(c) January 2012 by Charlotte Frost


Alternate and post -"Ninety Pounds of Trouble" without the ninety pounds of trouble.


As Starsky danced with "Sid" Sidney Archer, his mind was only on keeping her occupied.  That meant keeping her interested.  Since she was the only person who knew what the real hitman Eddie Carylyle looked like, she was a danger to Hutch's life.  But as long as she never saw Hutch as Carlyle, Hutch could safely get the evidence he needed while undercover to see that Edward Schiller was put away for good.

Sid suddenly appeared restless.  "I need some cigarettes," she said.

Starsky had noticed that she smoked Marlboro.  He offered, "Why don' t you sit tight and I'll go and get them."  Nothing quite like being a gentleman to keep her interested.  After all, it was sounding like she was fed up with being one of Carlyle's girls, and that she was unhappily under Schiller's thumb, as well.  She seemed tired of her life, and had even mentioned, in a moment of uncomfortable vulnerability, that she would like to go with Starsky the next time he went back east.

He felt bad for her, and wasn't too happy about being yet another man who was using her.  Unfortunately, Hutch's safety made it necessary.

Starsky went to a vending machine in the lobby of the Miramar Hotel, counted out some change, and pulled the lever for a pack of Marlboros.

He scooped it up and then headed back to the lounge.  Just as he rounded the corner, he noticed Sid sitting in the booth, staring at the far wall, looking grim and unhappy. 

He hoped that didn't mean she was losing interest in him.

"Why so glum?" he greeted, handing her the cigarette pack.

She forced a smile as she opened the top.  "I'm wondering why my date hasn't appeared."

He watched her remove her lighter, and then took it from her, so he could light the cigarette she'd inserted between her lips.  "I think you need to face the fact that you've been stood up."  He handed her back the lighter and tried his most boyish smile.  "And I'd say that's a very fortuitous circumstance for us both."

She inhaled deeply from the cigarette, and then blew out the smoke.  "I still don't think it's a good idea for you to be here when he shows.  You don't know how mean he can get."

Starsky used his most confident voice as he softly said, "You let me worry about that."

"You know," she said, grabbing her purse, "I think I'd really like to take a walk right now."

Starsky held out his arm and smiled.  "Let's go."


Captain Dobey's phone rang and he answered, "Dobey here."

A harried voice said, "It's Officer Kromack at Memorial.  Carlyle attacked a physician and somehow slipped out!  I don't know where he is.  I'm sor -- "

"Dammit!" Dobey growled.  "Look for him!"  His stomach tightened as he slammed the phone down, and then picked it up again. 

"Dispatch!" he barked.  "Get me Zebra Three."

Seconds ticked by.

The woman in Dispatch said, "Zebra Three is not responding, sir."

Dammit!   "Get me the number to the Miramar Hotel."  Hopefully, Starsky was still there.


"Mr. Carlyle, say hello to Mr. Carlyle."

Hutch's heart kicked into high gear as he looked at the similar-looking man who stood before him.  He had to stay cool.  It was his only hope.

Dobey's concerned voice echoed in the back of his mind.  "I don't have to tell you two that there's about a dozen things that could go wrong with this little charade, including Hutch winding up on slab."

Why had he and Starsky been so confident that this could work?


Sid hung onto Starsky's arm as they walked in the afternoon sunshine.  "I admit to feeling a flight of fancy."

"Oh, yeah?" he inquired.  "What would that be?"

"I don't know you at all.  And yet, I'm wondering why we can't just run away together."

He wasn't attracted to Sid, but he did feel really bad for the situation she was in.  "Maybe we should.  And then you can get to know me."

"Are you really that unattached, that you could just up and leave?"

"For the most part."  Starsky was feeling all the guiltier that he was getting her hopes up.  He wondered if he should outright tell her that he was a cop, and if he and Hutch were able to get Carlyle and Schiller both put behind bars, then she would be free of them.  But that was a big promise to make. 

"Then I propose a game."

He paused to look at her.  "A game?"

"Yes.  I want to go back to my place and pack."  She indicated the hotel parking lot they were next to.  "I'll come back here in about an hour.  If you're here, then let's run away together.  If you're not...," she shrugged, "then I've been duped and a fool for letting myself enjoy your company."

Starsky's stomach tightened.  How could he know she wouldn't go looking for Carlyle?  Even though she seemed somewhat afraid of him, women tended to stay with men they were afraid of.  He said, "How do I know you aren't going to go looking for the man who stood you up?"  Of course, she wouldn't know that Carlyle was in a hospital, but she might contact Schiller, looking for him, and that would put Hutch in danger.

She smiled faintly at him.  "You jealous?"

Starsky smiled back.  "Perhaps.  How about I go to your place with you to get packed?"

She shook her head.  "This is a game about trust.  I want to trust that you're still going to meet me here an hour from now.  Besides, don't you have to pack if we're going to run away together?"

"I travel light."

Her eyes darkened with hope as she gazed up at him.  "I'm going to walk away from here.  You have to trust that I'll return in an hour, and I have to trust that you'll be here."  Slowly, she turned.  And then started walking.

Starsky watched until she got in her car a few moments later.  He thought he would try to catch her license plate number, but another car blocked his view, and then she exited from the far side of the lot.

He released a sigh and turned back toward the hotel entrance, wondering if she would truly be back here in an hour, or if she would lose her courage and not try to see him again.

In any case, he needed to call Dobey and see if Carlyle might have woken up. 

Starsky moved into the lot to the Torino.  He picked up the microphone and said,  "This is Zebra Three.  Please patch me through to Captain Dobey."

"Zebra Three, Captain Dobey has been trying to contact you."

Starsky's heartbeat quickened.  "Patch me through."

A moment later, Dobey said, "Starsky, Carlyle managed to escape from the hospital."

"Oh, no.  Is there any word from Hutch?"

"No.  We assume he's still with Schiller.  How did it go with Sid?"

"Hard to say.  I wasn't able to stay with her, though supposedly we're going to meet up again in an hour.  I don't think she wants to get in touch with Carlyle or Schiller, but it's hard to know for sure."

"This has gotten too dangerous.  We need to pull Hutch out.  If Carlyle shows up there...."

