“You lied to Dobey.”
Hutch’s voice was low and accusatory.
He was slouched in the wheelchair, awkwardly trying to keep his weight off of the neatly bandaged wound in the back of his
thigh. Unfortunately, that put the weight back on his hip, where he was still sore from the tetanus shot. The hospital gown he wore was ridiculously short and every time he slumped, it rode up in the back. Frustrated,
he tugged it down one more time. He had developed a theory that the hospitals designed these garments for the express purpose
of keeping patients in their place by humiliating them as much as possible.
Starsky stopped pushing the chair and leaned
on the handles, as much to rest as to bring his head down close to his partner’s where he could speak without being
overheard. “I didn’t say one single word that wasn’t true.”
The nurse would have pushed Hutch up to Dawn’s
room, but Starsky had insisted that he could handle it. She didn’t argue. Starsky figured she was probably very happy
to hand his partner over to him, rather than deal with him anymore. Hutch had been a royal pain in the derriere the entire
time they were patching him up. And then, when they’d told him he’d need to rest for a couple hours while they
replaced fluids and repaired some of the blood loss…
Sometimes a man got a little tired of being
unappreciated. Starsky had soothed and run interference and advocated for the big dope and made sure his painkillers weren’t
opiates, and frankly, he was really starting to reconsider that last. A nice hefty dose of morphine might be just the thing
right about now.
He blinked, realizing just how tired and
cranky he had to be if those were the kinds of thoughts going through his head. Mean,
Starsky, that’s just downright mean.
He felt a vibration go through the chair
as Hutch impatiently slapped the arm. “Well? Are we going to get there this week or not?”
Starsky hesitated a moment, and then stood
up and dragged Hutch’s chair over to the wall, out of the path of the hospital traffic. Satisfied that they were parked
for the moment, he leaned back against the cool plaster and slid down until he was seated on the floor.
“We’re not,” he said, tilting
his head back against the wall and closing his eyes. God, but I’m beat!
Hutch couldn’t believe it. Dawn was
upstairs having a baby… and I’m stuck down here in this stupid chair with
strict instructions not to put any weight on my leg on pain of ripped stitches and forced confinement to bed. Whatever Starsky
thinks he’s doing, there just isn’t time for it. Wincing as the movement pulled on his stitches, he maneuvered
his chair around. “Starsky! What the hell…” Hutch was seriously considering just ditching the chair and
his partner and hobbling the rest of the distance, and to hell with the doctor’s orders, when he took in the drawn,
tired face of the man sitting on the floor beside him. Irritably, he asked, “Are you all right?”
“No, I’m not all right, and neither
are you,” said Starsky. He opened his eyes and looked up into the angry blue ones staring down at him. “Hutch,
I screwed up, big time. I let you down.”
The line between Hutch’s eyes deepened.
“Don’t give me that bullshit. You didn’t just murder a man…” The self-loathing in his voice
was plain to hear.
shock to anger… Aren’t there rules about how this sort of thing is supposed to go? “Hutch, do you remember Prudholm? I was going to kill him.”
“But you didn’t,” said Hutch, bitterly. He slouched further down into his chair, and then shifted restlessly
as the movement sent a wave of cramps through his leg muscle. The Demerol was
working to dull most of the discomfort, but every now and then, something would slide through.
It wasn’t pain so much as it was a different sensation both unpleasant and distracting. The doctor had said a specialist would have to look at his leg, to see if surgery would be required to
repair the damaged muscle. This would be followed by an indeterminate period of physiotherapy.
Belatedly, he realized that Starsky was asking
him something, urgency in his voice.
He tuned in as Starsky repeated himself again.
“C’mon, Hutch! Why didn’t I?” He was sitting up now, his expression earnest.
Hutch shrugged helplessly. “I don’t
know! Because you’re a better human being? For Christ’s sake, Starsky!”
“No!” said Starsky, forcefully.
