HAPPY HOLIDAYS

PART ONE.

CHAPTER ONE.

Captain Ken Hutchinson sat in his office listening to the general hustle and bustle coming from the squad room outside his door. In his office all was quiet and what he liked to call 'business like'. Behind the doors he knew the room was festooned with gaudy decorations hanging from every conceivable place, the requisition for drawing pins had almost trebled in the last week. In one corner stood a small, imitation tree to which someone had secured the biggest silver star he thought it possible to fix and still have the tree upright. Every so often he would catch snippets of conversations between colleagues as they discussed the various merits of whatever toy, computer game or C.D. their child had requested as being an absolute 'must have' this year. He had also noticed, as he did every year, that these conversations hurriedly stopped whenever he entered the room.

Normally it didn't bother him; he would just do whatever it was he had come through to do and then leave, totally ignoring their looks as he passed back into the inner sanctity of his office. Having no family he always volunteered to be 'on duty' over the festive period, especially Christmas Day, to allow those with families to spend some precious time together. Every year he told himself that it didn't matter, he really didn't mind, and every year another tiny piece of him died inside. These days he hated Christmas and would always be glad when it was over and things could get back to normal.

Somehow though, this year was even more painful. He had tried hard to put his finger on exactly what it was that had caused this feeling of emptiness he had been carrying around with him for the last couple of weeks. Nothing had changed within the precinct. Millie had, as usual, tried to include him in all of her plans for 'her boys' as she chose to call the officers working there. As usual he had claimed pressure of work to stay out of them. This year even young Tom Anderson had joined in with the efforts, inviting him to join his family for Christmas Day lunch. He liked Tom a great deal and was looking out for the right partner for him. He had a definite feeling that, in the right pairing, he would have the best detective team for a long time under him. All it needed was the right someone, the trouble was that someone was proving very difficult to find. He had politely but firmly turned down Tom's offer telling him that it would only put a damper on his children's fun to have their fathers' boss around.

Hutch tried hard to focus on the folder in front of him. He was due in court later today and he needed to go over his facts before arriving. The case had been a long and difficult one for his team and he had, at the request of Tom, become involved in working it through and the final arrest. As such he was a vital witness for the prosecution and he was determined that all of their work would not be in vain. The perp they wanted put away had already killed three innocent young women and he didn't want to give him the chance to make it four. Murder was always bad but this guy had enjoyed his work, torturing his victims beforehand and then killing them slowly and painfully. All involved with the case were determined that he would not get off on some small technicality because they had failed to do their homework. They could only pray however that his lawyer would be unable to bring a plea for insanity, all the detectives on the case knew he wasn't insane, but was an extremely dangerous animal who deserved to be locked away for a long, long time.

Suddenly his concentration was broken by an increase in the volume from the other side of his door, followed by a tentative knocking. The door opened and Tom Anderson's head appeared around it. Hutch could see a huge grin on his face and, once again, it struck him just how much like his former partner Anderson was. Indeed, since Starsky had returned to Canada, young Anderson had been responsible for a few wacky stunts around the place, which had caused much merriment amongst his fellow officers. Hutch had the distinct impression that he was being aided and abetted, albeit long distance. He was beginning to realise just what Captain Dobey had had to put up with when he and Starsky had been partners.

"Sorry to disturb you Cap, but there's something out here that I think you ought to see. Can you spare us a moment?"

Hutch could hear the whispering going on behind Tom and was suddenly curious to know what had brought the work in the squad room to a halt. Rising from his chair he went to join them and take a look. As he went through the door he was met with the sight of a huge box sitting on Tom's desk. It measured, he estimated, about two square feet, and was wrapped in the brightest luminous yellow paper that he had ever seen. Millie was busily trying to persuade her glasses to remain on the end of her nose in order to read the address on the envelope that had arrived with the box. She turned, smiling at him, and handed him the envelope.

"It's for you Hutch, and I'll give you three guesses where it's come from."

The other officers crowded around to watch as Hutch turned the envelope around in his hand, looking directly at Millie as he did so. She was the only one in the office who still called him Hutch; no one else would even dare to think about it. Outwardly he always admonished her, secretly though he enjoyed it, pleased to know that he wasn't the only one around who remembered the old days when he was just a detective and could become just as curious about an unusual parcel arriving in the squad room.

"Canada", Hutch almost whispered on seeing the postmark.

"Yep! Canada Hutch" Millie winked conspiratorially to Tom, "Now… who do we know in Canada that would dare to send such a gaudy parcel through the mail?" Unable to contain it any longer she was laughing now at the look of incredulity on the face of the man in front of her. Trust Starsky, she thought to herself. He never could resist Christmas and he had always dragged Hutch along with him in that enjoyment, bullying and cajoling until Hutch was almost forced to enjoy himself. Millie knew that he didn't have to force himself that hard.

Hutch quickly slipped his thumb under the seal of the envelope and opened it bringing out an A4 sheet of bright yellow paper to match that around the box.

"Man, anyone got any sunglasses for the Captain?" Tom's voice could be heard over the top of the murmur echoing around them.

Hutch grinned and then read the note so that all could hear. "One to be taken every day for eight days. Guaranteed to dispel blatant commercialism and aid euphoric sentimentality!"

Hutch put down the note and slowly opened the box as though he expected something to jump out and bite him. Inside he could see various small parcels; each wrapped in Christmas wrapping and labeled accordingly. There were some for Millie, some for all the officers jointly, and some were lovingly marked in gold pen with his name on. He retrieved the one from the top, which stated in capital letters, DAY ONE, OPEN FIRST. LIGHT AT MIDDAY! His hands were shaking as he unwrapped the parcel, knowing what he would find when he did, but not really believing what he was seeing. Those nearest to him stopped their whispering as Hutch carefully placed his gift on the table. It was the most beautiful, hand carved, Hanukkah lamp complete with eight candles.

Hutch could feel tears pricking at the back of his eyes as he looked at it. For a moment nobody moved. They all remembered the arrival of Starsky during the summer; all remembered the effect it had had on their Captain. They remembered too the way Hutch had become withdrawn for a while after he had returned to his home in Canada. Then the letters and pictures had begun to arrive and officers called into the Captains office were amazed to find themselves facing a gallery of drawings and paintings hanging on the wall behind the desk. Whenever a new one arrived Hutch would disappear into his office to read the letter in private and to add the picture to the others. On these days the Captain would look as though he were far removed from whatever case they were working on and had occasionally been heard strumming on his guitar when he thought no one was around to hear. Millie had taken to searching the mail once a fortnight in order to be the one who could bring these letters to Hutch. As she handed them to him she would always smile and wink knowingly at Tom and he would grim back knowing that, whatever the day threw at them, today would be a good day for all of them.

On days such as those Tom Anderson would find himself wishing that he had been around twenty years ago, when his Captain and his partner had been detectives here. Somehow he thought he would have learnt an awful lot just from being around them. As it was he realised that he had gained a friend in Starsky, they both had the same crazy sense of humour and sense of mischief. Tom had taken great delight in putting in to practice some of the stunts Starsky had suggested. He had also taken to searching Millie out whenever he had the chance in order to ask her about the partnership between Starsky and Hutch and he was beginning to understand a little of the friendship that existed between them. He would have loved to have heard some of their case exploits from Hutch but he was unsure of how to broach the subject with him. It was one of the reasons he had invited him to spend Christmas with his family, that and the fact that he liked his Captain and hated to think of him alone at such a time. He knew Hutch had worked out the Christmas rota and had deliberately put himself on duty but he also knew that there were others who would be willing to stand in and he decided that he would not let it rest, he would ask Hutch again to join them.

Hutch picked up the Menorah with great care and slowly walked back into his office with it. Looking around the room for a second his eyes came to rest on the cupboard below his window and he gently placed the precious gift down onto it. Turning to look at his clock he saw that he had five minutes to go before carrying out Starskys' wish and he hurriedly went through his drawers in search of some matches. Unable to find any he was on his way out of the office and almost ran into Millie coming in with her arms full of small parcels, each carefully wrapped and labeled with his name in gold pen. Putting the parcels down on his desk she put her hand in her pocket and produced a small box of matches, which she shook under Hutch's nose.

"Thought you might need these". So saying she dropped the box into Hutch's hand and turned to leave.

"Thanks Millie". Hutch called after her as she left. "Wait a minute…. Please!" Hutch suddenly realised that he wasn't the only one who understood the significance of Starsky's note and the lighting of the Hanukkah lamp. "It's almost time to light the lamp… why don't you do it with me?"

Hutch held out his hand and for a moment he thought Millie would refuse. Then she quietly stepped forward and took his hand smiling.

"Thanks Hutch, I'd like that. I miss him too!"

Together the two of them stood in front of the window as Hutch struck the match. As the clock in the squad room chimed out the hour they joined hands and together they lit the first candle. For a moment they stood and watched as the candle spluttered and flickered until finally taking hold and burning. As the flame grew they both had their own memories. Millie remembered with fondness the dark haired detective with whom she would often flirt. She smiled as she thought of the times when she had needed a shoulder to cry on; someone to be there for her and Starsky had always appeared by her side. Occasionally with flowers or chocolates, but always with a loving heart and a comforting arm.

