'Antacid Ain't Gonna Do It This Time' - by Stephanie White

"Man, if I never see another typewriter again after today, it'll be too soon!" growled Detective David Starsky as he struggled with the correction tape for what seemed like the 50th time that day.
His partner, Detective Ken Hutchinson looked up from his own typewriter with a smile. "Come on Starsk, it's not so bad. I bet you're just hungry. It's nearly two o'clock and we've been at this all day. Unless you've got a sandwich hidden somewhere that I'm not aware of, we've both skipped lunch."

The curly head looked up. Violet eyes meeting ice-blue eyes. "You're probably right. We been workin' so hard to get this stuff done before the weekend that neither of us thought about food."

"You forgot about food? That's one for the record books." Said Hutch, who then ducked as a pencil went flying past his head.

"Well, when you go downstairs, get me a tuna melt, would you?"

"Wait a minute, Starsky. I went last time. It's your turn. Besides, I don't have any cash on me today."

"What were you planning to do about lunch, then?" Starsky asked. Then, as Hutch gave him a 'please-sir-I'd-like-some-more' look he rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine. What do you want for lunch? I think I only have about six bucks on me, so no steak."

Hutch scratched his blond head and thought for a minute. "I think they have a veggie burger of some kind. Get me that and an OJ."

"Hey, Hutch. I know I've asked this before, but how come you don't like normal food? Would a real hamburger kill you?"

"Probably." Hutch answered with a grin. "Just get me the veggie burger, okay?"

"Okay, I'm going." Starsky rolled his eyes again and headed down the hall. He went downstairs to the cafeteria and got in line.

"Hey, Starsky," called Harris, a uniformed beat cop. "How're things in the interesting part of the station?"

"You think my job's interesting?" called Starsky good-naturedly. "It's report day. There ain't nothing interesting about it!"

"Yeah, well, it's more interesting than writing parking tickets. You want to see something really interesting? Look at this." He opened the bag he was carrying. He pulled out what appeared to be a half-dozen sticks of dynamite rigged with a short fuse. It also had what appeared to be a rudimentary timing device on it.

"Where the hell did you get that?" yelled Starsky eyeing the TNT warily.

"Some guy on our beat said it would make a great practical joke. He said this fuse was just a sparkler and the sticks are weighted with clay. Isn't it cool?"

"No, it ain't 'cool'! What about the timer? Did he say it would be great for timing a three-minute egg?"

"No, it's just a clock." Harris looked down at the 'clock'. His eyes widened as he realized it didn't have the current time on it.

"What's the matter, Frankie?" asked Starsky. "Clock stop?"

"No. It's counting down. This might be real after all!"

"How much time is left?" asked Starsky, beginning to panic.

"Thirty seconds!"

"Harris, get rid of it! Who the hell gave it to you in the first place."

Harris stood rooted to the spot. He didn't know where to run. "A guy named Macon - said you and Hutch might get a kick out of it!"

The name clicked in Starsky's panicked brain. "Hutch and I had him up on trafficking and murder. He jumped bail last week. Get rid of the thing!"

Finally, Harris was galvanized into action. He looked frantically around him until he found a relatively empty corner of the cafeteria. In a blind panic, he threw the bomb into the corner.

"HIT THE DECK!!!!!" yelled Starsky. There was a mad scramble as cafeteria workers and cops scampered for the door. Starsky was helping to herd people towards the door when the world exploded.

As he went down in a deadly storm of wood and plaster and metal, his last thought was that he was really glad Hutch was broke and not taking his turn at buying lunch. Then the world went black.

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

Hutch looked at the clock and wondered how he and Starsky could have skipped lunch. On the streets, it was understandable - criminals didn't keep a set schedule. This was desk duty! There was a clock on the wall and both of them had watches. His stomach growled and he smiled to himself as he thought about Starsky getting stuck buying his lunch. He shook his head at the realization that he would probably have to re-pay his friend. //Oh well, I can afford to pay him back for a veggie burger - especially since it really was my turn to get lunch today.// He thought to himself.

Suddenly, there was the sound of an explosion and Parker Center was rocked to its very foundation. Hutch looked up as small pieces of the ceiling rained onto his desk. He stood up and headed for the department's door just as Captain Dobey came running out of his office yelling "What the hell was that?"

"Don't know. Maybe the furnace exploded or something. You know how maintenance was always on the city to replace it."

