Counting the Breaths


Chapter 1

‘Hang on, just hang on Hutch’ the words ran over and over through the curly haired detective’s head as he watched Judith Kaufman plunge the needle of the syringe into Calendar’s arm, extracting the blood which would set his partner hopefully back on the road to recovery. The red fluid entered the barrel with agonising slowness as Starsky counted the seconds until the good doctor could create the cure for his blond partner. He paced the sterile white ER room as she extracted the needle, putting gauze over the tiny wound before other doctors took over the man’s care, dealing with bullet he’d taken in the gut.

The adrenaline of the past few hours still flowed through Starsky’s veins making him jumpy and edgy. As Calendar came towards the hospital’s back entrance, Starsky had seen the big black limo edge around the corner and had seen the guns trained on Hutch’s only hope at life. He’d thrown himself across the parking lot shouting for Calendar to get down, but he hadn’t been fast enough and he’d felt hope fly out of the window as he saw the hitman fall to the ground clutching his stomach. He’d run to him, crouching over the downed criminal with his gun in his hand shouting for a gurney and a doctor as he pressed his hands over the bloody wound. And now, here he was counting the seconds until the medics could cook up the serum or whatever they wanted to call it, to give t his dying partner.

As Judith ran out through the door of the room and back to her lab, Starsky made his way back to the isolation room his sick partner had inhabited for the past three days. The plague had hit with devastating speed, reducing the once vital, fit and handsome blond to a sweating, moaning and pain filled shadow of his former self. As he raced back up the corridor to the room, the brunette’s mind went back to the hour that Meredith had told Hutch that he too was a victim of the disease claiming lives all over the city. His brave partner had sat quietly staring down the microscope, keeping his fear and his thoughts to himself in an attempt to save Starsky any more pain.

‘What do they say in the films? Tell it to me straight doc’ the blond had said lightly and had listened quietly as the two medics had told him he had 48 hours before the symptoms showed and then a further 72 if he was lucky. As the nurses came with the wheelchair to the lab, Hutch had sat down and locked eyes with his partner and Starsky had promised he’d find Calendar no matter what. But the thought of Hutch walking alone into the glass fronted hospital room had been too much for the brunette and he’d had to turn away so that Hutch couldn’t see the despair in his indigo eyes as the blond tried to make light of the situation. He pointed at the costume the nurses handed him.

‘Hey, new fashion statement’ he quipped as he held up the hospital issue paper night gown. ‘Typical, not only do I have to get sick, I have to do it wearing a dress!’ Starsky heard the hitch in the velvety voice and knew the blond was scared of the whole scenario.

And then there had been the waiting game. Waiting for the search for Calendar to bring some leads; waiting for the sick to start piling into the hospital; waiting for the bugs in the blonde’s blood to start their insidious attack on his body. Eventually Hutch had woken, squinting at the lipstick scrawl on the glass window. STARSK. He tried to get out of bed, but his legs had turned to rubber and he felt the trickles of sweat down his back. As he collapsed back onto the bed, he muttered to himself. ‘So, now it starts’ and he’d pulled the sheets back around him and shivered and panted his way through the day, becoming progressively worse.

Starsky knew the time he’d gotten dressed in the regulation gown and mask and sat on the blonde’s bed would remain with him for ever. Hutch’s ice blue eyes seemed to have lost their colour and only the ghost of his partner gazed back at him, locking his eyes on Starsky as though the sight alone would bring him some comfort. As he fought for each breath, the brunette had placed his hands on Hutch’s chest as Hutch grasped them with weak fingers, pressing away the pains and tightness that threatened to plunge him into unconsciousness. But Starsky knew he couldn’t stay there in the room for ever. He needed to find Thomas Calendar and he’d reluctantly said goodbye as his partner turned away, not wanting Starsky to see the hopelessness in his eyes.

And now, Starsky stopped outside the window, pressing his head against the glass as he looked in at the body laid on the hospital bed. It was still now; too still as it lay underneath the oxygen tent, the usually strong hands limp against the bed sheets and the sweat soaked flaxen hair now the golden shade of a cornfield. Hutch’s face was flushed with fever and sweat trickled down the sides of his handsome face unchecked. Without another thought, Starsky pushed open the door and entered the plenum area between the two rooms. The nurse who’d come out of Ritchie’s room put her hand out to stop him.

‘You can’t go in there without a mask’ she said, urgency in her voice.

But the brunette pushed her gently out of the way. ‘We got the cure. I don’t care now. I just want to go in and be with him’.

She looked at the tall cop. ‘It may not work. She may not be able to create the serum, it’s very difficult’ she said gently. ‘You still need to be careful’.

He smiled at her. ‘It’ll work. An’ if it doesn’t ……. I don’t care. If he doesn’t make it, nothing matters’. He pushed past her and opened the door to the room, his ears filtering out the hiss of the oxygen as he crossed to the bed. Gently he sat down, unzipping the plastic tent and reaching for the limp hand.

‘We did it Hutch. We got the blood. Calendar turned himself in. You just gotta hang in there now till Judith cooks up the good stuff. Just hang in there buddy’.

He reached over to the nightstand and took the cloth, wetting it in the bowl of cool water. Gently he wiped the sweat soaked face and neck, seeing it pooled in the hollow beneath the blonde’s throat he continued down the tanned chest, the stupid yellow paper dress having long since been discarded as Hutch became sicker and the nurses needed to gain more access to their patient. As he watched the eyes fluttered open and weakly the dry lips moved.

Starsky leaned forward to catch the whisper.


He smiled his lop sided smile. ‘No need now buddy’.

The blonde’s face creased in pain. ‘Shit….Not you too’ he gasped in a barely audible whisper. The hand on the bed flapped weakly and Starsky took hold of it.

‘No, dummy. We got the blood – Calendar’s blood. No need for the masks any more. Judith’s gonna make you better’.

A coughing fit seized the sick man and he drew his knees up towards his chin in an attempt to ease the pains in his chest and he tried ineffectually to roll onto his side. But he hadn’t enough strength and instead he managed only to roll his head on the pillow. As the fit subsided, he groaned, panting as he tried to get some air into his tortured lungs. Starsky rubbed gently on the broad chest.

Hutch fixed his pain filled eyes on his partner. ‘Don’t need…..t’ lie. Hurts…..’ he closed his eyes as another pain threatened to squeeze the life from his chest and he bit back the groan.

‘Easy Blintz. Just try an’ relax, it’ll get better. Just hang in there huh? I’m not lying. Would I lie to you? We got it, you just need to breath buddy’ he soothed the forehead and Hutch closed his eyes, snuggling his face against the hand as he gained a measure of comfort from the touch.

‘Urts….to breathe’. The eyes closed and the body sagged back against the pillow with a final gasp. Suddenly there was silence in the room and Starsky stopped his ministrations, fearfully aware that there was little rise and fall to the blonde’s chest. Desperately he raced to the door and dragged the nurse into the room.

‘He’s hardly breathing’ he said frantically as she checked Hutch’s airway. She reached up calmly and pushed the alarm button above the bed, the tannoy in the nurses’ station warning the medics that there was an emergency in the isolation room. As doctors and nurses rushed in Starsky stepped back from the bed, giving them room to work as his own heart rate climbed. He sat down on the other bed in the room and nervously watched as calmly the staff went about their business. He heard words like ‘congestion’ ‘blocked airways’ and ‘pleural effusion’ and his mind went into freefall. As another nurse trundled the trolley laden with equipment into the room, the doctor at the side of the bed donned a gown and gloves and supervised as two of the nurses gently pulled Hutch up until he was sitting up. He groaned quietly, his head sagging forward in exhaustion and Starsky rushed to his side, insinuating himself between the nurses and taking hold of the blonde’s body. Hutch opened pain filled eyes

‘S’ok Blintz. Just hang on’ he said softly.

The doctor watched. ‘I think you need to move out of the way’ he said, but Starsky shook his head.

‘Not goin’ anywhere Doc. Work round me. I can hold him upright. I just need to be here with him’.

‘Very well. I need you to keep him as still as possible. Can you do that?’

The curly haired cop nodded and put his hand on his partner’s shoulder.

‘Concentrate on me huh? Just the two of us. Me and thee like always’.

Hutch nodded weakly and concentrated on the indigo eyes in front of him, his breath now ragged and shallow and his face pale and wet with sweat.

As the brunette watched in horrified fascination, the doctor swabbed an area on the side of the blonde’s back at mid way between his spine and side as Hutch flinched at the cold.

‘S’ok buddy, It’ll be done soon and then ya can breath better huh?’

Starsky kept his eyes on Hutch as the doctor took a syringe and infiltrated the area with local anaesthetic. The blond gripped Starsky’s hand weakly and winced.

‘Cold……Hate needles’.

‘Yeah, I know pal, but that’s it now. You shouldn’t feel anything else’.

The doctor took a large bore needle from its packing and gently felt around the numbed area, selecting his target. He pushed firmly against the skin between the ribs, watching it dimple before the needle entered and he pushed it further into the small wound until he saw fluid drip form the end.

‘Ungh…….’ Hutch flinched at the feeling of the foreign object entering his body and Starsky held on to him tight.

‘Not much longer now. Hold on huh? Just another minute. You’re doin’ great’.

Swiftly the doctor connected a tube to the needle, threading it over the shiny metal and into the wound before withdrawing the needle and attaching the tubing to a vacuum flask.

He stitched the tubing into place and placed a white gauze dressing over the site before putting the detritus from the procedure into a paper sac. As he finished the procedure and turned away, Hutch’s head fell against Starsky’s shoulder, unconscious.

‘Doc?’ Starsky shouted.

The two nurses supported the blonde’s body and positioned it on its side, with the tube site towards the bed. The doctor checked his blood pressure and pulse.

‘He’ll rest now. He’s just exhausted from the pneumonia and the procedure. He’ll sleep for a while now. Are you a relative?’

‘No. I’m his partner. We’re cops’.

The doctor took a closer look. ‘Ah, you’re the detective who appeared on the television. Good work! At least we have the beginnings of a cure. As for your partner….’ He looked down at the limp form and his face became serious. ‘I think it may be prudent to call his family, if he has any’.

