Well, it's been a long time since I wrote anything, and this story is now more than two years old. I was not sure if I really wanted to post it here but well, NOW its posted!

The reason why I didn't wrote anything is not worth to post here. Only so much: someone, who was supposed to help me with a story, said some nasty things to me. Something like I don't recognize the characters any more, your writing is***. It was really bad and I decided not to write any more.

But this story was still on my pc and I wanted it to be save. I invested a lot of time to write it and I hope you like it.

Here we go!

Roots to grow

Part One

Meeting

He stared out of the window and observed the snowflakes slowly growing thicker and thicker. It had become colder; frost flowers had formed on the window panes and now sketched an attractive picture against the snow mounting higher and higher outside. Actually, a perfect day, if not, yeah if not…

It had been a terrible last week; only one day longer, and it would have been even worse than it was already. He had run away…as fast as he could…

Like always.

That's why he had driven more than 2000 miles in two days to find some peace. Some peace in his grandpas' old hunting lodge in the middle of nowhere. The first half year of his training was over, this was his vacation. Vacation, spare time, Christmas Eve. Time for family, friends, time for memories.

Time to run away… he had run away, away from the annoyance, the constant pressure, disputes, away from the bustle… away from Christmas and his painful memories, like every year.

'Dear God…you're 24 years old and you're still afraid of celebrating Christmas…'

Besides, this year had begun so well. A new start, a new job, to the displeasure of his family. But he knew that he had found the right way for himself.

It was what he wanted to do and nobody would dissuade him from it again. He would struggle through…but, maybe it wasn't necessary after what had happened two days ago…

'Why you have to mess up with everybody? Maybe the guy's even not worth it at all and you risked your job, your future… '

'Because you are who you are and because you can't be someone else. I expect nothing else from you…' The small voice in his head answered.

'Oh yes, of course! Getting myself into the biggest trouble possible, I'm very good at this game, you don't have to tell me. After all something to be proud of, even…'

'Isn't it enough that I'm proud of you? You acted like your instinct told you, as well as I have taught you to do and it was correct.'

'My instinct… better call it my stubbornness! In two weeks I'll know if I still have a job and whether you can be proud of me or not.'

'He'll realize that he made a mistake. He played with the man's life and you interfered and you know it was right. Maybe that man would be dead if you hadn't helped him. He won't forget this.'

'Oh please stop talking… I would have saved him and me an amount of trouble, it's enough… leave me now I'm tired and my hand still hurts so much… please, just leave me alone for a while, okay?'

'We don't need to talk anymore… you will see, everything's fine. You won't be alone anymore…'

'But I want to be alone now, so leave me, NOW!'

Tiredly he tripped to his bed, laid down, rolled on his side and pressed his aching hand against chest.

'I only want to be alone.'


"Hutchinson…what do you think you're doing there?" The sharp sound of his instructor's voice made him wince, but he didn't stop.

"Stop that, at once or I'll…"

"This man will die unless something is done quickly. So let me do my work and back off, okay?"

Two sky blue eyes stared at the man in the blue tracksuit, full of anger and incomprehension, while he picked up a rope from the ground and draped it over his shoulder.

"The boy there is scared to death, he can't even make a move. So let me help him and then you can do what ever you want. But first I'll tell the administrator what happened here…"

"You won't tell him a thing…or I'll…" Sergeant Jenkins glared at the blond cadet, but the other man simply stared back evenly with more determination in those sky-blue eyes than Jenkins had ever seen.

"You'll what? Throw me out of the academy? Do it if you want, it doesn't matter. I'll be happy if I'm not part of all this crap here any longer. So is somebody here going to secure me with this rope, or not?"

His glance went around but he didn't have to wait long before a group of other cadets stepped forward and one of them took the end of the rope. "I'll secure you Hutchinson, but you are sure you know what you're doing? Maybe we should wait for the rescue-team…?"

"No time for that Donovan…and yes I know what I'm doing…not the first time I've climbed down a rock, believe me. Just make sure you guys hold me tight, okay? And make sure that you don't slip over the edge, I can't fly…!"

"We know you're blonde, Hutchinson so you don't have to act like a bimbo, okay. You owe us a beer tonight…"

"You got it, promise." The man smiled, went on his knees and step by step climbed over the ledge.

