'Angel Dusted' - By Stephanie White

The rave was hot, crowded and extremely loud. //I'm getting too old for this// thought Detective David Starsky as he looked around the club. All around him, there were people who Starsky wouldn't have given the time of day to if it hadn't been an assignment. When he realized the girl he was dancing with didn't care whether he was dancing with her or not, he headed off the floor and towards one of the four bars around the room.

He looked around the place again and saw his backup. It wasn't Hutch. Hutch had arrested Starsky's current target a couple of times before and therefore, would blow their cover before you could say 'supercalifragilisticexpialidosious' (or something like that...). The other man, Hobbs was his name, looked over at Starsky and shrugged.

Meanwhile, Starsky didn't know that his cover had been blown already. As he approached the bar, two people were watching him carefully.

"I'm tellin' ya Tommy. It's a cop!" said Angie. "He arrested Carrie last month."

"A cop here, huh?" A wicked grin spread across Tommy's face. "Does he know you?"

Angie shook her head. Tommy's grin got a little wider. "Go keep him company for a couple of minutes. Keep his back to the bar. We're gonna have a little fun with the fuzz!"

Angie smiled a stoned smile. She headed over to the bar. "Hey Curly, buy a girl a drink?"

Starsky turned around and saw a young girl dressed in a tight black dress that seemed to have been painted on. She also seemed to have run out of paint well before the dress hit her knees. Starsky could tell she was either drunk or stoned by the way she was moving and talking. He wasn't close enough to her to tell which.

He gave her an almost-lopsided grin. "Sure honey, what'll you have?"

She gave him a leer. "Sex on the Beach."

The grin got a little wider. He turned toward the bartender and ordered the drink for her and a beer for himself. The bartender put the drinks down on the bar and Starsky put some cash on the bar. He handed Angie her drink, and took a sip of his beer. He put the beer on the bar and turned his attention to the girl in front of him.

"I'm David. What's your name?"

"I'm Angie. Are you having fun? I would hate to think you weren't having any fun here."

As she talked to Starsky, she saw Tommy sneaking up behind him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small capsule. He cracked it open and poured the contents into Starsky's beer. He nodded at Angela and moved back into the crowd.

"Well, David. Thanks for the drink." Angie lifted her glass to him. He picked up his beer and saluted her with it. Then they both took deep swigs. As Starsky put his glass down, he was aware of a strange after-taste. He smiled warily at Angie and then headed for the exit, signaling to Hobbs that he was leaving. Hobbs nodded apathetically. It was late and there was nothing obvious going down.

As the curly-haired man headed for the door,Tommy came up behind Angie and hugged her.

"You were great, baby! He didn't notice a thing."

"What'd you put in his drink? You didn't kill him, did you? Killin' a cop'll get you the chair!"

"Nah, I didn't kill him. He'll probably do it himself once his trip starts. Angel dust is good for shit like that!"

Angie nodded hesitantly. For a cop, he was kind of nice. She hoped he wouldn't hurt himself.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Starsky got into his car and headed for Metro. He knew Hutch was working on their reports and would want to hear what a lousy time Starsky had had at this party.

As he was driving, he became more and more aware of the things around him - things he had always taken for granted before. The street lamps were beautiful! The mailbox on the corner was the most gorgeous shade of blue. The pavement seemed to be beckoning to his car to drive on it. He was happy to oblige it.

That's when he saw him. As the Torino was stopped at a light, Starsky saw a little blue man come out of a trap door on his dashboard, run across the car and jump into another trap door on the other side of the dashboard. He shut his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them again, the light was green and things seemed normal again - at least until the purple rattlesnake appeared on the passenger seat. He nearly wrecked the car as he tried to steer with one hand and pistol whip the snake with his other (he may have been tripping, but he still wasn't going to shoot the Torino).

When he got back to Metro, everything was in sharp focus - even things that weren't real. Starsky wandered into the building from the garage, fascinated by the fixtures that he saw every day.

//I never realized how pretty fluorescent lights could be!// he thought to himself as he nearly ran into a couple of uniformed officers while staring at the lights in the ceiling.

