No Regrets

By Shawnetildawn

Drama / Action

Chapter 2

The tall blond overtook his partner just before he reached the front door, slamming his large palm against the wooden portal, as Starsky attempted to turn the doorknob.

“Get the fuck outta the way, Hutch . . .” the dark haired detective warned, his lips curling in a snarl as his eyes glinted darkly, an almost feral look crossing his face. His long, unruly curls and his hostile face enhanced the intimidating biker get-up which would have unnerved any other man, but this was Hutch, and the blond knew that his partner would never intentionally hurt him.

“Take it easy, buddy,” Hutch said softly, “I can’t let you leave, not yet . . . not like this . . . we need to . . . ”

Whatever the blond was about to say was cut short, as the brunet angrily snarled and turned on his friend. For a minute a brief struggle ensued as the dark haired biker tried to roughly push the blond out of his way, but Hutch grabbed his struggling partner and held on tight, clamping down firmly until frustration and fatigue finally made brunet give in.

Once the blond felt his friend wearily submit he slowly loosened his hold, and Starsky, breathing hard, roughly pulled away and walked over to the kitchen where he stood rigidly by the sink.

Hutch watched as the angry and frustrated brunet walked away, concern deepening the crease between his brows, as he saw the slight trembles that racked Starsky’s body. He slowly made his way to the dining area, turning on a lamp by the side of the couch, noticing how Starsky turned his face away from the warm, soft glow that filled the living room.

For a minute, Hutch eyed his silent partner who looked wild and untamed in the dim light, reminding him of a creature caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck, not knowing whether to freeze or to bolt. He could tell that Starsky had lost some weight, the dark stubbles shadowed his jaw and accentuated the hollows in his cheekbones, yet his friend still made an impressive sight, decked out in his outlaw “colors”; leather and denim enhanced the dark good looks of his partner and the large henna tattooed cobra on his muscled bicep added to the ruggedly raw appeal of the wild savagery in his partner’s appearance. It was no wonder a lot of women were attracted to these types of men.

Starsky stood with his head lowered, his dark, long lashes brushing against his cheeks as he refused to make any eye contact with Hutch. He could hear his partner’s footsteps as Hutch drew nearer, and he turned his face away from his approaching friend, feeling his body growing rigid and tense with the awkwardness of the moment. He almost jumped out of his skin when his partner’s soft voice broke the silence.

“You want some coffee? Have you eaten anything?”

The soft, gentle voice of Hutch nearly broke him and he fought to hold it together. The thought of food made the brunet feel queasy and he quickly shook his head, “Nah . . . I ate already.” The dark haired detective was surprised at the quivering he heard in his own voice and how easily that lie came to his lips, and the sad part of it all was that he knew Hutch heard it too; but to his credit, the blond said nothing.

Instead, Hutch just slowly stooped to open the lower cupboard, taking out the bottle of bourbon that he kept for occasions like these. Grabbing a shot glass, he filled it and handed it to Starsky.

The brunet finally made eye contact with his tall blond friend and snorted softly, remembering when he did the exact same thing for Hutch, the day they found Vanessa murdered in this very same apartment several years ago. The brunet reached out and took the glass, his fingers barely touching his partner’s. He lowered his eyes to the amber colored liquid.

“Drink it . . . it might help . . .” Hutch said softly, noticing his friend’s bruised and bloodied knuckles. The tall blond watched as his partner complied, downing it in one gulp, and he gently took the empty shot glass from the brunet’s hand. “You want another?”

Starsky shook his head and raised his hand slightly, silently declining, as he felt the warm burn of the alcohol slide down his throat and settle into the pit of his empty stomach. He could feel the tension in his body slowly unwinding, although he couldn’t tell if it was from the bourbon or Hutch’s presence. His bright, blue eyes darted nervously around his partner’s messy abode, unwilling to meet his friend’s sky blue eyes.

“Fired the maid?” the brunet joked awkwardly, his voice but a whisper, as his dark blue eyes took in the dirty clothes strewn all over the floor and the week’s worth of unwashed dishes in the sink where he stood.

Hutch snorted softly, feeling hope rising with his partner’s attempt at bantering, “Sorry buddy . . . been kinda busy lately.” The blond’s smile faded when he saw his partner inconspicuously flinch.