The curly haired cop took hold of the limp hand and rubbed his thumb up and down it. ‘What’re ya sayin’ doc? After all we’ve been through he’s still not gonna make it?’ he asked quietly. The medic motioned for him to go outside and the two men went into the small outer room.

‘The plague has severely damaged his lungs. I’ve had to place the drain into his pleural space because there is a build up of fluid between the walls of the…….’ He paused seeing the glazed eyes. ‘Our lungs are contained in membranes called pleura. In your partner’s case, fluid has built up between the membranes and its putting too mush pressure on his lung. The tubes should help. If we’d have gotten the serum earlier, it would have been a lot easier for him. He has youth and vigour on his side, but I put his chances at less than 50/50’

‘But you’ve got the blood, you’ve got the cure. Judith said that if I got Calendar here, she could cure him. So, you’re telling me now he might die?’

As the doctor nodded, Starsky turned troubled eyes back to the body on the bed. Don’t do this to me buddy. Don’t you dare go now.

Chapter 2

Starsky walked into the deserted room that Dr Kaufman had been allocated to use as her office, needing time to be alone and gather his thoughts. He hadn’t seen Judith since she’d gotten the blood and headed off to her lab and that was over four hours ago. Four hours during which his partner had almost died and left Starsky alone to carry on without him. Since his talk with the other doctor in Hutch’s room, his head had been in a spin. For the first time in his life he faced the possibility of life without the blond and it not only filled him with sorrow, it also scared him too. Although he’d made detective a few months before his flaxen haired friend, he’d never really had chance to go out on the streets without Hutch at his side. The blond was calm, level headed, caring and the perfect foil to Starsky’s temper. There had been so many times when Hutch had been there for him that he’d lost count - the shootings, the poisonings, and always the velvety voice in he background giving comfort and protection. And now it was Starsky’s turn to help his partner. Neither man would ever fully trust another partner, not after the working relationship they’d formed, but now it may all come to an end.

With a shaking hand he picked up the telephone and dialled the number he’d jotted down on a piece of paper in his wallet for just such an occasion.

Both men had talked about the possibility of their deaths – it was an occupational hazard and Starsky was all too familiar with it. The job had taken away his father after a drive by shooting on the streets of New York and both he and Hutch were realistic enough to know that the same fate could await them. Because of that and in an attempt to make a painful situation a little easier, they had signed powers of attorney for each other and had made rudimentary funeral plans, hoping they wouldn’t have to put them into practice for a long time. Both men knew the numbers of the other’s parents, but whereas Rachel Starsky would have been on the first plane out of JFK if Starsky was sick, the brunette had no idea what reaction he would get from Hutch’s parents.

They’d thrown their only son out onto the streets when he refused to follow in his eminent father’s footsteps and had dropped out of medical school. They’d left him with his inheritance of a few thousand dollars, a money grabbing young wife and very little else. While Starsky had had no money but a world of love as a child, Hutch’s upbringing was rich and sumptuous, but cold and lacking parental love. His mother had tried in the early days of his banishment to keep in touch and had picked times when Richard Hutchinson was not in the house to talk to her son. But gradually the conversations had become more and more stilted until finally Hutch closed the door on his family more or less for good and moved down to LA.

Starsky took a deep breath as he heard the telephone pick up at the other end and a female voice answered. He put on his best polite voice knowing Hutch’s mother didn’t like him and despised his background and faith.

‘Mrs Hutchinson?’ ‘Yes. Who is this?’

‘It’s Dave Starsky, Ma’am. Your son’s partner. I’m afraid I have some bad news’ His voice shook with emotion and he took a moment to get it under control. At that point, if someone had been talking to Ma about him, he knew Rachel would have been yelling down the phone, but instead the voice said, in measured tones

‘What sort of news?’

Cold hearted b…no “Oh my God”. Or “is it Ken”? ‘I’m afraid Hu…Ken has been taken sick….very sick. The doctors aren’t too hopeful’ he pulled the phone from his ear and took a calming breath. Just saying it seemed to make the horrendous situation all the more real and he felt dizzy and sick. He raised the phone again as he heard the voice continuing.

‘Is he in the hospital?’

‘Yes. Linoln Hospital, Ocean Boulevard’ Starsky said quickly. ‘Are you coming because if…’ he was cut off by the answer.

‘I’m afraid that’s impossible at the moment. Richard has an important conference to attend and I have to escort him. Please, tell Ken we’re thinking of him’.

‘But you don’t understand, he’d dying, he’s in a coma. I can’t tell him anything. If you want to say your goodbyes, maybe now is the time’ Starsky said down the telephone, expecting a change of attitude, but instead the cold voice replied.

‘Please keep us informed and thank you’ the phone went dead.

‘You cold hearted bitch!’ the brunette ground out as he stared at the receiver in his hand. Slowly he replaced it and dialled another number.

‘Sgt Starsky for Captain Dobey please……Cap, its Starsky. I’m still at the hospital. No, he’s not good. They’ve got him on some kinda pump thing - a tube in his back. He’s….he’s got leass than a 50/50 chance. I need to be here with him’.

He heard his captain’s voice tell him to take as long as he needed, that work would wait and that Hutch was more important and he blessed the gruff but compassionate man. He put the phone down and headed back to the isolation room, his body feeling tired and heavy as the emotions of the past two days caught up with him.

As he pushed open the door to the room he saw Judith standing by the bed. She had a trolley, draped in theatre greens and laden with more medical equipment as she pushed her hands into gloves, snapping the rubber around her wrists. She looked up and smiled tiredly.

‘Have you done it?’ the brunette asked quietly, eying all the paraphernalia laid out next to his friend. Some of it he recognised and some he didn’t want to know the use of. It scared him and he hated the thought of the big blond body being invaded by more and yet more tubes and needles.

She nodded quietly. ‘Calendar’s blood was teaming with antibodies. I’ve got the serum and I have a massive dose for him. I need to start some IV’s and get some fluids into him, but I’ve got to balance it against his output so that I don’t compromise his heart function’. She saw the glazed look in the indigo eyes and tried to explain it in layman’s terms the confused cop would understand.

‘Basically he needs rehydrating because he’s lost so much fluid by sweating and not being able to drink, but his lungs are filling with fluid and if too much surrounds his heart, it’ll put too much strain on it. So I need to balance the amount we put in against what he puts out. I’ve inserted a catheter into his bladder while you were away, so we can monitor that, and now I’m going to start two IV lines so that we can accurately tell what’s going in. The one thing I can’t do is give him any pain killing medication because that affects lung function and we need to leave him with as much of that as possible. He’s going to be in for a rough ride’.

Starsky gazed at the flushed face on the white pillow, now without the surrounds of the oxygen tent. Hutch’s face was still lined with pain even though he was in a coma and Starsky felt sickened at the sight of his partner’s vulnerable body lying quiet and broken and he reached to take a hold of the hand as Judith inserted the first cannula into a vein. The voice replayed in his head Hate needles There was not the shadow of a response at the painful procedure, although the brunette winced in sympathy for his friend. Hutch was too far gone however to feel the pain any more and as Judith inserted the second needle, he prayed he’d wake up soon. Life without Hutch calling him dumb or moron and lifting his eyes skywards at his latest fad was almost more than he could bear.

He watched as the woman completed her procedures, finally shining a light into the unresponsive eyes and holding the wrist to feel for the weak, thready pulse. She smiled again.

‘He’s holding his own. Try not to worry, he’ll probably be unconscious for a while yet. You need to get some rest too’.

Tiredly Starsky smiled back. ‘I’m not going anywhere. I need to be here when he wakes up, ya know?’ he tented his eyebrows asking for understanding and she nodded back, having seen the extraordinary bond which existed between the two men. She’d never seen two guys so close. It wasn’t a sexual thing, it was just a mutual love and respect which shone through everything they said and did. She gathered her things together and trundled the trolley towards the door. Pausing she looked back to see the curly haired, tough cop tenderly wiping his partner’s flushed face with a cool cloth and murmuring comforting words into his ear. As she went out of the room leaving them alone, Starsky sat down on the chair at the bedside and rested his forehead on the side of the bed, next to the big blond hand. He was more tired than he could ever remember and he felt completely drained as he watched the blond struggle for each breath.

‘Don’t give up Hutch. Don’t leave me. I can’t do this without you. You make everything ok. You stop me when I’m going off the rails and put me back on track. Just hang in there buddy….for me?’

There was no response and he allowed his head to rest back on the bed as he slowly closed his eyes, going over the times when the positions had been reversed and he’d been laid in the bed with Hutch fussing over him. The time in the Italian Restaurant when he’d been shot, the time Bellamy had poisoned him and the time he spent those long hours recovering from Simon Marcus’ goon’s treatment at the old city zoo. All the way through there had been that blond constant. A familiar figure that comforted and cajoled, his voice there to help through the pain and the fevers.

Starsky had always found something oddly comforting about Hutch’s voice, whether it was engaged in singing or talking. It held a comforting, mellow quality which soothed away his hurt. He tried now to emulate the voice as he tried to penetrate his partner’s coma. He talked about their friendship, their girlfriends, the job and their vacations until his voice was raw and hoarse with emotion. Finally after hours of mindless chatter he gave up and stood stiffly, easing the kinks from his back and walking over to the window to stare out at the trees surrounding the hospital.

As he rested his head against the cold glass, his breath fogging the pane he saw people coming in and out of the hospital entrance, each wrapped in their own little world as they came to visit or came for treatment. They were all getting on with their lives without any knowledge of just how much his life and that of his partner was being ripped apart, a second at a time. He envied them their cosy lives and he sighed deeply. As he turned back to the bed to resume his vigil, however, he thought he saw a movement under the translucent eyelids and he rushed over, bending over the still body on the bed.

Chapter 3

Starsky bent over his partner’s body. Did he imagine it? Was he so damned hopeful that he’d see anything? Tenderly he stood watching as the blond eyelashes fluttered and he got his first view of the ice blue eyes in over 18 hours. He’d spent those long hours longing to see the those eyes again and now he gently stroked down the side of the sweat slick face.