He got to the department and opened the door. Unfortunately, that's when his trip took a turn for the worse.

He walked in and saw Hutch sitting at his desk. He also saw a rainbow colored dragon with teeth the size of ceiling tiles, breathing smoke and fire. His eyes widened as the dragon ignited Hutch with one breath. Hutch was writhing and screaming and dying and Starsky stood rooted to the floor in terror. Suddenly, the dragon reached down with his mouth and swallowed Hutch whole. Then he turned his attention to Starsky.

"Starsky? What's wrong, babe?" The dragon asked snidely. Starsky backed away in terror. The dragon advanced, all the time asking Starsky what was wrong.

Hutch didn't know what was wrong with his partner, but he could tell that something was scaring him badly.

"Come on partner, tell me what's wrong." He said gently as he slowly moved toward Starsky.

Starsky only saw the dragon. He kept backing up until he hit a wall. He was cornered.

By this time, the entire office was watching the little drama playing out before them. They had never known anything to come between Starsky and Hutch (okay, not counting Kira). This didn't even seem to be a fight, just one afraid of the other. Something was wrong...very wrong.

Suddenly, Starsky seemed to remember he had a gun. Flattening himself as much as he could against the wall, he pulled his Berretta. The dragon stopped advancing for a second.

"Take it easy, Starsk. No one's going to hurt you. Put the gun away."

Dobey came out of his office to witness the inconceivable sight of Starsky holding Hutch at gunpoint. He started to say something when he saw the look of abject terror in Starsky's eyes. He realized that if anyone were going to be able to get through to him, it would be Hutch.

Starsky was still in his own little world. The dragon now sounded like Hutch. That was the last straw. Burning his friend was one thing. Eating his friend another. But to use his own partner's voice against him? That was just cruel. He cocked the gun.

Hutch stopped cold when he saw Starsky cock his gun. He didn't understand what was going on. All he knew was that Starsky was sick and he had to help him. The terror in his partner's blue eyes broke his heart. He wasn't worried for himself; he knew Starsky would never, ever hurt him. Even under the influence, he couldn't do it. There was something in the back of Starsky's mind that wouldn't let him hurt Hutch.

The angel dust had locked that something away and wasn't letting it out.

"Come on Starsky. Give me the gun. No one is going to hurt you. Come on, babe. It's okay."

Starsky shook his head violently. "NO! IT'S NOT OKAY! DON'T LIE TO ME! YOU KILLED HUTCH! YOU KILLED MY PARTNER!"

Hutch stopped advancing again. This time, he was a little worried for himself too. But why wouldn't Starsky recognize him?

"Come on, buddy. It's me. It's Hutch! I'm alive. Don't worry. Everything's all right. Give me the gun."

The dragon was trying to destroy him. His heart was broken and this dragon was tormenting him with it. Hutch was dead. This monster destroyed him. Starsky didn't want to live anymore, but he couldn't let the dragon get away with murder. He pulled the trigger.

The bullet hit Hutch square in the chest and he was thrown backwards. His last thought before he lost consciousness was the hope that Starsky would get the help he needed.

Dobey was standing open mouthed as he watched one best friend shoot the other. He looked at Hutch lying across his desk with blood quickly soaking his shirt. He yelled for someone to call an ambulance and then looked at Starsky. Starsky had tears streaming down his face as he raised the gun to his head.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The ambulance attendants loaded Starsky and Hutch into the ambulance. Hutch was still bleeding and the attendants were having trouble keeping him stabilized as they rushed to the hospital. Starsky was in restraints, screaming in terror. Those damned rats were nibbling on his hair and clothing. He could feel their little feet crawling all over him. Feel their tails brush against his hands and face. He fought violently against the restraints - his own mind turning against him.

Finally, they arrived at the hospital. Starsky was taken to one room and Hutch another. Starsky's screams could be heard throughout the emergency department.

Dobey arrived a very few minutes later. He was still extremely shaken by what had just happened. He never in a million years thought he'd have to wrestle Starsky for his gun. It took four men to subdue the terrified man. The drug in his system combined with the adrenaline rush that comes with absolute terror gave him the strength of the insane.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dobey was sitting in the waiting room when Huggy walked in. The tall man walked over and sat down next to him.

