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Orchids spell death (Co-written by Judith Goodger)

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Months slipped fast in the middle of busy days and, almost without noticing it, spring was coming. Kenny and Paul, already three months old, were growing up healthy and happily. Vicky enjoyed taking care of them though it was exhausting work. But she enjoyed even more seeing Starsky bathing them patiently, changing their nappies, and loving and spoiling them. He was doing his best to help Vicky as much as his shifts at work allowed him to do, and it wasn't unusual to find him curled up on the couch with the babies, talking to them, or tickling them to hear their laughter, or see him carrying both children in his arms to the yard, with Samson always by their side. A year after their wedding her love for him was growing more and more with every passing day, and she always had a hard time trying to picture her loving husband as a tough street cop. At times she joked with Jenny that maybe he was suffering from some kind of split personality.

On the other hand Jenny and Hutch were enjoying their special relationship, loving each other deeply. In her second ultrasound they found out that they were expecting a girl, and in a couple of weeks they had everything almost ready for the baby girl's arrival. The whole world seemed to revolve around the happiness of both couples.

-00000000-

That was the first day that Thomas was going out. In the last months he had left his work on long term sick leave totally unable to get out from the safety of his house. In fact he did his shopping by phone and he hadn't put a foot in the street since that day. The day in which that huge dog had scared him to death. Everywhere he went, he saw dogs. Black dogs, white dogs. All colours and sizes dogs, trying to eat him up alive. The hardest part was to try and suppress the sensation of power and the sexual arousal that he got from killing those damn pregnant women. He tried hard to get over it, unsuccessfully, so now he couldn't do anything but go back to his workplace and look for a new victim!

Jenny waited impatiently by the telephone, willing it to ring. Glancing for the umpteenth time at her watch she knew that she would be late for hospital appointment. Hutch had promised to be with her but ten minutes after she should have left there was still no sign of him. Finally, knowing she could wait no longer, Jenny hurriedly scribbled a note on the telephone pad and stuck it on the receiver before picking up her bag and leaving. Hurrying as fast as her condition and size allowed she got into her car and turned it towards the hospital as, back in the house, the telephone began ringing.

"No answer!" Hutch slammed the receiver back down and turned his exasperated look to Starsky.

"Well you'd say her appointment was at two o clock and it's half past one now. She would have left ages ago Hutch. Why don't you try ringing the hospital?" Starsky's voice was calm and reasoning knowing how frustrated his partner was feeling. They had been stuck on a stake out for the best part of the morning and nothing had come out of it. Unable to find a telephone booth Hutch had become increasingly agitated at the thought of being unable to go with Jenny on her last hospital appointment before the bay was due. Starsky cast a quick glance at his partner and could see the hanging of his head.

"Yeah ! You're right Starsk. I'll give her five minutes and then I'll ring again. How the hell I'm going to be able to make this up to her I just don't know."

"Hey! You'll think of something Hutch. Besides you're a cop. Sometimes you have to break a promise. It's something Jenny's gonna have to get used to if you two are gonna make a go of things!" Starsky opened the passenger seat of the Torino and gestured for Hutch to get in. "Tell you what buddy. We're about forty minutes from the hospital. I figure if I really try I can cut that down to thirty five. What say we forget the phone and head straight there. The reports can wait for a couple of hours."

Blue eyes met twinkling indigo ones and held for a split second before Hutch threw himself inside the car. Laughing quietly to himself Starsky trotted around to the driver's side and got in. At this rate Hutch would be a nervous wreck before his baby was born.

Jenny sat in the waiting room waiting to be called. She had arrived ten minutes late but thankfully the Doctor was running half an hour late due to an emergency so she had time to sit and collect her thoughts. Although a little angry with Hutch for not being there she knew that there would be a very good reason for his absence and tried hard not to be cross with the man but rather with his job. Sitting there she realized that this would probably be how it would always be. She loved Hutch, she knew that, but she couldn't bring herself to alter her feelings about marriage and times like this only helped to reinforce those feelings. Yet a part of her heart made her think about Vicky and Starsky and how successful their marriage was. She had seen Starsky with the twins, seen how much he cared for and spoiled Vicky; had witnessed firsthand the price he was willing to pay for those he loved and she envied her best friend despite knowing deep in her heart that she too could be that safe and loved, if only she could open her heart enough to accept it. Her pain ran deep though, too deep and her mind refused to let her open herself to such pain again no matter what the cost.

As Jenny sat, lost deep in thought, the hospital cleaner began his work on the floor around her. As he approached her chair with his mop she lifted her feet slightly allowing him access to the floor beneath her chair and she smiled at him. The man smiled back briefly before continuing on his way along the corridor. At the end of the corridor he paused in his work and turned to watch the young woman. Her blond hair glistened as the sun coming in through the window landed on it and her smile had been warm and encouraging.

"So you're here again Mother, and carrying yet another bastard to take you away from me! Well we'll have to see about that. You never learn Mother. You never listen when I tell you that you're mine. No one will take you from me again!"

He watched as a nurse approached the young woman calling her name.

"Jennifer Summers, the doctor's ready for you now."

As Jenny disappeared into the surgery she cast a final glance in the vain hope of seeing Hutch but all she saw was the cleaner disappear around the corner.

"Summers. So that's the name you're using this time, Mother! Well I'll find you, same as I always do and when I do, you'll suffer again and again!" The man left his mop and bucket where it stood and walked quickly out of the hospital.

Starsky roared to a halt in front of the hospital and Hutch ran from the car. True to his word Starsky had made the journey in thirty five minutes and Hutch was once again grateful for the Torino and the skills of its driver even though he would never admit it. Starsky watched as Hutch hurried up the steps smiling to himself.

"I'll catch you up in a while Hutch." Starsky's voice was lost to Hutch as he disappeared inside the building, taking little notice of the small man hurrying the opposite way. His long legs took him along the corridor in seconds and he stopped in front of the nurse's station impatiently.

"I'm looking for Jennifer Summers. She had an appointment here this morning."

The young nurse looked at the tall man in front of her and her heart gave a leap. Controlling her heartbeat she checked her patient list.

"You are?" Professionalism kicked in as she continued her assessment of the man in front of her.

"Hutchinson, Ken Hutchinson. Jenny Summers is my girlfriend. I was supposed to be with her today but I got held up." Hutch tried hard to control his impatience and for once was unaware of the effect he was having on the young nurse. "I need to know where she is!"

At that moment Starsky arrived having safely parked the Torino. He quickly assessed the situation and, placing a comforting hand on Hutch's shoulder, he reached inside his friend's jacket pocket.

"It's okay Nurse" Starsky peered at the name tag. "Williams. He's a cop and right now he's in trouble with his very pregnant girlfriend who he promised faithfully to accompany to this appointment. Would you mind checking your notes and telling us if she's still here?" Starsky smiled his best smile and waited.

"Jennifer Summers, wait a minute" The young woman glanced down at her notes to collect herself once again. "She's with the doctor right now. If you knock on that door over there you can join her."

"Thank you Nurse Williams." Starsky kissed the back of her hand before turning his partner around and guiding him to the door. Knocking three times he opened the door and pushed Hutch through before crossing to take a seat on the hard chairs in the waiting room. Quietly laughing to himself he knew that he would have a good tale to tell Vicky when he got home tonight.

Back in his small untidy home Thomas Harris was lifting an old, battered case from the back of a dark cupboard. Laying it on the floor he opened the case and lifted out a small metal box which he carried in front of him to the threadbare rug in front of the fire, By the light of the flames which flickered fiercely he opened the box and took out the shiny item inside. Holding it reverently he ran his finger along the sharp metal blade not flinching as it cut into his finger and the blood trickled down onto the rug. Twisting it in the firelight he smiled a cold smile as he twisted the blade of the scalpel in the air in front of him.

"Time for you to do your work again my friend. Mother will feel the pain as you cut off her life's energy."

Anyone watching the scene would have been shocked to see the madness in the eyes of the small man and the blood lust in the features of his contorted face.

Hutch had sat quietly listening to the doctor's words as he told Jenny that their baby was healthy and a good size. All the arrangements had been made for her arrival whenever the baby decided to put in an appearance and now all she had to do was go home, relax and get as much rest as possible while she had the chance. Tonight he would make sure that she did just that. He would cook to her a special meal to make up for being late. As the two left the examination room Hutch placed his arm protectively around her waist and guided her towards Starsky who was sitting on a mat in the corner of the waiting room playing cars with a boy of about four years old as his mother, heavily pregnant and looking well overdue, watched on. Seeing his friends coming towards him, Starsky hurriedly made his goodbyes to both child and Mother and scrambled to his feet meeting them half way across the room.

"Everything okay?" He spoke directly to Jenny but his eyes asked the same question with a different meaning to Hutch who quietly nodded in reply.

"Everything is fine Dave. Thanks for getting Ken here albeit a little late. Guess I'm going to have to get used to your work keeping you away from me." Jenny kissed Hutch on the tip of his nose smiling.

"I'm really sorry Jen. We looked for a phone to warn you but there were none around. I promise I'll make it up to you tonight with a special dinner."

"Sounds pretty good to me Ken. I'll expect you about 7.30." Turning to Starsky she winked at him. "Now kind sir, do you think I could please beg a lift home or do I need to grab a cab?"

"I'm at your service my lady. Our reports have waited this long I guess another half an hour isn't going to make a lot of difference. The trio walked out of the hospital together. As they walked down the steps, they passed a small man who seemed to be in a hurry. Starsky felt that there was something unsettling about him but couldn't quite work out what. Shaking his head he carried on after Jenny and Hutch before turning and heading for the parking lot to retrieve the car.

Thomas Harris quickly and quietly returned to where he had left his mop. Outwardly he appeared calm, a man engrossed in doing a job to the very best of his ability. Inwardly his mind was racing. He knew the name she was using; now he had to find where she was staying this time. He had been unimpressed with the other places but realised that she would need somewhere quiet and uninspiring if she were to hope to hide from him. Harris was a patient man when he had to be and it was a simple thing for him to wait for the doctor to finish his morning appointments and leave the room. Taking his mop he walked into the room as the doctor left. It wasn't difficult for him to get into the filing cabinet where the patients records were kept. He always was very skilful for that kind of things. Flicking through the files he found the name he was looking for.