Suddenly, a very dirty and disheveled Frank Harris came around the corner. He ran over to Hutch, nearly collapsing in front of the confused detective. Dobey and Hutch looked at each other, then back to Harris.

"What happened? You okay?" asked Hutch.

"I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry! I thought it was fake! I'm so sorry!" Harris was repeating like a mantra.

Hutch was starting to get a very bad feeling in his gut. "You thought what was fake? What happened?"

Harris was still babbling. Dobey finally grabbed his shoulders and gave him a good shake. "Get hold of yourself! What the hell happened?"

Finally, Harris took a few deep breaths and made his way over to a bench in the hallway. As he sat down, Hutch came over with a paper cup of water and gave it to the shaken officer. Harris downed the paper cup and sat breathing deeply - collecting himself. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he looked up at Hutch.

"I'm so sorry, Hutch. He was buried alive. I barely got out when the bomb exploded."

Hutch felt a cold hand grip his heart. He was almost afraid to ask. "W-w-who was buried alive?"

"What bomb?" asked Dobey at almost the same time.

"The guy who gave it to me told me it was a practical joke! He told me it was fake! I was stupid enough to believe him. I didn't know he had jumped bail."

Hutch, whose head was spinning at this moment, sat down next to Harris.
"Frank, back up. You're not making any sense. Take a deep breath and tell me from the beginning, what happened?"

Harris took a deep breath and began speaking. "Tony and I were on our beat and there was a guy who called us over. He said he had the greatest practical joke for the next policeman's ball. He pulls out a half-dozen sticks of dynamite with a short fuse and timer. He told me the timer was a clock, the fuse a sparkler and the sticks were weighted with clay. He said I should play this joke on you and Starsky. He said you guys were old friends and you'd get a kick out of it."

"Who was this guy?" asked Hutch, trying not to panic.

"Said his name was Macon." Harris' voice cracked. "Starsky told me downstairs that he had skipped bail. That was when I realized the bomb was real. Starsky was helping people out of the cafeteria when it exploded. The last thing I saw before I got out was the ceiling coming down on him. He was buried alive!" The frightened officer slumped on the bench, put his head in his hands and sobbed.

Hutch was filled with an irrational anger towards this young officer. "How in the hell could you be so stupid? Someone hands you what looks like a bomb, as a cop you should know to have the squad check it out before you even bring it into the building! Don't you ever check the wanted lists? He jumped bail last week! It wasn't like he wasn't on the damn list yet! My partner is very likely de...very likely hurt because you were stupid!"

"HUTCH!" yelled Dobey. "Calm down, son. I know you're worried about your partner. I am too. Yelling at him isn't going to help. Why don't you go down and join the rescue effort. I'll deal with Harris here."

Hutch gave the disheveled officer on the bench a withering glare before he rose and headed for the stairwell.

As he headed down towards the basement, his thoughts were in a whirl. Mentally, there was a very large foot kicking him in the head over and over as he realized that it should have been him.

//Hutchinson, you really are an idiot, you know that?// Kick. //Just because you didn't feel like stopping at the bank this morning, you get your partner buried alive!// Kick, kick. //What are you going to do when they dig his lifeless body out of the rubble? How will you live with yourself then?// Kick, kick, kick. //How will you live without him?//

The very large foot stopped kicking him in the head. Instead it aimed about two feet lower. Hutch gasped as the pain in his heart made him stop for an instant. He mentally shook himself and sent the foot away with instructions to return with steel-tipped boots if Starsky in fact turned out to be dead. He continued towards the cafeteria.

Once he got to the basement and rounded the corner from the stairwell, he stopped. The place where the cafeteria should have been was a mountain of rubble. It reminded him of a movie set he saw once. The set was a coalmine after a cave-in. On the set, it was Styrofoam rocks and hollow plastic 'wooden' beams. Here, it was real wooden beams, real plaster, real drywall, real wires, and a real cave-in.

There were several officers there already. Some had been in the cafeteria before it had exploded and some had come down when they heard the explosion. When they saw Hutch, they froze. They all knew Starsky had been in the cafeteria. They all knew about the partnership of these two men. They all knew that one couldn't function without the other.

Hutch saw them staring at him with sympathetic eyes. He couldn't stand it. It was as if they were ready to admit that Starsky was dead. Their looks made him feel like a child trying to awaken a grandparent that had died in their sleep - unwilling to admit death as a possibility.
"What are you all standing around here for? Are you waiting for another explosion to clear this mess? Come on, people! Start digging!"

