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The Bridge

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For several long seconds Starsky stared at the door through which his partner had just left. No characteristic Hutchinson door-slamming, no backward glance, just the quiet snick of the door closing.

"Shit!"

He'd done it again.

"Shit! Fuck! Shit!"

He'd driven Hutch away.

Again.

He made a conscious effort to relax and slumped back in the chair with a quiet, "Damn."

He'll be back. Hutch always comes back. Don't need him any more anyway. Constant hoverin', mother-hennin', tellin' me what to do and when to do it. I'm sick and tired of it. I can look after myself. Just wish he'd accept that.

But the other half of him remembered the hurt expression on Hutch's face, swiftly concealed by what Starsky privately called his 'stone face'. He hated that look. He could never tell what Hutch was thinking when he put that face on. It was a mask he had worn in the early days of the Police Academy before Starsky and, to a lesser extent, John Colby had broken through his barriers. It had made him appear cold and aloof but Starsky had seen past the protection the façade afforded to the warm yet diffident man that was Hutch. It had sure been worth the effort but Hutch had been hiding behind that mask again recently and Starsky grudgingly acknowledged that he had been partially responsible for putting it there with his attitude.

He looked around his apartment seeing all the little reminders of Hutch's presence; a jacket carelessly flung over the back of a chair, a pair of boots kicked haphazardly under the table, the plants which seemed to have migrated from Venice Place without him noticing, Hutch's guitar propped against the wall in the corner, a notebook and pen abandoned on the table where Hutch had been composing a new song just that afternoon.

One day you'll push him too far and he won't come back.

Trying to ignore the way his conscience pricked him, Starsky heaved himself from the chair and made his slow way to the kitchen. He found Hutch had left unwashed pots, pans and plates piled up in the sink. He began to laboriously wash them while he waited for the water to boil to make a drink – the drink Hutch had offered to make for him.

"You're a slob, Hutchinson," he muttered, not because he really meant it but because it suited his mood to believe Hutch had left the dishes on purpose.

Eventually Starsky shuffled back to his chair, only to realise he'd left his medication in the kitchen and had to retrace his steps. It was with a feeling of relief that he almost collapsed onto the seat. Everything was such an effort since the shooting. He exhaled carefully, more aware than usual of the slight breathlessness that always followed even a minor exertion and the raised tempo of his heartbeat. Who would have guessed something as simple as making a drink could be so exhausting? Or time consuming?

Better get used to it if Hutch doesn't come back.

Sinking back into the cushions, he attempted to get comfortable. For a brief moment he missed Hutch's helping hands perfectly positioning the pillows.

Well, he's had plenty of practice. But I need to be doin' stuff myself. I should be doin' stuff myself after all this time.

Gradually getting his breathing under control he finally settled comfortably in the chair.

Will I ever be able to look after myself again?

Brushing this disquieting thought aside for now and deciding it was too much effort to get up to turn on the TV, Starsky turned to the radio on the table beside his chair. Adjusting the volume to a comfortable level, he listened to The Carpenters chirpily informing him they were 'On Top of the World'.

"Hmmph! Wish I was up there with you," he grunted.

While listening to a news bulletin with one ear, he consulted Hutch's comprehensive notes and took the correct dosage of the correct medicine, washing it down with a few sips of tea. Normally a coffee- or soda-drinker, Starsky was mildly surprised that he had developed a taste for tea last thing at night, thanks to Hutch's insistence that it was the perfect drink for taking pills and ensuring a good night's sleep.

Still so many pills. I'm surprised I don't rattle when I move.

The strains of Simon and Garfunkel's 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' came over the airwaves overlaid by a soft feminine voice, "Welcome to The Bridge. This is the place to call if you're weary, feeling small or times get rough. My name is Doctor Eleanor Martin and this is the number you need..."

Starsky snorted and rolled his eyes in a very Hutch-ian way. Shrinks on the radio! What will they come up with next? You must be pretty desperate to call a radio station with your problems.

"I'll try to help you see the way forward past whatever is troubling you and hopefully you can cross the bridge to the other side."

Starsky snorted again and shook his head. "Pretentious nonsense."

See, Hutch. You're not the only one who knows long words. Well, they say there's always someone worse off than you so maybe this show will cheer me up before I turn in.

"Our first caller is Sue. How may I help you tonight, Sue?"

"It's my neighbour," came a strident voice that had Starsky flinching. "He's got all these huge bushes in his back yard and he won't cut them back. They're hanging over my yard and my plants won't grow."

