"You're gonna be okay," Hutch said it again and again as Starsky leaned against him, dazed and shivering.
Hutch wanted to yell at Monique to shut up, but he didn't. The woman sounded like a wounded animal—her voice totally inhuman.
"Where's that goddamn ambulance?" He tightened his hold on Starsky.
"Let up," Starsky mumbled.
Hutch relaxed a fraction. "You have any idea what she gave you?" He knew the question was stupid the minute the words left his mouth.
"No." The word was a gasp and Hutch wasn't sure if it was the answer to his question or something else.
He heard the sirens and called for the paramedics as soon as the ambulance pulled up—red lights flashing macabrely over the scene.
He released his hold on Starsky with reluctance. In the short time since he'd arrived, Starsky's shivering had increased and his breath was coming in pants.
"Donwanna." Starsky kept pulling his arm from the paramedics.
"No." Hutch grabbed his forearm, held it still. "You gotta let 'em help you."
"I'm here. It's me," Hutch told him. He looked at the paramedics. "He was poisoned, drugged. He said it was some sort of tea."
"We're going to need that, sir," the older paramedic said. "You think you can find out what it was?"
Hutch looked down at him. Starsky's eyes were wide, frightened. "I got it."
"We're gonna transport now," the other medic said. "Memorial. You following?"
"Don't go." Starsky grabbed his hand, his fingers digging into the tendon of Hutch's wrist. "Don't leave me."
"With you." Hutch moved his other hand to cover Starsky's, folded suddenly lax fingers into his own. He looked at the uniformed officers who'd pulled up behind the ambulance.
"Tea—bring whatever you can find to Memorial. No time wasted. Get another ambulance here for her." He tilted his chin in the direction of Monique who'd quieted under the ministrations of her sisters. "She's in custody. Murder, attempted murder, but…"
"We heard her, Hutch," Pete Dillon said. "We've got it under control. Jensen, find that tea and follow the ambulance."
Hutch sat in the ambulance, memories of sitting beside an unconscious Starsky four years back assailing him.
Not poison, not unknown, he told himself. We're gonna be okay. He's gonna be okay.
He kept his hold on Starsky's hand while Starsky's eyes closed and he moved his head from side to side, lost in the throes of some demons Hutch couldn't fight for him.
Starsky was mumbling a litany that Hutch didn't, couldn't understand. By the time they got to the hospital, Starsky no longer recognized Hutch. His touch was batted away and Starsky only looked at him in fear.
He was relegated to the waiting room where he filled out the forms thrust his way and called Dobey to update him.
He lost track of time for a bit—his mind chasing itself in circles. Fear, want, need—all warred for his full attention. And love—oh God, he loved Starsky and what if time was no longer on their side?
"I never told him," he whispered aloud.
"Told him?" Another voice echoed.
Hutch looked up to see Dobey. He shook his head. "Just thinking out loud, Cap."
Dobey sat down beside him. "Any word?"
"Not yet." Hutch leaned forward, put his head in his hands. "She put something in the tea. Jensen brought it here. I guess they're testing it or something."
"You want to fill me in, Hutch?" Dobey asked.
Hutch straightened. He could do that. Give Dobey a report of what had happened, what he knew, who the killer was. It would pass the time at least.
"It was Travers," Hutch said and then he began to tell Dobey just how he'd narrowed it down to her. He didn't mention how he felt like he'd failed his partner yet again or how it seemed no matter what he did he couldn't keep Starsky safe from harm. The hell with the biorhythms—he was pretty sure it was his failing, his pushing Starsky away when what he most wanted was to pull Starsky close and never let him go.
He lost time again until an unfamiliar voice said his name.
"Doctor Singh," the man said. "Detective Starsky is going to be fine once the drug works its way out of his system."
"What was it?" Dobey asked before Hutch had gathered his thoughts.
"A hallucinogenic compound," Doctor Singh said. "Not addictive or long lasting but enough to disorient a person."
"Can I see him?" Hutch asked. He stood. It wasn't as if he was going to take no for an answer.
"You may," Doctor Singh said. "Unfortunately we had to restrain him. He was growing a bit violent."
It was then Hutch noticed the red mark across the doctor's high cheekbone.
"I'm sorry," he said, feeling as if it was important the doctor knew a rational Starsky would do no such thing.
Doctor Singh only smiled and motioned for Hutch to follow him.
"How long until he's better?" Hutch asked.
"You should be able to take him home in about twelve hours. I want to keep him a bit once the effects wear off."