Hutch's memories returned to the first time he had watched as Starsky had lit his own Menorah.

It had been the first year that they had been put together as partners and they had been late for a

double date. Hutch was annoyed with his friend and ready to leave him on his own but Starsky had

asked him to wait and the look in his friends' eyes had made it impossible to go. He had watched

quietly as Starsky had removed the Menorah from its box and placed it on the window sill, bowing his

head he had said a quiet prayer before glancing at his watch. Hutch had felt compelled to look at his

and, he remembered now, it was exactly eight o'clock.

Starsky had lit the candle and then for a few moments had seemed lost in the glow from its flame.

Hutch had moved closer and placed his hand on his friend's shoulder just as Starsky had raised his

head, whispering "Happy Hanukkah Ma!"

Starsky had told him then that his mother had sent him the lamp the first year that they had been apart

and he would always light it at the same time every day knowing she would be lighting hers with Nicki.

Somehow it made the miles slip away for a few moments and they were complete as a family again. He

would always especially remember his dad as he lit the first candle. From that year Hutch had always

been there for Starsky on the first day of Hanukkah. He had been a little surprised though when Starsky

had handed him a small gift that first day, explaining it was tradition. Hutch knew Starsky was never

'well off' for money, sending a good portion of his wages home to his mother each month. He was

therefore surprised, and very touched by the gift. It had been a small photograph frame into which

Starsky had placed a photo of their graduation from the academy. For the next seven days after that

another little parcel would appear on his desk in the morning, each one sillier than the one before. The

following year he had reciprocated with the presents and both had enjoyed the fun and laughter their

surprises had caused.

Hutch looked out of his window now the way he remembered Starsky do back then and he quietly whispered, "Happy Hanukkah Starsk, take care my friend."

Millie slipped her hand from his and quickly left the room, giving Hutch a little privacy. She had felt honoured to be a part of the little ceremony but she knew Hutch needed some time on his own. As she glanced back she could still see him standing looking out of the window but she knew that his mind was hundreds of miles away in Canada with Starsky and his family.

CHAPTER TWO.

Starsky's parcel caused moments of laughter in an otherwise gloomy day for many of the officers at the Metro. Mostly they were silly items, which he had picked up in joke stores, and Tom especially had taken great delight in these, seeing the potential for mischief with them. The first parcel though had been a huge box of candy and this had been hastily attacked by them all. Each parcel was labeled with a date so there was no doubt as to when to open it.

Those officers on duty for Christmas Day were the only ones to realise that their Captain hadn't joined them to open the box, indeed they very soon realised that there had been no parcel for him with the date DEC 25th written on it. Their own had contained a huge, homemade cake covered in white icing with a large 'Santa' drawn on the top. During their coffee break they had all agreed that this must have been a complete oversight on Starsky's behalf and they quickly dispatched one of the group to fetch Hutch and join them for coffee and cake. Hutch had been very reluctant to join them at first. When he had realised that there was no gift for today of all days he had been forced to admit his disappointment to himself. He had felt his usual 'Christmas Holiday Depression' returning and was reluctant to spread it amongst his fellow officers. The young detective sent to get him though would not take no for an answer and he was almost dragged from the room to a huge cheer from those waiting for him to join them.

"Come on Cap, cut the first slice and make a wish." Hutch looked at the owner of the voice as they put the knife into his hand. Tom Anderson stood in front of him with a silly grin on his face.

"What are you doing here Tom, you should be at home with your wife and kids?"

"I'm not here really Cap. I just popped in to pick up a present that I'd hidden here for Louise and to give you this." Tom handed Hutch a small present. "Louise said I was to ask you again to come for lunch. She said that there's plenty for everyone and you don't have to stay afterwards if you don't want to but at least you would have some turkey and cranberry sauce."

Hutch laughed, and thanking Tom for his gift, he promised to think about it. From somewhere behind him Hutch heard a voice shout "Never mind lunch what about the cake?"

Everyone laughed as Hutch proceeded to slice the cake into generous portions and pass it around. The last piece was handed out and Hutch picked his own slice up to take a bite.

A familiar voice echoed from the door behind him. Hutch almost choked as he spun around to find the owner of the voice grinning lopsidedly at him.

"Merry Christmas Hutch, hope you didn't eat all the cake. We were kinda looking forward to a slice with you all." Starsky was standing in the doorway. In one hand he had a gaudily wrapped parcel. The other arm was wrapped around the shoulders of Kelly Starsky and standing in front of them both were Kenneth and Rachael.

"Merry Christmas Uncle Hutch." Rachael was the first to move and she ran to Hutch and gave him a big hug and a kiss. Hutch hastily put down his plate and returned the hug, looking at Starsky over her shoulder with tears pricking the back of his eyes. For the moment he couldn't trust himself to speak.

Tom quickly assessed the situation and he opened the door to Hutch's office. Walking over to Starsky he firmly shook his hand.

"It's good to see you guys again and Merry Christmas to you as well. The guys and I would like to thank you for the parcel, it was a wonderful thought. Why don't you and the Captain go into his office and I'll arrange for coffee and some of this delicious cake to be sent through in a few moments."

Starsky nodded his gratitude to Tom, both of them knowing that Hutch needed a few moments to recover. He stepped into the room and, rescuing Hutch from his daughters arms, manoeuvered him around and into the relative sanctity of his office. Kelly and the kids followed, firmly closing the door behind them.

Once behind the door Hutch could let the tears come as he hugged Starsky and Kelly. It was some time before he could trust himself to speak and when he did it was no more than a whisper.

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

Starsky laughed, "We wanted to surprise you. Christmas presents are supposed to be a surprise aren't they? Well, we're your Christmas present."

Hutch's knees finally gave way and he collapsed into the nearest chair. Ken and Rachael took the huge parcel their father was holding and together they handed it to Hutch.

"Happy Hanukkah Uncle Hutch. Sorry it wasn't with the others but it wouldn't fit in the box." Rachael was smiling at him and Kenneth had his fathers' grin plastered across his face.

"Bet you can't guess what it is though," he said staring Hutch in the eyes.

For a moment Hutch looked deep into those eyes so like his fathers. They had come through a torrid time during the summer and Hutch had felt the full force of his namesakes anger and hurt. For a moment he feared that there could still be a residue left behind. Instead, all he could see was warmth and friendship and he immediately relaxed. Taking the parcel from them both he proceeded to squeeze and poke at it causing Starsky and Kelly to laugh out loud.

"HE used to tell ME off for doing that. Now look at him!" Starsky was unable to contain his merriment at the site of Hutch trying to figure out what the paper contained. "I'll tell you now Hutch, you'll never guess, not in a million years. So, seeing as we only have until two o'clock before we all go for lunch what say you open it."

Hutch had just finished unwrapping the parcel when Tom entered with a tray of coffee, coke and cake. Both he and Hutch were transfixed at the sight which lay before them. The whole Starsky family was laughing now as Hutch sat behind his desk holding the most enormous, fluffy brown, stuffed toy moose you could imagine.

Kelly was the first to recover and told Hutch, "We named him Harold because Dave said he reminded him of Captain Dobey. We kinda figured that he would help to close the gap a little. It's a long way from here to Canada so we thought we'd bring a little bit of Canada to you."

"It's brilliant, absolutely brilliant." Hutch was smiling. He lovingly picked up the moose and placed him next to the Menorah. "Thanks... all of you. It's truly brilliant."

Tom left the room wondering whether or not to tell the others about the moose. He finally decided better of it. The Captain was finally in the spirit of Christmas and he for one was not about to knock whatever had caused that change. Hutch deserved a little happiness. Smiling quietly to himself he left the precinct to join his family and to tell his wife that his Captain would definitely not be joining them. He had received a better offer.

CHAPTER THREE

Half an hour later and the Starsky family were on their way out of the precinct to book in at their hotel and unpack. Before they left however they had told Hutch that they would pick him up from his apartment at one thirty precisely and he was to be ready or else. Hutch spent the next hour making phone calls to his family, the Dobey's and of course to Huggy. The ones to his family had been the usual, courteous ones that he had become accustomed to making, his mother was always up to her elbows in guests at this time of the year and she made no allowance for her age. He was disappointed though, when he rang the Dobey's number he received no reply. He figured that they had probably gone to stay with relatives so that they would not have to be on their own but he wished that he had been able to give them his best wishes and to make sure that they were all okay. Huggy Bear had seemed somewhat distant and this upset him even more. It was unlike his old friend to be so short and elusive with him. Hutch began to wonder if everything was alright with Huggy and promised himself that he would make a point of calling in to 'The Pits' as soon as he got the chance.

Starsky was true to his word and at precisely one thirty he was knocking loudly on Hutch's door, singing carols at the top of his voice. Hutch smiled to himself as he realised that Starsky had never grown out of his childish love of Christmas. When he opened the door he was met with the sight of Starsky wearing a big, bright red bow tie with flashing green lights, and on his face was the biggest grin he had seen in a long time. Since moving to Bay City Starsky had always enjoyed the best of both worlds at this time of the year. His Aunt and Uncle were Christian and, as such, they celebrated Christmas, including the young David Starsky in all that it entailed. Choosing the right tree was a special time for him and his Uncle and they would spend ages together just looking at each one and judging its merits. Starsky, though he didn't attend the synagogue more than occasionally, was Jewish and the one thing he always celebrated was Hanukkah. In this way he felt closer to his mother and brother, knowing that they would be lighting their candle at the exact same time as he did each year. As he grew up the magic of the season had never left him and he had always managed to drag Hutch, albeit reluctantly, along with him.

