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The Exchange

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The Exchange

AU

Starsky/Hutch

 

February 14, 1975

Starsky put down the newspaper and looked at his partner sitting across from him at his desk. Along with the rest of the country, Hutch had watched the crazy meteor showers that had filled the sky all night, and he looked it. His cheek rested on his fist, elbow on the table, eyes closed. Starsky heard a faint snore issue from his mouth and smiled.  Rolling the newspaper into a tube, he leaned over and smacked Hutch on the head with it.

“Wha-?” Hutch sat up, looking around owlishly.

“Time to hit the streets, partner!” Starsky announced cheerfully, jumping out of his chair and circling the desks. Putting his hands under Hutch’s arms, he hoisted the blond out of his seat, pausing to allow him to lean against him for a moment. Starsky relished the feel of Hutch’s weight pressing into his body for the few seconds it took for him to get himself together and stand on his own.

“Rent a room, why doncha?” Detective Carl Betts said on his way to the water cooler. Starsky just rolled his eyes. There was nothing new in someone ribbing them about the way they were with one another; it had long ago ceased to bother him. He was comfortable enough in his masculinity to ignore idiots like Betts.

 “Jeez, you really are beat, huh, Buddy?” he asked Hutch, giving him a quick slap on the ass just to confound the two officers at the next table. They knew both Starsky and Hutch’s rep’s with the ladies, and it drove them crazy trying to figure out why they were so physically easy with one another. Starsky enjoyed touching his partner and wasn’t going to stop doing it just because it earned them a few weird looks; moreover, he wasn’t above egging them on.

“’Course I’m beat,” Hutch muttered, either unaware of or unconcerned by the attention they were getting. He grabbed his jacket off the back of his chair. “I stayed up all night watching the meteor showers! Did you know astrologists are saying that as of midnight Venus is not in its regular position? How weird is that?”

“Pretty weird,” Starsky replied, jerking Hutch’s jacket away and turning it around. “You were putting it on upside down, genius,” he chided, holding it steady so Hutch could get his arms into the sleeves. “Lucky for us, I’m driving.”

They left the precinct, Hutch continuing his narrative on the events in the sky the night before. “Didn’t you see any of it, Starsky?” he finally asked.

“Nope.  I was totally unaware of any stars other than the ones goin’ off in my head and nether region, if ya get my drift, Blintz.” Starsky grinned wolfishly from the driver’s seat. “I had another hot date with Josie.”

Hutch put his head back on the window and rolled his eyes at his partner. “You could’ve gone to bed with a lady any night of the week! You may never have a chance again to see something like that in the sky!”

“Thought you had a date with Hilda last night.” Starsky rolled down the window, letting in breeze tinged with the scent of ocean.

“Heather. And she watched most of it with me before going home around two A.M.”

“Bored her to death, did you?”

Hutch tightened his jaw. “Some people appreciate things that go on outside the bedroom, Starsky!”

Starsky’s brows went up. “If you say so, partner.”

They cruised their regular beat, the most exciting thing happening that morning being extracting an old lady’s cat from a tree. Starsky got his hand clawed up in the process, and was muttering things about ‘that damned cat’ when they walked into Huggy’s bar at lunchtime.

Starsky headed into the bathroom to wash his wounds while Huggy took Hutch’s order of two specials with fries. “And Starsky’ll want a root bear. I’ll have water, no ice.”

“Some crazy shit happening in the skies last night,” Huggy commented after he handed in the order.

“Tell my partner that,” Hutch grouched.  “The world could’ve blown up, and he never would’ve known it. He was oblivious to all but the chick in his bed.”

Huggy snorted. “Sounds like Starsky. I, however, watched the entire thing,” he yawned, “which is why I am in sore need of a nap right about now. You look about as tired as I am, my man.”

“I stayed up all night, too. What do you think it was all about, Hug?”

“Well, I’m sure you’ve heard all the scientific mumbo jumbo…” Huggy leaned against the bar and looked conspiratorially at Hutch before taking two glasses from under the counter. “But I have my own suspicions.”

Starsky joined them, catching what Huggy said. “Suspicions about what?” he asked, sliding onto a stool.

“The craziness in the skies last night,” Huggy answered, pouring them their drinks. “Did you hear about Venus being in the wrong spot?”

Both men nodded.

“Well, according to my Aunt Kazula—“

Kazula?” Hutch repeated, raising a brow.

“She’s an African priestess,” Huggy told him, as if that explained everything. “Anyway, she says Venus being in the wrong position heralds an aligning of universes and something-or-other about love.” He waved his hand airily. “Aunt Kazula always was long-winded. Anyway, there’s supposed to be some portal opened up for the next week.”

“Portal?” Starsky frowned and cast a doubtful look at Hutch, who was busy wiping the condensation off his glass. “Whaddya mean by portal?”

“It’s a doorway into another universe, my ignorant friend,” Huggy replied loftily, then turned to get their orders out of the window.

Hutch snorted. “Doorway into another universe?” he repeated Huggy’s words.

Starsky was drumming his fingers on the bar, his expression thoughtful. “I dunno, Hutch. That sounds pretty interestin’, if you ask me.”

“I didn’t,” Hutch accepted his plate from Huggy and began salting his fries.

“Just exactly where would you find this portal?” Starsky asked Huggy.

Their friend put his hands on the bar and leaned in. “Why you asking, Starsky? You interested in traveling into another universe?”

Starsky chewed his burger. “Sure. Why not? I’m up for a vacation.” He grinned.

“Close your mouth,” Hutch said with distaste. “I can see everything in it.” He dipped a fry in ketchup. “And you don’t really believe that crap, do you?”

Huggy made an affronted face. “It’s not crap! Man, don’t diss things you know nothing about!”

Hutch pointed a fry at him. “Oh, and I suppose an African priestess knows about things like portals to other universes? Come on!”

Huggy crossed his arms over his chest. “And I suppose you know there’s no such thing?”

“I know it’s highly unlikely,” Hutch returned. He glanced at Starsky who was happily eating his burger while listening to them bicker. He reached over and wiped a smudge of mustard off his friend’s face.

“And what do you think, Starsk? Think it’s likely there’s a doorway out there somewhere that you can just walk through and find yourself in a completely different universe?”

Starsky shrugged. “From what I understand, it wouldn’t be completely different. It could be very close to the same thing we’re experiencing now.”

Hutch huffed into his water glass before taking a sip. “What do you know about it?”

“I’ve read about them,” Starsky said. “A little, anyway.  There’s something called a Level 3 Parallel Universe. You know, Hutch…we make decisions every day. Each choice we have could carry us in a different direction.” He ate a French fry. “Like the wrong one on the job could get us killed; you know that. Well, what if I had decided to work for my Uncle Al rather than go to the police academy? What if you had stayed with Vanessa? Our lives split into different parallel universes for our future selves, depending on the choices we make.”

“So you’re saying these other universes have us living in them doing something else entirely?” Hutch wrinkled his brow. “That’s ridiculous, Starsk.”

Huggy’d been wiping down the bar, listening to the two of them talk. Starsky looked at him. “What would happen if we crossed into another universe and met ourselves?”

Huggy stopped wiping and flipped his rag over his shoulder. “I asked my aunt that very thing.” He ignored Hutch’s eye roll and continued, “She said if you crossed into a Level 3 universe, your counterpart would simultaneously cross over into this one—and depending on how close the two universes were, they might not even realize it.”

“So does that mean we could’ve already crossed into one at some point in our lives and just didn’t know it?”

Before Huggy could answer, Hutch threw his napkin down and stood up. “I think I must’ve crossed into one now, because this conversation is utterly ridiculous. Come on, Starsk—we need to get back out there.”

Starsky finished his drink, gave Huggy a shrug, and followed Hutch out of the bar and into the sunlight.

“It’s not so ridiculous, Hutch,” Starsky said, putting his sunglasses on. “Why would you think that this is the only reality there is?”

Hutch shook his head. “I’m not going to discuss this. You weren’t even interested enough to watch what was going on in the sky last night---something you could witness with your own two eyes—and now you’re willing to entertain Huggy’s crazy idea of a portal to another universe? Man, Starsky, if I live to be a hundred, I’ll never understand you.”

“But you’ll still love me,” Starsky replied, slipping his arm around Hutch’s waist and squeezing him to him. Hutch smiled and hugged him back as they approached the Torino.  Parting, they opened their respective doors and slid into their seats.

All units, please respond to a 415 in Chester Park, the radio crackled just as Starsky turned the key in the ignition.

Hutch picked up the mic. “This is Zebra 3 logging in and responding.”

Chester Park was on the edge of town and consisted of several walking trails and a picnic area. Traffic was light, and Starsky made it there within minutes, pulling the Torino up to the curb and eyeing the crowd of at least fifty people standing near the edge of the woods yelling and waving their arms around. Starsky whistled. “Look at that! What in the hell you think’s goin’ on?”

“Only one way to find out,” Hutch got out of the car and headed that way, his partner close at his heels.

As they forced their way through the large group of people, it soon became apparent what the commotion was about.

“What the hell is that?” Starsky asked under his breath. Hutch had no idea. They stood staring at an almost transparent barrier of wavy air that extended from the ground to far above the trees. It reminded Hutch of the way air seems to ripple over pavement on particularly hot days. The phenomenon encompassed a huge portion of the woods ahead, and the people were staring and pointing at it excitedly.

“Are you two cops?” A middle-aged man demanded. “Do you know what it is? What is that?”

Starsky turned and tried to calm the man, but a young woman behind him began crying hysterically about the end of the world being near, and then several people started yelling, and the uproar got louder and more out of hand. Hutch was relieved to see three black and whites pull up to the curb. The next hour or more was spent dispersing the crowd, keeping the news crews at bay, and roping off the area.

Long past the time Starsky and Hutch would normally be back at the precinct, they stood in the dimming light staring at the strange aberration in the air. The setting sun wove orange and red streaks through the dimming gray of the sky, and bugs began their low evening buzz from the trees. Several meteorologists walked the perimeter of the curiosity while the two detectives guarded the area until some decision could be made.

“What do you think this thing is, Hutch?” Starsky asked in a subdued tone. It was the first time they’d had a chance to talk since they’d arrived at the park.

“I have no idea, Buddy. Maybe it’s some kind of…swamp gas.”

Starsky turned incredulous eyes on his partner. “Swamp gas? Hutch there’s not a swamp around here!”

Hutch shrugged.

“Wanna know what I think?” Starsky asked him.

“No. All I want to know is when we can go home.” Hutch rubbed the area between his eyes where a headache was beginning to form.

“I think it’s got something to do with the weird stuff in the sky last night. I think it might be one of those portals Huggy’s aunt talked about.”

“Oh, come on, Starsky! You can’t be serious!” Hutch objected.

“Makes more sense than swamp gas,” Starsky pointed out.

“No, it doesn’t. There are no such things as portals to other universes, but there is such a thing as swamp gas.”

“How do you know there’s no such things as portals?” Starsky leaned against a tree and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Because the idea is ridiculous, that’s why!” Hutch insisted. “This is just some weird weather phenomenon, and when somebody officially makes that call, we can leave and forget about it. Where the hell did those meteorologists go, anyway?” He looked about irritably.

“If you’re so certain it isn’t a portal, why don’t you walk through it?” Starsky asked casually.

Hutch glanced at him before looking uncertainly at the wavy wall of air again. It resembled a barrier, but he could see the trees and bushes behind it—they were just warped and continually undulating. It had already been determined that the aberration ended several yards to each side and a few feet back into the woods. So far, no one had tried to touch it.

“Not so sure, are you?” Starsky taunted with a small smile.

“Of course I am,” Hutch said suddenly. “I’ll show you.” He started forward, and Starsky’s arm darted out, stopping him.

“No! I was just kidding! Don’t you dare touch it.”

Hutch put a hand on Starsky’s. “It’s okay, Starsk—.” He moved forward again, and before Starsky could grab hold of him, he walked into and through the wavy air. The next second, he completely disappeared.

“Hutch!” Starsky’s yell reverberated through the darkness. He started after him, but a hand grabbed his arm.

“Don’t, Detective!” one of the meteorologists barked, holding him back.

***

One moment he was in the park, and the next Hutch found himself in an airport. He recognized LAX and stood blinking for several moments at the crowd around him. How in the hell did he get there? He turned around slowly, searching faces for someone, anyone, he recognized.

“Hutchinson, there you are!” a familiar hand clamped on his shoulder, and Hutch sagged with relief.

“Captain! Thank goodness.”

“Did you get lost or something? I saw you check your bags, and then you were gone. Where’s Starsky?”

Confused, Hutch stammered, “I—I…last time I saw him was in the park…”

“The park?” Dobey frowned. “Oh, there he is!” Dobey pointed across the wide carpeted area where Starsky stood chatting with a tall, stocky man. “Flirting again. What else is new? You really need to keep him on a shorter leash, Hutch,” Dobey said gruffly before calling out to his detective. “Starsky! Come on! We’ll miss our flight!”

