No Regrets

By Shawnetildawn

Drama / Action

Chapter 14

Hutch perused the apartment, satisfied with the tidiness of the room. The last time his partner had come over, the place was in shambles and the tall blond resolved himself to cleaning it, wanting to make sure that everything was in its place. He lit some candles and looked at his watch, hurrying to the oven to check on the roast he’d put in a while back, “The Paul Muni’s Special”. The wonderful rich aroma wafted through the air and filled the room with a warm homey feeling.

Hutch snorted softly remembering how that name came about for Starsky’s favorite recipe. Losing Helen that time had been difficult for his partner, but nothing had hit him harder than losing Terry. Looking back over the years, Hutch realized that life for he and his partner had been far from easy, but the thing that made the valleys in life bearable was having each other.

If not for his partner, Hutch knew he would have never survived those dark moments in his life; moments like when he lost Gillian, or when he had to overcome his addiction to heroin . . . moments like when he slept with Kira and almost severed the most important relationship he’d ever have.

Hutch shoved that dark thought from his mind. Relationships never came easy for the tall Nordic man, and he’d often wondered why God would bless him, Kenneth Hutchinson, with a partner who meant more to him than life itself. Good things like that rarely came his way and the blond counted his lucky stars that Starsky was still with him. His dark haired counterpart had taught him so much about what was important in life, about trying to see the positive in all things, about faith, about belief and childlike wonder and exuberance, about stamina and tenacity as he hung on and fought to stay alive, about acceptance, love and . . . and forgiveness.

Starsky had forgiven him for that incident years back, and yet, Hutch knew that as long as he lived, he’d never be able to forgive himself for being so selfish and stupid, for letting a conniving woman like Kira come between them, and he silently cursed himself again for being ten times a fool.

The sound of the Harley’s roar pulled him from his troubled thoughts and the blond went quickly to the window to look out below, seeing the familiar form of his partner on the huge bike, pulling in behind his dilapidated LTD. Hutch couldn’t suppress a smile of excitement that came to his lips as he watched his partner get off the bike and make his way to the door leading up to his place.

Rubbing his hands together in anticipation, Hutch hurried to the kitchen and checked on the roast once more, bending low to take out a bottle of red wine from the bottom cabinet and two wine glasses from the upper one.

The soft knock on the door surprised the blond, who had expected Starsky to just walk on in like he usually did. Hutch left the bottle and glasses on the counter and walked over to the door; a huge dopey smile plastered across his face. “Hey you, why so formal?” the tall blond greeted, his smile fading somewhat as he looked over his disheveled friend.

The intimidating biker garb lent an almost barbarous air to the brunet, who lifted his chin in greeting and said, “Ya gonna let me in, or should I just stand out here all night?”

Though it was said in jest, there was a hardness to that familiar voice that made Hutch quickly step back, opening the door wider in welcome, as the brunet sauntered in. Closing the door, Hutch realized belatedly that his partner hadn’t even made an attempt to connect with him, his dark blue eyes shifting away uneasily every time that Hutch tried to look directly at him.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch began, feeling the homey atmosphere in the room suddenly disappear, only to be replaced by quiet anxiousness, as his curly haired partner walked across the room. Hutch watched as the brunet looked uneasily around the place, his hooded eyes lighting upon the glowing candles, the table set for two, the bottle of wine and glasses on the counter where Hutch had left them to answer the door.

Starsky dragged his gaze back to his partner’s face, snorting softly as he shifted his eyes back to the table. “You expectin’ someone special?”

“Yeah, dummy . . . you!” Hutch snorted, his sky blue eyes softening with fondness for his long-time friend. “Made your favorite dish . . .”

“Yeah, I can smell it . . . lemme guess . . . burritos?” the brunet joked, his eyes shifting around the room, unable to connect with his partner’s though his heart ached to do so. If Hutch looked at him directly, he’d know for sure, and that thought made Starsky cringe in guilt.

‘He knows.’