Starsky muttered, "Just how healthy could Carlyle have been?"

"I don't know, but he gave everyone the slip.  He knocked a doctor unconscious, and then dressed in his clothes."

"If he was going to Schiller's he would have had to change clothes again. So, he probably went back to his hotel room and saw that his stuff has been messed with.  I wonder if he'll try to get to Sid first, or try to get to Schiller first."

"Either way, Hutch has got to be gotten out of there."

"Yeah."  Starsky tried to be hopeful.  "Unless he's already left and has all his evidence."

"But if he couldn't get a hold of you, he would have called me," Dobey said.  "Which he hasn't.  Get down to Schiller Imports, Starsky.  I'll send some black and whites, and you can go in like you're busting Hutch for an old DUI or something."

"Yeah.  On my way."

Starsky hung up the microphone and turned the motor. 


Hutch had a sinking feeling when Schiller said into the phone, "Bring her in." 

Hutch kept looking at Carlyle, who sat across from him.  The man was unconscious earlier today.  Just how alert and strong could he be?

He appeared amazingly robust.  And pretty damned angry.

Damon and a dark-haired woman entered the office, the former saying, "I found her packing for a last-minute trip."

If she was trying to leave town, was there any hope that she might go along with the ruse?  Maybe Starsky had told her that he was a cop and that Carlyle and Schiller could be put away with her help. 

Hutch could only hope....

Carlyle stood.  "Hello, Sid."

She looked at him and presented an uneasy smile.  "Hello, Carlyle."

Hutch's heart sank.  Was this the end of the line for him?  Be cool.  Be cool.

She said nervously, "I waited for you for a long time.  Really."

Damon's gun pointed at Hutch.

He slowly stood, wondering if there was any way he could possibly get himself out of this.

As long as he breathed, there was hope.

Schiller said to Carlyle, "I'll make you a present of this one.  Just don't do it here."

Carlyle replied, "It's a pleasure."

Hutch's bowels quivered.  At least they were going to do it away from here.  That would give him time to try to figure something out.

With all that his nerves had been through the past couple of hours, his French meal hadn't digested.

"Damon," Schiller said to his main goon, "give him your gun."

If Sid was here, that meant Starsky had failed at keeping her distracted.  Then, surely, Starsky also knew that Carlyle had managed to leave the hospital.

Starsky, come on, buddy.

Carlyle was at his side, poking a gun into his ribs.  "I never did like that jacket.  Now I know why."

Stay cool.  Stay cool.

As they moved from the office into the warehouse, another goon joined them, moving at Hutch's left.  Carlyle was at his right, holding a gun on him, and saying something about showing Hutch, "a new way to die."

Hutch wondered what that meant.  That fact that Damon was behind him was bad news.  Three against one.

This was looking bad.  Once they had him in a car and drove away, they could stop at any desolate location, and he'd be a sitting duck.

Surely, Carlyle wanted this to be personal. 

They were moving to a Mercedes.  Hutch decided to speak, since he had nothing to lose.  "You're such a hotshot hitman, that you need two goons to help you carry it out?"

"Shut up," Carlyle growled.  Then he jerked his head at the new goon as they all stopped by the car.  "Take a hike."

"Carlyle," Damon protested.

"You drive," Carlyle directed.  "I don't need any help taking care of a pig who's messed up my day."

Damon said, "At least, let's tie his hands."

The second goon yanked Hutch's hands behind his back, while Damon went to the trunk and opened it.

If they tied his hands, that would handicap him greatly.  Yet, how could he try something when it was three against one?

Too late to consider options.  Twine was being wrapped around his wrists and pulled tight.

The door to the backseat of the Mercedes was opened and Hutch was shoved into the seat.

Carlyle got into the backseat from the other side, holding his gun on Hutch.  Then he reached and grabbed the hat off of Hutch's head.  "You look ridiculous in that, you piece of crap."

Damon got in the front seat and started the motor.  "Where to?"

"Somewhere nice and quiet.  I want to have a little fun with him first."

Good.  That would buy him time, however painful it might be to his person.

Hutch tried to calm his churning stomach.  The last thing he wanted to do was puke all over himself.


Starsky entered the warehouse of Schiller Imports.  There were a couple of black and white units waiting nearby.

A goon stopped him.  "Who are you?"

Starsky held out his badge.  "Police.  I'm here to arrest Eddie Carlyle."  Hopefully, there was only one Eddie Carlyle on the premises.

"He's not here."

"Then I want to see Mr. Schiller."

"Wait here."

The goon went to the office and knocked on the door.  When he was invited in, Starsky heard him say, "There's some cop out here for Eddie Carlyle."

Starsky pushed past the goon and into the office, still holding out his badge.  "Where's Eddie Carlyle?"  He then saw Sid sitting in a chair. 

Her eyes widened in surprise.  "You're a cop?"

"Yes," he told her.  Then, "I should have known you wouldn't keep your word."

"I wanted to," she said shakily.  "But they found me at my apartment and brought me here."

 "Where's Eddie Carlyle?" Starsky demanded, looking from Sid to Schiller, then back to Sid.  

Schiller's mouth corner twitched.  "Which one?"

Oh, God.

Sid said anxiously, "They're going to kill him.  The other one."

"Sid," Schiller growled in warning.

Starsky stepped closer to Schiller's desk, and raised his voice.  "Where are they?"  Then he tried a bluff.  "We've already gotten all the evidence on the union official you wanted hit.  You're going down, Schiller.  It'll be an easier fall if you tell me where I can find my partner and that cold-blooded killer."

"I don't know," Schiller replied innocently.  "I just told Carlyle not to do any killing here."

Starsky stared at him.  He was dismayed to realize he believed him.  "I'm coming back for you with a warrant," he growled.

He abruptly turned and left the office, rushing to the Torino. 

This industrial complex was on the outer edge of town.  If you were going to kill someone, surely you'd do it even farther away from town.


Hutch had escaped from a moving car once.  Or, rather, caused enough commotion to stop the car, which allowed him to fall out the door and start running.  He'd even been weak, beat up, and coming down from a heroin high at the time.

