This story was written purely for entertainment and is not for profit, and is not meant to trespass in any way on the holders of the rights to Starsky and Hutch.
A lot of thanks to Wuemsel. Great writer, friend, and at times, even beta reader!
Like he had every day now for the last three months, Hutch parked his battered car in the parking lot of Memorial Hospital. Like he'd do every morning, the blond detective climbed the entrance stairs up to the large hospital hall, greeting the nurses and doctors, he'd passed in his way towards Starsky's room, with a nod.
Those three months, life had been nothing but an apparently endless routine of the same things, same fears, same worries for him. For the first days after the shooting, in those rare moments he'd leave Starsky's bedside, the fear of getting a phone call just to be told that his best friend's heart had stopped beating -- this time, for good -- tormented him pitilessly. Later, once Starsky had waken up from his coma, and as, very slowly, he began to get better, a new ghost haunted Hutch's exhausted mind: the constant fear of being unable to help his partner through his way back to health and to an independent, painless life. Plus, there were all those little things that he had taken for granted and that, since the shooting, he missed from the bottom of his heart. Those seemingly long gone days, with his partner by his side, feeling safe and carefree, almost invincible, the many nights spent with his best friend, at Starsky's place or his own, sharing a few beers, a pizza and a ball game on TV, even the boring stakeouts they'd shared, and mainly those quiet and special moments they'd spent just enjoying each other's company, at the beach, talking, getting playfully entangled in a faked fight like two little kids, or simply looking at the sunset after a rough day at work. How many times did Hutch talk to the unconscious Starsky about those days at the beach in a desperate try to get his comatose friend to return to life? How often did he find himself begging to the unaware man lying in bed, to wake up, so they would be able to see the sea again, together!
Since the day Starsky had been shot by Gunther's hitmen, and every time that Hutch got to catch some sleep, usually by his partner's bedside, nothing but anguish was once and again part of his thoughts and nightmares. Over those months, and as the curly haired detective managed to, almost miraculously, flee from death's claws, Hutch knew that though the roughest part of the road seemed to be over, he'd need all his strength to give Starsky all the care, help and support he would need in the months to come.
Now though, that morning, a new step in the biggest challenge that both men and their friendship would have to endure, was about to start. After many weeks spent caged in by the aseptic walls of his hospital room, Starsky had finally been discharged. With plenty of instructions to follow, medications and advices, but at last, Starsky would be able to go back home. It was something that just a few weeks ago neither Hutch nor any of the hospital staff members treating the severely injured man, thought would be possible.
"Hi Ken," Karen, the chief nurse greeted Hutch with a smile. "Ready to take Dave home?"
"Oh, sure. I bet he's already looking forward to that."
"Let me guess. As much as you do, right?" the nurse asked, gently squeezing Hutch's arm.
"Smart lady you are, Karen," Hutch answered, patting her hand, as a smile lightened up his tired features. "Besides being pretty, of course. Can a guy dare to ask you out some day?"
"Oh, well, now that our most spoiled patient is about to leave us, who knows. Maybe I'll get more time off." the nurse kept joking, while taking a wheelchair and wheeling it along next to Hutch, as they strolled down the corridor.
"Doctor Kellerman's already with Dave, to make him to sign his discharge papers, so I guess you both will be able to leave in just a little while," she informed Hutch on their way to the room where Starsky was handing back the documents, already signed, to his doctor.
"Morning Dave," the nurse greeted cheerfully. "So, finally, you are leaving us, uh?"
"Yeah, and I'm sorry, but I think I'm not going to miss this place. Though I'll miss you a lot, Karen, you know that," Starsky said, as his lips curled in a shadow of the old Starsky's grin.
"Know something, Dave? You're a hell of a bad liar," the nurse retorted, while settling the wheelchair near to Starsky. "Here's the wheelchair you are going to use to for a while, until the physical therapy helps you to get a little stronger. And I dearly advised to use it. I mean it, Dave. Your legs are still a bit weak, and we don't want you to fall down or something. Got it?" she asked, looking straight into Starsky's eyes.
"Yeah, sure. Perfectly. The message is that right now I'm as weak as a kitten," Starsky answered bitterly.
"Well, the thing is that since the hospital food isn't the best stuff to regain anybody's strength, we don't want you to have to come back here right after your first attempt at passing the exit," Karen joked in an attempt to cheer up the saddened man. "I'll see you in a while, Dave," she said before leaving.
"Okay David," the doctor said, resting a hand on his patient's shoulder. "You don't know how glad we all are to see you going back home. However, I want you to take it easy, okay? I don't want to have you back here until our next appointment, so try to eat well and get as much rest as possible. Don't push your body too much. You did great so far, and we don't need any setback. Right?"
