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Wuemsel's Fanfic Corner

The Flies


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"I hate camping!"

Detective Ken Hutchinson sighed deeply. Here it comes.

"I know, Starsk."

His partner next to him shot him a quick glance, before concentrating on driving again. "No, I mean I really HATE camping."

"I KNOW, Starsky."

A longer glance this time. "Then how come you always talk me into these things, huh?!"

"'Cause you never say no," Hutch couldn't resist to reply, but added quickly, "besides, it's police business this time. It's your job."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Will we have to sleep in a tent?"

"Uh... probably," Hutch answered hesitantly. Another look meant to kill hit him from the driver's seat. "Okay," he gave in, raising his hands in defense, "yeah, we will."

Contendly, Starsky arched his lips into a grim smile. "Hm-mm. And will we have to eat whatever creatures we manage to catch in the wilderness?"

"Yeah, but we can lure them out with all those peanuts you brought as supplies."

"You said I should bring the supplies," Starsky defended himself. "And what d'you wanna catch out there, an elephant?!"

Hutch chuckled slightly, somewhat relieved to find his momentarily grumpy partner on the wisecracking side again. It meant that at least Starsky wouldn't whine ALL day long, but only when he wasn't being sarcastic.

"But," the curly haired detective continued, "to return to our discussion, my point was that sleeping in a tent and catching dumbo is NOT part of my job. Not even close. It's my JOB to-"

"Keep your eyes on the road!" Hutch interrupted him, restraining himself from grabbing the wheel as the Torino barely missed a deer crossing the street.

"Exactly," Starsky nodded unimpressedly as if nothing had happened, while his partner briefly closed his eyes to beg his creator to let him live through the trip. "On the ROAD, not the woods."

Casting his partner an unbelieving look, Hutch still tried to catch his breath. "Okay, let's split responsibilities here. Your task is to GET us there in one piece and I'll take care of the getting us out. Deal?"

Another deer crossed the road -- a lot slower than the other one -- and Starsky had to stop with squeezing brakes. The torino came to a halt inches away from the startled animal that hoppeled off into the woods a second later.

Wearily, Starsky glanced over at Hutch. "Why do I have the feeling your task is easier?"

****

It actually was police business that had brought them on the road to the woods a few hours away from the city, or Neverneverland, as Starsky called it. But that it was didn't mean Hutch couldn't look forward to a couple of days in the wilderness, clean air, stars above your head at night... Even if it meant living by whatever junk food Starsky brought along. He had allowed his nature-loathing partner to take care of their supplies, because he'd thought that taking revenge on Hutch by dragging half a ton of peanuts and candy bars with him, would cheer Starsky up a bit.

One good look at the driving detective, whose occasional mumbles consisted of "damn trees" and "I see ONE snake I turn around immediately!" told him that that plan hadn't turned out quite as successful as he'd hoped, though.

The funny thing was that it had been Starsky's idea to go after the kids in the first place. Though his plan hadn't included him and Hutch.

A few days ago, a young boy from the city, merely 13, had been found in those woods, obviously clobbered to death with rocks. He'd been missing for over six month along with three other kids from his neighborhood, and the department's profiler had come up with the theory, that the kids might not have been kidnapped, but had run away, building their own society far away from city-life, in the wilderness. They all had been no troubled children, but from wealthy, very intellectual families. The profiler's theory was that they'd decided to refuse the adult's world of pressure and high expectations and created one of their own.

Obviously they hadn't missed to make up laws and punishments too.

Neither the killing nor the missings beforehand had been of Starsky's and Hutch's responsibility, but Starsky had been the first one to suggest not to swamp the woods with cops, but to send only a few into there in order to not scare off the kids who naturally knew all kind of places to hide from searching parties.

"They'd probably just lay duck for the time being," he'd said that one day in Dobey's office. A sentence he'd come to regret almost immediately. "And we'd never get them."

"Right," Hutch had agreed. "I say just the two of us should go in there. We should be able to look for them without making our presence as commonly known as the whole department."

Dobey's reply had been cut off by Starsky's choked coughing. "What you mean 'the two of US'?! I'm not going anywhere near a bunch of trees again in my life!"

"It was your idea," Hutch had said matter-of-factly.

"No, it was my idea that SOMEONE should go, but-"

"Why not us? You're great with kids," Hutch had tried to come up with an argument.

It hadn't been the right one, though.

"Not with those king-of-the-flies-kinda brags, I'm not."

"That's 'Lord of the Flies', Starsk."

"Lord, king, prince, general -- I'm not gonna go there."

"We're on it, Cap."

"Okay," Dobey had agreed, absolutely ignoring Starsky's wild-eyed looks at him and Hutch, "but be careful, those kids are survivors out there, I don't think they'll be easy to track down. They'll probably defend themselves, you know the profiler's report."

"Did ANYONE hear what I just said?!"

Ignoring Starsky's outburst, Hutch had nodded. "Don't worry, Cap. We know and we'll watch our backs."

"Do I still speak English, for I sure think I do!!"

"Don't forget to call in every few hours," Dobey had called after them, smiling slightly at the sight of Hutch practically dragging a still raving Starsk out of the office.

And into the car driving down the road they were on now.

"I think we should leave the car somewhere here," Hutch said, looking around to find a safe spot. They'd left the main road a few minutes ago and had been driving on a bumpy side street leading into the woods. It would end a few miles ahead, anyway.

"Leave the car," Starsky repeated grumpily. It was the part of the plan he hated most. "Why did we take my car, anyway? Yours wouldn't even be striking out here. It'd look like someone had dumped it to not pay the-"

"My car? You kidding? A tree could fall on it."

At Starsky's shocked look, Hutch couldn't help laughing out loud. "Aw, buddy, just kid-"

A loud crash was the last thing he heard before everything went black.

