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SINK OR SWIM
Starsky sucked in his breath as the taunting whisper sounded in his ear. "Maybe that's not good enough, huh, fag cop? Maybe you want something a little larger?"
He shivered and squeezed his eyes shut, even though he was blindfolded. He was also facedown, his arms and legs spread-eagled against the cold cement floor, his body naked below the waist. And he was at the mercy of the three men who were taking great delight in tormenting him.
"Yeah, that's what he wants," the second man said with glee. "Give him something larger."
Whatever they had shoved into him was pulled out, his sphincter muscle protesting at the abrasion.
"Here, try this," said the third man.
"Ah, yeah," the first man reveled, "he ought to like this." The voice returned to Starsky's ear. "Want something bigger, fag-boy?"
Starsky hadn't known what the prior object was, or the ones before that. He'd just known that it hurt like hell when they shoved them into him, and his determination to grit his teeth always disintegrated when he'd let out a string of curses that would have sent sailors cowering. Now, he tried to force his body to stay loose as he mentally braced against the dread of what they were going to next use to violate him.
He didn't know who the three men were. And he didn't know if they were doing this because he was a cop, or because they genuinely thought he was a fag. More than likely, they considered the two terms interchangeable. They had jumped him when he and Hutch went separate ways to try to catch a pair of gas station robbers who had split up when coming to a dead end in an old industrial section of the district. Starsky knew that Hutch would be looking for him. But after being jumped by the men, having his gun wrestled away from him, and slugged a few times for good measure, he wasn't sure how many blocks he'd been dragged before they brought him down to this cold basement of an abandoned warehouse to have their fun.
A hand was placed on his buttock and Starsky shivered again as he felt something ice cold and metallic press against his anus. And then it was pushed hard against the opening that was too small for it.
He screamed. The pressure was immense and he was sure he was being torn in two. When his cries had exhausted him, he realized that his tormentors were all laughing. He also realized that nothing he could do would dislodge the pressure, so he lay panting, determined to accept the invader.
"Motherfuckin' bastards," he finally managed to gasp. "My partner's still out there and he's going to have the entire force lookin' for me. Don't you know what they'll do to you for killing a cop?"
"We knew they'd be looking," the first man said. "That's why Jerry lured them away into a different direction. They won't find you."
Starsky felt his hopes die. The man had spoken with such confidence that he couldn't doubt the truth of his words. After a moment, he managed, "What the hell do you want with me?"
"Samuel here can tell you that," the same man said. "Only, he ain't so good with words. So, I'll tell you about his brother, Seth. Seth got caught by the police and went to prison. Do you know what happened to him in prison? Worse things than are happening to you right now."
The object in his rectum was twisted, and Starsky felt its angles and he cursed and panted. When he found his voice, he demanded, "What the hell does that have to do with me? I don't know Seth and I don't know any of you." He wasn't sure if that was true, but it was unlikely these men had been looking for him specifically, for there was no way they would have known that he'd be coming down the alley in which they had jumped him.
"You're a cop," came the simple reply. "You put people in prison. You know what happens to people in prison? The same thing that happened to Seth. He killed himself because of what was done to him. Don't you think you cops ought to pay for that?"
It was insane logic that could not be combated with sane logic. Starsky braced himself when he felt the object move again, but this time it was pulled out. The removal hurt, but that was overshadowed by relief. He lay panting, wishing they would give him water.
"What next?" the third man demanded eagerly.
Starsky muttered, "Killing me won't bring Seth back."
They ignored him as the second man--Samuel--said, "Use this. That ought to split him in two."
"If you let me go," Starsky made a desperate grab for freedom, "I can make it so the courts go easy on you. You haven't killed anybody yet."
"Ah, yeah," the first man said, obviously referring to what Samuel had given him. "You ought to like this, fag cop. Nice and big. You like nice, big things, dontcha? All you cops love huge things up your assholes. That's why you send people to prison. You want them to have things up their assholes, too." Then, "I'm going to need help getting this in."
Starsky braced himself as hands spread his buttocks wide. He was trembling all over. Samuel said, "You'll love this, cop. It's huge. Probably bigger than anything you've had up your ass before."
Starsky pulled against the ropes that kept him spread-eagled. "Youmotherfuckinassholescocksuckinpussyfacedperverts."
Something smooth and cool pressed against his tender anus and he tensed, wondering what difference it made, wondering if whatever it was was going to kill him. Desperate, he tried another approach, and softly begged, "Please. Please, don't. Tell me what you want."
