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Forever in My Garden

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“If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.”– Claudia Adrienne Grandi

 

Ken Hutchinson loved David Starsky from the moment he came up to him in the Police Academy cafeteria after a whirlwind first morning of orientation. Okay if he was truly honest, he had wondered just who this only slightly tamed-haired, mile-a-minute talking, enthusiastic, idealistic guy with a not quite lost Brooklyn accent was and why on earth he had picked out Hutch to sprawl in a chair next to at one of the tables. But then Starsky smiled a smile that Hutch would become very familiar with over the next days/months/years, and he was a goner.

Of course he didn't fall in love with him right away. No, it was a growing friendship—a deeper, more meaningful friendship than any he had before. For the first time, someone was looking at him not for who his parents were or how much money he had but instead wanted to know him. Hutch, the guy who loved plants and cried at sad movies and wrote songs and wanted to make the world, or at least Bay City, a better place. It only took a few weeks for him to know that the only way he had a chance at the latter was if one David Michael Starsky was by his side.

Starsky was the one who sat with him in the aftermath of Vanessa's destroying their apartment and leaving him with nothing but a beat up old car, a battered suitcase with his clothes, and his guitar. Starsky fought for them to be made partners after they were done with their probation period, and Starsky was the one who started them on their climb up the ladder to becoming detectives.

So it wasn't surprising at all to Hutch when he woke up and knew that he loved Starsky in a different way and wanted more than friendship. It was new to him, this growing into love. Everything else to this point in his life had been infatuation and a hard fall. Maybe that was why all the other relationships with both women and men had failed. He hadn't really been friends with Vanessa or Gillian or Jeanie or Abby. He'd loved having sex with them and doing things with them, but he hadn't been friends with them. They didn't know his childhood. They didn't know why he loved the ocean or why he hated mustard on hamburgers. But Starsky did. He knew all of it. It must be the secret he thought—friendship blossoming into love was the lasting kind. At least he thought it was.

Until he realized that maybe he was wrong to hope that Starsky returned his feelings. He couldn't pinpoint when it started. Maybe it was when Starsky fell in love with Terry. He felt guilty about that—because he loved Terry too. But a small part of him was jealous, and if he really wanted to admit it, scared. Scared of Starsky being taken away from him, scared of Starsky becoming a family man with no time left for Hutch.

He hated that in himself, especially when Terry died. Because Terry had loved Hutch, had opened her heart to him, and despite Hutch's little kernel of doubt, had understood that what he and Starsky had was bigger than anything she and Starsky ever could or ever would have. He never told Starsky about the letter he'd received in the mail a month after Terry died—the one she must have given to someone else to send, the one that said she knew. She knew he loved Starsky. She wrote she never would have been able to tell Starsky yes if there had been a chance she'd survive.

"There are some loves, some bonds that can't be broken. Love that is forged and tempered in fire, love that is soul-deep and unbounded in its possibilities. Your hearts are already entwined even if you don't know it yet."

He still had the letter in a shoebox in his closet—pushed way to the back so that when Starsky rummaged around in there he wouldn't find it. He no longer needed to read it. Every word had been engraved into his soul.

He reached out, tentatively, felt Starsky out after John Blaine's death. Could Starsky accept him as a lover? Hutch passed some of it off as joking, but when the dust settled, he still didn't know Starsky's true feelings on things. And perhaps he was too frightened to come out and ask.

At least he had Starsky's friendship. That was something he didn't want to lose ever, even if it meant he would have to grit his teeth as Starsky went out with woman after woman and fell in and out of love. Hutch made up his mind to be the one constant for him.

It was spring and he developed a tickle in his throat. He blamed it on allergies, an annoyance of post-nasal drip although his nose was rarely stuffed up. And the occasional pain he felt when taking a really deep breath, he blamed on the bout of the plague in November. Drs. Kaufman and Meredith had said his lungs would take time to get back to their full capacity.

