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PART ONE, THE HOMECOMING
SAD TIMES, HAPPY TIMES
SECOND PART OF A TRILOGY
CHAPTER ONE--TOGETHER AGAIN.
Hutch wandered into the restaurant looking around for signs of Huggy Bear. He spotted him leaning at the bar drinking a beer and passing the time chatting to the young barmaid. He approached in time to hear Huggy sadly muttering something about "ten years ago even and I'da had you eating out of my hand.""Losing your touch Hug!" Hutch slapped his friend on the back and sat down on the barstool next to him. "Can I get you something?"
"Hey man, you trying to completely destroy my reputation or something? Drinking with the Captain of Police in the hours of daylight would totally ruin my street cred my friend." Huggy grinned and raised his empty glass to the barmaid. "Two cold beers if you please young lady."
"Waiting for their drinks to be poured Huggy turned to give Hutch his full attention. "Well my friend, and what's so important that I had to dress up in this fancy gear and meet you here. What's wrong with 'The Pits' all of a sudden?"
"Nothing wrong with it Huggy but I can't take my guests to it, there a little young for that." So saying Hutch rose and indicated a pair of children sitting at a table across the room. "Care to join us for lunch?"
Huggy rose, and giving Hutch a curious look as he picked up his drink, he followed him across the room. Before they reached the table Hutch turned and took Huggy's glass from his hand. "Don't want you to spill this my friend it'll play havoc with the material in that suit." Huggy had no time to react as Hutch swiftly moved off again.
Stopping in front of the table Huggy looked down at the children in front of him. The two children sat side by side silently contemplating the floor. The young girl looked up and giggled to herself. "Yep! You're Huggy Bear. No one else could dress like that and get away with it!"
"Cheeky madam! You need to learn some manners young lady." Huggy had instantly bristled and raised his hand as if to smack the girl around the cheek. Instantly the young boy rose and faced Huggy, his eyes flashed their anger as he spoke, "I wouldn't do that if I were you, I might not like it!"
CHAPTER TWO--LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON.
Huggy's hand dropped as instantly as it had risen. A shiver of deja vu ran down his spine as the boys' eyes held him transfixed. The years flew away and suddenly Huggy was twenty years younger and standing in his bar. An over-sized drunk was trying to persuade one of 'his girls' to go on a date but the girl had other ideas. Things were beginning to get nasty and he was on his way round to tell the guy to leave when another customer rose from his seat and came over, pushing his way between the two. Leaning over the bar the newcomer asked for a drink. The drunk grabbed the man by the shoulder and roughly spun him around. "You're in my way pal. Move it."
The newcomer had stayed exactly where he was, grinning at the guy in front of him who stood a good foot taller than he was.
"You need to learn some manners buddy," and the drunk lifted his clenched fist to strike. The younger man moved so fast that Huggy hardly saw him. Grabbing the drunk by his ear the stranger had glared into his face and the violet blue eyes had flashed as angrily as the ones Huggy was now looking at. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, I might not like it!" even the words were the same.
Huggy sank slowly into a chair still looking at the young boy in front of him. Hutch sat down next to him and returning his drink to him said, "Here, you look like you could do with this."
Huggy wasted no time in downing the beer and his hands shook as he replaced the glass on the table.
Glancing at Hutch he could see his old friend smiling at him, obviously enjoying his discomfort. Huggy looked from the boy to the girl and then back again. The girl was smiling, her head slightly to the side, her big brown eyes, looking remarkably like a puppy, stared back at him. The boy still glared, his arm defensively around the girl, looking ready to defend her again should the need arise. Huggy took in the dark, curly hair and the flashing violet blue eyes and it was then that the realization hit.
"Oh my God! Starsky! Hutch it can't be...can it? It has to be though. No one else has those eyes except..."
"Except me maybe." Huggy spun around, and for a moment his whole world kept spinning. Hutch made a grab for one arm and the owner of the voice caught the other. Together they slowly lowered Huggy back into the chair from which he had sprung.
"Hi Huggy, good to see you too. I hope you weren't really going to hit my daughter... were you? Her Mother and I really wouldn't like it... and neither would her brother." Starsky was struggling to maintain a straight face as he looked at his old friend.
Huggy sat, for once lost for words, as his eyes flicked from one to the other. His brain didn't trust what his eyes were telling him. There in front of him stood Starsky. Alongside of him stood Hutch, and both were looking at him with the kind of a face he had often seen them use on their informers and petty criminals. The faces were a lot older of course, both carried lines around the eyes and Hutch was carrying a little more weight than he had back then but it was definitely 'them'... the 'Me and Thee' team.
"Do you believe this guy Hutch? Threatens to hit my kid then refuses to say anything in his own defense, somebody should call a cop or something." Starsky was looking at his former partner with a gleam in his eye that Huggy was unable to see. "Hey Kelly, what do you reckon, we call a cop and get this jerk locked up or what?"