The eyes cracked open a little and tried to focus, finally settling on the familiar face at the side of him. The sight of his partner brought both relief and terror to the sick man. Shouldn’t Starsky be wearing a mask? Maybe he had this godamned disease too. Or maybe Hutch was dying and there was no point in precautions any more. There was fear in the eyes and gently Starsky stroked back the wet hair from his partner’s forehead.

‘Easy there Blintz, just relax. Ya got a tube in your back helping you breathe, remember? Just try ‘n’ relax and let it work for ya huh?’

He saw the eyes close as weariness overcame the blond. Yes he did remember the big strong tanned arms holding him upright on the bed as some flake with a hose pipe jammed it into his back. Too painful a memory – pain at his back and comfort in front of him. He remembered breathing in that uniquely Starsky smell; the leather of his jacket, Sandalwood soap and that stupidly expensive aftershave, and the smell had been enough to ease away the pain of the procedure. His partner was with him, close by and it was "me and thee" time again. Did it work? Was he going to make it? The red rimmed ice blues opened again, questions in them, but Hutch was too weak to ask. Fortunaltely his partner read them perfectly.

‘Hey Captain Marvel, we got Calendar. You’re gonna make it ya big lummox, but ya gotta keep fighting huh? Just rest an’ I’ll be right here. Not goin’ anywhere’.

The eyes closed again and Hutch relaxed back to sleep as Starsky continued to sit by his side and wait. The sight of his partner’s eyes again had made him feel such relief as he couldn’t describe. Hutch was OK. Hutch was going to make it. Nothing else in the world mattered now. Slowly the brunette slipped down into the padded chair and closed his eyes as the exhaustion of the last week caught up with him.

That was how Judith found the two men, four hours later. She’d come back to check on her patient and take more bloods to see if the serum she’d administered was beginning to work and she was also prepared to send the brunette home for the night to get some well earned rest. She paused at the door, then walked quietly into the room.

Hutch was still lying on his side, his eyes closed and his golden hair still plastered to his damp forehead. He looked no better than he had four hours ago and the professional part of her told her that, sick as he had been, he wouldn’t start making real progress for a while yet. But the womanly side of her really hoped that he would have been awake so that she could once again smile at that “vulnerable upper lip”.

Idly she compared the two men. While Hutch was the day, all light hair and pale blue eyes, his partner was definitely the night. She stopped and really examined Starsky now for the first time since this whole sorry affair started. Whereas Hutch’s flaxen hair was silky and smooth. Starsky’s was a wild mass of dark ebony curls and whereas Hutch’s face was open, tanned a light golden brown and smooth, the brunette’s skin was more olive, his two day growth of beard showing up dark on the lower part of his face. He was ruggedly handsome where Hutch was more her type – the all American Boy Next Door and the sort she’d proudly bring home to Mom. She shook herself from her reverie and busied herself with her work.

Starsky woke from his nap, his neck cramping from the unnatural position he’d gotten himself into and he groaned softly as he prized himself up and rubbed his hand over his face. He smiled at the doctor.

‘He woke up a while ago. Well, not really woke up, but he opened his eyes. That’s good, isn’t it?’

Judith heard the need in the curly haired cop’s voice and tried her best to remain positive.

‘Dave, he’s has a drain to help his lungs. They’ve been badly damaged by the virus and we think he may have the beginnings of an abscess on his left lung. Coupled with that, his urinary output is negligible, which means his kidneys have been compromised by the disease and we’re hoping that he won’t develop any jaundice which could mean his liver has become involved’. She saw the defeat in the indigo blue eyes and put her hand on the brunette’s shoulder.

‘We’re doing everything we can for him, believe me, but he can’t just get up an walk away from this, it was too serious. Its going to be a long haul for him and he’s going to need you too, so you need to take care of yourself. You need to rest too. You look all in’.

Starsky shook his head. ‘I’m not leaving while he’s like this. I can’t. I need to be here with him. I don’t know how to describe it Doc. It’s a kinda emotional crutch. We need to be there for each other. But I could do with some company?’

Judith sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. ‘Ritchie is responding well to the treatment. He has youth on his side and Dr Meredith has the other patients under control, so maybe I can stay. Just for a while’ she sat down on the opposite side of the bed to Starsky and without thinking put her hand on Hutch’s bare shoulder.

‘You really like him don’t ya?’ Starsky asked gently.

‘What? Oh’ she blushed. ‘Would you believe I do this for all my patients?’

‘Hu huh’.

‘No, I suppose not. Yes, I like him. He reminds me of a guy I knew back in ‘Bama. We split up a while ago, but I see Bob in Hutch’s eyes. Kinda open and honest. Like he’d do anything for anyone’.

Starsky nodded. ‘Yep. That’s my partner. Anything for anyone’ his voice broke and he rested his head on his hands as the memories flooded back.

‘Dave, are you ok?’ Judith asked gently.

He looked up and angrily wiped his eyes. ‘Yeah…..no…. hell, why did it have to be him huh? I’m the one the usually gets it. I’ve been shot, poisoned, kidnapped and he’s always been there at the end, fussing over me and looking after me. Every time I woke up in some damned hospital bed he was there. He didn’t really do anything. He was just…..there. I need to be there for him, but I don’t know what to do. I guess I’m just no use when it’s the other way round’.

‘You love him. I can tell’.

The brunette looked up sharply and she chuckled. ‘Not like that! You love him like a brother. I’ve never seen two men so close. It’s kinda touching’.

‘We’ve been together a long time. Since the Academy really. He was this Mid Western college boy from a privileged background an’ I was the rough round the edges New Yorker who needed a steady job after ‘Nam. We were two opposites in almost every sense of the word. He’s blond, I’m dark. His Mom and Dad were rich, my Dad was gunned down in Queens and Mom tried to raise me and my brother. When it got too much for her she sent me to live with my Aunt Rosy’ Starsky smiled fondly at the memory. ‘I never did want to leave her, but then I never really wanted to go back either’.

‘Were you friends from the start? Judith asked, enjoying the intimacy of the room with the two guys.

‘Yeah we were. He was kinda dorky to begin with. He’d been to medical school but realised he was only there because his Dad wanted him to be. So he dropped out and his family disowned him. He was the bookish type. Ya know the sort? I guess it was because he’d had to do all the studying to be a doctor’.

The woman nodded. ‘He would have been a good one too’.

‘Well, he had his nose in a book and he was walking up a corridor and tripped over me. I remember looking up at these dark black-trousered legs that seemed to reach all the way to his armpits and he held a hand out to me to pull me up. As I got hold of him, he dropped the rest of his books on my leg an’ cut it. He was so damned apologetic. Made me go back to his room an’ he put a bandage on it. It was only a scratch!’

‘But we got to talking and just kinda hit it off. The drill sergeant hated us. Called us Laurel and Hardy and I suppose we started off as a double act and it just got better. We’d only been in the Academy a couple of days when we were involved with a flake in the park. Jeez, that was some introduction to policing (1)’.

Starsky put his head in his hands. ‘I need him to be well. I need you to make him better’ he lifted pleading eyes to her and Judith felt a lump in her throat.

‘I’m doing everything I know how, but he was very sick before he got the serum. I want him to get well too’.

The brunette sighed. ‘I know ya do Doc. And that’s why I have to stay here with him. We’ve been through some rough times and we’ve always stayed together. It’s soapy I know, but we kinda need the company’.

She looked at him intently. ‘You said it was always you that got hurt. Is he the lucky one then?’

Starsky thought. ‘Now I come to think of it, no. He’s had some bad times too’.

‘Do you want to tell me?’

He chuckled. ‘Where to start? It’s an occupational hazard, being hurt. A cop thing and we kinda come to expect it. But we seem to get it more ‘n’ most. The first time he was really in trouble he’d gotten himself this girl. All blond hair and blue eyes, but she was mixed up with some flakes who wanted her back. They took Hutch and tried to make him tell her where she was. When beating the crap out of him didn’t work, they got dirty. Strung him out on horse for three days till he would have sold his right arm for the next fix. He told ‘em where she was eventually - when he was hurtin’ so much he didn’t know what he was doing. Then they were gonna dump him off the point into the ocean, but he managed to get away from ’em’. Starsky’s voice took on a softer quality.

‘Man he was hurtin’. I found him in an alley. They’d worked him over so that his face was just one big bruise and his eyes! I’ll never forget the look in his eyes. I managed to get him back to a friend’s house to dry him out. But it wasn’t pretty. Do you know what it’s like to have your best friend threaten to beat you to a pulp just so that he can get another fix of his “medicine”?’

Anyways, after a couple of days, he was over the worst, although he still has a phobia about needles’. The brunette cast a look at the two big cannula in the back of the blonde’s hands and smiled. ‘Guess he didn’t have a choice this time, huh?’

Judith smiled and rose stiffly, looking at her watch. ‘I need to go check on Ritchie again’. She reached up and but a hand on Hutch’s forehead, dismayed that it was still hot and damp. ‘So you’re going to stay here for a while?’

‘Wild horses Doc. Wild horses’ the brunette said wearily.

‘OK then. I’ll be back later for chapter 2 then’ she smiled and quietly left the room.

Starsky stood, easing the kinks from his back and took the cloth and wiped his partner’s forehead and chest gently. The blond was still unconscious, but just making the simple gesture of wiping away the trickles comforted the curly haired cop – what else was there to do, except wait?. He leaned close to the blonde’s ear.

‘I think ya got a fan there Blintz! Now all ya gotta do is wake up and wow her’.

(1) See “Roses are Red” - coming soon

Chapter 4

Throughout the afternoon and evening of that day Starsky kept his vigil at his partner’s bedside. Judith came back as she’d promised but her work called her away frequently and there were long gaps in which the two men were alone in the room with only the rasping of Hutch’s breathing for company. After the oxygen tent had been taken away, it being too unwieldy to use when the medics needed instant access to their patient, the oxygen mask had been replaced over Hutch’s mouth and nose. But even in his sleep, the blond rebelled against it, trying to knock the foreign object away from his face. Starsky knew from experience that it could itch, but he also knew his partner needed the life giving properties of the simple gas, and he reluctantly held Hutch’s hands down, as the blond fought weakly with him.