Hutch chuckled softly; although the bantering was a little stilted, the blond shrugged it off, rationalizing that Starsky was still deep in the biker persona that he’d been forced to wear for this long-term assignment. ‘Hell, even dancers who’d been partners for a long time, had to get the “feel” of one another before going out together on the floor once more,’ Hutch thought silently.

“Why don’t you sit down,” the tall blond said, indicating the table with a nod of his chin, “You can pour the wine and I’ll bring out the roast.”

Starsky nodded slowly, walking to the counter to grab the bottle and the wine glasses as Hutch went to the oven door, pulling out the roast with mitten-covered hands. The smell of the roast was so enticing, and the blond could feel his mouth watering, as he carried out the metal pan to the table where his partner stood removing the cork from the bottle.

“Hey!” Starsky said, feeling his stomach suddenly turn as the smell of cooked meat permeated the room, “The Paul Muni special!” For a minute his dark gaze connected to the blond’s, and then the brunet quickly looked away once more, the image of sky blue eyes, warmed with affection, ingrained upon his mind’s eye, making his heart race even faster than it already was.

“Just for you, Gordo,” Hutch said softly, noticing how his friend’s gaze shifted away once more. The flaxen haired detective eyed his partner, noting the weight loss, the defensive stance to his posture. “Eat up, buddy, looks like you haven’t been taking care of yourself . . . you been eating?”

Starsky grinned, his eyes downcast, his gaze fixed on the wine he was pouring. “Yup . . . all the time!” the brunet said with mock cheerfulness, handing a wine glass to his partner who took it. At the brush of his Hutch’s warm fingers against his own, Starsky quickly dropped his eyes again and busied himself by pouring another glass of wine.

The dark haired biker could feel the anxiety building within, wanting to explode out, making him antsy and jumpy. What he really wanted to do was to pace around the room, instead of standing so still pouring wine from a bottle into a little glass that he just wanted to take and throw against the wall. The wine sloshed a little as the bottle trembled and shook in the brunet’s hand, the red liquid looking like splotches of blood against the white of the tablecloth.

“Hey . . .”

Starsky heard the soft, gentle whisper of his partner; and felt the warmth of Hutch’s hand suddenly resting upon his own to help steady the bottle, making a lump suddenly appear in his throat, the touch melting the distance he struggled to keep, nearly undoing him.

Hutch squeezed his partner’s cold hand, his eyes growing soft with concern. “Starsk . . .”

It felt good to touch his partner again, and the blond moved closer to rub his partner’s shoulder, surprised when his friend quickly pulled way once more . . .

“’M okay, Hutch . . . jus’ . . . just tired . . .” Starsky said, sniffling as he walked slowly around the dining table to sit in his usual seat. “Let’s eat, huh?”

The furrow between the blond’s brows deepened, but to his credit, Hutch remained silent, moving to sit across the dark haired biker, his pale blue eyes falling to the tattooed cobra on his friend’s bicep. “Nice lookin’ snake you got there . . .” the blond smiled as he nodded to the hennaed painting, wracking his mind of something to say that would bring back the intimacy of their friendship that they had shared over the phone. It seemed that every time they got together physically, there was some unspoken tension that permeated their relationship. Like a recurring nightmare, the haunting voice of Huggy whispered knowingly in his mind . . .

“You saw him just now . . . he can’t control his temper, his face lookin’ so tired and drawn, his constant sniffling, the weight loss, his bleeding nose . . . he’s been snortin’ Hutch . . . for a while now it seems. I’ve seen this too many times before to not know the signs of a coke-head.”

The blond returned his gaze to his partner’s smirking face as Starsky drawled out, “Yeah? Well if you like this snake, then you should see the big one in my pants!” The brunet snickered softly to himself, knowing his joke was in part truth, since the drug always heightened his sexual senses.

Hutch chuckled at his partner’s crudeness, slicing the roast carefully as he served some on Starsky’s plate. “Yeah? Well I think this meat will taste better.” The blond’s smile widened as he heard his dark haired counterpart nearly choke on the morsel he had just stuck in his mouth, as he laughed out loud. “Here,” Hutch said graciously, handing the glass of wine over to his partner. “Try not to choke on that, buddy.”

