Note: It has been a long time since I posted here. I am so sorry. I can' t keep up with all the great stories and real life holds me back. I hope to be here more often.

Thank you for your time in reading it always means so much to me!

Sunshine even in rain.

Karen B.

SUDDEN CHILL

BY: Karen B.

Summary: A gang of teens has been terrorizing, attacking and looting the passengers of the city bus system. Starsky and Hutch go undercover to catch them.

Thank you Dawn, for keeping me from wandering carelessly off the beaten path! It's amazing how a friendly caring finger pointing you into the right direction can change your course.

Thank you dear Pooh Bear, for always believing in me, and pointing me also on that path I so often stray from.

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Public transportation, and Sundays, always get me down.

Who robs a bus-load of people on a Sunday afternoon or any afternoon for that matter? A gang of punk kids, that's who. It had started off as a mild case of vandalism, and escalated into robbery and assault. The whole thing generated complaints from citizens, to the president of the bus line, and the mayor. All we knew for sure was there were four kids, probably teens. They randomly boarded the city bus system, as passengers, and would soon after leave as criminals. Their descriptions ranged from short, tall, thin and fat. To White, Chicano, Black, and I don't remember.

We didn't get much more information, other than their weapons varied from a small handgun, to a knife and brass knuckles. The passengers weren't very good at committing the thugs to memory. I'm sure they were not used to staring down the barrel of a gun, or the feel of a knife to their throats.

Dobey assigned several teams to follow the buses in black and whites. They were to keep their distance, to be back-up for the undercover officers who were placed on various route lines, on different days. The young criminals had never hit the same bus twice, so no one team knew when or where they'd encounter the punks.

"If we don't catch them soon," Dobey had bellowed. "You men will be spending your vacation time as crossing guards." Nothing like a little motivation to fire up your engine.

For the quartet gang, it was Candy-land. A busload of frightened passengers would be willing to give up their meager possessions in hopes of assuring their safety. For us, it was like the childhood game of hot and cold, and right now we were freezing. A lot of guys started to brush up on their whistle blowing and traffic hand-signal skills, as the crimes continued. So far, not one of the undercover teams had been on the bus being robbed that day. We just didn't have the man power to cover all the bases.

So here it was, a miserably cloudy Sunday, and it was our turn for bus duty. Hutch and I got to work, and I had to break my life long vow of never having to ride a bus again. It's all I rode when I lived in New York. I couldn't afford a cab, or a car, and every other week my bicycle had a flat. Either that, or the chain fell off. I was condemned to taking the city bus, and I hated it. Try taking a date to the drive-in on your bike handle bars sometime, it ain't no joy ride. In any case, by bus or by bike, making out -- forget it.

My twenty-year reign ended as I boarded the Bay City Red line at 57th and Denison. Trying to blend in, we disguised ourselves differently each time. Today I was clean shaven, wearing a black leather jacket, black shirt, dark pants, and dark sunglasses that hid my eyes. If it weren't for the red bouquet of roses, that where Hutch's idea, I'd look like some sort of dark avenger.

For the sake of sanity, I won't discuss who I was supposed to be, but it sure beat the hell out of the bunny suit my partner wanted me to wear.

As I sat listening to the rattling aluminum box on wheels, I glanced around, taking inventory of my fellow passengers. The bus wasn't crammed, not the way I remember them being in New York. Guess the recent assaults had put everyone back on their bikes or the soles of their feet.

Across the aisle from me sat a redhead, wearing short shorts, and applying lipstick; the bumps in the road jiggling her breasts. I think I'm in love. She looked my way, and I grinned, feeling slightly guilty for contemplating her bust size.

" I give lessons in makeup application and some other fun things," she said, with a certain perkiness in her voice that made me uncomfortable all of a sudden.

"Oh, yeah?" I offered.

"It's a very in-depth lesson." Her lips puckered.

"I bet it is." I squirmed in my seat.

"Would you like to join me? One hundred dollars will buy you--"

"Uh, no, thanks. You have a nice day," I said, quickly cutting her illegal seduction short.

She smiled and went back to her primping.

Okay, so it wasn't love. I shook off the flirtation, and continued with my survey.