"Okay…"He shouted down to the form that desperately clung at the rock face. "Don't move…I'm coming…It'll take a while so don't run out of patience."

The small figure moved slowly its head and tried to look up at him.

"I said don't move…don't look up!" Hutchinson growled and looked for a foothold.

"J-Just wanna know who the c-crazy guy is. I'm dead meat…You'll fall down…don't come after me…" Came back was the whispered reply.

"No, I won't fall…take it easy…it'll be over soon."

"Easier said t-than done, Blondie…I've seen better days…"

"Shut up, will ya'? And don't you ever call me Blondie, Curlyhead, or I'll forget all my good intentions and climb up again…Hey…you up there…I need more rope, I'm almost there." Carefully and one step after the other the cadet climbed down to the scared man. All the time he talked to him, tried to calm him with his voice and encourage him to hold still although he himself was scared down into his bone too.

All this because of a year-end test and false pride.

But today their instructor had irritated them up to their eyeballs, especially the dark-haired Starsky.

Jenkins hated David Starsky, hated the way he did things and how he behaved. Without fail, Starsky said what he thought and didn't live by the rules of the academy and that pushed Jenkins into a rage. The worst thing was that he was the best in the class in every practical field. Hutchinson didn't know why, but for some reason he was in awe of him, maybe because he had his own differences with Jenkins too and he didn't like how Jenkins punished Starsky. Jenkins tried to push Starsky at every possible opportunity and then, when he had found out where his weakness was, he pitilessly used this to his advantage.

And Starsky's only weakness was heights.

So it happened that their last test before the winter vacations began was to run the barricade course including climbing up a nearly fifty yard high rock.

And Jenkins decided to push the cadets even more by having them do this without wearing a safety rope.

'That's why I'm hanging forty yards above the ground. Only because this stubborn mule was too proud to accept his weakness. He would rather fall down the rock and break his neck, than ask anybody for help.'

'And you're as stubborn as he is, Hutch.'

'Yeah…I know Grandpa…oh boy…I'm still talking to a man who's been dead for over ten years now…'

Hutchinson shook his head to clear his thoughts. A few small stones separated from the rock face and fell down when his feet searched for a new place to brace himself, and his rope dangerously swung back and forth.

'Concentrate Hutchinson, you will be no good for the boy down there if you fall down now.'

"Hey… you up there…you're still with me? I'm kind of lonesome here!"

He heard the quiet voice of the man hanging under him. He couldn't see his face, but he knew from the way Starsky was talking that he was more than only frightened: he was terrified like a little boy and he still wasn't ready to accept that fact.

"Yeah…got some problems here, but I'm on my way. So tell me…what are you doing here? Couldn't you find a better place for a picnic?"

The blonde cadet started his comforting chatter to calm down the panicked Starsky and himself.

He heard a soft giggle. "Well, what shall I say…I was looking for a very quiet place. Think I found it…"

"Sure you did…but next time find a place with better room service, okay? You should complain about the service here."

"Will do…when I have steady ground under my feet again…promise."

Carefully the dark-haired cadet looked up and met Hutchinson's eyes. "You're crazier than I thought…but I can't tell you how happy I am that you're so crazy…" A small smile spread across his face, and his dark blue eyes lost their fear for a second. "Think we can make it?"

"Of course…don't want to pick up your sorry ass from the ground down there and what's more important…I don't want to fail in that last audit, you know…so I decided to collect some more points to get an A+…"

"Jerk…"

"Don't bite the hand that feeds you…"

"Touché…So…what took you so long?"

"Another Jerk named Jenkins…"

"Oh, Mister Perfect himself…how do we look then?"

"You don't wanna know…" Hutchinson lifted his head to the top of the rock. "Hey Donovan… I'm with him now. I need some time to secure him with the safety-belt. Hold the rope as still as you can, and when I say up, you lift us up, understand?"

"Yeah, but hurry…it's not much fun up here!" Donovan shouted back.

"It's no fun for us down here either." Hutchinson murmured under his breath and began to wrap the belt around Starsky's hip. "Okay Starsky…I need some space between you and the rock to get the belt around your body. You're sticking to the wall like a fly…hey don't move so much…you're ticklish or what?"

