YESTERDAY'S SHIFT

By: Karen B.

I'm just plum grateful to Hutchlover, for all the help. You're a rose garden, today, tomorrow, yesterday, everyday! Thanks friend!

Summary: The guys are still in uniform blue. A H/C Hutch story. Hutch POV

I had just polished off my third cup of coffee for the day, and tossed the cup into the back seat. Glancing over at Starsky, I was mildly amused. He had had four cups, and still looked sleepy eyed.

"All this time, Starsk, and you're still not a morning person?"

"Guilty as charged," he dully announced, not taking his eyes off the road.

Starsky and I were having one of those days. It was Sunday and we were working overtime. It was hot. It was boring. The beat we patrolled; dead calm. Not so much as a jaywalker in sight. Did I mention it was hot? On days like these, you really have to watch that you don't slip into automatic mode. You could miss something important, and out here that costs lives.

Starsky yawned. I looked over at him and he looked back at me. "Keeping you awake there, Starsk?" I raised an eyebrow to him and smiled.

"What do you think?" He dully responded.

It was time to put the conversation into drive, get us out of automatic. Something as incredibly simple as mulling over baseball stats, timeless music, or discussing the weathe, in between lolls of silence and sips of coffee, can actually keep my partner and I on our toes.

"You ever think we should change jobs, buddy?" I asked, knowing full well what his answer would be.

"Low pay. Long hours. This terrific black and white to drive." Starsky squinted against the glare of the sun and reached up to pull down the visor, but instead it came loose and fell to the floorboards. He frowned deeply glancing my way. "I'd have to be nuts, Hutch."

"Yeah," I gave a small snort, looking back out my window and thinking we must have circled this block five times already.

Starsky and I both have found out fast police work is less than glamorous, but we knew we would be bored sitting behind a fancy desk somewhere. It's a dangerous job. Sometimes I even get scared, but I try not to think about that when I'm buckling my gun belt and buttoning up my shirt in the morning. Starsky and I deal with all kinds of people out here. Good folks having rotten days, and bad folks taking advantage of them. We go from one extreme to the other. Just last week we got a call to arrest some poor paperboy for accidentally breaking one of his customers window's. And the week before that we worked the murder scene of an elderly lady. She was robbed in the middle of the night and most likely killed in her sleep. Homicide investigation isn't pretty. We've worked it a few times. Ran down some good arrests. Starsky's a hell of a partner. We make a good team. Let's face it, we aren't rookies anymore. There's even been some talk of the two of us getting out of this black and white cruiser. Out of these regulation bluesthat aren't as crisp as the first day we put them on, and into an unmarked detectives car and plain clothes.

"How was your date last night?" Starsky asked, out of the blue.

"Which one?" I snickered and we locked eyes.

"What is it with you, Hutchinson? You into speed dating?" Starsky looked back to the road. "I haven't had one date in over a week, while you have a parade of women coming and going."

"Yep," I admitted. "Use the gazing strategy. You wouldn't believe how you can reel them in with your eyes alone." I batted my lashes and laughed. "These baby blues are lethal weapons."

"Bullshit," Starsky mumbled.

"What'd you say, buddy?" I asked pretending not to hear. Starsky squinted his eyes, and pursed his lips. "Starsky, don't tell me your still using the old flickering candles, wine and cheese bit?" Starsky snapped me a quirky look. His slumped posture told me I had it right. "Gottcha, buddy." I just laughed and went back to looking out the window, watching a kid on a skateboard whiz on by. I was still smiling. Wine and candles, that was my style too and it worked, but I wasn't about to tell Starsky that.

The guys at the station don't seem to understand the relationship my partner and I have. It's not just the job that keeps us connected. Some things a man just knows. I knew I couldn't think of a better person to share so much of my life with. Starsky and I are best friends. We were on to something from the start, like we'd known each other all our lives. We laugh together, cry together, our friendship drives almost everything we do. The connection we have is just as important as breathing. Especially in this profession. Starsky taught me one very important thing about this job. Don't think so hard, let your instincts guide you. It works too. We've already gotten a lot of miles under our belts along with the reputation out here for being a couple of real princes' with a hell of an attitude. Things in the inner city can get pretty down and dirty, and neither one of us is in this to become heroes or win medals of popularity or anything. In this business you gotta be tough, and if your gonna talk it, you better be able to walk it.

