Title: Foreign Bodies
Standard Dis, mild language
Author's Notes: This is my first dip into this fandom after a long absence. Those darn boys on 'Supernatural' are just sooo adictive... Anyway, any comments are deeply appreciated. I was beginning to fear I'd never write another S&H fic again. Not Beta'd.
Starsky winced in sympathy as Hutch sat doubled over, coughing up his lungs into his fist. The crackling, wheezing barks echoed loudly inside the Torino despite Hutch's attempts to hide his face. When he finally stilled, panting and curled into the doorframe, Starsky spoke up.
"You sure you're gonna be okay?" he asked, his gaze darting between his partner and the dark road. "You don't sound too good."
Hutch swallowed and nodded, his forehead resting against the driver's side window. "I'll be fine," he croaked. "Just the flu."
Starsky was nowhere near convinced. He decided to prod. "Maybe you should stay home tomorrow. You know, recuperate."
Hutch cleared his throat with a face of distaste. "You didn't stay home. I had to listen to you're whining all last week, remember?"
"Because I didn't get as sick as you are now." Starsky glanced at his partner again, noticing the way Hutch was curled against the side of the car, shoulders shuddering with barely repressed coughs. And the murderous look in his eyes would have shut the mouth of a weaker man. "Don't make me call Dobey and have him declare you unfit for duty. He'll tell Edith, and she'll be knocking at your door with a bucket of soup in one hand and all her mothering instincts in the other."
Hutch winced, but Starsky couldn't tell if it was from the image he created or from the pain that must be in Hutch's throat. Guilt germinated in his stomach- he'd been the one to give Hutch the bug, after all.
The flu had been sweeping through the city for the past month, sparing no one. It had crept into the precinct, first attacking the patrol officers and secretaries, then moving deeper and making its way amongst the detectives. Starsky had been struck first, suffering loudly through a rather normal bout of the sickness. He had it all- the coughing, the fever, the runny/stuffy nose, the headaches… plus he was pretty sure the disease was the cause of the Torino's flat tire and his missing pair of lucky socks.
That had been last week. A few days ago, Starsky had finally shaken the last of his sore throat. He felt normal, found his lucky socks, and discovered a simple nail in the tire. Life moved on.
But now it was Hutch's turn. Starsky didn't miss his partner's sniffling, or the abnormal (massive) amount of crankiness, or the way a simple throat-clearing mutated into all-out coughing fits. Everyone at the station had been keeping their distance to avoid both the germs and Hutch's bad temper. Starsky had been quiet yesterday, knowing that Hutch bristled at the thought of being cared for, but after today's display of attention-drawing, leaves-you-breathless-and-in-obvious-pain coughing spells, Starsky decided to speak up. This bug was obviously biting Hutch harder than most and something needed to be done about it.
Starsky guided the car to a stop in front of Hutch's apartment. Hutch didn't move. "You want me to stay?" he asked, and Hutch lifted his head with a look of surprise.
"What? No," he said, blinking and taking in his surroundings. "I'm fine. I'm just gonna go to bed anyway."
Hutch must be tired. He was being half-way polite. "You should eat something."
"Not hungry." His voice was raspy, and he licked his lips before reaching for the door handle. "Thanks for the ride."
Testing his luck, Starsky pushed. "I'm serious about staying home tomorrow. Don't expect me to be here in the morning." Starsky watched Hutch get out of the car, then turn and shut the door. "I'll have Dobey post guards at the station, too. You won't even get in the door."
Hutch leaned down and Starsky noticed the dark circles of exhaustion under his eyes. "I said I'll be fine," Hutch growled. "It takes more than the flu to-"
Starsky shook his head as Hutch erupted in a coughing fit that left him gasping for breath with his hands on his knees. "What was that, partner?"
Hutch dismissed him with a curt wave- or was that the bird?- and turned away. Starsky knew he was trying to preserve what was left of his dignity.
He watched Hutch go, noticing the hunched shoulders and scuffing shoes, and silently willed Hutch to get better. It was just the flu, after all- nothing life-threatening. But where Starsky liked to make sure everyone knew he was suffering, Hutch would hold it all in, instead firing sharp retorts and insults and anyone who approached. Starsky was often very lonely while Hutch was sick, seeing as how none of his friends were brave enough to face a sick Hutch. Nonetheless, Hutch was still Starsky's partner, and he'd come check up on Hutch tomorrow, despite the grouchiness he knew he'd be met with. They were partners through better and worse, and sometimes that meant making sure his partner didn't really cough up a lung.