"I called Metro looking for Hutch. They told me he'd been shot. He okay?"

Dobey shrugged. "I don't know. He took it point blank in the chest. They're still working on him."

"Man, what happened? Where's Starsky? I expected to see him pacing 'round here."

Dobey looked at Huggy. He opened his mouth to speak when Starsky's screams cut through the other noises of the hospital.

"What the hell is that?" yelped a startled Huggy.

"Starsky." Dobey said with tears in his eyes.

Huggy's dark eyes widened. "Hutch must've died. Starsky wouldn't scream like that otherwise." His shoulders slumped at the thought of death separating those two.

Dobey shook his head. "I don't know if Hutch is dead or not. Starsky's the one who shot him."

Huggy's mouth dropped open. "That's impossible. Starsky'd sooner put a gun to his own head than shoot Blondie."

"He was hallucinating. I don't know what he'd taken, but he wasn't himself."

"PCP" said the doctor who had entered unnoticed. He approached Dobey with his hand outstretched. "I'm Dr. Edwin Martin. We found PCP in his bloodstream. Do you know how Detective Starsky would have gotten it?"

Huggy stood up indignantly, "There ain't no way Starsky would've taken angel dust! He was straight as a cop could get!"

Something clicked in Dobey's mind. "He was undercover at a rave tonight. Maybe someone slipped him something."

Huggy nodded. "I'll check the word on the streets. If someone successfully doped a cop, they're gonna brag."

"Why would someone brag about something like that?"

"Kids at a rave do shit like that for a kick. Trust me, they dope a cop, they'll brag."

Dobey nodded. "Let me know if you find anything." He turned to the doctor, "What about my other man, Detective Hutchinson?"

Dr. Martin shrugged. "As far as I know, they're still working on him. I'm not the doctor on his case. I believe Dr. Shell is working on him. He's the best trauma surgeon we have here. Detective Hutchinson is in good hands."

Dobey thanked him and the doctor excused himself.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Some four hours later, Starsky opened his eyes cautiously. The rats were gone, as were the snakes, spiders, little blue men and dragons. He looked around and realized he was in a hospital. He wondered how he got there. He tried to run his fingers through his hair and found he couldn't move his hands. He looked down and saw that he was strapped to the bed. He tried to move his feet and found they were also restrained. He saw a call button on the side rail of his bed and, after some maneuvering, pushed it.

A nurse came in. "I'm glad to see you're awake, Mr. Starsky. Welcome back to the real world."

"Can I get some water?" he asked. She lifted a glass to his lips and put the straw in his mouth. After he drank his fill, he asked, "What happened?"

"What do you remember?"

Starsky furrowed his brow in concentration. "I remember a party...a girl in a little black dress. My beer tasted funny. Then things got a little fuzzy."

"Yes, well, there was a reason your beer tasted funny. Someone slipped you a hit of PCP."

Starsky's eyes widened. "Angel dust? That why I got a headache the size of California?"

She nodded. He looked down at his hands again. "Could you get these things offa me? I'm fine now."

"I have to check with Dr. Martin. If he says okay, then I'll remove the restraints."

"Hey, where's my partner? I'm sure you've seen him hangin' 'round my room. He wouldn't go far."

"Your partner?" she paled a little.

"Yeah, name's Hutch. Tall? Blond? He is here, ain't he?"

"Um...I'm just going to go see Dr. Martin about your restraints." The nurse beat a hasty retreat.

Starsky was starting to get a very bad feeling. He was in the hospital after coming off an apparently violent trip and Hutch wasn't at his bedside? Where was he? Starsky strained his memory trying to remember what happened to put him in the hospital - trying to see where Hutch fit into all of this. His mind was drawing a blank. All he could see in his mind was a dragon and he wasn't at all sure about what that had to do with Hutch.

"Well, David. It's nice to see you're awake and alert. I'm Dr. Martin. How about we take these nasty restraints off of you?"

"Hey Doc. Do you know my partner? Hutch...uh...Ken Hutchinson? I'm sure he's around here somewhere. Hutch's always a mother hen when I'm in the hospital."

