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The funeral had been a tremendous strain on both of their emotions and Starsky and Hutch had stood at the graveside lost in their own thoughts. The traditional gathering back at the cottage was proving even harder for them both. For Hutch the day had been a long one, having stood in the church and spoken of his former Captain. Edith had asked him the day after her husband had died and Hutch had felt hard pressed to say no. He had tried to keep his speech short and light but there were many people at the service who had known Dobey for many years, including those spent in the force, so it was almost inevitable that instances from this time were brought to the fore. He had had a hard job keeping his emotions in check and was glad when his speech was over and he could rejoin his partner in the seats directly behind the Dobey family.

Starsky was hurting inside. He had tried, for the sake of Rosie, to smother his emotions but he was finding it more and more difficult. They were mixed emotions of guilt, regret, sadness and, strangely Starsky thought, thankfulness and relief. Starsky desperately wanted to talk them through with someone but he couldn't. The only two who would understand were Hutch, who was caught up in his own feelings of loss, and Kelly who was too far away. He had thought about phoning her but decided against it as being unfair, she had enough to do looking after Kenneth and Rachael. He had finally settled for a solitary walk around the lake to try and get his head straight but he was already on his second lap and things were no clearer.

He had stopped for a moment to take in the view of the mountains behind him when he heard footsteps coming up behind him. Half turning he was surprised to see Cal Dobey walking up towards him.

"Lovely view isn't it? It was my Dad's favorite. He used to go to sleep at night looking at it."

Starsky nodded his agreement and made as if to continue. Cal came up next to him. "Mind if I join you for a while? I need to get away from the 'mean-well-ers'. Starsky looked at him frowning as he did so and Cal laughed. "The crowd of Aunts and Uncles back there, all the people who 'mean well'. I'll be glad when they've all gone and we can be on our own again, just Mum, Rosie, Me and you and Hutch. The family. At least what we feel is true, not some put on emotion that can be switched on and off at the flick of a switch. We're the ones who will really miss him, not just today or tomorrow or next week, but for always." Cal looked directly at Starsky. "I'm glad you came Dave, somehow it wouldn't have been right without you here. You and Hutch were like older brothers to Rosie and me. Dad loved you both you know."

"Yeh, I know, he told me that night, before he died. Hutch and I loved him too. Sometimes we had a strange way of showing it but we did. I wish now I could go back Cal... change things... not leaving, but going the way I did. I should have said something to him but I was scared he would talk me out of it and that wouldn't have been right. For all our sakes I had to get away, but especially for Hutch." Starsky was still looking at the mountains as he spoke, his emotions threatening to boil over. "Why do I get the feeling he was hanging on for us Cal? It was almost as though he had waited for us to arrive."

"Probably because he did Dave". Starsky had abruptly turned to face him at this, his mouth open and eyes wide. "Don't look so surprised. We all knew it was only a matter of time. The doctors were amazed he had held on so long. We almost lost him about a week ago but Mum told him about her letter to you. She told him that he had to fight, hang on for you both to say goodbye. He did too and we were blessed with his presence for a little while longer. I don't think he could have held on much longer though Dave, his breathing was getting harder all the time and he hadn't eaten for days." Cal continued to watch Starsky as they walked together. "There's something else though isn't there Dave? Let me guess, guilt, regret, right! Let me tell you Dave you have nothing to feel guilty about, nothing to regret. Dad knew why you left and he accepted it. He knew too that you'd come back when you were ready and he was right wasn't he? You're here and for now that's all that matters."

Starsky shook his head at the young man by his side. He wondered how such a young head could be so wise and it took his thoughts back across the years to when he and Hutch had started out together. They had been young and full of grand schemes to make the world a better place. Sadly most of them had soon been knocked away once they came into contact with the streets. They had quickly learnt to depend on no-one but each other. Once he had been unable to get to Hutch in time and he had been shot in the leg. Starsky had kept apologizing for not being there until Hutch had simply said, "It doesn't matter you here now and that's what matters."

Suddenly Starsky felt every one of his fifty plus years and he wondered where the years had flown. Then he remembered he had much to be grateful for, a wife who loved him and two beautiful children that he missed. He had a sudden longing to leave and get back to them. Lengthening his stride to catch up with Cal the duo continued their walk around the lake in companionable silence.


It was two days later that they were both on their way home. They had spent the time fondly reminiscing of times long past, Rosie and Cal enjoying hearing about the various pranks that Starsky and Hutch had pulled on their unsuspecting father. Edith had enjoyed the memories too although she had heard all about the pranks as they occurred, had laughed with her husband as he told each detail. She had secretly thanked the duo for having provided some light relief in her husband's day.

The nights had been the most difficult for them. It had given Edith time to realize the enormous hole that would exist in her life from now on. Starsky had been of great comfort to her. Knowing from experience the pain of losing someone so close, he had sat talking with her until the early hours of the morning. It had taken its toll on him though, both physically and mentally. His body cried out for rest but his mind would not let him. The nightmares were returning and he felt unable to tell Hutch in front of the others so instead he had forced himself to remain awake. As a result he had found himself becoming more and more uncomfortable around his friends and he longed to be back with his family.

Hutch, aware of Starsky's unease, finally decided that it was time to leave. With promises to return soon they had loaded up the car and left in the early hours of the morning. Hutch was driving once again and Starsky was desperately trying to keep his eyes open. He talked constantly until he had run out of things to say and then he had turned on the radio and started to join in with all the songs as they were played. He constantly urged Hutch to join in with him until Hutch could finally stand it no longer and, glaring at Starsky, he made to turn the radio off. Starsky's hand stopped him at the switch and Hutch realized that he was no longer singing. Instead he was staring at the radio, his eyes unmoving and his face a deathly white. Hutch quickly switched his attention to the song being played and he realized it was one he had not heard for a long, long time.

