Author's Note: This begged to be written and I couldn't refuse. Beta'd by the extraordinary Rebelcat.
"Well, you're gonna have to help me push."
Starsky narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. "How ironic is this? Your car breaks down one block from Merle's, where my car just got fixed. Do you think it's a sign?"
"I think it's a cruel coincidence," Hutch grumbled, dropping the hood of his battered, steaming LTD. It fell with a clang that shook the entire car. "This is just great. I use my car on one chase and it breaks down. I don't have enough money to get this fixed. Last week was mom's birthday."
Starsky let his head fall back against the headrest. "Maybe Merle will let you make payments. I mean, it's not like we won't ever be back."
Hutch moved to the back of the car, still grumbling. Starsky watched his partner with sympathy, knowing how proud Hutch had been of the fine jewelry he had purchased for his mother. The necklace and earrings had cost a pretty good chunk of change, but hearing the senior Hutchinson's delighted voice when she called her son had made the sacrifice well worth it. Maybe Hutch didn't show it as freely as Starsky did, but both detectives were big 'ol mamma's boys at heart.
"Would you quit daydreaming and get out here?" Hutch snapped, and only then did Starsky realize the car was rolling.
"Oh, yeah," Starsky fumbled, opening the heavy door and bailing out onto the pavement. He pushed the door shut, caught it when it bounced back, and pushed it again, harder. When the latch clicked, Starsky moved to the rear of the car, joining Hutch. "I hope no one I know sees us," he said, placing his hands on the hot metal of the trunk as he looked up and down the deserted street.
"Oh, gee, thanks partner," Hutch huffed, and leaned into the vehicle. "I'm glad to know I have one of those partners who sticks by your side no matter what."
Starsk threw his weight against the car and the dead machine rolled forward silently, moving smoothly down the flat street. "Hey, anytime you're looking down the barrel of a gun or suffering from a fatal disease, I'll be there. But if you expect me to publicly humiliate myself by pushing this pile of junk metal while some pretty girls go by- forget it. Sorry partner."
Hutch smiled a little and shook his head, keeping his face turned down. "Thanks," he replied, and Starsky knew the gratitude was sincere.
"Well well well," Merle tisked as he emerged from his garage. "Look what the cat drug in."
Starsk shook his head frantically at the black man, knowing the teasing would not go over well with Hutch.
He was right.
"Now listen Merle, I'm not in the mood for your usual persuasive mumbo jumbo. Can you just fix the problem, or will I have to take my car somewhere else?"
Merle seemed to deflate somewhat before he replied, looking between Starsky and Hutch and picking up on the brunet's silent cues that today was not one of Hutch's good days. "Well, that would depend on exactly which problem we were talking about."
Hutch threw up his hands as the car continued to drift forwards. "Why do I even bother?" he murmured, turning away in frustration.
"Okay, okay, I'll fix it up for you," Merle folded, moving in front of the LTD before it rolled into another parked car. "Give me a few hours, I'll have it back to- uh, working condition in a jiffy. Deal?"
Hutch sighed and nodded, one hand on his hip. The sun was beating down on Bay City, heating the land and it's occupants to uncomfortable temperatures. Starsky was sweating from the mild exertion of pushing the car, and he noticed the glisten on Hutch's temples as well. Hutch was hot, as Starsky was, and the blond looked to be developing a headache as well.
Just what Starsky wanted this afternoon, a cranky partner.
"There's one more problem," Hutch started, lowering his voice in embarrassment. "I can't really afford a big expense right now."
"Hey, what kind of fool would I be to not help out you two?" Merle tossed back, once again glancing at a grateful-looking Starsky. "Don't worry about it Hutch, I know where to find you."
Hutch smiled for the first time all morning. "Thanks, Merle."
Starsky caught sight of his Torino and entered the garage, admiring the sporty car. "She looks great, Merle. Thanks!"
Merle leaned closer to Hutch and whispered, "All I did was change the oil."
"Attention all units in the vicinity of 9th and Sunset, please respond to a Code 3 415 and 594 at the Peterson Corporation. Repeat, all available units to control a public disturbance at 9th and Sunset."
"Thanks for the work, Merle, we'll settle up tonight when we get Hutch's car," Starsky said, already sliding into the driver's seat and starting the engine.
The deep rumble of the Torino filled the garage, muting Merle's dismissive 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' Hutch slid into the passenger seat, barely shutting his door before Starsky punched the gas, sending the Torino lurching forward with a solid purr.