Two seats behind hot pants sat a middle-aged man, sagging in his seat, his eyes half closed. Even from this distance I could smell why. He must have soaked himself in booze. I knew that a big man wearing cowboy boots, sporting a tattoo of a fire snorting bull on his neck, and carrying a bowling ball sat behind me.

Briefly, I wondered if it was really a bowling ball he carried in that bag? Money? Drugs? The Hope Diamond? Then figured my imagination was in overdrive, when I caught his reflection in the window. I watched as he pulled out his bowling ball and began to polish it with a towel. Guess Bowling Cowboy wasn't a terrorist or international spy after all. Hutch would say that I had been reading way too many comics. I glanced over my shoulder, took a quick peek inside his open bag, now completely satisfied it was definitely my over active imagination when I saw nothing more inside.

Catching me looking at him, he scowled, using the same towel to whisk away sweat from his brow.

"What do you want?" he growled. "I don't give lessons. Not for any price."

I could feel myself blushing, flashing him an apologetic smile, and turning my attention toward the front of the bus. Directly behind the driver sat an elderly and frail looking woman with a cane. Grandma Moses was snoring, her cheek pressed against the window and uttering what sounded like church mumble jumble in her sleep.

We stopped at another pickup point and I watched a young woman and a child board. They sat in front of Hot Pants. I had to smile when an argument over a piece of candy began to unfold between mother and son.

I know it's not polite to eavesdrop, but I was bored.

"Mommy, I want more candy," the young boy, cried, hands tugging at her shirt.

I was rooting for the kid, but had a feeling he wasn't about to win.

"You've had enough, Kevin." I heard his mother sigh, as she stared blankly out the window, and ignored the child's temper tantrum.

Eventually the boy grew tired and sat quietly. Her tactics worked. Ignore the kid, eventually he takes the hint. Simplistic genius on her part. I think Hutch has pulled that one on me a time or two.

Motherhood. Takes only a minute to become one, and I'm guessing, a lifetime to master. Wonder if it's the same for partners?

My wondering stopped, when the bus stopped again and picked up a man in tattered clothing, sandals, and long hair. Looking like a homeless Jesus, he moved to the back of the bus as the automatic doors closed behind him and we rattled on.

I wondered again what would possess a bunch of punks to rob buses as a pasttime? The wallets had to be thin, there was no gold rush here. I figured the Quartet Gang was more interested in the element of excitement, the adrenaline rush, and control they had over these poor folks rather than the thought of actually striking it rich. Or maybe it was just enough money to feed their habits; whatever those may be. I worried, should we have to use our weapons; it wouldn't go down like some after school special.

The bus slowed once more, and the wheels squeaked as we stopped to pick up another passenger. A tall blond wearing a white golfer's hat, yellow turtleneck, and red plaid pants that were too short and showing his white socks. He was huffing hard, like he'd been running a marathon, as he stumbled aboard.

"Thanks f-for stopping." The calm measured voice floated to my ears.

The automatic doors slammed shut behind him. He clumsily juggled the Wall Street Journal and a carton of milk in one hand, digging with the other deep in his pants pocket for bus fare. As he plopped the coins into the slot, he looked my way, baby blue eyes flicking behind the drugstore reading glasses that made my partner look like a dork.

I do have to say, Hutch does have a terrific pair of eyes. Their blueness washes over you like a neon tidal wave. I stared into them, feeling like he was some sort of amateur hypnotist. God help the world from those eyes. They could warm you just as easily as they could destroy you. Suddenly, the spell was broken as the bus glided back out onto the street, and Hutch made his way down the aisle, not gracing me with anymore eye contact.

"Hey, that's some set of flashy baby blues you got there." With a curt nod, I plucked one rose from my bouquet, sticking it out into the aisle, and up toward his nose, blocking his path. "This seat's not taken." I smiled slyly up at my partner, noting that his gun was wrapped neatly inside his newspaper.

Hutch looked me up and down, his eyes sparkling like the hood of my Torino on a hot summer day.

"Thanks, but no thanks," Hutch said defensively, trying to keep a straight face. When he shoved the flower out of his way, he knocked a few petals on the floor.