We believe in this job. It's a good feeling when you've helped someone out of the gutter, and it's an even better feeling when you've collared the creep that put them there. See, what works for Starsky and me is that neither one of us likes to loose, not even to each other. Oh, we uphold the law in high regard, go by the book, no doubt about that. But out here on the streets, where the pressure is really on, you gotta take that book and add a little creative thinking to hook it all together.

That creative thinking however, is a two way mirror. This job doesn't shell out a lot of cash. The bad guys know that, and have offered us handsome size carrots just for us to look the other way. Starsky calls the bribes, chump change. But I'm reasonably sure my partner and I would be cloaked in jewels with a tropical island breeze blowing through our hair by now, if we accepted them all. Didn't take long for the word to get out however, that trying to buy us off would get your name written in our little black book. We paid extra special attention to those names. Bad guys would have an easier time of it learning how to play Mozart using sticks and trashcan lids. I swiped the back of my hand across my forehead. 'Man it was hot.' I looked to the clock: three more hours left on this shift.

"You're quiet? Whatcha' thinking about?" Starsky drew me from my thoughts.

I smiled, not bothering to look his way. "Nothing."

"I'll see your nothing and raise you," he said matter-of-factly, then was quiet again for a few minutes. "Hey, Hutch!" Starsky's loud change in tone made me jump.

"What? Where? What?" I looked around frantically, thinking we were finally in for something big. "How about cracking open a couple beers, and a game of eight ball after this shift? Starsky bounced excitedly in his seat.

I rolled my eyes. That's what we did almost every night. "How about we go see a French film?" I suggested instead.

Starsky had a funny look. "Hutch." He reached over giving me the one two punch in my arm. "How 'bout something where you don't have to read subtitles. Next thing you know, Hutch, you'll be telling me that watching French films and eating insect food like snails can make you a better lover."

"Well, Starsk, now that you mention it, you can see where my inspiration comes from." I laughed. "It's okay, partner," I said giving his thigh a pat. "Romance just isn't your forte."

"My what?"

"Forte, Starsk. You know---not your bag. Not your thing," I explained.

Starsky huffed, "I guess humor isn't exactly yours, blonde."

"Okay, okay, buddy," I laughed. "Beer and pool it is." I eyed my partner for a moment. "Maybe I'll even give you a lesson in speed dating, Starsk."

"Funny, Hutchinson, really funny."

Still smiling, I went back to scouring the streets.

We had just circled the block again when I saw this guy leaning against the side of Jim's smoke shop. He'd just rolled up his sleeve and slipped what I was certain to be a needle into his vein.

"Slow down," I told Starsky.

"Whatcha see?"

I pointed a finger toward the curb. "Pull over behind this van." Starsky did as I asked. I didn't want the guy to catch sight of us, not just yet, anyway. I squinted hard; still a bit far away.

We have a lot of regulars on this beat, but I didn't recall this guy from our etch-a-sketch notepad. He had that classic villain look. Like he just popped out of one of Starsky's comic book pages. He was very tall, and his face was white as a mask. He had thick brows, a thick beard and even thicker hair, all the color of a burnt match tip. He looked almost half man half beast, as he walked all hunched over toward a blue pickup truck. He fussed around a few moments, but I couldn't make out what he was doing. He finally opened the door and got in, as he pulled away from the curb I noticed the driver side window was busted.

I nudged Starsky with an elbow. "Hey, Starsk."

"I see," Starsky said, then he slowly pulled out from where we were and eased up behind the truck. "Rabbit test?" Starsky asked, with a sly smile pulling on his lips.

"Rabbit test." I agreed with a nod, then reached over to the toggle switch flipping on our lights.

See, the normal civilian who catches sight of flashing red and blue lights in their rearview mirror has got nothing to hide, and pulls off to the side of the road, passing the test. If you're not so innocent--- Sure enough Cottontail saw our lights and took off like the scared rabbit we'd figured him out to be.

"Guess he failed," Starsky excitedly said.

"Guess so."

