The Accident (by Cheryl)

Summary:
Category:   Starsky & Hutch
Genre:  Crime
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  27,000


 

Hutch swore softly under his breath as he paced around his apartment. Where’s Starsky? Of course, Hutch knew that it was not unusual for Starsky to be late. Actually, it was pretty normal. But not this late! He glanced at the clock once again. Enough was enough. Grabbing the phone he dialed Starsky’s number. He tapped his foot impatiently waiting for Starsky to pick up the phone. But to no avail, the phone just continued ringing. Where the hell is he?

Now Hutch was worried. Starsky should have picked him up almost forty-five minutes ago. Something had to be wrong. Taking his car keys from his pocket, he headed out to go look for Starsky. Hutch pulled away from the curb and into traffic. First stop would be Starsky’s.

Starsky knew that Hutch was going to be madder than hell. Checking his watch once again, he knew he was really late. He hadn’t meant for this to take so long. He had only meant to stop and pick up some donuts. But he had gotten sidetracked when he looked in the window of the toy store next to the bakery. He hadn’t planned on stopping to look at the toys in the window. It had just happened. And he certainly hadn’t meant to go inside when the owner arrived to open his store. But here he was. Could he help if he had never outgrown his fascination for toys? He was not looking forward to explaining to Hutch why he was late.

Hutch stopped as the light turned red. Starsky better have a darn good reason for not showing up this morning. He didn’t know if he should be angry or worried. The light turned green, and Hutch started through the light. That was the last thing he would remember for a long while, as the sounds of shattering glass and crushing metal echoed though the morning.

The sounds of sirens in the distance brought Starsky back to reality. The sirens reminded him of where he was supposed to be. Saying good-bye to Hank, the owner of the store, Starsky made his way outside and headed towards the Torino. Pulling out of the parking lot, Starsky’s thoughts were centered on the explanation he would soon have to come up with for Hutch. He knew that Hutch was going to be furious, but he also knew that he would get over it.

He was now only two blocks away from Hutch’s place. Starsky knew that his friend would be cranky the rest of the day now. Hutch hated to be late. He wished that the jelly donuts in the bag next to him would somehow appease his partner. But he knew better than that. Noticing flashing lights up ahead, he hoped that he wouldn’t be stuck in traffic for long. That’s all he needed right now. Traffic had now come to a complete stop. Ahead Starsky could see several uniformed officers attempting to direct the back up of traffic. He stuck his head out of the window hoping to get a view of what was causing the hold up. So far all he could see was a semi-truck. By now Starsky was getting very impatient. It was bad enough that he had already wasted a good hour, but now this. Opening the door of his car, Starsky started towards the accident. Curiosity was getting the better of him. Also he just plain wanted to know what the hold up was.

As Starsky neared the accident scene he could see that a car was pinned underneath the semi-truck. A chill ran through him as he thought of the poor driver of that car. The driver of the truck stood looking around as if in a daze. Starsky flashed his badge as he approached a uniformed officer that was attempting to question the truck driver.

“What happened?” Starsky asked the officer as he took in the dazed appearance of the truck-driver.

“This guy over here,” The officer said as he pointed towards the truck-driver ran a red light at a high rate of speed. “The poor guy trapped under his truck didn’t have a prayer.”

Starsky turned his attention back to the accident scene. “What about the other driver.”

“We won’t know for sure until he can get him out of there. But it doesn’t look good.”

Starsky found himself compelled to take a closer look at the accident. Moving closer, he could see that the car was really wedged underneath the large truck. The car reminded him of…oh my god…it looks like…no it couldn’t be Hutch’s car. Hutch was at his place waiting to be picked up. He couldn’t be here buried under this truck. Starsky felt his world begin to crumble. No matter how much he wanted to deny that it was Hutch’s car, he couldn’t. He would know Hutch’s car anywhere. That dented up piece of…oh god…it was Hutch’s car.

*****

Starsky stood frozen in one spot as he watched the rescue team attempting to free his partner. He needed to do something. Anything to try and help. But he couldn’t move.

“I don’t think there is much chance that guys alive.” Starsky turned to find the officer he had spoken to had followed behind him.

“Don’t say that!” Starsky said as he turned back to stare in horror at the events going on. “Please don’t say that.”

“Detective, do you know the victim?”

“The victim…the victim is my partner.” Starsky choked out the words. “He’s my best friend. Please don’t refer to him as the victim. That’s Hutch…detective Kenneth Hutchinson.”

“I’m sorry, sir. Is there anything I can do for you?” The officer could tell that the detective was close to the edge. “Is there someone you want me to call for you?”

“Dobey…call Capt. Dobey. Tell him Hutch has been in a bad accident.”

Starsky wanted to help, really he did. He knew he would be in there helping if it was anyone but Hutch. But he just couldn’t stand the thought of watching them pull Hutch’s body out of the wreckage. This is all my fault. I didn’t need donuts, and I should never have gone in that toy store. This should never have happened. Oh, Hutch what have I done?

Despite his feelings of not wanting to watch them as they pulled Hutch’s body out, Starsky found himself moving closer. I should be watching when they pull my best friends body. I should feel the pain and I should witness first hand what I did to my partner.

Starsky was so busy burying himself deep in his guilt and despair that he hadn’t realized that the officer had returned.

“I made that call for you detective. Your captain said to tell you that he’s on his way.” The young officer hoped that the news would bring a little comfort to the distraught man.

“What?” Starsky said in a lost tone.

Before the officer could repeat that captain Dobey was on his way, the rescue workers yelled that they had reached the victim. He cringed a bit knowing that to this anguished man standing next to him it wasn’t just a victim, it was his friend. But Starsky didn’t appear to have even noticed. All he heard was that they had reached Hutch.

Starsky could no longer stay back. That was Hutch and there was no way he could stay away. No matter how much he feared seeing what his irresponsibility had caused, he had to be there.

“You’re not going to believe this, but we have a pulse.” The stunned rescue worker yelled out.

Starsky was quickly pushed aside as the paramedics went into action. He watched as the body of his partner was slowly pulled out of the wreckage. If the car hadn’t told him it was Hutch, the sight of the that blond head would have.

“Did you hear that? They found a pulse. Your partner is still alive.” Starsky turned to once again find the uniformed officer at his side.

“Yeah, I heard.” Starsky knew that even though Hutch was still alive, that he had to be badly hurt, and could still die. But the officer seemed to want so much to offer some hope to him, that he didn’t want to disappoint him. “Hutch is tough and he’s a real fighter.” But despite his good intentions to sound optimistic, his voice wavered, and the tears welled up in his eyes. Hutch is hurt really bad, and this is all my fault.

*****

Feeling as though he was in the middle of a bad dream Starsky watched as the paramedics worked on the lifeless body of his partner. Pulse or no pulse, he knew that Hutch was barely hanging on. He watched as an IV was inserted, and a bandage wrapped around his friends bleeding head. Hutch’s neck and back were stabilized, and then he was lifted gently onto a stretcher.

As Hutch was lifted in the waiting ambulance, Starsky felt a gentle hand on his arm. He turned to find Dobey standing next to him. “Come on Dave, you ride with me to the hospital.”

Starsky could only nod as he took one last look at the ambulance as it pulled away. “This is my fault, all my fault. I don’t know if I can ever face Hutch again. Maybe he won’t want to see me either. And I wouldn’t blame him one bit.”

“Starsky this was an accident. Do you understand me, nothing more than an accident.” Dobey steered Starsky in the direction of his car. “We should get to the hospital now.”

Starsky remained silent, as he settled into Dobey’s car. To Dobey it might have been an accident, but Starsky knew it was the of result of his own childish ways. Now he felt as if he couldn’t even look at his partner. What could he say? I’m sorry just wouldn’t be enough.

Once at the hospital, they began the long wait. Dobey had once again steered Starsky into a seat. Dobey was very concerned about Starsky. It was if he had already given up on Hutch. The silence was so unlike Starsky. Normally he would be pacing about, and demanding to know what was taking so long. This puzzling behavior of Starsky’s actually sort of scared Dobey. Something was just not right.

Several hours passed before they were able to learn anything about Hutch’s condition. Doctor Martin, a tall slightly stooped middle aged man had filled them in on Hutch’s condition. He had explained to them that they had succeeded in getting Hutch stabilized. But there were several areas of concern. Hutch was still unconscious, but that was not unusual. The doctor expected that he would soon wake up. The biggest concern was the fact that detective Hutchinson was paralyzed from the waist down. At this point they had no way of knowing if it was permanent or not.

Dobey didn’t know exactly what reaction he had expected from Starsky, but he certainly never thought he would stand in stunned shock and watch as David Starsky without saying a word walked out of the hospital. Starsky leaving Hutch now was just unthinkable. What the hell was going on?

*****

Paralyzed—the word kept repeating itself over and over in Starsky’s head. Not Hutch…I couldn’t have done this to Hutch. Starsky had been walking aimlessly since leaving the hospital. Now looking up, he realized he had walked several blocks from the hospital. But he didn’t stop, he just kept walking.

Dobey had quickly put in a call to Huggy and filled him on what had happened. Huggy had promised to track Starsky down and get to the bottom of things. In the meantime, Dobey was going to stay with Hutch.

Dobey sat next to Hutch’s bed. Looking at the pale and battered face of the young detective, he wondered how he was going to explain the missing Starsky when Hutch did wake up. He knew that the first thing Hutch would be expecting to see would be the face of his partner. He was totally mystified at Starsky’s behavior.

Starsky’s aimless walking eventually brought him home. He managed to make it to a chair, his heart was hammering and his breathing ragged. Everything was going so wrong. First he’s the cause of Hutch’s terrible accident, then he only stands and watches as they pull him from the wreckage…he should have been in there helping. What’s wrong with me? And now to make matters worse, I just walked away from my partner…my best friend. How could everything have gone so wrong in such a short time? How can I ever face Hutch after all the horrible mistakes I have made?

An hour and several beers later Starsky still sat, jaw clenched trying to keep himself from letting go and sobbing uncontrollably. Just thinking of what Hutch would soon have to deal with nearly shattered Starsky. His insides felt as though they had been ripped apart.

A loud pounding on the door, jolted Starsky from his depressing thoughts. “Go away.” He didn’t feel like any company now. He just wanted to left alone with his guilt.

“Starsky you open this door now!” The voice of Huggy Bear shouted. “Right now Starsky!”

He was tempted to ignore Huggy and hope that he would go away, but he knew there wasn’t much chance of that.

“All right, all right.” Starsky pulled himself from the chair, and made his way slowly to the door.

“Hurry up Starsky.” Obviously he wasn’t moving fast enough to suit Huggy.

Starsky unlocked the door, but before he could open it Huggy was already shoving his way inside. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Huggy demanded. Why aren’t you at the hospital with Hutch?”

Starsky turned without answering and sat back down in his chair. Huggy took in the empty beer cans on the table next to the chair. “So this is what you’ve been doing while your partner…your best friend…”

“Don’t say anymore. I know where my partner is and I know why he’s there. And don’t tell me I should be there with him. Believe me the last thing he needs is me around.” Starsky voice sounded angry and bitter.

Huggy stared in disbelief at Starsky. “Care to explain all that to me?”

“This whole mess is my fault. I should have picked Hutch up an hour before he had that accident. If I had been where I was supposed to be, Hutch would not have been where he was. Pretty simple, don’t you think? He wouldn’t have been under that truck.” Starsky was now on his feet and pacing. “Just leave Huggy. Get out of here, and leave me alone.”

“Just leave huh? Fine, you sit here and feel sorry for yourself. But I have just one question for you. What are we supposed to tell Hutch when he asks where you are? You want us to tell him the truth? His good buddy Starsky is sitting home feeling sorry for himself and drinking beer. You want us to tell him that you’re not gonna be there for him?” Huggy was more angry than he could ever remember being. “Hutch deserves better, Starsky, and you know it. You know dam well, he would never leave you alone to face what he’s gonna be facing.” Huggy turned and started towards the door. He turned one last time and looked at Starsky. “I thought I knew you, but I guess not.” The door shut and Starsky stood there alone with Huggy’s words still echoing in him mind.

*****

Huggy headed for the hospital after leaving Starsky’s. If Starsky wasn’t going to be there for Hutch, Huggy would be. But he knew he’d be no substitute for Starsky. He hoped that Starsky would come to his senses soon.

At the hospital he found Dobey sitting quietly at Hutch’s bedside. The sun filtering in through the blinds cast a gentle glow on Hutch’s face. But despite the gentle glow, Hutch’s face still showed the signs of bruising that the accident had left. Dobey was looking almost as bad as Hutch. Huggy really hated having to tell him that Starsky was not coming. Dobey looked questioningly in his direction, as if waiting to see Starsky coming in behind him. Huggy could only shake his head sadly. Dobey stood and motioned to Huggy to follow him outside. Once out in the hallway, Dobey demanded. “Where the hell is Starsky?”

“Cap’n, it’s the weirdest thing. Starsky, blames himself for the accident and seems to think that Hutch, would be better off without him around.”

“That makes no sense at all.” Dobey replied glancing in at Hutch. “And just what am I supposed to tell the badly injured young man in there, when he wants to know where his partner is?”

“I wish I knew. Hutch is gonna have enough to deal with, without having to deal with his best friend walking out on him. And I’d bet my life that Hutch would never dream of blaming Starsky for this accident.”

“Why on earth does Starsky blame himself?” A puzzled Dobey asked.

“Seems Starsky was supposed to pick Hutch up, but never made it. He didn’t give me any details. Just said that if he had picked Hutch up when he was supposed to none of this would have happened.” Huggy shrugged. “Like I said it’s weird.”

“Huggy can you sit with him while I make a couple of phone calls? I need to call the station and Edith. Edith will want to know.” Dobey hated having to call Edith. He knew she would take it hard. She was just as fond of the two young detectives as he was.

“Sure, I’m not going anywhere.” Huggy watched as the sad figure of Dobey made his way down the corridor towards the phone. Despite the gruff exterior that Dobey always tried to project, Huggy knew how much he cared about the two young detectives.

Once seated at Hutch’s bedside Huggy looked around the bare sterile looking room. Shaking his head, he couldn’t help but think how his two friends spent way to much time in these surroundings. Hutch looked so pale and fragile laying there. The stark white blanket pulled up around him seemed to match the pallor of his face that even the bruises couldn’t mask.

Even before he opened his eyes, Hutch knew that something was very wrong. Where was he? As his eyes opened, he found everything to be blurry. Gradually his eyes began to focus, and he could made out the figure of someone sitting next to him. Starsky?

Hutch tried to move himself closer to that figure so he could see who it was. But…he couldn’t move his legs. Couldn’t move the lower part of his body. What’s wrong with me? What happened? Starsky? Where’s Starsky? Had something happened to Starsky too?

He moved his hand toward the figure that was sitting there. His eyes still didn’t seem to focus clearly. He tried to call out to Starsky, but he didn’t seem to have a voice. Panic was quickly setting in.

Huggy turned and found himself looking into blue eyes that seemed to be searching for someone. Stark fear showed on Hutch’s face. “Hutch, it’s okay.” Huggy moved closer to Hutch, and took hold of his hand. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Hutch’s eyes acknowledged Huggy, but kept moving around the room. His vision was more focused now, and he could see that Starsky was not in the room. The room, a hospital room? Again he attempted to speak, but was unable to. He wanted desperately to ask where Starsky was, and if he was okay. Why couldn’t he talk?

Huggy watched helplessly at Hutch’s futile attempts to speak. Starsky he needs you! “Hutch, just take it easy.” Huggy wished he knew what to do or say. This was not a situation that he was used to being in. Starsky should be here.

Hutch’s eyes filled with tears. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t speak. Where was Starsky? God, Starsky I need you! Something had to have happened to Starsky. Why else wouldn’t he be here?

