Many thanks once more to my facebook friends for their ongoing support and encouragement...these stories would not be here without you. Special thanks to Sandy, the Comma Queen...even when I put lots in, she still finds room for more! Thanks also to Sara for your invaluable input...I had lost my way and you put me back on the right path.

Still Friends?

Chapter 1

Sheriff Kevin Hudson sat behind his desk staring unseeingly at the papers in front of him. His stomach fluttered at the thought of the meeting ahead. "Pull yourself together, man" he admonished himself under his breath. He jumped slightly at the knock on his door.

Deputy Sam Connor entered. "Good afternoon, sir. Captain Starsky is waiting outside."

"Thank you, Sam. Any news of Mr. Brown's condition?"

"The docs say he's doing really well and they hope to move him out of ICU in a few days. He's been very lucky."

"And Mrs. Brown?"

"Just minor cuts and bruises plus shock of course."

"I'll go along to see them later. Show the captain in would you."

Sam went to open the door. "Sir. This is Captain Starsky."

Kev stood up and came around the desk to greet his visitor, a smile beginning to spread across his face.

Starsky shuddered to a halt as though his feet had suddenly turned to stone. "Hutch?" he whispered. The blood drained from his face and Kev was afraid that he would fall. He sprang forward to grasp Starsky's arm and guide him to a chair. He crouched in front of him, trying to catch his eye.

"Hello, Starsk," he said softly as though talking to a nervous kitten.

Starsky wrenched his arm from Hutch's grip making him flinch.

"Get off me" he hissed. "Don't touch me."

Hutch reared back as though the kitten had turned into a tiger. He wasn't sure what he had expected but it wasn't this. His own face paled as he tried to figure out the best way to deal with the stranger Starsky had become.

He reached out a hand once more towards his former partner but Starsky leapt to his feet, nearly knocking Hutch over. Hutch rose slowly from his haunches to stand in front of Starsky. He held out his hands in front of him. "Starsky, let me explain."

"There's nothing to explain" Starsky growled. "Obviously you didn't want to be my friend any more but it would have been nice if you'd told me. I thought we could always talk to each other about anything. But instead you just walk out and I never see you again."

Starsky took a shuddering breath before finally looking Hutch in the eye. "Well, you made it perfectly clear how you felt. Pity it took me so long to realise."

He headed for the door and was just reaching for the handle when Hutch said "It wasn't like that. Please, Starsky, sit down."

Starsky threw him a fierce glare then perched on the edge of the chair, almost sitting at attention. He turned glittering blue eyes on Hutch. "Go on then, Hutchinson. What was it like?" Sarcasm dripped from every word.

Hutch took a deep breath and tried to slow his racing heart. "God, where do I start?" he muttered to himself, attempting to capture his thoughts and feelings and give voice to them.

"Try the beginning, pal. Why'd you just up and leave me like that?" Hutch recognised this Starsky, hiding behind a tough exterior, determined no one would know he was hurting inside. He was not going to let anyone in...not even Hutch. Especially not Hutch.

Hutch closed his eyes then opened them to return Starsky's stare. "I had no choice, Starsk. You are the best friend I ever had or will ever have but I had no choice."

Starsky rolled his eyes and sighed dramatically. "Yeah, right, buddy boy. Everyone has a choice. You wanna share with me why you made that one?"

Hutch felt his irritation begin to rise and tamped it down hard. Losing his own temper was not going to make this messy situation any better.

"Look, Starsky. I know you've had a shock..."

Starsky barked out a laugh. "Shock! That's an understatement."

He stood abruptly, nearly tipping his chair over. "I can't do this right now, Hutch. I'll get your young deputy to take me back to the hospital."

"I'll take you, Starsk. I need to check on your friend anyway."

Starsky stared at him. "My friend? He used to be your friend too." Seeing Hutch's bemused expression he added "Your victim in the hospital is Huggy."

Hutch stumbled back to his chair stunned, as Starsky left the room, hooking his foot round the door and slamming it shut.

