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The Christmas that almost wasn't

Chapter Text

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.

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

ONE

It was December 23rd. Just two more days before Christmas.

Thank God, Hutch thought to himself. He didn't know just how much more of Starsky's usual spreading of "Christmas Joy" he could take. After all, his ever-enthusiastic curly haired partner had sung his first Christmas carol back in late November!

"You have got to be kidding!" Hutch had growled back then.

"Whaddaya mean?" Starsky had asked innocently.

Hutch had scrutinized his partner's expression for any signs of feigned innocence but no such luck. Starsky really was a 5-year-old again, come each Christmas.
"Oh, let's just forget it shall we?" he'd sighed.

"Nah Hutch, somethin's obviously botherin' ya so spill it!"

"No it's nothing, just me."

"I ain't buyin' that Hutch. You're lookin' like a regular ray of sunlight again, so c'mon, tell me. What did ya mean?"

Hutch had given his partner a weary look and then he'd said,
"You are really seriously into this 'tis the season stuff aren't you? You're really loving this?"

"What season?" Starsky's face had gotten a blank expression.

"What do you mean what season! The Holiday season, Christmas for crying out loud!" Hutch had responded in an annoyed tone. Sometimes he thought his partner was purposely trying to get on his nerves.

"Why d'ya think that?" had been Starsky's next question, again in that seasonally young and innocent sounding voice.

Hutch had snapped his head back in Starsky's direction. He had begun to get angry with his partner's antics. Yet when his angry sky blue eyes had met the truly innocent violet blues of his partner, his anger had dissipated immediately.
"Do you even listen to yourself when you speak or sing for that matter?" he'd asked Starsky.

"Mmm, I dunno, why?"

Hutch inwardly had almost not been able to believe they were having a conversation at such a base level. He had sighed before answering in a weary, almost resigned voice,
"Because you were singing the Christmas song just now."

Starsky had looked at him rather sheepishly.
"I was? Ya mean, just now?"

"Yeah buddy. Need I remind you it's still a month away from Christmas? Certainly you're not going to bother me with your repertory until then are you? Because then I just might have to put in a request to have someone temporarily replace you as my partner."

"You wouldn't?" Starsky had asked incredulously.

"Well look at it this way Starsk. I wouldn't try my luck if I were you!" Hutch had replied while turning toward the Torino's passenger window, hoping his childlike partner would not see the hint of a barely contained smile which had just bubbled up on his face.

When Hutch had turned his face back a bit, moments later, to glance at his partner he could still see the traces of shock on Starsky's face. Hutch could tell his best buddy was concentrating and trying very hard to listen to every sound that left his mouth.

Chapter Text

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

TWO

 

During the first few weeks of December Starsky had really tried his outmost not to irritate Hutch. Sometimes he had been right in the middle of belting out a Christmas classic during filing but he'd stopped as soon as Hutch entered the room. He would look like a kid who got caught with his hands in the cookie jar, which every other officer in the squad room found highly amusing. Some of the other detectives would egg Starsky on and would often be successful in getting him going about Christmas. But he'd stop as soon as Hutch would be near, looking almost guilty.

What Starsky didn't know was that Hutch was completely aware of how hard it was for him to not give in to his "Christmas urges" and how often he failed at trying. But it was all part of the annual "Christmas thing" between the two partners. It had become their own little Christmas tradition.

So now it was two days before Christmas and it had been agreed that as off today Starsky had Hutch's official permission to "go Christmas". And not a moment too soon, as far as Starsky was concerned. The minute Hutch had said it was ok, he pulled out a Santa hat from a filing cabinet and stuck it on to his thick curls. Then he produced a piece of mistletoe from another filing cabinet to hang over the squad room's door.

Flabbergasted, Hutch stared at his partner's actions.
"Geez Starsk, you don't miss a beat do you?" he asked.

"Man, are ya kiddin'?" Starsky answered, while pulling up a chair so he could attach the mistletoe in a strategic position with some tape.
"I've been boilin' over with all that Christmas stuff on account of you so I'm only happy I can let the lid off now."

Officer Jennifer Scalia, a very pretty brunette with the most incredible grey eyes, walked in to the squad room just then.

"Hey!" Starsky called at her, making her look up at him. Then he asked,
"Do you happen to know what kind of plant that is up there?"

"Plant????!!!!" Hutch said.

Starsky made a face at him which told Hutch to shut up, then he returned his gaze at Officer Scalia with his most charming expression.

"Gee, I don't know Dave, I bet you know though and you know what else? I even believe you are going to tell me right now!" Jennifer played along.

She and Starsky had been "dancing around each other" ever since she'd been transferred to Metro four months earlier. They'd gone out together several times and were slowly, yet surely beginning to move a little closer.

"This, pretty young lady, is called a mistletoe." Starsky pointed at the little branch over the door.

"Really?"

"Yup. And do ye know what it's most famous for?"

"No, but again I think you'll be more than willing to tell me."

"And you're so right. Not just pretty but brains as well!" Starsky said, making a face at Hutch as if to say I may not be so smart, but I can still have smart ladies for girlfriends.

"This thing has the magical talent of making any two people, who just happen to be standing underneath it at the same time, wanna kiss each other."

"Any two people, Starsk?" Hutch dryly interrupted.

"Shut up!" Starsky told Hutch, then turned back to an amused Jennifer.

"You know what I mean, and you're the one that makes us two people. So, whaddaya say?"

"About what?" Jennifer teased her friend.

"Huh?"

"What do I say about what?"

Hutch loved how Jennifer could lovingly confuse his partner from time to time. He thought they were a beautiful couple together and he loved Jennifer's easygoing way and sense of humor.

"Uhm, what, what were we talking about again?" Starsky was thrown totally off course by Jennifer's teasing.

Jennifer loved the childlike innocence in her new boyfriend, but decided he'd had enough.
"The mistletoe remember?" she laughed while turning one of Starsky's curls, that escaped from under the Santa hat, around her finger.

"Oh yeah! Aaah, forgot what I wanted to say. Let's get to what I wanted to do," Starsky replied before locking Jennifer into an embrace and kissing her long and very, very romantically.

Just then Captain Dobey entered the squad room from his office. Hutch could see how their chief first looked at the kissing scene endearingly for half a second, before putting on his Captain's face and barking,
"What's goin' on here? This is no single's bar; this is a squad room. Now go on, get on with your work and you two," Dobey pointed at Starsky and Hutch, "in my office, now!"

Once inside, the two detectives were briefed on how the department had finally received clearance to pick up a major gangland boss down town. They were told some FBI agents would also be coming along for the arrest as well as 3 black and white units for back up.

Before they left the Captain's office Dobey barked at Starsky,
"And you! Take off that silly hat before you go over there. I don't want the FBI to think I'm running a damned kindergarten here!"

Hutch chuckled and Starsky pouted while taking off his Santa hat.

Chapter Text

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

THREE

 

To everyone's amazement the arrest had run so smoothly they were in and out of the building within 20 minutes. At 10.40 AM they went outside to finish things up with 2 teams of FBI agents and 1 black and white back up. Starsky went off to get the Torino, which they'd parked a bit further than the other cars, while singing his rendition about a certain Rednosed reindeer.

As Starsky was on his way, Hutch went over some last procedures with the FBI people.

Turner was one them. He was a tall, lean, man in his early fifties with a thick shock of greying hair. He looked at Hutch, then asked,
"That partner of yours seems ready for the holidays?"

"Oh?" said Hutch.

"Now it's Rudolph he's singing and I could've sworn he was singing Fa la la la la when he put the cuffs on Gianfranco." Turner chuckled.

Hutch rolled his eyes, even blushed a bit on behalf of his silly partner.
"Would you believe if I told you it's been Christmas for me since late November already!"

Turner let out a belly laugh.
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me. Well, as long as he keeps doing the job the way he's supposed to, there can't be too much harm in it, right?"

"You obviously haven't heard him sing a complete song yet!" Hutch replied with a grin.

"Oh well, I guess some people never mature."

From the corner of his eye Hutch could see Starsky, obviously still singing to himself, cross the street toward the Torino. Right at that moment, out of nowhere, came a pickup truck with roaring engine. With enormous speed it ran straight into his unfortunate partner.

Starsky didn't have a chance.

All the officers who were still wrapping things up, including Hutch and Turner, could see how Starsky was simply launched by the high speed impact from the pick up. He flew through the air over the passenger's side of the pick-up, fell on a parked car before dropping on the sidewalk, head first. The pick-up had continued on until it came to a frontal stop against a traffic light, horn blaring.

"STARSKYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"
Hutch was beside himself as he could see his partner being tossed up in the air as if he were a rag doll.
Without paying attention to the traffic, Hutch blindly ran to where his partner lay, totally motionless half on the sidewalk, half on the street.

Turner and his FBI partner followed, while another FBI agent and one of the two uniformed police officers ran to the wrecked pick up.
Hutch knelt down at his partner's side. The FBI agents motioned the growing crowd to make space.

Turner barked at the uniformed police officer,
"Call for an ambulance NOW!" before turning to Hutch who seemed afraid to touch his still partner.

"How is he? Hutchinson? Have you checked his vitals yet?" Turner looked at Hutch who seemed frozen.

Inside his head Hutch's usually vast vocabulary had been reduced to just the same few lines Oh God no Starsk, no, please, Don't do this to me. Oh God, no, please Starsk, open your eyes, say you're all right. No, this isn't happening, this isn't happening. Starsk, open your eyes please.

"HUTCHINSON!!" Turner watched as Hutch slowly turned his head toward him, his eyes never leaving his partner.

"Wh-what?"

"Have you checked his vital signs yet?"

Silence, Hutch remained motionless. He was so afraid to touch his partner. Having seen how Starsky had been tossed into the air and how he'd landed afterwards on the sidewalk could only mean one thing. This was serious; this was very, very, serious.

"Let me do it." Turner put his hand on Hutch's shoulder trying to get him to move over so he could assess how badly Starsky was injured.

"NO, no I'll…. I'll do it" Hutch softly responded.

