Hutch looked up as he heard the approaching sirens.
"Go," Starsky told him. "I'll just stay here."
Hutch swallowed hard as Starsky attempted a smile. "You're going first. Damn it, I should have told her to tell them we'd need more than one." His mind started racing when, for a few minutes, it had nearly shut down.
"Pull yourself together, Hutchinson," he muttered.
"Hussh?" Starsky looked up at him. "Think I'm gonna…"
Hutch caught Starsky as he passed out, gave in to the pain.
"In here," he yelled as he heard multiple footsteps, sharp voices. "Officer down." He touched his head to Starsky's, breathed in the sweat and fear and relief. "It's gonna be okay. You're gonna be okay." He wasn't sure if he was saying it to Starsky or himself.
He didn't recognize the cops who came in—they weren't in their own precinct. The paramedics followed quickly, pushing Hutch out of the way, forcing him to surrender Starsky to their care. He stood up, his hands only slightly shaking.
"He couldn't feel his arm," he told them. "I did what I could. He's Detective David Starsky."
One of the paramedics nodded. "You did good. How long has he been unconscious?"
"A few minutes. He was...I needed…he was helping." Hutch pressed back against the wall as they began to load Starsky to the stretcher. He needed to get back to the others. Do his job.
One of the cops touched his arm. "Detective Hutchinson?"
He looked at him—an older man in uniform with the kind of face that spoke of understanding. He didn't remember saying his name to anyone but he must have at some point. "Uh, yeah, Sure." His eyes went back to the paramedics and Starsky who was now conscious.
"We're taking him to Memorial," the other paramedic said.
"Starsk," Hutch said and he reached out again, touched Starsky's curls briefly. "I'll…"
"I'll see ya," Starsky said and closed his eyes.
Hutch let out a breath as the stretcher was wheeled through the dining room—the eyes of everyone following it. He heard a woman –he wasn't sure which one of them it was--let out a sob in the silence and then as the siren wailed into the distance, the noise of an active crime scene filtered into his awareness.
Lockley was being loaded on another stretcher, cuffed to the rail, while another cop in uniform followed the paramedics outside. A photographer was taking pictures of a dead Joey while uniforms and detectives pulled people to the side and talked and took notes.
"Basement. There are two people locked in the basement," Hutch said and started walking towards the kitchen doors. He went down rickety steps with a young eager cop on his heels. The door was padlocked and he rammed his body against it, welcomed the pain because it reminded him he was alive. It took only one kick to the door to force it open.
An old man—the one Teresa mentioned---blinked at him and the uniform. Jimmy was sitting against the far wall holding a cloth against his head.
"He got knocked out. On our side," Hutch told the uniform. The young cop nodded, went to Jimmy's side and knelt down, speaking softly.
The old man, short, white-haired, and stoop-shouldered, came up to him, speaking in what Hutch figured was Italian. He couldn't understand a word the man was saying but he did understand the way the old man gripped his hand, patted his cheek.
Jimmy was on his feet and walking out the door with the uniform and Hutch followed, his arm around the old man, shelter, support, and for a few moments Hutch wasn't quite sure who was offering comfort.
They walked up the stairs, into the light and controlled chaos of the crime scene.
The old man saw Teresa, called out her name, and she came over with one of the detectives.
The Italian intensified, the man gesturing to Hutch, and then pumping his hand before pulling Hutch down to kiss both cheeks.
"I'm sorry," Hutch told him. "I don't understand."
"He says to tell you he's grateful and not to worry about the door. It was old anyway." She waited a moment as the man continued, this time reaching up to pat Hutch's cheek as if he was a beloved child.
"He says that sometime he'll repay you for saving his life, saving the restaurant. He'll make you the best meal he can."
Hutch smiled at the old man. "Tell him my partner and I were only doing our jobs. I'm just grateful he had the gun."
Teresa relayed Hutch's words to the old man and then the detective pulled her away, the old man trailing behind her as more questioning began.
