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Prologue

"What's it you're looking for?" Starsky asked the tall, blond, green-eyed man who stood in front of him.

"I think I found it-- him, you." The stranger's voice was husky and seductive. "Never seen eyes as blue as the sky," he whispered and stepped closer to Starsky. He laid his forefinger on Starsky's forehead and trailed a path along his nose, across lips, up to the chin, his eyes locked with Starsky's.

This man's cool demeanor, deep voice, and the piercing eyes were unlike anything Starsky had experienced so far during his undercover assignment as a male prostitute. Was this the murderer they were searching for?

"Never seen eyes as green as a cat," Starsky replied, hoping it was a good flirting comeback.

"Name's Leo," the stranger introduced himself, smiling.

"Call me John," said Starsky.

Leo shook his head. "But that's not who you are."

Leo invited Starsky to his house. Most of the men who were looking for a quick release wanted it either in a vehicle or a dark alley, not quite as often in an apartment. It seemed like Leo wasn't interested in just a quick roll in the hay.

Leo's apartment was in the middle of downtown Bay City, a very unlikely place for a torture chamber. For a moment Starsky wondered whether he had made a mistake. The place looked just like his own. The living room had a TV, sofa, a couple more chairs, and a dining table.

"You should quit what you're doing," Leo spoke for the first time after their encounter on the street. He headed to the kitchen, and over to the refrigerator. He grabbed two beers.

"Why should I?" Starsky asked, standing in the middle of the apartment, looking around and wondering again whether he was with the wrong man.

"I can offer you something better?" Leo walked back to the living room, offering Starsky a beer. He cupped Starsky's neck with his palm, his long fingers resting at the nape where Starsky's hair curled over.

Leo's breath was on Starsky's face as he moved closer and brushed his lips against Starsky's earlobe.

Is he seducing me? Starsky's heart pounded against his ribs. Not the usual thing to do with a prostitute! "What's your offer?" Starsky asked, not trusting his own voice. He was nervous, and knew he was treading on dangerous grounds.

"Your life, and… me," Leo whispered in Starsky's ear.

"I already have a life."

"Not for long if you keep on doing this." Leo's tone turned harsh, eyes changing into a darker shade of green. He inhaled sharply and turned away as if to get his composure back. "I can help you," he said, turning back. He pulled Starsky closer and rested his cheek against Starsky's. "You have no idea, do you?"

"I don't need your help," Starsky blurted. Their encounter was getting intense and Starsky had to gain control over the situation.

"You are different... Daegon Daffyd," Leo whispered, tugging at Starsky's dark curls. "You haven't done this before… have you, Dae?" Leo had made his final conclusion.

What the hell did he call me? Daygone? Dafid? Or was it David? Starsky didn't know what to make of it. Was his cover blown? Did Leo see right through him? "I err-- I need to use the john." Starsky moved away from Leo's touch.

Leo smiled. "You have nothing to worry about. I'd never hurt you," he said, pointing towards a door nearby.

Starsky placed his beer on the dining table and quickly walked into the bathroom. He locked himself inside, planning his next move. He wasn't prepared for this kind of situation. Leo didn't attack him, nor did he treat him like a prostitute. Shit! He behaves as if he wants to be my lover. According to the plan, it was time for his back up, Babcock and Simmons, to knock on the door right now. But Starsky still had no evidence against Leo.

Leo had hinted what could happen to Starsky on streets. Without so many words Leo had said that Starsky could get killed. He asked him to quit being a prostitute. Nothing unusual, nothing to arrest him for. Starsky stared at his reflection in the mirror. I am all sweaty. He spent another couple of minutes in silence, and flushed the toilet. He rinsed his hands and washed the sweat off his face. Right when he reached for the door knob, he heard voices outside. Was that Babcock and Simmons?

He had to get back before it was too late. He couldn't let Leo find out that he was a cop, not yet. Starsky opened the door expecting his fellow detectives, but faced a tall, much older and bigger man at the door. In the blink of an eye, Starsky was pushed back against the wall and struck with a sharp object on his neck.

"No-- Don't-- Not him -- NOOOOO." Leo's distressed voice echoed in Starsky's ears when all turned dark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Six months later, in LA.

 

Chapter 1: The Trial

It was the sentencing of the decade's most dangerous serial killer, Ron Scaris. He had kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered twelve young men. They were stabbed and bled to death, if the torture had not already killed them.

Detective Kenneth Hutchinson from Los Angeles Police Department, known as Hutch to his friends, stole glances at the dark, curly-haired, Detective David Starsky from Bay City Police department. Dave Starsky sat straight, staring in front of him with not even as much of a muscle-twitch. Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the legendary man who had gone undercover and offered himself as the bait to catch Scaris. The trial revealed the torture Starsky was subjected to before he escaped and overpowered his abductor.

Hutch didn't want to hear the gruesome details again. It had been a close call. He had heard the talk in the LAPD squad room.

"He would have been number thirteen-- just a matter of a few minutes."

"He must be crazy to go undercover for an assignment like that."

"He had been burnt, and the beating-- Man has to be made of steel to survive that."

Hutch had been at court for each and every hearing of the case. At the beginning it was the curiosity of seeing the guy for real; not the killer, but the man who had put his life in danger to catch the bastard. Once he saw Starsky, he couldn't walk away without knowing more of the man and the case he handled. This wasn't the first time he heard of Starsky. Jake Damian, who worked at the downtown precinct with Hutch, who was also a long-time friend of Starsky, had nothing but praise for his comrade. Damian and Starsky had met in the army, served in the same platoon and survived the Vietnam War together. Then later, both joined the police force. Damian remained in LAPD while Starsky got a transfer to Bay City, his hometown. This wasn't the first time Hutch had seen Starsky, either. He got interested in this dark haired detective after reading and seeing his picture in LA times, six months ago. 'Starsky does it again', read the headlines. He had caught Ron Scaris.

Today was the last day of the Scaris case hearing, and David Starsky would go back to Bay City. Hutch never got a chance to talk to him.

The verdict was in, and Hutch swore he could hear David Starsky's thumping heartbeat, even though Starsky was seated several rows in front of him.

Twelve counts of murder in the first degree, kidnapping, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, resisting arrest: Guilty Guilty Guilty!

"This court hereby sentences you to die by lethal injection--"

The rest went unheard, drowned out by the uproar and cheering in the court room.

David Starsky sat still with no change in his demeanor for another minute or two. Then he forced himself up, clutching the hand rail to support him as if he wasn't sure of his feet anymore. He turned around towards Hutch with the same expressionless look in his eyes. He locked his eyes with Hutch's for just a second, before looking away and walking out of the courtroom.

Hutch's eyes followed the man who was leaving, a deep sigh escaping him. He knew exactly how David Starsky felt.

No punishment is good enough. Nothing will bring back the innocent. Hutch just knew it too well. A cold shiver ran down his spine. He couldn't get away from the images of the dead that were stuck in his head. Young boys buried in the barren ground with no clothing on them. He walked out of the courtroom with the rest of the crowd.

**

Starsky paused at the courthouse entrance, watching the reporters streaming outside. The District Attorney was already taking their questions, but Starsky knew he wouldn't be able to avoid the crowd when he stepped outside. He could hear the questions already; do you think Scaris deserved to die? Are you satisfied with the verdict? Did Scaris confess to all twelve murders? What would you like to say to the victims' families?

"So do you think justice was served today?" A soft voice filled Starsky's ears. "Don't you just love those questions?"

"Huh?" Starsky turned around quickly and faced a pair of sky-blue eyes. Ah, Blondie, he was at the case hearing. Who is he, and what's he doing here? Just another guy interested in the case or what, 'cos I'm pretty sure he's not a relative of the victims.

"That's one place I wouldn't want to be, if I were in your shoes," said the blond, tipping his head towards the buzzing crowd." He turned to face Starsky. "Ken Hutchinson, LAPD, everyone calls me Hutch," the man introduced himself and flashed his badge. "Follow me," he said.

Why should I follow him? Just because he's another detective doesn't mean that I should trust him.

"I'm a friend of Damian." As if he understood Starsky's reluctance, Hutchinson further explained, and gestured Starsky to follow him. "Come on. I'll get you out of here."

A friend of Damian! So that's why he was at the hearing. "Oh, okay." Starsky nodded, flashing a quick smile. A friend of Damian is a friend of mine, too. "You two work together?" Starsky asked, quickly catching up with Hutchinson.

"No, but both of us are in the downtown precinct," Hutchinson replied, walking swiftly away from the courthouse entrance. He walked past the busy offices until he reached a more isolated part of the building. He stopped at a closed door and knocked on it. "Bill, are you there?" he asked.

The door opened with a creak and an old man with silvery white hair peeked out. "Detective Hutchinson," he said, smiling widely.

"Hello, Bill. Can you open the back door for me?" asked Hutchinson.

Oh, so that was how Hutchinson was going to sneak me out. But what about my car? It is parked in the front.

"Certainly, certainly, Detective," said Bill, and turned his head towards Starsky. His eyes narrowed and instantly widened with recognition, "Oh, Lord. Is this Detective Starsky?" he asked.

Hutch nodded.

Starsky quickly held his hand. "Pleased to meet you, Bill," he said, smiling gratefully for all what Bill was about to do for him. He figured that Bill was the janitor by the big bunch of the keys that hung around his waist, and the distinct smell of the disinfectants that followed him.

"Likewise, Detective. Likewise." Bill led them to a door further away. He unlocked it and stepped outside, looking to his right and left, and all around. "The coast is clear, Detectives," he announced.

"I have to get my car," said Starsky stepping out into the courthouse employees' parking lot.

"Yeah, right," Hutchinson said under his breath.

"What?" What's with that attitude?

"You can't drive a striped tomato all over the town," said Hutchinson. "You'll leave in my car."

"Your car?" Starsky asked, his eye brows raised up. "Then how will I get mine?" He frowned. "And what the hell did you call my car?"

"You have no idea, do you?" Hutchinson replied, smirking. "Just wait here. I'll get mine from the other end."

Hutch walked away.

***

"You want me to drive this?" Starsky asked disbelievingly, eyeing a beat-up old Ford LTD that pulled in front of him in disgust. "You call this a car?"

Bill, who was still with Starsky, chuckled. "To tell the truth, Detective Starsky, I wonder how it still runs."

Hutchinson got off the car.

Starsky groaned. "No offense, Hutchinson, but how the hell would you go on a high-speed chase in something like this?"

Hutchinson's lips drew into a tight line; they were almost straight. "Are you planning on a high-speed chase or do you want to get to-- where ever you want to go?" He snapped. "By the way, where are you planning to go?"

"I don't think I'll go anywhere in this," Starsky muttered, and seeing Hutchinson go red in face he added quickly. "To LAPD. I have to talk to Damian," he said, grabbing the car keys from Hutchinson.

"Wish both of you a good rest of the day, Detectives," chuckling, Bill went back inside the courthouse building, and closed the door.

Watching the door closing behind him, Starsky sighed. "Do you really drive this thing?" he asked, turning back to face Hutchinson and the heap of metal he identified as his car.

"It drives fine. It's not a Camaro like yours, but--"

"Camaro? Camaro? Do you even know my car?"

"Who doesn't?" Hutchinson mocked. "Do you honestly think that you can go undercover with something like that?"

"Why not?" Starsky asked, annoyingly. Who the hell does he think he is, criticizing my Torino? And thinking that it's a Camaro? Huh! "Has worked fine for me."

"We'll continue this discussion later," Hutchinson said mockingly. "Right now, you should get out of here as soon as possible, before those vultures smell you here and devour you."

"Yeah-- okay." Reaching into his pants pocket, Starsky retrieved his car keys. He paused for a second before handing them over to Hutchinson. It wasn't that often he would trust anyone to drive his Torino. Right now it wasn't about trust. He just had no choice. "Be careful with her, will ya?" Starsky pleaded.

"Her? You mean your car?"

Starsky sighed. It'd be a miracle if he got his Torino back in one piece.

"I'll meet you at the precinct," Hutchinson said in a pretended cheerfulness.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Fate brought us together, Daffyd. You were not like the others. You were special, very special.

Leo's deep green eyes followed each and every move Starsky made, clutching a silver locket that hung loosely around his own neck.

I can't wait until we meet again. I know you are waiting for me. Be patient, Dae. We will meet soon. That's a promise I made to you the last day we met, and that's a promise I tend to keep.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Starsky suddenly felt uneasy, sensing someone's eyes on him. He scanned the surroundings for any movement, but saw nothing. Someone is keeping tabs on me. Is it Leo? Is he somewhere in the parking lot? But how did he know that I would come out this way?

"Starsky, are you alright?"

"Huh?" Starsky asked, startled.

"What's wrong? You looked zoned out for a moment," Hutchinson asked, looking around.

"Wrong? What? No, no. I err... I just remembered somethin'," Starsky said hurriedly.

"Looked more like you saw a ghost."

Starsky sighed. Yeah, a kind of a ghost, that decided to make an appearance right after I got rid of one nightmare. "We should go," said Starsky, walking over to the driver's side of the LTD and opening the door. He took a quick look at the interior, which was no different from the outside. Both the passenger-- and back-seat were strewn with old newspapers and coffee cups. "Do you live in this, Hutchinson?"

When he didn't hear a reply, Starsky raised his head. Hutchinson was already a few yards away from him.

***

Hutch walked into his squad room at LAPD downtown precinct. Starsky had made it before him, and was chatting with his buddy, Jake Damian. He sat perched on the edge of Damian's desk, wearing a smile that seemed to light up the whole squad room. Damian was showing Starsky his family photos, which he kept in the top drawer of his desk.

"I'm glad you dropped by without leaving right away," Damian said to Starsky.

"Wouldn't turn away a chance to have dinner with ya," Starsky replied.

Hutch couldn't help but hear the conversation between Damian and Starsky, who were standing a couple of desks away from him. Hunching over the stack of files, Hutch made a show of studying his cases. He could've stopped listening to them, of course, but how could he, when his ears were extended all the way up to the vicinity of the two friends.

Damian had once said that Starsky had the look and the physique to turn the straight into gay, and that may have been the very reason why Scaris couldn't resist capturing him. The man had something about him for sure. Was it his piercing blue eyes that seemed to look right through you? Was it his cocky, and I don't give a damn about what you think-- attitude? Was it the way he walked with something of a swagger? Whatever it was, David Starsky wasn't someone one could ignore. Hutch had not been able to get Starsky out of his head from the very first day he had laid eyes on him. And that was just a black and white photograph in the LA times; six months ago.

"Are you still waiting for the right lady, Starsky?" Damian asked.

"I already have one in my life." Starsky pulled out his wallet and showed something to Damian.

Hutch's head shot up. Starsky has a girl friend? Hutch had been in a serious relationship one time, serious enough to get married, but ended up in divorce not that long ago.

"I see your tastes have changed drastically," Damian said grinning from ear to ear.

"Love of my life," Starsky replied. "Have to get back to her. I have never been away this long from Shaye, and she hates to sleep without me."

"No kidding. Bet you call her every night?" Damian asked smiling.

Now what sort of a dumb question is that, thought Hutch. And what type of a girl friend is she anyway? What type of a woman would allow Starsky to go through something like this by himself? Shouldn't she be by his side?

 

Damian talked so much about Starsky; how he risked his life for his friends, how sensitive and thoughtful he is. And the articles published on the Scaris case were full of praise of Starsky's undercover work. I thought and practically felt that I've known Starsky for years and years. That was of course, until Starsky offered his two cents worth on Hutch's car. Sensitive Starsky-- Yeah right!

Starsky folded the wallet and pushed it into his back pocket. "I have to drop by Captain Maven's office before leaving." He bounced off the desk. "Where am I supposed to meet you tonight?"

Damian scribbled something on a paper and handed it over to Starsky. He studied the note and slipped it into his jacket. "Okay then, see you later, tonight." Starsky walked out of the squad room.

Hutch shot him a look. Starsky winked at Hutch, smiled, and walked away. Hutch lowered his eyes back to the files. He wasn't sure what the wink meant and what he really wanted to do, but he had an unexplainable urge to speak to Starsky, again. Besides, Hutch had to get his car keys back. Starsky would need his keys, too, but he had made no effort to talk to Hutch. Starsky probably forgot all about it.

Hutch pushed his chair back and stood up. He stuck his hands in his pants pockets and jingled the keys, making sure they were still there. He opened the squad room door and peeked outside, looking up and down the corridor. Starsky was nowhere to be seen.

Damn it-- Where did the man disappear to? He said Captain Maven's office. Hutch turned to his left and walked down the corridor.

"Looking for someone?" He heard an amused voice as he passed the booking counter, and turned around in a flash.

Starsky stood propped against the wall with his arms folded in front of him. He unleashed a devilish grin, his deep-blue eyes twinkling merrily.

"Hey." Hutch smiled softly.

"Hey, yourself," Starsky replied.

"I er-- I'm looking for Cindy," Hutch muttered. Looking for Cindy? Is that the best I could come up with?

"Is there a Cindy? Really?"

Hutch glared at Starsky instead of answering. Of course there is a Cindy, I guess… somewhere.

"I think these belong to you." Starsky held the LTD's keys. "Thanks for getting me away from that mess."

Hutch gave back Starsky's keys. "Would've done it for anyone--"

"In the line of duty, huh?" Starsky chuckled.

"Like I said, you are a friend of Damian."

"Sure." Starsky grinned. "What are you doing tonight? I'm meeting with Damian for dinner. Would you like to join us?" Starsky asked. "Besides, we haven't finished our discussion."

"Oh, yeah. Your Camaro--"

"Torino!" Starsky corrected him instantly.

"Maybe another time, Starsky. I umm… I can't make it tonight." Two's company, but three's a crowd. Hutch knew the two friends would have a lot to catch up on. He didn't want to interfere, but at the same time, he also wanted to get to know Starsky a little bit more. Well… a whole lot more than a just a little bit.

"Well then. I have to leave, and umm… thanks again, it was nice meeting you, Hutchinson," Starsky said, holding out his hand.

"You were nice, too-- I mean m- me- meeting you-- that is, was, nice, S- Starsky," Hutch blabbered, taking Starsky's hand and shaking it firmly. His mind was chasing hundreds of developing thoughts, trying to catch one that would help him see Starsky again before he leaves LA.

"Good luck with finding Cindy." Starsky chuckled, raising his hand in a salute, bidding goodbye.

"Umm…, Starsky--" Hutch called back before Starsky took two steps away from him.

Starsky turned around, a question mark dancing on his raised eyebrows.

"What time are you going back to BC?" The question rolled over Hutch's tongue without even him thinking of it.

"Ah. I- I haven't thought about it. As soon as I wake up, I guess," Starsky paused for a moment, and continued. "Why? What's on your mind?"

"I- err…" Hutch nervously cupped the back of his own neck with his hand, fighting for the right words to convey what was on his mind. "I was thinking that err… maybe we can meet over for err… breakfast or something."

Starsky looked surprised, caught off-guard. "Something, ah? Well, you can bring me breakfast or somethin', and come over. I am staying at the Holiday Inn, room 104." Starsky said with a grin and a nod. "How about that?"

"Okay, then." Hutch agreed. "I'll see you tomorrow," he said, feeling lighter, happier, and exuberant.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 2: New Friends…

Starsky met Damian at The Blue Orchid as planned. They ordered drinks and their meals, exchanging facts of their lives since Nam. They'd been at the restaurant for quite a long time when Starsky noticed Hutchinson entering the place. He headed straight towards the bar.

Well, well, well. So it's not that you had other plans tonight, Hutchinson, but you just didn't want to join us. Yet… you wanted to meet me, anyway.

There was something special about this tall, blue-eyed, good-looking cop that he couldn’t exactly pin point yet. Hutch had rescued Starsky, although Starsky had wondered while driving Hutchinson's spluttering LTD whether it was some kind of a death-trap arranged by a fan of Scaris who wanted to get him. But, No. Hutchinson was just the person who he claimed to be. And then he also promised to bring breakfast, to which Starsky had agreed instantly. So… what was this force, other than those good looks and charming personality that pulled Starsky towards this man?

"What's his story?" Starsky asked, motioning his head towards Hutchinson.

Damian turned around. "Hutch?" he asked. "Well... keeps to himself. Very smart, very intelligent. The best in our division."

"No kidding. Better than you?" Starsky teased.

"Not that I want to admit it, but yes, he is the best. He was assigned an investigation we all were trying to crack for over a year. He figured it out and solved the case within weeks, but I think it got to him in a way no one expected." Damian talked about the case Hutch worked on. Another serial killer, whose victims were young males.

Starsky knew all about what a case like that could do to one; how it can get to you. Eat you up from inside and leave nothing but a shell. A shell that is so fragile that it will crack and fall into pieces with a brush of a feather. That's when you need someone to pick up the pieces. That was when Shaye came into Starsky's life. Only Shaye could reach him and make him whole. Oh, how he had refused her and pushed her away at the beginning, but she never gave up. Ah, Shaye… no one had loved him as unconditionally as she did.

"So now he's drinking himself to death?" asked Starsky, watching Hutch's tall frame slouched over the bar counter.

"He looks alright when I see him in the squad room every morning. Maybe he's just getting a couple of drinks because it's Friday, and he has the weekend off." Damian shrugged his shoulders.

"Maybe." Starsky wasn't convinced. Looks can be deceptive.

After escaping from Ron Scaris, Starsky hadn't allowed himself to feel any kind of emotion. Had not got close to another human being and had not allowed anyone else to see how he felt. Instead, he flashed a bright, wide smile for everyone around him. He hid his despair and frustration behind his crooked grin. Oh, yes! His friends and fellow officers thought that everything was fine and dandy with him.

Starsky and Damian spent another good hour in the restaurant, enjoying their meals and each other's company. They finally left The Blue Orchid close to eleven o'clock. However, after Damian drove away, Starsky walked back into the restaurant, realizing that he just couldn't walk away from Hutchinson, not when he knew the man was in trouble.

Hutch was slumped over the bar, a shot glass in his hand, which he emptied in one gulp. The bartender placed another drink in front of him.

"Not so fast, Blondie." Starsky grabbed Hutch's arm, preventing Hutch from reaching his drink.

Hutch's head shot up. His eyes widened with recognition and surprise. "What the hell," he muttered, twisting his wrist to free himself. "When did you come in?"

"Was here all the time, but you didn’t even notice, did ya?" Starsky just shook his head. You haven't eaten anything as much as a snack while at the bar. "No more drinks." He pushed the glass away and ordered a club sandwich. Someone had to do the responsible thing here.

"Take your hands off me," Hutch said forcefully.

"No." Starsky was even more determined to not to let go of him. He smiled when Hutch made a fist. "Don't even think of it, Blondie."

"Just let go of me." Hutch grit his teeth.

"Ain't happening. Not until you eat somethin'."

"I'm not hungry," Hutch snapped.

The sandwich was placed in front of them, and Starsky pushed it towards Hutch.

One look at it and Hutch's color drained from his face. "I can't." He shook his head, closing his eyes and turning his face away from the plate of food as if he couldn't stand the sight or the smell of it. "I can't. Dammit, leave me alone!" Hutch stumbled over a stool and ran towards the Men's room.

Starsky immediately followed him to the bathroom. Hutch vomited the remnants of whatever was in his stomach, pressing his arm to his abdomen, fighting against the muscle spasms.

"Easy... easy." Starsky stood behind him and wrapped one arm around Hutch's chest, providing the strength Hutch needed to maintain his footing. "Didn't know you were allergic to food," he grumbled, rubbing Hutch's back.

Starsky helped Hutch to clean up, and supported him as he walked back to the bar. After taking care of the bill, Starsky finally pulled Hutch out of the Blue Orchid.

"Where do you live?" Starsky asked, while helping Hutch into the Torino.

"Can't go home," said Hutch weakly.

"Why not?"

"Can't. Don't."

"Okay, okay," Starsky agreed. Don't want you to throw up in the Torino just because I try to take you to your own home. "So where do you wanna go?"

"Station."

What did he say? Station? "Are you nuts? It is Friday, and it's almost midnight. You are not goin' back to work today. Come on now, I'll take you home. You have to get some sleep, Hutchinson. Remember, you promised to bring me breakfast tomorrow."

"No... Can't."

"What? You can't get me breakfast?"

"No. Not that. I- I can't go home."

Starsky sighed. You don't want to close your eyes. You don't want to sleep. You start seeing dead bodies, and you feel guilty because you couldn't get to them on time. You don't want to go home because you are afraid of sleeping.

"Okay then, you can come with me, and you don't have to sleep if you don't want to. Does that sound alright?" There are hundreds or more Scarises out there. How the hell am I supposed to leave you and mind my own business after this?

"'Kay," Hutch mumbled.

***

Hutch leaned his head against the leather seat of the Torino. He had held himself together pretty well until this one nosey, curly-headed gypsy came and spoiled everything. He would have had a few drinks, and the bartender would have called in a taxi as usual. He would have gone back to the Station as he always did. There he would've snoozed if he wanted to, but never slept. At dawn he would go to his apartment, take a shower, change clothes, and come back for work. This routine worked pretty well for him, and he never threw up once during the past few weeks, but damn Starsky! He just had to show up and had to put that awful plate of food in front of him.

He had no idea where Starsky was driving him to, but he didn't care. He wasn't going home.

The Torino came to a halt at the Holiday Inn, Hutch remembered, the hotel Starsky was staying.

"Come on, get up." Starsky pulled Hutch to his feet and helped him to his room. Hutch noticed a single bed, a couch, a night stand, and a TV.

Starsky helped him on to the couch. "Just stay put for a while, then go take a shower. There are extra towels in the bathroom, and you can use my bathrobe. It's fresh."

Hutch nodded and leaned against the back of the couch.

After some time, Starsky appeared wearing a pair of white shorts and a faded blue t-shirt. He handed Hutch a root beer.

"Drink this. Something is better than nothing, and it's definitely better than the whisky you wanted to drown yourself in," said Starsky.

Hutch wasn't interested. "I just had a couple of shots."

"That is one too many, Hutchinson."

"Hutch. Everybody calls me Hutch."

"Yeah, you already told me. Okay, Hutch. You think you're ready for a shower?"

Hutch nodded and rose quickly, leaving the root beer on the coffee table.

"Don't lock the door," Starsky said, and Hutch remained silent.

"Did you hear me, Hutch? Do not lock the door."

"Okay, okay. No need to shout. I won't lock the damn thing." Shaking his head, Hutch walked into the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and stepped into the shower after adjusting the temperature of the water.

***

Starsky listened to the shower running in the bathroom; then it stopped and started again, and after another ten minutes the shower was still running. How long do you take your showers, Hutchinson? Starsky got worried when he still heard the shower running another ten minutes later.

"Hutchinson?" He knocked on the door and waited for the shower to stop. No answer -- No change-- the water was still running.

"Hutch, are you Okay?"

Still no reply.

"Dammit, Hutch, I'm coming in." Starsky opened the door.

Hutch was sitting at the bottom of the tub in a fetal position, his knees bent at his chest and his hands folded around the knees. His head rested on the knees, oblivious to the icy cold water running over him.

"Jesus, man." Starsky shut off the water and grabbed two towels from the rack and started to wipe off the water from Hutch as quickly as possible. Hutch's teeth were chattering and he was shivering from the cold.

"What the hell were you thinking, huh? Did you even feel how cold the water was?" Starsky wrapped a dry towel around Hutch's shoulders and pulled him to his feet. Then he wrapped another around Hutch's waist and tried to get him out of the tub. Wasn't an easy task as Hutch was slightly bigger and taller than Starsky. He half dragged, half carried the trembling man towards the bed, but Hutch protested.

"No. N... n... not the b... bed. D... don't want s... s... sleep."

"Alright, then." Starsky helped Hutch onto the couch, went back to the bed, and pulled some blankets off it. He wrapped every inch of Hutch in them in an attempt to keep him warm.

"Feeling better?" Starsky asked gently.

"C... c... cold."

"What? You thought that was a sauna in there?" Starsky started rubbing Hutch's back up and down, trying to bring back his blood circulation. After some time he pulled Hutch closer and wrapped his arms around him, using his body heat to warm Hutch up. It seemed to work; Hutch's teeth had stopped chattering.

"Feel better?"

Hutch nodded.

"Okay, good." Starsky pulled away. "You don't have to sleep, but I'm sure you could get a bit more comfortable. Don't you think?" Starsky flashed a lop-sided grin. "I'll be back."

***

Hutch sat in the middle of the couch, wrapped up in the white blankets like a mummy, not knowing what to do next.

Starsky came back with a couple of pillows and more blankets. "Give me your feet," he ordered.

Hutch looked confused until he saw the socks in Starsky's hands. Red Socks? Hutch looked at Starsky with a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"What? You want me to find socks that match your sheets? Sorry, Blondie, this is the only clean pair I've got."

Hutch turned towards Starsky, but he couldn't wriggle out his legs that were well-covered and wrapped up.

"No sweat. Just stay still, I'll do it." Starsky sat on the floor. He pulled Hutch's legs out the sheets, covered them with socks, and placed them on the coffee table in front of the sofa, with white sheets wrapped around him like a cocoon.

"There. That should do it." Pleased with his work, Starsky sat on the couch and leaned against the pillows. He made Hutch lean against some as well. Starsky lifted his own feet and placed them on the coffee table.

"Now you better relax and watch some TV, you hear me?" said Starsky, switching on the set and flipping through the channels. He settled on Kung Fu.

"I'll be okay, Starsky-- I think you should go to bed."

"Sure, later-- but I want to watch this for nw. I like this show. This episode is Dark Angel, from the first Kung Fu season," Starsky said without taking his eyes off the TV. "Welcome to Lordsville, little brother," he said the exact same words uttered by the man wearing a suit in the scene.

"How many times have you watched this before?"

"Only once, why?"

"And you remember the lines already?"

"Well... some of it."

Hutch thought it would be a real life-challenge to understand Starsky, especially when only a few hours were left before he disappeared from LA.

"Are you leaving tomorrow?" Hutch asked though he already knew the answer, after all, he had asked this question earlier at the precinct. He felt insane for asking the same question over and over again expecting a different outcome.

"Now that would make you a one night stand, wouldn't it?"

Hutch blushed again. The man was as blunt as a hammer, but his words could cut through you as sharp as a razor.

"Guess you're single?" Starsky asked the obvious.

"Divorced."

"Ouch. Sorry 'bout that."

"Nothing to be sorry about. I'm done with marriage-- how about you?"

"Never married. Still waiting for the right girl."

"Did you find Captain Maven's Office?" Hutch asked, wondering what his deal was with Shaye. Isn't she the love of his life?

"You were eavesdropping? Tsk-tsk-tsk." Starsky shook his head.

Hutch rolled his eyes. "Well, I couldn't help over hearing you."

"Oh, I bet you couldn't."

"So, did you?" Hutch asked, ignoring Starsky's sarcastic remark.

"Did I what?"

"Meet Captain Maven?"

"Now, why would I do that?"

"How the hell would I know that-- you're the one who said--" Hutch stopped himself when he saw Starsky grinning ear to ear. He was been played. Damn him!

"Guess you didn't find your Cindy either, huh?" asked Starsky.

"What Cindy?"

"That's what I thought!" Starsky chuckled.

What is he talking about? Hutch tried to remember who Cindy was, when he realized the lie he had mumbled earlier that day at the Station -- Damn him again!

But strange as it was, Hutch felt the tension seep out of his body. Starsky seemed so easy to talk to, and he felt as if there was nothing to hide from him. How the hell did he end up in a hotel with a man he had never even spoken to before?

"You wanna talk about it?" Starsky asked.

"About Cindy?"

"I don't need to hear nothing about a Cindy who doesn't even exist for all I know-- I'm talking about your stunt in the bathroom."

Hutch tensed up instantly. "There's nothing to talk about. I just… just forgot where I was, okay? Let it go."

"You couldn't come with a better excuse, Hutchinson? Forgot where you were?"

"Drop it, Starsky."

"Nope… not droppin' it."

Hutch closed his eyes, trying to blank out the images of the kids. He didn't want to talk about them to anyone, ever, but it wasn't easy to bottle up everything inside him, either. He knew so many details on all of them, but he couldn't save them. He'd failed.

"I didn't get to them in time." And I can't punish myself enough. "The guy was supposed to be a mentor for the Boy Scouts-- A role model, someone these kids trusted and looked up to." How could the ones we trust end up doing the most damage? "They were buried without a single piece of cloth around their bodies." Hutch hung his head sadly. "God, Starsky. Every time he killed, he sent us pictures of the dead kid lying in a shallow grave, half buried. They looked so cold -- I... I could just feel the cold through my skin."

