Chapter 25

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Starsky hadn't said a word since they had left his home for the meeting.

A nod, a shake of the head, a shrug – but not a single utterance.

Not one word. Not one grunt, moan, or a wince. Not even, thought Hutch, one single complaint or whine about his beaten up and dirty car. This alone had brought Hutch's worry levels to the maximum. It was a given law of the partnership that Hutch's car and Starsky did not mix. Even at his lowest ebb, his sickest, Starsky would always manage to conjure up the strength to find fault with any number of its many shortcomings.

The only noise was the rattling of his scarred up, embattled clunker and not even the shoddy suspension was enough to elicit a complaint or a grumble from Starsky. Despite the fact that Hutch was usual solicitous self and concerned as much as he ever was for his partner's physical welfare and discomfort, he was sorely tempted to take a corner too sharply or hit a pothole, anything to get a sound from his mute, dead eyed passenger.

After receiving his orders from Dobey, he'd wasted no time getting back to Starsky to deliver him the bad news and to give him as much time as possible to prepare himself mentally for the requested interview with Internal Affairs and Ryan. Imparting the message that he was required at a departmental meeting later that afternoon was not easy and he was loathe to be the bearer of such a big ask of someone who had only been discharged from hospital the day before. But worse, far worse than the prospect of having to tell Starsky about the meeting at Headquarters was the imbedded threat that the meeting came complete with Ryan Lancaster in joint attendance.

It took him over half an hour to come clean with the details. This was not a piece of news he coped well with so he could only imagine how it was going to affect Starsky.

Arriving back at the apartment Starsky didn't even look surprised to see Hutch walk in. It was almost as though he realized since Ryan's unplanned attack yesterday that his partner was going to become a virtual fixture to his side.

He had moved from the bed and was lying down on the couch with the television screen flickering – the sound muted, staring at it but not seeing it. When Hutch openedthe door after tapping out his knock and turning the key, the form on the couch barely seem to register him.

Hutch made coffee and some sandwiches for them both and chatted inanely – or so it sounded to his own ears – aimless, stupid chatter to fill the void his silent partner seemed to be producing since the afternoon before.

The coffee was accepted, the sandwich sampled and pushed back onto the plate and the void remained. For a guy who never usually shut up Starsky was perfecting the art of saying very little and Hutch knew that he himself was perfecting the art of over- analyzing every word Starsky wouldn't say.

In the end he just said it. After all he had to get Starsky down to the station or Dobey would be only making matters worse for them.

'There's going to be a damn meeting! That's why I had to come back here now – to get you ready to come into the precinct. Dobey, Dobson and Simonetti are staging some pre-trial report review meeting to move the evidence along against Kalzo and his men. I'm sorry, Starsk, but I had to be the one to come get you and prepare you for the – well – the – Christ, might as well tell you now - Ryan is going to be there as well. Ryan will be at the meeting with you. I'm so pissed about the whole thing but Dobey won't budge on it – says you have to be there and so does Ryan."

The mention of Ryan had Starsky's sitting up slowly.

"He's – Ryan's gonna be there? At the precinct?"

"I'll be at the meeting with you Starsk. You don't have to say anything to him or take anything from him. Simonetti has us in a corner on this one and unless you're prepared to say something against Ryan we can't do much about it – they need to corroborate your statements for the pre-trial."

He looked carefully at Starsky again – trying to gauge if this would be a shifting point for him. Would he change his stance now given that the real world with Ryan waiting in it for him was coming up to hit him full in the face?

"So –what do you want to do buddy? I'll support you all the way if you decide to take this to Dobey before the meeting. Open the whole thing wide open – what do you say?"

Starsky pushed up and walked away from the couch and Hutch.

"I'll go and clean up and we'll get going. It can't take too much to run through our statements. Sounds like a formality."

In his wake the silent void was back.

Hutch just put his head into his hands and muttered an oath of despair.

