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This is a response to a "Starsky hurts Hutch"-Challenge Trish P. threw at me. And he does not hurt him with words, if you know what I mean, so there is a slight violence warning. There's a swear word or two in it, too.
 
Special thanks to Hilly for the great beta work (!) and to Nelleke and Starsky's Strut for the support and encouragement. Also, of course, thanks (and a bow) to Trish!

 “Is it okay for you to drink on top of those pills?” Hutch asked, once they were in his car.

 

Starsky shot him a frown. “Drink? I had one beer. And one pill.”

 

“Two,” Hutch corrected without taking his eyes off the road.

 

“Okay,” Starsky admitted slowly. “Two.” He waited, but when only a glance found him, sighed. “Dr. Weird said it was okay. They’re perfectly harmless. So harmless they don’t even work,” he added in a grumble.

 

That earned him a worried frown. “I thought they did.”

 

Suddenly uneasy, Starsky looked ahead, his answer a mere mumble. “Yeah. They do. They do.”

 

“Starsky-“

 

“They do,” Starsky cut Hutch off. “They do help. And nothing will happen from having popped one with a beer. I won’t snap and try to kill ya, I promise.”

 

“I just don’t want you to hurt,” Hutch replied. The openness in his voice was disarming.

 

Starsky threw him a quick helpless glance, but the understanding he saw in the other’s eyes made him choose the easy path. “How can you say that, while you’re forcing me to sit in this… thing?”

 

“Forcing you?” Hutch repeated. “If I remember correctly, you paid for this ride.”

 

“I paid for lunch.”

 

“Same thing.”

 

“Oh yeah? Then where’s my change?”

 

Hutch grinned at him. “Tip.”

 

“Course,” Starsky grumbled, rolled his eyes, and watched dusk settled over rooftops and parks outside the window.

 

Studying him secretly, Hutch once more noticed how tired his friend looked. Every time he truly paid attention to it, it hit him again. That strange, drawn look on Starsky’s face. The new light that would light up his eyes in panicky flickers ever so often.

 

Dr. Weil’s pills might indeed help with the edginess, the trembles, the nightmares, but they couldn’t quell the fear Hutch knew had nested deep inside Starsky’s chest, close to his heart. That fear that could choke you, as it spread like cancer.

 

There were no pills against that.

 

When they arrived at Westchester, Hutch turned his head to look at Starsky, who seemed to be asleep with his eyes open.

 

“Hey.” He gave the tense shoulder a gentle shake. Having anticipated a jerk or flinch, he was strangely giddy at the calm nod and followed yawn he received instead.

 

The Marcus Family might have dented Starsky, but they didn’t damage him. He had made sure of that. It was the one thing Hutch had kept on telling himself over the past two weeks. He had saved Starsky that morning, and he was saving him ever since. It was something to cling to, the memory of being been rescued, Hutch knew that too well himself. They both did.

 

So he’d let Starsky cling to it. It was the only thing he knew how to do. It was the only right thing to do, anyway.

 

“Mind if I crash here tonight?” he asked casually, as he already followed his friend up the porch steps.

 

Starsky just waved for an answer and let them in, almost asleep on his feet.

 

He tired quickly these days. Hutch hadn’t quite figured out if it was from the anti-depressants or the aftermath of it all or both. He was sure it would pass, though, and that was the only important thing.

 

“Cartoons or bed?” he asked, throwing his jacket and holster onto Starsky’s couch on his way to the kitchen. He grabbed a beer from the fridge. Turned around, when no answer came. “Starsk?”

 

Half expecting to see his partner already fast asleep on the couch, he nearly dropped the bottle in surprise, when he was met by the sight of Starsky’s gun. Pointed at his heart, dead centre.

 

It didn’t take him a blink to sense this was no joke. His friend’s eyes were stark cold, a determined frown underlining the seriousness on his face.

 

Some detached part of Hutch’s brain noticed Starsky’s hands weren’t shaking. He’d been wishing to see that happen for two weeks now.

 

“Uh…” was all he found he could say. Part of him wanted to laugh. Show Starsky he wasn’t playing along. But a tiny voice inside warned him that laughing might get him killed. He closed his mouth.

 

“Put that down.”