"What's that?" Starsky asked one day as they got out of the Torino.

Hutch looked down when Starsky reached out to brush a flower petal from Hutch's brown corduroys. It was a pale pink.

"You love your jungle so much you gotta bring it along to work with you?" Starsky grinned at him.

"Guess so." Hutch looked down at the petal. "Camellia."

"I thought I was Camille," Starsky joked and Hutch looked at him, confused for a moment.

"No, dummy," he said as the words registered. "It's a camellia."
He didn't tell Starsky he didn't have a camellia plant and had no idea where it came from. He shook his head and followed Starsky into the precinct.

He forgot about for a few weeks, but the annoying tickle didn't leave. Some days he woke up with pressure on his chest—an ache he couldn't explain away. He had his yearly physical and told the doctor who couldn't find anything wrong. He went for x-rays of his chest, tests for his heart, and everything came back clear.

He was at Huggy's one night when Starsky was out with one of his new lady friends when he coughed and camellia petals appeared in his hand.

Huggy just happened to see it and sat down in the booth across from Hutch.

"How long has that been going on?" Huggy asked, jutting his chin towards the deep pink petals.

Hutch shook his head. "I don't know what you mean." He took a swig of beer.

"You ever cough them up before? Petals, I mean." Huggy touched one. It curled around one long brown finger. "You got pressure in your chest? Always feel like something's caught in here?' Huggy gestured to his throat.

Hutch looked away and then nodded once. "I had a whole bunch of tests. Nothing they can find."

Huggy leaned in closer. "That's 'cause it's not gonna show up on any normal tests. You gotta go to my Auntie Eloise."

"Eloise?"

Huggy grabbed a napkin, scrawled an address on it. "I'll call her. Tell her you're coming tomorrow."

And so it was, the next day, that Hutch found himself at a house near the beach ringing a doorbell.

Huggy's Aunt Eloise was a tall woman, nearly as tall as Huggy and as reed thin. Her hair was gray, her skin wrinkled. She took Hutch's hands in hers and drew him into a quiet, darkened room filled with jars of herbs and two wicker chairs.

"Now," she said after she'd poured them tea, "tell me."

Hutch did. He found her easy to talk to—almost as easy as Starsky or as Huggy.

"All my bloodwork, all my tests keep coming back normal," he finished as he took the last sip of tea.

Eloise put her hand on his knee. "And they will, my dear. They have never found a cure for lovesickness after all."

"I'm not…" Hutch trailed off. She looked at him with her sparkling brown eyes and he knew he couldn't lie to her, even if he was lying to himself.

"Is it your partner? This David?"

Hutch nodded. "It is."

"How does he feel about you?" Eloise got up and began to pull some of the jars from shelves.

"I...I don't actually know. Or at least not about love. We love each other as partners, as best friends. He'd do anything for me. I'd do anything for him. But I don't think he…I don't think he's like me. Willing to sleep with and love a guy."

Eloise was silent a long while as she spooned herbs into small organza bags. Hutch sat in silence, his heart pounding, and then he coughed up a few more petals.

When she sat back down, her expression was grave.

"Hanahaki Disease," she said.

"Hanahaki...I've never heard of it. Why haven't the doctors found it?"

"Hanahaki," Eloise repeated. "It is very rare. I have only ever met one other person with it and that was years and years ago on the island. And it's not something that will show up on any medical test."

"So what do I do? Take your herbs? Drink some tea and it goes away?" Hutch rubbed his hands against his jeans. They were sweating.

"My herbs will help control the symptoms for a time. But there are only two cures. David must love you as you love him."

"And if he doesn't?" But Hutch already knew the answer.

"It is fatal." Eloise said. She touched his cheek. "I am sorry to have to tell you such news."

"How…" Hutch had to swallow hard two, three, four times before he could speak again. "How long?"

