Artwork by Monika Kettler. Thank you!

It was nothing unusual. The perp had tried to climb the fire ladder and Starsky had yanked him down. To break away from his persecutor the man shoved Starsky forcefully aside. Starsky was slammed against the wall of the brick-lined building and gave a yelp of pain.

"Stop!" he shouted and gathered himself to run after the man. He moved and knew that something was definitely wrong with his lower back. In spite of the pain he followed the perp, slowing down when he saw Hutch coming round the corner to stop the man.

"Not too bad," Starsky smirked, "We're a team, huh?" Hutch smiled and handcuffed the man who was wincing and cursing.

"You have the right..."

Starsky trudged after them. Finally they could end their shift and call it a day. In the evening they had a date at Huggy's with two gorgeous ladies they had met at the bowling center the weekend before.

Starsky was looking forward to it; this weekend he was sure to score with Mary Anne, or whatever her name was.

"See ya about 9 at Huggy's, okay?" Starsky told Hutch as he watched his partner driving away. He moved slowly to the stairs. Shit! His lower back was hurting badly. Every step up the stairs was a challenge.

In his apartment Starsky slumped onto the couch -- and jerked when the pain in his back intensified. It even hurt to sit.

Walking into the bathroom Starsky turned at the mirror to take a look at the damage. Carefully he lifted his shirt from his jeans and examined his back. The skin was an angry red, but that couldn't have caused the pain. The injury must be lower. Starsky unzipped his jeans and lowered them. Incredible pain rushed through him from the movement. He craned his neck to look at the painful area. His breath caught in his throat when he finally saw the injury.

Something had torn open his left buttock. Maybe an old nail, Starsky thought and cursed loudly. Hopefully it wouldn't hurt worse if he cleaned the wound and bandaged it. Without being able to see the entire area, he did the best he could in cleaning the wound and putting a bandage on it. His face was sweat-beaded when he had finished. Starsky looked at his watch and knew it was time to leave for Huggy's.

During dinner with Hutch, Janis and Mary Anne, Starsky moved about in his chair to find a spot that didn't hurt. He looked away when Hutch's concerned glance met him, to Starsky's relief, the blond didn't say a word.

Soon after they had finished their meal, Starsky whispered in Mary Anne's ear; she giggled. Starsky looked at Hutch and Janis and said, "Let's call it a night, okay?"

Hutch kissed Janis, then slid out of the booth to help her out and they left The Pits.

"See ya on Sunday, buddy," Hutch smiled and Starsky nodded.

"Yeah, you can help me to wax my red lady." For a moment Mary Anne looked at him in shock, then realized what he was talking about and they all laughed.

Because of his injury, Starsky wasn't quite up to his usual prowess in bed, their love-making was quite reserved and he enjoyed the warmth of the sweet lady by his side.

"Poor baby!" Mary Anne had exclaimed when she saw the bandage and listened in sympathy to Starsky's explanation.

Leaving early the next morning, Mary Anne kissed the sleeping man's flushed cheek tenderly and scribbled on the back of an envelope that she was looking forward to the next time they could be together.

"Try this drink, it's a new recipe I got from the health food store," Hutch said coaxingly.

They were sitting at the breakfast counter in the kitchen and Hutch handed Janis the glass. She looked a little skeptically but took a few sips.

"Hmmm, edible," she smiled and Hutch looked at her with admiration. She wore one of Hutch's shirts, her long, tanned legs uncovered. Staring at them in fascination, Hutch quickly lifted her in his arms and carried her into the bedroom again.

"You're insatiable," she giggled as Hutch sealed her mouth with a deep kiss.

Later they dozed lazily until they grew hungry and decided to have lunch at a new restaurant on the beach. Afterwards they took a long walk along the shore; it was a sunny day with a fresh breeze from the sea. Life was good.

