This story first appeared in the zine, That's What Friends Are For (1996). This zine and other fine S&H gen zines can be obtained from the editor at: Intertwined@webtv.net. Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
Knowing Me, Knowing You
Starsky entered the house to the smell of something burning. He followed the smoke to the kitchen where a pot sat smoking on the burner, its bottom and all former contents now a charred mess on top of the stove. He quickly turned off the burner and opened a window to air out the room. The kitchen definitely seemed like someone had left it in a great hurry. There were some chopped vegetables on the cutting board, and a very wilted-looking salad on the sidebar. Further inspection of the house showed nothing amiss, but it also yielded no Hutch. When Lucy had called Starsky earlier that evening to ask him if he knew where his partner was, Starsky hadn't been too concerned. While it was unusual for Hutch to forget a date, he also had a tendency to become very involved with things to the exclusion of all else. Maybe, Starsky had thought roguishly, it was even another woman. But the apartment seemed to justify Lucy's concern. Wherever Hutch was, he hadn't been prepared to be away so long. Starsky frowned as he locked the door again and hid the key on top of the frame. Something was wrong here, he just needed some time to figure it out.
Hutch fought off despair. Everything he tried was wrong; the radio didn't work, his throat hurt from futile yelling, and his leg throbbed agonizingly, held fast beneath the car. He didn't know what else to try. Not for the first time, he closed his eyes and thought about Starsky, wondering where his partner was, if he had missed him yet, if he was looking for him. Hutch tried to imagine where he would start if the tables were turned, but he couldn't get his foggy mind to think logically. They both had so many enemies in their line of work, it would be hard to narrow it down. Just like Vic Bellamy had been... His body tensed automatically at the memory and he bit his lip for a moment as a wave of pain from his leg washed over him. He knew it was broken, but he didn't know what other injuries he had, or how long he could hang on like this. Long enough for Starsky to find him? They had just made it with Bellamy, how many times would their luck hold out? He closed his eyes wearily. Starsk, help! I need you... He brushed at the sudden wetness on his cheek and gritted his teeth. The bond between the two of them was strong, but not quite telepathic. For now, he would have to try his best to get himself out of this mess. He sighed and reached for the radio again.
Starsky woke out of the nightmare, breathing hard. He had dreamed Hutch was calling him, but from so far away that he couldn't get to his partner in time. He brushed the sweat out of his eyes and rolled out of bed. The clock read 5:09 AM, a little earlier than he was used to, but with any luck Dobey would be in by the time Starsky got to the office. He had a really bad feeling about all this.
Hutch forced his thoughts away from wondering what his partner was doing and tried once again to think past the haze that kept filling his mind. He could hear Sonny singing somewhere off to his right and he was thankful for the company, but there had to be some way to talk the Colonel into going to see Starsky. Surely Starsky would be able to see the truth in Sonny's made-up world, Hutch had to believe he would. If only he could make Sonny realize. If only the radio worked. If only I could get up and walk out of here, he thought with a bitter smile. If only Starsky were here...
Starsky left Huggy's feeling hollow, acutely missing the familiar presence by his side. Huggy's information made sense; Humphries had wanted Hutch and his damaging testimony out of the way and had called in a scumbag hitman to make a hit on Hutch. And by all appearances, Slater had already done his job. More than anything, even more than finding his partner dead, Starsky was afraid that he would never find out what happened. He wasn't sure he could live with that, with the knowledge that Hutch was still perhaps alive somewhere, trapped or injured, and Starsky unable to help. Or perhaps turning up as another unidentified body in five years in some rocky gorge. NO! He forced himself to remember Humphries' smug face in the elevator instead, and the cold anger that filled Starsky cleared his head. He wouldn't let Humphries win; he had to believe Hutch was alive, had to push on until he learned the truth. If he didn't do that, he was giving up on Hutch already, and Starsky refused to do that. If you're out there, buddy, I'm going to find you, I swear. The Torino squealed away from the curb as he picked up the mike to call Dobey with the bad news.