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

Awareness returned slowly. Starsky opened his eyes and realized that he was alive. He tried to sit up, but a heavy weight on his chest and legs prevented it. He looked around and realized that he was in an area not much bigger than a coffin. There was light coming from somewhere behind his head and he realized that he had an air hole; he wouldn't suffocate...not literally, anyway.

Claustrophobia is a dreadful thing. As if the area he was trapped in wasn't small enough, it was closing in. Starsky tried to take a deep breath and found that he couldn't. The weight on his chest wasn't allowing it. He tried to push it off and nearly caused a cave in. He stopped as soon as he realized that the weight on his chest was also the only thing standing between himself and death. He fought down a rising panic. This was his worst nightmare come true. For a minute, he actually wished that Hutch were with him.

//That's stupid. If Hutch were here, he'd probably be dead or dying right now. You know you couldn't live with yourself if he died too. Besides, he's probably frantically digging you out now.//

That thought comforted him slightly and he closed his eyes. He knew that if he opened them again, the claustrophobia would kill him. He pictured himself walking on the beach. The sun was shining and the ocean and sky went on forever. There were seagulls strafing the water looking for fish and he was in the open, barefoot, bare-chested and happy. He took a deep breath of the salty air and suddenly the ocean was covering his head. He couldn't breathe! He fought his way towards the surface, but there was a weight pressing on his legs and chest that wouldn't allow him to come up for air. Gradually, the world went black again.

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

Hutch was pulling pieces of rubble out of the way and throwing them away when he came across a hand. He froze as he looked down at the decidedly male hand. He started digging faster. When he had uncovered the wrist, he felt for a pulse...nothing. His digging became almost frantic.

//Please, God! Don't let this be him! He doesn't deserve this! Please let him be okay!//

As he was praying, he felt slightly guilty wishing that someone other than Starsky was dead. But he knew that he couldn't live if Starsky didn't.
Gradually, an arm was uncovered up to the shoulder. The man was wearing a short-sleeved uniform shirt. Hutch let out the breath that he didn't know he'd been holding. He turned his attention to another part of the debris. He was digging with his bare hands, throwing debris every-which-way when a pair of strong hands grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back.

"It's okay, we can handle it from here."

Hutch turned around and came face to face with a fireman in full turnout gear. Hutch jerked away from the man. "Let me go! My partner's buried alive somewhere in there! I have to get him out of there!"

The fireman, undaunted grabbed Hutch's arm and hauled him back around to face him. "I know how you feel, okay? But you can't do anything more in your condition. We're professionals and we'll get him out."

"What do you mean, 'my condition'?" asked Hutch.

The fireman gestured to Hutch's hands. Hutch looked down as if seeing his hands for the first time. They were dirty, cut and bloody. In his frantic efforts to get to Starsky, he didn't notice the pieces of glass and metal cutting into his hands. Even now that he was aware of it, he didn't feel any real pain.

"Look, there are paramedics upstairs. Go up and have them treat your hands. You can see the victims from there as they come up, okay?"

Hutch didn't move for a long moment. Finally, he looked the fireman in the eyes. He was expecting to find a hard, professional face looking at him. He actually saw a pair of sympathetic eyes that seemed to know how it felt to lose a partner. He gave the fireman a weak smile and headed back towards the stairwell. The mental foot returned.

//You can't do anything right, can you?// Kick. //You were actually praying for someone else to be dead - how cold is that?// Kick, kick. //Look at what you've done to your hands. You know they're gonna send you to the hospital for stitches. You won't be able to be there for him. Smart move, Hutch.// Kick, kick, kick.

Hutch mentally shook himself as he got upstairs and found the paramedics.

Dobey came over to him as they were cleaning his hands. "How're you doing?"

"I'm fine! As soon as these guys finish, I'm going back down there to help dig."

"Not gonna happen." Said one of the paramedics. "You're going to need stitches for a few of these cuts. If you start digging again like this, it's likely these cuts will get worse and infected. You could lose your hands."

"Hutch, I'm going to drive you to the hospital right now. Then we're going to go see Huggy Bear about finding Macon."

Hutch opened his mouth to protest until he heard the words 'Huggy Bear' and 'Macon' in the same sentence. He decided that since they weren't going to let him dig, the least he could do for his partner was nail Macon's hide to the wall...and maybe his head to the floor.

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

Starsky returned to consciousness and regretted it almost immediately. The weight on his chest had become a steady pain and his breathing was getting difficult. He couldn't really feel his legs anymore. He hoped to God that fact didn't mean what he thought it meant. He opened his eyes - and regretted that almost immediately too.