"So tell me what you've already tried, Sue?"

Starsky listened with a mixture of amusement and amazement, grateful that he didn't live anywhere near this lady or her neighbour with the backyard jungle, three noisy children and two even noisier dogs. And he hoped he never would!

Doctor Eleanor made a few suggestions along the lines of talking to her neighbour but Sue would not be pacified.

"I think you need to take legal advice, Sue."

"I can't afford a lawyer!" came the indignant response.

"Then maybe the police can help you. Let us know how you get on."

Starsky chuckled to himself. "The uniforms will love that! Nice job for some rookie fresh out of the Academy."

Then he gave a small shiver as he recalled one of the first incidents he'd attended not long after leaving the academy. You never knew what you were walking into in those situations. The older officer he'd been partnered with seemed to resent having to baby-sit a rookie and was quite happy to stand back and let Starsky handle the situation as best he could.

Although Starsky had qualified near the top of the class and was full of the confidence of youth, he had felt more than a little nervous at being confronted by two women screeching at each other in the street regardless of the audience they were drawing. The whole situation quickly escalated as more people joined the watching crowd and began to take sides. Luckily Starsky's partner realised what was happening and called for back-up, and between them the officers were able to separate the two groups. Carefully controlled role play had not fully equipped him for the reality of dealing with volatile members of the public but somehow he had coped.

He had learned two valuable lessons that day, however. Firstly he could do this job, the only job he had ever wanted. Secondly he needed a partner he could rely on, not someone who was marking time to retirement and was prepared to stand back and watch as his partner went into potential danger; a partner who would watch his back no matter what, someone he could trust and who would trust him in return. And he had found all that, and more, in Hutch.

Starsky absent-mindedly reached for a cookie as he listened to the next caller. Michael had apparently been abducted by aliens and was keen to share his experiences.

"What do the aliens look like?" Doctor Eleanor asked.

"Small and green."

Starsky felt laughter bubbling up inside of him.

"They've got really long arms and their hands drag on the floor. Their feet are like flippers and their heads are huge with no hair; they must have enormous brains. And they've got three eyes."

"Did you see their spaceship?"

Starsky could hear Michael's excitement growing. "Yeah. It was a huge, spinning saucer with glowing lights. It filled the sky. Then it came down to land and split open and all the aliens came out. I tried to run away but four of them grabbed me. One of them stuck a needle in me."

Sounds like the movie me and Hutch watched last night.

It had been a rare evening of harmony between the partners, as though a cease fire had been declared and an uneasy truce was in place. Hutch was always urging him to eat more sensibly, to work harder at his physio sessions. On and on and on. Hutch's running commentary on Starsky's progress was muted for once and although they were nowhere near their camaraderie of old, it was a huge improvement on the verbal sniping that they had been increasingly engaged in. Starsky had enjoyed sharing a meal and the movie with his friend, although thinking back it seemed that Hutch had fallen asleep within ten minutes of the movie starting. And he himself had dropped off to the sound of Hutch's gentle snoring not long after.

"That must have been very frightening," Doctor Eleanor was saying. "What happened next?"

"I woke up inside the saucer. It was all silver and shiny with flashing lights. I was tied to a chair all the time but they gave me food and drink. We travelled for days until we got to their home planet."

"Then what happened, Michael?"

"They dragged me off the chair and threw me out the door. I rolled down this ramp thing and landed at the feet of their leader. He was a bit taller than the others with some kind of light on his head."

"Did he talk to you? Or harm you in any way?"

"He didn't say anything but somehow I knew what he was trying to tell me, like brainwaves or somethin'. They're gonna take us away to their home planet and use us for spare parts. They're gonna to take us all to Alpha Centauri and we'll all be wiped out!"

Starsky's mind was immediately transported back three years to James March Wrightwood. He had been convinced that he was being targeted by waves from Alpha Centauri. Under their influence he had kidnapped, assaulted and murdered young women, binding their bodies in TV antenna wire before dumping them. Despite one of his victims being a former girlfriend of Starsky's, both he and Hutch could see that 'Commander Jim' was also a victim, a victim of the system which was supposed to help him.

We tried so hard to save you. Why didn't you take my hand? Just one more step, that's all you had to do. Just take one more step and we could have gotten you the help you needed. We would have made that room for you, ya know. Me 'n' Hutch 'n' Polly.