The door opened and Huggy watched Hutch’s eyes as they looked hopefully in the direction of the door. The dejected look on his face told Huggy that it was not Starsky who had come through the door. Hutch sadly turned his head away and closed his tear-filled eyes. He had no interest in who had come through the door. Something was very wrong.

The young blonde nurse who entered the room attempted to make some conversation with her patient, but he refused to even look at her. After checking his IV, and the bandage on his head she patted his arm. “The doctor will be in soon to see you.”

Huggy was at a loss as to what to say to Hutch. Hutch lay with his head turned away as if to say leave me alone. Maybe he did need to be alone for a bit. Damn it, I wish I knew what Starsky would do in this situation. Well, Starsky was gonna get in here and take care of his friend, and that is all there is to it. Hutch needed him!

“Hutch, I’ll get Starsky. Hutch, do you hear me? I’ll get him. Everything’s going to be okay.” Huggy stood waiting for some response from Hutch. Something, anything. Huggy waited. Slowly Hutch turned his face back to look at Huggy. The tear stained face clearly showed the fear and frustration that he was feeling. “You do want to see Starsky right?”

Hutch shook his head yes, as more tears slid down his face. He opened his mouth, his lips moved, but no sound. He clenched his fists tightly. Damn it! What’s wrong with me? What happened? Were we in an accident? Did something happen to Starsky, is that why he’s not here. No! Huggy said he would get him.

“Hutch, take it easy.” Huggy hit the call button. He felt so helpless. Where’s that doctor? It made no sense that Hutch couldn’t speak.

This is so wrong! What the Hell am I doing? Starsky paced his apartment, pausing occasionally to run his hands through the thick dark curls. If only I could do this whole morning over. If only…if only. To late for such thoughts. The damage was done. And I’m continuing to cause damage.

His pacing had led him into his bedroom. He stood staring at his dresser where the newest additions to his toy collection, a shiny new caboose for his train sat. Boy, he had been so excited the day he had brought that home. Damn! Why don’t I just act my age? Seething with mounting rage at himself, Starsky brought his arm down and sent toy caboose and everything else on the dresser crashing onto the floor. The sound echoed through the quiet of the apartment. But it wasn’t enough. The closet was his next target. Opening the door, he reached up to the top shelf, and brought the contents tumbling to the floor. Needing to release more of his pent up anger and fear, he stomped and kicked at the pile of remote control cars, and models that lay at his feet. As the pieces flew across the room, he collapsed down onto his knees. Suddenly he felt an acute sense of loss. He knew he couldn’t handle the loss of his partner. Not like this. I can’t loose Hutch. Maybe I am to blame for his accident, but can I let my guilt drive me away from him… leave him to deal with this all alone? NO! I need him as much as he needs me now. I need him and I owe him! Starsky sat quietly on the floor, tears leaving their mark on his face.

*****

Huggy stood outside Hutch’s door having just finished a conversation with Hutch’s doctor. As Doctor Martin moved on down the corridor, Huggy was glad to see Dobey coming towards him. Dobey could stay with Hutch, while Huggy went off to bring Starsky to the bedside of his partner. By force if necessary. Huggy didn’t have a clue as to how he would manage that feat, but one way or another Starsky was going to get his sorry ass in here!

“How’s Hutch?”

“He’s still without his partner, still paralyzed and he can’t speak. So how do you think he is?”

Dobey sighed heavily. “No word from Starsky?”

“Nope. Hutch is withdrawing more and more every second Starsky is not here. He’s terrified.”

“Any ideas on how to get Starsky in here?” Dobey asked.

“Force if need be. I’m gonna go back to his place and I’m not taking no for an answer.” Huggy’s sounded as if he meant business.”

“Huggy, if Starsky still refuses to come to the hospital, you tell him I won’t hesitate to bring him here in handcuffs.”

“You gonna stay here with Hutch?” Huggy asked. He didn’t like to think of Hutch being alone.

“Yeah, I’m staying. Edith will be in later too. As a matter of fact, tell Starsky if he doesn’t get in here, I’ll send Edith with the handcuffs.”

As serious as the situation was, Huggy couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought of Edith Dobey dragging Starsky into Hutch’s room in handcuffs. “Well, that certainly ought to get him in here.”

Dobey with a slight smile on his face couldn’t resist adding, “you just let me know if you need Edith for backup.”

“Count on it.”

Starsky pulled himself to his feet. He had wallowed in his guilt and grief long enough. Time to get to the hospital and support his best friend. If Hutch’s condition turned out to be permanent then he would have to start making plans.

Stepping around the broken pieces of what used to be some of his favorite things, Starsky made his way into the bathroom.

Just as he had finished splashing some cold water on his face, he heard loud pounding on his door. Tossing the towel in the direction of the towel rack, he went to see what all the commotion was about. Please not more bad news. Surely they would have called if Hutch had taken a turn for the worse. The racket at the door started again. Starsky yelled, “I’m coming. Hold on.” He barely had the door open, when Huggy came barreling in. Before Starsky had a chance to react Huggy had taken hold of his arm.

“Sit down, shut up and listen to what I have to say.” Huggy’s tone was one of great determination.

A shocked Starsky found himself quietly doing as he was told backing up to sit down on the couch. But he couldn’t remain quiet. “Is Hutch worse? What’s wrong?” This was something new to him. Huggy taking control like this.

“Oh, now, you want to know how your partner is doing? Good because you’re going to the hospital with me now. I won’t take no for an answer. And I not about to listen to any of that crap about this being your fault, and Hutch being better off without you. You got that?”

Starsky stood and reached for his jacket. “Where do you think you’re going?” Huggy barked at him.

“To the hospital. I was just getting ready to go check on my partner when you started that God awful pounding on my door. Are you coming with me or not?”

Huggy stood mouth open as Starsky headed out the door. Damn, I really wanted to see Edith Dobey in action!

*****

Hutch gazed around at the sterile environment he once again found himself a prisoner in. God he hated hospitals. Doctors and nurses always poking and prodding at you. The feeling of humiliation he always had when he couldn’t do things for himself. But it was so much worse this time. This was total humiliation. He really couldn’t blame Starsky for not wanting to be here. Not wanting to see him like this. But God, how he missed him. He was starting to feel drowsy. They had given him something to make him sleep. The feeling had been that he was getting too agitated. Too agitated? Didn’t he have reason to be agitated? Wouldn’t they feel the same if they were in his place? Waking up in a hospital, unable to talk…unable to move…all alone. Okay, he wasn’t alone he had Dobey and Huggy. But as close as he was to them he couldn’t let his true feelings show. He didn’t want them to know just how terrified he was. Only with Starsky could he allow his real feelings to show. His eyelids were getting so heavy, he tried to fight it. Huggy was going to be back with Starsky. He wanted to be awake when Starsky got here. Within minutes the drugs won out and Hutch was out like a light.

Captain Dobey paced the corridor outside of Hutch’s room. He hoped that Huggy would be returning with Starsky at his side real soon. The responsibility of filling in for Starsky was more than he could handle. Nobody could take the place of one of them with the other one. It just couldn’t be done.

Seeing Huggy coming towards him, without Starsky Dobey felt his spirits drop even lower than they had been since this whole mess had started. “Huggy?”

“Relax, Captain. He’s here. He just stopped to talk with Hutch’s doctor.”

“Oh, thank God!” Dobey breathed a sigh of relief.

“How’s Hutch doing?” Huggy asked glancing in though the open door of Hutch’s room.

“He’s sleeping now. How’s Starsky?”

“Well, he’s determined to be here for Hutch, he’s scared too death, and still feeling guilty. But I think he’ll manage okay. We both know that when it comes to Hutch he’ll do whatever it takes. This thing with Hutch being paralyzed it hit him pretty hard.”

Dobey nodded his dark face showing the strain of the last few hours. “Yeah, it’s hit us all pretty hard. I’m praying that it’s just a temporary situation. Otherwise I am afraid that this might just destroy them.”

“Captain, you know better than that! As long as they’re together they can handle anything.”

“I hope you’re right,” Dobey said as he noticed Starsky coming down the corridor. “Here’s Starsky now.”

“It doesn’t look like, the doctor had any good news for him.” Huggy said taking in the slumped shoulders that appeared to be carrying an even heavier burden than earlier. “Starsky, what’d he say?”

Starsky looked at the pair, his face showing the despair he was feeling. “How did a perfectly normal starting day end up like this? This morning when he got up Hutch could speak and he could walk.” The desperation in his voice was not lost on his two friends. “Why? Why did this have to happen to Hutch?”

Taking Starsky by the arm, Huggy led him to one of the empty chairs that sat against the wall. “Sit down, and tell us what the doctor told you.

Taking a deep breathe Starsky looked up at the two anxious faces that were watching him intently. “The doctor went over his injuries with me. Along with the spinal injury, he has some broken ribs.” Starsky’s voice trailed off a bit as if he were having trouble focusing on what he was saying. Head injury’s not too serious…twenty stitches. His face is bruised and has some cuts, but… Damn it! I can’t think clearly.”

“Take it easy, Starsk. Just try to stay calm.” Huggy rubbed Starsky’s taut shoulders. “What did he say about Hutch not being able to talk?”

Starsky sat silently looking for the right words, but there were no right words. “Would you believe there’s no medical reason for it?”

“I don’t understand. What do you mean no medical reason?” Huggy had a very vivid memory of watching the blond struggling to try to speak.

Starsky’s expression was grim as he replied. “It’s psychological. Hutch is experiencing something the doctor called Anxiety Hysteria.”

“And what are they are going to do about it?” Dobey asked. He had been quietly listening to what Starsky was saying. But somehow the thought that Hutch had any kind of problem that the doctors would refer to as psychological seemed totally off base. Not Hutch of all people.

“Right now, they’re not going to do anything. In a few days if Hutch is still not speaking they’ll decide what kind of treatment would be best to try. He did say Hutch’s speech could return any time.” Starsky got up from the chair. “I think it’s time I went in and spent some time with my partner.”

“Yeah, and I better get back to the Pits and take care of business. You call if you need anything.” Huggy put his arm on Starsky’s shoulder. “I mean it, you call. Promise me.”

“You’re a good friend Huggy. I promise I’ll call.”

“Edith and I’ll come by in the morning. In the meantime if anything changes or if you need anything, you just call.” Dobey wished he could think of something to say that would give some comfort to the young man who’s world had suddenly turned upside down.

Starsky did his best to put on a brave front. “Thanks captain. Thanks for everything. And I’m sorry about walking out of here earlier and leaving you to handle everything. Everything’s going to be okay now. I’m here for Hutch.”

“The important thing is you’re here now. I know you’ll take good care of him.”

Starsky stood outside Hutch’s door, his hand on the door handle. He prayed that he would be strong enough to help Hutch. Taking a deep breath, he turned the handle opened the door, and quietly entered the room.

*****

Starsky stood at the foot of Hutch’s bed. The need to reach out and touch him was so strong, but he held back. Maybe he didn’t have the right to touch him, to feel that familiar closeness. I walked out on him today. I turned my back and I walked away from him. But I did come back. I’m here now Hutch. And I’m not leaving you. That I promise you.

He moved to the side of the bed, and slowly eased himself down onto the bed. The need to touch won out over his fear, and he softly laid his hand on top of Hutch’s hand. His other hand gently touched the badly bruised and swollen face. He felt warm and alive. Starsky knew that it had to be some kind of miracle that Hutch was alive. He knew that no one at the accident scene had expected Hutch to be alive. No matter what, we’ve both got to be grateful that you’re alive, buddy. Easing himself off of the bed, Starsky reached behind him and pulled the chair closer to the bed. He settled himself in the chair, without ever removing his hand from Hutch’s.

Hours had passed since Starsky had taken his seat next to Hutch’s bed. Nurses had been checking on Hutch every hour. Starsky had passed the time deep in thought. There were so many plans that needed to be made. First off he’d have to talk to Dobey about a leave of absence from the department. He wanted to be here for Hutch full time. Even if they were lucky enough to receive another miracle, and Hutch’s situation was only temporary he would still require a lot of care in the coming weeks. And if they had run out of miracles…well then major plans would have to be made. He’d have to find a small house for them. Something with no stairs. He’d have to learn how to take care of Hutch. There would be much that needed to be discussed with Hutch. Starsky couldn’t help but wonder what kind of frame of mind his partner would have when it came time to make the really important decisions. Not that it really mattered. What ever needed to be done would be done! Hutch could fight all he wanted.

It had been a very long day and Starsky found himself beginning to nod off. He fought it as long as he could, then when he could no longer resist he rested his head on the edge of Hutch’s bed and drifted into a somewhat troubled sleep.

Hutch woke slowly, feeling confused as to where he was. But it wasn’t long before everything once again slid into place. Part of him wished that he could just stay asleep and not have to deal with anything. As he nervously moved his hand across the blanket he was startled to find someone’s head resting on his bed. Starsky? It had to be Starsky. Who else would be sleeping with their head on my bed? He shook the head gently.

Starsky stirred, realizing that something had disturbed his sleep. Hutch?? Starsky raised his head off the bed, and found himself staring into the Nordic blue eyes of his partner. Blue eyes full of emotion. Starsky could see the fear, pain and uncertainty in those eyes. But at the same time Hutch offered the faint trace of a smile. A smile that told Starsky he was forgiven. Starsky returned the smile, as his hand found Hutch’s hand. Hutch squeezed Starsky’s hand tightly as if he never wanted to let go.

*****

Starsky once again sat on the edge of Hutch’s bed. They sat in silence for a few minutes. Not needing any words. But for Starsky the time had come to let Hutch know how sorry he was about what had happened. Time also to admit and accept his responsibility in the days events. Starsky cleared his throat and searched for the right words. Sadly Starsky knew there were no right words. Sorry was really a pretty inadequate word for something like this. Something that may have changed Hutch’s life forever. Something that would never have happened if I had been on time picking Hutch up.

Hearing Starsky clearing his throat Hutch looked expectantly at his partner. He knew something was coming. Bad news? Starsky turned as Hutch’s hand closed on his arm. Not trusting that his ability to speak had returned he simply shook his head no.

“Hutch.” Hutch shook his head again, this time with such force that it made the throbbing in his head worse, and brought on a rush of dizziness that caused him to fall weakly back against the pillows. “Take it easy, buddy. Just let me talk, okay. There are a few things I need to say. Please just hear me out.”

Not having much choice in the matter, Hutch remained still as he watched his partner now pacing around the bed. It’s now or never Starsky thought to himself. He stopped his pacing at the side of Hutch’s bed, sitting down he took hold of Hutch’s hands again. Seeing how nervous Starsky was Hutch knew that whatever it was that Starsky had to tell him it had to be bad. Had the doctors told him something?

Seeing the fear in Hutch’s eyes, Starsky knew what Hutch was thinking. He thinks I’m going to dump more bad news on him. He think his condition’s even worse than he’s been told. “Hutch, it’s okay. I just want to tell you I’m sorry” Confusion had replaced the look of fear in Hutch’s eyes. Hutch wanted to tell Starsky he didn’t understand.

“Hutch I know this is all my fault. If I hadn’t stopped on my way to pick you up, this wouldn’t have happened.” The words just started tumbling out of his mouth, he had to make Hutch understand. “You have to understand how very sorry I am. You have to know that if I could change things I would. Forgive me…please forgive me Hutch.” Taking a deep breath, Starsky continued on, “I’m sorry I walked out on you too. I just didn’t know how I could ever face you.”

Feeling very frustrated Hutch shook Starsky’s arm to get his attention. Starsky had kept his eyes downcast as the words had spilled out. Hutch needed to make eye contact with him. It was his turn to make Starsky understand. Starsky raised his tear-filled eyes to find the blond slowly shaking his head no, as his own tears flowed down his face. Then feeling his heart shattering into little pieces, Starsky watched as his partner struggled to speak. His lips moved, and formed the words, but nothing happened. Finding himself still unable to speak, added to the trauma of the days events and then watching his partner’s tear stained face as he begged for forgiveness became too much for Hutch. With both fists clenched tightly, he began slamming his fists on the bed. His anger and frustration evident each time his fists connected with the bed. But it just wasn’t enough, the fists moved making their new target his own body. The pain he felt as he struck his broken ribs, didn’t matter. Nothing mattered only the fact that he couldn’t communicate to his best friend that forgiveness was not necessary. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t do anything for himself. He couldn’t express his feelings to Starsky.

