"Guess it's a little more than a cold, huh Dr. Hutchinson."

Hutch grasped either side of the toilet with trembling hands, ignoring the cold seeping into his knees from the hard tile floor. He heaved until his stomach ached and he felt light-headed, then he heaved some more. His eyes had long since fallen shut against the bright lights and the fatigue. Starsky's hand on his spine was the only thing keeping him from collapsing into the toilet bowl.

"Oh God this sucks," Hutch moaned into the porcelain. His retching seemed to have subsided, for the moment, and he risked opening his eyes to make sure he hadn't vomited his intestines.

"Are you done?"

Hutch remained still, for if he moved, the spasms would start anew. "I don't know." He was trembling- well shaking, really- and despite the sweat at his temples the room was freezing. "What's wrong with me?"

There was a cold washcloth on his forehead and Hutch leaned into it graciously, nearly losing his balance. Starsky spoke softly, "I don't know, you were suppose to be the one paying attention in that health class."

Hutch didn't even have the strength for banter. "I don't think I can move." He brought one cold and shaky hand to the burning skin of his neck. "My glands are swollen. I think I'm dying."

"You're not dying," Starsky replied forcefully and Hutch almost regretted saying it.

A feeling of nausea gripped him and he bowed lower over the toilet. "Uh-oh…" was all he could manage before his ribs squeezed the last remaining bile from his stomach, leaving Hutch panting and even weaker than before.

"Come on buddy, you're startin' to scare me now. Can you get to bed?"

Starsky's voice did indeed sound worried, but it also sounded as if he were at the other end of a long, dark tunnel. The words danced away before he could fully grasp them. So instead, Hutch kept his eyes closed and stayed his place on the bathroom floor.

Suddenly two warm hands snaked under his arms and Hutch found himself floating. His stomach became enraged at the sensation and threatened to seize once again. Where were his limbs? His arms had disappeared, and he only had a vague sensation of his feet dragging on the floor. Hutch knew he was being manhandled towards his bed and if it were anyone but his partner, he would have fought hard.

"…Calling the doctor."

Hutch heard Starsky murmuring as his pounding head landed violently on the pillow. A doctor would probably be a good idea right now, seeing as how he felt like week-old road kill. On a busy highway. With lots and lots of eighteen-wheelers.

That about covered it.

A laugh bubbled up his throat and in an instant, Starsky was beside him again. "What's wrong? You gonna puke again?"

"Oh, probably," Hutch replied in a voice that didn't sound like Hutch at all.

There was a thud and the wastebasket was on the floor next to him. Next came the cool cloth on his burning forehead. The sudden temperature change made him shiver.

"You don't have to stay," Hutch murmured, eyes still closed against the bright lights. "I'll be alright."

Starsky snorted. "Look at yourself buddy. When I got here you were laying next to your regurgitated lunch. Face it, you're sick and you need me."

Hutch winced at the memory, or lack thereof. There was the fuzzy recollection of Starsky helping him into the bathroom- had he really been that out of it?

"You're an ugly nursemaid," was all he could think of.

"Thanks pal. You're an ugly patient."

Hutch remained silent as he fought a severe case of vertigo.

"Think you can stop puking for a minute while I get something for you to drink?"

Hutch nodded, successfully rattling his brain against his skull. He hefted one leaden arm up over his eyes and lay still. Where was his mother when he needed her? Better yet, where was Starsky's mother? He shivered again but lacked the strength to move under the covers.

He felt pretty damn pathetic.

How much longer could this go on? The sour odor of vomit was lingering in the air like a bloodthirsty mosquito. It was embarrassing, really. He was a grown man- a detective no less- and he did not belong bedridden with the worst illness he could remember short of impending death.

They were suppose to go out tonight, meeting at Huggy's and declaring it a 'Guy Night'. Not a chance now. What a way to kick off their first two days off in a week. Maybe he was being punished for something. He had set down some mouse traps under the kitchen sink.

Suddenly the light was gone from his eyelids. "Here," Starsky said softly, and the bed dipped. "Drink this."

"No."

"Hutch, you have to. You're gonna shrivel up if you don't."

"No. It'll just come back up."

"So help me Hutchinson, I will cram this straw down your throat and tube feed you like a sick animal, understand?"

Hutch let his hand fall away and opened one eye. "You're a terrible nursemaid."

"So I've heard." The glass of dark liquid was inched closer to Hutch's face.

With what little strength he had gathered, Hutch pushed himself up so that at least his top half was vertical. He took the proffered glass and took a tentative sip, refusing to look at Starsky as he did so. "There," he said with triumph, handing the glass back.

"More."

"What? No!"

"Hutch-"

Hutch's gaze turned inward as the lukewarm juice defied gravity in his esophagus. "Here it comes-"

Starsky reached out with lightening instincts and met Hutch halfway as the blond leaned over the bed to vomit.

"Well would you look at that, you could almost put it back in the glass and drink it again-"

"Oh God-" Hutch doubled over further and his navel bumped his spine as his stomach tried to jump ship.

He heaved until there was nothing left but pain and dizziness. Curse his big-mouthed partner.

Starsky's hand was on his back again and it was the one thing Hutch could find comfort in. "Sorry, that was rotten…"

"I pray," Hutch panted, "that whatever this is… is highly contagious."

Starsky helped him into recumbancy again. "Me and Thee, remember? I catch your vomit, you catch mine."

"You should put that on a Hallmark card, Starsk."

"Your skin is getting kinda blotchy… what's that mean?"

"I'm not a doctor, I don't know. I think it means I'm dying."

Again, Starsky's voice was firm. "Quit sayin' that. Seriously."

Hutch looked at Starsky with heavy eyelids. "Sorry."

Starsky moved closer and rubbed his shoulder. "I know. But it's not funny, you know? The thought of you dying could never be funny to me." Starsky looked at the floor. "I care about you."

Hutch curled into a ball under his friend's warm touch. The pain in his ribs eased somewhat. "Thanks." He reached out and grabbed Starsky's hand. "You're a good friend."

There was a pause and Hutch knew Starsky was smiling. Then, "You think you can get to sleep? We'll try the juice again later."

"That sounds nice. The sleep, I mean."

Starsky chuckled and patted Hutch gently. "I'll be in the living room, watching your TV and eating your food if you need me."

"What's new?" Hutch grumbled, sleep already pulling hard.

"You won't be joining me."

Hutch was taken aback by the honest answer and he looked up at Starsky's retreating form. "Hey," he called, because that kind of declaration needed comfort.

Starsky turned, backlit in the doorway and Hutch couldn't make out his features. "Yeah?"

"Thanks Starsk."

"Get better Hutch." Starsky turned away again and started walking away. Hutch strained to make out his partner's mumbling:

"You're going to the doctor tomorrow and I can't carry your hide down all those steps."

End