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The Things We Lost in the Fire

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The Things We Lost in the Fire: Part One


 

"Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win."

-Stephen King

"I met a woman. She had a mouth like yours. She knew your life. She knew your devils and your deeds. And she said 'Go to him, stay with him if you can, but be prepared to bleed.'"

-Joni Mitchell


 

The hospital hallway was white and sparsely filled.

A few scattered nurses moved room to room, completing rounds before returning to their station at the end of the corridor. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair Hutch payed them little mind, his eyes focused on the closed door across the hall. Starsky was in that room, as was Dobey, two nurses, and a doctor. An on-call psychologist was sure to follow, as soon as his partner came enough out of his terror-stricken sedated state to really talk about what happened.

How the hell are they ever going to talk about what happened?

Hutch wasn't allowed in the room; his partner doesn't want him there. Starsky cried in fear when he saw Hutch. Screamed in terror when he touched him.

Hutch saved Starsky from the clutches of a madman, but he still isn't allowed in the room.

Starsky had shrieked in panic when Hutch tried to hold him.

Sucking in a shaky breath Hutch turned his gaze to the floor, desperately trying to ignore the blood marking his hands. His clothes were clean but his hands were bloody. Fingertips stained with red dried freckles—something he's certain now that no one else can see. He washed them four times since coming to the hospital—infinite times since first discovering the stains—yet, somehow they just won't come clean.

He doesn't know how long he sat there, before Dobey finally emerged from Starsky's room. Taking a deep breath, the large man lingered in place, his hand rubbing exhaustedly at his face as the other still gripped the doorknob.

"How is he?" Hutch asked, though he was certain he didn't want to know.

Kept in darkness, Starsky had been put through hell. Beaten, tortured in ways Hutch didn't want to think about. And when Hutch had finally found him, his naked body covered in blood. No, not covered, immersed—dripping with dark oozing liquid, the quantity of which couldn't have all belonged to him. Closing his eyes against the vivid memory, Hutch bit back a groan. But he failed to suppress the guilt settling in his chest or the haunting memory sound of Starsky's tortured screams as they echoed in his head.

"Don't!" Starsky sobbed, his eyes wide with terror as he pressed himself against the wall. "Don't touch me. P-please, Hutch, I can't stand anymore. I can't do it anymore!"

Watching him warily, Dobey sat heavily next to Hutch, pursing his lips and staring at his open palms. He doesn't have any comforting news, and it's too late to justify behavior with kindness and platitudes. Though he's certain none of this should have happened, he can't understand how any of it could have been changed.

"Starsky," he said eventually. "Starsky will be alright." But the words are forced, his strength feigned, and staring at the wall, Dobey finds that he can't bring himself to believe the words.

"Yeah."

"You should go home and get some rest before this all starts falling apart."

Sleep. Hutch snorted at the idea. He should be so lucky. What was he supposed to do? Return to the home he shared with Starsky, shower, and sleep as if nothing had happened? Pretend as if the last month of their lives hasn't been a horrible mess, as if the last week hadn't been something out of a nightmare?

"No, I want to be here."

Exhaling heavily, Dobey looked at Hutch sadly. He couldn't say he didn't understand—if Starsky were his partner, he'd want to sit vigil too—but remaining silent he struggled with the correct words to say, wanting to comfort his officer and bellow condemning remarks at the same time.

None of this should have ever happened.

"John Blaine took my gun," Hutch murmured, rubbing his fingers on the invisible blood staining his hands. "Will there be an investigation?"

"Should there be?"

Shrugging, Hutch shook his head; he pretended not to notice how Dobey wouldn't look him in the eye. His rubbing quickly turned to scratching, neatly trimmed nails run up and down the top of his left hand, leaving angry pink lines behind.

Dobey watched the action warily, but didn't stop Hutch until he drew blood. "A man died today, people are going to want to know why."

Eyes brimming with furious tears, Hutch pulled his wrist from Dobey's grasp, looking away from his angry superior as he tried to calm the grief overwhelming him—the horrible devastation associated with the knowledge that Starsky doesn't him by his side and the glint of condemnation flickering in Dobey's eyes.

"He wasn't a man," Hutch said finally, his voice thick with anger. "Simon Marcus was a monster and I'm glad he's dead."

"Shhh!" Dobey eyes darted to the pair of uniform officers guarding Starsky's room. One was staring blankly at the floor while the other appeared entranced by the dim screen of his smartphone. If the circumstances were different Dobey would have yelled at the pair for their nonchalance, instead he was grateful, as the officers remained unaware of the sensitivity of Hutch's hateful declaration. "You can't say things like that," he continued, "not after what you did. It is in your best interest to keep your mouth quiet."

"I only did what I had to," Hutch said obstinately. Kicking his foot against his chair he pointed an angry finger in his Captain's face. "If only you would have listened to me, then we would have found him sooner and none of this would have—"

"If you would have done your job correctly," Dobey interjected, pushing Hutch's finger away, "then none of this—" Face falling with guilt, he stopped himself before finishing his cruel statement, but it didn't matter. Hutch knew what been unsaid; it was the same accusation he had heard hours before.

"This is your fault, Hutchinson," Simon Marcus's cheerful words come rushing back. "And Starsky will never forgive you for what he endured at the hands of fate because of you. He trusted you and you made him bleed."

"This is my fault," Hutch whispered, smoothing his hands over his face as tears began spilling down his cheeks. Biting his bottom lip, he pressed his forehead to his palms, trying desperately to hold on to what little control he had left. But didn't work, and a soft shaky sob escaped his mouth before he could stop it.

"Go home," Dobey urged grimly, placing a comforting hand on Hutch's back. "Get some sleep, and clear your head. There is nothing you can do about this now."

Though he knew Dobey was right—that he should leave and take solace in the quiet while he could—Hutch's guilt was stronger than the kindness behind Dobey's gruff suggestion. Outside Starsky's hospital room, he would wait, until either his battered partner finally request to see him or for IA to collect him for questioning. And sitting next to Captain Dobey, Hutch wondered which he was dreading most.