Hutch laid a hand on the knob, to his surprise, the door drawn an arc opening itself, in a move that could be interpreted as an invitation. Throughout all the time he'd been looked between those four walls, the door had been closed. Not only that, but a bolt had been responsible for keeping him prisoner.
He stuck his head through the door and finally entered the room, unconsciously putting a hand on the wooden surface to keep it fully open. He looked around feeling as a cold fist clenched his heart, fueling the memories he had been trying to bury in the depths of his soul. He lowered his head and blinked, confused by the stream of emotions that were struggling to impose on him. He felt as something was stealing the air from his lungs and he feel the urgent need to flee from that place, making him take a step back and being right in the doorway again. He looked at the stairs as the only way of escape, and his legs made an attempt in that direction. But one image introduced itself amid the tumult of unpleasant visions. He remembered opening his eyes, after a night pledged of nightmares, and seeing Starsky sitting in the chair, hugging a pillow, with his mouth half open and a blanket sliding down his sprawled legs. It's the very image of abandonment and Hutch had found it very funny. Even the thought, of taking a pen and drawing a mustache on his friend's face, had gone through his head. The blond police smiled at this. Starsky always remembers him as a child, even though occasionally an old man poked through his eyes. A bright and curious kid; a tired and sad old man; a kid with a whole world to discover; a man sick of everything and everyone; and he was a friend who had forgotten how to be one.
He stepped further into the room and left the door ajar behind him. The L-shape of the room prevented him from seeing the bed, but everything was the same as last time. Even the checker board was still on the table, the chips spread on the plastic surface, waiting for a new play.
He found his friend, lying face down over the blanket. A bottle of whiskey lied on the table and next to it, a glass full of this drink. Hutch took the bottle and smiled. It lacks only the right amount of liquid that was in the glass. If the purpose of Starsky had been drinking until he lost consciousness, at least he had gotten the second part right. He left the bottle on the table and sat down carefully on the edge of the bed, not wanting to wake the curly police up. He discovered himself looking for the signs that Huggy had described in the face of his friend and he had no trouble finding them in the sunken cheeks and the black circles under his closed eyes.
"Sorry bud," Hutch whispered leaning his elbows on his knees and clasping his fingers. His eyes were fixed at some point in the opposite wall. "I've failed you."
Hutch head jerked up at the unexpected sound and he looked over his shoulder at a pair of blue eyes full with sleepiness.
"What are you doing here?" Starsky murmured half asleep. Then he looked at the bed, realizing that it wasn't his. "Where is here?"
"We're in The Pits", Hutch said and rose to make room for his friend, who sat on the bed massaging his neck trying to make his brain function.
"The Pits?" Starsky looked at the white walls trying to place them in his memory. "Oh! Yeah." His eyes traveled to the table and the bottle of whiskey and he sighed. "Give me a second, I'll wash my face."
He got up, but tripped over his own feet and Hutch had to grab his arm to stabilize him. Starsky felt as if someone had changed his legs and now he had to learn how the new ones work.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he whispered, almost to himself.
Hutch watched how his friend staggered to the bathroom and then heard the water running. Almost immediately a curly head popped out, with eyes open wide and water dripping from his face.
"Why are you here? Did something happen? Are you OK?"
The blond smiled and looked at his watch. It had taken five minutes for his friend to get fully awake.
"I think it should be me who asks" Hutch said softly. "Are you okay?"
Instead of answering, Starsky ran a hand over his face to remove the excess water and looked down at his worn out sneakers.
"I had better days," he finally said with a sigh. He leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms over his chest.
"I'm sorry about all that I said," Hutch searched his friend's eyes, trying to make him understand that he was sincere.
"No worries" Starsky said with a shrug and turned around to step into the bathroom again.
In two long strides Hutch reached his friend and grabbed his arm before he could disappear in the safeness that provided a closed door.