Hutch spit the bile-flavored water into the sink and lifted his head to stare at his reflection. His eyes were bloodshot, his nose was red, his skin was pale and his hair was limp. On top of his depressing physical appearance, the bathroom now smelled of vomit.
He shivered, his skin twitching violently as goose bumps erupted on his arms and chest. He'd taken his shirt off not ten minutes ago, muttering to himself about the heat. Now, he grabbed the shirt off the floor and pulled it back on.
Oh yeah, he was sick.
He was going to kill Starsky. It was all his fault, after all. If Starsky had just taken his own advice and stayed at home, Hutch wouldn't have had the virus forced upon him. He wouldn't be in his bathroom right now, puking and shivering and trying not to cry at the pain in his raw throat. He'd kill Starsky alright- if he didn't die first.
And no, he was not being pissy.
Eager to rid his mouth of the foul taste, Hutch grabbed his toothbrush and squeezed a healthy dose of toothpaste onto the bristles. He dipped it under the running water in the sink, then stuck the toothbrush in his mouth.
As he began to brush his teeth, Hutch searched the medicine cabinet for anything not out-of-date. The bottle of aspirin was in front, and beside it was a large box of bandages. He pushed aside the rubbing alcohol and cotton balls, digging deeper through the shelves. Some deodorant, some vitamins, some floss, a lone packaged condom… a bottle of cologne? Hutch bit down on the toothbrush and uncapped the glass bottle, brows furrowed. Where had this come from? He raised the bottle to his nose and inhaled.
The scent was strong and it caught him off-guard. His throat constricted and stung with irritation. Hutch dropped the bottle in the sink as his lungs and esophagus convulsed, stealing him of oxygen. Hutch doubled over, gasping in pain and shock as one hand latched onto the edge of the sink, the other going for the toothbrush still in his mouth.
Except it was gone.
Hutch blinked through the tears, searching the sink, then the floor, then even the toilet as he struggled to regain composure. The toothbrush was gone.
Hutch straightened, swallowing a glob of thick and tacky toothpaste, and stared at his reflection in the mirror.
Starsky took another swallow of beer and grinned at the late-night talk show host. He'd heard his favorite actress was going to make an appearance, so Starsky was sure to have himself settled in and ready. She'd just stepped out onto the stage and the audience exploded in applause. She waved a few times and Starsky resisted waving back.
The phone rang and Starsky picked it up without looking away from the television screen. "Yeah?"
Starsky felt a shadow of concern, until the actress's blouse slipped a little lower on her perfect chest. "Yeah?"
"Uh… I. I think… can you come over?"
Starsky couldn't stop staring. She sat down next to the host and crossed a pair of the longest, prettiest legs Starsky had ever seen. "Now?"
"Yeah. I kinda think it's an emergency."
Starsky's trance broke and he glanced at the door. "What kind of an emergency? You sound horrible- did something happen?"
There was an uneasy pause and Hutch rasped a chuckle. "Yeah, something happened."
Starsky was on his feet. "Okay, I'm on my way. Will you be okay 'til I get there?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Okay, buddy. Don't move. I'll be there in a few minutes." Starsky hung up the phone, grabbed his gun and keys, and left without a backwards glance.
"In all my time as a doctor, I've never seen this before. I'm at a loss."
"That's comforting," Hutch wheezed.
Starsky shifted his weight, stamping a foot. "Will someone please tell me what is going on here?"
The doctor eyed Hutch. "You didn't tell him?"
"It's kind of embarrassing." Hutch sniffed and avoided Starsky's gaze. "You can get it out, right?"
"Get what out?" Starsky's heart was beating wildly as images of cancer and tumors raced through his head. He'd arrived at Hutch's apartment a few hours ago, expecting the worst. Instead, Hutch had met him at the door, looking sheepish and miserable, and told Starsky that he needed a ride to the hospital. Starsky obliged, the whole time searching his partner for profusely bleeding cuts or burns or anything, but he couldn't see a single thing out of the ordinary. Besides the overall appearance of being sick, that is.
Once at the hospital, Hutch had signed his own paperwork, talked to the nurses out of Starsky's earshot, then had finally been led away for x-rays and Starsky still had no idea what was going on.
