S&H do not belong to me and no profit is being made.

This is a story set after The Fix. Some violence and reference to Hutch's drug addiction but nothing graphic. It is primarily from Hutch's POV. Hope you enjoy.

PRIORITIES

By Milford

CHAPTER 1

Hutch wandered slowly along the track, thinking about his life and the recent ordeal he'd only barely survived. It had been a big mistake falling in love with Jeannie, a woman who was loved by the crime boss, Ben Forrest, and it had led him into the worst nightmare he could have imagined. Memories of that terrible time, and being shot up with heroin, and then the withdrawal, still shook him, even though several weeks had now passed. Forrest hadn't messed around when it came to seeking revenge and he knew he'd been very fortunate to survive, but he was still paying a price and he wondered when it would end, or even if it would. If it hadn't been for his best friend, and partner, Starsky, he would have been finished and wouldn't even have had the strength to try, but Starsky was standing by him as always, always caring and supporting him as only his partner knew how. But despite this unstinting support and love, Hutch knew he was still struggling to come to terms with it all. He'd managed to kick his brief addiction but emotionally he was shattered and experiencing a great deal of difficulty in pulling himself together. Recovery just wasn't coming easily this time.

As Hutch continued his walk down the wooded track, his thoughts continued.

Part of the fear he was still experiencing was the fear of discovery. Apart from being an intensely private man, he knew he'd be finished in the Department if the truth came out and he was terrified of fingers being pointed at him and being accused of being a junkie. The fact that the heroin had been forced on him, and that this catastrophe wasn't even his fault, brought little him little comfort as he was cynical enough to know fingers would be pointed. He couldn't bring himself to consider the effect this would have on his family, on what his father would have to say. That was a problem that he just couldn't bring himself to face.

The anxiety and stress that he was experiencing was causing him to become very short-tempered and nervous. References to drugs made him particularly anxious and he was reacting badly to people's comments. Being cops he and Starsky were often brought into contact with drugs but he was finding it increasingly difficult to cope. The strain was starting to take a toll and he was becoming volatile, and his moodiness and depression were increasing as time passed. He could see the effect he was having on Starsky, who was openly worried about him, he couldn't seem to snap out of it. He was so very tired, tired of worrying about everything and everyone, about whether the truth would come out, about losing his job, and the burden of this enormous strain was becoming too heavy for him to carry. In his mind he knew he'd been the victim, that he hadn't asked for this to happen to him, but the reality was if the truth emerged, it could result in the end of everything that was most important. He'd worked very hard to achieve what he had in the Department and he was proud of what he'd done. He didn't want to lose anything and didn't want to face his family as a failure. He'd not even been able to seek proper medical attention and the withdrawal had been extremely difficult and painful for him. He shuddered to think where he'd be without his partner, Starsky. Starsky had stood by him for every second, showing no resentment or anger when he'd lashed out at him and even now, his steadfast and loyal friend was with him. But still the nightmare continued and even Starsky couldn't help him deal with the inner demons he seemed to be battling every second of the day.

The feeling of gloom was increasing and he couldn't bring himself to care about anything. Doing anything took an almighty effort. and if it hadn't been for Starsky's persistence, he kne he would have given up. The only way he could get through each day was to become tough and seemingly untouchable, but as he hardened himself, he had started to become reckless. Starsky, of course, could see what was happening, but it was no use. However, things had come to a head during a recent shootout. A rash movement by Hutch had nearly resulted in his being shot. Fortunately only Starsky seen his mistake, but it had resulted in a major blow up. He thought back to their argument.

"What the hell were you thinkin'?, No you weren't thinkin' were you?" He had rarely seen Starsky so furious, and had never been on the receiving end himself, although they did share heated discussions at times. Never before had he felt the full force of Starsky's cold rage against him. He was simply stunned as he watched Starsky pacing up and down and yelling and waving his arms. He couldn't justify himself and he didn't have the energy to even try. He'd been stupid and he knew it. The problem was, he didn't greatly care. He fully understood that Starsky was quite right to rant and rave at him, and he made no attempt to fight back or defend himself. However Starsky had become aware that he was not really getting through to Hutch. He'd grabbed and shaken him but Hutch had remained motionless.

"THAT'S IT! I'VE HAD IT!" and he turned around and stormed out of Hutch's apartment, slamming the door with considerable force. Hutch knew that he'd screwed up but it didn't matter to him. What's the point, he thought. He knew Starsky would be back once he calmed down.

A couple of hours later, Starsky did return.

"Right buddy, we are on vacation NOW."

"What?" Hutch looked up at him "Dobey approved leave?"

"Sure did when I laid it on the line."

"Well, I don't want a vacation."

"Bad luck, you've got one! I ain't gonna watch you kill yourself. We're gonna take time off and try to get our heads around what's goin' on. What's more, you're gonna take me campin'!" The last comment caused Hutch to react.

"Camping?" he queried. He was amazed that Starsky had come up with camping for he hated the wilderness with as much passion as Hutch loved it.

"Yeah, but be nice to me, eh?" Hutch grinned slightly, maybe this wasn't such a bad idea.

Walking along the track, and soaking in the peace that he always felt when outdoors, he could even find it in his heart to be grateful and a small smile softened the lines of tension in his face as he recalled the scene. His partner was volatile but he was the best friend he could hope to have. He was touched that Starsky still cared enough to bring him out here, especially considering how much he hated the outdoors. If Starsky had chosen the vacation spot, he would have chosen some resort near the beach and bikini clad women. The wilderness had been chosen to help him and Hutch couldn't help but be moved by the gesture. He chuckled to himself at the thought of Starsky checking his tent for creepy crawlies that night. He knew that he was not being much of a partner or friend to Starsky at this time, but it took all his energy just to get through the day. However the magic of the outdoors was already starting to work and as he started to relax, he could feel something in him starting to revive. He looked at his watch and saw that it was getting near dinner time and Starsky was doubtless starving hungry. He figured that since he'd wandered off by himself, whilst Starsky sat in his tent, with a book and some beer, trying to hide from the nasties, the least he could do was turn up and help cook dinner.

He turned to go back to their campsite. He was so immersed in his thoughts that he didn't hear anyone approaching him until he felt the cold metal of a gun pointed in his neck.

"Stop right there, Hutchinson." He felt his arms roughly grabbed and pulled behind him and bound. A gag and blindfold were placed on him and he was pushed roughly forward. He made no attempt to fight or get away, it all seemed like too much of an effort. He couldn't even take a vacation without finding trouble. He was pushed into the back of a car and was driven away. What the hell was going to happen now?