"N-No… don't wanna move…don't wanna fall down…"

Suddenly Starsky clung even harder to the rock wall, incapable of moving even an inch. He pressed his face against the wall and started to tremble uncontrollably. "S-Sorry…can't…"

"Sssh…Dave…it's okay…relax, I'm with you now. Let me do all the work, just relax. Everything's fine." The blond soothed and put his hand on one of Starsky's trembling shoulders, meaning to comfort.

However, Starsky winced with the touch, startled, and tried to turn away.

He lost his hold and slipped off.

"HUTCH!"

It was just a whisper, a quiet cry, but it echoed in Hutchinson's head like a kettledrum.

Later he couldn't remember exactly what happened after Starsky slid off the wall; all he knew was that suddenly he was holding Starsky's heavy body in his arms. He dangled on the rope, saw the rock wall coming nearer and nearer and heard the shouts above him.

Both slipped some yards into the depth.

Starsky struggled in his clasp as if he wanted to free himself. Hutchinson tightened his grip around Starsky's chest; he thought his shoulders would rip out of their sockets. Because of the unexpected movements, he crashed into the wall and let out a shout of pain when his back was smashed into the sharp stones.

Starsky struggled again.

"No…NOOO…don't wanna fall…DON'T!" He cried out in panic.

"Starsky! Stop fighting me! I won't let you fall, you hear me? I'm still with you! Just hold still, will ya'?" He whispered. "Dave…please, stop that…"

It took all of his willpower to calm down the man in his grip. He could feel Starsky digging his fingernails into his upper arms, but after a while he somewhat relaxed and stopped struggling.

"That's better Dave…you're doing good, it won't be long until we're back on the ground, promise. Just keep still, okay?"

Starsky didn't say a word, but Hutchinson heard his violent breath along with some suppressed moans, and it was obvious that Starsky was still fighting with his demons.

It seemed to Hutchinson as if their rescue lasted hours, but it took only a few minutes before someone pulled him with a jerk over the ledge. Completely exhausted, he remained lying on his back and gasped for air, his eyes closed. He felt someone trying to lift the heavy load from his chest, but his arms and hands were so tense, they had to pry them open by force to relieve him of his burden.

Someone bent over him and slapped his face.

"Hey Hutchinson…you okay? Man, that was the craziest thing I ever saw…You hurt somewhere?"

It was Donovan who talked to him, and it took Hutchinson some time to clear his vision. With a groan he rolled onto his side and leant on one forearm. He saw Starsky lying on the ground beside him, breathing heavily, his eyes wide open, but Hutchinson wasn't sure if he could see him or not.

"No…no…some bruises on my back…but I think I'm okay…you'll help me up so I can check on him?"

With clear lack of understanding in his expression, Donovan helped him to his feet, but Hutchinson took a dive to the ground. His legs felt like jelly and trembled so violently, he immediately fell on his knees and a feeling of sickness welled up in him.

"Whoa, whoa… what do you think you're doing here? We better call an ambulance to check you both out…"

"Don't need an ambulance…" Hutchinson growled out. "Just wanna see if the guy is alright…" With the help of Donovan he stumbled back to the still motionless Starsky and gathered his head into his lap.

"Starsky…hey Dave…you're safe now…we made it, you hear me, we made it." He mumbled and waited for Starsky to react in some way.

A weak smile rushed over the dark-haired man's face when he finally came around.

"D-Doing…doing fine…what…what took you so long?"

"Let's wait how he's doing after I'm done with him. What do you think you were doing, disobeying my orders?"

An angry voice shouted behind Hutchinson and Donovan was pushed aside. Now Jenkins stood beside him, his arms crossed over his chest, his face flushed red with fury and sweat pearls covering his forehead. He looked as if he was ready to explode. He grabbed Hutchinson by his collar, jerked him on his feet again and shook him to and fro.

"I told you to wait but you have to play the hero. What if you had both fallen down, huh? You're under my command here and you have to do what I tell you to do and nothing more. Have you understood that for once and for all, Cadet Hutchinson? After that stunt I could expel you from the academy…"

Jenkins was a strong man, and he was made even stronger by fury, but he hadn't calculated on the sudden counter weight of his victim. With a quick body rotation, Hutchinson escaped from Jenkins' clutch on him; he swung, and his powerful right hook crashed into Jenkins precisely on his chin. Everybody heard the crunching noise when Hutchinson's fist hit Jenkins' jawbone.