"You want it slow, or you want it all at once?" the first voice taunted.
"Wait," the third man said. "He's a cop. Let's shove his precious badge in him first. Then put this in after it."
Samuel giggled. "Fucked by his own badge. That'll look great in the newspapers."
The smoothness was pulled away and Starsky felt a wave of momentary relief. But that was followed by dread of what they intended to do as he heard his badge being pulled from his pants, which they had divested him of after bringing him here.
"Listen," he tried again, his voice raspy. "You don't have to do this. It won't bring Seth back."
"I'm gettin' tired of your mouth," Samuel said angrily.
A fist slammed into Starsky's jaw.
* * *
They had parted on foot so that they could pursue each of the bank robbers. Hutch now wondered if it was the biggest mistake he'd ever made in his life.
His man had gotten away. He'd retraced his steps back to where they'd first split up, and got in the Torino to drive in the other direction, the direction where Starsky had gone. There was no sign of his partner or of the other suspect. Hutch had driven for a couple of miles before doubling back. Frequently, he'd gotten out of the car and called Starsky's name. Then he'd called for backup.
A man at a lonely street corner told them that he'd seen someone matching Starsky's description chasing a man, heading north. When Starsky and Hutch split, they'd gone east and west. So, Hutch and his backups--a crew that grew larger as time passed--searched the blocks heading northward. Three hours had passed. It was dark and there was no trace of Starsky.
Units were on the alert, Dobey had made an appearance in person, but Hutch still felt himself a force of one. It was his partner who was missing. His worry increased as he considered the possibilities. In the end, he thought it odd that the helpful witness had suddenly appeared and not been there when he'd originally been looking. That put his instincts in gear, and he went back to the area where Starsky should have been chasing his suspect.
While on foot, studying the old warehouse buildings that were now mostly housed by homeless people, he thought he'd heard a scream. But the wind had been blowing and he wasn't sure if it was a trick of his senses. The only way to be sure was to investigate.
The scream haunted him as he checked building after building, walking up and down staircases. Now it was dark and he was walking down the staircase of the last building on the block, which led from the second floor to the first.
He thought he heard a scurry of footsteps.
Hutch pulled his gun from its holster and listened. A door slammed, but it sounded far away. And below.
He bypassed the first floor and continued to descend the staircase. He was very quiet, listening for further sounds.
He thought he heard heavy breathing, which grew louder with each step taken.
He wanted to call out Starsky's name...just in case the other was near. But to do so would give away his location, if there were anyone about with the intent to harm.
It wasn't until he came to the third to the last step that he was able to see around the corner of the staircase. An old wall-lamp provided some brightness in the first room off the hallway. Hutch stealthily approached. Gun raised, he peeked around the corner of the doorway.
In the glow of the lamp, a man lay still, spread-eagled and naked from the waist down, prostrate on the cement floor. His blindfolded face was turned away, revealing a mass of dark, curly hair.
"Oh, my God," Hutch whispered, sucking in a breath. He approached quickly, then knelt beside the still figure from which short gasps emerged. He reached out and laid a hand on Starsky's back.
There was a dry, trembling, angry whisper. "Bastards."
Relief flooded him. "Starsky, it's me. It's me, buddy."
The dark head raised abruptly. Then a shaking, hopeful, "H-H-Hutch?"
Hutch rested his hand on his partner's spine, heart twisting at the trembling voice. "I'm right here, pal. Right here." He watched the dark head drop to the floor in relief. "It's going to be fine. Just fine. Lie still and I'll cut you loose."
His own relief was invaded by worry when Hutch considered the ramifications of Starsky's spread-eagled position and degree of nakedness. Even with the glow from the lamp, it was difficult to see much, and he couldn't be certain what had happened to his partner. He forced down a thick swallow at the suspicions that came to mind.
He took off his black leather jacket and spread it over his partner's lower body, then pulled out his pocketknife. "Just give me a minute, buddy, and I'll have you out of here."
Starsky lay silent, and his lack of conversation increased Hutch's concern. As he worked at cutting the rope around Starsky's right wrist, he forced himself to casually ask, "How you feeling, pal?"
The flat, meek tone did nothing to soothe the blond's worry.
When Hutch cut the left rope, his partner's gruff voice admitted, "Could use somethin' to drink."