But he'd benefitted from the fact that he was running along city streets, thereby discouraging pursuit.

In this situation, he was far more mentally alert, but in a far more deadly scenario.

Hutch watched open pastures go by the side window.  He knew that Damon had engaged all the locks on the doors.  Even if he somehow managed to unlock his own door with his knee or elbow, it would be way too awkward a motion to do without Carlyle stopping him.

As much as he hated the thought, Hutch decided to save his strength for when the car stopped.

"Anywhere along here is fine," Carlyle said.

Hutch's mouth went dry.

"What are you going to do?" Damon asked.  He abruptly slowed and turned onto a dirt road.

"You let me worry about that.  You stay out of it, except for what I tell you to do."

Okay.  Okay.  He was going to just have Carlyle to deal with initially.  If he somehow managed to best him, then he'd worry about Damon.

The car went over a hill and then stopped.  The surrounding terrain was barren, except for scrub brush. 

Doors were opened. 

"Take him out," Carlyle directed.

Damon grabbed Hutch by the arm and pulled him out of the car.

Hutch's attention was on Carlyle as he came around the back of the car.  His enemy.

Carlyle eyed Hutch angrily and held his gun out to Damon.  "Hold this."

Damon took it and kept it pointed at Hutch.

Carlyle grimaced and said, "There's one thing I've wanted to do ever since I walked into Schiller's office."

Hutch knew what it was.  He decided to let it happen. It would be foolish to waste his strength defending against something that wasn't going to kill him.

Carlyle's right fist pulled back, and then shot forward and Hutch fell backwards into the dirt, landing awkwardly on his bound hands, his left cheek and jaw throbbing.

Carlyle had staggered to one side, as his arm finished the motion of the punch. 

The man was obviously feeling the pain from having fallen a couple of stories after Starsky had nicked his side with a bullet.

What's more, the force of the powerful punch had surely expended some of his energy.

But there was still the anger the be reckoned with.

"Get up," Carlyle spat.

Hutch wondered if it would be in his best interest to obey.

Holding the gun in one hand, Damon reached down with the other and pulled on Hutch's arm.  "Get up."

Hutch was still debating when Carlyle grabbed his other arm with a growl, and hauled Hutch to his feet.  He slammed him face-down against the hood of the car, and immediately pressed himself against Hutch

Hutch gasped for breath.  There was no mistaking the universal expression of dominance.  Hips ground against his buttocks.

Hutch heard and felt Carlyle's harsh breath against his ear.  But he couldn't feel an erection.

He was proud of himself for not panicking.

Carlyle eased up slightly.  "You want him, Damon?"

"Huh?"  Then, firmly, "No, Carlyle.  I'm not into that."

"You might be, if you want to try it.  There's nothing quite like shoving your cock up inside an uptight asshole and listening to the piggy scream."  A hand pressed heavily on the back of Hutch's neck.  "I'll hold him down for you."

The more they played with him, the more time Starsky would have to save him.

Uncomfortably, Damon said, "Come on, Carlyle, I don't do guys."

"It doesn't make you a homo, if that's what you're worried about.  It's about making it clear who's boss.  I'll have him suck you if you need help getting hard."

"Let's just kill him and split."

Carlyle pressed against Hutch again and hissed into his ear, "I bet the piggy's had cock before."  His hand went from Hutch's neck to his back and shoved him harder against the car, growling, "We might look similar, but you have an effeminate quality to you.  You've had cock before, haven't you, piggy?"

Hutch didn't see any point in answering.

Carlyle hissed, "I bet you liked it, too.  You want some dick for your final moments on this Earth?"

Hutch was just getting riled enough to taunt, "You couldn't get it up if your life depended on it."

He was jerked away from the car and turned around.  A knee came up and hit the inside of his thigh.  Hutch had no doubt it was intended for his groin, but Carlyle's aim wasn't so good.

Still, Hutch staggered back and fell to his knees.

"Cut him lose."

"What?" Damon asked.  "That's crazy."

"Cut him lose!  It's time for some target practice."  Carlyle grabbed his gun from Damon.

Shit.  Things were going to be a lot rougher now.

Damon opened the trunk of the Mercedes and spent a moment searching.  Then he came up with a pocketknife and approached Hutch.

Carlyle moved back farther, his gun stretched out in front of him.  "Come on, cut him lose.  My trigger finger's getting itchy."

Hutch gazed up at Carlyle, as Damon went behind him.

Carlyle's eyes were cold and full of hate.  Hutch had no doubt that Carlyle could look into his eyes and kill him. 

He couldn't count on mercy.  Only Carlyle's weakened condition.

The twine around his hands pulled and jerked.  Then, suddenly, the bindings were free.

Carlyle grinned.  "You've got five seconds, cop.  Then I start shooting.  One-one thousand, two-one --"

Hutch took off running up the hill, and back toward the two-line highway.  He zigzagged.  Just when he heard the announcement, "five-one thousand!" he dove to the ground.  Gunfire sounded, but he didn't see or hear the bullet hit anywhere.  When he heard a laugh, he wondered if the gun had been fired into the air.

Hutch raised up and started running again toward the highway, still zigzagging. 

Another shot was fired, and this time it hit the dirt a few feet from Hutch. 

Either Carlyle was still toying with him, or his aim was seriously off.

Hutch kept zigzagging, and as he came closer to the road, he heard an engine behind him, and realized they were going to gun him down from the car.  He ran parallel to the highway, which had only occasional traffic.  He glanced back to see the Mercedes coming down the dirt road.

Innocent drivers could be hit.  Hutch abruptly turned away from the highway.

Carlyle was either going to have to go after him on the rough terrain, or try to shoot him from the far lane of the highway.

He glanced back to see them opting for option one, with Carlyle's upper body stuck out the window, his gun extended, while a big cloud of dust extended from the back of the car.

Hutch began wheezing for breath.  He heard more shots hit the dirt near him.

The car was getting closer. 

He thought he heard sirens in the distance.

Hutch tried to find the roughest terrain that he could.  It was difficult to keep zigzagging, because he was so out of breath.

The Mercedes was getting closer, even as he heard it struggle on the terrain.

