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Distant Shores

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PROLOGUE

 

MEMORIES... sometimes so much sweeter than reality... sometimes when the present gets too bad, it's better to live in the past.

David Starsky snuggled deeper under the blankets covering him, warm at last. After Huggy's lantern had caused the hospital room ceiling sprinkler to douse them all, the nursing staff had chased out the three late-night visitors and proceeded to scold their drenched and shivering patient. Starsky and Hutch had taken the worst of the deluge, aside from the ruined food, and though Starsky would not admit it, the cold water had chilled him through. Sitting up in a chair while his bed was changed had left him feeling shaky and tired. Hutch had hovered, dripping on him, trying to get him into dry pajamas while Captain Dobey attempted to salvage some of the antipasto. Huggy, however, had disappeared almost immediately and Dobey was sent off with his damp cold cuts soon after. Hutch had blushed furiously when the nurse smacked his hands away from the buttons on Starsky's blue pajama top and then ducked out after muttering goodnight. Starsky, grinning tiredly, had watched him go. It was lonely suddenly without Hutch.

Back in bed, fuzzy with fatigue and warmth, Starsky couldn't help smiling at the memory of Hutch, fuzzy with wine and friendship, jumping under the covers with him. Starsky had not seen Hutch act that way in a long time, had not felt so utterly close to him. Laughing together, feeling good, feeling alive, Starsky sensed finally that everything would be all right. He was going to live, and he knew he was loved. There would be time now to sort out the feelings growing between him and his partner. They had danced around the issue for too long, sometimes being drawn closer, other times pulling apart as if each of them wanted--yet feared -- the same thing. As his aching body unwound, Starsky drifted easily into sleep.

Sometime later he awakened. His room was dark, only a faint glow from the small glass in the door lending any illumination. As his eyes adjusted and he tried to shift to a more comfortable position, he felt a weight covering his left hand.

A fair head was bowed over his hand, pillowed on crossed arms. Starsky could feel the tickle of Hutch's moustache on the back of his knuckles and the warmth of his relaxed mouth. His partner's still damp jacket was slung over the back of the chair on which he sat.

Starsky raised his free hand and lay it atop Hutch's hair, twining the bright strands through his fingers. The gentle gesture was enough to awaken his visitor. Hutch looked up, his eyes bleary, his grin crooked.

"Hi."

"Watcha doin' back here?" Starsky ruffled the fine hair. "What time is it, anyway?"

"I never left. I just went down the hall and waited in the men's room until the coast was clear." Hutch glanced at his watch. "It's only twenty after three."

Starsky grimaced. "Only."

Blue eyes focused on something far away. "I... didn't want to go home and be alone anymore." His gaze returned to Starsky. "Besides, I wanted to make sure you were okay after our little misadventure."

"I don't mind. Makes me feel kinda nice to have you here." He glanced toward the door. "As long as Nurse What's-her-face doesn't catch you and we don't set off any more waterworks."

They recaptured the giggles from earlier, feeling like two kids. Starsky slid to one side, pushing back the blanket.

"C'mere."

Hutch lay down beside him once more. As he shifted position, Starsky winced, a slight pain lancing through his chest.

"Starsk?" Hutch reached out, concern deepening worry lines around his eyes.

"M'okay." Starsky was quick to reassure him, suddenly aware of his partner's haggard appearance. Long hours spent at the hospital, waiting to hear if Starsky would live or die, the frustrating search for evidence against Gunther, the fear, the anger, the inability to comfort -- Starsky could see how much had been taken out of Hutch during the crisis. And now, in the middle of the night when he should be asleep in his own bed, here he was, trying to look after Starsky.

"Hey... I'm alright, really." Starsky put his arms around him, drawing him close as Hutch's hand stroked his hair. The hand trembled and Starsky pulled back a little, glancing up to look at the white bandage that circled Hutch's wrist. The cut hadn't been treated properly, and now the wound had become infected.

Needing to show how he felt, Starsky clasped Hutch's wrist lightly, pressing his lips against it, finding Hutch's eyes and trying to read the emotion smoldering there.

"My heart feels so much right now, I think it's gonna bust."

Hutch's smile was soft, loving. "Don't let that happen. We've got too much to look forward to."

They held each other, hearts pounding, eyes misted. Starsky spoke first, his voice rough.

"I want it all, Hutch. We've had so much up to now and came so close to losin' it all. I don't want to hold back anymore."

Hutch's cheek rubbed slowly against his. "No more pretending? We really both feel the same way?"

"It's love, babe. Can't say it's anything less."

They clung together and Starsky was suddenly breathless, beginning to tremble. It felt like he and Hutch were on a precipice together, poised on the edge of a discovery.