The dark haired biker snickered into his wine. Composing himself once more, the brunet tipped his head back and downed the whole glass. Starsky lifted the bottle to fill his glass once more and watched his blond partner, as he chewed and swallowed the roast he’d put into his mouth.

“Thanks, Hutch,” Starsky murmured softly.

“For what, buddy?” Hutch asked, his eyes growing soft, catching the glow from the candle’s light.

“For all of this,” the brunet whispered, indicating the spread before him. Feeling himself getting soapy, Starsky said with a grin, “And for re-hiring the maid. I noticed the clean utensils.” Hutch laughed, as his friend held up a shiny spoon and waved it to and fro.

“Only for you, buddy . . . only for you!” Hutch said grinning; watching as his partner slowly returned his attention to his plate.

For a moment, their special bond was back, and Hutch could feel himself relaxing a bit as he eyed his partner, noting the tired, drawn lines on Starsky’s face, the way he continued to avoid direct contact, his dark eyes shifting away uneasily whenever they lighted upon his face, but most of all, he noticed how Starsky listlessly pushed the roast and potatoes around on his plate, drinking more wine than anything else.

“You want another?” Starsky asked, lifting the bottle. At Hutch’s slight wave of decline, Starsky sniffled and quickly poured himself another, drinking it down like a shot.

“You think you could slow down a bit with that wine, buddy?” Hutch asked, concern marring his face. “How ‘bout some more potatoes?”

“Nah . . . this is more than enough . . .’s good!” Starsky said, lifting another piece of meat from his plate, forcing himself to stick it into his mouth. Since being hooked on coke, the brunet noticed his appetite for food had waned dramatically.

Though the brunet slowly chewed, Hutch had seen the slight hesitation before his partner ate the small piece of beef, watching as the brunet swallowed it down with some difficulty, only to quickly pour himself another glass of wine and tank it down as if to wash away the residual taste of the meat.

“Something wrong with the roast, buddy?” Hutch asked, his forehead creasing as he mentally checked if he’d missed any ingredients in the rush to prepare his friend’s favorite meal.

“No . . . nuthin’s wrong . . . I said it’s good.” Starsky reiterated, an edge hardening his voice once more, as he stabbed his fork into the roast, lifting his knife to cut another piece for himself.

“Well if you’d like to put some ketchup on that, I can get it for you and . . .”

“I said it’s fine!” the biker growled softly, his knuckles turning white as he clenched tightly to the knife and fork.

“But if you’d like, I can ge. . . “

“Hutch, will you get off my back, huh?” the brunet snapped suddenly, throwing down his utensils to roughly shove the plate away from him as he abruptly stood.

The table rocked slightly from the violent motion, and Hutch quickly reached over to grab the lit candles and the near empty wine bottle before they tipped over, righting them quickly, his eyes riveted on the retreating back of his partner who made a beeline towards the front door.

”Starsky wait!” Hutch called out, his long legs catching up with the brunet’s, grabbing his partner roughly by the shoulder to whip him around so that he could see his friend’s angry expression. The clatter of something falling out from the biker’s vest almost drew the blond’s attention away from his friend’s face, but now that he held his partner in close proximity, the fair haired cop finally had the chance to take a good look into Starsky’s angry gaze.

Hutch’s sky blue eyes widened as he saw the dilated pupils, ebony darkness surrounded by a tiny sea of blue. The blond gasped softly as Starsky angrily broke his hold and took a few steps back, his breathing rapid and irregular, the hostile glare taking Hutch aback, as the eyes of the fair haired detective dropped to track the small bottle that finally rolled to stop by the table leg that fronted the couch.

The pale blue eyes of the blond turned to frost, as he lifted his gaze to meet his partner’s, “Y-you talk to me now, Starsky . . . t-tell me what’s going on right now!” Hutch stammered, his face reddening in anger, as he watched his partner pace angrily to and fro like a caged beast.