Hutch put down the mike, exhausted, and as the the radio's voice slowly died out, Hutch had to fight to keep his spirits from dying with it. So close... The loneliness was the worst part, and the radio had felt like his last hope, his last link to the world and to Starsky. To be able to hear Dispatch but not to speak to them was crushing. It wasn't fair, like some sick game someone was playing with him. He knew time was running out; it was harder to breathe now and he couldn't yell anymore, and his leg was numb. For a moment he considered the possibility that they would have to amputate his leg to get him out, but he had laughed it off grimly. That was assuming that someone found him, which didn't seem probable by now. Sonny MacPherson, who wasn't likely to help a 'German spy', and a cryptic radio message that probably nobody heard, were his last hopes. No, that's not true, he reminded himself. Starsk is still out there. Starsky was the best cop he had ever worked with, and if anyone could put the pieces together, he could. Hutch held on to that thought desperately as he watched the sun begin to rise on another day.
Starsky bleakly thought back to the confidence he felt earlier as he had watched the sun rise and waited, full of hope, for Slater to appear. Slater had appeared, but thanks to Starsky he was dead now, and with him the last chance to find out what had happened to Hutch. What was it he had said to Carla? 'Someone very, very, very close to me might be dead, and I won't know unless I ask him.' And now he might never know. This was the third day now that Hutch was missing, and Starsky's hope waned a little with each new morning. Hutch, if you're out there, hold on buddy. I'm doin' my best. He gave a frustrated sigh and headed down to the lab for the report on Slater's rig.
Everything was hazy and Hutch didn't know if it was night or day anymore. He thought he'd heard voices earlier, perhaps even felt a touch, but he wasn't sure about anything. Distractedly he wondered if that was the result of dehydration or if it was an injury. Or maybe it's just death. I always wondered what that would be like. He had spent the night in terror of the idea, but somehow it no longer seemed to be so frightening. The only thought that still had the power to scare him was that Starsky would be all alone, not knowing what happened to him. That hurt. He knew how hard Starsky would take it; he would blame himself. "Starsk, it's okay," he murmured to the silence around him. "It's not your fault..."
You idiot, it's all your fault, Starsky berated himself as he drove. The Colonel was tryin' to tell you he had found Hutch and you ignored him. He felt like kicking himself. He had been so close and had totally missed it. He inched the speedometer up another five miles per hour. It had to be the same guy, how many colonels named Sonny could there be in LA? He knew it as soon as the kid said it. I'm comin' partner. Starsky wasn't much for religion, but he began to pray fervently.
The world had gone a passive black, but Hutch didn't even care. He had made peace with himself and with God. Even the pain had faded to a tolerable level. He was simply going to die. Good-bye, Starsk, take care of yourself. I love you.
The Canyon Road. That was the last missing piece, Starsky thought as he drove around the tight curves. Someone, probably one of Hutch's snitches, calls him up and wants to meet him. Hutch figures he can make it in a half an hour, doesn't even bother to turn off the stove. Slater's waiting for him around the bend, and smashes into Hutch's car, pushing it off into the ravine. The thought chilled Starsky's blood. Most wouldn't even survive a fall like that, but apparently Hutch had been awake enough to somehow convince Sonny that he was a German spy. Starsky couldn't even begin to figure that one out. He just hoped that Sonny had enough marbles left to give him correct directions. He counted the telephone poles soundlessly. Five, six... And what if...no, stop thinking like that. Ten, eleven... He was almost there and then he could see for himself.
He rounded the last corner and saw the car parked on the shoulder. Starsky's heart leapt into his throat. Dear God, they've come to finish him off! He screeched to a halt beside the other car and leapt out, throwing himself down after the stumbling Humphries without a second thought. He caught up to him effortlessly, his agility and drive no match for the overweight felon. It was over in seconds.
He held his breath as he scrambled down to the LTD, half-afraid of what he might find. The first rush of elation was quickly replaced by dread. What if he was too late? Don't be dead, please don't be dead, his mind sang over and over again. He slid around the bumper and he could see Hutch pinned under the car, unmoving.
There was no response, but he wasn't sure he expected one. He ran the last few feet and dropped down beside his still partner, wanting badly to know he was all right but fearing the truth. He gently raised Hutch's head, feeling the clammy skin, noting the blood and paleness, looking desperately for any sign of life. "Hutch? Hey..."