"Wish we were someplace else," Starsky murmured. "Someplace a little more... private."

Hutch's whisper touched his ear. "I locked the door."

Does it even have a lock? I don't care... A nervous chuckle. "You tryin' to seduce me?"

"Looks that way, doesn't it?" Hutch's voice grew serious. "I... fell apart when the hit went down. You were so close to death and... I had to be ready to let you go. Seeing you in intensive care, I was afraid to touch you. Now I feel like I need you, need to touch you... so bad..."

"Need, partner?" Starsky was falling, drifting down under deep blue waters, floating on the desire reflected in Hutch's gaze. "I've had a lot of time to think, lying here. I want you, Hutch."

Hutch's eyes held surprise, then wonder. Starsky smiled, warmed by the new love he was only now beginning to recognize. He moved closer, and so did Hutch, until their lips touched, blending into a kiss that was neither tentative nor awkward, only soft and certain and sweet.

Sweet... sweet... Not so long ago, Starsky might have found a negative connotation at such a word describing the touch of his lips against his partner's. But not now. Somehow the word was right, as were the feelings. Hutch's mouth was sweet, in taste, in texture, in tenderness, just like Hutch himself.

Lips opened, clinging. Tongues explored, touching wetly. Echoes of longing pulsed through Starsky and he pictured them starting where his lips joined Hutch's and traveling throughout awakening nerves of both their bodies.

Starsky became aware of Hutch's hand pursuing a path of discovery down his body. He trembled as the careful fingers passed over the narrow strip of gauze that banded his chest and back. Hutch stilled instantly, breaking the kiss to look a worried question into Starsky's eyes.

"I'm okay."

Hutch swallowed, his whole body tensing. "I shouldn't be here, shouldn't want you like this. You're still in the hospital..."

Starsky shook his head, stealing another kiss, stroking his back soothingly. "No, I want it too bad. You're healing me. Thought I'd die, thought there'd never be any more feeling, ever. I want life now. I want to feel it with you."

"Starsky..." The name was a sigh, aching with desire and emotion held too long in check. Hungry lips grazed Starsky's again, then moved to nuzzle his cheek, his throat. Skillful fingers opened buttons on the pajama top. When the shirt was open, Hutch brushed the fabric off Starsky's shoulders, his eyes on the chest that was still partially covered by bandages. He rested his face against the white covering and Starsky held his head close.

"When... when I first saw you like this... covered, shrouded, all those tubes..." Hutch's voice broke, but he went on in an intense murmur. "Even when you finally woke up, I couldn't come close. You... looked so fragile... I'd've hurt you..."

"It's getting better. You know it is. S'just a little bandage now, pretty soon it'll be gone altogether. Guess there'll be scars, though."

Hutch's sigh came from deep in his soul, rocking Starksy with his profound emotion. So close... we came so close to losin' it all, babe... Starsky tugged at Hutch's t-shirt, sliding it up so he could fill his hands with the feel of naked skin, letting touch soothe where words could not.

Hutch shivered as Starsky's fingers teased his ribs, gasped as his lips found the willing mouth it seemed they had come to love. Starsky kissed him lingeringly, the feeling daring, bent his head to the smooth chest, tongue drawing a lazy line that circled first one nipple, then the other. Hutch shuddered, and Starsky knew his heart was pounding. He could feel it under his lips.

He wanted more. He felt the rush of life beating through his veins, need and desire spiking a different kind of fever. He'd never been one to hold back when his temperature rose that way. This was his second chance at life, at love, and he didn't intend to be hesitant or embarrassed about it. Still tonguing the silky chest, his fingers found the buckle of Hutch's belt. It came undone, and he eased the zipper downward. The sound of metal unclasping and denim being pulled down inflamed his fledgling desire. Starsky's eyes sought Hutch's hardened penis, sensing his own reaction, wanting to be touched.

Strong fingers insinuated themselves under the waistband of his pajamas, unsnapped the single fastener, freed him. The hands eased down the loose fabric, then clasped his ass in gentle exploration.

Starsky groaned, and they both stilled a moment, holding each other, steadying suddenly raging nerves and pulses. Starsky gulped, feeling like a kid, like a lover. Like a virgin? Why not? I am starting over... "Hey, what're we gonna do about this, huh?"

Hutch swallowed hard. "I want you. But we better not get too strenuous." There was a smile in the voice. "I wouldn't want you to have a relapse or anything." He shifted toward Starsky, fitting their lower bodies together.

"Relapse," Starsky muttered as warm hands smoothed over his flanks and bottom. "More like a heart attack."

Hutch's hand slid between them, matching their erections inch for inch. Starsky felt a jolt of sensation and for a moment he held perfectly still. Then they both began to move.