Somewhere in the distance the sound of a siren could be heard. Hutch bent over his partner's face. Good, he was still breathing, quite regularly even. Hutch felt Starsky's pulse: good, strong and regular as well. Then Hutch's hands were going over Starsky's body as carefully as possible. He gently felt his partner's arms. Both in tact. As best he could, without moving Starsky, he just as gently felt his partner's legs. So far so good, Hutch sighed with relief. He took another look at his partner, who lay so immobile on the ground.

"When you see him lying there like that you could swear he's a 5 year old on Christmas Eve" Turner tried to lighten the mood just a bit, trying to relieve some of the worry they were, by now, all feeling.
He didn't know he had just voiced exactly what Hutch was thinking at that moment, as he watched his unconscious partner.

You know Starsk, maybe that thick skull of yours saved the day for you again. No broken arms, no broken legs. God, could it be it just looked worse than it actually was?
Hutch was beginning to hope.

Now, as the sirens were getting closer, it was time to check Starsky's neck and head area. Starsky's neck felt good, no irregularities or bumps that weren't supposed to be there.

Hutch was just letting out a sigh of relief when a tiny red river began to emerge on the sidewalk at the level of Starsky's left ear.

Hutch's breath and Turner's, since he witnessed the blood on the sidewalk that same moment as well, stopped.

The ambulance had arrived and the paramedics were getting their gurney and other emergency equipment out. Hutch didn't really want to, but somehow was compelled to reach out to the back of Starsky's head. What he felt nauseated him. As he retrieved his hand he was so sick with shock he stumbled onto the street to throw up. Turner too felt nauseous as he could see that Hutch's hand was completely covered with blood.

The paramedics were just a bit confused for a split second as they saw a tall blond man with bloodstains on his clothes, face and hands throwing up on the street.

Turner regrouped himself and yelled at them,
"Over here. Hurry up!"

The professional medics had assessed the damage within half a minute and had attached all the necessary equipment to Starsky's body.

"Which hospital?" Turner asked.

"Memorial." was the hurried answer from one of the paramedics as he and his partner carried Starsky into the ambulance. He was completely strapped in, with a backboard and a neck brace to immobilize him and keep him from any - more - harm to his neck and spinal area.

Turner went over to Hutch. In his panic Hutch had held his blood-covered hand to his stomach, his neck and his face, while throwing up. It really looked as if he was injured as well.

"Hey, son. They're taking him to Memorial. I'll give you a ride."

Turner's partner, Haley, had come along and now said,
"We have to report to head quarters."

Turner just gave him an irritated look and nodded in the direction of Hutch.
"Follow us to Memorial. We'll drop Hutchinson off before going to HQ."

Haley knew better than to disobey.

"Do you have the keys?"

"Starsk was getting the car……." Hutch ran toward the ambulance just as the paramedics had closed the back door.
"I, I need to see my partner." Hutch sounded exasperated.

"Sorry sir, no civilians allowed."

"No I, I need the keys to our car!"

"Sir, we need to get to the hospital NOW!"

Turner entered the frantic conversation.
"They're police officers. I believe the detective in your ambulance still has the keys to their car?!" Turner said quietly while flashing his FBI badge.

The paramedic swallowed, a bit irritated, but then hastily pulled open the doors, went inside and emerged a minute later with the keys to the Torino.

Soon after they were on their way to Memorial.

As Hutch opened the dashboard to retrieve the marslight, Starsky's Santa hat fell on the floor of the car. Hutch's heart sank.

Chapter Text

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

FOUR

 

Hutch and Turner arrived at the hospital 3 minutes after the ambulance. They could see the emergency team was already frantically working on Starsky. There were 9 people standing around him in the small cubicle and each had their task.

Soon a nurse came to whisk the two men to the waiting area.

Turner, who could see Hutch was in some state of shock, decided to take charge.
"Nurse, we're with that detective in the next cubicle. How is he?"

"You'll have to wait until the doctor comes out, excuse me." And off she went.

Hayley came in after having waited for 25 minutes for Turner to come back out of the hospital.
"Jack? Headquarters?"

Turner again gave him an irritated look.
"I'll call 'em. You just go ahead if you have to. I'm staying here. I want to know how he's doing."

Hayley looked from his partner to Hutch. He saw the blond detective who'd been so cool and collected during the arrest, sitting in the corner seat of the corridor. He looked tiny and white, like he'd shriveled up inside himself.
"OK. I'll call in we're gonna come in later."

Turner smiled at his partner and nodded to him before he left for their car.
Just as he turned to Hutch a doctor came out of the cubicle and walked toward them.

"You are the gentlemen with Detective Starsky?" the doctor asked.

Hutch got up from his chair and walked toward Turner and the doctor.
"Yes I'm … I'm … he's my partner." Hutch stammered. When he held out his hand to shake the doctor's his heart sank as he could see Starsky's badge and gun in the doctor's left hand.

"I'm Dr. Roberts. Head of emergency and you are detective……?"

Hutch just stared at Starsky's belongings in the doctor's hand.

Turner noticed and just asked the all important question.
"Doc, how's detective Starsky doing?"

The doctor turned toward Turner.
"Well, he's obviously had a tremendous blow to his head. I don't think you'll be surprised to hear he suffered massive trauma in that area. He has a skull fracture, but fortunately no internal hemorrhaging. This man knows how to take a fall because there's only trauma to his head. Except for a few minor cuts and scrapes from the fall he has no other fractures anywhere in his body, nor any internal bleeding. He was quite lucky," the doctor concluded with a smile. Then he remembered holding Starsky's badge and gun and handed them to Hutch. While doing this, he took in Hutch's form and asked
"Are you all right? Did someone examine you, yet?"

Hutch had totally forgotten about his blood stained appearance. He'd only heard the doctor's description of Starsky's condition and a wave of relief hit him, despite the fact that Starsky had a skull fracture.
"It's... I'm okay, it's not my blood.... Doc, can we, can we --- can we go see him now?" Hutch softly asked while holding on to Starsky's gun and badge.

"Just for a minute, we'll have to move him to ICU."

The doctor led the way to the cubicle. Except for one resident ER doctor and Starsky's still form on the gurney, there were no others inside anymore. Hutch and Turner watched Starsky, lying on the gurney, attached to a heart monitor. Some electrodes were placed on his head to monitor his brain function.
His eyes were closed and he looked rather peaceful. He even seemed to have a trace of a smile around his lips. His head was bandaged as if he were wearing a hat. The same curls that had come out from under the Santa hat earlier today came out from under the bandages now.

Hutch noticed some curls lying on the floor of the cubicle.
"What's --- ?" He gestured to the floor.

"Oh, we had to shave off some of his hair for the incision." Dr. Roberts answered.

"What incision?" Hutch asked.

"To place the drain. With these kinds of injuries we must keep in consideration the brain might start swelling at some point. So we place a drain for any excess fluids and we keep monitoring the brain so we can immediately take the proper steps in case the brain does start to swell up."

"Is he --- Just --- just how serious --. Is he in critical condition doctor?"
Hutch barely dared to utter the words.

"No detective, he is in serious but guarded condition. However we do want to keep him under close surveillance for the next 24 hours, because of what I just told you about possible swelling of the brain."

"I thought you said he was lucky." Hutch muttered, while looking at his partner.

"Considering the impact of the blow, he really is a very, very lucky young man. Let me assure you detective: the whole trauma team that worked on him was amazed to find he had not broken 1 bone in his body. Truly."
The doctor put a reassuring hand on one of Hutch's slumped shoulders.

"So, when is he going to wake up?" Turner asked, after having studied Starsky during the dialogue between Hutch and the doctor.

Now the answer didn't come quite as quickly as before.

Hutch immediately noticed the hesitance in the doctor's body language.
"Doc? When is he going to wake up?" Hutch repeated Turner's question, his eyes shifting from his partner, to Turner, to the doctor.

"Well, we expect him to wake up during the next 24 hours, most probably earlier."
Suddenly the doctor didn't sound as sure as he had up until now.

"Well, why is he still unconscious?" Turner asked

"Sir, I've just explained he suffered severe ---."

"Is there something you're not telling us doctor Roberts?" Hutch voice was soft but it had a ring of deadly urgency to it.

The doctor felt it. These two men were professionals. No chance of letting them hang any longer.
"He's ---" Dr. Roberts looked at Starsky, then at the floor, "--- in a coma".

Chapter Text

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

FIVE

 

Hutch had almost lost his footing when he heard the doctor's words.
A whole array of feelings stumbled over each other in his mind and heart.
Anger, fear, anger, worry, sorrow, anger, anger.
Anger at the doctor for not having told right away just how serious Starsky's condition was.
Anger at the driver of the pick up - what the hell had happened to that damned asshole, wait 'til I get my hands on him!
Anger at Starsky even Why did you not get out of the way, why were you so pre-occupied singing that stupid song.
Anger at fate: why the hell does fate always find Starsky when something bad has to happen. When is fate ever going to let up on you buddy, don't you agree you've had enough?

Turner had grabbed Hutch's arm to steady the blond detective. The doctor seemed surprised at Hutch's reaction to the news. He tried to soften the blow.
"The reason why I was hesitant to use the word coma is because there's still a quite normal pattern of brain activity going on. He's actually in that twilight zone between short-term unconsciousness and coma, it's a grey area and if I can help it, I prefer not to use the word coma too prematurely. Considering the extent of his head trauma I don't want to use the term coma until he's still not out in the next 24 hours."

The orderlies came in to take Starsky up to ICU. Dr. Roberts was called away to another emergency and Hutch and Turner were left in the cubicle, with some of Starsky's stray curls on the floor.

Turner grabbed Hutch by the arm.
"Come on, let's go."

Hutch turned with Turner, but stopped, unhanded himself and knelt next to Starsky's hair. He picked up a thick curl and closed his fist around it. Then he got up and let himself be led out by Turner.

In the corridor Hayley was waiting for them.

"Any news?" Turner asked his partner, as Hutch dropped into one of the chairs in the waiting area.