“I didn’t shoot him, because you stopped me! Prudholm was down, and I was standing on his shotgun and I had my
pistol cocked. I’d made up my mind to kill him, you know. I figured it was only justice after all those cops he killed.
I don’t remember if you said anything, but I remember the way you looked at me. I couldn’t do it, because of you. You had this look on your face, like if I pulled that trigger, it’d break
He was talking too fast, and too loud, his
words tumbling over each other. In the back of his mind, Starsky knew they were garnering more than their share of curious
stares from the passersby in the corridor. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was making his partner understand how
sorry he was. “Hutch, the way I see it, this whole mess is at least fifty percent my fault. I could have stopped you,
and I didn’t.”
Hutch’s expression was unreadable.
“Huh?” Starsky was too tired
to try to figure out what he meant. I can’t do this, Hutch. You’re all
tangled up inside, and I don’t know how to make it better.
“Why didn’t you try to stop me?”
asked Hutch. There was a gleam in his eye as he added, “Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you could
have stopped me. I’m just wondering why you didn’t try.”
The relief of hearing Hutch sound almost
like his usual self was staggering. Starsky pulled his right knee up to his chest and dropped his cheek onto it, his eyes
still on his partner. “Ah, you would’a stopped. I know you. You’ll do anything I ask, if it’s important
“Starsky…” said Hutch,
warningly. Don’t go thinking you can tap dance around this one.
Starsky yawned, trying to buy himself a moment
to think before answering. His stomach rumbled nervously, and he briefly recalled that Dobey had said something about Huggy
bringing food. “‘Cause… Well, ‘cause I just didn’t want your kid growing up in the same world
as Reg Malcolm.”
That was a good answer, but it wasn’t
the whole truth. It would be of no benefit to Hutch if he were to sit here and pretend that his motives were wholly noble.
He sighed. “And also ‘cause I heard what he said to you, and I thought, there’s a guy that just needs killing.
Should’a shot him myself.”
Hutch frowned. “Starsky!”
“Well, it wouldn’t be the first
time,” muttered Starsky.
“What are you talking about?”
asked Hutch, angrily. I’d have known if he’d ever shot a suspect in custody,
and I know he never did. He’s too good a cop. If he’s trying to feed me some kind of line…
“Remember when the Haymes girl got
kidnapped?” asked Starsky, grimly. “Man, you should have seen that car explode. Hell of a fireball.”
“That was an accident,” said
Hutch. Doubt tugged at the back of his mind, but he repeated himself firmly, “It was an accident. I remember the report.”
“No, it wasn’t,” said Starsky.
He was frankly surprised that even after all this time, Hutch was still denying what should have been obvious to anyone with
two whole brain cells to rub together. “I thought they’d killed you, so I set out to kill them. It was revenge,
pure and simple.” Hutch was shaking his head now, but Starsky pressed ahead. “Worse than that, I did it knowing
perfectly well that by killing the only guys who knew where she was I was signing that kid’s death warrant. So, I guess
that makes me a murderer twice over, huh?”
Hutch flinched at the tone in his partner’s
voice. “It wasn’t… You’re only human, Starsky.”
He saw Starsky tilt his head back then, looking
at him with that crooked grin, one eyebrow raised significantly. You’re only
human. Hutch capitulated, throwing his hands up in the air. He felt the first of the knots in his gut ease. “Okay,
okay. You win!”
Starsky leaned back against the wall with
a deep sigh. “So, the official line is you can’t remember a thing about what happened down under the docks.”
Hutch’s smile vanished. “I -
I can’t… I don’t want…” Don’t ask me to lie, Starsky.
“Please, Hutch?” Starsky’s
voice cracked, a hint of desperation pushing past the control he’d maintained all evening.
For the first time since the wedding, Hutch
took a good look at his partner. Starsky was slumped against the wall, utterly exhausted. He’d removed his jacket at
some point, but he was still in his dress pants and vest. His hair was limp, sweat causing the curls to cling to his forehead
wedding day, huh? thought Hutch with
regret. “Starsk, I -”
Before he could finish, however, a shout
“There you are!”
