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After the Fall
Hutch settled Starsky gently on one of the chairs in the abandoned farmhouse, then double-checked to be sure all three perpetrators were secured before heading out to call for help. He still wasn't sure exactly what they had done to the Torino's radio, but maybe he could fix it and save himself the trip to the nearest phone.
As he stepped over the threshold into the yard, a blur of motion caught his eye somewhere over near to where the barn was well on its way to being engulfed in flames. He looked closer as the figure moved toward the barn, thought he recognized it, then was confirmed when he heard the young girl scream.
"Starsky!" she yelled at first, then an even more concerned, "Dave!!!!!" Hutch ran for Joey, but he couldn't reach her before she blindly dashed into the burning structure, still calling out for his dark-haired partner. The blond shook his head and raced in after her, calling out and trying to make her understand that they were both already safe; he didn't notice that she only called for Starsky.
"Joey!" he yelled as he tried to see through the smoke and heat, his eyes already running from the intensity of it. "We're okay, Starsky and I are outside. Where are you?" Her figure had vanished into the smoke, and Hutch dropped to his knees in hope of avoiding some of the smoke. Crawling on hands and knees now, he did his best to find the young girl.
At Hutch's first scream, Starsky levered himself off the chair and hobbled as quickly as he could toward the door to see what was going on. When he got there, he was just barely able to discern the fair haired man just inside the large barn doors. His alarm intensified when he saw the blond fall to his knees, thinking he was going down from the smoke and flames. Why would he call for Joey? he questioned vaguely as he raced as fast as possible to the barn, limping in agony on his injured leg.
By the time he arrived at the barn door, Hutch had moved even further into the midst of the flames. Starsky couldn't believe the heat that emanated from the structure, and he knew he had to get his partner out quick. But before he could take any action, a roar from inside signaled the collapse of a large portion of the roof, showering down debris over most of the barn's interior.
"Hutch!" the brunette yelled in terror, but no answer came back. He took a deep breath and crawled into the melee, searching with hands when his eyes told him nothing. He estimated he was about half way into the structure when his hand fell on a leg. Feeling his way up the body, he pushed boards off the blond. "Hutch, wake up!" he urged, lightly tapping where his partner's cheek should be. "C'mon, partner! I'm not sure I can get you out of here without some help!" Starsky coughed and the man, regaining consciousness from the urgings, joined in. He seemed to be trying to talk, the brunette noticed. He finally managed a whisper.
"Get Joey out!"
"Joey? Buddy, Joey's not here. Now let's get out of here."
"Yeah, she is," the blond coughed and gagged, fighting the smoke to tell his partner. "I saw her run in looking for you. That's why I went in after her."
"Great job, buddy!" Starsky muttered, exasperated. "Now you're both in trouble." He began to haul Hutch to his feet, but the blond fought him.
"No! Find Joey!"
"Okay, okay. But look, try to crawl out of here while I look. The door's that way." He began to raise the blond's arm to indicate the direction they had to go to get out, but when Hutch cried out, he stopped the movement. The limb was apparently damaged, and moving it would only make it worse. "It's to your right. I'll be out quick."
Starsky's search of the barn continued until he finally located the small figure nestled in among three unburned bales of hay. She was pretty much unconscious from smoke inhalation, but she was awake enough to cough feebly. Gathering her into his arms seemed to increase her awareness slightly, enough for her to help him by wrapping her arms around his neck, easing the burden on his own arms.
By the time the brunette staggered out of the barn, he was coughing almost as much as the girl he carried, but she looked up at him with wide eyes when they finally cleared the smoke and flames. He had her lowered almost to the ground before his leg gave out on him and they both fell abruptly to the grass.
Starsky wanted so badly to just lie on the cool grass and rest his throbbing leg, but when he looked around for his partner, he realized that he hadn't made it out. He groaned as he pushed himself back on his feet, and Joey shook off the effects of the smoke enough to talk.
"Where ya goin'?" she asked fearfully, her voice reflecting her concern for the brunette.