Hutch frowned. What the hell was going on? Since when did Starsky flirt with men?

Putting a hand to his face, he shuddered, a wave of dizziness running through him, and his knees buckled.

“Whoa there, partner! You okay?” Starsky steadied Hutch with a hand and peered a bit anxiously into his face.

“I will be when I find out what’s going on!” Hutch exclaimed, annoyed.

Starsky cupped Hutch’s face with his palm. “You look so pale.”

Hutch swiped his hand away irritably. “Somebody tell me what the hell’s going on!”

Dobey hefted the satchel he was carrying farther up his shoulder. “He’s probably upset because he saw you flirting with Mr. Universe over there.” He winked and Hutch stared at him, open-mouthed.

“Aw, Hutch! Don’t be like that!” Starsky pulled him into an embrace. “Sometimes I just can’t help myself.” His mouth turned to Hutch’s ear, hot breath tickling his flesh. “You know you’re the only one for me.”

Hutch reared back. “Cut it out!”

Dobey and Starsky shared a puzzled look.

Flight 705 to Hawaii boarding now at gate 10.

“There’s our flight!” Dobey said gruffly. “Come on! Elmo’s already there.”

Elmo? Hutch thought as he allowed Starsky to drag him through the crowd. They reached the gate in the nick of time, and Starsky showed the attendant their tickets. They hustled down the hall and onto the plane, squeezing by the stewardess who stood in the doorway greeting passengers. As they slowly inched their way down the aisle, Hutch wondered what kind of dream this was where he could see and hear everything so vividly. Because it had to be a dream; what else would explain it? Minutes later, Starsky nudged Hutch to be seated first. “You like the window,” he reminded him. Hutch craned his neck to see his captain several aisles closer to the front of the plane, sitting with another man.

“Who’s that Dobey’s with?” he asked Starsky, who cast him a strange look.

“That’s Elmo. Who’d you think he’d be sitting with? Jeez, Hutch, what’s gotten into you? You look like you’re in a fog or something.”

“Starsky, one minute I’m standing near the woods looking at that thing, and the next I’m in the airport. Can you tell me what’s going on?”

The look on Starsky’s face turned from bewilderment to pure concern. “Are you feeling all right, Babe?”

Hutch broke into a sweat, his nerves strung taut. If he was dreaming, why in the hell couldn’t he wake up? “Starsky,” he said urgently, grabbing onto his friend’s right hand, which seemed very solid and real.  He stared down at it, turning it over. “Where are the scratches?” he asked.

“What scratches?”

“The ones that cat gave you today…where are they?”

Starsky pulled his hand away. “Is this some kind of a joke, Hutch, because it ain’t funny!”

Hutch’s heart sped up, real fear kicking in. Had he gotten drunk and blacked out? What day was this? He clutched his partner’s knee. “Please explain to me what’s happening! What are we doing here? Where are we going?”

Starsky shifted in his seat. “Hutch, calm down. Let me see if I can get you something to drink.” He waved a stewardess over and asked for water. As she hurried off, the seat belt lights came on and a female voice over the intercom began welcoming the passengers. Starsky leaned over and helped Hutch with his seatbelt. “Everything’s going to be fine, Babe. Maybe you just need a little nap. You didn’t sleep well last night.”

“I didn’t?” Hutch asked, putting a weary hand to his head. “Oh, yeah. The meteor showers. I was up all night.”

Starsky frowned. “What meteor showers? You stayed up late packing, then tossed and turned all night.”

The stewardess, her nametag reading ‘Stacy,’ returned with a cup of water. Starsky thanked her and handed the cup to Hutch, who surprised him by splashing it all into his face. He sat blinking water out of his eyes and looking around. Stacy frowned and hurried away.

“Shit, I’m still here,” Hutch gasped, dripping.

Alarmed, Starsky turned in his seat and grasped Hutch’s wet face with both hands. “Hutch, you are scaring me. Cut it out!”

Hutch stared at Starsky’s anxious face, then settled back into his seat as the engines started.

“I’m okay,” Hutch lied. “Really.” He shut his eyes, hoping if he just went to sleep, he’d wake up and everything would be normal again. He’d be in the park with Starsky.  Suddenly, something occurred to him, and his eyes popped open.

“Starsky,” he said hoarsely as the plane started forward.

“Yeah?” his partner watched him anxiously.

“You said Dobey’s sitting with Elmo. Elmo, who?”

“Jackson,” Starsky replied cautiously, blue eyes pinned to Hutch’s face.

Hutch blanched. Holy shit!

“Starsky,” he croaked, grasping his partner’s arm painfully. “Elmo Jackson is dead!”

Starsky stared into Hutch’s eyes, licked his lips, and then looked around the airplane, which was coasting down the runway, gaining speed, until with a sudden bump, they were off the ground. He took Hutch’s hand in his, lacing their fingers together. “Go to sleep, Hutch,” he said hoarsely. “You’ll feel better after a little nap.”

Hutch stared at Starsky for a long moment before releasing the breath he’d been holding. Leaning back, he slowly closed his eyes. He took several deep breaths, hoping he could fall asleep.

And then wake up from this nightmare.

0000000000

Starsky yanked his arm away from the man holding it. “My partner just disappeared in that—that whatever it is!” he yelled.

The meteorologist and another cop who had shown up each took a struggling Starsky by an arm and dragged him over to a nearby bench.

“Just sit down a moment, Detective, and please calm yourself,” the meteorologist demanded.

“Calm myself! I can’t calm down when Hutch is missing!”

“Here he comes, Sarg!” the cop, a young rookie that Starsky vaguely recognized, announced.

Starsky turned, sagging with relief when he spotted Hutch coming out of the woods.

“Hutch! What happened?” he asked, as his partner came to a stop before him, looking dazedly around.

“Huh? I—don’t know,” he said absently.

The rookie and the meteorologist moved off, and Starsky took Hutch by the arm. “You don’t look so good, partner. What happened when you walked through that thing? You disappeared for a minute.”

“Starsk—“ Hutch said, scratching his head. “What are we doing out here in the woods?”

Starsky looked more closely at his friend. “Did you get hurt?” he reached up and felt around Hutch’s head.

“I don’t think so, but we were…we were at the airport…”

“Come on, let’s get you home,” Starsky said, pulling Hutch by the arm. “I’ll tell Dobey we’ve had enough.”

“Dobey? But he’s at the airport waiting for us!”

Starsky frowned. “Hutch, you’re not making any sense.” As they headed for the Torino, Hutch reached over and clasped Starsky’s hand in his, causing the latter to send worried looks his way until he had Hutch safely in the car. When Starsky slid behind the wheel and started the engine, he said, “I’ll take you back to my place.”

Hutch frowned.

“What? You wanna go to yours? I’m not leaving you alone tonight, Blondie; you’re stuck with me. Which is it gonna be? Your place or mine?” Starsky waited.

“Our place,” Hutch answered, puzzled. “I want to go home to our place.”

Starsky frowned. Without saying anything else, he pulled away from the curb and headed toward his apartment. He was worried about Hutch; he was acting weird --not making a bit of sense. Grabbing the mic, he got a patch-through to Dobey and told him they’d guarded the thing in the woods as long as they were going to. Hutch was disoriented, and they were heading home for the night. Dobey didn’t argue.

Once at Starsky’s, Hutch quietly followed him up the steps and into the apartment, looking around him in confusion. “What happened?” Hutch asked. It was the first thing he’d said since he’d told Starsky he wanted to go to their place.

“What do you mean?” Starsky asked, frowning. He tossed his keys onto the hall table and stared at his partner, who was circling the living room, looking from the couch to the chair to the table. He paused and picked up a photo of Starsky’s mother.

“This isn’t our stuff,” he said. “I see some of your things—but none of mine. And none of the things we bought together.”

“Hutch, what are you talking about? This is my apartment, not yours.”

Hutch narrowed his eyes, his face a tableau of puzzlement. “It’s our apartment.” He put the picture back on the table and sat down on the couch. “But where’s our new couch? And where’re our plants?”

Starsky sat down next to him. “Are you playing some kind of a joke on me, ‘cause if you are…”

But one good look at Hutch’s face told Starsky that his partner was not playing a joke. “What’s the last thing you remember, Hutch? Before you came out of the woods and found me on the bench?”

Hutch leaned back on the cushions, rubbing his palms slowly over his thighs. “We were in the airport, with Dobey and Elmo. We were going to the gate—headed for Hawaii because it was Valentine’s Day.”

Hawaii?” Starsky repeated.

“Yes,” Hutch nodded, taking Starsky’s left hand in his and staring at it. “Where’s your ring?” he asked, meeting his eyes.

“What ring?”

Then Hutch looked at his own hand. “Mine’s gone, too!”

“Hutch!” Starsky grasped his partner by the shoulders, truly alarmed by his behavior. “What in the hell are you talking about?”

“Our wedding rings. God, David, we’ve both lost our wedding rings!”

Starsky blinked incredulously. “Hutch, we aren’t married.”

Obviously hurt, Hutch wrenched out of Starsky’s grip and stood up.

“What’s happening here? Why aren’t we at the airport? Where’s my stuff? Why are you saying we aren’t married?” Hutch took a step backward.

The doorbell rang. With a quick glance at Hutch, Starsky moved past him and flung it open.

“I don’t have time---“before he could get another word out, his most recent girlfriend launched herself into his arms. “Dave! I got off early!” She kissed him lingeringly, her mini skirt hiking up another few inches.

“Oh, Josie, honey, I completely forgot—“

A door slammed behind him, and Starsky turned to find that Hutch had left the room.

“Listen—I have a real problem on my hands. Can we put this off?” Starsky unwound the girl’s arms from his neck.

Josie pouted, batting long, dark lashes. “Well, I guess so.”

Starsky took her by the shoulders and turned her around, scooting her outside as quickly as he could and closing the door behind her. He’d just have to find some way to make it up to her later, after he figured out what the hell was wrong with Hutch.

“Hutch?” he opened the bedroom door to find his partner looking through the closet.

“All of my clothes are gone!” Hutch announced, turning to glare at him. “You’ve moved me out, and I guess I know the reason why. Who is she, David?”

“I don’t know what’s happening, Hutch, but you are acting weird and have been ever since…ever since you walked through that…that thing in the park!” Something clicked in Starsky’s mind. “Just hold on a second, Pal.” He turned and went to the phone by the bed.

Dialing, he waited impatiently for Huggy to answer. “Hey, it’s Starsky. I need you to get over to my place right now. It’s important, man. Okay, thanks.” He hung up. Hutch had left the room, and Starsky went looking for him, finding him rummaging through drawers in the living room. “Don’t worry, Hutch, we’re going to get to the bottom of this,” he said with more confidence than he felt as he watched his partner’s odd behavior.

Hutch picked up a framed photo from the table of the two of them taken at least seven years prior. “I don’t remember this photo. Where did you get it?”

“Huggy took it. Don’t you remember? We had a picnic at the beach. Those twins…Molly and Maggie, I think were their names, were with us, but Huggy took that picture of just the two of us together. You have a copy at your place.”

Hutch looked thoroughly confused, and Starsky could see the fear dart through his eyes. He took another step toward his friend and held out his arms. Hutch hesitated, but then sank thankfully into the embrace, pulling Starsky close.

“I’m scared, Starsk. What’s happening?” Starsky could feel him trembling, and pulled him closer, shaking his head against Hutch’s shoulder.

“I don’t know, but we’ll get to the bottom of it. I promise.” After a beat he asked, “Hutch—who is it you think we’re married to, anyway?”

Hutch pulled away, staring at him. “What the hell kind of question is that?”

“Uh, a good one, I thought,” Starsky answered feebly, wincing at the return of Hutch’s anger.

“We’re married to each other, of course, unless you’ve divorced me, and I don’t know about it!”

Starsky’s mouth dropped open. “Each other?”

The hurt on Hutch’s face tripled in intensity. “Is this something you’ve cooked up because you don’t want to be with me anymore? You didn’t want to go on the second honeymoon to Hawaii, so you cancelled it and now you’re using this round-about, crazy way to tell me that you want a divorce? Is that why that woman showed up at our door and threw herself at you?”

Starsky couldn’t help but chuckle. “A second honeymoon? A divorce? God, Hutch, we couldn’t get a divorce, because two men can’t get married!” He put a hand to his head, which was beginning to hurt. Could this day get any weirder?

Hutch retreated to a chair in the corner of the room and crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t want to discuss this anymore,” he said, effectively shutting Starsky out.