As if he was stuck by lighting the Sergeant fell to ground and remained lying there without moving. Blood ran down from his mouth and dripped onto the ground. Hutchinson stood in front of him swaying dangerously, he wheezing as if he just had run a marathon. A sharp pain shot through his arm and into his right wrist. He clutched the injured limb against his chest and bit down his pain.

"My grandfather taught me I have to obey the orders of my superiors. But he said nothing about obeying senseless orders. Your order could have killed a man... I... I ... thought once I could be proud of being a police officer...but not this way. This is not my way…" He gasped out in a husky voice.

Stunned and unable to do anything, Starsky watched as Hutchinson ran away as if the devil himself were after him, not looking back even once. The other cadets stood there, not knowing what to do next until one of them sprinted back to the academy and called for help. Starsky was still too weak to move a muscle and so he fell back to the ground and stared into the blue sky.

'Someone has to look after this guy, and that someone's gotta be me, I guess.'


He didn't know what woke him up in the first place. Maybe it was the constant throbbing in his hand or maybe the coldness in the lodge or a noise, a noise from somewhere else intruding on his subconscious. But it didn't matter. His deep dreamless sleep was over, and he curled up in a ball to push back the coldness in the lodge.

'Should have stocked the fire before falling asleep…it's cold like a fridge in here.'

He had to have slept longer than he had thought, because it was getting dark, and the burnt down fire in the stove donated only meager light.

Suddenly he heard the strange noise again and it took him some time to work out where it came from.

Someone was at his front door.

With a blanket firmly tied around his shaking body, he got up and shuffled to the door, not sure what to do.

"Someone out there?!"

"Of course! It's Santa Claus! Open the damn door, I'm freezing!"

"What the hell…" He opened the door and was immediately pushed aside by a colossal big fir tree followed by a frozen and snowy David Starsky.

"Yes, what the hell are you doing here in this wilderness, Hutch? It's easier to find a needle in a haystack than you!"

Starsky stamped his feet to get the cold out of his limbs and rubbed his hands. "Heaven it's cold in here! Have you forgotten to pay the electricity bill or what?"

Hutchinson stared at Starsky as if he was a visitor from Mars.

Starsky seemed as if he didn't expect or even noticed the winter weather. He only wore a leather jacket, jeans and his now totally soaked blue sneakers.

"What… where…why…?" He stammered, over and over again staring first at Starsky and then at the fir tree.

"Your comprehensive vocabulary tells me that you watch Sesame Street regularly!" Starsky grinned broadly. "What about: It's so nice you are here, please take a seat? Can I offer you some hot tea…"

"Damn it! Shut your mouth!" It slipped out of Hutchinson. "How did you get here? How the heck did you find me? What are you doing here?"

"First: By car. Second: I would like to become a detective sometime, remember? Third: My mother raised me well; she would be disappointed in me if I forgot all my good manners. And before you ask further: I thought it was a good idea!"

Without waiting he pressed the fir tree into Hutchinson's hand and took off his wet jacket. Then he knelt beside the fireplace added some of the split wood to the glow and waited until the weakly glowing embers became a powerful fire again. While he warmed his fingers he looked up and couldn't keep back from laughing any longer.

"You look good as a Christmas tree holder! Want to hold onto the tree forever? You can let him go. It has a stand!"

Hutchinson rolled his eyes and on command let go of the tree. A thousand thoughts went round in his head, but he suppressed the growing wish to rush towards Starsky and shake him, until he told him why he was there. It didn't seem to disturb him that Hutchinson still stared at him completely confused, and when he finally noted that it didn't matter one whit to Starsky, he furiously stamped back to his bed without saying another word and sat down.

Starsky was still crouching before the fireplace and warmed up his stiffly frozen fingers, without letting him out of sight for a moment.

In the end, he got up, went over to the window and looked out.

"Oh boy Hutch, a storm is brewing outside. I'd better fetch the rest of my stuff from the car before it's snowed in completely. Will you come along and help me?"