Starsky could barely open his eyes. The sunlight that flooded the room made him wince and he felt strange. His head was pounding and he wondered if he had had too many beers the night before. His hand slid over the sheets to the other side of the bed searching for his date. He thought hard, then remembered her name; Mary Anne. But she wasn't there. Starsky recalled Mary Anne mentioning that she was going to her mother's to help her out today. He wondered why he was feeling so bad.

Nature was calling and he moved to get out of bed. Swaying as soon as he was on his feet, Starsky instantly dropped back down on the bed again. A knife of pain in his left buttock reminded him of the accident with the perp the day before. He realized that his wound must be the reason why he felt so bad. He slowly stood up again and made it to the bathroom.

Bracing himself against the sink, Starsky closed his eyes as a wave of nausea swept over him.

Feeling miserable, Starsky wished Hutch was there and knew that his partner would know what to do to help him feel better. If nothing else, Hutch would at least give support and comfort. However, Starsky knew that Hutch had intended on spending the day with Janis and he certainly didn't want to spoil Hutch's weekend.

Despite the fact that it was mid-morning, Starsky was not hungry and slowly walked out of the bathroom after taking care of business, using the wall for support. He made his way to his bed and slumped down onto it with a groan of pain. He drifted into an exhausted sleep.

"Take care, Hon," Hutch said to Janis late Saturday afternoon as she was leaving him. "See you next weekend?" He leaned down and kissed her through the open window.

"I hope so, unless I have to work. Bye, lover-boy." She threw him a last, promising smile, then she was gone.

With a contented sigh, Hutch trotted back up the stairs to his apartment thinking of all that he had planned to do before bedtime. There were clothes to wash and dishes to stack; then he would finally be able to relax and watch the baseball game that evening on TV.

Hutch thought about his partner and hoped he was enjoying his weekend with what's-her-name. He chuckled at the memory of Starsky's enthusiasm whenever he met a new girl. Though he knew that Starsky hadn't been serious with any woman since Terry's death, Hutch wished only for his partner to be happy. He thought seriously about calling Starsky to see how he was doing, but didn't know when his date was supposed to leave so he shelved his worry.

Grabbing a beer from the refrigerator, Hutch settled down on the couch to watch the game. It didn't take long that he was sound asleep.

Starsky was thrashing about on his bed sweating badly. Opening his eyes he saw that the room was dark. He had no idea what time it was or if he had slept all day. He could tell that he had a high fever.

Thirsty, but too weak to get out of bed to get himself some water from the kitchen, he moaned in pain as he rolled over onto his side. He needed Hutch as he knew he would take care of him. Having his partner close had always been the best medicine for Starsky. He looked at the phone. Should he call Hutch? No, Starsky thought, I'm a grown man and I should be able to cope with a little fever. He knew that Hutch usually gave him aspirin for a fever, but he couldn't move from the bed to get it from the bathroom.

He turned over again to get some more sleep, but was in such pain that he was unable to get some rest. Moving his hand down, he felt the area around the bandage and was shocked at the heat surrounding the wound. The touch caused such a pain that he quickly moved his hand away.

He knew the wound must have become infected and knew also that he should change the bandage and clean it but he couldn't move from the bed. He felt so weak. Shivering he curled up beneath the comforter and a blanket.

Hutch, I need you, were his last thoughts as he lost consciousness.

Hutch woke up with a wince from a cramp in his back and he stretched his legs and arms out carefully. He wondered how he could have fallen asleep on the lumpy couch. There had been numerous times when he or Starsky had crashed there; after a long stake-out, when they had tied one or when one of them wasn't feeling well. However, this time there was no excuse since Starsky was with a new lady and Hutch hadn't had too much to drink.

Sitting up, Hutch swept his hands over his face. He knew he should go to bed; a glance at his pocket watch told him it was well after midnight. He stood up and turned toward the bedroom then frowned as he remembered something unusual about Starsky at The Pits, but he couldn't explain it.