There was a long pause. The eyelashes fluttered and rose slowly, almost hesitatingly. Hutch was looking at him, confused and in pain, but still alive. Thank God! He looked into Hutch's eyes and tried to communicate security and love to his semi-conscious friend. "We made it, partner," he murmured softly, his voice beginning to waver. Hutch looked at him for a long moment, and then Starsky could feel his body tremble and saw his eyes began to tear. Hutch gave a half-laugh, half-sob that made him cough. Starsky held him gently, understanding.
He let himself stay there for a moment as they looked at each other and read the past two days in each other's eyes, reassuring themselves of the other's presence. Then Hutch's strength ran out and his eyes began to drift shut. Starsky carefully let him back down and stripped off his own jacket. Speaking softly, reassuring Hutch he'd be right back, he stuck the jacket under his partner's head to serve as a makeshift pillow and then sprinted back up the hill to call for help.
He returned within two minutes, a warm soda in one hand. Humphries was still out, but Starsky paused a minute to handcuff him to a nearby bush. He had enough to do with Hutch without having to watch his back, too. With any luck, they would leave Humphries out there for a couple of days, see how he liked it. As Starsky rounded the corner of the car, he could hear his name being called faintly and he rushed over to grab Hutch's weaving hand. His partner quieted immediately at the touch, and Starsky felt a lump in his throat at the thought of Hutch out there alone for so long. He swallowed hard, and opened the soda, lifting his friend's head so he could drink. After two days, he figured no matter what other injuries the blond had, dehydration would be a definite problem. Hutch didn't respond for a few seconds, then began to drink thirstily. "Slowly, partner, take it easy," Starsky murmured.
As he helped Hutch drink, Starsky studied the situation. His partner was trapped under the car by his left leg, but Starsky couldn't tell exactly how his leg was pinned. As much as he ached to get Hutch out, he couldn't risk further injuring his partner. Better to let the rescue team get him out. Reluctantly he sat back to wait, gently settling his partner back on the ground.
Hutch stirred in response, then gasped at the sudden pain of moving his leg and clutched at Starsky's sleeve. Starsky moved further into his field of vision and took his hand.
"Hey, partner, it's okay. Easy now. C'mon Hutch, relax. That's it. I'm not goin' anywhere, okay? Huh?"
The blond's breathing slowly eased and he gave a slight nod.
"Good. Okay, I called Dobey and the rescue team should be here soon. You just hang on 'til then, you hear me?"
Hutch nodded again, but Starsky could see the effort it took. He let his partner doze and sat down next to him, content for the moment to watch Hutch breathe, dispelling with every breath the terrible images Starsky had fought against for those desperate two days. He held his friend's hand tightly as he counted the minutes until help arrived.
It took eternity until they got to the hospital. Or twenty minutes to a disinterested observer. Starsky began to realize that it was not over yet, Hutch still could die despite his efforts. He stood, lost, at the door of the emergency room that they had taken Hutch into until a nurse directed him to the waiting room. There the minutes crawled by even more slowly as he filled each of them full with relived memories. Hutch, what would I do without you?
Captain Dobey found him there a half-hour later, hunched over in a dark corner on the floor. Dobey, too, had feared the worst when he had heard the report on Roy Slater, and seeing the look on Starsky's face didn't lift his hopes much.
"Starsky, you heard anything yet?" he asked.
Starsky looked up at him blankly. He's in shock, Dobey thought with surprise. He hadn't realized Starsky was so overwhelmed. "Starsky?" he asked carefully, placing a hand on the man's shoulder.
"Yeah, Cap'n?" The voice was mechanical, almost a reflex.
Dobey spoke slowly and clearly. "What's going on?"
Starsky seemed to wake up a little and began to relate the events of the past few hours. Once he started, the words came faster, rushing out and his voice began to rise almost hysterically.
"Starsky!" Dobey cut in sharply, now seriously concerned. He had never seen Starsky like this before. Starsky gasped, and suddenly he was crying as he continued trying to talk. Dobey could barely understand what he was choking out.