"I don't know. Months if things continue as they are. You do have his friendship and there is some love there already. Perhaps it will slow the progression."

"No cure," Hutch repeated. But then he latched onto something Eloise had said. "You said two. Two cures."

"Surgery." Eloise told him. "But if you choose that, it will take away your love, your feelings for him, everything you have ever shared. You won't remember."

Hutch gave a sharp laugh. "Damned if I do, damned if I don't."

Eloise poured him another cup of tea and he drank it. This time it tasted bitter and salty.

"You can't trick the heart," Eloise told him as he stood to leave. "David just saying he loves you, making love to you without true love will not cure the disease. It must be true. It must be the love you long for."

Hutch nodded and took the packages she handed him.

"If you tell my nephew when you are out, he will make sure you get more."

"Thank you," Hutch told her. "If I have more questions?"

"You can come to visit any time," Eloise said. "I will be here."

Hutch was glad that Starsky had to go back to New York for his Aunt Naomi's funeral. It gave him time to think—and time to realize that maybe he needed to let go.

"Needed to change things up," he told Starsky when he picked up from the airport two weeks later and Starsky raised eyebrows at the mustache.

If his days were numbered, he figured he may as well start enjoying all the foods he'd denied himself for so long. He took the donuts Starsky offered, ignored the comments about the weight gain, and slept in instead of waking up to go for a jog.

He stayed home on most nights Starsky went out, declining the offers to find him a date. He managed to hide the petals if he coughed—at least when he was with Starsky or in public. At home, he would wake up in the morning with blood red camellia petals on his pillowcase. For a moment or two, he'd wonder where they came from and then it would all come rushing back—the tide of fear coming in and not receding.

He felt as close to Starsky as ever on the street, even if they wound up working cases apart. But they still could read each other, still knew what the other was thinking. He told himself that it was enough. He wasn't getting better, but he wasn't getting worse. At least not to the point where he couldn't work.

And then Kira came along. He was jealous—plain and simple and he could have blamed it on the herbal teas he was drinking from Auntie Eloise. But that would have been a lie.

He wanted Starsky, Kira wanted him and Starsky, and Starsky wanted Kira. A mess to be sure. But they were cops-- damn good cops, so they did their job and watched Kira crawl to Joey in the aftermath. Maybe she hadn't wanted either of them after all, he thought.

Starsky showed up at Venice Place with a six pack of beer and didn't bother to knock before he came in.

"Why?" Starsky asked after they had two beers each, not enough to get drunk, but enough to feel a buzz.

"Why what?" Hutch asked. He didn't dare look at Starsky—not at what he couldn't have.

"Why'd you go after her? You knew I wanted…" Starsky seemed to find the pattern on the sofa cushion very interesting.

"I'm sorry." Hutch pressed his hand onto Starsky's thigh. "I really am."

"I'm not even mad at you any more," Starsky said. "I think we were just a game to her, but you never... Hutch, you've never done that to me before." There was hurt, confusion in Starsky's voice.

Hutch got up, placed the bottle carefully on the counter, and let his hands rest there. What if…

"I wanted you." He blurted the words out and then wished he could take them back.

He turned to find Starsky staring at him. "You wanted me?" Starsky's head was tilted as if he couldn't believe what he heard.

"I love you, god damn it." Hutch clenched his hands into fists. When Starsky continued staring, he said it again. "I. Love. You."

There was only a loud silence—he heard the clock ticking, the sounds of the dishwasher in Chez Helene, a distant wailing siren, and Starsky's breathing.

Starsky's face had gone white, the way it had when Terry...when Helen…

"I...Starsk...I…" He reached out a useless hand.

But it was too late. Starsky was already up and out the door.

Hutch didn't follow. He should have known. It had been a risk and now he knew. He sat in the dark sure he had just ruined the best thing he'd ever had in his life. He didn't remember the night passing but there was sunlight coming in his window. He knew what he had to do, no matter how much the cost to his soul.