His own piece of Hell seemed smaller this time. He wasn't sure if it was his imagination or if something more had caved in while he was out cold. He tilted his head back towards the air hole. It also seemed smaller. At least it wasn't gone - yet. He closed his eyes and tried to put himself back on the beach when he heard sounds of scraping and digging. He opened his mouth to shout and started coughing.

He coughed violently for nearly two whole minutes before he was able to get control of himself. He turned his head and coughed something up. He couldn't see it in the dark, but he knew the taste of blood in his mouth.
//Great, I'm coughing up blood. That's it, Hutch. Next time, we're brown-bagging it!//

He stretched his arms out as far as he could, hoping to flatten his body as much as possible to ease the pressure on his lungs a little bit, maybe try to slide out from under the beams that were holding him. The pressure followed him, but his movements did have an advantage...he felt something hard, cold and wet. It was a bottle. He grabbed it and held it up to the light. He was just able to make out the label and nearly laughed out loud when he realized that he now had a liter of water to get him through this ordeal.

//Thank God you were in the cafeteria!// he thought to himself. //Small favors.//

After the initial euphoria of finding the water came the challenge...opening it. More precisely, opening it with his eyes closed. As soon as he came down from the small joy of finding this lifesaver, his claustrophobia came back with a vengeance.

He closed his eyes and pictured the beach again. He saw himself sitting on the sand looking out at the horizon where the ocean and sky fought to see who had the better shade of blue. He saw the bottle in his hands and he tried to turn the lid. It was tight and didn't want to give. He tried harder and was rewarded with another coughing fit.

As soon as the coughing stopped and the lung that he had coughed up returned to its rightful place, he tried the bottle again. This time, he felt the lid move. He opened the bottle carefully and, with all the strength he had, tilted his head up to take a sip. The cool water slid down his raw throat and revived him a little bit. When he drank all he could manage (not very much, if you want to get technical about it), he carefully replaced the lid and tightened it just enough to prevent the water from spilling if he should accidentally knock the bottle over.

He felt around the small area some more until he felt a small piece of metal. He was about to pass it over when he got an idea. He picked up the metal and felt around the top of his coffin until he found what felt like a metal beam of some kind. He took the small piece of metal and started tapping on the beam: ... - - - ... ... - - - ... SOS, SOS. He closed his eyes and prayed as he kept tapping out his message. When one hand got tired, he switched hands. He wasn't going to stop until they rescued him or he died...whichever came first.

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

Huggy looked up from where he was wiping the bar to see Hutch and...Dobey?

"Hey, Hutch. Where's your other half, man?"

Hutch didn't say a word; he just motioned to a corner booth and went over to sit down. When Huggy joined them, Hutch said only three words, "I want Macon."

"Man, Hutch. Why not just ask me for the Taj Mahal? Macon skipped bail. He's gone underground. He's probably way outta town by now."

"Huggy, he's not out of town. He planted a bomb at the station. Right now Starsky's buried alive in the rubble. I want Macon and I want him now!"

"Man, that's heavy. That what happened to your hands?" asked Huggy, indicating Hutch's bandaged hands.

Hutch nodded. "I want you to check with every source you have. Call in every favor you've got. Find him. I want him yesterday."

Huggy looked at the blond man sitting across from him. The cold fury in the blue eyes scared him. He only ever saw Hutch like this when Starsky was hurt. He found himself feeling sorry for Macon.

"Alright m'man. I'll put out some feelers. I'll call you as soon as I've got something."

Hutch nodded curtly and headed out the door. Dobey looked at Huggy and shrugged apologetically. "They wouldn't let him dig. He's having trouble doing nothing."

Huggy nodded sympathetically, "I understand. Let me know when you find him, huh?" Dobey nodded and headed out after Hutch.

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

Once they got back to the station, the first casualties were being loaded into ambulances. Hutch ran around the stretchers trying to identify the wounded. Hoping that Starsky would be among them. He wasn't.

"I'm going to go check the rescue progress. Maybe I can help."

"Hutch!" Dobey called. He was about to tell him to wait for the professionals to get to Starsky when he saw the desperation in his eyes. "At least get a pair of gloves from the maintenance closet."

Hutch smiled at his captain before he ran for the maintenance room.
When he got downstairs, he stopped cold. In front of him was a row of about half a dozen bodies covered in sheets. They were all covered head to toe. There was nothing sticking out from under any of the sheets that would have made identification easy. The only thing he could tell by looking was male and female shape.