Hutch stood alone, felt lost in the sea moving around him. There was blood on the floor where Starsky had been shot an hour ago. Someone should clean that up, he thought.
He looked away as the voice registered.
"Detective John Rogers." The man gestured towards two chairs. "I need you to tell me what went down."
Hutch nodded. Give a report. Yeah, he could do that. He lowered himself to the chair—it was the one he'd been sitting in earlier. Starsky had been across the table from him—sitting where John Rogers sat now.
"Dobey," Hutch said as the thought occurred. "He's our Captain—someone should call him. Let him know Starsky is...uh...they took him to…"
"Memorial," Rogers said. "We'll take care of it."
"Thank you." Hutch put his hands on the table, then down on his lap. There was blood under his nails—Starsky's blood. He thought he'd cleaned it off.
"You with me, Hutchinson?" Rogers asked and Hutch realized the man had asked him a question.
"Sorry. Sorry." He shook his head and immediately regretted it. He felt dizzy.
"Scott, get Hutchinson some water," Rogers called out to someone.
A glass of water appeared on the table before him as if by magic and he brought it shakily to his lips.
"Take your time," Rogers said. He sounded like a patient father.
Hutch wondered if that was the way he and Starsky sounded when they interviewed witnesses and victims of crime. He took a few more sips and then put the glass down.
"You ready?" Rogers said. He had out his notepad and a pencil. "Tell me what happened."
Hutch looked at the clock—how could it only be twelve forty five? How could it already be twelve forty five? Could time do that? Slow down, speed up? He'd lost time somewhere, and he felt for the pocket watch he'd given Starsky what felt like a lifetime ago. He took a deep breath, made his hands into fists so that his nails cut into his palms—brief pain—and began to recount everything that had happened from the moment they'd walked in the door at Giovanni's.
The other patrons of the restaurant were gone by the time Hutch finished his recounting of the events of the evening. He wasn't sure what had happened to them or why he hadn't noticed them leaving.
Rogers pushed the glass of water towards him—it was full again. Like magic, Hutch thought.
Hutch drank. His throat hurt, as if something was inside trying to claw its way out.
"You're free to go for now, Hutchinson," Rogers told him. "You need a ride somewhere?"
Hutch thought for a minute—his mind was working as if he was stuck in a vat of molasses. "No. My partner's car, Starsky's. It's outside." He stood up, pressed his hands against the table to keep his balance.
"We'll be in touch," Rogers told him and shook his hand. "Good work, Sergeant."
Was he supposed to say something to that? Because it sure as hell didn't feel like good work when his partner was shot and bleeding and couldn't feel his arm.
He walked outside—the storm had let up but it was still raining and Hutch stood in it. Maybe if he stood here long enough, it would wash away the blood he still felt on his hands, Starsky's blood seeping into his skin, wash away the way he'd failed his partner, his friend.
He got in the Torino and started to shiver. He turned the heater on high and pulled away, squinting against the rain and the windshield wipers' rhythm. Be okay, be okay, be okay—he chanted it as the wipers made each pass.
He was still dripping as he walked into the ER at Memorial. The lights seemed way too bright. A child was screaming somewhere, a derelict sat hunched on a chair, coughing into a tissue and then inspecting the phlegm, other people cried and talked. He couldn't think with the noise.
Someone tugged on his arm.
Familiar. The voice was one he knew but it still took a moment to register.
"Cap…" Hutch couldn't finish.
"He's already up in surgery. We can wait up there," Captain Dobey said.
Hutch nodded and let himself be towed along. He felt like he could breathe when they got in the elevator—the sudden absence of chaos let him think.
He wiped a hand over his face. "I…" He let his voice trail off, couldn't think of anything to say. Not yet.
"Let's find a place to wait," Dobey said.
Hutch felt his captain's hand on his shoulder and gave himself over to the other man's guidance.
"They said things looked pretty straight-forward," Dobey told him. "And Starsky was conscious and able to tell them what happened."