 

Feeling like he snapped out of a trance, though it couldn’t have been more than a second they’d been standing facing each other, Hutch blinked at Starsky, then stared at the beer bottle in his hand.

 

“Wha-“

 

“I said put it down.”

 

He had never heard that voice before, he was sure of that. It was Starsky alright, when he knew he was in control. When it was important to be in control. It was one of Starsky’s street voices. But at the same time it was so wrong.

 

‘Afraid. He’s afraid.’

 

“Starsky-“ Hutch started, but was kept from continuing by the unmistakable click of the trigger being pulled back.

 

“Okay,” he said quickly. “Okay.” He set the bottle down on the counter and lifted both hands. “I put it down.”

 

Starsky frowned, and scanned the room, without moving his head. He looked lost, cornered.

 

It tore at Hutch’s heart, and he instinctively took a step forward.

 

“Stop.” The eyes were on him again. “You come any closer, you’re dead.”

 

Hutch swallowed. He didn’t doubt it. “All right. I’ll stay here. Nothing to get excited about.” He smiled nervously.

 

Starsky watched him. Studied him.

 

‘Still afraid.’

 

“So you’re sure you can mix those pills with beer, buddy, yeah?” Hutch quipped.

 

No reaction.

 

“Starsky?” Hutch asked, bending his head closer. Hopeful.

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Listen-“

 

“Shut up!” Starsky bellowed. With one long step he was in front of Hutch, the gun touching his forehead.

 

The pressure against his skin combined with the perfect view of Starsky’s finger on the trigger almost made Hutch squeeze his eyes shut, but he knew had to keep looking. Had to meet his partner’s eyes. Had to get him back.

 

The blood throbbing in his ears, he stood perfectly still, eyes locked with his friend, who didn’t know him. There was fear in Starsky’s eyes, determination, rage. Hutch had seen it all before, and yet he hadn’t. Never like this.

 

He was getting very scared himself. And he noticed, with detached surprise, that he hadn’t been before.

 

“Buddy,” he more mouthed than whispered, not daring to move too much.

 

A moment went by, long enough to see his life like the trailer for a movie. But all Hutch saw were those eyes. Funny, they didn’t even look drugged. A little out of focus, a little too wide.

 

If Starsky took his life now, he needed to say goodbye.

 

Hutch frowned at himself. Where had that come from?

 

The gun moved away from his forehead. Mere inches, but it felt like he could breathe again, though he’d never stopped. He opened his mouth –

 

- and was caught off guard by the sudden, powerful punch to his face. It would have sent him flying, but he was standing too close to the breakfast counter, so it propelled him against it, then down.

 

Dazed, he lay where he’d landed, crumbled against the counter, head hanging. One side of his face felt weird, and there were spots appearing on his jeans.

 

He realized he must be bleeding.

 

As he lifted a clumsy hand to his temple, where a terrible stabbing pain had started to spread, his elbow was suddenly stopped in mid-air. Confused, he tried to lift his head. He didn’t get far. Another, startingly brutal, sudden pain flared through his side.

 

He could feel himself yelp, couldn’t hear it over the ringing in his ears. He wanted desperately to curl up, as if the pain was a pet that needed to be cuddled, soothed, but there was some sort of resistance. A restraint. He couldn’t seem to move his upper body, and when he finally managed to drag his head up, redness exploded and everything went black.

 

He couldn’t have been out for long, because when he came to they were still in the kitchen. Well, halfway. The burning sensation on his back, he came to sluggishly realize, was a result of being dragged – rather unceremoniously – across Starsky’s carpet by his feet. Craning his neck, he could see the blood-splattered fridge and a few large drops on the floor in front of it.

 

“Wha… Stars?”

 

He thought he could hear Starsky grumble something in reply. Through the pinkish  veil in front of his eyes, he could make out his partner dragging his feet. Where were they going?

 

“Starsky?” he croaked out and coughed at the pain speaking brought to his middle. Fighting to curl up, he must have kicked out, for his feet were dropped and before he could crawl away, his shirt was grabbed.

 

“Shut the fuck up!”

 

The calm had left Starsky’s voice, but it had left Hutch, too. Flailing hands found the edge of the couch to grab, and he tried to drag himself towards it, huddle against it.

