They silently watched as the coroner’s team efficiently bagged up the body of Sniper, his bright copper locks the last image Hutch saw before the bag was zipped closed and lifted up into the wagon. As cops, agents and forensics crawled over the area with a fine tooth comb, Hutch gently squeezed Starsky’s shoulder, feeling him grow tense as the coroner’s team made their way over to them.
They had remained where they were, sitting in the dirt next to the hole in the ground, as Starsky continued to cradle the golden head of the lifeless biker in his lap, his hand gently stroking the side of Diesel’s face, as if to soothe the dead man. Hutch could see the heavy lines of fatigue and sadness etched in the brunet’s face and watching the gentle strokes as his friend touched the biker brought a lump to Hutch’s throat. It was obvious to the flaxen haired detective that Starsky had cared very much for the president of the Minions.
“Excuse me, sir,” a young man said, his gloved hand reaching out to grab onto the dead man’s arm, “We need to take the body now . . .”
“He has a name,” Starsky whispered softly. “His name is Diesel . . .”
“Yes sir,” the coroner’s assistant said softly, knowing the cop was probably in shock. “We’ll take care of him now, sir . . .” The young man raised compassionate brown eyes to look uncertainly at the blond detective when the dark haired biker refused to let go.
Hutch leaned in closer, putting his arm gently around his partner’s stiff shoulders, “Hey Starsk, it’s okay, buddy, y-you can let go now. They need to take Diesel out of this dusty place . . . a-and you and I need to get home okay, pal?” The tall blond gentled his voice to soothe his traumatized friend, knowing it was hurting the brunet to part with the body of the biker.
The tall blond detective let out a soft breath as he saw Starsky finally give a curt nod, unaware that he had been even holding it the whole time that he’d waited for Starsky acquiescence. He watched as Starsky slowly turned to look at the older man holding the body bag.
“Don’t put ‘im in that . . .” the curly haired detective murmured, his blue eyes flashing angrily, “He don’ belong in there!”
“It’s procedure, sir . . .” the assistant reassured, “All bodies are transported this way . . . ” The young man looked to Hutch who shook his head imperceptibly, silently warning the coroner who quickly looked to the dark haired detective once again, clearing his throat uncomfortably before trying again. “Um . . . well . . . we’re gonna . . . ah . . .we’ll put your friend in here to protect him, it’ll keep him safe and warm on the long ride back, okay sir? I promise you we’ll take good care of him.” The young man smiled with relief as he saw the brunet reluctantly release his hold on the blond biker.
Starsky leaned heavily against Hutch’s chest, watching intently like a guard on duty, as they gently lifted Diesel’s large frame and placed him in the long black bag, feeling his partner squeezing his shoulder reassuringly as they began to zip the bag up. Starsky could feel his breath catch as he took a last look at Diesel, the proud, honorable man he had called his friend, the man who had taken the bullet with his name on it, shuddering as he heard the grating sound of the zipper as it neared the head of the blond biker.
The dark haired cop grunted softly as he pushed himself to sit up, feeling the warm support of Hutch as he moved in closer behind him. “Don’ . . . don’t!” Starsky rasped, hissing at the sudden pain in his ribs, “His face . . . don’t cover it . . .”
“Shh, take it easy, Starsk . . .” Hutch gently soothed, “It’s okay . . .”
“No . . . he . . . he n-needs to feel . . . the wind . . . on his face.” Starsky said sadly, remembering Diesel’s words, knowing that it always brought the blond biker joy to feel the wind on his face.
At Hutch’s brief nod, the corner’s team left the bag partially open, carefully lifting it as they took it to the wagon.
“Hey, buddy . . .”
Starsky wearily watched as they took Diesel away, his heart breaking at the thought of the blond’s sacrifice, turning his attention to his partner, as Hutch’s soft words reached his ears.
Hutch swallowed, seeing the pain and emptiness in the fathomless blue depths of his partner’s eyes as they turned towards him. “Let’s go home, huh?” Hutch said softly. At his partner’s nod, Hutch gently lifted Starsky under his arms into a standing position, moving in to support his wounded friend, as the brunet gritted his teeth against the pain that flared in his side.
“Good job, Detective Starsky,” Hillyard congratulated, moving to stand beside the two detectives after checking the deep well behind them, quickly motioning for Slate to come over, who was standing over by the coroner’s wagon. “Everything went down as planned. We’ve captured several different reps at the warehouse, which will indict their chapters in this drug bust and in their dealings with “The Minions”. The recordings we’ve gotten from you will help to prosecute and lock these derelicts behind bars where they belong and once we can ascertain how many bodies we’ll find in that hole back there . . . we’ll have this whole operation in a bag! ”
“Was any . . . of the bikers hurt . . . in the bust?” Starsky asked quietly, his deep blue eyes wearily searched the face of the federal agent, anxious to hear about Jasper and the others, hoping that they had given up and that they had come out unharmed.