Starsky became aware that Michael was still rambling about his adventure in outer space.

"Aww, come on, lady. Why are you dragging this out? This guy needs help, not parading on the radio for everyone to laugh at him."

As if she had heard him Doctor Eleanor said, "Michael? Will you do something for me? I have more callers waiting to speak to me. Can I pass you on to my colleague who will be able to help you?"

"Well, I don't know, Doctor Eleanor," Michael said with obvious reluctance. "I need to tell as many people as possible. I've gotta warn you all."

"I know, Michael. And you have done a very good job. My colleague will take more details from you and can arrange for the correct people to help you. Is that okay, Michael?"

"Yeah. I guess so." Michael said, sounding dispirited.

"Thank you for your call, Michael. You are listening to The Bridge, your late night phone-in where a trouble shared is a trouble halved. My number is 555-9988 and our next caller is Amanda. How may I help you?"

A very young, tearful voice came through the speakers. "Hello? Doctor Eleanor?"

"You're on the air, Amanda. What is troubling you tonight?"

Starsky nibbled on another of the cookies Minnie had sent for him and pulled a face as he took a sip of his now lukewarm tea. He could hear rain lashing down against his window as Amanda inhaled tremulously.

"I don't know what to do. My boyfriend told me he doesn't want to go out with me any more..."

Another shaky breath and a small sob. Starsky strained his ears to hear the quavering voice.

"I love him so much. What am I going to do?"

Amanda began to cry; great, gulping sobs that tore at Starsky's heart.

Lost love. He knew all about that.

At school there had been Sharman. But he had never really loved her, just put her on a pedestal and worshipped her from afar. That wasn't true love. And when she came back into his life he had been motivated to help her by pity for what she had become and not by love.

Laura? No. She was more like a sister than a girlfriend. Sure he'd flirted with her when she miraculously reappeared in his life but he hadn't really been serious about it. In fact if he was truthful it was more about competing with Hutch than wanting 'Allison'.

Helen.

Helen who had died at Commander Jim's hands.

I could've married Helen... would've married her if she'd've had me. I wonder if she'd still be alive if we had tied the knot?

Terry...

Starsky took in a deeper breath than intended and then winced as his lungs protested. He exhaled carefully.

Oh, Terry. I would definitely have married you. We'd have had dozens of little Starskys running around by now.

He smiled to himself, trying to remember the good times and not the manner of her death, or that painful night when he and Hutch had opened the gifts she had left for them.

I don't think I could have gotten through that without Hutch's support. Starsky blinked away the hot tears that trembled on his lashes, blurring his vision.

Rosey. He had been totally prepared to try and make a go of it with Rosey but she took the decision out of his hands when she went into hiding with her father. Sure it had hurt at the time but not for long.

Hmmph! I guess that wasn't true love either.

Kira. Starsky couldn't suppress the shudder that ran through him at the thought of the woman who had so nearly driven a permanent wedge between himself and his partner.

What did I ever see in her? And how could I have ever thought I loved her? She never loved me. Or Hutch.

We nearly lost each other thanks to that bitch. Hutch, I know you still loved me even when we were going through all that crap with Kira but I lost sight of that. All I could see was you coming out of her bedroom, tucking in your shirt tails. What happened to us, buddy?

Starsky sniffed as he felt tears spring to his eyes again. He swiped a hand across his face, almost angrily. His emotions were so near the surface these days.

Quick to anger, quick to laughter, quick to tears.

Hearing another news bulletin beginning, he slowly rose from his chair and headed to the kitchen for another drink. Gazing out the window while he waited for the water to boil once more, Starsky could see lightning flickering in the distance, the rain still falling steadily outside his apartment, headlights of the occasional passing car making shimmering reflections in the puddles that pleased the photographer in him. The glass was cold as he leaned against it, making him shiver. He realised that the whole apartment had become chilled while he had been listening to the phone-in. He picked up Hutch's jacket on his way back to the armchair and settled down carefully, pulling the coat around his shoulders, draping a blanket across his knees and wrapping his hands around the cup.

His attention returned to the radio.

"... feel your pain, Lucy. I think we all do. What has happened seems senseless and I know it will take you time to come to terms with it. Your loss is still too new for you to see a future without your husband but for the sake of your children you must go on."

"I'm not sure I can," a quiet voice, devoid of any emotion came through the speakers. "I can't get past that a stupid accident took my husband from me. And he wasn't even driving."

