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Another Victory

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I couldn’t stand it. I leaned against the observation window, staring at my best friend and partner moving in the hospital bed. They had finally raised the rails, a portable oxygen tent standing ready near the bathroom door.

Hutch was suffering. His pale-yellow hair was plastered to his head, making him look bald until the lights caught some color, reflecting off of the sweaty tangles. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, and his legs kicked out, his shoulders twisting back and forth.

“I need to get in there and see him.” I heard footsteps behind me, praying it was Hutch’s nurse.

“Come with me,” a voice said. “You’ll have to gown up now. He is contagious.”

The tiny outer room held metal carts of gowns, face masks, laytex gloves and little paper slippers to put over your shoes. I quickly gowned up and yanked the door open to enter Hutch’s room. It took maybe ten steps to reach his side.

God, his breathing was horrible. Rattling, raspy, sounding like a bunch of newspapers were rustling around in his throat. He was bathed in sweat, his eyes unfocused and watery.

“Hey, hey,” I whisper. I glance over at the nurse gently dabbing his face with a cool cloth. “I’m here, buddy.”

Hutch simply groans, his eyes going wide and then his head rolling from side to side.

“Hurts.” He moans, suddenly looking me in the eye. “Oh…God…hurts…”

My heart is breaking. I can’t stand to see him in such agony. Tears sting my eyes, and I lean in real close.

“I’m right here, Hutch.” I take both his hands and squeeze. He is so weak his hands are limp in mine. Until a pain strikes, and then his grip is like a metal vice. “We’re so close, buddy. You’ll be back by my side soon…just hold on…please…”

He tensed up, and let out a squeal that sounded like a wild animal caught in a trap. My entire body went cold, gooseflesh breaking out all over. My tears fell, and I leaned in and pressed my masked mouth against his forehead.

“Hold on, babe. Just hold on for me…we’ll get through this, I swear it.”

His thrashing had his sheet and blanket all knotted up, and his gown was twisted, exposing himself to us in the room. Breaking the contact, I quickly yanked his gown down, pulling the covers back up to his chest.

“H-h-help me…” he begged, the fever making him delirious. “I need some help…get Starsky…find him!”

Closing my eyes, I sighed. “I’m right here, Hutch. Right here. Not goin’ anywhere.”

“Starsky!” he cried out. “Awwww….someone help me!”

The nurse glanced at me as I wiped my eyes with the back of my gloved hands. She kept on gently wiping his face and neck.

“Can’t he have anything for pain?” I asked quietly.

“No, he was just given something before you walked in,” the nurse said softly.

“Shit.” I lowered the bed rail, sitting down on the side of the bed. I grabbed Hutch’s hands again and leaned in. “Relax if you can, Hutch. Let the pain meds work. I’m right here. Not going anywhere.”

He seemed to settle a little, his eyes still wild, his breathing labored. He licked his lips and sighed.

“Starsky?” he seemed surprised to see me.

“Yep,” I smiled. “It’s me.”

He laid there, staring at me, blinking. “I’m not doin’ so good, Starsk.”

“You’re doing fine,” I grinned. “Just rest. Relax. Don’t get excited.”

“You’re my best friend,” Hutch said quietly. He was staring at me, but I could tell he wasn’t seeing me. I squeezed his hands and leaned in closer.

“I know,” I said. “And your mine.”

“I…I…l-l-love you crazy,” he said, his head slowly lobbing to one side but his eyes stayed on my face. I gently took his face in my hands, holding it still.

“I love you too, Blintz.” I swallowed. What the hell?

“Best years…best years…of…my…life was…when…I met…y-you…” he suddenly arched his back, a deep moan escaping his lips. Then, his legs started kicking and his shoulders rocked back and forth. “Oh god…oh god…Starsky…help me…”

I continued to hold his hands, gently rub my thumbs over his wrists and talk softly while he lashed out and cried, his jibberish rantings slowly becoming quieter and quieter until he seemed to be asleep. His body suddenly still, his eyes bore into mine blinking slowly. His entire body was soaked with sweat, the nurse already on her third cloth since I entered.

“You’re gonna make it, Hutch.” I leaned in, my forehead touching his. “I swear it, buddy. I ain’t lettin’ you go. No way, no way.”

Hutch sighed, when I leaned back his eyes followed me. They seemed clear, bright.

“I’ve always…” He paused, inhaling a little and grimacing. “I’ve always admired you…your…your…zest for life…”

“Yeah, yeah,” I grinned. “Your’re the brother I wished I could have had in Nicky.”

