The bright morning sunlight filtered through the drawn curtains, inadvertently falling on the face of the dark haired man who threw his arm irritably across his closed lids. He could hear the sounds of the early morning; cars driving past, the birds twittering in the trees, and a part of him knew he had to get up now, but the warm, muscled body lying next to him made him feel like staying there forever. The brunet turned his face towards his partner and peeked out from under his arm, noticing the pale long lashes that hid his friend’s sky blue eyes.
For a minute, the brunet stared at his partner, memorizing every detail of his familiar face. He wished he could stay, but Starsky knew the danger of giving in to his desires. If anyone followed him here last night, there would be hell to pay. The wayward bikers could stop off at his doorstep anytime now, and finding him gone would undoubtedly raise questions from the innately suspicious and paranoid outlaws.
The dark haired detective raised his head slightly, sniffled, and glanced at the alarm clock next to Hutch. It was 5:52 a.m. The alarm was set to ring in 8 minutes and it amazed the brunet that he had beat the clock, especially feeling the way he did. He lowered his head back to the soft pillow; his body protesting even that slight movement and Starsky stifled the groan that wanted to leak out. Though he had slept better than ever, Starsky could still feel the heavy residual tiredness that held his body captive and he pushed away the anger and guilt that surged through his heart. God, he hated himself right now, but having Hutch beside him helped to calm him down.
The dark haired biker sniffled again, as he thought about what Hutch had done for him last night. He was so messed up in the head when he came to Venice Place and Hutch’s gentleness and love took all of that pain and remorse away. Starsky remembered how Hutch had talked some sense into him, how he’d cleaned and bandaged his hands and then helped him to bed, their playful bantering easing the grief in his heart and mind. Starsky smiled softly, remembering that the last thing he felt before he drifted off to sleep was the warmth of Hutch’s hand holding his own, and his promise of being right there for him.
The brunet sniffled and rubbed his finger under his nose, turning his head on the soft pillow to look at his blond counterpart who slept undisturbed. The warm gush of liquid took Starsky by surprise and he quickly sat up, cupping his hand under his nose as bright, red blood leaked out from one nostril, dripping continuously into the palm of his hand.
The loud ring of the alarm made the brunet swear softly under his breath as he startled, nearly jumping out of his skin, inadvertently jostling the blond awake from his slumber.
“Starsk?” Hutch murmured, turning his head and lifting one heavy, pale-lashed lid to peek up at his partner; only to quickly open the other eye and sit up in bed, as Starsky dashed out of the room to make his way to the bathroom, one hand still cupped beneath his nose.
“Starsky?” Hutch called out, as he shook away the grogginess and slammed his finger on the button to shut off the blaring alarm. The blond leapt to his feet to stumble after his partner, his forehead creasing in concern. The fair headed detective found the brunet slumped on the john, toilet paper speckled with spots of bright red, pressed against his nose.
“Wh-What happened? You’re b-bleeding . . .” the blond stuttered anxiously, as he watched his partner pinch his nose and look up towards the ceiling. “You okay, pal?”
“Yeah . . . just a nose bleed,” the brunet gruffly mumbled, the wadded paper muffling his voice, as Hutch made his way over to kneel on one knee in the small space next to the toilet, his hand reaching up to cup the side of his partner’s jaw as he tried to assess the damage. “I said ‘m fine, Hutch,” Starsky said curtly, feeling himself getting irritated by the whole incident, upset with himself for waking up his partner in the first place.
“Hey, hey, hey! Look what the morning blew in . . . a black man bearing delectable gifts of dough . . . Shit! What the fuck happened?”
“Hey Hug,” Hutch said smiling, glancing over his shoulder at the black man who stood framed in the bathroom’s doorway, one dark slim hand on his hip while the other held up a small white package of bakery doughnuts at chest level. “Come in here, Starsky’s having a nose bleed.”
After Starsky had fallen asleep late last night, the blond had taken the liberty of calling Huggy to bring over some breakfast for the brunet, since Hutch’s refrigerator was virtually empty of anything edible. All those long hours on stake out, left little time for Hutch to visit the grocery store to stock up on food, and he’d been afraid to leave Starsky alone last night with him wanting to bolt at any minute.
The brunet eyed his tall, lanky black friend who stood at the door, a wide smile on his face. “This ain’t no side show! Stop gawking over there!” Starsky growled, feeling his temper rising as irritation and impatience flooded his being. “And you too, I said I was fine, Hutch. Stop making a big deal over this!” The brunet snarled; getting quickly to his feet, throwing the wadded paper into the trash can that sat on the other side of the toilet.
Hutch glanced back at Huggy who shrugged his thin shoulders in return, although he had no answers for Hutch’s silent question, his dark eyes followed every movement of the now angry brunet. The skinny black man watched as Starsky turned on the tap, washing away the residual blood under his nose, the whole time sniffling, as if his nose were constantly running.
“You feel tired, man?” Huggy asked quietly, “Got you some doughnuts . . .” The dark man moved aside as Starsky made his way to the door, “Got some coffee too . . .”