Starsky's mind wandered down memory lane again as he recalled the day he had crashed the Torino into a building site while pursuing a suspect. For a brief time he'd thought Hutch was dead – that he had killed him with his 'reckless' driving. He could still feel the panic that had doused him like a bucket of icy water when he realised that he was alone in that hospital room. Still feel the cold-sweat inducing, heart-racing terror. And the anger when he'd discovered Hutch was faking amnesia to teach him a lesson.

And then there was the time Hutch's car was forced off the road, trapping him underneath for two days. Nearly lost him for real that time... too close... much too close.

Starsky made a conscious effort to shake off his melancholy. I'm not sure I like this show. 'S a bit depressing. A jaw-cracking yawn overtook him.Maybe I should go to bed, 'spast midnight. I'll finish this drink 'n' listen to one more depressing call.

"On the line now we have Zack. Hello, Zack, how may I help you tonight?"

"Uh, hello, Doctor. I hope you can help me."

Starsky nearly dropped his cup when he heard the familiar voice coming from the radio and suddenly he was no longer tired.

What the hell!

"Hutch?" he whispered in disbelief. "It can't be! Hutch?"

Starsky stared at the radio, as though he could see down the airwaves and the phone line to Hutch at the other end.

'Zack' stumbled over his words at first but seemed to grow in confidence the more he spoke. "I- i- it's my friend. He- he was badly hurt on the job and he's been so sick. I've been looking after him but whatever I do it's never enough. He kicked me out again tonight. I don't know what to do," he ended softly, seemingly having run out of steam.

How dare he? How DARE he discuss me – us – with a shrink? On the radio!

Starsky positively vibrated with anger as he turned up the volume. Don't want to miss a moment of this. Find out what my buddy really thinks of me.

"So let me get this straight, Zack, your friend has been very ill and you've been looking after him. Earlier tonight he asked you to leave and this is not the first time that's happened."

"'Asked him to leave'," Starsky snorted. "Screamed at him, more like."

He rubbed his chest, recalling how much the effort of raising his voice had hurt.

Sometimes I wish you'd shout back at me, Hutch. But no. You just close up on me and put your stone face on.

"He gets so angry," Hutch said. "I just want to help and he throws it back in my face."

"Have you heard that saying, Zack? The one that says 'you always hurt the one you love'? Your friend knows he can treat you this way because he knows you can take it."

"I'm not sure if I can take it much longer, Doctor. I'm gonna snap one day. He knows I've got a temper to match his and he just keeps pushing. It's almost like he wants me to yell at him. But I can't – not when he's so ill."

"Don't worry, Zack. You've taken the first step and got in touch with me. Together we will find a way for you to cope. Your friend needs you, 'though he may not want to admit that even to himself. He needs you to be strong. He feels safe with you. He can show his true feelings. He's scared and you are the only person who is allowed to know this, the only one who truly understands because you are scared too."

"Oh God, yes! I so nearly lost him." Hutch's voice shook slightly.

'M not goin' anywhere, Hutch. Not leavin' you on your own.

"But he is getting better?"

Starsky straightened in his chair. "Yes, I am," he said firmly.

"A lot better," Hutch affirmed. "But he's not a hundred percent. He's got a long way to go and there are still so many things he needs help with."

"Personal things?"

"Yeah," Starsky said, bitterly.

"Well. Yes," Hutch echoed, quietly

"What does his doctor say? Should he be doing more for himself now?"

You go, lady! You tell him! He won't listen to me, maybe he'll listen to you.

There was a long pause, during which Starsky could hear Hutch's breathing. Lightning flashed and a rumble of thunder reverberated through the air, much closer than the storm he'd been watching through the kitchen window.

"Zack? Are you OK?"

"Yeah," came the hoarse whisper.

Starsky could picture Hutch, one arm braced against the wall, head bowed, the vision so clear Hutch could have been in the same room with him.

"Maybe you need to step back a little, Zack; let both of you discover what he is capable of now, hand back some control."

"Maybe," the concession appeared to be drawn reluctantly from the speaker.

"It's hard to let go, isn't it?" Starsky detected a smile in Doctor Eleanor's voice. "I guess your friend is a proud man? Try to put yourself in his place, Zack. Relying on another man to help you with your most basic needs; a man who should be your equal, not your nursemaid. Imagine your friend doing these things for you."

"Humiliating," Hutch whispered. "It's humiliating."