Starsky's wrists were free, but his arms barely moved. Hutch heard his own heavy breath of anxiety as he gently tugged at the blindfold until it came off. He watched the blue eyes blink rapidly, and then the other's wide, moist orbs locked onto him. The effort was visible as Starsky managed a lopsided smile. "You're a sight for sore eyes."
Hutch manufactured a smile in return as he moved to his partner's feet. He cut the rope to the left one, his worry increasing. Something very unpleasant had happened here; it was evident in the tension beneath his partner's words. To say nothing of the scream he remembered.
"Almost done," Hutch soothed as he worked with the rope to the right foot. Then, thinking of his partner's complaint, he said, "There's the canteen in the Torino."
The ropes were undone. Hutch put the knife away and shifted position. "Okay, partner, let's ease you over, real careful." It was possible that Starsky had been in this position longer than three hours. "We're going to turn you toward me." He paused, considering, then asked, "You think anything's broken?"
"You hurt anywhere real bad that you need to tell me about?"
"Nah. Just got beat up."
Right, Hutch thought, not believing him. "Okay," he said gently, taking Starsky's farthest shoulder, "let's turn you over real easy. If anything hurts, be sure and let me know."
Starsky pushed with his feet, and with Hutch manipulating his partner's upper body, they eventually got him turned so that he was on his back, partially sitting up, Hutch's arm supporting him from behind. The black jacket had been dislodged in the process, and now Hutch spread it over his partner's front side. He wished he had blankets, for Starsky's skin felt cold.
"Buddy, think you can walk? I can carry you, if I need to."
Starsky's face was now bathed in light, and Hutch could see swelling along his jaw, as well as less serious cuts and bruises. The eyes worried him the most, however, for they were bright with secrets.
A few seconds passed with Starsky still considering an answer, and Hutch relieved him of the decision. "Buddy, it's okay; I'll carry you out." He slipped his hand beneath the jacket and pressed along his partner's stomach. "It'll be easiest if I put you over my shoulder. Do you hurt anywhere that I could damage?"
Starsky shook his head while Hutch pressed along his ribs, and then up to his collarbone. Starsky didn't react to the pressure, and Hutch was satisfied that he could safely use a fireman's carry.
"All right, buddy," he warned, positioning his hands and preparing to rise, "I'm going to put you over my shoulder. On three. One...two...THREE..."
He hoisted his burden, grunting with effort, heard similar noises from his partner. When he felt the other's position was stable, Hutch managed to include the jacket within his grip, so that it covered his partner's backside. He headed for the staircase, feeling something in his heart melt as one of Starsky's hands gripped his belt loops for extra security.
It wasn't an easy trip, and Hutch was glad he'd driven rather than walked from building to building. The Torino was waiting outside.
He was breathing heavily when he reached it. He put Starsky on the ground, then opened the passenger door and moved the front seat up as much as possible, before flipping it forward.
"All right, buddy," he said as he knelt down to the other, who looked more alert, yet was still quiet, "I'm going to lay you down in the backseat. How about if we move you to the floor of the car, and then up to the seat?"
Starsky nodded. "'Kay."
Hutch took his partner by the armpits this time, hoisting his partially nude body from where it rested on his jacket and sitting him on the floorboard of the backseat. Starsky winced and looked uncomfortable, so Hutch quickly gripped him again to hoist him onto the seat, where Starsky immediately lay back.
"Hang on, partner," Hutch said. He took his jacket from the ground and draped it over Starsky once again. He then emerged from the car and went to the trunk. He grabbed the canteen, blanket, and pillow that were kept there for all-night stakeouts. He then knelt on the floorboard of the car and threw the blanket over Starsky, tucking it around him. He took a moment to massage arms and legs. He then slipped the pillow beneath his partner's head.
"Here's water," Hutch said, taking the canteen. "I pour, you drink." He raised his partner's head with one hand, while bringing the canteen to Starsky's mouth with the other. Starsky swallowed many mouthfuls before signaling that he didn't need any more.
"Thanks," he whispered as Hutch tightened the lid.
The blond laid a hand on the other's blanketed chest. "All right, buddy. Just hang on and I'll get you to a hospital."
Starsky's eyes opened wide. "Hutch, no. I don't need a hospital. Just take me home."
The pleading voice tugged at his heartstrings, but Hutch's worry made his voice stern. "Level with me. What'd they do to you?" His eyes bore into his partner's.
Starsky blinked a few times, his breath still thick with the effort of drinking. Finally, he muttered, "Shoved things up my ass."
