This story first appeared in the zine Celebration in 1985. Comments on this story can be sent to Flamingo who will forward them to the author. 

Suzan Lovett

"I've seen you stumble,
You've seen me fall;
You know I've got nothing,
You know we've got it all."

Well, what can I say? He's my partner. Hutch may not be everybody's idea of sane, but he suits me just fine - as he should since what he is I had a lot to do with. Should've seen him when we first met: all breeding, and so proper. Didn't take him long, though. He's also much of a chameleon.

There was nothing proper about him that night. You see, he'd had a few. He doesn't get sloshed often, and when he does, he mostly gets maudlin. Not this time. For a while there, I thought he was never gonna stop laughing. I quit tryin' to hush him up after we got royally drenched. I figured there was no way to stop the wrath from comin' down on us once the fire alarms went off all over the hospital, so what the hell? Let him laugh - he hadn't done much of that lately.

I swear, everybody who's got the tiniest bit of clout was marchin' through the room, chewin' us out. The Captain tried to bluster at first, then just gave up after the visit from the Fire Chief. He took himself to a corner, before anyone could send him there, I guess. I knew what he was poutin' about - the food. Huggy figured he could talk his way outta anything, then this Very Large Nurse came in. At least the man knows when he's outclassed. And Hutch just helplessly laughed his way through it all, so hard that tears started streamin' down his already wet face. And when he laughs like that, I just can't help myself. It's catchin', you know. Always been.

I had to quit, though. It started hurtin' real soon. The pills were workin' fine as long as I stayed still and quiet, but they were fast wearin' off. Guess Hutch got tired too. First he got quiet, still shakin' all over, then just collapsed, gaspin' like a fish outta water, snifflin'. Looked pitiful.

I got my arm under the soaking bundle of my partner and held him. Movin' my arm wasn't a big problem, but did you ever try to maneuver a 190-pound - though he'd never admit it - limp body with a map stitched on your chest with bullets and scalpels? And I'd already been more active than I should've. It hurt like hell and his weight against me was none too comfortable, but he was lookin' as weak as a wet kitten, and hospital beds aren't made for double occupancy, especially if one of the occupants is as large as the blond hulk I call partner. He had no control, and I was afraid he was gonna roll off. Big baby - he cuddled up to me and stayed there, hiccupping into my ear now and then, as ragin' officials kept filing past, with all kinds or choice words. Huggy and Dobey saw absolutely nothing noteworthy in the fact that we were snuggled up like odd-twins in a womb but let me tell you, the same can't be said of strangers. Eyebrows climbin' into hairlines all over the place. All except for my personal nurse; you see, she's already been introduced to our antics. She just gets this long-suffering look whenever she has to deal with us, and whatever she sees, she takes in stride. I figure, the twists and turns of each mind is the owner's problem. I know mine and Hutch's and I will darn well hug my friend when I damn well feel like it. Finally, it dawned on people to stop the tongue-lashing and give some thought to the patient. About time, too. I didn't mind being drenched, but they keep hospitals well air-conditioned and I was cold. I was tryin' very hard not to shiver, since I didn't think it'd feel great against my tacked-together insides but tensing up so I won't shiver didn't turn out to be such a good idea either.

"If you don't mind, Detective Hutchinson," said my nurse, sarcastic-like, "may we have our patient back?" Hutch didn't move. I wondered if he had managed to fall asleep in the middle of the upheaval. She called out to him again, real stern, and punctuated it with a jab on Hutch's shoulder.

"Hmmmm?" Hutch breathed into my neck, then made some effort to surface from behind my hair. I turned a bit and saw one sleepy blue eye and half a mouth, both smilin' at me drowsily as if storms weren't swirling all over us. I wished I wasn't wet and cold and hurtin' and in a hospital, so he could just stay there and drift off. It had been too long since I had seen him lookin' so peaceful and dreamy. The nurse started scoldin' him, but it wasn't sinkin' in. He kept smilin' at me, then the droning registered. "Uh, what?" he said, as if he'd forgotten that there was a world outside of us.

"Come on, Sleepin' Beauty, up you go," I put in before he could get embarrassed. "They're reclaimin' your pillow."

"Oh," he said, cobwebs clearing a bit. He started to push up, and I tried to pull my arm away. Under his dead weight, it had gone numb, and I underestimated the pain the movement would cause. I gasped. Instantly aware, Hutch first started to jump up to relieve me of his weight as quickly as possible, immediately thought better of it, and carefully eased himself off the bed. I've never seen anybody sober so fast.

