Today's the time for courage, babe,
Tomorrow can be for forgiving
Nick Cave - Sweetheart Come
Starsky was sitting on his bed, trying to button his shirt, when I finally arrived in the hospital. His moves were still clumsy - especially his left hand - but for me this sight was a balm for my soul. Not so long ago I didn't even have any hope for tomorrow to even exist, and the fact that my partner could button his shirt alone was a miracle now.
Under the bed there were his sneakers - his trademark blue Adidas. When I saw them, I felt a lump in my throat. How many times had I teased him because of the way he dressed? How many times had I joked and put him down with mocking remarks? I wasn't doing it to hurt him, but usually it ended up like that; I could see it in his eyes, in his hunched shoulders, clenched fists.
But he knew me. He was my friend, the best friend a guy can ever ask for. He saw deeper than the words and actions to the real meaning, where even I could not see anything but darkness. He knew the reasons. He understood why I did what I did, even when I didn't.
"Ready to leave this joint?" I asked, coming in and leaning against the bed next to him.
Starsky smiled with relief. "What took you so long?"
I shrugged. "I had to test the Tomato. Merle finished the work last week, but I didn't have time to check it out until today."
Starsky smiled wider.
"Can we go?" I asked again. "I have your papers."
Starsky frowned and nodded toward the sneakers. "I'm almost ready."
He still couldn't bend, so he wouldn't be able to lace them or even put them on. I knelt in front of him and reached for the shoes. Swiftly I put them on and began lacing them. That's when I felt his fingers in my hair.
"Hutch, we can do it," I heard his whisper.
I couldn't look up. We. After all I had done, after all the pain I caused, I didn't feel worthy even to lace these shoes, but he still believed in us. He still trusted me. I swore silently that I would never take him for granted again.
"There's one condition," I heard him talk again.
I looked up and let him see the tears I felt stinging.
"Don't ever change," he finished.
Three words and I could breathe again. He thumbed the tears of my cheeks and I stood up nodding. I helped him down from the bed and said, "You have the worst aftershave."
"Yeah, Hospital No.5 isn't my fragrance either." He went to the wheelchair and sat down with a flourish, smiling. "We'll have to do something about it."
I smiled as well. Yes, we could do it.