Starsky draped his arm around Hutch's shoulder and pulled him closer.

"They were dead by the time they were buried, Hutch," Starsky said, kindly. "Those boys weren't feeling cold anymore. They were finally free and at peace-- in a better place, a warm place. A place that'll never be cold again."

"How could anyone do this to them? And how many of those monsters must still be out there?"

"We can only be our best, and understand that we cannot save the whole world," said Starsky, gently brushing off a tear that made its way to the corner of Hutch's eye.

"It will never be enough." Hutch wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand. He wasn't embarrassed of showing his raw emotions to this stranger who sat beside him. Sometimes it was easier with a stranger, but... Starsky was not a stranger to him anymore. He felt he was talking to someone he knew inside and out... all the way through.

"No, it won't, but we do our best. If it hadn't been for you, LAPD would have received a hell of a lot more pictures, Hutch. You ended it."

Hutch turned towards Starsky, wanting so much to believe what he did was enough, that he did his best, that he had made a difference. He thought of the ordeal Starsky must have gone thorough at the hands of Scaris; the pain, frustration, fear and anger. Starsky seemed to have pulled through. He seemed to be whole and normal, though Hutch wondered whether Starsky's nights were still terrorized by the gruesome murders.

"You have to stop punishing yourself," Starsky spoke softly. "It was never your fault-- you never did anything wrong."

Not trusting his voice anymore, Hutch nodded. Starsky's every word, touch, and smile seemed to calm down and soothe his troubled mind.

***

Starsky woke up to the sound of soft snores. He had fallen asleep on the couch and Hutch had fallen asleep on his lap! Hutch seemed to be at peace, despite the dark circles beneath his eyes and the lines on his forehead. Starsky himself was in a similar condition not so long ago, and he knew that Hutch needed help to get out from the vicious cycle he was pushing himself into. He wanted Hutch to know that he didn't mind having him near him. He wasn't going to leave him; not when he was so fragile that one huff and puff would make him crumble and break into pieces.

Starsky switched off the TV and put his arm around Hutch's middle, making sure he wouldn't fall off the couch.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Why did you go back into the restaurant?

Why did you go back and talk to Hutchinson?

Why did you bring him to your hotel?

How could you do this, Dae?

You are different-- aren't you? You aren't like others! Tell me that you are not like others. You can't be like others.

Leo clutched the silver locket in one hand, holding the steering wheel with the other in a deadly grip that made his veins turn crystal blue.

Daegon … you are mine. You will never belong to anyone else!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 3: Soul Mate

"Hey, sleeping beauty. I see you're finally awake." Starsky's heart warmed up at the sight of Hutch sitting in the middle of the couch, sleepy eyed, half naked, white blanket around the waist, and feet with red socks. He had been fast asleep when Starsky had left to get breakfast.

Hutch instantly stood up, freeing his hands out of the blanket. "Too bad my Prince Charming wasn't around to wake me up with a good morning kiss," he said, wrapping the sheet around him and heading to the bathroom, mumbling about him being insane, that a dark angel had casted a spell on him, and that he had no idea how to break free.

Starsky watched Hutch closing the bathroom door behind him, then removed the bagels, cream cheese, doughnuts, a coffee cake and the coffee he brought, from the bags onto the small coffee table. Dark Angel? Spell? Hutch may have watched the whole Kung Fu-Dark Angel episode last night.

When Hutch got back from the bathroom, the little coffee table had all sorts of goodies on it. The pleasant aroma of the coffee cake and the doughnuts did the trick, triggering hunger in Hutch, just as Starsky hoped for.

"Was supposed to be my treat," said Hutch, eyeing the food that was laid neatly on the table. "I- I'm sorry."

"You'll get your chance-- another day. Now come here, and get something into that empty blond stomach of yours." Starsky patted the sofa beside him, gesturing Hutch to sit with him.

"When are you leaving?" Hutch asked, sipping his coffee.

"Soon," Starsky replied, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. Leaving Hutch this quickly didn't feel right.

Hutch remained thoughtful and silent while he finished the rest of his coffee.

Starsky winced at the disappointed look that covered Hutch's face. Ahh, Hutch. Don't do this. You know I have to leave. He tried to push away the thoughts that crowded his mind, but images of Hutch shivering in the shower played over and over, like a looped reel of film. How could he turn his back on a person who was in need?

"Coming back anytime soon?" Hutch asked, dumping the empty coffee cup in the trash bin.

You know there's no reason for me to come back to LA. Starsky sighed. What am I going to do with you? Please don't look at me with those sad blue eyes. Ahh, there we go, you just had to do it, didn't ya? How on earth am I supposed to leave now? What is it with you? What is it with ME?

Starsky had always been an easy-going and friendly person, but he never opened his heart to strong affections and personal attachments. Instead of having one special friend in his life, he preferred the company of many, not-so-special friends, whom he kept at arm's length. Emotional bonds were not a part of his vocabulary, but with Hutch, he felt different. No, not different, with him I feel as if he is just a part of me.

A part of him was lost, and Hutch, in some mysterious way, made him complete. It was like Starsky had found himself all over again. I haven't felt this strongly even towards my own brother. Starsky had always listened to and trusted his gut instincts, and his gut told him that Hutch was worth every second of his time.

"Maybe I can stay another day or two. I guess I have some vacation time piled up, and I need some time off after this damn case, anyway," Starsky said sighing deeply, wondering how his mind was making decisions without any input from his brain, or was it his heart that was in action?

"Yeah? Really? You're sure?" Hutch looked as if he was in seventh heaven. "You can stay with me," he said happily. The sad haunted look was replaced by a radiant smile, making him look young and innocent.

Starsky grunted instead of answering. No turning back now, he had said he would stay. But he wasn't very sure whether it was the right decision. He would have to leave, if not today, then tomorrow. Then what? Then who was going to pick up the pieces?

"I... I have to call Dobey-- my captain." Starsky stood up.

One day at a time-- or maybe one hour at a time!

I will remove all those images that are stuck in your head and make you whole, again, before I leave, Blondie. I promise you that you'll be eating and sleeping like a normal person before I leave.

***

Hutch cleared the coffee table while Starsky made his call. After talking with his captain for a few minutes, Starsky asked for Shaye.

"Hey, Beautiful," Starsky said in a dreamy, sexy tone.

Hutch heard the conversation; at least what Starsky was saying into the phone, even if he didn't meant to listen. Was Shaye Starsky's captain's daughter or a relative?

"You okay?"

--

"Uh huh. Listen-- I need to stay here for a couple of more days? You all right with that?"

--

"Aww, sweetheart, you know I'll never get tired of you. You know that I love you more than anything in this world, don't ya?"

--

"I'm staying with a friend."

--

"No-- not a she-- a he! I will explain when I get back, okay? I wish you were here, too. You would've liked him, I'm sure."

--

"Okay, Babe. Love ya." Starsky made smooching noises into the phone. "Will see you soon. I need to talk to Dobey now."

--

"Hi Cap'n." Starsky listened for some time. "I know… I know, I owe you big time."

--

"Of course, she understood. She is my girl, isn't she?"

Hutch stole glances at Starsky, noticing the changes in his demeanor; the warm, gentle, loving tone when talking to his girlfriend, the careful, guarded speech when he talked to his captain, and then, in the next minute, Starsky's smile disappeared completely. "He is here," he said, in a voice that didn't quite reach Hutch.

'Who' is here? Hutch wondered. Is he referring to me?

--

"No, I haven't seen him, but I know he's here."

Okay, not me. He is talking about someone else, and that 'Someone' is here-- in LA. So why is this person important?

--

"Hey, Hutch." Starsky looked up, holding the phone away from him. "I need your home phone number and address, just in case captain wants to get hold of me."

Hutch pulled his wallet out of his pocket and removed his driver's license.

Starsky grabbed the document out of Hutch's hand and took a quick look at the photo. "Nice picture," he said smiling and winking at Hutch. "No. Not Damian. This is Ken Hutchinson," Starsky said and read Hutch's contact information into the phone.

--

"Yes, LAPD."

--

"Alright, alright. I will think about it."

--

"Thanks, Cap'n. Talk to you later."

--

After he was done talking with his captain, Starsky dialed another number.

"Hey, Huggy. Need a favor."

--

"I'm gonna stay in LA for a few days. Can you--"

--

"No... Just taking some time off."

--

"No. There's no lady, I'm not lying. Now listen... I want you to--" Starsky stopped. Judging by the smile on his face it seemed like whoever was on the other end of the line knew what Starsky wanted him to do.

--

"Thanks, Hug. You are the best, you know."

--

"No-- I told you. There aren't any ladies. Jesus man, you're just like Shaye."

--

"She asked the same question."

--

"I'm telling ya, she did."

--

"Okay, Hug, got to go."

He placed the receiver back and turned towards Hutch.

"Who was that?" asked Hutch.

"The good old Bear… wanted him to stop by my apartment -- Okay, let's get out of here, and you got to show me around. Since I'm on vacation now, I believe you'll do the same. Because I'm not going to sit in your apartment or go wondering around LA by myself."

"How long are you planning to stay?"

"A week!" Starsky replied.

Hutch's mouth fell open. One week! Today's Saturday, and he is going to stay with me for one week? Holy Moly! I better plan this to be his best vacation ever.

Hutch secretly hoped that he would be able to convince Starsky to get a transfer to LAPD, or at least get him to consider the possibility. Within a very short period, he had come to trust Starsky. Trust him enough to share his innermost emotions. Starsky could be the partner, person he'd been waiting for all these years. He could be the one, and Hutch wouldn't let him get way.

***

Hutch's apartment was about twenty minutes away from downtown.

Starsky looked around, noticing all the plants that claimed every nook and corner in the one bedroom apartment. Newspapers were thrown on the floor, just like in his LTD. However, the kitchen counters were devoid of any dishes, cups or glasses.

"I… err... I haven't cleaned up the apartment for some time now," Hutch said apologetically, removing the newspapers from the floor.

Starsky shrugged his shoulders, noticing a bottle of Scotch beside the couch that was in the middle of the living room. He sat slumped on the big piece of furniture, and picked up the bottle. "How long have you been living here?" asked Starsky, handing over the hard liquor to Hutch.

Hutch returned the bottle to a pantry cupboard hurriedly. "From the day I joined LAPD. Almost two years now."

"Nice couch," said Starsky, pushing the cushions down with his knuckles and testing the firmness.

"It's one of those folding types, a sleeper couch, you know, that can be made into a bed."

Starsky stood up and examined the 'convertible' couch and the simple technology that converted a day-time couch into a night-time bed. "Neat!" he exclaimed.

"Where do you want to go today?" Hutch asked, while throwing the dirty clothes into the hamper in his bedroom.

Starsky thought for a while. "I need some clothes if I'm gonna stay for a week."

"I can take you shopping. There's no place like LA when it comes for shopping."

Starsky frowned. He didn't care much for clothes. All what he needed was a pair of denim jeans and a couple of t-shirts. "Nothing fancy."

"Well, you wore a 'fancy' suit at court."

"I had to," said Starsky, remembering the dark blue suit and the pale yellow shirt he wore, which were now tucked in the trunk of his car. "I will have to get it dry-cleaned, too."

"So you need some jeans and t-shirts?" asked Hutch.

"Welllhh... I guess we have a good understanding about each other. Do you know a place where you could take me to get that kind of thing?"

"I think I know just the right place."

*****

True to his word, Hutch took Starsky to a store that had vintage type clothes.

Starsky chose a few items, just what he needed, and nothing expensive. They visited a couple of other stores, though Starsky didn't want to buy any more.

They walked around downtown LA the rest of the day, window shopping, chatting, snacking, and getting to know each other. Both were dead tired when they got back to Hutch's apartment later that evening. They had done some grocery shopping on their way back, and Hutch felt as if they have been doing this together their whole life.

By the time Hutch had put away the food and returned to the living room, Starsky had showered, changed, and fallen asleep on the couch. It had been a long day, and Starsky had not gotten much of sleep the past couple of days. He looked tired, and there were dark circles beneath his eyes.

Hutch walked around the couch which Starsky was sleeping and gripped the backrest strongly. He folded it slightly towards Starsky, until he heard the click that released the latch of the backside of the sofa. Then he gently pushed the backrest all the way back and down until the whole sofa was flat. He gently pushed Starsky towards the middle of it.

Starsky mumbled something in his sleep, but didn't wake up. Hutch brought a couple of pillows and pushed one underneath Starsky's head, leaving the rest beside him. Then he covered Starsky with a blanket, and reluctantly dragged himself towards his bedroom. Hutch couldn't remember the last time he'd slept in his bed. Last night was just a miracle; a miracle that gave him a sleep devoid of nightmares, but today was another story. He looked back at Starsky, who was sleeping like a log on the couch.

I just cannot expect someone to hold me while I go to sleep. I have to get hold of myself and have to deal with the nightmares. Starsky won't be here forever; he will eventually go to Bay City and I will have to be by myself again.

Hutch went back to the living room and sat on a chair facing Starsky on the couch. He rubbed his hands over his face, and leaned against the chair, closing his eyes. He couldn't afford to sleep in the bed by himself; not yet-- not today.

***

Starsky didn't know what woke him up. He opened his eyes and allowed them to get adjusted to the faint light, trying to remember where he was. A ghost-like figure was slumped on the chair, moaning in his sleep. Starsky was out of the couch and by Hutch's side in seconds, all the while trying to untangle his legs from the sheet.

He shook Hutch by his shoulders. "Wake up, Hutch. Come on now-- wake up," he talked to Hutch, trying to coax him out of the nightmare.

All my fault! I knew Hutch couldn't handle sleeping alone. How could I fall asleep like that? I decided to stay because of Hutch-- because he was too vulnerable and fragile to handle anything, and because I knew he shouldn't be left alone by himself in this state -- I made him my responsibility, and then I forgot all about it. Dammit!

Hutch's eyes fluttered open, and he looked as if he had been into a ghost land.

Seeing dead bodies, again, Hutch? Bodies that were battered and bruised; buried naked? You feel their pain, don't you? You still suffer for them.

Hutch trembled and gasped, clutching at Starsky's shirt.

You feel the cold, sterile earth around you, and you can't sleep. You can't rest. You have no peace. And you wonder whether this would ever end. You wish you were dead, too.

Starsky pulled Hutch out of the chair and into his arms. He sat on the floor and leaned against the couch for support, holding the trembling body against him. I will put an end to this, Blondie.

"C... cold," Hutch mumbled, tugging at Starsky's shirt.

"Not anymore, Hutch. Not anymore." Starsky said soothingly, pulling the blanket that was on the floor, caught between his feet. He wrapped it around Hutch, who was now shivering as if the temperature in the room had dropped below zero.

"Want to forget," Hutch croaked.

"I know, I know…"

"I couldn't help them."

"You got the bastard. You caught him when no one else could. Let go of it, Hutch, it's time to let go." Starsky laid his chin on top of Hutch's head, holding him and rubbing his back softly, trying to get the taut muscles relaxed.

Hutch sighed and closed his eyes.

Starsky was torn between what he should and shouldn't do. He liked Hutch. Sure! Maybe he even loved the man a little bit. There was something special, fresh, and pure about him, but was he doing the right thing by staying with Hutch? He couldn't stay with him forever. When he went back to BC where would that leave Hutch? Was Starsky introducing another sort of nightmare that would haunt Hutch once he left? Nightmares of being abandoned and neglected?

Starsky was tensed and worried. The more he thought about Hutch's condition, the more it became clear that he couldn't leave him alone. At least not for now. Hutch needed a warm, loving comfort. Hutch needed him. And maybe… he needed Hutch as well.

What if someone else was here instead of me? A 'someone' that could've taken advantage of Hutch, and left him in a worse condition?

A shiver ran along his body and he tried to push away the images that flooded his memory. Starsky couldn't let that happen. He was not going to let any ugliness creep into Hutch's life. He had seen enough of it. And Hutch was special. He would do whatever needed to help him. He had made Hutch a part of his life and there was no turning back. They could only go forward from here.

****

Hutch woke up the next morning sniffing the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. He turned on to his back, trying to remember how he got to the couch from the chair. He had slept peacefully, feeling warm and cozy.

Did Starsky hold him throughout the night?

Hutch swung his legs off the couch and went to the bathroom to finish his morning routine. By the time he returned, Starsky had already prepared breakfast.

Hutch felt guilty. This was not how he had planned to treat Starsky on his vacation. "Starsky?" Hutch called out pouring a cup of coffee for himself.

"Hmm?" Starsky was already on his second cup of coffee, skimming through the pile of newspapers Hutch had dumped on the dining table the previous night.

"I'm sorry."

"What for?" asked Starsky, looking up from his paper, focusing his attention on Hutch.

"I… err… for behaving like some five-year-old child. Not daring to sleep, and then the stupid dreams… and… you." Hutch paused for a second and continued. "You and I… we… we hadn't met until you came to LA… and I… I don't understand why, but I trust you like I've never trusted anyone before. It scares the hell out of me, Starsky, but I feel like I've known you my whole life." Hutch dropped his voice. "I don't even understand why you decided to put up with me, and stay here with me. With a person whom you don't even know-- "

"Hey... stop the analysis, okay? Just go with it. You need me, and I have the time to spare -- leave it at that! And about the nightmares… I have had my share of those," Starsky said, gruffly. "I was just like you-- couldn't sleep. Didn't wanna sleep. I started seeing the tortured bodies, seeing myself among them. Never knew how to get rid of the images."

"So how did you?"

Starsky smiled briefly. "Shaye."

"Who's Shaye?" asked Hutch, though he knew that she was Starsky's lady-friend.

"Shaye found me when I was sitting on the beach one night after waking up from a bad dream. She looked kind of lost-- well... no-- not lost, but I knew that nobody owned her. She was by herself, and I figured she must have lived on the streets all her life.

Lived on the streets? -- A homeless girl? Or a prostitute?

"I didn't want her at the beginning, but she followed me home. I didn't want her in my apartment, so I didn't take her in. Next morning when I opened the door she was still sitting there; I ignored her. I ignored her for a whole week, but there she was, still at my side. I had to give up. I knew she wasn't going to leave me alone, and she never has. I know she never will."

Starsky's story didn't make sense. Left a homeless woman outside his door? In the night?

"Err... you have a picture of her?" Hutch asked, because he knew very well there was one in Starsky's leather wallet.

"Sure. I always carry her with me. My little guardian angel. She saved my life!" Starsky again held that dreamy, soft expression, and his voice had gone all mellow.

Starsky picked up his wallet, which was on the dining table, and pulled a photo out of it.

Hutch couldn't believe his eyes. "I thought Shaye was your girlfriend."

"She is, of course!" Starsky said defensively. "She is my girl, the one and only."

"Alright, alright. Let's say that I thought you were talking about a human being."

"Ahh... she's as human as you and me."

Hutch looked at the picture of a mischievous looking, little brown and white mutt. The girl who was the love of his life; the girl who had saved his life; the one and only. Hutch found himself shaking his head to and fro. She was just a little dog.

"What?" Starsky asked, frowning.

"Nothing," Hutch said smiling. "So how did Shaye stop your nightmares?"

"She slept with me," Starsky said putting back the photo into his wallet.

"Oh, for how long?" Hutch couldn't help but ask.

"I don't know. Shaye still sleeps with me." Starsky turned back to the newspapers and took a sip of his coffee.

"Not anymore; not when you are here in LA," Hutch said grinning wickedly.

"You know," Starsky said, ignoring Hutch's comment, "Maybe you should get a dog."

"A dog? Here in LA? Are you nuts?" Hutch snapped. "There's no place to keep him, and how on earth do you manage Shaye, anyway? I mean our schedules are never the same. How on earth do you take care of a dog?"

"If I can make time to take a shower, eat a burrito, and talk to friends, do you think I can't find time for Shaye?"

"But you have to exercise her-- feed her-- give her-- burritos? You like burritos?" Hutch asked, frowning.

"I do all of that, besides, Captain Dobey's kids are nuts about her. So whenever I have to go away, they take care of her, and she loves them too. And then there's Minnie and Huggy and--"

"Okay, okay. I get the picture," Hutch said, not knowing who the hell 'Minnie' or 'Huggy' was. Huggy? What sort of a name was that, anyway?

Starsky pushed his chair back and stood up, taking his empty coffee mug to the kitchen. "And yes, I do like burritos, and so does Shaye."

"So yesterday, over the phone, you were talking to Shaye? A dog?" Hutch asked, ignoring the part on burritos.

"Of course. She understands everything I say." Starsky poured another cup of coffee and stirred in two spoonsful of sugar.

"Oh, yeah? And I can remember you telling her that you were staying with a 'he,' not a 'she.' Are you telling me that Shaye asked you whether you were staying with a woman?"

"Of course she did," said Starsky, leaning against the kitchen counter. "What type of a dumb question is that? Like I said, Shaye understands me, and I understand everything that goes on in her head; believe me, Shaye's no ordinary dog, Hutch. She is one special lady."

I bet she is, and from the looks of it, she has you wrapped around her little finger… or toe... or whatever.

Hutch had no idea what was so special about a shaggy, little dog, who had lived on the streets, probably learning to fight from all the big dogs around, and surviving. If you are just a little dog, but had the ability to survive the streets, you'd have to be intelligent, smart, quick, and witty.

"A street-smart girl, eh?" Hutch asked.

Starsky smiled. "Yup, just like me, she was a street kid."

Hutch made a mental note to ask all about Starsky's 'street' life later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 4: Sleeping Arrangements

Hutch looked at the clock for the umpteenth time, wondering where on earth Starsky went and what he could possibly be doing.

That morning, after breakfast, Hutch had noticed that Starsky was lost in his own thoughts. When he'd asked what he would like to do today, Starsky replied that he had something to do by himself and that he would see Hutch later in the afternoon.

Afternoon had passed a long time ago, and it was almost seven o'clock at night. Hutch was getting worried.

***

Starsky went shopping; looking for something he thought would help Hutch once he went back to Bay City. Then later in the afternoon he had met with Damian at his home, surprising him, because Damian thought Starsky had left LA.

"Okay-- so let me get this straight, you decided to stay in LA for a week, and you are staying with Hutchinson? What the hell? Why didn't you come here?" Damian asked accusingly.

"Hutch needed some time off, just like me… so I thought, why not get together with him and do some sightseeing." Starsky made himself comfortable on a porch chair in the backyard of Damian's house.

"That's a first. He's not even your type. I mean, he's your opposite on everything, but on the other hand, I can see why you two might hit it together," Damian said, handing over a root beer to Starsky.

"Why's that?" Starsky twisted-off the cap and took a swig of his drink.

"You get into trouble all the time," Damain said matter-of-factly, giving Starsky a cat-like smile. "And I think Hutch might just be the person to stop you from doing idiotic things."

"Very funny!"

Damian pulled his chair closer to Starsky. "I'm serious, Starsky. Hutch is very analytical, very careful, and very thorough in everything he does. And you-- you are willing to jump into anything with both feet, and head and arms and--"

"I'm still in one piece though, ain't I? And nobody came to rescue me from anything."

"I would say that you got lucky, but you need a partner, and Hutch might be the person."

"Partner? For me? Hutch? Nah," Starsky said, shrugging off the entire thing. "I'm good by myself, and I'm not in the LAPD anyway."

"You can get a transfer."

"You kiddin'me? Transfer from Bay City? No way, never, BC's my home."

"Then maybe you can get Hutch to transfer."

"Listen--" Starsky said, exasperated. "I don't need a partner-- period!"

"This isn't just a vacation for you, Starsky. I know you better than that." Damian stared at Starsky for a moment. "You stayed back because of him. Something clicked when I told you about Hutch and about the case he worked, and how he was affected by it. You saw yourself in him, and that's why you stayed behind."

Starsky sighed. Damian knew him too well.

"Still the same Starsky with the heart of gold." Damian slapped Starsky on his shoulder. "You just had to help him. Everything happens for a reason, you know. I don't think you coming to LA and meeting Hutch was a coincidence. Fate had something to do with all of that."

Starsky stared aghast at his friend. "Jeez-- never knew you believed in that mumbo jumbo. Do you believe that what happens in our life is something we can't control? That fate's already made those decisions for us?"

"Got you worried-- didn't I? Afraid of being 'not' in control? Listen, man, we make our own decisions, yes! -- But there are things that we can't control-- or at least there are some things in life that can't be explained. And yes, I believe fate and destiny has something to do with those events. So yes, I think fate brought you and Hutch together. Just think of it, you were planning to go home on Saturday. Did you tell Hutch that we were going to eat at the Blue Orchid?"

"No."

"But he was there, and you could've just walked away, too, but instead, you decided to talk to him."

"Yes, exactly-- I decided to talk to him-- I made that decision, not fate."

"Yes, but fate put you two together, in the same place, at the same time," Damian insisted, not giving up on his theory.

"Arrrrhhhg, you are insane, you know that?" Starsky waved his hand impatiently.

"Oh, I don't think so, and you know it too, Starsky, you know what I say makes sense, and it scares the hell out of you."

"Yeaa... you got that right." Starsky's jaw tightened as he slid forward, his elbows propped on his knees. "It does scare the hell out of me to think that my good buddy is tryin' to put his life in the hands of fate."

"Ah, Starsky-- you know that's not what I'm saying."

"Okay, then, stop this bullshit, and tell me whether we can all go out for dinner sometime? You and your lovely wife Daisy, and your kids-- and us," Starsky changed the subject to something he was comfortable talking about.

"I like that," Damian agreed immediately. "When do you want to go?"

"I have the whole week. How about tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?" Damian thought for a while and shook his head. "No-- Mondays are bad, but Tuesdays are much better. I don't think we can bring the kids. It'll be too late for them, but Daisy and I can make it for sure."

"Alright, then. On Tuesday, call Hutch's place when you're done."

"Sure thing... I'll need the phone number. I don't think I have his home phone number with me."

Starsky groaned. "And I had to come all the way from BC to give you his number?" Starsky wrote down Hutch's telephone number, grumbling.

***

It was close to eight when Starsky finally left Damian's place and went back to Hutch's apartment. Having someone for a partner was more than just 'liking' someone or 'feeling' something for someone. A partner is someone whom you trust to watch your back, someone whom you trust with your life, and that trust just doesn't happen overnight. Thinking of forming a partnership with someone whom you got to know just a couple of days ago was not the rational thing to do: Yeah right-- as if anything that had happened from the time I met Hutch has been very rational!

"I was about to call the cavalry," Hutch said as soon as he saw Starsky at his door.

"Oh yeah?" Starsky was amused at Hutch's annoyance.

"Where the hell have you been?"

"Here and there, shopping. Met with Damian... you and I are gonna go to dinner with him and his wife on Tuesday," Starsky announced.

"We bought what we wanted yesterday, why did you go -- did you say dinner with Damian?" Hutch still sounded annoyed.

"You don't want to?"

"No-- nothing like that," Hutch answered hurriedly. "I just asked. So what did you buy today?" Hutch eyed the big bag Starsky had brought.

"What's for dinner? Are we going out or--" Starsky asked ignoring Hutch's question.

"I've already cooked."

"Ohh, whaddya make?"

"You'll see. Why don't you go take a shower, and I'll set the table. "

Starsky raised his eye brows, but said nothing.

***

Hutch glanced at the bathroom door from time to time, while setting the table and stealing looks at the big bag Starsky had in the living room. He noticed how Starsky evaded questions about the shopping, and he was curious about what was in the bag.

When Starsky was back from his shower, Hutch's irritable mood had vanished. He smiled shyly when Starsky went to the table and eyed the delicious-looking dishes. Hutch had prepared beef stroganoff for dinner. He'd wanted to make this vacation a memorable one, and cooking something special whenever he got the chance was at the top of his 'to do' list. After all, he was a good cook and Starsky loved food. A match made in heaven!

"Like what you see?" Hutch asked, lifting the covers off the dishes.

"Wow," Starsky exclaimed. "What are we celebrating?" he asked, pulling a chair out. "How did you learn to cook?" Starsky passed his plate to Hutch.

"My grandfather -- all summer vacations," Hutch said shortly, piling up their plates with the stroganoff and egg noodles.

Obviously, Starsky heard not only what Hutch said, but specifically what he didn't say; like the fact that his parents didn't want him around during vacations, that it was not his parents who taught him normal ways of life, that he was more close to his grandparents than to his own parents, and that he did not want to talk about it. Hutch was thankful when Starsky didn't ask any more questions about his culinary skills.

"So what's in the bag?" Hutch asked changing the subject.

"Oh, that? -- That's somethin' I had to get."

"So what is it?"

"A kind of a sheet," Starsky said without looking at Hutch.

"A sheet? Whhhyy… Starsky, couldn't you find one you liked in Bay City?"

"Didn't need one until I got here," muttered Starsky under his breath.

"What?"

"Nuthin'."

"So you don't want me to see this special sheet of yours?"

"Nuthin' special."

"Now why would you spend a whole day shopping for this one sheet if it wasn't special?"

Starsky glared at Hutch, and he stopped asking questions.

After dinner, Hutch excused himself to take the garbage out. When he returned, Starsky was on the couch, watching TV, looking rather pleased with himself. The large package was nowhere in sight.

So where did the 'sheet' go? Hutch looked around. There wasn't a sheet on the couch or anywhere else in the living room. He took a quick look in his room, but his bed didn't look any different. He gave up trying to find the mysterious sheet, and went back to the living room.

"What are you watching?" Hutch asked, lowering himself on the couch and scooting down a little bit to lean his head against the back.

"Ironside."

"Marathon tonight?"

"Uh huh."

"You like the show?"

"Uh huh."

Hutch turned his head slightly to look at Starsky who was completely engrossed in the show. He, too, tried to pay attention to the show but lost interest pretty soon. His eyelids were getting heavier by the minute, and he gladly welcomed the sleep that swept over him, which never came easily.

***

Starsky realized Hutch was asleep when he heard the soft breathing. Just what he wanted. Once Starsky figured out what initiated Hutch's nightmares, it was easy to find a remedy. Cold triggered the train of events, bringing about the images of the buried kids, and filling Hutch's sleep with nightmares. Whenever Starsky was near him, with him, Hutch was able to fall asleep. Although it was not just the warmness that kept the nightmares away, Starsky knew that keeping Hutch warm was the first step to get him to sleep. Once he got used to sleeping in the bed while Starsky was still around, he may be able to sleep with little or no problem once he left; that was what Starsky counted on.

Now all he had to do was get Hutch into bed, but his plans were interrupted when the telephone rang. Hutch woke up with a jolt.

Starsky cursed under his breath. Dammit! Why did this have to ring now?

"Do you want me to get it?" Starsky asked.

"What?" Hutch stared at Starsky blinking sleepily.

"Go back to sleep, Blondie." Starsky brushed his knuckles against Hutch's cheeks. "I'll get it."

Stepping over Hutch's legs, Starsky crossed the room to the dining table, to snatch up the noisy telephone that kept on ringing. "Hutchinson residence. Who's this?" he asked, leaning against a chair.

The person at the other end didn't speak. Instead, Starsky heard heavy breathing. "Who is this?" Starsky asked again, frowning.

The heavy breathing stopped. "Dae, it's me."

Starsky closed his eyes upon hearing the familiar voice, gripping the phone tightly. Leo! After six months… It was about time!

"What do you want?" Starsky asked, wondering how long Leo may have been tracking down his whereabouts. Starsky had felt him at the court parking lot that last day.

"There's only one thing I want."

Starsky rubbed his jaw, rife with surging adrenalin. "We have to talk."

"I know, Dae, but I have to know something."

"What?"

"Why Hutchinson?"

Starsky's heart sank. "What? What do you mean?"

"Why are you with Hutchinson?"

Starsky stared uneasily at the space in front of him. Shit! He cursed himself. He had put Hutch in danger. He partly raised a clenched fist, and let it fall slowly along the back of the chair. "He's a friend, Leo." Starsky answered steadily.

"I want to believe you, but is that the truth? Tell me, Dae. Tell me that he means nothing to you."

"He's just a friend," Starsky repeated.

"I will see you soon... we will be together, soon."

"Leo... Leo?" Starsky called into the phone, but Leo had already hung up.

Starsky replaced the receiver and walked back to the couch with a heavy heart. He couldn't leave now. Hutch's life was in danger.

"Who was it, Starsk?" Hutch asked, yawning.