Chapter 2

Starsky strode through the outer office and out onto the street, ignoring the curious looks he was getting from Hutch's secretary and the deputies who were catching up on their reports. They were unused to hearing raised voices from the sheriff's office. They quickly resumed what they were doing when the door opened. "Sam, catch up with Captain Starsky and take him back to the hospital. I'll be along later." The door closed quietly.

Sam jumped up and grabbed his hat before going out in pursuit of the fast-moving captain.

Starsky was standing near the door, hands thrust into his jacket pockets and shoulders hunched. Sam could almost feel the anger emanating from him and felt nervous. He could hardly believe this was the same man who had been in his car, reminiscing about his former partner. And it was so unlike the sheriff to antagonise anyone. Sam struggled to understand what had happened.

" My car is here if you're ready to go back to the hospital."

Starsky appeared not to hear him at first then suddenly shook his head and straightened up, turning to Sam with a tight smile.

"Sorry, son. I was miles away then."

They walked over to Sam's car and Sam ventured tentatively "Are you OK?"

Starsky flashed him an irritated glance. "Did he tell you to check up on me?"

Sam gulped. "No, just to take you back to the hospital and he'll be down later."

"Then let's get going so I can be gone before he gets there."

Sam swallowed again, filled with curiosity about the relationship between the sheriff and the captain.


Hutch sat back behind his desk. "That didn't go very well" he thought wryly and began to ponder how he could bridge the gaping chasm between himself and Starsky.

About an hour later, unable to concentrate on his work, he drove to the hospital to see Huggy. He introduced himself to Huggy's wife. "Where's St...uh...Captain Starsky?" he asked, looking around.

"I haven't seen him since he went with the deputy earlier."

Hutch looked at the petite, black woman thinking she was perfect for his friend and wishing he knew her better. "Do you know where he's staying?"

"No, I'm sorry. I don't think he's decided yet. I'll tell him you were looking for him when I see him." She looked at him with her head cocked to one side, like a bird. "Do I know you?" she asked. "You look familiar."

"No, I don't think so, Mrs Brown," he said, hoping she would offer her first name and smiling to himself when she did.

"Marcie, do you mind if I visit with him for a few minutes? I used to live in Bay City and I knew Huggy well. I had no idea 'Mr Brown' was Huggy or I would have been here straight away." He smiled sadly. "I knew Captain Starsky too but he doesn't seem to want to know me now."

"That doesn't sound like David," she said, wrinkling her nose slightly.

"Long story" Hutch replied. "Maybe you should ask him..." he paused before adding "...and then I'll tell you my side." A wide smile came over Hutch's face as he spoke, transforming it from the severe sheriff to a younger version of himself.

Marcie's eyes widened as the expression reminded her of photographs she had seen of her husband with his two best friends. One of them was David Starsky but she couldn't recall the other one's name. Hutch saw the dawning recognition on her face and smiled gently. "Speak to Starsky first," he said. "I'll go in and see Hug." He took Marcie's hand and raised it to his lips. "He's a lucky man to have you."

Marcie blushed. "Thank you, sheriff."

"Call me Kev, please" he said, turning to enter Huggy's room.

Marcie stared after him, certain that she recognised the sheriff even though she was sure he was using a different name. She determined to speak to Starsky to find out what was happening.

Chapter 3

Sam dropped Starsky at the hospital after an uncomfortably silent journey. Sam found the Bay City captain highly intimidating in this mood and had no desire to agitate the man any more than he already was.

Starsky had intended to go back inside to see Huggy and Marcie, but his emotions were in turmoil. So he slumped into the driver's seat of his rental car and tried to gather his thoughts.

He couldn't believe that after all this time he had found Hutch! He seemed no different...well ten years older obviously but still tall, blond and handsome. He was a little more lined and wrinkled, as was Starsky himself but his demeanour seemed less tense. Certainly the crease between his eyebrows had smoothed somewhat. Apparently his character was unchanged too if the deputy was to be believed.