He dialed a number from memory. He had used it often enough over the past months.

"Eloise?"

"Kenneth. How are you?" Her voice soothed his jangled nerves.

"I was wondering if you could contact your friend about the procedure we discussed earlier." Hutch held his breath after he finished.

"I can." There was a pause before she spoke again. "Did you speak to David?"

"I did." Hutch felt his eyes fill with tears. He didn't think the choking feeling in his throat was from the flowers this time.

"I understand," she said. "I am sorry. I had hoped…"

"So did I," Hutch whispered and hung up the phone.

He went to bed that night and dreamed of his world without a Starsky to love in it.

The very next day, Huggy called them about Lionel Rigger and for a month nothing else mattered except bringing down the corruption that was poisoning Bay City.

Eloise sent word through Huggy that the surgery could be scheduled for May 16th, and he put in for a week's leave without telling Starsky about it. The lie of omission hurt more than anything. Their relationship had always been based on honesty. He told himself it was an acceptable betrayal. He ignored the pain that came with each deep breath, swept up camellias from his bathroom floor each morning, and pretended everything was normal.

 

May 15th was bright and sunny. He and Starsky played ping pong, joking and laughing. For a few hours, Hutch pretended that Starsky loved him, and everything was okay. Hutch stored up the memory, even though the feelings would disappear. Would he still have Starsky's friendship? Could he? Or would he not even remember Starsky's name? Would he become cold and uncaring and Starsky just be another detective to him? He'd write it all down tonight, put it in a journal, a letter for Starsky.

But then—none of it mattered when Starsky was taken down in a hail of bullets. He held Starsky in his arms until the ambulance came, his shirt, his hands, his skin stained with blood the color of the camellias he coughed up each day. Starsky's blood. Starsky's essence.

"Starsky's gonna die," he kept telling Dobey and Huggy. He didn't add that he was going to die too.

But Starsky didn't die—Starsky lived. When he opened his eyes after the coma and smiled that little smile Hutch knew so well, Hutch knew there was no way, no matter the outcome for him, that he could give up even one memory of what he felt for Starsky.

There'd been miracle after miracle for Starsky after being shot. Maybe the fates would allow them just one more.

Time. He just needed time. Late at night, after Starsky was on the road to recovery and Hutch had badgered the nurses enough to convince them the best medicine for Starsky was having his partner by his side, he sat by Starsky's bed and bargained with a God he wasn't sure existed.

"Let me see him through this. Give me enough time to see him out of here and recovered. Let me see him well again and able to handle what happens to me."

Starsky woke at his whispers and smiled. Hutch covered his hand and told him everything would be okay. And because of their love, Starsky believed him.

It was four weeks after Starsky was out of the hospital that Hutch woke up one morning, hardly able to breathe. Starsky slept on, unaware of Hutch's gasps as he sat up from the cot he had near Starsky's bed.

Hutch stumbled to the bathroom, camellias spewing from his mouth so quickly his bare feet were soon covered by them. He looked at his face in the mirror—skin, moon-pale, eyes, blue as arctic ice. He kicked at the flowers as he made his way to the living room.

"Hug…" he could barely choke out the name.

"Hutch?" Huggy sounded alarmed. Hutch could hear him moving around. "I'm coming. Hang on. Just hang on."

Hutch nodded as the phone fell from numbing fingers. He concentrated on breathing between the coughs, between the seemingly never-ending camellias that landed on the sofa, on his lap.

"Hutch!"

Hutch managed a smile. It was Starsky. He couldn't open his eyes to see him. That would take too much effort, but Starsky was there.

"What? What's going on? Hutch? You with me, babe?"

Starsky was beside him. He felt Starsky's hand on his face, strong elegant fingers touching his lips, his cheek before withdrawing.

"I'm calling an ambulance," Starsky said.

Hutch reached out blindly, grabbed onto Starsky's hand. "No."