Stunned at the extent of the rage that Hutch was feeling, it took Starsky several seconds before he could react. Grabbing his partner’s hands he attempted to restrain them. Hutch struggled, and Starsky , surprised that even in his weakened condition he could put up such a fight. He knew Hutch was reacting to the anger he was feeling. “Hutch, please don’t do this. Don’t hurt yourself. I promise you, everything is going to be okay.” It took a minute, but finally Hutch had completely given up his struggle. Starsky wrapped his arms around his friend, and pulled him tightly to him. “I know this isn’t easy. Just try to be a little patient, huh. The doctor says you’ll be talking again in no time. I know there’s probably a lot of things you’d like to say right now, questions you want to ask.” At this point, even Starsky was beginning to find it find it difficult to speak. “Hey, hold on buddy. I’ll be right back.” He gently laid Hutch back against the pillows. “Be right back, promise!”

Before Hutch could even wonder what his partner was up to, he was back at his bedside. Grinning like he had made some magnificent discovery he held out a pad of paper and a pencil. “Here, this’ll work until your speech comes back.” Hutch hesitated for a second and took the paper and pencil from Starsky’s hand. He knew he should be grateful, but part of him still couldn’t help but feel humiliated.

Starsky watched like a proud parent as Hutch began writing on the pad of the paper. After looking it over, Hutch handed the paper to Starsky. Hutch had written in large letters, Don’t do this to yourself. Please! It was an ACCIDENT!! Starsky found Hutch’s blue eyes practically imploring him to believe what he had written. Starsky nodded, “Thanks!”

*****

The next half hour passed calmly. Hutch, using his notepad and pencil, had asked several questions about his accident. He was relieved to hear that no one else had been hurt. After a while, though, Hutch seemed to tire and he put the notepad and pencil aside. As Starsky retrieved the writing material and placed it safely on the bedside table, two nurses entered the room. They greeted their patient and his guest with smiles, but Starsky noticed that Hutch did not return their smiles. As a matter of fact, he seemed to be more than a little dismayed to see them.

“I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to ask you to leave the room for just a bit,” the taller of the two nurses said to Starsky. Looking over at his friend, he found Hutch with his eyes tightly closed, looking even more pale than he had earlier.

“Sure, I’ll wait outside,” Starsky said, as he motioned to the taller nurse that he wanted to speak to her outside. He didn’t understand what was going on. What were they going to do to Hutch that seemed to cause him so much anxiety? The nurse followed Starsky out into the corridor. “What is going on? Starsky asked, not wasting any time and asking in his usual outright, blunt fashion.

“You realize that your friend has no control of his bodily functions due to his paralysis? We need to change him now, and we’re going to have to catheterize him. Starsky paled as the words hit him. “God…I didn’t even think.”

“Most people don’t think about it.” She patted his arm, knowing how much this must hurt him to see his friend reduced to such a thing.

The nurse went back into the room, as Starsky sagged against the wall outside. Saddened, he feared that Hutch would rather die than live in this degrading, humiliating and weakened state. The thought crossed his mind that he himself might rather die than watch as his once strong and active friend was reduced to this. Hutch may have forgiven me, but I’m not sure I can forgive myself. I’ve got to be strong for him, but it’s going to be so hard.

Hutch wanted nothing more right now than to just plain die. He knew that tears were running down his face. He was lying there in his own waste, while two nurses cleaned him up. He had attempted to put up a bit of a fight, hoping maybe they’d go away and leave him with some dignity. But that was one more battle he had lost. Was this all that life held for him now? If so…he wasn’t sure he was all that interested?

Being the trained professionals that they were, the two nurses had him cleaned and catheterized in no time. They left Hutch on his side, pillows keeping him in place. Can’t even choose your own sleeping position, he thought bitterly. They had him facing away from the door so his back was to Starsky when he returned.

Starsky stood just inside the door, not knowing what he should say or do. The only thing I can do…is be here for him.

“Hey, buddy. You sleeping?”

Moving his chair, so that he could be facing Hutch, he sat down. Hutch’s eyes were still tightly closed. “Hutch?” He knew Hutch wasn’t sleeping. He couldn’t begin to imagine what Hutch was thinking right now. He carefully brushed the fine strands of blond hair off Hutch’s bandaged forehead. He knew the hair was just an excuse to touch his friend. Seeing tears sliding from the tightly closed eyes, made Starsky feel so helpless. Taking a tissue from the bedside table, he gently wiped the tears away. “I’m so sorry that you have to go through this. Buddy, if I could I’d trade places with you… Thinking that maybe Hutch needed some closeness, Starsky moved from the chair to the edge of the bed. “Hey, how about I rub your shoulders for you, huh?” Knowing Hutch probably wouldn’t attempt to respond in any way, Starsky started gently massaging his partner’s tense shoulders. “How’s that? Feel good?” Starsky kept up a steady stream of soothing words as he continued massaging his friend’s shoulders. It wasn’t until much later when a nurse came in to check on Hutch, that Starsky realized his partner was sleeping peacefully.

*****

Starsky stood and stretched as he walked over to look out the window. It looked like it was going to be a nice day. The sun felt good coming through the window. He had barely left Hutch’s hospital room in three days. And he had not left the hospital at all. He had been prepared to put up a fight with the hospital staff about him staying at Hutch’s side, but somehow Dobey had pulled some strings and it had become understood that Starsky would not be leaving any time soon. The hospital had even gone as far as to bring in a bed for the dedicated detective. And good friend, Huggy, kept Starsky supplied with clean clothes, toiletries and hot meals.

Hearing Hutch stir behind him, Starsky put a smile on his face and turned to face his partner. “Good morning!” The only response to his cheerful good morning was a weak attempt at a smile by his blond partner, which Starsky figured was better than nothing. The last couple of days had been a bit like being on a wild roller coaster ride. One minute Hutch was calm and rational, and the next his rage and despair completely took over.

“Good morning.” A cute young nurse came in carrying Hutch’s breakfast. She smiled at both of them as she set the tray down. “Please try and eat something this morning, Mr. Hutchinson. How about you, Mr. Starsky, can I bring you a tray?”

“No thanks. I’ll get sometime later.” Starsky smiled at the nurse. He felt kind of sorry for Hutch’s nurses. Hutch certainly was not a model patient, and he had been taking a lot of his anger out on the hospital staff.

“Well, just yell if either of you need anything,” she said as she left the room.

“Well, what do you say we get you set up here for breakfast?” Starsky adjusted the pillows behind Hutch, and soon had him sitting up ready for breakfast. After placing the tray in front of Hutch, he took his usual seat. “Come on, Hutch, it doesn’t look too bad this morning. Try and eat something.”

Starsky was beginning to know what it felt like to be a parent. A parent with a difficult child. He watched as Hutch just stared at the food in front of him. He practically had to bite his tongue to keep from screaming at Hutch to just eat. Finally, Hutch, knowing that Starsky was watching him picked up the glass of juice, and took a couple of sips from it. Hutch tried to eat, but ended up just picking at his food. Everyone was telling him to eat, but the truth was he just didn’t have an appetite. Pushing the tray away, he hoped it at least looked like he had made an attempt on his breakfast.

Starsky wasn’t fooled, but he let it slide. “All done, partner?” Starsky moved the tray out of the way. “Those pretty nurses should be here any minute to get you ready for the day.”

Hutch reached for the paper and pencil. Starsky could tell from the furious motion of his hand while he was writing that Hutch was upset. Finished, Hutch, let the pencil fall and shoved the paper at Starsky. Starsky thought he might choke, the lump in his throat seemed so large. Hutch had written: Do you think that pretty nurses make my humiliation any less? It doesn’t! I hate this!

“Aw, Hutch, I hate this, too. But you can’t give up. This may only be a temporary thing. You just can’t give up, Hutch!” Starsky was realizing just how helpless he was in this situation. He didn’t have a clue what to say or do to help Hutch. That wasn’t Hutch lying in that bed, it was some stranger. Hutch had never been a quitter. Starsky moved closer to the bed and reached to take the hand of his partner, wanting to offer some comfort. But Hutch didn’t want comfort, he jerked his hand away and closed his eyes. “Hutch, don’t do this, buddy. Let me help you.”

Hutch opened his eyes, retrieved the pad of paper and the pencil from where he had dropped it on the bed earlier,and scribbled another note: I know you want to help, but you can’t. Go home.

Starsky shook his head as he read the scribbled message. “I’m not going home! I’ll go get some breakfast, and then I’ll be back. You better understand something…I’m not leaving you. No matter what you say.” Without another word or glance in his friend’s direction, Starsky turned and walked out of the room.

*****

Hutch watched sadly as his partner left the room. He knew Starsky was upset with him. This whole situation hurt like hell. It wasn’t just the humiliation of the nurses seeing him like this, he hated Starsky seeing him like this. If this turned out to be a permanent thing, he didn’t want Starsky devoting the rest of his life to him. He couldn’t stand that.

Hutch’s thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the two nurses who took care of him during the day. Starsky was right, they were pretty. And they seemed like very nice young women. Under different circumstances, Hutch didn’t doubt that he would have asked the blonde out.

The two young nurses kept up a steady stream of conversation as they took care of their patient. Though they knew he wouldn’t respond, they at least hoped it would distract him from the unpleasantness of the situation. Hutch knew what they were trying to do, but their efforts were not very successful. He found himself breathing a sigh of relief as a clean sheet and blanket was tucked back around him, and the pretty blonde nurse began preparing to give the patient a shave. This he could almost enjoy.

Starsky ate a large, leisurely breakfast in the hospital cafeteria, then stopped and picked up some magazines for his partner. He hoped that maybe the magazines would occupy Hutch for a bit, maybe take his mind off things. Starsky wished he could somehow distract his own mind for a while as well. But he knew that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

Hutch was facing away from the door when Starsky entered the room. The bed had been adjusted so that he was in an upright position. The blinds had been closed, the sun being kept out. “Hey, buddy, how about we let some of that nice warm sunshine in?” Starsky moved around the bed to get a look at his partner. He placed the magazines he had brought for Hutch on the table. “How about it, partner? No point in being in the dark. It’s a beautiful day out there.”

Hutch shook his head and reached for the pencil and notepad. Why couldn’t Starsky have just gone home like I told him to? Since he wasn’t able to reach it, Starsky, leaning over picked it up and handed it to him. Hutch gave a slight nod in thanks. He hoped that Starsky wouldn’t take what he was about to say the wrong way. Hutch quickly finished and handed the note to Starsky.

I told you to go home! I need to be alone for a while. Please don’t be upset with me. I just need some time alone. There’s no reason for you to sit here day and night anyway. Please. Starsky finished reading the note and turned toward the window, his back to Hutch. He felt so helpless. He wished he knew what he was supposed to do in this situation. Was it right for him to leave Hutch alone? He already felt at times that Hutch was withdrawing from him. He had made himself a promise that he wouldn’t leave Hutch again. But what choice did he have? Sighing deeply, he turned back to face Hutch.

“You sure that’s what you want?” Starsky asked searching Hutch’s face for any little sign of doubt. But Hutch only nodded, lowering his anguished blue eyes so he didn’t have to look at Starsky. “Well, if that’s what you want, I guess I don’t have much of a choice do I, partner?” Starsky let out a long audible breath. “But only for a while.” Starsky’s voice was shakier than he would have liked. He didn’t want Hutch to know how hard this was for him. How much it hurt.

But Hutch did realize how difficult this was for his partner. He knew how hard it would have been for him if their places were reversed. But he knew he had to push Starsky away. He couldn’t let Starsky settle into a life of taking care of him.

It just wouldn’t be fair.

Starsky forced himself to the door. If Hutch wanted to be alone, he could be alone. But Starsky had no intention of leaving the hospital. He fully planned on being close if Hutch needed him. He would give Hutch a couple of hours, but that was it. He turned for one last look at his friend, but found that Hutch had turned away from him. Stomach clenched tight, Starsky silently went out the door.

*****

Tiring of his continued pacing, Starsky finally sat down in one of the chairs in the waiting room. Now he sat nervously tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair. What was taking so long? Hours had gone by since they had started running tests on Hutch, taking him here…taking him there. Please, God, let there be an end to all of this. Let it be good news. He was scared to death of how bad news would affect Hutch. The last few days, Hutch had been alternating between pushing Starsky away and then suddenly, desperately clinging to him. Last night, Hutch had held tightly to Starsky. Last night, as Hutch held him tightly, Starsky could feel the fear that filled Hutch’s body. He was terrified of what his future held. Starsky couldn’t blame him for that, he was terrified, too. This whole thing seemed like a nightmare. This morning the fear was still there, but Hutch withdrew and wouldn’t reach out to Starsky. Starsky hated that anxious scared look that was always present in Hutch’s eyes. This morning, Starsky had wanted to reach out to Hutch, wanted to try and comfort him. Not just for Hutch, but for himself, too. One look at Hutch, though, and he had known that was not going to happen. What the hell is taking so long? Starsky was once again pacing. Feeling too confined in the small waiting room, he headed out to the corridor.

“Detective Starsky?” Starsky turned to see Nancy, one of Hutch’s nurses, coming down the corridor behind him.

“Hi, Nancy, how’s it going?” Starsky asked as he slowed his pacing so she could catch up.

“Things are good, Detective. I just wanted to let you know that Detective Hutchinson is back in his room. The doctor is still with him, but he shouldn’t be much longer. I knew you’d be anxious to find out what the results of the tests were.”

“Any chance you could give me any hints?” Starsky smiled at the young nurse.

“Sorry, I really I don’t know anything. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed, though.”

“Thanks.” Starsky watched as the pretty young nurse made her way down the corridor.

Now that the time was near, Starsky didn’t know if he was ready. Could anyone prepare for something like this? If what they had been fearing the most came true, what would he say to Hutch? What could you say to someone who had just gotten news that he’d never walk again?

Starsky watched as the doctor left Hutch’s room. Starsky forced himself to move toward Hutch’s door. His stomach was churning, his heart was pounding. He stood outside Hutch’s door, struggling to get himself together.

Trying his best to smile, he pushed open the door and went in.

One look at Hutch’s face, and he knew all he needed to know. There was no need for Hutch to speak at all. “Hutch?” Starsky found himself struggling to breathe as he moved toward his partner. Reaching the bed, he pulled Hutch close and held him tightly. Hutch didn’t pull away as Starsky had feared he might. Starsky sat stroking the fine blond hair. “It’ll be okay.” The words seemed so inadequate. They sat quietly, Starsky stroking the blond’s hair, as they fought the fear and despair that wanted to engulf them both.

“Hutch.” Starsky moved so that he could look into the face of his friend. Stark and vivid fear glittered in the blue tear-filled eyes that looked back at Starsky. Starsky picked up the notepad and pencil. “Tell me.” Starsky whispered. He needed to know what the doctor had said-what, if any, hope they had.

Hutch’s hand trembled as he took the pencil and paper from Starsky, tears now flowing down his face. Taking a tissue from the table, Starsky wiped the tears from Hutch’s cheeks. Hutch held the pencil, but sat unmoving. “Tell me, Hutch.” He nudged Hutch’s hand.

Hutch’s hand shook as he wrote. Frustration showed in his face. He scribbled a few more words, and then the anger he felt took over, and he flung the paper and pencil across the room. “Easy, buddy.” Starsky rubbed Hutch’s shoulder. When Hutch had calmed a bit, Starsky retrieved the pencil and paper from where it had landed across the room.