****

Pain woke him.

"Hey Hutch!"

Pain and noise.

"Hutch! Wake up now, c'mon!"

In perfect unison.

"You awake? Hutch? Can you hear me? Hutch?"

"Yeah, I can hear you and STOP SHAKING ME!" Hutch wanted to scream, but all that came out was a moan.

It had the desired effect, though. The ruttling stopped.

"Hutch?"

Unfortunately, the noise didn't.

Again, he tried to say something, but once more managed only a moan, a little louder now, though, and with a fair resemblance to his partner's name.

"Yeah, it's me, buddy. It's okay. Come on, open your eyes for me, will you?"

Since the dull ache in his head had decreased to a bearable level, Hutch cracked his eyes open a bit and cast a confused, fuzzy look at the worried face of his partner.

"Hi sleepin' beauty," he was greeted softly, relief clearly evident in the smaller man's voice. "You had me scared for a second here. You okay now? Feel dizzy?"

"Hm," Hutch made, squeezing his eyes shut again, as he lifted a hand to tentatively probe on the back of his head.

"Yeah, you got one hell of a mountain back there," Starsky informed him and placed a steadying hand on his back, when he carefully sat up.

"Don't say," Hutch muttered, but once more opened his eyes, and after checking on his obviously uninjured friend, took in their surroundings.

To his surprise they weren't in the car anymore, but in what looked like the entry to a cave, a narrow space between two big rocks.

Outside it was raining, and noticing his partner's slight shivering, Hutch looked down to find himself covered by Starsky's jacket. They were both wet, and their guns were missing.

"Where are we?" he asked, looking at Starsky, who had sat down next to him, helping him to lean back against one of the rocks.

"Downtown Fly-City," was the answer. At Hutch's confused look, the smaller man smiled wryly. "This is what the kids call 'a safe place'. You know, to safe us from getting soaking wet."

"Kids? What kids? THOSE kids?"

"No, dummy, the Brady Bunch. Yeah, those kids. And, by the way, if I'm still able to count, there are more than three."

Confused by all that information, Hutch slightly shook his head as if to clear it, but only to be reminded of the stupidity of that action.

He swayed suddenly, and only his partner's grasp kept him from falling on his side.

"Easy there, Hutch. No shaking around, 'kay? You were out for a pretty long time. You're probably concussed." Gently, Starsky forced Hutch's head around so that he was facing him. "Okay now?"

"Hm-mm," Hutch nodded, opening his eyes again. "Yeah, just... just dizzy. It's all right. So -- what're you talking about, there are more than three? Where the hell are we? What happened?"

Sighing, Starsky ran a hand through his wet curls, leaving them sticking out in all directions. "We crashed into a tree. Man, you should see my car!"

"We crashed into a tree?!" Hutch repeated, instantly forgetting about the pain in his head. "You all right?"

"Yeah, I sorta ducked, I'm fine. But my car-"

"Starsky."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway, obviously the flies have not only created their own police and justice, but they are also armed. A fact that I think could have been told to us BEFORE you decided to get us into this mess."

Ignoring the sarcastic tone, Hutch widened his eyes. "They're armed? Like in having guns?"

"Like in having guns," Starsky nodded. "And rifles. And a crossbow. And a lot of other toys too. Everything little boys dream of."

"Wow," Hutch murmured. "It didn't say they were armed in the report."

"It didn't say there was a whole town, either. There are not three, Hutch, but like 50 or so. I mean there was a whole bunch of them welcoming me when I got out of the car, and we met even more on the way to our cosy little safe place."

Rubbing his face, Hutch drew in a deep breath. "That doesn't make any sense, Starsk. Who are all these kids?"

Starsky shrugged. "Dunno. Runaways. From other states. I don't know. What I do know is what I saw myself. They have a real society out here. They all have hiding places. They've built a well. They're organized. This is their idea of a jail. Said it hasn't been used in a while, but that they had to be prepared for situations like this. They knew we were coming."

Hutch looked up sharply. "What?"

"They're updated. Somehow they manage to get news, I haven't figured out how yet. But one of them, a girl, I think her name's Amy or Anne or something, she said they read about the boy being found and they figured cops were about to look for them soon. They were prepared, Hutch. They got us off the road on purpose!"

"Oh, great," Hutch sighed.

"You can say that again. And, believe me, I'm never -- never -- gonna go camping with you again! Never."

Casting his friend an irritated look, Hutch decided to let him win that argument. They had more important things to worry about than that. "How far away from the car are we?"

"Funny you'd ask," Starsky replied with a humorless grin. "You know, for such a skinny guy who lives on that stuff you call food, you're pretty heavy."

"You carried me all the way?"

"Sure I did, Blintz! D'you think the kids did? Besides, it's unhealthy to refuse a spoiled brag's wish, especially when he's pointing a rifle at your head."

Suddenly, Starsky's shivering seemed to unnerve Hutch more than before, and he started to pull the jacket off him to give it back to his partner, who shook his head and reached out to touch his hand. "Nah, you keep it. I was afraid you might go into shock or something. I'm fine really."

"You're trembling."

Winking, Starsky changed the topic. "You know this girl, Amy or Anne, she told me David was sentenced to death. For stealing."

"David?"

"The dead boy," Starsky explained. "He stole from their water supply. It seems they have some kind of a sharing system, so that there's enough water for everybody."

"And David took more than he was allowed to?" Hutch asked, frowning.

"Right."

"And they killed him because he drank too much water?!"

"Yep."

There was a short silence, the partners just looked at each other, each of them knewing they were thinking exactly the same thing. "So what d'you think of these kids, hm?" Hutch finally asked. "What are they like?"

"Freaky. But not... unreasonable."

"Starsk, they beat one of them to death with stones!"