Hutch looked at him, wanted Dobey to tell him everything was going to be okay, as if he was a child and needed the reassurance of a parent. He put his hands between his knees, pressed them together to try to stop the slight tremors he could feel. There was blood underneath his nails-he remembered that. He should probably go clean...
"I asked you what happened tonight," Dobey said. His voice was strangely gentle and Hutch didn't know whether to be alarmed or comforted by it.
He started to tell Dobey about the hit taken out on Vic Monte, but his mind kept drifting back to seeing Starsky on the floor, bleeding, hearing Starsky's weakening voice.
"Never mind," Dobey said and patted his shoulder before getting up and walking over to the desk near the waiting room.
If he could just feel warm again. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten so cold. He stared at his hands, noticed the brownish red flecks under his nails.
He looked up, startled and blinked to clear his vision.
Dobey stood there with a blanket. "Let's get you warmed up a bit."
Hutch reached out and then paused. "My hands are dirty."
When Dobey just stared at him as if confused, he went on. "Bl...Starsky's bl...blood."
"We can take care of that," Dobey said and he motioned for Hutch to stand.
Hutch heard Dobey talking to someone and then he was following his captain down the hall to a bathroom.
He stood in front of the sink and turned on the water. He didn't recognize himself in the mirror. At least not that man who stared back at him with a blank expression. The water was warm and he soaped his hands again and again, scrubbing away the blood only he could see, digging underneath a nail with another and hoping it would get the stains away.
He was a cop, goddamn it. He shouldn't be having trouble dealing with this. It wasn't even the first time one of them had been injured. And Starsky was going to be okay. Dobey had said so. So he really shouldn't be feeling as if his world was tilted to one side, shouldn't be seeing Starsky fall again and again and not knowing if his partner was dead or alive. He braced his hands on the sink, made himself breathe, counted to four and then released the breath, four to one. He did it a few times, concentrating only on the sound of his breath and not the echo of gunshot, not the weak laugh his partner had given him, not the crash of thunder.
He grabbed a paper towel and dried his hands. The blood was gone. At least the blood he could see. He swore he could still feel it—warm against his skin.
"Hold it together, Hutchinson," he said and straightened his shoulders so Dobey wouldn't see him as less of a cop.
Dobey motioned for him to sit in the chair he'd vacated earlier and handed him the blanket. It was warm and surprisingly soft. Hutch wrapped it over his shoulders and took the cup that Dobey handed him. He took a cautious sip—coffee, sweet with sugar and cream.
They sat in silence for a bit until other cops showed up—Rogers and another detective he remembered from the crime scene, someone from Internal Affairs. He was aware of Dobey talking with them, their voices low and hushed but he kept his eyes on his shoes and thought of Starsky in the OR. Shouldn't they soon be done? Dobey had promised Starsky would be okay. At least he thought Dobey had told him that. His thoughts were scattering and floating away like dandelion fluff.
"Hutch," Dobey said.
He looked up. "Is he out of surgery?"
"We'd like your report, Hutchinson," a tall black man said. "Arnold. IA."
"Yeah. Yeah." Hutch got to his feet and nearly tripped over the trailing edge of the blanket. "I can do that."
Dobey followed and they all squeezed into a small room that Hutch figured was used for doctors to tell people their loved ones didn't make it.
Arnold was surprisingly gentle, Hutch thought. His questions were matter of fact, and his quiet questioning allowed Hutch to gather those scattered thoughts in close, and recount the forty five minutes in the restaurant with a confidence and surety he hadn't felt since the earlier chaos.
Somehow Hutch wound up back in his chair in the waiting room, Dobey beside him, and the others gone.
"You're here for David Starsky?"
Hutch opened his eyes—when had he closed them?
"I'm his partner." Hutch's mouth was dry but he felt a bit of relief when he saw the surgeon smiling.
"Detective Starsky is out of surgery. Everything went well." The surgeon nodded as if pleased at his own handiwork. "He's in recovery right now and then we'll move him to a room."
"He couldn't feel his arm," Hutch said.