Hutch was still sleeping although Starsky thought he saw a change in his partner now. There was a little more natural colour in the face which had been either flushed red with fever or white with exhaustion for the past 4 days, and he drew the chair up closer to the bed so that he could rest his head on the edge of the mattress and doze.

It was during one of those moments when he’d managed to close his eyes and filter out the interminable noise of the hospital when he felt the bed move a little and there was a feather light pressure on his head. He jerked awake and the hand dropped away from his chocolate curls. Starsky looked up into ice blue, tired eyes.

‘Hutch! You’re awake!’

‘Should be……detective’ his partner whispered with a slight smile on his face.

‘Yeah? I’ll consider it. How d’ya feel buddy?’

Hutch closed his eyes. ‘Sore……the guy in the…….jack boots has ……gone from my chest. Back hurts’.

‘I know buddy, its that tube. But at least it helped you to breathe again. Now ya just need to concentrate on getting well’.

‘Starsk?...How long?’

‘You’ve been asleep almost 24 hours. I need to tell Judith you’re awake’.


Starsky chuckled. ‘Your number one fan, Dr Kaufman. I think she likes you’.

A small smile played over the pain ravaged face. ‘What’s not t’like?’

‘Apart from the “smart alec” wit, the “always right” tone of voice and the ability to piss me off with a look? Nothin’. Starsky whined, good naturedly.

‘Captain Marvel came through then?’ Hutch panted, his eyes a little clearer although the brunette could only see a half of his face, the other being buried in the soft white pillow.

‘Yeah, we did it. We got the serum’.

Hutch reached out weakly and took hold of Starsky’s arm, his fingers cold and clammy. ‘Not “we”. …..You did it……saved my life’.

The curly haired man looked suddenly embarrassed. ‘Aw shucks!. You would have done the same. Now you’ve got the hard work to do. You need to get well’.

‘Just tired……don’t go huh?’

‘I need to tell the Doc you’re awake. Then I’ll be right back. Promise’. Starsky watched as the silky flaxen eyelashes dipped over the blue eyes again and Hutch’s face relaxed once more into sleep. He got up from the bed and went to the window of the small room, gazing out at the passing parade. Nurses bustled along carrying files, trays and equipment. Doctors hurried past with knitted brows and stethoscopes around their necks and visitors wandered past, flowers, fruit and candies in their grasp. He could see the whole gamut of humanity from that window and yet he and his partner were completely cut off from it, cocooned in a womb of filtered air and gowns. Judith was just coming out of the room opposite and Starsky tapped on the window. She looked over and after changing her gown came into the room.

‘He woke up for a while’ he started excitedly wanting to tell the medic how much more alert Hutch seemed, but slowed down as he saw the expression on the Doctor’s face. Judith looked tired, but more. Worried? Was that the expression in her big brown eyes?

‘What is it?’ he asked. ‘There’s something wrong isn’t there?’

She sighed and rubbed the back of her neck. ‘His white cell count is still way too low and he has virtually no urinary output at all. He’s developed septicaemia’.

‘And that is?’

‘It’s a bacterial infection of the blood, commonly known as blood poisoning. Often it's a complication of another infection, such as of the lungs or kidneys, - in this case from the pneumonia and it occurs when the bacteria escape that part of the body and get into the bloodstream. Although his was a viral pneumonia, his pleura were infected by bacteria. In his current condition it ……’ her voice broke and she heaved a deep breath.

Starsky quietly finished the sentence for her. ‘It what? It could kill him?’

‘I need to start a line with a massive dose of antibiotics. Fortunately it’ll help with the infection in his lungs too. I’m going to put a central line in’.

Starsky’s throat was dry. ‘Central line? What’s that?’

‘A central line is a long, hollow tube made from silicone rubber. It’s used to give the treatments he needs, like antibiotics and intravenous fluids but It can also be used to take samples of blood for testing, so at least we won’t need to keep sticking him with needles’

Starsky let out a shaky breath. ‘OK when do we start?’ the brunette said looking back at his partner in the bed.

‘Now. I know you’re not going to go away to wait, but it does involve more cuts and needles and tubes. Are you ok with that?’

‘Just do what you have to Doc’.

Judith went away to get her stuff together and Starsky padded back to his friend’s bedside. He held on to the big broad hand and squeezed it. ‘What else huh?’ he muttered as he brushed a stray bang of flaxen hair from the face on the pillow. He remembered a similar time when the positions had been reversed and Starsky had been sick with Bellamy’s poison. Getting into his car, he’d stumbled and Hutch had made some comment about wanting to drive. When the brunette had responded, Hutch had said it was always harder on the ones left behind.

‘Remember that Blintz? Always harder on the ones left behind? I don’t want to put that to the test. D’ya hear me?’

Judith came back a while later with yet another trolley laden with paper bags of equipment. As the nurse set out the stall, the Doctor gently shook Hutch’s shoulder, rousing the ailing man from his sleep. His fever was up again and Hutch viewed his medic through pain filled eyes. But he tried to smile.

‘Hey gorgeous’ he rasped, his usually velvety voice raw with pain.

‘Hey yourself’ she smiled back. ‘Hutch, we need to roll you onto your back for a while. The tube is still in your back and we need to keep it there, but you’ve got another infection and to save me having to keep pushing needles into you, I’m gonna set up a line in your chest. Is that ok?’

She saw the pain muddled eyes trying to assimilate the information.


‘That’s it Doctor Hutchinson. Dave told me you were going to be a doctor. You know what I’m going to do?’

The flushed face on the pillow nodded. Hutch felt hot and shivery and he knew he had some sort of sepsis, but his head felt stuffed with cotton and he wanted nothing more than to drift away on a cushion of drugs. His joints ached, his head pounded and he felt as though someone had lodged sandpaper in his chest, making it rub at his insides each time he breathed.

‘Do your worst’ he mumbled looking around for his partner.

‘Right here buddy’ Starsky said, seeing the flash of fear in the red rimmed ice blue eyes. He took hold of Hutch’s shoulders and carefully he and Judith rolled the blond onto his back. Hutch groaned and started to cough, the fit threatening to choke off his breath completely. Finally the coughing abated and he rested back against the pillow, his eyes closed and his face wet with sweat. Starsky took the cloth and dabbed the trickles away, muttering soothing words under his breath.

Judith snapped on gloves and picked up a small syringe with Lidocaine. Swiftly she swabbed an area just beneath Hutch’s right collarbone and infiltrated it with the numbing drug, standing back to let it take effect.

Starsky felt the squeeze on his hand as the needle pushed into yet another portion of Hutch’s anatomy and he briefly opened his eyes.

‘Feel like….. pincushion’ he gasped.

The brunette chuckled. ‘Ya got so many holes in ya we could use you as a colander. You ok there Blondie?’

Weakly Hutch nodded, his eyes locked on his partner’s as he waited for the procedure.

Judith continued her work. She took a small blade and made a small cut in the skin near Hutch’s collarbone, wiping away the small ruby droplets of blood with a guaze pad. Next she waited as the nurse took the catheter and stripped it from it’s packaging. Feeling for the correct angle, she took it and pushed the tip of the tube into the small wound and threaded it into the large vein. The end of the tube tunnelled it’s way under the skin to reach the exit site about four inches further down the blonde’s chest and once again, Judith wiped away the blood from the exit site.

Throughout the procedure, Hutch had held tightly on to his partner’s hand, his eyes searchig the indigo pools above him. The local had numbed the entry site, but the presure of the catheter pushing down through his chest wall was odd and fairly painful and he was glad when it finally stopped and he could cease grinding his teeth together and relax. As she finished, the nurse put two more dressings over the wounds and taped them down.

Swiftly Judith drew off another phial of blood to send to the lab, then drew up and administered a large dose of antibiotic before easing her patient back onto his side.

Hutch wearly closed his eyes and within moments he’d drifted back into a dreamless sleep as Starsky went back to sit at his side, his legs shaky from witnessing yet another hle being made in his partner’s tanned hide.

‘Ya got chance for a rest Doc?’ he asked, feeling shaken by the turn of events and having to watch yet another invasive process take place. His partner’s body was a patchwork of tubes and dressings and he was unsure any more where he could touch and what would hurt.

Judith looked weary and she glanced at her watch. ‘I should have been off duty an hour ago, so yes, I guess I can spare an hour for some down time. You look all in, though. Why don’t you get some rest?’

Starsky shook his head. ‘When he stops giving us the run around and starts getting well, I’ll rest then’. He rested back on the chair. ‘So, where did we get to huh? With the history of Hutch’.

She chuckled. ‘History of Hutch part two, I think’.

‘Yeah, part two. Ok’ Starsky settled his head on the back of his chair, his eyes still on his partner.

‘He went missing ya know. I had no idea where he was. Turned out that one of our fan club had ordered him to be killed. Some flake in a motor truck ran him off the road, up on the canyon road behind the city. He’d been gone almost a day when we realised he was missing. Dobey had an APB out on him an’ I was goin’ crazy with worry’.

‘Anyway. A nice old guy from the local Vets. home found him, trapped by his leg underneath his car. He’d been trying to call in his position but the radio was fried. Sonny – that’s the name of the guy who found him; Colonel Sonny McPherson. Well, Sonny came into the metro to try an’ tell us, but we just took him for another crazy old guy who needed attention. It finally took a little boy with his radio and another call back to Sonny to pinpoint where Hutch was’.

The brunette paused at the sickening memory of finding his partner, bleeding, dehydrated and semi conscious beneath his battered car and his voice broke.

‘He was in a bad way when I got to him. I thought I’d loose him then. It took a week in Memorial and then 7 weeks of intensive physio to get him fit again’.

‘Was his leg broken?’ Judith asked, amazed at what these two men had coped with in their work.

‘Yeah. They’d done a real number on him, but he was lucky to be alive. He still feels it when its cold or raining, but he doesn’t complain and he can still outrun me in a distance chase. He’d never tell me he was hurtin’ He just goes kinda quiet and pale. Like he did just now’.

‘He’s a fighter alright’ the doctor said softly. ‘He’s going to need to be to pull through this’.

Starsky put his head in his hands. ‘He has to pull through Doc. He knows he has to. We’ve been partners so long he knows I couldn’t do this without him’.

