"We need to keep you at least overnight. We're not sure of the drugs you were given, and you've been severely beaten, not to mention the burns on your face."
"No," I said, my voice hoarse. I wanted home—my own bed, my own stuff, Hutch to take care of me. Not nurses who wanted to poke me with needles and stick tubes up my dick.
"Doc, wrap me up, shoot me up with painkillers if you gotta, and let me go. I'm not stayin' here."
"Yes, you are." Hutch handed my admittance paperwork to the nurse standing by. "The doctor's right, Starsk."
"I don't care."
"Detective, we're also unsure of how your kidneys are doing. We need to see if there's any blood in your urine."
"I got eyes. If I piss blood, I'll let you know."
"Starsk, don't do this. Don't let them win."
"Who? Doctor Frankenstein here?"
Hutch sat on the edge of my bed and squeezed my shoulder. It felt so good, him touching me like that. Like a friend. That's what I needed right now.
"No, pal. Marcus and his creeps. They wanted to hurt you, wanted to kill you. You walk out of this hospital now—which, by the way, I don't think you could— and you run the risk of handing them their goal."
"You think I don't know what they did to me, Hutch? Huh? Want me to lay it out, minute by minute? I know every fucking smell of each and every one of them. They kicked me in the balls. Burned my face. Fed me poison and then hung me by my wrists surrounded by knives and chains. You know what that sounds like? Hearing metal clanking and knowing it's going to be bouncing off your hide any minute? But thanks to you, I survived it. And what I want now is to go home. To my place, my stuff, things I can control. I'll even go to your pigsty of a place if you want, but God, Hutch, get me the hell out of here!" My voice got loud at the end and I shoved at his leg on the bed.
"Stop it, Starsk!" I'd pissed him off now, but I still hoped he'd do it my way. "They nearly killed you! And I-I-I…" His stuttering meant he was real emotional. I sank back against my pillow, feeling badly, while he took a deep breath and blew it out real slow.
I love the guy. He's so damned passionate about everything—including me.
"Starsky." He leaned in real close through the jungle of wires and tubing they had hanging around me and I could smell old coffee and dirt, along with a familiar, sharp tang of fear-induced sweat. "Please. I-I don't know what I'd do if…" Right then his face turned really white, his eyes kinda glazed over and rolled back, and he started to fall. I tried to grab him but I didn't have enough speed or even strength to hold him up.
Even as slow as I was, he seemed to fall even slower. He crashed into my IV pole and that pulled the tube out of my arm.
"Hutch!" Then the doctor was there, kneeling on the floor. "Doc, what's wrong?"
"Looks like he's just fainted. He's breathing fine, but I think he's hit his head."
"Of course he hit his head, he just fell! Geez!" I could feel myself getting worked up and the funny heart monitor thing started beeping real loud.
"Nurse, call for help, and then assist me. Detective Starsky, you need to calm down. Your friend will be fine."
Before I could say anything else, another nurse showed up, and tried to restick me with another needle to get the IV line back in me. I tried to fight her off, but then got distracted by the doctor and nurse getting Hutch up off the floor and onto a gurney.
He looked all gray and didn't wake up, and that scared me. Then they pulled a curtain and I couldn't see him anymore.
Knowing Hutch was down like me made me be quiet so I could what was happening on the other side of the damned curtain, and let the nurses do their thing. When they finally decided I didn't need any more holes poked in me they put me in a double room by myself. I felt alone again, lonely, and a little creeped out. Images of those freaks in their black robes with fiery torches and hearing them chanting Simon's name over and over in my head made me shake inside. I had to talk myself out of panicking like I was five years old and afraid of the dark again.
The nurse had turned out the light, but I reached over and turned on my bedside lamp. That helped. The shadows over the other bed retreated and it looked like any other empty bed rather than the cave I'd been held in.
I missed Hutch. They told me he'd be okay and ignored my questions. At least Dobey came with me at first but once he ordered me to shut the hell up and rest, I told him to go home and do the same. He'd been up all night like Hutch, and looked it, and he had a wife who'd take care of him.
Me, I had Hutch and that's all. And now I didn't even have him.
I found the tv remote and turned it on, hoping for a late movie to distract me. I got lucky and found a Bogey film. Just as I felt myself dropping off to sleep, the door opened.
Two nurses wheeled in a gurney and I felt a little grateful that at least I wouldn't be alone anymore. I figured once they got whoever this was settled, I'd ask them about Hutch.
One nurse pulled the curtain between us and I heard them moving their patient, talking quietly and telling him to move slowly and let them do most of the work. When they were done they left the curtain and headed for the door.
"Hey, uh can I ask a question?" I whispered loudly and one of 'em turned around. It was the nurse who'd been with me in the ER, and she looked tired, but she smiled at me and came over. Nurse Denise Cole, her nametag said.
"You should be sleeping, Detective."
"I know, but I'm worried about my partner. Can you tell me how he's doing? Did he go home?"
She gave me one of those looks like she was my mom and whatever I had just said sounded so cute or something. "No, he didn't go home."
"How bad is he, then?" I could feel my panic rising again, my Marcus-monster-fed imagination working overtime, and I felt like I was choking.
"Sh, Detective. Calm down and breathe deeply." She fiddled with the machine that read my heartbeat and I tried to do as she said. "That's better. Your partner will be fine, but just like you, the doctor wanted to keep him for observation."
"Yeah," I nodded. "He told me in the ambulance that he hadn't slept at all, looking for me. Guess he got kinda worn out."
"Yes, he did, and we think he had an adrenaline crash too, leaving him feeling weaker than normal."
"When can I see him? I mean, I know it's late, but I just want to know he's okay."
Denise smiled really wide then, and reached for the curtain. "How about right now?"
There was my beautiful Hutch, looking pale in his yellow gown and a big square bandage on his head.
"Oh, God. Hutch. Is he really all right?"
She patted my hand. "Yes. He's just sleeping. Barely woke up to get moved to the bed. We gave him something for his headache and a little sleeping pill as well to be sure he got some rest. Right after they brought you here, he woke up and was a little frantic about you. Your captain suggested that it would benefit us the most if we put the two of you in the same room."
I nodded, my eyes fixated on my partner. "He saved my life tonight."
She looked over her shoulder at the door, but the other nurse had gone. "Tell you what. With your ribs in the shape they're in, and that catheter in your…well, that catheter, I don't like the idea of you moving around just yet. But how about I move your bed closer to him?"
An angel, that's what that nurse was. She unlocked the wheels and rolled me sideways until our beds were right next to each other. I could reach out and touch his arm. He felt cool and I tried to pull the blanket up over him a little, glad I could do something for him.
"You sleep now, you hear me?" Nurse Denise said, touching my shoulder until I looked at her.
"I will," I promised. She winked at me and left.
For a long time I just looked at him, thinking about how fantastic it had been to see Hutch come charging into that gang of goons, both of us together fighting them off. No wonder he was exhausted.
And then I thought about how I hadn't wanted to stay here. How I'd wanted to go home and have Hutch take care of me there. I hadn't thought about how he was feeling. Some partner I am. But now we were both here, and that definitely made it better.
I burrowed my hand under his blanket until I found his hand. His fingers curled around mine like it was the most natural thing in the world.
And holding his hand, I slept. And no nightmares, either.
In the morning, when I woke up, he was looking at me. "And you wanted to go home," he teased, his voice hoarse.
"Nah. Who'd take care of you?" I answered, trying not to smile.
"My hero," he whispered, and fell back asleep.
Nah. He's mine. And he knows it. My White Knight.