"Slow down, will ya?" Hutch muttered, catching himself as the car took a sudden turn out onto the street. He grabbed the mars light and tossed it onto the roof before sending conformation to the station.
"What, you heard it. It's a Code 3," Starsky replied, guiding the car through a populated intersection.
"I heard it, but I would like to get there in one piece."
Starsky could see Hutch absently rubbing his temples as he drove and adjusted his mood accordingly. "You alright?"
"Fine." After a moment, Hutch added, "Sorry."
"Lemme help you out with the car. I ride in it just as much as you do, it's only fair-"
"No Starsky, it's okay. I got it." Hutch looked out the window as the Torino sped through the streets. "It'll be fine."
Starsky let it go, determined to speak with Merle privately instead. He should have known Hutch would be too proud to accept hand-outs.
Moments later, the Torino slid to a tire-squealing halt on 9th street, rocking backwards as Starsky put it in 'park'. They were facing a large corporation that was responsible for employing hundreds of Bay City inhabitants. Starsky had learned once what exactly the company did, but so much technical jargon had been used that the best Starsky could tell, it was something to do with developing ground-breaking computer software. His imagination had filled in the holes as his brain shut out what was being said, leaving Starsk with an image of geeks in white shirts and thick glasses sitting around all day at their desks, creating mutant robots.
The outraged people that filled the expansive parking lot now, however, looked far from those geeks he had imagined.
Cardboard signs floated and bobbed amongst the crowd, demanding higher pay in large black letters. Several trash cans had been filled with debris and ignited, burning hotly amongst the enraged employees. Fist-sized stones hurled through the air, shattering the large building's many glass windows. Shouting and profanity filled the air, punctuated ever so often by breaking glass. This was a classic angry mob scene if Starsky had ever seen one.
"Well, looks like we got here just in time for the party," Hutch remarked, yet Starsky couldn't help noticing that Hutch had not yet reached for the door handle.
"I think this is going to require more than just the 'available units'," Starsky replied.
As if on cue, two more marked patrol cars screeched to a halt, flanking the Torino on either side.
"Well, this evens things up a bit," Hutch said dryly. "Six cops against a couple hundred angry, underpaid civilians."
"Yeah, sounds like fun," Starsky added, opening the door at last. The noise level swelled dramatically once the safety bubble of the Torino had been breeched, and Starsky wanted nothing more than to simply get back in the car.
Two more police cars joined the group, each carrying two more officers, but Starsky was still reluctant. This job required specialized teams, not 8 uniformed officers and a couple of detectives. What were they getting themselves into?
"Alright," Starsky started, shouting over the crowd as the officers came together. "Who's got the riot equipment?"
Quickly, batons and tear gas were distributed amongst the men. The provisions were meager, but at least they stood a chance of defending themselves until further help arrived. With this many people turning violent and destructive, someone was bound to get caught in the flurry and hurt accidentally. It would be the detective's duty to see that the injured were cared for.
It was a woman's scream that spurred the hesitant policemen into action. Another window shattered and a group of men were gathering on the tops of several parked cars. Starsky grabbed a baton, disliking the foreign weight of it in his hand, and led the group forward. He hoped the weapon would only be used for show, and that these disgruntled employees weren't looking for a fight with an outside party.
"Police! Get back!" he shouted as the small group of officers plowed forward. The less-experienced uniformed officers quickly followed his lead, and with all of them yelling, the orders were just barely audible.
Starsky shouldered his way through the angry people, trying valiantly to stay on his feet as the civilians pushed each other around. He was aware of Hutch at his heels, every so often reaching out to steady Starsky, as the string of officers wound their way into the heart of the mob. Starsky could still hear the desperate cries of the woman, and several other voices yelling for help. They were in this maze somewhere, he just had to find them.
"Up there!" Hutch shouted, reaching past Starsky with a pointed finger.
Through the jostling throng of people, about five women were gathered around a body on the ground. Word of the officers was spreading and they had gained a narrow berth as they made their way to the injured party. A rock whizzed past Starsky's head and smashed into a parked car amongst the crowd, reminding him that the situation was still very dangerous.
"Form a circle!" Starsky shouted over his shoulder, making sign in the air as if he were swirling a lasso.
The officers began to fan out, flanking then overtaking Starsky and Hutch as they approached the fallen woman. The crowd parted marginally, giving the detectives enough room to kneel next to the woman.
"Police!" Starsky shouted, getting closer in order to be heard. "What happened?"
Hutch was on the other side of the fallen blonde woman, helping her to sit up as the other women stood nearby.
