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First, Last, and Always

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First, Last, and Always

 

Christmas was always difficult for Hutch. He didn't really understand all the nostalgia and excitement. Christmas for the Hutchinsons had been a time for a yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Land, starving street people of Jerusalem, preaching to the Muslim populace about their need for redemption and acceptance of Jesus as their only path to heaven; Mohammed was a false prophet, ungodly and the path to Hell. All he ever remembered of Christmas was how scared he'd always been of these people he didn't understand. Why couldn't his father ever just shut up? The Christmas of his eleventh year had finally made him resolve somehow never to make the trip again. They had just been driven through a crowded market, with his father decrying loudly the iniquities of those who would haggle even on Christmas Day—Philistines, all of them—when the unearthly noise of a bomb exploding rocked even their moving cab. Looking back in terror, he had seen the horrible carnage of body parts flung to the heavens and the splatter of blood everywhere. This, at last, had been too much even for his father, and the next year had found the Hutchinsons handing out sermons and food to the poor of Duluth. All in all, Hutch had liked this Christmas much better than those that went before, no matter that he never met his father's standards well enough to deserve even a small gift.

So when his Jewish roommate at the Academy turned out to adore all the trappings of Christmas—the music, the parties, the food, and the general bonhomme of the season—he looked at him in puzzlement. “I thought you were Jewish.”

Starsky looked back over his shoulder from his precarious position tiptoe on a chair, on a desk, trying to tape one end of a fake garland to the ceiling in one corner of the small room. “I am. Why?” He turned his attention back to his task.

“That's a Christmas decoration you're putting up,” Hutch pointed out.

“Yeah, so?”

“You're Jewish.”

“We already established that,” Starsky said as he jumped down to the floor. “You got a problem with that?” Starsky started dragging the desk and chair across the room. He went back to grab the garland end and climbed onto the desk and then the chair again. “Hand me the tape, will ya.”

Hutch retrieved the tape from the bed where Starsky had thrown it. He handed it up to his friend. “No, of course not. I'm just surprised you're doing Christmas things.”

“Why? Is Christmas for just you Christian boys?” Starsky stretched high and over to tape the other end of the garland—a little too far over. He overbalanced and the chair slid off the desk to clatter to the floor.

Hutch made a perfect catch and fell onto his bed with his roommate on top of him. Starsky lay there for a minute, and then pushed up on his elbows.

“Thanks, buddy. I didn't hurt ya, did I?” He grinned down into the wide blue eyes of the blond, planting a quick kiss on the straight nose as he slid backwards onto his feet. He reached out and grabbed one of Hutch's hands and pulled him up. “Now I gotta twist this strand of lights around the garland. Wanna help?”

Hutch was a bit bemused by his enthusiastic friend. Van hadn't wanted cheap decorations, so they'd simply not had any, which suited him just fine. He didn't quite know what to say to this bouncing imp of Christmas.

Starsky handed him one end of the light string and then picked up the fallen chair, replacing it on the desk before climbing up again. He held his hand down for the lights which Hutch passed to him, good helper that he was.

“Be careful, Starsk,” Hutch cautioned, trying to spot the agile body, moving this way and that. “What is that?”

“Mistletoe, dummy, whadya think?”

Hutch looked at the limp little sprig. “Oh.”

“You do know what mistletoe is for, don't ya?” Starsky looked down at him, wiggling his eyebrows.

A blush made its way up Hutch's face. “Y-yes, of course I know what it's for, but that doesn't look like mistletoe. Mistletoe is supposed to be a big bunch, not a little scraggly bit of leaves. At home, people used to go to the woods and find their own.”

“Well, this little scraggly bit works just as good, babe, which I'll show you as soon as I get this finished.”

A thrill of anticipation ran up Hutch's spine. This was crazy, a kind of madness that had taken over his life from the minute he and Starsky had met a few months ago. He'd fought with Van before Starsky, but nothing like he did afterwards—he could honestly say Starsky was the cause of his divorce, and he had no regrets. None. Her absence in his life was hardly noticed, especially since Starsky's presence in his life was nothing short of spectacular—fireworks making, mind-blowing spectacular.

