Summary: When Hutch is kidnapped, Christmas brings a new meaning to all. Both angst & H/C. A huge thank you to acmabry for being my Beta and improving this story.

Categories: Gen

Genre: Action/Adventure

Warnings: Author Chooses Not to Use Archive Warnings

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Priceless Gifts

By MaryEllen2932

Starsky sighed wearily, resting his chin on his right hand, frustrated at chasing another useless lead. It had been fifteen days since Hutch had disappeared and there was nothing...nothing at all. No sign of Hutch anywhere. All the leads they had were the same. Nothing.

Captain Dobey looked at Starsky. His shoulders were slumped and he was trembling with exhaustion. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut, yet a tear managed to escape and track down his face. Dobey crossed the room and sat down on the motel bed next to his detective.

"Son, Dave, you need to get some rest. If you keep on like this, you are going to collapse. How can you help Hutch if you're sick?" The concerned Captain said.

Starsky looked forlornly toward his Captain who was really more of a father to him and said, "It's been fifteen days Cap. He may be hurt. He might not have enough time left for me to rest. How can I take a nap knowing that he is depending on me to find him? How Cap? Will you tell me how?"

Not waiting for a reply, he rose from the bed and swayed. Dobey stood and grabbed the detective's shoulders to steady him. Starsky shrugged off Dobey's hands and staggered to the door of the motel room they had just searched and suddenly dropped to the floor unconscious.

The captain barked at the uniformed officer in the room who was staring down at Starsky and said, "Well don't just stand there, go tell dispatch to call for an ambulance!" As the officer quickly stepped around the fallen detective, Dobey approached the brunet and knelt down beside him and gently rubbed his back. "Oh son, I bet you haven't even eaten have you?"

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Hutch awoke slowly to a world of pain and confusion. The last thing he remembered was Starsky dropping him off at Venice Place and stepping inside his apartment door. Everything else was a blank. Obviously he had been whacked on the back of the head and it felt like it was going to explode. He moaned as he tried to move. He couldn't see anything and wondered if he had a blindfold on. He tried to reach and feel for one but couldn't. His arms were cuffed behind his back, with his own cuffs he surmised. Hutch tried to move his legs and found them to be bound together at his ankles. Attempting to roll to his side, he cried out and stopped. Apparently he had been beaten while he was unconscious, his ribs, gut and back throbbing with the movement. Gritting his teeth, he once again moved, rolling to his side moaning and panting through the pain. At least he felt some life coming back to his numb arms now that he was off of them. He felt something tight around his right ankle and heard chain links clinking when he moved his leg.

Then Hutch froze as he heard a faint whimper. He strained to hear more, but there was no other sound and he wondered if he had imagined it.

Suddenly he heard a door opened somewhere above him, a light streaming in that momentarily blinded him. Then he saw a huge, mountain of a man moving down the stairway. He stood six foot five with muscles on his muscles from shoulder to legs. His hair messy and black and hanging shoulder lengthHis face covered with small pits. He wore blue jean bib overalls, and heavy work boots. His eyes were brown and he looked directly at Hutch, a sneer of a smile appearing.

Stopping a few feet away from Hutch he sneered, "So, you finally decided to wake up. It's about time you stinking pig."

Hutch had no idea who this was. Anger at being taken by this brute flared and Hutch spat at him, "Who the hell are you and why have you taken me prisoner?"

The man stepped forward and kicked Hutch in the stomach. Hutch curled into himself desperately trying to get his breath. As he did, the man walked behind him and kicked him hard in the lower back. Hutch cried out and writhed on the cement floor.

"I do the talking here! You only talk if I tell you to, you hear me pig?" The man walked in front of Hutch again, "I said 'D'ya hear me?"

Hutch gasped out "Yeah, I hear you."

"So, you don't even know who I am! Figures, you pigs' just throw people into the pen and forget 'em don't 'ya?" The man spit on the floor near Hutch's face. "You damn pig! You and your partner took my little brother away from me. You made sure he went in the slammer for a long time. You wanna' know what that did to him? He was good looking. Do you know what they did to him? He couldn't take it no more and he killed himself. That is what you and Starsky did to my kid brother Joey, you slimy pig. You killed him, but not before he went through hell first. Now you and your partner are going to experience hell, you bastard!" the mountain man's anger rising with each word.

Hutch was trying to think who this Joey was. It was hard to think while he tried to deal with the pain that wracked his body.

"Damn you!" the man screamed in fury "you rotten pig! His name was Joey Leonard! Now do you remember?"

Hutch closed his eyes, frantically sifting through the perps he and Starsky had put in jail. Then he remembered. Joey was a pedophile. He was known to keep the children around for a while before he killed them and left them propped against a tree in a park. Starsky and Hutch had been able to break the case, arresting Joey and testifying against him in court. Joey was sentenced to life in prison.

Hutch groaned as he realized that this brother was just as sick as the other.

"Starsky will be joining us too. But, I want him to suffer a little wondering where you are. I know about you two, how close you are. You're both gonna suffer, even more than my brother!" the man threatened.

Hutch tried to sit up, then fell back and yelled, "Don't you even think about touching him, you bastard! I'll kill you if you even touch him!"

The big man laughed, an ugly sound. "You aren't going to do nothing except watch!"

Then he turned and went back up the stairs, slamming the door shut. Hutch heard a lock click into place.

Hutch sighed. At least the brute forgot to turn off the light this time. He took his first look at his surroundings. As he figured, he was in a basement. The cement he was laying on, was damp and cold. The walls were simply rock and dirt. A furnace was in the corner near the staircase. A dirty toilet stood by itself in the other corner. There were no windows which explained the pitch blackness when the lights were off.

A whimper and a sob made Hutch stiffen. The sound was coming from behind him. He rolled over to his left side and was shocked at what he saw. A four by four foot dog crate was pushed up against the damp wall and inside was a small girl, he figured to be about eight years old.

She was filthy, her long brown hair dirty and matted. Tears were leaving trails on her dirty cheeks. She had old and new bruises on her face and her arms.

Hutch couldn't see the rest of her as she was laying on her stomach, looking at him with terrified wide eyes.