Starsky sighed and headed to the bathroom. It was very strange having his partner in the living room acting like a spurned lover. His gut churned. Had Hutch hit his head on something in the woods? Or could the explanation be odder? That’s what he hoped Huggy could help him with. He’d suddenly remembered what he’d told Hutch the strange anomaly in the park was. A portal. If that thing was a portal, Hutch had walked through it. And if that was true, had the Hutch from the Level 3 universe returned in his place? And in this other universe, could it be possible that he and Hutch were a married couple? After using the facilities, he washed his hands and face, staring at himself in the mirror. It seemed too crazy to contemplate. The sound of the doorbell propelled him back into the living room to let Huggy in.

“Man, am I glad to see you. Thanks for getting here so fast!” Yanking Huggy into the living area, he quickly explained the situation.

“Are you funning me, Starsky? What do you mean, Hutch passed through a portal and this isn’t your Hutch?” He glanced at the blond man sitting silently in the corner of the room.

Agitated, Starsky ran his fingers through his hair. “Holy shit, Huggy! This Hutch says we live here together, and we’re married! We were on our way to a second honeymoon when he suddenly found himself in the park!”

Huggy again looked over at Hutch. “Is he pulling my leg, Blondie, because I don’t find this very amusing! I have a hot date tonight.”

Hutch frowned. “I don’t know what he’s babbling about another universe, but it’s obvious Starsky’s tired of this relationship and wants out. He’s already gotten rid of all my things and lined up a date for the evening!” He looked away, his face lined with anger.

Huggy dropped onto the sofa, and Starsky quickly joined him. “Hug, Hutch didn’t believe in this alternate universe stuff. But the moment he walked through that weird, wavy wall in the park, he hasn’t been the same! In fact, he disappeared for several minutes!”

Huggy looked at Starsky’s earnest expression and turned to Hutch, leaning forward. “You know me, don’t ya, Hutch?” he asked.

“Of course I know you! What are you talking about?” he said loudly, turning from where he’d been staring resolutely at the wall. “I’m not crazy!”

“So…what do you know about me?”

“I know you’re about to get a mouth full of my fist, if you don’t quit acting like this!” Hutch yelled, gripping the arms of the chair.

Huggy leaned back, looking at Starsky. “Well, he seems pretty normal to me.”

“Hug!” Starsky objected. “Thing is, if this is true…if that thing Hutch walked through was a portal, and he stayed wherever he ended up,  how do I get him back?”

“I don’t know.” Huggy shrugged. “I guess I could call Aunt Kazula and ask her.”

“Would you please?”

“Sure. It might take a while to get in touch with her.” He stood up. “I’ll call you when I know something.” He waved to Hutch and left hastily. Starsky looked over at his partner, who was studying the wall again.

“Hutch…I know all this seems crazy, but have you ever heard of a portal to another universe?”

Hutch abruptly stood up. “I think I’ll go to a hotel.”

“You don’t have to do that. You have your own apartment. I’ll drive you there if you want, but I’d rather you stay here tonight.”

“So you’ve moved all my stuff out and into an apartment,” Hutch accused, pointing a finger at him. “If you were so damned unhappy, why the hell weren’t you just straight with me?”

Starsky sighed and stood, hands resting lightly on his hips. “Hutch…I don’t know what to tell you. In my world, we’re not a married couple. We’re partners on the police force, and you’re my best friend. My very best friend. And maybe…if men did marry men in this world, we’d be a married couple. But things ain’t that way. Now, why don’t you take the bedroom, and I’ll camp out here on the couch.”

Hutch looked away, hands on hips. After a few tense moments, he strode into the bedroom and shut the door, rattling the walls. Starsky fell back onto the couch, feeling like he was suddenly part of some gay soap opera. He hated seeing the hurt on Hutch’s face; and even more, he hated to have been the cause of it, but he didn’t know what to do or say to this different version of his partner and best friend.

Pulling his shirt over his head, he lay down, scrunching up the throw pillows until he was comfortable. The day’s events had been very strange, and for all his eagerness to believe Huggy’s talk about parallel universes and portals, he hadn’t really ever expected to encounter such phenomena. Now he found himself actually believing that his partner had walked into another universe and left him with his counterpart. Could there really be another plane where sexual preference didn’t matter? And was it really possible that in that universe, he and Hutch had fallen in love and married?

The more he thought about it from a distant perspective, the more he felt it only made sense that in a truly fair universe, no one would care whether one chose to love a man or a woman. And he couldn’t deny the fact that he and Hutch could be attracted to one another in a universe such as that; not only attracted, but deeply in love with one another—for Starsky already loved Hutch more than he loved anyone else in the world. Starsky suddenly remembered how Hutch had reached for and held his hand in the park as they’d walked back to the car. It had been a move Hutch had never made before. Sure, he’d clasped Starsky’s hand in reassurance before, or taken his hand and pulled him. But he’d never actually held his hand for an extended amount of time unless Starsky had been wounded or something. It had been a singularly different sensation—one that Starsky couldn’t say he didn’t like. It was a simple intimacy they’d never shared before.

He tossed and turned for a while before finally getting up and drinking a glass of water at the kitchen sink. Before returning to the couch, he walked quietly to the bedroom door and opened it a crack. In the dim light cast by the moon outside the window, he could make out his partner sitting in the dark, staring out at the street. His heart squeezed at the sight.

Starsky pushed the door all the way open. “Hutch?” he said. When there was no answer, he moved inside the room. “Can’t you sleep?”

Hutch didn’t turn his head. “We agreed never to go to sleep angry,” he said quietly, his words falling like weights on Starsky’s head.

“I’m not mad at you, Buddy,” he told him, taking a seat on the bed beside him. Hutch turned and met his gaze. The sadness in his eyes ripped Starsky in two.

“I haven’t slept without you since we got married,” Hutch stated solemnly. Suddenly, he seemed to lose the tight grip he’d been keeping on himself and fell to his knees in front of his partner. “Tell me why you’re doing this, David…I thought we were so happy! If you really wanted to be with that girl, or that trainer at the gym, all you had to do was tell me—you know that!”

Starsky looked down into Hutch’s sky blue eyes. Never had he had Hutch in this position—on his knees imploring him for something. He’d never been able to deny this man even his most casual wishes; how was he supposed to spurn him now?

“You don’t understand, Hutch, that’s all.” He ran his fingers through the silky, blond hair. “Everything’s going to be all right—you’ll see. For now, let’s lie down together.”

Slowly, Hutch got up off his knees and undressed in the dark. Starsky did likewise, and they each climbed under the covers, the silence of the room enveloping them like a shroud.

0000000000

When Hutch next opened his eyes, he blinked tiredly and looked around him. He felt refreshed, but more than a little confused. He’d been certain he’d been dreaming something crazy, but he found himself still seated in an airplane. When he looked out the small window, it was dark, but he could just make out miles of ocean stretched below. Shouldn’t he be somewhere else, like in Chester Park with Starsky?

His heart sped up as he realized that his partner was no longer in the seat beside him. As long as Starsky was by his side, Hutch felt he could handle this strange turn his life had taken, but finding himself without him, anxiety washed through him like a bucket of ice water.

“Starsky!” he said loudly, and heads turned. “Starsky!” he almost shouted.

A moment later, his partner slipped into the seat beside him, azure eyes fearful. “Hutch, Babe, what is it?”

Hutch visibly relaxed into his seat. “You were gone!”

The corner of Starsky’s mouth twitched. “Well, you didn’t think I’d jumped off the plane, did you?” He looked Hutch over. “You slept almost the entire flight. We’ll be there soon.”

“Starsk, why are we going to Hawaii?” Hutch asked.

Alarm registered once again in Starsky’s eyes.

“I hoped you’d feel better now that you’ve had a nap. Hutch, have you lost your memory or something? When did you start feeling like this? You were fine when we arrived at the airport.” Starsky reached up to feel Hutch’s forehead.

“Just tell me, please, Starsky…” The agitation in Hutch’s voice edged up a notch.

“All right, calm down.” Starsky turned a little more in the seat and began to calmly explain. “We are going to Hawaii for a vacation. We’ve been planning it for months. You and me, and Dobey and Elmo.”

At the mention of Elmo Jackson, Hutch paled. “B-b-but Elmo Jackson is dead, Starsk! He can’t be going on vacation with us!” He leaned toward his partner. “He was impaled on a meat hook!” he whispered solemnly, and Starsky backed up a little at the ghoulish statement.

“Hutch, what the fuck is wrong with you? You are really scaring me!”

Seeing Starsky so upset, Hutch made an effort to pull himself together. “I’m okay…just give me a little time.” He took several deep breaths, swallowed, and stared out the window, the events of the day running through his mind. He’d stayed up all night watching the weird meteor showers, then he and Starsky had gone to work. They’d saved a cat, eaten at Huggy’s, and then they’d gotten that call about a disturbance in the park.

Hutch suddenly remembered the odd wall of undulating air and Starsky’s dare to walk through it. He had walked through it…and immediately found himself in LAX. That’s when this nightmare began.

What had Starsky said he thought the wall of air was? A portal? A portal to a Level 3 parallel universe?

He shook his head, scattering his crazy thoughts. It was preposterous. There had to be another explanation. Perhaps the whole other part of the day had been a dream, and this was the reality. But why didn’t he remember planning a trip to Hawaii, and how the hell could dead Elmo Jackson be on the trip with them? Squeezing the bridge of his nose between his fingers, he leaned his head on the window, continuing to stare out into the darkness.

“Hutch, we’ll get the doctor at the hotel to look you over as soon as we get settled. Maybe you hit your head on something and just don’t remember it.” Starsky’s voice was soothing in his ear.

“Yeah,” Hutch said quietly. “Maybe that’s it.” But his stomach roiled in fear. Starsky took Hutch ‘s hand in his and kissed it, his lips lingering against his skin before he released his grip and settled back in his seat. Hutch slowly turned to look at him, but Starsky had closed his eyes. Hutch looked at his hand, feeling more confused than ever.

It was in the wee hours of the morning when the four men arrived at their hotel on Waikiki Beach, Oahu. Hutch had spent the entire cab ride staring at Elmo Jackson. He’d seen pictures, and this was definitely Dobey’s old partner. Elmo and Dobey both wore shorts and similar flowered shirts. For the first time, Hutch really looked at Dobey and realized that he looked about fifty pounds thinner. Hutch didn’t remember his captain ever being that slim. On closer inspection, Hutch noticed less gray in his captain’s hair and that he seemed more cheerful than usual. He also couldn’t help but see that Dobey and Elmo held hands during the entire cab ride.

“Hutch, they say the marina behind our hotel is the one where they filmed the beginning of ‘Gilligan’s Island,’” Starsky said excitedly as they exited the taxi and stood looking at the hotel. “You know, when the boat leaves on its three hour tour.”

“If our rooms are on that side, I bet we’ll have a good view of it,” Elmo commented, and Hutch couldn’t help but stare, transfixed. Starsky elbowed his partner in the ribs, breaking his concentration.

“You okay, Hutch?” Dobey asked in his familiar, deep voice. “You look terrible.” A porter came and helped them with their bags.

“I’m gonna get the hotel doctor in to see him as soon as possible. I’ll ask at the desk…let me check us in,” Starsky approached the long counter made out of sleek, shiny wood. The lobby was pretty crowded for past midnight, and Hutch’s eyes roamed over the groups of people milling about talking, looking at brochures, and checking into the hotel. He spotted two young women standing very close together. As he watched, one woman leaned in and kissed the other woman on the mouth, deepening the kiss in a manner that shocked Hutch. He glanced around to see if anyone else noticed, but nobody seemed to be paying any attention.

He turned to find Dobey regarding him with concern, arms crossed over his chest. Hutch opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t think of anything to say. This was a man he’d known for years, yet everything was different about him. Not only did he look healthier, but he was more approachable, too. Hutch had never taken a vacation with his captain before—never even considered it. But most astonishing, they were standing there with Dobey’s dead partner, and Hutch didn’t know what to make of that. He rubbed his eyes, feeling his grasp on reality slipping. He’d been trying so hard to hold it together since they disembarked the plane. All around him was a tropical paradise, and all he found himself doing was wishing like hell he wasn’t there. He cast about in his mind for something to say to his superior that would be nice and normal and might help him to figure out what the hell was going on.

He cleared his throat. “Er, so what are Edith and the kids doing while you’re on this trip?” And did they know you’re on it with a man?

Dobey frowned. “Who?”

“Edith…your wife.”

“My wife? Hutchinson, what in God’s name are you talking about?” He put a hand on Hutch’s shoulder.

Starsky approached and handed Dobey a key. “We’re on the same floor,” he said. Dobey pulled him aside and spoke a few words with him before following the porter to the elevators. Hutch paused to watch a colorful parrot squawking on its perch in a large gold cage in the middle of the lobby before turning to join the others. Two small boys ran past, chatting excitedly, almost toppling him.

“Hutch, pay attention to where you’re going!” Starsky admonished. “You’re walking around like something off that zombie movie we watched the other night.” The elevator doors opened, and they stepped in, Hutch leaning heavily against the wall, anxious to feel something solid.

