Author's Note: This is for the cars, and everyone who sees them not just as machines, but as co-stars. How fitting is it that the guest star of this story has just been reinvented? I'm drooling as we speak. Please enjoy, and let me know that I'm not the only one who is obsessed with Fast Cars and Freedom.


'When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.'

-Henri Nouwen

"Oh no…"

"Now Starsky, don't get all wound up. It's just a car-"

Starsky took another step towards the twisted, crumpled remains of the Torino. "It was more than a car, Hutch, it was… it was…"

Hutch rolled his eyes behind his partner's back. "It was a Ford. It was a hunk of metal on wheels. Now, it's-" Hutch caught himself.

They could both see what it was now.

They had gotten a call about a robbery in progress not ten blocks from where he and Starsky were eating lunch. Loyally, the two responded and arrived at the scene in a little over one minute. Just as Starsky slid the Torino to a halt in front of Jim's Mini Mart, a masked crook darted out the front doors and across the street before the Torino. Hutch was the first one out of the car and easily caught up with the inexperienced robber. The apprehension was as by-the-book as any arrest the team had ever done.

It was too easy, too uneventful.

Starsky and Hutch were walking the criminal down the sidewalk, back towards the Torino where it was waiting at the end of the block. Hutch had broken a sweat and the criminal was cursing his own dumb luck, but Hutch otherwise had no complaints.

Then there was the dog.

A scrawny brown mutt appeared on the other side of the street, sniffing intently at a collection of over-filled, rusted garbage cans. Hutch took note the animal and dismissed it. There were lots of stray mutts in the city.

Then came the rat.

For all the dog's sniffing, he must have spooked the rat from it's hiding place amongst the trash. It darted away from the building and into the street, it's little brown body bobbing as it ran.

The dog took chase.

The two animals still would not have been anything worth a second glance, but when an oncoming garbage truck slammed on it's brakes, all hell broke lose.

The big, heavy wheels of the garbage truck skidded along the pavement, creating a billowing cloud of gray smoke and an awful screeching sound. Hutch winced, unable to cover his ears for the suspect in his grasp, and watched what happened next in numb shock.

In an effort to avoid the dog, the garbage truck took a sharp turn to the right, it's rear end swinging out to cross the center line, and slammed head-first into the side of the open-doored Torino.

It was the crash heard 'round the world.

The garbage truck, with all it's weight and momentum, pushed the Torino sideways over the sidewalk and straight through the large glass window spanning the front of Jim's Mini Mart.

The sound of bending metal and burning rubber and squealing brakes ended with a loud crack and the soft, musical tinkling of glass raining upon metal and concrete.

Nobody moved.

Slowly, almost guiltily, the rat and the dog turned tail and darted away.

A chunk of plaster dripped from the store ceiling and landed on the crumpled roof of the Torino.

The suspect, long since having been dropped from Hutch's nerveless grip, remained planted to the sidewalk in awe.

Hutch blinked.

Steam was billowing from the wreckage. There was no way to tell which vehicle it was coming from.

"S-St…"

Hutch knew he should say something, but when you can't feel your tongue, speaking becomes quite a feat. Starsky couldn't hear him anyway. The burnet's slack-jawed face held an expression of total devastation.

The door of the garbage truck swung open with a creak and more glass rained onto the vehicles. The driver dropped to the ground, stood up, turned to look at the wreckage then slowly shook his head.

"Man," he said slowly, "would you look at that."

Starsky whimpered and began moving forward. "Oh no…"

Hutch swallowed, shaking off his paralysis, and grabbed the non-resistant suspect before pulling him along. "Now Starsky, don't get all wound up. It's just a car-"

"It was more than a car, Hutch, it was… it was…"

The garbage tuck driver appeared unharmed, so Hutch dismissed him for the moment. "It was a Ford. It was a hunk of metal on wheels. Now, it's-" Hutch caught himself.

Now, it was worthless. Unrecognizable.

Destroyed.

"I'm sure Merle can fix it," Hutch offered.

Starsky reached out and laid a finger upon the Torino's side mirror.

It clattered to the ground.

"Okay," Hutch continued as Starsky's hand fell to his side. "So maybe this was meant to happen, you know-"

A man, apparently Jim, appeared inside the store, looking from Starsky and Hutch to the destruction between them. "Who's gonna be paying for this mess?"

Sirens could be heard in the distance. Hutch shoved the handcuffed suspect against the building and growled, "Stay!" before moving next to Starsky. He pulled out his badge and flashed it to the store owner and the garbage truck driver. "Everything's under control, just stay calm. I'm Detective Hutchinson, this is Detective Starsky. You guys okay?"

They were slow in the coming, but both men answered in the affirmative.

"Okay, just stay put. We'll get everything sorted out. Starsky? You alright?"

The burnet remained frozen. "My car…"

Hutch laid a hand on Starsky's shoulder. "Hey, at least we weren't in it."

Backup had arrived now, screeching to a halt behind them on the street. A flurry of activity took place around them as the suspect was loaded up and the scene made secure.

It was a long time before Starsky finally blinked and took a deep breath.

"You're right, we're safe. That's all that matters."

o0O0o

'The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.'

-M. Scott Peck

Hutch closed the chain link gate behind them. "Come on Starsky, I hear there are lots of good cars here."

Starsky shuffled his feet in the red dirt. "At an impound lot?" he asked skeptically. "How can there be any good cars in an impound lot?"

Hutch began walking, slowly so that Starsky could trail behind. "They get auctioned off, don't they? You're lucky we even get this privilege. Not many people get first choice at these cars."