The brunet nodded slightly, his eyes shifting away, darting absently around the room. The curly haired detective knew that his partner had been busy watching his back whenever he had any spare time, and he had the decency to blush; knowing Hutch was probably as tired as he was. Feeling bad that he woke his partner at this ungodly hour, Starsky lowered his head once more; his dark lashes once again hiding his emotions from his perceptive friend who watched his every move.

“I paid your rent yesterday, watered your plants and vacuumed for a bit,” Hutch said, quickly changing the subject, hoping to break the uncomfortable silence that ensued, “I even drove your striped tomato around the block . . . I um . . . I try to start her up at least twice a week.” Although he kept his voice soft and soothing, Hutch didn’t miss a thing about his partner’s appearance. To anyone else, Starsky looked like a tough and rugged biker, able to hold his own in any backroom brawl, but to Hutch, knowing his partner as well as he did, he could see how haggard and weary the brunet really was.

There was an edge to Starsky that the blond could “sense”. On the outside, he looked dangerously wild, almost feral; but Hutch could see that his partner was barely holding it together on the inside. He looked almost . . . broken. To the tall blond, Starsky’s vulnerability and fragileness were transparent through the tough veneer that the brunet wore, and seeing his partner pretending to be so strong, made Hutch’s heart grow heavy, bringing out the protective nature in the fair-haired man.

Starsky closed his eyes and sighed softly, his shoulders seemed to droop slightly. To hear Hutch talking about ‘normal’ everyday things like vacuuming and watering plants seemed almost foreign now to him, and he could feel his heart twisting inside. “Thanks,” The brunet whispered softly, “For taking care of my place . . .”

“I’d like to take care of you too, buddy . . .” Hutch said gently, his sky blue eyes softening, as he caught the dark blue of his partner’s eyes peeping out at him from under his dark lashes. Hutch stepped closer to his friend, as he saw Starsky blink rapidly and look up at the ceiling as his words sunk in. The tall blond could feel his heart almost splinter in two when he gazed at his struggling friend, wanting to hold him, but intuitively knowing the brunet wasn’t ready to be touched just yet.

Starsky lowered his head, seeing the blur of his boots, as the warmth of his partner’s presence drew nearer. He took in deep breaths, angry with himself for being so weak, pushing down the urge to cry, burying it deep within, refusing to lose it in front of his partner.

The dark haired detective composed himself and looked up to glance at his partner, before looking away again, “I can take care of myself . . .” he whispered raggedly, “I’m jus’ fine,” he added softly, wanting to laugh hysterically at the outright lie he just told Hutch. Anyone looking at him would know he wasn’t, ‘jus’ fine,’ at all. He was ready to slip off the edge, and the only thing holding him from going over the precipice was Hutch.

“I know you’re fine buddy, and I know you can take care of yourself . . .” Hutch said, his soft familiar voice lulled and soothed the frayed nerves of the brunet, as he moved even closer until he stood just a hair’s breath away from his partner. “Didn’t mean to upset you or imply that you couldn’t . . . it’s just that I worry whenever you’re undercover, just like I know you worry about me when I’m under and alone . . .”

Hutch sent up a quiet ‘thanks’ to the Man upstairs. He could tell that what he said had eased his partner’s defenses somewhat. He could see Starsky visibly relax, his shoulders dropping another notch under the emotional burden that he’d been carrying. The blond swallowed down the lump that formed in his throat, hurting for his friend who looked like a lost little boy, “Whatever it is Starsk . . . you can tell me and we’ll deal with it like how we usually do . . . together . . . me and thee . . . okay?”

Hutch reached out a tentative hand and placed it on his partner’s trembling shoulder, only to pull his partner’s unresisting form against his chest, as the brunet made a strangled sound, moving in sync with Starsky, as he began to crumple to the kitchen floor.

Starsky could feel his legs give out as he sank slowly to the floor, yet the warmth of Hutch’s strong embrace, surrounded his being, making him feel safe for the first time in the six long months that he’d been on this assignment. He could finally let his guard down, and for a minute, Starsky allowed his partner to just hold him, drinking in the “goodness” that was Hutch, feeling his friend’s strength and compassion washing over him, cleansing his soul.

