By: Karen B.

Summary: My dream of where Starsky got the pinkie rings from. An A/U-ish action tale. H/C Hutch. Angst/ mild H/C Starsky.

Rated: Some graphic violence

I wish to thank CC, for all her time and the use of her powers! I am ever grateful for her magic touch. Any mistakes are my own.

Disclaim: All my stories are written as a hobby and for fun/expression. I do not own the rights to Starsky and Hutch, and this is a non profit dream.

In war, you will die like a dog for no good reason

--Ernest Hemingway

It was a fog-filled silent night, and a frosty chill lingered in the air. It was no ordinary chill, the kind you only need pull up your jacket's collar and zip it closed. It was the kind of chill that slithered into your bones like a sneering scaly creature, the kind that made the little hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

"Delta Four, this is Charlie Seven, come in, over." Sergeant Gray, the unit leader, called over the radio, trying to raise base camp, as the group carefully made their way through the dark avenues of the jungle. They were supposed to be on routine night patrol, but this was not routine. Even with compass and map, the deep dark night had turned their trusted guidance gear into a geological anomaly. "Delta Four, this is Charlie Seven, do you copy, over?"

They were lost.

All good soldiers knew well the perils of traps, mines, and mortar shells. Knew well, that the prime objective was to avoid falling into enemy hands, but knowing did not always break through the barrier of fear.

"What do you think, Sarge?" A voice penetrated the darkness.

"Yeah, Sarge," came another. You think we're close to base?"

"Did you raise Delta Four yet?" said another.

"What do you guys take the Sarge for? A human switchboard? Starsky uttered."

Sergeant Gray paused looking skyward. "Have you fellows ever been asked a question where you wanted to know the answer more than you wanted to take in your next breath?" he asked. "Well, I have absolutely no clue what I think. Just be careful, and stay quiet."

Respecting the man that had earned their trust, the group fell silent. Only the sound of one boot after another hitting stone and earth could be heard. Hours of marching over battle fields had left the lost platoon shaken and tattered, with the pain of blister filled feet, and the ache of empty stomachs. No one spoke another word, each solider deep inside his own thoughts, dreaming of his own pleasures, harboring his own torturous demons, or whispering his own desperate prayers.

The last hour had been the gloomiest;the hellish wrath of the dark jungle seemed almost demonic as the men trudged onward, sapped of energy and morale. Even by day the jungle was so damn dreary, and by night it seemed the enemy had enough firepower they'd actually shot the moon out of the sky, as everything was midnight black.

The men whispered words of encourgement as they finally left the shadows of the thick foliage of canopy behind them, entering a small compound. Starsky took a deep breath as he walked down the dirt street, as the encouraging whispers had turned to graphic helpless curses.

"Oh fuck. Fuck. Fuck!" a young voice called out, causing Starsky to stiffen.

The enemy had visited the small farming village, and there was nothing left of it but scattered appendages and slain open hearts. It was not an unusual find, yet it always hit hard when you saw it, as everyday the price of blood seemed to raise.Huts were burned to the ground and the once large fires, now only flickered, as swirls of smoke mixed with the fog, and launched vaporous ghost like shapes around the area. If it were at all possible, Starsky felt the haunting scene increasing the silence of the night. The village was completely scorched. Only one hut remained standing, its door hanging open and swaying eerily on squeaking hinges.

Starsky's palms were wet and his knees shook as he carefully stepped around the lifeless bodies that lay perfectly still and scattered all around. Clasping his weapon tighter, he thought it odd that he didn't see any blood. For the first time tonight, he was glad for the lack of starry formations above him in the pitch black sky. He straightened up his backbone, sucked in his gut and ignored the pounding rhythm of his heart as he kept walking.

Eight months ago he had easily found his way into this man's army, but now, here in the midst of the horrors of war, Starsky knew -- he would not so easily find his way out.

Starsky glanced over his shoulder at the soldier who stood tall and straight, only a single step behind him. His eyes widened as he peered into the face that always seemed to be so calm even when confronted with such terror. Faded blue eyes blinked owlishly, while strands of bleached wheat-colored hair nearly glowed in the firelight. His trusted friend shrugged and smiled reassuringly, but said nothing. As always, when Starsky looked at Hutchinson, he felt considerably more comfortable, and eased up on the nervous grip he had on his weapon.

They continued to walk slowly, cautiously, as not to disturb the figures on the ground. The corpses ranged in size from large to tiny. It troubled Starsky greatly, knowing some of the bodies were infants and young children. Starsky could feel his skin tone changing color as he grew pale. His heart beat fast and his breathing became erratic. He tried hard not to think about what he was seeing. Tried to freeze his caring like a snowy mountain tundra, but no amount of ice wind could chill his warm heart. He knew if he made it out of here alive, he would never be able to shake the images. They would haunt him until the end of his existence and into the beyond; that he was certain of.

Tears stung the back of Starsky's throat. The stench of death was heavy, and the sound of buzzing flies feeding on the rotting flesh made him reflexively gag. He swayed unsteadily and would have fallen to his knees if not for a hand dropping to his shoulder.

"Easy, buddy," Hutchinson whispered. "Don't upchuck."

"Saving that occasion for when we get back to the States and drink ourselves completely numb, right?

"Right," Hutchinson agreed.

"I hate this crap." Starsky felt a hard lump stick in his throat. "Just --just want the nightmare to end," he said, swallowing and forcing the lump of terror back into his stomach, but it went down about as well as an overcooked hamburger.