“Yeah? Well thanks, but I ain’t hungry.” Starsky said gruffly, making his way to the bedroom while his friends followed in his wake.
“He always gets up like this?” Huggy whispered to Hutch as they watched the brunet gathering his belongings.
“Only after a nose bleed,” Hutch whispered back, winking to the owner of “The Pits”, as he turned his attention back to his irate partner.
“Where you going?” Hutch asked softly.
“Out. Gotta get back. I already stayed too long . . . damn!” Starsky snapped, angry with himself for losing it with his friends, but unable to keep his frustration in check. He felt like shit boiled over, his heavy body begging to fall back into bed. He felt out of control and his goddamn nose kept dripping. He knew his friends were confused by his erratic behavior and it made him even angrier. “Shit!” he growled, throwing his uncooperative sock against the wall of Hutch’s bedroom as he sat on the edge of the bed, his leg kicked out angrily at the chair that held his pants and vest, sending the chair flying as his clothes toppled in a messy heap.
Hutch calmly walked over and retrieved the sock, righted the chair, and picked up his partner’s dusty clothing, all the while listening to the rapid, shallow breathing and constant sniffling that came from his hot-tempered friend. “Here,” the blond said handing his friend his dirty sock. “Look, why don’t you take a quick shower. The hot water will make you feel better, especially if you’re coming down with a cold. You don’t look too good, buddy.”
“I said I’m fine, Hutch,” Starsky said, sniffling wearily as he rubbed his red nose once more; the sound of a hot shower sounded good to his aching muscles. “’Sides, I’m late already.”
Hutch smiled gently, knowing his partner would be giving in soon. “You said those bikers don’t get up ‘til noon sometimes, sleeping off all the alcohol and drugs they’ve consumed . . . you have time for a shower, buddy, just make it a quick one.”
The soft, cajoling tone of blond, helped calm the irate brunet, soothing his frayed nerves until he finally nodded his head in agreement, anticipating the hot sprays of water on his aching back. “”Kay, a quick one . . .” Starsky glanced up sheepishly at his friends and grinned lopsidedly. “Sorry, guys. Hey Hug . . . thanks for the breakfast.”
“De nada,” Huggy said softly, reaching out his slim hand to squeeze the brunet’s shoulder, as Starsky passed him by on his way out to take that much needed shower. “What happened to your hands?” the black man asked, nodding to Starsky’s bandaged knuckles.
“Nuthin’ . . . just scraped it up a bit,” Starsky replied, looking at the gauze taped around his hand. “Hutch cleaned ‘em last night for me.” The brunet looked at his blond partner who winked and grinned back at him. The brunet sighed, and then snorted softly. “Guess I’ll have to take these off before I take that shower . . . sorry, Hutch.” The dark haired cop left, and the remaining two men listened to the bathroom door closing before their eyes met across the expanse of the bedroom.
“Sorry, Hug . . . he’s not much of a morning person . . .” Hutch joked lamely, as he folded his partner’s jeans and laid it on the back of the chair.
“Yeah . . .’specially if he’s hooked on snow.” The streetwise black man said softly, his dark eyes meeting light blue orbs that widened in surprise.
“What?” Hutch whispered, blue eyes narrowing in disbelief. “Cocaine?”
At the slight nod of the tall slender man, Hutch shook his head. “No . . . no, not Starsk . . . he wouldn’t . . .”
“You saw him just now . . .” Huggy continued, his soft voice, devoid of judgment. “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.”
Hutch’s pale blue eyes narrowed and grew icy. “You’re wrong, Hug. This time you’re wrong and out of line. Starsky’s been under for a long time now. He’s been living under tremendous stress, hence the weight loss and his weariness. He’s been rubbing shoulders with men who have little regard for the law and for what is right, and that’s why he’s on edge all the time, his temper flaring out of control now and then . . .”
“What about his sniffling and his bloody nose?” Huggy interjected softly, “And don’t say he’s coming down with a cold! 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.”
Hutch was about to object once more, when they heard the water shutting off. “Huggy, I think you’re wrong about this. Starsky would’ve told me if he had to take any kind of drug. Sometimes things like this happen to cops when they’re under, but Starsky knows the rules. If he had to do a line or two to save his cover, he needed to come out and detox at the safe house the Feds had set up in case of something like this.” Hutch whispered desperately, “He’s a damn good cop and he plays by the rules like I do.”
“I’m not saying he’s a bad cop, Hutch,” Huggy said gently. “I’m just sayin’ he’s gotten himself hooked on snow and he’ll be needing some help when this is all over.”
Both men stopped their whispering as they heard the door to the bathroom opening, and they waited until the brunet came into the bedroom, a large white towel wrapped around his lean hips, his hands vigorously scrubbing the residual dampness from his unruly curls with another smaller towel.
Hutch swallowed, seeing the faint scars left on his partner’s upper torso and abdomen by Gunther’s hitmen, a vision of his downed friend lying with his head in the Torino’s wheel-well suddenly came to mind; Starsky . . . lying so still and crumpled on the asphalt of the police parking lot, his life’s blood spilling to the ground. The sudden image caused the blond to sit heavily upon the edge of the bed, his mind reeling from what Huggy had just told him.