"I was pushed," she started, wincing as she moved her left leg, "I think my leg is broken!"
"It's alright, we're going to get you out of here," Starsky replied, glancing at Hutch. Glass shattered on the pavement nearby, and a round of cheering filled the air. "Can you stand up?"
"I think so," she replied quietly, just loud enough for Starsky to hear.
"Let's get out of here," he said to Hutch as they lifted the woman to her feet. She immediately tensed and bobbed, wincing as she placed weight on the leg. "Easy," Starsky reminded, tightening his hold on her so she wouldn't fall.
He looked to the other officers, who were each paying attention elsewhere, overwhelmed by the violent situation. "Let's move out!" he shouted, quickly getting their focus.
Something exploded on the other side of the parking lot, and Starsky realized their job just got worse. They would need the professionals, and quickly.
The shouted warning was interrupted when Hutch crumbled to the ground. The woman was pulled down after him, and only Starsky's quick maneuvering prevented him from being dropped as well. The uniformed officers were upon them instantly, pulling the woman gently out of the way and assessing her for new injuries.
"Hutch!" Starsky shouted, scrambling to his partner's side. The blond lay still, on the pavement and on his side, his eyes blinking in confusion before he placed a hand near his head in an effort to rise.
Starsky crashed to the ground on his knees, his hands immediately going to his partner. "Hey, look at me, are you okay?" He steadied Hutch as he peeled himself from the parking lot floor.
"S-Starsky?" Hutch stuttered, allowing himself to be pulled from the pavement. One hand went to his head and when he pulled it away, it was colored with blood.
Something stabbed Starsky's heart upon seeing the disorientation on his friend's pale face. He cursed to himself as the mob continued to stomp around them, uncaring and unforgiving. One of the rookies knelt to the ground and held up a very solid looking rock. "He was hit with this, Detective Starsky."
Starsky seethed and turned his attention back to Hutch. "Hey, how many fingers?" he asked, holding up two digits.
Hutch blinked rapidly and started to shake his head, then lost his balance and tilted to the side. "I- I can't… it's too blurry," he said as Starsky caught him.
Enraged, Starsky looked up to the officers. "She okay?" he spat, glancing at the blonde woman.
After receiving an affirmative nod, Starsky barked, "Get these people back! I want a ten foot perimeter on all sides! Use the gas if you have too!"
Quickly, the officers followed the orders and struggled to push back the rioting citizens. Starsky turned back to Hutch, who was holding his head low, one hand pressed tightly to his temple as his fingers grasped his hair. Blood was trickling from between his fingers and starting to spot on his shirt.
"Lemme see," Starsky said, gently taking Hutch's hand and pulling it down. The sun glittered off the fresh blood streaking down the blond's face, mixing with the grit from the parking lot. The gash itself was moderately sized, proportionate to the size of the rock that had created it. Starsky winced in sympathy. The injury would need stitches.
He released Hutch's hand and moved closer, just as a glass bottle shattered upon the ground to his right. The tiny fragments sprayed into the air, sparkling in the sun as they dispersed.
Hutch brought his hand to his head, applying pressure to the wound once more. His head was still low, making it hard for Starsky to see his pupils. Panic began to flutter within him. They were trapped within this mob of people as even more were getting hurt, and there was not much that Starsky could do to take control. How could people be this cruel? They were starting to hurt their own now; it was as if the violent behavior had become some sort of tangible disease, one that was spreading through the crowd like an unstoppable monster. More screams were mixed in with the shouting, the fires were burning dangerously, and entire cars were being overturned. Starsky and Hutch were caught inside the eye of a violent tornado, helpless as if the destruction was caused by the winds themselves.
"Starsk-" Hutch whimpered as he tightened his grip on Starsky, "I think I'm gonna-"
Starsky moved into his partner just as Hutch doubled over his lap, vomiting onto the pavement. Starsky could feel the heaves as Hutch's convulsing abdomen lay over his thighs. Helpless to do anything but lay a hand on Hutch's rigid back, Starsky waiting for his friend to finish. "Easy," he murmured, and his hand began to move in circles. "We'll get out of this and get you to a hospital, okay? You just hang in there."
Hutch nodded, causing more of his silky blond hair to fall into the sticky blood, where it remained immobile. His vomiting subsided, and slowly he pulled out of Starsky's sheltering embrace.
"Hey, you know what?" Starsky began, trying to ease the lines of pain in his partner's face. "This kinda reminds me of that song, you know, 'and I'm stuck in the middle with you…' Who sings that, huh?"