Starsky tried to pin down his thoughts but they skittered around and refused to stay still long enough for him to process them. Emotions flowed through him...anger, relief, happiness, sadness, guilt. How was it possible for one person to feel so many different things at the same time?

Starsky lost track of time as he tried to come to terms with Hutch's sudden reappearance. He could tell that Hutch was desperate to talk to him but he knew he could not deal with that right now without getting angry. Back in the day it had been Hutch who was quick to temper but now Starsky was the one consumed with rage. He could not seem to shake it off. The old feelings of hurt welled up inside him again, making all his muscles tighten.

He watched cars come and go without really seeing them. Suddenly he saw Hutch appear at the hospital entrance and walk towards a dusty, brown Ford. Starsky snorted to himself. "Some things never change" he smirked.

Following a sudden whim, he decided to see what Hutch was doing, so he sat up straighter, fired up the engine and eased into the traffic leaving three vehicles between Hutch's car and his own.

"What am I doing?" he wondered. "He's probably only going back to the office."

However, Hutch drove past the sheriff's office and into a part of town unfamiliar to Starsky. Hutch made a few turns which Starsky mirrored, dropping further and further back as the other vehicles were left behind. Soon they were on a quiet road leading to the more industrialised part of town and there were no other cars in sight.

Just as Starsky was thinking of aborting his mission, Hutch suddenly braked at the same time as he activated the red and blue lights concealed on his car.

"Damn!" thought Starsky. "Should've known he'd spot me."

He pulled up behind the Ford just as Hutch emerged, adjusting his hat and unholstering his gun. Starsky put his hands on the wheel, knowing not to make any sudden moves.

Hutch approached the car unhurriedly, ready to counteract any threat posed by the occupants but he was totally unprepared to see Starsky behind the wheel.

"Starsky! What the hell are you doing?"

Starsky looked up at him. "Following you," he said in a tone that said 'that's a dumb question.'

Hutch's eyes slid to the right and then his head followed as he tried to make sense of this unusual situation. He turned back to Starsky, a slightly perplexed expression on his face. "Why?"

Starsky shrugged. "I'm not sure, to be honest. I guess I just wanted to find out a little bit about you."

Hutch stepped back as Starsky alighted from the car. "You already know all about me, buddy. I haven't changed."

Starsky took great care closing the car door as though he really wanted to slam it but wasn't going to give in to the impulse. He turned and leaned back against the car, ankles crossed and arms folded across his chest. "The Hutch I knew would never have walked out on his friends without a word."

Hutch winced but stood his ground. "And I already told you I had no choice."

Starsky could feel the flames of his anger igniting once again but with an effort he doused them. He said coldly "And I already told you that we all have choices. You just made the wrong one."

Hutch gasped. Loving and marrying Kate was not the wrong choice. Having their beautiful son was not the wrong choice. Starsky could see that his words had hurt Hutch like a physical blow and felt an almost savage pleasure. Was he breaking through that icy calm? He hoped so because he was itching to release the tension that was bubbling inside him.

Hutch's jaw tightened and his right index finger jabbed towards Starsky's chest. "You have no idea what it was like, Starsky. No idea."

Starsky stiffened at being on the receiving end of the 'Hutchinson finger'. He went completely still and said in a deceptively flat tone, "Well then, why don't you tell me what it was like."

Hutch drew a steadying breath. One of them needed to back off before this situation got way out of hand and it looked like it would have to be him. "This is not the place for this conversation and I need to get back to work. Go back to Huggy and I'll meet you at the hospital later. Come back to my house tonight and we'll sort out this whole sorry mess."

Hutch tried to catch Starsky's eye but for once he would not look at him. "Starsky, please," he said softly.

Starsky sighed then finally looked at Hutch, fixing him with a hard stare before giving a short nod of affirmation.

He got back in his car and followed Hutch back to a more familiar part of town before returning once again to the hospital.