"Don't worry about it, Doc," Starsky answered. "I'm afraid I'm not in enough shape to do too much on my own even if I'd wanted to." Despite the smile on his lips, the sparkle in Starsky's eyes was gone, his face looked pale and pinched, and he still looked so thin it made Hutch want to wince every time he looked at him.
"Here're the prescriptions with all the meds you need to take. Please David, don't skip them," Doctor Kellerman advised paternally, holding out some prescriptions for Starsky. Over the last weeks, and since the day when his "miracle patient" had been rushed into the hospital, nearly bleeding to death and with his body shattered by three bullets, he'd grown very fond of him, deeply admiring the braveness that the younger man showed to beat all the odds in a struggle that, Kellerman was sure of, no other man would have won.
"He'll won't forget it, Doctor," Hutch hurried to say. "I'm not about to let that happen."
"And you've no idea how greatly bugging Blondie here can be, when he turns into a mother hen," Starsky pointed out.
"Alright Gentleman, looks like everything's done here," Kellerman said, looking at his patient and Hutch. "I'm sure you can't wait to go home, David, and I got a lot of things to do, so I better leave. If you need anything or if you aren't feeling well, I want you to come back here at the first sign that something's wrong. Any time. Have I made myself clear, son?" the doctor asked, showing once more the genuine concern he felt for Starsky's welfare.
"Perfectly clear, Doctor Kellerman," Starsky answered. The three men shook hands, before the doctor left the room.
"Ready to go home, Starsk?" Hutch asked, while stuffing a couple of Starsky's sweatpants in a duffel bag.
"I couldn't be more ready, buddy."
"So, come on," Hutch said, helping Starsky to sit down in the wheelchair.
After saying their goodbyes to all the nurses, who, invariably, had all come to adore that kind man who, even in his worse moments of pain had always been nice to them, Starsky and Hutch went through the hospital entrance, being welcomed outside by a warm morning.
"Hey, nice day!" Starsky said, clearly delighted by the warm weather, covering his eyes with the sunglasses that, while pushing the wheelchair, Hutch held out for him.
"A little windy though. Want my jacket?" the blond one asked, going fully into his most protective mode.
"You joking, Blondie? It's perfectly warm. Just perfect," Starsky said, sprawling a little further in his wheelchair like a lazy cat eager for a sunbath. "I think I forgot how good it feels to be outside."
"From now on, you'll get plenty of time to enjoy the sun, partner," Hutch stated, pouring tenderness in each one of his words. "Okay Starsk, give me a sec."
On reaching his car, the blond detective applied the brakes to both sides of the wheelchair, before opening the car door and helping Starsky to get in, wincing once more on noticing how thin his friend's body had become.
After placing the wheelchair in the trunk and starting the engine, Hutch drove off the hospital parking area, still plunged in dark thoughts. Starsky was alive. This single fact could be called a miracle indeed, however, he still looked so drained and ill that Hutch couldn't look at him without feeling a mixture of pity and rage against Gunther and all the damage he'd caused to Starsky; his body, his life and possibly his career in the force. Yet, the worse, the most overwhelming feeling, was guilt. Guilt for having been unable to somehow protect his partner from those three bullets. For having been unable to get between those gunmen's bullets and Starsky's body. To take them for him.
"Know something?" the brunet asked all of sudden.
"Huh?" Hutch answered, trying to get back to the here and now.
"There's something I would like to do. A place where I wanna go."
"A place? What place, Starsk?" Hutch asked curiously.
"I wanna go to the beach. I'd like to see the sea again."
"Sure, partner. You got it. In a few weeks, as soon as you're feeling a little stronger, we are going to spend as much time at the beach as you want."
"No, Hutch. Not in a few weeks, but now. I'd like to go now."
"Now? Come on, Starsky, you have just been discharged from the hospital."
"My point exactly. I was in that damn hospital more weeks than I can recall, not even getting a pinch of real sun, even least a little of fresh air for the fear of catching pneumonia or something."
"Please, Hutch. I'm okay. A little dozy due to those fucking painkillers, but okay. I'm not in pain. Let's go to the beach. Just for a little while. Now. There is no better time for doing what you want that WHEN you want it, you gotta savor the present. Didn't we learn that in the hard way, partner?"
Starsky was staring at Hutch with that look that made it impossible for the blond to deny anything to his friend. And, if just for a moment, the sparkle was back, glowing in his dark blue eyes.