Starsky noticed the shortened 'Starsk' version of his name Hutch had used. No one had called him that before, and he felt a comfortable warmth spreading within him. Who would've thought that omitting one letter from his name would make him happy and content? But Starsky had always appreciated the little things in his life. Small things meant big. It wasn't just a nick-name. It was a nick-name given by a man who had captured Starsky's heart in a very special way. And a little change of name indicated that those feelings were mutual. He pulled Hutch's head onto his shoulder. "Someone I know. You have nothing to worry. Go back to sleep."

"Who's Leo? How did he know you were here?"

Starsky sighed. So Hutch had heard some of it. "What is with these twenty questions, huh? Just sleep."

"Okay," Hutch sighed sleepily, settling back on Starsky's shoulder.

Starsky tightened his hold on Hutch, promising silently that he would never allow any darkness touch him.

***

The next morning Hutch woke up feeling warm and comfortable. He had, again, slept the whole night without any trouble. Of course-- Starsky was sitting right next to him when he slept, and probably was still with him. He opened his eyes, stretching his hands and feet, and sitting up. He wasn't on the couch. He was in his bedroom, in his bed, but he was all by himself.

Hutch threw away the covers noticing that something felt different. Why was his bed so warm? He pulled out the bed sheet to find something beneath it. Another sheet that he had never had before and it was all warm. What the hell?

"Like what you see, Blondie, or should I ask like what you feel?"

Hutch raised his head. Starsky stood leaning on the bedroom door frame, smiling triumphantly.

"What's this?" Hutch pulled at a sheet that was deliciously warm, recalling their conversations of the other day. So was this the result of Starsky's secret shopping?

"Slept well, didn't ya?"

Hutch nodded. "So what's it with this thing?"

"That's a heated mattress pad."

Starsky walked over and sat on the floor at the bed. He pulled a cord that extended from the sheet over to the wall socket. "You have to plug it in for about ten minutes before you get to bed. You can adjust how hot you need this thing to be. Mark my words, Hutch. You don't want this to be too hot. It'll feel like a sauna. In the morning just switch it off or pull the plug."

Hutch examined the temperature adjustments, which were very low, low-medium, medium, high-medium and high. Starsky had selected low-medium for him. It was just perfect. "When did you put this on my bed?"

Starsky chuckled. "And you call yourself a detective?"

Hutch almost asked how Starsky got him to the bed without waking him up, but decided against it. He would never get a straight answer. That much he knew about the guy by now.

They had met just three days ago, but what Starsky had done was more than anyone had ever done for him during his lifetime. It was not just how much Starsky had done. It was about what he had done. It was the fact that Starsky felt and understood exactly what Hutch was going through and what he needed. Starsky had taken the time to be with Hutch, and make him comfortable, and now he had done something to make sure Hutch would be all right once he left.

"So, you're dumping me?" Hutch asked, smiling.

"I'm giving you a better replacement," Starsky said as he stood up.

"No one's ever done something like this for me," Hutch said solemnly.

"Are you tellin' me that the men you slept with never bought you anything? Tsk tsk tsk… that's sad!"

"Idiot! -- you know what I mean."

"Not a big deal. Leave it, will ya-- It was the cold. That's what kept you from falling asleep."

Hutch was speechless for a moment. Apparently, Starsky had figured out what initiated Hutch's nightmares and found a remedy. Cold triggered the train of events, bringing about the images of the buried kids, and filling Hutch's sleep with nightmares. Whenever Starsky was near him, with him, Hutch was able to fall asleep. Although it was not just the warmness that kept the nightmares away, creating a warm environment may very well be the first step to get Hutch to sleep.

"Starsky?"

"Hmm?"

"You know that… I'm not… I mean... I didn't… I wasn't," Hutch stuttered, scratching the back of his head, not knowing how to get his thoughts together.

"Stop worrying. I know what you're feelin', Hutch, and I know you're not into me; not that way, you've got used to livin' by yourself and forgotten all about how it feels to have a friend. When was the last time you invited someone here to your apartment?"

"Well… I… Umm, let me see." Hutch searched his memory but came up empty.

"You haven't even had a date in ages, have you?"

Hutch shook his head.

"That explains it. I was the only contact you've had for a long time, Hutch."

"So all I needed was to have someone with me?" Hutch asked.

"You needed a friend."

What Starsky said made sense, but Hutch knew very well, oh, yes he knew. It wasn't about having human contact of any kind. Just any person out there could not have done what Starsky had done, because none of them would have had the understanding, kindheartedness, love, compassion, and tolerance Starsky had shown him. Moreover, Hutch would not have allowed anyone else to get closer to him this way.

Hutch shrugged his shoulders "I guess you're right," he agreed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 5. Museums: A Journey to the Past

Hutch announced that he had plans for them for the day, but didn't say what exactly they were. They drove in Hutch's old Ford LTD. Hutch noticed that Starsky took extra care scanning the surroundings before getting into the car as if he was on the watch out for someone. Hutch remembered bits and pieces of the conversation of the night before. He had also not forgotten the conversation Starsky had had with his captain the other day, and last nights' mysterious phone call. Who is Leo?

"So where are we going?" Starsky asked, two minutes into the drive.

"Costa Mesa," Hutch replied.

"Costa Mesa?" Starsky asked suspiciously. "There's only one thing that I would wanna do in Costa Mesa, but I'm not sure about you."

"Gee… I don't know what you're talking about," Hutch said, mischievously.

They drove for forty-five minutes, Starsky constantly checking the rear- and side-view mirrors.

When Hutch turned towards the tall brown building, Starsky's eyes widened with surprise. "I'll be damned," he said, his smile extending all the way towards his ears. "Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum."

A pale blue Chevy Impala entered the parking lot just as Starsky and Hutch stepped inside the building.

Although Hutch didn't care much about cars, he knew, by then, how much Starsky loved his car, and how much he knew about them. The Briggs Cunningham Museum had the best collection of racing cars.

Hutch had never seen anyone as excited as Starsky was with all the vehicles. Starsky practically knew each and every car in the museum. It was just amazing.

"This is the 1934 Ford Roadster used in the Bonnie and Clyde movie," Starsky pointed towards a black Ford Roadster. Hutch bent towards the description written below and read what was in it. Starsky was correct, and he only had to take one look at the car to know what it was.

"And this is a 1919 Pierce Arrow Phaeton. Do you know who used this?"

Hutch shook his head.

"This was custom-built for Fatty Arbuckle, you know, the comedian," Starsky explained.

"Uh huh. Wasn't he charged with--"

"Yep, but it was a set up. He never raped anyone."

"How do you know? You weren't even born then."

"When did the Golden Gate Bridge open?" Starsky asked, and Hutch couldn't imagine for once why that mattered.

"I think… in 1937," Hutch replied.

"Well, how do you know? You weren't born then either."

Hutch just bit his tongue.

"Now look at this." Starsky pointed to a coupe convertible. "This beauty was built for Queen Elizabeth. This is a 1949 Daimler." He turned to his right and gasped. "This is something you will never see," Starsky said, walking towards a Cadillac.

"A Cadillac?" Hutch frowned.

"Not just a Cadillac, Hutch. This is a 1950 bullet proofed Cadillac Fleetwood."

"Bullet proofed? Now who used this? Truman?"

"This was made for none other than Mickey Cohen."

"The gangster?" Hutch raised his eye brows.

"Any other Mickey Cohens you know about?"

How the hell did Starsky know about all of these cars? He was like a talking car encyclopedia. Starsky went on and on and on, describing almost every car in the museum. "This is a 1933 Bentley... 1933 MG K3 Magnette… and these are the Cunningham Sports cars. Ah, Hutch, see this-- the 1951 C-1, and this is the 1952 C-4R. You should've seen this on the racing track," he said, admiring a white sports car with two blue parallel stripes in the center that ran all the way from front to rear.

Hutch stood close to Starsky. He laid his hand on Starsky's shoulder and leaned towards him. "You have a thing for stripes, don't you?" he teased.

Hutch's head buzzed with cars, model names, and their history when they left the museum after spending the whole morning in there. Starsky glanced at the cars in the parking lot. Hutch did the same, though he didn't know what he was searching for.

Starsky couldn't stop talking about the cars during their drive back to Los Angeles, but he also didn't fail to check the rear view mirror, Hutch noticed.

In the afternoon Hutch took him to another museum; The LA County Museum of Natural History, in which of course, Starsky spent the whole time in the automobile section. It was the home for a collection of automobiles from 1900 to 1963, although most of them were of the pre-1920 era.

Starsky informed Hutch that the museum had recently begun an automobile restoration program, and had plans to restore one car per year; some of them were already on display. Hutch lived in LA, but never knew any of that.

At the end of the day, when they had finally finished at the LA museum, Hutch felt that he had seen enough cars for his whole life. He didn't even want to drive his own anymore.

While walking back to Hutch's car in the parking lot of the LA county museum, Starsky stopped dead in his tracks.

Hutch followed Starsky's stare to a blue Chevy parked at the South corner of the lot.

***

"Best day in my life-- ever," Starsky said, sitting on the couch in Hutch's apartment with a beer in his hand.

"I'm glad you liked the museums," Hutch said, joining Starsky on the sofa, and thumbing the TV remote. He had just enjoyed a very greasy, but satisfying Chinese dinner with Starsky.

Starsky turned to face Hutch. "Like doesn't even come close to what I feel. It was just... perfect."

"That was the point, Starsk."

"Uh huh. So where are we going tomorrow?"

"There are a couple of places we could go."

"How about a plant museum? Something you would like to spend the day in? This is your vacation, too, you know?"

"Plant museum?" Hutch asked, smiling. "You mean a Botanical Garden or an arboretum?"

"Yeah. One of those."

"You sure?"

"Yeah... why not?" Starsky leaned back, relaxing against the sofa cushion.

"Okay, then. I know just the place to go, but are you really sure you want to go to one of those?"

"I'm sure, 'sides, you can teach me all about the green critters. Tomorrow's your day."

"We can go to Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. It's in Claremont. Just a forty five minute drive, like today."

"Have you been there before?"

"Of course," Hutch replied, and before he could continue to say that it was the first place he visited after moving to LA, the phone started to ring, startling both of them.

Annoyed at the interruption, Hutch chose to ignore the noise, hoping whoever wanted to talk would eventually give up.

"So do you want to go to the same place again?" asked Starsky, glancing at the ringing phone.

Realizing that the caller wasn't giving up, Hutch stood up. He placed his beer on the coffee table and marched off to the dining set. "There's something new all the time. Plants don't stay the same," he said, leaning over and grabbing the receiver. "Hutchinson here."

The caller identified himself as Captain Dobey, and asked for Starsky.

Hutch signaled Starsky. "Your captain," he said, adding, "Wouldn't you want to go back to your car museums?"

"What does he want?" Starsky mumbled, taking the phone from Hutch. "Cap'n, I'm on vacation," Starsky said gruffly and turned back towards Hutch, "Of course I would wanna see the car museums, any time, any day, any--"

Hutch fell back on the couch. It didn't take that long to realize that something was out of the ordinary when Starsky stopped in the middle of a sentence, his smile disappearing.

"I didn't lie to you," said Starsky, looking grim, but determined.

~~

"He's not. Leave him out of this. This is between you and me."

~~

Starsky wasn't talking to Captain Dobey.

Starsky lowered his eyes to the floor. "You say that all the time, but when?"

~~

Starsky breathed in frustration. "I won't stay in LA much longer," he shouted into the telephone and hung up. He placed his palms on the table and leaned on them.

"Well, Starsky, from the sound of it, looks like I've made your boyfriend very jealous," Hutch stated the obvious.

Starsky turned around and stared at Hutch for a few seconds. "We have to talk."

Hutch felt goosebumps rise all over his body. Attempting to get rid of the tingly feeling, Hutch rubbed his palms over his legs, and motioned Starsky to come over to the couch.

Starsky sat on the comfortable chair in front of Hutch. His shoulders slumped and hands clasped together. He took a deep breath to gather his thoughts. "Tell me what you've heard about Scaris."

Scaris? What had he got to with all these phone calls? Though Scaris was the reason Starsky was in LA, during their conversations, Starsky never mentioned the killer who had almost succeeded in taking his life.

"Well…" Hutch paused for a while, "All what I know is that he kidnapped, tortured and killed men."

"Did you ever wonder why?" Starsky asked.

"He targeted young men. So that means power, control, and sexual fantasy?"

"There wasn't anything sexual in the killings. The men were not raped, but tortured in ways you won't even believe possible." Starsky sighed, his eyes turned downcast and bleak.

Hutch clenched his teeth, feeling the darkness that clouded Starsky's mind.

"Scaris targeted gays. Believed they were a menace to human kind, and took steps to clean the streets by eliminating them. We kept that bit of information from the public. Didn't want to create copycat-followers."

Hutch nodded in agreement. In cases like this, sensitive information was often withheld from public disclosure. Scaris had refused to take the stand at his trial. He had given a statement to the police, confessing to all of his crimes.

The trial revealed Starsky's role as an undercover officer in capturing Scaris, but details of his cover had not surfaced. And according to Starsky if Scaris hated gays, and had gone after and picked up gays… that meant one thing. "Geez, Starsky, so you went undercover like a --?"

"Yup."

As detectives, that's what they did; they went undercover; they went in disguise; yes, but Hutch just didn't like the idea of Starsky on the streets posing as a gay prostitute. Did he have a partner watching his back?

"Who was your backup while you were on this mission?" asked Hutch, wincing at the thought of Starsky posing as a prostitute.

"Two of our officers, Babcock and Simmons, they watched me every second. The plan was to follow me if I left the scene with a man. If I went into a house or an apartment or whatever, and didn't come out within ten minutes, they were to come in."

"Ten minutes?" Hutch sighed. He remembered the trial, or at least what was revealed during the trial… that it was a matter of seconds between life and death for Starsky, that he could have been killed just like the others.

"Scaris wasn't killing his men right away, Hutch. He took his time with them. Ten minutes gave me enough time to find out what they really wanted. If it was sex, I would make an excuse and walk out because at that point we knew from the autopsies that the men were not sexually violated. So whoever got them didn't have sex or forced them to do any sort'a thing. We knew they were hate crimes against gays."

"How did he pick the guys?"

"He may have done it by himself at the beginning, but later… someone else did the picking. We didn't know it then. Not until I was picked."

"Wha-What? So there were two in this? Does that mean there is someone like Scaris still out there?" As soon as the words escaped him, Hutch knew who it was. Shit! "Leo? Is that him?"

"Yes."

Nothing made sense anymore. "What's all this, Starsk? From what I heard, from what you said on the phone--"

"Yes, in Leo's mind-- I belong to him."

"I need another beer." Hutch stood up. Hell... he needed something stronger. Abandoning the thoughts of the beer, he reached for the scotch and a glass.

"Scaris hated gays; so he killed gays. Then what's with Leo? If he worked with Scaris, didn't he hate gays, too? Then why the heck is he acting like a jealous boyfriend?" Hutch asked, pouring some whiskey for himself.

"You know the irony of it, Hutch? Leo is Scaris's son, and Leo is gay. A secret Leo hid from his father against all odds, until the day he met me."

Everything was a big puzzle, and Hutch was intrigued.

Hutch settled back on the sofa, leaving the glass on the coffee table. "What was in it for Leo? Doesn't make sense why he helped Scaris."

"Leo's mother died when he was a kid. According to Leo, he didn't kill any of the men. He only helped Scaris by luring them into his den, but nobody except Leo knows the truth."

Starsky went quiet for a moment. He swirled the beer, watching the bubbles rising from it. "Leo was afraid of Scaris and of what he could do him if he found out that Leo was gay, and then... there was another reason; the real motive when it came to Leo, which we didn't know at that point because we didn't know that there were two people involved in the killings."

"Just hold on… I need to know everything; start from the beginning," Hutch interrupted. "What was the real reason behind Leo picking you up?"

"All that we knew was someone was targeting men, and when we searched the backgrounds of the dead, we came to know they were also prostitutes. We poked around but didn't get lucky. No one had any idea who was involved with the killings, because no one knew who was going with whom… if you know what I mean. So unless we had someone undercover, there was no way to find out."

Hutch scoffed. "Whoever went on that assignment could have gotten killed-- had a big chance of getting killed, and you-- you didn't want anyone else putting their lives in danger! Does your life mean so little to you, Starsky?"

Hutch's outburst took Starsky by surprise. "Hey... what's this all about?"

"Nothing, go on... Sorry, I just lost my head for a moment." Hutch took a swallow of the hard liquor, feeling it burn all the way to his stomach.

Starsky stared at him, silently.

Hutch kept his eyes on the glass, avoiding Starsky's glare. "It is just that, you know… long before you even came to LA, Damian always talked about you, in Nam, and all the time when I listened to his stories, I wondered why the hell you always put your life on the line for others, and then this--"

"You can be a real mother hen," Starsky muttered under his breath. He finished the rest of his beer and stood up. He walked over to the kitchen and dumped the empty bottle in the trash. "Do you still wanna hear more, or should I stop?"

"Sorry, got side-tracked. Go on. So you were mingling with the fancy boys"

Getting another beer from the refrigerator, Starsky crossed to the window in the living room that overlooked the street below. "There were certain areas where these guys hung out," Starsky said, pulling the curtains open slightly and skimming the streets. "I was picked up by couple of men before Leo got hold of me. It didn't take that long to realize what they really wanted, and when I found out that murder was the last thing in their mind, I gave them the boot."

Starsky turned away from the window and leaned against it, crossing his legs. "Hutch, they meant no harm. They were just men, like us."

"No, they aren't. They had different intentions."

"Geez man… how the hell could we work as partners if you start acting like a mother hen?"

Hutch's jaw dropped with surprise. "Partners?" Was Starsky suggesting that he would like to work with Hutch? Was Starsky considering transferring to LA for good? Hutch felt blood rushing up to the roots of his hair.

"Do you really mean it?" Hutch wanted to make sure.

"Ah, I don't know. Damian mentioned it to me the other day, and... I don't know. It just seemed like a good idea."

"If… if you really want us to be partners, does that mean you'll get transferred to LA?"

"Or-- you can get transferred to BC. That's something we can think about later, but for now, we have to tackle the problem we have on our hands."

"Yes... right. Leo," said Hutch, attempting to drag his thoughts away from all the possibilities of working together with a real friend, a man with integrity, someone who really understood and got him. "So what happened when Leo found you?"

"Well… he was kind of different, Hutch." Starsky said after thinking for a while. "From the very first time I laid eyes on Leo, I just felt that he was not the kind that went for prostitutes. I felt that he was looking for something permanent."

"And in you he saw something permanent?" Hutch asked grudgingly.

"Maybe, and it didn't take that long for him to figure out that I had no experience with men. He called me Dae, a shortened version for Daegon, or sometimes he called me Daffyd."

Hutch walked over to where Starsky was standing, at the window. "Daegon means dark-haired in Gaelic. Daffyd is the same as David, and it means 'beloved.' Did you introduce yourself as David?" he asked, pulling out a chair from the dining table.

"No."

Hutch sat, facing Starsky. "Leo nicknamed you as my beloved dark-haired man, not even knowing that a part was your true name. Don't you think that's interesting? Maybe he knew who you were."

"The first time he called me Daffyd, I thought so too, but no, Leo didn't know that I was an undercover officer until the day I escaped."

"In that case, guess you were meant to be."

"Oh, Jesus... You're starting to sound like Damian now."

"Damian? What did I say to sound like Damian?" Hutch snapped. "Never mind," he said immediately, raising his hand and stopping Starsky from giving any explanation. "Tell me what happened with Leo."

"I need to go to the john first." Starsky excused himself.

***

Starsky had not related the whole incident to anyone else before, but now as Leo had resurfaced, he knew it was time to talk to Hutch about it. Starsky joined Hutch at the dining table, sitting next to him. His mind went back to that night.

Six months ago…

Leo approached Starsky. He was just like another ordinary guy; medium height, masculine, blond. He had some kind of an aura about him, and strikingly bright, piercing green eyes. Starsky introduced himself as 'John.' Leo invited Starsky to his apartment, where someone else had stuck a needle in him.

Starsky woke up sometime later with a splitting headache, in a room that was dimly lit. He didn't know how long he was unconscious. The only piece of clothing on his body was his underpants. His arms were tied above his head onto a ring that was hanging from the roof, and his legs were tied to two poles, side by side, on the ground.

"I knew I was a dead man when I saw what was in the room," Starsky said, remembering the whips, belts, and chains that hung around the walls. "It wasn't Leo's apartment. I would've kicked myself for getting captured like that, if my legs weren't tied up."

"So why didn't your backup show?"

"Scaris had been watching Leo. He may have watched him on other days as well or at least on some of the other days. Leo had always taken the men straight to Scaris's house because Leo had no interest in them, but that day, with me, it was different. Leo took me to his apartment and Scaris who had been watching Leo--"

"Followed you, and found Babcock and Simmons tailing you," Hutch finished Starsky's sentence.

"Yes-- and when Babcock and Simmons came into the apartment complex looking for me, Scaris attacked them. Then he got to Leo's apartment, demanding to know why Leo had brought me there without taking me to his house. I don't know what went between the two of them, but whatever Leo tried to tell him, Scaris didn't believe it, and I ended up in his house, anyway."

Starsky was held in that room for three days. Scaris had questioned him about who he really was; whether he was Leo's lover; did he know about the two men who followed them. Starsky had remained silent. The events that took place during those days were not something Starsky wanted to elaborate on, and Hutch didn't want to hear the details anymore; the trial had revealed most of it, if not all.

"So how did you get out?"

"One morning, I guess it was morning, I'm not really sure… I heard Leo calling me from outside the room."

Leo hid outside Scaris's house waiting for Scaris to leave the grounds. He let himself in, but when he tried to unlock the door to the room where Starsky and all other men before Starsky were held captured, he found that Scaris had changed the locks so that Leo would have no access to the room. Scaris may have anticipated that Leo would try to get into the room because the man in the room this time wasn't chosen by Leo to be killed. And that was yet another reason for Scaris to kill Starsky.

"Dae... are you in there? Talk to me," Leo called out, pounding at the door.

Starsky was too weak to speak.

Leo had tried to pick the lock, but failed. Then he tried to kick it in and failed again. "Oh, God, what have I done?" Leo had sobbed miserably.

"Did he get to you?" Hutch asked.

"No. He couldn't, and then I think Scaris came back, so Leo fled. I was still there, tasting what twelve other guys had tasted before me. I knew, pretty soon, Scaris was gonna kill me just like he did the others. It was then that it hit me-- the floor of the room wasn't covered with blood as it should've been."

"What do you mean?"

"Like I said, all the men died of profuse bleeding from stab wounds. If Scaris had stabbed them and let them die in the room, then the floor should be covered by blood-- or else he should have cleaned up after each murder, right?"

"Right. Ah, I see. The floor wasn't clean, and it wasn't bloody either?"

"Yup! He didn't want to spend time cleaning the blood, so he killed them somewhere else. I still had a chance to escape when he was transporting me, and this time he didn't have Leo to help him. He would have had to drug me before taking me anywhere. So when he came to the room next time, I played dead."

"He fell for it?" Hutch wondered how Starsky kept a level head amidst of all the pain and torture.

"Well... he wanted to make sure I wasn't faking it. I mean, of course he knew I wasn't dead-- dead, but he figured I was good as dead."

"He wouldn't have let go that easily."

"No, he didn't, but by then I wasn't feeling anything. Coming from Nam, physical pain wasn't a big deal."

"How could you speak of it so lightly?" Hutch sighed, and rubbed his palms over his face. "What happened after that?"

Keeping Starsky's wrists tied together, Scaris untied and freed his arms from the rope that was hanging from the roof. Starsky couldn't move his legs or arms. He had been tied up for three days, and his body had given up on him. He lay dead, until the blood circulation took its course. The tremors that felt like little insects under his skin were unbearable.

"Little by little, I started to feel my feet and arms, and that was even worse. Hutch I'm telling ya, you don't wanna be poked with millions and millions of pins. For a second I wished I was still tied up."

Hutch smiled, faintly.

"Anyway… there I was, on the floor, trying my best to not twitch, when all that I wanted was to scratch myself and get rid of the little bugs that were crawling in me. I heard Scaris going in and out of the room. I didn't want to open my eyes, but the next time when I felt him moving away from me, I took a chance. Jumped on him and put my arms around his neck. The ropes around my wrists did the rest until his legs gave up and he was on the ground. I thought I had killed him, but he wasn't dead. He was just out for the moment, and every second counted. I dragged myself out of the room. Luck was on my side that day because the key was still in the lock. I locked Scaris inside."

Hutch shook his head. "What if Scaris wasn't fooled that day? What if he drugged you before cutting the ropes?"

"Well… he didn't!"

Hutch let out a pent-up breath. "How did you get out of there?"

"For the rest of the world, Scaris was just a normal guy who led a normal life. He was a security guard for a bed and breakfast lodge in Hockingwood Springs, some good fifty miles away from Bay City. He lived in this house at the end of the Hockingwood compound, which was like some kind of a small jungle. When I came out of the house, all I could see was a damn forest. The house was secluded and away from the bed and breakfast he worked at. I saw a phone and didn't lose time. Called Dobey and asked him to track the signal. I think I passed out on the floor while waiting for the guys to find me."

When Starsky woke up, Leo was kneeling beside him. He held a pair of scissors in one of his hands, and the other was folded into a tight fist.

"You are a cop." It was a mere statement-- not an accusation. Leo moved away from Starsky, keeping a safe distance between them.

"Yes," Starsky said, wondering whether Leo was just guessing or whether he listened to Starsky calling for backup.

"You lied to me. You didn't say you were a cop."

"I didn't say I wasn't one either."

"Is he dead?" Leo asked pointing at the door of the room where Scaris was now locked away.

Starsky shook his head.

"You should've killed him," Leo said fiercely. "I didn't want you dead."

"But you wanted others to die?"

"They were all whores. They took Tyler away from me."

"Who's Tyler?"

"He's not important anymore, because I found you, Dae."

"I'm a cop, Leo. I wanted you to find me. I was doing my job."

"Ah, Dae. You know that's not true. You felt something for me, cop or not."

"Turn yourself in. I can help you." Starsky realized Leo wasn't going to stick around. Even if Starsky summoned up the energy to fight Leo, he had no leverage to hold Leo until his fellow officers showed up.

"I'll be back. I'll be back for you. I promise you that," Leo said, backing up towards the door.

"You can't hide forever."

Leo stopped. "Why should I hide?" he asked, surprised. "I haven't killed anyone. My father was the killer. I'll come for you, Dae. My Love."

Leo had not gotten in touch with Starsky until his father's trial was over. It had been six months.

"So who's this guy? Who is Leo for real?"

"His real name's Seth Scaris. He worked at the city library while studying to be a pharmacist. This Tyler person he was talking about happened to be Leo's first gay lover. Once information on Ron Scaris got out, Tyler came to the Police Station. He told us all about Seth. Apparently Seth wasn't gay, or he didn't know he was gay until he met Tyler."

"What the hell do you mean by that?"

Hutch emptied his drink, and contemplated getting another, but Starsky stopped him as if he could read Hutch's mind.

"Enough," Starsky said, taking away the glass.

"Now who's the mother hen?" asked Hutch, watching Starsky rinsing the glass at the kitchen sink.

Starsky returned to the living room, patting his hands dry with a towel. "That's not mother-henning. That's being responsible."

"Is this how it's going to be, if we become partners?" Hutch asked.

"Now's the time to back out, Blondie."

"Oh, I don't know about that, Starsky," Hutch chuckled. "I don't think you know what you've got yourself into."

"No, I don't." Starsky agreed, laughing. He went back to the window and peeked into the streets. Was Leo watching them?

"So, what was it that you were saying about Leo? That he wasn't gay to begin with?" Hutch asked.

"I mean, he was straight, had dated girls until he met Tyler in college. Tyler had seduced him at a party or something like that, and well, he got more than he bargained for."

"Meaning?"

"Tyler was just looking for some fun. He never meant to be faithful to Leo, but Leo fell in love with him, totally and completely.

"So Tyler never stopped seeing other men, including the sex boys?"

"Wanna complete the rest of the story for me? If you do, I'll get Dobey to pull his strings and get you a transfer to Bay City in no time," said Starsky, flashing a lop-sided grin, leaning against the window, his hands folded across his chest.

"I will hold you to that promise!" Hutch smiled. "Easy. Leo was obsessed with Tyler, and wanted more of the relationship while Tyler was trying to get away from him. Maybe Leo even caught Tyler with some other guy, and not able to handle Leo's possessiveness, Tyler gave him the boot. So Leo started stalking him, keeping tabs on his partners. How am I doing?"

"Have you ever thought of being a detective?" Starsky asked, still grinning.

"But how did the two of them start doing this?" Hutch asked, thoughtfully. "I mean this is not the type of thing you discuss around a dinner table --"

"What do you think?"

"Maybe Scaris had been doing this for a long time, and Leo stumbled upon what his father was up to just by chance. One thing led to another, and long before they were a team. Am I correct?"

"I don't know, because Ron Scaris didn't admit his son's involvement. He didn't even admit he had a son."

Hutch was surprised. "He was ashamed of Leo?"

"Of course! Think of it… Scaris tried to cleanse the society when unknowingly, he himself had bred one of them."

"So how are we going to find Leo?"

"He will come to me, soon."

"In the parking lot today, that blue Chevy, is that his?"

"I noticed it at both museums. Could be someone visiting automobile museums like us, but I don't believe in coincidences."

"AJB 945," Hutch said. "I got it here." He tapped on his head. "We can get it checked out."

"You won't get anything. If the Chevy is Leo's, most probably the plate would've been stolen or changed, and he may have something different by tomorrow."

"So what are we going to do? Just wait until your lover boy calls you?"

"Leo is a psychopath. Out of the twelve men Scaris killed, four had slept with Tyler."

"Well Starsky, have you slept with men?" Hutch asked jokingly, but his smile disappeared instantly. "Leo suspects us?"

"Think about it. Put yourself in his shoes." Starsky played the moments he and Hutch shared during the past three days. "He may have followed me from the day I came to LA. I felt Leo at the parking lot that day -- when we swapped cars. Then we met at the Blue Orchid and I took you to my hotel. We spent the night together in my room. Then the next day, instead of going back home, I moved to your apartment. We went shopping and site seeing, visited museums, and spent the whole day together."

"It would be a miracle if he didn't suspect us after all of that. But maybe we can use this to our advantage. Maybe--"

"If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, you better stop thinking it, right now!" Starsky warned. "We aren't going to get him in the out by behaving like newly-weds. Forget it. He already thinks we're involved, anyway."

Hutch sighed. "So we just wait?"

"He'll get in touch with me pretty soon. I'm sure of it," Starsky said firmly.

"Starsky... it's not just the fact that he's obsessed with you. It's also the fact that you're the one who can identify him, and--"

"That doesn't mean a thing, Hutch, because we have nothing against him. There's nothing I could say against him. He really tried to stop Scaris from hurting me, and all the guys he picked up for Scaris are dead. So who's gonna testify against him when Scaris won't even admit that Leo is his son?"

"So he'll stay a free man, and the only way to put him behind bars is if he tries something with you?"

"Last time I checked, making phone calls isn't illegal."

Hutch walked over to Starsky, and looked over his shoulders at the streets. "No blue cars, no green-eyed monsters," he said. "We could use some shut-eye. Big day tomorrow; Rancho Santa Ana, and Leo's not going to stop that," Hutch pushed Starsky away from the window. Watching Starsky from the corner of his eye, Hutch pulled the curtains closed. "Well, maybe we can act like we're involved, but we don't want anyone to--"

"Bedtime, Blondie. You've been watching too many movies, I think." Starsky said, cutting him short.

"Says the man who's hung up on Ironside." Hutch said, a smirk overtaking his lips.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 6: Going Green

The following morning was bright and sunny. Hutch had packed some goodies and drinks for the outing. They had one whole day to spend outdoors. According to Hutch, even if it wasn't the woods he liked to immerse himself in, the arboretum was still a place of greenery.

"I should get you a greenhouse, not a dog," said Starsky, watching Hutch's constant, self-satisfied smile he'd worn since stepping into the Botanical Gardens. Hutch was glowing with happiness.

"I'm planning on getting one," said Hutch, stopping at a tree that was about eight feet tall and had long, tapering leaves. "See this Starsky? This is Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua tree."

"So did Joshua find this?"

"No, the Mormon settlers gave it the name because the tree reminded them of Joshua, praying."

"Joshua was a moron? How come?"

"Not a moron." Hutch pursed his lips, glaring at Starsky. "I said Mormons."

"So who's this dude?"

"Joshua? He is a figure in the Hebrew bible."

"Ah, that Joshua. Why didn't you say so in the first place? So, did you study the Hebrew bible?" Starsky asked, but Hutch chose to ignore him.

