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The Different Place

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Starsky wakes up to pain and an urgent need to piss. It’s not a great combination. He reaches his left out automatically to reach from his meds and the twisting of his ribs pulls out a vocal gasp. Lying back, he tries again with his right, and knocks the pills off the table; hears them roll across the floor. The chair is by the bed, but the idea that he could lift himself into it one-handed from here suddenly seems laughable.

‘Bathroom?’ asks Hutch, appearing from behind the bookshelf in the soft glow of the lamp he insisted on leaving on overnight.

‘Sorry,’ mumbles Starsky.

He wants Hutch to get some real rest as much as he wants it for himself; he looks like hasn’t slept right the whole time Starsky’s been laid up. He’s only stuck on the couch right now because Starsky likes a soft mattress, and if Hutch so much as sits next him he’s going to roll and the ribs are going jump backwards by days.

Hutch brushes away any objections with a shake of his head. He gets Starsky into the chair and to the bathroom with unfussy efficiency, helping him sit on the can: weird, but safer than falling on his face in the middle of peeing. It’s not the first time he’s needed that kind of help from his partner, but he didn’t like it then, and now? Now the businesslike maneuver reminds him of nurses’ hands on his body, not Hutch’s. It’s not like the context asks for anything else, and he’s not up to it anyway, but it nags at him.

Hutch bustles through it all as if unbothered, clearly aware of Starsky’s discomfort, and gets him back into bed without a word. He scoops up the fallen pill bottle along the way, and checks it against the small notepad he’s placed with the other meds.

‘Another couple of hours before your next dose, Starsk. I’m sorry. You ok?’

He’s going to have to be. He shuts his eyes, hoping to just crash out; the army taught him to sleep wherever he dropped for as long as there was, and he’s kept the skill. But he can’t settle. The pain’s sharp, constant and he keeps feeling rust under his hands, metal shifting under his feet, the feeling of reaching out to grab hold of something to save yourself but it’s too late and –

‘Starsk.’

There’s a hand on his good shoulder and Hutch’s face is up close, worry cutting between his brows. He’s been making noise, he guesses, yelling or whatever. Happened a couple of times in the hospital, no less uncomfortable here.

‘Sorry,’ he grinds out, trying to sit up and failing.

‘You want something to drink – tea, maybe? Still ninety minutes or so before meds.’

Starsky shakes his head once, trying to move as little as possible.

‘Ok. How about a distraction? Game of cards, maybe? Some music?’ Hutch sits down in the wheelchair and looks around, a little desperate. ‘Hey – how about I read your book?’

Starsky doesn’t see how Hutch sitting there reading his book is going to help distract him, until Hutch rolls his eyes.

‘I mean read aloud.’

‘Like a bedtime story?’ Starsky mumbles.

‘Yeah. Exactly that, help you drift right off. What do you say?’

Starsky nods. He likes it. Not least because he’s halfway through a trashy pirate romance novel filled with corny dialogue, historical inaccuracy and built men starting fights over buxom women and/or rum every third page, and Hutch is going to hate it.

The grumbling starts immediately.

‘Don’t you know how to use a bookmark, Starsk? Honestly, folding down the page corner – that’s wilful destruction of a work of art. Ok. Chapter Sixteen: The Cabin Boy’s Secret. Ahem. Below deck, the smell of unwashed bodies and cheap tallow candles was inescapable. Colin the cabin boy held his breath until he could reach his bunk and bury his face into his most prized possession: the glove of Black Bess, his pirate queen beloved, and the secret orb it held. The shrivelled fruit had been round once, and studded with cloves. It still carried a musty ghost of its sweet former scent. But now it was a dried husk of a thing, like his own heart had become when Black Bess had sailed away with her new love: the dashing pirate bastard Chet Blayde. Chet Blayde? Honestly, Starsk, you’re genuinely reading this?’

‘Keep going,’ Starsky murmurs into his pillow.

Hutch’s voice is all he needs right now. Calm and resonant, occasionally clipped when he lets fly an outburst about literary merit or the plausibility of a giant octopus – but familiar, a comfort. It’s the medicine he needs. He drifts off, despite the pain, and when he wakes up Hutch is still there, now slumped forward onto the bed, the top of his head resting against Starsky’s waist, snoring lightly.