“I’m here, buddy . . . right here,” Hutch whispered soothingly, feeling his partner struggling to control the emotions that raged internally, listening to the deep quivering breaths that his broken friend drew in, all the while stroking small circles on Starsky’s muscled back, feeling the tension slowing draining as the brunet fought to hold it together, “It’s okay, Starsk . . . you’re safe now . . . I’m right here, pal.”

The dark haired detective closed his eyes, leaning wearily into the blond’s embrace, letting the strain of suppressed emotions wash over him, as he truly relaxed for the first time . . . in a long time. He basked in the warmth and strength of his partner, feeling Hutch’s large, comforting hand rubbing circles on his back, feeling protected, safe and . . . and loved. Starsky sucked it all in, attempting to harness those warm feelings deep within, trying to bottle them up so that it could carry him through those long nights when he was immersed in the darkness of his cover, witnessing the heinous activities of the outlaw bikers.

For a while, the partners just sat, hunched together on the cold hard floor. It killed Hutch to see Starsky like this and he wondered silently if he should finally ask Dobey to pull his curly haired friend from this assignment. God knew how many times he’d almost done it before now! Hutch knew it would piss his partner off if he did that, but he would rather Starsky be pissed off and alive, than undercover and dead. The tall blond felt his friend suddenly stiffen in his arms and he reluctantly let go, as the brunet gently pulled away from him.

“No, Hutch,” Starsky said softly shaking his head slowly, “Not yet . . .”

Hutch could see his partner’s blue eyes darken, looking almost black in the dim light from the living room. The blond sighed, not surprised at all that his partner had “sensed” his thoughts. They did that a lot . . . reading each other’s mind, communicating silently with a look or a nod . . . it’s what saved their lives so many times on the streets.

He reached over to gently dust some dirt from the vest Starsky wore, wanting to draw the brunet in again with his touch, but feeling suddenly sad when he saw his friend flinch once more. The blond gentled his voice, “You’ve been under for six months now buddy . . . we’ve got enough evidence to shut down “The Minions” and arrest members from other chapters as well . . . you’ve done enough and . . .”

“I said no!” the brunet growled, his eyes flashing angrily in the dim light, his lips curling in a snarl as he roughly pushed the blond away, getting quickly to his feet to stand over his partner with clenched fists, breathing heavily as his eyes darted about the room again, only to rest on the door.

“Starsky!” Hutch snapped, drawing his partner’s attention back down to him, knowing the brunet was thinking about making his escape again. The blond assessed the dark haired man, pale blue eyes never leaving his friend’s face, “It’s okay, buddy . . . I heard you . . . we’ll play it your way . . . for now . . . alright?” Hutch said softly.

This seemed to appease Starsky who slowly unclenched his fists; his tense body slowly relaxing as a small, hesitant grin tipped the corners of his mouth. The brunet sheepishly stuck out his hand to help the blond to his feet. The warmth of his partner’s touch seemed to melt the residual anger that lingered in the dark haired biker and Starsky sighed remorsefully, “I’m sorry Hutch . . . don’t know why I reacted that way . . .”

“I do,” Hutch said slowly, “It’s your cover response, you reacted the way Snake would have and it’s okay.” The blond continued quickly, seeing the embarrassment that tinged his partner’s cheeks and neck, “I’m glad you did that . . . I feel better because I know you’re watching your back out there . . .”

Starsky sighed again and dragged his hand through his curly locks, obviously frustrated and distressed, “It’s not okay, Hutch,” he said softly, briefly looking into the eyes of his best friend before glancing away, “I should be able to turn it off and on . . . and sometimes I feel like . . . I feel like I’m just . . .” The brunet’s gruff voice dwindled down to silence.

Hutch watched the emotions that played across his friend’s face, feeling the confusion and remorse that flooded his partner’s being. It was obvious that Starsky was walking a very thin line and it concerned the quiet blond, who knew exactly what the brunet was feeling. Sometimes it was too damn easy to get lost under a cover, especially if it was for an extended amount of time like this assignment was.

Hutch sighed and reached out tentatively to squeeze his partner’s shoulder. “Maybe we should . . .”

“It’s only for a little while more,” Starsky quickly interjected, “The big bust we’ve been waitin’ on is scheduled for this Thursday . . . at least that’s what they said the last time we went to church. That’s just four days from now.

