"I want you for a partner. And you're no addict, Hutch. You were a victim. You didn't chose to become an addict."

"I chosed to stay one."

"Oh? You're on something now?"

"No, but..."

"You bought something?"

"No, but I..."

"How long did you wander around there, hm? One hour? Two? How many dearlers did you pass? A dozen? Two, three? You're not an addict, Hutch."

More tears escaped Hutch's eyes, and finally he noticed them, tried to wipe them away with trembling hands.

"Then why... why do I feel like one? Why do I feel so... worthless? So..." He sniffed, and a small sob escaped him.

"Aw babe," Starsky said in dismay and couldn't help approaching his friend now, wrapping him in a comforting hug. "Is that how you feel?"

Hutch nodded against his shoulder, stiffling another sob.

"How can you even think that?" Starsky soothed, his own voice not that steady too. "Don't you know you're the most wonderful person in the whole world? I mean," he added, after a moment's thought, "right after my mother."

Hutch chuckled slightly and felt himself pushed away a little to look into Starsky's eyes.

"You're not worthless, you're the blond blintz," his partner told him as if that would explain everything.

Hutch couldn't help laugh a little, but stopped immediately when he saw Starsky wince ever so briefly. Gently he reached out to touch a spot next to the white bandage on the curly head.

"When... when I saw you lying there in... in that alley I thought..."

"I know," Starsky said with a wry smile, catching the hand that was brushing his hair. "I know, buddy."

"It's... I... When you told me why you'd come there, I..." He stopped himself and sniffed again. "You got hurt because of me."

"'course. Wouldn't want to get hurt for anyone but you. Hey," Starsky added at Hutch's unconvinced smile, "just kidding. It wasn't your fault, you know that. I ran into that dumb alley without drawing my gun. Rookie mistake."

"But still..."

"But nothing, Hutch. It wasn't your fault," Starsky told him firmly, then looked down himself as a thought crossed his mind. "I'm sorry I didn't talk to you earlier. I noticed you were down and all, but... somehow I thought it'd be better to just... let you be. My mistake."

He looked up, and just for a second Hutch could catch a glimpse of all the pain his friend had gone through over the last week. It seemed as if he looked at Starsky for the first time in what felt like years. What he saw hurt him even more than what he'd felt through all of this. Once more, guilt threatened to overwhelm him.

"Buddy, don't," he just said and squeezed Starsky's shoulder. "Okay?"

"Yeah," Starsky nodded quickly. "Yeah, okay. I just..." He couldn't help it, he had to say it. "I just can't bear the thought that I... let you down."

"Let me... Starsk, come on," Hutch said in dismay and bent down to look into the blue eyes he'd seen so full of pain too often. "I don't even want to think about where I'd be without you! Probably dead. Or out there like... Hey," he added as Starsky still didn't look up at him and tipped his finger under Starsky's chin to lift it slightly, "you didn't let me down, partner. Never."

A smile twisted the corners of his mouth as he continued: "And don't feel that way. Don't you know you're the third most wonderful person in the whole world? Right after your mother and me."

Laughing, Starsky playfully slapped the back of Hutch's head, before hugging him once more.

The great pretender stopped pretending, as he relaxed in the warmth and comfort of his best friend's embrace.

He'd cope. He'd manage. He wasn't cold anymore.

And he was Hutch.

See, I got him back. And no thanks to you, time.

 

THE END

 

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