We flew up Kinsman and down Hamilton, me broadcasting every move we made over the airwaves. Dispatch ran the plates and we found out the rabbit had warrants out on him in every state, but Kentucky, for robbery and drug trafficking. We followed close on his tail, as he blew through one red light than another.

"There's two tickets we can add to his charges," Starsky grumbled. "Hang on!"

I gripped the dash as we barreled around another corner. Cottontail didn't seem to know where he was going. Circling around and around, up and down streets. In his flight of chaotic fancy, he knocked over garbage cans, and forced a few oncoming cars up onto the sidewalk just to get out of his way. The heat was on now, as the suspect picked up speed.

"You ready for this, partner?" Starsky asked, stepping down on the accelerator.

"You have a warped sense of humor Starsky, you know that?"

'Like I had a choice here.' I hate these kinds of chases. Starsky loves them. I'm not surprised. I don't know what his trick is, but he has more gutsy moves than a bus load of world class race car drivers. Yet he manages to keep things calm and in control even at a fast pace.

The pickup suddenly slowed down and he weaved back and forth across the yellow line.

"What's he doing?"

"I don't know," Starsky said with disgust.

Steam suddenly poured out his hood and the truck sputtered, slowing even more, then coming to a dead stop in the middle of the road. Immediately Cottontail bails out of the disabled truck, and scampers off. Man he was fast. I never saw anything like it. Starsky expertly piloted next to the curb, and we both exited at the same time, continuing the chase on foot. We ran up an alley, then down an alley, through a car lot, and across the street to a gas station. I watched the guy disappear into the new super deluxe carwash; it was a nice move on his part. If I didn't have my eye on the suspect he'd have given us the slip. I gave a quick look behind me to see Starsky. He'd singled me that he'd seen too, then he ran around toward the front of the building. I was fairly confident we would trap Cottontail inside. I recall Starsky taking his clunker through this carwash a week and a half ago. It felt like it took forever before we came out the other side. Could have gotten a whole new paint job, lube and oil while we were in there.

I stepped into the large tunnel, careful to avoid getting my feet caught in the conveyer belt that automatically pulled the cars through the wash. As I ran through the pre-soak and through a curtain of long stripes of soft cloth I drew my gun. I didn't let the hot drops of soapy water slow me down as I moved through the dimly lit bay. I couldn't hear much of anything except the hydraulic motor that rotated the large brushes I knew to be up ahead. I must have entered the rinse cycle, because concentrated streams of water suddenly knocked me off my feet. I quickly got back up, and wiped the back of my sleeve across my eyes trying to see. Starsky must have had the attendant turn off the machine as the large rotating brushes ground to a halt and I heard the click of the sprinklers shutting off. There looked to only be a few cars that were stopped on the track. I motioned to one man in a brown Buick, showing him my badge and gesturingfor him to 'stay inside his vehicle.'

Inching along side the wall I wondered if the guy had made it out--

"Hutch, you see him?" I heard Starsky yell from the very far end of the tunnel.

There went that theory. "No," I shot back.

Okay, so the rabbit was still in the hole, and he knew Starsky and I were closing in. I shivered; I was drenched, and the squishing noise my shoes were making was annoying me, something to my right creaked, taking my attention off my feet. I heard splashing and sloshing sounds. I reeled toward a corner that was shrouded in darkness, my finger tightened reflexively on the trigger of my gun.

"Come out with your hands up," I yelled aggressively, as I crouched alongside one of the large bristled brushes.

I listened hard, then heard the scuffle of feet. "We know you're in here, come out! Hands in the air!"

A shadow moved across the track in front of me. I strained my eyes to see, but everything was blurry from too much soap suds in my eyes. "Starsky," I whispered meekly. No response. I moved forward cautiously, feeling drops of sweat beading on my forehead. Guy was pretty stupid. We had him . "Police Officers. Come out now!" My voice boomed loud and aggressive.

"Show us those hands!" I heard Starsky yell, and I took a couple deep breaths. I couldn't see him, but knew he wasn't far off, as I closed the gap on this guy. "We don't want this to get ugly, right Hutch?"

'Good job Starsk.' I eased forward toward the sound of his voice, following his lead. "Right, partner," I countered. "Wouldn't want that."

