By: Karen B.

Summary: Post Bloodbath. (Starsky pov) What is Starsky doing while Hutch is gone.

Companion piece to: The Eyes Of The Devil

Much thanks to Laura for the fine as sweet wine beta read!

I don't blame Hutch for leaving. Adventures in babysitting probably don't rate high on his list of duties. I wanted to kick myself, asking Hutch not to forget to come back. I sounded like such a little kid. A kid who wanted to hide under his bed.

Since Hutch left, all I can hear is the chanting mantra of those freaks, calling out to their God.

'Simon. Simon. Simon.'

I wanted to go back to bed, but couldn't get the fiery images out of my head, and I knew they'd haunt me in my dreams, just like they had haunted my partner's. There was no way I was going to sit on my ass dwelling on what happened while waiting for Hutch. I didn't want to be dragged back into that hellish pit. Instead, I started doing the only thing I could think of: cleaning.

I washed the dishes, wiped down the counters, and mopped the kitchen floor. Funny thing about kidnapping and trauma; they sure can strongly urge me to polish up my apartment, even if I was in utter pain and could hardly move. Maybe it was the adrenaline that still seemed to be flowing through me, but I felt a nervous energy. I thought about dogging around this place. Made a mental list. Clean and organize the kitchen cabinets, dust, vacuum, and maybe even defrost the freezer. Anything to keep me busy. While I continued to create my list I moved to the bedroom, figuring I'd make the bed first.

I should have been dead on my feet, but my energy seemed boundless. Still, I couldn't completely shut out the images. They continued to float above my head, ruthless and efficient, staying right where I didn't want them. I hurt all over, and I wanted to sit, but I just kept moving. Kept thinking of things to clean. I couldn't stop, lest I'd live the experience all over again. The crazy notion that if I stopped moving they'd come back for me, axing down my door, wouldn't leave my head. What if they did come back?

At the time, I thought I was holding up well, but now, over twenty-four hours later, I was in deep. I thought about getting drunk, but figured that would only open the flood gates and I'd end up crying in my beer. That was the last thing I needed.

I had just finished making the bed when I had to stop and take a breather.

Big mistake.

For the thousandth time I recalled walking into that courthouse john. I had surveyed the scene quickly, but before I could comprehend what was happening, Simon's freaks took me down. They had caught me off guard, sending me into a swirling black cauldron. At first I was blind, a scarf tied tight over my eyes, and my hands bound behind my back.

Blind and missing.

Not knowing what those freaks were going to do to me next.

I tried to play it brave, play it smooth, but smooth is rarely the option when you're trussed up like a pig.

"Humph," I snorted at the pun. "Like a pig."

Out of the chanting chaos came crack after crack as they showered me with punches. To my head, my ribs, my groin. I couldn't deflect any of their hits. All I could do was curl into a ball and take it. All I could think of was 'will they be able to cover up the bruises enough for my funeral?'

I wasn't fast enough. I didn't keep moving.

I gulped down the sickness I'd been holding back since this whole thing first got started. I was angry. Angry at myself for letting them nab me. And I was scared. Scared I would never be found. It is very well understood: the department does not negotiate for hostage release. Even with all the distraction of dust and crud, I couldn't stop the images on parade as they kept on coming. The unseeing hands pawing at me, striking me down. Me, doubled over with stomach cramps from that poisoned water. Me, swinging helplessly, like meat on a hook in a freezer.

Keep moving, Starsky. Be fast. Don't stop.

On unsteady feet, I moved into the bathroom, intending on continuing my crackdown on dirt in there. Taking one look at the porcelain -- I finally cashed in. All the images floating over my head landed in my gut, and brought me to my knees. I didn't want to be there again -- not today.

I quickly lifted the toilet seat lid and vomited repeatedly and violently. For over twenty-four hours I had held it in, but I couldn't do it anymore.

Each time I picked my head up and emerged from the depths of the bowl, I felt weaker. I didn't want Hutch to see me like this. After all, I'm a street-tough, inner city cop. I wouldn't allow myself to play victim. I had to maintain some semblance of professionalism about this.

As if on cue, I heard the front door swing open, then close, and a jangle of keys hit the counter.

"Starsk, I'm back."

"Damn it, " I muttered. "Talk about good timing."

Desperately I struggled to get to my feet, getting only halfway when everything started going black. Bells rang in my ears, and sweat ran down my back. My knees began to shake, the swirling room threatening to bring me down. I managed to get the rest of the way up and flush just as Hutch poked his head around the door.

His blond hair was mussed, like he'd been in a brawl, but the light from the hallway made it shine as if he wore a halo. The thought of him seeing me like this made me feel sicker. Right now, for me, it was all about keeping enough distance from the memories so I could keep functioning. I focused on the pain in my stomach. It was easier than focusing on the expression on Hutch's face. It telegraphed the worry I knew he was feeling for me. I leaned heavily against the vanity, glaring at my reflection in the glass. If I looked bad before, I looked worse now. Vomiting didn't do much for my appearance, just made me look ten years older.

"Hey." Hutch made a deft move toward me, and I sidestepped away.

I had to stay strong. It's how I handle things. If I attended to my real feelings, I'd crumble. I wasn't ready to crumble -- not yet.

"What have you been up to?" Hutch asked warily, not taking another step.

"Busy." I was desperate to hide how the kidnapping was affecting me.

"I'd say so, buddy." He shoved his hands into his pockets, while keeping a close eye on me.

Time seemed to tick by, what felt like hours was only minutes, maybe seconds. I looked past my own reflection to Hutch's.