Hutch's heart squeezed with pain and sympathy for the little one. She had obviously been here a long time. Her face was gaunt and her arms reminded him of pictures of holocaust victims.

"Hi honey," he said softly with a smile. "I won't hurt you. I'm a policeman."

"You, you don't look like a policeman." She said, her voice weak and raspy.

"I know honey. I'm what they call a detective. I wear street clothes," he said gently. "How long have you been here? Can you remember?" he asked.

The girl slowly pushed herself up so that she was sitting with her legs in front of her, leaning back against the bars of the cage. Hutch could see bruises up and down her legs. The faded pink dress she had on was torn in places. Her hazel eyes looked directly into his.

"I, I don't know. It was spring when the, the first man took me away. The first man left and now it is just the m, man you saw. I, I, I am so scared. I miss my mommy and daddy and my brother." A sob escaped her lips and she put her face in her hands as more tears came.

Hutch reeled from the shock of what he had heard. Joey Leonard had been apprehended in October of last year. It was the week of Dec 15th now. She had been held here for over a year and a half!

Anger burning in his gut, he gritted his teeth in frustration. There had been plenty of evidence in Joey Leonard's house that indicated he had kept children there in cages. To find out now that the brother had been involved in it as well simply blew his mind. All this time the little girl was thought to be dead even though the body had never been found. Tears brimmed his eyes. He blinked them away and turned back to the girl.

"Your name is Elsie Kingston isn't it?" he asked.

Eyes widening, the girl slowly nodded her head up and down. "How did you know?"

"I told you I am a detective? A policeman? Me and my partner arrested the man that first took you and he was sent to jail." A tear coursed down his cheek as he looked at her and went on, "The house we found him at had cages and pictures. But we couldn't find you. We looked in all the p, parks for you. We thought you were dead." Hutch hung his head. "I...I...I'm so sorry. We didn't know. I am so sorry Elsie." The sentence ended in a sob.

Elsie looked at the man. She decided she was safe with him and she scooted closer to the end of the cage where Hutch was, his head still down and tears dripping off his chin.

She reached through the wires and said, "Mister?" Hutch didn't move.

"Mister? Please Mister?" Hutch finally looked up at the frail girl. A small smile lifted the corners of her lips. "Mister, I'm so glad you're here. I...I'm so scared. It helps having you here. You and your partner are why the man went away and stopped hurting me. Thank you. Thank you so much!" she cried out.

Hutch looked again at the bruises on her body and said, "But you're still being hurt by that jerk upstairs?"

She nodded. "But he doesn't hurt me the way the other man hurt me. He just hits me when he brings food. She looked down and added, "but he doesn't do that very often."

Looking up again, she said, "Do you think you can get us out of here?"

Hutch swallowed, seeing the hopeful look on the girl's face. "Elsie, I...I don't know. But I am going to do all I can to get us out of here and get you to your family."

"Thank you, sir."

"Call me Ken or Hutch, that's what my partner, my friend calls me." Hutch said, smiling at the girl.

"Okay Hutch." Elsie smiled shyly as well.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Starsky woke up on a bed in a small curtained cubicle. At first he had no idea where he was or why. After letting his eyes adjust to the bright lights, he saw the IV bag hanging from a pole at the top of the stretcher. He followed the line down to his left hand where he saw the needle going into his skin. He groaned, both because of the headache he had and the fact that he was in the ER again. He heard a noise and turned to see his captain stand up and walk over to him.

"Hey, it's good to see you awake son. How are you feeling?" Dobey groaned inwardly at the stupid question. It was obvious Starsky wasn't feeling well at all.

"Aww Cap'," Starsky groaned. "What happened now? My head is killing me."

"Well, you cracked your head on the floor when you passed out in the motel room. How much have you eaten since this all started?"

"I, gee, I don't know Cap. I've been trying to track down... HUTCH! I've got to find Hutch!" Starsky started to sit up, but fell back with a groan. He squeezed his eyes shut as the room was spinning. His head pounded and he was so weak. "This can't be happening, he thought. I have to find Hutch!"

"Starsky, just settle down son. You are dehydrated, and you have a mild concussion. Now, you're going to stay here a while, eat a meal and rest some more until the IV fluid is in. Then you're going home and rest for the night."

Starsky scowled and opened his mouth to protest but was cut off by his boss.

"That's an order Starsky! Do you understand?"

Starsky started moving his head side to side, but quit abruptly when the spinning just got worse.

"Starsky, I said, 'Do you understand?'" barked Dobey.

Starsky slowly nodded his head. "I understand sir. But I want it noted that this is under protest."

"Noted." Dobey smiled slightly before Starsky opened his eyes and glared at his captain.

"Cap, I don't have time, Hutch doesn't have time for me to just lay around." Starsky whined, as he put his left hand over his eyes.

Letting the hand fall to his side again he looked up at Dobey, his eyes shining with tears, and said, "I gotta' find him Cap. It's been too long. He's hurt, I know he is. I can feel it. Cap where is he? We gotta' find him, please Cap?"

Dobey placed a hand on Starsky's right shoulder. "David, we will. We aren't giving up. Let me find the nurse and get a hot meal ordered for you. You'll feel better with some nourishment in you."

Starsky just groaned at the thought of the hospital food. It almost made him sick thinking about it. "Cap, I know I need to eat, but I just don't think I can eat the food here."

"Starsky, you will eat the food regardless. Later..." Dobey was interrupted when Huggy walked into the cubicle.

"Saved by the Bear," the bartender said with a flourish. "I see I got here just in time. The Bear brings a Starsky special and a chocolate shake for you my paler than pale faced brother. And this time you will eat. It's either this or that slop this place calls food." Huggy glared down at Starsky.

He was thankful that Dobey had called and told him that Starsky was in the hospital and figured he would have back up from the Captain in getting the stubborn brunet to eat.

Dobey reached under the bed and cranked the head up slowly.

Starsky smiled at Huggy and took the bag out of his hands. "Thanks Huggy."

Huggy grinned at Starsky and then Dobey who nodded his head at him. "Thank you, Huggy. I was worried I was going to have to cram the food down his throat."