"This is Yucca schidigera, the Spanish Dagger." Hutch strolled over to a shrub-like small tree with upright branches and bayonet-like leaves.

"Great!! --another cactus?"

"Starsky-- Yucca are not cacti. They are totally different from each other. These are from the family Agavaceae."

"Are they Hebrews, too?"

"Who?" Hutch asked, wondering whether he heard right.

"The family from Agavaland-- or whatever you were just saying." Starsky looked very serious.

"Never mind." Hutch gave up, missing the mischievous smile hovering around Starsky's eyes.

"Ahh, I know these. These are lilies." Starsky stopped at the beautiful Star lilies.

"Stay away from that," Hutch said, taking his eyes off the brightly yellow Irises he was admiring, a few feet away from Starsky.

"Why?" Starsky asked, bending low to smell the white flowers.

Hutch quickly stepped beside Starsky. "Those are toxic," he said, grabbing Starsky's shirt collar from behind and pulling him up.

"Hey," Starsky said adjusting his shirt. "Wasn't planning on eating it,"

"Atchoo," Hutch sneezed.

"You allergic to them?" asked Starsky, frowning. "Greenhouses aren't for you, buddy."

"I'm allergic to many flowering plants, but lilies--" Hutch fished a handkerchief out of his jacket and pressed it to his nose. "Atchoolilies are toxic… Atchooo, Starsk, just don't touch them, ok?"

"I wasn't gonna touch 'em. You aren't supposed to touch plants in plant mseums. I know that!"

"Okay, Okay. I was just… Atchoo."

Starsky maneuvered Hutch away from the lilies. "If you are allergic to flowers, how come you live with them in your house?"

"What I have in my apartment are not flowering plants."

"Ah, and I was--" Starsky got distracted by the pink roses swaying in the light wind. "Hey, I've seen these before, too. These are Californian wild roses, aren't they?"

"I'm impressed, Starsky," Hutch said, smugly. "If you tell me the botanical name of it, I'll buy you the biggest ice cream you've ever eaten in your life," Hutch said, believing that Starsky would never know what it was even if it was a very common flower and had a very simple name.

"Piece o' cake, Hutch." Starsky said, wriggling his eye brows. "This is Rosa californica. Family Rosaceae."

Hutch stared at Starsky in disbelief. He even forgot to sneeze. So he played me again. Damn him! I will never ever fall for his act again, never!

That afternoon, Starsky had the treat of his life when they stopped by the Moo's Dairy store. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream and two scoops of chocolate ice cream, covered with caramel and chocolate sauce, topped with peanuts and chocolate chips. Sitting facing each other at a table in the outside sitting area of the dairy place, basking in the evening sunlight, Starsky tucked into his ice-cream, while Hutch enjoyed a chocolate milk. There were many families sitting outside, enjoying the warm day and the delicious desserts.

"How much do you really know about plants, Starsky?" Hutch still couldn't believe the fact that the guy who was asking whether the plant Family Agavaceae were Hebrews knew all about wild roses.

"That was just a piece of luck on my part." Starsky mopped the melted ice cream drips he had made on the table. "Guess that's the only name I know of all plants in the whole world. I had to do this science project when I was in eighth grade with this girl in my class. The project was about Californian wild roses, and I made sure I knew everything about them. She was one beautiful woman."

"Your project mate?"

"What about my project mate?"

"The beautiful woman?"

"You mad or somethin'? She was no woman. She was a thirteen-year-old girl with lots of freckles. No, Hutch. Our Science teacher was the beautiful one."

"So you learned everything about the roses to impress your teacher?" Hutch asked, picturing a thirteen-year-old, curly-haired little boy with bright blue eyes trying to catch the attention of a grownup woman.

"Of course! And you just had to ask me about this particular rose. My luck, see. Now this I can believe; that ice-cream and I were destined to meet."

Hutch was secretly pleased that he bought Starsky the ice cream of his dreams. "Umm…, Starsk, you still have some ice cream on your chin," he said, tapping his finger on his own chin.

"Huh? Where? Here?" Starsky asked, wiping his palm against his face.

"Nope-- you missed it." Hutch leaned forward and wiped the white milk spot that was sitting at the very bottom of Starsky's chin.

"You didn't sleep well last night. Nothing seem to help, huh?" Starsky, as usual, threw a question out of nowhere.

Hutch knew exactly what Starsky was asking about. Thoughts about Leo had kept Hutch awake. He was worried but Starsky. He clasped his hands in front of him on the wooden table and lowered his eyes. "I just couldn't sleep. What you said about Leo played in my mind. I just have a bad feeling about this, Starsk. What do you think he's planning to do? I mean, he waited for six months to contact you. He waited until the trial was done. That just bugs me. Why did he wait that long?"

"He may have wanted to make sure he wasn't mentioned in any wrong doings by Scaris."

"Or he may have wanted to be sure that his father was out of the scene for good."

"That, too." Starsky agreed.

"What do you think he's planning to do? I mean... with you? What does he want from you?"

"I dunno… Maybe cross the border and live happily ever-after in a nice little house with a white picket fence."

Together with a shaggy little mutt named Shaye, thought Hutch, silently.

***

Starsky, Hutch and Damian met at Maggiano's Italian restaurant that evening. Damian's wife had not been able to join them because one of their kids had come down with stomach flu, and Daisy had stayed behind to nurse him.

"How on earth did you get him to go to a Botanic Garden? He hates the outdoors," Damian asked Hutch during dinner. Hutch sat beside Starsky, and Damian was seated in front of them.

"He was the one who suggested it," Hutch replied, tipping his head towards Starsky.

"Really… Starsky? Is this really you? Where's the Starsky I used to know? What have you done with him?" Damian asked looking back and forth from Starsky to Hutch.

"I don't hate flowers." Starsky shrugged. "But Mr. Greenhouse here is allergic to them," said Starsky, poking his elbow into Hutch's ribs.

"Hey!" Hutch edged away from Starsky.

"This is wonderful," Starsky said, looking around happily. "It reminds me of the restaurant my grandmother used to live over when I was a kid."

"Where's that?" Hutch asked. "In Bay City?"

"No. In Brooklyn. That's where I grew up," replied Starsky.

Brooklyn? So that's where his accent comes from, Hutch mused. He realized that he didn't know much about Starsky's life. But, at the same time, Hutch also felt as if he had known Starsky through his whole life.

"You know, Dobey called me yesterday," Damian announced, suddenly.

Both Starsky and Hutch raised their heads at the same time.

"What did he want with you?" Starsky asked, scowling.

"I think you already know. Something about someone called Seth Scaris or Leo."

"Dammit!" Starsky placed his fork on the plate. "Why the hell did Dobey tell you about him?" Starsky sounded angry, disappointed and disgusted.

"I would like to know why you never said a word about this maniac to me?" Damian shot back.

"There was nothing to tell," Starsky replied angrily.

"Like hell there was nothing to tell. There's a madman running around and--"

"Hey, hey, guys." Hutch intervened. "Keep your voices down."

"Did you know about this?" Damian asked, turning towards Hutch.

"He had to tell me because the guy called my apartment," Hutch said.

"Jesus, Starsky. What are you playing at? This is not a game."

"You don't have to tell me, Damian," Starsky's voice turned cold.

Hutch automatically placed his hand on Starsky's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze. The gesture was so normal and natural-- like something between two friends that have been together for ages. "Calm down, now, okay? He's your friend. Remember?" Hutch said softly.

Hutch wasn't aware of Starsky's volatile nature. But he felt in his bones that all that Starsky wanted now was to blow off some steam by beating the hell out of someone or something.

Starsky placed his elbows on the table and leaned heavily on them. He turned his head away, looking around the restaurant, trying to get his composure back. "Sorry," he mumbled after sometime, facing the two friends who were eyeing him carefully.

"I need to know what's going on, Starsky. I'm asking you as a friend," Damian insisted.

After a moment of silence, Starsky began to tell Damian what he had told Hutch the other day.

***

"We need a game plan to get this guy," Damian said firmly, after Starsky's lengthy description of his ordeal with Leo.

Hutch exhaled in relief. Thank God there was someone else on his side now.

"Okay, tell me what we should do," Starsky challenged. "I have one mother, and I don't want two more."

Hutch knew instantly that they weren't getting anywhere. Not with that attitude.

"If someone like Leo was after me or Hutch, what would you do?" Damian asked.

Starsky remained silent.

"Not the same when the tables are turned, huh?" Damian snapped. "I'll tell you what you would've done. You would have gone from house to house, from store to store, to each and every man and woman you found on the street, you would put them through hell if you had to. You would've beaten the stuffing out of them, and wouldn't stop until hell froze over --"

"Do you think I don't know what's at stake? Dammit, Damian. Leo has been watching me since the day I got to LA, and he already hates Hutch because I'm with him. I'm not the one who's in danger here. And you know what's even worse? There's no way out, now, because it'll make no difference even if I stay or leave. Hutch already is a threat to him." Starsky pushed his chair back and stood up. "I need to go to the john," Starsky excused himself for the second time since getting to the restaurant.

"I swear, Hutch, his bladder stopped growing when he was five years old," Damian said, watching Starsky bouncing away from them.

"Not just the bladder, part of his mind as well, don't you think?" Hutch asked. "Do you know he ate four scoops of ice-cream today? Man, I wouldn't even be able to finish even one of those."

"How did he manage that?"

"It was entirely my fault. I lost a bet. Had to get him the largest ice-cream, ever."

"Ahh, Hutch. Never bet with him. No matter how smart you are, he'll out-smart you."

"Yeah. I learned that the hard-way."

"What do you think about this situation? Are we just going to wait until this lunatic does something?"

"I guess so. We just have to keep an eye on Starsky." As soon as the words were out, Hutch realized that Starsky was already alone. "A whole lot of good we're doing by letting him wander around by himself," he said, pushing his chair back. He almost ran towards the restroom, where he collided with Starsky at the door.

"What the hell is wrong with you? You just remembered you had to go potty?" Starsky said rubbing his forehead where Hutch's arm had found its way when they'd crashed into each other.

"Ah... sorry, Starsk."

"You really want to go, or did you come to check on me?"

"Why would I do that? Now could you move, so that I can go in?" Hutch said trying his best to sound calm and normal.

"Be my guest," said Starsky, allowing Hutch inside the restroom.

As Starsky turned back to walk to his table, their server, Jake, came up to him, pushing something into his palm. "He said only for your eyes."

Starsky didn't need his sixth sense to tell him that it was a message from Leo. "Wait," he stopped Jake. "Who gave this to you?"

"The gentleman sitting at the table in the South-West corner," Jake motioned his head towards the table closest to the front entrance of the restaurant, but the area was now vacant.

"He was there a minute ago," Jake said, looking around.

"Can you describe him?"

"He looked... kind of like you."

"Like me?" Leo was not like Starsky at all. Leo was a blond.

"Yeah, dark curly hair, but taller than you. His eyes, well that was different. I've never seen eyes as green as that."

That was Leo alright! So he has disguised himself.

Starsky opened up his palm and found a folded napkin. Written in small neat handwriting was a message.

Meet me outside now, and your friends will live.

L__.

Starsky looked at their table. Damian was busy with his food. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, Starsky turned around.

"You forgot your way back?" Hutch had snuck-up behind him after coming out of the bathroom.

Starsky flashed a smile at Hutch. "Your shirt has come out," he said, tucking Hutch's shirt in. His voiced cracked a little bit, feeling guilty he had to hide Leo's note. If he told Hutch about the message, Hutch would never allow Starsky to go out to meet Leo by himself, and having Hutch or Damian tagging along was the last thing he wanted.

"What are you doing? I had it done perfectly." Hutch said, pushing Starsky's hands away from him.

"Now be a good boy, and go and sit at the table. I'll be back in a minute," said Starsky, pretending that he had to go to the bathroom, again.

Hutch huffed. "Don't tell me you want to go back! You just got out!" Hutch said, disbelievingly. "Ahh, it's the ice-cream, isn't it? Knew something like this would happen when you had four big--"

"Hey, ice cream has got nothing to do with this trip. Now go on back to your food. By the way," he called after Hutch. "If you ever go looking for someone, make sure he looks like me," said Starsky, still smiling. He hoped Hutch would remember his hidden message, if something went wrong at the meeting with Leo.

Hutch walked away. "I don't think I'd be able to handle two Starskys in my life time," he mumbled. "Not sure whether I can handle even one," he added, joining Damian at the table.

Starsky slipped outside, making sure Damian and Hutch didn't notice him. Leo may have been bluffing, but Starsky wasn't going to take a chance over the lives of his friends.

Starsky walked out of the restaurant and searched the surroundings. He couldn't make out anyone that looked like Leo on the busy street. He looked to his left and right, and turned to his right. Looking out of the corner of his eyes, he took a couple of steps forward.

"Keep on walking,"

Hearing the familiar voice behind him, Starsky stopped dead in his tracks.

"Don't try anything stupid, Dae. Just keep on walking, and everyone will be okay. I don't want to hurt anyone, but I will, if I have to."

Judging the level of the sound, Starsky determined that Leo wasn't very far away, but not so close, either. Starsky kept on walking to the restaurant's parking lot. He was ordered to stop at a black Chevy Caprice. Not a blue Chevy, Starsky noted.

"Get in," Leo demanded.

Instead of obeying, Starsky turned around to face Leo.

Leo stood about five feet away from him. He wore a dark green shirt and black pants, black jacket thrown over his right arm, with his left hand tucked in pants' pocket. His hair was dyed in a shade of dark brown, and the previously straight hair was now curled.

"I'm not going anywhere," Starsky said, wondering whether Leo had a gun hidden in the hand under the jacket.

"You have to, if you want your friends to live." Leo moved his right hand slightly, revealing a glistening gun barrel. "It's your choice. You'll decide their fate. Get in the car if you want to save them. If not, as soon as they come out of that restaurant, I'll take them down, one after the other."

Starsky would never put his friends in harm's way. Cursing inwardly, Starsky opened the passenger side door of the Chevy. Just when he was sliding in, Starsky felt the sharp sting of a needle in his neck for the second time in his life.

"T'rrific" Starsky mumbled as everything turned black.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 7: Kidnapped

"How could we? How could I?" Hutch paced the streets, listlessly looking around. Each and every person who walked the streets was to blame, as much as himself.

"We have to get in touch with BCPD and captain Dobey. This will have to be discussed with them first," said Damian.

When Starsky didn't show up after his bathroom visit, and when Jake told them about a note he had delivered, Damian and Hutch realized what had gone down. They raced outside, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. No sign of Starsky. They had questioned those who were standing around but no one had witnessed anything unusual.

"How could this be? I mean he must have put up a fight, don't you think?" Hutch was furious.

"Unless he went willingly," Damian voiced his thoughts.

Hutch's face turned thunderous. "Are you kidding me? Do you think Starsky would go with some lunatic, willingly? You out of all people should know better than that."

"He would, if he thought we were in danger," Damian replied calmly.

Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, Hutch met Damian's eyes uncomfortably. "Do you think that's what happened?"

"What do you think, Hutch?"

"I don't know." Hutch wrung his hands desperately. "I simply don't know. I-- I caught him near the bathroom and... and… he even tucked my shirt in saying that I had not done it properly."

"He did what?"

"He tucked my shirt in."

"Starsky wouldn't do anything if he didn't have a good reason. Check your pockets."

Hutch turned all his pockets out, but found nothing.

"Check inside your pants; you said he tucked your shirt in--"

"Are you asking me to drop my pants?" Hutch asked while pulling his shirt out. His mouth fell open when a crumpled napkin that was caught between his shirt and pants fell out.

Damian picked up the note and read what was scribbled in. Their worst fears were realized.

"You were right," Hutch hissed, fury welling up inside him. "He went willingly because Leo threatened to harm us."

"Come on. We have to talk to Captain Dobey."

Damian and Hutch drove to Hutch's apartment, which was closer to the restaurant. The phone was ringing when they entered. Hutch picked up the phone, his heart pounding against his ribs. Was it Leo? Or maybe Starsky?

The caller was Captain Dobey from BCPD.

"I need to speak to Starsky, NOW!" Dobey bellowed, furiously.

Someone or something was howling in the background.

"We were just going to call you, Captain," said Hutch.

"Good! Put him on the phone, Hutchinson. Something has come over his damn dog. She keeps on howling and whining. No one can make her stop. Only Starsky can put an end to this misery-- So put him on the phone. Now!" Hutch held the phone away from his ear thinking that he would go deaf.

He waited until Dobey stopped. "Err... Captain… S... Starsky is missing, and we believe he's been kidnapped by Leo." Hutch got to the point directly.

"He WHAT?"

Hutch briefly explained what happened at the restaurant and the message on the napkin. He could still hear Shaye wailing in the back ground. Did she feel that Starsky was in trouble? Is that why she's crying?

"You boys get in touch with Maven right away. I'll be there as soon as possible. It's just a two hour drive."

By the time Hutch and Damian got to their precinct, Captain Maven was already in his office. Dobey had briefed him about the situation. Captain Dobey had also provided Captain Maven with details of Leo's appearance, but Hutch remembered Starsky's last words to him.

"We have to change the description," he said, grabbing a pen. "Just before he left, Starsky said, 'If you ever go looking for someone, look for someone like me.' It didn't make sense at that time, but I guess that was his way of telling me that Leo has disguised himself. Then Jake, our server, described the guy who handed over the napkin as someone who looked just like Starsky. The only difference between them was the eye color."

"Good point, Hutch. We have to include that bit of information about Leo."

They prepared the bulletins, describing the kidnapper and the kidnapped.

By the time Dobey arrived at LAPD, a nationwide missing officer alert was issued, and all borders were informed to prevent Leo from taking Starsky out of the country.

"There was no way I could keep her at home," Dobey said, doing his best to calm down a very agitated, very restless little dog. She wore a pink collar around her neck.

"Is this Shaye?" Hutch asked, remembering how much Starsky loved her.

As soon as Hutch spoke her name Shaye's ears perked, and she turned her head looking right into Hutch's eyes.

"Hey," Hutch said softly.

As if that was the only cue she needed, Shaye wriggled and jumped out of Captain Dobey's hands, and ran towards Hutch. To everyone's amusement, she sat in front of Hutch, holding up her right paw.

"How are you, little fella? I'm Hutch," said Hutch, taking Shaye's paw in his hand. Shaye licked his face in a flash, coating him with a layer of her saliva.

"She's all yours," grumbled Dobey, relieved to have the dog away from him.

Shaye jumped onto Hutch, and he couldn't do anything but scoop her up. Shaye seemed to settle down in Hutch's arms, and it was crystal clear that she had chosen Hutch as her keeper for the moment.

"She has never gone to a stranger like that," said Dobey, half amused.

"Can I keep her with me? Until we find Starsky?" Hutch asked, hopefully. For some reason he felt comforted in the presence of the little dog. She is Starsky's one and only, after all, and having her with him made Hutch feel as if Starsky was close by.

"Sure, but you better take very good care of her. If not, you'll have to answer for Starsky. Shaye's his life!"

Hutch nodded in agreement.

"What's next?" Damian asked.

"We find them," Hutch said with grim determination. He remembered the blue Chevy at the museum. "Starsky noticed a blue Chevy that seemed to follow us one day. License plate was AJB 945. We got to check that with the DMV."

"That's a good starting point-- So… will Damian and you be in charge of this case, then?" Captain Dobey looked at Captain Maven, Hutch and Damian.

"Ryan will be in it, too. He's my partner," Damian said.

As there was nothing else they could do for the moment, each of them took their leave. Captain Dobey had made a reservation at the Holiday Inn. He planned to stay for a while.

***

Hutch entered his empty apartment with a heavy heart. The outrage and guilt of allowing Starsky to get kidnapped in his presence turned into despair and helplessness that tormented him.

Shaye had been very quiet through the ride to Hutch's home, but she kept on licking Hutch every now and then.

"You got to quit doing that, Shaye. I even smell like you, now," Hutch said, preventing Shaye from reaching his face. As soon as he put her on the floor, Shaye ran towards the couch and started sniffing it excitedly. She barked happily, running towards the laundry hamper, and smelling through the clothes. She jumped onto Hutch's bed and barked.

"You smell him, don't you?" Hutch asked. "Are you mad at me?"

Shaye yelped, and ran back to the heap of clothes. Dragging one of Starsky's t-shirts in her mouth, Shaye jumped onto the couch. She settled in where Starsky had slept the first day he was at Hutch's apartment.

"You're right." Hutch sighed. "He slept there, too, and those are his clothes. We didn't get a chance to finish that laundry load. You want to sleep with his tee?" Hutch asked, sitting beside the little dog.

Shaye twitched her ears and listened to Hutch, staring intensely.

"I guess Starsky was right. You seem to understand everything I say."

Shaye whined a little bit, and put her paw on Hutch's thigh.

"You know, Shaye, I'm the 'he' he was talking to you about the other day. Uh huh! He decided to stay with me for a couple of days-- He's a very special man, but I guess you already know that, huh?"

Shaye whined again.

"You miss him, don't you?" Hutch sighed, heavily. "I have known him for just four days, and I miss him like I have never missed anyone before. What are we supposed to do now, Shaye? How am I going to find him?"

Hutch leaned against the couch and closed his eyes. He couldn't let the fear get to him; the fear of losing Starsky. He hoped Starsky was correct about Leo on one thing; that Leo wouldn't hurt Starsky. He wanted Starsky back. He wanted to see that bouncing bundle of happiness who flashed that thousand-watt smile, which brightened up his whole world. Hutch wanted his friend!

When Hutch opened his eyes, Shaye was still staring at him. "Are you hungry? You'll have to do with whatever I eat until I get some of your own tomorrow. Is that okay?"

Shaye woofed, and stood up.

"I guess that means, yes."

Hutch found some shortbread cookies in the kitchen. Starsky bought them for sure. Hutch wasn't a fan of sweet stuff. He offered some to Shaye, but she refused.

"Well... you said 'okay,' -- so now what?" Hutch asked, annoyed. "I know you miss him, and I know you smell him in my apartment. And I'm very sure you're wondering what the hell your Starsky was doing with this… this ugly me."

Shaye made some kind of a grumbling noise, and went back to the couch.

"Okay then, sleep, but please don't howl. I don't know where Starsky is, and I can't bring him home, yet."

Hutch went to his bedroom, leaving Shaye on the couch. His eyes became misty at the sight of the heated mattress pad Starsky had bought him. Who would have ever thought of something like this? He knelt at his bed and prayed--something he had not done since… well-- he couldn't even remember when he last prayed.

Shaye tiptoed up to Hutch's bedroom door and watched Hutch for a while. She knew that something was not right. She had not heard Starsky's voice on the phone that day, and now she was in a place where she could smell Starsky. The big bed smelled both of Starsky and this other guy, but where was Starsky? Something was terribly wrong! She could feel it in her little doggy bones. She was determined to stick to this tall guy until he brought her Starsky, home.

***

By next morning, the whole city, the whole State, the whole country was aware that Detective David Starsky from BCPD was kidnapped by Seth Scaris, Ron Scaris's son. The photos of Starsky and Leo were shown on all TV news channels. Newspapers carried lengthy articles about Starsky's heroic deeds. The reports speculated that Leo sought revenge against Starsky for capturing his father.

Only a handful of police personnel knew of the real motive behind Starsky's kidnapping.

Hutch and Damian, together with Damian's partner Ryan, started the day by tracking down Leo's blue Chevy. It was registered to a rental car company, Jiffy. On Monday, the blue Chevy was rented by a man named Robert Rivers, who had returned the Chevy and then rented a black Caprice on Tuesday morning, the day Starsky was kidnapped, and returned it late that night. The rental company had a photocopy of his driver's license. The photo was of the 'brunet' version of Leo.

"So he has a fake ID." Damian placed the photocopy of Leo's driver's license in a separate plastic bag.

"I'm sure he has more IDs made, and I know how to find the others. If there's anyone who can produce fake IDs in this town, I know how to find him, or at least I know who can find him for me. But before that we need to take a look at the Caprice Leo rented yesterday. We might find something."

They were escorted to a large black Chevy caprice in the parking lot of rental cars. They checked each and every corner of the car, but came up empty.

"What next?" asked Ryan.

"We find the guy who made the ID for him."

Hutch drove across LA until he came to a small Chinese restaurant in China town.

"Detective Hutchinson. hǎo ma? I thought you have forgotten us," A Chinese man, somewhere in his forties greeted them, smiling widely at Hutch.

" hěn hǎo, ne, Yong Li? I know I haven't being around, lately," Hutch apologized, graciously. He had first met Yong-Li after saving Yong's twelve year old son, Jin, from being beaten up by a bunch of bullies. "Jin zài ?"

"He's at school, Detective Hutchinson, but you are not here to talk about Jin, are you?"

Hutch shook his head.

Leaving Damian and Ryan in the sitting area of the restaurant, Hutch followed Yong-Li to the kitchen.

***

"Did Hutch just speak Chinese?" Ryan asked,

"Wasn't English for sure," Damian said, looking around the small, but neat, place. There were paper placements with Chinese zodiac signs on tables. He had never been here before, and wondered how Hutch knew the place and the owner.

"You're a Goat," said Ryan, watching Damian studying the Chinese zodiac signs.

Damian looked up smiling at Ryan. "Nope! Monkey. Says right here." He pointed at the paper mats. "I'm disappointed, partner. I thought you knew my birthday," said Damian triumphantly.

"I know more than just your birthday," Ryan said smugly. "Both of us were born in 1944, but you were born in January. The Chinese New Year doesn't begin on January first. The date changes each year, but most of the time it's towards the end of January. So, people born during the month of January are included as a part of the previous year -- So you, partner, have to look at 1943, and you're a Goat, though I'm a Monkey."

"How come you know all about Chinese Signs?" Damian asked.

"How come you don't?"

Before Damian could answer that, Hutch came back with a paper in his hand. Yong Li had provided them with the name of the town's fake ID producing venue.

***

"Don's Electrics? You sure this is the place?" Damian asked, looking up at a rusty, old, dented sign that was mounted on a high brick wall.

"Only one way to find out." Hutch was already out of the car.

Damian and Ryan followed Hutch into the small building, and to an area which looked like some kind of a workshop. A variety of items, small alarm clocks, radios, cassette players, VCRs, telephones, fans, and TV sets, were packed on wall-mounted shelves. A large worktable stood in the middle of the room. Standing behind the wooden work-bench was a tall, skinny, Caucasian man in his mid-fifties. He wore thick, oversized glasses on his nose, and was concentrating heavily on disassembling a radio.

As Hutch, Damian, and Ryan entered the electronic repair place, Don looked up from his work, frowning with displeasure for being interrupted. He took off his glasses, studying the three men. "What can I do for you, gentlemen?"

Hutch, Ryan and Damian flashed their badges.

Don didn't seem to care. "What can I do for you, officers?"

"How's the fixing coming along?" asked Hutch, leaning against Don's work table.

"Since when's that a crime?"

"Did I say it's a crime?" Hutch asked, mockingly.

Ryan paced the room, picking up items out of the shelves and examining them.

Damian walked around the table and stood right beside Don. "Got any TVs lately, Don?"

"What's this all about? There aren't any stolen goods here, officers."

Hutch meddled with the electronic parts that were lying on Don's table. "Didn't say there was any stolen goods either, Don."

"Okay, then. What can I fix for you?"

"Do you think you could fix up some IDs for us?" Hutch asked, a sly smile dancing around his lips.

Don eyed the three detectives intently, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "I think you have come to the wrong place."

Damian let out a deep sigh. "Okay, let's try this again, Don. We need three IDs with some fancy names on them. Do you think you can do that for us?"

"Hey," Ryan called out, waving a calculator he retrieved from one of the shelves. "I can even think of some kick-ass names for us."

"Look around, detectives. This ain't no printing venue," Don said.

Hutch pursed his lips. His patience was running out.

"We have no time for games, Don. We can come back with a warrant to search these premises. Do you really want us find all the other extra things you've been repairing in here?"

"Now wait a minute," Don said, hurriedly. "I-I may have some information, but I'm not the one who makes them. I'm just the delivery person."

"Ah, I'm sure you are, Don. So can you tell us how many IDs you delivered for him?" Hutch placed the photocopy of Leo's driver's license in front of Don.

Don put his glasses back and studied the photo for a minute. A hint of a frown touched his mouth. "There were three, all together. I remember him. It's been a while, but those eyes--"

"Green-- we know." Hutch didn't want any time wasted. He needed the information, and he needed it now! "How long ago was this done for him?" Hutch asked, wondering whether Leo moved to LA right after his father was captured.

"He picked his stuff up about three months ago."

"Names?"

Don shook his head. "I don't remember."

"Listen, you scumbag," Hutch hissed. He reached across the table in a flash and grabbed Don by his shirt, dragging him halfway onto the table.

"Hey, wait, wait. I haven't done anything wrong," Don said, trying his best to save the radio and its parts from falling onto the floor.

Hutch was too angry to pay attention to Don's pleas. "You've assisted a criminal in kidnapping a police officer, and you know the charges that can be sprung on you, don't you? Names or the slammer. Your choice," he said between his clenched teeth.

Don was clearly alarmed. "What criminal? What kidnapping?" He asked his eyes wide with fear. "I don't know nothing. I don't know nothing about no kidnapping."

"Names, now!" Hutch tightened his hold on Don.

Out came the names Don couldn't remember a minute ago.

Robert Rivers

Toby Jenkins

Julian Stobart

Leaving Ryan and Damian in charge of finding the people, places, and events Leo and his aliases were associated with, Hutch went back to the streets to meet Mitch, a friend who owned a pub in downtown and was always a reliable source of information.

"This's the dude they've been showing all day today, isn't he? The guy who got that detective?" Mitch asked, taking a look at the photograph Hutch placed beside him.

"That's what we believe. Have you seen him or heard anything of him? Anything?" Hutch asked, hopefully. "You can't miss his green eyes, I've been told."

"Did this Starsky guy allow himself to be captured purposely like he did with that Scaris guy?"

"I can't talk about the details, Mitch. Just the fact that Starsky is held captive by Leo, and we have to find him, fast."

Mitch shook his head. "Haven't seen any green eyes in this joint. Give me some time. I'll ask around and get in touch with you if something comes up."

"Mitch, this is important. Very important."

Mitch stared at Hutch for a while. "You know him well? This Starsky guy?"

"Yes."

"I'll do my best," Mitch promised.

***

Shaye listened to the footsteps on the stairs. She heard only one set of feet. Ahh... the tall Mr. Softie! No wonder Starsky liked him. I think he's sad because Starsky's not around. Huh! Imagine how I feel without my Starsky, but am I crying? I mean... well... I did, but this guy's taking it too much into his head. Doesn't he know that Starsky is alive? I know he's alive, though I know he's in trouble. We have to get him away from the place where he is right now, but he's alive.

Shaye watched the front door open, sitting at the couch, where she had spent the whole morning.

"There you are," said Hutch, closing the door behind him. "I got something for you." He lifted a big bag of Dog Chow. He also bought a couple of bowls for Shaye. "Come on, girl. You need to eat something, and then we'll go out."

Shaye got down off the couch and followed Hutch to the kitchen.

"I know you want him, Shaye. I'm trying my best. We have some information. We know what Leo calls himself in this town, now that's a start, don't you think?"

Shaye was a good listener, and she knew Hutch needed someone to listen.

Hutch poured the dog food into a bowl and placed it on the floor together with a bowl of water.

Shaye eyed the food and sat in front of her plate. She wasn't going to eat anything. Not yet.

"Shaye, please," Hutch said, desperately. "You've got to eat something." Hutch pushed the plate towards her, but Shaye wasn't interested. Instead she just stared at Hutch.

"What do you want me to do, huh?"

Shaye barked. You have to eat, too.

"What? I don't speak dog." Hutch snapped. "I'm sure Starsky does, but I don't."

Shaye barked again, and pressed her nose on the plate, pushing it towards Hutch.

"What now? You want me to eat that stuff?" Hutch gasped. "Don't tell me that that's what Starsky does."

Shaye was still staring at him. Hutch sighed. "I can see how you've got Starsky wrapped around your little paw. You are one hell of a pusher, aren't you? But I'm not going to eat your stuff. I'm not a dog."

Shaye barked again. The tall guy is hopeless.

"You are going to make me do it, aren't you?" Hutch picked up one of the kibbles from Shaye's plate, hesitated for a moment while eyeing the brown-colored ball on his palm.

"You owe me big time, Starsky" he muttered, and put the food in his mouth. "There! Are you happy now?"