"Can we do that Hutch? Get him locked up I mean. For the sake of any other defenseless kids in this city."
Kelly Starsky was playing her part with conviction.
She and Starsky had been watching the scenario unfold from the opposite side of the room and when Huggy had raised his hand it was all she could do to stay where she was and not rush to her children's side. She had felt her husband tense a little too and quietly wondered what would have happened to old friendships if their son hadn't played his part so well. When Kenneth Starsky had risen to face the man in front of him she had actually felt sorry for the guy. He really was his Fathers son and no mistake. Now, watching her husband and Hutch as they worked together, she began to understand just a little of how this partnership had once worked and she could finally accept her husband's desperate need to put things right between them.
She had always thought of Starsky as a fair and kind man who loved his family dearly and would do whatever was necessary to look after them. She had watched and stood by him as he fought to make his life, to forge a new career and to rebuild his shattered body. It had been a long hard struggle but he had never given up, working at it with such tenacity that it had earned him the respect of his colleagues and doctors and the love of her immediate family and a small circle of friends. Always though there had seemed a piece out of place, a 'missing link' that made her husband whole. Now, suddenly, the piece was there, and it had been there ever since the two men in front of her and left the office at the Metro precinct the previous evening. It had been a difficult journey but they had made it together.
The tableau was finally broken when snorts of laughter broke from the two children sitting watching the scene as it played out.
"Dad, stop it, Huggy looks like he thinks you're serious and I want to try one of his famous specials you are always on about. Can't do that if you get him locked up can I?" Rachael Starsky was looking at Huggy Bear with pity. She had been on the end of her Fathers wicked sense of humor before but somehow, since Ken Hutchinson had appeared on the scene, he had become better at it. Hutch was pretty good too. No wonder these two had been such good cops.
"Yeh Dad, you promised us a 'Huggy Special' and a trip around town, in that order." Young Kenneth Starsky was eager to learn more about the place where his Father had spent so many years.
He had eavesdropped occasionally in the early days, times when his Dad had come in from the school so tired he could hardly stand. The noises in the night from the room next to his had told him of the nightmare his Dad was having. It was only at these times when Starsky talked of his life as a cop, of his partner, of the many times they had cheated death at the hands of some maniac. He had heard about Vic Bellamy and his poison and how Hutch hadn't given up looking for the antidote even when everyone else said it was too late. He knew too about Terry and how she had been killed. He had heard the fear in his Father's voice when he had finally let go of the tortured memories of Gunther and his goons. And he had heard him cry for the loss of his friendship with Hutch. That, he knew, was what hurt his Father the most of all and he was glad that somehow they had managed to put everything behind them and start again. Watching the two of them together he knew that this was a special friendship and he hoped with all of his young heart that he would find such a friend one day.
Starsky looked at his children and smiled a loving smile that spoke volumes of what his family meant to him. Huggy Bear was suddenly very glad indeed that he hadn't carried out his threat, somehow he didn't think that he would have survived the wrath of either Starsky parent.
"Hey Huggy, good to see ya, been a long time buddy, a long time." Starsky placed a hand on Huggy's shoulder as he spoke and gently squeezed. Huggy could see the shining of unshed tears blinked back behind long eyelashes and knew he was having a similar problem. They stood for a second or two just taking each other in, the changes that the years had brought to each. The spell was finally broken by Kelly Starsky. Moving to stand beside Hutch she said, "I don't know about you guys but Hutch and I came here to eat. The kids and I haven't eaten since breakfast and we're starving so what say we eat and you guys can catch up on all the news over dinner?"
Sitting at the table Huggy looked in disbelief as Starsky ordered steak and salad, even Hutch looked mildly surprised. "I don't believe what I'm seeing here man, Starsky ordering 'proper food', no garnishes, chili peppers or the like?" Huggy was unable to hold back on his curiosity.
For a brief second Starsky froze and his fist clenched as he controlled the hand that was shaking slightly. Kelly and Hutch exchanged worried glances and Kelly quietly covered the trembling fist with a gentle hand.
"Dave watches what he eats these days Huggy, that's why he still has a waist I can get my arms around." She looked long and hard at the black man in front of her defying him to delve deeper.
"It's ok Kel, I'm fine." Taking a deep breath Starsky lifted his head and looked from Hutch to Huggy. "I have to watch what I eat these days Hug, since Gunther's boys rearranged my insides they can get a little temperamental at times if I'm not careful. Still... it does have its advantages." So saying he reached across and pinched the small roll of flesh which hung over Huggy's trousers.