Starsky was well and truly stuck and he could not pull him out of the hole he was digging deeper for himself with each passing hour.

oooOOOoooOOOoooOOOooo

Hutch parked his car out the back in the precinct garage and stood beside Starsky as he gingerly climbed out of the battered car. Automatically he reached to support and steady his partner but Starsky lightly shrugged him off and just pulled awkwardly at his sweater. Hutch noted how he had dressed in the high turtleneck sweater and his heart lurched for him as he realized he was desperately trying to conceal again the fresh bite marks on his bruised neck.

As they approached the rear entrance to the building he thought for the tenth time since meeting with Dobey earlier that this whole concept of a meeting of this caliber was premature for his weakened friend and about as traumatic as any event could possibly be for a victim of a recent crime.

He had to keep reminding himself that it was only three people however who were aware of any crime other than the 'staged' alley fight to preserve the integrity of one cop's cover and the overall coup of a drug bust that had been months in the making.

Dobey had no inkling of the real significance of this meeting for Starsky and nor for that matter did Dobson and Simonetti. Ryan however would be in all his glory and that thought had Hutch biting down so hard he tasted his own blood.

He knew that he was yet again putting himself into a triangulated situation – the bearer of sick secrets and the one who needed to keep each party happy enough to get through the meeting without having his partner totally annihilated by the exposure to his attacker.

As they walked down toward the squad room he was acutely aware of his responsibilities and taut with adrenaline. Part of him wanted to grab his best buddy's arm and high tail it out of there. The other more animalistic part of him was dancing on the balls of his feet just waiting to sense Ryan. It was not long before the scent of the kill caught his nostrils.

The sudden increased tension in Starsky was proof that he too could sense his enemy's presence. The sickly cloying stench of the expensive male cologne was probably not noticeable to anyone else, but for the two detectives it was overwhelming.

All Hutch could think of was the soiled bloody bedcover and the stench of the cologne that had tainted Starsky's skin. The scent on his neck and face, mingled with Starsky's blood.

The blood of a violation.

There was a small group of them clustered around the water cooler near the swing doors to the squad room.

Ryan was holding court.

Two uniformed patrolmen were lightly laughing at something he was saying, a female administration officer was looking admiringly at his long body and striking face, but for Hutch, the biggest shock was Riley.

He was standing there also.

The young officer looked up suddenly as he sensed their approach down the hall. Springing back a little he projected discomfort and his usual flushing embarrassment. When his eyes found Hutch, he attempted a shy welcoming smile but then quickly looked uncomfortable – almost guilty to be found within this small gathering.

Guilty to be standing with Ryan.

Ryan did not hesitate or break the flow of what he was saying in his smooth seductive tone. But, Hutch knew instantly when he became aware of them. His eyes belied his awareness of them but he knew they had come in - and when he raised his smooth deep voice a little louder, it was for their benefit.

"So Riley, like I was saying, there is a hell of a lot you can learn down around the Nineteenth. Maybe it's not quite as lowdown and dirty as around here – but it's a great place to start off. The streets down around the nineteenth are a little less gritty so you'll get a softer start and it'll probably teach you more about investigative work than just busting asses. Down here around metro that's more along the lines of what you'd be doing. More grunt and muscle and less detecting work."

The dark eyes swept now over the two approaching detectives and he turned to include them in his lime lighting speech.

" I'm sure these good boys here can tell you all about the filth outside these doors hey Hutchinson?"

The other officers seemed to be hanging off his every word, his deep velvety voice almost hypnotic and his penetrative eyes holding his audience rapt. Only Riley to whom the conversation was directed looked ill at ease.

"I'm sure Riley already knows about the sort of filthy scum we get coming inside these doors too. Stinking filthy scum that you can smell from the moment you walk in that rear garage door there. Just as well he gets to learn how to use grunt and muscle because it's part of being a steady cop and he'll need it so that his partner can count on him."

The other officers shuffled and looked uncertain. Hutch's comments sounded left of center and uncharacteristically harsh for him. Their sharp tone left Ryan's face darkening and the little group looked suddenly wary of the vibe between the the blond and the dark detective.

"Was just telling young Riley here that I'll be happy to show him the ropes. I know a thing or two about breaking officers in.