Shaye started to bark, non-stop. She was angry. What was this guy doing eating my food like that? How dare he think he can eat my food? Can't he understand a word I'm saying?

"Why? What? Isn't that what you wanted me to do?" Hutch was very confused. "I told you, I don't talk or understand dog. Now stop. Oh, Jeez, Shaye. Stop. Okay, here." He spat the brown ball out onto his palm.

Shaye stopped barking instantly.

Hutch threw the soggy ball into the trash can, and rinsed his mouth. "I'm glad that I'm not a dog!"

Hutch stood glaring at Shaye. "Not a word of this to anyone. You hear me?" He said, pointing his finger threateningly towards Shaye.

Shaye dropped her ears and backed off. She walked away from Hutch back to the couch.

Hutch obviously felt guilty for yelling at Shaye. "Hey, I didn't mean to scare you. Come here, please, eat something, Shaye," he spoke gently, but Shaye withdrew completely as she jumped back on the couch.

Hutch went and sat beside her. "Jeez, Shaye. I don't know how Starsky handled you and work, both. You are one high-maintenance lady," he said, but Shaye wasn't listening.

Hutch stroked her head, and tickled behind her ears as she seemed to like before, but now she didn't even respond to that.

"Women!" Hutch muttered walking back to the kitchen.

***

He had not eaten anything that day except the coffee he had in the morning. He wasn't hungry, but he had to keep his strength. He wouldn't be any good to Starsky if he got sick. Hutch checked the fridge for its contents and made a sandwich for himself.

Shaye watched him all the time.

As soon as Hutch started eating his sandwich, Shaye walked to her plate, and started eating her food.

Hutch's eyes widened in surprise. "Aw, Shaye. You wanted me to eat, alright. You wanted to eat my own food, didn't you? Ah, girl. Now I see why Starsky loves you so much." He watched the little dog eat her whole plate of food and drink her water obediently.

Then for the first time, Shaye wagged her tail a little bit, looking at Hutch.

Hutch picked up the little dog and held her close to his heart dropping a kiss on the top of her head. He rested his chin on the light brown patch on Shaye's head. "You're just like Starsky. He didn't give up until I started to eat. He… he even slept with me. He knew exactly what I wanted. I didn't have to say anything, but he just… just knew exactly what to say, and what to do. He didn't even know who I really am, Shaye. God, I miss him. I miss him so damn much it hurts like hell. I feel like a dying man, not being able to find him, not been able to know that he's alive and okay."

Shaye looked up and licked Hutch's face. Shaye gave a couple of yelps. Hutch looked at the pair of brown eyes earnestly gazing back at him. He put Shaye down, and she ran towards the door barking excitedly.

"You want to walk, Shaye? I know you've been stuck in here all day. We'll first go to the station, and see what the guys have got. Then later I'll take you for a walk."

Hutch picked up the leash, which he also bought at Petco. "Like it or not, I'll have to put you on a leash, Shaye. Can't have you running all over the streets."

Coming out of the apartment, Hutch took Shaye for a small run around the block to allow her to finish her business. The walk and the run did both of them some good. When Hutch opened his car door, instead of getting in to the car, Shaye pulled Hutch towards the Torino, which was parked in front of Hutch's car.

"Hey, we aren't taking the Torino. That's Starsky's car." Hutch pulled her back. "I see that you have the same taste as Starsky when it comes to cars, but we are not going to ride that… that… wild red thing. Like it or not, Shaye, you're going in this." Hutch picked up the bewildered dog and pushed her into his car.

Shaye whined miserably.

"You can bark your head off, but you'll do as I say." Hutch said, sternly. "When you are with Hutch-- you'll have to do as Hutch says. Got it?" Ignoring all the protests coming from the passenger seat, Hutch started towards the Station. After sometime Shaye settled down, accepting defeat. "I'm sure you think this is a heap of junk." Hutch smiled at Shaye's forlorn look. Was she really pouting?

When he arrived at the squad room, Dobey was with the rest of the search group. Shaye, pleased to see him, gave a friendly nudge with her nose.

"Did she give you any trouble?" Captain Dobey asked Hutch, patting Shaye on her head.

"Ah, no. No trouble at all." Not to mention how she made me eat dog food... yuk! "So what have we got so far?"

Damian and Ryan had done well that morning. Robert Rivers worked at the Green Mart grocery store. He had a bank account with the LA Credit Union, but all the money had been withdrawn the day before Starsky was kidnapped. He also rented an apartment downtown.

Julian Stobart and Toby Jenkins had not surfaced in any search so far.

"So… what do we do now? Get a search warrant for Roberts' apartment?"

"Yes-- Not that I expect to find anything that'll help find Starsky."

"Why not?" asked Ryan.

"Because Robert Rivers is the model citizen who leads a normal decent life. We won't find anything there. He won't take Starsky to that house.

"Right," Ryan agreed. "He'll be in a place associated with either Julian Stobart or Toby Jenkins."

"Yes, but we'll check his place and then go question the staff at Green Mart."

***

Once they got the search warrant, they raided Robert Rivers' apartment. They found his work schedule, work uniforms, newspapers, and clothes. It was just the apartment of a normal working person. Just like Hutch predicted, there was nothing to implicate Leo in anything.

Their next stop was the Green Mart. All the employees had good things to say about Robert, who had joined the store as a sales clerk four months ago. He was pleasant, funny, easy-going and everybody liked him. The Robert Rivers they knew had curly brown hair. He had last been seen at work on Monday.

One of the employees, Kevin, who was close to Robert Rivers at work, told them that he acted kind of funny during the past couple of days. "He isn't a talkative person in general, but during the last few days he was unusually quiet… and nervous. It was as if his mind wasn't at work," said Kevin.

"Is there anything else you've noticed in him? Anything?"

"Well…" Kevin thought for a little while. "I don't know what this means, but he had this chain around his neck and there was a heart shaped silver locket attached to it. I have seen him holding it in his palm… like this." He made a fist and placed it on his chest.

"Did he say what was in it?"

"I asked him one day, but instead of telling me what was in it, he wanted me to guess what he would be carrying close to his heart. So I said... maybe a picture of his girlfriend. He smiled and said something like that."

"Thanks, Kevin. If you remember anything else, please call this number," Hutch said, giving Kevin his card.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 8: A Letter and a Raid

Three days had passed since Starsky's kidnapping. Hutch barely ate these days, and Damian couldn't get a wink at night. Ryan helplessly watched his fellow detectives suffer each time they hit a dead end. Hutch's friend Mitch's informants had come up empty.

Then Friday morning, Ryan came bustling into the squad room with a letter in his hand. He handed it over to Hutch. "It's addressed to you."

There was no return address on the envelope. Hutch noticed it was postmarked the previous day, from LA. He opened it and pulled out a letter written on yellow notepad paper.

lettr1 photo Letter_zpse563622c.jpg

Hutch read it, re-read it, his heart hammering against his chest. Ryan and Damian hovered over Hutch's shoulder, reading the note along with him.

"What is it?" asked Captain Maven, entering the squad room with Captain Dobey.

Hutch handed over the letter to Captain Maven. Dobey and Maven read it together.

"This is Starsky's handwriting, but what's in it is bogus. Means nothing," growled Dobey. "Leo made him write this."

Hutch got the letter back and read it a couple more times.

"I haven't known Starsky for long, but--" Hutch thought for a minute. "I know he's trying to tell us something."

Hutch turned towards Damian. "If you got kidnapped, and you were asked to write a letter, whom would you address it to?"

"My wife, of course," Damian quickly replied.

"That doesn't help. I'm not his--" Hutch bit his lip. "What about you, Ryan?" he asked.

"My mother," said Ryan.

"It would've been me," Dobey said, after a while of silence. "I can see what Hutchinson is getting at. Starsky would have addressed the letter to me."

"Exactly. So then why did he send it to me?"

"Because you're his friend," said Ryan.

"Yes, but in a situation like this, no. If Starsky wanted to send it to a friend, he would've sent it to Damian. They've known each other for years. But he sent it to me -- because Leo doesn't believe Damian is a threat to him."

"I think you're on to something. Go on--" said Dobey.

"Starsky never called me Ken. I never called him Dave, or even David. This letter isn't really from Starsky. These are Leo's thoughts. Leo wanted Starsky to send a letter to me. He didn't want to see Starsky being friends with any other man. He wanted Starsky to sever all contacts with me."

Hutch sat down at his desk, his eyes glued to the piece of paper. There was something else in it that was staring at him; he just couldn't see it. "He asks me to take care of Shaye. Doesn't make sense because he doesn't even know that Shaye's here." Unless… Hutch's heart sank. 'You know what, Hutch--You should get a dog,' Starsky had once said. No! Hutch mentally shook himself. This isn't Good Bye! "Leo wants me to know that Starsky belongs to him, because he believes that Starsky and I are involved."

Damian squeezed Hutch's shoulder lightly. Hutch smiled at him briefly. Only Damian knew the truth about how he felt about Starsky.

"Daffyd," Hutch whispered.

"What?" asked Damian.

"Daegon-- Daffyd. Starsky's aliases-- courtesy of Leo," Hutch replied.

"This guy's some piece of work, isn't he?"

"Let me work on this. I know there's more to it than what's written in here," Hutch said, studying the only piece of evidence they had to give them hope that Starsky was alive.

***

"I think I know where he is." Hutch finally looked up from his writing excitedly. He had worked on Starsky's note for a good twenty minutes.

"Where? What did you find?" Everyone gathered around Hutch.

Hutch had written several letters on his notepad and crossed off some. "He's held somewhere close to the beach and the rail tracks."

"How the hell did you figure that out?" Ryan grabbed Hutch's scribbled notes.

"If you look closer, you can see that Starsky has some letters capitalized where they shouldn't be capitalized. It's hard to find because he has written all letters in the same size, guess he didn't want it to be obvious because then Leo would catch the message as well. I wrote down all the capital letters and crossed out the true uppercase letters-- like the ones that started a sentence or the ones used for names. This is what was left," Hutch showed the notepad and what he had scribbled on it to the others. "He needed a word with 'H'-- that is why he must have written about Shaye at the end."

erased-2 photo Untitled-1_zps848f2b6c.jpg

The remaining letters said TRAINS BEECH.

"B-e-e-c-h?" Ryan spelled out the second word.

"That's Starsky, alright!" Dobey grunted. "He would've said beach should be written the same way as speech. He would even go beyond that explaining when bee is b-e-e there's no reason at all for beach to be b-e-a."

Damian chuckled. "Well, he got the message out the way he could. So this's what he must be hearing. At least we have some place to look, now."

"We can narrow our search by looking at houses and apartments that were up for sale or for rent during the past six months. Leo rented the downtown apartment as Robert Rivers. Now he must be using the names Julian Stobart or Toby Jenkins. Robert Rivers doesn't exist anymore."

Finally they were on to something.

Before the end of the day, Damian and Ryan had made a list of places that matched their criteria. It was not going to be easy; they had a long road ahead and even then, all this was assuming that Starsky was still in California.

What if Leo had taken him out of State?

***

Twelve additional officers, a weekend, and a search of one hundred and ninety three houses and apartments along the coastal areas later, Hutch and the search party were back to square one. They didn't stumble upon a single clue about Starsky's whereabouts during the raids.

Sunday afternoon, after everyone else had gone home, Hutch remained in the squad room. They were still missing a part of the puzzle.

Shaye didn't miss anything that went on around her. She was furious when Damian and Ryan left Hutch by himself in the squad room. Where do they think they're going? They haven't found Starsky yet, and how dare they leave Softie here all by himself? Now I'll have to do all the hard work. These humans have no sense of compassion (sigh) there's not a moment of rest around here for me; work work work!

Shaye jumped onto Hutch's lap. She stood on her hind legs, placing her front paws on Hutch's chest. Hutch was startled by the sudden movement and opened his eyes to see two bright brown eyes staring at him.

"Hey, how are you?" Hutch asked.

Shaye snapped. How am I? How do you think I'm doing? Five days now; FIVE days and still we haven't got him. How do you think I'm doing?

"Any ideas Shaye? Anything would do now," Hutch asked patting Shaye on her head.

Shaye broke into a rapid string of barks of three or four, pausing in between. Ideas? Are you asking me for ideas? That's swell! What have you been doing all these days looking over big papers and sheets and driving to all those awful places? After all these days you are asking me for ideas? Do I have to do all the work here? Don't you understand? He is NOT here. I have been telling you for days and days now, He is NOT here! So look elsewhere. If I knew where he was, I wouldn't stick with you-- Oops... well, that didn't come out right. Sorry! But that's the truth. I'm putting up with you because I know you are trying to find him, but I've got news for you, Mr. Softie. He isn't anywhere around here-- Now listen carefully, hear me out. If I wanted to kidnap Starsky, would I keep him around here? Who would be that dumb?

"What are you saying, Shaye? I wish I could understand you."

Shaye jumped back onto the floor and sat at Hutch's feet. He is hopeless… I have no idea what Starsky saw in him.

Hutch closed his eyes and started to massage his temple.

"Okay, think like Leo-- If I'm Leo, and I kidnapped Starsky, what would I do?" he mumbled to himself. "If I wanted to take him away from all of this, what would I do?"

You would have taken him to a place far away from here, dummy, Shaye barked, furiously.

"I would have taken him to a place as far as possible, where no one would recognize me, to another country maybe?"

Okay, finally I'm getting to him, Shaye yelped, joyfully.

"Borders were informed. No. I won't try taking him across at this time. I'll stay in the States until the heat went down; until people stopped talking about the kidnapping. Somewhere in a place where I won't be recognized." Hutch snapped his fingers. "Of course! I won't be in California. I would've taken him away from California. Damn, damn, damn! -- we were looking in the wrong place."

Hutch got up and spread the map on the table.

Well, Hellooo, what the hell do you think I've been telling you all these days? Of course you were looking in wrong places! That was a no brainer, and you call yourselves detectives? Shaye whined.

"He won't take him to the East Coast or even to the South. Too far to drive without attracting attention, and he wouldn't fly with Starsky. Closer areas-- Coastal -- Oregon... and Washington."

Hutch studied the railway tracks in Oregon and Washington, looking for places where it was close to the coast.

The postmark of the letter was LA, and that was their first mistake; to assume that Starsky was still here in LA or somewhere in California, but now he knew better.

He tried too hard earlier. He needed an open and fresh mind. Retrieving Starsky's letter from his desk drawer, he glanced at the words without reading any of them. What were the eye catching words--?

"Oh, Shit!" Hutch couldn't believe he had missed the clue that was staring at him from Starsky's letter. It was so obvious. Starsky had clearly written down where he was held. Did he miss a clue as big and obvious as this?

***

Monday morning, Damian, Ryan, and rest of the officers who were involved in the search were summoned to Captain Maven's office. Captain Dobey and Shaye were in with Maven, but Hutch wasn't around.

"Hutchinson's on a flight to Washington. He figured out that Starsky is being held in Longview, near the Oregon-Washington border," Maven explained.

"In Longview? How the hell did Hutch come up with that idea?"

"Starsky's letter. He said to check the words that were crossed; something about writing them in two parts and he quoted you, Damian, saying something like, "Starsky wouldn't do anything if he didn't have a good reason."

They checked the letter, and found the words that were crossed.

letter3 photo letter-3_zps8d9881f8.jpg

Hutch told Captain Maven, "There's no reason to write a word in two parts. That's not the usual kind of mistake one would make, unless it was deliberate. He had double crossed the letters we should look at. One would think that double crossing means it shouldn't be considered, but Starsky was telling us otherwise. Starting from 'Dear Ken' to finishing it with 'Dave'-- he wanted us to look for abnormalities. The only one thing he couldn't find was a 'w' for Longview, but what he had given us was more than enough. I was looking at this the whole time thinking something was off, but never saw it until it just hit me that we were looking for him in the wrong place."

***

Captain Maven got hold of Longview Police Department Chief and explained the situation. By the time Hutch arrived in Longview, they already had the information Hutch needed.

A couple of weeks ago, a Toby Jenkins had registered a Black Ford Sedan with the Longview DMV. Longview PD already had an address.

Without wasting another minute, Hutch got to the little house with the Longview Police force. A detective from Longview Police Department, Jake Wards, worked with Hutch on the raid.

They approached the little beach house, blocking all entrances. Before they could get to the front door, Leo busted the door down, opening fire on the police officers. There was nothing Hutch could do other than fire back.

When Leo went down, Hutch shouted at the police team to stop. He ran up to Leo and kicked the gun away from him. "Be with him. Call an ambulance," he ordered the police officers and ran into the house. He found Starsky in a room that had all the windows barred, sealed and locked. Starsky, looking pale and thin, was unconscious and cuffed to a bed.

Keys... keys to the cuffs? Hutch looked around, but found none.

"Starsky?" Hutch called out. It was almost a prayer. "Paramedics, NOW," he shouted at the police officers looming at the door.

"Starsky, Starsk? Can you hear me?" Hutch placed his hand against Starsky's neck. His pulse was weak, but steady.

"Detective Hutchinson," one of the officers called from outside. "He's asking for you,"

It took a couple of seconds for Hutch to realize that the officer was talking about Leo.

Leo, yes, and keys should be with him too. Hutch turned around to walk outside, noticing a big red smear on the wall in front of the bed where Starsky lay. Is that blood? Starsky's blood? He looked back at Starsky, but didn't see any visible injuries. Was someone else in this room?

"Do you think that's blood?" Detective Wards, who had followed Hutch's eyes, asked, pointing at the red smear on the wall.

"Anyone who bled that much wouldn't have survived."

The team of paramedics came rushing into the room, and Hutch reluctantly left Starsky's side, to hear out what the man who'd had Starsky for six days wanted to say. Six days! That was more than what he and Starsky had together.

Hutch knelt beside Leo. Blood trickled out of the corner of the man's mouth. He signaled Hutch to come closer.

Hutch bent forward to hear him better.

"You are too late, Hutchinson. You're as good as dead to him. He'll never… never… be yours. Never."

Hutch was taken aback by Leo's harsh words. Before he could ask what Leo meant, the light in Leo's eyes faded. His fist clenched at his chest, Leo exhaled his last breath.

So many un-answered questions.

Hutch saw a bunch of keys lying on the ground beside Leo. Picking it up, Hutch ran back into the house. He found a key among the bunch that un-cuffed Starsky. His wrists were swollen, bruised, and bloody. The cuffs had cut into him. Hutch gently touched the angry red marks on Starsky's arms, wishing he could make them disappear.

From one nightmarish Scaris ordeal into another. Will Starsky ever be able to recover from this?

Once the paramedics informed him that Starsky's condition was stable, Hutch, after consulting with Captain Dobey, made the decision that Starsky should be air-lifted and taken to LA. Hutch had to stay back to finish up the official work, since there was no one else from LAPD with him in Longview.

A crime lab team was already in Leo's house collecting and bagging each and every item. Hutch was informed by one of the officers about something that he should come and see in the other bedroom.

Wondering whether there was someone else tied up in the house as Starsky had been, Hutch walked into the second bedroom. He discovered a room that was full of pictures, and all of them were of Starsky. Each and every news article that had ever reported anything on the detective was on the walls. One of the articles bore a picture of a small boy. Hutch examined it closely and saw a grief-stricken little boy staring at a coffin in a cemetery. The article was about a cop named Michael Starsky, who had been shot dead in New York. Starsky's father? Leo had collected everything.

"This guy has built a fucking shrine room." Detective Wards, who'd followed Hutch, voiced what already was on Hutch's mind. "He's a fucking maniac."

Hutch discovered Detective Ward's favorite word.

"Detectives, look." One officer held an ID he recovered in the search.

Hutch couldn't believe his eyes when he saw whose picture it contained. Leo had made a fake ID for Starsky, and the name was Julian Stobart.

Hutch felt nauseous and claustrophobic. Leo had planned everything to the very detail. A hide-out away from California, fake IDs for him and Starsky so that they wouldn't be tracked down. He had cleared his previous bank account and may have already opened a new one with his new ID or he may have been using just cash until everything calmed down. But he'd made the mistake of making Starsky write a letter; one mistake that Starsky capitalized on. If not for that letter, they may never have found him.

"This guy is a fucking sadist."

Hutch took the last flight back to LA that night once the police procedures were complete at Longview. His destination was the St. Vincent hospital in LA.

***

The Tuesday LA Times news headlines read:

Detective David Starsky rescued by Longview Police team led by LAPD Detective Kenneth Hutchinson.

Seth Scaris (alias Leo) killed during the rescue operation.

Hutch sat at Starsky's bed in St. Vincent, waiting for his friend to wake up. Captain Dobey sat next to him. They were told that Starsky had been constantly drugged by Leo with sedatives and hallucinogens. There were no physical injuries other than the cut marks that were on his wrists where he was bound to the bed. According to the doctors, Starsky had not been raped or subjected to any type of physical torture. Once the drugs were flushed out of his system, he should be fine, they had said.

Damian and Ryan arrived after work.

"Hutch." Damian placed his hand on Hutch's shoulder "You should get some sleep, you know. You've been on your feet for... how long now… two days…? Three days? Get some sleep, Hutch. Go home, we'll be here."

"No-- I… I can't sleep. Not before he wakes up."

Captain Dobey wondered why Starsky was so important to this LAPD detective, who had not stopped until he found Starsky. The only other person in Dobey's books who had this much of dedication and perseverance was Starsky. Good match! He watched Hutch push back one of Starsky's stubborn curls that had found its way onto his face. How did these two get together? Why did Hutchinson work untiringly until he found Starsky? Had they known each other before?

Hutch folded his arms on Starsky's bed and placed his head on them. Captain Dobey and the others tip-toed outside when they heard Hutch's heavy breathing. "There's nothing we can do for now. Let's come back later," Dobey said.

***

Starsky woke up later that night. He studied the tall blond sitting at his bedside; he looked as if he had not changed clothes in weeks, and not eaten for days. He was leaning his head against the chair with his eyes closed. Starsky studied the features for a while. He may have felt Starsky moving, because he opened his eyes. Starsky watched how his face lit up with a radiant smile that was as beautiful as the morning sunshine.

***

"Hey, you're awake," Hutch said, moving closer to the bed. "You had one long nap, buddy. Was about time you woke up. Let me call the nurse." He pressed the little button above the headboard. "They'd want to check you first."

In less than a minute, two nurses came into Starsky's room. They took his pulse, checked his temperature and pressure.

"What happened?" Starsky asked, frowning at the IV tubes that were hanging around the bed. "Why am I in a hospital?"

"All in good time, now can you tell me your name?"

"Dave Starsky."

"Where do you live?"

"BC... That's Bay City, not British Colombia."

Hutch grinned, broadly. "Good to have you back, Starsky."

"What do you do for a living?" The nurse asked.

"I'm a cop. Now what's all this about?"

"Just relax, Detective Starsky. You have a long way to go. Your friend here can help you drink some water. We'll get some food to you, very soon."

Watching the nurses leaving the room, Starsky yawned.

Hutch came back to Starsky's side. "How are you feeling?"

"Sleepy, and kind'a funny. Where am I? I mean... I know I'm in a hospital. But where?"

"LA-- St. Vincent." Hutch helped Starsky to sit up in the bed. He placed extra pillows against Starsky's back to help him stay propped up.

Starsky frowned. "What was I doing in LA?" He thought hard for a moment. "Court house?" he frowned. Then in a moment his eyes widened as if he remembered something. "Shit!" he cursed. "Ron Scaris-- What happened to the case? Did anything happen at the court house?"

"Scaris got the death sentence. That's what happened." Hutch handed a glass of water to Starsky.

"Then why am I here?"

"Leo… Leo kidnapped you. Don't you remember?"

"At the court house?"

"No, no. A couple of days after the case-- at... near a restaurant." Hutch didn't like where the conversation was going. A sick feeling stirred itself in the pit of his stomach.

"A couple of days after the case? In LA? What was I doing in LA after the case?" Starsky asked taking a sip of the water.

"You… you stayed back, Starsky. What exactly can you remember?"

Starsky looked troubled and worried. "Who are you? Were you at the court house?" he asked. "I remember sitting and waiting for the verdict. That's all. I don't even remember hearing the verdict. So... who are you?"

Starsky didn't remember him. Hutch felt the blood drain out of his face as the reality of Starsky's words hit him hard. His lips trembled, searching for words. "Hutch. Hutchinson... Ken Hutchinson… LAPD."

"I don't recall that name." Starsky shook his head.

"It's alright. It'll come back later. Just relax and get some rest." Hutch placed his hand on Starsky's head, but retrieved it quickly. Starsky wouldn’t like the contact and wouldn't understand why I act the way I do, if he has no memories of me.

When Starsky settled back to get more sleep, Hutch went looking for Doctor Wagner who treated Starsky. How can he forget all those days?

***

"Amnesia," Doctor Wagner said, after studying Starsky's reports.

"But you said he had no injuries. Not to the head or to the body."

"Detective Hutchinson," Doctor Wagner motioned Hutch to sit.

Hutch pulled out a chair and sat across from Dr. Wagner's desk with thousands of questions in his mind. He wasn't going to like what he was about to hear; he felt it in his bones. Ever since he'd heard the last words Leo had said, he'd had this uneasy feeling that something was very wrong.

"There are several causes for amnesia. Physical injury to the head is only one of them. Other factors are toxic substances, and most importantly, traumatic, stressful or emotional events."

"How long will it last? I mean, if it isn't a head injury, then it's something of a psychological effect... right? So… that means it will come back... soon?"

"It depends, especially if it's a repressed memory, one may never know when he'll get the memories back, if ever."

"Repressed memory? You mean he's blocking something from his mind?"

What had Leo done to him? What had he done so traumatic to cause Starsky to block all those memories? They'd never know unless Starsky told them.

"Well, he has no visible injuries, and the sedatives and other drugs he'd been given wouldn't cause memory loss. So in Detective Starsky's case, he is blocking something traumatic he experienced. Repressed memories are often associated with sexual abuse or rape, but we know that he had not been sexually abused either. I would say that he had been subjected to, or he has been under some kind of, extreme emotional stress that he is blocking those memories. Amnesia is also a psychological defense mechanism."

Starsky had been tortured to his limits at the hands of Ron Scaris, but he never blocked those. He didn't repress those memories. So what had Leo done that caused a stress so immense that he'd blocked everything out? Hutch counted; Starsky had blocked ten days of his life from his memory.

Did Leo know about the amnesia? Or was it something else he was talking about to Hutch?

"Is there a chance that he'll never release those memories? That he'll block them forever?"

"It is a possibility." Dr. Wagner nodded. "But look... listen. Detective Starsky just woke up, and it's very normal for him to not to remember anything at this stage. Give him another day or two."

Hutch prayed that to be true. He couldn't face the fact that Starsky wouldn't remember him. It just wasn't something he would accept. "After another couple of days, if he still doesn't remember, how can we bring the memories back? I mean... are there any treatments?"

"Some drugs will help, but I wouldn't recommend such treatments. Hypnosis could help, sometimes; however you know that it could very dangerous. The fact that he's blocking the past by himself means he's protecting himself from something horrible that happened which he doesn't want to think about."

"But… he didn't even remember anything of the days before he was kidnapped. There wasn't anything traumatic that happened in those days. He was on vacation. He was enjoying himself," with ice cream and cars and food and friends and... "It just doesn't make any sense."

"Like I said, just wait for a day or two-- we'll see."

***

Three days later Starsky was released from the hospital, but nothing had changed in his condition.

Starsky remembered every single event that had taken place up to the point where he sat at the court house waiting for the verdict, but nothing thereafter. Moreover, with each passing day, it seemed like Starsky avoided talking to Hutch. When Hutch was around, Starsky fell silent without even wanting to meet his eyes.

Damian spent some time at the hospital with Starsky. He filled in Starsky's missing memories of what Starsky and Hutch had done together during the days Starsky was at LA, and on details of how Hutch had found where Leo was hiding Starsky. Starsky was not interested in hearing any of it. He switched topics whenever Damian brought up Hutch's name.

By then, Dobey had gone back to Bay City leaving Shaye behind with Hutch.

Starsky insisted on driving back to BC as soon as he was released from the hospital. Hutch met with a very peculiar friend of Starsky's, Huggy Bear, who had come to LA to take Starsky back to Bay City. Apparently, Starsky had asked Huggy to accompany him back to BC.

Damian drove Starsky and Huggy from the hospital and left them at Hutch's place so that Starsky could get his belongings, and Shaye, who wasn't behaving at all during the days Starsky was at the hospital. She knew Starsky was close by, and was furious because nobody took her to her him.

Hutch had prepared chicken and pasta for lunch, but Starsky refused food. He wasn't hungry, and he had stopped by to pick up his things. He just wanted to go home, as soon as possible.

Starsky frowned at the t-shirts that were on top of the pile of his clothes he was packing into his bag. "Are these mine?" he asked.

"Yeah," Hutch said. "We picked them up because... errr... laundry wasn't done."

"Oh," Starsky said indifferently, packing the tees with rest of his clothes.

Huggy watched him very closely.

"Are you sure you want to leave today?" Hutch just didn't want to see Starsky leave LA, not yet... not like this.

"I need to go home-- to my life. I've had enough of LA. I feel like I'm walking with the dead, and... I... I want to get away."

Starsky's sharp words cut through Hutch like shards of glass, reminding him of Leo's final words. 'You are as good as dead to him.'

"Hey, Starsky. I'll take the bags downstairs. You can come down when you're ready," Huggy said, picking up the two packed bags.

"Sure." Starsky shrugged his shoulders and turned back to Hutch. "I'm sorry. I really am. I don't know what to say. It's just that-- I don't remember anything, and it's hard. It's hard for me to just stand here and act like I know you when I don't, and I feel nothing for you."

Hutch tightened his jaw and clenched his fist in frustration. None of the people he cared about and loved ever stayed with him for long or loved him back. Starsky was the only person who genuinely cared for him, but now Hutch felt as though all that was in another world, another life. He had to toughen up; after all, this was just another person whom he met along the line of duty, right? Yeah right! "I understand. I shouldn't have suggested such a thing. I would've wanted to get back home, too, if I had to go through what you've--"

"Don't," Starsky cut him out fiercely. "I don't know what I've been through because I don't remember a fucking thing. So just don't-- All I want to do is go home, be in my own apartment, my own space. Sleep on my own bed, and just be me. I don't want to think of the times I can't remember. If the past's gone, then so be it. I don't care. Like the doctor said, if I'm blocking those memories, then I don't need to know what's in them. I may have erased them for a good reason."

Hutch looked away, trying to get a grip on his emotions. For the first time since he got to know Starsky, Hutch felt that it was indeed a good idea that Starsky was leaving LA. Hutch couldn't take the hurt anymore; he couldn't block the pain Starsky's words and actions had caused. You've totally wiped me out from your life, Starsky.

Starsky picked up the small bag that was left. Hutch had packed some of Shaye's stuff he had bought for her in it. He wasn't going to need them again.

"I- umm... I think I should go now," Starsky said, walking towards the door with Shaye following him closely.

"Take care of yourself." Hutch couldn't bring himself to bid Goodbye. 'This isn't Goodbye.'

Starsky opened the door and stepped outside.

Shaye walked a couple of feet and turned back. Hey Softie, aren't you coming with us? You know that Starsky isn't feeling well, don't you? Now come on, we have work to do. I can't handle him by myself, Shaye barked.

"I'll bring Shaye downstairs. Why don't you go, and get the rest of the things in the car," said Hutch, picking up Shaye.

"Sure." Starsky nodded, and climbed down the stairs, two at a time.

Hutch held Shaye close to him for a while. He had come to love the little dog as much as he loved Starsky. "Hey girl, you know that he doesn't remember me, right?" Hutch said, tickling Shaye where she liked it most.

Ahhh this is heaven. Shaye tipped her head, enjoying all the attention she was getting. That is why she liked Softie. He just knew how to treat a girl, even though he couldn't understand a word she said.

"Take care of him, Shaye." Hutch's voice got thick. He couldn't let Starsky, Shaye, or the wild red Torino disappear from his life. He hugged Shaye close to his heart, not allowing his emotions to get the better of him.

As if feeling something was very wrong, Shaye kept on licking Hutch's face and arms.

"Hutch?"

Hutch straightened up at Huggy's voice. He must have come up the stairs to see why it was taking Hutch so long to bring Shaye down. Hutch got himself together, wiping his face with the back of his hand, and handed over Shaye to Huggy. "Take her with you-- I... err... I can't come downstairs."

"Don't worry, Hutch. He'll be all right, and he'll remember. I know he's important to you, and if you were important to him the same way he is to you, I'm sure he'll remember all of it. Just be patient."