Dr. Martin froze for a minute as he was undoing Starsky's restraint. Dobey had explained to him a little about the partners' relationship. The knowledge that he had sent his partner into serious condition in the ICU could have dire consequences. He finished undoing the restraints and smiled gently.

"Your Captain Dobey has been very anxious about you, David. Can I send him in to see you?"

Starsky noticed that again a hospital staff member avoided a question about Hutch. His bad feeling was turning to a stone in his gut. He just nodded in answer to the doctor's question. Dr. Martin smiled sympathetically at him and left the room.

A very few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Captain Dobey poked his head into the room. "Hi Starsky. How're you feeling?"

Starsky shrugged. "I'm okay. Hey, Cap'n? Where's Hutch? I would've thought he'd be the first one in to see me."

Dobey sat down next to Starsky's bed. He knew he wouldn't be able to remain standing as he delivered this little bombshell.

"Dave, son," Dobey began. The stone in Starsky's gut grew a hand that reached up and grabbed his heart. Dobey used his first name and called him 'son'. This was not a good sign.

"What happened to Hutch? Is he okay? Cap'n, what happened? Tell me!"

"He's been shot." Dobey said quietly, eyes on the ground. "Point blank, in the chest."

The hand that had grabbed his heart began to squeeze. "He's gonna be alright, isn't he? He's ALIVE isn't he???"

Dobey kept looking at the ground. Starsky felt the pain deep in his soul as Dobey seemed to answer the question with his silence.

"He's dead, ain't he? Hutch is dead." Starsky felt the tears start to flow. He didn't care who saw him cry.

"No, Hutch isn't dead." Starsky looked up, his eyes full of hope.

"Is he gonna be alright?"

"I don't know. He's listed in serious condition. The bullet nicked his heart. He was in surgery for nearly three hours. The doctors are having trouble keeping him stable."

Starsky was halfway out of the bed before he felt Dobey's hands pushing him back. "Just stay put for the moment, son."

"I can't stay put! Hutch needs me! Why won't you let me go to him?"

Dobey sighed. This was the hard part. "Starsky, I didn't get to tell you the whole story."

"What do you mean, 'whole story'? Why can't I see Hutch? He needs me!"

"While you were under the influence, you had a pretty bad trip."

"Uh-huh." Starsky didn't like where this was heading.

"You seemed to think that someone or something had killed Hutch. You pulled your gun..."

Starsky stared in wide-eyed horror as his Captain painted the picture of him pulling his gun on his best friend and shooting him in the chest.

When Dobey finished the story, Starsky was shaking his head. "No, it's not true! I'd never shoot Hutch! It wasn't me! It couldn't have been!"

"I'm sorry, son. It was you. Afterwards, you were going to shoot yourself. It took four people to stop you."

The hand that was squeezing his heart twisted. Starsky's pain was overwhelming. He had nearly killed his best friend in the whole world! "Why'd you stop me! You saw me shoot Hutch in the chest. Under the influence or not, I hurt my best friend! He's probably gonna die and I killed him! Why didn't you let me shoot myself?" he finished miserably.

"STARSKY!" Dobey shouted, surprising the wreck of a man in the bed. "I don't want to hear you talking like that again! Hutch is not dead. HE IS NOT DEAD!"

"Yet." Muttered Starsky.

"NO! Don't do this to yourself. You weren't in control. You were hallucinating and you didn't know what you were doing! Hutch wouldn't want you to do this to yourself."

Starsky rolled over onto his side, away from Dobey's sympathetic eyes. He couldn't stand it. He didn't deserve sympathy. Hutch was probably going to die and it was his fault. How could he shoot his own partner? It was inconceivable! Hutch was his friend, his brother, the other half of his soul!

He felt Dobey's hand on his shoulder. "If you want to visit Hutch, I can take you over to see him."

Starsky curled in on himself. "I shot him! Why would he want me anywhere near him? I can't! Not like this!"

Dobey tried a different tactic. "Starsky, I would think you'd want to talk to him. He knows you didn't mean it. He knows you love him. He needs you now more than ever! Don't shut him out because you feel guilty, son."