"We're going to make it." Hutchinson gave another strong squeeze, before letting his hand fall away from Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky licked his dry lips. Yes, they would make it, but how many others wouldn't? There were soldiers younger then him, kids that didn't want to be here. Taken away from their families too young, like a puppy being pulled away from its mother'teat. Guys like Harris, whose mother had cancer. Poor kid knew he wouldn't make it home to see her again before she passed, then there was Giles, better known to all as Pretty Boy.The nickname not given because of his features, but for the fact that everyone was certain he was strapped with the curable condition known as virginity. Thompson looked more like a fifth grader than an eighteen year old, and then there was Wayland. He shouldn't be marching around in the middle of the night with a gun stuck in his hand. He had talent, always scribbling in his notebook. Given opportunity the guy probably could be the next Hemmingway. And then there was Hutchinson. Hutch. His best friend. What was he doing in this nightmare? He belong here least of all. The farm boy's demeanor was so soft and calm, Starsky had to question if the blond angel could bring himself to kill a mosquito let alone a human being. He cringed inwardly thinking of the golden halo around Hutch's head, now turned crimson red, innocencelost in a sea of nausea.

When he first met Ken Hutchinson Starsky knew immediately the man should be back in Minnesota practicing medicine;after all, bad things didn't happen in Duluth. Starsky was sure of that after the way Hutchinson had explained what a beautiful place it was. Fields of tall green grass, fishing along the banks of a cool river, whitewashed fences, peaceful gardens to tend, and blueberry pie, the best in the world. Starsky knew without a doubt Hutchinson, Hutch for short, shouldn't be here. Shouldn't be watching skulls be blown apart at point-blank range, or whole bodies blasted with nothing left to ship home to the family except for a ten cent stamp and a condolence letter.

Starsky was a proud patriot. He knew more than anyone freedom didn't come free. Yet, sometimes he had to wonder, was the American flag big enough to justify and soak up the run-off of blood he witnessed on a daily basis?

Starsky shivered hard. This war was far from over, and there wasn't anything he could do about that. It was one of those times he just wanted somebody to hold him, but he couldn't allow the soapy scene to happen. He didn't dare show weakness.

"Hey, Starsk?" Hutch's tightly strung voice interrupted his thoughts.

"What?" Starsky kept marching.

"I…aw… huh… uh…huh.," Hutch stuttered.

Starsky frowned and glanced over his shoulder. "What is it?"

"Never mind." Hutch shook his head, looking embarrassed. "You'll think it's stupid."

"Maybe." Starsky smiled, turning back around to watch where he was walking, as well as to make it easier for Hutch to spill whatever it was that needed spilling. " So, what is it?" Starsky prompted as casually as he could.

"Forget it."

"Not until you tell me what it is."

"Just--just wanted to give you something is all. You know, just in case--"

"What are you babbling about, Hutchinson?" Thompson interrupted. "I always wondered what you had under all that bleached blond hair of yours."

"Natural. It's naturally blond," Hutch bit back.

Starsky rolled his eyes. Now that they had the attention of the entire platoon, Hutch wouldn't spill a drop.

"Well, tell us,Hutchinson," Thompson pressed harder.

"Doesn't matter." Hutch deadpanned.

"Leave him alone," Giles chuckled. "Blondie was just about to propose and you broke the mood."

"Shut up wise guy," Wayland broke in. "Can't you see Hutchinson is trying to say something profound and -- Hey! Who farted?"

As the men behind them changed gears and started arguing the mystery of who lit the torch, Starsky glanced back again, questioning Hutch with his eyes.

'Later.' Hutch mouthed.

"Wayland, what the hell did you eat?" Thompson questioned.

"I put hot sauce on your Mama's bu --"

"Hey!" Thompson protested Wayland's upcoming crude remark.

"You know what they say, fellows, " Harris piped in. "If it feels good, do it."

"That was enough gas to torch this whole damn country," Giles cracked.

Starsky picked up his speed, Hutch followed, and in a few hurried steps they put some distance between them and the group.

"So," Hutch said ignoring the dynamic chatter behind them. He stepped up alongside Starsky and poked him in the ribs with his elbow. "What's the first thing you're going to do when you get back home?"

Starsky kept his eyes fixed ahead on the terror-filled path in front of him, but the friendly voice made his shivering stop. He smiled,knowing his friend was trying to turn his attention to happier things. Hutch was like that. Had a sort of radar, a power about him. Could feel what other people were feeling without even a word said.

"Find someone who can call himself a real chef, order a two-inch thick steak, medium rare, a whole lobster, and a tall frosted mug of beer that's colder than Iceland."

The thought would normally have made Starsky's stomach grumble with anticipation, but even though the vision was lovely, he still could feel no hunger, as they passed a dead boy who hung by the neck from a tree. "What about you, Naturally Blond?" Starsky quickly looked away from the gruesome sight and tried to stay focused on his friend. "You going to order a plate of chopped-up weeds?"

"Nope," Hutch said. "Probably put my stomach in rehab for a few weeks."

They shared a laugh, and Starsky nodded knowingly. He knew Hutch had been having a hard time with the food here, if you could call it food. Many times a solider would pick out some crispy critter that obviously didn't belong buried in his mashed potatoes. Hutch tired to hide it from the rest of the platoon, but Starsky was keenly aware of the many times Hutch's insides would tilt, and he would slip away to a private corner of the compound, as his meal came back up on him. When Hutch returned to camp, Starsky would eye him carefully, making sure he was okay, but he never mentioned Hutch's sickness, respecting his friend's desire to keep his spew sessions private.

"Hutchinson, with a few pushups and tall glasses of wheat germ you'll be just fine." A faceless figure in the darkness rejoined their conversation.

"You're a real funny guy, Giles," Hutch said, dryly.

"Yeah, I figure I can make an easy living as a comedian when I get back to the States," Giles replied.

"If comedy doesn't work out for you, Pretty Boy," Harris joined in, "you can always just stand around looking good for a camera."

"Or department store dummy," Thompson laughed.

"Enough!" Sergeant Gray ordered, he was obviously worried the easy banter was lulling his young men into a false sense of safety. "Look sharp."

