Co-Wrtten with Jenna
The story takes place three weeks after the events shown in "Bloodbath".
Hutch was tired.
"... which WAS his best role. I mean screw "African Queen"! Whoever cares for oscars, anyway! Right?"
"Right? Hutch? Hey, Hutch."
Too tired to actually take part in the lively discussion of Mr. Bogart´s career going on at his right.
Lazily lifting his beer, he took a sip, lost in thoughts of his warm, soft bed waiting for him...
"Hey, I saw that! You moved!"
... along with a complete day off, that he planned to spend in exactly that place--his bed--doing nothing but--
... sighing deeply as his partner grabbed his lifted arm to give it a shake, spilling beer over his jeans.
His gaze slowly wandering to his side to meet Starsky´s sheepish grin, Hutch scowled at him, beer still half in the air, pants soaked.
"Sorry," his partner tried, making the apology sound like a question.
"Yeah, right," Hutch growled, taking another sip, before placing the bottle back down at the counter. "Sorry."
"You could have answered me, y´know," Starsky defended himself, but only earned another look to kill from his friend who glanced down to inspect the damage done.
"I chose to ignore you."
"Hey! That´s not a nice thing to say!"
"Really," Hutch muttered, unimpressed, and turned away from Starsky on the bar stool, uninterestedly gazing into the dancing crowd to their side.
The pathetic "I said I´m sorry," coming from behind him he chose to ignore too, settling for studying the moving bodies, trying his best to suppress a wide yawn.
It was the fifth night they were, as Starsky had so very eloquently put it, "trying out" the newest club in town, a rather crappy, dark place with no indrawing atmosphere whatsoever, but opening hours from dusk till dawn.
The "but" in that sentence had come from Starsky in their discussion about the place, though. For Hutch, the club was not only too crowded, but too damn loud, too "smellish", as he´d put it in order to not insult Starsky´s taste of places, and visited too late and, most of all, too often.
His exhausted eyes trying to follow the movements on the dance floor, he felt the sudden nagging of a thought he´d never expected to even have: he really needed a day off from Starsky.
"Hey, Blintz, how `bout we call it a night..."
Eyes snapping open, Hutch started to turn to his partner to give an eager nod.
"... and maybe head for my place to--"
The blond´s smile faded, as he faced his grinning friend with an almost icy look.
"What?" Starsky asked innocently.
'What'. 'What' had been going on for two weeks now. And ever since it´d started, Hutch´s loveable, slightly annoying partner had turned into his irritating, REALLY annoying one he was trapped with this night like he´d been each and every one ever since the sudden change. If Starsky had been out-going before, now he was barely home at all a night, and if he´d spent much time with his partner, now he was practically glued to him. There hadn´t been one night he hadn´t called Hutch or suddenly showed up at his place, asking with wide, begging eyes if his partner already had plans for the evening, and it seemed that sleep had been cancelled for him.
'Yeah, he probably uses up all the wake hours he saved at the academy,' Hutch thought sarcastically, as he looked at his partner with a sigh, mumbling an unconvincing, "Nothing, Starsk. Nothing."
"Good," Starsky replied with a grin, already sliding from his stool to grab his jacket.
Unwillingly following his sudden movements, Hutch sighed once more, draining his beer. Whatever it was that had his partner turned so suddenly, well, NEEDY, he desperately wanted it to stop.
'No, not stop,' he corrected inwardly, while slowly sliding from his own stool, 'but maybe just... change focus.'
For example, he would have been delighted three days before, if Starsky had focused on lovely Miss Celia, best friend of equally lovely Miss Sandy, instead of him, Hutch, who´d actually been BUSY charming said Miss Sandy. But nooo, totally uncharacteristically, his partner had been none too interested in even TALKING to the lady.
He´d been interested in talking to Hutch.
So after only five minutes, the girls, who´d just sitten down at their table after Hutch had had done the watching-and-smiling-work all evening long, had excused themselves and never showed up again, a fact Starsky, once more acting TOTALLY out of character, didn´t seem to be worth sighing about.
Hutch, on the other hand, had decided things had to change. He needed his old Starsky back. Out-going, independent Starsky.
Unfortunately, a decisions alone didn´t do the actual job of changing. And since he was too worn-out from hanging around with his suddenly insomniatic partner every night, he hadn´t gotten to do it.