"What things?" Fury and horror raised the blond's voice.
"Things. I'm not sure what. Objects." His face closed and he mumbled, "They didn't fuck me, if that's what you're wondering."
Hutch didn't think that that fact made the situation any less serious. "Starsky, I've got to get you to a hospital. There could be something stuck inside."
"No, there isn't," the other protested feebly. "They pulled everything out."
Hutch's glare was relentless. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Starsky emphasized his answer with a nod.
"Starsky," Hutch's voice sharpened with building anxiety, "anything they put in you could have torn something. And an injury like that can be very serious."
"Hutch, I'd know if something like that happened." The strength in his voice gave way to pleading. "Take me home, Hutch. If you take me to a hospital they'll have to," Starsky gulped audibly, "ex-ex-amine me, and...."
Frustration raised Hutch's voice once again. "Somebody has to."
Their eyes locked, and the trust and pleading in the other's told Hutch that he had lost this argument. He knew damn well who that somebody was going to be. "All right," he raised a finger in warning, "I'll take you home, but only if I have your absolute promise that you'll tell me if something doesn't feel right."
"I promise," Starsky said quickly.
Now that the decision was made, Hutch let himself go soft all over. He patted the blanket more firmly around his partner. "All right, buddy, just take it easy. I'll get you home as fast as I can."
The other nodded and closed his eyes.
Hutch moved out of the back and got into the front seat of the car. He started the motor. Once moving, he turned on the heat and picked up the microphone. "This is Zebra Three. Please patch me through to Captain Dobey."
After a moment, Dobey's voice said, "Hutch, is that you?"
"Yes, Captain, I found Starsky and I'm taking him home."
"What the hell happened?"
"I'm not sure, but I'll get the story from him later."
"Is he all right?"
"He's...roughed up...but nothing that looks too serious. I'll take him home and take care of him."
There was a pause, as though Dobey was considering saying something else. But the Captain's voice was soft when he spoke again. "Let me know when you know something."
"Right. Zebra Three out."
The drive was long, even with Hutch hurrying through traffic lights. When he was forced to stop he would reach back and pat the blanket and say something reassuring. It was nearly twenty minutes later when he finally turned off the motor.
"We're here?" came the hopeful whisper from the back.
Hutch turned and petted the blanketed form. "Not quite, buddy. Just sit tight. I've got to go in and get some things. I'll just be a minute."
Hutch rushed through the aisles of the drug store and picked up a variety of ointments and medications, not knowing if he'd need any or all, as well as some latex gloves. He also grabbed a book on treating common ailments at home and ignored the raised eyebrow that came from the sales clerk.
"Just a couple more minutes, buddy," he said as he got back behind the wheel. Then he asked, "How you feelin'?" as he reached back with one hand, while starting the car forward with the other.
"Just wanna get home," was the muttered reply.
"Just a couple of more minutes and we'll be there. Take it easy."
When he turned off the motor the next time, it was for good. "We're here, buddy," he soothed. He heard shifting in the back seat.
"Think I can walk."
It was a good sign. Hutch supposed part of the difference was that now Starsky had circulation in his limbs, and it encouraged the blond to think that his partner wasn't in as bad a shape as he'd originally feared.
He helped Starsky out of the car, re-wrapped the blanket around him, draped his jacket over the other's shoulders, then put one of Starsky's arms around his neck while putting his own arm around his partner's waist. Together, they slowly made it through the parking lot, and even more slowly made it up the staircase.
Both were panting as they entered the apartment.
"Just a little longer," Hutch encouraged, after pausing to switch on the lights. "We've got to get you into bed."
They made the short trek to the bedroom. From there, Hutch unwound Starsky's arm from his neck and the other collapsed onto the mattress. Hutch went into the bathroom and found a thermometer. He came back out and said, "Here, put this under your tongue."
Starsky was stretched out on his side on top of the covers, the blanket still around him. He took the thermometer and did as he'd been told.
"You want some more water?" Hutch asked.
"I'll get it after I get the supplies out of the car."
He received another nod. After retrieving the sack from the car, Hutch went into the kitchen and poured a glass of water. Then he took out the book from the sack and laid it on the counter. He wasn't sure what he should look up. He finally came across "anal" in the index and went from there.
He came back into the bedroom with water and the sack of supplies just as Starsky removed the thermometer and handed it to Hutch. "What does it say?"