Starsky, you can vouch for me on that one can't you? "

He laughed now, joking lightly to the others but looking directly at Starsky.

"Taught Dave everything I know while we were undercover and even though he is one damn fine experienced cop, there's always more to learn isn't there - Starsk?"

Hutch subtly touched his partner's arm and looked toward the swing doors , talking silently to him as they did.

Go. Go. Don't look at him. Don't let him do this to you. I'll handle him.

The crowd was now pulling away. Suddenly the threat in the air was too close and the words were all wrong. All of them knew that Starsky was as or more experienced than this guy from the Nineteenth and Starsky's failure to respond to the light banter was ominous.

"Baker, Fitzsimmons – what no reports to get filed at this time of day? Nothing better to do than hang around the cooler and listen to egotistical rants from the visiting precinct?"

Hutch growled out the insulting reprimand and the two uniforms looked suitably put in their place.

"What - don't they have junior officers down in the nineteenth for you to brag to Ryan? Long way to travel to get a bit of fan worship going."

Hutch turned now to Riley who was doing his best to disappear into the woodwork.

"Riley – haven't you got work to do in dispatch?"

"Ah, Yes Sir. I was just umm, meeting Sargent Lancaster up here at his request Sir."

While Hutch had been delivering his caustic words Starsky had continued on and into the squad room. Exactly as he had planned.

As Riley walked past him Hutch softened his curt words to him by touching him lightly on the shoulder and giving him a light wink.

"And Riley, don't believe what you've heard about the streets outside these doors. I'm sure you'd cope very well and there's as much scum down at the Nineteenth as you'd find anywhere. In fact I think the scum down there is far worse."

Riley's face was instantly suffused with pink happiness and relief.

Ryan straightened up and snarled at the man who had just denigrated him so effortlessly.

"So who the fuck are you Hutchinson? Lord and Keeper of the precinct? Like to have everyone bowing to your orders hey? Sure you do – particularly one curly haired sergeant. Bet he bows down to you all the time."

With a smirk he pushed through the squad room doors and left the tall blond breathing deeply and forcing his fingers to unfurl from his tightened fists.

oooOOOoooOOOoooOOOooo

Hutch followed him in and took in the room. There was only a couple of other officers at their desks.

The door to Dobey's office was half open and his and Dobson's voice filtered out. In the far corner of the squad room Simonetti acknowledged Hutch as he entered. He was thumbing through paperwork.

Ryan had positioned himself next to him and was leaning on the far wall

staring fixedly at Starsky and then back up at Hutch with a grazing smile.

Starsky was at his own desk, slumped in his chair, fingering a pencil and looking down at a point on the floor.

Hutch was dismayed that they were made to wait in the squad room, assembled like this, and was all for suggesting to Starsky to go back out into the hallway, when Dobey put his head out and motioned for them all to come in.

Simonetti went in first, Ryan moved toward the open door but waited. He waved his arm as if to allow Starsky and him to pass through. Starsky moved forward and as he passed the doorway Ryan's eyes travelled slowly down his form and settled on his hard round ass tight as it always was in skin hugging worn jeans. He looked up and smiled at Hutch – knowingly and slowly. Once Starsky had moved past him ant into the office Ryan flicked his tongue over his parted lips and gave the softest of moans.

Hutch moved up quickly to him and paused for one second – the others were murmuring inside the room.

To an observer it appeared as if he was putting his hand on his colleague's shoulder in passing - a friendly acknowledgement. But the hand that came down on Ryan was not friendly and he dug his fingers into Ryan's upper arm savagely, softly hissing.

"I'm here now Ryan and I'm watching his back – who's watching yours?"

Starsky was seated on the chair nearest the window and Hutch put himself on the arm of the chair, flanking his partner, so that he was between him and Ryan and Simonetti who were seated on the other side of the room. Dobson sat on a chair around the side of Dobey's desk.

It was a very warm afternoon and Starsky looked unseasonably attired in his high turtleneck sweater. As the men all took up their positions in the room Ryan took the first opportunity to needle Starsky.