He'd been a bit worried because of the roommate he'd been assigned, both because he'd only had a roommate in college for a few weeks before he'd married and because this was an unknown factor—an older guy, a vet with whom he had nothing in common, at least nothing that he knew about. After all, he'd been a war protestor in college, someone a vet should hate. But David Starsky had been a total surprise, in more ways than one. First of all, he'd only been six months older than Hutch, secondly he was the most upbeat person that Hutch had ever encountered, and thirdly he'd liked Hutch immediately—a phenomenon he wasn't used to except from girls and their mothers. Most guys were wary around him, either assuming he thought he was smarter than they were, or better looking, or just all around better. But Starsky hadn't reacted like anyone else, laughing and expecting Hutch to join him, including Hutch in everything and including himself in all of Hutch's plans without any doubt that he was wanted.

“Fuck!”

Starsky's expletive startled Hutch out of his wool gathering, and he watched as the garland and lights slowly fell—first from one corner, then the center, and lastly the other corner—the tape tearing loose in slow motion.

“Oh, goddamn! It's the fucking cement—it won't hold the tape and you can't use staples on it. All that work for nothing.” He grabbed a handful of the decoration which lay draped across the desk and slammed it down with a sound of disgust.

“Hey, hey, don't wreck it—we'll think of something else to do with it.” Hutch drapped the garland over one of the beds. “There,” he announced, looking proud of himself.

Starsky looked at it for a moment and then a knowing grin reshaped his face. He pulled the garland until the mistletoe was situated at the center of the headboard. A piece of tape secured the little sprig to the wood, and he turned back to Hutch. “This is your bed, you know. Looks to me like an invitation.” He advanced on the blond. “You have to lie down on the bed for the invitation to mean anything."

Hutch backed up until he was against the door. “Starsky, it's the middle of the day.”

“So? You have something against daylight? Besides, everyone's left for winter break except a few dweebs and us. Look, I'll lock the door.”

Hutch heard the lock snick into place, as Starsky reached around him. “Starsk.....”

Warm hands pulled him close, as words both dirty and exciting washed through his mind. Oh, dear God! He wanted this; he so wanted this. The pressure of Starsky's mouth on his was unbelievably erotic. He opened his mouth by instinct and felt the hot, soft presence of Starsky's tongue invading his mouth. Yes, oh yes!

This was what he wanted—the feel of Starsky taking him—yes!

He felt Starsky pushing him back on the bed, pressing him down, sucking his tongue down his throat , devouring him. Nothing else in his life had ever felt like this, euphoria sweeping through him, his cock swelling instantly. It made no difference that he had never wanted a man before, or that he and Starsky would be kicked out of the Academy if anyone found out. Not a touch of reality entered his overheated brain. “I love you,” he gasped out, feeling as though he were shattering into a million shards of shimmery glass. Four months ago he hadn't yet met this magical man, but now that he had, he couldn't remember a life that didn't include him, couldn't relate to a time when he wasn't in love with him.

He groaned aloud as Starsky unbuttoned his shirt and found the small nipples on his chest. As the talented mouth worked its magic, he lost all connection to the present and offered up his body as a willing sacrifice to this god of love.

