(c) December 2011 by Charlotte Frost


Hutch almost felt that he was separate from his body.  There was a sense of being more in some ethereal netherworld, than within physical existence.  Yet, as soon as he examined that thought, he became aware of tremendous aches that were uncomfortable. 

There was a small pain at his upper buttock.

A weary female voice said, "It looks like you felt that.  Sorry.  It seemed easier than moving around to the IV."

He heard the words, but he wasn't sure if he made sense of them.

"I'm going to try to turn you onto your back, all right?"

Hutch felt that he should help, but he didn't know how.

There were hands on him, the shifting of pillows, heavy grunts of effort, and then he was turned.

Eventually, he was lying on his back.

"I'll elevate the bed."

Hutch felt his upper body raised.  His eyes cracked open.

Judith Kaufman smiled warmly at him, but it didn't erase the weariness in her features.  "How are you feeling?"

Hutch wasn't sure how to answer that question.  He whispered, "Not sure."  At least he wasn't hot and cold anymore.

She squeezed his hand.  "I know you're feeling extremely weak.  But you've stabilized and your vitals are better."  Her face leaned closer to his.  She gently said, "You don't have to be afraid of falling asleep.  You'll wake up."  Another tired smile.  "Promise."

He managed a nod to show that he understood.  That was good news, but he couldn't find the strength to feel jubilant.

She sat on a stool next to his bed and continued to hold his hand.  "If you're missing your partner, you can blame that on me.  Don't tell anyone, but I gave him something to insure that he gets a long rest.  We found an empty bed for him in a private room in Orthopedics.  Once he wakes up, I'm sure he'll want to spend all his time with you."  She hesitated, and then said, "He was so worried and scared that he was going to lose you."

Hutch's eyes had closed, and the concern he felt seemed distant, though his heart beat with warmth at the thought of his partner.

He heard Judith roll closer.  "Are you able to understand me at all?"

"Yeah," Hutch whispered.

"Good.  I want to tell you one more thing, and then I'll let you sleep.  The nursing staff is exhausted.  We're supposed to get some temporary help from a nursing pool in Sacramento, but it could be a few days.  That means that family members are going to have to help out with menial tasks, like personal hygiene, meals, and bed pans.  I hope you'll be okay with it if Dave needs to help you with those things."

Hutch thought he caught the just of her words.  He knew he was in no condition to protest anything.

She squeezed his hand and his eyes opened slightly to see her leaning over him.  "He said something to me about having taken care of you before, when you were very weak and unable to do much for yourself.  So, I'm assuming you'll be comfortable with him being a temporary nurse of sorts."

Hutch's mind was too weary to figure out what she was referring to in the first part of her statement.  A response to the second part was surely unnecessary.

She squeezed his hand for an extended time.  "I'm going to let you rest.  Go to sleep, Hutch.  It's the fastest way to getting better."

Hutch felt the bliss as he let himself sink into oblivion.  He sensed her standing and walking away.

"Starsk?" he questioned automatically.

Soft footsteps came closer.  His hand was squeezed again.  "He's getting some much needed rest.  You need to rest too, Hutch.  I'm sure Dave will be here as soon as he wake up."

Her words were too confusing, and Hutch let himself drift into sleep. 



Hutch felt a hand on his chest, above the covers. 

"Hey, you wakin' up a bit?  Huh?"

Hutch heard himself make a noise, but he wasn't sure if he said anything.

A thumb brushed across his cheek, and then he heard the whispered words, "It's okay if you want to go back to sleep, buddy boy.  You need lots of sleep right now.  Everything is fine."

Hutch protested when his arm was lifted.  Warm wetness was at the pit, and it made him aware that he was naked, save for the bed coverings and various towels.

"It's okay," Starsky whispered.  "Just washin' you up a bit.  Tryin' to be quick about it, but we don't want you offending the nurses, now do we?"

Another wet cloth followed.  Then a warm, dry towel rubbed under his arm with a gentle briskness.

Hutch didn't like it when he was manipulated onto his side, for he felt exposed.

He heard the muttered voice, "We need to keep turning you, anyway, so your skin doesn't get blistered."

Towels were moved around.

"Mm," he said, when he felt a warm washcloth moving in circles against his back.

"You like that, do you?" Starsky asked in a quiet voice. 

Hutch mentally followed the cleansing warmth as it moved down, ending at the top of his buttocks.  Then more wet warmth started at the top again.

"Rinsing you off now," Starsky informed him.

Hutch followed the welcome motion of the cloth.  Then he felt the dry towel moving along his back.

