Starsky was paralyzed.
Not by fear or shock -- but literally. He couldn't move. Not even a finger. Couldn't even blink.
He told himself to calm down. Keep his head clear.
He knew he was outside of his house. He lay on the driveway, and he could see around the quiet, residential street, currently empty of other people. It would have been peaceful and idyllic if Starsky weren't close to panic.
It was Hutch's turn to drive today, he suddenly remembered with relief. The early morning sun was already bright in the sky. Hutch would be here soon. They would figure out what had happened together.
He heard a bang as of a door slamming open, followed by a series of tumbling steps, and if he could have moved a muscle, his jaw would have dropped from what he saw.
Tousle-haired, barefoot, dressed in Starsky's own pajama bottoms, the man was a perfect physical double of himself. A big grin split the broad face. Did he look like that when he smiled? No wonder Hutch always thought he was up to no good.
The man, seeing him, threw his arms up in the air and yelled, "Baaaaaaaahhhh!!" He hurtled forward, his grin, if possible, even wider than before, and landed on top of Starsky. "Baaaaahh-baaah-baaaaaahh," he murmured in an unmistakably affectionate manner.
Starsky tried unsuccessfully to recoil. What was going on?
The rumble of a car seemed to be his savior. Hutch's dilapidated rolling junk heap pulled up at the curb, and his partner got out, leaving his motor running. "Starsky! What are you doing? We're going to be late."
Didn't Hutch even see him? Starsky tried again, valiantly, to even wriggle a finger. He was as frozen as when he'd woken up. Hutch was acting like he wasn't even there.
"Starsky, hurry up!"
The pre-verbal version of himself leapt to attention. "Buuuh!" he cried happily. He pelted down the driveway and directly into Hutch's arms, throwing them both to the asphalt.
"Oof! Starsky!" Hutch shoved Starsky's double off and sat up, bewildered. "What're you doing?"
"Buh!" the man yelled. He frowned, worked his mouth, then said, slowly, "Chee... Buh-chee... Buh-ch." He nodded, then pointed at Hutch. "Buch," he proclaimed.
Hutch was looking worried now. "Starsky," he said, sounding gentler now. "Are you feeling okay?" He put both hands to the man's curly head and felt along it, as if examining for a head wound. Starsky's double purred and rolled his head under the touch. "Buch!"
"O-Okay. C'mon, buddy. Let's get up, nice and slow." The other man threw his arms around Hutch, and Hutch grit his teeth and dragged them both to their feet. Keeping his arms protectively around Starsky's doppelganger, he searched the surroundings with his eyes.
He looked directly at Starsky and didn't even blink.
Starsky watched helplessly as his partner returned his full attention to the imposter.
Hutch extricated himself from the hug and told him, "We'll go for a little ride, okay? How's that sound?"
The words seemed to electrify him. "Rrri-duh!" he yelled excitedly. Bouncing out of Hutch's hold, he ran to Hutch's car. He stopped two feet away and stared at it, as if fascinated. He hummed and stroked the hood softly. Then he sighed and turned to Hutch, who was staring, open-mouthed.
"Keen!" he intoned.
"Keen!" he said again, demandingly. He made a face. "Rrrrr. Kuh-rrreen?"
"Clean?" Hutch hazarded a guess.
The imposter nodded furiously. "Krreen!" He scowled and put his hands on his hips. Hutch's face went ultra-calm.
"Sure, buddy," he promised soothingly. "I'll clean the car out as soon as we get to the hospital, all right?"
"Krreen!" This time, the man threw himself across Hutch's car. "Boor bah," he sighed. "Puh. Po-oarrr. Poorrr kah." He straightened and patted the hood fondly. "Buh see seh-zu see is okay. See lub you," he told Hutch. He shrugged, as if to say, Go figure.
Hutch looked nonplussed. "Are you ready to go now?" he cajoled.
The man grinned and leaped away from Hutch's grasping hands. He jumped up and down in place, then from side to side and backwards, like a demented giant rabbit. "Luh!" he exclaimed in delight. "Luhk, luhk."