Starsky ran his hand down the body of a silver Pontiac, streaking the coat of dust that had settled on the car.

"Lucky me."

"You're being pessimistic again," Hutch chided. "I'm sorry the Torino bit the-"

Starsky turned pained eyes towards him.

"I'm sorry you lost the Torino, but maybe this is your chance to get a more practical car. Something that blends in, maybe?"

Starsky sighed as they continued to move down the rows of confiscated cars. They passed Nissans and Dodges and Toyotas, even a few Fords, but these cars were all so plain and boring. It was almost depressing. This had been Hutch's idea- one of his female acquaintances mentioned that she could get them in to see the cars before they went up for auction and Hutch took her up on it. Proudly, he had pulled Starsky along to 'find the perfect one', but all this was doing was making Starsky miss his Torino even more.

"You see one yet?" Hutch asked as he stopped next to an ugly green Chevrolet.

"No."

"Well I don't think we'll both fit on a bicycle, so you better keep looking."

Starsky rolled his eyes. The sun was bright and it was getting hot in this car wasteland. He was getting cranky.

"I'm gonna go look over here," he said, turning and starting down the next row. Behind him, he heard Hutch rattling off the green Chevy's specs.

This was pointless. Starsky would never find a car to replace the Torino. Maybe it was a 'Striped Tomato', but he was so proud of that car that none of Hutch's comments could ever make a dent in his love for it. It was unexplainable, perhaps even a quirk, but somehow Starsky had always imagined himself growing old with a pretty woman, some ankle-biters, and that car.

His dream was falling apart.

Starsky shook his head. Perhaps he was just a little too attached.

Starsky kicked a stone and watched with satisfaction as it bounced off a dusty hubcap with a clang. He was only here to humor Hutch. The blond was trying so hard to cheer him up, it was the least Starsky could do. Where ever his next car was, it wasn't at the precinct impound lot.

"Hutch!" Starsky called, stopping and turning to shout at his partner who was several rows down. "Come on, I don't see anything. Let's go get lun-"

And then he saw it.

Perhaps it stood out because it was at the end of the row, or perhaps it stood out because it was lacking the coat of red dust that all the other cars had accumulated.

Perhaps it stood out because it was Hemi Orange.

Starsky found himself moving towards the car like opposite magnets pulling for each other. It was a 1969 Dodge Charger- a sporty enough car to begin with, but this one was special. It's body was bright orange. On the side, the numbers '01' were painted, outlined in white. A confederate flag stretched over the roof of the car, and on either side, the words 'General Lee' were tattooed down the length of the roof. A tall, trunk mount CB antenna sat upon a teardrop base on the car's rear, topping it all off.

This was the car.

Starsky's fingers touched the sun-warmed paint and a volt something cursed through him. It was love at first sight.

"Hey, you okay…" The dirt crunched under Hutch's feet as the blond jogged towards Starsky. Upon seeing the car, Hutch stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh no. No way."

Starsky grinned as he ran his fingers down the nose of the Charger. "I love it."

Later, Starsky would swear that Hutch grumbled, 'You would.'

"I have to have this car," Starsky said, circling the Charger's front end. "Look, it's even got a push bar! Hutch, this car was made for the streets."

"It was made for the junk yard," Hutch grumbled and Starsky definitely heard him.

Starsky's jaw dropped. "How can you say that? Look at this fine piece of machinery! This car was made for me."

Hutch looked at Starsky over the Charger's roof before his gaze dropped. "What is that?" he asked, taking a step forward. "Why is there a Confederate flag on the roof? Oh, and don't tell me the car is named the 'General Lee'. Starsky, you'll look like a hillbilly in this thing."

"Hutch, you brought me here to find a car and I did."

"Do you even know who General Lee was?"

"Come on, let's sit in it."

Starsky reached for the door handle and pulled, but the car didn't budge.

"There, you see, it's defective," quipped Hutch and he started to leave. "Now I found a nice, reliable-"

Starsky frowned for a moment, then lit up. "No, it's suppose to be like this," he said, feeling the edge of the door. "They're welded shut. See the roll bar behind the front seats? This car was made for racing."

"Welded shut… great, just what I need."

Starsky swung a leg up over the door, dropping a foot onto the tan seat. "Come on Hutch. Just sit in it. That's all. Look," he started, swinging the other foot inside so that he was sitting on the door. "It's not that hard to get in and out."

Hutch rolled his eyes. "Fine," he murmured, awkwardly copying Starsky's movements.

They slid inside together and landed on the tan leather simultaneously. "Wasn't that hard, was it?" Starsky teased, taking a deep breath. The car smelled of leather and polish and… honeysuckle? He may not be the plant expert, but even Starsky knew that was unusual. He shrugged it off for now and eyed the Cobra 78x CB radio. "Look, its even already got a radio! This car really was meant for me."

Hutch rubbed his eyes. "I bet it eats gas," he said quietly, as if he were running out of arguments.

"The Torino ate gas," Starsky replied. He ran his hand over the dashboard, almost caressing the car. It felt good. "I think I'm in love. I have to have this car."

"You fall in love twice a day, most of the time with inanimate objects."

"But this is different, this is a car!" Starsky grasped the steering wheel as is he were driving. "Listen Hutch, it's talking to you…" Starsky pushed the horn.

The first 12 notes of 'Dixie' rang out in beautiful 5-trumpet harmony.

Starsky lit up in a face-splitting grin.

Hutch closed his eyes in defeat.