"Will you let me know if... if you see any changes in him? I'm just worried. It's not just the fact that he doesn't remember. It's why he doesn't remember that's bothering me. Keep an eye on him. He may believe he's all right, but he isn't."

"Don't worry. You call me whenever you want, and I'll give an update of our man. If I see something weird I'll give you a ring, right away, how about that?"

"Thanks, Huggy."

They exchanged telephone numbers, and Huggy took his leave.

Hutch walked up to the window and watched the red Torino disappearing around the corner of the street. Eyes stinging, he turned back to face the cold, silent, and empty apartment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 9: A Loss of a Friend

Two weeks had passed since Starsky went back to BC.

Hutch did his best to talk, work, and deal with his colleagues at the department in his usual way, but Damian and Ryan knew better. They always had excuses to seek help from Hutch. Suddenly Damian's kids needed a babysitter during weekends, Damian needed help in fixing a leaking roof that got mended by itself by the time Hutch arrived, and since he was there why not stay for supper; Ryan needed help in picking out a new suit to attend his cousin's wedding. Even Captain Maven needed Hutch's help in picking out a present for his grand daughter's birthday. Hutch knew what they were trying to do and appreciated the concern, but nothing helped in lessening the pain and the pressure that choked him from the middle of his chest.

"He'll come to his senses, Hutch. You just have to be patient," said Damian who had met with Hutch one Friday night for drinks. Since Starsky's departure, Damian had made a habit of going out with Hutch whenever time permits.

Hutch hated nightfall. He wasn't having any nightmares of the dead kids that kept him awake anymore, but now, whenever he fell asleep, most of the time he would wake up hearing Leo's final words. He was too late… too late to get to Starsky, and Leo had done something to change Starsky, and make him forget everything. It was entirely Hutch's fault. He allowed Leo to kidnap Starsky under his watchful eyes, and then didn't get to Starsky until the damage was done.

Hutch sighed. "He doesn't even remember me. He doesn't even want to talk to me, anymore."

"He will remember. I'm sure of it. Give him some time. Starsky never forgets!"

Hutch wished and hoped Damian was right.

***

Hutch called Huggy every day during the first week. According to Huggy, everything was fine with Starsky, and Huggy had said that if he saw something odd, he would call Hutch. Hutch had called Starsky's apartment a couple of times, but it always gave a busy signal.

Hutch hadn't heard back from Huggy for a week. It was time to check the situation.

"Hey, Huggy."

"Ahhh, De-tec-tive Hutch-inson!" Huggy drawled.

"How's it going, Huggy?"

"It's going alright, but glad you called. I've noticed something off with our man, Hutch. Everything's not fine and dandy here."

"Why? What's wrong?"

"Well… looks like he's not getting that much sleep. Yesterday he was at my joint, for his usual drink, and it seems like he gets these headaches once in a while and they are huge-- I mean rocky mountain huge! Then… his eating habits… very strange-- He's not eating. You know how much he likes to eat, but now--"

"Did he have headaches before? I mean before all this happened?"

"Not that I know of. He is very un-Starsky-material these days. Acts weird, as if he doesn't care for anything in this world anymore. This isn't like him."

"Did he ever talk to you about anything at all?"

"LA and anything to do with LA is a prohibited topic around him. So, no. He never mentions LA."

This wasn't what Hutch hoped to hear. "Thanks, Huggy. Keep me posted." Hutch hung up.

***

The next day a package was hand delivered to Hutch from Longview Police Department. It contained all the evidence collected from Leo's house in which Starsky was held captive. Hutch spent the whole day going through each and every piece that was separately packed and tagged. One item caught his attention; a silver locket. He remembered Leo's friend at the Grocery store talked about a locket that was around his neck. He also remembered Leo had his fist at his chest at the time he died in Longview.

Hutch opened the locket. It contained a small picture of Starsky and a lock of dark hair.

Is this Starsky's hair? Did Leo manage to cut the hair when Starsky was captured by Ron Scaris?

When describing his time at Ron Scaris's place, Starsky mentioned that when he had lost and regained consciousness, and once he was out of the torture room, he saw Leo with a pair of scissors. Was it then that he obtained Starsky's hair?

Leo had been hopelessly obsessed with Starsky, wanting to own and possess him. Leo had become a prisoner of his own desires, unable to let go and think beyond what he was feeling.

Sound familiar Hutchinson? Isn't that what has happened to you? Finding it difficult to let go of him when he has clearly indicated that he doesn't want you in his life? Hutch tried to shut out the voices in his head. No, it's not the same. I don't feel the same. Starsky's the one true friend that accepted me for who I am and what I am. I'd never force him to stay with me. I only want to know the truth behind what's preventing him from remembering the past.

Hutch quickly skimmed the rest of the items. He came across a report for blood analysis. The blood smear they had found in Starsky's room had been tested; he frowned at the result.

"Glucose, Fructose and cochineal?" Ryan asked, reading the analysis report. He and Damian had joined Hutch after finishing up with their weekly reports.

"What's cochineal?" asked Damian.

"A red dye used in fabrics, cosmetics, and also in cakes, drinks and stuff," answered Hutch. His grandmother used it to color the frosting when decorating cakes for his birthdays.

"So someone threw a drink or something that had cochineal on the wall. Maybe Starsky himself threw something he had been given to drink, do you think?"

"Makes sense, but I saw it, guys. It wasn't like someone threw it on the wall. It was splattered and smeared. It looked thick and dark. It looked just like blood."

"Someone wanted to make it look like blood, then?" Ryan suggested.

Hutch snapped his fingers. "Yes. Yes, Ryan. That's it. Fake blood. That's what's used in Hollywood as fake blood. Corn syrup and red dye. Corn syrup is a mixture of glucose and fructose."

"Alright, so we know what it is. Now, the question is why?"

Back to square one. They had no clue as to why.

"Well, at least we don't have to look for more bodies," replied Hutch.

He felt that he had the answer he sought in the evidence he had in front of him, but he wasn't seeing it. He began to pace back and forth in the squad room.

"Will you stop that, and just stay put? My head's buzzing seeing you walking up and down," complained Ryan.

"Dammit." Hutch pounded the wall with his fist. Why wasn't he seeing it?

"You want to knock down the walls, go find some condemned place downtown. Saves the constructors a shit load of money," Damian snickered, pouring a cup of coffee at the coffee cart.

"Calm down, Hutch. Three heads together are better than one, so let's get the facts," Ryan started. "Leo lusted over Starsky for over six months. He had collected memorabilia of Starsky; everything he could get his hands onto, even his hair. That tells us the extent of his obsession with Starsky."

With the steaming coffee mug in hand, Damian sat beside Ryan. "He had a place to keep Starsky, he had fake IDs for both of them, which tells us he is a mastermind and that he planned everything to the last detail."

Ryan looked up at Hutch. "The case was over on a Friday, but Leo waited until Tuesday to kidnap Starsky. I'm sure he had many chances to get him before that, but he didn't-- Why? We know that he already had the IDs and the house in Longview by then. He had a car registered as Toby Jenkins. That's all he needed to get Starsky, but he waited until Tuesday. Why?"

Hutch leaned against the wall, recalling Starsky's conversation with Captain Dobey, the day after the case that Saturday at the Holiday Inn. 'He is here-- No, I haven't seen him, but he's here.' Those were Starsky's exact words; he was aware of Leo's presence. "You are getting somewhere, Ryan. Friday was the best day to kidnap Starsky. He was going back to BC the next day and Leo could've grabbed him very easily while he was going back to Holiday Inn on Friday night."

"So why didn't he?" Ryan asked.

"Because I was with him."

Ryan and Damian had not heard that part of the events, and Hutch wasn't going to elaborate on what went on between them that night. "It's a long story, but I was with him. I was drunk and… well, Starsky helped me out. Let's leave it at that."

"So… you prevented the kidnapping on Friday, but what about Saturday-- Sunday-- and Monday?"

"Starsky and I were together whole day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Starsky went shopping on Sunday afternoon. Leo could have got him on Sunday if he wanted."

"Starsky came to meet me Sunday afternoon," said Damian.

"Leo called Starsky Sunday night, at my apartment. From the bits and pieces of the conversation I heard I knew Leo was asking Starsky about me. From Friday to Sunday Leo had decided that Starsky and I were a couple. He was collecting evidence to support his theory. He followed us after that. He was at the museums. He may have even been to the Arboretum, though we didn't see him, and then he made his move on Tuesday night at the restaurant."

They were getting somewhere, but where?

"Then we received Starsky's letter that Friday, which must have been mailed on Thursday. We know he was in LA to mail that letter to make us believe that they were still here somewhere in LA. So he drove to LA on Thursday, or maybe on Wednesday. Mailed the letter and went back to Longview."

"We don't know what may have taken place during the last couple of days after mailing the letter, but we busted him on Monday."

"And there's still the mystery of the big red patch on the wall."

Hutch signaled them to be quiet. "Starsky's memory. He doesn't remember anything starting from Friday."

Damian and Ryan watched Hutch, silently.

"The court house… the verdict. Is he blocking hearing the verdict?" Hutch paced the room. "But he has no reason to block that. So what happened after the verdict was read?" Hutch stopped in front of Ryan, clutching a chair with both hands. "He... he just sat there for a while, and then he… Oh, shit!" Hutch's heart sank.

"What?" Both Ryan and Damian asked together.

"That was when he and I-- shit!" Hutch pushed the chair against the table in frustration. "Just after the verdict was read he stood up, and looked at me, straightaway." The first time their eyes met-- the moment of recognition. "Starsky's blocking me. He isn't trying to block anything that Leo did. He's blocking me out of his memories. And he started where we began. He's trying to tell himself that we never met."

Ryan and Damian looked stunned.

But WHY? Why did Starsky block Hutch and their memories?

"You are too late, Hutchinson. You are as good as dead to him. He'll never be yours," Hutch mumbled.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Damian asked.

"Those were Leo's last words."

"Oh, come on, Hutch. Leo was a manipulator. He was messing with you."

Hutch shook his head. "Those words were chosen especially for me, and he had a damn good reason for that."

"Do you think Leo brainwashed or hypnotized Starsky to hate you? I mean... I know during the last two days at the hospital, it was clear that Starsky didn't even want to talk to you," said Damian.

"Makes sense... doesn't it?" Hutch smiled, sadly.

Starsky hated him. It was obvious. Leo may have brewed up a concoction of stories and fed it into a drugged Starsky, making him hate Hutch; a hatred that was so immense that he had blocked all memories of Hutch and convinced himself that they had never laid eyes on each other.

Like Leo said, Hutch was too late in finding Starsky, and now he was gone from his life forever.

The squad room telephone rang and the officer who picked up the phone called Hutch. "Mitch wants to talk to you."

Hutch answered the phone. "What is it, Mitch?"

"I know you got that detective Starsky rescued safe and all, but there's someone you should talk to. This guy, Ray, tells some weird stuff, Hutch. I think you should talk to him because I sure can't make any sense of it."

"I'll be there in ten minutes," Hutch promised Mitch, and turned around. "I need to go talk to Mitch. See you guys later."

At this point Hutch would have listened to anyone who had even heard so much as a sneeze from Starsky during those six days.

He arrived at Mitch's Pub and approached the guy who sat at the bar, chatting with Mitch. Hutch held his breath when Ray turned around to face Hutch; the resemblance was uncanny. Hutch was speechless.

"That's why I wanted you to come and see him for yourself, and listen to what he had to say," said Mitch, noticing how shocked Hutch was.

The story Ray told was even more bizarre, but it had all the answers Hutch searched for.

"Mitch, you have no idea how important this is. This… This's the last piece of the puzzle I was looking for all these days."

In another twenty minutes, Hutch was at St. Vincent hospital talking to Doctor Wagner, who had treated Starsky after his ordeal. Hutch explained everything he knew about Starsky's kidnapping events and what he had just heard from Ray.

"I have seen one case like this in my whole life, but the circumstances were very different," said Dr. Wagner after listening to Hutch's story. "She was a twelve-year-old girl, raped by her one of her closest relatives. She had blocked the whole incident, but she had blocked just one day of her life, unlike the ten days Detective Starsky has done here. But you know by now why he had to block all ten days. It was all or nothing for him."

"What happened to the girl?"

"She started to get flashes of the incident, and with that came the headaches. When once you block your memories, and later, make an effort to bring them back, your brain will do everything possible to halt it. The headache is a coping mechanism, a defense mechanism that prevents access to those memories."

"So the girl, is she all right now?"

Doctor Ward shook his head. "Unfortunately, no. She wrote a note about the rape and took her own life. Now this doesn't necessarily mean that Detective Starsky would do anything like that. He wasn't raped. His reasons for blocking the past are very different."

"Can you help him?"

"In this case, only you can help him, Detective Hutchinson. There are no drugs capable of stopping those headaches, because it is psychological. He'll have to face his demons one way or the other."

"How can I help him?"

"Help him to remember, and along the way you'll have to figure out how to handle his pain. We can get him to the hospital and try to restrain him to stop him from hurting himself. We can drug him to give him temporary relief, but--"

"No, no. I can't do that to him. No restraints. No drugs, but any pain reliever that you'd recommend? Maybe something that'd help him sleep if he ever needs it."

By the time Hutch left the hospital, his head buzzed with all the information he'd received during the past couple of hours. He had to get to Starsky as soon as possible.

You are too late, Hutchinson. You're as good as dead to him.

You're the one who's dead, Leo. Not me!

Hutch visited with Captain Maven, explaining everything that had happened at Mitch's pub, what Ray had told him, and his decision to go to Bay City. He needed time off.

"Take all the time you need. Do what you have to do," Captain Maven said, dismissing Hutch.

Hutch left the squad room carrying his light brown leather jacket over his shoulders. It was getting chilly outside.

Hutch packed some clothes into his bag. He was going to stay for a while. A drive of two hours; he felt like it was eternity. Hutch prayed Starsky would still be in one piece until he reached him.

Before leaving for Bay City, Hutch tried to reach Starsky at his apartment, but as usual, the signal was busy. He called Huggy, but he was at the dentist. Dammit, Huggy-- did you just happen to have a tooth ache today?

He wasn't prepared to allow Starsky to block the memories they shared anymore. If only he could get to him on time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 10: Chaos in Bay City

Two weeks had passed since Starsky returned home. He should have felt like a newborn. He should have been relieved to leave all the memories of Leo behind. Relieved because Leo was not a threat to his life anymore. Then why was he feeling 'dead', despite being a new born?

Something was terribly wrong with him. Starsky needed help, but who could help him? He didn't want to go to a doctor.

That morning he could barely make it out of the bed. Leo's voice and nightmares had kept him awake all night. He called in sick and promised Dobey that he'd go see a doctor, but he didn't.

His eyes wandered through the apartment. He was someone who was clean and tidy. Habits developed in the army weren't going anywhere, yet. However, his travelling bags from the LA trip were still lying in a corner, untouched.

Starsky found a note pad on the dining table. He decided to scribble down the changes he'd observed in himself.

1.   Bags -- Unpacked

Shaye sat at the couch, turning her head and perking her ears every time Starsky made a move. He used to go for walks with Shaye along the beach. He used to go sit on the rocks and gaze at the sea for ages and ages, but now he hated the sound of the waves.

2.   Beach -- X

Starsky's stomach rumbled, reminding him that he hadn't eaten for a long time. He loved food, but nothing seemed to interest him now. He never thought he would lose his appetite!

3.   Food -- XX

Chewing on the pen, Starsky glared at the phone he'd unplugged as soon as he arrived home from LA. He, who was an easy-going, social and friendly guy, now seemed to pull away from human contact. He wasn't even going to the Pits that often.

4.   Talking -- XXX

Feeling the need for a drink, he walked over to the refrigerator and got a beer. He opened the freezer compartment to see what he had in it, and frowned at the ice cream. He had bought the Wall's vanilla ice-cream tub a few days before going to LA, but never touched it after getting back; another mystery. His favorite food now made him nauseous.

5.   Ice-cream -- XXXXXXX

Feeling a throbbing pain at his temples, he closed the freezer quickly. He suffered severe headaches, nowadays. Not just slight, sinus pressure-like, mild headaches. These were humongous.

The first attack came when he was at work a couple days ago. He was sitting in the squad room, and Babcock walked in with some lilies that he had bought for his wife.

"Hey, aren't those toxic?" Starsky asked, surprised as to how he knew that.

"Well, Starsky. Aren't you quite the Horticulturist?"

"I'm not!" Starsky replied, wondering how he got to know about lilies. It was then he got the first wave of the pain. It was so sudden and so painful that he gasped and clutched his head with both of his hands, banging it on the desk to stop the pain.

Babcock was on the verge of calling an ambulance when the headache just vanished. He forgot all about it until it came back the next day when Huggy had said that Starsky looked like he could do with some milk and sugar, placing a big vanilla and chocolate ice-cream in front of him. The intensity of the headache made him dash to the men's room to throw up.

6.   Headaches!

As if that wasn't enough, he had started to hear Leo's voice in the night.

"I'm going to keep you safe, Dae. No one will ever harm you again. You're safe with me."

Starsky woke up with a jolt, and he barely made it to the bathroom before he emptied his stomach. He couldn't bear the throbbing pain in his head, and of the dry heaves that threatened to flush out his stomach lining. The intensity of the painful spasms seemed to increase with each attack. He was sure one of these days his head was going to burst into pieces.

"Get out of my head. Leave me alone, you bastard. Just leave me alone," Starsky screamed.

7.   Dreams -- Leo

Dammit! Starsky threw his pen on the table. I lost ten days of my life. So what? It's just ten days! Why should my whole life change just because of ten days?

Leaving his notes and the beer on the coffee table, Starsky shuffled to the bedroom.

A cold front was passing through California, and the atmosphere had become very chilly. By the evening the temperature had dropped to the lower forties.

Starsky dug in and found a pair of clean red socks in the bottom of the chest. He grabbed a couple of blankets from the closet. Wrapping himself in the covers, he made himself comfortable on the couch, praying that he wouldn't hear any voices from the past. He flipped through TV channels trying to find something interesting to watch. He noticed that his feet had escaped from the white blankets and were sticking out.

Feet with red socks, and a body wrapped with a white blanket. It was deja vu all over again.

A memory so vivid flashed across his mind. A memory of him holding Hutch. Hutchinson? The guy who found me? The guy who saved me? What the heck? How could this be? What was I doing with him?

He couldn't afford to try to remember anymore as another unbearable, agonizing pain engulfed him. He cried out, yelling and clutching the couch in vain, trying to block out the memory that was torturing him.

"Go away-- all of you. Leave me alone. I can't take this anymore. Go away."

8.   Hate tall blonds!!!!!

The only living being in the apartment with Starsky was Shaye, and she watched Starsky suffering, helplessly. Starsky was beyond her help. Shaye had done everything she could, but nothing seemed to work. She kept close to him. Slept with him. Listened to everything he said, and agreed with all his ideas one hundred percent. These actions had helped to get him out of his earlier ordeal, and he had responded to her marvelously, but now nothing seemed to work. She kept him company wherever he went, and that was not that much these days; he barely went out once he came in. He took Shaye out for walks but they were very short.

I told Softie that he had to come with Starsky, but did he listen to me? No! He just allowed Starsky to come here all by himself. Ahhh... wait until I get my paws on you, Softie. I know you are not around --I don't smell you nearby, but if you ever come this way, I'll teach you a lesson you'll never forget, if that's the last thing I do... mark my words.

***

Hutch had to stop several times to check the map to find Starsky's apartment. He turned his LTD to Ridgeway and twentieth. He didn't have to check the number to find Starsky's house. Hutch parked his car in front of a two-storied apartment. A garage on the first floor, and the too familiar white-striped red Torino parked in its driveway. There were no lights shining through the windows; a cold shiver ran through him. Was it the sudden change in the Californian weather or the eerie silence in the surroundings?

No lights? Was Starsky out somewhere? Has he gone for a walk, but in this weather? Or was he sleeping? Hutch checked the time. It was close to 8 pm.

Hutch jumped out of his car and pulled the travel bag out. A familiar yelp made him smile. Shaye!

Hutch climbed the stairs that reached the front door. "Starsky," he called out, knocking on the door. Shaye's barking intensified.

"Come on, Starsky. Open the door," Hutch called out a bit louder, but got no response.

He tried the door knob, and it opened. It wasn't locked. Was this normal? Doesn't Starsky lock his door?

As soon as he stepped inside, a crazy little brown and white ball jumped onto him, claiming each and every inch of his body she had access to. Apparently, Shaye forgot all about the lessons she was planning on teaching Hutch.

"Oh, God. Stop it, Shaye. Ahh, stop. Hey, jeez girl, someone would think you actually are pleased to see me," he said, patting the excited little dog and putting her back on the floor.

As soon as her feet touched the ground, Shaye ran away from Hutch.

Hutch couldn't see where Shaye disappeared to; it was dark. He searched and found the light switch. He turned on the lights and shut the door. His heart skipped a beat when he spotted Starsky lying on the floor near the couch. Shaye was right beside him.

Hutch was at Starsky's side in a flash, checking his pulse, and feeling his temperature.

Starsky was cold and clammy; signs of an emotional turmoil.

"How long has he been like this, Shaye?" Hutch asked. "A long time?"

Shaye whined, pressing her nose against Hutch.

"Starsky," Hutch gently shook Starsky, kneeling beside him. "Wake up, Starsky. Come on, buddy. This's no place to go to sleep."

Starsky looked half-unconscious, half-asleep; he had a steady, strong pulse. Starsky was alive, and that's all that mattered at this point.

Leaving Starsky on the floor, Hutch went in search of a towel. Rummaging through a closet, he found a couple of clean towels. Soaking one in warm water, he came back to Starsky and wiped off the sweat that was sitting on his forehead, above his upper lip, and on his cheeks and neck.

Grabbing the cushions out of the couch, he lifted Starsky's head and placed the pillows underneath.

"If this is where you wanted to sleep, Starsky, you should've at least used a pillow," Hutch kept on talking and checking on Starsky. He looked around the apartment, registering what it contained.

How little did he know about Starsky? What was he doing here? Was he even qualified to be here and to take care of a man who was suffering from amnesia? Could he wipe off the terror a sadistic kidnapper had filled Starsky's mind with?

He found a note pad on the coffee table and opened it. He found an itemized list scribbled in Starsky's handwriting. A crease formed in his brow, but it didn't take that long to realize what Starsky had done, and what the list was all about. The last note on the list of facts made him smile; hate tall blonds.

"Well, Starsky. This tall blond is here to stay, and you better revise this list."

Hutch found the phone in the living room that was yanked away from its socket. He plugged it in and dialed the number of The Pits. He was told that he just missed Huggy, again. Hutch asked for Huggy's home phone number, but Anita, the girl at the bar, didn't want to give it to a stranger.

"Okay then," Hutch said, impatiently. "Could you please call Huggy and ask him to call Hutch at Starsky's apartment?"

Anita said she would do that.

It didn't take that long for Huggy to get back to Hutch.

"Holy mother of-- It is you. I thought Anita had it wrong. What are you doing there, bro? Something wrong with Starsky?"

Hutch explained very briefly why and what he planned to do.

"So how are you going to perform this exorcism?"

"I'll figure it as I go. To tell the truth, I don't have a solid plan, but I think I have a starting point," Hutch said, looking at Starsky's scribbled notes.

"What should I do?"

"I need to take him away from this apartment. This's a familiar place, and he'd try to stay in his comfort zone without trying to move away. Do you know any place closer to the beach where I can keep him until this's over? The next few days won't be pretty, and having a quiet place away from people would help."

The beach, the sounds, Hutch hoped that would help jog Starsky's memory.

"I'll get back to you. I think I know a joint for you to disappear with him."

Hutch walked into the kitchen looking for something edible. The fridge was almost empty except for a milk carton, some cheese, and a couple of jam bottles. He opened the kitchen cupboards and found some bread, breakfast cereal-- Cocoa Puffs and Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, and Sugar Bear. Why am I not surprised? Hutch shook his head.

He turned in time to see a flicker of movement on Starsky's face.

He strode quickly back to the couch. "Starsky?"

Starsky blinked a couple of times and frowned. "You?" A groan escaped Starsky's lips. "Go away," he mumbled.

"Best welcome I ever got," Hutch sneered.

"Don't remember invitin' you in," Starsky grumbled.

"Oh, don't worry. Shaye did the inviting."

"Why are you here?" Starsky asked.

"You and that rug you have in there on the floor have some kind of a sleeping arrangement, or what?" asked Hutch ignoring Starsky's question.

"None of your damn business, Hutchinson. You are not wanted in here."

"Sorry, Starsk. Half of your household agrees with me staying. Right, Shaye?" Hutch asked Shaye, who was looking back and forth at the two men.

Hearing her name, she barked, happily.

"You stay out of this," Starsky yelled.

Shaye got very frightened. Starsky had never shouted at her before. She left them, whining, and crawled under the dining table with a woebegone expression.

Hutch went after the little dog and carried her, scratching her under the ears. "He didn't mean it, Shaye. Don't cry," he crooned, and turned towards Starsky. "Did you have to do that? You scared the hell out of the poor thing."

"How did you get so chummy with my girl?" Starsky asked, pulling himself up from his sleeping position.

"She stayed with me until--" Hutch stopped, seeing Starsky on the couch, resting his head in his palms. Hutch moved closer, watched him for a while, and continued. "Until we found you. Why Starsky, you even sent me a note while you were with Leo, asking me to take care of Shaye. Don't you remember?" he added.

"NO," Starsky snapped. "No. I don't remember, and I don't want to remember."

"If you're thinking of ways to get rid of me, Starsk, I have news for you. It's not happening," Hutch smirked.

"Just because we spent a night together doesn't mean that you have any hold over me, Hutchinson, and I've got news for you, too. It didn't mean anything to me," Starsky spat back.

Hutch's eyes widened with surprise. "Well, well, well." He smiled. This could be one way to make Starsky 'want' to remember his past. Hutch smiled at the thought. It just might work. "Which night are you talking about, Starsk?" Hutch asked stepping closer to Starsky. "'cos there was more than one, you know? Or haven't you remembered the rest, yet?"

Starsky's dark blue eyes were blazing with anger. Gritting his teeth he stared at Hutch warningly.

If there was ever a look that could kill a man, this would be it, Hutch thought. But he wasn't going to back off now. "Don't you remember how we ended up in bed together, Starsk?" Hutch asked, sensing, but ignoring that he was treading on dangerous ground.

In a flash, Starsky turned towards Hutch, grabbing him and knocking him over to the ground.

Hutch winced in pain when his back hit the floor. He felt the cold sterile floor through his shirt and shivered. Expecting a full-blown fist on his face, he turned to a side, but the attack never came. Instead Starsky pulled Hutch up. "You stay away from me. Do you hear me? Stay the hell away from me," he shouted at Hutch, shaking him vigorously, and pushing him back onto the floor. "I don’t want you anywhere near me."

Starsky could have just beaten Hutch to death, but he hadn't. Hutch took it as a good sign. Watching Starsky from the corner of his eyes, Hutch sat on the floor, legs bent at the knees. He placed his arms behind him, resting a portion of weight on them. "You still don't remember anything. Do you, Starsk? It's just bits and pieces of memory you're trying to put together."

"Shut the fuck up, Hutchinson. You have no right to be here."

"I'm not leaving, Starsky," Hutch said, authoritatively. "Sooner you get that into that thick skull of yours, the better it is for both of us. If you want to get rid of me, prove that you're man enough to handle the truth behind the memories you're trying to shut off."

Hutch had to provoke Starsky to get him to try to remember. Right now the only way was to get him out of his element, and make him so confused that he couldn't help but make an effort to remember what went on between them. If the memories start flowing, Hutch hoped it would eventually get to the end where the real reason was lying, waiting to be unleashed.

"Don't talk to me about things you don't know," Starsky growled.

"Ah!" Hutch sneered. "And… you know all of it?"

"I don't want to remember. That's my choice."

"And my decision is to stay until you do. Somebody has to win, Starsky, and this is one game I'm not going to lose." Hutch pushed himself up and stood, avoiding the glares Starsky was giving him. "I'm going to make something to eat with what you have in here, which is not much. Don't you eat these days, Starsk?"

"Now what? You gonna be my maid or somethin'?"

"You sure do know how to make a guy blush." Hutch stretched his back, trying to ease the back pain that was bothering him a bit.

"Did I-- Did I hurt you?"

Hutch was surprised that Starsky really showed some concern. "Wasn't that your intention?"

Starsky's jaw tightened. "You shouldn't have come here."

Hutch checked the food items and decided that the only edible thing he could prepare for the day was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He also poured some hot cocoa for them. Knowing Starsky's sweet tooth, he made it with lots of sugar. He brought their dinner to Starsky who had gone back to the couch.

"Eat." Hutch placed Starsky's sandwich and cocoa on the coffee table. "You'll feel better afterwards."

"'M not hungry," Starsky said, making a face.

"Eat, please." Hutch touched Starsky's shoulder lightly.

Starsky winced at the contact but didn't withdraw. He absentmindedly rubbed the spot where Hutch's fingers had brushed. "No point eating. It'll all come out," Starsky said, and paused for a second, "from the end it's not supposed to come out."

Hutch broke into a fit of laughter. "Sorry, buddy, but listen. You know it's good to eat, so that at least there's something to throw up. Having something is better than not having anything."

"Tell me about it," Starsky muttered. He took a bite of the sandwich. It tasted good and the hot cocoa felt heavenly. It was perfectly done; just the way he liked it. How much does Hutchinson know about me? What happened between us? Starsky stopped himself before his thoughts could wonder away.

Starsky had been Leo's prisoner for six days, and he had spent four days with Hutch, but it seemed like Hutch knew all about him. Starsky had spent those days at Hutch's apartment. And Hutchinson calls him Starsk. Starsk! A nickname no one had ever used on him. Why? Why? Why?

"I may not know everything about you, Starsk," Hutch began as if he could read Starsky's thoughts. "I only had four days with you -- But I learnt what makes you tick. Depending on your mood for the day, you like your coffee either really strong or topped with cream and sugar, which is about four times of an average person's daily intake, your staple is candy bars, you shower twice a day, you shave twice a day, or at least you did so when you were with me, and you sleep shirtless, but when it comes to your pajama bottoms --"

"Enough!" Starsky cut Hutch off effectively. "I know who I am. You don't have to tell me of myself."

"Do you? Do you really know who you are, Starsk?"

"Mind your own business, Hutchinson," Starsky growled. He didn't want to be reminded of anything he didn’t know of himself. He surely didn’t want another headache.

***

Hutch took the couch and arranged the pillows Starsky had got for him. Switching off the lights in the living room, he lay down on Starsky's sofa. He was so tired and exhausted that he fell asleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.

Shaye settled down at Starsky's feet in his bed; she had been very quiet after Starsky had yelled at her.

Starsky tossed and turned for some time. Why was Hutchinson here? Why was he trying to get me to remember everything? He didn't want to go to sleep because his dreams were now ruled by Leo. But Starsky was tired, and he drifted off to a dark alley where he could hear no one, see no one, and feel no emotions.

Starsky was uncomfortable; his neck hurt. He tried to reach the spot of throbbing pain, but couldn't. His hands were cuffed, and he was in a car that was moving very fast. It was dark outside, and he was tightly bound to the seat. He couldn't move, but he needed to touch his neck, just touch his neck, to relieve the pain.

"I'm sorry I had to do this to you, but I didn't have a choice. You gave me no other choice, Dae."

But Starsky was hurting. Leo had hurt him. Starsky wriggled in the car seat.

"What is it, Dae?"

The next minute the trees stopped moving. He looked out of the car window but it was pitch black. He leaned against the headrest and closed his eyes. A cold hand touched his forehead.

"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry, but I had to do it. You were confused, Dae. You didn't know what you were doing, and the people around you were corrupting you. I couldn't let that happen."

"Where are we going?"

"To a place where we'll be safe. You'll see."

"I want to go home."

"We are going home. Our home, Dae. You and me, we're free now."

"No. No, Leo."

"Please don't make this difficult. I don't want to hurt you, but if you don't stay calm I'd have to give you another shot."

"No, no. Not again."

"Then don't make me do it. I love you, and I don't want to hurt you."

"You have already hurt me."

"You'll understand later. You're just confused now, Dae."

Starsky smelled Leo's aftershave, and then he felt Leo's soft lips on his temple.

"I love you."

Starsky struggled to get away from Leo, feeling nauseous and helpless. "Stop it. I don't love you, Leo. I don't want you. I never did."