Starsky checks the time and shakes out his next dose, swallowing them gratefully. Then he rests his cast on the bed, close enough to let his fingertips gently brush the bright blond hair that curls just a little at the nape of Hutch’s neck. It feels illicit, somehow. Hutch had wanted to climb all over him last night and wound up looking like a scolded puppy. Starsky had made it pretty clear he was off limits. Since then, Hutch has been the perfect gentleman: attentive but impersonal, asking nothing in return. And now the minute the man’s asleep, all Starsky wants is to touch.

The nagging feeling comes back.

Everyone knows Hutch always takes care of him when he gets hurt, without question. His presence here overnight, his pre-emptive furniture plans: to any outside observer there’s nothing remarkable to see. Same goes for the strain and worry Hutch has clearly been dealing with, fretting over his partner whenever he can tell Starsky’s in pain. So far, so familiar.

The hard part?

He’d started to really like the way they were marching towards the unfamiliar. Together. Whenever they got the chance. Having to accept Hutch helping him do the most basic tasks, while pushing him away the instant he wants to show affection, or more? It’s not what he wants, for always. It’s just all his body can manage right now. But what they have is still new enough that it’s not a habit they’re just going to fall back into. This, now, Hutch staying over but not in his bed, Starsky stealing a guilty hand in his hair: it feels like a step backwards to the way things used to be. Their old definition of partnership: close, sure, but distant too; not love, not sex. Starsky’s fit, he’s young, he’ll fight his way back, no lie – but it’s going to take time. He’s not scared of working through the pain to get back to who he was. But he’s scared that by the time he gets there, the loving, giving, eager Hutch he’s uncovered might already be far out of reach.

Hutch’s snoring pauses for a moment as he shifts in his sleep. He rubs his face into the comforter, as if hunting for the pillow he expects to be there, and eventually turns his head so his sleeping face is facing Starsky, top of his head still nudging up against his waist.

The sculpted face is angelic as ever. Long lashes resting above those cheekbones, that clearly-defined jawline. His lips, soft and full. Hair practically glowing under the dim lamplight. Starsky reaches out with his fingertips again, feeling a flood of want and need and sudden clear conviction.

He fell off a goddamn fire escape and lived, so he’s damned if he’s going to let that fuck up the best thing he’s ever found in his whole life. All he has to do now is figure out how to show Hutch what they have – without winding up back in hospital.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Hutch wakes with a crick in his neck and sitting in a wheelchair without the brake on – as he discovers when he tries to stand and falls flat on his face.

His partner’s bark of laughter is cut off sharply with a yelp of pain, which is frankly infuriating because now he can’t even be mad about it. He can be mad about Starsky’s lack of reading taste, however. The way his shower takes an age to warm up. And the fact that he’s run out of coffee, even if for the last week Hutch has been the only one drinking it, so...

‘Thanks so much for staying, Hutch, your morning cheer is a real tonic.’

‘You’re welcome,’ Hutch snaps back.

Then he shuts his eyes, reminding himself why he’s actually here.

‘I’m sorry, Starsk. I’m just – I’m tired.’

‘Nah, that’s not it,’ says Starsky, with a lazy smile.

‘Oh really? You know better?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Please. Enlighten me with your wisdom.’

He’s still snapping, like he can’t help himself, and Starsky looks a little perturbed.

‘I don’t wanna. Not till you’ve had some coffee. And breakfast. Maybe a nap.’

Hutch glares at him, furious that he’s daring to be right about something for a change. He snatches up a wallet and a string bag for groceries, and slams out.

The sun’s too bright and too warm already, and Starsky’s neighborhood means climbing in the car and fighting for a parking spot outside a succession of lousy diners or a mini-mart that wouldn’t know a fresh vegetable if it introduced itself by name. He abandons the idea of picking up enough to keep them going for a few days and resolves to hit the real market later. For now, the basics will do: eggs, coffee, Tylenol for the ache in his spine from sleeping like a pretzel.

