Guy Stuff: Sixth and final chapter. Thank you to everyone for dreaming along with me on this one. I hope you enjoyed it. Sunshine always, Karen
Disclaim: This is non-profit dreaming. Written for fun/ hobby only.
Hutch knew he had to place all faith in Durango. Trying to get Starsky up the side of the cliff alone was out of the question. Looking over the steep drop off, Hutch's anxiety mounted. Starsky leaned heavy against him. His eyes were closed, dark circles beginning to form under them and his jaw was tight from the ongoing pain he had to be in.
Hutch wiped a shaky hand over his mouth. "Damn it. If Durango doesn't show up soon, pal, we'll have to think of another way out of here," he mumbled.
"Hutch." Starsky's eyes listlessly rolled open, and he grunted.
"Sorry, pal," Hutch apologized, unaware he had spoken out loud. Bending over, he tried to peer into Starsky's face. "You okay?" he asked, careful not to move too much.
"Already told you, I'm fine." Starsky lied, taking in a deep breath and winced. "Uhhh---when I'm going to learn not to do that?"
"Do what?" Hutch asked, never taking his gaze from his friend.
"I'll get you out of here, buddy. One way or another."
"Hutch, what are you suggesting?" Starsky asked, gathering the small blanket closer to him.
"Lot of hikers and birdwatchers frequent this area. Someone has to come along. Right?"
Starsky glanced around. Clouds still floated in the sky and the sun still shone bright, but he felt chilled. They were smack dab in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by steep granite walls. He felt a small reverberating in the ground under them, and knew, Hutch was trying to play it cool. But he knew, they were in trouble, deep.
"Right, Starsk?" Hutch's tone was more anxious this time, as he repeated the question, nudging for encouragement.
Starsky flashed Hutch a suspicious look. Had his partner gotten a bachelor's degree in optimism? "I'll get back to you on that."
Starsky huddled closer to his friend, sharing his warmth. The movement pulled at his side, producing severepain, and he grimaced.
Hutch's stomach bubbled with guilt "Starsk, easy. I'm sorry for all this." He lowered his voice. "I thought this would help you face your fear."
"Hutch," Starsky stopped him. "I just want you to do one thing for me."
"What, buddy? Anything?"
"Find my other shoe." Starsky gave Hutch a genuine smile, wiggling his shoeless foot.
Hutch gave a thin smile, looking to the big toe that still stuck out of the red sock. "You caught a lucky break, Starsky," Hutch said, playing along. "I'll buy you something with style this time."
"No sneakers. Something with grace."
"What size are you again, Starsk?"
"You hear that?"
"Hear what?" Hutch paused to listen..
Hutch stayed huddled close to Starsky, their shared body contact keeping them both warm. Hutch continued to listen. Suddenly he heard the thumping whop-whop sound of a helicopter's steel blades slicing through the air. He gazed above at the canyon rim, a massive cloud of dust had kicked up and hung overhead. Hutch ducked closer to his partner to shield him should any of it rain down upon them.
He kept his gaze fastened above, guessing the rescue chopper had to land a few hundred feet away to avoid any further breaking of the shelf or should another tremor occur. Time seemed to pass eerily slow, until finally there was a buzz of activity above.
Hutch took in a deep breath, then needlessly yelled. "Down here! We're down here. Hang on, Starsk, still a little ways to go."
"Help's here!" A voice came to him
"About time!" In a single push, Hutch was driven to his feet by the two words.
Titling his head back, he stared straight up the granite slab, pausing to let the full impact of the moment hit him.
"There's not enough room for a medic on that ledge, and we don't want to chance it with these tremors. We're sending down a litter basket. Hutch! Can you handle it?"
It was Durango, his big voice wailing over the valley.
"Yes, send it down!"
Hutch tried to calm his mind, turning to his partner whose eyes were wide with concern.