"I gotta get Hutch out of there. You stay here and I'll be right back out."
"But what if you get trapped in there too?"
His answer was simple: "I won't."
Starsky disappeared into the darkened interior while the girl watched in amazement at his bravery. Firemen do that kind of thing with air packs, and people considered them heroes. Dave did it without one to rescue me, and is doing it again for Hutch. He's like a knight, rescuing people. What is that word I keep hearing in school? Oh, yeah. Chivalry. Well, Dave is full of that. "He's so perfect!" she whispered to herself as she continued to watch for him to emerge.
Meanwhile, Starsky stumbled around inside, realizing through the haze that more of the roof had fallen since he'd left with Joey. "Hutch!" he yelled, but there wasn't even a cough in response. Distantly, he thought he heard sirens, and wondered if they'd be police responding to the gunshots or fire trucks responding to the smoke which billowed into the air and rose through the clouds.
"C'mon, partner," he shouted, "give me a sign where you are." The sign came unexpectedly, as Starsky tripped over the blond's legs. Somehow, miraculously, he stayed on his feet. His partner was totally unconscious by now, and the brunette used the last of his reserve to haul him up and over his shoulder in an awkward fireman's carry.
Turning around, he figured the single light area in the smoky dimness must be the door, and he headed toward it, managing his burden as well as he could. His streaming eyes were making it even more difficult, but through the tears as he reached the opening he saw the fire trucks pull up. On sighting Starsky, one of the men jumped from the vehicle and ran to him, taking Hutch from him as the brunette continued to walk, afraid that if he stopped, he'd never start again.
"You saved him!" Joey exclaimed between coughs as the blond was laid next to her and Starsky fell to the ground a few inches from them both. The sentence was barely out before one of the firemen put an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth.
"That remains to be seen," Starsky said worriedly, watching for a reaction from his partner as they put another mask over his face. The brunette waved away the one they tried to apply to him, holding his leg with one hand and Hutch's outstretched left arm with the other. He only released them long enough to flash his badge to the chief.
"Please radio for a police cruiser. There are two perps cuffed in the farmhouse and one wounded, maybe dead."
"There's already a police officer on his way - they're automatically dispatched. What happened here? Did you hurt your leg in the fire?"
"No," Starsky answered, already back to holding the injured calf, "I got shot." He looked to the paramedic bent over Hutch, checking vital signs, and when the man reached for the officer's right wrist to take a pulse, Starsky spoke up. "Watch out for his right arm. I think he hurt it, but I'm not sure."
"What makes you think that?"
"When I first got to him, he was still awake. He had a lot of pain in that arm when I tried to move it." Joey watched over the mask with adoring eyes as the brunette continued to hover over his partner, never once losing the touch he'd reestablished on the left hand. Even her parents never acted so concerned; they actually hardly ever even saw each other. The rescue crew was still waiting for the ambulance when she pulled the mask down around her neck.
"You're not gonna forget about our date?" she asked, her coughing much improved from the oxygen.
Dave looked up from where he hovered over Hutch, and momentarily, Joey wished she had been the unconscious one. "Not on your life, sweetheart," he glanced up at her only long enough to make eye contact. "As soon as my leg's healed and Hutch is up and around. I promise."
She smiled broadly in anticipation, noticing again how deep blue his eyes were.
As it turned out, the blond officer was up long before Starsky was ready to be. Two hours after the ambulance arrived at the hospital, Hutch was released. His arm held in a restraining sling to keep his dislocated shoulder immobile, he paced the waiting area for word on when he could see Starsky. An occasional cough from the blond, aftereffects of all the smoke he'd swallowed, permeated the room. As far as waiting periods went, this one was not full of the same anxiety as others had been. He felt secure that Starsky wasn't in any danger, and it was just a matter of time before he'd be admitted to the brunette's room to visit.
Captain Dobey had arrived about an hour after the ambulance, and he sat now, doing his best to convince Hutch to do the same. "Hutchinson, your pacing is makin' me dizzy! Didn't the doctor say something to you about taking it easy?" He didn't know for a fact that the physician had actually told the blond this, but it seemed to be an automatic prescription, especially for these two.
