This story first appeared in the zine, A Small Circle of Friends #1 (1996). This zine, and other fine S&H gen zines, can be obtained from Neon Rainbow Press at:http://www.neonrainbowpress.com/ This story is based on the Quantum Leap episode "It's a Wonderful Leap". Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
To Protect and Serve
It was a typical summer day in Los Angeles. Hot, muggy, and irritating, the kind of day where Starsky could almost imagine himself in an office job, sitting behind a desk in an air-conditioned office. No life-and-death dilemmas, no weight of the world on his shoulders. No partner talking his ear off about some place he and his girl had gone the night before. It seemed like Hutch had been in overdrive since...well, for the last month or so. Normally, Starsky would have humored him in amusement, but little had been normal lately, and Starsky was quickly getting fed up.
"Say, Starsk, why don't you come along with Shannon and me tonight? She has a roommate that would..."
Starsky knew the pitch that was coming and was quick to head it off. "I'm busy tonight."
Hutch looked over at him, those damnably perceptive blue eyes seeing more than Starsky wanted them to. "Again? That's two weeks straight you've been busy. You holdin' out on me, buddy?"
'Buddy.' Hutch only called him that when he was worried about him, no matter how casual his tone. Somehow that irritated Starsky even more. "I have a lot of stuff to do." He tried to make it sound final.
Hutch watched him for a moment while Starsky actively ignored his partner and concentrated on driving. When Hutch spoke again, his voice was quiet and the levity was gone. "You know, maybe it would be good for you to get out a little. Terry wouldn't have wanted you to..."
"Terry has nothing to do with it." The words were ground out with difficulty, but it was either that or yell. At any rate, Hutch would know as well as he did that it was a complete lie, anyway.
"Look, I don't want to talk about it, okay?" Starsky glanced over at Hutch, his anger evaporating a little when he saw his friend's expression. "Please?" he added more softly.
Hutch sighed. "Okay." Not okay, but it would pass for now. "Well then, have you had any new ideas about our larcenous friends?"
Starsky was silent for a minute, slipping gratefully into his cop mode. Thinking was always easier than feeling. "Well, last time we almost made it, but they keep cuttin' out right before we get there. It's almost like they..."
His attention had been turned toward his partner for a moment, and his words were cut off as something flashed by in front of the windshield, immediately followed by a large bump as the Torino drove over it. Starsky was already putting on the brakes, but he knew with horrifying certainty that he had just run over someone. He saw for a split second that Hutch's face mirrored his own dread, and then they were both scrambling out of the car.
Hutch stopped short to stare in shock at something on his side of the Torino, and Starsky skidded around the front bumper to the sight of a pair of brightly-stockinged fat legs that poked out from under the car, just behind the front tire. Motionless.
"Oh my God," Starsky breathed in earnest prayer, then unfroze himself to join his partner who was already trying to pull the victim out from under the vehicle. Their initial gentle efforts were unsuccessful in budging the body, and it took both of them straining to finally manhandle the large woman out onto the street.
For the legs did indeed belong to a large, Hispanic woman. She had a round, open face that matched her plump body and was framed by black, bobbed hair. Her clothes looked to be straight out of the flapper 20's although she didn't look much over 50. And there was no visible injury on her, but she lay still and pale, not breathing.
Starsky was moaning softly to himself as Hutch felt for her pulse and, not feeling anything, kneeled at her side to begin CPR. He was peripherally aware of his partner next to him in almost as bad shape as the woman at their feet, but there wasn't time for that now. "Come on, Starsk, I need help to do the breathing." He glanced up at Starsky who stood paralyzed. "Starsky!"
That brought a reaction and Starsky got down on the opposite side to tilt the woman's head back just as Hutch did the first compression.
The punch came out of nowhere and knocked Hutch back as Starsky pulled away in surprise. The blond sat up in astonishment, rubbing his jaw and watching the woman who had just come alive and was staring at both the detectives with a mixture of annoyance and exasperation.