Hutch saw a shallow ravine ahead and made himself run faster.

When he thought he could run no more, he dived into it.

He scraped the side of his face and lay wheezing.

Sirens became louder.

He thought he heard a "Goddammit, I'm getting out of here!"

"No!" Carlyle protested.

Hutch tried to listen between gasps, but he could only hear the sound of his own breaths.

He staggered up toward the brief embankment, not wanting to be a sitting duck, in case the car was still coming for him.

He was out of energy.

There was the screeching sound of tires.  Gunfire.


Starsky was here.

Hutch felt the fight go out of him.

He vomited.  Minimally digested material came up his throat and catapulted to the ground.  Again and again. 

"Hutch, Hutch," Starsky gasped as he fell to his knees beside him.

Arms circled around Hutch's waist, pulling him away from the mess.  "I've got you.  I've got you."

Hutch couldn't help himself.  He was on his knees and his face collapsed into the dirt.

"No, no," Starsky protested, pulling on him.

That strength was overwhelming.  Hutch felt himself raised up, and then suddenly he was falling backwards.  Against Starsky.

He couldn't move.

He lay in an awkward sprawl, quivering all over.

"I'm right here," Starsky said in his most soothing voice, hand rubbing possessively along Hutch's chest.  "I've got you.  I've got you, boy.  Looks like Carlyle blew his own brains out."

Hutch couldn't think.  He could only breathe with sharp gasps.

"It's okay now.  It's okay."

His suite jacket was being worked with.

A uniformed officer approached.  "An ambulance is on the way."

"Great.  I think he needs to be checked over."

Hutch's right arm was lifted and the jacket encouraged off.  Then it was pulled away from him, and eventually his left arm was out of its sleeve.

It felt good to be free of the jacket's weight.

Something was dabbing at his mouth.  One of Carlyle's handkerchief's.  Starsky muttered, "I think you had the entire menu for lunch."

Hutch supposed that he had left quite a mess.

The cloth went away from his mouth, and now the lower buttons on his shirt were being unfastened.  "Dobey just drove up."

Starsky opened Hutch's shirt flaps.  "You able to stand at all?"

No.  Usually, coming down from an adrenaline rush was a delayed reaction, and he and Starsky could deal with it in privacy.  Not this time.

Hutch turned his head so his cheek could rest against Starsky's chest.  It made him aware of the scratches on that side of his face, but he didn't care that they stung.

Starsky massaged along Hutch's arm.  "You hurt anywhere that's not obvious?"

Hutch managed to shake his head slightly.

"Okay," Starsky said gently, "just give yourself some time."

Hutch let himself drift.  He could still hear himself breathe.

He was aware of an approaching figure, dress shoes against the dry dirt.

"Hey, Cap'n."

"How is he?"

"I think he's having a major adrenaline crash."  Shakily, Starsky added, "They were trying to gun him down from their car."

Dobey knelt.  He studied Hutch for a long moment.  Then, "Damon Williams is singing like a canary.  He's babbling something that sounds like attempted sexual assault against Hutch."

Hutch blinked rapidly.

Puzzled, Starsky said, "I don't think so.  He was fully clothed."

Hutch tried to gather his breath.  "Im'p'tnt," he said against Starsky's shirt.

"Hm?"  Starsky's ear tilted closer.

Hutch tried to still his trembling.  "Im.  Po.  Tent."  He heard a siren growing louder.

"I guess maybe Carlyle threatened it, but wasn't in any shape to.  Do you have a breath mint, Captain?"

"I might."

Hutch felt his shoulder squeezed while Starsky reached up with his other hand.  A moment later, something sweet was pressed against his lips.  "Take this, Hutch."

He let it rest in his mouth, the minty flavor a welcome taste against the sourness of stomach bile.

A siren abruptly ended.

"The ambulance is here," Dobey said.  "Do you think he needs a hospital?"

"I doubt it.  He could probably use some oxygen and his cuts need to be treated.  Maybe some water, too."

"All right.  I'll send them out this way."

Hutch watched Dobey move away.

"If you want me to take you home, you need to be responsive, Hutch."

Hutch felt Starsky shift behind him, and then he was shifted, as well, so he was sitting up a straighter.

A hand was placed on the top of his head.  "How you doin'?"

Hutch patted the chest he was resting against.  He didn't think he was trembling as much.

With fondness, Starsky said, "You're going to need to use real words with the paramedics."  Then, more seriously, "That was a close one, Blintz."

Hutch closed his eyes and pressed closer against Starsky's chest.  He felt himself bite down on the last of the mint, and he swallowed it.  He could still taste a lot of sourness.

Periodically, a hand squeezed his shoulder.

He felt he'd drifted off when he heard Dobey say, "Here's some water.  One of the paramedics will be here in a minute.  How's he doing?"

"He's like a rag doll.  He's probably been under a lot of stress for a quite a few hours."

Hutch felt Starsky's arms moving, and then his hand was placed around something plastic.

"Here, Hutch.  Here's some water.  Why don't you rinse your mouth first.  Spit it out into this."

Hutch felt cloth against his chin.  Probably the handkerchief again. 

He raised the bottle to his mouth and realized his arm was still quivering.  He poured water in his mouth and tried swishing it around.  His left cheek hurt.  He spit the water out. 

He took a larger drink and swallowed it.  The moisture emphasized the thickness and dryness of his throat, and he hunched over and coughed heavily.

"Atta boy, Hutch."  The hand moved from his head and patted his back.

He coughed some more.

He let his hand drop while he rested more heavily against Starsky, panting.

The bottle was taken from his loose grip.

Dobey said, "He's got a hell of a swelling on his cheek."

Gentle fingers were at his chin, tilting it.  "Yeah, and he's got scratches on this one."

Dobey shifted back, and a new voice said, "Who do we have here?"

Dobey replied, "Detective Ken Hutchinson.  He's been in a foot race for his life."

Hutch closed his eyes.

Starsky said, "I think he's having an adrenaline crash.  I'm sure he could use some oxygen, and he has cuts on his wrists and cheek that need to be disinfected."  Then Starsky said, "He doesn't want to go the hospital."