"You are mine, Dae, and I'm yours, forever."

"Take your hands off me, Leo. Don't-- don't touch me."

Hutch woke up hearing Starsky's screams.

"Go away, you bastard!" Starsky yelled.

Holding Starsky by the shoulders, Hutch shook him trying to free him from the nightmare he was trapped in. "Wake up, Starsky."

"Let go of me. Leo, no. Don't," Starsky moaned, and thrashed his head from side to side. His hands were clenched into tight, rigid fists, as if he couldn't move them.

Hutch's heart shattered into pieces at Starsky's pleas. Was Leo hurting him in ways we didn't know? "Wake up, please, Starsk. Leo's gone forever. He can't hurt you anymore."

Starsky's struggling slowed down, as he woke up. "Leo?" he asked, confused.

"It wasn't real, Starsk. It was a nightmare."

"It was real. I was with Leo," Starsky mumbled. "We were in a car, and --Oh, God. Oh, no..." Starsky curled up into a tight ball, grabbing his head. "I can't. I can't go on. I shouldn't remember these things. Please stop this," he wailed.

"I wish I could, Starsk." Oh, God. Please... please help him. Help us, please. Hutch prayed while holding Starsky's trembling body in his arms.

So is this how it is? Is this how the brain stops him from retrieving his memories? One hell of a defense system! It's killing him!

Starsky wriggled out of Hutch's hold. "Not feelin' good--" he darted out, slamming into the walls and doors getting to the bathroom where he stumbled. Hutch followed him and watched Starsky retching violently. Quickly grabbing a towel, Hutch wet it and knelt beside Starsky. He pulled him up and held Starsky against him until the spasms subsided. He supported Starsky's weight, gently wiping off the sweat that formed silver beads on his face.

After a while Starsky tried to stand up, but his legs were weak and wobbly. Hutch pulled him to his feet and allowed Starsky to lean on the wash basin until the dizziness passed away. Starsky rinsed his mouth and washed his face.

"I need to get a shower. I have to wash off. I feel dirty."

Hutch could barely make out the words, but he understood.

"I'm going to stay close."

"Don't have to. I'll be fine."

"Yes, but I'm not. Hey... it's not like you have something I don't," Hutch smirked.

"How do you know?" said Starsky, gruffly.

"Do you really need an answer to that question, Starsky? Do you really believe that I don't know how you look, huh?" Hutch asked.

Glaring at Hutch, Starsky walked away.

"I'll wait outside the door," Hutch smiled and left. It'd be a miracle if he didn't get killed by Starsky, one of these days.

Pacing outside the bathroom Hutch listened to Starsky throwing the clothes on the towel racks, and stepping into the shower.

The shower ran for a long time.

"Starsky? You got to stop now, or else you'll dissolve down to your bones." Hutch called out after listening to the slush noise of the soap lathering and scrubbing for the fourth time.

Starsky continued his washing, ignoring Hutch's protests.

"Stop it, Starsk. That's enough." Hutch opened the shower door amidst Starsky's protests, and removed the bar of soap from his hand. "Enough. Just rinse it off now."

Once the fifth round of soap was washed out, Hutch got a bath towel and wrapped it around Starsky.

"I still feel filthy," Starsky said, looking at his arms.

"You're not!"

"He's left marks on me,"

"No, he hasn't. You're trying to wash your own skin off." Hutch gently coaxed Starsky out of the shower.

By the time Starsky got back to bed, he was totally exhausted. Hutch plumped up the pillows for him.

"You don't have to hold my hand until I fall asleep, Hutchinson," said Starsky, watching Hutch smoothing the sheets. "You can save me if I start yelling. That's why you're here, anyway. Isn't it?"

"Whatever you say, Starsk."

"How's your back?" Starsky asked.

"I'm fine."

Starsky watched him silently. Shaye jumped onto Starsky's bed, whimpering. Starsky picked her up and pressed his lips onto her head.

Hutch went back to the couch, hoping the rest of the night would be uneventful. He listened to Starsky's gentle voice.

"You'd never give up on me, would you, Shaye? I didn't mean to yell at you. You know that, don't you? I'm sorry. I'm sorry for shouting at you."

Ahh Starsky, you act like a hard-ass-- all macho Mr. Universe, but inside you are soft and mushy as the jelly you put on your peanut butter sandwiches.

***

It was late when Hutch woke up the next morning. He was relieved to see Starsky still asleep with Shaye beside him. He hopped into the bathroom to wash up, and then went to the kitchen. He had the coffee pot brewing when he heard a knock at the door.

It was Huggy with his hands full of bags. "Hi, Amigo. Glad you're still in one piece. Didn't he throw you out last night?" he asked, leaving the bags on the dining table.

Shaye welcomed Huggy by jumping onto him.

"Like he had a choice," Hutch said. "What's all this?"

"Much needed staples. I know he has nothing up here. Listen--" Huggy lowered his voice. "I found you the perfect place for the honeymoon."

"Huh?" Hutch asked, wondering whether Huggy was out of his mind. Honeymoon? What honeymoon?

"Isn't that what you're planning for the two of you?" Huggy mocked. "A hideout from the rest of us. A place in the beach where no one can find you, so that you can have your wicked ways with him,"

"Huggy!!! Shhhh!" Hutch put his finger on his lips, signaling Huggy to stay quiet.

"How are you supposed to take him there? Drug him? Knock him on the head? Do you think he'd go anywhere, willingly-- huh?" Huggy asked sarcastically.

"He remembers some of it, and if he remembers a little more-- if he just remember how he felt about me, I'm sure I can get him to come with me."

Huggy snorted. "Remember how he felt about you? And what exactly is that feeling?"

"He trusts me Huggy, and it's trapped somewhere in his head. I know he'd remember."

"Trust is what he's lacking these days." Huggy sighed. "Okay. There's this beach house, belongs to my cousin. He rents it to people who want to sneak in there with their--" he shook his head. "Anyway, right now it's vacant. This is the address. I've got a map for you, and the keys. It's stocked up on dry food, but the rest you'll have to take in with you. It's about an hour drive from here. Just remember to turn on the gas or you won't have any hot water. I think it'll be the perfect place for you two love birds. Do you want to leave Shaye with me?"

Shaye instantly protested by barking. What? What did Huggy say? Leave me with him? And let Softie and Starsky go by themselves? No way... NO WAY!

"Shaye, stop it." Hutch raised his finger to Shaye, and she instantly stopped barking and sat down.

Hutch turned to Huggy. "Starsky needs a constant once we get to the beach house."

"A constant?"

"Yes, someone that connects Starsky's past and the present. Shaye will be his constant. I need her to come with us. Wouldn't dream of leaving her anywhere, anyway."

Shaye jumped up to Hutch. Ahh Softie, you are the best. Did I show you how much I love you, today?

"I swear, Hutch, this little doggy understands everything."

"Of course, she does. She's Shaye, after all."

"You even sound like him now," muttered Huggy under his breath.

"Did the party start without me?" Starsky's sleepy voice made all of them turn towards the bedroom. Starsky was leaning against the door frame; struggling to keep his eyes open.

"Hey, my man, Sta-aa-arskay. How are you doing? I brought you breakfast, and Hutch here has the coffee already going."

"T'rrific," Starsky muttered and hobbled into the bathroom.

"Why, thank you so very much!" said Huggy, staring at the closed door. He turned back to Hutch. "Did you talk to Captain Dobey?" He asked.

"Not yet, but I will."

Hutch called captain Dobey before Starsky got out of the bathroom. He briefed him on the situation and what he was planning to do. Dobey wanted to be informed about Starsky's condition whenever possible; Starsky would be on sick leave until everything was sorted out. Hutch prayed it would not take that long.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 11: A Plan that has to Work

Huggy had brought a variety of items, including muffins, bagels, scones and doughnuts, but Starsky barely had any. Instead he helped himself to the brewed coffee. With the steaming mug in his hand, Starsky paced the kitchen silently.

Hutch cleared the table and got busy with dishes at the sink, watching the restless man out of the corner of his eyes.

Starsky walked over to Hutch and stood right beside him. "What did you mean by Shaye being my constant?" he asked.

Hutch froze for a second. Was Starsky listening to the whole conversation? "Isn't she?" he asked, avoiding Starsky's glares.

"Why did you call Dobey?"

So he heard the phone call, too. Reaching for a towel, Hutch started to wipe the dishes dry. "I told him that I'm planning to take you on a small trip."

"You said what?" Starsky spun Hutch around to face him. His nostrils flared angrily. "Take me on a trip?"

"You heard me," Hutch said, breaking free from Starsky's grasp.

"I'm not leaving this apartment." Starsky stood his ground, adamantly. "I'm not going anywhere with you," he growled.

Starsky's stubborn attitude drilled holes in Hutch's patience, but he kept his cool demeanor.

"Oh, yes. You will," Hutch said calmly. It wasn't the time to let the tiles crack. "Starsk, this's for the best. The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the better it is for you."

"The better for me? So then what's in this for you? Why are you here?" Starsky demanded red in the face.

Hutch remained silent for a while. "Why do you think I'm here, Starsky?" he asked, softly.

Starsky exhaled sharply. "Don't tell me that we fell in love within four days, Hutchinson. I may not remember what happened, but I know I'm not into men," he said angrily.

"Are you sure of that, Starsky?" Hutch taunted. "If you are so sure, then there's nothing to worry about, huh? I mean we could've shared the bed for no real reason-- right?"

"Dammit, you! Don't play games with me," Starsky raged, clenching his teeth.

Hutch wished it was just a game. "I'm not the one who's playing hide and seek or catch me if you can or--"

"What's in this for you?" Starsky asked, cutting Hutch off effectively.

"I don't like to leave any unfinished business. I'm trying to get this over with, too," Hutch raised his voice, holding back a scream of frustration.

Starsky's mouth turned down into a frown. "So why don't we get this over with in my apartment? Why do we have to go elsewhere?"

Hutch pushed his fingers through his hair and sighed. "Because we don't need distractions. Come on Starsk, even Shaye approves of this-- right, Shaye?" Hutch asked the little dog.

Shaye instantly folded her ears back, whimpered, and crept under the dining table. Oh, no. You are not getting me into your conversations anymore, Softie. I can remember what happened last time when I agreed with you. Lesson learnt. I'm on Starsky's side, for better or worse, until death do us apart.

Starsky's brows rose in confusion and surprise.

Hutch's mouth widened with a smile, and he broke into a hearty laugh. Starsky turned around, and when his eyes met Hutch's, a grin spread across Starsky's face, too.

"She learns well from past experiences," Hutch said.

Starsky nodded, still laughing, good naturedly.

Thanks to Shaye, the ice was broken.

"She's one special girl, Starsky." Hutch said.

Starsky nodded, his eyes softening. "What are you planning to do once we get to this cottage of yours? How do you think you're going to help me?" Starsky asked in a more relaxed, normal, conversational tone.

"To tell you the truth, Starsky, I don't really know. What I know is that your memories are driving you crazy, and your headaches are killing you. It'd only get worse, buddy."

"How are you going to get me to remember?"

"I'm not going to do anything. I'm just going to be with you when you remember it. That's all."

"Why do you think I will remember the past?"

"It's already coming back to you in bits and pieces. It'd keep on coming now. You know it."

"Why can't Huggy or someone else be with me? Why can't I go to a hospital?"

"Only I can help you, Starsky. You'll understand when you remember all of it. Please, trust me. I know that's a lot to ask, but think of it. Huggy and Dobey know why I'm here, and they approve. They trust me. Shouldn't that count for something?"

Starsky thought for a while, tapping on the kitchen counter. "Yeah," he said. "Shaye likes you, too. And that says a lot."

***

By the end of the day, Hutch, Starsky and Shaye were on their way to their 'holiday' destination. There wasn't even a trace of the previous day's cold front. It was sunny and warm. The perfect California weather.

Starsky became tense when Hutch stopped his LTD in front of a little cottage facing the beach. It was secluded, sheltered, and stood far away from other cottages that were in the area.

"You, bastard!" Starsky said under his breath. "You didn't tell me that we were gonna stay near the beach. I hate this sound. The waves and the noise it makes--"

"You'll come to love it by the time we leave here." Hutch made a mental note to not to leave the car keys anywhere Starsky could find them. He was sure Starsky would drive away if he got his hands on them.

"Dammit, Hutchinson! Did you really have to bring me here?"

"You can stay in the car, cursing me, or you can help me unload this stuff." Hutch was already out of the car. So was Shaye. She ran towards the thrashing waves, barking happily, as if she had made up her mind to have the most of it while they were here. She missed their walks on the beach.

Starsky watched them with a grim expression.

The sun was already setting and the sky was putting on a brilliant show of red, pink and orange, but Starsky wasn't interested in the landscape. He clambered towards the house.

Hutch sighed. I know you're angry and frustrated. Believe me, Starsky, I know. I wish none of this had happened. I wish I could turn back the clock and go right back to the day at the restaurant, so that I could stop Leo from taking you away from us.

Hutch busied himself with unpacking and storing the goodies in the kitchen. Starsky walked in the little cottage checking the space. He stood still at the bedroom door, and took a deep breath. "Only one bedroom?"

Nothing escaped Hutch's watchful eyes. "It has two beds," he said, hoping Starsky wouldn't throw a temper tantrum. "Why don't you unpack your stuff? You can use the dresser."

Starsky shrugged and walked over to the living area. He picked up his bag and went into the bedroom.

The beach house was perfect. A kitchen, a nice big living area that faced the beach. Big glass windows that gave a good view of the ocean and heavy curtains if you needed some privacy. The living room had a TV, sofa and some furniture; looked very homey. The bedroom was of a good size with two queen size beds that were placed side-by-side with a corner table in between. It was more than a little beach house.

***

"I don't think it'd stay inside me." Starsky frowned at his dinner, the pizza Hutch had bought on their way to the cottage.

"Maybe you should take something that'd make you sleep tonight. Dr. Wagner recommended what you could take, and I already picked it up on my way to BC."

Starsky snapped his head up. "You met Wagner? When?"

"Yesterday."

Starsky pushed his plate aside and locked his eyes with Hutch. "When did you become my next of kin, huh? How could you go and pick up something for me without my knowledge?" his eyes were flashing with angry annoyance.

"I did what I had to do," Hutch chose his words carefully, not wanting to make the man sitting in front of him explode. I'd do whatever it takes to get you back. To get my friend back.

Starsky looked away as if he could read Hutch's mind.

You know I care about you, Starsky. You won't admit it, but you know.

"Starsk, if you aren't hungry maybe we can eat a little bit later."

"Yeah, I'm really not up to it." Starsky stood up.

Hutch cleaned up the table knowing there wasn't a 'later' for dinner that day. It was already close to ten o'clock. "Do you need to use the bathroom? I need to take a shower," he asked, sweeping the pizza crumbs from the table and dumping it in the trash bin.

"Go ahead. I'm fine," said Starsky, as he slid onto the big sofa in the living room. Switching on the TV, he tried to find something interesting to watch. Shaye settled at his feet.

***

Hutch stripped off his clothes and got into the shower. He turned on the faucet, looking forward to the warm water to wash away his exhaustion. But… the icy cold water shot at him at full pressure, and he gasped. He was completely drenched and his teeth were chattering by the time he shut off the water. Damn! He had forgotten to switch on the gas. No wonder the beach house was cold. He patted himself dry and wrapped the towel around his hips, noticing that he had not brought the bathrobe with him either.

He stepped out of the bathroom shivering and cursing himself.

"Done already?" asked Starsky, turning around.

"I… I f… f… forgot the g… g… gas. Water's c... cold. S- Shit!" Wrapping his arms around himself, Hutch walked towards the boiler room to switch on the gas.

When he returned Hutch noticed how pale Starsky had become. He was staring at Hutch as if he had seen a ghost.

Is it a flash of another memory?

"Oh, God." Starsky inhaled sharply and closed his eyes.

"What? What is it, Starsk?" Hutch asked, stepping closer to Starsky, forgetting how cold he was feeling right then.

Starsky stood up, but stumbled when he tried to take a step. There was no way to stop it. Starsky saw it coming; the angry water gushing out of the broken dam, and he knew he was about to drown.

"Oh, God. No, no, no." Starsky crumpled and hit the floor moaning, clutching his stomach.

"Starsky?" Hutch fell beside him. Pushing his palm onto Starsky's forehead, Hutch stopped Starsky from smashing his face on the ground. Circling his other arm about Starsky's waist, Hutch pulled him up and made him lean back against Hutch's chest.

"Easy, buddy. Easy now. Take it slow." Hutch folded his arms around Starsky, holding him in a tight embrace.

"I can't. God... I can't," Starsky moaned.

A memory so sharp and vivid: a naked Hutch under a cold shower, shivering to his bones, telling Starsky; Cold... cannot sleep… dead bodies.

Starsky cried out for the memories he had lost, and for the pain it caused; for not been able to control the aches that spread from head to toe. He suffered the tightness in his chest that couldn't be loosened, wishing it would suffocate him and end this hurt forever.

Starsky leaned on Hutch, concentrating on Hutch's heartbeat against his back. He welcomed the warmth of Hutch's arms around him, supporting and holding him close. He wondered how long it has been since he had allowed anyone to get close to him or hold him close like this. No matter how much he tried to visualize or think of him being close with Hutch in a physical way, he couldn't understand how it could've happened when he had never had any feelings towards men before. But then… how could he feel safe and comfortable in Hutch's arms? This was nothing sexual, but he knew, he felt, he was all wrapped up in a love that felt so right and pure.

He felt Hutch's breath on his neck and a wetness that soaked into his shirt. Hutch is crying?

The painful memories reminded Starsky of his decision to stay in LA after the trial. He was supposed to take care of Hutch. He had stayed in LA to take care of him, but why? What was wrong with Hutch? He couldn't remember why, but he knew he had decided to stay in LA for a while because of Hutch.

"What did you remember?" Hutch asked, after Starsky's struggling subsided.

"You throwing up at the Blue Orchid, and me bringing you to my Hotel. Us, at the Holiday Inn. You in the shower. Why did you try to freeze yourself? Can't remember why, and I tried to make you feel warm. I wrapped you up in everything I could find and I gave you red socks. We slept together on the couch."

"Yeah." Hutch smiled.

"Did we?" Starsky stared reflectively at his palms. "I mean, I still can't feel anything. I know what I did, but I can't feel what I felt towards you. It is weird, like watching a silent movie." Starsky turned around to look at Hutch. "You ain't plannin' on tellin' me, are you?"

Hutch shook his head. "Up to you to remember, Starsk. Don't expect any clues from me. You have to remember if you really want to know."

"I want to know, but I'm not sure whether I can afford to. It's killin' me. The headaches are a bitch. This's too much. I never knew headaches could be this strong and powerful. It's like I want my head to explode so that I'm done with it forever. I dunno whether I'll make it through this, Hutch."

Hutch tightened his hold. Starsky called him Hutch, for the first time after all this had begun. "We'll take it slow. We're in this together."

Starsky wrinkled his brows as if a troublesome thought engulfed him. "What if I remember everything that happened, but don't get back what I was feeling. I mean… what if I don't want to be friends or whatever we were together?"

Hutch swallowed hard and fell silent for a moment, and sighed. "I can live with that decision once you have all your memories."

Starsky studied Hutch for a while. If the sadness emanating from Hutch's eyes were any clue to what Hutch felt in his heart, it meant that it was already crumbling at the mere thought of Starsky walking out of his life. Hutch's life would be nothing but normal. "You're sure?" asked Starsky.

"I'm not another Leo," Hutch said fiercely.

"No. You aren't." Starsky said, softly. You are Hutch, and I promise you that I will never do anything to hurt you, no matter how I feel about you.

Starsky freed himself from Hutch's embrace and sat up. "Umm… Hutch, your towel," he said.

Hutch noticed the towel around his hips had fallen off. He quickly arranged it and stood up. "I was on my way to finish my shower." He quickly walked away. "It's not like I have anything you don't, anyway."

"And I should know everything about how you look, too, right?" Starsky smirked.

Later that night, after another failed attempt at dinner, they decided to call it a day. Starsky took Hutch's advice and took a pill that was supposed to help him sleep.

Lying on his back and turning his head towards Starsky, who was lying on the other bed, Hutch closed his eyes.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Starsky woke up feeling numb and groggy. He couldn't move, and was still tied to the car seat. Leo was beside him. They were driving non-stop in broad daylight.

"Where are we?"

"We'll be home in another few minutes."

"Did you drug me, again?"

"I had to, Dae. Couldn't take any chances."

Starsky noticed buildings, houses, and a sign, 'Longview Times.' Longview? Where was that?

"How long did I sleep?"

"Quite a long time."

Leo brought the car to a halt in front of a house. "Home, Dae. We're finally home."

Leo jumped out of the car and came around to open the door for Starsky. He helped Starsky to get out; his legs were wobbly and un-cooperative after the long ride.

Leaning against the car to get his bearings back, Starsky looked around. The surrounding area looked isolated; not anything or anyone in the vicinity. He listened to a 'whoosh' and 'crash' sound, and deduced they were close to the ocean. A far off sound of a train's whistle reached his ears. Railroads!

"Are you going to keep me a prisoner here, Leo?"

"Can I trust you not to run away from me? Can I trust you not to try to contact your good-for-nothing friends in LA?"

"Leo, I don't love you."

"Do you love Hutchinson?"

"I'm not in love with anyone. He's just another friend."

"I saw the two of you at the Holiday Inn. You didn't know that the curtains had moved, and I saw the two of you. You were sleeping together on the couch. Can you explain that?"

"He was going through a bad period, and I helped him. Leave him out of this."

"He loves you, Dae. I have seen how he looks at you."

"We are friends."

"You cannot be friends with him anymore. I'm your friend, and your lover. From now onwards it's only you and me. There's no room for anyone else in your life anymore. Do you understand me?"

"This is sheer madness."

"This is what I'd do to protect you from everyone out there," Leo said firmly. He opened the front door and gestured Starsky to walk in. "What you do is dangerous," he continued. "You put your life at risk every day. I saw how you suffered at my father's hands, Dae, and that was only one incident. How many times are you going to sacrifice yourself to catch the bad guys out there? How many times are you going to get kidnapped, tortured and beaten up?" he asked, closing the door behind him and locking it. "I can't allow that to happen. I love you too much."

"That's my job, and I love my job."

"You don't have to suffer anymore."

"You're making me suffer. You're keeping me here against my will."

"I'm doing what's good for you. Allow me to take care of you, Dae. No one loves you the way I do," Leo said harshly.

"Let me go. If you love me then let me go."

"I love you too much to let you go. No one can love you the way I do. No one." Grabbing Starsky's shoulders, Leo shook him. "Do you hear me?" He asked fiercely. "No one."

Starsky moaned incoherently, thrashing his limbs uncontrollably.

Hutch had to hold Starsky down by his shoulders to prevent him from hurting himself or Hutch. "Dammit, Starsk. Stop fighting me. Wake up."

Starsky's eyes fluttered open as he struggled to silence Leo's voice echoing in his head. The headache hit him like a ton of bricks. He groaned, holding his head, trying to banish his thoughts of past encounters with Leo; if only he could stop it. If only he could stop it from coming back to him.

Tears trickled down Starsky's face as Hutch held his head. He slowly massaged Starsky's temples and scalp to bring him some comfort from the intense pain. The pills hadn't helped. Starsky was still suffering from nightmares.

"I need a shower, Hutch. He… he kissed me. I need a shower."

"Where?" Hutch asked. "Where did he kiss you?

Starsky touched his temple.

"I know what to do. Just a second." Leaving Starsky propped against the headboard, Hutch left the bedroom. He came back with a bowl of water and a towel.

"This should take care of it." Hutch dipped the towel in the lukewarm water. Squeezing out the excess liquid, he wiped Starsky's forehead and face. "Feel better?" he asked, smiling gently.

"Thanks," Starsky worked up a smile, grateful for Hutch's loving act.

"What was it this time?" asked Hutch, setting aside the bowl and wet towel.

"He took me to a house. I saw some signs on the way-- Longview. He had seen us sleeping together at the hotel; he thought you and I were lovers." Starsky searched Hutch's eyes for a revelation, but saw none.

"Keep on remembering, Starsk. You'll get to the truth."

"The truth!" Starsky shook his head. "I don't know about that. In the dream, I kept on telling him that you and I were just friends, and that I didn't love you. I don't know whether I was lying to prevent him from harming you, or whether that was the truth." Starsky pressed his fingers to his aching eyes. "I'm so tired, Hutch."

"Try to get some sleep."

"No. I... I don't want any more dreams."

"You need to get some sleep, buddy… come on."

Starsky agreed half-heartedly. He didn't want to be pulled into another lurid reverie.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Starsky was again cuffed, but now it was to a bed. Leo paced the room and seemed to be restless.

"Hutchinson will never find you," Leo cried in outrage.

"What's going on?"

"He's in charge of the search for you, Dae. You have to tell him to stop looking for you."

"You want me to call him?"

Leo laughed menacingly. "You are never going to talk to him again."

"Then how am I going to tell him anything? And do you think they'll stop searching for me just because I say so?"

"You have to tell them that you came with me because you wanted to. You have to tell him to stop the search or else I will have to kill him."

"What's the matter with you? What are you going to accomplish by killing a cop?"

"This is not just 'A cop'-- This is Hutchinson."

"So what? Are you going to kill all my friends now?"

"No. Not all of them. Just him. He's in love with you, and he'll not stop looking for you."

"Do you think they'll stop the search when you kill him?"

"The others don't care like Hutchinson does, and you don't care about others like you care about Hutchinson." Leo sat on the bed beside Starsky. "You are protecting him, aren't you?" He cupped Starsky's head in his hands and gazed into his eyes. "You don't want to see him getting hurt."

Starsky struggled to free himself from Leo's grasp. "I don't want anyone to get hurt."

"You have to forget him, Dae." Leo tightened his grip on Starsky. "None of them deserve someone like you. Why don't you see it? Why don't you see how much I love you?"

"This is not love."

"You have to write him a letter. You have to tell him to stop looking for you. You have to tell him that you love me."

Starsky woke up breathing heavily, bracing himself for the horrendous headache that was in the making. He banged his head on headboard before Hutch, who was beside him by then, pulled him away.

Hutch hugged Starsky around his waist to minimize the movement, but Starsky jerked violently. "God, it's burning. My head's burning, Hutch," Starsky rasped.

Pushing Starsky on to the bed Hutch gripped his wrists and pressed them to the mattress while straddling his chest to restrict the movements. Hutch lowered his forehead until he touched Starsky's temple. "Stop struggling, please. It'll go away in a minute. I promise, it'll go away," he spoke softly. "Calm down, buddy... think about something else. Think about Shaye. Can you remember how she found you and how she followed you? You told me she was always with you, day and night. She's one special little girl, Starsk. When you went missing, she knew right away that something was wrong," Hutch explained how Dobey had called him because Shaye had not stopped whining that night. He related how Shaye was with him until Starsky was found.

Starsky's breathing slowed down, and seemed to relax with Hutch's gentle voice and little stories.

Relieved that his trick worked, Hutch moved away from Starsky, allowing him to sit up. "I swore I wouldn't let anyone know this, but… you know, she even made me eat her food one day."

"Shaye made you do what?" Starsky broke into a hysterical fit of laughter.

Shaye jumped up onto the bed, most probably hearing Starsky say her name. She licked Starsky's face.

"That's my girl, alright," Starsky said, picking up Shaye and holding her close to him, chuckling softly. He remained silent for some time, and then his smile disappeared and darkness settled in.

Hutch wished he could soothe the worry, and wipe the confusion away from Starsky's eyes. He longed to hear that joyful laugh again. That would've eased the pain out of both their souls, he was sure.

Putting Shaye on the bed, Starsky leaned against the headboard. "He made me write a letter to you." He folded his arms behind his head. "Is that how you found me? You figured it out?"

"It took me a while, but I managed to read between the lines."

"I think he was gone for more than a day after I wrote that letter. Did he drive to LA to post it?"

"Yes, but it wasn't just for that. He- he had other stuff to do in LA. From what you can remember, were you cuffed the whole time?"

"No, but I was drugged."

Hutch nodded. Drugs and hallucinogens. Hallucinogens so strong they made you believe the unbelievable.

"I think I tried to escape, once." Starsky continued. "But couldn't overpower him. I was too weak and too groggy to do anything. I can remember feeling helpless. Leo was furious."

"What did he do?"

"He was mad. He thought I was trying to get back to you. I realized that the only way to get out of there was to do as he said and gain his trust. I knew it wasn't going to be easy or happen in a day or two. That's all I can remember-- at least, for now."

"He sedated you so that you wouldn't be aggressive."

"Hutch… I really need a shower."

"Did he… did he do more than just kissing you?"

"I know he was always touching me-- my face, arms, head, and hair... my whole body… I feel dirty… I..."

"Come on... a shower it is." Hutch wished Leo was still alive, and that he could wring his neck so that he would never be able to untangle it; or break his nose in such a way that would make San Francisco's Lombard Street look pretty straight.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 12: Unzipping the Past

Two days passed without any incident. Starsky was not disturbed by any flash memories, and seemed to relax and enjoy their time in the beach house. He even went for a dip in the sea. They went out for short walks in the evening, though Starsky still wasn't feeling very comfortable with the sound of the waves. Hutch prepared most of their meals, and Starsky helped him as much as possible.

Sometimes Starsky would lay on the floor and go to sleep together with Shaye in her little bed, and Hutch felt those were Starsky's best moments. He looked truly peaceful and comfortable cuddled with Shaye. It may have been a common practice in the Starsky-household. Shaye only pretended to be sleeping for Starsky's sake. She was always on alert when Starsky fell asleep on the floor, Hutch noted.

dark wth letters photo Darkwithletters_zps30b7f297.jpg

Hutch also noticed how Starsky watched him sometimes. Hutch knew that his movements and words were being scrutinized, processed, chopped, and sliced. That didn't bother him, but then, sometimes Starsky had a frown on his face and a distant look. That, he didn't like.

"What's bugging you?" asked Hutch.

After finishing his supper, Starsky was at the bay windows, sitting on the floor and watching the crashing waves. It was getting dark, and the moon was rising in the distance. "Something really bad is about to happen. I can't shake off that feeling," he said glumly.

"What do you mean?"

Starsky turned around and looked up at Hutch standing beside him. "I -- just... Hutch, please don't get me wrong. I see-- I know that you care about me, but something tells me that I shouldn't be with you."

Hutch knew why, but he couldn't tell anything to Starsky. He had to remember it by himself. "Do you feel that you can't trust me?"

"No… no. It's more like… I shouldn't be with you. Like it's wrong or bad or--it'd end up in something bad--" Starsky shook his head, frustrated. "I just don't understand."

Hutch cringed inwardly at the thought of how much Starsky would suffer remembering that last piece of his memory. Having two days without any incident was too good to be true. It was too calm and too quiet. Was a storm brewing up, and was this the calmness before it hits? Hutch had to take the next step no matter how much it'd hurt Starsky.

Hutch stepped out of the beach house and walked over to his car. He opened the trunk and picked up Starsky's travelling bag he had brought from Starsky's apartment; the one that was left unopened. The one from Starsky's LA trip.

"Starsk... I think it's time to open this bag now." Hutch said, dropping the luggage at Starsky's feet where he still sat by the windows.

Starsky eyed the bag with disgust. "Why the hell did you bring this here?"

"You haven't unpacked it. Why?" Hutch asked.

Starsky fell silent. "Because I didn't want to. I didn't need to," he mumbled.

"Don't you think it's time to let the cat out of the bag, Starsky?"

"For two days," Starsky said, pushing the bag away from him. "For two days, I slept without nightmares, without Leo's voice in my head, without puking my guts out. The damn cat can stay in the bag, for all I care."

"You put most of the stuff in there by yourself, so why are you afraid to pull them out?"

Starsky fumbled with the zipper of the bag. "At the hospital-- Damian told me that you and I were on 'vacation'-- that we went to see couple of museums and a flower garden... right?"

"Botanical Garden, yes."

"Did we… did we look at lilies?"

"There were all sorts of flowers and plants in there, Starsk, and yes... there were lilies too. Why?"

"Did you tell me that they were toxic or somethin'?"

Hutch arched an eye brow. "You remembered that?" he asked, wistfully.

"No, but wasn't sure how I knew it."

Starsky removed the items from the bag one by one. "Did we buy these when we were in LA?" he asked, piling up the jeans and tees they had bought during their shopping trip.

Hutch nodded.