"I'm... looking," Hutch said, his entire body projecting uncertainty.
Next, the crazy man ran forward, passing Hutch. A few strides away, he made a ninety degree turn, ran a few more strides, and repeated. He traced out a square around Starsky's partner, laughing maniacally as he did so. "Turrr! Turrr-nuh. Turrrn!"
Hutch was turning circles in place himself, following the man with worried eyes. "Starsky..."
The man stopped in his tracks. "Sah-kee! Bibeh!"
"Suh-tah-ky. Stah-ky! Stahs-ky!" He danced from one foot to the other. "Stahs-ky, Stahs-ky, Stahs-ky! Bibeh!"
"Bibeh?" Hutch repeated. The man beamed.
"Duh-duh-duh. Duh-by-behr. Dibehr! Mmmy Dibehr." He ran to Starsky and threw himself across his body, just as he had earlier. "Lub ihm," he crooned.
Hutch approached slowly. "Okay, we can take the Torino, if you want. Just, just stay right there."
Take the what? Starsky was starting to get an inkling of an idea, but he didn't want to believe it. No. It couldn't be.
Without taking his eyes off of Starsky's double, Hutch backed away towards his car. He ducked quickly and cut his engine, then came back with keyring in hand. Starsky's double hadn't moved, still plastered atop Starsky and making happy, humming noises.
Keeping a wary eye on the man, Hutch separated out what Starsky knew to be the spare to his own car, and --
The next moment two inches of stainless steel were speared into Starsky's side. He screamed in surprise and anticipated pain.
Dazed, Starsky recognized the strident blare of the Torino's horn.
Oh, no, no, no. He had to be dreaming. This could not be happening. It was all those late night sci-fi flicks. Wake up, Davey-boy. C'mon.
Hutch jumped, and Starsky felt the jiggle of the keys against his... door? It was weird but not painful, he belatedly realized. "I, uh, I guess my car's not the only one with some wiring problems, huh?" Hutch said, chuckling in a clearly nervous manner.
For once, Starsky's double ignored him. "Okay," he murmured, stroking Starsky comfortingly. "Okay."
Not okay, Starsky wanted to return. He was freaked out enough that when Hutch took hold of him and swung open his rib cage, the needle of his freak-o-meter barely even quivered.
"Here, Starsk. Get in." Hutch took firm hold of the other man's arm. This time, he came docilely enough.
Starsky felt the pressure against his... floorboards -- was that what it was? -- and the seats as his double settled himself into the passenger side. "Les go!" he cheered.
"Not so fast, partner." Hutch reached around to pull out the seat belt and buckled the man in. He held up a warning finger. "Don't you move." He seemed to have regained a bit of his equilibrium, because he'd actually managed to sound authoritative there.
Starsky's double, however, seemed unimpressed. He bounced in his seat, sending weird ripples of feeling through Starsky's body. "Dibe! Dibe!" he chanted.
Hutch hesitated, then closed the door and hurried around to the driver's side. The knifing sensation with the key was repeated, and then Hutch was settling himself into the driver's seat.
It was... weird. Starsky knew his partner as well as a man could know his best friend, but having him literally sitting inside of him like this was certainly a singular feeling. It was all right, though, once he got used to it. Rather comfortable, even.
And then all such thoughts were destroyed by Hutch sliding the key in and turning the ignition -- because suddenly Starsky's entire body woke up.
There was liquid lightning running through his veins and molten metal coursing through his heart. Pure power lit up his entire frame. He felt like he could leap over a mountain, knock down a cement wall, run for hours and hours and never, ever stop.
"RRRRRR!" his double growled from the passenger seat. "Baaaaaaaaahhhh!!"
Tapping into instincts he hadn't known he had, Starsky revved his engine, enjoying the luscious roar.
"What..." Hutch frowned and put Starsky in gear. "Stupid Tomato. Don't you give me any trouble now."