***********

Later, as he awoke and lay pressed up against Starsky in the narrow bed, he tried to make sense of his feelings, tried to reason out how his life had progressed to this. Once upon a time he'd considered himself the all American heterosexual male, with no interest in other males except for their friendship or as competitors in the various sports he played or as drinking buddies or, recently, as brother policemen. If anyone had suggested that he would fall into bed with his roommate within a week of meeting him, he would have laughed or punched out their lights or in someway have said such a thing was impossible. Now, all he could think about was Starsky, how it felt when he touched him, when he smiled at him, when he made love to him. He knew he was almost crazy with this need for him. Nothing else really mattered, hadn't in these four months.

~~~

It had been a first time to wipe out every other first time in his life. Their first Friday night after their first week at the Academy, and he was supposed to spend the weekend at home with Van. What else would a married man do? Only he wasn't looking forward to two days and nights of constant arguing, which is all they'd done since he'd decided to join the police. Starsky was a lot more fun, and seemed to like their time together. He'd had a few friends during his childhood, but no one like Starsky, not anyone who'd made him feel so special.

“Got plans for this weekend?” he finally asked Starsky, who was sitting on his bed in cut offs and a t- shirt, listening to a rock station on the radio, and air drumming along with the current song.

“What? Can't hear ya.”

“I said--” Hutch reached over and turned off the small radio.

“Hey!”

“I asked you what you were going to do this weekend.” He smiled when Starsky turned in the middle of reaching for the radio to answer him instead.

“Nothin'. Why? You got a good idea?”

No one had ever seemed that interested in what he might suggest. He hated to say he was just going home—nothing interesting in that. “Nah, just doing laundry and stuff,” he confessed unhappily then flopped down next to his roommate and sighed forlornly. He'd been putting off leaving for over an hour already. Van was going to be madder than shit if he was late for the planned dinner with her boss and family.

“Wanna go get a beer?” Starsky turned around on the bed, putting an arm around Hutch's shoulder, squeezing affectionately. “Just us—Colby already left. Think he's got a hot date for the whole weekend, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah,” he answered with a short laugh. Colby never shut up about his hot dates. A drink with Starsky sounded great, although he'd rather stay here with the warm arm around him and the feeling of excited euphoria coursing through him.

“'Yeah' to beer or to “you know what I mean'?”

“Both.” he answered quickly. Van could go to the fancy dinner by herself—she'd probably like that anyway, no awkward talk about the Police Academy and his career prospects. Besides, this is what he wanted to do.

“Okay, blondie, let's go.” Starsky leaped to his feet, grabbed some clothes out of the small closet, and quickly changed.

Hutch was mesmerized by Starsky's lithe body shucking off the shorts and wiggling into the skin tight jeans, no underwear to mar the vision. And, oh, God! What a vision! He realized he was staring in openmouthed wonder and blushed, jumping up to get his wallet and check that he had some cash. When he turned around Starsky was smiling at him with mischief bubbling in his eyes. “What?”

“What's the matter, babe? You embarrassed?”

He felt himself blush again. “I...uh...no...I mean.... No. Why?” There. Starsky could do the explaining.

Not a nanosecond's hesitation in the seductive forward movement as Starsky flowed into his space, the delightful smile growing wider. A hand reached out and softly curved against his cheek, warm and gentle. Hutch was frozen in place, unable to move or speak, a lightning fork of emotions surging through him—heart pounding, breath caught in his throat, a cold sweat breaking out all over his body. What was happening? Starsky's hand on Hutch's cheek glided back through his hair and came to rest against the nape of his neck. The other hand rested on his shoulder and pulled him forward.

“Does this embarrass you?”

He could feel Starsky's breath on his lips, feel the husky words winding through him like a trail of fire, scorching and branding wherever they touched. The soft brush of lips caressed his and then lifted, moving on to his cheek and then back to his mouth. Fire erupted in his groin, his cock swelling and straining against the fabric of his jeans. When Starsky pulled back, he made to follow him, uttering an involuntary murmur of protest.

“Hey, beautiful man, you sure you're ready for this? Hmm? I don't wanna push you.”

Another kiss, just a kiss...what could that hurt? He moved forward into Starsky's embrace, his mouth seeking the warmth of those soft lips again, wanting to feel them, needing to feel them. And when their lips met a ravening hunger he hadn't known he had took possession of him—his mouth opened to Starsky's probing tongue and he was lost in a storm of sensations. Never in his life had he felt this rush of longing, this need to consume and be consumed. He felt a kind of insanity come over his consciousness and nothing but this moment at this place with this man was reality.

When he was backed up and pushed down on his bed, he gloried in the strength of Starsky's grip. When his t-shirt was tugged up and Starsky's mouth moved to his exposed chest, he moaned as his nipples were found and sucked and bitten. More—he wanted more.... He twisted under Starsky's touch, trying desperately to get closer, to feel that mouth on all of him. As if reading his mind, Starsky sat up and quickly divested himself of his own clothes and then pulled Hutch's t-shirt over his head and unzipped his too-tight jeans, pulling them off along with his boxers. Air hit his overheated body with a shock and he shivered in reaction.

“Cold, baby?”

Cold? No.... The heat of Starsky's body made the question a non sequitur—a concept much too complicated for his brain to process. Touch me, touch me...oh, God! Yes, yes.... He had no idea if he spoke aloud...it didn't matter, nothing mattered...only the feel of Starsky's hands. When the wet heat of Starsky's mouth swallowed his cock whole, he thought he might die from the absolute pleasure of this moment. He writhed beneath the hands and mouth, thrusting up, shouting his lover's name. Too much, it was all too much, and when he came deep in Starsky's throat, he lost all hold on reality, floating somewhere in a silent, light-streaked darkness of non-existence.

He came back to consciousness with the feel of Starsky's damp body lying on him, his hands clutching the short, dark curls, and sobs shuddering through him.

“Shhh, shhh...it's okay, babe...it's okay. I know I'm good, but--”

“You're...you're....” He fumbled for words as he ran his hands over the lithe body, pulling Starsky's face up, searching the hypnotic eyes, looking for...something...unsure of what, no clue. The tears abating, he claimed that talented mouth in a deep kiss, tasting himself on Starsky's tongue and shivered in wonder. Pulling back slightly, he rolled them both so that he was on top, looking down into shining eyes. “I don't know how to do anything, but I'm a fast learner. What do I do first? This?” He lowered his mouth to Starsky's chest and sought out the small copper nipples, feeling them already hard in anticipation.

“Come here, you wild man.” Starsky pulled him back up, laughing. “There's plenty of time for that later. Right now, just let me hold you.”

“But you didn't come, and—“

“Yes...yes I did, when you did. You're pretty hot stuff, blondie. You know that, don't you?”

Hutch lowered his head onto Starsky's chest and listened to his heartbeat while he luxuriated in the soft hair that covered it. What had happened to him? He'd just had the most incredible sex of his life with the guy who was his roommate. Did this mean he was gay, always had been and just didn't know it? This was going to surprise some people, a lot of people....