"Jennifer Summers. It won't be long now Mother. Soon, tonight, I'll have my revenge once again. Revenge is very, very sweet!" Harris quickly scribbled down the address and replaced the file, locking the cabinet behind him. `Too easy' he thought to himself.

It was approaching five thirty when Jenny made her way to the bathroom for a relaxing bath before Hutch arrived. Turning on the taps she headed for the bedroom to undress. It was as she was returning to the bathroom that there was a knock on the door. Silently cursing under her breath she turned and headed for the door. Opening it carefully she was greeted by a small, dark man in a telephone repairman outfit.

"Good afternoon madam. We've had a report of your telephone being out of order would you mind if I checked it?"

Something in the back of Jenny's mind made her uneasy and she kept her foot firmly against the door.

"I'm sorry but I think you've probably got the wrong address. I just finished using the phone not two minutes ago and it's fine. Now if you'll excuse me I was about to take a bath." Jenny's voice was firm and she made to close the door. Her efforts were in vain as it came up against something solid and, glancing down, she saw the man had his foot in her doorway. Alarm bells rang wildly and she slammed the door as hard as she could. She was rewarded with a loud yell of pain and she allowed herself a small smile as she hurried to the phone and dialled Hutch's number. Receiving no reply she quickly hit the cut off and redialled this time Starsky's number. Vicky picked up the phone and was surprised to hear the frightened voice of her friend asking for Dave. Starsky took the receiver from his wife and listened.

"Dave please get over here fast! There's a man…something about a phone…he's…" the voice cut off and Starsky shouted down the line.

"JENNY! JENNY, GET OUT OF THERE! FOR GOD SAKE, MOVE!" Starsky listened for a couple of seconds before slamming down the phone. Grabbing his gun and jacket he raced for the door giving orders as he moved.

"V, Call Hutch. Tell him to get over to Jenny's place NOW! Starsky was out of the door and heading for the Torino at a dead run, praying as he went that he would be in time.

Jenny hurriedly looked around the room for something to defend herself with. Grabbing the poker that lay by her grate she slowly began to head backwards towards her kitchen and the back door. As she did so she heard an almighty crash and spinning around she could see the panel of the door split and a hand reaching for the lock. Suppressing the urge to scream she changed her direction heading instead for the bedroom where she wildly looked around for somewhere to hide. She knew Starsky was on the way, which meant that Hutch probably was too. All she had to do was stay out of this maniacs' way until they got there. Trying to slow her breathing she listened to the sound of footsteps walking around her home. Her hands shook and her breathing sounded loud to her own ears.

"Really Mother. Did you think it would be that easy? Did you think I would give up just like that?" The voice that floated towards her was cold, hard and maniacal. "You have to pay Mother. You have to pay for leaving me alone with the devil. For choosing that Bastard child over me. There's no use trying to hide from me. I'll find you wherever you are and when I do I'll enjoy slitting your throat and cleansing your body of that foul creature you carry!"

Jenny shivered in fear and held on tightly to the poker. She could hear the footsteps coming ever nearer and her ears strained for any sound of sirens. She knew that it was at least twenty minutes from the Starsky's house to hers and five more from Ken´s. Somehow she had to buy them time to get there.

Suddenly her time had run out for standing in front of her with his back towards her was her intruder. Summoning all her strength she raised the poker and brought it down hard across his shoulders, missing her target by centimetres. Harris fell to the floor in pain and Jenny, grabbing her chance to flee, ran as fast as she could towards the door. She almost made it! As her hand reached for the handle she felt a vice like grip on her ankle and she fell to the ground with a thud. Twisting and kicking out she struggled to break the hold but to no avail. She could see the cold eyes staring at her and she desperately tried to pull her dressing gown around her.

"This is an added bonus. You've a beautiful body Mother despite that devil child inside of you. But that will soon be gone." Harris reached inside his pocket and removed a surgeon's scalpel from it. He held it up to the light for a few seconds allowing the terrified woman to take in the full implications of what he was about to do to her. Then he reached forward.

Jenny screamed and her hands reached for anything she could use. They clamped shut on a drawer and she pulled it forcibly towards her swinging it around her body as she did so. The wood splintered as it made contact with the face of the maniac holding her causing him to loose his grip on her ankle. Scrambling to her feet she once again headed for the door. Again she almost made it! A pressure around her throat stopped her in her tracks and she felt herself lifted from the ground and thrown onto the bed. Jenny kicked as hard as she could but was rapidly losing her battle with consciousness as her strength sapped away. She felt the blows as Harris pummelled her body and her arms instinctively tried to protect her unborn child. She felt the agonising pain as Harris slashed her arms with the scalpel and she used the last breath in her body to cry out in pain. The last thing she was aware of was the blade of the scalpel as it pressed into her throat. Her last thought was of Hutch.

Starsky raced up the front path and threw himself at the door as hard as he could. He was rewarded with the sound of the door shattering and he fell inside the house. From somewhere behind him he could just make out Hutch screeching to a halt and racing from his car. Quickly glancing around Starsky yelled for Jenny. As he listened he could hear muffled sounds coming from upstairs and he headed for the staircase taking the steps three at a time. Hutch came in just in time to see Starsky reach the top stair and hurriedly follow him. Both men heard the weak cry of a woman and it added to their adrenalin rush. It was Starsky who got to the room first and he grabbed Harris by the shoulders, spinning him around and punching him hard in the face. Grabbing his wrist Starsky forced the scalpel from the man's grasp before pushing his hands behind his back as hard as he could. Cuffing his attacker Starsky finally had time to turn to his partner.

Hutch was leaning over the still and bloodied form of Jenny, his hand gently brushing her hair away from her face. Starsky was beside them in an instant, reaching for her neck he felt for any sign of life praying that they had been in time. He was rewarded with a faint, weak pulse.

"She's still with us Hutch." He reached for his partners shoulders and forced him to look at him. "You hear me Hutch? She's fighting hard and we need to help her." Hutch nodded slightly and Starsky released his grip. "I'll call an ambulance. You take care of her. Okay?" Starsky waited for the returning nod before racing from the room and back down the stairs to his car. It only took a matter of seconds before he had organised an ambulance and a patrol car to pick up Harris and he was racing back up the stairs to Hutch.

"Helps on its way Jenny. Hang in there honey." Hutch was talking softly to her as Starsky fell through the door. "Just hold on for me. I love you and I'm not about to let you leave me so you better fight. You hear me Jenny? Fight hard."

"The devil's whore and her bastard child deserve to die!" Harris's voice came cold and hard across the room and Hutch spun around. He was across the room in a stride and had Harris held up by the collar when Starsky reached his side.

"Easy Hutch, easy. You don't wanna do that, buddy. Go back to Jenny. She needs to hear your voice. Starsky's grip on Hutch's wrist held firm until he could feel the other's begin to ease. "That's better Blintz. Go, sit with her until the ambulance gets here." Starsky pushed Hutch back towards the bed before turning to face Harris. "You better pray pal, because if she dies there'll be nowhere you can run too, nowhere you can hide that I won't find you. That's not a threat, it's a promise!" Starsky turned and walked slowly back to Hutch's side leaving a subdued Harris on the floor.

From the moment the ambulance arrived things started to happen fast, and before he knew where he was Hutch was back at the hospital, sitting, waiting for news of Jenny while Starsky shadowed him. The only time he had been alone was the five minutes Starsky had grabbed to phone Vicky. He had tried as gently as he could to tell her what had happened to Jenny and explain that he would be staying with Hutch as long as he needed him. Vicky had immediately understood and had begun to arrange a baby sitter so that she could join them. Vicky tried to remain calm, though Starsky knew perfectly well the distress that his wife had to be feeling.

"Vicky. Listen. I'd prefer that you take a cab. Please…you're too much upset to drive."

"Okay Dave. I will."

By the time she came at the hospital Starsky had managed to persuade Hutch to take a drink of coffee and the two were huddled together in a corner with Starsky shielding Hutch from prying eyes. She just had time to join them when a doctor came out asking for them. Hutch flew to his feet instantly recognising Dr Phillips from earlier in the day.

"How is she Doctor?" Hutch's voice was low and Starsky placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Jenny's in a coma Detective Hutchinson. Her body has closed down and, at the moment we have her on life support. She suffered some terrible internal injuries from the beating, and right now her pregnancy is an additional complication. We're really worried for her baby. If things don't improve in the next two hours or so then we may have to do an emergency c-section."

"Forget the baby Doctor. I'm only interested in Jenny. Will she make it?" Hutch's voice was hard, cold and clipped and Starsky spun around to get a good look at him, dumbfounded at what he had just heard.

"I understand your worry Detective Hutchinson but believe me. We're doing our best to help her, though right now, we can't assure you that she will make it. The next 48 hours will be critical. If she lives only time will tell what kind of life she will have. A lot depends on how long she remains in a coma. Like I said, her body has gone into shock and closed down. Right now she's on life support but, if she is does well, we'll slowly start to withdraw it in the next days. Then it's up to her." The doctor spoke firmly but sympathetically. "I have to go now but if I can help you any more then you know where to find me. Jenny has been moved to an ICU room so you can go and sit with her now if you want to. Talk to her, it helps coma patients to recover if they can hear those they love."

The doctor turned and left leaving Hutch staring at his back.

"Hutch, you okay?" Starsky placed his hand on Hutch's shoulder but he shrugged it off.

"No Starsky, I'm not okay. If I'd listened to you back when you had your doubts about that fucking killer then this would never have happened. Jenny wouldn't be lying in a hospital bed. Why didn't I listen Starsk?"

"Hey, take it easy buddy. It's not your fault! Now's not the time to go on a guilt trip. Jenny and the baby need you."