"Starsk, I'm... oh, shit" He's not very articulate when he's flustered. 

"I'm okay. Just a twinge."

He didn't believe me. It wasn't just a twinge, and he always knows. The orderlies took over before I could say anymore. They had rolled in this gurney, and they transferred me to it. I clenched my teeth so I wouldn't make a sound and turned my head away from my partner. Hutch was already lookin' so very guilty. That's his nature. Assassins an' bullets cause the harm, and it's my partner who feels guilty because he forgot my injuries for a short while.

My doctor came in at that moment. "Detective Hutchinson, if you're trying to be permanently banned from this hospital, you are succeeding phenomenally," were the first words outta his mouth. How do you like that? Three other people in the room who's started the chaos; he can't have the first idea who set up the whole deal, and he latches right on to Hutch. "We've all had just about enough of you," he continued, while I thought: speak for yourself, Doc. He went into the litany of the proper behavior in hospitals, concern for other patients and overworked staff, etc., etc. - the same lecture everybody else had given us already.

By this time Hutch was payin' attention, lookin' more miserable by the minute. "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I didn't mean to..."

"Just like you didn't mean to when you once bodily evicted people out of a public elevator, overturned a dinner cart, and in general made a hazard of yourself in the corridors, all in the space of sixty seconds?"

Oooops. Maybe the doctor had a reason for homin' in on Hutch as the guilty party. I wondered when that had happened - before or after - I'd opened my eyes to see him sweep my nurse off the floor to twirl around the room? Or when he was doin' the jig outside my window, trailin' miles of computer print-outs everywhere? Or...?

Oh. "You're the most disruptive influence this hospital has seen in my experience," the doctor went on. I wanted to say something and take the heat off Hutch, but the pain was really flarin' in my chest now and I couldn't catch my breath.

Thankfully, Dobey took matters in his hands. He pulled the doctor aside. He must've managed to mollify the man, because shortly he gave his attention to me. The orderlies had taken off the wet pajamas by then and had me covered with a sheet. Wished it was a blanket. As the doctor checked me over, some more orderlies came with mops and started cleanin' up. Dobey and Huggy were motioned to leave and did. Hutch kept steppin' back to blend into the shadows, probably hopin' to be forgotten.

A nurse stuck her head in. "The room is ready, Doctor."

I was to have new accommodations, obviously. They wheeled me into another room down the corridor. It was also for one occupant. That was the first time it dawned on me to wonder who was payin' for these private rooms. A cop's insurance covers only so much.

"The bandages have to be changed," the doctor said, and left. Hutch must've been only waitin' for him to disappear. Presently, the door cracked open, Hutch tryin' not to attract attention as he slipped in. Fat chance, but surprisingly enough, my nurse didn't ask him to leave. Maybe he looked chastened. Or maybe she knows a lost cause when she sees one. You push him out the door, he'll come in through the window.

Actually, as much as I appreciated his concern, I wished he had left, or waited outside. The painkillers had worn off altogether, and they had to move me to get at the bandages. I knew it was going to feel awful. I was tellin' myself to brace for that when the nurse's aide yanked the tape off. The bandages were soaked, but hospital tapes are made of tougher stuff; they hadn't loosened at all. I caught my breath, and the man found his wrist gripped in Hutch's considerable-sized hand, none too gently.

"For Christ's sake, take it easy!" my partner burst out. 

I interfered before the nurse could. "Let go, Hutch. It'd only hurt more if he took it easy." Having no chest hair, I guess he couldn't appreciate that slowly peelin' the tape off would only prolong the torture. He looked sheepish, and backed off. The nurse and the aide glared at him. "Hey, wanna get a move on? I'm freezin'."

They continued then, very efficiently. They got the soakin' stuff off, then sat me up to dry my back and chest before puttin' on the new bandages. I was concentratin' on holdin' the position in such a way to minimize the hot blades diggin' into my insides when I realized Hutch had not yet seen this sight. By then, I was used to it. My chest, that is. I hadn't seen my back yet myself. I could get to the bathroom mirror, after a fashion, but couldn't twist my head far enough to see. It was just as well for the time being. I said I was used to the way my chest looked, not reconciled to it. For just a second there, I was stupid enough to consider askin' Hutch to leave. It's normal, I suppose. It scares you to think you might look like a freak or something to people who count. But there are people you can't, don't want to, hide from.