~~~

But what did Starsky feel? Was he as obsessed, as driven to spend as much time with Hutch as possible, as crazy to be alone with him, as hopelessly enthralled in this affair? Starsky reacted on a different plane from Hutch—he lived in the moment and didn't worry about the future or the ramifications of today's actions on tomorrow's reality. What a wonderful way to be—if only he were half as trusting of life. His arms tightened about his lover, and he breathed in the musky scent of him, a scent that made his groin react and his cock swell. Oh, Starsk, you don't know what you've done to me....

************

When he awoke again in the late afternoon, his bedmate was gone and the cold sheets held nothing of the warmth they'd known earlier. He turned his head and looked around the small room, spying Starsky gazing out the small window above the askew desk. He watched in silence, observing the mobile face of his lover and the unconscious beauty of his naked body. What was he thinking?

“You awake?” Starsky asked without looking at him.

“Yeah,” he answered softly, pushing up on one elbow. “Looks like you've been up for a while.”

“Never went to sleep.”

“Why?” He sat up on the edge of the bed, yawning widely. After knockout sex like they'd had this afternoon, they both usually took a nap to recover their stamina.

Starsky continued to stare out the small window. “Things to think about. You ever wonder what our life's gonna be like after we graduate from here?”

“I...I don't know. I guess we'll be assigned to....” His voice trailed off, as his thoughts ran into the future that really mattered—Starsky's and his. “Wh...what do you mean?” Damn! Why was he stuttering? He never stuttered around Starsky.

Starsky did look at him then, his expression puzzled. “There something confusing about that?”

“N...no, nothing. I...I just meant...uh...what? Like professionally...or...or personally...or what?” The heat of a blush traveled up his body as the words stammered out.

Starsky turned completely around and took a couple of steps toward the the bed. “What's wrong with you, huh?”

Hutch blushed further and pulled the sheet across himself. He shook his head, unable to say anything, and fastened his gaze on his feet. He felt Starsky's hand run through his hair and tilt his face up until he either had to meet Starsky's eyes or close his own. Drawing in and then releasing an unsteady breath, he smiled a bit wanly and met the searching gaze.

“You're scared all of a sudden—why?”

Scared? Was he scared? A chill of truth ran down his spine. Maybe.... He shook his head again, and lifted a hand questioningly.

Starsky patted his cheek and swung around to sit next to him, placing one arm around Hutch's shoulders. “We gotta talk, babe. Seems to me like you been thinking things you shouldn't be thinkin'. I'm not leavin' and I'm not lettin' you do it, either. Got that? Wherever we get posted, we'll still be us—me and thee. We'll figure out some way to be together, and that's just work. Our off duty time is all ours.”