By the time Starsky had finished the meal, the IV bag had emptied and the nurse had come in to remove the needle from his hand. After she left, the ER doctor came back in. He nodded to the two men standing by the bed and then looked at his patient.

"Well, Mr. Starsky, it's good to see you awake. You have had your fluids replaced and the nurse told me you ate a good meal. Because of that I am going to discharge you as long as you go straight home and rest."

Starsky scowled and started to protest, but was cut off.

"Otherwise," the doctor added, "I will admit you and give you a sedative to make you rest. Do you understand?"

Before he could say anything, Dobey said, "He understands and he WILL go home and rest. I'll see to it myself. In fact, I'm taking him to my home so I can keep an eye on him."

Starsky scowled and then hung his head in defeat. "Okay, okay, I will do as you say." He looked up again, blinking back the tears in his eyes as he looked at first the doctor and then Dobey.

Later, as Dobey parked the car in his driveway, he looked over at his detective who had fallen asleep with his head against the window. Dobey hated to wake him up, but the sooner he did, the sooner he could get the man into a bed where he could really rest. He got out of the car and walked around to open the passenger door slowly, reaching in to put his left hand on Starsky's shoulder before opening the door wide.

"Starsky, son, wake up." He shook his shoulder. "Come on son, wake up now."

Starsky jerked and raised his head to look at his captain. Confused blue eyes cleared and then he nodded and slowly stood up by the side of the car. He teetered a bit and held onto the door. Dobey put his arm around Starsky and after closing the car door, guided him to the porch and opening the door sent Starsky in ahead of him.

Starsky blinked and looked around him. Cal was sleeping on the couch. In the corner of the living room, the Christmas tree was up, decorated and twinkling. He assumed Rosie was already in bed being it was after nine pm.

Edith entered the room and rushed to Starsky. "Oh Dave, I'm so glad you are here. Have you eaten?"

"Yes ma'am. Huggy brought me some food to eat at the hospital." He blinked slowly and swayed a little. Edith reached out and grabbed his arm and began to lead him up the stairs to the guest room. Dobey entered behind them and as Edith turned the blankets down on the bed, he moved to Starsky's side and said, "I'll take over from here."

Edith turned to Starsky and gave him a hug. "You get some rest now." After she left, Dobey guided him over to the bed and helped him out of his jacket, shoulder holster and shirt. "Can you take it from here?" he asked.

Starsky looked at Dobey and slowly nodded his head. He looked down and unbuckled his belt, then peeled the jeans off. He sat down on the bed and rolled onto his side and was asleep instantly. Dobey shook his head, covered the exhausted man and walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

"Ken, Ken! Wake up Ken!" Elsie whispered loudly as she prodded him with her fingers while reaching through the cage. Hutch jerked awake in time to see 'the Brute' coming down the stairs. Hutch turned to Elsie and tried to give her a reassuring smile before turning back to see Leonard standing before him with two dog bowls in one hand and pitcher of water in the other.

"You don't deserve food. Both of you are leeches. He dropped one bowl before Hutch, then poured the contents of the second bowl into the cage. The girl grabbed a plastic cup from the back of the cage and held it up as Leonard poured water from the pitcher into it.

He turned to Hutch and said, "Open up. You know the drill." He then proceeded to pour the water into Hutch's open mouth. As he had before, he poured it fast so that Hutch ended up choking and not getting much water.

Hutch shook his head and asked, "How am I supposed to eat? Can't you take these cuffs off my hands?"

Leonard laughed. "You would like that wouldn't you? No way am I letting you have your hands free. You can eat it like a pig, pig!" he laughed, a loud, mean laugh, then swung around and moved back upstairs shutting the light off before closing and locking the door.

Hutch didn't know how long he had been here, it felt like a month. This was the second time they had been given any food or water since his arrival. He laid on his side and tried moving closer to where he had seen the bowl. After sliding a few times, he felt it at his shoulder. He could hear Elsie crunching on something. He lowered his face to the bowl and stopped at the smell of mold and spoilage.

"Elsie, is this all he has been giving you? Spoiled food?"

"Yes, Hutch. It's not so bad once you get used to it. It's worse being hungry."

Hutch groaned thinking about how long the girl had been here living like this.

"Elsie, when we get out of here, I am going to take you out for a great meal at a restaurant. Did you know it is almost Christmas?"

"It is? It would be nice to eat in a restaurant. Although, I would really like to eat my Mom's food. She cooks really good things. I would love some of her peppermint cookies that she makes at Christmas," the child said wistfully.

"I'm sorry Elsie, of course you will go home right away to be with your family. We'll get together and have a special meal a little later."

Hutch then stuck his face in the bowl and bit a piece of something and tried to chew it. He gagged and spit it out. He once again bit at something and decided it was dried out bread and chewed the piece slowly. It was moldy, but he forced himself to chew and swallow.

"Mister Ken? How, how are we going to get away? I've been here a long time. You can't move your arms or legs. How can we get away?"

"My partner, Starsky? He'll find us. I know he will. He won't stop until he does. That's just the way he is. He's looking for us right now."

"How can you be so sure?" Elsie asked, not believing what Hutch said, but wanting to.

Hutch smiled. How to explain their friendship, their partnership, their love for each other. He thought back over the years and all that had happened since they had become friends. Always there for each other. Someone to lean on during the sad, the tough times. As a partner, he trusted his life to Starsky. He had lost count of the times Starsky had been there for him when he needed him. When no one else would have. And how many times had Starsky saved his life? How many times had he heard that certain yell, 'Huuuuuuuuuuuutch!' warning him in time to get down and out of the way of a bullet or some other hazard. No, he had no doubts whatever that Starsky would be searching for him.

"Elsie, Starsky is my brother in every way that matters. We would die for each other. I know he'll find us." He just hoped it would be soon enough. He was worried about the fact that Leonard had talked of bringing Starsky into this nightmare as well.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Starsky awoke to the smell of coffee and the sounds of little feet pattering past his door. He rolled over and groaned, grabbing his head and squeezing his eyes shut as the sudden move stirred up pain and dizziness. Once the room stopped spinning, he slowly sat up. He shrugged into his shirt, noticing that both his shoulder holster and jacket were missing. Grabbing his jeans from the end of the bed, he stepped into them, stood and tugged them up over his hips, fastened the belt, slipped his feet into his worn Adidas and left the room.