The atmosphere, which had become tense for a while, now lightened and the little group spent the rest of their meal exchanging banter. Huggy 'picked up' on small things that had occurred to his friend over the years from the conversation, but it was the way Starsky acted which was most telling. He would catch the occasional glance that Starsky threw towards Hutch, sensing rather than seeing the fear that seemed to be there. He noted also that Kelly sat like a snake ready to strike, always close to her husband, never further away than her arm could reach. It was clear that coming back had been a difficult decision for Starsky.
Unable to contain his curiosity any longer he finally turned to look directly at Starsky.
"So stranger what finally brought you here, like you said, it's been a long time?"
CHAPTER THREE--UNPAID DEBTS.
Starsky briefly glanced at Kelly and Hutch followed the eyes just in time to see the almost imperceptible nod that was the answer.
"I promised the kids I'd take them shopping when we'd eaten. If we leave now we can be finished in time to meet you and Hutch for coffee about three. We'll get a cab and meet you at the precinct." Kelly leant forward to kiss her husband, "Take care," and so saying she and the children left the three friends together.
Starsky took a deep breath. "I came back because of a letter from Millie."
"Well there I was thinking you had come to see me! I don't get it Starsk, what could Millie have possibly said to make you travel the distance you did?" Hutch was incredulous.
Starsky could almost feel the hurt in Hutch. He knew he had to be careful how he worded what he wanted to say or their friendship could be set right back to yesterday.
"I've wanted to come for so long Hutch that it hurt. I used to lie awake wondering how I could make things right between us but never quite being brave enough to try. That was until Millie's last letter. It wasn't her letter exactly, she'd just added a note to the top so I'd read it." Taking a deep breath he added, "The letter was from Captain Dobey's wife Hutch".
"Mrs. Dobey. I don't get it. Why would she write to you?"
"You mean you really don't know?" Starsky seemed unsure now of how to continue.
"No, I don't know! What the hell's going on that you think I should know Starsk?" Hutch was having trouble keeping his voice down. "The last I heard Dobey and his wife were happily retired and living in their cottage up by the lake. I haven't seen him for about six months."
"He's dying Hutch. Cancer. According to his wife he's got maybe a coupla weeks left!" Starsky almost whispered the last few words. "It seems Dobey has always blamed himself that I left, thinks he could have done more to help. Now he's dying and he wants to see the two of us before it's too late...."
Starsky looked his former partner in the eye. "He wants to see us Hutch, together. I couldn't deny him that, not after the years we spent together. He was like a Father to us Hutch, how could I? Finally I had a reason other than my own state of mind to make an effort. To put things right, get the world back on an even keel again before it was too late. My only regret is that it took me so long, and something so damn unfair to do it."
For a long while no one spoke. The look of distress on Hutch's face told Starsky that this was the first he knew about his former Captain's illness. He wished he could have made the telling easier but he had always told things as they were, disliking what he called 'soapy scenes'. Even so he wished it had been someone other than himself who had told Hutch this particular information. Dobey had been like a Father to them by the time of that fateful shooting. He had never fully understood the depth of their friendship or how it worked, almost telepathically. He had known though that when one partner hurt so did the other, if one was in trouble the other would move heaven and earth to help, and if one was injured then Lord help the criminal that suffered the wrath of the other partner. Starsky had found out from Millie, almost a year to the day he had disappeared, that Dobey secretly considered them as 'His Boys'. When he had read the letter from Mrs. Dobey Starsky knew he couldn't turn his back on it.
"He wants to see us Hutch, you and me, one last time before it's too late." Starsky looked hard at his friend and for a while it was as though Huggy wasn't there. "I'm going the day after tomorrow, I kinda hoped you'd arrange for someone to cover for you and come with me. We owe Dobey a lot Hutch. I ain't about to let him down."
The three friends sat for a moment, each deep in their own thoughts. Then Hutch rose and, reaching in to his pocket, pulled out some notes and dropped them on the table. Glancing at his partner he softly spoke, "That should just about cover the bill Starsk, what say we get out of here and get back to the station. I've got a lot of paperwork to get through if we're gonna get away on time." So saying Hutch strode from the restaurant.
CHAPTER FOUR--A LONG JOURNEY
Thirty-six hours later Starsky and Hutch found themselves on the freeway heading for the Dobey's cottage. Little was said as they were both lost in their own thoughts. Hutch was driving and Starsky stared out of the passenger window. It had taken some organizing but Hutch had arranged for emergency cover at the station and, after they heard his reasons for wanting it, his superiors had agreed to three weeks compassionate leave. Hutch had quietly been grateful that Dobey was remembered with respect and affection amongst many of his more senior officers. He doubted otherwise that they would have been so forthcoming. Rolling his stiffening shoulders he glanced across to see Starsky watching him.