Hutch nodded and went into the dimmed room. Starsky's left hand was balled in a fist and Hutch laid his own hand over it, letting his palm rest on the bone-white knuckles.
Starsky was talking but none of the words were really making sense—a jumbled up mess of dancing and killers and grenades and at one point a cry of 'How could you fuck her? She was mine.' Hutch felt his stomach twist at that. Had there been a woman Starsky had loved in secret and Hutch had had sex with her?
"Shh," Hutch soothed. "It's okay, Starsk. I'm sorry, okay?"
"Love," Starsky said some time later. "I love…"
Hutch leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes against the prickle of tears.
"You feeling okay?" Hutch asked as he stopped at Starsky's house.
Starsky looked at him-his blue eyes seeming even more blue against his slightly sun-burned face. "You gotta get over this protective phase, Hutch. You've been like a mama bear with her cub ever since Travers." Starsky shook his head. "Between you and Huggy…"
Hutch wanted to laugh it off, but he couldn't...quite. "I told you you were gonna get sunburned."
Starsky stared at him a minute and although he started to smile, it was as if he changed his mind midway. "We gotta talk."
He got out the car, leaned in the open window. "C'mon." He turned and was bounding towards his door before Hutch had a chance to say anything.
Hutch rested his head against the steering wheel. "You're an idiot, Hutchinson."
Of course he got out and followed because that was what they did—even at their worst, they were still partners. And wasn't that what a good partner did? Look out for the other one?
Where were they going wrong these past months? Why were they pushing against each other—like two magnets repeling each other, like to like? Had they lost their edge? Or what if—what if Starsky knew how Hutch felt? What if Starsky was afraid to tell him just how much he was repulsed by Hutch's inclinations? What if their partnership really couldn't take that honesty?
But Starsky had stuck with him, even to the point of throwing his badge away when Hutch did his.
Hutch took a deep breath. No matter what, he promised. No matter what, he was sticking with Starsky because even if he couldn't have all of him, even a bit of him was more than enough.
"What took you so long?" Starsky asked from the couch. He patted the cushion next to him. "Sit down."
Hutch looked at him, eyes narrowed. "Maybe I'd better stand."
Starsky rolled his eyes. "Sit down, Hutch. What's wrong with you, huh?"
Hutch sat. He wondered if Starsky could see his heart pounding through his shirt—it felt as though he should be able to. He wondered briefly just how many beats a heart could make in a minute and a person still survive.
"So…" His mouth was dry and he wished desperately for a drink. His body tensed as he got ready to stand up.
Starsky put a hand on his thigh. "I said sit. We gotta talk—no drinking, huh?"
This is bad, this is real bad. Hutch's mind wouldn't stop repeating it over and over as a mantra. "About?" His voice didn't even quaver.
"You. Me. Us."
Starsky was watching him with those indigo eyes and Hutch had to ball his hands into fists to keep from grabbing Starsky and kissing him full on the lips.
"And?" God. Was this going to be their conversation? Reduced to one word at a time.
Starsky took a deep breath, let it out. He blew upward, a stray curl on his forehead bouncing with the air.
"When I was under the influence, when Travers drugged me, I had a dream. More of a nightmare than a dream."
"You were hallucinating," Hutch said. "Really out of it."
He tried not to remember those hours while he sat by a Starsky who called out for him and then cursed him in the next moment and fought the restraints.
"Yeah. It was so real, ya know? Everything was crystal clear, like a movie or TV show." Starsky began to jiggle one leg. "You and me—we were at odds. On a case."
"We argued about who was the perp?" Hutch asked.
"No. A girl. Kira Thomas."
Hutch frowned, trying to recall the name. "Kira Thomas from Vice?" A tall blonde came to mind. "Isn't she engaged to some social worker?" He seemed to remember Minnie talking about an upcoming wedding.
"Some guy—I don't know what he does. But you and me, we were on a case with her at some dance hall. You know one of those old-fashioned ones where the guys pay to dance with the girls?"
"Like in the old movies?"
Starsky nodded. "There was some psycho killing blonde dancers and we were supposed to keep an eye out."
Hutch followed Starsky's gaze to a frayed spot on his jeans. Starsky rubbed at it, picked at it with his nail.
"We were fighting. Forgetting about the job. Fighting over her."
"I'm guessing she wasn't engaged," Hutch said, trying for humor to quell the sinking feeling in his gut.
"You gotta let me get this out." Starsky's voice was strained as if he was struggling to keep things under control.