Starsky shivered as Hutch stepped on the gas for the first time. It was like being shot out of a cannon. He leaped into the movement with a will.
He quivered as Hutch drove, experiencing the new sensations of the road under him and nothing but the sun overhead. His double giggled and fidgeted in his seat.
Then Starsky felt an odd disconnecting click, and he heard Hutch speaking into the radio: "This is Detective Hutchinson. Off-duty. Patch me through to Captain Dobey, please."
Starsky felt his doppelganger -- or, he suspected, the current borrower of his body -- quivering like a bird-dog on point.
"This is Dobey."
"Baaaaahhh!!" yelled Starsky's double immediately. "Doby, Doby, Doby!"
"Hutchinson?! Is that Starsky's voice?"
"Yes, sir. I don't know what's happening. He was like this when--"
The other man snatched the mouthpiece. "Doby!! Rrrrrahdo! Rrrahdy-oh! I'm you-sing da rahdy-oh!" He dissolved into laughter as Hutch grabbed it back.
"He was like this when I went to pick him up this morning. I didn't see any needle punctures or symptoms of drugs, or any signs of head injury, and he's moving fine. I have no idea what's wrong. I'm en route to the hospital now."
Hutch's voice was tight with worry. Starsky rumbled his engine, trying to tell Hutch he was fine, but his partner was too distracted to get the message.
"Keep me posted, Hutch."
"Will do. Over and out."
Starsky's double clapped his hands. "Doby is grrrate," he remarked, adding another pleased hum. Suddenly, he stiffened. "Luhk!" he cried, pointing to the right front.
Starsky saw it -- a young man, five foot five, Caucasian, 130lb., 20-25 years old. He was backing out of an alley about three hundred feet ahead of them, and he was aiming down it with a gun clearly primed to fire.
Hutch swore. Starsky felt him pick up the radio.
"Ihl geh ihm!" Starsky's double shouted, and suddenly, he had clicked the seatbelt loose, wriggled out of it, and was opening the door.
"Starsky, no!" Hutch screamed. Starsky instinctively braked. He winced, feeling his tires burn, but it was enough, because he was only barely moving by the time his other self tumbled out onto the sidewalk.
"Suh-top! Police!" he yelled, in a voice that could only be called gleeful. The young man turned to stare. Then, shoving his gun in his back waistband, he took off running.
Hutch leaped out himself and gave chase to Starsky's double. "Starsky, get back here!" He was summarily ignored.
"Baaaaaahhh!" Starsky's double yelled, apparently too excited to form anything more coherent, as he ran after the armed man.
The man looked over his shoulder and gaped at the barefoot, bare-chested, screaming man bearing down on him. He prudently did not slow down.
Starsky growled in frustration at being left out of the action. Then, remembering how he had thrown on the brakes earlier, he concentrated on getting himself to move instead.
His gears flipped from park to first, and with an additional push, he was zooming down the road. As he passed the alley, he saw a white-faced middle-aged man with his hands still in the air. He saw Hutch come to a stop and gape at him as he sped past. He cheerfully blasted his horn once but didn't slow down.
In just a few seconds, he had caught up to the thief and his eager pursuer. Starsky's double was now waving his arms in the air and making siren noises: "Eeeeee-oo-oo-oo-eeeeeee!!" He was nonetheless making fantastic time -- less than ten yards away from his quarry now.
Seeing a convenient access road ahead, Starsky pulled up sharply into it just as the thief reached him. "Hey!" he yelled, barely saving himself from bouncing off of Starsky's chassis.
"Rrrrrrrrow!" Starsky's double yelled as he closed in.
The thief, looking panicked, dove into the street. Starsky quickly threw himself into reverse to cut him off.
"Baaaaaah!" Starsky's double veered to intersect the thief's path. He slowed for a moment, then, face filled with delight, crab-walked the rest of the way.
The thief, now completely bewildered, shrank back against Starsky side. "Get away from me, you crazy bastard!"