Hutch traded the glass of water for the thermometer. He studied the shiny mercury and then smiled with a degree of relief. "Ninety-nine point five."
"No reason for it to be higher," Starsky said after sipping from the glass.
Hutch put the thermometer on the nightstand. "I want to keep taking it every few hours, just to make sure there's no infection setting in."
Starsky took a large swallow of water, then reached to put the glass on the counter. His voice was much clearer when he said, "I'm okay, Hutch. My asshole's just bruised as hell."
Hutch sat on the bed beside him and gently touched his cheek. "So's your face."
Starsky took a breath, then muttered, "Thought they were gonna kill me."
Hutch managed to refrain from flinching at the memory of the scream he'd heard. If he ever got a hold of whoever had done this....
He laid a hand on his partner's blanketed back. "Who were they?"
"I don't know. Just three creeps who have a thing against cops because one of them's brother committed suicide in prison, I guess because he was raped or somethin'." Starsky's eyes darted to Hutch. "They never acted like they wanted to fuck me themselves. They just wanted to shove things into me."
Hutch gazed at those bright, blue orbs. "You have no idea what they used?"
"No. Everything just felt big. They started small, relatively speaking--could have been a damn carrot for all I know--and kept switching to larger things. Things too damn big to fit." His brow furrowed and he said thoughtfully, "Now that I think about it, one of the things may have been a flashlight."
Hutch closed his eyes and looked away.
"I don't know what they were gonna finish me off with. They kept talking like they had something huge that was gonna split me in two. Considering the last object before that almost felt like it did, I think they were gonna kill me with whatever it was." He swallowed. "And then they got this idea to shove my badge into me first."
Hutch's eyes flew open and he looked at his partner in horror and disbelief.
"They didn't," Starsky assured him. "They were almost goin' to, but then I guess they heard somebody outside...must have been you. One of them wanted to shoot me with my gun, but the others didn't want any noise to give away their location. They just decided to high tail it outta there." He swallowed thickly, his eyes meeting his partner's. "Sure am glad you came."
It was stated so casually, and yet was such an understatement, that Hutch found himself wanting to do anything he could to comfort the other. He moved his hand from Starsky's back to his hair. And presented an understatement of his own. "Sorry, buddy."
"Yeah, well," Starsky snuggled further beneath the blanket, "I just wanna go to sleep. Everything'll be better in the mornin'."
Hutch wanted to give in to Starsky's wishes. But the desire to heal and protect took precedence. "Buddy," he began apologetically, "I have to look you over. You know I have to."
Starsky sighed heavily and closed his eyes. "Not gonna be a pretty sight." He couldn't summon a smile at his own joke.
Hutch ignored the attempt at humor and took a box of latex gloves from the bag. "I'll be as gentle as I can," he said as pulled one onto his right hand.
Starsky's eyes remained closed. "Wish I could say it's my first time, but I guess those creeps beat you to it."
Though he was encouraged by his partner's black humor, Hutch still couldn't bring himself to respond to it with equal frivolity. He had a glove on his other hand. He touched his partner on the arm and lower back. "I need you to turn all the way over."
Starsky hoisted onto his elbows, and then shifted until he was lying fully on his stomach. He tucked his head beneath the blanket.
Hutch went to the closet and pulled out another blanket. He brought it to the bed, sitting down beside his partner. As he pushed the first blanket up Starsky's legs, he covered the lower part of his body with the second one. Finally, he had the first one pushed up so that it was resting on the highest area of his buttocks, just leaving the lower portion exposed.
Hutch laid a hand on pale flesh and leaned toward the head of the bed. "Starsk?" he said tenderly, "I need you to spread your legs, if you can." He waited, but there was no movement. "Starsk?"
Starsky had a fist curled next to his chin. With eyes closed, he said, "Can't," in a small voice.
The blond felt himself go soft inside. Despite his prior humor, Starsky was definitely feeling some trauma about what had happened. "All right," he soothed. "Just bear with me, buddy, so I can do what I need to do."
Hutch decided that Starsky would just as soon he be firm so it would all be over with faster. He parted the exposed buttocks and found himself looking at a mass of dry blood mixed with fecal matter. The debris didn't allow him to see anything else.
He straightened and pulled the blanket down. "Starsk," he said, pulling off the gloves, "I can't tell anything, because there's too much dry blood in the way. We need to let you sit in a warm bathtub for a while. Besides," his voice softened, "it'll help you feel better, anyway, to get cleaned up."