Eventually, the cloth was taken away, and covering was placed over his bare back, and then other covering was removed from his legs.  Hutch drifted in and out as the bath continued along his limbs.

After his legs were covered up, he felt a sheet removed from his rear end.  His leg was gently pushed forward.

He grunted while listening to rinsing noises. 

"Easy, Hutch.  I need to be thorough or they won't let me take care of you." 

Hutch felt the cloth at his genitals, moving briskly.  Something felt different down there.  Freer, without a persistent pressure.

As though knowing what he was thinking, Starsky said, "They want you to start whizzing on your own.  A little later, I'll help you go in one of those plastic things.  That'll get you motivated to start getting out of bed, huh?"

The cloth rubbed at his buttocks.

"Sorry," Starsky said, as Hutch felt the warm cloth at his cleavage. 

He grunted, not liking the feeling of wetness against his anus.  His relief that it was removed was short-lived, as then another cloth replaced the first.

"Maybe tomorrow you'll be alert enough to do your private parts yourself," Starsky said.  "Just need more of your brain circuits to start connecting."     

Starsky's voice softened.  "Just get you dried off here."  Hutch felt the towel moving.

After the towel was taken away, the bed clothes were pulled over his lower body.

"'kay, Hutch, I've got you all washed up for the day.  It's time for a new gown.  Let's roll you back over."

Hutch let Starsky manipulate him onto his back.  And then the head of the bed was elevating.

Hutch settled back against the pillows, and felt Starsky maneuver his arms threw the sleeves of fresh cloth.

As Starsky worked, he said, "Judith said it's okay for me to bring you some real pajamas.  So, I'll go out and buy you some brand new flannel pjs, just as soon as I get the chance."

While Starsky continued to chatter and work with the gown, Hutch's consciousness drifted away.


A hand squeezed his shoulder from behind.  "Hey, didn't realize you were awake.  They're gonna be serving lunch pretty soon."

Hutch watched sock-covered feet round the end of the bed, and come toward the side he was turned toward.

Starsky squatted in front of him, his eyes a bright blue, a smile dominating his face. "You want to sit up now, or are you feeling pretty cozy like that?"

Hutch blinked.  He realized he was curled up on his side.  He liked his warm, flannel pajamas.  "Huh," was all he could say.

Starsky tilted his head to one side.  "Huh?"  Then he reached to brushed a thumb along Hutch's cheek.  "You're doing good, Hutch.  Real good."  He swallowed thickly.  "They've only got one IV in you now."

Hutch watched, fascinated, as Starsky's eyes watered. 

Starsky looked away and brushed at the tears.  Then he muttered, "'m so glad you're all right."

"'S'okay," Hutch whispered.  His throat was scratchy.

Starsky hand moved up to Hutch's hair and rested there.  "You need anything, buddy?"

Hutch recalled that there was a specific reason why he was all right.  He wasn't sure how to phrase his question.  "Found?"

Starsky blinked.  "Found?" he repeated in a whisper.  Then his face brightened with understanding.  "Yes, Hutch, I found Callendar.  Or rather, he was convinced to turn himself in so we could use his blood for the serum."

Hutch was trying to compute the words.  Callendar turning himself in seemed odd.

Starsky grinned with affection as he stroked Hutch's hair.  "I'll tell you about it later."  He glanced over his shoulder, toward the open door.  "I hear them serving lunch down the hall."  He turned back to Hutch, and his voice became serious.  "I know you've needed a lot of sleep, pal.  But now you're lookin' more alert, so I think we need to make eating your meals a priority.  'Kay?"

Hutch wasn't sure how to respond, so he grunted.  He didn't feel hungry, but he understood intellectually that it was important.

Starsky continued to stroke his hair, and Hutch let his eyes drift closed as he listened to the ramble of words.  "I know you don't want to stay here forever.  So, you've got to give it a good college try with cleanin' up your plate."

Now fingers furrowed through his strands.  Starsky said, "I think you're due for a shampoo.  We'll do that after you've eaten."

Hutch had started to drift, when he heard Starsky say, "Hey." 

He opened his eyes.

"Need to use the head before lunch?"

Yeah.  Hutch released a heavy sigh.

Starsky smiled and released the railing on that side of the bed.  "Okay, Bronco, let's get you up on your feet."

Hutch tried to help as his partner moved him into a sitting position.  He got his breath and then staggered to his feet, leaning on Starsky.

"Real slow and easy.  I've got the IV pole."

With slow steps, they moved to the restroom. 

"You want to try standing up this time?"

"Yeah," Hutch managed.  He leaned on the railing and stood before the toilet.