Hutchinson lifted his hands in defense.

"Hey stop, wait a moment. What…what the hell are you doing? You drive 2,000 miles straight through America, okay, I don't know why, but, that was your decision. Now you are here and…and…" Helpless he fumbled for words.

"Correct! And now I want to fetch my stuff from the car! Got a problem with it?!"

"Oh yes! I have a problem with you suddenly standing in front of my door with a fir tree and thinking you can move in with me! I didn't invite you, so what are you doing here? And please explain it to me so that I can understand it. I'm not in the mood for your crazy jokes, do I make myself clear? And why do you constantly call me 'Hutch'? That's not my name! Curlyhead!" Hutchinson ranted; now his voice was so full of anger that even Starsky winced involuntarily.

"What should I call you then?" Starsky barked back, all on edge now.

"What about my first name?!"

"Kenneth?"

"Yes, David Michael Starsky! 'Kenneth' or 'Ken' if you want. This is my name! Not 'Blondie' or 'Hutch'!" Hutchinson exclaimed triumphantly. "Why don't you call me Ken?!"

Red faced Starsky stared at him. Now it was his turn to fumble for words.

"Because I don't like to call you something so…" He whispered to himself.

"What?!"

"It's just…," he stuttered. "I thought…" His voice failed, and he cleared his throat to give his voice a steady tone again.

"Ah, I thought it would be a good idea to thank the man who risked his life for me." Starsky whispered and looked firmly in Hutchinson's eyes. "And I wanted to ask the man why he did such a crazy thing and then disappeared then without a trace. I thought you would do something stupid…"

Hutchinson raised his eyebrows in surprise. "And that would be what? Getting a job in the mountain rescue service?!"

"I give up! Leaving the academy for example…or worse…"

The blond man let out a hoarse laugh. "I don't think you have to leave. Attacking his instructor is one of the stupidest things a cadet can do and, it doesn't exactly contribute to the cadet finishing his training successfully! But that isn't the reason why you drove through half the country, or am I wrong?"

"Uhh…well, I…"

A loud knocking at the door startled both of them.

Questioningly Hutchinson looked at Starsky and got up once more. "Who else have you invited to this party, Starsky? Jenkins maybe?!" He snorted furiously and opened the door, but this time, only a crack. In the darkness he saw a bright red face surrounded by hair that was bathed in sweat.

"Oh thank God… when I saw the car and the light I hoped somebody was here…please open the door, this is an emergency!"

"My quota of emergencies is covered…"

"Please, sir…my wife…she's out there, please we have to help her."

Hutchinson quizzically glanced over to Starsky and for some reason-and Starsky didn't know why-he could understand his silent question.

'What do you think?!' He seemed to ask.

Starsky looked through the window. Then he reached instinctively for a frying pan sitting on the range. He hid it behind his back then he stepped beside Hutchinson and nodded silently. 'Whatever he wants, I'll watch your back.'

Hutchinson slowly opened the door and the man hurried in. He was as tall as Starsky and was also close to his age. He wore jeans, an absolutely soaked sweatshirt and boots. He shivered with cold although beads of sweat ran in streams down his face, and his fingers were frozen blue.

"I…I…please, my wife urgently needs help…she's outside…" The man stammered; there was no doubt about it: he was in shock. "Please, you must help me…" He grabbed Hutchinson by his upper arms and tried to pull him with him outdoors.

"Hey man, calm down first!" Reassuringly Starsky laid a hand on the anxious man's shoulder. "You're completely frozen, come in first and get warm. What's your name?" With gentle power he loosened the grip around Hutchinson's arms, simultaneously throwing a warning look at him.

'Something is wrong with the guy…'

Almost indiscernibly Hutchinson shook his head.

'I'll go with him…'

Starsky's eyes narrowed to slits. 'You're not going anywhere with him…'

'Then I guess you'll have to come with me!'

The man had watched their silent dialog; desperately he looked at Starsky and Hutchinson.

"Please, my name is Warren, Jack Warren. Our car broke down a few miles away and we continued on foot, then the weather got worse… Please believe me, please!"