Surprisingly, the thief seemed the happiest of them all to see Hutch arrive on the scene.
"Cop! Save me! This crazy guy has been chasing me the last four blocks. I think he wants to eat me or something." He practically threw himself into Hutch's arms.
Hutch stepped back with distaste and grabbed the man's wrists. "You're under arrest--"
"Hey, wait a minute!" the thief interrupted, only now realizing what was happening.
Starsky's double was jumping up and down again, vibrating with energy. "Uhch! Uhch!" he cheered. "Oo-ee gah ihm! Oo-ee gah ihm!" Abruptly, his face turned sly. He ran around Starsky's front and, yanking open the door, scrambled into the driver's seat.
Whereas Hutch had felt comfortable, this time, Starsky felt a shocking jolt of absolute rightness. That body in this seat, those hands on this wheel -- there was nothing more perfect. He felt like he could do anything.
Starsky roared and shook with anticipation.
"Oh my god. Starsky!"
Hutch, one hand holding the thief by his handcuffed wrists, reached out with his other hand in their direction. It was a futile gesture, of course. Laughing aloud at Hutch's expression of horror, Starsky flipped his car doors closed, locked them, and raced away.
His double rolled down his window and yelled out of it: "Fasuh-tuh! Fastuh! Gooo! Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrroooowww!"
It was nearly an hour later when a feeling of lethargy started creeping over Starsky.
They were halfway to Las Vegas, having blown through the streets of Bay City and down the beach, and finally opted to test out the straightaways on the 5-freeway north instead. It was a gorgeous day with little traffic, and Starsky had never felt more happy to be alive.
He rumbled a question, concerned about how his inner systems seemed to be slowing down.
His double sighed. "Gahs," he said.
Starsky was running out of gas.
All things had to end, he supposed, feeling sad. He pulled to the side of the road and ground to a halt, keeping his motor running. His double lifted his legs and curled up in the seat. He yawned hugely, as if Starsky's running low on fuel affected him as well.
Starsky tootled his horn, amused and feeling strangely protective of this fragile being entrusting itself to his care. He concentrated and lowered the driver's seat slowly until it was as horizontal as possible.
"Hanks," his double said, smiling hugely.
The sound of a small craft airplane flying overhead alerted them both. The highway patrol would probably be after them pretty soon. They'd been going well over the speed limit for the last forty miles. Starsky couldn't find it in him to feel remorse, however.
Starsky's double shrugged, unconcerned. "Uhch," he said, reasonably.
Of course. Uhch -- that is, Hutch -- would come for them. They would work everything out somehow.
Starsky's double snuggled into the seat. "My Doo-iber," he mumbled, before his breathing evened out.
Starsky purred in response.
The sound of wheels on gravel woke him.
Disoriented, Starsky blinked his eyes open. He was momentarily surprised that he had eyelids again. He squinted in the hot, still air.
A patrol car was pulling up in front of them. An officer in uniform got out of the driver's seat, while who should explode out of the other door but his partner.
He stretched luxuriously and then got out of the Torino. "Hi, Hutch." He waved. He winced at the gravel on his feet and sat back down.
"Starsky! Are you okay? What-- What on Earth is going on here?" Hutch stalked towards him, practically sputtering.
"It's okay, Hutch. I'm fine. We just had a little fun, that's all."
Pretending to ignore Hutch's approaching coronary, Starsky casually picked up one foot to massage it. He looked down at his feet. His human feet -- currently somewhat scraped and raw.
He could jump, and make right-angle turns, and walk sideways again. He could sit and bend and dance and run. But he would never again fly down a straightaway at 120 miles per hour with the hot asphalt grabbing him and the cut wind howling past, nothing but freedom and joy in his heart.
Not to mention the equally exhilarated bundle of energy in the driver's seat, screaming with delight, waving wildly at other cars, and singing badly to the radio the whole way.
"Thanks, buddy," he whispered, patting the Torino's chassis.
He swore he felt a zap of electricity to his hand.