His arm was squeezed.  "Okay, I'm right out here."

It seemed like such a great accomplishment to complete his task like a man.

"You're getting better," Starsky beamed, as he escorted him back to the bed.  "Now, hopefully, you've got a real healthy appetite."

Hutch didn't want to disappoint Starsky. 

As he was settled back under the covers, sitting up with a serving table over the bed, it occurred to him that he was indeed getting better.  He was a little stronger every time he woke up.

There was commotion at the door, and Starsky went over to it and took a tray from the attendant.  "I'll take that," he told her.  Then he turned to Hutch.  "Okay, Blintz, we've got lunch here."

Hutch was pleasantly surprised to discover that he could lift the utensils without help.  Starsky hovered near, but his assistance wasn't needed, other than verbal encouragement when Hutch was less than thrilled with the lack of flavor in certain selections.

When Hutch had cleaned his plate, he looked over at the window.  He muttered, "Would like some fresh air."

Starsky pushed the serving table, with the empty tray, aside.  "Maybe we can do that, after I wash your hair."

"How's it going?"

Hutch looked up to see Judith Kaufman enter the room with a warm smile.

"He cleaned his plate," Starsky declared proudly.

"That's good to hear," she said moving closer to the bed.  She looked down at Hutch.  "How do you feel?"

"A little stronger."

"Good, good."  Her glance took in them both.  "Well, maybe I've got an incentive for you to be ready to go home by the end of the week.  I've got a late afternoon flight back to Alabama on Friday afternoon."  Her smile broadened.  "There's nothing I'd love more than for two handsome gentlemen to escort me to the airport."

Hutch felt a squeeze on his shoulder.  "Hear that, Hutch?  This is Monday, buddy.  I think we can have you on your feet and walking around by Friday."

That did sound good.  Amazing, in fact.  Hutch nodded, feeling himself smile for what seemed like the first time in a long, long time.  "Yeah," he said in a gruff voice, "I'd like that."

"Good," Judith said.  "I thought you might."

"Hey," Starsky said, "is it all right if I take Hutch in wheelchair and let him go outside for a bit?  He's wanting some sunshine."

"Sure, that'll be fine.  You can go up to the eighth floor, and there's a balcony there that's easily accessible by wheelchairs."

"Great.  We'll go as soon as I wash his hair."

She had started to turn, and then said, "Oh, I meant to mention that the temporary nursing staff will be here Wednesday, ready to start first thing.  So, David, you'll get a break after tomorrow."

Hutch was just able to glance up to see Starsky nod.  He noticed, as he had quite often, that Starsky's eyes had watered.

Then Hutch felt a squeeze on his shoulder.  "He hasn't been that difficult to take care of."

"Nevertheless," Judith noted, "the usual hospital rules will be back in place."  Hutch watched her eyes gaze at Starsky.  "You need to rest, when you get relieved."

After Judith had left, Starsky bent down to Hutch.  "All ready for me to wash your hair?  I bet that'll feel good, huh?"

Hutch really wanted to go outside, but he supposed having his hair cleaned would feel good, too.  Besides, Starsky seemed to have his heart set on it.

His bed was lowered until he was flat on his back.  Starsky cheerfully went about gathering supplies, and filled a bucket with water.  After a time, he sat beside Hutch and said, "Okay, buddy, I need you to stay real still, so we don't spill any water.  I need to put this plastic bag thing behind you."

Hutch wasn't sure what Starsky was doing, since he made a point of not moving his head, but after a time, Starsky said, "There.  Oh, wait, ear plugs so we don't get water in your ears."  Hutch tolerated the placement of cotton in one of his ears, and then the other.  "Okay, buddy boy, let's get started." 

He felt warm water poured on his head, and resisted the instinct to prevent it from running down his head into his neck.  But the rest of him remained dry, as Starsky soaked more of his head.

"Shampoo now."

Hutch felt the substance placed on the top of his head, and then felt it being massaged around his scalp. 

Starsky said, "They've got this scrub brush thing, but I think I'll just use my fingers."

Hutch felt Starsky's fingers digging into his scalp, scrubbing, and he groaned his contentment.

"That feel good, buddy?  Huh?"

Hutch closed his eyes blissfully.  The motion of the fingers seemed to go on for long time.  Still, he grunted in protest when they stopped.

"Rinsing now," Starsky said.  "Stay real still."

Hutch felt a towel placed against his forehead, to prevent any excess water from getting into his face.

"Hang on just a little bit longer," Starsky said, doing something behind Hutch.  Then Hutch heard something moved away.  "'Kay, got the excess water all bagged up.  Now let's sit you up and get you dry."