As he passed by him Ryan commented.

"God Starsky you must be hot in that turtleneck! Why would you want to wear something like that on a day like this?"

All eyes turned to Starsky now and he visibly shrunk into his chair.

Hutch quipped and sneered. Dobey caught it straight away. The Hutchinson sneer was a tough one to meet head on and he was wondering how a light comment like Ryan's could have brought it on.

"Not enough to do down there at your station Ryan? You sound like you might be moonlighting as a fashion editor now. Wanna comment on all of our outfits? That's a nice three piece Simonetti's wearing over there – got something to say about it too?"

Simonetti glowered at Hutch and the awkward moment for Starsky had passed.

"Captain Dobey – I am not entirely sure why you think it is necessary to have Detective Hutchinson present at this meeting. It does not concern him and his attendance here is superfluous. "

As Hutch went to speak, Dobey held up his big chubby hand, giving his blond detective a warning look.

Dobey's dry response was frustrated – he had been down this road too many times with the IA and his two best detectives. There was no love lost between them and it seemed it always came back to him to referee their often highly geared antipathy towards each other.

"Whatever concerns his partner, concerns him Simonetti. Thought you would have worked that one out by now. It's not bucking any procedure having him here. We're all privy to Starsky's and Lancaster's reports on the Kalzo case. So lets stop wasting time with point making and get on with this - ah meeting."

Thanks Dobey. Can always count on you to put the IA in their place.

Hutch lightly saluted Simonetti and said nothing.

Simonetti didn't look impressed.

"Alright all we need to do is to go over the reports that you have in front of you here –" Simonetti handed around typed copies of the two detectives statements and tapped them with his elegant hand.

"Just ensuring that we have a sound and tight case against these men when it comes to the pre-trial early next week."

Dobson spoke up now.

"Well the interviews were all duly recorded and the statements have been signed off on – what do you need to go over here Simonetti. I didn't note any discrepancies."

Simonetti , Ryan and Dobson talked through some points on the statement that he had dictated.

Hutch was aware of Starsky not seeming to be taking anything in, not really being in the meeting in his head but body alone. Just as he had been with him at home since Ryan had paid him the visit. He sat , rigid and straight backed and looking at a point near the window. Hutch lightly touched his arm but received no response. The tension in his body was palpable.

Looking up his caught Dobey's eyes on them both. Dobey big dark face looked both curious and concerned. He gave his blond detective a puzzled look before turning back to listen to Simonetti.

"And so, Detective Starsky do you have anything to add to what Detective Lancaster has been reiterating here about the events of the afternoon when Kalzo ordered him and his nephew to take you into territory you had been running in?"

Hutch words dripped sarcasm.

"Oh you mean when he was taken into the territory he had been working in order to try to kill him? – Oh sorry, that's right - in order to kill him as part of the whole setup of course."

Dobey and Dobson glared at him.

"Sorry captains , just clarifying that point in the statement with Simonetti."

Hutch was visibly bristling and was aware now that he was moving his tall frame around on the arm of the chair to strategically block off Ryan's direct eye contact with Starsky. He could see Ryan trying to get Starsky to look at him but with Hutch's body in the way it was useless.

"Hutchinson! I should have warned you before the meeting – this is not your place to call on the statements. Now keep your commentary to yourself."

Dobey was starting to sweat and his big body shuffling uncomfortably in his chair.

Ryan silky deep voice drifted across the room.

"Starsky and I outlined everything very clearly in our reports. Was there anything there that you had a query about – Captain Dobey? Simonetti?

He looked directly at the two other detectives now and challenged with his black flashing eyes.

Something specific anyone wants to address here today?"

For an eternity it felt like Hutch and Ryan stared each other down.

Yeah I'd like to address who it was that blew Starsky's cover? Why is that not being explored more closely? Why did you beat him to within an inch of his life, stab him and then not even try, not once, to get word to us that you had left him there in that alley?

I'd like to address why my partner is sitting here like some half dead emotional zombie with fear in his eyes every time you look his way you fucking shithole excuse for a cop.