Both men looked up to see Becky trotting
quickly down the hall. She’d changed out of her wedding dress into jeans and a sweatshirt, but a few tenacious sprigs
of baby’s breath still clung to her hair. Her eyes brightened at the sight of Starsky pushing himself up onto his feet
to greet her. “Dave!”
“Hey, Bec… oof!” The air
left his lungs in a rush as she seized him in a hug enthusiastic enough to knock him back against the wall. “Hey, take
“Are you all right?” she asked,
leaning back, her hands dropping to rest on his hips. She checked him over, her expression serious. “You look kind of
“You really know how to compliment
a guy,” he said, grinning.
For a moment, Hutch had felt entirely invisible
as Becky’s attention was riveted on her new husband, but then she turned to him, her joy and gratitude palpable.
“How does your leg feel? You know,
I heard all about it! You’re a hero!” She rattled on happily, oblivious to his pained flinch. “You got that
guy and now I won’t have to be always looking over my shoulder, and there’ll be no more worrying about…”
She stopped suddenly, her cheeks reddening. “Um, Dave?” Grabbing Starsky’s arm, she pulled him aside and
whispered an urgent question into his ear.
Hutch watched with open curiosity as Starsky
embraced her and said reassuringly, “No, you don’t have to worry about those. I’ll make sure they’re
Another inaudible question.
“Just me, Hutch and Dobey.”
She stepped back, appalled. “Hutch saw them?”
“It’s okay,” Hutch said,
fighting to keep a straight face. “I’ve completely erased it from my mind.”
She floundered. “Well, thank you, I
guess… I mean… I don’t think… it couldn’t have been like it was traumatic to see them or anything.”
She glanced back at Starsky. “I mean, I didn’t look that bad, or anything, did I?” Then she caught the expressions
on their faces, realized what she was saying, and wailed, “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded!”
Hutch couldn’t help himself any longer
- he started to laugh. And as he did, he felt a few more of the knots inside of him loosening.
He was still snickering by the time they
exited the elevator onto the floor that housed the maternity ward. He became aware of the sound of excited voices down the
hall. Hadn’t Starsky been trying to tell him something back in the examining
room about the guests from the wedding reception coming here to the hospital?
Sobering, Hutch tipped his head back to look
up at his friend. “Starsky, why is everyone here?”
Starsky stopped and leaned on the back of
the wheelchair again, blowing out a long exasperated breath. “Hutch, ya big dope, you’re family! They wanna be
here for you and Dawn and the baby.”
Family. With that one word, Hutch felt as
if the ground had dropped out from beneath him.
Starsky didn’t wait for a response,
which was likely a good thing, because Hutch couldn’t have formulated one at that moment if his life had depended on
it. Another few steps and they’d arrived at a shabby lounge where it appeared that a small party was in full swing.
There was a chorus of greetings as they arrived.
Giving Hutch’s shoulder a quick pat, Starsky said, “I’m going to go find out where they’ve got Dawn.
I’ll be right back.” He waved once across the crowded room. “Yeah, Ma! I know you’re there. I’ll
be back, okay?”
Hutch blinked, a little overwhelmed to find
himself suddenly surrounded by smiling faces. The Dobeys were all there, as was Huggy, and it seemed as if most of the precinct
was there as well. Starsky’s mother pressed food into his hands and urged him to eat. He responded automatically to
the people offering congratulations and reassurance, and sympathy for his injury, but in his mind, he was seeing another waiting
room, similarly packed with concerned family.
Back in September, when Alice Kaminski had
been the innocent victim of Harold Malcolm’s drunk driving, the waiting room in the trauma unit had been just as crowded
as this one. At the time Hutch had assumed that his family consisted of only himself and Dawn. It occurred to him now that
he’d been very wrong. He hadn’t lost any family at all when he’d turned his back on his parents. He was
encircled by people who cared about him. These were his family.