The platoon got quiet as they came to a large clearing at the center of the compound, walking single file, each man no more than five yards from the other. The light banter in no way had downplayed the seriousness of the situation, every mother's son knew that could be an unhealthy choice. To stay alive in combat a solider understood he had to be alert, use sight and sound, sense the warning signals when you couldn't see or hear. The banter had kept, if only for a brief moment, the fire pit they walked through from bubbling up around their feet and sucking them under.

The platoon's progress was slowed as they crossed the open area, the muddy ground sucking at their boots. Everything had become quiet, and Starsky was so attuned to his surroundings he could hear the whisper of Hutch's breathing close behind him. Glaring into the darkly-framed jungle a head of him, Starsky couldn't see a thing, but something told him there was more than a breeze slipping in and out of the rustling foliage. He glued his eyes to a shadowy object and every so often he swore it moved. The soft breeze cooling the back of his sweaty neck brought with it the smell of cows, mixed with the smell of fuel and Old Spice cologne. Starsky stiffened--cologne? His platoon had been marching for miles, uniforms soaked in sweat, and reeking of BO. His stomach clinched.

"Hutch --"

"Shh!" Hutch stopped Starsky's word thoughts.

Starsky turned and narrowed his eyes, as he wasn't greeted by the calm face he was so used to seeing. "You see something?" he asked, the fear in his friend's face making his toes twitch.


A whooshing sound high above now whistled through the air.

"Incoming!" Hutch yelled, as mortar fire slammed into the hard-packed ground sending tremors rippling under their feet.

The blasting ring of steel hitting hard targets,then soft fleshy targets as bullets started to zing and thud all around, made both men gasp feeling only inches from remaining this side of the grave.

"Take cover, men!" Sergeant Gray bellowed his order needlessly, as the soldiers of Charlie Company scuttled off like fiddler crabs escaping the waves of the ocean.

Starsky dropped to his belly and rolled left, into the shadows, but lost site of Hutch as soon as he had hit the dirt. He raised his head up spitting out whatever it was that had crawled into his mouth, as stabs of electrical fear grabbed a choke hold of his throat. Mortar shells burst jungle trees into flame, causing dust and ash to whirl around like someone had opened a century-old crypt, and blown its contents to the wind. Ducking his head low, Starsky pressed his body as close as he could to the earth and pulled himself along over the bloodstained ground.

"Hutch!" he called for his friend over the maddening disorder. "Hutch," he barely could utter, his voice giving way. "Where are you? Arrhhh!" he gagged. "Hutch!" his voice gaining back only some of its normal strength.

Starsky still couldn't see through the fog, the smoke, and the flames. He was desperate to find his friend before he himself passed out or was killed. He could feel the presence of death so near; hell he was crawling over it. Crawling over bodies that had been blown to bits, already decaying, and melting back into the earth. Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes. A bullet whizzed past,taking off a lock of hair and he dropped his head lower.

Everybody makes mistakes. He should have known it was a trap. Mistakes back in the States were just that. Mistakes. Lost wallets. Forgetting to gas up before you went out of town. Locking yourself out of your apartment, or the occasional speeding ticket. All mistakes. All rectifiable. But make a mistake here in thismosquito haven, and you could be sure that it would be fatal.

Suddenly, Starsky had a feeling, or maybe it was more of a stirring that made him pick his head up off the ground and focus on the one tiny hut that had stood the test of the battle.

"Starsky! Get out of here!" Hutch yelled.

The words thundered inside him and the earth he lay on seemed to shake. He could see Hutch a dozen yards away, huddled against the hut hands over his head and ducking. Fine pieces of shrapnel seemed to shatter and float around him, like a delicate Christmas tree ornament that had fallen from its branches and shattered. From where Starsky was positioned,it would be a suicidal run to Hutch's side, but it was a run he was going to make.

Starsky's body tensed and he gritted his teeth, readying to pay the price of his blood for his friend's life. He held his M-16 rifle ready to fire, scrambling to his feet at a dead run and directing all six senses toward getting to Hutch.

Starsky covered the ground needed quickly, hitting his knees by Hutch's side. He was breathless and panicked, wanting only to get his friend out of the line of fire. Without hesitation, Starsky slung the M-16 to his shoulder, took a firm grip under Hutch's armpits, and strong armed his buddy, pulling him backward toward a broken down Jeep a few yards away.

"Aw, God!" Hutch rasped in anguish, as Starsky propped him up against the useless rusted-out shell that was surrounded by sandbags offering only marginal shelter.

"You okay?"

"I'm hit."


"My leg." Hutch struggled to control his labored breathing. "Starsky, get the hell out of here!"

"Shut up! And let me handle this --" The rest of Starsky's words were drowned out by the sounds of heavy artillery, but it went unnoticed as he searched for an escape route.

"Starsk, just go!"

A rocket screaming into the unscathed hut Hutch had only moments ago been leaning against, sent Starsky diving on top his friend to protect him from the shredded pieces of debris that flew every which way.

"Sorry, ace." He gave Hutch a menacing look when the debris subsided. "Not in the cards," Starsky replied, as he shrugged off his jacket and drew his knife.

"You're a jerk," Hutch coughed.

"Gee, thanks," Starsky said, cutting a long strip of material.

"No need for both of us to go this way." Hutch trembled as he argued further. "How much does Uncle Sam pay you to be a hero?"

"Trust me." Starsky paused. "A lot."

"I bet," Hutch drawled out, sounding unconvinced.

Just above the ghastly leg wound that pumped bright red blood, Starsky fashioned a crudetourniquet trying to ignore the shouts of his company, not far off. He could hear someone trying to raise base camp on the radio as Wayland screamed out for help.

"Sargeis wounded. Thomson! He's not breathing! I need help here!."