His memories instantly swam back to the nights following Terry's death, of Starsky playing the same song over and over. 'Time in a Bottle'. It was one of his friends' favorite songs, which had suddenly been given a whole new significance. He remembered crossing the room and turning off the cassette player as his partner sat immobile on the floor. Now, all these years later, and the song was having almost the same effect. Hutch knew he had to do something but the grip Starsky had on his hand was so tight he could feel his own pulse as the circulation screamed for release from it. Slowing the car he prayed for the song to finish and with it the almost hypnotic effect it was having on his friend. As he managed to bring the car to a stop so the record came to an end. Letting out his breath, Hutch was suddenly startled by the passenger door being thrown open and Starsky running from the car. Hutch immediately gave chase but Starsky had a head start and he was having trouble keeping up. Then, as suddenly as he had started, Hutch watched as Starsky came to a halt and, turning to look at his former partner, he slowly collapsed in a dead faint by the roadside.


Starsky's eyelids slowly forced themselves apart. He could just make out a figure bending over him, could feel the strong arms holding him gently. He struggled to bring the figure into focus as he blinked several times. When at last he could make out features it was to see an extremely worried Hutch looking back at him.

"Hi buddy, welcome back. You got me a little worried there. Thought you were never going to stop running till you were back at the 'Metro'." Hutch was smiling now as he slowly lifted his friend into a sitting position. "Have to admit it's been a long time since I ran quite so far, or so fast for that matter. These old bones aren't quite up to it anymore." Hutch realized that he was talking for the sake of it, trying to make Starsky feel less awkward in the hope that he could get him to talk. He remembered how trivial things would always make his friend moan and groan but the times when he was really hurting Starsky would close up and refuse to discuss things until he absolutely needed and was ready to. With a jolt Hutch suddenly realized that perhaps he was no longer the one Starsky would open up to, they had been apart for so long each had learnt to deal with situations in a different way, or in the case of David Starsky, with someone else.

Starsky took in the ice blue eyes full of concern as they watched over him. How many times had they done that in his life? His head and chest ached, his whole body cried out for rest that his head refused to let it have. Starsky struggled to stand and Hutch immediately offered his hand, helping and supporting him until he could stand alone. Shrugging off the hands, which held him, Starsky walked away from Hutch until he stood on the side of the road looking down into the river valley. He watched transfixed as the water tumbled and rushed on its continual journey to the ocean and he thought that it was so much like his life, angry and out of control.

"I'm sorry Hutch, I'm not sure... I...I just needed to get away. From you... from everything, you know? Starsky was still staring at the water, his feet inches from the edge of the drop. Hutch felt a shiver run down his spine. He suddenly realized that he was unsure of what his friend was intending and it frightened him. He had talked down so many 'would be suicides' from positions similar to this but his whole being refused to believe that was happening now. This was Starsky for God sake, the one who believed in 'Murphy's Law', the one who took whatever fate threw at him, caught it and turned it around somehow. He was the one who raged and stamped his feet not Starsky. Now, suddenly, he realized that the tables had turned and he didn't know what to say, what to do!

"Tell me Hutch, what did I do that was so wrong?" Starsky was speaking again. "Everyone, everything that ever means something to me ends up destroyed. Somehow or other, just when everything's going great and you least expect it, something steps in and pulls the rug out from your feet. Know what I mean Hutch?" Starsky paused for a moment before continuing. "Bellamy, Terry, Rosie, You, Ma, Dobey, all of you either dead or hurt in such a way that nothings the same anymore. I'm scared Hutch. What about Kelly and the kids? If anything happened to any of them I don't think I'd make it through. I used to believe that you took what life handed out and you made the best of it ya know. Even after Terry died I kept going, learnt to accept it. Vic Bellamy, Rosie Malone, they were all things that fate had in store for me and I just had to handle them and get on with things, and I did it Hutch, God knows how, but I did. I pulled myself up and started on over. "Starsky's voice dropped, almost to a whisper and Hutch had to strain to hear what he was saying. "Then... then Gunther came along and I couldn't do it anymore. Everything I cared about was over, gone. The job... you...ripped away... and I couldn't handle anymore... so I ran, and in a way I'm still running Hutch. Even Kelly, God forgive me, I can't give her all of me Hutch. I love her so much that it hurts even now. We've been married fifteen years and I couldn't imagine life without her, but even she can't have all of me. No one can!" For a moment Starsky was quiet and Hutch held his breath waiting. Then Starsky turned and looked at him for the first time since he had started talking and Hutch could see the hurt and pain etched in every part of his face. "There's a line in that song, you know, it goes something like, 'If I had a box just for wishes'.... I've thought that so often over the last twenty years Hutch.... It goes on, 'The box would be empty except for the memory of how they were answered by you'.... Somehow you always made things right Hutch, so... so how come you couldn't back then, that one last time? When I really needed you to, you couldn't do it, and I really hated you for that!" Starsky stopped, unable to say anymore.

Hutch felt like his heart would break. In the first few weeks after Starsky had disappeared he had frantically searched for his partner, calling in every favor they were owed, haunting hospitals, badgering friends even ringing Starsky's mother four or five times. His partner though had covered his tracks well and had been protected by a Mothers love for her son and Hutch had eventually been forced to admit defeat. He had turned his frustration to his work and for a while the word on the street was that Hutchinson was to be avoided at all cost; he was no longer prepared to accept any misdemeanor however tiny. Over the weeks and months that followed his fears had turned to anger directed solely at his partner. This in turn had turned to reluctant acceptance that he would never know the whereabouts of Starsky or his reasons for going, although a small part of his heart clung to the hope that one day that would find each other again. Never though did Hutch think that his friend hated him, blamed him in some way for what had occurred.

"If that's what you feel why did you come back?" Hutch forced himself to speak though his throat was tight. "Why all of this? You said you'd wanted to make things right between us. I thought we'd done that Starsk! you tell me you hate me. That's pretty strong coming from you. What do you want me to say? I'm sorry, is that it? Okay I'm sorry. Sorry that I couldn't see what was going on in that crazy head of yours! Sorry that I didn't stop Gunther's men from trying to blow you away. Hell, I'm sorry I ever knew you. Is that it Starsky, is that what you want me to say?" Hutch was shaking now and he was scared. He had been given a second chance with Starsky and now it was falling to pieces, crumbling around him, and he was powerless to stop it. He didn't know what he could do to put this right but he was sure as hell going to fight for it, he only hoped that he had the strength left to win this time.