“Just what the fuck do you think is happening, huh?” Starsky snapped, his voice low and menacing, breathing hard as he faced his best friend. “You’re the fuckin’ college boy . . . the brains of the partnership . . . the know-it-all. Why don’t you tell me what the fuck is happening?”

For a minute they stood facing one another, both too upset beyond words, one angry with his partner, the other angry at himself. Struggling to get a hold of his rampant emotions, Hutch drew in a deep breath and slowly walked towards the couch, stooping to pick up the small clear bottle filled with the pearlescent white powder. The tall blond held it at eye level, knowing that the cocaine was uncut and pure by the color of the stuff. Hutch looked over to his partner, who in turn, closed his eyes, long dark lashes hiding his shame as he lowered his head, his chest lifting slightly with his labored breathing.

“Starsk . . .” Hutch said, gentling his voice, feeling sick inside as he heard Huggy’s haunting voice once more, ringing in his ears . . .

“Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, Hutch, but he’s hooked on coke . . . probably been doing several lines a day to have his nose bleed like that.”

“Starsk,” Hutch began again, struggling to keep it together for the both of them. “Talk to me . . .” he whispered, his voice soft and calming, as he walked slowly towards the brunet, bottle in hand. “How much of this did you take?” Starsky looked up, his dilated eyes looked strange to the blond detective.

Although he had assumed that Hutch was aware of his addiction to the narcotic, for some reason, hearing the blond talking about it caught the dark haired cop completely off guard. Starsky struggled to catch his breath, the frantic racing of his heart slowing down a bit, as irregular palpitations began to beat out strange rhythms in his chest. He was going to start spiraling down soon and the brunet didn’t want to hit rock bottom, not here, not in front of Hutch whom he held in such high esteem. It would kill him if Hutch saw him going through withdrawals, especially after having lived through it himself. He had to get out . . . and get out now, before he was unable to do anything else except sleep.

Starsky shook his head slowly, his eyes shifted away from the love and concern that was evident on the blond’s face. “Not now, Hutch,” he whispered, “We can have this talk of yours after Thursday . . . once it’s all over. I jus’ . . . I jus’ can’t right now . . . I gotta get outta here!”

Anticipating his partner’s next move, Hutch beat the brunet to the door once more, his large palm slamming against the wooden surface, turning quickly to grab onto his partner as he struggled to reach the knob.

“Damn it Starsky, we’re gonna talk right here and right now. You can’t run from this forever . . .” Hutch said, forcefully pushing his partner up against the door, holding his struggling form still by shoving his body into the brunet’s.

The blond’s pale blue eyes widened as he heard the painful gasp that came from his friend. Quickly stepping away from his partner, Hutch gently held onto the brunet as the dark haired detective folded over, his right arm reaching across his mid section to clutch his left side.

“Oh god, Starsk,” Hutch whispered, hanging on to his partner tightly, feeling the brunet jolt in his arms, gasping, eyelids scrunched closed as he rode out the wave of pain that coursed through his side. “I-I’m sorry, buddy, I didn’t m-mean to . . .” Hutch murmured, feeling sick inside that he might have unintentionally hurt his friend. Hutch could hear his partner trying to catch his breath, as he struggled to get a handle on the pain that coursed through his being, “You okay?”

A soft snort from the brunet allayed the blond’s fears. “It would take . . . more than that . . . to hurt me,” Starsky said, wincing again from the sharp pain that lanced in his side as he tried to draw in a deep breath; sending him into a fit of coughing instead, hacking coughs that burned and pierced his left lung and ribs.

“Take it easy, Starsk,” Hutch soothed as he rubbed his partner’s heaving back, knowing the coughs were tearing into his friend’s side by the painful gasps that came from the brunet. Once the round of coughs had subsided, Hutch helped his weakened partner to the couch, noting how Starsky gritted his teeth as he sat stiffly, his hand still wrapped to his ribs. Hutch turned worried eyes to his partner’s left side. “Let me take a look at that, Starsky.”