Starsky shrugged apathetically. Dobey knew he was considering it. Finally, Starsky rolled back over to face his Captain. "I don't know if I'm strong enough for this."

"All you need is enough strength for him."

Starsky took a deep breath and climbed slowly out of bed. Instead of going for the wheelchair that was in the corner, he went for the closet. He pulled out his clothing and started getting dressed.

"Starsky, what are you doing? The doctor hasn't released you yet!"

"I'm fine Cap'n...the trip is over. If I show up for him in a hospital gown, he'd feel sorry for me. I don't deserve his sympathy."

"Starsky!" There was a tone of warning in the Captain's voice that Starsky ignored.

"What room is he in?"

"231. You want me to go with you?"

Starsky shook his head. "If I'm gonna face him after what I did, I need to do it alone."

Dobey nodded. Then he saw Starsky staring at his empty holster. "I'm going to head down there in half an hour. If you're not there, I'll come looking for you."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Starsky got off the elevator on the second floor. As he headed past the nurses station, he heard a voice over the P.A. system.


Starsky gasped and started running down the hall. He saw doctors and nurses running into the room, some pushing carts with equipment and drugs on them. He stopped suddenly, unable to watch his friend die. He stood outside the door and listened to the flurry of activity inside.

"Charge to 200. Paddles charged. Stop CPR. CLEAR!"

"No conversion. Resume compressions"

//Please no! Don't die Hutch! Don't leave me!// Starsky thought hopelessly as he listened at the door.

"300. One amp sodium bicarb I.V. push NOW!"

"Paddles charged, I.V. in. Stop CPR. CLEAR!"

"No conversion. Resume compressions."

//God, please don't take him from me! Take me instead! I couldn't stand to lose him! Not like this!//

"Adrenaline, now. Charge to 300 again."

"Adrenaline in. Paddles charged. Stop CPR. CLEAR!"

"Okay, we got him back. Nice work, guys."

Starsky's knees seemed to decide he weighed a little too much at that moment. He sank to the ground outside of Hutch's room. He sat on the floor with his arms around his knees, tears streaming down his face as the room emptied of medical personnel. One of the doctors suddenly seemed to notice him (okay, nearly tripped over him).

"Are you alright sir?"

Starsky looked up at him. "H-h-h-how's my partner?"

The doctor stared at him in confusion for a moment; then something seemed to click in his mind. "You must be Detective Starsky. If you think you can stand up, we can go to one of the waiting rooms and talk for a few minutes."

He helped Starsky into a standing position and led him into one of the family waiting rooms. Starsky slumped into a chair and the doctor sat down next to him.

"Detective Starsky, I'm Steve Shell. I'm the doctor that treated him when he came into the ER."

Starsky smiled sardonically. "Yeah, well, I'm the one who sent him to you."

Shell nodded. "I heard about that. You weren't to blame, you know."

"I shot him! How do you figger I wasn't to blame?"

"As I understand, you were tripping on angel dust that someone slipped you while you were undercover."

"We were supposed to be talkin' 'bout Hutch?" Starsky shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he tried to change the subject.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Detective. Mr. Hutchinson is in very serious condition. The bullet nicked his heart on the way through. He was lucky it wasn't any farther over. A fraction of an inch and we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. He's also lucky that it didn't do any other major damage. It missed his spine by centimeters. The fact that he's alive now is nothing short of a miracle."

Starsky didn't need to hear it like that. As Shell talked, Starsky sank lower and lower into the chair until it appeared that the doctor was talking to a jacket sitting on a chair.

Finally, Starsky willed himself to ask the question that he had been dreading the answer to. "Will he live?"

The doctor sighed. "At this point, it could very easily go either way. The fact that he survived this last attack shows he's got some fight left in him. But, I don't think he'd survive another one."

The doctor hesitated. He knew how guilty this man was feeling. He knew Starsky had a right to know.

"There is one other thing. When he was first brought in, he regained consciousness for a few seconds. He said two words."

Starsky looked at him expectantly.

"He said, 'help Starsky'."