Starsky's shyness seemed to have eased. "That's good, then, right? If there's just dry blood then it means nothing's bleeding anymore."
"I don't know, buddy. I need to make sure that once the dry part is cleaned up that there's nothing else happening down there." Hutch squeezed a blanketed shoulder. "I'll get the water going." He left for the bathroom.
He made sure the water was nice and warm and that the tub filled up as high as it could. He wished he would have done this first rather than putting Starsky through his amateur examination twice.
Hutch brought Starsky's robe when he returned to the bedroom. "All ready for you." His partner was still under the covers, but he had removed his shirt. He slid into a partial sitting position, and Hutch threw the robe around his shoulders as Starsky emerged from the protection of the blankets. His partner walked awkwardly, but under his own power, as they went into the bathroom.
Hutch held the robe while Starsky slipped from beneath it and got into the tub. He plopped down unsteadily, despite Hutch's assisting hand, then slid farther down until the water reached his shoulders.
Hutch sat down beside the tub, facing his partner. "There. Just relax for a while."
Starsky obeyed and closed his eyes.
The blond took the other's chin and tilted it up. The bruises had grown more pronounced in the past hour. "We probably need to put some ice on your jaw."
Starsky shook his head. "Not now."
"Later then." They sat silently and Hutch felt relief that Starsky looked like he was starting to relax from the soothing warmth of the bath. "Too bad there's not enough room for two."
The other's eyes didn't open. "Pervert."
Hutch snorted and got to his feet. Starsky had always been amazingly resilient but he knew that, at some point, his partner would have to express the anger that he was sure to be feeling about what had happened to him. Hutch was fully aware of his own anger, but for now it was taking a backseat to his need to protect, heal, and nurture.
He got a washcloth from the linen closet and dropped it into the tub. "Don't forget to clean up."
Starsky's eyes opened and he picked up the cloth. It was then that Hutch noticed the abrasions on his partner's wrist. He knelt and took Starsky by the forearm. "We'll need to disinfect those." He was sure the other wrist was just as bad, and probably his ankles, too.
"Yeah, they sting a little," Starsky admitted.
Hutch squeezed his partner's shoulder. "I'll leave you alone for awhile." He stood. "Do you want anything to eat when you get out?"
Starsky shook his head.
Hutch went to the kitchen. He read more from the book while listening to the sounds of washing. After a few minutes, he sat down, feeling the beating of his own heart. The gentle caretaking at times such as these, that most would consider a burden, was not that way at all; but an outlet for expressing the love he felt for his partner that he badly needed.
Hutch closed the book. "You ready to get out?" he called as he approached the bathroom.
"Yeah," came the reluctant response.
Hutch entered and held open a towel, even though his partner's eyes were closed again. "Come on," he prompted, "water's probably getting cold, anyway." He reached and gripped a bicep to help Starsky stand. "How you feelin'?"
Hutch wrapped the towel around him and rubbed briskly. When the other was reasonably dry, Hutch guided him to the bedroom. "Under the blankets again, pal."
Starsky's face closed as he obeyed.
"Here, buddy," the blond said tenderly. He sat on the bed and pushed at Starsky's leg, which hadn't been covered yet. "If you can hold your leg up, it'll make it easier." His voice softened further. "Can you do that?"
Starsky responded to the pressure and drew his knee up closer to his body.
"That's good." Hutch covered all but his buttocks with the blankets. His throat tightened as he watched Starsky's fist curl as he again withdrew under the cover of the blanket.
As before, Hutch sensed that Starsky would prefer for him to hurry rather than worrying about being gentle. He pulled on another pair of latex gloves. "Try to relax," he soothed, and then parted the twin hemispheres.
The delicate flesh that stared back at him was swollen and deep red--some parts almost blue--with bruising. Hutch could imagine how tender it must be. There were small bright red streaks that he identified as blood, which had probably started bleeding again after the warm bath stimulated the veins. His fingers reached deeper, touching the wrinkled skin, which was much less elastic than normal, and he heard Starsky's indrawn breath. He reluctantly touched the swollen opening, felt his partner's hips buck, and then damned himself as he pulled the outer skin back, attempting to see if anything more serious would be revealed within.
Starsky was gasping for breath, his whole body tight, and Hutch saw more of the little tears, but nothing beyond that. He removed his hands and sat up.
"Sorry," he whispered. He reached for the sack he'd left on the nightstand and pulled out a tube of ointment.