"I know, but... I don't know, it's just that they seem so... grown-up. In a scaring way. They're clever, Hutch, they really are. They plan their actions, they're very well organized. And they know who we are, I mean what could happen to them if we brought them back." A shadow rushed through his eyes, and he suddenly grew very serious. "You know, they somehow reminded me of politicans. Diplomats. Like they're in some sort of war. They're prepared to defend themselves."

After a short pause he added, "they believe they have to."

"Well, of course they have to," Hutch said. "They won't be staying here. It's over. If not we, then someone else will bring them back."

Noticing the expression on his friend's face, Hutch frowned. "Starsk?"

"It's just that... I wouldn't be so sure about that, Hutch."

"Your partner is right, Detective Hutchinson," a soft voice suddenly called from behind one of the rocks, and a moment later, a little girl entered the "cave", followed by two boys who looked like fifteen, both pointing guns at the detectives.

"Hello," the girl added with a friendly smile. "I'm Anne. And these are Brain and Joey."

Hutch exchanged a quick glance with his partner, but remained silent, waiting for the girl to continue.

"As I said," she finally did, when it was clear Hutch wouldn't respond to her welcome, "Detective Starsky is quite right. We ARE prepared for fighting. And we will."

"Against whom?" Hutch asked. It unnerved him to have to look up at the kids, but the cave was to small for him to stand in, and besides, he didn't know for sure if he could hold himself on his feet yet.

"Against whoever threatens our community," Anne replied, serious now. "Against you or the next ones or the next."

"You know this is ridiculous, don't you?" Starsky asked, slowly coming to his feet, so that he could lean against the wall.

"Maybe," Anne said. "But then, do you think it's ridiculous to defend your country?"

"This is not your country," the detective replied. "It's a forest. It's a part of the US. You don't own this place, and you don't run it. Come on now, kid, you-"

"Yes, we DO run it," Anne interrupted him sternly, yet still calm. "We made our own rules we decided to live by, and we don't want strangers here. So please leave and don't come back."

At that, Starsky's eyes widened in disbelief. "You made me carry him all the way up here just to tell us to leave?!" He made a step forward, just for emphasis, but was stopped by the click of Joey's gun. Lifting his hands as to show he didn't mean any harm, he stepped back again.

"No, we brought you here," Anne explained, "because we needed to make a decision. You are the first strangers we had in our forest for a long time, and you're cops. We didn't know what to do with you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hutch asked, finally standing up too, though steadying himself with a hand against the wall. "You chosed between killing us and letting us go?" There was a slight, unbelieving laugh at the end of his question, which was stopped aprubtly by the girl's nod.

"Yes, that's right."

"Well, thanks for chosing our lives," Hutch remarked dryly, "but we can't go. Not without you. See, kids, you're wrong here, okay? You don't have the right to do this. Actually you're committing a crime right now just by holding cops at gun-point."

"We don't believe in your laws."

"Then don't, but it doesn't change the fact that you'll be treated by it. It goes for you too, like it or not."

For a moment it looked as if Anne wanted to reply something to that, but instead she drew in a quick breath and turned, saying, "I don't want to discuss this with you. Joey and Brain will accompany you back to your car. And you will leave."

"Anne, wait, we..." Starsky started and once more stepped forward, reaching out to grab her arm.

Suddenly a loud noise cut through the air like thunder.

"Joey!" Anne screamed, having whirled around just in time to see Joey fire his gun. The boy himself stood still, paralyzed, staring at Starsky, who stood against the wall, a startled expression on his face.

Hutch frowned, approaching him. "Starsky?"

"Uhm..." the smaller man made, his gaze slowly traveling down to his chest were a red spot quickly grew. "I think..." While trying to touch the damp, red spot, he slid down the wall, till he sat on the ground, his eyes wide, focused on Hutch. "Hutch." It was no more than a whimper, followed by a cough, then he closed his eyes.

"Starsky!"

In an instant, Hutch was kneeling next to his fallen partner, frantically pushing his hands away from the wound.

"Starsky? Starsky! Buddy, hey! You hear me? Starsk?"

Agonizingly slow, glassy blue eyes opened to slids, trying to focus.

"Huh?"

"Yeah, that's it. C'mon, look at me. That's it."

Placing a comforting hand on Starsky's shoulder, Hutch checked on the wound more throughly. "Aw shit," he muttered. The bullet was still in there.

"Hu-Hutch?" Starsky mumbled, widening his eyes just a little, obviously trying to take in the expression on his friend's face. "Hutch? How... ?"

"It's okay," Hutch soothed him softly, running a gentle hand through the damp curls, while dragging Starsky's jacket, that had fallen off of his own shoulders, around his partner's limp form. "Just a scratch. It's okay, I'm here." He then turned to the three kids who still stood paralyzed in the cave's entry, staring unbelievingly at the scene in front of them. Joey's hand, which still held the gun, hang limply from his side like a toy. Tears glittered on his face while he couldn't seem to tear his gaze away from the blood that dripped from the injured man's chest onto the ground.

"D'you have any first aid stuff around here?" Hutch asked frantically. "Bandages? Anything?"

He got no answer and was about to snap at the children, when Starsky moaned, wriggling a little under the hand Hutch pressed onto the wound.

"Easy, buddy," Hutch tried to sound calmingly, but couldn't quite hide the shakiness of his voice. "Easy, it's okay. No, Starsk," he added at his partner's weak attempt to push his hand away. Gently, he caught in in mid-air with the other one and hold it in a soothing grip.

"Hurts," Starsky whimpered. "Let me..." A cough interrupted him, followed by another one. Trembling fingers squeezed Hutch's. "Hurts."

"I know, babe," Hutch replied, brushing Starsky's hand with his thumb, while he noticed with distress how blood slowly covered his own hand that still applied pressure on the wound.

