Note to reader:

I try to write about things I enjoy or that interest me. I love the outdoors, so this was

born of that love.

Thank you for your time.

I am trying to post in chapters again. That is a new way for me.

I hope you enjoy the story.

As always, this is a non-profit dream, and I only own 'said' dreams.

I do not own the character's of Starsky and Hutch

GUY STUFF

By: Karen B.

Summary: Hutch tries to help Starsky overcome his fear of heights. H/C Starsky

Thank you so much, CC, for taking this rock and polishing it for me!

"Courage is being scared to death - and saddling up anyway."

John Wayne

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The mid-afternoon shadows prowled across the red craggy rock of Wallowa Gorge. It was hard to imagine that it had taken tens of millions of years for the region to form its wide open valleys, plateaus and steep-walled canyons. The abstract stone cliffs, and rafters were eye grabbing, Starsky had to admit. Whoever knew rocks could hold such color and depth? Glacial erosion, earthquakes, time and weather all played a part in the forming of the weird shapes and wealth of color.

The heavily- pebbled path crunched beneath his boots as Starsky struggled to keep going, climbing higher and higher, this really wasn't his gig. The closest Starsky liked to get to nature and high places was floating in a hammock at the Dobey's annual policemen's barbeque, in the safety and confines of the white picket fence that surrounded the backyard. He knew why Hutch had set up this mountain climbing expedition. Why his partner was pushing him to his limit. Starsky had lost it a few months ago high up on a radio tower. Chasing down Commander Jim, a serial killer. In his madness, the mentally sick man had climbed the radio tower to escape arrest. Starsky was a man of action. He never would let his fear get in the way of his job or his duty. It was his duty to arrest Commander Jim, to see justice donewithin the eyes of the law.

Starsky remembered back to that day. How his thoughts raced. How he scurried up that tower, desperately trying not to look down. How his palms grew slippery with sweat as he clung to the metal rungs. He could almost feel himself falling, vertigo hitting him hard. His stomach grew tight and his mouth was dry from heavy breathing. He recalled how Jim had slipped. How in desperation to save the man, Starsky had for a moment, let go of his fear. He had tried so hard to reach a hand out to the frantically-crazed Commander, not wanting Jim to plunge to his death.

In the end, all Starsky could do was look downward, and watch Jim as he free fell, growing smaller and smaller, until Starsky heard the sickening thud, until he saw the splatter of blood, and the gruesomely twisted flesh. Seeing that iced Starsky where he clung; he couldn't move, afraid of how high he was, afraid of he himself, joining the Commander.

Hutch knew right off his partner was freaked, that he had already begun to panic.

"You okay?" He called to Starsky, trying to keep his own voice smooth and calm, and hoping he was wrong.

"Not good. It's not good," Starsky mumbled, shaking with fear and unable to take his eyes off the body far below.

"Starsky, look at me."

"I can't." Starsky held no interest in making any kind of movement, not even eye contact, as he gripped tighter to the steel bar.

"Starsk." No response.

Hutch studied his partner closely; his knuckles had turned white as he continued to grip tighter to the metal beam, and he teetered slightly.

"Hey, partner." Starsky's gaze was focused on the bloodied body, shock evident on his face.

"Starsky." Still nothing.

Fear snaked up into Hutch's heart. Not fear for himself, but the fear he knew was flowing through his partner. He could feel it as if a bolt of lightning had struck the tower and passed through the metal into his own fingertips. He didn't want to startle Starsky, but was desperate; he needed to get his friend's attention.

Hutch whistled loudly through his teeth. "Hey!" he shouted.

"What?" Starsky broke his gaze,meeting Hutch's eyes.

"Starsk, what's going on?" Hutch asked, a fierce surge of protectiveness overtaking him.

Swallowing hard Starsky said, "He-he fell."

Hutch could see what was going on in his friend's head. "You did what you could, Starsk." Feeling the current of fear flowing between them, Hutch bravely started to maneuver toward his partner. I'm coming to you."

"Gotta be another way down," Starsky muttered.

"Such as?" Hutch tried to lighten.