He was relieved when Starsky returned with
a nurse in tow. Nice as it was to realize the full extent of his family here in Bay City, he’d been starting to feel somewhat claustrophobic
in the midst of them all. Despite his overwhelming desire to flee, however, several
more of the knots untangled themselves while he was in the company of his friends.
family members allowed in the delivery room.’ If you had asked Dawn, she would have been happy to tell you exactly what
she thought of that rule. She was lonely and frustrated and torn between just wanting this baby out of her body, and wanting
her husband to be there when it happened.
She wasn’t sure how much time had passed.
It was hard to stay focused, and the nurses wouldn’t tell her anything useful. If she heard, “Now, dear, don’t
worry about a thing!” one more time, she was going to scream.
Not that they’d bat an eye at that.
After all, pregnant women in labor were apparently supposed to scream, if you believed the other nurse, the large one, who
kept urging her to relax and let it all out.
Dawn was not a screamer. She was also not
at all relaxed.
When the door first opened, she paid little
attention, assuming it was another of the endless parade of nurses and interns. Then the voice she’d been waiting for
all this time said, “Hi.”
“What took you so long?” snapped
Dawn. She may have been happy he was finally there, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t also irritated at the delay.
“I got a big hole in my leg,”
he said, conversationally.
Dawn looked over to find her husband in a
wheelchair beside her bed, a large white bandage wrapped around his bare thigh and a smaller one over the back of his hand
where he’d obviously received an IV. He looked exhausted, but he was smiling at her, relief and concern in his eyes,
and possibly something else as well. Dave stood near the door, looking very unsure
and a little frightened as well. She could only assume he was concerned about
the possibility that she might spontaneously eject the baby while he was standing there.
“See?” Ken pointed at his leg.
“Wounded.” Now he sounded almost proud of himself.
“I’ll trade,” gasped Dawn,
as another contraction seized her in its grip. She tried to push herself up off the bed, searching for a more comfortable
position. Her bandaged right arm was supported in an unwieldy sling, and when her elbow smacked into the bar on the side of
her bed, she swore a blue streak.
Vaguely, she was aware of Dave backing up,
his eyes wide.
Hutch waited patiently for her to finish
and then said, “No, that’s okay. I’ll… I’ll keep the hole in my leg, thank you.” He winced,
thinking, That labor stuff looks really painful. And she’s been doing this for
Dawn didn’t notice his expression,
because another contraction was riding in right behind the last. “Oh, geez, these just won’t stop!” The
nurse had said her contractions should be a set time apart, but it seemed that she couldn’t do anything right, because
these were entirely unpredictable. She might get twenty minutes between some, and then five minutes between the next. She
focused desperate eyes on her husband. “Talk to me. Tell me what happened after you ran down that road.”
“Hang on,” interrupted Starsky,
relieved to have finally thought of something useful he could do, as well as an excuse to escape from the room. “Hutch, I’m going to go get you something to lie down on, okay?” If his partner was going to stay and talk to Dawn, there was no way he could keep sitting in that chair. He needed to get the weight off of his leg.
Hutch nodded absently as Starsky left the
room. His eyes remained on his wife. He
had no intention of telling her everything, but the contractions kept stealing her focus away, and every time she came back,
she would question him about the last thing she’d heard him say. The conversation
inched forward at a snail’s pace, and with each reiteration of what he’d last said, a few more details came out.
Starsky came back with an orderly in tow,
pushing a gurney. They moved it around to the far side of Dawn’s bed, and
between the two of them, they managed to get Hutch up onto it, lying on his stomach once more.
Starsky yanked the back of his gown down and patted his rump, commenting that while he was sure Dawn wouldn’t
mind, the rest of the world certainly didn’t need to see Hutch’s rear end.
Hutch swatted at his partner’s hand,
scowling. “Starsky, back off! Go
make yourself useful and find me a blanket, or something. I’m freezing!”
“Already got it,” said Starsky,
unruffled by the snappish tone. He unfolded the thin white hospital blanket and
draped it over Hutch’s back, arranging it to cover his long, bare legs. Tired
and sore as he was, it was kind of fun being on the giving side of things in the mother hen department, instead of the receiving.