‘He’s gonna be sick for a while. What will you do?’ she asked, trying to get the brunette to understand that maybe this time, Hutch back on the streets wasn’t an option.

‘Stay here. Be with him. Yell at him if he doesn’t start getting well. Dunno……..just can’t think about that right now’ the voice broke and Starsky turned his face away so that she couldn’t see the fear in his eyes.

Chapter 5




That got his attention and Starsky woke with a start, his neck cracking painfully as he brought his head up too quickly from his hands. His indigo eyes blinked owlishly in the early morning light and he rubbed at them with his knuckles until he felt awake enough to look around and slowly they focussed on the blond in the bed.

Hutch’s eyes were open and clearer than Starsky had seen them in a while and now they held some insistence, the blond having woken earlier and spent some quiet time just collecting his thoughts and watching his partner sleep. It seemed such a long time since he had had time to just lie still, the past days having been a continuous round of chasing Calendar and later having doctors and nurses pulling, prodding and sticking needles and tubes into just about very orifice. And through it all had been that brunette constant providing comfort and a knowledge that the real world was still there outside and waiting for him. It was so wrong for him to be laid in bed. At 28 he should be out back on his beloved streets, gun in hand, catching the bad guys. How much longer was this nightmare going to go on? He needed to be well; he needed to be out of here!

The needles scared him, although he wouldn’t readily admit it. Only his partner knew just how much he got freaked out when the staff came at him with the drugs.

It wasn’t that the needles were painful, and in fact now he had the central inserted, they didn’t even puncture his skin any more. But each time he saw the dull metal of the small needles coming at him he broke out into a cold sweat thinking about the horse. The small silver spoon; the tiny flame; the brown liquid pulled into the barrel of the tiny syringe. And the constant flicking against his arm as the goons looked for a vein that hadn’t collapsed.

In those desperate days when he’d been held captive, he’d longed for the sweet rush the drug gave him. The lighter than air feeling he got at the beginning of the trip when the world seemed right; when he could have laid in his bed for ever, his mind happily closed down to the feelings within his own body, World war three could have erupted right inside that poky little room, and Hutch would have smiled benevolently at it. But the rush lasted for progressively shorter and shorter periods.

The blond hadn’t even told his partner, in all the time since the episode that even now there were times when he thought about those sweet feelings and longed for just one more experience; just one more gallop on the brown horse back to oblivion.

But he realised bitterly that after that rush came the paranoia, the pain, the anguish and the cramps. He remembered vividly the sweat soaking his body and the distorted view of the world he had had from his red rimmed eyes when his body was yearning for his next dose. And it was the memory of the pain he experienced in Huggy’s upstairs room that always made the longing for the next fix fade into the background.

Would it ever end? No. And it scared him.

He put the dark thoughts to the back of his mind now and looked at the dark curly haired man next to him, thankful all over again that he had a friend like Starsky.

‘Starsk?’ the voice was thin and raspy but the harsh panting of the past 36 hours had gone and Hutch’s face held no trace of fever.

‘Blondie, how are you doin’?’


Starsky understood how the oxygen could make him feel dry as a bone. Gently he pulled the mask away from his partner’s face. He reached for the glass of water and gently held the straw to the blonde’s lips. Hutch sucked and swallowed feeling the cool fluid easing the fire in his throat. His head sagged back against the pillow and he gazed at the curly haired man at his bed side.

‘You look like shit!’

Starsky snorted. ‘Have ya seen a mirror lately? You’re no oil painting yourself Blintz’.

Hutch felt cold, for the first time in a long time and raised the single sheet covering the bed and looked down at himself. ‘Hmm. A naked oil paining’ he mused. ‘What happened to the fashion statement?’

‘The dress? Nope. Naked is how all the good cops are going this season. And the yellow clashed with your eyes’ Starsky smiled; glad to have a shadow of his partner back with him.

Hutch’s eyes were beginning to droop and he wriggled in the bed. ‘I wanna turn over’ he grunted and then winced. He felt like he’d been on his side for an eternity. Although his body felt cold, his pillow felt hot and uncomfortable and he longed for the cool crisp pillow cases on his bed at home.

‘Ya still got the hose pipe in your back babe. You’ll have to stay stlll for a while yet. But I’ll get the nurse huh? See if we can make you feel more comfortable?’ he pushed the nurse call button and within minutes a pretty young nurse pushed her way into the room

‘Well hello there. I was wondering when you’d wake up’ she dimpled at the blond. She checked Hutch’s pulse, temperature and respiration rate and noted her findings down on the chart at the bottom of his bed. She returned to the head of the bed.

‘How are you feeling?’ she asked as she gently lifted the drowsy man and turned the pillow over, plumping it up and making it feel soft and fresh. Hutch snuggled his face back into it with a sigh.

‘Tired’ Hutch replied tiredly.

‘I’ll go and let Doctor Kaufman know you’re awake. Maybe we can take down some of these tubes soon. Then you’ll start to feel better’ she said and went in search of the Doctor. Starsky watched the nurse’s butt wiggle as she went out of the room.

‘I can tell you’re not up to your usual standard just yet’ he chuckled at the bedridden blond.


‘Ya never gave her a second look! Cute little…..’

‘Hey…..I’m the one that gets the bed bath, buddy’ Hutch gave a ghost of a smile and then started to cough. The fit took him by surprise and he clutched weakly at his chest as the hacking left him sweating and pale.

As the fit receded, he lay back on the pillows panting. ‘Guess ….not up to……nurses just yet’.

‘That’s ok. I’ll have your share………shit!’ Starsky said, standing a little too quickly. He made a grab for the bed as the room took a dip to one side and sat back down quickly. He closed his eyes and waited for the world to stop wobbling just as Judith came bustling into the room. She looked first at Hutch and then at Starsky, taking the brunette by the arm and leading him to the other bed in the small ward and pushing him down onto it.

‘How are you feeling?’ she asked, shining a light into his eyes and pulling up his eyelids.

‘Just tired, I guess. I got a little dizzy there, but……Oh my god. You don’t think I’ve got the…….Doc?’

She shook her head. ‘We’ll take another blood sample just to be sure, but I think you’re just exhausted. When was the last time you ate?’

Starsky knitted his eyebrows in concentration. ‘Dunno. When did I…..must be a couple of days I suppose’.

Judith shook her head. ‘And the last time you slept?’

‘I can’t remember. I dozed for a while. Does that count?’

‘Well my diagnosis as a doctor is that you’re exhausted and if you’re not careful you’re going to be dehydrated as well. So you have two choices Dave. You can either lie there while I get the nurse to bring you a proper meal and a drink and then go to sleep. Or I can set up a drip and sedate you. What’s it to be?’

Starsky grinned up at her. ‘I love it when you’re so masterful. I’m not too fond of needles, so I’m gonna go with the second option’ He lay back against the pillow and closed his eyes as Judith headed back to her real patient.

‘Don’t let him…..fool ya. He played Camille’ Hutch panted, still recovering from the coughing fit as she checked his chart and peeked at the drain bottle and catheter bag.

‘I think we can take the drain out of your back now’ she said. ‘But I’m still worried that your output isn’t what it should be. I’ll take another set of bloods to see what the antibiotics are doing’.

‘Sounds good’ the blond mumbled. He felt light and spacey and still so damned tired despite all the sleep he’d had. Hutch wasn’t used to being sick. That was his partner’s job and it was his task to make sure he was there looking after the brunette and fussing over him. He felt stupid and useless now as he lay in the bed. It seemed such a long time since that moment in the lab when his life had turned upside down and the Doc had told him he could die. Hutch was so damned thankful that Starsky had found Calendar and that he’d gotten the serum in time. But he’d kind of hoped that it would be a case of one injection and then a miracle cure. He’d never expected to be in bed for so long and in fact he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so sick for so long. Even when his leg had been broken he was in pain, but not sick. This plague thing just sucked.

He could feel Judith doing things around his back and felt the draft as she lifted the sheet. He shivered involuntarily.

‘C cold’.

A warm hand appeared on his back, rubbing smoothly and gently up to his shoulder blades and back down to his butt and she leaned over, whispering in his ear. ‘is that warmer?’

Hutch looked over his shoulder at her, the shadow of a grin on his face. ‘First you tell me I’m cute when there’s a window between us an’ I can’t do anything about it. And now you wait till I’m one step away from dead to play the big come on. Jeez, Judith. Wait till I’m well again huh?’

She giggled. ‘I have to take your mind off the drain somehow you know’.

‘Yeah? Is that the only reason?’

She left him and set to gathering the equipment she needed, finally bending over the bed and taking off the dressing over the wound. She gently snipped the two stitches holding the tube in place, then rested one hand on her patient’s shoulder.

‘When I say ready, I want you to cough’.

Hutch snorted. ‘Not a problem. Can’t seem to stop coughing’ he mumbled, taking hold of a handful of sheet and bracing himself. He felt the cold again at his back and heard her count to three. As she hit the magic number, he coughed hard, but still it couldn’t disguise the feeling of his lungs being ripped out through his spine.

‘OK Hutch. One more time. Cough now’. She pulled the offending tube clear.

‘Ungh……ach……shit that feels so wrong’ he grunted as he pulled the sheet up around his chin.

Judith bent over him and gave him a very un-doctor-like kiss. ‘You were very brave’ she said kissing the tip of his nose. ‘Now, just let me put this new dressing over the wound and you can maybe lie on your back or sit up a little’.

He waited, the tip of his nose still tingling form the kiss. Even in his weary condition he could feel the beginnings of a stirring in his loins and he was glad he wasn’t laid on his back at that particular moment. It wouldn’t do for the good lady doctor to see that she’d given her patient a boner as well as a drain in the back. He curled his leg up to disguise the swelling in the centre of his body, made all the more uncomfortable by the dreaded catheter still in place. As the woman finished her ministrations she tapped him on the shoulder.

‘Do you want to try rolling over onto your back now?’

Hutch winced at the small pain from the drain wound, but managed to roll over and as he settled onto his back he glanced over to the other bed in the room. Starsky was laid on his side, curled around like a little boy, short only of a thumb in his mouth. His dark, bristle shadowed face was relaxed in sleep and his eyelashes were dark smudges against his cheeks.