"Hutch, I feel dizzy." Starsky shivered, his tousled curls blowing in the breeze.

"Starsky, man, calm down." Hutch moved as quickly as he dared, afraid Starsky might just take a tumble before he could get to him.

"Scared." Starsky's voice was breathy and thread thin, but Hutch heard.

"Scared isn't a bad thing, buddy. I'm scared too."

The climbing was dicey, but Hutch made it, smoothly and quickly. "We'll get down easily -- just let me help you, buddy." He reached a hand out toward his immobilized partner. "I'm here now."

That was when Starsky began to panic. "Don't touch me." He jerked away, nearly causing them both to slip and fall.

Hutch caught his balance, holding one hand up in petition. "Easy. Okay? Just take it easy, Starsky."

"Hutch," Starsky cried out, his eyes going wide to what he had just done. "Going to fall. We're going to fall."

"No--we--are--not." Hutch's face went stony. "Just let me help you. We don't have to go fast, Starsk. Let me help you."

"D-down?" Starsky whispered insecurely, trying to gain his own ground and his trust in his partner.

Hutch laughed. "Well, I don't think you want to go up, buddy -- do you?" Hutch lightened his voice and his eyes softened to match. He reached over and gently put a hand to his partner's shoulder.

"Don't think so," Starsky gave an uncomfortable little laugh, allowing the touch.

He felt like such a rookie, having to be led down the metal structure. He didn't like being so clingy, so afraid, but he dealt with it. Slowly, move after slow moveā€¦steel pole after steel pole, they quietly made their way down.

Starsky shuddered, back to the here and now. He had nearly blown both their lives that day. If it wasn't for Hutch's quick reaction, calm demeanor, and gripping hold on the metal frame, they would both have joined the gory form far below.

Starsky knew fear was the body's natural reaction, its way of warning you of a possible threat, of a potentially bad thing. It was the body's way of putting you on alert. Your heart begins to beat faster, your every muscle tenses, your breathing speeds up and your mind becomes more aware of things around you. Like now,climbing up this steep incline, Starsky could feel his body's defenses kicking in. He was aware of every rock, every little breeze, and every moving shadow.

Fear is something that does not totally go away. But if left unchecked it could become more of a danger than the actual terror itself.

Starsky recalled back in 'Nam how scared he was the day he had carried a critically injured comrade across a rickety old wooden bridge. A bridge that was way too high and didn't look like it could hold the weight of an ant, let alone two soldiers weighted down with combat gear. With the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gunfire not far behind them, it was his only option. It was a do or die courageous act, but to this day Starsky wasn't sure how he had made it across the overpass. He could only understand, had he not done what he thought he couldn't, he and the fallen soldier would both have died.

He knew Hutch's whole plan today, of going out and climbing a mountain, boiled down to one thing and one thing only. Getting Starsky to understand and control how he reacted to his fear of heights, so the fear didn't seem so big. So he could be more confident and in control the next time they were called to a higher place in the line of duty.

It made sense. Starsky was the kind of man who would saddle up, even if he was afraid. Still, he didn't have to like it.

Starsky swallowed the queasy feeling in his stomach. He was scared, but this was something he knew he had to do. Suddenly the high pitched territorial scream of a soaring hawk echoed off the upheaval of geological archways,drawing him once again from his thoughts. Starsky looked up. The hawk was a symbol of courage, of freedom; he only wished he felt brave right now. Wished he had wings; at the very least, a cape.

"You know, Hutch, I could be kicking back at home. Stretched out on my couch in my boxers, with a cold beer in one hand and a pizza in the other, reading the comics." Starsky tried to ease his own tension.

Hutch rolled his eyes in irritation, watching his partner's back as he trudged up the steep incline. Starsky had already made them get a late start. The guy never was too good at getting up in the morning, now he was going to complain?

"You know, Starsky, if kicking back was a sport, you'd be the world champ," Hutch laughed, trying to ease his friend's nerves.

"We there yet?" Starsky huffed, struggling to keep going, his normal happy-swagger irregular due to his spiked mountain climbing boots packing down the dusty trail beneath them.