 

Get away from his partner.

 

He tried to sort his position out. Couldn’t find up at first, but eventually lifted his head. Found Starsky just in time to duck away from another punch that hit the couch instead. “Starsky, wait!”

 

The high-pitched yell must’ve struck a chord. Starsky froze with his fist in the air. He tilted his head to one side, studying Hutch – ‘like an animal ready to strike’ – then slowly lowered his hand. The gun hung loosely at his side, but now as he sat back, he lifted it, pointed it at Hutch again.

 

Hutch watched, panting, unsure of what to make out of this. He swallowed, coughed, retched. Spit out blood. Glanced up at Starsky again.

 

The Starsky he knew never would have let him spit on his carpet. And certainly not blood.

 

“What … what now?” Hutch eventually asked. It surprised him how hard it was to talk. Like it took all the air out of his lungs. Discreetly, he put one hand on the hurting spot on his chest. ‘Yeeouch.’

 

Starsky didn’t answer. He drew his knees up, rested his arms on them.

 

Hutch looked from his eyes to the gun and back. “Are you planning on using that?”

 

“Depends.”

 

“On what?” Hutch asked, excited to enter a real conversation with whoever it was that had taken over Starsky’s body.

 

“On whether you make me,” came the calm reply.

 

Hutch frowned. Coughed. “Starsk… d-d’you know who I am?” He waited as long as he could. No answer came. “Do you know where you are?”

 

Starsky opened his mouth, but closed it again. No reply.

 

It suddenly hit Hutch, that his holster and gun lay somewhere on the couch. He let his eyes wander, then moved his head a bit with them.

 

“You’ll never make it,” Starsky let him know.

 

“Make what?” Hutch asked innocently, looking back again. He felt more blood fill his mouth and spit it out again.

 

“Don’t fuck with me. I’m leaving, and you won’t stop me.”

 

 “Leaving? Where’re you going?”

 

Starsky huffed. “Right.”

 

Furrowing his brows, Hutch tried to sit up a bit straighter against the side of the couch, but found it hurt too much.

 

“Who d’you think I am?” he asked almost dreadfully.

 

Another humorless little laugh, then Starsky rose to his feet.

 

Hutch watched him fearfully, trying to melt into the couch behind him. “No, no, no,” he pleaded, when Starsky approached him. “You wanna go, just go, I’m not gonna try and hold ya.”

 

That wasn’t even a lie. He’d call it in the second his friend was out the door, but he sure wasn’t going to get in the way. He didn’t even know how he’d ended up there in the first place.

 

“Nice try,” Starsky smiled, reaching out with one hand.

 

“No, wait! Starsky, wait.”

 

It was no good. As Starsky grabbed Hutch’s shoulder, the blond tried to jerk away, but was met with another kick to his side and a cuff to the side of his head. Stunned, he let himself be dragged again.

 

Throwing his burden against the bureau against the wall a few steps away from the couch, Starsky quickly reached for his cuffs and secured one of Hutch’s wrists to one of it’s legs, before Hutch even knew what was happening.

 

If Hutch hadn’t been completely at his partner’s mercy before, now he was, and it distressed him immensely. In spite of himself, he tore at the tied wrist, stopping only, when impatient hands grabbed his chin and forced him to face those eyes again. The rage.

 

Not so much fear anymore.

 

For the fear had dispersed. Wide-eyed, Hutch stared at the man, who looked like his best friend.

 

Starsky studied him for a moment, his features almost smooth, relaxed. His expression didn’t waver, when he lifted the gun again to once more have it rest on Hutch’s head. His left temple this time.

 

Hutch tried to swallow but his mouth was too dry. He was surprised he didn’t soil his pants.

 

 “Tell me why I shouldn’t,” Starsky said, his voice so grave it sounded toneless, inhuman.

 

Despite everything, a wave of sympathy rushed through Hutch, as he met the other’s gaze. He had seen that look before. A mere two weeks ago.

 

Starsky watched him, waiting for an answer.

 

“Cause you can’t,” Hutch whispered.

 

With a shove, Starsky released him, as if repulsed by the answer. Swiftly, he got to his feet, looked around. Looked back at Hutch, drew back one foot.