You know, his reaction was exactly what mine was; at first, that is. He was furious, pure and simple. Most people think they've seen Hutch's anger when they see him rant and rave, but I know better. That's mild anger, mostly frustration which flares and burns out just as fast. His real anger is a very slow, quiet thing, icicle-sharp and dangerous, and it shows only in his eyes. I thought Gunther was lucky he was already under the protection of the state. Then for a second his features threatened to crumble, but he noticed me looking at him. He looked up directly into my eyes, took a deep breath, and his gaze shifted to my chest, makin' a very intense, deliberate examination. If it was anybody else, I would've cringed or grabbed the sheet. He walked behind me. When he came back around and looked up at my face, I knew he had taken in all the changes, noted all the scars, catalogued and added them on to the image of David Michael Starsky that he had, and that was it. He would never forget or forgive what/who caused them, but what had become a part of my body was now simply part and parcel of me - no more, no less. Sometimes he makes a lot of sense. I hoped I could follow his lead.

I felt so much better. I've been asked before exactly what it is that makes Hutch special to me. I suppose he's had his share of the same questions; we're just too different. The answers aren't simple. He's got a lot of good points and a lot of bad ones, like anybody else. But if I have to come up with just one answer, it's that with Hutch, I can just be.

They got me quickly bandaged up again and stuffed into another one of those terrible hospital gowns. Then I was transferred to the bed and given some shots. It was gonna be a while before they did any good. I asked for and got another blanket.

"Visiting hours start at ten o'clock in the morning, Detective," my nurse pointed out to Hutch. She obviously thought she'd been generous enough already.

"May I have just ten minutes, please?" Hutch asked, all polite and sweet, as if it hadn't been him who had thrown the whole hospital into an uproar and then hysterically giggled into everybody's face only half an hour ago.

The nurse probably figured that if she refused, she'd find him hidin' under the bed in the morning or something. She sighed. "Ten minutes. One more minute and don't bother coning back at ANY visiting hour." Hutch nodded so solemnly that I half expected him to cross his heart. The nurse turned to me. "I hope you've enjoyed your little party, Detective Starsky. If you've caught a cold, you're going to pay for it dearly."

Shit! Just what Hutch needed to hear. "I've got a terrific constitution, sweetheart. Don't worry 'bout me."

"Ten minutes," she reminded again as she was leaving, and turned briefly at the door to say, "If the doctor catches you in here, that's the first I've heard of it."

I turned back to Hutch. Sure enough, he was doing overtime on guilt again. "I'm sorry, Starsky. All I wanted was to -- Dammit, I can't seem to do anything right!"

"Cut it out, will ya? It was the most fun I had in this place."

"Sure. We have fun, and you end up paying for it."

Which is bullshit. I don't remember one single instance since we've been partnered that I found myself hurtin' alone. It sometimes happens in different ways, and let's face it, sometimes it's Hutch who causes the hurt, but it's always because he's also hurtin' in one way or another. Right then, the medication was gonna take care of my pains; there wasn't a quick salve for Hutch. But you can't tell him that. He won't believe it.

"Get over here and sit down, will ya? And quit beatin' your breast - mine is too much of a mess to take it right now."

Did that sound like nonsense to you? Well, I knew what I was sayin', and Hutch knew what I'd just said. See what I mean about us? He came and settled himself carefully on the bed.

"What next, Starsk?"

Next, I was gonna fall asleep, I knew, as I realized those shots hadn't only been painkillers. It bothers the hell outta me that they never tell you exactly what they're doin' to you at the hospital. Anyway, though, I knew that wasn't what Hutch was askin'.

"I don't know yet. First I wanna get outta here, then the rehab. This time I may not have much choice. I'll have to wait and see what can be repaired and what's permanent."

He got huffy at my choice of words. Guess I should know better, but I also have my quirks. Comes from being a loner until I ran into this urban cowboy. I can give easier than I can take, and it bothers Hutch that he's got to offer instead of me takin' it granted as my god-given right.

He set me straight very unsubtly. "As far as we have a choice, what are we choosing?"

I didn't want to say it. He accuses me of being superstitious and I guess he's right. I felt that sayin' it out loud might jinx it or something. I wanted to go back. Like I said, I'm not a great one for changes.

Did I mention that another reason why I'm attached to my partner is that words are unnecessary at times? Great advantage for someone like me who tends to trip over words. Hutch sighed. "Is it worth it, Starsk?"