Hutch turned to look into the deep blue, loving eyes, eyes that had somehow known him from the first moment they had met. “You sound so sure. What if someone finds out? They'll kick us off the force, and—”

“And nothing. No one's gonna find out. We're two smart dudes, who can keep a secret. We'll be careful. Besides, we're gonna end up working together, so no one's gonna think anything about us spendin' time together.”

Hutch hunched his shoulder and shivered as Starsky blew in his ear. Starsky's assurances lifted the weight of worry for a while, allowing him to grin at this armful of distraction. Starsky was truly a gift from the gods, his perfect love.

“It's Tuesday already and Christmas is Thursday. We should make plans for what to do. I mean my aunt's expecting us for Christmas dinner, but we should do something special on our own before then. Let's go see Santa at that shopping place in Orange County. I bet they got a really good one there for all the rich kids.”

“Uh, Starsk, I don't think they let adults sit on Santa's lap.”

“Yeah? Since when?' The light of mischief shone in the wonderful eyes. “If you were Santa you'd let me sit on your lap, wouldn't you?”

How had anyone ever said no to that face? Oh, Starsk, what you've done to me! “Well, I'd certainly think about it.” He leaned into the embrace as Starsky took his mouth in a bruising kiss, pushing the curly haired demon back on the bed. “What do you want for Christmas, little boy?” he whispered into Starsky's mouth, running his hands down the compact body. He writhed as Starsky's warm hands slid down his back to his ass.

“This.”

Fingers curled into his flesh, making his roommate's choice very clear. “Yeah?” he asked huskily. “Well, let's see what we can do.” He held the sweet face still beneath him and kissed the luscious mouth slowly and thoroughly, breathing in the scent of this magical man. The thick, rich hair, almost impossible to dry, was still slightly damp from the shower hours ago, and its natural curl was beginning to make itself known in little corkscrews here and there. What a gorgeous package the whole made. As always, he felt a wild euphoria grip him, tunneling his vision, narrowing his senses until his whole world was made up of this man. He would gladly spend the rest of his life caught in the spell Starsky wove, lost to all but him, his smile, his voice, his hands. There was no need for anything or anyone else.

**************

Wednesday, Christmas Eve, dawned as one of Southern California's million-dollar weather mornings—sunny, clear and bright. No one raised in the frigid winter weather of Minnesota could ever see this as normal Christmas weather, but Hutch had no complaints. The freezing, snowy weather of Minnesota was only fun when you were young. He'd enjoyed his hours spent out in the cold, but this was better, so much better.

“You ready?”

He turned and smiled at Starsky. “Sure, but what's the hurry?”

“Stores close early on Christmas Eve. Come on.”

Starsky bounced out the door, holding it open for Hutch. The lithe body presented the perfect picture of the Christmas Spirit, excited and expectant. This should be the way everyone greeted Christmas—with happiness and cheer. He knew that for him Christmas itself would always be seen as a time of great unhappiness, so from now on he was going to view the holiday through Starsky's eyes. His enjoyment would come from Starsky's enjoyment, his wonder would be Starsky's wonder, his belief would be Starsky's belief.

The plaza was all separate stores arranged in what, he guessed, was a deliberately casual style on various levels, interspersed with fountains and gardens—actually sort of attractive. Most of the buildings appeared to house fancy department stores, although there were several shoe stores, a bookstore, candy stores, and one large toy store that he could see. And the entire complex was decorated for the holidays—spectacularly decorated. There was a thirty-foot tree with lights and enormous bulbs, other smaller trees, reindeer, workshops, signs which said Santa was greeting visitors in the Bullocks' toy department. Figuring that's where Starsky would be headed, Hutch turned in that direction. Starsky reached out and pulled him by his jacket sleeve.

“Not that way, blondie, over here.” Starsky started up a low flight of stairs, dragging Hutch with him. “This Toy Store is world famous. There's a train caboose I've been looking for forever—they might have it here.”

Hutch followed him up the steps and into the biggest toy store he'd ever seen. My God! What on earth
was this? The World of Dolls seemed to cover acres and acres of floor space—everything from the latest fashion doll collections to a whole house and outdoor area for baby dolls and family. The action figures took another rather large space, as did the bikes and trikes and Big Wheels.