I'd like you to address why you keep putting your clawing hands all over Starsky's body and leaving him a psychological mess.

I'd like you to address why you ripped him apart yesterday and left him bleeding and shaking.

I'd like you to address why I shouldn't kill you now, this minute with my bare hands Ryan. Right now. Here - in this room with everyone watching as I do it.

He was building himself up into a raging furnace and he had to stop it now before it all erupted out of him and into this small claustrophic room that currently housed him and Starsky on one side and their nemesis on the other.

And then the erupting anger subsided and he felt it. The pull of self disgust and inner guilt.

I'd like to address myself. Why is it that I am sitting here as Starsky's partner, best friend and blood brother and not saying a thing to stop all of this from happening?

Is it enough to remain silent just because he has pleaded with me to do so?

Someone has to address all of this right now…..because I'm running out of enough reasons here Starsky ….running out of the strength not to stop all of this right now.

Dobey's familiar voice cut through his self absorption and he looked up to see their captain, his big bulk leaning over the desk and looking more closely as he spoke carefully to his brunet detective.

"Is there anything you would like to add to your report Starsky? Are you happy with the sequence of events and the nature of the operation as has been outlined here by yourself and Lancaster?"

Nothing forthcoming, Dobey went on to add.

" This is the opportunity now for - both of you- to let us know if you want your statements, your report to reflect anything differently to what we have here in front of us."

A pregnant pause filled the room – that damn silent void again, thought Hutch, and the pause had him on edge.

"Come on Starsky. Come on – lay it out. Put this asshole where he needs to be. If not for what he has done to you privately, what he did to you in that alley. Tell them that you don't know how you were made, how your cover got blown. Tell them that you felt Ryan was trying to kill you when he attacked you.

Tell them! Stop trying to protect me."

He purposely didn't touch him then, knowing that to do so would draw attention to the two of them and what the contact was conveying. But he looked at him as only he could look at him – partner to partner. Starsky caught his eyes – the look was held – and Hutch knew – he was not going to say anything.

"It's all there in our reports Cap'n. Black and white – just like we told you. Ryan had to do what he did. Sure I don't feel happy 'bout bein' slugged and knifed, but better than bein' shot between the eyes."

Hutch could not get him to look at him no matter how hard he held the gaze.

"It's all there and it's like we both have said – it was a tough call for Ryan – and yeah, it was tougher for me to take it. But we're here ain't we? We're alive. Kalzo's ring got busted. Mission accompolished. Take it to the Legal Eagles – our job is done."

Hutch sucked in his breath and looked away. No longer could he watch the dispirited depths of Starsky's eyes and see the quiet fear that lay beneath the mask of nonchalance.

But looking away meant that he found Ryan's victory smile and suddenly the room was all too much for Hutch. He implored his captain now .

"Look do you mind if I take my partner out for a short break to get some air. Captain – you know he's still far from recovered and I just want to make sure he's ok before we – continue."

He pressed down hard now on Starsky's forearm and forced their eyes to lock again.

Don't you dare let me down now buddy – we need to talk. Now outside.

Simonetti was getting irritable.

"Oh come on Hutchinson! This is just a meeting. Hardly taxing to Starsky. Are you fine to continue Starsky?"

All eyes were focused on Starsky and then he finally turned his curly head effectively breaking his line of visual communication with his partner.

"Ah yeah – I'm good - Hutch I'm good to continue – or finish if that's all there is? I'd prefer to get this damn meetin' over so I can get outta here and back to bed. If that is alright with all of ya'? "

Hutch let his hand that had been holding his partner's forearm drop away.

Have it your way Starsky.

I can't do anything more for you.

Not while I continue to let you lie…..

oooOOOoooOOOoooOOOooo

Ten minutes later they all stood to leave. Dobey cleared his throat.

"Ahh – hmmmm – Starsky if you can remain for a while please. I need to go over some leave papers with you."

Hutch stopped in his tracks as the other three filed out of the door.