"Well, the driver of the pick up ---" Hayley began.

Suddenly Hutch seemed to wake up from his dazed state; he jumped up and stood beside the 2 FBI agents within a second.
"What about him?" his voice was low and hoarse.

"He's dead. Seems the reason why he ran into your partner is because he was having a massive stroke. He was dead before the pick up hit the stoplight. Hell, as I understand it, he was probably dead right after he turned that corner! I didn't know young people had strokes too. He was 38, father of 3."
Hayley told the facts as if he couldn't believe them himself.

Hutch could only feel emptiness after this news. No one to blame but fate. No one to punish for doing this to his partner. No one to aim any form of revenge at. Emptiness was all that was left. It really had been a stupid accident. Fate.

Turner took in Hutch's demeanor. It was impossible for him to stay away from head quarters any longer, but he dreaded having to leave this lost soul all by himself.
"Hutchinson, why don't you give me your Captain's number. I'll inform him about, well, about what happened, ask him to come over. Don't you agree he'd want to be informed? Give me his number."

Hutch did as he was told.

After Turner had made the call he returned to Hutch.
"He's on his way. Will you be all right until then?"

Hutch looked up at Turner. The man simply was the kindest soul in the entire FBI agency.
"Thanks Turner. You've ---. You've really been a great help. Thank you so much."

"No thanks. And it's Jack. Let me know how your partner's doing, huh?" Turner said as he gave his card to Hutch before he turned around and left the hospital.

Hutch sat in the corridor alone waiting until someone would tell him it was all right to go up and visit Starsky in ICU.

Chapter Text

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

SIX

 

Captain Dobey arrived around 12 noon. Just at that moment a nurse had come to tell Hutch it was all right to go up to Starsky in ICU.

"Hutchinson!" Dobey called out as he saw his blond detective step up to the elevator.
"Wait up."

Hutch was relieved to see his Captain. Dobey, however, looked concerned at the number and size of blood stains on his blond detective's form. Both men entered the elevator. When the only other occupant had left Dobey asked Hutch, while pointing at Hutch's tarnished clothes,
"Fill me in."

"He was hit by a car, Captain. Just thrown up into the air like he was nothing. Hit his head on the sidewalk. Severe head-injury."
Hutch bit his lower lip before he continued.
"He's in a coma."

The elevator door opened. Both men walked through the corridor to Starsky's room, which he shared with 3 other IC patients. There were diffused lights on in the room, so it was quite dark. The room was packed with all kinds of medical equipment. Two of the other 3 patients were on a respirator. Starsky and the remaining patient were breathing unassisted. The room was filled with sounds of the machines: beeping, whizzing, humming.

Hutch and Dobey looked at Starsky. If it weren't for the bandage around his head, one would think he was peacefully asleep. Dobey sighed. Hutch felt as if he were choking.

Dobey broke the silence.
"We'd better call his family. They'd probably want to come over, you know, be with him."

"Yeah." was all Hutch could say.

"Let's not wait too long Hutch. Why don't you call them now while I go see if I can speak to his doctors."
Dobey touched Hutch's shoulder briefly. Then he turned back toward Starsky and put his hand on his forehead. After that he turned, sighing, and left the room.

Hutch stood by Starsky. He'd stood at Starsky's bedside in a hospital before, but never like this. Then there had been more obvious signs of injury. More tubes, more machines, more bandages, more trauma. Now it really looked as though Starsky were taking a nap. That trace of a smile around his lips was still there. He looked so --- content.

Where are you buddy? Hutch asked inside himself.
Can you hear me? Can you see me? If you can: please come back buddy. Wake up from that wonderful dream you seem to be dreaming, come back to me Starsk. This sucks.

Then Hutch remembered Dobey's words. The family had to be notified. Hutch squeezed Starsky's hand before heading for the phones in the corridor.
What am I going to tell them? According to Dr. Roberts his life is not in danger, what was it again? Oh yes, serious but guarded.

Hutch picked up the phone and went through his address book. He dialed Mrs. Starsky's number in New York. The phone rang. Five, six, --- nine, ten --- twelve times and then the dial tone came back up. Not home. Hutch sighed as he hung up.

Nick? I don't have his number. I'd have to check Starsky's address book.
Hutch tried Mrs. Starsky's number again. Still no one picked up.

Dobey came walking toward Hutch from the other end of the corridor. He wore a grim expression on his face.

"Captain?"

"Just spoke to his doctor. All we can do is wait."

Silence between the two men.

Dobey gestured toward the phone with his head.
"Did you get hold of anyone yet?"

"No, Cap. His mother's probably out and I don't have his brother's number. I'll try his mom again later. I might find Nick's number in Starsky's address book."

"Gentlemen?"

Startled at the sound of the woman's voice, Dobey and Hutch turned to find a young nurse standing behind them, holding a plastic bag.

"These are Detective Starsky's belongings. His clothes had to be cut off, I'm sure you are familiar with the procedures. Everything is in this bag, from his jacket to his shoes. And here are his personal items such as his rings, his watch and his wallet."
She presented them with an envelope.

Hutch and Dobey looked at each other, uncomfortable with this procedure. It felt as if Starsky had died. Finally Hutch took both the bag and the envelope from the nurse who promptly excused herself and left for the nurses office.

Again the two men just stood there. Then Dobey broke the silence.
"Why don't you take those to Starsky's, find his brother's number and try calling both him and his mother again. Clean yourself up, fill in a preliminary report and get back here. I'll stay with him until you get done."

Hutch looked at his Captain. They couldn't have had a better superior than Dobey.
"Thanks, Captain," he practically whispered before getting on the elevator.

Dobey sighed and returned to Starsky's room. One of the nurses brought him a chair and as he sat down next to Starsky's bed, the large man patted his young detective's still hand.
"You really seem to have a magnet for bad luck don't you, son?" Dobey asked, knowing he wouldn't get an answer. Then he sat back and waited for the still form's other half. All the while his eyes never left Starsky.

Chapter Text

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

SEVEN

Hutch had left the hospital a little before 2 PM. He'd first gone by his apartment where he'd taken off his bloodstained clothes and thrown them in a heap in the corner of the bathroom. Then he'd taken a quick shower and changed.

He'd gone to Starsky's apartment, had looked for his address book.
Once he'd found Nick's number he'd tried that several times to no avail.
He'd tried the number for Starsky's mother several more times as well. No luck.
He hadn't been able to locate either of Starsky's two closest relatives.

He'd put the plastic bag with Starsky's clothes in the corner of his buddy's bedroom. He'd looked around the apartment one more time before closing its door and leaving again, the envelope containing Starsky's watch, wallet and rings still in his possession.

Then Hutch had gone to the police station. There he practically bumped straight into Jennifer Scalia.

"Hi Hutch, how did it go?" she asked with her perfect smile.

Oh my god, she doesn't know yet!
Hutch thought frantically about how to phrase the accident to her.
"Hi Jen. Uhm. The bust went perfect. Listen ---"

Hutch took her by the arm and led her to one of the vacant interrogation rooms. He motioned her to sit down. He could see her expression changing from normal to worried.

Before he could start his story Jennifer asked him
"Where's Dave? Did something --- What happened to Dave, where's Dave?"

Hutch sighed, then he too sat down at the table.
"Jen --- " he tried not to look too worried.
"Look, there's no easy way to do this so I'm just going to tell you straight. The arrest went perfectly well. Piece of cake. Starsky was in tiptop shape. We were in and out within a half hour ---"
He paused. Now the hard part was coming up.

"Go on." Jennifer softly said, although deep inside she dreaded what would be coming next.

"We were just winding things up when Starsky went to get the car --- he uh, he was hit by a pick-up as he was crossing the street ---"

Jennifer gasped, put her hand over her mouth.

Hutch rubbed her arm as he continued.
"He was hit hard, but --- but he came out relatively well ---"
To his own amazement Hutch found himself using the same approach to bringing the bad news as Dr. Roberts had done earlier.

"What does that mean?" Jennifer asked in a monotone.

"He uh, there's not a mark on him. No broken bones, nothing."
Hutch paused again. Longer this time.
"But you know he hit his head very hard on the sidewalk ---"
Hutch let out a deep sigh. His last sentence he'd spoken in a somber, hoarse tone.
"He suffered a skull fracture. He's in a coma."

Jennifer just looked at Hutch in shock. Her friend Dave. Her date for that evening?
That gorgeous, crazy, jolly, childlike, goof of a guy?
The guy she'd just had so much fun with only hours before? In a coma? Just like that?

"What --- did you get the driver of that pick-up? A drunk no doubt. Kinda early to be drunk already ---"

"It wasn't a drunk, Jen. It was a 38-year-old father of three. Massive stroke. He was dead before he ever hit Starsk."
Hutch's voice stated the facts as he'd heard them, with no emotion attached. It was all too unreal.

He watched as Jennifer took in the bad news. After a few moments he turned her face toward his with his hand and said,
"I think it would be better if you took the rest of the day off. Is there someone who can stay with you, or someone you can go to?"

"No, Hutch, it's all right. I'm going to stay here. My shift is over at 5.30 PM. Then I'm going over to the hospital to --- do you think they'll let me see him?"

"I don't know, Jen. I'm going back to the hospital now. I'll ask. Who knows, Starsky may surprise us all and be awake already!" he tried to lighten the moment.
Hutch decided against telling Jennifer he still had to notify Starsky's relatives. She might interpret that the wrong way.
"You're sure you'll be all right?" he asked her.

"Yes, I'll just sit here a while longer. I'll be all right. Just let me know if I can visit him too, and if there's any change okay?"

"Sure." Hutch squeezed her arm before leaving for the hospital.

Chapter Text

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

EIGHT

Hutch was back at the hospital around 3.30 PM. He and Captain Dobey stayed together with Starsky for another 30 minutes and then Dobey left for the police station again. He would arrange the duty roster in such a way, that Hutch would be able to stay with Starsky.

After Hutch had made the necessary arrangements with the hospital's staff he was allowed to stay at Starsky's bedside in a chair and they had made up a cot for him in a storage room for the night.