"Just lay still. It's gonna be okay."

Again turning around he nearly screamed at the kids, who still hadn't moved an inch. "What're you still doing here?! Go get some stuff to bandage that wound!"

"You have to leave," Anne answered to Hutch's surprise.

"HUH?!"

"You have to leave," the girl repeated, unimpressed by his witty reply. "Take your partner and go."

"Hutch," Starsky moaned, his eyes had closed again. Another cough left him gasping for air.

"Are you nuts?!" Hutch snapped at Anne in disbelief. He couldn't take his hand off the wound, but he let go off Starsky's hand just for a moment to point a threatening finger at the girl. "You better help us now, kid or-"

"You can't stay here," Anne cut him off sternly. "We don't accept death in our woods. You have to go. Stand up and leave."

"You can't possibly... You shot him!" Hutch was near desperation now. The girl's serious tone frightened him.

Another pityful moan drew his attention back to his friend, and again he started to stroke the dark curls, trying to give some comfort to his suffering friend.

"It was an accident," Anne said. "We apologize. The one responsible," she said, casting a look at Joey, "will be punished."

"Pun... Youre going to kill him?!"

"That is none of your business," Anne told him, turning around. The discussion was over.

"No, Anne, wait!" Hutch called out, attempting to grab her arm and hold her back, but suddenly found himself at gun-point once more.

Brain's face, though shock evident in it, appeared to still be a stoic mask of determination.

"Anne, please," Hutch was almost begging her now. "You can't mean that. D'you know what will happen to you, all of you, if my partner dies? This whole place will be swamped with cops looking for you. And no defense of yours will be able to safe you then!"

The girl turned to face him again. Her gaze showed no sign of emotions. "We are sorry about what happened," she told the detective, glancing down at Starsky who seemed to have lost his weak grip at consciousness by now and had slid down the wall to lay curled up on his side on the ground.

"Joey's uncarefulness has endangered us all, and he will be punished. But we don't accept death around here. We don't accept sickness. You will take your partner and leave immediately. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll make it back to your car in time to call for help and save him."

Anger colored the desperate detective's voice as he intensively peered into the girl's eyes, looking for any sign of pity or fear or anything that would show him she cared about another human being's life. "I don't know where our car is, and you know he doesn't have a chance out there. Anne, it's over. You won't get away with shooting a cop. Help us and we can help you! Please."

A short pause occured, then the girl nodded at Brain, who shifted his position, so that his gun rested on Starsky's temple now. "Take him with you," Anne said, "or lose him right here and now. It is your choice."

"Okay," Hutch agreed instantly, kneeling down next to his friend to push the gun away from his head. "Don't you dare touch him! We'll go." His gaze met Joey's. The boy still stood paralyzed a few steps away from the scene like a mere watcher. "Let me take him back with me too," Hutch asked.

"No," Anne shook her head. "He broke our law."

"He broke our law as well and-"

"He belongs to us," the girl interrupted him firmly. "Not to your world. He lives by our rules. Joey, go outside and wait for us."

The boy nodded in slow motion and giving his gun to Brain, left the cave. Hutch stared after him in disbelief.

"You see, detective," Anne said. "We all live by our rules. We accept them. You will leave now. We wish you luck."

With that she turned, following Brain out of the cave.

"Anne!" Hutch called after them, but knew better than to follow. "You're making a mistake! You won't get away with any of this! You're just kids!" he added furiously. "Kids playing adults! You don't accept death, because you're AFRAID of it! Anne!"

"Stop yelling," a pityful voice coming from the ground kept him from doing exactly that.

Rushing to his partner's side, Hutch placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Hey there. I thought you were out."

"How..." Starsky started and suppressed a wince. "How could I be with you... you screaming like that?"

"So my plan worked," Hutch said with a smile, which faded quickly as his friend had to cough painfully.

"Easy, buddy," the taller man soothed, "try to relax. It's okay. I'm here, everything's going to be fine."

"Hm-mm," Starsky nodded slightly, still gasping for air and tried to crawl to his feet, which resulted in him falling against his partner's chest once he had managed to get into a sitting position. With his eyes closed, he weakly grabbed Hutch's arm, trying to draw some comfort from his presence.

As Hutch noticed with dismay, even the small movement of sitting up caused the wound to bleed again. Once more he pressed a firm hand on it, and Starsky couldn't help yelling out in pain.

"Sorry, buddy," Hutch said, wincing in sympathy.

"'Sokay," his friend winked feebly, still not able to open his eyes."'Mfine, really."

"Sure you are," Hutch whispered, frantically looking around for something he could use to stop the bleeding, but there was nothing in the cave. As Starsky's following attempt of getting to his feet, he gently hold him down against his chest, placing his free hand on his neck. "Hey, what d'you think-"

"We... we've to get going," Starsky panted. "You heard what the lady said."

Though he hated to admit it, his partner had a point there. Who knew what Anne was capable of doing when someone refused to obey her orders? They were in no position to test her patience.

"Think you can make it?" he asked, looking straight into Starsky's now open eyes. A fog of pain had settled in them, yet his typical determination was still clearly visible.

"Sure," was the reply, followed by a coughing fit, that left him exhausted, gasping for air, and his friend desperately trying to soothe him, stroking the wet curls back from where they clung to his forehead.

"Sure," Hutch whispered sarcastically.

"C'mon, what're you waiting for?" Starsky panted and rose, but only to instantly fall back into Hutch's arms.

"Woah, you okay? Starsk?"

"Sure, sure, fine," Starsky winked feebly, his feet shuffling over the ground as he tried to step out of Hutch's grasp. "Stop fussing and move, will ya?"