"Yeah, I guess," Hutch coughed as he finally lowered himself onto the edge of a seat. "I've just never been very good at waiting."
"You wait for things every day in your job. It's more a matter of not being good at waiting for him." The blond nodded, unable to deny the truth of Dobey's statement. The wait didn't go on much longer, though, for just as the large man finished his comment, a motherly nurse came into the waiting room.
"We've got Detective Starsky settled in Room 302. You can go up anytime you want."
"How's he doing?" Hutch asked, concerned.
"He's fine, sweetie," she comforted him, reaching up to pat her wrinkled hand on his cheek. "He should be out of here in a day or so, on crutches for a couple days, and on a cane for only about a week after that. He's been asking to see you."
"How do you know? You've never met me before."
"Well, you are Hutch, are you not?" She smiled knowingly. "Dave described you perfectly - there was no possible way I couldn't have recognized you!"
Hutch smiled back at her for just a moment, looking into a face that reminded him how long it had been since he'd talked to his own mother.
"Detective Hutchinson," she broke the spell, "if you don't get up there soon, your partner's going to be down here looking for you. And the doctor doesn't want him on that leg yet, so get going!" She smiled as she pushed him toward the elevators, and he quickly made his way to the third floor.
Starsky's room was only two doors down from the elevators, perfect for people-watching, which Hutch was certain would be a big part of his partner's days while he was here. The brunette's right leg was extended out on the bed and heavily gauzed and bandaged. The patient, though, was cheery anyway, and Hutch presumed that the local anesthesia they'd used while they removed the bullet was still working.
"Hutch, you're a mess!" Starsky greeted his friend. Hutch turned to the mirror in the room, and realized that the curly-haired man was right. The ER staff had taken care of his arm and shoulder and given him oxygen for the smoke inhalation, but hadn't taken any further steps; his face was covered with grime and dirt and his clothes were filthy and smelled of burning wood.
"You weren't any better before they took you into the ER, partner," Hutch rebutted, not denying his own physical state.
"Well, now that you've proven to yourself and those worry-wart Viking genes of yours that I'm okay, why don't you go home and clean up." He yawned hugely, and Hutch was quick to take the hint.
"I'm kind of bushed myself, so I think we should both get some rest. D'you know when you're getting out yet?"
Starsky smiled. "Doc says that if I behave and they don't find anything else wrong, he might let me out tomorrow evening. With crutches, of course, then maybe a cane in a few days. But at least I'll be out of here!" He wrinkled his nose in distaste of the hospital, and the nurse who was overseeing the two, unnoticed until now, giggled as she slid from the room. The blond was close behind her, admiring the sleek white lines of her uniform.
It had only been a little over 24 hours when Hutch arrived at the hospital to pick up his partner. Since Dobey refused to allow him back on duty, he'd spent the day getting his apartment ready for the double-occupancy that their various injuries required until his own sling came off and Starsky graduated to the cane.
When he entered his partner's hospital room, he had to laugh at the myriad of items which had inundated the room in only one day. Plants, flowers, and balloons surrounded the brunette, almost obscuring him from Hutch's view. "Hey, Starsk! You in there somewhere?" He actually was able to barely see his friend, sitting up on the edge of the bed, fully dressed and ready for release.
"Yeah, I'm here. Unfortunately." There was a moment where Hutch hung back, and Starsky invited him closer. "Hutch, ya gotta see this! C'mere!" When he found his way around a particularly large rubbertree plant which sat on the floor near the bed, he saw his partner's huge smile as he beheld the item in his lap.
"Look, Hutch! Somebody sent me a chocolate cream pie! Isn't that great?!" Starsky was excitedly motioning to the delicacy, blue eyes large and round.
"I see it, I see it! Who gave it to you?" Hutch looked suspiciously at the object, remembering how many enemies they both had.