The feel of it was dizzying, two hard columns sliding, bumping, nudging, beginning to thrust against each other. Starsky let the stimulation take him; centering in his groin, growing, pulsing; it warmed him inside and out. Hutch held both their cocks together in his large hand, massaging, pumping, in a giving masturbation that rocked them both. His other arm snaked under them, feeling Starsky's ass, urging the movement of his hips.

Starsky took Hutch's lips with his own, tasting, sucking on his tongue, imagining it to be Hutch's cock he sucked and savored. The image was new, strange, highly exciting. Starsky felt his body had been waiting to experience Hutch forever. His right hand fondled Hitch's chest, fingers teasing one hardened nipple, and he was moved to his core to sense Hutch responding to his touch. He could feel the pounding of his own heart in his battered body, but there was no pain, only the throbbing of life.

He was being lifted higher and higher, and Hutch rose with him, hands eager, mouth hot, wet, open to him. They had their own rhythm, like no other in the world. Their pulses matched, their heartbeats, each breath they took. They were climbing, finding themselves atop a mountain of their own discovery, their own creation. They held still, allowing the moment to crystallize around them, making reality out of dreams. At the summit, their hearts beat as one for a brief eternity.

Starsky had thought it might hurt his healing body, be too 'strenuous' as Hutch had feared -- though he'd been perfectly willing to risk it -- but it was easy, this completion, as if all their days and nights and joys and hardships had prepared them for it. One moment, they were beginning, then the tumultuous feelings swept through, and they were holding each other in heady afterglow. Starsky lay there thinking they had both been reborn, falling off that precipice he had imagined.

Harsh breathing reawakened him to reality. He gazed into Hutch's eyes, noting that they seemed brighter now. He kissed the furrow between the tawny brows, found the reward of a tender smile on the full lips.

"Ah, babe..."

"Are you okay? Sure?" Hutch was all solicitous concern. He released Starsky's cock caressingly, reluctantly.

Still sensitive, Starsky shuddered, had to take time to breathe. "I'm fine. I feel whole again. Knew I would." He kissed Hutch's lips. "How about you?"

"God..." Hutch marveled, sought words, found none adequate. His hand covered Starsky's heart, as if to assure himself of its steadiness. "Guess you'll be all right." Starsky watched as he sat up, looking around. There was a wet towel hanging over the back of a bedside chair, apparently forgotten by the nurses. Hutch took it, wiping Starsky's abdomen and his, dabbing at the dampness of the sheet beneath them. Gently he pulled Starsky's pajamas back into place, then lay there, awkwardly rearranging his own clothes.

"Going somewhere?" Starsky searched Hutch's face for signs of second thoughts. It seemed like this was ending too soon.

A radiantly beautiful smile dissolved his misgivings. Hutch reached for him, pulling him close to his warmth once again and heaved a sigh deep with contentment. His lips wandered a moist path down the side of Starsky's face. "Starsky... I wanted us together this way so bad... but I never dreamed it'd feel as good as this..." His voice trailed off. Starsky glanced at him and was charmed to see the man was actually blushing.

He hugged Hutch tight. "I love you, too."

A rumble of laughter tickled Starsky's ear. "Yeah. How 'bout that? We always trusted each other, always were so damn good together in everything else we ever tried..."

"Naturally we're good at doin' this together, too." Starsky was only too happy to complete the thought.

 

"I want more of this, Starsk, of us together." Hutch's voice was low, decisive, all traces of embarrassment gone. "If just the little we tried tonight is any indication of how good it can be, think of all the other things we can do."

His ardor was endearing. Starsky grinned at him. "You're beautiful, you know that? I never thought I'd get this excited thinking about you, partner." He found Hutch's mouth again, amazed that just that measure of contact could make him ache with wanting. The taste and feel of Hutch sent Starsky's head and heart spinning. He clung weakly to his partner, the kiss deepening, gratifying. He felt almost like he'd come again. When they broke apart for air, he sagged sleepily in Hutch's embrace.

They drifted, warm and safe in their own world for a time. Free of pain, of worry, Starsky slept until a small spasm in his healing body made him jerk slightly. The movement wakened Hutch, too.

"It's alright." Starsky held him closer. "I'm okay."

Hutch groaned, straining to see his watch. "Oh my God. I better get out of here."

"No. Hutch..."

"Starsky, come on. The nursing shift is gonna be changing. I oughta sneak out while I can. I wish I could stay all night. But I have to work tomorrow and you need your rest."

"Okay. We'll save sleepin' together for when I get home." Starsky grinned. "Think of all those nights..."

Hutch's eyes danced. "When you get out of here next week..."