Starsky spied the train area toward the back of the store and pulled Hutch abruptly after him. It seemed to Hutch that excitement was pouring off the man in visible waves. He couldn't help but smile at his friend's elation. How had he maintained such childlike happiness over toys, or Christmas, or a new Autoweek? He wondered what such joy felt like. Was he aware of his happiness, did it take a conscious effort, or was it something that just happened?

Starsky stopped in wonder, letting go of Hutch's sleeve and turning slowly in place, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. “Can you believe this?” he asked in an awestruck voice.

And it was an awesome sight—train tracks that ran everywhere, curving around and over and under, untold railroad models, engines that puffed, and whistles than blew, miniature towns and bridges and people, even fences and cows and trees. It was definitely a sight to behold. Hutch had never had a model train, so had nothing to compare it to, but he could see how this would be a dreamland for anyone with an interest. There were several men in the area as entranced as Starsky, eyes wide, faces excited. He watched his friend move from place to place, watching this train and then that, totally immersed in this miniature world. Hutch stood back and smiled, willing to let Starsky look to his heart's desire. Again he was struck by the sheer happiness that emanated from this man.

Finally, Starsky turned to look for him, eyes shining with a brilliance that took Hutch's breath away.

“I've never seen anything like this. Isn't it wonderful?”

“Sure is,” Hutch answered, smiling at the light in Starsky's eyes. “Do they have the caboose you were looking for?”
“Oh, haven't looked, yet. It's an Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe, 1895, window, red. Wanna help me?” He walked over to the near wall and began looking at the boxes.

Hutch followed, not really knowing what he was looking for, but happy to watch Starsky moving down the rows of boxes, thoroughly searching them for the right caboose. It turned out that the caboose Starsky was looking for was a rare item that was almost permanently out of stock. No joy today. But Starsky didn't seem to mind—he was just happy watching all the models. Hutch made a vow to find the caboose and surprise the best of all roommates with it—not now, but sometime in the future. The idea of fulfilling his love's wishes brought forth a shiver of anticipation. He wanted to fulfill all of Starsky's dreams.

“Hey, Hutch, what're you thinkin' about?”

The smiling imp was standing close and looking up at him expectantly.

“Huh?”

Hutch smiled at his lover and said very quietly. “About how much I love you, and how sexy you are, and what I'd like to do to you.”

“Oh, yeah? What's that?” Starsky asked, wiggling a suggestive eyebrow and stepping closer still.
“You ready to go home?”

“Thought you wanted to sit on Santa's lap.”

“I got my own Santa. Got a lap like you wouldn't believe.”

A blush suffused Hutch's skin, making Starsky laugh.

“You know, babe, if you're planning on keeping us a secret, you gotta control that blush. Come on, let's get home before everyone cops to us.”

Starsky grabbed Hutch's left sleeve and began pulling him out of the toy store, making a beeline from the store to his car.

“Wait a minute, Starsk! Don't you want to see the other stores?” Hutch back peddled and brought them to a halt.

Starsky looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “You wanna shop instead of cuddle? Is that what you're saying, blondie?”

“No, I didn't....” He broke off as he caught the gleam of mischief in the deep blue eyes, and felt the heat of another blush suffuse his fair skin. Damnit! A flash of anger at himself went through him. But Starsky's slap on the back and happy-to-be grin quickly dissipated the feeling, and he smiled sheepishly.

“Let's stop and get somethin' to eat and some party favors for tonight. Still have some mistletoe memories to rack up.”

Starsky's grin was infectious and he found himself joining in. Comparing his life now to the one he was living last Christmas was...impossible. There was nothing to compare—everything was different, on a geometrical scale. Somehow, he had ended up as roommate to David Starsky, and his life had taken a sharp turn toward the unknown. All he could do was try not to be thrown somewhere along the track. Wherever he was going, however he was getting there remained a mystery, but one he welcomed. He found himself following his lover with eager feet. This was about to be the best Christmas of his life.

******

The supermarket was well stocked with candy, candy, and candy—all of it already fifty per cent off the regular price. Starsky started filling a carry basket with a huge assortment—one kind or a few pieces of different kinds was not a choice. By the time they ended up at a checkout lane, their basket contained everything Starsky could find in the way of Christmas goodies—candy canes, cupcakes, soda, sweet rolls, chocolate Santas, rice crispy reindeer, green and red bell cookies—more holiday good cheer than Hutch has ever seen in one place. A bottle of rum, some cold bottles of Coke, a bag of ice and some red plastic cups topped off their purchases.