"Whatever you say," Hutch murmured and swung his arm around his friend's waist. Together they slowly walked out of the cave.

****

"Isn't it amazing how dark it really gets at night? I mean with all the lights in the city you tend to forget that it gets really dark at night. Right? Right? Starsky?"

Looking down on his partner curled up on his side, Hutch frowned. He couldn't see Starsky's face in the darkness, and he strained to hear his breathing. "Buddy?"

"Yeah," came the weak reply. "I'm awake."

Gently Hutch reached out to touch Starsky's shoulder and was shocked by the violent trembling that shook the injured man's body. "You cold?"

"Nah, 'sokay," Starsky mumbled.

"Of course." Sliding closer, Hutch carefully lifted his friend's upper body to draw him into a comforting hug with his head resting against his chest. The shivering subsided slightly, but now Hutch could feel the clammy cold skin and the perspiration as he softly stroke his partner's curls and neck. "Better?" he asked.

"Yeah," Starsky replied weakly and after a short pause added,"you give good cuddle."

Hutch chuckled.

"Hey," Starsky continued, "you think they'll really kill that boy?"

"Joey?"

"Hm."

"Yes. Yeah, I think they will. You know, I really think they believe in what they're saying. Us being their enemy and all. I think they believe they're right."

"We... we should've taken him with us," Starsky whispered. Talking obviously exhausted him, and he had to cough again.

"Easy, Starsk," Hutch calmed him, hugging him tighter. "Easy. Buddy?" he asked when the coughing finally subsided.

"Hurts," Starsky gasped. "Hutch."

"Yeah, I'm here, babe. It's okay."

"I'm... I'm sorry."

"Aw, pal, there's nothing to be sorry for. It's not your fault."

"I... I slow us down. I should've... found the car by now." He curled up even more, his face hid in the crook of his arm. "Im sorry."

"Hey, hey," Hutch soothed, gently forcing his face up again. "Don't be. It's going to be all right, partner. Well find the car tomorrow. Don't worry."

His tone seemed to calm Starsky a bit, for he snuggled up closer into Hutch's embrace. A shakily whispered "cold" seemed to escape him against his will. 

"I know, buddy, I know. Try to get some sleep now, 'kay? Tomorrow we'll find the car."

"Don't... don't leave," the injured man whispered, exhaustion already getting the better of him.

"Don't worry."

****

The trickling sensation of sunlight on his face woke Hutch, accompanied by the throbbing pain in his skull. Wrinkling his nose, he slowly dragged open his eyes, squeezing them shut again almost immediately when mercyless sunbeams seemed to stab right through them into his skull.

Moaning, he tried to raise his arms, only to find he couldn't. A warm numbness had spread all over his body, he noticed confusedly, and looking down found the reason of this to be the limp, warm form of his partner, who had curled up on his side on Hutch's lap, with one of Hutch's hands trapped under him and one firmly held in a tight grasp.

Frowning, Hutch's gaze wandered over to where his jacket lay on the cold, damp ground a few feet away. As worry quickly creeped through him like the cold had before, he untangled his arms and lightly touched Starsky's forehead.

"Aw shit."

The injured detective was burning up with fever. It obviously had started at some point during the night and, growing too hot to sleep, Starsky had gotten rid of his cover.

Only to cuddle up on me the next moment, Hutch thought dryly, while he carefully rolled his friend off him in order to check on his wound. Of course he wasn't angry at Starsky, though, but at himself. Some night watch he was, he thought, mentally kicking his butt for not having waken up when his friend's discomfort had grown. Maybe he'd been able to ease it somewhat. But due to his head injury, he'd been pretty out himself almost all night long.

And though he knew that it hadn't been his fault, he still felt guilty about it. Looking out for Starsky when he was hurt was something Hutch was particularly good at, and it angered him that he'd slept when his partner had needed him.

Now, though, he was awake, not exactly fit, but awake, and it was his responsibility to get them back to town as soon as possible. At least the shot wound had stopped bleeding. It was obviously infected, the flesh surrounding it inflamed with fever and colored in a sickly red, but it didn't bleed anymore. Be grateful for small favours, Hutch thought wryly and gently started ruttling Starsky's shoulders in an attempt to wake him.

"Starsk. Hey buddy, it's time to wake up now. C'mon, you want to sleep the whole day?"

When he got no response, he carefully lifted the still form to prop him up against a tree. "Starsky, you really need to wake up now, you hear me? Weve to get back to your car before..." A thought rushing through his mind, Hutch felt the ever so slight twist of a smile arching his lips upwards. "...before the word spreads that there's a new comfy john in woodtow..."

A low moan interrupted him, followed by a weak movement of Starsky's hand. It looked like he was trying to wipe something off him, and Hutch quickly caught the struggling fingers to give them a reassuring squeeze.

"That's it, buddy. C'mon, now, open your eyes for me, yeah? Starsk?"

"Hm?" was the confused reply and indeed two glassy blue seas met Hutch's relieved ones a second later. With his eyelids only half open, and the fever evident in his eyes, Starsky looked like he'd been drugged, his ashen face and dark, almost black smudges under his eyes adding to that picture.

"Hey there, buddy," Hutch greeted him, gently stroking back the curls that clung to his partner's forehead.

"Mornin'," Starsky mumbled, to Hutch's great relief. He'd feared his partner would be too confused to even remember what had happened.

"Good morning. How d'you feel?"

"'Triffic," Starsky answered, his eyes falling shut again.

"Yeah, I can see that," Hutch nodded, nudging Starsky's cheek as to get him to open his eyes again. "Hey! No sleeping now!"

"Y-you gotta safe my car," Starsky muttered, refusing to accomplishing the monumentary task of opening his eyes again. "I'll wait for you."

Hutch felt like laughing out loud, but growing fear kept him from it. "What?!"