Without another word, Hutch took a seat at the very back of the bus.

I bit my lip to keep from laughing, and looked out the window.

It didn't take long for the rocking of the bus and the stuffy air to make me feel lethargic, and my mind drifted for awhile. I looked down, and watched the Sunday traffic crawl past as the bus corkscrewed its way through the city. Each car carried a story. Carried people's lives. Good people. Bad people. Shades of gray people. I wondered where they were all going on such a cool gloomy day, as we whizzed past coffee shops, apartment buildings, and play yards.

An abrupt bump brought my gaze from the window as the bus pulled over, its large tires rubbing too close against the curb. Before the bus even came to a complete stop, the young mother, with her child in tow, was up and out of their seat. Quickly heading toward the front of the bus, she said a polite goodbye to the bus driver, and exited.

Just as the automatic doors started to shut, a hand slipped in between, stopping them, and four teenage boys boarded. They looked nervous, like they were about to go for a spin on some cheap thrill ride. I stiffened, sitting straighter in my seat, watching them more closely.

Did I say teens? That'd be like comparing apples to wine. These kids were nearly adults, and where they had probably started off once drawing on the sidewalk with colored chalk; I could envision their lives ending around the outline of police white chalk.

They were a smattering of styles, but I could tell they were a gang. The first boy wore a collar of flashy necklaces around his neck, the glint of which nearly blinded me. The next kid was as skinny as a stick, and behind him came a kid with lips bigger than Mick Jagger's. After him was a boy I'll just call Stubble Face.

They plopped their bus fare into the money slot, like everyone else, but I could see where this was going before it even went there.

I gave a quick glance back at Hutch.

Hang onto your hat and milk carton, buddy, I think this may be it.

He gave me a nod.

Stick Boy quickly took a seat next to the frail looking grandmother, right behind the driver. He reached into his pocket and then leaned forward, whispering into the driver's ear. I couldn't hear what he was saying, but I was certain it was something along the line of keep the bus moving.

"Shit," I mumbled under my breath.

The rest of the gang moved down the narrow aisle single file. Suddnely, and aggressively, they started waving guns and knives, demanding wallets, purses, and jewelry from the scared passengers. They moved quickly, patting down the passengers, getting the job done. I cringed, anyone unwilling to pay wouldn't have much more time left here on earth.

"You're kind of cute," Stubble said, leaning down close to Hot Pants. "Married?"

"Never! No money in marriage," she sniped, briefly glancing over at me.

"Bet you're good in bed, huh?

"Honey, I can do things you never even dreamed of." She put on a brave front.

Stubble smiled wickedly. "You and me, we'll have some unfinished business when I'm done here." Taking her purse, he moved along.

"Don't hurt me," the homeless looking man cried, as Flash grabbed him by his tattered jacket and shoved a gun toward his chest.

"This all you got? Two bucks?" Flash spit in the man's face and stuffed his dollar bills into his pocket.

This could get rough. A kid with any kind of weapon is the most dangerous solider. That, I learned overseas. If these kids started shooting in here, the whirlwind of bullets would leave no shortage of dead bodies.

I've been in situations like this before, and they don't get any easier with time. I could hear Hutch behind me, his voice low as he used the walkie-talkie to inform our back-up what was going down.

I moved to the edge of my seat, letting Flash, sporting all his jewelry, and Stubble walk on by, then sticking my foot out into the aisle, tripping Jagger Lips before he could reach for my wallet. He rolled over and pulled a curved silver dagger from his pocket. I wrestled with him until I finally rolled on top of him. Despite Jagger's age, he put up a good fight. I clasped my hand around his wrist and jerked the knife loose from his fingers. He struggled further, kicking and screaming. It was then I introduced him to my fist, high on his cheekbone, knocking him out. Sparing only a second to shake the pain from my hand, I cuffed Jagger to the base of a seat, before he could say 'Mother may I'.