But he would, he´d thought.
"Yeah, I´m coming."
Deciding he would ask his partner about the changes in the privacy of his apartment, Hutch too grabbed his jacket and followed Starsky outside, once more yawning widely.
There was light again. Cold blue light. Bright. Flickering. Like it was moving.
But it wasn´t. Nothing was. No one was.
Movement had stopped. Been stopped. The figures to his side didn´t move as they would never again. Figures. He saw only one this time, but there were more. He knew it. Had seen them before. Smelled them. Felt them. Cold flesh beneath his fingers. Soft, mushy. Crusted from once sticky blood at places.
Why he´d touched them, he couldn´t recall. Probably to find out if they were still alive. Probably out of the same reason he´d talked to them. Screamed at them. Begged them to answer.
But they never had. The dead didn´t talk. So he shouldn´t too.
"Let me out! I´m alive! I´m alive! Let me out! Hey, anybody out there?! Hear me! I´m not dead! Let me out!!!"
Like the dead, he´d never been heard. Wasn´t going to be heard. Like the dead, he´d been disposed.
Suddenly, he jerked around. Had he just seen a finger move?
No... they couldn´t move, could they?
"Let me out!"
But he´d seen it... Hadn´t he?
"Let me OUT!!!"
Bodies didn´t move. The dead didn´t move. They lay still. Dead. The only moving one around there was him.
"Please! Let me out! I want out!"
He couldn´t see a door. The dead had no door. Nothing to pound at. No one to scream at.
Just the dead.
"PLEA..." His eyes snapped open. His own ragged breathing echoed in his ears.
Dream. Just a dream. No dead. Nothing moving. No smell.
His heart racing in his chest.
No bodies--but light. Cold blue light. Flickering. Bright. Like it was... moving.
His breath caught in his throat. 'Dream!' the frantic thought circled in his head. 'Dream! Just a dream!'
But he sensed something beside him. Near him. Almost touching him. Still, unmoving...
Panicking, he slid away, until something stopped him, his back meeting something soft but firm. Eyes fixed on the unmoving form, he reached out a shaking hand, slowly, scared...
The figure moved, and he froze.
Annoyed, Hutch swatted at something, sleep still dragging at his senses. Mumbling something unintelligable, he let his head roll to one side, not wanting to wake up, but having already lost the fight for sleep.
So, with a mixture of a sigh and another mumble, he blinked his eyes open, feeling grumpy right away.
God, how he hated to wake up like this. His neck stiff, his eyes burning from the unmercyfull light of a TV screen sending their undoubtly unhealthy light flickering over his closed lids. And, coming to think of it, he´d been waking up like this much more often than he would have liked those last two weeks, anyway!
"Mnhm... Starsk," he muttered, lifting a heavy hand to wipe it over his still exhausted features, "turn off the fucking TV, will ya?"
As nothing happened, he blinked his eyes open at last. Irritated, he searched for his partner, calling out a louder "Starsk!", while deciding that the very least his partner could have done after practically dragging him in front of the TV to watch yet another Late Night Creature Feature with him, was to turn off the TV when his guest had fallen asleep. How much more obvious could you get about being tired and bored?!
When he finally made out his partner´s form in the flickering light, though, the annoyed comment that´d crawled up inside his throat fell back, making him cough slightly. "Hey? Starsk? You awake?" he asked, softening his voice almost unconsciously.
Starsky didn´t answer. That he was awake, though, was obvious; his eyes were wide open, glimmering in the cold bluish white filling the room.
Again, Hutch´s partner failed to answer, but seemed to shrank back at the prospect of the blond bending closer. Startled, Hutch let instinct took over and quickly rose to his feet to turn on the headlight. What he saw deepened the frown on his forehead.
"Hey... Starsky? Buddy, you alright?"
His partner didn´t answer, yet his appearance actually was answer enough. Not only was he deathly pale, but he shook like a leaf, fingers interlaced with the throw that he´d dragged over his drawn up knees. Huddled in the corner of the couch, he never took his eyes off Hutch...
... but remained unresponsive.
Sensing the severety of the situation, the blond slowly walked over to the couch again, turning off the TV on his way, and crouched down in front of his visibly disturbed partner, looking up into his face with clear concern evident in his expression.
Starsky´s gaze followed him. The second Hutch´s fingers reached out to touch him, he pressed back against the headrest, scared.