He went over to the first male form. He started to lift the sheet when he saw a flash of red hair. He sighed in relief and went to the next - blond. There were only two more male forms. The next one had dark, straight hair. There was one more to go. He lifted the sheet and saw dark curls. His breath caught and his hand started shaking. He stopped. He didn't want to see the rest of the face, but he knew he had to. He closed his eyes and pulled the sheet back from the face. He took a deep breath and forced himself to look at the deceased man.

It wasn't Starsky.

Hutch almost shouted in relief. Then he looked again at the man lying in front of him. He recognized Tony DeLuca, a rookie cop recently assigned to Metro. He didn't know much about Tony except that he was a rookie and engaged to be married - the entire male population of the station had been invited to his bachelor party. Hutch shook his head at the waste of a good life and replaced the sheet.

He made his way over to where the rescue workers were digging. The fireman who had pulled him out the first time looked up. "You just won't stay away, will you?"

"It's my partner. I have to be here for him. I can't be anywhere else."

The fireman seemed prepared to argue until he noticed the determination in Hutch's eyes. Then he motioned another fireman over to where they were standing. "Harry, you ready for a break? If you are, give this guy your helmet, would you? He's going to help dig."

Harry nodded gratefully. He handed his helmet to Hutch and moved off for a well-deserved break.

"See how those guys are doing it?" he pointed to some other rescue workers lifting rubble and putting it aside. When Hutch nodded, "follow their example. You might try over there." He pointed to a corner of the cafeteria that was decidedly short rescue workers.

Hutch moved over to the pile of rubble and began to work. He leaned down to pick up a large chunk of drywall when he thought he heard something. He cocked his head to the side and listened. It sounded like metal tapping metal. At first he thought it was the other rescue workers digging. Then he realized there was a pattern to it - ...- - -... ... - - -...

He turned and shouted, "HEY! There's somebody alive over here! He's signaling SOS!"

Three of the rescue workers came running over. Together, the four of them began moving rubble away. Hutch caught his breath as a hand was revealed. The hand had two small rings on the pinkie - Starsky's rings.

"Starsky? Can you hear me buddy? It's Hutch! I'm right here for you pal! Hang on. Please hang on for me!"

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

Starsky stopped tapping when he felt a draft blow across his hand. He realized that he was found. The blackness was creeping up on the outskirts of his vision when he heard the voice of his partner.

He tried to call out to his partner. He managed to yell, "Hutch..." before the coughing overtook him again. This time, it wasn't abating. He felt like he was drowning. He couldn't get any air into his lungs. The blackness overtook him and he was quiet.

Hutch heard his name being called and the coughing that followed. The other men heard as well. They doubled their pace. When the coughing stopped, Hutch called his partner's name again. There was only silence.
They redoubled their efforts until they uncovered Starsky's face...it had a decidedly bluish tinge to it.

One of the rescue workers leaned in, "I don't think he's breathing! You," he pointed at Hutch. "Do you know artificial respiration?" When Hutch nodded, "Good. Do it."

Hutch knelt down and tilted his partner's head back. He opened Starsky's mouth and pinched his nose. He took a deep breath and blew into his partner's mouth. As he repeated the action, he said a small prayer with each breath.

//Come on, Starsky! Come back to me! Please, God. Don't take him from me. Not like this! Come on buddy! You can do this! Breathe. Please!//
Gradually, more and more of Starsky was uncovered. The firemen called for paramedics who came over and pulled Hutch away. Hutch didn't want to let go, but he realized that these men could save Starsky's life if he wasn't in the way. He moved back and watched them work.

He watched as the men intubated Starsky and continued to assist his breathing as they prepared to insert a chest tube. As the blood drained from the tube, Starsky took a breath on his own. Hutch let out the breath he had been holding. He closed his eyes in relief and tossed the helmet back to Harry as he followed the stretcher upstairs.

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

Hutch paced the waiting room nervously. How many times had he done this before? Pace and wait for news on his partner. There were only so many times Starsky could go to death's door, ring the doorbell and run. Death hates that. It was only a matter of time before the Reaper caught up with David Starsky. Gunther's bullets had come awfully close. Hutch didn't think it could get any closer...until now.

"Hutch, sit down son. You're exhausted. Just sit and relax. The doctor will let us know something soon." Dobey had been watching Hutch pace in front of him for the past two hours and it was really beginning to drive him crazy.