Rosie ran up to him from the living room as he descended the stairs. She was wearing pink pajamas and fuzzy pink slippers.

"Uncle Dave! Come see the presents we have already!" She grabbed his hand and led him to the tree. There were six brightly wrapped packages under the tree. Rosie pointed to a blue one with reindeer print and said, "This is for me! Isn't it pretty?"

"It's very pretty honey. I bet 'ya wish 'ya could open it right now, don't 'ya?" Starsky asked, infected a little by her happiness.

"I do, I do, I do. But, guess what? Mom says we can open one present on Christmas Eve! And this is the one I am going to open!" Her grin faded and her shoulders slumped as she looked up at Starsky. "There are no presents under here for you or Uncle Ken or I would show them to you. But there will be."

"That's okay honey. The only gift I really want is to find Uncle Ken. That would be the best present ever." Starsky patted Rosie's head and stared bleakly out the window. He felt a tug on his hand and looked into Rosie's earnest face.

"Uncle Dave, I have been praying hard for you to find him. I just know you will."

Starsky squatted beside her wrapping his arm around her shoulders and looked into her earnest big brown eyes. "Thank you Rosie. That means everything to me. Having Uncle Ken back safe would be the best Christmas present ever. You keep praying, okay sweetie?"

Rosie threw both arms around his neck and said, "I will. I won't stop until he comes home. That is going to be my best gift too."

"I thought I heard voices in here." Edith said, a warm smile on her face. She walked up to Starsky, wrapped her arm around his shoulders as he stood and led him towards the kitchen.

"Come on, you look like you need a good breakfast and I am not taking no for an answer. Looking back at Rosie, she said, "Rosie you scoot upstairs and get ready for school."

Starsky just ambled along with Edith knowing he wouldn't win the battle if he tried to get out of breakfast. He realized if he was going to be any good to Hutch, he did have to take the time to rest and eat. Other than the tiny elves pounding their hammers in his head, he was feeling better than he had since Hutch had disappeared.

As he entered the kitchen, Dobey looked up from the piece of dry toast in his hand and smiled at him. "Well, you are looking a lot better. How is your head?" he asked.

Starsky smiled slightly and said, "Well, I definitely know it's there."

"I'll bet you do." Dobey replied.

Starsky sat down at the table, turning to smile up at Edith when she placed a cup of coffee in front of him. "Thank you, Edith." She patted him on the shoulder and went back to the stove.

Clearing his throat, Dobey spoke. "I have every available unit checking out leads. Those who aren't working are out searching. Everyone is doing what they can to find Hutch. I want you to stay put today and rest up. That concussion dictates you need to take it easy for at least a day."

"But, Cap!" Starsky started to protest.

"That's an order Sargent!" barked Dobey as Edith placed a plate with bacon, eggs and toast in front of the stunned man.

"Is that why my jacket and gun are missing?" he said glaring at his boss.

"Damn straight! A reminder that I ordered you to stay home." Dobey barked.

Starsky lowered his cup to the table with a shaky hand. He looked down at the plate and felt his stomach turn. Apologizing to Edith, he stood up and left the kitchen.

"And don't even think about sneaking out of here after I leave!" Dobey shouted after him. Starsky hesitated, then climbed the stairs and went back to his room to lay down again. He stared at the wall, a lonely tear tracking down his cheek to the pillow.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Hutch stumbled his way back to his spot near Elsie, Leonard pushing him forward. He looked forward to his twice a day trip to the toilet in the corner as he was able to stretch his legs. But, being hobbled and then chained to the wall was a real downer. He glanced at Elsie when she moved to the front of her cage.

"Mr. Leonard I need to go again. Please? Something I ate is making me sick and I have to go bad. Please Mr. Leonard?"

"You know the rules. Only twice a day. You can just hold it, brat!" he spat in her direction.

As Leonard turned his attention to the girl, Hutch spun around and drove his head into Leonard's stomach and then propelled him backwards to the opposite wall. Leonard recovered quickly. He grabbed Hutch by the throat, squeezing tightly, then sunk his left fist into the already bruised stomach. Hutch sagged, seeing stars and his vision narrowing to total blackness.

Leonard dropped him to the ground and then kicked the gasping man repeatedly, moving him across the concrete toward Elsie. Hutch desperately tried to draw in a full breath as he was kicked repeatedly.

Leonard stopped long enough to put the manacles around his leg. He sneered at Hutch. "You think you're so smart. Your partner will thank you for the extra punishment I give him." He drew his foot back and sent a powerful kick into Hutch's ribs. Hutch cried out in pain and rolled to his side gasping.

He fought the blackness that tried to swallow him while Leonard left the basement, switching the light off as he did. As he sank into the darkness, his heart squeezed in pain as he heard Elsie's heart wrenching sobs.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Starsky jerked awake. He hadn't planned to fall asleep. He remembered to move slower as he got up and went down the stairs. He looked in the living room and then the kitchen for Edith and saw the note propped up on the salt and pepper shakers.

Dave, I have a few errands to run. Will be back soon. There is a salami sandwich in the refrigerator.

Starsky blinked at his watch surprised to see that it was after one pm. He wasn't especially hungry, but he knew he needed to eat. He reached in the 'fridge and grabbed the sandwich, unwrapping it as he walked into the living room. He plopped down on the couch and took a bite. Chewing, he looked at the tree and the presents and smiled remembering the talk with Rosie that morning. Taking another bite, he gazed around the room until his eyes stopped at the stuffed chair in the corner. There he saw his jacket, the tip of the holster sticking out. He popped up from the couch and strode over to the chair. Clutching the jacket and holster in his right hand he then went to the kitchen. He dropped the sandwich on the table along with the jacket. He strapped on the holster, then shrugged into the navy blue jacket.