Starsky actually sobbed aloud at this revelation. The doctor put his hand on the distraught man's shoulder and sat with him until he was paged to another part of the hospital.

Starsky sat in the waiting room with his head in his hands for a long time before he felt another hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Dobey looking at him sadly.

"Did you get to see him yet?"

Starsky shook his head. "H-h-he...h-h-he coded when I got up here."

"Dear God! Dave? He isn't..."

Starsky shook his head. "They got him back."

Dobey closed his eyes in relief. "So why are you sitting in the waiting room?"

"Cap'n, I can't face him! The doctor said he woke up in the ER for a second. You know what he said? He said 'help Starsky'! 'Help Starsky'! After what I did to him!"

"That just shows he understands you weren't yourself when you shot him. He's not going to blame you. You have to go in there and let him know you're okay or he'll die worrying about you."

Starsky looked up at Dobey. He was right. Hutch would worry himself to death under the right circumstances. He knew once Hutch got over his worry about him, he'd remember to get mad at his tripped-out partner. Somehow, Starsky wanted his partner to get angry with him. He deserved it, after all.

He stood up slowly and headed for Hutch's room.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Angie was sitting in a recliner in her shabby apartment. She was hung over and depressed. Then she turned on the news.

//If I'm depressed there's nothing like the depressing news to make me feel like my life isn't that bad.// She thought to herself.

"And in local news today. An undercover policeman, who had unknowingly been given a hit of PCP, shot his partner during a hallucination. The detective was apparently undercover at a rave when someone slipped the drug into his drink. His partner was shot point blank in the chest and is listed in serious condition at Memorial Hospital. The incident is currently under investigation. No charges have been filed. The police are asking if anyone has any information about who slipped the drug to their detective to please call them. You need not give your name. The number is at the bottom of your screen."

Angie sat up, eyes wide. She had done this! She distracted him! She couldn't be the one to tell the police about Tommy. She'd have to go into hiding for the rest of her life. Then she remembered Huggy Bear. Everyone on the streets said if you needed to get to the cops without going to the cops, he was the one to see. She grabbed her coat and headed out the door.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Hey partner, how're you doing?" Starsky said tentatively as he walked into Hutch's room. "You know you scared the hell out of me with that little code blue stunt. As if I could feel any worse, you have to go and die like that."

Starsky looked at the still figure on the bed. There were tubes and wires everywhere. The respirator obscured his pale face. Starsky almost didn't recognize his partner. He slumped into the chair next to Hutch's bed and reached out to take his hand...stopping just short of touching him.

"Please buddy! I am so sorry for this! You have to wake up to hate me for it. I'd rather you hate me for the rest of your life than to know that I killed you. You're my best friend and I wish I never shot you. If I could go back, I would've shot myself before I shot you. Please don't leave me!" Starsky looked at the man...the other half of his soul in the bed and suddenly bolted from the room. He found the nearest restroom and lost his lunch...and breakfast...and dinner from last night. He threw up until there was nothing left. Then he sat on the cold tile floor of the bathroom crying until he had no more tears.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Huggy was at The Pits when Angie got there. The tall, thin black man looked even more gaunt that normal. Slowly, hesitantly, Angie approached the bar.

"Excuse me? I'm looking for Huggy Bear?"

A pair of dark angled eyes looked at her. "You got 'im. What can I do for you?"

"They say on the streets that if you need to get to the cops you're the one to see."

"Yeah..." Huggy said suspiciously. "Why don't you just call them yourself?"

"It's about the cop that shot his partner."

Huggy straightened up. "What do you know about it?"

"I was the one who distracted him while my friend put the stuff into his drink."

"You did what? That cop happened to be a close personal friend of mine! Who gave him the stuff?"

Angie shrank from the sudden fury she saw in Huggy's eyes. "Look, I didn't know what he was going to do! I was too stoned at the time to care. I felt bad about it, but Tommy said he deserved it for arresting Carrie."

"Who's this Tommy? Where can the cops find him?"

"Tommy Page. He lives at the Palm Hotel. Look, if he finds out I ratted him out he'll kill me!"

Huggy looked at her. "That's a problem?"