‘Is he ok?’ Hutch asked.

‘What is it with you two? You only ever ask about each other. Yes, he’s just tired out’.

Hutch chuckled. ‘I guess it means a lot. We both watch each other’s backs’ he yawned and the deep breath made him cough again, sending the pains through his chest and back again.

‘Shit, this sucks’ he gasped when he could catch his breath again. ‘I hate this……feel so useless’.

‘Ssh. You’re doing so well. I don’t think you realise just how sick you’ve been’ Judith said, stroking his forehead as Hutch closed his eyes. ‘We seriously thought you might not make it’ she said gently.

It brought the blond up short, literally taking his breath away.

‘I know. I’m thankful, honest I am. Just so fucking tired……hurts’.

Hutch felt a movement at his chest and opened his eyes to see the doctor depressing the plunger of a syringe into the central line.

‘What’s that?’

‘Antibiotic and something to make you sleep. You need your rest and so does Dave. And if you’re asleep, he’ll sleep too’.

The drug was beginning to take effect and Hutch fought to keep his eyes open. ‘Don’t want…..sleep too long…….not…….tir……’ he never finished the word as his eyes closed and his face relaxed into a peaceful expression.

Slowly Judith got up and looked from one sleeping man to the next. Smiling, she went out of the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Chapter 6

For the first time in a long time both men had a mostly quiet night. When the nurse came into the room at midnight to check on her blond patient, she found the Starsky too was still fast asleep, his curly head pillowed on his arm and his face relaxed into a smile. Hutch was sleeping peacefully too although he still had a slight temperature and the catheter bag showed that his kidneys still weren’t functioning as well as they should. But there seemed to be a slight improvement and the nurse duly noted it down on her patient’s chart before tip toeing out of the room.

Hutch had vivid dreams that night. He dreamed of himself and his partner driving through Bay City looking for Calendar, of a beautiful young doctor with auburn hair and a scrawling red name plastered across the window of his room. He watched the procession of his dreams as if from a great distance, but towards morning they changed from their happy relaxed flow and he felt hot and uncomfortable again.

He tossed his head on the pillow as he watched the dreams change from happy recollections to painful visions. He was battling through traffic on the main highway. But instead of cars, vans and buses on their way to work, the traffic consisted of the bacteria he’d been shown pictures of by Doctor Meredith They cut him up, slowed him down and boxed him in at lights. As his battered brown car stood in the line of traffic, they attached themselves to the side of the car and blocked his view of the outside world. He desperately tried to block off the air intake, but the bacteria were everywhere, pushing tendrils through the small openings in the dash until they were surrounding him, smothering him with their slimy bodies and threatening to choke him, battering again and again at his back, sides and stomach.

Starsky woke from his own dreams to hear the moans from the other bed. In a flash he was off the bed and at his partner’s side trying to soothe the blond. Hutch’s hair was once again darkened by sweat and the flaxen eyelashes were dark and spiked. Starsky was unable to rouse him from his nightmare and in desperation, he reached for the nurse call button.

Moments later, the nurse and Judith Kaufman came through the door.

‘He’s burning up again’ Starsky said, his hand still on Hutch’s brow. Judith examined the sick man, checking his central line, the wound on his back and the catheter. The bag’s contents were dark with traces of blood.

‘He’s got a kidney infection’ she said, asking the nurse to go and draw up a dose of Amoxycilin. She looked at the worried look on the brunette’s face. ‘It’s OK Dave. It’s to be expected. His body was so damaged by the initial infection that this sort of thing was bound to happen. He’ll be in pain for a while but we can up the dose of antibiotics’. She took the hypo from the nurse and injected the contents into the central line.

Hutch’s eyes opened and he looked at the three people gathered around his bed

‘Oh boy’ he mumbled as a lancing pain through the small of his back arched his body off the bed. It passed and he lay panting. ‘Not a good day’ he gasped as he held on to the brunette’s hand. His head was pounding and he felt nauseous and hot.

‘You’ve got another infection’ Judith said gently. ‘We can fix it, but it’ll just set you back a while’.

‘Y ya th think’ he grunted closing his eyes as another pain threatened to take his breath away. ‘Ungh……thirsty’.

‘I’m sorry, I can’t let you drink anything at the moment. We need to measure your fluid intake and I’m going to set up another drip into your central line to help. And now that your chest infection is clearing nicely, I should be able to write up some pain meds for you. Can you hang on for a while?’

She smiled as the blond nodded tightly

Judith looked apologetic. ‘I have to go now, but I’ll be back after to see how you’re doing’. She patted his shoulder gently and he tried to smile at her, but his face creased once again in pain.

As Judith and the nurse departed, Starsky sat on the side of the bed. He felt as though this saga would never end. First the diagnosis of the plague, then the pleural infection and now this. He watched his partner arch back against the bed again and reached out to take his hands, locking eyes with the pain filled ice blue ones.

‘Easy buddy. Just try ‘n’ take it easy huh?’

Hutch tried to smile. ‘F feels like I’m pissing razor b blades’ he said through clenched teeth as his blond body shivered uncontrollably. ‘Ach…..s sucks’

‘I know it does Blondie, but Judith will get ya the pain meds soon an’ then it’ll get easier. What can I do?’

‘B back……hurts’ Hutch let out an involuntary cry and then clamped his mouth closed. ‘S sorry Gordo….hurts a lot’.

Starsky moved around to the opposite side of the bed and put his hands under the blonde’s body, rolling him onto his side. Sitting at the side of the bed he rubbed small circular motions across the middle of the tanned back, digging his thumbs in when the body arched back in pain. Between the blonde’s pain and the brunette’s effort, before too long they were both soaked in sweat. Starsky stopped a moment, wiggling his hands in the air to get the circulation back into his wrists.

‘How’s that?’ he asked softly as Hutch rolled back onto his back with a groan.

‘Felt good’ he mumbled. ‘Just wish the suckers k kicking my guts around would l leave ‘em alone. Just need something to t take my mind off the p pain’.

‘Yeah, I know. Ya know I was thinking. It always makes me feel better when you read to me if I’m sick. You want for me to read to ya?’

Hutch fixed his eyes on his partner. ‘I don’t think they got c copies of the Dandy here’.

‘Ya know even when you’re sick you have to mock me!’

‘F force of habit’ the blond replied, biting his lip as another pain assailed him

Starsky wasn’t to be defeated. He got up and went to the door. ‘Just hold on there partner. Be right back’. He left the room and padded down the corridor to the nurses’ station. Most of the staff were used to the two men now and most also had a secret soft spot for the cops. Having young virile men to nurse made a curious diversion from their usual middle aged and older patients. As Starsky appeared at their desk, a young red head looked up.

‘Dave? Is everything OK?’

He gave her his best lop sided smile. ‘Yeah. I just erm….What have you got to read around here?’

She looked at him quizzically. ‘Read? Well we have the magazines in the day room’.

‘No, not women’s magazines and Golfers Weekly. I mean books. What books do you have to read?

‘Well none. We don’t have a library. Just medical books’.

‘Can I see?’ he asked, bending down behind the counter with her.

She rifled through the shelf and brought out three books. ‘We’ve got Blacks Medical Encyclopaedia, Surgery for Nurses and Epidemiology – a brief insight’.

Starsky looked at the three heavy tomes. ‘Not what you’d call riveting reading. It might put me to sleep but it ain’t gonna help Hutch none’ he muttered. He stood slowly and was about to head to the day room for the newest copy of Golfers Weekly when the nurse stopped him.

‘Erm, Dave? There’s this. One of the girls left it behind. Is this any good?’ she waved a leather bound book at him and he took it reading the title and thumbing through the fine pages. The words were stilted but had a certain rhythm to them and he liked what he saw.

Slowly he smiled. ‘Thanks honey this should be fine’ and he trotted off back to Hutch’s room. When he got back there he found the blond curled up on his side, panting and gasping in pain as he balled his fists up in the sheets on the bed. Starsky rushed to the bedside, easing his partner back onto his back and rubbing along the line of his chest.

‘Hey Blondie, just relax huh? That’s it…..easy buddy, easy….right here now. I won’t leave again’.

Slowly Hutch’s body relaxed back onto the bed and he lay panting. Urts….’ he managed to gasp.

‘I know, I know. I’ve got something to take your mind off of it. Ok. Gonna read you a story’.

Hutch saw the determination in the indigo eyes. ‘What s story?’

‘Jane Eyre’.

‘S a girls s story’ Hutch gasped.

But Starsky was sitting himself comfortably on the chair by the bed. He opened the book at the first page. ‘Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. You’re a captive audience, so ya gotta listen’ he smiled and started to read.

‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question………..’

Hutch smiled despite the pain. It seemed so strange to hear a quintessentially English novel read in Starsky’s inimitable New York drawl, but he found he was listening to the voice and not really to the words. He closed his eyes and listened as his partner read on, stumbling sometimes over the old fashioned words and trying his damndest to put in the voices of the characters .

An hour later, Starsky’s throat was dry as a bone and Hutch’s eyes had been closed for at least half the time he’d been reading. The blonde’s body seemed a little more relaxed and although his face still grimaced in pain occasionally, Hutch hadn’t groaned or clutched convulsively at the bedclothes for a while now. He paused and looked at his partner before slowly closing the book. He shifted in his chair and was about to stand when he heard a soft voice from the bed.

‘Don’t stop’.

‘I thought you were asleep’ Starsky replied gently.

‘No…..just resting. Feels good’.

‘Has the pain gone?’

Hutch snuggled down a little in the bed. ‘Not really gone. Just feels better. I like you reading’.

The brunette snorted. ’Thought I was only fit to read the Dandy’.

‘Nah…..got a good voice. It’s kinda mellow’.

‘Yeah an’ it’s kinda dry. I was gonna take a rest’.

‘Wanna find out what happened to Jane in the red room’ Hutch mumbled sleepily.

‘But this is a girlie book’.

‘Yeah, I know. It’s just …….feels good’.

The curly haired man sat back down on the chair again, his legs crossed in front of him. He squeezed the bridge of his nose with his finger and thumb, then took up the book and opened it.

‘OK. Where were we?’ He cleared his throat.