Hutch spun around his eyes blazing. "It is my fault! No matter how you look at it Starsky, it's my fault. I should have been with her. So if I want to take a `guilt trip' as you put it then I think it's pretty justified. Damn it you've had enough of them in your time." The colour drained from Starsky's face and he turned away from his friend. "As for the baby, if she weren't pregnant then this wouldn't have happened would it? Who got her pregnant? Me! So you see, whichever way you look at it it's my fault."

Vicky had heard enough and she came in eyes blazing. "My God Ken Hutchinson, you've got one almighty big chip on your shoulder. How dare you? That girl lying in a hospital bed is my best friend. Closer than a sister to me, in case you forgot it!...And don't forget either that could so easily have been me lying in that room, or anyone of a number of other women. If it were me I'd want the man who claims to love me by my side right now giving me a reason to hang on, to come back to this rotten world. I wouldn't expect for him to be standing outside feeling sorry for himself and I certainly wouldn't expect him to be attacking those who loved him. Then maybe we were all wrong about you. Maybe you're not half the man we all thought you were." Vicky turned from Hutch. "Come on Dave. I think it's time we go to find a telephone. I need to call Jenny's parents." Vicky linked her arm through Starsky's and gently steered him away from Hutch. As soon as they were out of earshot she paused. "He doesn't know what he's saying Davy. You know he didn't mean what he said back there."

"Do I Vicky? I've never seen Hutch quite like that before." Starsky reached for his wife and she placed her arm around him pulling him close, offering comfort. Finally, with one last backward glance at Hutch, the two left the waiting room.

Hutch entered the ICU room. The only sound was the buzz coming from the life support machines. Jenny seemed asleep, except for all the tubes and wires that surrounded her body. Hutch sat down in a bedside chair, trying to find a little trace of life in the unmoving body next to him.

"Sorry…Sorry Jenn. I wasn't with you when you needed me most. The worst thing is that Starsk knew. He knew that nut was still free and walking around. But me…I just kept telling him, `Oh come on Starsk. Try to relax, that guy is already dead.' GOD Jenny! How I could be so blind!" There, in the loneliness of that room, Hutch cried. Bitter tears. Unstoppable tears. Knowing how much he loved that beautiful, kind and brave woman, and wondering if he would have still time to show her all that love.

"Know something Jenn? Once you'll be back home, I'll ask you again. I'll ask you to be my wife. I know. You don't want to get married…But I don't mind. I can be pretty stubborn and I'll ask you over and over. And you'll have to think seriously about it because you won't find a guy like me anywhere Jenny. Fight, please, fight...I need you, sweetheart…I really do."

In front of the hospital public phones Starsky waited as Vicky tried to get in touch with Jenny's parents in New York, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder as she struggled to find the right words to say to Jenny's mother about what had happened.

"Mrs. Summers?... Lauren?...Yeah It's Vicky Starsky…I mean Vicky Walsh, Jenny's friend…Sorry? Yeah, I got married. David, yeah, He's a police officer. Listen Lauren, I'm calling you because I'm afraid I have bad news, you must get here as soon as possible"

Vicky had a hard time trying to get the attention of Jenny's mother, who, when she finally let her talk, took the news with a pretended coolness that left Vicky even more upset.

"God! That woman must be made of ice." Vicky said, holding Starsky and resting her head on his chest "Okay. I'll take a flight as soon as possible. Thanks for calling me Vicky. That's all. Can you picture it Dave?"

Starsky could do it perfectly. In fact Hutch parents weren't very much different regarding feelings.

"Come on, honey. Give the lady a break. She must be pretty upset, but you know, for some people it's pretty hard to show their feelings. And what about Jenny's dad, huh?"

"ON A CRUISE! Sailing in the Caribbean Sea, with his second or third wife or whatever the hell she is, and unreachable at the moment. As for Mike, her brother, he's working in London…Sweet Jesus! These people drive me nuts!" Starsky rubbed her back and she hugged more tightly to him as they both walked back towards the ICU area.

Through the next hours, Hutch spent long whiles in Jenny's room, going out only to let Vicky be with her friend, since the ICU regulations allowed just one person at a time to be with the patient. Starsky's wife looked calm, but she was trying to hide a wave of powerful rage, and a heartbreaking sorrow. The woman, so important to her throughout all her life, the friend that helped her to survive the most trying years of her life; to keep the hope, and even in a way, to find the man of her life, was lying there, defenseless and weak, fighting for hers and her baby's life.

With a soft smile, Vicky remembered all their Christmas's together and the many happy and sad times they had both shared, especially that evening when Jenny, with her usual nerve invited Starsky to have dinner at her place.

"That evening you knew what you were doing, Jenn, you knew it all too well" Vicky said fondly stroking her friend's hair.

"Jenny… Don't you dare to leave us, do you hear me? I still need you. Damnit! Now I have Dave and the children, but I'll need you always, and you know it, so come back, Jenn."

While Vicky was in her friend's room, an uncomfortable silence hung between Starsky and Hutch. The blond one sat down in a chair, rising several times just to walk like a caged lion around the waiting room.

"Know something Starsk? Vicky was right. I hadn't any right to talk you like I did a while ago."

"Come on Blondie. Never mind. You're upset. We're all pretty worried."

"I wasn't even at home when she called me asking for help. Jenn had to call you, Starsk."

"Me, you, I don't really think that it does matter at all Hutch."

"How comes that you don't see it Starsky? What would have happened if you hadn't been at home when she called you?"

"But I WAS Blondie, nothing else matters right now, Okay?"

Just then Doctor Phillips came into the room to check once more on Jenny's vital signs. After a glance at the blood pressure monitor, he turned to Vicky.

"Seems that we have a problem there. Please. Could you come with me?" A terrified Vicky followed Doctor Phillips into the corridor where Starsky and Hutch were waiting. She walked towards Starsky trembling visibly, sheltering in his arms.

On seeing the face of the doctor Hutch became pale.

"What's wrong Doctor?"

"Her blood pressure is rising dangerously. Her kidneys aren't working and this is dangerous for her and for the baby as well. A surgery is highly risky in her current condition, but if we want to give them a chance we haven't other choice but to do an urgent c-section, though I must warn you that your daughter is still pretty immature, and she may have serious pulmonary problems, or even other permanent complications."

"Just help Jenny. That's all that matters." Vicky and Starsky exchanged a glance but neither made any comment.

Minutes later, Jenny was wheeled towards surgery and all they began their wait. In Hutch's mind floated another waiting time just some months before, when Vicky was in surgery and Kenny and Paul were born. Though that was a very different wait. Then, Vicky was okay, Starsky's children would be fine and he had Jenny by his side

The c-section didn't take much longer than normal, so roughly forty minutes later, Doctor Phillips approached Hutch, sill wearing his surgical scrubs.

"Well Detective Hutchinson, the c-section is done. She's in recovery, and soon we'll take her back to her room. Right now her kidneys aren't working and we we're inserting a catheter to start with the hemodialysis, though her kidneys condition might be reversible in the next few days. Other than that she's is pretty stabilized. As for the baby, she's pretty under the optimal weight, about four and a half pounds, and she has serious breathing troubles due to the immaturity of her lungs. She's in an incubator with oxygensupport, but if you want you cango to the premature area to see her. It's on the tenth floor." One more time Hutch seemed not to hear anything related with his daughter. "When will I be able to be with Jenny Doctor?" Phillips and Starsky exchanged looks for a second. Hutch's behaviour was strange even for the doctor, though he only allowed his professional manner to show. "Hum…In a while she'll be in her ICU room. Then a nurse will tell you"

Telling them that he would be in the hospital until the next morning and that they could reach him at any moment, Doctor Phillips left the waiting room. Again a dense silence hung around Vicky, Starsky and Hutch.

Vicky was the first to talk "I'm going to the incubator area. Somebody must give a little love to that poor baby." With firm steps, she headed towards the lifts, leaving Hutch and Starsky alone.

"Hutch"

"No Starsky. I'm warning you. I don't want to hear any lecture right now" Hutch aimed his forefinger at Starsky.

Starsky answered talking with his softer voice. "Not a lecture, just a question. Don't you love your daughter Hutch?"

"NO DAMNIT! I'm trying, but I can't Starsk! That fucking baby is the reason for what has happened to Jenny!"

"If that's what you think, there's very little that I can do to change your mind, but tell me something Hutch. What would Jenny think if she knew what you were doing?

Without answering Hutch left the waiting room.

Vicky entered the nursery area and, after getting dressed in green sterile clothes, gloves and a mask, she was lead in front of a transparent plastic incubator where a tiny baby was resting. Small electrodes were covering her tiny, thin body and atinynasal cannula entered in her little nose

"Hey little Louise…Welcome. Your mummy will be so happy when she sees you." Vicky caressed the little baby's abdomen with a gloved hand. "Mum can't be with you right now, but she's fighting hard to do it." Tears slipped down Vicky's face. "I'm Auntie Vicky, and soon you'll meet Uncle Dave...I'm sure that you both will have a lot of fun together. He's a terrific guy, like a big child. You'll meet Kenny and Paul, and Samson too." The little body stirred under Vicky's touch. "And I'm sure that your dad will come here very soon to meet you, and he'll be pleased seeing that you're such a beautiful baby"

Vicky spent a while talking and caressing the little baby, before going back to the ICU area to find Starsky in the corridor. On seeing her wet eyes he embraced her gently and she was grateful for his comfort. Meanwhile Hutch was keeping his watch over the unmoving form of Jenny.

"I'm going back home to be with the babies Dave. Stay here. He could use a good friend tonight." Vicky's said nodding towards Hutch.

"But, Vicky"

"I'm okay Dave. I'll come back early in the morning. I love you." Kissing his lips, Vicky left the hospital.

The next day Jenny's mother came from New York, heading straight from the airport to the hospital. The woman showed her usual chilliness; though on see the pale and unconscious body of her daughter surrounded by wires, tubes and life support machines, something touched her heart.

"What did the doctor say Vicky?" Vicky filled Lauren in on Jenny's condition, adding that Doctor Phillips would come soon to check on his patient.