The smell of carnauba wax tickled my nose and I involuntarily squeezed my eyes shut to sneeze.

In that short blink of time it took for my eyes to reopen I saw the movement of that shadow again, this time to my left. I turned too sharply. It took me off balance on the slick floor and I twisted my knee. Wincing hard, I tried to right myself, but I was too late, theguy came out of the shadows. I felt something catch my left shoulder, and rip the material of my uniform. My fingers suddenly went numb, and I dropped my gun. Its clattering echoed off everything and I couldn't tell how far it slid away from me across the soapy ground. I only hoped it wouldn't fall into the hands of Cottontail. Thinking fast, I threw my body weight against the rabbit knocking him off balance, then I caught his chin with a right hook. I gave it my all, but he only seemed a little shaken and surprised.

I was desperate to find my gun, but before I could gather myself, the guy came at me again, this time, with what I assumed was a knife. I tried to duck away, but he caught me just above my right brow and blood quickly ran into both my eyes, near blinding me. He raised the weapon again and lunged toward me. I staggered back and hit the ground rolling, trying to get away from him, stopping only because I bumped up along side a cars tire. Catching my breath, I managed to sit up against it. I was wet, cold, half blind and shaking badly. I couldn't move.

"Oink like the pig you are," he demanded, looming over me, and breathing hard. I could see the drug induced rage in his eyes. "Oink. Oink." He kept repeating over and over. "I'm going to take my time and enjoy this, cop."

In an instant he was on top of me, and I saw the knife he held as he lifted it high. I sank back farther against the tire, everything going real gray and blurry, like I were seeing things through a looking glass. It all seemed to move so slowly. I heard the muffled sound of rushing feet, then the voice of my partner yelling my name.

"Hutch!"

I tried to react to Starsky's shout, and slipped to the side onto an elbow. Cottontail followed me. My fingers scrambled along the ground and I miraculously came across my gun, and gripped it tight.

"Hutch!" I heard Starsky yell again, this time he was real close, so close I could feel the pull of the bond we share.

I felt the tip of the knife poke through my uniform to touch my chest. I gave a silent plea. If this guy took me out, please don't let him take my partner out with me.

"Freeze!" I yelled, pointing my gun at the rabbit.

But the guy didn't seem to care as he put a little more pressure on the tip of the knife with each passing second. All it would have taken was one pull of my trigger and I'd be home free. But I was at too close of a range. My gun is a powerful one, and I knew Starsky was very nearby. Bullets don't always stop after hitting one object. I didn't want to be shooting holes in every target around. Not a good idea to shoot the bad guy and your partner with the same shot.

I gasped for breath titling my head back thinking 'this was it,' when Starky suddenly pile drives into the guy and laid him out on the ground. I felt dizzy, a muddy look coming to everything around me, as blood slowly continued to drip into my eyes from the cut above my brow. I managed however, to sit up into a kneeling position. I was afraid Starsky might need me to back him up and I wouldn't be quick enough. But he was already sitting on the guys backside and patting him down. I was cold, drenched , and I felt a bit strange, but I pushed myself up to my feet, anyway. I leaned one hand onto the hood of the car, a bit dazed as I looked down at my partner.

"Let me see those hands!" I watched as Starsky grasped one of the guy's wrists and dragged it around behind his back. "Hutch, you okay?" He looked up, his eyes boring into me. I let out a breath, nodding my head that I was fine. "Cuffs." Starsky reached out a hand wiggling his fingers.

I stepped forward, my right hand sought out my cuffs; finding them, I tossed them to Starsky. He clasped one bracelet around the suspects wrist. " Owe, hey let up, pig," Cottontail complained.

"After what you tried to do to my partner!" Starsky pressed the rabbit harder to the ground causing him to groan. "Letting up ain't my forte."

I chuckled. Watching Starsky dealing with the bad guys is almost impressive. Okay, it is impressive.

My laughter turned into a gasp when I felt a prickling sensation in my shoulder, but it oddly became numb again, and I resisted the urge to wrap a hand around it. I was more concerned with my partner. The suspect had started to scuffle, but Starsky wasn't about to put up with that kind of behavior. He brought one knee down hard and ground it into the guys kidney. "Look man, just hold still," he growled. I stepped a little closer but felt wobbly and had to stop. I just wanted to make sure Starsky got the rabbit in custody.