“The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I had had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red glare, crossed with thick black bars. I heard voices, too, speaking with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water: agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror confused my faculties”.

The brunette’s voice read on, and Hutch listened, cushioned on his friend’s mellow tones as his mind drifted. Although the pain in his back was still there, it had altered in some way, becoming duller and less insistent and he felt warm and contented as though he’d gotten over the final hurdle and was finally on the road to recovery.

As Starsky started the fourth chapter of the book he looked up and realised Hutch had finally fallen asleep, his hands still clutching the sheets, but the pain lines on his handsome face had relaxed and there was no longer a flush on the skin. Very gently he got up, putting the book down on the table by the bed. He pulled the sheets up closer around the blonde’s chin and padded back to the other bed. He lay down and closed his eyes, listening to the clear and unhurried breathing from the other side of the room and relaxed.

Chapter 7

‘Tastes like cardboard’.

Starsky grinned. ‘What does? The toast or the oatmeal?’

‘Both’ the blond grumbled. ‘I’ve spent over a week now without food an’ when the prison wardens say I can eat again they take all the taste out of the food first’.

‘Try the jell-o. It’s red, - strawberry’s your favourite’.

‘Starsk, it’s full of E colours and if it actually saw a strawberry it’d probably curl up and die!’ Why can’t I have proper food? I’ll never build up my strength with this…..this travesty’.

‘So you want proper food? Like a beef burrito with extra onions? Now ya know how I feel when the tables are turned and you’re stuffing tapioca down my throat’.

It had been two days since the kidney infection had shown itself and after the first day, Hutch had turned a corner and was finally feeling more like himself. Or to be more accurate he was feeling itchy and testy and for two pins he’d have ripped his partner’s head off. Fortunately, Starsky had been there himself and had recognised the symptoms; the short temper; the inability to converse with anything other than monosyllables. He understood, but it was still a trying time for all concerned.

Hutch pushed the tray away petulantly and snuggled back against the pillow, sighing heavily.

‘When’s Judith coming by?’ he asked.

‘She’s gone back to her hotel for some rest. She shouldn’t really be here now that the epidemic is over. Doc. Meredith has already gone back to Alabama. But it seems she has some leave due to her and she’s decided to stay a few more days’.

Hutch smiled ‘Yeah?’

‘Can’t imagine what’s keeping her here’ Starsky said with mock seriousness. The night before Starsky had come back into the room from the showers to see the good doctor leaning over the bed giving her patient a little non prescription attention. ‘Did ya have something wrong with your tonsils?’

The blond picked up a piece of toast and threw it at his partner. ‘She’s just concerned’ he grinned. ‘Can’t help having a way with women’.

‘Specially when you threw up over her shoes a few days ago. That’s gonna really turn her on. So, are ya ready for your big day?’

That morning one of the other doctors had been in and examined Hutch thoroughly. Although he still had periods where his temperature was raised, the pains in his back and sides had abated and his urine output was almost back to normal. The doctor had said that later in the morning the catheter would be removed and if he felt up to it, he could sit out of bed for a while. As the two men continued their welcome banter Judith and a nurse came into the room.

‘Are you ready for this Hutch?’ the doctor asked.

‘Am I ever Doc’ he grinned and looked around the shoulder of the woman at his partner. ‘A little privacy here please’ a grin on his face. Starsky crossed his eyes at him and stalked stiffly out of the room. As he got to the door he heard Judith tell the nurse she could take this on her own, and Starsky’s face cracked into a smile.

With the brunette and the nurse now out of the room, the doctor pulled the privacy curtain across the side of the bed as Hutch wriggled down the mattress. As she pulled the single sheet back and untied the drawstring of his pyjamas he looked up at her with trusting eyes.

‘Be gentle with me’ he said huskily as he felt her hands on the centre of his body. She smiled.

‘Not the sexiest thing in the world to do to a man, but afterwards, I’ll…erm…rub it better?’

She pushed the needle of the syringe into the small port on the side of the Foleys catheter and withdrew the sterile water from the tiny bladder holding the tube in place. She put the syringe down and took hold of the rubber tube, pulling gently.

Hutch gritted his teeth. It wasn’t exactly painful, but it wasn’t the most comfortable experience either and half way through the procedure he groaned and closed his eyes. The tension stopped.

‘Do you want a break?’ Judith asked softly.

The blond opened his eyes and focussed on her. ‘S’ok. Just get the damned thing out of me huh?’

Quickly the woman pulled the tube out in one motion as Hutch gripped the sides of the bed in his hands. As the end of the tube cleared his body he let out the breath he’d been holding and relaxed.

‘Thank God that’s over’ he mumbled and then groaned afresh.

Judith’s hand was moving in a different manner now, wrapped around his rapidly hardening member as her thumb gently flicked over the top, drawing lazy circles with her nail. After the pain of the extraction, the pleasure sent shudders up his spine and Hutch threw back his head against the pillow as he moaned again. Her hand picked up momentum.

‘Is this included in Blue Cross?’ he asked dreamily.

‘Do you have full cover?’ Judith asked, redoubling her efforts.

Hutch looked down his body, seeing her hands still firmly gripping him, the head peeping out of her grip.

‘Not quite’ he groaned as the sensations built in him. He lay back on the pillows enjoying the feel of her hand on his intimate parts. After all the pain and fevers he’d suffered over the past days, his resistance was low and all too soon he felt the centre of his body tighten as he reached his climax and shuddered against the bed, his back arching as he thrust upwards once. He sagged back against the pillow spent and panting.

‘God that was wonderful. Ya got magic hands’.

‘I do like to provide a full service’ Judith grinned as she leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. ‘Now, would you like a little rest before you try getting out of bed?’

The flaxen haired cop caught her up in his arms, careful not to get the woman tangled in the drip lines still feeding into his hands and kissed her back. I think I’ll just lie here with a gorgeous brunette doctor for a while’ he said tiredly. He felt heavy and sleepy and his body still hummed with the reverberations of the climax he’d experienced, but he knew his partner would be waiting for him. Reluctantly he let the doctor up from his embrace and looked into her eyes.

‘I think I’m falling in love’ he said.

She chuckled. ‘I bet you say that to all your doctors’.

‘Nah. The guy with the beard and the glasses is so not my type’ Hutch mumbled as his eyes started to close.

As Judith drew the curtains back, Starsky walked back into the room.

‘Is he ok?’ he asked looking at the slight patina of sweat on the blonde’s brow. ‘He’s not sick again is he?’

Judith grinned. ‘Oh no. he’s fine. He needed firm treatment and I just had to take him in hand’ she said straight faced as the brunette cop heard a snort from the bed.

‘Am I disturbing you two?’

‘No, just improving patient doctor relationships’ Hutch said lazily from the bed. ‘All set up now for my next big adventure.

‘Yeah? You look just about all in. D’ya want a rest first?’

Hutch pulled himself into more of an upright position and gazed around the room. ’No, I think I can handle it’ he said as he rapidly tied the cord of his pants back up.

‘Well, soon as you’re up they’re gonna move ya out of this goldfish bowl’ Starsky informed him. ‘Don’t need isolation any more now’.

He watched with a smile as Judith solicitously took hold of the blond arm and supported Hutch as he swung his legs out of the side of the bed. Slowly the flaxen haired cop shuffled to the edge of the bed, suddenly looking pale.

‘Just take it slowly Blintz’ Starsky said as he took the other arm and felt a shake in it. ‘It’s been a while an’ you need to take it easy’.

Hutch sat on the side of the bed looking at the chair by the window. This morning it had seemed inviting and a path back into the real world, but now, as he battled the dizziness and weakness, it seemed a million miles away. Sitting up pulled at the small drain wound on his back and he was more aware of the tube of the central line as it flapped against his chest. The sensations came thick and fast; too fast and he fought back the nausea that threatened to overwhelm him..

Very slowly he put his bare feet on the cool tile floor and with support from his doctor and his partner he stood shakily. As he pulled himself up to his full height, the room took a dip to the left. He saw dark grey shadows at the edge of his vision and without warning, the toast, oatmeal and jell-o put in a surprise reappearance. Starsky skipped backwards out of the way, but still held onto his friend’s arm and quickly, Judith and he pushed Hutch back onto the bed as he panted and gasped.

‘Shit……sorry Gordo’ he put a shaking hand up to his face and wiped at the trickle of sweat that threatened to drip into his eye.

Judith wiped his forehead with a cloth. ‘Do you always take things at full speed?’ she asked, amused.

‘Apart from when he’s driving, yes’ the brunette grinned as he took a paper towel and wiped bits of breakfast off his Adidas.

Hutch lay panting against the pillow, his eyes closed as he tried to stop the world from spinning out of control. ‘Jeez! I only wanted to stand up! This sucks’ he said, angry at himself for being so weak.

‘It’s the sudden change in blood pressure. It makes you dizzy and sick’ Judith said. ‘In a moment we can try again, if you want?’

The blond pushed himself up, a look of determination in his blue eyes. ‘Gonna do it on my own’ he grunted as he sat at the edge of the bed again. Slowly he stood, taking time this time to straighten up and then took four wobbling steps to the chair. Reaching for the chair arms, he lowered himself gently into the chair as Starsky wheeled the two drip stands over to join him.

As he got himself comfortable, he looked at the two other people, a look of achievement on his face. ‘Today the chair, tomorrow the world!’ he panted. ‘Now can I have some proper food huh?’

‘Yes, you can have fish for lunch’.

‘Oh joy!. Meat is murder but fish is justifiable homicide huh?’ But Hutch grinned all the same.

As Judith sat by his side, Starsky finished cleaning his Adidas.

‘Blintz, I gotta go. There’s an errand I have to make’ he looked up apologetically.

‘Yeah, where?’

Starsky leaned against the bed. ‘Calendar. He’s getting out of the hospital today. I gotta take him to the airport’. He caught the quizzical look in his partner’s eyes.

‘We cut him a deal. He turned himself in and we gave him immunity and a ticket outa the country’.

Hutch’s eyes turned stormy. ‘You did what? Starsk he’s one of the biggest hit men we’ve dealt with. He’s international. Ya could have scored big time’.

