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A Stable Job with Christmas Benefits
"Man, it's cold." Starsky hunkered down further into his Irish wool sweater, pulling the zipper of his leather jacket up as high as it would go before tucking his fingers into the sweater cuffs.
"Starsky, you should..." Hutch stopped himself, knowing any comments would be construed as over protective.
"Never mind." Hutch blew on his fingers. "It is cold." He focused his binoculars across the dark yard, but there was nothing to see.
"I can't believe...Christmas Eve and we're stuck here on stake-out freezin' our nuts off."
"I'm not freezing mine off." Hutch smirked, he was wearing a sheepskin lined jacket and corduroy slacks. "Mine are warm as toast."
"Better be careful," Starsky shot back. "Ever hear o' chestnuts roastin' on an open fire?"
"And Jack Frost nippin' at yours," Hutch returned. "Drink some coffee; the thermos is still hot."
"I think I'll just hold onto it." Starsky cradled the silver thermos between his raised knees, feeling the heat through his jeans. "If we have to stay out here all night, I'll need the coffee later to keep me awake."
They both settled quietly to wait for their assignment's arrival, content to sit side by side in the dark. Less than five minutes later, Starsky shifted restlessly, climbing to his knees, bouncing slightly. "You see anything out there, Hutch?"
"Not a soul." Hutch scanned the yard with the binoculars again. A distant porch light from the main house gave a scant gleam of light to the view, a yard of packed dirt with a small fenced feed yard and a row of trees separating them from the main road. He and Starsky sat in the protection of the barn, behind a stable partition. A cow gave a soft moo from somewhere deeper in the building, startling Starsky.
"This was a bum tip," he groused. "I don't think I can feel my feet. They're all tingly. I think they're frozen."
"Starsky, we're in Southern California. It's impossible to freeze to death in this latitude." Hutch rolled his eyes. "Your feet are asleep. Wiggle your toes."
"You plannin' on going to Dobey's for turkey dinner tomorrow?" Starsky asked wistfully, sitting on a hay bale so he could carefully stomp his feet without making very much noise.
"S'posed to go see Kiko and Molly first," Hutch answered absently.
"Yah, I forgot. Think she'll like the stereo we got her?" Starsky grinned.
"If she doesn't, I'll keep it." Hutch nodded. A tiny burst of static alerted him to the walkie-talkie in his pocket and he checked in with their back-up team, Myers and Wong, warm and cozy in their car down on the main road.
"It's a good bet Santa doesn't deliver here in a smelly ol'barn." Starsky shifted his position again, peering over the edge of the stable to the empty yard. "You really think this guy's gonna show? Sellin' a load o'smack on Christmas Eve?"
"Some people aren't as into the spirit of the season as you are, Starsk." Hutch smiled indulgently. Even in the dim light of the barn he could see Starsky visibly shivering. Unwinding the dark green cashmere scarf from his neck, he flipped it casually around Starsky's.
"Hutch," Starsky warned, pulling the scarf free, "stop this. Stop actin' like my father. You're my partner, that's all."
"I have a turtleneck on; you looked cold." Hutch held up his hands in surrender, declining to take the scarf. It hung from Starsky's outstretched hand for a moment longer before he twisted it around his neck.
"Thanks," he said shortly, feeling like a fool for blowing up like that.
"Starsky, I think it'll take some time." Hutch turned the walkie-talkie around in his hands, then dropped it into his jacket pocket again. "I can't just turn it off, y'know?" He looked over at his dark haired partner. Starsky still seemed too skinny, with a certain frailty about him that Hutch knew probably only he saw anymore. Despite that, seven months had passed since he'd been shot by Gunther's assassins and he'd now been cleared for active duty. Starsky had tolerated over a month of desk duty to satisfy competency requirements, but had pestered Dobey the entire time for a chance to join the task force to bring down a gang of drug dealers targeting middle school children. Three weeks ago, he'd gotten the chance. They'd been tracking the movements of the most lucrative dealer, and learned through a street snitch about a buy going down on Christmas Eve in a small dairy farm on the outskirts of the city. The dealers, attempting to move under the police radar, had started going further and further outside the city's usual drug corridors.
So here they were, waiting in a barn for a shipment of fifty kilos of prime China white.
"I don't need taking care of anymore." Starsky tipped his head down, catching Hutch's gaze. "I'm back, Hutch. Can't be a cop if you treat me like an invalid."
"Starsk, you were shot with an automatic weapon in the chest. I can't just shut off the protective mode 'cause you're standing on your own two feet again."
"Then I don't know if this is gonna work." Starsky spoke wearily, crossing his arms over his chest, feeling the solid shape of his pistol under his right arm through the leather jacket. "I have to be able to...do the job, Hutch. But if you mother hen me to death, I'm nothin'."
"What am I? Your mother or your father?" Hutch teased, trying to lighten the mood.
"You're my partner," Starsky spat. "I'm never alone--if it's not you, it's Huggy, or Meredith or any number of our wonderful friends..." He closed his eyes, not angry, just frustrated. "Everyone's bent over backwards to help, but I'm not five and I'm not dyin'."
"Can you blame us?" Hutch said sharply. "What do you want, Starsky? Do you want a different partner? Cause that can be arranged." But it will break my heart, he thought regretfully.
"No. You're what I want. You as my partner." Starsky sucked in a breath, leaving a frosty puff between them. He was fighting not let Hutch notice the lingering ache in his chest, surprised at how close to tears he was. He knelt in the hay next to the Hutch. "Be my partner--and my friend, my back up...take care of me if you need to, but don't smother me."
"Deal." Hutch reached out, pulling Starsky off his knees into a bear hug. He wrapped his arms around him until they were so close he could feel his partner's heart beating against his own breastbone.
"What?" The blond man loosened his grip on the dark haired man.