“What?” Starsky stared at the words on the paper. No medical reason for any of this. It’s in my mind. Am I crazy?

Starsky looked up at Hutch, “No, you’re not crazy. I’m gonna talk to your doctor.” Starsky was confused, but at the same time he felt a glimmer of hope. No medical reason…that had to mean that Hutch would walk again. Didn’t it?

Hutch pointed to the paper and pencil. Understanding that there was something more that Hutch wanted to say, Starsky gave him back the pencil and paper. Hutch quickly wrote five words and handed the paper to Starsky. I want to go home.

“I know you do, buddy. I’ll talk to the doctor. In the meantime, I think you should get some rest.

It had been a long day full of tests and disappointment, and the fatigue clearly showed on the face of the young detective.

Starsky helped Hutch get comfortable. “I promise while you’re resting I’ll talk to the doctor. We’ll see about getting you out of here. Starsky had no doubts that if Hutch’s mind was the key to getting him better, then the sooner they got him out of this cold, sterile environment the better. Starsky settled into his chair. He wouldn’t leave until Hutch had drifted off. Then he was going to get some answers from that doctor.

*****

Starsky had waited, and when Hutch’s breathing had evened out signaling that he was asleep, Starsky pulled the blankets up around his friend. Now he would find the doctor and demand some answers. It didn’t make sense. There was no medical reason for Hutch to be unable to speak or walk. Hutch is in a terrible car accident, lucky to be alive, and they say there’s no medical reason for his condition? And Hutch thinks he’s crazy?

Looking at Hutch as he lay sleeping, Starsky couldn’t help worrying about how Hutch would deal with what was ahead. Funny, Starsky thought to himself, I always figured Hutch for the stronger of the two of us. Upon further reflection, Starsky realized that the times Hutch’s strength had really shown itself was when Starsky himself had needed that strength. Good thing we have each other for the times we can’t be strong for ourselves. “Sleep well, I’ll be back soon.” Starsky whispered.

Fifteen minutes later, he had tracked down Doctor Martin. The doctor hadn’t been a bit surprised to see him. It hadn’t taken him long to see the close relationship the two young detectives shared. He supposed that was important in their line of work.

“What can I do for you, Detective Starsky?” The doctor motioned Starsky to a chair across from his desk. Starsky ignored the chair and remained standing.

“You told Hutch there was no medical reason for what’s wrong with him, right? Can you explain that to me?” Starsky began to pace the sun-filled office. “This just isn’t right. Now he’s starting to think he’s crazy.” Bringing his pacing to a halt, Starsky sank down into the chair. “He’s not crazy, is he?”

“No, he’s not crazy, nor is he doing this on purpose. Actually, your partner is trying very hard to move and to speak. Remember when I explained about the Anxiety Hysteria? Well, that is what we’re dealing with here. Something in his subconscious is keeping him from speaking and moving his legs. At this point your friend doesn’t even know what it is. Is there something traumatic that happened in his past? Another accident, maybe something that might have happened when he was quite young? Something so painful that he’s buried it deep inside of him?

“Nothing. I can’t think of anything. If something traumatic happened when he was younger, I don’t know about it. And to be totally honest with you Doc, there’s not much we don’t know about each other. No secrets.” Starsky sat slumped in the chair, his face clearly showing deep thought. Sighing loudly, Starsky stood back up. “I just can’t think of a thing. Do you think it could be something involving our job? Maybe a case that really got to him?”

The doctor shook his head. “I wish I knew. There’s just no way to know right now what’s going on deep in his mind. Ken could simply start speaking and moving his legs at any time.”

Meanwhile, what are you people here going to do for him? We just can’t give up on him, and leave him to sit silently in a wheelchair the rest of his life. You don’t know him. That’ll kill him!”

“We can start right away on hypnosis and psychotherapy.”

“NO!” Starsky was immediately standing face-to-face with the doctor. No one is going to start messing with Hutch’s mind. I know him; he won’t go along with anything like that. He’ll just withdraw more. I’m the only one he’ll trust; I’m the only one who’ll be able to get through to him.”

“Detective Starsky, there is only so much we can do for him right now. But believe me, we have no intention of giving up on him. He’ll get the best possible care.” The doctor wished with all his heart that he could promise the young man before him that his partner would be like new in no time, but he couldn’t do that. “We have to at least try hypnosis and psychotherapy. We have to give him every chance possible chance.” Looking at the determined dark-haired man standing across from him, the doctor couldn’t help thinking how his patient in some very important ways was a very lucky man. The friendship and devotion he was witnessing here was something very rare.

“When can he go home?” Starsky demanded. I’ve got to get him out of here.”

“Detective, I don’t think you understand what kind of care is going to be required for your friend. Caring for him will be a full-time job. He needs trained professionals taking care of him.” The doctor was beginning to realize that he was fighting a losing battle with this man.

“Doctor, I know you want what’s best for Hutch, but you’ve got to understand, I know him. He’s humiliated that pretty young women he would normally be asking out on dates are cleaning him up and seeing him in such a degraded state. He’s lost everything…his pride…his legs…his manhood. Hell, he can’t even communicate how he’s feeling to anyone. If he stays here much longer, he’s just going to give up. I can’t sit back and watch him give up and do nothing.” Starsky was trying very hard to keep his emotions under control, but he knew he was failing. This was too important. Every second that passed, Hutch was getting more depressed and withdrawn.

Realizing that he had indeed lost the battle, the doctor simply threw up his hands. “You win. But you’ve got a lot to learn before you leave here with him. You’re going to have to learn to deal with things you can’t even imagine.”

“Don’t you worry, Doc, I’m a fast learner. The sooner we get started the better.” Starsky flashed the doctor a wide grin.

*****

Several hours and many phone calls later, Starsky felt satisfied that things were coming together. Getting Hutch out of this place was his top priority. Huggy had a lead on a nice little house near the beach. The rent was a little steep, but the place had no stairs to speak of. Being near the beach was an added plus, he knew Hutch would like. His talk with Dobey had gone well. Dobey had immediately put in the paperwork for Starsky’s indefinite leave of absence. And Dobey and Edith had both volunteered to help any way they could with Hutch’s care. Starsky had his doubts as to how that would go over with the patient. Hutch didn’t like being fussed over or taken care of. Starsky had figured out long ago that Hutch was better at being the caretaker. But whether Hutch liked it or not, Starsky planned on taking real good care of his partner. Hutch was going to walk again even if it meant Starsky had to take a firm hand with him. Something was buried deep in Hutch, something that hurt so bad…maybe something Hutch felt he needed to be punished for? Whatever it was, Starsky had to pull it out of Hutch. Not right away, but soon.

As soon as Hutch woke up, Starsky would give him the news that soon he’d be able to leave the hospital. He wasn’t sure how Hutch was going to react to him helping the nurses take care of him. The doctor wanted him to work with the nurses so he would be prepared to take over the job of caring for Hutch. Of course Hutch was going to have his work cut out for him, too. He would have to learn to do some things for himself. He would have to learn how to get himself from the bed to the wheelchair. That shouldn’t be too hard. The bigger issues would be for Hutch to learn how to deal with bowel control and how to catheterize himself. Starsky had a feeling these issues were only some of many hurdles to come. Dealing with the Hutchinson/Starsky battle of wills was always a challenge.

Watching his partner sleep, Starsky realized he could use a little nap himself. Settling on the bed [delete the hospital had generously furnished for him, Starsky chuckled silently, thinking about how Dobey probably hadn’t given the staff much choice in the matter. Thanks to their Captain, Starsky pretty much came and went as he wanted. Not that he went too far. But it was kind of nice not to be getting thrown out by some strong-armed nurse when visiting hours were over. Hutch didn’t really show it, but Starsky had to believe that Hutch was grateful too.

Hutch opened his eyes. Realizing Starsky was not in his usual spot in his chair next to the bed took him by surprise for a second, and if he were to be honest it kind of scared him. Despite the fact that at times he tried pushing Starsky away, deep down he knew if he ever succeeded he’d be lost. It would all be over for him. So why do I do it? Because I’m scared, and I do stupid shit when I’m scared. And because deep down I know that he knows I really don’t want to push him away. Hutch’s eyes scanned the room and found his partner sleeping peacefully in the next bed. Knowing Starsky was there in the room with him, Hutch felt a sense of security come over him. His eyes slowly closed and he drifted back into a light sleep.

A loud female voice jarred Starsky from his peaceful, much needed slumber. Looking quickly over to his partner, Starsky found Hutch cringing back against the pillows, looking highly irritated. At the foot of Hutch’s bed stood a young nurse’s aide, who seemed to think the note on the patient chart that said ‘patient unable to speak’ meant she should speak loudly to the patient. Starsky found that this highly irritated him, too. “Hey, quiet down a little. Have a little respect. He’s not deaf. You can speak in a normal tone to him.” Starsky launched himself from the bed and brushed past the flustered and much embarrassed young lady. “It’s okay, buddy.” Starsky sat on the edge of the bed and smiled at this friend. The embarrassed nurse’s aide quietly made her way to the door, breathing a sigh of relief as the door closed behind her. Hutch gratefully lay his head against the offered shoulder. His shattered sense of security was once again wrapping itself around him. Just being close to Starsky seemed to make everything better.

“Hey, I’ve got some news for you. If you behave yourself and we both pay close attention to the things we need to learn about your care, you’ll soon be out of here.” Starsky watched Hutch’s face carefully trying to gauge his partner’s feelings. Hutch’s face revealed nothing, but he gave Starsky a slight nod.

*****

The next morning, Starsky and Mary, one of the nurses from the nightshift, headed to the cafeteria for some coffee and a crash course on taking care of Starsky’s paralyzed partner. Starsky had liked Mary from the first night he had met her. She was older than most of the nurses caring for Hutch. She was always cheerful, and never once did she talk down to Hutch. And most importantly to Starsky, she never discussed Hutch as if he were not in the room. Hutch even seemed to like her and relaxed more when she was around.

Starsky refused to be daunted by the ongoing list of things Mary rattled off. The obvious things he already knew about: turning and positioning Hutch in bed to prevent pressure sores, motion exercise to help maintain muscle tone. But there were other things Mary had brought up that he knew they would both find embarrassing at first. They would both just have to deal with it.

“Dave, I think what you’re doing is just wonderful. He must mean an awful lot to you.” Mary stirred her second cup of coffee with a sad look on her face. “You know, I’ve had some patients like Ken that ended up all alone. No one could be bothered with them.”

“I promise you Hutch will never be alone. We’ve never let each other down. No matter what, we’ve always been there for each other. I can’t count the times that Hutch has nursed me back to health from one thing or another. Guess you could say we mean a lot to each other. Starsky smiled at the nurse sitting across from him. “Of course we’ve had our share of disagreements, but nothing major.”

“You know, you and Ken have a long, rough road ahead of you. It’s not going to be easy, Dave. I’ve got to warn you, there’ll probably be days when the two of you will actually hate each other. That’s why so many patients like Ken end up alone. It’s just not easy. Try to imagine what it’s like for Ken. He has so many changes to deal with. Be patient, Dave.” Mary patted his hand. “Something tells me you two will survive this.”

“You’ve worked with a lot of patients like Hutch. What do you think his chances are of walking again?” Starsky fidgeted nervously with his coffee cup.

“Dave, with there being no medical reason, it’s kind of hard to say. But with you and Ken working together to find out what it is that’s keeping him from walking, he’s got a good chance. But like I said, it won’t be easy. I’ve got a lot of material here that you and Ken both need to read. Starting tonight, Ken will have a new nurse. I’ll be taking over on days so that I can work with the two of you. So, I guess that’s it for now, Dave. We’ll get started in the morning.”

“Thanks, Mary. I’m glad you’ll be working with us. I’ll start reading this material right away, and I’ll make sure Hutch reads it, too.” Starsky stood and picked up the stack of books. “Thanks again.”

“Good morning, Sunshine!” Starsky found Hutch picking at his breakfast tray when he arrived back at the room. Hutch looked questioningly at his partner as if to ask ‘why the good mood?’ Starsky laughed, “You’re wondering why I’m in such a great mood this morning, right?” Hutch nodded. “Because it won’t be long, buddy, and we’ll be leaving this place. What do you think of that? Now quit picking at your food and eat.” Hutch’s answer to that was to shove the tray away. “At least drink your juice,” Starsky said, pushing the tray back, his arms still full of books. “If you don’t start eating this healthy food, I’ll have to start force-feeding you some good ole’ junk food. How about tacos and some candy bars?”

Hutch shook his head in wonderment. Starsky was gearing up for something. Holding up the books, Starsky announced, “We have some homework to do. Start reading, buddy. Tomorrow we start working together on what it’s going to take to get you out of here.” Starsky placed a few of the books on Hutch’s lap, the rest he stacked on the bedside table. “That nice night nurse, Mary, she’s gonna be working with us starting in the morning.” Starsky took his seat next to the bed and reached for a book. Hutch still sat quietly with the books in his lap. “You do want to get outta here, right?” Starsky asked as he flipped open his book. “Hutch?” Finally, the blond nodded his head. Starsky smiled, “Then get reading.”

Twenty minutes or so had passed when Starsky’s train of thought was interrupted when the book Hutch had been reading flew across the room and landed loudly against the wall. That book was quickly followed one-by-one by the others that Starsky had placed on the bed. “I take it you’re done reading?” Starsky said, as he looked over at his partner. “Hutch?” Hutch’s face had gone pale and tears slid quietly down his cheeks. “Hutch, I know it’s not very pleasant reading, but we’ve got to face these things.” Starsky had moved and was now sitting on the edge of the bed. Taking Hutch’s hand in his, he said, “Some of that stuff’s kind of gross, huh?”

Hutch opened one eye and looked at his dark-haired partner with an expression that clearly said gross was an understatement. Only Starsky would describe what was in those books as gross. Hutch couldn’t hold back a small grin.

“Yes, I said gross,” Starsky replied to that one-eyed look he’d received from Hutch. Starsky returned the grin. “Hey, you did say you wanted to get out of here, so maybe we should talk about some of the gross stuff. I mean…it’s not…well it’s not like we haven’t…well, you know.” Starsky was now stammering in embarrassment. “What I’m trying to say is, well, we’ve seen each other’s bare parts before.”

Hutch reached for the notebook and paper. With a slight smile on his face, he wrote his reply to Starsky. Gross? Bare parts? Your vocabulary as always never ceases to amaze me

“Very funny!” Starsky said with a wounded tone, but was soon laughing. And it felt really good. “But seriously, Hutch, we do need to discuss a few things. What I need to know is if you want me involved in…the gross part of caring for you, or if you would rather have a nurse? Which would you be more comfortable with? I know you don’t like it when the nurses have to…”

Hutch looked up at his friend with a large grin on his face and handed him another note. Glad to see someone else feeling embarrassed for a change. I know we’ve seen each other’s bare parts before and we’ve taken care of each other, but are we ready for something like this?

“I am if you are. It’s your call. I just want what’s best for you.” Starsky rubbed Hutch’s arm encouragingly. “Well, you think about it. You might be done reading, but I’m not.” Starsky got up to move back to his chair, but stopped when he realized that Hutch was pointing at the books he had scattered across the floor. “You’re not going to throw them again are you?”

Hutch grinned and shook his head. Starsky retrieved the books and they both settled back to read, each one occasionally sneaking peeks at the other from the corners of their eyes. After a while, Starsky noticed Hutch nodding off. Reaching over, he placed Hutch’s books on the table. Hutch stirred, gave Starsky a small grin, and handed him a note that read You and gross go so well together. No nurse. Before Starsky could think of a comeback his partner was fast asleep.

*****

Hutch tossed and turned, his thoughts on his partner. Was it fair to expect Starsky to get so involved in his care? He worried that Starsky would devote so much to his crippled partner that his own life would be pushed to the side. It just wasn’t fair.