Starsky rolled his eyes. ‘Yeah. Strike one for the curly guy, but he ain’t got no partner. Is that it? You needed the serum and Calendar had the means of delivering it. End of conversation. Now, are ya gonna waste all your energy being mad at me? I did what I had to do and now I’m gonna go and put him on a plane to Bogota’.

Hutch threw his hands up in defeat.

‘I’m not mad at ya buddy. I just wish there could’ve been another way. Just go and deliver the turkey and then come back huh? and watch your back. Is Roper still out there?’

‘He’s dead. We got word the day after Calendar gave himself up. Roper’s goons shot Calendar here at the hospital, but he got Roper and I got one of his flakes. Roper’s gone and his empire is currently up for grabs. Word on the street is it’s going to the highest bidder and Roper’s henchmen are currently out of a job’.

Hutch’s forehead wrinkled in concentration. ‘Let me get this straight. Calendar’s been shot but he’s ok. Roper’s dead and his empire is belly up and you’re off to LAX. When were ya gonne tell me all this buddy?’

Starsky grinned as he walked to the door. ‘That’s what ya get for missing meetings’ he threw over his shoulder as he left.

Chapter 8

One week later the blond was prowling his new quarters. For most of the morning he’d been waiting for his partner to appear so that he could go home. It had been an eventful week.

The day after Hutch had gotten out of bed, he’d been moved into his new room. This one had no window out onto the corridor, which added to privacy, but cut down on the view he had of the passing parade and he was soon as bored as hell from watching the seagulls, the cars manoeuvring around the car park and the smog building up over the city. But he admitted he did have a good view of the parking lot and he scoured it each afternoon waiting for Starsky to appear with fruit, juice, magazines and other things. He smiled as he thought about his partner.

Starsky had spent every spare minute with him at the hospital. Even though, once Hutch was declared to be “on the mend” he had to go back to work, he raced back from the Metro every evening and spent hours talking about what Knight had done or what Minnie had said. Hutch had had lots of other visitors once his incarceration in the isolation ward had come to an end. Huggy had called, bringing a basket of flowers hiding a six pack of beers and Dobey had rolled in with candies and magazines. But always there in the background was his curly haired partner. Sitting quietly while he chatted with his other visitors, laughing with him about what they’d said or done, and reading to him.

That first time, when Hutch had been in so much pain with the kidney infection, he’d felt almost embarrassed at the brunette’s suggestion and had almost curled up and died when Starsky had produced that book. Jane Eyre! Ok, so it was forced upon them by circumstance, but during the past week, when the fevers had returned and he’d felt low and depressed he found it oddly comforting to look forward to the next chapter. Would Mr Rochester ever tell Jane about his mad wife in the attic? Would Jane ever go back to him after the fire?

Last night, his last in the hospital, it had been oddly fitting that the low, mellow voice had announced in that familiar drawl ‘Chapter 38….Reader, I married him’. Hutch had had a smile on his face as he laid back on his pillow, the brunette at his side with his feet up, resting on the metalwork of the bed. Starsky had his nose in the book, focussing on the words as Hutch gazed at him, remembering the past two weeks. Contentedly he sighed and closed his eyes, cushioned on the sound of his partner’s voice until the last words of the story, telling of St John’s death. Slowly the brunette’s eyes closed and the book in his hands fell forward as Hutch watched his friend drop into an exhausted sleep.

That day, as he’d looked for the familiar arrival of the striped tomato he seen his partner get out slowly from the car. The strut he always had in his walk was a little less pronounced and even from that distance, Hutch could see the dark shadows under the indigo eyes. Starsky was worn out and Hutch could tell.

He watched carefully as the head fell forward until Starsky’s chin hit his chest and his breathing evened out into the relaxed breaths of sleep. Very gently, Hutch took the book and closed it, putting it on the small bedside table, took the blanket off his bed and draped it over the long legs. He sat back on the bed and waited quietly, thumbing through a magazine. Hutch knew this had been almost as hard for his partner as it had been for him and while he’d been able to recuperate and catch up on sleep, Starsky had had to do a full days work before visiting each night.

It wasn’t until, an hour later, a nurse came bustling into the room with his pills that the brunette woke with a start. Starsky pushed himself up and took his stiff legs down from the bed, clearing his throat.

‘Good story huh?’

The blond smiled. ‘Yeah, not bad. Not bad at all……thanks’.

‘What for reading it or for shutting up?’ Starsky asked with a twinkle in his eye as he rubbed his face to get rid of the last vestiges of sleep.

‘For being here’ Hutch said softly. ‘I couldn’t have gotten through this without ya and I know it’s been tough on you’. He patted his partner’s knee with a hand sporting an enormous blue bruise, but free of the dreaded drip feed.

Starsky smiled back. ‘You’re not gonna get soapy are ya? I did what I had to and you’d have done the same thing. Hell, you have done it. Remember Bellamy? Remember that Italian? You were always there for me buddy’.

‘I know. I guess I’m just feeling kinda…..dunno. Judith’s goin’ home tomorrow’.

The brunette looked down at the floor. ‘She couldn’t stick around for ever Blintz. She has a job to do and there’s some kind of outbreak in North Carolina. She needs to be there’.

Hutch heaved a deep sigh and changed the subject. ‘So what time are ya comin’ for me huh? When do I get sprung?’

‘I’ll be here about 11:00am. I’ll bring your clothes, take ya home and tuck you in’.


And so now, he prowled the room, checking the clock on the wall and gazing expectantly out of the window at the parking lot. Eventually the familiar car appeared and he watched fondly as Starsky got out, retrieved a bag from the trunk and headed for the door. Minutes later the brunette appeared at the door to his room, bag in hand.

‘OK. Blue jeans, checked shirt, belt, shoes, socks, undies’ he waved Hutch’s boxers in the air. ‘Cake with file baked in to get you out of here’ he grinned.

Hutch took his underwear from his partner’s hand and grabbed the bag, heading into the bathroom to get himself dressed for the first time in two weeks. Grimly he looked at the ripple effect of his skin pulled taut over prominent ribs and the tired look in his eyes. His skin still carried a tan, but nothing could disguise the sickly pale look of a guy who’d faced death and cheated it. He shrugged his shoulders and told himself not to be so damned poetic.

Five minutes later he emerged from the small room, washed and dressed, his pants a little baggier round his hips and held up by a belt fastened with an extra tight hole.

Starsky looked at the gaunt face and the thin frame, the clothes seeming to emphasise just how many pounds his partner had dropped during his illness, but he put the dark thoughts to the back of his mind and grinned.

‘Ya ready for the big break out?’

Hutch nodded. ‘Bring on the wheelchair and let’s roll!’

Pushing the nurse call button, they waited until the porter arrived with the requisite vehicle and the nurse lined up to say goodbye to their favourite twosome. Hutch managed to kiss each one of them in turn and Starsky managed to get in quite a few pecks also as they paraded down the ward. The last woman in line thrust a paper sack containing a further six weeks supply of antibiotics and instructions to return for a check up in a week. As both men nodded and shouted more goodbye. The porter pushed the chair to the lift and eventual freedom.

As Hutch got himself into the front seat of the Torino and Starsky loaded the bags into the trunk, he looked around. Was he just being crazy, or did the sky seem bluer and the sun brighter? He took a deep breath and enjoyed the smells of the city air rather than the canned air of the room he’d been confined to for what seemed like an eternity and as his partner got into the car beside him, he leaned his head back against the headrest and turned his face to the warm sunshine, allowing himself the pleasure of feeling the rays on his skin.

Starsky watched in amusement. He’d been there himself and he knew the score. Those first moments out of hospital were always good ones and he waited a moment while his partner savoured them. Finally he started the engine and drove the big car out of the lot and turned out into the afternoon traffic, heading east on the highway.

Hutch watched the passing parade for a while, just happy to be free of nurses, needles and beds for a while, but eventually curiosity got the better of him.

‘Where are we going?’

The brunette cast a sideways glance. ‘For a drive?’

‘Why? I thought you said I was going straight home for you to do your Florence Nightingale routine’.

‘Ya know. I think I see myself more as a Doctor Kildare’ the curly haired cop mused as he hung a left and set off down the broad highway’.

‘Starsk, I’m still kinda tired. Where are we going?’ Hutch asked, feeling every bump in the road as it jostled his thin frame. He held onto the passenger grab and closed his eyes, knowing his partner would tell him in time.

Fifteen minutes later, Starsky pulled the car up outside LAX, in the white zone of the frontage and Hutch opened his eyes, hearing the familiar recorded voice

‘No parking in the white zone….The white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only’.

He looked around. ‘We going on vacation or what?’ he asked in a bemused voice as Starsky trotted around to the passenger door and solicitously helped him out of the car. The brunette led Hutch into the departure hall and waited at the foot of the escalator as the blond looked around him.

‘Starsk, you didn’t…..she isn’t….oh my!’

Walking towards him through the crowd was a certain brunette doctor, her big eyes twinkling as she made her way towards him.

‘Judith!’ he said, smiling, his heart full of hope.

Starsky moved away to give them some privacy. The previous night he’d phoned the woman and arranged to bring his partner to the airport for their goodbyes and now he gave them their space, watching fondly as Hutch looked down at the diminutive doctor.

They talked together quietly.

‘Can’t you stay for the weekend?’ Hutch blurted out suddenly and she smiled at him.

‘I’m a working lady’.

‘You’re a coward. Now that we’ve got no window separating us. You’re afraid to take a chance. Is that it?

‘You don’t believe that’

‘Well then stay and prove me wrong. I’m a healthy man now, there’s still time for you to change your mind’

She stood on tiptoe and kissed him tenderly before bending and picking up her bag.

.No’ she smiled and started up the escalator as Hutch watched her leave. He leaved a sigh and Starsky rejoined him, knowing that the blond had really had feelings for the beautiful doctor.

He put his hand up to his partner’s shoulder.

‘C’mon Blondie. You’re not ready for the big league yet. Lets get you home and tucked into bed huh?’

Hutch walked backwards, his eyes still on the departing woman before turning and following his friend back to the escalator.

‘Still aim to live to 148’ he said happily. ‘Only another 120 years to go, an’ I aim to enjoy every single one of ‘em!’

The End