Once again thrown into the past, Starsky's imagination took him to the room above Huggy's bar. 'Forty eight hours of sweat and pain', as Huggy had said at the time. The stuff of nightmares. Holding Hutch, fighting Hutch, being strong because Hutch couldn't be, doing things for Hutch he had never dreamed he would or could do for another human being. And yet he knew he would do it all again tomorrow if he had to. For Hutch.

His Hutch, who could not see or even acknowledge his strength of character in coming through that ordeal relatively unscathed. It was a thing of shame to Hutch, to be brushed under the carpet and forgotten, pretend it had never happened. But Starsky could not forget, would never forget, how his partner had fought his way back. He was in awe of Hutch's bravery and indomitable spirit. Hutch saw the incident as weakness, a situation he should never have been in in the first place, and the fact that he had given up Jeanie was the ultimate disgrace. He had never truly accepted that what had happened had not been his fault, despite Starsky's assurances to the contrary.

Starsky had stopped bringing up the subject and after a thankfully brief period of awkwardness, their relationship had attained a new level beyond anything he had ever experienced before with seemingly no barriers between them.

Had Hutch been carrying his shame with him all this time?

Yes, it is humiliating but there's nothing to be ashamed of. I helped you then because I love you and I couldn't bear to see you hurting. Now I understand you do it for me for the same reason.

God! I'm an ungrateful wretch!

Starsky realised Hutch was still talking.

"... always forgives me. I don't know why."

"You sound as though you think you don't deserve forgiveness, Zack."

"I've not been a good friend like I should be," Hutch's voice rose. "I slept with his girl, dammit!"

Oh, shit. Why'd ya hav'ta bring that up, Hutch?

"And yet he forgave you," Doctor Eleanor said, her tone gentle. "Perhaps that relationship wasn't meant to be."

"No. Yes. Oh I don't know!" Starsky could sense Hutch's growing frustration. "He said he loved her. I know I didn't love her, I lusted after her. She said she loved both of us. How could she? I went to see her, find out her true feelings. And we..."

Ended up in bed.

"St- uh, my friend arrived and realised what had happened...," Hutch's voice trailed off.

"Oh dear," Doctor Eleanor said quietly, her voice full of sympathy. "You had a fight?"

"Yeah," Hutch's voice was barely audible. "It was all my fault. I hurt him so badly."

But you didn't fight back, Hutch. You just let me hit you before pushing me away. God, what a mess!

"Yet he still forgave you. Zack, you have given yourself a heavy burden."

You sure got that right, Doc. He always takes this kinda stuff on himself.

"You cannot be responsible for your friend's happiness. At the end of the day it is his life to lead how he chooses. And he has chosen you to be part of it, whether you feel worthy of that honour or not. He needs you in his life and from talking to you I can tell that you need him in yours. Accept and acknowledge his choice, Zack, and move on."

This woman talks a lot of sense. Listen to her, Hutch. You were right all along – Kira was not the right woman. For either of us.

"... not been a true friend for a long time."

Now what, Hutch? What's going through that blond head of yours now?

"I've played tricks on him, ridiculed him in front of colleagues, talked down to him, tried to steal his girl. And still he forgives me. I just can't understand why."

"Why wouldn't he if you're truly sorry and if he's your best friend like you say he is?"

"He's the best friend I've got in the whole world."

Starsky gulped when he heard the same words he had used to Hutch when his girl, Gillian, had been murdered.

Oh God, Hutch. We never did sort things out properly. I think we were beginning to but then I got shot and everything was fucked up. Has this been preying on your mind all this time? I never knew you felt like this.

"Has he been a true friend to you? Has he ever said or done something that has upset you?"

"No," Hutch answered, almost immediately.

"Yes I have. I gave as good as I got when you got snarky; I know how to hurt you just as much as you know how to hurt me," Starsky said miserably. "I flaunted another partner in your face even when you were wounded and had to come rescue the both of us, I tricked you into falling down my stairs, I've not looked out for you the way a good partner should – the way a good friend should."

"He must be a saint," Doctor Eleanor chuckled.

Starsky and Hutch both snorted. "A Jewish saint!" they said together.

"I'm sure your friend has said and done things he regrets, as have you, Zack. No one is perfect. You've obviously put your friend's transgressions behind you. You say he has forgiven you, now you need to forgive yourself. Misplaced guilt has led you to overcompensate and you've lost sight of what you both need. You are so intent on caring for your friend and making up to him for the wrongs you think you have committed, you have forgotten that he needs you to be his friend, not his surrogate parent or nurse."