"Cap'n...he was under that car for two days and nights...in pain...not even sure we were lookin'...all alone...dear God, he could have died and we wouldn't have...the car was on his leg..."
Dobey sat silently on a chair beside the detective, his hand resting on the shaking shoulder, the mute support about all he could offer. He knew only Hutch would be able to fix what was wrong with Starsky, but he didn't even know if the blond would be around to try. After a while, Starsky began to calm down and Dobey snagged a cup of coffee for him from a passing nurse and ordered him to drink it. Starsky obeyed without protest, all his energy gone. Dobey waited until he was finished, wondering how he could help.
"Starsky, it's over now. You did some real fine detective work and you found him and he's in good hands here. You did everything you possibly could, and then some, and all of it above and beyond the call of duty." He was a little more complimentary than usual, but Starsky looked like he desperately needed it.
"'Course I did. He's my friend." The reply was only a mumble and sounded a little surly at the thought of anyone doubting his motives. Dobey smiled a little in spite of himself. Starsky wasn't telling him anything he hadn't figured out on his own a while ago. He was about to say something else when the doctor approached them. Starsky scrambled to his feet, holding on to the edge of Dobey's chair for support.
"Doctor, is he..."
"Your friend will be just fine. I won't fool you though, it was close. Another hour or so and he would've died from dehydration. As is, he has some broken ribs and a badly fractured leg, and a slight concussion. We'll keep him here tonight for observation but you can probably take him home tomorrow."
Starsky sat down hard on Dobey's vacated chair and buried his face in his hands. The doctor looked as though he were about to say something else, but Dobey quickly stepped in and steered him away, asking questions. By the time he returned, Starsky was collected and even looked happy.
"Well, Starsky, you going up to see your partner or not?"
The expression on Starsky's face was answer enough.
"Room 314," Dobey told him, and then had to raise his voice as Starsky began to dash off. "He won't be awake for a while but the Doctor says you can sit with him." Starsky turned for a second in midstride to grin his thanks, and disappeared around the corner. Dobey shook his head as he usually did with those two, and went off to find some donuts. He had earned it.
The haze was dispersing in his mind, and he began to think again. It seemed like nothing had made sense for so long, just a collection of images and emotions; fear, pain, loneliness, comfort, love, that he tried to make sense of now. The last two in particular stuck in his mind. He still felt them, almost like a tangible presence. Love... That made him think of someone, and he smiled at the thought. Starsk. Starsky had found him in time, despite the odds. He tested his senses, exploring where he was. A hospital, he decided after a minute. Yes, the antiseptic smell, the quiet beeping of a monitor...and a warm weight on his left hand that he couldn't identify. He cautiously opened his eyes. Fairly painless. His first sight was the top of a dark, curly head at his side. Starsky was fast asleep in a chair beside his bed, his head resting on a hand that enfolded Hutch's hand. Hutch lay back and closed his eyes contentedly. Starsky was probably exhausted, he didn't want to disturb him. He tried instead to remember the past couple of days, but a lot of it was blurry. There was the radio that didn't work, and Sonny MacPherson. And the horrible feeling of being trapped, not being able to get his leg out, and the pain. He had a sudden frightening thought. Maybe he didn't feel any pain now because the leg wasn't there anymore! He had been under the car so long, they might not have been able to repair the damage. Panic rushed over him and he began struggling to raise himself to see. Starsky's head snapped up at the movement, his face concerned.
"Hey, hey, take it easy, partner. You're okay."
Hutch was gasping with the effort. "My...my leg..." he rasped.
Starsky looked confused. "Does it hurt? It's broken. You remember? You had a car sittin' on it." His attempt at humor faded as Hutch looked at him, pale and disoriented.
Starsky frowned. "Of course it's still there. Where else would it be?" Understanding dawned. "You mean, did they have to cut it off or somethin'?" He smiled indulgently. "No, it's fine, it's just gonna be in a cast for a while."
Hutch lay back, exhausted and relieved. He tried to clear his throat. "Water, please?" he asked hoarsely.
"Yeah, sure." Starsky jumped up to pour him some water and help him drink it. That reminded Hutch of something, he tried to think what.