"Well?" he shot out as he returned his eyes to the road ahead. It unnerved him a little to see his former partner sitting in the car next to him and memories threatened to engulf him of times long ago when they had spent three quarters of their days like this. The only difference was it would usually be Starsky driving the Torino. His old rust bucket of a car had been good for traveling to and from but in the speed of a pursuit the Torino was far superior both in speed and reliability. With Starsky at the wheel it was often an unbeatable combination, as many a crook had discovered on trying unsuccessfully to out run them. After Gunther though the Torino had been consigned to the garage where it had remained for a long while before being sold. Hutch remembered the way Starsky had broken into a cold sweat the only time he saw it after leaving hospital and he had personally taken charge of having Merle collect it and sell it. He had put the money into Starsky's account and the Torino was never mentioned again. Hutch knew though that medical bills had gradually eaten up the money.
"For goodness sake Starsk! Will you stop staring at me? I'm trying to concentrate here. You got something to say then spit it out. Otherwise look out the window or something will you."
Starsk visibly shook himself at this. "Sorry Hutch, didn't realize I was staring. I was miles away I guess." Starsky spoke apologetically and Hutch realized that Starsky had been having his memories too. "How much further we got to go anyway? I've kinda lost track we've been going so long."
Hutch glanced at his watch; "We've got about another hour's driving still. Want to stop for coffee or something?"
Starsky hated to admit it but he was feeling the strain of the journey, both physically and emotionally. He hadn't allowed for the feelings of anger and regret that were washing over him as he watched Hutch drive. He'd thought he was over all that, but sitting next to Hutch he realized that they had only been buried in the deepest regions of his memories. Physically too he needed to get out and stretch his cramped body so he agreed to the coffee. Hutch pulled into a small diner and both men got out.
Walking to the booth at the back they ordered coffee and sat down. Starsky looked out of the window to where Hutch's car stood. "Glad to see you finally got yourself a car that goes Blintz. That old rust bucket of yours finally fall to bits completely?"
Hutch smirked. "Yeh, I finally traded it in for a dustbin, just like you said I would." At this remark Starsky laughed as Hutch continued, "I had to get something a little more respectable, not to mention reliable. Dobey said I'd never convince the board about a promotion if I kept the old one so I saved up a little, borrowed some money from my Mother and brought that."
"You borrowed from your Mother!" Starsky was incredulous. "How is the old dragon these days anyway, she never did like me did she?"
"That's not strictly true Starsk. She just thought you were a bad influence that's all, and she was right too, you were." Hutch was laughing as well now. "For your information, the 'Old Dragon' as you so charmingly put it, is fine. A little older and a little wiser I'm glad to say but fine. We've gotten a lot closer since Dad died. What about your Ma, she still worrying about you?"
Starsky's smiled slipped a little and he broke eye contact. "She died Hutch, about six years ago. She just wore herself out, went to sleep in her chair one night and never woke up. I really miss her you know. She used to drive me crazy with her constant worrying but I'd give anything to hear her voice one more time. She got to hold her grandchildren for a little while though before she died. I thank God that they knew her Hutch. She was so proud when Kenny was born. She understood why I insisted on him being Kenneth Michael and not the other way around. Kelly had to back down once Ma started. Then, when Rachael was born and we named her after her you'd have thought she'd won a fortune. She cried all through the baptism. Come to think of it, she cried all through my wedding too. I thought she was just doing her usual 'Mother' routine, you know, but just before Kelly and I left she cornered me on my own. She told me she loved me and was proud of me. That meant so much... She also said she wished you had been there Hutch... So do I... I never had a best man Hutch; somehow it didn't seem right. If it couldn't be you then...." Starsky's voice trailed off and he looked back at his friend.
Hutch suddenly felt very humble as he looked into the violet blue eyes that were shining with unshed tears in front of him. "I'm sorry Starsk, about your Mother, she really was a special lady. I'll always remember that it was her who gave me the most precious gift anyone could."
Starsky looked questioningly at Hutch at this statement. "I don't follow Hutch. What could my Mother have ever given you that was so special?"
Hutch smiled shyly as he answered, "You Starsk. Your friendship, your love, your crazy childish sense of humor, your incredible sense of right and wrong, your whole being Starsk! Since I first got to know you there's never been a selfish bone in your body. You kept me safe more times than I can remember. That's why it was so difficult after you left. Suddenly it was like half of me was missing and I didn't know what to do, how to go on. It was Dobey that pulled me round Starsk, with a little help from Huggy. He took me into his family, made me feel a part of it. Edith became like a second Mother for a while. I'd have never have made it if it wasn't for them. I owe them an awful lot."
Reaching across the table that separated them Starsky took Hutch's hand in his and squeezed it tightly. No words were necessary between them, each feeling the love and support flowing between them.