Giving Dawn a cheerful wink, Starsky braced
himself with a hand on either side of Hutch’s body, leaned over close to his partner’s ear and asked, very sweetly,
“Are you all tucked in, nice and warm? D’ya wanna bedtime story?”
Hutch’s middle finger came up so quickly,
Starsky had to jerk his head back to prevent it from jamming him in the nose.
“Out!” growled Hutch, pointing at the door as Dawn
Starsky grinned, and took his leave willingly. He was hungry and tired, and he had no desire to be anywhere near Dawn when she delivered
her baby. But afterward… now that would be another issue entirely. He intended to be the first in line to greet Baby Hutch, even if it meant camping
out in the waiting room for the next three days.
After Starsky had left, Hutch and Dawn’s
With her attention too fragmented to take
in every word, Dawn had to rely on details of his facial expression and body language to make sense of what he was trying
to tell her. As she studied him, it occurred to her that she hadn’t imagined
the emotion she’d seen in his eyes when he’d first entered the room. It
was there in his voice, and in the hesitant way he leaned forward to touch her cheek, as if he was not quite sure that she
was really there.
She realized that she’d lost the thread
of the conversation again. “Go back a bit,” she said, giving him
a warm smile that had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand. “What
happened?” So what if he only married
me because of the baby? He loves me now.
Hutch fell silent every time the doctor came
into the room but, in the end, piece by ugly piece, the whole story came out.
It was almost morning and they were briefly
alone, when he finally admitted, “I shot him, Dawn.”
His voice was so quiet, she almost didn’t
hear the words. When she looked at him, she found that he had his head down, buried in his crossed arms.
“Good,” she said, clearly and
Red-rimmed eyes came up to look at her with
a dumbfounded expression. The emotion in his voice was raw. “Dawn, I shot
an unarmed man in my custody. I don’t even know if I should wait until they take my badge away. I can’t call myself
“Bull,” said Dawn, rudely. Another
contraction was building, but she needed to finish speaking her piece first. “If you lose your badge, that’s fine.
We’ll get by somehow. Just don’t go cutting yourself down. You’re
a fine cop and a finer man, and the world’s a better place with one less Reg in it.” She gasped and suddenly found
herself bearing down on the contraction instead of being swept away by it. “Urgh…”
Hutch half rose from the gurney, pushing
himself up onto his hip. “That sounded different.”
“That was different,” said Dawn. “I think…” Another of the strange sensations caught her and
she groaned. It felt good. This wasn’t pain, this was work!
Hutch swung his feet off his gurney, ignoring
the pull of his stitches, “Nurse!”
By the time the nurse came into the room,
Dawn was trying to push herself upright and Hutch had his arm behind her back, attempting to support her as well as he was
able. He looked up wide-eyed, and said, “I think the baby’s coming!”
There was something in his voice, a note
of astonishment and wonder that seized Dawn’s attention and made her breath catch in her throat. She quickly stored it away in her mind. There was no time
now, but she knew she’d want to take that memory out later and look at it again.
There were other things she remembered about
that time, but they were all in snippets and none of them had the emotional resonance for her as the sound of her husband’s
voice in that one moment of revelation.
The grey light of early dawn filtered through the windows of the waiting room. It was quiet, paper plates
and cups crammed into the trash bins, and a half-eaten wedding cake turning stale on a table in the corner. Most of the party
had drifted away long ago, people needing to get home to bed or off to work, depending on the hours of their employment.
Becky had collected Monster from Starsky’s
car, driven her mother home and then borrowed her car to take herself and Starsky’s mother back to his apartment. Starsky
promised he’d call her as soon as the baby was born, and drooping with fatigue, she’d reluctantly agreed not to
return until then.