Sounds of Starsky moving around on the other side of the room alerted Hutch that his partner was also restless. He could tell that Starsky was out of bed and quietly pacing. Listening to Starsky’s pacing, Hutch felt so helpless. It was not a good sign when Starsky started pacing. Something was nagging at him. Then abruptly the pacing stopped. Hutch strained to hear what Starsky was doing now. At the sounds of Starsky’s ragged breathing, Hutch knew Starsky was crying. He wanted so much to tell his friend that everything was going to be okay. The words flowed through his mind–all the things he wanted to say to his best friend. “Starsk…it’ll be okay. I promise I’ll work real hard. Together I know we can do this. Starsky don’t cry.” The words kept repeating themselves over and over in his mind. He couldn’t stand hearing Starsky in such pain and not be able to comfort him.

Hutch didn’t even realize his words were audible, until he heard Starsky gasp, “Hutch…Hutch…you’re talking!” He then immediately found himself wrapped tightly in Starsky’s arms. They both sobbed with relief, the sobbing quickly turning into laughter.

“Starsk…I really did it!” Hutch pulled out of Starsky’s grasp to gaze up into the blue tear-filled eyes of his partner. “I’m really sorry about all this.” Hutch shook, filled with so much pent-up emotion. “So sorry.”

“God, it’s good to hear your voice, babe. And you have nothing to be sorry for. Nothing!” Starsky knew there were no words to express how happy he felt when he heard Hutch speaking. “One down, one to go. I know without a doubt that you’re gonna be walking in no time.”

“I hope so, Starsk. But I’ve been thinking, maybe it would be better if I had a nurse when I left here. I can’t ask you to…well to take care of me. It’s just too much to ask of anyone.”

“I don’t recall your asking me. As a matter of fact I was always under the impression we didn’t have to ask, we just did it. That’s just the kind of friendship we have. So okay, we’ll be a little embarrassed at first. We’ll get over it and move on. The important thing is to remember we have a goal: getting you back on your feet. Should we really be worrying about being embarrassed? I don ‘t think so!” Starsky found himself once again pulling Hutch tightly to him. “We agree on this, right?” Starsky rubbed Hutch’s shoulders as he waited for a reply.

“Yeah, we agree. You’ll be my new nurse. May even open up a whole new career for you.” Hutch grinned at his partner. “You better brush up on your bedside manner.”

“Just what do you mean by that remark? I’ll have you know I’ve never had any complaints about my bedside manner.”

“I’ll be the judge of that, starting tomorrow.”

“Speaking of tomorrow, we better get some sleep.” Starsky said as he tousled the fine blond strands of hair on his partner’s head. “Can I get you anything?”

“No, I’m fine.”

“Good. Now just go to sleep. No worrying! Tomorrow will be a piece of cake. It will be clear sailing after that and we’ll be out of here before you know it.” Starsky’s spirits were high.

“Good night, Starsk.”

“Good night, blintz.”

The room was soon silent, and the two friends slept peacefully for the first time in long time.

“Good morning, Ken. Good morning, David.” Mary came through the doorway pushing a wheelchair. “Today, young man, you are going to get out of that bed. We’ve got lots of work to do. Your friend thinks it’s time we got you ready to leave this hospital. First things first, though, let’s get you cleaned up and ready to start your day.” Mary kept up an endless line of chatter. Always taking time to give Hutch an encouraging smile.

“Well, then, Mary, let’s get started.” Hutch flashed the nurse one of his brightest smiles.

Mary’s face lit up with an equally bright smile as she heard her patient speak for the first time. “Oh, Ken, this is wonderful.” Looking at Starsky with his face glowing, she felt very happy for the two. Happy and confident they would come through the ordeal that lay ahead. “Time to get to work, guys.”

Mary bustled about, gathering supplies for Hutch’s bath. Returning with a warm basin of water, she instructed Starsky to wash his hands so they could get started. Starsky quickly washed his shaking hands.

“Okay, Ken, you know the routine by now, but your friend is going to need our help this morning.” Seeing a touch of apprehension in her patient’s eyes, she patted his arm. “I promise I’ll keep a close eye on your friend. Make sure he doesn’t drown you.”

“Thanks, Mary,” Hutch whispered, wishing he were anywhere else but where he was. Hutch watched and listened as Mary explained the routine to Starsky. Mary then began the process of bathing her patient, putting Starsky in charge of drying him off. Finishing with the upper half of Hutch’s body, Mary covered his chest with a clean, dry towel and then removed the sheet.

Hutch was beginning to feel like maybe he had been too quick to agree to Starsky being in charge of his care rather than a nurse. Damn it! This was going to be way too embarrassing. He broke out in a cold sweat. He closed his eyes and tried to control the feeling of nausea that seemed to claim control of his body.

Starsky could tell from his friend’s pale face that things were beginning to get uncomfortable for him. “You okay?” Starsky leaned closer to his friend. “Relax, babe, remember it’s just me. I’m not seeing anything I haven’t seen in the locker room.” Starsky tried to keep his tone light. He knew that there was a big difference in seeing Hutch in the locker room and what was going on now, but he just wanted in some small way to comfort his friend.

“Other than feeling a little sick, I’m just fine, partner.” Hutch tried his best to put a smile on his embarrassed face. “You’re doing just fine, Starsky. Don’t worry about me.” Somehow while trying to reassure his friend he found himself relaxing a little.

An hour later, clean, shaved and hair neatly combed, Hutch felt relieved that they had survived their first day with Starsky as his nurse. He didn’t know which one of them had been more embarrassed when Mary had launched into her lesson and presentation of the proper way to catheterize the patient. At one point Hutch thought he was really going to be sick to his stomach. But when his eyes connected with Starsky’s blue, horrified-filled eyes, he couldn’t help but laugh when his partner mouthed the word “gross”. Once the tension had been broken, Starsky continued with his wise cracks, “Hutch, I promise I’ll still respect you in the morning.” Somehow they had both made it through some of the most embarrassing moments of their partnership.

“So how’s my bedside manner?” Starsky asked as the two sat finishing up breakfast–a breakfast which Starsky was pleased to see that Hutch had actually managed to eat most of.

“Not bad, Starsky, not bad. But you’re really going to have to do something about your cold hands.”

“I’ll see what I can do about that,” Starsky laughed. He was just so relieved that day one was over. It had to get easier. “Hey, don’t forget, Mary will be back later to get you out of that bed.”

“Yeah, but just think of what we have to look forward to tomorrow,” Hutch said as he tossed aside his napkin.

“What’s that?” Starsky asked as he gathered up the breakfast trays.

“Potty Training 101 starts tomorrow.” Hutch’s voice held just a bit of bitterness, but he was trying to make the best of what had to be done.

“Hutch, your sense of humor gets worse all the time. But seriously, buddy, I’ve had to teach you practically everything else since becoming your partner, I guess I can handle this, too.”

*****

Starsky bounded up the stairs to Hutch’s apartment. It felt good to finally be out of the hospital. Hutch would be leaving in a few days and taking up residence in their new home. Starsky was hoping to be able to afford to keep both Hutch’s apartment and his own until they were ready to return to them.

The added expense of the little house Huggy had found for them was bound to be a huge strain on their budgets. But neither of their apartments would have been suitable for Hutch while he remained in a wheelchair, which Starsky was determined would not be for long.

Once inside the apartment, Starsky grabbed a suitcase from Hutch’s closet and began filling it with Hutch’s clothing. That job finished, he looked around to see what else Hutch might need. Seeing Hutch’s guitar sitting forlornly in the corner, he knew that was something Hutch would be happy to see. After taking the clothing and guitar down to his car, he wandered around Hutch’s apartment. It was strange being there without Hutch. The apartment felt empty and cold. Huggy had been by and picked up Hutch’s mail and watered his plants. His plants! The plants would add a nice touch to their new home. Starsky made several trips to the car carefully carrying Hutch’s prized plants. Everywhere Starsky looked, his eyes seemed to connect with more and more items that he was sure would make Hutch feel at home. By the time Starsky left Hutch’s, his car couldn’t have held one more thing. Starsky spent the next couple of hours busily getting Hutch’s room ready for him. He had given Hutch the room that faced the beach. Hutch loved the sand and water. Heck, Hutch just loved being outdoors. Hutch’s room had a small table near the window that could double as a desk. Starsky had measured and the wheelchair would work perfectly with the table. He had also measured all the doorways. He was taking no chances on anything being wrong. Looking around the bedroom, Starsky mentally checked off the list he had made. The hospital bed would be delivered tomorrow. They would be bringing the wheelchair home with them. And Mary had said she would take care of all the miscellaneous items they would be needing. Some of the gross things, Starsky thought as he laughed to himself.

Starsky left Hutch’s new room, and after checking out the house once more, ended up outside. The late afternoon sun felt good on his face. Thinking of Hutch still back at the hospital, Starsky felt a slight tinge of guilt. But Hutch had insisted that there was no need for Starsky to sleep at the hospital these last couple of nights. He knew Hutch just wanted to give him a bit of a break. He had to admit that he was grateful for the time alone, plus he wanted to make sure everything was perfect for Hutch’s homecoming. He had assured both Mary and Hutch that he would be there first thing in the morning to assist with Hutch’s care. Mary was fast becoming a good friend to both of them. She had volunteered to come out to the house and lend them a hand getting Hutch settled in. Starsky could tell that she had a genuine affection for Hutch, and she really wanted to make sure that he was getting the best care.

The lure of the sun and sand became too much for Starsky, and he sank down onto the beach to relax for a bit. He still had plenty of time to pack up the things he wanted from his place. He would sleep there tonight, and after spending the morning with Hutch, would come back to the house and get his belongings settled into their new home.

Thinking back to the events of the last few days, Starsky’s thoughts kept returning to the first time they had gotten Hutch out of bed and into a wheelchair. Mary, with Starsky’s help, had gotten Hutch up and into a sitting position. After giving Hutch a few minutes to adjust to the new position, they had then maneuvered him so that he was sitting on the edge of the bed. Starsky had kept a firm hold on his partner. Starsky, looking into Hutch’s eyes, could read the distress there. Feeling a sudden rush of sympathy, Starsky tried to massage a bit of the tension from Hutch’s taut shoulders. “It’s gonna be okay, Hutch. Promise ya, buddy, I won’t let you fall.”

Hutch’s blue eyes looking up at him had glowed with such complete and utter trust it had nearly broken Starsky’s heart. He had tightened his hold on Hutch as if to reassure him his trust had not been misplaced. After a few minutes, Mary, with Starsky’s help, had slowly eased Hutch to his feet.

Starsky kept his arm around Hutch’s waist and his eyes on his face. Then he watched in horror as the blood seemed to drain completely from Hutch’s face, and his body went limp. It took the strength of both Mary and Starsky to get Hutch back onto the bed. Mary, seeing Starsky looking almost as pale as the blond, quickly explained that Hutch had only passed out. “Dave, Hutch hasn’t been in an upright position in some time. When we got him on his feet, his blood pressure dropped, that’s why he fainted.”

“So, he’s okay?” Starsky pulled the chair he sat in closer to the bed. Hutch fainting like that had really rattled the dark-haired partner.

“He’s just fine, Dave.” As if to prove that fact, the blond’s eyes fluttered and then slowly opened. He looked around the room, confusion evident in his pale face.

“Welcome back, partner.”

Hutch looked up to see Starsky’s relieved face grinning down at him. “What happened? You didn’t drop me, did you?”

“Thought about it, but didn’t have to. You did it all on your own.” Starsky smiled as he ruffled the blond’s hair.

Mary laughed as the two young detectives joked back and forth. “You rest a few minutes and then we’ll give it another try. And you,” pointing her finger at Starsky, “don’t drop him this time. I’ll be back in just a few minutes, you two behave yourselves.” Mary was still laughing as she shut the door behind her.

The next attempt was successful. Hutch was finally settled into the wheelchair. Watching Hutch, Starsky could tell that being seated in that wheelchair was tough on him. Like it had suddenly all become so real…no denying it now. After a few minutes, Hutch said, “I’d like to get back into bed now.”

“Not so fast, Ken. You can’t spend your whole life in bed. You’re going to have to get used to being in the wheelchair,” Mary replied, using her firmest tone.

Hutch looked like he would have liked to argue the point. Starsky smiled, thinking about how Hutch had balked later when Mary had started explaining the details of what Hutch referred to as his potty training. He had out and out flatly refused to participate. Mary had quickly let Hutch know who the boss was. Just another reason Starsky was becoming so fond of Mary–she knew just when to take a firm stand with Hutch.

Starsky knew he’d have to be firm with Hutch, too. He still didn’t have a clue as how he was going to get whatever Hutch had buried so deep out into the open so they could deal with it. He’d have to take it slow and easy. It wasn’t always easy for Hutch to open up.

The sun was sinking lower and Starsky’s stomach was telling him it was time for dinner. Checking his watch, Starsky confirmed that he had been lost in thought for quite a while. Time to get back to work.

*****

Hutch had pretty much spent the day quietly alone in his room. Starsky had stuck his head in the door several times attempting to start some conversation, but had struck out each time. Beginning to worry, Starsky entered Hutch’s room to find him staring blankly out the window. The book Hutch had been reading earlier had slid to the floor unnoticed.

“You okay?….Hutch?”

“What?” The blond jumped in surprise, not realizing that his friend had entered the room. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“I said are you okay?” Starsky reached down and picked up the book, placing it on the table next to Hutch. “You’ve been kind of quiet all day. What’s wrong?”

“Guess I’m just kind of tired. Don’t worry so much.” Hutch reached for the book and, ignoring his friend, went back to his reading.

Starsky tried to tell himself that Hutch was just tired. Coming home from the hospital yesterday and then the company they had had last night had probably tired him out. Starsky wished now that he had told the Dobeys and Huggy to hold off coming by for a day or two, but everyone had been so excited about Hutch’s homecoming he hadn’t wanted to disappoint them. Hutch had seemed okay this morning. After breakfast, they had worked on the motion exercises that Mary had instructed them to do four times a day to maintain the muscle tone in Hutch’s legs. And without even being reminded, Hutch had worked on strengthening his arms. Thinking of all that had gone on in the last 24 hours Starsky decided that that must be it, Hutch was just tired.

“Want me to help you into bed?”

“No, I’ll manage when I’m ready.” Hutch’s tone clearly indicated that he wanted to be left alone.

“Well, just let me know if there’s anything you need. I’ll be in the kitchen.” Starsky did his best to keep his tone light and cheerful. With one last look at his partner, he turned and left the room.

As Starsky left the room, Hutch wiped at the tears that had started to slowly slide down his face. He wanted so much to believe that he would walk again. But somehow Hutch had never taken as much comfort in the fact that his condition was not physical as Starsky had. I want to walk…this makes no sense… He had searched his mind, trying to think of something, anything, that could be the cause. If he couldn’t come up with anything, how could he ever expect to walk again?

Starsky sat staring at the phone. Three weeks had gone by and no change in Hutch. No change except that Hutch seemed to be giving up. Not that he didn’t do everything he was supposed to do, but he was just going through the motions. He was withdrawing more and more. He spoke when spoken to and that was about it. He no longer had much interest in being out on the beach.

Taking a deep breath, Starsky reached for the phone. He needed to have a long conversation with Hutch’s parents. Hutch refused to let his parents come and visit. He had assured his parents he would be fine and there was nothing they could do for him. But Starsky was not so sure there was nothing they could do. Starsky nervously tapped his fingers on the table as he listened to the phone ring. Damn it! No answer.

Determined to get some answers one way or another, Starsky quietly peeked in on Hutch. Satisfied that Hutch was sound asleep, Starsky pulled the bedroom door halfway shut and returned to the phone. If he assumed that whatever had happened to Hutch in the past involved an accident, he would also have to assume it had happened when Hutch was young and still at home. It was a place to start. A quick call was made to Captain Dobey. Dobey promised to put in a call to the Duluth Police Department and would get back to Starsky as soon as possible.