"What the..." Starsky began.
"What do you think you're doing?" the woman asked angrily, staring at Hutch. "First you run over me, then you hit me."
Hutch was at a loss for words. "Lady, I...uh, I was just trying to do CPR -- we were trying to save your life!" He pointed to Starsky. "Besides, he was the one that ran you over," he added defensively.
Starsky gaped at him over the shoulder of the woman who had now turned to fix her gaze on him. Hutch shrugged helplessly; the whole thing was becoming slightly unreal.
"Why don't you just get in your car and run over me a few times?" the woman demanded hotly of Starsky in a strong Puerto-Rican accent.
Starsky assumed his most winning expression and tried again. "Look, I'm really sorry, I didn't see you, Miss..."
"Angelita Carmen Guadalupe Rosita Maria Jimenez. But you can call me Angela," she added offhandedly as she bent over to straighten her skirt and draw her feathered coat more tightly around her. She looked up at him sternly. "And maybe you would have seen me if you paid more attention to the road and less to your partner. You being policemen, too." She shook her head chidingly at them both and resumed preening herself.
Starsky had no more capacity for astonishment and glanced over at Hutch who merely shrugged. He saw the same question in his partner's eyes -- how did she know?
Angela interrupted his thoughts with a frustrated sigh. "Oh, it wasn't supposed to happen this way at all."
The detectives exchanged looks again, agreeing; the lady wasn't quite playing with a full deck. "Uh, right," Starsky agreed. "Are you sure you're okay?" He watched her skeptically.
Angela broke out into a wide grin. "Sure, no thanks to you two." She nudged his arm cheerfully to show she had no hard feelings. "Look, I can even do the Charleston."
The sight of a fifty-something, brightly-attired, plump woman doing the Charleston on 6th Street was only enough to get a few curious glances, but Starsky quickly cut in nevertheless. "No, uh, that's okay. Maybe later, huh? Look, can we take you anywhere?" Hutch was being no help at all, standing off to one side and staring at them as though they'd just stepped off a spaceship, which Starsky was beginning to feel they had.
Angela looked at him brightly. "Where are you going?"
Starsky sighed. The day was looking longer and longer. "No, I mean, can we take you home?" he said with more patience than he felt.
Angela immediately dropped her eyes and began to play with the edge of her coat. "Oh, no, I..." the rest was inaudible.
"Do you have a home?" Starsky asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.
"Sleeping out in the park is nice, under the stars," Angela smiled shyly.
Starsky glanced at Hutch who was looking at him and shaking his head. His message was clear, but Starsky was never one to turn his back on strays and he knew it. Starsky pleaded silently, and Hutch finally threw up his hands in exasperation. His partner smiled at the victory and swept open the passenger side car door, half-bowing to Angela.
"Would you like to come with us?" he asked in his most charming voice.
Angela lit up and smiled brilliantly at him as she squeezed herself into the back seat. Hutch watched his partner, quietly pleased with the change that had come over Starsky, charmed amusement replacing the earlier depression. "Pushover," he muttered fondly.
For the first time in a long time, Starsky grinned back at him over the hood of the car before sliding into his seat.
The trip went quietly as Angela looked around at the passing city with wonder, and the detectives looked at her and wondered.
"You know, Dobey's not going to be very happy about this," Hutch finally spoke up softly.
"What were we supposed to do," argued back Starsky, equally quietly. "We couldn't just leave her there. I'll take her to the shelter after we sign out."
"No you won't. You're going to feel sorry for her and end up adopting her. Starsk, why is that you seem to pick up every stray we come across? They never stick around." Only two weeks ago it had been a mangy dog that Starsky mourned bitterly after it chose to move on a few days later. Hutch had wondered more than once if it was the dog he missed, or if he just felt everyone was abandoning him.
"You're still here, aren't you?" The reply was light and Hutch had to smile at it, but they were both keenly aware of its depth, and it threw them back into silent thought.