On the twenty-seventh floor, the four men separated, the porter following Dobey and Elmo while Hutch and Starsky found their room. Starsky slid the key into the slot and pushed the door open. The room was spacious with a queen-sized bed and a round table with four chairs, a large bathroom, and balcony.

“Look, Hutch!” Starsky said, standing in front of the sliding glass doors. “It looks over the marina!”

Hutch came closer, dropping his suitcase to the floor. The marina was lit up, and boats rocked gently by the docks. He turned and surveyed the room again. “Starsk, there’s only one bed. Didn’t you ask for a double?”

Starsky turned and frowned at him. “Why the hell would I do that? You suddenly don’t want to sleep with me?” He took two steps forward and placed his hands on Hutch’s shoulders. “Babe, are you still angry about John?”

“Who the hell is John?” Hutch demanded, sitting down on the bed and toppling the chocolate-covered macadamias the maid had placed on the pillows.

“My trainer at the gym. You accused me of flirting with him, remember?”

“No, I don’t remember! Why in the hell would I accuse you of flirting with a guy?” Hutch asked, exasperated. “And what’s wrong with everyone? We’re on vacation with Dobey and a dead guy! Don’t you understand how weird that is?”

Starsky sat down beside him, his fingers digging painfully into Hutch’s shoulders. “Why do you keep sayin’ that?” He gave Hutch a hard shake and then took a deep breath, letting him go. “The hotel doctor should be here any minute. Maybe he can get to the bottom of this.”

“Fine! Maybe he can get me out of the twilight zone!” Hutch kicked off his shoes and lay down, covering his eyes with his arms. He could hear Starsky taking off his shoes, then feel him scoot over until he was lying next to him. A gentle kiss brushed his temple.

“Everything’s going to be fine. The doctor will be here in a minute.” Fingers ran through his hair, lulling him to sleep. Hutch sighed, enjoying the sensation. He was so damned tired, even after the long nap on the plane. But when lips brushed against his, Hutch’s eyes flew open. Before he could react, there was a knock at the door, and Starsky scooted off the bed to answer it.

Hutch stared, wide-eyed, while Starsky guided the doctor inside. Slowly, he brought his fingers to his lips and pressed them there.

“Hello, I’m Doctor Barnett.” The hotel physician was sixtyish, bald, and dressed in a tropical shirt and khaki slacks. In his hand was a dark leather satchel. Starsky led him inside the room.

“Thanks for coming so quickly, Doc. I’m really worried about him. Oh, sorry—,” He offered his hand to shake. “I’m David Starsky, and this is my husband, Kenneth Hutchinson.” He gestured to Hutch where he lay prone and suddenly immobilized with shock.

Hutch thought he had to be hearing things. He poked his fingers into his ears and swished them around. Had Starsky just called him his husband? Bringing his left hand down in front of his face, he was surprised to find a gold band on the ring finger. He lay staring at it, mesmerized. He hadn’t noticed it on the plane, but he’d worn one for years when married to Van, so it might not have felt odd to him. He was still staring at it when he felt the bed dip beside him, and he looked up to find the doctor’s kind eyes regarding him intently.

“Hello, Mr. Hutchinson. I’m Dr. Barnett. Your husband tells me you haven’t been acting like yourself.”

Hutch’s eyes widened, darting from the doctor to Starsky, who was standing off to the side of the bed biting his thumb nail, and back to the doctor again.

“Do you mind if I examine you a moment?” the doctor asked him.

Hutch gave his head a small shake, and the doctor smiled, bending to open his medical bag, which he’d set on the floor. He shone a light in Hutch’s eyes, took his vitals, felt about on his head, and asked him a few questions, such as the date, the name of the President of the United States, his age, and his address. Only Hutch’s final answer was wrong.

“That’s where he lived two years ago, before we got married,” Starsky told the doctor. He swallowed audibly. “He keeps saying our friend Elmo, who came on the trip with us along with his husband, is dead. And he seems disoriented—like he doesn’t know how he got here.”

“When did this come about?” Dr. Barnett asked.

“At the airport,” Starsky said. “He was just fine, and then he wasn’t. What’s wrong with him, Doc?”

The doctor sighed. “He seems to be physically fit…perhaps it’s just exhaustion. Have you been working hard lately, Mr. Hutchinson? Sleeping well enough?”

Hutch gaped at him, unable to form words. This is all too weird! I have got to get out of here. His leg twitched, but he didn’t move to get up.

“We’ve been working on a big case,” Starsky answered for him. “Long hours, and he didn’t sleep very well last night. He did nap on the plane, though.”

The doctor looked through his bag. “I’ll give him something to help him sleep tonight. Call me tomorrow if he doesn’t seem better.” He prepared an injection. Hutch didn’t object; more than anything, he wanted to sink into oblivion. He closed his eyes, and a moment later he felt the cold swab of alcohol and then a pinch on his arm. He heard the doctor leaving and could feel himself relaxing into the mattress. The bed dipped and Starsky was suddenly beside him. He didn’t object when his partner pulled him close so that his head lay on his chest. It felt really good to be held that way, and Hutch began to sink into a drug-induced slumber, the dark hair on Starsky’s chest soft under his cheek. As Starsky’s loving fingers carded through his hair, Hutch brought his arm up to wrap around Starsky’s bare waist, his head rising and falling with his partner’s breathing. He’d worry about everything in the morning; right now all he wanted to do was sleep.

Hutch awoke to gentle kisses on his neck and shoulder. Through his fogginess, pleasure registered in his loins, and he felt himself growing hard.

“I’ve been really worried about you, Blintz,” his partner’s voice whispered, his breath tickling his ear. Hutch managed a grunt. A hand traveled over his chest, smoothing his skin with gentle fingers. “Love you so much…you really had me scared. Are you feeling any better?”

Hutch was sorry to have been the source of anxiety for Starsky, and nodded his head, enjoying the touch of his partner’s hands on his skin.

He jolted, coming more fully awake as Starsky petted and stroked him in a manner he never had before.

Starsky turned Hutch’s head toward him and Hutch looked into two very blue eyes surrounded by dark, lush lashes. Slowly his partner lowered his head until his lips were pressing on his, moving slowly, mesmerizingly, his teeth nipping at Hutch’s bottom lip in a way that sent a bolt of lightning streaking straight to his cock.

“S-Starsky…” Hutch said between kisses. “What’re you doing?”

Starsky rose off the bed and covered Hutch’s body with his own. “You gotta ask?” he murmured, and then his tongue was inside Hutch’s mouth, hot, wet, and demanding. All of Hutch’s senses shifted to overdrive: he tasted Starsky’s mouth; he heard his own heart pounding in his ears; he felt hands in his hair and a hard groin pressing up against his burgeoning hard-on.

Confused and more than a little scared, Hutch put his hands against Starsky’s chest, pushing him away, and scrambled out from under him. Standing by the bed panting hard with emotion and, astonishingly, pent-up desire, he looked down at his stunned partner.

“I-I’m sorry. I can’t—I-I…” Hutch put his hands in his hair and pulled, “I don’t know anything anymore!”

Seeing the anguish on Hutch’s face, Starsky rose to his knees on the bed. “Hey, it’s okay, Hutch. Everything’s fine. Come on and lie down. I promise I won’t touch you.” He moved to the other side of the bed and stretched out.

Slowly, Hutch lowered himself onto the mattress and rigidly lay staring at the ceiling. The first rays of morning light poured through the glass doors, casting ever-widening beams onto the sheets. Starsky rose and pulled the heavy draperies shut. “Maybe I’ll head down to the lobby and get a newspaper,” he said quietly, moving toward the chair where he’d left his pants.

“Starsk?”  Hutch said hesitantly.

“Yeah?” Starsky kept his back to him, and Hutch could see the dejected slump of his shoulders.

“Don’t leave.” Hutch’s voice was soft in the quiet room. Starsky turned toward him, but Hutch couldn’t see his face clearly. “Please, come here.”

Starsky sighed, dropping his pants on the chair. Slowly he approached the bed and sat down. Hutch rolled onto his side, his head propped on pillows. “I’m scared,” he admitted. “No, I’m…I’m terrified, Starsky.”

Starsky reached out and took Hutch’s hand. “I’m pretty scared myself, Buddy.”

Hutch swallowed thickly. He didn’t want Starsky to leave him alone. He was the only person who made him feel even a modicum of security in this strange place he’d found himself in. He squeezed his hand. “Will you just…please hold me, Starsk?” he asked in a pained voice, and his partner immediately moved closer, pulling Hutch to him, squeezing him with an intensity that brought home to Hutch just how much his partner was hurting. Hutch clung to him, thoughts of the earlier kiss going through his mind. He hated that he’d made Starsky feel rejected, but what was he supposed to do? He didn’t know anything about intimacy with another man. Scratch that—he and Starsky had always been intimate with one another, but they’d never been sexual. Evidently, where Hutch had found himself, men could be openly intimate with other men, and evidently women could be with women, too, if the kiss he’d witnessed in the lobby had been any indication. There didn’t seem to be any sexual taboo between the sexes. He didn’t know how he felt about that, and he didn’t know what other differences he would encounter. He also couldn’t believe he was even entertaining the idea of having walked into a parallel universe, but how else was he supposed to explain what was happening to him?

“Starsky, do you believe in other universes?” Hutch asked, his mouth moving against his partner’s bare chest. This intimate closeness between them was so pleasant, he found himself unconsciously dragging his fingers over the muscled planes of Starsky’s stomach.

Starsky spoke tenderly into Hutch’s hair, “I guess so, why?”

“Do you believe that there are many versions of you and me out there in the universe, playing out our lives in different ways?”

Starsky’s hand came up and brushed the hair from Hutch’s face. “I’ve never really thought about it, but I guess it’s possible.”

“Yesterday I thought it was a load of crap. Today I’m not so sure.” He turned his head and placed a kiss in the middle of Starsky’s chest, surprising himself. “I’m confused, Starsk. I know you don’t understand what’s happening with me, but I want you to know this: no matter what universe I’m in, I love you. That’s never going to change.”

Hutch could feel Starsky’s unease. He was only scaring him more by talking about different universes, he knew. An ache filled him, making him want to reassure and comfort.  Leaning his head back, he looked into his partner’s handsome face. Starsky had the intense look he got when his emotions were very close to the surface. Reaching up, Hutch cupped Starsky’s cheek with his hand and pulled his face toward him. Their lips met, soft and supple, moving over one another in a sensuous dance that set Hutch’s nerve endings on red alert. This is right. This is what it’s all about, he thought as Starsky’s hand smoothed over his bare back, gently stroking. Hutch felt as though he could stay like this forever, locked in his partner’s embrace and sharing this kiss with him.

After a time, they settled back on the pillows and fell asleep.

000000000000000

Starsky lay in the darkness of his bedroom listening to Hutch breathing beside him. He was certain he wasn’t asleep.

“I know this doesn’t make much sense to you,” he said quietly, “but you’ve got to believe that something has happened—something weird—and you’ve found yourself in a reality that isn’t what you’re used to.” Starsky flinched; the words sounded crazy even to his ears. Hutch turned his back to him.  Starsky knew that all Hutch felt was rejection. He moved closer to his friend and put a hand on his shoulder.

Slowly, Hutch turned around, and Starsky’s breath caught at the pain on his face.

“Oh, Pal. You gotta know that I love you.” On impulse, he leaned in and kissed Hutch on the lips—lips that he’d seen a million times in a million different expressions, but never before as the soft, sensuous devices of seduction that he suddenly felt moving against his own. He immediately became lost in the feeling, his mind clouding over as the world seemed to click together like a lock turned into place.

“Mmmm…” he couldn’t help but moan as he touched Hutch’s full bottom lip with the tip of his tongue. Hutch gently nibbled on Starsky’s upper lip, making guttural noises in his throat that shot straight to Starsky’s groin. Hutch scooted closer to him, fitting his body into his, his arms wrapping around him and pulling him in possessively. Starsky had never felt so owned by someone before. He belonged to Hutch.

Hutch’s hands moved down his back to the elastic of his briefs, tugging them down. Starsky had turned to pure mush the moment his lips had touched his partner’s; he couldn’t have stopped Hutch from doing what he was doing if he wanted to, and he didn’t want to. He kicked his underpants off his feet, gasping as Hutch molded his naked body to his. Hutch’s mouth was still moving achingly soft over his, his tongue swiping inside and wreaking havoc with his senses. Starsky’s mind floated away on a cloud of serenity, drifting off to sea as sensations lapped over him in hot waves: hands stroking his back and shoulders, occasionally tugging at the hair at the nape of his neck;  lips against his, soft and damp, dancing erotically along his mouth; a wet, agile tongue sliding and flicking teasingly; a hard, velvety phallus gliding against his engorged shaft, rough pubic hair tickling his hip and inner thigh; long legs entangling with his, and a smooth foot brushing sensuously against his calf.