Hutch eyed his partner, noting how easily he spoke using the brash and almost irreverent terminology of the outlaw bikers. The blond knew that going to “church” was what the brash gang members called their meetings at the club’s warehouse. The fact that Starsky said this so nonchalantly concerned the fair headed detective even more.

“What?” The brunet queried softly, his dark blue eyes growing stormy as he read the doubt in the sky blue eyes of his friend. “I said I’m fine Hutch . . . I ain’t gonna crash and burn . . . s’just ‘til Thursday . . .” The brunet bristled with suppressed hostility.

A heavy silence filled the room until Hutch nodded slowly, his voice soft and soothing, “Okay . . . I said we’ll play it your way for now . . . but know this, Starsk, if I think things are getting out of hand, I’ll be the first to go to Dobey . . . you got that, pal?”

The brunet sniffled, and then sighed as he heard his partner’s golden voice harden towards the end of his sentence and the curly haired detective acknowledged it with a slight nod. “’Kay, it’s a deal. Nuthin’s gonna go wrong, Hutch . . . at the first sign of trouble, I’ll be the first to pull out . . . I promise . . .” Starsk held out his pinkie, his silver and gold rings flashed in the dim light.

Hutch snorted quietly, his light blue eyes softening with the fondness he felt for the brunet, as he reached out and entwined his own pinkie with his partner’s. “Okay . . . it’s a deal!”

Starsky grinned as they shook on it, reluctantly letting go of Hutch’s baby finger, his smile suddenly fading as he heard his partner’s next question . . .

“So you wanna tell me about what happened tonight?” the tall blond’s voice was soft and filled with concern, and the worry Hutch felt came back ten fold, when he saw his partner’s smile abruptly disappear. “Starsk? What is it? What happened?”

The brunet sighed, his shoulders drooping again under the burden of guilt and remorse that he carried. He shrugged and sniffled, his dark brows raising slightly as his eyes drifted to the floor. “I . . . ah . . . I was in a fight tonight . . .”

“With who?” Hutch asked, his eyes locked on his friend who seemed to squirm under his gaze. “Are you hurt?” the blond asked softly, pointing with a slight nod of his chin. “I mean . . . besides your knuckles . . . did they hurt you anywhere else?”

“Nah . . .” Starsky said softly, “Was sent home before I got too bloody. Earlier this evening Sniper sent me and some other guys to pick up this stoolie named Brody who snitched on the Minions. The chapters don’t take kindly to anyone selling them out and . . . I had to be the one to met out his punishment.” Starsky closed his eyes, seeing the frightened man’s face behind his lids as his mind played back the evening’s events.

It was Sniper who suggested that Snake be the club’s emissary for revenge and he coerced Diesel into sanctioning the kidnapping of the snitch named Brody. Starsky and three other burly members hopped on their metal steeds, engines roaring, as they carried out the Vice President’s demands, ferreting out the squealer from his hiding place.

They found Brody at his chick’s apartment, which they viciously tore apart. Starsky was able to keep the others from beating the cowardly snitch right then and there, and they dragged the frightened man back to the clubhouse to receive his “sentence”.

As he sped through the night, racing his bike on the dark ribbon of highway, curls blowing in the wind, Starsky wracked his brains on how to save the life of the foolish informant. He knew it was death to any man who betrayed the outlaws. Finks and double-crossers didn’t last long once the club found out who they were.

Brody was the younger brother of one of their members who was killed a year ago in a brawl with another rival gang. Although he was not part of the Minions, Brody still kept close ties with its members, and it came as a shock to everyone when they found out that Brody was leaking information of the club’s illegal activities to the local police department.

Starsky knew that many of the women in the club were used for intelligence gathering. The ‘old ladies’ of club members often took jobs at city, county and state offices where they could have access to blank birth certificates, drivers licenses and other useful documentation that would help the club in their illegal dealings. Other areas of employment were prison institutions, telephone operators, welfare offices and even jobs in the police department. As Diesel once told him, “Keep you friends close, Snake . . . but keep your enemies closer.”

Jasper, a hefty, tattooed-ridden man in his late 40’s had his old lady working as a police records clerk. It was she who found out about Brody’s betrayal and soon the whole outlaw pack was in an uproar, wanting to spill blood. To Starsky, it drove home once again how precarious his own position was in the club, and how important it was that only Hutch, his Captain and the few Feds involved knew of his cover.