Starsky was just starting breakfast the next morning when the phone rang. He grabbed it on the first ring hoping it was Dobey, but it was only Huggy.

“Hey, Starsk. Just thought I would check in and see how my two favorite detectives are doing.”

Although a bit disappointed that it was not Dobey on the other end of the line, Starsky was happy to hear Huggy’s voice. “Hey, what’s up? You’re up kind of early.”

“Well, some days one just has to get moving early. Thought since I would be out and about that I’d check and see if the two of you needed anything?”

“Thanks, Hug, but I was thinking that maybe Hutch and I would get out and about ourselves today. I think we both could use a change of scenery.” Starsky finished setting the table for breakfast as he continued his conversation with Huggy. “Stop by later if you have time. We could use the company.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Huggy promised as he hung up the phone.

With only a little resistance from Hutch on the planned outing, it didn’t take Starsky long to get Hutch settled in the Torino and the wheelchair stowed in the trunk. “Any place you’d like to go?” Starsky asked as they pulled away.

“No. I thought we were just going to get some groceries?” Hutch replied with very little enthusiasm.

Starsky looked over at his partner who was just staring out the window straight ahead. “I thought maybe there might be someplace you’d like to go. You must be getting kind of tired of sitting around at the house.”

“Starsk, what difference does it make where I sit? Am I getting tired of sitting?…Yes! But I might as well get used to it.”

“With that kind of attitude, yeah, I guess you’d better get used to sitting.” Starsky’s voice shook with anger, but he struggled to keep it under control. Now was not the time to get into anything heavy.

Not another word was spoken during the drive to the grocery store. Once at the grocery store, Starsky got the wheelchair out of the trunk and brought it around to the passenger side of the car. He reached to open the door, but Hutch beat him to it. “I can do this myself.”

“Fine.” Starsky stepped back from the car and watched as Hutch struggled to get himself into the wheelchair. The temptation to help was almost more than Starsky could stand, but Hutch had made his feelings clear.

Face pale and glistening with sweat, an exhausted Hutch was finally seated in the wheelchair.

“You’re one stubborn son of a…” Starsky muttered under his breath, as they made their way into the store.

The shopping completed, Starsky decided on a long, scenic drive home. It looked like the ride home would be as silent as the ride there had been. He had hoped that maybe the change of scenery would be good for Hutch, maybe put him in a better mood.

“Starsk?” Hutch’s voice was low and filled with sadness.

“Yeah.” Starsky turned, briefly looking in Hutch’s direction. The brief glance showed him a very defeated and sad man sitting next to him.

“I’m sorry…I don’t mean to be…such a bastard. Really…I don’t.”

“I know. Feel like talking?” Starsky knew that unless Hutch started to open up to him, they’d never uncover whatever it was that was keeping him from walking.

“I don’t know…”

Starsky turned off the road and pulled over. “What are you doing?” Hutch looked over at Starsky, wondering what he was up to now.

“Thought maybe we could talk now. Nice view here and it’s quiet. And this talk is way overdue.” Starsky turned off the engine and turned in his seat to face Hutch. “Why don’t we start with what’s turned you into such a bastard the last few weeks?”

Sighing deeply, Hutch leaned his head back against the seat. He was silent for a few moments, then replied, “Fear, buddy, total fear. You don’t want to hear this, but I don’t believe that I’ll walk again.” Hutch closed his eyes, not wanting to see the look on Starsky’s face. “The thought of never walking again…scares the hell out me. But what scares me even more is that I’m supposed to know what’s preventing me from walking. I’ve racked my brain, Starsk, but I can’t come up with the answer.” Hutch’s voice shook, but he continued on. “I think I could handle not walking again because of something physical, but this…I don’t know what to think.”

For the first time, Starsky began to worry that maybe he had made a mistake in thinking he was the one who could help Hutch. “Hutch, maybe the doctor was right about hypnosis and psychotherapy being the answer.” The words rushed out of Starsky’s mouth. Afraid of what Hutch’s reaction might be.

“No! I’m not ready for that, at least not yet. Starsk, I’m kind of tired, could we continue this later?” Hutch asked in a voice that was really showing the fatigue he was feeling.

“Sure, it’s been a long day. We can talk later after you’ve rested.” Starsky started the car and headed for home. He couldn’t shake the idea that somehow he had made a mistake and that he should have listened to the doctor.

Once home, Starsky helped Hutch get settled in bed for a short nap before dinner. He had just finished putting the groceries away when he heard someone at the door. Starsky quickly made his way to the door, not wanting Hutch to be disturbed by the knocking. Outside stood a uniformed officer.

“Detective Starsky?”

“That’s me. What can I do for you?”

“Captain Dobey asked me to make sure that you got this.” The officer held out a large brown envelope. “He said he thought this might be exactly what you were looking for.”

“Thanks…good-bye.” Starsky stared at the envelope in his hand. Could the answer really be in here? Ripping open the envelope, Starsky found a copy of a newspaper article along with a copy of a police report. The article was from a Duluth paper and was dated September 28, 1960. The headline read: TWO TEENAGERS KILLED IN CRASH. ONE PARALYZED. Starsky quickly skimmed the article. “Kenneth Hutchinson, age 17, was the lucky one of the group. Hutchinson suffered minor injuries, a broken arm, and several broken ribs, in addition to minor cuts and bruises.”

Skimming the rest of the article, Starsky noted the names and ages of the other boys, and the fact that they were all high school friends. Starsky also noted with relief, that the driver of the car was the young man who had been paralyzed. Moving to the police report, Starsky found that the young driver of the car had apparently run a stop sign and been hit by a truck.

Starsky sank into a chair, still trying to absorb what he had just read. Guilt, it was guilt pure and simple. Hutch felt guilty because he survived, while two of his friends had died and one had been paralyzed. Now, what do I do? He’s blocked this out for so long. How do I bring it up now?

*****

Starsky spent the rest of the afternoon agonizing over what to do with the information he had. What if he brought it up to Hutch and it made things worse? What if this was something Hutch wasn’t ready to deal with? Starsky decided the only thing to do would be to wait until he could talk to Hutch’s doctor and see what he recommended. Now, more than ever, Starsky began to question his wisdom in not going along with the doctor and trying to persuade Hutch to participate in the suggested psychotherapy.

As he cleaned up around the small house, he shoved the copy of the newspaper article and police report under a pile of old magazines that had been read and reread in the hospital. He hoped that with them out of sight, maybe he could somehow push the decision out of his mind until Doctor Martin was available.

As they worked on Hutch’s leg exercises, Starsky found it hard to even look Hutch in the eye. He didn’t know quite what to say to Hutch. He felt somehow like he was being dishonest by not telling Hutch what he knew.

“Hey, Starsk…something wrong ?” Hutch found it strange that the normally talkative Starsky was now the one being quiet.

“What?” Starsky replied innocently, realizing that Hutch was looking at him like he was weird or something. “Why’re you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?” Hutch asked. “I’m wondering if you’re coming down with something. You’re so quiet…I assume you must be sick.”

“Very funny. For your information I was thinking about something real important.” Starsky knew he had to do some fast thinking.

“Important?” Hutch had a hard time not laughing. “What’s so important that it’s kept you so quiet?

“For your information, I’m trying to decide what we’re gonna have for dinner.” Starsky finished with the motion exercises, and helped adjust Hutch back to a sitting position. “I’m taking the night off from cooking.”

“Well, that’ll be a relief to my stomach,” Hutch grinned.

“Very funny! What do you feel like, pizza or Chinese?”

“Since this is such an important issue maybe you should decide.”

“You’ve got a point. When it comes to food I do make the better choices.” Starsky motioned toward the wheelchair. “Want back in the chair?”

Hutch made a face at the mention of the chair, but allowed Starsky to help him back into it. “I’ll ignore your comment about who makes the better food choices, but only because I’m actually looking forward to not eating your cooking.”

“And I’ll ignore your last comment. I was just thinking…I could really make that wheelchair into a work of art. Maybe something with a stripe.”

Starsky gave Hutch an evil grin.

“Starsky, please no more thinking today. Just feed me.”

“I’m on my way. Hey, you want to ride along with me?” Starsky paused on his way out the door.

“No, I think I’ll just read while you’re gone.” Hutch maneuvered the wheelchair over to his desk and reached for his book.

“Anything you need before I take off?” Starsky stood behind Hutch, gently massaging his shoulders. “You sure you’re gonna be okay alone?”

“No, I don’t need anything and yes I’ll be okay.” Hutch reached up and squeezed one of Starsky’s hands. “Thanks, buddy.”

“No thanks needed. I’ll be back in just a bit. One last squeeze to Hutch’s shoulders, and Starsky was out the door.

Hutch opened his book, but then decided that he would rather read today’s newspaper. Turning the wheelchair around, he tossed the book back onto the desk and headed out the door and down the hall. Once in the living room, he was briefly sidetracked by the view out the front window. He never tired of looking at the view of the water and sky. He hoped that Starsky enjoyed it, too. Tearing his eyes away from the view, he moved to the table by the couch to get the newspaper. As he moved the newspaper, the pile of magazines also on the table began to slide. Grabbing the magazines to keep them from falling, Hutch’s eye caught a glimpse of something that did not appear to belong in with the magazines. He found a large envelope, something that appeared to be a copy of a newspaper article, and a police report. Was Starsky working on a case? Taking a closer look, he found the article was from a Duluth newspaper…dated 1960. Seeing his name in the article, Hutch’s hand began to shake. He wanted to deny what he was reading, it couldn’t be true. His chest felt as if it were being crushed by something heavy, it was hard for him to breathe. He tried to deny what he was reading, but there it was staring him in the face. Two of his friends had died…and one was paralyzed. Why not him? Then the terrifying realization came over him…this time he had not escaped. Images of a car mangled beyond recognition, the horrifying sounds of metal and glass colliding, and then terrifying screams…Hutch squeezed his eyes tightly shut, trying to block it all out. Every emotion possible, from rage to guilt, seemed to race through Hutch’s anguished mind. Throwing the papers he held in his hands onto the floor and now sobbing uncontrollably, Hutch in a desperate attempt to get away, turned the wheelchair quickly. Too quickly, the chair caught on the table leg and Hutch struggled to break free. Powered by his grief and anger, he finally succeeded in freeing the chair, but only to lose his balance and be sent sprawling helplessly onto the floor. As he hit the floor, his head connected with the edge of a table that sat next to the couch. The wheelchair landed on its side next to Hutch. Sobs wracked his body, he didn’t even care that he was bleeding, helpless and all alone.

*****

Starsky hummed along with the car radio as he made the trip home. Not able to make up his mind between pizza and Chinese, he had ended up with both. He could just hear the remarks Hutch would have for him when he walked in carrying both. He wasn’t even going to think about the information Dobey had sent him. Tonight they would just enjoy their food, relax and watch some TV. Tomorrow, after talking to Dr. Martin, he’d know how to handle things.Juggling the pizza and the bag with the containers of Chinese food, he fumbled for the doorknob. As he pushed open the door and set the food down on the table, he knew immediately something was very wrong. The anguished sounds of Hutch’s crying tore at Starsky’s insides. “Hutch?” God, I should never have left him alone.

Quickly taking the few steps from the kitchen to the living room, Starsky stopped short at the sight before him. The toppled wheelchair, his best friend sprawled awkwardly on the floor sobbing, blood beginning to mat the fine blond hair that clung to his forehead. Starsky hesitated only briefly before taking the final few steps and kneeling beside his friend. “Hutch, what happened?” Starsky gently rolled Hutch so that he now lay on his back.

Looking down at the red blotchy tear-stained face, Starsky asked again. “What happened, Hutch? Please, stop crying and talk to me.” Wiping the blood away with a handkerchief he had taken from his pocket, he could see that the wound was not very serious. “Hutch, are you hurt anywhere else?”

Starsky gently probed Hutch’s ribs. Everything seemed okay there. Hutch’s crying had eased a bit, but he still hadn’t replied to any of Starsky’s questions. Pulling Hutch up so that his head rested in his lap, Starsky tried once again to find out the reason for the tears. “Hutch, talk to me. Are you hurt? What happened? I just want to help you, buddy.”

“Why…why, Starsk?” Hutch managed between ragged breaths.

“Why what, Hutch?” Starsky gently wiped again at the still slightly bleeding cut on Hutch’s head.

His voice almost completely emotionless, Hutch replied, “Why did I live? Why not one of the others? I just don’t understand…” Hutch’s voice trailed off, then the tears started once again.

Starsky pulled Hutch tighter to him. “Take it easy, Hutch.” Starsky’s eyes moved around the room, trying to determine what had caused his partner to end up on the floor bleeding and crying. His roving eyes took in the papers that Hutch had thrown on the floor. Starsky knew immediately what they were. And it explained Hutch wondering why he had lived.

“Damn it,” Starsky swore softly under his breath. “Hutch, I’m sorry. I was going to tell you tomorrow.”

Starsky hated seeing Hutch helpless on the floor in this condition. “Hey, buddy, I think we should get you off the floor. Think you can help me?” Starsky grabbed a pillow from the couch to place under Hutch’s head. “Okay, I’ll get the chair and we’ll have you off the floor in no time.” It was easier said than done, but before long an exhausted Starsky had managed to get one very devastated Hutch off the floor and into the wheelchair. Starsky knelt down on the floor in front of the blond. The face that looked up at Starsky showed every bit of the pain that Hutch was feeling. Pain seemed to be carved into every line of the tear-ravaged face. “I’m sorry, Hutch, I should’ve told you.” Starsky was at a loss as to what he should do now.

“Hutch, I promise you everything is going to work out okay.” Starsky took hold of Hutch’s face and forced him to look him in the eye. “I’ve never lied to you, have I?”

“No,” Hutch whispered. “You’ve never lied to me. But I’m so confused.” Hutch’s voice sounded flat, as if the life had been drained out of him.

“What do you say, we get you cleaned up and take care of that cut on your head? Then I’ll warm up our dinner. The good news is that you can have both pizza and Chinese.” Starsky watched for some reaction from Hutch, but nothing. “After that if you feel like talking…well, it’s up to you. I just want you to know that I’m here for you. Whatever you need from me.”

Starsky watched Hutch’s face thoughtfully as he cleaned and bandaged the cut on his forehead. He was usually pretty good at knowing what Hutch was thinking, but not this time. He could only imagine what thoughts were racing around in that blond head now. But he’d bet most of them centered on feeling guilty. Guilty that he had survived the accident that had taken such a toll on his friends. “Well, I guess that should do it.” Starsky patted Hutch on the shoulder. Ready for something to eat?”

“Not hungry…just tired.” Hutch looked up at Starsky with a pleading look. “Is it okay if I just go to bed?”

Starsky had to swallow the lump in his throat before he could speak. He could see that Hutch was both emotionally and physically worn out. “You know you don’t need my permission to go to bed. You sure you don’t want something to eat first?”

“No, could you just help me get ready for bed?”

That was not a good sign, Starsky thought to himself. In the last few days Hutch’s spirits had been improving, and he had been showing signs of trying to achieve some independence. “Sure, Hutch, if that’s what you want.” Starsky turned the wheelchair and headed back to Hutch’s room.

Forty-five minutes, later a depressed Starsky sat eating cold pizza and wondering what his next step should be. The silence in the house was almost overpowering. Not the evening he had planned.

*****

Starsky sat bolt upright on the couch. Something had jolted him from the slumber he had fallen into. Then he heard what sounded like moaning. It was coming from Hutch’s room. Starsky quickly made his way down the short hallway to Hutch’s room, the moaning was getting louder and more frantic. Pushing open Hutch’s door, the light coming in from the hallway was just enough for Starsky to make out the thrashing form of his partner. Taking Hutch gently by the shoulders, Starsky whispered, “Hutch, wake up. Wake up, Hutch, it’s only a dream.” Brushing the hair off the sweat-drenched forehead, Starsky watched as Hutch slowly opened his eyes. “It was just a dream, babe. You’re okay.”