Starsky groaned, lost in a sensual maelstrom. Hutch’s wicked mouth left his and moved down to nibble at Starsky’s neck, and he gasped for air as knowing hands simultaneously dipped and grasped the cheeks of his ass, massaging hypnotically.

Panting, Starsky was shocked at the raw desire he felt for his partner. Each incendiary touch elicited a new sound from his throat, and still he wanted more. “Hutch…” he groaned as the stimulating mouth moved to his left nipple, sucking and teasing it with his teeth and tongue. He didn’t know what he was asking for, only that he had to have more of this man. Entangling his hands in silky blond hair, he caressed Hutch’s long neck with his fingers. It seemed to Starsky that he could feel every nerve ending inside him yearning toward the lover in his bed. Hutch was utterly in control of his body now; he could do whatever he wished, and Starsky wouldn’t stop him. Somewhere it registered that the thought should frighten him, but it didn’t.

A fiery hot tongue lapped at his ribs, one by one, zigzagging its way down his side until it moved over his abs and delved into Starsky’s navel, rolling and twirling until Starsky became lightheaded from the erratic pace of his breathing. Awash with anticipation, Starsky waited for what he knew was coming, and when the humid cavern descended over him, he arched high off the bed, crying out with primal pleasure.

Hutch teased him mercilessly with his tongue, circling like a clever snake before beginning a slow, provocative sucking that gradually increased until Starsky was writhing beneath him and clutching at the sheets, his eyes rolling back in his head.

As nimble fingers fondled his nuts, Starsky looked down, unbelievably turned on by the sight of his partner nestled between his legs, sucking so lovingly on the most sensitive and private part of him. When Hutch took his sac in his mouth, Starsky came up off the bed, ejaculating violently onto his stomach, chest heaving and body tingling with untold pleasure. He watched, mesmerized, as Hutch licked his lips before planting a gentle kiss on the inside of Starsky’s thigh. “I love you,” he heard the faint whisper, and his heart soared within the walls of his chest.

The intensity of emotion and physical pleasure left Starsky feeling limp and weightless. He wanted to return the favor…to show Hutch how much he loved him. “Hutch…?”

Hutch crawled up the bed and lay beside him, his eyes guarded. Starsky brought his own palm up to his mouth and licked it, then reached down to grasp Hutch’s hardness. He stroked and pumped, doing all the things he liked done to himself—twisting his hand and palming the head--all the while watching his partner’s face. Hutch’s eyes fluttered, his mouth dropping open as the first sensations coursed through him. His head fell back, and he took a breath. It occurred to Starsky that his partner was beautiful, something he’d never really considered before. Sure, he knew women loved Hutch for his tall, Nordic good looks; white-blond hair; sky blue eyes; and soft, melodic voice. But physically beautiful to him? It had just never registered before. And for the first time, he really wondered why it was wrong to love another man like this. Who made up that stupid rule? Because nothing had ever felt so right in Starsky’s life.

Fascinated, he dipped his head, taking a bronze nipple between his teeth and tugging on it, causing Hutch to arch his back and moan softly. Emboldened, Starsky moved two fingers into a V and slid them down on each side of Hutch’s sac, rubbing enticingly before bringing his hand back up and rapidly stroking the needy shaft. Bringing his other hand down, he used it to fondle the delicate pouch containing Hutch’s testicles while he expertly continued to bring him off. Sweating and moaning with an abandon that both surprised Starsky and turned him on, Hutch cried out, shuddered, and reached his climax. So beautiful. Why didn’t I ever notice it before?

000000000000000

The sun was high in the sky and coming through the cracks of the curtains when an abrupt pounding on the door awoke the two sleeping men.

“Hutchinson! Starsky! Are you going to sleep all day?” The voice of their captain was unmistakable.

Hutch blinked his eyes, surprised for a moment to find himself entangled with his partner in bed. Earlier events came rushing back to him, and he sat up.

Starsky growled and rolled off the mattress, staggering to the door and flinging it open. Dobey and Elmo stood in shorts and identical red shirts with the words Waikiki is for Lovers emblazoned in white across them, carrying two drinks with paper umbrellas. Elmo leaned against the door and smiled widely. “Rise and shine, sleepy heads! You don’t want to sleep your entire time in Hawaii, do you?”

Dobey took a sip of his drink. “We’ve already taken a morning swim and had breakfast.”

“Yeah? Well we didn’t sleep very well last night,” Starsky grumbled.

Hutch sat clutching the covers to his chest like a new bride, uncomfortable with the thought of Dobey and Elmo knowing that he and Starsky had been in bed together, although neither man seemed to be paying any attention to him.

“Well hurry it up, if you want to go down to the beach with us,” Elmo told them. Hutch still couldn’t fathom that the man he’d known as dead was standing in front of him, talking and laughing, not to mention married to his captain.

“Why don’t you two go ahead?” Starsky suggested. “Hutch and me would like to have a leisurely breakfast.”

“Okay, if you’re sure!” Dobey shrugged. “We’ll meet up with you later.”  The two men left, arms around each other’s waists.

Starsky closed the door. “I think I’ll take a shower. You wanna go downstairs to eat or order room service?”

“Let’s go downstairs,” Hutch suggested. He climbed out of bed and stretched while Starsky stepped out of his briefs and headed for the bathroom. Things remained a little strained between them; Hutch could feel it. He knew he was going to have to convince his partner that he was now living with a different Hutch if he ever hoped to find another portal and get back home. He wished he’d paid more attention to Huggy’s crazy talk the day before. How long was it that Huggy’s aunt had said the portals would be open?

Leaning against the wall, he twirled the gold band around his ring finger. How weird was it to be married again? And to Starsky of all people? It certainly had felt good sleeping in his arms the night before, and kissing him. A ripple of anxiety ran up his spine. I’m not gay.

His thoughts were interrupted when a dripping Starsky exited the bathroom, toweling off his curly hair. Hutch found his eyes drawn to the swinging genitals between his partner’s legs, and quickly jerked his gaze away, heading for the shower himself.

When they entered the lobby fifteen minutes later, the dining room had thinned out from the breakfast crowd. A buffet lined the walls on one side of the room, and after putting in a drink order, Hutch and Starsky picked up plates and began loading them with food.

Starsky seemed distant throughout the meal, and Hutch found himself watching other people in the room. There was a wide variety of both heterosexual and homosexual couples, some with families and some without. He couldn’t tear his gaze away from men kissing other men and women holding one another’s hands openly, without a second look from anyone around them. Another thing he noticed was that people in general seemed to have darker skin. At first he’d just thought that everyone had a tan, but now he realized that there were a lot of mixed couples in the hotel. Hutch glanced at his partner, sitting so quietly, chewing his food. On impulse, Hutch leaned over and pulled him closer, kissing him soundly on the mouth, tasting scrambled eggs and bacon.

Starsky smiled when they parted. “What was that for?” he asked.

“That was because I wanted to and because I could,” Hutch answered, drinking his coffee. When he put the cup down, he looked levelly at his partner. “Starsk, we’ve got to talk. I know it sounds crazy, but I swear to you something really weird happened to me yesterday.” When he saw that Starsky was listening to him curiously and without the fear in his eyes of the night before, he licked his lips and continued. “I-I don’t belong here.” When Starsky started to protest, he held his hand up. “Wait, just listen. There was all this crazy stuff happening in the sky night before last. The planet Venus was out of alignment, and the stars were shooting all over the place. Everybody was talking about it—well, except for you, because you’d been in bed with a girlfriend all night. We were on patrol when we got a call about this weird phenomenon in the park…it was like a dense wall of air or something. You dared me to walk through it, and the next thing I knew, I was in LAX and, well, you know the rest.” He sat back and regarded his partner.

Starsky didn’t say anything, just chewed his food thoughtfully. “You’re saying—what, exactly? That you aren’t you? You aren’t married to me? That you don’t remember what we have together?” His voice was laced with hurt.

“Starsky,” Hutch said softly, reaching for his hand and squeezing it, “where I come from, men don’t marry other men, and women don’t marry other women. It’s considered, well, taboo. You and I are the very best of friends and partners on the police force, but we are not in a romantic relationship. Th-that’s why I got so freaked out last night. And Elmo Jackson was Dobey’s partner on the police force, but he was killed years ago. And Dobey’s married to a woman named Edith and has two kids!” He watched Starsky’s face, trying to discern what was going through his mind. He could tell his partner was wary, but he seemed open to considering what he’d said.

“You say we aren’t that way… but you kissed me last night,” Starsky finally said, his blue eyes intent on his. “Quite a bit, as I recall.”

Hutch pressed his lips together, a blush creeping into his cheeks. “I know. I-I wanted to. We don’t have that freedom where I’m from.”

“Do you know how crazy this sounds?” Starsky asked, and Hutch nodded.

After a few moments, Starsky put his fork down.

“In the…universe…you’re from,” he glanced at Hutch and then away again, “would you like to have the freedom to be with a man?”

Hutch looked away. “No…I don’t know. To tell you the truth, I’ve never thought about you and me like that before. Things were just the way they were. We’ve always been close, Starsk. We’ve always loved each other. I’m closer to you than anyone else I know, but a physical relationship isn’t possible. We already get enough flak from people about the way we touch now. We are much more demonstrative with each other than most men.”

Starsky leaned forward. He didn’t look like he was about to have Hutch committed, but Hutch didn’t think this story was so easy to swallow. He was therefore surprised when Starsky questioned, “What would happen if you did have a physical relationship with each other? Would you be arrested? Killed?”

“Actually, up until last year, it was illegal in California. Sodomy, that is. And homosexuality used to be considered a mental disorder.”

Starsky wrinkled his brow. “Why? That doesn’t make any sense! How could loving someone make you crazy? Or be against the law?” He wiped his mouth with the cloth napkin from his lap.

Hutch shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s always been something ingrained in society…that it’s bad. But people are starting to speak and act against that now. Still, if you are a homosexual, you’re pretty much ostracized by society.” He looked around the room. “Not only that, but you wouldn’t often see this many interracial couples. There seem to be a lot of blacks and whites here with mixed children.”

“Why don’t you have that?” Starsky appeared genuinely perplexed.

“Because there’s prejudice against that, too. People with different skin colors are supposed to keep their race pure, or so many people think.”

“What? That’s nuts!”

Hutch nodded. “I agree, but that’s the way it is.” He took a bite of buttered croissant. “Are people here attracted to both sexes? Or is it one or the other?”

“One or the other, usually,” Starsky answered. “I’ve date both girls and guys, though.” He frowned. “Part of me thinks you’re just punishing me for flirting with my trainer, but another part of me knows you wouldn’t take it this far.”

Hutch shook his head. “I’m not, Starsk. I swear it.” He drank his orange juice and set the glass down. “So are you cheating on me with this guy or something?”

“God, no. I’ve always been a flirt, and the other day you caught me at it, and we fought for hours. You accused me of not wanting to go on this trip…all kinds of things. I’m not sure why you’ve been so touchy.”

Hutch thought about that. “Shit, men can’t get pregnant in this universe, can they?”

Starsky laughed. “No.”

Relieved, Hutch leaned back and sipped his coffee.

Starsky suddenly thought of something, and jerked in his chair, startling Hutch. “If what you’re saying is true, and you crossed into this universe, what happened to my Hutch?”

“I don’t know for sure,” Hutch admitted, “but I assume he simultaneously crossed into my universe. Which would mean that right now he’s with my Starsky.”

Starsky’s mouth quirked.

“What?”

“Well, I was just thinking about how amorous my Hutch can get,” Starsky said, smiling. “And what your Starsky’s reaction to that might be.”

Hutch swallowed and sat back in his chair. “Let’s just hope your Hutch doesn’t come back black and blue. And that he doesn’t decide to kiss Starsky in front of the entire precinct! I could go back and be out of a job.”

Suddenly, Starsky frowned. “Look, this whole thing sounds nuts to me, but you definitely aren’t the man I’ve known up until now, which means either you’ve gone crazy, or you aren’t my Hutch. So, assuming this is all true, how’re you gonna switch back?”

Hutch took a deep breath. “I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe I have to be at LAX—a portal must exist there.”

Starsky put his elbow on the table and leaned his face into his hand, slowly tapping his pinkie finger on his cheek. “Are you sure? I mean, wouldn’t it be too much of a coincidence to think that my Hutch just happened to be standing by a portal when you went through?”

“Yeah,” Hutch said slowly. “Plus, the portal I went through was very visible, but I didn’t see anything like it at the airport.”

“Seems to me, if my Hutch were to walk back through where you came in and he came out, you’d be in your correct places again, no matter where you were at the time.” Starsky leaned back and took a sip of his coffee.