"You were smothering me." Starsky hiccupped.
"S'okay, I am warmer now. Y'think they'll ever come tonight?"
"You're still just skin and bones." Hutch rubbed his hands up and down Starsky's leather jacketed arms to generate some friction.
"'Cause all you ever make is desiccated hummin' bird bones and seaweed." Starsky turned just enough so Hutch wouldn't see him blink away an errant tear. "Who could gain weight on that?" He hiccupped again.
"Then what was that big pizza shaped object with slices suspiciously like pepperoni that we ate yesterday?" Hutch trained the binoculars into the yard again. A movement in the trees to the left of the small fenced corral grabbed his attention, jump-starting his adrenaline.
"C-comfort food." Starsky hiccupped.
"Starsky, hold your breath or something," Hutch hissed. "They're here."
A figure dressed entirely in black from a watch cap pulled tightly down over his ears to a satin bombardier jacket and jeans moved out of the protection of the trees, talking softly to his smaller companion, also dressed to suit the night.
Starsky and Hutchinson held their position without moving, crouched in the shadows of the chilly stable. Starsky clapped his hand over his mouth in an effort to muffle his persistent hiccups.
After a few tense moments, a low-slung car rumbled into the yard, waking several more cows. Sleepy mooing and shuffling hooves made it impossible for the hidden detectives to hear what was said as the car's driver emerged to meet the two men in black.
"S'Donnado," Hutch confirmed. The man they'd been waiting for. Their intended prey. He pressed the send button on the walkie-talkie three times, the signal to their waiting back-up.
Sure enough, Donnado's lieutenant, a short bearded man, produced a large briefcase from the trunk, placing it on the car's hood. With a flourish, Donnado opened it to showcase his wares. Plump bags of white powder were easily visible, even in the dark. They seemed to glisten of their own accord, a temptation to lure the buyer in and hook him with the drug's power.
The man in black stepped up to the car, his eyes only on the magnificent pile of contraband heroin. He reached out a hand to fondle one of the bags with greedy lust.
"PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS, THIS IS THE POLICE," an amplified voice boomed from the roadway hidden by the trees. "I repeat! This is the police, put up your hands and step away from the car!"
Instantly Starsky and Hutch rushed out from their concealment to take possession of the drugs before Donnado and his associate could dispose of them.
"Drop it," Hutch growled, training his pistol on Donnado. The drug dealer swung the brief case, scattering the bags of white powder across the dirt-scuffed yard. One split, the contents dissipating into the cold air like sinister snowflakes.
The distraction gave the taller man in the watch cap a chance to make a dash for the trees just past the fenced in yard. Starsky took off after him, legs churning powerfully.
Hutch gestured with his Magnum, positioning the other three criminals over the car hood, with their hands and feet spread. He cuffed Donnado, but his focus was split, worry about Starsky's whereabouts making it difficult to concentrate on the matter at hand.
Myers and Wong finally arrived on the scene, pulling their car behind the sedan to prevent any escape. They secured the other two felons quickly, repeating the Miranda rights with practiced speed before herding all three into their unmarked car.
A crash from the fenced corral alerted Hutch's ear. He moved swiftly in that direction, the long barrel of his gun pointed stiffly in front of him, wishing fervently that he had a flashlight.
Starsky had caught up to the fleeing man with a flying tackle that attached him to the taller man's back like a limpet. Watch Cap stumbled against the gate, jerking his shoulders as he swung around with enough force to drop the cop on his butt. Starsky landed with a bone-jarring thud, knocking the wind out of his lungs.
Advancing on the fallen man, Watch Cap slid a knife from the leather sheath at his waist. The light from the unmarked car's headlamps caught the blade for a moment, creating a deadly shaft of molten silver slashing down at the detective's torso. Starsky rolled away at the last second, the knife pinning the green scarf to the rutted dirt of the corral.
Jerking the scarf from around his neck, Starsky scrambled to his feet, backing up as Watch Cap pulled the sharp blade from the earth.
Encountering an obstacle against the back of his thighs, Starsky was trapped. The arm with the knife rose, silhouetted over the crescent moon in the night sky. Starsky could feel his heart thudding painfully against his ribs, still hardly able to pull in a decent breath to aerate his aching lungs. He arched away from his assailant, suddenly falling backward, unable to resist the pull of gravity.
At the same moment a deafening boom roared in Starsky's ears, the black watch capped man tumbling onto him like a fallen tree. He was astonished to discover that the knife had somehow once again missed piercing his flesh, and gasped, the man's leaden mass crushing him.
"Starsky!" Hutch pulled the corpse off his partner. A single shot from his.357 magnum had nearly obliterated the back of Watch Cap's skull. The knife had dropped harmlessly from senseless fingers the moment the bullet entered the man's brain. "Are you...?"
"I'm okay, I'm okay," Starsky panted, not yet aware that he was splattered with blood. "Nothin' happened."
"Oh, my god." Hutch started to laugh, relief flooding through him like a narcotic. "Don't do that again."
"What? I was chasin' a perp. That's my job!" Starsky groused. "Don't start in on me again, Hutch. Help me up, I can't get out of this thing." He pushed fruitlessly against the wooden sides, but he was sitting down too deeply, his knees up under his chin.
"Um--I hate to break it to you." Hutch holstered his weapon, planting his hands on his hips as he realized what Starsky had fallen into. "You're lyin' in a manger."
"Well, where else would you expect to find a Jewish kid on Christmas?" Starsky held out a hand, letting Hutch pull him out. "Merry Christmas, Hutch."
"Merry Christmas, Starsk." Hutch grinned, throwing an arm around his neck. "Now about this Messiah complex you seem to have..."
Yeah, okay, I wrote the whole story for a punch line. Happy Holidays. Dawn