“A dream? It was so real.” Hutch seemed to be struggling to catch his breath. Starsky moved closer to the head of the bed and, putting his arm around Hutch, pulled him closer. Feeling tears begin to roll down his face, he pressed his head into Starsky’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” Hutch mumbled from the safety of Starsky’s shoulder.

“Nothing to be sorry for.” Starsky tightened his hold on the trembling body. “You need to start talking about it…that’s the only way you’ll ever be able to start dealing with it. Tell me about the dream.”

Hutch turned his head so he could see Starsky’s face. He took comfort in the fact that, despite his life having been so drastically changed, Starsky was still the same. Starsky’s face still showed the same strength and love, something Hutch so desperately needed now. Without thinking, Hutch reached out toward Starsky’s face, needing to touch it, attempting to absorb some of that strength for himself. Hutch’s finger tenderly traced the line of Starsky’s cheekbone and jaw. Starsky’s hand closed over Hutch’s and he repeated his plea. “Tell me about the dream.”

It wasn’t until Starsky’s warm, strong hand had closed on his own and the question repeated, that Hutch realized Starsky was waiting for an answer. Hutch withdrew his hand and turned his face away from Starsky’s questioning eyes. “I can’t…I’m scared, Starsk. I buried every detail of that night because I couldn’t deal with it. I still can’t deal with it. Please don’t make me do this.”

“Hutch, you’ve got to get this out in the open. You can’t keep it buried. Don’t you see what you’ve done?” Part of Starsky wanted to take Hutch by the shoulders and shake him, make him realize what he was doing to himself. “You feel guilty because you were the only one who didn’t die or end up disabled. So now you’re punishing yourself.”

“Shut up! Please, just shut up! I don’t want to talk about this.” I can’t deal with it. Why can’t you understand that?” The tears had started again. “Just leave me alone.”

Starsky slid off the bed, now really fighting the urge to shake his partner. “Talk to me!” Starsky practically yelled at Hutch, his voice tense and clipped. “Damn it, Hutch, let’s deal with this so you can get back to living again.”

“No.” Hutch’s voice was cold and exact, making it clear that he was not going to talk to Starsky.

“Fine. Have it your way.” Starsky turned and left the room, pulling the door part way closed behind him. Once outside the door, he stood listening to the quiet sobbing from inside the room. Sighing in exasperation, he slid to the floor. Joining his partner in silent grief, Starsky sat back against the wall as the tears slid down his face. Hutch wanted to be left alone, but this was as far as Starsky was going. He was staying close. Just in case Hutch had another bad dream.

Starsky woke to find the sun shining brightly into Hutch’s bedroom. His whole body was stiff and aching. It had been a long, exhausting night, and Starsky had spent it in a chair next to Hutch’s bed. Hutch had awaken from another bad dream, shortly after Starsky had taken up residence in the hall outside Hutch’s room. The whole night had gone like that…one bad dream after another.

Starsky got up and pulled the blind down to keep the sun from waking Hutch, who seemed to be sleeping peacefully right now. Looking down at the blond and thinking of what they still had to go through, Starsky remembered Mary’s words: ” I’ve got to warn you, there’ll probably be days when the two of you will actually hate each other.”

“Well, buddy, I think Mary knew what she was talking about. Just don’t hate me too much, huh? I’m gonna have to come down hard on you. It’s for your own good.” Starsky whispered the words to his sleeping partner.

*****

In the following days, it really did seem at times that they hated each other. Hutch continued to have his nightmares, and Starsky continued pushing Hutch to tell him about them–neither one of them willing to give an inch. So it had been a rather cold and tense last few days. Hutch had spent his time either in his room with the door closed or out on the beach just staring out at the water. That meant that a lot of Starsky’s time had been spent staring at Hutch’s closed door or watching Hutch as he stared at the water. Not exactly an exciting way to spend one’s time.

At the moment, Hutch was on the beach. Starsky watched as a light breeze ruffled the fine blond strands of Hutch’s hair as he sat in his usual spot, just staring out at the water. Starsky felt a great sadness as he watched the forlorn figure. The blond in the chair just looked so desolate. And Starsky had to admit that he himself felt pretty lonely.

“Nice day, huh?” Starsky asked, as he sat down on the sand next to where Hutch sat. “You must be getting hungry, since you didn’t have any breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry,” Hutch replied, not taking his eyes from the water.

“You should eat something. How about I fix you some soup and a sandwich?”

“Starsky, I told you I’m not hungry.”

“Hutch…”

“Starsky, I said I’m not hungry! Just get off my back would you?”

“Sure…I’m sorry…I just worry about you.” Starsky got to his feet, pausing a moment, hoping that Hutch would stop him. But Hutch remained sitting in a stony silence.

After Starsky had left, Hutch sat feeling consumed with guilt and grief. He didn’t like hurting his best friend, but somehow he kept doing it. It was almost like he had no control over the words that came out of his mouth. Starsky deserved a lot better from him. He sat there a while longer before making the slow trip back to the house.

“Starsk?” Hutch called out as he pushed the door open. Struggling a bit, he finally managed to get the wheelchair inside the door. “Starsk?” Hutch was beginning to feel a bit uneasy. Had Starsky been angry enough to go off and leave without saying a word? Hutch moved toward the living room, a feeling of panic now taking over. “Starsky…where are you? Starsky, I’m sorry.” Hutch’s trembling voice was tinged with fear.

Hearing Hutch calling him, Starsky dropped the rag he had been polishing the Torino with, and ran toward the house. Something was wrong. “Hutch…” Fear swept through Starsky as he made his way toward the sound of his partner’s distraught voice. “Hutch, what’s wrong?”

“Starsk…I thought you had left.” Relief washed over him at the sight of Starsky. Hutch gulped hard, fighting the tears that had filled his eyes. “I’m sorry, Starsk…I don’t mean to be such a bastard. I really wouldn’t blame you if you did leave.”

“Hey, take it easy.” Starsky rubbed the shoulders of his distraught partner. “I was just polishing the Torino. I’m not going anywhere. I know you don’t mean half of the stuff you say. You’ve just got a lot to deal with.”

“I don’t deserve you, Starsk. I’ll understand if you want to change your mind about staying with me. I’m sure I could manage okay, I could get a nurse to come in sometimes.” The words rushed out of Hutch’s mouth, as if he were afraid that he might change his mind if he took the time to really think about what he was saying.

“Not a chance, buddy. You’re stuck with me. We’re in this together. Now that that’s all settled, I’m going to fix you something to eat.”

The rest of the afternoon passed smoothly. Starsky brought out the Monopoly game, and had managed to keep some conversation going while they played. The afternoon had ended on a much brighter note than it had begun.

As Starsky helped Hutch get ready for bed that night, Hutch turned their conversation in a serious direction. “Starsk, have you given any thought to the possibility that I might not walk again?”

“Nope.” Starsky spoke the word with certainty. As if there were no doubt in his mind that Hutch would walk again.

“Well, maybe you should,” Hutch said with quiet emphasis.

“Nope.”

“Starsky, you have to at least think about it,” he sighed with exasperation. “I don’t want you spending the rest of your life taking care of me. This is no kind of life for you.”

“I won’t. You’re gonna walk again.” The words were spoken with a quiet confidence. “You just need to talk about what’s happened. If not to me, then to someone else.”

“I can’t!” Hutch replied, in a low, tormented voice. I just can’t.”

“Well, then I guess I’ll spend the rest of my life taking care of you. Just remember it’s your choice.”

Their eyes met as Starsky helped lift Hutch into bed. There was no escaping the look of iron determination that Starsky’s eyes held. “Think about it, Hutch, this is no life for either of us.” The look in Starsky’s eyes had softened. “Sleep well, buddy.”

As Starsky reached the door, Hutch searched desperately for the words to tell Starsky how much he meant to him. But somehow he couldn’t find the words. All he could manage was, “Good night, Starsk.”

Starsky, unable to sleep after the talk with Hutch, felt restless. Maybe a snack would help. As he entered the kitchen and turned the light on, he found himself face-to-face with a complete stranger. “What the hell?” Starsky said aloud, as he wondered how the intruder had managed to enter the house without him hearing him. Could be I’m out of practice or losing my touch. “What do you want?” Starsky demanded.

“Your money and anything else I might decide I like.” The intruder was young, maybe twenty or so, and appeared to be either drunk or on drugs. He wasn’t as steady on his feet as he should be, and his words slurred a bit.

Starsky wondered if he could overpower the kid without either of them getting hurt. As if the kid had read his mind, he looked at Starsky with an almost satanic smile on his face.

“Don’t even think about it. You behave yourself and no one has to get hurt.” The kid’s voice was loud and desperate sounding.

Starsky hoped that he could persuade the intruder to just take what cash was in his wallet and leave. Starsky’s wallet lay on the kitchen counter where he had placed it when he had gone outside to polish the Torino. He prayed that what was in the wallet would be enough for the dark-haired, angry young man who had confronted him when he had entered the kitchen. His biggest fear right now was that Hutch would wake up and call out to him. He had to get the punk out of here, the sooner the better.

“Just take the wallet and go.” Starsky motioned toward his wallet that lay on the counter. “Neither one of us wants anyone to get hurt. Just take it and go.” Starsky felt a bit of relief as the young man reached for the wallet. But the feeling was short lived.

After grabbing the wallet, the young man shoved Starsky, clearly intending to leave the kitchen and check out the rest of the house. “Get out of my way, and keep your mouth shut and no one will get hurt.”

Hutch woke up, looking around the dark room. Something was wrong. Voices had interrupted his slumber–loud voices, and he knew he wasn’t dreaming. Listening intently, he could discern Starsky’s voice, but didn’t recognize the other one. He wished he could make out the words, but he was only able to catch a word here and there. The clock on the nightstand showed it was 3:18 a.m. Not the usual time for visitors. Something had to be wrong, why else would someone be here at this hour of the morning? Was Starsky in some kind of trouble?

Unable to stand it any longer, Hutch reached up for the trapeze-like bar that was attached to his bed and just above his head. Taking hold of it, he pulled himself to a sitting position. He had to get into his wheelchair. He knew he could do it, but could he do it in time? Could he do it without whoever was out there hearing him? Damn, he hated being so helpless. It seemed to take forever, but after much sweating Hutch was finally seated in the wheelchair. His arms ached, but he had done it. Whatever was going on out there, Hutch knew he wouldn’t be much help in this wheelchair. He had to get to their guns. He knew Starsky had put them away somewhere. They had to be in Starsky’s room. Please, God, just let me get to them in time.

*****

No matter what the cost, Starsky knew he had to keep this guy from leaving the kitchen. If the kid got past him, Hutch would be defenseless. Knowing he couldn’t hesitate any longer, he reached out and grabbed hold of the intruder’s arms, and jerked him roughly away from the doorway. Caught off guard, the kid stumbled a bit and Starsky lost his grip on him. Taking advantage of the situation, the now desperate young man quickly landed a heavy blow to Starsky’s midsection that sent him sprawling into the counter behind him. Struggling to get his breath, he lunged for the kid. They both tumbled to the floor, but the kid was quicker and was back on his feet before Starsky had time to react. Thinking quickly, Starsky brought his leg out and tripped the young man. Now Starsky had the upper hand.

Being very careful not to make any noise, Hutch cautiously made his way the short distance to Starsky’s room. Fumbling for a bit, he finally managed to get the bedroom light on. His blue eyes scanned the neatly kept room, searching for the most likely place Starsky would have stashed their guns. Wheeling himself to the nightstand, he quietly pulled open the drawer…nothing. “Damn it,” Hutch muttered under his breath. He felt so helpless. He knew without a gun there wasn’t much he could do. He had quickly searched all of Starsky’s dresser drawers. Nothing. The only other place the guns could be in this room had to be the closet. Hutch cursed under his breath again. He had hoped to find the guns hanging within reach, but no such luck. He had thought for sure Starsky would have put them in his room. Where else would he have put them? Looking up, the feeling of total fear and utter helplessness just about consumed him. There, on the top shelf of the closet, he could see his Magnum and Starsky’s Beretta. What the hell had Starsky been thinking?

The sounds of the struggle that Hutch now heard coming from the kitchen, made him realize he had no time to waste. There was no doubt that Starsky was in trouble. Hutch stared up at the guns; the Nordic blue eyes gleamed with determination. He could do it, he had to. Starsky was always there for him when he needed him, now he had to be there for Starsky. Girding himself with resolve, Hutch grasped the arms of the wheelchair. His upper body strength had improved dramatically during the last few weeks. He had no doubt that he could lift himself out of the chair. The question was, could he keep himself steady enough with one hand while he reached for his gun with the other? So much depended on him staying upright. If he were to fall, the noise would alert whoever was out there with Starsky. It would all be over.

Taking a deep breath, Hutch steeled himself as he grasped hold of the arms of the chair. He could do this, he had to…he just had to. Taking another deep breath, he willed himself to relax. Leaning forward as best he could, he reached down with his hands and lifted first one foot and then the other off the chair. Lifting himself up, he could feel his body tremble. Even his insides seemed to be shaking. He continued to steadily lift himself until he was almost standing. Grabbing hold of the doorframe with his left hand, he prayed that the chair would not move out from under him as he finally brought his fatigued and sweat-drenched body to a standing position. All of a sudden, Hutch felt his body begin to sway as his balance became unsteady.

Gripping the doorframe tighter, he willed himself to stay on his feet. His heart was hammering and his breathing ragged as he reached up for his Magnum. Steady…steady, he kept repeating the words over and over in his mind. Stretching his arm as high as he could, sweat dripping from his face, he finally felt his fingers make contact with the Magnum. His fingers tightened on the gun as he slowly pulled it toward him and off the shelf. As the gun slid off the shelf, the weight of it was nearly more than he could handle. But by some miracle, he stayed on his feet, the gun now firmly in his hand. Apprehension swept through Hutch as he realized he still had a long way to go before he could get to Starsky. Could he make it in time?

The struggle in the kitchen continued. The kid seemed to have super human strength despite the drugs or alcohol in his system, or maybe because of it. Whatever the reason, Starsky realized this might just be a battle he would lose. That idea was confirmed when he heard the sound of gunfire, and felt the burning pain of the bullet as it entered his shoulder. How could he have so totally misjudged the situation? Starsky felt his knees give way as he slid to the floor. He felt the blood soaking his shirt, as his eyes looked into the face of the of intruder. Starsky couldn’t believe the cold fury that had spread across the young man’s face. The cold brown eyes flashed with outrage. Starsky felt outrage himself. The kid stood with the gun still pointed at Starsky. Even knowing he probably only had seconds to live, Starsky’s thoughts were of Hutch. Hutch would now be at the mercy of this strung out kid…his next victim. This wasn’t the way things were supposed to end.

The sound of the bullet seemed to echo through the bedroom where Hutch still stood. No…please, no. Reacting without thinking, Hutch moved toward the bedroom door. Panic like he had never before known welled up in his throat.

Not actually realizing what he was doing…Hutch half stumbled, half walked out of the bedroom. Using the wall for support, he continued his clumsy journey toward his partner. Please don’t let me be too late.

*****

Powered by fear and adrenaline, Hutch continued to move toward his goal of reaching the kitchen. His stumbling caused more noise than he realized, and the intruder was quickly alerted to his arrival.

Hearing the same sounds the intruder heard, Starsky watched in horror as the young man turned, his gun now leveled toward the door. Before Starsky could call out a warning, he heard the sound of a gunshot along with wood splintering. The now desperate intruder panicked and fired in the direction of the door, causing bits of wood to fly in all directions. Starsky attempted to move to a better position, hoping to focus the armed intruder’s attention away from the door and back on himself. He didn’t like the idea of Hutch being a target for this guy. His plan worked and not only did he manage to get himself into a better position, but the gunman had turned back to him. It was evident that the gunman was quite rattled knowing that there was another person in the house. He also seemed to be coming down from whatever it was that he was on. Not a good situation.