Hutch frowned. “I guess so. Who’s to say he’ll try it, though? I’m sure he’s over there really confused as to why Starsky doesn’t know they’re married and why they aren’t on their romantic Valentine’s trip.” He sighed. “Starsky was the one who believed in this stuff to begin with, so I guess I’ll just hope he’ll figure it out.”

Starsky regarded him over the rim of his coffee cup. “If your Starsky is as smart as I am, he will,” he assured him with a cocky grin.

00000000000

Starsky watched Hutch as they entered the precinct the following morning. It hadn’t been easy convincing him that he’d been sent through a portal into another universe, but Starsky thought Hutch was slowly accepting the idea. It had helped that on the ride to work, they’d spotted some punks beating up on a black kid and stopped to break it up. Hutch had been both disturbed and amazed at the hatred that had spurned the attack. Unbelievably, Hutch had never run into racial bigotry before. Now, he seemed to be lost in his own thoughts.

“Well, well, if it isn’t the lovebirds,” Betts taunted as he passed them in the hall.

“Jealous?” Hutch questioned, and Starsky smiled. He wasn’t sure if Hutch was playing the role he was supposed to be playing, or if he’d forgotten. It didn’t matter; Betts just rolled his eyes and kept on walking. Starsky grabbed Hutch by the arm, stopping him before he entered the squad room. “Remember what I told you—men don’t marry other men in this universe. And you can’t be kissing on me or anything like that.”

“I’ll try to restrain myself,” Hutch replied, his sarcasm tempered by a small smile that sent heat through Starsky like a branding iron to his crotch. Before they were all the way inside the squad room, Dobey bellowed for them to come into his office.

Dobey stood in front of his desk. “I trust you’re feeling better this morning, Hutchinson?” he inquired gruffly.

“Yes, sir.” Hutch’s eyes widened as he looked Dobey over. “Good grief, Cap, you look like you’ve gained fifty pounds!”

Dobey’s face darkened dangerously, and Starsky gave Hutch’s ankle a kick. “He’s kiddin’, Cap—you look great! Have another donut.” He indicated the box on Dobey’s desk.

“You hate donuts, Cap!” Hutch protested before Starsky could shut him up.

“Very funny, Hutchinson! You two get in there and clear those cases off your desks!” Dobey roared, and the two detectives hastily retreated.

“Sheesh, what’s wrong with you, tellin’ Dobey he’s fat?” Starsky complained, seating himself in his chair.

“It was just a shock seeing him like that,” Hutch said in a low voice. “Elmo always keeps him so trim, what with the health food and workouts at the gym. Man, if I didn’t believe you before, I’m starting to now.”

“Elmo?” Starsky inquired.

“His husband,” Hutch replied, meeting his eyes. “Oh…I guess he wouldn’t have one of those here.”

“He’s married to a woman named Edith,” Starsky said. “She’s a fabulous cook. He used to have a partner, though. Elmo Jackson.”

“That’s him,” Hutch nodded.

“He was killed in the line of duty,” Starsky told him, picking a folder up off his desk and opening it. The thought of Dobey married to a man boggled his mind. “Do all men marry men where you’re from?”

Hutch shook his head like he thought the question silly. “We marry whomever we want, of course.”

“Of course,” Starsky muttered. “Look, we need to get onto this case first.” He slid the folder over to Hutch, who opened it and began reading.

“I hope we’ll have time for lunch at Huggy’s. I need to see what he’s found out,” Starsky replied, tapping his fingers on the desk.

“We solved this case last week,” Hutch said, pushing the folder back at him. “It was Jonas Sanders.”

“The accountant? But how—“

“He had inside help. He has a cabin outside of town under a different name--the evidence is hidden under a floorboard.” Hutch began to explain, and Starsky grabbed a pen and started scribbling down details, before setting about getting someone to check them out.

“Shit,” he said later as they stood outside the precinct. “Maybe we should check and see how many more cases you’ve already solved where you’re from.” It had been a long morning, but they’d wrapped it up. Starsky wiped sweat from his brow. “Ready to head to Huggy’s for lunch?”

A pretty girl wearing an indecently short skirt walked past them, and Starsky’s eyes followed her appreciatively. Hutch’s eyebrow arched at him, but he didn’t say anything.

“Surely you still like women,” Starsky said. “You’ve bedded enough of them in this universe.”

Hutch shrugged. “I made my choice,” he said, giving Starsky a brazen look that tripled his heartbeat. “What I get at home isn’t likely to give me the inclination to cheat, much less the energy. Although your eyes do their share of wandering.”

“Do I cheat on you?” Starsky asked, surprised.  “With that guy at the gym you were talking about?”

Hutch sighed. “No. That was my insecurity talking. But sometimes you hurt my feelings. You don’t mean to; you’re just being your oblivious self.” He turned towards the Torino. “Too bad you don’t have better taste in cars in this universe. Let’s go.”

They climbed in, and Starsky headed for The Pits.

“Got anything for us, Hug?” Starsky asked when they’d seated themselves in the dark, cool interior of the bar and their friend had served them drinks.

“I’m waiting for a call from my aunt,” Huggy answered. “She’s been unavailable all morning. Seems she’s quite popular this week, what with all that’s been going on.” He regarded Hutch with interest. “So you’re sure this ain’t the Hutch we know and love?” he asked.

Hutch gave Starsky a knowing smile.

“We’re sure,” Starsky answered a bit hoarsely, vividly recalling the feel of Hutch’s mouth on him, and concentrated on his drink. When their food came, Huggy meandered their way again.

“So in this alternate universe that you come from,” he said, taking a seat beside Hutch, “what am I doing?”

Hutch looked at him over his sandwich. “Pretty much the same thing,” he answered. “You dress better, though.”

Starsky snickered into his drink, and Huggy glared at him.

“I own this place?” Huggy asked, and Hutch nodded. “Do I have a mate?”

“Not a regular one,” Hutch replied.

“Well, do I go for girls or guys?”

“Yes,” Hutch nodded, wiping his fingers with a napkin.

“Which one?” Huggy asked, a little exasperatedly.

Hutch looked up. “Both.”

Huggy digested that. Getting up from the table, he told Starsky, “I’ll give you a buzz when Aunt Kazula calls me back.” He sauntered away.

“Poor Hug,” Starsky smiled around his bite of chili. “Unlucky in love all over the cosmos.”

He felt Hutch’s hand slide onto his leg. “My partner and I would be taking our lunch break at home,” he told him with a wink, and Starsky dribbled chili all over his lap.

“Cut it out, Hutch,” he swiped at the stain. “How in the hell can you two work effectively if all you’re thinking about is sex?”

“Oh, you mean you don’t think about sex?” Hutch inquired a little hotly. “Maybe not with each other, but certainly with every pretty girl who walks by. It’s the same thing; Starsky and I have a well-tuned partnership, and we know when to turn off our romantic relationship.” He finished his water and regarded Starsky. “Frankly, I think you should take another look at how you feel about your partner.”

It seemed incredibly weird to be talking about Hutch with Hutch, but Starsky was beginning to get used to it. Although this was, in many ways, the same man, it was also obviously not. The Hutch who sat before him had been raised in a different world, and it showed in the way he regarded everyone and everything. Starsky felt sure that once he had his old Hutch again, accustomed to living in the narrow-minded world, these odd feelings of physical and romantic longing would disappear.

“Don’t worry about us,” Starsky told him. “We’re completely comfortable in the relationship we’ve got.”

“Good for you,” Hutch replied. “As for me, I can’t wait to get back to my Starsky. We’ll have a lot of catching up to do.”

Starsky’s face warmed at the thought, but he quickly pushed it out of his mind. As they left the bar, he called to Huggy to be sure to let him know as soon as he heard anything.

00000000000

Hutch felt considerably better having Starsky on his side. He tended to agree with him that it was probably up to their counterparts to work it out that the other Hutch needed to cross through the portal again, but it was difficult to just sit back and wait. It was also weird and kind of anxiety-inducing wondering if any minute he’d suddenly find himself in Bay City. He couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss he and Starsky had shared the night before and the physical intimacy of sleeping in one another’s arms. Hutch had to admit he’d liked it. A lot. It had certainly felt more substantial and intimate than waking up in any woman’s arms had over the years, even Vanessa’s. Especially Vanessa’s.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked Starsky as they sat on the beach under an umbrella. All around them was the sound of waves lapping at the shore, gulls calling, and the happy voices of vacationers. Out in the water they could see Elmo and Dobey beyond the wave break, locked in a romantic clinch. Hutch shook his head. Watching his captain kissing another man was weird in the extreme, but he realized that the more he saw them and other couples like them, the less shocking it was. He could well imagine it becoming the norm, and that made him think the word homophobia was apt—people were simply scared of the idea of something that they weren’t used to. Glancing at Starsky again, he reached out and took his hand in his. When Starsky looked his way, he said, “It feels really good to be able to touch you in public. Do you mind?”

Starsky smiled softly. “No. I miss touching you so bad right now, I can’t stand it.”

Heat suffused Hutch’s loins, and he felt his mouth go dry. “If you want to…you know, touch me. You can.” He looked up at the man suddenly leaning over him. The sun shone behind Starsky, so Hutch couldn’t see his face clearly, but he reached up and urged his head down with his hand. Their lips met, and goose bumps erupted all over Hutch’s body. He opened his mouth, accepting Starsky’s warm, wet tongue, allowing himself to enjoy his partner’s sun-warmed body pressed against his, his coarse chest hair tickling his skin, and his strong thighs pressing him down. Voices droned on in conversation all around them, but no one paid them a bit of attention; they were free to be in love and express that love. When they parted enough for him to speak, Hutch whispered, “It can’t ever be this way for us where I’m from.” His eyes conveyed his sadness as he brushed a hand across Starsky’s cheek. “Is it…good between us?”

Starsky smiled. “The best. Just like everything else between us, Babe.”

“I want to know what that’s like,” Hutch said suddenly.

Starsky cocked his head. “What do you mean, exactly?”

Hutch leaned up on his elbow. “I want to know what being married to you is like, Starsk. I’ll never have that when I go back.” Suddenly, Hutch found himself just wanting more time.

“Can’t you have some kind of a romantic relationship with me there?” Starsky wanted to know. “Aren’t men ever together, even if other people don’t approve?”

“Sure, but they have to hide it.  We call it being ‘in the closet’. Plus, it’d be even worse because we’re cops. We’d be fired if anyone found out.”

“Weird,” Starsky shook his head. “I just don’t see what one has to do with the other.”

Hutch reached out and took his hand. “Hey, you don’t feel like you’re cheating on me…being with me in bed, do you?” He frowned at the paradox.

Starsky grinned. “That would be a little silly, don’t you think? It’s like me wondering what Hutch is off doing with…me.”

Hutch smiled back. “I kind of doubt he’s doing anything with my Starsky. It would take a lot of convincing.”

Starsky smiled. “Maybe less than you think. So tell me what you want to do to experience our marriage before you’re suddenly popped back into your universe,” Starsky suggested.

“Whatever we would normally do,” Hutch told him.

Starsky looked out over the wide expanse of ocean, squinting into the bright sunlight that shimmered over both water and sand. “Well, I think we’d go for a swim about now.” He looked back at Hutch and grinned.

“Okay.” Hutch gamely stood up and held out his hand, pulling Starsky up after him. He looked down at their joined hands with the rings on their fingers, small tendrils of what could only be called joy growing in him.

Hutch and Starsky ran through the hot sand to the water’s edge, wading in farther and farther until they were waist deep. A large wave broke over them, leaving them both sputtering and laughing. In unison, they dove into the next one, emerging past the breaking point.

Dobey and Elmo had drifted quite a ways down the beach and were now just two dots stuck together among other, more active, dots. Starsky moved toward Hutch, pulling him closer until their bodies pressed together underneath the water. His mouth centimeters from Hutch’s, he said, “This is what we’d be doing right about now.” Starsky pressed his lips firmly to his, and Hutch wrapped his arms around him, enthusiastically kissing him back. A moment later, Starsky bounced up on his feet, entwining his legs around Hutch’s waist. Hutch’s moved his hands down to cup Starsky’s full, round ass, and sucked in a breath at the realization of what he was doing. He’d never in a million years considered groping his partner’s ass as something on his things-to-do list, but now he realized that he’d been missing out. The mounds of pliable flesh felt excruciatingly good in his palms, and he felt himself hardening inside his bathing shorts. Starsky pushed his tongue inside Hutch’s mouth, seeking out every crevice and nook therein. Their embrace was hot—steamy hot—and Hutch was on fire, gasping and groaning between torrid kisses that singed his brain until it no longer seemed to function.

“Oh, God, Starsk—“ he tried to climb out of his desire-induced stupor. “--we’re gonna be arrested if we keep this up!”

“I told you,” Starsky said, nibbling Hutch’s bottom lip, “men are allowed to be together here.”

“I mean for indecency!” Hutch choked out, his hands slipping under the waistband of Starsky’s swim trunks. “You’re not allowed to fuck in public here, are you?”