At 4.30 PM Hutch decided to try phoning Starsky's mother again. Still no answer.
He dialed Nick's number. No luck either.
Where the hell are you people? Don't you know your loved one, your son, your brother almost died today!!! Hutch inner voice was screaming at the top of its lungs.

Once again Hutch took his seat at Starsky's side. Still no change. Still that trace of a smile around his lips. Turner had been right; Starsky did seem unusually young as he was lying on his hospital bed. His breath was still even. His color normal. He just lay still, so still.

Carefully, so as not to disturb the other patients in the room, Hutch picked up Starsky's left hand and softly began to rub it.
"Hey, buddy. Time to wake up. You've been sleeping long enough now, come on, wake up," Hutch whispered.

Nothing happened.

Hutch moved his chair closer, so his head was at the same level as his partner's head.
He plucked what looked like a rebellious curl from under the bandages. To his shock it came off. Hutch gasped.
It probably was just one of the curls they'd cut and shaved off earlier. It probably only got itself caught in the bandages.

Then he softly touched Starsky's cheek and whispered into his partner's ear.
"Starsk, less than 48 hours 'til Christmas. You still have to decorate the Zebra. As a matter of fact I bumped into Jennifer at the station. She says you guys have a date tonight so it's high time you woke up, buddy. You have to get ready for your date tonight."

No response whatsoever.
He kept rubbing Starsky's hand, but he was now at a loss for words.

Around 5 PM he tried calling Mrs. Starsky and Nick again. At first no luck.
Then the on the 5th try to Mrs. Starsky the phone was picked up. It was 5.30 PM.

"Yes?"

Hutch hesitated; this didn't sound like Starsky's mom.
"Uh, yes hello. Uhm, this is the number for Mrs. Starsky? Rachel Starsky?"

"Yes --- Who is this?"

"Uh it's Kenneth Hutchinson. Who am I talking to please?"

"This is the next door neighbor. What did you say your name was?"

"Hutchinson. Listen, could I speak to Mrs. Starsky please? It's urgent."

"It's not about her son is it? Are you calling from California?"

"Yes listen, please, would you get Mrs. Starsky on the line for me now?"

"She's not here. She went for a Christmas Holiday to Florida. I'm just here to water her plants. She was invited by her late husband's oldest sister. They live in Boca and ---"

"Listen, Ma'am, Ma'am, listen. Uhm sorry to interrupt you. Do you have a number there? This is an emergency. I really need to contact ---"

"It is about her son isn't it? He isn't --- he's still alive isn't he?"

This was going nowhere.
"Listen, lady, it is about her son in California. It is urgent. Now if you happen to have a number for her in Florida, please give it to me now."

Silence. Then,
"Hold on, let me check her lists."
Some fumbling with papers in the background and then the elderly neighbor finally gave Hutch the number he needed.

"Thank you so much. Oh, and do you happen to know where her other son is. Nick?"

A snort.
"Nick! Last I heard he got himself a trip to Italy. He did someone a favor and got an all expense paid trip to Italy. He's supposed to meet some important people there. I'm sure it won't be the pope!"
Another snort.

Hutch didn't even want to think of the connections Nick Starsky could have in Italy.
"Thank you Ma'am, I really appreciate your help. Goodbye."
He hung up before she could say her goodbyes to him.

He tried the Florida number. No answer.
God dammit!!!!! He smacked the phone back on the hook.

He returned to Starsky's room. Still no movement.
Hutch stayed at Starsky's side. The only times he left were when he got something to eat from the cafeteria or when he had to use the men's room. During all these hours Starsky never shifted. Not until some nurses came by to change his position and reposition the cushions that were supporting him.

Hutch watched as they routinely moved Starsky's still body over on its side and placed a pillow between his legs. Another in front of him, yet another behind his back.

No response whatsoever from his buddy. At 10 PM the nurses changed shifts and the new batch in ICU asked him to go get some sleep since he looked like a ghost. He went to his makeshift bedroom in the storage room and finally at 2 AM managed to fall asleep.

Chapter Text

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

NINE

 

December 24th. Hutch didn't wake up until at 7.30 an orderly had come in to get some supplies.

"I'm sorry detective Hutchinson, I didn't mean to wake you." the young man said.

Bleary-eyed, Hutch squinted up at him.
"No, that's ok, just doing your job."
He yawned. His voice was raw from just waking up.
"What time is it?"

"Just after 7.30, sir."

"AM right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Listen, call me Ken or Hutch."
Hutch looked around. He knew he probably looked awful.
"Is there any place I can wash up. I mean, totally wash up?"

"I'll show you our showers and get you a towel and soap."

"Oh that'd be great thanks. What's your name?"

"Pete. Over here."

"Thanks Pete, appreciate it."

After having washed up Hutch went to the room in ICU where Starsky was.

There his buddy lay, still as before, but now on his other side. Hutch could tell the bandages to his head had been changed. He walked to the other side so he could see his buddy's face. There it was, still with that half smile around the lips.

Must be one helluva great dream there, partner.

Hutch put his hand in his pocket and found the Florida phone number again.
He went for the phones and dialed the number once more.
Finally somebody answered.

"Hello?"

"Hello this is Kenneth Hutchinson. Is there a Mrs. Rachel Starsky staying at this number?"

"Yes. Who wants to know?"

"Kenneth Hutchinson. I'm her son Dave's partner? Could I speak to her please?"

"Davey's partner? What's wrong? You wouldn't be calling if nothing were wrong. Is he --- what's wrong?"

"Please sir, could I speak to his mother first?"

"Is he --- he's not dead is he?"

"Sir, please."

"All right, all right, hang on a minute."

He could hear the man muttering as he got further from the phone.

Two minutes later an exasperated Rachel Starsky got on the phone.
"Hutch? Is that you? What's wrong with Davey?"

"Mrs. Starsky. I'm uh, I don't know how ---"

"Oh my god, I've lost him. I've lost him, haven't I?"

"No, no Ma'am. I'm sorry I didn't mean to upset you. Dave is alive. He's alive but he's been in a car accident. Someone hit him with a pick up. He's in serious but stable condition."

"Oh thank god. How is he? I mean, where was he hit. Is he gonna be all right?"

"He injured his head Mrs. Starsky. I'm afraid he has a skull fracture. He's still unconscious."

"Well, when did this happen?"

"Yesterday morning."

"Oh my god, I was out all day yesterday. Did you try to reach me before? Oh god. My poor baby. Is he going to be all right? What did the doctors say?"

"He is expected to wake up later today, at least that's what his doctor said. His condition is called serious but guarded. Anyway, that's what it was yesterday. He's not on any life support or anything. Doing his own breathing. He's just ---"
Hutch was in doubt whether or not to avoid the word coma.
"He's just unconscious. I expect more news from the doctors later today. Can I call you back at this number when I know more?"

"Oh yes, please Ken. And I'll see how fast I can get there. I'll wait until you called before booking a flight. Call me, Hutch."

"I will Mrs. Starsky."

"And Hutch? You're such a good friend to my boy. He's lucky to have you for a friend."

"I feel the same way Mrs. Starsky. I'll call you later. Goodbye."

Chapter Text

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

TEN

Hutch got back to Starsky's room at 9.15 after a light breakfast. He immediately started to panic as he entered the room and found three doctors probing his unconscious partner.

"What's going on? What's wrong?"

Dr. Roberts who'd treated Starsky the day before in the ER looked up and stepped toward Hutch.
"Goodmorning detective ---?"

"Hutchinson. What's happened? What's wrong with him?"

"Nothing's changed, Detective Hutchinson. He's just undergoing some routine neurological tests. His condition is stable. Nothing to worry about."

"Except he's still --- unconscious ---"
Hutch deliberately didn't use the word coma, but Dr. Roberts knew what he was aiming at.

"That's one of the reasons for us to keep checking and re-checking him, excuse me."

Dr. Roberts went back to Starsky's bed.

Hutch watched as all three doctors were probing his partner, who still lay motionless in the bed except for some reflexes. When one of the doctors hit below Starsky's knee with a small hammer his leg muscles gave the textbook response. When the other doctor ran the back of his pen over the sole of Starsky's foot he retracted, all in a reflex. The doctors ended their examination and began to leave the room.

"Wait a minute!" Hutch said.
The group stopped, looking somewhat disturbed.

"Aren't you going to introduce yourselves? I'm Detective Hutchinson; the man in the bed you've just examined is my partner, Detective Starsky. He's been admitted here after a car accident yesterday morning. I was told he should wake up within a few hours. It's now almost 24 hours later and he STILL is unconscious! Can anyone of you three perhaps shed a light on that for me? Thank you."

Dr. Roberts looked somewhat nervous but did the introductions anyway.
"Of course, Detective Hutchinson. This is Dr. Ontstein. He is our neurologist. As off now he will be your partner's treating specialist."
He pointed at a stern looking man in his late fifties, with bushy black eyebrows over very light blue eyes, and a thick shock of white-grey hair.

Ontstein and Hutch shook hands while taking each other in.

Dr. Roberts pointed at the second man, a tall, gangly, balding figure.
"This is Dr. Atkinson. Our chief of staff."

Ontstein spoke; his voice matched his looks, so did the language he used.
"We must finish our rounds now, Detective. We will have a talk at 10 AM in the waiting room on this floor."
He turned and walked out of the ICU room. The other two men followed.

Hutch turned back to Starsky. Still nothing had changed for his best friend.

"Detective Hutchinson?" A nurse had walked in.

"Yes?"

"There's a phone call for you. You can take it at the nurse's station."

Hutch followed the nurse to the phone and picked it up.
"Hutchinson."

"Hi, Hutch."
It was Jennifer.

"God Jennifer, I totally forgot to call you, I'm sorry, wait a minute."
He gestured one of the nurses to come to him.
"Listen, is it all right for my partner to have visitors, besides me and his Captain? I have his girlfriend on the line now."

"You will have to wait until after your conversation with Dr. Ontstein, I'm sorry."

