"'We be of one blood, thou and I,' Mowgli answered, '. . . my kill shall be thy kill if ever thou art hungry.'" - Rudyard Kipling


The first time he sees his partner's blood it's a papercut and Starsky babies it like a life-threatening wound, even wrapping up his finger. He teases him about it, but after all they're barely more than rookies and they've never been injured in the line of duty. Later he notices the single drop of blood on the paper tablet on their desk, and he tears off the page without a second thought. It lands crumpled in the trash and the incident is soon forgotten.

The second time he sees his best friend's blood it's running down the window in giant crimson letters that tear into his heart like a knife. It isn't Starsky's blood, of course, but for a few sickening moments all he can see is that red and imagine life without him. He still has nightmares about it a week after Starsky is home and safe.

The third time he sees Starsky's blood it's splashed across the pavement and covering the side of his car, the vibrant crimson running like macabre tears from the paint. But he doesn't notice it at the time because there's so much blood pouring out of Starsky, life leaking into the ground and he can't hold enough in to keep that life inside the suddenly frail body. The second day after they place Starsky on life support he drives through the car wash and watches through dry, fixed eyes as the water mingles with the blood, stripping the car clean as if nothing ever happened. But a few drops stay burned into the leather where his blood-stained jeans were as he drove home from the hospital that day.

The next time he sees his partner's blood it's a little stain on the leather seat beneath where he lifts his friend into the car to take him home. Starsky's still too weak to get himself in, and if he notices the stain he says nothing. They don't talk about the past and only tentatively about the future, almost as if they still haven't realized that the future is still there, that it wasn't ripped away and buried for one of them.

The last time he sees his partner's blood it's six months after the shooting and Starsky is finally back behind his desk, a little thinner, and still pale, but alive. He cuts his finger on the edge of the form and fusses over it like he's never been wounded in the line of duty, and like six months ago he didn't survive three bullets tearing through him and a heart jolted back to life. But this time Hutch doesn't tease him at all.