"Okay, partner, okay. You win. The beach, it is," Hutch conceded, turning the car left to get on the road down to the beach.
A few minutes later, they were there. Hutch killed the engine, getting out of the car to get the wheelchair, and Starsky managed to get out as well, this time on his own.
"Hey, Starsk, easy partner, easy." Hutch strode back to Starsky's side, supporting him "Remember what Kellerman said? You could get hurt."
"I don't want the wheelchair, Hutch. Not th-this time, please," Starsky said, a little out of air. "The sand'll do the wheels no good, anyway."
"Starsky... Maybe it's not such a good idea after all," Hutch said tentatively, knowing how badly Starsky wanted and needed to reach the seashore on his feet.
"Damn it, Hutch! I'm not trying to win any fucking marathon! I only wanna walk a few feets through the sand, and then sit down there for a few minutes. Is that so huge a task?"
"Aw, Starsk!" Hutch rolled his eyes "Okay. Kellerman would bite our heads off for this, but we'll do it your way. But I'm gonna take a blanket with us."
True to his words, Hutch searched on his back seat, until he found a chequered, ragged blanket, then they started their short walk down the beach, Hutch supporting Starsky by encircling his waist, as the brunet's arm grabbed on his friend's shoulders.
"Let's sit down here," the blond said, spreading the blanket on the sand and then carefully helping Starsky to sit down, worried at seeing him closing his eyes, as pain tinged his features. "Are you okay, Starsk?" Hutch asked, concerned.
"Sure... it's just that lately I'm not too used to move so much, I guess," Starsky said, opening his eyes and breathing slowly and carefully.
"Maybe we should go home now, Starsky." For an answer, Starsky just patted the blanket in a clear request for Hutch to sit down by his side.
"I'm fine Hutch. Besides, I'd like to think that I'm not made of china. Relax, will ya?" With a deep breath Hutch sat down on the blanket, beside Starsky. At that hour of a weekday, the beach was almost empty, there were just an old couple taking their dog for a walk and a fisher, sitting on the rocks a few distance away, gathering together his fishing gear. The only sounds to be heard were the calming roar of the waves and the squawk of some gulls flying over their heads. At that moment and place, the pain and fear of the last months seemed just to be part of a fading nightmare, and for a brief moment, Hutch enjoyed the sensation of feeling free of worries again.
For a few minutes they sat in silence, both staring dreamily at the horizon, plunged in their own thoughts, while the sea breeze messed up their hair.
"Too cold?" Hutch asked, while taking off his jacket, wrapping it around Starsky's shoulders.
"I'm okay, Hutch. Better than I was for a long time," he answered, though he let Hutch cover him with the jacket. After that, and seeking for the comfort of being close to his friend, Hutch pulled Starsky closer, rubbing his arm, as Starsky closed his eyes, letting his head sink down to rest against the blond's chest. At that moment, being close to each other, enjoying each other's company, nothing else mattered. The whole world was fine, as far as they were concerned.
"So, is it now?" Starsky asked in a sleepy voice.
"Now what?" Hutch asked, unable to guess what his friend was talking about.
"When you are asking me for a date and kissing me?" Starsky asked still with his eyes closed and dead serious.
Hutch snorted. "Dirtball! You're such a comedian, aren't ya?" Hutch complained, though still unwilling to let go of the comfort of his friend's warmth.
"Don't look at them," Starsky said, opening only one eye. "But I think that that old couple is about to call the coastguard. You know, their poor dog seems to be under age, and we are offering him a too scandalous sight."
"Simonetti and Dryder would love to get a few pictures of this, by the way," Hutch said, as his lips curled in a smile at the thought.
"Did you ever think that maybe we couldn't come back to the beach any more?" Starsky asked plainly, all amusement gone from his voice.
"More than once, Starsk. More than once." Hutch couldn't help but cringing at the memory of his fear of losing Starsky.
"Back at the hospital you asked me over and over to wake up, to get better, so we could come back together here, to see the sea," Starsky stated matter-of-factly.
Hutch, too surprised to say anything, just stared at his friend's relaxed face, so, after a brief pause, Starsky kept talking, "I mean, while I was in a coma. You told me how much you wanted to go the beach with me again."
"How... How do you know that, Starsk?" Hutch managed to ask in bewilderment.
"I've heard it, I guess. Somehow, while... while sleeping, I managed to hear all what you told me."
"And, know something?" Starsky said, finally sure that some things couldn't wait. "I'm the lucky, the blessed one for having your friendship, for having a second chance to be here and now, looking at the sea with you again. And, don't get me wrong, partner. You're not my type. But I love you too."