By the time he makes it back his mood has lightened a little. A little kitchen hustle produces omelets and coffee, with freshly-squeezed juice from oranges he’d brought from home. The food helps, as does the sight of Starsky managing to eat more than half of his – a comforting sign of progress. But once Hutch is done with clearing up and comes to relax in an armchair, Starsky just lies back against his propped-up pillows, that lazy smile back on his lips. Hutch unfolds a newspaper, trying to distract himself. But every time he looks up, Starsky’s still looking, watching, with a hint of a smirk.

‘Do I have something on my face?’ Hutch says eventually, in a not especially friendly tone.

‘No,’ says Starsky. ‘You want to take that nap? Sounds like you might still need it.’

‘I do not need a nap! I need you to stop doing – whatever you’re doing.’

‘I’m just sitting here, Hutch. Not a lot else I can do.’

Again: annoyingly, maddeningly right.

Hutch tries going back to his paper, but it’s impossible.

‘All right!’ he says, folding it back up crookedly. ‘Go on. Since you’re clearly so insightful, share it with the class, please. Tell me your grand theory about why I’m feeling so – so – ’ He hunts for the word. Furious? Unsettled? Out of sorts? ‘Irritable,’ he settles for lamely.

Starsky smiles.

‘You’re not irritable, Hutch. You’re horny.’

Hutch gives Starsky a stare.

‘It’s not a criticism! I’m horny too. We barely started to get our hands on each other and now we had to stop, and it sucks, ok? I’m so whacked out on pills I’m just kind of coasting through it, because I couldn’t get it up right now if I tried, not even for you. But you? You tried to jump my bones practically the second I walked through the door.’

Hutch can feel his face coloring. He’s not wrong.

‘I’m sorry, I know I hurt you, it was a stupid thoughtless – ’

‘Shut up, Hutch. Are you listening, at all? I said I’m horny. And you’re horny. So maybe we should do something about that. You know, like you said in the hospital. Get creative.’

Hutch blinks, confused. He’d just been assuming this was off the table, for the foreseeable future – especially after the inept way he’d gone about it yesterday.

‘I don’t – Starsk, I know you’re not made of porcelain, but I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t know if I can start touching you and promise I’ll know when to stop.’

‘I don’t want you to touch me, Hutch. I want to watch.’

‘Watch what?’

‘You. You’re beautiful, Hutch, you’re always beautiful. But I think you might be most beautiful when you’re getting off. And I’ll admit it, I’m not always paying the most attention when it happens. But today: you have all my attention. So I want to watch you make yourself come.’

Hutch feels a sudden and unexpected tug of war in his brain. He’s not an exhibitionist. Even kissing in public makes him feel uncomfortable, and liable to bring out his clumsiest tendencies. But. He can’t tell if it’s the look of longing in Starsky’s eyes or the fact that it’s Starsky who’ll be watching that tips it, but apparently? He likes this idea.

He drops the newspaper, and gives Starsky a tiny nod.

‘Unzip your pants,’ Starsky commands, his voice husky, and Hutch realizes he really likes it.

Hutch does as he’s told. No belt today, just a button and a zipper, revealing a pair of y-front briefs.

‘Pull them down,’ demands Starsky. ‘Show me your cock.’

Hutch clears his throat, then carefully tugs the briefs down, tucking the bunched fabric under his balls and breathing out in a gasp at the light contact with both his balls and the shaft now resting on his thigh.

Starsky licks his lips, clearly enjoying the view. Hutch feels himself start to get hard, as if just knowing Starsky wants his mouth on him gets him off.

‘Pull them down. Pants too. Under your ass, down to your knees, down to your ankles.’

Hutch obeys. His cock throbs, agonizingly untouched.

‘Lick your hand.’

Hutch realizes he’s breathing hard, almost panting at how erotic this is. He wants Starsky to be feeling the same, swept up in this, whatever the hell it is, so he fixes his eye on his partner and licks a long slow stripe down his palm. Then, before he can let a moment’s common sense stop him, he slips each long finger between his lips, slowly thrusting, letting his mouth fall a little open to allow saliva to drip down his middle finger as he mimes a good, slow fuck.

Starsky’s eyes widen, then narrow in appreciation.

Hutch feels a little shocked at himself, at what he’s apparently into, as he keeps slipping fingers into his mouth. But that’s becoming a familiar sensation, and he allows himself to be eager, to keep wanting to discover more.