Chapter 4

Hutch returned to his office and sank into his chair feeling exhausted. The hostility coming his way from Starsky felt strange but on reflection he supposed it was not unexpected. He knew that Starsky was a master at hiding his true feelings but Hutch was also a master...a master at reading Starsky's moods, even after all this time he realised. In his own mind he could justify the choice he had made but could he convince Starsky it was the right one in the circumstances? He could appreciate Starsky's hurt but he yearned for his friend's understanding and eventual forgiveness. He forced himself to concentrate on his work, realising that for the first time he was not giving it his full attention.

For what felt like the hundredth time, Hutch glanced at the clock on the wall and was relieved to see that he could at last leave the office for the day. He could feel the beginnings of a headache and hoped it would not develop. He pinched the bridge of his nose, then rubbed his temples with his fingertips but it did nothing to alleviate the mild throbbing.

He quickly tidied his desk and strode to the door acknowledging the respectful "Good night" from his secretary as he exited.

The evening was warm and sultry as he drove to the hospital. Forcing himself to relax, he alighted from the car and gave himself a mental shake. "This is ridiculous" he admonished himself. "You're just going to have a heart to heart with your best friend." Yet he had to admit to a slight nervousness, not so much of Starsky but of the outcome of their meeting.

He recalled when he and Starsky had played good cop/bad cop when interviewing suspects. Starsky had been a very convincing bad cop. Hutch had been on the receiving end once, when Ben Forest's goons had strung him out. Starsky, determined to find out their identities, had been like a dog with a bone, pressing Hutch for any information he could give. Hutch didn't relish repeating the experience but thought he probably couldn't avoid it, judging by Starsky's current mood.

Straightening his shoulders he walked up to ICU. Starsky was conspicuous by his absence but Marcie greeted Hutch with a thin smile as she came out of Huggy's room. "I've spoken to David" she said. "I don't think I've ever seen him so wound up. He told me what happened and I don't blame him for how he feels."

Hutch sighed inwardly, realising this was going to be even harder than he had anticipated. "Marcie...uh...Mrs Brown, I will tell you my side of things if you will give me the time but I really need to speak to Starsky first." He looked around. "I thought he would be here."

"Yes, he said you were coming to see him. He asked me to tell you he is going to book into a motel and he might see you tomorrow."

Hutch snorted in exasperation. "He can't keep avoiding me." Struggling to keep his voice down and not wanting to alienate Huggy's wife any more, he spun around and retraced his steps to the car. He sat in the car for several minutes until his breathing had calmed and his irritation abated somewhat. "It's not going to work, Starsk, so stop pushing my buttons," he said, even while acknowledging that it was working and he was rapidly losing patience. Starsky was spoiling for a fight and he might just get one! Taking a deep, calming breath he fired up the car and drove home.

His son, David, was staying over at a friend's house in preparation for a school trip the following day. Hutch had thought it would be an ideal opportunity to have Starsky round to try and clear the air. He even had beer in the fridge and a pizza on order. While he waited for the delivery, he grabbed a beer and popped the tab.

Over the years, he had thought of his friends every day and hoped he had been in their thoughts too. Although he had made friends, he missed the special bond he and Starsky had shared. Now he longed to make things right between them and hopefully rekindle their relationship.

When the pizza arrived, he had another beer while he ate his 'healthy' half, leaving Starsky's half untouched.


Meanwhile Starsky had booked into a small hotel and was forcing down a meal in the restaurant. The food was good but Starsky was in no mood to enjoy it. He wished now that he had waited at the hospital for Hutch and got the confrontation that must come over and done with. Then he could go home to Bay City and get on with his life...without Hutch. That thought hit him like a bombshell. Could he return leaving Hutch behind? He had lost him once, could he really go through that again? It had hurt him nearly as much as Gunther's bullets when Hutch left but he thought he had gotten over it. Now seeing Hutch again brought back so many conflicting memories.