"Trouble is Starsky, it wouldn't be true. At least... the bit about not knowing you wouldn't." Hutch's voice was lower now and in control. "How long has it been Stark since we first met?" Hutch stepped ever closer to his friend. "Think about it will you! Go right back to the Academy. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. I sat at the back of the class feeling totally out of place, a complete geek. No one wanted to sit with the know-it-all from Duluth; hell what was he doing here anyway? You any idea how lonely that felt Starsky? There I was, sat in a class of forty grown men feeling like a a lost child! Self defense class it was and I sat at the back praying I wouldn't get picked to go out front. I did though, remember, and suddenly everyone wanted to came and have a go at pulverizing me. I remember standing there against three of the biggest recruits in the class and I knew I wasn't gonna make it. Then, suddenly from nowhere, up you stepped. You stood there with that cocky grin on your face and you said...Damn, what was it now, something about odds, I can't remember exactly!"

"Three to one are lousy odds if you're on the wrong side" Hutch looked up as Starsky quietly filled in the missing words. "Three to two are more in your favor since one can watch the other's back!"

"Yeh, and you did too. Those guys didn't know what hit them. You do remember don't you, just as well as I do!" Hutch pressed home with the words as he closed the gap between them to a couple of strides. "From that day on you always seemed to be around, hovering somewhere in the background. Usually you had a couple of others with you but occasionally you were on your own and I could 'feel' you, sense you were there before I could ever see you. Somehow I never felt alone anymore. Then, one night I couldn't sleep so I went out for a walk and I came across you sitting under that old willow tree, hunched over a book at two in the morning. It took you ages to admit that you were struggling with the class work, I remember thinking how much it had taken for you to admit you were having problems and could do with a hand. You were so proud Starsk and yet you weren't above asking for help. Suddenly there was something I could do for you and we made a deal. Do you remember what it was buddy? I do." Hutch paused looking deep into his partners so expressive eyes, eyes that could flash in anger were now shining with unspent tears and providing a window to a confused, distraught mind. Hutch held his breath and waited for Starsky to answer.

"Yeh! I remember. You'd teach me the legal bits, I'd teach you the physical stuff and somehow we'd muddle through together, 'Me and Thee'. Teamwork!"

"That's right Starsk, 'Me and Thee'. We did it too! Never looked back from that night on. You used to believe in what fate threw at you didn't you? Well fate threw us together my friend..."

Starsky turned, his eyes burning like raging fires that they appeared black. "Yeh, and it ripped us apart too Hutch in case you'd forgotten. One morning, one lousy morning in the police garage. How long did it take to destroy everything, huh, two minutes, five? I don't know Hutch I was lying on the floor in a pool of my own blood! This time Humpty-Dumpty fell of the wall and couldn't be put back together again, not properly anyway. My life ended that day Hutch." Starsky was almost screaming now, his anger firing his emotions. "When I came round in that hospital bed you were there as usual but I knew you were there long before that. I could feel you, hear you begging me to come back, to fight. Well I came back buddy and to what? I'll tell you what, retirement, end of the line. Have you any idea what that felt like? Don't say yes to that...Don't you dare say yes 'cos if you do I'll hit you here and now! That wasn't the worst part though buddy. The worst part was realizing that I had to go, leave behind everyone and everything that mattered just so you could survive. Know what Hutch? For years I felt guilty for going like I did. There was no other way I could have done it but still I felt guilty. I took all the blame too didn't I buddy? The letters I got from Minnie didn't say so in so many words, but it was there all the same, written between the lines. Poor Hutch this, poor Hutch that, well what about me for Christ sake! You know the funny thing though Hutch, the piece that takes the biscuit? I blamed me too." Starsky stopped as abruptly as he had started, the need for air in his weakened lungs making him breathe in gulps. Whispering again, Starsky looked at Hutch, "Time in a bottle Hutch, I'd give anything for that to be true so I could change everything." With those words Starsky stepped forward and Hutch pulled him into his arms, holding on tight as if afraid that Starsky would start to run again.


It took some time before Hutch could trust himself to let Starsky go. His head was reeling from Starsky's outburst. For the first time he was beginning to realize a little of what his friend had gone through. He knew that he had been fortunate in having Captain Dobey and Huggy Bear to lean on and help him through. Starsky had no one apart from a Mother who loved him dearly. He thought back to the way he had reacted to Starsky's return, the way he had laid into him with harsh words and little thought of his friends' feelings. He wondered if, had the position been reversed, he would have had the strength of character to return and face old familiar places and people who were so angry with him because of their own hurt feelings. Hutch pulled back and placed both of his hands on Starsky's shoulders forcing the smaller man to look up at him.

"It didn't though, did it Starsk? Not completely, Rip us apart I mean. When it came right down to it 'Me and Thee' still won through. I'd give anything too my friend just to be able to go back and make everything right for you. To stop all the pain and hurt you had to suffer. But I can't Starsk, neither of us can. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't if I could. I'd give the world for that day never to have happened. But it did happen Starsk, and we both of us lived through it. Moved on. Think about it buddy, if you hadn't have gone home, decided to become a teacher, you would never have met Kelly, never have had Ken and Rachael. Can you honestly tell me that you regret that? Kelly's a lovely woman Starsk, I envy you her. She loves you deeply, that's so obvious just by the way she is around you. It stands out like a beacon. You're so lucky Starsky, you've got something I'll never have, you've got a family, one that loves you for what you are, warts and all!" Hutch let go of Starsky's shoulders and, together, they walked towards the car. "I owe you Starsky, do you realize that? Your going gave me a need to move on, take a grip on my life. I am what I am today because of you my friend. You are what you are because of yourself. I think we're both stronger for what happened that day and, despite it all, we still have us. It took a little while for us both to realize it but we have, and I think we always will. Too much has happened to us over the years, we've shared so many bad times and good times that nothing can ever completely break the bond that ties us Starsk. It might become a little stretched at times but it will never break. You have to believe that buddy, I do."

The duo had reached the car and Hutch opened the door, gently lowering Starsky into the seat. Walking around to get in the other side he never once took his eyes off of his friend. Hutch started the car and was about to pull away when Starsky laid his hand onto his shoulder. He turned to see those eyes looking straight at him again only this time they were less hurt, less confused.