This year he did not need a lot of dragging. As he sat in the back of the car Starsky had hired he listened to the excited chatter of the children as they discussed the pros and cons of spending Christmas away from home. It turned out that they had been allowed to open their presents with their Grandparents before leaving Canada. Being allowed two Christmas's was, they both considered, a bonus, which more than made up for the traveling.

Starsky was driving and Kelly sat with one arm around her husbands' shoulders. They were both singing 'Rudolph the red nose reindeer' at the top of their voices and Hutch found himself wanting to join in. He was so busy talking to the children and watching Kelly and Starsky that he forgot to look where they were going. It was with some surprise therefore that he looked up when Starsky brought the car to a halt to find them parked outside the front door of Huggy's place.

"Okay partner… time to get out. I smell roast turkey and stuffing so we must be about on time." So saying Starsky opened the driver's door and getting out he made the most elaborate bow as he held the passenger door for Hutch to join him. Moving around to the passenger side, he did the same thing for Kelly and, linking his arm with hers, he proceeded to walk into 'The Pits'. Kenneth and Rachael came next with Hutch tagging on behind, a very bemused look on his face.

"Starsky my man, you made it. I thought when I saw the forecast that you were all going to get snowed in. Let me take your coats and then I'll get you all a drink to warm you up."

So saying Huggy removed their coats and disappeared into the back room before returning with a tray laden with Mulled Wine. Hutch look completely amazed at this as he tasted the warm fluid slipping past his throat.
"Huggy you've surpassed yourself. How'd you make this, it's lovely?"

"Ahh..I'm afraid I can't take the credit for that Hutch. The person you need to speak to is standing right behind you.

Hutch turned and almost dropped his glass when he saw Edith Dobey, Rosie and Cal standing behind him.

"Merry Christmas Hutch. Good to see you again." Edith hugged Hutch warmly. "You too Dave, and Happy Hanukkah to your lovely family. Are you going to introduce me?"

Starsky looked apologetic and reaching out he took Kelly into his arm bringing her forward to meet Edith Dobey.

"Kelly this is Edith, Captain Dobey's widow and a very good friend to both Hutch and me. And these two young upstarts are Kenneth and Rachael." Starsky pointed to each in turn.

Edith held out her hand to each of the children and shook them warmly. The she returned to Kelly and hugged her.

"It's so good to meet you all at last. David told us all so much about you that I feel like we're old friends already, and in my case I do mean old." Edith laughed then indicated the two adults standing just behind her. "Let me introduce you all to my children. Cal and Rosemary, or Rosie as she prefers to be known." She winked conspiratorially to the Starsky children and lowered her voice to a whisper. "They could tell you a tale about your Dad and Uncle Ken I can tell you."

At this point Huggy cleared his throat before announcing that the dinner was about to be served and would everyone please take their place at the table. They followed Huggy and were amazed to see the table in front of them. Huggy had festooned it with garlands and holly and the silver shone almost as brightly as the lights on the tree that stood in the corner.

"Huggy this is beautiful, thank you." Hutch was the first to recover from the sight.

"Hey don't thank me. It was all Starsky's idea and I got a couple of the girls to help with the decorations. I only cooked the turkey. Mrs D and Rosie helped with all the trimmings and Cal decorated the tree. Talking of food what say we all sit down to eat before it all gets cold!" So saying Huggy picked up his carving knife and steel and began to sharpen. Everyone found their seat at the table and Huggy began to carve the most enormous turkey that Hutch thought he had ever seen. For a while no one spoke as they all enjoyed the sumptuous meal that lay before them.

They had all pulled their crackers and sat around the table wearing paper hats and swapping silly jokes with each other. Cal was the first to break into the merriment as he said, "Dad always made a toast after Christmas dinner. It would be a shame if we didn't don't you think?"

"That's a lovely idea Cal. Huggy this is your place how about it" Rosie looked at Huggy.

Huggy paused for a moment before answering. "I think it's a lovely idea but I'm not very good with words, Hutch why don't you do it?"

Hutch glanced around the assembled crowd and his gaze came to rest upon Starsky who was looking at him in a strange way that he had never seen before. The eyes, usually so readable, were dark, Starsky was smiling at him and he could feel himself reddening under the gaze.

"I think, seeing as it would appear to have been Starsky's idea that we are here in the first place, that it would only be right to let him propose the toast."

For a moment Hutch thought that he had read things wrong, Starsky's eyes dropped and he fiddled with the salt cellar that stood in front of him. Then he slowly got up and, placing one hand on Kelly's shoulder Starsky cleared his throat.

"First of all I'd like to thank Huggy, on behalf of everyone here, for this wonderful meal that we've all enjoyed." So saying Starsky raised his glass towards Huggy and waited for the others to do the same. "Secondly I look around this table and I can see something wonderful sitting here. Friendship is a very special thing for anyone, but to those of us sitting here it has been a lifesaver more than once. Over the last thirty years, ever since Hutch and I were partnered up, that friendship has pulled us both back from the brink on countless occasions. There are times when one of us would never have survived without the other willing us through, being there, holding each others hand, as though we could physically stop the other from taking that final step into eternity. At times like that we must have made so many promises to him upstairs, I know I did, 'I'll do anything if only… just don't take him.' Isn't that the way it went Hutch? And when you were the one lying there you could feel the other beside you willing you to hang on, to fight for all you were worth. Sometimes, especially the last time, it was extremely difficult but you knew that you had to do it. For the sake of your friend you had to fight."

Starsky had been looking directly at Hutch all the time he was speaking, his hand never leaving Kelly's shoulder. Hutch again had the image that she was Starskys shield and support. He was having trouble keeping his emotions in check as he swallowed hard and his Adams apple bobbed up and down frantically.

"People have asked us both how we survived those ten years, why we were so close. There was plenty of speculation, and not all of it savoury, but the answer was really quite simple. Trust! When it came down to the nail who did we trust? Well Hutch and I trusted each other, 100 %. If we didn't then we would never have made it. When you work with someone day in day out for ten years you get to know each other really well. You can guess what the other is thinking, know what the other is going to do… and you know when they are hurting. Hutch and I, we were two halves of the same whole, we each of us needed the other. Simple. Then… well then it all came to and end, and for a while we both nearly fell apart. The reason that we didn't is around this table. Friends, good friends. Supporting us, holding us up and putting us back together. We would neither of us made it through those days if it hadn't been for you guys. Now, here we are twenty years on, and that friendship, that bond if you like, is just as strong. So I'd like you all to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to friends, absent and present. Good friends are hard to come by and should be cherished." Starsky raised his glass to the assembled company and they rose as one to their feet joining him in the toast.

As he raised his glass to drink Hutch could feel Starsky watching him and he returned the gaze, their eyes locking for a moment as unspoken words flowed between them. He knew that those words had been spoken for him alone and he again wondered at the remarkable turn of fate that had given him the friendship of this kind, caring and gentle man in front of him.

CHAPTER FOUR.

The party at Huggys' had finally broken up late in the evening with invitations from the owner for them all to return on New Years Eve to welcome 2001 together. All had agreed with the condition that they all contributed to the evening. Hutch had been persuaded to bring his guitar and Huggy had promised to have the piano tuned before the big night. Starsky offered to drive Hutch home so long as he didn't mind dropping Kelly and the kids off at the hotel first. It was getting late and they had promised Kelly's parents that the children would ring before the day was over.

As he sat next to Starsky on the ride from the hotel to his apartment Hutch was quiet, watching Starsky handle the car through the once familiar streets. Inevitably it brought back a flood of memories and more than once he caught himself watching out of the window with more than a passing interest at the people in the street.

"Control to Zebra Three, control to Zebra Three, come in please!"

Hutch jumped as Starsky almost shouted in his ear and he turned to see him grinning as he glanced across the car. "That's better, you're back with me. I said, it was a bit like old times don't you think, but you were miles away buddy. Where were you anyway?"

"Same place as you I think Starsk" Hutch found himself grinning back at his friend. "Tell me something Starsky. Do you miss all this? Kelly said that you were a really good teacher, could get through to the kids and everything but …."

"Do I miss the streets you mean, getting shot at every five minutes. What do you think?" Starsky almost spat back at him and Hutch's eyebrows shot up, both surprise and hurt showing on his face.

"Sorry Hutch. Okay.. If I'm honest then yes I miss it; I miss it like hell. But it's another world Hutch, another lifetime and there's no going back or so they tell me. Besides I kinda like what I'm doing now. The pays better, so are the hours, and I enjoy being with the kids at the school and getting home in time to be with my own kids. We saw so many marriages break up because of the pressure of the job Hutch, at least Kelly and I have the same pressures and we can feel fairly certain that no one is going to be waiting to blow us away the first chance they get."