"Well?" Starsky was looking up at him.
Hutch managed a reassuring smile. "Looks like there's lots of little tears, but nothing too deep."
"Sorer 'n hell."
"Let me massage this cream in. It's going to hurt at first, but the anesthetic should kick in before too long." Hutch pulled the cap, then squeezed Starsky's arm beneath the blanket. "I'll hurry." It crossed his mind then that Starsky could do this part himself. But he would probably be too timid and not do a very good job. "Try to relax."
Hutch pulled the nearest buttock aside and squirted some of the cream into the wrinkled area, hoping it would have a numbing effect before he'd have to touch it. He waited a moment and then massaged it against the anal opening.
Starsky gasped and squirmed. After a moment, he tightly grumbled, "Dammit, if you weren't my partner, I'd slug you."
"Slug me anyway, if it'll make you feel better." Hutch meant it, and he hoped it was healthy for his partner to be expressing at least a little anger.
Instead, Starsky pressed himself against the mattress, his breath heavy with the effort of restraining himself and tolerating the pain.
Hutch removed his hands and took the tube of cream. "Buddy? I've got to squirt some inside."
There was an exhaled breath of resignation.
Hutch inserted the small nozzle at the swollen opening and squeezed.
Starsky swallowed, then said with surprise, "That wasn't so bad."
Hutch put the tube aside. "I have to put my finger inside to rub it in."
The other squeezed his eyes shut. "Damn."
"I'll be quick." Hutch gentled his tone and laid a hand on Starsky's blanketed back. "Relax, buddy. Try to relax."
"Already feels better on the outside," Starsky admitted.
"Yeah? Then when I'm done, the inside will feel better, too." Hutch patted his partner's back, then went back to work. Knowing whatever he did was going to hurt, he didn't bother to hesitate and slipped his finger inside. There were more subdued cursing noises and bucking hips. Hutch rubbed the cream against the inner walls of the sphincter muscles, trying to cover as large an area as possible.
Starsky seemed to relax a little. "Doesn't hurt as much when you do that."
Hutch paused. "What?" he asked in puzzlement.
"What you were just doing, rubbing like that."
His finger moved again, massaging firmly, and he felt when his partner relaxed more.
"Kind of soothing," Starsky muttered. Then a snort . "Bet you never guessed that part of being a cop meant sticking your finger up your partner's asshole."
"Hey, whatever my partner wants, my partner gets."
"Yeah? Well, remember that the next time I tell you what I want for Christmas."
Hutch laughed softly. "Not a chance."
"It's feelin' kind of numb now."
Hutch withdrew. "Done, buddy." He reached to the nightstand and sifted the contents of the sack. He found what he wanted and opened a box, pulled out a capsule and unwrapped it.
"Now what?" Starsky asked with dread.
"Suppository. It'll help with the inflammation."
Starsky looked away, whispering, "Jeesus."
"I'll be done after this," Hutch assured. He picked up the open tube of cream and squeezed some onto the capsule. When it was well lubricated, he shifted on the mattress and pushed at Starsky's covered leg. "Move your leg up again, buddy. It'll go in easier. Okay?"
Starsky couldn't bring himself to move it, but he let Hutch push it up. "Just hurry up," he pleaded.
Hutch braced one hand against the bed. With the other, he felt for the opening with one finger, then pushed the capsule in with another finger. His partner stiffened, and Hutch swallowed thickly and pushed in farther, wanting to make sure it went in deep enough to not be expelled. As he withdrew, he looked up and saw that Starsky's clinched fists were shaking, and his eyes were squeezed shut, his jaw clenched as he made more noises of restraint.
"Sorry," Hutch said. He covered Starsky completely with the blankets. "All done." He got up and pulled off the gloves as he headed for the bathroom. He tossed them into the trash and then washed the latex powder off his hands. He looked under the vanity and was glad to see that his partner still kept a first aid kit. As he emerged into the bedroom, he saw Starsky curled up on his side, his fists having uncoiled.
"Just your wrists and ankles now," Hutch said, scooting the sack of supplies out of the way and placing the first aid kit there. He noticed the thermometer and picked it up. "Let's try your temperature again," he said as he shook it down.
"Why?" Starsky asked.
"Just to make sure it hasn't gone up." He checked that the mercury was reading normal. "Indulge me, okay?"
Starsky opened his mouth and accepted the thermometer.