Hutch paid for the assortment, shaking his head in wonder at the accumulated junk filling up the shopping bags. Wasn't Starsky at all affected by the trash he ate? “Starsk, are you planning on eating all of this tonight?”

“Huh? Yeah, sure. You can have some of it, too, you know. After all, you're payin' for it.” A lopsided grin accompanied the generous words as he sauntered away.

“Thanks...I think,” he muttered as the checker gave him his change. He picked up the heavy bags and turned around to find Starsky. He spied him at the periodicals rack, reading a glossy car magazine as usual. “No one's giving you one of those for Christmas.” He shoved one bag into Starsky's arms, took the magazine, and replaced it in the rack.

“Hey, how do you know what I was lookin' at?”

“I don't, but you can't afford anything in there, so stop daydreaming and let's go.” He walked out the automated door and headed for Starsky's seen-better-days car.

“Maybe not now, but soon. What about you? When are you gonna get some wheels?” Starsky asked around the half of candy bar he had in his mouth.

“Before graduation. Are you going to help me find something?” He grinned at Starsky's instant enthusiasm. Oh, God, he loved this man! He pushed the passenger seat forward and deposited the sack he held onto the back seat before straightening up and taking the bag Starsky carried.

“How much you have to spend? You got anything in mind? I know some great used car lots, so we can start looking on Friday or Saturday.”

Well, he might not have much to give Starsky for Christmas Day, but he sure as hell was going to love the day after. Hutch smiled in anticipation and got into the front seat. What a difference four months made in one's life.

**********

“...oooooooh, dashing through the snow— Come on, blondie, sing with me. —in a one-horse open sleigh, over the fields we go, laughing all the way. Hey! Hey! Hey! Bells on bobtails— What the hell's a bobtail? Oh, shit!” Starsky's face took on a sickly shade of green as he clapped a hand over his mouth, clambered over Hutch, and ran for the bathroom where he threw up the gloriously multicolored contents of his stomach.

Hutch shook his head and lay back on his bed, humming “Jingle Bells,” and watched the ceiling spin lazily. He'd tried to tell Starsky not to stir his rum and coke with candy canes, but would the Christmas Elf of the Police Academy listen? Not even for a minute.

When Starsky had been gone for quite a while, Hutch sat up unsteadily and looked around the small room. No Starsky. “Hey! Starsky!” He knocked on the bathroom door. “Are you still in there?” That seemed the most logical place.

“Go away...oh, God...just go away!”

The door-muffled words sounded pained.

“I can help you...let me come in,” Hutch wheedled. “I'm not gonna be grossed out.”

“Well, I am. Go away, Hutchinson! I'll be fine...promise.”

Feeling more than a bit unsteady, Hutch turned and let himself slide down the doorframe to the floor. The tile was a bit cold on his bare flesh, but as overheated as he was, it felt pretty good. He'd just sit here until Starsky came out.

*********

Starsky said his Aunt Rose was a lousy cook so watch out for anything she made, but the ham was bought already cooked, a cousin brought the brisket, and the various side dishes were mostly brought by various relatives who gathered for the delicious Holiday feast. They were a mixed bag—Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and nothing-in-particular. Hutch had never told Starsky of his conservative Lutheran upbringing, and it didn't seem important now; besides he'd decided a long time ago that any belief which relied on fear for its greatest lessons wasn't something he wanted to be part of. Everyone was friendly and welcoming—a real happy family, with old people, children, and all ages in between.

“So, Ken, how's that rapscallion of a nephew been behaving himself? He gonna make it? Gonna make the family proud?”

A bit startled at the booming voice accosting him on the small backyard patio, Hutch turned quickly, setting off the pounding in his head, a reminder of his well-deserved hangover from last night's Christmas celebration with Starsky. “Oh, Uncle Al. Yeah, sure he's gonna make it just fine. Stars—Dave will make a great cop.”

The older man looked pleased by Hutch's words, looking over where a laughing Starsky was being physically brought down by a gang of children.