He realised that he had allowed his resentment to fester all these years but now long-forgotten memories came flooding back, good memories of things that he and Hutch had shared.

He sat at the table nursing a cup of coffee that was rapidly growing cold, remembering the times he and Hutch had laughed together and cried together, fun times with Huggy and Captain Dobey, times he'd cared for Hutch and times Hutch had saved him. Overall they had been good times, but Starsky had chosen to forget, just recalling the times they had argued and fought and then the desolation of Hutch's disappearance. However, he was not sure he had it in him to ever forgive Hutch.

Starsky took a sip of the now cold coffee and pulled a face. Setting the cup down he rose stiffly to his feet, smiled at the girl waiting on and went up to bed.

Chapter 5

Hutch had tossed and turned till the early hours before finally falling asleep. But he slept fitfully and did not feel refreshed on awakening, with a headache still throbbing behind his eyes. He showered quickly and dressed before going downstairs to feed the cat and have breakfast.

As he passed the school on his way to work, he saw his son excitedly waiting to board the bus which was to take him and his friends on a trip to a local copper mine.

Hutch went through to his office, nodding greetings to his deputies. He poured himself a cup of coffee and settled down to read the reports waiting on his desk. His secretary knocked on the door and entered. "Captain Starsky is asking to see you," she announced.

Hutch sighed, wishing he felt more alert to deal with Starsky in the mood he was in. "Show him in, please," he said. "And don't interrupt us."

The secretary left, leaving the door ajar. A moment later there was another knock and Starsky's face appeared.

"Come in and have a seat. Coffee?" Hutch went through the motions of welcoming his guest then retreated to his side of the desk. Taking a breath he was about to speak when Starsky jumped in first.

"So what was it like, Hutch?" He fixed Hutch with the steely glare he remembered so well. "Huh? What was it like? Why did you have no choice but to walk away from me, Huggy and the Dobeys without a word?"

Starsky's voice was low and menacing. "Definitely bad cop," thought Hutch, nearly giving in to the impulse to laugh. He gathered his thoughts, the speech he had rehearsed deserting him.

"I...I never meant to stay away," he began. "It was only meant to be for a few days." Starsky snorted disbelievingly but Hutch pressed on. "We both needed time to ourselves..."

"How the hell do you know what I needed?" Starsky burst out.

"I always knew what you needed," Hutch said softly. "You were pushing me away and God help me, I needed some space myself."He closed his eyes briefly and then opened them to see Starsky staring at him, his eyes like chips of blue ice. Hutch met his gaze fearlessly and launched into his tale.

"I phoned Huggy and Dobey and told them I needed a few days away. I asked them to keep an eye on you and I took off. I ended up in San Diego. I...I ...I met a girl..." Starsky rolled his eyes but let Hutch continue without interrupting. "Her name was Kate and we started seeing each other. She was beautiful a...and gorgeous and gentle and...well, we fell in love..." Starsky continued to stare at him, never softening his gaze. Hutch stood up and began to pace.

"Then one day she witnessed a murder where she worked..." Hutch stopped and took a breath. "They to kill her so the police took her into protective custody. Next thing we knew the Feds were crawling all over the place and she was offered witness protection." Another deep breath. "Starsk, I had no choice."

There was a long silence then Starsky growled, "Of course you had a choice. Did you not consider us? Did you not think of me...or Huggy...or Dobey?" Starsky's voice rose to a shout. "You didn't consider us at all, did you? Huh?" He took a shuddering breath and whispered in anguished tones "I thought you were dead. We looked and looked for you but we couldn't find you..."

Hutch stopped pacing and closed his eyes again, unable to bear the agony in Starsky's voice. He felt tears welling up and when he opened them he could see Starsky's eyes glittering with unshed tears."I had a pregnant girlfriend to consider...what would you have done?"

Starsky blinked then answered in a cold voice, "I would have phoned my friends and told them what was happening."