Watching in dismay, Hutch lowered his hand to let it rest on his friend´s foot. "It´s okay, Starsk. It´s me. D´you know where you are?"
Starsky waggled his foot out of the touch. Hutch reluctantly drew his hand away, lowering his head even more, as he continued to soothe his partner. "It´s alright, babe. Everything´s okay. You´re home, and I´m right here. It´s okay."
He had no idea what it´d been that had scared Starsky like that, but it was obvious his friend was increasingly terrified, and Hutch tried to help him the only way he knew. Slowly, he bent his knees, rising to sit next to Starsky again, who, to Hutch´s relief, failed to flinch. All the time he kept up his nonsense crooning, trying to ease the smaller man´s distress, and slowly, hesitantly, Starsky relaxed, blinked, frowned.
"Hutch?" he asked tentatively as if afraid to get a negative answer.
"Yeah," Hutch replied quickly, flashing him a warm smile as he reached out to touch his shoulder. "Yeah `s me. You coming out of it now? You okay?"
Starsky stared at him, wide-eyed, then looked around, taking in the surroundings of his own apartment with obvious wonder and relief, much to Hutch´s concern.
"Starsky?" he repeated, gently tipping his index finger under Starsky´s chin to force his head around to look at him. "You with me?"
Cobalt blues met his, terror leaving them like fog clearing in a winter sky. "Sure," he finally answered, his voice merely a hoarse whisper, and cleared his throat. "Sure. Fine." He slowly drew away his head. Hutch let his hand sink. "Fine."
Studying him, Hutch nodded with a loving smile, sliding away a bit as to leave his friend some distance. Yet the appall showed in his eyes. Something had just happened, something strange, scary. Something he hadn´t been wanted to witness.
Something he had to find out about.
"You had a nightmare?" he asked, knowing full well that hadn´t been the case, but using the very first idea that popped up in his mind.
"Huh?" Starsky made, startled, glancing up from where he´d rubbed his still too pale features.
"Nightmare," Hutch repeated gently.
"Oh. Uh... yeah. Right. Yep. Nightmare." A quick, nervous grin crossed his face. "Bad one."
Hutch nodded sympathtically. "Thought so."
"Yeah," Starsky smiled, but trailed off, his gaze falling as he took sudden interest in his socks.
"Wanna talk about it?" Hutch offered.
A pause stretched itself into unendurance. Starsky waggled his toes, watching in fascination.
Hutch sighed. "Starsky, what´s wrong?"
Innocent blue eyes snapped up to meet his, as an innocent smile crossed Starsky´s lips. "What d´you mean?"
"I mean," Hutch answered, his voice as warm as an embrace, "what´s wrong?"
The faked smile faded. The innocent gaze dropped. "Nothing." Mumbled.
Hutch let a brief pause pass, before he carefully slid closer, until their shoulders touched. Gazing ahead, though, as he wanted to leave his friend the privacy of his looks, he softly said, "C´mon, buddy, it´s me. You can tell me. You know that."
Silence answered him. Silence and tensing muscles against his shoulder. Yet he remained quiet, waiting.
When Starsky finally answered, his voice was so soft, Hutch had to strain to hear it. "`M scared, Hutch."
The blond frowned, but didn´t move. "Of what?"
The frown deepened. "Who´re them, buddy?"
"B-bodies," Starsky whispered, the word quivering.
"What?" Hutch asked. Unable to suppress his concern any longer, he carefully placed one arm around his friend´s shoulders lightly.
"Bodies," Starsky repeated. "In the dark." A violent shiver ran through him, and Hutch instinctively hugged him closer.
"What bodies?" he asked, fear creeping up his spine. "What´re you talking about?"
"M-moving," Starsky whispered. "I... I think they moved. S-saw them."
"You saw the bodies moving?" Hutch asked, and Starsky nodded. "Where?"
The shaky reply only adding to his concern, Hutch started to rub his friend´s back assuringly. "Shh, babe, `sokay, Hutch is here."
The curly head next to him slowly rolled to rest in the assurance of his offered shoulder.
"`Sokay," Hutch repeated. "Starsk, where did you see bodies?"
No answer, but a whimper as Starsky closed his eyes as if against scaring images.
"At the zoo?" Hutch asked softly, tightening his hold, when he felt his friend tense up. "Starsk? Yes? At the zoo where they kept you?"