Awhile later the doctor came back and after taking a glance at Jenny and all the life support system, affirmed that her condition hadn't experienced any substantial change, though that wasn't unexpected, considering the circumstances.

Neither Vicky nor Starsky were able to convince Hutch to see his daughter. Every time that one of them tried, the only thing that they got from Hutch was indifference or angry words

In this way four days passed. After three, Jenny was able to breathe on her own, and her kidneys slowly began to work again, though she was still in a coma. On the other hand, the baby was improving slightly, though she would still spend some weeks in the incubator. Starsky and Vicky were doing their best to spend as much time as possible in the hospital and Hutch even got some days off, spending all his time there. In this way, he got the chance to share a lot of time with Jenny's mother. She wasn't so disagreeable as in the first moment she had seemed to Hutch, but just a sad and tough woman who had to overcome a pretty hard life, losing hopes, illusions, and even the ability to show her feelings in the way. In fact, she was pleased knowing that a man like Hutch loved her daughter, and soon she began to change her cold demeanour, in the long hours they both spent together in the hospital, though when the armour of Mrs Summers seemed to crack even a little more was when she saw her little granddaughter.

That morning Hutch and Mrs. Summer were taking a break, drinking a coffee in the waiting room, while the nurses were making Jenny's bed, when she asked with a soft smile in her lips

"She's a beautiful baby, Ken. Don't you think so?"

"Oh, yeah. Sure Lauren. She's lovely"

"What's wrong Ken?"

"What do you mean?"

"You haven't seen the baby yet, right?"

"Oh, well….I" Hutch's brain was racing trying to find the right thing to say, when a nurse ran from Jenny's room towards Doctor Phillips office.

"NURSE! What's happening nurse?" A very scared Hutch asked running after the nurse with Lauren behind him.

"Jenny is waking up!"

A second later, doctor and nurse ran towards Jenny's ICU room, with Hutch and Lauren behind them. As the door closed in his face Hutch paced. His whole being ached to push past the obstacle separating him from Jenny but his head told him to wait, to let the Doctor do his job. `Funny, it's usually Starsky I'm waiting to get to'. The thought came unbidden into his head and he realised that for the first time in a very long time someone else had taken first place in his priorities.

Five frustrating minutes later Hutch was finally allowed inside and he flew to Jenny's bedside his eyes rapidly taking in the woman before him. She was extremely pale and her eyes lacked their normal brightness. Faint bruisings to her face still bore testament to the fight she had put up against her attacker. A drip flowed into her left arm and monitors still quietly bleeped in the background but to Hutch it was still the most beautiful sight in the world to have Jenny awake and looking back at him.

"Hi Sleeping Beauty." Hutch whispered quietly into her ear as he bent over and kissed her gently on the only gap he could see that had no bruising. "You had me a little worried there for a while."

Jenny reached up with her right hand and Hutch hurriedly took it, holding it firmly, allowing his love to flow through the simple touch.

"I'm sorry Ken". Jenny's words were a mere whisper.

"For what?" An incredulous Hutch asked.

"For this...for what has happened..." Jenny's voice broke with a small sob and Hutch squeezed the hand he was holding.

"That's enough Jenn! None of this was your fault! You hear me?" Hutch spoke softly but firmly, his voice commanding her to listen. "If anyone's to blame for all this it's me. I wasn't there for you when you needed me, and I put you in that position in the first place!"

From somewhere in the back of her still foggy mind, Jenny tried hard to lock on to whatever Hutch had just said that made her uneasy but she was in no condition to grasp it. Instead, she asked the one question Hutch couldn't answer.

"The baby Hutch…How is she?"

This time she did lock on to the mask that dropped over his face and she struggled to focus.

"She's fine Jen. Nothing for you to worry about. I need you to concentrate on yourself and get better for me."

Now the alarm bells were beginning to ring very gently. Hutch had said get better for him, not for us. Too tired and drug induced Jenny was unable to think things through clearly enough and her eyelids began to droop.

"Go to sleep Jen. Rest and grow strong. I'll be here waiting for you, I promise." Hutch's voice sounded far off as she allowed her eyes to close. It was as she was in that calm and welcoming place when you are not quite asleep but not awake that her mind finally worked out what it was she had been trying to grasp. Her baby's father had rejected her child!

Four days more went by and Jenny's condition kept improving, up to allow the doctors to move her to a regular room. As Hutch and Lauren maintained their vigil at Jenny's bedside long into the night a solitary figure stood by the side of a cot in the premature baby unit. One finger was entwined by a tiny fist, and Starsky was quietly singing to the still form hooked up to so many instruments. His thoughts went to his own children lying safely at home in their cots with their mother not far away from them. Vicky was an excellent mother. She had changed, Starsky now realised, since their arrival. She had the kind of a glow that comes with motherhood and he loved her even more than he had ever thought possible. His world had finally gone full circle and he had all the things he had dreamed of but long since given up any hope of getting.

A faint twitch of tiny fingers brought his attention back to the tiny child in front of him and his anger began to grow. Anger like he had never felt before, against the one person he never thought it possible…Hutch!

"Hey Louise. Your Mummy's getting better. Soon she'll come and hold you in her arms and love you. In the meantime I'm afraid you'll have to make do with your Auntie Vicky and Uncle Dave. We love you too little one and you'll always be welcome with us. Gently Starsky leant forward and lifted the sleeping baby from her cot, one hand holding the oxygen cannula close to her nose. Louise fitted snugly in one arm and Starsky gently began to sway from side to side, humming softly. As he did so the tiny eyes opened and looked straight at him. For a moment Starsky stopped his swaying. The eyes looking directly at him were the ones he knew so well. Little Louise, who's very presence her father seemed to deny, had his eyes and, right now, they seemed to be looking into Starsky's very soul. Very carefully he placed her back into her cot.

"This has gone on long enough my little one. Your father is going to have to get his act together and stop blaming you...and himself...for this whole damn mess."

Kissing his finger and placing it on Louise's head Starsky turned and headed determinedly out of the door.

At dawn, Hutch and Lauren were taking a break from their long vigil and were taking a coffee in the almost deserted canteen. The early hours of the morning gave them a quiet time to sit and gather their strength for the day ahead. Both knew that Jenny still had a way to go but both were experiencing the overwhelming relief of having her back with them and on the way to full recovery. For a while they sat in silence both lost in their own thoughts. Then Lauren broke the silence.

"Hutch, tell me to mind my own business if you like but why won't Jenny marry you?" Hutch's eyebrows rose and Lauren smiled. "You have asked her I take it?"

Hutch nodded in affirmation. "She's scared I think, Lauren. Something about your marriage and blaming herself for it breaking up. It's like she thinks if it hadn't been for her untimely arrival then maybe you and her dad would have made it together." He paused for a moment as he saw the woman's face cloud over. "Sorry Lauren, I didn't mean it to sound."

"It's okay Ken. It's not your fault. I guess in a way it's mine for not talking to her more at the time. Trouble is it hurt so much I just closed it all away in a little box at the back of my mind. If I didn't think about it then it hadn't happened. Does that make sense to you?" Her eyes held Hutch's asking for his understanding.

For a moment he looked at the face in front of him and he had a brief glimpse of the pain she held inside her.

"Yeah! I think it does Lauren. Maybe though it's not too late for both of you. Talk to Jenny. Now is as good a chance as you might ever get to put the past well and truly behind you both once and for all."

Hutch's hand had reached across the table and found Laurens offering comfort and understanding through its touch. Usually she would have recoiled against it, her blanket of protection wrapping itself around her and locking out her emotions. This time though she forced herself to let it remain and accept the offering. She could feel the warmth running through it and burning itself into feelings she had long since thought extinguished. Hutch was right and she knew it. It was time to speak to her daughter, truthfully and honestly.

"Ken, I know you want to get back to Jenny but I want to ask you a favour. Give me some time with my daughter, just an hour maybe. We've a lot to talk through and maybe, if I get it right, maybe I can make her see that she's not to blame."

Hutch smiled and nodded. "I think I can last an hour now that I know she's okay. Good luck Lauren."

Lauren rose and made to leave. "Go and see your daughter Hutch. She needs you too and right now I think she feels a little neglected."

Lauren was dismayed to see the mask slip into place across the face of the man in front of her as he rose from his seat.

"Sure. Maybe I will." Hutch's voice was clipped when it came. Turning he strode out of the canteen. "I'll see you in an hour Lauren."

Disappointed Lauren headed off in the opposite direction towards her daughters room. She was almost at the door when she nearly ran straight into an angry looking Starsky creeping out of the room quietly closing the door behind him. He just managed to catch her as she lost her balance trying to avoid him.

"Sorry I was looking for Hutch. Figured he would be here but I was wrong."

"I just left him Dave. We were in the canteen having a coffee and a talk. Is my daughter awake? I need to talk to her."

Starsky shook his head and Lauren softly swore to herself under her breath. He laughed quietly as he released his hold on her arms.

"A lady's not supposed to know words like that Lauren."

She laughed back. "You'd be surprised at the words this one knows, Dave, besides. Who said I was a lady?

"I did! A special lady too! I've watched you these last few days. When you came I thought you were a cold fish who was here because she had to be but you're not. You hide your feelings well Lauren, but not from someone who knows what they're looking at. You love your daughter and I think you'd do anything for her. All she needs to do is ask. Go on, go talk to her, wake her up to do it if you have too. You both deserve a second chance. Good luck." Starsky kissed her forehead gently and for the second time that morning she stood her ground without recoiling at the touch.

"Thank you Dave. Keep your fingers crossed for me."

Starsky held up both hands, fingers on both firmly crossed, and grinned at her as she disappeared from view into the room. Once the door closed, his face reverted to the angry look it had held some five minutes earlier and he strode off on his quest to find his partner once more.

Hutch had fled the hospital, his thoughts in turmoil and the need for fresh air and daylight overwhelming. He sat on a bench in a small garden park opposite, feeling the morning sunrise beginning to warm his face and he looked upwards at the sky as whispery clouds gently scuttled across the bright blue. He watched as a mother bird flew back and forth over and over pushing food into the wide-open beaks of its young and it focussed his thoughts on his reasons for being there.