Starsky pulled away, gazing into Hutch’s eyes. He swallowed audibly. “Nooo…is that what you wanna do? I mean, fuck me?” He leaned forward and grasped Hutch’s earlobe between sharp teeth. “Or have me fuck you?” He breathed in his ear.

A shiver shot through Hutch like a freshly sprung arrow at the very thought of Starsky fucking him. He was already breathing hard, just kissing his partner and touching his bare skin. His hands kneaded Starsky’s ass beneath the trunks rhythmically, hypnotically, questing fingers seeking out the coarse hairs in between the cheeks.

“Let’s go,” he croaked suddenly, dropping Starsky onto his feet like a hot potato and heading back to the beach.

The walk up to their hotel took an excruciatingly long amount of time. Hutch didn’t dare look at Starsky until they were in the elevator, dripping water and clutching their towels to hide their erections, and then he held his gaze, listening to the ding of the floors lighting up one by one over the closed elevator door. Starsky breathed heavily, his tanned chest with coarse, dark hair plastered to it heaving as though he’d run there from the beach instead of walked.

“W-what are you so excited about?” Hutch asked in a labored voice. “You get to fuck me all the time, don’t you?”

Starsky’s hands clenched around his towel. “Seems kinda like I’m deflowering you all over again,” he said throatily.

Hutch raised a brow. “Deflowering me?” he rasped.

Starsky licked his lips. “You were a virgin the first time we did it,” he said.

“A virgin?” Hutch asked, his eyes never leaving Starsky’s mouth. “You mean like…never been with a guy, or never been with anyone?”

“With anyone, of course. That’s what virgin means.”

The elevator doors slid open. It took tremendous effort for Hutch to drag himself out of Starsky’s magnetic field and into the hallway. He stood blinking uncertainly, looking this way and that, completely clueless as to which way to go. A hand seized his elbow and pulled him to the right.

Once inside the room, Starsky slammed the door and pinned Hutch to the wall, his hands all over him. When Starsky palmed Hutch’s dick through his swim trunks, rubbing in delicious circles, Hutch jerked, knocking his head against the wall. A clever tongue took the opportunity to lick at Hutch’s Adam’s apple, then teeth bit their way up under his jaw, and Hutch bucked into the teasing palm. “Oh…oh, shit.”

Starsky maneuvered Hutch over to the bed, which the maids had made up, and pushed him onto it.

“W-what do we normally do?” Hutch asked in a voice that didn’t even sound like his own.

“Oh, we do all kinds of things,” Starsky growled, climbing over him. “We’ve become very creative over the years.” He settled his body on top of Hutch’s, grinding his crotch into his. “In fact, we have a little bag of goodies we often employ.”

“G-g-goodies?” Hutch squeaked, then cleared his throat. “I’m, uh, I’m n-new at this. Aren’t there like—rules or something? Somebody always tops?”

Starsky frowned. “No, are there rules for sex with women?”

Hutch shook his head. “So, well…what do you suggest?”

Starsky began kissing and nudging Hutch’s neck with his nose, his voice rumbling against his skin. “I suggest we get naked,” he said, rising abruptly and stripping off his damp suit. Hutch helpfully lifted his hips as Starsky yanked him free of his trunks. When they were both bare, Hutch gasped to see Starsky’s erection pointing at him like a dagger. His skin glowed dark and tanned everywhere but where his bathing suit had covered him, and little specks of sand sticking here and there sparkled in the dim light coming in from around the partially closed drapes. Hutch’s cock was painfully hard. Starsky lowered himself on top of him, sliding the soft, sensitive skin of their erections against each other. He moaned loudly, and Starsky growled before attacking his mouth with his own.

After long moments of kisses and climax-inducing frottage, Starsky pulled away just as Hutch felt himself cresting, replacing the warmth of his dick with the hot, silky wetness of his mouth. With a strangled cry, Hutch bucked, sinfully aware that it was his tough, street-savvy partner’s mouth sucking on his dick. Starsky held him in place as he skillfully brought Hutch closer and closer until a frenzy of orgasms hit one right after another, stopping Hutch’s heart from beating at least once, he was certain. Watching Hutch panting and sweating and looking decidedly debauched, Starsky crawled up to his side like a panther, nuzzling Hutch’s ear, his breath warm and tickling. “This is normally where you roll over,” he whispered. “But maybe that’s a bit much for you to handle on a first time.”

Hutch knew that any moment he might find himself back in his ‘normal’ life where the possibility of experiencing this with Starsky was next to nil. Without hesitation, he rolled over onto his knees, presenting his backside to his partner in invitation.

Starsky sucked in a breath. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, and Hutch could hear the trembling in his voice.

“Do it,” Hutch ordered. He didn’t want to argue; he wanted to be royally fucked. By Starsky. Preferably within the next two minutes.

Starsky cleared his throat and got off the bed.

“Where’re you going?” Hutch asked, looking over his shoulder and feeling more than a little bereft at the abrupt abandonment.

Starsky bent over his suitcase, rummaging around, then returned with a tube.

“Lubricant,” he said. “You didn’t expect me to fuck you dry?”

Hutch put his head back on the pillow. “No, I guess not.” I don’t care, I don’t care, just do it! He thought unreasonably. His nerves were strung taut, but he wanted this more than anything.

A moment later he sucked in a breath when something wet and feeling suspiciously like a tongue danced along his asshole. It probed at him, eliciting wave after wave of pleasure that hardened Hutch’s spent cock within seconds. Hutch began making noises he didn’t recognize, lost in the sensations that coursed through him, wiggling his hips and thrusting at the sheet like a teenager in heat. His thunderous climax of moments before and the determined ministrations of Starsky’s artful tongue quickly had his opening relaxed and pulsing, so when slippery fingers entered him, Hutch did nothing but grunt against the pillows. Sliding in and out, in and out, the capable fingers scissored and curved, delighting and tormenting as Starsky planted kisses along the curve of Hutch’s sweat-dappled spine.

A moment later, Hutch felt Starsky shift and begin licking at his dangling sac, and Hutch shuddered at the primitive, physical pleasure of every swipe of the adventurous tongue. Then a hand tugged at his tingling cock, pulling it back between his legs, and Starsky’s hot mouth enveloped him again, suckling lightly. Hutch sobbed into the pillow, unsure how long he could stand the unbelievable torture. All previous nervousness had completely fled—Starsky could stick a log up his ass, and he wouldn’t care. And that’s what it felt like the very next moment—a long, smooth log sliding into him, poking at a place he didn’t know existed, bringing forth a string of filthy appeals from his mouth. Hands grasped his hips and the white-hot poker impaling him rocked farther in, dragging a yell from Hutch’s lungs. His voice was becoming hoarse—he’d never been so vocal in bed in his life; of course, he’d never experienced a passion such as this, and he suddenly wanted to do things to Starsky that he’d never imagined doing before. Unbelievably, he was rock-hard again, his knees spread, his sensitive cock sliding against the bed with every lunge, driving him toward another monumental orgasm. Clutching the bed sheets, he yelled as he tipped over the edge, spirals of ecstasy moving upward through his body, and Starsky shifted positions, speeding up, his thrusting becoming sloppy as he lost control and jerked repeatedly, gasping Hutch’s name. Hutch swore he could feel Starsky coming inside him and told him so in a voice shaking from release, milking a long moan from the depths of Starsky’s belly.

For long moments, Starsky lay atop Hutch, smashing him into the mattress as their sweat coalesced between them. Finally, he slipped out and rolled over onto the mattress, and Hutch felt cold and alone for the long seconds it took for Starsky to press up against him and drape a hairy leg over his backside.

Sighing, Hutch slipped into a satiated doze.

0000000

“How long have…we…been together?” Starsky asked that night over dinner. Hutch had been commenting negatively about the pizza Starsky had ordered, saying that they always cooked good meals for one another in their universe.

“Ten years,” Hutch said around a mouthful of cheese and crust.

Starsky’s brows shot up. “We’ve been married for ten years?”

“No, we’ve been together ten. The trip to Hawaii we were going on was for our fifth wedding anniversary.”

“So…we dated for five years before we got married,” Starsky stated around his bite of pizza, trying to imagine what dating Hutch would be like.

“On and off,” Hutch told him, wiping his mouth and leaning back in the kitchen chair. “You were so…persistent. Otherwise we might never have married. I broke up with you at least three times.”

Starsky frowned. “What do you mean? Didn’t you like me?”

Hutch chuckled. “Of course. We were great friends, and terrific partners. But I didn’t think we should bring sex into it, and you did. Even then, once we started dating exclusively, it took a long time for me to let you fuck me.”

Starsky’s bite of pizza lodged in his throat on the way down, and he reached for his beer. Shit, he’d never let himself imagine just what he and Hutch must get up to in the bedroom.

When he could speak again, his voice was hoarse. “So did I let you…fuck…me?”

“All the time,” Hutch smiled smugly. “On the floor, in the Torino, in the janitor’s closet at the precinct, in Cheryl’s lab…”

Starsky stared, wide-eyed.

“…in your mom’s bed when we visited her, in the elevator stuck between floors at the post office…”

Starsky put up a hand. “Okay, I get it.”

Hutch finished his beer, his throat moving provocatively as the liquid went down. Starsky found himself staring at it, desire coiling in his groin.

“What we did last night…that was the only time I’ve been with a man,” Starsky told Hutch.

Hutch regarded him for a long moment. “I’m sure whatever our relationship is here in this universe is fulfilling in its own right. I mean, now I can’t imagine being anything but your husband, but since it’s so different here, you probably never think about things like that. I hope I didn’t…well, mess you up by doing what we did last night.”

Starsky looked down at the table. “I wanted it. If I didn’t, I would’ve said so.”

“Are you going to be okay when, uh, my other self comes back?” Hutch asked softly.

Starsky met his eyes. “I don’t know.”

The phone rang, jarring them both.

“Hey, Hug, what’d you find out?” Starsky asked after jumping up to answer it. “You’re kidding. Are you sure—it’s safe?”

Hutch watched the emotions playing over Starsky’s face. When he hung up, Hutch stood. “What did he say?”

Starsky looked at him. “He said his aunt told him you should walk back through the portal that you came out of.”

Hutch raised his brows. “Really? Is that it?”

Starsky nodded. “She said that your counterpart should switch back at the same time.”

Hutch sighed. “All right, then. Let’s go.” Hutch got all the way to the door before he figured out Starsky wasn’t following. He turned around.

“What’s the matter?”

Starsky swallowed. “Nothing.” He looked down at his feet.

Hutch took a step in his direction. “You going to tell me what’s wrong or make me guess.”

Starsky licked his lips. “When we go to the park, and you go through that portal, I’m gonna get my Hutch back.”

“Yeah? And that’s a bad thing?”

Starsky shook his head. “No! No. I want him back. But…this is my last chance to—well.” He shook his head. “Nevermind.”

Hutch regarded him a moment before closing the distance between them. Putting his hand on the curve of Starsky’s neck, he ran his thumb over Starsky’s jaw and looked into the deep blue of his eyes. “These may be different universes, but we are the same people. Maybe you should talk to your Hutch about the way you feel.”

Starsky shook his head. “He wouldn’t go for it.”

“How do you know if you don’t ask?” Hutch leaned in and kissed him softly, running his lips back and forth over Starsky’s, flicking his tongue in between them. Starsky responded, angling his head and taking Hutch’s tongue into his mouth, sucking on it hungrily while running his hands up his back, stroking the planes of muscles underneath his cotton shirt.

“You should put it on the table,” Hutch whispered. “You’ll never know if you don’t try. I can’t imagine not being attracted to you, David. Ask him. You might be surprised.”

“I don’t know if a little attraction can overcome years of conditioning.” Starsky smiled. “But the way I feel right now, I think all the hiding we’d have to do would be worth it.” He kissed Hutch again and then took his hand. “I’m ready. Let’s go.”

When they got outside, half the customers of Chez Helene’s were gathered on the sidewalk, pointing at the now-darkened sky.

Hutch looked up to find dozens of meteor showers creasing the blackness like faded fireworks.

“It’s happening again!” Someone yelled. A few people had set up telescopes, and Starsky and Hutch had to move carefully through the gathering crowd so as not to topple them.

“What is it?” Hutch asked.

“This happened the other night—when the portal showed up,” Starsky said. “I wonder---but Huggy’s aunt said the portals would be open for a week!”

“It’s almost back to where it was!” Someone with their eye pressed to a telescope yelled. “Harv, lookit this! Venus has moved again, and it’s almost where it’s supposed to be.”

Starsky’s heart sped up, realizing what that could mean. He broke into a run, racing to the car, yelling for Hutch to get in. “We’d better get over there fast!” he said, starting the car and pulling away from the curb with a squeal of tires, blowing his horn to get people out of the way as they came out of buildings and swarmed the streets.