"What say we get going again as soon as I've phoned Kelly. Mrs. Dobey's expecting us for tea and it wouldn't be right to disappoint a lady now would it?" Starsky released the hand and left his seat. Hutch watched as he walked to the phone booth and he smiled to himself. The 'Starsky walk' was still there. Despite all this man had gone through he was still able to present a cocky, devil may care attitude in the way he moved. Hutch was still smiling some five minutes later when Starsky returned.
"Okay, buddy, what's so funny?" Starsky quickly checked to make sure he wasn't letting anything show that shouldn't.
Hutch laughed out loud at this then very quietly he answered, "Nothing partner. It's just great to have you back is all. I've really missed you." So saying he rose and walked out of the diner with a slightly bemused Starsky following.
Somewhere along the final leg of the journey Starsky fell asleep and it only served to remind Hutch how his friend had the uncanny knack of being able to sleep anywhere. It had served him well on many a long stake out much to the annoyance of the blond who had trouble due to his long legs. For a moment he toyed with waking the slumbering man beside him. He changed his mind when he thought back to the hours of traveling Starsky had been doing, sooner or later it had to catch up with him so he may as well let him sleep while he could. Hutch quietly thought to himself that they had both traveled a long journey the last couple of days. He was eternally grateful that they had traveled it together. At the back of his mind a thought arose, unbidden and unwelcome, soon Starsky would have to go home and he would be left to travel on without him again.
CHAPTER FIVE--FRIENDSHIPS RENEWED
Hutch turned the car into the parking space outside of the Dobey's cottage and switched off the engine. For a moment he chose to just sit and look at his partner as he slept, unwilling to disturb the others rest. Suddenly the door to the cottage opened and a beam of light fell on to the car lighting up the interior. Starsky groaned and turning his head promptly hit it on the side window. This made him groan even louder and slowly blink his eyes open. Hutch had a momentary picture of a 'lost boy' as Starsky blinked the sleep from his eyes.
"Hi sleepy head, welcome back." So saying he opened his door and slammed it shut on purpose.
Ever so slowly Starsky unfolded his body and alighted from the car still rubbing his head. "Sorry Hutch, guess things caught up with me a little. I did try to stay awake." He glanced sheepishly at his friend to see him grinning back and he slowly walked around the car to stand next to him. Together they turned to face the front door and the person standing there.
"Starky and Hutch, as I live and breathe. Where did you guys spring from? Both of you at that. I thought you'd vanished off the face of the earth Starsky. Man is it good to see you guys!" Rosie Dobey stood with her arms folded surveying the tired vision in front of her. Turning her head slightly she called into the cottage, "Hey Ma! Come take a look at what the cat dragged in."
"Nice to see you too Rosie." Hutch laughed and walked up the steps, slowly followed by Starsky. Reaching the young girls side he lowered his voice as he asked, "How's things?"
Rosie turned and looked at him, matching her voice to his level. "Not good Hutch, not good. Mum's being really strong but Dad gets weaker every day. I'm glad you both made it in time. The doctors think it'll be a matter of days now." So saying she moved aside and led the two men inside. Hutch followed her into the room but Starsky hung back, stopping just inside the door. He was suddenly unsure of himself, somehow he felt that he had no right to be here, and he had to force himself not to turn and run back to the car.
The years flashed away as he looked at Rosie. This young woman standing before him bore little resemblance to the little girl he remembered, the one he had played ball with and occasionally baby-sat for. This was a beautiful, grown up, confident woman whom he didn't know. He didn't know what to say to her and it scared him. He suddenly found himself wishing that his wife were beside him.
From across the room a door opened and an elderly woman walked through closing it softly behind her. Stopping by her daughter's side she spoke to Hutch. "Thank you for coming Ken. You've no idea what this means to me." Edith Dobey reached out her arms and took Hutch into them. For a moment they remained that way until Hutch turned slightly and Edith was able to see over his shoulder. "David, is that you?"
Releasing Hutch she almost ran across the room, stopping directly in front of him. "Millie said you were back, but I wasn't sure you'd come. Oh David it's so good to see you, we've missed you so much."
Starsky could see the tears in the older woman's eyes and knew they reflected his own. "I missed you too, I'm sorry I almost left it too late!"
"Shh, never mind all that. You're here now and that's all that matters. Harold's asleep right know so how about I make us some coffee and sandwiches and you can bring me up to date with all your news. I want to hear all about your family." So saying she gently led Starsky through into the small parlor and Hutch followed with Rosie. She gestured to one of the stools at the breakfast bar and Starsky sat down watching as she went from cupboard to cupboard, taking food, plates and mugs from them. In no time at all, or so it seemed to the hungry men, there were plates of sandwiches and cakes and a fresh pot of coffee in front of them. Picking up a tray she nodded to them to do the same and she led the way to the comfortable sofa behind them. Sitting down she looked at Starsky and Hutch standing side by side and she smiled. "You have no idea how good it is to see you two boys together again. Harold will be so pleased. Now Dave, come and sit next to me and let me see some photographs." She patted the space next to her and Starsky moved to sit. Hutch perched precariously on the arm allowing, Rosie the other chair. Starsky took the photos he always carried from his wallet and laid them on the table for the women to look at.