Somewhere, in the cold brick building behind him, was a tiny cot surrounded by life giving equipment and inside it lay his child. A daughter, that he was sure of but what else did he know about her. Nothing he realised and for a second his heart contracted. Then the voice inside his head that had been talking to him ever since this whole nightmare had begun started up again and he clamped his feelings down tight. The only reason the woman he loved and wanted more than anything else in this world was in a hospital bed recovering from a horrific attack that would never have happened if it hadn't been for that baby! Harris would never have picked her out as his victim if she hadn't been pregnant with his child! They hadn't wanted a child, anyway she was a mistake! A total, one hundred percent, almost lethal mistake and he had almost lost Jenny because of her. No matter what nothing could take that away and because of that nothing would bring him to allow this child into his heart!

Slowly rising from the bench Hutch glanced at his watch before turning and walking back to the hospital. Lauren had had her hour, now he was going to be with Jenny.

-00000000-

Lauren and Jenny sat hand in hand. Jenny looked pale and there were glints of unshed tears in her eyes. Together the two women had opened up long locked away memories, had released the anger and bitterness. Neither woman blaming the other as Jenny had quietly listened to the real reasons her parents' marriage had broken down. Her father, she now understood, was a selfish individual who had married too young without realising the full commitment of what he was taking on. As her mother had battled to bring up Jenny and her brother her father had continued to act like a single man. He spent money they hadn't got, stayed out all night with no thought for his family. Her arrival hadn't been the cause of the break up, merely the catalyst.

"I'm sorry Jenny. I should have seen what I was doing to you. I never dreamt that it was because of me you never married. At the time it was self preservation. If I didn't give love then it couldn't be rejected and believe me, there is nothing worse than rejection." Lauren tightened her grip a little on her daughters' hand. "Don't make the same mistake as I did Jenny. Hutch loves you! Don't turn him down because I failed you."

Behind them the door opened and the person they were speaking of walked quietly into the room. He leant over and kissed Jenny gently on the forehead.

"Sorry Lauren. I couldn't stay away any longer." He spoke to the mother but his eyes never left the daughter.

Lauren rose, releasing her hold on her daughters' hand. "It's okay Hutch, we were finished talking anyway. I'm going to see my granddaughter." Again she saw the stiffening of Hutch's back as she mentioned his child and she had to force herself to turn away and leave. This was between him and Jenny.

As she made her way up the stairs and along the corridor to the special care unit she suddenly became aware of nurses running towards Louise's room and she increased her pace. An alarm was sounding from the cot and a doctor was hurriedly checking the tiny figure out. She watched in horror as a tube was pushed down the tiny throat and attached to an oxygen supply. Suddenly she felt a hand on her arm and she spun around to see Starsky watching events over her shoulder.

"What happened?" his voice was soft yet strong and she allowed herself to lean back onto him, needing his support as her legs became like rubber.

"I... I don't know. I was just on my way to see her and..." The woman's voice cracked and a single tear slid down her cheek.

"Hey! It'll be okay. She's in good hands." Starsky placed his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his body.

For a few moments he allowed her to cry on his shoulder as he watched the action going on around the cot. Someone had turned off the alarm and the quiet was deafening as he uttered a silent prayer to whatever guardian angel watched over him to help Louise. Finally it looked as though his prayers had been answered as a smiling doctor headed from the room towards them both.

"How is she doc?" Starsky was demanding, knowing he had no right to be told but needing to know all the same. The tiny bundle had won his heart almost as much as his own children and he had to know she would be all right.

The young doctor looked at him for a moment before answering. All of the medical staff on the unit were aware of the circumstances surrounding Louise and he had seen with his own eyes the way this young man in front of him acted with her. He may not be family by blood but right know he was the best thing to a father to her. He addressed Lauren but spoke directly to Starsky.

"We had a little bit of a hiccup for a moment there but it's okay now. Her lungs, as you know, are still not fully developed and she was struggling to get enough oxygen. We've put a tube in and we're going to let the machine do her breathing for a while. You can go and sit with her for a while if you want. We'll be monitoring her every half an hour so if there's anything you want to know then just ask. I'll make sure that you're both kept informed."

Starsky´s eyebrows rose a little before he nodded his thanks to the doctor. Gently he steered Lauren to the chair beside the small cot before pulling another up beside her. His hand reached out to the tiny one lying on the sheets and the fingers instantly locked around them.

"It's okay Louise. You're not alone. Granny and Uncle Dave will stay right here. Sleep little one and grow strong for your mom."

So it was that Lauren and Starsky spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon, neither willing to leave the tiny form as she fought for life. As he sat so Starsky's anger towards Hutch grew.

In Jenny's room Hutch sat by her bed holding her hand as she slept for a while, content just to be by her side. A nurse had hurried into the room and was about to say something but the look he gave her halted her in her tracks. She had been sent from the special care unit to tell them about Louise knowing that the only one who would care was the mother. It was well known among the nurses that the father didn't want to know and they all hated him for it. Aware of her orders she tried again.

"Detective Hutchinson. Your daughter…" but she got no further.

"The child is in the best place and her mother is asleep! I don't want her to be disturbed. She needs to rest and get her strength back. I'm sure that whatever it is the nurses can deal with it." Hutch kept his voice low yet hard and his eyes were dark and unreadable.

Quietly the nurse left the room, her anger barely in check and her feelings for the man full of hatred.

As she left Jenny turned in the bed and slowly opened her eyes.

"Ken?"

"Yes Jen, it's me. How are you feeling?" His voice now was full of tenderness.

"I'm okay, I think. Sore, tired, but pretty good considering the circumstances I guess. Ken we need to talk...about our baby."

Hutch rose and walked to the window. "She's fine Jenny. I told you. The nurses are looking after her and your mother sits with her when she's not with you. There's nothing to talk about and nothing for you to worry about either except getting better so I can take you home."

Too weak still to argue Jenny's heart sank and she turned her back on him, eyes closed. Now she was sure. Hutch had cut their baby out of his life. Until that moment she had been ready to take a chance and tell him she would accept his proposal. Now she knew that she couldn't. She had been responsible for bringing a life into the world and she would be responsible for bringing it up with or without its father, no matter what her feelings for him were.

"Jen is there anything you want?" Hutch was once again the man she knew and she had to steel herself to answer.

"I want you to leave Ken." Turning back she looked him face on. "Either take me to see my baby or leave. It's up to you." She turned her back knowing what he would do. Still she felt her heart contract as she heard the slow footsteps move across the floor to the door where they paused for a moment before continuing out and the door closing behind him. Only when she heard the door close did she allow the tears to fall.

It was early evening when a tired Starsky put his head around Jenny's door to find her sitting, quietly crying with Vicky by her side. His eyebrows rose questioningly as he kissed his wife before perching on the edge of the bed.

"Hutch is gone, Dave!" Jenny managed to answer him before Vicky could open her mouth. "I told him that either he took me to see Louise or he could leave... and he left!"

Starsky's eyes flashed with anger but he wouldn't allow it to sound in his voice. "Vicky and I will take you to see her just as soon as I can get the okay from someone. Then I'll find Hutch!"

It was half an hour later that Jenny finally got to sit with her daughter and hold her hand. Starsky had managed to find the doctor who, once he heard the full story, agreed that she could go as long as she was with someone all the time and she went in a wheelchair. So it was that Starsky pushed the chair into her room and helped her carefully into it. The three of them then made their way to the Special care baby unit where Vicky and Starsky stood back and watched as Jenny got to meet her baby.

"Stay with her Vicky. There's something I have to do, something that I should have done a few days ago!" tenderly kissing his wife he hurried from the hospital.

Hutch was in a booth at Huggy's. He had gone straight there when Jenny had told him to go. He had drunk little but Huggy had long since decided to leave well alone. He had tried to talk to his friend for about fifteen minutes to begin with but Hutch had told him in no uncertain terms that he didn't want his company and so he had given up and returned to the bar, keeping one eye on Hutch all the same. When Starsky walked in Huggy could see by the way he held himself that he was barely holding his anger in check. He watched as Starsky's eyes scanned the room before resting on Hutch in the corner. Disbelief filled him as he saw Starsky's fists clench and he realised that it was Hutch that Starsky was after. He watched as Starsky walked across to the corner booth and stood, feet slightly apart, effectively blocking the way out.

"Wondered where you were hiding yourself Hutch. Should have guessed it would be here. Come to drown your sorrows I guess!" Starsky spoke quietly, his voice clipped and Hutch looked up.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Full of self-pity Hutch failed, for the first time in a long time of knowing his friend, to read the signs.

"While you've been enjoying Huggy's hospitality guess where I've been partner." The last word was almost spat out and Hutch's eyebrows shot up as he finally began to pick up the signals.

"I've just spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon with your daughter. YOUR daughter Hutchinson, not mine. She was fighting her tiny heart out for her life and she needed you, but you let her down. I never thought I'd see the day when you'd let an innocent child down but you did it today! Jenny's with her now and she's gonna make it, they'll both make it together. You blew it Hutch. You had it all and you just let it all slip away in a second of self-indulgent pity. Well I hope it was worth it!" Starsky's fists clenched and unclenched as he spoke, not caring how much his words might hurt.

"Now wait a damn minute Starsky. For your information I never let anything slip away as you put it. Jenny told me to go, so I went. I love her, you know how much I love her but it seems she doesn't love me. As for her kid"

"YOUR kid Hutch! YOUR kid." Starsky shouted at him and the bar fell silent. "Man you are so wrong about Jenny. She loves you partner, it's written all over her face, in the way she acts, the way she looks at you. But she loves her baby too and she's responsible for Louise just as much as you are. Unlike you though, she doesn't blame Louise for what happened."

"It wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for that child!" Hutch was shouting now too and he rose from his seat trying to use his height advantage to make Starsky back off. Starsky though was undeterred and stood his ground.