Hutch was quiet as they pulled up outside of his apartment. He found himself envying Starsky for his life. Then he remembered exactly what Starsky had been through to get it and he doubted that he would have made it. Besides he was a good cop and he enjoyed the camaraderie that came with the job. Starsky refused coffee, wanting to get back to his family and so it was that a tired but happy Ken Hutchinson finally crawled into bed to sleep.

He was back in his office at nine the next morning. The case against Matthews, the sadistic murderer they had finally been able to apprehend, was due in court the following day and Hutch wanted to go through the evidence with his officers. He was determined that this guy would be going away for a very long time. At eleven the door opened and Tom Anderson came in carrying a tray with two mugs of coffee and a couple of slices of cake that he had brought in from home.

"Thought you could do with a break Cap. You've been at that for two hours solid. How did your party go?"

Hutch gratefully set down the file he was holding. "Thanks Tom, I could use this. It went very well thanks how about your day, the kids get everything they wanted?"

"Yes just about, and I'll be working all the overtime there is for the next six months to pay for it." Tom laughed as he spoke. He had thoroughly enjoyed the rare day spent with his family and he knew that he had the man in front of him to thank for it. "What do you think about our chances tomorrow Cap, of getting Matthews off the streets for good I mean?"

"Pretty good Tom, as long as we all keep our heads then I think the jury will see it our way and the streets will be just that little bit safer for a while. That's until the next maniac comes along I guess." Hutch once again picked up the file he was holding. "What about you Tom, all clear with your evidence?"

Tom nodded. He wanted to put this guy away as much as Hutch did and he had gone over and over his evidence, committing every little detail of the case to memory.

"Well in that case, what say we get on with something else now. We'll worry about tomorrow when it comes okay!" Hutch smiled as Tom picked up the tray and moved towards the door. He turned with one hand on the door knob and, fixing his Captain with a smirk, said "You know Cap, it's a shame that Starsky can't turn up out the blue more often. It's good to see you smile now and then!"

For a moment Hutch was taken aback at this then, slowly he began to smile to himself. Tom was right. Ever since the sudden unexpected arrival of his former partner Hutch had found himself more relaxed. Starsky included him in all that his family did while they were here and he no longer felt like an interloper. He decided that he would offer to take Kenneth and Rachael to stay with him for the night, giving Kelly and Starsky some time to be on their own. Picking up the paper he quickly skimmed thought the pages until he came to the theatre advertisements. He grinned as he found exactly what he was looking for and he quickly dialled the number, booking two tickets in a box for the following evening. He would give them to Starsky tonight when he saw him.

CHAPTER FIVE.

Starsky and Kelly had enjoyed a wonderful evening together. They had both been more then a little surprised when Hutch had offered to take the children for the evening and had handed them an envelope tied around with a gold ribbon. He had shyly called it his Christmas present to the two people who meant the most to him in the world. Starsky had been highly suspicious at first, remembering a time years before when Hutch had 'brought' him a tree planted in some distant forest for Christmas. He had handed the envelope to Kelly to open just in case and had been pleasantly surprised when two tickets to the theatre had been dropped into his hands by an incredulous Kelly as she rushed to kiss Hutch.

They had both enjoyed the show and were now sitting in the restaurant that Hutch had booked at the same time, enjoying after dinner drinks. Kelly was giggling slightly as the Brandy began to take effect. Starsky gently kissed the tip of her nose and smiled. It had been a long time since he had seen her so relaxed and he silently thanked Hutch for his generosity. He wondered how his former partner was coping with having two teenagers under his feet and inwardly smiled as he thought of Kenneth and Rachael pulling all their dubious tricks on him. He had to admit, if only to himself, that both of his children had inherited his own sense of humour and fun. Somehow Starsky figured that it would be a long night for Hutch.

When at last it came time to pay the bill there was one further surprise as the waiter told them that this was already taken care of. Starsky questioned this only to be told that they had received instructions when the table had been booked to send the bill to Captain Hutchinson at Metro Division. So it was that they both left the restaurant, arm in arm, to return the their hotel room. Hutch had promised to keep the children with him until 9.00 the next morning and Kelly and Starsky were aiming to make the most of their absence.

Starsky had no idea what had woken him from his sleep. He and Kelly had gone to bed just before midnight but it had been at least 1.00 a.m. before Kelly had drifted into an exhausted sleep in his arms. Quietly he rose from the bed, and pulling on an old tee shirt and jeans, he left the bedroom to make a cup of coffee. He had an uneasy feeling that something was going to happen, but he had no idea what. Starsky stood drinking his coffee and staring out of the hotel window at the scene below. As he did so a cold shiver ran down his spine, a silent litany was playing through his tired mind, "Let me be wrong this time. Please. Starsky hadn't had such a gut feeling since he had turned his back on the force some twenty years ago and it scared him. In the old days he and Hutch had learnt not to ignore these feelings, they had kept them alive more than once. Now though Starsky had no idea what he felt or whether to tell Hutch. Finally he decided that he would wait until he could get his former partner on his own, away from his family. Putting down his cup he slowly turned and made his way back to bed but he couldn't get back to sleep, totally unable to shake off the sinking feeling at the pit of his stomach.

It was with some relief that, at seven thirty, the phone next to their bed rang and he reached across the still sleeping form of Kelly to answer it.

"Hi Dad, did I wake you?" Starsky winced as his daughters voice rang in his ears.

"No honey, you didn't wake me but if you shout any louder you'll probably wake your Mum." Starsky smiled as he spoke. "How are you two urchins doing? I hope you've not turned Hutch completely grey overnight."

"Aw Dad! That's not fair. We told you we'd be on our best behaviour so he's only a little grey at the temples." Rachael was laughing down the phone. "He's right here. You want to talk to him?"

"Yes thanks Rachael." Starsky could hear muffled talking in the background and he waited patiently for Hutch to take over.

"Morning Starsk. Why didn't you tell me that your two were such early risers?" Hutch was yawning causing Starsky to grin.

"You're getting old buddy. In the old days you'd have gone twice around the block, showered and have mixed up one of those crazy potions you call breakfast."

"Yeh, well… I was young then. Now I like to wake up slowly with some coffee in my hand. Actually, your kids have done me a favour this morning; I want to go over all our evidence before I go into the witness box this morning. Do you want to come over and collect these two or shall I take them with me to the precinct and you can meet us there?"

Starsky thought for a moment, glancing at Kelly as she began to wake. It would be a shame to rush and spoil their last moments together before becoming a foursome again. As much as he loved his children Starsky missed the times before they were born and he and Kelly could do as they pleased when they pleased.

"If you're sure you don't mind could you take them with you Hutch and we'll collect them from you. Kelly's having trouble shaking off the hangover from last night." So saying he hastily motioned for his wife to be quiet as she opened her mouth to object. Starsky could hear the laughter in his voice as Hutch answered that it was no problem and he would meet them about 9.00.

"David Starsky. How could you! I do not have a hangover!" Kellys' protests were stopped in full flow as Starsky reached across the bed and pulled her down, pinning her by the shoulders. For a moment he looked deep into her eyes before whispering, "I love you Mrs. Starsky." Their lips met and Starsky kissed her, gently at first but then with a ferociousness born from passion. The fear that had been with him since the early hours were soon forgotten as he gave in to the intense fire burning within him for his wife.

CHAPTER SIX.

Starsky and Kelly could hear their children before they could see them. The sound of laughter was ringing its way around the squad room causing the two interlopers to pause before entering the room. Quietly they put their heads around the door just in time to see Rachael, mistletoe in hand, standing on tiptoe to kiss Tom on the cheek. Across the room Millie was receiving the same treatment from Kenneth and she blushed as she remembered times the times that this boys father had done exactly the same thing so many Christmas' past. Hutch sat in the far corner of the room watching and wondering if his officers would ever settle to their job today. He too was laughing and secretly thinking that one Starsky was bad enough at this time of the year never mind two. His former partner had certainly passed on his love of the season to his offspring.

"Hey you two, do your Mum and I get one of those?" So saying Starsky entered into the room closely followed by Kelly. Hutch watched as the youngsters instantly threw themselves into their parents' arms. Even Kenneth, despite his age and manner, hugged them both ferociously and for a moment Hutch was envious of the relationship of Father and son. It was something he had never had with his own Father despite desperate longing in his early years. He knew though, that Starsky had enjoyed such a relationship with his Father and it was no wonder therefore that it should be so between him and his children. Hutch turned away to hide the tears that were threatening.

"Glad you could join us Starsk. Have a good evening?" Hutch kept his eyes lowered as he spoke.

"We had a wonderful evening thank you Hutch. Dave and I made the most of every minute, and I mean every minute." Kelly's voice dropped suggestively and she grinned at Starsky.

The children glanced at each other before dissolving into giggles and Tom Anderson found it difficult not to join in as he saw the embarrassed expression on Starsky's face. Hutch too was enjoying his friends discomfort and was a little surprised when Starsky asked for a moment of his time before he left.

Starsky followed Hutch into his office and firmly shut the door before leaning hard against it.

"Something wrong Starsk?" Hutch was looking closely at Starsky and what he saw was unnerving him.