"Okay Jack, calm down, everything's fine. This is Dave Starsky and I'm Ken Hutchinson, we're coming with you." Hutchinson tried to calm down the agitated man again while he reached for his coat. "Starsky, there in the cupboard are flashlights. And get a blanket, I think we'll need it." And with a look that brooked no contradiction he added in silence.

'No discussions now, we talk later.'

Cursing silently Starsky looked for the flashlights and the blanket; he didn't like the scenario. Something disturbed him, but he couldn't put a finger on it.

'Someday your charity will break your neck, but this time I won't watch idly. You don't play the hero again!'


The storm had increased in intensity and the temperatures had fallen below freezing. Three men trudged through the deep snow and scanned the area in the light of the flashlight.

"How long will it take? Where exactly did you leave your left your wife?" Hutchinson asked and wiped the snow out of his eyes.

"There was a fallen tree…" Jack murmured under his breath. "Wait, yes, there…over there, there it is, it has to be!" He tore the lamp out of Hutchinson's hand and ran off.

"I hope you're not yanking our chains, Jack!" Starsky growled quietly and rushed after the man. "The snow will be the last of your problems if we don't find your wife there…"

Jack had already arrive at the fallen tree and knelt down in the snow. In the light of the flashlight Starsky could make out a doubled up form lying on the ground.

"Mara? Oh thank God we found you! Mara… I found you some help, now we get you out of here! Can you hear me?" Jack raised the head of the woman and shook her gently. "Mara…Honey… please open your eyes…"

The young woman let out a loud groan and murmured something incomprehensible words; her eyes remained closed.

"Jack…" Now Hutchinson too knelt beside him on the ground and felt for the pulse, his expression one of concern for a barely conscious woman. The woman was covered with a coat, but her ice-cold skin and ashen face disturbed him. The fact that her pulse was very weak and very slow alarmed him even more. "Starsky, give me the blanket!" he said in a hurry. "Jack, how long has she been lying here?"

"I…I don't know…"

"She's almost frozen to death." He noticed in shock and wrapped the blanket around the woman.

"Oh God…The baby!"

"What?!" exclaimed Hutchinson and Starsky at the same time.

"She…she's pregnant!"

Horrified, both men glanced at each other and both could read the thoughts of the other.

"Starsky…run! We need water and all blankets you can find. Take Jack with you; he should help you!"

"And you?!"

"I'll look after Mara…now run!" Hutchinson put the woman's arm around his shoulder and raised her up.

Starsky nodded wildly and pulled Jack with him back to the cabin.

Their way back seemed to last forever and they had almost reached the cottage when Hutchinson suddenly tripped and fell into the snow. Starsky heard a suppressed cry of pain behind him and stopped immediately.

"Damn it!"

"Hutch? Hutch, what's wrong?" In a split second Starsky was at his side.

"I…I…slipped…can't hold her anymore! You have to take her!"

"What?! Wait…I…I got her…" Starsky took over carrying the limp body, but had to fight himself not to drop her while Hutchinson fell to his knees in front of him. Groaning he pressed his right arm against his body.

"Go, Starsky, go, I'm okay." He pressed out with a pain-consumed face.

"Of course you're okay…Jack, something's wrong with him, you have to help him, come on now, we have to hurry!" Starsky urged.

Hutchinson furiously glared at him, but the piercing ache in his hand almost knocked him out and finally he gave up. He nodded in agreement. "Okay …but hurry up."

Jack grabbed him under his armpits and together they made the last yards to the cabin.

Jack pushed the door open to let Starsky in and followed on his heels, immediately looking for blankets and towels. Carefully Starsky laid the woman down on the bed and Hutchinson started to pull off her shoes and socks. Starsky noticed that he could only use his left hand while he cradled his apparently injured right against his chest. Obviously he was still in pain because he didn't manage to suppress a soft groan. But instinctively Starsky knew that now was not the right time to talk with him about it.

"Starsk…I need the blankets and what about the water?" Hutchinson asked impatiently.

"Everything's here…but, the water isn't hot yet!"

"We don't need hot water now…Have a look at her hands and feet." He pointed to the slightly bluish colored extremities. "We have to warm up her hands and feet very carefully, but first with only tepid water to restore the blood circulation. By no means with hot water, that would burn the skin. Jack, take her feet and start to massage them carefully and you Starsky control the water so it doesn't become too hot. And give me the blankets."