"Starsk you got him?"

"Don't you worry about a thing, Hutch, he ain't about to go anywhere." I heard the clicking of the second bracelet. It wasn't until then that I holstered my gun. Starsky looked up at me again and his eyes went wide and uncertain. "Hey, partner, you sure you're okay?"

"No question about it," I tired to sound smart.

A strange feeling suddenly hit me. I took a step backward then forward. My ability to think seemed to be impaired, but I knew enough that I was starting to pass out.

"Hutch." I heard Starsky call my name, and before things got too fuzzy I watched him bolt off the suspect toward me.

Next thing I know I'm looking up at my partner instead of down at him. "No question about it, huh?" Starsky grimly shook his head at me.

"Ah, well, I-I could be wrong, St-Starsk."

"Like I could convince you of that," Starsky said, with a wry smile.

"Probably not," I whispered under my breath, as I struggled to sit up, but something tugged uncomfortably at my shoulder and I squeezed my eyes shut unable to rise.

"Easy. Slowly, slowly," Starsky warned. "I've got this." He lifted me off the ground and eased me gently back against a car tire. I felt a bit woozy, and gasped.

For a moment Starsky's words sounded more like a dull thump than actual words. I caught my breath, willing the lightheadedness away. "Hey, you okay? Hey? Hutch?"

"Yes." I trembled, feeling a bit confused, blood, soap, and sweat still dripping into my eyes.

"It's all right, partner," Starsky said. "We got him." He began to pat at the blood that dripped into my eye with something, and it helped me to focus in on him better. "Got a little scratch, buddy."

"Just a little." I tried to swallow. "Starsk, he almost--" I paused to lick my lips, my mouth going dry with fear.

"He didn't." Starsky gave me a smile, as I watched him pull his portable radio from his pocket. "Zebra-Three to Dispatch." Starsky nodded at me reassuringly, his voice quiet and calm. "Officer down. Need medical assistance at--"

His voice faded in and out as my teeth began to chatter. I tried to stop shaking but couldn't for some reason, feeling like my head had grown cobwebs. "Starsk," I moaned.

He still dabbed at the cut above my brow. "Take a couple deep breaths, Hutch." I did and it helped. "Ambulance is on its way. Just hold tight."

"Starsky, give me a break," I complained not wanting to be fussed over.

"Hutch," he said seriously. "You got a break, you're still breathing." He leaned in closer to study me, an intent frown on his face. I felt fingers pulling at my uniform. "Damn," Starsky cursed.

"Wh-what?" Things were kind of whirling around, and I had that out of control feeling I hate so much.

"Hutch, you got yourself a nice cut here," Starsky said quietly, placing the palm of his hand to my right shoulder.

"Dodged--I dodged it," I muttered, feeling a strange and cold numbness in my arm.

"Shows how much you know, Blonde." I could see the scowl of unease on his face. "This is deep, Hutchinson, I'm worried." He began to busy himself probing around the area of his concern.

"About me?" I snuffed. "Starsky, I'm fine." I took in a gulp of air, feeling a chill come over me.

Starsky arched an unbelieving brow, his eyes wide and full of sympathy. What was with him? I just wanted to get our reports written up, get home and get out of this wet uniform. I shifted my weight readying to stand. This was ridiculous. Whatever wound Starsky felt he had to mother---

"Arrrrgh!" My shoulder suddenly hurt like hellfire, and I gritted my teeth, falling back to brace against the tire. The numbness had suddenly turned into a burning sensation that traveled from my shoulder all the way down to the tips of my fingernails. "Hell, it hurts," I whispered. "Shit," I cursed more to myself, realizing the knife cotton tail welded had gauged a furrow across my shoulder.

"I thought so, partner." Starsky's hand was warm as it touched the side of my cheek. "Take it easy. It's just the shock of it wearing off now." My arm twitched to the hot stinging I felt. "Hang on, Hutch, I'll be right back."

I opened my mouth in protest but before I even got a word out Starsky was back, knelt down by my side. He had a long white towel in his hands. I watched him twist it into a rope shape and then he wrapped it around my arm.