They were the usual pictures any proud Husband and Father would carry of his wife and children but Hutch noticed another, slightly faded one, at the bottom and reached to pick it up just before Starsky. He was surprised to see that it was one of himself and his partner and looking at it he realized that it was the one missing from Starsky's apartment all those years ago. Looking at his friend he suddenly realized that Starsky hadn't left him behind on that day. He had taken him with him in the only way he could and he had kept him close to his heart all of these years. Oh God Starsk and all these years I thought you didn't care, that I'd somehow driven you away. If only I'd known I would never have stopped looking for you, Somehow I'd have found you. Quietly he handed the picture back to his friend. Again he found himself cursing Gunther for the damage he had done and for the pain he had caused his friend. Starsky took the picture and, casting a swift glance at Hutch, he returned it to this wallet.
The four old friends spent some time just talking and eating and talking some more until finally Starsky felt confident enough to broach the subject he and Hutch really wanted to hear about. Taking a deep breath he turned to Edith and asked, "Is it true, about Cap'n Dobey I mean. Is he really as bad as Millie said?"
Edith Dobey's eyes clouded a little and she reached across and took Starsky's hand in her own. "I'm sorry David it is true. He has advanced lung cancer and the doctors say it's only a matter of time now. He's not in any pain, they keep him drugged up to make sure, but it makes him sleep so much. Every now and then he won't take them but he always ends up suffering for it so I try to convince him its better that he does. The nurse comes in three times a day to help me bathe him and everything and of course Rosie and Cal are wonderful. I don't know what I'd do without them." She stopped speaking and looked at her daughter.
"Cal will be here in the morning you can say hello to him then."
"Dad so wants to see you guys again. It will be a lovely surprise when he wakes up," Rosie took over for her Mother. "I think I should warn you though that he's lost an awful lot of weight, he's definitely not the man you remember Dave." At this Starsky's face colored and his eyes dropped to the floor. Rosie hurriedly spoke again. "I'm sorry Dave, I didn't mean that to sound like it did. I was just trying to warn you both. My Father is nearly eighty years old now and this illness has affected him so much that it's hard sometimes even for me to recognize him and that's an awful thing for any daughter to have to admit. I just remember that he's still the Dad I love underneath it all. That's what you'll have to do when you see him, remember the Captain Dobey you once knew."
Edith stared at the door from which she had earlier come. "He should be awake now, he usually wakes in time to see the sun go down over the lake. I'll go and tell him you're here." So saying she rose and made to the door. She stopped as she reached it and turned to the others. "He's waited so long for this, now he can let go and be at peace." So saying she opened the door and stepped through.
Starsky and Hutch stared at each other. Then Hutch turned to the young woman and asked, "What exactly does she mean by that Rosie?"
Rosie looked from one man to the other and thought for a moment before answering. Finally she felt ready to speak. "The letter Mum sent you Dave. It was Dad's wish that before he died he could somehow help to make things right between you two. After the shooting, while you were still in the hospital, he knew you would never be able to go back on the streets. The doctors had made that pretty clear. He kept trying to think of new ways to keep you both together but he knew he couldn't do it. Then he worried about how you'd both react to Hutch having a new partner and you having to watch every day from behind a desk as they went out on the streets. He could never quite see it working though. I used to hear him say to Mum that he'd lost two good cops that day and he felt so helpless not being able to sort it out. Then you left and it was so abrupt that for a while all this family thought about was keeping Hutch going, being there for him, offering support. We watched as he almost fell apart in front of our eyes and Dad knew he had to do something. So, he pushed Hutch as hard as he could, every difficult case he could find, and when the cases eased he pushed him into the Lieutenant exams. The he pushed again when the promotions came up and he was rewarded with Hutch pulling his life slowly back together but Dad knew that there would always be a part of Hutch missing. He used to call it the mirror side; Hutch had lost a part of what made him whole if you like. He knew too that wherever you were the same was probably true and he desperately wanted to put that right, find you and somehow get you back together, bang your heads together if he had too. The about a month ago Millie came by and Dad told her about his wish. She never said a word to him but afterwards she told Mum that she could contact you so Mum wrote the letter and we both prayed that you'd get it in time. Mum said she knew you would come if you knew how ill Dad was that's why she didn't leave anything out in the letter. She was so sure of you Dave. She said that the Dave Starsky she knew would never turn his back on someone who needed help. I'm so glad she was right. Now he can stop fighting so hard and die with a little dignity." Rosie was clinging to the back of her chair now; the tears streaming down her face.