Starsky grabbed the paper and the pen next to it and scratched out a note apologizing to Dobey for disobeying his orders and then left. Just to realize that his car wasn't here. Swearing, he ran back inside and called a taxi.

After being dropped off at Metro's parking garage he drove to his apartment. He needed to change out of his clothes and get more clips for his gun. He ran up the steps, unlocking the door and swinging it open, then stopped abruptly. Standing before him was a giant of a man. He reached for his gun at the same time the man shot him point blank in the chest. As the floor rushed up to meet him all he could think was that he had failed Hutch.

Starsky awoke when Leonard grabbed him by the shirt front and pulled him out of the trunk of a car. The pain from the bullet wound took his breath away. He tried to stand, but was unable to and cried out as the man swung him over his shoulder and walked from the garage. Everything was spinning but he realized he was now being taken down a staircase, smelling the dampness, Starsky knew he was being taken into a basement somewhere.

Leonard threw him to the floor and Starsky cried out in pain. He curled into a ball trying to breath through it. His arms were wrenched behind him and cuffed. He felt the man doing something to his feet and jerked when something tight clamped down on his right ankle, pinching.

"Damn pig! You're gonna' learn your lesson before I kill you." Leonard said before repeatedly kicking him in the back and sides and ribs while Starsky squirmed trying to escape the mad man. The last kick hit him in the bullet wound and the world blinked out.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

"What?" Dobey roared into the phone. Edith was on the line and had just read Starsky's note to him. "I gave him an order! What?!" His voice softening he said, 'I'm sorry Edith, I know it isn't your fault. Thank you for calling. I'll check back with you when I know more." He slammed the handset down, pulled out his handkerchief and mopped his damp forehead.

"I'm going to bust him down to a meter maid!" he said as he rose and grabbed his coat and hat and rushed from the office.

Arriving at Starsky's, he saw the red car parked in front of the apartment. As fast as he was able he moved up the stairs and stopped short at the door which was wide open and stared at the pool of blood on the floor.

"Oh my God, Starsky! Please be alive. I can't lose both of you boys."

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Hutch awoke to a world of pain. He cracked open his eyes and looked into Elsie's eyes as she lay staring at him. He started to move but stopped, groaning with pain. He knew at the very least he had cracked ribs as each breath was a sharp knife of pain. He decided to stay put for the time being.

Looking to Elsie, Hutch tried to smile at her. Wrinkling his nose, he could smell something foul and remembered that Elsie was sick and had obviously lost the battle to hold it in. He cursed, then apologized to the child.

Elsie looked at him and asked, "Are you okay? He hurt you bad."

"I've been better, but I'll be okay. I'm still going to find a way out of this mess." Hutch promised.

"Hutch, that man carried someone down here. He threw him on the floor and then kicked him like he kicked you." Her lower lip trembling, she said, "I don't think we will ever get out of here."

Hutch struggled up onto his right elbow and slowly and stiffly started moving around so that he could see the new prisoner. What he saw almost made his heart stop.

"Noooooo! Starsk! No!" Tears filled his eyes as he saw the condition his partner was in. His jacket was open and he could see blood covering Starsky's chest and spreading in a pool on the floor.

"Starsky!" he called. "Starsky, wake up for me. Please wake up. Starsky!"

He heard a low moan and then Starsky coughed. He opened his eyes slowly and looked around.

"Starsk? Are you okay? Are you hurt bad?"

Starsky blinked his eyes a few times and then looked over at Hutch and then at the girl in the cage. "Hush?" he groaned.

"Yeah, Starsky, it's me." Hutch said, relieved that his partner was still alive. "Can you tell how bad you are hurt? You're bleeding."

"That monster shot me." Starsky panted. "I don't know how bad. I'm having a little trouble gettin' enough air." Another cough shook his frame, leaving him gasping and spitting out blood. Eyeing the fresh blood he looked up at Hutch with a sick smile and said, "Well, I guess that's not a good sign."

Hutch cursed again. "I'm sorry Elsie. Please forgive me. I can't seem to stop doing that at times." He looked back at Starsky and said, "Just lay still Starsk. Don't try to move around."

"I don't think I could move if I wanted to. He kicked me around some before he left. And it looks like you aren't in any better shape. Are you okay?" Starsky asked his partner.

"I think I have some cracked ribs. I now know what a football feels like." Hutch said, trying to relieve some tension.

"Me too." Starsky nodded to the girl, "Who's the pretty lady?"

"Starsky, I would like you to meet Elsie Kingston. She has been here for a year and a half in that cage."

Starsky's brows furrowed as he tried to recall why the name was so familiar. A year and a half. He started cussing until Hutch told him to be quiet.

"Remember Joey Leonard?" Hutch asked. "Elsie was his last captive. His brother kept her here, why I have no idea. And now he plans to give you and me a bit of pay back for the loss of his brother, who died in prison."

"You're alive!" Starsky gasped. We thought you were dead honey. I am so sorry that we didn't know that. I'm so sorry." Starsky said sadly.

"It's okay. I know it's not your fault." Elsie said, tears glistening in her eyes. "You both are hurt so bad and now no one is looking for us. I don't th, think we are ever going to get out of here." She began to sob.

Hutch moved closer to her cage. "Elsie please don't cry honey. The whole police force will be looking for us now. I know you have been through so much for so long and I'm so sorry for that. I'm not giving up. Don't you give up. Okay?"

Elsie sniffed and nodded her head.

Hutch looked back at Starsky and frowned. "Starsk?"

Starsky's eyes were closed and there was no response, increasing Hutch's fears for his friend. He told the girl he wasn't giving up, but what was he going to do? He was weak and in pain and he was fairly sure that Starsky had a punctured lung either from the bullet or from the kicks he had received. He was positive that Dobey would be doing all he could to find them. But would that be enough?

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Dobey was in his office, he couldn't sit still. He had been bugging the crime lab every half hour for results from evidence collected at Starsky's home until one of the technicians told him he would never get the answer if the Captain wouldn't leave them alone to do their jobs.