I heard a lot of commotion at the front of the bus. Something must have been going on with the driver, as we now careened around a corner. I stood, and struggled to stay balanced, feeling the bus tip. It threatened to roll onto its side, but instead, the wheels plopped back down onto the street. Chaos reigned supreme, as the passengers began to scream and panic. Some were jumping up and moving erratically, trying to get off the bus. The middle-aged boozer had been thrown from his seat, his legs all tangled. I had to gulp my own bile down, watching him roll around in his vomit.

I took quick stock of my partner. He was wrestling with Flash, while Stubble lay unconscious in the aisle way. Bowling Cowboy had decided to be heroic, he stood guard over Stubble, with his bag of goodies, and I was grateful.

I figured Hutch could manage Flash on his own and turned to go take care of Stick Boy who stood behind the bus driver. It was obvious he didn't know how to handle a piece. He waved it crazily about which made him that much more dangerous then a well trained sniper.

"Everything's cool, just sit back down," Sticks yelled, gaining control of his equipment. He stuck his gun in the frail woman's face. "Sit down!" he repeated. "Or Granny here gets some free dental work!"

Everything was not cool. I knew without a doubt that Sticks would follow through and shoot. The old woman had a strange look on her face, like she was about to faint. I had a real problem. How was I going to take this kid down without a barrage of flying bullets? I needed something, anything that would give me a few seconds distraction.

I quickly got my answer when the driver stepped on the gas, knocking Sticks and everyone else off balance.

"Lousy Riff-raff!" he bellowed, swerving into the other lane. "You want a shoot-out. Let's have a shoot-out!

Was he kidding? Our bus driver had balls. I gained my balance as best I could as the bus barreled down the street.

Grabbing opportunity by the throat, I holstered my weapon, and scurried down the narrow aisle toward Stick Boy. I could have easily shot him in the leg, but the moving bus could throw off my aim. A ricocheted bullet was too much of a risk.

Obviously, Sticks didn't share my logic. I automatically ducked behind a seat when I heard the loud bang of a bullet coming from his gun. It pinged through the bus, the crying and praying of passengers coming to my ears.

"Everybody down," I yelled, up on my feet even before the sound of that single shot stopped echoing through the bus.

A few more rushed steps, and then I made contact. Slamming into Stick's back, I wrestled for control of the suspect, his gun scattering out of sight. I felt the bus slow, and thump up over the curb. It bucked intensely, then jolted violently to a stop. There was a loud shattering sound, like a rack of dishes breaking, and I knew we must have hit something.

For the second time today, I was knocked off balance, and my head suddenly started hurting. I'd smacked my temple against the corner of the seat, and I swiped at the area but didn't feel any blood. I shook off my daze when whatever I had landed on moved.

Sticks was trapped beneath me, pinned against the floor. The kid struggled and growled like a lion. I growled back, reached out and grabbed him by his shirt collar. I had this kid out-weighted by at least thirty-five pounds, yet somehow he managed to head butt me, and our positions were quickly reversed. I was now pinned between him and the seat. He gave me two full blows to the gut, taking my breath away, and sending me into a gray haze.

I was vaguely aware of the suspect moving off me, and crying out in agony, yelling for the driver to open up the automatic doors. My ears perked up before my eyesight did, and I heard the cause of his pain.

"When I was your age, I couldn't spare a dime," an elderly voice said. Then there was a loud thwack. "But I certainly didn't go around taking it from other people. I was too busy turning my lemons into lemonade." I heard another thwack, and a yelp come from Sticks. "You're heading for trouble, boy!"

I felt no sympathy for the guy. Hopefully, Grandma Moses had smacked some sense into him. She hovered over Sticks, looking like she could leap tall buildings in a single bound. Preaching wasn't her only past time. Grandma had obviously also take up self defense. I untangled myself liking what I saw of the old woman. She had gotten in enough licks with her cane to send Sticks running with his tail between his legs.

"Lady, you're nuts," Sticks said as he split, heading out the now open bus doors.

I struggled out of the tight space I was pinned in. Grandma still had her cane raised in anger and didn't even seem shaken by the experience. Frail, my ass.

"P-pol -- ice," I started, but my breath clogged in my throat. She seemed to understand and lowered her weapon.

As soon as I had my breath back, I instructed the driver to get everyone off the bus. Turning around, I looked back to see how my partner was doing.