"Stealers Wheel… among others," Hutch replied, closing his eyes.
"Hey, don't go to sleep on me," Starsky scolded, pulling Hutch against himself. "The cavalry is almost here, and I'm not carrying you. Last time I did that, I think I threw my back out."
"Last time you dragged me," Hutch retorted, smiling briefly before his face contorted in pain.
"Either way, I still hurt myself," Starsky continued, gathering Hutch in his arms. "Who knew butterfly bones and algae shakes could pack on so much weight?"
A second explosion shock-waved through the crowd, deafening the mob for a brief moment. Seconds later, flaming ash and rubble rained down upon the entire crowd. Starsky ducked, trying to protect the prone Hutch as best as he could, sheltering the blond from the burning debris. He felt the sizzle of ash as it landed upon his back, burning through his shirt instantly. Suddenly his ear exploded in sharp pain, as if it was being pinched by someone with super-human strength. He flinched and shook, trying to dispel the ash as it continued floating down from the sky.
Slowly, the mob regained it's confidence and once more began hurtling rocks, bottles, and everything else small enough to lift. Angry shout and slurs were directed at the Peterson Corporation, even as it stood motionless and empty. The blonde woman was crying now, holding her leg with both hands as one of the rookie officers knelt by her side. He looked to Starsky with haunted eyes, and sadly, Starsky could only return the look.
"Guys, we got trouble!" One of the officers keeping the civilians at bay shouted back to Starsky, taking a small step away from the crowd just as a large chunk of brick hurtled by his shoulder.
The brick thudded to the pavement and shattered next to Starsky. Where was the backup!
The officers were herded together like mindless sheep by a Border Collie. A few 'brave' rioters stepped forward quickly, throwing broken bottles before retreating to the safety of the crowd. Hutch struggled within Starsky's grasp, trying to right himself see what was going on.
A sea of bodies melded together, creating a solid wall around the weary officers. The smell of smoke and alcohol and testosterone hung heavy in the air. The social pressure from all sides was maddening, creating a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia. Starsky looked into Hutch's dilated, uneven pupils and knew they could not afford to be trapped here much longer.
A ball of fire whizzed through the air and bounced over the pavement, putting off white, snapping sparks as it did so. The thing twitched and whistled, then as Starsky was still staring at it, the thing exploded in a ball of pink light.
"Firecrackers!" Starsky shouted as he ducked his face against his arm for protection. The sparks were not enough to cause serious skin damage, but the noise was still deafening and the explosion caused a temporary veil of white to blanket his vision. If one of those landed any closer, they would be in serious trouble.
Now drawn tightly against each other, the officers were visibly afraid. The crowd was closing in again, whether by intent or simply from all the shoving, Starsky was not sure. The burns on his back were beginning to deepen and demand attention. He looked down at his lap and found Hutch relaxed, blinking heavily as he stared out into the sea of people.
"Hey," Starsky said, giving the blond a slight shake. "Don't go to sleep, remember? Stay with me."
Hutch tried to turn his head and Starsky watched the dried blood pull at his partner's skin as if stuck to the denim of his jeans. "I'm tryin'," Hutch mumbled, his eyes falling shut against the bright sunlight.
A second firecracker skidded over the ground past them, causing Hutch to jump as the explosive hissed white sparks.
"Hey guys, look!" The rookie that had been next to the blonde woman was pointing towards the road, and a big grin was spread over his face. "They're here!"
The firecracker exploded near the ring of rioters and they scattered briefly, then quickly returned. Moments later, the deep, baritone whump of a hand-held cannon sliced through the air, preceded by a large bomb of tear gas.
"Get down!" Starsky ordered, bringing his shirt up over his mouth and nose. The thin material wouldn't offer much protection, but it was all they had. The officers quickly obeyed, following suit as a visible cloud of gas spread ominously through the crowd.
Anticipating the gas's nasty effects, Starsky grabbed a handful of Hutch's T-shirt and pulled it up, only then realizing that the blond had fallen unconscious. Panic surged within him briefly, but at least with a slower respiratory rate, Hutch wouldn't be bothered as badly by the tear gas.
The crowd began to disperse as the chemical leaked into the air. A few more retaliations were made by men unwilling to give in so easily, but as Starsky's own eyes began to burn and his nose began to run, the protests died down. Starsky was torn between the happiness of freedom and anguish of senseless violence that had befallen his partner. His badge had meant nothing here, held no protection. The feeling of helplessness was foreign, and unwelcome.