He had called and given the news to Edith who began crying and had consoled her as best he could. Now, how did he console himself? The two detectives were his best, but they were more than that, they were like his sons. In fact, he considered them to be his sons. They were a part of his family. Edith and the kids loved them as much as he did. Rosie and Cal called them Uncle Dave and Uncle Ken.

"Oh God," Dobey asked in an earnest plea, "please help us find them before it is too late."

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Hutch startled awake as Leonard clomped heavily down the stairs. Glancing at Elsie, he noticed that she was awake and trembling. Leonard had his pitcher of water in one hand, and a plastic grocery bag in the other. He approached Elsie and poured water into the cup she held out, then set the pitcher down and reached into the bag and brought out some more moldy bread which he dropped into the cage.

He sneered at Hutch. "No food or water for you or your friend. That's your reward for your behavior this morning." He then stepped over to Starsky. Looking back at Hutch he said, "And your friend is going to get his reward as well."

He kicked Starsky's leg. "Wake up pig. It's your time to shine." When there was no response, he kicked him again, hard, in the stomach. "Wake up pig!"

Starsky's eyes opened wide, as did his mouth as he tried to draw air into his lungs. He curled into himself as much as he could. He finally drew in a big breath and began coughing.

"Stop it!" Hutch roared. Elsie moved to the back of the cage, tears streaming down her face.

"Stop?" Leonard said. "I'm just getting started."

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

The phone rang in the Captain's office. Snatching up the handset he shouted, "Dobey!"

He listened intently then slammed it down. He stood up, grabbing his hat and coat and rushed out his door into the squad room.

"Briggs, Jensen, the prints at Starsky's came back to Joey Leonard's brother. We have an address. Let's go!" He shouted as he pushed open the doors to enter the hallway he bellowed over his shoulder, "Bennett, send all available units to Martin Leonard's residence 1024 Market street."

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

Starsky spit blood from his mouth and moaned softly. He could hear Hutch yelling. Two legs appeared in front of his face and he realized what had happened to him. He was gasping for breath and as much as he wanted to he couldn't get enough breath to say anything.

"Pig," Leonard said, "You made my brother suffer. Now you and your pig friend are going to suffer." He suddenly kicked Starsky in the face. Blood gushed from a gash on his cheekbone below his right eye. Before he could react, Leonard reached down and grabbed his shirt front and lifted him to his knees. Starsky's head hung on his chest. Leonard shook him, then slugged him at the site of the bullet wound. Starsky cried out in pain and fell to the floor when Leonard released him. His left temple hit the concrete and he saw stars before his eyes.

Hutch was kicking and pulling at the manacle on his leg. Blood was trickling down his ankle. He turned back to Leonard his face a mask of rage.

"You son of a bitch! Leave him alone! You're quite a piece of work aren't you? It's easy to beat a man when he's defenseless. Why don't you let me loose and be a real man? I'll fight you, you bastard!"

Leonard snorted and strode over to Hutch and kicked him in the face. Hutch's nose sprayed blood and he collapsed to the floor, stunned.

Leonard laughed. "I told you, pig, that your friend was going to suffer more because of your actions. You just added to that. Now sit back and watch the show."

He laughed again and strode over to the furnace where he grabbed a mallet and returned to Starsky. He raised the mallet over his head and then swung it down on Starsky's thigh. An audible snap was heard just before Starsky screamed.

Leonard then swung the mallet down upon Starsky's right ankle before tossing the tool into a corner. Starsky screamed again, pounding his fist on the cement. Leonard reached down, unbuckled Starsky's belt and started pulling the jeans down the writhing man's hips.

Starsky was barely conscious, he gasped for air, but could never get enough. The pain dominated his every thought until he felt his jeans being pulled down. Through a blur he could see Hutch struggling to sit up, blood flowing from his nose and mouth. He tried to kick out with his left foot, but he had no strength. He felt himself flung onto his stomach and knew what was coming. In the background of his gasping breaths, he heard Hutch shouting and Elsie screamingStarsky couldn't stand the thought of the little girl witnessing all of this. With renewed effort he kicked weakly at Leonard.

"Ya' dumb son of a bitch!" he gasped out, only to receive a kick over his kidney. He groaned and began coughing again. Blood was running from the corner of his mouth. He rocked his head on the floor, desperate to put a stop to this, but unable to do anything. Starsky also knew that when Leonard finished with him, he would do the same to Hutch.

He felt Leonard's hands raising his hips and he groaned into the floor. Then suddenly someone shouted, "Freeze or I'll shoot!" His hips were released and he vaguely saw Leonard walking toward the stairway. The mountain of fury was shouting something, but Starsky could barely hear what he was saying because of the sound of his heartbeat in his ears. He jumped at the sharp crack of a gun and secretly hoped Leonard was dead. He writhed with pain. He fought to stay alert but the world slowly winked out.

Hutch was screaming at Dobey to let him loose so he could get to Starsky. Dobey rushed to his side and cringed at the site of his detective. "Hutch, how bad are you hurt?"

"I'll live! But I don't know about Starsky. He's hurt worse. My cuff keys are in my left front pocket. Get someone over here to cut me loose!" Hutch shouted.

While the other officers were tending to Hutch, Dobey moved over to Starsky. Tears filled his eyes as he looked at the man he considered a son. He bent down and pulled the jeans up over his hips as best he could. There was a bone sticking through the jeans on Starsky's right thigh. The right ankle was swollen. There was blood steadily oozing from Starsky's chest and also from his mouth. He stepped back as he heard Hutch telling someone to get out of his way and watched when the blond fell to his knees at Starsky's side.

"Oh my God, Starsk." he said before slowly sitting down and lifting Starsky's head.

Starsky moaned pitifully and his eyes opened part way. "Hush?"

"I'm here Starsk. I've got you. Just lay still."

"I, I, can't breathe." Starsky gasped.

"Captain, help me get him upright?" Hutch asked fearfully. "He's got a punctured lung and the bleeding is worse."

With Captain Dobey's help they managed to carefully sit Starsky up and lean him back onto Hutch's chest. Starsky's head hung on his chest and his breathes were short and gurgling. He was shivering now and as Hutch gently raised Starsky's head so that it would rest on his chest he noted that his partner's skin was cool and damp.