He heard the door open.

"Huggy! Help me. He won't let me call...You gotta take us to the hospital."

"Starsky." That was Huggy's voice, gentle, soft, sad. "It won't do any good."

"I don't...I'll take him myself." Starsky sounded near tears. Hutch wanted to tell him it would be okay. Not to be scared. "Hutch, Hutch. Babe, stay with me."

"This is David?"

How had Eloise gotten here so quickly? Hutch wondered if the increasing lack of oxygen was making him hallucinate.

Eloise was on his other side. She smelled of herbs and ocean. When she touched his face, her fingers were cool.

"It will soon be over, Kenneth," she said. "Don't be afraid."

He heard her say something else and his body was lifted, moved.

He felt a pillow beneath his head, a blanket pulled up over his body, warm and soft. It smelled like Starsky, and he smiled.

A body stretched out beside him on the bed. Starsky—he would recognize him anywhere. The way his legs were just a bit shorter than his own, the bony shoulder, the soft curls against his cheek.

"What's going on? Someone tell me, please?"

Don't cry, Starsk, Hutch wanted to say, but he'd lost the ability to speak. All that was left was touch and sound. He was glad for that. Glad that in his last moments, he'd leave with the memory of Starsky beside him, touching him, his voice the final thing he'd hear.

He caught a word here and there, hanahaki, lungs, months, love. But the only thing that mattered any more was Starsky.

Take care of him, Huggy. Don't let him grieve. Don't let him follow. He's got so much more to give. So much life left to live.

"Hutch." Starsky's voice in his ear, his breath warm against his skin. "I'm here. Stay with me."

I'm trying. I don't want to leave you. I don't.

"Shh...just breathe." Starsky's fingers in his hair, the touch of butterfly wings. "Keep breathing, you hear me?"

"Hutch." That was Huggy and there were hot tears on his arm now.

"Kenneth. Listen, my dear. Hear him." Eloise stroked the side of his face, once, twice.

 

He choked and he was lifted into Starsky's arms, propped against Starsky's chest. Not good, he wanted to tell them. Not good, his weight against Starsky who still was healing. He opened his mouth and let the flowers fall. They kept coming, and he gagged until Starsky stuck in a finger and pulled them out.

"You are not gonna do this. You hear me?" Starsky's words were strident, loud. Almost enough to drown out the pounding of his heart.

Each breath was labored now, hard, a fight against the waves that battered him.

Sorry, I'm so sorry, Starsk. Hurt. It hurts so bad.

He was scared, so scared, and cold and then...

He drifted, alone. There was no more pain, no more struggling for breath. There was only dark and the never-ending silence until he heard a voice, faint and familiar.

"You are not going to leave me, goddamn it. Do you hear me, Kenneth Richard Hutchinson? Do you hear me? I fucking love you and god damn it if you are going to leave me now when I'm telling you. Do you fucking hear me, Hutch? Don't you dare do this, you stubborn son of a bitch. I fucking came back for you. You can fucking come back for me!"

Someone was pounding his back then. He coughed and coughed until he lay back weak and gasping. The city air coming from the window had never tasted so sweet.

Starsky was looking at him—his eyes huge and frightened and filled with tears that weren't falling. Hutch didn't remember opening his eyes. Then again, he didn't remember closing them either.

"Starsk?" Hutch tried to reach his hand up to touch Starsky's cheek. It was too much effort.

"Dummy," Starsky said. "You're such a dummy." But the words were tender, and Starsky's hand closed over his.

"Huh."

"Yeah, huh. What the hell were you thinkin' not telling me?"

Hutch thought Starsky would have shaken him had either of them had the energy.

"I'll tell you what you were thinking—you weren't!" Starsky held him tighter, planted a kiss on Hutch's forehead.

"I did tell you," Hutch finally managed to say. "After Kira. You ran away."

Starsky said nothing, but Hutch could feel the tremors running through his body.