Hutch had no trouble recognizing it. "Go on. I got ya."
Starsky gave him a fleeting smile and a nod. "I loved her. Fell in love with her. At least I thought I did. But you were acting weird, Hutch. Like you didn't even wanna be around me no more. You blew me off. You said, Starsky. What's a Starsky?"
Hutch wondered briefly what that was even supposed to mean. And what did it mean that Starsky would think him capable of such a thing? He could admit to himself that he was sometimes cutting but he knew how far he could push things and he never would intentionally hurt Starsky.
"I went to her house. Was all excited—I was thinking she's the one for me. I loved her. I wanted her. And I got there…" Starsky stopped. His posture changed, his shoulders slumped. "She was there. I was talking and you came out the bedroom. Tucking in your shirt."
Hutch stared at him. Did Starsky think him capable of such a thing? Did Starsky believe that of him? Trust him that little?
"We fought. Punched each other and everything. And she screamed at us to stop. Told us she loved us both."
Hutch swallowed, hard, and kept his eyes on Starsky when what he wanted to do was run.
"It was some guy—some Vietnam vet with a limp and a cane and he tried to blow up the joint with a grenade. When it was all over, she went to him."
Hutch opened his mouth but Starsky put up a hand.
"Just...just a little bit more," Starsky said, his voice cracking.
Hutch nodded. This was it. This was when Starsky was going to tell him the dream had showed him they couldn't be partners any longer, that it had made him certain.
"And then I knew," Starsky said, the words starting to come a bit faster. "I knew the person I wanted wasn't her. It had never been her. And the reason I was jealous wasn't because you walked out of her bedroom. It was because she had been in the bed with you."
Starsky looked away. "I didn't… it's okay if you hate me."
"Why on earth would I hate you?" Hutch asked. He was surprised to find that his heart seemed to have resumed its normal rhythm.
"Hutch. I'm trying to tell you something. I've been thinking about it ever since I got out of the hospital a coupla days ago. I love you, Hutch. The wrong kind of love."
"What do you mean the wrong kind of love?" Hutch felt his face redden. "You back to that thing with John Blaine again?"
"He lied to me. That's what pissed me off with him." Starsky shot back. "He kept it a secret—didn't trust me. And it's not like everyone is gonna shout hooray Starsky loves Hutch." Starsky paused and then his eyes met Hutch's—intense, fierce.
"It's not wrong," Hutch said, finding it hard to raise his voice above a whisper. "Love isn't wrong if it's two consenting adults."
"And you would be…"
"A consenting adult," Hutch said. He concentrated on breathing. "You're gonna be pissed off again."
Hutch closed his eyes before diving headlong into the deep end of the pool. "I'm gay, Starsky. And yes, before you say, but you've been married, you've been in love with women. I tried to deny myself. Tried to hide in what I thought I should be. But I can't be that man for the rest of my life. I can't keep hiding."
"And you love me," Starsky said. "And I never said I think it's the wrong kind of love."
Hutch kept his eyes closed as Starsky touched his cheek, strong sensitive fingers stroking it gently.
"You love me," Starsky said again and this time Hutch opened his eyes to see Starsky looking at him in wonder—smile beaming.
"I do. I thought you were gonna tell me you didn't want to be partners any more." Hutch tried to smile but the fear was still a bit too close to relax.
"Never." Starsky leaned in, pressed his lips to Hutch's.
I'm kissing Starsky. I'm kissing Starsky. Joy overrode everything else and he responded by deepening the kiss. His hands came up to Starsky's shoulders. He moved one to Starsky's neck, to feel the strength there.
"Now. We gotta," Starsky said the words against Hutch's mouth. "I gotta love you, Hutch. Please."
"Bed," Hutch said as they stood, still lip locked and fumbling at clothes.
He wasn't quite sure how they got there but they were on Starsky's bed—and Starsky was tugging at Hutch's jeans, while Hutch unbuttoned Starsky's shirt.
"You're so good," Starsky mumbled. "So good, babe."
Hutch heard fabric rip and he wasn't sure if it was something of his or Starsky's, but they were on the bed, naked, Starsky's skin slick against his.
He loved the weight of Starsky against him, sturdy, compact, all muscle where normally he felt softness. Starsky's chest hair tickled his cheek and he mouthed at one of of Starsky's nipples, licking, sucking, nipping and then repeating it again.
"Keep doing that," Starsky gasped out.
Starsky's hands were in his hair, tugging on its length, sliding up his nape.