"I'm not sure Hutch, wish I knew." Starsky suddenly felt silly. In the early hours his fear had been real, cold shivers running up and down his spine. Now, in the cold light of day, they seemed daft and Starsky felt reluctant to say anything at all. "You're due in court soon aren't you?"

"You know I am Starsky so what's the problem?"

"Do me a favour will ya Blintz. Be careful!" Starsky searched for and found Hutch's eyes. He held the contact for a couple of minutes, long enough for him to convey things that he was unable to put into words. "Be careful you big idiot, I'm scared and I don't know why!"

Hutch visibly shook his head as he broke contact. He was going to say that he was only going to testify in court. Nothing was going to happen, it wasn't as though he was out on a case, and he would be back before Starsky knew it. Instead he simply nodded. Starsky was worried and that was enough. He knew that his friend wouldn't be this way for no reason. Knowledge or instinct he didn't know and wouldn't ask but he would take heed of the warning.

"I'll be careful Starsk. I promise. I'll be back before you know it and we can all go for lunch at Huggy's to celebrate.

So saying Hutch picked up his files and left his office. Collecting Tom, on the way and saying his goodbyes to Kelly and the children, he left for the courtroom. Starsky remained where he was for the moment, cold fear once again returning to root him to the spot, he was visibly shaking. Once again the silent litany played it's way through his head, 'Be careful Hutch, watch your back.'

PART TWO.

CHAPTER ONE.

Starsky stood in the coffee lounge of the hotel vacantly staring out of the window. Kelly was watching him intently and she was worried. Pausing only long enough to send the children back to their room to get their coats ready for an afternoon out, she quietly crossed to her husbands side.

"Dave… Davy… Hey, come back to me will you."

Starskys eyes slowly made contact with hers and she could read the worry in them.

"That's better, where were you, you seemed miles away. Something wrong?"

Starsky made a feeble attempt at a grin, which never really succeeded. "No, everything's fine Kel."

"Don't lie to me Dave Starsky, you know you can't so why try? Come on…over here and sit down. Then you're going to tell me what the problem is if we have to sit here all day." Kelly took a firm grip on her husband's shoulders and physically pushed. Starsky allowed himself to be propelled forward and into a chair. "Now! I want to know what's wrong. I can't help if you shut me out. You've never done that so don't you dare start now, you hear me!"

Starsky looked at the defiant young woman sitting in front of him. The tiger was back he thought sadly, and he had brought it there. He knew Kelly deserved some kind of explanation but he was not sure that she would understand; he wasn't sure that he fully understood himself. He only knew that he was frightened for Hutch and he couldn't explain why.

"Kelly, I'm sorry. I'm not sure that I CAN explain." Starsky felt helpless.

"Try Dave, please." Kelly was pushing hard and she knew it. "Let me try and help. It's something to do with Ken Hutchinson again isn't it?" Starsky's eyes dropped but not before she had seen the expression in them. "I'm right aren't I? Come on Dave, tell me. If that guy has done something I'll…"

Starsky flew from his seat and back to the window. "NO, he hasn't DONE anything Kel, so put your claws back where they belong."

Kelly looked at her husband and knew that she had read things wrongly. Starsky's eyes were blazing now, the colour of coal, and full of anger. Instinctively, she rose and stood to face his wrath.

"I'm sorry Dave, I didn't mean… It's just that you've been acting strange since first thing this morning. Then you were worse after we left the precinct. What am I supposed to think if you won't talk to me?"

Starskys temper died as quickly as it had risen. Taking Kelly into his arms he hugged her fiercely before going back to the window.

"Something's wrong Kel. I can 'feel it', here inside." Starsky's hand went to his chest as he spoke. "I don't know why, or what, but something is horribly wrong and I'm scared Hutch is in trouble. It's stupid I know. He's in a courtroom; surrounded by security and other cops, but I know he's in danger. Does that make sense?"

"Not to me, no. But it does to you Dave and that's all that matters." Kelly finally understood. "If you feel like that then surely the best thing for you to do would be to go to the court and check it out for yourself. Trust your instincts Dave. They served you pretty well when you were a team. Why should they let you down now that your just friends. You once told me, remember, all those years ago when I shouted at you that Hutchinson was probably long dead, that you would know if anything happened to him. Well… if you think that Hutch is in trouble then you can't just sit back and do nothing. If you're wrong then you'll feel a little foolish maybe… but if you're right… you'll never forgive yourself if you don't do something." Kelly was looking directly at her husband and she could see the effect that her words were having. "Go on Dave. The kids and I will be fine, Hutch needs you."

For one brief moment Starsky looked lovingly at the woman in front of him. She knew him so well, better, he thought sometimes, than he knew himself. He had the fleeting impression that, if there were a female version of Hutch, then he had found her in the most unlikeliest of places. Shaking himself into action Starsky ran from the hotel and into their hire car. He had paused for a moment as he passed the telephone, if something were wrong then surely someone at the precinct would know. He finally decided not to waste time on niceties. They wouldn't tell him anyway, he was only a civilian after all. No, he had to get to the courtroom.

CHAPTER TWO.

In the days afterwards Starsky would wonder how he had made it there in record time without any traffic violations as he raced across the city without a care for speed limits and red lights. He had run up the steps of the court building two at a time, ignoring the pain it was causing his chest, and along the corridors to find the right room. Taking a deep breath he quietly composed himself before silently entering the court and taking a seat at the very back. No one had seen him come in, Hutch sat with his back to him, and he sat watching the proceedings, which were so painfully familiar to him. He had arrived just as the jury was making their way back into the courtroom to deliver the verdict. Starsky could see that both Hutch and Tom Anderson were sitting tensely awaiting the words that they hoped would put the maniac in the dock away for a long, long time.

Starsky was never quite sure when things had begun to happen. One moment the Judge had passed a life sentence on Matthews, the next bedlam had broken out as shots had rung out from the opposite side of the aisle to where he sat. The judges white hair was slowly turning red as his blood flowed from the hole where the bullet had entered his head. Hutch and Tom had instinctively dived for cover and Starsky found himself surrounded by screaming bodies, as frightened people tried their best to get away. Glancing over the top of the seat which he had taken cover behind Starsky knew that his fears had come true in the worst possible manner.

Matthews stood laughing in the dock, his finger pointing accusingly at the jury.

"Did you really believe that I would let you lock me up? Put me behind bars in some stinking cell to rot? Then you were bigger fools than I gave you credit for." So saying Matthews made his way down the steps and across the floor towards Hutch and Tom. "YOU TWO! You are the ones responsible for all of this. You are the ones who thought you were so clever. Well look where your conceit has gotten you now."

As he spoke the person holding the revolver made his way to the front to stand beside Matthews and Starsky felt his blood run cold as he leveled the weapon at Hutch's head.

"Want I should finish him now Jerry?" The youth was smiling, enjoying the fear he was creating around them. "I could finish him right here and now….or I could make him suffer a little. A quick bullet in the leg hurts like hell and he can slowly bleed to death."

Starsky held his breath, feeling totally helpless. He had slowly made his way into a corner where he was hidden from everyone at the front of the court but from where he had full view of what was happening. He could clearly see the gun held at Hutch's head and the defiant manner in which his friend was now standing, staring back into the eyes of his would be assassin. His mind was screaming out desperately to Hutch. 'Don't do anything rash Buddy, I'm right here. Just keep your head and give me time.' Starsky knew that Hutch was on a short fuse. His whole body told of his anger of these events. Suddenly he could hear him talking with quiet defiance.

"Matthews, I don't know who your excitable friend here is but I suggest that you control him now. He's only gonna make things worse for you both. Shooting me is one thing, blasting that thing around in a room full of innocent people is something else. Anyone gets hurt, they'll throw the key away and you'll both rot inside. Is that what you want?"

For a moment Matthews simply stared at Hutch as he thought over what had been said. Hutch's eyes never left the youth, waiting for an opening to present itself. The opening failed to come and Hutch tried again. He knew that the closed circuit cameras would have picked up what was happening, all he had to do was stall for time and help would be mobilizing outside the door.

"Come on Matthews, let these people out. You've got me and Tom, we're the ones you've got the grievance with." Hutch held his breath.

Suddenly Matthews made a move. Indicating the door he shouted for everyone to leave, everyone except Hutch, Tom and the jury.

"You stay!" Matthews was calm once again. "Let me introduce you to Sam Baker. You should remember him." Matthews pointed at Tom." You were responsible for killing his Father last year. He owes you my friend and he intends to collect."

Starsky pushed himself back into the corner and waited silently as the crowd around frenziedly made their way out through the courtroom door. Matthews had followed them as they fell over each other, fighting to get out of harms way. Starsky held his breath, expecting at any moment to be seen by this maniac and to receive the same treatment as the judge. Hearing the massive bolts slamming into place on the courtroom door Starsky knew that there would be no hope of anyone being able to get in through them. The only other possible way was from the cells, which lay directly under the court. This thought didn't really encourage him, as he knew that Matthews would also know that and would no doubt be ready for such an approach. Starsky knew for certain that the only chance Hutch and Tom had was him and his heart plummeted. He hadn't done anything like this for too many years, and he had no weapon. All he could do for the moment was to watch and pray that somehow he would get an opening or an opportunity to help. I'll do anything after this if you just get Hutch out alive, please God! There it was again, that silent litany that he thought he would never have to say again.