Hutch felt his irritation rising again. He clenched his jaw. "Don't be naïve, Starsky." he snapped. "You know what the Feds are like. They monitor everything you say and do. They can't risk anyone knowing or the whole cover is blown. I couldn't contact anyone."

Starsky snarled "I'm a cop, Hutch. And I thought I was your best friend. Who was I gonna to tell? I would never have given you away...surely you knew that?"

Hutch dry-wiped his face with one hand, covering his mouth for a few seconds as though holding in the words. Then he whispered "They gave me no choice, Starsky. If I was to go into witness protection with Kate I had to sever all ties immediately. God knows I wanted to tell you, but things moved so fast. One minute we were in San Diego, next minute we were here as Kevin and Melanie Hudson."

"So you just let the Feds rail-road you? Why? How could you do that to me?"

"Oh, so now it all comes back to you. Sorry I'd forgotten the world revolves around David Starsky..."

A knock at the door stopped Hutch in full flow. He leapt for the door and wrenched it open. "I said no interruptions," he growled.

Deputy Sam Connor stood at the door looking nervous. He had never heard his sheriff raise his voice to anyone before, yet now he was indulging in a full-scale argument with a police captain! He cleared his throat uneasily. "I'm sorry, sir, but you need to know there's been an accident at the copper mine."

Hutch blanched and swayed. Starsky instinctively got to his feet, hand outstretched to offer comfort and support. But Hutch did not notice. "Oh my God" he breathed. Then he raced for the door without looking back. He dived into his car and screeched away, lights and siren blaring.

Starsky looked at the deputy quizzically.

"The local school children are on a trip to the mine today" he explained. "And Kev's son is one of them."

Chapter 6

Starsky followed Sam at a run and was in the passenger seat before Sam had registered his presence. He looked across, startled. "Just drive!" Starsky snapped.

He nodded, fired up the engine and drove after Hutch, although not as fast. Starsky bit his tongue so as not to pass a comment he would later regret. Sam drove well but conservatively and Starsky wished he was behind the wheel and not the young deputy.

The journey felt interminable but at last Starsky saw the open crater of the mine and the cluster of emergency vehicles nearby. The mine had long since closed, Sam had told him on the journey, but it had reopened as a heritage centre a couple of years previously.

Starsky spotted Hutch immediately, standing rigidly to one side of a group of fire-fighters. He made his way over and put his hand lightly on Hutch's shoulder. He felt Hutch shudder and squeezed gently.

After a moment he felt Hutch relax a little. "What happened?" he asked in hushed tones, rubbing soothing circles on Hutch's back.

"Landslide," Hutch whispered.

"What can we do?"

"Nothing," Hutch groaned.

"There must be something we can do," Starsky looked around, ready to jump into action.

"No, we need to leave it to the experts." Hutch took a shaky breath and turned to look at Starsky, eyes brimming with tears. "I can't lose him, Starsk. I couldn't bear it." He gulped in another breath, blinking rapidly to clear his vision, then turned away to watch the preparations taking place in front of him.

"Hey, Hutch, c'mon. You don't have to hide your feelings from me." Starsky moved in front of him and leaned forward to rest his forehead against Hutch's. "Remember me and thee, huh?" he breathed.

Hutch pulled away. "Starsky, leave me alone. I know you hate me, so just go."

Starsky stepped back, momentarily stunned. "I don't hate you, Hutch. How could you think that? I'm angry at what happened to you and the choices you were forced to make. And yes, I'm angry that you didn't make the effort to tell me what was happening. But I could never hateyou." He huffed a small laugh. "You're still the best friend I got in the whole world and right now you need someone and I'm here for you" He dipped his head and locked eyes with Hutch. Both felt the stirring of a long-disused connection.

"Where's your wife?" Starsky asked. "She should be here. Do you want me to go pick her up?" He looked at Hutch's stricken face. "Hutch? What's wrong?"