The frenzied activity of the passengers trying to scramble off the bus obstructed my line of sight. The drunk hurried clumsily, nearly running over the poor homeless man, and the Hooker-on-the make moved slowly, her face and elbow bloodied. I could hear the approaching sirens come to a stop just outside, but knowing my backup was here didn't help me to relax any. My inability to see Hutch made me anxious. It's a natural reaction I have when I don't have a bead on my partner's whereabouts. "Son of a…" I held my breath, pushing past the streetwalker.

I saw Bowling Cowboy first, standing over his KO'd victim. For a moment I imagined the swinging doors of an old time saloon, and everyone celebrating with cheers, and raising shots of whiskey into the air. But it wasn't going to go down that easy, like an old time movie. My muddied vision cleared, and just over Cowboy's shoulder, I caught my partner's gaze. My natural reactions were right on the mark, he was in trouble.

Hutch's drugstore glasses were gone, and for a moment, everything turned silent as the neon tidal wave was back. This time, his eyes weren't sparkling with laughter, but were full of pain and fear. I know I can't protect everyone from everything, but I'd die trying to protect that partner of mine. I knew right off that Hutch was hurt.

He and Flash were fighting for possession of a gun. Hutch's reactions seemed sluggish and he appeared to be struggling to stay standing. Flash jerked the gun loose and whacked Hutch in the side of the head with the barrel. Hutch didn't drop, just kept weakly wrestling with him.

I knew an explosion was only a click away, I had to do something fast. I drew my gun and raced down the aisle toward him, grabbing every handhold to help propel me along.

"Hold it!" I yelled

"Get back!" Flash barked, getting control he pressed his pistol hard into my partner's side.

I put on the brakes, stopping abruptly and held my gun tighter. I took two tentative steps, hearing an unnatural crunching beneath my feet.

"Get back!" Flash yelled again, a bundle of unfocused testosterone. Hutch must have gotten in a few good licks, 'cause Flash's nose was slightly bloodied and his lip swollen.

I obeyed, not wanting to anger him more. It was then that I noticed how heavily Hutch leaned into his captor. Like he couldn't stand on his own. His face was dusted a ghostly white and sticky redness had soaked through the sleeve of his right arm.

"Goddammit," I whispered, trying to control the shot of adrenaline that raced through my body.

Looking over to my left, I didn't have to be a Dick Tracy to decipher what had happened to Hutch. The bits of yellow shirt material and my partner's blood streaking the jagged shards of the broken window were enough evidence. Hutch must have hit the window when the bus swerved out of control.

I felt a shiver of cold, the kind of sudden chill that leaves you numb.

Flash's eyes were dark and dangerous.

Breathing heavily and fighting mad, I leveled my weapon at his heart. I didn't want to shoot him, but I would if I had to. Flash was young and no mobster, but given time, he would learn all the skills he needed to become a proficient killer. I wasn't about to let my partner be one of his first victims. Without glancing at Bowling Cowboy, I waved him on past me. Whatever went down now, I didn't need a civilian in the way.

I showed Flash my 'take no shit' gaze and growled, "Grabbing a man's partner is a dangerous thing." Flashing my badge, I introduced myself, "Police, kid. Let him go!"

It was a Mickey-Mouse gun the kid had shoved against my partner's side, but it would be enough to send him to another place. I had to get Hutch away from this punk and to a hospital. From the way that arm was bleeding, I was sure he'd shredded it up good when it went through that window.

"I'll blow him away!" the kid yelled.

"I'm not going to argue with you on that," I said, looking into Hutch's eyes.

We're in trouble.

I know, but you can take him, and hurry, my partner communicated silently.

Fear raged inside me, but I leashed the fury, and tied it off tight around that cool calm place deep within. Hearing Hutch moan under his breath, I could tell he was feeling sick, and was about to fade out on me, probably from the blood loss.

"Hutch?"

"I'm fine," he stated firmly.

The way Hutch swayed on his feet, made me lose any confidence I might have had in his statement. "Look, kid," I said, using my 'I'm not playing any games' voice. "Your buddies are going in the back of a squad car. You kill a cop --" I took a few cocky steps toward him, my gun hand never wavering. "And you'll be zipped inside a plastic black bag and dumped in the back of the coroner's wagon."