CHAPTER THREE.

Starsky opened his eyes in time to see Matthews walk back across the floor to face Hutch.

"Now, Mr. Detective, let's see what you're made of shall we?" So saying Matthews struck out hitting Hutch direct in the face. Hutch hit the floor, dazed and angry. He knew Matthews was waiting for him to react and give him the opportunity to shoot him down. His whole being ached to fight back, to take his assailant on, one to one. His common sense, on the other hand told him to stay calm and take whatever Matthews dished out, to wait for his chance, if it ever came. Hutch risked a glance at the men and women in the jury box. A few of the ladies were crying, all were anxiously watching the scene being played out in front of them. Hutch hoped fervently that there wasn't a hero amongst them. The last thing he needed right now was a loose cannon. 'You're getting to old for all of this Hutchinson, you should have got out years ago while you had time to start again. Now look at the mess you're in!' Hutch silently admonished himself.

"Okay Matthews. You wanted our attention, now you've got it. Exactly what is it that you want?" Hutch stared his captor in the eyes. Whatever happened he wasn't going to give this guy the pleasure of seeing fear in him. 'I'm sorry Starsk. It wasn't supposed to end like this. I promised you I'd be careful and I blew it, big time!'

"What do I want? Now that's a good one Captain." Matthews spat out the word as though it left a bad taste in his mouth. "Revenge cop, revenge for trying to lock me up, for telling lies to make them find me guilty. You're going to pay for that and pay dearly." Matthews spun around on the spot, walked a couple of paces from Hutch and, turning rapidly, he fired his weapon. From his hiding place it was all that Starsky could do to prevent himself crying out as Hutch fell. Desperately he peered through the seats trying to see where his friend had fallen. He could see the look of horror on the faces of the jury and the barely concealed anger on that of Tom Anderson.

Tom made to move towards Hutch only to find the gun of Sam Baker being pressed into his side. His voice clipped Tom turned blazing eyes to his captor.

"I'm going to my Captain and if you think you can stop me then you'd better use that gun of yours." For a moment time froze as Tom and the sweating youth stared angrily at one another. Starsky held his breath, Tom was pushing things with this maniac and was just as likely to get his head blown off.

Finally the moment was over and Sam indicated with his weapon for Tom to move.

Needing no second bidding Tom was at Hutch's side in seconds. Gently he turned Hutch over, unsure of what he would find. He was grateful when he realized that the bullet had passed through the shoulder. Although serious enough the wound was not immediately life threatening and Tom sighed with relief. From where he was hiding Starsky saw him and he too released the breath he had been holding. He could just about make out Hutch and could see him slowly trying to rise. Tom pushed him firmly back to the floor.

"Easy Cap. Stay where you are for the moment." Turning his head Tom looked at Matthews. "Okay Matthews, you made your point. What do you want us to do?"

"That's more like it!" Matthews smiled a sly, sick smile of a lunatic and Tom shivered. "First, we want out of this stinking hole. You can tell your friends out there that unless they all of them back off and let us pass I'm going to start killing hostages. One by one, very, very slowly. Do I make myself clear?" For emphasis Matthews had crossed the room to the jury box and was now slowly rubbing the butt of his gun across the throat of a young woman.

"Sure, I'll tell them." Tom hurriedly spoke, eager to get Matthews attention away from the terrified woman and back to him. "Only one problem though. How do I do that when they're out there and we're in here? There's no phone in case you hadn't noticed." Tom held his breath once more, waiting. As he watched he saw Matthews nod to his accomplice. Sam pulled a notepad from his pocket and threw it across the floor towards him.

"Know how to write pig?" Tom nodded. "Good then you write it all down and this pretty lady can deliver it for you."

Glancing at Hutch Tom knew he needed attention. His face was ashen and his breathing was slow and shallow. He was reluctant to go along with anything these two maniacs said but at the moment he had little choice, besides this would be one more person out of harms way.

"I don't suppose you brought a pen too?" Tom glared at Sam who, just for a second, looked flustered. "No, I thought not. Tom looked around the courtroom at the jury. "Anyone got a pen I can use?"

From the second row Tom watched as a middle-aged woman slowly stood.

"I have, but it'll cost you." Tom could hardly believe this. "I'll give you the pen but in return you let me look at that officer down there." The woman glared defiantly at their captors.

"And why should I do that lady?" Matthews was again smiling that sickly smile, slowly moving towards where the woman was standing.

"Because I was a nurse once, because if you don't then he may well die. Look at him, if he looses too much blood he'll start to go into shock. If you let him die what do you think those policemen out there are going to do. Let you walk out of here, just like that? No way. You kill one of their's and they'll make sure you don't make it." The woman turned to look at Tom. "Tell him I'm right."

Tom nodded and Matthews looked at where Hutch was lying. Nodding at the woman he indicated for her to move. Slowly the woman made her way across the floor and, kneeling down beside Hutch, she handed Tom the pen.

Starsky watched as the woman checked out his friend. He saw her remove the scarf she had been wearing and press it firmly onto the entry wound. Then, as he watched, she removed Hutch's tie and reaching across to where Tom was writing, she removed his also. Tying the ends of both together she proceeded use them to hold the scarf padding in place. Finally she ripped the hem of her skirt and, wrapping this into a pad, she pushed this onto the exit wound. Starsky could just hear her as she spoke to Tom.

"He'll be okay for a little while but he needs to get out of here and into a hospital as soon as possible."

Tom smiled his thanks as he hurriedly wrote down all that Matthews had said. When he finished he signed it with his name and division to prove it was genuine and handed it to Matthews.

Grasping the young woman from earlier by the throat, Matthews slowly applied pressure as she gasped for breath.

"Take this to those pigs outside, and tell them if they don't move away in the next half an hour then people start to die. Understand!" Matthews loosened his grip and the woman ran towards the door, almost hysterical. Sam followed her and unbolting the locks he pushed her through quickly replacing the bolts as he did so.

CHAPTER FOUR.

From his hiding place Starsky was becoming very frustrated. He had seen men like this before. He also knew, as Tom and Hutch did, that there was no way the police outside would just let these two walk away. He had to do something before the swat team lost patience and made their move. Matthews would probably be expecting something from outside; he wouldn't be expecting something to come from inside the room. For the hundredth time Starsky's eyes flew around the room desperately searching for something, anything he could use as a distraction. He had figured that if could just get the younger man, Sam, to come to the back of the room then he had a chance to over power him without being seen. Again the search had proved to be fruitless and Starsky fell back against the wall. 'Come on Lord, you've gotta help me this time. I'm out of touch with all this sort of escapade.' As he lay his head back against the wall Starsky looked upwards at the sun glinting off of something on the wall behind him. For a moment he just stared at it. Then, as realisation dawned and an idea formed, Starsky allowed a small grin to cross his face. 'Hang on Hutch, the cavalry's on it's way buddy.'

Starsky hurriedly began a search through his pockets for paper, tearing it into small pieces. Next he reached across between the seats to where he could see a magazine long since discarded on the floor between the seats. Finally he used his penknife to carefully cut a piece of the plastic seat cover from the seat next to him. Again with his penknife Starsky prized the face off of his watch. Angling it so that the sun shone directly on to it he placed the small pieces of paper underneath and held his breath. It seemed to him to take ages before the paper began to smoke and then finally burst into flame. Hurriedly Starsky dropped the glass and, picking up the magazine, he began to feed the fire. When he was satisfied that it was going strongly enough he carefully placed the plastic material on the top. It was time to move and Starsky crawled under the seat in front of him. Holding his handkerchief over his nose and mouth to stop him coughing Starsky waited.

From the floor below Starsky could hear voices, followed by footsteps coming towards him. Tensing himself Starsky could feel the palms of his hand sweating as the adrenaline started to flow. The place where he had set the fire was just out of site from anyone watching from below. All he needed was for his luck to hold and one half of the problem would be over. Starsky could make out the feet coming along the back of the seats. They stopped and Sam's voice rang out around the room.

"There's a fire back here. I'll see to it, nothing major." Sam began to stamp on the bundle of plastic and paper which was smoldering nicely and giving off a foul smell. Starsky took his chance. Reaching out just as Sam raised one foot to stamp on the fire he grabbed the offending foot and pulled the younger man off balance. Sam hit the floor with a quiet thud, dropping his weapon just out of his reach. Starsky grabbed it and holding at point blank range he put his fingers to his lips.

"One sound and I'll blow your head off, and don't think I won't, those are my friends down there." Sam was staring into the angriest, coldest, flashing eyes he had ever encountered in his life. "Now! We are going to go very slowly down those steps, you in front. I'm gonna be right here behind ya and one false move I'll blow your head off! You understand me?" Sam nodded. "Good. Move, slowly. Don't try any heroics."

Sam got to his feet and began to make his way back to the steps with Starsky just behind him hidden from view by his body. At the top of the steps Sam paused for a second before slowly beginning the descent. His steps were heavy, as he knew that this was almost over and had gone horribly wrong for himself and Matthews.