"Never mind. Thank you. Jen? Listen, I totally forgot to ask about you coming to visit Starsk so I just did."

"And?"

"Well nothing conclusive yet. I will know more after I've talked to his doctors. Why don't you call me back around 11? I think I'll know more then."

"OK, I will. How is Dave doing Hutch? Any change?"

"No, I'm afraid not. He's stable but still out. That's one of the things I'd like to discuss with his doctors."

"OK, I'll call back then. I started early this morning so I can get out around 4. I --- Do you think he'll wake up soon, Hutch?"

"Well ---"

"I'm sorry, how should you know? I'll uh, I'll call at 11."

"Okay."

"Oh and Hutch?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

Hutch heard how Jennifer hung up the phone. He stood there pondering for a while but then returned to the ICU room, to Starsky. He looked at his partner, then settled in the chair at Starsky's bedside and took his friend's hand in his. He sat that way until 10 AM.

Chapter Text

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

ELEVEN

 

Captain Dobey stepped out of the elevator just as Hutch was on his way to meet the doctors in the waiting area.
Together they walked toward the two men in their white coats, Dr. Roberts and Dr. Ontstein.

Once the introductions were behind them, Dr. Ontstein began.
"As you've been informed yesterday by Dr. Roberts, Detective Starsky has suffered massive trauma to his head. However, since he's young, strong and in overall very good physical health he stands a very good chance to come out of this without any residue effects. The fact that his head injury is the only injury he's sustained from that high speed hit is a miracle in itself. The only setback we see right now is that he still hasn't woken up from his unconscious state. All his vital signs are close to normal, his ECG is good, there's close to normal brain activity. All this indicates he should be waking up soon."

Hutch couldn't stand it any longer.
"Excuse me, doctor. But I was already told yesterday by Dr. Roberts there, that my partner would be awake within 24 hours after the accident. Well, it's been 23 and some now and he's still in exactly the same state he was in as when they brought him in here! What's keeping him from waking up?!" Hutch was almost hissing at the doctors at this point.

Dobey put his hand on Hutch's arm.

Ontstein sent an icy look to Hutch, took a deep breath and answered, weighing every word that left his mouth.
"Detective Hutchinson. The brain is still a highly unpredictable organ. I've been a neurologist for more than 30 years now and I am still learning about the human brain every day. According to the textbook, your partner should be awake. As a matter of fact, could have been awake since last evening.
All his test results indicate he shouldn't be having any problems waking up. Except: he doesn't. He's in a state that in laymen's terms is often referred to as a "slumber". He is in there, and as far as we can tell from his ECG he is registering his surroundings, but his brain is just not letting him open the door and be with us again.
All we can do is wait until his brain decides it is time."

"Doctor," Captain Dobey spoke for the first time during this meeting,
"I've read before that, the longer a person is unconscious or in a coma, the slimmer the chances become for a full recovery. Is that true?"

"Yes, it is. But then we are usually speaking of cases that involve a state of deep comatose, where one can barely register any brain activity. We don't think Detective Starsky runs a big risk of this, his ECG shows near normal brain activity."

"What's near normal?" Hutch asked.

"It means the difference in percentage between what we are measuring in his ECG's and that of any healthy brain is negligible."

Hutch and Dobey sat there and tried to absorb what had been said.
Finally Hutch broke the silence.
"Oh, I've been meaning to ask about visitors. Uhm, my partner's girlfriend would like to visit him also, can I tell her she's free to come?"

"Well, I wouldn't say free to come. She's welcome during visiting hours. We've made an exception for you and your Captain to come and leave as you please ---"
Ontstein uttered those words with a hint of sarcasm,
"--- but we must not forget Detective Starsky is still in a serious condition. And we have other patients to consider in his room."

"I understand Detective Starsky is to be moved to a private room later today sir," Dr. Roberts said.

Ontstein looked at the younger doctor with a smirk on his face.
"Yes well, I think visiting hours should do. Now gentlemen, you must excuse me. I have a standing appointment."
Dr. Ontstein got up and shook Dobey and Hutch's hands firmly before leaving the room.

Dr. Roberts and the two policemen stood there for a while.

Then he said,
"I will check for you on his move to a private room."

Dobey and Hutch walked toward Starsky's room in silence. Still nothing had changed.
Dobey stayed for another half-hour. In the mean time Hutch went to the phone to inform his partner's mother.

"Hello?"

"Is it you, Mrs. Starsky?"

"Yes, I've been waiting by the phone. How is my boy, Hutch? Any change?"

"I wish I could say yes, Mrs. Starsky but I'm afraid he's still unconscious. The doctors do expect him to wake up soon though."

Silence on the other end of the line. Then,
"I've been calling the airports and I'm on standby for a flight. But they've told me chances are very small I will get a flight out to you soon with the holiday buzz and all."
Mrs. Starsky sounded defeated. All she wanted is to be with her first born.

"Mrs. Starsky? He really isn't in any life-threatening situation. He's not on a respirator or anything like that. They are just monitoring him, but he's doing all the important work himself. I will be staying with him at all times. I've asked them to set up a cot for me next to his bed as soon as he's moved to his own room and they agreed to it so ---"

"They did? I've never heard of hospitals doing that for adult patients. How sweet!"
Her voice told Hutch where Starsky got some of his innocence.
"Won't you mind staying with him, Hutch? The way they explained things to me, I don't think I can make it there before Christmas is over."

"Of course I don't mind. He's my partner, Mrs. Starsky, and besides that, he's the best friend I'll ever have."

"Oh, you're so sweet. And call me Rachel from now on."

"But ---"

"No but's. Well, I guess that's it then. Nothing much I can do from this side. I will keep trying to get a flight out as soon as possible, but I feel so much better knowing you will be by Davey's side. Thank you, Hutch. You will stay in touch, won't you? If I can't get a flight out I will be here until January 1st. Well, that was the plan originally. I think I will cut things short here, what do you think? Oh, never mind, never mind. Thank you dear, for staying with my boy. Stay in touch will you?"

"Of course I will. Rachel."

Both Hutch and Mrs. Starsky on the other side of the line chuckled. Adressing her by her first name sounded comically awkward. They said their goodbyes.

Hutch walked back to Starsky's room and was about to enter just as Dobey came out.
"How is he, Captain?"

"The same."
Dobey sighed.

They stood there in silence for a second. Then both men were asked to leave as Starsky would be transferred to a private room. Hutch was called to the nurse's station. Jennifer was on the phone again.

"Hi, Jen. No, no change yet. They're moving him to a private room. I'll be stopping by at the station, I'll talk to you then."
Hutch hung up the phone.

Hutch and Dobey both went to the police station. Hutch tried to file some unfinished reports and tried to relay some positive thoughts to Jennifer. But inside he felt empty.
He could see Jennifer had either been crying or hadn't slept, or both. Why should that surprise him?

At 1.30 PM he and Jennifer went to the hospital's visiting hour. They were led to Starsky's private room.

As soon as she saw her friend lying motionless in the hospital bed Jennifer was no longer able to hold back her tears. She grabbed Starsky's hand, and stroked his curls while her silent tears ran slowly across her beautiful face.
"Oh baby, oh baby. What'ye do that for?
Hey? You stood me up, gorgeous! I don't like being stood up.
Baby, hey, why don't you open those baby blues for me? So I can get really mad at ye for standing me up?"

Jennifer sniffled, as there was no response whatsoever from that handsome figure in the bed. She turned to Hutch, giggling with nerves,
"Doesn't he look like he's just taking a nap? Doesn't he look sweet?"

She got out a tissue and wiped her nose, then with a trembling voice said to Starsky,
"Come on baby, open your eyes! You know I love to play but I don't like this game any more, sweetie, Dave, please come back!"
Then she let out a sob and didn't speak any more, but just stroked Starsky's face and hair until a nurse came to tell her visiting hours were over.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

TWELVE

 

Hutch spent the rest of the day by Starsky's bedside. He only left for the occasional trip to the men's room or cafeteria. He watched as the nurses came in every few hours to change Starsky's position or check his monitors and IV.

When he was alone with his partner, Hutch would talk to Starsky. He'd read and heard that coma patients could hear things. And besides, even that arrogant Ontstein had said he thought Starsky was aware of what was happening around him.

"Starsk? Hey buddy, did I tell you yet it's December 24th today? Only 1 day 'till Christmas, bud. Think of it, Starsk! You wouldn't want to miss it, would you?"

Hutch squeezed his partner's hand. 
Half an hour ago the nurses had turned him from his back on his left side again. Starsky's seemingly sleeping features were facing Hutch.

Hutch touched his friend's cheek lightly.
"Oh man, what happened? What the hell happened, huh? Of all the hundreds of people on that street yesterday the guy has to die behind the wheel to hit you!
What is it with you, buddy? Why do you always get the bum wrap? I just don't get it, I just don't get it."

Hutch sighed, let his head hang down.

Suddenly he looked up.
He'd felt Starsky's hand squeezing his. He looked up but Starsky's expression remained unchanged. Hutch waited in anticipation.
"Buddy, was that you? Did you just squeeze my hand? Starsk? Can you try that again for me, buddy? Do it again please, go on. Squeeze my hand buddy, you can do it!"

A nurse walked in just as Hutch uttered this last sentence. Hutch looked at her, rather startled.
"I uh, I, I think he's waking up. I think --- He, he just squeezed my hand!"

The nurse looked from Hutch to Starsky, walked over to the still form on the bed and checked the ECG machine.
"How long ago was this?"

"2, 3 minutes maybe."

"No, nothing. Probably a reflex."

"Listen, I felt it! He definitely squeezed my ha--- there, there he did it again. Starsk! That's terrific, do it again!" Hutch was out of his chair and was beside himself with excitement.

The nurse quickly put a damper on his joy as she noticed the position in which Starsky's arm was lying. Because his upper arm was half underneath his chest, the weight had caused involuntary twitching or flexing of his muscles.
As soon as she had shifted Starsky's weight, Hutch could feel his buddy's hand go limp again.
Hutch's heart sank.