Hell, what could I say? I was the one in the hospital bed, you see. If I was the one sitting up, it wouldn't have been worth it, not the way it had gone down this time around. For me, there was just an empty space, during which Hutch had lived through my death. I hadn't even known time had passed, while he had passed through hell. What right did I have to make him accept my choice now? But I just can't see myself raising plants somewhere.

"Hutch... " Shit! The tranquilizers were turnin' into a wad of cotton in my mouth. "I'm sorry... but I can't quit."

"You did," he said very softly, "once."

"'S different," I managed. "That was... our choice." He did us the courtesy of not dithering about that it had been his initiative. A difference that makes no difference... "Now, it's Gunther's." I hated like hell to knuckle under unless I absolutely had to. Comes from growin' up on the streets. What's yours is yours, good or bad. You don't give it up to the big boys without fightin' to the end. You don't ever let the bullies dictate your choices, or they'll be runnin' your life before you know it, and you'll be runnin' scared. I wanted to explain all that to my partner, tell him I wasn't dismissin' his feelings on just a stubborn whim, but the wad of cotton was fast reachin' into my brain.

Hutch sat there silently, gettin' blurry to my eyes, listenin' to all the things I was too wiped to say. The last thing I remember was his hand firm on my shoulder, and his voice sayin' "All right, partner. We'll give it one hell of a try."


The night must've been more tiring than I realized. They awakened me in the ungodly hour hospitals insist on wakin' sick people up. I made it through the morning rounds and the breakfast - yuck - but promptly fell asleep afterwards. So I missed Hutch when he showed up at ten o'clock. He couldn't stay long then anyway. The Captain had him drivin' a desk lately, partly because he balks at the idea another partner, partly because it's safer before he testifies against Gunther, so he only manages the morning visiting hours by takin' his lunch break early. He can't make the afternoon one at all. It was just as well that day, 'cause that was the hour when they took me down to physical therapy for the first time.

It was mild stuff just to start me off, some massage and some pullin' on limbs and bendin' joints, none of which I had to do myself, but it was enough to make me realize it was gonna be one hell of a long haul back. I was tired and depressed when I went back to my room. A nap took care of the first, the second stayed around. By the time eight o'clock came, I had given up on gettin' rid of it for the time being. Then Hutch walked in.

At first, I didn't even realize what he'd done. I mean, he's tanned, so the area still contrasted with the rest of his face, although it looked different. I thought he'd trimmed it or something, then I looked closer. "Hey!" 

Self-consciously, he rubbed at the pale skin; "I shaved it off," he said.

"I got eyes. Why?" He shrugged. "You wanna stop substitutin' your finger for it and let me see?" He dropped his hand, a little shy.

Strange. I'd always thought it was the cookie duster that had changed his face made him look older, tired, sad somehow. But it wasn't. Somewhere along the way, his face itself had changed and I'd never realized. "Gonna take some gettin' used to," I complained.

"Yeah. Same here." He smiled. Now none of it was hidden. Made all the difference. Maybe time wasn't passing that fast after all. He pushed the hood of the warm-up suit back.

I sat up - so to speak - and took notice. He'd trimmed his hair, too. Not short by any means, but neat. What was goin' on here? The warm-up suit which I hadn't seen him wear for a long time, and the sports bag he was carryin' registered. "Uh, Hutch, what's goin' on?"

"What's going..." He followed my gaze, and looked down at himself. "Oh. Just came from Vinnie's."

"I repeat, what's goin' on?"

"Well, haven't been there for a while." He was telling me? "Should've heard Vinnie. Called my condition shameful. I swear he took it as a personal insult. He also took it up as a personal crusade," he added as he sank into a chair with a groan. "I'm going to hate him in the morning."

"So why the sudden urge to get physical again?" I was glad he was takin' an interest in himself once more; he had gotten out of shape. I just wanted to know why.

"I went running this morning, Starsk. It was terrible. Don't even ask me how long it took me to run the blasted mile. Thought it was time to do something about it."

He wasn't answerin' the main question. "And what possessed you to go runnin' after a night like the last one in the first place?"

"Well, can't very well bully you through therapy if I'm out of shape myself and doing nothing about it, can I?"

Nothing stops him from bullying me whenever he damn well thinks he should but that's beside the point. "Who says you have to bully me through therapy? They got enough Godzillas here to do it, believe me."

"Yes, I saw them. You were sleeping this morning, so I paid them a visit. It dawned on me that it's going to be a pain to get here twice a day after you check out. I talked to the therapist. He says I can learn what you need to do and we can rent some of the equipment. It'll cut down on the trips."