Now, only Dobey and Starsky remained in the
room. The large captain was uncomfortably perched in a plastic chair, staring pensively into a Styrofoam coffee cup. Starsky
had passed out, falling asleep on a short couch, his feet on the vinyl arm and one hand dangling down near the floor.
A nurse peeked around the door jam and smiled
at the sight. “Congratulations, the Hutchinsons
are now the proud parents of a baby boy.”
Dobey’s eyes brightened and a broad
smile wreathed his face. “A boy!” He looked over at Starsky, but the man was still unconscious. Heaving his bulk
out of the chair, he crossed the room and quietly asked, “Is he healthy?” If the baby was sick, he wanted to be
able to break the news gently to Starsky.
“He’s very healthy,” said
the nurse, reassuringly. “He’s small, and he’ll stay in the neonatal unit for a couple days, just for observation,
but I don’t think we have anything to worry about. He’s got a good set of lungs on him, for such a little guy.”
Dobey hesitated, glancing back at Starsky.
“Ah, um… Thank you, miss. Can we…?”
The nurse had no trouble understanding his
meaning. Still smiling, she shook her head. “You won’t be able to see the baby just yet, but once we move him
to the nursery, you should be able to visit his parents. How about if I come back and let you know when they’re ready
“Thank you.” Dobey bobbed his
head at her and then headed back to his chair, humming happily. A boy, imagine that!
He decided he’d give Starsky a few more minutes of sleep before waking him. He wouldn’t be pleased about not getting
to see the baby right off, and the least Dobey could do was spare the nurses a few minutes of a Starsky on a mission. They’d
put up with enough already tonight.
What a day this
had been: a wedding, a death and a birth, all in one.
Dobey shook his head in reluctant amazement. Only his boys…
Hutch had anticipated many different emotions
on witnessing the birth of his son. Joy, awe, a sense of completion, perhaps… What he had not anticipated was plain fear.
The baby had been lifted from the sheets
tented over Dawn’s legs, screaming, as royal a shade of purple as he could possibly imagine. The traditional pronouncement had been made, It’s a boy,
and he was placed on her stomach. Distantly Hutch had heard someone asking him
if he wanted to cut the cord. He shook his head, unable to take his eyes off
of the astonishing sight before him.
The depth of the responsibility that he now
bore came home to him in that moment with an intensity he’d never felt before, and it lodged itself firmly in his heart. There was no turning back. His life had
been demarcated forever into before and after this one momentous event.
A small sarcastic voice in the back of his
mind commented, It’s a bit late to be getting cold feet now, isn’t it,
They had taken the baby back and were weighing
him, giving him oxygen to ‘pink him up’ and administering some sort of shot to the heel of his foot, when Dawn
suddenly said, “I want to breastfeed!”
The doctor looked dubious. “He’s very small.”
Hutch started to tense, thinking irrationally,
If Dawn says she wants to breastfeed, then she’s damn well going to breastfeed! A nurse intervened before he could speak, however, inserting her pinky finger into
the baby’s mouth.
The infant stopped crying immediately and
she said, “He does seem to have a good strong suck.”
The doctor looked annoyed, but at that moment
there was a call over the intercom, requesting his presence in another room. Hastily,
he said, “Give it a try then, but afterwards I’d like to see him spend the night in the neonatal unit, where we
can monitor him.”
Dawn was hampered both by having an arm in
a sling, and by the fact that she no real idea of how to go about nursing a newborn.
Her announcement had been motivated more by an instinctive desire to keep her baby close, than by any real desire to
breastfeed. The nurse who had offered her opinion on the baby’s sucking
talents easily intuited this and took over. She propped multiple pillows under Dawn’s arm and on her lap. Untying the
neck of Dawn’s gown, she folded it down. She tucked the baby into the crook of Dawn’s uninjured arm, draped a
blanket over him, and then to Dawn’s utter shock, she reached down and very efficiently took hold of her breast, squeezed
the nipple into a point, and rubbed the baby’s cheek with it. When the infant opened his mouth, she jammed his face
firmly onto the breast, so that his nose pressed right into her flesh.