"My car! You gotta find me car!"

"We both have to," Hutch said, frowning a little in worry as he noticed the thought of his car out there in the wilderness seemed to distress his partner increasingly. "And we will. As soon as we get going."

"Not going anywhere," Starsky shook his head, then snapped his eyes open again. Weakly, he grabbed a handful of Hutch's shirt to pull him closer. He wouldn't have had the strength to move a daisy, but Hutch complied, anyway. "I trust you with this, Hutch, you hear? Find. My. Car."

Hutch blinked, not knowing if Starsky was just delirious or trying to fool him to get him going without him. The thought that Starsky truly wasn't able to walk, and that there was no way Hutch could carry him in the condition he himself was in, had crept inside his head before, but till then he'd simply refused to let it in.

"Starsky-"

"I mean it. It's alone out there with all of them wild animals and dirt and..." Suddenly a chuckle ruined his performance, yet he continued through his horase giggles: "...and I don't want it to end like this, you know, with no one around, just stupid trees, not even a choir..." A cough cut him off, increasing till he sat practically doubled over, a weary grasp on Hutch's knee the only thing that kept him steady.

As he tried to give some comfort to his friend by rubbing his back, Hutch rolled his eyes on him. "Very funny, Starsk."

"But... I..." Starsky gasped when the coughing had subsided, "I... almost got you."

"Not even close, Gordo," Hutch stated and gently tipped his finger under Starsky's chin to lift his head. "I'm not going to leave you here, that clear? Don't try."

"Aw, c'mon, Hutch," Starsky replied and tried to move his head away from his partner's fingers. Hutch wouldn't let go, though, forcing him to keep looking directly into his eyes. "You'd have chance."

"No, I wouldn't," Hutch replied seriously.

A short silence followed. Still Hutch refused to let Starsky go, their gazes busy with a silent argument.

You go without me.

-Not a chance.

Please.

-Try again, dummy.

"There's nothing I can do to get some sense into you, huh?" Starsky finally said out loud.

Giving his friend's chin a parting squeeze, Hutch drew back his hand and smiled. "Nope."

"I could knock you out and drag you all the way through those woods till I find my car."

"Yup. That'd be effective."

His slight smile fading, Starsky bowed his head. "Aw, partner, I'm sorry," he muttered.

"What for?" Hutch asked concernedly, fighting the urge to lift Starsky's chin once more. Instead he grabbed his jacket from where it lay on the ground and stared down on it as if trying to figure out what to do with it. He was shivering from the cold by now, and he knew Starsky needed to be kept warm too, yet the only cover they had was wet. Great.

"Getting us into this mess," Starsky replied, not looking up, but seemingly shrinking with his head almost touching his chest. "I should've seen the kids earlier on the road. And I... I could've ducked or somethin'. Im sorry."

A sudden violent shiver made him whimper from the pain the movement caused on his back, and he drew his legs up under his nose as if to escape the pain by making himself a smaller target.

Instantly, Hutch had one arm around his shoulders again, helping him to lay down again, where he curled up like he'd been when asleep.

Guilt nagging on him, Hutch wondered if Starsky had been in pain that bad during the night too. "Hey babe," he soothed, holding onto his partner tightly, "it's going to be okay. Easy, just breathe. Easy."

"I-I think I'm just gonna lie here for a sec, 'kay?" Starsky panted when the pain had decreased to an endurable level.

"Sure, buddy," Hutch smiled, "I'm not going anywhere," he added, knowing he'd won the former argument for real now, and shifted Starsky's position slightly so that he could look down on him, while giving as much warmth and comfort as possible.

"Hey!" he called out, when he'd noticed Starsky's eyes had fallen shut. "You want me to get bored here?"

"Just resting my eyes," Starsky replied, his voice slurred.

"Yeah, well, rest them while they're open," Hutch ordered, lifting one of Starsky's eyelid. He was rewarded with a wince, but at least the injured man looked up at him again.

"Okay, Blintz. I'm awake. Now what?"

Good question, Hutch thought and looked around, feeling as if he was searching something for a child to play with. Or like he was every time he needed to find something to keep Starsky busy when they were on a stakeout.

"Hm," he made and shrugged. "We could play a game."

Like how to find water in the middle of nowhere, he added mentarily. He was thirsty too, all right, but his actual worry was that Starsky really needed water after that blood loss.

But then Starsky being Starsky he probably needed entertainment just as bad. So Hutch glanced down at his friend again, raising his brows.

"Okay," Starsky said with little excitment. "How 'bout hide and seek? I'll hide."

"Nice try," Hutch replied, chuckling softly, "but I'm not in the mood for calling to 1000."

"Alright then, you hide."

"Starsk, you're not exactly fit to count your fingers right now, hm?"

"Wow, that hurt."

If it was just that, Hutch thought, and couldn't resist the urge to once more stroke his partner's forehead. The fever didn't seem to have gone any higher, but Hutch knew that the cold and dehydration would get to his sick friend sooner or later.

As he swallowed back his fears, and continued stroking Starsky's curls, Hutch looked down and sighed frustratedly. Starsky's eyes were closed again.

"How 'bout," he said, nudging his partner's cheek, "I spy with my little eye? That'll keep you from dozing off on me all the time."

"It will what?" Starsky frowned in mock bewilderment. "Have you ever played that? Hutch, that's the most bor-"

Hutch rolled his eyes. Only his partner could complain about a game in a situation like this. "Starsky! C'mon, just give it a try, huh? It'll be fun."

"Hm," Starsky made, obviously not convinced and started: "I spy with my little eye-"

"Wait a moment," Hutch interrupted him, softly forcing Starsky's head up from where it had lolled to one side as he'd looked around for something to spy. "You say green, and I'm outta here."