Starsky kept his eyes on the doorway to the kitchen. He wondered what was going through Hutch’s mind out there. The gunman had been silent since shooting Starsky. His eyes were constantly shifting from Starsky to the doorway. Starsky didn’t think he wanted to know what was going on in his mind. Starsky kept his eyes glued to the door. Not sure what to expect from his partner, he wanted to be ready for anything.

Just as the gunman’s eyes once again shifted to the doorway, Starsky watched as the blond head of his partner appeared. The sound of gunshots shattered the silence of the house. The gunman’s body went limp, the gun fell from his hand, and he landed crumpled in a heap on the floor. Seconds later, Hutch, too, went down. Starsky pulled himself to his feet, ignoring the searing pain that shot through his shoulder. “Hutch. What the hell were you thinking?” Stopping to check on the condition of their intruder and finding that he was dead, Starsky moved to Hutch’s side. Kneeling beside his friend, he searched for signs of a bullet wound. Nothing. “Hutch, where are you hurt?” Starsky’s hands shook as he once again checked his partner for any sign of injury. Realizing there were no apparent injuries, Starsky sighed deeply, then without warning found himself sobbing. In reality, this nightmare had lasted less than thirty minutes, but it seemed like an eternity to Starsky. He had been so frightened for Hutch.

“Starsk…I’m okay. I’m not hit…. Really, I’m not hurt. Take it easy, buddy.” Hutch tried his best to soothe his partner. “I fell, Starsk…I’m not hit. I just fell, and I’m not hurt.” Hutch took hold of his partner’s shaking hands. “We’re gonna be okay.”

“Fell?” Starsky glanced out into the hallway. Then he looked at Hutch as if he couldn’t believe what he had heard. “You fell?”

“Starsk…how are you? How bad is your shoulder?” Hutch, ignoring the fact that Starsky was trying to keep him down on the floor, insisted on sitting up. “Starsky, your shoulder…” Hutch’s tone showed the impatience he was feeling with his partner.

“Hutch…Hutch…where’s your wheelchair? Starsky’s puzzled face looked from the Magnum that lay on the floor next to his partner, to the hallway where there was no evidence of the wheelchair. “How? Hutch…you walked? You did it!” Starsky’s voice rose with the excitement that was building up in him.

Hutch stared at his friend for a moment, “I did it. I walked.”

The smile that lit up his face was enough to once again bring tears to Starsky’s eyes. Only this time he didn’t cry alone; Hutch, too, had tears flowing down his cheeks. Starsky pulled Hutch into a tight hug. “I knew it. Didn’t I tell you that you’d walk again?” Even though tears slid down his face, the joy and relief was evident in his voice.

“Starsk?” Hutch pulled away from the hug.

“Yeah?” Starsky grinned at his friend.

“I think we should call this in and get an ambulance.”

“You are hurt…why didn’t you say something?” Starsky’s voice now held a note of concern.

“No, I’m not hurt. But if you’re gonna bleed all over me, I think we should get you to the hospital. And to tell you the truth, buddy, I don’t think either one of us is in any shape to drive. Oh, and then there is the matter of that body over there that should be reported.”

“So typical,” Starsky grumbled. “You always have to attend to all the little details.” But Starsky knew Hutch was right. His shoulder was beginning to throb, and he would feel better if a doctor checked Hutch over, too. Starsky struggled to his feet, pain showing on his face and in his every movement. Within minutes of placing the phone call, sirens could be heard in the distance.

*****

The two young detectives were both released from the hospital the following morning. A somewhat shaken Captain Dobey had been summoned to the hospital. Expecting the worst, he was both surprised and overjoyed to find that Hutch had walked, and relieved that Starsky’s wound was not serious. Delivering them both back to the beach house, he instructed them to take it easy and not to worry about the paperwork on the shooting. He would come by the next day and they could take care of it then.

After making sure the two were settled, Dobey left for the station muttering, “Some of us still have to work.”

Starsky chuckled, thinking how things seemed to be on their way back to normal once again. The doctor would be calling later with a therapy schedule for Hutch. Their favorite nurse would be coming out to help them get started.

Starsky looked up to find that his partner, who had been seated on the couch, had fallen asleep. “Good idea, partner,” Starsky said as he arranged the blond more comfortably on the couch and covered him with a light blanket.

Neither of them had gotten much sleep the night before. After taking a pain pill for the still throbbing shoulder, Starsky headed into his room to grab another hour or so of sleep. The sight of the empty wheelchair, which still sat in front of his closet, brought tears to his eyes. He was so proud of his friend.

Starsky struggled to rouse himself from the deep sleep he had been enjoying. He could hear Hutch…he sounded frightened. Starsky sat bolt upright in bed, the movement reawakening the pain in his shoulder. The pain was forgotten when he heard Hutch cry out again. Starsky was quickly on his way to his friend’s side.

Hutch seemed to be deep in a bad dream–a dream he couldn’t seem to find his way out of. And from the looks of the sweat-drenched body, he had been trapped there for some time. Starsky tried to wake the blond by gently shaking him. “Hutch, wake up, it’s only a dream.”

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” Hutch’s voice was full of anguish. And it seemed the more Starsky tried to wake him, the more agitated the blond became. “It should have been me. I’m so sorry.” Starsky shook Hutch harder this time. The blue eyes opened and stared blankly at Starsky.

“Hutch, it was just a bad dream.” Starsky’s voice was low and soothing. He brushed the damp strands of hair off the blond’s forehead. “Just a bad dream. Talk to me. Tell me about your dream.” Starsky knew it was still important that Hutch talk about the tragedy in his past.

Hutch shook his head, struggling to sit up. Starsky pulled Hutch up and slid one of the pillows from the couch and placed it behind Hutch’s back. He could feel Hutch’s body trembling. It was apparent to Starsky that the nightmare had taken its toll on his partner. “I’ll be right back.” Starsky returned with a glass of water and a damp cloth. Hutch waved the glass away, but did allow Starsky to wipe his face and neck with the cool cloth. “Feel better? Tell me about the dream, Hutch.” Starsky gently massaged the back of Hutch’s neck.

“Everything was all jumbled up. You…the accident.” Hutch paused, tears choking him. “I couldn’t help you. I tried, but I couldn’t help you.” Tears had begun to roll down his cheeks.

“Go on.” Starsky hoped to keep Hutch talking…get it all out so Hutch could deal with it and move on. “Tell me about the accident.” Hutch sat, head bowed and hands pressed over his face, almost as if he were trying to hide from the memories that kept haunting him. Starsky reached out to the bowed head and, placing his hands on each side, he slowly lifted Hutch’s head. But Hutch kept his hands firmly in place on his face. “Hutch, look at me.”

Starsky tried to make his tone firm, but he knew he had failed miserably. Hutch was in so much pain it was almost more than Starsky could bear. He didn’t want to inflict any more pain on him. But Hutch had to talk, had to get it out in the open and deal with it.

Hutch’s hands slowly dropped away from his face, almost as if he no longer had the strength to hold them there. “You just don’t know. You don’t know what it was like…” Hutch’s voice sounded old and weary. “I didn’t understand. Why? Why had this happened, and why was I the only one who was left alive and intact?” Hutch sat silent, trying hard to put all the pieces in place. “I remember waking up in the hospital and nobody would tell me anything. But everyone looked so sad…the doctor, the nurses, and my mother. I could tell my mother had been crying. But no one would answer my questions.” Hutch’s broad shoulders heaved with each breath he took.

Starsky knew Hutch was teetering on the edge. Maybe he should stop him now. This might not be the way to do this. What if his reliving the accident did more damage than good?

“Hutch, it’s okay. Maybe we should stop now and talk more later.” Starsky felt that maybe they were both getting in way over their heads. Hutch looked utterly miserable, his eyes dark and filled with pain. His breathing was rough and ragged. He looked physically ill.

“No!” Hutch’s voice was almost frantic. “You wanted to hear about it. I’m gonna tell you. I overheard my parents talking. I heard them talking about funerals.” Hutch’s hands were now knotted into tight fists. “Mark and Billy’s funerals. You know what I did then? I started to scream and I kept screaming until my throat was raw and I couldn’t scream anymore. And then I started throwing up, and I continued throwing up…” Hutch’s voice trailed off but only for a second. As if a dam had been broken, the words just poured out. “Then they drugged me. They kept me drugged for days. I didn’t even get to say good-bye to Mark and Billy. When I got out of the hospital it was like they had never existed. No one mentioned them to me. My friends were just gone.” The tears were flowing rapidly now, making wet trails down the pale cheeks. “Starsk…they were just gone.” Hutch struggled to speak over the huge lump in his throat. I knew that Tim had been hurt, but nobody told me…” Hutch stopped and Starsky watched as his partner fought to hold himself together. “It wasn’t until weeks later…we were driving past Tim’s house and he was outside with his dad. He was in a wheelchair and he had some kind of brace on his neck. I tried to ask my parents, but they just brushed me off. They told me not to worry about Tim, that he would be taken care of.”

Starsky leaned back, put his arm around Hutch and pulled him close. “I’m so sorry, buddy.” He wished he could think of something to say that would make things better. But deep down he knew there were no words that could ever make things better. He could only give Hutch his love and support.

“For months I thought about nothing else. I tried to figure out why I was the lucky one. What was it about me that I had deserved to live? I was nothing special. Starsky, why me?” Hutch’s voice had become a hushed whisper. “I hated it. I hated being the lucky one.”

“Hutch, I’m sure there was a good reason why you lived. You’ve done a lot of good in your life. You shouldn’t feel guilty about anything. It wasn’t like you had a choice in any of it.”

Hutch wrenched away from the safety of Starsky’s arm. “It might have been different. If I hadn’t been afraid to ask my father.” Hutch braced himself on the arm of the couch, then pulled himself to his feet.

“Ask your father what, Hutch?” Starsky watched as Hutch wobbled a bit. “Please sit down, Hutch, you’re not ready to be doing much moving around on your own.”

Hutch ignored the request to sit down. “My dad was in a bad mood and I didn’t want to ask him for the car. I was supposed to be driving that night. If I had been driving that night…”

“If you had been driving what would have been different, Hutch? You might be dead or maybe in the wheelchair instead of Tim? The only real difference would have been more guilt for you.” Starsky thanked God that Hutch had not been driving. The guilt would have destroyed him long ago.

Hutch awkwardly took two steps away from the couch, as if trying to move away from the memories. “I don’t know. I just feel like I should have been able to do something. Hutch’s anguished words tore at Starsky’s heart. How like Hutch to think he should have been able to change the course of that night’s events. He watched as Hutch attempted another clumsy step, but it was not to be and the blond stumbled and fell to the floor.

“Hutch.” Starsky was immediately at his side, but the fall didn’t seem to faze Hutch. Starsky pulled him gently into his lap and sat back against the couch. “It’s all over, Hutch. We don’t have to talk it about it anymore. It’s the past, Hutch, and you can’t change anything.”

“You know there was just a second before the semi hit me…I knew what was going to happen, and I thought now…now it’s my turn. Hutch had used up the last shred of his control. He closed his eyes and yielded to the compulsive sobs that wracked his body.

Starsky tightened his hold on his partner and kept up a steady stream of soothing words. “It’s okay, Hutch. You don’t have anything to feel guilty for, nothing you could have done. It’s all over, let it go.” Hutch lay there feeling drained and lifeless. But at the same time he experienced a feeling of relief. Looking back, he knew there was nothing he could have done to change what had happened. He knew he had no control over who lived and who died. It had been out of his hands. Hutch shivered with chill and fatigue. “Hey, let’s get you off the floor, huh?” Starsky pulled Hutch back up to the couch and covered him with a blanket. Starsky sat at Hutch’s side on the edge of the couch as the tears continued to flow. Picking up the once cool cloth, he wiped carefully at Hutch’s pale face, taking in the dark circles under his eyes. The last twenty-four hours had taken their toll on him. He continued to sit with Hutch until the crying ceased and his breathing evened out. Starsky thought Hutch looked a bit more peaceful now as he lay there sleeping. The worst was over.

*****

Starsky glanced at his watch and was surprised to find that he had been sitting watching over his friend for more than an hour. Deep down inside, Starsky selfishly believed that the reason Hutch had been the lucky one that tragic night was because of him. Somehow it was meant to be. God must have known how much I needed him. The thought that he might have missed having Hutch in his life was just unthinkable. Lost in his thoughts, Starsky didn’t realize that a pair of bright blue eyes had been watching him closely.

“What were you thinking just now?” Hutch asked as he continued to study Starsky’s face. Starsky had looked so serious and sad Hutch had to know what was going on in his mind.

Starsky was surprised to find that Hutch was awake and had been watching him. “Hey, how ya feeling?” Starsky gave Hutch a sheepish grin, a little embarrassed at being caught in such deep thought.

“I’m okay. Don’t change the subject. What were you thinking about?” Hutch’s eyes never left his friend’s face.

“I was thinking how glad I am that you were the lucky one that awful night. I know it was hard on you, but I can’t imagine my life without you. I need you. I think God knew that, too, and that’s the reason you survived that car accident. Does that sound silly to you?”

“No, not silly… kind of mushy.” Hutch attempted a weak smile.

“Hutch, when I realized that it was your car under that semi I…I felt like…like my life had ended. I blamed myself for your accident. Talk about guilt, buddy, I was drowning in it. Starsky swallowed hard, “I don’t know if anyone told you, but I couldn’t handle it when I heard you were paralyzed…I couldn’t deal with it, I walked out on you.”

“You didn’t walk out on me. You just needed some time. And you came back and that’s all that matters.” Hutch reached out and grasped Starsky’s hand firmly. “No more guilt for either of us, huh?”

“You know, partner, that sounds like a real good idea.” Starsky gave Hutch one of his trademark lopsided grins and squeezed his hand tighter. “I’ve got a good idea, too. You go back to sleep for a bit while I fix us something to eat.” Starsky couldn’t help notice the fatigue that still lingered on Hutch’s face.

“Starsk, quit worrying about me. Remember I’m not the one who got shot. Seems to me you should be the one getting some sleep.

“Yeah, well, you first,” Starsky said as he headed to the kitchen.

Hutch shook his head and then closed his eyes. Within seconds he was fast asleep again. Starsky stood in the doorway with a satisfied smile. Things were going to be okay.

Three weeks later, Starsky stood in the window watching Hutch as he walked slowly along the beach. Hutch, strong and healthy, was a beautiful sight. Therapy had gone so well that it wouldn’t be long and he would be back to work. Starsky had planned to go back to work next week, but Dobey, in a generous mood, had announced that Starsky was not to return to work until his partner did. With Hutch practically recovered, it would be nice to have some time to just relax.

Hutch, seeing Starsky in the window, motioned for him to join him. Starsky grabbed a couple of cold sodas and joined his partner. They sat quietly for a while just enjoying the sunshine and each other’s company. Then Starsky broke the silence, “Anything special you want to do while we have the time off?”

“Nope, what we’re doing is just fine with me.” Hutch leisurely stretched his now tanned and strong legs. “I think I could get used to this. What about you? Anything you want to do before we go back to our daily grind?”

“No, not really.” Starsky sighed, “I’m really gonna miss this place.”

“Yeah, me, too. Leave it to Huggy to find just the right place.” Hutch smiled, thinking about their friend. “He always comes through for us. Oh, there is something I guess I need to take care of before we go back to work.”

“What’s that?”

“I need to find a car. You know it’s not going to be easy to replace my car.” Hutch waited, knowing Starsky would have something to say on the subject of his car.

“That shouldn’t be too hard. I’m sure any junkyard will have just what you’re looking for.”

Hutch laughed, “Yeah, I guess. But I know something that I would never be able to replace. Never in a million years.”

“What’s that?”

“You.” Hutch smiled at Starsky.

***The End***

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