He looked questioningly at his Captain. Starsky was as he had been for most of the meeting – withdrawn and unresponsive – Dobey could have been asking him to hand in his resignation and it would have made no more of an impact to his steely but highly strung silence.

"Uh – Hutchinson – I'd prefer to have a word with my Detective privately if you don't mind. And yes, before you say it – I know you do mind– but this time – my word wins. Wait for us outside. I'll send Starsky out when we've ummm- covered what we need to here."

The big captain raised his eyebrow knowingly at Hutch and then swept his eyes back to the mute brunet slumped now in the chair.

"Good then. I'll be outside if either of you need me. Thanks Captain."

Dobey's nailed it. He knows there is more to this than Starsk will let on him. Thank God for his intuition. Now just get him to do what I can't. Get Starsky to tell you what Ryan really is – the true monster that he really is.

Hutch shut the door behind him. Through the glass doors he could see Simonetti and Dobson conferring over paper work in the outer hallway – a cup of coffee already in each of their hands.

But he was shocked to find Ryan seated at Starsky's desk – in his chair.

You sleazy pervert, get your sick ass out of Starsky's chair before I kick it out.

" Tidy little meeting eh? Don't really know what the whole point of it was do you? Starsky's report and mine are exactly the same and it's all filed and signed off anyway. Why drag us all in here? Especially when Starsk is so unwell. He looked terrible in there. Bruises all over his – well – I can only imagine where the bruises are. And he looked so – well Hutch – I have to say he looked darned frightened. Sort of scared. I feel terrible. This whole undercover job was just too much for him."

Hutch moved in close and stood over him. He said nothing just stood – tall and foreboding as he stared down at the man seated under him.

In a while the threatening body language was too intense. Ryan stood and looked the blond directly in the eyes.

"Do you think Hutch that he will ever be fit to get back on the streets again when he's like this? This could be the job that breaks him – breaks his spirit. God I hope not. Because his spirit is real hard to break Hutch – somehow I must have done that to him."

"Ryan, why do you think that Dobey asked Starsky to remain in his office just now? Hmmmm? What do you think the two of them might be talking about? Maybe you're partly right Ryan. Maybe you have done something to Starsky's spirit and he has decided to try to get himself back into shape by dealing with what put him in this place. ….."

He jabbed his finger deep into Ryan's chest now.

"And that'd be YOU Ryan. You're the one who put him in this place. Dobey's a good captain Ryan. He knows us both really well. My guess is that he has started to work out that Starsky's not too happy about that report he filed with IA.

It might be signed off on but it sure isn't sealed. That's what this little meeting was all about this afternoon Ryan.

Christ! You must be feeling pretty damn vulnerable right about now."

Hutch kept looking back at Dobey's door and than back at Ryan.

"Yep any moment now that door might just open and Dobey will come crashing out – you should hear him when he's fired up Ryan. He'll start yelling for Dobson and Simonetti to get back into his office. He'll need to start a fresh investigation on you Ryan – when he finds out that you're a sick pervert cop who likes to try to kill other cops when they don't want to get fucked by him, and then likes to attack them when they're weak and injured. Gives your cock a hard on doesn't it Ryan? Forcing yourself onto man who are too sick to fight you off. ?"

Ryan steeped back a couple of paces and his eyes were full of fire.

"And you know what I'm starting to think now Ryan? I'm thinking that Dobey might bring up that file on your partner at the Nineteenth – the one that walked out on you for no apparent reason. Maybe he's followed up on him Ryan. Followed up the talk that floats around your own squad room. The reason why you've got your fucking perverted ass down here today and telling your desperate water cooler stories! Because everyone in the nineteenth – even Dobson I should think – is starting to think that you are not very well. "

He was pushing his chest toward him now, crowding his personal space and glaring at his handsome but uncertain face.

Ryan was backing up toward the squad room doors. Out of the corner of his eye Hutch could see Simonetti and Dobson still out in the far end of the hallway. He lowered the voice that had been steadily rising.