“Nah . . .’m fine . . .” Starsky said breathing hard, feeling winded from all that coughing, his lungs burning within as he laid his head back against the couch and closed his eyes. The dark haired biker abruptly opened his eyes once more, as he felt his friend reaching for his vest. “I said ‘m fine, Hutch.”

“Look . . .” Hutch said angrily, struggling for patience. “You and I both know you are not fine! Now I’m gonna take a look at your ribs whether you like it or not and while I’m doing that, you better spill it and tell me how your ribs got busted . . .” Hutch bolstered up his resolve as he stared his angry partner down, watching as the hostile glare slowly left his partner’s cobalt colored eyes, noticing the small grin that gradually tweaked the corners of Starsky’s mouth.

“Okay . . .okay . . . we’ll do this your way ‘cause I love it when you get all riled up like that, Blondie,” Starsky snickered, playfully batting his long lashes up at his friend as Hutch carefully pulled his tucked tee shirt out from the waistband of his tight jeans. “How d’ya know . . . my ribs . . . are busted anyway?”

As careful as he was, Hutch knew he hurt his partner as Starsky winced and held his breath until his shirt and vest were removed. Gasping softly, the brunet lowered his muscled arms after Hutch pulled his shirt loose, his right hand once again moving in to support his side. The tall blond detective looked up to see his dark haired friend staring at him, more of the familiar blue could be seen around the dark pupils and Hutch knew the drug was slowly leaving Starsky’s system, “Who wrapped them?” the blond asked, indicating the bandages around the brunet’s ribcage.

“Pretty good, huh?” At Hutch’s lack of a response, the biker quickly said, “Diesel . . . Diesel wrapped ‘em . . . he was a medic in ‘Nam . . . that’s why I told ya . . . ‘m fine Hutch.”

The dark haired biker sighed once more, as his partner ignored him and slowly unwrapped the bandages to check out the damage himself. Starsky knew that when Hutch was in his overprotective mother-hen mode, there was no stopping the blond; and the brunet closed his eyes and waited tensely for the explosion to come.

“Who the hell did this to you?” the blond snapped angrily, the pale blue of his eyes turning to molten silver as he eyed the horrible bruising that wrapped around his partner’s whole left side. “How the fuck did this happen, Starsk?”

The brunet shrugged lamely. “I fell off the bike?” Seeing that his jokes were fueling his friend’s anger, Starsky struggled to sit up straighter, sucking his breath in at the jarring pain in his side; without the aid of the bandages, Starsky could feel the pain even more. “Okay,” the biker sighed, “I got jumped the other night at the “Freebirds.” I pissed Sniper off and they took me out back to teach me a lesson.”

“They?” Hutch queried, his pale brow rising in anger, “How many?”

“Three . . . one of ‘em had a set of brass knuckles, but he tried to be careful . . .” the brunet grinned weakly. “Sniper made them do it . . . ‘cause I let a kid escape from that creep’s clutches . . . he would’a raped her, Hutch . . .”

“You helped a girl escape and they pulverized your ribs because of it?” Hutch could feel his temper rising, helpless frustration seared his heart as he thought of his partner facing those brutes, outnumbered and alone.

“Yeah, but then Jinx chased Sniper off, and then they let me go home and everything was cool.” Starsky said, tensing and gasping softly as Hutch probbed gently against his bruised side, examining each tender rib. Wincing as he listened to his partner’s painful breathing, the blond lowered his hand. “Maybe I should take you to see a doctor tomorrow,” the blond said softly. “It looks like at least two of your ribs might be fractured.”

“See?” Starsky said brightly, “That’s what Diesel and Jinx said. ‘M fine buddy . . . just gotta keep ‘em wrapped. That’s what they said. It’ll mend by itself.”