"No way, man. Hutch--"
"Starsky, take it easy." Hutch hunkered down next to his friend. "Look, here's how it goes. There's no other option. Can't lower you down, it's too dangerous, and you can't climb in the shape you're in." Hutch glanced up as the basket was being lowered, then back at Starsky. "You've already proven you can take a fall," Hutch gave a light chuckle. "What else do you have to fear, huh, buddy?"
"Take your pick," Starsky's voice warbled as he eyed the valley below.
Hutch ran two fingers over Starsky's cheek bone, then hooked them under the curls at the napeof his neck. Neither of them moved for a moment. "I've had dreams about this. About falling." Starsky's gut twisted inside,and he thought he might be sick again. He shifted, looking back at Hutch, flinching and raising his good hand toward him. "'Sides, I'm not so sure about my last moves." Starsky pressed his back further against the granite. "Think I'll just sit here."
Hutch caught the shaky hand. "Starsk," he barely whispered, feeling his partner's fear.
There were no more words to be said, as they spoke with their eyes.
Don't let me fall.
'I'll be damned if I do this time, buddy.
Hutch gave one last squeeze to his partner's hand, then fumbled to unlatch them, freeing them from their place on the rock, then stood just as the basket neared. He reached up to help guide the litter down.
"Gimme some slack! Come on, damn it! Slack!" Hutch called again, his impatience causing him to tug harder on the litter. A few stones were dislodged from the movement above and fell banging around them. "Aw, watch it!" Hutch yelled, as one large stone hit him in the shoulder. He could already feel blood dripping down his arm.
It took some maneuvering but Hutch finally got Starsky strapped down into the basket. "Cushy?" he smiled at his worried friend.
"The cushiest," Starsky feigned humor. "What about you?" he said quietly. "Your shoulder's bleeding." Starsky noted the red seeping through Hutch's shirt.
Hutch's own fear knotted his stomach.
"I'll see you in five minutes." Hutch gave a reassuring nod.
Starsky wasn't going to let himself give in to the fear. A crooked smile formed on his face. "Make it four, and you owe me a couple World Series tickets."
"No guarantees, chump. But I'll do my best," Hutch said, letting his hand fall away from his friend. "Take him up," he called out to the men above.
"Okay!" Hutch yelled. "Nice and gentle!" His voice took on a harsh growl.
"Take it easy, Hutch. Don't get them mad. My life is in their hands."
"Just let them do all the work, Starsky." Hutch kept a steady hold on the basket until it was out of his reach. "Close your eyes.," he called out, just as his fingertips left the metal frame.
"Hutch." Starsky flinched against his restraints, shaking the entire basket. "I don't think I can do this," he called.
"Think less." Hutch kept his cool, repeating his earlier warning. "Partner, just keep your eyes closed." Not certain if Starsky's struggling was out of fear, pain or both.
Starsky closed his eyes tight, feeling a moment of fresh fear. What if another tremor came? What if falling rock cut the cable and he fell to the valley floor this time? Worse--what if he were pulled to safety and Hutch didn't make it? Thoughts raced through his mind as fast as his heart beating against his broken ribs, and he inadvertently looked down.
"You're doing great, Starsky. Almost there. Nothing to it. Right, partner?"
He heard Hutch's voice, wanted to reply, but couldn't. He settled heavily in the litter, feeling weary and cold, letting go his anxiety. He lapsed in and out of awareness.
Hutch felt uneasy, felt his heart thundering in his chest. He didn't like not being near his friend, putting his partner's life in the hands of others, but it was their only real option. He kept a sharp eye on the basket as it rose slowly, once in awhile bumping or catching against the rock.
"How you doing, Starsk?"
He got no reply, which was even more worrisome then the thought of another tremor. "Starsky?" Hutch tried again, wringing his hands nervously.
As seconds ticked away and he got no answer, Hutch struggled to keep calm. But when he saw the basket pendulum, as the line got stuck on a pitch, Hutch started to lose control and freak out.
"Get him the hell up there!
"I'm on it!" Hutch heard Durango's voice. "Wait! Yes! Okay, keep pulling, nice and gently."