Hutch was unable to answer. The tears that were just below the surface spilled over and ran down his cheeks. Starsky could see that he was close to breakdown. He put an arm around his shoulders and steered him towards his car. He pushed him into the passenger seat then ran round the front of the car to slide in the other side. He turned sideways to face Hutch. Hutch looked at him and his face crumpled as more and more tears fell. Starsky reached across and pulled him into his arms, unable to comprehend why Hutch was so upset.

Hutch resisted at first then collapsed onto Starsky, sobbing. Starsky held him tightly waiting for the storm to pass. Eventually Hutch quieted and Starsky sat back to look at him. "Hutch? Tell me what's wrong...please."

Hutch took a deep breath and huffed it out again. He looked at Starsky with watery eyes and gave a small, sad smile. "She's dead, Starsk. She died three months ago of breast cancer."

Starsky's heart went out to Hutch. He could imagine him being strong for his son and keeping his own grief locked up inside of him. "Aw, Hutch. I am so sorry." He reached across and rested his hand on Hutch's thigh. "Hutch, you've gotta let this all out. You're gonna make yourself ill. Have you actually grieved for your lady?" Hutch shrugged and looked away. "You must let it out, Hutch. You can't carry on like this. You're not Superman."

Hutch gave a watery smile. "I always saw myself more as Captain Marvel" he said hoarsely. Starsky returned the smile.

A shout from the crater roused them both. Hutch scrubbed his face and said huskily "I've got work to do, Starsk."

As he started to reach for the door, Starsky gave his thigh a squeeze. "Let your deputies do it, Hutch. That's what you've trained them for. You need to be here as a father not as Sheriff."

Hutch closed his eyes and gave a small nod.

They got out of the car and headed towards the crater. Reaching the edge they realised that the rescue was well under way and the first small casualty was being placed in an ambulance.

Most of the children had been at the edge of the slip and had only fallen a short distance. But six of the students and one of their teachers had been swept to the bottom of the crater.

The rescue team was laboriously digging them out and Starsky stood shoulder to shoulder with Hutch throughout the whole operation.

Several hours later Hutch's son and his best friend were the last victims to be saved from the crater. Hutch climbed into the ambulance and Starsky followed behind driving Hutch's car.

Starsky found himself trotting between ICU and the waiting room near the operating theatre, spending most of his time silently supporting Hutch.

By midnight all the casualties had been treated and sent home or settled for the night in hospital.

Hutch collapsed into the chair next to his son's bed and finally allowed himself to break down.

Starsky found him the next morning, fast asleep, holding his son's hand. He crept into the room and glanced at the boy in the bed, who looked much as he would have imagined Hutch would have looked at that age. Gently he woke Hutch. "How is he?" he whispered.

Hutch tenderly swept the boy's hair off his forehead. "Broken bones and concussion but he's alive. They're all alive and that's what matters." He combed his fingers through his hair and rubbed his face.

Starsky smiled. "You look exhausted." He clapped him on the back. "C'mon, breakfast's on me. Then to ICU...Huggy's awake."

Hutch looked uncertain, not wanting to leave his son alone. "We'll only be an hour max. Let those pretty nurses do their job. He'll be fine."

After a moment's hesitation Hutch nodded and bent to kiss his son. They strode to the elevator side by side.

Over breakfast he told Starsky about his life in Petersville, and about his wife and her battle with the cancer that finally took her from him. And he told Starsky of the son who had been named for them both...David Kenneth. Starsky felt tears stinging his eyes. He gripped Hutch's hand tightly, unable to speak. Hutch squeezed back. "I wish you'd been here three months ago, buddy. Or better still ten years ago."

"I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere any time soon, partner."

They stood in perfect synchrony and made their way to ICU. Starsky led the way, smiling at Marcie and planting a kiss on the top of her head. She glowered at Hutch but Starsky smiled and winked. Then he turned to the bed. "Good morning, sleepy-head. The sheriff here would like a word with you."

He stepped aside to reveal his companion, a lop-sided grin coming over his face as he watched the recognition dawning on Huggy's face.


The End