"Oh God," Hutch breathed, leaning his head back against the headrest, blinking at the ceiling, his hand wandering up to gently stroke his friend´s head. "They had the rest of their victims at the zoo, hadn´t they?"
A sniff, then, almost too low to be heard, "Yes."
Hutch closed his eyes. "Bodies."
"What happened, Starsky?"
Under his friend´s caring touch, Starsky relaxed slightly, trying to tell without feeling, to watch without seeing. "Th-they kept the bodies of their victims, Hutch. In a... in a shed."
"I know," Hutch said softly. "We found them."
Drawing in a deep breath as if to brace himself, Hutch bent forward again, resting the side of his head against Starsky´s. "D´you saw them?"
"In the shed?"
Another one, followed by a quick breath, almost like a gasp.
"Wh-where..." Hutch started, stopped, and forced himself to go on, "Where were you? When you saw them?"
Starsky closed his eyes.
"Starsk?" Silence. "You were in it, weren´t you?"
Again, a shuddering breath, and Starsky´s curls brushed against Hutch´s cheek as his head slid down to rest against the blond´s shoulder.
"They locked you in the shed with the dead?" Hutch asked, dismay coloring his soft voice.
A quiet sniff reached his ears, and he drew his partner´s shivering form in out of pure reflex. "Oh God, babe, why didn´t you tell me?"
A whimpered "Couldn´t" answered his question, and he sighed, once more closing his eyes as he let the past two weeks replay in his head. The first week after his ordeal with Marcus´ goons, Starsky had spent his time trying to cinvince his overprotecting partner that he was alright. He´d answered each and every question the doctors at the hospital as well as Hutch had asked him, had talked about the bear, the drugs, the beatings--actually, Hutch thought with a sudden flash of guilt, his partner had been throughout uncharacteristically talkative about what had happened to him. But Hutch, in his relief and exhaustion after the hours of dread and fear, had most willingly accepted his friend´s assurances.
And when the changes had started, he´d been too taken off guard to think. The long nights out. The clubs. Not sleeping. Not wanting Hutch to sleep. Not dating. Not wanting Hutch to date.
'He was scared of being alone,' the blond thought, casting his shaking friend an appalled glance. "Why couldn´t you tell me?"
Starsky shrugged slightly, but didn´t answer.
"Starsk," Hutch asked urgently, "what happened in that shed? What d´you see?"
"Forgotten," his friend answered in a scared whisper that sent a cold shudder down Hutch´s spine. "I thought they´d forgotten me."
"Forgotten?" Hutch repeated, confused.
"Thought they thought I was dead. Th-they... they´d knocked me out, a-and..." His voice trembling so bad he couldn´t go on, Starsky stopped and hid his face against his partner´s shoulder.
Hutch watched him in dismay. "You thought they´d left you with the dead?!"
After what felt like an eternity, Starsky gave a tiny nod.
"Oh God, Starsk," Hutch breathed in utter shock, sliding both arms around his partner to hug him tightly. "Oh God, I´m sorry. I´m so sorry."
"I-I thought I´d die there, Hutch," Starsky´s chocked whispers reached his ears. "It was so dark, a-and th-there were..." He swallowed dryly, forcing himself to go on. "There were bodies e-everywhere. I could feel their eyes were open."
Hutch closed his own instantly.
"God, the smell..." Starsky whispered, but trailed off.
"Oh Starsk." Pulling away slightly, Hutch glanced down to meet the smaller one´s eyes that were glimmering with unshed tears. "Why didn´t you tell me?"
The guilt was obvious in his voice. All the time since, he´d been puzzled, slightly worried maybe, annoyed--but not really concerned. Nothing had prepared him for what had been revealed to him now.
"Felt dumb," Starsky replied as if ashamed and dropped his gaze.
"Why?" Hutch asked incredulously.
Starsky shrugged. "They didn´t, like, hurt me. Just got scared." He paused, before adding, even more embarrassed, "I begged them to let me out. Screamed a lot."
Recalling the hoarse tinge in his friend´s voice when he´d found him, Hutch sighed, frustrated.
"Hutch," his friend´s voice made him look up again. "I´m sorry. I know I´ve been a pain in the ass lately. I´m..." Resigned, Starsky´s shoulders slumped. "I´m sorry."