“What do you mean by that?” Hutch said, almost afraid to ask, “How did you punish . . .” The blond’s voice stilled as he watched the guilt and remorse that passed quickly over his friend’s face.

Starsky lowered his eyes, his voice barely a whisper, “They made me throw the first coupl’a punches, made me be the one to incite the riot, get the others excited like a pack of rabid dogs . . . I-I had to draw first blood . . .” The brunet looked up then, his dark blue eyes beseeching his partner to understand. “I had to do it . . . Snake would’a jumped at the chance to be the “enforcer” and serve the club by dishin’ out beatings for violations against the chapter. I couldn’t say no to that and still keep my cover. I’m being watched closely . . . especially by that asshole, Sniper. It would’ve blown my cover if I refused . . .”

Hutch stared at his partner, feeling his horror as the brunet continued, his voice quivering in the quiet stillness of the dimly lit room.

“They were all over him Hutch . . . he was screamin’ . . . bleedin’ all over . . . I –I tried to help him, tried to push the others back, pretending to be mad as hell because I wanted to be the one to finish him off . . . but they were jumpin’ all over me to get to him and . . . and Diesel finally grabbed me and told me to go on home . . .” Starsky closed his eyes, afraid to see the look on his partner’s face, as his confession rolled out his mouth. “I-I think they killed him, Hutch . . . I think they killed him . . . and I-I just got on my bike and rode the hell out of there . . . I left him Hutch . . . I just . . . I just left and came here.”

Hutch swallowed the lump that formed in his throat, knowing his partner was seeking absolution from the evening’s horrific events, knowing it wasn’t Starsky fault and that he’d tried to do what he could under the boundaries of his cover, but the thought that someone was murdered and that a cop just left the scene . . .

The tall blond saw his partner peeking hesitantly up at him through the heavy dark line of his lashes. Starsky looked so vulnerable. . . so broken . . . tensely waiting to hear what his partner had to say, to hear his judgment, to pay penance for the part he played in Brody’s demise.

Without a word, Hutch got up and walked into the bathroom, then out again to the living room, the graphic descriptions of Brody . . . screaming pitifully in the night as he stood alone against the pack of burly outlaws painted a frightening picture in his mind, and the blond grimly dragged his hand through his golden hair as he sat on the edge of the worn couch.

Starsky watched his partner move to the couch, his heart growing heavy with dread. The dark haired detective lowered his eyes to his bloody hands feeling sick and ashamed. A part of him wanted to run, almost afraid of hearing what Hutch had to say. He silently berated himself, knowing that he broke what was most sacred . . . his honor and oath as a cop to serve and protect . . . if only he had done something differently, but what?

“C’mere Starsk . . .” the soft voice of his partner startled the brunet from his thoughts and Starsky looked to his friend, seeing the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, a small package of cotton balls and a roll of gauze that the blond had gotten from the bathroom cabinet. “Let me take a look at the back of your hands.”

Starsky hesitated, then slowly walked over to the couch and sat next his partner, when the blond tapped the cushion beside him. The brunet placed his hand into Hutch’s upturned palm, once again feeling the warmth and strength of his partner flowing into him.

“You did a number on these,” the blond said, indicating his friend’s knuckles, “They’ll probably be bruised and swollen tomorrow.” Hutch pressed gently on each knuckle, wincing when his dark haired counterpart flinched. “Make a fist, buddy,” the blond said softly, feeling satisfied when the brunet complied, “Well . . . I don’t think anything’s broken in there . . .”

Starsky lifted his chin in a slight nod, feeling tense and worried at Hutch’s continued silence regarding the fight. He watched as his partner cleaned up the cuts and welts and washed away the dried blood, gently wrapping a length of gauze around his knuckles and taping it securely in place, doing the exact same thing for the other hand. The blond’s ministrations were methodical and comforting and Starsky knew his partner was thinking of the right thing to say.

“Y’ don’t need to say it nicely . . .” Starsky whispered, “I’m an ass and I fucked up tonight. I’m a cop first, and I shirked my duties. I should’a stayed and . . .”