She looked at him pleadingly. Huggy felt his heart melt a little. She couldn't be more than 21. She probably didn't know what she had done. Still, he had to know.

"Why you comin' to me now?"

"He was a nice guy for a cop. I felt bad when I realized what Tommy had done to him, but I'd tripped on angel dust before and it wasn't so bad. I just figured he'd would trip for a bit and maybe embarrass himself. I didn't think he'd hurt anyone."

"Okay, let me make a phone call. Sit tight. You're gonna have to face the cops. I'll tell them you're scared of this cat Tommy. They'll protect you."

"After what I did to one of their own? Fat chance."

"They'll want Tommy worse than you. They'll protect you to be a witness at his trial.

"Whatever." Angie said. "Just make sure Tommy can't get to me."

Huggy gave her a tight smile and picked up the phone.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Starsky had fallen asleep in the chair next to Hutch's bed when he felt someone gently shaking him. He looked blearily up at Dobey.

"Cap'n? Did something happen?" He looked over at Hutch. Nothing had changed from the previous night.

Dobey smiled. "Huggy just called. They found your girl in the black dress. She felt bad about what happened and turned over her friend with the angel dust. They're heading over to his place now."

Starsky stood up. "I want in on the bust. Where's it goin' down?"

Dobey shook his head. "You're way too close to this one. There's no way I'm letting you go."

"Where's it going down?" Starsky's voice was low and dangerous.

"Starsky! No! Let it be. They'll get him and he'll go to jail where he belongs. If you start working him over like I know you want to, his lawyers will have a mistrial declared before he even gets to the courthouse."

Starsky was about to protest some more when he saw his Captain's eyes widen and a smile light his face. He spun around and was rewarded with the sight of his partner's blue eyes looking at him.

Starsky darted to his partner's bedside. This time, when he reached for a hand, he didn't hesitate. He took Hutch's hand in his own. His guilt and anger were temporarily forgotten as he realized the most important person in the world to him was going to live. For a moment, there was nothing else in the universe but the two of them. Dobey slipped out of the room unnoticed.

"Hey buddy. Welcome back." Starsky whispered with tears in his eyes and a song in his heart.

Hutch's eyes smiled up at him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Three days later -

The doctor had just left the room after removing the respirator. Hutch was in bed looking at his partner who was standing by the window looking out at nothing.

"Starsky? You okay, babe?"

Starsky flinched at the obvious concern in his partner's voice.

"Why should you care after what I done to you?"

"Why shouldn't I care? You're my best friend. I know you weren't responsible for your actions."

"I nearly killed you! You should hate me! I shot you point blank and you won't be mad at me!"

"If our positions were reversed, would you be mad at me?"

"Of course not! But..." Starsky trailed off as he realized what his partner had just gotten him to admit.

"But, if you knew I was under the influence of something when I shot you, you wouldn't be angry with me, would you?"

"No, but..." Starsky's arguments were crumbling.

"So, why should I be mad at you for doing something no one could hold you responsible for - especially me?

"Starsk, I love you buddy and I know you love me. I know you wouldn't have shot me if you were at all able to stop yourself. I forgave you before I hit the desk. Now you just have to forgive yourself."

Starsky chuckled mirthlessly. "Easier said than done. Did you know, the first time I came up to visit you, your heart stopped? Do you know how scared I was? You're the best friend I got in the whole world. I did this to you!"

Hutch looked at his partner with wide eyes. The pain was coming off of Starsky in waves and Hutch could feel it as clearly as if it were his own.

"God, babe! What you must have been going through; it must have been awful. I'm so sorry!"

Starsky spun around and looked at his partner. "You got nothin' to be sorry for! It wasn't your fault that I saw a dragon eat you." Starsky stopped suddenly as he remembered a bit of the hallucination that put his partner into the ICU.

Hutch's mouth twitched. He tried very hard to keep a straight face, but he couldn't do it. He burst out laughing.

Starsky glared at him for a minute until he realized how crazy his last statement had been. He chuckled. That only made Hutch laugh harder, which made Starsky laugh outright. After a couple of minutes, Hutch held a hand to his chest as he tried to stop laughing.

"Don't make me laugh! It hurts!"