Starsky couldn't suppress the look of surprise at the suddenness of the action, but did nothing to free himself from the hand that held him in place. He looked up and met the eyes of his friend. Two deep pools where the guilt and the fear swam along each other. Starsky didn't want to see those emotions on Hutch's face, so he opened his mouth to say that it doesn't matter, that he knew Hutch wasn't intentionally trying to hurt him and everything would be all right; but he couldn't. He was too tired, too exhausted to believe that this would have a happy ending, to pretend that his friend's words hadn't taken a toll on him. He felt as if he was the only one fighting for their friendship.
At the beginning he thought he would be able to carry on with his life and Hutch's, but now he'd started to take notice that, maybe, it was a task too heavy for just one person. He had gone there with the intention of drinking until he couldn't remember why he was drinking. At the time, he knew that it wasn't the solution for his problems, but he couldn't came up with a better idea. He looked at the bottle and found no sense on its presence.
"Don't do that," Hutch squeezed Starsky's arm to call the attention of his friend. "Please."
Starsky set his eyes on his friend's face, following the lines that formed it as if they were those of a stranger. 'What do you expect Hutch?'
"Don't do what?" Starsky asked letting a soft smile graced his lips. There was not much more to give, but for Hutch, what wouldn't he give.
"This," the blond man said placing both hands on his friend's shoulders. "Underestimate you".
Starsky leaned back slightly. Although he didn't break contact, his eyes get hard and his lips drawn into a thin line.
"It wasn't me the one who insulted my offspring."
Hutch jerked his hands and looked to the ground embarrassed.
Cursing silently, Starsky ran a hand over his face and took a deep breath, trying to regain some of his composure.
"Sorry," he whispered. "I'm tired, didn't mean..."
"Don't apologize," Hutch said. "I've been an ass and I deserve whatever you say to me, buuuuuut," he continued, raising a finger and making it dance in front of his curly friend's nose. "I know you won't, because you aren't like that."
Hutch nodded to himself, happy with his conclusion about the person named Starky, who looked at his friend as if aliens had replaced him with an identical replica. He opened his mouth and closed it again, unable to follow the blond line of thought.
"Don't worry. This time I'll take care of everything," Hutch said turning around and heading toward the door while getting Starsky's jacket in the process. "I hope you've brought my car, 'cause somebody has taken away my keys."
The tall man began to descend the stairs but Starsky remained in the room wondering if he was really awake or if it was all a dream. He looked at the open door. The light from the window's corridor drew a bright rectangle on the floor of the room and Starsky felt the corners of his mouth curled upward in a gentle smile. Forgetting all the fatigue and pain that had bounded his heart to a bottle of whiskey, he ran to the landing and went down the stairs, two at a time, skidding at the bottom and landing in Hutch's arms.
"Pizza or hamburger," the blond said helping him to regain his balance.
"Both!" Starsky said with his eyes lit up like a child being promised to get an ice-cream after he achieved eating spinach.
The blonde raised his eyebrows. "Do you know what are going to do those with your arteries?"
"I was thinking about what they're going to do with my stomach," he patted the mentioned organ, while grabbing his jacket from his friend hands. He moved with a fluid grace that belied the exhaustion he must be feeling and Hutch shook his head in amusement.
"Hey Huggy!" Starsky shouted perching himself on the wooden surface of the countertop. "Join us for dinner, Hutch is paying!"
A head poked out from one end of the bar.
"No kidding," he said starting to untie his apron.
"Are you going to close?" Hutch asked surprised, seeing as Huggy hung the closed sign on the door.
"Hey," the black man said, leaning against the jamb and placing one hand on his hip. "There are things that are worth shutting down a kingdom"
"A kingdom?" Starsky smirked getting a handful of nuts before heading toward the exit. "And where your royal highness wants to go?
"I'll let the driver decide."
Huggy threw the keys towards Hutch, who grabbed them with one hand and an inquisitive expression in his eyes.
"No alcohol for you, fellow" Huggy said making an exaggerated bow. "Someone has to bring us back so we can taste the great whiskey which is up stairs."
Hutch smiled putting the keys in his pocket and passing by the tall figure.
"Friendship, divine treasure," he murmured to himself feeling the void in his soul began to fill again.