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Pieces of the Heart

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Starsky and Dobey were seated side by side in the hospital waiting room - Dobey's hands clasped loosely in his lap, Starsky making an intermittent fist depending on the topic of conversation.  Huggy was busy on the opposite side of the room selecting a candy bar from the vending machine.  Since Starsky had returned with Hutch, he had barely taken the time to drink coffee much less eat.  Huggy was hoping Starsky would show an interest in his favorite candy bar if it was offered. 

"San Bernadino County recovered the body a short time ago," Dobey said, looking at Starsky.  

Starsky was quiet as he recalled the fatal shooting only hours earlier.  The queasiness in his stomach flared at the memory, followed quickly by his concern for Hutch.  A nurse had assured them the doctor would be out to speak to them just as soon as he was free.  

"I still can't believe it, Cap'n," Starsky said.  "Of all people - Diana Harmon?"  

Dobey was shaking his head before Starsky had stopped talking.  

"I feel the same way, Starsky," Dobey replied.  "I have a meeting scheduled next week with the hospital administrator where Harmon was incarcerated.  It's certainly going to be a different conversation than the one I'd envisioned earlier."

Captain Dobey thought the look on Starsky's face was closer to despair than anything else.  Despite his disgust and understandable anger with Diana Harmon, Dobey knew only a lethal situation would have driven Starsky to shoot her.  As that had occurred, Dobey knew without asking that Starsky'd had no other choice.    

"There are several witnesses to the shooting," Dobey reminded Starsky.  "Hutch saw it all  - so did both paramedics, the pilot, and Deputy Ames, not to mention you.  We know from the combined testimonies of everyone what happened."      

Huggy approached Starsky with the candy bar, tossing it into his lap.

"Eat that, please," Huggy said, his dark eyes pleading with his friend.  

Starsky smiled as he picked up the candy.    

"Thanks, Hug," Starsky said.  "I guess I am hungry after all."

Huggy broke into a smile as Starsky ate hoping the snack would do the other man some good.  He was thinking of buying a second one when the doctor walked through the door. 

"My apologies for making you wait, gentlemen," the doctor said, offering his hand.  "I understand you're here for Detective Hutchinson?"

"Yes," Dobey answered first, standing up.  "I'm Hutchinson's Captain, and this is his partner, Detective Starsky.  Starsky is the one who actually found him."

"I see," the doctor said, his eyebrows lifting as he spoke.  "Well, this has all been an interesting situation to hear about, not to mention it's all over the mid-day news," the doctor said.  "Let's sit down and we'll go over a few things."

Starsky waved at Huggy to join them.  The doctor did not object as they gathered at a small table in the corner of the lounge. 

"Is he going to be alright?" Starsky asked as they sat down. 

"I think he'll do just fine," the doctor replied patiently.  "He's been through a lot, but he's young and seems tough overall.  That will have a lot to do with how quickly he gets well."

"Was he injured by his abductors?" Dobey asked bluntly.  

The physician took a deep breath before answering.  

"Well, they certainly didn't do him any favors," the doctor said.  "Outside of being underfed and forced into a desperate situation to get away from them, he seems to have weathered it all fairly well."

"Did they cause the hernia - or is that what he has?" Dobey asked.  

"He does have an inguinal herniation on the right side," the doctor explained.  "To be frank, I don't know what caused it.  It's possible he may have endured something we will never know about that triggered its development.  It's also possible the hernia could have happened regardless of his kidnapping.  Mr. Hutchinson tells me he's a runner.  Weirdly enough, in people who are physically active, those types of things are not uncommon, especially in men. It's likely the hernia happened while he was running - possibly a bit of bad luck on top of everything else he was experiencing."

"Will he need to be in the hospital long?"  

"Probably two or three days," the doctor speculated.  "The surgeon wants him fed and rehydrated before she repairs the hernia.  It doesn't endanger Mr. Hutchinson to wait a little bit for that to be done.  He will tolerate the surgery much better if we give his body a chance to catch up before subjecting him to the operating room.  He can probably go home within twenty-four hours of the surgery, depending on how he does afterward."

The doctor paused and smiled slightly.  

"Quite frankly, I don't think a surgery will be any harder on him than the past few days have been."

A sense of relief washed over Starsky as he processed the doctor's expectation.  Only then did he allow himself the luxury of really letting go - letting go of the worry that he was almost too late to save Hutch.  

"Can we see him?" Starsky asked.  

"Sure. We're waiting for a room to become available upstairs.  Apparently, our accommodations are in high demand today.  Just as soon as something on the surgical floor opens up, we'll transfer him upstairs.  Until then, you can visit him in the ER.  Things are fairly quiet for us at the moment."

"Thank you," the other men said in unison.  

"That's ok," the doctor replied.  "Unless you have more questions, I'll take you to him."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

As the pain medication took effect, Hutch was dozing off and on - drifting in and out of full consciousness as he traded the discomfort for a sense of blessed relief.  His blood had been drawn in the proper fashion.  All of the necessary scans and images had been completed in a timely manner.  The surgeon had dropped by to introduce herself and explain the cause of the painful sensation in his abdomen.  Although Hutch was disappointed to learn he needed surgery, he could accept it as a necessary step toward getting well. 