 

Anticipating the kick, Hutch flinched and was surprised when it didn’t come.

 

Closing his eyes in relief, he heard quick steps retreating, then the door.

 

Then all was silence.

 

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It felt like waking up.

 

But if he was waking up, why was he standing on his driveway, next to Hutch’s car?

 

Confused, Starsky looked around. He was alone. Dusk was blanketing the trees and bushes with heavy shadows.

 

More out of reflex than clear thought, he placed one palm on the hood of the LTD he stood next to.

 

Cold.

 

“What the…”

 

The last thing he remembered was getting IN that car, with Hutch, to go home. If it wasn’t another dusk, this could only have been about an hour ago. How did he get here?

 

With a deepening frown, he bent to check the interior of the LTD, but found nothing out of the ordinary. Garbage piling on the back seat, odd magazines and empty yoghurt pots littering the dashboard…

 

“Uh… Hutch?”

 

Turning slowly, Starsky scanned  the driveway. If the LTD was here and HE was here – then where was Hutch?

 

And why couldn’t he remember getting here? It must be there, in his head. It had happened, so it must be there. Things didn’t just vanish. Your brain saved them.

 

Yet the sharp stab of a headache that hit him with the force of lightning, stopped him from pondering that question too much. Squeezing his eyes shut, he put both hands on the roof of the LTD for a second, willing the spell to pass.

 

When it was bearable again to do so, he lifted one badly shaking hand to run it through his hair.

 

No lumps. No blood.

 

If someone had knocked him out, he would have woken up on the ground. He would’ve known he’d been knocked out. Experience.

 

But he hadn’t truly WOKEN up. More like come to. Or come… back. From somewhere?

 

Where had that thought come from?

 

Confusion mingling into fear, he suddenly found himself rushing up the stairs to his apartment door. Call Hutch. He needed to call Hutch.

 

There had to be a perfectly logical explanation. Of course there was. Asleep on his feet. Maybe his partner had walked up the road to get beer?

 

Maybe he had zoned out?

 

“Is it okay for you to drink on top of those pills?”

 

Maybe not?

 

The moment he needed to steady his hand enough to open his door, his gaze fell upon the blood stains on his jeans. A cold claw closed around his heart and driven by some sense of dread, he looked up, as he stepped inside.

 

“My God…”

 

It was breathed more than mumbled, not enough to make his entrance be known to the man huddled against the bureau, head ducked low as he rummaged through one of the drawers, apparently looking for something.

 

“Hutch!”

 

The startled yelp that answered his outburst made Starsky stop in mid-rush. Hutch flinched so hard his back hit the bureau, shaking it slightly. His eyes shot up to meet Starsky, wide, frightened. A pet caught doing something forbidden.

 

In a ridiculous attempt at hiding what he’d been doing, Hutch shoved the drawer shut with one shoulder. Starsky saw him swallow nervously.

 

“I-I wasn’t… Uh… I w-was just gonna…” The feeble stammer faded, when Starsky approached him.

 

“What the hell…” Completely lost, Starsky stared at the bloodied figure before him, the swollen eye, the cuts and bruises on the right side of Hutch’s face. A strange-looking pattern of dirt smears covered what Starsky could see of Hutch’s light blue shirt.

 

Hutch was watching him with his eyes still wide, his breathing harsh, quick. When Starsky reached out, he flinched again, even more violently then the first time.

 

“Woah, hey, easy,” Starsky hurried to assure. “It’s me, ‘sokay. It’s me. Everything’s fine.”

 

He tried again to touch him and was shocked to find Hutch duck away from his hand, pressing as far into the bureau as he could.

 

Concerned, Starsky drew his hand back. Only now did he see that Hutch’s wrist was cuffed to one of legs of the bureau. The dismayed frown on his face deepened.

 

“What the… What happened?” he asked, realizing he’d kept repeating himself without asking the necessary questions. Already patting his pockets for the key, he looked at Hutch again, searchingly. “Will you tell me what happened here? Who did this?”

 

The change was almost imperceptible. A blink. The tiniest sign of Hutch’s shoulders relaxing. He bit his bloodied lip, tilting his head to one side. “Y-you…” He paused briefly. The way he always did to will away the stutter.