"MY GOD HUTCH" How can you say that? Louise is an innocent baby caught up in a dreadful mess and you're trying to blame her for it. Did she ask to be born Hutch, huh? NO! Did she ask to have to spend her first few days of her life fighting to live, abandoned by her Father? No! IF anyone is to blame for any of this mess it's the idiot doctor who let that maniac out of the nuthouse in the first place or maybe it's his father for being such a puritanical monster and making him like he is, or maybe it's the good Lord himself. I don't know but I sure as hell DO know whose fault it isn't and that's Louise's. Well; that child needs someone to care about her, to hold her hand and let her know she isn't alone. You and I both know how important that is! I'm going back to the hospital and if you've got anything about you...if you're just a little bit of the man I thought you were I know than you'll come with me." Starsky turned and made to leave. He was halted in his tracks by a hand on his shoulder.

"What's the matter Starsky? Two kids not enough for you that you've got to pick up another waif and stray?"

"And what exactly does that snide remark mean Hutch?" Starsky's eyes were flashing with anger and Hutch was slowly drowning in their icy coldness.

"Well let's see shall we PAL! There was that pretty little model turned junkie that you took home with you. What was her name? Now let me think…Sharman that's right, Sharman. Enjoy getting off with her did you, Starsk? Enjoy playing the hero? Hutch never knew what hit him. Starsky had spun round on the spot and his fist had connected with Hutch's jaw quickly followed by another to the stomach which bent him double before the one on the chin which put him on the floor. Starsky towered over him, eyes coal black, face a mask of cold hatred.

"I'll look after your daughter if I have to Hutchinson. I'll be there for her whenever she needs me and I'll tell her about her father too. A man who had to put the blame somewhere so put it all on a tiny newborn child. A gutless, spineless man, who crawled away when the going got a little bit hard. A man who threw away everything, including one of the best friendships a guy could ask for. Goodbye Hutchinson!" Starsky turned and walked out of the bar. Huggy watched through the window as he climbed angrily into his car and screeched away.

Starsky drove for a long while in no particular direction, ending up on the coast road. The moonshine filled the night and a fresh breeze was gently blowing his curls.

Pulling to a halt in a little promenade from where the clear night and the sea shone in all their splendour, Starsky got out his car. With his head pounding and his mind racing, he sat down on the Torino hood, plunged in gloomy thoughts

This can't be happening. His thoughts were out of control and Hutch's words were gnawing their way deep inside his heart. Starsky knew what it felt like to be rejected. His mind flew back to when he was thirteen and his mother had sent him away! To a lonely, mixed up teenager he was being cast away like yesterday’s garbage and it had left a deep mark on his very soul. There was no way he was going to stand by and let Louise suffer the same thing.

I told you that our friendship was over Hutch and I meant every word. I've had enough. I won't waste any more time with somebody who leaves a poor child alone. Starsky's heart ached remembering Louise's blue eyes, so like Hutch's. The efforts of her little body to hold on to life, as Hutch kept rejecting and forgetting her again and again. Fortunately, Louise would have Jenny, but if she didn't get through her recovery, if something happened to her, then, what?... Hutch's daughter would become another little Kathy? Another lost child spending all her life looking for a little love, to end up sleeping in a old warehouse, while his father went on with his life as a respected police officer?... No, Louise...no matter what happens. You'll always have a place with Vicky, our sons and me. In our house and in our hearts!

Starsky spent a long while just thinking, staring unseeing at the sea. He felt tired and eaten up with so many things, feeling that all he had been through with Hutch over the last years was just a lie. Finally, near midnight he came to a decision.

It's time for a change. No more homicides blood and dirtiness, no more pimps, drug dealers and whores. No more days putting my life on the line with a partner who is turning into a hard, pitiless and cold man. I'm tired…Too tired of all that crap.

He would ask a transfer to juvenile, to try to help all the unhappy kids alone and wandering around the city. Children who were orphans, or even worse, victims of their parents' indifference or mistreatment. With the idea growing in his mind he got into the car and drove home.

After Starsky had left `The Pits' Hutch had stayed where he was, on the floor, thinking over everything that his partner had thrown at him and the mean and inexcusable words that he gave him in reply. It was only when Huggy had offered him his hand and he had risen to look in the washroom mirror that Hutch finally really looked at himself, hating what he saw.

"I asked for that didn't I Huggy?"

"Let's just say that you've had it coming for a little while, bro!"

As Starsky opened the door, Samson met him looking for some fuss. From the bedroom came the sweet sound of a lullaby. Smiling, he headed there, standing for some minutes in the entrance, just looking at the beautiful scene of his wife cuddling the sleeping twins, one in each arm.

Noticing his presence Vicky smiled at him as he approached and took his family in his arms. Vicky softly kissed his lips and Starsky took Kenny from her arms to place him in his cot, covering the baby with the covers. Once Vicky settled Paul in the cot beside his brother she and Starsky spent some minutes just watching the children's peaceful sleep before going back to the living room, still with their arms around each other's waists.

"Thanks Vicky" Starsky held his wife in a tight embrace "Thanks for being here. For loving me and our sons so much" He was resting his tired head on her shoulder.

"What's wrong Dave? It's so late that I began to worry. Are you okay?... You don't look too well." Vicky was guiding Starsky to the couch looking at him concernedly.

"He...Hutch keeps rejecting Louise, and I...I hit him" Starsky placed his head in Vicky's lap, feeling exhausted, as she caressed his curls.

"In the Pits, awhile ago. I went there looking for him. We exchanged some pretty harsh words, I lost my temper, and punched him."

"Come on Dave. He knows you. Hutch knows that at times, you can be pretty hot-headed, and he won't hold any grudge against you. Especially because, sooner or later, he'll see that you're right." Vicky was dismayed to see the underlying pain in her husbands' eyes. She knew that there was more to this than Starsky was telling her and it made her uneasy.

"No Vicky. This time it's not so simple. He said that two kids weren't enough for me and that maybe I wanted pick up another waif and stray!"

Vicky sighed deeply "Wow. That comment wasn't very smart."

"He said some things that I... I don't think I can't work with Hutch any more. Vicky. I'm going to ask for a transfer to juvenile, work with the street kids."

This was something she didn't expect. Now she knew just how serious the situation had become and she fought her emotions that were threatening to boil over, trying to be the calming voice in everything, to give Starsky time to really think about what he was saying. "Dave. Listen to me, love. I can guess how you're feeling right now. Hutch is acting like a complete idiot. But he's your best friend. You've both been through a hell of a lot together over the last years. You've saved each other's lives more times that you can recall. And that is important. Too important I think to give up on so easily. Maybe this is none of my business but..."

"Don't say that Vicky: You know that your opinion means a lot to me. You're one of the most important people in my life. You, Kenny and Paul"

"And Hutch Dave. Don't forget Hutch. Listen honey. I wouldn't want to see you making a wrong decision

"Not anymore Vicky. Not Hutch, not after tonight it's all gone and I'm not sure that I ever want it back!"

"Okay sweetheart." Vicky spoke soothingly. "You're tired. Try not to think any more about it tonight. Do you want something to eat?"

"No V, I'm not hungry, just exhausted I guess."

"Then, go to bed and I'll bring you a glass of milk." She hugged Starsky, softly rubbing his back. "Try to get some sleep. In the morning you'll see things differently."

Starsky headed to their bedroom with the certainty of being lucky and blessed to have such special lady by his side, loving him. At the same time his heart was aching to think how wrong things had turned with Hutch.

A while later Vicky brought him a glass of milk. She got into bed and held him in her arms, as she did every time he was feeling, sick, worried or sad like tonight.

Hours went by and Starsky kept turning and tossing in bed unable to sleep as thoughts and memories came unchecked into his mind. Finally he gave up trying and threw back the covers. Carefully, so as not to wake up Vicky, he got out of bed to look in the semi-darkness of the room at the children's sleeping forms. Ollie Bear was looking at them from his spot at the foot of the cot. Ollie who was here because, just a few months earlier, Hutch gave him back to Vicky and Starsky `To look after Kenny and Paul.'

Caressing the babies' cheeks with a touch soft as a feather he thought once again how lucky he was. He had something special. A wonderful family and a promising future with a wonderful woman and two lovely kids, but he knew as well that he had lost something invaluable, and there was no second chance to have it back.

That day passed slowly for Starsky and the more he thought about it, the more he knew that his decision was the right one. That afternoon he contacted the only person he knew who could cut through all the red tape and arrange for his transfer quickly. Starsky didn't want to delay any longer. If he were lucky then it would all be done and dusted before Hutch came back from compassionate leave. Starsky knew he was taking the coward's way out but he didn't care. He had no wish to see his partner anymore than necessary.

Jim Mitchell was amazed to receive the phone call from Starsky. He had talked long and hard with the younger man trying to make sure that Starsky was serious. Convinced that he was, but unsure why, Jim had collected all the paperwork together, filled it all out and then stopped, wondering if Harold Dobey was aware that he was about to steal one of his best detectives from under his nose. Loyalty to a friend finally made him pick up the phone and ask to speak to the Captain. The call came through just as Starsky was leaving the Captains office having handed in his official request for a transfer.

"What the hell is going on Harold?" Jim Mitchell was questioning. "Does Starsky realize that once these papers go through that's it. No going back. If this is just because of some silly fall out"

"Not a silly fall out Jim. This is a major one. Starsky put Hutch on the floor of Huggy's place. From what Huggy has told me things got very heated between the two. Hutch virtually accused Starsky of wanting to take his daughter away. Seems some pretty hard things flew across between the two of them after that." Dobey paused to wipe his forehead with a huge handkerchief. "According to Huggy Starsky told Hutch that he never wanted to see him again. He's just left my office. His last words were either I okay the transfer or he'll hand in his notice. Catch 22, Jim."

"I'll tell you what Harold." Jim Mitchell thought for a moment before continuing. "I'll do all I can to make this last a while. Do what you can to get the two of them together and get this sorted out. I'd love Starsky in juvenile you know that, I won't lie to you. But I want him there for the right reasons, not because he's running away from anything. I happen to believe that he and Hutch are too good a team to let them break apart without being absolutely sure about what they're doing."