Starsky spoke one word, "Thanks". Then he lowered his hand and rested his head on the back of the seat, closing his eyes. Hutch pulled away and it wasn't long before Starsky was asleep. He stayed that way for the rest of the journey, only waking when Hutch switched off the engine outside of his hotel. Without a word or a glance in his friends' direction Starsky climbed wearily out of the car and up the steps into the hotel. For a moment Hutch toyed with going after him but decided that Starsky wouldn't want any more fuss. He started the engine again and headed to his own home. He was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and all he wanted was to fall into his bed.


Hutch woke to the sound of loud, agitated banging on his front door. Glancing at his bedside clock he realized that he had been asleep for hours and the light streaming in through the curtains told him it was morning. The banging on his door was becoming more insistent, and throwing back his covers, he retrieved his gun from its hook before partially opening it. He wasn't sure what he expected to see but it certainly wasn't Kelly Starsky.

"About time Hutchinson, now open this door before I break the thing down!" Hutch could see the anger in her face and hear the venom in her words. As he opened the door fully to let her in he vividly recalled her words when they had first met, about Starsky likening her to a tiger protecting her cubs when she was angry. Looking at her standing in front of him he thought it an apt description. He had the distinct impression he was going to become the victim of this particular mother tiger.

Re-holstering his gun he walked back into the middle of the room, not entirely sure that he was ready for whatever was about to come.

The words, when they finally came, were spat out with such venom and ferocity that Hutch felt hard pushed to remain on his feet in front of them. "I warned Dave not to come back. I begged him to leave well alone; let sleeping dogs lie, but no! He wanted, no, he needed to see you. Put things right he said. Trouble is they can never be 'right' can they Hutchinson. Well I hope you're satisfied now, you've got your revenge. I only hope it makes you feel good. Sleep all right did you? Yes of course you did but then you'd need a conscience not to and I guess you haven't got one have you?" Kelly's eyes were burning with anger, her body tense and menacing. "Well guess what? You win, hands down. We're leaving in a couple of hours and I hope I never see you again, or hear your name for that matter. You're a fool Ken Hutchinson, a sad, lonely old fool. You had a friend who loved you and a family prepared to try, but you've thrown that all away. My kids hate you for what you've done and as for me... I don't know what I feel about you other than contempt... and maybe a little pity." Kelly turned and made for the door. As she reached it she stopped with her hand on the knob. Hutch, reeling from the force of her anger, waited to see what would happen next. Turning her head slowly she looked at him, quietly she whispered, "Why Ken, Tell me why. I don't understand." Her anger was spent and she slowly opened the door and left.

For a second Hutch was unable to move as his mind ran over and over the scene that had just been played out. On the third time through it registered what Kelly had said about leaving in a couple of hours. He had to stop her, find out why she was so angry; stop Starsky from disappearing from his life again, Above all else he knew he couldn't take that a second time.

Hutch ran from his apartment. He was just in time to see Kelly getting into a hire car. As she started the engine he realized that he wouldn't make it in time and desperation fuelled his steps. Managing somehow to reach the front of the car he stood with his hands on the bonnet daring its occupant to drive away. Instead, as he looked into the car he could see she was going nowhere. Her head was lowered onto the steering wheel and Kelly Starsky was quietly crying. Hutch, breathing heavily from his efforts, slowly moved around to the drivers' door and opened it. Bending down and reaching inside he turned Kelly to face him and for a moment she sat, with the tears streaming down her face, just looking questioningly at him. Hutch put his hand around the back of her neck and pulled her head onto his shoulder and as he did so the dam broke and he held on as Kelly sobbed into his shoulder.

Looking back he couldn't recall exactly how he had managed to get her out of the vehicle and back into his apartment but somehow he had. She sat where Hutch had left her in order to get some clothes on, at his breakfast bar with a cup of steaming coffee in her hands. She was still sitting there when he returned from the bedroom and he crossed to the kitchen and poured himself a coffee. Sitting down on the stool opposite he spoke for the first time since this all began.

"Feel a little better know you've got that out of your system? That was quite some speech back there."

Kelly's hand tightened on the cup she was holding. "Don't Hutchinson, don't you dare be patronizing with me, not after the damage you've caused." Her hands on the cup were shaking and Hutch could see that she was having trouble keeping her anger in check.

"I'm sorry Kelly, I didn't mean it to sound like I was trying to patronize you. I just wanted to know you were okay. Look, what say we start again and you can tell me what exactly I've done to make you hate me so; I'd really like to understand, please. You said you were leaving. Why? I don't get it Kelly, talk to me." Outwardly Hutch was trying to remain calm but inwardly his whole body was trembling in fear of what she would say.

"You really don't know do you?" Kelly looked at him with amazement written all across her face. "You have no idea what this is all about." Hutch shook his head. "Dave! That's what it's about!"

Hutch flinched as she almost spat the words at him. He forced himself not to shout, "What happened?"

"You happened Ken, that's what." Kelly was quieter know. "I was afraid of this right from the beginning."

"Afraid of what Kelly? For goodness sake how can I help if you keep beating about the bush? Let's have it straight and to the point. NOW!" Hutch could feel his temper rising.


"Let's go back seventeen years Ken. That's when I first met Dave. Three years after he had been shot and forced into retirement from a job he loved. The only thing he knew how to do, and from all accounts he was good at it too."

Hutch nodded his head at this. "He was one of the best!"

"When I first met Dave that would have been hard, if not impossible to believe. Physically he was a nervous wreck. He'd jump at the least little bang, even a slamming door. He wasn't sleeping more than a couple of hours a night and he was hardly eating at all. It was a wonder he had recovered as well as he had at that point. Did you know that he was still under the doctors four years after the shooting?" She could tell from the look on his face that he didn't. "Four years Ken, and even then they only discharged him because they couldn't do any more for him. Oh physically he had healed it's true, but mentally he was a long way from being well. When we first met he described the way he felt like being in a goldfish bowl. There were people all around him, talking to him, being with him, but he was still isolated. No one understood how he felt, no one knew how afraid he was or how lonely. I'll never know how he managed to pass all the exams to become a teacher but he did and do you know what? He was, is, a damn good one. He can reach the kids in a way I never could, he understands them somehow, in a way most adults can't even begin too. For a long while the only time he really looked comfortable was in a classroom surrounded by children. I guess that one of the reasons he's such a terrific father."

Kelly paused and rising from the stool she walked across the room to stand looking out of the window. Hutch quietly rose and followed her. He sat down on the sofa and waited for her to continue.

