This story was originally printed in the S/H zine LIFELINE: A DECADE OF SWEET REVENGE, published by Jenn and Molly D. Brown as Jenny Brown Enterprises in 1989. Special thanks to Daphne G. for translating to electronic format. Comments on this story can be sent to Flamingo who will forward them to the author.


He walked back to the bed. How many feet away was the bathroom ... twenty? Twenty-five? "Shit! Twenty feet and I'm sweatin' like a Sumo wrestler and breathing like a bellows with a hole in it."

He grabbed the side rail as he eased himself back to bed, wincing as tender muscles protested. Nestling his face in the coolness of the pillow, he let out a sigh. God, I'm tired, and depressed, and scared shitless.

He'd never felt as helpless as he did now. Weak and vulnerable. Any movement of anything hurt someplace.

"Man, if Gunther's goons are still out there, I'm a sitting duck."

He gingerly turned over on his back. "What I wouldn't give to stretch, REALLY stretch," but he didn't dare.

The pain pill he'd swallowed before going to the bathroom was starting to peak and the sweating increased. The prickling sensation came and went in his arms and legs as nerve endings demanding to be heard shut up and the deep unignorable ache in his chest and gut slipped away.

He fought going to sleep, knowing the dreams would come. "Shit, I hate this ... got no control ..." he wasn't sure if he'd spoken aloud or not. A noise to his left made him jump and hands went to his chest and stomach protectively.

"I'm sorry, buddy ... I didn't mean to startle you. I thought you were asleep," Hutch's voice whispered in the dim light.

Starsky reached out a hand in the voice's direction and felt warm, strong hands grasp it.

"How ya feelin'?" The warm hands tightened briefly.

"Better now ... turn on the light."

The first level of soft light chased away the shadows and Starsky turned to Hutch. He forced his eyes to focus and felt a new and different kind of pain in his chest. One narcotics were never meant to reach. "You looked better in the dark."

"Thanks. Glad I came by to have you cheer me up."

"I mean it," Starsky struggled to speak clearly. "You're out on the streets, in the station, or here. You never sleep, and from the looks of your cheekbones you're not eating either. I'm scared, Hutch. You're gonna get so tired you won't think fast, you'll get sloppy and somebody'll nail you out there. You'll never know what hit ya."

He felt the bed give as Hutch moved closer, warm hands on both shoulders now. "Hey, you're the one you have to worry about. I'll be okay. I'm fine ... these bags under my eyes are from me worrying about you!" A hand ran through his hair then rested on his face. "Don't be afraid."

Starsky reached inside Hutch's jacket and rubbed his side. "Is there a cop outside?"

He felt Hutch stiffen. "Why, has anybody ...?"

Starsky patted the ribs. Sure you're eatin', everything's fine my ass! "No ... nothin' like that. I just wanted to know."

"Yeah, there's one at either end of ICU's access. Dobey hand-picked 'em."

"Good 'nuff." He was losing the battle to stay awake. "I'm safe then, you go home, and go to sleep. Take tomorrow off."

"I'll tell Dobey you're running the duty roster from here, he'll appreciate the help."

Warm hands left his shoulders and face, stroked through his hair once more, then straightened the covers. The bed moved again and the chair squeaked nearby. The last thing he heard before the medicine took him was, "Go to sleep yourself. We're both safe ... we're together."

The End