"You're sick Ryan. How long before you thought Starsky would open up about you? Do you seriously think that I'd let him stay quiet because of what happened with me and the Forrest case Ryan? Yeah, so you know about the heroin or you think you do. But it doesn't matter to me and guess what Ryan as loyal as Starsky is to me I know him a hell of a lot better than you do."

"If Starsky was going to say something he would have done it well and truly by now. "

Ryan countered.

There's no way in hell that he'd let a sick fucker like you do to him what you did and walk away. You think you've got him in the corner now but it won't last Ryan. He's stronger than that and stronger than you and me. He'll fight back – like I said to you on the phone last night – its just a matter of time. You just have to wait."

"You're fooling yourself Hutchinson. I saw your boyfriend's face in that meeting. He's running shit scared of me now. I've had him – well not quite – I'm sure you know all the details – and after that taste of him – I'll have him again."

In an instant Hutch was on him. He pulled him roughly around to the other side of the filing cabinet against the wall. Using his own tall body he rammed him Ryan's back hard into the metal corner of the cabinet and Ryan let out a stifled yelp.

He knew then that he might overstep the mark. Simonetti the IA suit was still outside in the hallway. In a moment his own badge could be on Dobey's desk but the pulsing in his head was back. The red curtain was in front of his eyes. He was slipping again into a state where self-constraint was beyond his power.

One of the seated uniforms he knew well started to come across to him, his face alarmed and his eyes on the official in the hallway , warning Hutch. He stopped in his tracks and then took a few steps back when Hutch threw him a sideways narrow glare.

His focus back on the man underneath him Hutch pressed his face up against Ryan's and used his knuckles to push his fist deep into his lower guts.

"Want to push back Ryan. Want to jump me? Go for it. I'm prepared. I'm happy to have Simonetti come in here right now. Or Dobey to walk out of that office. Ask us a lot of meaningful questions. I'm waiting for it Ryan and I'm ready for anything. I will take the risk - my badge against yours. Are you ready to take the gamble? Lose your career because you can't keep your dick in your pants? "

He pushed his knuckles in further and applied more pressure so that the metal corner of the cabinet dug into Ryan's back.

"No? Not prepared to put your career on the line just yet?

Well than, remember that Ryan. Remember that you like your career and name as tough Detective Sargent of the Nineteenth Precinct. Because if you ever, ever touch my partner again Ryan, I swear that it will be the very last thing you get sick joy from.

If you look at me now you'll know , you'll surely know – look in my eyes Ryan. Can you see it there? Can you see it in in my eyes?"

He held the other man's long black hair now and as Ryan tried to shake him off, he pressed his mouth to his ear and whispered.

"The certainty Ryan. The certainty that if you ever go near Starsky again - I will kill you."

The fact that Ryan paused for a moment, and then turned abruptly on his heel and slammed out of the double doors did not really surprise him in the end. He had made his choice and it was clear.

He was not prepared to push Hutch any further. Not prepared to call Ryan's bluff.

He had taken Hutch's threats and walked away.

Through the glass windows he watched as the tall solid dark haired cop, swept past Simonetti and his Captain and down the hallway toward the outer doors.

oooOOOoooOOOoooOOOooo

Ten minutes later he was still waiting.

He prowled about the squad room, the other officers now watching him warily and keeping their distance. They knew him well enough to know when to leave him alone.

He could hear movement inside Dobey's office now and knew that the meeting was drawing to an end.

Hopefully his captain had been able to get somewhere with Starsky.

The door opened and his partner walked toward him, not meeting his eyes.

Dobey was behind him and one look at him told Hutch it had all been a futile effort on his captain's behalf.

"Hutch give me the car keys will ya"? I'll wait in the garage for ya."

"Starsky?"

"The keys Hutch." He held out his hands and finally looked at him. Eyes now that had something else in them other than deadness – there was anger there now.

Fresh and raw.

He snatched the keys from Hutch's hands and didn't respond when Dobey called out to him.

"Dave – wait, bring Hutch in here and we can talk this through."

Dobey's distinctive use of his partner's Christian name reserved by their captain for times of severe emotional stress told Hutch all he needed to know about the new anger in his partner's eyes. Dobey had called him on the case or his feelings about it and Starsky had left him concerned - very concerned.