And it infuriated him. He was sick of being left out, having to guess at what was wrong. Having to worry. Hutch was his partner, they faced everything together. How dare he pull the hero act now. How dare he-
The doctor reached for the wall beside him and turned on the view box. He pushed the square of black film under the clip and stepped back.
Starsky's eyes narrowed. "What is that?" he asked quietly, taking a step towards the radiograph.
"That, Detective Starsky, is a toothbrush."
Starsky blinked. "But it's… that's… how…" He turned towards Hutch. "You swallowed a toothbrush?"
Hutch pointed a finger at Starsky's chest. "You tell anyone about this and your car is scrap metal."
Starsky looked back to the x-ray. "A toothbrush? Seriously? Hutch-"
"It's your fault," Hutch snapped. "I found a bottle of your cologne in my bathroom."
"So you swallowed your toothbrush to get back at me?"
"It was an accident," Hutch growled. He sniffed and stifled a cough. "I was brushing my teeth and started-"
Starsky watched as Hutch doubled over, coughing violently into his lap. By the time he was done, he was red-faced and teary-eyed. The doctor made a note in his chart.
"You can get it out, right?" Starsky asked, looking between Hutch and the doctor.
"It will require surgery," the doctor replied. He turned back to the x-ray. "It's in his stomach, too far down to simply pull it out. We'll get started on antibiotics now; we can't wait very long. I'll schedule the procedure right away."
Starsky returned his gaze to Hutch, who sat forlornly upon the examination table, looking very irritable and pathetic. He knew he had to say something. It was nearly dawn and Hutch had just been told that he was a medical freak. "Don't beat yourself up," he said. "This kind of thing could've happened to anyone."
The words resonated around them, echoing in Starsky's head. A corner of Hutch's mouth twitched.
"You're horrible at the whole boost-your-confidence talk- you know that, right?"
"Hey, you're the one who dragged me into this mess. If you didn't want me to know about it, you could've driven yourself."
"Starsk, I swallowed a toothbrush. Excuse me for being a little worried."
"Serves you right for not letting me help you." Hutch was loosening up, not looking as scared, so Starsky kept up the banter. "Next time, I'm calling in Edith Dobey."
"You do and I'll sell the Tomato to the lowest bidder."
"I swallowed a toothbrush and lived to tell about it. I can do anything."
"So now you're bragging about it? And you haven't lived through the surgery yet."
The next comment was cut short. A nurse entered the curtained cubical and introduced herself, then began the pre-surgical procedures. The detectives fell quiet as the nurse explained her actions while taking blood and vitals, then an IV was started.
The situation was becoming very real to Starsky. His partner was about to be cut open and a toothbrush would be retrieved from his stomach. It was all so wrong, so unbelievable, so… "It's something I would do," he said aloud.
"Nothing. Just thinking."
Instead of a witty remark, Hutch just looked at him.
Seconds later, the doctor reappeared and went over the procedure. It was a fairly simple surgery for such an uncommon ailment, and the doctor was certain that there would be no complications. Hutch gave his final consent and the doctor left to scrub in, leaving the nurse behind to begin the anesthesia.
As Starsky watched Hutch begin to relax, watched the lines of pain and weariness fade from his face, Starsky realized some things. No matter how stubborn or grumpy or hurtful Hutch was, he was still the best partner Starsky ever had- would ever have. Underneath the sometimes stoic exterior was a man who was exactly the opposite- a man who cared a little too much, who felt things a little too deeply. Hutch was 100 percent dependable, loyal, and trusting. Starsky couldn't think of a single problem he might have that would drive Hutch away. Hutch filled a brother-sized hole in Starsky's life, and then some.
He watched as Hutch's eyes fell shut, then Starsk grabbed the limp, warm hand. He would be here when Hutch was returned to him, sans one foreign object. He would be here when Hutch woke up, groggy and giddy from the drugs, to tell him that the operation was successful. And he would be here to drive Hutch home again, where he'd take a little better care of his partner. He'd learned an important lesson today- no, yesterday- their lives weren't just on the line while their badges were on. Anything could come between them, could threaten their lives. Sometimes life could make you look in one direction while it sucker-punched from another. Starsky had to stop taking Hutch- and all his personality flaws- for granted.
Perhaps it was the bone-deep, post-flu fatigue, or the clinical abundance of oxygen in the room, but Starsky's heart twisted beneath his ribs in a flare of love for the man on the gurney- the man who had swallowed a toothbrush.