Hutch's warnings about the captain shortly proved to be groundless. Just as Angela seemed to rub something in him the wrong way, Dobey immediately took to her and even ended up taking her to see more of the station. Hutch sat open-mouthed across from a broadly grinning Starsky as the unlikely pair headed out the door together.
"How did she do that? I was sure he was gonna give us a lecture on the proper place for civilians and not wasting our time on duty."
Starsky patiently patted his knee. "You just don't know the captain like I do. I knew he'd like her. She's really something."
Hutch stared at him in disbelief for a moment, then shook his head. After this day, he'd believe anything. He mumbled to himself about the foibles of partners and set about clearing off his desk for the end of the shift.
Dobey returned with a flushed and happy Angela on his arm, and, thoroughly charmed, even forgot to yell at his detectives for being late again. Angela watched him return to his office, then turned back to the two men.
"Your captain, he is such a nice man. You must enjoy working for him very much."
That produced a hastily hidden smile from Starsky while Hutch just continued to shake his head and ignore them.
Starsky seemed to be debating something. "Uh, Angela, how would you like to come over for dinner tonight?" Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Hutch's head come up. "Hutch'll come too, and then I can take you...downtown afterwards."
Angela looked delighted. "Oh, that would be nice. But are you sure I would not be in your way?"
Hutch began to say something, but Starsky cut him off. "No, it would be our pleasure." He grinned at Hutch's expression.
"I thought you were busy tonight," Hutch muttered sarcastically. He watched with guilty pleasure as Starsky was briefly discomfited, but his partner rebounded just as fast.
"That can wait," Starsky brushed it off. He suddenly recalled something and turned back to Angela. "Say, back there on the street, how did you know we were cops?"
Angela smiled at him. "I know a lot about you. I had to, you know, 'cause I'm your guardian angel."
Starsky's smile disappeared in confusion. "My what?"
"Your guardian angel," Angela repeated matter-of-factly. She noticed Hutch's roll of the eyes. "Oh, you, I knew you would not believe me, you are always so slow to believe." She turned back to Starsky. "But you, I could come help you because you still have the heart of a child."
Starsky flushed in embarrassment at that, and then in annoyance as Hutch mumbled, "Well, you've got the child part right, anyway."
Angela, ignoring him, drifted off to study something else that caught her attention. Hutch leaned over to his partner. "I don't know about this, Starsky, that lady's a fruitcake and you're having her over for dinner. Well, you can count me out."
Starsky began to wheedle. "So she's a little mixed up, she's still a nice lady and she's lonely. You and Shannon can go out tomorrow night, can't you? Huh?" He looked imploringly at his friend.
He might not have gotten away with it another time, but Hutch was secretly gratified to see his friend take interest in anything, and so he let himself be talked into it. After all, just because they were spending the evening together didn't mean he had to like her.
The evening was actually going a lot more pleasantly than Hutch had expected. Instead of picking up food on the way, Starsky had insisted on cooking something himself, and immediately busied himself in the kitchen upon their arrival at his place. Angela went in to help him, and Hutch sat out in the living room and listened to the sound of mixed voices and laughter. He hadn't heard Starsky sound this relaxed since the whole nightmare of Prudholm's reappearance had begun, not since... Terry. It still hurt him to think about her, too; they had been good friends, united in a shared love. But his loss hadn't compared with the deep mourning Starsky had gone into following her death, a grief too deep for even Hutch to reach him in sometimes. He had even begun to despair that his friend would ever surface from it, until they had...well, run into Angela. Hutch had to grudgingly admit, she seemed to be succeeding where he had failed. He just hoped Starsky wouldn't get too close to her; having to lose one more thing he cared for could quite well be too much for him to handle.
Starsky was a fairly decent cook when he set his mind to it, but Hutch had to admit that what he and Angela came up with was absolutely wonderful. The only problem was that Angela refused to take any. "Oh, no," she demurred as Starsky insisted, "Angels don't eat."