Hutch felt a shiver start at his toes and travel through his body. Goosebumps rose on his arms, his legs, his belly. He rolled to his back, pulled Starsky along and rested, panting with Starsky's body on top of him—their legs tangled and Starsky's right foot rubbing against his calf. Up, down, up, down.
Starsky pushed on his shoulders, raised up to look at Hutch, his eyes dark, pupils large. "All the way, Hutch. Please all the way."
Hutch hesitated, felt his erection along with Starsky's. "You ever?"
"I've done it with men. Not for a long time. Not since you. I wanted… God. I wanted it to be only you." Starsky's voice cracked just a little.
Hutch brushed a hand over Starsky's face, let his thumb catch a tear.
"You got something?"
Starsky leaned over, his elbow digging into Hutch's ribs and tossed a small bottle onto Hutch's belly.
Hutch looked at it—one of those little bottles of hand lotion you got at a motel. He grinned as he opened it. "I want to see you, Starsk. Want to watch you."
Starsky shifted to his knees, snugged tight against Hutch's hips.
Hutch liberally coated his hands and then his shaft with the lotion.
"You're so beautiful, babe," Starsky said and leaned down to tug at one of Hutch's nipples. His ass was in the air, and Hutch reached behind him, slowly began to insert a finger. He wiggled it while Starsky focused all his attention on Hutch's chest. Starsky was tight, but Hutch was able to slip in a second finger.
Starsky gasped against his wet skin. He pushed himself up to his knees once more. "Take me."
"I don't want to hurt you," Hutch said. "Please babe."
"I can take it." Starsky put a hand on Hutch's erection. "I can."
Hutch nodded. "Let me guide you, okay?" He moved his hands to Starsky's hips, gripped the surprisingly soft skin. "Ready?"
Starsky had his eyes closed but as he and Hutch worked to lower Starsky onto Hutch's length, his eyes opened.
Oh God, Hutch thought as he watched emotion wash across Starsky's face. Oh God.
Starsky let out a sharp cry and then he was smiling—not the big smile Hutch was used to but one he only saw rarely—a small smile as if Starsky had some secret he was hiding from the world.
And then Starsky was moving on him and Hutch wasn't sure what was the greater gift? That he had filled Starsky or that Starsky was riding him. Starsky threw back his head and let out a yell.
"So good, so good, babe," he said. "So good, Hutch."
Hutch laughed as they continued, the happiness bubbling up from deep within—a happiness he'd been missing for months. He felt himself build to release and Starsky's expression changed again as Hutch came inside him.
Hutch laughed again. It felt as if everything they were meant to be coalesced in that moment. His world had been tilting off kilter for he didn't remember how long and now it was right—the planets re-aligned, the stars back in their courses, Starsky and him right once more.
Starsky pulled up and away, brought himself to completion with his left hand. Some landed on Hutch's face and he licked at it, across his mustache.
"You're so beautiful," Starsky said while Hutch realized he couldn't begin to even find words to express what had just happened. Starsky rolled to the side, began to pepper Hutch's chest, his neck, his face with little kisses.
And as quickly as the laughter had come, it dissolved into tears.
"Hutch?" Starsky propped himself up onto one elbow, his voice alarmed. "Hutch?"
Hutch shook his head. "No. I...happy I'm happy. So happy."
"That's good," Starsky said. He kissed the tears on Hutch's cheek. "I'll always kiss away your tears, babe. My promise."
Hutch nodded, even as a lump formed in his throat. "You're mine, Starsky. Mine."
Starsky nuzzled against the column of Hutch's throat. "And you're mine. Don't forget it."
Starsky yawned and squirmed against Hutch's side. "I love when we get Mondays off."
"Yeah well we'd better not be late tomorrow," Hutch said, his own eyes growing heavy.
"Why? They're painting the squad room and we can't do any paperwork."
"We got that follow up to do on the Lowe case—the jeweler, remember?" Hutch sighed. "We still gotta get to work on time even if they don't open until ten thirty."
"Yeah, okay," Starsky said. "We can always set up the desks to play ping pong or something before we go out there."
"Sure, we'll do that," Hutch said. Starsky's head was heavy against his shoulder and he looked down at the dark curls, filled with a sense of overwhelming gratitude and love and joy.
As he closed his eyes, he fought against the fear that seemed to always come just when he was ready to sleep. Give us time, he thought. After all we've been through, don't we deserve some happiness together?
And then nothing more mattered except that Starsky was beside him and he was beside Starsky. Right where they both needed to be.