The depression left, just like that. I can't explain it completely. I mean, this wasn't gonna shorten the time it was going to take or make it any less painful, but it made a difference. Maybe because I'm used to considerin' any battle we tackle together half-won. 

"Did you have dinner?" he asked.

I made a face. "I had something, but I wouldn't call it dinner."

"Well," he dug into the bag and came up with a Styrofoam container, "this isn't stuffed veal, but maybe it'll help." He opened the lid to reveal a gorgeous taco, a more welcome sight than Raquel Welch in her birthday suit. I mean, there wasn't much I coulda done with Raquel at the moment. "Watch the door," he warned as he passed it to me. I was already doin' that; our record in this hospital couldn't have stood another blot.

I took a bite and looked up at him, a little disappointed. 

"No way," he said. "Plain is all you get. I'm not going to be responsible for giving you heartburn in your condition."

Beggars can't be choosers. It was heavenly anyway, but I grumbled dutifully. "Bully."

"Get used to it."

I concentrated on eatin', tryin' to get rid of the evidence of guilt as soon as possible. I also thought a different man had walked into my room than the one who had walked out of it. I had seen that happen to Hutch before. The first time was about a month after Van had walked. Hutch had been really down, and I'd thought he'd been hopin' she'd come back. For the life of me, I hadn't known why. If the woman did Hutch one favor in her greedy life, it was to make herself scarce. But Hutch had kept the reminders of their life undisturbed, so I'd kept my mouth shut. Then one night he showed up at my place, dragged me, protesting, outta the bed for a night on the town. We raised hell, picked up two girls, passed the rest of the night at his place doin' nothing more than just actin' silly, and not a word about Van was said, even after the girls had left. The next morning when I woke up, it was to find Hutch housecleaning. Away went all traces of Van and a chapter had closed.

Hutch had changed then. He became... I don't know, more open, I guess. He could let go easier than he was able to before, as if with Van around he always had to keep a rein on his emotions and actions, keep to a mold though it no longer fit him.

Now that I was thinkin' about it, I could pinpoint when the similar thing had happened for the second time. It was just over a year ago, but I guess it'd been comin' on for a long time. There was Gillian, Blaine's death, his own close brush with that plague, the loonies in the woods, Van's death - it had been getting pretty heavy. I'd always thought of that amnesia stunt he pulled as a temper tantrum, but maybe he really had a lot he wished to forget. Soon's we were both outta the hospital and in shape for the streets, we'd come upon that crippled actor, followed almost immediately by a hostage situation and a psychotic sailor.

It was that weekend when Hannah and Laura invited us over. I was playin' cards with Hannah. Hutch, in a goofy mood, was clownin' around in the kitchen with Laura. Then Laura took exception to something Hutch whispered into her ear, threw the pie at him. Of course, as I was standin' there mindin' my own business, it found me. Hutch thought it was hilarious, then wouldn't let me wash up because it was rare for Laura to bake a pie for anyone and he wasn't gonna let it go to waste. I figured if he wanted it so much, he could lick it off his face. It ended up with both of us smeared all over with lemon meringue, and Hannah orderin' us into the shower. We had to get our clothes washed. I was lucky. Laura's a big girl and one of her cords and large sweaters served just fine. There was no one in the house the size of Hutch. So he spent the evening decked in a frilly violet robe, which barely closed, givin' us outrageous imitations. Of what, don't ask.

It was past midnight when we left, picked up some beer and went down to the beach. We held a pebble-throwin' contest, tried our hand at sandcastles, and later, when Hutch got high - somebody had to drive so I was watchin' it - he insisted on goin' skinny dipping. The sun was coming up when I took him home and poured him into his bed, wet sand and all.

The next time I saw him, later the same day, it had happened again. He was different. That's when he started growin' the mustache, went totally off his health food and exercise program, became withdrawn, snappish, closed off. It's like...? Sheddin' skin? No. Not quite, because it goes a lot deeper than the skin. Like...? 

Well, what's a well-educated partner for?

"Hey, Hutch."


"What do you call it when something changes?"

And what came out of my well-educated partner's mouth was: "Huh?" Oi vey.

"You know, when something goes through something and becomes a different something."

He looked pained. "Something goes through something and - Starsky!?"

Inspiration struck. "Like what happens to a butterfly."

"Oh. Metamorphosis."

"Right. Metamorphis."


"If you say so."

"I do!"

"However it's said, that's it."