Over the hours to come Hutch would talk to Starsky again from time to time. He even held the receiver of the phone to Starsky's ear as his mother called to tell Hutch how she was doing in obtaining a flight over. So far she'd had no luck at all. And neither had Hutch, because Starsky was completely unresponsive to the sound of his mother's voice on the phone.

Hutch went down to the cafeteria at 7.30 PM to try and eat something, but he really wasn't all that hungry. Still he stayed until visiting hours were over so Jennifer, who had come again, could be alone with Starsky. After she'd left he once more returned to Starsky's bedside. Starsky was now lying on his right side.

"Starsk. Buddy, it's after 8.30 PM, Christmas Eve. You haven't even wrapped your presents yet! You'll never make it in time if you don't wake up now! Starsk, hey, wake up buddy. You know I'm not the Christmassy type of guy. Hell, you know better than anyone how you get on my nerves with those dumb antics of yours each year."

Hutch looked at Starsky's face, his features seemed so young and soft as he lay there, eyes closed.
"But to be honest, without your crazy tricks it's just, it's so.... It's plain boring. That's what it is, Starsk. Come on, wake up and spice things up for us dull ones will you? Be the life of the party as always. Come on, Starsk, don't leave me hanging here. Come out of it will you? This is getting old!"

By 9.15 PM Hutch couldn't take his partner's silence anymore. He had to go.
He couldn't bear watching his otherwise so physically active friend lying so still for hours.

Once downstairs, Hutch almost ran towards the Torino and drove and drove until at 10.30 PM he found himself parking outside of The Pits.
Hell, I never even took the time to tell Huggy it flashed through Hutch's mind. Still he got out of the Torino and entered The Pits.

Huggy was standing at the far side of the bar when he saw how Hutch walked in. He waved to draw the blond detective's attention and saw how Hutch came toward him with a tired gait.

"How've ye been, my man?"

"Huggy, first of all, I must apologize but I've got some ---"

"Bad news, yeah, I heard. Couldn't believe it, man. How's Curly doin' now?"

Hutch looked up at Huggy with a blank expression on his face.
"Same as yesterday, still out. I just wish I'd been the one to tell you. I'm truly sorry, Hug."

"Hey man, don't sweat it. You had other things on your mind. And why do you guys always come to me huh? Because Huggy's the man and Huggy knows first."
Huggy tried to lighten the mood.
"What do the white coats say on our friend?"

"Frankly I don't even think they know what's wrong with him" Hutch let his head down again.
"Oh Hug, I just don't get it. What is it with Starsk huh? It's always hot or cold with him. Either things are going swimmingly well for him, or he just drops straight into hell."

Huggy had automatically put a beer in front of Hutch. He knew he had to try and lighten his friend's mood a bit.
"I know, man. I wasn't even expecting you here tonight. So when I saw you walk in for a minute there I half expected to see our curly haired friend right behind ye wearing his annual Santa hat. Christmas Eve just ain't the same without the dude belting out all them Christmas classics just a bit off key. Hell, even my Christmas decorations ain't as funky now that he ain't had a hand in decorating the joint."

A weary smile covered Hutch's face.
"You know I keep seeing him. Like the whole day, the whole yesterday keeps rolling itself in front of my eyes in slow motion.
I see him in that damned Santa hat, I hear him singing those silly songs.
I can see him everywhere.
Starsky in the Santa hat, his curls sticking out in every which way.
Starsky putting the cuffs on Gianfranco, that crazy guy was singing a Christmas song while he was cuffing the S.O.B. would you believe it?" Hutch actually chuckled.

"Man, I believe anything Starsky does!"
Huggy was glad to see Hutch seemed a bit more up.

"I can see him hanging the mistletoe over the squad room door.
I can see him getting out of the Zebra.
I see him getting that damned Santa hat out of the filing cabinet.
I can see him crossing the street. Starsky in the Santa hat, Dobey telling him to take the damned thing off.
Starsky flying through the air." Hutch swallowed.
"I can still see how his head hit the pavement.
Then on the gurney in the hospital.
The bandages around his head.
The hair on the floor, his curls sticking out from under the bandages just like they stuck out from under ---" Hutch stopped in mid sentence.
"See ya, Hug." he almost jumped off his barstool.

"Hey, where you goin'?" Huggy called after him, but Hutch was already in the Torino on his way.

He came back to the hospital at midnight carrying two large plastic bags.
The security guard recognized the blond detective and tipped his hat at him.

Hutch entered Starsky's room just as two nurses were turning his partner again.
"Uhm, nurse?" Hutch asked.

One of the nurses looked at him.

"Would you?"

She looked at what he wanted her to do, smiled and nodded.

Hutch got out all the Christmas stuff he had been able to find at Starsky's apartment. His partner truly had a warped taste in style. He had a hula dancing Father Christmas, a plastic Rudolph the Reindeer with a blinking red light for a nose.
A small, artificial talking Christmas tree and last but not least a tape of Christmas songs by some barking dogs.

Besides the silly stuff, Hutch had also found some of the more traditional decorations and soon was busy turning Starsky's hospital room into a, well, wonderland of sorts.

When he went to the nurse's station to get some more tape, Hutch discovered to his shock it was 4 AM already. He knew he'd better get some sleep. He asked the nurse on duty if he could borrow their tape of Classical Christmas Carols and Christmas hits and back in the room, he popped it into the tape deck.

Then he changed, took one more look at his buddy's still form, set his alarm at 7 AM and fell into an exhausted sleep.

Chapter Text

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

THIRTEEN

 

December 25th. Christmas Day.

Hutch's alarm sounded at precisely 7 AM.
The sound of the buzz startled him and he fumbled to find the alarm to turn it off. His face was all crinkled from his short night's rest and his fine, thinning, hair was standing in all directions on his head. He opened his mouth in one wide yawn while his eyes took in Starsky's room.
Geez, did I do all that?! God, I can tell it was late! Hutch thought to himself as he saw the array of Christmas clutter he'd retrieved from Starsky's place to "decorate" his buddy's hospital room with.

Then he noticed the activity on the other side of the room. Two nurses were already in the process of giving Starsky a sponge bath. To his dismay Hutch could see there still wasn't any change in his partner's condition as he noticed how limp Starsky's body was to the handling by the nurses.

One of the nurses noticed Hutch had woken up.
"Good morning Detective Hutchinson. My, you really tried your best last night, didn't you?"

Hutch pre-empted her most logical next remark.
"Yes, too bad I didn't succeed at it, huh?" he gave the nurses a warm smile.
He nodded at his partner in the bed.
"How's he doing today?"

"Still the same I'm afraid."
The nurses had also changed the bandages to Starsky's head.

Hutch picked up his clothes, towel and soap to go and have a shower. Before leaving the nurses with Starsky he went over to the bedside cabinet and turned on the tape deck. Soon the room was filled with the sound of Christmas classics. He turned the volume up slightly.
"Would you please leave that on, even after you've left? He loves Christmas" Hutch said while he looked at his buddy with a weary smile on his face.

"Of course."

Hutch turned and headed for the showers.
"Oh, and one more thing? Would you please put the hat back on? He loves that, too."
Hutch handed the nurses back the Santa had, which he had the other nurse put over Starsky's bandages last night.

"No problem."

After he'd showered and had a light breakfast in the cafeteria Hutch returned to Starsky's room where the first side of the tape just was coming to an end.
Hutch reversed the tape and turned the tape deck back on.
He looked at Starsky, who was put on his left side now. He looked just like Starsky, this still figure, the way he would look after a wild Christmas party, zonked out on the couch. Now that the Santa hat was covering the bandages there really wasn't anything left to remind Hutch his buddy wasn't at all well.

At 10 AM doctors Roberts, Atkinson and Ontstein entered the room.
Although the first two seemed amused at the room's metamorphosis, Ontstein looked irritated.
Atkinson and Roberts shook hands with Hutch while Ontstein just concentrated on reading Starsky's status report and studying the monitors.
He took out a light and shone it into Starsky's eyes, after opening the lids.
He took Starsky's arm and pinched it. Starsky flexed and tried to retract.

Ontstein mumbled something to Dr. Roberts and then both of them stood at either side of Starsky's bed. Ontstein lifted Starsky's upper body up to an almost sitting position; Roberts stood with his arms open half behind Starsky's lifted body. Then Ontstein let go of Starsky. Hutch flinched.
Starsky's arms raised themselves slightly while his hands spread open wide.
Roberts caught Starsky before he hit the bed, then gently lowered the young man back on to the pillows. Ontstein took out a pen and made a note on Starsky's status report.

"What the hell was that all about?" Hutch spat out before he could help himself.

Without looking up Ontstein answered.
"Do you have children, Detective?"

"Uhm, no."

"What you've just witnessed is part of a test we perform on newborns. To check how their reflexes work. You know a newborn infant can walk just after it's born? You just hold the child upright and place its feet on a solid surface and its infantile brain will direct its feet to make the rudimentary moves of the walking process. Of course it is all just reflexes, but it's a very important indication which tells us if the brain is functioning as it should.
What we just did with your partner is one small part of that same test we perform on infants. The drop reflex. When an infant is dropped suddenly, it will reach out its arms and open its hands to be able to grasp on to the first thing it encounters.
Your partner just passed the test with flying colors. His brain is still functioning as it should. The reflexes are not lost."

Ontstein gave a sharp look at Hutch then something of what was probably supposed to be a smile came across his face as he put the status report back in its place.
"I suspect it won't be long now, Detective, before this young man will wake up."
After a quick nod with his head to Hutch Ontstein was the first to leave the room, followed by the other two doctors.

Hutch went over to Starsky to rearrange his blankets. He pulled the Santa hat carefully back in place over Starsky's thick curls. Then he sighed and sat in the chair next to Starsky's bed again.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

FOURTEEN

 

When the visiting hour arrived Jennifer came in to the room. She had to smile as she recognized some of Starsky's Christmas "art" in his hospital room.
"You didn't! Oh, I love this" she smiled at Hutch.
"You should've told me I would've helped you."