"Let me see your wrists," Hutch said. He moved the blanket and Starsky stuck out his arms. Hutch placed one in his lap and squeezed a stream of Cortisone along the lacerations. He rubbed the ointment in, then wrapped the cuts in gauze. After repeating his attentions to the other wrist, he removed the thermometer. He read it, then smiled at Starsky. "Almost normal."
In a quiet voice, Starsky said, "Told you I'm okay."
Hutch shifted so he could reach the lower blanket. He flipped it back up to reveal his partner's feet. "I have a right to worry," he defended and started applying the same first aid to Starsky's ankles as he had to his wrists. "I'm your partner."
He was rubbing in the ointment and looked up. "Hm?"
Starsky had tucked his hands back under the blanket. "I don't want to report what happened."
Hutch bowed his head, renewed realization of his partner's hurt and humiliation washing over him. He reached for the gauze and expelled a heavy breath. When he was working with the ankles again, he said, "If we don't report it, we can't ever prosecute them for what happened when we catch them. We can only get them for assault and battery, and they'll get a slap on the wrist."
Starsky swallowed. "Even if we did catch them and just got them for assault, they're crazy enough that they'd tell the whole thing...brag about it."
"And then you'd been answering a lot of questions," Hutch interpreted with a sigh. He tied the gauze on one ankle and turned his attention to the other one. After a moment, he glanced up and gently said, "Partner, you know I'm with you however you want to handle it. But I think you should give yourself a chance to think about it first. Not reporting it means we'll never get justice for what they did." Hutch finished with the ankle. "Ready to get under the covers?"
Starsky began to shift beneath the blanket, reaching to pull the bedclothes back.
Hutch stood and opened a drawer. "Want some underwear?"
There was hesitation, then "Yeah."
Hutch wasn't surprised that Starsky wanted to be covered up. He tossed the clothes to the bed, confident that his partner could get into them on his own. "I'll be right back. Want anything to drink?"
Starsky shook his head.
Hutch went to the kitchen and poured a glass of juice for himself. He locked the front door, then turned off the living room light. After doing so, he glanced at the couch. It was where he would be expected to stay, but the desire to be close to the man in the other room was strong. Still, he didn't know, after what Starsky been through earlier tonight--and just the past hour--if he would welcome company.
Hutch shut off the bedroom light as he entered. The blankets were on the floor, and Starsky was beneath the bedclothes, curled up on his side at the edge of the bed.
The instinct was so strong to mold himself around the other, offering protection. But Hutch figured that the last thing Starsky would want was to have someone curved against his backside.
Hutch kicked off his shoes and carefully climbed into bed. Honesty had always served them well. He knelt behind his partner and placed a hand on the other's shoulder. His fingers squeezed. "Buddy? Do you want me to stay close, or do you want me to leave you alone?"
There was an extended moment of silence. And then Starsky rolled over to face him. He reached up and tugged at the front of Hutch's shirt.
"Ah, buddy," the blond said, insides turning to mush as he stretched out on top of the covers. He put his arms Starsky's shoulders and pulled the other against him.
Starsky still had hold of his shirt. He pressed his face against Hutch's chest as his whisper penetrated the darkness. "I was scared."
"Ah, pal, I know." Hutch pressed the other closer against him. He reached inside the blankets and rubbed his hand up and down Starsky's cotton-clad back. "I'm right here. It's all right now."
"I know. It's gonna be all right."
The hand on Hutch's shirt tightened. There was an audible swallow, then, "I was screaming and pleadin' with them."
"It's a good thing you screamed," Hutch said quickly. "That's how I knew where to find you." He rested his forehead on the top of Starsky's hair, so grateful that the other was allowing this.
Another difficult swallow. "Sorry you had to...do that."
"It's okay, buddy. You would have done the same for me."
The material of his shirt twisted as Starsky's grip tightened. "You gonna stay here?"
Hutch closed his eyes. He wasn't sure if his chest felt lighter or heavier. "'Course I am."
Starsky rubbed his face against Hutch's shirt, attempting to get more comfortable. They were silent for a long time, but swallowing and other small noises told the blond that his partner wasn't asleep.
"Want to talk?" he finally offered.
"No. Just wanna go to sleep and wake up tomorrow when everything'll be better."
Hutch tightened his grip. He knew everything wasn't likely to be better with dawn's light. Once the physical was healed, more would be focused on the emotional.
They both lay quietly through the night. But neither man got much sleep.
* * *
When Hutch turned in their report the following day, it was minus many details.