Starsky heard the panic taking over Wayland's voice somewhere in the distant darkness to his left. "Ah, hell," he uttered, not having to see to know what was happening wasn't good.

Starsky fought off his own fear and blocked out the blasts of gunfire, grenades, and mortar shells from his mind.

Examining the tourniquet, he was unhappy to see that the bloody fountain had slowed only slightly. Starsky looked back up into Hutch's face and noted by the orange bursts of light, how his friend's skin color was fading to white. Hutch was bleeding heavily, and he was no medic. That was Gile's department. He needed to get to the medic and bring him to Hutch. Starsky had a choice to make. He didn't want to engage the enemy with his own gunfire and give way their position. He could wait out the attack and hope it stopped soon,or he could leave Hutch and go looking for his troop. They were in a tight spot, and none of his choices were good ones. He didn't like leaving Hutch vulnerable and in pain. Hutch needed the medic.

"Look." Starsky cleared his throat. " I need you to stay right here."

"Yes, you go." Hutch swallowed hard. "Go now!"

Starsky heard the words, but Hutch's eyes said else wise, 'don't go.'

"It's okay, Hutch, I'm not leaving you." Starsky made clear, keeping his tone calm, then noticing suddenly everything was still, too still. "Be right back."


Starsky patted Hutch down,searching for his weapon. "Where's your pistol?"

Hutch cocked a brow. "Must've dropped it when I got hit."

Starsky drew his pistol from his leg holster. "Don't fire this unless you have to." He locked and loaded, then pressed the gun into Hutch's hand. "Gonna pull you through this, buddy."

"Good." Hutch's tone was flat as he looked away from Starsky's determinedgaze. "Because I'm looking forward to that drink when we get back home."

With one last nervous glance at the blood pooling around Hutch's leg, Starsky regretfully ran off into the shadows, toward the direction he had last heard his platoon.

Every muscle in Starsky's body fought to control his will to run back to his friend. But it was his duty to not only get Hutch the help he needed, but the rest of the platoon, as well. The barrage of fire was dissipating, and he didn't hear anymore voices.

Smoke and dirt swirled around making it hard to see a thing as he sprinted from one groundcover to the next, calling out in a low voice, "Thompson. Harris. Sergeant. Giles…Wayland…" No one replied. "Wayland?" he repeated. Still no reply.

Crouching low alongside a ramshackle barbed wire fence, he noted the gunfire had moved even farther off into the distance. Large burning fires nearby illuminated the area, as he searched the faces upon the ground. The trickle of blood that flowed over the dirt like tiny streams made him sick. He moved slowly,afraid of what he knew he was seeing. The death and destruction nearly brought him to his knees. It was his platoon. All of them laying in a puddle of crimson rain--blood was everywhere, as if it had fallen from the sky. There was no need to check the bodies for pulses. The ghastly remains were proof enough; they were all dead.

Starsky win milled backward and fell to his butt with a small cry. His stomach went into a spasm and, leaning sideways,he vomited. Everything went dark as he tried to quell the horrible scene in his mind. For a moment the only sound came from his pounding heart. "I'm sorry. Fuck, I'm so sorry," he mumbled in increasing shock.

Starsky felt like he was passing out. Realizing he had shut his eyes to the horror he opened them. There was nothing he could do here. He had to get back to Hutch. With rubber legs he moved to pull the dog tags off each man, as his stomach still churned and he fought back the gag reflex. He made a grab for Giles's medical satchel and slung it over his shoulder. Trying to think quickly, he also grabbed Giles's revolver, shoving the gun into his utility belt. Straightening,he took two steps backward, inhaled a deep breath, saluted his platoon, then turned full run heading back to the only survivor other than himself.

By the time he got back to Hutch, Starsky's body was slick with sweat, and he was shaking, and breathing hard. He dropped down into a crouch, so close to Hutch their heads drew together in a gentle touch.

"Just can't -- can't stay away -- can you?" Hutch ground out, using a sarcastic tone.

"And miss the show?"

"Where is everybody?" Hutch asked.

Starsky ignored the question, picking up the revolver that had slipped out of Hutch's weakened hand.

"Hey,pal, I need you to watch our backs," Starsky said, pushing the pistol back into Hutch's hand. "Can you handle this?"

You're-you're c-crazy," Hutch uttered, fumbling with the weapon.

"Not as crazy as you, if you think I can shoot and carry you at the same time." Starsky said, noting Hutch's struggle to get a good hold of the pistol.

"Carry me? Starsk, you can't--"

"Private Hutchinson, do your job," Starsky's voice was rough and full of grit. "Just keep breathing,buddy, and watch our backs," he softened. "Make sure you got a target in your sight before you try to shoot that thing," Starsky said, giving a nervous laugh.

"You bet."

"Come on." As traumatized as Starsky was, he was a powerhouse of strength. He wasn't going to lose Hutch too. He adjusted his rifle again onto his shoulder, grabbed an arm and lifted Hutch up over his shoulder into a fireman's carry. "Hold on, buddy."

"Umph! Wh-wh-where is everyone?" Hutch asked again, in a choked off voice.

Starsky took a deep breath. It was never his style to lie. "Dead."

"All of them?" Hutch flinched.

"They were--they were--Christ, Hutch, all of 'em."

"Starsk? All of them? Shit! What -- arhhhh!"

Starsky felt Hutch's hand gripping tight to the back of his fatigues.

"Don't throw up," Starsky urged, adjusting his friend better onto his shoulder, quickly moving them into the cover of the jungle. "Not until we get back home, remember?"

"Not going to make it. Gonna die here."

Starsky's fear turned to anger and he violently shook his head, "That ain't how it's going to go, Hutchinson!"

Starsky felt Hutch's fingers dig into the back of his shirt. "Bleed-bleeding bad, Starsky, 'case you did - didn't notice --" A horrible groan filled the damp air.