Starsky looked at her and suddenly she was the little girl again. The one he had sat with at night playing secret games with when she was supposed to be asleep but was afraid of the storm or the dark. The one who shared his passion for ice cream and peanut butter and the one who he had helped to learn to write and use all the everyday objects that made life difficult for a left handed person in a right-handed world. He was at her side in two strides and he held her firmly as she sobbed her heart out, allowing all her grief and pain to escape with the flow of tears.
CHAPTER SIX--WORDS OF WISDOM
Hutch quietly moved away towards the door through which Edith had gone some minutes before. Quietly he turned the handle and stepped inside, unsure that he was ready to see his old Captain and friend quite yet but knowing he needed to give Starsky and Rosie some privacy. For a moment he held back but Edith had seen him come in and was speaking quietly to her husband. "Harold you've got a visitor, he'll be staying with us for a few days." So saying she beckoned for Hutch to come forward as she gently raised her husbands' head and propped him up on the pillows.
Hutch slowly made his way across the room to stand beside the bed and he was forced to take a firm hold on his emotions as he looked at the person in front of him. The man he had last seen some six months ago was nowhere in sight. Instead he was greeted with a shrunken being whose cheeks had all but disappeared. The eyes, though still bright, were sunken into the head and a grey pallor had replaced the once rosy face. Hutch's heart ached for his friend and family.
Swallowing hard he spoke as quietly as he had heard Edith do a few seconds ago. "Hi Cap, how you doing?" Stupid question Hutchinson, how do you think he's doing? He's dying for Gods sake! "Thought I'd drop by and say hello."
The man in the bed smiled slightly as he looked at his visitor. "Hi yourself Hutch. Sorry I can't get up." He stretched out a wafer thin hand and Hutch grasped it firmly in his hand. "Good to see you again. How's things back at the shop, you keeping those youngsters in order?"
"I'm doing my best Cap. Now I know what it was like for you. Man did you put up with some things from me and Starsky! Remember the pizza delivery service? At least no one's tried that one on me yet." Hutch looked at Dobey and grinned. "Mind you, young Tom Anderson has potential for pranks if I don't keep him busy. He has the same uncanny knack of dreaming up crazy childish stunts that my partner did."
Dobey was chuckling quietly know. "No one could equal your partner for stunts around the precinct Hutch. Things were awfully quite and 'normal' after... Sorry ... I didn't mean to open old wounds." The older man was looking hard at the man standing in front of him. "It still hurts doesn't it, that he left the way he did? I've thought about it a lot, especially just lately. I think now that Starsky was right. He loved you like a brother Hutch and it would have destroyed you both to be constantly reminded that you weren't a pair anymore. Sooner or later you would have both left and then what? What else would you have done? You were a damn good cop then and you're a damn good police captain now. Starsky gave you your freedom Hutch, your life. If I could see him again, just one more time, I'd shake his hand and thank him for being so brave, for walking away even though it must have broken his heart. I pray every night that he survived it Hutch, that he made it through without you." Dobey fell silent as he made an effort to fill his wasted lungs with air and Hutch stood quietly by waiting. He knew there was more to come. "I haven't got long Hutch and I want you to know something before it's too late. You and Starsky were like sons to me. You were the best in the department and I was so proud of both of you. There were times that I was scared for you both too. Times when one or the other was in the hospital fighting to live and I knew that if that one didn't make it I'd lose the other one. I used to envy you your friendship, the way you never gave up on each other. Remember Bellamy and his poison, and when you crashed your car on that mountain? I do, I remember watching you both tear yourselves apart to find the answers. It was like one wouldn't allow the other to go, it was against the rules of 'Me and Thee'. Then along came Gunther and suddenly the rules couldn't apply anymore. Trouble is, only Starsky realized it. As usual he put you first, but than he always did Hutch didn't he? It must have taken so much courage to walk away that day, to turn his back on everything you and he had and face his future alone. I'd give anything to know he made it."
"He made it Cap, he made it," Hutch answered in the same quiet voice that Dobey had been using. His heart was aching for the man in the bed and he knew that the tears were just below the surface. He mentally shook himself, for a guy who won't see fifty again you're doing a lot of crying these days Hutchinson!
"I wish I could be as sure as you about that Hutch, I really do. I'd be able to face the man upstairs with a clear conscience if I was sure."
Neither man had heard the door open or the silent approach of two others into the room. Rosie Dobey came to the foot of her Father's bed and smiled tenderly at the man in front of her. "Ken is right Dad, Dave made it," so saying she indicated to a figure standing out of sight behind Hutch. "He's come to see you Dad."