Mm hm. That's my Blintz.

"He is no longer a sick person. He is getting better and the best way for him to continue to improve is for you to step back and allow him to heal, allow him to test himself and find out what he can and can't do for himself. Give him back some independence. And if the balance is still in favour of the things he can't do, you need to celebrate the things he can do. Think positive. It will get better, especially with you in his corner, supporting him."

"I try to, but he refuses to see the progress he's made. Accuses me of being naïve whenever I bring it up."

"Is he undergoing counselling?"

"Yes, but I don't think he tells them everything."

Starsky snickered, "Yeah, damn straight I don't."

That's one of the things I miss, buddy, the way we used to be able to tell each other anything. No embarrassment, no judgement, just to talk to someone who understood where I was coming from. We haven't done that for a long time. Still dancin' round the elephant in the room, I guess.

At that moment the storm seemed to break above Starsky's apartment. The rain was torrential, the thunder and lightning a cacophony of sound and light for several minutes until the eye moved on to drench the next street and the next and the next.

Must be my night for flashbacks! It was storming like this the night we went to that Italian restaurant and walked straight into a hit on Vic Monte. I got shot and Hutch ended up saving the day without me to back him up. I was so proud of him.

Don't think I ever told him! How could I have not told him?

I've gotta stop taking him for granted. He's always there for me and lately I've been acting like the Incredible Hulk round him. I don't know how he puts up with me.

Or why.

"Same reason I put up with him, I guess." Starsky smiled gently, suddenly more at peace than he had been for several months. He could feel some of the tension leaving his body, unaware until that moment just how much it had been dragging down his spirit and affecting everyone around him – especially Hutch who was always so attuned to him and his moods.

Turning his attention back to the radio, he realised Doctor Eleanor was still talking with Hutch.

I like this woman. She really seems to care about the people who phone in and doesn't rush them just to take another call. Maybe I should try it myself. The anonymity sure is tempting. I could call myself Hack.

"Or maybe Rrramon!"Starsky laughed.

"Being a care-giver is not easy, Zack. How are you?" Doctor Eleanor was asking.

Starsky heard Hutch take a breath before answering. "Better than I was, funnily enough. Talking to you has helped a lot. I'd been feeling drained even before St- uh, before he was..."

Starsky held his breath as he waited for Hutch to continue, wondering if he could continue.

C'mon, Hutch. You can do this. Tell her. Please. Get it out, boy.

After what felt like forever Hutch went on quietly, "I felt like I was coming apart. Every day I lost another little piece of myself. But he was the glue holding me together. I was disillusioned with my job, our job. I wanted to quit. He quit with me! He didn't have to do that, he shouldn't have done that. He was doing a job he loved, the only job he'd ever wanted and still he followed me when I quit." Hutch sucked in a ragged breath.

He sounds like he's gonna cry! Hutch, c'mon, man! Don't do that. Don'cha know I quit cuz you mean more to me than the job?

"I went back for him," Hutch said.

I did wonder about that but when I mentioned it you said it was what you wanted too. Oh, Hutch. I am so sorry. How can I make it up to you, I wonder?

"Have you told him how you feel?"

"No! I don't want him worrying about me. He's got enough to think about without worrying about me."

Aww, Hutch! I've been worryin' about you for years – ever since we got partnered up – ever since we met! Can't stop now. I knew there was something wrong but I didn't bother to try to find out what. I should've asked you. And you should have talked to me, buddy. Me and thee, remember?

"Zack, have you thought about getting away for a short time, taking a vacation?"

"I can't do that! I can't leave him to fend for himself!" Hutch sounded shocked that Doctor Eleanor could even make the suggestion.

"You need a break, Zack, or you'll end up in hospital yourself. You must have other friends who could share the burden."

"Star- he is not a burden."

Careful, Doc. He's gettin' ticked off.

"I'm sorry, Zack. It was not my intention to upset you. Does he need medical care still? A nurse? Or a doctor?"

"No. I take care of him myself now that he's recovering. Just physio appointments and the like"

"Then take him with you. A change of scene would be beneficial for both of you, I'm sure."

Starsky didn't wait to hear more. Turning off the radio he reached for the phone.

"Hug? Yeah, I know what time it is. Sorry, man. Hey! D'you remember when I got poisoned and you arranged that vacation for me?"