"I noticed," Starsky said evenly. "Not going to let you die out here." He stumbled, feeling the lie stab at his throat like a dinner fork.

"S-starsk -- I'm too heavy, just--"

"Just shut up, you big lummox." Starsky's brow bunched, as he concentrated on carrying the heavy load.

"Wh-why would I do that?"

"'Cause you're my best buddy, Hutch. And best buddies always do what's asked of them."

"S-since you put -- put it that-- that way," Hutch barely uttered, as Starsky felt the grip his friend had on his shirt loosen.

Hutch dangled limply over Starsky's shoulder as he continued to struggle through the thick jungle. He strained to see through the darkness, leaving further behind the horror and gunfire. He was exhausted, his legs trembling from the extra weight, his body screaming for him to stop and rest. Starsky took in a deep breath, blowing it out and shaking off his need.

"Keep going. Don't stop. Can't stop." Starsky whispered to himself.

His chest burned from exertion, and he fought to keep his feet moving over the rocks and debris of the twisted dark jungle. His breaths were coming fast and shallow, sweat flowing down the sides of his face, the droplets hitting his lips, tasting salty. Licking his lips he spit the brackish taste to the ground. Hutch's weight was overpowering him, he could feel his buddy's life bleeding away with each step he took. His friend was dying. It frightened him to understand Hutch's fate. Starsky thought he should pray. He opened his mouth, but no words would come, as he had to concentrate all his efforts on moving, desperate not to fall facedown into the mud.

Through his shirt, Starsky could feel the warmth of blood, almost taste the copper droplets. He could hear Hutch's faint breathing, feel the warmth exhaled against his back. Starsky swore he could almost hear the internal pounding of his friend's slowing heartbeat.

Fear and panic began to overtakehim again, but there was no time to allow for that, as Starsky danced around a fallen log, nearly dropping his load for the second time.

What he wouldn't give for the radio to work, for a map, a compass, some sort of magic inner sonar that would tell him which way base camp was.

He could feel Hutch shivering hard, squirming with pain.

"Starsky, stop, put me down."

Starsky held Hutch tighter, refusing to hear, refusing to stop. He had to find base camp, or they'd both go down in the books as MIA. The musky night air was hot and sticky, mosquitoes dive bombed his ears, and he was out of breath. Once again he tripped over a tangle of roots and lurched sideways, but never let go his grip on Hutch.

"Starsk, please."

Fumbling with one hand,Starsky fought to push past a thick undergrowth of hanging vines coming to a small clearing.

"P-please," Hutch cried.

Starsky flinched as Hutch's cry went through his mid-section like a missile. Becoming more aware of the increased wetness from Hutch's leg wound against the front of his uniform he knew he had to stop. He looked around, listeningintently. He heard no gunfire. Saw no moving shadows. Not so much as a breeze drifted by. Realizing he had to tend to Hutch's wound better, he figured this was a safe enough place. Besides, he regrettably couldn't go another step.


"I gotcha, babe. Easy."

Dragging Hutch off his shoulder, as gently as he could, Starsky lowered him down to the ground and leaned him gently against a large boulder. Morning's light was just dawning, lining the trees along the horizon.

"Hurts," Hutch panted.

Starsky ripped the material, near the leg wound, and he froze as the panic came back. With hands shaking and eyes filling with tears, he got his first real look. Acid filled his throat as he stared at the three inches of flesh that had been ripped open and dripped a continuous slow flow of blood. A fist punched through his stomach and if he hadn't thrown up everything he had earlier, he would have vomited again.

"How bad?" Hutch questioned,breathing hard.

Starsky fumbled his rifle off his shoulder and lay it on the ground right within reach, as he shuffled through Giles's medical satchel.

"How bad?" Came the muffled cry of pain, as Hutch struggled to sit forward.

"Hold still," Starsky ordered, pushing Hutch back against the boulder gently.

He pulled some thick gauze, medical tape, a syringe and a bottle of morphine from the bag. Staring at the needle, Starsky knew he was out of his element. He could shoot a camera, defiantly could put a bullet in someone if he had to, but a needle? Hutch was in pain. The morphine would help with that, but pumping toomuch of the medicine would kill him. Setting the morphine aside, Starsky went to the grisly task of applying bandages and more pressure to the wound.

Hutch reached out and gripped Starsky's forearm, leaving a bloody handprint there. "I asked how bad is it?"

Starsky looked up,not wanting to answer, but knowing he had to.

"Bad as you can get. I can't stop the bleeding," he said flatly, looking back at the wound. "Going to get you out of here, buddy," Starsky added, with false hope.

"How, Starsk?" He watched Hutch swallow, dropping his head back against the rock. "Gonna wh-whistle for-for a cab?"

"Thought I'd use the payphone over there against that tree and call a limo service," Starsky tried for a laugh, but it came out strangled, his eyes still not connecting with his friend's.

"Starsk," Hutch gasped.

Starsky chanced a look up, trying to keep his face blank, but he could feel the watery tears welling in his eyes. Hutch wasn't going to make it. He couldn't get the blood flow to stop. Hutch was bleeding out like a slaughtered bull, and he'd done nothing to help his friend.

"Thank you."

"For what?" Starsky narrowed his eyes in shock and surprise.

"For making it bearable. For being here with me."

"Where else would I be?" Starsky asked, glancing around.

Instinct told him he should be anywhere else but here. Instinct told him he should do something, but there was nothing, nothing more he could do. He stared uneasily at Hutch. He would have to toss him back up over his shoulder, but he knew it would cause the wounded man severe pain and in the end it wouldn't matter.

"Starsky…uh, I want you to have these." Hutch lifted a shaky hand, and grimaced

Starsky looked at the silver pinky rings and shook his head. "No," he said softly.