"It was a spur of the moment thing." Hutch watched as Jennifer went over to Starsky and kissed him on the cheek.

"Hi Sweetie, Merry Christmas! I'm surprised you're not awake by now, don't you remember we were supposed to go out and make a day of it?" Jennifer stroked Starsky's curls. She turned to Hutch.
"Still no change?"

"Afraid not. I thought I'd decorate the room, play some Christmas tunes. I was hoping that would make a difference but I guess I was wrong. His neurologist seems to think he can wake up any time though. But then, they've been saying that all along."

Huggy made a surprise visit too. He'd brought a batch of his secret "Christmas Juice" a terribly spiked concoction which he and Starsky had invented 3 Christmases ago. Huggy looked worriedly at his curly haired friend. He'd never before seen Starsky this inactive. After 15 minutes he and Hutch left the room to Jennifer and Starsky.

The two friends talked in the doorway while taking in the touching scenes of a girlfriend and her unconscious, unresponsive, beau. Then Huggy had to leave again promising he would be back that evening.

Jennifer stayed for the full hour. She sang along with the Christmas tape, picked up both of Starsky's hands to clap them together as one does with a small child. Starsky remained unmoved. When the hour was over she once again kissed Starsky on his cheek, went over to Hutch and hugged and kissed him too.
"Merry Christmas Hutch, don't you have to visit with family on Christmas Day?"

"We're not exactly the Christmas kind of people." Hutch shrugged shyly.
"You have a nice visit with your family though." He kissed her on the cheek.

Later that day the Dobey family arrived. Captain, his wife Edith, teenage son Cal and grade schooler Rosie all came by, bringing gifts. Rosie was crazy about Starsky.
Hutch could hear her high voice in the distance already and when the family came into Starsky's room he was one big smile.

"Hey, hey hey!" he exclaimed, as Rosie skipped into the room and jumped straight into his opened arms.
"How are you doing, pumpkin?" he kissed the girl on her cheek then nodded to Mrs. Dobey.

"How are you doing Captain, Mrs. Dobey? Glad you came along, Cal!"

Cal, a shy teen just shuffled his feet and nodded to Hutch before turning to Starsky, his basketball buddy. He felt very uncomfortable, seeing his friend so still in the bed.

Mrs. Dobey kissed Hutch on the cheek after he'd put Rosie back on the ground.
"Oh Ken, how many times have I told you it's Edith! How are you doing? You look tired."

"Well ---"

"What in gods name did you do to this room?!" Captain Dobey exclaimed, making a face.
"This can't be your stuff, must be his." he looked at the bed.

"Yup, went over to his place last night, thought I'd redecorate his new room more to his uh, taste." Hutch smirked.

Rosie had gone to Starsky's bedside and pulled up a chair. She climbed on it, bent over and kissed Starsky on the cheek.
"Merry Christmas Dave! Wakey, wakey!" she cheerfully called at the curly haired detective.

"Rosie careful! Be gentle!" Dobey called to his young daughter.
He seemed more concerned with his unconscious detective right now, than with his little girl who was carelessly balancing on the chair.

"Why doesn't Dave open his eyes mommy?" came Rosie's innocent question.

"Well ---"

As Mrs. Dobey carefully formulated her reply to her little girl, Dobey took Hutch by the arm and steered him to the far corner of the room.
"Is his family on the way?" Dobey asked Hutch.

"No, his mother couldn't get a flight out. She can be here 2 days from today, at the soonest."

"How is he doing?" Dobey asked while gesturing toward the bed with his head.

A deep sigh from Hutch, followed by a shake of his head.
"Oh, I don't know, Captain. Still the same. His doctors were in this morning. They keep serving the same old crap on how normal everything is functioning and how he can wake up any minute. Frankly I'm beginning to get serious doubts about those ---"

"Do that again! You're tickling me."
Rosie laughed out loud from her position next to the bed.

Both Dobey and Hutch looked up.
They could see Rosie holding Starsky's left hand, they could see how the little girl tickled the palm of his hand and how he then squeezed it shut around her little hand.
Both men quickly walked toward the bed. Mrs. Dobey and Cal were all excited, too.

"Do that again, Rosie," Hutch asked the little girl, who was having the most fun with her friend Dave.

She opened the big hand again, tickled the palm and yes, once again the hand shut itself around hers, causing yet another laughing fit from the little girl.

Dobey, his wife and Hutch looked at each other and all began laughing and smiling and patting each other on the arms.

"I know another trick, hey look, I know another trick!" the little girl was on a roll now as she pulled her fathers sleeve. She went back to Starsky's bedside and climbed on the chair. Then she leaned over and said straight into Starsky's right ear,
"Give me a kiss" then she held her head in front of Starsky's lips.

All the adults leaned in closer to the bed and to their amazement they could see how Starsky pouted his lips into a kiss. Rosie moved her cheek closer so his lips touched her skin. Afterwards she had to laugh again, then patted Starsky's unconscious features with her small hands.

Then she turned toward the adults and said in a serious voice now,
"I'm gonna marry Dave when he grows up and I'm awake."

The Dobey's and Hutch just burst out into a mixture of laughter and tears. It was clear that Starsky's actions were no reflexes. And although he was still unconscious, they all knew they had witnessed a milestone.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

FIFTEEN

 

Hutch had called the nurses who in turn had notified the neurologist.
After 15 minutes Ontstein and some other doctors stepped into the room, ushering all visitors out.

The Dobey family and Hutch waited in the waiting area for the outcome.
10 minutes later Ontstein joined them. For the first time his face seemed almost friendly.
"I'm looking for someone called Rosie."

"I'm Rosie!"

The little girl jumped up and walked toward Ontstein, who squatted to her level.
"Well, Rosie, I think I'm going to have to devote a chapter to you in my next article."

Hutch couldn't believe what he was hearing and seeing. With moist eyes and a hoarse voice he finally dared to ask,
"Is he --- is he awake doc?"

"No, not yet. But definitely in the process."

The coin finally dropped on Dobey,
"Wait a minute doc, if he isn't awake, how could you know my daughter's name is Rosie?"

"Because he said her name. To be precise he said Rosie Fa la la," Ontstein even had to chuckle.
"He's definitely on his way out of the maze. I suggest you prolong your visit just a bit, see how far we can come today. But: don't expect any miracles. This may still take longer than we now hope."
Ontstein shook everyone's hands before leaving.

The happy group returned to Starsky's room. Hutch put the Christmas tape back on and Rosie had positioned herself on the bed with Starsky.

Hutch, Mrs. Dobey, Rosie and at a few instances even Captain Dobey himself sang along with the Christmas songs. Starsky remained unresponsive for the most part.

"Deck the halls ---"
The all-familiar song came out of the tape deck speakers.

Then the group could hear Starsky's soft, slightly slurred, murmur,
"Fa ---la ---la ---la ---"

Hutch looked up at the Dobey's. Mrs. Dobey had a single tear running down her cheek. Even Dobey was wiping at his eyes.

Hutch touched Starsky's cheek lightly, bent down and whispered in his buddy's ear,
"That's right Starsk, you're doing terrific. A little louder now, you can do it!"

Again and again they played the song and each time Starsky would repeat the same part along with the choir on the tape. But after an hour he stopped and again remained silent.
The excitement died down a bit, but still everyone had regained some hope for the dark haired detective.

The Dobey's couldn't stay longer and said their goodbyes.
Captain Dobey affectionately stroked Starsky's forehead.
"Keep trying son, you can do it."

Dobey looked at Hutch,
"I'll be back tomorrow."

Mrs. Dobey kissed Starsky and Cal squeezed his hand before walking out of the room.

Little Rosie also kissed Starsky, thought a minute, and then raised her index finger at him, in true Hutch fashion and said in an authoritative voice faintly reminiscent of her father's,
"And when I come back I want your eyes to be open young man!"

Again the adults laughed at first, and again they felt a pull at their heartstrings as they could clearly see a smile appear on Starsky's unconscious features.

The evenings' visiting hours arrived. Jennifer couldn't make it, since she'd driven to another town to visit her family right after this morning's visiting hours. But Huggy was there again.

Hutch gave Huggy the whole exciting flow of events of earlier that day and Huggy seemed relieved.
He too sat at Starsky's bedside and patted his buddy's hand and told him how the annual Christmas party had been the night before.

The tape with Christmas songs was still playing in the background and again Starsky faithfully did his Fa la la la's along with the choir, causing even Huggy's eyes to moisten up.

At 8.15 PM visiting hours were over, Huggy had left and Christmas day was only going to last a few hours more.
Despite all the hoopla of before, Hutch once again felt terribly lonely and sad as he watched how Starsky was still unconscious in his bed wearing his Santa hat.

In an attempt to pick himself up, Hutch closed the door of the room, turned up the volume of the tape deck and began singing along to all the Christmas songs out loud. To his own surprise he knew all the lyrics, but then just how surprising was that after hearing the same old songs over and over again for 13 hours now?

Just as Jennifer had done before he found himself grabbing hold of Starsky's limp hands and moving them along the rhythm of the various songs. Every now and then a faint smile would appear on Starsky's face.

"That's it, Starsk, that's it buddy. Come on, you know the lyrics to this stuff better than I do, come on. Let me hear that voice of yours, come on!" Hutch was cheering Starsky on.

After an hour of this Starsky seemed to become more animated. Hutch could detect a slight fluttering of Starsky's eyelids, an attempt of his lips to form words. Starsky's eyebrows were frowning frequently now.

"That's it buddy, you're almost there, come on. Come on, you can do it Starsk"!

Then Hutch thought he could hear Starsky's voice again. He reached over and turned down the volume of the tape deck a bit.

"La la--- la la," Starsky softly mumbled.

"Very good Starsk, that's terrific. Do that again Fa…..La come on, sing with me La --"

"La ---la --la," Starsky continued, eyelids fluttering.

"La la la. Wow, that's great Starsk, come on, one more time Fa la, come on, come on, sing with me now Fa la la---"
Hutch moved Starsky's hands to the tones that he sang.