Hutch's pointed look at her girth earned him a kick in the shin under the table and a muttered, "Would you behave," from his partner as he bent with a wince to rub his leg. He would've shot back something equally caustic, but Starsky was already turning back to Angela with a smile and a change of topic. Hutch kept his mouth shut and his shins well away from Starsky for the rest of the meal.
After a dessert, Hutch noted glumly, of angel food cake, Starsky escorted Angela out into the living room with promises to join her soon, then went to help Hutch clean up.
"You know, I feel kinda sorry for her," Starsky began before Hutch had a chance to comment. "She's really a nice lady. I hate having to take her to the shelter."
Hutch sighed and put down the glass he was holding to better make his point. "Now, you see, I told you this would happen. She is a nice lady, but there are a lot of nice ladies out there and you can't help all of them." He tried not to notice Starsky's hurt expression, but he softened his voice a little. "Starsk, she needs a lot more than a meal or a bed, she needs professional help. They can help her at the shelter a lot better than we can."
Starsky nodded briefly, his eyes downcast and moved off into the kitchen. They both knew that was the truth, but Hutch felt like a heel anyway. But really, an angel...
Quiet music reached him from the living room, and a moment later, Starsky came out from the kitchen to listen, too, his face paling as Hutch watched. Hutch was about to say something but his partner walked past him into the living room, entranced.
Angela was sitting on the sofa, Starsky's guitar propped comfortably in her plentiful lap. Hutch thought she ought to have looked ridiculous but somehow didn't. Perhaps it was because of her beautiful voice as she sang softly with the simple chords, a haunting song he had never heard before.
It apparently meant something to Starsky, though. His friend sat down on the chair across from Angela and stared at her, his eyes wide in a bloodless face. As if he were in shock, Hutch realized with concern, but he was reluctant to move forward and break the strange spell of the music. He watched instead, waiting for something he didn't understand.
Angela finished her song and set the guitar down reverently, then turned back to Starsky.
Starsky swallowed and seemed to find his voice, although his it was rough when he spoke. "How did... I mean, where did you hear that song?"
Angela looked at him earnestly. "Did you like it? I haven't played the guitar for a long time, but I guess you never forget it." Hutch was taken aback at her compassionate expression. "That song meant a lot to you, yes?"
Starsky sat silently for a moment, then cleared his throat before speaking, no longer looking at her. "Yeah," he said simply. "My... it was our song."
Hutch had to strain to hear the last part; Starsky was almost talking to himself, but he knew immediately who the other half of "our" was. The song was unfamiliar to him, apparently something just the two of them had shared, and he thought with a pang of all the memories it had to be reawakening in his friend. Silently, he cursed Angela for dragging his partner through that again.
"Excuse me, please," Starsky apologized in a subdued voice, and hurried out of the room toward his bedroom.
Hutch watched him go with indecision, wanting to give him time for his own thoughts, but also wanting so badly to help. After a moment, he set off resolutely toward the bedroom, Angela already playing a different tune behind him.
Starsky sat on the bed with his back to the door. He seemed to take no notice as Hutch came in and sat down next to him; he was occupied with staring intently at a picture he held in his hands. His cheeks were wet, Hutch noted with surprise. He'd seen Starsky choke back tears that night they sat up and played Monopoly to wait together for midnight to strike, and he had woken a few hours later to climb onto Starsky's bed and offer what comfort he could to his sobbing friend. But after that night, he had never seen Starsky give in to his grief again, not at the funeral or the days of endless cards and condolences that followed. Just a depression that cast a pall over everything and seemed to get more established each day. Maybe, he thought now, maybe Starsky needed to cry for her one more time. Not for losing her, but for the memories that could never be again. He silently placed his hand on Starsky's shoulder, willing his presence to be some comfort, and sat and waited.
"I put her picture in the drawer. Didn't think I could look at it every day," Starsky finally began, his voice low and cracking a little. He paused to steady himself.