"...we can try something more strenuous?" Starsky enjoyed the other man's wince of reaction. "God, Hutch. This has gotta be right... it feels so damn perfect."

They held on tight to each other, not wanting to lose the feeling, the love they shared, not wanting the night of their beginning to have to end. Hutch stroked the thick mass of Starsky's curls. "Love you, babe." One more soft, certain, sweet kiss, and he was gone.

Starsky slept very well.

********

Lieutenant David Starsky, LAPD, closed his eyes tightly, his reverie coming to an end. His breath caught as he suppressed a sigh. He ran his hand through his hair, opening his eyes to squint at the sunshine streaming through the open window. It was a beautiful spring morning, so bright even the air seemed golden, the world fresh with promise.

Damn. Starsky pounded the windowsill with his clenched fist. After all this time, it still hurts. Still hurts so bad...

He turned away from the window, lost in his own world of anguish, and bent to pull out the bottom drawer of his dresser. He reached, seeking the old, white, much-hugged teddy bear nestled inside.

When he held Ollie, he could almost hear Terri's voice again, the words she had said as he watched her fade from him. "I'll always be there when you need me..." So many times in the past years he had thought of her promise... but it had never come true. And he had needed someone; so many dark nights with his world falling apart, so many dark nights crowding him even on bright, sunny April mornings like this one.

The talisman he held helped a little to slow the hurtful pounding of his heart. Gently, he put Ollie back in his place in the drawer, reaching for another object inside. He took it in both hands, lovingly, hefting the weight of cold steel, caressing the worn handgrip. Solid, silent steel, unchanging, cold comfort. Repeating actions he had done many times over, Starsky pulled out the small box containing gun maintenance supplies and set about cleaning the Magnum.

He had barely started when the jangling, too-loud ring of the phone interrupted his ritual. The huge gun still in his hand, he stood and crossed the room, sitting down on his bed to answer the phone.

"Yeah?"

"Starsky, do you know what time it is?" Dobey's voice raised in an all too familiar harangue.

"Yeah, Cap. I know." Starsky's fingers played on the cannon-like barrel of the unused weapon.

"You were scheduled to met with your detectives at 9 a.m. They've been cooling their heels now for an hour. Don't you realize the Gardener case isn't going to get very far without you briefing your men?"

The Gardner case. Right. Starsky's mind sluggishly clicked into gear. A cloud passed overhead, momentarily blocking the sunlight that had been streaming through his window. It didn't matter. Starsky hadn't actually felt the sun in far too long.

"Sorry Cap'n. Guess I got side-tracked this morning."

Dobey must have picked up the undercurrent in his statement. "What are you doing, Dave?" The tone was gruff, the feeling one of concern.

"Just..." He hesitated, then decided there was no reason not to tell him. Dobey knew, far too well, Starsky's state of mind. "Just takin' care of some of Hutch's things. Cleaning his gun."

"Starsky." There was resignation in the older man's voice, but no surprise.

There was a pause, and Starsky could hear muffled conversation in the background. "Yeah, I hear ya! All right." He winced as the Captain bellowed at some intruder in his office. Irritated now, he returned to the phone. "Starsky, this is 1981. When are you going to stop living two years in the past?"

The cloud passed on, returning the sun. Starsky squinted in the sudden brilliance, his eyes smarting. He realized his left hand was clenched on the Magnum, his finger teasing the trigger. When would he stop living in the past? "When I got no more reason to, Captain. When I find out..."

"I know, Starsky. I know." Apparently uncomfortable with Starsky's insistence on confronting his pain squarely, Dobey cut him off. "But that's not getting this Gardner business taken care of. Are you on your way?"

"Yeah, tell Smith and Griggs I'll be there in twenty minutes." As he had done so many times in the last two years, Starsky closed down his emotions. He would do what he had to do, no matter what the expense to his spirit.

"And I want to have a good, long talk with you some time today," Dobey finished meaningfully.

The call ended and Starsky sat for a moment, unmoved by Dobey's concern by his insistence they talk. His fingers still clasped the big gun.

He carried it over to the dresser and knelt once again by the open bottom drawer. There was no time now to finish cleaning it. Starsky merely wiped its surface with the chamois. As he did, a long ago whispered litany in Hitch's rough, tender whisper seemed to echo in the stillness of the room, accompanied in Starsky's mind by crashing thunder and pounding rain and the smells of garlic and wine and blood. "I'm right here. I'm right here. I'm right here..." But no one held David Starsky close now, no one calmed his fears nor felt for his wounds. No one eased his heartache.

Closing his eyes against the anguish that threatened, once again, to break him, Starsky replaced the Magnum, laying it down gently next to the battered toy bear. No one.

So how come I still hear you talkin' to me, Hutch? How come your voice just won't stop?