The contents of the whole bag were out, but the memories weren't. Hutch sighed. He couldn't hide his disappointment. He had been so sure Starsky would remember something when he started to unpack the LA bag. Why didn't he? Is it because Starsky already 'knew' about the museums and botanical garden visit from Damian? So he already had a version of it in his mind, and there was no reason for him to remember them? If that was the case it's vital not to tell him or prompt his memory with my words. He has to remember by himself. He has to remember his own version of the days.

"Not the cat you expected, huh?" Starsky asked smugly at the forlorn expression on Hutch's face.

"What's the first thing you remembered about me?" Hutch asked.

"Red socks and white blankets," Starsky replied immediately.

That was at the Holiday Inn. No one but the two of us knew what happened over there, and I never told him about it. "What was the second?"

"The cold shower, and all that... why?"

Again... no one had revealed any of those events. Then the dreams-- they originated from the ordeal he went through at the hands of Leo, again, no one had interfered with the memories. "I was just wondering what made you remember what you remembered."

"And?"

"And that's just it, I was wondering." Hutch shrugged his shoulders.

Starsky snorted. Of course he didn't believe Hutch!

Hutch pushed all the clothes that were on the floor back into the bag and zipped it. He wasn't going to give up now. He moved to the next item that was on Starsky's scribbled list he found at the apartment; ice cream!

"Hey, Starsk? Would you like some ice cream?" Hutch asked, opening the fridge and taking out two cans of chocolate and vanilla ice cream he'd bought before they got to the beach house.

"I hate ice cream," Starsky said making a face.

"Since when?"

"Since... since… I don't know."

Hutch scooped some ice cream into a bowl. One scoop each from vanilla and chocolate and sprinkled chocolate chips on it. "Here… try it. It's good for you." Hutch pushed the bowl into Starsky's hand.

Starsky eyed the contents with interest and frowned. "How come you've given me only two scoops? And where's the caramel and chocolate sauce, and peanuts?"

Hutch almost dropped his bowl of ice cream. "Sauce? Peanuts?" Hutch asked, placing his ice cream on the nearby dining table. He knew what was coming.

"Yeah, you said the biggest ice cream I ever--" Starsky stopped. He took a deep breath, blood draining out of his face. "Aww, shit!"

Before Hutch could reach Starsky, the bowl of ice cream dropped on the floor, and so did Starsky. "You… you did this on purpose," Starsky yelled, clutching his stomach.

"Come on, Starsk. Wasn't like that. Come on, now." Hutch tried to pull him up, but Starsky pushed Hutch away.

"Don't," Starsky said fiercely. "Don't you dare touch me," he shouted as the pain shot through his skull. He pushed his head against the floor, closing his eyes as tight as possible. "I don't want to remember. Go away… go away, leave me alone. I don't want to remember," he croaked, his voice hoarse from screaming.

Ignoring all Starsky's warnings, Hutch held him by his shaking shoulders tightly. When Starsky didn't make any objections Hutch knelt and leaned forward. He rested his forehead on Starsky's back, and spoke softly. "Come on now. It's not that bad. It was just an ice cream, Starsk. Next time I'll make sure to have four scoops or even more if you want, and I promise to get all the toppings in the world."

Starsky's struggling didn't stop.

Afraid that Starsky would bruise his forehead by rubbing it on the floor, Hutch pulled Starsky up with him, making him lay between his legs. Starsky rested against Hutch's chest, making it easier for Hutch to control his movements.

"It hurts. God, it hurts." Starsky leaned the back of his head on Hutch's shoulder, clutching and pulling at his curls frantically as if it would stop the burning and hurting. "You did this to me, Hutch. You did this," he managed between labored and ragged breath.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Starsk. I had to. You know I had to." Holding Starsky against him, Hutch massaged his scalp trying to ease him away from the pain.

The two men sat on the floor, huddled together, until Starsky's breathing became normal, until he stopped sweating, and long after the sweating that got soaked onto Hutch's tee had dried up. The pool of melted ice-cream glistened in moonlight that streamed through the window. The liquidized dessert made patterns of white and brown on the floor with the chocolate chips scattered in it.

"Feeling better?" Hutch broke the silence.

"Yeah, headache's gone." Starsky snuggled in a little bit as if he was feeling cold.

Hutch circled his arms around him and rested his chin on Starsky's head. Starsky didn't object; he sighed and lay still.

Being allowed to hold Starsky filled Hutch's heart with hope and happiness. He didn't want to move an inch. He didn't want to move at all. But he kept twitching his nose because Starsky's dark stubborn curls tickled him. It was all dark around them now except for the moonlight. "So what did you remember?"

"You started with a botany lesson, and ended up buying ice-cream for me," Starsky chuckled.

He remembered it all right.

"We didn't do anything we weren't supposed to do. Did we, Hutch?" Starsky's question made Hutch smile again.

You are not going to get that answer from me, Starsk… no matter how much you try, you are not going to get me to say anything.

Hutch tilted his head and smiled, refusing to be baited. "Depends on what you define as what we were 'not supposed' to do, Starsk!"

Starsky sighed.

Hutch gently massaged his arms.

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"It feels weird-- I don't... I don't know what I felt for you, but I must have liked you or somethin'-- I mean..." Starsky scratched his head. "I mean… I was looking at 'flowers' and stuff. I know 'me' and I wouldn't have gone smellin' flowers if… if--"

"Must be love, Starsk," Hutch prompted.

"Oh, shut up, will ya?" Stretching his arm back, Starsky slapped the side of Hutch's head.

"Well, you're the one who just said that nothing would have made you go to a Botanical Garden if it wasn't for--"

"I didn't say it was because of love," Starsky snapped.

Hutch bit into his lower lip, trying to keep from laughing. This was fun! "Oh Yeah? Then what was it that you were going to say?"

"I wanted to say that-- that you must have meant something to me-- something more than just a friend."

Hutch savored the moment and seized the promise of those words; he was getting his friend back. "You did more than what just a friend would have done for me, Starsk," he said softly.

"I stayed in LA for you. Didn't I?" Starsky asked.

"I guess."

"But then I left you by yourself and came back to Bay City," Starsky said sadly.

"Ah, Starsk. You didn't leave. Leo took you away from me; from us."

"I left you and came back to Bay City."

"How could you stay when you had no memories of me at all?" Hutch sighed. "I should have come with you to Bay City-- that's what I should've done."

"I didn't even try to remember. I pushed you away."

"I'd have done the same if I didn't remember anything. Please, Starsk, don't blame yourself for anything that happened after Leo kidnapped you."

"I hate him," Starsky said in a low voice. "Was it you who shot him?"

Hutch hesitated for a while. Starsky wasn't interested in knowing the details about his rescue earlier. Now, when he wanted to know the details, Hutch wasn't sure what he should reveal. "I didn't want to kill him, Starsk," Hutch said, truthfully. He wanted to make Leo pay for all his sins. "We wanted to capture him alive, but he left us no choice-- he charged towards us shooting… and--"

"Hey, I'm a cop too. You don't have to explain how it went down. I know this sound crass, but I'm glad you got him. I'm glad he's dead."

"Me too, Starsk. I wish-- I wish I could kill him over and over again."

Starsky remained silent in the warmth of Hutch's arms. The more he thought and experienced the lovingness of Hutch, he couldn't help but think that what he and Hutch felt for each other had nothing to do with physical desires. He felt some kind of a deep emotional connection that he couldn't put into words. He sensed completion, and he knew he wasn't alone in his thoughts. He had never been close with a man before, like this. Yet, even if he had not recalled all the details of their past, buried deep within his heart he knew that the man that was holding him had claimed his heart like no one had ever done.

"Hutch... we've been sitting on the floor in the dark."

"Yep!"

"It's kind of … err… strange, don't you think?"

"Strange? No! I don't think it's strange at all," Hutch said, dramatically. "That's what lovers do, you know, sit in the dark-- cuddled up together and gazing at the moon."

That did it! Starsky was up and on his feet in a flash. Just when he thought he had figured Hutch out!

Hutch laughed mercilessly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 13: Life of a Guardian

Shaye had been keeping an eye on the two guys from the time they got to the beach house. She never let them out of her sight.

Softie must be a funny guy because he can make Starsky laugh. He hasn't been this happy since he got back from Softie's place; when was that? A month ago? Whatever!

Softie does peculiar things-- like leaning his forehead against Starsky's forehead. Holding him and talking so softly when Starsky's screaming the house down. I think he likes to touch Starsky. He pats Starsky on the hand... the shoulder... the head... even the tummy; yeah, that is funny. I've seen him leave his hand on Starsky's tummy, asking "Starsk, are you hungry?"

Hutch gets Starsky, and Starsky likes him. Oh, I know Starsky has been trying to distance himself from Softie. Something is bothering him, and I think Softie knows all about it. That's why he's with Starsky here in this strange house. I like this place. There's so much space to run when you step out of the house. Are they going to stay here forever? I wish they would.

Softie managed to get Starsky to go for a swim in the sea. It was so much fun. Boy, the waves were so strong, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get to the beach, but Starsky had me... Ahh, my Starsky! The best man in the whole world. And then there's Softie, too. Yeah, he's not bad either.

At night, Softie lies on the bed and watches until Starsky falls asleep. I don't think Softie really sleeps. A grumbling or a moan from Starsky, and Softie'd be on his feet. I swear I haven't seen anyone move that fast. No, I take that back. Starsky moves faster than Softie. Even I can't keep up with him, and I won the three mile 'chase sprint' twice in a row, before I came to live with Starsky.

Softie would come to our bed, I mean the bed Starsky and I share, and watch Starsky to make sure he's all right. No, I don't think Softie sleeps. I know because I can't sleep until both of them go to sleep. It just doesn't feel right for me to sleep when either one of them is awake. I'm glad they brought me with them on this trip. I hope they'd stay together after this. I mean, that's the sensible thing to do, right? Anyone can see that. Softie can stay here, close to Starsky. They are just perfect together. Someone has to tell them. I have already told Softie about it, but does he listen to me? Nah! Whenever I talk he asks, "What is it, Shaye?" and smiles. The guy thinks that all I'm asking for is a treat. Not that I'm complaining, but if I eat all the yummy stuff he's been giving me, I'd lose my shape, and a girl needs to look good, you know.

Maybe I have to try talking to Starsky. Haven't done that for a long time. He's just very hard to get to these days. Too silent and closed off. He doesn't listen to me like he used to do because he has a lot in his mind. He's very confused. I'm glad Softie is here because he seems to understand what's going on.

"Shaye, are you coming?"

That's Starsky. Okay, bed time! "Wuff."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 14: The Hurricane

Starsky woke up with a burgeoning headache. Everything was a blur. His head hurt and his arms hurt. Why was everything spinning around him, or was it him whirling around everything else? He tried to focus on a spot to see where he was, but he felt drunk; did he drink anything? He didn't think so. Where was he? Why was he tied to the bed? Where's Hutch? Weren't they in the beach house? He heard the ocean, but it sounded a bit far away.

Then the door creaked open and two men came in. The guy in front was a blond. Starsky's heart skipped a beat. Oh, no! His hands were tied at his back, and there was tape around his mouth. Hutch? What the hell was going on? The man behind him pushed Hutch forward. The man behind Hutch was Leo. Leo?

Oh, God. Hutch! How did Leo get Hutch? No. No... No.

"Hutch, Hutch?" Starsky shouted, wriggling against the cuffs, trying to free himself. The ropes cut into his wrists rubbing viciously against the exposed raw skin.

Hutch was pushed against the wall in front of him; in front of his bed.

"What have you done, Leo? What the hell have you done? Why's Hutch here?" Starsky asked, trying his best to mask the fear that gripped his heart.

"You are not going to be free of him as long as he is alive," Leo growled.

"What are you talking about? Hutch didn't kidnap me."

"He kidnapped your heart, Dae, and I'm going to get it back."

"Leo … Leo," Starsky called our frantically. "What are you trying to do?

Leo's fist struck Hutch on his jaw. Hutch staggered back, groaning in pain through his gag.

"Stop," Starsky pleaded. "Leo, please. Stop. Don't harm him. Please. Don't."

"Why? Why should I stop? Give me one good reason, Dae."

"If you really love me then don't harm him."

"Ahh, Dae. Don't you understand, my love?" Leo came towards Starsky and sat on the bed. He cupped Starsky's face in his hands, and he brushed his lips against Starsky's lips. "I'm doing this because I love you."

Then he went back to Hutch and kicked him in the groin, making him fall onto the ground. He kept on kicking him over and over again. The next minute he was on top of Hutch, punching his cheeks and jaw.

Starsky jerked violently against the ropes. "Let him go. You have me, Leo. What else do you need? He has not done anything to you."

"He has fallen in love with you, Dae. That's plenty."

"No, Leo. We are just friends."

"Well, then, you shouldn't feel bad if anything happens to him. Right?

"Leo, you have me. I promise I'll never leave you if you let him go. You have my word."

Leaving Hutch on the ground, Leo came back to Starsky. He leaned towards Starsky, closing his fingers around his wrists. Leo's breathing was heavy and long. "You will give me your word? You will never leave me?" he mocked.

Starsky flinched away, struggling against Leo's pressing weight.

"How did you change so suddenly, Dae?" Leo's nostrils flared and his mouth formed a snarl. "Wasn't it just yesterday that you said you didn't love me, and that I had to let you go? And now… now you are telling me that you'd stay? You'd stay IF I LET HUTCHINSON live? You're willing to stay with me to spare his life?" he jeered.

"I would've done it for anyone, Leo. I don't want anyone dead because of me. He is just a friend. Why is it so hard for you believe that he's--"

"No--" Leo cut Starsky off angrily. "Not anymore. You can't have any friends in your life, Dae. I'm your friend… your lover. Your everything."

"Are you planning to kill all of my friends, Leo?"

"No," Leo hissed, turning towards the man on the floor. "Only this one. Everyone else was in your life before you met me, Dae, but him, you met, after me... and he became more than a friend. He cannot stay. I cannot allow him to live. He has to go."

"No," Starsky rasped, his voice strangled with immense pain. Tears rolled down his cheeks. This was Hutch. The soft spoken guy he befriended just a couple of days ago. The man who was haunted by nightmares of kids being murdered. The blond whom he felt a connection with from the very first day their eyes met.

"Leo, please." Starsky begged, something he had never done before. But today he would beg and do whatever necessary to save Hutch. "It's me you should punish, not him. I took him to the hotel. Remember? You saw all of it. Hutch didn't come to my hotel, Leo. I took him there."

"Do you think I don't know you, Dae?" Leo shook his head and laughed. "I know you better than anyone in this whole world. I know you better than your own mother, Dae. You only wanted to help him, but he wants more than just help from you. He's just another whore."

"No. God, Leo, stop this." Starsky's vision got fuzzier with the tears that were welling in his eyes. Hutch was going to suffer and Hutch was going to die all because of him. All because he met Hutch, liked Hutch, and became friends with Hutch.

He shouldn't have met Hutch! He should've just left their friendly encounter at the court house and at the LAPD as it was. He should have walked away from Blue Orchid leaving Hutch with his drinks. He thought he was helping Hutch, but all what he did was bring death to him.

Starsky had never felt this helpless before. Even when he was captured by Scaris and tortured by him, Starsky knew that he could beat him. He had not lost control. But today at the hands of a lunatic who claimed that he loved him above and beyond everything, Starsky was helpless and hopeless. His friend was going to die, and it was entirely his fault.

"He's going to suffer because he got close to you. This's what'd happen to anyone that gets close to you, Dae. There shouldn't be any one in your life anymore."

Starsky saw something gleaming in Leo's hand. A knife?

"Leo?" Starsky asked, his heart beating wildly and uncontrollably against his ribs. "What are you going to do?"

Leo pulled Hutch up and pushed him against the wall.

Starsky was hysterical by then. "Leo, No. No."

In a flash of a second Leo plunged the knife right into Hutch's heart. Unable to react or move, terrified beyond lucidity, Starsky watched the horrendous scene unfolding in front of him. The blood gushing out of Hutch's chest soaked his front and flowed to the ground. He couldn't see Hutch's face anymore.

"Hutch… Hutch. Oh God. What have I done? Hutch HUUUTCH," Starsky kept on screaming.

Leo wasn't done yet. He grabbed Hutch by his hair and pulled him straight exposing the delicate neck, making him face Starsky. Laughing like a maniac, in one quick movement, he slit Hutch's throat.

"NOOOOO," Starsky cried in pain. The pressure and anxiety tightened up his muscles and choked off his breathing. Shaking and trembling with sorrow and anger, he fell into a lifeless lump as he felt the last breath escaping from Hutch.

Hutch was murdered in front of his eyes. Hutch was murdered because of him; because they became friends. "I should have never met you, Hutch," he moaned, closing his eyes tightly.

"That's right, Dae. You should never have talked to him. You should've stayed away from him, but you didn't, and now he's dead."

Watching the pool of blood that was getting larger and larger around Hutch's body, Starsky lost consciousness.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hutch woke up to Shaye's whining. He sat up straight and stretched towards Starsky to get a better look. Starsky wasn't moving or making any sound, but Shaye was sitting up. She made small whimpering sounds while watching Starsky. Hutch got up and went near her. "What is it girl? What's wrong?" he switched on the bedside lamp and saw sweat beads forming on Starsky's forehead.

"Starsk?" Hutch touched Starsky's cheek gently.

In another minute Starsky started twitching. His dark curls were already plastered to his forehead by sweat. He was mumbling and Hutch could only make out some of the words.

"Leo… Stop… No," Starsky said over and over again, trapped in his dream. "No. No, no," Starsky moaned, unable to wake up. It didn't take that long for him to start thrashing violently.

Hutch held Starsky's head away from the headboard to keep him from knocking himself out. He shook and yelled at Starsky, but none of it was effective in rescuing him from the throes of the horrible trance he was suffering in. This nightmare was here to stay, and it wasn't going to leave him until the deed was done.

Seconds turned into long minutes while the moaning and whimpering gradually turned into consistent wails and yells. Starsky's floundering limbs turned into frenzied and violent convulsions to the point where Hutch couldn't even keep his own head safe without risking an injury. He moved into the position that had proved to be the most effective in holding him down the other day. He straddled his chest and held down the convulsing body at his shoulders to slow down the twisting and turning.

In the past, Starsky would have calmed down by now and woken to the next torment of the gigantic headaches, but this time it was different. Starsky was dragged into a dark place where there was no return. Hutch's fears were realized when Starsky screamed his name the next minute.

"Hutch... HUUUUTCH!"

Oh, God. He's finally re-living it. He's watching 'me' getting murdered.

Starsky was bound by a dark hand that refused to release him. Hutch could see it squeezing the life out of him, breath by breath. This wasn't unexpected. From the very second Ray, the junkie had told him at Mitch's pub about how Leo approached him, offering him money to disguise himself and act like he was getting murdered by Leo, Hutch anticipated this moment of Starsky getting his memories back. Getting past this hurdle would end everything for good. But what if these memories damage Starsky's spirit even more?

The next minute, Starsky's whole body became tense and rigid. He started to tremble and jerk violently as if he were undergoing a seizure.

"What's going on Starsk? What's happening to you?" All what Hutch could do for the moment was hold onto him for dear life.

The twitching slowed down after some time, but Starsky still wouldn't open his eyes. Once the trembling ceased, Hutch tried to rouse him, but he didn't show any signs of coming around. Hutch eased himself away from Starsky as he took shuddering breaths. Gathering Starsky close to his heart, Hutch leaned against the headboard. "Come on, buddy. Wakeup. I'm here, I'm right here with you. I didn't die. It wasn't me, Starsk. Please wake up."

Starsky stirred in his sleep, and opened his eyes, but Hutch realized that Starsky was in some kind of a trance. He wasn't truly awake.

"I will do anything, Leo. Don't kill him, please," Starsky mumbled.

"Oh, God. Starsk," Hutch said in a strangled cry. "Look at me. I'm right here. I'm not dead, Starsk. I didn't die."

The next second Starsky was in a relapse. Hutch held Starsky's trembling body in his arms talking to him and assuring Starsky that he was alive and Leo didn't get him. Hutch was not prepared for this. He didn't know it was going to be this hard on Starsky, and he didn't know how to take care of the seizures. Dr. Wagner had not mentioned any of this during their conversation. Although he had Dr. Wagner's contact information with him, the beach house didn't have a phone and Hutch couldn't leave Starsky by himself to go find one. All he could do was handle it in his own way. The problem was that he had no clue what that way was.

Throughout that night, Starsky's waking up was followed by a bout of spasms. Hutch was terrified at not being able to stop Starsky drifting in and out of consciousness. Hutch could make out some of the words he was mumbling, though most of the time he was pleading with Leo or yelling at him.

Hutch didn't know how long he could keep a level head. Seeing how Leo had possessed Starsky's body and mind was killing him. The hours of frustration squashed his heart. The lump of tension that built up in his stomach travelled up his throat and gripped his lungs.

He thought his heart would break apart when Starsky mumbled, "I've never met Hutch."

"Dammit, Starsky." Hutch grit his teeth. "I'm right here. I'm right here with you, and you cannot say that we didn't meet. Don't you remember how you held me? You held me all night so that I could sleep? How could you have done that if we didn't meet? Don't you ever tell me that we didn't," he cried out, his own tears running down his cheeks.

The hatred he felt towards Leo was not going to curb itself unless he could go and squeeze the life out of him again, and see the lights in those green eyes wither and die away. Yes, it was negative thinking, and this was no time to lose precious time. Yes, it was a sin to think of taking another human being's life in this manner; Leo was already dead, anyway. Leo was gone. Hutch had killed him. His intensions were not of killing Leo, but preventing his fellow cops from getting hurt. But now he wished he had a second chance to make Leo suffer for what he had done to Starsky.

"Leo, you bastard. You will never ever get to him. You hear me? You are dead, you bastard, you are dead. You will never get Starsky. Never."

He enveloped Starsky in his arms, feeling the grip of the powerful heinous nightmare loosening up. Starsky was no longer trembling, and his breathing had become steady and regular. He had gone limp, and the exhausted body surrendered to sleep. Hutch hoped it was sleep and not a coma. He held him tight, caressing his back, stroking his hair while whispering words of comfort.

"Everything's going to be ok, Starsk. I promise. Everything is going to be all right."

With Starsky's warm body in his arms, Hutch, too gave in to the sleep that overcame him.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Starsky woke up feeling a warm breath on his cheeks. The events of the night hit him with impact, shattering his soul into pieces. Hutch died... Hutch died in front of his eyes. Then who was this man sleeping next to him?

He remembered the pool of blood that had collected where Hutch was standing and the big bold red patch on the wall where he was leaning. All of that from the blood oozed out of the wound Leo had inflicted upon Hutch with a knife that sunk into his heart and then across his neck. Starsky closed his eyes in pain.

The blinding headache he suffered was not from the repressed memories anymore, but because of the heavy burden he carried within himself. Leo had made sure Starsky saw Hutch's blood every time he opened his eyes. Leo hadn't stopped at that. He brought Hutch's blood soaked shirt and left it beside Starsky. "It will keep you company."

"Hutch, I'm sorry. Please forgive me... please," Starsky whispered.

The mumbling sounds he made awoke Hutch.

"Starsk?" Hutch asked turning towards the man who was mumbling to himself. He cupped Starsky's face between his hands. "Wake up, Starsk."

"I'm sorry," Starsky said, eyes still closed.

"I'm not dead. Open your eyes. Dammit, open your eyes!" Hutch demanded.

Starsky opened his eyes. A tear drop escaped, making its way onto the pillow. Starsky stared at man in front of him. "I'm so sorry, Hutch."

Hutch gently brushed Starsky's tears away.

Starsky swallowed hard and touched Hutch's cheek. "Why did you come here? Why are you here? I wish I could bring you back from the dead, Hutch. Please tell me what I should do?"

"Oh, God. Starsk, I'm not dead." Hutch held Starsky's hand at his cheek and pressed it hard. "Can't you feel me?"

"I saw you die. You were killed, Hutch. I saw you die right in front of me. That was real, I saw all the blood."

"It was a lie, Starsk. Here..." Hutch held his hands out, palms up. "Feel me. You can feel me, right? How can you feel me if I'm a ghost?"

Grasping Hutch's arms in his, Starsky searched the sad blue eyes gazing at him; the eyes that belonged to his friend who was dead now. What was going on? Why was he seeing Hutch's ghost?

Starsky recalled something he learnt or maybe he read during his military training. It was about dealing with victims and identifying symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. That must be what he was suffering from right now; nightmares, images, illusions-- ghosts. But he wasn't just seeing Hutch's ghost, he was feeling him too. Was it possible to feel a ghost?

"Do you know where you are?" Hutch asked.

Starsky looked around and frowned. "The beach house," he answered.

"So then was it a ghost who brought you here?"

Starsky blinked. But you died. I saw you die.

Hutch gestured for Starsky to get out of the bed and follow him. He guided Starsky outside the beach house. It was still dark.

"Whose car is that?" Hutch pointed towards his Ford Sedan.

"Yours." Starsky's voice was barely audible.

"So, I... a ghost... drove my car from LA to BC, and then brought you here?"

"I don't know what to believe anymore, but I know what I saw." Starsky shivered to the cold sea breeze. "I saw you dying."

"Are you sure it was me?" Hutch asked, pulling Starsky into a hug, enfolding his arms around Starsky's waist. "Don't you feel warm now, Starsk?" He whispered against the dark curls. "Do you think a ghost can make you warm like this?"

"I saw you. I saw the knife sink into you. I saw the blood. God, there was so much," Starsky said softly, leaning his forehead against Hutch's shoulder

"If I'm a ghost how come you aren't running away from me?" Hutch asked, guiding Starsky back inside the beach house. He switched on the lights, and sat on the couch with Starsky.

"You are my friend. Ghost or no ghost," said Starsky.

Hutch took Starsky by the shoulder and leaned in to meet him at eye level. "So you trust me to not hurt you? Ghost or no ghost?"

Starsky frowned, his eyes fixated on Hutch's face as Hutch tugged at his own t-shirt and pulled it off of him. He reached and took Starsky's hand, bringing it to his chest. He pressed Starsky's palm against his beating heart. "Can you feel my life, Starsk?"

Starsky's eyes filled with tears, again. Each breath he took was so painful. His jaw muscles tightened, keeping away the sobs that were threatening to break him down. He freed his hand from Hutch's hold and lowered his eyes towards Hutch's bare chest. It was spotless. Starsky placed his palm on the spot where Leo's knife sank in. He moved his fingers touching and tracing the bare chest that was devoid of scars. He shifted his hand towards Hutch's neck with the same butterfly touch. He couldn't see any lines or any scars. Starsky moved his arm to the base of Hutch's neck where he felt Hutch's pulse. He placed the other hand on the chest and felt his heartbeat. Same rhythm. It was real. He had a very much alive, breathing, healthy Hutch in his arms. "Hutch?" he whispered.

Hutch, who cried all along with Starsky for all the torment he went through, who couldn't suffer any distance between them anymore, pulled Starsky back into his arms. "I'm right here. I never went away, Starsk."

"Hutch, Hutch. Oh, God. Hutch," Starsky sobbed uncontrollably into Hutch's bare chest.

Hutch closed his eyes, allowing his tears to mingle with the dark curls that snuck beneath his chin. "It wasn't me, Starsk. Leo had looked for and found a guy that looked like me. He paid him good money for the act. Leo didn't kill anyone that day. The blood was fake. No one died. No one was killed. He made you believe that it was me. The drugs he had given you were very strong."

"It was so real." Starsky tightened his hold around Hutch's body. "I felt you leaving me. I--"

"No. Never. He had drugged you, Starsk. The combination of the Hallucinogens and sedatives he had used were so strong that even if he had brought a spotted cow into that room and told that it was me you would've believed it." Hutch kept on holding Starsky, rubbing soothing circles across his back as his sobs subsided and were replaced by steady but shaky breathing.

"Are you sure Leo's dead?"

Hutch drew away slightly, cupping Starsky's face in his hands. "Dead sure!"

"And you are real?" Starsky's voice faltered a bit, as if he was still afraid that everything in front of him was an illusion.

Shaye jumped onto the couch and licked both of them non-stop as if she he knew everything was back to normal.

"You know, you can always ask Shaye if you're still not sure whether I'm a ghost or not," Hutch said, patting Shaye on her head.

"Can you see him, Shaye? Can you see a blond turkey sitting right here?" asked Starsky, pulling himself away from Hutch and tickling Shaye on her ears.

"Wuff," said Shaye, jumping all over them.

***

Later, while snacking on a slice of chocolate cake and drinking hot chocolate, Starsky and Hutch discussed and 'filled-in-the-blanks' of the time Starsky was held by Leo. Realizing they still had time to get some sleep before dawn, they settled back in in their beds, and Shaye, as usual, jumped onto Starsky's bed, snuggling at his feet.

"Starsk?"

"Mmm?"

"Do you think Leo really killed Tyler's lovers by himself? Did he ever say anything to you?"

"He always said that he was not a killer. Said he wanted them dead, but couldn't kill. But then he made me think that he killed you. That I don't understand."

"He was delusional. He didn't think of the damage he was causing to his image by 'killing' me in front of you. He only wanted you to believe that I was dead, and that anyone who got close to you would die. He didn't think beyond that. If he really wanted to kill me, he could've done that at some point. I think he wasn't a killer, but we'll never really know."

Starsky sighed. No… they would never know the truth about Leo. "Hutch?" he whispered, still trembling inwardly at the memory of Hutch being murdered. He stared at Hutch across the room.

"I'm right here, Starsk."

Starsky smiled. It was as if Hutch had read his mind. "We were planning to form a partnership. Weren't we?"

"You remembered?"

"Yup. I'll talk to Dobey. He's always onto me for not sticking with one partner for long."

"You better do that because I'm not going to leave you by yourself anymore."

"You sure you wanna come to BCPD?"

"I don't care where I go as long as you're there."

"Huh, how romantic-- "Starsky sneered, remembering immediately how Hutch had taunted and confused him about their relationship. "Why, you, you Turkey Buzzard, you said that we were--"

"Ah- ah- ah," Hutch stopped him. "I never said anything, Starsk. You just assumed--"

"You made me assume," Starsky said, half amused.

"Got you thinking, didn't I?" Hutch chuckled. "I had to get you thinking. Had to mess you up a little so that you'd want to know the truth."

Starsky's grin widened. Ah Hutch... he was something!

****

Shaye watched the two friends, hoping they'd fall into a relaxed, nightmare-free, satiated sleep. She sighed and settled in by herself trying to close out the voices of the two men. Aren't they ever going to shut up and sleep? Whining and grumbling a little, Shaye closed her eyes, remembering something Starsky had said, not just once, but twice. 'Turkeys'. Are they planning to have turkey for breakfast? Shaye fell into a deep slumber, dreaming of flying roasted turkeys. Yum!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Epilogue

"We have a new officer assigned to our precinct." Dobey walked in to the BCPD Metro squad room with a new recruit. "Meet Jeremy Fawkes."

Starsky and Hutch turned around to see a very young, tall, blond, Fawkes, who looked like a doll dressed in the smart blue police uniform.

Hutch couldn't help but notice the bright emerald eyes. He glanced at Starsky. A smile formed at the corners of Hutch's mouth at the sight of Starsky, who had turned very pale and become very tense.

"Detective Sergeant David Starsky," Dobey introduced Starsky to the young officer.

Officer Fawkes's smile widened as he reached for Starsky's hand. "David? That's beautiful name. Did you know it means 'beloved'? There're so many variations to that name?" he asked in a very soft and sweet voice.

"T'rrific. Another one of them," Starsky muttered, pulling out his hand from Fawkes's grip in a hurry. He picked up his leather jacket from the chair and was out of the squad room in no time.

Hutch couldn't suppress his laugh.

"I ... I just wanted to say that… with all his dark hair he could've been called Daegon." Officer Fawkes stared at the closed door. "Did I say something wrong?"

Hutch rolled his eyes and picked up his jacket. "Listen, Jeremy. If you ever want to see another day of your life, never mention the name Daffyd or Duh-Veed... or specially... especially… never ever say the name, Daegon. Got that?"

"But... but…," Fawkes stammered.

Hutch pointed his index finger and gave Jeremy the final warning. "Not another word!" He, too, was out of the squad room. Hutch had to find his irate partner before he launched his fury on some innocent bystander.

"I just wanted to say that maybe he would like to be called Dae," mumbled Jeremy Fawkes, thinking of making a good impression on Starsky the next day. After all... he had never seen eyes as blue as that, and he'd always had a thing for curly haired brunets.

~~~~~~The End~~~~~