"la --la --la -- la --la --la," Starsky finished beautifully in rhythm and key hitting all the right notes.

"Oh, you're terrific! That was terrific!"
Hutch didn't know if he was closer to crying or laughing. Fact was he was the happiest man on the planet this instant.

The tape deck began playing "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer."
Starsky was still very animated; he seemed to be struggling to come back to the real world.

Hutch got up and fetched the plastic Rudolph with the red light bulb for a nose.
"Hey buddy, Starsk, hey look at this. Come on buddy, open your eyes, take a look at this."
Hutch turned the volume of the tape deck up a bit again and started moving the Rudolph figure in front of Starsky's face.
"Open your eyes Starsk, look, look what I've got here. It's Rudolph Starsk, come on, your favorite reindeer. Take a look Starsk."

After what seemed an eternity, Starsky's heavy eyelids fluttered open a bit.
Hutch held his breath; his eyes began to moisten. Starsky's eyelids kept on fluttering open and closed, as if they were too heavy for him to keep open.

"That's it Starsk, open your eyes, you're almost there. Look, it's Rudolph Starsk, the rednosed reindeer, from the song, remember?"

"Mmmmmmm," Starsky moaned.
He seemed to be winning the fight against his drooping eyelids.
"MMMMmmmnnnosssee."

"Yes that's it, the reindeer with the red NOSE!"
Hutch was talking to his partner in a voice one usually reserves for talking to babies and toddlers.

"MMMMMMuuuuuudooofffffffffff," Starsky now slurred, while staring slightly cross-eyed at the plastic reindeer in his partner's hands.

"Yes, that's right, it's Rudolph Starsk. Hey, welcome back buddy, welcome back."
Hutch rubbed Starsky's arm.

Starsky looked at Hutch, back at the reindeer, back at Hutch.
He seemed to be having problems focusing. He closed his eyes again just as Hutch was about to get up to tell the nurses his buddy had woken up.

"La la ---- muuuuuudddddoooooofffffffffff," Starsky mumbled, eyes closed.

"Hey, Starsk? Starsky, come on, open your eyes. Hey, Starsky? Come on buddy, you just came back?"

But Starsky seemed to have had enough for one day.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T 

By Jacqueline(c)December 23, 2000
Unedited

SIXTEEN

 

Hutch waited a few more minutes, but the moment was gone. Starsky was as immobile as before again. Still Hutch went over to the nurse's station to report what had happened. He'd even remembered to check his watch the moment Starsky had responded so the nurse who walked back with him to the room, could put down on Starsky's status report that the curly haired detective had had a moment of consciousness at 9.45 PM.

She checked the ECG and the other monitors and deliberated both with her colleagues as well as Dr. Roberts downstairs in the ER on what steps they should take. Since Starsky seemed to have slipped back into his own private world again, it was decided to let things be as they were.

So once again, at 10 PM Hutch was alone in the room with his, once again, still buddy.
He turned toward the window and looked out over the city with all its lights. Some people even had put lights in the trees in their backyards. One had to do something to compromise for a snowless Christmas.

Before he could control it, Hutch found himself weeping soundlessly.
His shoulders moved up and down. His whole body trembled with locked up emotion and stress. The tears flowed like they hadn't for years. All the sadness, worry, fatigue, despair came out in one big wet waterfall.

After what seemed forever there were no more tears. Hutch could cry no more. He wiped his face, found a handkerchief and blew his nose. He continued to look out over the city. He checked his watch and found to his shock that it was 11 PM. He'd been crying for a full hour.
But it had been good, he felt better now, cleansed.

Suddenly the Christmas songs were beginning to irritate him. "It's the most wonderful time of the year" he heard the singer on the tape.
"Yeah, right." he uttered in a sarcastic tone.

"Thissssis nnnnnnnot my bed."
Hutch heard a soft, slurred and croaky voice coming from behind him.
As he turned he could see Starsky lying in the bed, eyes fluttering open and closed again, a puzzled expression on his face.

Before he knew it a few new tears escaped Hutch's eyes.
"Starsk?"

"Whad'ye do with mmmmmmy bed?"

"Hey buddy, you're back again. God, you're awake."

"I donnn even dink thissssis mmmmy room."
Starsky was still struggling to keep his eyes open for a longer time. The lights in the room bothered him. Though he was talking and seemed to be quite coherent, if slurry, he still was lying perfectly still in his bed, the only movement coming from his mouth and eyes.

Hutch squeezed his buddy's arm.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute, Starsk, I'll be right back."

Hutch didn't want to run the risk he would again be the only witness to Starsky's waking moments so he darted out of the room and notified the nurses that Starsky had woken up, for the second time this evening.

When he returned he could already hear Starsky's croaky voice,
"Where'd ye put mmmmmmmy room?" He sounded charmingly drunk.

The nurses had notified Dr. Ontstein who had to be beeped at a Christmas function. He was on his way back to the hospital.
Meanwhile the nurses turned Starsky back on his back. He looked up at all these ladies fussing over him. Then a sly grin covered his face.
"Thissss isssss nice!"

Hutch watched the tableau and shook his head, grinning widely. Leave it to his best buddy to wake up from a coma and immediately start charming the ladies again.

Finally Starsky moved on his own accord. His left arm sluggishly moved up and his hand caught the sleeve of one of the nurses.
"Where diddddya put mmmmmy room?" he asked, looking like a five-year-old.

"Good evening, Detective Starsky. It's nice to see your eyes open for a change. And what beautiful blue eyes you have!"

Starsky's arm dropped again. He looked up at the nurse but still had trouble focusing.
"Do I know you?"

"Not as well as I've gotten to know you over the past few days!"

Dr. Roberts entered the room.

"Ah, Dr. Roberts, on duty even on Christmas Day?" Hutch greeted the young ER doctor.

"Oh, you don't want to know, Detective Hutchinson. So, your partner finally decided to return to the land of the living for real. Hello Detective Starsky, can you hear me?"

Starsky squinted up at Dr. Roberts, trying to focus. His eyes may still have had trouble working, his mouth sure didn't.
"Whaddare ye nnnnnuts? I ain't deaf. Did you take mmmmmmmy room?"

Hutch couldn't stop grinning. Starsky was back all right.

Dr. Roberts had to chuckle as well. He got out his light and shone it into Starsky's eyes.

"Hey, cudddhat out! Whassamatter with you? That hurtszzzzz."
With a slightly limp hand Starsky tried to knock Dr. Roberts hand away, but his motor skills and his unfocused eyesight made his attempts unsuccessful.

"Detective. Do you know your name?" Dr. Roberts spoke slowly in a clear voice.

"Ssssstaaasssky, Dave Ssstaaaaasssssky." Starsky replied, while he looked at Roberts as if the doctor were an escapee from the loony bin.

"Very good. Do you know what happened?" Dr. Roberts went on.

Hutch watched with anticipation, though he couldn't stop himself from grinning as he already could see the real Starsky surfacing again.

Starsky looked up at Roberts after his latest question, with a blank look.
"Where?"

Now Dr. Roberts was confused.
"What?"

"Where?"

"Uhm," Dr. Roberts gave Hutch a nervous glance.
Hutch on the other hand could barely contain himself as he was almost 99 percent sure where this conversation was heading.

"Where what?" Roberts tried to get a clue from this extraordinary patient.

"Where did what happen?" came Starsky's return question.

Hutch snorted, Starsky turned to him, still a bit unfocused, Dr. Roberts drew a blank.

Hutch thought he'd help the doctor out since he was the one who knew best how Starsky's brain worked when most others didn't have a clue.
"Starsky, the doctor means if you know what happened to you, do you remember what happened to you?"

"Are you a doctor?" Starsky now asked Hutch.

"No it's me, Starsk. Wait a minute, do you know my name?"

Starsky looked intensely at Hutch, then a smile came over his face.
"You're Blintzzzzzz."

Now Hutch was embarrassed.
"Yes, but you call me Hutch remember?"

"Yessss I know. You, you are a cop."

"That's right and so are you."

"Yeah."
Before Dr. Roberts could ask his next question, Starsky turned to him with an earnest expression on his face.
"Mmmmy car isszzzz rrrrred and he---" he waved his arm sluggishly in Hutch's direction,
"---he don't like rrrred."

Due to Starsky's nature, the otherwise routine examination of a patient after a coma, took much longer for Dr. Roberts to complete than with any other patient he'd had to perform the examination on before.

Hutch just couldn't stop grinning. He loved his crazy partner. Boy, was he ever back.

Even when Ontstein came in, after having been called away from a classy Christmas function, Hutch couldn't stop smiling. To his surprise Ontstein, who'd come across as stern and arrogant before, seemed to take an immediate liking to the still fuzzy but gradually more coherent Starsky.

Still have to meet the first person that you don't charm eventually Starsk, Hutch thought to himself.

After a short talk with Ontstein Hutch went to the phones to bring the good news of Starsky's awakening to both his mother as Jennifer. He kept the conversations short, telling them he would call back longer tomorrow and returned to Starsky's room.

It was 11.50 PM Christmas Day, or rather Christmas Night by now. The two young detectives were alone again in the hospital room. Starsky was getting more and more clear and coherent, even though his short term memory was not quite up to par and he had no memory whatsoever of any event since his kissing scene with Jennifer in the squad room on December 23rd.
Hutch sat in the chair next to Starsky's bed and grabbed his buddy's hand.

"Sso, it'sszzz rrreally Christmaszzzzz Day already?" Starsky asked again, for the fifth time already.

"Yeah buddy, you were out for nearly 3 full days!"

Starsky looked like a little boy lost.
"I sssstill gotta lotta zzzshoppin' to do," he complained.

"Starsky, leave that for next year. In 10 minutes this year's Christmas is over anyway."

Starsky turned to Hutch, looking his Christmassy 5 years old again.
"But, budd --- I didnnnnn't even geddye a gift," he mumbled.

"Oh buddy, you gave me the best Christmas gift in a life time! You came back on Christmas Day!"

THE END