"I didn't know what to say, what to do." Starsky's voice was barely above a whisper now. "It...all the feelings I've had for you, all you felt for me, and there was Terry and I think she knew and I didn't want to…"

"Starsk?"

Starsky stopped his babbling. "Hutch?"

"Shut up and kiss me right."

Starsky pushed Hutch away a fraction. Then his hand was on Hutch's cheek, his thumb running over Hutch's cheekbone.

"Mine," Starsky murmured before their lips met.

Hutch put up his hand, finally finding the energy. A fleeting notion of Starsky having some magical power made him smile.

Starsky's hands were on either side of his head, holding him, and Hutch opened his mouth, allowed Starsky access. He thought he'd shout with the sheer joy it brought him.

They pulled apart, hard breathing.

"I was wrong," Hutch said.

"Hmm?" Starsky was looking at him with that cheeky grin Hutch knew so well.

"You are a great kisser."

Starsky laughed. "I'm great at other things too."

"I'm sure you are," Hutch said, and then to his embarrassment yawned.

"I'd be insulted by that, but considering you were at death's door," Starsky's voice cracked. Hutch watched him swallow, fight for control.

"Don't you ever fucking try that again." Starsky stroked Hutch's hair. "Don't ever lie to me, Hutch. You got it?"

"Got it." Hutch couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. He felt Starsky pull the blanket closer around them, felt Starsky's arms hold him tight, and smiled.

"You can lie if it's for a surprise party or a gift," Starsky said. "That'd be okay."

"Okay."

Hutch heard Huggy and Eloise talking and the rumble of Starsky's reply. He was beyond understanding the words exhausted as he was.

When he woke again, the room was dark except for the flickering glow of the TV.

"Hutch?"

He was being held in Starsky's arms, safe, sheltered.

"Timeizzit?"

"One-ish," Starsky said. "Gonna turn on the light, okay?"

Hutch nodded and closed his eyes from just a moment.

"God. Hutch." Starsky's skin was golden in the lamplight. "You...Don't ever scare me like that again."

"Starsk." Hutch felt lighter, weightless in a way he hadn't for over a year.

Starsky ran a hand down Hutch's side. "You're too thin. I thought it was from taking care of everything, taking care of me."

Starsky pressed a kiss to Hutch's bare shoulder and Hutch felt goosebumps form.

"You cold, babe?" Starsky pulled away, his eyes dark with concern.

"No. No. But do that again." Hutch sighed as Starsky obliged.

"I'm gonna kiss you to oblivion," Starsky said as he moved down Hutch's arm, his hand. He kissed Hutch's palm and then shifted his attention to Hutch's stomach.

"Oh." Hutch lifted his hips as Starsky swirled his tongue in his belly button, started a trail of kisses down into Hutch's groin. Starsky's curls tickled his belly and then Starsky's lips found what they sought. "Oh!"

Starsky looked up then and grinned. Hutch felt his heart beat faster, his mouth go dry. He'd seen that look before, the one that made Starsky look like a jaguar about to pounce on its prey. He'd dreamed of seeing that gaze on him. He shivered as Starsky fondled his cock.

"You like this, Hutch?" Starsky asked, his gaze never wavering from Hutch. "You thought I wouldn't wanna...couldn't?"

"I didn't know what…" Hutch's brain wouldn't find the words he needed while another part of his anatomy was having no trouble responding to Starsky's ministrations.

"You're not my first guy," Starsky said and then bent back to his task.

Hutch was pretty sure Starsky's mouth on his cock was responsible for the short circuiting happening in his brain. No matter how he tried to get his mouth to form any coherent sound, all he could do was moan and thrust his hips upward.

Starsky laughed against him, the rumble sending shock waves through his body. He clawed at the sheets, sought purchase and then settled his hands in Starsky's hair.

"Fuck me," he finally got out. "Now."