The blond closed his eyes, his pale lashes hiding the anger and anguish he felt after hearing what had been done to his friend, his partner’s apparent ‘cheerfulness’ didn’t help much either as he thought about Starsky’s call the other night. “This happened that early morning when you called me from the pay phone, didn’t it?” Hutch whispered. “I sensed you were hurt . . . you were sitting in the dark, talking to me with busted ribs . . . fuck!”

“Don’t. Don’t even go there . . .” Starsky whispered, holding up his arms as Hutch began to rewrap his ribs, “This ain’t about you watchin’ my back, Hutch,” the brunet winced, as the bandages cinched in his sides, seeing the guilt and remorse that quickly crossed his partner’s face once again.

“Hey . . .” Starsky said suddenly, laying his hand upon Hutch’s, stopping the blond’s ministrations. “Listen to me buddy . . .” Starsky whispered, his eyes softening with affection for his tall blond friend, “If it weren’t for you that night, I don’t think . . . I don’t think I could’a gone on. Jus’ hearing your voice helped, ya know? Listening to you made everythin’ all right again. You’re always with me, Hutch . . . I mean . . . even when you’re not . . .”

The brunet swallowed down the lump that came to his throat as he saw the sky blue eyes of his friend, swim with unshed tears. Starsky struggled to keep his emotions in check, dragging his partner’s forehead to his own, his fingers lost in the soft, silky blond strands at the nape of Hutch’s neck. “Me and thee . . . always.” Starsky whispered, drinking in the goodness that was Hutch, feeling at peace somehow despite all of the challenges that still had to be overcome.

Hutch took in a quivering breath and nodded; his eyes closed, his head pressed against

Starsky’s, smelling the familiar scent of sandalwood and stale smoke, feeling his partner’s fingers as they played with his hair, intuitively knowing that somehow everything would be all right. Together they could overcome any obstacle . . . they somehow always did. With a heavy sigh, both men pulled apart and Hutch quickly re-wrapped his partner’s bruised and broken ribs and helped him get dressed again. The tall blond then stood, and went to get the wine glasses, filling his partner’s with more of the red liquid.

“You wanna tell me about the ‘suits’?” Starsky asked, taking the delicate glass from his partner’s hand, his eyes bluer now than they were a few minutes ago. He could feel the heaviness creeping into his limbs, his heart palpitating irregularly as he struggled to catch his breath, he was spiraling down and that thought shook him to the core.

Hutch watched his partner’s hand tremble, the wine rippling gently in the glass with the slight tremors that shook it. ‘He’s starting to crash’ the blond thought silently, knowing that the euphoria you got from taking coke, didn’t last as long as the high you got from heroin. The blond cleared his throat, “Yeah, Hillyard and Slate were in Dobey’s office this morning.”

“Yeah? Whatta they want?” Starsky said, grunting softly as he leaned over to put the glass on the table fronting the couch. The fatigued biker reclined once more, clasping his hands together, as a means of stilling the tremors that gave away his wanting need. He could feel himself craving more of the drug, needing it to keep away the debilitating weariness that its withdrawal brought on.

“They said they’re not getting anymore recordings from your cover pad, said you’re not turning on the ‘bug’.” Hutch replied softly, eyeing the sudden frown that marred the brunet’s face.

“What?” Starsky said irritably, gasping softly as he rose to his feet, his right arm pressed against his abdomen, his hand supporting his ribs, dark eyes glittering dangerously. “There hasn’t been any action in my cruddy apartment for weeks now . . . what the fuck are they talkin’ abou . . .”

“They said they saw Diesel at your place twice now, since Monday,” Hutch interjected softly, “That true, buddy?”

“Yeah, it’s true,” Starsky snapped, “But so what . . . nuthin’ worth taping was said between us . . . jus’ what the hell are the Feds accusing me of?” Starsky snarled defensively.

“Take it easy, buddy,” Hutch soothed. “That’s what I asked them, and they said they’re not accusing you of anything, but they just want you to always make sure you turn the mechanism on whenever any of those outlaws come into your place. Let them be the ones to decide what information they need or don’t need, okay?”