Hutch didn't know what to say, just tightened his grip in wordless support.
Starsky glanced up at him briefly, then down at the picture, "You know, I wanted to marry her. I even asked her, but she never said yes. It's like... she thought it would be easier if she weren't my wife." His voice did break on the last word, and suddenly he was shaking soundlessly, his eyes tightly shut.
"Oh, Starsk..." Hutch breathed resignedly as he pulled his friend into a tight embrace. A long moment later, Starsky's arm went around him, and he clung back, shaking them both with the intensity of his sorrow.
It was a while longer before Hutch came back out of the room, alone, and shut the door quietly behind him. Starsky was in bed, asleep, utterly exhausted. Hutch was only slightly more energetic, but he hadn't forgotten their guest -- Starsky's guest, he corrected, waiting out in the living room. She had to be wondering what had happened to them by now.
He entered the living room to the sight of Angela curled up on the sofa, her coat tucked around her, fast asleep. Hutch groaned inwardly and moved forward to wake her, but stopped himself. Surely it wouldn't hurt to let her spend the night there. She did look comfortable, and he didn't relish the thought of having to drive down to the shelter before going home. He sighed with resignation and collected his jacket and his car keys. After all, she had been the catalyst for the release Starsky had desperately needed; Hutch couldn't help but feel grateful for her unwitting help. He still didn't like her, but...maybe she wasn't all that bad. He shook his head in amusement at the thought of Starsky discovering her on the sofa the next morning, and softly went out the door.
The next morning, Starsky pulled up in front of Vinnie's Gym and got out, pausing a moment to smile at Angela in the back seat. Then he started up the steps, meeting Hutch at the top as his partner came out from the building. At Hutch's searching look, he nodded, and the previous night was put behind them. Hutch was relieved to see Starsky looking, if not happy, at least more at peace than before. They descended the stairs together and were walking toward the Torino when Hutch saw Angela and stopped suddenly.
Starsky walked on for two more steps before he realized that his partner was no longer next to him, then backtracked to where Hutch stood, gazing at the car. "You comin'?" he queried good-naturedly.
"Starsky," Hutch hesitated, took another look at the woman who cheerfully waved to him from the back seat, and regarded Starsky grimly. "I called R&I last night and asked them to look up Carmen Miranda over there."
Starsky was wearing the amused half-smile that usually meant he was humoring his partner. "And, so you found out she's a real person and not an angel. So what? She's a sweet lady who's just a little mixed up." Thinking the topic closed, he set off for the car again.
Hutch caught up to him and turned him back with a hand on his arm. "No, that's not what I found out. R&I found some information on Miss Angelita Carmen...whatever, Jimenez. It matched her description, too." He was looking back at the car again, where Angela had gotten out to stretch and was amiably watching them.
"So?" his partner prompted patiently, drawing back his attention.
"So, Angelita Jimenez died of pneumonia in 1928."
That took a moment to sink in, and Starsky's eyes widened at the information. He started in an awestruck voice, "You mean, she's really an..."
"Of course not," Hutch interrupted in annoyance. "Angels don't get run over by cars and then introduce themselves as your guardian angel. She's just done her homework, s'all."
Starsky had that wide-eyed look again of childlike wonder. "But how do you explain her knowin' we were cops, and playing Terry's song?"
Hutch looked at him in surprise, Starsky not even seeming to have noticed that it was the first time he had said that name in the last month without wincing in reminder. Hutch shook himself; if Starsky hadn't noticed, he certainly wasn't going to mention it. "Just coincidence. She's probably seen us patrolling before, and, well, uh, I suppose..."
Music again caught his attention, saving him from an explanation as they both turned in surprise toward the car. Angela had moved around to the back of the car and was leaning against the trunk, singing her heart out to the empty parking lot. Except this time her voice was full and strong, ringing out across the lot. It was a wonderful voice, well-tuned and obviously trained as it hit the high notes tremulously and then sank to a silky alto. The two detectives watched her, mesmerized, until the last note died away, and with a quick, shy look at them, Angela got back into the car.
