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The most used disclaimer:
The TV show "Starsky and Hutch", and the characters from it
are the property of the persons who hold the copyrights
and other legal rights to them.
This story is a work of fiction, written for pleasure only
and not for profit. It is not intended, in any way,
to infringe on these preexisting copyrights.

FRIENDS FIRST

A post Sweet Revenge story

by Jacqueline © September 4, 2001


It had hit him like a blow in the gut by the world heavyweight champ.
Over.
Finished.
Never on the streets again.
Perhaps a part-time desk job.

Four months ago, when he was finally well enough to start physical therapy, everyone had been elated.
Granted, the fact that he was still a citizen of the planet was a miracle in itself, which far exceeded anyone's expectation as they remembered what shape he'd been in when he was rushed into the hospital that fateful spring day.

And there had been many miracles in his life lately.
Every improvement, especially after his cardiac arrest, was a miracle.
From the moment he wasn't intubated anymore but only needed a nasal cannula for supplementary oxygen, to the moment he'd first opened his eyes.
The moment he'd swallowed his first spoonful of gelatin.
The moments his bed was raised each time a bit more to a seated position.
All those moments had been miracles, victories, for the man who shouldn't be alive, who had actually died for 14 minutes until it was decided it wasn't his time yet to leave.

Perhaps he'd gotten used to those miracles.
First he heard he shouldn't have lived past the moment the bullets impacted on him.
Then he heard he shouldn't have lived past the bumpy ride to the hospital.
Past the treatment in ER.
Past the surgery which lasted 9 hours.
Past the coma, past the cardiac arrest -----.
Could it be he'd become so used to those miracles that he was deluded into thinking he actually wasn't a mere mortal? That he truly was invincible?
Humpty Dumpty put back together again? The phoenix rising?
Whatever he'd come to think he was, he certainly had a crash landing this day.

The review board was to meet soon, to see if he could make it back to the force. Behind a desk at first. Back to street duty later.
And he had been so hopeful, no, sure even.
Sure that Moses would have the answer he wanted, perhaps even expected to hear.
Despite his depression he chuckled.
Moses! Who the hell calls his kid Moses? That was what he thought the first time he was introduced to the big, black, former football player turned physical therapist. That was the thought that crossed his mind right now, in his misery.

But Moses didn't have good news. He'd asked Moses at the beginning of their sessions together to be honest with him. And he always had been. As he was today.
"I'm sorry, Dave, but for the past three weeks you've only marginally improved. Not even in full percentage points. I'm afraid we've reached your limit. And your limit falls below the standards set by the review board to earn you a place back on the streets. Worse yet, I don't think you'll be up for a full-time desk job even. I'm so sorry."

He'd sat there, for ages it seemed, though in reality it was just a minute or two. Numb, stunned, disbelieving. All his hopes and expectations flushed down the drain in one go.
He had exchanged looks with Moses. They had spent so much time together under such intimate circumstances that by now they could read each other's minds. And he had known Moses was as distraught by the facts as he was. And they had hugged, before he had left to wait in the lobby for Hutch to pick him up.

And there he was, stepping out of his car, smiling friendly at passersby and positively beaming as soon as his eyes found Starsky.
"Hey, Gordo. Short session today? How did it go?"

Like a rehearsal for my own funeral, that's how ----
"Terrific," he lied as he slowly got up. Suddenly he became aware of his each and every move.
Dammit! How could I not have noticed it myself? I move like a friggin' old fart.
His eyes found Hutch's eyes.
How could I have missed that look in his eyes? The way he always holds his hand out, just in case I might fall over. Where've I been? Was I that blind that I didn't notice how different everyone's been treating me?

Hutch noticed the mood his friend was in and tried to read that expressive face he'd come to know so well over the years. This, however, was a hard one. Emotions were fluttering across Starsky's features too fast for him to be able to read them properly. He decided to let Starsky pick the moment to tell him what was on his mind.

They got into the car and Hutch steered his newest set of wheels, a clone of his beloved battered LTD, across town to Starsky's apartment. Up until a little over 1 month ago, he'd been living there with Starsky. When - slowly but surely - Starsky was able to do things for himself again, Hutch had moved back into his own apartment.

Of course they still saw each other every day and every night. But Hutch had started building up his hours at the station again so in the daytime, Starsky was pretty much left on his own. Hutch would still faithfully drive him to and from his PT and he also would try to have lunch and dinner at Starsky's as much as his schedule allowed him. But both friends had been aware they also needed their time apart.
They had been spending so much time so intensely close together, that they had gotten to know things about each other they might rather not have learned. There had been fights, out of fear and frustration, out of worry and concern and out of just plain being too much under the other's nose to be able to breathe freely and act freely. But their friendship had survived and moved to another plane. There were close to no secrets left between Dave Starsky and Kenneth Hutchinson.