"But there's nothing that isn't green here!" Starsky exclaimed.

"Starsk, please," Hutch sighed, thinking that that wasn't such a great idea after all. Starsky wasn't the easiest person on any game, but when he'd nothing to roll, move or read out loud, it was even worse.

"All right!" A short pause occured, then, "would greenish-brownish sorta blue be okay? Greenish-brownish sorta blue with dark red spots in it."

"Where d'you find a mirror?" Hutch commented dryly and looked up from where he'd been tiredly rubbing his eyes.

"That's so funny, Blintz," Starsky shot back, wincing briefly as a wave of pain rushed through his body. Willing not to let Hutch know just how miserably he really felt, he added, "now you gonna play or what?!"

Of course Hutch had noticed the slight jerk of pain and hugged his friend a little tighter. "I would, if I knew what sort of color 'sorta blue' is supposed to be."

"Okay, I give you a hint," Starsky offered, his voice fading a little despite his efforts to keep it steady. "It's a puddle-sorta blue."

Hutch's head snapped up. "Puddle? Where d'you see a puddle?"

"Isn't that the part you-"

"Starsk! Where?"

"Over there," Starsky replied, raising a weak hand to point into the direction he meant. "The big greenish-brownish sorta blue spot with the leaves swimming around in it."

Following the outstretched finger, Hutch noticed it too now, his eyes widening in relieved joy. "You found water!" he exclaimed happyly, squeezing Starsky's shoulder.

Suppressing a wince at the pressure, Starsky nodded. "Yep. You lose."

Ignoring the comment, Hutch carefully shifted his partner's position again as to help him to his feet and over to the puddle. "Never let me say you're not fit for the outdoors again, buddy," he said, grinning.

"Oh, we were LOOKING for water?" Starsky asked innocently. "Why didn't ya say so? Anything else I shall spy?"

"Your car'd be great," Hutch replied as he slowly made it to his feet, shaking the sudden dizzyness that threatened to overwhelm him, then bent down to give Starsky a hand.

"You okay, Blondie?" the smaller man asked, concern evident in his voice even though he didn't manage much more than a whisper himself.

"Sure, I'm fine," Hutch winked and tightened his grip when he noticed Starsky's attempt at avoiding to lean on Hutch with his full weight. "Think you'll make it over there?"

"Hm-mm," was all Starsky could muster. Their travel, as short as it was, tired him immensely, though. When Hutch gently eased him down next to the small puddle, he could feel his partner's legs trembling and his breath coming in tiny little gasps.

"Welcome to Lake Starsky," he commented and sat down himself, fishing the leaves out of their small source of water to clean it at least a little.

A slight smile crossed Starsky's lips, before he once more winced in pain, and tried to wrap his arms around his mid-section, but didn't succeed. The short walk had left him completely exhausted.

"Hey, babe, c'mon, here, try to drink something, hm?" Hutch said soothingly and helped his partner to drink at least a few small sips of the dirty water.

"Urgh," the injured detective made and grimaced at the taste of the brown liquid. "Tastes like one of your fancy drinks."

Before Hutch could reply something, a coughing fit got hold of his weakened friend again, leaving him heaving dryly and almost losing what little water he'd managed to swallow.

Desperately trying to comfort his friend, Hutch helped him to curl up in the same position he'd been in before and gently wiped the perspiration off his face with his sleeve.

"Y-ya know," Starsky muttered, cracking his eyes open just a bit, "we keep this up, the animals will start... to talk."

"Best show they had in years, I bet," Hutch joked, sighing as he felt the increasing heat of his partner's skin. "You're hot?"

Weakly shaking his head, Starsky snuggled up on Hutch a little closer. "No."

"Cold?"

"A little."

"Think you can drink a bit more?"

Starsky grimaced. "Do I have to?"

"C'mon. For me, hm?"

Too weak to put up much resistance, anyway, Starsky drank a few more sips, then fell back into Hutch's arms, coughing a little. "Im sorry," he muttered. "Sorry, Hutch."

"Hey," Hutch soothed, alarmed by Starsky's weakness. He had to catch a hand before it slipped from his knee, where Starsky tried to grasp it. "Nothing to be sorry for, partner. It's not your fault that kid shot you."

"Some kid," Starsky replied dryly, then bowed his head when recalling the scenes back with the children. "He's probably dead already."

"Starsky," Hutch said, forcing Starsky's head up a little so he could look directly at him. "It's not your fault. Those kids have made their own rules. Cruel rules, but theirs. It's not your fault if they execute one of them."

"We... we should've taken him with us," Starsky whispered and coughed again. "We're cops, damnit, we should've-"

"We couldn't have helped him," Hutch said, trying to convince himself as much as his partner. "We'd only succeed in getting us both killed too."

"So what'd be the difference?"

"Starsk, look at me," Hutch ordered clearly, and when Starsky obeyed slowly, said, "we'll get out of here. It's going to be okay. You hear me? Somehow we'll get back to the car and out of here."

"Yeah," Starsk nodded, eyes closed. "Sure." He wanted to say more, but just couldn't manage. Instead, he let his head fall back against Hutch's chest.

Briefly closing his eyes, Hutch hugged him closer and layed his chin on top of the damp curls. "We'll make it, buddy," he whispered to no one in particular.

****

Time passed, till Hutch lost track of the hours they'd already sitten next to the puddle. He'd shake his friend awake from time to time, get him to drink some more, soothe him when the pain got worse.

There wasn't much more he could do.

Cursing his helplessness, he'd started to work out plans to safe them, illusionary plans he had to give up after a few minutes of thinking. There was no way he would leave Starsky alone.

Unfortunately that was the only option that promised a real chance.

But then, as dizzy and tired and hungry as he was himself, he'd probably never made it to the car on his own, anyway. He'd get lost in the woods. Where he was now there was at least water.