A towel was placed over Hutch's head as the upper part of the bed was raised.  Once the bed stopped moving, Starsky rubbed briskly with the towel.

When the drying was finished, Hutch felt more alert than he had since before morning he'd woken up and saw "STARSK" written in lipstick on his hospital room window.

Starsky pushed back Hutch's hair with a hand, and gazed at him with eyes that threatened to grow moist.  "You're looking real good now, Hutch.  I think it's time for you to get some sunshine."

Brisk, efficient nurses had taken over his care, starting early Wednesday morning.  Hutch was given a bath by strange hands.

Starsky looked a little lost as he hovered by Hutch's side.

Hutch was alert enough that he was actually able to follow the morning game shows on the TV.  During a commercial break, he looked at his partner, who sat in the chair beside him, and whose eyes had become bloodshot.  "Starsky?"

Starsky turned his head to look at Hutch and grunted, "Yeah?"

Hutch made sure he held his partner's weary gaze.  "I love you."  Hutch firmed his voice.  "Get out of here.  Go.  Don't come back until we have to take Judith to the airport on Friday."

Starsky blinked, staring back at Hutch.  Then he said, "Uh-uh.  I'll stay away today, but I'll be back sometime tomorrow."    

Hutch sighed.  That compromise was probably the best he could do.  But he pushed a little more.  "I don't want to see your ugly face until after dinner tomorrow.  I mean it."

Starsky released a sigh as he slowly stood, and then took a moment to stretch.  "Yeah.  Okay."  He brushed the backs of his fingers along the side of Hutch's face, swallowing thickly.  "See ya," he said unsteadily, and then left without a backwards glance.

Hutch lost interest in the TV.  Starsky was a mess.  His eyes watered a lot.  Every time he'd caught Hutch noticing, he would mutter something about how glad he was that Hutch was all right.

Hutch had gotten the basics of how Callendar had come in voluntarily.  He had talked with Judith, Dobey, and Huggy at various times, when Starsky was down in the cafeteria, or rumored to be catnapping out in the waiting room area.  He knew that Starsky had been under tremendous pressure and strain, from not only his single-minded determination to bring Callendar in, but also his frantic worry about his losing his partner.

Now that Hutch was going to be fine, Starsky was carrying around tremendous relief, as a parallel to the strain.  Opposite sides of the same emotional coin.

The dam needed to burst.  That much Hutch knew.  He didn't know how he could go about making that happen.  But it did need to happen.  Sooner rather than later.

Hutch was leafing through TV Guide on Thursday afternoon when Judith Kaufman walked in. 

She smiled brightly at him as she picked up the clipboard at the end of his bed.  "Rumor has it that you've been walking around on your own.  I'd say that you're ready to be released sometime tomorrow."

Hutch prompted, "How about today?"

She studied the clipboard.  "Let's give it just one more day, to make sure you're steady on your feet."  She glanced up.  "Is the plumbing doing okay?"

"Yep.  Pooping and peeing regularly."

"That's what we like to hear."  She put the clipboard back on its hook and then came around the side of the bed.  "So, can I count on you and Dave to be my taxi service tomorrow afternoon?  My plane leaves around three."

Hutch grinned.  "Wouldn't miss it."  He decided to be bold.  "Of course, I'd rather you delay a day, so I can prove how healthy I really am."  He assumed he wouldn't have to prove it, as he really didn't think he was that healthy yet.

She laughed softly and girlishly, and then turned and left the room.

Hutch picked up his TV Guide.  He browsed through an article on the series Little House on the Prairie.  He and Starsky had watched the show at times in brief spurts, chuckling at how absurdly emotional it was.  When alone, Hutch sometimes watched it.  A part of him enjoyed the depiction of simple, innocent childhoods and a wholesome family life. 

A paragraph in the article caught his attention, and he slowed down to read it.

Some might think that children are made to cry on the set by telling them sad tales or saying mean things to them.  Those in production assure that no such cruelty takes place.  Instead, when one of the girls needs to cry in a scene, Michael Landon will take them aside.  He'll kneel down to eye level, with tears on his face, and his voice will get very emotional.  He'll say, "Do you know how much I love you?  I love you so very, very, very much."  And the young actress will start crying. 

Hutch re-read the paragraph.  And then re-read it again.

Tomorrow, he would be released.  And then he and Starsky would take Judith to the airport.  Then they would go to Hutch's place.

There, in the privacy and comfort of home, Hutch would tell Starsky how much he loved him.  Again and again.  Until the dam broke.



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