Starsky was having trouble with his descent. He was trying to stay out of sight behind the other man but he was taller than him and it was proving difficult to remain hidden and climb down the steps at the same time. Suddenly, to his surprise and anger, Starsky tripped. Pitching forward he pushed Sam down the last few steps where he landed unceremoniously at Tom's feet.

Starsky threw himself into a roll, coming to a halt at the bottom step. For a moment confusion reigned as Tom made to grab Sam and Matthews grabbed Hutch by the collar, dragging him to his feet. Starsky's mind was racing now. If he got this wrong Hutch was dead and it would be his fault. On the other hand, if he could bluff this out then everyone would get out alive. Starsky stood facing Matthews and Hutch, his gun pointing directly at them. Matthews was standing slightly behind Hutch, half hidden, with his gun at Hutch's head. Starsky knew he would have one chance only and he prayed that, after all this time he could still do it.

"I don't know who you are Mister, or where you came from, but if you don't put that down right now then I'll blow this pig away where he stands." Matthews voice was filled with anger and frustration.

"Hutch, you okay?" Starsky ignored the words and looked directly into his friends face.

Hutch nodded, "Yeah Starsk, I'm just fine. Where the hell did you come from?"

Starsky grinned, "Thought I'd come and see how it's done these days Blintz. I wasn't banking on the added attraction." Starsky's voice dropped slightly and his eyes searched out his friends. "Remember the old days Hutch? Remember the question we always asked? If I asked you now Hutch would the answer still be the same. Me and Thee!"

Just for a second, Hutch hesitated, then he searched for, and found, his partners eyes. "Me and Thee Starsk, all the way."

"That's all I needed to know Buddy." Starsky shifted his gaze and very slightly altered his stance. His hands were sweating and shook slightly. This was the first time in twenty years he had handled a gun with the intention of shooting it and the thought terrified him. He tried desperately not to let it show as he turned his attention to the man standing just behind Hutch.

CHAPTER FIVE.

"You've probably never heard of me friend. The name is Starsky, Dave Starsky. The guy whose head your threatening to put a hole through was my partner about twenty years ago. I wouldn't sit back and let you get away with it then and I'll be damned if I'll do it now. You've already made me VERY angry with the shoulder wound so I'll tell you how it's gonna be shall I?" Starsky's voice was cold, his features hard and unreadable. "You have one chance to get out of this and that's it pal. You're choice. Either you put the gun down now and let my friend here go, or you shoot. Simple ain't it! Thing is, you have to choose, shoot Hutch and I'll blow you away, no messing. Shoot me and Detective Anderson will have you. Either way you loose my friend so which is it to be?"

As Starsky spoke those in the courtroom, including Matthews, had little doubt that he would do exactly what he said and everyone held their breath as they watched the two men face up. Tom Anderson was learning first hand how this partnership worked and he watched in wonder to see what would happen. Finally Sam Baker spoke, his voice desperate and shaking with each word.
"Matthews it's over man, it ain't worth getting your head blown off for some dumb copper. Give it up for Gods sake."

Matthews glanced at the youngster standing to the side. 'It's alright for him', he thought, 'They'll lock him up for a couple of years then some do gooder will take up his case and he'll be let out. Me, they'll throw away the key.'

"See sense man, it's over." Sam was almost pleading now and the sight disgusted Matthews. 'Typical loud mouth kid', he thought, 'full of bluster until it came down to it and then a big yellow streak right down the middle of the back!'

"Okay friend, you win." So saying Matthews slowly began to release his grip on Hutch, his weapon lowering he made as though to put it on the floor.

Starsky watched as Matthews crouched. At that moment, without Matthews supporting him any longer, Hutch swayed and stumbled forward. Starsky's attention was drawn to his friend for a split second and Matthews saw his chance. Raising his gun he aimed and fired directly at Starsky. Tom, seeing what was happening, had only time to shout a warning before he heard the sound of the shot echo around the room. Hutch searched the room desperately for any sign of Starsky as a return shot was fired.

Starsky had heard Tom's shout and immediately brought his attention back to where it should be. He quietly cursed himself for falling for such an old trick as he launched himself sideways across the aisle. He had both heard and felt the draught of the bullet as it had skimmed past his head and his return fire was both instinctive and direct. As he completed the roll Starsky lay where he was for a full minute breathing heavily. His eyes never left that of the dead man lying in front of him, a look of surprise on his face. Carefully Starsky rose to his feet and hurried over to Hutch.

"Take it easy buddy, I'm here. It's over and you're all okay." Starsky dropped the gun from his hands with a disgusted look and put both hands on Hutchs shoulders. His eyes again sought out those of his friends and held them. 'We made it again my friend, score one more for the good guys!'

As the two men sat on the floor confusion broke around them. One of the jurors had rushed to unlock the courtroom doors and there were suddenly police everywhere. Starsky and Hutch watched as Tom quietly took charge, handing Sam Baker over to a uniformed officer. He rapidly organized some officers to take statements from all those in the room. He arranged for the coroners wagon to remove the Judge's body and in the meantime got someone to fetch a blanket in order to cover it over. Finally he walked slowly over to where Starsky and Hutch were sitting and dropped to his knees next to them.

"Come on Cap, we ought to get you to the hospital. I'll take you in my car." So saying he made to help Hutch rise. A hand firmly gripping his arm stopped him.

"NO. I'll take him; you've got things to sort out here. I'll take him and you can join us there later when you're done." Starsky was looking directly at Tom defying him to argue.

Tom could see the determination in Starskys face. He had watched earlier as this man in front of him now had seen off his own fear and had placed his own life on the line for the sake of his friend. There had been a link between the two that he had never seen before and he had been privileged to see it at work. At long last he understood the reason these two had been so successful.

"Sure. I'll be there as soon as I can. Wait for me, I'll need your statement too don't forget." Tom smiled and with Starsky's help they raised Hutch to his feet. Tom watched as the two slowly made their way up the steps and out of the room. He had learnt a lot today and he was grateful.

CHAPTER SIX.

Starsky was sitting in a chair next to the bed where Hutch lay sleeping. He held onto his friend's hand quietly as he watched the gentle rise and fall of Hutch's chest. The last few hours had exhausted him, both mentally and physically, and all he wanted to do was crawl into a corner and sleep. Refusing to allow himself the luxury of rest he vowed to remain where he was until Hutch woke from the operation and gave him the ok to leave. That's the way it had always been and he wasn't about to change it now. He had already defied every Doctor and nurse who had tried to make him leave and they had finally, reluctantly, agreed that he could stay as long as he promised to go home as soon as Hutch was conscious.

From somewhere behind him Starsky heard the door to the room open and footsteps approach the bed. He steeled himself for yet another nurse telling him he was exhausted and would end up in the next bed if he didn't get some rest. He would sleep for as long as it took once he knew Hutch was out of danger, but for know he wasn't leaving. The footsteps stopped just behind him and he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Davy, you okay?" The quiet, gentle voice almost whispered the question and he turned his eyes to the speaker with a smile.

"I'll be fine Kel, once sleepy here decides to wake up." Starsky turned back to Hutch and Kelly made her way around to the opposite side of the bed. Reaching across she handed Starsky a cup of coffee.

"Here, I thought you could do with this." Starsky gratefully accepted it and sipped the hot liquid as Kelly continued. "When Tom came to the hotel I thought I'd lost you. He told me what happened. Dave, what the hell were you thinking of? You could have been killed!"

"Hutch almost was!" Starsky glared at his wife. "I thought you understood Kelly. You of all people should. What was I supposed to do? Hutch needed me, simple."

"Easy Dave, easy." Kelly held her ground. "I know what Hutch means to you and I understand. All I'm saying is you could have phoned or something. We were worried sick about you."

Starsky shook himself and sighed. "Sorry Kel." He reached for her hand across the bed, "You're right, I should have phoned, but I was so worried about Hutch….." His voice trailed off.

"Hey! It's okay. You're not hurt and that's all that matters as far as the children are concerned. As for me, well, I'll be a little happier when Hutch wakes up and you come back to the hotel and get some sleep. Then I'll know you're both alright." Kelly smiled, squeezing his hand firmly. "Don't worry, he'll be fine Dave. I spoke to the doctors before I came in and they said everything went well. He'll wake once the sedation has worked off. If he's careful then they might let him home tomorrow, it's New Years Eve after all and he's got a gig to play at remember?"

Starsky managed a grin despite the fatigue which was bringing him down. He was forcing his eyes to remain open.

"Have I told you lately just how much I love you Kelly Starsky?"

"Not since the last time lover" Kelly laughed. "Dave this is silly. Why don't you shut your eyes and have a nap. I'll be here. I promise I'll wake you the minute he wakes up."