For what felt like an eternity, Flash stared into my face, concentrating every ounce of energy on me.

"I'll shoot him," the young perp said, but this time there was a warble in his tone.

"You'll be dead before he hits the ground," I warned, something hot and worm- like working its way up my throat.

I could feel Hutch's intense gaze on me, but I didn't take my sights off the kid. Holding my breath, I let every inch of me radiate the fact that I did have the balls to follow through on my threat.

Flash looked scared, and shivered once.

"Let's have it, kid." I eyed his gun.

Flash tried one last time to whistle his tune, "You go to hell, cop!"

"I'll take us all to hell," I spat. "Got the delivery receipt right here." I took another step and waggled my gun concentrating hard on not shaking in my shoes.

To my relief my words seemed to ruffle Flash's feathers and he chickened out. "Okay. Okay," he said, dropping the gun to the floor.

As I grabbed hold of Flash and jerked him abruptly toward the front of the bus, I was aware of Hutch slowly melting down to his knees. I handcuffed the kid to a pole. The back-up cops would take care of him now. I whipped back to Hutch, and caught him before he could fall, easing him down onto a seat.

Crouching before him, I realized that my hands were slick with bright red blood. "Shit." My voice quivered, and for a moment, I just stared in panic at the injury.

"You--you got him?" Hutch asked, the tension in his voice increasing, and I could feel his muscles trembling.

"Hold on." I looked around the wrecked bus. "Grandma beat one of them off with her cane, but he got away. I got one of 'em cuffed to a seat, Bowling Cowboy got that guy over there, and Flash, well, you helped with him." I saw something to use to stop the bleeding. "Hang on a second." I rummaged quickly beneath the seat across from us, nabbing a newspaper. Returning to my friend's side, I wrapped the sports section around his arm. "Hutch, you need to put pressure on this." I placed his good hand over the newspaper, and pressed down.

"Uh-un," Hutch slammed his eyes shut, and tried to pull his arm away, struggling half out of his seat. "Damn it, Starsky, ease off!"

I winced, hating to see his pain. "Hutch, gotta keep the pressure--"

"Think there's gl-gl-glass stuck in there," Hutch interrupted breathlessly.

There was a moment's pause before what Hutch said sank in. "Oh, man," I whispered letting up some of the force. "Hutch, I didn't think."

"I figured you didn't," he groaned.

I lifted the paper spying the glass, and moved Hutch's hand just above it, needing to still staunch the bleeding.

"Starsk!"

The word recaptured my attention. "Yeah, buddy?"

"How about we wrap this up, and you go get me some help, huh?" Hutch raised his brow.

"Oh, 'em, sorry, yeah sure…I, uh, sorry." I nodded. "I'll be right back."

"I'll be here."

Without another word, I ran to the front of the bus, and took the two steps down. Before I could hit the pavement, Bernstein was there. "About time you got here! Clear the trash off this bus," I demanded. "And put an APB out on the one that got away. Male, thin, tall, blue shirt--"

"Black pants and a black eye to match," Bernstein stopped my description. "We got him. That's what took so long."

I sighed, knowing I had been hard on the guy.

"Detective Starsky, you're bleeding."

"It ain't mine, it's Hutch's," I panted. "His arm went through a window and it's cut up pretty badly. Need an ambulance and something I can use to wrap around the wound."

It took several intense minutes before Bernstein came back with a blanket and clean towel. "Ambulance is on its way."

I barely heard him. Taking the offered supplies, I darted back to Hutch.

He had slid a little down in the seat, and his eyes looked heavy as he struggled to remain conscious. He was holding the newspaper against his arm, but it was still bleeding freely.

I eased him forward so I could wrap the blanket around his shoulders to keep him warm, and my heart sank when he groaned in pain.

"What the?" Hutch's words came out in a breathy rush of confusion.

"I got this now."

Crouching next to the seat, I took his hand away from the wound, and tossed the wet newspaper aside.

"Let's have a look at this," I said, leaning in closer.