"I can't relax! Starsky could be dying in there! It should have been me! It was my turn to get lunch today. I lied and said it was his turn! Because I was too lazy to stop at the bank this morning, my partner is lying in there dying!"

"It wasn't your fault! You couldn't have known about Macon. Harris was suspended for his negligence. Starsky'll be okay. He always is. Your pacing is doing nothing to help him. All it's doing is wearing a hole in the floor and driving me nuts!"

Hutch stopped and looked down at his captain. He muttered an apology and slumped into the nearest chair. He jumped up again immediately when the door to the waiting room opened. Hutch felt a pang of disappointment when he realized it wasn't the doctor, but Huggy Bear.

He sat back down and looked up at the tall black man. "What've you got for me Huggy?"

"How's Starsky? When I called Metro, they told me they had dug 'im up."
Hutch shrugged, "We haven't heard anything yet. He wasn't breathing when
they found him. He started again after we got him out. They don't know how long he was without oxygen. I think it was only a couple of minutes, but then I wasn't really able to pay attention to the time."

"Don't worry, your partner knows better than to leave this world without you. He'll be okay. You gotta believe that man!"

"What about Macon?"

"He's booked on a flight to Rio for tomorrow afternoon. He's using the name James Mason. My sources tell me he dyed his hair blond."

"James Mason?" Hutch actually laughed at that. "You're kidding! I think we'll have to meet him at the airport and tell him the actor wouldn't be happy knowing a murderer was using his name. What's his flight number?"

"American Airlines, flight 2818. It's supposed to leave at 4:32 tomorrow afternoon."

"I'll be there." Hutch's voice was flat and cold. Dobey recognized the tone.

"Hutch, don't do anything stupid. Don't give his lawyers any technicalities to work with."

"Who says I'm going to give him back to his lawyers?"

"Hutch, he's not worth it! Just make the collar. Let the courts do the rest."

"If Starsky dies, it won't matter anymore."

Dobey sighed and realized that if Starsky died, he would lose two detectives. Hutch wouldn't last without him...especially since he was blaming himself for putting Starsky in this position. At least the world wouldn't have to deal with Macon anymore - Hutch would see to that before he went.

After another agonizing two hours, a doctor entered the waiting room. "For David Starsky?"

Hutch was on his feet so fast; no one could swear he had ever sat down. "I'm his partner. How is he?"

The doctor sighed, "He's alive. We had some trouble stabilizing him. He had three broken ribs and his lungs collapsed. He's just lucky both didn't collapse at the same time. His left leg is fractured in three different places and we have to wait and see if the lack of circulation in the right leg caused any nerve damage. We had to remove his spleen to stop the internal bleeding. He's in recovery now and they're going to move him into ICU in a couple of hours. I'll let you know when you can see him."

Hutch listened to this report calmly. He didn't interrupt once. He heard 'he's alive' and that was enough for the moment. "I want to see him now."

The doctor shook his head. "Sorry, he's only barely stable. In the recovery area, if anything goes wrong and you're there, you won't be able to get out of the way fast enough. It's not big enough for visitors and medical personnel."

Hutch started to protest until he felt Dobey's hand on his shoulder.
"Come on. The doctor knows what he's talking about. We've got a couple of hours. Let's get something to eat. You must be starving after all that work without lunch. It's about dinner time anyway."

Hutch allowed himself to be led down to the cafeteria. Dobey sat him down at a table and sent Huggy up to pick out something suitable for the dazed man. The captain knew better than to leave Hutch alone. If he did, Hutch would be at Starsky's bed in the recovery room before he could say 'recovery room'.

Hutch ate what was put in front of him. Both Dobey and Huggy knew that it could have been sawdust for all that the blond detective cared.

After they finished their meals, they went back upstairs to the waiting room. After another hour, a nurse came in to say that Detective Starsky has been moved to a room in the ICU - only one visitor at a time, please.
As Hutch ran for Starsky's room, Dobey explained to the nurse that it was a good idea not to limit visiting hours for Hutch. He explained a little about the men's friendship and how Hutch's presence had a calming influence on Starsky. The nurse seemed to understand. She said she'd have to check with the head nurse on the floor, but she didn't see a problem with it.

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

Hutch entered Starsky's room quietly. Starsky was lying on the bed with both legs bandaged and elevated. There were IVs in both of his arms and he was on a respirator. The heart monitor beeped steadily and the only other sound in the room was the gentle hiss of the oxygen flow through the respirator.