“Ugh,” Hutch grinned weakly. “I did my best…to keep you…near me…”

I closed my eyes and sighed. “Whatcha talkin’ about, Hutch? I’ve always wanted to be near you. Nowhere else! Me ‘n Thee, remember?”

He nodded with a smile and sighed. “I’m so tired, Starsk. So tired.”

“Then take a nap,” I said shakily. “Jus’ don’t go nowhere…”

“Yeah.” He sighed again, closing his eyes. “I’m gonna take a trip…be right back…”

“No trips,” I said firmly, squeezing his hands. “No trips. Naps yes, trips no.”

He was already asleep, his eyes moving slowly under pale lashes. I sat for a few more minutes and then sighed.

“I gotta go, Hutch. I’ll be right back, I promise. You’ll be outta here in no time, I swear it.” I leaned in, placing a facemask kiss on his forehead. I stood up, locking the rail back in place. I glanced at the nurse and nodded. “You take great care of him, ok? He means the world to me.”

“He’ll be fine,” she murmured as I turned to leave.

In the outer cubicle, I yanked the protective gear off and slammed it in the large plastic bin, yanking the door open and slamming it behind me. I glanced once more at the observation window, Hutch hadn’t moved at all.

**SH**

Hutch sat in the wooden chair in my kitchen, looking pale and washed out. His newly trimmed hair didn’t have its luster like before, but that would come back eventually. His eyes were still watery and pale, but I intended to liven them up as well. He was still a little weak, and I was going all hog taking care of him.

“You’re lookin’ better ‘n better each day, Hutch.” I grinned, placing a bowl of beef stew and a generous slice of French bread in front of him. “Make sure you chew it good. Couldn’t afford the best cut of meat but I did trim it the best I could for you.”

“I’m sure it is fine,” he blushed a little, reaching for his glass of ice water.

“I hope so.” I sat down, laying my napkin across my lap. I glanced over and Hutch was leaning over, his face above his bowl, eyes closed, inhaling the delicious aroma. “Well….go ahead and try some!”

He chuckled and picked up his spoon and gave me a brilliant smile. I watched as the spoon dug into the thick gravy and he ran it across the rim of the bowl to catch any drippings. He blew on it carefully and then slid it into his mouth. I watched as he chewed, his eyes closing in bliss.

“Starsky….this is incredible!” he smiled. “Are you sure this isn’t one of Edith’s meals she sent over?”

“Nope,” I said proudly, my chest poking out a little bit more. “It’s my doing. All by myself. Got the recipe from that cookbook your mother sent you two Christmases ago.”

“This is delicious,” he shoved another spoonful into his mouth, leaning back to savor it. I watched him chew and swallow, his long neck muscles moving in a way I hadn’t noticed before. He glanced at me and winked. “Didn’t know you had it in you, buddy.”

“Hey, gotta fatten you up a little,” I smiled. “Just happy to have you back by my side.”

We ate in silence and suddenly he reached out and took my hand in his, glancing up shyly, his cheeks pink.

“Are you okay?” I asked quickly, laying my spoon on the table.

“Yeah.” He chuckled a little. “Just gotta say something and I feel that I have to say it now.”

“Yeah?” I wiped my mouth and placed my hands on the table. I looked at him, watching his shy grin.

“Thank you for taking care of me and…and…” he paused, shaking his head. “You know…”

I did. I grinned, reaching out to grab his hand. “I love you crazy, Hutch. The best years of my life have been since I met you.”

His eyes shot up to mine and he blinked. Then he smiled slowly and lowered his face that was starting to turn a deeper shade of pink.

“Don’t you ever turn away from me when I tell you something from my heart,” I said, getting up and kneeling in front of him. “Hutch…you have to know by now what we mean to each other. It’s me ‘n thee forever, babe. We keep beating the odds and standing tall side by side. What does that tell you?”

“That we are some kinda super cops?” he teased.

“Maybe,” I nodded. “But it tells me that the universe says we are to be together.”

“That’s pretty heavy,” he blinked.

“We can handle it,” I nodded. “As long as we stand together. Right?”

He nodded again, reaching out to pull me weakly to his chest. I rested my chin on his shoulder and felt the warmth and his bones into my chest.

“I’m so thankful for you,” he whispered. I grinned as I felt the dry, papery lips brush my ear and held him tighter.

FINI