Hutch’s eyes widened in surprise at
seeing his wife so manhandled, but there was such an air of efficient professionalism about the nurse’s actions that
he could not muster a protest.
Dawn gasped as the baby clamped down with
startling ferocity. She thought, It’s amazing how all those social inhibitions
about being naked in front of strangers have just flown right out the window. For that matter, she had the strangest feeling
right now that her breasts didn’t even belong to her anymore. The baby had marked them as his property with a strength
and power that was impossible to deny.
She glanced over at Ken. During delivery,
he had moved to the chair beside her bed, and he was now sitting there with his mouth open and a rather comical look of astonishment
on his face. After a moment, his jaw snapped closed and he looked up at the nurse. “How can he breathe like that?”
The nurse was a very large woman with a competent
air that Dawn found extremely reassuring. She seemed to know exactly what she was about, handling everything with cheerful
effectiveness. She validated this assessment of her skill with her unruffled
answer to Hutch’s question.
“Oh, babies are perfect nursing machines.
They’re designed so that they can eat and breathe at the same time. Their
noses are flat and a little flared to the sides, so that you never have to worry about them suffocating while they nurse.”
The nurse gave them both a cheerful smile, and adjusted Dawn’s pillows some more.
The doctor returned to check on the baby
one more time and concurred with the nurse that he did indeed appear to have a “good suck”. His color could have
been better, but his respiration was good. Having alarmed Hutch with the mention of a heart murmur, the doctor then waved
off his concerns with a comment about it being ‘very common’ and ‘nothing to worry about’.
“He’ll outgrow it,” said
the nurse, confidently.
Hutch leaned over the rail to get a better
look at his son. In all the confusion after his birth, there hadn’t been nearly enough time to take in the details of
this brand new human being. He was impossibly tiny, but absolutely perfect, from his small, soft fingernails to the long eyelashes.
His fingers splayed like starfish, his hands flat and pale against Dawn’s dark skin.
His somewhat swollen eyes were a startling shade of slate blue that they’d told him would likely change over
the next few months. He’d been wiped clean, but there was still some greasy white stuff clinging to his scalp and a
little blood drying on his cheek. For that matter, now that Hutch looked closer, he could see that the baby had fuzzy down-like
hair covering every inch of his skin. It was dark, but so fine, it wasn’t immediately visible. He was a strange-looking
little creature, with skinny limbs and a frog-like abdomen.
“Is he supposed to have all that hair?”
he worriedly asked the nurse. The doctor had left again, and she was the only one in the room at the moment.
She laughed and patted his hand. “Yes,
that’ll disappear in a few days, along with most of that lovely hair on his head.”
He gingerly reached over and touched the
baby with one finger. A small hand waved randomly in response.
The nurse asked, “What’s his
Without thinking, Hutch started to say, “Dav
Dawn’s head shot up and she cut him
off. “No, no! No way are you calling this child David!”
Hutch was instantly on the defensive. After
too many months of having Dawn and Starsky at each other’s throats, he naturally assumed the worst. “Now, wait
a goddamn minute…”
The nurse discreetly withdrew to the other
side of the room and began cleaning up the equipment.
“Stop!” said Dawn, firmly.
Hutch’s mouth snapped shut, but there
was a stubborn set to his jaw that warned her that she’d better tread carefully here.
“I like Dave,” she said, the
sincerity in her words surprising her as much as it did Hutch. “He’s annoying sometimes, but he’s not a
bad guy, and if he were dead or living in Alaska,
then certainly I’d let you call this child after him. But he’s not somewhere far away. He’s going to be
living right next door to us. And one Dave per household is quite enough!”
There was a pause during which she could
see Ken sorting through a myriad of emotions. Then he relaxed and his head dropped down to rest on the arm that he had propped
on the railing of her bed. He gave her a conciliatory smile, and reached across to stroke the baby’s back. “Okay,
what else can’t I call him?”
“Well,” said Dawn, decisively.