“And what? Expose your cover? Get yourself killed?” Hutch questioned softly, taping the gauze down, his eyes focused on what he was doing, “You did the right thing, Starsk. It wasn’t your fault . . .” The blond lifted his gaze, as Starsky pulled his hand away.

“Hear me, buddy,” Hutch whispered, his calm voice was soft and consoling, as he placed his hand on the brunet’s stiff shoulders. “You’re beating yourself up when you don’t even know the facts. First of all, you don’t know for sure that they killed him right? It’s not like you saw the body . . .”

“That’s what they do to all informants . . .”

“Yeah, but until we find Brody’s body, we’re just speculating here and assuming the worse . . .” Hutch said gently, squeezing his partner’s shoulder reassuringly.

The brunet sighed heavily, turning his dark gaze upon the golden visage of his friend, “I heard them say they were gonna throw Brody into the abyss . . .

“The abyss? What is that?” Hutch asked, a frown marring his face as his partner’s eyes shifted away.

“Dunno . . .” Starsky sighed, “That information is only privy to the higher ups. From what Jasper tells me, it’s where they dump the guys they’ve blown away. I’ve been trying to work my way into Diesel’s good graces and find out exactly where this place is . . . who knows how many bodies we might find there . . .”

Hutch gently squeezed his partner’s shoulder again, drawing that intense sapphire gaze back to his face. “Alright, but until we find this guy’s body Starsk, we’re not going to assume anything, okay? If I know you, you tried everything you could to help this man without blowing your cover. I know you’ve had to make some quick decisions, while you’ve been under buddy. You’re in a very dangerous situation, Starsk, you’re all alone and in too deep, you’re dancing on the edge with murderers and hyped up creeps, men who are not afraid to break the law and hurt others. You’re playing it safe, and I wouldn’t have you do it any other way, not without me in there with you.” Sitting up close like this, Hutch could see the weary dark circles under the bright blue of his partner’s eyes, he could feel the fatigue coming off in waves from his friend’s almost depleted energy.

“When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep, huh?” Hutch asked gently.

Starsky snorted softly, unable to remember when he was able to sleep without jumping at every noise or creak of the floorboards in his dingy cover apartment the Feds had set him up in. The outlaws often came over unannounced at any hour of the day, but the roar of their Harley’s often alerted him way before they arrived at his place. The dark haired detective shrugged, “I get a few winks in every now and then . . .”

The blond smiled at the stupid grin he saw plastered on the brunet’s face, “Why don’t you stay over tonight and get a few hours in . . . you look like shit, buddy.”

“Yeah? Well you don’t look to hot yourself, Blondie,” Starsky ribbed, stifling a yawn that wanted to escape, feeling the weariness that flooded his being. The thought of just being here with Hutch was so enticing. To be able to sleep without worrying was a novelty these days, but staying here too long would be a mistake. He needed to get back to his dump where Snake lived in case any of the members showed up unexpectedly like they usually did. “I don’ know Hutch . . . I gotta get goin’,” Starsky said reluctantly, “I need to be back at the apartment . . . who knows who might come by and find me gone . . .”

Hutch could feel his partner wanting to stay and quietly pushed the issue, “It’s just for a few hours, Starsk. The sun’ll be up in no time and you can leave at the crack of dawn . . . I’ll wake you . . . I promise!”

“You promise?” Starsky grinned, already giving in to Hutch’s idea. Giving in to the tall blond came second nature to Starsky and besides; it gave him an out to stay, fulfilling the need to be with his partner for just a bit longer.

“Yeah, dummy . . . I got an alarm clock y’know,” the blond snorted, affectionately tousling the unruly curls on his partner’s head. “You can take my bed, Gordo . . .” Hutch said, a gentle smile on his lips.

“Uh-uh” Starsky cut in, “Your back will hate you in the morning . . .”

“It’s just for one night and . . .”

“Nope . . . I need you out there to watch my back Hutch, can’t have a crippled partner doin’ that now, can I?” the brunet grinned impudently then yawned again and rested his head against the back cushions of the couch, “Now get off my ‘bed’ Blondie . . . I need to sleep.”

Though things were far from being resolved, the dark haired detective felt so much better by just being in close proximity to his partner. Hutch always had the knack of making things seem better and this time was no different. Feeling drained, the biker closed his eyes, exhaustion immediately washing over him, as his body grew limp with lethargic slumber.