"Dave said he told you about the scene in the classroom that day. Did he tell you that we spent the whole night working our way through the cause of it?"

Hutch nodded, still unwilling to interrupt the flow of words coming from Kelly.

"Yeah, I guess he did. What I bet he didn't tell you was what that cause was did he?"

This time Hutch shook his head, "No he didn't. Somehow though I think you're about to remedy that."

"You!" Again the word was almost spat at him. "You were the cause Ken, only Dave didn't realize it at the time. All the way through the night the same thing kept cropping up. He had let you down. All the other times he had fought back, for you, and the pair of you had continued. This time he hadn't. He'd given up and run away instead. At least that's how he saw it. When he first left he knew that it was the only way that he could let you know it was ok to go on without him, and for a while he believed that. He would have come back otherwise. Trouble is the nightmares never went away and somewhere, with everything that had occurred, the image became muddled until in the end it wasn't Dave being killed that night... It was you! Every time he closed his eyes Dave had to watch you being killed Ken and there was nothing he could do to stop it happening. He told me that he couldn't even shout your name to warn you. In the end he was terrified of sleeping, he couldn't take the loss anymore" Kelly stopped talking, the tears running silently down her cheeks as she stared out of the window not really seeing the scene outside. At last she turned and came to sit next to Hutch. "I talked him through it, step by step, as far as I could anyway, there was some of it that I couldn't help with, only you could have done that. Trouble is though Ken you weren't there. You were here, surrounded by people you knew, people who cared and could help. Dave had no one, except me! It took two years before Dave could finally let it go and face life again. We got married that same year, later along came Kenneth and we had our first row. You again! I'd managed to convince Dave that he had to look forward, that his life was with me in Canada. I loved him so much Ken and I was determined you wouldn't destroy us. I hadn't quite allowed for whatever it is that binds you two together though. I almost won, until Dave's mum stepped in on his side. I hated her for that, for a while anyway. No one could hate Rachael for long, there was just something special about her." Kelly smiled a thin smile.

Hutch too found himself smiling at this. He had fond memories of telephone conversations between Starsky and his mother. They were usually one-sided affairs with Starsky desperately trying to get a word in edgeways. Hutch knew how much Starsky meant to his mother and had often envied it.

Kelly was speaking again and Hutch shook off the memories to listen.

"When Kenneth was born Dave was the proudest father any one ever saw. Then came the night I found him leaning over the cot crying and it broke my heart. When I asked him what was the matter do you know what he said? He said, 'Hutch should have been here, we promised each other!' I tried to comfort him but I've never felt so shut out in my life. He didn't need me, he needed you and I had to stand aside and watch him fight the bad memories all over again. That's when he told me for the first time that he wanted to see you. It took all of my strength to talk him out of it. I was afraid of what you would do... and what it would do to him. I'd watched Dave pick himself up off the floor and rebuild his life and I wasn't about to have you knock it all to pieces. I told him that if he went I wouldn't be there when he got back. I didn't mean it but it was all I could think of to stop him. He believed me and, thank God, he stayed! He never gave up though Ken. Every chance, every slight opening there was he would bring you up until I hated you so much. I couldn't let Dave see that though or I'd have lost. Then came the letter about Captain Dobey and I knew I couldn't stop him this time. So instead I did what I'd always done, I stood beside him and I waited and prayed that it would be ok." Kelly smirked a little here, " You had me going for a while there Ken, I'll give you that. I really thought you had both done the impossible, turned back the clock, found each other again. Man how wrong can you be! Well I hope you're happy Ken. I hope your revenge is truly sweet. I get to pick up the pieces again, I only hope that Dave has the strength to want to try."

Kelly rose abruptly and striding across the room she slammed her cup down on the breakfast bar. Hutch winced as the cup shattered under the force and he moved to pick up the pieces. As he closed the gap between them he could see the blood on them and instead he took Kelly's hand in his. Wrapping a cloth around it he led her back to the couch and sat her down. Bending down in front of her he looked at her sadly for a few moments. He felt tired and emotionally drained and wanted nothing more than to lie down and try to sort out his feelings. His mind was still reeling from everything she had said and he at last understood the reasons for the earlier scene between himself and Starsky. What he didn't know was what had occurred since.

He forced his voice to speak gently and quietly although his whole being ached with the need to take this women and shake her for her condemnation of him.

"Kelly, I don't know what happened after I dropped Starsky off at your hotel but I can assure you that he was okay when I last saw him. There was a... a... scene, if you like to call it that, on the way home. Starsky was exhausted, we both were, and they played a song he used to love, a long time ago, it ...set him off if you like, but we talked it through and he fell asleep. When I left he was fine; I'd never have gone if I'd thought for one moment that he wasn't. You have to believe that Kelly. I think you do, or you wouldn't still be here. We both love Starsky, whatever is wrong now we can both help him with it can't we? He made it through once before with only you, this time he has you, the kids and me. I'm not backing off again Kelly, I lost him once and I intend to fight before I lose him again."

Kelly stared deep into Hutch's eyes and he felt as though she was staring deep into his soul. He held his breath and waited for her to answer. Finally she took Hutch's hand in hers and held it tightly.

"I hope you mean that Ken, I really do. Dave needs you right now more than he does me. That's a hard thing for me to admit but it's true. I want my husband back and I think you can give him to me. I hope you're up to it!"


Hutch and Kelly traveled together back to the hotel where the Starsky family was staying. Hutch was driving again and Kelly sat nervously beside him constantly spinning her wedding ring round on her finger. She had told Hutch how she had woken to find Starsky sitting in the chair watching her. She could see that he was exhausted and had reached out to hold him expecting him to return the embrace. Instead he had pulled away, refusing to look or speak to her. She had begged him to sit down with her and explain what had happened, to talk with her, but instead he had begun to take his clothes from the cupboards and drawers and throw then onto the bed. Then he had stormed through the room; slamming cupboard doors open and shut until he found the suitcase they shared. He threw that onto the bed also and began to systematically fold his clothes and place them into it.