“’Kay . . .” Starsky murmured, the golden, soft voice of his partner always had the ability to douse the rising anger within him. “Shit . . . I mean it was nuthin’, Hutch.”

“Yeah? So just what did Diesel want? I mean what did you guys do in your apartment?” Hutch inquired softly, pale blue eyes connecting to darker sapphire that suddenly sparkled with anger.

“What? Now you accusin’ me too . . . huh buddy?” Starsky snarled, his voice hardening on the last word.

“I’m not accusing you of anything, pal,” Hutch said calmly, though Starsky could hear a slight edge to his velvet laced voice. “I just wanna know what Diesel wanted with you?” Hutch watched as partner began to pace, his movements were agitated and angry.

The brunet turned, his eyes flashing. “You know what he wanted? Huh? He wanted to see if I was okay after what happened that night to Brody. I tried to get him to tell me where the abyss was and he wouldn’t, saying it was safer for me not to know. Then he gave me his philosophy about living a life with no regrets . . .”

“And then?” Hutch calmly pushed, knowing he might set his partner’s explosive temper off, knowing that Starsky was barely holding it together as it was.

For a moment Starsky glared at the tall blond and then he sighed heavily, suddenly weary of all of this bullshit, his stamina almost drained as the effects of the cocaine left his body. The pain in his side continued to worsen, the drug’s leaving unmasking its brutal hold upon his ribs. Breathing heavily, the brunet closed his eyes, hiding the anguish he felt, not wanting to see his friend’s face as he said dejectedly, “Alright . . . you wanna know why he was there? He gave me more stuff, okay? I was crashin’ and he gave me more coke before I hit bottom.”

Starsky felt sick inside, trembling with pain and humiliation as he finally admitted his addiction to cocaine. It killed him to have to say it to Hutch, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie about it anymore. Lying to his friends hurt worse. Starsky stiffened as he felt the warm touch of Hutch’s hand upon his shoulder. Immersed as he was in self-reproach, he hadn’t even heard the quiet footsteps of the tall blond until the warmth of the friend’s touch invaded his being.

“Hey . . . it’s okay, Starsk,” Hutch murmured compassionately. “Take it easy, buddy. It’s .gonna be o . . .”

“Don’t Hutch,” Starsky said stiffly, “Don’t tell me it’s gonna be okay ‘cause it ain’t . . . I fucked up! I snorted some lines to save my cover and now . . . now I can’t get enough of that stuff.” Hutch watched as dark sapphire eyes, filled with anguish and remorse, lifted to his own. “I’m hooked, Hutch . . .” the brunet said, his voice quivering with shame. “I’m hooked on coke.”

The brunet’s soft admission echoed in the quiet heaviness of the room and it pained Hutch to see his partner so broken and defeated.

“I know, buddy, I know . . .” Hutch said softly, pulling his friend into his warm embrace. “I’m here, Starsk . . . right here and we’ll get through this too . . . together. I asked Dobey for a week off for the both of us when this job is over, and he’s giving us two . . .”

“He knows?” Starsky whispered sickly, pressing his forehead wearily against his partner’s shoulder.

Hutch lifted his hand to the nape of his partner’s neck, gently massaging away the tension he found there. “No . . . no one knows except me and Huggy . . . not even Dobey.”

Starsky sniffled, somehow feeling a little better with that knowledge. He felt like shit now, the coke gone from his system, his body aching with the beating he’d taken the other night, the pain in his ribs intensifying beyond tolerance. Starsky pulled away gently from Hutch’s embrace, attempting to catch his breath, as his heart pushed out strange rhythms, palpitating irregularly.

The brunet tried to draw in a breath, which sent him into another round of painful coughs that made the dark haired cop groan and clutch his side in agony. Shards of white-hot heat tore into his side and lungs, as the gasping brunet struggled to ride out the pain.

Hutch hung onto his partner as Starsky folded over, right arm across his mid-section, his hand supporting his heaving ribs under the onslaught of the hacking coughs that ripped through his upper body. Gently leading the brunet to the bedroom, Hutch helped his partner sit on the edge of the bed, as the winded biker tried to catch his breath once more.