Hutch snorted softly, feeling thankful his partner chose to stay, maybe now he could get some real sleep himself without worrying about his best friend alone on the streets, with cutthroats and lunatics surrounding him. This assignment was killing the both of them. Hutch leaned over and quietly picked up the phone, placing a quick call to “The Pits’, whispering softly into the receiver, so as to not wake the sleeping brunet.

Hanging up, Hutch turned to look at the slumbering man, unable to refrain from reaching out to gently smooth the unruly curls on the sleeping brunet’s head. He missed having Starsky beside him. Seeing his partner so messed up like this, shook the blond to the core. If he hadn’t stopped Starsky from leaving . . .

Hutch looked from the sleeping brunet to the front door. If Starsky slept out here, it would be easy for him to leave without Hutch knowing it, and the blond wanted to make sure that his partner got the rest that he needed. Even asleep, Hutch could see the weary lines and the strain of the last six months on the Starky’s face. He hated to wake him, but he wasn’t about to leave his slumbering partner sitting up like this anyway.

“Hey buddy,” Hutch whispered softly, moving closer to his partner to gently shake him awake, smelling the familiar scent of sandalwood. “Hey . . . wake up sleeping beauty.”

The blond watched as the long, dark lashes slowly rolled, then lifted.

“Huh?” the brunet mumbled, the confusion in his blue eyes made him look so young and vulnerable, like a little boy, and Hutch’s eyes softened with affection.

“Hey,” Hutch said gently, pulling the unresisting brunet to his feet, clicking off the lamp as they passed it by. “C’mon, let’s get you to bed, okay?” The blond drew his staggering partner to his side and led him to the alcove. “Take this off,” Hutch said, helping Starsky to remove the dirty denim vest, dumping it to the floor of his bedroom.

“Hey watch it . . . those are my ‘colors’,” Starsky protested, grinning widely as he kicked the offensive material away, fumbling with the belt that held up his jeans as Hutch turned to get out a clean tee-shirt and underwear for his friend. The brunet sleepily took off his boots, sitting wearily on the edge of the bed.

“Here put these on,” Hutch said, taking the dust covered jeans from Starsky, “You need to wash these Gordo . . . they’re disgusting.”

The blond smiled, as he heard his partner snicker softly in the dark room. “Bikers are supposed to be filthy, Blondie . . . not all golden clean like you.”

Hutch snorted, turning to leave. “Goodnight buddy . . . sleep well . . .” The tall blond walked to the doorway of the alcove.

“Hey . . . where ya goin’?”

The tall blond stopped in his tracks, a soft smile gracing his lips, hearing the creaking of the bedsprings as the brunet crawled over to one side of the bed. He turned to look back at his partner who grinned at him in the moonlit room.

“Get in here, Blintz . . . I ain’t takin’ your bed and having you break your back on that lumpy couch of yours . . .”

Hutch chuckled and crossed over to the mattress. This wouldn’t be the first time the partners had shared a bed, and Hutch knew it wouldn’t be the last time either. It would feel wonderful to know that his friend was safe, sleeping beside him where he could monitor his rest. And the best part of it all, would be that Hutch would immediately know if Starsky tried to sneak out again.

“Oka pal,” Hutch grinned, climbing onto the mattress, “But keep your hands to yourself!”

Starsky couldn’t stop himself from snickering, feeling happy and safe with the familiar bantering of his best friend in the whole world. “Yeah right . . . only if you stop hogging the blankets, Blondie!” To feel the warmth of his partner’s long body pressed beside him filled the brunet with a peace that he’d missed so much. Being with Hutch made him whole again. “G’night Hutch . . . I’ve . . . I’ve missed ya, buddy.”

Hutch felt a lump in his throat at the whispered words from his friend. He could almost hear the sad, lonely longing that tinged Starsky’s voice, though he couldn’t see the brunet’s expression from where he lay. Hutch reached across the mattress and squeezed his partner’s hand reassuringly, “I missed you too, dummy . . . now get some rest . . . I’ll be right here . . .”

For a while, the blond lay quietly in the dark, listening to the deep and even breathing of his partner who lay beside him, until the comforting sound finally lulled him to sleep as well, his hand still holding the brunet’s.

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