For a while she had simply watched in disbelief unable to move from where she sat watching. The bedroom door had opened and Kenneth and Rachael had stood there fearfully watching their father. They had never seen him like this before and it frightened them both. Kenneth had wrapped his arm around his sister as if to shield her from his fathers fury and together they had crossed to sit beside their mother. Starsky though showed no sign of having seen or heard them as he continued the frantic search for his clothes. Each item was carefully folded and placed into the suitcase as they watched. Then Starsky once again began to search the room; his eyes scanning every inch as he slowly turned a complete circle. Kelly had caught a glimpse of those eyes as they had passed by and she was instantly afraid of what she had seen. She had long ago thought that she would never see her husband look this way again. It was the same haunted look that she had seen that day in the classroom just before Starsky had collapsed in a heap at her feet.

Starsky's eyes had come to a halt at his jacket he had hung on the chair behind him when he had sat down. Striding across the room to it he made an almost panic stricken search through the pockets. The jacket slipped to the floor as Starsky found what he was looking for at last; he almost ran back to the bed and laid the picture on the top of the suitcase. Just before he had closed the case Kelly had managed to catch a glimpse at it. The picture that Starsky had so desperately searched for was the one of himself and Hutch that he had taken from his room all those years ago.

Kelly had reached for her husbands' hands and had forced him to look at her as she quietly spoke to him. She had whispered gentle, calming words that only he could hear and slowly, oh so slowly, he had begun to relax a little. His eyes had begun to register what he had been doing, had registered the fear in the faces of his children and his wife, had registered the shaking of his own hands as Kelly held them and as they did so Starsky had felt so ashamed. Forcing himself to let go of the hands that held him so lovingly he had walked slowly to the bed and his children. He had placed one arm around each child and quietly whispered his apologies for frightening them both, then he had kissed each ones head before breaking down and crying into his sons shoulder. The young Kenneth Starsky had placed both arms around his father and pulled him close as he had seen his mother do so many times before. Rachael too had thrown her arms around her fathers' waist desperate to help but unsure of what was happening. Kelly had quietly stepped in and had managed to get her husband to lay down on the bed where she had thrown a blanket over him before leaving the room with the children.

As she had sat with her arms around them both her mind had gone over and over the scene which had just unfolded before her and her anger had quickly risen towards the one person that she felt was responsible for it. Dave had been with his former partner for the last week, she didn't know what had occurred during that time, other than the death of Captain Dobey and his funeral, but somewhere along the way something had happened between the two of them. Dave was in no position to tell her but she was determined to get an answer from Hutch. As her husband had slept she had made the arrangements with the airport for their journey home. Leaving the children to collect their belongings together and pack for them all she had made her way to Hutch's apartment prepared for a row.


As they pulled to a halt outside of the hotel Kelly placed a hand on Hutch's arm. Looking at him she whispered, "It was twenty years ago, it wasn't me he was leaving, it was you. He was leaving you all over again, all the pain and anguish and guilt, he was living it over. Somehow Hutch you have to make it okay, you have to make him see that it was the right thing to do, for both of you. You've got to stop the guilt before it destroys him completely."

Hutch looked at the woman beside him and his heart ached for her. An hour ago she had been like a wild cat, spitting fire in her anger and so confident in herself. Now she sat next to him with her head down, the fight in her was all gone and she looked so vulnerable. He silently vowed to do everything in his power to help put right the damage he had caused some twenty years ago. He liked this young woman a lot, and in a way he owed her a lot too. She had taken his friend and been with him through all of the agonies he had suffered because of his unselfish action so many years before. She had loved him unconditionally and now all she wanted was the person her husband was back beside her. Hutch silently prayed that he had the ability to grant that wish because he knew that if he couldn't he would lose Starsky forever.


Hutch and Kelly quietly opened the door of her room and stepped inside. Kenneth and Rachael sat side by side on the sofa. Neither spoke as the two adults came across and stood in front of them. Kelly knelt down and took her children's hands in hers.

"It's ok you two, I'm back and I've brought Ken with me. It'll be alright now just wait..."

"How can it be alright ma? He shouldn't be here" Kenneth pointed angrily at Hutch as he spoke, "He caused all of this, now he'll make it worse. Tell him to go please ma."

Hutch witnessed the boys' anger and pain without acknowledgement. He was staring at the closed bedroom door. Half of him wanted to rush through it and confront Starsky, to shake him by the shoulders and force him to pull himself together, to be his old self. The other half knew that it would take more than that to help his friend and it held him back, unsure of what to do or what to say to the man on the other side of the door.

Kelly looked at Hutch and could see the hesitation there. Letting go of her children she rose and took Hutch's hand instead.

"You have to try Ken. Not just for me but for you and Dave, 'Me and Thee' isn't that how it should be? I'll never have him all Ken, part of him will always be yours and I except that. I've excepted it for the last twenty years but up until know I've never really understood it. Seeing the two of you together, it's like watching one person. Without one the other isn't complete. GO ON Hutch! Right now he needs you. Not me or the kids, just you!"

Kelly gently led him across to the door and opening it she stood back to allow him to walk in. She quietly and firmly closed the door behind him and lent back against it. Nearly three weeks ago she had closed the door on Dave and Ken and left them to sort out their differences together. This time she prayed that Hutch would be able to reach through the barriers her husband had set up around himself. If he couldn't then she knew that she had lost him forever. Pushing away from the door she crossed back over the room and sat next to her children. The only thing she could do know was wait.

For a moment Hutch simply stood looking at the sight before him. Starsky sat on the bed; his whole body spoke of defeat. He showed no sign of acknowledging Hutch's presence in the room, his head was down and he stared at an imaginary spot on the floor in front of him. Hutch walked across and sat down next to him, feeling every one of his fifty plus years. He suddenly realized that he didn't know what to say or where to begin. Twenty years ago he would have held his partner tightly and forced him to speak. They would have talked things through, start to finish, piece by piece, until both had everything straight in their minds. Then, and only then, would they move on, together.

As he sat here a glimmer of light began to shine as the beginnings of an idea began to form in Hutch's tired brain. His thoughts flew back across the years to the events following the shooting and Starsky regaining consciousness. He had been so overjoyed with his partners recovery that he had gone overboard with what Starsky had always called his 'Mother Hen' routine. True, to begin with, Starsky had needed his help to do everything, but he had been so protective Starsky had only to sneeze and he was there with a tissue. The one thing he hadn't done, he had failed to do for the first time ever, was to sit and talk it through. He had feared so much for his friends life that he had shut it all out, refusing to give it room in his memory. This, he realized now, was the problem right from the start. If he had just given Starsky time to talk with him, to work through the bad memories, maybe he would have been able to handle them, would never have run away. Hutch felt his heart grow ever more heavy as he realized that Kenneth was right. This was his fault!