There was the noise of a metal box being opened.  A short time later, an oxygen mask was placed over Hutch's nose and mouth, and fastened to the back of his head.

Fingers settled into his hair.  "Relax, Hutch.  Let yourself breathe normal."

Strange fingers settled on his wrist for a few moments.  A short time later, he felt a cold stethoscope pressed against his chest.

"Can you take a deep breath and hold it?"

Hutch did, letting his eyes flutter open.  His whole respiratory system felt shaky.

"Let it out slowly."

Eventually, his sleeve was unbuttoned, and then pushed high up on his arm.  He felt a blood pressure cuff.

"Did he lose consciousness at any time?"

"No.  But he practically vomited up an entire meal, just over there."

"Ken, can you look up here?"

Hutch realized he'd started to drift again.  He looked up, and a pen light was shined into each of his eyes.

When the light was taken away, the paramedic asked, "How are you feeling?"  He pulled the oxygen mask away from Hutch's face.

"Weak and shaky," Hutch whispered.

"Your blood pressure is a bit low.  You'd probably benefit from being on an IV a few hours at the hospital.  But it's sounding like you don't want to go."

Starsky's hand rested against Hutch's bare chest.  "Not if it isn't necessary."

"Then you'll need to rest quite a bit and take lots of fluids, before you're going to feel recovered."  He let the mask rest back against Hutch's face.

"I'll see that he gets it."

"Okay, then, I'll treat his lacerations."  The paramedic turned to his box of supplies.

Dobey asked, "Are you sure he shouldn't go the hospital?"

"Come on, Captain, Hutch and I have been through this plenty of times before.  He just crashed faster than normal.  I won't let him out of my sight, once I get him home."

"Are we sure he can even stand up to walk to the car?"

"He'll make it to the car," Starsky said with determination.

Hutch wasn't that certain.  He was glad that he didn't have to move right now.

He left himself drift as his wrists were worked with, and he didn't bother reacting when he felt the sting of disinfectant. 

After a time, the paramedic said, "Let's get rid of this."  The oxygen mask was removed from Hutch's face.  "He ought to have some ice put on his cheek.  Looks like he got belted pretty good."

"I'll take care of it."

"Ken?  Can you open your mouth and move your jaw?"

Hutch let his mouth fall open.

"Move your jaw back and forth."

Hutch did.  It hurt on one side.

"That looks good."

Starsky said, "He's got scratches on his other cheek."

Hutch felt Starsky shifting behind him, and then a lifting motion.  "Come on, Hutch, let's sit you up a little straighter."

"Water," Hutch whispered, after he was supported in a more perpendicular position.  His mouth was so dry.

The plastic bottle was placed in his hand.  "There you go."

He raised it and drank until it was empty.

The paramedic was wiping something against his scraped cheek.  When Hutch felt a stinging sensation, he grunted a protest and moved his head away.

Starsky squeezed Hutch's shoulder.  "He's coming out of it."

The paramedic said, "I need you to hold your head still.  I'll be done in a minute."

Hutch decided to tolerate the first aid.  He looked at Dobey.  "Harry McCartney is the union official Schiller was going to off.  He met my demand for fifteen thousand to do it."

"Good.  Sounds like, with Damon Williams' testimony, that should be enough to put Schiller away."  Dobey knelt awkwardly, next to Hutch.  "I'm telling you both, this was just a little too close for my taste.  I should never have agreed to it."

"We got Schiller," Starsky protested.

"Almost at the cost of Hutchinson's life.  That's too high a price to pay, in my book."  Then, more forcefully, "Sometimes I wonder if you two are too addicted to the adrenaline rush."

Hutch didn't see the point in arguing about it now.  But maybe, at a calmer time, him and Starsky could re-evaluate....

A large Band-Aid was smoothed against Hutch's cheek.  "All done here," the paramedic said. 

"All right, Hutch," Starsky said, shifting again.  "Time to get those long legs underneath you, so you can stand up."

Dobey grabbed his arm, and Hutch made the effort to stand.

He felt woozy and instinctively turned toward Starsky, leaning against him.

Starsky gripped him firmly by the waist.  "You gonna make it, pal?"

Hutch took a step forward.  Maybe this wouldn't be so hard.

He could walk.  Dobey still maintained a grip on the arm that was opposite Starsky.  The physical contact on both sides of him seemed like a lifeline for, as Hutch approached the highway, and all the police vehicles, and the ambulance, and the coroner's wagon, the scene felt disconnected.  Something outside of himself.  Something that he was observing, but not a part of.

As they came closer to the Torino, which had the driver's door open, Starsky said, "You wanna be up front, or lie in the back?"

He couldn't think of any reason not to lie down, and keep himself distant from all this... ruckus.  "Back."

"I'll need your report in the morning," Dobey said. 

Starsky replied, "We'll take care of it."

There were some awkward moments, but they got him into the backseat of the Torino, he's knees drawn up so he could fit in the seat while supine.  After a moment, there was the sound of the trunk closing, and then Starsky was spreading a blanket over him, and then leaning into the car to tuck it around Hutch.

Before long, they were moving.  Every once in a while, Starsky would ask, "How you doing?"

Hutch only grunted in reply.  He didn't want to have to make any further effort than that.


"Time to unfold yourself out of there."

It seemed to take a while to untangle the blanket from around him.  Then to sit up.  Then to actually get out of the car.  Hutch was feeling more alert, but he wasn't sure that he wanted to be.

They stood beside the car with Starsky's arm around him.  "The big question is, do we head for the bed, so you can sleep this off, are do we head for the sofa, where I can be with you and just let you chill out?"

"Can't sleep," Hutch muttered.  He was too alert for that.

They went up the stairs.  Hutch felt a lot more stable on his feet.

While Starsky reached for the key overhead, he said, "The next big question is:  What do you want most right now?"

That was easy.  "To not have to think."

Starsky unlocked the door and pushed it open.  "Okay.  One no-thinking Starsky pampering coming up."

As soon as they crossed the threshold, Starsky said, "In fact, step one is to get you washed up somehow.  You smell like dirt.  We just don't want to get the bandages on your wrists wet."

Hutch didn't think his wrists were injured enough to have needed bandages, but he wasn't interested in arguing.