Hutch walked over and pulled a chair up next to the bed. He sat down and gingerly took one of Starsky's hands in his own. He shuddered inwardly as he felt how cold his partner's hand was.

"Hey buddy. How're you doing?" Starsky didn't answer. Hutch went on anyway. "We got a lead on Macon. He's gonna try and leave town tomorrow. I'm not letting him go. Dobey's already talked to the airline. They're prepared to detain him if he gets there before we do."

"You need to wake up now. You should see the nurses on this floor! There are some really cute ones around. You've got a real knockout assigned to you. She's not married either. I overheard her talking to one of her friends. She thinks you're really cute. She's just your type too. You need to wake up before I decide to ask her out."

Starsky remained motionless. Hutch's composure was starting to slip. "Come on buddy! I am so sorry! It really was my turn to get lunch today. It should be me lying here. Please, Starsk. I need you. Please don't leave me like this! I can't live without you." He finished in a whisper.
The tears fell unchecked as he watched his best friend struggle for his life.

Hutch awoke to a hand on his shoulder. He looked anxiously at Starsky. His partner's eyes remained stubbornly closed. He turned around and saw Captain Dobey standing behind him. He realized that he had fallen asleep in the chair with his head on Starsky's bed.

"Morning, Hutch." Said Dobey with a kind smile. "Thought you'd want to go home and get cleaned up before heading over to the airport."

"What time is it?" he asked blearily. He looked at his watch, "Nine thirty?"

Dobey nodded. "The nurses said you dropped off to sleep somewhere around midnight. They didn't have the heart to wake you."

He turned back to the bed. "Hey, Starsk. You ready to get up yet?"
Starsky remained silent.

"That's alright babe. I have to go collar Macon, anyway. I'll be back later this afternoon, okay? Don't worry; you're in good hands here. Your day-nurse is even cuter than the night nurse. I'm sure Dobey or Huggy will drop by to visit while I'm gone."

With one last look at his partner, Hutch walked out the door.

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

After a shave, change of clothes and lunch, Hutch headed out to the airport. He positioned himself at the check-in counter. He went behind the counter and through a door marked 'Employees Only'. He flashed his badge and positioned himself to where he could see all the passengers as they checked in.

After an hour, he saw someone who resembled Macon except his hair was the wrong color. Then he remembered that Huggy had said Macon had dyed his hair. Hutch held his breath as he watched the girl behind the counter take the man's ticket to check him in. When she read the name, she bent down ostensibly to get a luggage tag. She turned and gave Hutch a thumbs-up sign.

Hutch threw the door open jumped out. As he vaulted the counter, he yelled "FREEZE MACON!"

Macon looked up, surprised, but only for a second. He seemed to realize that he couldn't outrun Hutch so he did the next best thing. He grabbed the woman that had been behind him line. He pulled a gun from his coat pocket and held it to the woman's head.

"Okay, Hutch. I see my little practical joke didn't have the completely desired effect. I'm guessing I got at least the Jewish half of the partnership since he's not here. Either way, I'm still getting on my flight and this little lady here is my ticket. You just back off or she gets it."

The woman was remarkably calm under the circumstances. She met Hutch's eyes and he saw fear there. He also saw determination. She wasn't going to go down easily. Hutch saw in her eyes permission to do whatever he had to do in order to stop this lunatic.

He looked at Macon with a cold fury that had been building since the day before. If it was bad at Huggy's, it was positively deadly now.

"Are you going to let her go or do we have to do this the hard way? You have no idea how much I want to do it the hard way."

Macon's eyes registered fear. He hadn't realized the consequences of taking down only one half of the Starsky & Hutch partnership. He knew he should have taken them out personally instead of relying on that naïve uniform.

That moment of distraction gave the woman the break she was looking for. She reached up and grabbed Macon's arm. In a move that would have made Bruce Lee proud, she twisted his arm around and pushed him down. There was a ripping sound as his arm was permanently dislocated.

Macon screamed as she got out of the way. He brought his other hand up and fired at Hutch. He was in too much pain to hit the broadside of a barn - even though it should have been an easy point blank shot. Hutch had no such disadvantage. He fired. The roar of the Magnum sounded louder than normal and he watched as Macon was thrown backwards.

He leaned down to the wounded man and put the cuffs on him. He smiled grimly as Macon groaned as Hutch pulled the dislocated arm and the arm with the bullet hole in it back into the handcuffs. He was surprised to find that he was glad that Macon was still alive. A quick death by shooting was not good enough for the man who made Starsky suffer.
As the paramedics and uniformed officers accompanied Macon out of the airport, Hutch went over to the young woman who had taken Macon down so effectively.