 

Starsky waited.

 

“Starsky, who am I?”

 

Completely taken aback by the question, Starsky stared at him, baffled. “Huh? What…” It didn’t sound like Hutch didn’t know, actually, more like…

 

“Hutch,” Starsky said in a manner of asking rather than answering the question. Dread colored his voice. “What happened here?”

 

He could feel the relief flooding the drawn up shoulders he was now allowed to touch.

 

“What happened?”

 

“In a second,” Hutch replied, ducking his head away to hide a wince. “Untie me?”

 

“Wh… Yeah, sure. Sorry.” Starsky couldn’t point his finger at it, but something had changed. Like they’d switched chairs.

 

Now he felt like he was the one being found.

 

His hand was shaking so bad again it took him a moment to get the cuffs off Hutch’s wrist. When he did, he picked it up to inspect the angry red welt circling it. His friend had put up quite a fight.

 

“Ouch,” he commented sympathetically.

 

Hutch cast him a small smile. He allowed his hand to remain in Starsky’s grasp for a moment, then closed his fingers around his arm. “I’ll explain everything,” he said, “but you gotta trust me, okay?”

 

Now that he’d said a longer sentence, Starsky could clearly hear a strain in his voice. His gaze fell down on the streaks on Hutch’s shirt. “Are you hurt somewhere else?”

 

“Starsky.”

 

He looked up again.

 

“Do you trust me?”

 

Starsky was about to laugh it off – You gotta ask? – but the seriousness in his partner’s eyes stopped him. “Yes.”

 

Hutch  squeezed the arm he held, then withdrew his hand. “Give me your gun.”

 

Again, the question, the protest, the confusion flared, then ebbed down. Without a word, Starsky unholstered his gun and handed it over.

 

The nagging feeling of dread he’d sensed nibbling at his back hardened, when he saw yet another poorly suppressed sigh of relief run through Hutch’s body, as he took the gun. With trembling hands, he removed the bullets, fumbled to put them in his jeans pocket.

 

Once more Starsky saw him grimace, when he moved, yet he didn’t dare ask again.

 

Something was happening. He almost felt like he was detaching from the scene. Like he didn’t really want to know.

 

With a reassuring smile, Hutch put the gun on top of the bureau behind him. The movement must have caused some new pain, because he coughed weakly, winced again, coughed again. A painful looking swallow followed.

 

Kicked into action, Starsky put a steadying hand on his shoulder. “D’you want some water?” he asked gently.

 

It felt good to take over again. Be the comforter. For some reason, it unnerved him to have a beaten Hutch seeming so protective of him.

 

“No,” Hutch croaked, one hand shooting up to grab Starsky’s upper arm. “No, ‘sokay. I’ll get it myself.” He lowered his head a bit, locking eyes with Starsky. “Don’t go into the kitchen just yet.”

 

“Hutch, what-“

 

“Trust me,” Hutch cut him off, using the magic words, of course. Which Starsky found a trifle unfair, but there was nothing he could do against it.

 

“Don’t look into the kitchen. I’ll explain everything soon. I promise,” Hutch added softly, putting a gentle hand on the side of Starsky’s head. He smiled again, nodded slowly, then withdrew his hand.

 

Why is he trying to make ME feel better? How come my partner’s sitting here in his own blood, comforting ME?’

 

Hutch’s voice brought Starsky out of his thoughts. “Let’s sit down, okay? On the couch,” he added as if in afterthought, like he’d just noticed they were sitting.

 

Seeing Hutch starting to struggle to get his feet under him, Starsky reached out and was dismayed to cause a frightened flinch. Reflexively, he lifted his hands as if to show he was unarmed.

 

“Sorry,” he offered, thinking he somehow sounded pretty afraid himself.

 

Hutch threw him a quick smile and held out his own hand. “Help me up?” he asked. It sounded like an apology.

 

Starsky chose to ignore that, took the hand and gently steadied Hutch’s elbow with his free hand, helping him up. He didn’t quite straighten, but remained half hunched over, chin tucked close to his chest. Hiding.

 

Maybe all the explanations could wait until they had him properly checked out, Starsky mused.