He was guided into the bathroom.  Starsky put the toilet lid down and prompted Hutch to sit on it.   "Get undressed.  We'll just do a super fast shower.  You'll need to hold your hands out of the way and I'll wash you with a washcloth."  Starsky pushed the shower curtain aside and turned on the water.  "Hopefully, that Band-Aid on your face is water resistant.  If not, we'll replace it."  Then he removed his jacket, his shoulder harness, and his outer shirt.

It was a quick process.  Hutch got under the spray, holding his hands out, away from the water.  While standing beside the tub, Starsky washed him with quick strokes of soapy washcloth, starting with his face and moving down, stopping at his waist, and letting the shower spray do the rest.  He then turned Hutch around and did his back, and then his armpits.  He applied a small dollop of shampoo, and made fast work of working it into Hutch's scalp, and then letting the spray rinse it off.

As soon as Starsky shut off the water, Hutch gratefully dropped his arms.  Starsky made sure Hutch stepped out of the tub okay, and then thrust a towel into his hands.  When Hutch had finished toweling, there were fresh sweats waiting for him on the toilet seat.

Hutch emerged from the bathroom, dressed in the sweat suit, and feeling wonderfully clean.  Starsky threw a quilt around him and guided him to the sofa.

By the time he was sitting down, Hutch realized he should have paid more attention.  Starsky had wrapped him so that he was almost like a mummy, with his arms trapped inside the quilt.

Starsky had put some water, juice, crackers, and an icepack on the end table.  Now, he sat up against the arm of the sofa and beckoned Hutch to rest against him and bring his feet up on the cushions.

Starsky settled the quilt more snug around Hutch, and then draped an arm over Hutch's shoulder.  "i don't think you're shaking any more."

Hutch grunted.

"I've got some pineapple juice here."

Hutch grunted again.

Starsky turned to the end table, and then held a glass in front of Hutch's face.  "Is your arm stuck?"

With some effort, Hutch was able to maneuver his right arm free enough to take the glass.

The juice tasted refreshing.  When the glass was empty, he held it up, until Starsky took it from him.

Starsky said, "Here's an ice pack.  I'll hold it, if you want."  He pressed it against Hutch's throbbing cheek.

Starsky's other arm came around Hutch's quilted form.  "Relax, Hutch."

Hutch made a point of releasing a long breath.  He let his weight grow heavy against Starsky, his head resting against his shoulder.

"If you need to talk, go right ahead.  For that matter, I'd really like to know what that attempted sexual assault was all about."

 Hutch gathered his breath.  "It hardly qualified as attempted."  It was difficult talking with the icepack next to his cheek.

"Yeah?"  Starsky eased up slightly on the icepack.

"Yeah.  Carlyle had shoved me over the hood of the car.  My hands were tied behind my back.  He was pressing himself against me, but he didn't have a hard-on.  And then he tried to get that Damon interested, but he didn't want anything to do with it.  Carlyle was more or less taunting us both.  When I'd had enough, I told him he couldn't get it up if his life depended upon it.  That made him mad.  He turned me around and tried to kick me in the groin, but he missed.  I think he was really feeling his injuries."

Starsky's arm tightened around Hutch as he whispered, "I'm sorry about that, buddy.  I'm sorry you had to go through that."

"I could have handled it, if it would have kept me alive.  I knew that the longer they toyed with me, the better chance you'd have of finding me."

"Yeah, well, you must have gotten away from them, if they were trying to run you down with the car."

 "No.  He had Damon cut the rope so I was free.  He wanted to gun me down while I was running."

"Jesus Christ."

"Surely, he would have got me if he hadn't been hurting."

Starsky's arm tightened again, and he pressed his cheek against Hutch's hair while whispering, "I'm so glad you're all right."

Hutch remained still, letting Starsky take what he needed.

When the cheek moved away, Starsky confessed, "I couldn't keep Sid's interest.  Or maybe I had her too interested.  She wanted us to run away together.  She was pretty eager to get away from both Carlyle and Schiller.  She said wanted to go back to her place and pack.  I was worried she might contact try to contact Carlyle or Schiller, but I couldn't hold her."

Hutch said, "Carlyle had shown up at Schiller's.  At first, they believed that I was the real Carlyle and were going to get rid of him, but then he said if they could find Sid, she'd identify him."  Hutch paused, before continuing.  "So, we both sat in the office for about an hour, staring at each other.  I kept hoping that they wouldn't be able to find Sid.  And if they did, I was hoping that maybe you'd ended up having to tell her you were a cop, and maybe she'd be willing to play along with the charade."

Starsky sighed, and said regretfully, "I thought about telling her.  Especially since I felt bad about wooing her.  But I couldn't trust that she wouldn't go right to Schiller with the information.  Sorry, buddy.  I can't imagine how rough that wait must have been, and then have it not turn out like you'd hoped."

Hutch said dryly, "I think my undigested lunch speaks for itself."

Starsky snorted.

He pressed his cheek against Hutch's hair again and said, "I'm not sure I want to do any more of these jobs where just one of us is undercover.  It's too risky.  We can't watch out for each other."

Hutch was silent, though he was surprised at Starsky's statement.

Starsky continued, "It all worked out this time.  Again.  But one of these days, Blintz, we're not going to be so lucky.  And then it'll be too late."

Evenly, Hutch said, "We've always known that."

"Known that and accepted it," Starsky confirmed.  Then his voice softened.  "I'm starting to feel that the price his too high."  His voice dropped even more and became gruffer.  "Losing you.  I just can't shrug that thought off anymore.  If that happened, I couldn't go, 'oh, well, it's part of the job.  It happens.'"  His arm tightened.  "You know?"

Hutch knew.  As he wondered how to answer, he remembered that he was supposed to be pardoned from having to think.

Starsky's mouth moved against Hutch's hair.  "When I signed up for this job, I didn't know that it was going to include loving somebody this much."

Touché, buddy.

Hutch was sorry that his arms were inside the blanket.  He wanted to squeeze Starsky.  Instead, he asked, "Are you saying that you want to get out?"  He wasn't sure how he felt about that.  Or maybe it was more a matter of not believing it.