Harold Dobey hung up the phone and thumped his desk hard. "Damn you both boys. You've gone through some pretty hard things in your years under me but this takes the biscuit. I never thought I'd see the day one of you would want to split from the other."

Starsky spent the rest of the day with his family. Together they went to the park to feed the ducks and then they just walked and talked together. Vicky did everything she could to make him change his mind, to at least talk to Hutch, but his mind was made up and she knew from previous experience that once that happened it was virtually impossible to change it. That night Starsky finally had his first full night of sleep for many nights.

Next day, at lunch time, Starsky popped into the hospital to see little Louise. Arriving at the door of Louise's room Starsky looked through the window inside the room. Jenny was there, as he expected, but this time she wasn't alone. Hutch was by her side too

Some time earlier, thinking that he would find everyone together, Hutch went to the hospital where he had found Jenny sitting with her daughter. He was a little surprised that Starsky wasn't there but for now he would have to do with trying to make things up with Jenny. Once that was over he would try and find his partner and thank him for being such a good friend.

As Hutch had poured out his heart to Jenny she had finally understood the reasons behind his actions and she had quietened him with a simple kiss. Then gently she had lifted Louise from her cot and placed her in his arms telling as she did so that it was past time that he got to know his daughter. For a while Hutch had simply looked down on the sleeping child and sorrow filled him that he hadn't been there for her when she had needed him so much. `Something else I need to thank you for, Starsk.' Quietly Hutch promised Louise that he would never again let her down when she needed him.

Starsky remained for some seconds with his hand on the doorknob, unsure about what to doFor the first time in a long time he was sure that he couldn't see Hutch. The last time they were together, he had. Correction they both had said a lot of things that had hurt each other deeply. Closing his eyes, he saw again the look on his friends face as he had stood over him having knocked him to the floor. He remembered the anger and hurt that had caused him to lash out and he remembered the physical pain as his fists had connected with his partner's body. He had only ever hit Hutch once before in anger and that had been caused through jealousy. This time though it had been caused by deep, personal hurt from the words his friend had chosen to attack him with. Never had he thought to hear such words and accusations from the person he regarded closer to him than a brother. They had hit hard and deep and Starsky had reacted violently, defending himself and the innocent child who had inadvertently been the cause of it all.

Releasing his hold on the handle Starsky moved instead to stand in front of the window again. His eyes took in the scene inside the room and his heart finally lifted. Louise would be okay, of that he was sure. Hutch sat by the cot, his huge hand gently holding the tiny one of his daughter. His other arm rested lightly around Jenny's shoulders and they sat, heads touching, smiling softly at the sleeping child. As Starsky watched he could just make out Hutch's mouth moving and he realised that Hutch was singing. The look on his partners face told him all he needed to know. Somehow Hutch had come to terms with his feelings and the little group on the opposite side of the window were a family at last. Starsky grinned to himself as he moved away, retracing his footsteps in search of a phone. He was happy for his friend and for Jenny and Louise but somewhere deep in his heart there remained a niggling ache for what he and Hutch had lost.

Inside the tiny room Hutch stopped singing and quickly glanced up, the hairs on his neck telling him that he was being watched. He knew who it was without ever having to see him and he quickly rose to chase after his friend. He reached the corridor just as Starsky's back disappeared thorough the door at the end. Torn between chasing after him and staying with Jenny and their daughter Hutch glanced over his shoulder at the woman he loved. Jenny was sitting, almost asleep, one hand gently holding her daughters tiny fingers. Hutch knew his place was with them and this time he wasn't going to let them down. He had turned his back on his child too often in her short life because he had needed someone to blame for what happened to Jenny. Unable to defend herself, Louise had become the object of all his anger and fear and he had allowed it to almost destroy his feelings for her. It had taken strong words and actions by Starsky to make him realise and come to terms with what he was doing.

Quietly Hutch retraced his steps and sat down next to the cot. Pulling Jenny into him he allowed her head to rest on his shoulder. For now he would stay where he was. Tomorrow he would find Starsky and ask for his forgiveness!

Next morning was his first day at work after his leave. Hutch walked into the office looking around expectantly. He had assumed that Starsky would be at his desk getting reports up to date, but his partner was nowhere to be seen. Stopping in front of their shared desk he stared hard at it for several seconds trying to make out what was wrong. Everything was neat and tidy, all in its place. The emptiness of the trays on Starsky's side of the desk unnerved him and he went round to that side. Gingerly he pulled open the top drawer where he knew Starsky kept a few personal bits and pieces. It's emptiness screamed at him and he fell down into his partners' chair. His hand reached out and opened the second drawer but that too was empty, as was the bottom one. For a few moments Hutch just sat looking in disbelief trying to make sense of it all. Slowly his mind allowed flashes of the row with Starsky to come into his mind. A man who threw away everything including the best friendship a man could ask for. Goodbye Hutchinson.' The words reverberated around his head and he sank even further into the chair. Starsky had brought him to his senses all right but at what cost? Hutch leapt from the chair he had to find Starsky. Heading for the door Hutch ran straight into Minnie coming in with some files in her hand.

"Hutch it's good to see you. What the heck is going on with Starsky?" Hutch looked confused and Minnie bit down on her lip. "Oh my God! You didn't know?"

"Know what Minnie?" Hutch's voice was soft and Minnie had to strain to hear it.

"He…he's asked for a transfer Hutch…to juvenile. Captain Dobey's trying to delay it but Starsky's told him either he gets it or he'll quit. I thought you knew…I'm sorry. What happened between you two?" Minnie could see the anguish her words were causing and she wished she hadn't been the one to break the news.

"Do you know where Starsky is now Minnie?"

He's on a job with the Captain. Some kind of hostage situation I think. Starsky and Captain Dobey were available and it was an emergency..."

Hutch's blood ran cold and he shivered. "Where Minnie?" his voice was demanding.

"Pharmacy shop on the corner of third and Maine. Be careful" Minnie shouted after the fleeing back of Hutch as he disappeared from view out of the precinct.

Starsky was wondering how in hell he had gotten himself into this situation. One minute he had been filling out reports and clearing his desk, the next he was in his car, with Captain Dobey by his side, on his way to a hostage situation. A young lad, spaced out on drugs, was holding a young mother and her baby at gunpoint demanding to pass through the cordon of police vehicles following an unsuccessful attempt at robbing the till. Starsky had managed to persuade the teenager to allow him inside the shop to talk and he now stood, arms slightly upwards, some three feet away from him. The young mother was distraught as the youth continued to hold the gun to her baby's head and Starsky was hoping and praying she wouldn't try anything silly. So far his calm, firm tone had kept everything under control but he knew that it wouldn't take much to push someone over the edge.

From outside Captain Dobey watched, barely breathing. He knew that Starsky understood all the risks but he had still hated the fact that his detective had moved in quite so quickly before they had a chance to sort out some kind of plan.

`Damn it Hutch. Where are you when you're needed? If ever Starsky needed your help then it's now!'

As if in answer to his prayers Dobey heard the screech of tyres as a car pulled to a stop, followed by the slap of running feet on the sidewalk. Without turning around he knew that it was Hutch and he relaxed just a little.

"What's happening Cap?" Hutch's voice was businesslike but his eyes showed the worry and fear that he was feeling.

Quickly Dobey ran through the situation being played out before them but he didn't have to say much since they could both clearly see Starsky's back through the glass door.

"Is there a back way in there?" Hutch's voice was clipped and demanding.

"Yeah but it's not that easy Hutch. There's no way you could get around there without being seen from inside."

Hutch looked around at the layout of buildings and alleyways in front of them.

"What about from the roof next door? No-one could see someone from up there."

Dobey looked at the roof top Hutch was speaking of and silently whistled. At least twenty feet up there was a gap of some six feet between the two buildings.

"You get that jump wrong Hutch and we'll be scraping you off the floor!"

"I don't do it and we could be scraping Starsky off the walls of that building!" Hutch was firm, his whole tone not allowing for any argument. Before anyone had time to think of any reasons for not doing it, he was off at a run, heading for the doorway of the building next to the pharmacy.

Hang on Starsk. I'm coming. We need to have a long talk about going in without back up partner.'

-00000000-

"Why don't you give the baby to her mum? You've got me here you don't need either of them." Starsky forced the youth to keep eye contact with him.

"No way cop! Once I let them go, your trigger-happy friends out there will take me down the first chance they get. I know how it works pal. Cops are dispensable once the public are safe." The youngster voice trembled with the effects of coming down from the high the drugs he had taken him too and Starsky could see the hand holding the gun shaking in sympathy.

"Then give it up. Now before you do something you'll regret. At the moment it's just robbery while under the influence. First offence?" The youth nodded. "Then you'll probably get off with probation. But you have to end this now, before someone gets hurt."

From their position behind the patrol cars, the watching police held their breath as Hutch took a flying leap across the gap between the two roofs. Slightly winded on landing it took him a few minutes to signal to them that he had made it safely and the sigh of relief was audible to all as the officers allowed themselves to breathe again. As Hutch once again disappeared from view all eyes returned to Starsky.

"Nice try cop, but it won't work! We're all going out of here together." The youth suddenly pointed the gun towards the mother who was standing slightly to one side of Starsky. Indicating with the gun he motioned for her to move. "Over there with the cop. NOW!"

Starsky held his hand out to the young woman encouraging her to do as she was told. "Come on, it's okay, your baby's okay and she's gonna stay that way. Come on over here." He breathed a quiet sigh of relief when the young mother did as he asked. "That's okay...here take my hand." Reaching out her took her hand in his and could feel the tenseness in it. He tried to convey a calming message through his touch and his eyes. Slowly he could feel her beginning to relax just a little.

"Okay son. You're in control, we know that. What exactly do you want us to do?"

"Don't call me son! I'm not your son!" The youth's eyes flashed angrily and the gun returned to the baby's head. Starsky both felt and heard the mother tense once again.