And still, as he stole a glance at Starsky, Hutch had the eerie feeling something was terribly wrong with his friend.
Talk to me buddy. Please don't shut me out. This is a biggy, I can tell. Let me in and let me help you, Starsk.

Whether it was caused by the depression that had descended upon him since hearing the verdict on his future, or whether he had always been this way and he had just failed to notice it in his ever-optimistic frame of mind, Starsky didn't know. But as his mind was elsewhere and his motor skills were still slightly uncoordinated, he tripped on the steps that lead to his front door.

"Whoa, buddy, watch your step. It's a long way down, you know? Don't want to undo all the great work you've done, huh?"

Hutch tried to keep his tone light, but instantly noticed it hadn't worked as Starsky merely glared at him before silently entering his apartment.
He shuffled over to the fridge and got out a jug of orange juice.

Hutch followed Starsky slowly into the apartment and was anxiously watching his friend's every move. Starsky was fumbling with the cap on the juice jug and Hutch stepped in.

"Here, let me give you a hand with that," he offered, well aware that his friend's fine motor skills were not up to par yet.

Starsky's reaction, or rather lack thereof, unsettled Hutch. Starsky just let go of the jug and made his way across the room where he plopped down on the couch without a word.

Hutch poured his friend a glass of orange juice, walked over to the couch, sat down beside Starsky and offered him the glass.

"Here ye go."

"Nah," Starsky croaked, looking detached.

"I thought you were thirsty?"

"Well, ya thought wrong," Starsky snapped.

Hutch nodded his head and slowly put the glass on the coffee table. He turned to face Starsky who looked distraught.
"Okay, what happened? Huh? Something happen during your session?" he probed in a soft voice.

"It's nothin'," Starsky lied.

"Okay, then it's nothing. But you weren't getting out that jug of orange juice because you like the exercise. You were thirsty, so come on, drink your vitamins!"

"Would you just drop it, Hutch!" Starsky whined, only briefly making eye contact with Hutch.

"I dropped it, but you apparently haven't. Come on, Starsk. Share with me. You're obviously troubled by something. Let me in, maybe I can help, huh?"

"Ain't nothing you can do, not this time, Hutch," Starsky said. He really did want to share with Hutch, he just didn't know how. He was still in too much shock.

"We won't know if we don't try. Tell me, maybe I just might surprise you, huh?" Hutch tried to get his friend to open up, but to no avail. He decided to try a more direct approach.
"Look, Starsk, despite the fact we've lived together for a few months, it still doesn't make me a mindreader, you know? When we're back in the Zebra again, I'd really like some verbal responses whenever I try to communicate. We can't do everything by telepathy, you know."

"Don't worry --- ya won't be needin' it," Starsky softly responded while looking down at his hands.

Hutch knew the door was opened ever so slightly and he carefully proceeded to get his foot in the door to pry it open more.
"I wouldn't be needing what, Starsk?"

"Telepathy ---"

"Well, I certainly hope not. I much prefer the old-fashioned way. So we'll just talk and we ---"

"You wouldn't be needin' telepathy, cos I wouldn't be there with ya," Starsky interrupted.

Silence as Hutch was letting the words sink in.
"And just why wouldn't you be there with me?"

A deep sigh, then Starsky threw his head back and stared up at the ceiling before blurting out,
"I'm done bein' a cop, Hutch. I'm under the review board's requirements and I ain't getting any better than I am right now. Moses just told me. If I'm lucky, they'll keep me for a part-time desk job."

A long silence. What the ----? How? He's serious! It can't be --- it just can't.
Then Hutch regrouped and softly, slowly and deliberately said,
"How about a second opinion, huh?"

Starsky turned and for the first time since Hutch had picked him up, he looked his best friend straight in the face. It startled Hutch and made him feel uneasy. There was so much pain and sorrow in his friend's eyes that it felt like an invisible hand grabbed hold of Hutch's heart.
"Look, Hutch. We're talkin' about Moses here. The guy has never, ever lied to me. Not once, in all those months he's helped me get back on my feet. Let's face it. It's over. It's done. I'm done bein' a cop. They'll probably put me on disability until my pension. In that case, I gotta figure out what to do with my time. First gotta figure out what I'll still be able to do."

Hutch swallowed hard. He'd never even considered the possibility that Starsky might not be able to make it back to the force. Sure, he'd suffered massive damage from the cowardly assassination attempt by Gunther's goons, but he'd overcome so much and had written medical history with his recovery. Certainly he was going to be able to return to his old job? Slowly, one day at a time, but still he would return. At least that was what the both of them had so firmly clung to since the first signs of recovery became noticeable and measurable.
He found his voice, but not yet his eloquence.
"So, are you still gonna go up before the review board?"