Hutch watched closely, realizing the basket was now being hauled up onto solid ground. Hearing a resounding cheer from above, Hutch dropped his gaze to the ground, blowing out one long breath, and managing to get his heart rate to return.
"Hutch, it's okay," Durango yelled. "We've got him."
A second latter he was rewarded with a snapping sound, and Durango's voice once again booming out over the canyon.
Hutch quickly stepped off to the side as not to get hit in the head.
Hutch took the cable,clipping it to his body harness. He was emotionally exhausted. What if Starsky hadn't landed on that small outcropped ledge? What if he wasn't there to grab the rope and pull his partner to safety? What if the weight had been too much and he'd lost his friend?
As Hutch was slowly pulled back up to level ground, he gazed out over the landscape, feeling nothing but air beneath his feet. He'd lost his thrill for the sun-soaked carved rock.
As he got to the lip of the cliff, he was helped up the rest of the way, standing on shaky legs as Durango unclipped the rope from his harness.
"How is he?" Hutch anxiously asked, numb fingers frantically fumbling to help unbuckle his rigging.
"He's in and out," Durango answered.
"Get this off me!" Hutch's frustration bloomed into anger when his hands didn't work fast enough.
"Easy, rodeo cowboy." Durango gripped Hutch's arm. "He's holding on just fine. The paramedics have him on oxygen and have already checked his vitals. He's stable and we'll be transporting him soon."
With the last of the climbing gear undone, Hutch shed the harness. He'd be the judge of how his partner was faring. Half staggering to his friend's side, Hutch fastened his gaze to the eyes that were just starting to blink back open. Starsky's face was stone white and etched with numerous scrapes, bumps, and cuts. He didn't seem to be all there, yet Hutch could see the pain and fear in his eyes.
One of the paramedics pricked the inside crook of Starksy's arm to start an IV.
"Ow--" The sensation startled Starsky, his jerky movement showing his pain. "Hutch," he called out in a daze, his eyes cutting all around. "What's happening--" he choked, his throat closing.
"It's nothing, buddy. You're going for a helicopter ride. They're going to take you to the hospital."
Starsky considered the blond head and blue eyes carefully, then took a calming breath, flashing an apologetic smile. "I know," he lied.
"You know, huh?" Hutch gave a small smile, laying a hand to Starsky's shoulder, and turned his attention to the medic who was placing the IV in his friend's undamaged arm. "How's it coming?" Hutch asked.
"Almost finished." The medic's sharp brown eyes looked up to assess the worried blond man before him. "Got some broken ribs, probably a concussion, and that arm is very swollen, defiantly broken, probably needs surgery." The medic sent Hutch a bright smile. "I'm not the doctor, but I've seen worse. He needs some patch work, but I think he'll make it."
Hutch nodded more to himself.
Durango suddenly appeared, crouching down next to him. "This was a bigger punch than I expected." Hutch figured that was the man's way of saying he was sorry for the way things had turned out. "Next time--"
"Starsk and I are good, no next times."
Durango looked at the downed man. "Don't need to get over my fear," Starsky backed Hutch up.
"You don't want to get over your fear of heights? Why?" Durango looked perplexed.
"Think I'll live longer," Starsky uttered, eyes fluttering with weariness. "'Sides, building ships is safer."
"Sailing the seven seas. Now, ain't he the Maverick." Durango quirked.
"Isn't he," Hutch corrected.
"You take care of yourself there, Maverick." Durango gave a smile of reassuring warmth. "Don't ride those subways after dark."
"Subways?" Both partners questioned in unison.
"Everybody's got their fears."
Durango's laughter bubbled as he stood. Tipping his head, he turned and ambled away toward the horizon where the sky met the land.
It had looked so cliché', Hutch gave a little snort.
"Ship building, Starsk?"
Hutch rolled his eyes upward. He should have known.
"What you need, partner?" Hutch leaned down low.
"Wanna know what the hardest part about all this 'guy stuff ' is?
"Finding something to do for an encore."
Homework: Everybody is afraid of something. What is Hutch afraid of?