Starsky turned back to Hutch and gave him a long well-what-do-you-think-now look. Hutch grasped for an answer and shrugged sheepishly. "Okay, so she has the voice of an angel."
Starsky looked at him witheringly, then left his partner to trail behind as he strode back to the car.
They checked in at Parker Center, and obtained Dobey's permission to drop Angela off at the shelter before resuming their investigations. Then they were soon on their way again, Hutch trying to put his distracting doubts our of his head.
"What do you think, should we go talk to Marty, see if we can shake any of that stolen merchandise out of him," he finally began.
Starsky considered briefly. "Nah, I don't think he'd be in on it, he's too much of a small potato for this traffic."
"Okay," Hutch conceded gamely. "Then what?"
Starsky took longer with that one. Something bothered him about the case, had been bugging him all along. "You know, what I can't figure out is how they know we're coming. I mean, sometimes they clear out before even gettin' all the good stuff, almost like they know we're on the way."
Hutch grinned. "Maybe they're not greedy thieves."
Starsky made a face at him and sighed. "Well, they sure haven't been gettin' away with a lot recently -- maybe they're feelin' the heat."
Hutch nodded thoughtfully. "Think they'll move on, then?"
There was no answer forthcoming, and he looked over to find Starsky intently watching his rearview mirror. He had forgotten about Angela and for a moment he thought that's who had caught Starsky's eye, but his partner was tense, as if... "Company?" he quietly asked.
Starsky nodded and floored the gas pedal. "You don't think it's our friends, do you?" He risked a quick glance over at Hutch, who was watching intently out the back window.
"Can't imagine we would have any enemies."
Starsky smiled humorlessly at the sarcasm. "We got a problem, though," he said.
Hutch turned back to him. "Angela."
Hutch thought for a minute. "They're a little behind us...turn at the next corner and we'll drop her off fast and out of sight. We can come back later when we've taken care of those two turkeys."
Starsky nodded agreement, and swerved sharply to the left around the next corner. Into a dead end alley. He felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle; a classic trap. Starsky gritted his teeth and willed his partner to hurry as Hutch jumped out of the car and helped Angela out.
"They're gonna box us in," he yelled to Hutch as he put the car in reverse, ready to get out of there as soon as his partner was inside. Hutch was just getting in when the car they had seen before swung into the alley behind them.
Starsky swore briefly and swerved the Torino to the side so that it was sitting across the alley, affording them some protection, then he pulled his gun and joined Hutch as they quickly hustled a confused Angela into the relative safety of some trash cans at one side.
"Now you stay put, you hear me?" Starsky barked at her, hardly catching her answering nod as he ran back to Hutch. There wasn't any time, it had happened too fast for them to call back-up or do anything but play defense.
The car also swerved to stop a good hundred feet away from them, and two men jumped out. Too fast, Starsky thought, it was happening too fast, there would be no time for cover...
He vaulted over the Torino's hood and was up on one knee in one fluid motion, gun at ready. His shot caught the driver in the shoulder, knocking him back and sending his gun flying. Starsky turned with grim satisfaction to see that Hutch had been trapped between the Torino and the gunmen, and was heading for the trash cans for cover. Time slowed as Starsky could see what was happening but was powerless to do something about it. The other gunman already had Hutch in his sights, would've had to be a lousy shot to miss at that distance. "No!" he shouted, uselessly, as the gun went off. Nonononono....
Suddenly, Angela was there, moving in front of Hutch with unbelievable speed. The bullet heading for Hutch struck her instead, spinning her around before she fell to the ground. Starsky and Hutch's guns came up simultaneously and the gunman crumpled like a marionette with its strings cut.
There was a pause as the two detectives made sure no more shots were to be fired, then Starsky was running to check them and disarm them, watching Hutch kneel by Angela out of the corner of his eye. Duty done, he raced back to the Torino.