"That's the thing. I don't know! It came with this card that said it was from an admirer, and that we'd be spending some time together real soon! Betcha it's one of the nurses! I've seen some real gorgeous ones in the last day!"
Hutch decided against warning Starsky about any negative possibilities; after all, the gift seemed innocent enough. "Well, partner, are we gonna get out of here?"
"You got it!" the brunette agreed. "Here, hold this!" Starsky shoved the pie in the blond's direction, forgetting that he did not have the use of his more agile right hand. He balanced on his crutches and watched the one-armed man juggle the pie, trying to get it under control. "Oh, no!" he cried out as the blond finally got a solid hold on the pie.
Unfortunately, the "solid hold" he got was only obtained by sandwiching it instinctively against his chest, and moments later the chocolate and whipped cream covered the tall man from his chin to his belt buckle.
"Starsky!" Hutch yelled angrily, and the brunette turned a chagrined smile to his friend.
"Sorry, about that, buddy!" He was still smiling, and Hutch didn't believe him.
"Sure you are! You can't fool me!"
"Are you saying that you think I did that on purpose?" Starsky asked innocently, picking pieces of pie crust off of Hutch's shirt and dipping them in the chocolate on the man's chest before popping them into his mouth. He noticed his partner's expression growing even more angry. "Honest, Hutch! It was an accident."
"I'd be more inclined to believe that," the blond sneered, "if you didn't look so happy about this!"
"Well," Starsky interrupted the tirade, heading for the door on his crutches. "I think we'd better get you home and cleaned off. Huggy said he'd come by and pick up my flowers and plants in an hour or so."
The blond followed him out, still unhappy as the hospital workers and visitors stared and laughed at his predicament. "One of these days, Starsk. I'm gonna get even with you for this!"
"I keep telling you, I didn't mean it! It was an accident!" Starsky almost whined, but it wasn't supplicating Hutch.
"You better watch your back, buddy, because when you least expect it, you'll get yours!"
The sound of Starsky trying to convince his partner echoed in the hallways after they were gone, the staff still having a laugh at the antics of the duo.
Ken Hutchinson loved his partner dearly, but he was never so happy as when the doctor issued Starsky his cane and removed his own sling. His shoulder still ached from time to time, but he wasn't suffering nearly as much from that as he was from living with the energetic brunette. And despite Starsky's hopes, he hadn't forgotten the pie incident for a second.
The LTD rolled up in front of Starsky's place, and the blond helped his partner lever himself out of the passenger seat and up on his feet. "This looks a lot easier in the movies," was the limping man's only comment as he made his way to the apartment.
"Oh, c'mon, Starsk. You know you're not nearly as bad as you're acting!" Hutch muttered exasperatedly, to which the brunette responded with one of his typical roguish smiles.
"Yeah, but if I let on, then I won't be able to get all my neighbors and those beautiful nurses to have pity on me." At Hutch's look, he chose to change the subject. "So what did Dobey say when you talked to him earlier?"
"Well, he said that we're both back on desk duty starting tomorrow, and we both stay there until your leg is healed."
"Makes sense," Starksy agreed.
"I don't know why I have to be tied down to a desk just because you're hurt!" Hutch complained.
"Look," the brunette said, trying to be the voice of reason. It was an unsual role for this member of the team. "It's too dangerous for you to be out without a partner, and I'm not about to trust anybody else with you. Or you with anybody else, for that matter!" Starsky laughed and Hutch groaned as they both dropped down onto the living room sofa.
They weren't settled for more than a few seconds when there was a knock on Starsky's door. "C'min," both men invited, and the door opened to reveal Starsky's next-door neighbor, Sandra. She was a beautiful women who Hutch always claimed was far too nice to be saddled with his errant partner as a neighbor.
"Hi, Sandra!" Hutch greeted, getting immediately to his feet.
"Oh, hi, Ken. I thought I saw the two of you come in. How is your leg, Dave? Feeling any better?"
Starsky put on a pain-ridden face. "Still hurts awful bad, sweetheart. Think that I could talk you into checking in on me a couple times tonight once the blond blintz here goes home?"