 

“Couch,” Hutch ordered croakily, as if he’d heard.

 

Starsky didn’t protest, didn’t comment.

 

Though it was him keeping them upright, Hutch seemed to be the steadying one. He held answers to questions Starsky could feel himself letting go of. He didn’t want to know.

 

He already knew.

 

Already knew?

 

A furtive glance slid over Hutch’s scrunched up features, as Starsky felt himself being gently nudged to sit down. He sat, shook his head curtly. He knew nothing. Nothing made sense.

 

As though he’d unconsciously accepted the new role their earlier switch had left him in, he remained silent, when Hutch discreetly grabbed his holster, which was lying on the couch.

 

‘Somebody attacked him. In my home. Why is his gun on my couch?’

 

“Stay put.”

 

Again, Starsky didn’t protest, and he could feel the worried look that earned him.

 

Weak, unsuccessfully suppressed moaning accompanied Hutch’s shuffled trip to the kitchen.

 

Starsky stared ahead. Hutch was looking at him. “Cause you can’t.” He shook his head. Closed his eyes. “D’you know who I am?”

 

Behind him, he heard water running, quiet groans. Glass cluttering. A moan. A cough. Spitting.

 

His eyes wandered. Spots of blood on the ground to his feet. Bright red. “Cause you can’t.”

 

Starsky moved his head. Slowly, like following the trail of a bug; a thought; an image. Hutch staring up at him. Blood running into one eye. Lips twitching. Fear. “What… what now?” Gun against his head.

 

A weak cough nearby. Out of the corner of his eye, Starsky could see a glass appear on the couch table in front of him. A bottle of brandy.

 

He could feel himself shrinking against the headrest. Away from something. His shoulders tensed. Then a gentle hand on his neck. A brief touch, soft, assuring.

 

He looked up to meet warm eyes.

 

“Everything’s okay.”

 

Hutch had tried – rather unsuccessfully – to wash the blood off his face, but had only resulted in having the streaks he missed looking stark against his pale skin. Mirrored by the shiny blue of his iris standing out against the blackish bruise around the swollen flesh.

 

Starsky would have laughed out loud, if he could. Okay? Everything was okay? Still, at Hutch’s gentle nod, he nodded, too.

 

“I’m here,” Hutch said softly. “Now – where were you, before you came in?”

 

Starsky felt caged. His eyes snapped to Hutch, then back. Blood on the carpet.

 

“Outside.” It was just a mumble. Almost a question.

 

He could feel Hutch watching him. Felt him draw in a deep breath, then cough. He frowned, when Hutch quickly turned his head aside.

 

“Hutch, maybe-“

 

A lifted hand stopped him. A pause, then Hutch turned back. “What do you remember before that?”

 

Starsky’s jaw tensed. It almost hurt. For a second he couldn’t breathe. Blood on the carpet. He looked at Hutch.

 

“We need to have you checked out,” he heard himself say, his voice strange.

 

Something in Hutch’s expression changed. Starsky could tell he wanted to repeat the question, but he didn’t. He waited.

 

Moments went by.

 

Starsky’s breath flattened. He closed his eyes, opened them again. When he spoke, only a whisper came, “You’re scaring me.”

 

He thought he could see Hutch nod, but his vision blurred for a second. Only when he felt the suddenly filled glass being pressed into his hand did he realize he was shaking. He put it back down on the table. Blood on the carpet.

 

Another whisper. “Oh God, Hutch.”

 

 His eyes squeezed shut as if by their own will. His head felt like it was being pressed down by something heavy.

 

He could feel Hutch’s hand on his shoulder. He jerked away.

 

“Tell me I don’t remember what really happened.”

 

He managed to lift his head, meet Hutch’s eyes. He hadn’t known he was crying, until he had to sniff.

 

“It’s okay,” Hutch said softly, his hand moving up to rest against Starsky’s face, his thumb discreetly brushing away a few tears. “Everything’s fine now.”

 

“How can you say that?” Starsky snapped. Too fast for himself to realize, he was on his feet, away from the couch. “How can you even sit here with me?”

 

“Starsky, calm down.”

