Hutch sighed and scrubbed the heals of his hands hard against his eyes, trying to relieve some of the dryness and let his eyes refocus on the file in front of him. He picked up the report, the 36th he’d looked at that evening, and tried to remember what he was supposed to be looking for.
“Starsk, can you pass me the note they received?” There came no reply. “Starsky? C’mon I’m not in the mood for you to play games, just pass me the note,” Hutch snapped irritably. At the continued lack of response, he looked up to glare at his unresponsive partner and immediately softened. Starsky was looking at him, eyes glassy and muddled. He blinked up at Hutch uncomprehendingly and Hutch could see him parsing Hutch’s words, trying to make them into something he understood. Hutch closed his eyes, feeling the tension drain from his muscles at the sorrowful sight of his partner. He reached out to run his hands comfortingly through Starsky’s curly hair.
“Oh Starsk, you should have said. I know you don’t want to give up but you’re not going to be any use to anyone in this state. I guess by the time it caught up with you, you were too far gone to say anything, huh?” It had happened before, especially when the work was dull and academic with lots of dry reading. Without adrenaline to carry his usually energetic partner forward, an exhausted and overtired Starsky was liable to crash, and crash hard.
Hutch looked down at the file in front of Starsky and recognised it as the one Starsky had been reading half an hour ago. Hutch let out a breath of sympathy, he knew how a worn out Starsky tended to read the same line over and over, desperately trying to make some sense and meaning out of the elusive marks on the paper. “Oh babe.”
Starsky’s brow was furrowed, Hutch’s words obviously beyond the point of recognition. Hutch tried a different tack, “Hey, buddy.” He tried to keep his voice as soft as possible, if the words didn’t get through to Starsky perhaps the tone might at any rate, “How about we call it a night, huh? The files will be here in the morning. It’s okay, buddy; its all okay. Hey, it’s okay.”
Starsky blinked at him again but without the confusion, the repetition appearing to soothe him when he realised he didn’t have to try and figure out what Hutch was saying. Hutch would take it from here.
“Hey, buddy,” Hutch took his arm and gave a gentle tug. Understanding, Starsky stood and Hutch smiled at him softly, “You got it, babe.” Starsky leaned forward and bumped his head against Hutch’s shoulder. Hutch’s breath caught at the simple show of affection and thanks; he swallowed hard, “Me too, buddy. Me too.”
Hutch grasped Starsky’s wrist and led him out of the squad room. It was late, very late, and there were only a few people around the precinct. None of those who were there gave a second glance to Hutch leading Starsky out of the building and Hutch wondered how it was that the could almost hold hands and no one appeared to act as though anything were out of the ordinary. Maybe they were far less subtle than they thought, and a touch of fear ran through Hutch. But the rumours about their relationship were joking, were anyone to suspect the truth in them they’d stop sharply. Hutch breathed deeply, calming himself and continuing to the garage.
When they got to the Torino, Hutch turned to Starsky, “Do you have the keys, Starsk?” He was answered by a gaze of unrecognition. Hutch tapped the lock on the car door and Starsky reached into his pocket before pressing the keys into Hutch’s outstretched hand. Hutch clasped his fingers around Starsky’s and squeezed a thank you before taking the keys and unlocking the car, guiding Starsky into the passenger seat.
As Hutch drove them to Starsky’s he gave his partner small glances. His partner was out like a lamp, his cheek leaning against the cool, slightly open window, a slight breeze ruffling the curls of his hair. Without the usual chatter and movement livening the car, everything suddenly felt very quiet and still and settled. Starsky looked so at peace and Hutch felt his heart clench, the city lights sailing by as he drove them home.
When they arrived at Starsky’s place, he moved to sit closer to Starsky on the Torino’s bench and gently ran a hand through his hair before cupping Starsky’s face in his palm and rubbing his thumb softly against Starsky’s cheek.
“Hey, babe. We’re home.” Starsky made a small sound and leaned into Hutch’s touch before blearily opening his eyes and blinking owlishly. Hutch pulled away to get out of the car and Starsky gave a whimper of protest. Hutch smiled to himself at Starsky’s sleepy clinginess, “Just two seconds, buddy.”
True to his word, he was soon guiding Starsky out of the car and leading him up toward the apartment. Evidently trying to be of some kind of use, Starsky spent the time climbing the stairs feeling through his pockets for the keys to the apartment. When Hutch realised his intention, he smiled at Starsky and opened his palm, showing his partner the ring with the keys for the Torino and the apartment attached. “You gave them to me earlier, so I could drive us home.”