She rose and walked behind the chair on which Starsky sat. She felt him relax under her hands as she gently massaged away the tension in his neck and shoulders and, very quietly, she began to hum a tune as she worked on the muscles. Smiling to herself she watched as Starskys head began to loll from side to side and his eyes finally close and stay shut. Gently she allowed her husband to lower his head on to the bed, his hand still holding Hutch's. She knew that when he awoke his back would ache, but for now she was content with the fact that he was finally asleep. Kelly settled herself into the chair on the opposite side of the bed and prepared for the wait. When a nurse came in to check on Hutch she smiled at the sight of the two men asleep with the woman keeping watch. Leaving the room she returned five minutes later with a blanket, which she gently placed over Starsky, and a pillow, which she gave to Kelly.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Tom Anderson was busy checking the duty rosters and rearranging them in order to cover for the absence of Hutch. He had spoken to the 'powers that be' explaining Hutch's condition and had successfully wangled him three weeks sick leave. Now he was working on cover for him. Tom didn't mind doing a few extra hours, he could do with the extra money to help pay for the excess of Christmas, and it soon became obvious that he was not the only one. He could truthfully look his captain in the eyes and tell him everything was fine. He only hoped that Kelly Starsky had been able to carry out her part of the plan.

Hutch had woken up from the sedation some two hours after Starsky had finally fallen asleep. Kelly had smiled as her husband had instantly woken at the first indication but her smile was nothing to the huge grin which Starsky had given his friend. It was half an hour later, when Hutch had gone back into a natural sleep, that Kelly had finally persuaded Starsky to leave his vigil and get some long overdue rest. She had managed to get him onto the bed back at their hotel, but it had taken both her and Kenneth to get him safely into bed and resting. Starsky's eyes had closed the minute he hit the pillow and not even them pulling at the legs of his trousers had managed to waken him.

It was Rachael who had suggested that Hutch should come home with them. Young as she was, she understood that her father would not leave until he was sure that Hutch was well, and that could take a little while. The solution was simple as far as she could see; Hutch should come and convalesce with them! Kenneth, ever the more practical, had agreed. He knew that his Dad and Mum were due to start the new term in a week and neither could afford to miss it. If Hutch were with them then he could rest up in the daytime and they could show him the sights in the evenings. After much thought, and numerous telephone conversations, Kelly agreed and had contacted Tom Anderson for his help. She had managed to rearrange their flights home to include one extra and she was all ready to spring the surprise at the party tonight. Hutch's doctors had agreed that he was well enough to attend so long as he didn't drink anything that would affect his pain killers and so everything was set.

So it was that they all found themselves back at 'The Pits' for the return party. This time though Tom and Louise Anderson were included in the invitations. Huggy, with the help of Edith Dobey, had surpassed himself once again. The food was wonderful but the entertainment was better. Louise Anderson was earning her invitation by playing tunes on the piano, which they all joined in with gusto. As midnight approached Rosie reminded Hutch that he had promised to play a song for them all on his guitar.

"Sorry Rosie, I'm sort of handicapped where the guitar is concerned right now." Hutch pointed gleefully to his right arm still in the sling.

"You may be Blintz, but I've still got both hands free." Starsky, who had not left Hutch's side all night, winked conspiratorially at Tom. "I think I can still remember a few chords on this thing."

Starsky accepted the guitar Tom held out to him. Hutch recognized it as the one he kept in his office and he looked slightly bemused as Starsky took it and plucked quietly at the strings, checking it was still in tune. When he was happy Starsky looked directly at his friend, he was enjoying the other mans moment of unease.

"Right Hutch, you promised us all a song tonight so how about it, you ready? Starsky grinned. "I've got just the one for tonight of all nights." So saying Starsky very quietly began to play a tune it took Hutch a couple of seconds to recognize.

Everyone in the room was silent as Starsky, his face serious now, quietly played the one tune Hutch never expected to hear from his friend. As the strains of 'Time in a Bottle' quietly played Hutch caught Starskys eyes. The message they conveyed was crystal clear, the nightmares were all over and the world was back on an even keel!

"How about it Hutch, think you know all the words?" Starsky spoke quietly.

Hutch hesitated for a fraction of a second, and then nodded. "Think I can remember them Starsk, but you might need to help me out a little", Hutch's eyes questioned his friend. 'You sure about this partner, there's a lot of bad memories here.'

Staskys gaze never wavered as he answered. "No problem Blintz!" There's a lot of good ones there to buddy, and they far outweigh the bad ones. "Hey Louise, think you can pick the tune out on that piano or is this one just for us oldies? Starsky laughed as he turned to the young women who had been playing all evening.

"Oh I think I can pick it up as I go along Dave. How about you two start and I'll join in?" Louise turned to the keys and waited.

The people in the room sat, silent and still, as Starsky once again began to strum and, as Hutch began to sing, each was lost in their own memories. When it was over there was silence for a few moments until Rachael suddenly called out,

"Hey Dad! How about playing 'Black Bean Soup' so we can all join in?"

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other before bursting out laughing. Starsky looked at his son who disappeared for a second before returning with a small guitar of his own. Hutch was surprised and walked to look at the young lads instrument.

"Hey Kenny, I didn't know you could play too.

"Dad taught me. I know all your old songs, and a few new ones too. We sometimes play for the kids at school." Kenneth's eyes glowed as he spoke and it was obvious to Hutch that this was something special between Starsky and his son. Once again he envied Starsky this relationship.

"Dad sad you used to write your own songs. Is that right Uncle Hutch?

"Yes.. a long time ago Kenny. I haven't done it for a long time though." Hutch smiled.

"Will you teach me some of them one day? Please Uncle Hutch. Then I could play them for Dad when he was feeling a bit low." Kenneth looked at Hutch hopefully.

"Well.. I guess I could.. one day. That's if your Dad doesn't mind. Hutch turned to Starsky. He was trying not to show how much this meant to him but he knew that he was unsuccessful when he saw Starsky smiling at him. Something in his eyes told him that this was fine with him and it was confirmed as Starsky gave an almost imperceptible nod.

The rest of the evening passed quickly with Starsky and Kenny strumming tunes on their guitars, Louise on the piano and Hutch singing. Occasionally everyone would join in, other times Starsky would play a romantic or sad ballad and Hutch would sing with feeling. It was a long time since he had felt able to sing in public and he found himself enjoying it, though he would never admit it. From somewhere across the city the chimes of Midnight rang out and the assembled group joined in a rousing chorus of 'Auld Langs Eyne' before letting off party poppers and toasting in the New Year.

As the first minutes of 2001 got under way Kelly called for silence. Turning to look at Hutch she cleared her throat before speaking.

"Hutch, the end of the year has been slightly excessive for all concerned. I don't think I could take any more days like the last few and I'm really glad that I didn't know Davy twenty years ago. I'd still love him just as much, but I'd always be worried sick until he came home at night. Edith I don't know how you managed to stand it all those years. I think… no… I know though, that he'd somehow always make it home as long as you were with him. If nothing else then these last few days have proven that nothing changes, nothing that matters anyway. Davy would still risk his life for you and you for him and that must make what you two have very special indeed. If I had one wish that would come true it would be that everyone here could be part of such a friendship."

Kelly looked at her husband. He was returning the look with an expression that told of the love he had for her and it made her fell warm and safe. Hutch too was looking at her with affection and she realized that the unknown shadow she had spent so many years fearing was now very much a part of their family. He was the Brother–in-Law and Uncle that she and her children had looked for when meeting Nicky Starsky but, until now, had never found.

She took another deep breath and, walking over to Hutch, she handed him an envelope. Turning to walk away she winked at Tom and crossed her fingers.

"That's my Hanukah present to you both with all my love."

Starsky and Hutch looked at each other, both unsure of what to say or do at this unexpected turn of events. Finally Edith Dobey could stand the suspense no longer.

"Well don't just stand there catching flies in your mouth you to. One of you open it and put us all out of our misery for goodness sake."

Hutch looked at Starsky holding out the envelope, "She's your wife Starsk."

"Hey, she gave you the envelope, besides, last time I opened an envelope like that it was a tree planted somewhere thousands of miles away. Remember? You open it."

Hutch looked abashed as he began to tear the envelope. He well remembered the 'tree' and it still made him feel ashamed as he remembered the disappointment his friend had tried hard not to show or the weeks afterwards. As the envelope opened and he removed the contents he thought he was seeing things. In his hand he held an airline ticket for Canada along with official confirmation of three weeks sick leave.

"You've got all day tomorrow to do some packing. We leave the day after." Kelly softly spoke.

Starsky, who had been looking over Hutch's shoulder, moved to stand in front of his wife and, putting both arms around her waist, he pulled her into a long, tender kiss.
"Thanks Kel. You really are the most wonderful wife a man could ever wish for and I want everyone here to know how much I love you." So saying he kissed her again, this time more fiercely, passion burning in his eyes.

No one in the room moved. Hutch was standing, speechless, unable to fully take it all in. The adults were all staring at Starsky and Kelly open mouthed.

From somewhere at the back of the room a guitar began to softly strum and giggles began to break out as, one by one, the party began to sing. "I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus." Starsky and Kelly though were totally oblivious to anything.

Hutch felt a hand being pushed into his and he turned to see Rachael standing next to him looking at her parents.

"You know Uncle Hutch, Kenny and I were a bit unsure about coming here for Christmas but now I think this has been a really happy holiday. It'll be nice to be home though and I can introduce you to all of my friends. Come on let's go pack." So saying she pulled Hutch out of the room. Everyone else quietly followed them. Everyone except Starsky and Kelly, who remained where they were totally oblivious to anything around them.