He heard Dobey make a noise next to him. Hutch couldn't remember if he'd told their captain that or not. The doctor was talking, saying something about nerves but the words were all jumbled and for all Hutch knew he could have been talking in Latin or some other dead language.
That was Dobey's voice, and he sounded...what? Angry? Impatient? Concerned?
Nothing was making sense and why couldn't he get himself under control? Adrenaline. He must be coming off the adrenaline rush he'd been operating on for the whole crisis.
Bathroom—he'd go to the bathroom and splash some cold water on his face and then he'd be good to go for when Starsky woke up. He could tell him everything was going to be fine and he didn't have to be frightened.
Hutch nodded politely at the doctor and stood up, ignoring the rushing in his ears. And then there was nothing.
Someone was talking. No, make that two someones or maybe even three.
Hutch opened his eyes to see Starsky looking at him from his hospital bed.
Strange, he didn't remember going to Starsky's room. He was in a bed too—he certainly didn't remember that.
"You finally awake?" Starsky asked, his blue eyes surprisingly bright for a man who'd had surgery not too long ago. Or wait…
"How long?" Hutch's mouth was dry and a slender brown hand held out a plastic cup filled with water. He took it and looked away from Starsky. "Huggy?"
"Just gracing you with my presence," Huggy said. "Drink that." He motioned to the cup.
Hutch did. It was just water but it was if he'd never tasted water before.
"How did I...I wasn't shot?" It came out as a question because for a moment he couldn't remember.
Starsky was grinning at him with that look that said I know something you don't know. "You're gonna be okay. And no, not shot."
Hutch reached up to rub his forehead, only to have Huggy intercept the movement. He looked at Huggy.
"You're not gonna want to do that," Huggy warned.
"You fainted, Hutch," Starsky said and Hutch swore his best friend was on the verge of busting his gut laughing.
"I did not." He couldn't have. He was a cop. Cops didn't faint. Well at least not when they weren't injured.
"You did. And you managed to clip your head on the chair arm and give yourself a nice little cut," Starsky continued. "Five stitches."
Hutch frowned and then looked at Huggy. "Tell me he's kidding."
"You know I don't prevaricate or fabricate. He's telling you the truth."
Hutch swore his cheeks were turning red. "In front of Dobey?"
"Yeah. Scared him good, too, from what I hear." Starsky looked at him. "You feeling okay now? You were kind of out of it when they brought you in here."
Hutch realized he didn't really remember much of what had happened after the surgeon told him Starsky was going to be okay. He remembered standing up and then a sort of hazy time with someone talking to him and being so utterly tired he wanted to just sleep.
"What time is it?" he asked.
"Close to three," Starsky said.
"In the morning?"
Starsky snorted and then let out a very small "ow." "Don't make me laugh, Hutch. It hurts. No, dummy, in the afternoon."
Hutch looked at him worriedly. "You okay?"
"I'm gonna be. And you slept most of the day away. You're gonna be okay too. The doc said you just kind of crashed. They'll probably let you out as soon as they check you over again."
Hutch nodded. "Yeah. Okay."
"I'm here to take you home," Huggy said. He patted Hutch's shoulder. "How about I get one of those nurses to come in here and get things moving along?"
Hutch waited until he left before he turned back to Starsky. "You sure you're gonna be okay?"
"Yes. At least that's what the doctor said. Routine, he said." Starsky kept that bright gaze on Hutch. "You did good—you know that, right?"
Hutch closed his eyes against the burning he felt there. He could remember the taste of fear, the way he thought they didn't stand in a chance in hell of getting out of it but had to pretend he did, the realization that a whole bunch of people were depending on him to save the day and that the one person who mattered most was on a dingy couch in an office. He swallowed.
He opened his eyes and saw Starsky watching him, concerned. There wasn't much more he could ask for than that, was there? His partner, his best friend, his 'thee' was safe and would recover. He found himself smiling.
"Yeah, Starsk. I know that."
Starsky smiled back—and it was enough.