"I gotta, it's regulation."

They looked at each other. Then Starsky continued.
"Then, I guess, based on their findings I gotta either get a part-time desk job or go look for a nice pastime -----. Might even take up fishing." He said it rather matter-of-factly.

"Oh, come on, Starsky. It's not going to get that far! And besides, you hate fishing," Hutch offered in consolation.

"This ain't no joke, Hutch. This is serious stuff. I'm really up for disability -- no foolin'." Starsky sounded wounded.

"Well, in that case, I guess we'll have to go over the personals again," Hutch replied calmly.

"Whaddaya mean?"

"I mean I'm not going out on the streets without proper backup."

Starsky looked at Hutch incredulously. He was on an emotional roller coaster, zigzagging between different sentiments in a few short seconds’ time.
"Don't be stupid! Why should you stop bein' a cop?"

"Because with you not there, I'm out of a partner, partner!" Hutch raised his voice as his own emotions got the better of him.

"Well, they'll assign you someone else, so whassamatter?!" Starsky replied, getting more upset, as the truth began to sink in, full force.

Hutch couldn't believe the meaning of the words Starsky had just spoken. They rang too eerily close to the words Captain Dobey had spoken during that intense chaos, right after Hutch had managed to undermine the second attempt on Starsky's life in the hospital.
'Calm down until we find you a new partner.'
Hutch replied to Starsky now, as he had to Dobey back on that wild and crazy day.
"I already have a partner. I don't need another one."

"But Hutch ---"

"No, you just hold on a second here, Starsk. Let me tell you something. Remember the time when I was so fed up with the system that I was just about ready to throw my badge into the ocean? Huh? You walked up to me and you joined me. I still don't think you were half as sick of things as I was, but still you joined me. You and I --- we've been through so much together and that won't stop. And you know damned well that partnerships are born, not made! If you can't be out on the streets with me, then I won't be on the streets with just some randomly picked cop. It doesn't work that way and you know it."

He paused to calm down a bit.
"Now --- first we'll find out what the review board has to say and then we'll take it from there."

"Take what from where? Whaddaya mean?"

"What I mean is, if the review board decides you can't be on the force anymore, at least not the way you want to, we'll have to go over our options."

"OUR options?"

"Yeah, our options."

"What d'ya mean?"

"Have you been listening to what I've said at all?" Hutch looked unwaveringly at Starsky.
"If I can't have you for my partner, I don't want anyone else. And I don't feel like spending the rest of my life behind a desk. So --- we'll see what we can do instead."

Starsky just looked at Hutch with an expression on his face that held every and no emotions at the same time.

"What?" Hutch asked, unable to keep up with his friend's mood changes.

"Have you gone nuts? Why the hell would ya give up your career and your chances for your pension just to hang around with me?"

"Because! I told you, I don't want another partner but you! God, Starsk, will you let that get through your thick skull? Will you listen to me for a change?"

"No, YOU listen, Hutch! I don't want ya to quit the force if I have to. I don't want ya to walk out on your years on the force, missing your pension. Yeah, we were partners and yeah, I probably was the best partner you could ever hope for, but I always thought we were friends first. Don't tell me you can only be my pal, if we're in the same line of work?"

"Of course not, you know better than that. But we ---"

"Then what's the problem? There's tons of ace cops out there who could be a great back up for you."

"That's just what they'd be, Starsk, a backup. Nothing more, nothing less. But you and I are in perfect sync, nothing could replace that!"

"Lookit, I don't like the idea of having to let someone else watch your back. And I'll worry myself sick when you'll be out on the streets without me to cover ya. But we gotta be realistic, bud. You're a cop, a damned good cop. And so was I. But we weren't the only good cops on the force, Hutch. And given a little time and a little practice I'm sure Donato or Cruz would be perfect partners for you. I've been watching them for a while and they kinda work like me, so they wouldn't have much trouble getting in sync with you. Trust me, I know. I can feel these things."

Hutch took a long look at his partner, then sighed.
"Yeah, yeah I know you do."

"There! Ya see? So, ya get another partner, big deal. We'll live." Starsky gave Hutch a reassuring smile.

Hutch couldn't help but chuckle.
"I thought I was trying to cheer you up?"

"Just to remind ya, Blondie. Man's best friend is still gonna be here with some cold ones in the fridge in case ya might need a shoulder or a friendly ear." Starsky winked at Hutch, telling him without words, he would deal with this latest blow too and come out stronger yet again.

Hutch laughed, then winked back. He patted Starsky on the thigh and said,
"Come on, you dog, let's get us some cold ones then."

Starsky let himself be pulled up and, arms around each other's shoulders, the friends walked to the kitchen.

 

 

THE END
(Next story in this series "Nine Days")