Carefully he wrapped the blankets around the woman. That was when he saw her extremely rounded belly and let out an audible moan. "Jezz…Jack how far along is she?" he asked hardly audible.

Jack helplessly twitched his shoulders.

"I…I don't know…she said it wouldn't be much longer…" Nervously he looked at Hutchinson. "But she won't have the child now, or?" Desperately he grabbed at Hutchinson's right forearm.

Hutchinson suppressed a yell. He cradled the limb against his chest, his face suddenly snow-white, and he hit the hand aside, swearing quietly.

"Man, don't ask me, but I'm afraid your forced march wasn't the best idea…Starsky help me…we have to warm her up…" He grunted out, still holding his right arm protectively against his chest. Starsky had noticed the little incident.

"Okay, Hutch, that's enough, I've got eyes…It's obvious that you're hurt and need a break. So sit down and let me have a look at your arm." He said in a decisively tone.

Hutchinson looked up. "It's not that bad, think I sprained it when I slipped in the snow, okay? We've got more important things to do right now…so are you gonna help me here or what?"

"I have to…since you're a little handicapped…"

"Then stop joking and listen to me…"

He explained briefly to Starsky what had to be done, and Starsky was more than a little surprised at Hutchinson knowing exactly what to do. And the concerned look and deep furrows on his friend's forehead showed him how dangerous the situation was. After what seems like hours of constantly changing the water's temperature, wrapping towels around Mara's hands and feet and massaging the cold limbs Hutchinson was satisfied with Mara's condition although she was still unconscious.

Exhausted he stood up and stumbled to the kitchen corner. With a glance he asked Starsky to join him.

"Okay Starsk… for now she's fine, but I don't know how the baby's doing." He ascertained with relief and pinched the bridge of his nose. "But my biggest worry is that her water will break and the baby will come right here. When she wakes up, we have to calm her down. Any excitement could be a problem for her or the baby. We should have something ready for her to drink when she wakes up. You can do that? I'll check and see if I can find a few warm clothes for her."

"Sure…" Starsky nodded.

'But we two are not ready yet, Hutchinson…'

The blond man rummaged through the closet while Starsky prepared some hot coffee.

"Hey Dave, Ken…I think she's coming around!" Jack's nervous voice caused both men to look up.

"What's the matter Jack?" Hutchinson sat beside the bed and took Mara's still cold hand into his.

The woman groaned quietly and started to stir. She turned her head in his direction, opened her eyes and looked at him in confusion.

"J-Jack?! "

Hutchinson softly glided his fingers over her face and his tense features changed into a reassuring smile.

"No, Mara, I'm Ken, you're safe now, everything's fine. How do you feel?" He asked with a soft voice.

"'M…c-cold…Where am I? My hands hurt a-and my feet…where's Jack? Where are the others?" She trembled in spite of the blankets and her teeth clattered violently. Searching, she looked around.

"I'm here darling…I'm fine!" Jack bent down to her. "Just relax, you're safe now!"

"The other men…where are they?"

Starsky and Hutchinson looked at each other, both concerned by Mara's talking but unsure how to stop her.

"There're no other men; you must have been dreaming…"

"But Jack…I ran…the baby…the baby, is it all right?"

"Sssh Mara, it's okay, you don't have to worry." Hutchinson said soothingly, and Starsky was fascinated by how quickly Hutchinson managed to calm the excited woman down by using only his gentle voice.

"The baby's doing fine; you're the one we're all worried about. You're in pain?"

"No-no I don't think so…just cold…Sorry…tired…" She mumbled and closed her eyes.

"No, no, no Mara, you have to stay awake. "Hutchinson urged and shook her gently. "I know you're tired, but you have to stay awake for me, here…talk to Jack." He took Jack by his sleeve and pushed him to Mara's side. "Talk about your baby, okay and I'll get you something to drink. But stay awake for me, please."

"But I'm tired…and urgh…" Suddenly Mara pressed her hands over her belly. "Oh God…the baby…the baby…I…"

"What Mara? What is it?" Hutchinson asked worriedly.