‘Touch yourself,’ Starsky tells him, at last.

Hutch wraps his hand around the shaft of his cock and feels it come fully erect, hard and hot and thrumming under his hand. He’s already moaning a little, the hands-free foreplay getting him het up in a way he’s not used to. He slides his fist up and down, pausing to thumb his slit and finding it sticky. He edges forward to rest just his ass on the seat, legs parting, wanting to thrust into his hand. But he wants to know what Starsky wants next; wants that next too.

‘That’s perfect Hutch, that’s it. Keep your eyes on me. I want you to see me, because I’m right here with you, blondie. Looking forward to the day you’re putting that sweet cock of yours between my lips, letting me taste you. Letting you slip that thing into my mouth and giving me it all, every inch, hand on the back of my head till I’m swallowing you whole.’

Hutch’s moan gives away the fact that this brand of dirty talk turns out to be one he finds intoxicatingly hot. Starsky’s eyes sparkle, clearing loving his mental reactions as much his physical responses, and the realization that his partner is loving every moment of this too has Hutch breathless.

He keeps his hand moving, pulsing up and down, hips rocking a little against the edge of the chair and his eyes fixed on Starsky’s.

‘More, tell me more,’ he whispers raggedly, and Starsky’s lips curve with pleasure.

‘I’m going suck you, Hutch. I’m going to suck your cock, on my knees, holding your hips so tight you’re going to bruise for days as you give it to me, your cock, your big fucking gorgeous cock – but I’m not going to let you come yet.’

‘I want you to,’ pants Hutch, picking up the pace of his strokes, swept up in the combination of Starsky’s words, Starsky’s face, the feeling of his own hand, the feeling of being watched and wanted.

‘Not yet, Hutch. Because once I can’t breathe any more, you’re going to lie back on the floor, and let me climb on top, and I’m going to ride you, Hutch. My ass is going to be good and ready for you, ready to just slide down onto that python you keep in your pants. You’re going to feel me take your dick, every inch. And I’m going to ride it, up and down, till you’re out of your mind, because you’ve never fucked or been fucked like this before and it’s going to make you, yeah, it’s going to get you – ’

Hutch starts to see stars and though he wants to keep his eyes locked on Starsky as his smile slips into his voice, he has to close them as his fist pumps, tight and fast.

‘Oh yeah, Hutch, like that, like that, inside me, taking me right over the edge with you. Oh fuck. Yeah. Beautiful, just like I said.’

Hutch comes, still pumping his fist to eke out every last second of this incredibly intense sensation. It’s messy, spunk on his leg, on his shirt, but it’s worth it. He falls back and just sits, pants round his ankles and his mouth wide open. Then he catches Starsky’s eye which is somehow hopeful and needy at once, as if asking for a review of his ‘creativity’, and Hutch laughs out loud.

‘I told you,’ says Starsky, lying his head back against his mounds of pillows and looking as hazily sleepy as if they’d switched places. ‘I knew you just needed to get off.’

‘You’re very clever.’ Hutch closes his eyes, trying to collect himself. ‘Hey. Tell me: when you’re better – can we do that? All of that?’

‘God, I hope so. Damn Hutch, that was hot. That was better than I even thought it would be.’

Hutch opens his eyes again.

‘You ok? You want me to, uh, give you a hand?’

Starsky shakes his head gently. ‘My brain got off already. And that’s the most talking I’ve done in a while. Might need that nap. You can give me a kiss first though.’

Hutch stands up, tripping on his tangled ankles and eventually making it to the bed, half-naked and wiping his sticky hand awkwardly on his shirt.

‘It’s lucky you’re hot, Hutch.’

Hutch tugs the shirt over his head, wiping his hand again and tossing it. He climbs carefully – oh so carefully – onto the bed, making sure not to tilt the mattress to one side or the other by straddling Starsky and leaning over him on all fours.

‘Isn’t it,’ he says.

He leans closer and presses his lips to Starsky’s, loving how gentle they can be immediately after being anything but. Starsky’s eyes are falling closed, his body relaxing under Hutch’s.

‘Starsk,’ Hutch whispers. ‘Where’d you learn to talk dirty like that?’

Starsky smiles sleepily. ‘You should read more, Hutch.’