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“What are you doing here, Starsky? You know we’re not supposed to have any direct contact during this assignment.”

“I’m worried about you. It’s been six weeks, buddy --”

“Don’t you think I know how long it’s been?”

Hutch’s voice was taut with strain, which told Starsky an awful lot about his partner’s state of mind. He put his hands up in a placating gesture. “I rest my case.”

With a quick, nervous glance over both shoulders, Hutch grabbed his arm and dragged him into a doorway. “If you blow my cover after I’ve gotten in this deep, I swear I’ll…”

Starsky tried reason. “You’ll what, Hutch? Ask Dobey for a new partner?”

Hutch slumped against the dirty wall at the side of the entry. “You know I’d never do that.” He dug a pack of Lucky Strikes out of his pocket and lit one.”

Starsky gently took the cigarette away and ground it out under his shoe. “You need to come in, Hutch. The D.A. never expected you to --”

“Shut up!” Defiantly, Hutch tapped out another cancer stick and lit it. “Just leave me alone, Starsky! Tell the captain you couldn’t find me.”

“Not gonna happen.” Starsky leaned against his side of the entry. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?”

Hutch shuddered and inhaled more smoke.

“Probably haven’t had a shower in a week.” Starsky’s tone was more harsh than he had intended but he discovered that he couldn’t moderate it - he was really afraid for his best friend. “And those clothes wouldn’t be accepted by Goodwill.” He put a hand to the side of Hutch’s filthy, bearded face. “You need help with this one, partner.” When Hutch looked up, Starsky patted the cheek before taking his hand back. “If you won’t come in, let’s figure out how we can bring me under with you.”

“Starsky…”

“If your disguise is working for you, we’ll come up with one that’ll work for me.” He straightened up. “I’ll do whatever I have to, Hutch, shave my head, wear false teeth, change my wardrobe, slouch or put lifts in my shoes, grow a mustache --”

Hutch chuckled. “We don’t have that kind of time.”

“I’m just sayin’…” Starsky checked up and down the alley, making sure they weren’t being observed. “I’m not leaving you here alone, Hutch. You’ve been alone too long as it is.”

Hutch nodded. “You’re right about that. Six weeks with these vermin has gotten to me, I guess.”

“Then let me help you wrap it up, so you can come back to the world.”

Hutch shrugged. “Okay. But, you’re not going to like it here any better than I do.”

“Maybe not,” Starsky admitted. “We’ll be together, though, like always.”

Hutch actually cracked a smile. “Together, like always.” Some of the tension left his expression. “I guess I’m glad you found me, after all.”

Before Starsky could leave the doorway, Hutch put a hand on his arm. “You’d shave your head? Really?”

Starsky slung an arm around Hutch’s shoulders. “Really.” He led his partner away from the degradation that had become his life. “Let’s get out of this neighborhood, call Dobey, and then find a barber.”

 

END