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The partners were quiet. Traffic had slowed to a dead stop in the middle of the freeway. Hutch had become bored and started to say something to Starsky. But, when he looked over, his partner's chin was resting on his chest, his right hand was sagging in the seat, and his left hand was slowly falling from the steering wheel. Fearing something was wrong, Hutch reached over and grabbed him.

"Starsky!" he said with urgency in his voice.

Starsky was startled, but not quite awake. "I'll be up in a minute," he muttered.

Realizing his friend had only fallen asleep and wasn't in any immediate danger, Hutch scolded him. "Starsky, what the hell are you doing?"

Just then, he looked up at Hutch, eyes still half dazed, then looked out at the road. He jumped up in the seat. "Oh my God, Hutch, I'm sorry! I can't believe I fell asleep at the wheel! I coulda' gotten us killed!"

Hutch's anger turned to worry when he started to think back. It had only been a little over a week since Marcos and his freaks had kidnapped Starsky, and put him through hell. And since then, he had been a bit more quiet than usual, but other than that, he seemed fine. Looking over at him now, there did seem to be some dark circles forming under his eyes. You must be slipping, Hutchinson. How could he fool you into thinking he was okay?

"It's okay, buddy. You're just tired. We were parked. It's fine," Hutch soothed him.

"No, it's not fine, Hutch! What if we weren't parked? What if were going down the road, or in the middle of a shootout; could I have backed you? Ahh, Hutch, if something happened to you, because of me . . ."

Hutch argued, "But it didn't, so drop it, okay?"

"But, Hutch . . ."

"Just drop it, Starsk!"

The rest of the day went by quietly for the partners, while Hutch pondered on an idea. Obviously, Starsky wasn't sleeping well at night, probably because of nightmares. All his partner needed was a good night's sleep. A night of uninterrupted, restful sleep. And, that's just what Hutch was going to give him. He knew Starsky would be less likely to have any nightmares if he were there. So, he decided to make up an excuse to come over there tonight, and stay with him.

They had just ended their shift when Hutch uttered, "Umm, Starsk, why don't we go to your place tonight, maybe order a pizza, drink some beer, you know . . ."

Starsky was yawning. "Sure, Hutch, that sounds fine. But if you drink any beer, you're stayin'. I might not be much company, though."

Hutch grinned to himself. That's what I'm counting on, buddy.

Later on that night, after an entire pizza between them and about four beers apiece, give or take a few, Starsky was out like a light on the living room couch. They had only started the first round of a game of Monopoly when Hutch had gotten up to use the john. After a few minutes, he returned to see Starsky leaning back on the couch, with his head lying back as if looking up at the ceiling. But, those blue eyes were behind closed lids.

Hutch spoke. "Starsk." He was answered only by a soft snore. He grinned. Well, that didn't take long. So he walked over and lifted his friend up and laid him over to lie down. He then tucked a pillow up underneath his head, took his Adidas off him, putting his feet up, and pulled the afghan off the back of the couch over him. Starsky was totally unaware of Hutch's movements.

Damn those freaks! Hutch then walked over and sat in the chair beside the couch, to begin his vigil. It's going to be a long night . . . and my back is going to hate me tomorrow. But, he was determined that he was going to stay right there, in case Starsky needed him.

A couple of hours had gone by and Hutch was dozing in the chair. He awoke to the sound of moaning. He glanced over to see what was wrong. Starsky was sweating profusely, and tangled up in the afghan. He began calling out in his sleep. "No, no please, no more. I can't see . . . Please, stop this. Don't listen to him . . . . Hutch, please find me . . . . Stop the chanting, please stop it . . ."

Hutch shook off his sleep and bounded out of the chair over to his partner. He leaned in to Starsky. "I'm here, buddy. I'm right here. I've got you. Simon can't get to you now. Hey, wake up for me, huh. Can you do that for me, partner?"

Hutch had gotten up onto the couch, and sat embracing his partner on his lap. Gently rocking him back and forth. His arms wrapped around him tightly.

Starsky had buried his face deep into Hutch's chest, seeking refuge there. "Hutch?" he moaned.

"Yeah, buddy?"

Starsky looked up. "Is it really you?"

Hutch sighed. "Yes, buddy, it's really me. I've got you. It's all right, I'm here."

Starsky sighed. "It's all over now, huh?"

Hutch grinned. "Right. We made it partner." Hutch sat there and held his friend for what seemed like an eternity. Slowly Starsky's breathing started evening out, and he knew by the deepness of his breathing that Starsky was sound asleep again. Then Hutch lifted him up and got back off of the couch and sat down in the chair to finish his watch. Mission accomplished.

The next morning, Starsky woke up bouncing off the walls. He didn't seem to remember even having the nightmare. Hutch was feeling a bit stiff in his back, but other than that, okay.

"Man, Hutch, I feel great! Haven't felt this good for a while!"

Hutch just smiled to himself as he thought, All in a night's work.

The End