"T-take them. Please. Need someone to remember me." Hutch took a small breath, "I got no one else. T-take them."

"Why? You're not going anywhere. You keep them on," Starsky said hurriedly, trying to keep a measure of calm.

Hutch glanced over at the bottle of morphine. Starsky followed his gaze. "We-we both know--" Hutch flashed a glance skyward. "Both know that's not how this s-story ends," he gasped, forcing the air in and out of his lungs as he snuck another peek at the morphine bottle.

"Take the rings, then g-give me the morphine, Starsk. P-please," Hutch begged through his pain.

"That's nuts. I don't know how much of that shit to give you. It could -- Hutch, I could kill you."

Hutch suddenly laughed, a sickening,painful,scary laugh, that made every hair on Starsky'chest stand at attention. "No-nothing you do now is going to stop that," Hutch nodded. "Nice thing is--" he groaned. "I-I can go pain free, here with you, watching the sunrise."

Hutch raised his ringed hand, holding it toward Starsky. "No!" Starsky's word was full of fear, bordering on anger, as he fell to his behind and crab crawled back a few inches. "Don't be stupid. Oh, man, don't ask me to do that. I-I can't do that. Hutch, you know I can't"

"You can. P-please."

The jungle that surrounded them wrapped around Starsky's heart, as if to squeeze the very life out of him. Hutch was in utter pain, the bleeding not slowing. There was nothing more he could do but offer the much needed pain relief. He knew that. Starsky studied the bottle for several intense filled moments.

"D-do it. N-now would be n-nice," Hutch squirmed in agony, and reached a hand toward his friend.

Reluctantly, Starsky inched back to Hutch'sside, nodded, and silently slipped the rings from Hutch's finger.

"Put them on."

Starsky felt his stomach seize, looking at the glistening wetness on his index finger. It was weird how even in the semi-dark,blood seemed so bright red. He tried to push the rings onto his ring finger, but they wouldn't fit, and he opted for his pinky, easily sliding both rings in place. "I'll never take them off."

"Swear it!" Hutch pinned Starsky with the look of a hawk eyeing a rabbit.

"I swear it!" Starsky said.

Looking directly into Hutch's eyes, he could tell the heavy words cost Hutch, as he shook uncontrollably and started to gasp for air.

"Oh, it hurts."

Without thinking anymore, Starsky snatched the bottle of morphine and syringe. His fingers fumbled, feeling thick likeshag carpet, as he jammed the needle into the bottle and drew back on the plunger. He made his best guess, filling the syringe with enough of the meds, hoping that it would be just enough to take the edge off Hutch's pain.

Streams of sweat ran down Starsky's face, and his heart pounded violently with fright.

"Uh-huh," Hutch moaned. "Th-that's right." He held his arm outward.

Starsky rolled up Hutch's sleeve, flicked the crook of his arm to raise a vein, and placed the tip of the needle against it. He paused a moment, examining his target.

"Go ahead, S-Starsky, take the-the shot."

"Oh God," Starsky mumbled. "How much? This might not be -- I don't know how much." His voice shook along with the hand that held the syringe.

"Any-anything, is enough," Hutch nearly begged.

"Confident bastard, aren't you?" Starsky tried to sound strong, but he heard the warble in his own voice as he slid the needle into Hutch's flesh and depressed the plunger,sending the painkiller racing through Hutch's system.

Hutch didn't flinch, didn't make a whimper, only sluggishly tilted sideways.

"You're okay. Come on, Hutch. Take in little breaths. In and out. Slowly. In and out," Starsky coached, wrapping Hutch up in his arms and dragging him close.

Hutch regained some control, but his breathing was shallow. "Don't want to die here," he uttered between pants, his body growing heavier.

Starsky froze, and swallowed his tears. "Won't let you. I promise," he lied, lifting Hutch higher into his arms and holding tight. "Going to get you home, buddy boy."

"I promise to buy the first round of beer, drink 'til we throw up." Hutch shuddered.

"You bet."

"It'll be nice to go home," Hutch barely whispered.

"Yeah, pal, real nice."

"Starsk, I--I--"

Hutch's body began to go flaccid, and Starsky could feel the faint traces of breath against his neck. He knew death was stabbing at his friend's erratic heartbeat.

"Easy. I'm here with you. Easy, I'm here."

Hutch sighed, "It's wo-w--working.

Starsky could only nod, as something had captured his voice.

"Remember last winter?" Hutch spoke so softly Starsky had to lower his head close to his lips to hear.

"Huh?" Starsky croaked in confusion

"The pond, Granddad? That huge fish we caught?"

"Sure. Sure I do," Starsky answered, now knowing his friend to be delirious.

"Was--was --" Hutch gasped.

"C'mon, Hutch. Don't please," Starsky begged,feeling Hutch fading.

"Best d-d-day." Hutch breathed a long breath against his neck and went limp.

Starsky felt his stomach lurch. He held his breath, knowing his friend was gone. After several moments of choking on his sobs, he gently maneuvered the body down flat in the grass, slumping back, and staring into the wide-open,unseeing eyes. The silence around him was an excruciating sound.

They were all dead. Sergeant Gray. Thompson. Giles. Harris. Wayland, and now--now Hutch. He was the soul survivor of Charlie Company, and he regretted that fact with all his heart.

"Huuuuutch! Not you! Please. No. Not you, too!"

The morning's light disappeared and everything became fuzzy and unclear. He was hot. So damn hot, trapped within the giant leaves of the jungle, surrounded by darkness. He belonged somewhere else, not here. But that was all he knew. His stomach contorted and lurched, waves of nausea threatening to drown him.

Hutch was dead? Hutch dead. It was some sort of huge cosmic mistake, a fevered nightmare he couldn't wake up from. He had to get out of here. Get out of the stupid jungle. It was too much. Starsky stood, as he felt a solid adrenaline rush enter his body and all he wanted to do was run.