Starsky's eyes were nearly black, the pupil dilated with desire. But he said nothing, only bent his head and took Hutch fully in his mouth.

They found their rhythm quickly just as they always had on the streets. Hutch arched up and Starsky pulled back before he bore down again.

Whatever he'd imagined, whatever he had ever thought making love with Starsky would be was a pale imitation of the sensations pulsing through him. Even those fantasies when he'd jerked off in the shower, pretending it had been Starsky's hand on his cock—nothing had prepared him for the actual act.

He let out a yell as he came. When he opened his eyes again, Starsky was kneeling on the bed before him. He looked like a cat caught in the cream. Starsky had his hand on his own cock, stroking faster and faster while he looked at Hutch. Hutch felt his body flush with heat as he watched, mesmerized by the sight.

Starsky threw his head back, the strong column of his throat exposed. As Hutch watched, the muscles tightened and Starsky came. Semen spattered over Hutch's thighs, and he reached down to swipe a finger into it and take it into his mouth.

"Hutch," Starsky said then, his voice rough.

"Starsk." Hutch felt tears well up, and suddenly he was crying—tears of joy, of release. "Thank you."

"See what you were missing all this time?" Starsky whispered. "See what we almost lost?"

Hutch pulled Starsky down, buried his face into Starsky's curls, and breathed. In, out, in, out. He vowed to never take a breath for granted again.

"Hang on," Starsky murmured. He got up after a slow kiss and returned with a warm wash cloth.

"Let me take care of you." He wiped Hutch's legs, his belly, his cock.

Hutch lay still in wonder. What fates had ever allowed him to be so blessed with David Starsky in his life? He felt humbled.

Starsky cleaned himself and then they were under the blanket again, secure, safe, content.

"Hutch?"

Hutch was nearly asleep from Starsky's slow massage of his scalp. "Huh?"

"Why camellias? Why not roses or something like daisies?"

"Long lasting devotion. Eternal love. Deep desire. They can mean all those things. Maybe that's why," Hutch murmured. "I don't know really."

Starsky was quiet but his fingers stilled.

"You were gonna have that operation weren't you?" Starsky asked.

Hutch lifted his head, bunched up his pillow, and sat up. "Yeah. Before...well before." He motioned at Starsky's scarred chest.

"You would have forgot me." Starsky sat up too, bumped Hutch's shoulder.

Hutch nodded. "I was afraid of dying. But then…"

Starsky took his hand, laced his fingers with Hutch's. "Then?"

"When you were shot, when everything happened, I realized I was more afraid of living without you. And even if I only had a little time left with you, I wanted to feel every moment of it. If I was going to die, I wanted to die remembering everything we had."

"Yeah. I can understand that." Starsky nodded. Then he pinched Hutch's upper arm, hard.

"Ow. What the hell was that for?" Hutch rubbed at the reddened spot.

"I really wanted to punch you for being so stupid and not telling me what was going on," Starsky said. "But I thought since we're lovers now, pinching would be better."

"Okay, I got it. I was stupid. I was an idiot, a dummy, a…"

But his words were cut off by Starsky covering his mouth with his own.

He gave into the kiss. When Starsky pulled away, he wondered if he looked as dazed as he felt.

"You forgot to add know-it-all, smartass, and the best damn lover I'll ever have in my life." Starsky grinned at him. "Think you can live up to the last?"

"I'll do my best." Hutch smiled back. He felt like he was re-born and had just discovered love for the first time.

"That's my Hutch," Starsky said. "Always the over-achiever."

Hutch scooted back down in bed. He just needed to close his eyes for a minute.

"Go to sleep." Starsky's breath tickled his ear. "Because we get to do this all over again when you wake up."

 

He dreamed he was in a garden, Starsky by his side. Flowers grew in riotous profusion.as far as his eyes could see.

"You see all these flowers?" Starsky asked. "Every one of them is me saying I love you."

They ran and ran and the flowers never ended.