“What?” Starsky said, his eyes connecting to his partner’s, reading the uncertainty and sadness in the light blue depths. “Whatsamatter?” The brunet turned to look at his black friend who quickly held out the package of doughnuts.
“Our blond friend is sad because I must depart,” Huggy said, handing the package over to the dark haired detective. “These are for you, amigo. I gotta go and catch some Z’s.” The black man hugged Starsky tight. “You be careful out there, y’hear? You need to be playing with a full deck at all times . . . those ‘gents’ are hardcore and paranoid, y’dig? You get like that doin’ drugs all the time. . .” Huggy softly whispered the latter into the shell of the brunet’s ear before releasing him, gently thumping his friend on the back. “Be smart, Starsky, and be well.” The dark man said knowingly, looking his friend straight in the eye.
Starsky nodded, stifling the need to sniffle, feeling his eyes drifting away uncomfortably from the discerning look on the black man’s face. He knew Huggy suspected something. The man was too street-smart not to see the signs of an addict.
“Yeah . . . thanks Hug.” Starsky said softly, feeling terribly ashamed inside, knowing he was keeping something from his friends, but if he was to come clean now, Starksy knew that Hutch would pull him from this case, faster than it took to snap his fingers. Yet lying to Huggy, much less to Hutch, was something the brunet had never done before, and like a child who was busted, he hung his dark head in abject misery, unable to look his friends in the eye.
Hutch met the knowing look in Huggy’s dark eyes over the bowed head of his friend, his heart twisting in despair.
“Call me . . . if you need me,” Huggy said softly before turning to make his way out of the now, quiet apartment.
The silence that ensued was uncomfortable and heavy, making the air difficult to breathe for Starsky. He just wanted out . . . needed to get out before Hutch said anything. The dark haired cop grabbed his pants, tugging the tight jeans on over his hips and the curve of his buttocks, yanking his tee shirt down as he donned on the dusty vest, which felt scratchy to his now clean and water-warmed skin. He refrained from looking at his partner, though he could feel the chill of the blond’s icy stare, as he pulled on his socks and boots.
“Thanks, Hutch, for last night,” Starsky said softly, awkwardly; seeing his partner flinch out of the corner of his eye as he sniffled and rubbed his finger under his nose, knowing for sure now, that the blond suspected something.
Starsky could hear his conscience whispering condemningly in his head, making him feel so guilty inside, shredding his heart in two. He stood quickly, wanting to beat a hasty retreat only to crawl back into the dark and dingy apartment that the Feds had set up for him, to hide from the revealing light of his golden partner.
“I ah . . . I gotta go Hutch . . .” Starsky whispered, not wanting to get into ‘it’ with his partner, not now, not when things were so close to being wrapped up. If he could just hang on a little longer . . . it would all be worth it. The brunet walked out into the living room, feeling the silent blond following behind him at his heels. The need to leave made Starsky almost want to run to the door, but to his credit, he kept up his cocky swagger, re-donning the persona of the outlaw biker named Snake.
“Starsky?” the whispered name, brought the brunet to a halt, his hand already on the doorknob, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn and face his partner’s knowing look; the thought of doing that, seeing Hutch’s sky blue eyes saddened with hurt and disbelief would kill him . . . he just couldn’t . . .
Hutch could see his friend’s back grow rigid and tense and he waited for his partner to turn and look him in the eye, but the brunet stayed in place, his hand frozen on the knob.
“Starsk,” Hutch began again, his quivering voice warm and gentle. “Talk to me . . . Whatever it is . . . you can tell me, buddy.” The blond’s heart grew heavy as he saw his partner wearily press his forehead against the door. “Whatever it is Starsky, we’ll deal with it, but you need to . . . to just tell me.” Hutch could hear the quickening of his partner’s breaths as he drew it rapidly in. ‘Like a man drowning’, the blond thought sadly, his heart reaching out to the brunet, hoping his friend would turn to him to let him help. Hutch took another step towards his friend. “Don’t shut me out, Gordo . . .” the blond whispered softly, knowing his partner heard him all the same.
Starsky struggled to hold it together, taking in deep breaths so he wouldn’t fall apart, knowing his partner was reaching out to him, but he just couldn’t turn, his limbs almost frozen stiff with guilt and despair. He heard Hutch move closer and he knew he had to get out before Hutch touched him, the warmth of his touch would shatter him completely, “I . . . I gotta go, Hutch . . .” It took all of his strength to turn the knob and walk into the hallway, his heart breaking as he gently closed the door behind him.
Hutch swallowed, his eyes blurring suddenly as the door clicked gently behind his retreating partner. For a minute, the tall blond stood there, staring at the closed door, his heart shattering as he thought of what his partner was going through. The sudden roar of the Harley’s engine brought the detective out of his stupor, and Hutch raced to the window in time to see the brunet speeding away, his dark curls blowing in the wind.
“Aww buddy . . .” Hutch whispered to the empty room, “What have you done? What have you done?”