Should he give him a call just to assure himself of Starsky's well-being? No, that was ridiculous! It was past midnight, after all, and Starsky was an adult who was very capable of taking care of himself. If he needed him, Hutch knew that Starsky would call him.

Hutch trudged to the bathroom. Tomorrow morning he would surprise Starsky with his favorite breakfast.

The morning sun fell on a slumped figure on the bed. The covers were lying on the floor, having been kicked there overnight. Starsky shivered and stirred, then tried to roll over onto his back. His left side was throbbing. He wondered if a warm shower would help him to feel better. Like an old man, he crawled out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. The room continued to spin around him and despite the hold he had on the wall he crumpled to the floor unconscious.

"Mornin'!" Hutch called out as he gave a tap on the front door and then used his own key to get into Starsky's apartment. He hoped to surprise Starsky and make a breakfast for his friend.

Placing the bag of breakfast goods from the grocery store on the table in the kitchen, Hutch walked quietly to Starsky's bedroom. He wasn't in bed, so Hutch turned and saw that the bathroom door was ajar. Something wasn't right as it was much too quiet in the apartment.

When he entered the bathroom he stopped in shock to see Starsky lying on the floor, unmoving.

"Starsk? What's going on?" Hutch gasped as he dropped to his knees beside his partner. Carefully he lifted Starsky's head into his lap. The heat that emanated from his friend showed Hutch that Starsky was in deep trouble.

"You're running a fever, c'mon, let's get you into bed," Hutch said softly. He tried to help Starsky into a sitting position, but when he moved his friend Starsky moaned and slapped at Hutch's hands.

"Babe, what's wrong? Can you tell me where you're hurting?" Hutch cupped Starsky's face between his hands.

Starsky didn't respond and Hutch mumbled: "Have to take you to the hospital..."

"No, not gonna go... hospital," Starsky muttered confused.

"You can't stay here on the cold floor." A determined Hutch put his arms beneath Starsky's back and knees and lifted him into his arms.

"Hurts..." Starsky whimpered when Hutch carried him into the bedroom, and the blond worried even more about what was going on with his partner.

"Shhh, you're going to be better as soon as I take a look and see what's going on," Hutch whispered and laid Starsky on his bed.

"Hurts," Starsky repeated and his hand automatically moved to his lower back and winced when his hand touched the bandaged wound.

"What's wrong, Starsk? Let me see," Hutch said as he put his hand near Starsky's, feeling the heat of fever through the fabric of the blue pajama bottoms. Carefully he drew the pants down, but couldn't see very well as Starsky was lying on his back.

"Can you turn over onto your right side, buddy?" Hutch said softly. Starsky groaned and turned slightly so Hutch could see the reddened area and the infected wound on Starsky's left buttock as the bandage had slipped off.

Fear filled Hutch as he looked down at the wound. He cursed himself for not having called the night before when he'd thought about it

"Lie still, buddy. I'm going to have to clean this..." Hutch said gently and got up to retrieve the necessary supplies from the bathroom.

"Hu'ch...? Don't go..." Starsky moaned and Hutch quickly returned to his friend and leaned over to carefully tousle the dark curls.

"I promise I'm not going to leave you, just going to get some things from the bathroom. I'll be right back!"

His hands full of first aid supplies, Hutch hurried back to the bedroom and set everything down on the nightstand.

"Do you think you can turn onto your stomach, Starsk? I need to get to that wound," Hutch asked quietly as he carefully sat on the edge of the bed.

"I ain't that easy," Starsky tried to joke with his worried friend and Hutch chuckled softly.

"And you're not my type," Hutch countered with the expected response.

"Though I must admit," Hutch continued quietly while cleaning and bandaging the wound, "I have seen worse asses than yours."

Starsky squirmed beneath Hutch's hand, mumbling about "making fun of a man when he was down."

