This was my story for KAM's zine. Warning: it is uber mushy or soapy. 738 words.
In The Elevator
“You feeling claustrophobic? Starsk?” Hutch reached across and gave Starsky a gentle slap on the knee.
“What makes you say that?” Starsky sat in the elevator, legs stretched out in front of him, arms crossed tightly around his chest.
The elevator had been stalled between floors for almost ten minutes now.
“Kinda obvious, buddy,” said Hutch. “Hey. C’mere. You heard the crews. They’ll have us out in under an hour.”
“I get ya.” Starsky worked on controlling his breathing. He’d always hated tight spaces, even got claustrophobic once when he and Hutch were quarantined in a small hospital room—and it had had more room than this, and lots of windows.
“C’mere,” repeated Hutch. He patted his leg. Starsky glanced up at Hutch’s gentle smile, and then edged over until he sat next to Hutch, their legs pressed together. Hutch took one large hand and rubbed it up and down Starsky’s thigh. “You’re all right, you know. I’m here, and we’ll get out soon.”
“Yeah, I know.” He sat still, holding his arms around his chest, his chin tucked down, holding himself in from full-blown panic by sheer willpower.
“What, are you scared you’re going to use up all the oxygen? Take some deep breaths.” Hutch gave him an encouraging pat on the knee.
“Don’t even joke about that.” Starsky’s jaw tightened.
“Starsk. Bud. You’re really…?” Hutch touched the side of Starsky’s face, turning it a little to get a better look. Then he lowered his voice to an even gentler tone. “Come on. It’s okay.”
“It’s not, Hutch. I don’t wanna… I just… You gotta get me outta here, Hutch.” Starsky’s voice had gone low and pleading. He was ashamed of the panic he heard in it, but he couldn’t excise it.
“Hey. Come here. You’re all right.” Hutch drew him into his arms, half pulling Starsky onto his lap. Starsky’s arms transferred instantly around Hutch and he gripped him, squeezing tight. He buried his face against Hutch’s shoulder—and his familiar, warm flannel shirt—and took deep, jagged breaths.
“It’s okay. They’ll have us out soon. I’ve got you.” Hutch rubbed his back soothingly.
After a few moments, Starsky’s muscles started to relax, and his breathing returned to a more normal rhythm. Hutch transferred his touch to Starsky’s hair, ran his hands through Starsky’s curls rhythmically.
Starsky’s muscles relaxed and his head leaned even more heavily against Hutch’s shoulder. His breathing grew even, steady, and deeper.
Hutch chuckled lightly and rubbed Starsky’s arm. “It means a lot to know you trust me like this, Starsk—trust me more than you feel nervous or self-conscious. Thanks.”
“Mm-hm,” said Starsky. He should be the one saying ‘thank you,’ and he knew it. But that could come later. He’d let the Blintz pick where they ate next time, and not complain at all—even if it was somewhere vegetarian.
Hutch rubbed his palm against Starsky’s face—it rasped against the bristly chin stubble. He’d been meaning to shave this morning, but between one thing and another, he’d forgotten.
Hutch’s other hand came around and rubbed his curls again. His touch was as comforting as warm chocolate.
Hutch’s gentle voice spoke near his ear. “Go ahead, buddy. Sleep it out. I’ll wake you when it’s time to leave.”
“’Kay,” murmured Starsky, feeling heavy-lidded and loose. How could he ever have gone from panicking to nearly asleep in just a few short minutes? Only with Hutch’s comfort.
He imagined the repairmen prying the door open to find him curled up sleeping, leaned against his partner like a kindergartener or something. He yawned and forced himself to stay awake a little longer.
“Pro’bly should wake me ‘fore they get us out, Hu’ch.”
“Sure. I can do that.” Hutch’s voice was patient and calm. He fondled Starsky’s curls, and then squeezed the back of his neck, driving the last of the tension away.
Growing sleepier by the second, Starsky tilted his head and peeked up from Hutch’s shirt, caught the blue-eyed gaze smiling down at him. Hutch’s eyes looked so warm from up close.
Maybe a thank-you with words couldn’t hurt, too. “Thanks, Hu’ch.”
The blond’s smile grew larger. “Sure.” He ducked his head slightly. “No problem, Starsk.”
Starsky closed his eyes and settled back into the nest he’d made for his head. One last sigh heaved, and he was asleep, trusting in the safest place he’d ever found.