Slate came over and stood next to Hillyard, overhearing Starsky’s question. “Well what do you think, detective? You think those idiots had the sense to give up?” The older man chuckled, shaking his head. “We killed a couple of them and plugged a few more, they were scurrying all over the place . . . like rats in a drain hole! We had a field day, didn’t we Hillyard?” Slate laughed out loud, slapping his knee in remembered glee. Slate sneered at the wounded cop, nodding his head in the direction of the coroner’s wagon. “Don’t even know why you care for scums like that Diesel. He’s better off dead than alive. He was a menace to society and we don’t need anymore white trash like that around now, do we?”
Hutch could see the hostile glare that replaced the vulnerable look in his partner’s eyes and he quickly made a grab for his partner as the brunet lunged and struggled to slug the older man in his smug face, not caring about the pain that was tearing into his side with the violent motions it took, as he fought to get at Slate who quickly stepped back. “You fuckin’ prick! You know nuthin’ about him!” Starsky snarled. “He was a medic in ‘Nam . . . fought for our country . . . while you sat safe . . . behind a fuckin’ desk . . . pushing pap . . .” The winded brunet couldn’t even finish his sentence, as a round of coughs stole his remaining breath away, ripping mercilessly into his weakened body.
“Take it easy, Starsk,” Hutch said, his voice gentled as he spoke to his gasping partner, gently rubbing his back as Starsky tried to catch his breath. “Let it go, pal. Don’t soil your hands on this slime,” the tall blond said soothingly, leaning his partner against a squad car that was parked next to them. “Don’t lower yourself to his standards; you’re above all of that, buddy . . . but I’m not!”
The blond’s sky blue eyes hardened to the color of ice as he quickly turned and false-cracked the older man’s jaw, sending the agent to his knees. Breathing hard, Hutch glared down at the fallen man who groaned and held his tender jaw, working it back and forth as he scrunched his eyes in pain. “The next time you ever try to withhold information from me again when it concerns my partner’s safety,” the tall blond growled, pointing a long finger at the agents, “You’ll get more than just a clip on the jaw from me!” Hutch shifted his angry glare and his finger to the cowering Hillyard. “Now move the fuck out of our way . . .”
The blond turned and collected his dark haired partner, placing an arm around the biker’s waist as he helped Starsky over to the battered LTD.
“G-good thing Dobey . . . ain’t here to see . . . your bad temper . . . Hutchinson,” the dark haired cop rasped, too tired to even snort at the havoc Hutch had caused, gritting his teeth as they made their way to the vehicle.
A small grin came to the blond’s lips, “Yeah? Well you should’ve seen Dobey smash Hillyard back at the bust. He would’ve been here too, but he had to stay back and wrap up things at the warehouse with the other agents.
“Yeah?” the weary cop gasped, “Guess . . . I missed . . . the show . . . huh?”
Hutch could hear the soft wheezing that came from the brunet’s lungs each time he took in a breath and it filled him with dread. “Easy, buddy,” the blond said softly, as he gently helped Starsky into the vehicle. Hutch slammed the door once his partner was safely in, and then hurried around to the driver’s side, wincing as he heard the loud blaring of his horn before slamming his door to start up the ignition.
Hutch looked over at his silent partner who sat hugging his side of the door, worry lines creased the blond’s forehead as he realized that Starsky had no quick wise cracks about his door and his horn. The gentle bantering they had just shared was gone as the brunet just sat, slouched over, right arm wrapped snugly around his left ribs, the line of thick dark lashes hiding the expressive blue of his partner’s eyes.
“Hey pal, how you doing, huh?” Hutch asked softly, watching as he partner eyes slitted open, revealing the sapphire he longed to see.
Starsky shrugged, closing his eyes once more. “Okay . . . I guess . . .”
“You hungry? Wanna get something to eat . . . like some tofu burgers maybe?” Hutch joked, trying to get at least a little snort from his fatigued partner, wanting to see that grin he’d missed so much.
“Nah . . .” Starsky whispered softly, drawing into himself as he huddled against the door. Hutch tried to engage his dark haired friend into conversation as they sped along the freeway, making their way to Venice Place, but Starsky refused to answer anything anymore, moodily withdrawing into silence, pressing his curls against the glass as he leaned his head wearily upon the rolled up window.
The tall blond kept his eyes on the road knowing his partner was hurting both physically, as well as emotionally. He had seen the brief hesitation in his partner when the coroner’s team tried to pry Diesel loose from Starsky’s hold, feeling the sadness and loss radiating from his curly haired friend as he helped him towards the car.
Hutch glanced over at his partner who had his eyes closed, his long dark lashes looked like smudges against his pale cheeks, and Hutch knew his partner had fallen into an exhausted slumber. The brunet’s shallow breathing disturbed the blond who startled when the raspy voice next to him invaded his thoughts.
“He was gonna let me go . . . take me to the border . . . t’hide me from the chapters . . . said I reminded him . . . of Jessie.”