Starsky's left hand lifted and floundered in his search for Hutch who saw what he was doing and grabbed the hand.

"Oh, Hutch, I don't feel good." He suddenly gagged and coughed out a large amount of blood. "Hutch, Hutch, I'm so cold."

Dobey removed his coat and covered his detective with it.

"Dammit! Where the hell is the ambulance?" Hutch shouted, causing Starsky to moan softly, "I'm sorry buddy. I'm sorry. You hang in there you hear me?"

Starsky mumbled something, but Hutch couldn't understand what he said. Just then the paramedics arrived and began assessing them both. After the one checked out Hutch, they focused all their attention on Starsky as they realized how critical he was. In just minutes they had an IV started, a compression bandage over the bullet wound and bandaging and gauze wrapped around the bone protruding from Starsky's thigh. He was lifted onto the cart and the female paramedic turned to Hutch and told him they would send another ambulance for him.

"No! I'm going with him!" he shouted weakly.

"I'm sorry. You can't. We need all the room we can get and you are in no shape to sit up."

"I'll bring him in. It will be faster than waiting for another ambulance." Dobey said.

As they took Starsky out of the basement, Dobey motioned one of the officers over to help lift Hutch to his feet. Hutch's heart squeezed as he saw Starsky's hand reaching out for him. He swayed, glad for the hands helping to hold him up. His head jerked over to where the cage that held Elsie was. Dobey saw where he was looking and told Hutch that she had been taken straight to the ER.

Knowing that the girl was being taken care of, he nodded his head wearily and took an unsteady step forward leaning heavily on his helpers, allowing them to lead him up the stairs and out of the house.

Hutch had passed out on the way to the hospital and was carted into the hospital treatment room. He awoke and opened his eyes only to squeeze them shut again because of the bright exam lights. He slowly opened them and realized where he was. He was attached to an IV bottle. Feeling his nose, he realized that it had been taken care of and taped. He could feel the tightness of having his ribs wrapped. He started to sit up, but fell back weakly.

"Hey, what are you trying to do? You are in no shape to get up." A soft spoken nurse said as she came to his side. She grinned causing dimples to form on her cheeks. Her blond hair was swept up into a bun at the back of her head.

"I...I, need to find m..my partner. De..Detective Sargent David Starsky. Where is he? How is he? I need to get to him." Again he made an attempt to sit up.

"Lay back down Detective. Your Captain Dobey is checking on him right now. He will be back soon." She backed away as a doctor entered the cubicle and moved to Hutch's side.

"Hello Detective. It's good to see you're awake. I'm admitting you for observation. Your kidneys are bruised and I want to make sure they are not more seriously injured. So we will be checking your urine for blood. Your ribs are badly broken and you are going to have to stay on bedrest for a day and then only limited movement for the next two weeks."Hutch frowned and said, "Look Doctor, I understand what you are saying but I am going to have to take care of my partner. He was hurt a lot worse than I am."

Before the doctor could answer, Dobey cleared his throat as he entered the room.

"Hutch," he said. "Dave is in surgery right now. I have already talked to Huggy and Edith and they are ready to help you both out when you are discharged. You just need to decide who's place you are going to stay at."

Hutch opened his mouth then shut it and simply nodded. He was just too tired to say anymore.

"Detective," said the doctor, "You are also dehydrated. So I want the IV to remain in until late afternoon."

Hutch looked at all three of his visitors and asked, "What day is it? What time of day is it?"

"It's Thursday, December 22nd." Said the nurse. "It's 3:30 am."

"Wow," Hutch said in amazement.

"Yes," said Captain Dobey. "You've been held prisoner for sixteen days."

"Hey!" Hutch jerked upwards only to be pushed down again. He took a few minutes to ride out the pain in his ribs and lower back before continuing.

"Elsie Kingston, how is she? Where is she? Is she with her parents? Is she going to be okay?"

"Whoa, slow down." The doctor smiled at Hutch and said, "Elsie is upstairs in the Pediatric Ward. Her family is with her. She will be in the hospital getting IV fluids and starting some therapy. Her doctor might let her go home on Christmas day."

Hutch relaxed once more and smiled.

The frown reappeared as he said, "I want to go up to surgery and wait for Starsky."

"Listen Detective, the only place you are going is to a room and get into a regular bed."

Hutch's finger came up pointing at the doctor. "Look, I am going to be there for my partner. You can just take me up on this gurney, I'll lay still. I just need to be there."

The doctor sighed and shook his head. "I've heard about you two. Alright, you can stay in the waiting area as long as you remain on the bed. But then you are going straight to a room to get more rest. And I will make sure that you are both in the same room together unless he winds up in the ICU which is quite likely."

"Well, doctor, as soon as possible please let them share a room. You will find they'll recover faster if they are together to support each other." Dobey said and reached out a hand to pat Hutch on the shoulder.

Three hours later, Hutch was asleep on the bed in the surgical waiting room when a weary doctor came in asking for relatives for Starsky. Dobey stood and walked up to the doctor and shook his hand. He nodded toward Hutch and said, "That's Detective Starsky's partner, Kenneth Hutchinson and I'm Captain Harold Dobey from BCPD. "How's my boy doing? Is he going to be alright?"

"I'm Doctor Wesley. Yes, your detective is going to be just fine. We repaired his cheekbone. The left lung was nicked by the bullet I removed and I stitched up a small hole there. However, the worst damage was from a rib that punctured the same lung and collapsed it. I have repaired that. We surgically reduced the fractured femur, ah, thigh bone and it looks to heal nicely. His urine is bloody from blunt trauma to his right kidney. We have a catheter in for now. His right ankle was repositioned and stabilized with a steel rod. He is going to be in a lot of pain and will need therapy but all in all he is very fortunate we were able to put him back together as well as we did."

"Thank you, Doctor. It is such a relief to hear this. Now, I can get this one to his room."

They shook hands again and Dobey moved to Hutch's side, patting him on the shoulder.

"Hutch, son, I'm going to get you moved to your room now. Starsky is out of surgery and he is going to be fine. He has a rough time ahead of him, but he is going to recover fully."