Starsky looked a little embarrassed. "You would remember that. That's all I had in the car and you needed to get some liquids in you. Doctor says you're lucky you didn't die from dehyration, lyin' around like that for two days."
Hutch smiled tiredly. "'Dehydration'."
"Whatever." Starsky waved indifferently. "In case you're interested, you also got some broken ribs, a 'compound fracture' of the leg, and a knock on the head, so you're gonna feel lousy for a while."
Hutch was beginning to doze. "You gonna stay?" he asked a little thickly.
Starsky patted his arm. "Yeah, partner, just get some sleep. I'll be right here when you wake up."
Hutch nodded almost imperceptibly, already asleep. Starsky smiled a little. I'll stay as long as you need me partner. He settled back in the chair to get some badly needed sleep himself.
Starsky jumped out of the chair, hand reaching automatically for his gun and eyes sweeping the room. Hutch was thrashing on the bed, arms flailing. Starsky quickly put his gun away and moved over to his partner, grasping his arms firmly.
"Hutch. Hutch! Wake up. C'mon, wake up!"
Hutch gasped and half-sat up, looking wildly around. Starsky gently pushed him back onto the bed as Hutch's eyes fixed on him.
"It's okay, Hutch, you were just having a bad dream." He grabbed a washcloth from the nearby table and wiped the sweat off the blond's face. Hutch lay tensely for a moment, and then suddenly sagged, breathing heavily. Starsky studied him worriedly. "You okay?"
Hutch nodded slowly.
"You wanna talk about it?"
Hutch shuddered and closed his eyes. Then, in a hesitant voice, "I was trapped in the car again...rolling down the cliff...and I could see you...but you couldn't hear me calling to you..." His fingers were digging into the bed as he tried to escape from the nightmare.
"Hey, easy, buddy. That's over with. I heard you and you're safe now. It was just a bad dream." He kept his voice low and gentle, and slowly, unnoticed, started rubbing the tension out of his partner's shoulders and arms. Hutch began to relax and Starsky went on, still pitching his voice low, lulling. "A kid picked up your radio message and called in. He said a cop needed help and said somethin' about 'Sonny who thinks he's a colonel'. Sonny had been at the precinct earlier, so it wasn't too hard to track him down. 'Course, I had to convince him Allied Command wanted you before he agreed to tell me where you were." Starsky's smile faded as his thoughts moved on. "You know, it was Roy Slater who pushed you off the road. Humphries and his lawyer paid him to do it so you wouldn't testify." He had been talking almost to himself and started at Hutch's quiet voice.
"Humphries. I didn't know..."
"Yeah, well, Roy Slater took a fall out of a seven-story building and Vic and Albert are both in custody, so it's all wrapped up." He looked closely at his partner who was still very pale. "Hutch, you sure you're okay? I could call the nurse..."
Hutch swallowed. "Starsk... I was scared. It hurt so bad, I could hardly think, and after Sonny left I thought I'd go crazy." He looked at Starsky earnestly. "I was sure I was going to die out there. I didn't know if you were looking for me, or how you could find me..."
Starsky had been listening intently, but he could tell the memories were becoming a little too vivid. He gently interrupted, "Yeah, I know, partner. But of course I came lookin' for you. We're pals, right?" He gave Hutch his most charming smile.
Hutch couldn't help but laugh, his face still rather sober but with real warmth in his eyes. "Thanks, Starsk." He moved his hand toward his partner who immediately grasped it.
Starsky's mouth twisted into a lopsided grin. After a moment of silent talking, he disentangled himself from his partner carefully. "Why don't you get some more sleep, huh? If you're feeling better, I'll take you home tomorrow." He moved back towards the chair.
"Yeah?" he turned.
"Why don't you go home and get some sleep yourself. I'll be okay."
Starsky eyed him doubtfully. "You sure?"
Hutch's smile was genuine now. "Yeah. Go on, I'll see you later."
Starsky grinned and patted Hutch's arm again before he left. Hutch looked at the door for a minute. Took a fall out of a seven-story building, huh? His eyes strayed upwards to give long overdue thanks both for a timely rescue and for best friends. Then he began to doze off again, and this time sleep brought no nightmares.
Written in 1995