Hutch glanced once again at his slouched partner who still had his eyes closed; the tall blond could feel the weariness emanating from the brunet, who gritted his teeth suddenly as they ran over a pothole. Hutch quickly returned his eyes to the road, his voice soft and soothing, “Sorry, pal . . . who’s Jessie? Another biker?”
Starsky sighed softly, hearing the soft wheezing sound in his lungs, wishing he could do some lines to forget how Diesel had died in his arms, unconsciously rubbing his left hand against his denim clad thigh that was still stained red from the biker’s blood. He could see Diesel’s pain filled eyes behind his closed lids, could hear his last whispered words, “F-freedom . . . n-no r-regrets . . .”, and he wished desperately for some of that white powder that would help him to forget, help him to feel pleasure again, to fly away from the remorse and guilt that swamped his heart. “Sweet surrender . . .” Starsky whispered under his breath, remembering the words the blond biker had often used.
“What, buddy?” Hutch asked, looking to his friend again, concern making the crease deepen between his pale brows, “You say something?” The blond looked over to see his friend slowly open his bright blue eyes, feeling his heart quicken as Starsky turned to look at him. God how he missed his partner!
“I said Jessie . . . was Diesel’s kid brother.” Starsky rasped, his breathing rapid and shallow, straining to take in a full breath, which set him off on another round of coughs once more. The wounded detective clutched his side, eyes scrunched tight, silently surfing through the pain that tore through his side and throat, feeling so weary, his heavy body screaming out for relief, begging him for more of the sweet powder that would take him away from this hellish nightmare and send him soaring into euphoric bliss . . . away from the pain, away from the hurt . . . away from . . . Hutch.
Starsky gasped and sucked in air as the coughing jag ceased, slouching wearily against the seat once more, feeling weak and exhausted, only to feel the strong arm of Hutch dragging him across the bench seat, pulling the brunet into the warmth of his embrace.
“Shh, take it easy, Starsk,” Hutch soothed, coaxing the dark curls to rest upon his thigh, “Just try to rest, okay buddy? We’re almost home . . .”
Starsky could feel the comforting strokes of his partner’s fingers through his hair, could feel the warmth of Hutch’s firm thigh under his cheek and it felt good to feel safe again, yet, in the dark recesses of his mind, he could still hear the soft whisper of the drug . . .
“It’s okay . . . just one more time . . . just a little to ease the pain . . .”
The hurting brunet shook his head, clearing his mind of the enticing call of the drug, feeling Hutch immediately rubbing his shoulder to soothe him. The gentle touch brought a small smile to the lips of the brunet who resolved himself to remember his vow, that no matter how hard it would be to dry out, he would never beg Hutch for more snow, he would never put Hutch in a position to choose again. He knew that the next two weeks were gonna tear them both up, and the big sensitive blond would be dying inside as he watched his friend suffering through withdrawal, wanting to help, wanting to ease his pain and Hutch didn’t deserve to suffer because of the wrong choices that he’d made in this assignment.
The dark haired cop forced himself to concentrate on the warm, gentle strokes on his shoulder, Hutch’s soothing touch and the hum and lull of the car, rocked him slowly to sleep, made him push away the craving as he slowly crashed and burned . . .
“Yup, nothing you can do. Everyone crashes on the road of life, buddy, some get back up, some don’t, and some can’t.”
“Just like that . . . life’s gone. You and I know there ain’t no reverse gears on a bike, Snake, and that’s why I live my life with no regrets. I live in the now, because there might not be a tomorrow, man. No regrets. That’s freedom baby . . . and freedom is the best ride anyone can have in life. That’s the motto you should adopt too, Snake. No regrets!”
Starsky startled awake, hitting his head against the bottom of the steering wheel as he tried to abruptly sit up, the quiet voice of Diesel still reverberating in his mind
“Easy . . .take it easy, Starsk,” Hutch soothed, gently pushing his exhausted friend down once more. “It was just a dream, I’m right here . . .right here, buddy.” The tall blond detective smiled gently, feeling his partner snuggling down on his lap once more, the tense muscles relaxing as sleep once again overtook the fatigued brunet.
Hutch sighed softly, stroking his partner’s curls with one hand as he steered into the cut off lane that would take them home. He knew he was in for a long haul. The painful coughs and wheezing he had witnessed worried him immensely. Hutch battled with himself, wanting to take his partner straight to Memorial, but he knew that any blood test given would reveal the cocaine coursing through his partner’s system. He couldn’t put Starsky through that. He’d have two weeks to try and clean Starsky out. Two weeks of hell.
The tall blond sighed once more, chancing to take his eyes away from the road to briefly look down at his slumbering partner whose head he held on his lap. The blond smiled, returning his pale blue eyes to the road, his fingers gently teasing the soft sable curls, as his partner continued to sleep. No matter what happened, no matter how painful it was, Hutch knew that he would stay beside his partner, knew that he would do whatever it took to help Starsky dry out, even if it killed him.
“Me and Thee buddy,” Hutch whispered softly, “Me and Thee . . .”