He waited for me to explain what butterflies had to do with the circumstances of a cop watching his partner devour a contraband taco. "What's it?" he asked when I didn't enlighten him.

"Uh, never mind."

He used up another one of his put-upon sighs. "You know, Starsk, talking to you is like riding a roller-coaster designed by a mad engineer."

I grinned at him and held out the now-empty Styrofoam container. "Mind takin' care of this for me?"

He got up to take it, secreted it back in his bag, and looked for tell-tale clues on the bed. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Starsk, when are you going to grow up?" he fussed as he conducted a search and seizure operation for the stray bits of food. Hell, you know how long it's been since I had a taco? So I was a bit messy, so what? And if there's a genteel way of eating a taco, I don't know it. When he was satisfied that no incriminating evidence remained, he went to get a damp washcloth. Wouldn't let me have it. Wiped my face and hands, scrubbin' the fingers one by one, like a strict daddy. He likes to play things to the hilt.

We were just in the nick of time. The nurse came in with some medication. Hutch hid the washcloth behind his back, and I swallowed the pills, while we both tried to look as innocent as two angels with halos to spare. We pulled it off, but she still frowned at us until she left.

"Whew," Hutch said. "Close."

It was automatic. "Only counts in horseshoes, buddy."

He looked at me in that strange half-sad, half-happy way he sometimes has - mouth smiling, eyes haunted. "Not quite." When he's right, he's right. "I know."

He took the washcloth into the bathroom and came back to sprawl on the chair. He looked tired; I had things to think about, but neither of us mentioned endin' the visit early. When you learn that time can yank itself out from under you unexpectedly, you don't like cuttin' it short yourself. Actually, it didn't matter. It's been many years since we needed to fill silences.

Where was I?

Metamor - whatever. I don't know how many times it'd happened to Hutch before we met, but I knew I was watchin' it for the third time. Guess things build up in him, and something gives him a jolt; he lives with it for a while, then lets loose in his own way one night - sorta like a strange wake. By next morning, something has been buried and something else has risen. A different something else.

It bothered me. I don't deal well with changes. Guess I made that clear. The first change I saw in him I'd liked. It had created a best friend out of a good friend. The second one... well, it's been tough goin' for a while. I didn't know what to expect of this one, and I was... hell, scared. I can handle Hutch doin' flip-flops on me when I'm firmly grounded. What're friends for? But now I didn't have too many sure things in my life, except that I still had a life, of sorts, and Hutch. If I didn't know what was comin' down or when or how to -

"It's called catalytic conversion," he said outta the blue, without raisin' his head from the back of the chair.

"Huh? What?"

"What you're puzzling over. Catalytic conversion. Do me a favor: don't try to pronounce it."

"I can pronounce anything that goes into my car," I informed him. "What's that gotta do with...?"

"Conversion," he interrupted me, "not converter."

"Oh. And?"

"Put in your words, when something acts on something and causes a change in the second something."

Now it was my turn. "Hutch!?"

"Don't you remember your high school chemistry lab?"

What I remember best about high school had curves and a girl's name. Chemistry lab ain't it. "Remind me."

"Remember adding an enzyme to starch to turn it into sugar? The change is the conversion, the enzyme is the catalyst."

First the explanation sank in, then what he'd meant by it. Guess the shootin' and the aftermath would qualify as the catalyst, and I was lookin' at the change. But - "How the hell did you know what I was thinkin'?" I sputtered as soon as I caught the drift.

He simply shifted his head a little sideways, looked at me out of slitted eyes, grinned a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin, and went back to his original position, all without sayin' a word.

Well, I guess I had handed him enough clues, what with butterflies and all, and he is a detective, and - hell, forget all that. He's my partner my best friend, closer to me than if we'd been born outta the same womb at the same time, and it so happens that sometimes I'm not all alone inside my head. Just another given.

And with givens like that, it's silly to be scared. In this hospital, some time ago, someone had died, and last night something was buried. Fitting, right? That's the order of things. Don't worry none about what happened to whom and when, or any of that stuff. All that is what Hutch would call irrelevant. Take my word for it: it evens out. The important thing is, neither ended our life. We both have to deal with the changes, but that's what a new chance of life is all about, and there are things that never change.

The next time I looked up, Hutch was asleep. I closed my eyes, too. My nurse would certainly let us both know when the time was up for the night. Wonder what she'll think about two guys who throw parties during forbidden hours and then while away the visiting hours by snoring in unison? Run o' the mill, we ain't.