Hutch sat bowed by her body, his face in one hand. "You okay?" Starsky asked softly, touching him briefly on the shoulder as he passed by and knelt by Angela.
"Yeah." Hutch's voice was hoarse with emotion. "She saved my life." It was a high cost, though, one he didn't want to pay. He had feared something like this could happen, had chosen to ignore the possibility and let Starsky enjoy himself for once. Starsky! Oh, God, You can't do this to Starsky...
"I know," Starsky acknowledged softly. He should have felt relief for that, maybe even did a little, guiltily, but he was surprised at the sorrow he felt for this woman he had only known for a short day. Numbed sadness. Here one minute and gone the next. He felt for a pulse that he knew wouldn't be there, then sighed heavily and began to look for where she was hit.
After a moment, he frowned in puzzlement, not seeing any blood. Had her voluminous clothing concealed it? He began to feel along her waist, then up her side.
And nearly fell over in shock as Angela suddenly began to giggle.
She sat up and brushed him away. "That tickles!"
"But you...I mean, you were...you were dead! They shot you, and you didn't have any pulse..."
"You can't shoot an angel," she confided, beaming as if sharing the joke with him.
Starsky stared first at his partner, who looked as shocked as he did, then again at Angela. This was getting to be a habit with the three of them. He hesitantly reached out a hand, touched her coat, found a bullet hole in it. Speechless, he lifted her coat and saw a matching hole on her dress revealing a glimpse of the smooth brown skin beneath. She modestly pulled her coat back around her, and, as she struggled to get up, Starsky jumped up and gave her a hand.
He turned back to stare at Hutch again, who was moving his mouth with no sound coming out. Starsky began to smile. An angel. He looked at Angela. Okay, a little kinky, not what he expected, but a guardian angel nevertheless. He spun back to Hutch enthusiastically. "See, what'd I tell you? She's an angel."
Hutch shook his head and said a little unsteadily. "No, she..." he caught on an idea. "I know, she spun around and the bullet went through her coat but not her."
Starsky looked at him as though disappointed by a slow pupil, but Angela shook her finger in his face. "You do not know a miracle when you see one!"
He knew when he was beat, but he wasn't about to admit it. Hutch didn't say another word as the two of them collected themselves and got to work.
An hour later they were pulling up in front of Parker Center again with Angela, now as an official witness, still in tow. Starsky let her out on his side, giving Hutch a smug look as he did, then preceded him into the building.
As they rounded the corner toward their office, they almost ran into a patrolman who was hurrying in the opposite direction. He looked up in apology, but blanched at seeing Starsky's face.
"But...but you're supposed to be dead!"
Starsky froze and stared at Hutch, who stared back at him. They came to the same conclusion. Hutch's face clouded instantly and with one swift move he had the patrolmen up against the wall, an arm resting securely against his chest.
"Would you care to explain that, Mallory?" he asked icily.
Mallory winced and tried to back-pedal. "I...I mean, I had heard there was a shootout..."
"No one ever said we were dead, though, Mallory. We didn't call in 'til it was over." Hutch's voice was deceptively quiet, but with unmistakable steel underneath. "I think maybe you thought we were dead because that's what you had arranged." He loosened his grip and glanced over at his partner who had moved up beside him. "What do you think, Starsk?"
"I think maybe that's how those creeps knew we were comin' all the time, 'cause they had someone warnin' them."
Mallory paled further. "No, I, I don't know what you're talking about. I didn't tell those two anything."
"Two?" Starsky said sweetly. "Hutch, did you hear anybody mention there were two of them?"
Hutch was in no mood to play along. "No," he said tersely, twisting Mallory's arm behind him and propelling him forward. "I think you better come along with us to see Captain Dobey."
The two detectives emerged from Dobey's office with self-satisfaction some time later. Mallory's bravado disappeared when Dobey began to roar at him, and it didn't take long for the truth to come out. All that was left were the reports...and Angela. She stood up and looked at them hopefully as they entered the squad room.