Hutch knew that what he was about to do wasn't going to be easy for either of them. Pulling his gun from its holster he reached across and placed it into Starsky's hand, closing his partners fingers around the cold metal. Starsky's head shot up as though he had been stung and his hands parted, dropping the offending object on to the floor. He was up and across the other side of the room before Hutch had a chance to retrieve the weapon. Holding it firmly by the barrel Hutch rose and walked across to stand directly in front of Starsky barring the way for any retreat. Holding it towards the smaller man he spoke with the firmness of one used to given orders and having them obeyed.

"Take it Starsk. Hold it tight and look at it."

Starsky continued to stare straight at Hutch, the hurt and the fear clearly visible in his eyes. His hand was shaking as Hutch forced him to hold onto the gun. Hutch returned Starsky's stare, remembering as he did so the scene by the river yesterday. This time he was determined to see it through all the way to the end, he only hoped the cost would not be too great for either of them.

Again Hutch spoke, quietly and firmly. "Look at it Starsk, just for a second, then I'll take it away, I promise."

Hutch held his breath as Starsky slowly lowered his eyes and glanced at the offending weapon. Hutch could see the tremor that ran through his body and realized the tremendous effort that had been made. A slight glimmer of hope began to rise; Starsky was still willing to try.

"See Starsk! It's nothing but a piece of metal, cold, hard, deadly in the wrong hands, but metal all the same."

Starsky turned the gun over and over in his hands, his hands shaking as he did so. "When was the last time you held one Starsky?" Starsky's eyes shot up, glaring at Hutch. "Let me guess shall I? Twenty years ago! You haven't held, let alone used, a gun since the day you were shot have you? Hutch pressed home. "That's why you left isn't it Starsk? Never mind the doctors and their reports, you left because you felt you had let me down didn't you?"

Starsky twisted away from Hutch and walked slowly over to the bed. He sank down onto it and held his head in his hands. When the words finally came they were so quiet that Hutch would have missed them if he hadn't been watching, waiting for his friend to reply.

"I did let you down Hutch, I couldn't shoot a gun, damn it I couldn't even hold one. I was terrified of it. How could I back you up without a gun? I was useless to you out there."

Hutch put his weapon away and moved to sit next to Starsky. "You had every right to be scared buddy. Those goons had almost killed you. Damn it you did die at one point, but you came back Starsk, you fought hard and you made it. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't. You meant the world to me. You were the brother I never had, the kind of friend everyone dreams of having but few actually do. How many times over the years have you picked me up and put me back together Starsky? Think about it for a moment... there was Vanessa, Gillian, the heroin, I'd never have made it through that if it hadn't been for you my friend. You were always there when I needed you. NEVER (Hutch almost shouted that word) Never have you ever let me down. If anything Starsk it was the other way around, I let you down."

Starsky stared incredulously at Hutch at these words, "How can you say that Hutch, I'm the one who ran not you. I was the one who threw everything away without a backward glance."

"Yeah... you ran buddy... but you ran to protect me. You were right too. I'd never have survived on the streets with someone else. You and I, we were like two halves of the same whole. I could tell what you were going to do just by listening to you, or watching your movements. I always knew when to duck Starsk from the sound of your yell. Even when I couldn't see you I knew you were there somewhere, I knew I could depend on you to watch my back all the time and you never let me down."

Hutch paused carefully judging his words, keeping his eyes on Starsky all of the time. He had to let him see that what he was saying was the truth and that he meant every word.

"When you finally came round in the hospital I was so happy I thought I would burst. I almost drove the nurses mad for a while pestering them about you, were you in pain, did you need anything, were you warm enough, silly things like that. I became obsessed if you like with looking after you. I was over compensating Starsk. I'd failed to keep you safe in the garage the way you used to keep me safe on the street and I was sure as hell not going to fail a second time. I'd been given a second chance and I wasn't about to let it go. So I closed everything in Starsk, put it to the back of my mind and hoped that it would go away. Every time you tried to talk to me I'd change the subject or I'd find something that needed doing. It was like if I ignored it then it hadn't happened, you'd be fine in a few weeks and we'd be together again, a team."

As he spoke Starsky realized that Hutch was no longer watching him. Instead he was staring out of the window and it was as though he was no longer with him. Starsky began to understand that Hutch had been as badly affected as he had but in a different way. He sat back on to the bed and continued to listen as Hutch went on.

"Then you left Starsky and I felt like the world had ended. My world anyway. In a way it had, you didn't need me; I'd driven you away." Hutch turned and looked at Starsky. "I only realized, when Kelly brought me here, exactly what I'd done Starsk. I'd shut you out. We'd always talked it through before, let the other one work their feelings out. I wouldn't let you do that this time; it was too painful, too close. I'd almost lost you this time and I didn't want to keep going over it so I shut it out. I'm so sorry Starsky. All of this, the pain, the nightmares, it was all my fault and I'm sorry."

Hutch was crying now, the tears falling slowly down his face. Starsky reached up a hand and very gently he wiped them away with his thumb.

"Man we really screwed up Hutch. How could we try so hard to get it right and get it so badly wrong?" So saying Starsky pulled Hutch's head onto his shoulder and held it tight.


Eventually Starsky sensed that Hutch had regained control and he let him go. Slowly he stood up and walked a little way away.

"You're right Hutch. I wanted.... No I needed to talk it over with you. You were the only one who knew what had happened and it was important that I could get it straight in my head. I needed to know that there was nothing I could have done to stop it happening, nothing I should have seen to warn me it was coming. But you kept shutting me out Hutch until in the end I stopped asking. That's when the nightmares started. When the doctors said I couldn't be a street cop anymore it was the last straw. Somewhere, somehow everything got muddled, lack of sleep I guess, but I couldn't see any other way of letting you go. If we couldn't be a team anymore then at least you could move on, become the best captain on the force, do it for both of us. So I left, simple as that. Trouble was it wasn't... simple I mean. We both suffered didn't we? I can't alter things Hutch, what's happened, but lets stop blaming each other shall we? It wasn't either of our faults. It was this world Hutch, this sad, corrupt world and the greed of one man. Time in a Bottle Hutch! Trouble is our bottle always ends up broken."