"That was some move. Where'd you learn how to do that?"

She smiled. "I'm a black belt in jiu-jitsu. That move ripped the tendons from his shoulder. He'll never use that arm again."

"I hate to keep you from your flight, but you're going to need to make a statement."

"You're not keeping me from anything. I was just in line to cash in these tickets. My boyfriend dumped me right before our trip to the Bahamas. There's no way I'm letting him use these for his new girlfriend." She smiled. "I know what you're thinking: why not take a friend instead? Well, no one I know can get off work on the required dates. So, I'll just get my vacation later."

Hutch grinned. "When were you planning on going?"

"Next week. It's okay, really. I can take my vacation another time. It's not a big deal." She looked at Hutch as if noticing him for the first time. "After I finish this and make my statement, you want to maybe get a cup of coffee or something?"

Hutch smiled. "I'd love to, but my partner is in the hospital and I really should get back there."

"Is that the 'Jewish half of the partnership' that he was talking about?"

"Yeah, he planted a bomb that had Starsky buried alive for several hours. We're still waiting to see if he wakes up."

"God, I'm sorry! I hope he's okay. Let me give you my number and you can call me if you need anything. By the way, my name is Smokey Bear. I know what you're thinking, but it really is my name. Before you ask, it's a long story and I know you want to get back to your partner, so I won't go into it now." She ignored Hutch's amused expression as she wrote her home number on one of her business cards. "By the way, is your name really Hutch?"

"Actually, it's Ken. Ken Hutchinson. You can call me Ken or Hutch, I'll answer to either."

She stepped back to look at him, cocking her blond head to the side. "Ken...hmmm. Nah, Hutch suits you better."

He grinned and was about to reply when the girl behind the counter called to him. "Your Captain Dobey just called. He said you should get down to the hospital right away."

Without waiting to say goodbye to Smokey, he took off full speed for his car. After nearly flooding the engine, he finally got the tired car started. He broke several land speed records and at one point, possibly the sound barrier to get to the hospital.

He ran through the corridors, his mind singing terror, //please, no! Don't let him be dead! Please God! I'll do anything! Don't let him die!//
Hutch ran headlong into Starsky's room. He was breathing heavily when he got to his partner's bed. Starsky's eyes were open and he was looking up at Hutch with a smile that couldn't be seen under the respirator, but could be seen in the eyes.

Hutch fell into the chair and took Starsky's hand. "Hey buddy. Welcome back!"

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

One week later -

It was a big day for Starsky. The final results on his legs were in...he kept the use of both of them. He was also coming off the respirator.
"Okay Dave, I'm going to remove the respirator. When I tell you to, I want you to cough as I pull the tube out."

Starsky coughed and the doctor pulled the offending tube from his throat. Hutch was immediately at his side with a cup of ice chips and a spoon. As the doctor left, Hutch was feeding the ice chips to his partner.
Starsky let the ice melt on his tongue and savored the feeling of the water as it slid down his dry throat.

Hutch put the ice down until Starsky was ready for more. "You know, you really scared me buddy. I thought I'd lost you."

"It takes more than a bomb to kill me!" Starsky rasped. "Macon still behind bars?"

Hutch nodded. "The judge denied bail this time. Bombing a police station tends to get the court's attention."

"What were you telling me about his arm?"

"The girl he chose as a hostage was a black belt in jiu-jitsu. She dislocated his shoulder for him...permanently."

"Wow! She must be some chick!"

Hutch fed Starsky some more ice. "She is, Starsk! She's something else. I'm taking her to dinner tonight. She's promised to tell me the story behind her name."

"Her name?"

"Smokey Bear! How's that for a name?"

"Any relation to Huggy?"

"Not unless he has any cute, blonde relatives that he hasn't told us about."

"Fair enough. What time are you picking her up? Why don't you take the Torino? That tub of yours will send her screaming."

"I'm picking her up at 6:30; she's already seen the car and doesn't seem to mind. Besides, you'd be a basket case before midnight if I took the Torino."

"Whatever, you should probably get moving. It's nearly 4:30 now."

"Okay, Starsk. You need anything before I go?" Then, as Starsky shook his head, "I'll see you later, babe."

He was almost out the door when he heard Starsky's voice, "Next time, you get lunch!"

He smiled and continued out the door.

End.