Hutch held on as Starsky drove like a lunatic, heading for the outskirts of town and Chester Park.

“God, what if it closes, and I’m stuck here?” Hutch worried. He glanced at Starsky, “I mean, no offense, but there’s too much hatred in this world!”

“I get it,” Starsky replied, his jaw tightening. “It suddenly seems that way to me, too.” He raced through the city, using the Mars light and siren to get them there as fast as possible.

They arrived to find several policemen fighting off news crews.

“You’re just going to have to make a run for it, Hutch, as soon as we get close,” Starsky told him as they climbed out of the car and started across the lawn.

“Starsky, Hutch!” Officer Bedlow called to them. “Glad to see you; the crowd’s going nuts!” Everyone looked toward the portal, which Starsky thought appeared decidedly smaller than the last time he’d seen it. “They think some miracle’s gonna happen or something,” Officer Tims told them. “I think the thing’s shrinking. Must be some atmospheric condition, like the meteorologists have been telling us. Hey, Hutch!” Tims’ mouth fell open when the detective shot past him at a dead run. “Where’s he going?” Tims looked to Starsky.

Hutch ran, legs pumping and head thrown back, heading straight for the portal, which was growing smaller by the minute. One second he was there, and the next he was gone.

“Where’d he go?” Bedlow yelled. “Oh my God, did you see that? Why the fuck did he do that? He ran right into it! Where’d he go?”

Starsky held his breath, waiting. What if Hutch didn’t come back out? What if the thing killed him? He placed his palm on his chest, his nails digging into his skin through his shirt. The ground shook, a rumble louder than thunder coming from its depths. Suddenly, an enormous ball of light seemed to burst from the treetops overhead, consuming everything and everyone in its path. Starsky felt his knees give way and the ground rising up to meet him.

***

“Man, am I glad to see you open your eyes,” Captain Dobey’s voice sliced through the blanket of silence. Starsky blinked, slowly adjusting to the light. “W-what happened?” he recognized Memorial hospital when he saw it. In fact, he was pretty sure he recognized the room. “That thing—Hutch walked through that thing, and he didn’t come back out!” Starsky sat up and immediately regretted it when the room spun around like a top. He fell back onto the pillows.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Starsky. Your partner’s in the room next door. He’s fine.”

Starsky sighed with relief. He noticed Huggy standing in the corner by the bathroom and gave him a weak smile.

“Glad to see you among the land of the living, Starsky,” Huggy raised his hand in greeting.

“Some kind of meteor storm occurred…” Dobey informed his detective, his voice low and gruff in the manner he took when consumed with work. “There’s a meteor the size of a house stuck in the ground on Crawley’s farm off of Rt. 7. Good thing it didn’t land downtown!” He shook his head and grunted. “Can you imagine the damage? You’ll want to go out and see it when you’re on your feet again. It toppled people within a ten mile radius. Edith and I were watching TV and our floor shook so hard, her good china cabinet came crashing down! We thought it was an earthquake. You, Bedlow, Tims, and Hutchinson all ended up here, along with many people who were in the park at the time. What the hell were you doing out there, anyway?” Dobey didn’t pause for Starsky to answer. “And closer to Rt. 7, a couple of people were killed. Some livestock were found dead two farms away from Crawley’s.” He shook his head again. “Unbelievable. Anyway, you’ve been out all night. Hutch is awake, and Bedlow and Tims checked out this morning.” Dobey grabbed the remote control and switched on the TV mounted high on the wall, where every station was talking about the meteor that had fallen to earth. Starsky pushed himself up and squinted at the screen.

“Cap—what’s the date there in the corner?”

“February 16, why?”

“’Cause it should be the fifteenth, not the sixteenth,” Starsky said. “I remember ‘cause it was Valentine’s Day.”

“You’re just confused, son,” Dobey put a hand on his arm. “Oh—here’s someone I bet you want to see!” He hurried to the door and held it open while the nurse wheeled Hutch through in a wheelchair. Starsky’s heart flipped over at the sight of his partner.

“Starsky,” Hutch sighed in relief. “I was worried because they said you were still unconscious.”

“He just woke up,” Dobey told him as the nurse hurried over to take Starsky’s vital signs. Huggy walked over to Hutch and greeted him with a hand on his shoulder.

“You seem to be doing fine,” the nurse told Starsky, “but the doctor will want to look you over. I’ll go tell him you’re awake.” She left the room.

“What’s the last thing you remember, Hutch?” Huggy asked.

Hutch frowned. “I remember that weird thing in the park, and Starsky daring me to run through it. That’s all.”

Starsky nodded. “That’s the last thing I remember, too. Only I seem to be missing a day. Dobey says we were brought in last night, but the TV says today’s the sixteenth. Wasn’t yesterday Valentine’s Day, Hutch?”

“Yeah. I remember because Venus was out of alignment, and I thought that was ironic.”

“Well, it’s back in alignment now,” Huggy told them.

“Captain Dobey,” a candy striper stuck her head in the door. “There’s another call for you at the nurses’ station.”

Dobey grunted something about people not leaving him alone and left the room.

“You two really don’t remember yesterday?” Huggy asked when he’d gone.

“I thought I did—we ate at your place, then went out to the park where that weird wavy thing was,” Starsky said, thinking back. Hutch nodded in agreement.

“That was the day before yesterday. Man, I don’t believe this.” Huggy sighed. “It’s probably for the best, though. You two wouldn’t know what to do with yourselves.”

000

Hutch settled down in the crook of Starsky’s arm as they watched the sun setting over the ocean.

“God, it was awful, Starsk,” he shuddered, and Starsky tightened his arm around him. “If you’re a man, you have to love a woman, and vice versa. If you don’t, then you’re some sort of a freak.” He turned his head and kissed his partner reverently on the chest, his fingers dancing over the muscles in Starsky’s stomach. “And you were so miserable over there, because it was obvious that you wanted to be with me in that way, but you couldn’t, although I told you to try.”

“I think you’d decided the same thing,” Starsky said, kissing Hutch on top of the head. “I feel sorry for them—us—over there. Sounds like a cruel world they live in.” He hugged his husband to him. “I’m so glad you’re back, love. I’ve been thinking about what an ass I’ve been lately—flirting just to make you jealous.”

“To make me jealous? David, why? Don’t you know how much I love you?” Hutch tilted his face up, reaching to come into slow, wet contact with Starsky’s mouth.

Starsky shrugged. “I don’t know. Thought maybe you were getting sick of me or something.”

“That would never happen,” Hutch said emphatically. He kissed Starsky again, then whispered, “Happy anniversary, Baby.”

“Happy anniversary,” Starsky answered back, kissing him again, and again.

000

Two weeks later, Hutch stuffed the final report in Dobey’s box and headed for the door. There was no way he was going to give it to the man in person, since his captain had inexplicably developed a habit of grumbling something about Hutch saying he was fat every time he came around him. Hutch had stopped trying to figure it out and just avoided his superior whenever possible. “Coming, Starsk?” he asked his partner, holding the door open. He had a headache. It had been a busy two weeks since leaving the hospital, each filled with endless work during the day and odd, restless dreams at night that left him edgy and tense.

“You two got a hot date tonight?” Betts asked from his desk. “With each other?” he snickered.

“Can it, Bozo,” Starsky muttered, reaching for his jacket and following Hutch out the door. “Man. I thought we’d never catch up on those damn reports.” They skipped down the steps and out the glass doors into the twilight. The skies had remained still since the weird goings-on two weeks earlier, and things in Bay City had settled back to normal.

“Starsky, I was looking at the jewelry-heist file earlier today. Do you—remember solving it?” he frowned, pausing mid-way down the concrete steps to the sidewalk.

Starsky turned, wrinkling his brow as he looked up at his partner. “No—I remember being in the middle of it, but not wrapping it up.”

Hutch sighed. “Evidently we figured out who it was and where the stuff was hidden.” He scratched his head. “I just don’t recall that part.”

Starsky shrugged and headed for the car, unwilling to linger on yet another instance of amnesia. Too many puzzling things had been coming up since the day he’d found himself in the hospital.

Hutch stopped at the foot of the steps, watching his partner’s hips sway suggestively as he sauntered to the Torino and circled around to the driver’s side.

“Hey, what’s the matter? Hutch?” Starsky, alarmed at the expression on his partner’s face, started back around the car, but Hutch blinked and moved forward, walking to the passenger side door and opening it.

“What was that all about?” Starsky asked, sliding into his seat and starting the engine. “You looked frozen in place.”

“I just—had the oddest thought pop in my mind,” Hutch's face colored.

“Yeah? What was it?” Starsky asked, heading into traffic. “Must’ve been some thought to make you blush like you are.”

Hutch shook his head. “Nothing. Forget I mentioned it.”

“Aw, you know that ain’t gonna work. Spill, Blondie.”

Hutch licked his lips, casting a furtive look Starsky’s way. “Okay, but I don’t know why it popped in my mind, all right? It doesn’t mean anything. But it was the most vivid—well, like a memory, only I know this never happened.”

“What? Would you tell me already?” Starsky demanded, stopping at a red light and turning in his seat to look at his partner.

Hutch gave a short laugh. “Okay, well, this is pretty funny. Uh…I was watching you walk to the car just now, and I had this flash…of us in the ocean, and you-you’re legs—“ Hutch cleared his throat. “Your legs wrapped around my waist. And my hands full of your—bare ass.” Hutch closed his eyes, a painfully embarrassed look on his face. Silence. He opened his eyes again, risking a look at Starsky, who stared straight ahead.

“Are you mad? Because I don’t know where that came from, Starsk, I swear. It was really weird.”

Slowly, Starsky shook his head. “No, I’m not mad.” The light changed, and he put his foot on the accelerator.

“You made me tell you!” Hutch reminded him, pointing a finger his way.

Starsky was quiet the rest of the drive home. Once at Venice Place, Hutch slipped out of the car and leaned in the window. “I still feel like you’re angry with me.”

“I’m not. I swear,” Starsky told him, smiling to prove it.

Hutch sighed, shrugged, and headed inside.

Ten minutes later, there was a knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Hutch called from the kitchen.

“Me,” Starsky’s voice came through the door.

“It’s open.”

The knob turned, and Starsky walked in, throwing his jacket on the chair. “What do you bother asking who it is for, if the damn door’s unlocked?” he asked, shutting it with his foot.

“Well, I wouldn’t tell just anybody to come in,” Hutch replied, sitting on the arm of the couch. “What are you doing here, anyway? Thought you went home.”

“I wanted to tell you something.” Starsky looked uncomfortable.

“Okay, what?” Hutch tipped the bottle of water he was holding and drank it down. Starsky watched his throat move, an incredible feeling of deja vu creeping over him. “I-I’ve had a similar experience to the one you told me about in the car.”

Hutch’s eyebrows went up. “Of me clutching your bare ass?” he asked with a little smile.

Starsky shook his head and swallowed. “No, this was of us in bed together…doin’ things. Mostly kissing and rubbing on each other.”

Hutch’s face went completely white, and Starsky stepped forward, grabbing the water bottle just before it hit the floor.

“Hutch—you okay, Buddy?” he grasped Hutch’s shoulders as he began to sag. “Come on—up you go. Let’s get you into the bedroom. I think you’ve been working too hard.”

Supporting Hutch with his shoulder, Starsky helped him to the bed. Once he had Hutch lying down with a cold washcloth on his head, Starsky sat down beside him. “Now tell me what just happened. Did what I said upset you that much, or are you just exhausted?”

Hutch shook his head slowly. “No, it’s…it’s just..” he began hoarsely, his eyes seeking Starsky’s. “I’ve been trying to ignore them. I-I didn’t tell you about the dreams I’ve been having. They’re so real, Starsky.”

“What dreams?” Starsky asked quietly. “You can tell me.”

“Dreams where you’re…you’re…oh God, Starsk! You’re fucking me! I swear, you’re fucking me right in the ass! And—and—and it’s so good!”

Starsky stared at him, open-mouthed, and Hutch scrambled up on the bed. “I don’t know why I’m dreaming it, Starsky, but I can’t get it out of my mind! It’s so real!”

Starsky swallowed. “Okay.”

“Okay?” Hutch sat back on his heels. “That’s all? You aren’t going to punch me?”

“Why should I? I just admitted I’ve had thoughts of us in bed. You can’t control your dreams, Hutch. I just wonder what it all means.”

Long moments stretched out in which Hutch found his eyes pinned to Starsky’s mouth, and Starsky couldn’t drag his gaze away from Hutch’s crotch.

Finally, Starsky blinked, looked down at his hands, and sighed. “I guess I should go.” His voice was hoarse.

Silence reigned for several long seconds before Hutch tentatively ventured, “You…wanna stay the night?”

Starsky met his gaze, giving him a look that told his partner he was deadly serious. “Only if I don’t have to sleep on the couch.”

A slow smile spread over Hutch’s face.

 

finis