Hutch was reviewing what the surgeon had said - wondering if he would really need six weeks off work to recover.  Maybe he could talk someone into letting him return to a light-duty status before then.  Maybe two weeks would be enough time. 

Hutch was repeating the same discussion in his head when a warm, firm hand slid gently into his.  Surprised, he opened his eyes to find Starsky standing two feet away with Dobey and Huggy lined up closely behind him.    

His eyes shining with love and happiness, Hutch smiled candidly at the sight of all three men.         

"Hey, pal," Starsky said, smiling back.  "Looks like the drugs are working, huh?"

Starsky caught himself before adding a comment about breaking too many hearts with the same handsome smile.  The last time that happened, Hutch wound up on the wrong side of a twisted woman like Diana Harmon.  Although Starsky couldn't imagine the same bolt of lightning striking twice, he thought it was best not to mention it at all.         

"Yeah, the drugs are really good actually," Hutch admitted, giggling slightly.  "I just wish I didn't need them."

Amused, Huggy wandered to the opposite side of the bed for a closer look at Hutch.  

"Um, um, um," Huggy tsked, leaning closer to Hutch's face.  "I think you're more pale than usual, Hutchinson."

Hutch rolled his eyes dramatically before answering. 

"I'm Norwegian, Hug," Hutch responded as if his skin tone was something he needed to explain.  "I can work on my tan after surgery."

Starsky laughed softly at the earnestness in Hutch's voice.  Although Hutch was understandably shy about taking drugs unnecessarily, combining his partner's personality with the influence of occasional narcotic use was eternally entertaining for Starsky.  

Captain Dobey took a moment to formulate what he wanted to say.  There would be plenty of time after Hutch recovered to hash out what happened to him during his abduction.  Until then, Dobey was thankful to have his officer back in relatively good shape.  Despite a myriad of disturbing details involving Diana Harmon, the dilemma surrounding her apprehension and future sentencing had been settled in a remote meadow in San Bernadino County.  Whatever the extent of her psychological discontent, her suffering had ended there.  It would be up to Starsky and a few close friends to take care of Hutch in the aftermath.  

"I'm grateful you're ok, son," Dobey said.  "A little damaged around the edges maybe, but the doctors can fix that."

Dobey sobered as he thought about what to say next.  He settled for the simple truth.   

"We owe a lot to Starsky, Hutch.  He wouldn't give up - not that we would have either."

Hutch's eyes moved to Starsky, still clutching the other man's hand.    

"Well, that's why he's my partner, Captain. You know that."

Starsky was downright bashful when it came to the receiving end of any sort of gratuitous attention.  It wasn't his style.  Although Starsky had not tried to pull away, Hutch would not have allowed it.  

Dobey locked eyes with Huggy across the hospital bed.  

"I'm sure this man owes me a cup of coffee. We'll be going now, but I'll see you again after your surgery, Hutch".  "Edith and the kids send their love."

Hutch nodded as Huggy and Dobey made their way toward the door.

"Thanks, Captain," Hutch replied.  "Make sure you give them my love, too.  Bye, Hug."

Dobey paused at the door with an afterthought.   

"I'm giving you some time to reconnect with your partner," Dobey added, looking directly at Starsky.  "Take a few minutes and do that - then get your ass out of here and let the man rest, ok?"

"Understood, Sir," Starsky answered. 

Without further advice, Huggy and Dobey left the room.  

"Well, I guess you have your orders," Hutch said, looking at Starsky and grinning.  "What did you do to the poor man the last few days?"   

"Oh, nothin' new. Besides - you know that Dobey's all bark, at least when it comes to his detectives."

"Yeah, I know that, but he is right about one thing. Someone needs to take care of you.  I guess Dobey's decided to do that."

"Oh, I got what I needed, Hutch. I was terrified for a while I might never see you again."

Hutch grew quiet as he thought about the events of the last several days. 

"Hutch," Starsky asked, his voice growing softer.  "How in the hell?  Diana Harmon?  How did any of this happen?"

The look on Hutch's face told Starsky that his partner was as confounded now as he'd ever been about his interactions with Diana.  

"I don't know," Hutch replied, shrugging his shoulders.  "I just don't know"... 

Hutch looked momentarily helpless, his voice trailing away as he struggled to find the right words - his mind sidetracked by some recent, unpleasant memory. 

"I got lucky, Starsk, I guess - that and I have the best partner a man could ask for."

Starsky did not disagree too strongly.  He just thought the reverse observation was more accurate.  Hutch was the best partner a man could hope for.  While there was so much more he wanted to know, Starsky knew how to wait for the proper moment.  There would be plenty of time to hear about Hutch's experience once he was well enough to talk about it.      

"So - how long before the boss comes back and hauls you out by your hair?" Hutch asked, giggling as he clung to Starsky's hand.      

Starsky did not look particularly threatened.  Smiling, he leaned forward instead, gathering Hutch in his arms for a proper hug before he whispered good night and left the room.  

 

Finished - August 11, 2021