Hutch nodded his head. He was so tired and weak, even talking was too much.

Once in his bed, Dobey told him to get rested and he would be back in the morning. Hutch nodded his head and watched Dobey leave the room. He wanted to stay awake, but his eyes closed on their own and he sank into a deep slumber.

He woke later when the nurses brought Starsky into the room and got him situated on his bed. It was several minutes before they were done taking vital signs and getting his partner settled. Then they pulled back the curtain and Hutch saw his friend laying very still, eyes closed. His face was pale and Hutch had to watch carefully to see if Starsky's chest was rising and falling.

"Starsk, you awake?"

Starsky moaned, his eyes opened and his head rolled to his left. He blinked his eyes a few times and then saw the face of his best friend.

"Hey." He said weakly. "Are you okay?"

Hutch nodded. "Nothing a few weeks of rest and relaxation won't cure." He smiled. "How are you feeling?"

"Like I was run over by a tank." He groaned, licked his lips and looked back at the ceiling. "Hey, what about the girl, Elsie?" he asked making eye contact again with Hutch.

"She is doing great. Her family is with her."

"Wow, what a Christmas present for her and her family." Starsky paused then said, "You know you're the best Christmas present I've gotten for Christmas too. I was going insane trying to find you. There were no clues. The few leads we had were dead ends." Starsky's voice wobbled as he continued, "I didn't think I was going to find you in time." He turned away, not wanting Hutch to see the tears pooling in his eyes.

"Aww, Starsk," Hutch's eyes were swimming with tears as well. "I knew the whole time that you were out there looking for me. I just didn't see how you could possibly find us. Although Leonard did say he was going after you too. I'm so sorry he got to you. I only had one chance to make a break for it, but I didn't succeed. And I'm sorry, it's my fault he hurt you so badly. He said it was punishment for my attempt to get away."

"Hutch, he was going to do worse than this anyway. And I would have tried something myself, so, just let it go okay?"

"I guess." Hutch said. Noting Starsky's eyelids were drooping, he suggested they both get some rest. Starsky nodded and fell asleep instantly. Hutch smiled and fell asleep as well.

SHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSHSH

It was early afternoon Sunday, Christmas day. The TV was on and Hutch was watching Starsky watch an infomercial. He suspected that Starsky's mind was a million miles away. He had been unusually quiet since the evening before. Hutch had an idea that it was because they were both trapped in the hospital and unable to enjoy his favorite holiday.

Starsky had also been discouraged earlier in the morning when the nurses had come in to help him sit up on the side of the bed for the first time. It had not been a pleasant experience. Despite being given pain medication an hour earlier, his pain was intense and he had a bad spell of dizziness which led to nausea and vomiting. Starsky was very humiliated by the whole experience. The nurses had changed Starsky's gown and linen and given him something for the nausea. Since then Starsky hadn't offered any conversation at all. Hutch knew that a silent Starsky was not a good thing, but didn't know what to do to help him. His previous attempts to start a conversation fell on deaf ears.

Hutch, was doing better, but every move was excruciating. He was learning that he would have to follow instructions and take it easy. They both were definitely going to need the help when they went home. Dobey had reiterated when he stopped by in the morning that both Edith and Huggy were prepared to help.

There was a knock on the door, both patients looked to see Captain Dobey back again. Standing near the partly closed door, Dobey cleared his throat before speaking,

"Hutch, Starsky, we know how unhappy you are at being stuck in here, especially on the holiday. Everyone decided that they wanted to spend time here with you rather than at home."

He swung the door open and in poured Edith, Rosie, Cal and Huggy. Both Edith and Huggy were carrying trays of food in their hands. Cal and Rosey each held a wrapped present.

Hutch let out a laugh and turned to see Starsky trying to reposition himself, grimacing as he struggled, but the grin on his face was from ear to ear.

"Hutch! Will you look at this? They came to visit us and have goodies to eat and even presents! Is this great or what?" the Christmas cheer back in Starsky's voice.

"Yeah, Starsk. This is wonderful." Hutch agreed feeling the same kind of cheer.

"Only thing wrong," Starsky said, "I have no gifts to give to any of you. I never had time to look for them." He smiled sadly at Hutch and their guests.

Rosie set her present down on the foot of Hutch's bed, then ran over to Starsky.

"Uncle Dave! We all agreed that we already got the very best Christmas present ever!"

"What is that honey?" Starsky asked.

"Silly," she said, "You and Uncle Ken are the bestest' present anyone could have this Christmas! We were so worried about you. I missed you and Uncle Ken so much. I cried a lot too. So see, you are going to be okay and that is the most important present of all. Having you and Uncle Ken be okay is a Christmas miracle. I love you both so much!"

Having been warned not to hug either man, she grabbed his hand and kissed the top of it and then ran over to Hutch and did the same.

The rest of the family stood by, all eyes shining with tears.

There was another knock on the door and all turned to see a young man and woman standing behind a wheelchair bearing Elsie.

The man said, "We are Elsie's parents. Elsie, my wife and I wanted to say thank you. Elsie told us how you helped her through the last few days in that, that place."

Hutch smiled at Elsie and asked. "How are you doing now, honey? Are you feeling better?"

"Oh yes, Hutch. I feel so much better. I'm getting stronger every day. I can walk to the bathroom with help now." Elsie said proudly.

"That's fantastic." Hutch said. "Keep up the good work."

He looked back to the parents. "By the way I'm Ken Hutchinson and that is my partner David Starsky. It's good to meet you Mr. Kingston. We just wish we had been able to find her long before this." Both Hutch and Starsky looked down for a moment, saddened they had given up on little Elsie.

"You had no more idea than we did. I'm just so thankful to you. I... well, it's just that if the two of you hadn't been taken prisoner, we might never have gotten her back." Mr. Kingston choked back a sob and hugged his wife to him.

"Well, I don't know about you all, but I think it's time to celebrate. Edith let's uncover these trays and share some of this fine food." Huggy said, looking around at everyone. "You know, this is what Christmas is really about. Love and friends and being together...all priceless and special gifts."

Starsky and Hutch smiled at each other, their eyes connecting and nodded.