Starsky was suddenly serious. "Do you need a doctor? Are you okay? I'll get a doctor babe."

Hutch shook his head. "I'll be okay. You don't need to get a doctor. Just give me a minute."

Starsky ran over to the bed and helped Hutch find a comfortable position to wait out the pain. As he was sitting next to Hutch on the bed, there was a tentative knock on the door. It opened and Angie stepped into the room. Hutch could feel Starsky stiffen next to him. He tightened his grip on the darker man's hand.

"What're you doing here? You got some nerve lady." Starsky glared at the scared young girl.

"Look, I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I didn't know you'd have such a bad trip. If I had known, I wouldn't have let Tommy do it."

Hutch looked between Starsky and the girl. He knew about her involvement, but he was glad she was brave enough to come forward to help Starsky. That took her up a couple of notches in his book.

"You wouldn't have let..." Starsky began angrily when he felt Hutch's hand on his arm.

"She didn't mean it, Starsk. If she had, she wouldn't be here, right?"

The girl nodded eagerly. "I just thought you'd embarrass yourself. You know, swat imaginary bugs, that sort of thing. I didn't think you'd hurt anyone - especially your own partner!"

Hutch saw Starsky flinch as the guilt came back with an almost physical force. He got up from the bed and crossed to the window.

"Look, it was the angel dust that made you do it! It wasn't you. I know you probably feel lousy about the shooting thing, but it wasn't your fault. It was Tommy's fault. He gave you the stuff. If you gotta blame someone, blame him." Then she added quietly, "Or me."

"Listen to her Starsk. She's making a lot of sense."

Starsky turned around. "I do blame Tommy! I don't think I blame you anymore. You were stoned, I could tell. You had no idea. But it was my finger that pulled the trigger!"

Hutch looked at Angela. She seemed to understand. "Look, I gotta go now. Please don't blame yourself. You weren't in control while you were tripping. It's gonna be okay now. It is!"

Starsky sighed as the girl slipped out of the room. Finally, he turned to his partner. The look on Hutch's face spoke volumes. He went back to the bed and sat down next to Hutch again. This time, it was Hutch who took Starsky in his arms and held him. Starsky gently slipped his arms around Hutch and held on. He closed his eyes as he realized how close he came to never being able to feel this again.

After a few minutes, Starsky heard his partner's voice. "Hey Pal, I don't suppose I could talk you into sitting up? My shoulder's falling asleep."

Starsky sat up quickly. "Sorry Hutch."

Hutch shook his head. "I wish you'd stop apologizing. You didn't do anything wrong."

Starsky gave him a weak smile. "Except one or two little things."

Hutch shook his head. "NO! Stop it! I am not going to have a partner that can't forgive himself for an honest mistake. So since I refuse to have anyone as my partner but you, I guess that means you'll put me on the streets alone."

Starsky gave him a full 100-watt lopsided grin this time. Hutch basked in the glow of the smile that he hadn't seen in nearly a week.

"I ain't promising nothin'. I'll try. It's just so hard. I think in my head, I know it wasn't my fault." He gestured to his heart. "It's the rest of me I'm having trouble convincing."

"Well, when you were shot and I was blaming myself for not being able to jump over the Torino in time, I discovered there's nothing like playing nursemaid to take care of guilt." Hutch grinned in anticipation.

Starsky looked at his friend in the bed. "You're going to enjoy this, aren't you?"

Hutch smiled. "Every minute of it!"

Starsky chuckled, "I'd better hit the health food stores. You can never have enough wheat germ, right?"

Hutch nodded with a grin.

Starsky suddenly turned serious again. "Do you know how scared I was?"

"Yeah, I can imagine. But I couldn't leave you like that. It wouldn't be 'me and thee forever' that way, would it?"

"When you put it like that, I don't know what I was worried about!"

"Starsk, you okay babe?"

Starsky thought about it for a minute. "Yeah. I'll be fine Blintz."

Hutch smiled and closed his eyes to sleep. He felt Starsky stroke his hair gently a couple of times and he was aware of the light dimming.

"Love you, Hutch," Was the last thing he heard before he drifted off to sleep.