"I don't know," Starsky replied.  "I know I don't want to be doing these high risk jobs where just one of us can be taken out.  I can face it if we both go out together.  We're the ones that created the brilliant idea for you to be Carlyle.  I'm wondering why we were so certain that it would be so easy.  And I can only figure that it's because we've always gotten away with the risks before."

Hutch swallowed thickly.  "If we aren't going to give a hundred percent of ourselves, we shouldn't be out there at all."

Firmly, Starsky countered, "We didn't have to take this job, Hutch.  We're the ones who talked Dobey into it."  Then he muttered, "Maybe he's right about having an addiction to adrenaline."  Then he hesitated for a long moment, before saying plaintively, "I don't want to lose you.  Especially if it's because I couldn't do my part of the job and keep my mark adequately distracted."

Starsky's arm rubbed down the front of the quilt.  He whispered, "I don't like thinking of you being under all alone, and bein' so scared."

Hutch said honestly, "I'm not afraid of the fear.  You know?"

"That's what worries me, dummy." Then softer, "One of these days, we're going to push the envelope too far.  Or just one of us is going to push it, and then the other is left behind, and that would be even worse."

Hutch wasn't sure what Starsky wanted from him.  So, he reminded, "I thought I wasn't supposed to have to think."

Starsky snorted with amusement.  Then, "You're calmer though, aren't you?  Hm?  Feel like you're coming back into yourself?"

Hutch glanced around at the walls.  He was indeed feeling more like he was participating in life, rather than merely observing his surroundings.  But then, being with Starsky tended to have that effect.  He even realized that he was tired of the cold against his cheek.  "You can put the icepack down."

Starsky removed it.  "How about some crackers?  Your stomach ought to be behaving now."

Hutch was able to raise his arms enough within the blanket to accept the stack of saltines that Starsky handed to him.  He ate slowly, enjoying the texture and the crunch.  When he had finished the last one, Starsky handed him a glass of water.

After Hutch had finished it, and handed the glass back, he realized that he'd eaten in silence.  He tilted his head up to see Starsky's contemplative expression. "What are you thinking about?"

It was a moment before Starsky replied.  "I'm not sure I want to tell you."

"Then that makes me want to know all the more what it is."

Starsky released a long sigh.  Then, quietly, he said, "I'm thinking about Gillian Ingram."

Hutch blinked, and felt the crackers shifting within his stomach.  In the past two years, she had become something of a taboo subject -- like most of his and Starsky's other serious relationships.  "Why?"

"I was remembering when there was all that trouble in the porn district because of the Grossmans.  There was that one time when we were involved in a shootout in an alley, and you froze."

Hutch wished he didn't remember that.  He was grateful that Starsky's tone was merely informative, and not accusing.

"In looking back, it seemed like you'd suddenly decided you had a reason to stay alive, and for a moment, you didn't want to take the risk of getting involved in a shootout."  Starsky paused, and then softly, "I'm thinking I understand now what you were feeling then."

Hutch furrowed his brow.  Where was his partner's mushiness coming from?

Even softer, Starsky said, "And then there was that afternoon when I went to see Gillian, to tell her that she had to tell you what she did for a living.  It was so hard to find the words," Starsky's voice momentarily choked, "because I felt like I was ruining it for you.  You were so happy, and I was going to ruin it.  But I knew it was going to be ruined inevitably."  He released a breath.  "Anyway, she agreed that she would tell you that night, and I told her I would the next morning, if she couldn't bring herself to do it.  Just as I was leaving her apartment, she said something about how wonderful it must be to be you.  She said, 'In one lifetime, have two people who love so much.'"

Hutch's heart beat faster.

Starsky went on.  "I hadn't really thought about it before, you know, loving you because you were you.  I mean, I loved you like crazy because you were my partner.  My lifeline in the hairy situations that we get involved with on the job and by extension, outside of it."  Starsky was silent a long moment.  "And then, you know, people love their family because they're family."  Another silence.  And then, unsteadily, "It's starting to feel like what you mean to me is no longer just because you're my partner.  If we somehow ended up being away from the force and doing something totally different, I'm sure you would mean just as much to me."

Hutch thought that Starsky's words almost sounded like a confession.

Starsky said, "I want to believe that, had things worked out between you and Gillian, that I would be in the picture just as much as before.  And if Terry hadn't died," his voice roughened, "that you would be in our lives day in and day out.  Not just when we were on shift."

Hutch was silent, not certain what Starsky was needing from him.

"I don't want to lose you, Hutch."

Hutch abruptly sat up, the quilt still wrapped around him, for an all too recent memory popped into his mind.  "Do you think I'm effeminate?


"Do I look effeminate?  Carlyle said that I did."

Now anger.  "How the fuck can you let a creep like Carlyle get to you like that?  He was just taunting you, Hutch.  Trying to make himself feel tough by belittling you."

"I actually don't think he meant it as belittling."

"What are you talking about?"

"I think he thought I'd really done it before.  With guys."

Starsky's mouth fell open.  Flustered, he said, "Hutch, you are hands-down the bravest and most strongest person I've ever met in my life.  You're also drop-dead gorgeous.  If being gorgeous makes a guy 'effeminate' to creeps like Carlyle, then I don't see why you're worried about it."

"I'm not worried.  I just... wondered.  Why I struck him that way."  Hutch lowered his voice and muttered, "If I struck you that way."

"Why would you think so?"

Hutch shrugged.  It was a good question, he supposed.  Then he realized, "The way you were talking just now.  About how much I mean to you."  Hutch made himself meet Starsky's eye.  "Which I hope I don't need to say is mutual, by the way.  I-I just wondered what you see when you look at me."

Starsky's voice lost it's edge.  "Hutch, I'm not sure I can even think of you in terms of exteriors.  We've been through so much together, that when I think 'Hutch', I get a feeling, not an image.  You know?"

Hutch's mouth corner twitched.  "And yet you said I was gorgeous."

Starsky was flustered again.  "Well, yeah.  In the same objective way I can say that Robert Redford is.  You wouldn't call him effeminate, would you?"

Hutch lowered his gaze, deciding that he'd been avoiding the question he really wanted to ask.  "What do you do want to do?"