"Starsk." I cringed, feeling a stab of pain, and my lower lip quiver, as he put the pressure on.

"That'd be me, partner." Starsky said, a soft look coming to his eyes. " Easy, you'll be fine, Hutch. You know, next time you might want to make sure you avoid sharp shiny objects," he lightened.

"Th-thanks, doc," I felt myself begin to tremble and a sick lump formed in my throat. My shoulder began to pound in time with my fast pumping heart, and warm liquid flowed down my arm. "Next--next time I'll--I'll make a note of that." I tried to keep the tremor from my voice as I spoke.

Our eyes met and Starsky smiled. "Take pain over being dead any day, huh, buddy?"

My lips tightened and I reached up my left hand, my fingers clutching at his jacket and grabbing a bunch of it. The entire length of my arm was laced in pain. I tensed and squeezed my eyes shut. "'Course, dummy," I hissed.

Starsky gently pried my fingers away from his jacket. "Come here, partner." I suddenly felt much warmer. I didn't need to open my eyes to know, Starsky had sat down next to me. A moment later I felt his jacket tucked up under my chin, and I wiggled closer to him. His arm went around me, and I sucked in a breath my head coming to rest on his shoulder. The added warmth helped me to stop shivering so much, and I felt myself dozing off.

"Police!" I jerked hard to the word that roared and echoed through the tunnel.

"It's okay, partner, the cavalry's here." Starksy pulled me closer, as our backup poured onto the scene.

TAG

I opened my eyes and lay still for a moment, watching the sunlight come in through my window. I blinked away my dazed feeling, my awareness coming back to me when I stirred and felt the muscles in my injured shoulder tug causing me to have to catch my breath.

I heard the shuffling of paper then Starsky suddenly came into view looming over me. "You're awake! Morning, partner, how you feeling?" There was a smile on his face, but his eyes held a serious look.

I hitched myself up to my good elbow, and sucked in a breath. Looking around it all came back to me fast. I was home. My partner camping out at my place. All due to the sixteen stitches, two different kinds of pain meds, an antibiotic, the common cold and a doctor's note telling me to keep off my feet a few days. I averted my eyes back to the sunlight, trying to calm the pain the small movement had just caused me.

"You'll be okay in a day or two, Hutch."

"If you say so, Starsk," I mumbled, my mouth feeling like someone stuffed it full of cotton. I shuddered, wishing for a moment I could jump out of my skin awhile to escape the pain.

"You hungry?" Starsky asked, casually.

I turned back toward my partner. "Not sure. Whatcha got?"

"The usual," Starsky said.

I groaned struggling to sit up more. "Starsky, I need something people actually eat."

"Hey, Hutch, I'm a cop. Not a French chef."

"A-a-agh," I groaned again, feeling every breath pulling at my stitches. Starsky's hand quickly came to the nap of my neck and he eased me slowly back into the pillows.

"Rest easy, buddy," he said. I obeyed, heavily sagging into the softness behind me. "I'll get you something suitable to eat, and something to wash your pills down with."

I relaxed further into the pillows hating to be cared for like an infant, yet I ached so badly, I was grateful for the care. I watched with dull consciousness as Starsky headed toward the door.

"Starsk," I whispered. He glanced back and we just stared at one another for a single second. He was the best partner anyone could ever ask for. There to back me up in life and death situations, when fear takes hold of my heart, or just the day to day business of life. "Starsk--" I began again trying to think of a way to tell him how I really felt.

"Sh--Hutch." Starsky shrugged and shook his head not letting me finish. He doesn't like to get sappy. "Don't move," he said, changing the line of fire. " I'll be right back." Then with a nonchalant wave of his hand he left the room.

"Thanks, partner." I smiled to myself. " I couldn't move if I wanted to."

My bedroom window was slightly open and I watched the curtains float on a breeze. The dew on the glass slowly evaporated and the sound of birds chirping took away some of the tension in my shoulder. The easy motion of the sunbeams dancing around the room became almost spellbinding. I snuggled down deeper under the covers, listening to Starsky's heavy steps, and the tinkering of pans.

A few moments later the faint smell of eggs, toast and coffee filled the air. I simply laid still and thinking 'this sure beats the hell out of yesterday's shift'.

The end.