“You can’t call him after David’s dad, because you know he and Becky are going to want to use that name
Hutch nodded and then yawned, his head shifting
against his arm. His eyes were half-closed. “We’ll just rule out naming him after anyone in Starsky’s family,
then. What about you? Have you got anyone you want to name him after?”
Dawn looked at that tousled blond head resting
so near and wished her other arm wasn’t in a sling. She sighed. “There’s just my father, and I’d really
rather that my son didn’t take after him.” She paused, trying to remember what Ken had said about his family.
“What was your grandfather’s name?”
“Jack.” Hutch smiled, drowsily.
“I used to visit him, on his farm.”
She swallowed back ‘I know’ and
said, “He looks like a Jack, don’t you think?”
“Jack,” said Hutch, thoughtfully.
He sounded as if he was trying it out. Evidently it passed muster because he then placed his finger in the infant’s
palm. The baby’s hand tightened reflexively. “Hi, Jack.”
Hutch felt the last of the knots unravel
as his son grasped his finger. He’d killed a man today, but he’d also become a father. In a half-asleep confused
kind of way, he felt as if by bringing one life into the world, he’d somehow made amends for removing another.
The nurse excused herself and left the room,
saying that she’d be right back. When Dawn looked down, she realized that her son had fallen asleep. She started to
tell Ken about this, only to discover that his eyes were also closed and he was breathing softly, still draped limply over
the railing of her bed. With a feeling of amused affection for them both, she extracted her breast from the baby’s mouth.
He let go with a gentle pop as the suction around her nipple released and she smiled at the sight of his mouth pursing in
his sleep. She couldn’t refasten her gown, but she did pull it up and arrange it across herself, until she felt halfway
It was good that she did, because a moment
later, the door opened a fraction, and Starsky’s head poked inside, his eyes scanning the room warily. He glanced once
over his shoulder and then quickly slipped inside. Dawn smiled over Hutch’s head at him.
“Trying to avoid someone?”
“Yeah,” said Starsky, with one
more glance through the small window in the door. “Nurse. Big. Scary. Looks like a linebacker.” Leaning heavily
on his cane, and clearly showing the effects of the long day, he limped stiffly over to the side of the bed, automatically
dropping his voice to a whisper as he realized that his partner was asleep. “Would you believe she tried to tell me
I couldn’t see Hutch’s baby? Aw… look at him! He’s so cute!”
“If you’re talking about him,”
Dawn indicated Hutch, “I’ll agree. But if you’re talking about the actual baby, well, I think maybe you
should get your eyes checked. Because, to me, he looks like a tiny, wrinkled, red gargoyle with purple feet and hair on his
Starsky chuckled. “Okay, you’re
right.” He cocked his head and took another look at the infant. “But, hey, will you look at that? He’s got
a little line right between his eyebrows, just like Hutch.” The baby’s face moved in his sleep, passing mysteriously
from something that looked like an open mouthed chuckle to something that might have been a frown. “Oh, and wow, he
also pulls the corners of his mouth way down just like Hutch, too. Man, there’s no doubt whose kid that is! Well, except
for all that dark hair on his head, it looks like he got that from you, Dawn.”
She was about to comment that it was nice
to hear that the baby had at least inherited something from her, when a voice at
the door abruptly barked, “Mr. Starsky!”
He jumped at the strident sound and, in spinning
around to face the angry nurse behind him, he lost his balance and crashed into the weighing table, sending it clattering
to the ground with a deafening clang. His feet flew out from under him and he landed on his rear end with a painful thud.
Hutch’s eyes flew open as he was startled
into sudden wakefulness, the baby began to squall, and the nurse launched into an angry tirade, but Dawn simply started to
laugh. Starsky looked wide-eyed at them all, and then gave Dawn a sheepish smile from his position on the floor.
The nurse had her hands propped on her hips.
“This is a very small, very fragile baby! Only family members should be around him now!”
Hutch and Dawn’s answer came in perfect
unison, “But he is family!”
Starsky simply beamed.