“You want something to drink? Water?” Hutch asked, deep concern for his partner’s well being, marring his handsome features. “How long have you had this cough, buddy?”

Starsky snorted wearily, knowing his partner was already worrying about his compromised lung. “Don’t start ma . . .tired . . . jus’ wanna sleep without worryin’ for once.” The brunet winced as he tried to take off the patched denim vest that declared him a “Warrior,” and Hutch immediately leaned in to help.

“I can do it, Blintz,” the dark haired cop said, managing to take the vest off, and then gingerly pulling the tee shirt over his head; a small groan escaping his lips caused the blond to wince in sympathy. The brunet grinned wearily, throwing the tee-shirt to the ground. “Shit, we should’a just kept the shirt off, huh?” Hutch bit his lip to keep from offering his help, as the brunet struggled to get out of his tight jeans.

“Here . . . let me help you with your boots at least, so you can take those off,” the blond said graciously nodding towards his friend’s tight denim pants. Facing his back to the brunet, Hutch stepped over his Starsky’s right leg and pulled at the black leather boot, his mouth spreading into a grin, as he felt the bottom of the curly haired man’s other boot pushing against his rear. “Hey . . . watch where you stick that thing!” Hutch cautioned, chuckling as he heard the soft snort that came from his partner.

“That’s what happens when you wave your butt in my face, Blondie,” Starsky chortled, groaning softly again as his ribs loudly protested the amusement. “Shit!” the brunet gasped, pressing against the bandages that wrapped his left side. “Feel like . . . I went twenty rounds . . . with Muhammed Ali.”

Hutch got off the other boot without his partner’s help and made the curly haired detective lie back on his bed once his jeans were off. “I’ll be right back, buddy,” Hutch said frowning, as he saw the brunet wince again in pain.

“Where ya goin’?” Starsky called out tiredly, his heavy body seemingly melting into the softness of the mattress. “C’mere Blintz . . .”

Hutch returned with a glass of water and a bottle of aspirin; shaking two pills onto the palm of his hand the tall blond gently said, “Here . . . drink this . . . it might help the pain some.” The tall blond watched as his partner swallowed back the pills and emptied the glass, taking it from him with a satisfied grin.

“What?” Starsky said, a small smile lifting the corner of his mouth as he looked up at his grinning friend.

“Nothing . . . just love it when you’re so obedient that’s all . . .” Hutch said, his eyes softening with affection for the brunet, who softly snorted, then carefully snuggled down into the blankets, his dark lashes fanning out against flushed cheeks resembling dark crescent moons. From this angle, Hutch thought his partner’s curled lashes could have passed for a little girl’s, especially against those rosy cheeks of his.

“You got a little wind burned today, huh buddy?” Hutch said softly, smiling as he brushed the pad of his thumb across Starsky’s cheek. The furrow between the tall blond’s pale brows deepened as he frowned, “You feel a little warm, Starsk . . . you okay?”

“’M ‘kay . . .” Starsky mumbled, “Jus’ tired . . . would’ya just . . . turn off the lights . . . and get in here already?”

Hutch snorted softly and went to turn off the lights in the living room. Taking off his shirt and pants, the messy blond dumped them on his bedroom floor in a heap and clicked off the bedside lamp. Climbing carefully into the bed so that he wouldn’t jostle his wounded partner, Hutch laid his golden head back onto the soft pillow. He could tell by the soft snores coming from his partner that Starsky was already down for the count.

The blond detective smiled softly in the dark, turning his body to face his sleeping partner. It made Hutch happy to see Starsky sleeping like that. Maybe his friend could finally get some much needed rest. They would have all day tomorrow to talk about what to do regarding Starsky’s addiction. Rest was the most important thing on the agenda right now, and Hutch closed his own weary eyes. It was wonderful to feel his partner lying beside him and for the first time, in a long time, Hutch could finally feel himself relaxing.

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