But he was gone and Hutch was left again staring at swinging doors.

oooOOOoooOOOooo

"Again you two are having private parties and not letting me in on the full picture. How the hell do you expect me to support the two of you when you always play it like this? Huh? Damn it to hell!"

"Captain – I – can't….."

"Can't what Hutchinson? You two sit in this meetin' lookin' like ya both in some other time zone or something. Starsky looks like death warmed up and you – you look like you needed to be put in a damn straitjacket or you'd be rippin' out Lancaster's heart with ya bare hands! And now – the two of you – the worst of it now – the two of you – on opposite sides of the fence."

"I know Captain. He just won't let me help him – since the undercover job went wrong – with Ryan – he won't let me help him and I don't know what to do."

"Hutchinson that is not the issue here so don't try to pull that number on me. The undercover job did not GO WRONG. That is what this damn meeting just told up isn't it? The statements both agree – both the same Hutchinson. Lancaster and Starsky have signed off on it. But I'm starting to see now and you already know full well – that is not all that is goin' on here with the three of you – you two and Lancaster!"

"Did he – did Starsky talk to you at all? Say anything?"

"Sure he did – he said plenty with his refusal to tell me anything. I gave him every opportunity Hutch. Every opportunity but he has closed off. I figure you already know that. Trouble is, I'm his captain and I can't have an officer in the shape he's in back here, or back on the streets. You know that Hutch. "

"In time he'll come good. He just needs time to deal with it all."

"First of I don't agree with that and nor do you. He's going down deep Hutch – you're losin' him and you can't help him now. He needs help – professional help. Maybe this trauma with Ryan and his undercover job has just pushed him too far – maybe there's more to it than you're ever goin' to tell me .

But it's my call. As his captain I get to do that, not you."

"What are you saying then? That Starsky needs to get some therapy, counseling? I know that, but he refuses. You know him and that sort of thing." Hutch was dreading where he knew this was going.

"Well then that's just too bad because this time I'm overruling him totally. Anyone can see he's not fit for work, not now and probably not in a month's time. He has refused to agree to any sessions with the department shrink."

He looked sharply at Hutch now.

"I have suspended him until further notice and conditional on his seeking professional treatment."

"Captain – "

Dobey stood and swiped at his perpetually sweating brow.

"I'm sorry Hutch, but I think you know I'm calling it right here. You are now down a partner and on the basis of what I saw here with you and - well – after today's meetin' and sensing how you feel about Lancaster, I've reviewed my decision to send Officer Riley over to the Nineteenth with him.

I'll set the paperwork up. As of Monday you'll have yourself a trainee street cop. Riley will roll with you for how ever long it takes your hard headed partner to take care of what's eating him up inside. Until such time – he'll be no good to you out there on the streets and he'd just be a sitting duck himself."

Hutch fell back heavily in the chair, dry wiping his tired face and rubbing too hard at his gritty eyes.

He knew that everything that his Captain had just said was right.

He knew that Starsky was in a very bad way and in a very bad place.

He knew all of that.

But he also knew that he had no idea how to deal with the hurt and angry Starsky who may or not be waiting for him outside in the station's garage.

oooOOOoooOOOoooOOOoooOOOoooO OOooo

Hello Faithful Readers.

Well here we are. We have arrived…..at the natural end to this story.

Do we need a Sequel, a Part 2…..hmmmmm?

One thing for sure is that the Writer and the Muse need a rest. The Writer is heading off to Italy for a few weeks but she fears that the Muse will continue to plot and scheme whatever lies in stall for the evil Ryan and Kerrys2Boys.

Leave them alone Ryan!

New Note to Readers September 27, 2012.

OK I am now going to let readers know that we have not finished this story yet...but just had to break here while a previously planned trip put itself in the way of the flow of the production of the story.

The second part of this story is going to be posted as Then Neither Can He ...it continues on from the storyline but not being sure when I could get the chapters up we left the first part of the story close here.