Hutch had no idea what game they were playing, but all of them were having great fun—just like he did with Starsky. There was something magical about the man, something that captivated everyone. He wondered what the uncle would think if he knew about the way Starsky captivated him. No...he shouldn't be thinking about that, now, not with all these people around and no way to hide his reaction to such thoughts. He turned his back on Starsky and walked around to the front of the house. A little alone time was called for and some nice cooling thoughts. Cool was not how things felt on this eighty degree Christmas Day. Flushed and overheated was how he felt, ready to jump Starsky, something he knew he couldn't do here, but, oh, God! how he wanted to. A tingle of need surged through him, clenching his jaw and fisting his hands.

“Hutch...hey, Hutch!” Starsky called a bit breathlessly, as he caught up to him and grabbed his arm. “Where you going? Huh?”

“Just cooling off a bit. I'm not used to Christmas being in summer.” He stepped back a bit, easing out of Starsky's grip. This was not helping matters.

Starsky moved up, grinning, and squeezing the bulge beneath Hutch's fly. “A little hot under the zipper? Want some help? Hmmm?”

He felt himself blush as he swatted at his tormentor”s hand and tried to get away from him. “Not here, you idiot! What if someone's watching?”

“Then we were just horsing around,” Starsky laughed, as he made another lunge toward Hutch and missed.

It was damned hard to keep out of Starsky's hold, and he turned and ran toward the backyard and the voices raised in happy holiday cheer. The kids were all sitting at the feet of one of the elderly men—Hutch couldn't remember his name. He slowed down and stopped, breathing a little hard from his exertions. Starsky pulled up right behind him.

“Uncle Dave, Uncle Ken,” the kids shouted. “Over here. Granpa Abra's gonna tell us the Hanukkah story.”

“Sounds good to me,” Hutch muttered and sat down between two of the children.

“Me, too,” Starsky said, as he sat down directly behind him. He bent forward and murmured into Hutch's ear, “I'll tell you a better story when we get home.”

“Go away,” Hutch whispered and blushed. Damn Starsky, anyway!

*******

“Thank you for a wonderful day—all of you,” Hutch said happily as he climbed into Starsky's old car.
He rolled down the cranky window, and waved to the small crowd. They'd excused themselves to leave early, using studying as the reason.

“So, how'd you like your Starsky family Christmas?”

“It was great, except for one pest who kept trying to make me blush.” He glared at his friend.

“Oh, yeah? Well, tell me who it was and I'll set 'em straight. Can't have my best pal made uncomfortable, can I? And by someone in my own family.” He shook his head in mock disbelief, trying very hard not to grin.

“Twit,” Hutch offered up with a healthy disgust. “And you think we can hide our relationship.”

“No one there thought anything.”

“Only because they all know you're an idiot.”

Starsky grinned and patted Hutch's thigh. “And aren't you lucky to have me?”

Hutch looked over at this breath of life that had entered his world, and agreed. He was definitely the luckiest man alive. He covered Starsky's hand and squeezed, smiling his gratitude. When he thought back on his life before Starsky, he was always stunned by the bleak reality he had accepted as just the way life was—dark, dreary, and ultimately sad. His childhood had been anything but a childhood, expected to know from infancy the right of fundamental Christianity and the wrong of every other life choice. All actions were judged against the background of sin and punishment; he was always the sinner in need of harsh punishment. His early marriage was an attempt to get out from under his father's hand, but Van was easily as dictatorial as his father—she just demanded that different rules be obeyed. His decision to go to the police academy had shocked both his parents and Van, both threatening him with dire consequences, but he'd persevered, effectively cutting himself off from everyone. And then he'd met Starsky and had never looked back.

It was almost dark by the time they got back to the academy, but it was still rather warm—unusual, even for California. This was Hutch's first Christmas out here, and he was a bit in awe of the postcard weather. Even the usual smog had been blown out to sea, leaving the San Gabriel Mountains easy to see across the hills and valleys.

“Come on, blondie, still wanna give you your special present.” Eyebrows wiggling suggestively, Starsky climbed out of the car and ran toward the stairs, turning back to make sure Hutch was following.

Hutch was already close on Starsky's heels, just as anxious to receive his “gift” as Starsky was to give it. Ripples of excitement coursed through his blood and swelled the bulge in his pants. God! He was as horny as a teenager and had been for the past four months. At this rate, Starsky was gonna kill him—fucked to death, great epitaph. But he knew he wouldn't want it any other way—not now, not later, not ever.