I could see a few large shards of glass sticking out of the open cut, but didn't think I should remove them. I was certain even tinier pieces were embedded in his flesh and the wound would have to be scrubbed and flushed out before it could be stitched.

I moved to bind his arm with the towel, acting on instinct, Hutch pushed it away with his good hand.

I caught his hand. "I have to do this," I said. "That wound is bleeding good needs attention. Hutch! Don't make me fight with you on this."

Hutch stopped his struggle and looked at me. "Errrr…it'll hurt."

"I know." I hesitated only a second. "I'll try to be gentle, pal." I knew it hurt like hell, but I had to put pressure on it again. "Ready?"

Hutch nodded and tilted his head back to rest against the seat. "Go at it," he said, gritting his teeth.

"Easy, okay?" I pressed the towel down over the wound, and it worked better to sop up the blood.

Hutch seemed out of it for a minute, beads of sweat popping out on his brow and above his lip. His body shook and he took in several deep breaths. I put a hand to his chest to steady him, and that seemed to bring him back around.

"Lo," Hutch slurred drowsily, looking up to snag a side-long glance at me. "This seat's not taken." He tried to joke his way through the pain.

"Thanks, but no thanks, pal." I smiled. The blood loss had weakened him quickly. "Ambulance is on the way. We'll get you to the hospital and stitched up in no time"

"Sounds complicated."

"Depends on how hard a time you give the doctors and the pretty nurse with the big needle, pal."

"Charm them with my eyes," he barely whispered.

Those eyes of his should be registered as lethal weapons.

Hutch wrinkled his forehead. "Starsk," he gagged, his face colorless against the blue plastic bus seat.

I sat next to him, put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him against my side. "You're going to be okay, Baby Blue."

My stomach tightened when I felt the wetness soaking through the towel. I searched his gaze, looking into the very depths of his eyes, fishing for that spark that would tell me he was with me.

"Just breathe deep, Hutch."

"Starsky," Hutch hissed, hunkering further into my arms.

"Hey, hey, buddy, you going to pass out on me?"

"M-maybe," Hutch admitted, wincing to the stinging in his arm.

"Easy, darlin'." I looked at the blood on my fingers, pressing harder on the towel.

Hutch's face, was twisted in pain.

"Hey, Blondie, hold--"

"Starsk," Hutch interrupted.

"What?"

Frantic blue eyes fought to stay open. I could see the edginess there and he could see the tense nervousness in mine.

"Next time you want to seduce me, try-try a potted plant." Hutch swallowed audibly. "Allergies," he reminded.

"The roses were your idea," I said in a serious tone.

"Oh, yeah."

"Yeah." I exhaled a nervous breath, trying to hide the worry I knew was vibrating through every part of me. There was no hiding because Hutch could interpret my thoughts with one glance.

We were silent a moment, and I could feel the beat of my own heart match Hutch's fast pulse through the blood-spattered towel. The wound was bad, but I knew he would live. Agh! The fight and Hutch's injury were catching up to me, and I was feeling lightheaded.

"Quit, would you?" Hutch hissed, breaking the silence.

"Quit what?"

"Looking at me, all ga-ga eyed," Hutch said, inching closer to me.

I wanted to tell him just how one look could drown me like a neon tsunami.

"For chrissakes, Hutch." I found myself smiling. "Give me some credit. I got better taste than that." I laughed, leaving out the truth about his eyes. Hutch didn't return the laughter.

"Starsky, could you please sit still, " he asked weakly.

"I am sitting still, you dummy." I scowled, noticing the hint of green in my friend's pallor.

"Is the bus spinning?" Hutch asked, glancing sideways at me, blinking slowly.

I ventured a quick look around. "Uh-no, pal."

"Starsk," he said drowsily. "You sure?"

"Absolutely."

"Good." Hutch gave a pained grimace, dropping his head to my shoulder. "For a minute there I thought I was going to throw up."

"Good." I rubbed his shoulder. "For a minute there you had me worried."

I looked up with a sigh. The bus shuddered, as two paramedics boarded, heading our way. It was a terrific ending to a terrifically miserable day.

Public transportation, and Sundays -- always get me down.

The end

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