'Not yet. I'm not ready, Hutch.'

I couldn't say the words. Normally I'd kick him out, be pissed at the close eye I knew he was keeping on me, but today, for some reason, I didn't seem to mind. Just didn't want him to know it, that's all.

"What's going on?" Hutch finally spoke up.

"Nothing I can't handle," I replied.

Deciding I'd better do something instead of just stand there like an idiot, I turned on the faucet and began washing my hands.

Hutch continued to give me withering stares through the mirror -- I stared back. It made my head hurt. It was like watching a tennis match the way we were going at it.

Suddenly one of those fuzzy tennis balls hit me square on, and another floating image appeared. Only it wasn't me. It was Hutch. He was wrestling with one of the knife wielding freaks, but this time he didn't win, and he took a blade in the chest, blood spurting everywhere.

I knew what was happening before it happened. I was about to black out. My legs felt like lead, and I gagged once. I gripped the sink, the action only taking a second off my reaction time as I lost my handhold.

Hutch caught me mid-fall, keeping me from crashing to the floor

Some things need no translation. Nothing like having a personal psychic for a partner.

"Jeez, buddy." He held me up. "How long have you been like this?"

"Probably an hour," I panted.

"Shit, Starsk."

I whimpered involuntarily. Shit -- that was exactly how I felt. More telepathy.

Hutch began to move me out of the bathroom and over toward the couch. I wanted to argue, but my body was telling me I'd better heed my partner's advice unless I wanted to end up face first on the floor. He eased me down and sat next to me, one arm around my shoulder, nervously looking around the apartment.

"You've been keeping yourself busy."

"Hutch, I'm okay, just exhausted."

Hutch eyed me as if he were reading a high profile rap sheet. "You have good reason to be, Starsk. I never saw the kitchen looking so clean," he tried to joke.

I felt those tears of mine again, pricking at my eyes. "Hutch, you didn't have to come back. Go ahead and split."

"Don't be ridiculous."

"You're being ridiculous," I said, my words sounding slurred. "Hutch, go!"

I felt myself getting miffed. Last thing I needed was for Hutch to see me cry.

"Was it the food this morning?" Hutch gently probed, pretending he didn't hear my demand to leave. It's a little trick he specializes in -- uses it to misdirect me, lead me into conversation.

"Haven't poisoned anyone yet," I answered tiredly.

"You okay?" he asked, his fingers now warmly kneading the back of my neck.

Aw, damn it, Hutch. You stay on your side of the fence; I'll stay on mine.

"I'm not afraid!" I lied, reading into his words what I really was feeling.

"Who said anything about being afraid?" Hutch responded in a whisper.

It was then I knew Hutch wasn't leaving, and I decided if he could play in my sandbox -- then I could play in his.

"Where'd you go before?" I sniped, figuring he wouldn't tell me.

"To see Marcus," Hutch said, dryly.

My body stiffened and my eyes must have bugged out of my head cause Hutch got real concerned, pulling me closer.

"Easy. It's okay."

After a minute of recovery I asked, "Did they have to wheel him out of that cell on a stretcher?"

"Only his pride."

"That good, huh?"

"That good, partner."

I decided to try and unbend my body and stand up, but my heart started pounding and every muscle ached.

"Oh -- ohhhh." A groan popped out unexpectedly.

Hutch quickly leaned away, grabbing a nearby pillow and muttering something under his breath about…the devil. Then he turned back toward me.

He gently slipped his hand to my back for support. "Let's get you comfortable."

"You know you can go. I don't need a nursemaid."

"I'm not your nursemaid," Hutch said, arranging the pillow on his lap. "I'm your partner-maid."

I couldn't admit it, but I was glad for that.

"Glad we got that straight." I felt drunk with fatigue.

"Come on, buddy, lay back," he said, helping to ease me down.

"I'm okay," I argued, as I nestled into the pillow.

I was still determined to keep strong, but happy to have my friend back in my personal space. Truth was, I didn't want Hutch to leave. We feed off each other's strength, trust each other when we wouldn't trust anyone else. We sometimes don't know what to say. What to do. Where we're going with it. All I know is, wherever we do go, we'll end up there together.

I looked up into Hutch's shining blue eyes. He knew how to help me.

Without pushing.

Without hurting.

"You sure you're okay?" Hutch smiled, but it wasn't his usual smile; it held a hard edge to it. "You'd tell me if you weren't right?" Hutch stared at me, and I could see he was all twisted up inside.

I still felt shaky, but I didn't want to blow my cover, not yet. I needed Hutch to know I could handle this.

"What was that all about?" I asked, trying not to let my fear and fatigue shake my voice.

"What was what all about?" Hutch frowned in confusion, shaking his head.

"That thing with the pineapple?"

Hutch turned to pull the afghan off the back of the couch and covered me with it as he started to tell me about his dream. A dream about a relaxing cozy cabin, and the sound of moving water. About a couple of friends who sat side by side on a large boulder, with nothing more than a cooler of beer, a guitar, a trout line, and a pizza loaded to the hilt with everything except pineapple.

I got the feeling he was leaving something besides pineapple out of the equation, but it was okay.

I began to feel myself relax, to feel safe, to slide into sleep. I was still afraid. Still wasn't ready to talk, and maybe I never would be. Least I knew Hutch wouldn't press me on it, whatever I decided. I knew I'd get it together again. The only question I had right now was how long would it take me to get there?

"You'll get there, partner," Hutch said, spearing my thoughts again.

I shifted slightly, closing my eyes, and thinking, man, I didn't just get me a partner and best friend. I got me an angel.

The end.