"I…I think…my water….it broke…" Mara gasped out, her eyes full of tears. "Please, no…I don't want to have the baby now! Don't, please not now…"

"Let me see Mara…" Hutchinson soothed. He pushed the covers aside and after some minutes he nodded his head.

"Yes…you're right your water broke…but that's not that bad Mara, as long as you're not in labor we still have 24hours…

"And then?" Jack asked in a nervous tone.

"We worry about that when we have to!"

"But you've got a car outside. Why we don't drive her to a hospital?"

"You remember the snow storm? No chance, it's too dangerous. We could get stuck in the snow."

"But we have to do something! There're…"

"There're what?" Starsky asked, suddenly remembering what Mara said when she woke up. "What didn't you tell us?"

"Can we discuss this later?" Hutchinson hissed quietly and angrily glared at Starsky. "Mara is still too cold. We have to warm her and make her as comfortable as possible. Jack you lift her up and Starsky…we have to change the sheets and her clothes."

After that was done, Starsky didn't wait any longer. He stood up and gave Jack a sign to come with him. He saw that Hutchinson also stood up to go to the table to get himself some coffee. But before he could reach the table he swayed dangerously and would have fallen face down to the ground if Starsky wasn't there to keep him from falling. He doubled over in obvious pain and clutched his right arm into his lap.

"Shit…Starsky…" He grunted out. "Help me up…"

"Hut…ah Ken…what's wrong with you?" Starsky asked concerned and-counter to what Hutch had asked-used all his strength to keep him down.

"'S nothing…just my hand…"

"Let me see." Starsky ordered and tried to grab the hand in question but Hutchinson pulled it away.

"Leave it alone…I told you it's just sprained." His voice was muffled. "Just used it too much…"

"When it's only sprained then it wouldn't hurt too much to check it out, so let me see. We can do this the easy way or the hard way, so which way do you choose, Hutchinson?" Starsky's unyielding glance allowed no resistance and with a deep sigh Hutchinson finally gave up and allowed Starsky to get a better look at his injured hand.

"Damn it Hutch…" Starsky barked out when he took the hand into his own and saw the abnormal swelling and the black and blue bruises around the wrist. He immediately remembered the dreadful noise when Hutchinson's fist had hit Jenkins' jaw.

Hutchinson glared at him and pulled back his hand. "I told you not to..."

"I don't care what you told me…you've got a broken wrist, that's what I care about! And you didn't hurt it when you slipped in the snow, did you? It happened when you hit Jenkins, and that was what... three days ago! Why didn't you go to a hospital?"

"Oh back off! Since when you are a doctor, Curlyhead?" Hutchinson hissed out between gritted teeth. "It's only sprained…"

"Yeah, and reindeers fly…it's broken and you know it. At sunrise we get you and Mara to a doctor, end of discussion! But till then, you need a splint for that arm…"

"I don't need a splint, all I need is…"

"No…now you back off! Don't try to be as pigheaded as I am! I always win this game!" Angrily Starsky looked at Hutchinson, but then his features softened and he crouched down beside him, softening his voice. "So, how about I get us a cold beer?"

Puzzled Hutchinson looked up. "Sorry, what?!"

"I've got some canned beer in my car. Hopefully they're not frozen…"

"I don't think I can handle a beer now…"

"Sure you can…And then I'll take care of that hand of yours." Warningly he raised a hand to bar Hutchinson from saying anything against the plan. "Nope, no discussion about that Hutch. Then you're gonna tell me about your short guest performance as a doctor, understand?"

Too tired to answer Hutchinson nodded his head yes.

Satisfied Starsky stood up and headed for the door when Hutchinson called him back.

"Starsk…"

The dark-haired man glanced over his shoulder.

"Yep?"

"Thanks."

"For what?"

"Uh…for the fir tree! For hanging around with me, you dummy!"

'Oho…that was not so easy for him…'

"Oh…told you that my mother raised me well!" He glanced at Hutchinson and an amused smile spread over his face. "But tell me…since when did I agree to let you to call me 'Starsk'? I only allow my friends to call me that!"

The blonde man raised a brow. "Well I think since I allowed you to call me 'Hutch'!" Ken 'Hutch' Hutchinson said in quite tone, glancing back at David Starsky. His eyes sparkled with joy.

TBC