Harold Dobey's eyes followed his daughter's gaze as Hutch moved to stand to one side. Starsky was standing, a little nervously, waiting for the older man to see him. When at last the eyes focused he grinned his lop-sided grin and stepped forward, "Hi Cap, good to see you, it's been too long."
Starsky had prepared himself for the sight of his former Captain and he held his ground as Harold Dobey stared back at him.
Harold Dobey held out a thin and shaking hand to the former detective. Starsky stepped up to take the hand with both of his. For a moment their eyes remained locked and then Dobey pulled Starsky into a hug. When at last he released him everyone in the room was smiling. Starsky pulled at the hem of his jacket as though to straighten it. Still grinning he said, "Gee Cap, I didn't know you cared!"
Dobey looked straight at him as he quietly answered, "I care Starsky, I care. Always did and always will."
The next couple of hours were spent with Starsky telling the Dobey's what had happened to him over the last twenty years. When he came to the bit about Kelly and how she had stood by him throughout everything Dobey glanced at Hutch. Starsky had been extremely lucky he thought to have met someone else so like Hutch. It was a shame the same could not be said for Hutch. He quietly wondered how Hutch would take it when Starsky went back to his home and they had to say goodbye again. This time he wouldn't be there to pick up the pieces. He came back to the conversation around him just in time to here Starsky tell of Millie's encounter with the youngest Starsky member.
"Show Dad the photos Dave. Let him see what a lovely family you've got." Rosie was watching her Father with intensity; she could see he was tiring.
Once again Starsky removed the pictures from his wallet, this time being sure not to bring the one of himself and Hutch with them. Dobey smirked when he saw the one of Starsky's son. "There's no way you could deny that one even if you wanted to." His eyes began to droop and the picture dropped from his grasp. Rosie instantly picked it up and, passing it to Starsky, she spoke to them both. "Dad's tired now, what say we let him rest and you can come back later." She made as though to lead them through the door but a movement from the bed stopped her.
"Starsky, you stay, I'd like a word on our own." Dobey pointed to the chair beside the bed.
A look of surprise passed between Starsky and Hutch, which was not missed by Rosie. She motioned Hutch from the room but not before telling her Father not to talk for long, he needed his rest. Outside the door she put her hand on Hutch's arm, "Don't look so surprised Ken, Dad said his goodbye to you, now it's Dave's turn." So saying she crossed the room to the couch and sat next to her mother, silent tears, falling like pearl drops down her face.
Starsky sat quietly and patiently in the chair, waiting for his former captain to recover enough strength to speak. He had seen death in many guises and it was with sadness and certainty that he knew it would not be long before he saw it again. He was glad that he had found the courage to come here.
Dobey turned his head towards him and slowly opened his eyes. "I thank you Dave for coming. I've thought of you often over the years, gone over the day you left in my mind so many times. I kept thinking that I should have seen it coming, that I should have done something to prevent it. Listening to you I know now that there was nothing anyone could have done. In fact if anyone had brought you back it would never have worked Dave. It would have slowly destroyed you to see Hutch out on the streets without you. You made the right choice, the only choice under the circumstances, and it was a brave one too. I'm glad things worked out for you. Never thought I'd see the day that David Starsky was a Dad, lovely feeling isn't it. One thing Starsky, you never stop worrying about them, even when you can't see them. They can make you feel so many things, I hope yours make you as proud as you and Hutch made me." So saying his eyes closed again.
For a moment Starsky sat there unable to trust himself not to break down. He realized just how lucky he had been over the last few days. Somehow he and Hutch had managed to talk through all of the bad feeling and anger and their friendship was almost fully restored. Almost but not quite, Starsky still felt that Hutch was watching him, not quite relaxed with him. Now he had just heard first hand how much they had meant to the man lying in the bed. During their time at the Metro Starsky and Hutch had nothing but respect for their Captain. As the years had gone on this respect had grown into some kind of friendship and the two had become part of an extended Dobey family. He hadn't realized though exactly how much that meant until a few minutes ago.
Checking that his friend was asleep Starsky quietly rose and left the room. Edith Dobey rose to meet him and she smiled at him as she passed him to take his place at her husband's bedside. Starsky sat down next to Rosie and no one spoke. Words seemed unnecessary now. The hours passed and sometime in the evening Cal Dobey came in. He seemed unsurprised to see the visitors, simply moving across to be with his sister, who rested her head on his shoulder. Somewhere in the night she fell asleep and it was this way that her Mother found them when she finally left her Husband's bedside at three in the morning.
Starsky and Hutch rose with one accord and a look passed between them that had no need of words. Edith walked to stand in front of her children and she said simply, "It's over, he's gone."
The three remaining Dobeys clung to each other in mutual support as Starsky and Hutch got up and quietly left the house.
THIRD PART OF A TRILOGY,