"Just a little higher." The trail guide called out, his loud voice booming over the canyon.

"Climb any higher, Durango--" Starsky paused to suck in a breath. "And we'll start seeing cherub-cheeked babies with wings, leaping from cloud to cloud," Starsky huffed in and out, wondering how the older man ahead of him wasn't winded in the slightest.

"Oh come on, Starsky," Hutch scolded.

Durango looked back, noticing Starsky's wild-eyed stare and the clumsy way he made his way over the dusty rock, his breathing labored.

"Everyone knows cherub-cheeked babies don't inhabit these parts," Durango laughed, trying to ease the man's obvious worry.

"Starsk, you with me, there?" Hutch asked,his voice enveloped in softness as he sized up his edgy partner.

"Yes and no," Came the breathless reply.

"This is exhilarating," Hutch announced. "Just take in a deep breath, pal."

"I would -- if I could -- could -- catch it," Starsky panted like a shaggy dog in the hot summer sun.

"Wish I could put that fresh air smell in a jar." Hutch took in another deep breath.

"I'd like to put you in that jar," Starsky muttered under his.

"What's that, buddy?"

"I said -- what else would you like to put in that jar?"

Hutch fell silent, looking out over the canyon and contemplating that very question.

"Starsky, don't worry so much," Durango said. "This is easier than falling off a log. You know, a few years back there was a Cub Scout troop of twelve-year-olds hiking up here."

"Twelve?" Starsky questioned.

If a bunch of kids could do this so could he.

"You know, one of those boys was separated from the group for hours, even was chased by a coyote."

"Coyote?" Starsky questioned worriedly.

"That old coyote was so close he was nipping at the boy's keister, trying to nab hold of him and drag him off. That boy ran hard, dodging left and right to avoid the animal'scarnivorous gnashing teeth." Durango glanced at Starsky, seeing the worry on his face. "Don't you worry none, the kid was smart, got a bright idea, and he free climbed using only his bare hands, down the side of this very cliff to safety. Today we'll be using rope. We got it made." Durango smiled, trying to ease the panicked looking man with a bit of humor.

"That-that's some story," Starsky stuttered, watching every shadow that moved.

"Thanks," Durango shot Hutch an evil smile. "I just made it up," he confessed, snickering.

"Terrific," Starsky muttered.

"Try to relax,Starsky, it'll be fine," Hutch offered, engaging Durango with a return smile.

Starsky figured the ribbing was good-hearted, intended to ease his fear, but it didn't sit well with him. He decided to change his thoughts, began to wonder about their trail guide. How did Durango, who was probably in his early 50's, take the upward trail without fighting for breath and walking with such light steps. Starsky figured if the mountain man did fall over the edge, he probably would just dance on air.

Durango was a tall rugged-looking man, with broad shoulders and long palomino-colored hair that splayed in waves across the oil-tanned deerskin jacket he wore. He looked like one half of the Lewis and Clark team. Glancing at his partner, Starsky figured Hutch, who was wearing a similar deerskin jacket, was the other half of that team.

Durango was in excellent physical shape, however, Starsky had to give him that, maybe even in better shape than he and Hutch were. When Starsky had shaken their guide's hand earlier on, he noted how powerful a grip Durango had. The man probably could deliver a punch like the chopping performance of an axe that could one-handedly cut you in two.

Durango was a man after Hutch's own heart, Starsky was sure of it. The passionate about-the-outdoors type. Someone who really liked to get down in the dirt. A man who needed to see what was beyond the sun or over the next mountain peak. Durango was the type of guy who purposely went searching for that treacherous pass ahead or that road not plowed. He seemed the kind who would go hunting for his every meal, climbing every mountain peak and anthill he could find. Hutch would admire that ambition. Didn't those two know meat came packaged in grocery stores? Didn't they know mountain climbing was for the goats and for those people who wanted to see their names boldly scrawled in black and white within the pages of the Guinness Book ofWorld Records?

Starsky silently wished he could thumb his way from the end of this storybook forward, then he'd be back in his warm bed sleeping soundly.