Not wanted to jostle his partner too much, Starsky simply made Hutch as comfortable as he could and settled in to wait.
"Come on ya big lug, open your eyes. I know you're awake, the machine is beeping too fast."
Hutch groaned in effort as he pried his eyes open, the bite of florescent lighting instantly making them water. He snapped his head to the side, pinching them shut until the pain receded, then tried again.
"In the flesh. How you feeling?"
"Like garbage," Hutch huffed, relaxing into the hospital bed. He could feel the IV tube laying on his arm and the pull of heart monitors on his chest hair. "The cavalry finally showed?"
"Over one hundred arrests in all," Starsky replied, releasing Hutch's hand before Hutch was even aware the brunet was holding it.
Hutch raised his leaden arm and brought it towards the dull throb on his skull. "This serious?"
Starsky was watching him with worry shining in his blue eyes. "Ten stitches and a concussion," he replied, a hint of something dark in his voice. Was it anger?
"What about you?" Hutch asked, letting his arm fall back to his side. "You okay? What about the girl?"
"The girl is alright. She broke her leg, but the doctor's were able to set it. She'll be walking out of here on crutches very soon. She gives you her thanks."
Hutch forced his eyes open wider to look at Starsky. "And you?"
Starsky shrugged and leaned backwards in his chair. "I'll be alright. Just some burns, that's all."
Hutch sighed, too tired to give Starsky his patented 'evil eye'. The pain killers were coursing through his system, numbing his perception and Hutch knew his time was limited. "Don't be angry," he said, blinking sluggishly. "People do stupid things. They get caught up in the moment… caught on a chemical high… it's an epidemic behavior, a collective entity."
"Yeah? Since when did you get to be a psychiatrist?"
Hutch offered a weak smile as his eyes dropped shut. "We witnessed a phenomenon…"
Starsky shook his head, casting a glance at the heart monitor to confirm that his partner had fallen back to sleep. "A phenomenon," he echoed in the quiet hospital room, his voice laced with doubt.
"The only phenomenon is that we got out of it alive."
The Torino coasted to a silent stop out front of Merle's garage. "I'm telling you Starsky, if that man did anything to my car-"
"Hutch, calm down, would ya?" Starsky chided as he got out of the Torino. "Just because that hunk of junk spent the night here doesn't mean it was transformed into a working machine."
Starsky paused, realizing how nice that occasion would actually be.
"Well, he returns!" Merle exclaimed as Starsky and Hutch entered the garage. "And I was just about to declare this car 'abandoned'."
"Sorry I'm late," Hutch started, "But something came up. Did you fix it or not?"
"Oh, it's fixed," Merle replied, "But it's still ugly."
Hutch smiled at the sight of his multi-colored LTD. "I don't care what it looks like." He turned to face Merle and held out his hand. "Thanks."
Merle accepted the handshake and grinned. "And don't worry about payin' for it, it's covered."
Hutch's face fell as their handshake dropped apart. "What? What do you mean? Who paid for it?"
"I don't know if I should say…"
"Starsky!" Hutch bellowed, causing the brunet to turn away from the chrome wheels he was admiring. "Did you pay for this after I told you not to?"
"What? No- I mean, I was going to, but…"
Hutch locked gazes with Merle again. "If it wasn't him, who was it?"
Merle looked to the dumbfounded Starsky, then back to Hutch. "It was your mother," he confessed, taking a step back. "She wanted to make a deposit in your name, for the next time you came in. I told her your car was already here and she paid for it." He finished nervously, his eyes darting between the partners.
Hutch was taken aback. "How did she know?" he asked aloud, his eyes dropping to stare at the oil-stained concrete.
Starsky smiled and slung an arm around his partner's shoulders. "That's a mother's instinct for ya," he said, giving Hutch a quick squeeze. "Great, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Hutch agreed quietly. "Yeah it is."
"Come on, partner," Starsky started, pulling Hutch towards his car. "I'm hungry and Huggy owes us a lunch. I race you there."
Hutch shook off his stupor and narrowed his eyes at Starsky. "I'm not racing you."
"You're just afraid to loose."
"Am not, it's dangerous and pointless-"
Starsky made his way to the Torino. "Face it Hutch, that car would fall apart if it went over fifty miles per hour."
Hutch stood inside the open driver's door and shouted across the garage, "In case you've forgotten, I've gotten it up to 80!"
Merle leaned against the wall of his garage, chuckling to himself at the bantering friends. He had no doubts the LTD could make it up to 80 miles per hour.
Wasn't that what brought Hutch in here in the first place?