At any other time he’d have called Starsky a mushbrain, but he was touched by Starsky’s attempt to help despite the tiredness that stuck a rod in the gears that usually span so fast in Starsky’s head. It was nice, on occasion, to not have to keep up with the whirling chaos that was an animated and wildly energetic Starsky.
He opened the door and took Starsky by the hand this time, leading him to the bedroom. Starsky reached to try and undo the buttons of his shirt, but his finger fumbled helplessly and he looked up at Hutch pleadingly. “You want me to help, Starsk?” Hutch asked, his hands hovering over the button. Starsky gave a definitive nod and Hutch gently unbuttoned Starsky’s shirt. Starsky gave a small smile of thanks and Hutch echoed it back at him.
When Hutch had pushed the shirt off Starsky’s shoulders, Starsky reached to undo the belt of his exceedingly tight jeans. Hutch grinned at him, “Shoes first, babe,” tapping his foot against Starsky’s trainer. Starsky looked down at his feet as though they were an interminable puzzle. Hutch pushed Starsky gently onto the bed and knelt at his feet, his eyes light with humour as he carefully undid Starsky’s laces (something Starsky never bothered with himself), pulling the shoes off for him. Standing, he reached his hand out to Starsky and pulled him to his feet as well.
“Belt first, then your jeans.” Starsky nodded and tried to undo the buckle before looking up at Hutch for help again. Hutch rolled his eyes, “You didn’t even try to undo that, Starsky.” Starsky had a small glint in his eye and Hutch tutted, “Even when you’re out of it, you’re insufferable, you know that?” His voice was marked with mock irritation, but it was the exasperated affectionate tone he knew Starsky would recognise anywhere and he gently undid Starsky’s belt anyway. Starsky gave a small smile and leaned his forehead against Hutch’s and Hutch reached up to stroke the hair at the back of Starsky’s neck. After a minute of this quiet fondness, Hutch pulled back slightly, sighing regretfully, “C’mon, let’s get these pants off you. Thank God you actually wore underwear today, Starsk” Hutch noted as he pushed the jeans down Starsky’s legs.
When he was wearing just his boxers, Starsky laid back on the bed and curled onto his side in his favourite sleeping position. “Nuh uh, buddy. Didn’t your Mother ever teach you the importance of dental hygiene?” He held out his finger at Starsky strictly, “Not to mention the fact that you’ll wake me up in two hours to visit the john if you don’t go now, especially after all the coffee we’ve had this evening.”
Starsky gave a mumbled protest as Hutch dragged him off the bed and pulled him through to the bathroom. Hutch passed him his toothbrush and Starsky obediently began to brush his teeth before Hutch pulled the brush out from his mouth. Starsky gave a hum of confusion and Hutch smiled at him, raising an eyebrow. “You need toothpaste on it, Starsk,” Hutch gently chided, squeezing some onto the brush. Starsky took the brush back but held onto Hutch’s hand, squeezing gratefully, a mirror of Hutch’s own actions in the garage, before pulling his hand away and dutifully brushing his teeth. Hutch swallowed thickly at the simple gesture, trying to clear the lump he suddenly felt in his throat before reaching for his own toothbrush.
When they had finished brushing his teeth Hutch turned and pointed at the toilet, “You reckon you can use the john on your own?” Hutch asked jokingly. At least he hoped it was a joke. Starsky gave his arm a very weak punch and gave a clear nod.
“Good. Whilst you’re otherwise occupied, I’m going to go get changed for bed,” he pointed to the bedroom and then at his clothes; Starsky nodded again.
A minute or so later Starsky crawled onto the bed next to Hutch, who was beginning to feel the need for sleep fall heavily upon him now. He made to get up and felt a very sudden hand grip his arm desperately as Starsky whimpered and looked at him with lost eyes. “Just going to use the john myself, Starsk. Go to sleep, huh?” He pointed in the direction of the toilet and Starsky relaxed.
He returned to see Starsky sitting up against the head board, his eyelids dropping dangerously. “You idiot,” Hutch sighed climbing into bed, “You didn’t have to wait up for me, babe.” Starsky dropped his head onto Hutch’s shoulder in evident disagreement, before lying down to curl up around Hutch, pulling Hutch’s back to his chest. He pressed a small kiss between Hutch’s shoulder blades, his usual goodnight gesture, before apparently falling straight asleep, his arm tightly drawing Hutch firmly against him and his leg draped over Hutch’s.
Hutch let out a puff of air, trying to smother his laughter at his partner’s ability to seemingly fall straight out of consciousness. He leant back into Starsky’s embrace and closed his eyes.