"Oh, God, Hutch, no!" he yelled, slamming his eyes shut, a wave of blackness as big as a skyscraper shadowinghim.

Blindly he ran, the leaves of the jungle slapping his face, and he swore they spoke to him. Telling him to open his eyes, but he couldn't. He didn't just feel fear, he became fear. It was all too much as the rush of adrenaline left him, and he fell to his belly upon the ground, groaning.

A voice crawled inside his head, begged him to open his eyes again, still he couldn't. He felt hands rolling him over onto his back, and he fought against them.

"Wake up! It's a bad dream," a voice loudly spoke.

It wasn't a dream. It felt too real. The blood. The pain. Man, this sucked, Starsky thought as he continued to struggle.

"No. No. Hutch!!! Hutch! Not you. Never you."

"Easy, come on now." Gentle hands gripped his wrists. "I got you."

Starsky wanted to keep fighting, but he was just too damn tired to fight anymore. He took a few breaths, and everything seemed to stop. All he could do was lay still,sprawled upon something soft.

A cloud?

Maybe he too, was dead? It would be a relief.

Something cool, moist, and caring wiped at his face. It felt so good. He wanted to say it felt good, but could only groan his pleasure.

"Wake up, partner." The voice was back, familiar lips at his ear. "Starsky, open your eyes."

At that instant Starsky knew who was calling to him. "Hutch," he mumbled, unsure if what he was hearing was real. He stopped thrashing, the grip on his wrists subsided, and slowly he opened his eyes.

Everything was fuzzy around the edges. He was sweaty and coughing, but he knew he was in his bedroom, lying on the floor, looking up into aqua blue eyes. Where'd the jungle go?

"Geez, Starsk, you scared me there for a minute."

Starsky slowly sank deeper into his partner's lap. His heart pounded and there was a foul taste in his mouth.

"You've been really sick, pal. You must have fallen out of bed after that crazy dream. You wouldn't wake up." Hutch dabbed at his brow with a soft cloth. "Good news is your fever seems to have broken." Starsky flashed Hutch a brief glance, before looking down at his trembling hand and absently rubbing the pinky rings.

"Dream?" Starsky coughed. "Wasn't just a dream."

"What are you talking about, buddy?"

Starsky shook his head in protest,not wanting to answer. Reality flooded back into his mind. He had a terrible case of walking pneumonia, high fever, vomiting, coughing. Hutch had stayed with him through the day and into the night. His usual dream of Vietnam, his platoon, and Wayland dying in his arms had morphed into something else during his fevered state. He let out a breath. The horror of war years was behind him. Hutch wasn't dead. How'd his partner creep into that dream? A dream he had often. A dream he would have thought would fade away by now. He began to breathemore normally but still could feel that tightness in his chest.

"Buddy, let's get you more comfortable," Hutch said, shifting his weight out from under Starsky's head

"I can do it myself." Starsky struggled to sit up, but the pneumonia and strain of the all tooreal nightmare left him even weaker than before. "Errr," he groaned, sinking back down into Hutch's lap.

Hutch shook a finger in Starsky's face, "Can I help you now?"

"Yeah, okay."

"Sometimes I don't know about you, Starsk," Hutch gently scolded, doing most of the work to get the ill man back into bed.

"Sometimes --" Starsky paused as the room spun around him.

"Easy now," Hutch said, slipping his hand behind Starsky's head and lowering it onto the soft pillow.

"Sometimes --" Starsky panted from the exertion, feeling like he was going to be sick. " I don't know about me either." He stared disbelievingly at Hutch. It wasn't rational but he couldn't believe Hutch was here -- alive. That he didn't die with the rest of his friends in that filthy jungle. That part was just a dream.

"You okay?" Hutch asked, his voice heavy with concern.

"Fine," Starsky muttered the bold-faced lie.

Hutch lifted a brow. "Wait here," he said, turning on his heels, "I'll be right back."

Starsky had to smile to himself as Hutch left the room. Where was he going to go? Tahiti?

Laying down made the room spin faster, and Starsky could feel his pulse throbbing at his temple. All he could think about was Charlie Company. How Wayland had died in his arms just after giving him the shot of morphine. Starsky looked again to his hand. Wayland had given him the only thing that meant anything to him. The silver pinkie rings. He struggled to sit up against the head board. It took a lot of doing and he had just gotten situated when Hutch reappeared.

"Hey, buddy." Hutch came to sit on the edge of the bed. "I'm impressed. That's the most I've seen you move in two days."

Starsky just snorted, too weak to offer a witty comeback.

Hutch laughed lightly, holding a glass of bubbling amber-colored liquid, with a straw in it up to Starsky's lips. "Here, drink this." Starsky eyed the glass fearfully. "Don't worry, it's just ginger ale."

Starsky lifted a trembling hand to grasp at the straw, once again eyeing his silver pinky rings, given to him by Wayland before the kid died in his arms. He took a few sips, letting out a tired breath,his hand flopping to the bed.

"Thanks, Hutch."

Starsky closed his eyes, and for a few minutes the room was silent as his dream floated back to the forefront of his mind. He shivered as his blood ran cold, like it always did when he thought about Charlie Seven, and how he was the only solider to survive the attack. How he had somehow made it back to base camp with an empty gun, an empty canteen, a fist full of blood covered dog tags, and Wayland's rings on his lilttle finger. And now, now he had to contend with the gory bloodied image of his partner?

A loud bang jerked Starsky from half-sleep. His eyebrows scrunched tight when he noticed the sound had come from Hutch who had just opened and closed his nightstand drawer. Damn his jumpy nerves. He always got this way after that dream, whatever form it chose to take.

"Sorry, Starsk, I was trying to be quiet."

"Hutch." Starsky's lips barely moved as fire exploded in his chest and he coughed, digging his fingers into the mattress.