"You'll be fine soon, buddy, I'm sure," Hutch said, relieved that he had been able to take care of the nasty wound. He gently patted Starsky's right butt cheek affectionately. "I'm done. Do you want me to help you get dressed or would you prefer breakfast in bed?"

"Not hungry, Hutch," Starsky said apologetically, still lying on his stomach as if he would remain there for a while.

"You have to eat and drink something, buddy. Otherwise the medicine won't stay down," Hutch reminded his friend in a worried tone.

"Okay, then I'll have breakfast in bed," Starsky smiled into the pillow. He felt so much better now that Hutch was here. He didn't protest when Hutch helped him to change into a pair of sweat pants and then helped him sit up. The blond carefully propped the pillows behind him to cushion his back against the headboard.

Soon delicious smells wafted into the bedroom and Starsky felt contented. He wasn't sure he deserved a friend like Hutch. It seemed that whenever he felt bad, Hutch was always there to take care of him. He had never had such a close relationship with any other person and he smiled fondly as he thought about his friend.

His thoughts turned to Terry and he knew that their relationship had been different. Starsky had truly loved Terry and had wanted to marry her. She had accepted the strong bond he had with Hutch and had loved the blond almost as much as she loved Starsky. Then she had been killed and it had been Hutch who had stepped in and hadn't let go, even when Starsky had been at his worst.

Then there were the whispers at the precinct, other officers that were jealous of the close partnership between Starsky and Hutch, going so far as to accuse them of being gay.

"What are you grinning about?" Hutch asked looking puzzled at Starsky. He set up the food-laden tray over Starsky's lap.

"Just thinking of some of the idiots at the precinct," Starsky said without further explanation and took a sip of the orange juice Hutch handed him.

"What about you, handsome Hutch?" Starsky mimicked their friend and informant, Sweet Alice. He patted the empty side of the bed with his other hand.

"Wanna join me? Hey, you cooked me eggs and bacon! It's a real breakfast, not too healthy..." Starsky smiled.

Hutch grinned right back at him. "Yeah, I wanted to make sure that you had no reason to complain." He carefully crawled across Starsky's legs and settled down next to his friend and made himself a plate of bacon, eggs and toast.

Starsky could only eat a small amount of the delicious food.

Hutch watched him for a moment, then gazed at his friend's pale face and put his hand against Starsky's forehead. "Still a little too hot, buddy," he said pensively. "At least eat some toast, then you can take some Tylenol with your orange juice."

"I'm feeling better already, really, Hutch," Starsky assured his friend as he forced himself to eat a half slice of the toast. He leaned back against the pillows and closed his eyes.

"Here, take these and try to get some more sleep." Handing him the orange juice, Hutch waited patiently as his partner drank a few sips to get the pills down. Picking the tray up off Starsky's lap, Hutch sat it in the floor as he helped Starsky lie down in the bed again. He picked up the tray to carry it back to the kitchen, but stopped in the doorway when Starsky called to him.



"You staying here?"

"Unless you need me to wax the tomato," Hutch smiled as Starsky snorted.

"How'd you know that's what I was gonna ask? How 'bout telling me a story about you and your granddad," Starsky said.

"Okay, but on two conditions..."

"Never mind. I ain't making a promise to go on another camping trip with you," Starsky growled defensively.

"Hey, you're giving me ideas..." Hutch said jokingly, then went on seriously, "Starsk, tell me how you got hurt."

"You remember the idiot we chased yesterday? When he slammed me into the wall of that old building I must've fallen against a nail or something. Had to throw away my best jeans; tore the pocket."

Hutch chuckled. Just like Starsky to worry about tearing his jeans over having an infected tush.

"Then relax and get some more sleep," Hutch said perching again on the edge of the bed. Starsky tugged at Hutch's sleeve and moved over slightly to give him room on the bed. Hutch smiled and kicked off his shoes to settle against the headboard.

"Wait, Hutch," Starsky said as he placed a pillow behind Hutch's back.