"I want us to start thinking in terms of other possibilities.  Over the next year or so, I'd like us to form a plan about what we're going to do next.  Which may include being on the force.  Or it might not."

Hutch had never thought he would hear Starsky suggest the possibility of getting out.

Starsky pressed, "Can you agree to that?"

Hutch decided that he didn't need to think about it.  "Yeah."

"And in the meantime, no more undercover jobs when it really isn't necessary, especially when it's just one of us going under."

"We saved a man's life today.  That union official, Harry McCartney, was supposed to be murdered by Carlyle."

Starsky grimaced.  "It wouldn't have happened today, not with the shape Carlyle was in.  Besides, we could have tailed him and stopped him.  We can still save lives without putting ourselves in such a direct line of fire.  We didn't have to go about nailing Schiller this way.  Carlyle was just a bonus, and he offed himself anyway."

Hutch realized that there was still a puzzle piece out of place.  "How did you find where we were?"

"Sid had left me at the hotel, because she wanted to go home and pack so we could run away together, and said she'd be back in an hour.  After she left, I contacted Dobey, and he said Carlyle had escaped from the hospital.  So, that's when we had to pull you out.  I went to Schiller's, hoping I'd just find you there, and pretend to have a warrant so I could arrest you to get you out without Schiller being any the wiser.  But by the time I'd arrived, you all had left, and it was just Schiller and Sid.  When I demanded to see Carlyle, he asked 'which one' and I knew you were in real trouble.  Sid confirmed that Carlyle was going to kill you.  Schiller didn't know where, so I figured it had to be away from the city.  I started driving out the highway, and had some black and whites with me, as well as some other units patrolling nearby areas, to see if they could see anything.  Then somebody with a fancy telephone in his car called the police and said he saw somebody running for his life by the roadside.  We weren't that far away, so we turned on the sirens and gunned it."

"I was hoping you were looking, because when Sid showed up, I assumed you must have figured out by then that Carlyle was no longer in the hospital."  Hutch snorted.  "He sure was able to put on a good act of being perfectly healthy."

Starsky straightened and reached to place his hand behind Hutch's neck, squeezing.  "Once you -- "

Hutch abruptly jerked his head back, his eyes glaring a warning at Starsky, who took his hand away.  His heart was pounding.

They stared at each other.

Hutch quickly shook his head, as he realized what had just happened.  "S-S-Sorry."

With extreme gentleness, Starsky beckoned, "Tell me."

Hutch swallowed thickly, afraid it would sound silly.  "W-When he had me bent over the car, h-h-his hand was on pressing on the back of my neck, holding me down."  The last thing Hutch wanted was for the touch of someone who hadn't even been man enough to face the consequences of his actions, forcing a wall between he and Starsky's most eagerly sought way of communicating.

He bowed his head, exposing his neck.  "Do it again."

Starsky shifted  on the sofa.  "Easy, Hutch," he said softly.  He squeezed Hutch's shoulder.  "It's okay.  It's okay that it scared you."  HIs hand rubbed, slowly, gently above Hutch's shoulder blades.  A thumb rubbed at the lower part of his neck.

Hutch let himself go slack, but he could still feel his heart pounding in his chest.  He muttered, "I was proud of myself for not panicking when he was holding me down, trying to get Damon interested."

Fingers moved in a circular fashion, massaging into his skin, moving farther up his neck.  "I'm so proud of your for doing what you needed to do to survive.  For staying so cool through it all."  The hand rubbed along the back of his heck.

Hutch's stomach tightened.  A part of him didn't like the feeling, didn't want the hand there.  But fingertips continued to massage, making it feel different than it had before.  Healing.  Nurturing.

He swallowed loudly.

"You doin' okay?"  The hand continued to love along the back of his neck.

Hutch hoped his laxity was answer enough.

Starsky's other hand moved.  "Come 'ere."  He tugged gently on Hutch's arm.  "Lay down here and let yourself drift.  Give into the trust."

Hutch let himself fall against Starsky, his head landing on his chest.  The quilt was pulled tighter around him.

He felt fingers still massaging along his neck.  "You can let yourself go.  I've got you."


Hutch opened his eyes.  He wasn't at all tired, but it seemed that he'd been sleeping.  He realized he was still against Starsky.  "How long?"

A thumb rubbed along his neck.  "You've been sort of dozing for maybe half an hour."

The hand at the back of neck didn't bother him.  Starsky had fixed it, fixed the problem.

Now Starsky's voice was strained.  "I need you to shift.  Your hipbone's pressing against my crotch."


Hutch started to rise, but Starsky pressed against his neck, and pushed against his hip.  "Don't get up.  Just shift a little."

Hutch moved his hips away, so more of his weight was taken by the back of the sofa.

Starsky sighed with relief, and moved a little on the cushion.  "That's better."

He beckoned Hutch's head to lie back against his shoulder.

Fingers furrowed through the strands of Hutch's hair.

With quiet seriousness, Starsky said, "We need to start making long-term plans to get out."

"Yeah."  Hutch didn't need to ponder the whys or wherefores anymore.

They were silent for a long time.

Hutch said, "I want to go in now and do the report.  I'm all right."  Thanks to you.

"You sure?"

"Yes, lazy."

Starsky snorted.  But he didn't move.

Hutch shifted and planted his lips against Starsky cheek.  He started to straighten.

"What's that for?" Starsky asked evenly.

"For arriving in time to save me."  Hutch furrowed his brow as he staggered to his feet, wondering if that's what he was really trying to say.  He bent down, and this time touched his lips to Starsky's.  He didn't dare linger, but straightened quickly.

"What's that for?"

"To prove to you that I meant it when I agreed to being open to more possibilities, including what we're going to do next together."  Hutch realized he had put a subtle emphasis on the word 'together'."

Starsky gazed up at him.  Silent.

Hutch grinned and reached to ruffle Starsky's hair.  Then he turned toward his bedroom to get dressed.

He wondered if he had set something into motion.  Something that couldn't yet be defined.

He supposed that if he had, it meant that they were ready.  And if nothing further was said, then they weren't.

He could live with it either way.  As long as they both were always together.




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