Author's Notes- This story is dedicated to Kate, who won it during Wolfpup's 'Katrina Auction'. Thank you for your patience and confidence. And a huge thanks to Annie, who must have worn out a package of red pens while beta-ing.
This story is modeled after Dawn Sunrise's Stargate SG1 story, 'Leap of Faith'.
You girls are the best.
"Starsky, you really don't have to do this."
Starsky glanced at Hutch, his eyebrows raised at the sudden break in the silence. Underneath them, the Torino's tires hummed over the road. "Do what, help a friend? Of course I want to do this."
Hutch held his breath and looked down at the paperwork in his hands once more. Starsky had that soft smile, the one he always wore when he thought he was pleasing Hutch. Unable to break that belief, Hutch changed subjects. "Where'd you come up with the name…" he brought the receipt closer to his face in order to read the tiny print through the pounding in his temples, "Monty McDaniel?"
Starsky grinned. "I like the sound of it. Monty McDaniel, Monty McDaniel…"
Hutch shook his head as Starsky continued to try out his phony name in different accents.
The Torino slowed and maneuvered around a tight turn, pressing Hutch against the passenger door. He rested one hand on his leg, still holding the receipt to the rental cabin, while the other hand massaged his right temple. "You can still turn around, you know. Take me home and I can relax in the comfort of my own apartment, take care of my dying squamiferum, and catch up on some reading. Come on, Starsk. You don't really want to spend one whole week in a cabin in the middle of nowhere, do you?" Hutch knew exactly where his partner's weak spots were and how hard to poke at them.
"Oh we're going," Starsky replied quickly. "I went to a lot of trouble to find a cabin far away from any revenge-bent criminals, and I did it for you, partner." Starsky glanced at Hutch, and his smile faded a little. "After the past few weeks we've had, we deserve a little rest and relaxation." He looked to the road and his smile brightened again. "Plus, I really like my new pseudo-name. Monty McDaniel…"
Hutch turned to the window and didn't return the smile. Memories flared to life in his head- endless, blinding sunlight searing his skin for hours on end, all-consuming agony from the hundreds of pounds of metal crushing his legs, dust and dirt, itching dehydration, a senile World War Two veteran…
He had never been so happy to be rescued in his entire life. As soon as he was pulled from the wreckage of his car, Hutch surrendered to the care of his partner, and later- the nurses and doctors who tended to him.
But getting help had created problems of its own.
Upon immediate admittance to the hospital - due to complete negligence of the staff - Hutch had been given a healthy dose of morphine to ease what the nurses saw as obvious distress. Starsky had burst in the room two seconds too late - Hutch barely remembered floating in an euphoric state while his partner enthusiastically and explicitly 'chewed the staff a new one'.
That night, when darkness had enveloped the hospital room, visions of Ben Forest and Allen Philos and rope and strange beds and fire and needles all flashed by in quick succession, blinding him to the outside world. He shivered, his body betraying him in a Pavlovian response to the thought of the heroin. Even today, his body still yearned for it - though not nearly as bad, and Hutch hated the feeling with a vengeance.
Hutch blinked away the visions and bit back a yawn. Sleep was still escaping him, leaving Hutch tired and irritable. He was not looking forward to spending a week in a secluded cabin with Starsky as his only means of entertainment. He loved his partner, he really did, but at the moment, Hutch had the headache from hell and all he wanted was a dark hole to crawl into. Maybe he should try another angle. "I won't tell Dobey, if that's what you're worried about."
Again, Starsky looked surprised. "What are you talking about?" he asked, mock-hurt in his voice. "Why don't you believe that I wanted to take a vacation myself? I need a break too, ya know."
"Because your idea of a vacation is all-night beach parties and voluptuous women," Hutch said, watching the trees blur past. "You and log cabins in the woods just don't go together." In fact, they were like polar opposites.
"All the more reason for you to shut up and enjoy the sacrifice I'm making for you."
Starsky did need the break, Hutch realized. Terry's death was still weighing heavily in both their hearts. The past few months had been extremely difficult. Starsky had been devastated after losing the woman who quite-possibly was the one, and Hutch was still not one hundred percent after being pinned under his car for three days.
Perhaps the planets were out of alignment, or maybe bad luck and hospital bills were trying to fill some sort of quota for this period.
The Torino lurched gently as the gears shifted on the mountain's incline. Hutch folded his arms, tearing himself from his quiet reflections. "I don't want this to be a pity party," he stated. "Did you at least bring the beer?"
"Nobody pities you, Hutch," Starsky replied. "And of course I brought beer." After a charged beat, he said, "I think it's kinda funny the way the Cap'n is fathering you. And I've never seen Huggy give so much food away to one person before in my life."
Hutch hid a look of guilt. Huggy had indeed sent so much food to his apartment that Hutch was starting to throw it away. He appreciated the gestures, but enough was enough. He was not made of glass- he was a grown man and a cop for cryin' out loud- he didn't need his three closest friends coddling him. Starsky was bad enough. He didn't need any more time off, any more food, or any more nights listening to Starsky snoring from the couch.
He needed his normal life back.
Hutch sighed and leaned against the door during yet another close turn, once more changing the subject and diffusing his tension. "Are you sure this place is fully furnished? I don't have the money to buy a week's worth of groceries."
Starsky nodded. "Dobey showed me a picture before we left. It looks really awesome."
"Awesome means expensive. Save your money and turn around." Hutch folded the receipt in half, then in half again.
Starsky shook his head, proverbially digging his heels in. "I'm not turning around, Hutch. Let's just have a nice week away from it all, okay? Forget all that other stuff. This isn't about Humphries or what he did, this is about you getting better. I miss the old Hutch." A little softer, he added, "I want him back."
Hutch frowned. "The old Hutch is a little messed up right now," he muttered under his breath, throwing the folded receipt over his shoulder.
"Hey," Starsky snapped, glancing between the road, Hutch, and the backseat. "How many times do I gotta tell you, my car is not a trashcan!"
Hutch smirked. He knew what buttons to push, alright. "Of course it's not. It's a tomato."
Starsky's knuckles whitened as he gripped the steering wheel harder. "This is a fine piece of American muscle. It'll be in a book someday, maybe even a museum. Now kindly stop desecrating my vehicle."
Hutch laughed and the continuous, residual pain in his temples receded a little. Perhaps Starsky would make for good entertainment after all. "Desecrating? Who taught you four-syllable words?"
Starsky's eyes turned ice blue.
Hutch took the hint, even though he couldn't stop grinning. "Fine," he said, twisting against the seat back. He brought his knees up on the leather and squeezed his torso between the top of the front seat and the roof. "The things I do for you…" he muttered, spotting the folded-up paper on the otherwise spotless rear floorboards.
"Nice ass. Hold on."
Hutch reached for the paper, suddenly too-aware of the view he was presenting Starsky with. The car shifted as it took another corner, and Hutch used the momentum to propel himself forward the last few inches. His fingers had just grasped the paper when he heard Starsky's quick gasp.
"Shit! Hutch- hang-"
Whatever else his partner had said was drowned out by the sudden blare of horns and screeching tires. The car swerved violently, smoothly sliding sideways as it fishtailed, and Hutch fell onto the backseat in a jumble of arms and legs. Starsky was cursing and hitting the steering wheel hand-over-hand in an effort to maintain control. The sound of grinding metal filled the air for a brief moment as the brakes were squeezed, then the car pitched forward and downward and Hutch was floating. The free-fall suddenly ended in a bone-jarring thud and he slammed into something hard and unforgiving. Bright lights exploded in his eyes and pain blossomed in his head, and the last thing Hutch heard was his own terrified scream.