"Forgive me Starsk, for not understanding, for getting everything so damn wrong" Hutch was drained of all emotion. He was exhausted both mentally and physically. Looking at his friend he knew Starsky was too.

"Nothing to forgive Blintz, like I said we both screwed up big time. Dobey knew it and he'd have knocked our heads together if only he could. Instead he did the only thing there was to do, look after the one left behind until the other came to his senses. I'm sorry that it took me twenty years to do it Hutch. I've grown up a lot in those years though buddy, becoming a dad tends to do that to you in time!"

"Talking of kids Starsk, don't you think you'd better go through that door and let them know you're okay. They were really worried about you." Hutch smiled a sad smile at Starsky. "Go on my friend, Kelly needs you and it doesn't do to keep a lady waiting, especially one who loves you as much as she does."

Starsky slowly turned and walked across the room. At the door he paused and turning to Hutch he grinned. It was a grin that Hutch had seen so many times before and it lifted his heart to see it one more time. Starsky was going to be okay; they had survived yet again.

"Thanks Hutch, for everything." So saying Starsky went to join his family.

Hutch lay back onto the bed. His head was still spinning with all that had gone on between them but he realized that they had reached a new level of understanding between them. Exhaustion finally overcoming him he closed his eyes and fell asleep with the image of Starsky's grin going through his head.


Hutch woke to the sound of a telephone ringing. It took him a few moments to take in his surroundings and realize where he was. The ringing stopped and he could hear muffled voices coming from the other room. Slowly he rose from the bed and was on his way to the door when it was quietly opened and Rachael Starsky pocked her head around it.

"It's okay Dad, he's awake at last. We can all stop tiptoeing around the place now!" Hutch winced as these words were shouted across the hotel room. He was convinced that they could be heard down in the lobby. Another head appeared at the door. Kelly smiled as he made his way across toward her and she stepped back from the door to let him through.

"Well, well, sleeping beauty finally awakes, welcome back." Hutch jumped as she smacked his backside on the way past. "We were just thinking of going down for a coffee and something to eat if you care to join us."

"No... no thanks I ought to be making for the station before they wonder where I am." Hutch was still a little disorientated and Starsky seized on the opportunity.

"Sorry pal, that won't work. I already phoned them and told them you were having one more day off. I said you were pretty exhausted from having to do all the driving and everything and it would look bad if you fell asleep at your desk. Young Anderson is keeping an eye on things for you and Millie's keeping an eye on him so there's nothing to worry about." Starsky was his old self again and he was enjoying winding his friend up. Kelly punched him fondly. "Don't take any notice of him Ken."

Hutch looked at the little family in front of him and, all at once he felt like an intruder. This shook him for a moment and he tried to cover his tracks. But he was too slow, both Starsky and Kelly had seen the look of indecision, which had crossed his face, and they exchanged worried glances with each other. Hutch tried hard to back track, and appear normal, but it didn't fool either of them. Starsky saw the slight nod from his wife and he left her side and moved to his children.

"Come on you two. What say we go and find us a table in the lounge and have a cold coke or something while your mum has a quiet word with Uncle Ken." So saying he steered them both out of the door.

For a moment Kelly and Hutch just stood looking at each other, then Kelly took a deep breath before speaking, quietly but firmly so that Hutch could be in no doubt of what he heard.

"Ken I want to thank you for all that you did earlier. I know what it cost you and you will never know how grateful I really am. Now though there is something you need to understand. You are, and always have been, a part of this family; it couldn't be any other way. In one way or another you've always been there ever since I first met Dave, it's been like living with a hidden presence if you like. Now at last I can put a person to that presence and you know something Ken? He's a really nice guy. Something else too, he loves my husband almost as much as I do and that makes him extra special in my book. Dave is a really sweet, caring, loving, but vulnerable person but his judgment is good and if you mean so much to him that he can make himself ill simply by caring for you then you who am I to argue. If that means having to share him with you then so be it. Be warned though Ken, this is one really crazy family you're a part of."

Hutch looked at the woman standing in front of him and it was like he was seeing her for the first time. The defensive posture that he had run into so many times was gone and in its' place was a lovely, caring, faithful, individual. One with a tremendous capacity to forgive, and one who loved her family with every ounce of her being. Suddenly he wanted so much to be a part of that family and share in it's future, good times and bad. He was past fifty and he had never known what it was like to do that. Now the person standing in front of him was offering him the chance and he knew he would grab it with both hands. Being part of this family meant he would never lose Starsky again and that above everything else was something he didn't want to happen.

As he stood looking at her the door behind them opened and Starsky, Kenneth and Rachael stood watching. Starsky was looking at him with his head on one side, a questioning look in his eye. Kelly moved towards him smiling and, understanding her message, he grinned back.

"Two things Hutch. First off, no kissing Kelly without my say so." Starsky spoke firmly as he pointed his finger into his friend's chest.

Hutch held his hands up in mock surrender and laughed as he promised, crossing his heart as he did so. "What's the second thing?" he asked

" 'S'easy," Starsky turned to Kelly. "No more of this Ken stuff, his name is Hutch okay."

This time both Kelly and Hutch laughed but they stopped when they looked at Starsky's face.

"You're serious aren't you?" Hutch was secretly pleased with this final turn of events.

Starsky held his gaze as he firmly answered. "It was good enough all those years ago Hutch. You were never Ken, not to me. Hutch was special. Still is."

Hutch swallowed the lump that had appeared in his throat. Kelly too was having trouble seeing past the tears in her eyes. Lifting her head she planted a small kiss on Hutch's cheek.

"Welcome to the family Hutch" so saying she pulled him over to where Starsky stood so that she could reach to put her arms through both of theirs. "What say we have that coffee now?"

As the three adults walked along the corridor a small voice reached through the laughter and tears they were sharing.

"Hey does that mean we get to call him Uncle Hutch now?" Rachael Starsky asked her brother.

"Guess so Rachael. Man this family gets weirder than ever!" So saying Kenneth Starsky ducked as he ran past his parents to be the first into the elevator.

The End

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