"Thanks," Hutch told him with a smile, then sighed contentedly and began: "Would you like to hear how I learned to ride a horse?"

Starsky nodded, snuggling deeper in the pillow.

"'kay," he mumbled and Hutch went on.

"As you know, my granddad had his own ranch and during our summer vacation from school my sister Karen and I stayed there. We had lots of fun. For my eighth birthday my granddad promised to teach me to ride a horse. Karen was afraid of them, but I wanted to learn how to ride so bad that I couldn't wait. My father objected, of course. He said I was too young and my mother agreed with him since she had never been interested in riding. Nevertheless, one summer day my granddad brought out a small horse and helped me to sit on his back."

Hutch paused for a moment to check on Starsky's reaction and smiled. Starsky was sound asleep. Suppressing a yawn, Hutch closed his eyes for a moment. Within seconds he was asleep.

Something tickled his nose and Hutch stirred. He felt a familiar weight on his right shoulder and opened his eyes to find himself lying next to Starsky who had snuggled up to him, snoring loudly.

"Babe, you're going to wake up the entire neighborhood." Hutch gently extracted himself from beneath his partner and looked at his watch in shock. It was 2 pm! They had slept all morning. Hutch reached out and placed the back of his hand against Starsky's forehead, relieved to find that it wasn't as hot as before.

"C'mon, buddy. It's time to wake up and get dressed. I'll change the bandage after you've showered." "Whaa...?" Starsky was still half asleep. He stretched carefully and realized that the pain wasn't as bad as before, though he still had a slight headache. He felt much cooler.

"A shower would be great," he said as he got out of bed and slowly made his way to the bathroom.

Hutch watched him every step of the way just in case Starsky got dizzy again. "Leave the door open, okay, Starsk?" Hutch called after him but Starsky had already disappeared into the bathroom. Hutch could hear the shower start up.

What were they going to do with this Sunday, Hutch asked himself. To play it safe he should take Starsky to the ER to get a tetanus shot, but he knew that Starsky would object.

Maybe he could drive him up to the little diner up near Topanga Canyon and have lunch there first and on their way back they could stop by the ER...

"Hutch?" he heard Starsky call and in an instant he was at the bathroom door.

"...Can you help me with the bandage? Tried to put it on myself but can't see so well..."

Using the mirror Starsky had twisted as much as he could only to find that it was no easier today than it had been the other day to place the bandage in the right spot. Wrapping a towel around his waist he watched as Hutch entered the bathroom.

"I told you I would do it." Hutch chuckled and Starsky dropped the edge of the towel, exposing his butt to his friend.

"Okay, nurse Starsky, alcohol please. Thanks. Now antibiotic cream. Thanks. Gauze. Thanks. Now tape. Okay. Scalpel..."

"Huh?" Starsky gasped

Hutch laughed. "Just kidding."

Half an hour later they were sitting in the diner where they had a wonderful view of the canyon. Starsky managed to eat half of the meal and didn't complain at all about the lack of burritos on the menu. He never thought that this weekend could have turned out so peaceful. His fever seemed to be gone, he had his best friend by his side and maybe he could call Mary Anne this evening to arrange another date.

When they drove back to town Starsky blissfully closed his eyes and was already dreaming of ecstatic moments with his new girl, when the car came to a halt.

"Here we go," he heard Hutch say.

"Wow, that was fast. Never thought that... Hey, you've stopped in front of the emergency room! Not a chance, Hutch..." Starsky was set to curse Hutch soundly when Hutch continued.

"Second condition, pal. If you want to hear the end of the story about my first experience with horse riding at my granddad's farm, well, then you've got to get that wound looked at by a doctor and get a tetanus shot. Okay?"

Looking at his friend's blue eyes, full of concern and love, Starsky couldn't refuse. He nodded his head and climbed out of the car to follow Hutch into the building.

Just in case Starsky held his hand against his right butt cheek awaiting the worst...

The end

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