Starsky grinned at her affectionately. "It's all over. I'll just need to take a report from you, and then I'll drive you downtown."
"Oh, no, I..." she was playing with her coat again. "I'm afraid I have to go now."
"Go?" Hutch repeated blankly.
"Yes. You see, I did my job and now I have to go help somebody else." She was actually sniffling a little.
Hutch almost smiled at her act, but instead asked with mock politeness, "Is this the part where you disappear and no one remembers you were here?"
Angela didn't seem to notice his tone. "Yes," she said sadly. "No one."
Starsky had listened in confusion. "Wait a minute, wait a minute," he put a hand up to still his partner. He turned back to Angela. "You said your job was done -- what job? You were here for me, weren't you? Did you..." he waved his hands trying to find the right thought, "...save my life or something?"
Angela smiled at him with serious eyes. "Yes, I was here for you. And I did save you, but not the way you think." She brushed the tears out of her eyes, and gave him a somewhat more watery smile. "I saved Hutch for you."
Starsky went cold at the words. She knew. Somehow she had known about Terry, about how close he had been to giving up, and if it hadn't have been for Hutch... She was right.
He turned to stare at Hutch, expecting to see cynicism and denial, but the blue eyes were filled with compassion instead. Hutch couldn't argue with the truth of it that he felt, too. And there was no embarrassment or judgment, just acceptance. And love. Starsky felt dizzy with the sense of what he'd almost lost, drank in the face in front of him. His partner. His partner, saved for him. He almost smiled at the thought. Next time he'd take better care of what was his. Thank God...
Starsky turned away from his partner, to face the closed door of Dobey's office. Funny, he was gonna say something, but he couldn't remember what or to whom. He looked back at Hutch, who also looked a little confused. "Uh, the reports, right?" he ventured. "We came out here to do the reports." It came out as a question.
"Uh...right!" Hutch sounded more sure than he looked. "Dobey wants the report on the robbery ring." He moved around to his desk, wondering why he felt so unaccountably...happy?
Starsky sat down in his chair decidedly, pulling the typewriter in front of him. He gazed at it for a moment, then suddenly spoke up. "Hey, Hutch."
"Hmmm?" His partner had given up the lost train of thought and was busily looking for something.
"You know, next time you outta get behind the car when they're shooting at you. If that creep's gun hadn't have jammed, I coulda been out one partner." He said it lightly, but a there was a serious note in it that caught Hutch's attention and made him look up at his partner.
Starsky's face was serious as he softly added, "I'm glad you're okay, you idiot." Then, embarrassed by the sudden impulse, he immersed himself in his report.
Hutch, pleased and bewildered at once, avoided embarrassing his friend further with a response and resumed searching for his pen. He ransacked the drawers, pulling out piles of odds and ends in his search. After a few minutes, Starsky stopped trying to work and watched him with amusement instead. One drawer contained, among other things, a beautiful picture frame that he pulled out and gazed at pensively. It had once held Vanessa's picture, but... After a moment, he hesitantly slid it over to Starsky. "You know, that picture of Terry would look good in this. If you felt like framing it," he quickly added.
Starsky's grin faded, but he didn't reject it, gazing at it thoughtfully. "Maybe," he finally said. Hutch didn't push. His partner was getting there, it would just take time and patience now, and they had both.
The third drawer was jammed, but after a few strong jerks, it revealed its sole content. A bell, of all things. It reminded Hutch of something, he couldn't think of what, but he took it out gently and held it up. It tinkled a little, and suddenly he remembered where he had seen such a bell. "You know, Starsk," he said seriously, "They say every time a bell rings, an angel gets his -- or her, wings."
Starsky grinned at that. "Angels, huh? I didn't know you believed in angels." At Hutch's uncomfortable shrug, his grin widened. "You know what I think? I think I'm beginning to rub off on 'ya."
Somewhere not too far away, a plump Puerto Rican angel laughed in agreement.
Written in 1995