 

The urgent tone stopped him cold in his beginning rant, and he felt the adrenaline that’d grabbed him rush away as soon as he really looked at his partner again, huddled on the couch with his knees drawn close to his chest, his face still blood-covered, his eyes still…

 

“Are you afraid of me?” He hadn’t planned to ask, but it just slipped out.

 

“No!” Hutch snapped. “No, I-I… I’m not…” He briefly closed his eyes. “Sit down again, will ya? Please?”

 

Starsky felt his features soften, as emotions rushed forward. “Aw, Hutch, I’m-“

 

“Please,” Hutch’s quiet voice cut him off. He wasn’t looking at him, but at a spot just short of his feet. “Sit down.”

 

Opening his mouth to reply, Starsky closed it, a frown furrowing his forehead.

 

“You are scared,” he stated, but it wasn’t said with hurt, he found. He didn’t even feel hurt. He felt… protective.

 

Hutch didn’t reply. His shoulder rose slowly with a quivery breath.

 

Starsky felt himself calming down, as if against his will. The overpowering knowledge that he was needed, right now, seemed to spread inside him like a sedative. The confused crying stopped, the shaking even. Hutch needed him to make it okay again.

 

Silently, he walked back to the couch and sat down again.

 

After the briefest hesitation, Hutch bent his head to rest it against Starsky’s arm, his tense frame trembling slightly, as relief was allowed to run its course. Still silent, Starsky moved carefully, so that he could hug him in his curled up position.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said close to Hutch’s head and felt a tiny nod. “I guess I really can’t drink on top of those pills.”

 

The body huddled close to him shook with a snorted laughter. A hand tightened on the front of his shirt.

 

“It’s okay, buddy, it’s okay,” Starsky soothed, stroking Hutch’s neck, head, his back. “It’s over. It’s alright. No need to be scared anymore, it’s just me again. I’m here.”

 

After what felt like hours, Hutch moved a bit, and Starsky leant back to give him room.

 

When Hutch finally looked at him, he smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry I broke down on you like that.”

 

Starsky snorted. “Yeah. Right, babe, you should be.”

 

Hutch smiled at that, but after a moment’s study said, “Don’t feel guilty.”

 

“I don’t, really,” Starsky muttered, his gaze sliding off. “I feel…” He trailed off.

 

“Scared shitless?” Hutch offered.

 

Starsky nodded.

 

“Me too.” There was a short pause. “Y-You… you thought I was one of them.”

 

Starsky nodded. “I’m so sorry, Hutch.” So low it was almost a whisper. He bent his head, ignored the slight squeeze of his arm. “So sorry.”

 

“Hey.” Hutch waited, till their eyes met. “I didn’t think you’d really shoot me.”

 

“Yes you did,” Starsky answered, not returning the smile.

 

Hutch’s expression didn’t falter. “But I knew how to stop you.” He waited, watched Starsky glance away, back at him, away again.

 

“You need me to say I forgive you?” Hutch asked, more offering than stating an assumption. “Even though it’s understood there’s nothing to forgive?”

 

The tears were threatening to return, and Starsky quickly sniffed them away. Nodded. “I need you to let me drive you to the ER, too, so we can make sure those ribs aren’t broken,” he added in a miserable small voice, that made Hutch laugh softly, then cough.

 

“Okay.” He started to move, but winced and froze in motion. “Ouch. Hey, c’mere.” He waved his fingers.

 

Understanding, Starsky hugged him again, closed his eyes.

 

“I forgive you,” Hutch said softly. “Even though there is nothing to forgive. And I’m NOT afraid of you. I wasn’t really earlier, either. You’re not the scary type, anyway. And nothing you’ll ever do will hurt me.” As he breathed in, a moan escaped. “Well… not where it counts, anyway. We’re good. But, Starsky…”

 

When he didn’t continue, Starsky backed away to look at him.

 

“You need to work out that Marcus stuff.”

 

Starsky lowered his gaze, but nodded.

 

“I figured that,” he said dryly. Blindly, he grabbed Hutch’s hand to squeeze it, as he started to get up. His “love you, pal” was muttered so lowly it was almost lost.

 

“C’mon, let’s get you up from there and into the car.”

 

“Yeah,” Hutch replied and accepted the hand to gently ease him up. “Okay.”

 

THE END

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