And Starsky.

The injured detective had grown awfully quiet over the past hours, shivering violently in Hutch's arms and occasionally flinching away slightly as if trying to escape from something in his fevered dreams. Hutch would wake him then, but only get confused looks for an answer.

A sudden chuckle from Starsky drew his attention towards him when he'd been busy working on another one of his impossible plans.

"What're you laughing about?"

"Your stomach's making funny noises."

"Glad you're enjoying the program," Hutch replied, rolling his eyes, though he was a little relieved to hear Starsky talk again after the hours of just whimpering and moaning in his sleep.

Starsky grinned a bit more, then slowly crawled a little away from Hutch, wearily trying to shove a protecting arm off him unaware of the fact that he couldn't manage.

"Hey, what're you doing?" Hutch asked, letting go a bit.

"Hot," Starsky answered.

"No, you're shaking, Starsk," Hutch said.

"But I'm hot," Starsky insisted, till Hutch gently rolled him off himself and eased him down on the ground where he wiped his forehead with his sleeve he damped in the puddle. It didn't take Starsky two minutes to turn on his side and snuggle up at Hutch's knee again.

"What now?"

"Cold," Starsky mumbled, grasping Hutch's arm.

Sighing deeply, Hutch gathered him in his arms again. They sat silent for a moment, before he felt slow movements again.

"Don't tell me. Hot?"

"Im sorry I'm such a pest," Starsky said, willing himself to stop wriggling, though his discomfort grew steadily.

"That's okay," Hutch replied, deciding to not move his friend but wipe his face again. "I've come to accept that."

"Thanks," Starsky smiled slightly, curling up a bit more.

"Cold?" Hutch asked, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice.

"Hm. You know what?"

"What?"

"I hate campin'."

"Yeah. Me too," Hutch muttered, but Starsky didn't hear him. He'd once more succumbed to a restless sleep.

The sunlight was fading between the glittering trees. Blinking up at the golden beams that enlightened red leaves, Hutch felt a tight knot built in his throat. What a beautiful sight. And how very dramatic considering the fact that here they were, his best friend and he, just waiting for the end to arrive. Just waiting for the sun to set. Just waiting for the darkness to come.

A sudden rush of anger made his head snap up. What were they doing, for Christ's sake?! That wasn't Starsky and Hutch, to give up that easily, was it? That wasn't them to die in the woods with a pathetic sun-set in the background!

"Hey!" he called out, ruttling his friend. "Starsky!"

"Hmm?"

"C'mon," he urged, forcing his tired legs to stand, and dragged Starsky up with him. The smaller man didn't even notice the change of position, his head slumped against Hutch's chest and he would have simply fallen down again, if Hutch hadn't kept a steady arm around his waist.

"Starsk, come ON!"

"Wha...?" Starsky blinked with his eyes closed, obviously not aware of the fact.

Hutch sighed. It was ridiculous. They'd probably managed to reach the next tree. Yet he just refused to give up that easily.

"We've to get going now, buddy," he told Starsky and made a tentative step, dragging his friend with him. Starsky was like a dead weight in his arms. "C'mon, move your feet, Starsk. Just a little."

"Feet?" was the confused reply.

"Never mind," Hutch winked and managed another step, before suddenly -- a voice cut through the silence of the trees.

"Hello?" It was a male voice, hoarse, as if its owner had spent hours of calling out.

"Yeah!" Hutch answered after a short moment of disbelief. "Yeah, we're over here! Hey!"

A second later a man in a police uniform appeared from behind some trees, eyes wide with astonishment. "Are you detectives Hutchinson and Starsky?" he asked and blinked as if not believing his eyes.

"Yes," Hutch answered and almost laughed out. "Yes, we are. Who...?"

"I'm Mike Ballard. Wow, I'd never thought we'd find you! We spent almost a day looking for you."

"Looking... ?" Hutch repeated, the thoughts racing in his head.

They'd just been gone for a day and a half. Sure Dobey wouldn't have send a searching party after that short a time, would he?

"Yeah," Mike Ballard nodded, quickly stepping up next to Hutch to help him with Starsky, who was out cold again. "A girl called us yesterday night. Told us you were somewhere out here and probably in danger. What's with him?"

"He's been shot," Hutch said, and at Ballard's confused look added: "It's a long story. Did you find the kids too?"

"No," the man said, shaking his head. By now they'd reached a few more searching officers. One of them had blankets with him and handed one to Hutch who wrapped it around Starsky. Smiling, the man covered him with one too, then turned to run for the paramedics they had brought along.

Ballard stayed with Hutch and Starsky, whom they'd leaned against a tree in a sitting position while waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

"So where are they?" Hutch asked Ballard as he kneeled next to his unconscious friend, still not willing to leave him alone, but rubbing his shoulders. "The children. Where did they go?"

"We don't know," Ballard answered. "They're just gone. That is..." He hesitated. "We found... one. A boy."

Hutch swallowed dryly. "Dark hair, medium built?"

"Yeah. How...?"

Hutch winked. "He dead?"

Drawing in a deep breath, Ballard nodded. "Yes. They... they hit him in the head. And then they left him in... uh... in your car."

"They left the body in the Torino?!" Hutch asked, eyes wide.

"Yes. Along with a note."

"Note? What note?"

"For you. It said 'We don't accept death in our woods. But we will accept your law this time, adults.' No signature."

Just then the paramedics arrived, gently but firmly shoving Hutch out of their way as they started to check on Starsky.

Feeling light-headed and like he'd been slapped in the face, Hutch just sat down against another tree, staring ahead. "We will accept your law this time," he muttered, fighting the sudden nausea that rose in his stomach.

"Very funny, Anne."

 

THE END

 

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