"Sorry I didn't mean anything by it. Take it easy." Starsky watched as the youth slowly began to calm down a little. "That's better. Now, like I said, you're in charge. What do you want us to do?"

From over the youth's shoulder Starsky saw Hutch slowly making his way towards them. For a moment he felt a flood of relief go through him and then he realised that if he could see Hutch then so could the young mother. All it would take would be for her to make some kind of sign that she had seen him and everything would get very nasty. Reaching out he gently pulled her behind him, turning slightly as he did so, trying to block her view. Hutch caught on to what he was trying to do and shifted his angle ever so slightly to delay the inevitable for as long as possible. It was as he made his final approach, a gap of some two paces that the young mother became aware of his presence and let out a gasp of surprise.

Everything happened in slow motion, or so it seemed to Hutch, as the youth spun around bringing the gun down to face him. Starsky seemed to fly through the air as he threw himself at the gunman, grabbing the baby from his grasp. Hitting the floor Starsky rolled and curled his body protectively around the tiny form in his arms. He was vaguely aware of a loud crack followed by a burning sensation in his thigh. Then came the sound he had long learnt to recognise as Hutch's magnum and he knew that the situation was over. He could hear sobs as he slowly unwound his body to reveal a crying but otherwise unhurt baby. Gently he held her out towards the young mother who took her and pulled her close to her chest as though she would never let her go again.

"Jess!...Oh Jess! Thank God... How can I ever thank you?" Tears flowed freely down her cheeks as the young mother looked at Starsky.

Starsky smiled at her, wiping a tear away with his finger. "Just look after her and love her!" He glanced at Hutch as he spoke.

Suddenly the room was full of people as officers rushed in. Starsky was vaguely aware of Dobey's voice demanding the paramedics get in then he felt gentle fingers probing the top of his leg. As the pain finally hit him in waves the world began to swim in front of him and the last thing he was fully aware of before blacking out was Hutch's hand on his shoulder.

-00000000-

It was several hours later that Starsky's eyes finally opened to see Vicky sitting by his side.

"Hi lover!" Vicky's voice was soft and filled with love.

"Hi yourself." Starsky looked around taking in the whitewashed walls and the smell of antiseptic. Glancing to his left he could see the stand holding the drip that now flowed into his arm. "Man. I really should book a better room in this place. The amount of time one or the other of us has spent in here lately you'd think they'd have somewhere a little brighter than this." He grinned at Vicky and was relieved to see her grin back. "What'd I do this time?"

"You took a bullet in the thigh Dave. According her mother you rolled just in time or the baby would have been directly in the line of fire."

"How are they?"

"They're both fine. They're in a room down the corridor." Vicky rose and kissed his lips hard. "Don't keep frightening me like this, Dave. I'll be grey before my time." Sitting back down she allowed a solitary tear to fall.

Starsky reached out and gently wiped it away with his thumb. "With a bit of luck Vicky this will be the last time. It's not usually quite so violent in juvenile, though they do have their moments. Have you heard from Jim?"

"He came round while you were still asleep. Said to tell you that all you have to do is sign on the dotted line and the transfer will be complete. Honey, are you really sure about this that it's really what you want?"

"Is it what I want? I'm not really sure V. Am I sure that it's the right thing to do? Yes! I don't see how Hutch and I can ever be what we once were after what happened at Huggy's. I don't think anyone has ever hurt me quite like that before. I never dreamt that it would be Hutch!"

Neither one were aware of there being someone else in the room until he spoke.

"I never dreamt that it would be me either Starsk, and if I could take it all back somehow make it never happen, then I would. All that I can do is to tell you how sorry I am and to ask for your forgiveness."

Vicky rose from her seat and leant over her husband. "I'll be just outside Dave. You and Hutch need to sort this out, once and for all, before it eats you both up inside." Kissing him she walked slowly to the door went out and firmly closed the door behind her.

Hutch moved to stand beside the bed and he took in his partners' tired features. "Mind if I sit down?" He pointed to the chair and waited, unsure for the first time of the answer.

Starsky stared hard at him for several moments, his eyes cold and almost black. It made Hutch shudder but he stood his ground. Finally Starsky nodded, very slightly and Hutch dropped into the vacant chair.

"Starsky, if you really want to go to juvenile then there's nothing I can do to stop you. but at least give me a chance to try and put things right between us, please." Hutch was unable to stop the slight hitch in his voice and Starsky felt his heart react to it.

"You hurt me Hutch and you turned your back on everything, your woman, your baby, and us. `Me and Thee' Hutch. It doesn't exist anymore! You held it in your hands and you smashed it in into pieces!" Starsky allowed the words to flow, allowing all the pain he was feeling to come through.

"Don't you think I don't know that? I was hurting too Starsk! I needed someone to blame for almost losing Jenny. You were there when she called I wasn't and I should have been. It was you that saved her life! If I'd listened to you weeks ago we'd have still been looking for that psycho instead of putting her in that position in the first place. I knew better though and I wouldn't listen, and Jenny paid for my mistake. Somewhere in all the worry and fear of almost losing her I convinced myself that it was all Louise's fault. If it hadn't have been for her then Jenny wouldn't be in the hospital. Don't you see Starsk? I NEEDED someone to blame Somehow I managed to shift the blame from me to Louise and I've got to live with the fact that I rejected her Starsk. I turned my back on my own child when she really needed me. You didn't though. You were there for her. AGAIN! It's like you were taking my place, Starsk. Doing all the things I should have, but couldn't or wouldn't. I guess that I began to hate you because I hated myself. That's why I said what I did and I wished the minute that I said it that I could bite my tongue off." Hutch paused, anguish clearly visible on his face. "I could take not being your partner anymore Starsk, but I couldn't take losing your friendship!"

Starsky's heart contracted at the pain on his friends face and the anguish in his voice. Gently he lifted his hand to the now faint bruise where his fist had made contact.

"I really did a job on you didn't I?"

Hutch nodded. "Nothing I didn't deserve according to Huggy. He reckons the look on your face when you came in to the pits I was lucky to get out alive."

Despite everything Starsky couldn't stop the giggle from escaping. "I was that bad huh?"

Again Hutch nodded.

"Sorry!"

"Nothing to be sorry for Starsk. Like I said, I deserved it."

"I wasn't trying to take your place Hutch...but Louise needed someone and you turned away from her. I couldn't understand that and you wouldn't talk to me."

"I couldn't talk to you Starsk. If I had I would have had to face up to the fact that there wasn't anyone to blame and I needed someone to be at fault, other than me that is."

"NO! You weren't to blame Hutch. Didn't we go through all this once before? Promise me something partner. Whatever happens in our lives after this, you'll talk to me. I never, EVER want to hit you like that again. You hear me. Huh?"

"I hear you Starsk” Hutch’s voice was quiet as he realised that Starsky had forgiven him. "You still going to Juvenile?"

"Only if you don't shut up and get out of here. I'm tired and Jenny will be wondering where you are. You've got a family to worry about now Hutch, don't ever let them down again or I really will take your place." He grinned tiredly at Hutch and his eyes closed.

Hutch rose quietly and walked softly to the door.

"Hey Hutch." He spun around. "You have a beautiful daughter Blintz. She has your eyes!"

Starsky gave in to sleep and Hutch left the room smiling softly and feeling warm inside.

-00000000-

Two weeks later both Jenny and Louise were finally allowed to go home. Only then Lauren came back to New York, not without the promise of a new visit to her daughter and grandchild very soon

Along those days, Vicky had spent a great deal of time helping Hutch prepare Venice Place for their arrival since Jenny was still not recovered enough to look after herself. Starsky was on sick leave and Edith Dobey had arrived with a casserole for them all so there was a full welcome home committee when Hutch finally came through the door with Jenny carrying Louise in his arms. Edith had stayed for a couple of hours to make sure that the food was hot and all okay before Vicky arrived with the Starsky children and she left for her own home with a promise to return in the morning.

The foursome enjoyed their meal as all three babies lay asleep in their respective cots and prams. They had just finished when a faint cry sounded from the pram and young Kenneth Starsky woke from his slumbers and demanded attention. It wasn't long before his crying roused both Paul and Louise. Vicky carried the twins over to Starsky and placed Paul in his lap along with a bottle before sitting down next to him with Kenny. Silence rained for a few moments as both boys began to feed. In the meantime Hutch carried Louise across to Jenny and placed her lovingly in her arms as he moved to the kitchen to retrieve her bottle. Hutch stood back and watched as the three babies were fed. Crossing to rummage in a drawer he pulled out a camera and quickly took a picture of the scene.

"KEN! How could you? I look awful." Still feeding Louise Jenny somehow managed to release one hand and threw a cushion at him. It hit him on the side of the head and he fell to the floor laughing before crawling over to her and kneeling in front of her.

"You look as beautiful as ever to me Jen. In fact I think motherhood suits you."

Hutch's eyes were soft and glowing an electric blue in the dim light. Jenny blushed and she allowed the feelings she had for Hutch to show all too clearly on her face. Hutch took a deep breath before he continued.

"Jenny I asked you once before and you said no. I respect why you said it but I'm asking you again. Will you marry me?"

The room fell quiet for a moment and to Jenny it seemed as though she and Hutch were the only two people in the room.

"Yes Ken. Yes I will."

For a moment Hutch was unable to move. Then he felt a sharp stab in the thigh as Starsky poked him with his crutch.

"Hey Blintz Shut your mouth and kiss the girl before I take your place again!"

Reaching out Hutch took Louise from her mother's arms and handed her to Starsky who eagerly took her in his spare arm, well used to carrying two children. Very gently he pulled Jenny to her feet and pulling her into his arms he kissed her long and lovingly.

Getting to her feet Vicky placed Kenny into his pram before coming back for Paul. Then she pulled Louise's pram from the bedroom and gently placed her into it before going back to help her husband to his feet.

"Think you can manage one pram with only one good leg?"

Starsky nodded and the two quietly left the house leaving the two lovebirds together. Neither Hutch nor Jenny noticed them leave.

 

END...at least for a little while!