"Easy, Starsk, you're shaking."

"Just cold."

Hutch sat next to him, inching close enough to wrap Starsky in an embrace.

Relaxing, Starsky took in deep breaths, trying to control his trembling body. Hutch was safe, but he knew he would never be free of the nightmare.

They sat there saying nothing for awhile, until Starsky finally broke the silence.

"I couldn't pull him through, Hutch."

"Your dream?" Hutch asked.

"Yes, but itwasn't a dream. It really happened."

Hutch nodded, but said nothing.

"Couldn't pull any of them through. They all died. All but me. We were under attack, I couldn't get to any of them except Wayland. Balls of fire exploded all around, gunfire, it was so loud. I should have been afraid, but there was not time to be afraid. Wayland -- he was hit. I slung him over my shoulder and carried him through the jungle." Starsky's eyes filled with water. "I was tired, Hutch, so damn tired, and he was dying. I knew it. I had to stop." Starsky played with his rings, nervously twisting them around his finger as he talked. "He was bleeding out. Died in my arms. We were tight, Hutch, like you and me. Wayland gave me these rings just before he--" Starsky turned toward Hutch. He could feel his facial muscles twitching, trying to hold in his emotional pain. "In my dream--it was so real--It was--wasn't Wayland who--." Starskygasped for breath, unable to say the word. "It was--" a choking sob. "Was--"

"Me, " Hutch quietly said the word for his friend.

"Yeah." A tear rolled down Starsky's fevered cheek, and he looked away. "And--and--when I woke up and saw you, here, oh, god, Hutch. I was glad." Starsky grimaced, disgusted with himself

"You were glad it was a dream," Hutch said. "That I was alive." Starsky looked guiltily Hutch's way. "It's okay, Starsk. It's a natural reaction." Hutch winced. "Fevers have a way of creeping into your dreams, pal, creating some really weird stuff." Hutch gently kneaded Starsky's rigid shoulder. "You did everything you could for your platoon, buddy. You were a kid yourself. It was war." Hutch touched Starsky's cheek lightly. "Doesn't mean you don't care, partner."

Starsky was quiet, his mind still on the dream, still in the stealthy shadows of the jungle, his brow crinkled.

"When I was little, I used to have a lot of bad dreams. Over and over the same ones. You want to know what my Grandmother used to do for me?" Hutch asked, resting a thumb against Starsky's cheek. "She had me write the dream down on paper and seal it in an envelope, then we would toss it into the fireplace."

"That was it?" Starsky asked in a weak voice

"That was it." Hutch smiled. "I know it probably sounds stupid to you, but know something?"


"It worked. The nightmares just disappeared."

"Worked for you, probably won't work for me."

Starsky watched as Hutch got up and left the room. A few minutes later he returned.

"Here, partner," Hutch handed Starsky a piece of paper and pencil and sat on the edge of the bed.

Starsky eyed the blank paper. This dream that was the reality of his past had always been in his mind, always lurking just around the corner of sleep. The images in his head took on many forms over the years. Usually the dream was full of bloody, fiery, disorder. He would wake up sweaty and scared, afraid to go back to sleep. Afraid that somehow who he was now, a cop in Bay City, was the real dream, and he'd be dragged back to the shadowy jungles of Vietnam.

The foreboding nightmare took on many changes over the years, and sometimes he was lucid enough to control the dream. He could will the sound of gunfire to turn into beautiful fireworks, turn the blood-covered ground, into a peaceful field of red flowers swaying in the breeze, and even on a few special occasions, had beamed Wayland and himself to a high barstool; sipping those promised drinks.

This time the horror was back and it was at its worst, as Hutch had surfaced in the dream to replace his friend Wayland.This particular outline of the dream shook Starsky more than any other, and the sense of helplessness left a cold spot in his gut. In the end, however, no matter what shape the dream took on, Starsky always woke to the truth.His entire platoon was dead, his buddy Wayland had died in his arms, and he was the sole survivor.

"What do you think, Starsk? Want to give it a try?" Hutch nudged him with an elbow, interrupting his thoughts. "Oh, wait you need a book or something hard to write on," he said, and started to rise.

Starsky's hand gripping Hutch's forearm stopped him. "No, Hutch." Starsky handed him back the paper and pencil. "Don't want it to disappear."

"Starsk?" Hutch sat back down, confusion written on his face.

"I can't, I gotta remember. Gotta allow the dreams."

"Buddy?" Hutch gripped Starsky's shoulder.

"Hutch, I'm the only one left to remember." Starsky rubbed his eyes, knowing Hutch was having a hard time understanding why he would wnat to continue to have such horrible nightmares. "They're inside me, even if it's in my dreams. Good or bad. Somehow they are still with me, guide me. I have to let them. If I don't -- be like -- like letting them all down. Sarge. Harrison. Giles. Thompson --" Starsky paused to look at his rings. "Wayland." He looked at Hutch, having finished stating all the names with reverence.

Speechless, Hutch just remained very still, staring at Starsky.

"You don't get it, do you, Hutch?" Starsky asked in a low, unsure voice.

"No," Hutch said smiling. "I get it, buddy."

"Sounds dumb, I know," Starsky said, offering a pained smile as he felt a hitch in his stomach. Reminded that he wasn't up to par, he inched down further under the covers.

"Nothing dumb about it," Hutch said in a sensitive voice. "Starsk, do me a favor?"


"When you're up to it, I want to hear more about Wayland and the rest of your buddies." Hutch smoothed an index finger over Starsky's pinky rings. "I want to -- " He glanced up. "I think I can help you to remember," he said, now holding Starsky's hand.

Looking at their intertwined fingers, Starsky smiled. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone else that would help him to carry the load?

"I think so too, Hutch." He closed his eyes. "I think so,too."

The end.