"David Starsky, you rascal! You know you don't have to con me to get me to check on you. And I'm only a phone call away if you need me at any other time." All three occupants of the room smiled at each other, Sandra still standing framed in the doorway.
"Well, Sandra, why don't you come in for a bit?" the blond invited.
"Actually, I came down for a reason, other than to check on you two. I signed for several deliveries over the past couple of days that came here for you. I thought you might like them!" She began to carry in several boxes, most of them small and gift-wrapped. Hutch helped her with the last few. They piled them on the couch next to Starsky, who examined them proudly.
"I didn't know I had this many friends! Wonder what they are?"
"Only one way to find out, partner," Hutch answered. "Open 'em!"
The boxes were revealed to be a variety of things. Chocolate candy, pastries, home-baked chocolate chip cookies, and a basket of fruit were among them. One small one was even revealed to be a gift certificate for his favorite pizza place. All the packages came with cards, but none were signed with anything other than "your girl".
"Starsky, I didn't know you'd been seeing anybody," Hutch commented, to which the brunette responded that he hadn't been. "Well, somebody sure thinks you are!"
"I guess I'll find out eventually who they came from. You gonna pick me up in the morning?"
"Of course," Hutch said as he headed out the door. "You're still in no shape to drive."
The last thing, or person rather, that Starsky expected to see the next morning at the station was Joey Carstairs. But her accusations of "breach of promise" gave the captain a new reason to razz the detective, which he seemed to enjoy doing most of the time. Hutch watched in enjoyment as Starsky leaned toward Dobey on his cane, trying to get a word in edgewise to explain why he hadn't called the girl. The truth that he wasn't going to admit in front of her, though, was that he'd simply forgotten about her. She was just a kid, after all. And kids changed their minds more often than their clothes, he told himself.
Hutch, meanwhile, had a sudden flash of inspiration, remembering the feeling of walking the hospital corridors covered in chocolate and whipped cream. Maybe Starsky and the captain would get along better if they were just a little closer. As the girl and Dobey continued to berate the detective, Hutch quickly reached out a foot and knocked the cane out from under Starsky's hand, causing him to topple unceremoniously into his captain's arms.
"What the hell are you doing, Starsky?!" Dobey demanded as he set the brunette back on his feet and retrieved the man's cane.
"I'm s-s-s-s-sorry, Captain. It was an accident!" Starsky claimed.
"That was no accident," Dobey responded, looking accusingly at Hutch.
"No, Captain, it wasn't," Hutch admitted. "It was retribution."
Any further discussion was terminated when Joey stepped again into the conversation. "Are you gonna take care of him, Captain?"
"Well, Starsky? What have you got to say for yourself?" Hutch stayed silent at the questioning.
The brunette turned to the girl. "Look, I'm sorry, babycakes. I just forgot." He tried his best grin, but she wasn't fooled.
"How could you possibly have forgotten! I sent you a gift two and three times a day so that you'd be thinkin' about me! So you wouldn't forget our date!"
"You mean, it was you who sent me all that stuff?" Starsky really sounded dumbfounded, and Hutch started to feel sorry for him.
"You didn't even realize it was from me? How could you do this to me, Dave?" The name sounded incongruous coming out of the child's lips.
Hutch decided his partner needed rescuing. "Joey, you have to understand. The doctor's have had Starsky - I mean Dave - on medication, so he's not always thinking straight." Starsky doesn't even think straight when he doesn't take anything! "And your notes were just so mature, that it didn't dawn on either of us that they were from you!"
The girl bought his half-truth, and smiled broadly when Starsky promised that she could come by and visit him at his apartment the next weekend. Starsky figured he'd entertain her with a game or a movie on TV, and by the next week, she'd lose interest.
As Joey left the precinct house smiling, Hutch did a great imitation of a fortune-teller. "You mark my words, partner. You're going to be having problems with that one for a long time to come. And teenage girls don't forget as quickly as you might think!