"No, I am," Hutch replied, placing one arm around his shoulders again. "I knew something was wrong. I should have seen it. I´m... Has this been going on ever since?" he cut himself off, suddenly realizing the full meaning of Starsky´s revelation. "Is that why you didn´t go out with Lauren again?"
Starsky had been out with Lauren once, she was one of the nurses at the hospital he´d been checked over at. Yet after that first date, Hutch had never heard of the girl again.
Blushing, Starsky nodded and after a pause mumbled, "She fell asleep. You know," he added, "like... afterwards. And I freaked out."
"Because she lay still then."
Starsky nodded quietly.
Hutch sighed in shared pain, gently stroking his friend´s neck. "Aw babe."
"I´m scared of being alone, Hutch," Starsky mumbled, leaning back slightly as if into Hutch´s hand that remained where it was. "And I´m scared of being with people."
"When they´re asleep," Hutch added.
"Yeah. Right." Pause, then a bitter laugh. "Pretty freaky, huh?"
"No," Hutch replied softly, gently dragging his friend´s head closer to have him lean against his side again. "Not freaky at all. What those guys did to you was pretty awful. I understand."
Snuggling up on his partner, Starsky closed his eyes, longing for letting himself fall in the safety he felt engulfing him. "I don´t want to feel like this, Hutch. I want to feel like myself again."
"I know, buddy," Hutch replied. " I know."
"B-but I don´t think I can." The whisper was fear-filled, and it tore at Hutch´s heart.
"Of course you will," he assured, running long fingers through thick brown curls. "I´ll help you."
"How?" Starsky whimpered, the word sounding almost like a sob.
"First of all," Hutch answered, leaning them both back slightly,"you´ve to tell me exactly what happened."
"Hey, I´m right here," Hutch soothed. "I´ll protect you. They´re not gonna get near you again."
"I know, Hutch," Starsky replied. "It´s just... it´s so damn scary. Okay?"
Before Hutch could reply something soothing, though, Starsky continued, "I woke up in the dark, and the smell was really..." Once more he stiffened as if he feared he´d be sick at the thought. "So I tried to stand and hit my head, because the ceiling was so narrow. And then I saw... them."
A violent shiver grabbed him, and Hutch quickly reached for the throw to cover him, whispering, "Shh, I´m here. I´m here."
"I don´t think there were lots of them," Starsky continued, audibly fighting for his voice to be steady, "b-but... God, Hutch, it was awful." Once more, he slipped into a whisper. "Their eyes were open, and I tried to close them, b-but there... there were so m-many, a-and... there was blood on them, and..."
"Shhh, babe, calm down," Hutch tried to soothe his agitated friend. "It´s okay now. It´s okay."
"I thought they´d thrown me in there, because they thought I was dead. I-I yelled, but no one showed up, and..." A deep, bitter laugh cut off the frantic mutters, as Starsky added, "I think I´ve never been so glad as when they dragged me out of there to drug and sacrifice me."
"Starsk," Hutch breathed, ever so gently ruffling his hair.
"Yeah," his partner mumbled, "`M sorry."
For a while, they just sat--or lay--in silence, each one absorbed in his own task of giving and taking comfort, before Hutch softly said, "I wish you´d have told me earlier."
Starsky swallowed dryly and hesitated, before replying, "I´m sorry, Hutch. Guess I was sort of... ashamed. I mean," he added with yet another tiny bitter laugh, "hot shot cop, me. Can´t sleep with a beautiful lady at his side." The bitterness soaking in, he added with a snicker, "Or a snoring blond, for that matter."
"I don´t snore," Hutch countered seriously, and Starsky shot him a quick "uh huh"-glance, that sent the blond´s brows upwards. "What? I don´t."
"Could have fooled me."
"Hm," Hutch made, leaning his head back as he once more stroke his friend´s head. "Dirtball."
Once more, silence settled and was broken by a very soft, "Hutch?"
"Yeah?" came the equally feather light reply.
Lifting his head, Hutch looked down at him and smiled warmly.
After the briefest of moments, Starsky returned the smile, knowing the answer in his heart without having heard it in his ears. With a relieved little sigh, he closed his eyes, and felt Hutch´s chin coming to rest on the top of his head.
Now he´d be safe from the fear. And not alone any longer to fight the demons of the dead waiting in the dark and lifelessness.
Now he could finally rest.